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Canadian Hero – Leonard Birchall RCAF

Leonard Birchall

One of the things Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Air Commodore Leonard Birchall is most remembered for is being the “Savior of Ceylon.” He was the pilot who warned the Allied forces in Colombo of the Japanese surprise attack that was on its way, thus allowing them to prepare and preventing a repeat of Pearl Harbor.

However, he showed the true breadth of nobility and valor of his character in Japanese prisoner of war camps over a period of three years, in which he saved many men’s lives and took many prisoners’ beatings for them.

Leonard Birchall was born in July 1915 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. After graduating from school he worked a number of jobs in order to pay for flying lessons.  He eventually decided to embark on a military career, and enrolled in the Royal Military College of Canada in 1933, after which he was commissioned as a RCAF pilot in 1937.

Royal Air Force mechanics at Royal Air Force Station RAF Koggala, Ceylon

It wouldn’t be too long before he saw action: the Second World War broke out in 1939.   His first duties involved flying a Supermarine Stanraer with RCAF No. 5 Squadron over Nova Scotia on anti-submarine patrols.

In 1940, he managed to virtually single-handedly capture an Italian merchant ship in the Gulf of St Lawrence by making a low pass over it, feigning an attack, which caused the captain to panic and run his ship into a sandbank. Birchall landed nearby and waited patiently for the Royal Canadian Navy to get there, whereupon they arrested the Italian seamen.

In 1942 he joined No. 413 Squadron, and shortly thereafter was transferred to Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka).  Less than 48 hours after touching down, he was flying his Catalina on a patrol mission when he caught sight of an Imperial Japanese Naval fleet which was clearly on its way to attack Ceylon.

Birchall didn’t have much time to act, for not only had he spotted the Japanese, but they had also spotted him. Despite the imminent danger, Birchall flew closer in order to gather details about how many ships and aircraft he could see.

He desperately relayed details to the Allied base even as anti-aircraft fire starting ripping past him, while Japanese fighters took off from the aircraft carriers to shoot him down.

He managed to get a few messages through to the base before anti-aircraft fire tore through his Catalina and disabled the radio. Further fire crippled the plane, and he went down, crash-landing into the ocean. He and the other surviving members of his crew were picked up by the Japanese and taken onto one of the ships. Thus began three years of imprisonment.

IJN destroyer “Isokaze”

As soon as Birchall was brought on board the Japanese destroyer Isokaza, he was singled out as the senior officer and brutally interrogated.

The Japanese eventually believed he had not radioed out, and went ahead with their attack – but they found the Allied defenders prepared for them, and their raid was a failure.

Birchall was then transferred to mainland Japan.  He was placed in an interrogation camp in Yokohama where he was subject to solitary confinement and daily beatings. In this camp – in which no speaking (except when answering questions) was allowed – Birchall spent 6 grueling months.

He was then transferred to a POW work camp that had been erected in a baseball stadium. The conditions were harsh; rations were scarce, and the prisoners were basically on a starvation diet. Beatings were commonplace, and everyone, regardless of their physical condition, was forced to work.

Birchall immediately began to earn the respect of the other prisoners by arranging a system in the camp whereby he and the officers displayed the food that had been dished out to them, and if any enlisted man thought that the officers had been given better food, or more food, he was free to exchange his rations with the officer’s.

Despite the risk of severe punishment, he also argued with the guards and demanded better treatment and rations for his men. If a guard was beating a particularly weak prisoner, Birchall and the other officers would step in and take a beating from the guards on that prisoner’s behalf.

Air Commodore Leonard Birchall Leadership Award, at Royal Military College of Canada; bas-relief bronze by Colonel (ret’d) Andre Gauthier Photo by Victoriaedwards CC BY-SA 3.0

Birchall kept detailed diaries of his time in the Japanese POW camps, and these were used as evidence in post-war trials. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in Ceylon, and made an officer of the Order of the British Empire for his actions in the POW camps.

Leonard Birchall, WWII Hero

Leonard Birchall retired from the RCAF in 1967, and then worked at York University, Ontario, until 1982. He passed away at the age of 89 in 2004.

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Bullard – Stone GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ Co./188/11th Airborne Division

John Crouchley Jr. – Providence, RI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot, KIA

Carl Gloor – Bolivar, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 17th Airborne Division

Robert L. Miller Sr. – South Bend, IN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart / Korea / Judge / Veteran’s advocate

Domonica Mortellano – Tampa, FL; Civilian, MacDill Air Force Base

Alberta Nash – Saint John, CAN; Civilian, WWII, Canadian Red Cross

Alan Seidel – Montreal, CAN; RC Army, WWII, tank commander

Alan Smith – Fort William, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, ETO, Flight Sgt.

