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Archivist’s Attic: The Fastest Seabees – The Forgotten Fifty-five

We can not allow any to be forgotten!!

U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

In 1943, the Navy was buzzing around the top coast of New Guinea on their way towards the Philippines. At Mios Woendi the Navy ordered a PT-boat Base to be built. Lieutenant Harold Liberty handpicked fifty-five of the best construction men who were experienced in all phases of construction and eager to work hard.

“Each man had a place in at least three operations,” Liberty explained “The cook could drop his skillet and run a winch or string a pipeline. The hospital corpsman didn’t tie his last bandage and go to bed – he manned a crane or drove a truck.” And each one of them was a potential gunner. Each man could pick up and do another man’s job and do it well.

Crew 55

Just like a swarm of bees, everyman also knew his position and what was expected of them the second they hit the ground. There was no…

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April 1943 (2)

US troops in Alaska, 1943

US troops in Alaska, 1943

13 April – 78 US aircraft of the 11th Air Force made 11 separate attacks at the Japanese airfield and military barracks at the Main Camp and strafed the beach on Kiska, Alaska.  Heavy AA fire downed 2 P-38s and one B-25

In New Guinea, the 5th Air Force’s heavy and medium bombers carried out widespread but unsuccessful attacks on individual enemy vessels. Japanese aircraft carried out a heavy attack on the Milne Bay area, severely damaging 1 vessel, beaching 1 vessel, and hitting 2 others, but doing very little damage to USAAF facilities in the area. The AA defenses and the 40+ P-40’s and P-38’s that intercepted the enemy strike claimed 14 airplanes shot down. Dick Bong became a Double Ace when he got his 10th kill, a Betty.

Port Moresby station hospital, 1943 LEAD Technologies Inc

Port Moresby station hospital, 1943
LEAD Technologies Inc

MacArthur and Halsey met for the first time.  Mac’s reaction, “I liked him [Halsey] from the moment we met.”  Halsey would later write, “Five minutes after I reported, I felt as if we were lifelong friends.  We had our arguments, but they always ended pleasantly.”  Three days later, they completed the blueprint for Operation Cartwheel.15 April – the Eleventh Air Force flew reconnaissance over Kiska, Attu, Semichis, and Agattu spoted no new enemy activities. Two bomber missions from Adak and eleven fighter missions from Amchitka, composed of 23 B-24’s, 20 B-25’s, 25 P-38’s, and 44 P-40’s, hit Kiska; 1 F-5A took photos while 85 tons of bombs are dropped. Fires resulted on North Head and Little Kiska. One B-24 is shot down in flames and four bombers receive battle damage.

Bomber crew on Adak - note pin-up girl collection courtesy of "Life"

Bomber crew on Adak – note pin-up girl collection
courtesy of “Life”

16 April – Alaska –   Seven B-24’s  bombed and scored 8 direct hits on the runway and gun emplacements at Attu. One B-24 and 2 F-5A’s needed to abort due to weather. [flying over the Aleutians was often near impossible]. Four B-25’s, thirty-one P-38’s, and fourteen P-40’s hit Kiska nine times, bombing installations and strafing gun emplacements and 3 parked airplanes.

17 April – Burma –  the 10th Air Force’s 7 B-25’s bombed the Myitnge bridge and scored 4 damaging hits. Ten others hit the Myitnge railroad works. Sixteen P-40’s damaged the bridge at Kamaing, attacked the town of Nanyaseik, and scored hits on the north approach to the bridge at Namti. Six B-24’s damage the south approach to the Pazundaung railroad bridge.

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20-21 April – US aircraft attacked the enemy base at Nauru.  The Japanese retaliated the next day by bombing US positions on the Ellice Islands.  In Washington, FDR declared that all war criminals will be tried after an Allied victory.

23-31 April – US bombers of the 7th Air Force attacked the Japanese airfield on Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands.  By the end of the month, the Japanese forces in the Aleutians were cut off from Japan and US invasion forces were sailing from San Francisco; 11,000 of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division and 29 ships.  This included the Idaho, Pennsylvania and Nevada.  The submarines Narwhal and Nautilus would lead them in on 4 May.

