Category Archives: First-hand Accounts

The Final Cavalry Charge Commander freed

“Never Surrender: The Ed Ramsey Story” is a new documentary about the WWII hero who led the last cavalry charge in US military history.  This 4 minute video is well worth watching.

Born in Illinois, Edwin Ramsey died at the age of 95 in 2013. He had been placed in command of the elite 26thCavalry Regiment in the Philippines. Most of his time was spent playing polo with other officers until the Japanese troops invaded Manila.

While in the Philippines, Ramsey found himself in facing down a large body of Japanese infantry, supported by tanks, while he and his men were mounted on horseback. With no other options available, Ramsey ordered his cavalry to charge – the last cavalry charge in American Military History. It was effective, too. The Japanese Infantry, surprised and terrified, broke and fled, and Ramsey and his small group held their position under heavy fire for five hours until reinforcements arrived.

The last Charge, 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts),

After this incident, he led the famous offensive in the jungle of the Philippines. He took command of the Filipino resistance in 1942, after their commander was captured, and the forces under him eventually grew to more than 40,000 guerrilla fighters. He survived extreme malnutrition and tropical diseases, the LA Times reported.

Enduring malaria, malnutrition, dysentery and an appendectomy without anesthesia during his service with the Philippine resistance, he received honors from several Philippine presidents and was revered in the Filipino American community.

It makes for an interesting tale but the film, directed by Steven C. Barber and Matt Hausle with some narration by Josh Brolin, spends a lot of time on polo and Ramsey’s career with Hughes Aircraft Co. after the war.

The movie includes the usual line-up of historians, retired military personnel and family members. It even includes scenes with Ramsey, filmed from 2003 and 2012.

Strangely, though, no Filipino veterans are represented in the film despite Ramsey’s time spent lobbying in Congress to restore the benefits that were promised them.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

What age Cavalry?

New Age Cavalry

 

 

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Current News –

Please wish your New Zealand neighbors a great Waitangi Day for 6 February!!

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/waitangi-day-2016/

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Farewell Salutes – 

Reginald Brazier – Winnipeg, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

Edward DeVries – Uxbridge, MA; US Navy, WWII, SeaBee, 64th Naval Construction

Edward Fredricksen – Bayport, MN; US Army, WWII, Purple Heart

William Jerome – Roanoke, VA; US Army, WWII

Harry Lamas – Mobile, AL; US Army, WWII, ETO

Cliford Naleski – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army, Chief Warrant Officer (Ret. 27 y.)

Robert Olson – St. Paul, MN; War Dept., WWII, intelligence

Robert Plant – RI; USMC, WWII, PTO, machine-gunner

Donal Sipe Sr. – Bakersfield, CA; US Navy, WWII, USS Jeremiah & Nevada

Harold Warren – Steep Falls, ME; US Army, 503rd/11th Airborne Division

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A Fish for Papa – WWII Account in the Philippines

A Philippine home front story.

Running After 50

I was told the following story one night while sitting with the elders at a birthday party.   Marc Mausisia was the son of the person who this story is with regards to. Lolo Tenyada the cousin of Marc’s father. The accounts are from the time Japan occupied the Philippine’s. Both Marc Mausisa and Lolo Tenyada have passed on and I have no way of placing the timeframe in which this story occurred or where in the Philippines it took place. The words in this story Lolo and Lola mean Grandfather and Grandmother. I present it here to you, in their words. “A Fish For Papa”.

Marc Mausisa;

I was a just young boy when the Japanese came to our province, my papa was in the Army not far from where we lived when the Japanese came. They capture the army and took them to a place over a day’s walk…

View original post 684 more words

First Hand Account – Home Front on Luzon

Fellow blogger at https://subliblog.wordpress.com/ and author of “BAHALA NA (Come What May)”, Rosalinda R. Morgan, remembers a story her father told her about discovering the Americans had returned to Luzon.  The pictures here have been taken from her Photo Gallery, available on her blog.  Please be sure to visit her.

Mr. & Mrs. Mateo Rosales on their 50th Wedding Anniversary.

My father told me this story of what happened in his town when the American soldiers came back to rescue the Philippines.

