Monday, September 30, 2013

Wilmington's Military Cutoff Road-- Part 4

Because of its heavy use, it was apparently paved by the Army soon after the war began. This new route and name first appeared on maps after the war.

The Military Cutoff terminus at Wrightsville Highway, as Oleander Drive was then known, has become a useful bypass around downtown Wilmington.

During the war, it was not used to as way to get to the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company on the Cape Fear River.


Wilmington's Military Cutoff Road-- Part 3

One person named Ev Smith had a comment and I'd have to say Ev Smith is one very informed person. According to Smith, the Military Cutoff Road was originally an unnamed and unpaved country road off US-17 used by troop convoys from Camp Davis to reach the Wrightsville Beach USO Club.

The August 28, 1941, Wilmington Star mentioned the road in connection with the opening of the club on Harbor Island.

Wrightsville Beach had many other attractions including the famous Lumina Pavillion and, of course, lots of bars. The club and Wrightsville Beach remained popular destinations throughout the war.


Wilmington's Military Cutoff Road-- Part 2

During the war it was a largely forested, undeveloped area until very recently. Even as late as the 1960s, the only major structure from Market Street to the intersection of Oleander Drive and Wrightsville Avenue, was the Buccaneer Gun Club, a firing range.

But now, there is plenty of development and more planned. And, of course, the construction and traffic woes that come along with it.

And, in Wilmington, the inevitable photo-enforced cameras.


Wilmington's Military Cutoff Road-- Part 1

In the last blog entry, I mentioned this road. I've been through the Wilmington area many times but am unfamiliar with the name, but obviously it is a major road with lots of traffic. And anyone who knows anything about Wilmington knows that there is lts of traffic--everywhere!!

From the June 10, 2009 Wilmington (NC) Star-News My Reporter "Why do they call it Military Cutoff?" by Ben Steelman.

I've also seen it called Military Cut-off Road.

It dates to World War II when Army vehicles used the route as a shortcut from Camp Davis (now Holly Ridge, NC) to Wrightsville Beach, bypassing downtown Wilmington.

Now, it is a major commercial thoroughfare with Mayfaire Town Center, Landfall Shopping Center, The Forum and other complexes. It has also become a major congestion problem.


Bits of War: Military Cutoff Road-- PH Survivor Dies-- First Pitch

1. MILITARY CUTOFF ROAD-- From the 9-11-13 Wilmington Star-News. The World War II Miliary Cutoff Road passed by by Mayfairz and Landfall.

2. PH SURVIVOR DIES-- James C. Beatty, 91, died Sept. 10th in Ithaca, NY.

3. FIRST PITCH-- From 7-28-13 Colorado Springs Gazette. Oldest Pearl Harbor survivor Jim Downing, 99, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the local minor league game. I wrote about this man back in August.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

War Bomber Flight Sparks Memories-- Part 3

Scott Welch was a World War II B-17 pilot.

He said that since the planes did not have a booster, steering it was quite hard. Because of that, a one-hour raid took the same amount of energy as eight hours of normal work. Usually, a crew would consist of nine men.

On his 21st mission, Welch says he was wounded by a piece of flak, which entered through his buttocks and went 12 inches up his back. He feels lucky he can still walk. Hey, the men would be seated or standing up and the flak came up from the ground.

By the time of his injury, Welch was so used to shells blowing up around him, that explosions didn't even make him flinch. His heart rate would stay the same.

Essentially, the bombers would be flying nearly wing-to-wing in flight formations and there was always the chance of a crash.

Those Men In Those Magnificent Flying Machines. --GreGen

Thursday, September 26, 2013

War Bomber Flight Sparks Memories-- Part 2

Daniel Feldman, a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association of Lake County called the plane a "flying museum." "Of the 12,746 B-17s built during World War II, almost half were destroyed. There are 10 to 12 left flying in the world.

The B-17 has a reputation for being extremely rugged, and it was loved by pilots and their crews because it got them home."

Scott Welch was a World War II B-17 pilot who readily agrees with Feldman. He also went up along with Hazel Krauklis and said, "B-17 was the most responsive airplane. It took a lot of strength to fly it because there was no booster. If you had to roll [the plane in midair], it took a lot out of you."


