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General Joseph May Swing – Intermission Story (30)

Major General Joseph Swing

As the intermission period closes, it is only fitting that I introduce the man who lead the 11th Airborne Division.  Many called him “Uncle Joe”, but on the back of this photograph, Smitty wrote “My General.”

“A hero is a man noted for his feats of courage or nobility of purpose—especially one who has risked his life; a person prominent in some field, period, or cause by reason of his special achievements or contributions; a person of distinguished valor or fortitude; and a central personage taking an admirable part in any remarkable action or event; hence, a person regarded as a model.”

Joseph May Swing was born on 28 February 1894 in Jersey City and went to the public schools there, graduating in 1911 and entered West Point Military Academy directly.  He graduated 38th in the class of the star-studded class of 1915, famously known as “The Class the Stars Fell On.”

The 5-star generals were Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley.  The four-star (“full”) Generals in the class of 1915 were James Van Fleet and Joseph T. McNarney. The three-star (Lieutenant Generals) Generals were Henry Aurand, Hubert R. Harmon, Stafford LeRoy Irwin, Thomas B. Larkin, John W. Leonard, George E. Stratemeyer, and Joseph M. Swing. This view was taken facing south around noon on May 3, 1915.

In 1916 Lieutenant Swing was part of the punitive expedition to Mexico against Francisco Villa under the leadership of General John J. Pershing. In 1917, shortly after the US entered the war in Europe, Major Swing joined the artillery of the 1st Division in France. When he returned to the US in 1918, he became an aide-de-camp to the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Peyton C. March. On 8 July 1918, he married Josephine Mary March, the daughter of General March. Later that year, he joined the 19th Field Artillery at Fort Myer, Virginia, and in 1921 sailed for Hawaii to command the 1st Battalion of the 11th Field Artillery at Schofield Barracks.

In 1925, he returned to the States and assumed command of the 9th Field Artillery at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.  He graduated with honors from the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, and in 1927 he graduated from the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. For the next four years, he was on duty in the Office of the Chief of Field Artillery in Washington, DC, and in 1933 he became chief of its war plans section. In 1935, he graduated from the Army War College in Washington and then joined the 6th Field Artillery at Fort Hoyle, Maryland.

Next, he went to Fort Sam Houston where he was the chief of staff of the 2d Division from 1938 to 1940. Later, he commanded the 82d Horse Artillery Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Bliss, Texas and then commanded its division artillery. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1941 and at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, organized the division artillery of the 82d Division, a move which was to project him into the brand new field of “airborne.”  In Camp Claiborne, General Omar Bradley was the 82d Division commander. General Ridgway was the assistant division commander, and Colonel Maxwell D. Taylor was the chief of staff.

General Joseph M. Swing

In February of 1943, as a newly promoted major general, General Swing was assigned the task of activating the 11th Airborne Division at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, the Army’s third airborne division. Thus began for General Swing a tenure of service which was unique then and still remains a record: division commander of one division for five years, during which he activated the division, trained it, and commanded it in combat and during its subsequent occupation of Japan. During this period, General Swing and the 11th Airborne Division became synonymous; the man was the division and the division was the man.

General Swing made his mark on the Army and on the thousands of men who passed through the 11th Airborne Division in a way which those of us who were fortunate enough to serve with and have known him will never forget. His subordinates and superiors have described General Swing with numerous adjectives: forceful, energetic, courageous, self-disciplined, purposeful, farsighted, innovative, just, sentimental, short-tempered, forgiving, sincere, considerate, demanding—and with it all, handsome, erect, prematurely gray, with a lean, tanned face from which steely-blue eyes focused with incredible sharpness either to find a mistake or an accomplishment of a subordinate. General Swing fitted all of those descriptive adjectives to one degree or another; illustrations to exemplify each trait abound, particularly in the lore of the 11th Airborne Division. And as the years go by and as the men of the 11th gather at reunions, the stories about the “old man” increase and take on a sharper and more pungent flavor.

Leyte, Gen. Swing and staff on Mt.Manarawat

There is no doubt that General Swing was demanding in training, insisting on excellence, and setting and requiring the highest of standards for the 11th Airborne Division so that when it entered combat, after months of grueling training in Camp MacKall, Camp Polk, and New Guinea, the division was ready to take on the Japanese in the mud and rain across the uncharted central mountains of Leyte. Early in its combat career, it was ready to thwart a Japanese parachute attack on the division command post and nearby San Pablo airfield at Burauen, Leyte.

General Swing demonstrated his courage and vitality on that occasion by personally leading a Civil War-like attack across the airstrip with engineers, supply troops, and a glider field artillery battalion armed with carbines and rifles against the dug-in Japanese paratroopers who had had the audacity to attack the 11th Airborne from the air. In short order, the Japanese paratroopers, the elite Katori Shimpei of the Japanese forces, were routed, and the San Pablo airfield was back in the hands of the 11th Airborne Division.