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Military Humor – Aleutian style – 

Painfull Schwin Dentist - Enter on Full Flaps

Painfull Schwin Dentist – Enter on Full Flaps

TREE - only one on Attu.

TREE – only one on Attu.

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Macon ‘Bud’ Ballantine – Jacksonville, Fl; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Intrepid

Kenneth Handford – Ballarat, AUS; RA Air Force # 145108, 39th Operational Base Unit, aircraftsman

Craig Karrer – Egg Harbor, NJ; US Navy, Korea, USS Antietam

Aleutians, 1943

Aleutians, 1943

Malcolm Mathias – Blue Mound, IL; US Army, WWII, 10th Mountain Division

Cresencio Romero – Santa Ana, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 675th Artillery Reg.

Harold Ross – Stephenson, MI; US Army, WWII, ETO

Stanley Szwed – Port Read, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 711th Ordnance Reg.

Donald Tabers – Mayfield, KY; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Kenneth Tate – Austin, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ/511th Reg.

Herbert Winfiele – Houston, TX; US Army, Korea, Lt.

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Alaskan Highway – Home Front

An example of some of the obstacles needed to be overcome for the highway.

An example of some of the obstacles needed to be overcome for the highway.

The Alaska Road Commission had built thousands of miles of trails throughout interior and Northern Alaska, and many short roads from communities to the nearest water transportation access. It had not-except for the Valdez to Fairbanks road-undertaken to link communities by overland routes. That came only with the military requirements of World War II.

One of the first of those requirements was for a highway connecting air bases at Fairbanks and Anchorage. To make this connection, in 1941 the Alaska Road Commission began a road from the Richardson Highway, near today’s Glennallen, to Anchorage. When completed, it would be possible for the first time to drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks using a portion of the Richardson Highway and the newly-named Glenn Highway.

A highway from the rest of the United States through Canada to Alaska had been talked about as early as 1930. Congressional committees had recommended such a road in 1935 and 1939, but it was not until February of 1942, three months after the United States became an active participant in World War II, that a presidential committee recommended a highway link to supplement air and sea supply routes.

A point completed and used for rest and refreshment.

A point completed and used for rest and refreshment.

Work on the new Canadian-U.S. project began at once from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Big Delta, Alaska. Seven U.S. Army engineer regiments ( ~ 10,000 soldiers) and 47 civilian contracting companies ( ~ 6,000 workers) finished the work in nine months and six days. They bridged some 200 streams and rivers and completed an average of 8 miles per day.

The first “Fairbanks Freight” rolled up the highway in November of 1942. Work went on in 50-degree-below-zero weather as finished grading followed rough leveling. By December of 1943 the original bulldozed pioneer road had been upgraded to a permanent road 26 feet wide, gravel surfaced over 20 to 22 feet, with grades reduced to no more than 10 per cent and narrow bridges replaced by new two-lane structures. At the peak of construction in September of 1943 the Alaska Highway required over 1,100 pieces of heavy equipment. The total cost of the pioneer road exceeded $19 million.

Part of the highway created through virgin forest.

Part of the highway created through virgin forest.

While the highway turned out not to be of much use in the military campaigns of World War II, for the first time people could travel to and from Alaska by other than sea or air. In 1944, the Alaska Road Commission assumed maintenance of the Alaska Highway between the Canadian border and Big Delta and also maintenance of the Tok to Slana spur of the highway

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Current WWII News – 

Memphis Belle & the returned control panel

Memphis Belle & the returned control panel

The control panel of the Memphis Belle is back in the famous bomber!  Read the story!!

Co-pilot Dick Cole

Co-pilot Dick Cole

Doolittle’s co-pilot celebrates his 100th birthday at the Flight Museum!    Read the story Here!

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Military ‘Cold’ Humor – 

Is this really worth it, Joe?

Is this really worth it, Joe?

truth-military-humor-snow-airforce-military-funny-1397219925

And you thought shoveling your driveway was hard?

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Harold Blampied – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 133320, WWII, Artillery

Norman Farberow – Pittsburgh, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Rex Fisher – Fairbanks, AK; US Army, Koreamilitary

Horace Garton – Benton, AR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 188th/11th Airborne

Eugene Jackson – No.Marshfield, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Tuskegee airman

Christopher Mulalley – Eurecka, CA; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt.

