Thursday, April 25, 2019

World War II: The Doolittle Raid


On April 18th, we commemorated the 77th anniversary of what today is known as the Doolittle Raid.  This was a major boost to American morale, as things were going very bad for us in the first  several months after Pearl Harbor.  It was a huge blow to the Japanese, who were sure they were safe from American bombs.

There was a huge risk associated with the Raid.  One of the biggest obstacles was to take off from an aircraft carrier in bombers which were thought to be too big.  There were 80 Doolittle Raiders who flew five-man crews in 16 B-25B Mitchell medium bombers who took off from the aircraft carrier Hornet.

The planes dropped their bombs on Japanese targets but did not do serious damage.  But, for the U.S. it is payback.    Of the eighty men, 77 survived the mission, three were executed and one died of disease while a prisoner.

This past April 9, the last Doolittle survivor, Richard Cole, died at age 103.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Nursing Shortages Hit the Home Front


From the January 2, 2019, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

"Through the activities of the DeKalb Chapter of the American Red Cross, arrangements are rapidly being completed to make available another course in Home Nursing for the women of this community.

"The course is of particular value at this time when a shortage of nurses throws the responsibility of caring for the ill upon those in the home.  The aim of the Red Cross is to have at least one person trained in the care of the sick in every home."

--GreGen

"Jumping" Doctors of the U.S. Medical Corps


From the January 2, 2019, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

" 'Jumping doctors' of the U.S. Medical Corps must be qualified parachutists, as they jump with the men and set up aid stations in combat areas occupied by paratroops."

I Don't Make House Calls!!!   -- GreGen

Monday, April 22, 2019

Snow Removal Manpower Shortages


From the January 2, 2019, MidWeek  (DeKalb County, Illinois)   "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

"Harley Self, district superintendent of the state highway department, stated today this would be the first January in fourteen years of continuous service he has not had crews out plowing snow.

"The highway official further stated that the manpower shortage had hit his working department rather hard and he is going to be facing  a real problem if this district  should receive a heavy fall of snow."

--GreGen

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Navy's Most Unwanted Ship, the USS Prinz Eugen-- Part 4


For decades, potential leakage from the Prinz Eugen has been a threat.  But during 2018, a Navy-led salvage team removed 229,000 gallons on bunker oil from the wreck.

But, there are remains of the ship to this day.

The ship's bell and fire control rangefinder were removed and put into the Naval History and Heritage Command collection.

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum also has some remnants of the ship, including the ship's chronometer, lighting fixtures, plates with silverware, , an azimuth circle and a binnacle containing a compass which is still in working order.

--GreGen



Friday, April 19, 2019

The Navy's Most Unwanted Ship, USS Prinz Eugen-- Part 3: Target Ship in Operation Crossroads


U.S. navy Captain A.H. Graubart, with a crew of 8 officers and 85 enlisted men, with the help of the former German captain and 574 German crew members to help, sailed from Germany and went half way across   the globe with stops at Philadelphia and San Diego.  Along the way, everything of scientific value was stripped from the Prinz Eugen.

In San Diego, the last of the German crew was released.  With difficulty, the remaining skeleton American crew were able to reach Hawaii and from there it was towed to Bikini Atoll.  It was to be a test ship in the testing of the atom bomb at Bikini Atoll  in what was called Operation Crossroads.

A huge flotilla of American and captured enemy warships was assembled to see how they would do in an atomic test.  The Prinz Eugen survived two tests and remained afloat, though with a little flooding. Afterwards, it was towed  to Kwajelin Atoll, 200 miles away, where the leaks  continued to worsen.  The radioactive condition of the ship made repairs too risky and on December 22, 1946, it capsized about 200 yards offshore.

