Category Archives: First-hand Accounts

Eye Witness Account – Edward Dager

“We Gave Our Best” by: Kayleen Reusser

From : “WE GAVE OUR BEST” by Kayleen Reusser

In December 1944, SSgt. Edward Dager, crew chief for P-38 and p-39 planes was riding in LST-738, a landing ship designed for tanks, near the island of Mindoro.  LST-738 was one of a group of 30 LST’s landing at the island carrying tanks and vehicles.

Suddenly, Dager’s LST was fired on by Japanese kamikazes.  “They came in fast,” he said.  Dager’s LST returned anti-aircraft fire, hitting several of the planes.  When one kamikaze slammed into Dager’s vessel, the 130 crew members aboard were unable to control the fires.  “The captain ordered us to abandon ship,” he said.

Ed Dager, SSgt, US Army Air Corps

Oil from the damaged ship spread on the water.  Frantic seamen scrambled to swim away as more fires sprang up.  Allied ships in the area worked together to fire on the kamikazes and rescue the LST-738’s crew.

Thankfully, no crew member died from the assault, though several were injured.  Dager was burned on his face and right arm.  he and the other wounded were taken by PT boat to a hospital, where they received morphine injections and other care-giving ministrations.

Everything happened so fast and was so chaotic that Dager’s whereabouts became unknown to military officials.  The results were catastrophic.  “My parents received a telegram stating I had been killed in action,” he said.  The War Department soon discovered the error and tried to remedy the misinformation.  “The next day they sent another telegram to my parents saying I was okay.”

Born in 1921, the youngest child in a family of ten, Dager grew up on a farm outside of Monroeville, Indiana.  He quit school to find work, but in 1942, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.  After completing basic training at Camp Perry, Ohio, Dager was assigned to airplane mechanic school with the Army Air Corps.

As part of the 80th Fighter Squadron, “The Headhunter”. 8th Fighter Group, 5th Air force, Dager sailed from San Francisco to Brisbane, Australia, then New Guinea where he was assigned to an Allied air base.   “It was hard not to stare at the natives at New Guinea,” he said.  The walked around with bones in their noses.”

SSgt, Dager was assigned as crew chief in charge of 8 P-39s and P-38s.  The had four 50-caliber machine-guns and a 20 mm cannon.” he said.  Dager took his job seriously.  “A pilot from Boston told me I was the best crew chief because I kept the cockpits clean.”  Dager was aided by an assistant.

As missions often required 5 and 6 hours of flight time, crews were awakened during the dark, early hours of the morning.   “At 0200 hours someone blew a whistle to wake us up,” said Dager.  “We always did a final check of each aircraft before it took off.”

Being on the flight line in the middle of the night with a bunch of sleepy crews would be hazardous.  Dager witnessed one serviceman who drove his jeep into the wash of a plane’s propellers (current of air created by the action of a propeller),  “That was a sad sight,” he said.

Ed Dager

While Dager was friendly with flight crews, but he kept an emotional distance.  “We were there to fight a war.  We learned not to get too attached to people.”

It was not easy.  Many years after one pilot whom Dager had known was declared MIA, due to his plane’s crash, his daughter called Dager.  “She asked for details about her father and his last flight.” Dager provided what little information he knew.  “It was hard losing people.”

In summer 1945, he was helping to launch P-38s from Okinawa when President Truman ordered bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  Those actions subsequently ended the war with the surrender of the Emperor in September.  By November, Dager had enough points to be discharged.

He returned to Fort Wayne, IN where he farmed and worked at ITT, retiring in 1985.  Dager married in 1946 and he and his wife, Mavis, were parents to 2 daughters.  “I was in the war to do a job,” he said.  “I was young and thought if I made it home, that was okay.”

Ed and Mavis Dager, R.I.P.

Sadly, the Purple Heart recipient, Sgt. Dager left us on 23 February 2018

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Thomas Anderson – Rockton, IL; US Air Force (Ret. 23 y.), 11th Airborne Division

Jerry Cain – Painter, WY; US Army, Vietnam, 320 Artillery/101st Airborne Div., Purple Heart, Distinguish Service Medal

Michael Dippolito – Norristown, PA; US Army, 82nd Airborne Division

Kenneth Ebi Jr. – Moline, IL; US Army, WWII, PTO, 1st Lt., 7th Infantry Division Engineers

James Heldman – San Francisco, CA; US Army, Vietnam, Battalion Comdr., 2/4 FA/9th Infantry Division

Cyril Knight – Invercargill, NZ; 2NZEF J Force # 634897, WWII, Pvt.