War Bomber Flight Sparks Memories-- Part 1

From the Aug. 22-28 Lake County (Il) Journal by Jesse Carpender.

"The last time Hazel Krauklis took a flight on a World War II B-17 bomber plane, it was 1944 and she was a sheet metal worker with the Women's Air Corps in Kansas.

"On August 19, the 89-year old woman got to experience it again.

"I'm used to seeing them in army colors," Krauklis said as she boarded a B-17 at Waukegan Regional Airport." She and five other veterans took a ride on the plane which was built in late 1943.

She said that it was rare for women to fly in the bombers and the only reason she got the chance to do it was in 1944 because of a rule saying that you got to be on board for the test flight if you helped build it. I did not know that WACs also built the planes.

--Quite a Woman. --GreGen

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Naval Aviator Hero Edward "Butch" O'Hare-- Part 4

Edward O'Hare's bravery and success was some of the first good news the United States had during the war. President Franklin Roosevelt presented the now-Lt. Cmdr. O'Hare the Medal of Honor on April 21. The citation called his feat "one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation."

Sadly, O'Hare would not survive the war. America's first World War II naval ace was shot down in November 1943 in a nighttime dogfight defending his ship from a torpedo plane attack in the Pacific. His death was front-page news across the nation.

So, the Next Time You Fly Into Chicago's O'Hare Airport. --GreGen

U.S. Pearl Harbor Losses: Cruisers and Destroyers



LIGHT DAMAGE: USS New Orleans, USS Detroit, USS San Francisco, USS Helena, USS Honolulu.


HEAVILY DAMAGED: USS Shaw. (With that explosion I have to wonder how they were ever able to get the ship back in service.


U.S. Pearl Harbor Losses: Battleships


TOTAL LOSSES: USS Oklahoma, USS Arizona, USS Utah (former battleship, used as target ship); 



LIGHT DAMAGE: USS Pennsylvania, USS Maryland, USS Tennessee.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Naval Aviator Hero Edward "Butch" O'Hare-- Part 3

The nine Japanese bombers O'Hare was flying against had three guns each and nothing better to do than shoot at him. That did not deter O'Hare and he flew directly at them and in less than five minutes, shot down five of the enemy and damaged a sixth.

By then, planes from the Lexington were approaching and the Japanese broke off the action. Only one bomber returned to base.

Coming just three months after Pearl Harbor this was a great jolt of good news for the United States. (Doolittle's Raid did not come until mid-April.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Naval Aviator Hero Edward "Butch" O'Hare-- Part 2

Lt. O'Hare was flying solo support for the aircraft carrier USS Lexington along with its four cruiser and ten destroyer escort group on February 20, 1942, America's "Dark Days" of the war.

The rest of the Lexington's aircraft had just repulsed a Japanese bomber attack and were on the ship's deck refueling and rearming when a second squadron of nine Japanese bombers arrived on the scene.

This was the 28-year-old O'Hare's first action, and he immediately threw himself into the fray, knowing that if the bombers got through, the Lexington and its 1,700-man crew would certainly be lost.

Flying in a fighter, O'Hare had speed and maneuverability on his side, but he was heavily outgunned.


Naval Aviator Hero Edward "Butch" O'Hare-- Part 1

From the March 17, 2013, Chicago Tribune "Chicago Flashback: Why JFK came to town" by Stephan Benzkofer.

 Today, in my Cooter's History Thing Blog, I wrote about President Kennedy coming to Chicago in March 1963 to dedicate O'Hare Airport and Butch's father, Edward O'Hare's gangland connections.

