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The Final Combat Mission – 15 August 1945

Captain Jerry Yellin flew the last combat mission of WWII on the morning of August 15, 1945, out of Iwo Jima.

Cruising above the Pacific under the morning sun, the Americans had approached the Japanese coastline without incident. Jerry wondered how many more missions like this he would have to fly. They’d all thought the war was over, but now, here he was again, heading to strike a stubbornly resistant enemy.

But down below, in the nation they were about to attack, a philosophical battle was raging on whether to surrender or fight on. The “Big Six”—the six military officers running Japan—had been split by a vote of 3-3 on when and how to end the war with honor. In general, hard, passionate divisions of opinion existed among the Japanese military: some of the older officers wanted to surrender to prevent the destruction of Japan, while others wanted to fight on to the death and kill as many Americans as possible.

The previous night, while another 300 American B-29s strafed Japan again, a group of rogue Japanese officers had started a coup against Prime Minister Suzuki and Emperor Hirohito. The officers burned the prime minister’s office and surrounded the Imperial Palace, hoping to kidnap the emperor, all in an effort to prevent Japan’s leadership from thinking about surrendering. For these officers, and for so many of the Japanese people, surrender was not an option. There was glory in death, but only shame in surrender; Japan, for its part, had never been invaded or lost a war in its history.

Capt. Jerry Yellin, 78th FG

Fortunately for the rest of the world, the coup did not succeed. A group of senior Japanese officers talked the insurgents off the ledge, convincing them that there was nowhere to go. But while the revolt ended, the war did not, and so, with the shoreline of the enemy territory coming into view and Phil Schlamberg, his dear friend and fellow pilot, on his wing, Jerry knew it was time to go back to work.

On Jerry’s order, all the planes in his squadron dropped their eternal fuel tanks over the ocean, then started familiar aerial trek over the great, snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji. As of yet, there had been no radio signal with the word “UTAH,” signaling the end of the war.

As the Americans approached the Japanese capital, they began to identify targets. Within minutes, they swooped down over airfields and attacked despite heavy ground fire. Tracer bullets flew up from the Japanese guns as the 78th made multiple passes at each target.

After strafing the last airfield, Jerry checked his fuel gauge and saw he was still in good shape. But when one of the pilots radioed that his tank had reached the ninety-gallon mark—the amount a Mustang needed for the return flight—it was time to pull up and begin plotting the course back to Iwo Jima.

78th Fighter Group

Jerry looked over at Phil, who was still on his wing, and give him a thumbs up.  Phil looked back and returned the gesture.

With the battle of Tokyo complete, Jerry set his course back out to the ocean and banked to the south. The three other Mustangs in Jerry’s squadron returned with him. A few moments later, as they approached the coast where they would rendezvous with the navigational B-29s, they neared a cloud cover in front of them, often the case when approaching the atmospheric temperature inversions near the coast. With Phil still tight on his wing, Jerry led the four Mustangs into the cloud bank. Flying at an altitude of about 7,000 feet, Jerry focused his eyes on his navigation instruments, as the interior of the white, puffy clouds blocking his view of everything else.

But when the Mustangs emerged on the other side of the clouds, a devastating reality soon surfaced. Phil was gone. Most likely, he had been brought down by antiaircraft bullets fired into the clouds. There was no sign of him.

Jerry was devastated. When he landed at Iwo Jima, meanwhile, he learned something else: the war was over. The emperor had announced Japan’s surrender three hours earlier.  The code word UTAH had been broadcast to U.S. aircraft over the country, but the word had not reached the planes of the 78th until they landed.

Capt. Jerry Yellin

It was a surreal feeling as Jerry climbed out of his plane and jumped down to the airfield, standing on a once-bloody Pacific island. Now, suddenly, it was a world at peace. The men of the 78th had a saying, “Alive in ’45.” That had been their goal, and now it was their reality.

As Jerry walked away from his plane, another realization hit him: he had just flown the final combat mission of the war, and Phil was the final combat death of the great war. One day, after Jerry had time to collect his emotions and his thoughts, the great historical significance of the mission he’d just flown would sink in. But for now, one thought consumed his mind.

At last, it was time to go home.

I previously did an article about Captain Yellin when he was still helping to teach us about WWII.

Captain Jerome Yellin – 15 February 1924 – 21 December 2017

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Zach Brown – Chehalis, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/457th Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Allan Carson – Nelson, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 421317, WWII, pilot

From, Anna, Maiden On The Midway

Robert DeBusschere – Detroit, MI; US Army, WWII, A/B

Marvin ‘Curly’ East – Denver, CO; US Army, WWII, ETO, 110th Antiaircraft Artillery

Joseph Goodman – New Boston, PA; US Navy, WWII, USS Benson

Elizabeth (Meadows) Huey – Homer, LA; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Jesse James – AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Willard Lantz – Mapleton, MN; US Navy, WWII, Seaman 1st Class, USS Elkart

Wayne Pomeroy – Mesa, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 tail gunner

Doris Ward – ENG; British Army ATS, WWII, ETO

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Japan’s Underwater Aircraft Carriers – conclusion

American naval personnel inspect the hangar of a Japanese submarine aircraft carrier. The hangar tube was sealed by a two-inch-thick rubber gasket, and the hatch could be opened hydraulically from inside

By early 1945, the Japanese Navy had only 20 modern submarines left, including those in the Sen-toku squadron. Problems arose as the two available I-400 subs began test launching their Sieran planes. Each submarine was required to surface and get its three planes unlimbered and aloft within 30 minutes, but actual training showed that it took some 45 minutes.

