Monthly Archives: June 2018

Okinawa Kamikaze story

This is an odd story that involves a flight instructor, his family, and a single-minded request. The whole thing was so strange, in fact, that the Japanese government censored it at the time.

Hajime Fujii was born on August 30, 1915, in Ibaraki Prefecture as the oldest of seven children. He joined the army and proved to be such a skilled machine gunner that they sent him to China.

Hajime Fujii

The Chinese weren’t too happy about that, which is why Fujii got hit by a mortar shell that wounded his left hand. Sent to the hospital, he was tended to by Fukuko – a beautiful field nurse from Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture.

It was love at first sight. Back then, arranged marriages were the norm, but the two were having none of it. So they returned to Japan, got married, and had two adorable daughters – Kazuko and Chieko.

Instead of sending him back to China, the Army kept Fujii in Japan and sent him to the Army Air Corps Academy where he graduated in 1943. Becoming a company commander with the Kumagaya Army Aviation School in Kaitama, Fujii was tasked with teaching his students character and mental discipline.

This included inculcating them with a deep sense of loyalty and patriotism and the value of crashing one’s plane into enemy ships and camps. According to his few surviving students, he frequently told them that he would die with them if he could.

But he couldn’t. The mortar shell didn’t take out his left hand, but it left him unable to grip a plane’s control stick. So the more he expressed his desire to die with his students (many of whom went on to do just that), the more the whole thing bothered him.

Kamikaze pilot

Japan didn’t enter WWII with any intention of creating kamikaze pilots and sending them on suicide missions. But it had expected a quick victory.  By 1944, Japan knew it was in serious trouble. Many of its veterans were gone, and many of those sent out never made it back. Desperate, the Army created Special Attack Force Units called tokkōtai or shimbu-tai – suicide squads made up of the Army and Navy.

Fujii’s favorite motto was: “words and deeds should be consistent.” So after months of telling his students to kill themselves by crashing into the enemy, he wanted to do the same by joining the kamikaze.  Unfortunately for him, he was a victim of his own success. Popular with his students and staff, and having proven his worth in China, the Army refused his request. They also cited the fact that he was a family man, while most of those they sent on one-way missions were single.

Kamikaze

Fukuko also pleaded with him to stay out of the war. He had two young daughters, after all. If he died, what would happen to them?  But as more and more of his students left on suicide missions never to return, Fujii couldn’t shake off the idea that he was betraying his wards. He felt like a hypocrite, which is why he again appealed to the Army to let him die. They refused his second request.

So now Fukuko was trapped. If Fujii stayed in Japan, she’d have her husband, while her daughters would have a father. But he would forever be haunted by his self-perceived betrayal of his students and his country.  He would become a ghost (“dim spirit” in Japanese), only half alive. At best, he’d just fade away. At worst, he’d eventually blame his wife and children for his dishonor.

So on the morning of December 14, 1944, while her husband was away at Kumagaya, Fukuko dressed herself up in her finest kimono. She did the same with three-year-old Kazuko and one-year-old Chieko. Finally, she wrote her husband a letter, urging him to do his duty to the country and not to worry about his family. They’d wait for him.


Then she wrapped Chieko up in a cloth backpack and strapped the baby to her back. Taking Kazuko by the hand, she walked toward the Arakawa River near the school where her husband taught. Taking a rope, she tied Kazuko’s wrist to her own and jumped into the freezing waters.

The police found the bodies later that morning, and Fujii was brought to the spot as they were being laid out. The following evening, he painted a letter to his oldest daughter, begging her to take care of her mother and younger sister till he could join them.

Then he performed yubitsume (cut off his pinky finger). With his own blood, he painted his third appeal to the Army.
On February 8, 1945, Fujii became the commander of the 45th Shinbu Squadron – which he named Kaishin (cheerful spirit). Just before dawn on May 28, the nine planes headed to Okinawa, each carrying a pilot and gunner. To their delight, they came upon the USS Drexler and USS Lowry.

