Saturday, November 29, 2014

Deaths: Devised Daring WWII Air Rescue

From the May 3, 2012, Chicago Tribune.


In 1944, as head of the Office of Strategic Services in Italy, he guided a team of agents who worked with Yugoslav guerrillas to airlift more than 500 airmen from a makeshift airstrip carved out of a mountain top in Nazi occupied Yugoslavia.

It was called Operation Halyard and was relatively obscure until the release of the 2007 book "The Forgotten 500" by Gregory Freeman.

In the summer of 1944 U.S. bombers started attacking German oil fields in Romania.  The planes flew from Italy across Yugoslavia to the oil fields and many were shot down.  About 1,500 airmen were forced to bail out over Serbia and were taken in by local villagers and sheltered.

Mr. Vujnovich devised his plan involving the airfield being built without tools and assembled a team of Serbian-speaking  agents to parachute in and lead the effort

The team jumped on August 2, 1944 and went to building the 700-foot-long airstrip, just barely long enough for the 15th Air Force's C-47s to use.  From August 9 to Dec. 27, they were able to get 512 airmen to freedom under the noses of the Nazis.

They didn't  lose a man in the operation.

And, I Had Never Heard of It.  --GreGen

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Empty Grave Holds Story-- Part 3

John Sikes of Joliet is a great-nephew of Emil Wasilewski and has Emil's purple Heart, the flag that was draped over the empty coffin, the letter from Franklin D. Roosevelt offering his condolences, Emil's cigarette lighter and a letter sent to the family by Sgt. George F. Clark, the only survivor of the crash.

In part, it read:  "...The pilot then ordered us to jump.  I can't say for sure, but I imagine we were between one and two thousand feet when we were told to jump.  I jumped and soon after my chute opened...I heard the plane crash.  I looked down and saw it burning."

The remains of Emil Wasilewski are scheduled to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on June 26, 2012.  If more remains are recovered, relatives say they will be cremated and sprinkled over the grave at St. Casimir's.

Quite the interesting story.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Empty Grave Holds Story-- Part 2

In the winter 2010-2011, Emil Wasilewski's nephew Wally Wade received a strange phone call from a man at Fort Knox saying they thought they had found the remains of his uncle.  He blew it off thinking it was a scam, but his older brother Wade got the same message and took a DNA swab.  In the fall of 2011, they got news that the DNA was a match.

In 1991, a German digging in the area found the dog tags of one of the crew members.  German law prohibited more searching on the site and it wasn't until 2007 that a POW/MIA group investigated the mass burial site.

A few years ago, 117 bone and tooth samples were submitted to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Empty Grave Now Has An Ending-- Part 1

From the May 27, 2012, Chicago Tribune "empty WWII grave holds a story that now has ending" by John Kass.

"There are many graves at St. Casimir Cemetery on the Far South Side of Chicago, and one belongs to Emil Wasilewski.

"Emil's coffin is there, but Emil isn't in the ground.

"The empty casket was buried after his family learned that Lt. Emil T. Wasilewski, a decorated bombardier, was killed in action in Germany in 1944.  Emil's body wasn't recovered, but his father, a Polish immigrant, wanted a place to grieve."

The Chicago Tribune had run a story on May 7, 1944, saying that Emil had recently graduated from Deming Army Air Field in New Mexico and that he had received silver bombardier wings after an 18-week course in high altitude precision bombing.

According to the Army, Emil Wasilewski was part of the crew of a B-17G Flying Fortress on a bombing run over Germany to take out oil refineries on September 13, 1944, when his aircraft was shot down by enemy fire and crashed.  Only one man survived.

The other eight died in the crash and were buried near the town of Neustadt.  For years, this area in what became East Germany was off limits to American forces by the Soviets.

And, Then, The Burial Site Was Found.  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Sgt. Rock" Co-creator Joe Kubert, Died in 2012

From the August 14, 2012, Chicago Sun-Times


Ground-breaking comic artist and educator died August 12th.

