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Honoring Merrill’s Marauders

There is a passing member of Merrill’s Marauders in the Farewell Salutes today.   This post is an attempt to honor their contributions.

James E. Richardson

“If they can walk and carry a gun,” Major General Joseph Stillwell presciently told Brigadier General Frank Merrill in 1943, “they can fight!”

After being run out of the Burmese jungle by the Japanese in May of 1942, Stillwell had, according to one war correspondent, appeared “like the wrath of God and cursing like a fallen angel.”

The general didn’t mince his words either, telling reporters that the joint expedition between a small contingent of American, British, and Chinese troops “got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake it.”

Gen. Stillwell

The following year a determined Stillwell took a major step toward getting his wish, as allied leaders, many who sought to rectify the previous campaign’s novice display of jungle fighting, mapped out a plan for a ground unit trained and equipped to engage in “long-range penetration” missions.

In what was to be the forerunner for today’s special forces units, 3,000 American men volunteered for the newly formed 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) — code name: Galahad.

Dubbed Merrill’s Marauders after their commander, the men were tasked with a “dangerous and hazardous mission” behind Japanese lines in Burma, where the fall of the country’s capital of Rangoon had severely threatened the Allied supply line to China.  The Marauders were tasked with cutting off Japanese communications and supply lines and pushing enemy forces north out of the town of Myitkyina, the only city with an all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma.

Merrill’s Marauders

Although operational for only a few months, Merrill’s Marauders gained a fierce reputation for hard fighting and tenacity as the first American infantry force to see ground action in Asia.

“Highly trained infantrymen whom we regard today as heroes, such as the Special Forces, look to Merrill’s Marauders as role models,” Eames said in a press release. “The unimaginable conditions these men successfully fought through changed the understanding of the limits of human endurance in armed conflict. The Congressional Gold Medal brings them the public recognition they deserve. We are honored to have assisted in getting it across the finish line.”

2 Aug. ’44, 75 yards from enemy positions, US Army Signal Corps, Merrill’s Marauders. named 5307th Composite Unit

Reached by email, Eames said he became involved after a colleague and fellow attorney, Scott Stone, met Marauders Bob Passanisi and Gilbert Howland in the cafeteria of the Senate Dirksen Building.

“When he found out why they were there, he immediately offered to help,” Eames said. “One of the first things he did was call us, and I agreed to get a team involved.”

For the other surviving Marauders, the acknowledgement is somewhat bittersweet.

2 of the survivors of Merrill’s Marauders

“This recognition means so much to me and the other survivors and our families,” Passanisi, Merrill’s Marauders Association’s spokesperson, said in the release. “My one regret is that only eight of us are alive to enjoy this historic honor.”  (now only 7 remain).

Passanisi was luckier than most. Traversing nearly 1,000 miles behind enemy lines, the Marauders marched over some of the most treacherous terrain in the world, combating not only a determined enemy, but fighting off myriad diseases, scorching heat, venomous snakes, and bloodsucking leeches.

The exploits of the Marauders and their daring mission to recapture the vital town and airstrip at Myitkyina made headlines throughout the United States in 1944 — but at a steep cost.

movie poster, Merrill’s Marauders

After five months of combat, 95 percent of the Marauders were dead, wounded, or deemed no longer medically fit for combat. By the time the force was deactivated in August 1944, many, including Congress, wondered whether Stillwell had sacrificed the Marauders due to poor planning and his own dreams of glory and revenge.  Still, despite the unit’s staggering losses — fighting in five major battles and over 30 other engagements — the Marauders became one of the most renowned units to come out of World War II, carrying with them a legacy of bravery and the fortitude of the human spirit.

Seventy-six years later, the recognition by Congress shines “a light on that forgotten theater in the Pacific that was so crucial in defeating the Japanese,” said Gilbert Howland, a Marauder veteran.

“We did it because our country needed us.”

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Fay (Fotini) Argy – Camden, NJ; Civilian, Bud Manufacturing, WWII, bombs

Mary ‘Lorraine’ Bromley – Rock Island, IL; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Frank DeNoia – New haven, CT; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Canberra

Kenneth Fenton – Paraparaumu, NZ; NZ Army # 30202, WWII, ETO & PTO / Vietnam, Colonel (Ret. 32 y.)

