Friday, July 25, 2014

Deaths: Trained Montford Marines

From July 22, 2014, (Oregon) "Officer who trained black Marines laid to rest" by Christina George.

Major Joseph Giesel, 94, of Doreen died June 20.  He had served four years in 1942 when President FDR directed that blacks be given the opportunity to join the U.S. Marines.

White officers trained them at Montford Point, North Carolina, near present-day Camp Lejeune.  Because of this, Mr. Giesel received a Congressional Gold Medal.  He served in the Corps for 21 years and was in the Pacific theater, at Okinawa and the Korean War.

Born in 1920, he enlisted in the marines on August 24, 1938 and served on the USS Indianapolis for two years.  He was transferred to Washington, D.C. where he became a drill instructor.

Nearly 20,000 black Marines trained at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949 when the camp was deactivated by President Truman when he was integrating the military.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Other North Carolina Units

From the Encyclopedia of North Carolina.

North Carolinians also served in the Fourth and Eighteenth Infantry Divisions.  Soldiers in the Fourth were the first Americans to enter Paris after liberation.  The Eighteenth liberated many German  concentration camps.

The Sixty-fifth General Hospital in England was sponsored by Duke University in Durham.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

North Carolina's "Old Hickory" Division

From the Encyclopedia of North Carolina.

The largest group of North Carolinians  involved in one organization during the war were in the Thirtieth Division, nicknamed the "Old Hickory" Division after President Andrew Jackson.  It was composed of troops from North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, states which have Jackson connections.

The division had fought during World War I and then served as a National Guard unit in the interim until recalled into service in 1940.

Under the command of General Leland S. Hobbs, it took part in the invasion of Normandy and engagements throughout France and Belgium before meeting the Russian forces at the Elbe River on 8 May 1945.

The division earned many medals and citations.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

HMAS Perth, Sunk at Battle of Sunda Strait

From the Feb. 28, 2012 Australian Government Dept. of Defence.

Seven survivors of the HMAS Perth attended a ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.  The Perth was sunk Feb. 28, 1942, with a loss of 351 dead at the Battle of Sunda Strait.  The American cruiser USS Houston also was sunk by Japanese forces that day with a loss of 638.

The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs attended the ceremony and presented the Perth survivors with images of the two ships.


U-172-- Part 2: The Final Battle

The U-172 was sunk 13 December 1943 in the mid-Atlantic Ocean after a 27-hour fight.  It was depth-charged and had Fido-homing torpedoes dropped from Avenger and Wildcat aircraft from the escort carrier USS Bogue.

A destroyer task group consisting of the USS George E. Badger, Clemson, Osmond Ingram and DuPont dropped 200 depth charges on the U-171.

There were 13 dead and 46 survivors from the submarine.


U-172-- Part 1


This was the first submarine to sink poor old Farris Burton and had quite an eventful career and end.

Commissioned 5 November 1941 and went on six war patrols, sinking 26 ships with a total tonnage of 152,000.


8 Oct 1942:  Depth-charged by HMS Rockrose with only slight damage

10 Oct 1942  At periscope depth just after sinking the Orcades (troop transport ).  The U-172 had torpedoed the ship and sunk it.  Loss of 45 dead and 1022 survivors).  An aircraft dropped three depth charges.  No damage, but had to leave area.

28 March 1943:  Attacked Convoy RS-3; damaged.

7 April 1943:  Two B-24 Liberator bombers dropped 12 depth charges.  The U-172 stayed on the sirface and fought it out, receiving no damage.

11 August 1943: Attacked by aircRaft while rescuing crew of U-604 following her scuttling.

-- GreGen

HMS Rockrose (K-51)


This was the ship that initially rescued Farris Burton after he was torpedoed and sunk on the SS Firethorn.

Commissioned 4 November 1941.  Sent to the South African Navy in 1947 and broken up in 1967.

This ship had quite a busy October 1942.

8 OCTOBER:  Picked up 42 survivors of the SS Chickasaw City, torpedoed and sunk 7 October by U-172 about 85 miles from Cape Town, South Africa.