One night, they heard a loud explosion. It was dark around where my parents were camping in their makeshift village. There were nipa huts scattered under dense mango trees and roofs were covered with leaves. One by one, men came out and looked where the noise was coming from. It was a moonless night. It was total darkness except for the lights coming from the explosion.

Somebody called out. “The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!” When the people heard that, they all came out of hiding. There was a promontory in the area where they could watch the flashing light. They climbed the little hill and looked out toward the horizon. The area was wide open field and there were no trees blocking the view. One could see all the way to Taal Lake.

They could see where the flashing lights were coming from. It looked like they were coming from Lemery. From where my parents stood, they could hear the artillery shells going back and forth. The shootings got louder and louder. Trees and debris were flying high up where the artillery landed. The Americans were not shooting far enough. It could be that they did not know where the Japanese were or the range of the artillery fire was not long enough. The shooting went on all night.

In the morning, they found out the shots from the previous night landed in the cemetery nearby where empty shells were everywhere. It was still quite a distance where the Japanese were occupying Mt. Makulot in Cuenca on the far side of Taal Lake.

Lake Taal across from Tagaytay, in the distance is Mt. Makulot.

In no time, the Americans set up a camp with several tents in Taal at the Plaza across the big cathedral. Then, the U.S. soldiers started marching inland toward the Japanese camp. When they reached Alitagtag, some people saw soldiers marching up the road. At first, they were scared thinking they were Japanese, then they realized they were white-skinned and tall. Instantly, they knew it had to be the Americans. Then they got excited. Someone ran to the field where everyone was hiding and informed them. People started coming out running to the street, waving their arms and cheering them on. The American did not expect the kind of reception they were getting and it became very unsettling. The cheering went on for several minutes. Some civilians were asking for food, others just waved and said “Hi Joe.” They were deliriously happy to see the Americans. They asked if MacArthur was coming. The GIs said yes. That news were received with loud cheer.

The soldiers told them to evacuate to the Elementary School and the nearby church. Some evacuees settled in the elementary school. My parents decided to stay overnight at the church. There were several evacuees in the church. The little group, huddled together, sat in the pews all night, some praying, some just sitting quietly until their eyes got tired and they dozed off to sleep.

Later in the night, the shooting started again. This time, the Japanese shells started coming in their direction. The Japanese started shooting at the school. Artillery fire was coming from Mt. Makulot. All night long, the shooting never abated. All the evacuees at the school were moved to the church and the rectory in the cover of darkness. It was a long night for the evacuees.

By daybreak, the shooting stopped. The evacuees were told to move again. This time they were told to move to Taal. My parents together with my two unmarried uncles joined the throng evacuating to Taal. My uncles brought sacks of rice, kamote and some clothing. My father had me on his shoulder as he trod along with my mother.

Within an hour, there were thousands of people evacuating. Men, young and old with their wives and children joined in. Everybody looked scared but nobody protested. They were just following what the American soldiers told them.

The evacuation ran smoothly with the American soldiers flanking the evacuees and leading the way. However, the throng was getting bigger as they reached several villages. More people joined the evacuation as it progressed its way through towns. Some people stopped along the way trying to rest their feet. My parents kept their pace slowly, rested for a few minutes every now and then. They were totally exhausted when they reached Taal. It took them all day to get there.

The jungle at Alitagtag. This picture is the cover for “BAHALA NA”

At Taal, the evacuees were taken in by the residents of Taal. In the morning, they went to the U.S. Camp to get breakfast. For a week, my parents stayed in Taal with the rest of the evacuees. While the evacuees were being housed and fed in Taal, the American soldiers continued their march to Alitagag and then the shooting continued at night until the American troops reached Cuenca.

By this time, the evacuees at Taal were moved again. People began to scatter around several nearby villages. One of my mother’s aunts and her family were among the evacuees in Taal. Mom’s aunt wanted my parents to join them and hide near the sugar cane fields which were not far from Taal. My father wanted to return to Alitagtag so my mother asked her aunt to join them instead. The aunt said they were tired of walking and believed they would be safe in the sugar cane fields.