Because of an increasing sense of urgency, the Japanese further modified their plans. A torpedo attack was ruled out because the pilots had not yet acquired the requisite skills. It was decided that each of the 10 planes designated for the Panama Canal mission would carry one 1,760-pound bomb, the largest in the Navy’s arsenal and similar to the one that sank the battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor

The departure date was set for mid-June.  The Seiran pilots made practice bombing runs in Nanao Bay against a full-sized replica of the Gatun gates.

The fall of Iwo Jima in March 1945 and the American attack on Okinawa increased the angst among the Japanese planners as the Americans closed in on the home islands. The war had leaped ahead of the planners, and the slated attack on the Panama Canal was canceled. As noted, there were discussions about possibly using the planes in a surprise attack on San Francisco or Los Angles, but those, too, were put aside in favor of a plan to attack enemy carriers at Ulithi, a large staging area near the island of Truk in the Carolines that was used by the Americans.

Mail call on Ulithi, 1945

The two large subs were to proceed toward Ulithi independently for safety and then rendezvous near the target and launch the attack in mid-August. The I-13 never made it to Truk and was correctly presumed lost. The I-14 arrived at Truk on August 4, and its planes flew over Ulithi the following day.

Shortly thereafter word reached the submarines that an atomic bomb had destroyed Hiroshima, and on August 15 the Japanese seamen heard the broadcast from the emperor asking his warriors to lay down their arms. Subsequent orders from the homeland were confusing, with one commanding all submarine captains to execute their predetermined missions. On August 16, the underwater aircraft carriers received explicit orders that their planned attack on Ulithi had been canceled just hours before the I-401 was to launch its planes. The subs were ordered to Kure, and the I-401 turned course toward its fateful encounter with Lt. Cmdr. Johnson and the Segundo.

The Japanese eventually surrendered the I-401 and the other two remaining underwater aircraft carriers. Commander Ariizumi, the developer of the top secret subs, took his own life aboard the I-401 and was quietly buried at sea by the crew. Before encountering the Americans, Nambu had meticulously followed orders from Japan to raise the black flag of surrender and dispose of the vessel’s weapons, including the planes that were catapulted into the sea. Logbooks, code-books, and the like were loaded into weighted sacks and tossed overboard. The torpedoes were jettisoned, with one causing alarm as it circled back toward the large submarine before disappearing harmlessly into the depths.

The Japanese aircraft carrier submarines I-14, I-400, and I-401 are shown in Tokyo Bay at the end of the war. The submarines were destined to be sunk in Hawaiian waters during U.S. Navy torpedo tests.

The three submarines drew considerable attention when they made it back to Tokyo Bay.  Many Americans initially believed the large hangars atop the subs had been designed to haul supplies to troops on distant islands despite the clearly observed catapults. The Americans did receive some assistance from the Japanese crews as they tried to comprehend the purpose of the extraordinary submarines, and by the end of September the Americans had taken the submarines out for cruises. However, none was taken underwater.

The submarines were then taken to Hawaii for further study. The U.S. Navy gleaned what it could from them, and then all three were deliberately sunk by early June 1946 to keep them away from the prying eyes of the inquisitive Soviets.

One of the Seirans did make it to the United States after the war and was eventually restored at an estimated cost of $1 million. It is now on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Although the U.S. Navy was somewhat dismissive of the massive submarines, it did take a keen interest in the sound-protective coatings used on the vessels.

There is little doubt that the I-400s were the strategic predecessors to today’s ballistic submarines, especially to the Regulus missile program begun about a decade after World War II that carried nuclear warheads inside waterproof deck hangars. In short, Yamamoto’s plan lived on with “new and improved” versions that helped the United States win the Cold War.

This has been condensed from: Phil Zimmer is a former newspaper reporter and a U.S. Army veteran. He writes on World War II topics from Jamestown, New York.

The wreck of IJN !-401 was located in March 2005.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ronald D. Brown – Pembroke, KY; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

They stand on the line for us.

Richard E. Cole -(103) – Comfort, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Doolittle’s co-pilot, Lt. Colonel (Ret. 26 y.)

Robert Hendriks – Locust Valley, NY; USMC, Afghanistan, Cpl., 25th Marine Reg./4th Marine Division, KIA

Benjamin Hines – York, PA; USMC, Afghanistan, Sgt., 25th Marine Reg./4th Marine Division, KIA

Delmar Jones – Sesser, IL; US Army, WWII

Venizelos Lagos – Culpepper, VA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Virgil Patterson – FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Christopher Slutman – Newark, DE; USMC, Afghanistan, SSgt., 25th Marine Reg./4th Marine Division, KIA

Ly Tong – VIET; South Vietnam Air Force, Black Eagle Fighter Squadron, pilot, POW

Bryan Whitmer – Grand Rapids, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQS/457 Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Japan’s Underwater Aircraft Carriers – part one

Lieutenant Commander Stephen L. Johnson had a problem on his hands; a very large problem. His Balao-class submarine, the Segundo, had just picked up a large radar contact on the surface about 100 miles off Honshu, one of Japan’s home islands, heading south toward Tokyo.  World War II in the Pacific had just ended, and the ensuing cease fire was in its 14th day. The official peace documents would not be signed for several more days.

As Johnson closed on the other vessel, he realized it was a gigantic submarine, so large in fact that it first looked like a surface ship in the darkness. The Americans had nothing that size, so he realized that it had to be a Japanese submarine.

This was the first command for the lanky 29-year-old commander. He and his crew faced the largest and perhaps the most advanced submarine in the world. The Japanese I-401 was longer than a football field and had a surface displacement of 5,233 tons, more than three times the Segundo’s displacement. More troubling though was the sub’s bristling weaponry that included a 5.5-inch gun on her aft deck, three triple-barreled 25mm antiaircraft guns, a single 25mm gun mounted on the bridge, and eight large torpedo tubes in her bow.

