Category Archives: First-hand Accounts

First Hand Account – after Peleliu

Bruce Watkins, Monty Montgomery & Steve Stasiak

Bruce Watkins (Commander), Monty Montgomery (platoon Sgt.) & Steve Stasiak (guide)

INTRODUCTION: The following is a chapter taken from “Brothers in Battle” by R. Bruce Watkins. This book was written for the benefit of his children, grandchildren, and friends who have an interest in the events of World War II as he saw them. It reflects his personal experience as a platoon leader in E CO/ 2ND Battalion/1st Marines at Peleliu. He also served as company commander of E Co on Okinawa. Bruce dedicated his book to “My Brothers, those undaunted Marines, who followed me without hesitation into the very jaws of death.” [Pictures below are some of these men.]

We don’t often hear what happens after the men fight, the following is what Bruce Watkins remembered after the battle:

Bruce Watkins

Bruce Watkins

Chapter V
PAVUVU

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Marc Jaffe

As we filed off the Tryon to our old bivouac at Pavuvu, we saw few familiar faces. There were a handful of lightly wounded casualties, but all the other living were still hospitalized. Settling into the tents that had been our home a short month ago, we were immediately struck by the empty cots with personal gear stowed below. We had returned with about 15% of our original number. That made for a lot of empty cots. Most of these cots would never see their original occupants again.

     Shortly after, I received a summons from Division headquarters. “We think we may have one of your men down here.” It was PFC Brennan and he told me he did not have a name, that the Japs had taken it from him on the second day. He was sent home to the States and I received a letter from him some time later. He had been suffering from cerebral malaria but back in a cool climate he had recovered.

    

John Kincaid

John Kincaid

In the heat of the Peleliu battle I had not accounted for two of our 17-year-old privates, but these returned to us now, unscathed. Monty told me they had bugged out in the middle of the battle. I had assumed they were wounded or killed. Although this was technically desertion under fire, the NCO’s had a great deal of understanding, taking into account their youthfulness. I saw no reason to take issue with their judgement, and these two more than proved themselves in the next battle.

     There were many signs of strain after Peleliu. Our colonel told us how coming out of the shower he met a major, a member of Battalion Staff, with a towel draped over his arm. The major asked the colonel if he really liked him. The colonel replied, “Of course.” He then removed the towel displaying a loaded 45 pistol in his hands. “I’m glad you do,” he said, “because if you didn’t, I would have to shoot you.” Our colonel made quiet arrangements and the major was shipped back to the states under guard.

Sgt. Hap Farrell

Sgt. Hap Farrell

     We took a boat over to Bonika, the main island of the Russells, where our hospital was. There we saw many of our comrades. John Kincaid was having trouble with both eyes and Joe Gayle was just getting the use of his arms back. Sam Alick was recovering well from the leg wound, but his thumb would never work the same. Another platoon sergeant, a handsome man, had half his face and jaw gone. A gunny sergeant with a shattered pelvis lay there with rods like an erector set holding his hips in place, and so it went. The good news was that Lee Height could return with us.

Lt. Lee Height

Lt. Lee Height

     Back on Pavuvu in the days that followed, we were allowed to rest and routine was at a minimum. We drifted from tent to tent checking on who had returned and always there were the empty cots. This was a most necessary rehabilitation period during wich we dealt with our shock and the loss of many friends. We were to need that rest both physically and mentally for there was much ahead of us.

In 1992 Bruce wrote “Brothers in Battle” about his experiences. The period covered stretches from December 1941 until November 1945.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Edward Borschel Jr. – Panama City, FL; US Army, 187th RCT

Jack Griffiths – San Diego, CA; US Army, Korea, HQ/38/2nd Infantry Div., Major, POW, KIA

Dixie Heron – UK; RAF, WWII, ETO, 249th Squadron

Hugo Koski – Mt. Vernon, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, Quartermaster

Ira Miss Jr. – Frederick, MD; Korea, HQ/38/2nd Infantry Div., MSgt., POW, KIA

Clifford Nelson – Spanish Fort, AL; US Navy, WWII, PTO & Korea, Captain (Ret. 29 years)

Charles Owen – Greendale, WI; US Navy, WWII

Lee Ragatz Jr. – Dania, FL; US Navy, USS Midway

Jack Slaughter (103) – Muskogee, OK; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Welles, Silver Star

Martin Waddington – So.Hurtsville, AUS; RA Air Force # NX098714, 10th Squadron

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Peleliu – Eye Witness Account

" Thousand Yard Stare" by Thomas C. Lea III

” Thousand Yard Stare” by Thomas C. Lea III

“The main cause of the 1st Marines going through the ordeal of Peleliu was the rugged and well-defended terrain of the Umurbrogol Hills.  They were honeycombed with caves and enemy strongholds.  Spearheading the grueling assault was Colonel “Chesty” Puller’s 1st Regiment.  The following are excerpts from Pvt. Russell Davis:

We went quickly into line, backing and plunging a bit in the surf like race horses in the starting gate. The control oflicers in the picket boats sighted along the line and then waved us ahead. We took off into the wake of the second Wave, but it was hard to see them when they were in the troughs of the swells.

