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Wartime Football

One of the Sports Facts newspaper of April 25, 1950 with photos of Bronko Nagurski.

What many people today don’t know is that professional football went through many of the same trials and tribulations that baseball did during the war years. Making matters even worse for the owners and fans of the sport was the fact that even in the 1940s, professional football was not as popular as its college counterpart.

Adding to the wartime troubles for football was the fact that college football remained somewhat unaffected, as the players were mostly younger or exempt (at least temporarily) from the military draft. That meant that star college players kept playing, but star professional players found themselves in uniform.

American footballer Tuffy Leemans

To keep people interested in the game, the National Football League (NFL) came up with sort of a gimmick, much like their baseball counterparts – they re-signed older, retired stars. The most famous of the returning players was Bronko Nagurski, who had played for the Chicago Bears and had retired in 1937. Nagurski, who became famous in college and the pros as a fullback, returned to football as a tackle.

Other (future) Hall of Famers included Green Bay quarterback Arnie Herber, who had retired in 1940, and halfback Ken Strong. Herber signed with the New York Giants and Strong returned to that team.

Steagles starting line-up

Teams as a whole went through hard times because of the war. The Cleveland Browns suspended play for 1943. Many people would be surprised to hear that the two Pennsylvania teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles, actually merged for 1943, and played in both cities. People dubbed the team “the Steagles.”

The “Steagles” only lasted one year, but in 1944 Pittsburgh combined with another struggling team, the Chicago Cardinals. The official name of this team was the catchy “Card-Pitt Combine” and they were so bad they went winless that year. Opposing teams ran over them so much that sportswriters and fans began calling the team “the Carpets.”

The year 1945 saw the end of the “Combine,” but two teams that do not exist anymore, the Boston Yanks and the Brooklyn Dodgers (yes, football “Dodgers”) merged at that time and played as the “Yanks,” but left a city tag off the name.

During the war, a surprisingly large number of NFL players were killed overseas. Many of the players went into combat roles – their athletic prowess and toughness made it almost inevitable, and the death toll reflected that. Nineteen active or former players were killed in action, as was an ex-head coach and a team executive.

Al Blozis, Giants tackle, died in World War II. According to Mel Hein, “If he hadn’t been killed, he could have been the greatest tackle who ever played football

Of those NFL players killed in action, probably the best-known was Al Blozis, who played tackle for the New York Giants and had been “All-League” (the early NFL’s “All-Pro”). Blozis was 6’6” tall and weighed 250 lbs. Blozis was in the Army, and actually could have claimed exemption from front-line infantry duty because of his size and instead put into the artillery or a support branch, but he would not take the exemption.

During basic training, he set the Army record for a grenade throw – he had been a varsity shot-putter at Georgetown University. In the winter of 1944, just six weeks after playing in the 1944 NFL Championship Game, Blozis was killed by German machine-gun fire as he helped look for some missing men in the snow-covered Vosges Mountains of eastern France.

Three men who had played in the NFL or pro football or later had connections to it were awarded the Medal of Honor during the war, one of them posthumously.

Joseph Jacob Foss wearing the highly prized Medal of Honor bestowed upon him by President Roosevelt for outstanding gallantry against the Japanese in the Solomons.

The most famous of the three was fighter pilot Joe Foss, who was the leading Marine ace of WWII with 26 victories. He later was commissioner of the AFL from 1960-66 as well as being governor of South Dakota.

Maurice Britt briefly played end for the Detroit Lions before the war. He fought in North Africa and Italy and was the first man in WWII to be awarded all four of the top medals of valor: the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star. He also received four Purple Hearts. Football was easy compared to all that.

Jack Lummus, USMC, Medal of Honor recipient; Battle of Iwo Jima

Andrew Jackson “Jack” Lummus played with the 1941 New York Giants and received the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. He destroyed many Japanese positions single-handedly, despite being wounded multiple times, before being killed by a land-mine.

Tom Landry, USArmy Air Corps / Coach Landry

Perhaps the most famous of them all, at least in regard to football, was legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. At 19, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew 30 missions in a B-17 over occupied Europe, surviving a crash in Belgium on his way back from bombing a German armaments plant in Czechoslovakia. He was on the real “America’s Team” long before he coached the other one.

