Blog Archives

Intermission Story (9) – A Special Woman

Last December the world lost a very special person, Florence Ebersole Smith Finch, (101).

Florence Ebersole Smith Finch, USCGR 

Coast Guard SPAR decorated for combat operations during World War II

By William H. Thiesen, Ph.D.
U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian


Of the thousands of women who have served with honor in the United States Coast Guard, one stands out for her bravery and devotion to duty. Florence Smith Finch, the daughter of a U.S. Army veteran and Filipino mother, was born on the island of Luzon, north of Manila, in Santiago City. She married navy PT boat crewman Charles E. Smith while working for an army intelligence unit located in Manila. In 1942, after the Japanese invaded the Philippines, her young husband died trying to re-supply American and Filipino troops trapped by the enemy on Corregidor Island and the Bataan Peninsula.

After the Japanese occupied Manila, Finch avoided internment by claiming her Philippine citizenship. She received a note from her imprisoned army intelligence boss regarding shortages of food and medicine in the POW camps. Finch began assisting with locating and providing smuggled supplies to American POWs and helping provide fuel to Filipino guerrillas. In October 1944, the Japanese arrested Finch, beating, torturing and interrogating her during her initial confinement. Through it all, she never revealed information regarding her underground operations or fellow resisters.

When American forces liberated her prison camp in February 1945, Finch weighed only eighty pounds. She boarded a Coast Guard-manned transport returning to the United States and moved to her late father’s hometown of Buffalo, New York. In July 1945, she enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, eager to continue the struggle against an enemy that had killed her husband. Finch served through the end of the war and was among the first Pacific-Island American women to don a Coast Guard uniform.

After the war, she met U.S. Army veteran Robert Finch. They married and moved to Ithaca, New York, where she lived the remainder of her life. Of the thousands of SPARs serving in World War II, she was the first to be honored with the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon. In November 1947, she received the U.S. Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian medal awarded to Americans who aided in the war effort. In 1995, the Coast Guard honored her service by naming a facility for her at Coast Guard Base Honolulu.

Ms. Finch crossed the bar on 8 December 2016.

  • Read her written answers to questions submitted to her regarding her remarkable life and career, first as a resistance fighter in the Philippines and then as a SPAR
  • Ms. Finch (c) with her extended family.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Peter Aczel – brn: HUN/ Quakertown, NY; US Army Air Corps

Alfred Biegert Jr. – San Antonio, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Photo Lab technician

Arthur Gosselin Jr. – Springfield, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Douglas Hardy – New Plymouth, NZ; RNZ Army # 64450, Sgt.

Stanley Krumholz – Far Rockaway, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, PT-190 Jack’O’Diamonds

Gerald Larson – Red Oak, AR; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Robert Murray Jr. – Pittsburgh, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Sgt., 11th Airborne Division

Donald Perdue – Vancouver, CAN; RC Army, Korea, Queen’s Own Rifles

Hank von der Heyde Jr. – Jacksonville, FL; USMC, WWII (Ret.)

Baxter Webb – Hapeville, GA; US Army, Lt., Tank Platoon/4th Division

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Intermission Story (8) – Jimmy Stewart

James Maitland Stewart

Jimmy Stewart suffered such extreme PTSD after being a bomber pilot in World War II that he acted out his mental distress during ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.  Stewart played George Bailey in the classic movie and channeled his anger and guilt into the scenes where he rages at his family.

Stewart was haunted by ‘a thousand black memories’ from his time as an Air Force commanding officer that he took with him back to Hollywood after the war.  Pilots who flew with him said that became ‘Flak Happy’ during World War II, a term to describe what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Stewart wrestled with the guilt of killing civilians in bomb raids over France and Germany including one instance where they destroyed the wrong city by mistake.

Stewart felt responsible for the death of his men and especially one bloodbath where he lost 13 planes containing 130 men who he knew well.  Stewart’s anguish is laid bare for the first time in author Robert Matzen’s Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the fight for Europe, published by Paladin Communications.

Stewart’s chance came with the creation of a B-24 bomber group, the 445th, and he was appointed commander of the 703rd squadron. After their air medal mission to Pas de Calais, the crew of the B-24H known as Lady Shamrock pose with air commander Stewart

Stewart never spoke  about it, even to other veterans, and bottled up his emotions that came out in the acting parts he chose when he returned to Hollywood.  He acted it out during It’s a Wonderful Life, where character George Bailey unravels in front of his family – the emotional core of the film after a lifetime of setbacks, including being unable to go to war while his brother becomes a decorated hero.

