Saturday, March 31, 2012

Aviation Training Accidents in South Carolina-- Part 2

Two of the planes were destroyed and remain on the lake bottom in 150 feet of mud. Two other bombers and the seaplane were salvaged.

The recovered B-25 is the third oldest of 130 B-25s remaining of the 9,800 produced. It sank in the lake after the crew landed on the water after an engine lost power in April 1943. The crew escaped unharmed. These bombers cost $150,000 each.

Lake Murray was an ideal training site because of its large size and many deserted islands. From 1942 to 1945, thousands of flight hour time were logged. Crews learned how to properly deliver a bomb to a target. The lake itself was formed when an earthen dam was built in 1927.

Something Most People Today Don't Know. --GreGen

Aviation Training Accidents in South Carolina-- Part 1

From the April 17, 2009 Columbia (SC) State.

World War II required lots of airplane personnel and they trained in the United States. of course, when you take numbers like that and inexperience, there are bound to be accidents and deaths, all part of the general war effort.

Back three years ago, a memorial to 13 World War II aviators who died in training missions in Lake Murray, near Columbia, was dedicated to coincide with the Doolittle Reunion.

In September 2005, a B-25C bomber was pulled of the lake, restored and is now on display at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Alabama. It was one of five planes that crashed into the lake during training missions.

The local Army Air Corps Base, now Columbia Metropolitan Airport was one of two US bases B-25 crews trained at. Bulls Eyes were painted on Skull and Bone islands for pilots and crews to practice. Over the course of the war, five bombers and one seaplane crashed in the lake, killing 13 aviators.

More to Come. --GreGen

The Sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff

From the April 2009 Suite 101 by Michael Streich.

Everyone has heard of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, whose 100th anniversary is fast-approaching next month, but very few, including myself, have ever heard of an even worse sinking that claimed many more lives that took place in the final months of World War II in Europe in the Baltic Sea. That would be the sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff in which over 9,000 mostly women and children died, still considered the worst single-ship maritime disaster in history.

It took place January 30, 1945.

On Jan. 21st, German Grand Admiral Donitz began Operation Hannibal to remove millions of frightened refugees from the advancing Soviet Army.

The Gustloff had been requisitioned by the German Navy from its use as an ocean liner and from 1939-1940, served as a hospital ship before being turned into a floating barracks for naval personnel. Now it was put into use to remove frightened Germans.

On jan. 31st, the Societ submarine S-13 fired three torpedoes into it and it sank in less than 45 minutes. There were fewer than 500 survivors.

And, I Never Heard of It. --GreGen

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wyoming Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies

From the March 28th Fremont County 10 (Wyoming).

R.J. Brown, 90, one of the county's two last Pearl Harbor Survivors died. He was born in Brodrick, California, August 31, 1921 and served six years in the US Navy. December 7, 1941, he was on board the destroyer USS Henley at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attack came.

Two years later, the Henley was sunk by a Japanese torpedo and he was reassigned to the USS Gwinn. His ship was in Tokyo Bay a short time before the Japanese surrender, but on patrol ff the coast when the event took place.

Another of the Greatest Generation, Gone. --GreGen

USS Arizona Survivors Down to 14

From the March 29th ARC Forums.

Sadly, two more survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on the battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, have died in the month of March.

Henry Mesa Cruz died March 12th.
Donald Eugene Gordon died March 26th.

In December 2011, two more died:

Lamar Crawford
Glenn Lane

At the 70th anniversary of the attack this past Dec. 7, 2011, there were 18 survivors living. That number is now just 14.

Sad. Sad. --GreGen

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wilmington at War: March 1942

From the March 20th Wilmington (NC) Star-News.

Taken from the newspaper at the time. This series of columns gives an interesting perspective on the impact of the war on the homefront.

MARCH 4, 1942-- Beach towns of Carolina Beach and Wrightsville (near Wilmington) were ready to eliminate bright lighting if requested to do so by Governor Broughton, Mayors R.C. Fergus and D.H. Herrin said.

Bright lights could silhouette or illuminate friendly ships to the German U-boats prowling off shore.

MARCH 7TH 1942-- With thousands of military personnel descending on Wilmington, Pepsi-Cola began printing 144 different insignias on the bottoms of bottle caps to help local recognition.

The Wilmington Star also printed a guide to military insignia.

It Was Total War. --GreGen

German POW Camp at Louisiana, Missouri-- Part 3

Local resident of Louisiana, Harry Elliott lived four blocks from the camp. he and his friends would bicycle over to it and talk with the guards and sometimes the Germans would come over and talk to them, "We could understand them a little bit."

Prisoners sent to Louisiana were considered low-risk.

Another resident, Frances Beck, remembers her parents threatening her with her life if she went near the camp. She did anyway.

There were even some complaints among locals of the Germans being "coddled." Elliott remembers working alongside them in the summer and the Germans were served "hot lunches" while "we were eating out of our lunch bucket."

Even so, "they weren't mean to us and we weren't mean to them."

American Prisoners Sure Didn't Live As Well. --GreGen

German Prison in Louisiana, Missouri-- Part 2

Stark Brothers needed workers as so many of the men they had were in the military. Co-owner Lloyd C. Stark had been Missouri governor from 1937 to 1941. Manual labor was needed and the Germans provided it.

