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Home Front – Ham Radio Operators – Intermission Story (18)

Canadian radio operators

Naval Communication Reserve, the Army Amateur Network (not military and often used by the Red Cross), and the Amateur Emergency of the American Radar Relay League  (AARL),were the main networks as WWII brewed toward the USA. The messages were relayed and transmitted free of charge.

In Los Angeles, CA, the Major Diasater Emergency Council, a behind-the-scenes orgaization, prepared early to take over the handling of relief and and public safety.  The operators wore a special uniform and each had special instructions as to their duties.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC), trained intelligent men who were needed to man the new long-range surveillance and direction-finding radio interceptor stations that were being built as part of the national defense program.  [This was transpiring in 1939, long before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor]

A very short (1:28) video on the secret wireless war from the UK.

 

In time of war, thousands of trained members of these nets would be taken in by the military services for active duty and many others would be detailed to guard various frequencies to detect enemy and spy messages.  Resitrictions governing amateur radio were being tightened and all owners of transmittng stations were fingerprinted and were required to show proof of citizenship.

In June 1942, at the request of the AARL, the War Emergency Radio Service (WERS), was created.  The FCC continued to offer amateur licensing throughout the war.

Gwendoline’s contribution for us – Here you can see the letter sent from Mrs. Cecilia McKie in Sacramento, California to Mrs. Alice Eaddie, Yorkshire, England (a similar letter sent to Mr. & Mrs. Nils T. Peterson, MT).  In it Mrs. McKie explains that she listens to the shortwave program and overhears messages from Allied POWs in Japanese camps.  During February 1943 to the present date of this letter, Cecilia had mailed out 8100 letters to the families of these prisoners.  The message to Mrs. Eaddie was:

“Received your cablegram and safe.  Hope you are all still well at home.  Give my love to Mother and Dad.  Best wishes to our friends.  Tell May Charles (?) is all right.  All my love to you, Patricia.”

Ham radio WWII letter, contributed by Garrulous Gwedoline

 

Other countries had many other radio operators – here is an incredible example from Australia –

http://www.arrl.org/news/behind-enemy-lines-an-amateur-radio-operator-rsquo-s-amazing-tale-of-bravery

This post was inspired by Garrulous Gwendoline and her contribution to this site.  Her own website is well worth a read – you’ll love it!

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

“I DON’T CARE IF DIVISION DOESN’T SEND QSL CARDS……GET ON THAT RADIO!”

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Butler – Atlanta, GA; US Army, Korea

Caleb Erickson – Waseca, MN; USMC; Afghanistan, Cpl., KIA

Samuel Hadley Jr. – W>Palm Beach, FL; US Army, WWII

Paul Himber – Elizabeth, NJ; US Navy, USS Threadfin

Stanley Krolczyk – Toledo, OH; US Navy, WWII, Korea, Cmdr. (Ret. 24 y.), pilot

Al Kuhn – Chcago, IL; US Army

Rex Phelps – MI; US Navy, WWII, LT., LST

Larry Satell – Palm Beach Gardens, FL; US Army, Korea

Kent Stirling – Pittsburgh, PA; US Air Force

Leland Uhlenhopp – Storden, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

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Tarawa Tribute – Eye Witness Account – Intermission Story (17)

USMC on Tarawa Atoll

Gradually, those buried on Betio in the Tarawa atoll are being identified and returned home.  Pacific Paratrooper is including this story as a tribute to them.

Edwin Glasberg, 93, has lived an extraordinary life and is known as a WWII hero for a number of reasons. He was born on the 14th may, 1924, in Boston and as soon as he was able, he left school and enlisted in the Marines. He was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Division.

Edwin Glasberg, USMC

War broke out and he was sent to the Western Pacific where he first used his weapon in anger. He was one of the 18,000 Marines that made up the first wave that landed on the Island of Tarawa. There was no significant resistance on the beach, as the Navy had shelled the Japanese positions before the Marines landed, and his company ran up the beach sheltering behind a four foot high wall. From that point on the battle became increasingly bloody as the Japanese detachment of 4,500 men fought back.

Japanese snipers had been positioned in the trees and picked off the American forces at will. Glasberg spotted a sniper hidden in a coconut tree and dashed to the foot of the tree. Pressing his body against the trunk, where he was safe as the machine gun could not be pointed straight down, he noticed a wounded lieutenant, but Glasberg could not reach him as that would place him in the line of fire.  Blazing hot, spent cartridge shells rained down on his head as the Japanese sniper maintained fire at the American forces, so Glasberg simply pointed his rifle straight up and started shooting. He could not see the sniper but as the firing from the top of the tree stopped he could only assume that he had shot the sniper, “I don’t know if I hit him or somebody else did, but he stopped firing. I wasn’t going to climb up to find out.”

USMC on Betio, Tarawa Atoll

The battle raged on and Glasberg, in the company of several Marines, was on manoeuvres when a Japanese soldier leaped out from behind a wood pile and bayoneted Glasberg in the right thigh. “I didn’t realize I got bayoneted,” he said. “You’re so excited, you don’t feel anything.” The Marine in line behind him took out his pistol and shot the enemy soldier in the head. Despite a bleeding wound in his leg, Glasberg remained in the fight.

His next major battle was during the invasion of Saipan. He was part of the contingency that were fighting for Hill 101 and part way up the hill he was wounded for the second time when a bullet grazed the left side of his head. He was awarded his second Purple Heart for this injury and was shipped back to the USA, where he was deployed at the submarine base at Portsmouth on the East Coast.

Soon, he was back in the thick of things when he was part of the boarding party that took control of a German submarine, U-805, that had been forced to surrender. Glasberg was woken in the early hours of 12th May 1945 and ordered to take his rifle, ammunition, and other combat paraphernalia and to report for duty. He had been selected as his file indicated that he spoke German.

