Blog Archives

U.S. Army 244th Birthday / Flag Day

 

244 Years Strong

THE U.S. ARMY

AMERICA’S FIRST NATIONAL INSTITUTION

 

Since its official establishment, June 14, 1775 — more than a year before the Declaration of Independence — the U.S. Army has played a vital role in the growth and development of the American nation. Drawing on both long-standing militia traditions and recently introduced professional standards, it won the new republic’s independence in an arduous eight-year struggle against Great Britain. At times, the Army provided the lone symbol of nationhood around which patriots rallied.

 

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO VIEW THESE TWO (2) VERY SHORT VIDEOS.  THANK YOU

 

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Tomorrow is also Flag Day, an annual observance of the Second Continental Congress’ official adoption of the stars and stripes in 1777. At the time, they “resolved that the flag of the 13 United States” be represented by 13 alternating red and white stripes and the union by 13 white stars in a blue field, “representing a new constellation.” Now, more than 200 years later and with an updated design, the flag is an American icon.  Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is the only state to recognize it as a legal holiday.

As national treasures go, it was a bargain: $405.90 was paid to Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore, who fashioned it from red, blue and undyed wool, plus cotton for the 15 stars to fly at the fortress guarding the city’s harbor. An enormous flag, 30 by 42 feet, it was intended as a bold statement to the British warships that were certain to come.  And, when in September 1814, the young United States turned back the invaders in a spectacular battle witnessed by Francis Scott Key, he put his joy into a verse published first as “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” and then, set to the tune of a British drinking song – immortalized as “The Star Spangled Banner.”

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Harold Amstutz – Deerfield, MI; US Army, WWII, ETO, 8/4th Infantry Division

Donald Buckley – Herkimer, NY; US Army, Korea, HQ Co./187th RCT

Thurman Childress – Stamford, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. E/188/11th Airborne Division

Valentine Ellis – Bothell, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO

Clyde Holcomb – Mobile, AL; US Army, WWII, ETO, 566th Anti-Aircraft Division, 3 Bronze Stars

Robert Mackey – North Bennington, VT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Chief Warrant Officer (Ret.)

Sam Ostrow – Cincinnati, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Milton Persin – Oak Brook, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Harold Sanders – Hayesville, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, Purple Heart

Walter Shamp – NY; US National Guard / US Army, WWII, 109/28th Division

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September 1945 in Japan

Dai Ichi Building in Tokyo flying both the American and United Nations flags

Soon after the official surrender of Japan, General MacArthur moved his headquarters into the Dai Ichi building in Tokyo. At noon, 8 September 1945, on the terrace of the U.S. Embassy, he met an honor guard from the 1st Calvary Division; they held the Stars and Stripes that had flown over the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. on 7 December 1941 – Pearl Harbor Day. As the red, white and blue began to rise… MacArthur said, “General Eichelberger, have our country’s flag unfurled and in Tokyo’s sun let it wave its full glory as a symbol of hope for the oppressed and as a harbinger of victory for the right.”

 

Hideki Tojo

Immediately after the ceremony, Major Paul Kraus and his MPs and a throng of reporters, (including George Jones of the New York Times) surrounded the home of Hideki Tojo. The general shot himself in the chest before anyone could enter his office. The bullet missed his heart. At the 48th Evacuation Hospital, he told Gen. Eichelberger, “I am sorry to have given General Eichelberger so much trouble.” The general asked, “Do you mean tonight or the last few years?” The answer was, “Tonight. I want General Eichelberger to have my new saber.”

Prince Konoye – 3 times Premier of Japan lies dead

The night before Prince Konoye was to be sent to Sugamo Prison, he drank poison and died. (I personally feel that the prince might have been acquitted of war criminal charges at the trials. He had tried for years to bring peace, his mistake being, his having chosen the Soviets as mediators and Stalin blocked him at every step.)

In reply of Allied and liberated Japanese press opinions of the Emperor, MacArthur was determined not to humiliate him: “To do so,” the general said, “would be to outrage the feelings of the Japanese people and make a martyr of the Emperor in their eyes.” As a student of Asian cultures, he proved to be correct. It would take two weeks, but the Emperor requested an interview with the general himself.

MacArthur and Hirohito meeting

His Majesty arrived in his ancient limousine with Grand Chamberlain Fujita and was met with a salute from General Bonner F. Fellers. When Fellers’ hand dropped, the Emperor grabbed it. An interpreter quickly explained that the Emperor was happy to see him. Fellers replied, “I am honored to meet you. Come in and meet General MacArthur.” Nervously, Hirohito allowed himself to be escorted up the staircase to the general’s office.

Trying to ease the tension, MacArthur told him he had been presented to his father, Emperor Taisho, after the Russian-Japanese War and offered Hirohito an American cigarette. The Emperor’s hand shook as it was lit and the general then dismissed everyone except the interpreter. The conversation before an open fire was observed, unknowingly, by Mrs. MacArthur and their son, Arthur who hid behind the long red drapes.

Emperor Hirohito rides at the imperial palace in 1940 wearing the uniform of commander in chief of Japanese forces. Associated Press

The emperor had been forewarned not to assume any responsibility for the war, but he did just that.”I come to you, General MacArthur, to offer myself to the judgment of the powers you represent as the one to bear sole responsibility for every political and military decision made and action taken by my people in the conduct of this war.”