Around 425,000 German, Italian and even some Japanese were held in 660 POW camps around the United States.

The camp closed March 31, 1946 when the remaining prisoners were sent to Fort Leonard Wood before being processed and sent home.

The Louisiana prison was classified as a branch camp of Fort Leonard Wood and sometimes referred to as the Louisiana Stark Nursery.

Most People Today Don't Know of These Prisons. --GreGen

German Prison in Louisiana, Missouri-- Part 1

From the March 17, 2009 Hannibal (Mo) Post "Louisiana exhibit will showcase World War II prison camp" by Brent Engel.

German prisoners in Louisiana, Missouri, went to work outside the prison walls, saw movies in town and attended church.

Only a few remnants of the POW camp remain today, essentially just the foundation of a guard house. For two days in April, a mobile museum was to come to town with the camp's story.

The site, on the southeast side of Louisiana near the intersection of 15th and North Carolina streets, was chosen during the war because it was a former National Youth Administration facility with bunk houses and mess hall that had closed in 1943.

The first prisoners were Italians who arrived in August 1943. They left in April 1944 when 63 German POWs arrived. All had come from larger prisons in the US.

They worked for Stark Brothers Nurseries (founded in 1816 and still open). They were escorted to work, church and theater.

Today, mobile homes are on the slabs of the former buildings.

Better to Be a German Prisoner in the US Than American Prisoner in Germany. --GreGen

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bits of War: A Purple Heart, Finally-- RAF

From the April 8, 2009, North Andover (Mass) Eagle-Tribune.

1. A PURPLE HEART, FINALLY--John Gale lost some hearing in a battle with German bombers over Algiers port with an anti-aircraft automatic weapons unit. Monday, in Plaistow, N.H., he got his Purple Heart.

He met his late wife, Jaqueline while stationed in France.

"I left America with a barracks bag, a rifle and a helmet, and came back with a truckload of furniture, a wife and a daughter." He met his wife in Toulon, France, "I asked her to dance, and, of all things, it was the tango. It is very sensual." He made up his mind right then and there to marry her.

2. RAF-- Douglas Oxby, 89, died. Enlisted in the RAF as a teen and fought in World War II. In Anglesey, the Mediterranean and Egypt, he and the pilot shot down 22 enemy aircraft. He was not at D-Day.

In mid-1942, he was sent to protect Malta which received more German bomb tonnage than London because of its strategic location as a port used to send support to Egypt.

The Greatest Generation. --GreGen

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A World War II Internment Camp

From the Feb. 23, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle.

Camp Tule Lake was the internment camp where 18,000 Japanese-Americans from the west coast were interned along with 800 German officers and 150 Italian POWs spent the war years here. It was named a National Park in December. The Tule Lake Segregation Center and Visitors Center also has a website now, even though not much remains of the camp.

Most of the 7,400 acre site was demolished after the war. There are a few Caltrans California Transportation Department) warehouses, a concrete foundation of a latrine and a cross on a hill.

Plans are to restore Camp Thule. It was built in 1937 as CCC barracks. After the war, it was used as a government sign shop before being abandoned entirely in 1974.

Inmates slept at the camp, but spent the day hours working at local farms.

I'm glad to see this aspect of American history being acknowledged and preserved.

Not Pretty, But a Part of Our History. --GreGen

Bits of War: Ammo Plant Closes-- Buffalo Soldiers

Bits of War-- Some stuff about World War II. Right now, I am "catching up" on a notebook I have from 2009 before it gets to be too much history itself.

1. AMMO PLANT CLOSES-- The Kansas Army Ammunition Plant in Parsons, Kansas, closed March 4, 2009 after making its last bomb in December 2008. This is a World War II relic. Starting in 1942, its 7,000 employees turned outbombs and artillery rounds for that war as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars,

It covered 13,727 acres, had 681 buildings and was authorized in May 1939 with construction beginning in 1941. Even back then, the US was really preparing for war.

2. BUFFALO SOLDIERS-- The 92nd Division,the only all-black unit to see action in Europe, fighting in Italy. Nonety-two members received multiple medals with two Medals of Honor and two Distinguished Service Crosses, the nation's second highest award.

Even so, they had to battle Jim Crow laws back in their country.

You Just Wouldn't Think That Someone Who Put Their Life on the Line for Their Country Would Still Have to Put Up with These Laws. --GreGen

Bits of War: Getting It Down-- Iwo Jima Survivors-- That "Jap" Word

Bits of War-- Some stuff about World War II.

1. GETTING IT DOWN-- From the Feb. 5, 2009, Peoria Journal Star-- Macomb High School received a $25,000 grant from the Illinois State Library for computers and recording equipment for a national history project to record World War II veterans. These recordings will be forwarded to the Library of Congress.

I can say too much about how good an idea this project is.

2. IWO JIMA SURVIVORS-- Feb. 19, 2009, Calhoun (Ga) Times-- Twenty-eight survivors of the battle met in Cartersville on the 64th anniversary of the start of it. This may be the last meeting. Said Al Cadenhead of Calhoun, "Many are in poor health and it is harder for them to get around.