Riding in a Navy tender, he and the other six members of the boarding party travelled 25 miles into the Atlantic where they came upon a surreal sight. There lay a German U-Boat on the surface surrounded by six destroyers. The boarding party climbed aboard and in his best schoolboy German, Glasberg yelled, “Alle deutschen Krauts, raus und schnell!” (All you Germans, get out, and fast!) Waving the machine gun in their faces encouraged the German crew to leave quickly, and Glasburg turned to the submarine skipper, Korvettenkapitan Richard Bernardelli. He told the captain, who spoke English, “We’re Marines, not murderers. We’re not going to kill you guys. If the tables were turned, you’d kill us, but we’re not going to do that to you.

All 31 of the crew were captured, and Glasberg used his fluency in German to look through the papers that were found in the captain’s cabin.   “I went to the captain’s quarters. We went through all their maps, and I read them in German, the detailed instructions of their combat patrol. I read the German report. They had sunk three of our ships on their patrol, one off of Nova Scotia, and two in the Saint Lawrence estuary.”

The submarine was then towed to Portsmouth harbor; a trip Glasberg does not remember with any fondness, “I stayed up in the conning tower because the submarine is so musty. You can hardly breathe in it. Plus I got seasick because a submarine on the surface, it’s bobbing up and down in the Atlantic swells.”

Edwin Glasberg, 2010

After the war, Glasberg lived in Massachusetts where he founded a company making hairbrushes. He married, and his wife bore them three daughters.  Glasberg, now 93 years old, is a proud member of the Naples Marine Corps League, and can often be found recounting stories of his life as a marine during WWII at League meetings.

When you come to think of it,” he said, “not too many Marines in World War II were intermingled in combat with both the Germans and the Japanese,” was his last word.

Story is from War history Online.  Pictures are from the Marine Corps League of Naples, FL. and the Marine Corps Association.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – 

SHOUT OUT !!!

I located this article in “The Week” news magazine – is this what our children do (or learn) in college? !!

calling for a ban on veterans as college students!

Cy Forrest was kind enough to send us a link to the University’s reply to this letter.  I hope the PC people make a note of paragraph # 4.

http://pressreleases.uccs.edu/?p=3424

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Phyllis Birney – Baltimore, MD; civilian employee US Army & Air Force (Ret.)

Beatrice Carroll – Hull, ENG; British Navy WREN, WWII

Werner Eisenmann – Pennsburg, PA; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Howard Falcon Jr. – Evanston, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO & CBI, USS Robinson

James Guglielmoni – Prescott, AZ; US Navy, WWII, destroyer escort

Frank Hurst – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Vivian King – New Plymouth, NZ; RNZ Army # 42512, WWII, Sgt., 27th Battalion, POW

Richard Palmer – Bronx, NY; USMC, Korea

Bernard Sulisz – So.Lyon, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII

George Totoiu – Oberlin, OH; US Air Force

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African-American Soldiers of the Pacific War – Intermission Story (16)

Marines boarding a Coast Guard transport, February 1944

Marines boarding a Coast Guard transport, February 1944

MacArthur was one of the few theater commanders who welcomed black troops into his command.  However, “colored” units in the Pacific were almost never employed in a combat role. One exception was 93rd Division.  Despite the skepticism of many senior commanders, the division had performed satisfactorily in training and in the Texas-Louisiana maneuvers of 1943.  The 93 Division was ordered to Hawaii in December 1943 , in order to free a white division for combat.  However, its orders were changed almost at once to send the division to New Georgia.

93rd Infantry Division, Bougainville, 1 May 1944

93rd Infantry Division, Bougainville, 1 May 1944

From Munda a single battalion from the division, 1/24th Regiment was deployed to the Bougainville perimeter in January 1944, and elements of the battalion reached the front line in March. For the most part, the battalion performed well in combat, but on 6 April a single inexperienced company from the battalion panicked when it came under fire during a routine patrol. Discipline broke down, troops from one platoon mistakenly fired on another platoon, and the company returned to the perimeter in considerable disorder. Such conduct was hardly unknown among inexperienced soldiers of any race, but the mistakes and confusion among the black troops was widely reported in the media, and rumor inflated the failure of a single company into an impression of poor performance by the entire division. 93 Division saw very little combat thereafter.

Most black troops in the Pacific were employed as service troops. These were certainly needed and made an invaluable contribution to ultimate victory.  About a third of the troops working on the Alaska-Canada Highway and the Burma Road were black. Other blacks served in amphibious tractor battalions.

1st Sgt. Rance Richardson, veteran of 2 world wars - 4 April 1944

1st Sgt. Rance Richardson, veteran of 2 world wars – 4 April 1944

In 1942, there was a mutiny at Townsville by African-American troops of 96 Engineer Battalion, who responded to abuse by two white officers by machine gunning the officers’ tents. At least one officer was killed and several others wounded, and Australian troops had to be called in to put down the riot. Future president Lyndon B. Johnson visited the base for three days, apparently to defuse the situation. The mutiny was subsequently covered up and did not come to light for seventy years.

The Navy had been largely integrated, at least among its enlisted men and petty officers, until the First World War. The Wilson administration adopted policies that all but excluded blacks from the Navy, even replacing black mess stewards with Filipinos. It was not until the 1930s that blacks began to be quietly recruited into the Navy again. Though most served as mess specialists,  there are no noncombatants on a warship, and segregation is difficult to enforce. Black sailors eventually won grudging respect from their white crew mates, opening the door a little wider to eventual desegregation of the armed forces.

