Friday, December 28, 2012

U.S. Senator and War Hero Daniel Inouye Dies

From Dec. 18, 2012, AP

Died Dec. 17th at age 88.

On December 7, 1941, he and his Japanese-American friends on Hawaii, knew they were in trouble.  They wanted to go to war and fight for their country and be accepted.  "I felt that there was a need for us to demonstrate that we're just as good as anybody else," he said.

He had a dream of becoming a surgeon, but that was lost in Germany along with his right arm in 1945.  His platoon came under fire.  He was shot in the stomach while drawing a grenade.  Even wounded as he was, he climbed up a hill and took out two German machine gun bests and was getting ready to throw a grenade at a third one when a rifle grenade fired by a German just ten yards away hit his right elbow.

He grabbed the grenade, pulled the pin, tossed it back and it blew up in the German's face.

He later served thirty years as U.S. senator from Hawaii after it became a state.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fred Led Quite a Life

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to meet and talk with Fred from Arizona.  He is the boyfriend of one of our friend's mother.  They met in Arizona, where they live and were here visiting for Christmas.

Fred is 92 and a veteran of World War II and the Cold War as a member of the FBI.  Now, that is one interesting life.

He was in the tank corps and was on a half track under Gen. George Patton.  He met the general on several occasions and said the guy was definitely crusty, but rough on soldiers as his casualties can attest.  He did most of his fighting in Italy.

After the war, using the GI Loan, he went to college in his home state of West Virginia and got a law degree at Washington and Lee and joined the FBI where he met J. Edgar Hoover many times.  He remembers tracking Soviet spies many times in the New York area.

I stayed after him the whole time to please write down his memories before they are lost forever.

Sure Hope He Does.  --GreGen

This Blog Is Dedicated to Frank Curre-- Part 2

After the military, Mr. Curre worked as a pressman for the Waco (Tx) Times-Herald, now Tribune-Herald, for 42 years and continued to work part-time for another 18.  He had been bed-ridden the last days of his life.

He was president of the local Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and returned to Pearl Harbor four times, the last for the 69th anniversary in 1940.

In November 2010, he told the Times-Herald, "There's a lot of stuff I don't remember much in my old age.  But that day? Everything that happened that day is tattooed on your soul.  It never leaves you.  You carry it with you the rest of your life."  This of course, is where I got that quote from as part of the blog title.

Curre was also a member of the William B. Moody VFW Post 2034.

Curre used to visit local schools and talk to the students about World War II.  Many mornings you could find him at the local McDonald's for coffee and talk with fellow veterans.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This Blog Is Dedicated to Frank Curre-- Part 1

From the December 8, 2011, Waco (Tx) Herald Tribune "Texas survivor of Pearl Harbor dies on anniversary" by Regina Davis.

Frank Curre is the veteran for whom this blog is named.  He was at Pearl Harbor that December 7th as a mess cook on the USS Tennessee.  He survived and later served aboard the USS Petrof Bay and was at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. 

Mr. Curre died December 7, 2011, seventy years to the day of the attack.

His daughter, Linda Lee, said, "It's like he held on for today, which is his special day.  He was very much a family man.  He taught us family values, patriotism and love for our country."

He was exposed to asbestos when his ship was bombed and set afire.

Lee and her sister Peggy Hunt have been his caregiver for the past year.

Quite a Man.  --GreGen

Monday, December 24, 2012

PHSA Chapter in Santa Clara, Ca., Disbands-- Part 1

From the Sept. 28, 2011, Contra Costa (Ca) Times.

Seven Pearl Harbor survivors lunched together for the last time as an organization at a Cupertina restaurant.  "They had outlived almost everyone and everything--their shipmates and ships--and felt no need for drawnout goodbyes or speeches."

"It's already been said!" Ken Butts, 90, declared.  He was on the USS West Virginia, "I'm not supposed to be here."  His station was at the ship's boilers, deep down.  The boiler crew said they didn't need him and he went to a higher deck.  Minutes later, the "Wee Vee" took seven direct torpedo hits.

He managed to scamper up to the deck and swim to shore.  Weeks after the attack, the bodies of 66, many from the boiler, were recovered.  By notes left, three had lived until December 23rd.

Sad to Be Losing These Men and PHSA (Pearl Harbor Survivors Association) Chapters.  --GreGen

SS Gairsoppa Sunk With 136 Million Pounds of Silver Ingots

From the September 22, 2011

Someone is going to get rich off this. 

The SS Gairsoppa had sailed from Calcutta, India with a cargo of tea and 12 million ounces of silver ingots.  It was nearing its Liverpool destination when it encountered a storm and was running short of fuel so its captain decided to make for Galway, Ireland, which proved to be a mistake.

On Feb. 16, 1941, Ernst Mengersen, Captain of U-boat 101, torpedoed the starboard side of the British merchant ship, 412-feet long and constructed in 1919.

The ship's wreck was found 300 miles off the coast of Ireland at 13,400 feet by Odyssey Marine Exploration and is going to be the largest-ever haul by a marine salvage operation.  The ship is intact and sitting upright with hatches wide open and that 240 tons of silver.

At the time, those 12 million ounces were worth 600,000 British pounds.  Today, about 225 times more than that.

The Odyssey is to get 80% of the money.  In 2003, the company found the SS Republic, a Civil War-era ship that sank carrying over 50,000 gold and silver coins.  They've also recovered 500,000 silver and gold coins from a Colonial-era shipwreck code-named the Black Swan.

Finding Those Sunken Treasures.  --GreGen

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Soviet World War II Submarine Found

From the Dec. 19, 2012, Yahoo! News--Reuters "Sweden finds Soviet submarine wreck in the Baltic Sea."

I must admit that I didn't know the Soviet Union even had submarines, but obviously they did.

The submarine was believed lost on patrol in late 1941.  It was found southeast of the Baltic Sea island of Oland in an area heavily mined by the Germans during World War II.  There is evidence that the sub was on the surface when it entered the minefield, struck one, and was blown into two pieces which have been found at the bottom.

It was first discovered by civilian divers.  Several Soviet submarines were sunk in Swedish waters and have been found.

Of course, getting the Soviet Union to ever admit to a defeat or loss was always difficult and this sinking was no doubt covered up.

It is believed to be the S6, which was sunk in September.  Photos taken at the wreck show Russian text and the hammer and sickle symbol of the Soviet Union.

Soviet subs often sailed on the surface either to flee or to recharge batteries and were nicknamed "Stalinets."

In 2009, divers found the S2 which was also sunk by German mines with 50 aboard in Jan. 1940.

Soviet Submarines.  Really?  --GreGen

Death of Pearl Harbor Survivor, Clarence "Bud" Boner

From the Dec. 7, 2012, Lake County (Ca) News"Lake County loses another Pearl Harbor survivor; Boner served aboard the USS Tennessee" by Elizabeth Larson.

A photo with the article featured Boner at far right.

Died Nov. 21, 2012 at age 90.

Mr. Boner was born April 22, 1922 in Dodge City, Kansas and was 17 when he enlisted in the Navy and 19 that Dec. 7th.  Another Pearl Harbor survivor, Henry Anderson, was also on the Tennessee that day, but remained with the ship until repairs in Washington.  Boner was assigned to the USS Waller (DD-466).

Losing the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Friday, December 21, 2012

Blackout Darkens St. Louis Skies

From the Dec. 16, 2012, St. Louis (Mo) Post-Dispatch "A Look Back:  World War II blackout drill darkens St. Louis" by Tim O'Neal.

Police sirens and factory whistles went off at 10 PM and lights went out all over the city.  Mayor William Dee baker was on top of the Civil Courts Building, viewing the now-dark city, called it a success.  Only a few alley lights in the neon sign on the Kessler Fur Co. at 1008 Locust Street were still lit.  The date was Dec. 14, 1942.

For weeks earlier, 7,500 local air raid wardens wearing "CD" armbands had been going door-to-door explaining the rules.  Newspapers and radio stations had also been hammering the message home.  This drill was part of a larger National Civil Defense program that was happening concurrently across seven Midwest states.

This happened even though an attack by German bombers in the hinterlands was essentially impossible.  German Heinkel bombers could just barely make it to Iceland from European bases.  And, Germany did not have any aircraft carriers.

The drill was signalled by five second blasts broken by three seconds of silence.

People at home turned out their lights, motorists pulled over and pedestrians even put out their cigarettes.

It Was War.  --GreGen

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sailor Says Decision to Write Letter Probably Saved His Life-- Part 2

The USS Porter won four Battle Stars for its war service.

The following is from an interview with World War II veteran Edward Rasmussen, 88.

WHY DID YOU ENLIST:  After Pearl Harbor, "I was in my third year of high school and I dropped out to go into service.  I was living in Chicago."  "You were either going to be put in the Army or Marines.  I wanted to be in the Navy.  I went to school and got to be a torpedo man.  I was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Station and had about three months of training."  Great Lakes, in North Chicago, Illinois, is still training sailors.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST VESSEL?  "I went on the Kearny DD 432 in October 1942.  We went from Boston all the way down to Brazil through the Atlantic Ocean.  We rescued a lot of planes, pilots--anyone who had been torpedoed by German submarines.  Then  I got transferred off of that one onto the Porter.  Overall, I was on about four ships.  Two were wartime ships and the others were rescue ships."  1941 was the zenith of the Battle of the Atlantic off the US coast.

HOW MANY MEN WERE ON THE PORTER?  "We had 273.  Some were my age and some might have been five years older.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE AT SEA DURING WARTIME?  "When you're that age you don't think about things. You think, 'I'm a sailor now.'  You stay out of trouble.  My battle station was a trainer and a five-inch gun.  We did a lot of shooting.  We went through 8,500 five-inch shells.  We were in battle  on the water all the time."

More to Come.  --GreGen

Sailor Says Decision to Write a Letter Probably Saved His Life-- Part 1

From the Lake County (Il) Journal "World War II Navy veteran recalls days at sea" by Cassandra Dowell.

Edward Rasmussen, 88, of Gurnee, Illinois, is sure that his decision to write a letter rather to go up on deck probably saved his life.  He was aboard the destroyer USS William D. Porter (DD-578) when the ship was almost hit by a kamikaze on June 10, 1945. However, the plane exploded by the ship and caused it to sink. "If I was sitting on the deck I'd probably have my spine broke," said Rasmussen.

His ship sank, but all aboard were able to get off safely.

He enlisted in the Navy on Feb. 13, 1942 and first served aboard the destroyer USS Kearny (DD-432) docked in Boston and served there until transferred to the Porter in July 1943.