Founded the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art in 1976

But, to me, he was the one who gave me those great old Sgt. Rock and Easy Company comic books that I religiously read back in my way-younger years.  I also see he helped create the Hawkman character.

Sgt. Frank Rock had a dangerously accurate shot and the uncanny ability to survive war wounds with his Easy Company.  And, he was a youthful hero of mine.Plus, I liked the haunted Jeb Stuart tank, the Indian Mustang pilot.

Sgt. Rock and his company sure killed a whole lot of enemy soldiers with all that "Rat-a-Tat" and "Ka-Pows."  "Kubert was known for his war comics, expressionist drawings of macho men, muscles rippling as they performed heroics."

He was born to a Jewish family in Poland in 1926 and came to the U.S. as a baby, growing up in Brooklyn.  He did his first work for D.C. Comics in the 1940s.

Sgt. Rock first appeared  in a comic book in June 1959 and was created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert.

With all the success that Marvel has had with their movies, I sure wish we'd get some Sgt. Rock ones.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wilmington at War: "Y" Gun Becomes War Scrap, No More Civilian Typewriters

From the August 14, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then."

AUGUST 4, 1942:  The "Y" gun at the entrance to the New Hanover Count Court House, dropped depth charges on German subs during World War I.  It will become scrap metal for the war effort.

AUGUST 5, 1942:  Production of many items has been stopped or curtailed.  The latest order calls for production to cease on typewriters in all U.S. factories except the ones that are produced for the war effort.

The War Hits Home.  --GreGen

Wilmington at War: "The Chief" WWI Secretary of Navy Visits

From the August 14, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

AUGUST 2, 1942:  The skipper of the U.S. Navy in World War I, Josephus Daniels, former secretary of the Navy and recently elected ambassador to mexico, is the only man FDR calls "Chief."  he is expected to be in Wilmington on August 8th to speak when the local Navy recruiting station climaxed its Eastern North Carolina Navy Day Drive to enlist 100 men.

Daniels was publisher of the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.  The Navy recruiting publicist was the late Jesse Helms (later U.S. Senator).


V-J Day in Honolulu

From 2012 discovering Richard Sullivan

VJ Day, Honoluly, Hawaii, August 14, 1945.

Sixty-seven years ago my dad shot this film along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, capturing the spontaneous celebration that broke out upon hearing of the Japanese surrender.


Jim Gailey, Pearl Harbor Veteran, Dies-- Part 2

Gailey was a signal man on an anti aircraft mount and described the Japanese planes that day "as like a swarm of hornets attacking--you just fire your gun in the air and hit something."

He remained on the Helena at Guadalcanal and Okinawa.  He was transferred to the USS Chase and not aboard the Helena when it was sunk at the Battle of Kula Gulf.

Gailey retired as a senior chief quartermaster and joined his fellow Pearl Harbor survivors there for the 70th anniversary and earlier in June he went to Washington, D.C. to view the World War II Memorial on an Oklahoma Honor Flight.

Another of the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Jim Gailey, Pearl Harbor Veteran, Dies in 2012-- Part 1

From the August 12, 2012 Tulsa (Ok) World by Tim Stanley.

James Russell Gailey, 88, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, was aboard the USS Helena at Pearl Harbor.  he kept looking at the battleship USS Oklahoma and thinking it was incredibly majestic, but it made him think of his home state of Oklahoma.

He saw many survivors of the Oklahoma swimming toward his ship where they climbed aboard and immediately took up fighting positions.

In June 2010, he was at the dedication of the Oklahoma's mast at the Muskogee War memorial Park.

A native of Commerce, Oklahoma, he enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and his ship, the Helena, arrice at Pearl in November.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Rare Naval Document Announcing War's End to Be Auctioned

From the August 10, 2012, Washington Post "Rare naval dispatch declaring war's end to be auctioned on the 67th anniversary of V-J Day" AP.

Chief Yeoman Robert W. York went to the commander of the USS Holland with a dispatch from the Secretary of the Navy dated August 15, 1945, reading: "All hands of the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard may take satisfaction in the conclusion of the war against Japan."

