Thursday, August 16, 2018

Camp McCoy, Wis.-- Part 6: Trained the 100th Infantry Battalion

The first unit to train at the new base that was Camp McCoy was the 100th Infantry Battalion.  This unit was comprised of Hawaiian National Guard who were of Japanese descent.

They served with distinction in Italy, suffering severe casualties while compiling one of the most remarkable  battle records of any U.S. unit during World War II.  More than 9,000 Purple Hearts were awarded to its members.

Shortly after they received their training at Camp McCoy, they were followed by the  2nd and 76th Infantry Divisions.

From Wikipedia.

The unit was unofficially called "The Purple Heart Battalion" and had as a motto "Remember Pearl Harbor."  Twenty-one received the nation's highest honor, the Medal of Honor.  In 2010, the whole battalion received the Congressional Gold Medal.

One Great Fighting Group.  --GreGen

Camp McCoy, Wis. --Part 5: Prisoner of War Camp

In addition, the previous CCC  discharge and reception center on South Post, was converted into a relocation and prisoner of war camp.  The camp was the largest Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Continental United States and also housed several thousand German and Korean prisoners.

Camp McCoy is unique in American history because it was both a relocation camp for West Coast Japanese Americans as well as European and Japanese prisoners captured in World War II.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Camp McCoy, Wis.-- Part 4: Preparing for War


Following World War I, a Citizen's Military Training Camp was set up at Camp McCoy to provide men of high school and college age military training.  This would primarily prepare them for National Guard or Reserve duty.

In 1933, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was set up at the post.  This operated until 1939.

In August 1940, the site was used for the Second Army Maneuvers involving 65,000 soldiers from seven states.  In the summer of 1940, the last horse-drawn artillery left the post.

More than 45,000 acres were added to Camp McCoy between 1938 and 1942.  Construction of facilities to house, train and support 35,000 troops began.  Some 8,000 local workers built over 1,500 buildings at a cost of $30 million.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Camp McCoy, Wisconsin-- Part 3: Served As a POW Camp and In Korean War

The South Post of the Camp had served as a Civilian Conservation Center before the war, but during World War II, that was converted into a prisoner of war and Japanese-American relocation camp.  It was the largest holding facility for Japanese POWs in the Continental United States and also housed several thousand German and Korean prisoners.

I had never heard of Korean prisoners of war in World War II.  Koreans who fought for Japan.

The camp was briefly deactivated after World War II, but the Korean War saw its reactivation as a training center until 1953 when it was again deactivated.  In 1973,  the Army reactivated Camp McCoy  as a permanent training center and the following year officially redesignated it as Fort McCoy.

So, it was Camp McCoy until 1974.  Today, it trains some 100,000 troops a year as a Total Force Training Center. It is also the headquarters of the Navy's Mobile Construction Battalion- 25  (Spades and Clubs).


Friday, August 10, 2018

Camp McCoy, Wisconsin-- Part 2: Role in World War II

During World War II, Fort McCoy was used early on as a detention camp for 170 Japanese and 120 German and Italian-Americans arrested as potentially dangerous "enemy aliens" in 1942.  After they were transferred to other camps, McCoy was used a s a training facility for soldiers from across the country preparing to enter combat.

One of these units was the segregated all-Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion.

The post was also used as a prisoner-of-war camp, holding 4,000 German and Japanese prisoners.  Fort McCoy's prisoners were featured in the 2001 movie "Fort McCoy."  This movie was not widely released.


Camp McCoy, Wisconsin-- Part 1: Named for Robert Bruce McCoy

In the last post I mentioned DeKalb, Illinois, resident Stephen J. Mikez being promoted to first sergeant at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

From Wikipedia.

Now called Fort McCoy.  Army installation of 60,000 acres between Tomah and Sparta, Wisconsin.  It got its start in 1909 a 14,000 acres in the Sparta Maneuver Tract.  In 1910 it was renamed the Camp Robert Bruce McCoy.  In 1926 it was shortened to Camp McCoy.

He served during the Spanish-American War and the Pancho Villa Expedition into Mexico and World War I.