Edward B. Ridley – Oxon Hill, MD; US Air Force, Vietnam, Technical Sergeant

Michael Sarni – Stamford, CT; USMC, Korea

Robert Tilden – Pittsboro, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th Medical

Anthony Verdesca – Haworth, NJ; US Navy, WWII, Ensign

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March 1943 (2)

Indian troops, Arakan Peninsula, Burma

Indian troops, Arakan Peninsula, Burma

17-31 March – The Japanese 55th Division and other units launched a 3-pronged attack on the Arakan Peninsula in Burma.  The Indian troops pulled back and discontinued their offensive.  The Chindits were defeated by massive enemy fighting and this set off an epic journey of 1,000 miles (1600 km) through Burma for the men to reach safety.

Wingate’s retreat, 150 miles of which was in the Irrawaddy, a heavily patrolled area by the 15th Japanese Army under Lt.Gen. Renya Mutaguchi.  The Chindits would lose approximately 500 men during this march.  Gen. Slim called the entire operation “an expensive failure” but the British press dubbed Wingate a hero and calling him the “Clive of Burma.”

Aleutians_Map

27 March – in the Bering Sea, Adm. Hosogaya Boshiro’s escort force of 4 cruisers and 4 destroyers attempted to run reinforcements to the Aleutian Islands.  The Naval Intelligence failed to notify Adm. Charlie “Socrates” McMorris of the enemy’s strength.  McMorris sailed and engaged the Japanese with 2 cruisers and 4 destroyers in a 4 hours battle, 1000 miles south of the Komandorski Islands.  The American ships were older and outgunned, but the Japanese admiral made the error of being overly protective of the transports and both sides lost one destroyer.  The enemy withdrew, apparently low on fuel and ammunition.  The results of the Battle of Komandorski Islands was deemed inconclusive.

The Japanese Imperial Staff in Tokyo was in dispute at this time and New Guinea was chosen as their prime target.  Gen. Imamura at Rabaul and Adm. Yamamoto at Truk were notified of this decision.  The responsibility of clearing the skies of the US 5th Air Force fell upon the Imperial Navy.  Yamamoto and his staff prepared the “Operation I-Go” plan to reinforce their 11th Fleet.

0127-leaders15 (612x640)

28 March – at the Casablanca Conference, the strategic priorities were finalized.  The “Germany First” policy remained set in stone and the Pacific commanders could expect all resources after Europe was taken.  Until that time, they would receive approximately 15% of the resources produced.

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Current News – today is Gold Star Mother’s Day

To view my past post for the Gold Star Mothers – click HERE!

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Military Humor – Military_Humor_27

Military-Humor

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Charlie Bostwick – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Tommy Crews – Independence, MO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBIMissing MAn (800x583)

John Demski – Coeur, IL; US Army Air Corps, 221st Medical/11th A/B

Stanley Konefal – Medford, MA; US Army, Medical Corps, surgeon

Gerald Griffin – San Angelo, LA; US Air Force (ret. 21 years), Korea, Vietnam, TSgt. E-6

Donald Paton – Taukau, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 4313922, WWII

Richard Sheaffer Jr. – Harrisburg, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc, KIA

Charles Strong – Suffolk, VA; USMC, Afghanistan, Spec Forces

John Terrell – Oklahoma City, OK; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, gunner, 301 Heavy Bombardment Group, Korea

Koyle Wells – Boise, ID; US Army, WWII

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January 1943 (2)

"Action in The Slot" by Tom Freeman

“Action in The Slot” by Tom Freeman

PT boat report for 10/11 January – The Slot action at Guadalcanal:  The Japanese ships came in under the cover of a rain squall and the 2 US scout groups missed them.  The first contact was made by strike group-1, spotting 3 destroyers off the Guadalcanal coast.  The 3 boats attacked the enemy ships but the enemy sank PT-112 and damaged PT-43 so badly, it was abandoned.  IJN destroyer Hatasukaze was hit by a torpedo, killing 8 and wounding 23, and retired to Shortland Island.  PT-43 was later sighted on the Japanese-held portion of the island and was destroyed by gunfire from a New Zealand corvette.