USS Drexler

Two slammed into the Drexler, sinking her within minutes and taking out 158 of its crew. Fuji was in one of them. He was reunited with his family.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Helen Boling – KS & CO; US Army nurse, WWII

Donald Goodbrand – W.Palm Beach, FL; USMC

Wayne ‘Bubba’ Harland – Washington, DC; USMC, Korea & Vietnam

Richard ‘Old Man’ Harrison – Danville, VA; US Navy, Petty Officer 1st Class, USS Chowanoc (Ret. 20 y.) /  “Pawn Stars”

Charlene Kvapil – Middletown, OH; civilian employee US Navy Bureau of Ships, WWII

Stanley Maizey – Cornubia, AUS; Australian Army

Robert Sykes – Rochester, NY; US Navy, WWII / Korea, Chief Engineer, USS Ingraham

Newton Sloat – Concho, OK; US Army, 503rd/11th Airborne Division

Leo ‘Fox’ Stewart – Menagha, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Jane Tomala – Toronto, CAN; RC Navy WREN, WWII

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Kamikaze Action Report – sample from May 1945

Treasures from the USS Evans

The USS Evans and Hadley departed from the Hagushi anchorage at Yomitan, Okinawa on the afternoon of 10 May 1945, under orders of CTG 51.5, and arrived on Radar Picket Station #15 about 1500.  Other ships in support on that station were LSM 193, LCS 82, LCS 83 and LCS 84.  The latter four ships were disposed in a diamond formation 1000 yards on a side, their course reversed about every half hour by signal, speed maintained at 10 knots.  Hadley and Evans were in column in that order, speed 15 knots, distance 1500 yards, circling the support formation at a distance of about one mile.  Hadley was Fighter Director Ship and controlled a small Combat Air Patrol. Evans was Fire Support Ship.  At 1934 hours that evening a Japanese “Kate” was shot down by this ship.

From 0151 until 0340, 11 May 1945, remained at General Quarters as there were enemy aircraft in immediate vicinity, probably on reconnaissance missions. Early in the morning of the 11th, a general warning was received from Commander Fifth Fleet to expect heavy air raids during the day.

Enemy aircraft were again in the area from 0640 to 0654, after which we were in the clear until commencement of the action which this report covers.

At 0835 with Evans closing Hadley from 3500 yards on his starboard quarter, Evans and Hadley both opened fire with 5″ on an enemy aircraft (type undetermined) closing on Hadley’s starboard beam.  Hits were observed and the plane was splashed dead ahead of Evans.

At 0839 a “Zeke” approached from high on starboard quarter in steep dive, taken under fire by Evans’ 5″ battery at 7000 yards, by 40MM at 3500 yards, and shot down in flames at 2500 yards.  At 0841 a “Zeke” approached from high on starboard quarter in steep suicide dive and was shot down by 40MM and 20MM fire, hitting the water 800 yards on starboard beam.

At 0845 a “Tony” approached on Evans port bow in a shallow dive at high speed and was taken under fire by main battery at 5000 yards.  Hits were observed and plane splashed close aboard Hadley on her port quarter.

aircraft identifier

Less than two minutes later a “Tony” approached from high and deep on port quarter in a very steep dive, was taken under fire by 40MM and 20MM and set on fire.  It dropped a bomb close aboard on starboard bow, and was shot down by 5″ battery at 1500 yards off the starboard bow going away.  At 0849 an “Oscar” approached from port quarter in shallow dive at high speed.  Taken under fire by 5″ battery at 6000 yards and 40MM battery at 4000 yards, it crashed in flames 1000 yards off port quarter of Evans.  Less than a minute later, without ceasing fire, and with 5″ guns in automatic, the director was slowed forward from port quarter to port beam and approaching “Jill” was taken under fire at 10,000 yards. This “Jill” was shot down at 7,000 yards.

“Zeke”

At 0851 a “Kate” was observed closing Evans rapidly on a bearing of 330° relative, and taken under fire at 5000 yards by main battery. The enemy plane, although hit and burning severely, continued to close until at about 200 yards nearly broad on port bow it launched a torpedo. Hard left rudder was applied, with the ship making about 10 knots, and fortunately the torpedo crossed just ahead of bow less than 25 yards. The “Kate”, already on fire, was shot down going away 2000 yards off starboard bow by 5″ fire.

At 0854 a “Tony” approaching from Evans port bow was taken under fire by Hadley and Evans’ main batteries at 7000 yards, with hits observed from both ships.  Plane was shot down an equal distance from Hadley and Evans at 3500 yards (an assist with Hadley).

0856 observed “Val” coming in from high and deep on port quarter. It was taken under fire by main battery at 6000 yards, by machine guns at 4000 yards. Numerous hits were scored and the enemy plane set on fire. Although he attempted to suicide, it appeared the plane was out of control as it crossed over ship and crashed in water 2000 yards off starboard bow.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Henry Arnold – Huntsville, AL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS New Orleans / US Army, Lt.Col. (Ret.)

