Friday, June 29, 2012

Congratulations to the Montford Point Marines!!

From the June 29th Chicago Tribune "First African-American Marines honored."

The nation's first black Marines were in Washington D.C. to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for their World War II service even in the face of huge descrimination back then.  They received their name from the segregated camp at which they trained in North Carolina by Camp Lejeune.

Those still living attended the ceremony along with family members held Wednesday in the Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall.  Along with these pioneers, former and present Marines attended, including Marine Corps Commandant Gen, James Otis, who supported legislation for the award. 

The Montford Point Marines participated in three of the bloodiest World War II battles: Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Roughly 400 survivors of the 20,000 who trained there attended.

They are now among several groups of WWII veterans that lawmakers have honored, including the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers.

The Tuskegee Airmen are definitely better known of these groups.  Until recently, I was unaware of the Montford Point Marines.  The fact that these men risked their lives to fight for a country that denied them equality is worthy in itself.

A Well-Deserved Honor.  --GreGen

Wilmington's Liberty Ships-- Part 5

Most people today do not know the depth of the U.S. war effort during the war.  This is but one small, though large, impact.  Not only did the war materials turned out essentially bury the Axis foes, but much of it led to profound social impacts still around today.  It sure turned Wil;mington froma somewhat "sleepy" city into a big bustling one as workers and military streamed in.

You can find more information on the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in the 1946 book "Five Years of Nort Carolina Shipbuilding" and Ralph Scott's "The Wilmington Shipyard."

By the end of the war, the NCS Co. had 9 shipways, 3 piers, 67 cranes, 1,000 feet of mooring bulkheads, 5 miles of paved roads, 19 miles of standard gauge railway on a 160 acre site.  From 1941 to 1946, an estimated $20 million was spent on improvements.

At its 1943 peak, the company employed 21,000 workers, some 1,600 of whom were female (the Rosie the Riveters).  During the course of the war, 6,800 left employemnt for the military and of those, 33 were killed in action.

In 1943, the payrol was over $52 million and the place was Wilmington's largest single employer.  There were more workers in the shipyard in 1942 than there were n all of Wilmington in 1940.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wilmington's Liberty Ships-- Part 4

Between 1944 and 1945, the NC Shipbuilding Company also made AKA transports, ABC headquarters ships and AE (ammunition) ones.  Late in the war, they started building civilian cargo ships: 17 for the Lykes Brothers Line, 19 for the U.S. Line and 9 for the Grace Line.

The Grace Line ships were especially luxurious with refrigerated cargo spaces and accomodations for up to 52 passengers and even a swimming pool.  Definitely a far cry from the rather spartan Liberty Ships.

During the course of the war, 28 Wilmington-built ships were lost:  twenty-three from enemy action and four sunk to form a break water during the Normandy Invasion.  One ammunition ship exploded in the South Pacific.

The most famous of their ships was the SS White Falcon C-2, delivered April 14, 1944.  It was later lengthened and refitted as a cargo container ship and then rechristened the SS Mayaguez in 1965. 

On May 12, 1973, two weeks after the fall of South Vietnam, it was captured in international waters off Cambodia.  On May 15th, USMC forces retook it off Koh Tang Island.  This was the first US Navy ship-to-ship boarding since 1826.  Fourteen Marines, 2 Navy Corpsmen and two crewmembers were killed or missing.  The ship was scrapped in 1979.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wilmington's Liberty Ships-- Part 3

Last post I mentioned that the Wilmington Liberty Ships were often named for North and South Carolina historical figures.  Some of these of note from the Lower Cape Fear River area were Cornelius Harnett, George Davis, Richard Caswell, Alexander Lillington, James Sprunt, Alfred Moore, John Merrick and John N. Maffitt.

Liberty Ships were 441 feet long, 56 feet wide and had a cruising speed of 12 knots and designed for quick construction.  They proved to be great workhorses.  In 1942, 53 more were ordered.  The facilities expanded another 80 acres.

In 1942, 51 were delivered.  By 1943, when the contract had called for 25 ships delivered, the total stood at 73.  The NC Shipbuilding Company had the lowest average cost per ship of the 16 shipyards building them.  At peak production, Wilmington was delivering 11 vessels a month.

The 126th and last Liberty Ship was delivered August 27, 1943.  Production slowed.  By mid-1943, the yard was refitted for production of the C2-S-AJ1 ships which were being built more modern, larger and more comfortable..