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Military Humor – 

‘These military teams really take their defence seriously…!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Stephen F. Ambrose – Trumbull, CT; US Army, WWII

Francis Behrendt – Charleroi, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Co. E/188/11th Airborne Division

V. Herbert Brady Jr. – Macon, GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Peter Corchero – Mayfirled, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Michael Howard – South Kensington, ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO, Lt., Coldstream Guards. Military Cross / Military Historian

Evelyn Owens – Harlan, KY; Civilian, “Rosie” @ Willow Run, B-24 riveter & crane operator

Thomas Parnell – Somerset, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, gunner

David Ridley – Brockville, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, 514th Squadron, Lancaster navigator

Jerome Thomas – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, LST # 991

John Weatherly – Grand Island, NE; US Army, WWII, ETO, 349th Infantry Regiment “Blue Devils”

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Military during Thanksgiving

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving Day card GP Cox received from the National WWII Museum in New Orleans

I WISH TO EXPRESS MY THANKS TO EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU !!!  AND MAY WE ALL THANK THOSE VETERANS WHO FIGHT FOR US !!!

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Thanksgiving during WWII…

They’re celebrating Thanksgiving on this very day,

My thoughts are at home, though I’m far away;

I can see everyone, eating dinner deluxe,

Whether it be chicken, turkey or even duck;

The fellows over here won’t whimper or moan,

They’ll look to the next one and hope to be home.

 

Truly and honestly, from way down deep,

They want you to be happy and enjoy your feast.

These holidays are remembered by one and all,

Those happy days we can always recall.

The ones in the future, will be happier, I know

When we all come back from defeating the foe.

_______Poem by an Anonymous WWII Veteran

Thanksgiving

For those of you living where there is no official Thanksgiving Day on this date – look around – family, friends, Freedom and life itself – all enough to give thanks for each day !

 

FROM: PACIFIC PARATROOPER – May you all have a happy and healthy Holiday Season !!

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Please be considerate to those who may not be celebrating…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Military Humor – 

Navy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Army

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Donald Archer – Omaha, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-25 navigator

John Boone – Summerville, SC; US Army, WWII, ETO, light mortar, Co. I/319/80th Division

Juan Borjon Jr. – Morenci, AZ; US Army, Spc., 11th Airborne Division

WWII Memorial poem at Arlington Cemetery

Don Dyne – Kelseyville, CA; US Navy, WWII, PTO / Korea, radio tech.

Adolph J. Loebach – Peru, IL; US Navy, WWII, USS Oklahoma, KIA, (Pearl Harbor)

Donald McElwain – Holyoke, MA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Ensign, LST

Frank Merritt – Broxton, GA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Charles G. Ruble – Parker City, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, TSgt., 441st Troop Carrier Group, KIA (Germany)

Elmo Sepulvado – Zwolle, LA; US Army, WWII, ETO

Gerald N. Wilson – Camden, MI; US Army, Korea, Cpl., 1st Calvary Division, KIA

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Another “Rosie” Story

Ruth & Ben Reise

When Ben Reise went to enlist in the military in 1942 during World War II, his future wife, Ruth Fern Gibb, went with him. The two had grown up together in Chicago, meeting in grammar school.

Ben Reise tried to enlist in the Navy, but they told him that he was too short at 5 feet, 4 inches, Ruth Reise said. Next, he went to the Army, which “took him right away.”

At the same time Ben enlisted, Ruth was also offered a job. Her height – 5 feet even – made her the perfect size to climb into airplane gas tanks to secure the rivets. Soon after, she began working at the Douglas Aircraft manufacturing plant, on the site where O’Hare International Airport is today.

From 1942 to 1945, Douglas manufactured 655 C-54 Skymasters, a military transport aircraft, at the Chicago plant. A photo from the Chicago Tribune’s archive shows that the opening of the gas tank on the C-54 was just 13 inches tall and nine inches wide.

“I told [the recruiters], ‘I don’t have any claustrophobia so that will be fine,’” Ruth Reise, now 92, said.

Each day, 15-year-old Reise would go to school, take two streetcars and arrive at her job at 2:30 p.m. She would work until 10 p.m. and head home on the same two streetcars. It was only as an adult that she realized just how young she was when she began working on the planes. Despite her age, she enjoyed the work she did at Douglas, and felt as if she was contributing something to the war.

Although she was called a “Rosie the Riveter” by many – representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II – she said she was part of a two-person team. While the person on the outside of the tank used a rivet gun to shoot the rivet through the metal, she would secure the rivets from the inside.

“I had someone working on the outside of the gas tank, and the lady that was on the outside was a riveter,” Reise said. “I had a little block and gloves and as soon as she started drilling, I had to catch the rivet and make it absolutely perfect. They would come in and inspect, because if I didn’t get it perfect, it had to come out and they had to do it over. They never had to do mine over again,” she said.