Robert ‘Don’ Bass – Tampa, FL; US Coast Guard, WWII, radioman 3rd Class

John DeLang Jr. – Boston, MA; US Army, WWII

Robert Foster – Denmark, NY; US Army, WWII, PTO

Leonard Gamble – Waikato, NZ; RNZCI # 652525, WWII

Wasil Glushko – Simpson, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 navigator

Frank Johnston – Lowell, MA; US Army Air Corps, 187th/11th Airborne Division

Stanley McChristian Sr. (100) – Miami, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 co-pilot, 454th/15th Air Force

Shirley Richardson – Moose Jaw, CAN; RC Air Force Women’s Corps, WWII

Glen Snoddy – Shelbyville, TN; US Army, WWII, (Fuzz Tone engineer)

 

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Remember the 15

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B-25 raid on Formosa by the 498th’s ‘Jaunty Jo’ # 192 over Byoritsu Oil Refinery; it crashed seconds later. (Maurice J. Eppstein, John C. Hanna Collections) courtesy of IHRA

So much happened at once in the Pacific all at the same time, we get help here from the International Historical Research Associates!!

IHRA

May 18, 1945 was an all too eventful day for the 65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group. Seven of its B-24s were sent to make up a third of a 21-plane raid with the 403rd and 64th Squadrons on Tainan Airdrome, located on Formosa (now Taiwan). Antiaircraft fire was heavy and accurate, and coming from both Tainan and the nearby Okayama Airdrome. Aircrews noticed two strange types of antiaircraft bursts. One looked like a gasoline fire bursting in midair, the other appeared to be a stream of fire trailed by smoke.

As the crews made their runs, 1/Lt. James J. Franklin’s B-24 took a direct hit and exploded. All ten members of the crew as well as an observer were killed. To the right of Franklin was 1/Lt. Rudolph J. Cherkauer in B-24 #373, which felt the brunt of the explosion and ended up leaving Tainan with two hundred new…

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Col. Hiromishi Yahara on Okinawa

Lines of defense on Okinawa. Top Japanese officers were in the bottom line of bunkers.

Colonel Hiromishi Yahara was third in command of the Japanese defenses on Okinawa. Read all about his story below.

It was Colonel Hiromishi Yahara who designed and implemented the jiykusen, or the yard-by-yard battle of attrition that cost the American forces so many casualties in the three-month battle, and he was the highest ranking officer to survive the battle and make it back to Tokyo. Before the overall commander on the island, Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, committed ritual suicide in the battle’s final days, he instructed Yahara to escape to Tokyo to make a final report to the emperor.

Yahara was captured by the Americans, which bothered him immensely—to be captured or to surrender was considered a disgrace to one’s family—but eventually he did return to Japan.  In 1973, Yahara still felt strongly that the garrison at Okinawa, as well as the people of Okinawa themselves, had been betrayed by Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo.  Because he faced personal attacks for surviving the battle, Yahara decided to write a book to set the record straight.


The result is a fascinating and unique look at the last, decisive battle of the Pacific War, written by a surviving member of the defeated Japanese command on Okinawa.  Yahara was a gifted and meticulous strategist, highly respected by his peers. Because he had spent two years in the United States as an exchange officer prior to World War II, he knew his enemy better than did his superiors at Okinawa, Ushijima and Maj. Gen. Isamu Cho.

Yahara makes a startling revelation in the book regarding the events surrounding the American landing on Okinawa on April 1, 1945.  According to Yahara, the plans drawn up in Tokyo called for Japanese air power to play the decisive role in the battle for Okinawa prior to the actual landing.  Japanese planes flying from the mainland along with aircraft launched by the Japanese Combined Fleet—conventional fighters and kamikaze suicide attackers—were supposed to strike the U.S. Fifth Fleet offshore prior to the landing and annihilate the American landing forces while they were still in their ships.  The 32nd Imperial Army entrenched on Okinawa was to play a minor role, mopping up the survivors of the American landing forces as they struggled ashore.

Giretsu Commandos on Okinawa

To Yahara, the failure to launch the promised air attack on April 1 sealed the fate of the island’s garrison—it never had a chance for victory. Hundreds of thousands of Okinawan citizens had been betrayed as well, Yahara believed, sacrificed to the whims of the Japanese high command.

Although his love for his country never wavered, Yahara was unique among his peers.  He fully recognized the flaws in traditional Japanese military thinking—the Bushido code, or way of the warrior—and he was disgusted as he watched his superiors repeat the errors of previous eras.  The Imperial Army had a “blood and guts” mentality; it had been undefeated since winning the Sino-Japanese War in 1895.  To the Japanese militarists’ way of thinking, the combination of Japanese spirit and the willingness to die for the emperor would overcome any material advantage enjoyed by an enemy.

Japanese bunker

Yahara was convinced that the initial Japanese strategy for Okinawa—depending on air power—would fail.  Japan’s air forces were seriously degraded by early 1945, and it had lost many experienced pilots. American aircraft were now technically superior, and Japan’s Navy was down to just a few surviving carriers.  Yahara believed that the only chance for his country’s survival lay in the proper use of its remaining ground forces.