MacArthur freely admitted being moved “to the marrow of my bones. He was an Emperor by inherent birth, but in that instant I knew I faced the First Gentleman of Japan in his own right.”

The Japanese acknowledged, without reservations, the temporal power of the current shogun, but revered what was eternal. (The Imperial Palace)

Resources: U.S. Signal Corps; “The Rising Sun” by John Toland; Gene Slover’s US Navy Papers; historyinanhour.com

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

“Cover me Johnson… I’ve got to Tweet this.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Elton Barber – Buckley, WA; US Navy, WWII, ETO, USS Chester

Robert “Sam” Carlson – MS; US Army Air Corps, WWII

THANKS Veterans for walking the walk!

Eugene Duffy – Beach Grove, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. A/127 Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Willard Dykes – Meridian, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Albert Green – Sandy, OR; US Army, Korea, Co. G/187th RCT

James Heflin – Memphis, TN; USMC, WWII, PTO

Alice Jefferson – Stoneham, MA; US Coast Guard SPAR, WWII, Commander (Ret. 25 y.)

David Kesler – Berthoud, CO; US Navy, WWII, Baker 2nd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA, (Pearl Harbor)

Robert Spence – Montreal, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

Benjamin Starr – Montgomery, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII

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Japanese Holdouts on Saipan

Anatahan Island surrender

 

On September 2, 1945, representatives from the Allied and Japanese governments signed the peace treaty that ended World War II.

Or did it?

In June 1944 American warships sank several Japanese troop transports. Survivors from the vessels swam to safety and reached the island of Anatahan, located approximately 75 miles north of Saipan. The island was uninhabited, and possessed steep slopes, deep ravines, and high grass.

In January 1945 a B-29 bomber from the 498th Bomber Group, returning from an air raid over Japan, developed engine trouble and slammed into a grassy field. The crash killed the entire crew.

The small group of Japanese who had survived the sinking of their transports quickly cannibalized the aircraft. They utilized metal from the wreckage to manufacture makeshift knives, pots, and roofing for their huts. The plane’s oxygen tanks held their potable water, clothing was fashioned from the silk parachutes, and cords were used to make fishing lines. The aircraft’s weapons were confiscated as well.

Surrender at Anatahan Island

Later in 1945, the Japanese were discovered by Chamorros who had gone to Anatahan to recover the remains of the missing bomber crew. The natives returned and testified to authorities that they had seen the Japanese soldiers and also one Okinawan woman.

Upon hearing this news, U.S. planes dropped leaflets on the island asking the soldiers to surrender. Fearing execution, the holdouts refused the request. With the small band of Japanese virtually isolated from the outside world, they were soon forgotten.

Then, after six years of this Spartan existence, Kazuko Higa, the Okinawan woman, got the attention of an American ship as she walked on the beach. When approached by a landing party, she asked to be taken from the island.

Upon her arrival on Saipan, Higa told U.S. officials that the Japanese did not trust the Americans. It was also learned that the woman had a busy love life while imprisoned there and her flirtations had caused some jealousy. It seems she would “transfer her affections between at least four of the men after each mysteriously disappeared as a result of being swallowed by the waves while fishing.”

Finally, the Japanese government intervened and contacted the families of the survivors, asking them to write letters telling their loved ones that Japan had surrendered.

In addition, a letter from the governor of Kanagawa Prefecture was sent to convince the “Robinson Crusoes” to give themselves up. It read in part: “Previously, in our country, a prisoner of war lost face. That is not so now. The Emperor ordered all our people, wherever they were, to surrender peacefully. I believe you have read letters from your family which said not to worry which will give you confidence to give yourself up to the Americans. In the box of new letters sent to you we are enclosing a piece of white cloth with which you can signal the Navy boat. You do not have to worry. The Americans will give you their best attention and kindness until you are returned to our country.”

This message was dropped on June 26, 1951. Several days later, the Japanese waved the white flag of surrender.

On June 30, 1951, the USS Cocopa, a U.S. Navy tug, appeared offshore. Lieutenant Commander James B. Johnson, the ship’s commanding officer, and Mr. Ken Akatani, an interpreter, made their way to the beach in a rubber boat.

Once ashore, Johnson and Akatani met with the Japanese to accept their formal surrender, now dubbed Operation Removal by the U.S. Navy. With their meager belongings wrapped in cloth, the survivors were brought aboard the tug and sent to Guam. Once there, they boarded a Navy plane and were flown to Japan to be reunited with their families.

Other stories of Japanese military personnel holding out in South Pacific locales continued for years.  We will discuss more in the following post on Thursday.

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Military Humor – 

This B-29 crew on Guam wasted no time in starting an enterprising venture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Beford Brown – Miami, FL; US Navy, WWII, Boatswain’s mate 2nd Class, USS Intrepid

John Cheesman – New Haven, CT; US Army, WWII, PTO

Sherman Douglass – Gloucester, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Sgt.

Bruce Dowd – Howick, NZ; RNZEF #637275, WWII, Pte.

E.W. “Tony” Gehringer – St. Louis, MO; US Navy, WWII & Korea, (Ret. 21 y.)

