Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Our Wall

The past two days I have been writing about the death of Battle of Britain pilot William Walker at age 99 in 2012.  He also wrote the poem "Our Wall" which is inscribed on the Battle of Britain Memorial at the Cliffs of Dover.  Here's the poem:

Here inscribed the names of friends we knew
Young men with whom we often flew
Scrambled to many angels high
They knew that they or friends might die

Many were very scarcely trained
And many badly burnt or maimed
Behind each name a story lies
Of bravery in summer skies

Though many brave and unwritten tales
Were simply told in vapor trails
Many now lie in scared graves

And many rest beneath the waves
Outnumbered every day they flew
Remembered here as just the few.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Oldest Battle of Britain Pilot Dies in 2012-- Part 2

William Walker (1913-2012)

The obituary read that he had "taken to the skies for the last time."

He was called to full-time service September 1, 1939 and posted to Cambridge November 15th.

He was at RAF Brice Norton in Oxfordshire on Feb. 17, 1940 and at the end of his courses, was commissioned and posted to 616 Squadron at Leconfield in East Yorkshire 18 June.

On August 26, 1940, a large group of German bombers along with  a heavy fighter escort was engaged off the Kent Coast by British Defiants, Hurricanes and Spitfires.  Walker's plane was hit and he was forced to bail out over the water and clung to a shipwreck on the Goodwin Sands before he was rescued by a fishing boat, transferred to an RAF launch and brought to shore at Ramsgate

As Winston Churchill said about the RAF pilots and crews, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."


Monday, December 29, 2014

Oldest Battle of Britain Pilot Dies in 2012-- Part 1

From the October 23, 2012, Yahoo! News.

William Walker died October 23, 2012  His poem to his comrades is part of the national monument of the Battle of Britain.  Walker was a Spitfire fighter pilot who was shot down and wounded August 26, 1940.

He wrote the poem "Our Wall" which is inscribed on the memorial at the Cliffs of Dover to the nearly 3,000 men who died during the German air attacks on Britain from June to October 1940.

Walker had joined the RAF in 1939 and on his first solo flight managed to crash his plane.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Cremated Remains of British Soldier Included 6 Ounces of Shrapnel

From the October 19, 2012, New York Daily News "Cremated remains of WWII British Army veteran included 6 oz. of shrapnel from land mine" by Victoria Cavaliere.

Ronald Brown, 94, died last week in England and was cremated.  When his ashes were returned, along with them came six ounces of shrapnel.

He had been plagued by knee problems for seventy years after he stepped on a land mine in France in 1944 and had thought it was just a bullet.

Brown joined the Army at age 21 and stepped on the mine two months after D-Day as Allied forces fought their way to Berlin.

His old wound would set off airport scanners when he would fly to the United States or Australia.

I Told You It Hurt.  --GreGen

Friday, December 26, 2014

A World War II Edition of Monopoly: Just the Thing for Your Christmas Gift

From the October 15, 2012, San Diego Union-Times "World War II comes home as a board game" by Peter Rowe.

It is called "Monopoly: America's World War II: We're All in This Together."  It was inspired by a Louisiana high school history class project and designed by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans with the purpose to entertain and educate.

The center of the board features the Iwo Jima flag raising.  Community Chest has been replaced with Home Front, featuring Rosie the Riveter.  Chance cards are now called Allies.

Instead of Railroads, you have Red Ball Express and Planes Flying Over the Hump.

Camps and headquarters have replaced houses and hotels.

Tokens include Sherman Tanks and boots.

It is a limited edition and costs $39.99 and is sold at the museum and Wal-Marts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Strength of U.S. Navy After World War II, 1947-1957

MINE WARFARE--  55, 54, 52, 56 (1951) 91, 114, 121, 117, 112, 113, 104

PATROL--  74, 50, 50, 33, (1951) 40, 29, 23, 22, 15, 11, 12

AMPHIBIOUS--  107, 86, 60, 79, (1951) 208, 189, 226, 223, 175, 139, 134

AUXILIARY--  306, 272, 257, 218, (1951) 269, 309, 287, 288, 262, 236, 224

TOTAL SURFACE SHIPS--  198, 180, 174, 161, (1951) 262, 322, 324, 326, 333, 339, 355

TOTAL SHIPS--  842, 737, 690, 634, (1951) 980, 1097, 1122, 1113, 1030, 973, 967

Starting in 1951, there was a new category SSG/SSBS. SSG were guided missile submarines.  SSBS were ballistic guided missile subs. Starting in 1956 there was a new category called Command Ship.

