Friday, December 19, 2014

"Wee Vee" Vets Visit West Virginia-- Part 1: Will the Real Carl Newton Please Stand Up?

From the September 28, 2012, West Virginia Gazette Mail.

Eleven former crew members of the battleship attended the reunion.  "Wee Vee" was the name sailors used referring to the ship.

One was Anthony Reiter of St. Paul, Minnesota.  Joseph Variot, 83, was on the ship at the end of the war.  The ship was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay because it had been at Pearl Harbor during the opening attack.

Joseph Variot joined the Navy at age 15 using a friend's birth certificate.  He was assigned to the USS West Virginia in 1944 at age 16 under the name Carl Wayne Newton.  The battleship was being restored and refitted from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when he joined.

After the Battle of Surigao Strait, he became aware of his mortality and came clean about his age and name so his parents could claim the insurance and benefits if something happened to him.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Parachute Bomb Found in Britain

From the September 29, 2012, BBC News Cornwall "World War II parachute mine found in Helford River is detonated."

A German 6-foot-by-3-foot bomb carrying 1540 pounds of explosives was found by scuba divers and towed out to sea where it was detonated.

--GreGen

Bits of War Back in 2012: Tank Found-- Jewish Observance-- Wee Vee Reunion

Bits of War.  2012

1.  TANK FOUND--  A rare Wold War Ii tank was discovered under the mud of the Warta River in eastern Poland.  The British-made Valentine tank is extra important because there are no other preserved examples in Europe.  It served in the Red Army of the Soviet Union and is thought to have sunk in the river in 1945 during the final thrust into Germany.

2.  JEWISH OBSERVANCE--  October 3, 1942, The Jewish Welfare Board of the Army and Navy Committee announced that final preparations were being made to entertain Jewish servicemen in the Wilmington, N.C., area for the observance of the High Holy Days.  Aiding in the effort were Rabbi Thurman, Rabbi Bronstein, Chaplain Blumenthal and Mr. Snyder.

3.  WEE VEE REUNION--  Eleven men who had served on the battleship USS West Virginia during World War II were present as were two who were on it at the Pearl Harbor attack.

--GreGen

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lester Kent Died in 2012-- Part 2: "Cool Water"

They started throwing everything overboard, including gasoline.  To fire up the generator to send out an S.U.S. signal, they collected fluid from cigarette lighters.

He remembers that the crew would play music to pass the time and he put his Sons of the Pioneers songbooks into a waterproof plastic bag and went topside where he had some cocktails.  Upon jumping into the freezing water, he swam to a lifeboat, where once aboard, he sang "Cool Water" (by the Sons of the Pioneers) to entertain the other shivering sailors.

"The cocktails helped a lot but was wearing off fast."

Some of the sailors were hanging onto the outside of the lifeboat and gradually began slipping under the water.  The bow of the Borie crashed into his lifeboat, tossing Mr. Kent into that cold water again.

Eventually he was brought out of the sea by another boat where a doctor restimulated blood circulation in his legs.

Quite the Ordeal.  Like I Said, "The Greatest Generation."  --GreGen

Lester Kent, 88, Died in 2012-- Part 1: Survived USS Borie Sinking in Arctic

From the October 2, 2012, Press Democrat "Les Kent" by Cathy Bussewitz.

Lester Kent, 88, from Sebastopol who was one of the 129 who survived (27 died) the sinking of the USS Borie which was sunk in October 1943 in Arctic waters after a fight with a U-boat, died September 23, 2012.

He was born in Texas but grew up in Colorado.  Mr. Kent joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor and served on the USS Thrush, USS J. Fred Talbot and finally the USS Borie, which was sunk October 31, 1943, just south of the Arctic Circle.

"Our searchlights were on the sub, which was good for our gun crews, but also gave the sub something to shoot at."  The ship's bow got hung up on the U-boat and, "We had to use handguns, flare pistols and just about everything imaginable to fling at the Germans, even a nice coffee mug from Brazil and cans of condensed milk."

The Borie broke free but had been badly damaged and began flooding.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

USS Missouri 16-inch Gun Comes to San Francisco

From the October 1, 2012, Huffington Post, San Francisco "WWII Gun in San Francisco" Weapon Finds New Home in Marin Highlands."

