Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wilmington, NC, At War

From the Sept. 10, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" column.

Taken from the newspaper 70 years ago.

SEPTEMBER 10, 1942--

The Red Cross Canteen Corps has been serving meals over the past three months at the Atlantic Coast Line Station to soldiers arriving for assignment to Camp Davis.  The soldiers go through three pounds of coffee and 10 dozen doughnuts every day.  Also, twelve cases of Coca-Cola (all that rationing allows) are used every week.  (Kind of surprising that there would be rationing for Coke for soldiers.  Of course, this was not sugar-free Coke.)

SEPTEMBER 16, 1942--

Two war bond rallies were being planned featuring movie stars John Payne and Jane Wyman.  The Cape Fear Country Club was holding a bond luncheon.  To attend attend, you had to buy a $1.50 ticket and have purchased a $500 war bond.  An afternoon rally was being held at the New Hanover High School auditorium.

SEPTEMBER 8, 1942--

One of the three members of the US Army Air Force who died in the plane crash in the Panama Canal Zone was Sgt. George W. Walker, son of Mrs. Alice Walker of Wilmington.  He was a graduate of New Hanover High School where he was a member of the ROTC unit.

Back Then.  Impact On the Homefront.  --GreGen

Friday, September 28, 2012

Italian Battleship Wreck Found Off Sardinia

From Wikipedia.

In my post on the huge German plane that was found off the coast of Sardinia, I mentioned that the Italian battleship Roma had been found a few months earlier.  Never heard of it, so had to do some research.

It had two sister ships, the Vittoria Veneto and the Littorio.  The Roma, of course, was named after Rome.

Launched in 1940 and commissioned in 1942 before being sunk by the Germans September 9, 1943,.  The Roma was 787 feet long, had a 108-foot beam and crew of 1920.

It had been damaged during Allied bombing raids.  In September 1943, it sailed out of port and reported to the Germans that they were going to attack the Allied fleet approaching Salerno, but actually with the intention of surrendering to the Allies since the September 8th armistice signed between Italy and the Allies.

It was sighted by German Dornier Do 217s in the Strait of Bonifacio.  These planes were carrying the new Fritz X radio-controlled bombs.  The Roma was hit several times and capsized, carrying down 1253 of her crew.

The wreck was found in June 2012 by an underwater robot, 30 kilometers off the northern coast of Sardinia, 3,300 feet down.

A War Grave.  --GreGen

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Missouri's Pearl Harbor Survivors

From December 7, 2011, Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder's website.

Twelve Missourians who were at Pearl Harbor still alive as of 2011.

Earl Armstrong, Manchester
Maurice Gatewood, St. Louis
Dayle Higgins, Fair Grove
Leslie Humphrey, Branson
Charles Jenson, Rolla
Clifton Lomarr, Kansas City

Elmer Luckett, St. Louis
Fred Buenninger, Festus
Charles Havelca, Owensville
William McAnany Jr, Jefferson City
Henry Metzler, St. Louis
Vern Smith, Cameron

This was in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the attack on Peral Harbor.  Now, there are just 11 left since Mr. Smith died Sept. 20th.

There are now fewer than 3000 Pearl Harbor survivors still alive.  About 29,000 survivors joined the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association when it was chartered in 1958.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

World War II Vets Swap Stories at McDonald's

From the Sept. 21, 2012, Houston Chronicle by James Fraser.

William Allison is the youngest at age 89.  Then, there is John Mcwhinney, 93, and Willard Pennington, 99.

Once seated, Pennington sometimes pulls out a silver naval whistle and blows it, startling the other McDonald's customers.  Then begins the gab session with lots of stories.

Mcwhinney parachuted 27 of his 100 times behind enemy lines.  Pennington was in the Army Air Force coordinating bomber runs from England.  Every day, 36 B-24s flew out.  ground crews began prepping the planes at 1 AM, pilots went to breakfast at 2:30 AM and they tookoff at 7 AM for the 8 to 9 hour flight.  It took 5,000 men to support those fliers.

Allison was a 1st lieutenant and aviation engineer in the Pacific where he built and repaired airfields.

They meet weekly.

I'd Sure Love to Sit In With These Heroes.  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor Veteran Gives "Good Luck Charm" to Museum

From the Dec. 7, 2010, Springfield (Mo) News-Leader.

J.C. Penwll, now 88, was a gunnery mate 3rd-class on the UCC Oklahoma that day.  He was inspecting the ship's munitions locker before the attack and still has the key.  He saw the first bomb hit the airport and then the Oklahoma was hit.  As it was turning over, he swam to the USS Maryland with the other survivors.

He carried that key in his pocket for the rest of the war for good luck.  Today, he went to Oklahoma City to give it to the USS Oklahoma Museum.  At Pearl Harbor, he lost two teeth and suffered a broken nose.  "After the Oklahoma I was never hurt very bad," he said.

He does admit to "getting lost" for about two weeks after the attack with a group of Marines manning a coastal machine gun nest so as not to get sent home with the injured.  He was later reassigned to a destroyer and was at Guadalcanal and Midway.

