Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Our Wall

The past two days I have been writing about the death of Battle of Britain pilot William Walker at age 99 in 2012.  He also wrote the poem "Our Wall" which is inscribed on the Battle of Britain Memorial at the Cliffs of Dover.  Here's the poem:

Here inscribed the names of friends we knew
Young men with whom we often flew
Scrambled to many angels high
They knew that they or friends might die

Many were very scarcely trained
And many badly burnt or maimed
Behind each name a story lies
Of bravery in summer skies

Though many brave and unwritten tales
Were simply told in vapor trails
Many now lie in scared graves

And many rest beneath the waves
Outnumbered every day they flew
Remembered here as just the few.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Oldest Battle of Britain Pilot Dies in 2012-- Part 2

William Walker (1913-2012)

The obituary read that he had "taken to the skies for the last time."

He was called to full-time service September 1, 1939 and posted to Cambridge November 15th.

He was at RAF Brice Norton in Oxfordshire on Feb. 17, 1940 and at the end of his courses, was commissioned and posted to 616 Squadron at Leconfield in East Yorkshire 18 June.

On August 26, 1940, a large group of German bombers along with  a heavy fighter escort was engaged off the Kent Coast by British Defiants, Hurricanes and Spitfires.  Walker's plane was hit and he was forced to bail out over the water and clung to a shipwreck on the Goodwin Sands before he was rescued by a fishing boat, transferred to an RAF launch and brought to shore at Ramsgate

As Winston Churchill said about the RAF pilots and crews, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."


Monday, December 29, 2014

Oldest Battle of Britain Pilot Dies in 2012-- Part 1

From the October 23, 2012, Yahoo! News.

William Walker died October 23, 2012  His poem to his comrades is part of the national monument of the Battle of Britain.  Walker was a Spitfire fighter pilot who was shot down and wounded August 26, 1940.

He wrote the poem "Our Wall" which is inscribed on the memorial at the Cliffs of Dover to the nearly 3,000 men who died during the German air attacks on Britain from June to October 1940.

Walker had joined the RAF in 1939 and on his first solo flight managed to crash his plane.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Cremated Remains of British Soldier Included 6 Ounces of Shrapnel

From the October 19, 2012, New York Daily News "Cremated remains of WWII British Army veteran included 6 oz. of shrapnel from land mine" by Victoria Cavaliere.

Ronald Brown, 94, died last week in England and was cremated.  When his ashes were returned, along with them came six ounces of shrapnel.

He had been plagued by knee problems for seventy years after he stepped on a land mine in France in 1944 and had thought it was just a bullet.

Brown joined the Army at age 21 and stepped on the mine two months after D-Day as Allied forces fought their way to Berlin.

His old wound would set off airport scanners when he would fly to the United States or Australia.

I Told You It Hurt.  --GreGen

Friday, December 26, 2014

A World War II Edition of Monopoly: Just the Thing for Your Christmas Gift

From the October 15, 2012, San Diego Union-Times "World War II comes home as a board game" by Peter Rowe.

It is called "Monopoly: America's World War II: We're All in This Together."  It was inspired by a Louisiana high school history class project and designed by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans with the purpose to entertain and educate.

The center of the board features the Iwo Jima flag raising.  Community Chest has been replaced with Home Front, featuring Rosie the Riveter.  Chance cards are now called Allies.

Instead of Railroads, you have Red Ball Express and Planes Flying Over the Hump.

Camps and headquarters have replaced houses and hotels.

Tokens include Sherman Tanks and boots.

It is a limited edition and costs $39.99 and is sold at the museum and Wal-Marts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Strength of U.S. Navy After World War II, 1947-1957

MINE WARFARE--  55, 54, 52, 56 (1951) 91, 114, 121, 117, 112, 113, 104

PATROL--  74, 50, 50, 33, (1951) 40, 29, 23, 22, 15, 11, 12

AMPHIBIOUS--  107, 86, 60, 79, (1951) 208, 189, 226, 223, 175, 139, 134

AUXILIARY--  306, 272, 257, 218, (1951) 269, 309, 287, 288, 262, 236, 224

TOTAL SURFACE SHIPS--  198, 180, 174, 161, (1951) 262, 322, 324, 326, 333, 339, 355

TOTAL SHIPS--  842, 737, 690, 634, (1951) 980, 1097, 1122, 1113, 1030, 973, 967

Starting in 1951, there was a new category SSG/SSBS. SSG were guided missile submarines.  SSBS were ballistic guided missile subs. Starting in 1956 there was a new category called Command Ship.

