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WWII German POW returns to say Thanks – Intermission Story (27)

In an Oct. 3, 2017 photo, Günter Gräwe, a German POW held in Washington during World War II, bids farewell as he finishes touring a former barracks with Deputy Joint Base Commander Col. William Percival at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times via AP)

By HAL BERNTON, Seattle Times

SEATTLE (AP) — Gunter Grawe spent three years as a German prisoner of war in western Washington, a World War II incarceration he recalls not with rancor, but gratitude for the chance to “live and learn in America.”  Grawe always thought about returning to the state to say thank you.

In early October, the rail-thin veteran, now 91, did just that during a brief visit to this base, where guard towers and barbed-wire fences are long gone but some of the two-story wooden barracks that once housed German prisoners still stand.

He declared his capture by the Americans at the age of 18 “his luckiest day,” and reminisced about camp life that included English, French and Spanish classes organized by other POWs and a commissary stocked with chocolate, ice cream and Coca-Cola.

“I never had anything to complain about,” Grawe said. “No guard called us nasty names. I had a better life as a prisoner than my mother and sister back home in Germany.”

In a global conflict that resulted in the deaths of more than 60?million people — including 6?million Jewish Holocaust victims — Grawe was indeed fortunate to live to an old age denied so many others. Grawe was filled with patriotism as he went to serve in the German army but now denounces Adolf Hitler as “one arrogant, hypocritical dammed liar” who led his nation into disaster and shame.

Grawe’s trip to Joint Base Lewis-McChord was arranged with the help of HistoryLink.org, a Seattle-based online encyclopedia that chronicles the state’s past.   “We have a list of those who were pro-Nazi, and he was not on it,” said Duane Denfield, a historian who works as a JBLM contractor.

Grawe’s military career started in Latvia, where he went through training for what appeared to be an assignment to the Eastern Front to fight a resurgent Russian army. If Josef Stalin’s forces had captured him, he likely would have been sent to a labor camp, where harsh conditions killed many.

But then Allied forces invaded France, and the Germans scrambled to try to slow their advance toward Paris with fresh reinforcements.  Grawe was transferred to Normandy, where he served in a tank unit that was quickly overwhelmed by the U.S. and British armies.

“It was a terrible fight in Normandy — it wasn’t what we expected, and we were young and inexperienced,” Grawe said.

Grawe said he realized how well things had turned out as he was put on the ocean liner Queen Mary for the voyage to America. He had comfortable quarters and most important — ample meals — served on metal trays.  Next, he took a train ride across America to what was then Fort Lewis.  At the Army post south of Tacoma, barracks vacated by U.S. troops were turned into prison quarters for some 4,000 German POWs at five locations.

Fort Lewis (now part of the joint base) was part of a much broader POW prison-camp network of some 500 sites across the country that held 400,000 Germans. Overall, historians say these prisoners were treated well. Some Germans even referred to their camp as a “golden cage,” according to Michael Farquhar, who wrote a 1997 article about the POWs for The Washington Post.

German POW’s work on a farm.

 The POWs’ relative comfort angered some wartime Americans who had lost their loved ones to German troops. But they did have to work, providing labor at a time when the massive troop mobilization made it hard to find enough people to bring in the nation’s crops.

Grawe traveled by truck from Fort Lewis to help in apple, sugar-beet and potato harvests.  Later, he was transferred to Arizona to bring in cotton.  He recalled his farm labor as a real adventure that earned him an 80-cents-a-day salary to buy things at the commissary.

Through his years as a prisoner, Grawe says he came to love America.

But his first loyalties were to Germany. As a boy, he participated in Hitler Youth.  He joined the army as what he calls a “young idealistic soldier” who thought it “right to fight for an honest and upright fatherland” just like his father, a plumber turned soldier who died in the war in 1940.

Grawe says he first learned of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps while a prisoner in America. He initially brushed off the news as propaganda because it was conveyed by a U.S. officer. When he wrote home to his mother and sister, they replied it was true.

In 1947, two years after Germany’s unconditional surrender, Grawe was released.  In the postwar era, as the German economy surged, Grawe prospered.  Through the decades, he returned to the U.S. several times to vacation. But only after his wife died in 2016 did he make up his mind to return to Washington state.

On Oct. 3, a brilliant fall day, Grawe arrived at JBLM. He brought his electric bike, determined to ride the final distance — a little over a mile — to the old camp site. On each side of his bike’s rear wheel hung a sign: “USA, the country and its people, you are my first and final love!”

At the blacktop by the barracks, he looked around somewhat uncertainly. He recalled a barren site. This place was full of fir trees that had grown up in the seven decades since the prisoners had gone home.