P-38 Lightning in Alaska

P-38 Lightning in Alaska

12-19 January – 2,000 American troops, in an amphibious landing on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians, started their operations to take back the enemy held areas in Alaska.  The USS Worden was sunk and 14 men were killed.  Six US warships began bombardment of Attu Island.

14 January – the Japanese Special Navy Landing Force went ashore at Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal to act as a rear guard for the evacuation of troops.  US radio intelligence failed to pick up the reason for Tanaka’s 19 destroyers speeding down The Slot.  Halsey feared a new offensive was about to begin.  The US motor torpedo boats went up against a supply convoy, fired 17 torpedoes and hit 3 destroyers and then withdrew.  The admiral ordered aircraft from 3 escort carriers to support the Cactus Air Force.

Cactus Air Force, Guadalcanal

Cactus Air Force, Guadalcanal

The Symbol Conference at Anfa, overlooking Casablanca, began with all sides in conflict.  Churchill worked on FDR to maintain the “Europe First” plans while the US Joint Chiefs of Staff reminded the Imperial General Staff that the Allies “could not give the Japanese any pause.”  Over cigars and cognac both sides reached an “agreement in principle.”  The British would allow an extension of the Pacific offensive if in return America accepted the invasion of Sicily.  The Casablanca Conference left many of the key strategic issues unresolved.

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A look at how we saw them and they saw us…..

002 (2)002

 

 

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Navy Humor – military-humor-funny-joke-navy-submarine-ships-designed-to-sink-others-require-assistance

2011-12-20-humor-4

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Stanley Asksamit Jr. – Goodyear, AZ; US Army, Korea, 1st Cavalry

Robert Conquest – UK & US; British Foreign Office, WWII, Intelligence

Phillip Goedeke – Harriman, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO,  152nd Infantry/11th A/Bplaying-taps

James Kelly – Piedmont, AL; US Merchant Marines, WWII

Ray Lindner – Winfield, IL; USMC, WWII & Korea

Arnold Messacar – Pointe-Claire, CAN; RCL Br66, WWII

Merritt ‘Bill’ Sheldon – Granville, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, ocean tug

Peter Tanswell – New Plymouth, NZ; RNZ Navy # 8438, WWII, PTO

James Tinnel – Seattle, WA; US Navy, WWII, salvage diver

Lee Wintersteen – Sioux Falls, SD; US Army, WWII

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October 1942 (2)

Guadalcanal, courtesy of History.com

Guadalcanal, courtesy of History.com

11-25 October – [continued from October 1942 (1) post] – Henderson Field, on Guadalcanal, received heavy bombardment from two Japanese battleships, the Kongo and Haruna.  The US gun batteries damaged 2 of the enemy battleships in the area.

Aviation Engineers on Guadalcanal, 1942

Aviation Engineers on Guadalcanal, 1942

On the 12th, the US Army’s Americal troops arrived and received their baptism under fire rather quickly that night.  The SeaBees went into round-the-clock action to fill the airstrip’s craters created by the enemy’s mortars, that the Marines called “Pistol Petes.”  The barrage seemed endless with man-sized projectiles flying through the air causing the sound of screeching railroad cars.  Gen. Geiger’s pilots began taking fuel from damaged planes as the Cactus Air Force became shred to pieces with the constant action.

destroyed Japanese ship

destroyed Japanese ship

18 October – Adm. Halsey, having recovered from his illness, arrived at Noumea to take over command from Ghormley.  His orders were waiting for him: “You will take command of the South Pacific area and South Pacific Forces immediately.”  Halsey’s first reaction was, “Jesus Christ and Gen. Jackson!  This is the hottest potato they ever handed me.”  He knew the situation in that vast area of ocean and also that he lacked ships, men and supplies.  After his request for all of these were denied, he wrote: “Europe is Washington’s darling, the South Pacific is only a stepchild.”  But the news of the admiral’s return gave the men of Guadalcanal renewed hope.

Japanese soldiers after an initial battle.

Japanese soldiers after an initial battle.

By the 23rd, Henderson Field was attacked by 20,000 enemy troops, under Gen. Maruyama, in their usual wave strategy.  For 3 days along the southern positions, at the rivers, wave after wave was defeated until the Japanese had lost about 3,500 men and the offensive collapsed.