It was on an 8-inch-by 6.5-inch piece of paper.

York died in February at the age of 91, and had kept that short message in a shoe box since then.  His son is auctioning it.  York enlisted in the Navy on August 25, 1942 and he was assigned as the personal secretary of Rear Admiral Francis Denebrink.  He later served on the ill-fated USS Ocelot that was wrecked in a typhoon.  Then he was on the sub-tender Holland, headquarters of Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood, Jr., commander of the Pacific submarine fleet.

A massive invasion fleet was being assembled in August for the dreaded invasion of Japan

Denebrink read it and then handed it back to York and told him to keep it as a souvenir.

The auction house had hoped to get $7,000 for it.  It ended up going for $20,000.


Wilmington at War: Maffitt Village

From the August 7, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News, "Back Then"

According to Wilmington's World War II expert, Wilbur Jones, the public housing project built near the shipyard in Wilmington was built in late 1942 and 1943.  It is now called Long leaf Park, but then was known as Maffitt Village.  The old Maffitt Village homes were cinderblock were torn down.  They had been built earlier in 1942.

There were dormitories on the east side of Carolina Beach Road, across from Maffitt Village.  They are located near an extended stay motel and the Frontier.

The barrack-looking building that still stands near the port on Burnett Boulevard was housing for the N.C. Shipbuilding Company's apprentice school and later was the USMC Reserve Center.

You can find out more about the World War II housing project at


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Capture of German Blockade-Runner Odenwald-- Part 2

This took place even though the United States was not yet officially involved in the war.

An Admiralty Court ruled that since the ship was claiming American registration, this was grounds for confiscation and that the crews of the American ships involved, the USS Somers and USS Omaha had salvage rights because the German crew was attempting to scuttle it.

The court case was settled in 1947.  Members of the boarding party received $3,000 apiece and crewmen of the Somers and Omaha were entitled to two months pay and an allowance.  This was the last-ever official prize money issued by the U.S. Navy.  Quite a bit was given out during the Civil War.

The Odenwald was built in Hamburg, Germany, in 1923 and had set a record for speed between Honolulu and San Francisco in 1932 at 75 hours and 40 minutes.

At the time of its last capture, it had made four runs through the Allied blockade to Europe.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Capture of German Blockade-Runner Odenwald by U.S. Navy, Before the War- Part 1

After writing about blockade-runners during the Civil War for so long, it never occurred to me that the Germans would have needed blockade-runners of their own during World War II as they were also under blockade, much as the Confederacy was.

On November 6, 1941, on Neutrality Patrol, the destroyer USS Somers and light cruiser USS Omaha, spotted a suspicious ship near the equator.  Notice the date was a full month before Pearl Harbor.  This strange ship was in what was referred to as the American Security Zone.

The ship refused to identify itself  The ship was flying an American flag and had the name Wilmott on its stern

A boarding party was dispatched while the Wilmott's crew took to their lifeboats and left the ship.  The approaching Americans could hear explosions on boat the ship, but boarded anyway, facing great danger.  It then became a prize.

The Wilmott was taken to Puerto Rico and it was discovered the ship was actually the German freighter Odenwald and was carrying 3800 tons of scarce rubber.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

USS Hoga, WWII Tug, at Mare Island for Repairs-- Part 2

The Hoga served four years as an Oakland, California, fire department boat.  The Navy signed the Hoga to the N.L.R. in 2005 after two years of effort.  Fundraising problems delayed the move from Suisun Bay.

Parts for the 325-ton tug will be scavenged from two ex-Navy tugs in Richmond.  Seagoing tugs Lion and Tiger will be taken to Mare Island's Dry Dock 2 for dismantling.  They were formerly the USS Quapaw and USS Moctobi, built just a few years after the Hoga.

At 8, Mare Island-built submarine tender Nereus left for its final voyage to Akllied defense Recycling.  It is 67 years old.  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

USS Hoga, WWII Tug, at Mare Island for Repairs-- Part 1

From the August 1, 2012, Vallejo (Cal.) Times -Herald "Historic USS Hoga tug at Vallejo's Mare island drydocks for repairs" by Jessica A. York.