Before the kamikaze, the Porter was assigned to escort the battleship USS Iowa across the Atlantic while it was carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Cairo and Teheran Conferences.

During a torpedo drill, the Porter accidentally fired one toward the Iowa on Nov. 12, 1943.  No one was injured, but the Porter's captain and entire crew were put under arrest until Roosevelt intervened that it had been an accident.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Keeping the Battleship Open: Beach Music Festival

From June 8, 2011, Encore Online, Wilmington, NC.

The Battleship North Carolina, moored in Wilmington, NC, since 1961, is a self-supported museum, using no tax money.  All of its money comes from admissions, the gift shop and donations.  It is an expensive proposition.  Just painting the ship costs $200,000 and then there all the other costs involved with operations.

To keep it self-sustaining, all sorts of events take place on the ship or the surrounding grounds.  Of course, since it is a memorial to North Carolina's dead and veterans of World War II, there are some who say this not a fitting thing to happen, but the ship must go on.

Back in June of 2011, a Beach Music Festival was held at it.  Beach Music is a staple of North Carolina music, so it is fitting from tat stand point.  And, they had some mighty good Beach bands: Mark Roberts and the Breeze Band, Jim Quick and Coastline, the Band of Oz, the Tams, Chairmen of the Board and the Embers.

Gates opened at 10 AM, with the first band at 12:30 PM.  Visitors could park at the Cape Fear Community College for free with a shuttle to the battleship.  Tickets in advance were $18 and $22 at the gate.

I would have gladly paid to see those bands and a battleship, too.

Whatever It Takes.  --GreGen

Selfridge Army Air Base-- Part 2

Continued from Monday.

In 1920, the land was purchased from Henry Joy and Congress also issued funds to turn the rather basic site into a premier airfield.

On June 27, 1919, it became the home of the 1st Pursuit Group, currently the oldest combat group in the Air Force  They had organized in France during the First World War.  They remained at the field for twenty years.  At one time, James Doolittle was stationed there.

On October 27, 1940, the 17th Pursuit Group Consolidated deployed from there to the Philippines and it became Selfridge Army Air Field of the First Air Force.  On March 29, 1943, the 332nd Fighter Group moved to the field.  They were better known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

The 477th Composite Group formed on June 15, 1944 to train the Airmen with the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters and North American B-25 Mitchell bombers.  On May 5, 1944, segregation and racism caused the Airmen to move to Godman Field in Kentucky.

Like I said, I'd never heard of the place before the fragments of the plane were dug up in the Michigan field.

Now We Both Know a Little.  --GreGen

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Battle of the Atlantic Right Off U.S. Coast

From the July 8, 2011, Baltimore Sun by Frank D. Roylance.

After the U.S. entered the war, German U-boats shifted operations to off the American coast and were winning the Battle of the Atlantic in that area until July 1942, when they moved to attacking the North Atlantic Convoys.  Some 397 ships were sunk off the U.S. coasts.

Ships sunk by U-boats (and one by accident):

W.L. STEED--  Unarmed tanker sunk Feb. 2, 1942, with 66,000 barrels of crude oil, 90 miles off Ocean City, Maryland.  Only a few of the crew survived.

JOHN MORGAN--  Liberty Ship built in 1943 by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore.  On its maiden voyage, it collided with another vessel off Cape Henry and sank with a cargo of fighter planes, tanks, arms and ammunition.  Sixty-seven crew members and guards died.

VARANGER--  Norwegian tanker torpedoed Jan. 25, 1942, with 12,750 tons of fuel oil.  As the crew took to the lifeboats, the U-boat fired three more torpedoes..  Sank 28 miles southeast of Atlantic City, NJ.  The lifeboats were spotted and fishing boats towed them to shore.

INDIA ARROW--  Oil tanker.  Torpedoes and sunk Feb. 5, 1942, 20 miles southeast of Cape May, NJ, with 88,369 barrels of crude oil.  None officers and 29 crew abandoned ship.  Only 12 survived.

The reason for the article is the danger of the fuel the ship's carried getting out into the sea with the ocean's corrosive elements.

In Hawaii, the USS Arizona had 1.1 million gallons of fuel when it was sunk December 7, 1941, and about half is still on board and slowly leaking to the surface, "The Tears of the Arizona."

Most Americans Don't Even Know About the Battle Off Our Shore During World War II.  --GreGen

Monday, December 17, 2012

Selfridge Army Air Base-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.  I'd never heard of the base before the previous entry so went to good ol' Wili.

The base, now called Selfridge Air National Guard Base is located in Harrison Township Michigan near the town of Mount Clemmons, near Detroit.  It houses the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard.

The Selfridge Military Air Museum, where the chards of the 1941 plane are destined, is located there as well.

It has two connections with people I have written about in other blogs and of interest to me.  It is named for Lt. Thomas Selfridge, the first U.S. military officer to die in an aviation accident while flying with Orville Wright at Fort Myer, Virginia on September 17, 1908.  Selfridge was the grandson of Admiral Thomas O. Selfridge, who commanded the USS Cairo when it was sunk 150 years ago this month.

The U.S. Army leased 640 acres from Henry Bourne Joy, president of the Packard Motor Car Company, and Lincoln Highway pusher.  Joy also had Joy Aviation Field on the site where he tested Packard airplane engines.

The field opened for pilot training July 1, 1917 and closed down temporarily in March 1918, when the Clinton River flooded the base.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Pieces of World War II-era Plane Found in Michigan Farm Field

From the November 13, 2012, Northwest (Il) Herald, by AP.

Four men have unearthed pieces of what they call a WW II-era fighter plane that crashed into a southeastern Michigan farm field Oct. 15, 1941, about six weeks before war started for the U.S..  Jim Clary, his brother Ben--an 88-year-old World War II veteran and two others made the discovery using metal detectors just east of Richmond in St. Clair County.

Several chards were recovered about 8 inches deep in the dirt.  Clary grew up in Richmond and remembered hearing locals tell about the crash.  He studied copies of the investigation reports, old news articles and Google Earth and talked to a 92-year old woman who witnessed the crash.  The search had to wait until the soybean crop was harvested.

The recovered fragments are from a P-38D Lightning which had been piloted by 2nd lt. Al Voss, a native of Elgin, Illinois, who was assigned to the 94th Pursuit Squadron stationed at Selfridge Air Base in Michigan.  he was killed trying to parachute from the diving plane.

Proof the chards were from the plane was in the camouflage patterns that matched the ones used by the squadron.

They plan to give the artifacts to a museum at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

Even though our country was not at war, preparations for one were everywhere in those years before Dec. 7th.

Always Great When History Is recovered.  --GreGen

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"It Rained Death" Pearl Harbor Survivor Remembers

From the Dec. 7, 2012, Des Moines (Iowa) Register.

John Danaher, 94, was on the USS Nevada that day, a yeoman waiting for Mass on the main deck.

Hearing machine gun fire, he at first thought the Army was doing test firing.  His battle station was at the ship's bow and he recalled, "Your training was so good that it became automatic.  You did your job the best you could, and you kept going."

The Nevada wasn't moored next to another battleship and was the only one to get underway during the attack.

The Nevada lost 57 dead that day.


Another World War II Plane Pulled From Lake Michigan-- Part 2

Taras Lyssenko estimates that there are still 70-80 airplanes in the lake.  The Wildcat retrieved Dec. 7th was one of many used to train pilots for landing and taking off from aircraft carriers.  This one rolled off a converted steamship on December 28, 1944, and crashed into the lake about 45 miles southeast of Waukegan after engine failure after its third takeoff.

Pilot Edward Forbes was rescued and continued his training.  He died in 2008 t age 85. I would imagine he served in the war.

During the war 15,000 to 18,000 pilots would leave Glenview Naval Air Station to practice landings and takeoffs from two steamships in Lake Michigan that had been converted into makeshift aircraft carriers, one being the USS Wolverine.

The reason for aircraft carriers in Lake Michigan was the threat of enemy submarines off the coasts.  The large number of planes that crashed into Lake Michigan was partly due to pilot error, which is understandable in training.  Also, part of the problem was that they were flying planes near the end of their active flying, many having already been used in war zones.

Glenview Hangar One Foundation operates a small museum at 2040 Lehigh Avenue.  The air station closed in 1995.

Still More Planes Out There Under the Waves.  --GreGen

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another World War II Plane Pulled From Lake Michigan-- Part 1

From the Dec. 8, 2012, Chicago Tribune by Jonathan Bullington.

A failed training mission left it on the bottom of Lake Michigan 68 years ago, but Friday morning (Dec. 7th), crews pulled the fighter plane from Waukegan Harbor where it had been pulled.  It is the first leg of a journey that will hopefully end up at a Glenview naval museum.

The date last Friday was not lost on the crew either.  Stacy Greenhill, a pilot and oldest child of Charles Greenhill, who paid for the recovery, said, "These are the airplanes that helped us win the war."

Charles Greenhill, 78, a pilot from Mettawa sponsored the recovery of another plane from Lake Michigan two years ago that currently is on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

The plane recovered Friday is an FM-2 Wildcat and will be taken to Pensacola for a five-year complete restoration.

Crews from A&T Recovery towed the plane underwater Sunday to Waukegan Harbor, arriving on Tuesday.  The process also involves getting the approval of various state agencies, the Navy and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Thirty-one World War II planes have been recovered from Lake Michigan so far.

Always Great to recover a Relic.  --GreGen

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the USS Pennsylvania

From the Dec. 6, 2012, Florida News-Press.

BILL RANEY, 90, of Fort Myers was on the USS Sacramento.

RUSSEL WINSETT, 92, was on the USS Pennsylvania and was a 21-year-old 3rd class gunnery mate.  He'd just finished breakfast and dressed to visit his Hawaiian cousin for a tour of the island.

He found himself 50-feet above the deck firing a .50 caliber machine gun.  "I was not so scared until it was all over.  Then I was shaking like a you-know-what."  The Pennsylvania suffered 24 killed, 14 MIA and 38 wounded.

According to Winsett, the Pennsylvania fired more rounds at the Japanese than any ship that day.  He later fought at Bougainville, Okinawa and Iwo Jima.


Survivors Commemorating Pearl Harbor's 71st Anniversary

From the 12-8-12 Bay News of Tampa Bay, Fl.

GEORGE KAASS--  on the USS San Francisco

From 12-8-12 News 14 North Carolina.

MIKE RUBISH, 86, stationed at Pearl Harbor and remembers seeing the eyes of the Japanese pilots.

From 12-7-12 WECT Wilmington, NC.

ED CLAY remembers after the attack "Ships still burning, bodies coming out of the deep and everyone in a state of shock."