USS Hornet during the Battle of Santa Cruz

USS Hornet during the Battle of Santa Cruz

24 October – Gen. Marshall ordered MacArthur to get every bomber, in range, to the Solomons – even at the expense of New Guinea.  With a stunt learned from an old enemy, LtCol. Chesty Puller and his 1st Battalion hung a barbed-wire perimeter with shell fragments to warn themselves of Japanese infiltrators during the night.  Puller was wounded during one of the attacking waves, but remained at the front.

The USS Hornet while ablaze.

The USS Hornet while ablaze.

25-26 October – the Japanese Combined Fleet headed to Guadalcanal were met by US Task Forces 16 and 17 near Santa Cruz.  The US aircraft failed to find their targets the first day, but the next morning, the opposing aircraft were visible and battled for 4 hours.  The Enterprise suffered a smashed flight deck and the Hornet (CV-8) was destroyed by 2 torpedoes and 6 bomb strikes and had to be abandoned.  The enemy carriers, Zuiho and Shokaku were not badly damaged, but their loss of 100 pilots and aircraft left them inoperable.

American and Australian troops worked together to build a road in the jungle

American and Australian troops worked together to build a road in the jungle

In New Guinea, in an attempt to delay the Australian advance of Kokoda, Gen. Horii directed his retreating battalions to enter Eora Creek ravine in the heart of the Owen Stanley Mts.  They climbed to the heights and dug into an elaborate complex of concealed weapon pits; their last line of defense at Oivi on the road from Kokoda to Buna.

28 October – repeated attempts by the Australians to climb up the slopes were met with heavy artillery fire and were thwarted back.  Suddenly, the enemy began a fierce bombardment and under the cover of fire and dark of night, Horii withdrew his garrison to Oivi.  In 2 months time of the savage struggle at Buna, the Allies lost 3,095 KIZ and 5,451 WIA – an even bloodier struggle than the better-known Guadalcanal.

Aerial view of Japanese seaplanes at Attu, Alaska.

Aerial view of Japanese seaplanes at Attu, Alaska.

30 October – the Japanese landed a second invasion force on the island of Attu in the Alaskan Aleutian islands.  The naval battles have been on-going since August and would continue until May 1943.

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Military Humor – by Sad Sack – 

Yank magazine

Yank magazine

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Adair Jr. – Jupiter, FL; US Army, Vietnam

A Thousand Winds

A Thousand Winds

Arthur Clarke – Santa Cruz, CA; US Navy, Corpsman (Ret. 29 yrs), WWII, Korea & Vietnam

William Deitz – DE & FL; US Navy, WWII, ETO, LST 656 helmsman

L. Vern Francis – NZ, RNZ Army, WWII, D Company

Jacob Kendall – Ontario & Oregon, US Navy, WWII, ETO

Donald John Nibert – Point Pleasant, WV; US Navy

John Roberts – AUS; RA Air Force # 135801, WWII, PTO, 41st Squadron

Ken Smith – Paeroa, NZ; NZ Army # 444787, WWII, 23rd Battalion, Pvt.

Arnold Stern Sr. – Anniston, AL; US Army (Ret. 23 yrs), WWII, Korea & Vietnam

George Thompson – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

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September 1942 (1)

SeaBees wade through a flood on Guadalcanal

SeaBees wade through a flood on Guadalcanal

1 September – the Naval Construction Battalion (CBs), better known as the “SeaBees” and famous for their swift and ingenious engineering work while under combat conditions, landed on Guadalcanal. [A coverage of the SeaBees will appear in the Intermission Stories between 1942 and 1943].

SeaBees building the airfield, Guadalcanal

SeaBees building the airfield, Guadalcanal

3 September – Gen. Roy Geiger arrived on the island to command the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing – nicknamed the Cactus Air Force, after the codename for the Guadalcanal operation.  When Hideki Tojo replaced Togo as Japan’s Foreign Minister, there was no longer any civilian personnel in the Japanese government – the military was in complete control of the country.

