Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Personal World War II Stories Going Online-- Part 4: The Story of Harold E, Ward at Pearl Harbor

Harold E. Ward was a lookout on the cruiser USS San Francisco when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  He made four videos, covering two hours of interviews.  The videos are divided into 12 segments, each with detailed annotations describing what Ward was talking about.

The USS San Francisco was being overhauled when the planes came in low and slow.  "I just stood and watched," said Ward.  As a lookout, he was wearing headphones.

An ensign somewhere else in Hawaii asked him to describe the scene.  "He says, 'What's going on there?'"  Ward recounted:   "So I told him we were being attacked by the Japanese air force."  The ensign's response:  "Don't you get wise with me, Ward.  I asked you a question."

"So I began to describe what I was looking at.  And there was a dead silence when I finished speaking."

--GreGen

Monday, March 27, 2017

Personal World War II Stories Going Online-- Part 3: Collecting Oral Histories

Since May 2016, the National World War II Museum has collected 500 oral histories.  But the war generation is fading fast.  Even people who were children during the war are in their 70s and 80s.

The U.S. Holocaust  Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., has about 10,000 oral histories available online.  These are among the 66,000 that can be viewed or listened to on their site.

Putting oral histories online is not just a matter of uploading and linking to huge audio and video files.  At the World War II Museum, their six historians also describe the contents for online searching.

Greatest generation.  --GreGen

Friday, March 24, 2017

Personal World War II Stories Going Online-- Part 2

Ultimately, all of these first-hand accounts of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Germany fighting, surrender, Hiroshima, Japanese surrender and the home front will be online.

Founded in 2000, the National World War II Museum is one of New Orleans' top attractions.  The digital collection is open to anyone, anywhere, but only about 250 of the oral histories are online so far.  Uploading more will take time, partly because the museum's six historians are racing to interview the last veterans.

I'd have to say this recording the histories of the surviving veterans is much more important at this point.

--GreGen

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Personal World War II Stories Going Online-- Part 1: Digital-Days, Now

From the December 21, 2016, Chicago Tribune by Janet McConnaughey.

It's D-Days these days, and that's not the famous D-Day.  This stands for "Digital Days."  The National World War II Museum is seeking to move thousands of first-person accounts of experiences in the war online.

The museum is creating a vast online collection of 9,000 oral and written histories.  This will take longer than the war itself lasted, with length figured to be 10 years and cost $11 million.  They have more than 22,000 hours of audio and video and thousands of documents to be digitized as well as millions of words to be transcribed.

--GreGen

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Unknowns From the USS West Virginia Next to Be Identified-- Part 2

There were at least four-known sailors who died of the 106 deaths from the West Virginia.  All were identified, however.

Frank J. Bartek, of Wahoo, Nebraska was buried after the war in Colon, Nebraska.

Myron Goodwin, of Sidney, was buried in Gering.

Edward Durkee, of Arlington, and Clement Durr, of Nebraska City, are interred at a military cemetery in Honolulu.

--GreGen

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Unknowns from USS West Virginia Next to Be Identified-- Part 1

In connection with Harold Costil, who I wrote about yesterday and Friday.  he was one of the WestVirginia unidentifieds.

From the December 7, 2016, Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald  "Unknowns from the USS West Virginia will be the bnext to finally be identified" by Steve Liewer.

It is wonderful that the United States has been identifying the remains of the USS Oklahoma's unidentified.  This was the ship sustaining the second-most casualties at Pearl harbor.  The  USS Arizona had the most.  Now, the Department of Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency can turn its attention on the ship with the third highest number of casualties, as well as unidentifieds.

The agency now has approval to open 35 unidentified graves associated with the USS West Virginia.  These graves contain an estimated 38 sailors and Marines. Most of the graves will have skulls and jawbones with teeth.  This will be a much easier effort as the West Virginia graves were not as commingled as were the ones from the Oklahoma.

--GreGen

Monday, March 20, 2017

Remains of Illinois Flying Tiger Pilot Coming Home-- Part 2

Maax Hammer Jr. was buried in Hawaii where his remains were classified as "Unknown" for the past 67 years.

In the continuing effort to identify World War II's "Unknowns," DNA samples from a family member were collected and the family notified January 4, 2017, that Maax had been identified.  They hope he will be buried at Oakwood cemetery where his parents and grandparents are buried..

