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Letter IX – “A Day’s Venture”

Dobodura, New Guinea

At this point in time, the jungle war training had live firing and everything was becoming a bit clearer, a bit more realistic.

Major Burgess left the units temporarily to set up a jump school.  This would give the glidermen and Burgess himself an opportunity to qualify as paratroopers.  The parachutists began their glider training at Soputa airstrip that was no longer in regular use.

waters off Lae, New Guinea

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Letter IX                                               “A Day’s Venture”                                                                      Monday   6/26/44                                        

Dear Mom,

Yesterday, being Sunday, a day of rest, I decided to ride around this place and see something.  I made up my mine though that this sightseeing tour of mine, this time, would be done as a civilian completely forgetting I’m in the army.  You have to do this in order to see the place in its true light, otherwise if you don’t all you can see is hardship and work.  With my mind cleared of Khaki, I set forth in a jeep with a buddy of mine; who I dare say couldn’t see the sense of our venture.

As we drove along in the still quiet, the thought kept coming to me of the enormous job the boys before us had to confront and overcome.  Here and there along the way you could see some old emplacement or deserted village.  These villages were really something to see with their straw-thatched roofs and open sided houses.  We wouldn’t call them shed, but that is just what they looked like.

One can readily understand why the authors of those travelogues really go all out when describing these islands.  You forget the heat as cooling breezes blow over you from the coast and the shade of the giant coconut trees gradually engulf you.

We passed one spot close to the coast that suddenly shook us with the horrible realization of our place and mission.  It wasn’t large or spread out, but all was peaceful and quiet though men were gaily chatting and swimming nearby.  We entered by an archway on which was inscribed, “Japanese Cemetery.”  We passed now upon some of the little white markers all neatly lined up and lettered.  Although they were once an active enemy, one could not help but see the shame and waste of war.

We looked around the beach for a while, then decided to go in for a swim.  The water here is amazingly warm and clear.  You could never believe it unless you could see it as I have.  How crystal clear and immune of blemish this water here is.  Why, to peer down 25 feet and see bottom is really an easy thing to do.  The bottom is sand, sand at its finest and whitest literally covered with shells of every shape and color with here and there a grotesque piece of coral.  You can really pick out the coral as it shows up a faint green while the shells throw all colors of the rainbow up at you until your eyes are completely dazzled by the many-colored lights.

By this time, the sun was well on its way toward the horizon and dusk rapidly approaching.  Here and there a faint star twinkled until suddenly the sky was almost completely covered with thousands.  The moon finally appeared in all its bright glory and reflected itself a hundred times over on the waves before us.  The end of the day had come and with it also my venture into a world never to be forgotten.  This day will long be remembered and stored with the rest of my most treasured memories.

Good night!  And may God bless you,  Everett

PS>  I shall write to Joe Dumb as soon as I send this letter on its way.  Be good and take care of yourself.

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Current News –        Mission 55

Say hello to Mr. Joe Butkus, a proud veteran of the 84th Engineer Construction Battalion who is having a birthday REAL SOON!

For the Mr.  Butkus story, visit equips !!

Cards to be sent to:  Joe Butkus  c/o Mary Ellen Hart  1868 North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT  06824

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Charles E. Burns – Miami, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI

Pete Conley – Chapmanville, WV; US Army, Korea, Cpl., Co. K/3/31/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin Reservoir)

Arthur W. Countryman – Plainfield, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, TSgt. # 20602751, Co F/12/4th Infantry Div., Bronze Star, KIA (Hürtgen, GER)

Tony Elliott – brn: UK; Royal Navy, WWII, CBI  &  Korea

George M. Gooch – Laclede, MO; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Electrician’s Mate, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Robert J. Harr – Dallas City, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO Fireman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Irene Heyman – Brooklyn, NY; Civilian, WWII, Defense blueprints and Red Cross “Gray Lady”

Andrew J. Ladner – MS; US Army, WWII, PTO, Pvt. # 34133073, 126/32nd Infantry Div., Bronze Star, KIA (Huggin Road Blockade, NG)

Francis Morrill Jr. – Salem, MA; US Navy, WWII, PTO  /  USMC, Korea

Earl D. Rediske – Prosser, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co A/55/11th Airborne Division

Marian Robert (102) – Vancouver, CAN, RC Women’s Air Force, WWII

Leonard F. Smith – Albany, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Metalsmith 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

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A TOUCH OF BEAUTY

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11th Airborne Division – June 1944 – Lt. Gen. G.C. Kenney

Crashed Zero, Lae, New Guinea

Smitty always made mention of how hard the soldiers before him had to struggle.  He noticed that no matter how hard people or nature tried to disguise their surroundings, the scars of war were everywhere.  In New Guinea, my father had a clear view of the battle remnants of General Robert Eichelberger’s Australian and American troops from when they fought on a similar terrain and in battles as fiercely intense as Guadalcanal – on each island the territories had to be taken inch by inch.  (Many veterans know of what I speak.)