William J. LaVigne II – USA; US Army, Afghanistan & Iraq, MSgt., HQ Co/Special Operation Command, 2 Bronze Stars

Anna McNett – Grand Rapids, MI; US Navy WAVES, WWII

Richard Nowers – Atkinson, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 507th Fighter Group, 3 Bronze Stars

Anthony Polizzi – NY; US Air Force, Captain, 15th Maintenance Group, Wing Comdr.

James E. Richardson – Knoxville, TN; US Army, WWII, CBI, Merrill’s Marauder

William Salley – Springfield, SC; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Lt. Colonel (Ret.), Purple Heart

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Ordnance Spitfire in the Pacific War

Australia’s highest scoring fighter pilot of WWII, Clive ‘Killer’ Caldwell, helps push his Spitfire CR-C JL394 out of camouflage, Aug. 1943

The Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Indian Air Force and the RAF also used Spitfires against Japanese forces in the Pacific theater. The first Spitfires in the Far East were two photo-reconnaissance (PR IV) aircraft which operated from airfields in India from October 1942.

Clive Caldwell

Japanese raids on Northern Australia hastened the formation in late 1942 of No. 1 Wing RAAF comprising No. 54 RAF Squadron No. 452 Squadron RAAF, and No. 457 Squadron RAAF under the command of  Clive Caldwell. The wing arrived at Darwin in February 1943, and saw constant action until September. The Mk Vc versions received by the RAAF proved unreliable and, initially at least, had a relatively high loss rate. This was due to several factors, including pilot inexperience, engine over-speed due to the loss of oil from the propeller speed reduction unit (a problem resolved by the use of a heavier grade of oil), and the practice of draining glycol coolant before shipment, resulting in internal corrosion of the Merlin engines.

Another factor in the initial high attrition rate was the relatively short endurance of the Spitfire, most of the sorties were, flown over the wide expanse of ocean between Australia, New Guinea and Timor. Even when fitted with drop tanks the Spitfires could not afford to fly too far from base without the danger of running out of fuel over water. As a result, when an incoming raid was detected, the Spitfires were forced to climb as fast as possible in an attempt to get into a favorable position.

RCAF Spitfire 411 Squadron

In the prevailing hot, humid climate this meant that the Merlin engines were often overheating even before combat was joined. The Spitfires were fitted with the Vokes tropical filters which reduced performance: in an attempt to increase performance the filters on several Spitfires were removed and replaced by the standard non-tropicalized air intake and lower engine cowlings which had been manufactured by the base workshops. The experiment proved to be a failure and the Spitfires were quickly refitted with the tropical filters.

Many of the Australian and British airmen who flew in 1 Wing were experienced combat veterans, some of whom who had flown P-40s with the Desert Air Force in North Africa, while others had flown Spitfires over Europe. They were used to being able to outmaneuver opposing fighters and were shocked to discover that the Zeros they were now flying against were able to outmaneuver the Spitfire.

Raid on Darwin (May 2, 1943)

Strength

Japanese                Australians and British

27 Zeros                33 spitfires

25 Bombers

Aircraft lost

6-10                    14

That was just one raid.. For almost two years beginning Feb 1942 the airspace over North West Australia was routinely penetrated by Japanese raids, about 70 in total.

Spitfires in Darwin

By mid-1943 the heavy losses imposed on the Japanese Navy in the Solomon Islands campaign and in New Guinea meant that the JNAF could not keep up its attacks on northern Australia. Other units equipped with the Spitfires in the SW Pacific Area included No. 79 Squadron, No. 85 Squadron RAAF, No. 458 Squadron RAF and No. 459 Squadron RAF.

In the SE Asia, the first Spitfire Vcs reached three squadrons on the India-Burma front in November 1943. Spitfire pilots met Japanese for the first time on Boxing Day, 1943. A pair of Spitfires piloted by Flying Officer Geoffrey William Andrews and Flight Sergeant Harry B. Chatfield attacked a formation of Japanese planes over Chittagong.  Andrews destroyed a fighter and a bomber, damaging a second, while Chatfield shot down another two. On the last day of 1943, Royal Australian Air Force Spitfires destroyed eleven Japanese bombers and three fighters. Churchill complimented the Australian Squadron for their “brilliant exploit”.

Pilots trudge thru the mud at the advanced airbase in Burma after sorties with the Japanese.

Spitfires ensured that the Allies gained and held air superiority during the battles of Kohima and Imphal from early to mid 1944, in which the Japanese attempt to destroy the British 14th Army and invade India was also defeated. By 1945, when the Allies launched offensives into Burma, the Japanese were unable to challenge the Allies’ air supremacy. Spitfires took part in the last major pitched battle of the war involving the Western allies – No. 607 Squadron and No. 273 Squadron flying the MKVIII armed with 500 pound bombs helped destroy a Japan breakout attempt at Sittang Bend in July and early August 1945.