8 OCTOBER:  Picked up 28 survivors of SS Firethorn, torpedoed and sunk the previous day by U-172 near Cape Town.

10 OCTOBER:  Picked up 5 survivors from Pantellis sunk two days earlier by U-172 by Cape Town.  Wikipedia says there were 28 rescued.

29 OCTOBER:  British merchant ship Ross torpedoed and sunk by U-159 near Cape Agulhas, South Africa.  39 survivors picked up by the HMS Rockrose.


Sunk Twice By Torpedoes-- Part 3

Continuing With Farris H. Burton's war experiences.

There were 18 survivors from Chickasaw City, 8 from the Firethorn, 17 from the Swiftsure, 21 from the Examelia and 15 from the Coloradan.  Two boats with 106 survivors were picked up five days later, Nov. 7th, by the U.S. Gulfstate.  Two later died.

One boat with 60 survivors made it to land near Barrcirinhas, Brazil.  Two later died.

Three from the Zaandam were unaccounted for, including one from the Firethorn.  Their boat was picked up by the USS PC-576, 84 days after the Zaandam sank.  They were adrift on the sea in an open boat after being that way for one of the longest periods of time in maritime history.  They spent six weeks in a hospital.

The U-174 was sunk April 23, 1943, south of Newfoundland after being depth-charged by U.S. aircraft.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Sunk Twice by Torpedoes-- Part 2

The survivors of the Firethorn, Chickasaw City, Swiftsong, Examelin and Coloradan boarded the MV Zaandam on October 21, 1942 and departed Cape Town for the United states.

The MV Zaandam was built in Holland in 1938, weighed 10,000 tons and was a 502-foot passenger/cargo ship capable of 16 knots and converted to transport use in 1942.  On November 2nd, it sailed into Brazillian waters where it encountered the German submarine U-174, which had just recently sunk two ships on October 31st and November 1st.

On November 2nd, the Zaandam was hit by two torpedoes, 400  miles north of Brazil and sank in two minutes.

Of the 299 aboard, 139 were killed.  Farris H. Burton was one of the survivors.

Back in the Water Again.  --GreGen

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sunk Twice by Torpedoes-- Part 1

From Maritime Quest and Nov. 10, 2011, West Virginia Gazette.

Farris H. Burton, 88, of West Virginia, enlisted because of a torpedo and nearly ended his military career with two others.

He recounts that one of his best buddies, Bud Woody, was killed on the USS Reuben James when it was torpedoes by the Germans on October 31, 1941, before Pearl Harbor.  He and several other local boys enlisted in the U.S. Navy to avenge it.  Farris, however did not join until his 17th birthday, April 26, 1942.

Six months later, he had quite an ordeal of his own against German torpedoes.

On October 7, 1942, the German U-172 sank the SS Chickasaw City, a U.S. merchant ship.  It sank in less than five minutes.  The survivors were rescued by the HMS Rockrose.

A few hours later, the  Panamanian-flagged, U.S.-owned SS Firethorn, Farris Burton's ship, was hit by two torpedoes from the U-172 and sank in two minutes.  It had been carrying Sherman tanks and other supplies from New York to the Suez Canal.

There was no time to launch boats, but the 49 survivors of the 60 crew members were able to recover several life boats that floated free of the ship before it sank.

The same HMS Rockrose picked six men up on October 8th and the rest the following day and carried the survivors of both ships to Cape Town, South Africa to recover.


The Sullivans and Bixbys

From February 4, 2012, Madison County (NY) Courier "Correcting the Record: The Sullivans and the Bixbys" by Hobie Morris.

A Civil War letter to Mrs. Bixby about her five killed sons is featured in the movie "Saving Private Ryan."

Bill Ball of Fredericksburg was a friend of the five Sullivan boys of Waterloo, Iowa, and was killed at Pearl Harbor.  All five:  Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George, sons of Tom and Alleta, enlisted in the Navy together, insisting that they serve together.

This was not a policy of the Navy, but men were desperately needed, so they granted it.

