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Lend-Lease Memorial – Fairbanks, Alaska


Aces Flying High

Industrial might lead to victory in WW2 Industrial might lead to victory in WW2

During the early years of World War Two in Europe, both Great Britain and Russia needed a vast amount of military equipment to combat Germany and other Allied nations needed help against Japan. These countries lost a lot of equipment in the early Axis onslaught and their need for replacements far surpassed their own production capability. Luckily the industrial might of the United States of America had the solution to this problem.

The Lend-Lease program proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in early 1941 (following requests from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill “Give us the tools and we will finish the job“) was enacted by the United States Congress on March 11th, 1941 to provide financial and military equipment aid to her allies (formally known as An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States). This was

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Guest Post – Rationing Gone Wild by gpcox

I wrote this article to help the readers picture what the WWII era was really like on the home front. Judy has a category, “Guest Posts and re-posts” where they can pick up all the articles I have written for the Greatest Generation Lessons.

"Greatest Generation" Life Lessons

Rationing Gone Wild


By: GPCox

Blog - Rationing - Shate my car - 8.114.2013

The Second World War was fought on two fronts and as we’ve seen in previous posts, the home front rarely received the credit it deserved for its efforts.  The generation that endured the Great Depression, worked long, hard hours and were often forced to use the barter system to survive now, for the war effort, had shortages for most everything.  If you can name it – there was probably a ration book for it and a black market to get it; if you dared.  The children also pitched in by giving, what money they could earn, back into the family.

Rationing started just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor and sugar was the first product to be rationed when sales ended 27 April 1942 and commercial manufacturers received a ration of about 70% of their normal consumption and ice cream producers…

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Guest Post – It was hard to keep the good times rollin’ – gpcox

Hope you will all read the article I prepared for Greatest Generation Lessons this month and leave a comment for us. Would you like to see more guest posts? What topic would you care to see?

"Greatest Generation" Life Lessons

It was hard to keep the good times rollin’

Today’s Guest Post from gpcox continues the theme of transportation started last month with information about cars and trucks. This post expands transportation to include the variety of ways to travel in the 1940’s. Settle back and enjoy a unique look at this period of our history.

Columnist Marquis Childs said after Pearl Harbor: “Nothing will ever be the same.”  Thirty-five years later he added: “It never has and never will be.”

Since it appears that many of our readers enjoyed the previous guest post concerning the auto industry during the World War II era, I decided to remain on that same train of thought this month. (Yes, the pun was intended.)  I managed to discover quite a lot of information.

We need to remember that in 1941 as much as 40% of U.S. families lived below the poverty level, approximately…

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Mount Macolod, part 2

Reduction of Mount Macolod

Reduction of Mount Macolod

2 April, the 187th attacked and cleared the area to the base of the mountain, but were unable to hold the ridges. One pocket of the enemy were dug in between the two southern ridges and small Japanese patrols were strewn along the highway near Talisay, indicating to Colonel Pearson that the enemy held that sector. His feelings were confirmed when his CP was hit with Japanese 155mm artillery shells. The quick reactions of the 674th Glider Field Artillery Battalion to counterattack saved the 2d 187th.

8 April, General MacArthur released a communiqué to state that because of the 11th Airborne’s actions, “…all organized enemy resistance in the southern part of the island was destroyed and liberation was at hand.” As usual, his assessment of the situation was premature, but it was just the type of enthusiasm that endeared him to the Filipino people. His optimism gave them the strength to persevere through some gruesome events; such as when the 2d moved through Sulac, the men found one hundred Filipinos brutally massacred and discarded in a ravine.

7-17 April, the battles around Macolod continued making this one of the bloodiest battles the 187th ever fought. The regiment received massive downpours of artillery, but when the troopers discovered that the guns were all grouped together, they were eradicated. The 187th was exhausted by this point and diminished even further by casualties and wounded, but rest was not on the schedule.

FDR's death announced

FDR’s death announced

President is dead telegram

President is dead telegram

12 April 1945, while sitting for a portrait, the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, collapsed and died. The unsuccessful haberdasher, Harry S. Truman, would take over the reins of the country.

I recently learned of the passing of Beate Sirota Gordon. At the age of 22, she was on General MacArthur’s staff to shape the civil rights portion of the new Japanese constitution formulated after their defeat. Further information on this woman will be included when we reach Japan on this blog.

Guess what! Judy Guion invited me back to write another guest post on her blog, I hope you will all stop in next Tuesday, February 12th and tell us how I did with the Technical units.

Prelude to combat

men of the 11th A/B just prior to Leyte

men of the 11th A/B just prior to Leyte

Jungle training for the Second World War was held for the benefit of the soldier’s immediate situation, but its effectual results led into the establishment of the Special Forces.  This is typified by the creation of the Recon Platoon of the 11th Airborne Division and the Alamo Scouts.  Out of these units we witnessed the outstanding operations of today’s special troops.  In New Guinea and later during their actual combat experience, what these men learned went on to be vital assets for the future generations of soldiers.

The advantage of being acclimated to a different climate and acquainted with the strange terrain served to aid them in their survival and the success of their missions.

