Monthly Archives: January 2021

Guam

Guam

In a lot of Pacific War histories, Guam is swept aside and banished as insignificant.  How soon they forget, many might say.

In Tokyo, soundtrucks festooned with World War II colors still extol those lost in a gallant defeat. In America, elders like Louis H. Wilson Jr. and George Tweed would never forget.

Masashi Ito and Bunzo Minagawa spent young manhood into middle age in the tropical underside of an island that tourists now praise as a paradise. They were holdouts, soldiers who refused to surrender and would forage for
survival for 16 years.

Soichi Yokoi, before and after

The last known Japanese survivor, Shoichi Yokoi, held out until 1972, captured by chance as he ventured out to empty a fish trap. Yokoi had never crept out of dense cover to hear the happy shouts of Japanese tourists and honeymooners. Nor had he walked the lobby of the Hilton or the Cliffside.

Luxury hotels swarm over the beachfront and jungle growth has covered the faint traces of war, and Guam gets only a passing nod as a battlefield beside Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Okinawa and Leyte. Thirty-six years ago [now it is 76 ½ years ago]  shellfire plowed across Guam. Some 18,500 Japanese were trying to pry loose the fingerhold that many more thousands of American soldiers and Marines had fastened on beaches and cliffsides.

Many of the Americans barely had a respite between battles, having first seized Saipan to pull the keystone of the Marianas archway. Guam was almost a point-of-honor afterthought. The island was an American possession until a handful of Marines, soldiers and Guamanian militia made a no-choice surrender only three days after Japanese bombers pounded Hawaii.

The III Amphibious Corps and the 77th Infantry Division are not going in blindfolded that July 21, 1944. Eleven days before the landing, as American warships savage Guam’s coastal defenses, a tall figure sprints down a beach and plunges into the surf, swimming with desperate strength until he is within hailing distance of a destroyer.

George Tweed

George Tweed is pulled aboard and tells an astonishing story. He was one of the 288 men on the island as 5,000 Japanese surged ashore, ignoring the flea-bite firepower of a few .30 cal. machine guns as they overwhelmed the thin garrison and forced the Naval Governor, Capt. George J. McMillin, into quick submission.

Tweed and five others slipped away, hunted by Japanese who probed the underbrush with bayonets. Only Tweed survived, living on land crabs and coconuts, warily evading the patrols that shook every palm tree and banyan for him. Tweed saw his pursuers far more often than they saw him, and his sketchpad mind has taken it all down — every gun emplacement, trenchline and fortified cave. The Japanese failure to capture or kill this ragged stray will cost them dearly.

Exacting naval gunfire singles out visible and concealed coastal guns – all but a few. As the 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Marine Brigade board barges that cut paint-stroke wakes toward the western side of Guam, sharp flashes burst along the coastline. Barges turn over like crumpled buckets.

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“You never get it for free,” an older Marine mutters as the barges push ashore — the division between Adelup and Asan Points and the brigade wedging between Point Bangi and the town of Agat. Beachheads are “tightly fastened and the coastal guns erased.

There are already wolfish shouts from the jungle along the coastline. Fierce counterattacks tear into the Marine lines and one lunge rips through the brigade. It is contained after a desperate brawl with bullets, blades and even fists.

The Marines begin moving inland, slowly closing a gap between division and brigade as hey crush across Apra Harbor and Orote Peninsula, squeezing
the defenders between them. But the Japanese put no markdown price tags on anything, heaping fallen defenses with Marine dead. As the two Marine forces grasp .hands, another enemy rush pours forth — the futile bravery of 500 Japanese sailors who die in an inferno of shellfire.

Capt. Louis H. Wilson Jr. is a company commander in the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. He thrusts ahead of the others to take high and important ground, holding it against human-avalanche counterattacks.

His Medal of Honor citation will stiffly relate that Wilson “contributed essentially” to the success of the assault, passing over the fact that he was wounded three times and fought aside agonized delirium to rally his Marines.