Films like Shenandoah and Winchester 73 allowed Stewart to explore his dark side which was never there before he went to war.

James Stewart and Clark Gable who was also sent into combat.

Matzen writes that Stewart’s decision to join the military was less surprising than his decision to become an actor; his grandfather fought in the Civil War and more distant relatives fought in the Revolutionary War.  His initial attempts failed because he was too skinny, despite trying to fatten himself up on ice cream and chocolate bars.  Stewart was finally called up shortly before the assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941 which forced America into the World War II.

Stewart in “It’s A Wonderful Life” channeled his PTSD from losing 130 of his men for the role.

Asked by a studio boss why he wanted to give up his life in Hollywood, Stewart said: ‘This country’s conscience is bigger than all the studios in Hollywood put together, and the time will come when we’ll have to fight’.  Stewart was initially put in the Air Force Motion Picture Division because commanders wanted to use him to make films to convince more airmen to sign up.

Major Stewart, 453rd Bomb Group Operations Officer, Old Buckenham, 1944

He was also used for PR stunts until he demanded that he see combat like other airmen.  Stewart’s chance came with the creation of a B-24 bomber group, the 445th, and he was appointed commander of the 703rd squadron.  After 20 missions, the stress began to take its toll him and the only food that would stay in his stomach was peanut butter and ice cream.

BGeneral Jimmy Stewart w/ his B-52 crew, 20 Feb. 1966, Vietnam.

Stewart did not leave the military and continued to serve until May 1968 when he retired after 27 years of service during which time he was a bomber pilot during the Vietnam War.

James Maitland Stewart

20 February 1966: Brigadier General James M. Stewart, United States Air Force Reserve, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing.

Information collected from War History online; This Day in Aviation and Mission For Today.

Click on images to enlarge,

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Military Humor – Murphy’s Laws –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Edward Albert – Milwaukee, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. F/152nd Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Edmond Baclawski – Hinsdale, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Sgt., radar

George Debenian – New Britain, CT; US Army, WWII

Stephen Everette – Albuquerque, NM; US Navy, WWII

Sam Friedman – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII # R270226

Thomas Hardy – Lake Worth, FL; US Air Force, Korea & Vietnam, flight engineer (Ret. 20 yrs.)

Gerald Kerner – Brooklyn, NY; US Army, Korea, Sgt. Signal Corps

Joan Miller – London, ENG; Civilian, WWII, British Ministry of Supply

Frank Oddo – Summerfield, FL; US Army, WWII, medic, 32nd “Red Arrow” Division

Don Williams – New Orleans, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot / Treasury Agent

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Intermission Story (7) – Submarines of the Pacific War

USS Tang (SS-563) -Balao-class; sank 33 ships. Was sunk in Oct.’44, 9 survived using momsen lung, 78 lost

During the war, submarines of the United States Navy were responsible for 55% of Japan’s merchant marine losses; other Allied navies added to the toll.  The war against shipping was the single most decisive factor in the collapse of the Japanese economy. Allied submarines also sank a large number of IJA troop transports, killing many thousands of Japanese soldiers and hampering the deployment of IJA reinforcements during the battles on the Pacific islands.

USS Barb – Gato-class, sank 17 enemy vessels.

They also conducted reconnaissance patrols, landed special forces and guerrilla troops and performed search and rescue tasks, especially in the Philippines.  The majority of the submarines involved were from the U.S. Navy, with the British Royal Navy committing the second largest amount of boats and the Royal Netherlands Navy contributing smaller numbers of boats.

The Allied submarine campaign is one of the least-publicized feats in military history, due in large part to the efforts of Allied governments to ensure their own submarines’ actions were not reported in the media.

USS Nautilus – Narwhal-class; Asia-Pacific Medal w/ 14 battle stars.

However, the U.S. Navy was poorly prepared for a submarine war against commerce. Although a few officers had anticipated such a role, in spite of the the prize rules, the submarine service had not trained for it. U.S. submarines were plagued by defective torpedoes during the first two years of war, whose faults were due in part to the design emphasis on their use against heavily armored warships. However, once the faults were remedied, the submarines sank over half the ships of the Japanese merchant marine.

USS Bowfin (SS-287) – Balao-class; sank 18 vessels; now a museum in Hawaii.