While Ben Reise was in Paris, he would send her letters, photos and other pieces of memorabilia. He included photos of the gliders that he flew as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces, a picture of his bunk that included a portrait of her, and a photo of him doing a handstand on top of a plane.

She said he was “the most remarkable handstand person,” and before the war started, the two of them would enter gymnastics contests around Chicago on weekends. “We would do our act and we would always win.  It would be $10, so we thought we were millionaires,” she said.

In 1943, he sent her a cartoon that had been published in Yank, the Army’s weekly magazine that ran during World War II. The cartoon was part of George Baker’s series “The Sad Sack.”

Ruth Reise said that his friends would make fun of his dedication to her while he was overseas. “They had made a joke of the fact that he never dated at all when he was there.

On Sept. 2, 1945, the day World War II ended, she was still working in the gas tanks of planes at Douglas Aircraft. “They blew all the whistles and thousands and thousands of us were out on the grounds. I wish I had been taking photographs of it,” she said.

Throughout the war, she saw patriotism all around her. At school, she said, patriotism was encouraged among students, and with a job so closely connected to the war, she found that “somehow or other, it was acceptable to be that patriotic.”    The fact that people around her were drafted or enlisting in the military heightened her dedication to the United States’ cause.

“It was acceptable to be that patriotic, not just because [Ben] was gone, but my stepfather had the six of us and he was next on the roll,” she said. “We didn’t know what we would do if he went in.”

After Ben returned home safely in 1945, the two began making plans for their future. “When he got off the train it was just like I had said goodbye to him,” she said. “Right away, we knew that we were going to decide where we were going to get married.”  On Feb. 10, 1946, they got married at her aunt and uncle’s house in Illinois.

The two eventually settled in Wheaton, Illinois, where Ruth Reise still lives today. Ben Reise died in 2012 at the age of 89.

This story is partially from: “Stars and Stripes” magazine

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Military Humor –

While he was overseas in 1943, Ben Reise sent Ruth Reise a clipping of this comic strip by George Baker which had been published in Yank, the Army’s weekly magazine that ran during World War II. Ruth said that Ben’s friends would make fun of his dedication to her and compared him to the character in this comic strip.
COURTESY OF RUTH REISE

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Arsers – New Ulm, MN; US Merchant Marines, WWII

Frank Bennetti – Butler, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQS/187/11th Airborne Division

William Burr Jr. – Champagne, IL; US Army, WWII, West Point Class ’44, 101st A/B / Korea, 25th Infantry Div. / Vietnam, Col. (Ret. 33 y.)

Renaldo Jenson – Arco, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, air mechanic / National Guard, Sgt.

Theodore Masterson – Cleveland, OH; US Army, WWII, ETO, 11/5th Infantry Division

James Miller – Oakland, CA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pvt. C Co./1/24, Purple Heart

Dale Stoner Sr. – York, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Military Police, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

John Turnley – Martin, KY; US Navy, WWII

Donn C. Young – Chicago, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Major, 90th BS/3rd BG/5th Air Force, KIA (New Guinea)

Jack Van Zandt – Danville, IL; USMC; WWII, Co, A/1/6th Marines, Pfc, KIA (Tarawa)

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U.S. Air Force 72nd Birthday

The official birthday for the US Air Force is 18 September 1947 as enacted under the National Security Act of 1947.

 

 

 

HIGH FLIGHT

by: John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed

and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – 

Wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence.

Hovering there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flug

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delicious burning blue

I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untresspassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

 

 

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Military Humor – Air Force Style – 

They won’t be singing “Love Shack”!

Maybe “What ya gonna do, send me to McMurdo?” wasn’t the best comeback to the Colonel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Akika A. Abe – Oakland, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, G-2, 11th Airborne Division

Charles Brannan (103) – Meade, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 pilot / Korea & Vietnam, Lt. Col. (Ret. 31 y.)

Michael Dux – Denver, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-25 flight engineer / State Dept.

‘Last Flight’, by Rhads

Jeremy Griffin – Cristobal, PAN; US Army, Afghanistan, 3/1st Special Forces Group, KIA

Carl Kalwaitis – Elkton, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Robert McClelland – Gilmer, TX; US Air Force, surgeon

Auburn Smith – Picayune, MS; US Army Air Corps, WWII, paratrooper

Robert Werschey – Licoln, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Charles Whisenant – Washington D.C.; US Navy, WWII, aircraft mechanic

John Yaeger (100) – White Sulphur Springs, WV; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Captain

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WWII Glider Stands as a nod to Camp MacKall, NC

Glider at Camp MacKall

HOFFMAN, N.C. (Tribune News Service)  — The Army’s Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations soldiers have been tried, tested and trained at Camp Mackall for decades.

