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B-25 raid on Formosa by the 498th’s ‘Jaunty Jo’ # 192 over Byoritsu Oil Refinery; it crashed seconds later. (Maurice J. Eppstein, John C. Hanna Collections) courtesy of IHRA

So much happened at once in the Pacific all at the same time, we get help here from the International Historical Research Associates!!

IHRA

May 18, 1945 was an all too eventful day for the 65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group. Seven of its B-24s were sent to make up a third of a 21-plane raid with the 403rd and 64th Squadrons on Tainan Airdrome, located on Formosa (now Taiwan). Antiaircraft fire was heavy and accurate, and coming from both Tainan and the nearby Okayama Airdrome. Aircrews noticed two strange types of antiaircraft bursts. One looked like a gasoline fire bursting in midair, the other appeared to be a stream of fire trailed by smoke.

As the crews made their runs, 1/Lt. James J. Franklin’s B-24 took a direct hit and exploded. All ten members of the crew as well as an observer were killed. To the right of Franklin was 1/Lt. Rudolph J. Cherkauer in B-24 #373, which felt the brunt of the explosion and ended up leaving Tainan with two hundred new…

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Orel Pierson and the SS President Harrison

SS

SS “President Harrison”

TWO EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNTS

The SS President Harrison was a part of the American President Lines which was chartered by the US Navy on a day-to-day basis; when they could serve their country.  In the words that follow of Master Orel A. Pierson, they were under the orders of Admiral Hart and “on the drum” of the Cavite Naval Radio.  This meant, they were in constant contact, on a specified frequency and had a secret call letter.

Master Orel Pierson

Master Orel Pierson

“At the Torres Straits, here we were informed that we would proceed to Hong Kong as a transport and proceed to Shanghai together with the SS President Madison to evacuate the US 4th Marines.  On 3 December, we made a rendezvous off Formosa with 4 US submarines and with their guns mounted ready for instant action.  We proceeded to Olongapoo, Philippines.  At this time, it was apparent to all that war was imminent.  We noted and reported that Japanese Naval units and transports were steaming south in large numbers.

“We left Manila on the morning of 4 December 1941 with a crew of 154… On arrival at Chingwangtao, we were to pick up around 300 Marines of the Peking & Trintsin Legation Guard and some 1400 tons of equipment and return to Manila.

“Tension was mounting… The destination of the Harrison, [supposed to be secret], was the talk of every hotel and bar room in Manila… I was later informed by the captain of a Japanese destroyer that ‘they knew all about our movements.'”

Port of Shanghai bides the 4th Marines a fond farewell.

Port of Shanghai bids the 4th Marines a fond farewell.

The SS President Harrison was ultimately captured along with the largest group of merchant seamen.  The cargo supposedly included the fossils known as “Peking Man” whose whereabouts remains a mystery today is open to various speculations.  The ship was turned into the Kakka Maru and then the name was changed to Kachidoki Maru, which was torpedoed by the submarine, USS Pampanito.  It is now restored and a museum ship in San Francisco, California.

Orel Pierson was taken prisoner and spent most of his three years and 9 month confinement at Zentsuji War Prison Camp on Shikoko Island.  He was transferred 23 June 1945 to Nokoroshu Camp in western Honshu, Japan until liberated 2 September.

China coast

China coast

“The story of my years in prison camps closely parallels that of any American held by the Japanese, with all the heartaches, abuses, uncertainties and slow starvation accorded to them in the military prisons.  I lost 85 pounds, need I say more.”

This story was taken and condensed from the SS President Harrison Master’s Report, US Naval History.

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The

The “Harrison” as the “Kachidoki Maru.”

Also aboard the SS President Harrison was Hank Behren, a college student who took a year off school for a little adventure and to earn money for his next term – he became a Merchant seaman.  Once back home, he finished school, bought a home and married. (Once freed, merchant seamen were not entitled to G.I. benefits).  In 1981, Hank returned to China and found the old prison camp.  His guide was an elderly Japanese man and Behren asked the man where he was during WWII.  It turned out, he was the captain of a gunboat that patrolled the Whanpoo River.  Hank couldn’t believe it!  From his POW camp  he had watched the boat patrol up and down the river while he enjoyed the old Japanese folk songs the guards played on their gramophone.

When Hank returned home, the old captain sent a cassette of the folk songs to him and the two men corresponded until Hank passed away.  Two years before he died, the U.S. presented Hank with a military discharge and a POW medal.

Hank Behren’s story was found in “The Greatest Generation Speaks” by Tom Brokaw and condensed.

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Dr. Seuss continued to dig with his political cartoons______

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Click images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Peter Bennish – Norvet, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, HQ Co/187th Regiment

Robert Carlson – Elgin, IL; US Navy, Korea

courtesy: Cora from 'A Fresh Start'

courtesy: Cora from ‘A Fresh Start’

Ralph Federson – Mesa, AZ; US Navy, WWII

Hector Hotte – Ottawa, Can; RC Army, WWII

Richard Lowe – Des Moines, IA; US Navy, WWII, gunner’s mate

Mary McGovern – Portland, ME; WWII, civilian employee , stenographer/Military Intelligence Service

Richard Siedel – Alamogordo, NM; USMC, WWII, 91st Chemical Mortar Co/6th Marine Division

Vernon Staum – Winder, GA; US Army, Lt. to Lt.Col., Korea and Vietnam

William Throp – Napier, NZ; Service # 288446, WWII

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Loss of a fellow blogger – I discovered yesterday from Tina Blackledge, that Ajay Mody, better know to us as, Ajaytoa, passed away 10 August.  May he rest in peace.