As We Lose Them to Age.  --GreGen

The Catalina Flying Boat Canadian Connection

From the June 23, 2011, Windsor (Can) Express.

The Catalina Flying Boat was a long-range reconnaissance plane used as a search and rescue and light attack aircraft.  It was armed with up to five machine guns.

More than 3,000 were built in Canada during the war.

There is only one fully operational Catalina in the UK and only twelve still flying regularly in the world.

One built in 1943 will be flying  from Duxford to White Waltham Airfield for a Catalina Day celebration.

The Sea As a Runway.  --GreGen

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

National World War II Museum Receiving Segments of Germany's Famed Atlantic Wall-- Part 2

Around 156,000 servicemen from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and other Allied countries took place in the invasion of France.  Offshore, there were 5,000 ships and Higgins landing crafts.

After a huge bombardment, the Allies landed.  The U.S. lost 2,499 dead that day.  Total Allied losses were 4,414.

By June 11th, the beachhead was declared secured.

That day and over the next several months, ships ferried 326,000 troops and more than 100,000 tons of equipment to France.

Paris was liberated August 25th (see the Christmas card above) and Germany surrendered May 8, 1945.

Something Worth Seeing.  That Ranks Right Up There With the Berlin Wall in History.  --GreGen

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

National World War II Museum Receiving Segments of the Famed German Atlantic Wall-- Part 1

From the June 5, 2011, PR Newswire.

On its 11th birthday, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans is receiving three large sections of Hitler's supposed impregnable Atlantic Wall, built to keep the Allies out of France.  It is being donated by the Utah Beach Museum at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France.  Each piece is 5.5 feet tall, 18-inches thick and 35-feet in length.  Also, each weighs 22 tons and all are pock-marked with the fire of incoming Allied shells and rifle fire.

Completed in 1944, the Atlantic Wall was a series of fortifications to protect Europe's west coast from Allied attack.  Stretching some 3,200 miles long, it consisted of concrete wall, mines, pillboxes, tank traps and the famous "Rommel's Asparagus."  (I'll have to look that one up.)

Something I'd  Sure Like to See.  --GreGen

Major General John R. Alison, USAF (Ret) Dies

From the June 6, 2011, PR Newswire.

Major General John R. Alison, a World War II combat ace and veteran of the Korean War died June 6th at the age of 98.

During World War II he had seven confirmed and numerous probable kills flying with and later commanding the 75th Fighter Squadron. "The Flying Tigers."

He also co-commanded the Air Commando Force which fought behind Japanese lines in Burma and is referred to as The father of Air Force Special Operations.

In 1943, he led a top-secret mission with 9,000 troops. 1300 mules and moved 250 tons of supplies behind Japanese lines in Burma over a six-day period.  He also piloted the first group of Waco CG-4A glider planes towed by C-47 transports and released to a risky jungle landing.  Of 64 gliders that first night, 32 arrived, 20 were lost en route and 15 turned back.

He returned to service during the Korean War.

Quite the Man.  --GreGen

The USS Oklahoma's Clock

From the Dec. 12, 2012, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Clock from sunken battleship to be displayed at Soldiers & Sailors" by Torsten Ove.

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum is getting a clock that was once aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma that was sunk at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day.

The heavy bronze clock was made by the Seth Thomas Co. and inscribed "CS Okla" and "galley."  It is believed that it was mounted in the kitchen and one of thirty or so clocks on board the ship.

Dan Heller of Marionville, Pennsylvania, an infantryman who was at World War II's Battle of the Bulge donated it.  Although not a Navy man, his first wife worked at an Army-Navy surplus store in Altoona and when it closed in the 1960s she was asked if she wanted anything.  She didn't, but her her husband had his eye on the clock, so she got that.

Neither the Navy or the Seth Thomas Company could provide proof that it was on the Oklahoma. The Navy did say the dates etched in the back did correspond with an overhaul on the ship that took place before the war.

The Oklahoma turned turtle during the attack and remained that way until 1943 when it was uprighted and refloated.  Its guns and superstructure were sold for scrap.  The hull later sank while under tow to San Francisco in 1947.

Here's Hoping That It Is From the Oklahoma.  --GreGen

Monday, December 10, 2012

Service Aboard the "Wee Vee"-- Part 3

The West Virginai was at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines took place in October of 1944 and involved 34 aircraft carriers, 36 battleships and cruisers, more than 140 destroyers and escorts and 1500 planes.

He and his wife wrote each other everyday.  Letters from her would arrive in a pile and then he'd receive none for weeks, depending upon where and when the letters caught up with the ship.  His mail was read by an officer who literally cut out censored news about where he was and anything that could be used by the enemy.  Some letters were cut out nearly 90 percent.

For recreation, the crew got to occasionally see movies on the quarterdeck and they had concerts.  The "Wee Vee" was especially fortunate to have two former members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra on board.

The ship was at Iwo Jima and at Okinawa, a kamikaze crashed into the ship, killing four and wounding seven.  Fortunately, its bomb did not explode.  Said Reiter, "It was Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945.  I was in the bow of the ship in the shower.  All of the ship's major compartments were locked down and he and others trapped there had ample time to reflect on what must have been going through the minds of those on the West Virginia who were caught there at Pearl Harbor.

He was also on the ship when it led the American fleet into Tokyo Bay for the surrender.  The ship was decommissioned in 1949 and scrapped in 1961.

Reiter journeyed to Charleston, West Virginia the past September for a crew reunion.

The Story of a Ship.  --GreGen

Service Aboard the "Wee Vee"-- Part 2

Reiter was one of seven brothers (and one sister) who had spent many days boating on the nearby St. Croix River.  He wanted to join the Coast Guard right away after Pearl Harbor, but they wouldn't take anyone younger than 18.  The Navy took boys as young as 16.  He joined the Navy in January 1944, at age 17.

He married Jan. 9, 1944 and left for boot camp at Farragut Naval Station in Idaho.  (Really, a naval station in Idaho?)  After training he went by train to Bremerton, Washington, in May 1944.  He recalled that his assignment to the USS West Virginia was quite random.  On arrival, the man in charge of placement pointed his arm at newly-arrived sailors and would say, "From you over to you, the West Virginia."

Tony Reiter became a Seaman First Class and his battle station assignment was to the lower handling room of the powder magazine where he loaded 16-inch shells onto an elevator to the turret.  To this day, he can still go through the loading procedure.
The West Virginia and its new 2,700-man crew sailed to Pearl Harbor in October 1944.  He said that on the way they crossed the equator many times as they zig-zagged to avoid Japanese submarine attack.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Service Aboard the "Wee Vee"-- Part 1

From the December 4, 2012, St. Paul (Minn) Review "Harrowing days aboard the 'Wee Vee'" by Vonny Rohloff.

At Pear Harbor, the USS West Virginia, referred to as the "Wee Vee" by its crew, was struck by two bombs and six torpedoes, sinking to the bottom with the loss of two officers and 103 enlisted. 

That day, 15-year-old Anthony "Tony" Reiter first heard about the attack when he arrived at the Arms Plant in New Brighton where he held a job while attending Mechanic Arts High School.  Even though the US was not at war, the plant was operating at full capacity, seven days a week.

He later served aboard the 1920s ship.

Although badly damaged, the West Virginia was raised May 30, 1942. to the horror that seventy dead sailors were in it who had been trapped below deck.  They had scratched messages on the inside of the ship and the last one had lasted until December 23rd.

It was sent back to the United States and refitted at Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington.  By July 4, 1944, it had arisen like a phoenix.

The "Phoenix Rising."  --GreGen

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Visit to "the Tears of the Arizona"

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Oahu thanks to Mom.  Of course, the biggest thing I wanted to do was to go to Pearl Harbor and out to the Arizona Memorial.  And this was considerably before I ever considered having a blog devoted solely to World War II.

I am a huge history buff, especially of all things military, and of all the battles, I am probably most interested in Pearl Harbor.  I was probably one of the few teachers in the country who observed the Pearl Harbor attack.  What began as a 15-minute talk, eventually morphed into a three-day lesson, even when i was teaching geography.

When we got to the old museum (a new one has since been built) there was an unbelievably long line.  I don't do lines as a rule, but definitely did this one.  Admission was free and we had time to see a film and walk around the museum which had many items of interest.  I especially was impressed by the scale model of the Arizona.  There was also a submarine tied up by the museum, on whose land it sat did not exist at the time of the battle but was created by fill.

Next, the Arizona.  --GreGen 

"The Tears of the Arizona"

From the Dec. 4, 2012, Issaquah (Washington) Press "USS Arizona Memorial inspires photographer to capture Pearl Harbor images" by Warren Kagarise.

Jerry Kauman, a photographer and resident of Issaquah, created a book of images dedicated to the steady release of oil from the USS Arizona lying on the bottom of the harbor.  These are sometimes referred to as "The Tears of the Arizona."

For years he has made the journey to the ship and taken photos for his book "Renewal at the Place of Black Tears."  The multi-colored patterns are formed by the intermingling of water and oil and always are different.  The oil comes from the 500,000 gallons of fuel that went down with the ship.

Probably One of the Most Striking Things You'll Ever See.  --GreGen

Four Critical Mistakes the Japanese Made That Day

From the previous post.

Clyde Combs said the Japanese made four mistakes during the attack:

1.  Not bombing the fuel tanks.

2.  Only skeleton crews were on the ships because it was Sunday morning.  US casualties could have been a lot worse had full crews been there.

3.  Not destroying the floating dry dock.

4.  The aircraft carriers were not there.  As it turned out, it was to be the aircraft carriers that won the war.

Something to Think About.  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor Survivor Reported As Dead to Parents

From the Dec. 5, 2012, Cleveland (Tx) Advocate "Pearl Harbor remembered at USS Texas ceremony" by Louis Roesch.

There were 84,000 service members on the island of Oahu that day; most survived and some were killed during the war.  However, it is estimated that there are fewer than 8,000 remaining today, most in their late 80s to early 90s.

On December 1st, the 27th consecutive observation of the event took place on the USS Texas at the San Jacinto Battlefield Historic Site.  The USS Texas participated in both world wars.

Among the honored was 90-year-old Lewis Lagesse of Houston who was a telephone talker on the USS West Virginia that day and knocked unconscious after the second of nine torpedoes hit the ship.  Later, his body was being removed for burial when the Chief Boatswains Mate noticed his eyelash move and he was quickly transported to the hospital ship USS Solace for treatment.

A telegram was mistakenly sent to his parents in Waco December 16, 1941, informing them of his death.  A memorial service was held and a week later they received a second telegram arrived saying he was still alive.  That had to have been very hard on his parents.