Howard Perry, 1st to enlist in the USMC, 1 June 1942

Howard Perry, 1st to enlist in the USMC, 1 June 1942

The Marines were very reluctant to accept black recruits. However, once the necessity was forced on them, they quickly adapted.  A black Marine was still a Marine.  Although attempts were made to restrict black Marines to defense battalions and support services, black ammunition carriers served with distinction under fire at Saipan and began appearing in the front lines at Peliliu. (Sloan 2005):

As the men of the supply unit picked up their weapons and fell into line behind their sergeant, Mulford tried to discourage them. “Nothing you people have seen this beach is gonna prepare you for the hell you’re gonna face if you go with us,” he said. “So don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“We can take it,” the black sergeant assured him.

For the rest of the day, the African-American Marines made dozens of trips between the front lines and rear areas. They carried dead and wounded in one direction and hauled back ammo, food, and other supplies on their return trips. That night, they moved into vacant foxholes along the line and helped fight off a Japanese counterattack. The next morning, in several hours of bloody fighting, they charged and took an enemy-held hill shoulder to shoulder with what was left of I Company.

recruits at Camp Lejeune, April 1943

recruits at Camp Lejeune, April 1943

A formation of black Marines, 8 Field Depot, helped turn back the final Japanese counterattack on Iwo Jima on 4 April 1945. Regrettably, the Marines would revert to a heavily discriminatory racial policy after the war.

Information from: The Pacific War online.  Pictures from: The History Place

Click on images to enlarge.

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SHOUT OUT !!!

I live in Florida, as many of you know, and could possibly be in the path of Hurricane Irma.  I fully expect to lose power at some point.  PLEASE be patient and I will eventually return to catch up on your posts and answer questions and reply to comments.

Do NOT feel obligated to respond to this Shout Out, it is merely an informative reminder.

Thank You.

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Military Humor – 

Speed limit enforced by aircraft.

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Brian Aldiss – Dereham, ENG; British Army, WWII, CBI, Royal Signals, (author)

Martin ‘Butch’ Beechler – Palm Beach Gardens, FL; US Army, Vietnam, 31st Infantry

Meredith Cooper – Linton, IN; US Air Force, Korea

Final Mission

Harold Evans – Spokane, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, E/188th/11th Airborne Division

Dick Gregory – St. Louis, MO; US Army, (comedian)

James Johnson – Glendale, CA; US Navy, pilot (Ret. 22 yrs.)

Adrian Marcuse – Glen Cove, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 18th/13th Air Force

Jeannie Rousseau – Saint-Brieuc, FRA; Allied Agent, WWII, ETO, POW

Gordon Thompson – Moccasin, MT; USMC, WWII, PTO, “Cactus Air Force”, LT. pilot, KIA

John Winner – MD; US Army, Korea

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Pacific War Museum – Current News

re-enactors

During the re-opening of the Living History Programs in the renovated Pacific Combat Zone in March, the volunteers included two students of Asian descent who came from the Dallas area to play the roles of Japanese soldiers. Robert (“Robbie”) Boucher, who is of Vietnamese descent, is a graduate student in history at Texas Christian University. His close friend, Ryan Itoh, whose father is Japanese, just graduated from TCU and will be entering medical school this fall. Both are experienced in reenacting with U.S. Civil War and Indian War groups and became intrigued with becoming involved in reenactments of Pacific War battles.

re-enactors: Robbie Boucher & Ryan Itoh

In Robbie’s view, our Museum’s programs appealed because they offer one of the most unique experiences possible for people interested in history. They allow visitors the opportunity to glimpse ever so slightly into the realities of 75+ years ago, hear the sounds of combat, and feel its stresses. Ryan elaborated by saying that being half Japanese, he had always been fascinated with the Pacific War and wanted to learn about the daily lives of the Japanese troops.

From past experiences, he knew that when you put on a uniform and enact the lives of soldiers you learn so much more: from the way the uniform fits; how the leg-wrappings cut into your legs, but provide a sturdy support; and how hot the sun becomes when you wear a steel helmet.

You also feel a small portion of their suffering when you jam your finger in the charging bolt or feel the weight of the weapon or the heat from the flame thrower. Yet, it is just a taste — you get to change clothes afterwards and go home. When asked what they hoped to achieve through their roles as Japanese combatants, both Robbie and Ryan stated that their key purpose was to humanize the Japanese soldiers as people with families, hopes and goals. Robbie said this is often forgotten due to propaganda and movies which show them as faceless fanatics charging machine guns for the emperor.

As reenactors, they hoped to dispel stereotypes created of the Japanese. Ryan stated that the Japanese soldiers and airmen were all called upon by their nation to fight for a dogma that they may not even have believed in — yet they answered the call. He believes that at the end of the day, the GIs and Japanese soldiers had more in common than differences. In sum, participating in these reenactments gives both Ryan and Robbie the opportunity to learn more than they ever could from a college textbook or documentary, and their goal is to make the audience realize there was a soul behind the Japanese uniform.

This short video from the museum tries to reenact a battle.  In reality, it did not always end so grand for anyone.

Article is from the National Museum of the Pacific War, in Fredericksburg, Texas w/ the Admiral Nimitz Foundation.

Click on images to enlarge.

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STAND ON THE BEACHHEAD

Feel what it was like to walk the wooden dock alongside a PT Boat, stand in the hangar deck of an aircraft carrier as a torpedo bomber is readied for a strike, and view Japanese battlefield entrenchments.

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Military Museum Humor –

National War Museum: ‘And I say we move this up to the 3rd floor!’