_____ Condensed from a biographical article written by Edward Michael Flanagan, Jr., Lt.General, Retired

also, “The Gettysburg Daily, Wikipedia and Smitty’s scrapbook.

And this is where we left off the day by day and monthly island-hopping offense of the Pacific War.  You will be hearing often of General Swing, you might even get to admire him almost as much as Smitty did.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

‘I think it’s about time McFergle retired — he remembers the Lusitania.’

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Ball – Sterling, AK; USMC, WWII, PTO

Lloyd Crouse – Columbus, OH; US Army, WWII, PTO, 251st Sta. Hospital, combat medic

Charles Dye – Flint, MI; US Army, WWII

Frank Forlini – Yonkers, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Division. Purple Heart

Richard Gordon – Seattle, WA; US Navy, test pilot / NASA astronaut, Gemini 11, Apollo 12 & Apollo 18

Bill Jo Hart – Fort Worth, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Flight Instructor

Alfred Jeske – Seymour, WI; US Army, WWII

Bill Mesker – Wichita, KS; US Navy, WWII

Myra Mitchell – Upalco, UT; USMC, Women’s Corps, WWII

Sterling Wood – Omaha, NE; US Army, Colonel (Ret. 30 y.), 143rd Transportation Command

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December 1945 – The story of the sword

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This was the Christmas card sent from Japan to Broad Channel, New York in December 1945. Anna Smith had been waiting to hear this news from her son Everett (Smitty) for over three years. On the back, it reads:

“Dear Mom:
This is the best Xmas card I’ve sent to you since getting in the army. I figured this would be what you have always been waiting to see, here it goes.

“I’m finally on my way, so don’t send any more mail.
Love, Everett
“P.S. I’ll keep you posted on my various stops.”

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Even though Smitty had earned his points to go home, he was still an NCO on General Swing’s staff and was required to finish out his duties as such. After going through combat in the South Pacific, it would be in peaceful occupational Japan where Smitty’s temper would get the better of him.

Non-nonchalantly going about his business at the headquarters of Camp Schimmelpfennig, Smitty just happened to glance through the glass partition that sealed off Gen. Swing’s office. Inside was an officer holding and admiring the Japanese sword that his commander intended to keep and bring home as a souvenir. Smitty didn’t think much of it at the time; he was busy and many people commented on the weapon. so he continued down the hallway. A short while later, the entire office could hear the general demanding to know what had become of his sword. It was gone.

My father didn’t think twice, this was his general. He went into the room and told Swing what he had witnessed. Without a second thought, the two men went to the other officer’s office, but neither the man or sword was there. The officer in question showed a few moments later. When the general explained why they were waiting for him, the officer became indignant and professed his innocence (just a tad too much). My father said the air of tension in the room became thick enough to use a machete on. This was when Smitty’s temper went out of control and with one right cross – sent the officer through his own glass partition.

Of course, this action made it necessary to bust Smitty back down to private, but he didn’t care about that. He was still furious that the sword was never returned. It all could have gone worse if the general had not been there or if he did not believe Smitty’s word. Smitty said it was worth being busted just to wipe the smirky grin off the officer’s face. The officer, I believe, was a replacement and had not seen much (if any) combat, just a blow-heart. Smitty later offered his two Japanese swords to General Swing, but he refused. My father didn’t believe the general would have taken the Emperor’s own sword as a replacement. I can clearly see my father’s face contort when he thought of the thief and he would say, “That know-nothing mattress salesman from Texas!” I’m sure it was for the best that the two men never met again stateside as civilians.

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Unfortunately, a similar incident occurred to my father. As he happily began packing to go home, Smitty noticed that an expensive set of carved ivory chop sticks he had purchased somehow had disappeared. They also were never recovered. (I had often wondered if the two incidents had been related, but I suppose we’ll never know.)

Everett A. Smith - aka "Pops" or "Smitty"

Everett A. Smith – aka “Pops” or “Smitty”

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Much can be said about General Joseph May Swing that I am very surprised no one had written his biography. He stood tall and lean with prematurely white hair and arresting blue eyes. The man had an instinct for command and left an impressive and formidable impression on all he met.

Swing was born on 28 February 1894 and graduated in the star-studded West Point class of 1915. His fellow classmates included Dwight D. Eisenhower and Generals Bradley, Beukema, Ryder, Irwin, McNarney and Van Fleet. Van Fleet had relieved General Ridgeway as commander of the Eighth Army, which included the 187th RCT during the Korean War.