After recuperation, he was assigned to the cruiser USS Salt Lake City and participated in the Battles of Guadalcanal and Battle of Komandorski Islands (off Alaska).  The ship was also part of the force escorting the Doolittle Raid that dropped the atom bomb on Japan.  (This has to be a mistake as the Doolittle Raid was in 1942 and they did not drop the atom bomb..

The Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.  --GreGen

This Being the 71st Anniversary of the "Day of Infamy"

Seventy-one years ago today, about this time, Japanese planes and mini submarines attacked U.S. Naval and Army forces on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.  The heaviest damage was done at a place called Pearl Harbor, ever to live in American hearts from then on.  This plunged the United States into World War II, the next day with a declaration of war from the U.S. Congress after FDR's famous "Day of Infamy" speech.

In honor of it, I will be posting four entries about the attack.  We still have survivors, but, sadly, that number is dwindling rapidly.  I have also written about it since December 2nd.

A long time ago now, and ten years before my time, but never to be forgotten.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The USS Reid (DD-369)

From Wikipedia.

The last blog entry wrote about the death of Sam Maynor, Jr, at age 92, who had been at Pearl Harbor aboard the destroyer USS Reid.  The ship was named for Samuel Chester Reid, a War of 1812 officer who also took part in the design of the US flag.  (I'll be writing about him in my War of 1812 blog.)

The USS Reid was a Mahan-class destroyer commissioned in 1936 and sunk by kamikazes in 1944.  It weighed 1500 tons, was 341 feet long and mounted five 5-inch guns and had twelve torpedo tubes.

From 1937 to 1941, it served in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and was at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, where it shot down one plane.  After that, it patrolled the Hawaiian Islands for a couple of months before doing convoy duty.  It participated in the Aleutian Islands Campaign and then in most of the operations in the Pacific Theater.

On December 11, 1944, it shot down three kamikaze planes before being hit by three others, blowing apart and sinking in 600 fathoms within a minute, taking down 103 crew members.  One hundred and fifty survived the sinking and strafing.

The Story of a Ship.  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor Survivor Sam Maynor Dies

From the Nov. 30, 2012, Herald Online.

Sam Maynor, Jr., was on the destroyer USS Reid that fateful day in Pearl Harbor and had to break the lock off a mounted machine gun because the sailor who had the key was ashore.  The ship was able to stream out of the harbor.

He died Thursday, November 29th.

He later fought in the battles of Coral Sea and Casablanca.  Besides the enemy gunfire, he also survived five typhoons.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

USS San Francisco Pearl Harbor Survivor

From the Dec. 5, 2012, Lomorinda Weekely "Pearl Harbor Survivor Left His Heart on the USS San Francisco" by Cathy  Dansman.

Richard "Johnny" Johnson turns 90 this tomorrow.  You'd never know it to look at him.  He was just 17 when he joined the Navy with his mother's permission after dropping out of high school.  That date was Dec. 6, 1940.  He said he joined, as the Navy promised "Join the Navy.  See the World."

On April 1941, Seaman Thrid Class Johnson boarded the USS San Francisco at Pearl Harbor and worked in its galley the entire time of his enlistment.  He said Honolulu was so ctowded with young sailors, as the nation prepared for war, that they would have to walk in the street when on leave.

The San Francisco was supposed to be in dry dock that December day, but wasn't because it was being painted.  Half the food and ammunition had been unloaded.

On December 7th that morning, he was on the fantail of the ship drinking coffee and thinking about his planned day on Waikiki Beach when he saw planes approaching.  Not knowing they were enemy planes, he remembers waving at them until the bombs and torpedoes started dropping.  Fortunately for him, the San Francisco was not attacked.

Just One More Story of the Day of Infamy.  --GreGen

Five Fewer Pearl Harbor Survivors in California

From the Dec. 3, 2012, Santa Rosa (Ca) Press-Democrat "This Dec. 7,  5 fewer Pearl Harbor vets" by Chris Smith.

More than one/third of the known Pearl Harbor survivors in Sonoma and Lake counties died during this past year.  All five were ages 88 to 94 and will be honored by the tolling of bells at the veterans memorial Building in Santa Rosa on Friday.

FRANK SENNELLO--  90, submariner, died Jan. 3rd
DICK STEELE--  94, in boiler room of the dry docked destroyer USS Downes.  Died Jan. 29th.

GENE OLIVER--  Then 20, on destroyer USS Dale.  He was ordered to take a small boat across the harbor to pick up their captain and came across many wounded sailors in the water, but his orders prohibited him from aiding them.  He always felt bad about that.  Died March 6.

WALT URMANN--  88, on destroyer USS Blue.  Died March 25.
BUD BONER--  90, on USS Tennessee.  Always said he woke up that day a boy and went to bed a man.

Never Forgetting.  --GreGen

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pearl Harbor: Blown Overboard-- USS West Virginia Sailors Honored

1.  BLOWN OVERBOARD--  From the Nov. 30, 2012, Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Lawrence Sofia was setting up chairs on the deck of the USS  West Virginia that day when the attack took place.  He was wounded and blown overboard.

2.  USS WEST VIRGINIA SAILORS HONORED--  From the Dec. 3, 2012, WBOY 12 News.  Sailors who served aboard the battleship USS West Virginia, both at Pearl Harbor and afterwards, were honored at the West Virginia state capitol Monday (Dec. 3rd).  They received certificates and later had a brunch at the state's Department of Veterans Affairs.


As We Lead Up to the 71st Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

We're just three days away from that fateful Sunday that launched the United states into World War II, although we had been preparing for it for quite a few years already.  It was more a matter of when as opposed to if, we would join the war.

It was a mighty sucker punch and one we should have been much more prepared. 

Anyway, I will be writing about it over the next several days.

Never Forgetting.  --GreGen

Hunt on for U-boat Sunk Of North Carolina

From the June 4, 2011, Virginian Pilot "Hunt is on for sunken WWII vessel off N.C. coast" by Erin James.

The search was to continue in the summer of 2011 off the Outer Banks, looking for the remains of a U-boat that attacked a 1942 convoy of 19 container ships and 5 military escorts, from Hampton Roads, bound for Key West to deliver a cargo for the war effort.

Convoy KS-520, escorted by the Coast Guard Cutter Triton was attacked soon after leaving Virginia in July 1942.  The U-576 sank the Norwegian tanker Bluefields causing the convoy to stray into a minefield off Hatteras Island and three other vessels sank. 

Research has been done on the Battle of Convoy KS-520 over the past four years.

The first phase of search is to locate the U-576, Bluefields and the three other ships using multi-beam sonar system beginning this week southeast of Cape Hatteras.

Wonder If They Found It?  --GreGen

Sunday, December 2, 2012

USS Arizona Artifacts to Kansas

From the May 20, 2011, Kansas City (Mo) Fox 4.

Artifacts from the USS Arizona would be moved across the United States on October 13, 2011, to the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association chapter in Kansas City.  \\

Once there, they will be put on permanent display at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Park in Mission, Kansas.

Unfortunately, they didn't say what the artifacts were.


"Hump Pilots" Hold Final Reunion

From the May 4, 2011, Charleston, SC, 4 ABC.

World War II "Hump Pilots" held what might be their last reunion in Charleston back then when five men between the ages of 89-91 met in the city.One was Tex Rankin and another was Bill Thomas, 91, of Charleston.

In the 1940s, they flew support missions over the Himalayas (the Hump) between India and China.

Their first reunion was in 1946 in Detroit, Michigan.

The reason for disbanding, of course, is age and death.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Work to Begin on RAF War Memorial

From the April 21, 2011, United Kingdom Press Association.

Work on the Bomber Command Memorial will begin in central London next month.  Donations from two high profile donors put the effort near its monetary goal.

The memorial is to honor the 55,573 RAF  airmen who died defending the island.

It is located in Green Park and scheduled for completion around May of 2012.  So far, some 5.6 million pounds of the $6 million goal have been raised, thanks to the generous donations of John Candwek and Lord Ashcroft.

Always Fitting to Honor the Dead.  --GreGen

Thursday, November 29, 2012

That Hard to Crack Message

From the Nov. 24, 2012, International Business Times "World War II Message Found On Dead Carrier Pigeon Puzzles Code Breakers" by Sreeja V N.

Britain's top code breakers from GCHQ service have failed to crack the code found on the dead carrier pigeon that I blogged about earlier this month and are seeking help from retired spies and the public (perhaps some from World War II are still around who migfht know how to translate it.

A man was remodeling his 17th century house and found the bones of the pigeon in his chimney with a capsule attached to its leg reading "Pigeon Service."  Then, there were 27 coded words, each with five alphabets.

Three crucial bits if information are still not known which might help to crack it:  date of the message (although at first it was believed to be from June 6, 1944, D-Day), its destination and its sender.  They do believe the pigeon was flying to Bletchley Park from France on that date.

Here's Hoping the Case Will be Solved.  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois-- Part 2

The camp closed in 1923.  From 1933 to 1935, it was used by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

In October 1940, it was reactivated as an induction center for physical exams and medical training.  It is estimated that 100,000 medical corpsmen received their training there.  Later, a POW center housed some 2,500 enemy soldiers.

The camp became one of Rockford's biggest employers with some 6,000 civilians on the payroll.

After the war, it became a separation center for returning GIs, where they left the military to become civilians.  In 1946, the camp was permanently closed.  For a few years, the former barracks were converted into apartments.

Today, the Chicago-Rockford International Airport is located on much of the land.  I came close to using this airport a few years back.  Hey, free parking.

I wonder if George Leisenring was training to be a medic when his parents visited or if he was on staff at the camp.

World War II Stuff  I Didn't Know.  --GreGen

Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

The last entry dealt with a mother and father visiting their son George who stationed at the Medical Center Barracks at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois.  They sent a postcard to their daughters at home in Elmira, New York, dated July 4, 1943.  This postcard finally arrived in 2012.  Talk about your snail mail!!!

I'd never heard of a Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois, even though I live just an hour away from there.  Obviously, it is no longer there.  So, good old Wikipedia to the rescue.

It was named after U.S. Grant (U.S.-20 which goes through Rockford is named the Grant Highway as it also goes through Galena, Illinois, where he was living before the Civil War).  It was located on the western outskirts of Rockford at at one point consisted of over 18,000 acres and was in operation from 1917 until the late 1940s.

During World War I, it was an infantry training camp, home of the 86th Infantry Division (the Black Hawk Division).