Gunter Grawe

He was greeted by the base’s deputy joint commander, Col. William Percival, who offered a handshake, and later a hug inside a building now empty and bare of furniture.

 “You remind us that . how you treat somebody defines who we are,” Percival said. “There are times, even today, when we may want to forget that.  And you let us know that’s a lesson not to be forgotten.”  Grawe then went for lunch at a base dining hall.

He piled his plate full of a noodle casserole, and sat down to eat one more ample meal served up by the U.S. Army. This time, as a free man.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – by: Bill Mauldin 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Michael Aiello – St. Louis, MO; US Army, WWII, SSgt., KIA

Robert Blakeley – Jacksonville, FL; USMC

Vincent Burns – Athol, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Richard Cavazos – San Antonio, TX; US Army, Vietnam, BGeneral

Walter Hackenberg – Middleburg, PA; US Army, Korea, POW, KIA

Duane Hackney – Flint, MI; US Air Force, Vietnam, (most decorated airman in U.S. history)

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

David McElroy – Brookline, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII, Yeoman

William Parham – Bedford, IN; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Jacob Sims – OK & Juneau, AK; US Army, Afghanistan, Chief Warrant Officer, KIA

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4. juli – Flyvergrav Jack D. Hodge

Intermission (12) – Veterans of Tuskegee

Tuskegee-Airmen

Charles McGee was an accomplished World War II fighter pilot and Army Captain, was one of the most decorated pilots in the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first all-black aviation unit. Their record during the war was one of the reasons Harry Truman decided to desegregate the U.S. military in 1948. McGee’s wartime record, however, did little to change his treatment when he returned home.

Aircraft engine lessons

Aircraft engine lessons

“Segregation still existed across the country,” he recalls. When he couldn’t get a job as a civilian, he decided to remain in the military. He ended up flying a record 409 combat missions in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Today, he’s not concerned about his personal legacy. “It’s not the personal recognition that I seek,” he says. “I want to pass on to the young people of today that you can’t let your circumstances be an excuse for not achieving.”

Tuskegee pilots

Tuskegee pilots

 McGee and fellow Airman George Hardy attended the unveiling of a P-51D Mustang – a plane many Tuskegee Airmen flew – that has been restored at the National World War II Museum. They will join Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts to discuss the legacy of the Airmen. “What we accomplished flying the P51 was an important step in bringing about a change in the bias and generalizations that had been part of military policy,” George Hardy, 90, says.
WWII poster

WWII poster

Hardy enlisted in the Army when he was 17, in 1943. He graduated from training as a pilot and lieutenant in 1944. “We were segregated wherever we went,” he recalls. “Even on the ship, we took overseas.” Despite the negatives, the men set aside frustration and worked hard to prove themselves as airmen. “It wasn’t pleasant, but we didn’t look at the negative,” McGee says. “We looked at the positive, and that was we were given the chance to prove that that thinking was wrong.”

George Hardy

George Hardy

“It was a way of life as far as we were concerned,” adds Hardy. “It was not our job to fight segregation, it was our job to fly.” They became so respected as pilots that all-white bomber squadrons requested them as escorts during raids over Germany. “There had been a policy that said that black people could hold service positions but nothing technical,” McGee says. “We proved that to be erroneous.”

"Red Tails" movie

“Red Tails” movie

Despite their accomplishments, the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen was not well known until they formed a national group in 1970. “At that time a lot of people in this country, even in the black community, didn’t know that black people had flown in World War II,” Hardy says. Hardy, McGee, and the other living airmen now travel the country to share their history and legacy and inspire the next generation. “I talk to a lot of groups around the country, especially kids, and let them know that even though you have obstacles you can work to overcome them,” Hardy says.

Tuskegee pilots

Tuskegee pilots

Information is mainly from WarHistoryOnline.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

military-humor-funny-joke-air-force-aircraft-survival-kit-pilot

pilots1ph

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Joe Albarran – Capitola, CA; Merchant Marines, WWII

Glendale Betz – Bartlesville, OK; US Army, WWII, PTO, Captain, Field Artillerytribute

William Casey, Boston, MA; US Navy, WWII, 119th SeaBees, PTO

Donal Goniu – Mequon, WI, US Army, WWII, MSgt.

Frederick Gerow – Vernon, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO USS Bennington

Robert Hollibaugh – Arkansas City, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Jacob Kalfs – Waverly, OH; US Navy, WWII

Desmond Le Pard – Dorsett, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO, 17th Battalion/Parachute Regiment

Henry Mandela Sr. – Derby, CT; US Army, WWII, SSgt.