SSG/SSBS--  (1956) 1, 1, 2, 2, (1955) 1, 2, 2
COMMAND SHIP--  (1956) 1, 1

Some Interesting Numbers.  --GreGen

Strength of U.S. Navy After World War II, 1947-1957

After the war, numerous warships were put into mothballs, sold, or scrapped.  There was an increase from 1951 to 1953 during the Korean War.

BATTLESHIPS--  4, 2, 1, 1 (1951) 3, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2  (The WWII high was 23).

FLEET CARRIERS--  14, 13, 11, 10, (1951) 17, 19, 19, 20, 21, 22, 22  (The WWII high was 28)

ESCORT CARRIERS--  8, 7, 7, 4, (1951) 15, 19, 19, 18, 17, 16, 16  (WWII high was 71)

CRUISERS--  32, 32, 18, 13, (1951) 15, 19, 19, 18, 17, 16, 16   (WWII high was 72)

DESTROYERS--  138, 134, 143, 137, (1951) 206, 243, 247, 247, 249, 250, 253  (WWII high was 377)

FRIGATES--   24, 12, 12, 10, (1951) 38, 56, 57, 64, 70, 84  (WWII high was 376)

SUBMARINES--  80, 74, 79, 72, (1951) 83, 104, 108, 108, 108, 108, 113  (WWII high was 232)


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Build Up of U.S. Navy Before, During and After the War-- Part 3

1938 to 1946.

I'm not sure exactly what they classified as surface ships.

SURFACE WARSHIPS--  159, 178, 237, 225, (1942) 282, 635, 827, 833, 226

TOTAL ACTIVE SHIPS--  380, 394, 478, 790, (1942) 1782, 3699, 6084, 6768, 1248


Buildup of U.S. Navy before, During and After World War II-- Part 2

For the years 1939 to 1946.

FRIGATES--  0, 0, (1940) 0, 0, 0, (1943) 234, 376, 361, 35

SUBMARINES--  54, 58, 64, 112, (1942) 133, 172, 230, 232, 85

MINE WARFARE--  27, 29, 36, 135, (1942) 323, 551, 614, 586, 112

PATROL--  34, 20, 19, 100, (1942) 515, 1050, 1183, 1204, 119

AMPHIBIOUS--  0, 0, 0, 0, (1942) 121, 673, 2147, 2547, 275

AUXILIARY--  101, 104, 116, 210, (1942) 392, 564, 993, 1267, 406

Again, American war production sure shifted into high gear after 1941.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Build Up of U.S. Navy Before During and After the War-- Part 1

Using U.S. Navy records, here's a year-by-year look at the numbers of different types of warships in the Navy from 1938 to 1946.

BATTLESHIPS--   15, 15, (1940) 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, (1944) 23, 23, 10

FLEET CARRIERS--  5, 5, (1940) 6, 7, (1942) 4, 19, (1944) 25, 28, 15

ESCORT CARRIERS--  0, 0, (1940) 0, 1, 12, 35 (1944) 65, 71, 10

CRUISERS--  32, 36, (1940) 37, 37, 39, 48, (1944) 61, 72, 36

DESTROYERS-- 112, 127, (1940) 185, 171, 224, 332, (1944) 367, 377, 145

There was a big drop in the numbers after the war was over.  Also the drop in aircraft carriers in 1942 due to sinkings.  But after 1942, the American industry kicked into overdrive.