Everyone was up and yelling but Buck and the squad leader. They crouched low; both of them were young but their faces looked old with determination and fear. When we hit the beach they would have the job to do, and we would do whatever they told us to do.

It was almost a glorious feeling, roaring in toward he beach with fear gone for the moment. We were in motion with thousands of tons of armed might at our backs; and it seemed that nothing could stop us. We were an old and tried outfit, led by men like Buck and the squad leader, who would know what to do when the time came to do it. As we rolled in on Peleliu, and before we were hit, the excitement took us and we were not afraid of anything. Some men began to chant: “Drive! Drivel!Drive!”

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I saw the amphibious tractor in front of us go up in a shellburst. For a moment I didn’t realize what I had seen. Somebody said: “Hey, I think they hit him,” in a complaining tone, as though it were against the rules to do that.

The amtrac flamed, spread gas on the water, and wallowed in a puddle of fire. Men spilled from it. The driver of our tractor screamed so loud we heard him above everything. He had seen the hit and he was very frightened.”

After Pvt. Davis landed and joined in the fight:

“Clawing and crawling up the cliff went platoons that were no more than squads and companies that were no more than large platoon.  From the base of the cliffs we could pick out each man and follow him until he got hit, went to the ground or climbed to the top.  Not many made it to the top.

As they toiled, caves, gulley’s and holes opened up the Japanese dashed out to roll grenades down on them and sometimes to lock body to body in desperate wrestling matches.  Knives and bayonets flashed on the hillside.  I saw one man straighten and lunge to kick something that attacked his legs like a mad dog.  He reached and heaved, and a Japanese soldier came end over end down the hill.  The machine-gunner yelled encouragement.”

The Attacks on the hills during the first week of battle cost Puller’s regiment 1/3 its strength.

Russell Davis wrote the book, “Marine At War”.

Thomas C. Lea III, war correspondent for “Life” magazine, author and artist of the “2000 Yard Stare” and “The Price” said about the actual Marine on Peleliu: “He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases.  He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”usmc-c-peleliu-p3b

As seen from the air on D-Day, 15 September 1944, Beaches WHITE 1 and 2, on which the 1st and 3d Battalions, 1st Marines, landed. Capt George P. Hunt’s Company K, 3/1, was on the extreme left flank of the 1st Marine Division.
Department of Defense Photo (USN) 283745

References: US Army Center of Military Information; World War II Today and ibiblio.org.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Leo Adams – Brighton Bch., NY; US Army, WWII, Lt., US 5th Army

Alice Attchison – Saskatchewan, CAN; RC Woman’s Air Force, WWII

Frank Bartos – McHenry, IL; USMC, WWII, PTOth-jpg1

John Caddell – Belmont, NH; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Haggard

Clarence Day – Wanganui, NZ; RNZ Army # 446267, WWII, Engineers

Gilbert Meehan – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

William ‘Ryan’ Owens – Peoria, IL; US Navy SEAL, Yemen, KIA

Charles Rupprecht – Collierville, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Div., Communications

Carl Stearns – Oshkosh, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, SSgt.

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This WASP Couldn’t Wait to Fly

To honor our females veterans.

Writing of Kayleen Reusser-Home

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Mary Anna (‘Marty’) Martin Wyall – WASP

One benefit of interviewing World War II veterans is the opportunity to develop friendships. My husband and I consider Marty Wyall a friend. Below is a shortened version of her story from my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans. You can hear Marty speak about her World War II experiences here. She’s still a spunky gal!

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Mary Anna (‘Marty’) Martin Wyall of Fort Wayne learned about the WASP program from a magazine ad while studying bacteriology at DePauw University in 1942. The idea of flying intrigued her. “There was a war on and I wanted to help my country,” she said.

Her family was not keen on the idea. “Mother thought it was morally wrong for me to join the WASP,” she said. “She came from the Victorian era. I told her she would have to accept it…

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Smitty’s drawings and a cold shower

Various Army latrines

Various Army latrines

Smitty did not write home about his experience with the showers. (Unfortunately, I do not remember which island this story occurred on.)

He was coming back into camp after having a nice cold shower.  He walked back with a towel wrapped around his middle and held it closed with his left hand.  The jungle appeared quiet except for the buzzing of the insects whizzing around him.

WAC Invasion

He said, “You know how annoying just one mosquito can be when it’s hovering by your ears.  This was like a swarm and I tried like hell to use my right hand to swat them away from my face.  When I began to approach our tents there was not one man to be seen and I couldn’t imagine where they all went.  As I got closer I could hear the G.I.s yelling and they were waving their arms as they crouched in their tents, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.  Besides, I was too preoccupied with swatting the bugs. 