Perry Owen – Houston, TX; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Carmine Picarello – Bayonne, NJ; US Army, MSgt. (Ret. 24 y.) / US Navy, Intelligence

Roy Scott Jr. – Columbus, OH; US Army, Vietnam & Desert Storm, 173rd Airborne Division, Bronze Star

Mary Zinn – London, ENG; Civilian, Red Cross

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Thanksgiving – Then and Now

WWII vs Afghanistan

THEN – WWII

Stanley Collins, US Navy: “I was on submarine duty in the Pacific in the year 1943. We were in the area off the cost of the Philippines. I remember having a complete turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. While the turkeys were cooking, the submarine took a dive. We went down too steeply and the turkeys fell out of the oven onto the deck. The cook picked them up and put them back into the oven — and we ate them, regardless of what may have gotten on them as a result of their fall. That meal was so good!”

Ervin Schroeder, 77th Infantry Division, 3rd Battalion, I Company, US Army: “On Thanksgiving Day, we made our landing on Leyte Island in the Philippines very early in the morning. We therefore missed our dinner aboard ship. Somewhere down the beach from where we landed, the Navy sent us ham and cheese sandwiches. My buddy happened to get one of the sandwiches and brought it back to our area. I was complaining to him for not bringing one back for me when he started to have stomach cramps… At this point, I shook his hand and thanked him for not bringing me a sandwich.”

Bill Sykes of Plymouth, Combat Engineers and then 1095th Engineer Utility Company, Command SoPac, US Army Engineers 1942-1945:

“The Thanksgiving dinners were served on trays. (My first one, with the Combat Engineers, was served in mess kits. That doesn’t work too well.) They had cranberry sauce, stuffing, the whole thing. It was a good meal. But the feeling of Thanksgiving wasn’t there. The meal was there, but the feeling of Thanksgiving wasn’t. I guess you couldn’t have Thanksgiving when you were overseas. There wasn’t much to be thankful for. It was sad. Although, I guess there was some thankfulness, at least you were still alive!”

 

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NOW – 2018

This year, service members received:
— 9,738 whole turkeys
— 51,234 pounds of roasted turkey
— 74,036 pounds of beef
— 21,758 pounds of ham
— 67,860 pounds of shrimp
— 16,284 pounds of sweet potatoes
— 81,360 pies
— 19,284 cakes
— 7,836 gallons of eggnog

“All of [U.S. Army Central Command’s] food, with very few exceptions, has to come from U.S. sources and moved into the theater,” said Sgt. Maj. Kara Rutter, the ARCENT culinary management NCO in charge. “There are also challenges with the quantity of the food that we’re getting. When you talk about buying 23,000 pounds of shrimp, obviously that affects the entire market.

“We also have to ensure we’re respecting our host nations’ cultures. In some countries, we might not be able to serve certain foods because of cultural and religious considerations.”

Soldiers operating in isolated locations will also receive a hot Thanksgiving meal, Rutter added, thanks to food service professionals in the U.S. who prepared a series of “Unitized Group Rations,” which is “basically a meal in a box.”

“Being away from home during the holidays is very difficult,” Rutter said. “There are a lot of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who frankly are away from home for their first Thanksgiving, and they are doing some difficult things.

“We want them to be able to take a minute, take a knee, and eat the same type of food that their families are eating 9,000 miles away, all while thinking of them at the same time.”

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Military Humor and something to think about – 

humor from Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey will travel

 

“And you were whining about sitting next to Uncle Milt!!”

 

 

 

 

Military turkeys

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Farewell Salutes – 

Richard Arcand – Chelmsford, MA; US Navy, WWII & Korea, Lt.Comdr. (Ret.)

Robert Browning – Cary, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 194th GIR/17th Airborne Division

Dick Cadic – NJ; US Army, WWII, T-3 Sgt., telegraph

Thomas Fussell – Alamogordo, NM; US Air Force, Vietnam, Lt.Col., fighter pilot

Edward Gould – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Army # 61449, WWII, 44/8th Army

Norman Kroeger – Hartford, WI; US Navy, WWII, USS New Mexico

Vincent Losada – San Antonio, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-17 Bombardier, 487th Bomb Group

Larry McConnell Sr. – Des moines, IA; US Army, WWII & Korea

Walter Shields – Brooklyn, NY; USMC, WWII

Cowden Clark Ward – Fredericksburg, TX; Civilian pilot, founder of “Freedom Flyers”

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11th Airborne Paratrooper – Melvin Garten

Col. Melvin Garten

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Media’s self-importance never dies

An Associated Press photographer died. He was the fellow who took the picture of a fully armed paramilitary immigration enforcement officer taking a screaming child of six by force who was hiding with an adult in a closet, as the Clinton administration had no compunction about separating a Legal Immigrant from his family on American soil.

The Associated Press ran a 749-word obituary on the photographer, Alan Diaz. It was an interesting story — AP hired him after he took the SWAT team-crying kid photo.

But the story was a bit much, and a reminder of the media’s overblown sense of importance. The word iconic appeared four times.

Which brings me to a story I read about Melvin Garten, a real hero. His death brought no AP obituary because he never got a byline:

Toby Harnden, the Times of London reporter who has covered war with the troops and United States politics with equanimity, tweeted on May 6, 2015: “Trumpeter, food blogger, actress, golfer get New York Times obits today, but this man has his death notice paid for by family.”