Richard Haviland – Harvey, IL; US Navy, WWII

Joseph Milligan Jr. – Savannah, GA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Michael Ryan – New Orleans, LA; US Navy, WWII, Higgins boat duty

Erma Scott – Huntington, WV; US Army WAC; WWII, Corps of Engineers / Pentagon

John Walker Jr. – Weaver’s Ford, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, Cpl., 84th Infantry Division

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Canadian Hero – Leonard Birchall RCAF

Leonard Birchall

One of the things Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Air Commodore Leonard Birchall is most remembered for is being the “Savior of Ceylon.” He was the pilot who warned the Allied forces in Colombo of the Japanese surprise attack that was on its way, thus allowing them to prepare and preventing a repeat of Pearl Harbor.

However, he showed the true breadth of nobility and valor of his character in Japanese prisoner of war camps over a period of three years, in which he saved many men’s lives and took many prisoners’ beatings for them.

Leonard Birchall was born in July 1915 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. After graduating from school he worked a number of jobs in order to pay for flying lessons.  He eventually decided to embark on a military career, and enrolled in the Royal Military College of Canada in 1933, after which he was commissioned as a RCAF pilot in 1937.

Royal Air Force mechanics at Royal Air Force Station RAF Koggala, Ceylon

It wouldn’t be too long before he saw action: the Second World War broke out in 1939.   His first duties involved flying a Supermarine Stanraer with RCAF No. 5 Squadron over Nova Scotia on anti-submarine patrols.

In 1940, he managed to virtually single-handedly capture an Italian merchant ship in the Gulf of St Lawrence by making a low pass over it, feigning an attack, which caused the captain to panic and run his ship into a sandbank. Birchall landed nearby and waited patiently for the Royal Canadian Navy to get there, whereupon they arrested the Italian seamen.

In 1942 he joined No. 413 Squadron, and shortly thereafter was transferred to Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka).  Less than 48 hours after touching down, he was flying his Catalina on a patrol mission when he caught sight of an Imperial Japanese Naval fleet which was clearly on its way to attack Ceylon.

Birchall didn’t have much time to act, for not only had he spotted the Japanese, but they had also spotted him. Despite the imminent danger, Birchall flew closer in order to gather details about how many ships and aircraft he could see.

He desperately relayed details to the Allied base even as anti-aircraft fire starting ripping past him, while Japanese fighters took off from the aircraft carriers to shoot him down.

He managed to get a few messages through to the base before anti-aircraft fire tore through his Catalina and disabled the radio. Further fire crippled the plane, and he went down, crash-landing into the ocean. He and the other surviving members of his crew were picked up by the Japanese and taken onto one of the ships. Thus began three years of imprisonment.

IJN destroyer “Isokaze”

As soon as Birchall was brought on board the Japanese destroyer Isokaza, he was singled out as the senior officer and brutally interrogated.

The Japanese eventually believed he had not radioed out, and went ahead with their attack – but they found the Allied defenders prepared for them, and their raid was a failure.

Birchall was then transferred to mainland Japan.  He was placed in an interrogation camp in Yokohama where he was subject to solitary confinement and daily beatings. In this camp – in which no speaking (except when answering questions) was allowed – Birchall spent 6 grueling months.

He was then transferred to a POW work camp that had been erected in a baseball stadium. The conditions were harsh; rations were scarce, and the prisoners were basically on a starvation diet. Beatings were commonplace, and everyone, regardless of their physical condition, was forced to work.

Birchall immediately began to earn the respect of the other prisoners by arranging a system in the camp whereby he and the officers displayed the food that had been dished out to them, and if any enlisted man thought that the officers had been given better food, or more food, he was free to exchange his rations with the officer’s.

Despite the risk of severe punishment, he also argued with the guards and demanded better treatment and rations for his men. If a guard was beating a particularly weak prisoner, Birchall and the other officers would step in and take a beating from the guards on that prisoner’s behalf.

Air Commodore Leonard Birchall Leadership Award, at Royal Military College of Canada; bas-relief bronze by Colonel (ret’d) Andre Gauthier Photo by Victoriaedwards CC BY-SA 3.0

Birchall kept detailed diaries of his time in the Japanese POW camps, and these were used as evidence in post-war trials. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in Ceylon, and made an officer of the Order of the British Empire for his actions in the POW camps.

Leonard Birchall, WWII Hero

Leonard Birchall retired from the RCAF in 1967, and then worked at York University, Ontario, until 1982. He passed away at the age of 89 in 2004.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Bullard – Stone GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ Co./188/11th Airborne Division

John Crouchley Jr. – Providence, RI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot, KIA

Carl Gloor – Bolivar, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 17th Airborne Division

Robert L. Miller Sr. – South Bend, IN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart / Korea / Judge / Veteran’s advocate

Domonica Mortellano – Tampa, FL; Civilian, MacDill Air Force Base

Alberta Nash – Saint John, CAN; Civilian, WWII, Canadian Red Cross

Alan Seidel – Montreal, CAN; RC Army, WWII, tank commander

Alan Smith – Fort William, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, ETO, Flight Sgt.

Edsel Teal – Chicopee, MA; US Navy, WWII

Doris Whitton – Ft. Simpson, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, radio/telephone

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How Japan Helped the Allies Spy on Hitler

Baron Oshima & Adolph Hitler

Throughout the Second World War, the Allies tried to spy on Hitler and his generals. They went to extraordinary lengths to understand what the Führer was thinking, using intercepted messages, intelligence from inside Germany, and the advanced decryption facilities at Bletchley Park.

Ironically, some of their best intelligence on Hitler’s thinking came not from spying on the Germans but on their allies, the Japanese.