Jack Runninger was on the USS Newberry ferrying the 4th Marine Division to those beaches Feb. 19, 1945. He remembers they were up at 2 AM and had a breakfast of steak and eggs, expecting an easy landing. Instead, Marine losses were 6,825 KIA and 27,909 casualties.

3. THAT "JAP" WORD-- Feb. 19, 2009, WTHR-TV-- The VA Hospital hallway at the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center is lined with paintings and pictures of World War II. One is titled "Japs Surrender." A new employee objected to it saying that it is a slur against the Japanese. However, veterans feel it is a slap in the face.

I have to wonder if there is a person living in the US during World War II who didn't call them Japs during the war? You have to view such things in context.

So, Now It's the "J" Word. --GreGen

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wilmington at War: Back Then-- March

A look back at the Wilmington, North Carolina, Star-News during World War II.


The city-county signal control room, the center of civilian defense activities was set to go into operation.


The U.S. Treasury Department asked Congress to double income tax payments from individuals to raise $9.6 billion for war effort.

Prepping for War. --GreGen

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wilmington at War: Back Then-- March 1942

From the March 20th Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

MARCH 1, 1942--

Other than the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, the biggest impact on Wilmington was Camp Davis with its 20,000 soldiers north of Wilmington in Holly Ridge.

This massive camp covered 45,000 acres and had 3,000 buildings and was used to train anti-aircraft gunners. It closed down in 1946, but its runways are still used by the US Marine Corps.

MARCH 3, 1942--

Rationing and price controls were front page news. Wilmington was one of twenty so-called "defense rental areas" nationwide, ordered to keep rents at their 1941 levels. The government feared profiteering due to the high demand of people pouring into areas for defense jobs and Wilmington was definitely one of these.

An Always Interesting Look Back. --GreGen

Friday, March 23, 2012

B-25 Rendezvous in Ohio: 70th Reunion of Doolittle's Raiders

From The March 22nd WDTN, Dayton, Ohio.

This really tears me as I had originally been planning on going to the Doolittle Raiders 70th anniversary reunion in Dayton April 17-20th. Especially since the five surviving members were going to be there.

However, tickets to three dinners for them sold out almost immediately and then there is that nasty gas gouge going on right now. I'd sure love to see those old guys and thank them, but also there was word that there might be a flyover of B-25s during the event, and now, apparently there will be one.

One of the largest gatherings of remaining B-25 Mitchell bombers is going to take place in Dayton when 22 of them will land and the public will be able to view them up close April 17th from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Then, April 18th, they will take off one by one (I wonder if from the configurations of the USS Hornet) and then rendezvous and fly over in formation.

Now That Will Be One Huge Bit of History!! I'm Very Torn. --GreGen

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cherry Trees in D.C. a Victim of War Fever

Today, i wrote an entry in my History Blog (Cooter's History Thing" about the anticipated blooming of the Japanese cherry trees in Washington DC. They were planted in 1912, marking their 100th anniversary.

The article reported that four of these trees were "mysteriously" cut down three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941.

I Wonder How That Happened? --GreGen

Monday, March 19, 2012

S. Sgt. Edwin "Mike" Elliott Comes Home

From the April 30, 2010, Loxa (Il) Daily herald.

World War II's S-Sgt. Edwin "Mike" Elliott's remains are returning home 66 years late.

On May 10, 1944, the 24-year-old was part of a B-25 crew on a routine training flight when it crashed atop a mountain in southern Corsican the Mediterranean Sea. Four others died in the crash, including a non-combatant Red Cross nurse.

The reason for the crash was unsolved, plus the crash site and remains were unknown.

Back with his family in Central Illinois, word was received that the remains couldn't be recovered. They mourned the loss.

Today, all are dead except Glenn Elliott, 73.

Due to efforts of the Joint prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Agency and DNA testing, the remains were identified.

The great nephews of Sgt. Elliott are escorting the remains home from Hawaii. Both are veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The remains arrived home May 9th.

Always Great to Bring One Home. --GreGen

SS Oldenburg (SMS Mowe)

I just finished a blog entry in my Cooter's History Thing about the German freighter SS Oldenburg, which was sunk April 7, 1945 near Norway.

During World War I it had been the highly successful German raider SMS Mowe which had sunk 40 Allied ships as well as a pre-dreadnaught British battleship, the HMS King Edward VII in a minefield it had laid. It sank the SS Mount Temple, a Canadian ship carrying dinosaur fossils and 700 horses. This Mount Temple might have been the Titanic's "mystery ship" that failed to come to the stricken ship's aid as it was sinking.

Very Interesting Story. GreGen

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Mark 24 Mine

On my 3-15 blog entry, I wrote about Naval veteran Richard Sellers recalling using this weapon against enemy submarines.

From Wikipedia.

The Mark 24 Mine was also called "Fido." It was a US air-dropped passive acoustic homing anti-submarine torpedo, called mine for security reasons. It sounds as if this was a German or Japanese submarine's worst enemy as it would "hunt" them down.

Some 4,000 were produced and of 204 dropped, 34 submarines sunk and another 18 damaged.