During a brief ceremony aboard one of the aircraft carrier submarines, the Japanese naval ensign is lowered and replaced by the Stars and Stripes as the vessel is turned over to the control of the U.S. Navy after Japan’s surrender

The large sub displayed the mandatory black surrender flag, but when the Segundo edged forward, the Japanese vessel moved rapidly into the night. The movement and the continuing display of the Rising Sun flag caused concern.  Johnson’s vessel pursued the craft that eventually slowed down as dawn approached. He brought his bow torpedo tubes to bear on the craft as the two vessels settled into a Mexican standoff.

Johnson and his crew had received permission by now to sink the reluctant Japanese vessel if necessary, but he realized he had a career-boosting and perhaps a technologically promising prize in his sights. Much depended on this untried American submarine captain and his wily opponent in the seas off Japan.

Little did Johnson know that the Japanese submarine was a part of the I-400 squadron, basically underwater aircraft carriers, and that the I-401 carried Commander Tatsunosuke Ariizumi, developer of the top-secret subs initially designed to strike the U.S. homeland in a series of surprise attacks. Ariizumi was considered the “father of the I-400 series” and a loyal follower of the emperor with years of experience in the Japanese Navy, so surrender was a disgrace he could not endure

Johnson also had to contend with Lt. Cmdr. Nobukiyo Nambu, skipper of the I-401, who traced his combat experience back to Pearl Harbor. He now commanded the world’s largest submarine designed to carry three state-of-the-art attack planes in a specially built hanger located atop the vessel. These secret Aichi M6A1 planes were initially designed for “a second Pearl Harbor” or another surprise attack, possibly even against New York City or Washington, D.C. The I-400 series submarines were themselves full of technological surprises.  They were capable of traveling around the world one and a half times without refueling, had a top surface speed of 19 knots (or nearly 22 miles per hour), and could remain on patrol for four months, twice as long as the Segundo.

Neither Nambu nor Commander Ariizumi readily accepted the emperor’s surrender statement when it was broadcast on August 15. The subsequent communiqués from Tokyo were exceptionally confusing, especially Order 114, which confirmed that peace had been declared – but that all submarines were to “execute predetermined missions and attack the enemy if discovered.”

It was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of Japan’s Combined Fleet and developer of the Pearl Harbor attack, who called for the construction of the I-400 series some three weeks after Pearl Harbor.  Once Japan was committed to war, he believed that submarine aircraft carriers dropping bombs “like rain” over major U.S. cities would surely cause the American people to “lose their will to fight.” A second surprise attack with even more to come would prove psychologically devastating to the Americans.

Yamamoto called for the construction of 18 of the massive submarines carrying a total of 36 attack planes. The name of the special submarine class was abbreviated to Sen-toku.

The attack planes had to be designed from scratch. The need for speed, range and a decent sized bomb payload required tradeoffs. The wings had to be foldable to fit inside the tube, or hangar, atop the submarine. The design work, testing, and building of the plane was outsourced to the Aichi Aircraft Company.

The I-400 program did have its detractors in the heavily bureaucratic Imperial Japanese Navy.  After the defeat at Midway in early June 1942, Japan became more focused on defending the homeland and far less on possible attacks on the U.S. mainland using the large submarines. The death of Yamamoto in mid-April 1943, played further into the hands of conservative Japanese commanders. Cutbacks were ordered in the number of submarines to be built.  .

The first test flight of the Aichi attack plane occurred on November 8, 1943. The plane, called Seiran or “storm from a clear sky,” reportedly handled fairly well as the world’s first sub-borne attack bomber. The Japanese began compiling limited available information on the heavily fortified Panama Canal. Their analysis showed that destroying the gate opening onto Gatun Lake would create a massive outpouring of water, destroying the other gates in its path while rushing toward the Caribbean Sea.

After weeks of planning, the Japanese came up with a strategy to attack the Gatun locks at dawn when the gates were closed and presumably the defenses were lax. The planners had nearly a full year to formulate the attack for early 1945. But there were problems ahead because none of the submarines were complete and the planes were not yet in the production stage.

I-400 Class submarine

The Japanese labored on, and by the end of 1944 the I-400 and the smaller I-13 were completed and turned over to the Navy. In early January 1945, the I-401 was commissioned  and the I-14, the last of the underwater aircraft carriers, was put into service by mid-March 1945.

As an important aside, it should be noted that while preparations for the attack on the Panama Canal went forward, Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, vice-chief of the Naval General Staff, floated another idea for the use of the Sen-toku submarines. He suggested arming the Seiran planes with biological weapons to be unleashed against a populated area on the West Coast of the United States.

Dr. Shiro Ishii, Japan’s top virus expert and head of the Army’s notorious 731 unit in Manchuria, was consulted. He recommended that the planes drop plague-inflected fleas, something he had tested with success in China, on the United States with San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego suggested as targets. The plan was discarded in late March by the head of the Army’s general staff who called it  “unpardonable on humanitarian grounds.”

In effect, the Japanese Army, which had led the development of biological weapons and had tested them on Chinese and American captives, nixed the idea of using the weapons late in the war on American civilians, perhaps in the belief that the war was already lost.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ernest Bargiel – Trafford, PA; US Army, WWII, medic

Alzena McNabb Bibb (99) – Corbin, KY; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Paul Copenhaver – Syracuse, NE; USMC, WWII, 3rd Marines

Ewell Foglemann – Dallas, TX; US Army, WWII, ETO, Pfc, Co. C/112/5th Engineer Corps

Ada Kirk (100) – Waipukurau, NZ; RAF # 895704, WWII, Cpl.

