Saturday, January 19, 2019

William Liebenow at D-Day

William Liebenow's naval career did not end there.  The following year, in command of another PT-Boat, the PT-199, he rescued men whose boats were  sunk by the German defenders at D-Day.  His boat was responsible for the rescue of about 60 crew members of the destroyer USS Corry.

He recalled, "We spent most of that day picking up guys out of the water."

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Thursday, January 17, 2019

He Saved JFK's Life-- Part 6: All Those Who Saved Kennedy

The epic story of the sinking of the PT-109, survival and rescue of its crew and the coconut, of course, would go on to become part of the Kennedy lore and a presidential selling point.  Seventeen years after rescuing the crew, Liebenow helped Kennedy campaign in Michigan.  Kennedy said he regularly met veterans who swore that they were on the boat that rescued him in the Pacific.

"Lieb." Kennedy told his old friend, "If I get the votes of everyone that claims to have been on your boat the night of the pickup I'll win in a landslide."

When Kennedy won, he kept the coconut shell, which he had made into a paperweight on his desk in the Oval Office.

After the war, William Liebenow married, had two children and worked as a chemist for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

He Saved JFK's Life-- Part 5: "No Thanks. I Just Had A Coconut"

Off they went with William Liebenow in command.  They had to reach Kennedy as quickly as possible but travel slow enough so they wouldn't create a wake big enough to alert nearby Japanese ships of their presence.

John Hersey, who wrote the book "Hiroshima" wrote an article for the New Yorker in 1944 describing what happened next.  When they encountered, Kennedy shouted, "Where the hell you been?"

Liebenow yelled back, "We got some food for you."

Kennedy replied:  "No thanks.  I just had a coconut."


Monday, January 14, 2019

He Saved JFK's Life-- Part 4: "We Were the Most Expendable"

Kennedy needed to get a message for help through to Allies and with these natives.  A big problem was that he didn't speak their language and they didn't speak English.  He did not have any paper, but he did have a knife and an island full of coconuts.

He picked one up and began to carve.  "11 ALIVE",  he wrote.  "NEED SMALL BOAT."

It worked.  The coconut was carried to an Australian coast watcher, who relayed the message to the U.S. base on the island of Rendova.  But when it arrived, the Navy brass were skeptical.  Could this coconut be a trap to lure U.S. forces into an ambush?  It was decided that only one boat could be sacrificed for a rescue attempt.

Seventy years later, when William Liebenow was asked why his boat, the PT-157, was picked for the job he'd say they were "the best boat crew in the South Pacific."  He's also offer up this reason on occasion and that was one of his crew member's jokes:  "We were the most expendable."


Saturday, January 12, 2019

He Saved JFK's Life-- Part 3: Thinks Looking Very Bleak

For six days, Kennedy and his crew waited on that island and subsisted on coconuts and hope.

Kennedy didn't just wait, though.  He tried moving his crew to another island.  He tried swimming into the ocean at night with the idea of being able to intercept another PT boat.

But, back on the island where he was stationed, leaders assumed that the explosion of the PT-109 had left no survivors.  No rescue boat was coming.  The man who was to become the 35th president, at this point, seemed destined to live but a few more days.

As fortune would have it, the Americans were spotted by two Pacific islanders passing by in a canoe.  Erono Kumana and Biuku Gasawere were two of the many people enlisted by Western forces to help fight the war against the Japanese.  Kennedy, however, couldn't be sure who they were fighting for but knew there was a chance they might be headed for a place occupied by the Allies.

He just needed a way to get a message through to them.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

He Saved JFK's Life-- Part 2: PT-109 Cut In Half By Japanese Destroyer Amagiri

William Liebenow joined the Navy almost immediately after Pearl Harbor.  Almost two years later, he was stationed in the Solomon Islands, an archipelago east of Australia and Papua New Guinea.  One of  his tent mates was a 25-year-old skipper from Massachusetts, "Jack" Kennedy.

Both men were commanders of patrol torpedo boats, better known as PT boats.  Theses swift, wooden ships held about a dozen men, four deadly torpedoes and three powerful engines that could send them zooming across the water and in between the bigger and slower Japanese ships.

During one night patrol Kennedy's boat, PT-109, couldn't get out of the way fast enough.  It was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. the Amagiri, and cut in half.  It's engine, powered by high octane gas, exploded.  Two men were killed and the others clung to the boat's floating front end.

Eventually, Kennedy and ten survivors swam four hours to a small, unoccupied island, where they could wait for help to come.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

He Saved JFK's Life With the Help of a Coconut-- Part 1: William Liebenow

From the August 31, 2018, Chicago Tribune by Jessica Contrera The Washington Post.

"It was a coconut that sent William Liebenow on a mission to rescue the man who would become president.

"A tenacious Navy commander in World War II, Liebenow's acts of heroism stretched from the waters of the South Pacific to the beaches of Normandy -- evading the enemy, launching torpedoes, rescuing more than 60 men from a sinking boat on D-Day.  But none of these were the tale of the war that would come to define him.

"Everyone wanted to hear about the time he saved the life of John F. Kennedy."

He died February 24, 2017, at the age of 97 at his home in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery  in August 2018.  He is now buried less than a mile from the body of JFK.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Shabbona Township Tops It War Loan Quota in 1943

From the October 17, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Shabbona Township, under the capable  direction of Superintendent of Schools T.A. Watne went over the top in the third war loan drive, which is now completed.

