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The Army Airborne and the start to Camp MacKall

Airborne, Camp MacKall

The original idea for an American airborne came from Gen. Billy Mitchell in 1918.  His  commander, Gen. Pershing agreed, but once the WWI Armistice was signed, the plan was terminated.  In the late 1920’s, Germany began training parachute units and in the 1930’s, they led the world in gliders.  Russia created the Air Landing Corps in 1935.  Japan started in 1940 with German instructors.  The U.S. did not take note until Germany was successful on Crete in 1941.

Smitty, 187th RCT/11th Airborne Division, Camp MacKall 1943

The American tradition was born when 48 men jumped at Ft. Benning on Aug. 16, 1940, where  Private Eberhard, promised to yell to his buddies below, was the first to shout out “Geronimo”.  General William Lee is considered the “Father of the Airborne.”  My father, Everett Smith or “Smitty” (as you’ll get to know him),  did not care for heights or jumping, so I asked him – “Why volunteer?”  He shrugged and said, “They pay you more in the paratroopers.”  Smitty had a dry sense of humor which you will see more of in the letters he wrote to his mother in future posts.  He did however accept his boot camp, sharp shooting, glider & parachute training as a way  of learning new things he would otherwise have never experienced. [One of his statements driven into me – ” Like any job, always try your best.”]  Since he was 27 and much older than other recruits, he was often referred to by the nickname of “Pops.”

Camp MacKall postcard

The 11th Airborne Division was formed on Feb. 25, 1943 and their conditioning was so severe that most of the men felt combat would be a breeze.  They were the first A/B division formed from scratch, so instead of following the manuals – they were writing their own.  The camp was under construction 24/7 and they took classes sitting in folding chairs and easels were used for map reading, first-aid, weapons, foxholes, rules of land warfare, communications, field fortifications, and so on.  Between May and June one battalion at a time went to Fort Benning for jump school.

glider jumping

When the time came for Stage A of jump school, it was scratched since the men were already as fit as possible.  Stage B, was learning to tumble, equipment knowledge, sliding down a 30′ cable and packing a parachute.  In Stage C, they used a 250-foot tower, forerunner to the one at Coney Island, to simulate a jump.  Stage D, they earned their jump wings and boots.  In June, the units began training in every circumstance that might arise in combat.

The gliders used were WACO CG 4A, boxlike contraptions with wings.  The skeleton was small gauge steel covered with canvas; a wingspan of 84 feet, length of 49 feet and carried 3,700 pounds = two pilots and 13 fully loaded soldiers or a jeep and 6 men. The casualty list developing these appeared endless to the men.  Smitty could not listen to “Taps” without tearing up, even in his later years.

WACO glider in take off from Camp MacKall field.

21 June, the division entered the unit training program.  During July, all units went on 10-day bivouacs and to Fort Bragg.  Glider formal training occurred at Maxton Air Base.

In July, in Sicily, Operation Husky went terribly awry, due to the weather conditions –  3,800 paratroopers were separated from their gliders and each other.  The casualty rate was exorbitant.  This created serious doubts about the practicality of a division size airborne.  Proof would rest on the shoulders of the 11th and their commander, Gen. Joseph May Swing.  A demonstration called the “Pea Patch Show” was displayed for Sec. of War, Stimson.  He gave Swing a positive review, but it did not convince Gen. Marshall or McNair.  The fate of the Airborne Command rested on the upcoming Knollwood Maneuvers.

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Smitty’s hometown of Broad Channel sent out a free issue of their newspaper, “The Banner”, to every hometown soldier and this became another source of back front info, along with news from his mother and friends:

News that Smitty got from home at this point:  Broad Channel was getting their own air raid siren.  (Broad Channel is one-mile long and about 4-blocks wide).  His neighbors, the Hausmans, heard from their POW son in the Philippines.  And – his divorce papers were final, Smitty was single again.

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Military Humor –

‘I dropped out of Parachute School.’

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Ashby – Sun City, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Carl Bradley – USA; US Navy, WWII, Fireman 2nd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Leo Brown – Lima, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, USS Colorado,3rd Marine Division

Benjamin Goldfarb – Toronto, CAN; US Army, WWII, PTO, Surgical tech, 54th General Hospital, Philippines

Daniel C. Helix – Concord, CA; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, MGeneral, Purple Heart / Mayor

Denis H. Hiskett – USA; US Navy, WWII, Fireman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Robert L. Moore – Queens, NY; USMC, Korea & Vietnam, Gunnery Sgt.

Thomas O’Keefe – Washington D.C.; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT  /  CIA

George Semonik Jr. – Sewickley, PA; US Army, Chief Warrant Officer, 82nd Airborne Division (Ret. 20 y.)