Donald Lawson – Elgin, KS; US Navy, WWII

Meddie Mojica – Asis, Cavite, PI; Filipino guerrilla & US Navy, WWII

William T. O’Keefe – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Mark Smith – Indianapolis, IN; USMC, Iraq, Colonel (Ret. 32 y.)

Jesse Weber – Arvada, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot

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Crazy Inventions Emerge from WWII

Inflatable Decoy Tank

The desire to outwit the enemy and achieve military success can lead to unplanned military inventions during periods of war. Among these many developments and inventions, one can often see how a creative approach led to interesting results. The following is a list of unusual inventions from the Second World War, though of course it is by no means a complete list.

Inflatable tanks

World-renowned fashion designer Bill Blass fought during the Second World War in the U.S. Army’s 603rd Camouflage Battalion. This special unit had the goal and means for misinforming the enemy about the location of Allied forces.

One of the means for misinformation was Sherman inflatable tanks which were used as dummies, particularly on D-Day, to deceive the enemy.

Garlic Chocolate

When sending spies and secret agents overseas, Great Britain had to make sure that they could blend into the local crowd by any means. Agents had to act, look, speak, and even smell appropriate.

According to Peter Taylor, author of the book Weird War Two, the story goes that agents who were sent to Spain did not have the appropriate smell because they did not eat garlic. In Britain, the attitude towards garlic at the time was not favorable. This problem was solved by adding garlic to chocolates in a bid to make it more enjoyable to eat.

It is not known whether this project was successful or not.

Itchy powder

A powder that acted as a strong skin irritant was disguised as talc and smuggled into Europe. Resistance members in occupied countries distributed this powder in clothing factories and laundry facilities where they could secretly apply it to German uniforms.

It seemed to have worked. Apparently, at least one German U-boat was forced to return to port because the sailors thought they had a strange skin condition.

The scheme was also successful in Norway, where local resistance members began putting the powder in condoms intended for German troops. The treated condoms were sent to the Trondheim Region, where the local hospital was soon filled with German soldiers.

Fake Feet

Fake feet were a good tool for masking a trail, saving time that would otherwise be spent sweeping traces. They was used by agents who landed on beaches in the Pacific theater.

“The idea was that you’d put these fake bare feet over your actual shoes and it would look as if a native was walking over the beach rather than you,” Taylor said.

Stink bombs

The British spent large sums on the development of a super smelly bomb called the S-capsule. Placed in the pocket of a German soldier, once crushed the capsule released a terrible stench which remained even after numerous cleanings.

Since winter clothes in the German army were in short supply, the soldier had to either freeze or suffer a terrible smell. The idea was that a badly smelling officer might lose credibility in the eyes of his subordinates.

The Americans also worked on a similar invention. Taylor said that in the end, “I think in both cases they had to kind give up using it because people that administered it ended up smelling as bad as the people they were aiming it at.”

Exploding poop

There are cases in which the British sent members of the Resistance members throughout Europe imitation manure filled with explosives. The idea was to leave it on the road where it would not be suspected by the drivers of vehicles that would inevitably run over it.

“The actual dung was copied from the real thing supplied by the London Zoo. And there were different kinds of dung depending on which kind of part of Europe” it was going to, Taylor said.

Exploding rats

The British proposed this idea in 1941 after a series of medical experiments. The idea was to fill rat corpses with explosives and toss them into German factories. It was assumed that eventually, one of the German employees, finding a dead rat near the furnace, would throw it into the fire. This, in turn, should have led to an explosion.

The British planned to plant booby-trapped rats in the boiler rooms of German trains, factories, factories, and power plants. In reality, this information fell into the hands of the Germans. The Germans overestimated the importance of the British project and began to spend a large amount of time guarding against it.

In turn, the British considered the project a distracting maneuver: the leakage of information caused a greater panic than the possible use of exploding rats in practice.

Laxatives

The coastline of Norway had an economy based mainly on salted fish. Thus, when the Germans announced that they were requisitioning Norway’s entire catch of sardines, people were outraged. In the ranks of the Resistance was an informant at Nazi headquarters who said that the sardines would be used to feed German troops. Canned food was supplied to U-boat crews.

At the request of Resistance members, the British sent large reserves of croton oil. This oil has a fishy taste and a strong laxative effect. Norwegians secretly delivered it to canneries, where it was mixed with vegetable oil and added to sardines. Soon after, the sardines were sent to German submarines.

In one case, this operation was a great success. However, a large-scale operation based on a laxative was never realized, since the war ended before it could be implemented.

Pink planes

Some fighters during the Second World War were so specialized that they flew only at certain times of the day. To make the aircraft less noticeable both at sunset and at sunrise, they were painted pink.

“That seems [to be] something that’s very very strange and did work surprisingly well,” Taylor said. Although camouflage on aircraft was hardly a novelty, it was a clever tactic at the time to make “invisible” airplanes thanks to pink paint.

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Military Weapons Humor –

Well here’s the problem. Part # AB5 is a Nuclear Missile. Part # AB6 is an ink cartridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kenneth Bellin – Lidgerwood, ND; US Navy, WWII, PTO, gunner’s mate

Travis Brannon – Nashville, TN; USMC, Viper pilot, Captain, KIA

John DePace – Houston, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Joseph Gallagher Sr. – Philadelphia, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Robert Hitson – South Bend, IN; US Army, WWII, Purple Heart

Howard Lee – NYC, NY; USMC, Vietnam, Captain, 2/4/3rd Marine Division, Medal of Honor

Samuel Malucci Jr.  – Northford, CT; US Army, Vietnam, 75/82nd Airborne Division, Purple Heart

Edward Sttewart – St. Paul, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/127 Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Risdon Westen – Boulder, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Matthew Wiegand – Ambler, PA; USMC, Viper pilot, Major, KIA

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Current News – USS WASP – WWII Wreck Located

A port bow view of the ship shows her aflame and listing to starboard, 15 September 1942. Men on the flight deck desperately battle the spreading inferno. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-16331, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

The discovery of sunken wrecks seems to hold an eternal fascination. Although the quest to find them takes a huge amount of resources and technical skills, the quest goes on. Many searches have focused on the wrecks of warships lost during the Second World War. One of the most recent successes, despite many difficulties, was the discovery of USS Wasp (CV-7) deep in the Pacific Ocean.

