Tuesday, August 19, 2014

USS Eaton (DD-510_

From Wikipedia.

Even though the accident between the battleship USS Wisconsin and destroyer USS Eaton took place considerably after the war, both ships did participate in World War II.

The USS Eaton was named for a General Eaton, possibly a General Eaton from the Civil War (but i was unable to find out for sure).  It was 376 feet long, had a 39.8-foot beam and a crew of 336.  It was armed with five 5-inch guns, 17 anti-aircraft guns, 10 torpedo tubes and 6 depth charge racks.

Commissioning was 4 December 1942 and sponsor was Mary Eaton Phillips, great-great granddaughter of General Eaton.

It initially escorted convoys and operated off Guadalcanal.

In 1944, it was in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and on 9 January 1945, destroyed an enemy suicide boat which came within 25 yards before blowing yp and killing one and wounding fourteen.

In 1945, it operated off the Philippines and after the war, patrolled the coast of China.

It served in the Vietnam War from 1967-1968.

--GreGen

Monday, August 18, 2014

USS Wisconsin vs. USS Eaton, May 8, 1956-- Part 2

The Eaton was 376 feet long with a 39.8-foot beam.  The Wisconsin was 887 feet long with a 108.2-foot beam.

The Eaton suffered serious damage.  It was git on its starboard side forward of the bridge and broke its keel.  It was only saved by the actions of its first lieutenant who had the bow and stern secured together by its anchor chain and personally closed the water tight doors by his room.

Fortunately, there were no deaths aboard the Eaton despite the cook being knocked unconscious.

The Eaton's commander, Richard Varley, was court martialed and found negligent.

The ship was back in service by 1957 and was decommissioned in 1969 and sunk as a target off Norfolk, Va., in 1970.

--Cooter

Saturday, August 16, 2014

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) vs. USS Eaton (DD-510) May 6, 1956-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

A battleship runs into the side of a destroyer.  Who do you think will win?  But, the battleship sure got a bite taken out of its bow.  Quite a photo of the Wisconsin's bow after the collision.

I hadn't heard of this collision before the Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive ceremony in McHenry this past Sunday, so did further research looking up the histories of both ships.  In my last entry I wrote about the bugler who served on the Wisconsin telling me the story.

On May 6, 1956, the battleship USS Wisconsin collided with the destroyer Eaton in a heavy fog and was forced to put into Norfolk, Virginia, with heavy bow damage.  Once there, a 120 ton, 68-foot section of the bow of the uncompleted Iowa-class battleship Kentucky was grafted onto the Wisconsin in an amazing 16 days and the ship was ready for the sea again on June 28th.

--GreGen

Friday, August 15, 2014

Keep the Sprit of '45 Alive: Part 4: USS Wisconsin

I was by the Polish Legion's food stand when I saw one of the buglers for the taps presentation (30 different ones playing "Taps" around the square.  He was wearing a USS Wisconsin cap.  Since I am a real bug battleship fan, I started to talk with him.

He served on the Wisconsin in the 1950s and said it was the longest battleship ever launched by the United States at some 7-8 feet longer than any other.  I asked him why as all the battleships of its class were built to the same specifications.

When I inquired as to how it was the longest, he gave the story of his ship running into a destroyer named the Eaton in the 1950s and wrecking its bow.(and almost slicing the destroyer in half as it definitely was a mismatch in size).

They grafted the bow of the cancelled battleship Kentucky onto the front of the Wisconsin and it made his ship the seven feet longer.

About ten years ago, he was at a naval reunion when he saw a sailor wearing an Eaton hat, who saw his Wisconsin hat and said, "Hey, your ship almost sank my ship."  He replied, "Well, you got in our way."

Both ships fought in World War II.

Just Some History.  --GreGen

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Spirit of '45 in North Carolina

From the July 28, 2014, Raleigh (NC) News & Observer "Spirit of '45 honors 'Greatest Generation'" by Clare Myers.

August 14, 1945, has been called the Greatest Day for the Greatest Generation as the end of World War II was celebrated.  At a ceremony at The Cypress of Raleigh continuing care community on Tuesday, these men and women were honored.

National Director of the "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive" organization, Warren Hegg says, "We need to recapture the spirit of this generation."

In 2010, Congress declared the second Sunday in August as "Spirit of '45 Day" and Tuesday's event was one of several stops on a tour to promote the celebration across the country.

World War II veterans were recognized at The Cypress and it was proclaimed the first Purple Heart Continuing Care Community in America.