Gen. Swing

Gen. Swing

Olympiad – Military style

Attempting to get a coal-burning auto moving

Attempting to get a coal-burning auto moving

While some of the troopers continued to await the arrival of the good ole’ American jeeps to replace the coal-burning vehicles in Japan, General Swing was striving to make the occupation as bearable as possible. They had endured some horrendous hardships and accomplished more than anyone expected from them and he felt they deserved whatever he could provide. On his orders, a Japanese auditorium was transformed into the 11th Airborne Coliseum. The complex was large enough to hold a theater that would seat 2,500, four basketball courts, a poolroom with 100 tables, a boxing arena that held 4,000 spectators, six bowling alleys and a training room.

Front gate of HQ Camp Schimmelpfennig

Front gate of HQ Camp Schimmelpfennig

Aside from the sports theme, the coliseum contained a Special Services office, a snack bar, a Red Cross office and a library. I can just picture my father spending some off-duty time in the poolroom or bowling alley. When I was growing up, we had a pool table in the basement and Smitty would teach me how every shot was related to angles and geometry. My aim improved – once I figured it out.

The NCO Club

The NCO Club

In the fall of 1945, an Olympiad was held in Tokyo for all the troops stationed in Japan and Korea. Football became the highlighted game. The 11th A/B Division coach, Lt. Eugene Bruce brought them to winning the Japan-Korea championship. They then went on to take the Hawaiian All-Stars in Mejii Stadium with a score of 18-0. This meant that the 11th Airborne Division held the All-Pacific Championship. The troopers went on to win in so many other sports that by the time the finals were held for the boxing tournament at Sendai, the headlines read in the Stars and Stripes sports section:
Ho-Hum, It’s the Angels Again”

Matsushima Park Hotel

Matsushima Park Hotel

On the reverse side of the photo seen above, Smitty wrote, “This is the hotel where we are now staying. That dot in the driveway is me.” The 11th A/B commander had made his home here on 16 September. After the occupation, it re-opened for business as a hotel, but unfortunately was destroyed by fire on 2 March 1969.

The division had a reputation for mission accomplishment despite being nearly half the size of other divisions. This was often attributed to their somewhat unorthodox methods. This carried over into their occupation of Japan. General Swing converted an old Japanese factory and had it turning out American-style furniture for the troops. General Headquarters wasn’t very happy about the project because they wanted the Japanese to build furniture for the entire command. But Swing was not one to wait for all the red tape. After General Eichelberger inspected the better-than-GHQ- standard brick barracks under construction, he said to Swing, “Joe, I don’t know whether to court-martial you or commend you.” (Later on, he was commended Swing.)

Occupation 1945 - Everett Smith on far right

Occupation 1945 – Everett Smith on far right

Resources: “Rakkasans” and “The Angels: A history of the 11th Airborne Division” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; Everett’s scrapbook; Wikipedia

Still in Japan

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No matter where he is or what he’s doing, Smitty will be seen touring the sights. In Japan, he also did his best to absorb the culture that surrounded him.

One of many brochures Smitty brought home

One of many brochures Smitty brought home

Inside the above brochure, Smitty wrote, “Right after we left this place, it burnt down. This was really a million dollar joint! Wow! The girls here, by the way, are very nice. I like these people much better than the Filipinos.” (Just to remind the reader, and in all fairness, Smitty had lost his best friend to a Filipino Japanese sympathizer (makipilli) with a grenade booby-trap in his cot)

In October 1945, General Pierson was transferred back home. He was replaced by General Shorty Soule who had commanded the 188th regiment in both training and combat. He was later promoted to assistant division commander of the 38th Division and at this point he began to head the Miyagi Task Force.

Postcards from Japan

Postcards from Japan

Hereafter, the troopers began to return to the States as they collected their “points” and the replacements that were arriving were not jump qualified. Gen. Swing established yet another jump school, the fourth one in the history of the 11th Airborne. This one was established at the former Japanese Air Corps base near Yanome; about 15 miles from Sendai.

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Following through with his own requirements that all men in the division be both paratroopers and glidermen, Swing started a glider school in the summer of 1946 at Yamoto Air Base. [renamed Carolus Field, in honor of Cpl. Charles Carolus, killed in a glider crash near Manila 22 July 1945]

In Japan

In Japan

On the reverse side of the picture above, Smitty wrote, “a beauty of a flock of ducks were going by just as the jerk snapped the camera.”

The 187th Regiment, was by this time, now being called “Rakkasans” (umbrella men) by the Japanese, a name which stayed with them through four wars: WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Storm.

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A Farewell Salute – This obituary is about the European Theatre, but I felt it deserved to be shown…

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Click photos to enlarge.

