Wednesday, September 2, 2015

U.S. Lightship Sunk Off North Carolina During World War I Surveyed-- Part 2

The Diamond Shoal Lightship No. 71 was built in Bath, Maine, in 1897, and is also known as the LV-71 and served as a beacon at its post for 21 years.

On August 6, 1918, the German submarine U-140 attacked the ship after torpedoing the unarmed American steamer Merak.  The U-140 then intercepted a warning from the lightship and attacked it, firing from its deck guns.  The 12-man crew escaped, but their ship went to the bottom.  Because of the LV-71's warning, it is estimated that 25 vessels escaped from the German ship.


U.S. Lightship Sunk Off North Carolina During World War I Surveyed-- Part 1

Many Americans are unaware of the number of Allied ships sunk off the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts during World War II, but even fewer, including myself until a couple years ago, knew that there was U-boat activity off the Atlantic coast even during World War I.

From the August 31, 2015, "historic WWI Shipwreck Survey Underway" by Eric Hawn.

The NOAA, USCG and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management began a survey of the Diamond Shoal Lightship No. 71 on August 30th.  This is the only American lightship sunk by enemy action during World War I.  And you thought it was only fought over in Europe.  Actually, ships were sunk off the U.S. coast by German U-boats.

The shipwreck is located off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina, where it warned ships of the ever dangerous Diamond Shoals.  Just recently, the shipwreck was added to the NRHP.

The survey is being done by the research ship Sand Tiger.  Also participating are East Carolina University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Australian Survivor of "The Great Escape" Dies-- Part 2: Paul Royle

Paul Royle distributed dirt from the 380-foot tunnel the Allied prisoners dug by releasing soil from his pants legs in similar-colored soil.  Upon getting away from the camp, he spent two days hiding in a snow-covered forest before he was recaptured.

Flight Lt. Royle was a pilot in the RAF and shot down on May 17, 1940.  he was finally liberated by British troops from the Milag Norg prison camp in Germany on May 2, 1945.  That was a really long time to be a POW.

He was born in Perth, West Australia in 1914.


Australian Survivor of "The Great Escape" Dies-- Part 1: Only One Remains

From the August 28, 2015, Fox News/ AP.

Paul Royle, 101, an Australian pilot who participated in World War II's "Great Escape" died August 23, 2015.  He and the others were the subject of the 1963 movie by the same name starring Steve McQueen.  Now, only one survivor of the 76 POWs who escaped from StalagLuft III, 100 miles southeast of Berlin, remains, British flyer Dick Churchill, 94, a former flight leader.

Paul Royle said he didn't much like the movie and they also never used motor bikes in their escape.

Only three of the escapees, 2 Norwegians and a Danish man made it home.  Fifty others were shot to death when captured and another 23 were returned to StalagLuft III or other prison camps.


Monday, August 31, 2015

The LST That Became a "Highway" LST-393-- Part 3: "Heartbreak Highway"

I always have to wonder why LSTs were not also given names and just referred to by their number?  They were certainly big enough to have their own name.

The old two-lane highway between Muskegon and Grand Rapids, US-16, was so crowded with automobiles and trucks in the 1940s and 1950s, it was called "Heartbreak Highway."  Getting new cars from Detroit to Muskegon was a major reason I-96 was built in Michigan.  It was finished in 1962..  The LST-393, now called the MV Highway 16, delivered its first civilian cargo on June 24, 1948, and in its first week delivered 190 new GM cars.

It made nine trips a week at 14 mph with a 7 1/2 hour crossing, manned by a crew of 23.  It could carry 16 cars at a time and it took two hours to unload.  Cost to cost for a car was $7.

In 1949, the ship made 684 crossings.  On July 4, 1949, it was involved in the worst Muskegon boating accident ever when it struck the 25-foot cabin cruiser K-D-Bob II in the Muskegon Outer Channel.  Only 2 of 8 aboard the cruiser survived.

The ship last sailed on July 30, 1973.  After that, it was put out of business by trains.

Today the LST-393 is a museum ship.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The LST That Became a "Highway" LST-393-- Part 2: "Large Slow Targets"

In 1948, it became part of US-Highway 16 when it began ferry new cars and others between Muskegon, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The LST-393 was one of 1,051 built with half scrapped after the war.  Just a dozen LSTs now remain.  In case you're wondering, LST stands for Landing Ship Tank.  They were capable of landing tanks, vehicles and troops right on beaches during amphibious actions.

Sailors on them refereed to them as "Large Slow Targets," but others say these "Blue Collar Workhorses" were more important to the final Allied victory than the biggest, most modern battleships.

On March 28, 1948, the Wisconsin-Michigan Steamship Company, a subsidiary of Sand products Corporation of Detroit bought the LST-393 for $150,000.

There was a huge demand for new cars after the war (since none were made during most of it.  The Wisconsin-Michigan ferry Milwaukee Clipper couldn't keep up ferrying the cars across Lake Michigan.