The groundwork for Baron Hiroshi Oshima’s role as an intelligence source was laid in 1934 when he arrived in Berlin to act as Japanese Military Attaché. An officer and a diplomat, Oshima quickly established good relationships with German officers and members of the Nazi party, who had risen to power in Germany the year before.

Oshima’s political philosophy was a good fit with that of the Nazis. He soon gained the ear of Hitler, becoming the Führer’s favored representative of Japan.

The alliance of Germany, Japan, and Italy put Oshima in a powerful position. He was withdrawn to Tokyo in 1939 but returned to Berlin a year later, this time as ambassador.

Baron Oshima

Almost immediately, Oshima began sending reports back to Japan about the German leader’s plans.

As the war progressed and the Japanese impressed Hitler with successes in Asia and the Pacific, Oshima gained ever greater trust and access to the inner workings of the Nazi war machine. He was central to discussions about how German and Japanese forces could link up through the Middle East.

Oshima was committed to the Axis cause and never betrayed it. Yet he became one of the Allies’ best sources of intelligence on the Germans.

This intelligence came through Magic, the U.S. military’s cryptanalysis program.

Remnant of the Japanese Purple cipher recovered from their
bombed-out embassy in Berlin

Even before they entered the war, the Americans were working on intercepting and decoding the signals of the Axis powers. They broke the Japanese diplomatic codes in 1940, while Oshima was still in Tokyo. By the time he returned to Berlin late that year, they were in a position to read his messages.

Oshima’s diligence and intelligence now became tools of his nation’s enemies. When he became interested in an issue, whether it was jet fighter technology or the defenses of France, he took the time to properly research it, gathering pages of detailed information and sending them home.

Little did he realize that these reports were being read in the United States.

Oshima’s reports covered a wide range of military issues. Though other Japanese signals were more useful for fighting the Japanese themselves, his insights proved of value to the Allies.
One of the first examples of this came in the summer of 1941. Reading Oshima’s messages, American intelligence officers discovered that Germany was planning an extraordinary action – attacking its ally, the Soviet Union.

Operation Barbarossa. Soviet border

The U.S. had not yet joined the war, but that didn’t stop the American government using the information. Together with other intercepts, it provided the British with evidence they could present to the Soviets, trying to bring them into the war on the Allied side.

Despite the evidence, Stalin refused to believe that Hitler was turning against him. He ignored the warnings the Oshima intelligence provided and was caught by surprise when Germany invaded in June.

By the spring of 1944, Germany was developing its first jet fighters. This was a topic of particular interest to the Japanese government, who wanted to unlock the secrets of jet flight for themselves.

Oshima investigated the German research. Thanks to his many contacts in the military and Nazi party, he was able to learn incredible details, including the speeds, altitudes, and rates of climb of the most advanced aircraft being developed in the world.

And thanks to his messages, the Allies knew exactly what their own jet engineers were competing with.

Though Oshima’s intelligence was good, its use by the Allies was mixed. As they launched increasingly heavy bomber raids to cripple German industry, Oshima reported on the results. This gave the Allies their most unbiased intelligence on the effect of the bombing raids.

But when Oshima said in 1943 that the raids were having little effect, and when he said the following year that German armaments production was in fact increasing, the Allies refused to believe him. First-hand evidence was no match for the biases of Bomber Command.

Oshima’s intelligence became particularly critical in the buildup to D-Day. He took an interest in German defenses along the coast of northern France and sent repeated reports home about this. They covered a huge range of topics – the design of defenses, the number of divisions stationed there, the German command structure, depths of defensive zones, and even the siting of individual guns. It was all incredibly useful for the commanders planning the invasion.

Reports of Oshima’s conversations with Hitler revealed that the Führer had bought into Allied counter-intelligence operations. He did not suspect the real location of the planned Allied landings.

On September 4, 1944, Oshima had his last meeting with Hitler. In it, the German leader revealed that he was planning a large counter-attack in the west. His troops would gather in October and November when poor weather would interfere with Allied aerial reconnaissance. The attack would be launched in late November at the earliest.

Hitler had revealed his plans for the Battle of the Bulge.

Battle of the Bulge

What the Allies did with this intelligence is a matter of debate. But whatever happened that December, Oshima’s messages had hugely helped the Allies to win the war.

Oshima himself would never learn this. Though he did not die until 1975, he still did not live long enough to see Allied intelligence evidence revealed to a horde of excited historians, and through the historians to the public.

From the far side of the world, Japan had unwittingly helped the Allies to win the war in Europe.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

SSgt. David Harp prepares paratroopers photo by: Sgt. Michael MacLeod, US Army

GLIDERS: as seen by…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Bailey – Decatur, AL; US Navy, WWII, (Ret. 30 y.)

Geraldyne ‘Jerrie’ Cobb – Norman, OK & FL; NASA, pilot, first female to qualify as an astronaut

Mack Fitzgerald – GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-24 Flight Engineer, 93rd Bomb Group

Elsie House – Coalmont, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 188th/11th Airborne Division

William Hunter – Buffalo Grove, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, SeaBee

Thomas Kellahan – SC; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Senior Chief

John Lee – CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, fighter pilot

Michael Malbasa – No. Ridgeville, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, WWII, Sgt.,437th Fighter Squadron, Bronze Star

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

Robert Wood – Naples, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. E/187th/11th Airborne Division

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Home Front – WWII Sweetheart Jewelry

 

Anne Clare, The Naptime Author, was kind enough to allow me to steal this article off her site, so Pacific Paratrooper could deliver a sweetheart of a post!  Please go visit her and enjoy her other historical posts!