But long before the first Green Beret was built amid the remote satellite installation several miles west of Fort Bragg, Camp Mackall was home to the nation’s parachute and glider training amid World War II.

Airborne, Camp MacKall

The U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School honored that history as it dedicated a replica of a Waco CG-4A glider that now welcomes visitors from Camp Mackall’s Ashemont Road entrance.

The glider — which is raised above an intersection that also features a flag pole, historical marker and welcome sign — was built to be a sturdier version of the original CG-4A gliders. The nose of the glider includes a metal frame salvaged from an actual glider that was found, crashed, in a nearby swamp in recent years.

Glider at Camp MacKall, 1943

The glider has replaced a UH-1 Huey helicopter that had been on display at the location. Officials said the Huey is being refurbished and will eventually be relocated to another part of Camp Mackall.

Several World War II veterans attended the ceremony, including a paratrooper who jumped into Normandy, France, on D-Day alongside glider forces, a glider infantryman and a glider pilot.

Glider training

Russ Seitz said he could remember riding in a glider very similar to the one now on display as a soldier at Fort Bragg in 1944 and 1945. It would have been towed by a C-47, quietly pulled through the air behind the much larger plane.

Seitz pointed to how the nose of the glider had a hinge to allow it to open upward so jeeps or other equipment could be driven inside.

“There’s a bench on each side,” he said. “There is a sensation when you’re being towed.”

Camp MacKall postcard

During the war, the Army ordered 13,900 gliders, made of wood and metal covered in fabric. And they would be used across Europe, China, Burma and India and were often used as a complement to paratroopers, carrying additional troops, howitzers and vehicles.

The flying machines, which used a set of skids to land, were nicknamed “Gooney Birds,” “Flying Coffins,” “Tow Targets” and “Silent Wings.”

Lt. Col. Seth A. Wheeler, the commander of 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, said the ceremony was a unique opportunity to reflect on Camp Mackall’s past and commemorate its history.

Now a small but growing camp housing mostly special operations facilities, Camp Mackall was once a bustling Army installation 7 miles from Fort Bragg’s western training areas.

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

Construction at the camp, originally named Camp Hoffman, was begun in late 1942, according to officials. And most of the work was finished in four months, with buildings created out of temporary materials such as plank siding and tar paper.

The installation was renamed Camp Mackall on Feb. 8, 1943, in honor of Pvt. John Thomas Mackall, who was thought at the time to be the first paratrooper casualty in World War II.

The glider’s tail number, 111242, corresponds to the date Mackall died, Nov. 12, 1942.

Wheeler said Camp Mackall is the only Army installation named after an enlisted soldier.

Now a relatively austere camp, Wheeler said the installation has a lofty wartime past.

“Camp Mackall was an installation to behold, with over 65 miles of paved roads, a 1,200 bed hospital, two cantonment areas with five movie theaters, six beer gardens, a triangle-shaped airport with three 5k foot runways and a total of 1,750 buildings including three libraries and 12 chapels,” he said.

The camp was home to U.S. Army Airborne Command, which needed greater maneuver areas and airfields to train the expanding airborne and glider units.

All five U.S. Army airborne divisions have ties to Camp Mackall, officials said. The 11th, 13th and 17th Airborne Divisions were headquartered at the camp. Additionally, the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division at Fort Bragg trained at Camp Mackall.

Camp Mackall was home of the airborne and glider infantry for three-and-a-half years.

At the war’s end, Airborne Command moved to Fort Bragg. And a few years later, the Army began using Camp Mackall as a training location for a new kind of unit, Special Forces.

Drew Brooks can be reached at dbrooks@fayobserver.com 

(c)2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

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Military (Airborne) Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Anthony Brando – Jersey City, NJ; US Navy, WWII / US Army, Korea

Francis Costello – Victoria, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Mike Dunsmore – MI; US Army, Vietnam, 1st Cavalry Division, Purple Heart

Cletis Eades – Grandview, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot

Makato Harano – Kealakekua, HI; US Army, WWII

Victor Klopping – Des Moines, IA; US Army, WWII

Henry ‘Hank’ Lee – Zanesville, OH; US Army, Vietnam, Corps of Engineers, Lt. Colonel (Ret), West Point grad

Joseph Orosz – Westlake, FL; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Roger H. Swartz – Palatine Bridge, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Medical/11th Airborne Division

Matthew Zieringer – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Major (Ret. 22 y.)