--GreGen

Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive-- Part 3: "Rosie the Riveter"

A list of 52 World War II veterans in attendance was read off with a little information about each one, especially with which branch of service they were in.  Quite a few were Coast Guard and many were only in the war in 1944 and 1945. the group who would be the youngest and hence in best shape to go to the event.

The famous "Kiss" statue on VJ Day based on the famous photo (one of only four in the U.S.) , was on display in from of the gazebo and we were told this would be the last time for it to be there (I'd also seen it last year) as it was going to permanent display in Branson, Missouri.

The band started the ceremony with "The Star-Spangled Banner" and later played the service hymns of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.  Then, they played "God Bless America."

Today's event was to honor those who fought the war on the homefront, especially those working in defense factories producing the weapons and supplies needed to win the war.  This would include the famous "Rosie the Riveters" of which three were in attendance.

--GreGen

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive-- Part 2: The Polish Legion

The McHenry fire department again had a huge American flag flying from atop a tall hook and ladder truck.  There was also a large 48-star flag affixed to the gazebo where the speakers and Big Band were.  This would be the flag of the country during the war as Alaska and Hawaii had yet to be admitted as states.

A 1940s vehicle was parked by the street along with a lot of U.S. flags.

The Polish Legion of American Veterans were not too happy as they were serving food and couldn't start until getting an o.k.  from the city health department.  They were unable to serve until the beginning of the ceremonies.

McHenry has three veterans organizations.  Along with the VFW and American Legion, there is also this group, whose building downtown caught fire on Mother's Day and sustained quite a lot of damage, but they hope to be open again by March or April.

--GreGen


Monday, August 11, 2014

Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive-- Part 1: Fifth Annual Commemoration in McHenry, Illinois

Yesterday, I put out my three U.S. flags and eagle emblem in honor of this five-year-old commemorative day as declared by Congress.

McHenry, Illinois, deserves credit as being one of the few towns to have a celebration of the Greatest generation all five years, though now I understand hundreds of towns across the U.S. are celebrating it.

I went to my first one in McHenry last year.

One thing I was worried about was what if hardly anyone showed up?  I needn't have worried as both years there were hundreds of people in attendance.

As usual, there were several tents displaying artifacts and newspapers from the era, including a really impressive homemade model of the USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor which was hosted by a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors.

The reason McHenry has had the celebration is because of a man named Ron (didn't catch his last name) who organized the first one and everyone since.  He is also a member of the National Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive organization.

--GreGen

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive Today

Congress has set aside the second Sunday in August as "National Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive Day."  That would be today.  It is a day in which we honor our World War II generation.

McHenry, Illinois, about eight miles from here, had one of the biggest commemorations in the country as I have heard.  It will be held at Veterans Park in downtown McHenry today at 5 P.M. and I am planning on being there.  I was there last year.  Of course, this will mean leaving the St. John's Parishfest in nearby Johnsburg early.

Last  year, they recognized marriages from the era and around thirty couples married during the war or shortly after it and they renewed their vows.  So many couples met because of the war when they wouldn't have during normal times.  Liz's parents met because of the war and doubtfully would have as well as he was from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and she was from Abilene, Kansas.  He was stationed in Kansas in the Quartermaster Corps.

My mother was just 11 when the war started and my father was 13, so did not fight.    But Mom remembers helping out at the Goldsboro, N.C., USO.

I have heard that a real "Rosie the Riveter" will be in attendance.

This year the event will be recognizing the homefront.  Those people who supported the war by sending relatives off to fight it or working in defense factories providing our troops and sailors with what was needed to win the war.

In addition, the 17-piece Pat Crawford Big Band from Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, will be playing and Lou Rougani of WLIP AM 1050 radio in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will be replicating a 40s radio broadcast.

A replica of the "Unconditional Surrender" statue from the famous Times Square "kiss" will be by the gazebo.

My appreciation of the sacrifices made during World War II have increased much because of this blog.  I now know why they call it The Greatest Generation.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sunk Twice and Still Going-- Part 3

His family was very happy to find he was coming home a month later.  He spent time in a military "rest area" in the Pocono Mountains before returning to duty.

He served on ships for the rest of the war, but his days of being torpedoed, fortunately, were over.

In Brooklyn, he was assigned to the SS George W. Barnes, an oil tanker.  he also made several trips to North Africa bringing troops for the invasions of Sicily and Italy.  he also sailed through the Mediterranean and saw preparations for the Normandy Invasion.  After Germany's surrender, he helped ferry troops across the Pacific Ocean.  During the war, he was on six continents, all but Antarctica.