This post  was the suggestion of Dan Antion.

Resources: Pacific Spitfires.com; History Exchange; Wiki; Aviation Profiles.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Atterson – Clark Range, TN; US Army, Japanese Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

Howard E. Cook Jr, – W. Palm Beach, FL; US Navy, pilot

Courtesy of John @ https://lvphotoblog.com/

Frank ‘Slick’ Dercher – Kansas City, KS; US Navy, WWII, USS California

Patricia Felton – Queensland, NZ; RNZ Navy # 46253, WREN, WWII

James Garrison – Johnston, IA; US Army, WWII, PTO, 24th Division, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Clyde Hymel – Garyville, LA; USMC, WWII, PO, Silver Star

Millard “Smoke” Lea – Union City, IN; US Army, Korea, 101st Airborne Division

Robert Malone – Alexandria, VA; US Army, WWII

Paul Niloff – Sherbrooke, CAN, RC Army, WWII, Medical Corps

Ralph Peavy – Liberty, KY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Chuck Yeager – Myra, WV; US Army Air Corps, WWII, mechanic / pilot / test pilot / Vietnam, BGeneral (Ret. 34 y.), Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

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Ordnance P-38 Lightning

P-38 in the Pacific

Perhaps Colonel Ben Kelsey, a P-38 test pilot, summed up the war bird’s legacy best of all. “(That) comfortable old cluck,” he said, “would fly like hell, fight like a wasp upstairs, and land like a butterfly.”

The P-38 was the most successful USAAF fighter in the Pacific War. It served with four separate air forces, spread out from Australia to Alaska. The most successful American Ace of the Second World War, Major Richard Bong, scored all 40 of his victories flying the P-38 Lightning over the Pacific.

P-38

The 11th Air Force was allocated the task of defending the Aleutian Islands, in the far north of the Pacific. There the extra reliability provided by the twin engines of the P-38 was essential, with missions being flown over long distances and in poor weather. The first P-38 victories of the war fell to pilots of the 11th Air Force. On 4 August 1942 two Kawanishi flying boats were claimed by Lt. Kenneth Ambrose and Lt. Stanley Long of the 54th Fighter Squadron. The Aleutian islands did not retain their importance, and by the middle of 1943 the 11th was something of a backwater.

The 7th Air Force covered the Central Pacific. Its P-38s saw little combat, but flew endless hours of patrols over waters whose importance ended with the battle of Midway. The only exception was the 531st FS, which joined the force escorting bombers attacking Truk and Iwo Jima.

Cactus Air Force w/ P-38, by Jack Fellows

The two main uses of the P-38 in the Pacific were the 5th and 13th Air Forces. The 5th Air Force had been formed in Australia during 1942, and was soon active over Papua. The 13th was activated at the start of 1943, in the South Pacific. Its first HQ was on Espiritu Santo (now part of Vanuatu), in the New Hebrides. Its early duties took its aircraft into the Solomon Islands, and most famously onto Guadalcanal. As the war developed the areas of operations of the two air forces slowly came together, until on 15 June 1944 they were combined as part of the Far East Air Forces.

The 13th Air Force contained two P-38 Fighter Groups, the 18th and the 347th. In November 1942 aircraft from the 339th FS of the 347th FG were sent to Guadalcanal. They also operated against Japanese island bases in the Solomon Islands. They came together with the 5th Air Force during the Allied advance west along Papua and New Guinea, eventually taking over responsibility for neutralizing Rabaul.

SeaBees with a P-38

The 5th Air Force was the biggest user of the P-38, with four fighter groups (8th, 35th, 49th and 475th). During 1943 and the first part of 1944 they were engaged in the campaigns in Papua and New Guinea, first helping to repel the Japanese attempts to capture Port Moresby, and then in the long counter-attack that eventually pushed the Japanese off most of the island. They also had early responsibility for the campaign to neutralize the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul.

The P-38 was the primary American fighter during the invasion of the Philippines. It was able to operate from bases too primitive for the P-51D Mustang, which was thus unable to play a significant role in the early fighting in the Philippines. It would be P-38 units that were first to move back onto the Philippines, where they played a crucial role in destroying the Japanese air force on the islands.