The man whose family had to pay for his obituary was Melvin Garten, the most decorated and forgotten soldier at the time of his death.

Heroes are born and made. Melvin Garten was born May 20, 1921 in New York City, where he became another smart Jewish boy attending City College of New York.  Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, greatly altered his immediate plans. Upon graduation from CCNY, he joined the Army and became a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division.  He then married his girlfriend, Ruth Engelman of the Bronx, in November 1942. She was a war bride. Everyone said the marriage wouldn’t last, and they were right because the marriage ended on January 9, 2013 — the day she died.

Melvin and Ruth Garten

Melvin went off to the Pacific Theater of the war, where he participated in what can only be described as an audacious airborne raid of Los Banos in 1945, rescuing more than 2,000 U.S. and Allied civilians from a Japanese prison camp. He was a highly decorated soldier, earning the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, a Presidential Unit Citation and the Purple Heart with three Oak Leak Clusters for his wounds in battle. He was tough and handsome and courageous.

As would war. At dawn on Sunday, June 25, 1950, with the permission of Stalin, the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel behind artillery fire. Melvin was back in combat. Captain Garten proved his mettle again as commander of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.  President Eisenhower awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross.

The citation reads: “Captain Garten distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Surang-ni, Korea, on 30 October 1952. On that date, observing that assault elements of Companies F and G were pinned down by withering fire on a dominant hill feature, Captain Garten voluntarily proceeded alone up the rugged slope and, reaching the besieged troops, found that key personnel had been wounded and the unit was without command. Dominating the critical situation through sheer force of his heroic example, he rallied approximately eight men, assigned four light machine guns, distributed grenades and, employing the principle of fire and maneuver, stormed enemy trenches and bunkers with such tenacity that the foe was completely routed and the objective secured. Quickly readying defensive positions against imminent counterattack he directed and coordinated a holding action until reinforcements arrived. His inspirational leadership, unflinching courage under fire and valorous actions reflect the highest credit upon himself and are in keeping with the cherished traditions of the military service.”

Pork Chop Hill

Having served at Luzon and Pork Chop Hill, Captain Garten came home and the family moved around. Ruth took care of her men.

“I never even bought my own clothes,” Melvin told Mike Francis of the Oregonian a few months before her death. “I never went shopping. It was not a part of my life. As an Army wife, she took care of those things.”

Their sons were in their teens when the Vietnam War erupted. Melvin earned his Combat Infantry Badge for the third time — perfect attendance as those men with that distinction of serving in those three wars called their service. The Army put him in command of the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry in 1968 and he reinvigorated the unit, calling it the No Slack battalion.

Just as he almost completed the turnaround, his jeep ran over a Vietcong mine, sending shrapnel to his leg and to his head. Another war, another Purple Heart, only this time it cost him his leg. The military sent him to Walter Reed to recuperate.

Ruth went alone, shielding her sons from the news, as they were in college. She wanted to see how he was. Melvin was in horrible condition. His head wound was more serious than their sons realized. For nearly a year, he worked to recover from the explosion. Melvin wanted to stay on active duty as a one-legged paratrooper. She supported his decision. They had to appear before a medical board. Ruth told the Oregonian, “When I got there, they wanted to know only one thing. ‘Was he as difficult a man before was wounded as he is now?’ one board member asked. ‘No difference,’ I answered. And he passed.”

His assignment was as post commander of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the Airborne and Special Operational Forces, a nod to his sterling and exemplary service under fire.

Gen. Eichelberger (C) w/ Gen. Swing (R) planning the raid of Los Banos

Melvin retired as the most decorated man in the Army at the time with the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, five Purple Hearts, two Legion of Merits, two Joint Service Commendations, a Combat Infantry Badge for each of three wars, and a Master Parachutist Badge with two combat jump stars. Melvin paid dearly for those awards, but so did Ruth. She was one of the few women to receive five telegrams over the years informing her that her husband was wounded in combat. And by few, I mean I do not know of another.

But his retirement in Florida began three wonderful decades for them. In 2000, Ruth and Melvin moved to Oregon to live near their son,  Allan. Doctors diagnosed her as having Parkinson’s. Mike Francis interviewed Melvin and their sons 11 months before her death. Melvin said, “All these things she put up with. All the things she did for the family. She kept our lives going for 70 years. ”

Following her death on January 9, 2013, the family buried her in Arlington, where all our military heroes belong. He joined her there following his death on May 2, 2015.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Para-Toast.