Japanese equipment

Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, Chief of Allied Air Forces, in the southwest Pacific sent his complaints to the War Dept.  and Gen. “Hap” Arnold, head of the U.S. Army Air Forces to explain just that in 1942:

“… The Japanese is still being underrated.  There is no question of our being able to defeat him, but the time, effort, blood and money required to do the job may run to proportions beyond all conception, particularly if the devil is allowed to develop the resources he is now holding.

Gen. George C. Kenney

“Look at us in Buna.  There are hundreds of Buna ahead for us.  The Japanese there has been in a hopeless position for months.  He has been outnumbered heavily throughout the show.  His garrison has been whittled down to a handful by bombing and strafing.  He has no air support and his own Navy has not been able to get passed our air blockade to help him.  He has seen lots of Japs sunk off shore a few miles away.  He has been short on rations and has had to conserve his ammunition, as his replenishment from submarines and small boats working down from Lae at night and once by parachute from airplanes has been precarious, to say the least.  The Emperor told them to hold, and believe me, they have held!  As to their morale — they still yell out to our troops, “What’s the matter, Yanks?  Are you yellow?  Why don’t you come in and fight?”  A few snipers, asked to surrender after being surrounded, called back, “If you bastards think you are good enough, come and get us!”

“…I’m afraid that a lot of people, who think this Jap is a “pushover” as soon as Germany falls, are due for a rude awakening.  We will have to call on all our patriotism, stamina, guts and maybe some crusading spirit or religious fervor thrown in to beat him.  No amateur team will take this boy out.  We have got to turn professional.  Another thing: there are no quiet sectors in which troops get started off gradually, as in the last war.  There are no breathers on this schedule.  You take on Notre Dame every time you play!”

Gen. Eichelberger

It was after this one month later after this report that the specialized training for the 11th A/B began and the War Dept. also saw the need for improved weapons for this “new type of war.”   Under the direction of Colonel William Borden this effort resulted in: 105-mm and 155-mm mortars, flamethrowers, ground rockets, colored smoke grenades and the skidpans for towing heavy artillery in muddy terrains.

But – still at this point – only about 15% of the Allied resources were going to the Pacific.

 

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Military Humor – 

“Sorry sir, but the lads won’t go over the top if the ladder hasn’t been health and safety tested.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Abraham Bashara – Lawrence, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO

Ralph C. Battles – Boaz, AL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Fireman 2nd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor

Gary Cohen – Tuscaloosa, AL; Civilian, Veteran’s Dept. Psychologist, (Florida condo collapse)

Louis N. Crosby – Orangeburg, SC; US Army, Korea, Pfc., Co A/1/32/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin Reservoir)

Warren G.H. DeVault – Rhea, TN; US Army, WWII, ETO, Pvt. # 34493012, Co F/2/12/4th Infantry Div, Bronze Star, KIA (Hürtgen, GER)

Dielon Harwood – Guion, TX; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, (Ret.)

William MacDonald – Quincy, MA; US Army, WWII, Signal Corps

Frank Nicholls, NZ; RNZ Army # 436280, WWII

Ward Russo – San Francisco, CA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Essex, mechanic

Edwin Sedran – Far Rockaway, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

Elaine Smith – Syracuse, NY; US Coast Guard SPARS, WWII

Glen F. White – MO; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc. # 371100, Co A/1/6/2nd Marine Division, Silver Star,  KIA (Betio, Tarawa Atoll)

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What should the caption be?

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Letter VIII G.I. Labor

Smitty near Lae, New Guinea in front of his tent

You may notice in Smitty’s letters that he does not mention his rigorous training or even combat in his later ones.   As a child I asked if I would ever catch him in one of the old news reels and he said that he surely doubted it.  He made a point to avoid any photographers in the event his mother caught sight of the pictures of him in combat.  No matter how hard things had become, he found something else to talk about, but he did have a tongue-in-cheek humor that could amuse someone even while he was complaining.

the Pyramidal tent

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Letter VIII                                G.I. Labor                                         6/17/44

Dear Mom,

Work!  Work!  And more work.  After a week here, we still can’t figure when it is all going to end.  We put tents up, then take them down.  That is our biggest problem — tents.

The War Department in Washington has its offices in a large air-conditioned building costing hundreds of thousands of the taxpayer’s money.  In this building, they have all the inventing geniuses of the land.  All they do is design equipment and little what-nots for us.  After that, it is submitted to the boards of Strategy, Health, Welfare, etc.

Now, some poor weak underfed inventor designed in a moment of frenzy and excitement, the Pyramidal Tent number M.6606.  It passed everything and every board with flying colors — until finally — we got hold of it.  We put them up with the loss of tons of perspiration and energy, only to find out later that someone, someplace around here didn’t like the way they looked.  That job of putting the tents up was simple and much too easy.  They sent down a set of blue prints that reminded me of the Empire State Building with the Holland Tunnel thrown in.

Well, next day, bright and early we arose wearily to find that we were to be split up into different sections such as log cutters, tent putter-uppers, log setters and log finders.  We, the pole setter-uppers, sat down and pondered over the blue prints.  We had to raise the center pole 16 inches, while on the four corners erect eight-foot poles.  Then, connecting these  poles at the top of 16-foot logs.