Allen Noel O’Brien – Brisbane, AUS; AIF, WWII, PTO, 2/31st Battalion/7th Division, Sgt.

Alan Young – W.Vancouver, CAN; RC Navy, WWII, (actor)

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D-Day

D-Day from Dixon

Announcement
(By The Associated Press)

A dramatic 10-second interval preceded the official announcement today that the invasion had begun.

Over a trans-Atlantic radio-telephone hookup direct from supreme headquarters, allied expeditionary force, to all major press services, and broadcasting networks in the United States came the voice of Col. R. Ernest Dupuy, Gen. Eisenhower’s public relations officer.

“This is supreme headquarters, allied expeditionary force,” Dupuy said. “The text of communique No. 1 will be released to the press and radio of the United States in 10 seconds.”

Then the seconds were counted off — one, two, three . . . and finally ten.

“Under the command of General Eisenhower,” slowly read Col. Dupuy, “allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France.”

Thus, officially, the world was told the news which it had been awaiting for months.

Dupuy began reading in Britain at exactly 7:32 a.m., Greenwich Meridian time (2:32 Central War Time.)

D-Day memorial, Beford, VA

D-Day memorial, Beford, VA

Chronology
(By The Associated Press)

12:37 a.m. (Eastern War Time) German news agency Transocean broadcasts that allied invasion has begun.

1:00 a.m. German DNB agency broadcasts Le Havre being bombarded violently and German naval craft fighting allied landing craft off coast.

1:56 a.m. Calais radio says “This is D-Day.”

2:31 a.m. Spokesman from Gen. Eisenhower in broadcast from London warns people of European invasion coast that “a new phase of the allied air offensive has begun” and orders them to move 22 miles inland.

3:29 a.m. Berlin radio says “first center of gravity is Caen”, big city at base of Normandy peninsula.

3:32 a.m. supreme headquarters, allied expeditionary force, announces that allied armies began landing on northern coast of France.

3:40 a.m. Shaef announces Gen. Sir Barnard L. Montgomery is in command of assault army comprising American, British, Canadians.

Ground force landing corridors, D-Day

Ground force landing corridors, D-Day

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1stLt. Adrian J. Salvas, US Signal Corps, One of the many....

1stLt. Adrian J. Salvas, US Signal Corps,
One of the many….

Note of interest while you read D-Day stories –

 Five hundred 35-millimeter cameras were mounted on the fronts of ships and tanks rigged to operate without manual supervision and another 50 were were placed in the first wave of landing craft.  Dozens of American cameramen and almost 200 still photographers were assigned throughout the invasion.  Many of these men found themselves under enemy fire while they were manning their cameras.

Many of the cameras were destroyed or the film proved too grainy to be of any use, but 72 hours after D-Day started, most of the retrievable film from the US Field Unit, the Signal Corps, Coast Guard, the Canadian Army and British, were sent to London.  Most of the color film was reverted to black and white for newsreels.

Let us remember these men too, as we look at the pictures this weekend that the cameramen made possible!

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Political Cartoons for D-Day – 

He knew it was coming....

He knew it was coming…

Poised for attack!!

Poised for attack!!

Farewell Salutes – 

Smith Boyer – Weatherly, MO; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Chief Petty Officer (Ret. 20 yrs)

The D-Day invasion of France during World War II was a monumental point in history.  The effort, for Americans, came with a heavy price – about 2,500 soldiers were killed (and approximately 3,000 Allied troops lost their lives).

The American Cemetery in France – The D-Day invasion of France during World War II was a monumental point in history. The effort, for Americans, came with a heavy price – about 2,500 soldiers were killed (and approximately 3,000 Allied troops lost their lives).

James Cozad – Glenview, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Higgins boat driver

Harold Higgins – Omaha, NE; US Navy, WWII

Sam Lee – WPalm, FL; US Army, WWII, ETO, 6th Infantry Reg/1st Armored Div., Bronze Star

Bobby Moon – Dickson, TN; US Army Air Corps, PTO, HQS/127th Engineers

Charles Nugent – Lake Worth, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Reginald Quirt (100) – Lindsay, CAN, RC Army, WWII

Robert Renz – Sterling, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, pilot/Korea & Vietnam, Major (Ret.)

Norman Robson – Watkins Glen, NY & FL; US Army, WWII, PTO, Corps of Engineers

Brice Schilling – Reedsville, PA; US Army Air Corps, PTO, Artillery, 11th A/B

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The Squadron Artist by Clarence Simonsen

A poignant and humorous view of WWII from fellow blogger [and my friend], Pierre Lagacé.