3-11 September – Japanese reinforcements landed at Bana, New Guinea.  But, the Special Navy Landing Force were compelled to withdraw from Milne Bay due to the heavy defense of the Australian 7th Brigade and the 18th Brigade of the 7th Division.  The defeat of the amphibious force cost Hyakutake’s force a loss of over 1,000 men [another source says 2,000 men], leaving only about 600 surviving.  The enemy rescue destroyer Yayoi was sunk by a US 5th Air Force B-17.  General Horii’s battalions did break through the Gap, but with RAAF support, the enemy was defeated.

map-of-kokoda-track

Kokoda Track, New Guinea

Despite the History Channel’s claim that the US poured ample power to the Pacific, the Allied generals and admirals needed, throughout the war, to fight and plead with Washington for everything they received. [Note – this is NOT my opinion, but that of every resource I’ve visited.]  At this point, Adm. King’s request for more planes was again refused.  The Joint Chiefs also refused to support the Burma plans because the Royal Marine Division was re-routed to Madagascar and the CBI was not in the US area of responsibility.  But – despite Madame Chiang’s admission of American funding being pocketed by corrupt officials, FDR sent even more money to Chiang, who proceeded to use it fighting Chinese Communists rather than Japan.  [How much more could have been done if used for King’s planes?].

USS Gregory, in finer days

USS Gregory, in finer days

5 September – As the USS Gregory and Little left Savo Island from delivering the 1st Raiders, they came upon 4 enemy ships, enroute to their home naval base at Tulagi.  A Navy pilot, believing he had seen flashes from a submarine, dropped 5 flares.  This silhouette the US ships against the black sky.  Immediately the Japanese opened fire and within 3 minutes, the Gregory began to sink.

8 September – Gen. Kawaguchi tried a 3-prong attack to capture Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.  Clemens’s scouts forewarned the Americans and Col. Edson’s Raider Battalion were sent out to establish advanced defenses on the high ground.

10 September – after extensive work by the engineers to block the marshes of Kuhlak, Alaska, the 73rd Bomb Squadron had an airfield to land on.  The 42nd Troop Carrier Squadron landed the following day.

Stringing barbed wire on Edson's Bloody Ridge, 1942

Stringing barbed wire on Edson’s Bloody Ridge, 1942

12-18 September – the first wave of the Japanese 25th Brigade (~ 6,000 men), attacked from the jungle, with support from their naval units, in an area of Guadalcanal that would become known as “Edson’s Bloody Ridge”.  At first the Raiders were cut off and the waves of the enemy kept coming. But, this was merely a prelude, nightfall brought the “Banzai”* attacks.  Chants of : “U.S. Marines be dead tomorrow.” repeatedly came up from the jungle.

To be continued…

Click on images to enlarge.

* – “Tenno Heika Banzai” (天皇陛下萬歲?, “Long live the Emperor”),

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Military Humor – army (1)

oldsalt

Look for these and others at Muscleheaded!

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ernie Barndt – Eagle River, AL; US Army (Ret. 28 years), Vietnam, Bronze Star

Norman Cleaver – Calgary, CAN; Canadian Forces, Warrant Officer (Ret.)ANZAC-Day-wreath-1

John Durak – Bayonne, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO, Co.K/104th Inf. Reg./26th Division

James Gilman – Westfield, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 3rd Batt/26th Division

James Hoff – Saginaw, MI; US Army, Vietnam, Military Police

Edna Morgan – Rincon, GA; Civilian aircraft spotter, WWII

Clyde Orr Jr. – Florence, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, navigator, 94th Bomb Group

Herman Ponty – Madison, WI & CA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Lt., 100th Division, Bronze Star

Lloyd Sime – San Diego, CA; US Navy (Ret.), WWII, Korea, Vietnam & Pentagon

Adolph Alfred Taubman – Bloomfield Hills, MI, US Army, WWII

Robert Wilfling – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army, Military Police

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Tribute

A portrait of Leland Davis surrounded by his family.

A portrait of Leland Davis surrounded by his family.

Ensign Leland LaFroy Davis, US Navy Service #0-146517, Mississippi

The following is based on an article by Leann Davis Alspaugh, previously published in The Hedgehog Review.

The snow-clogged islands [Aleutians] were considered strategically important and the push to wrest control of them from the Japanese took more than a year.  Brian Garfield chronicled this “forgotten battle” vividly in his 1969 book, “The Thousand-Mile War.”  A small section of that book details the actions of Leann’s uncle, Leland Davis.