Does your family own any jewelry from World War II? Curator Kathleen Golden shares a few sweet pieces from our collection.

In honor of Valentine’s Day and the giving of trinkets and baubles, I thought it would be fun to share a collection of objects in the Division of Armed Forces History called “sweetheart jewelry.” Sweetheart jewelry first became popular during World War I, as a means of connection between wives, mothers and sweethearts back home and the men fighting overseas. It was one of many things that soldiers either made or purchased, along with pillowcase covers, handkerchiefs, compacts, and the like. But while the practice began back then, the concept really took off during the Second World War.

Sweetheart jewelry of World War II vintage was made of a variety of materials. Due to the rationing placed on metals during the war, many of the items were made from alternate materials such as wood and plastic. Sterling silver was not rationed, so it was used to produce better quality jewelry.

Why was this type of jewelry so popular?

It was fashionable: rationing of material resulted in clothing with little embellishment. Pinning a brooch on a lapel or wearing a locket gave the wearer a little bit of glitz.

It was patriotic: many of the pieces were produced in the shape of patriotic symbols; the flag and the American eagle were most often depicted. The slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor” found its way onto many pins, often accented with a pearl. Several of the costume jewelry manufacturers of the time, including Trifari and Coro, made patriotic-themed pieces.

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It reflected a sense of service: many women proudly wore the pin version of a “man-in-service” flag, the blue star in the center, on a white background, with a red border, to indicate a son or husband in service. The service pins, more rarely, could have two or three stars, and rarer yet, could contain a gold star to indicate a death in service.

The collection in the Division of Armed Forces History contains numerous examples of the types of jewelry I’ve outlined. Here are a few favorite examples:

The production of sweetheart jewelry pretty much ended after World War II. In recent years, collecting the vintage pieces has been on the upswing. But during the war, it seemed that everybody had a piece or two.

While rummaging through my grandmother’s jewelry box a number of years ago, I found this patriotic pin:

The “Uncle Sam” hat is embellished with rhinestones, and on the brim is written “In Service For His Country”. I don’t know the particulars of how it came to be in her possession; my grandfather didn’t serve in World War II, but family members and friends did. I’ve worn it from time to time, usually on a patriotic holiday, or if I just feel like giving a shout out to our soldiers serving overseas. One day, in memory of my grandmother, it will become part of the museum’s collections.

Kathleen Golden is an Associate Curator in the Division of Armed Forces History. 

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Click on images to enlarge.

 Home Front Humor –

“When you boys finish with your Civil Air Patrolling, I’ll have some iced tea ready for you.”

“But Ida, do you think you’ll be HAPPY polishing shell casing?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Jude ‘Frank’ Babineau – Toronto, CAN; No. 2 Forward Observation/Royal Artillery. WWII

Ceaser Cellini – Cliftin, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ/11th Airborne Division

MAY WE ALL REMEMBER ANZAC DAY, 25 April 2019

Peter Fitanides – Natick, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 406/102nd Ozark Infantry Division, medic

Frank Gonzalez – Tampa, FL; US Army, WWII, Sgt., 738th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion

Marshall Heffner – Ocean Springs, MS; US Merchant Marine, WWII, ETO

Elmer Janka – Wautoma, WI; US Army, WWII, ETO, 1st Infantry Division, Signal Corps

Frank Keller – Murray, KY; USMC, WWII

Ivan Miles – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Army, WWII

Charles Parker – Slagle, LA; US Army, WWII, medic

Olen Shockey – Lexington, OK; US Navy, WWII, PTO, LCS Machinist Mate 1st Class

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Type 4 Ceramic Grenades

Type 4 Ceramic Grenade

Grenades have long been used in warfare across the world. However, their manufacture requires certain industrial materials and production lines.

In the closing stages of WWII, strategic bombing had decimated Japanese industrial infrastructure, leading to the development of a last-ditch weapon: the Type 4 grenade.

The Type 4 is also known as the “ceramic grenade” because it was made of porcelain or terracotta. These were materials which could be found at the end of the war when more traditional grenade materials were in short supply.

The Imperial Japanese Navy Technical Bureau came up with the idea for this new weapon. It was easy to make and cheaper to produce than traditional grenades at the time. This new weapon was to be used by the general populace of the country in the event of an Allied invasion.

To mass produce these grenades, kilns which were normally used for Japanese pottery were forced into service. The grenades that were produced by the kilns were cruder than traditional shells but were still able to do their job. There was also a significant variation in color, size, and shape as each kiln created a different form of the weapon.

The average Type 4 grenade measured around 80mm in diameter although, as stated above, the size would vary depending on the kiln producing them. The grenades were generally unmarked and completely plain.

The kilns also made them in varying shades of tan and brown. There were some which were completely white, but they were in the minority. While the grenades were made from porcelain or terracotta, they were not left untreated. They were lightly glazed both inside and out.

Despite the materials being used, the grenade would only weigh about one pound (453g) making it easy for soldiers to throw or carry around.

As with many other grenades at the time, the Type 4 was a spherical shape. It also had a bottleneck which included a wood friction fuse. The grenades came with a separate scratch block lid and rubber covering on the top which needed to be removed before the grenade was activated.