Although the 11th A/B was small in size and short of arms and staff, they accepted orders normally issued to full size divisions.  At this time, many people believed that MacArthur was obsessed with recovering the Philippines from the Japanese and perhaps he was, and with good reason.  FDR had promised him serious military assistance in 1942, but it never arrived.  As a direct result, MacArthur was ordered by his president to abandon his men on the islands and escape to Australia.  The Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. had not only lied to one of his generals, but caused the forced surrender of American and Filipino citizens and military  personnel.  The infamous Bataan Death March and ultimate fall of the Philippines into Japanese control was the end result.

But here — the invasion of Leyte — would be, by far, the greatest operation of the Pacific.  For the first time, the combines forces of MacArthur and the overseas bomber commands would be joined with the vast armada of Admiral Nimitz.  Land and sea would simultaneously explode into action.  The Japanese government also knew in their heart of hearts that the battles fought over the Philippine islands would decide the outcome of the war.  Field Marshall Hisaichi Terauchi communicated orders for additional men and supplies, while General Yamashita attempted  to convince his superiors otherwise.  The general did not wish to remove men and arms from the more important island of Luzon, especially as transportation would now be a major problem — thanks to the U.S. Navy.  Unfortunately, intentionally or not, FDR not only found a way to leak the plans of Leyte’s attack, but diplomatic sources in the Kremlin gave the Japanese a forewarning and the the enemy became determined to make the Philippines an all-out effort.

Certain matters would need to be dealt with by the soldiers, Allied and Japanese alike.  For the Japanese, the concept of using retreat as a strategic tactic was confusing and unheard of by their standard of protocol.  The very thought of retreat was a disgrace and therefore forbidden.  The American G.I. was equally befuddled by hara Kiri and kamikaze techniques.  The purpose that suicide accomplished in a battlefield was beyond their comprehension – yet these and many more differences had to be confronted. (The official name of kamikaze was Tokubetsu Kogekitai and was not quite as popular in Japan as some have been led to believe.  This topic will be discussed in a later post as the action unfolds.)

Admiral Halsey led his famous fleet in the battle to clear Leyte Gulf and neighboring waters, thereby opening the way for troop landings.  It was during the battle for Surigao Strait that Admiral Mitscher turned in early for some sleep and said to his aide, “It’s alright.  Admiral Halsey is in command now.”  But, all kidding aside, the Japanese had a very formidable navy and it would take more than one admiral to complete and win the last large sea battle of the war.  Many historians , looking back on these ensuing battles, compared the forces of Nimitz with throwing a right cross and MacArthur’s troops following through with the left punch – the enemy did not stand a chance.

As General Eichelberger said more than once: “The 11th Airborne Division are the fightingest men I’ve ever seen.”  And the largest and most violent armed conflict in history was about to start for these men.

November of 1944 arrived and with that came packing up for the next destination, Leyte, Philippines.  It also meant the arrival of the rains, an understatement to say the least.  Such downpours are alien to those who do not live in the tropics.  Even the darkness is unique when it arrives in a flash and the blackness envelops everything like a sweeping shroud.  A man’s eyes can no longer be trusted; he stands as though blindfolded.

Nine APA’s (naval transport ships designed to attack) and AKA’s (cargo ships designed to attack) would be required to carry the 11th A/B on to their target.  Due to the constant barrage of weather, the journey lasted from  Nov. 11 until the 18th.  The Battle of Leyte was officially code-named “King II Operation.”

Gilliam-class APA

Gilliam-class APA

Being as their cruise took so long, Smitty had a chance to write home once again, Letter XIV will be included in the next post.


Personal note – Most acknowledgements will be at the end of this blog in the Bibliography; such as the photograph above which came from “The Pacific War Encyclopedia on-line.”


New Guinea part 3

You’re definitely in the Army now!

In August and September of 1944, the division began to learn amphibious operations, which was a mandatory requirement for ANY soldier in the Pacific.  They received jungle training that my father often referred to as “guerrilla war training” which he felt was needed to enter my room when I was a teenager – he couldn’t possibly have meant that room was a mess – could he?

“Fire and movement” was what the men called for throwing their hand grenades into the 8 foot high Huai grass, closing behind mortar and artillery barrages, flame thrower usage, clearing a jungle path with a machete and demonstrations of Japanese hand grenades came next; which caused one fatality.  The troopers learned all this while they faced the hazards of scrub typhus, malaria, dengue fever and more.  The 11th fared better than most thanks to their para-medical teams and the abundant supply of Atabrine.  The medicine helped to ward off malaria, but turned the men yellow from head to toe.  My father did still contract the disease, but thankfully just a mild case.

The 11th Airborne Division endured the rigor to become the elite that their commander, General Swing, expected.  I had never heard my father say, “I did this in the war,” he always spoke in regards to the entire unit.  They personified the idea of a band of brothers.

At the Casablanca Conference in 1943, Pres. Roosevelt said, “The elimination of German, Japanese and Italian was power mean the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy and Japan.”  This meant to all that there would never be any ardent peace talks — only unlimited war.  The statement added fuel to the fire under the Japanese.  Whether FDR realized it or spoke these words intentionally, he gave the enemy the added spirit they needed to continue onward with the fighting.  Nothing the Japanese generals and admirals could say would ever rouse the exuberance of the enemy troops more than that speech by a U.S. president.

The up-coming posts I’m certain you will find to be far more humorous and light-hearted – just the way Smitty would have wanted.

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

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