After the promised air assault did not materialize, he went ahead with his planned defenses on the ground.  He would fight for time, making the invaders pay dearly for every inch of ground, to allow Japan to prepare its defenses on the main islands for the Allied invasion that was sure to come.  Yahara’s tactics on Okinawa would utilize the island’s terrain, which was perfectly suited for defense, to wage an ugly war of attrition. His soldiers would go underground in caves and concrete bunkers to survive air, artillery, and naval gunfire, and then battle American ground forces for every inch of island real estate. His intricate, multi-layered defensive positions and the tenacity of the 110,000-man 32nd Army combined to prolong the battle for three long and exceedingly bloody months.

Col. Hiromishi Yahara

In his book, Yahara admits that he despised both the self-delusion practiced by his superiors and the false propaganda foisted upon the Okinawan people, who were told that capture by American troops would result in rape, torture, and death, to which suicide was preferable.

Condensed from an article by John Walker.

Click on images to enlarge.

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 Military Humor – BOOT CAMP 

‘Sign me up for swing shift basic training! I don’t think I could handle early morning hours.’

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Bathurst – Madison, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Frank Conger – Poughkeepsie, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Bennington

Missing Man formation

Warren Foss – St. Louis, MO; US Navy, WWII, PTO

James Gavette – Bradford, PA; US Army, WWII

Samuel Tom Holiday – Kayeta, AZ; USMC, WWII, PTO, Navajo Code Talker, Purple Heart

Norman Jackson – Watertown, NY; US merchant Marine, WWII

Francis McCormack – Rutland, VT; USMC

Irving Press – Windsor, CT; US Army, WWII

Raymond Rzepecki Sr. – Central Falls, RI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Pfc, B-24 tail gunner, 370th

Omar Shaffer – Linden, VA; US Navy, WWII, gunner

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Home Front – Missouri POW’s

The main camps supported a number of branch camps, which were used to put POWs where their labor could be best utilized.

As author David Fiedler explained in his book “The Enemy Among Us: POWs in Missouri During World War II,” the state was once home to more than 15,000 German and Italian prisoners of war (POW).

Many of the camps where they were held have faded into distant memory as little evidence remains of their existence; however, one local resident has a relic from a former POW camp that provides an enduring connection to the service of a departed relative.

“Established at Weingarten, a sleepy little town on State Highway 32 between Ste. Genevieve and Farmington, Missouri, (Camp Weingarten) had no pre-war existence,” wrote Fiedler. The author further explained, “The camp was enlarged to the point that some 5,800 POWs could be held there, and approximately 380 buildings of all types would be constructed on an expanded 950-acre site.”

Camp Weingarten quickly grew into a sprawling facility to house Italian POWs brought to the United States and, explained Jefferson City resident Carolyn McDowell, was the site where one of her uncles spent his entire period of service with the U.S. Army in World War II.

Working POWs earned 80 cents a day and could buy beer at the canteens.

“My mother’s brother, Dwight Hafford Taylor, was raised in the community of Alton in southern Missouri,” said McDowell. “His hometown really wasn’t all that far from Camp Weingarten,” she added.

Although her uncle passed away in 1970, records accessed through the National Archives and Records Administration indicate he was drafted into the U.S. Army and entered service at Jefferson Barracks on November 10, 1942.  After completing his initial training, he was designated as infantry and became a clerk with the 201st Infantry Regiment.

Shortly after Taylor received assignment to Camp Weingarten, Italian prisoners of war began to arrive at the camp in May 1943. Despite the challenges of overseeing the internment of former enemy soldiers, the camp experienced few security incidents and conditions remained rather cordial, in part due to the sustenance given the prisoners.

There were four main base camps, each holding between 2,000 and 5,000 POWs.

It was noted that many of the Italians were “semi-emaciated” when arriving in the United States because of a poor diet. The Chicago Tribune reported on October 23, 1943, that the prisoners at Camp Weingarten soon “put on weight” by eating a “daily menu … superior to that of the average civilian.”

Pfc. Taylor and his fellow soldiers, most of whom were assigned to military police companies, maintained a busy schedule of guarding the prisoners held in the camp, but also received opportunities to take leave from their duties and visit their loved ones back home.

“During one of my uncle’s visits back to Alton, he asked his mother for an aluminum pie pan,” said McDowell. “He then took it back to camp with him and that’s when he gave it to one of the Italian POWs.”