My parents returned to their hiding place in Alitagtag. They thought staying at their own property was the best option for them. The American soldiers were now past Alitagtag and on their way to Manila to join MacArthur’s force trying to enter Manila. Later on, my father heard there was heavy fighting as the American soldiers crossed Cuenca where the Japanese were at Mt. Makulot.

In a few days, the Japanese burned the sugar cane field where my mother’s aunt’s family and other evacuees went into hiding. They were all killed and my parents were very lucky to make their own choice and saving their lives.

Click on images to enlarge. 

Also – Remember to stop in, see the other photos and say Hi…

Rosalinda R. Morgan

“BAHALA NA (Come What May)

 

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Military Humor –

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Joe Appleby – El Paso, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, TSgt., B-24 gunner/radio, 8th Air Force

Erven Boettner – Roca, NE; US Army, WWII, Col. (Ret.)

John Donahue – Shrewsbury, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 5th Air Force

Jean Doyle – Tyngsboro, MA; US Army Air Corps WAC, WWII, 1st Lt.

Raynald Goulet – Portland, ME; USMC, WWII, pilot

Anna Mae Hays – Buffalo, NY; US Army WAC nurse, CBI / Korea & Vietnam, 1st female general (Ret.)

James Janes – Louisville, KY; US Army, WWII, medic

Paul Moll III – St Louis, MO; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Arthur Schoenfield – Manawatu, NZ; RNZ Army # 4434429, WWII, Sgt.

Howard Wolfgram – Waukesha, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII

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8th Army – Gearing Up For Luzon

Gen. Eichelberger (C) w/ Gen. Swing (R)

21 January 1945 – Gen. Swing announced to his 11th Airborne Division that he was ordering up a review as they were transferring to the 8th Army and the reviewing officer would be none other than Gen. Robert Eichelberger.  Swing had received Field Order Number 17 which gave him the order to prepare for Luzon.

Luzon was the most populated, most highly developed and the historical island in the archipelago.  It was a land of wild boars, birds, snakes, reptiles, feral dogs, tons of insects and an enemy hiding within the cogon grass at every turn. (the plant had coarse spikes with “silky” hairs that made your skin feel as those hundreds of critters crawled beneath it.)  There was always a threat of dengue fever, that is contracted from a mosquito and if left untreated resulted in bleeding and death, and we can’t forget malaria.

The 6th Army, under Gen. Krueger, was already in the midst of all this trying to reach Manila.  MacArthur had told Eichelberger how upset he was at their slow progress to get to the capital and added, “speed up your ‘palsey-walsey,’ Krueger doesn’t radiate courage.”  Ergo – a rivalry was born and a race between the 6th and 8th Armies would exist – the problem was – the 11th A/B had been given more than one priority as their mission.

As X-Day approached, the pace of activity increased dramatically.  The division’s supply loading plan put the responsibility on the unit commanders.  The G-4, Roy Stout, set up a special section to load the 11th and all ran efficiently despite not knowing what vessels the Navy would be sending.  But on 25 January, most of the supply ships were completely loaded within 24 hours.

The LCI’s (Landing Craft Infantry), arrived at 0700 hours on 27 January and a convoy of almost 100 ships pulled out to sea that afternoon,under the command of Adm. Fechteler, and headed south through Mindanao Sea and then swung north.  The LCI’s were crowded and there were no cooking facilities, the men ate “10-in-1” rations rather than having the customary steak and eggs before a landing.

Most of the sailing days were spent in map study, planning and orientation.  All the troopers would be so well briefed on the terrain from aerial photographs and mock-up reliefs that their landing somehow felt like deja-vu.  Excess baggage was not carried – only what the men could carry on their backs.  Personal baggage would not be seen for 2 months.

General Eichelberger wrote his wife, Miss Em, of the beauty in watching the large naval convoy and he marveled at their expertise.  He noted the Navy’s ability to keep their sense of humor, despite the seriousness of their voyage.  Before landing on 31 January, he heard over the loud speaker system, “Sick call _ all sick, lame and lazy report to sick bay.”  He also commented that Gen. Swing was grand to deal with.

Eichelberger would write in his book, “Now the stage was set for what I regard as one of the most thrilling exploits for the Pacific War – the 11th Airborne’s dash for Manila”

References: “Our Road to Tokyo”, by Gen. Robert Eichelberger; “The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division,” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan Jr.