Of interest, the LST-393 had delivered Muskegon-built tanks to Europe.


Friday, August 28, 2015

The LST That Become a "Highway" LST-393-- Part 1: 25 Years As MV Highway 16

From the June 10, 2013 M Live "Look back: WWII veteran ship spends time as a civilian on the Great Lakes" by Dave LeMieux.

LST-393, now a museum, spent 25 years as MV Highway 16 before becoming a museum in Muskegon, Michigan.  During the war it was at at landings on Sicily, Salerno, Italy and was at Omaha Beach on D-Day.  It won three Battle Stars during the war.

In 1948 it became MV Highway 16 when it began ferrying cars between Muskegon and Milwaukee.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

World War II's "Doodlebugs"

BBC News: England "Doodlebugs 'diverted' to Kent to save London."

Doodlebugs were the name given to Germany's V-1 Flying Bombs, ancestor of today's cruise missiles.  These targetted Britain from secret sites along the French and Dutch coasts.

Their first strikes were in 1944 at London, Kent and Sussex.  The first fatalities were recorded at Bethnal Green.  Some 2,419 hit London.

False intelligence leaked to the Germans caused many to land away from London in Kent, Sussex and Essex.

The name Doodlebug, in case you're wondering, came from the sound the V-1s made.

June 13, 1944, one landed at Bethnal Green.

When they were coming in, you would hear the engine stoop and 15 seconds later would come the explosion as it landed.  These were among the first guidance systems developed.  The rocket was programmed to go down after a certain number of times which would cause the elevator to go down and fuel ran out.  There would be that dreadful silence, then boom.  This was extremely bad on British morale.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Keeping the Spirit of 45 Alive in McHenry-- Part 7: The Roll, Doves and Taps

After opening remarks, they read off the roll of World War II veterans, my favorite part of the ceremony.  These are the real deal, the Greatest Generation.  However, it goes by way too fast to write their names down.

I did get a Kerry Harwell, a real "Rosie the Riveter" who will be 100 in November.

John Babbit served on seaplanes from 1942-1946

Robert Blake, from McHenry, was in the Navy 1944-1946 and went in two days after graduating from MvHenry High School.

"Taps" was then played for the 400,000 who died during the war and for all who have died since.

Then the white doves were released, who always fly up into the air and circle several times while trying to find their direction home to Woodstock.

The Legacy Girls then sang "God Bless America" after which about sixteen buglers play taps "round the park."  Just one bugler playing "Taps" can bring a tear to your eye, but the sound of all those bugles going at different times around you just doesn't give you much of a chance.

As usual, the fire department had a huge U.S. flag hanging from their truck ladders which were fully extended.

A Proper Salute to the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Keeping the Spirit of 45 Alive-- Part 6: We Still Have the "Kiss" Statue

Last year we were told that the "Kiss" statue would be with us no longer as it was to be moved to a place in Branson, Missouri.  This, of course, is a statue of the sailor kissing the nurse made so famous in the photo in Times Square, New York City, in the celebration that took place after the announcement was made that Japan had surrendered.

It is one of four bronze statues of the event around the United States and McHenry has had one for several years now.  It was displayed in front of the gazebo, as usual.

We were told that Branson fell through because they didn't want to pay the high cost to ship the statue there.

Their Loss, our Gain.  --GreGen

Monday, August 24, 2015

Keeping the Spirit of 45 Alive-- Part 5: Big Bill's Little Band and the Legacy Sisters

August 9, 2015, Sunday

We had a concert/radio show broadcast for the first hour.  Bill's Little Big Band (about 18 members) provided the music and every so often an announcer would come on to pitch commercials of the era, only in humorous form.  The band played that great Big Band/Swing music which was so popular from the era.

At the end, they had a special announcement recording of President Truman's August 14, 1945, announcement that Japan had surrendered and the WAR WAS OVER!!  That 70th anniversary of that date will come along this Friday.

Then the Legacy sisters, an Andrews Sisters tribute trio, got up and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."  This was a new and hopefully continued in the future, feature.  Really enjoyed this.

This is the sixth time the Keep the Spirit of 45 Alive has been commemorated in McHenry, Illinois.  Only a few other towns across the country have done this all six times since Congress decreed this to be celebrated on the second Sunday of August.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

First McHenry Blackout on August 12th

Another article I saw at the Keep the Spirit of 45 Alive at McHenry, Illinois' Veterans Park (probably by the McHenry Plaindealer and no date given) was one on a blackout to take place in the city.

I knew they had blackouts along the coasts, especially the Atlantic and Gulf because of the threat from German U-boats and espionage, but was unaware of ones this far inland.  I guess there was always the possibility of an air raid.

The war reached everywhere.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Short S.25 Sunderlands and RAF Mount Batten

The plane found in the previous entry in Plymouth Sound was a Short S.25 Sunderland flying boat patrol bomber, receiving its name from the Short brothers who built it and the port of Sunderland in northeast England where they were built.