The USS Hoga will become a Mississippi River waterfront museum in Arkansas, but in 2012 was at Mare island for repairs before her trip there.

The Hoga is a 71-year-old ship that was in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet and was there at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked.

Its firefighting ability was put to use that day and it helped tow the USS Nevada out of the major channel it was partially blocking.  While doing it, the tug received a dent from the battleship which was kept as a "momento" of that day.

It will be joining the submarine USS Razorback at North Little Rock as capstones for the beginning and end of World War II.  The Razorback was one of 12 U.S. subs at Tokyo bay for  Japan's surrender on September 2, 1945.


Truman's Grandson Unapologetic for Atom Bomb Decision

From the August 3, 2012, RT.

Clifton Truman Daniel met Hiroshima survivors in Tokyo and said his grandfather decided to end the war as quickly as possible and that is why he decided to drop the atom bombs.

Just ask any of the surviving U.S. military personnel who were preparing for the invasion of Japan what they thought about the decision.

My opinion is that the decision saved probably millions of lives, both American and Japanese.  perhaps, he should feel regret that it was necessary, but in no way should he apologize for it.


German Sub, Ship It Sank Found Off N.C. Coast-- Part 2

On July 15, 1942, a convoy of 19 merchant ships escorted by ships from the Navy and Coast Guard were sailing to Key West, Florida, from Norfolk, Virginia, to deliver war cargo when the U-576 attacked them.

Alerted to the U-boat's presence, a Coast Guard cutter dropped depth charges but the German sub was able to get off four torpedoes, striking the Bluefields and severely damaging two other ships.

The Bluefields sank.

The U-576 was evidently surfaced at one point as it was struck by gunfire from an armed merchant ship and then it was straddled by depth charges dropped by escort aircraft.

The Bluefields and U-576 rest on the seabed less than 240 yards apart.

All 45 men aboard the U-576 died and the convoy had four dead.

The discovery of the two ships was because of a 2008 partnership between the NOAA and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to survey vessels lost during World War II off North Carolina.  The two vessels were located this past August by a NOAA research ship.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day in College Station, Texas

There was an article about the new Civil War Memorial to be dedicated April 9, 2015, the 150th anniversary of Appomattox.

It will be joining other memorials along the half mile Lynn Stuart Trail.  Two of them honor World War II veterans.

One is the Day of Infamy, dedicated Dec. 7. 2011, the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and honors those who served and died in the Pacific Theater of World War II.  The other is Letters From Home and honors those who served in the European Theater.

Thanks, Veterans.  --GreGen

Monday, November 10, 2014

German Sub and Ship It Sank Found Off N.C. Coast-- Part 1

From the October 23, 2014, Chicago Tribune.  Reuters.

The wreck of a World War II German U-boat and a freighter it sank 72 years ago have been discovered off the North Carolina coast by researchers.

The U-576 and the Nicaraguan-flagged freighter SS Bluefields were found about 30 miles off Cape Hatteras in an area known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic for the many wrecks found there.

The discovery underscores how close the war and the Battle of the Atlantic came to the U.S. coast and is a rare view of an underwater battlefield.

NOAA sanctuary scientist and chief scientist of the expedition Joe Hoyt said, "These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories."


Mission to Recover Sunken HMS Hood's Bell

From the July 30, 2012, BBC News.

U.S. philanthropist Paul G. Allen has offered to recover the bell of the HMS Hood, sunk in action with the German battleship Bismarck in 1941 at no cost to Britain.  He is co-founder of Microsoft and a yacht owned by him will be equipped with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

Blue Water Recoveries, which found the Hood 2,800 metres underwater in 2011 will coordinate and film the recovery.

The bell is lying on the sea floor away from the hull, which will not be disturbed during the operation.