It carried a 92-pound Torpex high explosive.

Don't Look Now. --GreGen

Friday, March 16, 2012

Some More on Elmer Charles Bigelow, MoH Winner

From Wikipedia.

I keep my boat over winter in a barn at a farm near the Linn-Hebron Cemetery in Hebron, Illinois, where Mr. Bigelow is buried. I'll have to visit his grave when I pick it up next month.

Mr. Bigelow was born in Hebron on July 12, 1920, and trained at Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago, Illinois, in 1942.

On February 14, 1945, the SS Fletcher was assisting in minesweeping operations prior to the US landing on Corregidor Island, when it was hit by a shore battery.

He died the following day from injuries fighting the fire and is buried at the Linn-Hebron Cemetery. There are also quite a few Civil War veterans buried there as well.

A Hero. --GreGen

USS Bigelow (DD-942)/USS Fletcher (DD-445)

From Wikipedia.

Destroyer Bigelow (DD-942)was named after Elmer Charles Bigelow. Commissioned 1957-1990. Sold for scrap in 1992, but reacquired by Navy for use as a target ship and sunk in 2003.

The Fletcher was lead ship of her class. Served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Decommissioned in 1969 and sold for scrap in 1972. Named after Medal of Honor winner Frank Friday Fletcher.

Story of Two Destroyers. --GreGen

Hebron's World War II Medal of Honor Winner: Elmer Charles Bigelow

From the Feb. 15, 2009, Northwest Herald (McHenry County, Illinois). Hebron, Illinois, is a very small village located in McHenry County by the Wisconsin border.

The Village of Hebron is proud of their 1952 state high school basketball championship team (their water tower is painted like a basketball), but it is also the home of a Medal of Honor winner. The article was in honor of the 64th anniversary of the death of Elmer Charles Bigelow, who gave his life fighting a fire on the destroyer USS Fletcher.

On February 14, 1945, he was a fireman aboard the USS Fletcher at Corregidor Island, Philippines, when a 6-inch Japanese shell from shore crashed into the ship, exploding and killing several men. The shell set fire to the No. 1 gun magazine and to several powder cases.

Bigelow picked up a fire extinguisher and rushed below, refusing to waste time donning a breathing apparatus. Smoke seared his lungs, but he put the fire out and saved the ship. Unfortunately, he died from his effort.

During World War II, 16.1 million served, but only 464 Medals of Honor were given out. Bigelow's was one of 266 awarded posthumously.

A Hero of the Highest Order. --GreGen

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Avon World War II Veteran Remembers Naval Service

From April 18, 2010, Enterprise by Mike Melanson.

Richard Sellars was 17 in 1942 and supposed to go to detention at Stoughton High School, but went to Boston and joined the Navy. He later became an aviator and belonged to a squadron credited with sinking 2 Japanese and 9 German subs.

He served on the USS Bogue CVE-9, an escort aircraft carrier that protected convoys to Europe.

His first job was to push planes on and off the elevator that brought them up from the hangar deck to the flight deck. Sellars worked his way up to become top turret gunner and his squadron usually flew from midnight to 4 AM, mostly hunting subs that followed the convoys.

They'd drop sound buoys every two miles making a square to try to pick up submarine propeller revolutions on sonar.

Once a sub was detected, they'd either drop depth charges or "The Zombie," a Mark 24 Mine that chased the sound. "It would hit that and stand up like a telephone pole, and we never got any survivors off of that, usually, that went straight down."

Submarines operated in wolf packs of between 4-7 and had a milk cow sub carrying supplies and fuel.

On Christmas 1943, they disabled a sub and took 125 men off and had Christmas dinner with the prisoners.

In June 1944, they sank two Japanese subs off the Azores in the Atlantic. They were carrying rubber to France. There were no survivors.

He got out of the Navy April 27, 1946 on his 21st birthday.

Little-Known Battle of the Atlantic. --GreGen

Las Vegas PHSA Chapter Draws to An End

From the March 13th Las Vegas Sun "As numbers dwindle, members of local PHSA call it quits" by Alda Ahmed.

The five remaining members of the Silver State Chapter 2 Pearl Harbor Survivors Association brought their organization to an end earlier this week with a final meeting and lunch at the Grand Cafe at the Boulder Station Casino.

The members:

William E, Simshauser, 90
Clifton Dohrman, president, 90
Halll Lalone, 88
Joseph Hornish, 91
Ira Schab, 91

William Simshauser was 19 when the attack came and stationed at Bellows Airfield on Oahu. He remembers three Japanese planes coming at several of them and says the only thing that saved them was a hill behind them which caused the pilots to have to pull up.

The organization started in 1972 with sixty gathering at a room in the Desert Inn. Since then, most have died or are too feeble to attend.

The national organized closed down this past December 7th, the 70th anniversary of the attack. It is estimated that there were 40,000 servicemen on Oahu when the attack came. Only about 2,000 remain alive.

Each man got a $5 bill to help pay for lunch. This came from the now closed organization bank account.

Clifton Dohrman was a mechanic working on a PBY Catalina that day and remembers a "kid" practically shot in half. Of the 36 planes in his squadron, there were only three left at the end of the attack.