American submarines also enjoyed significant successes against warships, accounting for six fleet carriers. three escort carriers, a battleship, twelve cruisers, over 40 destroyers, and numerous lesser warships and auxiliaries. An estimated 182,000 Japanese soldiers were lost at sea from sunken transports. This was accomplished at a relatively low cost. Of the naval powers that constructed significant submarine forces, the Americans suffered the lowest casualties in the Second World War: 52 American submarines were lost, versus 74 British submarines lost, 90 Italian submarines lost, 128 Japanese submarines lost, and nearly 800 German U-boats sunk.  The 374 officers and 3131 men killed in American submarine operations constituted 13% of the submarine sailor corps, or over 1 in 7.

USS Sailfish – Sargo-class; originally the sunken USS Squalus.

 During the air strikes preceding the Gilberts invasion, the Pacific Fleet experimented with deploying submarines near target atolls to rescue downed aviators. This proved so successful  that the deployment of lifeguard submarines became a standard feature of carrier strike planning for the remainder of the war.

USS Wahoo (SS-238) – Gato-class; sunk by Japanese aerial bomb Oct.’43, awarded 6 battle stars

The Japanese Navy did not even establish an antisubmarine warfare school until March 1944. Convoying was adopted rather late in the war and too few ships and planes were assigned to escort duty.  Japanese depth charges were too small and were usually set too shallow, at least until one of the stupidest men* to ever darken the doors of Congress blurted out in a press conference why American submarines were able to evade counterattack.  The Japanese did make effective use of minefields and developed a working airborne magnetic anomaly detector (Jikitanchiki).

* Andrew Jackson May (June 24, 1875 – September 6, 1959) was a Kentucky attorney, an influential New Deal-era politician, and chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee during WWII, infamous for his rash disclosure of classified naval information that may have resulted in the losses of up to ten American submarines and up to 800 sailors, and his subsequent conviction for bribery. May was a Democratic member of the US House of representatives. 

The boats shown are merely examples of the submarines we had in the Pacific.  The article subject was requested by 56Packardman.  Thank you for suggesting it.  The information here was retrieved from the US Navy.gov, “Submarines of the World” by Robert Jackson and Wikipedia.

For those even more interested in submarines, our fellow blogger, The Lean Submariner, has many a sea going tale to tell you – ENJOY!

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Homer Buck – Mesa, AZ; US Army, WWII, 34th Infantry Div., Silver Star, Purple Heart

Benjamin Capua – Somers, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, 11th Airborne Division, Purple Heart

Paul Jarchow – IA; US Army, WWII, ETO, radioman

James Hough – Miami, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Morton West – Newton, MA; US Army, WWII, Purple Heart

The remaining six Marines to be identified from the Mississippi crash…

Robert Cox – Ventura, CA; USMC,  SSgt.

Sean Elliott – San Diego, CA; USMC, Captain

Caine Michael Goyette — Waterford, CT; USMC, KC-130T Hercules Comdr., Major (22 yrs.)

Chad Jensen – Redondo Beach, CA; USMC, Sgt.

Owen Lennon – Pomona, NY; USMC, Sgt.

Collin Schaaff – Pierce County, WA; USMC, Corporal

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Intermission Story (5) – HMAS Patricia Cam

HMAS Patricia Cam

A bombing, a beheading, and an incredible escape from drowning using a pocket knife.

It sounds like the plot to a Hollywood film, but this is a piece of history about a World War II bombing off the East Arnhem Land coast that has been discovered accidentally after 74 years.

Reverend Len Kentish

One morning in 1943, coastwatcher and missionary Reverend Len Kentish and five Yolngu men from Arnhem Land communities jumped on board the HMAS Patricia Cam to go to Yirrkala.

The ship was then bombed and machine gunned by a Japanese sea plane.

“It blew the bottom out of the ship and she started to go down immediately,” historian Mike Owen said.

Mandaka Marika lives in Yirrkala, and his uncle Milirrma Marika died in the attack along with Djimanbuy, Djinipula Yunupingu and six other seamen.

“It’s a very sad feeling just like losing someone, a loved one … In our heart we remember our brave uncle,” Mr Marika said.

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Reverend Kentish was taken as a prisoner of war, the only Australian to be captured from home waters.

“The pilot got out with a pistol and beckoned to one of the men, and it happened to be the Reverend Kentish, and he swam over and got on board and was given a drink and they took off,” Mr Owen said.  “He was held captive for a couple of months … he was taken out and beheaded by his captors.”

Narritjin Maymuru and Paddy Babawun survived the bombing after an incredible fight.

They were underwater from the force of the bomb and drowning under a tarp, but they managed to free themselves by cutting through it with a pocket knife and their teeth.