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Military Humor –

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Melton Austin – Live Oak, FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Air-Sea Rescue Squad

Dave Barnett – Charlotte, NC; US Army, WWII, PTO

Charles Cooper III – Dover, DE; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Capt., USS Hornet, Washington & San Diego

William Darr Jr. – Dyer, AR; US Army, WWII

Mihail Golin – Riga, LAT; US Army, Iran & Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class, KIA

Jacob Hagopian – Providence, RI; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, Col.(Ret.), 11th A/B & 82nd A/B divisions

Ben Jones – Chestertown, MD; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star

Joseph Medina (103) – MN; US Army, WWII, PTO

Chester Roberts Sr. – Coatesville, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Ronald Scott – Claremore, OK; US Air Force, Vietnam, Col., pilot, Silver Star, KIA

Vito Truglio – Staten Island, NY; US Navy, WWII, USS Shangri-la

Marjorie Harris White – Creswick, AUS; AWAS # 11483, WWII

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Lingayen Gulf, 2-8 January 1945

USS Ommaney Bay, January 1945

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The USS Louisville is struck by a kamikaze Yokosuka D4Y at the Battle of Lingayen Gulf, 6 January 1945

On 2 January, the US carrier, USS Ommaney Bay, was severely damaged by a kamikaze aircraft and would later need to be scuttled.  Three days later, the cruiser, USS Columbia, was also damaged when she was hit by 2 of the Japanese suicide planes.  US shipping received relentless kamikaze strikes that cost the Navy more than 1000 men due to those 30 hits.

Beginning on 6 January, a heavy naval and air bombardment of suspected Japanese defenses on Lingayen began.  Aircraft and naval artillery bombardment of the soon-to-be landing areas occurred, with kamikazes attacking again on the 7th.

USS Columbia hit by kamikaze

On the 8th, it was observed that in the town of Lingayen, as a response to the prelanding shelling, Filipinos had begun to form a parade, complete with United States and Philippine flags – firing was shifted away from that area.

The USS Louisville had been hit on the 5th of January with one man killed and 52 wounded, including the captain.  The following day she was attacked by six successive plane, 5 were shot down, but one got through.

USS Louisville, hit by kamikaze

The strike on the Louisville was also notable for the death of RAdmiral Theodore Chandler, commanding the battleships and cruiser in Lingayen Gulf.  He was badly burned when his Flag ship was engulfed in flames, but jumped down to the signal deck and deployed hoses to the enlisted men before waiting in line for treatment with the other wounded sailors.  However, his lungs had been scorched by the petroleum flash and he died the following day.

Rear Admiral Theodore Edson Chandler

An eye witness account of the attack on the USS Louisville, from John Duffy:

“All of a sudden, the ship shuddered and I knew we were hit again.  I was in charge of the 1st Division men and I yelled, “We’re hit, let’s go men!”  I was the first man out the Turret door followed by Lt.Commmander Foster and Lt. Hastin, our Division Officer, then a dozen more men.

“The starboard side of the ship was on fire from the forecastle deck down.  One almost naked body was laying about ten feet from the turret with the top of his head missing.  It was the kamikaze pilot that had hit us.  He made a direct hit on the Communications deck.

“As the men poured out of the turret behind me, they just stood there in shock.  Explosions were still coming from the ammunition lockers at the scene of the crash.  We could see fire there too.  Injured men were screaming for help on the Communications Deck above us.  I ordered 2 men to put out the fire on the starboard side by leaning over the side with a hose.  That fire was coming from a ruptured aviation fuel pipe that runs full length of the forecastle on the outside of the ship’s hull.  That fuel pipe was probably hit by machine-gun bullets from the kamikaze just before he slammed into us.

“Although there was no easy access to the deck above us, I ordered several men to scale up the side of the bulkhead (wall) and aid the badly burned victims who were standing there like zombies.  I also ordered 3 men to crawl under the rear Turret 1’s overhang, open the hatch there and get the additional fire hose from Officers Quarters.  These 3 orders were given only seconds apart and everyone responded immediately, but when they got near the dead Jap’s body, which was lying right in the way, it slowed them down…”

For some additional information on the Kamikaze, Click HERE.