‘I count only four parachutes. Where’s Mr. Simms?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Richard Bettinson – Pelly, CAN; RC Air Force/RAF, WWII, ETO

John Carberg – New London, CT; USMC

Robert Daughtery – Clinton, IN; US Army, WWII, PTO, 3rd Signal Battalion

Paul Fournier – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII

John Graziano – Elkridge, MD; US Air Force, Captain, 87th Flying Training Squadron, KIA

Hank Kriha – Oshkosh, WI; US Army, WWII, PTO, 32nd Red Arrow Division

George McClary – Pueblo, CO; US Coast Guard, WWII, USS El Paso

James Ruff – Summitt, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 11th Airborne Division

Harold Sullivan – Morriston, FL; US Army, WWII, ETO / Korea, Purple Heart

John Yordan – Detroit, MI; US Army

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Walt’s Pilot Log 1944-45

CBI – British receive POW’s / Vietnam in the picture

Japanese POWs in Malaya

“From May onwards, prisoners in a terrible state came in daily,” recorded a British gunner unit in Burma, “many of them armed with nothing more dangerous than bamboo spears, trembling with a mixture of malaria and humiliation.”

British soldiers in Burma

But if some proved ready to quit, others did not.  To the end, most Japanese who lost their ships at sea deliberately evaded Allied rescuers.  On the deck of HMS Saumarez, destroyer Captain Martin Power was directing rescue operations after sinking a Japanese convoy off the Nicobars, when he suddenly heard a “clang” against the ship.

Andaman and Nicobars Islands

Peering over the side, he saw a bald, heavily built Japanese man clinging to a scrambling net with one hand, while hammering the nose of a shell against the hull with the other.  Power drew his pistol, leaned over and whacked the man’s head.

“I could not think of anything else to do – I spoke no Japanese.  Blood streaming down his face, he looked up at me, the pistol 6 inches from his eyes, the shell in his hand…  I do not know how long I hung in this ridiculous position, eyeball to eyeball with a fanatical enemy, but it seemed too long at the time.  At last he dropped the shell into the sea, brought up his feet, and pushed off from the ship’s side like an Olympic swimmer, turned on his face and swam away.”

*****          *****          *****

By this time of the Pacific War, the Vietnam area of Indochina was in dispute.  DeGaulle demanded that the current Vichy government take a firm stand, but this was a disaster.  The Japanese had staged a pre-emptive coup against the Saigon administration.  Frenchmen became POW’s and their future fate would cause Anglo-American arguments.  When US planes arrived from China to carry out evacuations, the French were furious that the aircraft did not bring them cigarettes.

London’s Political Warfare Executive sent a directive to Mountbatten that highlighted the political and cultural complexities of the CBI: “Keep off Russo-Japanese, Russo-Chinese and Sino-Japanese relations except for official statements.  Show that a worse fate awaits Japan if her militarists force her to fight on… Continue to avoid the alleged Japanese peace feelers.”

The Dutch, French and British owners of the old Eastern empires were increasingly preoccupied with regaining their lost territories – and they were conscious that they could expect scant help from the Americans to achieve this.  The British Embassy in Washington told the Foreign Office:

“If we prosecute the Eastern War with might and main, we shall be told by some people that we are really fighting for our colonial possessions the better to exploit them and that American blood is being shed to no better purpose than to help ourselves and Dutch and French to perpetrate our degenerate colonial Empires; while if we are judged not to have gone all out, that is because we are letting America fight her own war with little aid, after having her pull our chestnuts out of the European fire.”

Quotes taken from “Retribution” by Max Hastings

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Edward Bailey – Parma, MI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, 2nd Lt., pilot, KIA

David Cruden – Hurtsville, AUS; RA Air Force # 422443, 460 & 582nd Bomber Command Squadrons

Fred Hermes Jr. – Villas, NJ; US Coast Guard, Academy Grad., Commander (Ret.)

William A. Laux – LaCrosse, WI & Arrow Lakes, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO

John Moore – Baltimore, MD; US Navy, WWII, Captain (Ret.)

Ronald S. Richardson – Gisborne, NZ; RNZ Air Force, WWII, ETO, Lt. Commander, pilot, KIA

Robert Stoner – Buffalo, NY; US Navy, minesweeper

Harry Thomas – Marlington, WV; US Army, WWII

Michael C. Ukaj – Johnstown, NY; USMC, Iraq (the NY limo crash on his 34th birthday)

Elwood Wells – Epsom, NH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, Captain, 1337 A.F. Base, KIA

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Nudge In Rear Came Too Soon, So Mitchell Gunner Bombed Wrong Target In China

b25-12a

B-25, “Ormoc Bay”, by: Jack Fellows from the IHRA

By Sgt. Marion Hargrove

SOMEWHERE IN CHINA–This story has been held back for a while because the fellow was mighty sensitive about it, and he happens to be a tech sergeant, 6 feet 2 and weighing 200 pounds. He’s cooled off a little, so now it can be told.

The tech sergeant is Karl May of Yakima, Wash., an aerial engineer and gunner in one of the local Mitchell B-25 bombers. The tale goes back to the time when he was still a buck private, working as an armorer in his squadron and bucking like hell for a job on a combat crew.

They finally let him go on a few missions to try him out. He got along fine until his third trip. That was the raid on the big Jap base at Hankow, former Chinese capital, on the Yangtze.