Cigarette case cover

When returning to camp, one of the POWs with whom Taylor had established a friendship was given the pie pan and used it to demonstrate his abilities as an artist and a craftsman by fashioning it into a cigarette case. The case not only had a specially crafted latching mechanism, but was also etched with an emblem of an eagle on the cover with barracks buildings and a guard tower from the camp inscribed upon the inside.

“My uncle then gave the cigarette case as a gift to my father, who was living in Jefferson City at the time and working as superintendent of the tobacco factory inside the Missouri State Penitentiary,” stated McDowell. “It is a beautifully crafted cigarette case, but the irony of it all is that my father never smoked,” she jokingly added.

Inside of the case.

As McDowell went on to explain, her uncle remained at Camp Weingarten until his discharge from the U.S. Army in December 1944. The following October, the former POW camp was closed and many of the buildings were dismantled, shipped and reassembled as housing for student veterans at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

In the years after the war, McDowell said, her mother kept the cigarette case tucked away in a chest of drawers but since both of her parents have passed, she now believes the historical item should be on display in a museum.

Italian POWs

Little remains of the once sprawling POW camp located approximately 90 miles south of St. Louis, with the exception of a stone fireplace that was part of the Officer’s Club.  McDowell notes the cigarette case is not only a beautiful piece that serves as a link to the past, but represents a story to be shared of the state’s rich military legacy.

“I will someday donate the cigarette case to a museum for preservation and display, and I believe my brother, Harold McDowell, would agree. However, I want to ensure it is recognized for the treasure that it is and it is not simply thrown away,” said McDowell. “That’s why I want to tell the story of its creation … its history, so that its association to Camp Weingarten is never forgotten.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Wishing all in New Zealand a memorable Maori New Year!

 

 

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Bealle – Tuscaloosa, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, P-47 pilot

Percival Blows (100) – Summerset Karaka, NZ; RNZ Army #20590, WWII, 21st Battalion

David Chappell – Pueblo, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea

Murray Fromson – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, Korea, Stars and Stripes journalist

Robert Greer – Stanford, KY; US Army, 11th A/B & 82nd A/B Divisions

Melvin Korman – Providence, RI; US Army, WWII, ETO, Sgt.

L.G. ‘Butch’ Lemons – Phoenix, AZ; USMC, WWII, SSgt.

Donald McIntyre – Tauranga, NZ; RNZ Army # 388853, WWII, Maj. (Ret.), 7th Rajput Reg, So. Lancaster Reg.,Royal West African Frontier Force Intelligence Corps

John Strouf – Altoona, IA; US Army, WWII

Byron Wrenn – St. Helens, OR; US Navy, WWII & Korea

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Crazy for PBY Catalina Flying Boats

U.S. Army Birthday & Flag Day 2018

243RD Army Birthday

Headquarters Department of the Army is celebrating the Army’s 243rd birthday during the week of 10-16 June 2018 with numerous ceremonies and events. Highlighted celebrations are Army Day with the Nationals on 10 June; Twilight Tattoo hosted by the Sergeant Major of the Army on 13 June; a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on 14 June; the Pentagon Army Birthday Celebration also on 14 June; and culminating with the Army Birthday Ball on 16 June 2018.

 

 

Today is also Flag Day, an annual observance of the Second Continental Congress’ official adoption of the stars and stripes in 1777. At the time, they “resolved that the flag of the 13 United States” be represented by 13 alternating red and white stripes and the union by 13 white stars in a blue field, “representing a new constellation.” Now, more than 200 years later and with an updated design, the flag is an American icon.  Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is the only state to recognize it as a legal holiday.

As national treasures go, it was a bargain: $405.90 was paid to Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore, who fashioned it from red, blue and undyed wool, plus cotton for the 15 stars to fly at the fortress guarding the city’s harbor. An enormous flag, 30 by 42 feet, it was intended as a bold statement to the British warships that were certain to come.  And, when in September 1814, the young United States turned back the invaders in a spectacular battle witnessed by Francis Scott Key, he put his joy into a verse published first as “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” and then, set to the tune of a British drinking song – immortalized as “The Star Spangled Banner.”

 

STOP IN AND HEAR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM !!

 

 

If you live outside the U.S., and you also live free – display your flag as proudly as I do mine and enjoy your day!!

 

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Military Humor –

 

‘And this one’s for humor in the line of duty.’

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Farewell Salutes –

Alexander Conrad – Chandler, AZ ; US Army, Somalia, SSgt. 1/3rd Special Ops Forces Group, KIA

James Furcinito – Syracuse, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Paul Gilman – Belen, NM; USMC, WWII, M/3/8th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Leonard Grossman – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII

Delbert Hawkins – Augusta, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Jack Kill – Yorktown, VA; US Army, WWII

Emil Lake – Great Falls, MT; US Army, Vietnam

Herbert ‘Mac’ McDaniel – Malvern, AR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Capt., / Korea, Lt. Col.