Wonder What George Leisenring Was Doing There in the Next War?  --GreGen

Sunday, November 25, 2012

World War II-Era Postcard Finally Gets Delivered

From the Nov. 24, 2012, New York Daily News "WW II-era postcard finally delivered to address in Elmira, NY" by Christine Roberts.

And, it was in mint condition and dated July 4, 1943, addressed to sisters Paulina and Theresa Leisenring in Elmira.  It was from their parents who were visiting their brother George who was stationed at the Medical Center Barracks at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois.

It read: "We arrived safe, had a good trip, but we were good and tired.  Geo. looks good, we all went to dinner today (Sunday).  Now we are in the park.

Geo. has to be back to Grant at 12 o'clock tonight.  See you soon.  Love Mother, Dad."

Unfortunately, there was no mention of what happened to the postcard over all the years and whether the sisters were still alive.

Maybe There Will Be a Follow Up.  --GreGen

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Five Brothers Served U.S. in World War II

From the Nov. 2, 2012, Weatherford Democrat by Sally Sexton.

The Wesson brothers had a bond because of birth, but after 1945, had another one as all five served in the war.

In December 1941, right before Pearl Harbor.  That month, T.A. Wesson and olderst son Walter took jobs in bomb and munition factories, while the other four sons: Jim,Nolan, Leo and Arnold, delivered the product to the Army and Navy.  The youngest son, Bruce, was left to run the family farm.

Jim and Leo both joined the Navy prior to Pearl Harbor and served together on the USS Louisville.  After five brothers from Iowa were killed, the Navy separated the two Wessons, sending Jim to another cruiser, the USS Biloxi, which launched February 1943, where he served as a chief machinist mate.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wilmington at War

From the Oct. 30, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then."

From Oct. 2, 1942--  A big scrap metal drive was underway and the Star was keeping a running list of major contributors:  G.A. Trask, 10,025 pounds; L.L. Hughes, 4,000; Mrs. W.L. Grissom, 1,075; Mrs. John Wolf, 250 and Bud Fowler, 22.

From October 15, 1942--  New Hanover County's representative with the Flying Tigers registered for the draft yesterday though he's expected to re-enlist in the Navy as a meteorologist.  Donald Whelpley of Carolina Beach arrived at his home Saturday after a year's service with the dare devil American Volunteer Group that attempted to liberate China."

The War At Home.  --GreGen

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pearl Harbor Ship to Arkansas?

From November 9, 2012, KUAR "Fundraiser To Help Bring the USS Hoga To Arkansas" by Kezia Nanda.

The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum is trying to acquire the USS Hoga to Little Rock to join the USS Razorback. 

The tugboat was at Pearl Harbor that day and helped save the battleship USS Nevada from sinking and served throughout the war in the Pacific.  This might be the only vessel still around from the attack so it would be a shame to lose it.

The fundraiser was held Nov. 10th. 

This would be an addition attraction at the museum (I'd never heard of before) that had 17,000 visitors in 2011.

Hope They Get It.  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The RMS Aquatania-- Part 2

After the stock market crash hurt the transAtlantic voyages, the ship was used on the Mediterranean where it especially became popular for the "Booze Cruise."  Americans trying to drink legally during Prohibition were big customers then.

It was scheduled to be replaced by the RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1940, but then came the war and it was used as a troopship in the Pacific.

It is believed that the German raider Kormoran was looking for the Aquatania shortly before the Nov. 19, 1940 battle when it encountered the HMAS Sydney and both ships ended up sinking.  The Sydney lost every crew member..  The Aquatania arrived on the scene shortly after the battle and, against orders, stopped to pick up the Kormoran survivors.  I have written a lot about this battle in my Cooter's History Thing Blog.

Later in the war, the Aquatania transported American soldiers, including Mike Butlovich, across the Atlantic.

During World War II service,the ship sailed 500,000 miles and carried nearly 400,000 soldiers.  Quite a statistic.

In 1946, it transported war brides and children to Canada.

The Aquatania was scrapped in Scotland in 1950.

Quite the Story.  --GreGen

The RMS Aquatania-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

On Nov. 7th and 9th I wrote about the World War II memorial in Brookfield set up to honor Mike Butkovich who owned the bar next to it and who was killed in the war and others from the neighborhood who served as well.  As usual, this story led to other stories like Camp Blanding in Florida where he trained (and I wrote about Nov. 9th).

Then, I saw that he crossed the Atlantic on the RMS Aquatania on which his father had sailed to Europe in 1928.  I'd never heard of the ship.


Was a Cunard ocean liner built in 1913 and bore a strong resemblance to the much-more famous RMS Titanic, a big reason why it was built.  The ship was 901 feet long and weighed 45,647 tons.  It was one of the Cunard Line's "Grand Trio" which also included the RMS Mauretania and RMS Lusitania.  These ships were built to battle the Titanic and its sisters, the Britannic and Olympic.

At the end of its career, it was the last four-funnel ship surviving and earned the nickname "Ship Beautiful."

It was used as a troopship in World War I and World War II.

After World War I, it became one of the most popular Atlantic liners.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It Was Huge: The Dodge Chicago Plant

From Wikipedia.

Located in Chicago's southwest side in the West Lawn neighborhood by 76th Street and Cicero Avenue.

The plant was built in 1942 as part of the US war effort with its main building covering 82 acres, at the time the largest building in the world.  It covered 30 city blocks.

Named the Dodge Chicago Aircraft Engine Plant, it built the majority of the B-29 bomber aircraft engines.  It was designed noted automotive plant architect Alfred Kahn and his company and is regarded as the influential design for American industrial manufacturing plants.

Extensive underground tunnels were also built to facilitate foot and supply traffic.  It was the setting for racial and ethnic tolerances well.

After the war, it was leased for a short time by the Tucker Car Corporation and later used by several automobile makers, including Ford.  Tootsie Roll moved in during 1967 and a large part of it became the Ford City Mall.


A Dying PHSA Chapter

From the April 27, 2011, Central Nebraska Independent.

Sadly, all chapters of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association (PHSA) are gone or in the process of going.

The Bo Wilson Nebraska Chapter 1 of the PHSA is a dying organization, consisting now of six members and twelve others.  They used to have meetings three times a year, but now just once.

It was founded in 1966.

One member is Ralph Naslund of the 72nd Bomber Squadron AAC.

Earl Brandes, 2nd Engineer Marine Corps, said, "I remember unloading my rifle at the Japanese planes during the second raid.  I don't suppose I hit anything though, but I was about two blocks away from a destroyer blowing up in the dry docks.  It scared me so I left my truck and got under some nearby barracks."

Sad to See Them Go.  --GreGen

Monday, November 12, 2012

"There Were a Lot of Ways to Get Killed That Day"

From the October 8, 2012, Stars and Stripes "WWII veterans share experiences of war at Oklahoma symposium" by Jerry Wofford of the Tulsa World.

Ed Vezey, 92, took his junior officer uniform cap off, put it in a corner, put a pistol on top of it and jumped off the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor where he manned an anti-aircraft gun.  I wonder if he ever got that cap and pistol back?

"Anyone who got off alive was off in 11 minutes.  We were being strafed, being bombed, being torpedoed.  There were a lot of ways to get killed that day.


World War II Survivor Deaths: Pearl Harbor and Tuskegee

Tuskegee pilot died Sarasota, Florida,  April 11, 2011.  Enlisted in the Army Air Corps at age 18 in 1943.  Became a pilot in the 332 Fighter Group and escorted bombers from from Italy to targets in Germany.  After the war, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the GI Bill.

One of Idaho's last Pearl Harbor survivors died April 8, 2011.  He was 24-years-old and on the USS Maryland at Pearl Harbor and was trapped at the bottom of the ship.

He was the local president of the PHSA until is dissolved in 2005.


Bits of War: USS Iowa-- Schindler's List-- Dunkirk Anchor

Bits of War for World War II

1.  USS IOWA--  From Dec. 28, 2010, LA Times--  San Pedro, Ca. wants the battleship that carried FDR to important meetings and as such is the only US Naval vessel with a bathtub   There are no battleship memorials on the West Coast.  The 900-foot ship, 15-story-high ship was decommissioned in 1990 and it has been in the Suisun Bay  near San Francisco in the mothball fleet.  (Since then, the ship was sent to Los Angeles where it has become a museum ship.)

2.  SCHINDLER'S LIST--  From Dec. 28, 2012, Times of India.  A 13-page original copy of the list that spared more than 1000 Jews went up for auction.  It is one of several original copies, Oskar Schindler had made.

3.  DUNKIRK ANCHOR--  The anchor from the Mona's Queen, lost at Dunkirk in May 1940 was found and returned to the Isle of Man.  It is a memorial to the staff of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Line who lost their lives.

The Mona's Queen was one of eight company ships that rescued 24,669 troops from Dunkirk.

The ships Fennella and King Orry were also lost.

The Mona's Queen struck a German mine and 24 crew lost their lives.

A Bit of the War.    -GreGen

Oldest Michigan World War II Veteran Lester Shaffer Honored

From the April 7, 2011, Holland (Mi) Sentinel.

Lester Shaffer was born in Holland, Michigan March 23, 1909, and served in the Army in the 1930s and was discharged before being drafted after the war began.  Served in France, rising to the rank of sergeant.

In civilian life he drove a tanker truck for Texaco before he and his wife, Pauline, settled in Douglas.  Operated the Douglas Dinette for ten years.  It is now the Everyday People Cafe at 11 Center Street.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Big Thank You to Our World War II Veterans

Today, I pause to thank those members of the Greatest Generation who served to make the world safe for all.  Sadly, this generation is fast leaving us, but to those who remain, we salute you and those who have passed on, the same.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Churchill's Secret Army Uncovered

From the April 3, 2011 Wales Online.

A bunker from World War II was recently opened to the public for the first time in over sixty years at Grd Coesau-Whips Woodland near Rudry..  Foresters cleaned out decades of brush and built a path and fence to keep people from falling into it.

This concrete bunker was built for secret auxiliary units set up to relay vital information about enemy movement as Britain braced itself for possible German occupation.

Had Hitler's forces invaded the island, resistance fighters would have lived off the land and launched sneak attacks on the Germans.

Things Were Getting That Bad.  --GreGen

Getting Ready to Meet Some WWII Marines

Happy Birthday to the Corps, as in USMC.

In a few minutes I will be leaving for the Fox Lake American Legion for the annual Birthday Breakfast featuring that Corps staple, SOS and scrambled eggs.

Always a real treat, there is a table for the World War II and one for the Korean War veterans. 

Along with the birthday, there is all the tradition and raising money for the Toys for Tots.

It is one fine thing.