SSG/SSBS--  (1956) 1, 1, 2, 2, (1955) 1, 2, 2
COMMAND SHIP--  (1956) 1, 1

Some Interesting Numbers.  --GreGen

Strength of U.S. Navy After World War II, 1947-1957

After the war, numerous warships were put into mothballs, sold, or scrapped.  There was an increase from 1951 to 1953 during the Korean War.

BATTLESHIPS--  4, 2, 1, 1 (1951) 3, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2  (The WWII high was 23).

FLEET CARRIERS--  14, 13, 11, 10, (1951) 17, 19, 19, 20, 21, 22, 22  (The WWII high was 28)

ESCORT CARRIERS--  8, 7, 7, 4, (1951) 15, 19, 19, 18, 17, 16, 16  (WWII high was 71)

CRUISERS--  32, 32, 18, 13, (1951) 15, 19, 19, 18, 17, 16, 16   (WWII high was 72)

DESTROYERS--  138, 134, 143, 137, (1951) 206, 243, 247, 247, 249, 250, 253  (WWII high was 377)

FRIGATES--   24, 12, 12, 10, (1951) 38, 56, 57, 64, 70, 84  (WWII high was 376)

SUBMARINES--  80, 74, 79, 72, (1951) 83, 104, 108, 108, 108, 108, 113  (WWII high was 232)


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Build Up of U.S. Navy Before, During and After the War-- Part 3

1938 to 1946.

I'm not sure exactly what they classified as surface ships.

SURFACE WARSHIPS--  159, 178, 237, 225, (1942) 282, 635, 827, 833, 226

TOTAL ACTIVE SHIPS--  380, 394, 478, 790, (1942) 1782, 3699, 6084, 6768, 1248


Buildup of U.S. Navy before, During and After World War II-- Part 2

For the years 1939 to 1946.

FRIGATES--  0, 0, (1940) 0, 0, 0, (1943) 234, 376, 361, 35

SUBMARINES--  54, 58, 64, 112, (1942) 133, 172, 230, 232, 85

MINE WARFARE--  27, 29, 36, 135, (1942) 323, 551, 614, 586, 112

PATROL--  34, 20, 19, 100, (1942) 515, 1050, 1183, 1204, 119

AMPHIBIOUS--  0, 0, 0, 0, (1942) 121, 673, 2147, 2547, 275

AUXILIARY--  101, 104, 116, 210, (1942) 392, 564, 993, 1267, 406

Again, American war production sure shifted into high gear after 1941.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Build Up of U.S. Navy Before During and After the War-- Part 1

Using U.S. Navy records, here's a year-by-year look at the numbers of different types of warships in the Navy from 1938 to 1946.

BATTLESHIPS--   15, 15, (1940) 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, (1944) 23, 23, 10

FLEET CARRIERS--  5, 5, (1940) 6, 7, (1942) 4, 19, (1944) 25, 28, 15

ESCORT CARRIERS--  0, 0, (1940) 0, 1, 12, 35 (1944) 65, 71, 10

CRUISERS--  32, 36, (1940) 37, 37, 39, 48, (1944) 61, 72, 36

DESTROYERS-- 112, 127, (1940) 185, 171, 224, 332, (1944) 367, 377, 145

There was a big drop in the numbers after the war was over.  Also the drop in aircraft carriers in 1942 due to sinkings.  But after 1942, the American industry kicked into overdrive.

Some Interesting Numbers.  --GreGen

"Wee Vee" Vets Vistit W. Va.-- Part 3: "Like Living in a Big City"

George Gackle was in the USS West Virginia's pay office but his battle station was ammunition passer.  He described aboard the "Wee Vee" as being "like living in a big city.  I came from a North Dakota town of 750 and there were 2,000 people aboard the West Virginia.  There was a barbershop in my hometown and four or five on the ship."

Joseph Variot said there were about 1,100 people on his mailing list when he took over as head of the West Virginia reunion organization 15 years ago.  Now it is down to about 400 with only about a dozen on the average attending recent reunions.

The USS West Virginia artifacts on display at the W,V, Culture Center include a crewman's cap, a 16-inch gun cover, an incline meter, a bell from the ship's motor launch and a metal plate listing safety orders for the ship's 16-inch magazine.

The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and scrapped in 1961.

