Category Archives: Broad Channel

The Army Airborne and the start to Camp MacKall

Airborne, Camp MacKall

The original idea for an American airborne came from Gen. Billy Mitchell in 1918.  His  commander, Gen. Pershing agreed, but once the WWI Armistice was signed, the plan was terminated.  In the late 1920’s, Germany began training parachute units and in the 1930’s, they led the world in gliders.  Russia created the Air Landing Corps in 1935.  Japan started in 1940 with German instructors.  The U.S. did not take note until Germany was successful on Crete in 1941.

Smitty, 187th RCT/11th Airborne Division, Camp MacKall 1943

The American tradition was born when 48 men jumped at Ft. Benning on Aug. 16, 1940, where  Private Eberhard, promised to yell to his buddies below, was the first to shout out “Geronimo”.  General William Lee is considered the “Father of the Airborne.”  My father, Everett Smith or “Smitty” (as you’ll get to know him),  did not care for heights or jumping, so I asked him – “Why volunteer?”  He shrugged and said, “They pay you more in the paratroopers.”  Smitty had a dry sense of humor which you will see more of in the letters he wrote to his mother in future posts.  He did however accept his boot camp, sharp shooting, glider & parachute training as a way  of learning new things he would otherwise have never experienced. [One of his statements driven into me – ” Like any job, always try your best.”]  Since he was 27 and much older than other recruits, he was often referred to by the nickname of “Pops.”

Camp MacKall postcard

The 11th Airborne Division was formed on Feb. 25, 1943 and their conditioning was so severe that most of the men felt combat would be a breeze.  They were the first A/B division formed from scratch, so instead of following the manuals – they were writing their own.  The camp was under construction 24/7 and they took classes sitting in folding chairs and easels were used for map reading, first-aid, weapons, foxholes, rules of land warfare, communications, field fortifications, and so on.  Between May and June one battalion at a time went to Fort Benning for jump school.

glider jumping

When the time came for Stage A of jump school, it was scratched since the men were already as fit as possible.  Stage B, was learning to tumble, equipment knowledge, sliding down a 30′ cable and packing a parachute.  In Stage C, they used a 250-foot tower, forerunner to the one at Coney Island, to simulate a jump.  Stage D, they earned their jump wings and boots.  In June, the units began training in every circumstance that might arise in combat.

The gliders used were WACO CG 4A, boxlike contraptions with wings.  The skeleton was small gauge steel covered with canvas; a wingspan of 84 feet, length of 49 feet and carried 3,700 pounds = two pilots and 13 fully loaded soldiers or a jeep and 6 men. The casualty list developing these appeared endless to the men.  Smitty could not listen to “Taps” without tearing up, even in his later years.

WACO glider in take off from Camp MacKall field.

21 June, the division entered the unit training program.  During July, all units went on 10-day bivouacs and to Fort Bragg.  Glider formal training occurred at Maxton Air Base.

In July, in Sicily, Operation Husky went terribly awry, due to the weather conditions –  3,800 paratroopers were separated from their gliders and each other.  The casualty rate was exorbitant.  This created serious doubts about the practicality of a division size airborne.  Proof would rest on the shoulders of the 11th and their commander, Gen. Joseph May Swing.  A demonstration called the “Pea Patch Show” was displayed for Sec. of War, Stimson.  He gave Swing a positive review, but it did not convince Gen. Marshall or McNair.  The fate of the Airborne Command rested on the upcoming Knollwood Maneuvers.

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Smitty’s hometown of Broad Channel sent out a free issue of their newspaper, “The Banner”, to every hometown soldier and this became another source of back front info, along with news from his mother and friends:

News that Smitty got from home at this point:  Broad Channel was getting their own air raid siren.  (Broad Channel is one-mile long and about 4-blocks wide).  His neighbors, the Hausmans, heard from their POW son in the Philippines.  And – his divorce papers were final, Smitty was single again.

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Military Humor –

‘I dropped out of Parachute School.’

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Ashby – Sun City, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Carl Bradley – USA; US Navy, WWII, Fireman 2nd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Leo Brown – Lima, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, USS Colorado,3rd Marine Division

Benjamin Goldfarb – Toronto, CAN; US Army, WWII, PTO, Surgical tech, 54th General Hospital, Philippines

Daniel C. Helix – Concord, CA; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, MGeneral, Purple Heart / Mayor

Denis H. Hiskett – USA; US Navy, WWII, Fireman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Robert L. Moore – Queens, NY; USMC, Korea & Vietnam, Gunnery Sgt.

Thomas O’Keefe – Washington D.C.; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT  /  CIA

George Semonik Jr. – Sewickley, PA; US Army, Chief Warrant Officer, 82nd Airborne Division (Ret. 20 y.)