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Farewell Salutes –

Henry Andregg Jr. – Whitewell, TN; USMC, WWII, PTO, Cpl., KIA (Tarawa)

Jack Avery – Lacombe, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO, Signal Corps

Norma Duncan – Matariki, NZ; WRNS (WRENS), WWII

Laura Edmonson – Ft. Pierce, FL; US Coast Guard SPAR, WWII

Albert Golden – Katy, TX; USMC, WWII, PTO

Lester Habeggar – Spokane, WA; US Army, WWII, medic

Charles “Red” Jones – Knoxville, TN; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Rodney Kirkpatrick, NM; US Navy, WWII

Howard Shearer – Fannetsburg, PA; US Army,, 11th Airborne Division

H.Gordon Turner – Troy, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS California

 

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The Elephant Company – Intermission Story (14)

(c) Cuneo Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Cuneo Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

James Howard “Billy” Williams went to Burma in 1920, fresh out of the service for WWI, for a position as a ‘forest man’.  It was there he became increasingly educated on the intelligence, character and welfare of elephants.

When Japan invaded Burma in 1942, Williams joined the elite British Force 136.  [a unit that today would compared to Rangers, SEALs and Delta Force].  Being older and wiser in the ways of the jungles, Williams’ tale of war and daring would become legendary.

In 1944, Lt.Colonel Williams, along with his Karen workers, uzis, elephant tenders, and the animals themselves made the stairway in Burma.  They go upward, a sheer rockface escarpment, narrowly escaping the Japanese hot on their trail, through the mountains of Imphal.

While many times the massive beasts stood on their hind legs to scale an ascent that surpassed Hannibal in the Alps.  All 53 elephants were successful and the workers and refugees alike followed close behind to the ridge and eventual safety.

Williams’ sketch of the ridge.

Years later, General Slim would say of the climb, “This is the story of how a man, over the years, by character, patience, sympathy and courage, gained the confidence of men and animals, so when the time of testing came – that mutual trust held.”

Williams and his company would continue in Burma to alter history with the 270 bridges built and erected to create the largest known Bailey bridge across the Chindurin at Kalewa in December.

Williams’ sketch for his memoir cover

James “Billy” Williams was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1945.  He would forever cherish his memories of the animals and the jungle, as shown in his memoir, “Elephant Bill” published in 1950. (originally titled, “1920-1946, Elephants in Peace, Love and War”)

Williams passed away on 30 July 1958, at the age of 60, during an emergency appendectomy operation.  His son, Treve, had gone to Australia for veterinary school a year previous.

Williams’ sketch of the Bailey Bridge

This information and pictures were derived from “Elephant Company” by Vicki C. Croke.

Click on images to enlarge.

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 CBI Roundup – Military Humor – 

“The folks at home are going to love this shot of me!”

“You can stand there all day – but you’re NOT getting a Section 8!”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kevin Bushell – MD; US Navy, USS John McCain, Electrician Tech 2nd Class, KIA

Timothy Eckels Jr. – MD; US Navy, USS John McCain, Information Systems Tech 2nd Class, KIA

Charles N. Findley – MI; US Navy, USS John McCain, Electrician Tech 1st Class; KIA

James L. Hutchinson – CA; US Army Air Corps # 1014403, WWII, PTO, POW, KIA (Bataan, Camp O’Donnell, Section # 4)

Cory G. Ingram – NY; US Navy, USS John McCain, Information Systems Tech 2nd Class, KIA

Abraham Lopez – El Paso,TX; US Navy, USS John McCain,Interior Communication Electrician 1st Class, KIA

James McMillen – Jonesboro, GA; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, 11th and 101st Airborne Divisions, CO for 16th Battalion, Lt.Col.

Peter Roper – London, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO / Korea, aviation medicine

Alan Sayers (102) – NZ; RNZ Navy # 1/15/2685

Louis Vetere – Brooklyn, NY; US Army, WWII, PTO

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Intermission Story (13) – Will Eisner & his Sgt. Half-Mast

During World War II, the Army had a problem: Many troops weren’t reading the preventative maintenance manuals — long, boring instructions on keeping guns, tanks and other equipment clean and battle-ready.

Army officials turned to newly drafted Pvt. Will Eisner, who arrived at Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1942 as something of a celebrity because of his success as the comic artist who created “The Spirit,” a popular strip that ran in dozens of newspapers, including The Baltimore Sun.

Eisner transformed the manuals into comics, in which Sgt. Half-Mast and Connie Rodd would remind the hapless Joe Dope of the dangers of improperly oiling artillery, recklessly driving tanks and otherwise acting foolishly with equipment.

The comics, which were printed and distributed to all troops, remain the most widely circulated of all time, said Benjamin Herzberg, a former assistant to Eisner.   “He had a monthly distribution of hundreds of thousands,” Herzberg said.

Under Eisner, the maintenance manuals were made into a monthly comic magazine that became known as The Preventative Maintenance Monthly, or PS Magazine, which is still published today. The Army dictates the subject matter by interviewing troops stationed around the world about their most frequent equipment hiccups and what tips they need.

In the early years, the comics were heavy with sexual innuendo to hold the troops’ attention. A 32-page booklet on M-16 maintenance distributed to every soldier in Vietnam was entitled “Treat Your Rifle Like a Lady.” Connie Rodd, a buxom blonde pin-up girl, was regularly depicted in various states of undress.

Many soldiers at the time barely had a high school education; some couldn’t read at a fifth-grade level, said 1st Sgt. Richard Bernard, a panel member.

“So what’s the best way for you to reach somebody who can’t read the technical manual itself or understand some of the words, but to make a comic strip that grabs their attention?” Bernard said.

The magazine’s supervisory editor, Jonathan Pierce, said the comics have become more politically correct, but no less necessary.

“It’s an interesting confluence of time right now, because with all the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, so many of the maintenance soldiers were taken out of their maintenance responsibilities and put into infantry support roles so they could expand the number of combat patrols, and then maintenance was left to contractors,” Pierce said. “So now we have soldiers coming back to their maintenance duties that they haven’t done for the past 10 years. We’re in the same position we were in at the beginning of the Korean War.”