The HMAS Australia was included in this fleet and would also come under heavy attack.  Her full story will be the following post.

Click on images to enlarge

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Military Humor – 

“I wish they’d get someone else to make up the mess duty roster!”

“Hold it , sailor! – Let’s see your orders!”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Chapman – Macon, GA; US Army, WWII, PTO

George Cramer – Prichard, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Major, B-17 belly gunner

Peter Ferracuti – Ottawa, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Charles Galloway – Clinton, SC; US Army (Ret.), WWII, Korea & Vietnam

Margaret Glazener – NC; US War Dept.; code breaker

William Hayes – London, ENG; RAF, CBI

Vance Larson – Saskatoon, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, Captain

Richard Nichols – Billings, MT; US Army (Ret. 22 y.), 11th, 82nd & 101st Airborne Divisions, 2 bronze Stars

Thomas O’Brien – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Daphne White – Melbourne, AUS; Women’s British Air Force, WWII

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General Joseph May Swing – Intermission Story (30)

Major General Joseph Swing

As the intermission period closes, it is only fitting that I introduce the man who lead the 11th Airborne Division.  Many called him “Uncle Joe”, but on the back of this photograph, Smitty wrote “My General.”

“A hero is a man noted for his feats of courage or nobility of purpose—especially one who has risked his life; a person prominent in some field, period, or cause by reason of his special achievements or contributions; a person of distinguished valor or fortitude; and a central personage taking an admirable part in any remarkable action or event; hence, a person regarded as a model.”

Joseph May Swing was born on 28 February 1894 in Jersey City and went to the public schools there, graduating in 1911 and entered West Point Military Academy directly.  He graduated 38th in the class of the star-studded class of 1915, famously known as “The Class the Stars Fell On.”

The 5-star generals were Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley.  The four-star (“full”) Generals in the class of 1915 were James Van Fleet and Joseph T. McNarney. The three-star (Lieutenant Generals) Generals were Henry Aurand, Hubert R. Harmon, Stafford LeRoy Irwin, Thomas B. Larkin, John W. Leonard, George E. Stratemeyer, and Joseph M. Swing. This view was taken facing south around noon on May 3, 1915.

In 1916 Lieutenant Swing was part of the punitive expedition to Mexico against Francisco Villa under the leadership of General John J. Pershing. In 1917, shortly after the US entered the war in Europe, Major Swing joined the artillery of the 1st Division in France. When he returned to the US in 1918, he became an aide-de-camp to the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Peyton C. March. On 8 July 1918, he married Josephine Mary March, the daughter of General March. Later that year, he joined the 19th Field Artillery at Fort Myer, Virginia, and in 1921 sailed for Hawaii to command the 1st Battalion of the 11th Field Artillery at Schofield Barracks.

In 1925, he returned to the States and assumed command of the 9th Field Artillery at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.  He graduated with honors from the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, and in 1927 he graduated from the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. For the next four years, he was on duty in the Office of the Chief of Field Artillery in Washington, DC, and in 1933 he became chief of its war plans section. In 1935, he graduated from the Army War College in Washington and then joined the 6th Field Artillery at Fort Hoyle, Maryland.

Next, he went to Fort Sam Houston where he was the chief of staff of the 2d Division from 1938 to 1940. Later, he commanded the 82d Horse Artillery Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Bliss, Texas and then commanded its division artillery. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1941 and at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, organized the division artillery of the 82d Division, a move which was to project him into the brand new field of “airborne.”  In Camp Claiborne, General Omar Bradley was the 82d Division commander. General Ridgway was the assistant division commander, and Colonel Maxwell D. Taylor was the chief of staff.

General Joseph M. Swing

In February of 1943, as a newly promoted major general, General Swing was assigned the task of activating the 11th Airborne Division at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, the Army’s third airborne division. Thus began for General Swing a tenure of service which was unique then and still remains a record: division commander of one division for five years, during which he activated the division, trained it, and commanded it in combat and during its subsequent occupation of Japan. During this period, General Swing and the 11th Airborne Division became synonymous; the man was the division and the division was the man.