When it came to using this weapon, soldiers had to act quickly. To ignite the grenade, the rubber covering would need to be removed, and the match compound lit. This was done with the scratch block and worked in a similar manner to a road flare.

Once the fuse was lit, there was no way to stop it without destroying the whole fuse. To ensure that there was enough time for the grenade to reach enemy fighters, there was a four to five-second delay. After this time, the lit fuse would come into contact with the explosive materials inside.

Many of the Type 4s had a lanyard which was used to carry and throw them. A US Army intelligence bulletin from March 1945 stated that these grenades were easy to throw. The bulletin also listed some of the potential drawbacks of this last-ditch weapon.

Other than the fact that the grenade had to be thrown as soon as it was lit, care also had to be taken to ensure that the shell would not hit any hard objects before reaching the intended target. Should this happen, the grenade would shatter and become useless.

Ceramic Grenade pile,
pic courtesy of Japan Bullet

The grenade was also viewed in the bulletin as a concussion weapon. The explosion resulted in a large blast, but little in ceramic fragmentation which caused the most damage. This could be due to the materials used to create the grenades.

The Type 4 grenade was not a real game-changer in the war, but it was an ingenious invention. It was supplied to the Volunteer Fighting Corps as well as reservist organizations. There are also accounts that large numbers of them were sent to the front line troops.

These grenades were used by the Japanese in both the Battle of Okinawa and the Battle of Iwo Jima.

From War History on-line.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Keith Andrews Toronto, CAN; RAF, WWII, pilot instructor

Kenneth Bailey – Easton, MD; US Navy, WWII & Korea, USS Sangamon, (Ret. 24 y.)

Earl Thomas Conley – Jamestown, OH; US Army / country singer

Kenneth Deal – Shreveport, LA; US Merchant Marines, WWII, Troop Transport / US Army 313th Engineers

Max Gaberseck – Coudersport, PA; US Marine Corps, Gulf War, Sgt. (Ret. 21 y.)

John Hooten – Joppa, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea (Ret. 24 y.)

James Kounanis – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, PTO

Harold Poff – Roanoke, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 221st Medical/11th Airborne Division

Eugene Richard “Butch” Skoch – East Meadow, NY; Vietnam, Pfc, KIA

Joan Whittow – Liverpool, ENG; British Army, WWII

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Arms Race

 

Tesla’s Death Ray

The arms race during World War Two resulted in an entire gallery of new weapons. Some of them opened completely new perspectives of conventional warfare, while others came from the edge of human imagination.

These were so-called weapons of the “New Age:” unconventional arms imagined to be so powerful that they could single-handedly win the war.

Even though the world leaders based their power on conventional arsenals, all of them still had one eye on possible weapons of the future. In the years before — as well as during — the war, these powers had been developing such weapons.

Tesla complex

With visions of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and so many other sci-fi characters, imaginations soared!

Some of these weapons were brought to life, as was the case with the atomic bomb, but some have never seen the light of the day. The Japanese Ku-Go “Death Ray” weapon falls into the latter category.

One of the most brilliant scientists of all times, Nikola Tesla, was one of the first to claim to have built a “death ray” weapon. He called his weapon “Teleforce” and it wasn’t designed to use any kind of rays but to project microscopic, electrically-charged particles.

Tesla’s weapon was rather complex, including several mechanisms to produce electricity of enormous force, somewhere around 60 million volts. This force required large, static power plants, estimating the cost of one such weapon station to be $2 million in 1940.

For that reason, he presented his plans first to the League of Nations and then to the leading powers of Western Democracy.

The United States Bureau of Standards rejected Tesla’s proposal as they believed it was not possible to produce such an enormous amount of energy.

British Death Ray

The British attempted to make a “death ray” weapon, which resulted in the development of radar.

The Soviet Union made some effort in obtaining Tesla’s plans, but the actual weapon was never made.

However, that which was not of interest to Allies was of interest to the Axis Nations. The article about Tesla’s “Peace Ray” published in the New York Sun and the New York Times on July 11, 1934, caught the attention of Japanese news correspondents in the United States.

When the article was presented in Japan, Tesla’s death ray received a lot of public attention.

In the late 1930s, as Japan was preparing for the war, General Yamamoto was looking for a weapon that could give him an advantage over the United States. For this purpose, he sought out one of the most prominent Japanese physicists, Yoji Ito, from the Naval Technology Research Institute.

Ito had spent several years in Germany studying the development of the atomic bomb and magnetrons, giving him the required knowledge to build such a weapon.

German Death Ray

After studying Tesla’s design, Ito and two other physicists, Maso Kotani and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, came to the same conclusion as their American counterparts: it was impossible to create a station that could produce so much energy.

For that reason, Ito and his team turned to what they already had. Microwaves!

In 1940, the Japanese had already been working on magnetrons as part of their radar research. Ito decided that they should make a bigger, much more powerful magnetron.

This magnetron would emit a high-power beam of very short radio waves that could cause either psychological or physiological problems to enemy soldiers and even death. Ito also believed that the same principle could cause internal combustion engines to stop.

Japanese officials thought that the project could be promising. They invested 2 million yen into it which, in 1940, was around half a million US dollars.

The whole project was put under the control of General Sueyoshi Kusaba. A brand new laboratory was established at Shimada, Shiyuoka Prefecture. The weapon was codenamed Ku-Go.