Sad to Lose This Organization. --GreGen

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

See a Sunken World War I Ship and a World War II One Together

In my History Blog, Cooter's History Thing, today, I wrote about a World War I German raider, the SMS Cormoran, which was sunk by its own crew in Apra Harbor Guam. It's wreck lies next to that of a World War Japanese merchant ship the Tokai Maru.

Si, I had to do some research on the Japanese ship. From the excellent Pacific Wrecks site.

The 440 foot long, 60 foot wide Tokai Maru was launched in 1930 as a modern fast luxury freighter running between Tokyo and New York. In October 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy commissioned it to run supplies and troops.

On Jan. 24, 1943, the submarine USS Flying Fish spotted it at anchor in Apra Harbor, Guam, and waited for it to leave. When it became apparent that it wasn't going to leave, the sub fired two torpedoes into the harbor, one struck the Tokai Maru causing damage.

Seven months later, the submarine USS Snapper found the Tokai Maru in the harbor still. Again, the ship did not come out, so the Snapper went in and fired torpedoes at it and another transport. It hightailed it out of the shallow harbor and heard explosions. This time the Tokai Maru sank.

The Story of Two Ships. --GreGen

67th Anniversary of Iwo Jima Commemorated

From the March 13th Washington Post, AP.

American veterans and Japanese dignitaries were at Iwo Jima and saluted their flags at the base of Mt. Suribachi.

The battle began Feb. 19, 1945, and the island was declared secure March 26th.

Virtually the whole Japanese garrison of 21,570 were killed as were 6,821 Americans.

To Japan, the now-uninhabited island is known as Ito and is 700 miles south of Tokyo. The United States wanted the island to be used as an airbase for fighter escort planes attacking Japan.

Dozens of remains are found each year. There are still 12,000 Japanese and 218 Americans listed as missing in action. In 2010, two mass graves containing at least 2,000 Japanese bodies were found.

The commemoration was canceled last year because of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

A Hard Fought battle. --GreGen

German Anti-Aircraft Towers

From April 18, 2010, BBC "Plans for Austria's Nazi-era towers spark controversy" by Bethany Bell.

There are six huge, 6-10 story high, German anti-aircraft towers in Vienna, Austria, that were built from 1942-1945 in pairs. Each had guns on top.

Ute Bauer, architectural historian said, "The towers were meant a sign of the military strength of the Third Reich," and were built by forced labor.

Today, one has an aquarium. Another is used by the Austrian Army. They are built of reinforced concrete. They were fairly strong enough to stand up to explosives.

Some Austrians want them brought down to forget about the past.

Reminders of the War. --GreGen

Victory Ships-- Part 2

Continued from Monday's post.

Facts of Withrop Victory:

Hull #790, Keel Laid Mar. 22, 1945, Launched May 17, 1945, delivered June 11, 1945.

Facts about Rider Victory:

Hull #777, Keel laid Jan. 31, 1945, Launched March 26, 1945, delivered April 18,1945.

Three Victory ships are still open for tours:

SS American Victory in Tampa, Florida.
SS Lane Victory in Los Angeles, California.
SS Red Oak Victory in Richmond, California.

At Brownsville, Texas, being scrapped:

SS Earlham Victory, Hull #763 and SS Pan American Victory, Hull #746.

At Suisun Bay SS Rian Victory and SS Winthrop Victory (arrived Brownsville, Texas, for scrapping in 2010).

At James River Reserve (Ghost) Fleet:

USS Range Sentinel, former Victory ship hill #553. Status: disposed.

It was the former USS Sherburne, a Howell Class Attack Transport, VC2-S-AP5 Victory Ship design.

The USS Range Sentinel was a missile range ship during te early US space program off Florida.

Just a Look at Some of the World War II Relics Still Afloat and Some Now Gone. --GreGen

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2010: Doolittle Raider Frank Kappeler Dies

From June 23, 2010 Petaluma (Ca) Press Democrat "Frank Kappeler, one of Doolittle's Raiders dies at age 96" by Chris Smith.

Died June 23, 2010.

He was bombardier of plane #11 and died June 23rd in Santa Rosa, California. He was one of 79 US Army Air Corps volunteers for the mission. He was one of seven survivors at the time of his death (there are five now). He bailed out over China when the B-25's engines stalled. All five crew members survived. The whole crew was reunited 48 hours later and the accompanying photo taken.

Mr. Kappeler served the rest of the war in the European Theater, completing 53 combat missions and served the rest of his career in the Army Air Corps/US Air Force, before retiring in 1966.

Only four Raiders attended the Reunion in Dayton, Ohio, in 2010 and he was too ill to attend. He was born in 1914.

His #11 targeted Yokohama, Japan. At one point in the flight, Japanese fighters were so close he could see their faces. The crew might have shot down two of the fighters.

After their uniting 48 hours after the attack, the crew did not reunite until 1945.

One of the Greatest of the Greatest. --GreGen

Two Haywood County Men received Medals of Honor During World War II

From the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, 2010 "Two Haywood County World War II heroes among the few to get the Medal of Honor."

Only 464 Medals of Honor were given out during World War II, and two went to locals from the Canton area.