These Victory Ships were 459 feet long, 63 feet wide, had larger engines and weighed 10,660 tons.  They were being built with the intention of post-war use.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wilmington's Liberty Ships-- Par 2

With war looming, in 1940, the U.S. Maritime Commission found the nation faced a critical shortage of cargo vessels.  The city of Wilmington began lobbying Washington, DC for a shipyard as did nearby Morehead City.  A 56.9 acre site three miles south of downtown and close to Sunset Park suburb was bought.

Wilmington got the shipyard. Ground was broken February 3, 1941 with plans for at least six shipways.  Some 400,000 cubic yards of material were removed and 950 feet of steel walls constructed.  The Maritime Commission placed an initial order for 25 Liberty Ships and then added another ten.  Three more shipways were added.

On May 22, 1941, the keels of the first two ships were laid.  On December 6, 1941, just hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the SS Zebulon B. Vance (named for the state's Civil War governor) was christened by Mrs. J. Melville Broughton, the wife of the current governor.

Wilmington Liberty Ships were often named for historical figures from North and South Carolina.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Wilmington's Liberty Ships-- Part 1

From the Wilmington (NC) Star-News My Reporter column by Ben Steelman.

A whopping 126 Liberty Ships were built between 1941 and 1943 at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company's yards on the Cape Fear River, slightly south of downtown on the site of the present-day North Carolina State Port property.

After mid 1943, production shifted to the C-2 model ship (called Victory Ships) which were intended for post-war use as well.  In addition, amphibious/attack cargo ships (AKAs) and other vessels destined for war were built.

A total of 243 ships were bult at the shipyard which emplyed as many as 20,000 workers at its peak operation.  Production stopped in 1946 and the facilities were closed.

Warships were built at Wilmington as far back at the Civil War.  Benjamin W. Beery and Brothers had a shipyard on Eagle Island and built several vessels, including the CSS North Carolina.  James Cassidy had a yard on the river between Nun and Church streets and built the CSS Raleign.

During World War I, New York skyscraper magnate George A. Fuller had the Carolina Shipbuilding Company at Wilmington and built ten 10,000-ton steel-hulled vessels for the U.S. Emergency Fleet Corporation, but all were delivered after the Armistice was signed.

Another yard built concrete-hulled vessels and two more were built with wooden hulls.

All together, about 4,000 were employed in World War I.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Monday, June 25, 2012

Back then: News of the Wilmington, NC, Homefront

From the June 12th and 19th, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News.

June 1, 1942

The SS Thomas Sumter, the 13th Liberty Ship built by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington was launched yesterday.  It was named for General Thomas Sumter, the South Carolina "Gamecock" of the Revolutionary War.  At the time of his death in 1832, he was the last surviving officer of the Revolution.  Fort Sumter and the town of Sumter, South Carolina, were also named after him.  (I wonder if this is where the University of South Carolina got its nickname?)

June 7, 1942

Rubber rationing in Wilmington was in full force.  The approval for the sale of 58 new tires and tubes and 98 retreaded ones was annonced.  The police department even needed a permit to get new ones and got just two.

All for the War Effort.  --GreGen

Britain's Channel Islands Occupied by Germans

From the March 16, 2010, BBC.

On June 30, 1940, German forces occuped Britain's Channel Islands and remained there until the liberation May 9, 1945.  This was the only part of the British isles occupied during the course of the war.

In March of 2010, there was an exhibition of items from 1000 people there who were deported to internment camps.  Most were just young children at the time.

Michael Martel's family were deported in 1942 and moved subsequently to several camps.  His father was a cobbler whose skills were used by the Germans.

Gil Chubb was sent to Biberach Camp and remembers being "terrified of the Germans." The Gestapo "were like big black birds" with their long black leather coats and caps."

Something I Didn't Know.  --GreGen

Navy Dive Bomber recovered

May 2010

In an operation costing $125,000, a SB2C-4 Helldiver was brought up fronm the bottom of Lower Otay Reservoir in San Diego, and will be on display after conservation at the National naval Aviation Museum in pensacola, Florida.

A took off from an aircraft carrier May 28, 1945, and develped engine failure causing pilot E.D. Frazer of Texas and gunner Joseph  Martz of Ohio to crash in the water.  They both swam to shore, but unfortunately, have since died.

The plane's final resting place was forgotten until March 2009 when fishermen using an electronic fish-finder found it in 85 feet of water.

Only six Helldivers are in existence which makes this a rare find.