Edsel Teal – Chicopee, MA; US Navy, WWII

Doris Whitton – Ft. Simpson, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, radio/telephone

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The Final Combat Mission – 15 August 1945

Captain Jerry Yellin flew the last combat mission of WWII on the morning of August 15, 1945, out of Iwo Jima.

Cruising above the Pacific under the morning sun, the Americans had approached the Japanese coastline without incident. Jerry wondered how many more missions like this he would have to fly. They’d all thought the war was over, but now, here he was again, heading to strike a stubbornly resistant enemy.

But down below, in the nation they were about to attack, a philosophical battle was raging on whether to surrender or fight on. The “Big Six”—the six military officers running Japan—had been split by a vote of 3-3 on when and how to end the war with honor. In general, hard, passionate divisions of opinion existed among the Japanese military: some of the older officers wanted to surrender to prevent the destruction of Japan, while others wanted to fight on to the death and kill as many Americans as possible.

The previous night, while another 300 American B-29s strafed Japan again, a group of rogue Japanese officers had started a coup against Prime Minister Suzuki and Emperor Hirohito. The officers burned the prime minister’s office and surrounded the Imperial Palace, hoping to kidnap the emperor, all in an effort to prevent Japan’s leadership from thinking about surrendering. For these officers, and for so many of the Japanese people, surrender was not an option. There was glory in death, but only shame in surrender; Japan, for its part, had never been invaded or lost a war in its history.

Capt. Jerry Yellin, 78th FG

Fortunately for the rest of the world, the coup did not succeed. A group of senior Japanese officers talked the insurgents off the ledge, convincing them that there was nowhere to go. But while the revolt ended, the war did not, and so, with the shoreline of the enemy territory coming into view and Phil Schlamberg, his dear friend and fellow pilot, on his wing, Jerry knew it was time to go back to work.

On Jerry’s order, all the planes in his squadron dropped their eternal fuel tanks over the ocean, then started familiar aerial trek over the great, snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji. As of yet, there had been no radio signal with the word “UTAH,” signaling the end of the war.

As the Americans approached the Japanese capital, they began to identify targets. Within minutes, they swooped down over airfields and attacked despite heavy ground fire. Tracer bullets flew up from the Japanese guns as the 78th made multiple passes at each target.

After strafing the last airfield, Jerry checked his fuel gauge and saw he was still in good shape. But when one of the pilots radioed that his tank had reached the ninety-gallon mark—the amount a Mustang needed for the return flight—it was time to pull up and begin plotting the course back to Iwo Jima.

78th Fighter Group

Jerry looked over at Phil, who was still on his wing, and give him a thumbs up.  Phil looked back and returned the gesture.

With the battle of Tokyo complete, Jerry set his course back out to the ocean and banked to the south. The three other Mustangs in Jerry’s squadron returned with him. A few moments later, as they approached the coast where they would rendezvous with the navigational B-29s, they neared a cloud cover in front of them, often the case when approaching the atmospheric temperature inversions near the coast. With Phil still tight on his wing, Jerry led the four Mustangs into the cloud bank. Flying at an altitude of about 7,000 feet, Jerry focused his eyes on his navigation instruments, as the interior of the white, puffy clouds blocking his view of everything else.

But when the Mustangs emerged on the other side of the clouds, a devastating reality soon surfaced. Phil was gone. Most likely, he had been brought down by antiaircraft bullets fired into the clouds. There was no sign of him.

Jerry was devastated. When he landed at Iwo Jima, meanwhile, he learned something else: the war was over. The emperor had announced Japan’s surrender three hours earlier.  The code word UTAH had been broadcast to U.S. aircraft over the country, but the word had not reached the planes of the 78th until they landed.

Capt. Jerry Yellin

It was a surreal feeling as Jerry climbed out of his plane and jumped down to the airfield, standing on a once-bloody Pacific island. Now, suddenly, it was a world at peace. The men of the 78th had a saying, “Alive in ’45.” That had been their goal, and now it was their reality.

As Jerry walked away from his plane, another realization hit him: he had just flown the final combat mission of the war, and Phil was the final combat death of the great war. One day, after Jerry had time to collect his emotions and his thoughts, the great historical significance of the mission he’d just flown would sink in. But for now, one thought consumed his mind.

At last, it was time to go home.

I previously did an article about Captain Yellin when he was still helping to teach us about WWII.

Captain Jerome Yellin – 15 February 1924 – 21 December 2017

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Zach Brown – Chehalis, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/457th Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Allan Carson – Nelson, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 421317, WWII, pilot

From, Anna, Maiden On The Midway

Robert DeBusschere – Detroit, MI; US Army, WWII, A/B

Marvin ‘Curly’ East – Denver, CO; US Army, WWII, ETO, 110th Antiaircraft Artillery

Joseph Goodman – New Boston, PA; US Navy, WWII, USS Benson

Elizabeth (Meadows) Huey – Homer, LA; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Jesse James – AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Willard Lantz – Mapleton, MN; US Navy, WWII, Seaman 1st Class, USS Elkart

Wayne Pomeroy – Mesa, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 tail gunner

Doris Ward – ENG; British Army ATS, WWII, ETO

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Reporting From the Front

The Writing 69th

After writing one too many stories about troops who had taken off to bomb Germany never to come back, Andy Rooney, along with seven other World War II correspondents, wanted to see the action.