There were two minor defects that day in the bomber to  which May was assigned: there were no racks in the ship for fragmentation bombs and the interphones were temporarily out of commission.

Well, they were working the thing out all right without fragracks or interphones. They had Pvt. May squatting by the photo hole with a stack of frag bombs and the understanding that when the turret gunner nudged him in the behind he was to cut loose with all he had.

Fragmentation bomb

It happened that the bomber had a passenger that day–maybe an observer from Washington, maybe a newspaperman, maybe just a sightseer.

This worth person grew unaccustomedly chilly, saw that the draft came from the open photo hole and decided to ask the private beside it to close it. The private – yep, it was May – had his back turned, so the passenger sought to attract his attention with a gentle nudge in the rear.

Pvt. May reacted like the eager beaver he was. He held one frag bomb over the hole and let it drop. Then he turned another loose into thin air. He was preparing to drop every bomb in the ship – until he was rudely and violently stopped. To May’s dismay he learned: 1) that the ship was nowhere near Hankow, 2) that he had been given no signal and, 3) that he had just wasted a couple hundred dollars’ worth of U.S. high explosives.

B-25 dropping frag bombs

The mission proceeded to Hankow, where May dropped the rest of  his bombs through the photo hole, an armful at a time. But his heart was heavy at the thought of having goofed previously.

When the plane returned to its base, there was an intelligence report from the Chinese Army waiting for it.  According to this report, two bombs dropped on a Japanese barge on the Yangtze had scored direct hits, sinking the barge and drowning 160 Japanese soldiers.

T/Sgt. May never tells the story himself and he gets mad when he hears anyone else tell it.  Only those who’ve seen the records will believe it.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Wayne Bauer – Las Cruces, NM; US Army, WWII, ATO

Harry Carlsen – Chicago, IL; USMC, WWII, PTO, 2nd Marine Division, KIA (Tarawa)

Images is courtesy of:
https://mywarjournals.com/

James Fleischer – Detroit, MI; US Army

John Guice – Greenville, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

Robert Hegel – IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 15th Air Force, navigator

Claude A. Rowe – Chuka Vista, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Tuskegee

Elizabeth Schwantes – Kaukauna, WI; US Coast Guard, WWII

Leslie Thickpenny – Pukekohe, NZ; NZ Air Force, WWII, flight engineer

Henry Wheeler (100) – Buffalo, NY; US Army, WWII, 12th Army, Intelligence, Bronze Star

Robert Zeigler Jr. – Ft Lauderdale, FL; US Army, Korea

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From a U.S. sailor’s diary (Balikpapan)

USS Montpelier (CL-57)

Wednesday, 27 June 1945:  USS Montpelier 

The bombers started early this morning, it was 7 A.M.  The men on the 5″ and 6″ guns will be glad when we leave here.(Balikpapan).  The past 10 days they have been in those hot steel mounts and turrets passing big shells and powder cases.  They start passing the ammunition at 7:30 AM and don’t stop until 6 PM.  Then they stay up all night standing their usual watches.

James J. Fahey’s secret diary

The Australian cruiser, Hobart, one heavy cruiser and some destroyers came in today, many PT boats and gunboats also came in.  A destroyer pulled alongside with 60 bags of mail.  The air mail was only 16 days old!

The demolition squad returned to our ship this morning, they were soaking wet.  They have a very dangerous job clearing the place of mines and underwater obstacles put there by the Japs, they must have worked all night.  One of our b-25 medium bombers came in so low on a strafing run that it hit some trees and landed in the water.  One of our small boats was sent to pick up the crew, lucky for them no one was hurt.

The Australian soldiers that we have with us are always studying their maps, charts and photos.  These men are special troops and have important jobs to do when they land

War Diary of the USS Montpelier

Thursday, 28 June 1945

All hands got up at 6 AM.  We really opened up on the Japs today and so did the bombers.  When it was all over you could see nothing for miles around but thick black smoke, it rose so high into the sky for miles, it went so high that it was out of sight.  I never saw anything like it before.

There was enough black smoke here to cover many big cities, at the same time it was enough to choke you.  I don’t know how the Japs can stand it.  There were so many huge storage tanks exploding and so many miles of Borneo were blacked out that it looked like the end of the world.

Today while we were covering the demolition crew, the Jap machine-guns opened up on them, they had some casualties.  They had a very rugged job to do, they were in the water near shore and the Japs were looking at them not too far away.

They must have ice water in their veins, no wonder it is such a tough outfit to join.  I can see why they have such heavy casualties.  The Japs gave them a hot time with their machine-guns and mortars.  The demolition crew set off long chains of explosions. They have to clear a path in the water for our landing craft…..

There is a big wall and many steel posts plus mines.  The demolition men can stay under water for a long time, but when they come up, the Japs open up on them.  We fired back and knocked out their guns and crews.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Max Barton – Streator, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 193rd Ordnance Co./5th Air Force

John Clement – Quantico, VA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Fred Frevert – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, WWII, PTO, 38th Infantry Division

Noel Grimm – Hudson, OH; US Army, WWII, PTO, Sgt., M.P.