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79th U.S. Airborne Birthday

16 August,  National Airborne Day

The history of United States Airborne Forces did not begin on the training fields of Fort Benning, Georgia, as some believe. In fact, the origin of Airborne Forces in the U.S. military began with a familiar name to American military history, Brigadier General William L. “Billy” Mitchel (1879-1936).

As well as being considered the spiritual father of the United States Air Force, which he advocated for fiercely during his tenure in the military, BG Mitchell was the first to imagine airborne tactics and sought the creation of U.S. Airborne Forces.

BGeneral Billy Mitchell, the father of the U.S. Airborne


It is not recorded exactly when he organized a demonstration of Airborne Infantry for U.S., Russian and German observers. However, according to records
 at Ft. Benning, Georgia, it is confirmed that BG Mitchell held the demonstration “shortly after World War I” at Kelly Field, in San Antonio, Texas. During the demonstration, six soldiers parachuted from a Martin Bomber. After landing safely, the soldiers assembled their weapons and were ready for action in less than three minutes after they exited the aircraft.

11th Airborne Division, 1943 Yearbook

Reprinted and broadcast countless times, High Flight is regarded as one of the world’s great war poems and the greatest anthem of aviation. It is the official poem of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. First year cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy are required to memorize it. Extracts have been quoted in a variety of occasions. The most famous example occurred on Jan. 28, 1986, when President Ronald Reagan, speaking of the Challenger, Space Shuttle disaster, closed his address with the sentence: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”

11th A/B trooper Wiiliam Carlisle on the cover of “Yank”

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air . . .

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark nor even eagle flew –

And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

                                     – Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

11th Airborne Division Chapel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Military (Airborne) Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTA BOY!!

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Astin – Mise, MS; US Army, MSgt. # 39111 (Ret. 21 y.), 82nd & 101st Airborne, 187th RCT Airborne

Ronald Boyd Sr. – Massillon, OH; US Army, 82nd Airborne Division, Green Beret

Booby Frier – Lubbock, TX; US Army, Vietnam, 82nd Airborne Division

James Glidewell – Springfield, MO; US Army, Korea, MSgt. 187th Regimental Combat Team Airborne

William Herring  – Woodville, FL; US Army, 173rd Airborne Division

Scott A. Koppenhafer – Mancos, CO; USMC, Iraq, GySgt., Force Recon Marines, KIA

Frank Krhovsky – Grand Rapids, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 511/11th Airborne Division

Archie McInnes (100) – UK; RAF, WWII, ETO, 601 & 238 Squadrons, pilot

Michael Wood – ID; US Army, MSgt., 7th Special Forces, Afghanistan / FBI

Thomas Yarborough – Jacksonville, FL; US Army, Korea, 187th Regimental Combat Team Airborne

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You don’t need to be Superman to be a hero

Following his U.S. Army service in World War II, Thompson joined the Air Force, retiring with more than 20 years of service at the rank of major and earning his master’s degree. Courtesy of Jeremy P Amick

Growing up with dyslexia, James Thompson faced many challenges in his early learning experiences, which tempered his ambitions toward pursuing an education in future years.

Additionally, while in the eleventh grade in the fall of 1944, he received his draft notice and believed it to be the end of any formal education; instead, the military later provided the spirit and resources to earn a master’s degree.

“I was 18 years old when I received my draft notice for the U.S. Army and left Columbia by bus on October 20 (1944),” said the veteran. “When we arrived at Jefferson Barracks (St. Louis), we were given another physical, issued our uniforms and the next morning put on a train to Camp Crowder.”

For the next few weeks, he underwent his basic training followed by lineman training, instruction as a radio operator and cryptographic training.

“The first sergeant came and got me and said there’s a guy (in civilian clothes) who wants to interview you,” Thompson said. “After that, I was in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),” he added.

Serving as “the first organized effort by the United States to implement a centralized system of strategic intelligence,” the OSS was established on June 13, 1942 and conducted many covert functions such as receiving and decoding enemy communications.

In the summer of 1945, Thompson received orders for overseas service. He took a train to California and, from there, sailed aboard a troop ship to the island of Eniwetok. His journey ended with his arrival at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, where he spent the next several months as a cryptographer.

General William J. Donovan reviews Operational Group members in Bethesda, Maryland prior to their departure for China in 1945.

“The OSS was disbanded because the war was over,” said Thompson. “I can remember that in late November 1945, there were about six of us transferred from the Philippines to Tokyo, Japan, at the headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur who was there as oversight for the occupational forces.”

The veteran explained that he was part of a group who processed messages sent to and from Sixth Army and MacArthur’s headquarters. While there, he was later promoted to sergeant and placed in charge of the code room, which had the responsibility of decoding message traffic.