After weeks of begging, the reporters finally got their wish and were sent to gunnery school for a week of intensive training to prepare for the assignment. Despite their noncombatant status as journalists, the military insisted the reporters, who dubbed themselves the “Writing 69th,” needed to have enough combat knowledge to be helpful in case something went wrong during the flight.

Andy Rooney

“We were shot at,” Rooney told On Patrol in 2011. “I was at mid-side gunner. I operated a gun even though I was a correspondent. We weren’t supposed to, but I mean I was up there, and all the other guys were shooting so I had to pay my way.”

“I fired at every German fighter that came into the neighborhood,” Walter Cronkite wrote in his 1996 book, “A Reporter’s Life.” “I don’t think I hit any, but I’d like to think I scared a couple of those German pilots.”

Their planes were damaged, but Rooney and Cronkite made it back alive. One of their colleagues wasn’t as lucky. New York Times reporter Bob Post and the B-24 bomber he was flying in were never found.

Over 1,600 war correspondents flocked to the European and Pacific theaters during WWII to report back to millions of Americans back home.

Some correspondents, like Associated Press reporter Daniel De Luce, were newly minted storytellers with little experience. He worked at the AP for a decade before the war, first on and off as a copyboy and later as a reporter in Europe in 1939.

Dan DeLuce and his wife Alma

Dan De Luce and his wife, Alma pose for a photo during a farewell gathering in March 1939. A few days later they were in New York waiting to travel to Normandy, France. | Photo credit Photo courtesy of Richard De Luce

De Luce wrote stories from the European, African and Russian fronts, including a 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning story about partisans in Yugoslavia.

“Gee, I was thrilled to death, it seemed so romantic,” De Luce said in Karen Rothmyer’s book, “Winning Pulitzers: The Stories Behind Some of the Best News Coverage of our Time.” “I had this idea that I wanted to go over and see what was happening.”

Walter Cronkite’s War

Other correspondents, like the United Press’ Cronkite, were experienced but relatively unknown journalists at the beginning of the war. They hoped reporting overseas would help them make a name in the business. Cronkite, who dropped out of the University of Texas for a reporting job at the Houston Post, worked a series of print and radio gigs before joining the UP in 1939. After years of begging to be sent to cover the war in Europe, he got his wish in 1942.

Far from a veteran reporter, Cronkite still started the war off with considerably more experience than Rooney, a Stars and Stripes scribe who edited his college newspaper

Though journalists battled both technology and censors, they were mostly free to report anything they dared to get out and see.

“They let those guys do what they needed to do,” said Brian Rooney, who covered the Gulf War. “There was some censorship [in WWII], but they allowed them to be reporters.”

Brian Rooney

From the beginning, Stars and Stripes gave Andy Rooney his own jeep, which allowed him to roam and write poignant profiles on officers, GIs and everyday people at war.

“My father did a story about this touching scene about a popular officer dying,” Brian Rooney said. “And [the military] would allow that kind of stuff to be published because they had free access.”

From Correspondents to Legends

After the war, a few of the correspondents who gained fame at war went on to become journalism icons.

Cronkite worked for years at CBS as an anchor and editor, earning the reputation as the “most trusted man in America.” Rooney also made a name for himself on CBS and hosted the “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” segment on “60 Minutes” from 1964 to 2011.

De Luce, never transitioned into the broadcast world, but he reported for AP as a foreign correspondent for 17 years before ending his career with the organization as an executive in New York.

They all said their time as WWII correspondents were some of the most formative years of their lives.

“It was an exciting time,” Rooney told On Patrol. “It was a great experience and I was lucky to come through it alive.”

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War Correspondent Humor – 

 

Political cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Donald Carragher – Newark, NJ; US Navy, WWII, ETO, SeaBee signalman

Margery Deluco (100) – OH; US Army WAC, WWII, ETO, nurse

Burt C. Frank – Ravenna, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, pilot

Owen Garriott – Enid, OK; US Navy, / NASA, pilot, Astronaut

David Hart (101) – Montreal, CAN; Canadian Army, WWII,Sgt. / Lt. Colonel (Ret. 24 y.)