Robert Hagan Sr. – PA; US Air Force, Captain, pilot

Frederick Hopkins – New Plymouth, NZ; J Force # 444837, WWII, PTO

Stanly Kretowski – Cobourg, CAN; Canadian Army, WWII, ETO

Vinnie O’Hare – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

Charles Slade Jr. – Saginaw, MI; US Army, WWII, ETO

Jerry A. Williams – Phoenix, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

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Japanese Kaiten Torpedo

Kaiten Type-1 Yushukan on display in Tokyo

IJN Navy officers in 1944, were the designers, Lts Hiroshi Kuroki and Sekio Nishina. The pair were killed while testing the weapons.

In the desperate final year of WWII in the Pacific, very few people on both sides knew of the existence of the Japanese kaiten human torpedo. It was a top secret weapon developed by two “Circle 6 metal fitting” and only a few in the Imperial Navy knew what it really was.

The kaiten was the underwater equivalent of the Kamikaze suicide plane. Although the human torpedo pilots did not die in a blaze of glory as their air force counterparts, they all believed in their cause and there was no shortage of volunteers for the top secret program.

The kaiten was powered by a Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedo engine fitted to a long tubular body. The engine was oxygen-powered and had a maximum speed of 30 knots (34.5 mph). The 54-foot weapon packed a 1550 kg (3,420 pound) warhead and was controlled and guided by a human operator. There was a tiny pilot’s compartment which had a periscope and a gyro-compass to guide him to the target. Once launched, the weapon could not be recovered. There was a self-destruct button if the pilot failed to hit his target.

Kaiten Type-10 schematic

To sink a submarine was very difficult. The killing radius of the exploding depth charge, depending on various circumstances such as depth, payload, and strength of the target’s hull, was around 10 to 13 feet. From 26 to 33 feet, serious damage could be inflicted. It took a lucky hit to sink a submarine; most were sunk after being battered continuously until they lost power or air. The US Navy had perfected anti-submarine warfare using high tech equipment and teams of destroyers and destroyer escorts. The danger point for the submariners was about 12 hours without fresh air. By forcing the sub to surface  or preventing it from surfacing for air, its destruction was assured.

Petty Officer Yutaka Yokota, a kaiten pilot on the I-36, recalled: “Then came the depth charges. They felt like a giant pile driver smashing into the side of the I-36. She shook and swerved, throwing me to my knees. The wardroom sofa leaped fully two feet above the deck and toppled over on its side. Every light that I could see went out, and only about half of them came on again.”

USS Sproston

The I-36 was taking a severe beating and there was nothing she could do. It had launched one kaiten, but it still had 5 more strapped to the deck. Sugamasa wanted to dive down to 325 feet, but his cargo prevented him from doing so. To dive deeper meant that he would destroy the kaitens due to heavy underwater pressure.
Oil and debris came bubbling to the surface, but Cdr. Esslinger on the USS Sproston wasn’t falling for that old submariner’s trick. The crew smelled blood in the water and increased their resolve. They had knocked down several Japanese planes, but wanted to add a submarine to their  tally.

LCdr. Sugamasa was running out of options. Then Ensign Minoru Kuge rushed into the con and volunteered to man his kaiten and counter attack. All of the electric rudders on the small crafts were damaged, but they could be steered manually. Petty Officer Hidemasa Yanagiya also insisted to sortie. Sugamasa knew that a counter-attack had little chance of success. These two brave men were going to sacrifice themselves to lure the destroyer away from their submarine so that she could escape.

Yokota’s kaiten was badly damaged. He had sortied twice before, only to be thwarted by mechanical failures in the temperamental kaiten. He was confident that the third sortie would be the charm. Now a bystander, he stood by clutching a vial of cyanide and thought “Once they made their direct hit and water came rushing into our hull, I was going to swallow the container’s contents. I could not bear to think of death by drowning or suffocation.”


Kuge and Yanagiya quickly boarded their kaiten through a tight hatch and were sealed shut. The engines started, the clamps were released, and the two kaitens whirled their way toward the surface. The skipper and his sonarmen listened intently through their earphones. Fifteen minutes later, the first contact was made.
Sproston had spotted a kaiten and made a run towards it. The conning tower and periscope were clearly visible at quite a distance.Then the 5-inch guns opened up. Sugamasa and his sonarmen heard faint explosions. “We made a direct hit!” recalled Roberts. “I saw the small black conning tower go sailing off into the air!” There was wild jubilation! The Sproston had scored.

Down below in the I-36, they later heard a gigantic boom; a kaiten had exploded. But which one, Kuge or Yanagiya? Believing that it had scored a kill, they cheered. But they were wrong. The depth charges kept coming. From noon until night, the destroyer pounded the submarine until their inventory of depth charges was depleted. Finally, the destroyer retired from the scene. The I-36 limped back into port like a beaten dog on 6 July 1945. For Yutaka Yokota, he was unsuccessfully lucky, for he lived to tell about it.