Quite a Story.  --GreGen

Sunk Twice and Still Going-- Part 2

Farris Burton and the others boarded the SS Zaandam on October 21, 1942, and steamed for the United States.    On November 2nd, it entered Brazillian waters and was sunk by the U-174.  It went down in ten minutes.  Burton and the others floated for days, getting by on just two ounces of water a day until reaching an island where the natives took care of them.

Once authorities were made aware of their presence, they were flown out twenty at a time to a Brazillian Army Camp, where they boarded a C-47 cargo plane and flown to a base in Puerto Rico and then to a Navy base in Miami, Florida.  You can only imagine what he was thinking about on the last leg of his journey.  Would the plane be shot down?

In the meantime, the Navy sent a Western Union telegram to his family telling them he was missing.  he still has that telegram, dated Nov.18, 1942, saying, "The Navy Department deeply regrets that your son, Farris Horton Burton...is missing following action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country.  The Department appreciates your great anxiety."

--GreGen

Friday, August 8, 2014

Last Crew member of Enola Gay Dies-- Part 4

Despite his belief that the use of the atom bomb saved lives in the long run, VanKirk continued: "The whole World War II experience shows shows that wars don't settle anything.  I personally think there shouldn't be any atom bombs in the world--I'd like to see them all abolished."

He continued, "But if anyone has one, I want one more than my enemy."

"Dutch" VanKirk stayed  in the military for a year after the war, then went to school, earned degrees in chemical engineering and signed on with DuPont where he stayed until retirement in 1985.  Pictures accompanied the article of the Enola Gay returning from the August 6, 1945 mission and a picture of the crew being debriefed after dropping the bomb.

Another picture shows the bomber at its permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum's annex at Washington Dulles International Airport in Fairfax County, Virginia.  The plane that dropped the Nagasaki atom bomb is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

One of the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen


Last Crew Member of Enola Gay Dies-- Part 3: Use of the Bomb Was a Necessary Thing

Then came a bright flash, then a shock wave.  Then another shock wave.  The Enola Gay bomber held together.  The blast and aftereffects killed 140,000 in Hiroshima, with that  one bomb.

Three days after Hiroshima, a second atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, with 80,000 deaths.  Six days after Nagasaki, Japan surrendered.

Whether the United States should have used the atom bombs has been debated endlessly.  VanKirk told AP that he thought it was necessary because it shortened the war and eliminated the need for an Allied invasion of Japan which would have cost many more lives on both sides.

"I honestly believe the use of the atomic bomb saved lives in the long run.  There were a lot of lives saved.  Most of the lives saved were Japanese," VanKirk said.

--GreGen

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Last Crew Member of the Enola Dies-- Part 2

At the time of that famous mission on August 6, 1945, Theodore VanKirk was 24 and was serving as the navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan.

He was teamed with pilot Paul Tibbets and bombardier Tom Ferebee in Tibbetts' fledgling 509th Composite Bomb Group for Special Mission No. 13.

The mission went perfectly according to VanKirk.  He guided the Enola Gay through the night sky, just 15 seconds behind schedule.  As the 9,000-pound bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" fell toward the sleeping city, he and the rest of the crew wondered if they would escape with their lives.

They did not know if the bomb would work, and, if it did, whether the shock waves from it would rip their plane to shreds.  They counted the seconds as they passed by.  They had been told the explosion would take place at 43 seconds, but nothing happened.

VanKirk recalled: "I think everybody in the plane figured it was a dud.  It seemed a lot longer than 43 seconds."

--GreGen

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Last Crew Member of Enola Gay Dies-- Part 1: (69th Anniversary of Hiroshima Today)

From the July 30, 2014, Wilmighton (NC) Star-News by AP.

The last surviving member of the crew of the bomber Enola Gay h dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, hastening the end of World War II and forcing the world into the atomic age has died in Georgia.  Theodore VanKirk, also known as "Dutch" died Monday, July 28th at the retirement home where he lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia, at age 93.

During the war,VanKirk flew nearly 60 bombing missions, but this single one on August 6, 1945, was the one that secured his place in world history.

Actually, today is the 69th anniversary of that day.

A Hero.  --GreGen


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sunk Twice and Still Going-- Part 1

From Nov. 10, 2011, Charleston (WV) Gazette by Paul J. Nyden.

This is further information from my July 19, 2014, blog entry.

