Friday, February 15, 2019

A War Bride'sDescription of SS Lurline-- Part 3: Hanky Panky On the Boat Deck?

Lights out meant:  "All passage ways are cleared, passengers in their cabins with lights out.  The smokers lamp is out Taps.

"There are fifteen husbands with their wives on board.  Last night, the  sentry discovered 26 "husbands"?? cuddling on the boat deck, how come?

"There are said to be 600 war brides, 190  babes on board.  The most to travel so far.


"Last night we crossed the  dateline, so we have 2 Saturdays.

"Yesterday was quite an exciting day, we passed ship, also some islands, had two rain storms and saw a lovely sunset.  It was lovely watching the storm, we could see it  gathering huge waves that looked like land in the distance, and then we passed right through it, my but it blew, people scattered in all directions."


Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Description of SS Lurline-- Part 2: A Day On the War Bride Voyage

From journal kept by war bride Kathleen Newell, June 19, 1945

"Notes of the SS Lurline.

"We are situated on C deck, I stated D.  But was mistaken, there is Boat deck, A deck,  C. B. E. and F decks with cabins to my knowledge, of course, the crew, poor fellows, are way below

"Some cabins have  16 berths.  These are large and airy.  Others like ours are small without portholes, 6 berths and unbearable hot.  We eat on D deck.  The dining room is nice, the food plentiful, and I might say luxurious for war time.

"Of a morning we are called up at 6:30  am with 'reveille' hit the deck, on the double, needless to say we are up and showered before that, and upon the deck.  Breakfast at 7:30 am.  Lunch at  11:30 am. Tea at 5 pm.  We generally have fire drill, then 10:30 taps."


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Description of the SS Lurline By A War Bride-- Part 1

The American War Bride Experience  GI Brides of World War II  "Journal Kept Aboard SS Lurline On Trip To America [from Australia].

The Lurline not only transported men like Ray Merrick and supplies back and forth between the United States and Australia, but near the end of the war found another use.

Kathleen (Feejan) Newell married American Joseph Bertram in Brisbane, Australia, on the 18th of September 1943.  Kathleen traveled from Australia to America on board the SS Lurline with her daughter Corinne in June 1945.

There were a lot of women with their babies on board, also many wounded men, American nurses, refugees and able soldiers returning home.  She had three adults and two children in her cabin.  She felt sick at times.

She was on her way for a new life in New London, Wisconsin.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

S.S. Lurline-- Part 3: Troop and Supply Transport During War

While en route to San Francisco from Pearl Harbor before the attack, the Lurline allegedly got radio signals from the Japanese fleet and this became part of the Pearl Harbor Advance-Knowledge Conspiracy Theory.  The Lurline made her arrival safely traveling at maximum speed.  She soon returned to Hawaii with her sister ships the Mariposa and Monterey as part of a convoy loaded with  troops and supplies.

She spent the war doing similar service, often going to Australia, and once transported the Australian  Prime Minister John Curtin to America to confer with President Roosevelt.

This was very dangerous service because of Japanese submarines.

One Royal Australian  Air Force trainee pilot named Arthur Harrison remembered being put on watch without adequate training.    He looked off in the distance and saw:  "A straight line of bubbles extending from away out on the starboard side of the ship to across the bow.  I  had never seen anything quite like it, but it reminded me  of the bubbles behind a motorboat.  I called to a lad on watch on the next gun forward. A few seconds later the ship went into a hard 90 degree turn to port.  We RAAF trainees received a severe reprimand from the captain for not reporting the torpedo.  Anyway, it was a bad mess."

The Lurline was returned to the Matson Line in 1946 and soon returned to its pre-war status as the top liner in the Pacific Ocean.  However, later competition from jet airliners spelled the end of its usefulness.  It was scrapped in Taiwan in 1987.


Monday, February 11, 2019

S.S. Lurline-- Part 2: Launched 1932, Amelia Earhart A Passenger in 1934

This was not the first ship in the Matson Line to be named the Lurline.  An earlier SS Lutline built  in 1908 served in the United States Shipping Board during World War I.