The Good Luck Piece.  --GreGen

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bits of War: USS West Virginia-- Pearl Harbor Survivor-- Another PH Survivor

1.  USS WEST VIRGINIA--  The West Virgina Culture Center in Charleston will showcase artifacts from the USS West Virgina, including the ship's bell and other items from those who served on board the ship.  Just in time for the ship's reunion this coming weekend.

2.  PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR--  9-20-12--  Vern Smith, 94, died (1917-2012).  Joined the Navy in 1939 and was on the USS Worden at Pearl Harbor at age 24.  Served in the Navy 24 years.

3.  ANOTHER PH SURVIVOR--  Margaret "Peggy" Dye died August 20, 2012, at age 98.  She was one of the last-surviving nurses from the attack.  A member of the Navy Nurse Corps from 1937 to 1942, she tended the wounded for days afterwards.  In 2001, she attended the premier of the Disney movie "Pearl Harbor" on the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis moored in pearl Harbor.  That had to have been an experience.


Cecilia Flores: Philippines Nurse

From the June 12, 2012, Chicago Tribune obituary page.

CECILIA FLORES (1917-2012)

Died June 2, 2012.

A native of the Philippines, she worked as a nurse at a US Army hospital in manila in 1941 when the Japanese attacked the base.  Her daughter, Nona C. Flores said, "She looked out her window and saw the faces of the Japanese fighter pilots" as they flew by.

She wrote in her memoir, "For a week we were at the hospital, no time to eat. drink, cry or feel sorry for anyone.  Confusion, chaos, armless, legless, shrapnel, bloody, moaning by some soldiers, others just lay on the stretcher waiting for mercy."

After the Japanese took over the Philippines, she served in the Red Cross for the remainder of the war.  As the war was winding down in 1945, retreating Japanese soldiers torched the house she was staying in and she suffered burns over 40% of her body.

"She escaped because she was awoken from sleep by a stray puppy that she had found who was licking her face when the house filled up with smoke," said her daughter.

One of the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Monday, September 24, 2012

Garlen Eslick Died ""...With the Deck Above Your Head"

From the Amarillo (Tx) Globe News.

USS Oklahoma survivor Garlen Eslick died at age 87 on Feb. 8, 2010.  He was in the ship's galley at age 19 and slicing a salad when the attack came and was one of 32 survivors who were trapped in the Oklahoma's hull for 28 hours before rescue.

He was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries he received in the ordeal and later served on the USS Saratoga and USS Hancock.

After the war, he served as president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Chapter 5 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

On the USS Oklahoma website he remembered:  We knew the ship was trying to turn turtle.  The only thing we were thinking of was to get this boy through the hatch and topside.  Nothing was ever said about abandon ship.

We didn't even have time to dog the hatches down to maintain water tight integrity.  That was one of my duties, to dog the hatches down, and we were taking all those hits, and then the ship rolled and you couldn't have closed the hatch then if you wanted to...the hatch was too heavy because it was upside down.

There were bodies in the water, debris and you were standing on the ceiling on pipes, with the deck above your head."

That Had to Be One Really Frightening Experience.  --GreGen

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Valley Survivor Recalls Pearl Harbor and Three Sunken Ships

From the December 7, 2010, Arizona Republic by Glen Creno.

Garth Brown, 90, said that the older sailors on his ship, the USS Oklahoma, figured they'd be a war with Japan at some time, and, then it came that day 69 years ago.

Finding it hard to find a job, he joined the Navy in 1940 and was 21 when the attack came.  Several explosions rocked the ship as he scrambled to get to his battle station in the ammunition handling room.  The ship was listing badly and then the lights went out.  Men below decks began to feel their way out.

"Water poured in.  We were having trouble going up because there were still fellas coming down."  Reaching topside, the Oklahoma was listing badly to port.  "The mighty Okie capsized all at once, throwing me clear out away from the ship."

He struggled to the surface through several inches of oil.  It was difficult to see anything because of all that oil on his face and a fire was heading his way.  A piece of wood came floating by and he grabbed it, holding ont it until a boat came by and picked him up.

He remembers sending a telegram to his family saying he was alright.

Two years later, he was on the USS Helena when it was sunk in the Battle of Kula Gulf in the Solomon Islands.  Again, he was rescued.  Later, he also survived the sinking of another small supply boat.

His wife said, "He's a survivor."

I Guess So.  And, a member of the Greatest Generation.  --RoadDog

Friday, September 21, 2012

Massive German Warplane Wreck Found-- Part 2

Continued from Monday's post.

Cristina Freghieri, a diver and amateur historian discovered the plane off Sardinia.  It was shot down July 26, 1943, by a Beaufighter fighter plane on its way to the Tuscan city of Piatoia from its base in Sardinia.  The crew managed to moor before it sank and some of the soldiers it was carrying managed to escape in a raft, but most sank with it.

Freghieri spent a year searching military archives and flight path records.  They identified theplane with a wire-attached camera then explored it as a team.

The Me-323 is the second WW II discovery off Sardinia in the last three months.  In June, the wreckage of the Corazzata Roma, the flagship of the Italian Navy was found.  It was sunk by the Germans in September 1943.