"The quota for the township was $60,050 and the final report shows sales running to $73,762, putting the township over the top by better than $13,000."


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Hemp Mills Near Completion in DeKalb County

From the October 24, 2018, MidWeek  (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"DeKalb residents who have been in the vicinity of Kirkland and Shabbona in the last  two weeks, report that construction work on the hemp mills at both places  is going along very satisfactorily.

"The mill at Shabbona, it is understood,  is nearer to completion than the one at Kirkland, but both will be completed within a short time."


Friday, January 4, 2019

The War Is Costing Big Bucks, Nearly $8 Billion A Month

From the October 10, 2018, MidWest (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Did you know that Sycamore is nearly $90,000 short of meeting its quota for the Third War Loan?  Did you know that this bloody war is costing the United States practically $3,000 every time you watch a second tick?

"That means nearly 265 million dollars a day and nearly eight billion dollars a month.  And remember that there are many hard, bitter months of war ahead of us yet before Germany and Japan are annihilated.  It is true that Italy has thrown in the sponge, but that is just a mere drop in the pocket as to what must be accomplished by the Allies before the war is won."


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Jamaicans Thankful For Good Treatment in DeKalb

From the October 10, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"A most interesting letter has been received by the California Packing Corporation from one of the Jamaicans employed at Station Three of the DeKalb division.  The letter was written by Telamon Taylor on behalf of the group of Jamaicans who worked at the station.

"For the past several weeks they have been working for the canning corporation helping to pack the vital food crops.  The appreciation of this group is expressed for the fine treatment they received and the letter states that they will have memories that they will never forget."


A Housing Shortage Continues

From the October 10, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Homeowners are still being reminded by the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce of the need for private rooms and housekeeping quarters, both furnished and unfurnished.

"There is a continuing influx of new people and many requests are made daily for places to live."


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Corn Pack Finished, Jamaicans To Be Sent Elsewhere

From the October 3, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Word from authoritative sources was to the effect that the corn pack at the Sycamore Preserve Works was about completed and within the next two or three days the Jamaicans, who have been here many weeks assisting in the canning operations will be sent to some other locality to work."

Bringing in workers from Jamaica to help with labor shortages.  German prisoners were also used to help as well.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Sycamore Down to Two Newspapers Because of Paper Shortage

From the December 19, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Effective  this week Sycamore will have but one newspaper, published twice each week, under the general management of Frank Dean, who has been publishing one of the papers for several years.

"The new publication will be issued tomorrow and the policies and much other interesting information will be found within its columns.  The city has supported two newspapers for many years but with the present acute shortage of paper, the consolidation was deemed advisable."]

Even Newspapers.  --GreGen

About Those Christmas Decorations

From the December 19, 2018, MidWeek.

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"American people  are being asked by J.A. Krug, director of the Office of Utilities,  to confine Christmas lighting decorations to the Christmas trees inside private homes.   It had has been asked that street decorations, Community Christmas trees, exterior home decorations, and interiors and exteriors of commercial establishments dispense with decorations this year insofar as lighting is concerned.

"Government and industry have combined in a nationwide conservation campaign to save critical fuels and materials necessary to produce and consume electricity.    Electric light bulbs are particularly short at present and strict conservation of them is necessary."

The War Impacts Christmas.  --GreGen

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Gas Shortage Almost Idles Fire Truck

From the December 19, 2018, MidWeek  (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Gasoline will again be available for the city fire truck at Earlville and the residents of the community are again able to breathe easier.

"Application for renewal of the gasoline allotment had been refused by the Peoria district office of ODT and the residents had been planning to resume the old bucket brigade."

No Fire Trucks?  Shortages Getting Serious At Home.  --GreGen

An Enemy Walking Stick Sent Home

From the December 12, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Louis Lloyd is walking with a cane at the present time, but not by force, however.  He recently received a box of trophies from his son-in-law, Lieut. Com. George Milles who is on a hospital ship, and a cane directory from one of the foreign fighting theatres was included.

"The walking stick has the appearance of  teakwood and handsomely  engraved and feted with  shells and bits of glass and ornaments.  Mr. Lloyd states that he has many other interesting articles  which have been taken from the enemy by Lieut. Com. Milles."

Love Those Souvenirs.  --GreGen

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Manpower Shortages on the Railroads

From the October 31, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"After several months preliminary work and delays caused by the shortage of manpower and many other difficulties, the Chicago Great Western railway company today started repairs on the Sixth Street crossing.

"Work was held up until rightful owners could be determined as to the adjacent property, and whether the tracks belonged to the railway company or private concerns.  This investigation required several months' time, and eventually included the transfer of property back to the Great Western."

Manpower Shortages Everywhere.  --GreGen

Rumors of Coffee Rationing Again

From the November 7, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Many were asking today if coffee is to be rationed again after discovering that stamps in the ration book Four marked coffee.  The answer is no.

"The new ration books were printed while coffee was still being rationed. and the rumors that coffee is again to be rationed are unfounded."


Friday, December 28, 2018

A New Trailer Housing Project for Housing Shortage

From the November 21, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Construction work on the 50 family trailers, which will be built on the Evans lot on East Lincoln Highway is reported to have been started today.

"The contractor, Elmer Gus, of 100 East New York street, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has been awarded the contract, and he is in DeKalb at this time and will start work on the war housing project immediately."