Sounds very easy, but for some reason or other, the trees grew in the jungle across a stream which all in all made log cutting and finding an exasperating business.  Undaunted though, the men went in laden down with axes, saws and prismatic and soon logs were being cut — also fingers, arms and legs.  It wasn’t long before we had the amount of lumber necessary to start work on the first domicile, house or tent.  We were all set and ready, four men were holding up the corner poles and one man steadied the center pole.  The whistle blows for us to fall in and be counted.  We fall in, the corners fall out and the blame tent fell down.  Oh Well!!  What the heck, tomorrow’s another day and after all, the boys that belonged in that tent can sleep out.

This routine kept up for days until finally all our tents were erected and set.  “Looks good,” we all said and good it was, but not to some of the higher-ups who again decided the tents were now too high and would we please, under threat of court-martial, lower the 4 corner posts to 5 feet.  (Oh death, where is thy sting?)  Upon completing this last detail, they then decided the tents should all be moved and then lined up on a new line.  This has been going on for so long that each morning we have to stop, think and hold ourselves in check, for a few times we caught men automatically tearing down tents or putting up poles where there wasn’t anything to put up.

“The heat!” they said, and then gave us half a day off, only to try to squeeze it out of us the next afternoon.  Well, maybe they can get blood out of a stone.

“Well, that’s all for that in this letter as I don’t want to tire you out completely listening to some of our other minor details that are stuck in here and there, such as digging latrine holes, building officer’s tents and officer knickknacks, polishing up, which we are experts at, K.P. duty, inspections, washing clothes and at night making little things for ourselves such as tables, desks, clothes racks, rings out of coins, wristwatch bands and loads of other do-dads.  I guess though the hardest thing is trying all day not to do all this work and go on the gold-bricking standard.  That last line would be understood by any buck private or G.I. as absolute fact and truth.

Wearily I end this letter and sleepily say regards to all. 

With love and kisses,  Everett

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Current News – 

equipsblog has notified us of a WWII & Korean War veteran, Ed Hyatt, who will be turning 100 soon!  Please visit over there and get Mr. Hyatt’s story and the address where to send a card.  Let’s give Ed an outstanding birthday!!

The Mission 54 story and address

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert W. Bronner – Reading, OH; US Army, WWII, ETO

John C. Burney Jr. – Little Falls, NY; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, airborne, West Point graduate ’46, BGeneral (Ret.)

Viggo Christensen Jr. – Schenectady, NY; US Army, 886th Medical/11th Airborne Division

Ralph A. Derrington – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Seaman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Marshall Elliott – Lander, WY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Aviation Gunner’s Mate

Richard L. Henderson – Lansing, NY; US Army, Korea, Cpl., HQ/57th Field Artillery/7th Infantry Div., KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

Charles Holtzman Jr. (101) – US Army, WWII, POW

William Medford – Ripley, TN; US Army, WWII, Cpl.

Montgomery Meigs – Holderness, NH; US Army, Vietnam, West Point graduate ’67,General (Ret.) / Europe Comdr.

Edward Miller – Evansville, WI; US Air Force, Korea, Airman 2nd Class, KIA (Alaska)

George L. Paradis – Yelm, WA; US Navy, WWII, Pharmacist’s Mate, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Anel B. Shay – USA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 345/98/9th Air Force, 2nd Lt., B-24 bombardier, Operation Tidal Wave, KIA (Ploiesti, ROM)

William H. Stephens – Delta, AL; US Army, Korea & Vietnam (Ret. 26 y.)

Donald A. Stott – Monticello, IA; US Navy, WWII, # 3214004, PTO, Seaman 1st Class,, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Reid Waltman – Lyndhurst, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 758 BS/459th Bombardment Group, Navigator

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Letter VII Land

native hut in New Guinea

For a period of five months the 11th Airborne Division would receive jungle warfare and intensified combat unit ground training in the primitive land of jungles and mountains and thatched huts and the native population fondly called, Fuzzy Wuzzies.  The Papua brigades and Allied forces, that fought in what constituted the Cartwheel Operations before the troopers arrived, made this landing possible.

The Dobodura area that the 11th A/B would make their home was inherited from the 5th Air Force.  The first order of business was for the 408th Quartermaster trucks to deliver the pyramidal tents.

Smitty near Lae, New Guinea

 

 

Letter VII                                                          Land               6/8/44

 

  Dear Mom,    

Well, here we are on the island of New Guinea.  From what we can see if it so far, I know we’ll never go hungry as the coconut trees are as thick as a swarm of bees.

We started for our area in trucks after all the rumors said we’d walk and we “Oh!” and Ah’d” all throughout the trip.  Not wanting to show the natives here how smart we are, the driver proceeded on his own when lo and behold — where were we?  I don’t know, no one knows, so right away we all knew that wherever we were — that wasn’t where we were supposed to be. 

Now, of course, we weren’t to blame, as after all, this is a strange and new place to us and they didn’t give us a Socony road map or a compass reading, so no matter — drive on — come what may.  Of course, some large and strange appearing trees which grew in the road had different ideas and no matter how hard we hit them, they consistently set us back.  How they ever managed to find a road to grow in is beyond me, but then they were here before us.  Naturally, after the way they treated our truck, we gave them a wide berth, eventually leaving the road al together.