“When they shot the boat, [Narritjin Maymuru] was underneath the water with a tarp … he had a pocket knife, he cut it and came up through that one,” Mr Maymuru’s nephew Danadana Gundara said.

But this story was lost in history for 74 years.

Mr Owen discovered it while looking for African coins in East Arnhem Land.

“On our last day we found a large piece of timber from a ship, and while I was investigating the find I realized it was in the right place for a Patricia Cam … So I started chasing the story down,” he said.

HMAS Patricia Cam Memorial in Yirrkala

A ceremony to commemorate those who died was held in Yirrkala this year for the first time, and a plaque in the community is the only memento for those who died in the attack.

“Every year we should remember these brave men working for the Australian Army that were killed there,” Mr Marika said.

The Yolngu men’s descendants are now calling for them to be commemorated at the Australian War Memorial.

“They offered their life, they sacrificed their lives for family and the land. That’s an excellent job,” Mr Gundara said.  “We are Australians and we have to do the same things for all, for black and white, we’re all working together.”

The additional survivors after reaching Darwin.

Click on images to enlarge.

This story is from ABC News Australia, 17 May 2017.

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Military Humour –

There’d better be some beer in THIS drop!

Smart Move!!

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Farewell Salutes –

Mavis Amon – Wellington, NZ; WA Air Force # 420507, WWII

Nichael Bond – Reading, ENG; RAF & Army; WWII, ETO, Middlesex Regiment

Harold Brown – Hunter’s Hill, AUS; RA Air Force # 74174

Patrick Crowe – Warrnabool, AUS; RA Air Force # 13544, WWII

George Davidson – Newtown, NZ; RNZ Navy # 8832 / RNZ Army # 620738, J Force & # 206028, K Force, WWII

Frank Hirst – Adelaide, AUS; RA Air Force, WWII

Hansen Kirkpatrick – Wasilla, AK; US Army, Afghanistan, Pfc, 1st Armored Division, KIA

Raymond Parris – San Antonio, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B/187/11th Airborne Division

Robert ‘Bobby’ Temple – Shiloh, IL; US Navy, WWII, USS Oklahoma, Seaman 1st Class, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Robert Towns – Canberra, AUS; RA Navy, HMAS Barcoo

In honor of the Australian veterans that we have lost, please listen to “The Last Post” given to us by Paol Soren!!

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Fourth of July

 Red Skelton is amazing here – Please watch and have a happy and safe 4th of July!!

God Bless Our Troops

THE SOLDIER’S POEM

When this is over
And we come home again,
Forget the band
And cheers from the stand;
Just have the things
Well in hand –
The things we fought for.
UNDERSTAND?

                                                                                 _____Pfc C.G. Tiggas

Eagle_waving_Flag_and_Torch-150x161

ONLY A SAILOR

He’s only a sailor on the boundless deep,
Under foreign skies and tropical heat.
Only a sailor on the rolling deep,
In summer rain and winter sleet.

____Unknown

Remember when it was popular to be patriotic?  We had fun back then!!

Parades and picnics!!

Even the kids got involved!

 

 

Please remember that fireworks can cause PTSD reactions.  Please be considerate.  Thank you.

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Fourth of July – Humor or Truth ?

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kenneth Alsdurf – Syracuse, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Phyllis Cox Birney – Floral City, FL; Civilian US Army & Air Force employee (Ret.)

Ray Flow – Broadway, NC; US Army

Dick Hickman – Louisville, KY; US Air Force, Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret), Bronze Star

Paul Hubble (103) – W.Palm Beach, FL; US Navy, WWII

Jack Jennings – Bronx, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Lt.Col. (Ret. 30 yr.), fighter pilot

Cyril Maceyka – Waltham, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Oiva Pakka – Butte, MT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, 1st LT., B-29 navigator

Kenneth Steele – Kansas City, MI; US Navy, WWII, ETO

Franklin Trapkin – Ramsey, NJ; US Army, WWII

Robert Uhlman – Des Moines, IA; USMC, WWII, PTO

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Canada Day – 150 Years !

HAPPY 150TH BIRTHDAY NEIGHBORS

On July 1, 1867, Canada became a self-governing dominion of Great Britain and a federation of four provinces: Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Ontario; and Quebec. The anniversary of this date was called Dominion Day until 1982. Since 1983, July 1 has been officially known as Canada Day.

Amazing video!!