Shelby Treadway – Manchester, KY; US Navy, WWII, Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

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Everett (Smitty) Smith

young Everett and Mother, Anna

Everett Smith was born Dec. 12, 1914 and grew up with the gentle waves of Jamaica Bay on an island one mile long and barely four blocks wide.  This was the tight-knit community of Broad Channel, New York.  He resided with his mother, Anna at peaceful 207 East 9th Road and spent his days between school, working and helping to care for his grandmother.

Aerial view of Broad Channel

 

Smitty’s, Broad Channel, NY

Everett’s nickname had always been “Smitty” and so, the name of his fishing station came to be.  In 1939, at 24 years of age, he married a woman named Catherine and she joined the Smith household.

News of Hitler and his rise to power filtered into the newspapers and radio, but Anna still had the memories of WWI and their financial struggles in what would be become known as the Great Depression made the problems of Europe so far away.

Grassy Point, Broad Channel, where Smitty often tended bar.

The majority of the U.S. population held the ideal of isolationism in high regard and the Smith household agreed wholeheartedly.  Everett was baffled by FDR’s election as his past political and personal records indicated both amoral and often criminal behavior.  The president began to stretch his powers to the limit to assist his friend, Winston Churchill, while U.S. citizens were straining to survive.

On Oct. 30, 1940, Roosevelt spouted in Boston, “I give you one more assurance.  I have said it before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent to any foreign wars.”  My father did not believe FDR then and as we look back — he was right.

Draft card
You’re in the Army now!

Everett received his draft notice in Sept. 1942.  He would be sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey where he volunteered for the paratroopers.  He would immediately then be sent to Camp MacKall, North Carolina for the start of his vigorous training.  Smitty became part of one of the most unique army units of its day, the HQ Co./187th/ 11th Airborne Division.

Smitty, 187th RCT/11th Airborne Division, Camp MacKall 1943

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Chris Andreadakis – Youngstown, OH; US Army, WWII, ETO

Paul Brown (100) – Saginaw, MI; US navy, WWII

Arlington Cemetery

Thomas ‘Millar’ Bryce (101) – Saskatchewan, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, navigator

Robert “Cookie” Cook  (100) – Rochester, NY; US Army, WWII

Aaron M. Fish – USA; US Navy, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, Petty Officer 3rd Class

Dick Hall (100) – Murray, NE; US Army, WWII, ETO, 94th Chemical Mortars/3rd Army Tank Battalion, Lt.

E. Allan Logel (100) – Mapelwood, NJ; US Army, WWII, PTO, Captain, Strategic planning

Donald Myers – Cambria, IA; US Navy, WWII, PTO & Korea

Ken P. Smith – USA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 2/187/11th Airborne Division

Martha Watts – Charleston, NC; US Army WAC, WWII

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First-hand account: Okinawa

Louis Meehl, WWII

It wasn’t always the enemy they had to contend with…

Louis Meehl

After the war started, I decided I had to get into the service, this didn’t make my folks very happy, especially my dad, but I just had to go.  So, I enlisted in the Army Air Corps.  They made me a gunner and sent me to the Pacific.  I flew on A-20’s in the 417th Bomb Group, B-24’s in the 90th and B-25’s in the 38th.  I was on the islands all through the western Pacific, New Guinea, the Philippines, the Ryukyus, and even up to Japan later on.

It was after the war had ended and we’d moved up to an airstrip on a little island called Ie Shima, right next to Okinawa.  It was the island where Ernie Pyle was killed.  We were living there in the usual primitive conditions that we’d put up with on all the islands – tents, C and K rations, nothing to do but fly missions.  The airstrip there was right near the beach, well, the island was so small that everything was right near the beach, and of course our tents were close to the coast.

Ernie Pyle, le Shima

We got word that a storm was coming and the pilots flew our squadron’s planes off somewhere.  The rest of us on the flight crews and the ground crews were left behind to fend for ourselves.  The wind started blowing, the rain was coming down, and we were trying to hold on to our tents to keep them from blowing over,

Well, it turned out this storm was a typhoon and the wind blew stronger and stronger, and the rain was being driven horizontally.  What a storm!  I’d never experienced anything like it.  After a while, we couldn’t hold the tents up anymore.  First one of the tents blew down, then another, and pretty soon all the tents were down, and we were outside in the weather.

There was no other shelter – our bombing and the Navy’s shelling when we’d taken the island had flattened all the trees and it was just bare sand and rock.  And the wind just kept blowing harder!