“Now we’re back with a group of soldiers who don’t know maintenance, and we’re having to reintroduce not only the idea of maintenance but the idea of the magazine itself,” he said.

The February 2017 edition of the magazine, its 771st issue, was the last in print. The Army has developed a PS Magazine app, which displays the cartoons on soldiers’ smartphones.

Command Sgt. Maj. Toese Tia Jr.,  said he remembered having to read the magazines when he was going through mechanics training.  “As a mechanic coming up, I am a product of Mr. Will Eisner’s PS Magazine,” he said. “It has a legacy that will go well beyond my time.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Information is from Military.com

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Farewell Salutes – 

Aaron Butler – Monticello, UT; US Army, Afghanistan, SSgt., KIA

Willie Combs – Detroit, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Bruce Forsyth – Edmonton, ENG; RAF, (TV personality)

James Harmon – W.Palm Beach, FL; US Navy, Vietnam

Abigail Milam – Lexington, KY; US Army, Hawaii, 2/25th Aviation, SSgt., KIA

George Murray – Oceano, CA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc, KIA (Tarawa)

Ronald St.Mary – Massena, NY; US Navy, Korea, USS Albany

William Turner – Nashville, TN; US Army, WWII, ETO, SSgt., B-26 “Hell’s Fury” engineer, KIA (Amsterdam)

George Uhazie – Uniontown, PA; US Army, WWII, 1st Sgt.

Brian Woeber – Decatur, AL; US Army, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, pilot, KIA

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Merian C. Cooper, extraordinary life of a hero of 2 nations and King Kong

Merian C. Cooper was born in Jacksonville, Florida, United States. He was the youngest of his siblings and at the age of six, he started to dream about exploration and adventures, a common dream among future aviators. Then he studied at the United States Naval Academy, but didn’t finish it and became a journalist.

It was not enough to satisfy his taste for adventure. In 1916, Cooper joined the US National Guard and was to help catch Pancho Villa in Mexico. The year after, he was appointed lieutenant, yet he refused the promotion because he wanted to participate in direct combat. To fulfill his desires, he went to the Military Aeronautics School in Atlanta to learn how to fly and graduated with the top grades in his class.

In autumn 1917, Cooper went to France as a rookie, then learned the skills of a bomber pilot in Issoudun, France, and served with the 1st Day Bombardment Group. On one of his missions in 1918, he was shot down over Germany and suffered burns and injured his hands. His general signed a death certificate for him, but that’s not the end of the story. Cooper survived somehow and was taken prisoner.

Merian C. Cooper

After World War I came to an end, he returned to France, but not for long. On February 1919, Captain Cooper went to Poland with a mission from the American Relief Administration to provide aid to the destroyed countries of Europe. In the meantime, Russia transformed into the Soviet Union after the October Revolution in 1917. This would prove fateful for the future life of M

In Poland, he often discussed the importance of the air force in modern warfare. Cooper also had a second motive to help Poland – as he often mentioned, his great-grandfather John Cooper served under Casimir Pulaski in the Siege of Savannah and considered him as a friend. Merian wanted to repay this debt and the possibility was soon on the horizon.

With the outbreak of the Polish-Soviet War, Cooper got permission to form a squadron, so he went back to France, recruited eight more pilots and returned to Poland with Cedric Fauntleroy. All of them were assigned to the Polish 7th Air Escadrille, better known as the Kościuszko Squadron. Faunterloy was a commander, Cooper led the second group “Pulaski”.

In 1920, Cooper and his Escadrille fought on the front. They supported many actions, including the Advance on Kiev, mostly on reconnaissance missions and fights against Budyonny’s Cavalry Army. On one of these missions, Cooper and his crewmate Crawford were shot down, yet they managed to escape on foot. Two months later Cooper became a commander of the squadron assigned to the city of Lviv.

On 13th of July 1920, Merian C. Cooper was shot down for a third time. This time, it happened behind enemy lines. The Soviets captured him. He tried to escape and because of that Russians sent him to a labor camp near Moscow. Free spirits like his were impossible to tame, and he tried to escape again with two others Polish POWs. This time, he was successful and after 700 kilometers they reached Latvia and from that point they headed back to Poland.

Thanks to the supplies and volunteers from many countries, Poland managed to win that war. In Polish historiography, it’s often called the “Miracle over Vistula”. Merian C. Cooper repaid the debt of his family and gave back even more. For valor, he was decorated by Józef Piłsudski with the highest Polish military decoration, the Virtuti Militari.

Merian C. Cooper

Cooper wrote “Things Men Die For”  during his time as a prisoner-of-war. It was a hapless autobiography published in 1927. Why was it hapless? In 1928, Merian started to regret releasing some details about “Nina” (Małgorzata Słomczyńska) as it was proof of his relationship outside the wedlock, so he bought back over 5,000 copies of the manuscript, almost all the amount which had been printed. His life in Poland was also an inspiration for the movie “The Starry Squadron,” a romantic story about Polish girl and an American volunteer pilot. Unfortunately, all copies of this movie were destroyed by Soviets after the WW II.

His most famous work is “King Kong” from 1933, a movie that everyone knows. He wrote the screenplay and was co-director of it and even flew in the scene where an aircraft was shooting at the giant gorilla. He was the one who finished off the King Kong. The movie was a huge success that brought over 1,8 million $ (and a single ticket cost .15¢).

World War II for the United States started in 1941. Cooper was 47 years old, yet he re-enlisted and was commissioned a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He served with Col. Robert Scott in India and also worked as logistics liaison for the Doolittle Raid. He later served in China as chief of staff for General Claire Chennault of the China Air Task Force, which was the precursor of the 14th Air Force and served then from 1943 to 1945 in the Southwest Pacific as chief of staff for the 5th Air Force’s Bomber Command.