“When I got back to my tent complaining about how aggravating the bugs on the island were, I asked them what all the hooting and hollering was all about.  All they kept doing was checking my skin and asking if I was alright. 

Somebody yelled, ‘Those were no jungle bugs — that’s shrapnel!’  When they discovered that I had been hit, someone happily said that I could put in for a Purple Heart.”

WAC Invasion

WAC Invasion

After a good laugh between Dad and I, I asked if he ever put in for the medal.  He laughed again and said that he was too embarrassed.  “For one thing I felt stupid for not realizing what was going on and second, I didn’t want to be grouped into being one of those guys that put in for a Purple Heart every time they nicked themselves shaving.  It would be like taking something away from the men who actually did get wounded and deserved the medal.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – 

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WWII Veteran Honors Gen. George Patton

Proving that patriotism cannot be measured by a person’s race or culture, World War II, Korea and Vietnam War veteran Robert Nobuo Izumi has lived nearly his entire life serving our country.  Izumi, who is a Japanese-American, was forced into an internment camp with his family shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In June 1944 he joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all Japanese-American unit. Read more about Izumi’s career and his visit to Luxembourg American Cemetery to honor Patton.

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Military Humor – 

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Sad Sack on latrine duty

Proud of a job well-done.

Proud of a job well-done.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Louis Baron – Beechwood, OH; US Army, WWII

Thomas ‘Duke’ Davis – Huntsville, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Clarence Herbin – Pillager, MN; Merchant Marines / US Army, WWII

'On Guard' by SFC Peter G. Varisano

‘On Guard’ by SFC Peter G. Varisano

Jack Kurtzer – Bronx, NY; US Navy, WWII, USS Rogers, Sonarman

Olzy ‘O.M.’ Mabry – Great Falls, MT; US Navy, WWII

David Nicholls – Sydney, AUS; RA Navy # NX269979, Captain (Ret.)

Margaret Percival – San Diego, CA; US Navy WAVE, WWII, yeoman

Ernest Rose – Sheboygan, WI; US Army, WWII, ETO

William Schilperoort – Seattle, WA; US Navy, WWII, mine sweeper

William Shields – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, ETO, pilot

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Smitty – Letter XIII

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Back in the states, people were still dancing to the tunes of The Dorsey Brothers, Count Basie and Artie Shaw.  They listened to the songs of Doris Day, the Andrew Sisters, Lena Horne and Rosemary Clooney.  But, some others weren’t so lucky, in the army there was always latrine duty, as depicted in the following letter from Smitty.

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Letter XIII                               Latrines                        Wednesday 9/5/44

Dear Mom,

Many are the times you have heard me refer to the latrines.  Never before had I any conception or realized the amount of genius and mathematical figuring that was necessary for the building of one of these casual looking comfort stations.

Yesterday I had the dubious honor of being selected, with four other disgruntled G.I.s, to labor on a detail whose sole aim and mission was the digging and building of a latrine.  It seems that in order to get a latrine built correctly there also has to be present a lieutenant and a hard to please sergeant.  Their presence is essential due to the fact that if they weren’t around, it would never get built, no less started and to supervise the completion and finesse details of the finer points necessary for sanitation and the comfort of the men.  You can most generally find these two worthy in some far off spot, away from all the work.

slit-trench

slit-trench

To begin with, a place is chosen suitable for a latrine, generally about a half mile from the nearest inhabitant and well hidden in the brush and woods.  This is done for the very simple reason that it affords the stricken G.I. a chance to brush up on his long forgotten tracking and compass reading lessons, also the hike involved tends to make up for the many he has missed.

You wait then while the Lt., in a very business-like manner, marks out the length and width desired.  When finished, he gives you a short speech on the importance of the detail and the time limit allotted, ending with: “Good digging fellows.  I know you can do it, as you are the picked men!”

You pick up your shovels and picks and gloomily get to work.  First, the picks are put into play loosening up the stubborn ground.  Then, the shovels get to work removing the loose dirt, making sure to pile it evenly around the hole.  This procedure is followed until finally you have now a hole six feet long by five feet in width with a depth ranging anywheres from six to eight feet.  Try as you may to dig less than six feet, the sergeant always has a ruler handy which he guards with his life.  One would think that a latrine hole that size would last forever, but as I found out, in the army — they don’t.

pit latrine

pit latrine

Next step is to lower into this hole oil drums whose both ends have been removed.  This end cutting process is something foreign to us as they had another detail doing that the day before.  I understand though that it is a highly skilled job in that keeping the ax blades from chipping is quite a problem.  These drums, once lowered and set side by side, draws to a close the crude laborious end of the job.