Finding the Wrecks.  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor Survivors Remember the Attack

From Dec. 7, 2010, Fox News.

Brothers Albert and Geno Morosi were on the USS Maryland.  Albert, then 19, remembers, "There were three of us.  We were on the quarterdeck and we were drinking a cup of coffee. We saw the planes.  We didn't pay much attention to them coming in, until they started straight for the ships and the island.  We could see the emblem and we knew it was the Japanese.  It was a perplexing day, believe me."

He ran to the lower deck to help supply ammunition to the guns.  His older brother, Geno, manned an anti-aircraft gun topside. 

The Maryland was tied up next to the USS Oklahoma which acted as a barrier against the Japanese torpedoes.  When it started capsizing, it threatened the Maryland.

Albert wrote a note to his parents in Illinois one day later to let them know he was alright, "I am well.  Letter to follow at first opportunity."

He joined the work party Dec. 8th to go on the USS West Virginia.  "There were parts of bodies laying all over the deck and everything else."

After the war, Albert settled in California and Geno in Michigan, but they keep in touch.

This was when the Navy still allowed family members to serve on the same ship.

Just Another Pearl Harbor Story.  --GreGen

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This May Be the Last Battleship West Virginia Reunion

From the Sept. 19, 2012, CBS WVNS 59.

West Virginia will be hosting what may be the final reunion of those who served on the battleship West Virginia in Charleston September 28-30.

Former sailors, their families and history buffs have been having reunions since 1955.  As part of the reunion, they will tour the Culture Center and will see the 20-foot long replica of the ship in Beckley.

The ship was heavily damaged at Pearl Harbor and rebuilt in tiome to serve in the Pacific.  Decommissioned after the war, it was scrapped.  It's mast and bell are at West Virgina University

According to the W. Va. Executive, early reunions were held in southern California and usually coincided with Dec. 7th.

Sailors nicknamed the ship the "Wee Vee."

All These Final Reunions Are Getting Depressing.  --GreGen

Tuskegee Airmen Get Their Plane Back

From the Oct. 15, 2010, Detroit News "Tuskegee Museum gets rare World War II plane" by Micki Steele.

The Tuskegee Airmen National Museum got the opportunity to buy a plane actually flown by them and spent a year raising the $200,000 to get it.  It was a World War II T-6 training plane, referred to often as "The Pilot-Maker."  Only one other plane exists that was actually flown by them.

Rayvon Burleson, a veteran of World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars bought and sold vintage planes as a hobby.  He researched the T-6's serial number and knew that it had been a Tuskegee plane.  Of all his planes, it was his favorite and had flown it just a few days before his death.

After 9/11, with the new restrictions, the family stopped flying it and had donated it for awhile to the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkost, Wisconson, for display.

The plane had been built at the North American Aviation's Dallas factory and delivered in 1943 to the Tuskegee Army Air Force in Alabama and used until 1945.

This factory also made the P-51 fighters the Tuskegee Airmen flew escorting bombers.

Great to Have It Back.  --GreGen

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

USS Arizona Survivor Interred on His Ship

From the Sept. 13, 2012, Maui News "USS Arizona survivor interred on sunken ship."

Glenn Lane's urn was laid to rest inside the USS Arizona, resting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, to be with his dead shipmates from that horrific event over 70 years ago.

Dec. 7, 1941, he was a seaplane radioman on the Arizona and later recalled being thrown into the water without a life jacket and swimming the best he could.  Ford Island was nearby, but he didn't think he could reach it, so he swam towards the Nevada when it also was hit.

All he could see in the water were body parts.

He went on to serve in the Navy for 30 years, retiring as a master chief.  He received shrapnel wounds and burns, but didn't get his Purple Heart until 2004.

Mr. Lane died December 10, 2011, just three days after the 70th anniversary of the attack.

The Navy began interring and scattering ashes of Pearl Harbor survivors in the late 1980s.  Only survivors of the Utah and Arizona can be returned to their former ships.

Another of the Greatest Generation. --  GreGen

Unexploded Ordnance a Fact of Life in Germany

From the June 6, 2010, National Public Radio.

In June, in the German town of Gottingen, 3 munitions experts were killed and 6 wounded while trying to defuse a 1,100 pound Allied bomb.  And, these men had lots of experience with unexploded bombs.

Every spring and summer, as construction projects start across Germany kick off, unexploded bombs are found.

Berlin officials say there are still 4,000 unexploded bombs scattered in the city.  During the war, they estimate that 465,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the city and that one in eight didn't explode.

Some 7,300 have been found and and either disarmed or detonated in Berlin since the 1980s.

The area once known as West Berlin before the Berlin Wall came down is the safest part of Berlin since most of the unexploded ordnance dropped there has been cleared out.

Careful Where You Dig.  --GreGen

On the 69th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

From the Dec. 13, 2010, Delaware County (PA) News Network.

EDWARD H. Smith, 93, was 24 at Pearl Harbor that day and a petty officer on the USS Ash, a small ship designed to lay anti-submarine nets.  It was 500 yards away from the USS Arizona when it exploded.