Robert Oakley – Long Island, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 511/11th Airborne Division

Salvatore Privitera – Hartford, CT; US Army, WWII, combat engineer

Robert ‘Bruce’ Strick – Portland, OR; US Army, WWII

Richard Thomson – League City, TX; US Navy, Pearl Harbor, Seaman 2nd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA

Robert Wallace – Pensacola, FL; US Navy, WWII, ETO, PBY pilot

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Japan’s Underwater Aircraft Carriers – part one

Lieutenant Commander Stephen L. Johnson had a problem on his hands; a very large problem. His Balao-class submarine, the Segundo, had just picked up a large radar contact on the surface about 100 miles off Honshu, one of Japan’s home islands, heading south toward Tokyo.  World War II in the Pacific had just ended, and the ensuing cease fire was in its 14th day. The official peace documents would not be signed for several more days.

As Johnson closed on the other vessel, he realized it was a gigantic submarine, so large in fact that it first looked like a surface ship in the darkness. The Americans had nothing that size, so he realized that it had to be a Japanese submarine.

This was the first command for the lanky 29-year-old commander. He and his crew faced the largest and perhaps the most advanced submarine in the world. The Japanese I-401 was longer than a football field and had a surface displacement of 5,233 tons, more than three times the Segundo’s displacement. More troubling though was the sub’s bristling weaponry that included a 5.5-inch gun on her aft deck, three triple-barreled 25mm antiaircraft guns, a single 25mm gun mounted on the bridge, and eight large torpedo tubes in her bow.

During a brief ceremony aboard one of the aircraft carrier submarines, the Japanese naval ensign is lowered and replaced by the Stars and Stripes as the vessel is turned over to the control of the U.S. Navy after Japan’s surrender

The large sub displayed the mandatory black surrender flag, but when the Segundo edged forward, the Japanese vessel moved rapidly into the night. The movement and the continuing display of the Rising Sun flag caused concern.  Johnson’s vessel pursued the craft that eventually slowed down as dawn approached. He brought his bow torpedo tubes to bear on the craft as the two vessels settled into a Mexican standoff.

Johnson and his crew had received permission by now to sink the reluctant Japanese vessel if necessary, but he realized he had a career-boosting and perhaps a technologically promising prize in his sights. Much depended on this untried American submarine captain and his wily opponent in the seas off Japan.

Little did Johnson know that the Japanese submarine was a part of the I-400 squadron, basically underwater aircraft carriers, and that the I-401 carried Commander Tatsunosuke Ariizumi, developer of the top-secret subs initially designed to strike the U.S. homeland in a series of surprise attacks. Ariizumi was considered the “father of the I-400 series” and a loyal follower of the emperor with years of experience in the Japanese Navy, so surrender was a disgrace he could not endure

Johnson also had to contend with Lt. Cmdr. Nobukiyo Nambu, skipper of the I-401, who traced his combat experience back to Pearl Harbor. He now commanded the world’s largest submarine designed to carry three state-of-the-art attack planes in a specially built hanger located atop the vessel. These secret Aichi M6A1 planes were initially designed for “a second Pearl Harbor” or another surprise attack, possibly even against New York City or Washington, D.C. The I-400 series submarines were themselves full of technological surprises.  They were capable of traveling around the world one and a half times without refueling, had a top surface speed of 19 knots (or nearly 22 miles per hour), and could remain on patrol for four months, twice as long as the Segundo.

Neither Nambu nor Commander Ariizumi readily accepted the emperor’s surrender statement when it was broadcast on August 15. The subsequent communiqués from Tokyo were exceptionally confusing, especially Order 114, which confirmed that peace had been declared – but that all submarines were to “execute predetermined missions and attack the enemy if discovered.”

It was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of Japan’s Combined Fleet and developer of the Pearl Harbor attack, who called for the construction of the I-400 series some three weeks after Pearl Harbor.  Once Japan was committed to war, he believed that submarine aircraft carriers dropping bombs “like rain” over major U.S. cities would surely cause the American people to “lose their will to fight.” A second surprise attack with even more to come would prove psychologically devastating to the Americans.

Yamamoto called for the construction of 18 of the massive submarines carrying a total of 36 attack planes. The name of the special submarine class was abbreviated to Sen-toku.

The attack planes had to be designed from scratch. The need for speed, range and a decent sized bomb payload required tradeoffs. The wings had to be foldable to fit inside the tube, or hangar, atop the submarine. The design work, testing, and building of the plane was outsourced to the Aichi Aircraft Company.

The I-400 program did have its detractors in the heavily bureaucratic Imperial Japanese Navy.  After the defeat at Midway in early June 1942, Japan became more focused on defending the homeland and far less on possible attacks on the U.S. mainland using the large submarines. The death of Yamamoto in mid-April 1943, played further into the hands of conservative Japanese commanders. Cutbacks were ordered in the number of submarines to be built.  .