Today, its two propellers, minus one that was taken to Germany for a memorial in 1978 are easily visible at low tide

--GreGen



Navy's Most Unwanted Ship, the USS Prinz Eugen-- Part 2: The Luck of the Draw


In February 1942, the Prinz Eugen, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau made a daring run through the English Channel to German home waters.    Later service off Norway resulted in a torpedo hit that forced heavy repairs.  A year later, Hitler ordered the German High Seas Fleet decommissioned and the Prinz Eugen became a training ship.

Other than an occasional shore bombardment and troop transport, that was it for the ship's war service.  It was surrendered when Germany did so in April 1945.

When the Allies were divvying up what was left of the German war machine, the Soviet Union was very interested in acquiring the ship.  It was the most powerful ship left in the German Navy, was in fairly good shape and had all modern instrumentation.

However, the Americans were determined to prevent them from acquiring it if they could.  It was finally decided that the way to divide up the German ships was to  make three lists of the ships, put the lists into a hat and allow the Soviets to draw first.  The Soviets did not get their coveted Prinz Eugen.  They did get the old cruiser Nurnberg which they renamed the Admiral Makarov and it became the flagship of their 8th Fleet.

The United States got the Prinz Eugen.

--GreGen



Thursday, April 18, 2019

It Was 77 Years Ago and A Major Boost to U,S, Morale, the Doolittle Raid


From the April 18, 2019, Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun.

What made the mission all the more challenging was that the ships in the task force were spotted by a Japanese patrol boat which caused the Navy commander, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, to launch the planes farther away than they wanted to and fuel became a major problem.

Originally they had enough fuel to get to eastern China where they expected to land, refuel and fly on to western China an be saved.

They flew at 200 feet above the water and with radios turned off and avoided detection.   In groups of between two and four bombers, they broke off and targeted dry docks, armories, oil refineries and aircraft factories in Yokohama, Nagoya,  Osaka,  Kobe and Tokyo itself.

The Japanese anti-aircraft defense was caught off guard and so the Raiders received little of their fire and only one Zero followed in pursuit.  With their bombs delivered, the Raiders flew to safety in China.

As the planes ran out of fuel, many Raiders had to parachute, including Richard Cole.  Of the 80 Raiders, eight were captured by the Japanese and five executed.  Three were sent to prison and one of them died of malnutrition.

The other 72  with the help of Allied Chinese found their way to safety and continued to fight in the war.

--GreGen

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Navy's Most Unwanted Ship, the USS Prinz Eugen-- Part 1: Formerly a German Warship


From the January 4, 2019 Hampton Roads Naval Museum blog  "The Navy's 'Most Unwanted' ship and the instruments that escaped  its fate."

On January 5, 1946, the U.S. Navy commissioned a heavy cruiser into its fleet.  What was strange about this ship was that, a year earlier, it had been an enemy ship, the German KMS Prinz Eugen.  It was the German Navy's largest and most heavily armed remaining ship.  The United States had gotten the ship by drawing lots from a hat.

It had originally been commissioned into the Kriegsmarine in Kiel, Germany, August 1. 1940.  It was the second of three Hipper class heavy cruisers to see action in World War II.  It almost didn't survive its first mission, which was escorting the KMS Bismarck in its dash out to the Atlantic in late May 1941 for commerce attacks.    They encountered the HMS Prince of Wales and the HMS Hood.  The Prinz Eugen landed some of the first hits on the Hood before the Bismarck sank the ship.

The Bismarck was later damaged by carrier-based aircraft and destroyed a few days later.  The Prinz Eugen made it back to to occupied France.

--GreGen

Monday, April 15, 2019

Banner Year for Hemp in DeKalb County in 1943


From the December 26, 2018, MidWeek   "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"E.E. Houghtby, manager of the War Hemp Industries, Inc., at Shabbona, announced that a total of6,237 tons of hemp was shocked at the mill property at this time, with a value of approximately  $282,555.

"This total tonnage of almost 9,000 tons is this year's hemp crop in the area controlled by the Shabbona mill, and was harvested from about 3,800 acres.  Next year, the War Hemp Industries, Inc, hopes to have 5,500 acres planted to hemp for the Shabbona mill."