The 2011 reunion of the ship in Galveston had a very low turnout and they voted to have just one more.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Wee Vee" Vets Visit West Virginia-- Part 2; Bomb on a Stretcher

On April 1, 1945, while bombarding Okinawa, the USS West Virginia was hit by a kamikaze.  A bomb from it penetrated to the second deck but fortunately didn't explode.  Said Joseph Variot: "They rolled it onto a stretcher and carried it up to the deck, where it was disarmed and cast overboard."

Four sailors died and 77 were wounded in the crash.  West Virginia veteran Herbert Crask of Arizona related that one of those killed then was the telephone operator where he would have been had he not had his knees messed up at Iwo Jima which had landed him in a hospital ashore.


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.


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.


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.O.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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


World War II Ships Sunk Off the Carolinas Coast

From Coastal

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.


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."


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.


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."


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."


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.


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.


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.


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

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bay Area Survivors Recount Pearl Harbor Bombing

From the Dec. 5, 2014, ABC San Francisco News by Eric Thomas.

Two Bay Area men are part of the dwindling group of Pearl Harbor survivors.

Richard "Johnny" Johnson, of Lafayette was a young sailor on the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco and looking forward to a day at the beach when the attack came.  He recalls, "And I saw these airplanes coming over the mountainsides and they're all lined up and they are moving kind of slow, but there are so many airplanes flying around Hawaii anyway that it didn't really mean much at first."

"Two bombs dropped on the Arizona and it began smoking."

John Tait, of Concord, was below deck on the cruiser USS St. Louis when the ship's skipper decided to get out of Pearl Harbor and into deeper water for maneuvering.

There was a two man submarine waiting for a ship and they fired two torpedoes at us, but there was a coral reef between us so the coral reef took the hit."

He went on to say the ship was at sea for three days after that chasing reported Japanese sightings.  Then, they returned to a scene of carnage in the harbor.  "We just didn't think the Japanese would be that bold to come all that way.  We thought we were impregnable."

After the war, Tait and his family were stationed in Japan for three years and got along well with the Japanese people, "they're a wonderful people and its their warlords and our warlords I don't like."


James Vyskocil, Pearl Harbor Survivor: At Signal Tower

From the Dec. 6, 2014, Whidbey (Washington) News-Times "Story of Pearl Harbor survivors to be shared Dec. 7" by Janis Reid.

Gayle Vyskocil will share her late husband's story as part of the annual Pearl Harbor of the Pearl Harbor remembrance at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, December 7th in the chapel at Ault Field.  She will be the keynote speaker.  She will be delivering a speech written by her late husband James Vyskocil.

The cascade chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association has lost many members in the last several years and is now down to just a few.

James Vyskocil was a signal man third class at the attack and retired as a lt.-cmdr. after thirty years.  He not only fought in World War II, but also the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Mr. Vyskocil was on duty at the naval shipyard tower that morning, Dec. 7, 1941, and watched as Ford Island was bombed and ship after ship exploded.  He and his shipmates gave the first warning alert of the attack and remained on duty on the open platform of the 90-foot tower until the next day.

They came down and then helped recover bodies.

Later in the war, he saw combat at five major sea battles and survived three aircraft crashes.

Gone, But Not Forgotten.  --GreGen

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fresno Survivor Remembers Pearl Harbor

From the December 5, 2014, Fresno (cal.) Bee by Nonhia Lee.

Joe Quercia, 92, was talking to a buddy and staring out a porthole on the USS Medusa when he heard gunfire and an explosion.  "I watched all these planes coming over and (heard) the Arizona get blown up.  When it exploded, you could sure feel that."

The former chief petty officer is one of the few surviving San Jonquin Valley Pearl Harbor survivors left.  They once had 150.

Sunday he will join a handful of others in the annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony which this year will be held at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District.  Quercia believes that there may be as many as ten remaining local survivors, but only four have attended the ceremony several years.

He grew up in west Fresno and enlisted in the Navy at age 18 and was stationed on the repair ship Medusa on that fateful day.  The ship had no guns and was about a block away from the Arizona.

The motto of the now defunct Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is "Remember Pearl Harbor, Keep America Alert."

The local branch of it disbanded in 2011, the 70th anniversary.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

USS Nevada Sailor Dies in 2012-- Part 2

Don Blair had been the president of the Santa Rosa based chapter of the now defunct Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

He was born in North Dakota and grew up poor, one of nine children, on a farm.  Persuaded by his girl friend, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939.  Two years later, he was a yeoman doing a host of clerical duties on the USS Nevada.  (Perhaps he was the one who originally wrote the Log Summary of the attack that I posted yesterday and today?)