Some Interesting Numbers.  --GreGen

"Wee Vee" Vets Vistit W. Va.-- Part 3: "Like Living in a Big City"

George Gackle was in the USS West Virginia's pay office but his battle station was ammunition passer.  He described aboard the "Wee Vee" as being "like living in a big city.  I came from a North Dakota town of 750 and there were 2,000 people aboard the West Virginia.  There was a barbershop in my hometown and four or five on the ship."

Joseph Variot said there were about 1,100 people on his mailing list when he took over as head of the West Virginia reunion organization 15 years ago.  Now it is down to about 400 with only about a dozen on the average attending recent reunions.

The USS West Virginia artifacts on display at the W,V, Culture Center include a crewman's cap, a 16-inch gun cover, an incline meter, a bell from the ship's motor launch and a metal plate listing safety orders for the ship's 16-inch magazine.

The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and scrapped in 1961.

The 2011 reunion of the ship in Galveston had a very low turnout and they voted to have just one more.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Wee Vee" Vets Visit West Virginia-- Part 2; Bomb on a Stretcher

On April 1, 1945, while bombarding Okinawa, the USS West Virginia was hit by a kamikaze.  A bomb from it penetrated to the second deck but fortunately didn't explode.  Said Joseph Variot: "They rolled it onto a stretcher and carried it up to the deck, where it was disarmed and cast overboard."

Four sailors died and 77 were wounded in the crash.  West Virginia veteran Herbert Crask of Arizona related that one of those killed then was the telephone operator where he would have been had he not had his knees messed up at Iwo Jima which had landed him in a hospital ashore.


Friday, December 19, 2014

"Wee Vee" Vets Visit West Virginia-- Part 1: Will the Real Carl Newton Please Stand Up?

From the September 28, 2012, West Virginia Gazette Mail.

Eleven former crew members of the battleship attended the reunion.  "Wee Vee" was the name sailors used referring to the ship.

One was Anthony Reiter of St. Paul, Minnesota.  Joseph Variot, 83, was on the ship at the end of the war.  The ship was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay because it had been at Pearl Harbor during the opening attack.

Joseph Variot joined the Navy at age 15 using a friend's birth certificate.  He was assigned to the USS West Virginia in 1944 at age 16 under the name Carl Wayne Newton.  The battleship was being restored and refitted from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when he joined.

After the Battle of Surigao Strait, he became aware of his mortality and came clean about his age and name so his parents could claim the insurance and benefits if something happened to him.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Parachute Bomb Found in Britain

From the September 29, 2012, BBC News Cornwall "World War II parachute mine found in Helford River is detonated."

A German 6-foot-by-3-foot bomb carrying 1540 pounds of explosives was found by scuba divers and towed out to sea where it was detonated.


Bits of War Back in 2012: Tank Found-- Jewish Observance-- Wee Vee Reunion

Bits of War.  2012

1.  TANK FOUND--  A rare Wold War Ii tank was discovered under the mud of the Warta River in eastern Poland.  The British-made Valentine tank is extra important because there are no other preserved examples in Europe.  It served in the Red Army of the Soviet Union and is thought to have sunk in the river in 1945 during the final thrust into Germany.

2.  JEWISH OBSERVANCE--  October 3, 1942, The Jewish Welfare Board of the Army and Navy Committee announced that final preparations were being made to entertain Jewish servicemen in the Wilmington, N.C., area for the observance of the High Holy Days.  Aiding in the effort were Rabbi Thurman, Rabbi Bronstein, Chaplain Blumenthal and Mr. Snyder.

3.  WEE VEE REUNION--  Eleven men who had served on the battleship USS West Virginia during World War II were present as were two who were on it at the Pearl Harbor attack.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lester Kent Died in 2012-- Part 2: "Cool Water"

They started throwing everything overboard, including gasoline.  To fire up the generator to send out an S.O.S. signal, they collected fluid from cigarette lighters.

He remembers that the crew would play music to pass the time and he put his Sons of the Pioneers songbooks into a waterproof plastic bag and went topside where he had some cocktails.  Upon jumping into the freezing water, he swam to a lifeboat, where once aboard, he sang "Cool Water" (by the Sons of the Pioneers) to entertain the other shivering sailors.