Boards, saws, hammers and nails now appear along with some overbearing would-be carpenters.  They proceed to build a coffin-like box which looks more like anything else but a box.  This affair, when finished, is fitted over the hole, covering completely the hole and part of the piles of loose dirt spread around the outer fringe.  This type of latrine box is called the settee type.  It is very comfortable to sit on if rough boarding isn’t employed.  When the box is completed to the satisfaction and sitting height comfort of all present, holes are then cut in the top.  These holes are oval in shape, but of different width and shapes.  The rear end of a G.I.’s anatomy, I’ve found, has many varied shapes and sizes.

The next thing to put in an appearance is the latrine blind and screen.  This is very simple, although at times men have leaned back into it and got tangled up in the canvas, bringing it where the blind should be.  While the blind is being put up on a long pipe, funnel-shaped at one end comes up and demands a lot of detailed attention.  The height of this pipe, when set, is a trial and tribulation to all and never satisfies all who use it.  This funneled affair is intended for what all funnels are.  The directing of a stream of water.

The Lt. and sergeant now come out of hiding, inspect it and proclaim it a job well done and worthy of their time and supervision, strutting off gaily chatting, leaving us to find our way alone, unguided and without a compass, back to our tents.  We, in the building of this latrine were fortunate in that we only had to erect it once and it was the correct position.  Generally, you dig three or four only to find out that it is out of line somehow with the next latrine a mile away.

Army field latrine

Army field latrine

Generals, colonels and majors all visit while you are at work.  Their presence is also needed for the fact that when they are around, you stand at attention and in that way get a moment’s rest.  The captain generally comes out to see how you are doing and always tells you to hurry it up as the boys back in camp are prancing around like young colts and doing weird dance steps all the while hoping that they can hold out until its completion.

When once finished and back in camp, you are kept busy giving the boys directions as to where it is and then have to listen to them gripe about the distance away from their tent the blame thing is.  It is, I have found out, a thankless detail and one I intend missing the next time there is one to be built.There are of course different types of latrines as the illustrations show, but most of those are for troops on the move.  Now, why they should say, ‘troops on the move’ I do not know, for certainly no matter whether in the latrines or on the way to it, you are most certainly moving.

Before any G.I. finds the latrine, the flies are already there.  No latrine is a latrine until after a family or two moves in.  They too are necessary in that without them as an annoying element, some men would never leave, others would fall asleep, while others would use it as an indefinite hiding place from some hike or detail.  Latrines are also necessary for rumors.  Until a good latrine is built, rumors around the camp lay dormant.  Many new and strange acquaintances are made and the souls of many a man have been saved while sitting in this sanctuary place of appeasement.

No place in the army gets the care and attention of a latrine.  Orderlies are assigned daily to see to its cleanliness.  Medical inspections are twice a week, while on Saturdays it has to stand a general inspection.  It is the haven of good-fellowship, conversations and a relief to all men in the end.

Hoping I have portrayed for you the army’s version of a rest station, I’ll close, as the flies in here are very annoying and the fellow standing and waiting for me to leave is going into a rage and walking up and down all the while eyeing me up and down as if to kill.

Ending this in a hasty departure and on the run, I am always,  Your son, Everett

Click on images to enlarge.

[Smitty’s illustrations will appear in the following post.]

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Weston Boyd – Leesburg, FL; US Army, WWII & Korea

Dante Bulli – Cherry, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-26 pilot, SAC Col. (ret. 32 yrs), Bronze Star

painting "Take a Trip With Me" by SFC Peter G. Varisano

painting “Take a Trip With Me” by SFC Peter G. Varisano

Arthur Cain – No.Hampton, NH; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Roy Countryman – Longview, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division, 1st Lt.

Thomas Feran Sr. – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII

Betty (Garber) Follander – Clinton, MA; cadet nurse, WWII

William McCurdy – Harrisburg, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star

Seth McKee – McGehee, AR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, pilot, General (Ret.)

Patrick Stewart – Hawkes Bay, NZ; RNZ Navy # 7563, WWII, signalman

Clarence Young Jr. – Portland, OR; US Army, WWII, Africa & CBI, Engineers

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Working Dogs honored for their service

Sgt. Wes Brown & Isky

Sgt. Wes Brown & Isky

WASHINGTON — During a routine perimeter check in the desert of Afghanistan, Isky found a roadside bomb. He had come to a complete stop, sitting near the explosive device, patiently waiting for orders from his best friend, Army Sgt. Wess Brown.

The IED – buried two feet deep – was a 120-pound bomb. Isky, a German shepherd military working dog, had just saved countless lives.

For his service, he was honored on Capitol Hill – along with three other dogs – with the first-ever K-9 Medal of Courage. It is the nation’s highest honor for military dogs, acknowledging their extraordinary valor and service, awarded by the American Humane Association.

Isky found at least five deadly IEDs and 10 weapon caches as an explosive-detection dog deployed with Brown in July 2013. The two spent a year protecting U.S. political leaders, including President Barack Obama.

Isky and Brown were with 100th Military Working Dog Detachment and have been together since October 2011.