One torpedo got Farris H. Burton, 86, into World War II, two others almost got him out of it.

One of his best friends, Bud Woody, died after a German torpedo sank the destroyer USS Reuben James on October 31, 1941, a month before Pearl Harbor.  As a result, Burton and several of his friends enlisted in the Navy for a little payback.

He was on the SS Firethorn, carrying nine Sherman tanks and other war supplies from New York City to the Suez Canal.  Seven German U-boats were operating in the Indian Ocean waiting for him.  And one of them,  the U-172, fired torpedoes at his ship and sank it in just ninety seconds.

Burton spent two days at sea before being rescued by the HMS Rockrose.  He and other survivors were taken to Cape Town, South Africa where they stayed at the Union Jack Club for 12 days.

--GreGen

HMAS Sydney II Memorial Completed in Time to Commemorate 70th Anniversay

From Perth Now News.com.au" by Katie Robertson.

Geraldton, Western Australia.  When the HMAS Sydney II went down, 645 Australians died during its battle with the German raider Kormoran.    I have many entries about this in my Cooter's History Thing blog.

The Sydney was lost somewhere in the waters 122 nautical miles off Shark Bay and was finally located in 2008.

The Pool of Remembrance has just been completed on top of Mount Scott and is intended to complement other parts of the memorial including the statue of the waiting woman.  The recessed pool was designed by West Australian artist John Walsh Smith and has a map showing the shipwreck site at its bottom..  There is a two meter tall  stainless steel seagulls marking the exact position in the pool.

The lowest step is made of polished black granite into which images of 644 silver gulls shadows etched, circling the ship along with the date November 19, 1941.

--GreGen

Monday, August 4, 2014

World War II Veteran Markets Digital "Taps"-- Part 2

Bill Welton sold two recently in Indianapolis at the American Legion's state convention.  The host hotel bought one as it often hosts veteran groups.

He figures he got about 100 prospects, mostly Legionnaires interested in having one installed at their posts.

Wellman has a history of attention getting marketing schemes who over the years has owned bars, a bowling alley, a hotel and a dinner theater.  His promotions have involved an elephant, Orville Reddenbacher and an American Indian who briefly lived in a tepee in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn.

He came up with the idea after catching a TV news story about a man in Tacoma, Washington, who played "Taps" every evening.  His hometown of Valparaiso has been playing taps every night at dusk (I imagine on one of Wellman's machines).

--GreGen

World War II Veteran Markets Digital "Taps"-- Part 1

From the July 27, 2014, Wilmington (NC) Star-News, by Will Higgins of Indianapolis Star.

This is a good-news, bad news scenario, for Bill Wellman, 90.  "There's going to be more patriotism because people my age who fought World War II are dying out at 1.100 a day, and that's going to bring more and more attention to service and sacrifice."

Actually, the number of deaths averages closer to 600 a day, but even so, that is a lot of the increasingly smaller group of WWII Veterans.

And, all those deaths are putting pressure on the few people who can play a trumpet for the traditional and sad "Taps" that plays at each funeral.  It is getting increasingly harder to find musicians to play the song at the cemeteries.

Wellman, of Valparaiso, Indiana, has developed a fairly inexpensive but profitable way to sell a digitalized version of taps that consists of a small computer hooked up to two 30-watt speakers using technology that turns lights on and off at a prescribed time.  He charges $1,500.

I was unable to learn if it can be used more than once, but imagine it can be.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen


Saturday, August 2, 2014

HMAS Perth-- Part 2

On February 17, 1942, under command of Captain "Hec" Waller, the Perth sailed from Freemantle for the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, which was under threat of advancing Japanese forces.  The Battle of Sunda Straits took place 11 days later, on February 28th.

At 11:06 PM, a Japanese destroyer was sighted 5 miles off the Perth.  It was with an American cruiser USS Houston and a large number of enemy destroyers attacked the two ships.  By midnight, the Perth was low on ammunition and Waller determined to force a passage to safety.  Shortly afterwards, the Perth was hit by four torpedoes and it sank at 12:25 AM, March 1st.

Waller was last seen on the ship's compass platform and is thought to have been killed shortly afterwards by a direct Japanese hit.

The USS Houston was still fighting, but ablaze from stem to stern.  It was also hit by torpedoes and sank.

Losses on the Perth were 357, including three civilians.  Its loss was deeply felt in Western Australia as the Perth had made port call in Freemantle six times from 1940 to 1942.

--Brock-Perry