On December 7, 1941, he was  21-years-old and looking out a porthole, "I saw this plane flying in low-- and had this meatball on it."

The Nevada was damaged, but also was the only battleship to get underway during the attack.  Mr. Blair spent most of the battle below deck receiving and forwarding damage reports and standing ready to answer ship structure inquiries which would require review of the Nevada's blueprints.

It was afternoon before he received permission to go topside, "I could see blood all over the deck." He also saw pallets waiting to be taken off with bodies and parts of bodies.


USS Nevada Sailor Dies in 2012-- Part 1

From the December 10, 2012, Santa Rosa (Cal.) Press-Democrat "Pearl Harbor survivor dies at 92 in Rohnert Park."

DON BLAIR, 92, died in his sleep Saturday night or Sunday morning (12-9 or 12-10).  On Friday, he was too sick to join four local Pearl Harbor survivors for a commemoration ceremony.

He was on the USS Nevada and is the fifth Sonoma County survivor to die of old age in the past year.(perhaps the four men listed in the previous post?).  No more than six are known to still be living.

In a phone interview before his death, Mr. Blair said he hoped the surprise attack will long inspire Americans to be vigilant of potential enemies, "I think we should definitely keep an eye out on China.

--More to Come.  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor Survivors Honored in 2012

From the December 7, 2012, "Pearl Harbor survivors honored."

The names of other Pearl Harbor survivors who had since died from the previous year:

GARTH SAWYERS--  Served in the Army but on USS Antares which was followed by a mini sub.

LEE WARREN--  On USS MacDonough

DICK WERNER--  On leave from the USS Arizona at his home in Albuquerque trying to get "this sweet lady to marry me."

WARDELL JENKINS-  Army-- Camp Malakole in Hawaii.


Reminiscences of Pearl Harbor

From the December 8, 2012 Everett (Washington) Herald.

EDWIN SCHULER, 91, of San Jose, California, remembered going to the bridge of the USS Phoenix to read a book when he saw the planes, "I thought: 'WHOA, they're using big practice bombs,'  I didn't know."

EWALT SHATZ, 89, of Riverside, California, was on the USS Patterson putting a boiler back together  but found himself soon manning a 50-caliber machine gun for the first time.  The Navy credited him with shooting down a Japanese plane.


Log Summary of USS Nevada, December 7, 1941-- Part 3


(1)  Boat Deck aft of stack.
(2)  Forward of the stack thru bridge, thru Captains cabin, signal bridge.
(3)  Forecastle (2) frams 15.
(4)  Torpedo, port bow, frames 38-65.
(5)  Bomb, port bow, frame #25.


Central station ordered station secured when smoke filled compartment.  Six men or more overcome who were evacuated and revived except one CPO who died from suffocation or better still an acute heart attack as he died with gas mask on, sitting at the table.


After lull in the battle, about 8 to 10 burn cased treated, several chest wounds and one amputation of foot.  One shattered jaw.


After lull in battle about 20 cases of burns, fractures, gunshot wounds, etc were treated.


Log Summary of Battleship USS Nevada from December 7, 1941-- Part 2

Taking you there, 73 years ago tomorrow.

0850--  Concentrated, several hits on the forecastle exploding below decks-- 1 or 2 near crews galley.  Fire forward and amidships.

0900--  Grounded bow of ship intentionally between floating dry dock and channel Buoy #24, starboard side toward beach.  Personnel casualties transferred to to Repair #1. (Crews reception Room).

0907--  Bomb hit forecastle killing Chief Boatswain E.J. Hill, USN (blown overboard) and an unknown number of men.

0920--  Tugs fight fire in the wardroom country and forward.  Casualties transferred to USS Solace and Navy Hospital, Pearl Harbor.

1015--  No progress in overcoming fires forward.  Stern began swinging to middle channel.

1020--  Tugs pushed stern towards beach to prevent blocking of channel.

1035--  Ship floated off beach and drifted toward Western side of channel.  Air attack ceased.

1045--  Ship grounded on western side of channel Bouy #9 15 yards off starboard bow.

A Lot Happened from 0802 to 1045.  --GreGen

Friday, December 5, 2014

Log Summary of Battleship USS Nevada, December 7, 1941-- Part 1

As we come up on the 73rd anniversary of the "Day of Infamy."  here is a relating of events as they took place aboard the USS Nevada.  This shows how fast things went from peace to war.  The Nevada was the only battleship able to get underway that day.