“After he came out of training from Lackland – he was about 18 months old – I was his first handler to certify with him,” Brown, now 27, said.

While most military working dogs can have two to seven handlers, Isky has only had one: Brown.

“I didn’t PCS,” Brown said. If he had, the dog would have gone to a new handler.

In May 2014, Isky’s military career came to an end.

“We were on a combat mission, one of many,” Brown said. “To avoid an ambush we had to get into the vehicles fairly quickly. While Isky was running up the stairs, I had a hold of him, but he fell off the side and broke his leg in six different spots.”

The leg had to be amputated.

“Once I knew he got injured and knew what was happening, as soon as his amputation was scheduled and his future with the Army was done,” Brown put in the paperwork to adopt him, he said.

Brown has been separated from Isky for only two weeks, and that was while Isky recovered. Even when Isky isn’t with him, Brown carries his picture.

These days, instead of searching for bombs, Isky suns himself on a porch in Virginia with Brown. He has become Brown’s PTSD service dog, and the two comfort each other.

“I have nightmares, I get night terrors stuff like that,” Brown said. “I’ll wake up, and he’s jumped up in bed with me. He kind of does the same thing. I’ll hear him have bad dreams and I’ll wake him up. For all I know he’s chasing a ball, but it sounds to me like he’s having a pretty rough time in some of these dreams. I’ll wake him up and he jumps right up in bed with me. And we both calm down.”

Brown has been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, and has three crushed discs in his neck. He is currently waiting to be medically retired from the Army.

Isky hasn’t been trained as a PTSD dog. But his bond with Brown is strong enough that when Brown has an anxiety attack, Isky knows.

“When I look at him, I feel safe because of everything we did together in Afghanistan. If it wasn’t for him and doing what we did, there would be a lot more people unable to go home,” Brown said.

More than 200 Congressional staffers and 19 members of Congress attended the event to honor military working dogs. The other dogs who earned the Medal of Courage:

  • Matty, a Czech German shepherd, was a bomb-detection dog in Afghanistan. Now retired Army Spc. Brent Grommet, his handler, says that Matty saved his life and the lives of everyone in his unit more than once. The two were wounded together, including being in a truck that was hit by two roadside bombs. They were flown back to the U.S. for treatment, and while Grommet was in surgery, Matty was wrongly given to someone else. The Humane Association helped reunite the two, and now Matty serves as a support dog for Grommet.
  • Fieldy, a black Labrador retriever, served four combat tours in Afghanistan, where he worked to detect explosives. Handler Marine Cpl. Nick Caceres spent seven months deployed with Fieldy in 2011 and adopted him three years later when the lab was discharged.
  • Bond, a Belgian Malinois, worked 50 combat missions and deployed to Afghanistan three times. He was a multipurpose dog with a special operations unit before he retired. Bond suffers from combat trauma and will be reunited with his handler, who will leave active duty in a few months.

From “Stars and Stripes.”

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Military Canine Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

  • Cairo, a Belgian Malinois used by U.S. Navy Seals in Operation Neptune Spear, in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
  • Gander –  a Newfoundland, was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medall for his feats during the Battle of Hong Kong in WWII.
    Civil War mascot memorial

    Civil War mascot memorial

    Gunner –  Canine air-raid early warning system during the bombing of Darwin in World War II.

  • Rags –  a Signal Corps mascot during World War I.
  • Rifleman Khan –  a German Shepherd that won the Dickin Medal for bravery.
  • Rip –  a Second World War search and rescue dog.
  • Sarbi –  an Australian special forces explosives detection dog, that spent almost 14 months missing in action (MIA) in Afghanistan before being recovered in 2009.
  • Sasha – bomb sniffing dog, posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal
  • Smoky –  hero war dog of World War II, was a Yorkshire Terrier that served with the 5th Air Force in the Pacific after she was adopted by Corporal William Wynne.  Smoky was credited with twelve combat missions and awarded eight battle stars.
    .Sgt. Stubby –  a Boston bull terrier, the most decorated war dog of WWI and the only dog to be nominated for rank and then promoted to sergeant through combat.
  • Tich –  Dickin Medal winner of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, WWII
  • Treo –  awarded Dickin Medal for work as a Arms and Explosives Search dog in Helmand Province, Afghanistan
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THE LAST MAN STANDING

An eye witness account to help bring the history into perspective.

Indianaeddy-" The Human nature of male Dogs"

THE LAST MAN STANDING

This picture was taken on the island of Guam.

The men you see make up two machine gun squads. Every man in this picture was either killed or wounded before World Two ended, except for the small muscular man on the left. He was the squad leader. He was my father.

Each squad was made up of seven men. There are thirteen men in the picture. The fourteenth man was taking the picture. He was also the squad leader of six of these men. These two squads worked closely together on Guam. That is evident in their body posture.