Okinawa, naval typhoon damage

Next thing we knew the tents and everything inside them started to blow away, right off the island and out into the ocean.  We just couldn’t hold on to them under those conditions – the wind just ripped anything out of our hands if you tried to hold on to it.  So after the tents and everything was gone, all we could do was huddle together and try to protect ourselves.  It was like we were just a bunch of wet, cold sheep huddled together – and the wind kept blowing even harder.

We’d rotate the guys on the outside of the huddle toward the middle because the rain was being blown so hard it hurt when it hit you.  We all took our turns on the outside of the group.  Some of us had bruises from that rain afterwards.

Okinawa, typhoon tent

 

[ I was unable to locate le Shima photos of the storm, hence the Okinawa pictures.  I suppose everyone’s camera went to sea. ]

This seemed to go on for hours, and the whole time we just stayed there huddled together,  When the wind and rain finally started to let up, it dawned on us that everything we had was gone.  I had a lot of photos from all the islands we’d been on, some souvenirs, and of course the rest of my clothes and personal effects, and they were just gone.

Our planes came back and they flew in more tents for us, but later when I shipped back to the States I didn’t have much more to take home with me that the clothes I had on the day the storm started!

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Bernice Cooke – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, nurse

George C. Evans – Bay Village, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 457 Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Reynaldo ‘Chita’ Gonzolaz – Newton, KS; US Army, Korea, Sgt., 2nd Division

Peter Hanson – Laconia, NH; US Army, Vietnam, Captain, 101st Airborne Division

Christopher Knoop – Buffalo, NY; US Army, Desert Storm, 810th MP Co., communications

Donald Ottomeyer – St. Louis, MO; US Army, Lt., 101st Airborne Division

John D. Roper – Nashville, TN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Westmoreland & Pontiac

Juan Serna Sr. – Pharr, TX; US Army, WWII / National Guard (Ret. 25 y.)

Michael Stickley – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, Vietnam

Pansy Yankey (100) – Brashear, TX; Civilian, North American Aviation, WWII, drill press operator

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Smitty in December 1945 w/ the Sword Story

Christmas card

This was the Christmas card sent from Japan to Broad Channel, New York in December 1945. Anna Smith had been waiting to hear this news from her son Everett (Smitty) for over three years. On the back, it reads:

“Dear Mom:
This is the best Xmas card I’ve sent to you since getting in the army. I figured this would be what you have always been waiting to see, here it goes.

“I’m finally on my way, so don’t send any more mail.
Love, Everett
“P.S. I’ll keep you posted on my various stops.”

Smitty in Japan, at far right

Even though Smitty had earned his points to go home, he was still an NCO on General Swing’s staff and was required to finish out his duties as such. After going through combat in the South Pacific, it would be in peaceful occupational Japan where Smitty’s temper would get the better of him.

Non-nonchalantly going about his business at the headquarters of Camp Schimmelpfennig, Smitty just happened to glance through the glass partition that sealed off Gen. Swing’s office. Inside was an officer holding and admiring the Japanese sword that his commander intended to keep and bring home as a souvenir. Smitty didn’t think much of it at the time; he was busy and many people commented on the weapon. so he continued down the hallway. A short while later, the entire office could hear the general demanding to know what had become of his sword. It was gone.

Gen. Swing accepts Japanese sword at Atsugi Airfield

Major General Joseph Swing

My father didn’t think twice, this was his general. He went into the room and told Swing what he had witnessed. Without a second thought, the two men went to the other man’s office, but neither the man or sword was there. The officer in question showed a few moments later. When the general explained why they were waiting for him, the officer became indignant and professed his innocence (just a tad too much). My father said the air of tension in the room became thick enough to use a

Postcards received from a Cavite, P.I. woman

machete on. This was when Smitty’s temper went out of control and with one right cross – sent the officer through his own glass partition.

Of course, this action made it necessary to bust Smitty back down to private, but he didn’t care about that. He was still furious that the sword was never returned. It all could have gone worse if the general had not been there or if he did not believe Smitty’s word. Smitty said it was worth being busted just to wipe the smirky grin off the officer’s face. The officer, I believe, was a replacement and had not seen much (if any) combat, just a blow-heart. Smitty later offered his two Japanese swords to General Swing, but he refused. My father didn’t believe the general would have taken the Emperor’s own sword as a replacement. I can clearly see my father’s face contort when he thought of the thief and he would say, “That know-nothing mattress salesman from Texas!” I’m sure it was for the best that the two men never met again stateside as civilians.

Unfortunately, a similar incident occurred to my father. As he happily began packing to go home, Smitty noticed that an expensive set of carved ivory chop sticks he had purchased somehow had disappeared. They also were never recovered. (I had often wondered if the two incidents had been related, but I suppose we’ll never know.)