The first test flight of the Aichi attack plane occurred on November 8, 1943. The plane, called Seiran or “storm from a clear sky,” reportedly handled fairly well as the world’s first sub-borne attack bomber. The Japanese began compiling limited available information on the heavily fortified Panama Canal. Their analysis showed that destroying the gate opening onto Gatun Lake would create a massive outpouring of water, destroying the other gates in its path while rushing toward the Caribbean Sea.

After weeks of planning, the Japanese came up with a strategy to attack the Gatun locks at dawn when the gates were closed and presumably the defenses were lax. The planners had nearly a full year to formulate the attack for early 1945. But there were problems ahead because none of the submarines were complete and the planes were not yet in the production stage.

I-400 Class submarine

The Japanese labored on, and by the end of 1944 the I-400 and the smaller I-13 were completed and turned over to the Navy. In early January 1945, the I-401 was commissioned  and the I-14, the last of the underwater aircraft carriers, was put into service by mid-March 1945.

As an important aside, it should be noted that while preparations for the attack on the Panama Canal went forward, Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, vice-chief of the Naval General Staff, floated another idea for the use of the Sen-toku submarines. He suggested arming the Seiran planes with biological weapons to be unleashed against a populated area on the West Coast of the United States.

Dr. Shiro Ishii, Japan’s top virus expert and head of the Army’s notorious 731 unit in Manchuria, was consulted. He recommended that the planes drop plague-inflected fleas, something he had tested with success in China, on the United States with San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego suggested as targets. The plan was discarded in late March by the head of the Army’s general staff who called it  “unpardonable on humanitarian grounds.”

In effect, the Japanese Army, which had led the development of biological weapons and had tested them on Chinese and American captives, nixed the idea of using the weapons late in the war on American civilians, perhaps in the belief that the war was already lost.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ernest Bargiel – Trafford, PA; US Army, WWII, medic

Alzena McNabb Bibb (99) – Corbin, KY; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Paul Copenhaver – Syracuse, NE; USMC, WWII, 3rd Marines

Ewell Foglemann – Dallas, TX; US Army, WWII, ETO, Pfc, Co. C/112/5th Engineer Corps

Ada Kirk (100) – Waipukurau, NZ; RAF # 895704, WWII, Cpl.

Donald Lawson – Elgin, KS; US Navy, WWII

Meddie Mojica – Asis, Cavite, PI; Filipino guerrilla & US Navy, WWII

William T. O’Keefe – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Mark Smith – Indianapolis, IN; USMC, Iraq, Colonel (Ret. 32 y.)

Jesse Weber – Arvada, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot

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The Forgotten Fleet

Five British aircraft carriers at anchor at war’s end: HMS Indefatigable, Unicorn, Illustrious, Victorious, and Formidable

The Royal Navy was struggling to overcome its failure earlier in the Pacific, but during 1945, this forgotten fleet fought back dramatically to stand with the U.S. Navy against a storm of kamikaze attacks.

British naval operations in the Far East in World War II started badly and went downhill from there. Years of underfunding in defense meant that Britain simply did not have the means to defend its huge empire, and for 18 months prior to the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, it had stood alone against Nazi Germany.

Barracks at Tokishuma airfield, Shikoku Province, in the Japanese home islands, under attack by British naval aircraft, July 24, 1945. The planes were launched by HMS Victorious, Formidable, Indefatigable, and Implacable.

The Royal Navy was primarily committed to the Battle of the Atlantic, keeping open the all important sea lanes upon which the island nation’s survival depended. In the Far East, there were only token naval forces available to meet the Japanese attack, and in that part of the world Britannia’s claim to rule the ocean waves was immediately exposed for the empty rhetoric it had become.

The Pacific Ocean had never been a main operating area for the Royal Navy, so it was not geared or experienced for that sea’s vast distances in the way the U.S. Navy was; its vessels did not have the same cruising ranges and could not remain on station as long as the Yanks. So Task Force 57 started its operational life at a distinct disadvantage. This was compounded by having an inadequate supply fleet.

An auxiliary ship of Task Force 57 (center) refuels a British destroyer at sea. The Royal Navy struggled with logistics and resupply over the vast distances of the Pacific.

Because of the nature of the war it had been fighting in the Atlantic, the Royal Navy also had relatively little experience in large-scale carrier operations against land targets, which were the bread and butter of the U.S. Navy. For that reason, Task Force 57 practiced against targets in Sumatra when en route to the Pacific to gain experience and at the same time wreck some Japanese oil refineries.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the senior American naval officer in the Pacific, gave Task Force 57 a gracious welcome, signaling, “The British Carrier Task Force and attached units will increase our striking power and demonstrate our unity of purpose against Japan. The U.S. Pacific Fleet welcomes you.”

A British-marked Grumman TBM Avenger aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, returning from an attack on Sakishima Gunto, flies above the HMS Indomitable in March 1945.