Gen. Kusaba Sueyoshi, commander of Ku-Go. (his brother Tatsumi graduated West Point in 1920)

However, experiments with internal combustion engines were far less successful. Ito believed that microwaves could cause the pre-ignition of engines, but his experiments came across many obstacles.

In 1943, Ito and his team managed to stop an exposed car engine but failed to do so when the engine was protected by a hub. Experiments on an airplane engine from 1944 showed that microwaves were even weaker against well-protected engines.

Megetron, sliced open to show interior.

The largest experiment was conducted in 1944 when the first prototype of Ku-Go was built by the Japanese Radio Company.  This was an 80-centimeter magetron powered by 30 kilowatts feeding a di-pole antenna placed at the bottom of a 1-meter ellipsoid reflector.  In 1944, 80 cm magnetrons were the shortest wavelength oscillators that the Japanese were able to make.

Plans were made in 1945 to build a new weapon consisting of 4 magetrons with the output of 250 – 300 kilowatts with a di-pole antenna and 10-meter reflector.  Japanese physicists calculated that such a weapon would take ten minutes to kill a rabbit at a distance of 62 miles ( ~ 100 kilometers ).

However, the situation in the Pacific and the capitulation of Imperial Japan stopped all further research.

Click on images to enlarge.

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RAAF 98th Anniversary – 31 March

Pacific Paratrooper gives a sincere THANK YOU to the Royal Australian Air Force for being there!

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Bacco – Grant Town, WV; US Navy, WWII

Violet (Bambi) Carrington, IL; US Army WAC, WWII

Veterans Memorial

Ronald Helson – Cleveland, OH; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT, USAR, Lt.Col. (Ret. 30 y.)

Fred Lynn – Anderson, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, D/511/11th Airborne Division

James Mumme – Phoenix, AZ; US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman, USS Nassau

Robert T. McDaniel – Fort Worth, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Tuskegee

Joseph Piccirillo – No. Charleston, SC; US Navy, WWII

Harold Steinmetz (101) – Mt. Clemens, IL; US Army, WWII, PTO, Capt., 38/149th Infantry, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Muriel Seale Toole – Washington D.C.; Civilian, US Army Quartermaster Corps

Rodney Wicox – Arnot, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Sgt., 11th Airborne Division

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OSS in Kunming, China

Julia Child with OSS colleagues

The OSS group that included Julia Child and her future husband Paul found themselves in a flood in mid-August 1945.  But what they were encountering was nothing compared to the civilians.  Chinese villages of mud huts were “melting like chocolate.”  Farmers drowned in their own fields.  As the flooding began to subside, Japan was hit with the second atomic bomb.

The incoming Russian soldiers only added to the Pandora’s box that was already opened in China.  The OSS HQ in Kunming went into overdrive.  Eight mercy missions were launched to protect the 20,000 American and Allied POW’s and about 15,000 civilian internees.

Elizabeth McIntosh w/ colleagues during Kunming flood

All the frantic preparations – for rescue operations, food and medical drops and evacuation – had to undertaken despite the weather conditions.  Adding to the drama was the uncertain fate of the 6-man OSS team dispatched to Mukden in Manchuria to rescue General “Skinny” Wainwright, who endured capture along with his men since Corregidor in May 1942.

There was also evidence that other high-ranking Allied officials were held in the camp, such as General Arthur E. Percival, the former commander of Singapore.

On August 28, 1945, General Jonathan Wainwright steps down from a C-47 transport in Chunking, China, after three arduous years in a Japanese prison camp.

The OSS mercy missions were treated very badly.  Officers were held up by Chinese soldiers and robbed of the arms and valuables.  The mood in China was changing very quickly.  Even in Chungking, the Chinese troops were becoming anti-foreign and uncooperative.

Word from Hanoi was that the OSS was beset with problems there as well.  Thousands of still-armed Japanese were attempting to keep order in French Indochina.  Paul Child told his brother he well expected a civil war to start there very soon.  The French refused to recognize the Republic of Vietnam and worked with the British to push for “restoration of white supremacy in the Orient”.

OSS in Ho Chi Minh, Indochina

The French were becoming more and more anti-American.  They were using agents with stolen US uniforms to provoke brawls and cause disturbances.  The British were dropping arms to French guerrilla  forces to be used to put down the independence movement.

In Kunming, the streets were littered with red paper victory signs and exploded fireworks.  Some of the signs were written in English and bore inscriptions reading, “Thank you, President Roosevelt and President Chiang!” and “Hooray for Final Glorious Victory!”  Paper dragons 60-feet long whirled through alleyways, followed by civilians with flutes, gongs and drums.

The weeks that followed would be a letdown.  Most of them were unprepared for the abrupt end to the war.  Peace had brought a sudden vacuum.  One day there was purpose and then – nothing had any meaning.  The OSS would go back to their drab civilian lives.

Click on images to enlarge.

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“Secret ?”  Military Humor – 

CIA, ‘It’s Ferguson, our ‘Master of Disguise,’ sir — he’s having an identity crisis.’

‘I don’t have any formal training, but I do own the complet boxed set of ‘Get Smart’ DVD’s.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Dalton Jr. – Charlotte, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Clinton Daniel – Anderson, SC; US Army, WWII, PTO

Richard Farden – Rochester, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 95th Bomber Group/8th Air Force

Murphy Jones Sr. – Baton Rouge, LA; US Air Force, Vietnam, Colonel, ‘Hanoi Hilton’ POW

Robert Haas – Toledo, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co C/127 Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Dorothy Holmes – Colorado Springs, CO; US Air Force, Korea & Vietnam, Chief Master Sgt. (Ret. 30 y.)