Of course, I can't help but chuckle thinking back when I was a student at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb from 1969 to 1973, when we often heard there was marijuana growing along the roads and railroads in DeKalb County.  Wonder where that rumor got started?

--GreGen

Friday, April 12, 2019

Farmers Taking Advantage of a Warm December in DeKalb County in 1943


From the December 26, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Farmers of DeKalb County are taking advantage of the unusual December weather and hundreds of acres of ground are being plowed for spring planting.  It is unusual to see so many acres of plowed ground at this time of the year.

"Farmers say that by now, their labor problems in the spring will not be as acute as in previous years.  When the early spring arrives, some of the farmers say all they will have to do is to disc the ground and it will be ready for planting."

GreGen

USS Arizona Memorial To Remain Closed Through the Summer


From the March 29, 2019, Hawaii Now News.

Repairs to the USS Arizona's dock are expected to continue through the summer.

The National Park Service has awarded a $2.1 million contract and repairs are expected to be complete in time for the next December 7, 1941, commemoration.

In the meantime, there will be no walk-on visits to the memorial.  Several deadlines have already passed since it was closed in May 2018 after staff discovered damage to the dock's exterior concrete caused by a malfunction in the dock's anchoring system.

Officials say the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center will remain open.

--GreGen

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Last Doolittle Raider Richard E, Cole: 2,500 Miles and 13 Hours


He was born on September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from Marion L. Steele High School and then attended Ohio University for two years.  Cole enlisted as an aviation cadet on November 22, 1940, at Lubbock, Texas and was commissioned a second lieutenant in July 1941 and rated as a pilot.

DOOLITTLE RAID

He was assigned to be co-pilot on the first plane, a B-25 medium bomber, to leave the USS Hornet's deck, piloted by the raid's leader, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle.

On April 18, 1942, the planes took off and reached their target, Tokyo, Japan, and dropped their bombs.  Then they headed for a Chinese airfield but ran out of fuel and bailed out after flying 2,500 miles and 13 hours.  The crew was able to link up and were helped through Japanese lines by Chinese guerrillas and missionary John Birch. (The John Birch Society was named after him in case you're wondering.)

Cole was the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raid.  Staff Sergeant David Thatcher, gunner on Aircraft No. 7, died  on June 23, 2016, at the age of 94.   Cole was the only member to live to be older than Jimmy Doolittle, who died in 1993 at the age of 96.

On September  19, 2016, the Northrup Grumman B-21 was formally renamed "Raider" in honor of the Doolittle Raiders.  As the last surviving member of the group, Cole  was present at the naming ceremony.

Richard Cole died  in San Antonio, Texas,  on April 9, 2019, at the age of 103.  He will be buried  with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, following services at Joint Base San Antonio.

The Greatest of the Greatest.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Last Doolittle Raider Dies, Richard Cole, 103


It was kind of strange that just now I got to thinking about these famous American heroes who I used to write about often in April, it being the anniversary of the April 18, 1942, Raid.

I was wondering if any were still alive.  I started looking on the internet and found that the last one, Richard Cole, had died yesterday at age 103.

I'll be writing more about him this week

A Greatest Generation Hero of the Highest Order.  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor, Battle of the Bulge Survivor Turns 100-- Part 3: George Murray


After Pearl Harbor, Murray spent months in Hawaii, among the things he did was train civilians what to do in case of a gas attack.  Later in 1942, he returned to the United States mainland for Officer Candidate School.

In 1943, he was off to England where he censored mail and other tasks.  In 1944 he was sent to France as a replacement and assigned to the 86th Chemical Mortar Battalion as a forward observer.

He was with the 28th Division at the Battle of the Bulge and remembers:  In some cases casualties were covered with snow before they could be removed.  The bolts on the rifles would freeze and could not be fired.  Infantrymen had to urinate on the bolts of their automatic weapons to thaw them enough to fire them."