As the United States was ramping up its military before World War II, in 1938, an additional  45,00 acres were added, increasing the capacity to 35,000.  Many additional structures and barracks were also built at this time.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Sergeant Stephen J. Mikez Promoted

From the May 9, 2018, MidWeek (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Word received from Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, states that Stephen J. Mikez, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Mikez of North Eleventh Street, was recently promoted to the rank of first sergeant.

"He is connected with a medical detachment."

Hugh Rossman Alexander Receives Silver Star Posthumously

From the April 2, 2018, DVIDS  "World War II-era Navy dental officer posthumously awarded th Silver Star for heroism during Pearl Harbor attack."

Lt. Cmdr. Hugh Rossman Alexander's Silver Star was accepted by his daughter Gloria Alexander Rogers on April 2.

He was the senior dental officer on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  While trapped in a small compartment, he assisted many sailors in escaping through a very small 14-inch porthole as the ship turned over.  He personally selected slender men to escape.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexander has already received the Navy and Marine Corps Medals and the Purple Heart. The Silver Star is the military's third highest medal.

His body was buried with the Oklahoma Unknowns and evidently hasn't been identified yet.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Two USS Laffeys

From Wikipedia.

USS Laffey  (DD-459)  Named for Bartlett Laffey, a Civil War Naval Medal of Honor winner (see my Running he Blockade blog August 9, 2018, for more on him).

Commissioned 31 March 1942.  Sunk at the Battle of Guadalcanal 13 November 1942.  This was quite a remarkable ship.  Her final battle was something else.

USS Laffey  (DD-724)  Commissioned 8 February 1944  Decommissioned 30 June 1947.  Recommissioned 1951.  Decommissioned 1975.  Served in the Korean War.  Today is a museum ship at Patriots Point, Charleston, South Carolina.  This is "The Ship That Would Not Die" after receiving multiple strikes from kamikazes, the one they will star in a movie.

Another Remarkable Ship.  --GreGen

There Were Two Ships Named the USS Laffey

In the last post, I said that Mel Gibson would be directing the movie "Destroyer" about the the USS Laffey.  I have written about it before, and one man said he was on it when it sank, only there is now a USS Laffey at Patriot Point in Charleston, South Carolina.

How could it be there if is sank?  Unless, of course, they raised it.

Then, I found out that there were two destroyers named USS Laffey.

The first one was sunk and then a second destroyer received the name and the second one is the one the movie will be about.  My March 24, 2016, post was about the death of Bob Flaherty who was at Pearl Harbor during the attack and then on the first USS Laffey which was sunk.

Question Resolved.  --GreGen

Mel Gibson Asked to Direct Movie "Destroyer"

From the April 30, 2018, Variety"Mel Gibson asked to direct World War II drama 'Destroyer'" David McNary.

The movie will be based on the book "Hell From Heaven:  The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II's Greatest Kamikaze Attack" by John Wukovits.

The Laffey was known as "The Ship That Wouldn't Die."

Mel Gibson directed the movie "Hackshaw Ridge" about the Battle of Okinawa.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Bumper Hemp Crop and A New Hemp Mill

From the July 18, 2018, MidWeek  (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Construction work has started on the new hemp mill to be erected at Kirkland, cement has been poured and the surveyors are finishing up their end of the work at this time.

"It was stated that at the present time there is hemp to the north of Kirkland that is outstanding and is seven feet in height.  Any number of acres that are planted to hemp in the north end of the county measure five feet  in height."

Don't Bogart That Hemp for the War Effort.  --GreGen

Monday, August 6, 2018

Donald Blakeslee-- Part 2: Joined the RCAF

Blakeslee was born in Fairport, Ohio, in 1917. and became attracted to flying while watching the Cleveland Air Races as a young boy.  In the mid-1930s, he and a friend bought a plane, but his friend crashed it. Donald Blakeslee decided the best way for him to continue flying was to join the Royal Canadian Air Force.

He trained in Canada and arrived in England May 15, 1941, and was assigned to No. 401  Squadron RCAF, part of the Biggin Hill Wing.  They flew sweeps over France.  His first combat came November 18 and first kill on November 15.

He prroved to be not so good at shooting, but excelled as a flight leader and on the ground, receiving a British Distinguished Flying Cross on August 14, 1942.