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Resources: “The Angel” and “Rakkasans” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; The Week magazine and Everett’s scrapbook

Moving Day

Sprucing up the troops

Sprucing up the troops

This photograph was signed by two of my father’s buddies, John S. Lodero and Phil Martorano, both of Brooklyn, New York. Smitty (Everett Smith) is circled, but which two men are John and Phil is unknown.

When the SCAP Headquarters was set up in Tokyo, MacArthur was determined to create a “Peaceful and responsible government…” He also had to administer to a nation with nearly 70 million near-starving civilians and a constantly growing population of soldiers. The Japanese made the transition of being under one totalitarian rule to another quite easily and the general proceeded to supervise the writing and implementation of a new constitution. This was adopted in 1947, retaining the Emperor as a constitutional monarch and reestablished the primacy of the Diet. The zaibatu industrial combines were broken up and women were given rights. [This explains the obituary pictured at the bottom of this post that recently appeared in The Week magazine.]

resort pamphlet Smitty brought home from Japan

resort pamphlet Smitty brought home from Japan

The 11th Airborne was amazed by the change of attitude of the populace; without ever having actually been invaded, the Americans were being accepted. It made their future missions so much easier to accomplish. The Americal Division relieved the 11 A/B 14 September at their present locations and the following day, they began moving out by truck and railroad to their newly assigned zones in northern Honshu. Gen. Swing requested Gen. Dorn, who had served with Gen. Stilwell in China, to head the convoy.In the Sendai area and billeted at the Japanese arsenal [name to be changed to Camp Schimmelpfennig, after the chief of staff who was killed in combat] were the – Division Headquarters, 127th Engineers, 408th Quartermaster, 711th Ordnance, 511th Signal, 221st Medical, Parachute Maintenance and the 187th and 188th regiments. The 511th went to Morioka [ name would be changed to Camp Haugen, for their leader killed in combat], the 457th and the 152d moved to Akita, the 472d went to Yamagata, the 674th was divided and sent to Jimmachi and Camp Younghans and the 675th went to Yonezawa.

In the Sendai area, Japanese authorities turned over hotels in the Matsushima area for officer’s quarters and their staff, which explains how Smitty came home with these beautiful brochures you will see pictured here. If you click on and enlarge the photo, you can see where Smitty pointed to the sort of room he was given.

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At one point while moving supplies, Eli Bernheim (S-4 Section of the 187th reg.), remembered the convoy of 40 Japanese charcoal burning trucks always breaking down and they became lost. The interpreter and Eli took out their map and became surrounded by curious townspeople. Eli slung his rifle over his shoulder and they scattered. The interpreter suggested laying the weapon down and the civilians regrouped and began touching his hair – turns out they had never seen an American before. I suppose the word must have spread, because after that incident, the convoy was warmly greeted in every town they passed through. Once in their respective areas, the first priority was living conditions and the Japanese barracks were primitive with ancient plumbing and sewage deposited in reservoirs to be picked up later by farmers and used as fertilizer. The division historian recorded that of all the traffic accidents within the 11th A/B’s zone, NO trooper was ever guilty of hitting one of those “honey carts.”

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General Swing made General Pierson commander of the 187th and 188th joint group which became known as the Miyagi Task Force. They set up their headquarters in an insurance company building in Sendai. The principle responsibility of the Miyagi Task Force was to collect and destroy all arms, munitions and armament factories. They were also charged with seeing that General MacArthur’s edicts were all carried out. Many of the military installations had underground tunnels filled with drill presses and machine tools of all types. The entire zone needed to be demilitarized and equipment destroyed. Colonel Tipton discovered a submarine base for the two-man subs and a small group of men still guarding them. They told the colonel that they just wanted to go home.

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Inside this brochure my father wrote, “No liquor here so didn’t have to go behind the bar, we drank our own. This is where I had my first real hot bath since coming overseas.”

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Personal request – If anyone reads Japanese, please feel free to translate any writing you see. I requested the assistance of several universities that carried Oriental studies, but never received replies. Thank you.

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Farewell Salute – Alan Wood of the U.S. Navy, provided the flag which was used for the iconic photograph of our men raising the flag on Iwo Jima. He had brought the flag with him on the Naval vessel LST – 779 from a salvage depot at Pearl Harbor. He has recalled to reporters – “a Marine coming toward me, only about 19, but he looked so old, and he asked for my flag. I asked why and the marine said – you won’t regret it.”

Alan Wood

Alan Wood

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Resources: “The Angels” and “Rakkasans” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; Everett’s scrapbook; The Week magazine; Foxnews.com

Spearhead I

loading up to be first

loading up to be first

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28 August 1945, Japanese officers signed the surrender documents in Rangoon to finalize Japan’s defeat in Burma. On islands throughout the Pacific, enemy troops surrendered in droves to American and British authorities in the following days. Most of the men were malnourished and ill.