It was certainly not a token contribution. The combat elements of Task Force 57 at that time comprised four fleet carriers embarking 207 combat aircraft, two battleships, five cruisers, and 11 destroyers. There were also six escort aircraft carriers guarding the fleet train and ferrying replacement aircraft.

Commanding this formidable naval armament was Vice Admiral Sir Henry B.H. Rawlings. He and Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, at the helm of the American Fifth Fleet and directly in charge of all naval forces at Okinawa, worked well together.

By the end of April, the verdict on Task Force 57’s actions so far was generally considered “not bad.” The British were on a steep learning curve, getting used to a type of operation for which they were not properly equipped or trained. It had to refuel and resupply more frequently than the U.S. Navy and were still having serious problems with replenishment at sea.

An obsolescent Fairy Swordfish torpedo bomber approaches the HMS Victorious during operations. The ship was hit by three kamikazes during the Okinawa operation but survived.

In late May 1945, Task Force 57 broke off after 62 days at sea, returning to base to refit, resupply, and repair battle damage. Its first major missions of the Pacific War were over.

There would be more action to come, including Operation Inmate (June 14-16), involving air attacks on the main Japanese naval bastion at Truk in the western Caroline Islands, as well as raids on Japan itself in the run up to the planned invasion.

The British raids—both by air and shore bombardment—continued right up to August 15, 1945, and the Japanese surrender to the Allies; the second British task force, built around another four fleet carriers and one battleship squadron, arrived too late to take part in the fighting. By VJ Day, the Royal Navy Pacific Fleet had 80 principal warships (including nine large and nine escort aircraft carriers), 30 smaller combat vessels, and 29 submarines.

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British Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Gerald Ballard, Scranton, IA; US Coast Guard, WWII / USNR (Ret.)

Philip Corfman – Bowie, MD; US Navy, WWII, PTO / World Health Org. & FDA

Paul Gifford – Troy, NY; US Navy, WWII & Korea, corpsman, USS Shangri-La & Tranquility

Joe Jackson – Kent, WA; US Air Force, Vietnam, Medal of Honor

Charles Kettles – Ypsilanti, MI; US Army, Vietnam, Medal of Honor

Fernand Martin – Debden, CAN; Canadian Army, WWII, ETO

Gabriel Nasti – St. Augustine, FL; US Army, WWII, PTO, 20th Infantry/6th Division

Svend Nielsen – Copenhagen, DEN; Civilian, Danish Resistance, WWII, ETO

Jan-Michael Vincent – Hanford, CA; Army National Guard / beloved actor

Allen Wright (102) – Red Willow City, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, MSgt., Chemical Corps / USAR, Major (Ret. 31 y.)

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OSS in Kunming, China

Julia Child with OSS colleagues

The OSS group that included Julia Child and her future husband Paul found themselves in a flood in mid-August 1945.  But what they were encountering was nothing compared to the civilians.  Chinese villages of mud huts were “melting like chocolate.”  Farmers drowned in their own fields.  As the flooding began to subside, Japan was hit with the second atomic bomb.

The incoming Russian soldiers only added to the Pandora’s box that was already opened in China.  The OSS HQ in Kunming went into overdrive.  Eight mercy missions were launched to protect the 20,000 American and Allied POW’s and about 15,000 civilian internees.

Elizabeth McIntosh w/ colleagues during Kunming flood

All the frantic preparations – for rescue operations, food and medical drops and evacuation – had to undertaken despite the weather conditions.  Adding to the drama was the uncertain fate of the 6-man OSS team dispatched to Mukden in Manchuria to rescue General “Skinny” Wainwright, who endured capture along with his men since Corregidor in May 1942.

There was also evidence that other high-ranking Allied officials were held in the camp, such as General Arthur E. Percival, the former commander of Singapore.

On August 28, 1945, General Jonathan Wainwright steps down from a C-47 transport in Chunking, China, after three arduous years in a Japanese prison camp.

The OSS mercy missions were treated very badly.  Officers were held up by Chinese soldiers and robbed of the arms and valuables.  The mood in China was changing very quickly.  Even in Chungking, the Chinese troops were becoming anti-foreign and uncooperative.

Word from Hanoi was that the OSS was beset with problems there as well.  Thousands of still-armed Japanese were attempting to keep order in French Indochina.  Paul Child told his brother he well expected a civil war to start there very soon.  The French refused to recognize the Republic of Vietnam and worked with the British to push for “restoration of white supremacy in the Orient”.

OSS in Ho Chi Minh, Indochina

The French were becoming more and more anti-American.  They were using agents with stolen US uniforms to provoke brawls and cause disturbances.  The British were dropping arms to French guerrilla  forces to be used to put down the independence movement.