Gordon Schofield – Montreal, CAN/FL; US Air Force

Edward Thomas – Minneapolis, MN; US Army, “Bird Dog” pilot

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IJN Yamato

IJN Yamato

By early 1945, Japan’s strategic situation was grim. Japanese conquests in the Pacific had been steadily rolled back since the Allied landings on Guadalcanal in August 1942. The Philippines, Solomons, Gilberts and Carolines had all been lost and the enemy was now literally at the gates. Okinawa, the largest island in the Ryukyu island chain was the last bastion before the Home Islands itself. The island was just 160 miles from the mainland city of Kagoshima, coincidentally the birthplace of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

 From: Kyle Mizokami

In early 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy made a difficult decision: it would sacrifice the largest, most powerful battleships ever built to protect Okinawa, the gateway to Japan’s Home Islands. The decision sealed the fate of the battleship Yamato and its crew, but ironically did nothing to actually protect the island from Allied invasion.

Yamato under construction

The battleship Yamato was among the largest and most powerful battleships of all time. Yamato has reached nearly mythical status, a perfect example of Japan’s fascination with doomed, futile heroics. Built in 1937 at the Kure Naval Arsenal near Hiroshima, it was constructed in secrecy to avoid alarming the United States. Japan had recently withdrawn from the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited battleship tonnages, and was free to build them as large as it wanted.

Unfortunately for Yamato and its crew, it was obsolete by the time it was launched in 1941. The ability of fast aircraft carriers to engage enemy ships at the range of their embarked dive and torpedo bombers meant a carrier could attack a battleship at ranges of two hundred miles or more, long before it entered the range of a battleship’s guns. Battleships were “out-sticked,” to use a modern term.

At 0800 hours on April 7, scout planes from Admiral Mitscher’s Fast Carrier Force, or Task Force 58, located IJN Yamato, still only halfway to Okinawa. Mitscher launched a massive strike force of 280 fighters, bombers and torpedo planes, and the fight was on.

IJN Yamato

For two hours, the Surface Special Attack Force was subjected to a merciless aerial bombardment. The air wings of 11 fleet carriers joined in the attack—so many planes were in the air above Yamato that the fear of midair collision was real. The naval aviators were in such a hurry to score the first hit on the allegedly unsinkable ship plans for a coordinated attack collapsed into a free-for-all. Yamato took two hits during this attack, two bombs and one torpedo, and air attacks claimed two escorting destroyers.

A second aerial armada consisting of one hundred aircraft pressed the attack. As the Yamato started to go down, U.S. naval aviators changed tactics. Noticing the ship was listing badly, one squadron changed its torpedo running depth from ten feet—where it would collide with the main armor belt—to twenty feet, where it would detonate against the exposed lower hull. Aboard Yamato, the listing eventually grew to more than twenty degrees, and the captain made the difficult decision to flood the starboard outer engine room, drowning three hundred men at their stations, in an attempt to trim out the ship.

Yamato in battle, artist unknown

Yamato had taken ten torpedoes and seven bomb hits, and was hurting badly. Despite counterflooding, the ship continued to list, and once it reached thirty five degrees the order was given to abandon ship. The captain and many of the bridge crew tied themselves to their stations and went down with their ship, while the rest attempted to escape.

At 14:23, it happened. Yamato’s forward internal magazines detonated in a spectacular fireball. It was like a tactical nuclear weapon going off. Later, a navigation officer on one of Japan’s surviving destroyers calculated that the “pillar of fire reached a height of 2,000 meters, that the mushroom-shaped cloud rose to a height of 6,000 meters.” The flash from the explosion that was Yamato’s death knell was seen as far away as Kagoshima on the Japanese mainland. The explosion also reportedly destroyed several American airplanes observing the sinking.

Yamato at the end, artist unknown

When it was all over, the Surface Special Attack Force had been almost completely destroyed. Yamato, the cruiser Yahagi and three destroyers were sunk. Several other escorts had been seriously damaged. Gone with the great battleship were 2,498 of its 2,700-person crew.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Frank Beasley – Athens, OH; US Navy, corpsman

Ainslie Boyd – Marlborough, NZ; RNZ Navy # 7544, WWII & Vietnam, K Force

Francis Drake Jr. – Springfield, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

David Douglas Duncan (102) – Kansas City, MO; US Army, WWII, PTO, combat photographer / Civilian, Korea & Vietnam Wars, Life Mag. photographer

Donald Freeman – Mobile, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Division

Howie Judd – Rensselaer, NY; CIA (Ret.)