It was one of the most powerful and widely used flying boats during World War II.  From its pictures, it was huge.  They were often used to hunt down and sink German U-boats.

RAF Mount Batten was a major Sunderlnad base in southern England.


World War II Wreck Mystery in Plymouth Sound, England

From the September 22, 2013, BBC News: England "Quest to solve WWII wreck mystery in Plymouth Sound."

Three years ago, sports diver Danny Daniels discovered a plane wreck in Plymouth Sound and at first thought it was a German bomber.  But since then,it has been found to be an RAF Flying Boat, a Sunderland based at RAF Mount Batten.

It had crashed off Plymouth in December 1941 with 15 crew and passengers of whom only 4 survived.

Identification was made through its propeller and pieces of RAF insignia crockery.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Go Back to World War II at McHenry Open House

From the August 12, 2015 Daily herald (Illinois)

McHenry County Conservation District's Living History Open House was held from noon to 4 p.m. August 16th at the Powers-Walker House Historic Landmark at Glacier Park on Il. Route 31 and Harts Road in Ringwood.

A tour will be given of the 1854-era house.  The focus will be on the history of the house, residents and northeastern Illinois region during World War II.  Much attention will be given to the Schaefer and Steinmetz families who lived in the house during that era.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Day the War Ended-- Part 6:

Thankfully, there was no need for an invasion of Japan and all the casualties that would occur on both sides.  By this date in 1945, U.S. bombers had turned most Japanese cities, made mostly of wood and paper to wastelands.  Many more Japanese civilians died in conventional bombing than from the atomic ones.  I have heard that the reasons Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen was primarily because there wasn't enough left standing in the other cities which would not show the power of the bombs' destructiveness.

Still, the Imperial Army and what was left of the Imperial fought on.  Then those two bombs fell, one on August 6 and the other three days later.

Now, seventy years later, "we recall how America won a war it had to win because the freedom of the world was at stake.  We pause to commemorate, to express thanks and pay respects to all who died, as we do on each anniversary of August 14, 1945.

"the day the war was over."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Day the War Ended-- Part 5: No Invasion of Japan

As the war was approaching its end, and victory was imminent, a Tribune editorial wrote that American fighting men "accomplished the impossible.  They were backed by American production, which also accomplished the impossible."

And, we still have ongoing debate as to the use of the atom bombs.  In two flashes of light, estimated death toll in Hiroshima was 140,000 and 70,000 for Nagasaki.

Was Japan already on its knees and ready to surrender before they were dropped?  Or did the military plan to fight to annihilation.  (My own opinion was the latter.)

Perhaps a blockade would slowly bring Japan to the table (but our Navy and Air Force had already essentially strangled the country sinking most every Japanese ship, both naval and merchant).  We had seen what the Japanese did on Okinawa, fighting to the death.  What would an American invasion of the Japanese homeland cost in American lives and finances?


The Day the War Ended-- Part 4: Different From Our Era of Long Wars

Arthur Sears Henning, the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau chief wrote the banner headline, "THE GREAT WAR ENDS!"

His paragraph said simply: "The war is over."

"The Japanese empire," he continued, "fell before the military and industrial might of the United States, climaxed last week by the projection of two atomic bombs-- America's terrible, new secret weapon-- upon two Japanese cities with devastating effect."

Further, he said, "the victory came "Three years eight months and seven days after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.  In this day and age of wars that seem to go on forever, this is a really short time.  All of World War II took place between Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 and this day.  Our war on terrorism is still going strong nearly 14 years after 9/11.


Monday, August 17, 2015

The Day the War Ended-- Part 3: The Blog Will Continue

This blog began primarily because of the 70th anniversary of World War II.  It is so sad to see that generation dying off as fast as they are.  Growing up, there were always World War II veterans around.  Many of my parents' friends were veterans as was my uncle Delbert on my dad's side (survived the Battle of the Bulge with the 101st).

Even though the war has ended, I will continue this blog longer,the same as I am doing with my War of 1812 blog.

I've Gotten Very Interested in This History.  --GreGen (Greatest Generation)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Day the War Ended-- Part 2: 70 Years After Japan's Surrender, the Climax of WWII Resonates

It was August 14, 1945 and on the final combat mission of the war, a B-29 bomber called Uninvited dropped bombs on an oil refinery in northern Japan about six hours before Truman's announcement of the end.  Its crew included Sgt. Robert Pizer from Chicago.  the plane returned safely to its base on Guam.

Now, every American GI could be expected to come home.

The war was over.

At State and Madison in the Loop thousands gathered in an impromptu celebration.  Mrs. Luke Devine wept when she heard on a car radio, knowing that it meant her two brothers would be OK.

Tribune Bureau Chief in Washington, sat down to write the story under huge banner headline, "GREAT WAR ENDS!"

Heady Times Indeed.  --GreGen