 

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Canadian Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Nelson Allen – Yarmouth, NS, CAN; RC Army, WWII

James Andrew – Vancouver, CAN; RC Army, WWII, Seaforth Highlanders

Douglas Brown – Ottawa, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Carl Carlson – Calgary, CAN; RC Army, WWII, radio operator

Robert Cook Manitoba, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Arie Fox – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

Peter Hires – Calgary, CAN; RC Army, WWII, medic

Jack LaForet – Windsor, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

David Lee – B.C., CAN; RC Army, WWII, Lt., 12th Manitoba Dragoons

George Reddy – brn: India/ Vancouver, CAN; RAF, WWII

Thomas Riley – Winnipeg, CAN; RC Army, WWII, Gov.-Gen. Horse Guards, Royal Canadian Artillery & the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders

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Intermission Story (3) – Cpl. Delmer R. Beam & PTSD

Cpl. Delmer Beam

Taken from the book, “Soldiers Stories: A Collection of WWII Memoirs” with permission by Myra Miller; written by Marshall Miller.

War Stories don’t always end when the shooting stops and soldiers return to civilian life.  The family of former Army Corporal Delmer Beam can tell you all about he horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Cpl. Beam;s separation papers list him as a “Combat Infantryman” in the Army’s 6th Division, 1st Infantry Regiment, C Company.  His WWII experiences started in 1939, as a 17-year old, at Fort Jackson near Columbia, South Carolina and stretched into August 1945, after several years of bitter fighting in the South Pacific against Japanese forces at New Guinea and the Philippines.

Delmer’s wife, Gladys, told her children, Lonnie, Roger and Lana, that the father they came to know after the war was nothing like the “joyful, fun guy” who gave 6½ years of his life – and numerous difficult years beyond – to the cause of freedom.

Gladys said the war destroyed her husband, both mentally and physically.  In the mid-1960’s, Lana said he submitted to shock treatments at Mount Vernon Hospital to calm down his combat issues.  The children couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to shoot fireworks on the 4th of July.

Delmer and Gladys Beam

The few stories Beam told about his experiences were tough to hear. Like the one where soldiers were ordered to shoot thirty rounds of ammunition every morning into the surrounding trees to protect the camp from Japanese snipers, who would climb high to get maximum angles on their targets.  Once, Beam recalled, several soldiers were killed by a sniper, even after the morning strafing.  After an exhaustive search, the sniper finally was located hiding in a water canvas bag hanging from a tree.  He had crawled in, poked a small hole in the canvas and shot his victims with a pistol.

Soldier’s Stories

Japanese marksmen and fierce fighting weren’t the only obstacles thrown in Beam’s path.  Malaria was a difficult burden and an attack from scrub typhus mites nearly killed him.  Delmer told his family he got so sick from the mites that he was presumed dead while lying on a stretcher on a bench.  Someone saw him move however and he was transferred to a hospital ship.

His son Roger, chronicled his memories of his Dad’s experience :

As a young boy, I was always enamored with army war stories.  I would ask him about the war many times.  Only on a very few occasions would he talk about it.  It is strange how I can remember some of the stories he told me when I can’t remember what i did yesterday….

He said he saw GI’s almost kill each other over a piece of chicken wire.  The reason is that they would stretch the wire over their fox holes so the Japanese hand grenades would hit the wire and bounce back before it exploded.  It rained every day in the jungle and was very hot and humid…

He told me about his best friend, a young 19-year old from Hope, Arkansas.   While they were being attacked one day by Japanese, my Dad kept telling him to stop sticking his head up over the embankment they were behind, but the young man kept doing it until he got hit in the head and died in my dad’s arms.  This has always made a picturesque impression on me…

I know he was haunted the rest of his life about what he went through, just like so many others.  He was a good dad and even got better the older he got… Dad never met a stranger, he would talk to anyone.

Leather map case

Despite his health issues, Delmer spent his post-war years in Dixon, Missouri, and worked at Fort Leonard Wood as a fire inspector.  He died in 1991 at age 70.  His daughter had these words to remember her Dad:  I guess the most uplifting thing about my dad was… he really believed that he survived when others died because God wasn’t done with him yet.

From Beam’s grandson, Roger Beam Jr., :

My grandpa Delmar told me this story several times as a small boy.  I think he always got a kick out of it and was probably one of his “better” memories of the war.

He told me of the time his squad was out one evening climbing around the sides of trees collecting peppers that they used to flavor basically all their food.  They had rifles slung and arms full of peppers.  As they came around a tree, to their shock and surprise they ran into a squad of Japanese soldiers doing the exact same thing!  He said the resulting chaos was both terrifying and hilarious, as both groups scrambled away.  Not a shot was fired and they saved their peppers!