At the end of the war, he was promoted to brigadier general. For his contributions, he was also aboard the USS Missouri to witness Japan’s surrender.

It’s worth mentioning that the famous 303 Squadron inherited all traditions from the Polish 7th Air Escadrille, including the honor badge design. It was one of the most successful squadrons during the Battle of Britain

He was awarded the Order of Virtutti Military, Poland’s highest military decoration for heroism and courage and also the Polish Cross of Valour.

Merian C. Cooper

Additionally, he was awarded the Mexican Border Service Medal, the World War I Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. Also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, but he declined to accept the medal.

Cooper was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1952 and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, though his first name is misspelled “Meriam”.

Merian C. Cooper died in 1973 at the age of 79 in San Diego, California.

Information was received from War History on Line.  Pictures were mainly from the Cooper Museum and Wikipedia.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes –

Norris Bird – Hampton, IA; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Wayne Carver – Logan, KS; US Army, WWII, ETO

Robert Flucker – Rochester, MI; US Army, WWII

Standing Guard

Charles Hankins – Sulligent, AL; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Master Chief (Ret. 32 yrs.)

Ardis Hudak – Toledo, OH; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Paul McCullough – Hialeah, FL; USMC, Korea, Purple Heart

Edward O’Neill – Papakura, NZ; RNZ Army # U42660, Vietnam, Infantry regiment, Victor 5 Co.

Robert Perkins – Sebastopol, AUS; RA Air Force # 12569

Hans Schlichting – Houston, TX; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

James Walsh – Johnston, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

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Current News – WWII Chapel in Australia + Purple Heart Day

St. Christopher’s

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia — As 33,000 troops take part in Talisman Saber war games near Rockhampton along the central Queensland coast, a small chapel overlooking a pasture serves as a reminder of when about 70,000 U.S. soldiers called the city home.

The nondenominational Saint Christophers Chapel, built in 1943 by the Army’s 542nd Engineer Battalion, is the only structure remaining from when Rockhampton served as a springboard and training location for Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s World War II island-hopping campaign. The city hosted the 1st Cavalry Division and the 24th, 32nd and 41st infantry divisions on a half-dozen camps between 1942-44.

Along with the open-air, pavilion-style chapel, the grounds include a band rotunda dedicated to a servicemember who helped maintain the chapel decades ago. A concrete pillar from an artillery declination station used by 41st Infantry Division howitzers stands at the chapel’s foot, a

Cliff Hudson, 79, of Sawtell, New South Wales, first visited the chapel about 30 years ago because it shares its name with his son.  “My wife always wanted our daughter to get married here because of the Christopher name,” he said.

Hudson said he is drawn by the chapel’s interior boards listing names, sporting events and results of competitions from the 1940s. The boards were taken from a nearby war-era sports field and placed inside and U.S. and Australian flags and seals adorn the gates and interior.

Saint Christopher’s nearly deteriorated in the years after WWII. Vandals destroyed parts of the chapel in 1959, prompting locals and the 41st Infantry Division Association to start caring for the site. Today, the chapel and its grounds are immaculately maintained, and church services are held each year on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July.

Julie Henderson, 77, of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, said she’s glad the chapel still stands.  “It’s nice to come and remember the soldiers who served in the war because we weren’t there,” she said.

 

 

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For further information about the chapel please click HERE!

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Military Humor – from the Prisoners themselves – 

Air Activity in Java

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Farewell Salutes –

William Andrews Jr. – Palm Springs, FL; US Air Force, Korea, Bronze Star

Lowell Bailey – Thomaston, GA; US Army, Korea, POW

Bruce D’Agostino – Natick, MA; US Air Force, photographer (Founder of Humanitaian International)

John Ekenbarger – Nashua, NH; US Army, Korea, POW

Richard Ford – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

George Franklin – Pensacola, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division, demolition

Quentin Gifford – Mankato, MN; US Navy, WWII, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Thomas Madison – Austin, TX; US Air Force, Vietnam, Col. (Ret. 20 yrs.), pilot, POW

Warren Glenn Ranscht – Racine, WI; US Army, WWII, ETO, WIA

Albert Zuidema – Falls Church, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, pilot, WIA

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Personal Note – for Purple Heart Day posts click HERE!

Please remember that today 7 August is the U.S. observation of Purple Heart Day.  Shake the hand of a veteran!

And say a prayer for our 3 Marines missing in the waters off Australia.  Thank You.

Lt. Benjamin R. Cross of Bethel, Maine; Cpl. Nathan Ordway of Wichita, Kansas; and Pfc Reuben Velasco of California.

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Sandakan POW Camp & Australian Soldiers

Billy Young decided to enlist at age 15.

Billy Young decided to enlist at age 15.

It remains the single-worst atrocity against Australians at war. Yet many Australians have probably never heard of Sandakan. So few men returned from the Japanese prisoner of war camp on the island of Borneo after World War II it has become a neglected chapter in Australia’s wartime history.

In fact 2,000 Australians spent time as POWs at Sandakan. And of the nearly 1,800 still captive there at the end of the war, only six men survived.

All of which makes Sydney man Billy Young rare indeed. He spent three years as a POW under the Japanese.

He is the only surviving rank and file Australian soldier who spent time at Sandakan.  And he is the only POW still alive who was imprisoned at Outram Road Jail in Singapore.

Now aged 90, he has written a book about his inspiring story. “Billy: My Life as a Teenage POW”, co-written with historian Lynette Silver.

Mr Young would never have gone to war if his mother had not abandoned him as a baby.  Adora Shaw walked out on Billy and his father William in Hobart in about 1927 and returned to Sydney with another son Kevin, from an earlier relationship.

Billy never saw her again. One of his earliest memories is of his father taking him to Sydney to search for her, and later showing him her grave.  She had apparently died of tuberculosis.

William "Big Billy" young and son Billy, aged 6.