Whereas his father's reputation was one of ill-repute, his son's definitely wasn't. Edward "Butch" O'Hare was a hero of the first order, whose actions saved the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in February 1942. Besides the men who would have perished, the United States could ill afford to lose one of its major ships after the disaster at Pearl Harbor.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Deaths: Decorated Japanese-American-- Part 3

Mr. Yatsushiro was assigned to an anti-tank infantry company that used lightweight aircraft to secure ground for the Allies. But, the motorless gliders were unpredictable and prone to crashes. /// After the war, he returned to Hawaii where he fell in love with his wife, Anne. It was love at first sight. They were married for 65 years until Mr. Yatsushiro died December 27, 2012, at age 91. //// The GI Bill enabled him to study electrical engineering at Trine University in Indiana. He later worked at Dormeyer Industries and Controls in Chicago where he received nine patents. /// A real American Hero. --GreGen

Deaths: Decorated Japanese-American-- Part 2

Earlier this month I wrote about Kenji Yatsushiro, a member of the famed 442nd Regimet of Japanese-Americans who really made a name for themselves in World War II. /// He was born in the town of Wailuku on the Hawaiian island of Maui. His father died when he was five and he had to go to work in the sugar-cane fields where, for lunch, they'd just strip back the bark on the cane and munch on the sugar. /// On December 7, 1941, his family heard aircraft overhead which turned out to be Japanese planes on their way to attack Pearl Harbor. /// Mr. Yatsushiro was one of many "Nisei"-- second-generation Americans born to Japanese parents, who enlisted. His son said, ""Everybody suspected them of still being loyal to the emperor." This made these Nisei "deadset on proving themselves." /// --GreGen

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Last week, I wrote about the death of Kenji Yatsushiro, a Japanese-American who served during World War II, despite all the bad feelings toward his group after Pearl Harbor. He was in the 442nd Regiment, comprised of all Japanese -Americans. /// The regiment's most famous member, the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) said that when the 442nd returned home after the war, they "found themselves to be ... the most decorated military unit in the history of the United States." He said that in 2011, when the whole regiment received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the country. /// They received 18,000 individual awards from September 1943 to September 1945. Included in this number were 21 Medals of Honor; 52 Distinguished Service crosses; 560 Silver Stars; more than 4,000 Bronze Stars; 9,486 Purple Hearts, and seven Presidential Unit Citations. /// No other unit has ever received so many honors. /// Pretty Impressive. --GreGen

Monday, September 16, 2013


I just found out via some e-mails that the process being used to raise the Costa Concordia (and the same one used to upright the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor) is called parbuckled/parbuckling. ---GreGen

Using the Oklahoma Raising on the Costa Concordia

The efforts to right the stricken ocean liner Costa Concordia in the Mediterranean Sea are the same that were used to raise the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor from 1942-1943. It worked then, but will it work again on a ship so much bigger than the Oklahoma.

Back then 21 derricks were attached to the Oklahoma and had strong wires attached to 21 wenches ashore on Ford Island.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Deaths: Hitler's Body Guard-- Part 2

Mr. Misch died September 5th and said he never knew anything about the Final Solution. He will have a book coming out in October titled "The Last Witness."

Born in present-day Poland at age 20 he joined the SS and later the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler-- a Berlin based unit founded as Hitler's own personal body guard.

He was later attached to the regular German Army and was in the vanguard of the Polish Blitz where he was wounded.

Then he and Johannes Hentschel were assigned as Hitler's personal body guards with additional duties as assistants. They were often with the leader at his Alpine retreat in Berchtesgaden and at Wolf's Lair.

He spent his the last 8-10 days of the war underground and was a prisoner of the Soviets for nine years. The stories this man could tell.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Deaths: Decorated Japanese-American-- Part 1: Oops, Wrong Camp

From the Feb. 11, 2013, Chicago Sun-Times "Decorated veteran of World War II."


In one battle against the Germans, the member of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team was so close to them that he was sure he could hear his heartbeat. But, his observational skills along with his ability to judge height saved him.

The 442nd was on a mission to save the "Lost Battalion" trapped behind enemy lines in southern France in 1944. In the dark of night, he stumbled into a camp, sat down and then realized the men in the camp were much taller than the 5'5" to 5'6" the men in his regiment were.

He stood up and quickly moved out of camp, undiscovered. --GreGen

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Deaths: Hitler's Body Guard-- Part 1: Rochus Misch


Adolf Hitler's bodyguard and last remaining witness to his last hours in that Berlin bunker. As an SS Staff Sergeant, he accompanied Hitler nearly everywhere, calling him "Boss."