WILLIAM BROWN, 87 Was the second-oldest in his family who quit high school in 9th grade.  He joined the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, after his father died and joined the Navy in 1943 and was stationed at Pearl Harbor where he daily saw the aftermath of the attack.

AUGUSTINE SMOLIK, 89 was one of the 461 men on the USS Utah who survived, 58 died.  He was a gunners mate and later assigned to the USS Honolulu.

Another Day That Won't Be Forgotten By Americans.  --GreGen

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Museum Opens at Heart Mountain Internment Camp

From the December 2010 Caspar (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

The 1000 square foot museum at Heart Mountain Internment Camp was scheduled to open Agust 20, 2011.  Heart Mountain is the site of one of ten War relocation Camps set up under FDR's Executive Order in 1942.

At its height, 14,000 japanese-Americans were held there.

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Interpretive Learning Center is hoping to have 500 former residents and families in attendance for the opening.

The 740-acre site was selected because of its remoteness, but yet it was still easily accesible.

It did open on the projected date.

For more information go to

A Sad Incident, But, bad Things Happen in War.  --GreGen

World War II U.S. Bridge to Be Destroyed in San Diego

From the December San Diego 760 AM Talk Radio "70-year-old bridge to get axed."

It was quickly built in the early months of World War II, but has been unused for many years.  Plans call for it to be torn down in April, 2011.

The Consolidated Truck Road Bridge spanned over the Pacific between the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and the aircraft factory near Old Town, now called the Space and Naval Warfare System Center.

It was built in a big hurry in 1942 to connect the Consolidated Aircraft factory with military installations and other manufacturing plants along the Pacific Highway, then called US-101.

During the war, tractors used the bridge to ferry engines from factories near Lindbergh Field over US-101 to the big airplane construction hangars that still stand near Old Town.  It was camouflaged for fear of Japanese bombers.

At the same spot where it crosses the freeway, an nderpass carries Witherby St. under the Pacific Coast Highway, making this San Diego's first multi-level interchange.  US-101 was eliminated in the early 1970s with the construction of I-5.

Airline construction had ended decades before that and Caltrans has rate the bridge as seismically unsafe.

Always Hate to see Something That Old Torn Down.  --GreGen

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Locations of the Eight Remaining US Battleships

I posted about this today in my Roadlog blog.  All saw service in World War II, and one was also in World War I.


Massive German Warplane Wreck Found-- Part 1

From the September 14th Discovery News by Rosselina Lorenzi.

Italian researchers have found the wreck of a huge German airplane off the coast of the island of Sardinia.  This one was shot down by a British fighter plane.

The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) made nearly 200 of these huge planes, Messerschmidtt-323s,  and used them from 1942 to 1943.  They were the largest land-based transport planes used by either side during World War II.

And, massive they were, with a 181-foot wingspan, six engines, 92 feet long and 33-feet tall with the capability of carrying 12 tons of cargo or 120 soldiers which were loaded through huge double doors that formed the curve of the nose..

However, the M-323s were slow and difficult to maneuver and many were shot down as easy targets for Allied fighters.

And, This Is the Only One Left.  --GreGen

Goodbye to Wilmington's "Ghost Fleet"

From the Wilmington (NC) Star-News Back Then Column.

March 1, 1960, the US Maritime Administration announced its decision to close the reserve fleet operation on the Brunswick River near Wilmington, citing a surplus of Liberty Ships as well as the high cost of maintaining them.

Fourteen "priority" ships were to be moved to another area.  That would be the newest and ones in best shape.  The rest would be sold and scrapped.

In 1946, there were 426 shipw moored in the river and nearly 300 employees involved with them.

The last ship left the area in 1970.

I remember seeing them.  Quite an impressive, though rusty sight.

The Old War Horses.  --GreGen

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Japanese Hope to Bring WWII Remains Back From North Korea

From the Aug. 28th Fox News, AP.

A Japanese delegation arrived in Pyongyang hoping to reach an agreement to bring back Japanese soldiers buried in North Korea.  The ten-day trip is being made by a group calling itself Seishinka.

Today, Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties, but the Japanese colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945.  The group will also visit the graves of Japanese soldiers who died in the final days of the war.

Time to Heal the Wounds.  --GreGen

Friday, September 14, 2012

Experts Blow Up 550-pound World War II Bomb in Munich

From the August 28th NBC News.

Three thousand residents were evacuated from the heart of Munich after construction workers discovered this dangerous relic.  Efforts to diffuse it failed and experts decided to pack it with explosives and detonate it instead of risking an uncontrolled explosion.

Millions of tons of bombs were dropped on Germany during the war and tens of thousands of unexploded ones are still believed to be in the country.  This was one of an estimated 2,500 in Munich, alone.  A video was made of the explosion and I sure would not have wanted to be near it.  No one was killed, but window panes in the area were blown out and a giant crater formed.

Three people died in 2010 in Goettinggen with the same type of bomb. 

From the 8-29 Mail Online.  The Allies dropped 2.8 million tons of bombs on Germany during the war compared to 75,000 tons dropped by the Luftwaffe on Britain. british bombers flew 390,000 sorties.  By 1945, 543,000 German civilians had been killed as compared to 60,000 in Britain.