Capt. Louis H. Wilson Jr., USMC

Soldiers of the 77th, fed slowly into the advance, must do the deadly, mop-and-dustpan work in southern Guam as the Marine advance lunges on. The suicidal determined Japanese will tear tiny leaks and large gaps in the line, and the effort to repulse them will often get down to hand-to-hand piecework.

The advance will spider all over the island, with Guam declared secure as Marines reach the northernmost tip on Ritidian Point. Everything is back under American colors by Aug. 10.

The past will be wiped away over the years. Wreckage will be swept aside. Foundations for posh hotels will be sunk along the beachfront. Andersen AFB and Agana NAS will assure a stronger military presence than those unfortunate few of late 1941.

Strangers will be strafed by stiff expense but nothing else.

“Robinson Crusoe, USN” by: George Tweed

Tweed will write a book, “Robinson Crusoe, USN.”

Wilson will become Marine Corps Commandant.

Battle histories will little note nor long remember Guam.

But Wilson, Tweed, many Americans and a few Japanese, will always share a thin fund of private memories.

From the Archives of the Stars & Stripes,  August 10, 1980

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Military Humor – 

‘Howitzers at dawn.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Howard Buescher – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Andrew Caneza – New Orleans, LA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Mead Clark – Joliet, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 17th Airborne Division

George Fry – St. Paul, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Ed Guthrie (102) Omaha, NE; US Navy, WWII, electrician’s mate 2nd Class, USS Banner, last known Pearl Harbor survivor

John Harris – NY & FL; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam (Ret. 28 y.)

Glen Kloiber – Milwaukee, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 791st AAA Battalion

Dallas Lehn – Elba, NE; US Army, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Michael D. Miller – OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII

John Rudberg – Minneapolis, MN; US Navy, V-12 Program

Ordnance – M3 Howitzer

M3 105mm Howitzer

Should anyone wish to further research the 11th Airborne’s field artillery, the division constituted the 674th and 675th Airborne Field Artillery.

674th Airborne Field Artillery

The 105 mm Howitzer M3 was a light howitzer designed for use by airborne troops. The gun utilized the barrel of the 105 mm howitzer M2, shortened and fitted to a slightly modified split trail carriage of the 75 mm pack howitzer. The howitzer was used by the U.S. Army during WWII.  It was issued to airborne units and the cannon companies of infantry regiments.

Paratrooper Everett Smith (Smitty, far right) during training

The howitzer was designed to fire the same ammunition as the longer M2. However, it turned out that shorter barrel resulted in incomplete burning of the propelling charge. The problem could be solved by use of faster burning powder. Otherwise the design was considered acceptable and was standardized as 105 mm Howitzer M3 on Carriage M3. The carriage was soon succeeded by the M3A1, which had trails made from thicker plate. Even stronger tubular trails were designed, but never reached production.

The production started in February 1943 and continued until May 1944; an additional bunch was produced in April–June 1945.

 

Production of М3, pcs.[2]
Year 1943 1944 1945 Total
Produced, pcs. 1,965 410 205 2,580

The gun fired semi-fixed ammunition, similar to the ammunition of the M2; it used the same projectiles and the same 105 mm Cartridge Case M14, but with different propelling charge. The latter used faster burning powder to avoid incomplete burning; it consisted of a base charge and four increments, forming five charges from 1 (the smallest) to 5 (the largest).

In an emergency, gunners were authorized to fire M1 HE rounds prepared for the Howitzer M2, but only with charges from 1 to 3. M1 HE rounds for the M3 could be fired from an M2 with any charge.

HEAT M67 Shell had non-adjustable propelling charge. For blank ammunition, a shorter Cartridge Case M15 with black powder charge was used.