Through the diligent efforts of Don Roberts (Jim’s son), the connection between the Sproston and the I-36 was made. Don located Yutaka Yokota in Tokyo and exchanged letters. The USS Sproston Association invited the former kaiten pilot to their reunion in Orlando, Florida in September 1990. Yokota could not attend due to ill health. The old sailors were looking forward to meeting Yokota at the 1992 reunion in Chicago, but were saddened to learn that he had passed away on 16 March 1991 of cancer at age 65.

Jim Roberts had sent a letter to Yokota prior to his passing. In his letter, Jim wrote: “We tried our best to sink you. But I am glad that we did not do so.” This letter was read at Yokota’s funeral wake. About a hundred of Yokota’s comrades, many of them from the kaiten program and the submarine service, attended his funeral. “I wish we could have met,” sighed Jim. “We had so much to talk about.”
Jim Roberts passed away at his home in Lakewood, CA in 2004.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Glen Azevedo – Riverside, RI; US Coast Guard, Vietnam, Chief Warrant Officer

James Barrett – Palmerston North, NZ; RNZ Army # 33572, WWII, Warrant Officer 1st Class

James Bates – Kimmins, TN; US Army, WWII, ETO, POW / Korea, (Ret. 30 y.), Silver Star, Bronze Stars

William Danner – Elwood, IN; US Army, WWII, 104th Infantry Division, Chief Warrant Officer2 (Ret. 25 y.)

Robert Fitzgerald – Charles City, IA; US Navy, WWII

Melvin Liederman – Hallendale, FL; US Army, WWII, ETO

Guy Nightingale – Corning, KS; US Navy, WWII

Richard Pride – Hampton, VA; US Army, WWII, Major / NASA engineer

Joseph Rosario – Morristown, NJ; USMC

Fred Segal – Detroit, MI; US Navy, Lt., Taurus Missile System

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Research for Jeff S.

Pictures are larger than shown here.

511th area is indicated within the red circle

The 511th traveled west to Lipa

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Gen. Robert Eichelberger Remembers

Generals Eichelberger & MacArthur

From: “Our Jungle Road to Tokyo”

I remembers a story Bob Shoe told on himself.  During the hottest of the fighting on Negros, he was making a trip to the front to look over the situation.  His jeep passed through a weary column of the 503rd Parachute Regiment which had been relieved after many hours of fighting and was on its way to the rear.

General Shoe is completely free of pretentiousness; he was born honest and friendly.  When he stopped for a drink at a spring, he spoke to a grimy paratrooper.  His question didn’t mean anything; it was merely passing the time of day.

“How are things at the front?” Shoe asked cheerfully.

11th Airborne paradrop

The veteran paratrooper, probably 20 years old, looked at Shoe’s clean uniform and his star and his jeep with elaborate boredom and said nothing.  Shoe went on to the front and was promptly shot.  It was a bloody wound and the stretcher which carried him toward the rear was thoroughly incarnadined.

On the way back, his stretcher was stopped by a military traffic jam, and he found himself again among the walking 503rd.  He asw the same redheaded young Pfc he had encountered back at the spring.  The Pfc was friendly now.  He grinned.  “General,” he said, ” how are things at the front?”

*****          *****          *****

Our Jungle Road to Tokyo”

I took a flying boat to Jolo, Philippines.  The USS Boise dropped anchor in Jolo Harbor and I rejoined General MacArthur, who reported the Borneo expedition completely successful.  After a tour of the island, we went back aboard the Boise and headed for Davao City.  Gen. Kenney, who now commanded both the 5th Air Force and the 13th Air Force, was aboard.  George and I spent 2 hours discussing the Philippines campaign and the problems which lay ahead.

That evening MacArthur talked to us for almost 2 hours about coming events and next morning we landed at Davao City.  We went as far as Mintal, where Jack Clifford and his troops had not yet been able to end their struggle against a stubborn enemy.

But we had reason to observe that massive artillery support – now under command of Hugh Cort – was true, accurate and devastating.  It was then that MacArthur told me he did not believe there were 4,000 Japanese left alive on Mindanao.  The surrender figures at war end were 23,000 enemy soldiers, showed how wrong he was.

*****          *****          *****

Generals Eichelberger & MacArthur

I was proud of the job the 41st Division had accomplished at Zambo when the fighting was done.  They laid down their guns and went to work.  They cut weeds and they cleaned out debris.  They became good neighbors.

The Japanese had refused to allow Catholic Filipinos (and there were a good many in that Moslem area), to worship at the ancient shrine of Bien Bemido al Virgen del Pilar.  The shrine was about the size of an American sandwich shop and was tucked into a space along a section of the Fort Pilar wall which had fallen into ruin.