Visitation will be today, March 20, in Carbondale, Illinois and a private graveside service held tomorrow, March 21.  A Missing Man Formation flyover will be conducted by A-10 Warthogs, similar to the plane Mr. Hammer was flying.

--GreGen

Remains of Illinois Flying Tigers Pilot Coming Home-- Part 1

From the March 19, 2017, Chicago Sun-Times "Remains of World War II pilot returns for burial" AP.

The remains of Maax Curtis Hammer Jr.,. a member of World War II's Flying Tigers from downstate Illinois Cairo, are being returned.

He was a volunteer pilot with the famed Flying Tigers (before the U.S. entry into the war), helping the British and Chinese defend Burma and China from Japanese aggression.  On September 22, 1941, he apparently got into an inverted spin while flying in a rainstorm and couldn't get out of it.  A crash site investigator reported that Hammer's plane hit the ground nose first and his remains were discovered on the plane's engine, some 15 feet down into the earth.




USS West Virginia Victim Harold "Brud" Costill

From casualty list Pearl Harbor.

Costill, Harold Kendall, F3c, USN, USS West Virginia.  There is a picture of him on the USS West Virginia website.

From the Homestead Site.

There is a letter from Joan Costill Burke, his sister.  In it, she says he graduated from Clayon (N.J.) High School and that his parents had to sign for him to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

She was ten at the time of his death.

His family had been looking forward to him coming home for Christmas.

--GreGen

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Jersey Vet Wants Brother's Remains Returned from Pearl Harbor-- Part 1: On the USS West Virginia

From the February 5, 2016, N.J..com  "After 74 years, N.J. veteran wants brother's remains back from Pearl Harbor" by Andy Polhamus.

Gene Costill, former mayor of Clayton and World War II veteran has a photo frame full of pictures of his brother, Harold "Brud" Costill, who died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  He is one of 25 unidentified bodies recovered from the USS West Virginia.

Gene Costill will soon be having his 90th birthday.  He joined the Coast Guard at age 17 and served in the North Atlantic guarding convoys.

Mr. Costill still remembers the day the Western Union man came to the family's house on Pearl Street saying that Harold was on the USS West Virginia and was MIA at age 18, just a few months after joining the Navy.  He has been listed as missing ever since.

"I don't think my mother ever lived another day after that, really.  She was convinced he was off the ship, lost somewhere, and that one day he'd walk through that door.  She waited for the rest of her life."

--GreGen

New Jersey Vet Wants Brother's Remains Returned From Pearl Harbor-- Part 2

Gene Costill shipped out into the Coast Guard just after D-Day.  His other brother, Robert Costill fought in both the European and Pacific Theaters.

Of the dozens of bodies removed from the USS West Virginia in 1942, only two of them were believed to be teenagers.  One was wearing the same watch Brad wore and had several physical characteristics similar to Brad's -- tall, but not fully grown and feet too small for his height.

That sailor is now buried under the tombstone "Unknown, USS West Virginia, Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941" at the Cemetery of the Pacific Punchbowl Cemetery.

Gene wants his brother Brad to come home for burial at Clayton's Cedar Green Cemetery.

DNA has been donated.

--GreGen

Thursday, March 16, 2017

World War II Made George Patton a Hero, But the 'Great War' Made Him a Commander

From the March 10, 2017, Washington Post by Michael E. Ruane.

In April, the Library of Congress opens a new exhibit on World War I that touches on the role it played in his life.

In World War I. Patton became the first soldier assigned to the new tank corps which he helped create.  He also built the Army's first tank school and develop the tank corps' original triangular, tricolor shoulder patch.

Patton was wounded at the biggest battle in U.S. military history, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, when 26,000 American soldiers were killed.

--GreGen

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

America's Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivor Turns 105: Ray Chavez

From the March 12, 2017, KPBS by Susan Murphy.

Ray Chavez turned 105 on March 10, 2017.  He was born in San Bernardino, California, on March 10, 1912, and enjoying his old age at the beach and even working out at a local gym twice a week.

He was on the minesweeper USS Condor that fateful morning and wouldn't talk about it for fifty years after the war.

--GreGen

Survived Seven Torpedoes and Came Back: The USS West Virginia-- Part 3

Then the USS West Virginia had repairs before returning and supporting the Philippines operation until February 1945.  In February, the West Virginia joined the 5th Fleet for the invasion of Iwo Jima and then fought off Okinawa.