Just last week, a similar 550-pd bomb was found in Nurenburg.

Delayed action bombs, primed to explode at some time after being dropped, are considered to be an especially big problem.

Hey, Those Bombs Are Getting Old and Danger Is Increasing.  --GreGen

Bits of War: Homefront Production-- Pearl Harbor Survivors

Bits of War-- Short stories of World War II

1.  HOMEFRONT PRODUCTION--  From the Dec, 15, 2010, Shorpy "Primary Colors: 1943."  February 1943, Milwaukee, Wisconsin "War production workers at Heil Co, making gasoline trailer tanks for the Army Air Corps.  Elizabeth Little, age 30, mother od two, spraying small parts. Her husband runs a farm."

2.  PEARL HARBOR SURVIVORS--  From the Fallbrook (Colorado) Village News.  Iowa Street School hosted four Pearl Harbor survivors:

Jose Walsh, sgt., USMC
Bill Greenhouse, USMC, master technical sergeant and president of the PHSA Oceanside chapter.
Bjorn "Chris" Christianson, USN, chief warrant officer on USS Arizona
Bill Sandwick USMC, major in the Air Corps.

The Nov. 11, 2010, Anniston (Al) Star.  Glenn McNeill, was 24 years old and asleep in bed at the US Army Schofield Barracks.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Jim Starnes, OD, at Japanese Surrender

From the Sept. 2, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser "Day of Surrender"

Marking the 60th anniversary of the event that formally ended World War II, the newspaper interviewed some of the men who were there.

The USS Missouri entered Tokyo Bay Aug. 29, 1945, and the war was already over.  VJ Day took place August 15th.  Only Japan's formal surrender remained.

Lt. Cmdr. James Starnes, 24, was officer of the deck and in charge of making many of the day's arrangements.  Said Starnes, "We carried off this ceremony by the book."

But, the book did not deal with specifics.  One of which was which of the two five-star flags should fly, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz's or General of the Army Douglas MacArthur's.  Starnes improvised and flew both, "They were equals--neither outranked the other."  And, I'm sure MacArthur would have noticed.

The ceremony took place on the Missouri's Veranda Deck, surrounded by a show of America's power: 9 battleships, 2 aircraft carriers, a dozen submarines, 48 destroyers and 170 light and heavy cruisers and other combat craft.

Three thousand officers, sailors, Marines and press packed every available inch of the ship's decks as the eleven-man Japanese delegation signed the surrender document at 9:04 AM.

A Great Day for the World.  --GreGen

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Dutch Ended the War, and I Made It Official"-- Part 3

Theordore "Dutch" Vankirk was from Pennsylvania and joined the Army Air Corps where he washed out as a pilot and then trained as a navigator.  Making that, he flew B-17 missions in Europe, often as lead plane.

Transferred to the Pacific after Germany's fall, on his 59th mission, his plane, the Enola Gay, carried the atom bomb.  He related that it was an uneventful mission as the Japanese air force and navy had been destroyed.  For a few seconds after Little Boy was dropped, they thought the bomb was a dud, then came the blinding flash and mushroom cloud.

Vankirk still believes it was the right thing to do.

In 2007, he sold his log of the flight at auction for $300,000 and thinks Ross Perot bought it, "Hey, I took the money and run.  I had it laying around my home all these years in a steel box."  It had moved with him 14 times as he climbed the corporate ladder at DuPont.

Starnes kept his log from the USS Missouri which today can be seen in a display case at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.

Two of the Greatest.  --GreGen

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Never to be forgotten as we observe the 11th anniversary.

So glad bin Laden is no longer with us to smirk about what he did.

HMS Hood's Last Survivor Died in 2008

From the Oct. 6, 2008 BBC.

Back on September 5th, I wrote about the attempt to recover the HMS Hood's bell being called off.  Then I came across this story of the Hood's last survivor dying almost four years ago.  And, there were only three survivors.  Officially, 1415 died May 24, 1941, in the horrendous explosion after being hit by the guns of the German battleship Bismarck.

Ted Briggs survived until age 85, when he died October 4th.  He was just 18 at the ship's destruction and eventually became the head of the Hood Association.

"I was not a hero.  I was a survivor," he said.

He was standing on the compass platform, near the bridge that fateful day.  He served on the Hood from 1939 to 1941,  Afterwards, he was assigned duty on the HMS Mercury.

From Wikipedia.

His full name was Albert Edward Pryke "Ted" Briggs and born Match 1, 1923.  He first set eyes on the Hood when it was anchored off the River tees at age 12.  the next day, he tried to enlist inthe Navy, but was told he was too young and would have to wait until he turned 15. 

One week after his 15th birthday, he did just that.  He was extremely excited to be assigned duty on the HMS Hood July 29, 1939.

Losing the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

"Dutch Ended the War, and I Made It Official"-- Part 2

Jim Starnes read an article about Hiroshima and Vankirk and saw that they lived in the same town, Stone Mountain, Georgia, as a matter of fact, just down the street from him.  "We figured it's a real coincidence" two navigators of historical events to have ended up in the same place, same time."