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Daniel Aiello – NYC, NY; US Army / Actor

Vernon Bartley – brn: Meerut, India/ENG; Punjab Army, WWII, CBI

John Cameron – Waipukurau, NZ; RNZ Navy, WWII, minesweeper

Frank Crane – Toledo, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Joseph Haratani – Florin, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 442nd RCT

Clarence Katwyk – Salt Lake City, UT; US Merchant Marines / US Army, WWII, PTO

Dominic Moschetti – Victor, CO; US Army, WWII, TSgt., 354th Infantry

Raymond Plassmann – CT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 navigator

Arthur Schaefer – Tucson, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Lt., B-17 navigator

Orland Webb – Harrodsburg, KY; US Army, WWII

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11th Airborne Division in Japan

Smitty’s, Broad Channel, NY

Atsugi Airfield, Japan

 

Just as General Douglas MacArthur said to Gen. Robert Eichelberger that it was a long road to Tokyo, so it was for Smitty. Yes, the stretch from Broad Channel to Camp MacKall and finally Atsugi Airfield was a long and arduous road, but here, the 11th Airborne Division arrives in Japan to begin the Occupation and to help start the rebuilding of a country.

Aerial view, Atsugi Airfield

With the initial arrival of the division, rarely was a female between the ages of 8 and 70 seen on the streets. The Japanese had heard their government’s propaganda for years as to the American looting and raping, so they were understandably afraid of the conquering troops. But many were confused about the peaceful attitude of the soldiers and a member of the 511th regiment was stopped one day by a Japanese officer, he asked, “Why don’t you rape, loot and burn? We would.” The trooper answered that Americans just don’t do that.

Yokohama, 1945

With the New Grand Hotel surrounded by troopers, the manager and his staff bowed to Gen. MacArthur and his party and directed them to their suites. Tired and hungry from their long flight, the Americans went to the dining room and were served steak dinners. Gen. Whitney remembered wanting to take MacArthur’s plate to make certain it hadn’t been poisoned. When he told the general his concern and intentions, MacArthur laughed and said, “No one can live forever.”

The hotel would become his headquarters and later that evening, MacArthur told his staff, “Boys, this is the greatest adventure in military history. Here we sit in the enemy’s country with only a handful of troops, looking down the throats of 19 fully armed divisions and 70 million fanatics. One false move and the Alamo would look like a Sunday school picnic.” (The fact that nothing happened, I believe, said quite a bit about Japanese integrity.)

The division Command Post was moved from the Atsugi Airfield to the Sun Oil Compound in Yokohama. This compound had about 15 American-style homes complete with furniture, dishes, silver and linens. The senior staff officers were not so fortunate. They were put up in warehouses on the docks, often without heat.

In the Philippines, the Japanese emissary General Kawabe, finished their surrender talks. Kawabe’s aide, Second Lt. Sada Otake, introduced himself to a Nisei G.I. standing guard outside. The guard, in response, said his name was Takamura. Otake said he had married a Nisei by the same name and did he had a sister named Etsuyo? The guard nodded and Otake said, “I’m her husband. Look me up in Japan.” And the brothers-in-law shook hands. (Small world or fate?)

Smitty @ Sun Oil

On the reverse side of this photo, Smitty wrote: “A picture of the General”s gang taken in the

Smitty (2nd from left) and rest of the crew

living room at Yokohama. Reading left to right – baker, first cook, Mess Sergeant, me headwaiter and on the floor, second cook. Those glasses you can see were always full. You can’t beat this Japanese beer.

Tokyo Rose – on the air

On 1 September, newsmen Harry Brundige and Clark Lee, with the help of a Japanese newsman, located Tokyo Rose with her husband in their hotel, the Imperial. Brundige offered her $2,000 for an exclusive interview for “Cosmopolitan” magazine. She agreed and together they typed out 17 pages of notes. The editor of the magazine was so astounded that Brundige had made a deal with a traitor that he rejected the story. The notes were handed over to Lee, who wrote his own version of the story for the International News Service.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Archer – Coffeyville, KS; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Ronald Best (100) – Whangarei, NZ; RNZ Army # 280763, WWII

Robert Carman – Wheeling, WV; US Army, WWII, field artillery

Andrew Hooker – Brooklyn, NY; US Army, Vietnam, helicopter crew chief

Emil Kamp – St. Louis, MO; US Army, WWII, Sgt.

Raymond Lane Sr. – Ashland, VA; US Air Force, Vietnam, Tech. Sgt. (Ret. 20 y.)

Roy Markon – Pittsburgh, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Sgt., 88th Division, Purple Heart

Edward Salazar – Colton, CA; US Army, Vietnam, 1st Cavalry Division

Lawrence Taylor – Stevensville, MT; US Navy,WWII, PTO, corpsman

Leo Zmuda – Somerset, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 511/11th Airborne Division

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