P-38 Lightning, by Jack Fellows

The P-38 could generally out-climb and out-dive any Japanese fighters (other than the Kawasaki Ki-61 “Tony”, which was better armed and heavier than most Japanese fighters). It could not out-turn or out-maneuver the more nimble Japanese fighters, so successful American pilots learnt not to try. A formation of P-38s flown well could cope with just about any Japanese aircraft.

The P-38 was popular amongst American pilots for other reasons. Many pilots of single-engine aircraft learned to dread flying over the sea – if the engine failed over land, at least you could bail out and walk away, even if it was into captivity, but that option was not available hundreds of miles out to sea. In contrast, in a twin-engine P-38 a single engine failure posed only a minor problem, generally only delaying its return to a friendly base.

The Lightning was involved in the single most famous fighter mission of the Second World War. On 18 April 1943 a flight of P-38s from the 339th Fighter Squadron, based on Guadalcanal, flew a long range mission to intercept an aircraft carrying Admiral Yamamoto. His itinerary on a morale boasting tour of Japanese bases had been intercepted, and the code broken four days earlier. It was decided to make an attempt to intercept his aircraft. However, in order to prevent the Japanese realizing that their codes had been broken, the intercepting units had to fly a winding 400 mile route, making it look like the attack on Yamamoto’s aircraft had been a chance encounter. Only the P-38 had the range to carry out this long range mission. Yamamoto’s aircraft was successfully found and shot down, and the Admiral killed. The long range P-38 had inflicted a telling blow on Japanese morale.

This post was suggested by Will Pennington

Resources: Lockheed Martin; History of War; “P-38 Lightning Aces of the Pacific and CBI” by John Stanaway; air wing media and vbader.com

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Tomi Curry – Gary, IN; US Army Reserves

Thomas S. Dennison – Saskatchewan, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

Michael Goodboe – USA; US Navy SEAL, Middle East, Silver Star, 4 Bronze Stars / CIA paramilitary, KIA (Somalia)

Charlie Hare – Wheeling, WV; US Army, Korea, Co. F/187th RCT

Kelliann Leli – Palin, NJ; US Air Force, UAE, Captain, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Medic

Frank Macon – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII

James Russell – Lake Worth, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ Co/187/11th Airborne Division

Clayton E. Stoess (102) – Crestwood, KY; US Navy, WWII, Lt.

Walter A. Suberg (100) – Glenview, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, pilot

W. Robert Trounson – CA; US Army / Civilian, Stars & Stripes Chief Editor (Pacific)

Poem – “The Conversion”

From the C.B.I. Theater of operation Roundup newsletter came this poem of wisdom.  Just something to keep in mind – no matter what theater of operations OR which war the veteran emerges from….

THE CONVERSION

When bugles sound their final notes
And bombs explode no more
And we return to what we did
Before we went to war
The sudden shift of status
On the ladder of success
Will make some worthy gentlemen
Feel like an awful mess.

Just think of some poor captain
Minus all his silver bars
Standing up behind some counter
Selling peanuts and cigars
And think of all the majors
When their oak leaf’s far behind
And the uniforms they’re wearing
is the Western Union kind.

 

Shed a tear for some poor colonel
if he doesn’t feel himself
Jerking sodas isn’t easy
When the eagle’s on the shelf
‘Tis a bitter pill to swallow
‘Tis a matter for despair
Being messengers and clerks again
A mighty cross to bear.

So be kind to working people
That you meet where ‘er you go
For the guy who’s washing dishes
May have been your old CO.

Published 6 October 1944

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Daniel Barnett – Goodlettsville, TN; US Army, Korea, RHQ/187th RCT

“You Are Not Forgotten”

George W. Biggs – Nogales, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII. Tuskegee airman / Korea & Vietnam, B-47 & B-52 pilot / US Customs Service

Harold L. Dick – Tipton, MO; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Gunner’s mate 2nd Class, USS Colorado, KIA (Tinian)

Lloyd Gruse – Baltimore, MD; US Navy, WWII  /  US Army, Korea & Vietnam

Virdean (Davis) Lucas – Newton, KS; Civilian, USO, WWII

Ramon Maldonado (103) – Carriere, MS; US Army, WWII

Isaac Parker (17) – AK; US Navy, WWII, Mess Attendant, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Steve Stibbens – Dallas, TX; USMC, Vietnam, Gunnery Sgt. (Ret. 20 y.), Bronze Star, Stars & Stripes journalist

Andrew Vinchesi – Malden, MA; US Navy, WWII, pilot

Lloyd Wade – Westminster, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

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American, John Birch, First Casualty of the Cold War

John Birch in China

 

On August 25, 1945, John Birch, an American missionary to China before the war and a captain in the Army during the war, is killed by Chinese communists days after the surrender of Japan, for no apparent reason.