Furthermore, both were born in February 1921, both signed up in the military before Pearl Harbor, both saw lots of action during the war, both taught navigation in the States and had successful careers and retired in 1986 as well as raising large families.

Starnes, an Atlanta native, attended Emory University before enlisting in the Navy.  He served on the light cruiser USS Boise which was badly damaged at Guadalcanal in October 1942 with 300 killed and wounded.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Dutch Ended the War, and I Made It Official"-- Part 1

From the August 28, 2010, Atlanta Journal Constitution "Stone Mountain residents were major players at WWII's end" by Bill Torpy.

Both Theordore "Dutch" Vankirk and Jim  Starnes, both in their 90s, live at Park Springs Retirement Home near Stone Mountain.

Vankirk was the navigator on the B-29 bomber Enola Gay August 6, 1945 when it dropped "Little Boy" on Hiroshima.  Morris Jeppson of Michigan died in March so Vankirk is the only remaining member of the crew of 12.

Four weeks later, on September 2, 1945, Starnes was officer of the deck on the USS Missouri and greeted the Japanese officials at the surrender.

Said Starnes, "I like to say Dutch ended the war, and I made it official--got them to sign on the dotted line.

However, the two didn't meet until 2005.

How They Met.  --GreGen

Saturday, September 8, 2012

USS Card (CVE-11)-- Part 2: World War II and Vietnam

The Card's third cruise began 24 Nov 1943.  On December 23rd, the hunter-killer group ran into a U-boat Wolfpack.  The Card had 15 contacts in just five hours.  The USS Schenck sank the U-645, but three U-boats ganged up on the USS Leary and sank it.  The Card had to dodge German submarines all night before breaking off action.

The escort carrier saw other actions in the Atlantic before being sent to the Pacific.  After the war, it was assigned to the "Magic Carpet" operation from August to December 1945 which brought the soldiers and Marines home.

It was deactivated until 1958 when it returned as the USNS Card and operated with a civilian crew transporting aircraft.

May 2, 1964, it was in Saigon, South Vietnam, when North Vietnamese frogman Lam Son Nao planted an explosive charge on the hull which blew a hole in the ship, causing it to settle into 20 feet of water.

It was raised and repaired.

Decommissioned in 1970, it was scrapped in 1971.

The Story of a Ship.  The Story of a Crew.  --GreGen

Bomb Blown Up in Wales

From the September 6th BBC News: Southwest Wales.

A World War II bomb was discovered near L.lan, elli, midway on the Welsh south coast and set off in a controlled explosion.  It was discovered near the Huntsman Performance Products chemical plant on Wednesday.  Moved to a safe area by police and RAF experts to be assessed, it was decided it couldn't be safely disarmed and then blown up.

There was no need for evacuation, but some nearby roads were closed.

Workmen at the plant site discovered it.  There was no metion whether it was Allied or German.

Those Old Bombs Are Still a Threat.  --GreGen

Doolittle Raider to Be Honored in South Dakota

From the September 7th Rapid City (SD) Journal "Belle Fourche's WWII Doolittle Raid pilot to be honored Saturday" by Milo Dailey Butte CountyPost.

Belle Fourche's Don Smith piloted one of the planes on the Doolittle Raid in April 1942 and made it back in time to be honored and then watch the Roundup Rodeo on July 4, 1941, with his father and mother, A.W. and Laura Smith.

Afterwards, he went to England to fly land-based bombers, but died in a November plane crash before the year was out.

Smith was pilot of the B-25 No. 15  and survived a sea landing near China and made his way through Japanese occupied territory to safety.

He will be honored at the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame in Spearfish, today, Saturday September 8th.  He is already in the south Dakota Hall of Fame.

Spearfish author Paul Higbee is writing a book on Young's life.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Friday, September 7, 2012

USS Card CVE-11-- Part 1

Since I wrote about the USS Card the past two days and I'd never heard of the ship, some more research was in order.  Thanks Wikipedia.

The Card was a Bogue-class escort carrier, originally was to be a C-3 cargo ship, but while under construction was converted to an escort carrier.  Laid down 27 Oct 1941, launched Feb 1942 and commissioned 8 Nov 1942.

Stats:  9,800 tons, length 496 feet, beam 69.6 feet, 890 officers and men and carried 28 planes.

Was the flagship of TG 21.14, a U-boat hunter-killer group and was very successful.  Their first operation sank the U-117 7 Aug 1943, U-664 9 Aug 1943, U-525 11 Aug and U-847 27 Aug.

On the second cruise 29 Sept to 9 Nov, planes from the Card spotted nest of four subs refueling.  On 4 Oct 1943 sank U-460 and U-422.  Nine days later the U-402 and 31 Oct the U-584.

On Nov 1st, one of the Card's escort ships, the USS Bone, got into gunfight with the U-405 and rammed the sub and sank it but was so badly damaged, it had to be sunk herself.

So, Donald Brown certainly saw a lot od action on the Card.

More Operations Coming.  --GreGen

Sadness Replaces World War II Reunions-- Part 2

Bernie Spozio said that war "was not exactly a picnic" and that once he was wounded slightly in the forehead by a Japanese hand grenade when his position was exposed to Japanese fire and illuminated by searchlights.  That experience "might be the most uncomfortable thng in the world.