A 16-inch gun from the USS Missouri which was on the ship when the Japanese surrendered is to be installed on a cliff at the entrance to San Francisco Bay.

The 68-foot-long, 236,000 pound gun will be painted and displayed at the Battery Townsley fortification in the Golden gate National recreation Area.  It made a two-day trip from the naval weapons station at Hawthorne, Nevada.

The gun was one of three on the turret that have long since been removed.  It could fire a 2,100 pound shell to a 25-mile distance.

The battery and another one like it at Fort Funston became models for other ones planned for defense on the east and west coasts of the United States during the war.

Battery Townsley fired its guns for the first time in 1940 during practice.

--GreGen

Wilmington at War: Growth of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company

SEPTEMBER 24, 1942:  With 15,000 employees, the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company became the largest industrial employer in the state, eclipsing R.J. Reynolds which had 13,000.

The North Carolina Shipbuilding employees peaked in 1943 at 21,000.

During the war, about 6,000 workers left to join the Armed Forces and, of those, at least 33 died.

--GreGen

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wilmington at War: College Football and Lighting

From the Dec. 2, 2012, Wilmington (MC) Star-News "Back Then."

SEPTEMBER 18, 1942:  North Carolina State and Davidson were having a big football game at Wilmington's Legion Stadium on September 19th.  reserve seats were $2 and general admission $1.25.  The game was set to begin at 4:45.  As such, it must have been lighted.

Most of the lighting restrictions were evidently along the beaches.

This was the first game of the year for the Wolfpack and ended in a 0-0 tie.  State also played Clemson in Charlotte that year.

--GreGen

To Japan, Pearl Harbor Just Another Battle-- Part 2

Current Japanese textbooks have little to say about Pearl Harbor and, when asked about it, Japanese people say they have little knowledge of it.  They do know, however, that the attack came in context with the fighting going on elsewhere.

One picture of Japanese feelings the subject can be found at the Yasukuni Shrine, one of the most controversial sites in Japan.  It memorializes 14 former Japanese officials who, after World War II, were found guilty of crimes against peace.

However, it is the adjacent museum of military history that tells the story.  According to the text: "At the White House, the President, Secretary of State and secretaries of War and Navy meet and discuss war with Japan.  They explore means to maneuver them (Japan) into the position of firing the first shot without allowing much danger to ourselves."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it continues, ordered his subordinates "to prepare for a surprise attack, which is likely to occur on December 1."

The text is written in English and Japanese so visitors won't miss the Japanese position of what led to the attack.

I am familiar somewhat with this place, but am not sure it represents the attitude of most Japanese.

--GreGen

Monday, December 15, 2014

To Japan, Pearl Harbor Is Just Another Battle-- Part 1

From the December 7, 2014, Chicago Tribune by Albert Siegel, McClatchy-Tribune News.

Sunday marked the 73rd anniversary of that famous day back on December 7, 1941 when 2,403 Americans were killed and the United States was drawn into World War II.

But, with the exception of a fireworks display to honor the dead in Nagaoka, which took place Tokyo time on December 8th, it will pass largely unremarked in Japan.(I'm not sure if the fireworks were to honor American dead at the battle or not.)

For the Japanese, the Pearl Harbor attack wasn't the start of the war, but the continuation of the struggle to keep Japan of outside influence that had been going on since 1853 (when the United states forcibly opened Japan to trade).

--GreGen

World War II Ships Sunk Off the Carolinas Coast

From Coastal Scuba.com

The Hebe and St. Cathan are also known as the Twin Cities Wreck.  The Hebe was a Dutch merchant vessel and the St. Cathan was a British subchaser.  The two ships collided during black out conditions in 1942.

They are now two of the South Carolina's most popular shipwrecks for advances divers.  They are 1/4 mile apart in 90-110 feet of water.  There are artifacts, tropical and game fish as well as sand tiger sharks in the spring and fall.  A full day trip for $115 a person.

The Rariton is a 251-ft. steel freighter which ran aground off Frying Pan Shoals, N.C., in 1942.  It is broken into two pieces in 90 feet of water.  The bow and stern are intact.  This is for experienced divers and costs $110 for a full day trip.