Talk About History.  --GreGen

Friday, November 9, 2012

Camp Blanding, Florida

In my entries about the Illinois war memorial, I mentioned that Mike Butkovich was sent to training at Camp Blanding in Florida.  I'd never heard of it, so good old Wiki here I come.

Camp Blanding is still in operation as the primary military reservation and training base for the Florida National Guard, located in Clay County, southwest of Jacksonville, Florida.  It came into being when the US Navy decided it wanted a naval air station near Jacksonville and traded land for the National Guard's Camp Foster on the St. John's River. The new camp was named after World War I General Albert H. Blanding.

In 1940, the camp was leased to the US Army as an active duty training center.  During the war, it served as an induction center, an infantry replacement training center, German POW camp and a separation center after the war.

At its height, the camp grew to 170,000 acres and from 1940 to 1945, more than 800,000 soldiers received all or part of their training there.  At one point, it ranked as Florida's fourth biggest city and had 10,000 buildings, 170 miles of paved roads and the largest hospital in the state.

After the war, it was returned to Florida and became a national guard center again.

There is a museum and memorial park open to the public.

Never Heard of It.  --GreGen

A Local Illinois Memorial-- Part 2

The memorial was lovingly landscaped and inside a whire gravel star.  No one can today remember exactly when it went up, but it was in place by May 1944 when several photos were taken.

Mike Butkovich boarded the troop ship Aquatania Dec. 20, 1944 and left New York City Dec. 22nd for the week-long crossing of the Atlantic.  The Aquatania was the same ship that Mike's father had sailed on in a 1928 trip to Europe.

Upon arrival, he was assigned to the 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Division.

Sadly, Mike Butkovich was killed in European action on Feb. 26, 1945, west of the town of Hilfarth when he entered a mine field to administer to troops who had blundered into it and he stepped on a mine.  His remains were sent home and he received the Silver Star for his courage. 

His wife Fran ran the bar until 1946, then Mike's brother, Joe, took it over and ran it for 50 years.  His daughter Ellen Frantzen now runs it.  The bar is one of those holdouts from the past and still has the original 1939 bar and wood paneling.

The monument remained until the mid-1950s, but fell into disrepair and eventually just fell apart.

It would be very fitting if, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war, if they rebuilt it to honor Mike Butkovich and the others who served and died.

Something to Think About.  --GreGen

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Bombing of Belfast, Northern Ireland: "Things Like That You Never Forget"

From the March 21, 2011, BBC News.

The German Blitz came to Belfast on the night of April 15, 1941 when bombers attacked the city, killing 1,000 and destroying or damaging half the homes and left 100,000 homeless.

The city was a legitimate target because of its ahipyard and aircraft factory.  The sirens went on at 10:45 PM and the attack continued for six hours.  Hundreds of tons of high explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped around the docks where many worker homes were located.

The dead were stacked in the emptied pool of the Falls Church public baths.  Many of them were unidentified and there were many body parts.  If they had a rosary, they were determined to be Catholic.

One survivor remembers seeing a  big dog running down the street with a dead baby in its mouth: "I took off my metal helmet and threw it on the ground.  The rattle scared the dog and he dropped the baby.  I remember wrapping the baby's body in some old  net curtains from one of the bombed houses.  I left the baby with some soldiers, having attached a note to say that the body was found on York Street.  Things like that you never forget."Today, there are two monuments at mass graves of the unidentified.

A Sad Aspect of the War.  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Local Illinois War Memorial-- Part 1

From the November 6, 2012, Riverside-Brookfield (Ill) Landmark "Forgotten Brookfield war monument once sat at 47th and Arthur" by Bob Uphues.

The last two years of World War II, there sat a war memorial in the parking lot of Mike Butkovich's Bar at 9220 47th Street.  The place still stands, but is now still in the family and called Joe's Saloon.  The spot was called Victory Corner.

Workers from the nearby McCook factories could come in for a Schlitz or two and then pay their respects to neighborhood boys in the service of their country at the memorial.

Mike Butkovich ran the bar for his father, George.  The 34-year-old father of four reported to Army basic training at Camp Blanding, Florida, which trained infantry replacements.  Mike ended up as a medic.

The war monument was built by Mike's father and Joe Saba and stood six-feet tall, had four sides and was made of wood and copper.  It sat in what is now the west parking lot of the bar. Mike's name along with those of others from the neighborhood were on it.

A Fitting Memorial.  --GreGen

World War II In Chicago

From the ChicagoTribune Photo Archives, March 16, 2011, Daywatch.

RUNNING ON EMPTY:  picture of a couple making out in a car during gas rationing with a sign in the window saying "I'm really out of gas!"  Should have read "Out of gas, and out of breath, too."

CIGARETTES:  a well-dressed woman smoking a pipe.  Cigarettes on the home front hard to come by as Congress had mandated that every soldier, sailor and Marine receive them as part of their rations.

Well, I never!  --GreGen

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

1940 Presidential Election

Yesterday, 72 years ago, an important election for the United States, on the precipice of World War II took place when Franklin D. Roosevelt was reelected for an unprecedented third time, receiving 54.72% of the vote and 449 electoral votes to his Republican opposition Wendel Willkie who had 44.77% and 82 electoral votes.

There would have been no "Day of Infamy" speech otherwise.


The Dog That Insulted Hitler and Lived to Bark About It

From the Jan. 8, 2011, Independent.

During the war there was a Finnish dog that could imitate the Hitler salute which enraged the Nazis so much that they started a campaign against the dog according to recently discovered documents.  Jackie the dalmatian was owned by Tor Borg.

In 1941, the German vice-consul in Helsinki reported that witnesses had seen Jackie raise his paw on the command "Hitler."  Borg was brought in and questioned by the German embassy.  Borg claimed his wife called the dog Hitler, but the embassy did not buy it.

Various ministries investigated, but decided not to press charges due to lack of witnesses.  Thirty files of correspondence and diplomatic cables were found in the archives of the German Foreign Office.

Looks Like Somebody Didn't Have Much of a Sense of Humor.  Bad Dog.  --GreGen

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pearl Harbor Survivors

PEARL HARBOR HERO POSTHUMOUSLY HONORED--  From the April 1, 2001, Abilene (Kansas) Reflector-Chronicle.  Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed house Bill 2003 designating Kansas Highway 18 from US-81 to the western boundary of Lincoln County as the "Medal of Honor Recipient Donald K. Ross Memorial Highway."

Mr. Ross was born in Beverly, Kansas, in 1910 and received the first Medal of Honor in World War II on the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor.  He retired from the Navy in 1956 and died in 1992.

Warrant Officer Ross battled smoke, heat and fire to get power back on.  After ordering his men to safety, performed his duties until blinded by smoke and rendered unconscious from exhaustion.  Rescued and resuscitated, he didn't seek medical attention and went back to his post until his superiors forced him to leave it.

DEATH OF A SURVIVOR--  From the Jan. 11, 2011, Fox 17.  Richard Quinn, 89, died in Kalamazoo, Michigan, one of the few remaining Pearl Harbor survivors in Western Michigan.  Born June 23, 1941.  Was 20 years old and radio operator on the USS Maryland when the attack took place.

Later served on the USS New Mexico.


World War II Carrier Pigeon Delivers Message

From the Nov. 2, 2012, ABC News by Lama Hasan.

Daniel Martin in Bletchingly, Surrey, was renovating his fireplace when he started finding pigeon bones, then there was a leg with a red capsule attached to it.  It turned out to be an encoded message. 

Theories immediately began that perhaps the pigeon was making its way from behind enemy lines in German-occupied Europe, perhaps even D-Day and heading to Bletchley Park where Britain's main decryption establishment was located during World War II.

Others say it got lost, disorientated in bad weather or simply exhausted and landed in Martin;s chimney where it died.

More than 250,000 carrier pigeons were used during World War II in what was called the National Pigeon Service.  They were heavily relied on to carry secret messages.

During the war, the Dickin Medal, the highest decoration for valor for animals, was awarded to 32 pigeons, including the U.S. Army pigeon G.I. Joe and the Irish pigeon Paddy.

Government code breakers are currently working on reading the message which will give great light if they succeed.  So far, they have determined that the message was from a Sgt. W. Scott and written 70 years ago.

It Will be Interesting to Find Out What the Message Was.  --GreGen

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Death of Another Pearl Harbor Survivor

From the March 10, 2011, New Bedford (Mass) Standard-Times South Coast Today.

Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate (ret) Herve Fortin, the last of six Middleboro Pearl Harbor survivors died feb. 17th.

he was a Seaman First Class on the USS Detrot (CL8) anchored by Ford Island and went topside at 7:30 AM to relieve a fellow crewman on a motor boat which was still out on a mission at the time..  He turned around to report to a petty officer in charge of the gun tub area of the ship just when two low-flying Japanese planes came in and dropped their bombs.  Both these two and the next two missed the Detroit, but hit the USS Raleigh and USS Utah.

Fortin then went to battle station in sky control, but when that was curtailed, he spent the rest of the attack assigned to three-inch anti-aircraft gun #5.

The Greatest Generation.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hull Repairs on the USS North Carolina-- Part 2

The steel in that area is now 1/10 of an inch instead of the 1/2 inch it originally was.  The portion that is deep in the mud is in much better shape.

The section now being replaced will cost $2.1 million to replace with money coming in from a 1998 fund-raising campaign called Operation Ship Shape.  Another capital campaign will be starting soon to raise money for the rest of the hull, expected to cost $15-16 million.

To have floated the ship, towed it and then dry dock it as originally envisioned would have cost $30 million.  Plus, it would have been out of the state for a lengthy period of time.

The battleship commission hopes to eventually build a permanent cofferdam around the ship.  This hull replacement is an anniversary gift to the state's namesake.  It was brought to Wilmington 50 years ago (now 41) when it was moored Oct. 2. 1961.

It was saved from the scrapyard with a "Save Our Ship" drive with contributions from citizens and businesses around the state (and don't forget the school children donating nickles and dimes, including yours truly.  The ship is a fitting memorial to the 10,000 North Carolinians who died during World War II.

A Magnificent Ship.  --GreGen

Japanese Airport Closed After WWII Bomb Found

From the Oct. 9, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News by Eric Talmadge, AP.

The major airport of Sendai in northern Japan was closed after workers found an unexploded bomb believed to be from World War II was found during construction near a runway.  The 550 pound bomb was identified as being American

 The detonator appeared to be still in working order and a military bomb squad was considering whether to attempt to remove it or exploding it where it is.  All 92 flights in and out of the airport were cancelled.

Japan was heavily bombed by Americans during the war and dozens of duds are discovered each year in Tokyo and even more in Okinawa.