In Kunming, the streets were littered with red paper victory signs and exploded fireworks.  Some of the signs were written in English and bore inscriptions reading, “Thank you, President Roosevelt and President Chiang!” and “Hooray for Final Glorious Victory!”  Paper dragons 60-feet long whirled through alleyways, followed by civilians with flutes, gongs and drums.

The weeks that followed would be a letdown.  Most of them were unprepared for the abrupt end to the war.  Peace had brought a sudden vacuum.  One day there was purpose and then – nothing had any meaning.  The OSS would go back to their drab civilian lives.

Click on images to enlarge.

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“Secret ?”  Military Humor – 

CIA, ‘It’s Ferguson, our ‘Master of Disguise,’ sir — he’s having an identity crisis.’

‘I don’t have any formal training, but I do own the complet boxed set of ‘Get Smart’ DVD’s.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Dalton Jr. – Charlotte, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Clinton Daniel – Anderson, SC; US Army, WWII, PTO

Richard Farden – Rochester, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 95th Bomber Group/8th Air Force

Murphy Jones Sr. – Baton Rouge, LA; US Air Force, Vietnam, Colonel, ‘Hanoi Hilton’ POW

Robert Haas – Toledo, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co C/127 Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Dorothy Holmes – Colorado Springs, CO; US Air Force, Korea & Vietnam, Chief Master Sgt. (Ret. 30 y.)

Arnold ‘Pete’ Petersen – Centerville, UT; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division, Purple Heart

Alfred Rodrigues Sr. (99)  – HI; US Navy, WWII, Pearl Harbor survivor

Tito Squeo – Molfetta, ITA; US Merchant Marines, WWII, diesel engineer

Joseph Wait – Atlanta, GA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, pilot

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Kamikaze Pilot Took His Wife On Fatal Flight

Tetsuo Tanifuji and wife, Asako

Even though World War Two had come to an end, the story of a Japanese couple who met their death in a deliberate kamikaze suicide flight against Soviet troops has come to light and has been turned into a television program.

Tetsuo Tanifuji was a trained kamikaze pilot for the Japanese Imperial Navy, however, for his very last flight, he decided to take his wife, Asako with him.

Even though the bombs had been dropped and Japan was on the verge of surrender, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and was trying to take large areas of Japanese-controlled land in North China and the Northern Territory islands off Japan. Thousands of Japanese troops and civilians were making their way back to the Japanese mainland in defeat, so the invasion by Soviet troops was causing more chaos, attacking any military or civilians they came across.

Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered to Allied forces and four days later ten pilots from the Japanese Imperial Navy’s First Kyoiku Unit decided to launch an aerial attack on the incoming Soviet troops, to help other Japanese military and civilians in their retreat to the mainland.

Tetsuo was a Second Lieutenant and just 22 years old. He collected his wife, and together they climbed inside the Type 97 fighter plane. It is reported that another woman also joined another of the unit’s pilots in another aircraft.

Kamikaze memorial

They took off from their airbase and were never to be seen again. None of the aircraft that took part in the attack returned, and no records of the mission existed or survived. It wasn’t until 1957 that the Japanese military declared Tetsuo was killed in action and not until 1970 that Asako’s family received her death certificate.

The story has been turned into a television drama in Japan. However, the families of the couple are concerned about the story being dramatized. One family member said that no war stories are ‘heart-warming’ since they are shrouded in the misery of war. Another family member said that she would have done the same thing as Asako if she had made the decision to die with her husband.

Overall the family hopes that it will educate the younger generation about the devastation of war, and to oppose any attempts by politicians to get involved in armed conflict.

This author agrees.

From War History on line.

For a more personal look at this situation click HERE…..

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Gordon Banks – Elgin IL; USMC, WWII & Korea, Captain

Alexander Disanto – Mantua, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 507/11th Airborne Division

Phillip Goddard – Des Moines, IA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Corps of Engineers

John Horrall – Spokane, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 10th Mountain Division

Henning Knudson – Havre, MT; US Navy, WWII

Richard Luchsinger (102) – Moline, IL; US Army, WWII

Hugo Meyer – ID; US Army, WWII, PTO

Howard Nelson – Kathryn, ND; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

Stanley Raynham – Eltham, ENG; Royal Navy, WWII

John Widelski – New Bedford, MA; US Navy, gunner’s mate, USS Wingfield & Bronstein

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Peace Bombers Arrive

From the most thorough researchers on the Pacific War…..

IHRA

The title and written content of this week’s post come to you from the 63rd Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group’s history. Once again, we’re focusing on that August 19, 1945 flight that stopped over in Ie Shima on the way to Manila to discuss the Japanese surrender.