The night before they set an ambush at an advantageous spot on Harmon Road. The Japanese that had not yet been killed, captured, or surrendered, were completely surrounded and out numbered. The Marines knew some of them would try to break through during the upcoming night. That’s what they would have…

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Eye Witness Account – Driniumor River

New Guinea natives evacuate wounded Allies across the Driniumor River near Afua.

New Guinea natives evacuate wounded Allies across the Driniumor River near Afua.

By: James D. West, 124th Reg/31st Infantry Division @ Indiana Military, org

After about three weeks of nightly Jap attacks along the Driniumor the situation eased somewhat. The 124th plus one battalion from the 169th was ordered to cross the River and go after the Japs that remained in the area. This group had the code name “Ted Force” after Col. Edward Starr, Commanding Officer of the 124th as well as C.O. of this endeavor. Much has been written about this “Ted Force” but I’ll just touch on it briefly. These four battalions moved in different directions while eventually meeting at a given point. They had to move by use of a compass as maps were not of much use in the jungle. About all you could recognize was the ocean, the river, the mountains and perhaps a stream. It was very slow going, as they had to hack their way through the dense jungle growth with machetes.

 

This was an extremely difficult endeavor in enemy held territory which lasted from 31 July 1944 to 10 August 1944. It was difficult not only because of enemy soldiers but also from the rough marshy jungle terrain. Torrential rains came every day making footing almost impossible at times, with soldiers slipping and falling everywhere. Under such extreme conditions there was still an enemy out there fighting at every occasion that seemed to offer him an advantage.

Sketch by: William Garbo Sr., Dog Platoon, July 1944

Sketch by: William Garbo Sr., Dog Platoon, July 1944

Unfortunately this is war and we had casualties and being so deep in the jungle it’s impossible to get them out at that time. Our litter cases had to be carried along and under these extreme conditions this was not an easy matter. Not having enough litters, some were improvised by using two saplings, with a poncho stretched between them. With such adverse conditions it was extremely tiring on men to carry litters. They would have to trade off and rest awhile which often made it a job for ten men to carry one litter case.

 

The dead were buried along the trail and when the battle situation permitted details were sent in to bring the bodies out. I often had to send trucks out for the purpose of hauling these bodies. Naturally the odor was unpleasant and the truck drivers hated this detail, even though all they had to do was drive the truck. In spite of such difficult conditions the mission was a success with the destruction of the Japs from the ocean to the mountains while others fled back toward their base at Wewak.

 

Along the Driniumor River was a totally different environment than these soldiers were accustomed to and this took almost all of their energy just to exist. Yet in spite of this hostile environment, enemy soldiers, dense jungle, torrential rains, terrible heat of the day, cold wet nights, diseases and jungle rot, our foot soldiers prevailed. Being in transportation, I did not have to endure the trials of the foot soldier but the conditions made it a terrible experience for anyone who was there.

 

As we think about our conditions and the 440 (87 from the 124th) American Soldiers killed in action in this battle; the conditions for the Japanese soldiers were much worse. With little food, hardly any medicine, plus a shortage of arms and ammunition and no hope of any more supplies. The 124th’s first contact with the Japs along the Driniumor River found these soldiers in good physical condition with many being much larger in stature than the typical Japanese man. As time passed the shortage of food and medicine began to take its toll and their physical condition deteriorated rapidly. I have seen estimates that they suffered anywhere from 10,000 to 18,000 killed here at Aitape. Don’t know if this includes those who died from disease and starvation but I suspect that it doesn’t. I read in one publication that in all of New Guinea 148,000 Japanese soldiers perished in these jungles. It is my opinion that most of these died of starvation and disease. Many fell dead while attempting to move through the harsh jungle to some hopeless perception of a better condition for them in western New Guinea. In any event the end result of this battle along the Driniumor river here at Aitape was the destruction of the Japanese 18th Army as an effective fighting force.

 

As we began to prepare for the invasion of Morotai the 43rd Division relieved the troops on the line. Then a few weeks later Australian troops took over and sporadic fighting continued, with casualties on both sides, until the Japanese surrender at the War’s end.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

9667ded23974313fa648faa8a91fe060

murphy_080105

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Farewell Salutes – 

Allan E. Brown – Takoma Park, DC; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class, 1st Special Troops Batt./1st Cavalry Div.