Shelby Treadway – Manchester, KY; US Navy, WWII, Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

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Adm. Nimitz – 136th Birthday & USMC Raiders

Pacific War Museum, Nimitz statue

Chester W. Nimitz was born on February 24, 1885 – and today would have been his 136th birthday. The National Museum of the Pacific War is located in Fredericksburg. Texas because Nimitz grew up here and he was a major figure in the U.S. victory over Japan in WWII. 

Nimitz reached the pinnacle of naval leadership when he was promoted to the 5-star rank of Fleet Admiral in late 1944. As the Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Area, he led more than two million men and women, 5,000 ships and 20,000 planes in the Pacific Theater. 

Adm. Nimitz at the “Old Texas Roundup”


He was known to be a congenial and accessible leader and that sailors loved and respected him. He is pictured here at the “Old Texas Roundup” speaking to his guests –  sailors, soldiers and Marines who hailed from Texas. The barbeque was held on January 1944 on Oahu, Hawaii, and Nimitz reportedly invited 40,000 Texans to celebrate their heritage.

 

The following video may be too long for some to watch, but I do recommend a little scanning through it.  The original films are included, and I’m certain you will enjoy that.

 

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Maj. Gen. James F. Glynn, commander of Marine Forces Special Operations Command, addresses MARSOC personnel during the rededication ceremony at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Feb. 22, 2021. On Feb. 24, 2006, the Marine Corps combined several of its specialized and uniquely trained units, gave them a name and a commander and directed them to become pioneers in a new chapter of Marine Corps history. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Jesula Jeanlouis)

Fifteen years ago, the Marine Corps combined several of its specialized and uniquely trained units to become pioneers in a new chapter of Marine Corps history within Special Operations Command. While MARSOC can still be considered a relatively young unit, the history of Marine Corps specialized forces can be traced back much further than 2006.

The original Marine Raiders date back to World War II when the Marines were called on to solve complex problems posed by our nation’s adversaries. These specially trained Marines helped turn the tide in the early stages against the imperial Japanese Army. In honor and recognition of those that came before, the Marine Corps officially re-designated those serving with MARSOC as Marine Raiders in 2015.

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Military Humor – Navy style – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Scot Ames Jr. – Pekin, IN; US Air Force, 50th Flying Training Squadron, instructor pilot

Tanner W. Byholm – Ashland, WI; US Air Force Reserve

Joseph Couris – Philadelphia, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Captain, pilot B-17 “Rose of York”

B. Paul Hart – Williams, AZ; US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman

Harry Lord – Farmingham, MA; US Navy, PTO, Chief Boatswain’s Mate (Ret. 30 y.)

Paul Mitchem – McDowell County, WV; US Army, Cpl. Korea, Co K/3/34/24th Infantry Division. KIA (Ch’onan, SK)

John Osgood – Claremont, NH; US Army, WWII, ETO

Lada Smisek – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Chief Machinist’s Mate, POW, KIA (P.I.)

William D. Tucker – USA; US Navy, WWII, Fireman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Michaux Turbeville – SC; US Army, Korea, Pfc., HQ Co/ 3/31/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin Reservoir)

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The U.S.O.’s 80th Anniversary

“Until everyone comes home” is the motto of the U.S.O., the nonprofit organization has stuck to that motto, doing its best to bring support and entertainment to American military personnel around the world.

To connect to the organization, please click HERE!

Over the course of the USO’s 80-year history, the organization has seen it all: the beaches of France, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of Saudi Arabia and the mountains of AfghanistanBut most importantly, the USO has witnessed several generations of service members, military spouses and military families pass through its doors – and has provided them with crucial support by boosting their morale and keeping them connected to one another throughout their time in the military.

Boxing match w/ Sugar Ray Leonard & Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney as referee.

Starting in 1941 and in the eight decades since, the USO has remained committed to always standing by the military’s side, no matter where their service takes them.

Eleven months before the United States’ official entry into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was already creating a support system for the nation’s Armed Forces. Bringing together the Salvation Army, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the National Catholic Community Service, the National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board, these six organizations formed the United Service Organizations (USO) on 4 February 1941. The USO was created specifically to provide morale and recreation services to the troops.

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“Until everyone comes home” is the motto of the U.S.O., the nonprofit organization has stuck to that motto, doing its best to bring support and entertainment to American military personnel around the world.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Jesse Anderson – Boise, ID; National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 4, instructor pilot

Dale F. Bruhs – Milford, MD; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Millie Hughes-Fulford –  Mineral Wells, TX; US Army Reserve, Medical Corps / NASA, 1st female astronaut-

Michael Gastrich – Cincinnati, OH; US Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class, air crew mechanic/flight engineer

Roland Horn – Des Moines, IA; US Army, WWII, Chief Warrant Officer (Ret.)

George Laubhan – Boise, ID; National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 3, instructor pilot

Charlotte MacDonough – Boston, MA; Civilian, WWII, made B-17 fuel bladders

Ryan Mason – Carthage, NY & TX; US Army, Middle East, Sgt.