 0801--  Condition Zed set.
0802--  Machine Guns opened fire on torpedo planes approaching port beam.
0803--  Torpedo struck on bow, port, frame #40.

0806--  Several bombs fell close aboard.
0809--  Arizona afire.
0830  Bomb hit bridge, penetrated to forecastle deck resulting severe shock, flareback and water leakage.  Fire on the bridge and below.

0835--  Smoke and gas in fire-room.
0840--  Underway on various courses at various speeds conforming to channel.

More to Come.  --GreGen

The Face of the Marine Corps Women Reserves-- Part 2: Her Picture on the Golden Gate Bridge Led to Marriage

Most women in the Armed Forces were assigned to "safe" duty such as secretaries, quartermaster clerks, mail sorters and truck drivers.

Norris Dolvin of St. Louis, was 21 when she enlisted in 1944.  After visiting several recruiting stations, she chose the USMC.

After boot camp in North Carolina, she was assigned to office duty at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C..

Her photograph was used on recruiting posters.  One of them stood several stories tall on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and greeted ships returning from Pacific duty

Woodruff (Woody) Deem, coming home at the end of the war, first saw the picture of the woman he'd eventually marry right there.  He continued to see her face as he traveled across the country to his D.C. home.

I Saw Her on a Billboard.  --GreGen

The Face of the Marine Corps Women Reserves-- Part 1

From the August 26, 2012, Salt Lake Tribune "Living History: Norris Dolvin Deem, the face of the Marine Corps Women Reserves" by Ardis E. Parshall.

During the war, women conserved resources, grew Victory Gardens, built ships, packed parachutes, served as nurses and replaced men in the civilian work force.

More than 350,000 became members of the Armed Forces.

Army (WACS)
Navy (WAVES)
Coat Guard (SPARS)
Marine Corps (Women's Reserve)
Air Force (WASPS)

Resistance to their service was string initially.  They were barred from combat duty, although a few, especially nurses, died under enemy fire.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Whole Lot of Silver Recovered From WWII Wreck

From the July 18, 2012, ABC News "48 Tons od Silver Recovered From World War II Shipwreck" by Alon Harish.

The Odyssey Maria Exploration Co. of Tampa, Florida recovered 48 tons of silver bullion from the SS Garsoppa, a sunken British cargo ship about three miles off the Irish coast.  It was under contract by the British government and the company will receive 20% of the tens of millions of dollars that the find is expected to yield.  That silver cargo was worth 600,000 pounds in 1941.

It was sunk by a U-boat.  The ship is owned by the British government because it paid the ship's insurance of 625,000 pounds.

The ship is located three miles deep and the initial recovery was 1,203 silver bars.

Money When You Can Get It.  --GreGen

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Top Ten Battles of World War II

From the August 26, 2012, Listverse.

10.  Battle of France--  capture of France in 1939
9.  Operation Overlord--  D-Day
8.  Battle of Guadalcanal--  1942

7.  Battle of Leyte Gulf--  1944
6.  Battle of Moscow--  1941
5.  Battle of Kursk--  took place after the Battle of Stalingrad, the final German offensive in the East
4.  Battle of Midway--  1942

3.  Operation Barbarosa--  German invasion of the Soviet Union
2.  Battle of Stalingrad
1.  Battle of Britain


Wilmington at War: Driving Around the Coast

From the July 17, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then."

JULY 10, 1942:  Brigadier General P.A. Wethered of District 2 Interior Defenses announced that motorists along the coast could drive anytime of the day on unrestricted roads as long as they followed regulations, including a nighttime speed limit of 15 mph and use of parking lights only.


Wilmington at War: War-Time Prices in 1942

From the August 21, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

AUGUST 10, 1942:  The Colonial Store in Wilmington advertised the following prices:

All popular brands of cigarettes 13 cents a pack, $1.20 a carton
Post Toasties: 6 cents a pack
Campbell's tomato soup: 2 cans for 15 cents
No. 2 can of Whitehouse apple juice: 9 cents
pot roast: 29 cents a pound
bacon: 31 cents a pound
Pillsbury flour: 61 cents for a 12 pound bag
eggs: 41 cents
bleach: 9 cents per quart bottle
peaches $1.98 a bushel
fresh shrimp: 33 cents a pound

I Could Have Eaten Well Back Then.  --GreGen