Mount Fuji from an American plane

Mount Fuji from an American plane

30 August, due to the latest typhoon, the first plane carrying the 11th A/B does not leave Okinawa until this date. Colonel John Lackey lifted off Kadena Airfield at 0100 hours with General Swing on board. The 187th regiment, upon arriving at Atsugi Airfield (just outside Tokyo), after their seven hour flight, immediately surrounded the area and the Emperor’s Summer Palace to form a perimeter. The 3d battalion of the 188th regiment, the honor guard and the band showed up to prepare for MacArthur’s arrival.

Swing brought with him a large American flag and a banner painted, “CP 11th Airborne Division” to be fastened onto the roof of airplane hangar. He was dressed in battle fatigues and “11th A/B” was stenciled on his helmet. He carried a .38 pistol and a bandolier of .38 caliber shells draped across his chest. (As ready for combat in Japan as he was on Leyte and Luzon.) A Japanese officer approached him as he departed the plane. The officer saluted and introduced himself as Lieut-General Arisuye, the officer in control of the Atsugi sector. He then asked the general what his current orders would be and Gen. Swing lost no time in telling him.

American POWs had been left unguarded at their prisons just days before. Two hours after Gen. Swing’s arrival, two POWs walked into the CP. (command post). They had taken a train from the prison to Tokyo. No Japanese soldiers or civilians approached them along the way.

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Later that day, Colonel Yamamoto presented himself as the chief liaison officer; both he and his aide were still wearing their swords. Gen. Swing ordered them to remove their weapons. Yamamoto arrogantly protested and insisted on explaining that the sword was his symbol of authority. Swing repeated his order, but with a more firm and commanding tone of voice and the two Japanese men complied immediately. The 11th A/B then proceeded on to Yokohama where the Allied Headquarters was to be established. The fifth largest city of Japan was now little more than a shantytown after the persistent Allied bombings. In fact, most of the towns and cities resembled the crumbled remains seen in Europe. Yokohama and Tokyo would become sites for the Allied Military Tribunal trials for the Japanese war criminals, similar to those held in Nuremberg for the Germans.

Yokohama

Yokohama

The trucks waiting for the men at Atsugi airfield to be used as transportation between Tokyo and Yokohama mostly ran on charcoal and wood. Only a few vehicles still operated on gasoline. They were consistently breaking down and the fire engine that led General MacArthur’s motorcade was said to look like a Toonerville Trolley.

Below, the photographs from the New York “Daily News” show the 11th A/B in front of the New Grand Hotel and on the right, one of the many vehicles that constantly broke down. (click to enlarge) The dates written on the pictures are the days in which my grandmother cut them from the paper, not the dates the pictures were taken.

11th A/B makes the news again

11th A/B makes the news again

General Swing wanted to view his newly arriving troops farther down the runway from where he was, when he spotted a Japanese general exiting his car. Seconds later, ‘Jumpin’ Joe’ hopped into the backseat. The interpreter translated from the driver to Swing that the limo was reserved for the Chief of Staff of the Imperial Army. Swing roared in returned, “Goddamn it, we won the war. Drive me down the strip.” Once in front of his troops, Swing exited the car and the Japanese captain said, “Well sir, Generals are alike in all armies.”

The 11th Airborne band set up for the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur at 1400 hours. When the general’s plane the ‘Bataan’ landed, the five-star general paused at the door wearing his pleated khakis, his shirt unbuttoned at the neck and the garrison hat with the gold encrusted visor crown. (In other words – his typical attire). There were no ribbons clipped to his shirt, but the customary corncob pipe hung from his lips at an angle. He then descended, shook hands with Gen. Eichelberger and quietly said, “Bob, from Melbourne to Tokyo is a long way, but this seems to be the end of the road. This is the payoff.”

The Brass at Atsugi

The Brass at Atsugi

In the photo above, General Swing is dressed for combat on the far left, General Eichelberger is on the far right, next to General MacArthur; shot taken – 30 August 1945.

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Resources: “The Pacific War” by Costello; “Rakkasans” & “Angels: The History of the 11th Airborne Division,” both by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; AOL Images, Everett’s Scrapbook

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Okinawa, August 1945

"Betty" bomber, Io Jima, 1945

“Betty” bomber, Io Jima, 1945

19 August 1945, Japanese Lt. General Kanabe and fifteen other emissaries secretly left Kazarazu air base in two Mitsubishi “Betty” bombers, painted white with green crosses, as ordered by General MacArthur, to comply with the surrender of the Philippines at Manila. After landing at Nichols Field and met by General Sutherland, they surrendered their swords. During the initial meeting, the Japanese were instructed to have 400 trucks and 100 sedans at Atsugi Airfield in readiness to receive the 11th Airborne. This caused much concern with the dignitaries. Atsugi had been a training base for kamikaze pilots and many of them were refusing to surrender. There were also 300,000 well-trained troops on the Kanto Plain of Tokyo, so MacArthur moved the landing for the 11th A/B to the 28th of August; five days later than originally planned.