Matthew Peltzer – Napa, ID; National Guard, Chief Petty Officer 3, pilot

George P. Shultz (100) – Englewood, NJ; USMC, WWII, PTO / Secretary of Labor, Treasury and State

Julian Vargas – Silver City, NM; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187/11th Airborne Division

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DDT, Aerosol Cans and WWII

With millions of troops moving into tropical and subtropical campaigns, WWII military leaders and planners sought ways to fight diseases endemic to these regions. Two WWII era innovations were combined to save the lives of many combatants during the war years. Malaria was the primary concern at the time.

Malaria was commonly avoided by prophylactic treatments with quinine. Larger doses could be given to those known to be infected. Quinine came from the bark of a South American shrub that came to be grown on commercial plantations in the South Pacific. The Japanese occupied these plantations early in the war, and substitutes for it were less effective.

In 1939, Paul Hermann Muller discovered that dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) effectively killed insects.. In 1943 tests showed it to be effective against the mosquitoes that carried malaria, and the US Military started using it. At first they used hand pumps that pressurized a canister, and applying DDT this way replaced spraying fuel oil in streams and ditches. In 1948 Muller received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery.

USDA researchers Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan developed the first effective aerosol spray can in 1941. There were earlier patents for aerosol spray, but no one had yet made an effective disposable canister. Goodhue and Sullivan were looking for ways to spray insecticides, and found a way to compress chlorofluorocarbon gases in a can with the chemical to be dispersed. With a valve at the top that controlled emission of the contents, the active chemical was carried by the expanding carrier gas

Combining DDT with a working disposable aerosol can, the US military was able to give its troops a way to spray inside tents, nets and clothes to kill mosquitoes (and just about all the other insects that came in contact).

Dr. Lyle D. Goodhue, 1942

In the 1970s scientists showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in aerosol cans and refrigeration, were causing a degradation of the ozone layer in the atmosphere. Ozone is a toxic pollutant at ground levels, but a concentrated layer of ozone high in the atmosphere shields the Earth’s surface from a large amount of ultra-violet radiation from the sun. Regulations in the US and around the world phased out the use of CFCs as propellants first, and then as refrigerants, by the late 1980s. Metal spray cans are more rare now, but they dominated the shelves of stores for many decades of the 20th century.

Both products have since been removed from sale due to side effects.

From: the National WWII Museum, New Orleans

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Military Humor –

How’s this for recycling? We get some heavily polluted air, put it an aerosol can, and use it as an insecticide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Ashcroft – Wilmington, DE; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS LCI – 688 / Korea

Russell Bishop – Wickenburg, AZ; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Frank M. Fonte – Northport, NY; US Navy, WWII

Russell Harvey (105) – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, WWII

Hal Holbrook – Cleveland, OH; US Army, WWII, SSgt. / beloved actor

Bruce Mock – Dodge City, KS; US Army, Japanese Occupation, Sgt. Major, 808, 836th Engineering Battalion

Eugene Reilly (100) – Boston, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 2nd Lt., 3rd Infantry Division

Robert Skyles – Hill City, ID;US Navy, WWII, PTO

Irwin Stahl – Delray Beach, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/ 187/11th Airborne Division

Robert Max Willocks – Maryville, TN; US Navy, WWII, PTO

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Duct Tape and WWII

 

During the WWII, U.S. troops in the heat of battle had a strangely impractical way of reloading their weapons.

Cartridges used for grenade launchers was one example. Boxed, sealed with wax and taped over to protect them from moisture, soldiers would need to pull on a tab to peel off the paper tape and break the seal. Sure, it worked… except when it didn’t, soldiers were left scrambling to pry the boxes open.

waterproof ammo boxes

Vesta Stoudt had been working at a factory packing and inspecting these cartridges when she got to thinking that there had to be a better way. She also happened to be a mother of two sons serving in the Navy and was particularly perturbed that their lives and countless others were left to such chance.

Concerned for the welfare of sons, she discussed with her supervisors an idea she had to fabricate a tape made from strong, water-resistant cloth. And when nothing came of her efforts, she penned a letter to then-President Franklin Roosevelt detailing her proposal (which included a hand-sketched diagram) and closing by making a plea to his conscience:

“We can’t let them down by giving them a box of cartridges that takes a minute or two to open, enabling the enemy to take lives that might be saved had the box been taped with strong tape that can be opened in a split second. Please, Mr. President, do something about this at once; not tomorrow or soon, but now.”

Oddly enough, Roosevelt passed Stoudt’s recommendation on to military officials, and in two weeks time, she received notice that her suggestion is being considered and not too long after was informed that her proposal had been approved. The letter also commended her idea was of “exceptional merit.”

Before long, Johnson & Johnson, which specialized in medical supplies, was assigned and developed a sturdy cloth tape with a strong adhesive that would come to be known as “duck tape,” which garnered the company an Army/Navy “E” Award, an honor given out as a distinction of excellence in the production of war equipment.