Ensign Davis and his crew flew as part of a squadron of PBY-5A Catalinas.  Hardly fighter planes, the Catalinas were designed to transport men and equipment; they nevertheless proved to be valuable assets in the siege of Kiska Harbor.  In Garfield’s words, the planes looked like “a brood of huge chicks” as they went into action supplying fuel, oil, parts, ammunition and bombs to the men on the ground and in the air.

Maneuvering a PBY out of the ice.

Maneuvering a PBY out of the ice.

On 10 June 1942, Davis sighted a Japanese super-submarine off Tanaga and dropped bombs and depth-charges.  The sub turned out to be an I-boat sent to pick up the pilot of a downed Zero and was merely damaged by Davis’ actions.  The following day, the ensign and his crew were ordered to prepare to attack Kiska Harbor with everything they had regardless of the weather.

Following the attack of the First Air Force on Kiska, the Catalinas set off, heavily loaded down and experiencing poor visibility, the planes and pilots began to show the strain.  Flying low, the crews began to hear the brittle airframes crack and pop and watched warily as the wings flapped like a bird’s.

12750340_1

US Navy Cross

 

After his first bombing run, Davis returned with his damaged aircraft to reload and refuel.  He also brought back a crewman KIA.  Ready to go, he flew back out to rejoin the blitz which would continue for 3 more days.  The Japanese kept up a steady stream of antiaircraft fire and before long the crews nicknamed Kiska the “PBY Elimination Center.”

It was first thought that Ensign Davis’ plane crashed in the water after being hit by machine-gun fire.  In 2002, Leland’s sister received a phone call from a genealogist saying that her brother’s body had been found.  A Canadian biologist studying near Kiska Volcano discovered a life vest, parachute, 2 parachute packs, leather boots and a sweater.  The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated the site and unearthed the aircraft and the remains of 7 servicemen in 2003.

aircrew-06141942-gravesite-photo-september-2006-001 (800x600)

Today, all seven rest in peace under a common marker that states, “Aircraft Accident – Alaska, June 14, 1942.”  Elwin Alford, Albert J. Gyorfi, John H. Hathaway, Dee Hall, Robert F. Keller, Robert A. Smith and Leland L. Davis, the Eternal PBY Crew.

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And the Cold goes on….

WAKE UP!!

WAKE UP!!

WHO LEFT THE GARAGE OPEN?

WHO LEFT THE GARAGE OPEN?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cold-weather1

firewood (800x580)

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Brisko – Mountain View, NY; US Army (Ret. 22 years), Vietnam

enlarge to read

enlarge to read

Dennis Crooke – Paeroa, NZ; RNZ Army # 632212, WWII, J Force

Robert Fewster – Ballarat, AUS; RA Air Force # 449872

Kyle Halford – Fayetteville, Ar, US Army, Afghanistan, 21st Signal

Melvin Knapp – Vine Grove, KY; US Army, Korea, Vietnam

Ruth Lang – Sheboygan, WI; US Navy WAVE, WWII, nurse

Cecil Matthews – Houston, TX; US Army, WWII, ETO

Ralph Reeder Sr. – Dakota Dunes, SD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

David Thomas Sr. – Mobile, AL; US Army, Korea, MP

Iver Sonderby – Kingman, AZ & ND; US Navy, Korea, Chief Petty Officer 3rd Class

Ronald Weber – Emmett, ID; US Navy, Vietnam, SeaBee, dog trainer, Purple Heart

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Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum – Home of the Catalina

First Hand Account

 

Robert Larson

Robert Larson

 

Ensign Robert Larson, PBY Co-pilot and Navigator, from Monticello, Iowa – on the Aleutian War.

Dutch Harbor, 1942

Dutch Harbor, 1942

“When the Japanese came ashore at Attu and Kiska on 6 June, the original intent was never to hold the islands.  The operation was to be a side show to divert the US Navy and draw them into a final destructive battle at Midway.  Admiral Yamamoto had hoped that with the bulk of their fleet destroyed, the Americans would accept some sort of peace settlement that would let Japan consolidate her gains.

Japanese troops on Kiska

Japanese troops on Kiska

“After the landings on Attu and Kiska the only aircraft capable of reaching the islands from the US bases were the Navy PBY’s and the B-17s and B-24s of the Army Air Corps.  Commander Leslie E. Gehres was a 4-stripe regular Navy captain in command of Patrol Wing 4.