The HMS Hood, based out of Portsmouth was the largest Royal Navy warship sunk during World War II.  When it went down there were 1,415 killed, the largest single loss of life ever suffered on a British ship.  It was the flagship of the fleet chasing the Bismarck which was sunk by the RAF on 27 May 1941.  When the Bismarck was sunk, it had a loss of 2.090.

If the bell is recovered it will go on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2014.

Rear Admiral Philip Wilcocks is president of the HMS Hood Association and said the bell would be a fitting memorial.


Jock Moffat, 92, Fired Torpedo That Damaged the Bismarck's Rudder

From a 2011 interview.

A Swordfish biplane from the HMS Ark Royal, one of the ships pursuing the German battleship KMS Bismarck, is credited with launching the torpedo that jammed the Bismarck's rudder which spelled the ship's eventual doom.  Jack Moffat is believed to be the last surviving member of the air attack that day against the Bismarck.

"Jock, we got a runner."  After dropping the torpedo, "I got the hell out of there as fast as I could go."


Ireland Pardons Soldiers Who Deserted to Fight Hitler

From the June 12, 2012,Reuters.

On Tuesday, the government of Ireland pardoned thousands of soldiers who deserted to fight for Allied forces after the Irish state decided to remain neutral in World War II.

About 60,000 Irish fought in British forces, including 7,000 servicemen who deserted from the Irish armed forces.

At the  time, the Irish government summarily dismissed them and disqualified them from state employment for seven years.  Many of these Irish men were stigmatized by this move for decades.


German Divers Recover Stuka Radiator-- Part 2

Stukas carriedsirens that produced a distinctive sound during dives.

The wreck of the Stuka was first discovered in the 1990s when fishing nets snagged on it about ten kilometers off the coast of the German Baltic island of Ruegen in about 18 meters of water.

The only two surviving Stukas are at the Royal Air Force Museum in London and Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The German Stuka in Chicago

In the last entry, I came across mention that there is a Stuka in Chicago.  I was unaware of it, however.  It is in the Transportation Gallery of the Museum of Science and Industry.  It is a 1941 Junkers Ju-87R-2 Tropical Stuka.

Their website also refers to it as one of the only two-known surviving Stukas in the world.  (The museum also has the German U-boat U-505.)

This plane revolutionized military aviation and warfare with its blitzkrieg tactics using its fast, aggressive dive to support the quick advancement of German ground troops.

The one at the museum is shown in a steep dive, much like Allied ground forces would have seen.  With its wind design, this is one really scary-looking plane, especially coming right at you.


German Divers Recover Stuka Dive Bomber Radiator-- Part 1

From the June 12, 2012, Washington Post.  AP.

An engine was recovered from the Baltic Sea this weekend.  It was originally thought to be from a JU87D model, but now, because of the radiator, historians are about sure it is from a later model, the JU87G.  What makes the recovery remarkable is that there are only two-known complete Stukas on display (one at a museum in London and the other in Chicago.

There are pieces of others at other sites, but only those two complete ones.


Friday, November 7, 2014

The Japanese Akutan Zero-- Part 2

U.S. forces then got valuable information, unknown before this, on the mainstay of the Japanese fighters.  It was an extremely good fighter plane, but it did have two huge problems.

Starting on September 20, 1942, Lt.Cmdr. Eddie Sanders flew 24 flights in it over a period of 25 days.  It performed tremendously but did have a glaring Achilles heel.  It could not perform rolls at moderate speed.  If it could be forced  into a roll, the advantage would be to the Allied pilot.

The second problem with the Zero was that it had a poorly-designed carburetor which caused the engine to sputter badly when in a dive at a high rate of speed.  Force one to do that and it was an easy target.

Koga's Zero was later hit by a Curtis SB2C Helldiver while taxiing out for a training run.  Not much was left of these very important plane.

Stuff You Didn't Know.  --GreGen

The Japanese Akutan Zero-- Part 1

From the June 4, 2012 History Channel "The Akutan Zero: How a Captured Japanese Fighter Plane Helped Win World War II" by Elizabeth Hanes.