Lest We Forget

Hi Pierre, 

Spring is here and I am getting busy. Here is a change of pace story, that proved to be very important in saving RAF and RCAF lives during WWII. The power of cartoons is sometimes forgotten, but their image remains forever in the mind and helped prevent stupid flying accidents. It’s amazing that stunting for a girlfriend, cost a number of pilot lives !

Cheers – Clarence

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The Squadron Artist

The Squadron Artist - Copy

There is usually an airman in a Squadron who possesses some measure of cleverness with a brush. It is his job to paint the emblems and mascots of various pilots on the side of their planes. Sometimes the pilot suggests one himself, sometimes the artist suggests one: if he does and it doesn’t prove so lucky he better not be around when the “pilo” gets home. No doubt this strange trade has its opposite number in…

View original post 1,865 more words

Tribute

Bryan Sperry

Battle of the Bulge WWII veteran

LAWRENCE, Kan. — An 89-year-old former University of Kansas football player has gained fresh fame after making a touchdown run during an alumni scrimmage. Bryan Sperry was all grins Saturday as he jogged toward the Memorial Stadium end zone during the scrimmage before Kansas’ annual spring football game, The Kansas City Star reported. His decades-younger opponents intentionally missed repeated tackles before showering him with congratulatory hugs and pats on the back. “I had planned on trying to get in maybe, catch a pass. He threw me a few balls to see if I could catch a ball, and I could,” Sperry said, according to CBS affiliate WIBW. “I hadn’t figured on running, in fact I hadn’t run in years. I just wanted to get in for a couple of plays and maybe catch a ball.” Sperry was 17 years old when he first left home to play football at Kansas State, but World War II interrupted his schooling. The process of returning soldiers home by boat after the war took months, so the military sent Sperry to a university in England to wait. While there, he says, he played 13 games on a team that was a mix of professionals, college players and high school graduates with limited football experience. Upon returning home in February 1946, he headed for a tryout, mostly for veterans, held by then-Kansas football coach George Sauer. He played “end” while at Kansas – offense and defense, Sperry said: “Well, we played both ways in those days.” The Jayhawks finished 7-2-1 in 1946 and in 1947, with a team captained by KU legends Otto Schnellbacher and Don Fambrough, the Jayhawks went 8-1-2, their only loss coming to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Sperry finished his career in 1948. “There aren’t many people that are lettermen of both KU and K-State,” Sperry said. With his playing days behind him, he spent decades as a high school football coach and math instructor at Pittsburg State. “That was fun,” the Pittsburg resident said. “I didn’t know if I could run.”

Lest We Forget

Maori aircrew serving with 75 (NZ) Squadron, 1939-45

This post holds information that many people are unaware of. I’m certain you’ll enjoy this.  For further information, you can enter the 28 Maori Battalion HERE___

75(nz)squadron

Many thanks once again to Chris for his contribution of this post. Whilst the blog has presented information about the Maori airmen that flew with 75(NZ) Squadron, specifically to certain crews, I think it’s fitting tribute to them as a group that we should recognise these individuals and their contribution to the Squadron and Bomber Command – as Chris observes, It’s fascinating, and quite ironic that these young boys, often from isolated rural backgrounds, travelled to the other side of the world in Britain’s defence, when it’s quite feasible that their great-grandfathers could have fought against the British in defence of their own lands and political independence………

MUS050651-1600 Photo from The Weekly News,17 March 1943, with caption, “A Maori team at a British air station – R. W. Raharuhi (Takara), M. T. Parata (Waikanae), M. T. T. Manawaiti and E. H. Gray (Otaki).” Thought to have been taken at Mildenhall.
–…

View original post 1,966 more words

From D-Day, to the Rhine, to Korea: Roy Rushton

A great war post from Dan Bjarnason.

KapyongKorea

Seventy years ago, Roy Rushton peered through a hole in the floor of his vibrating aircraft as it swept over the Normandy coast. Just below, he saw German flak ripping the sky apart.

It didn’t look good; and Roy’s day was just beginning.

Rushton was heading into his first battle, in his first war. There would be more of each. Wherever Roy Rushton turned up, exciting, noisy, dangerous things always seemed to happen.

tmpC172 Roy Rushton, as a sniper in Holland, January 1945 © Roy Rushton

It’s tough to imagine a soldier who’s been through more perilous moments than Roy Rushton. But he is neither a brooder; nor a gasbag. He’s a level-headed, laid-back fellow, with a wry sense of humour, but with no sense at all of self-importance. Quite the guy.