His outfit shot down 45 Japanese aircraft and possibly destroyed another 45.

The USS Card was involved in sinking 12 U-boats as part of a task force of 4 destroyers.  It carried 28 Wildcats and Avengers planes.

A plaque honoring the USS Card will be placed at the Navy Memorial at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue during the reunion.

Talk to These People Now, Before They're Gone.  --GreGen

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sadness Replaces WWII Veteran's Reunions-- Part 1

From the September 23, 2010, Pittsburgh Tribune Review by Richard Robbins.

Donald Brown, 86, of Acme, Pa., attended the 28th and last reunion of 850 shipmates from the USS Card (CVE-11) an escort aircraft carrier that served in both the Second World War and Vietnam.  Only 12-13 were coming to this weekend's reunion in Washington, DC.

Said Brown, "I won't see my old salts anymore."  And the expression in his eyes said more than words could ever do.

Bernie Spozio of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, said the same thing about his old Army outfit that fought in the Philippines and Okinawa.  He got together two weeks ago "probably for the last time."

The Department of Veterans Affairs said that as of May 2010, there were just over 2 million World War II veterans still alive.  Each day, approximately 850 members of the "Greatest Generation" dies.

Brown's two "best buddies" were Merle "Lover Boy" Craig and Andy Ross Bunch of Earlington, Kentucky.  The three old veterans keep in touch and visit each other.

Brown recently moved into a senior residence.  After the war he lived in Acme and was a heavy equipment operator until he retired at 80.  Brown met his wife of 50 years, Eunice,  in Washington, DC, not long before the Card, an escort carrier and sub hunter, shoved off for duty in the North Atlantic and later the Pacific.  They met in Union Station where he was preparing to take the train to Baltimore where the Card was anchored.  They were married for fifty years.

Back When Folks Were Married and Stayed at the Same Jobs for a Long Time.  --GreGen

Dead Page: MoH Pearl-- League of Their Own-- Ace

I've been going through some of my stockpiled articles and found three World War II notables died during the week ending May 30, 2010, so will write about them now.


Retired Navy officer who was the oldest living Medal of Honor winner.  He was also the last-living Medal of Honor winner to get one for action at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  May 27, 2010.


Star first-baseman/woman for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League who inspired the Geena Davis character in the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own." May 17, 2010.


Legendary Air Force flying ace who logged 24 aerial victories in World War II and the Korean War.  May 11, 2010.

From the May 30, 2010, Chicago Tribune "Deaths in the News."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Recovery of HMS Hood's Bell Called Off

From the September 4th BBC News "Recovery of HMS Hood's ship's bell abandoned."

The Hood was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck May 24, 1941.  An effort to recover the ship's bell was called off Monday (Sept. 3rd) after ten days of effort.

The Hood if 9,200 feet deep and the wreck was discovered in 2001.

However, crews working on the Octopus, laid wreaths in honor of the 1415 who died that day.  There were only three survivors.

The bell lies off the wreck, otherwise there would be no attempt to retrieve it because it is classified as a war grave.

Let's Hope There Is Another Effort to Get It.  --GreGen

A History of the LST-49

LST was laid down August 17, 1943, at Pittsburgh, Pa., by Dravo Corporation and launched October 9th the same year.

It was assigned to the European Theater and participated at D-Day, June 6th and the Normandy operations until June 20th.  It was then transfered to the Asian-Pacific Theater, seeing action at Okinawa June 8-30, 1945.

After the war, it did occupation duty in the Far East and China until mid-March 1946.  Decommissioned June 11, 1946, it was sold Dec. 4, 1947.

I still don't know why they didn't name these ships.

The Story of a Ship.  GreGen

LST-49 Reunion

From the Sept. 21, 2010, Des Moines (Iowa) Register "World War II shipmates reunite."

September 13-16th, there was a reunion at the Sleep Inn in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, for the LST-49.  Out of 130 who served on the football-field-long ship, fewer than 30 remain.

The ship was at the invasion of Normandy.  Then, the ship cruised at 10 mph over to Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean and then back to Pearl Harbor.  It was going to be a floating post office for the planned invasion of Japan, but the war ended the day it arrived at Pearl.

Larry Palmer, the oldest crew member, shipped home and the ship then went to China.

Keneth Nuckols of Kentucky joined the Navy because he "didn't want to sleep on a fox hole" but says he had problems with some of the men on the ship.

Mike Bishop of Arizona said, "I was funny and I was disliked, and I'll tell you why:  I had the key to the water.  It was not saltwater; I'd turn the salt water on when I didn't like the guy."  The sailors were limited to only three minutes in the shower.

Once, 100 French nurses boarded the ship and the crew learned how to speak French real fast.

I Love These Stories.  --GreGen

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dead Page: Concentration Camp Survivor

HARRY  GZESH (1923-2012)

Harry Gzesh, 89,  was deported from Poland and forced to work for the German war machine at the start of World War II.  He survived stays at Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and the Dora camp where the V-2 rockets were manufactured.