 

Available ammunition
Type Model Weight (round/projectile) Filler Muzzle velocity Range
HE HE M1 Shell 18.35 kg (40 lb) / 14.97 kg (33 lb) 50/50 TNT or amatol* 2.18 kg (4 lb 13 oz) 311 m/s (1,020 ft/s) 7,585 m (8,300 yd)
HEAT-T HEAT M67 Shell 16.62 kg (37 lb) / 13.25 kg (29 lb) 311 m/s (1,020 ft/s) 7,760 m (8,500 yd)
Smoke WP M60 Shell 18.97 kg (42 lb) / 15.56 kg (34 lb) White Phosphorus, 1.84 kg (4.1 lb) 311 m/s (1,020 ft/s) 7,585 m (8,300 yd)
Smoke FS M60 Shell 19.65 kg (43 lb) / Sulfur trioxide in Chlorosulfonic acid, 2.09 kg (4 lb 10 oz)
Smoke HC BE M84 Shell 18.29 kg (40 lb) / 14.91 kg (33 lb) Zinc chloride 311 m/s (1,020 ft/s) 7,585 m (8,300 yd)

* Amatol is a highly explosive material made from a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate.   Amatol was used extensively during WWI and WWII.

 

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Military Humor –

Light Artillery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Mildred (Andrews) Andres – Baton Rouge, LA; US Army WAC, German Occupation, Sgt.

FINAL MISSION

Patricia Delaney – Evanston, IL; US Navy WAVES, WWII, Lt. JG

Thomas A. Dennison – Lander, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

John Jarvie – Rock Springs, WY; USMC, WWII, PTO / Korea, MSgt., Engineering, (Ret. 21 y.)

Theodore Lumpkin Jr. (100) – Angeleno, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 2nd Lt., 100th Fighter Squadron, Intelligence; Lt. Col. (Ret.)

Davis Mosqueda – Boise, ID; USMC, Silent Drill Corps, LCpl.

Louis V. O’Brien – Providence, RI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 486/352 Fighter Group, 2nd Lt., pilot

Madge (Watkins) Redwood – Auckland, NZ; NZ Army WAAC, WWII, # 813240, 9th Coastal Regiment

Brian D. Sicknick – NJ; National Guard, Middle East, Sgt., /  US Capitol Police, 1st Responder Unit

James Wento – Lynn, MA; US Army, SSgt., 2-2 Assault Helicopter Battalion/2nd Combat Assault

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Ordnance – L-4 Grasshopper in the Pacific

The “L’series liaison aircraft in US army service were often known as “grasshoppers.” These aircraft served with artillery and outfits spotting targets and giving commanders real time information on enemy positions. They also served in Liaison Squadrons, such as the 25th Liaison Squadron which earned fame in the Pacific Theater with their “Guinea Short Lines” aircraft.

L-4 Grasshopper, Piper Cub

Primarily to serve at elimination training bases in World War II the Navy acquired 230 Piper NE-1s , basically similar to the Army L-4s with Continental 0-170 engines. Twenty NE-2s were similar.

deHavilland WWI

As war spread around the world at the beginning of the 1940s, the U.S. military, dominated by old soldiers who expected to fight the next war exactly as they fought the last one, had to be convinced that the requirements for certain weapons needed to be redefined. An example was the Army’s observation airplanes, latter-day versions of the World War I, the deHavilland DH-4.

A two place tandem cockpit, dual-control, modified J-3 civilian light plane built by Piper Aircraft Corporation, Lock Haven, PA. Military models were designated the L-4B, L-4H, L-4J. This lightweight aircraft was among the most useful tactical aircraft of WWII. Dubbed “Grasshoppers” for their ability to fly into and out of small spaces, this military adaptation of the famous Piper J-3 Cub became the center of the toughest inter service turf fights of the war. General George S. Patton, Jr. played a major role in their introduction, a fact often overlooked in light of his other major accomplishments.

The L-4 had a fabric-covered frame with wooden spar, metal-rib wings, a metal-tube fuselage, and a metal-tube empennage. Its fixed landing gear used “rubber-band” bungee cord shock absorbers and had hydraulic brakes and no flaps.

Grasshopper pilots flew dangerous missions over enemy territory without any armor.

The aircrafts flight instruments included an airspeed indicator, and altimeter, compass, and simple turn-and-bank indicator. It was equipped with a two-way radio, powered by a wind-driven generator.