WILLIAM HALYBURTON, JR-- enlisted as a conscientious objector and gave his life at Okinawa saving a Marine he was working on.

SGT. MAX THOMPSON-- of Bethel. In Germany he attempted to stop an enemy advance single-handedly.

Heroes, Both! --GreGen

Monday, March 12, 2012

Victory Ships

From Bill's Save the Last Two Victory Ships Blog. Jan. 31, 2005.

When most people think of World War II ships, they think of the battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and submarines. But these ships would not have been able to operate without fuel, ammunition and supplies which were delivered by Liberty and later Victory ships. Very few are left.

He said he was a volunteer on the SS Red Oak Victory. He went on the Winthrop Victory and reported that it was too far gone to save with four inches of water in the deckhouse and rust everywhere. Condensation was all over the vessel as well. Pigeons are inside and their dropping everywhere.

He also went to the Rider and Earlham Victory (Victory ships had that word in their names) and said the Pan American Victory had a heavy list.

The Ynez has arrived at Pier 70 to be cleaned for its final trip. The SS Winthrop Victory is finished and ready to be towed to Texas to be broken up.

As of March 22nd, both the Winthrop Victory and Rider Victory were at Pier 70. One was in dry dock with its bottom being cleaned.

A Ship for Victory. --GreGen

Saturday, March 10, 2012

USS Missouri Guns on the Move

From the March 8th Norfolk (Va.) Daily Press "USS Missouri gun barrels on the move."

For about twenty years, gun barrels of the battleship USS Missouri have been on the ground at the St. Julien's Creek Annex of Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia.

They are historical, of course, and even more so because the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II took place by them.

Organizations from three states: Virginia, Delaware and Arizona each have plans to display each one of them. And these are the kind of guns you could just pack into a car trunk. Each one is 16-inch diameter, 68 feet long and weigh in at 118 tons.

March 7th, Lockwood Brothers of Hampton, Virginia, arrived with a crew and a heavy-lift crane to load the cannons on transportation.

The Fort Miles Historical Association in Delaware has been looking for a 16-inch gun for some time now. The same type of gun was installed at the fort during World War II to protect the strategic Delaware River. It is barrel number 371. The Japanese delegation passed it on its way to surrender.

Cape Charles, Virginia, is getting another one to be installed at an old coastal battery.

The last one is going all the way out to Arizona and will complete a World War II Memorial in Phoenix which will include a list of Arizonans killed in the war with the Missouri barrel on one side and a 14-inch one from the USS Arizona on the other, the beginning and end of World War II for the US.

Great Memorial Gifts. --GreGen

Friday, March 9, 2012

The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of the Ironclads

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of the Ironclads, the USS Monitor Versus the CSS Virginia.

This battle turned a page for Naval architecture and technology, ending the age of sail and wood and bringing in that of steam and steel. Not only that, but all warships, even during World War II and today, have guns mounted in turrets. Of course, that was a breakthrough of the Monitor.

I had three blog entries today on my Civil War Naval Blog, Running the Blockade, which you can access on Blogs I Follow next to this.


Quite a Day in Navy and World History. --GreGen

Survivors Mark the 70th Anniversary of the USS Houston's Sinking-- Part 3

The raft eventually washed ashore and the Americans were captured.

Both Flynn and Brooks spent the next three and a half years as Japanese prisoners. Brooks was one of the Houston's crew who was forced to build the Burma Railway, made famous inthe 1957 film "The Bridge Over the River Kwai." He said conditions were so bad he was continually 30 pounds underweight the whole time.

When news of the demise of the USS Houston reached its namesake, American patriotism was on display at a fever pitch. One thousand volunteered to replace the Houston's lost crew. There was a public swearing in ceremony where a message from President Roosevelt was read and broadcast around the world which said in part, "Our enemies have given us the chance to prove that there will be another USS Houston and yet another USS Houston if that becomes necessary, and still another USS Houston as long as American ideals are in jeopardy.

The American Spirit. --GreGen

Survivors Mark the 70th Anniversary of the USS Houston's Sinking-- Part 2

Fifteen of the crew are still alive today and only two will be expected to make the reunion to be held in Houston last weekend. This is put on by the USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association.

The Japanese sank it and the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth shortly after midnight on March 1, 1942, during the Battle of Sunda Strait by Java. The Perth sank first, at 12:15 AM, and the Houston fought on alone until all its ammunition was gone.

During the engagement, Japanese planes dropped star shells which lit up the whole area so that it eerily resembled daylight. Said Howard Brooks, "We were so close we could see sailors on the decks of the Japanese destroyers."

David Flynn's battle station was way below deck in the plotting room. Bleeding from shrapnel wounds, he jumped into the water, "The name of the game was to distance yourself as quickly as possible from the ship, and you'd swim underwater to do this to avoid being machine-gunned."

A Japanese boat got him out of the water where he clung to the side of a life raft for three days and had to watch several shipmates die one by one while the Japanese did nothing to save them.

More to Come. --GreGen

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Red Tails Here in Biloxi-- Part 3

Truman's proclamation, however, still did not end segregation from all aspects of military life.