The Pea Emergency Is Over

From the July 18, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Workers at the Sycamore Preserve Works from J.W. Thuma, general superintendent, down to the extra help hired in the emergency are resting a little easier as most of the pea crop has been harvested.

"The peas have been prepared, canned and barreled and the plant is now getting ready for the corn pack, which it is understood is next on the docker."


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Donald James Matthew Blakeslee-- Part 1: Flying Ace with 15.5 Victories

This hero was featured in the Paralyzed Veterans of America's August calendar.  My last four posts were about him and the Fourth Fighter Group.

From Wikipedia.

Born  September 11, 1917  Died  September 3, 2008

United States Air Force pilot whose military career began with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II.  He then became a member of the Royal Air Force Eagle squadrons before transferring to the  United States Army Air Force in 1942.

He flew more combat missions against the Luftwaffe than any American pilot and by the end of the war was a flying ace credited with 15.5 aerial victories.

Quite a Record.  --GreGen

Friday, August 3, 2018

Fourth Mission of the Day-- Part 4: Col. Blakeslee Had 500 Missions and 1,000 Combat Hours

By the war's end, the Fourth Fighter group was credited with downing 1,020 German aircraft.  As an individual, Colonel Blakeslee flew nearly 500 missions and had about 1,000 combat hours to his credit.  This is believed to be more missions and hours than any other American fighter pilot of World War II.

In all, Colonel Blakeslee received two Distinguished Service Crosses, seven Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars, six Air Medals and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.  A decade later, he also received the Legion of Merit, another Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals for his service in the Korean War.

Nice Haul.  Well-Deserved.  --GreGen

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Fourth Mission of the Day-- Part 3: The New American Fourth Fighter Group

As commander of the newly formed American Fourth Fighter Group, consisting mostly of former members of the Eagle Squadron, Colonel Blakeslee led three squadrons of 16 single-seat, single-engine P-51 Mustangs.  Each Mustang was equipped with six machine guns mounted in the wings and sighted so that the bullet streams could converge on the Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulf fighters that were trying to shoot down Allied bombers.

The Fourth Fighter Group made many significant achievements.  On march 6, 1944, they became the first to fly above the fleet of B-17s and B-24s as they each dropped up to 4,000 pounds of bombs on Berlin.  And, on April 8, , 1944, they set a record for the European Theater, shooting down 31 planes ion one day.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Fourth Mission of the Day-- Part 2: Donald J.M. Bleakeslee

Among the many RAF units flying that day were three "Eagle" squadrons made up of American airmen flying MK VB Spitfires.  One of the three was the 133 Eagle Squadron, led by Flight Lieutenant Donald J.M. Blakeslee from Fairport Harbor, Ohio.  He alone is credited with shooting down one FW190 and one DO-217, as well as two FW190 probables in a gallant attempt to protect the Allied troops below.

Blakeslee also has the distinction of being the only "Eagle" commanding officer to complete all four missions that day.


Fourth Mission of the Day-- Part 1: "Operation Jubilee" the Attack on Dieppe Aug. 19, 1942

From the Paralyzed Veterans of America 2018 Heroes of the Air Calendar.

This features the artwork of Gil Cohen.


The 19th of August 1942 is remembered as the date of the ill-fated "operation Jubilee", in which the joint British/Canadian amphibious assault against German troops on the French coast at the harbor of Dieppe.

Air cover was provided by the greatest armada of aircraft assembled for battle up to that time.  That day has been described as an almost continuous melee of close aerial combat:  aircraft of both sides spiraling toward the sea; planes colliding in mid-air; ships burning and sinking in the harbor and along the Channel coast was a pall of smoke covering the entire scene below.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Death of Pearl Harbor Survivor Larry Parry

From the May 7, 2018, Syracuse (NY).com.

Balwinsville's Larry Parry, 97, one of the last Pearl Harbor survivors, has died.  He died May 5, 2018.

During the attack, he was 21 and an Army mechanic delivering ammunition and remembers seeing the USS Arizona blow up.

In 2014 and 2016 he returned to Pearl Harbor with about 100 other Pearl Harbor survivors.

2016 was the 75th anniversary of the attack.

So Sad to be Losing Them.  --GreGen