It was present in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, for the Japanese surrender.

The West Virginia continued service until 1947 when it was placed in the reserve fleet.  In 1959, it was sold for scrap.

--GreGen

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Survived Seven Torpedoes and Came Back: The USS West Virginia-- Part 2

It took a long time for the USS West Virginia to become battleshape again.  After being raised, patches of concrete and wood were used to plug the hull damage and the ship went to Washington state for full repairs.  The ship's entire deck and armor belt were replaced.  The ship was also updated and became state of the art.  Work was completed in late 1944.

It then returned to Pearl Harbor and refueled, ready to get some payback.  It pounded Japanese shore fortifications on Leyte on October 17.  One week later, the Japanese fleet arrived and the Battle of Leyte Gulf began.

On October 24, the West Virginia and three other battleships resurrected from the ruins of Pearl Harbor spotted four Japanese ships and engaged them.  They sank two battleships and a cruiser in a nighttime combat.  This was the last time that battleships ever engaged each other.

--GreGen

Survived Seven Torpedoes and Came Back: The USS West Virgina-- Part 1

From the February 12, 2016, Daily News "This ship survived 7 torpedoes at Pearl Harbor and went on to help crush the Japanese" by Daniel McDonald.

The USS West Virginia was struck by a torpedo from a Japanese midget submarine and immediately began sinking, listing to the port.  That list got worse as successive torpedoes crashed into her.  The damage was major on its port side, facing out into the harbor.

At least seven torpedoes hit the ship and 2 bombs as well, but fortunately the bombs didn't explode.  The ship was counter-flooded on its starboard side so it wouldn't end up capsizing like the USS Oklahoma.

An oil fire raged through the ship for 30 hours, buckling the metal in many places.

The captain and many of the crew died that day.  Captain Mervyn S. Bennion received a posthumous Medal of Honor for saving his ship as he lay dying from shrapnel that pierced his abdomen.

Navy cook Dorie Miller helped him and then noticed an unmanned .50 caliber machine gun, manned it ans=d shot down 3 or 4 planes.  He became the first black sailor to be awarded the Navy Cross.

--GreGen

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pearl Harbor Survivor Paul Smith Dies

From the January 20, 2017, Naples (Fla.) Daily News "Pearl Harbor survivor Paul Smith of Collier County dies at 95."

Marine Corporal Paul Smith was at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal and other action in the Pacific Theater.  He got out of the service after the war, but reenlisted for 22 more years, serving in the Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force.

He was born June 18, 1921, in Bluefield, West Virginia.  At age 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, but his mother had to sign for him.

On the attack, he said, "We never dreamed such a thing would happen."  He threw his breakfast, half a grapefruit and spoon at a low flying plane and ran to his barracks to get his gun.

--GreGen

List of Pearl Harbor Honorees Grows to 77 Names

From the January 23, 2017, Times-Tribune (Pennsylvania)  by David Singleton.

The 9-11 Memorial Committee of Lachawana County ordered a plaque honoring county residents who were at Pearl Harbor, but missed some names.  They had a temporary plaque unveiled outside the courthouse on the 75th anniversary of the attack with 31 names on it, but now that number stands at 77.

On January 31, they plan to dedicate a permanent one with that number of names on it.

They started work on the project two years ago.  It is believed that just one man, Walter J. Paciga, of Simpson was the only one killed in the attack.

In a sad footnote, however, the last two living Pearl Harbor survivors since last month's dedication have died.  John Greco, 94, Navy, of Old Forge attended that ceremony and died Christmas Day.  Elmer Burke, 96, Army, died January 7 in Port Richey, Florida.

--GreGen

Friday, March 10, 2017

Looking Back to 1942: Food-For-Freedom Production

From the Jan. 18, 2017, MidWeek "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"How DeKalb County farmers can boost food-for-freedom production and at the same time take care of their soil will be the theme of a mid-winter meeting on soil improvement and erosion control at the Jarboe Hall in DeKalb."

--GreGen

Looking Back to 1942: Quota for a Special Drive

From the January 18, 2017, MidWeek (DeKalb County, Illinois) "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"The Clinton-Afton Red Cross Chapter has received a special notice from the headquarters of the Red Cross in Sycamore that the quota for a special drive will be $300.

"Contributions will be taken to the Waterman State Bank will be greatly appreciated."

--GreGen