At 11 p.m. on the 5th of June, 1944, Rushton and ten other Paratroopers in that plane, watched England…

View original post 603 more words

Intermission Stories (20)

2. Robert Rader

Cpl. Robert Rader

Easy Company/506th PIR/101st A/B

Robert Rader was mentioned in the book, “Band of Brothers,” by Stephen Ambrose, but was not part of the HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.  This story was condensed from the book, “A Company of Heroes: by Marcus Brotherton.

It was Rader’s idea to volunteer for the 101st Airborne, along with his hometown friends, Don Hoobler and William Howell, and the buddies were sent off to Camp Toccoa.  The three young men together with their Appalachian accents inspired them to call themselves “The Three Hillbillies.”

On the plane to Normandy, a shell went through the plane and between Rader and Johnny Martin, so close they could feel the burn.  Later, the troopers discovered that their plane had been hit 250 times.   Once on the ground, their first encounter with the enemy was with Russian and Polish troops fighting for the Germans.   As they advanced, their next engagement turned out to be a group of Hitler Youth who screamed, “I will die for the Führer,” as they attacked the men.  Seeing those young faces lie dead in the dirt made a serious impact on Rader.

Burr Smith (L) & Bob Rader (R) , 1982 just prior to Smith's passing.

Burr Smith (L) & Bob Rader (R) , 1982 just prior to Smith’s passing.

The next big jump was Market-Garden in Holland on Sunday, 17 September 1944.  They had 79 constant days of combat.  Rader was hit in the elbow as another soldier cleaned his gun, but with the enemy everywhere, sending the wounded back was impossible.  They bandaged Robert’s arm and he went back to the front line.  Soon afterward, Rader was in the midst of a bayonet charge.

 In Bastogne, Rader’s eyelids froze open twice.  His extremities were so cold he couldn’t feel them.  During this battle, the trooper took a bullet to the hip, but he was so cold, he never felt it.  The shell was located during a CAT scan in 1987!

The 101st went onward to Hitler’s Nest and then Austria, as those of you who read the book are aware.  Robert Rader from the company of heroes went on to become a school teacher.  He had sworn to himself, the day he saw the dead Hitler Youth Group, that he would devote his life to helping children and he carried out his promise.  His hometown buddies did not come back with him.

Robert Rader had left the Army Air Corps as a Staff Sergeant.  As he kept in touch with his war buddies, he signed his letters, “Robert F. Rader, here.  Be good. Be careful. Sleep warm.”

SSgt. Robert F. Rader passed away 7 April 1997.

“In thinking back on the days of Easy Company, I am treasuring my remark to a grandson who asked, “Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’  No, I answered, but I served with a company of heroes.”
_______Major Richard Winters
Easy Company Commander

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“Band of Brothers” correction –

Sgt. Albert Blithe

Sgt. Albert Blithe

The book “A Company of Heroes” rectifies two mistakes made about Albert Blithe:  (1) – Blithe was depicted as shot in the neck & (2) – that he never recovered from his wounds and later died in 1948.  The truth, as attested by Blithe’s wife and son – he was wounded in the right shoulder and lived to jump with the 82nd Airborne in the ’50s.  After many attempts to contact Hanks and Spielberg, they eventually managed to have the correction made.

An example of persistence in research as done by Mr. Brotherson.

Click on any image to enlarge.

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WWII current news – 

The rising sea levels are being blamed for having washed, what is believed to be, the remains of 26 Japanese soldiers from WWII on Santo Island in the Marshall Island group.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joan Prudence Boyd – Devonport, NZ; RNZANC # 827640, WWII

Andrew Hanish – Boise, ID; USMC, (Ret. 24 years), Vietnam

Bronze Star

Bronze Star

Joe Hart – Pea Ridge, AR; US Army Air Corps, Colonel, WWII, ETO, B-17 pilot

Eugene Montandon – Danbury, WI; US Army, Sgt.

Johnny Newell – Hewett, OH; US Army, Korea

Jack Oliver Sr. – Topeka, KS; US Army Air Corps (10 yrs.) WWII; US Air Force (16 yrs.)

Curtis Peterson – Copperas Cove, TX; US Army, MSgt., Bronze Star

Howard Pulleyblank – Ottawa, Can.; RC Navy, WWII, ETO, HMCS Rimouski

Janus Sweat – Columbia, SC; US Army, Korea

James Tapp – Fort Collins, CO; US Air Force, Colonel (Ret.), WWII, PTO, fighter pilot, 78th Fighter Squadron, P-51D, Bronze Star

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