The story of Wasp‘s end begins in September 1942. The aircraft carrier set out with 71 planes and a crew of more than 2,000 men on board to escort a convoy of US Marines to Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. In the middle of the afternoon, Wasp was hit by Japanese torpedoes which caused serious damage.

The worst part was that the torpedoes had hit the magazine, setting off a series of explosions. The fire quickly spread, and the ship was also taking on water from the torpedo damage. Soon it began to tilt, and oil and gasoline that had spilled were set ablaze on the water. Captain Sherman had no choice but to give the order to abandon ship.

Wildcats & Spitfires on the USS Wasp, 7 April 1942

Those who were most seriously injured were lowered into life rafts. Those who could not find a place in a life raft had no choice but to jump into the sea. There they held on to whatever debris they could to keep them afloat until they were rescued.

Captain Sherman commented later that the evacuation of the ship was remarkably orderly under the circumstances. He also noted that sailors had delayed their own escapes to ensure that their injured comrades were taken off the ship first.

The first torpedoes had been spotted at 2:44 PM. By 4 PM, once he was sure that all the survivors had been removed, Captain Sherman himself abandoned ship. In that short time, Wasp had been destroyed along with many of the aircraft it was carrying, and 193 men died.

Despite the danger involved, the destroyers which had accompanied Wasp carried out a remarkable rescue operation and managed to bring 1,469 survivors to safety.

The ship drifted on for four hours until orders were given that it should be scuttled. The destroyer USS Lansdowne came to the scene, and another volley of torpedoes eventually sank the ship into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

The discovery of the wreck was largely due to the philanthropy of the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Allen had a lifelong enthusiasm for underwater exploration and a fascination with WWII wrecks. He provided the substantial sums required to fit out the Petrel exploration ship through his undersea exploration organization.

View of 5 inch gun from online room. Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.

The quest to find Wasp looked likely to be one of their more difficult tasks. The wreck lay 2.5 miles down in an area known as an abyssal plane. There is no light and little animal life as well as massive pressure, making it one of the most inhospitable and inaccessible areas of the ocean.

Kraft and his team recalculated the possible location based on the distance between Wasp and the other two ships at the time of the torpedo attack. They realized that they needed to look much further south. It seemed that the navigator on Wasp had provided the most accurate location information after all.

Bridge of the USS Wasp

The crew once again sent out drones to scan the area and on January 14, 12 days after their mission began, they located the wreck. Despite the massive damage, Wasp could be seen clearly in the underwater photographs, sitting upright on the seabed and surrounded by helmets and other debris that served as reminders of its dramatic history and tragic end.

The exact location of the wreck remains a closely guarded secret to avoid the risk of scavengers looking for valuable relics from the ship. There are no plans to attempt to raise the wreck, but its discovery has brought satisfaction to the few remaining Wasp survivors and their families.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Chauncy Adams (101) – NZ; RNZ Army, WWII, 25th Wellington Battalion/3rd Echelon

James Baker – Farmersville, TX; US Army, WWII,PTO, Infantry, Chaplain (Ret. 20 y.)

Joseph Collette – Lancaster, OH; US Army, Afghanistan, 242 Ordnance/71st Explosive Ordnance Group, KIA

John Goodman – Birmingham, AL; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Willie Hartley – NC; US Army, Vietnam, 82nd Airborne Division

Richard Kasper – Brunswick, GA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star

Will Lindsay – Cortez, CO; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt., 2/10th Special Forces (Airborne), KIA

Stanley Mikuta – Cannonsburg, PA; WWII, PTO, Co. E/152nd Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Leonard Nitschke – Ashley, ND; US Army, Korea, Co. G/21/24th Infantry Division

Charles Whatmough – Pawtucket, RI; US Navy. WWII, PTO, Troop Transport cook

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Home Front – Big Timber, Montana

Welcome to Big Timber

These two articles are from The Big Timber Pioneer newspaper, Thursday, August 30, 1945

Prisoners Hanged

Ft. Leavenworth Prison Cemetery; By Gorsedwa, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Aug. 25 – The Army Saturday hanged 7 German prisoners-of-war in the Fort Leavenworth disciplinary barracks for the murder of a fellow prisoner whom they had accused of being a traitor to the Reich.

All 7 went to the gallows after receiving last rites of the Roman Catholic Church.  They were executed for killing Werner Dreschler at the Papago Park, Arizona prisoner of war camp, March 13, 1944.

The hangings took less than three hours.  The executions brought to 14 the total number of Nazi POW’s executed at Ft. Leavenworth during the last few weeks.

The 7 went to the gallows without showing any signs of emotion.  They had signed statements admitting their guilt.  Their defense was that they had read in German newspapers that they should put to death any German who was a traitor.  At their trial they said Dreschler had admitted giving information of military value to their captures.

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Sgt. Nat Clark was on Pioneer Mining Mission

313th Wing B-29 Base, Tinian – One of the 6th Bomb Group fliers who participated in the pioneer mining mission to northern Korean waters on 11 July was SSgt. Nathaniel B. Clark, son of Mr. & Mrs. J.F. Clark, Big Timber, MT. it was revealed here today with the lifting of censorship rules.  He is a left blister gunner and by war’s end had flown 29 combat missions in the war against Japan.