All of the little L-birds land like feathers, but the L-4 is the easiest and softest to land. Put 10 knots of wind on the nose, and all of them seem to come to a halt before gently touching down.

The L-4 retained the metal ribs of the Cub, so only the spar is made of wood. The ribs, however, are trusses of T-sections formed of thin aluminum riveted and screwed together. If poorly treated, these rib trusses are easily damaged and attract corrosion in the corners.

 

A: Cables or struts braced the Piper L4 tailplanes and wings. These allowed the necessary strength to be built in without resorting to a heavy structure. Rough field operations exert a lot of stress on airframes.  B: Mounted semi-exposed, the Continental flat-four engine powered the majority of more than 5000 Piper L-4s delivered to the Army, Several J-4 Cubs owned by civilians were pressed into service.  C: Structurally. the Piper L-4 was quite simple and had a fabric-covered wooden framework. The wing had no slats or flaps, but was equipped with large, long-span ailerons, Internally the wing was braced with wire.  D: For solo flights the L4 Grasshopper pilot sat in the rear seat, which had a full set of controls but was normally used by the observer. The Grasshopper was also equipped with a map table and the radio fit varied between models.

 

In Florida, the Civil Air Patrol had a Piper Cub patrolling at a low altitude along the Palm Beach coast (as many other cities had) and on one occasion, the 55-year-old pilot swooped down for a closer look at something he felt was unusual and he was fired on – it was a German submarine. The plane received enough damage to force him to return to the airfield. This is probably the only American plane downed by enemy fire in the continental U.S. history.

While some of the men were confined to fighting up in the mountains, the division’s newspaper called the Static Line, used a piper cub plane to drop bundles of the publication down to the men.  This was the only news of the outside world that the troopers could receive.  One day, a roll of the papers was dropped with a note attached addressing it: “To the girls, with the compliments of Art Mosley and Jack Keil, Phone Glider 3.”  It was discovered later that the WAC camp received the roll meant for the 11th airborne.

21 December 1944, General Swing and Col. Quandt flew to Manarawat in cub planes.  Upon landing, the general was said to look “as muddy as a dog-faced private.”  (Swing would often be in the thick of things and this description of him was common.)  He slept that night in the camp’s only nipa hut, which ended up being destroyed the next day.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Angel Balcarcel – Canton, OH; US Navy, WWII

Arthur H. Bishop – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Korea, 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment

Mare Island Cemetery

Jimmy Coy – Columbia, MO; US Army, 1st Gulf War, 3rd Group/Army Special Forces, Medical surgeon, Colonel (Ret. 25 y.)

Wayne DeHaven Sr. – Roseville, MN; US Army, WWII, 17th Airborne Division

Richard Fry – Hudson, OH; US Air Force  / NASA (Ret. 30 y.)

Georgina Grey – Bristol, ENG; Royal British Navy, WWII, aircraft maintenance

Jessica Mitchell – Topeka, KS; US Army, DSgt., 68E Dental Specialist

David Michaud – Denver, CO; USMC  /  Denver Police Chief

Joseph Papallo (101) – Meriden, CT; US Army, WWII

Doris (White) Ryan – Como, MS; Civilian, WWII, Memphis Army Dept.

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Honoring Merrill’s Marauders

There is a passing member of Merrill’s Marauders in the Farewell Salutes today.   This post is an attempt to honor their contributions.

James E. Richardson

“If they can walk and carry a gun,” Major General Joseph Stillwell presciently told Brigadier General Frank Merrill in 1943, “they can fight!”

After being run out of the Burmese jungle by the Japanese in May of 1942, Stillwell had, according to one war correspondent, appeared “like the wrath of God and cursing like a fallen angel.”

The general didn’t mince his words either, telling reporters that the joint expedition between a small contingent of American, British, and Chinese troops “got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake it.”

Gen. Stillwell

The following year a determined Stillwell took a major step toward getting his wish, as allied leaders, many who sought to rectify the previous campaign’s novice display of jungle fighting, mapped out a plan for a ground unit trained and equipped to engage in “long-range penetration” missions.