General Swing made his mark on the Army and on the thousands of men who passed through the 11th Airborne Division in a way which those of us who were fortunate enough to serve with and have known him will never forget. His subordinates and superiors have described General Swing with numerous adjectives: forceful, energetic, courageous, self-disciplined, purposeful, farsighted, innovative, just, sentimental, short-tempered, forgiving, sincere, considerate, demanding—and with it all, handsome, erect, prematurely gray, with a lean, tanned face from which steely-blue eyes focused with incredible sharpness either to find a mistake or an accomplishment of a subordinate. General Swing fitted all of those descriptive adjectives to one degree or another; illustrations to exemplify each trait abound, particularly in the lore of the 11th Airborne Division. And as the years go by and as the men of the 11th gather at reunions, the stories about the “old man” increase and take on a sharper and more pungent flavor.

Leyte, Gen. Swing and staff on Mt.Manarawat

There is no doubt that General Swing was demanding in training, insisting on excellence, and setting and requiring the highest of standards for the 11th Airborne Division so that when it entered combat, after months of grueling training in Camp MacKall, Camp Polk, and New Guinea, the division was ready to take on the Japanese in the mud and rain across the uncharted central mountains of Leyte. Early in its combat career, it was ready to thwart a Japanese parachute attack on the division command post and nearby San Pablo airfield at Burauen, Leyte.

General Swing demonstrated his courage and vitality on that occasion by personally leading a Civil War-like attack across the airstrip with engineers, supply troops, and a glider field artillery battalion armed with carbines and rifles against the dug-in Japanese paratroopers who had had the audacity to attack the 11th Airborne from the air. In short order, the Japanese paratroopers, the elite Katori Shimpei of the Japanese forces, were routed, and the San Pablo airfield was back in the hands of the 11th Airborne Division.

_____ Condensed from a biographical article written by Edward Michael Flanagan, Jr., Lt.General, Retired

also, “The Gettysburg Daily, Wikipedia and Smitty’s scrapbook.

And this is where we left off the day by day and monthly island-hopping offense of the Pacific War.  You will be hearing often of General Swing, you might even get to admire him almost as much as Smitty did.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

‘I think it’s about time McFergle retired — he remembers the Lusitania.’

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Ball – Sterling, AK; USMC, WWII, PTO

Lloyd Crouse – Columbus, OH; US Army, WWII, PTO, 251st Sta. Hospital, combat medic

Charles Dye – Flint, MI; US Army, WWII

Frank Forlini – Yonkers, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Division. Purple Heart

Richard Gordon – Seattle, WA; US Navy, test pilot / NASA astronaut, Gemini 11, Apollo 12 & Apollo 18

Bill Jo Hart – Fort Worth, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Flight Instructor

Alfred Jeske – Seymour, WI; US Army, WWII

Bill Mesker – Wichita, KS; US Navy, WWII

Myra Mitchell – Upalco, UT; USMC, Women’s Corps, WWII

Sterling Wood – Omaha, NE; US Army, Colonel (Ret. 30 y.), 143rd Transportation Command

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Current News from GP Cox

Personal Note  Pacific Paratrooper and GP Cox will be offline while the computer is in for maintenance.  Hopefully I will be able to pop in now and again on a friend’s laptop, but during my absence, I wish you all (even those abroad) a fun and safe (and spooky) Halloween.

Did I scare you?

In the meantime, I leave you this very interesting video and hope you find it interesting and informative.  Thank you all for having always been here for me !!

 

The 5th Air Force, under Gen. George Kenney, in New Guinea 1942-1944

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Trained as a Kamikaze – and lived – Intermission Story (26)

The airbase at Chiran, Minamikyūshū, on the Satsuma Peninsula of Kagoshima, Japan, served as the departure point for hundreds of Special Attack or kamikaze sorties launched in the final months of World War II. A peace museum dedicated to the pilots, the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots (知覧特攻平和会館 Chiran Tokkō-Heiwa-Kaikan), now marks the site.

The pilots filed into the room and were presented with a form that asked if they wanted to be kamikaze. It was multiple-choice, and there were three answers: “I passionately wish to join,” ”I wish to join,” and “I don’t wish to join.”  This was 1945.  Many were university students who had been previously exempt from service, but now Japan was running out of troops.