Harvel Moore –  Chatham, LA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

James Robinson – Leavenworth, KS; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Mustin

Dee (Berglin) Robinson – Fairmount, ND; VA hospital nurse, WWII

Robert Southall – Cleveland, OH; US Army, WWII

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HAVING TROUBLE DEALING WITH MONDAY?

HAVE A GREAT DAY, FOLKS!!

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CBI Theater – April 1945

400,000 PAY TRIBUTE TO DEPARTED LEADER IN SIMPLE LAST RITES

Roundup Staff Articles from 19 and 26 April 1945 issues


The body of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 31st President of the United States, was lowered to its final resting place in the soil of his Hyde Park, N.Y., home this week as 140,000,000 Americans from Washington to New Delhi paid tribute to their leader.
The last rites at the White House and at Hyde Park were of extreme simplicity to follow through to the end the Lincoln-esque democracy that has characterized the 12 year and 80 day duty of President Roosevelt as head of the Republic of the United States.
A special train brought the body from Warm Springs, Ga., where he died of cerebral hemorrhage last week, to Washington, D.C., thence on to his native State of New York.
As the President’s casket was carried into the White House the Marine Band played Lead, Kindly Light.

General Stratemeyer

HUMOROUS TIMES IN WAR!

Cpl. Joan Reidinger was a “little scared,” she admits, when Maj. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, Eastern Air Command commanding general, invited her to tea recently.
It seems that Joan had written a poem entitled The Army Goes to Tea for Yank, and although the verses went on to “rib” the brass for their take-off on the British customs in India, Stratemeyer liked the poem; hence the invitation. Here is The Army Goes to Tea:

I should like to see the captain,” said the colonel to the WAC,
“I’m sorry, sir, he isn’t here, but he will soon be back.”
“But come, we’re going on a flight; the plane, it leaves at three.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the WAC replied, “the captain’s out to tea.”
The telephone it jingled, and the WAC with voice of cheer
Said, “Colonel Doodle’s office, but the colonel isn’t here.”
“This is General Snipe,” the answer came, “so tell me, where is he?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the WAC replied, “the colonel’s gone to tea.”
“I’ve got to get an order through,” the irate major said.
“If we don’t get some rations soon, my men will be all dead!
Please take me to Lt. Snoot, I know my point he’ll see.”
“I’m sorry, sir, Lt. Snoot has just stepped out to tea.”
And so it goes across the world, wherever tea they serve,
This strange civilian custom that the officers observe.
But if you’re just a poor G.I., you’re frowned upon, you see,
If you should try, at four o’clock, to stop your work for tea!

 

Handling snakes, Army style

AIR SERVICE COMMAND BASE, INDIA – The guide books say, “If a snake crawls onto your body, freeze in your tracks! The snake will not harm you and will soon go away.”
Cpl. Pleasant C. Templeton, photo lab wallah of an Air Service Group, had the unpleasant opportunity to test this theory while on guard duty one recent night.
Stooping over to avert the icy wind and blinding rain of the winter monsoon, Templeton felt a “sizeable” snake creep up into his lap. Remembering the advice, he remained perfectly still while the reptile playfully investigated such curiosities as his luminous-dial wrist watch and shiny overcoat buttons.
Friend snake apparently had read the same guide book and behaved accordingly. Fifteen minutes later, he wriggled off into the grass. Templeton still can’t comb his hair down. – Cpl. RAY LOWERY.

 

Partial view of the P-61 Pierre Lagace made for me.

10TH AIR FORCE USING P-61 PLANE IN THEATER 

HQ., 10TH AIR FORCE, BURMA – Presence of the P-61 Black Widow in the India-Burma Theater has been officially announced by the 10th Air Force.
During the past months, this deadly night fighter, operating under a blanket of security restrictions, has practically wiped out all nocturnal Jap raiders from Burma skies. Today, for lack of its particular type of target, the Black Widow has been transformed into a fighter-bomber, blasting retreating enemy forces with 500-pound bombs.
With its twin engines and twin tails, the Black Widow resembles the P-38 Lightning although much heavier and carrying a three-man crew – pilot, observer and crew chief. Its climbing power, tremendous speed and special radio detection equipment enables the P-61 to achieve great tactical surprise on enemy aircraft.
The 10th Air Force’s Black Widow squadron is commanded by Lt. Col. James S. Michael, veteran of North Africa and Italy campaigns. His operations officer is Maj. Thomas N. Wilson.
Capt. Walter A. Storck, who, at 38, is probably one of the oldest active fighter pilots in the service, is flight leader of the Black Widows. In the past 16 years, Storck has accumulated more than 6,000 hours in the air, flying everything from an L-5 liaison plane to the newest jet-propelled aircraft.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – CBI style – 

“AND JUST WHERE IS THAT GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL I WAS SUPPOSE TO GET?”