His nephew Irwin Gzesh said, "If you were young and strong and could work, you had a chance of surviving." 

He was born and grew up in Lodz, Poland, where his family worked in bakeries.  In 1941, he was deported to Germany as a forced laborer.  He was at Bergen-Belsen when British forces liberated him in 1945.

He immediately ran over to the women's area, looking for his sisters.  He later learned that except for one younger brother (of 8 siblings), his entire family had died.  However, he did meet a family friend, Marsha Nisenbaum, whom he married a year later.

In 1949, he, his wife and brother came to Chicago and found work as bakers.  First at the Millionaire's club in Chicago before buying the Lincolnwood Bakery in the mid-1960s at Touhy and Crawford.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

French Flag Returned to Paris-- Part 3

From the September 21, 2010 Australian Times.

Henri Lucius Gregoire, a resistance fighter during the war, was on hand for the unfurling of the flag.  He was the one who hoisted that flag on the day of liberation.  He said: "The flag had been hidden in the Arc de Triophe museum.  We had occupied Radio Paris on the Champs Elysses.  there was shootong between the germans and the French--I remember that my corporal was felled by a mortar round.  That is when I saw that the flag had been deployed on the Arch."

The flag was hoisted on the Paris City Hall then taken to the Museum of Paris Liberation where it is now.

A Flag With a History Beyond What It Represents.  --GreGen

Monday, September 3, 2012

French Flag Returned to Paris-- Part 2

The flag quickly disappeared and its absence not really noticed.  However, the next day,adifferent and larger flag was fluttering from the Arc de Triomphe when French General Charles DeGaulle led a victory parade down the Champs-Elysees.

In 2008, French chef Armand Lourdin was preparing a meal for a group of American World War II veterans in Chappaqua, New York.  After dinner they sent for him, "Everybody was standing up, they had opened up the flag and they were all singing the Marseillaises in French-- they had learned the words."  One of the men said he had taken the flag when Paris was liberated and asked Lourdin to take it back to France on his upcoming vacation.

He gave it to relatives in south France and September 18, 2010, French firefighters hung it from the town hall.

Now, That Is An Interesting Story.  --GreGen

French Flag Returned to Paris-- Part 1

From the September 19, 2010,  Chronology World News "Remorseful US vet returns French war flag to Paris."

I originally started this entry on September 20, 2010, but didn't finish, in my Cooter's History Thing blog, but will do the whole thing here in this new blog.

The day Paris was liberated from the Germans in 1944, a young American soldier nabbed a souvenir, the French flag partisans had put up hanging from the Arc de Triomphe.  Now, 65 years later, the 13 yard tricolor flag was returned in a ceremony in southern France.  The American veteran is ashamed and wishes to remain anonymous.

French officials thank him and promise not to prosecute.  The flag is in excellent shape and has been carefully preserved all these years.

The French Resistance hung the flag Auust 25, 1944, after French General Philippe Leclerk's 2nd Armored Division, backed by Americans rolled into Paris after the Germans had surrendered after refusing to follow Hitler's orders to destroy the city.

More to Come (And I Promise Not Two Years From Now).  --GreGen

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Victory Ship Launched in Wilmington

From the August 28th Wilmington (NC) Star-News Looking Back column.

AUGUST 23, 1942

The Thomas Pinckney, the 25th Liberty ship launched by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company was to go down the ways this morning at 8:30.

Thomas Pinckney (1750-1828)  was a statesman, diplomat and veteran of both the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.  He was born in Charleston, SC, and served as governor of the state.

A total of 243 Liberty Ships were eventually launched at Wilmington during the war, one of the reasons for the American success.  Many of the Wilmington Liberties were named after North and South Carolinians.

How to Win a War.  --GreGen

Quaker Oats' Captain Sparks Home Defense Cards-- Part 4

Some more text.


"Only after gaining experience in lighter planes such as this Vultee trainer do student pilots at Randolph Field learn to fly our Army's powerful pursuit ships."


The DC-3 is the backbone not only of our civilian air travel, but also of the Army Air Transport Command.  It is used by more countries than any other plane in the world-- United States, British, France, Russia, Spanish, Chinese, Australia and other countries."


Quaker Oats' Captain Sparks Home Defense Series Cards-- Part 3: And, Dad

Some of the text from the cards.


"The Grumman "Wildcat" (F41-3) is a carrier based plane and is seeing good action in the Pacific against the Japs.  The Grumman "Wildcat" is called a phenomenal Navy fighter."

Notice the use of the word "Japs" which was very common back then.  It would definitely be considered politically incorrect today.


An interesting spelling of Tokyo.  Did the makers not know the correct spelling>

"The North American B-25 "Mitchell Bomber."  A powerful two motor job, heavily armed with great cruising radius.  The B-25 also sank the first sub for the Army Air Forces in the Atlantic."

My Dad was in reality Mr. Quaker Oats, a very loyal employee for the majority of his working life.  He was too young to serve in the war, graduating from Mt. Olive High School in North Carolina in 1946.  I have to wonder if he saw these Quaker Oats Sparkles cards?

Ill trade You...  --GreGen