--GreGen

1942: U-boat Menace Off N.C. Coast-- Part 4

Erich Torp is credited with sinking 30 ships and received the Oak Leaves and Swords Medal.  He said: "We had a briefing before Drum Beat (the name of the operation), all commanders.  We had hydrographic surveys, many from merchantmen before the war.

"The North and South Carolina coasts were perfect for interdiction from the refineries in the Gulf region to and from New York.  Our job was to intercept them going north, before they turned west to join convoys.

"Night attacks were preferable, and surface attacks were also preferred, allowing us to use greater surface speed and chase them down, often intersecting their course where we could lay in ambush."

--GreGen

Saturday, December 13, 2014

1942: U-boat Menace Off North Carolina-- Part 3: U-123 vs. SS Liebre

Reinhard Hardegan pf the U-123 had a rare day-light attack on the SS Liebre seventeen miles east of Cape Lookout at 7:18 a.m. on April 2, 1942.  His first torpedo missed as the ship zig-zagged. This started a 35-minute running battle.

The U-123, fully surfaced, shelled the ship with its 105 mm deck gun.  The Liebre's crew abandoned ship 15 minutes later as the generator, radio room and aft works were hit, starting fires.  The ship was badly damaged and had 9 dead of its 34-man crew.

Seven more died in the water.  The British motor torpedo boat HMS MTB-332 responded to the ship's SOS call before the radio room was hit.  Its arrival forced Herdegen to abandon his attack and crash dive.  The U.S. Coast Guard assisted in towing the Liebre to port for repairs.

--GreGen

Friday, December 12, 2014

1942: U-boat Menace Off North Carolina-- Part 2

Anytime a U-boat attacked, it had to clear out of the area as quickly as it could because retribution would come in quickly by patrol craft and planes.

Nine crew members on the Clan Skene were killed.  Its captain and 72 others were picked up by the USS McKean (APD-5) and taken to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Georg Lassen, who received the Knight's Cross-Oak Leaves, of the U-160 sank the City of New York off Cape Hatteras at 7:36 a.m. March 29, 1942, attacking in twenty-foot seas.  He recalled, "I could not believe how many ships were around.  We never had enough torpedoes."

Reinhard Hardegan commanded the U-123 and sank 22 ships, receiving his Knight's Cross-Oak Leaves.  Once he entered New York Harbor to gather intelligence and operated off Cape Hatteras.

He had this to say about these waters: "The waters and currents at Hatteras were so strong we needed the planesmen always on the bow and stern.  You could not leave them unattended.... The Gulf Stream was the reason.  The waters were so shallow, we often attacked on surface to escape faster.  There was little room for diving and maneuvering."

--GreGen

1942: U-boat Menace Off North Carolina Coast-- Part 1: "Every Victory Was An Invitation to be Sunk"

From the September 4, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Author describes U-Boat menace from German perspective" by Coln D. Heaton.

The North Carolina coast during World War II is a largely forgotten battlefield.  Seventy Allied ships were sunk offshore by German U-boats, most in the first months of the U.S. entry in the war, 1942.

Serious danger to Allied shipping, but equally dangerous for the Germans as well.

Peter Erich Cremer commanded the U-333 and was awarded a Knight's Cross.  He considered North Carolina's coastal waters as being extremely dangerous, "The target rich environment was alluring, yet the very shallow waters, tidal variances and strong currents also created danger for the U-Boats."

One of his kills was the British freighter Clan Skene which he sank May 10, 1942 at 9:05 a.m. with two torpedoes.  Three days later, his submarine was limping back to France after having been seriously damaged by depth charges.  He described his return "a balm after those terrible depth charges."

"The shallow waters and strong current made escape difficult.  Every victory was an invitation to be sunk right afterward."

--GreGen

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Families Pick Up the Pearl Harbor Torch-- Part 2

Joseph Kralik Jr is the national vice president of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors with about 4,000 members from every state, including several hundred from Pennsylvania.

The Pearl harbor Survivors Association disbanded on the 70th anniversary of the attack in 2011, after 53 years of activity.  At one point they had as many as 58,000 members, but today that is down to fewer than 2,500.