"The cocktails helped a lot but was wearing off fast."

Some of the sailors were hanging onto the outside of the lifeboat and gradually began slipping under the water.  The bow of the Borie crashed into his lifeboat, tossing Mr. Kent into that cold water again.

Eventually he was brought out of the sea by another boat where a doctor restimulated blood circulation in his legs.

Quite the Ordeal.  Like I Said, "The Greatest Generation."  --GreGen

Lester Kent, 88, Died in 2012-- Part 1: Survived USS Borie Sinking in Arctic

From the October 2, 2012, Press Democrat "Les Kent" by Cathy Bussewitz.

Lester Kent, 88, from Sebastopol who was one of the 129 who survived (27 died) the sinking of the USS Borie which was sunk in October 1943 in Arctic waters after a fight with a U-boat, died September 23, 2012.

He was born in Texas but grew up in Colorado.  Mr. Kent joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor and served on the USS Thrush, USS J. Fred Talbot and finally the USS Borie, which was sunk October 31, 1943, just south of the Arctic Circle.

"Our searchlights were on the sub, which was good for our gun crews, but also gave the sub something to shoot at."  The ship's bow got hung up on the U-boat and, "We had to use handguns, flare pistols and just about everything imaginable to fling at the Germans, even a nice coffee mug from Brazil and cans of condensed milk."

The Borie broke free but had been badly damaged and began flooding.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

USS Missouri 16-inch Gun Comes to San Francisco

From the October 1, 2012, Huffington Post, San Francisco "WWII Gun in San Francisco" Weapon Finds New Home in Marin Highlands."

A 16-inch gun from the USS Missouri which was on the ship when the Japanese surrendered is to be installed on a cliff at the entrance to San Francisco Bay.

The 68-foot-long, 236,000 pound gun will be painted and displayed at the Battery Townsley fortification in the Golden gate National recreation Area.  It made a two-day trip from the naval weapons station at Hawthorne, Nevada.

The gun was one of three on the turret that have long since been removed.  It could fire a 2,100 pound shell to a 25-mile distance.

The battery and another one like it at Fort Funston became models for other ones planned for defense on the east and west coasts of the United States during the war.

Battery Townsley fired its guns for the first time in 1940 during practice.


Wilmington at War: Growth of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company

SEPTEMBER 24, 1942:  With 15,000 employees, the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company became the largest industrial employer in the state, eclipsing R.J. Reynolds which had 13,000.

The North Carolina Shipbuilding employees peaked in 1943 at 21,000.

During the war, about 6,000 workers left to join the Armed Forces and, of those, at least 33 died.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wilmington at War: College Football and Lighting

From the Dec. 2, 2012, Wilmington (MC) Star-News "Back Then."

SEPTEMBER 18, 1942:  North Carolina State and Davidson were having a big football game at Wilmington's Legion Stadium on September 19th.  reserve seats were $2 and general admission $1.25.  The game was set to begin at 4:45.  As such, it must have been lighted.

Most of the lighting restrictions were evidently along the beaches.

This was the first game of the year for the Wolfpack and ended in a 0-0 tie.  State also played Clemson in Charlotte that year.


To Japan, Pearl Harbor Just Another Battle-- Part 2

Current Japanese textbooks have little to say about Pearl Harbor and, when asked about it, Japanese people say they have little knowledge of it.  They do know, however, that the attack came in context with the fighting going on elsewhere.

One picture of Japanese feelings the subject can be found at the Yasukuni Shrine, one of the most controversial sites in Japan.  It memorializes 14 former Japanese officials who, after World War II, were found guilty of crimes against peace.

However, it is the adjacent museum of military history that tells the story.  According to the text: "At the White House, the President, Secretary of State and secretaries of War and Navy meet and discuss war with Japan.  They explore means to maneuver them (Japan) into the position of firing the first shot without allowing much danger to ourselves."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it continues, ordered his subordinates "to prepare for a surprise attack, which is likely to occur on December 1."