William “Big Billy” Young w/ his son Billy, age six. in Sydney. photo courtesy of: Lynette Silver

A decade later his father also died. He had joined the Australian Communist Party and gone to Spain to fight in the civil war, but was caught and shot by forces loyal to dictator General Franco.

“When he was gone, I was like a wild animal,” Mr Young says from his home near Hurstville.  “I was a rebel. I wanted my dad.  He was the only person of authority I could listen to.”

At 15, a fellow student told him he wanted to enlist in the army. It was 1941. Australian troops were fighting overseas. Billy decided to join him.  “The fella said to us ‘what mob do you want to join?’ And we said the one that goes overseas. He said ‘that’s the AIF’, and I said ‘that’s us’. He said ‘how old are you?’ And we said ‘how old have you gotta be?’ He said 19. We said ‘well, we’re 19’.”

See Billy Young, only a short 1:41

With no parents to give consent, the boys took the enlistment forms and signed each other’s paper. At 15 they were soldiers.

Hoping for a boys’ own adventure, they joined the 100,000 allied troops in Singapore. Mr Young says initially there was no fear of the Japanese.  “Intelligence officers used to say to us: ‘Those Japanese — they’re nothing. They’re blind. They all wear glasses, they’re short-sighted’,” he says.

“But when they came down it was no laughing matter. They knew what they were doing.”

Soon after Billy’s 16th birthday the allied forces crumbled under the Japanese. Billy was suddenly a prisoner of war at Changi.

Then, with hundreds more soldiers he was shipped to Borneo to build a Japanese airstrip at Sandakan in the Malaysian jungle. It was stinking hot, humid and overrun by mosquitoes. But it was nothing against the brutal treatment of the Japanese.

The lack of food and water, torture and beatings were all common.  “Sandakan was tremendously brutal towards the end of the war. Food was cut back to below starvations rations,” co-author Ms Silver says.

“And as Japan was losing the war, the punishment handed out was far more brutal than in the beginning. People were placed in a cage for 40 days and 40 nights. And some of them actually died in the cage.”  Mr Young survived the Japanese brutality. But he watched other POWs suffer from starvation and the worst violence.

Mr. Young's depiction of Jimmy Darlington's punishment

Mr. Young’s depiction of Jimmy Darlington’s punishment

One such victim was a young Aboriginal soldier Jimmy Darlington, who had dared to strike a Japanese soldier for washing his clothes in the prisoners’ cooking pot. He was bound and tied to sharp stakes of wood and left to suffer.

“One of the Japs grabbed a bucket of water,” Mr Young says.

“Another was grabbing ropes and he put it in the water, and knelt him on the platform and tied him down with ropes, or wet ropes.  The sun started to shine and dried the ropes.  And the ropes tightened up, and cut right into his wrists and his legs.”

Only after Mr Young and his mates created a diversion to distract the Japanese could another Australian soldier — an ambulance officer — move in to cut the ropes. Without it, Mr Young says Darlington would have died.

Black and white painting of a prisoner collecting his luchtime rice ration.

Prisoners line up for rice.

But far worse was in store for Mr Young. After a failed escape he was tried and sent to the hellhole that was Outram Road jail back in Singapore. He spent six months in solitary confinement — forced to sit cross legged for hours at a time.

Food rations were so pitiful prisoners, including Mr Young, became skeletal. He sat by while one of his fellow prisoners, a Dutch man, died of Beri-Beri in his arms.

“I put his head on my lap. I chatted to him and I pushed his chest and felt it. And you could feel it going up and down as he was panting for breath,” Mr Young says.  “But death must have had slippers because he died and I didn’t know. So I waited.

“I put him down and I didn’t tell the guard, and I waited till his box of rice came and I put Peter’s bowl by him. And I got mine, I ate mine, and then I ate Peter’s. And that’s the only banquet we ever had between us you know.”

The bombing of Hiroshima signaled freedom for Mr. Young.  Returning to Sydney, he couldn’t wait to reunite with his old mates from Sandakan.

But he couldn’t find them.  “I waited and waited and waited. It took me ages to find out,” he says.

Only six men of the nearly 1,800 Australians in Sandakan at the end of the war survived.  Many had died in the so-called Death Marches, when the Japanese forced them to walk as near-skeletons, 250 kilometres across Borneo.

Hundreds more starved to death. Still others were executed even after the war ended.

“The death rate at Sandakan for the Australians, 1,787 died, was 99.75 per cent,” Ms Silver says.

Some of Mr Young’s mates from Outram Rd also didn’t last long.

A black and white photo of the Outram Rd Jail building in Singapore.

Outram Road Jail, Singapore.

“One of my dear friends got home in Tasmania and not home long and he went into his mum and dad’s orchard and blew his brains out with a rifle,” he sobs.

Mr Young was only 19 when he returned to Sydney. He had his own demons to confront.  “We had no one who understood the trauma.  Not the.  Even now… at 91 almost, there are still stories I cannot tell.  I bawl like a little baby,” he said.

But 70 years on, the wounds have finally healed.  Mr Young today is an avid painter. His home is filled with paintings of his time at Sandakan and Outram Rd Jail.

“He very rarely has a down moment. He is just so positive, and I think that his positive attitude has gotten him this far,” his daughter says.

Mr Young’s paintings — and now the book he has written with Ms Silver — will remain a lasting record of the mates he lost at Sandakan.  “For Billy and me they are frozen in time,” she says.  “We know them as they were – as 18-year-old men.  And that’s probably the great thing about the ode that we say – they shall grow not old as we that are left grow old…”

“For the two of us they are still the people that left Australia as young people, young men with hope for the empire and their country. Taking on the Japanese, and who never came home.”

Click on images to enlarge.