After the war he reverted to enlisted status and in 1959 was promoted to sergeant major and in retirement was active in the Pearl Harbor Survivor's Association, Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and the 86th Chemical Mortar Battalion.  Later he was inducted into the U.S. Army Chemical Corps Hall of Fame.

There is no official record as to how many Pearl Harbor survivors still in in North Texas.

--GreGen

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Pearl Harbor, Battle of Bulge Survivor Turns 100-- Part 2


Fifteen years ago, George Murray wrote a 62 page memoir and this is taken from it.  He continues with his Pearl Harbor memories:

"It took me about about an hour and a half, using a variety of transportation such as a taxi or bus (to get back to Schofield Barracks).  When I got there I found we had no casualties although a bomb had been dropped not too far from our barracks."

Last year, George Murray, a long-time resident of Anniston, Alabama, was recognized as the last-known Pearl Harbor survivor in Alabama.  He has since moved to Texas to be near family.

He spent 30 years in the Army and was also at the Battle of the Bulge.

Mr. Murray was born March 31, 1919, and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Jobs were hard to come by in 1936, and at the age of 17, with his parents permission, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and traveled the country working on projects.

In 1939, he enlisted in the Army and joined the Chemical Warfare Service which provided such things to the military as gas warfare training and smoke screens.

--GreGen

Pearl Harbor and Battle of the Bulge Survivor Turns 100-- George Murray-- Part 1


From the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram  "He survived Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Bulge -- and his 100th birthday is here"  Gordon Dickson.

George Murray had been in the Army for two years without a break and was now at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii and had begum a seven day leave on December 5, when, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  He was about ten miles away on the other side of Oahu enjoying being a tourist.

"I made it back to the company as best I could."

That company was Company A, 1st Separate Chemical Battalion.

"It took me about an hour and a half, using a variety of transportation such as a taxi or bus.  When I got there I found we had no casualties, although a bomb had been dropped not too far from our barracks."

Of special interest since I have been writing about the U.S. Army's Chemical Warfare unit and Camp Sibert in the last couple weeks.  No doubt George Murray would gave been there.

--GreGen


Monday, April 8, 2019

Francis Warren AFB, Cheyenne, Wy.


I have been writing about Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Francis E. Warren in my Saw the Elephant: Civil War blog and also today in my Cooter's History Thing blog and will continue in this one.  he was a real big man in the history of the state of Wyoming.

From 1867 to 1927 the base was called Fort Russell.  In 1930. President Hoover issued a proclamation changing the name to Fort Francis E. Warren.  Well-known persons stationed here include General Billy Mitchell (the Father of the Air Force), General Mark Clark and General Benjamin  O. Davis, Sr (the first black general).

During World War II, Fort Warren was the training center for up to 20,000 of the Quartermaster Corps.  More than 280 buildings were constructed without insulation and interior walls to temporarily house the increased number of troops.

In the harsh Wyoming winter, waking up often meant  shaking snow from one's blanket, heading for the just-as-cold communal showers.  A prisoner of war camp was also constructed at the time.

--GreGen


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Housewives "Stop Wasting That Food"


From the December 26, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"DeKalb County's 9,552 housewives could feed 2,368 soldiers for a year with the food wasted annually in homes  of the county, an official of the country's leading food distributor estimated.

"This amazing figure is based on accurate government  statistics which indicate that at least 4,537,200 pounds of food are wasted annually in DeKalb County."

--GreGen

Women's Ambulance Safety Patrol Practices in 1943


From the December 26, 2018, MidWeek  (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"First aid work supervised by Mrs. Knowlen was begun at the Women's Ambulance Safety Patrol, held Tuesday night at the Armory.  It is expected this first aid program will be carried on for the next several weeks, the girls devoting two hours each Tuesday evening to instruction.

"After first aid has been completed and examinations taken, the patrol members then will take up other projects, as well as military drill and discipline."

--GreGen