When 22-year-old Birch, graduate of Mercer University and a Baptist seminary in Macon, Georgia, arrived in Shanghai in Japanese-occupied China in 1940, he’d come to be a missionary to the Chinese people and began by learning the world’s most difficult language in record time—no surprise to his family back in Georgia who always saw Birch as the smartest guy in any room.

The Chinese recognized his charitable heart as he preached the love of Christ, a message many had never heard except from the lips of an interpreter. And preach he did, as he covered much of occupied and unoccupied China—dodging Japanese patrols, dressing in native clothes, eating the same food, and taking the same risks as the people he quickly came to love.

Gen. Chennault honors John Birch

From missionary to guide to spy…

As financial support from the World Fundamental Baptist Missionary Fellowship dried up, Birch realized he’d have to find some other source of income. He was sitting in a restaurant in Zhejiang province, eating the cheapest fare on the menu, when a man approached. “Are you American?”

Birch nodded. “Follow me,” the man said and led him to a sampan (flat-bottomed boat) on a nearby river where he could hear English being spoken inside. Birch called out, “Are there Americans in there?”

“Jesus Christ!” came a voice from inside. “No Jap could have that southern drawl.”

Birch answered, “Jesus Christ is a very good name, but I’m not he.” He stepped inside the sampan and looked directly into the eyes of Colonel James Doolittle. After bombing Tokyo, Doolittle and his men had bailed out over what they erroneously thought was free China. They needed help.

As things turned out, it became a question of who helped whom the most. Birch and many Chinese citizens risked their lives guiding Doolittle and his raiders to the safety of Chungking and Chiang Kai-shek; while Doolittle, impressed with Birch’s intelligence and knowing that the young man wanted to join the army, preferably as a chaplain, plugged him through military channels.

And so Birch became a second lieutenant in the famed Flying Tigers, commanded by General Claire Chennault, but not as a chaplain. Because of his command of the Chinese language, thorough knowledge of the countryside, mastery of disguise, mutual love for the Chinese nationals he worked with, and genius for gathering intelligence, Birch became … a spy.

But he had one request of Chennault—“Whenever I can, without neglecting my duties, can I preach?” General Chennault assented. Years later, the war over and Birch dead, this rough military man would remark with tears in his eyes, “John Birch was like the son I never had.”

In a last letter home to his mother who had asked him if he’d be getting a furlough, Birch answered that he would love to, but could not leave until the last Japanese had left. And indeed he stayed past Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945. On August 25 Birch, along with some American, Chinese, and Korean comrades, went on one last mission in a small town near Xuzhou. There Chinese Communists shot and killed Birch when he refused to surrender his revolver. After his death both the American and Chinese governments awarded him military honors.

This article is from Christian History magazine #121 Faith in the Foxholes.

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Military Humor –

“Honest, it’s real food, only it’s in camouflage.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Henry Baker (102) – Brooksville, FL; US Navy, WWII, Chief Petty Officer

Corlton L. Chee – Pinehill, NM; Pvt., 2/12/1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, tank crewman

Paul DiCiero Cincinnati, OH; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Johnny Kai – Honolulu, HI; US Army, 11th Airborne Div.  /  Vietnam, Major (Ret.), 5th Special Forces

John Langran – Columbo, Ceylon; Royal Navy, WWII, Lt. Commander (Ret.)

Warren O’Sullivan – Narberth, PA; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, West Point grad, Corps of Engineers

John Pfeffer – Lebanon, IL; USMC, WWII

Albert Roe – Detroit, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 11th Airborne Division

Tom Seaver – Fresno, CA; USMC  /  MLB pitcher

Eugene, Smith – Norwood, MA; US Army Air Corps, 505/ 82nd Airborne Division

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On VJ Day 74: Letters between the generations

RFHG

On the 74th anniversary of VJ Day, Ashley Prime writes for RFHG about his father, Lance Corporal Ashley Prime – a former prisoner of war in Singapore and Thailand – whose moving post-war letters have been published open access for all to read.

Ashley Prime Lance Corporal Ashley Prime. Courtesy of Ashley Prime

I had of course always known that my father had been a Japanese Prisoner of War. I grew up with that always in our minds in our home, but it was never really seen as a negative. It was just there, and from my childhood, I recall kindly former colleagues of his visiting our home. They were always kind and I never felt any anger in the way they were. At least to me as a small child. 