When after what seemed like hours, we finally found our area, much to the delight of the lower hind part of our anatomy.  Then, our shoulders and backs had to haul our bags around until we found our tents.  This was done very systematically: someone had the idea of first asking the captain just where we belonged and he proceeded to take us there.  We could see at once that this place was no place for us and got right down to thinking up goldbricking alibis.

Work here is the main word we soon found out, and might I add we are all still trying to duck, but it seems that as soon as one finds a spot in the woods, oops I mean jungle, the tree-chopper-downers come along and there you are not only up to your neck in work, but also find out that now your haven is so exposed as to make it useless again as a hideout.

You might wonder what all this labor is about and also expect to find out in this chapter or letter, but no, it shall never be.  I’m saving that for the next installment, which I’m sure you will be breathlessly awaiting. 

 Regards to all.

Love, Your son,  Everett

Quartermaster Corps collar disc

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Barno – Nesquehoning, PA; US Navy, WWII  /  USMC, Korea, Sgt.

Wesley J. Brown – Helena, MT; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Fireman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Arthur W. Countryman – Plainfield, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, TSgt., Co. F/12/4th Infantry Division Bronze Star, KIA (Hürtgen Forest, GER)

Robert F. England – MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, “Hump” pilot  /  Korea, 1st Lt.

Kenneth G. Hart (100) – Stanwood, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Floyd D. Helton – Somerset, KY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Oklahoma, Fireman, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Donald Johnson (100) – Lake Orion, MI; US Navy, WWII, USS Takanis Bay (CVE-89)

Henry J. Kolasinski – Clayton, DE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 511/11th Airborne Division

Charles E. Lee – McLennan County, TX; US Army, Korea, Cpl., Co. K/3/34/24th Infantry Division, Field Lineman, KIA (Taejon, SK)

Thelma Miller – Akron, OH; Civilian, WWII, Goodyear Aircraft Corp., F4U construction

Robert Read (101) – London, ENG; Royal Navy, submarine service / Korea, Lt. Comdr.

Merle Smith Jr. – New London, CT; US Coast Guard, Vietnam, Cutter Comdr., Coast Guard Academy graduate Class of ’66

John J. Trumbley – Brooklyn, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO, Co. H/137th Infantry, Sgt.

Stanley Wilusz – Holyoke, MA; US Merchant Marines, WWII  /  US Army, Korea, Sgt.

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My week went well……

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Letter VI – Land Ho! On the Port Side

Dobodura, New Guinea

Just as Smitty expected, their destination was quickly coming up over the horizon.  The fleeting glimpse of solid land, Milne Bay, New Guinea was only a short stopover for water (such a disappointment) and they continued their cruise north.  The 11th Airborne Division came upon the humming waterfront of ships manipulating to unload troops, supplies and equipment in Oro Bay.  They witnessed a paradoxal view of organized chaos.

Down the rope ladders they went to the beach taxis, DUKWs (2 ton amphibious vehicles commonly called “ducks”) and onward to the awaiting shoreline.  At latitude 8*52’60S and longitude 148*30’0E, this would become the first step for many a G.I. on foreign soil.  Once they actually hit the beach, the heat seemed to slam into the troopers and their uniforms became soaked within minutes, but they proceeded on to the Buna-Dobodura area to make their new base camp.

July 1944. Sherfy, Johnson, Madam Queen, Roberts, Bachor, Wichmann, Amos, Andy, Hester, Baby Rastus”. By this time, Port Moresby was a secure back area of the Pacific theater.

As written in the Australian newspaper, The Canberra Times, 1944: “New Guinea was a country out of the Stone Age that was whizzed through the centuries.  A country that had previously known only natives, grass huts and raw nature has been blitzed from all angles with every piece of equipment known to modern engineering and warfare … the skies are as busy as a beehive with bombers and fighters and transports.”

The 11th had entered the jungles amidst torrential rains, mud and heat.  On their first day, the meals were prepared in Australian chuck wagons and the idea of fresh food would be a distant memory from the past.  From here on out, everything would be canned, dehydrated or cured.  Having come from the fishing town of Broad Channel, Smitty was accustom to eating seafood and was even teased in boot camp for liking the creamed chipped beef on toast (more commonly known as -“shit-on-a-shingle”), but those days were long gone.  I remember him saying more than once, “It wasn’t that the powdered eggs tasted bad — they just didn’t have a taste.”

Although General Swing, commander of the 11th A/B, had contracted malaria and was hospitalized when his men shipped out of the U.S., he boarded a plane for Brisbane, Australia to attend a meeting with Gen. MacArthur.  Swing was briefed on the immediate plans for his command and was reminded that the 11th A/B was considered a “secret weapon”, they would be in reserve for the New Guinea action though.  Swing managed to be in Dobodura in time to meet his men as they disembarked.

Dobodura, New Guinea

 

Letter VI                                                                                                       Land Ho!  On the port side

Dear Mom,  Well, land is in sight so I’ll just hold off this letter awhile until I can find out for sure if this is what we have all been waiting for or just another island….  Yep and yes siree this is finally it and from what I have seen up to now it is going to prove not only an interesting place, but picturesque as well.  Don’t know yet if we can say where we are, so I won’t attempt it.