John Glenn – Cambridge, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, Korea, Colonel, pilot, Astronaut, Senator11986973_1183822258300441_3544440820007753006_n-jpgfrom-falling-with-hale

Andrew ‘Holly’ Hollingsworth – SC; US Navy (Ret. 20 years)

Michael Kinneary, Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, Korea

Parker Mosley Jr. – Humble, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 1th Airborne Division

Janice Olson – Victor Valley, CA; VV College Foundation President, instrumental in locating lost B-17’s of WWII, PTO

Peter Pergunas – Ballina, AUS; RA Navy

Steve Reese – Bartlesville, OK; USMC, Vietnam

William Schaefer – Chicago, IL; US Navy

William Wyatt – Tauranga, NZ; RNZ Navy # 2056, WWII & Korea

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The Other Pearl Harbor Story – Kimmel and Short

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People around the nation, including some vocal congressmen, asked why America had been caught off guard at Pearl Harbor.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said he would appoint an investigatory commission. Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts — a pro-British internationalist friendly with FDR — was selected to head it. Also appointed to the group: Major General Frank McCoy, General George Marshall’s close friend for 30 years; Brigadier General Joseph McNarney, who was on Marshall’s staff and chosen on his recommendation; retired Rear Admiral Joseph Reeves, whom FDR had given a job in lend-lease; and Admiral William Standley, a former fleet commander. Only the last seemed to have no obvious fraternity with the Washington set.

The commission conducted only two to three days of hearings in Washington. Admiral Standley, arriving late, was startled by the inquiry’s chummy atmosphere. Admiral Harold Stark and General Marshall were asked no difficult or embarrassing questions. Furthermore, all testimony was taken unsworn and unrecorded — an irregularity that, at Standley’s urging, was corrected.

The commission then flew to Hawaii, where it remained 19 days. When Admiral Husband Kimmel was summoned, he brought a fellow officer to act as counsel. Justice Roberts disallowed this on grounds that the investigation was not a trial, and the admiral not a defendant. Because Kimmel and General Walter Short were not formally “on trial,” they were also denied all traditional rights of defendants: to ask questions and cross-examine witnesses. Kimmel was also shocked that the proceeding’s stenographers — one a teenager, the other with almost no court experience — omitted much of his testimony and left other parts badly garbled. Permission to correct the errors — other than adding footnotes to the end of the commission’s report — was refused.

The Roberts Commission laid the blame for Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian commanders. Roberts brought a final copy of the report to FDR. The president read it and delightedly tossed it to a secretary, saying, “Give that in full to the papers for their Sunday editions.” America’s outrage now fell on Kimmel and Short. They were traitors, it was said; they should be shot! The two were inundated with hate mail and death threats. The press, with its ageless capacity to manufacture villains, stretched the commission’s slurs. Even the wives of the commanders were subject to vicious canards.

By 1944, the Allies were clearly winning, and national security would no longer wash as a barrier to trials. A congressional act mandated the court-martials. At last, the former Hawaiian commanders would have their day in court.

In August, the Naval Court of Inquiry opened. A source inside the Navy Department had already tipped Kimmel and his attorneys about the scores of Magic intercepts kept from the admiral in 1941. One of the attorneys, a former Navy captain, managed to get at the Department’s files, and authenticated the existence of many. Obtaining their release was another matter. Obstruction after obstruction appeared — until Kimmel tried a ploy. Walking out of the courtroom, he bellowed to his lawyer that they would have to tell the press that important evidence was being withheld.

By the next day, the requested intercepts had been delivered — 43 in all. The admirals on the Court listened to them being read with looks of horror and disbelief. Two of the admirals flung their pencils down. More than 2,000 died at Pearl Harbor because those messages had been withheld. Navy Department officers gave additional testimony. After nearly three months, the inquiry finished. The verdict of the Roberts Commission was overturned. Admiral Kimmel was exonerated on all charges. Admiral Stark — who had rejected pleas of juniors to notify Hawaii on the morning of the attack — was severely censured.

Criticism of the president, incidentally, was forbidden to the proceedings as beyond their jurisdiction. But FDR held ultimate responsibility for Pearl Harbor, and the warnings he had received — some of which have only recently come to light — far exceeded anything they might have dreamed.

Naturally, the inquiry findings wrought dismay in the administration and Pentagon. But a solution was swiftly concocted. It was announced that, in the interest of national security, the court-martial results would not become public until the war’s end.

Other rather staged shows were carried out afterward. Witness reversed their original testimonies or memories were “refreshed.” It was discovered that just four days after Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, director of naval communications, told his subordinates: “Destroy all notes or anything in writing.” This was an illegal order — naval memoranda belong to the American people and cannot be destroyed except by congressional authority. Stories circulated of a similar information purge in the War Department. Some files, however, escaped destruction.

Congress did conduct a probe in 1995, at the urging of the families of General Short (died 1949) and Admiral Kimmel (died 1968). The families hoped to restore the ranks of their libeled, demoted fathers. The 1995 probe requested that the Pentagon reinvestigate Pearl Harbor in light of new information.

However, on December 1, 1995, Undersecretary of Defense Edwin Dorn concluded his own investigation with these comments: “I cannot conclude that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were victims of unfair official actions and thus cannot conclude that the remedy of advancement on the retired list is in order.”

However, on May 25, 1999, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution that Kimmel and Short had performed their duties “competently and professionally” and that our losses at Pearl Harbor were “not the result of dereliction of duty.” “They were denied vital intelligence that was available in Washington,” said Senator William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.). Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) called Kimmel and Short “the two final victims of Pearl Harbor.”