Later in life, I was living in West Germany in my early twenties, and whilst back in London on holiday, I…

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The Last CBI Roundup

The Last Roundup

Most of you have been around long enough to have seen excerpts from the CBI Roundup newletter.  We can not end this war without some more articles they used to say farewell.

To insure that men remaining until the end of the I-BT will get the news, The Roundup, a smaller-sized edition of Roundup will commence weekly publication in Calcutta a week from today, April 18. It will be smaller, but its “chota” staff will see to it that it carries a good coverage of local and world news, and some of the entertainment features you have enjoyed in Roundup.  This was published in April 1946.


Small U.S. Group Remains Here

When the last ship pulls out of King George Docks sometime in May, it will still not be a complete farewell to India for American military personnel, because a small number of officers and men will remain behind after Theater inactivation to finish several jobs, some of which may take several months to complete.
It is estimated that the settlement of all claims within the area, including Southeast Asia, will take some months to finish. The establishment and operation of military cemeteries and the continued search for isolated bodies will keep a handful of men busy for three years, according to present estimates.
The prosecution of War Crimes cases will probably require three more months to finish up. The complex problems of financial settlements, payments of bills and claims, termination of contracts, and adjustment of reciprocal aid charges incurred after V-J Day, will probably take a considerable time to wind up.
Some installations and property will have to be kept until the Theater is officially inactivated. These will have to be turned over after the last boat leaves, but it is planned that the turnover will take only about a month.
It is expected that all personnel to remain in India after the Theater closes can be obtained from Regular Army or volunteer ranks.

BEER RATION UPPED

With the coming heat and the resultant increase of parched throats, the ration of beer in the I-B has been raised from two to three (3) cases per man, beginning with the April ration. Theater Army Exchange Service announced this week. Hubba Hubba!

 

You’ve been gone two years this spring,
Didn’t you see a single thing?

Never saw much but the moon shine on

The Ledo Road A Burmese temple around Maingkwan,

A Burmese temple around Maingkwan,

And silver transports high in the sky,
Thursday River and the swift Tanai,
And Hukawng Valley coming all green,
Those are the only sights I’ve seeen.
Did our job, though, like God willed:
We had the Ledo Road to build.

written by: Sgt. Smith Dawless, Los Angeles, CA

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CBI Roundup sketches – 

WILBUR

THAT’S ALL FOLKS!

“Combat?! Hell NO! Calcutta riots!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quarantine Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robin Armstrong – Toronto, CAN; RC Navy, WWII, HMCS Uganda, radar

Freeman Brown – Atlantic, IA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Francis Cook – Livingston, NY; US Army, WWII, Middle East

Fred Deghi – Willits, CA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Calhoun

John Eastwood – Milwaukee, WI; US Army, Vietnam

George Hyrne – Savannah, GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Africa

Andrew Karlak – Seymour, CT; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Seaman 1st Class, USS George

Frank Anthony Petrone Jr. – Archer, FL; US Air Force

Ward Rosen – Fayetville, AR; US Navy, WWII, pilot

Robert Williams – Cleveland, OH; USMC, WWII

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SOE / SIS Cooperation

secret-intelligence-service-sis-mi6-vector-logo

An interesting look back into the British operations in the CBI Theater during the Pacific War.

soe

The Special Operations Executive in Burma 1941-1945

secret-intelligence-service-sis-mi6-vector-logoMuch has often made of the fractious relationship between the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS,) and the Special Operations Executive (SOE).  The words used to sum up the problem between the two organisations is often something along the lines of SIS needed peace and quiet to collect intelligence, while SOE was hell bent on making loud bangs and disturbing the wasp’s nest.  In the Far East, SIS used the cover name of the Inter-Services Liaison Department (ISLD), a name which hints at working with other British units, but by the later years of the war, in Burma at least, the archives suggest a much more cooperative arrangement than mere liaison.

The relationship between SIS and SOE in Burma was not always smooth, like any relationship, but the two secret services were forced together for pragmatic reasons.  Probably the main reason for this is the lack of resources sent East due to…

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Ceylon and the SOE

SOE resistance museum

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) resulted from bringing together the UK’s three secret services for the duration of the War in order to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance. Ceylon was initially a base for SOE personnel operating in South East Asia with headquarters in Kandy and a training facility at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Operatives were inserted into Japanese occupied South East Asia via submarine.