Everyone is standing along the railings with glasses while those less fortunate are straining their eyes trying to get a glimpse of our new and strange surroundings.  It is all very exciting and thrilling and must say one gets sort of feeling down deep that is hard to explain.  It might be that the sight of this long awaited place has sub-consciously awaked us to the fact that we are one heck of a long way from home.

Now that we are here in a port with a chance of possibly getting this letter mailed, I’ll close this letter and mail it as I know how anxious you must be about me and would like to hear from me as soon as possible.  I promise you though that I will continue to write my letters like this and would like you to save them all so that when I get back I will have something to read back on and maybe remember.

I did finally get around to   so don’t worry any on that account.  I know how you worry about things like that so thought it best that you know.    That is just about all there is for now, so with regards to all and hoping this letter is the answer to your nightly prayers, I’ll close with all my love and millions of hugs and kisses.

Your son,  Everett

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Eldred ‘Mickey’ Alexander – Center, CO; US Army, WWII, ETO, 10th Armored Division

Stephen W. Babjar (100) – Albany, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, machinist’s mate, PT-27/Ron 1

Malcom J. Barber – All 3 brothers – New London, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Leroy K.  Barber    –   All 3 brothers were firemen, USS Oklahoma

Randolph H.  Barber – All 3 brother were KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Raymond C. Blanton – Richmond, VA; US Army, WWII, ETO, SSgt., Co. C/1/60/9th Infantry Division, KIA (Hüftgen Forest, GER)

Robert Douglas – Lynn, MA; US Army, WWII, Sgt.

Forrest T. Frost (101) – Sanger, CA; US navy, WWII, PTO, Chief Engineer, USS YOG-76

Sam Lombardo – (101) – brn: ITL; US Army, WWII, ETO,  /  Korea & Vietnam, Lt. Colonel (Ret.)

Donald Rowley (101) – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 41192, WWII

Diana Seamans – New London, NH; US Navy WAVES, WWII, communications/code breaker

William B. Wagner – Dixon, IL; US Army, 505/11th Airborne Division

Jack K. Wood – Wichita Falls, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 1st Lt., Distinguished Service Cross, 344/98/9th Air Force, B-24 navigator, KIA (Ploiest, ROM)

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Eye-witness Account

Jack Wilde, WWII

Jack Wilde woke up covered in blood. The gore gushed down his leg. His head pounded.

The second lieutenant had been hunched over in the cramped tail section of the B-25, so he didn’t really know what had happened.

He remembered the plane banking and suddenly starting to climb. Moments later he’d heard branches hitting the port tail wing. “I thought to myself, ‘Boy, that’s something to write home about,’ ” he recalled years later. “And about that time, it really was something to write home about because we hit the top of the mountain.”

Jack Wilde had found himself flying over the New Guinea jungle in January 1945 because his infantry division was part of the Allied forces leapfrogging across the Dutch East Indies toward Japan.

Intelligence had come in indicating that Japanese detachments were working their way toward the U.S. base at Sansapor, so commanders ordered an aerial reconnaissance to determine where exactly the enemy was.

Wilde headed for the B-25 along with the six other officers involved in the mission, he changed his mind. He turned to Lt. Tom Coghlan, who was seeing the group off.

“How about lending me that .45 of yours,” he said. “I’ll give it back to you after the ride is over.”

Coghlan handed over the gun and shoulder holster.

The plane had been in the air only about five minutes — flying low in a river canyon — when it made the rapid, steep ascent. A moment later the plane shook, throwing Wilde forward. The last thing he remembered was the Plexiglass over the tail gun shattering.

B-25G Mitchell

When Wilde regained consciousness, he realized he had a smattering of cuts on his face, but the real problem was his right leg. There were two deep punctures behind the kneecap, with blood pouring out. He tried to move the leg, sending a blast of pain shuddering through his body.

He climbed out of the mangled B-25 Mitchell and surveyed it. A wing was gone. The nose had been smashed into a disk. One of the engines sat on the ground nearby, still buzzing.

He found the other men in the wreckage. All dead.

The 22-year-old lieutenant didn’t have time to wonder how in the world he had managed to survive the crash. He didn’t even have time to be afraid. But the horrible scene would stay with him the rest of his life.

Turning away from the smoking debris that day, Lt. Jack Wilde took stock. He had on him 10 cigarettes, a lighter — and that .45 automatic, with seven rounds of ammunition.

That would have to be enough. He had to get moving. He figured that, with the noise the B-25 made while going down, any Japanese soldiers in the vicinity would be heading toward the area.

example of New Guinea jungle.

He was confident he could stay alive in the New Guinea jungle. He’d seen proof that it was possible.

The American lieutenant now oriented himself in the jungle as best he could and headed off. At first his damaged leg was so bad he had to drag himself on his belly. He was actually about 10 miles west of his destination.

The first night he found a big rock to hide behind. Rain poured down relentlessly through the darkness. His leg throbbed; he could feel blood still bubbling out of the wound. For the first time, the thought crossed his mind that he might die.

On his third day in the New Guinea jungle, Lt. Jack Wilde came upon a river that offered a series of violent waterfalls and rapids, with sheer cliffs on both sides rising between 50- and 100-feet high.