Hisashi Tezuka recalls that a few of his colleagues quickly wrote their replies and strutted away. But he and most of the others stayed for what felt like hours, unable to decide.

Hisashi Tezuka, trained Zero kamikaze pilot

He did not know then if anyone had dared to refuse. He learned later that the few who did were simply told to pick the right answer.  Tezuka so wanted to be honest to his feelings he crossed out the second choice and wrote his own answer: “I will join.  I did not want to say I wished it. I didn’t wish it,” he told The Associated Press at his apartment in a Tokyo suburb.

They were the kamikaze, “the divine wind,” ordered to fly their planes into certain death. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey and data kept at the library at Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo estimate that about 2,500 of them died during the war. Some history books give higher numbers. About one in every five kamikaze planes managed to hit an enemy target.

Books and movies have depicted them as crazed suicide bombers who screamed “Banzai” as they met their end.  But interviews with survivors and families by The Associated Press, as well as letters and documents, offer a different portrait — of men driven by patriotism, self-sacrifice and necessity. The world they lived in was like that multiple-choice form: It contained no real options.

First-born sons weren’t selected, to protect family heirs in feudalistic-minded Japan. Tezuka, then a student at the prestigious University of Tokyo, had six brothers and one sister and wasn’t the eldest.  He was given a five-day leave to visit his parents. He didn’t have the heart to tell them he had been tapped to be a suicide bomber.  There was one absolute about being a kamikaze, he says: “You go, and it’s over.”

He survived only because Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender on a radio broadcast, just as he was on a train headed to take off on his kamikaze attack.

 

A burly man with a quick wit, Tezuka hands a reporter a sepia-toned photo of himself as a Zero fighter, grinning in a helmet, the trademark white silk scarf at his neck.  “That’s to keep warm. It gets really cold up there,” he says.

“Do you know what a rainbow looks like when you’re flying?” he asks, his eyes aglow with childlike excitement. “It’s a perfect circle.”

Seventy years after the end of World War II, the runway that once stretched at Tsukuba is long gone. But the rows of cherry blossoms still stand.  In another corner of the Tsukuba grounds, an underground bomb shelter winds in pitch darkness through several chambers. It was designed to serve as an emergency command.  It’s a reminder of the illusory determination that gripped the imperialist forces, to keep fighting, no matter what.

In training, the pilots repeatedly zoomed perilously, heading practically straight down, to practice crashing. They had to reverse course right before hitting the ground and rise back into the sky, a tremendous G-force dragging on their bodies.

When they did it for real, they were instructed to send a final wireless message in Morse code, and keep holding that signal. In the transmission room, they knew the pilot had died when a long beep ended in silence.

Yoshiomi Yanai looks over the Last Will and Testament he wrote out before flying his kamikaze mission.

Yoshiomi Yanai, 93, survived because he could not locate his target — a rare error for a kamikaze operation. He visits the Tsukuba facility often.

“I feel so bad for all the others who died,” he says, bemoaning the fate of comrades who died so young, never having really experienced life.

Yanai still keeps what he had intended to be his last message to his parents. It’s an album that he keeps carefully wrapped in a traditional furoshiki cloth. He plastered the pages with photos of him laughing with colleagues and other happy moments. He got a pilot friend to add ink drawings of the Zero.

“Father, Mother, I’m taking off now. I will die with a smile,” Yanai wrote in big letters on the opening pages. “I was not a filial son but please forgive me. I will go first. And I will be waiting for you.”

Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, who wrote about the kamikaze in his 2008 book, “Danger’s Hour,” says the kamikaze were driven by nothing but self-sacrifice.

When he started his research, he expected to find fanaticism. He was stunned to find they were very much like Americans or young people anywhere else in the world, “who were extraordinarily patriotic but at the same time extraordinarily idealistic.”

Kennedy stressed that kamikaze have little in common with suicide bombers today. Japan was engaged in conventional war, and, above all, kamikaze had no choice, he said. Civilians were not targets.

“They were looking out for each other,” he says, in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “If he didn’t get in the plane that morning, his roommate would have to go.”