Always Glad to hear of Recoveries Like This.  --GreGen

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dunkirk's 70th Anniversary-- Part 2

The anniversary ships were escorted by the HMS Monmouth and a fly-past was made by the Royal Navy Historical Flight of planes from the era.

The Medway Queen, which did not participate in the anniversary run, was a paddle steamer built on the Clyde River in 1924 as a pleasure boat.  It is widely called "The Heroine of Dunkirk," making seven crosasings and bringing 7,000 troops home.

It was so badly damaged on its last trip that it was reported as lost.  After the war, it went on to serve as a nightclub and restaurant but became a derelict and headed for a scrapyard until a movement to save it took place and a grant from the Heritage Lottery will provide funds needed, but it is not yet in sailing condition.  It is the last surviving estuary paddle steamer.

Signalman Eric Woodroffe of Medway Queen said they were excited when asked to join the Dunkirk mission after months of boring minesweeping.  From far out at sea, they could see smoke rising from the beaches and knew they were really getting into it.

By the final crossing, two of the five members on the ship had been lost and the captain and crew were so exhausted that replacements had to be drafted from other ships to take their place.

Quite a Heroic Event.  --GreGen

Dunkirk's 70th Anniversary-- Part 1

From the May 27, 2010,

More than fifty ships that actually took part in the amazing evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk took part in a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the event.

They set sail from Rumsgate Harbour on the anniversary of the beginning of Operation Dynamo and included coal boats, barges, luxury private launches and steamers.  A total of around 900 vessels participated back then and were able to evacuate 338,000 troops who would otherwise have been captured by rapidly advancing German forces.  Operation Dynamo took place from May 27 to June 4, 1940. 

They were under continuous German bombardment and aerial attack the whole time and at least 5,000 rescuers died in the effort.

More than fifty of the original participants were on the ships along with many children of the original crew members.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The State of New Jersey's Pearl Harbor Survivors

From the December 10th New Jersey Star-Ledger by Bob Consadine.

Thomas Mahoney of Union and Ralph Jeffers of Ocean Township are two of the living ten memebrs of the now-defunct N.J. Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.  Both were on the USS Curtiss that fateful day and spoke at the 70th commemoration of the attack at Brookdale Community College on Dec. 10th.

Sadly, all three New Jersey chapters of the PHSA have disbanded.

Jeffers was an aviation machinist enjoying breakfast on the ship at 7:55 AM when he heard a loud explosion.  He looked out the porthole on the starboard sideand saw the target ship USS Utah turn over after being hit by a torpedo.  There was a rush to battle stations and he remembers having to wait in line to get up the ladder.

The USS Curtiss, a seaplane tender, was spared from damage the first hour and loaded with a thousand gallons of aviation fuel as well as bombs, shells and torpedoes.  At 9:05, a damaged Japanese plane crashed into the No. 1 crane on the starboard side.

Seven minutes later, a 500 pound bomb passed through the carpentry, radio and repair shops and into a hangar and exploded.  Most of the Curtiss' twenty casualties came from that.  He and two others were firing from under the protection of another crane.  The ship only had a skeleton crew on board at the time as many weer off ship seeing families.

Sad to Be Losing These Heroes.  --GreGen

Bits of War: Mokapu Point-- Stalin and Hitler-- Turning Point Battles-- Pearl Harbor and the Atom Bombs

Bits of War--  Snippets

1.   MOKAPU POINT--  Hawaii, World War II bunkers are still there and now home to numerous boobie birds.  It is said that one of these contained one of the turrets of the USS Arizona

2.  STALIN AND HITLER--  Stalin blocked two attempts to kill Stalin fearing that his replacement would make peace with the Allies according to General Anatoly Kulikov.  This occurred in 1943 and 1944 with attacks on Hitler's bunkers.

In 1944, a potential assassin had gained the trust of Nazi leadership and a detailed assassination plan was drawn up.

3.  TURNING POINT BATTLES--  The March 12, 2010 Listverse had a list of ten battles that turned the tide of the war they were fought in.  Four of them were from World War II: Leyte Gulf, Britain, Midway and Stalingrad.  To see the others go to my Cooter's History Thing blog from today.

4.  PEARL HARBOR AND THE ATOM BOMBS--  I'd like to add the battles of Pearl Harbor and the two atom bombs to the list of turning points.  Pearl harbor enraged the United States and as Japanese Admiral Yamamoto said, "filled us with a terrible resolve."  And, of course,the bombs caused the Japanese to surrender.  Otherwise, the war would have gone on for a much longer time with huge casualties on both sides.