In the midst of such a horrible time for my grandfather, it does make smile a bit remembering how he smiled when telling this story.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current PTSD Assistance –

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/38624/new-va-online-tool-helps-veterans-learn-compare-effective-ptsd-treatments/

https://www.va.gov/VLER/vler-health-exchange-registration-guide.asp?utm_source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=vler-promo2017-vawide

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/38287/veterans-conquer-depression-equine-therapy/

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/38060/va-announces-new-strategic-partnerships-advance-solutions-tbi-ptsd/

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Military / Home Front Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Armstrong – NYC, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, LCI

Gustave Breaux – Notleyville, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO / Vietnam, CMSgt. (Ret. 28 yrs.)

Joseph Dixon – Ochlocknee, GA; US Navy, WWII

Parker ‘Bill’ Fredericks – Midvale, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO / Korea, Lt.Col. (Ret. 26 yrs.)

Roy James – Sylvarina, MS; USMC, WWII, PTO

John Jarrosak – W.Rutland, VT; US Army, Korea, 11th Airborne Division

Darcy Larking – Taranaki, NZ; RNZ Army # 624362, Pvt.

Robert Shoemaker – Killeen, TX; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, West Point Class of ’46, General (Ret.)

Hans Traber – Unterseen, SWITZ; Swiss Army, WWII

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Intermission Story (1) – A Castaway’s War Against the Japanese

Lt. Hugh Barr Miller w/ flag he retrieved from Arundel Island

Lt. Hugh Barr Miller w/ flag he retrieved from Arundel Island

In The Castaway’s War, Stephen Harding has fastened on one U.S. Navy officer’s amazing exploits in the South Pacific—an adventure much publicized during and immediately after World War II, but long forgotten since—and fleshed it out into a full-scale narrative not only of the episode itself, but of the moral and physical shaping of the man who accomplished it. Mining official records of the U.S. and Japanese navies, personal letters, and recollections, Harding creates a retelling that is not only gripping, but fully documented. [Harding is the editor of World War II’s sister publication, Military History.]

9780306823404

A Robinson Crusoe story set in wartime.

The feat that made a hero and news media darling of Lieutenant Hugh Barr Miller Jr. began 43 minutes after midnight on July 5, 1943, off the coast of the Solomon Islands. A Japanese torpedo struck Miller’s destroyer, the USS Strong. Miller rescued many of his men, but before he could board the rescue ship that had arrived, it fled under enemy fire. The USS Strong went down, and Miller went into the water wearing a kapok life jacket. Seriously injured from the shock wave created as the Strong’s depth charges exploded, he was pulled onto a floater net holding three other survivors. The four men washed ashore three days later at Arundel, a small Japanese-occupied island just ten miles long and six miles wide.

Lt. Hugh Barr Miller aboard the USS Strong

Born on 19 January 1910, Hugh Miller became a star quarterback for the University of Alabama in the 1930 season.  He led the team to win the Rose Bowl game played on New years Day 1931.  The Crimson Tide crushed the Washington Cougars 24-0.

Adm. Halsey, Hugh Miller & Eleanor Roosevelt when Miller received the Navy Cross & Purple Heart

Miller’s incredible tale unfolds over the 38 days he remained stranded.  After suffering from near-fatal injuries and exposure to the elements, he ordered the enlisted men who had landed with him to leave him behind and make for an American-held island. However, he miraculously recovered. Using woodsman skills learned in his adolescence and grit inspired by his collegiate football coach, Miller managed not only to evade Japanese search parties, but to kill more than a half dozen Japanese soldiers. The sojourn on Arundel finally ended when Miller signaled a low-flying American TBM Avenger and the pilot sent a seaplane to rescue the lone castaway.

USS Strong, sunk at Kula Gulf

USS Strong, sunk at Kula Gulf

Harding, contemptuous of “the chest-thumping, testosterone-fueled prose” in which Miller’s episode was so often retold in pulp publications in the immediate postwar years, recounts Miller’s story in calm, precise detail, carefully correcting the myths and inaccuracies that adhered over the years. This is Miller’s entire life, sketching in his prewar years and how they forged the man who became the hero of Arundel, chronicling the Strong’s wartime missions and maneuverings, and following Miller through his postwar career as a navy lawyer and military court judge.