Gen. Kanabe & Japanese delegation on Io Jima

Gen. Kanabe & Japanese delegation on Io Jima

There was much discussion as to whether or not the 11th Airborne would fly into Japan or parachute down. Troopers tried jumping from the B-24s on the island, but it proved to be an awkward plane for that purpose. To carry the men to Japan and then return was impossible for the C-46, therefore C-54s were brought in from around the world and crammed onto the island.

Parachute packing on Okinawa, 1945

Parachute packing on Okinawa, 1945

GHQ ordered General Swing to form an honor guard company for General MacArthur. Captain Glen Carter of the 187th regiment became the company commander. Every man was required to be 5′ 11″ or taller.

18-20 August, the Soviet army overran the Kwantung Army in central Manchuria, taking three cities in three days. They continued south in the quickest campaign of Soviet history, killing 80,000 Japanese.

11th Airborne Division patch

11th Airborne Division patch

28 August was to be the intended date for U.S. arrival in Japan, but two typhoons put a snafu on the trooper’s strategies. My father recalled, during their prolonged stay on the island, meeting some of the 509th Bomber Group. They were feeling guilt or remorse or still in shock over the extent of damage and death that had been created by the two atomic bombs. What they had witnessed through their goggles seemed to be a nightmare straight out of “Buck Rogers. The airmen begged, borrowed, but usually purchased an 11th A/B patch to sew over their own before entering Japan. Smitty said he gave away so many of them because he could not imagine the panorama of destruction they had seen or the gut feelings they would carry for the remainder of their lives. They were men who carried out their orders, but they were hurting.

Loading an L-5 into a C-54 on Okinawa, 1945

Loading an L-5 into a C-54 on Okinawa, 1945

The Emperor was wary of any fanatical emotions that might still be lingering within the kamikaze pilots. Therefore, he sent his brother, Prince Takamatsu, with a team to dismantle the propellers from their planes to prevent any “heroics” from occurring before MacArthur’s plane, the Bataan, was scheduled to land. The previously all-powerful Japanese Army had had such control over the country for so long that these precautions had to be fulfilled to ensure a peaceful occupation. This was all carried out while the Emperor still believed he would be executed as a war criminal.

Pacific Situation map (note date: August 22)

Pacific Situation map (note date: August 22)

CLICK ONTO PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

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Resources: Angels: History of the 11th Airborne Division and Rakassans by E.M. Flanagan, Presidio Press; Pacific: Day by Day by John Davison, Chartwell Books; Everett’s scrapbook; The Pacific War by John Costello,pub. RawsonWade

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Letter from General Joe Swing

On Christmas Eve, 1944 General Joseph M. Swing composed a letter to his father-in-law, General Peyton C. March to sum up the actions of the 11th Airborne Division on Leyte. Random House has granted me permission to reprint this letter originally published in “THE ANGELS: A History of the 11th Airborne Division,” by E.M. Flanagan Jr. (received from Mrs. Mary Anne Fullilove, nee Swing) and published by Presidio Press. I thank you.

General Joseph M. Swing, on the reverse side of the photo, dad wrote: My General

General Joseph M. Swing, on the reverse side of the photo, dad wrote: My General

Dear General,
Am just back from a few days in the mountains, as a matter of fact I’ve walked clean across this d____ island and it wasn’t the most pleasant jaunt I ever took. Wish you could see these young men of mine fight. It would do your heart good to see the calm joyful manner in which they kill the rats. I really believe this is the first time the Japs have run against American troops that never stop coming. It has been the custom in this so called jungle warfare for troops to start “holing up” an hour or more before sundown and form their so-called perimeter from which they never venture forth until after cooking individual breakfast at daylight – taking an hour to do so. As a result, the Japs bivouac at their ease, have scouts watch the formation of the perimeter and then heckle our troops all night. We changed that – made my troops keep going until dark, then dig in so the Japs don’t know where we are located and finally got them to the point where they would start out just before the crack of dawn without breakfast. As a result, we’ve killed about twice as many Japs in proportion to our own casualties as had any other division. The last day, the 22d, when we busted out of the hills to where the 7th Division was sitting on the beach – the dawn attack caught 300 Japs sleeping outside their foxholes and we slaughtered them there with bayonet, knife and hand grenades. From then on it was a field day – had four battalions in column. As fast as one showed the least sign of tiring, sent the next one thru and by noon, we had done 4,000 yards – took a break for breakfast and at 1430, we were on the beach and the 7th Division bivouac. Counted approximately 750 dead Japs and didn’t go down the cliffs where many of them rolled off – captured two mountain howitzers, 1000 rounds of ammunition, 16 light machine guns, seven heavies, and the Japs left engineer, signal and medical supplies and many split-toed shoes along the trail. Have told the Corps commander if he wants to walk from Burauen air fields to Ormoc beach all he has to do is put a clothes pin on his nose and let a man with a strong stomach guide him.