The WW II Lurline was the last of four fast and elegant ocean liners built for the Line, launched in 1932 and taking its maiden voyage in 1933.  It was 632 feet ling, beam of 79 feet and speed of 22 knots with capacity of 715 (475  first class,  240 tourist.  Mr. Merrick evidently was in a first class cabin on his trip.

Famous aviator Amelia Earhart was aboard the ship from Los Angeles to Honolulu with her Lockheed Vega airplane secured on deck December 22-27, 1934.   This was in preparation for her record-breaking Honolulu-to-Oakland solo flight she made in January 1935.

The Lurline was half-way between Honolulu and San Francisco on 7 December 1941, when she heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


S.S. Lurline-- Part 1: Fast Ocean Liner That Carried Ray Merrick to War

From Wikipedia.

Last month, I wrote about World War II veteran Ray "Pops" Merrick, a member of our Fox Lake, Illinois, American Legion who was posted during the war over in the India-Burma area and part of the effort to keep the Chinese Nationalist forces fighting the Japanese over "The Hump."

He went across the Pacific Ocean onboard the S.S. Lurline and had some vivid memories of the voyage.  Not ever hearing of this ship, I decided to do some more research on it.

The SS Lurline was the third vessel in the Matson Lines to have this name and was the last of its four  fast and luxurious  ocean liners built for their Hawaii and Australia runs from the U.S. West Coast.

Its sister ships were the SS Malolo, SS Mariposa and SS Monterey.  All became fast troopships during the war., operated by the War Shipping Administration.

After the war, it went back to taking passengers around the Pacific until put out of service in 1980 and scrapped in 1987.


Saturday, February 9, 2019

FDR's "Sacred Cow"-- Part 5: Today Looks Like It Did At Yalta

After the "Sacred Cow" left presidential service, it was used  for other transport duties until the plane was officially retired in October 1961.  In 1963, the "Sacred Cow" was transported to the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and the staff began the monumental task of restoring it to its former glory.

After ten years and more than 34,000 hours of work, the aircraft was put on display appearing as it did during President Roosevelt's  trip to Yalta.

Some "Sacred Cow" Data:

Crew:  Seven, plus up to 15 passengers
Maximum Speed:  300 mph
Range:  3,900 miles
Ceiling:  22,000 feet
Weight:  80,000 pounds fully loaded

Quite the Plane.  GreGen

Friday, February 8, 2019

FDR's "Sacred Cow"-- Part 4: To Yalta and the Birthplace of the U.S. Air Force

In addition, there was a battery operated elevator at the rear of the aircraft that allowed the president to board and leave the aircraft easily in his wheelchair.

The "Scared Cow" carried Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in February 1945.  Illustrating the high security involved with this trip, the plane's serial number was changed for the flight as a special security measure.  This trip was Roosevelt's only one in his plane as he died suddenly in April.

His successor, Harry Truman, used the aircraft extensively during his first 27 months in office.  On July 26, 1947, he signed the National security Act of 1947 while on board the "Sacred Cow."  This bill, which became effective on September 18,  1947, established the U.S. Air Force as an independent service, making the "Sacred Cow" the "birthplace" of the U.S. Air Force.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

FDR's "Sacred Cow"-- Part 3: A Very Modified C-54C

Preferring that the president be flown on an Army Air Force plane operated by an Army Air Force crew, General "Hap" Arnold, the commander of the USAAF, ordered the Consolidated C-87, a transport version of the famous B-24 bomber, be converted for the president, but the Secret Service voiced safety concerns and the job was turned over to the Douglas Aircraft Company to build a suitable plane that would be able to accommodate the special needs of the president.

This became the only C-54C built, so it was heavily modified on the production line.  A C-54A fuselage was fitted with wings from a C-54B which gave greater fuel capacity.

The unpressurized cabin included an executive conference room with a large desk and a bulletproof picture window.  For additional comfort, a private lavatory was installed next to the president's seat, and a fold-down bed was concealed behind the sofa.    The galley even had an electric refrigerator.

All the Comforts of Home.  --GreGen

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

FDR's "Sacred Cow"-- Part 2: "The Flying White House"

From the National Museum of the Air Force site.

FDR's "Sacred Cow" is located here.  Back in 2013, friend Denny and I boarded it on the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination (we had also boarded the Air Force 1 plane that had taken him ti Dallas and his body back.  That was a real bit of history.