The text is written in English and Japanese so visitors won't miss the Japanese position of what led to the attack.

I am familiar somewhat with this place, but am not sure it represents the attitude of most Japanese.


Monday, December 15, 2014

To Japan, Pearl Harbor Is Just Another Battle-- Part 1

From the December 7, 2014, Chicago Tribune by Albert Siegel, McClatchy-Tribune News.

Sunday marked the 73rd anniversary of that famous day back on December 7, 1941 when 2,403 Americans were killed and the United States was drawn into World War II.

But, with the exception of a fireworks display to honor the dead in Nagaoka, which took place Tokyo time on December 8th, it will pass largely unremarked in Japan.(I'm not sure if the fireworks were to honor American dead at the battle or not.)

For the Japanese, the Pearl Harbor attack wasn't the start of the war, but the continuation of the struggle to keep Japan of outside influence that had been going on since 1853 (when the United states forcibly opened Japan to trade).


World War II Ships Sunk Off the Carolinas Coast

From Coastal

The Hebe and St. Cathan are also known as the Twin Cities Wreck.  The Hebe was a Dutch merchant vessel and the St. Cathan was a British subchaser.  The two ships collided during black out conditions in 1942.

They are now two of the South Carolina's most popular shipwrecks for advances divers.  They are 1/4 mile apart in 90-110 feet of water.  There are artifacts, tropical and game fish as well as sand tiger sharks in the spring and fall.  A full day trip for $115 a person.

The Rariton is a 251-ft. steel freighter which ran aground off Frying Pan Shoals, N.C., in 1942.  It is broken into two pieces in 90 feet of water.  The bow and stern are intact.  This is for experienced divers and costs $110 for a full day trip.


1942: U-boat Menace Off N.C. Coast-- Part 4

Erich Torp is credited with sinking 30 ships and received the Oak Leaves and Swords Medal.  He said: "We had a briefing before Drum Beat (the name of the operation), all commanders.  We had hydrographic surveys, many from merchantmen before the war.

"The North and South Carolina coasts were perfect for interdiction from the refineries in the Gulf region to and from New York.  Our job was to intercept them going north, before they turned west to join convoys.

"Night attacks were preferable, and surface attacks were also preferred, allowing us to use greater surface speed and chase them down, often intersecting their course where we could lay in ambush."


Saturday, December 13, 2014

1942: U-boat Menace Off North Carolina-- Part 3: U-123 vs. SS Liebre

Reinhard Hardegan pf the U-123 had a rare day-light attack on the SS Liebre seventeen miles east of Cape Lookout at 7:18 a.m. on April 2, 1942.  His first torpedo missed as the ship zig-zagged. This started a 35-minute running battle.

The U-123, fully surfaced, shelled the ship with its 105 mm deck gun.  The Liebre's crew abandoned ship 15 minutes later as the generator, radio room and aft works were hit, starting fires.  The ship was badly damaged and had 9 dead of its 34-man crew.

Seven more died in the water.  The British motor torpedo boat HMS MTB-332 responded to the ship's SOS call before the radio room was hit.  Its arrival forced Herdegen to abandon his attack and crash dive.  The U.S. Coast Guard assisted in towing the Liebre to port for repairs.


Friday, December 12, 2014

1942: U-boat Menace Off North Carolina-- Part 2

Anytime a U-boat attacked, it had to clear out of the area as quickly as it could because retribution would come in quickly by patrol craft and planes.

Nine crew members on the Clan Skene were killed.  Its captain and 72 others were picked up by the USS McKean (APD-5) and taken to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Georg Lassen, who received the Knight's Cross-Oak Leaves, of the U-160 sank the City of New York off Cape Hatteras at 7:36 a.m. March 29, 1942, attacking in twenty-foot seas.  He recalled, "I could not believe how many ships were around.  We never had enough torpedoes."

Reinhard Hardegan commanded the U-123 and sank 22 ships, receiving his Knight's Cross-Oak Leaves.  Once he entered New York Harbor to gather intelligence and operated off Cape Hatteras.