On November 14, 1942, the Sullivan boys were on the light cruiser USS Juneau when it was torpedoed, broke in half and sank quickly.  Out of 700 men aboard, only ten survived.  Four of the Sullivans died quickly.  George, the oldest, died at sea four or five days later.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cumberland University (Tennessee) Seeks to Honor Veterans Who Trained There

From the Feb. 4, 2012, Nashville tennessean" by Matt Anderson.

Planes flew over Lebanon, Tennessee, soldiers fought across the Cumberland River, artillery fire abounded and the night skies were lit up like a 4th of July.

Thosands of U.S. soldiers came to be trained in Middle Tennessee.

Cumberland University wants to have a ceremony on May 8, 2012 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day.  This will also mark the 70th anniversary of the simulated training on the campus and elsewhere in Middle Tennessee..

From 1941 to 1944, some 25 U.S. Army divisions participated in seven large-scale maneuvers in  Middle Tennessee to prepare for operations in Europe.  Some 850,000 soldiers participated in Davidson County and 25 others around it.

Forces were divided into Red and Blue groups.  landings were made similar to the ones they would experience in Europe.

On the last river crossing during the last of these maneuvers, a boat overturned in teh Cumberland River between Hartsville and Lebanon, killing 21.  The last of the bodies was found two months later, 81 miles downstream on Lower Broadway in Nashville.

During maneuvers, Saturday nights were quite the thing with as many as 100,000 soldiers on leave in Nashville.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Flew Off the USS Tennessee

From the March 1, 2012, Rosemount (Mn) Town Pages "Framing Memories" by Emily Zimmer.

Louis Damiani, 88, was a Navy pilot during World War II, serving on the battleship USS Tennessee in the South Pacific.

He lost just about all of his belongings in a fire last March.

His plane was catapulted off the ship and he directed the ship's fire from overhead.

Of course, he could not return and land on the ship, so would have to wait for the ship to pick him up with its crane.  Once, he had to wait in his plane on the water when the ship had to leave and he was stranded for several days before being picked up.

His mother received a MIA letter.

He was at the invasion of Guam. and has a photo of the remains of a Japanese kamikaze on the deck of the Tennessee.  He was also at Iwo Jima and the signing of the Japanese surrender.

Sadly, his health is failing.


What Happened to Glenn Miller-- Part 6

Yet another theiry is that Glenn Miller disappeared due to a combination of circumstances: a pilot untrained to fly by instrumentation, plane failure and worsening weather.

The plane was not given permission to fly that day, December 15, 1944.  The weather was bad and getting worse all over Europe.  Denial for the flight came from Paris, where the plane was headed.    Hitler used the next day as a launch for what became known as the Battle of the Bulge, partly because the bad weather would take away Allied air superiority.

Norseman planes had a particularly bad problem in cold weather where they experienced engine failures. There was a particular situation with the carburetor icing causing the engine to fail.   Plus, the pilot had a lack of experience flying with instrumentation.

The PBS History detectives arrived at this as being the best possibility for Miller's disappearance.  I agree with them.


Monday, July 14, 2014

What Happened to Glenn Miller?-- Part 4

Then, there is a conspiracy theory saying that Glenn Miller was on a secret mission to overthrow Adolf Hitler.  Miller was really good friends with David Niven, actor who had returned to England to help with the war effort.  Niven was involved in very top secret activities.

Plus, Miller was staying in Bedford, England, a center for covert operations.  It is known that despite tghe war and Nazi attempts to censure Glenn Miller's music, there were still a lot of German youth who were avid followers of American swing and jazz music.  Some of these youth were even rounded up and sent to concentration camps.

And, speaking of top secret stuff, German V-1 rockets which rained death and destruction on Britain, were in full swing at this time.  The building Miller's orchestra was staying in was hit by one shortly after they left it.

This seems Like the Most-Far-Fetched Possibility.  --GreGen

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Shorpy World War II Photos-- Part 2

JULY 6, 2014, A PICNIC IN THE PARK: 1942--  July 1942.  Washington, D.C.. "A Sunday in Rock Creek Park" by Marjory Collins, Office of War Information (OWI).  Life goes on, even in wartime.

JULY 4, 2014, HECK RANCH: 1943--  Feb. 1943, Moreno Valley, New Mexico.  "William Heck ranch.  Mrs. Heck preparing supper."  By John Coller, OWI.