On August 19th, the men on Ie Shima witnessed history in the making, as at 12:30 p.m. two white Jap Bettys approached the island escorted by hordes of P-38s, 2 PBYs, two B-25s and other elements of our efficacious air force. After making two trips around the island, the Bettys landed gracefully on Mocha strip which was lined up with M.P.s and thousands of curious soldiers. As the ships taxied down the runway, their bespectacled engineers stood half out of their open top hatches. They were bedecked in most elaborate flying attire—leather jackets, flying helmets, and goggles. One couldn’t help but think how uncomfortably…

View original post 176 more words

“Flying Pancake” – Vought V-173

Flying Pancake, V-173

Flying Pancake, V-173

The Vought V-173 “Flying Pancake” was an American experimental test aircraft designed by Charles H. Zimmerman and was built as part of the Vought XF5U “Flying Flapjack” World War II United States Navy fighter aircraft program.

Both the V-173 and the XF5U featured a rather unorthodox “all-wing” design consisting of flat, somewhat disk-shaped bodies (hence the name) serving as the lifting surface. Two piston engines buried in the body drove propellers located on the leading edge at the wing tips.

The original prototype, designated the V-173, was built of wood and canvas and featured a regular, fully symmetrical aerofoil section. Designed as a “proof-of-concept” prototype, the initial configuration V-173 was built as a lightweight test model powered by two 80 hp Continental A-80 engines turning F4U Corsair propellers.

These were later replaced by a pair of specially modified 16 ft 6 in three-bladed units. A tall, fixed main undercarriage combined with a small tailwheel gave the aircraft a 22° “nose-high” angle.

Ground testing of the V-173, c. 1942
Ground testing of the V-173, c. 1942

The disc wing design featured a low aspect ratio that overcame the built-in disadvantages of induced drag created at the wingtips with the large propellers actively cancelling the drag-causing tip vortices.

The propellers were arranged to rotate in the opposite direction to the tip vortices, allowing the aircraft to fly with a much smaller wing area. The small wing provided high maneuverability with greater structural strength.

In January 1942, the Bureau of Aeronautics requested a proposal for two prototype aircraft of an experimental version of the V-173, known as the VS-135.

The development version, the Vought XF5U-1, was a larger aircraft with all-metal construction and was almost five times heavier than the first prototype.

1428_25
Diagram of the complicated powertrain

The first flight of the V-173 was on 23 November 1942 with Vought Chief Test Pilot Boone Guyton at the controls. The aircraft’s most significant problem concerned its complicated gearbox that routed power from the engines to its two long propeller shafts.

The gearbox produced unacceptable amounts of vibration in ground testing, delaying the aircraft’s first test flight for months.

Vought V-173

Vought V-173

Charles Lindbergh piloted the V-173 during this time and found that it was surprisingly easy to handle and exhibited impressive low-speed capabilities.

On one occasion, the V-173 was forced to make an emergency landing on a beach. As the pilot made his final approach, he noticed two bathers directly in his path. The pilot locked the aircraft’s brakes on landing, causing it to flip over onto its back.

Maiden Flight for the V-173

Maiden Flight for the V-173

Remarkably, the airframe proved so strong that neither the plane nor the pilot sustained any significant damage.

The developmental V-173 made its last flight 31 March 1947. In 131.8 hours of flying over 190 flights, Zimmerman’s theory of a near-vertical takeoff and landing-capable fighter had been proven.

The V-173 is now part of the Smithsonian collection at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland.

V-173 on display

V-173 on display

It was restored at the Vought Aircraft plant in Grand Prairie, Texas, as of April 2012 it is on loan to the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas.

This 3-minute video shows the model and actual plane flying.

 

Article is from War History online.

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Military Humor –

funny-speed-enforcement1

Speed limit enforced by aircraft.

Watch out for speed traps !!

Watch out for speed traps !!

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Lee Alexander – Ashton, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Atereiti Blair – NZ; NZ Air Force, WWII, nurse

Rufus Britt – Gassville, AR; US Navy, WWII, electrician, USS O’Toole

John Cotton – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Richard Ennis – WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, POW

Roland Hayes Jr. – Shelbourne, NH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

Nelon “Tex” LaCount – Syracuse, NY; USMC, WWII, PTO / Korea, Sgt.

Georges Loinger (108) – Strasbourg, FRA; French Army, POW (escaped), French Resistance

Victor Mellen – W. Pelham, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 1st Lt., navigator

Stephen O’Brien – Dubuque, IA; US Army, WWII & Korea

Doris (Gradwell) Plagenhoef – Scarbourgh, ME; US Army WAC, WWII, PTO, nurse

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Eye Witness Account – Edward Dager

“We Gave Our Best” by: Kayleen Reusser

From : “WE GAVE OUR BEST” by Kayleen Reusser

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

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

Ed Dager, SSgt, US Army Air Corps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Dager

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

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

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

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

Ed and Mavis Dager, R.I.P.

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

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Zinn – London, ENG; Civilian, Red Cross

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