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Farewell Salutes –

David Bone – Livonia, MI; US Navy, WWII, USS Kretchmer

Joe Carter – Lodge, SC; US Navy, WWII, Chief Petty Officerflag041

Harry Grim – Aransas Pass, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Henry Kaufman – Jersey City, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Wallace Lutz – Lake Worth, FL; US Navy, WWII

Linda Milton – Tucumcari, NM; US Army, Sgt.

Jack Riley – Shelton, NE; US Army, Korea

William Stanley – Cheshire, CT; US Army, WWII, Ordnance

Bryan ‘Jim’ Whitmer Jr. – Waterville, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Jess Wise – Spokane, WA; USMC, Korea, Force Recon

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Gen. Kenney and Charles Lindbergh

P-38 Lightning, New Guinea 1944, Col. Perry Dahl, pilot

P-38 Lightning, New Guinea 1944, Col. Perry Dahl, pilot

On 4 July 1944, a correspondent notified Gen. Kenney that Colonel Charles Lindbergh was in New Guinea.  Kenney did not know about it and neither did General HQ!  So the Colonel was flown to Brisbane to explain his presence.  He wanted to know more about fighter design, especially how well the 2-engine P-38 could hold up against the enemy one-engine models.

Kenney suggested they go to see MacArthur for Lindbergh’s official status paperwork.  When Mac asked the colonel what he could do for him, Kenney interrupted, he wrote in his reports:

“I said I wanted to look after him… If anyone could fly a little monoplane all the way from New York to Paris and have gas left over, he ought to be able to teach my P-38 pilots how to get more range out of their airplanes.  If he could do that, it would mean that we could make longer jumps and get to the Philippines that much quicker…”

Gen. George C. Kenney

Gen. George C. Kenney

Mac said: “All right Colonel.  I’ll just turn you over to General Kenney, but I warn you.  He’s a slave-driver.”

Kenney instructed Lindbergh that during these teachings, he was not to get himself into combat, he was a high-profile personality and a civilian!  For 6 weeks everything went well.  Lindbergh taught the pilots how to stretch their distance from 400 to 600 miles, spending most of his time with Col. Charles MacDonald’s 475th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force.  The men became so enthusiastic, they began to talk about stretching their distance to 800 miles!

During a raid on the Japanese oil depot at Boela, on Ceram Island, a lone enemy aircraft suddenly aimed for Lindbergh, who fired a burst and the Japanese airplane went down.  Kenney was told about the incident, but being as no one claimed credit for the action, the General could pretend he never knew.

Lindbergh with the 5th Air Force

Lindbergh (l.) with the 5th Air Force, Thomas McGuire (r.)

Photo is by Teddy W. Hanks who was a member of the 433rd Squadron, 475th Fighter Group at that time.  The photos were taken on Biak Island in July 1944.  They had just returned from a combat mission to an unrecorded enemy area.  The P-38 obviously was assigned to the 431st Fighter Squadron because the propeller spinner is a solid color — apparently red. The spinners in Teddy’s squadron,  were blue and only the back half were painted.  Could very well have been McGuire’s plane, # 131, since he was assigned to the 431st at that time.

To prove the long-range capabilities, Lindbergh, Col. MacDonald, LtCol. Meryl Smith and Captain Danforth Miller headed for Palau, 600 miles north, in their P-38’s.  While strafing an enemy patrol boat, Japanese pilots went air-borne and Lindbergh discovered that once an enemy airplane was on his tail – he could not shake it.  Luckily, he was traveling with 3 experts who downed the Japanese before they got him.

But, there was never to be a ‘next time.’  Kenney felt the celebrity was pushing his luck and Lindbergh agreed; he also had taught the pilots all he could.  As long as the war on, he would not mention his combat experiences.  Colonel Charles Lindbergh headed back for home.

Information taken from “General Kenney Reports: A Personal History of the Pacific War” by George C. Kenney

Click on images to enlarge.

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Aviation Humor – 

What a hairy situation !!

What a hairy situation !!

On A WINDY Day !!

On A WINDY Day !!

 

 

 

 

 

 

aviation-humor

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ted Acker – Wooster, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Joan Carby – Bolton, ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO, radio operator cemetary-flag-bench-final-2-72-res

Milton DeVries – Grandville, MI; US Army, WWII

Charles Eby Jr. – Kensington, MD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-17 pilot / Korea

Guy Hunter Jr. – Atlanta, GA; US Army, WWII

Max Lyons – Tasmania, AUS; RA Navy # H2578

Donald Minnich – Virginia Bch., VA; US Navy (Ret. 26 yrs.), WWII, Korea & Vietnam, USS Pine Island

Phyllis Paul – New Westminister, BC, CAN; RC Medical Corps, WWII, ETO

Harold Rothbard – Brooklyn, NY; US Army Air Corps, B-17 tail gunner

Herbert Sweney – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Navy # 7650, WWII

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