Arnold ‘Pete’ Petersen – Centerville, UT; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division, Purple Heart

Alfred Rodrigues Sr. (99)  – HI; US Navy, WWII, Pearl Harbor survivor

Tito Squeo – Molfetta, ITA; US Merchant Marines, WWII, diesel engineer

Joseph Wait – Atlanta, GA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, pilot

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Soviet Invasion – August 1945

Manchurian operation map

Stalin’s simple purpose for declaring war against Japan was for territorial gain, for which he was prepared to pay heavily.  Before launching their assault in Manchuria, the Soviets made provision for 540,000 casualties, including 160,000 dead.  This was a forecast almost certainly founded upon an assessment of Japanese strength, similar to what the US estimated for a landing at Kyushu.

Since 1941, Stalin had maintained larger forces on the Manchurian border than the Western Allies ever knew about.  In the summer of 1945, he reinforced strongly, to create a mass sufficient to bury the Japanese.  Three thousand locomotives labored along the thin Trans-Siberian railway.  Men, tanks and matérial made a month-long trek from eastern Europe.

MANCHURIA: RED ARMY, 1945.
A Soviet marine waving the ensign of the Soviet navy as Soviet airplanes fly overhead after the victory over the Japanese occupation troops in Port Arthur, South Manchuria. Picture taken August 1945 by Yevgeni Khaldei.

Moscow was determined to disguise this migration.  Soldiers were ordered to remove their medals and paint their guns with “On To Berlin” slogans.  But train stations were often lined with locals, yelling support for them to fight the Japanese.  So much for secrecy.

Some of the men thought they were returning home.  After 4 years of war, they were dismayed to be continuing on.  “Myself, I couldn’t help thinking what a pity it would be to die in a little war after surviving a big one,” said Oleg Smirnov.

After traveling 6,000 miles from Europe, some units marched the last 200 miles through the treeless Mongolian desert.  “I’d taken part in plenty of offenses, but I’d never seen a build-up like this one,” said one soldier.  “Trains arriving one after another…  Even the sky was crowded: there were always bombers, sturmoviks, transports overhead.”

MANCHURIA, AUGUST 1945. Japanese cavalry troops along the Amur River in Manchukuo.

Machine-gunner Anatoly Silov found himself at a wayside station where he was presented with 5 mechanics, 130 raw recruits and crates containing 260 Studebaker, Chevrolet and Dodge trucks he was ordered to assemble.  “As the infantry marched, the earth smelt not of sagebrush but of petrol.”  Most of the men lost their appetites for food and cigarettes, caring only about thirst.”

By early August, 136,000 railway cars had transferred eastwards of a million men, 100,000 trucks, 410 million rounds of small-arms ammo, and 3.2 million shells.  Even firewood had to be cut in forests and shipped 400 miles.  “Many of the guys rubbished the Americans for wanting other people to do their fighting,” said Oleg Smirnov.

As troops approached the frontier, their camouflage and deception schemes were used to mask their movements.  Generals traveled under false names.  These veterans of the Eastern front were up against 713,724 of the so-called Manchukuo Army of which 170,000 were local Chinese collaborators.  The Japanese weapons were totally outclassed by the Soviets’.  Many mortars were homemade, some bayonets were forged from the springs of discarded vehicles.

MANCHURIA: RED ARMY, 1945.
Soviet troops in Harbin in Manchuria, after their victory over the Japanese occupation troops, 1945.

On 8 August 1945, the Soviet troops were told, “The time has come to erase the black stain of history from out homeland….”  To achieve surprise, the Soviets denied themselves air reconnaissance.  The 15th Army crossed the Amur River with the aid of a makeshift flotilla of commercial steamships, barges and pontoons.  Gunboats dueled with the shore batteries.  One Soviet armored brigade made it 62 miles into Manchuria before the rear units made it ashore.

The Japanese Guandong Army had suffered a tactical surprise by overwhelming forces.  On the morning of 9 August, the Japanese commander, Otozo Yamada, called the Manchukuo Emperor, Pu Yi.  Yamada’s assertions of confidence in victory were somewhat discredited by the sudden scream of air raid sirens and the concussions of Russian bombs.  Pu Yi, a hypochondriac prey to superstition and prone to tears, an immature creature at 39, heartless in ruling his people, now was extremely paranoid and terrified of being killed.

Click on images to enlarge.

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(Russian ?) Military Humor – 

 

YOU get the CAR where IT needs to be!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Mason Ashby – Floyds Knoles, IN, US Army, WWII, PTO

Donald Catron – Logan, UT; US Merchant Marines, WWII / US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Arthur Dappolonio – Boston, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

William Gutmann – KY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Siboney, medic

Henry James – Rolla, ND; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 3 Bronze Stars, Purple Heart

James Knight – Longview, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Robert Lundberg – Erie, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII,ETO, P-47 mechanic

James Petrie – Rangiora, NZ; 2NZEF # 19483, WWII, ETO, Pvt.

Roy Theodore – Lestock, CAN; Crash Rescue Firefighter, WWII, ETO

Eugene Williams – Washington D.C.; US Navy, WWII, ETO, LST, Purple Heart

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