He sure liked the idea of letting that river carry him along, but he recognized that it was a foolish thought.  “I knew that in my condition I wasn’t able to survive that waterfall and what was going on in that river, because it was going down the mountainside at a hell of a clip,” he recalled.

But he also knew that walking wasn’t working out. When he came upon a large piece of balsa wood, he found himself thinking, “If that thing would float, I could just hang on and ride that waterfall out.”

He didn’t let himself consider it too hard: he jumped in the water, holding the balsa wood tight. Over the falls he went.  In the pool below the waterfall, the buoyant block of wood pulled him to the surface. He gasped for air, elated.

“That piece of wood and I were friends for two days,” he said.

There was just one problem: he was sometimes riding the rapids right past the enemy along the banks.

So when he saw that he was coming up on open areas where soldiers might be, he would slow down his progress, “find a brushy part and crawl out like an alligator and observe everything from a camouflage position and then sneak my way through the brush to the next place where I had to swim.”

He managed to avoid the Japanese, but more challenges remained. This included the fruitless search for food — and an encounter with a large wild boar that appeared intent on attack.

“I couldn’t shoot him, of course, because that would give me away,” he said. “Finally, I resorted to animal behavior, baring my teeth and like that.”  The boar, perhaps bemused, eventually wandered off.

Jack Wilde

Finally, after five full days in the jungle with nothing to eat, Wilde reached the mouth of the river — and found, “to my absolute horror,” a series of sturdy Japanese pillboxes blocking the crossing he needed to make.

“Well, there are times in life when you just have to accept that things are not the way you want them,” he said when relating his adventure 50 years later. “So I pulled back the slide on the automatic and made sure there was a shell in the chamber and took it off safe and put it in my right hand and thought to myself, ‘Well, fellas, here we come.’ ”

He eased his way along the fortifications and peeked in, one by one. He breathed: the pillboxes had been abandoned. But his relief didn’t last long. After he crossed the river and began to push through the brush, he spotted soldiers moving carefully along the edge of the beach.

His luck once again held. As he headed toward the men, staying low, he realized it wasn’t the enemy. It was a patrol from his 167th infantry.

He moved onto the beach, took off his hat and started waving it. He now realized he was going to survive this ordeal. That he might have a long life after all. And he did.

Wilde’s fellow soldiers carried him to a forward outpost, and from there they sent him by boat to the main base.

“When I came ashore, who was standing there but Lt. Coghlan,” Wilde said. “I handed him his pistol and holster and said, ‘Thank you.’ ”

He hadn’t needed to use it, he pointed out, but “I was sure glad I had it.”

In a letter home a few days later, Jack Wilde wrote that the base doctors “seem to think it remarkable that I could walk out — but I was damn hungry.”

Jack Wilde passed away in 2011 at the age of 89.

©2020 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Roger C. Butts – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, WWII, Cook 2nd Class # 1144738, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Ralph Cole – Huntsville, AL; US Army, WWII / NASA, electric engineer

By: Howard Brodie

Warren D’Alesandro – Staten Island, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, B-24 flight engineer

Raymond Hawes – Providence, RI; US Army, Japanese Occupation

Howard D. Hodges – Washington, NC; US Navy, WWII, Fireman 1st Class, USS West Virginia, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Joyce Matthews – St. Petersburg, FL; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

J. Lee Ogburn (102) – Atlanta, GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 pilot, 14th Air Force

Carrie Roberts – Pearsall, TX; Civilian, WWII, built bomb sights

Richard Smith (102) – Guy Mills, PA; US Navy, WWII, Lt. Commander, pilot

Joseph Zaleski – New Britain, CT; US Navy, WWII

The 187th ‘Rakkasans’ – part (1)

11th Airborne Division, 1943 Yearbook

My father, Everett A. Smith, was a member of Headquarters Company/187th/11th Airborne Division, from 1942 until 1946.  From the very start of the division, General Joseph M. Swing was their commander.  Often called ‘Uncle Joe’, Smitty’s picture of him says, “My General” on the reserve side.

Major General Joseph Swing

Soldiers of the 187th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) have the distinction of belonging to the only airborne regiment that has served in every conflict since the inception of American airborne forces. Today, the First Battalion (1/187) and Third Battalion (3/187) of the 187th carry on the tradition while assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 101st Airborne Division. The 3d BCT carries on the nickname “Rakkasans,” the nom de guerre of the 187th/11th Airborne Division.

Smitty reclining in front, on the far right, with the HQ Company/187th Regiment/11th Airborne

The Regiment was constituted on November 12, 1942 and activated on February 25, 1943 as the 187 Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) at Camp MacKall, North Carolina. The two-battalion regiment was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division for the duration of World War II.