Army/Navy E Pennant

While Johnson & Johnson was officially credited with the invention of duct tape, it’s a concerned mother who will be remembered as the mother of duct tape.

The initial iteration that Johnson & Johnson came up with isn’t much different from the version on the market today. Comprised of a piece of mesh cloth, which gives it tensile strength and rigidity to be torn by hand and waterproof polyethylene (plastic), duct tape is made by feeding the materials into a mixture that forms the rubber-based adhesive.

Unlike glue, which forms a bond once the substance hardens, duct tape is a pressure-sensitive adhesive that relies on the degree in which pressure is applied. The stronger the pressure, the stronger the bond, particularly with surfaces that are clean, smooth and hard.

Duct tape was a huge hit with soldiers due to its strength, versatility and waterproof properties. Used to make all sorts of repairs from boots to furniture, it’s also a popular fixture in the world of motorsports, where crews use strips to patch up dents.

During the war duck tape was distributed to soldier’s to use in sealing ammo cans. Industrious soldiers quickly started using it for all manner of repairs thanks to its strong adhesive and sturdy construction. When millions of soldiers returned home from the war, they brought their respect for duct tape with them, rapidly introducing the now ubiquitous tape into popular culture.

Film crews working on-set have a version called gaffer’s tape, which doesn’t leave a sticky residue. Even NASA Astronauts pack a roll when they go on space missions.

on aircraft

Besides repairs, other creative uses for duct tape include strengthening cellular reception on the Apple iPhone 4 and as a form of medical treatment for removing warts called duct tape occlusion therapy, which research hasn’t been proven to be effective.

“Duct” or “duck” tape?

In this case, either pronunciation would be correct. According to Johnson & Johnson’s website, the original green sticky cloth tape got its name during world war II when soldiers started calling it duck tape for the way liquids seem to roll off like water off a duck’s back.

Not long after the war, the company launched a metallic-silver version called duct tape after executives discovered it can also be used to seal heating ducts. Interestingly enough, however, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted field tests on heating ducts and determined that duct tape was insufficient for that purpose.

By :  Tuan C. Nguyen

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Military Humor – 

DUCT TAPE DOESN’T FIX EVERYTHING!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Steven Bailey – Houston, TX; US Army, Kuwait, 82nd Airborne Division, Bronze Star

Harry Beal – Meyersdale, PA; US Navy, 1st SEAL

Robert Collins – Rockaway, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. A/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Thomas Hard Sr. – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, POW

Reed Mattair – Williston, FL; US Army, WWII, PTO

Paul Moore Sr. – Portsmouth, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS West Virginia, SeaBee, Pearl Harbor survivor

Edward Sulewski – So. Milwaukee, WI; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Alexander Suprin – brn: Poland; USMC, WWII, PTO

Thomas Whitaker – Marquette, MI; US Army, WWII, Engineering Corps

Dominic Zangari (100) – Lancaster, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, (Ret. 34 y.)

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Covering “The Other Side” Pictorial

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Japanese/American Unity – Today

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Japanese Military Humor – from:  Kunihiko Hisa cartoon album “Zero Fighter 1940-1945”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Marvin L. Anderson – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO, infantry

John D.S. Bailey – Haiku, HI; US Army, SSgt., fire direction chief, HQ Co./4/70/1st Armored Brigade Combat Team

By: Howard Brodie

Scott W. Blais – East Longmeadow, MA; US Air Force, MSgt., flight engineer, 337th Airlift Squadron

Henry Daubert Jr. – New Orleans, LA; US Navy, WWII, Ensign, navigator /  USNR, Lt. Cmdr.

Carl Johnson – AZ; US Navy, WWII, Seaman 1st Class, USS West Virginia, Purple Heart, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Charles Joo – Riverside, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 waist-gunner

Clinton Lindseth – Silva, ND; US Army Air Corps  /  US Navy, radio engineer, PTO

Walter Paczkowski – Windsor, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Roy R. Suisted – Cambridge, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 431080, WWII, Medical Section

Harry Servos – Sewell, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. F/187/11th Airborne Division

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Military Radio – Armed Forces Network

1943 ‘G.I. Jive’ sheet music by Johnny Mercer

ARMED FORCES NETWORK

Although American Forces Network Radio has officially been on the air for 60 years, listeners began tuning in at the end of World War I.

A Navy lieutenant in France broadcasted information and live entertainment to troops accompanying President Wilson to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.  Radio was a novelty then, and little equipment was given to overseas military broadcasting until the United States started gearing up for World War II.

playing music for the troops

Bored soldiers in Panama and Alaska created makeshift transmitters and aired records, according to an Armed Forces Radio pamphlet. The U.S. military was unaware of the broadcasts until celebrities wrote asking how to send the stations recordings.

During the first days of the U.S. entry into World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s staff members set up military radio stations in the Philippines. Their success paved the way for the Armed Forces Radio Service.