JUNE 27, 2014, FARM TABLE: 1943--  July 1943.  "Rockville, Maryland (vicinity).  Private Harvey Horton visiting at the N.C. Stiles' dairy farm while on furlough from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, at dinner with the family."  By Ann Rosener, OWI.  A comment said that Norman Rockwell's "Thanksgiving" painting appeared the same year.  Perhaps this photo influenced him?


Shorpy World War II Photos-- Part 1

From the Shorpy photograph site.

Someone could definitely make a great book on the home front in the United States using these photos.

JULY 10, 2014,  SMOKE SIGNAL, 1943:--  March 1943 "Ash Fork, Arizona (vicinity).  Passing an eastbound freight train on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad between Winslow and Seligman, Arizona, Route 66.  By Jack Delano, Office of War Information (OWI).   Railroads played a huge role in movement in the U.S. during the war.

JULY 8, 2014, PLANE JANE:, 1942--  1942 "Melbourne, Australia.  Beaufort torpedo bomber final assembly plant, OWI.  Planes were being made for the war in other Allied countries.  The girl appeared to be doing a final inspection, but oddly enough, was wearing a fancy dress and high heel shoes, something I would not expect.

JUNE 30, 2014, MEET THE MUNTZES, 1943:  Feb. 1943--  Moreno Valley, Colfax Co., New Mexico. Dinnertime at george Muntz's ranch, the 4th photo of the family in Shorpy.  By John Collier, OWI.  This one reminds me of the famed Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving painting.


PBS History Detectives Look for What Happened to Glenn Miller-- Part 4

Glenn Miller and the other two men took off from Twinwood, England, in a C-66 Norseman single-engine plane and flew to Paris.

British planes would jettison unused bombs in a particular area southeast of England on their return from missions.  This area was right along   the flight path Miller's plane was top take.  That day, 100 British Lancaster bombers were returning from a mission scrubbed because of the bad weather and carrying huge 4,000 pound Blockbuster bombs.

A few years back, one of the men in the planes reported that he recognized the shape of a Norseman plane below the bombers and believes that a blast from one or more of the jettisoned bombs caused it to crash.

He is not sure if it was from a direct hit blast or from the shock waves.

Miller's Norseman was the only such plane in the air and was in the area.

As such, it is possible that Miller was killed by "Friendly Fire."

Plus, there is an airplane spotter's log book that turned up on the "Antique Roadshow" that noted on December 15, 1944, that he had spotted a Norseman plane near where the Lancaster bombers were.


Friday, July 11, 2014

PBS History Detectives Look for What Happened to Glenn Miller-- Part 3

Earning $10,000 to $20,000 a week as the leader of his band, Glenn Miller nevertheless volunteered for service during World War II.  It was decided to have him lead his band to play for the Armed Forces to boost morale.    He was in England as Christmas approached and was scheduled to have a radio broadcast in newly liberated Paris at Christmas and wanted to go ahead of his band to make sure things were in order.

He boarded a small, single-engine C-66 Norseman plane, took off on December 15, 1944, and was never heard from again.  The flight to Paris was not supposed to happen because of bad weather there.  As a matter of fact, the weather was bad all over Europe that day.  As a matter of fact, the Germans used the bad weather that kept Allied planes grounded, to launch their offensive that became known as the Battle of the Bulge the next day.  The pilot was ordered not to fly, but a superior officer, also going on the flight, overruled the order.

Glenn Miller was noted for his fear of flying, so it is not likely he would have wanted to take off under such conditions.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

PBS History Detectives Look for Glenn Miller-- Part 2

What really happened to noted American musician Glenn Miller?  He took off from England December 15, 1944, on a flight to Paris where he was going to do a holiday concert in the newly liberated  City of Lights,  Neither he or his plane ever arrived.  What happened is still unknown and probably will remain so until the wreckage is actually found.

Theories abound.

Was he really a spy on a mission to overthrow Hitler?

Was he killed by friendly fire from the British?

Did his plane experience problems causing it to crash into the English Channel?

These are things the three history detectives are going to investigate.