“THIS IS THE OUTFIT I BOUGHT TO GO ON A DATE WITH AN ENLISTED MAN.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Leonard Applebaum – Bronx, NY; Merchant Marines / US Army

Robert G. Buchert (100) – Cincinnatti, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Sgt. Major, 152nd AAA/11th Airborne Division

Frank C. Carlucci III – Scranton, PA; Defense Secretary to Pres. Ronald Reagan

William Clark – Canberra, AUS; RA Air Force, 692 Squadron

William Flowers – Topeka, KS; US Navy, WWII

Walter Kane – Ware, MA; US Army, WWII

Fred Love – Delray Beach, FL; US Army, Medical Corps

John McIntyre – NZ; New Zealand Army # 477617, Vietnam

Carolyn Losee Spears – Westfield, NJ; US Navy WAVES, WWII, Chief Petty Officer

Harold Wilkerson – Clinton, IA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 1277 Engineers, Bronze Star

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187th/11th Airborne Division – Luzon, April 1945

This excerpt is from “The 11th Airborne Brick” by: Marvin Miller

[Filipino scouts had just killed 2 Makapili ( enemy sympathizers), and parts of the 187th/11th Airborne were near.]

The men in the company walked right by the bodies of the two slain men, the captain refused to even look in that direction as if he didn’t have the slightest idea of what just went on.  He would never tell a soul of what happened there that day.

A hard, driving rain began to fall on what Wayne thought was a Tuesday and 3 days later, it was still raining.  He kept his little New Testament Bible and his latest letter from Roxie dry by using a rubber bag he had taken off a dead enemy soldier.

Luzon, 1945

On that Saturday, the sun was shining brightly as they prepared to continue their trek through the muddy jungle trail.  They moved out within the hour and had made a couple of miles by noon.  The heat was stifling and the humidity made it unbearable.  It was difficult to breathe.

In an instant, a land mine and some snipers took the Filipino scouts out.  Shots were being fired from all directions as the troops found themselves in the crossfire of an ambush that had been carefully planned by the Japanese.  The rest of the company hit the ground in the thick vegetation for cover.

As usual, Fikes was shouting out orders to his men on how to fight the enemy, but the gunfire was too loud for him to be heard.  Besides, nobody ever listened to him anyway and he knew that in situations like this, it was every man for himself.  It was simply kill or be killed.  He grabbed a hand grenade, pulled the pin and quickly lopped it into the direction where he heard a Jap machine-gun.

The grenade exploded bu the machine-gun fire continued.  He tried again and missed.  When he jumped up the third time, the machine-gunner was waiting for him….

Plante got to his knees and then stood up shooting his flamethrower into one direction and then another.  He dove for cover after the third blast, waited a minute or two and then did it again.  He repeated this process over and over again for what seemed to be hours…

soldiers in the tall grass of Luzon

Wayne and Branson were firing their weapons too at every chance they had.  In fact, they had fired so many times that Wayne’s BAR malfunctioned.  He left his position close by his best buddies and crawled through the tall grass in search of another weapon.  He found an M1 just a few yards away where Pfc Hanson was laying dead.

The firefight seemed to be lasting for an eternity…  Both sides were running low on ammunition.  The Japanese were so low that they were now ready for  the second phase of their attack, the banzai charge.  They stood up, those without ammunition used the bayonets on their rifles or used their sabers.

Philippines, 1945

There were 53 in the banzai charge.  Over half were shot dead before they reached the Americans, but what few did reach the soldiers were either killed in hand-to-hand combat or shot.  It was over in less than a minute.

Branson was field promoted that day and took over Fikes’ platoon.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – SNAFU in “Outpost”

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kenneth Anderson – Red Wing, MN; US Army, Korea

James Blevins – Ash County, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, mechanic

Daniel Diana – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, Lt.Comdr.

David Garcia – St. Louis, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, (MLB Mgr.)

Michael Healy – Chicago, IL; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, 4th Rangers w/ 187th RCT / US Army Special Forces, MGeneral (Ret. 36 y.)

Gorge Keagy – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; US Coast Guard, gunner’s mate, USCG cutter Vigilant

Thomas Nix – Boulder, CO; US Navy, WWII, USS Lexington

Frank Osmer – Hudson, NH; US navy, WWII, gunner’s mate, USS Astoria

Virgil Smith – Haines City, FL; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Chuck Stevens Jr. – Van Houten, NM; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, (MLB 1st baseman)

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