While in Japan, his enlistment expired but he chose to remain there as a civilian to continue the work he enjoyed at McArthur’s headquarters. However, in June 1947, he returned to the United States and was able to enroll in college at the University of Missouri despite having not completed his high school education a few years earlier.

MacArthur and the Emperor of Japan, Hirohito, at their first meeting, September 1945

“In 1951, I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology,” recalled Thompson. “While I was at MU, I was informed that since I had held the rank of sergeant in the Army, I could complete one semester of ROTC and qualify for commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force upon graduation.”

The former soldier began his Air Force career as an officer when assigned to Bangor, Maine, administering entrance exams for new recruits and draftees. It was here that he met the former Barbara Longfellow while taking courses at the University of Maine and the two soon married. The couple went on to raise three sons.

From there, he was briefly transferred to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, before receiving assignment to Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli, Libya, spending time as an administrative officer for the 580th Air Materiel Assembly Squadron.

Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, United States – 20 Feb 1995

 

“I became the adjutant for the base administrative officer at Selfridge Field (Michigan) in 1959,” he explained. “I made captain while I was there and then became the administrative officer and later commander for the 753rd Radar Station at Sault St. Maria, Michigan.”

He would later attend the first class of the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington D.C., as the various military service branches learned to combine their intelligence gathering capabilities.

From 1962 to 1966, he was stationed in Ramstein, Germany, gathering intelligence on the Soviet air capabilities.

In Germany, he took courses through the University of Southern California, earning his master’s degree in systems management. He was then transferred to Little Rock, Arkansas, for a year followed by his assignment to Vietnam. During the war, he was stationed in Nha Trang and briefed pilots prior to their aerial missions.

“I was given my base of choice when returning to the states in 1969, so I chose Whiteman Air Force Base,” said Thompson. “I spent the last few months of my career there and retired as a major with 20 years, 1 month and 1 day of service,” he grinned.

Whitman Air Force Base

His military career, he explained, was a collection of unique experiences that did not follow a linear path. As a child, he further noted, he would never have imagined the opportunity for an advanced education or the option of pursuing his interest of becoming a member of the military.

“When I was younger, the military was something I always wanted to do and I never believed I could join the Army or Air Force because of my dyslexia,” he said. “My ambitions weren’t all that high as a child but then I was drafted, I encountered people who I admired and inspired me to achieve.”

He concluded, “When it was all said and done, I not only got to serve both in the Army and Air Force, but this young man,” he said, pointing to himself, “who didn’t finished high school, was able to earn a master’s degree … all because of the military.”

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Military Humor –

Navigator to pilot… navigator to pilot… HALP !!

Two other CBI newspapers for the troops.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Elizabeth Birkhimer – Greenfield, IL; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Robert Dean – NY; US Navy, WWII, PBY pilot

James Fraser – Stratford, CT; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Richmond

Margaret Goodell – Taplin Hill, VT; US Army WAC, WWII, 2nd Lt.

William Hunter – Knoxville, TN; US Army, WWII/ Korea

Warren Kepner – Harrisburg, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Benjamin Neal – Norfolk, VA; US Army, WWII

Lowell Rutherford – Battle Creek, MI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, 113 SeaBees

Richard Sprague – Dewey, OK; US Navy, WWII, USS Indianapolis

Joe Varela – Norwalk, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ Co./187th/11th Airborne Division

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CBI Rescue

Vol. IV No. 1. Delhi, Thursday, Sept. 13, 1945. Reg. No. L5015

 

Troop Carrier Non-Com Survives
Epic Parachute Drop In Burma

Drops Over 7,000 Feet With Only Arm In Ring

By PVT. W. E. CHILTON   Roundup Field Correspondent

SECOND TROOP CARRIER SQ., ASSAM – From the confusion that was war came a lot of stories of rescue and survival, but none can top the recent wild parachute ride of Sgt. John Stevens of Woodstown, N.J., over the tangled North Burma terrain.
Stevens is a crew chief in the Second Troop Carrier Squadron, veteran transport outfit which has seen two and a half years service in all three nations of the CBI Theater.   He was heading in a C-46 towards the foothills of The Hump when at  7,000 feet altitude the right engine commenced sputtering. Seconds later the radio operator tore past him, grabbed a parachute and opened half the cargo door.