US Army in Alaska, 1942

US Army in Alaska, 1942

“The Army attempted to bomb the Japanese forces but with little success with the small amount of aircraft at their disposal.  Capt. Gehres notified CINCPAC of the landings and informed them that he had a seaplane tender at Nazan Bay, Atka Island, halfway to Kiska with 20+ PBY’s.  The USS Gillis was the tender.

USS Gillis

USS Gillis

“The captain had his hands full servicing many more aircraft with bombs and fuel than his ship was designed or supplied to support.  The crews took over part of an Aleut fishing village and were fed by a school teacher from her small kitchen with the help of some of the willing Aleut natives.  Off the bay, one of the PBY’s bombed a Japanese submarine near Tanga Island that had been on life guard duty for the enemy pilots.

William Thies, pilot

William Thies, pilot

“The PBY’s opened the campaign on 11 June, following up a bombing run by B-24s of the 11th Air Force.  The PBY’s came down through the overcast dive bomber fashion and the Japanese soon got the range with their 20-mm antiaircraft cannon and 13.2-mm heavy machine-guns.

“The air combat went on for 3 days and at the end, the exhausted crews suffered multiple dead and wounded.  The entire supply of pencils and rags of the Aleut village were used for patching holes in the aircraft as the planes continued a non-stop shuttle back and forth to Kiska.  The PBY was a dependable but slow lumbering aircraft (175 mph), not suited to sudden stressful evasive maneuvers.  Often they came back to the Gillis so riddled by AA fire that they almost sank.

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Engineers in action.

 

“The Japanese, now wise to the American tactics, brought out more heavy antiaircraft guns, pointed their AA batteries at holes in the low overcast and waited for the PBY’s to emerge.  Finally, with ammunition and fuel almost exhausted and men pushed to the brink of their endurance, the Gillis withdrew from Nazan Bay, urged on by the arrival of Japanese float recon planes from Kiska.

Koga's gravesite

Koga’s gravesite

“Japanese Commander Mukai later stated that the PBY’s interfered considerably with their efforts to develop Kiska into a support base.  Their attacks forced them to withdraw their ships from Kiska Harbor.  The Japanese had brought in their Mavis 4-engine recon planes, but the attacks had kept their supplies out their reach.  Bill, [William Thies, pilot], flew one other support mission at this time.  He returned to Kanga to pick up a weather team of 5 men, who after burning the station, climbed aboard.  When the Mavis’s got operational, they flew over the Aleut village at Atka, and even though it was burned out, they dropped their bombs anyway.  Bill and his crew would soon return to Nazan Bay [within a few weeks] with both the Gillis and Casco and find the fighting worse.  They would fly every day for 33 days.”

Robert Larson would later make Commander while in the reserves and he spent 33 years as Chief of Technical Staff of Boeing.  Cmdr. Larson passed away 21 December 2007.

Click on images to enlarge.

Judy Hardy had 2 relatives in Alaska during the war – try her site for the home front view…HERE!

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The future of the Navy is now…

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) expected to be commissioned later 2015

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) expected to be commissioned later 2015

Captain James Kirk

Captain James Kirk

 

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Cold Humor – still….

funny-cold-weather-quotes

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Farewell Salutes – 

Dean Allgood – Rigby, ID; USMC, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Brian Black – Henderson, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 429953, WWII

Raymond Delsart – Sturgeon Bay, WI; US Army, WWII

Aleutians, 1943

Aleutians, 1943

Alexander Dyce – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, 413th Squadron

Horace Finch – Griffin, GA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Kurt Landsburger – born: Prague, NJ & FL; US Army, WWII, ETO, translator

John Moingo – Marion, IL; US Navy, Korea, Vietnam, Captain (Ret. 30 years)

Ralph Nittolo – Jupiter, FL; US Navy (19 mos), US Air Force (Ret. 20 years), Korea & Vietnam, tech Sgt.

Joseph Pezzulo – Queensbury, NY; US Air Force, Korea

Anthony Tedeschi Sr. – Endicott, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO

John Wilders, JR. – Merrimack, NH; US Navy, Vietnam, radio operator

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