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Korean War begins

38th parallel sign - courtesy of the 1st Cavalry

38th parallel sign – courtesy of the 1st Cavalry

The 6th Division, led by Pang Ho-san and manned by North Koreans (most of whom had previously fought with the Chinese Red Army) quickly swept south and then east, equipped with Russian matériel.  The NKPA totaled 130,00 in ten divisions as opposed to 100,000 undertrained ROKs in eight divisions.  The invasion came in two fronts, the second being led by Marshall Choe Yong Gun heading directly to Seoul and then on to Pusan.  There was no equal to this force below the 38th parallel and as the Republic of Korea troops abandoned all they had and fled, the In Min Gun trampled everything in front of them.  Operation Pokpoong had started and the battles of Kaesong-Musan and Ongjin were highly successful and  Yangwon and Kangryong were immediately captured.

U.S. Military Advisory Group

U.S. Military Advisory Group

25 June 1950, Captain Joseph Darrigo, a member of the Military Advisory Group, was woken by the sound of gunfire he knew to be too close for routine action.  He headed south while his house was fired on and witnessed NKPA soldiers disembarking a train that he never knew existed.  Darrigo turned toward the ROK 1st Division Headquarters across the Imjin River at Musan and he discovered that half of the troops were on leave and the remainder were in disorganized chaos.  He was informed that the 29 year old commander, Colonel Park Sun Yup was in Seoul, probably with his mistress and drunk.

MacArthur and Sygman Rhee

MacArthur and Sygman Rhee

Syngman Rhee, head of South Korea, having heard that Kaesong had fallen, called MacArthur in Tokyo and demanded that his country be saved.  The general replied that he had no authority to rescue Korea, but he did promise to send 10 fighter planes, howitzers and bazookas to aide in their fight.  MacArthur then sat on the edge of his bed and said to himself, “It couldn’t be. Not again!”  Once more, an attack had come early on a Sunday morning.

It was Saturday in the U.S. and the first news the Pentagon would receive came from the press when they contacted General Bradley to question him on the subject.  Pres. Truman was home in Missouri at the time.  MacArthur was left in a limbo state until such time that a United Nations Security Council meeting could be convened.  The general called the Pentagon to inform on the state of affairs, “…the ROK army lacks the will to fight and a complete collapse is imminent.”

John Foster Dulles at the 38th parallel

John Foster Dulles at the 38th parallel

John Foster Dulles, adviser on Far Eastern Affairs for the U.S. State Department, was vacationing in Japan.  He was inept in his previous reports on Korea and now claimed that MacArthur was downplaying the northern attack.  Dulles cabled Secretary Acheson and Dean Rusk, “…even if it risks Russian counter-moves, the U.S. forces should be used.”  He insisted that a Communist regime in South Korea would start a Third World War.

Top secret messages that began to fly across the oceans were sent by way of a teletype conference, called telecon.  This required a coded teleprinter and a screen at each end – The Pentagon, the White House and the Dai Ichi Building in Tokyo were buzzing.  In the first week of the war 44,000 ROKs were either KIA, WIA or MIA.

The U.N. Security Council, minus the boycotting Russians, called all members “to render assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution and to refrain from giving assistance to the North Korean authorities.”  This statement voided the Soviet claim that it was a “civil war” and their insistence that the south had committed “naked aggression” against the north.

Korean War movement 1950

Korean War movement 1950

That night, Truman authorized MacArthur, under the U.N. umbrella, to employ air cover and arms to evacuate Americans from Korea.  For political reasons, he refused to name the general as commander-in-chief of Korea, but sent a “survey group” to the front.  Russian assistance was still, as yet, unconfirmed, but it was seriously suspected.  Conflicting information exchanged on the telecon as Truman said, “If we are tough enough now, if we stand up to them [Soviets] like we did in Greece three years ago, they won’t take any next steps.”

Formosa still remained in the picture. (In fact I believe my uncle, MSgt James O’Leary, USMC was there about this time – we’ll hear more about him in future posts.) This was the subject of Mao’s China verses Chiang’s government and it would not be put under MacArthur’s control. The 7th Fleet was deployed from the Philippines to keep the two forces apart. This decision freed Mao’s Red Army divisions for other assignments; a factor that would later come back to haunt Truman.

The President ordered MacArthur to fight the threat of a spread of communism. Dean Rusk, who had been involved in Far Eastern affairs since the early parts of WWII, and Dean Acheson both pressed for more aid in the Philippines and Indonesia. 26 June 1950, Truman, with bypassing Congress, produced the first undeclared war in American history. While Truman continued to remain “Europe orientated,” just as FDR had before him, these actions became the prelude to the Vietnam War.

Click photos to enlarge, and thank you for reading.

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Farewell Salutes –

Gilbert Clough – New Paltz, NY & ME & FL; U.S. Army Air Corps, WWII

John Edward Allen – Live Oak, FL & Albuquerque, NM; U.S. Army Air Corps, Tuskegee Airman 1945 – Vietnam

Charles Ellis Marshall – Detroit, MI & Ft. Lauderdale, FL; U.S. Army corpsman, Korean War

Gary Lee Zink – Moncks Corner, SC; U.S. Air Force, Vietnam

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An ETO story that was news to me:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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Resources: Koreanwar-educator.org; The Week magazine; MacArthur’s War, by Stanley Weintraub; Army photos; Kansas.com; WikiCommons; historyinink.com; The Palm Beach Post,

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