So while the heart of the book—the 90 pages covering the time from the torpedoing of the destroyer to Miller’s rescue from Arundel—is certainly the most riveting, the reader is able to put Miller’s experience into the perspective of the full life of a man who, while perhaps not extraordinary, did extraordinary things.

Hugh Barr Miller passed away 21 June 1978.

The Castaway’s War will be made into a full-length movie.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Celani Jr. – Lancaster, CA; US Navy, Naval Special Warfare Command, Lt. Comdr., pilot

Matthew ‘Hattie’ Hatfield – Everleigh, ENG; British Army, Royal Tank Reg., Cpl.

Darren Neilson – Blockburn, ENG; British Army, Royal Tank Regiment, Cpl.

Fred I. Sonnenfeld – Bronx, NY; US Army, Cpl.

George P. Teel Jr. – White Haven, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, 8th Army, Cpl.

Robert J. York – Tamaqua, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, Lt. Col.

FROM THE USS FITZGERALD

Shingo A. Douglass – San Diego, CA; US Navy, Yeoman 3rd Class

Noe Hernandez – Weslaco, TX; US Navy, Gunner’s mate 2nd Class

NgocT T. Huynh – Oakville, CT; US Navy, Sonar Tech 3rd Class

Alex Martin – Halethorpe. MD; Personnel Specialist 1st Class

Gary L. Rehm Jr. – Elyria, OH; Fire Controlman 1dt Class

Dakota Kyle Rigsby – Palmyra, VA; US Navy, Gunner’s mate Seaman

Carlosvictor G. Sibayan – Chula Vista, CA; Fire Controlman 2nd Class

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11th Airborne Division – end of 1944

 

Gen. Swing and his staff during a briefing on Leyte.

My father swore that this incident occurred, but on which island, I can not say. Although Smitty already felt great respect for his commander, General Swing, he developed even more after witnessing this event: “A bunch of us were hunkered down due to the resistance we suddenly encountered. Everyone dove for cover and tried to figure out where the bullets were coming from except one guy still standing and looking around. (The general did not have his insignia on his uniform.) One G.I. yelled out, ‘Get down you f–kin’ jerk! You want your head blown off?’ I looked over and saw it was the old man himself and thought jeez is that soldier ever going to get reamed when we get back. But, the general got down.  I asked him later that evening why he let the soldier off without a word, and answered that the kid was right!”

General Joseph Swing
[On the back of this photo. Smitty wrote, “My General”]

There are other stories about Swing that are quite similar, including one where, rather than getting down, he actually walked over to the palm tree where the sniper was firing from and pointed him out as the U.S. sharpshooters dropped him.
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Leyte, 1944

From the moment the 11th Airborne landed on Leyte, the fighting was heavy, but they made excellent process across the island. Suzuki’s Thirty-Fifth Army became desperate, especially after the fall of Ormoc, which cut off his troops from their naval supply.  Smitty’s division would soon be put back in reserve as they rest up for Luzon.
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11th A/B on Leyte, 1944

While on Leyte, the 11th A/B was attached to General Krueger’s Sixth Army. A superior reference guide to the movements of this unit can be found in the various books by, Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr. (Ret.). The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division gives detailed accounts by the author, who himself was the commander of the 11th Division’s B Battery of the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. And – a very nice man I might add. I was privileged to have two phone conversations with the general.

Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr.

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By the end of December, the enemy had suffered 113,221 casualties and lost 2,748 planes.  The American loss was reported at 11,217.  This time also marked the point when Japanese General Yamashita sustained perhaps the greatest defeat in his country’s history.  Ninety percent of enemy troops on Leyte were killed or committed suicide.

From Saipan, Allied B-29s were beginning to make their bombing runs over mainland Japan.

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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Personal Note –  About Intermission Stories – We will continue with following the chronologically and have more stories about Smitty after what I call the Intermission Stories that are filled in between the end of one year and the start of the next.  They are eye-witness accounts, data, stories that have been missed in 1944 or are leading up to 1945.  We have so many new followers, I felt it needed some explanation.  There will also be home front episodes.

I hope you all find something you’re interested in, maybe a chuckle or two or even a tear.  Please feel free to contribute any story you know about from veterans you’ve known or had a discussion with – or even your own story.  Also, remember the Farewell Salutes are for anyone to contribute to, the veteran need not be recently deceased.  Simply put their information in the comment section and I will put them on the following post.  Have a wonderful weekend everybody!!