In what was to be the forerunner for today’s special forces units, 3,000 American men volunteered for the newly formed 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) — code name: Galahad.

Dubbed Merrill’s Marauders after their commander, the men were tasked with a “dangerous and hazardous mission” behind Japanese lines in Burma, where the fall of the country’s capital of Rangoon had severely threatened the Allied supply line to China.  The Marauders were tasked with cutting off Japanese communications and supply lines and pushing enemy forces north out of the town of Myitkyina, the only city with an all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma.

Merrill’s Marauders

Although operational for only a few months, Merrill’s Marauders gained a fierce reputation for hard fighting and tenacity as the first American infantry force to see ground action in Asia.

“Highly trained infantrymen whom we regard today as heroes, such as the Special Forces, look to Merrill’s Marauders as role models,” Eames said in a press release. “The unimaginable conditions these men successfully fought through changed the understanding of the limits of human endurance in armed conflict. The Congressional Gold Medal brings them the public recognition they deserve. We are honored to have assisted in getting it across the finish line.”

2 Aug. ’44, 75 yards from enemy positions, US Army Signal Corps, Merrill’s Marauders. named 5307th Composite Unit

Reached by email, Eames said he became involved after a colleague and fellow attorney, Scott Stone, met Marauders Bob Passanisi and Gilbert Howland in the cafeteria of the Senate Dirksen Building.

“When he found out why they were there, he immediately offered to help,” Eames said. “One of the first things he did was call us, and I agreed to get a team involved.”

For the other surviving Marauders, the acknowledgement is somewhat bittersweet.

2 of the survivors of Merrill’s Marauders

“This recognition means so much to me and the other survivors and our families,” Passanisi, Merrill’s Marauders Association’s spokesperson, said in the release. “My one regret is that only eight of us are alive to enjoy this historic honor.”  (now only 7 remain).

Passanisi was luckier than most. Traversing nearly 1,000 miles behind enemy lines, the Marauders marched over some of the most treacherous terrain in the world, combating not only a determined enemy, but fighting off myriad diseases, scorching heat, venomous snakes, and bloodsucking leeches.

The exploits of the Marauders and their daring mission to recapture the vital town and airstrip at Myitkyina made headlines throughout the United States in 1944 — but at a steep cost.

movie poster, Merrill’s Marauders

After five months of combat, 95 percent of the Marauders were dead, wounded, or deemed no longer medically fit for combat. By the time the force was deactivated in August 1944, many, including Congress, wondered whether Stillwell had sacrificed the Marauders due to poor planning and his own dreams of glory and revenge.  Still, despite the unit’s staggering losses — fighting in five major battles and over 30 other engagements — the Marauders became one of the most renowned units to come out of World War II, carrying with them a legacy of bravery and the fortitude of the human spirit.

Seventy-six years later, the recognition by Congress shines “a light on that forgotten theater in the Pacific that was so crucial in defeating the Japanese,” said Gilbert Howland, a Marauder veteran.

“We did it because our country needed us.”

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Fay (Fotini) Argy – Camden, NJ; Civilian, Bud Manufacturing, WWII, bombs

Mary ‘Lorraine’ Bromley – Rock Island, IL; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Frank DeNoia – New haven, CT; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Canberra

Kenneth Fenton – Paraparaumu, NZ; NZ Army # 30202, WWII, ETO & PTO / Vietnam, Colonel (Ret. 32 y.)

William J. LaVigne II – USA; US Army, Afghanistan & Iraq, MSgt., HQ Co/Special Operation Command, 2 Bronze Stars

Anna McNett – Grand Rapids, MI; US Navy WAVES, WWII

Richard Nowers – Atkinson, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 507th Fighter Group, 3 Bronze Stars

Anthony Polizzi – NY; US Air Force, Captain, 15th Maintenance Group, Wing Comdr.

James E. Richardson – Knoxville, TN; US Army, WWII, CBI, Merrill’s Marauder

William Salley – Springfield, SC; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Lt. Colonel (Ret.), Purple Heart

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