General Stillwell talking with members of the 2nd Troop Carrier Squadron

BAIL OUT
Making his way to the cockpit in order to offer his service to the pilot, Stevens perceived there was nothing that could be done. The pilot was yelling at the top of his lungs, “Bail out! Bail out!” Stevens retraced his steps to the rear of the plane and pulled a parachute from its rack. However, the C-46 was being buffeted about so badly by the terrific up and down drafts that he was unable to remain on his feet.
Stretched full length on the floor of the heaving aircraft, the sergeant attempted wriggling into the chute. This, likewise, proved futile. In utter despair he hooked his arm through one of the loops which emanate from the seat of the chute and pondered vaguely the next step in this grotesque nightmare.
He hadn’t long to wait. One instant he was recumbent along the floor, and then, falling figure in space. It took a while to realize the only possible means of succor was hooked in the crook of his arm. Twisting and turning he groped for the ripcord release, found it, yanked, then miraculously, the chute slowly, slowly unraveled, and the slowness of the unraveling was yet another marvel, for if the big nylon blanket had blossomed forth in one grand jerking operation, as is generally the procedure, the tremendous pressure exerted would have torn Stevens’ arm from its socket.

BLOODY GASH
In his descent he helplessly watched blood stream from a wide gash in his leg.  As the ground rushed nearer, Stevens saw in dismay the skyscraper trees, the jungle grass, and the coarse and intertwining vines.  But in that wonderful bag of luck there was plenty left, for he was finally caught up two feet from the earth.  A simple turn and he was safe on the ground.
His leg needed immediate attention. Orientation in Burmese jungles would leave an Eagle Scout cold, but began climbing, stumbling and crawling.   He had gone half-way up a knoll, when the babble of a foreign language reached his ears.

Naga tribesmen of Burma, WWII

HEAD HUNTERS
Upper Burma was and still is the home of several fierce head-hunting tribes, but these people proved friendly, particularly after an ample distribution of American cigarettes had been accomplished. American cigarettes are in fact to these Hills men what the Coca-Cola advertisements purport to be with the inhabitants of South America.
After a relaxing smoke, followed by a round table discussion through the medium of sign language, the tribesmen motioned Stevens to follow them. The party soon stumbled upon a small clearing. Here, a lean-to was constructed and while one of the natives remained behind with the stranded crew member, the rest proceeded to their village.
Two days passed in the lean-to before the first group returned with a home-made litter, on which they carried Stevens to a more permanent abode on the outskirts of their jungle hamlet. The Naga hills men fed him their native food: boiled rice, eggs, cracked corn, chicken and large, thin pancakes made of an ersatz flour. It wasn’t the Blue-Plate Special at the Waldorf Astoria, but it kept the sergeant alive.

HUMOROUS SIDE
During Stevens’ 19 days in these simple, rustic surroundings there were many incidents bordering on the humorous side. Upon first arriving, the local witch doctor showed a great desire to practice his wizardry on the sergeant’s injured leg. Stevens had to use all his diplomacy to dissuade the Naga medic and at the same time retain his friendship. Another such instance cropped up when the local chieftain brought a pipe to his bedside. One puff convinced the sergeant that the pipe contained, among other things, a good deal of opium, and he hastily put it aside. The jungles do, nevertheless, have their saloons, and the sergeant quaffed saku or as it is termed by our soldiers, bamboo juice. Saku is a concoction similar to the atomic bomb, both in content and effect.
Though skilled in the jungle, it takes even the Nagas many days to travel in their dense tropical homeland, and despite a runner being dispatched to the nearest Army outpost immediately after Stevens’ first contact with his hill friends, it was almost two weeks later that two members from the ATC Search & Rescue Unit reached him. They were Pfc. Joseph Fruge of Aberlin, La., and Pfc. Marvin C. Roberts of Mobile, Ala. They had parachuted, in the prescribed parachute method, into a clearing in a village about 14 trail miles away. A two day trek brought them to Stevens.

Stevens receives congratulations from his two rescuers, Pfc. Marvin Roberts, left, and Pfc. Joseph Fruge, prior to being evacuated successfully from the Burma jungles

SLOW EVACUATION
The leg was still in poor shape, in fact, gangrene had set in, but the original treatment had tempered the infection. With the coming of these G.I. angels of mercy, skilled in the latest medical developments, new wonders of science were hastily applied.
A short convalescent period and the patient was ready for evacuation – at best a slow and lengthy process. It was decided to build a tiny landing strip in a rice clearing not far off. This field would be large enough for an L-5 to land and take-off.
Exactly 19 days after Stevens’ unexpected appearance in the woods, two L-5’s, piloted by Capt. Jacob F. Craft of Galesburg, Ill., and Lt. Harold L. Haviland of Glendale, Calif., arrived at the small airfield. Stevens was loaded aboard Craft’s plane and flown directly to Upper Assam, where he eventually wound up in the 234th General Hospital.