Keesler was activated in 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor as the Army Air Corps' Keesler Field. The War Department also began construction at Tuskegee the same month. By Autumn 1943, more than 7,000 black airmen had trained at Keesler including pre-aviation cadets, radio and radar operators, technicians, mechanics and bombardiers.

Early histories of the war downplayed the role of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Today, fewer than 90 original Tuskegee Airmen are still alive.

George Lucas has tried for 23 years to get "Red Tails" to the big screen. Hollywood was unwilling to finance and all-black story with an all-black cast.

Their overseas record includes thousands of sorties, bomber escorts and other missions. Numerous Distinguished Flying Crosses were earned as well as Unit Citations. In 2007, they all received the Congressional Gold Medal, the country's second highest honor.

A Part of the Greatest Generation. --GreGen

Red Tails Here in Biloxi-- Part 2

Continued from the January 19th entry.

From the Jan. 19, 2012 Biloxi (Ms) Sun Herald "Keesler played part in real-life Red Tails" by Kat Bergeron.

We were in Biloxi when this came out and I was more than happy to pick up the local paper and see this article, especially with all the publicity about the movie "Red Tails." The movie, however, just covered the 332nd Fighter Group's actions in Italy. Had it covered their whole story, Keesler AFB in Biloxi would have been in it.

Mechanics and others responsible to keep them flying trained at Keesler. Some of the pilots received training there as well or were transitioned there before returning to Tuskegee, the only air base to graduate black pilots.

The movie title came from them painting the tails and other parts of their planes a distinctive red to distinguish the group.

After the war, some Tuskegee Airmen returned to Keesler for further training or to teach when it became an Air Force training center.

Throughout the war, both overseas and at home, these pilots faced prejudice. Even after President Truman proclaimed in 1948 the "equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Services."

More to Come and It Won't Be Another Two Months. --GreGen

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Survivors Mark the 70th Anniversary of USS Houston's Sinking-- Part 1

From Feb. 29th Houston Chronicle by Lindsay Wise.

On March 1, 1942, radioman David Flynn was on the USS Houston when he heard the order, "Hear this: All hands abandon ship>" Said Flynn, "At that announcement you sort of froze for a second."

Electrician's mate Howard Brooks, added, "We knew it was the end."

The USS Houston and HMAS Perth were both sunk by the Japanese off the coast of Java in the South Pacific.

Brooks of New Jersey and Flynn of Florida were both in their early twenties when the ship sank and are now both 92. Of the 1,068 on board at the sinking, only 291 survived that day and the brutal Japanese captivity afterwards.

The destruction of the Houston hit its namesake city hard, setting off a mass recruiting drive to replace the crew and an $85 million fundraising campaign to pay for a new cruiser and an aircraft carrier, the USS San Jacinto.

Fifteen crew members are still living, but only Flynn and Brooks were expected to attend the commemoration in Houston this past weekend.

I Had Never Heard of This Episode of the War. --GreGen

Harold T. Berc 1914-2012

From the March 1st Chicago Tribune.

WWII Navy vet, attorney dropped anchor in Chicago: City native helped secure funding for the USS Arizona Memorial.

A Chicago attorney for over 60 years, served in the South Pacific during World War II and as national commander of AMVETS helped to get funding to complete the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Died at age 97, February 26th. Born in Chicago and lifelong resident. Law degree from DePaul University in 1937. Opened law practice.

After Pearl Harbor joined Navy and served in reserves after the war until 1953. During the war, served on the battleship USS Washington and the cruiser USS Reno. He received a Bronze Star while a fire director aboard the Reno fighting the fire on the aircraft carrier USS Princeton in the Philippines Oct. 24, 1944.

Participated in ten Naval engagements. From Feb. 1, 1945 until end of the war taught at an officers tactical radar school in Florida.

From 1959 to 1960 he was national commander of the AMVETS and met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower and won support for $250,000 to complete the Arizona Memorial saying the money represented the standard burial allowance for each of the 1,100 sailors killed on the ship.

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Berc played a role in securing the 8-ton anchor from the USS Chicago which is now mounted at the east end of Navy Pier.

Quite a Life. One of the Greatest Generation. --GreGen

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bits of War: Unexploded Ordnance-- Pearl Harbor Survivors Deaths

1. UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE-- From April 3, 2010, The National. Ali Abdel Qawi, 8, last year lost his right hand and the left side of his face mangled when he picked up one of the estimated 16.7 million pieces of unexploded ordnance still in Egypt after World War II.

Italians, British and German forces fought in Egypt. The country now has a comprehensive mine-clearing and victim assistant strategy in place. Most of the unexploded ordnance is of British origin.

PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR DEATHS Feb.10, 2010. CARL JURIE a 22-year-old Army GI at Pearl Harbor. he was standing outside Schofield Barracks, 10 miles from Pearl Harbor, when he saw Japanese planes flying overhead and thought, "Geez, those Air Corps guys are out maneuvering early. Then, they started dropping their bombs." He later fought at Guadalcanal for four months.

GARLAND ESLICK, 87, was on the USS Oklahoma when the attack came. His battle station was at the bottom of the ship, but he managed to escape the capsizing.