On June 4, 1942, Japan attacked an Allied position at Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island in the Aleution Island chain.

Japanese pilot Tadayoshi Koga was hit by ground fire and crashed.  After he was hit, Koga headed to Akutan Island which had been designated as an emergency landing field.  The boggy soil snared his landing gear and flipped the Zero over end-to-end and it landed upside down.

Japanese pilots were under strict orders to destroy their Zeros if they were disabled so they wouldn't fall into enemy hands and be examined.  Koga died instantly from a broken neck.

A U.S. Navy pilot on routine patrol spotted it and and after three attempts to recover the wreckage, Americans succeeded and sent it to San Diego to be restored.


USS Oklahoma Mini Reunion

June 8, 2012, San Diego Union Times.

Four survivors of the famous battleship that turned turtle at the Battle of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, held a mini reunion of their own at the USS Midway Museum Friday morning June 8th.

Paul Goodyear, Ed Vezey, Bill Hendley and Harold Johnson toured it.

Johnson said he was below deck but managed to scramble out through the main turret.

Of the survivors that day, only 25 are alive today.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

USS Oklahoma Reunion Draws Guests With Ties to Ship's History

From the June 9, 2012, News OK by John Greimer.

The daughter and granddaughetr of the woman who christened the USS Oklahoma on March 23, 1914, in Camden, New Jersey, came to this final reunion in San Juan Capistrano, California.

The ship was christened by Lorena Cruce, whose father was Lee Cruce, the second governor of Oklahoma.  her daughter, Lee Shaw and granddaughter Lorena Cruce Maldonado both live in California.

Just three survivors had arrived by Thursday afternoon, but one more is expected.


Last Reunion of the USS Oklahoma

From the June 9, 2012, San Juan Capistrano Patch "Pearl Harbor Survivors' Last Reunion for Survivors of Doomed Ship" by Penns Arevale.

The survivors of the USS Oklahoma started having reunions in 1966, 25 years after the ship was sunk.  There are only five of them left now and they met this weekend in San Juan Capistrano, California.

Ed Vezey, 92, from Moore, Oklahoma was on hand and said, "I was a simple-minded young man.  My roommate and I were arguing whether to go swim before we eat breakfast or swim first.  Five minutes later, most of my friends were dead."

Gene Dick, 91, of Placentia, California, was a hospital apprentice working sick bay duty on the third deck and was trapped underwater when the ship rolled over.  Up until then, he had felt the third deck was a very safe place to be, that is, until the first four torpedoes hit.

An air pocket allowed him and the men around him to survive during the five hours it took to open a porthole that was too narrow for most to fit through.  He and four others were the only ones to get out.

Bill Headley, 92, flew in from Wilmington, North Carolina.


USS Nevada Strikes Back at Normandy

From the June 11, 2012, Today's Document.

Repaired from damage sustained at Pearl Harbor, the battleship USS Nevada provided naval gunfire for the troops storming Omaha and Utah beaches at Normandy in June 1944.

During the first three days of the invasion, it fired 876 rounds from its 14-inch guns and 3,491 from its 5-inchers.

The 14-inch guns fired 1800 pound shells that landed as far as 18 miles away..

That's One Big Gun!!  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jack Clabaugh's Death in 2013

The previous post was about Jack Clabaugh, but since it was from 2012, I decided to look for a followup, and, sadly, as is all too often the case, I found out he had died July 18, 2013, at age 93.

From the La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch.

Mr. Clabaugh was born to a poor family in Iowa in 1920.  His mother died when he was seven and he and his six siblings were sent to live at farms all over the state.  Even so, he was able to finish high school and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy upon graduation in 1938.

He said, "Many of the other boys who enlisted had tears from leaving their loved ones but I had tears of joy.  It was the first time in my life I had two pairs of clean clothes and three square meals."

After basic training in Virginia, he was briefly stationed in San Diego and fell in love with the area and met the first love of his life who he eventually married.