On the longest mission of the war, to deny the use of the eastern Korean ports to the already partially blockaded Japanese, Sgt. Clark explained that the crews were briefed to fly 3,500 statute miles to their mine fields just south of Russia, and back to Iwo Jima where they would have to land for fuel.  Then it was still 725 miles back to the Tinian base.

The flight was planned to take 16½ hours which in itself was not out of the ordinary, but the length of time the full mine load would be carried was a record 10 hours and 35 minutes.

Loading an aerial mine layer

The job called for hair-splitting navigation, Midas-like use of the available gas, penetration of weather about which little is known and finally a precision radar mine-laying run over a port whose defenses and very contours were not too well known.

“We sweated that one out from our briefing one morning until we landed back on Tinian almost 24 hours later.” Sgt. Clark recalled.

radar mine

One crew was forced to return to Okinawa because of engine trouble, but the other 5 on the pioneer flight landed within a few minutes of the briefed time.  One landed at the exact briefed time.  The closest call on gas was reported by the crew which landed with only 24 gallons left, scarcely enough to circle the field.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Herman Brown – Virginia Beach, VA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 385/76th Division/ 3rd Army

Lester Burks – Willis, TX; US Army, Co. B/513/17th Airborne Division

Pedro ‘Pete’ Contreras – Breckenridge, OK; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Lt.Col. (Ret. 30 y.)

Paul Jarret – Phoenix, AZ; US Army, WWII, ETO, Medical Corps, Bronze Star / US Air Force

John ‘Nick’ Kindred – Scarsdale, NY; US Navy, Lt.

James Lemmons – Portland, TN; US Army; Korea, HQ/187th RCT

Charles McCarry – Plainfield, MA; CIA, Cold War, undercover agent

Howard Rein Jr. – Philadelphia, PA; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Morton Siegel – Rye, NY; US Navy, WWII

Eldon Weehler – Loup City, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII / US Air Force, Korea & Vietnam, Lt. Col. (Ret. 30 y.)

RAF in the Pacific War

British Flight Training School No. 1, Terrell, TX

After the fall of the Dutch East Indies, the British RAF contributed six squadrons to the Pacific Air War.

March 1941 allowed for the training of Allied pilots on U.S. soil and the formation of British Flying Training Schools.  These unique establishments were owned by American operators, staffed with civilian instructors, but supervised by British flight officers. Each school, and there were seven located throughout the southern and southwestern United States, utilized RAF’s own training syllabus.

The aircraft were supplied by the U.S. Army Air Corps.  Campuses were located in Terrell, Texas; Lancaster, California; Miami, Oklahoma; Mesa, Arizona; Clewiston, Florida; Ponca City, Oklahoma; and Sweetwater, Texas.

AT-6 2A RAF Texan (aka Harvard)

During the period of greatest threat to Australia in 1942, Winston Churchill agreed to release three squadrons of Spitfires from service in England.  This included No. 54 squadron plus two RAAF expeditionary squadrons serving in Britain, Nos. 452 and 457.  The Spitfire was at the time the premier Allied air defense fighter.

Pilots of RAF No. 54 Squadron

The squadrons arrived in Australia in October 1942 and were grouped as No. 1 Wing.  They were assigned the defense of the Darwin area in January of 1943.  The Wing remained in that role for the remainder of the war.  In late 1943 two additional RAF Squadrons were formed in Australia, Nos. 548 and 549.  These relieved the RAAF Spitfire squadrons for eventual duty with the 1st RAAF Tactical Air Force.

RAF C-47 Dakota over Burma

No. 618 Squadron, a Mosquito squadron armed with the Wallis bomb for anti-shipping missions was sent to the Pacific in late 1944 but never saw active service and was disbanded in June 1945.

In 1945 two Dakota squadrons, Nos. 238 and 243, were sent to the Pacific to provide support for the British Pacific Fleet.

The RAF’s No. 205 squadron, which was stationed in Ceylon, was responsible for air services between Ceylon and Australia during the war.

Raf ground crew & Singhalese lowering a Catalina of the 240th Squadron into the water, Red Hills Lake, Ceylon, 4 August 1945

Should the war have continued beyond VJ day, the RAF planned to send the “Tiger Force” to Okinawa to support operations against the Japanese home islands.  As of 10 July 1945, the “Tiger Force” was planned to be composed of No. 5 (RAF) Group and No. 6 (RCAF) Group with 9 British, 8 Canadian, 2 Australian, and 1 New Zealand heavy bomber squadrons.  The Force was to be supported by Pathfinder Squadron and a Photo/Weather Recon squadron from the RAF and 3 Transport and one air/sea rescue Squadrons from the RCAF.

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British Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Eileen Brown – London, ENG; WRAF, WWII, ETO

Irving Fenster – Tulsa, OK; US Navy, WWII

Tedd Holeman – Sugar City, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQS/127 Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Stanley Jones – Shrewsbury, ENG; RAF, Chaplain

Daniel Lynn Jr. – Krupp, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO / Korea

Stanley Mellot – Grand John, CAN; RAF, WWII, navigator

James Raymond – Katanning, AUS, RAF, WWII

Paul Seifert Sr. – Bethlehem, PA; US Army, Korea, 82nd Airborne Division

David ‘Ken’ Thomas – Brown’s Bay, NZ; RAF # 1669434, WWII

Arthur Wan – Milwaukee, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO

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The Forgotten Fleet

Five British aircraft carriers at anchor at war’s end: HMS Indefatigable, Unicorn, Illustrious, Victorious, and Formidable

The Royal Navy was struggling to overcome its failure earlier in the Pacific, but during 1945, this forgotten fleet fought back dramatically to stand with the U.S. Navy against a storm of kamikaze attacks.