When SEAC moved from Delhi to Kandy so did SOE Force 136 under Head of Mission Colin Mackenzie CMG. According to Ashley Jackson, writing in The British Empire and the Second World War, “Ceylon had been transformed strategically from a relative backwater, a mere operations sub-branch of the India Mission, into Force 136’s main base.”

Capt Freddie Chapman had trained Australian and New Zealand troops in guerrilla warfare at the Special Training School 101 in Singapore. They would remain in Malaya during Japanese occupation to harass the enemy as part of Force 136. Capt Chapman had already forged an alliance with the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) composed of anti-Japanese Chinese. They were armed by the British and instructed to take to the jungles in order to continue the war against the Japanese. The MCP led by the legendry Chin Peng was highly disciplined and were fed, supported and given shelter by local Chinese.

SOE Ceylon/Malaya

In early 1945 Capt Chapman was brought out to Kandy to arrange for weapons and equipment for his guerrilla fighters about half being Britons who had worked or lived in Malaya before the war, the rest Chinese. “Air supplies from Ceylon supported the 3,500 Malayans trained to harass the Japanese when the British mounted their amphibious assault late in the war. Liberators of No. 357 Squadron from Minneriya in Ceylon, for example, flew 249 sorties in June and July 1945 in support of forces in Malaya,” explains Prof Jackson.

In late 1944 Gen Roger Blaizot commander of the Forces Francaises Extrême Orient (the Far East French Expeditionary Forces) arrived in Ceylon along with French troops to establish a Free French Military Mission to the Far East. Gen Blaizot and his troops were inserted into French Indochina where they operated till the end of the War. According to Jackson “Ceylon also became an important (signals) intelligence-gathering outpost of Bletchley Park (the future Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ]) and a regional headquarters for Special Operations Executive.”

In Operation Bunkum launched from Ceylon, agents were ferried by submarine to the Andaman Islands to report back on Japanese forces, a clandestine mission which they carried out successfully maintaining radio contact with Calcutta. In another operation, a group of Thais living in the UK volunteered for a mission for which they boarded the submarine HMS Tactician to be dropped off on the Thai coast. Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) also trained Thai agents at SEAC who were ferried by HMS Tactician to carry out assaults in Phuket and Penang.

In collaboration with the Dutch and operating out of bases in Ceylon, RAF Liberators parachuted agents into Sumatra. And the US Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency) also operated out of Ceylon with headquarters in Kandy, training camps in Galle and Trincomalee and a supply depot in Colombo. “RAF Special Duties squadrons, usually flying long-range Liberators, were used to parachute agents and supplies into occupied territory, and most sorties were flown from Ceylon bases,” writes Jackson.

SOE Force 136

While combat experience in Ceylon was limited, the CDF benefited from training with British and Allied units rotated through Sri Lanka, especially for jungle warfare in South East Asia. Individual officers and soldiers of the CDF also had combat experience in other theaters.

In addition to service in the Cocos Islands, members of the CDF also volunteered for active duty in Burma. Writing in his Sunday Times article Forgotten campaign, forgotten veterans Sergei De Silva Ranasinghe says Brian Kirkenbeek was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion CLI in 1942. In January 1944 he was posted to D Company 4/5th Gurkha Rifles at Arakan where he saw action. On his return to Ceylon he was promoted and rejoined the CLI at China Bay. Ranasinghe goes on to say that some volunteered for service in Europe and experienced combat in that theater.

Three new units of the CDF were raised during the War, the Ceylon Signal Corp and the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1943, and the Royal Military Police (Ceylon) in 1944. At the end of the war the CDF which comprised 645 officers and 14,247 other ranks was demobilized. Col R.J.F. Mendis OBE ED was appointed Commander of the CDF in April 1946 and Lt Col Anton M. Muttukumaru became commander of the CLI which reverted to its peacetime strength.

The British noted that the Ceylonese Board of Ministers did everything within their power to maximize the island’s contribution to the war effort. They channeled personnel and material resources in support of the war effort.

SOE equipment

The only exception being the Lanka Sama Samaja Party which opposed the War and whose leaders were incarcerated or went underground for the duration of the War. However the civilian ministers wholeheartedly supported the war effort and there was total cooperation from the Island’s political, civil and military leadership.

In 1948 this political relationship resulted in Ceylon acquiring Dominion Status within months of India. Prof Ashley Jackson in The British Empire and the Second World War concludes that “this was a result of pressure from senior British military and civilian officials in Ceylon in favor of a significant advance towards full self-government.”