After Hitler's suicide, Misch remained at the bunker he called "The Coffin of Death" for days before escaping the Soviets. Misch has no regrets or apologies for performing his job. "He was no brute. He was no monster. He was no superman."


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Paperclip Becomes a WW II Symbol

From Gizmodo "How the Humble Paperclip Became a Secret World War II Symbol."

In April 1940, Germany invaded Norway and soon occupied it. By 1945, some 400,000 German troops were stationed there.

In Autumn 1940 students at Oslo University began wearing paperclips on their lapels as a non-violent symbol of resistance. Eventually, paperclip jewelry became popular.

Why was the paperclip chosen? Some say it is to exhibit the binding together of the resistnce. Others believe that Johan Vaaler of Norway, the supposed inventor of the paperclip was the reason. The Germans eventually discovered the symbolism in the paperclips and wearing one became a criminal offense.

Mama Don't 'Low No Paperclips 'Round Here.  --GreGen

Monday, September 9, 2013

Deaths: Black Nurse Dorothea Anderson


One of the very few black nurses to serve in the segregated American forces during World War II. Died August 19th in Chicago.

Grew up in Georgia and studied nursing before joining the Army in 1942. Most black nurses at the time took care of black military personnel.

However, Mrs. Anderson was one of fewer than 500 nurses deployed overseas and took care of German prisoners.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Destroyer Squadron Nine

From the USS DeHaven Sailors Association.

In keeping with the USS Somers and the Neutrality Patrol operations in the mid-Atlantic.

The squadron was formed in 1920 and homeported in Charleston, SC, and consisted of 18 World War I "Four Pipers" (four funnels). In July 1921, the unit moved to Newport, Rhode Island, until May 1930 when it was broken up.

It was regrouped in 1937 as war approached, only this time based in the Pacific Ocean until November 1942 when it was homeported in Recife, Brazil. It's mission was submarine hunting, patrol and escort duty with occasional flurries of action against U-boats.

They continued operations until August of 1944 when it was dissolved. Shortly after World War II ended, it was reestablished, this time based out of San Diego.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

USS Somers (DD-31): Neutrality Patrol, Normandy and Mediterranean

From the History Navy site.

The USS Somers (1937-1947) was the first of a five ship class of 1850-ton destroyers built at Kearny, New Jersey, and commessioned December 1937. In 1939, it was assigned to the United States' Neutrality Patrol and captured the Odenwald with the USS Omaha on November 6, 1941.

On 21 November 1942, it sank the German blockade-runner Annelise Essbergen. In January and February, it escorted the French battleship Richelieu from Africa to the United States.

In May 1944, it was reassigned to convoy duty in the North Atlantic. In June and early July, it escorted shipping across the English Channel to the newly captured Normandy beaches. Then it went to the Mediterranean in August and September.

On 15 August 1944, it sank two German corvettes while assisting in the south France landings. After that, it was escorting trans-Atlantic convoys until Germany surrendered.

Decommissioned October 1945, it was sold for scrap May 1947.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Omaha and Somers Receive Last U.S. Navy Prize Money for the Odenwald Capture

From Wikipedia.

The Odenwald was carrying 3800 tons of scarce rubber for Germany's war effort when captured by the Omaha and Somers November 6, 1941, one month before U.S. entry into the war. At the time, the Odenwald was disguised as the American merchant ship Willmote.

Of course, being captured while America was still officially neutral led to some question as to the seizure's legality. The Odenwald was taken to Puerto Rico where an Admiralty Court ruled that since the German ship had an illegal American registration, there were sufficient grounds for its confiscation. As such the American crews could claim prize money.

A legal case began concerning salvage rights. Since the Odenwald's crew was trying to scuttle the ship, that was considered the equivalent of abandoning the ship.

The case was finally settled in 1947 with members of the boarding parties and prize crew entitled to $3,000 apiece in prize money while the crews of the Omaha and Somers received two months pay and allowances. I imagine there was some partying after that decision.