GIs of the 41st Signal Company went to the work of repair and finally put up a sign welcoming all nationalities to worship there again.  Before long, there were hundreds of burning candles.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Paul Anderson – Fargo, ND; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Air-Sea Rescue

Joseph Bacigalupi – Little Silver, NJ; US Army

Edwin Bullington – Prairies Grove, AR; US Navy, USS Observation Island, photographer

Harry Doty – Milford, IN; US Army, WWII, artillery

Leonard Fenimore – Cabria, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 11th Airborne Division

Aaron Justice – Weirton, WV; US Army, WWII, ETO

David Lessin – Newark, NJ; US Army, Major, Medical Corps

Gerald Rothaermel – Bridgeport, CAN; Canadian Air Force, WWII

Leonard Solomon – Brooklyn, NY; US Army, WWII, ATO, TSgt., 42nd Coast Artillery of Engineers

Norman Wecker – Chicago Heights, IL; US Navy, WWII, PBY pilot

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The Generals, Australians and Borneo (2)

The Borneo Campaign Map

From: “General Kenney Reports”

[continued from the previous post where the Generals were on the island of Labaun after the Australian troops had landed to take it back from the Japanese.]

We got to the USS Boise and the next morning we all went over to the beach near Brooketon.  Gen. Wooten joined us.  We waded through a half mile of swamp to a road where 6 jeeps picked us up and drove into the town of Brooketon itself.  The place was completely wrecked by bombing.

Australian soldiers firing artillery, Borneo

Wooten said they encountered very little opposition until they got about 10 miles inland, where they were in contact with about 500 Japs who were dug in on a hill commanding the road.  He had radioed for some airplanes from Palawan to blast their artillery out of the hills so he could use the road.

MacArthur, of course, wanted to see what as going on, so we climbed in the jeeps and headed off for more trouble.  About 5 miles down the road we came to an overturned Jap truck.  It seemed that about 2 hours before, the truck with 12 Nips on board, had dashed along the road with the lights turned on, the horns blowing, and the fools all yelling “Banzai”, heading for the Aussies who were marching toward them.  The Aussie machine-gunners had taken care of the truck and all the Japs.

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MacArthur on Labaun, Borneo 10 June 1945

From: “The Australian Experience”

The decision to bring forward the OBOE VI operation, on the western side of Borneo, was a strategic surprise to the Japanese. The area around Brunei Bay facilitated rapid deployments and operational maneuver from the sea. General MacArthur set Z-Day as 10 June 1945. Naval and landing force command for the Brunei Bay amphibious assault, landing 33,500 personnel and 49,500 tons of supplies and equipment was delegated to Rear Admiral Royal, and Major General George Wootten, commander of the Australian 9th Division.

The Brunei Bay operation was, according to MacArthur, ‘flawlessly executed’. Between 10 June 1945 and the end of the war, the fighting at Brunei Bay and Labuan led to the loss of 119 Australians killed and a further 221 wounded. At least eight Americans lost their lives and 55 were wounded. The Japanese lost 1,375 and 130 captured during this operation, although guerillas probably killed another 1,800 throughout British Borneo.

Borneo, 1945

The order of battle for the ground forces for the OBOE II is indicative of the Australian Army’s approach. Australians made up 94 per cent of the invasion force. It was built around the Australian 7th Infantry Division. The major Australian contribution, its nine infantry battalions (in three brigades) were central to the activities of the ground force. The Australian artillery and armored units were allocated an infantry support role, and were not well versed in the application of combined arms teams.

The US Army provided the specialist amphibious ship-to-shore units for the Australian division. While the Australian Army was responsible for beach operations, the Navy provided a Beachmaster and the RAN Beach Commandos. The NEI troops did fight but were also employed as interpreters and as security for the Netherland Indies civil affairs organization. The RAAF airfield construction squadrons, which were attached to the ground force commander, were to land early and have an airbase ready for Allied aircraft in just four days.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Atilano ‘Al’ David – Angeles, P.I. & NM; WWII, PTO, Sgt. 31st Regiment Philippine Division, (Bataan Death March survivor)

Harold P. DeMoss – Nashville, TN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Ensign, Fighting Squadron 100, KIA

Hubert Fuller – Huntington, WV; US Army, WWII, PTO, 147th Signal/7th Armored/3rd Army

Frank Guerrieri Sr. – Garfield, NJ; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS St. Louis

John Hickman – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Navy # 14321

Kathy Meinsen – Bastrop, TX; US Army

Gerald Nehring – Hinckley, IL; US Army, WWII, CBI

Thomas Reilly – Scituate, MA; US Coast Guard, Chief Boatswain’s Mate (Ret. 24 y.)

Norman Summers – Auckland, NZ; Royal Navy # MX801257 / RNZ Navy # 12177

Julian Waldman – Oceanside, NY; US Army, WWII

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Personal Note – I have having a little computer trouble.  If I do not answer comments or visit your site, I will do so as soon as possible.   Thank you for your patience.

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