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British Military Humor – 

MI5 playing ‘I spy…’

“Keep your voice down there’s a tap on the phone”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Keigan Baker – Panama City, FL; US Air Force, Airman 1st Class, 24th Special Operations Wing, KIA

Michael Canonico – Chester, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. A/188/11th Airborne Division

Fletcher Derrick – Mt. Pleasant, SC; US Army, Medical Corps, 8th Artillery Div., surgeon / Army Intelligence, Order of the Palmetto (Ret.)

Fred Goodson – Gastonia, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 508/82nd A/B Division / USAR, Colonel (Ret. 39 y.)

Nancy Hookham – Eastbourne, ENG; British Navy WREN; WWII, Bletchley Park

Jesse Irvin (99) – Coushatta, LA; US Army, WWII

Harold Little – Watertown, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Elsie McCurry – Texarkana, AR; Civilian, aircraft manufacture and repair

Carolyn J. Protzmann – Franklin, NH; US Air Force / US National Guard, BGeneral (Ret.)

Clarence Rutherford – Augusta, KS; US Army Air Corps, CBI, WWII

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The Burma Jeep

 

Ford GTP, Burma Jeep

1943 Ford GTBA G622

The Ford GTB, called the “Burma Jeep”, was produced during WWII and was used primarily by the US Navy and Marine Corps and used exclusively in the Pacific Theater during World War II, many used on the “Burma Road”.  Its Ordinance Standard nomenclature number was G-622. Ford produced the low silhouette, short and maneuverable GTB in five models collectively called the G-622.

Total production of the 1-½ ton models was over 15,000 units, including these variants:

  • GTB truck, Cargo
  • GTBA truck, (US Navy)
  • GTBB truck, Wrecker, (Rare, only 50 produced)
  • GTBS truck, Bomb Service with crane (US Navy)
  • GTBC truck, Bomb Service with crane (USN, improved)

The Burma Jeeps were powered by a Ford 6-cylinder flathead gasoline engine producing 90 horsepower. They were 1-½ ton capacity, 4-wheel drive with a 4-speed transmission and a 2-speed transfer case. The Burma Jeep on display at Estrella WarBirds Museum has dual real wheels, 4-wheel drive, and a 10,000 lb Braden MU-6 winch.

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Ford records indicate the paint color specified by the US Navy was “Ocean Gray” for all Navy contracts. The G-622 GTB vehicles were produced with and without a 10,000 lb. Gar Wood or Braden front mounted winch. All models except the GTBS had dual rear wheels. The cowl covering the engine separated the cab area, and the passenger seat was a light metal frame, which faced the driver, and could be enclosed by raising the windshield and installing a canvas top. The cargo truck had troop seats and bows for a canvas cover.

This truck (GTBA model) was probably built in July 1943 at the Edgewater, NJ Ford Plant.  After the war, it was purchased by the MacGillivry Ranch from the US Navy at Pt. Magu, and used as a ranch truck.  In 1998 it was donated to the Estrella Warbird Museum, and in 2008-2009, it was restored with funds provided by the McGillivry Family.  Restoration included complete brake overhaul, new passenger seat, upholstery, tires , and a complete paint job.

Pictures are courtesy of Mecum Auctions & Estrella Warbirds Museum.

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Military Humor –

When you’re in a jeep and they’re in an armored vehicle with a gigantic robotic arm – you just may want to keep your mouth SHUT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

George Andrews – Norwich, CT; US Army, WWII, PTO, Graves Registration Unit

Daniel Benarcik Sr. – Wilmington, DE; US Army, WWII

Harold Costill – Clayton, NJ; US Navy, Pearl Harbor, fireman 3rd Class, USS West Virginia, KIA

Franklin Galloway – Rosman, NC; US Army, Korea, Co. E/187th RCT

John Kennedy – Lake Bluff, IL; US Army, WWII, Sgt.

Ernest Malone – Gloucester, LA; US Army, 101st Airborne Division, MSgt. (Ret. 25 y.)

Jack Reynolds – Chichester, ENG; Royal Army, WWII, ETO, Lt., 1st Airborne Division, POW

Jack Smith – Albuquerque, NM; US Navy, WWII, PTO, oil tanker navigator

Donald Steimel – Des Moines, IA; US Navy, WWII, PTO,troop carrier, USS Scout

Martin Vespo Sr. (100) – Peekskill, NY; US Navy, WWII, USS Carondelet

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