The first major milestone for the 11th Airborne Division, which along with the 187th Glider Infantry included the 188th Glider Infantry and the 511th Parachute Infantry, was to convince the War Department that the divisional airborne concept was viable. Airborne operations during 1943 in Sicily and the Italian mainland had not gone well. The 11th and 17th Airborne Divisions conducted the Knollwood Maneuvers in late 1943 and early 1944 that demonstrated to observers that an airborne division could be flown at night, land on their planned drop zones, be resupplied by air, and hold their objective until relieved. The success of the Knollwood Maneuvers was a major factor in the approval of future parachute operations during WWII.

courtesy of the U.S. Army Signal Corps

The 187th Glider Infantry and the rest of the 11th Airborne Division embarked for the Pacific out of Camp Stoneman, California in May of 1944. Their first combat action was to join the campaign in New Guinea on May 29, 1944.  This would start the long and productive relationship with the 5th Air Force.  The regiment joined the fight in the Philippines, landing on Leyte on November 18, 1944. The 187 GIR then landed on Luzon on January 31, 1945.

Camp Stoneman, “Through these portals…..”

The regiment, along with the 188th GIR, entered Luzon by making an amphibious landing on the enemy-held Nasugbu Point in order to flank the Japanese lines. The 187th Glider Infantry fought in other notable actions on Luzon, like “Purple Heart hill,” Tagatay Ridge, Nichols Field, and Mount Macelod. As part of the 11th Airborne Division, the 187 GIR was one of the units instrumental in liberating the Philippine capital of Manila. The regiment was given the honor of garrisoning the city. Moreover, the 187th was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for action at Tagatay Ridge and later a Philippine Presidential Citation for valorous combat performance in the liberation of Luzon and Manila.

November 1944: Two Coast Guard-manned landing ships open their jaws as U.S. soldiers line up to build sandbag piers out to the ramps, on Leyte island, Philippines. (AP Photo)

At the end of WWII, the 11th Airborne Division was selected as the first troops to enter Japan on occupation duty. On August 30, 1945 flew to Atsugi Airfield in Yamamoto, Japan. The 187th Infantry was the first American occupation troops, and the first foreign military force to enter Japan in more than 2,000 years. It was in Japan that the regiment earned its nickname.

Gen. Swing’s flag atop Atsugi Airfield hanger

The regiment had been converted from glider infantry to the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. The Japanese had no word to describe these soldiers falling from the sky, so they used the made up Japanese word “rakkasan” to describe what the American soldiers did. The literal translation means “falling down umbrella men.” The locals started calling the troopers “Rakkasans,” and the name stuck.

To be continued…….

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Paul Barns Jr. – Miami,. FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Lt.

Joan Carlsen – Littleport, ENG; RAF WAAF, WWII, radio operator

Thomas R. Cross (101) – WY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 517th PIR, Col. (Ret.)

Jack Farley – Burdine, KY; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Sgt. (Ret. 27 y.), Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Milton Farmer – Canton, GA; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Co. A/ 187th RCT, (Ret. 20 y.)

Daniel Grosso – Buffalo, NY; USMC, WWII, Purple Heart

Wesley McNaughton – Ottawa, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO, Electrical & Mechanical Corps

Leonard Nixon – Garden City, SC; US Navy, WWII, PTO, electrician’s mate, USS Bougainville

Elgin Roy – Chattanooga, TN; USMC, WWII, PTO & CBI

Donald J. Streiber – Bountiful, UT; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

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Memorial Day + “You Are Not Forgotten” book review

 

From Arlington to remote prairie shrines to foreign fields, America provides a resting place for her fallen.  Now, on this poignant 25th day of May, we revive the memory of those heroes, though we should honor them every day.  Long after the agony of Bunker Hill, Heartbreak Ridge, Normandy, the Chosin Reservoir, the Tet Offensive and Bagdad, the dead lie in peace.  They and their comrades have left us names the world should never forget.  Make certain they did not die in vain.

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“You Are Not Forgotten”

Two men, their lives separated by over 60 years, became forever intertwined.

“You Are Not Forgotten” shows the inspiration and commitment of the American military.   For this nonfiction story, it goes from the Pacific in WWII to a memory and experience of Iraq.

A USMC,  F4U Corsair pilot, Major Marion ‘Ryan’ McCown, is lost during a battle over New Guinea and the jungle swallows all trace of him on 20 January 1944.

Over 60 years later, U.S. Army Major George Eyster V, despite coming from a long ancestry of military officers, became disillusioned after serving in Iraq.  Instead of ending his career, he joined the JPAC (Joint Pow/MIA Accounting Command), a division whose sole purpose is to leave no man behind.   With the author, Bryan Bender, at the helm, he brings these two lives together with researched firsthand information.

Read how facts and clues are pieced together to locate those that have fallen and that we so wish to remember and honor today.

This book was gifted to me from Judy Guion of the Greatest Generation Lessons, who found this book not only fascinating, but educational.  Thank you very much, Judy.

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GP Cox’s Veterans

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Farewell Salutes – 

Iona Anderson – Garber, IA; Womens USMC, WWII, Sgt.

Trevarius Bowman – Spartansburg, SC; US National Guard, Afghanistan, 1st Lt., 228th Tactical Signal Brigade

Peter Clark Jr. – Menasha, WI, USMC, WWII

Henry Hoffman III – Brooklyn, NY; US Army Air Corps, Japan Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

Charles Jackson – Thackerville, OK; US Coast Guard, (Ret.28 y.)