Yokosuka MXY7 Cherry Blossom suicide aircraft

Though the Zero was used in kamikaze missions, it was not designed for the task. The Ohka was. It was a glider packed with bombs and powered by tiny rockets, built to blow up. They were taken near the targets, hooked on to the bottom of planes, and then let go.  Americans called it the “Baka bomb.” Baka is the Japanese word for idiot. Because their cruise range was so limited, they were easily shot down.

Fujio Hayashi

The job of overseeing and training Ohka pilots, and ultimately sending them to certain death, fell to Fujio Hayashi, then 22.

Hayashi believes Ohka might never have happened if there had been no volunteers when the concept was first suggested.  He was one of the first two volunteers for Ohka. Dozens followed.  But he could never stop blaming himself, wondering whether his early backing helped bring it about. When he finally saw one of the flimsy gliders, he felt duped; many thought it looked like a joke.

Over the decades, Hayashi was tormented by guilt for having sent dozens of young men to their deaths “with my pencil,” as he put it, referring to how he had written the names for Ohka assignments each day. To squelch any suspicion of favoritism, he sent his favorite pilots first.

After the war, Hayashi joined the military, called the Self-Defense Forces, and attended memorials for the dead pilots. He consoled families and told everyone how gentle the men had been. They smiled right up to their deaths, he said, because they didn’t want anyone to mourn or worry.

“Every day, 365 days a year, whenever I remember those who died, tears start coming. I have to run into the bathroom and weep. While I’m there weeping, I feel they’re vibrantly alive within my heart, just the way they were long ago,” he wrote in his essay “The Suicidal Drive.”  “I think of the many men I killed with my pencil, and I apologize for having killed them in vain,” he said.

He often said he wanted his ashes to be scattered into the sea near the southern islands of Okinawa, where his men had died.  Until then, he said, his war would never be over.

He died of pancreatic cancer at age 93 on June 4. His family plans to honor his request.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – The Kunihiko Hisa Cartoon Album

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Farewell Salutes – 

Maynard Ashley – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII

Charles banks Jr. – Salem, NJ; US Army, WWII, PTO

William Campbell – Hatfield, AL; US Army, WWII

Chilton Gates – Eminence, MO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Flight Instructor

Ann Jackson Huckaba – Rockvale, TN; USWMC, control tower

Mickey Kinneary – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, Korea

Ernest Laws – Columbus, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO

John Logan – brn: Glasgow/Detroit, MI; US Army, Vietnam, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Joseph Schmitt – O’Fallon, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, / NASA

Michael Weber – Toronto, CAN; RC Army, WWII, LT., Corps of Signals

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USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story – Battle of Ormoc Bay (November – December 1944)

Maryann Holloway not only brings us her father’s WWII Naval story, but a well researched account of the Battle of Ormoc Bay. There are a number of photos, perhaps some you have never seen before.  I hope you find it interesting.

USS Hornet (CV-12)-A Father's Untold War Story

John T. Ryan US Navy John T. Ryan US Navy

The world is still at war and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

A VF-11 F6F getting a wave off while another Hellcat taxies out of the way, Dec. 1944 on USS Hornet (CV-12). A VF-11 F6F getting a wave off while another Hellcat taxies out of the way, Dec. 1944 on USS Hornet (CV-12).
The famous "Murderers Row" at Ulithi lagoon, December 1944, as seen from USS Wasp (CV-18): USS Yorktown (CV-10), USS Hornet (CV-12), and USS Hancock (CV-19). The famous “Murderers Row” at Ulithi lagoon, December 1944, as seen from USS Wasp (CV-18): USS Yorktown (CV-10), USS Hornet (CV-12), and USS Hancock (CV-19).

The ship’s log did not specifically mention this; however according to Wikipedia, in the months following the Battle Leyte Gulf, Hornet attacked enemy shipping and airfields throughout the Philippines. This included participation in a raid that destroyed an entire Japanese convoy in Ormoc Bay.

The Battle of Ormoc Bay was a series of air-sea battles between Imperial Japan and the United States in the Camotes Sea in the Philippines from 11 November-21 December 1944, part of…

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USA, Texas, Austin – Texas Military Forces Museum

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