After nearly 70 years, time and rust have made them prone to explosion when attempts are made to move them.

Just last week, a hundred people were evacuated when a 220-pound bomb was found in central Tokyo.

Careful Where You Dig in Japan.  --GreGen

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hull Repairs on Battleship North Carolina-- Part 1

From the March 8, 2011, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Hull repairs on Battleship North Carolina to start next month" by Amy Hotz.

OK, they've been working on it for awhile now, but still an interesting article.

During the repairs, the great ship will still remain open.  A 130-foot by 10-ft section of the starboard bow will be replaced.  It has now been 64 years since the North Carolina got a good dry docking in New Jersey said the Battleship Commission's Executive Director Terry Bragg.

Taylor Brothers Marine of New Bern, NC beat out the other contenders from Alabama, Maine, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina and Virginia..

Back in 2001, the Commission announced that the hull was in need of replacement.  At first, plans were to remove it from the mud and tow it to Charleston, SC or Norfolk, Virgina.

In 2010, it was determined that repairs could be done behind a cofferdam system, a water-tight wall built around all or a part of the ship.  The water inside would be pumped out.  Repairs on the USS Alabama's hull in Mobile, Alabama, was done in this way.

The work will be done in 30-foot sections in 150-day increments.  Only the section from the waterline down ten feet is of concern.

More to Come Tomorrow.  --GreGen

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why the USS North Carolina's Bow Faces Away from Wilmington

From the Wilmington Star-News' My Reporter column.

I love this column as it is reporting at its best.  Readers write in with questions and the reporters try to find the answers.  All sorts of interesting stuff.

I had always wondered myself why the stern of the battleship faces the city.  The bow would definitely be more impressive (well, every aspect of the great ship is impressive.  I am so glad the ship was saved.)

A reader wrote in the question and this was the answer.

When the ship arrived in 1961, it was understandably towed bow first.  Taking into account the Cape Fear River's width by the final berth, the tugs had to start turning the ship before the bend to get an angle into the slip.

They couldn't tow the battleship past the berth and back it in because of the lack of room for the needed turn.

So, That's Why.  --GreGen

Monday, October 29, 2012

Iwo Jima Map Returned to USS North Carolina

From the March 4, 2011, Raleigh (NC) Telegram.

The battleship USS North Carolina took part in this battle.  For the last six months the rubber intelligence map was conserved at East Carolina University in Greenville after having deteriorated badly.

It will now be displayed on the ship in an oxygen-free environment.  It was originally made by Naval Photographic Interpretation Center for invasion preparation.  It wasn't just a fold-out map, but was a cardboard, plaster, foam rubber relief map done at 1:12,5000 inches, showing topographical features.  During the war, the "Showboat" earned 15 Battle Stars, including Iwo Jima.

The Friends of the Battleship provided funds to conserve it.

Save That Map!!  --GreGen

Ten Best World War Films

From Screen Junkies.

Okay, there are some WWI ones in here, but most are WWII, so here goes:

1.  ALL'S QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT-- (1930)  World War I
2.  PATTON (1970)
3.  THE LONGEST DAY (1962)


8.  AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)  World War I.  I loved it when Bogart was harassing the hippos and was really grossed out by the leaches.
10.  SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949)

I'm Not Sure If I Ever Saw "Best Years of Our Lives."  --GreGen

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oldest Auschwitz Survivor Dies at Age 108

From the Oct. 22, 2012, CBS News.

Antoni Dobrowolski, educator, died Oct. 22 in Debno, Poland.

After Poland was taken over by the Germans in 1939, they banned education of the children beyond four years of elementary school as they considered the Poles inferior and wanted to maintain them as a slave race.  However, Polish educators formed an underground effort to continue the education and Mr. Dobrowolski was one of them.

He was arrested and sent to Auschwitz in June 1942, a place he described as being "worse than Dante's hell."  He was later transferred to two more prison camps and liberated in 1945.  At least 1.1 million died at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, mostly Jews.

He was born Oct. 8, 1904, in Wolborz, Poland.

To Resist and Take the Consequences.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Auschwitz Prisoner and Photographer Dies

From the Oct. 25, 2012, Chicago Tribune "Auschwitz prisoner who took photographs for Mengele" by Vanessa Gera.

WILHELM BRASSE (1917-2012)

Was one of several prisoner photographers in Auschwitz taking various photographs in the infamous concentration camp.  Wilhelm Brasse of Poland was sent there early in the war and put to work documenting fellow prisoners, a job that tormented him long after the war.  Died Oct. 23.

Born in Poland in 1917, and although not Jewish, was arrested at age 22 as a political prisoner while trying to escape out of German-occupied country in the spring of 1940.  His experience working in a photo studio before the war landed him the job at the camp.

It literally saved his life as he got better treatment, food and was kept cleaner so as not to offend the SS men he worked with.

He took about 40,000 to 50,000 identity photos used by the Nazis to register prisoners, part of their obsession with documenting their work.  He also took photographs of the inhuman experiments of Nazi Josef Mengele.

With the war ending and Soviet forces approaching, he was ordered to destroy the photographs, but he and the others refused and managed to save about 40,000.  After the war, he was active in setting up the Auschwitz museum and educating people about the Holocaust.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another Fallen Hero Comes Home-- Part 2

A few months ago, Melissa Mahoney had received a message from a cousin that Sgt. Hogan's remains had been found.  After Kass's column, she began checking and cross-checking documents and information about the plane crash. 

The bomber went down September 13, 1944,near Neustadt, Germany, after a bombing raid on German oil refineries.  Sgt. Hogan and Lt. Wasilewski had spent their last minutes together.

Sgt. John E. Hogan's remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery August 24th and Melissa Mahoney and other relatives were there.

Lt. Wasilewski's relatives were also on hand when he was buried in June.  None of them had ever met him but everyone knew the story of the grandfather and the empty grave at St. Casimir and how the old man would stand at it mourning his boy.

Wasilewski's casket was draped with an American flag and in the coffin were his remains and a uniform.  A horse-drawn caisson brought the casket to the grave and there was a 21-gun salute and a bugler played taps.

It was too bad that the father who lost his son that day almost 70 years ago couldn't have been there.

This Was Quite an Amazing Story.  --GreGen

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Another Fallen Hero Comes Home-- Part 1

From the July 24, 2012, Chicago Tribune "A fallen war hero comes home at last" by John Kass.

If Kass' column about Lt. Wasilewski name being adopted by a Dutch woman and then his remains being identified, that would be  a great story right there, but it gets better.

"There will be another long overdue funeral at Arlington next month, the funeral of Sgt. John E. Hogan of Missouri whose remains had also been lost for some seven decades."

Hogan has relatives in Chicago and one of them is Sandy Skurnicki, 60, of Palos Hills who read Kass' column about Wasilewski.  The Army had recently linked her to Hogan through a DNA swab and she knew through Army documents that Wasilewski was on that bomber.  She contacted Wasilewski's relatives.

Then, Melissa Mahoney, 49, of Ravenswood contacted Kass by e-mail.  She is a direct niece of John Hogan and did not know Skurnicki.  Mahoney said that Hogan's death and missing body was especially difficult for her grandmother, father and uncle.

All Mahoney's family had was a now-yellowed letter saying "the Department of the Army has been forced to conclude that the remains of your loved one are not recoverable."

The Story Gets Better.  --GreGen

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ghost Photographs of the War

From the October 18th Mail Online "Ghosts of war: World War II photography superimposed onto modern street scenes--after finding old negatives at a flea market" by Emma Reynolds.

History expert Jo Teeuwisse of Amsterdam started the project after finding 300-year-old negatives at an Amsterdam flea market.  She then went around Europe photographing the exact spots as they looked today.  She then superimposed the World War II scenes onto the modern sites and came up with a very remarkable group of pictures.

I just wish all of them would have been like the first picture shown where I got to see the original photo, the site today and then the superimposed one.

Anyway, you can look at them as well, just Yahoo! search "Ghosts of war: World War II photography.

Well Worth a Look.  --GreGen

Lt. Emil Wasilewski Comes Home At Last-- Part 2

In 2010, Joyce Staniszewski heard that Dutch people could adopt soldiers' graves at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, so she adopted one.  Why?  "Well, it's because my dad' side of the family is from Poland and they fled the Nazis in Poland and made it to Holland.  But if the Americans wouldn't have liberated Kerkrade, they wouldn't have survived WWII and I wouldn't be here today.  So I'm really thankful for that."

Around Memorial Day, she found out about John Kass's column on Lt. Wasilewski and that nearly 70years after his death, a nephew had given a DNA swab to a special US Army unit that searches for the remains of lost soldiers and she found out he had been buried in Germany near the crash site.

He was brought back to the U.S. and buried June 26th with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

And the Story Gets Even Better.  Wait Until You Read About Sgt. John E. Hogan.  Arlin--GreGen

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lt. Emil Wasiewski Comes Home At Last-- Part 1

From the July 4, 2012, Chicago Tribune by John Kass.

I wrote about the Dutch adopting Americans who died saving their country during World War II back August 20th.  To see the story, click on the Netherlands label.

Joyce Staniszewski, 26 of the Netherlands obviously never knew Lt. Emil Wasilewski who had died during the war, but every month she would bring flowers in his honor and set them near the war memorial at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten.

"I tried to find pictures of Emil to see how he looked like.  I still wonder what kind of a person he was and if it was always his dream to join the military and what would his life look like if he would have survived World War II," she said.

What she did know, and most importantly, was that he was an American.

What she didn't know was that he was from the South Side of Chicago and that he was the bombardier on a B-17G, or that he had died when his Flying Fortress crashed in Germany.  And, she didn't know that his father had buried an empty coffin at St. Casimir Cemetery because his body could not be found.  His father mourned at that empty casket for years after the war until his own death.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fred Korematsui, Japanese-American,

From Wikipedia.

Mr. Korematsui was born in Oakland in 1919 and was rejected from the US Navy when called by the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 because of a stomach ulcer.  He then trained to be a welder in order to contribute to the war effort.

He worked in a shipyard, but was fired for being Japanese.  When Japanese-Americans were prohibited from leaving California in preparation for deportation to the camps, Mr. Korematsui went to Nevada and underwent plastic surgery on his eyelids to pass a s Caucasian and changed his name to Clyde Sarah.

When ordered to report to the Assembly Center, he refused and went into hiding, but was arrested May 30, 1942.

A Sad Time in U.S. History, But Understandable Considering the Circumstances.  --GreGen

California Honors WWII Internment Defier

From the Jan. 30, 2011, Silicon Valley (Cal) Mercury News.