British naval operations in the Far East in World War II started badly and went downhill from there. Years of underfunding in defense meant that Britain simply did not have the means to defend its huge empire, and for 18 months prior to the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, it had stood alone against Nazi Germany.

Barracks at Tokishuma airfield, Shikoku Province, in the Japanese home islands, under attack by British naval aircraft, July 24, 1945. The planes were launched by HMS Victorious, Formidable, Indefatigable, and Implacable.

The Royal Navy was primarily committed to the Battle of the Atlantic, keeping open the all important sea lanes upon which the island nation’s survival depended. In the Far East, there were only token naval forces available to meet the Japanese attack, and in that part of the world Britannia’s claim to rule the ocean waves was immediately exposed for the empty rhetoric it had become.

The Pacific Ocean had never been a main operating area for the Royal Navy, so it was not geared or experienced for that sea’s vast distances in the way the U.S. Navy was; its vessels did not have the same cruising ranges and could not remain on station as long as the Yanks. So Task Force 57 started its operational life at a distinct disadvantage. This was compounded by having an inadequate supply fleet.

An auxiliary ship of Task Force 57 (center) refuels a British destroyer at sea. The Royal Navy struggled with logistics and resupply over the vast distances of the Pacific.

Because of the nature of the war it had been fighting in the Atlantic, the Royal Navy also had relatively little experience in large-scale carrier operations against land targets, which were the bread and butter of the U.S. Navy. For that reason, Task Force 57 practiced against targets in Sumatra when en route to the Pacific to gain experience and at the same time wreck some Japanese oil refineries.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the senior American naval officer in the Pacific, gave Task Force 57 a gracious welcome, signaling, “The British Carrier Task Force and attached units will increase our striking power and demonstrate our unity of purpose against Japan. The U.S. Pacific Fleet welcomes you.”

A British-marked Grumman TBM Avenger aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, returning from an attack on Sakishima Gunto, flies above the HMS Indomitable in March 1945.

It was certainly not a token contribution. The combat elements of Task Force 57 at that time comprised four fleet carriers embarking 207 combat aircraft, two battleships, five cruisers, and 11 destroyers. There were also six escort aircraft carriers guarding the fleet train and ferrying replacement aircraft.

Commanding this formidable naval armament was Vice Admiral Sir Henry B.H. Rawlings. He and Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, at the helm of the American Fifth Fleet and directly in charge of all naval forces at Okinawa, worked well together.

By the end of April, the verdict on Task Force 57’s actions so far was generally considered “not bad.” The British were on a steep learning curve, getting used to a type of operation for which they were not properly equipped or trained. It had to refuel and resupply more frequently than the U.S. Navy and were still having serious problems with replenishment at sea.

An obsolescent Fairy Swordfish torpedo bomber approaches the HMS Victorious during operations. The ship was hit by three kamikazes during the Okinawa operation but survived.

In late May 1945, Task Force 57 broke off after 62 days at sea, returning to base to refit, resupply, and repair battle damage. Its first major missions of the Pacific War were over.

There would be more action to come, including Operation Inmate (June 14-16), involving air attacks on the main Japanese naval bastion at Truk in the western Caroline Islands, as well as raids on Japan itself in the run up to the planned invasion.

The British raids—both by air and shore bombardment—continued right up to August 15, 1945, and the Japanese surrender to the Allies; the second British task force, built around another four fleet carriers and one battleship squadron, arrived too late to take part in the fighting. By VJ Day, the Royal Navy Pacific Fleet had 80 principal warships (including nine large and nine escort aircraft carriers), 30 smaller combat vessels, and 29 submarines.

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British Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Gerald Ballard, Scranton, IA; US Coast Guard, WWII / USNR (Ret.)

Philip Corfman – Bowie, MD; US Navy, WWII, PTO / World Health Org. & FDA

Paul Gifford – Troy, NY; US Navy, WWII & Korea, corpsman, USS Shangri-La & Tranquility

Joe Jackson – Kent, WA; US Air Force, Vietnam, Medal of Honor

Charles Kettles – Ypsilanti, MI; US Army, Vietnam, Medal of Honor

Fernand Martin – Debden, CAN; Canadian Army, WWII, ETO

Gabriel Nasti – St. Augustine, FL; US Army, WWII, PTO, 20th Infantry/6th Division

Svend Nielsen – Copenhagen, DEN; Civilian, Danish Resistance, WWII, ETO

Jan-Michael Vincent – Hanford, CA; Army National Guard / beloved actor

Allen Wright (102) – Red Willow City, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, MSgt., Chemical Corps / USAR, Major (Ret. 31 y.)

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PT Boats – August 1945

PT boat operating at Guadalcanal

In mid August, 30 squadrons of PT’s were in commission.  Nineteen were in the 7th Fleet.

Admiral Kinkaid could not foresee a need for patrol boats around Japan and Korea, so The 7th Fleet boats became the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Philippine Sea Frontier.  The shooting was over but there were still jobs where they could be useful.

25-26 August – at Morotai, 16 PT’s under Lt.Comdr. T.R. Stansbury and Gen. Johnson got underway for a rendezvous with the commanders of the Japanese forces on Halmahera.  The Japanese commanding general was not there. That was unacceptable.