NAGAS REWARDED
The Naga Hills men, by whose devotion and loyalty the life of another American had been saved, were well rewarded for their efforts. Two hundred pounds of rice were dropped from the air to the villagers and Stevens own squadron contributed another hundred pounds of rice and salt, two staples highly prized by these primitive people.
What happened to his plane is not precisely known and probably never will be. It apparently exploded, and parts of the fuselage and wings were discovered by the same rescue party which came to Stevens.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Sad Sack from “YANK” magazine

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Farewell Salutes – 

Walter Bingaman – Everett, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, navigator

Evelyn Cookson – Natick, MA; US Army, WAC, WWII, ETO, 50th Field Hospital

Tsugio Egawa – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII

Joseph Fisher – Finksburg, MD; US Navy, WWII / USMC, Korea

Joseph Gallo – Corning, NY; US Army, WWII, 64/16th Armored Division, Bronze Star

Richard Halford – Pontiac, MI; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division

Helen McBride – Lancaster, PA; US Army WAC, WWII

Ross Perot – Texarkana,TX; US Navy / Presidential Candidate

Nicholas Sacharewicz – Pinsk, POL; Polish 2nd Corps, WWII, ETO, Medal of Valour

Douglas Vahry – Taupo, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 391204, WWII, Flight Photo Intel Officer

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How a Combat Unit Passes the Time While Standing Down

RRR-cover

Keeping the troops focused and in shape while not in combat….

IHRA

After approximately nine months of combat missions, the 22nd Bomb Group’s B-26s had reached the age of being designated war-weary. Due to the “Europe First” mentality, those fighting in the Pacific Theater had been receiving far fewer replacement aircraft than they desperately needed. In the case of the 22nd, this was a breaking point for the Group. Headquarters did not feel that men could safely fly in their B-26s any longer and ordered the Group to stand down on January 11, 1943.

Not long after the orders were received, the 19th and 33rd Bomb Squadrons were told that they were moving from Iron Range back to their old camp at Woodstock. The 500+ mile trip was filled with torrential downpours, delays and crowded conditions aboard the S.S. Paine Wingate. Once the men made it back to Woodstock, though, they happily found that their camp had been improved since their…

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Smitty, Still in Japan

Japan 1945

No matter where he is or what he’s doing, Smitty will be seen touring the sights. In Japan, he also did his best to absorb the culture that surrounded him.

Smitty’s travels

Inside the above brochure, Smitty wrote, “Right after we left this place, it burnt down. This was really a million dollar joint! Wow! The girls here, by the way, are very nice. I like these people much better than the Filipinos.” (Just to remind the reader, and in all fairness, Smitty had lost his best friend to a Filipino Japanese sympathizer (makipilli) with a grenade booby-trap in his cot)

In October 1945, General Pierson was transferred back home. He was replaced by General Shorty Soule who had commanded the 188th regiment in both training and combat. He was later promoted to assistant division commander of the 38th Division and at this point he began to head the Miyagi Task Force.

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Hereafter, the troopers began to return to the States as they collected their “points” and the replacements that were arriving were not jump qualified. Gen. Swing established yet another jump school, the fourth one in the history of the 11th Airborne. This one was established at the former Japanese Air Corps base near Yanome; about 15 miles from Sendai.

Following through with his own requirements that all men in the division be both paratroopers and glidermen, Swing started a glider school in the summer of 1946 at Yamoto Air Base. [renamed Carolus Field, in honor of Cpl. Charles Carolus, killed in a glider crash near Manila 22 July 1945]

Smitty in Japan

On the reverse side of the picture above, Smitty wrote, “a beauty of a flock of ducks were going by just as the jerk snapped the camera.”

The 187th Regiment, was by this time, now being called “Rakkasans” (umbrella men) by the Japanese, a name which stayed with them through four wars: WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm and the Operations of today.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Erwin Bentlage – Oneida, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, LCI-968

James Cooper – Lexington, KY; US Navy, WWII, Korea

Alex Dzialo – South Glastonburg, CT; US Army, WWII & Korea (Ret.)

Vasil Fisanick – North Cambria, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Robert Klein – NE; US Army, WWII, ETO, SSgt., German interpreter

Tommy Land Jr. – Chesapeake, VA; US Army, WWII, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Warren McLain – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army, WWII, ETO, Infantry scout

George Parquette – Luverne, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 76th Tank Reg/11th Airborne Division

Harold Sears – Cabot, AR; US Army, Korea

Arthur Susi – Dublin, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO

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