Statewide, Jan. 30th was to honor Fred Korematsui who fought against the internment of Japanese-Americans, a very dangerous thing to do back in the early days of the war.  It was The Fred Korematsui Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

He was arrested in Oakland in 1942 for refusing to leave for the camp.  His case went all the way to the Supreme Court which had to decide whether his internment and that of the other 120,000 Japanese-Americans was legal.  They decided against him in 1944.

A San Francisco judge formally vacated his conviction 40 years later.  President Clinton presented him with the Medal of Freedom in 1998.  Mr. Korematsui died in 2005.


Illinois Ordnance Plant and Works

From the July 29, 2010, Morris (Ill) Daily News "Tourists discover impact of WWII munitions."

The Elwood Ordnance Plant and Kankakee Ordnance Works were created to prepare the United States to meet the demand of the upcoming large scale warfare of World War II.  There were other plants converting to building the guns, planes, tanks and other items of fighting, but these needed bullets, shells and bombs.

In 1939, the U.S. Ordnance Department established a network of ammunition plants to be government-owned and contractor-operated.

In 1941, these were the 5th and 6th of the 60 that were built.  Kankakee was to manufacture TNT, DNT and raw materials to make explosions.  Elwood made artillery shells, bombs and other munitions.

An extensive internal railroad system moved the materials around in the 23,500-acre compound.  Many buildings, warehouses and bunkers were also built, providing many jobs for locals and attracting others to move to the area.  At its peak operation, the two places employed 17,000.

Tours are occasionally offered at the Joliet Munitions Plant as it is now called and the old Route 66 runs right past it. 

Just one more proof that the U.S. was preparing for war even before it entered it.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Bits of War: New Battle at Pearl Harbor-- LST-325 Runs Aground-- Low Mississippi Waters Reveal WWII Ship

Bits of War:  New News About an Old War

1.  NEW BATTLE AT PEARL HARBOR--  From the Oct. 8, 2012, LA Times--  The 450 acre Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor is listed on the NRHP.  Now, the Navy plans to construct a solar power plant with 60,000 photovoltaic panels and have encountered strong oppositions from World War II veterans and historians.  Going Green is a right move as long as it doesn't interfere too much with one of the key points on the island.

2.  LST-325 RUNS AGROUND--  From the Oct. 4, 2012, Clarksville (Tn) Leaf Chronicle.  The LST-325, the last fully operational World War II (at D-Day) Landing Ship Tank vessel, ran aground in Lake Barkley, but a tugboat along with the ship's anchor winch (this is how the ships got off beaches) and engines got her off and the ship is on its way home to Evansville, Indiana.

3.  LOW MISSISSIPPI RIVER WATERS REVEAL WWII SHIP--  From the Oct. 4, 2012, Sacramento (Cal) Bee--  The USS Inaugural was ripped from the St. Louis riverfront during the floods 20 years ago and its remains are now visible again because of this summer's drought.  It is about  a half mile past the MacArthurBridge.

The fleet minesweeper was launched Oct. 1944, decommissioned in 1946 and became a floating museum ship in St. Louis in 1968.  The ship was ripped from its moorings during the 1993 floods.  About 700 ships are known to have sunk along this stretch of the Mississippi River.

Bits of War.  --GreGen

Thursday, October 18, 2012

USS Triton Bell Resurfaces

From the April 26, 2011, Virginia Pilot Online "Missing for decades, World War II subs' lost bell surfaces" by Kate Wiltrout.

It was found as part of a glass-topped end table in a private residence in Reno, Nevada.

The 14-inch diameter bell is still technically the property of the US government.  In 2009, the Virginia Pilot had done a story on the missing Triton bell and a person visiting the home had read it and reported its location.

After Pearl Harbor, all submarine ship's bells were removed in case they accidentally rang during operations.  The Triton was sunk by the Japanese in the Pacific March 1943 with loss of entire 74-man crew.  It didn't have its bell at the time which was in storage.  When the new nuclear submarine named Triton was launched, the first Triton's bell was on it, but went missing around 1967.

It would be an interesting story to learn how it got to be in that house.

Glad That It Was Found.  --GreGen

The USS Caswell (AKA-73)-- Part 2

The ship was sent to the Pacific where the crew received training.  It participated in the initial landings at Okinawa.  The movie "Mr. Roberts" was filmed on a fishing boat, but was based on a story that took place on the attack cargo ship USS Virgo (AKA-20).

After the war, the Caswell went to Norfolk, Va., where it was decommissioned 19 June 1946.  Two days later, it was returned to the US Maritime Commission which sold it the following year to the South Atlantic SS Line and it was renamed the SS Southwind.  There is some evidence that the ship participated in the Korean War.  In 1955, it was sold to the United States Line and renamed the SS American Surveyor and was involved in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In 1963, it joined the James River Ghost Fleet and in 1973 was sold to Northern Metal Company and scrapped in 1974.

Quite a History for One Ship.  --GreGen

The USS Caswell (AKA-72)-- Part 1

From the Caswell County (NC) Historical Association.

The USS Caswell (AKA-72) was a Tolland-class attack cargo ship built in 1944 by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, NC.

It was created as a part of an emergency shipbuilding program which saw that industry in the United States kick into high gear for the war effort.

The NC Shipbuilding Co. built 243 ships for the war, starting with the Liberty Ship Zebulon B. Vance, named for the state's Civil War governor.  Most of their ships were classified as Liberty Ships. In addition, they built 54 ships for the US Navy: attack cargo ships like the Caswell, amphibious force flagships (AGC) and ammunition ships (AE).

The Caswell was named for the county and sponsored by Mrs. W.H. Williamson.  It was 459 feet long and launched 24 Oct 1944, and accepted by the Navy 13 Dec. 1944.  It was designed to carry military cargo and landing craft and had a substantial armament and 22 smaller craft.  A crew of 395 manned her and could carry up to 5,275 troops.

Its 6,000 horsepower engine enabled the ship to steam at 17 knots and it had a 17,000 mile range.

A Ship You Don't Want to Mess With.  --GreGen

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ed Chlapowski Dies; Notified World of Attack on Pearl Harbor

From the Jan. 26, 2011, Billings, Montana Missoulian.

Ed Chlapowski, 88, died a little more than 69 years after he sent the infamous telegram from Pearl Harbor, "This is no drill--Pearl Harbor is being bombed by the Japanese--This is no drill."  A member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, it was his duty to report deaths of members to the national organization. Now, someone else will have to do it for him.

He was one of 84,000 military personnel at the base that Dec. 7, 1941, and was one of Montana's last survivors of the attack. 

Mr. Chlapowski, a native of Massachusetts, joined the Navy June 18, 1940, and was 19 when the attack took place.  He had been stationed on the USS Arizona, but was reassigned and had been on board the ill-fated ship just the day before visiting with some friends.

That day, he had worked the early watch at the submarine base, had just eaten  and sat down on his bunk when he looked out the window and saw a hangar roof blown away and saw the "meatballs" on the plane (referring to the Rising Sun insignia).  He knew the radio room would be short-staffed on a Sunday and ran to it where the supervisor handed him those famous words, which he sent out in Morse Code.

Whenever he thought of seeing those planes, "The hair on the back of my neck stood up, just as it does today when I think of it."

The bomb that destroyed the Arizona struck at just the spot where his duty station was.

One More of Our Greatest Generation Leaves Us.  --GreGen

PHSA Will Continue...Sadly Not

The Dec. 9, 2010, Japan Times reported that the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association was going to continue as long as they could, according to its president, Art Herriford, 88.

That was almost three years ago.  Unfortunately, we know that as of Dec. 7, 2012, the organization disbanded.  I understand various chapters of it are continuing if they choose.

Kind of interesting to see this is from a news source called Japanese Times.

Sad to See It Go.  --GreGen

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pearl Harbor Survivor Also At James Dean's Death

From the August 14, 2012, California Tribune "James Dean's death: Former CHP officer who investigated crash dies" by Jay Thompson.

Ron Nelson, a Pearl Harbor survivor, was assigned to the USS Vestal, a repair ship moored next to the USS Arizona that horrific day, died August 7th. 

He was born in 1918 in North Dakota and enlisted in the US Navy in 1938.  Fortunately for him, he was not on the Vestal when the attack came, but playing tennis ashore, but even so, he got strafed.

After the war, he joined the California Highway Patrol in 191952 and later transferred to CHPs.

In 1955, there were 26 deaths in his patrol area, but the most famous was Sept. 30th, whenhe and CHP officer Ernie Tripke were dispatched to the junction of highways 41 and 466 where a Ford sedan had collided with James Dean's westbound Porsche Spyder.

He made one of the most famous accident reports in history and his photos became famous, but he received very little recognition for them.

An Interesting Life.  Perhaps a Movie?  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor Experiences

I'm getting as many of these in the blog as I can as the number of survivors is dropping rapidly.

From the Dec. 10, 2010, Manila Bulletin.

MERL RESLER, 88 fired shots at the Japanese planes from the USS Maryland and remembers standing in blood of shipmates hit by shrapnel.  "My teeth were chattering like I was freezing to death and it was 84 degrees temperature.  It was awful frightful."

DeWAYNE CHARTIER, 93, was going to church when the attack took place.

From the Dec. 8, 2010, Arkansas Times Record.

BILL CHASE, 86, was 17 that day at Pearl Harbor and recovering from the measles in the Naval hospital and had just finished breakfast and was cleaning the galley, "The head nurse heard the planes and the bombs go off and she said, 'My God, we're at war!"

He was an apprentice seaman on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington.  "Things happened so fast.  Planes blowed up. Buildings blowed up.  Ships blowed up."

Losing the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Bits of War: Graffiti Attack-- Best World War II Movies

Bits of War

1.  GRAFFITI ATTACK-- Jan. 24, 2011, West Australian--  A 20-year-old from Tarcoula Beach sprayed graffiti on the ablution block of the HMAS Sydney Memorial in Australia.  Glad to see that person was caught.  They'd be doing community service for a real-long time if it was up to me.

2. BEST WORLD WAR II MOVIES--  From Screen Junkies

1.  SAVING PRIVATE RYAN--  D-Day and Europe
3.  DAS BOOT--  German U-boat
4.  PATTON--  North Africa, Italy and Europe
5  TORA! TORA! TORA!--  Pearl Harbor

I've seen them all.

Just Some Stuff.  --GreGen

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Do You Call It?

As I find ideas for these articles in both British and American papers and magazines, I have come to notice that quite often, the British refer to the war as "The Second World War."

Americans generally call it "World War II."

I wonder what the Germans, Japanese, Italians, French or others call it?

Interesting.  --GreGen