In May 1942, the Army commissioned broadcasting executive Tom Lewis as a major and assigned him to create a viable military radio network.

Its primary goal was to keep morale high, a daunting task when the enemy already was broadcasting to Allied troops, in the personas of the infamous “Axis Sally” and “Tokyo Rose.” Playing popular American music, they tried to demoralize troops with talk about missing home.

On July 4, 1943, the Armed Forces Network went on the air, using the BBC’s London studios. With British and Canadian radio stations, it formed the Allied Expeditionary Forces Program. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted to ensure the stations worked together and all allies were getting the same message.

“G.I. Jive” disc, 1943

To boost morale, AFRS headquarters in Los Angeles produced shows such as “G.I. Jive,” shipping them to stations on special “V-Discs.” By early 1945, about 300 Armed Forces Radio Stations worldwide were broadcasting. (There are some V-discs available on e-bay)

Then came peacetime.

By 1949, just 60 stations were operating. But broadcasters who remained in Europe with the occupying forces took on a new role. Music and information were broadcast from Bremen to Berlin — giving many Europeans their first exposure to American culture and music.

AFN brought jazz, blues, rock ’n’ roll and country and western to audiences starved for music. The shows were so popular that when the leftist Greens Party urged Germany to quit NATO in the 1980s and called for U.S. troops to leave, it made one exception.

“The U.S. military should go home, but leave AFN behind,” a Greens leader demanded.

When the Korean War started in 1950, AFRS leased several portable trailers and followed the troops as “Radio Vagabond.” The American Forces Korea Network was established in Seoul later that year.

While the organization changed its name to the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in 1954, the focus remained on radio.

The American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) was established in 1962, during the Vietnam War, mostly for numerous military advisers there. It served as the backdrop for the 1988 movie, “Good Morning, Vietnam!”

But broadcasting to the troops as the war heated up was no day on a Hollywood set.

During the Tet Offensive, AFVN studios in Hue City were attacked. The staff fought off the Viet Cong for five days before the station manager and several others were captured. They spent five years in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp.

Recently, Armed Forces Radio quickly mobilized for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

A mobile broadcasting van deployed to Saudi Arabia, where the American Forces Desert Network was established in 1991 and broadcast for the first time from Kuwait shortly after the Iraqi occupation ended. Since then, it has become a fixture throughout the region.

Tech. Sgt. Mark Hatfield, 36, was “out in the middle of nowhere … at a secret base detached from civilization” as a structural maintainer on F-15s, with the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) during Desert Storm.

About a month after he arrived, AFDN went into operation.

“I remember when they came on line … I had my little transistor radio, and sure enough, there it was,” he said.

Someone also bought a radio for the hangar. “We cranked it because news was coming out left and right about the war,” Hatfield added.

“It was good because that was our only source of real information. You get out in the middle of nowhere, you don’t really hear it from the U.S side of things … uncensored, coming in from the U.S.”

“Good Morning, Vietnam!”

Today, American Forces Radio and Television Service operates about 300 radio and television outlets, serving an audience of 1.3 million listeners and viewers on every continent and U.S. Navy ship at sea.

“As long as there’s military there, we’re going to be there.”

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Military Humor –

Marines from Los Angeles

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Farewell Salutes – 

Anthony Bermudez – Dallas, TX; US Army, Kuwait, SSgt.

Edward R. Burka – Washington D.C.; US Army Medical Corps (airborne), BGeneral

Dorothy (Schmidt) Cole (107) – OH; USMC Women’s 1st Battalion, WWII

Hyman Coran – Sharon, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, flight instructor

Michael Domico – Westville, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Sgt., radio/gunner

Veronica Federici – Fulton, NY; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Michael Morris – Cass Lake, MN; US Air Force, TSgt., 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (Europe)

Vincent Pale – Philadelphia, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, POW

Claude Spicer – McComas, WV; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, (Ret. 30 y.)

Robert Wendler – Newport, RI; US Navy, WWII, Navy band

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Guam

Guam

In a lot of Pacific War histories, Guam is swept aside and banished as insignificant.  How soon they forget, many might say.

In Tokyo, soundtrucks festooned with World War II colors still extol those lost in a gallant defeat. In America, elders like Louis H. Wilson Jr. and George Tweed would never forget.

Masashi Ito and Bunzo Minagawa spent young manhood into middle age in the tropical underside of an island that tourists now praise as a paradise. They were holdouts, soldiers who refused to surrender and would forage for
survival for 16 years.

Soichi Yokoi, before and after

The last known Japanese survivor, Shoichi Yokoi, held out until 1972, captured by chance as he ventured out to empty a fish trap. Yokoi had never crept out of dense cover to hear the happy shouts of Japanese tourists and honeymooners. Nor had he walked the lobby of the Hilton or the Cliffside.