Moyne Linscott – Sumner, MO; US Army Air Corps, Japan Occupation, 1127 Airborne Engineers/11th Airborne Division

WWII Memorial poem at Arlington Cemetery

John Myers – Toledo, OH; US Coast Guard, WWII / US Army, Korea, mine sweeper

William Opalka – Chicago, IL; US Merchant Marines, WWII

Terrance Plank – Santa Cruz, CA; US Army, Vietnam, medic, 3/506/101st Airborne Division, Purple Heart, Bronze Star

Gene Vance – Garner, TX; US Navy, WWII, PTO / US Army, Vietnam, 11th Airborne Div. & 10th Special Forces Group, Sgt. Major (Ret.) / FAA

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courtesy of fellow blogger, Patty B.

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“Doubly So When Wars Increase”

The Chaplain Kit

Living, working and playing among the Service Members they minister to, chaplains usually have insight into the struggles and feelings of those Service Members. They help them try to navigate their troubles successfully through many means, based on their strengths and talents. Some use poetry, as did Chaplain Henry W. Habel, who by March 1945, had been an Army Chaplain for three years.

Chaplain Habel was from Buffalo, New York and graduated from Acadia University in Nova Scotia before pastoring churches in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada through the Baptist Church of the Northern Convention.

The following poem, written by Chaplain Habel, was found in a worship bulletin from 6 May 1945, from the 13th General Hospital Chapel in New Guinea where Chaplain (Major) D.O. Luginbill and Chaplain (Captain) L.V. Walters were the chaplains.

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Our Worship

Oft men feel they’re “in a spot”,

Wondering how to bear their…

View original post 82 more words

Australian Troops: Wewak,New Guinea

Painting of Aussies in New Guinea, artist unknown

I hope many of you remember the battles that were started for liberating New Guinea back at the original stage of the Pacific War – at this point – they were still going on.

The operations were characterized by prolonged small-scale patrolling with small-scale company attacks. Progress was slowed by the difficulties of transporting supplies overland or by barge and the flash flooding of a number of the rivers the Australians had to cross. In one incident, seven men from the 2/3rd Battalion drowned in the swollen waters of the Danmap River which had risen suddenly after a torrential downpour. After Dogreto Bay was occupied, the supply problems eased somewhat.

Wewak, New Guinea map

On 16 March 1945, the airfields at But and Dagua on the coast were occupied, although fighting continued further inland from there over the course of the following fortnight. On 25 March, Lieutenant Albert Chowne, a platoon commander from the Australian 2/2nd Battalion led an attack on a Japanese position that was holding up the advance on Wewak. For his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Albert Chowne

In the Torricelli Mountains the 17th Brigade continued its advance against stubborn Japanese defense. Nevertheless, by 23 April 1945 they had secured Maprik. The fall of Maprik allowed the Australians to begin constructing an airfield 8 miles (13 km) away at Hayfield, and this was completed on 14 May allowing reinforcements and supplies to be flown in.

Elsewhere the 19th Brigade had begun its assault on Wewak in early May. HMAS Hobart, Arunta, Warramunga, Swan and HMS Newfoundland (of the British Pacific Fleet) as well as the RAAF bombarded the Wewak defenses. On 11 May, a landing at Dove Bay by Farida Force was undertaken to encircle Wewak and prevent the escape of its garrison. Wewak fell on the same day, as the 19th Brigade occupied its airfield.

HMAS Warramunga

The fighting around Wewak airfield continued until 15 May, however, when men from the 2/4th Battalion, with armoured support, attacked Japanese positions overlooking the airstrip. It was during this attack that Private Edward Kenna carried out the deeds that led to him being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Edward Kenna

Following this, the remaining Japanese in the area withdrew into the Prince Alexander Mountains to the south of Wewak. To counter this, the 16th Brigade was dispatched to follow them up, and push them towards the 17th Brigade which advanced towards the east towards Maprik.

Australian 2/3 Battalion at memorial for fallen comrades, New Guinea 1945

These operations continued until 11 August, by which time the 16th Brigade had reached Numoikum, about 23 kilometres (14 mi) from Wewak, while the 17th Brigade had captured Kairivu, 24 kilometres (15 mi) from Wewak. At this stage, word was received that the Japanese government had begun discussing terms for a possible surrender and so offensive operations were brought to a halt.

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Military Humor – 

‘Psst. It’s okay in here, but don’t go around calling $690 billion ‘chump change.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Philip Barbary – Murray Valley, AUS; Australian Army # 45018, Vietnam, 104 Signal Squadron

Robert Costello – Newcastle, AUS; Australian Army, Vietnam

Robert Forstburg – Upper Darby, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 101st Airborne Division

Ralph Regis Giles – Lowell, MA; US Army, Korea, KIA

Gordon Herrick – Rochester, NY; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Glen McGraw – Centerville, IN; US Army, WWII

Eric Rapps – ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO, 8th Army

Doris Sherman (101) – Como, AUS; Royal Navy, WWII, ETO & PTO, Chief Petty Officer, nurse

Betty Tallarico – Dorothy, WV; Civilian, US Navy draftsman

Geoffrey ‘Boy’ Wellum – Cornwall, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO, 65th Squadron, Distinguished Flying Cross

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