He was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked and spent most of the war in the foundry of the destroyer tender USS Whitney where he made the stars for Admiral Halsey's uniform.  he later served aboard the USS Ajax.


Stars for an Admiral

From the June 8, 2012, San Diego Union-Times by John Wilkens.

Jack Clabaugh, 91, was a 21-year-old foundryman and firefighter on the USS Whitney, a destroyer tender at Pearl Harbor and standing on the deck when he saw the first plane coming in low that morning.  Then he saw the red sun on its wing.

He volunteered to go aboard the USS West Virginia, which had already sunk in the shallow water, and manned a hose for 7 to 8 hours battling the flames of an oil-fire on the water to keep them from spreading.

He served on the Whitney during the rest of the war in the Pacific.

One day, he was asked to make the stars for Admiral "Bull" Halsey's uniform.  His ship's officers sent coins down to be melted, but they arrived too late as Clabaugh and other sailors had already donated their coins.

He spent 20 years in the Navy and now lives in La Mesa, California.


A World War II Destroyer Meets Its Demise in 2012-- Part 2

The USS John Rodgers (DD-574),  served as the Cuitlahuac in the Mexican Navy until 2002 when it was decommissioned.

A veterans group was interested in saving it  The Mexican Navy also wanted to turn the ship (which served in the U.S, Navy for four years and the Mexican Navy for 33) into a museum ship.

However, saving the ship would require a whole lot of money with its lead-based paint, asbestos and toxic lubricants.

The ship was dismantled in 2010 and 2011.

Now only four of the 376-foot-long, 310 crew Fletcher-class destroyers remain.  Three are in the United States at Boston, Buffalo and Baton Rouge.  One other one is in Athens, Greece, where it is a museum honoring the Greek Navy.


A World War II Destroyer's Demise in Mexico-- Part 1: USS John Rodgers

From the April 4, 2012, New York Times by Walk Baranger.

The USS John Rodgers met its end in the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas.  It was one of the last American warships from the war that had not been scrapped, sunk or converted into a museum.  This, despite an international effort to save it that had been going on for five years.

It was built in Texas in 1942 and commissioned in early 1943, one of 175 Fletcher-class destroyers and mostly served in the Pacific, participating in most of the major battles.

It was given to mexico in 1968 after being out of service for two years.  It was renamed the Cuitlahuac and served 33 years, the last Fletcher-class destroyer on active duty anywhere.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

USS Midway Museum Records Record One Millionth Visitor in One Year in 2012

The USS Midway aircraft carrier, now a museum ship in San Diego, recorded its one millionth visitor in a year between June 1, 2011 and May 31, 2012.

It was launched on March 20, 1945, commissioned September 10, 1945 and decommissioned 11 April 1992.  It became a museum in 2004.  Although it was commissioned too late to fight in World War II, it did see action in the Korean War and Vietnam War.

It was the lead ship of its class, the others being the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt and the USS Coral Sea.

A total of 1,002,000 visited the ship, eclipsing the previous high of 941,000 in a year. Of those, 12% were from foreign countries and 25% under the age of 17.


The Final USS Oklahoma Family Reunion in 2012

Was held in San Juan Capistrano, California June 7-10

The last six survivors:  I took this from the organization's website and evidently this was a list of recnt deaths.

Herbert Rommel
George Brown
George Smith
Paul Goodyear
George Delong
Robert McMahon


Monday, November 3, 2014

Redding Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies in 2012

From the June 4, 2014, Redding (Cal.) Record Searchlight" by Jim Schultz.

The Shasta County Pearl Harbor Survivors Association lost another member.  Carroll Halcomb, 92, died May 28, 2012.  The chapter is now down to five members.

The 22-year-old Army  master sergeant was at Schofield Barracks at Wheeler Field near Pearl Harbor and on the upper floor of the barracks when he heard planes circling overhead, then explosions and machine-gun fire.  At first he thought it was a training exercise.

He assisted a chaplain administering last rites and lost a good friend and fellow Shasta High School grad Richard J. Miller who was on the USS Arizona where his body is still entombed.