PT boat w/ native scouts aboard
(possibly PT-171)

The following day, BGen. Warren McNaught went with 6 PT boats and this time Lt.Gen. Ishii and Capt. Fujita, IJN commander were waiting.  The boats carried them to the 93rd Div. headquarters on Morotai.  It was here that they surrendered 37,000 troops, 4,000 Japanese civilians and a very large quantity of equipment.  This was the force that the PT boats had held at bay for almost a year.  The garrison commander, Col. Ouchi, reported that since 12 May, when 3 barges brought sorely needed supplies from Halmahera, not a single barge had crossed the 12-mile strait between the 2 islands.  Two of those barges were destroyed by PT boats when they attempted to return.

PT-174 at Rendova, Solomons, Jan. 1944

In the central Philippines, Pt 489 and 492 of Squadron 33 carried U.S. Army personnel and members of the Japanese surrender commission to isolated enemy outposts on Samar, Masbate and Romblon to accept the surrender of more than 500 enemy troops.

The Navy Depart. properly got rid of most of the PT’s; their job was done.  Because of their light wooden construction they could not be stored away for future use as the steel-hulled ships were.

All the boats in the western Pacific were carefully surveyed.  It was found that 118 hulls were defective due to broken frames, worms and dry rot, broken keels, cracked longitudinals * or battle damage.  These boats were stripped of all salvageable material and the bare hulls were burned on the beach at Samar.

Squadrons 4, 41 and 42 were being saved for training purposes and experimental work.

Behind the decision to cut the PT force so drastically, besides the obvious reason of economy, there was a realization that in the end of the old boats was the beginning of a new PT boat.  There were no major changes in design in the 80-foot Elco and the 78-foot Higgins, but with the war’s end, they could afford to take their time to redesign in light of 4-years worth of experience.

In 1951, the Navy accepted the first post-war PT’s.  They were all aluminum hulls and powered by 4 Packard engines of considerable higher horsepower than the original.  The first one built, PT-809 was built by the Electric Boat Co.  The overall length of the boat was 98 feet and the max beam was 26 feet.  PT-810 by Bath Iron Works; PT-811 by John Trumpy & Sons and the last experimental one, PT-812 was built by Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and equipped with gas turbines.  These boats operated as Motor Torpedo Squadron-1 from 1954-59.

* Longitudinals – (a system for framing vessels in which light, closely spaced, longitudinal frames are connected by heavy, widely spaced transverse frames with deep webs.)

Information derived from: “At Close Quarters, PT Boats in the United States Navy”  by Robert J. Bulkley

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Anthony Bosico – Haverstraw, NY; US Navy, WWII, submarine service, USS Grouper & tender Proteus

Jerry Cruce – Grayson, GA; US Merchant Marine, WWII

William Duncan – Tofield, CAN; RC Army, WWII, 5th BC Coat Brigade/25th General Pioneers

Frank Greco – Hendersonville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea & Vietnam (Ret. 30 y.)

Charles Heath  Gauley Bridge, WV, US Navy, WWII, USS Wyoming

George Johnson – Terre Haute, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division, artillery

William Lewis – McGuffey, OH; US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman, USS New Orleans

Jack Meyers – Seattle, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-29 mechanic

Stanley Szuba – Linden, NJ; USMC, WWII

John Widelski – New Bedford, MA; US Navy, gunner’s mate, USS Wingfield & Bronstein

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Kamikaze Pilot Took His Wife On Fatal Flight

Tetsuo Tanifuji and wife, Asako

Even though World War Two had come to an end, the story of a Japanese couple who met their death in a deliberate kamikaze suicide flight against Soviet troops has come to light and has been turned into a television program.

Tetsuo Tanifuji was a trained kamikaze pilot for the Japanese Imperial Navy, however, for his very last flight, he decided to take his wife, Asako with him.

Even though the bombs had been dropped and Japan was on the verge of surrender, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and was trying to take large areas of Japanese-controlled land in North China and the Northern Territory islands off Japan. Thousands of Japanese troops and civilians were making their way back to the Japanese mainland in defeat, so the invasion by Soviet troops was causing more chaos, attacking any military or civilians they came across.

Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered to Allied forces and four days later ten pilots from the Japanese Imperial Navy’s First Kyoiku Unit decided to launch an aerial attack on the incoming Soviet troops, to help other Japanese military and civilians in their retreat to the mainland.

Tetsuo was a Second Lieutenant and just 22 years old. He collected his wife, and together they climbed inside the Type 97 fighter plane. It is reported that another woman also joined another of the unit’s pilots in another aircraft.

Kamikaze memorial

They took off from their airbase and were never to be seen again. None of the aircraft that took part in the attack returned, and no records of the mission existed or survived. It wasn’t until 1957 that the Japanese military declared Tetsuo was killed in action and not until 1970 that Asako’s family received her death certificate.

The story has been turned into a television drama in Japan. However, the families of the couple are concerned about the story being dramatized. One family member said that no war stories are ‘heart-warming’ since they are shrouded in the misery of war. Another family member said that she would have done the same thing as Asako if she had made the decision to die with her husband.

Overall the family hopes that it will educate the younger generation about the devastation of war, and to oppose any attempts by politicians to get involved in armed conflict.

This author agrees.

From War History on line.

For a more personal look at this situation click HERE…..

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Gordon Banks – Elgin IL; USMC, WWII & Korea, Captain

Alexander Disanto – Mantua, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 507/11th Airborne Division

Phillip Goddard – Des Moines, IA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Corps of Engineers

John Horrall – Spokane, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 10th Mountain Division

Henning Knudson – Havre, MT; US Navy, WWII

Richard Luchsinger (102) – Moline, IL; US Army, WWII

Hugo Meyer – ID; US Army, WWII, PTO

Howard Nelson – Kathryn, ND; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

Stanley Raynham – Eltham, ENG; Royal Navy, WWII

John Widelski – New Bedford, MA; US Navy, gunner’s mate, USS Wingfield & Bronstein

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