Luxury hotels swarm over the beachfront and jungle growth has covered the faint traces of war, and Guam gets only a passing nod as a battlefield beside Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Okinawa and Leyte. Thirty-six years ago [now it is 76 ½ years ago]  shellfire plowed across Guam. Some 18,500 Japanese were trying to pry loose the fingerhold that many more thousands of American soldiers and Marines had fastened on beaches and cliffsides.

Many of the Americans barely had a respite between battles, having first seized Saipan to pull the keystone of the Marianas archway. Guam was almost a point-of-honor afterthought. The island was an American possession until a handful of Marines, soldiers and Guamanian militia made a no-choice surrender only three days after Japanese bombers pounded Hawaii.

The III Amphibious Corps and the 77th Infantry Division are not going in blindfolded that July 21, 1944. Eleven days before the landing, as American warships savage Guam’s coastal defenses, a tall figure sprints down a beach and plunges into the surf, swimming with desperate strength until he is within hailing distance of a destroyer.

George Tweed

George Tweed is pulled aboard and tells an astonishing story. He was one of the 288 men on the island as 5,000 Japanese surged ashore, ignoring the flea-bite firepower of a few .30 cal. machine guns as they overwhelmed the thin garrison and forced the Naval Governor, Capt. George J. McMillin, into quick submission.

Tweed and five others slipped away, hunted by Japanese who probed the underbrush with bayonets. Only Tweed survived, living on land crabs and coconuts, warily evading the patrols that shook every palm tree and banyan for him. Tweed saw his pursuers far more often than they saw him, and his sketchpad mind has taken it all down — every gun emplacement, trenchline and fortified cave. The Japanese failure to capture or kill this ragged stray will cost them dearly.

Exacting naval gunfire singles out visible and concealed coastal guns – all but a few. As the 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Marine Brigade board barges that cut paint-stroke wakes toward the western side of Guam, sharp flashes burst along the coastline. Barges turn over like crumpled buckets.

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“You never get it for free,” an older Marine mutters as the barges push ashore — the division between Adelup and Asan Points and the brigade wedging between Point Bangi and the town of Agat. Beachheads are “tightly fastened and the coastal guns erased.

There are already wolfish shouts from the jungle along the coastline. Fierce counterattacks tear into the Marine lines and one lunge rips through the brigade. It is contained after a desperate brawl with bullets, blades and even fists.

The Marines begin moving inland, slowly closing a gap between division and brigade as hey crush across Apra Harbor and Orote Peninsula, squeezing
the defenders between them. But the Japanese put no markdown price tags on anything, heaping fallen defenses with Marine dead. As the two Marine forces grasp .hands, another enemy rush pours forth — the futile bravery of 500 Japanese sailors who die in an inferno of shellfire.

Capt. Louis H. Wilson Jr. is a company commander in the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. He thrusts ahead of the others to take high and important ground, holding it against human-avalanche counterattacks.

His Medal of Honor citation will stiffly relate that Wilson “contributed essentially” to the success of the assault, passing over the fact that he was wounded three times and fought aside agonized delirium to rally his Marines.

Capt. Louis H. Wilson Jr., USMC

Soldiers of the 77th, fed slowly into the advance, must do the deadly, mop-and-dustpan work in southern Guam as the Marine advance lunges on. The suicidal determined Japanese will tear tiny leaks and large gaps in the line, and the effort to repulse them will often get down to hand-to-hand piecework.

The advance will spider all over the island, with Guam declared secure as Marines reach the northernmost tip on Ritidian Point. Everything is back under American colors by Aug. 10.

The past will be wiped away over the years. Wreckage will be swept aside. Foundations for posh hotels will be sunk along the beachfront. Andersen AFB and Agana NAS will assure a stronger military presence than those unfortunate few of late 1941.

Strangers will be strafed by stiff expense but nothing else.

“Robinson Crusoe, USN” by: George Tweed

Tweed will write a book, “Robinson Crusoe, USN.”

Wilson will become Marine Corps Commandant.

Battle histories will little note nor long remember Guam.

But Wilson, Tweed, many Americans and a few Japanese, will always share a thin fund of private memories.

From the Archives of the Stars & Stripes,  August 10, 1980

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Military Humor – 

‘Howitzers at dawn.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Howard Buescher – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Andrew Caneza – New Orleans, LA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Mead Clark – Joliet, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 17th Airborne Division

George Fry – St. Paul, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Ed Guthrie (102) Omaha, NE; US Navy, WWII, electrician’s mate 2nd Class, USS Banner, last known Pearl Harbor survivor

John Harris – NY & FL; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam (Ret. 28 y.)

Glen Kloiber – Milwaukee, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 791st AAA Battalion

Dallas Lehn – Elba, NE; US Army, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Michael D. Miller – OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII

John Rudberg – Minneapolis, MN; US Navy, V-12 Program

Ordnance – L-4 Grasshopper in the Pacific

The “L’series liaison aircraft in US army service were often known as “grasshoppers.” These aircraft served with artillery and outfits spotting targets and giving commanders real time information on enemy positions. They also served in Liaison Squadrons, such as the 25th Liaison Squadron which earned fame in the Pacific Theater with their “Guinea Short Lines” aircraft.