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Military Humor – 

BUDGET CUTS

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Farewell Salutes –

Sylvan Alcabes – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII

E. Lee Bowman – Broadway, VA; US Navy, WWII

Daniel Doyle – Sarasota, FL; US Army, Major

Thomas Fahey Jr. – Boston, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Margarito Gomez – KS; US Army, WWII, CBI, Corps of Engineers, Bronze Star

Henry Hickman – Palmerston, North, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 403004, WWII, Flt. Sgt.

William Hoks – Lola, WI; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Douglas Lane – Chatham, CAN; RC Army, WWII, 17th Field Reg/3rd Forward Observer Unit

Lawrence Smith – Poughkeepsie, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, Yeoman

Leroy Zeedyk – Kankakee, IL; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, LST-169

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Gen. Kenney on the End of 1944

90st Bombardment Group; 5th Air Force; 319th, B-24s

General Kenney, Commander of the Fifth Air Force reported:

“Just before dark on 26 December, a Navy Reconnaissance plane sighted a Jap naval force of 1 heavy cruiser, 1 light cruiser and 6 destroyers about 85 miles NW of Mindoro {Philippines], headed toward San Jose.  We had available on out 2 strips there, 12 B-25s from the 71s Recon Squadron, the 58th Fighter Group (P-47s), the 8th Fighter Group (P-38s and the 110 Tactical Recon Squadron (P-40s).

“Every airplane that could fly took off on the attack, which continued until after midnight.  The Japs kept on coming and the planes kept shuttling back and forth, emptying their bomb racks and ammunition belts and returning for more.  In addition to the difficulty of locating and attacking the Nip vessels in the dark, the enemy made the job still harder by bombing our airdromes at intervals through the night.

Gen. MacArthur & Gen. Kenney

“In order to see what they were bombing and strafing, some of our pilots actually turned their landing lights on the Jap naval vessels.  With neither time nor information for briefings during the operation, it was every man for himself and probably the wildest scramble the Nip or ourselves had ever been in.

“Ar 11:00 P.M. the enemy fleet started shelling our fields and kept it up for an hour.  Fires broke out in our gasoline dumps, airplanes were hit, the runways pitted, but the kids still kept up their attack.  The P-47s couldn’t get at their bomb dump because of the fire, so they simply loaded up with ammunition and strafed the decks of every ship in the Jap force.  They said it was “like flying over a blast furnace, with all those guns firing at us.”

“Shortly after midnight. the Jap fleet turned around and headed north. They had been hurt.  A destroyer had been sunk and a cruiser and 2 destroyers heavily damaged.

“The attack had saved our shipping at San Jose from destruction, but it had cost us something too.  Twenty-five fighter pilots and B-25 crew members missing.  We had lost 2 B-25s and 29 fighter aircraft.  During the next few days we picked up 16 of the kids who were still floating around the China Sea in their life rafts.  I got Gen. MacArthur to approve a citation for each of the units that took part in the show.

Lt. Phyllis Hocking, 36 Evac Hospital, Palo, Leyte at Church of Transfiguration

On the 30th, Lt.Col. Howard S. Ellmore, a likable, happy-go-lucky, little blond boy from Shreveport, LA, leading the 417th Attack Group, the “Sky Lancers” caught a Jap convoy in Lingayen Gulf, off Vigan on the west coast of Luzon.  In a whirlwind low-level attack, a destroyer, a destroyer escort, 2 large freighters and one smaller were sunk.

“It was a fitting climax to 1944, which had been an advance from Finschaven to Mindoro, a distance of 2400 miles, equal to that from Washington to San Francisco.  During that time, my kids had sunk a half million tons of Jap shipping and destroyed 3000 Jap aircraft.  Our losses of aircraft in combat during the year were 818.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Hazel Bogaard – Sioux Falls, SD; US Army WAC, WWII, CBI, 142nd General Hospital ship, 2nd Lt.

John S. Czyscon – NY Mills, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 711th Ordnance Co./188th parachute Reg./11th Airborne Div.

A soldier’s death

Norman Fraser Sr. – No. York, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Raymond Hall – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 4213081, WWII, PTO

Virgil Motsinger – Eugene, OR; US Navy, WWII, USS Anzio (CVE-57)

Jack O’Neill – OR & CA; US Navy, WWII, pilot

Robert E. Oxford – Concord, GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, “The Hump”, 1st Lt., KIA

Bobby Stubbs – Sedalia, MO; Korea & Vietnam, Captain (Ret.)

Adam West – Walla Walla, WA; US Army, American Forces Network, (beloved actor)

Vincent Vann Higginbotham Sr. – Springer, OK; US Merchant Marine, WWII

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