General Peyton C. March

General Peyton C. March

Our identification shows that we cleaned out the 16th and 26th Division completely. The two had consolidated in the Mt. Mahonag region and initiated the attack on the airfields in conjunction with the paratrooper attack of Dec. 6th. Have killed the Chief of Staff of the 16th Division and most of the staff of both divisions but unable to locate the two commanding generals. Prisoners of war say they were replaced by new commanders but believe they were evacuated by air. Of course the devils bury their officers and booby trap their bodies so we’ll never know.

Am taking a week to evacuate to the beach and reequip for an airborne operation, but as I told you some time ago the staff is a pain in the neck to me so far as having little imagination. Afraid they can’t supply us once we’re in and we have practically supplied ourselves with cub planes for over a month in the mountains. Come under Eichelberger’s command on the 26th. He has already sent word he wants to see me about an airborne operation, so maybe we’ll have a chance to do our stuff. You probably surmised the orthodox manner in which they will attack Luzon. Have a spot picked out south of Manila that would give the so and so’s fits if I can convince the powers to land me there. Xmas greetings,
Sincerely,
Joe

Everett "Smitty" Smith at Camp MacKall, N.C.

Everett “Smitty” Smith at Camp MacKall, N.C.

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General Peyton C. March (12/27/1864 – 4/13/1955) is known to World War I enthusiasts as the commander of the United States First Army. Also, then as Army Chief of Staff, he created additional branches, one being the U.S. Army Air Corps.
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Jump on Aparri

Luzon

Luzon

With his thoughts still focused on his R&R in Australia, Everett “Smitty” Smith landed back at Lipa City, P.I. only to discover that a mission was scheduled. The last remaining organized Japanese group, the Shabu Forces, were hold up in the northeast corner of Luzon and General Swing had organized the Gypsy Task Force to take them out. On his orders, this unique unit would include “all Camp MacKall veterans.” This would include men from the 187th Infantry, the 511th, the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, a platoon from the 127th Engineers and two platoons from B Company. Despite Gen. Krueger’s disapproval, Lt. Col. Henry Burgess, now 26 years old, would be the commanding officer. (Smitty was at the ancient age of 30, one of the oldest paratroopers besides one other soldier and a few of the officers.) Col. Lahti (31) would be CO for the reserve unit.

C-47 Skytrain ("Gooney Bird")

C-47 Skytrain (“Gooney Bird”)

Col. John Lackey, CO of the 317th Troop Carrier Group, with very little notice, began loading 54 C-47s and 13 C-46s at 0430 hours, 23 June 1945. His plane was the first to leave Lipa airstrip and the constant rumbling of the planes soon became “Vs” in the open skies. Within the transports, every man appeared as a clone to the next. Individuality was lost among the uniforms, bundled parachutes and rucksacks filled to capacity with ammunition, first-aid, water and C-rations.

Each man stood and checked the chute of the man beside him when the “Gooney Birds” lurched at 0900 hours; the smoke flares from the forward Pathfinders were spotted and green lights flashed for the paratroopers. The stick of men hooked up to the static lines and proceeded to jump into vertical development. With mandatory, disciplined silence, the traditional battle cry, “Geronimo,” is only heard within the imaginative faculty of 1,030 men. All these diverse personalities would react separately to the same experience.

1,030 men jump on Aparri, Luzon

1,030 men jump on Aparri, Luzon

Each man, for his own reasons, volunteered for the perilous duty that might end his life. Each man went through various stages of development and arrived at the same destination. Each man had been chosen for their good health, general toughness and honor. A jump into combat is reality in its most crystalline form.

As the ground races up to meet the troopers, they see the tall, thick fields of the sharp kunai grass, flooded rice paddies, carabao ruts and bomb craters – all would prove dangerous. The Task Force would lose 7%, two men killed and 70 wounded as they landed in 25 mph winds. The battle-hardened paratroopers collected their flame throwers, howitzers and rifles from the gliders and reassembled with “Espirit de Corps.”