L-4 Grasshopper, Piper Cub

Primarily to serve at elimination training bases in World War II the Navy acquired 230 Piper NE-1s , basically similar to the Army L-4s with Continental 0-170 engines. Twenty NE-2s were similar.

deHavilland WWI

As war spread around the world at the beginning of the 1940s, the U.S. military, dominated by old soldiers who expected to fight the next war exactly as they fought the last one, had to be convinced that the requirements for certain weapons needed to be redefined. An example was the Army’s observation airplanes, latter-day versions of the World War I, the deHavilland DH-4.

A two place tandem cockpit, dual-control, modified J-3 civilian light plane built by Piper Aircraft Corporation, Lock Haven, PA. Military models were designated the L-4B, L-4H, L-4J. This lightweight aircraft was among the most useful tactical aircraft of WWII. Dubbed “Grasshoppers” for their ability to fly into and out of small spaces, this military adaptation of the famous Piper J-3 Cub became the center of the toughest inter service turf fights of the war. General George S. Patton, Jr. played a major role in their introduction, a fact often overlooked in light of his other major accomplishments.

The L-4 had a fabric-covered frame with wooden spar, metal-rib wings, a metal-tube fuselage, and a metal-tube empennage. Its fixed landing gear used “rubber-band” bungee cord shock absorbers and had hydraulic brakes and no flaps.

Grasshopper pilots flew dangerous missions over enemy territory without any armor.

The aircrafts flight instruments included an airspeed indicator, and altimeter, compass, and simple turn-and-bank indicator. It was equipped with a two-way radio, powered by a wind-driven generator.

All of the little L-birds land like feathers, but the L-4 is the easiest and softest to land. Put 10 knots of wind on the nose, and all of them seem to come to a halt before gently touching down.

The L-4 retained the metal ribs of the Cub, so only the spar is made of wood. The ribs, however, are trusses of T-sections formed of thin aluminum riveted and screwed together. If poorly treated, these rib trusses are easily damaged and attract corrosion in the corners.

 

A: Cables or struts braced the Piper L4 tailplanes and wings. These allowed the necessary strength to be built in without resorting to a heavy structure. Rough field operations exert a lot of stress on airframes.  B: Mounted semi-exposed, the Continental flat-four engine powered the majority of more than 5000 Piper L-4s delivered to the Army, Several J-4 Cubs owned by civilians were pressed into service.  C: Structurally. the Piper L-4 was quite simple and had a fabric-covered wooden framework. The wing had no slats or flaps, but was equipped with large, long-span ailerons, Internally the wing was braced with wire.  D: For solo flights the L4 Grasshopper pilot sat in the rear seat, which had a full set of controls but was normally used by the observer. The Grasshopper was also equipped with a map table and the radio fit varied between models.

 

In Florida, the Civil Air Patrol had a Piper Cub patrolling at a low altitude along the Palm Beach coast (as many other cities had) and on one occasion, the 55-year-old pilot swooped down for a closer look at something he felt was unusual and he was fired on – it was a German submarine. The plane received enough damage to force him to return to the airfield. This is probably the only American plane downed by enemy fire in the continental U.S. history.

While some of the men were confined to fighting up in the mountains, the division’s newspaper called the Static Line, used a piper cub plane to drop bundles of the publication down to the men.  This was the only news of the outside world that the troopers could receive.  One day, a roll of the papers was dropped with a note attached addressing it: “To the girls, with the compliments of Art Mosley and Jack Keil, Phone Glider 3.”  It was discovered later that the WAC camp received the roll meant for the 11th airborne.

21 December 1944, General Swing and Col. Quandt flew to Manarawat in cub planes.  Upon landing, the general was said to look “as muddy as a dog-faced private.”  (Swing would often be in the thick of things and this description of him was common.)  He slept that night in the camp’s only nipa hut, which ended up being destroyed the next day.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Angel Balcarcel – Canton, OH; US Navy, WWII

Arthur H. Bishop – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Korea, 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment

Mare Island Cemetery

Jimmy Coy – Columbia, MO; US Army, 1st Gulf War, 3rd Group/Army Special Forces, Medical surgeon, Colonel (Ret. 25 y.)

Wayne DeHaven Sr. – Roseville, MN; US Army, WWII, 17th Airborne Division

Richard Fry – Hudson, OH; US Air Force  / NASA (Ret. 30 y.)

Georgina Grey – Bristol, ENG; Royal British Navy, WWII, aircraft maintenance

Jessica Mitchell – Topeka, KS; US Army, DSgt., 68E Dental Specialist

David Michaud – Denver, CO; USMC  /  Denver Police Chief

Joseph Papallo (101) – Meriden, CT; US Army, WWII

Doris (White) Ryan – Como, MS; Civilian, WWII, Memphis Army Dept.