This weekend, the Sons and Daughters held their annual convention in Charleston, S.C., on board the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown which was launched in 1943.

The group hopes op establish a Pearl Harbor Survivors museum stateside and also is establishing a junior division to attract younger members as the Children of PHS are in their middle age years.

The group also worries about how Pearl Harbor is taught in school.

Most of the time, it receives barely a mention in most classrooms.  That was the way it was in my classes for about 15 years.  The last 18 years, I taught about it.  What started as a 20 minute exercise eventually grew to several class periods.

--GreGen

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Families Pick Up the Pearl Harbor Torch-- Part 1

From the Dec. 6, 2014, Trib (Pennsylvania) Live News "Families pick up torch as Pearl Harbor survivors fade" by Craig Smith.

Army Tech Sgt. Joseph F. Kralick Sr. was 19 and on his way to Sunday mass when the planes struck.  He dashed to a nearby artillery station, picked up a gun and began firing at the planes as bullets and bombs hit all around him.

His memories died with him in 2007, but his son, Joseph Kralik Jr and thousands of other children of the survivors are carrying on with the ideas of them.

Of the 60,000 military personnel at Pearl Harbor and Hawaii that day, it is thought that only around 2,000 remain and most of them are in their 90s and older.

--GreGen

Survivors Gather to Remember Pearl Harbor-- Part 3

December 7, 2014.

The city fire department was dispatched at 8:05, "Without knowing it, the Honolulu Fire Department was going to war.  Three firefighters would never return, and six others would be seriously injured.

The ceremony also had a Japanese peace prayer, a Hawaiian blessing and a moment of silence to mark the beginning of the attack at 7:55 a.m.  There was a flyover of military planes.

This year will probably be the last one for Ervin Brody, 91, of Houston, who says expense and age rule against it.  "A lot of us figure this will be their last one."

Later in the afternoon, the 4 USS Arizona survivors who attended planned to visit the memorial and have a toast to their fallen comrades with glasses of sparkling wine given to the survivors by President Gerald Ford.  They will be using replica glasses of those aboard their ship.

After the toast, divers will place one of the glasses at the base of the Arizona gun turret four, which also has the ashes of 38 survivors who have since died.

--The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Survivors Gather to Remember Pearl Harbor Attack-- Part 2: Only 2000 Remain (9 from the Arizona)

Only about 2000 survivors of the attack are still alive now.

There are just nine remaining USS Arizona survivors and four were in attendance.

Arizona survivors Don Stratton, 92, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Lauren Bruner, 94, of La Mirada, California, escaped the inferno that the forward half of their ship had become by negotiating a line, hand-over-hand, about 45 feet in the air, despite burns over about 60% of their bodies..

John Anderson, 97, of Roswell, New Mexico, was ordered off the Arizona, but didn't want to leave his twin brother Delbert behind.  He was forced into a small boat and taken to Ford Island, but found an empty boat and returned to his ship and rescued 3 shipmates, but never found his brother.

--GreGen

Survivors Gather to Remember Pearl Harbor Attack-- Part 1: Mad Because He Stood Her Up

From the December 7, 2014, Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher.

Many of the Pearl Harbor survivors and World War II veterans who arrived in Pearl harbor for the commemoration, came with the help of canes, wheel chairs and motorized scooters.

About 100 of them gathered, wearing purple orchid leis, for the ceremony overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial.  This was the 10th consecutive trip for USS Utah survivor Gilbert Meyer, 91, who traveled from San Antonio, who said this may be his last as it was getting more difficult to attend.  When asked if he will attend next year's ceremony, he replied, "That's like asking me if I'll still be alive."

Harold Johnson, 90, survived the USS Oklahoma and hopes to make it to the 75th anniversary in 2016.  He had been on the USS Oklahoma for just six months and was looking forward to a day off that day and a "date with a little Hawaiian girl."  he was shining his shoes when the alarm went off.  He said, "Three months later I ran into her in town in Honolulu.  She was mad at me because I stood her up."

Personally, I Believe He Had a Very Good Reason for Standing Her Up.  --GreGen