The Douglas VC-54 Skymaster, was the first purpose-built aircraft to fly  the President of the United States.  It carried the staff  transport designation "VC" designation., the aircraft was officially named "The Flying White House".  However, it became better known by its unofficial nickname "Sacred Cow," a reference  to the high security surrounding the aircraft and its special status.

In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to fly in an airplane while in office.  But, it was not the "Sacred Cow."  It was a Navy -owned, but civilian-operated Boeing  314 Clipper flying boat, the Dixie Clipper, which transported the president to the Casablanca Conference.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

FDR's "Sacred Cow"-- Part 1: The First Air Force One

Back on Jan. 31, I was writing about the planes used to fly over "The Hump" and came across FDR's plane, "The Sacred Cow."

From the Air Mobility Command Museum site  C-54M Skymaster.

They have one, but not the Sacred Cow, which is in the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton.

The C-54 that was specially built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt was known as the Sacred Cow and built in 1944.  One special feature of it was an elevator behind the passenger cabin that lofted the president and his wheelchair in and out of the plane.

The passenger compartment included a conference room with a large desk and a bullet proof picture window.

Roosevelt made his first and only trip in it traveling to Yalta, USSR, in February 1945.

This plane remained in service for the first 27 months of the Truman Administration.  On  26 July 1947, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, which established the Air Force as an independent service.  This also made the Sacred Cow the birthplace of the U.S. Air Force.

After it was no longer used by the president, it was assigned other transport duties until retired in 1961.


Monday, February 4, 2019

"Flying the Hump"-- Part 4: It Was Weather Vs. Aircraft

It was always a battle between aircraft and weather conditions.  While turbulence around mountains (the "mountain effect")  is common, planes flying "the Hump" sometimes hit winds of hurricane velocity, which they were not built to withstand.  Crew members could only hang on and hope the plane's wings didn't break off.

But, some did.

The winds were particularly vicious during monsoon season which ran July through September.

One veteran remembers:  "You could drop a couple thousand feet very quickly."

The route was dangerous that the RAF would only send volunteers.


Friday, February 1, 2019

"Flying the Hump"-- Part 3: "Aluminum Alley"

"In late 1944, the operation was flying mostly daylight and  good weather," wrote Wendall A. Phillips.  To increase tonnage delivered, the planes were ordered into the air anytime of the day and any kind of weather. "Of course, the tonnage rapidly improved but, so did our losses in 'Aluminum Alley' as we called it.

Mr. Phillips continued:  "The Hump became littered with with our aircraft.  On a clear day, you could see the sun reflecting off the crashed planes lying there."

The supply flights brought everything from troops to needed supplies, to a cow needed to supply milk to a remote base, light weapons and even a falcon trained to attack Japanese carrier pigeons (with mice aboard to feed it).

The main cargo, however was 55-gallon drums of aviation fuel.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

"Flying the Hump"-- Part 2: Of Dakotas and Gooney Birds

By the end of the war, the airlift was  moving 77,306 tons of supplies a month,  operating 622 aircraft supported by 34,000  military personnel and  47,000 civilians.  At the end of the war the army reported  509 plane crashes, 1,314 known crew dead and more than 300 missing.

Early in the effort,  the airlift was the work if C-47s, converted DC-3 twin engine airliners called Dakotas by the British and Gooney Birds by their crews.

Lacking cabin pressure, the planes should have been limited to 10,000 feet.  But the problem was that for 140 miles, the mountains were never lower than 12,00 feet.  Everyone on board had to wear uncomfortable oxygen masks.

The C-47s were eventually replaced by  C-46s with supercharged four engines that could fly higher, faster and with more cargo.  But a problem was the wings iced more readily.  Some just fell out of the sky.  And, they were also unpressurized.

The C-46s were later replaced by the Douglas C-54 which could carry even more cargo, 4,000 miles and had a 22,000 foot ceiling, but still unpressurized.  One specialized C-54 variation became FDR's personal plane, dubbed the "Sacred Cow."  "The Sacred Cow" is now at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"Flying the Hump"-- Part 1: Not Designed, Heavier Loads, Worse Weather

This past week I have been writing about Ray "Pops" Merrick and his role in "Flying the Hump" during World War II.  Most Americans have not even ever heard of "The Hump."