Article contributed by Beari

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Military Humor – from Lt. Ronald Williams, POW Java

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Farewell Salutes –

Ila Albert – Belmont, MA; US Army WAC; WWII, ETO

Robert Anderson – Omaha, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, radar operator

Eric Boyd – Bathurst, AUS; British Navy, WWII

Charles Carlson – Queens, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Lt., P-47 pilot, KIA

Gennis ‘Pete’ Elks – Farmville, NC; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Sr. Chief Petty Officer (Ret. 32 yrs.)

James Garner – Bridgeville, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Dick Helf – Wichita, KS; US Navy, WWII/ US Air Force, Korea

Effie (Robertson) Morton – NZ; RNZ Army WAAC, WWII # 813367, gunner

Ara Parseghian – Akron, OH; US Navy, WWII, (Hall of Fame coach of Notre Dame Univ.)

Amory Shields – Toronto, CAN; RC Navy & Dept. of National Defense

Garnet Winfrey – Bramwell, WV; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Sgt., 11th Airborne Division Honor Guard

Intermission Story (11) – 54th Troop Carrier Wing and the 11th Airborne Division

The 54th Troop Carrier Wing was established on 26 February 1943 [one day after the 11th A/B Div. at Camp MacKall] and commenced air transport and medical air evacuation operations in support of Fifth Air Force on 26 May 1943. advancing as battle lines permitted.

The unit took part in the airborne invasion of Nadzab, New Guinea in September 1943 by dropping the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, as well as Australian engineers and heavy equipment.

The wing employed C-47’s almost exclusively, but during late 1943 and much of 1944 also used 13 converted B-17E’s for armed transport missions in enemy-held territory. The 54th supported every major advance made by the allies in the Southwest Pacific Theater operating from primitive airstrips carved from jungles and air-dropping cargo where airstrips unavailable.

In July 1944, the wing dropped 1,418 paratroopers on Noemfoor Island to aid the allied invasion forces. Then assumed the task of handling all freight and personnel moving in troop carrier aircraft in the Southwest Pacific, in addition to scheduled and unscheduled air movement of cargo and troops, and air evacuation of wounded personnel.

In preparation for airborne operations in the Philippines, the 54th TCW conducted joint training with the 11th Airborne Division.  August and September 1944 were held in Nadzab.  Due to the demands of transport resources in building up Allied strength in Netherlands, New Guinea, the wing rotated the squadrons in Doboduru where they received refresher training in paradrops and aerial supply.  The training proved to be of great value at Tagatay Ridge, Corregidor and in the Cagayan Valley, Luzon, when the 11th A/B need a lift for their paratroopers and gliders.

Early December 1944, the 5th Air Force HQ was attacked as well as the 44th Station Hospital.  The 187th HQ Company [Smitty was there], set up a perimeter.  They stood there through the night, rifles ready.  By morning there were 19 dead enemy soldiers.  Col. Pearson sent out patrols that located another 17 Japanese hiding out in the rice paddies..

Okinawa

By late 1944 and during the early months of 1945, most wing missions were flown to the Philippines.  In February 1945, the wing flew three more airborne operations, all in the Philippines, to help encircle Japanese concentrations.   For the 11th A/B Division’s jump on Aparri in north Luzon, the first plane off the ground was piloted by Col. John Lackey. Wing C-47s dropped napalm on Caraboa Island in Manila Bay in March 1945.

11th-airborne-paradrop-june-45-luzon-8x10 (800x640)

11th Airborne Division paradrop, June 1945

When hostilities ended on Luzon, the wing moved the entire 11th Airborne Division (11,300 personnel) from the Philippines to Okinawa on short notice.  It would take the 54th Troop Carrier Wing two days to transport the 11th Airborne using 351 C-46s, 151 C-47s and 99 B-24s; with their bombs removed and crammed with troopers. The planes had carted the men; 1,161,000 pounds of equipment and 120 special-purpose jeeps for communication and supply.

Glider training

The 54th then began transporting occupation forces into Japan, beginning with General Swing, the 187th Regiment (and Smitty).  On the first day, 123 aircraft brought 4,200 troopers to Atsugi Airfield.  During September 1945, the wing also evacuated over 17,000 former prisoners of war from Japan to the Philippines.

The wing served as part of the occupation forces in Japan from 25 September 1945 to about 26 January 1946, while continuing routine air transport operations and a scheduled courier service. Beginning in December 1945 and continuing into mid-1946, most of the wing’s components were reassigned to other units or inactivated, and on 15 January 1946 the wing became a component of the Far East (soon, Pacific) Air Service Command.

Towing a glider.

Moving to the Philippines, the wing gained new components and flew scheduled routes between Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and the Hawaiian Islands.  Replaced by the 403rd Troop Carrier Group on 31 May 1946 and was inactivated.

Further, more detailed information can be found in the publications by the IHRA.

This article incorporates material from the US Air Force Historical Research Agency, “The Angels: The History of the 11th Airborne Division” & “Rakassans”, both by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; Wikipedia and US Airborne Commando Operations.

  Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Bettridge – Denver, CO; US Army, WWII & Korea

Gerard Caporaso – Chatham, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, (author: “From the Top Turret: A Memoir of WW2 and the American Dream”)

Daniel Cooney – Plandome, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO

Prosper “Trapper” Couronne – Whitewood, CAN; RC Army, Korea, Warrant Officer (Ret. 24 yrs.), 1st PPCLI

Bruce Goff – Elmwood, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 4214914, WWII

Fred Hartman Sr. – Horsehead, NY; US Army, WWII & Korea

Myron Hollman – Wausau, WI; US Navy, WWII/ US Army, Korea/ US Air Force, Vietnam

Theodore Matula – Lantana, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, P-47 pilot

Lloyd Urbine – Ft. Wayne, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Robert Winton – Bowie, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII

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