This was the last-ever prize money awarded by the U.S. Navy. Prize money was also a big deal during the Civil War and War of 1812.


Some More on Singer Vera Lynn

From Wikipedia.

She enjoyed popularity before the war. In 1941, during the darkest days of the war for England, she began her popular radio show Sincerely Yours, where she sang songs for British armed forces overseas according to their requests.

She was best known for 1942.s "We'll Meet Again." and was born in 1917.


"The Forces' Sweetheart": Vera Lynn

From the August 18-24, 2013, American Profile Magazine "Ask American Profile."

QUESTION: Who is singing "We'll Meet Again" at the end of the movie "Dr. Strangelove" as an atom bomb is exploding? R.L. Chiccitt, Pittsburgh, Pa.

"That is British singer, congwriter and actress Vera Lynn, 96, who performed concerts for British troops in Burma, India and Egypt during World War II, earning her the nickname "The Forses' Sweetheart.

In addition to that tune, her other hits include "The White Cliffs of Dover, "There'll Always Be an England," "My Son, My Son" and "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart," which in 1952 became the first song recorded by a foreign artist to hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard charts.

In 2009 at age 92, she became the oldest livung artist to top the British albums chart."


Still On the Neutrality Patrol.

Ever since the end of July, I have been doing deeper research on the United States Neutrality Patrol established before the war. This came about when I found out that a ship had been in it. One source led to the capture of the German blockade-runner Odenwald.

I didn't know about German blockade-runners so did research on that (I am also a Civil War Naval buff and, of course, those Confederate blockade-runners). That led to medals German blockade-runners received from the German government.

Then, the history of the light cruiser USS Omaha, which captured the Odenwald with the USS Somers. Next, I will write about the destroyer USS Somers.

Why It Takes So Long to Do These Blogs. --GreGen

Monday, September 2, 2013

USS Omaha (CL-4-- Part 2): More Blockade Runners and France

The Omaha was 556 feet long and mounted ten 6-inch guns and had six torpedo tubes.

On January 4-5, 1944, the Omaha and destroyer USS Jouett (DD-396) sighted two German blockade-runners, the Rio Grande and Bergenland. The crews of both sank their ships to avoid capture, denying Germany of much-needed rubber. The American ships rescued the survivors.

August 1944 found the Omaha in the Mediterranean covering the Allied invasion of southern France. The Omaha did much damage firing at targets in the Toulon area. After that, it was back to the South Atlantic where the Omaha was at the end of the war.

It was decommissioned November 19, 1945 and scrapped at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1946.


USS Omaha (CL-4)-- Part 1: A Light Cruiser

From Wikipedia.

Last month I wrote about the capture of the German blockade runner Odenwald by the USS Omaha and USS Somers of the United States Neutrality Patrol which was in place before the country entered the war. 

The USS Omaha was commissioned in 1923, the first of a ten-ship class of 7050 light cruisers built in Tacoma, Washington. It served in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans for 17 years, often as fleet flagship.

With the outbreak of war in Europe, the Omaha joined the Neutrality Patrol and captured the Odenwald November 6, 1941, a month before the United States joined the war. It continued operations afterwards as part of the Fourth Fleet, based in Brazil. It continued searching for German commerce raiders and blockade-runners.


Spirit of '45-- Part 2: A Big Band and A Prisoner

After the ceremonies, the Lake Area Swing Band played 1940s-style swing and Big Band music.

Bob and Helen Tittle of McHenry have been married for 67 years. Bob, 89, served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

I have heard this band many times at the Fox Lake American Legion and Dog 'N Suds. With their male and female singer and sixteen pieces, this is as close as you can get to that kind of music.

Forty World War II veterans were recognized. One was Tony Gargano, 93, of my home town, Spring Grove, who was a POW for four years. He had been a Navy petty officer and remembers while in prison, all he had to eat every day was 5.5 ounces of rice and 8 ounces of tea to drink. He had to sleep on the floor. I imagine he was captured in the early fighting in the Pacific, perhaps the Philippines or Wake Island.

I'll Be Back Next Year. --GreGen