From the Feb.10, 2010, Marin County Independent Journal. RAYMOND BARKER, 92, was not active in the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, but was an ensign on the destroyer USS Worden when the attack came. The Worden was not hit, but one bomb landed 50 yards away. The ship did shoot down one Japanese dive bomber and was able to get underway at 10:40 AM through the South Channel to sea.

The ship spent the rest of the day looking for submarines and dropping depth charges. In 2005, his sons took him to Pearl Harbor for the 65th anniversary.

The Greatest Generation-- GreGen

Monday, March 5, 2012

Death of MoH Winner Van Barfoot

Van Broadfoot, 92, World War II Medal of Honor winner died March 2nd after taking a fall February 28th near the flag he defended against the neighborhood association. He suffered a fractured skull, but got up and went back into his house.

He grew up in the south and was part Indian. He fought in Sicily and Salerno and at one point, May 23, 1944, in a battle near Carano, Italy, took a bazooka to protect his squad and single-handed captured 17 enemy prisoners, destroyed one tank and forced two others to retire before helping two wounded soldiers to safety.

He refused a trip back to the states to get his Medal of Honor so he could get it in the field so his men could be present.

He was in the news recently when his neighborhood association in Virginia said he couldn't fly the US flag. He won that fight as well.

His death leaves just 82 living Medal of Honor winners. I'm not sure if that is World War II winners or includes all survivors overall.

One of the Greatest. --GreGen

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Getting That Sinking Feeling Again: On Two Ships That Were Sunk by Torpedoes

From the Feb. 21st Charleston (WV) Gazette "WWII vets who survived two sunk ships gets medals" by Paul J. Nyden.

Most people would consider getting sunk once in a war to be bad enough, but Farris H. Burton was on two ships that were torpedoed and sunk. And, to boot, the second ship to be sunk was carrying him to safety after the first one.

He recently received five medals from Senator Jay Rockefeller. It took longer to get those medals than the total of ten days he spent in lifeboats after the two sinkings in two oceans.

The ceremony took place at the former Daniel Boone Hotel where Burton spent his last night as a civilian before shipping off the next day for Navy training in Norfolk, Virginia.

He had enlisted on April 26, 1942, his 17th birthday.

On October 7, 1942, he was on the SS Firethorn, about 60 miles off the coast of South Africa in the Indian Ocean when the ship was hit by a U-boat's torpedo and sank. The 49 survivors spent two days in life boats before being rescued by a British ship.

Along with the survivors of other sinkings, he boarded the SS Zaandam, another transport ship, and 26 days later it was hit by two torpedoes and sank. This time, Burton and the survivors spent eight days on life rafts before reaching an island off the Brazil coast.

Mr. Burton was later sent to a naval base in Florida and served on other ships until the end of the war before being discharged April 26, 1946, his 21st birthday.

Now he Could Legally Drink and Had Good Reason to Do So. --GreGen

STD a Problem Back Then As Well

From the Feb. 29th Wilmington Star-News "Back Then" column.

FEBRUARY 25, 1942. Potential workers at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company who have social diseases can still get a job as long as they get the appropriate treatment required by the health department.

Syphilis was an especially bad problem.

I imagine there was a worker shortage at the company as its war orders were definitely on the rise after Pearl Harbor.

Be Safe. Use Protection. --GreGen

Friday, March 2, 2012

World War II's Ghost Army

From the February 23rd Boston Globe"Exhibit and film celebrate World War II's Ghost Army."

US Army Corporal John Jarvis of Kearny, NJ, had created many sketches and water colors of World War II during down time.

He also was a member of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, better known as "The Ghost Army." There were 1,100 Americans in it and they used inflatable rubber tanks, sound effects, impersonation, scripted radio transmissions and other trickery to mislead opposing German soldiers about the size, strength and location of their enemy.

Operations began shortly after D-Day. More than twenty clandestine operations are credited to them.

The group was hand-picked and consisted of artists, set designers, engineering and radio operators. Some famous folk in the unit were fashion designer Bill Blass, painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly, artist Arthur Singer and photographer Art Kane.

The unit operated near the front lines. "The Army was using creativity to save lives, but the men were exercising their own creativity in this awful environment."

I'd Never Heard of Them Before. --GreGen

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Battle of Los Angeles

From Wikipedia.

Also known as The Great Los Angeles Air Raid. This was the setting of the hilarious movie "1941" starring John Belushi as Captain Wild Bill Kelso, Kewpie carrying fighter pilot.

The battle was caused by what was thought to be a Japanese attack just one day after the February 23, 1942, bombardment of Ellwood, California that I wrote about in my previous post. This event tool place over the night of Feb. 24-25th.

People were still unsettled by the attack on Pearl Harbor, just a few months earlier.

It is believed that an errant weather balloon may have started it. Anti aircraft blasts caused further firing thinking it was enemy fire. Some folks even think it was caused by UFOs.

Air raid sirens went on all over Los Angeles County and a total blackout was ordered. At 3:16 AM, the 37Th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing 12.8 pound anti aircraft shells into the air with over 1400 eventually being fired.

Several buildings were damaged and three civilians killed as a direct result. Three more died from heart attacks attributed to the "Attack."

The U.S. Office of Air Force History blamed the event on "war nerves."

Oops! --GreGen