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Honoring Merrill’s Marauders

There is a passing member of Merrill’s Marauders in the Farewell Salutes today.   This post is an attempt to honor their contributions.

James E. Richardson

“If they can walk and carry a gun,” Major General Joseph Stillwell presciently told Brigadier General Frank Merrill in 1943, “they can fight!”

After being run out of the Burmese jungle by the Japanese in May of 1942, Stillwell had, according to one war correspondent, appeared “like the wrath of God and cursing like a fallen angel.”

The general didn’t mince his words either, telling reporters that the joint expedition between a small contingent of American, British, and Chinese troops “got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake it.”

Gen. Stillwell

The following year a determined Stillwell took a major step toward getting his wish, as allied leaders, many who sought to rectify the previous campaign’s novice display of jungle fighting, mapped out a plan for a ground unit trained and equipped to engage in “long-range penetration” missions.

In what was to be the forerunner for today’s special forces units, 3,000 American men volunteered for the newly formed 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) — code name: Galahad.

Dubbed Merrill’s Marauders after their commander, the men were tasked with a “dangerous and hazardous mission” behind Japanese lines in Burma, where the fall of the country’s capital of Rangoon had severely threatened the Allied supply line to China.  The Marauders were tasked with cutting off Japanese communications and supply lines and pushing enemy forces north out of the town of Myitkyina, the only city with an all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma.

Merrill’s Marauders

Although operational for only a few months, Merrill’s Marauders gained a fierce reputation for hard fighting and tenacity as the first American infantry force to see ground action in Asia.

“Highly trained infantrymen whom we regard today as heroes, such as the Special Forces, look to Merrill’s Marauders as role models,” Eames said in a press release. “The unimaginable conditions these men successfully fought through changed the understanding of the limits of human endurance in armed conflict. The Congressional Gold Medal brings them the public recognition they deserve. We are honored to have assisted in getting it across the finish line.”

2 Aug. ’44, 75 yards from enemy positions, US Army Signal Corps, Merrill’s Marauders. named 5307th Composite Unit

Reached by email, Eames said he became involved after a colleague and fellow attorney, Scott Stone, met Marauders Bob Passanisi and Gilbert Howland in the cafeteria of the Senate Dirksen Building.

“When he found out why they were there, he immediately offered to help,” Eames said. “One of the first things he did was call us, and I agreed to get a team involved.”

For the other surviving Marauders, the acknowledgement is somewhat bittersweet.

2 of the survivors of Merrill’s Marauders

“This recognition means so much to me and the other survivors and our families,” Passanisi, Merrill’s Marauders Association’s spokesperson, said in the release. “My one regret is that only eight of us are alive to enjoy this historic honor.”  (now only 7 remain).

Passanisi was luckier than most. Traversing nearly 1,000 miles behind enemy lines, the Marauders marched over some of the most treacherous terrain in the world, combating not only a determined enemy, but fighting off myriad diseases, scorching heat, venomous snakes, and bloodsucking leeches.

The exploits of the Marauders and their daring mission to recapture the vital town and airstrip at Myitkyina made headlines throughout the United States in 1944 — but at a steep cost.

movie poster, Merrill’s Marauders

After five months of combat, 95 percent of the Marauders were dead, wounded, or deemed no longer medically fit for combat. By the time the force was deactivated in August 1944, many, including Congress, wondered whether Stillwell had sacrificed the Marauders due to poor planning and his own dreams of glory and revenge.  Still, despite the unit’s staggering losses — fighting in five major battles and over 30 other engagements — the Marauders became one of the most renowned units to come out of World War II, carrying with them a legacy of bravery and the fortitude of the human spirit.

Seventy-six years later, the recognition by Congress shines “a light on that forgotten theater in the Pacific that was so crucial in defeating the Japanese,” said Gilbert Howland, a Marauder veteran.

“We did it because our country needed us.”

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Fay (Fotini) Argy – Camden, NJ; Civilian, Bud Manufacturing, WWII, bombs

Mary ‘Lorraine’ Bromley – Rock Island, IL; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Frank DeNoia – New haven, CT; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Canberra

Kenneth Fenton – Paraparaumu, NZ; NZ Army # 30202, WWII, ETO & PTO / Vietnam, Colonel (Ret. 32 y.)

William J. LaVigne II – USA; US Army, Afghanistan & Iraq, MSgt., HQ Co/Special Operation Command, 2 Bronze Stars

Anna McNett – Grand Rapids, MI; US Navy WAVES, WWII

Richard Nowers – Atkinson, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 507th Fighter Group, 3 Bronze Stars

Anthony Polizzi – NY; US Air Force, Captain, 15th Maintenance Group, Wing Comdr.

James E. Richardson – Knoxville, TN; US Army, WWII, CBI, Merrill’s Marauder

William Salley – Springfield, SC; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Lt. Colonel (Ret.), Purple Heart

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