Just Some Stuff.  --GreGen

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Female Pearl Harbor Firefighters Debunked

By Eric Pfeiffer, December 12, 2011.

A famous photograph show 4 or 5 women manning a hose at what is credited as the attack on Pearl Harbor has been debunked.  Katherine Lowe, 96, the woman second from the right in the picture says the photo is real, but was not taken December 7th.

They were going to church that morning and didn't know the war was on and went to church anyway.

She and co-workers at the Dole pineapple factory did work as civilians at the Pearl Harbor Naval shipyard and one of their duties was to fight fires.  The photo was actually taken during a training exercise later in the war.

There wre firefighters from the Honolulu Fire Department at Hickam Field Dec. 7th, but they were all men and three died from bomb blasts. 

The only women present were nurses.

A Real Burn.  --GreGen

A D-Day Timeline

From the June 6th Chicago Tribune.

SEPTEMBER 1941--  Britain begins investigating feasability of amphibious assault in Europe.

DECEMBER 1941--  American planners get involved after Pearl Harbor.

1942-1943--  Various dates and attack spots discussed.

MAY 30, 1944--  The Allied invasion of France commences.  As part of Operation Overlord, troops based in England begin mobilizing to cross the English Channel.

JUNE 5--  Overlord begins as an advance wave of paratroopers land in enemy territory.

JUNE 6--  D-Day.  A naval bombardment begins in the morning.  Operation Neptune begins.  Fighting begins as more than 150,000 troops and 30,000 vehicles are landed along a 50-mile stretch of fortified French coastline.

JUNE 30--  Allied forces establish a foothold in Normandy.

JULY--  Allies take control of Cherbourg.

AUGUST 19--  Allies cross the River Seine and Paris liberated.

There You Have It.  --GreGen

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

D-Day By the Numbers

From the June 6th Chicago Tribune.

156,000-- Approximate number of Allied troops landed
73,00 Americans
83,115 British and Canadians

39--  Divisions slated to participate in the invasion
20 American
14 British
5 Canadian, French and Polish

4,414- verified deaths
2,499 American
1.915 other Allies

11,590--aircraft available tosupport the landings
14,674 sorties
127 lost aircraft

5,000-- ships in armada
9 battleships
23 cruisers
104 destroyers
71 large landing craft, minesweepers and merchantmen

100,000--  Allied land vehicles and weapons

This Was a Real Big Deal.  --GreGen

Sand Tells Tale of D-Day

From the June 6th Chicago Tribune "In sand, a tale of Normandy" by Reuters.

Texas geologist Earle McBride visited Omaha Beach in Normandy in 1988 and took sand samples from the beach.  When he and colleague Dane Picard examined it more closely two decades later under a microscope, they found rounded grains-- quartz, feldspar, clam and oyster shells were visible along with jagged-edged grains.  These grains were an anomaly and should have been rounded like the others.

Using a different light source on the microscope, they found the jagged-edge grains had a metallic sheen and a rust-colored coating.  Further, holding a magnet to the sand, they proved to be magnetic.  They suspected them to be shrapnel and using an electron microscope, that proved true.

They also found small spherical iron and glass beads which they believe to beformed by explosions inthe air and sand.

The big surprise is that these would still be on the beach even 44 years later.  However, they suspect these will all be gone in another century or so due to corrosion and abrasion.

A piece of history just like those oil bubbles still coming up from the USS Arizona.

So Big.  Still There.  --GreGen

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bicentennial of the War of 1812

Today marks the declaration of war by the fledging United States in what some call The second War for Independence.  Others call it America's forgotten war, well, that could also be the Korean one as well.

This being a blog about a war, I thought it should be noted.

Check out my Not Forgootten: The War of 1812 Blog.


Next Time on Route 66, the USS Oklahoma's Anchor

From Exploring Oklahoma History.

One of the three anchors added during the Navy's modernization of the USS Oklahoma in 1927, it was aboard the USS Oklahoma that fateful day in Pearl Harbor.

It was manufactured in 1919 by Baldt Anchor Company in Chester, Pennsylvania, and weighs in at 19,860 pounds.

It is now in Oklahoma City today thanks to the efforts of Rear Admiral John E. Kirkpatrick and arrived in town in 1961.  It is now in ts third location at NW 12th Avenue and Broadway.

A Real Piece of History.  --GreGen