C-46 Commando

C-46 Commando

The 11th Airborne battled the Shabu Forces on a 75 mile hike in 120 degree heat to connect up with the Connolly Task Force. The combined goal was to prevent the enemy from escaping into the Cagayan Valley and out to sea. Lt. Col. Burgess met Gen. Beightler, on 26 June, and received a rather snide remark about how his men had saved the 11th A/B. Burgess became quite red-faced and replied that he was under orders to save the 37th Division. Gen. Swift, standing off to one side, laughed and said, “Well, you SOUND like one of Swing’s boys.”

The Gypsy Task Force marched away to the 37th’s Headquarters to request C-47s to transport the unit back to Lipa. Burgess was denied and told to countermarch to Aparri and have the trucks take them south to Manila. That would mean they would still need to march another 55 miles from Manila to Lipa. Instead, the men bribed the C-47 pilots with Japanese swords, guns and various other paraphernalia in exchange for a flight back. (Necessity is the mother of invention.)

Bold headlines exploded in the Australian newspapers: U.S. Paratroopers Land In Northern Luzon – “After the 11th A/B Division made their air-borne landing near Aparri on June 23rd., using their gliders for the first time, carrying howitzers, jeeps and mobile equipment. Each trooper jumped with 100 pounds of gear strapped to his body.”
In the 26 June 1945 issue of The Army News – “On Saturday, from 600 feet into paddy fields, the 11th Airborne dropped near the port of Aparri in a surprise move against the Japanese forces in northern Luzon. They used their gliders for the first time in the southwest Pacific…”

"Jumpin' Joe" Swing

“Jumpin’ Joe” Swing

3 July, General Swing made an offical note stating that he had implored the higher echelon of the Sixth Army two months previous with a plan to drop the entire 11th Airborne Division onto northern Luzon back when Gen. Krueger’s men were having so much trouble with the Japanese in Balete Pass. He expressed his frustration that his own plan to attack Aparri had gone unheeded. The Japanese had been given the opportunity to withdraw just enough to unite with reinforcements.

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Resources:
Angels: History of the 11th Airborne Division, Rakkasans (both books by Gen. E.M. Flanagan) and The Pacific War (John Davison),Trove Australian archives. photos : AOL images

Sorry to be reposting this, but it has NOT shown up in the Reader under my Tags. So, I’m trying it again. Thank you for your patience.

Pacific Theater continues

The men needed some humor.

The men needed some humor.

amusement park, Conn.

amusement park, Conn.

movie poster

movie poster

600full-first-yank-into-tokyo-photo

While families at home went to the latest movie (either glorifying the war with romance or as an escape from the constant reminders of war), carnivals or to work, the Sixth Australian Division attacked and occupied Wewak, New Guinea. This is relevant because it housed the headquarters of the Japanese Eighteenth Army. A major boon for the PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations).

23 May, at least 65 square miles of Tokyo had been incinerated by bombs and napalm. Later, the same action was taken over Yokohama, Osaka and Kobe. This left over 100 square miles of the principle Japanese cities devastated and one-third of the country’s construction destroyed. Japan’s factories were demolished.

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Japanese balloon bomb

Japanese balloon bomb

Young Japanese girls wore headbands that designated them as Special Attack Force members. Daily they would recite the Imperial Precepts for Soldiers and Sailors before they began a twelve-hour shift in a makeshift factory in Kokura, Japan. Here they were producing 40 foot balloons to carry a bomb package across the ocean as they were released to drift on the Pacific jet stream. A total of approximately 9,300 of these weapons were made and about 342 reached land, some as far east as Ontario, Michigan and Nebraska. Some were shot down or caused minor injuries and one hit a powerline of the nuclear weapons plant at Hanford, Washington. But – 5 May 1945 – near Klamath Falls, Oregon, a pregnant woman, Elyse Mitchell and five students were killed on their way to a picnic. These were the only casualties of the war in the 48 states.
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Going thru Manila.

Going thru Manila.

The 11th Airborne continued their patrols, moping up details and training at Lipa. General Swing had another jump school built that created 1,000 newly qualified paratroopers. The new glider school concentrated on the “snatch pickup” method, whereby a CG-4A Glider on the ground with a towrope and a C-47 with a hook. As the plane goes overhead at an altitude of 15 feet, it snatches up the glider and brings it to 120 mph in a matter of a few seconds. (The noise from the plane, shock and whiplash must have been overwhelming.) With May drawing to a close and the Japanese Army being pushed to the northeast corner of Luzon, the men of the division began to realize something was up.

Infantry in Manila

Infantry in Manila

Research derived from The Mail Tribune (Oregon newspaper), Film Links 4U. com, the U.S. Army & The Last Great Victory by: Stanely Weintraub.