From the April 10, 2017, Inside Science  "Flying the Hump: 75 Years Later" by Joel Shurkin.

In April 1940, a few short months after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military began a mission that tested the technical capabilities of its aircraft and the courage of its personnel.  The mission was designed to supply otherwise isolated Chinese forces and civilians after the Japanese cut off the only land-based supply route through Burma.  It was called "Flying the Hump."

Sometimes scientific and technological advances can win a war, like in the case of the atom bomb.  But "Flying the Hump" owes its success primarily on the courage and imagination of the American forces there.

The Himalaya Mountains, the world's tallest,  ran through what was called the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI) during World War II.    The men who crossed those mountains did so in planes not designed to fly that high, carrying loads heavier than they were designed to carry, in weather no one was supposed to fly through.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Community Chest and DeKalb County War Fund

From the October 24, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"In the drive for Community Chest and DeKalb County War Fund drive, a slogan has been adopted by Arthur Bergstrand, chairman of Squaw Grove township, which has met with approval  of the co-chairmen of the drive and worth passing on.

"Mr. Bergstrand in meeting with his crew of workers says, "An individual could spend much money and do little for boys in service, but through the USO, which greatly benefits from this drive, he can spend little and do much."


Christmas Presents For Service Men in 1943

From the October 17, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"The Clare Community Center was filled with considerable sewing being accomplished and many boxes filled  for the Christmas presents to service men."


Friday, January 25, 2019

WW II Vet Ray "Pops" Merrick-- Part 5: The Case of the Mess Kits and Post War

While in India, he volunteered for the night watch and as such could go to the officers' mess and they'd fix him anything he wanted to eat.  On the night shift, his main duty was to guard the planes which were each in revetments, this for bomb safety.

One night, he heard gravel sliding down one of the revetments and drew his pistol and challenged.    "I almost shot them, but I heard their mess kits rattle and knew they were Americans."  He had one himself and knew the sound well.

Mr. Merrick returned to Chicago and says the returning men were treated nicely.  He lived there until moving out to Schaumburg and has lived in Ingleside since 2009.  He went to school with his wife's brother and knew her because she used to play baseball with them.  They married when he came home and had three children.

Ray has been in the VFW, AmVets and our Post 703 since 2009.

Quite A Story.  --GreGen

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

WW II Vet Ray "Pops" Merrick-- Part 4: Crusing on the SS Lurline To Australia

Pops was carried over to Australia on board the SS Lurline, formerly a luxury ocean liner, now converted into a troop and supplies transport.  It had been the flagship of the Matson Company.  However, there would be no swimming for him or his fellow shipmates as the pool had been drained and was loaded with supplies.

It was not all luxury for him as he had to stand watch, 4 hours on and 8 hours off, nothing he couldn't live with.  They called the anti-aircraft guns pom-poms.  It was a long voyage over to Australia and they had air cover for part of the way, but continually zig-zagged to avoid the submarine menace.

He was fortunate enough to get a cabin that now slept five.  The soldiers on the other side of the Lurline were stacked eight high.  Over there, in rough weather, the guy on top would get sick and throw up on the guys below him.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

WW II Vet Ray "Pops" Merrick-- Part 3: Beer, Tokyo Rose and Roy Rogers

While in the service, his orders were to "Take charge of this post and all government property in view."

One day, while in a tent, one of the guys had a banjo and they were all having a grand time singing and drinking beer, though that was warm.  Then, one guy poured his beer into a fan and it went all over the place.  When they were stationed near the Irrawaddy River in Burma, they would put their beer in the water and since it was coming down from the mountains, they would have cold beer.

One of their favorite pastimes was listening to "Tokyo Rose" over the radio.  They ignored what she would say about "the 4-Fs taking your wives and girlfriends away," but she played all the current hits being heard in the United States and they loved the music.  Her records were supplied by Japanese spies in the United States.

One time, he saw Roy Rogers who was an officer on a transport plane.  He was told not to say anything to him so he wouldn't be pestered.  Ray did salute him and had the salute returned.