The USS Yorktown a Shot in the Arm for Newport News Shipbuilding Company-- Part 2

President Franklin D. Roosevelt loved the Navy, stemming from his days as Secretary of the Navy.  His goal was to build up the Navy in preparation for World War II.

The Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company was declared the low bidder on August 5, 1933 and won the $40 million contract.

Neil Woodall, 100, then a 21-year-old boilermaker said, "We'd gone through some pretty lean times before that.  Everyone was elated when we got the contract for those two carriers."  They had to rearrange and expand the yard's shops and departments.  Plus, many new hires were made.

By the spring of 1936, they were preparing to launch the Yorktown and Eleanor Roosevelt was the sponsor.  A huge crowd attended the launch.

On April 4, 1936, the Yorktown was christened with a bottle of champagne and the 824-foot, 20,000 tons aircraft carrier slid into the James River for outfitting.

One Way to Break the Depression.  --GreGen

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The USS Yorktown a Shot in the Arm for a Newport News Shipyard-- Part 1

From the June 4, 2012, Newport News (Va.) Daily News by Michael Welles Shapiro.

The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown was sunk at the Battle of Midway on June 5, 1942.

However, it and its sister ship, the USS Enterprise, two ships being built because of the new naval warfare strategy based on the use of aircraft carriers and their squadrons of planes instead of battleships, were just what a struggling Newport News shipbuilding company needed.

The two Yorktown-class carriers were big for the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company which had been struggling before receiving the contracts because of the Great depression and the post World War I Naval limits on warships.

The company had resorted to building locomotives, rail cars and even traffic lights in the 1920s to stay afloat.

As war clouds in Europe approached, the U.S. government decided to help jump start the end of the Depression economy with war production.


Nebraska Soldier Was a World War II Sergeant York

From the June 4, 2012, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star by Tim Gay.

Donol McKay of Grand Island joined the Army in 1942.  On the outskirts of Rennes, France, in early August 1944, over a period of 48 hours, Private McKay killed six German soldiers, captured 28 and volunteered twice to be led blindfolded into a German command post to plead for its officer to surrender.

He returned with the message, "They still want to make a fight of it.  His commander, Lt.Col. William Bailey replied' "They can have a fight then.  We will blow some sense into them."


Wilmington Aviators Helped Win Battle of Midway-- Part 4

Clarence Dickinson's parents lived at Wrightsville Beach and he was a 1934 graduate of the USNA,  he wrote the book "The Flying Guns: Cockpit Record of a Naval Pilot from Pearl Harbor Through Midway."

Ensign Peiffer was a 1940 University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate.  In 1944-1945, the new destroyer USS Peiffer was named for him.  Peiffer Avenue in Wilmington is named for him.


Wilmington Aviators Helped Win Battle of Midway-- Part 3

Ensign Carl Peiffer's bomb hits were never verified and he disappeared on his way back to the ship and was never found.

Army Air Force Lt. Col. Brooke Empie Allen flew four missions from Midway Island over two days, but was too high and struck nothing, but he did scatter the Japanese formation to the advantage of the naval planes.

Peiffer posthumously received the Navy Cross.  Dickinson earned a Navy Cross on December 7, 1941, and then again on December 10th when he was credited with sinking the first enemy surface ship in the war.  He also received an Air Medal in February for sinking a Japanese transport at Kwajalein.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Wilmington Aviators Helped Win Battle of Midway-- Part 2

All of these aviators were graduates of New Hanover High School.  (Wilbur Jones' wife Carol's father served on the cruiser USS Astoria at the battle which became the flagship of the fleet after the sinking of the USS Yorktown on June 7th.)

At about 10 a.m., three waves of torpedo planes from the carriers Yorktown, Hornet and Enterprise were obliterated by the Japanese.  Right after that, Dickinson's and Peiffer's group attacked the Kaga.  Dickinson used the rising sun painted on the carrier's deck as his target and scored a direct hit.

He ran out of fuel on the way back and was forced to ditch into the sea and was rescued by a destroyer.