He had this to say about these waters: "The waters and currents at Hatteras were so strong we needed the planesmen always on the bow and stern.  You could not leave them unattended.... The Gulf Stream was the reason.  The waters were so shallow, we often attacked on surface to escape faster.  There was little room for diving and maneuvering."


1942: U-boat Menace Off North Carolina Coast-- Part 1: "Every Victory Was An Invitation to be Sunk"

From the September 4, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Author describes U-Boat menace from German perspective" by Coln D. Heaton.

The North Carolina coast during World War II is a largely forgotten battlefield.  Seventy Allied ships were sunk offshore by German U-boats, most in the first months of the U.S. entry in the war, 1942.

Serious danger to Allied shipping, but equally dangerous for the Germans as well.

Peter Erich Cremer commanded the U-333 and was awarded a Knight's Cross.  He considered North Carolina's coastal waters as being extremely dangerous, "The target rich environment was alluring, yet the very shallow waters, tidal variances and strong currents also created danger for the U-Boats."

One of his kills was the British freighter Clan Skene which he sank May 10, 1942 at 9:05 a.m. with two torpedoes.  Three days later, his submarine was limping back to France after having been seriously damaged by depth charges.  He described his return "a balm after those terrible depth charges."

"The shallow waters and strong current made escape difficult.  Every victory was an invitation to be sunk right afterward."


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Families Pick Up the Pearl Harbor Torch-- Part 2

Joseph Kralik Jr is the national vice president of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors with about 4,000 members from every state, including several hundred from Pennsylvania.

The Pearl harbor Survivors Association disbanded on the 70th anniversary of the attack in 2011, after 53 years of activity.  At one point they had as many as 58,000 members, but today that is down to fewer than 2,500.

This weekend, the Sons and Daughters held their annual convention in Charleston, S.C., on board the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown which was launched in 1943.

The group hopes op establish a Pearl Harbor Survivors museum stateside and also is establishing a junior division to attract younger members as the Children of PHS are in their middle age years.

The group also worries about how Pearl Harbor is taught in school.

Most of the time, it receives barely a mention in most classrooms.  That was the way it was in my classes for about 15 years.  The last 18 years, I taught about it.  What started as a 20 minute exercise eventually grew to several class periods.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Families Pick Up the Pearl Harbor Torch-- Part 1

From the Dec. 6, 2014, Trib (Pennsylvania) Live News "Families pick up torch as Pearl Harbor survivors fade" by Craig Smith.

Army Tech Sgt. Joseph F. Kralick Sr. was 19 and on his way to Sunday mass when the planes struck.  He dashed to a nearby artillery station, picked up a gun and began firing at the planes as bullets and bombs hit all around him.

His memories died with him in 2007, but his son, Joseph Kralik Jr and thousands of other children of the survivors are carrying on with the ideas of them.

Of the 60,000 military personnel at Pearl Harbor and Hawaii that day, it is thought that only around 2,000 remain and most of them are in their 90s and older.


Survivors Gather to Remember Pearl Harbor-- Part 3

December 7, 2014.

The city fire department was dispatched at 8:05, "Without knowing it, the Honolulu Fire Department was going to war.  Three firefighters would never return, and six others would be seriously injured.

The ceremony also had a Japanese peace prayer, a Hawaiian blessing and a moment of silence to mark the beginning of the attack at 7:55 a.m.  There was a flyover of military planes.

This year will probably be the last one for Ervin Brody, 91, of Houston, who says expense and age rule against it.  "A lot of us figure this will be their last one."

Later in the afternoon, the 4 USS Arizona survivors who attended planned to visit the memorial and have a toast to their fallen comrades with glasses of sparkling wine given to the survivors by President Gerald Ford.  They will be using replica glasses of those aboard their ship.

After the toast, divers will place one of the glasses at the base of the Arizona gun turret four, which also has the ashes of 38 survivors who have since died.

--The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Survivors Gather to Remember Pearl Harbor Attack-- Part 2: Only 2000 Remain (9 from the Arizona)

Only about 2000 survivors of the attack are still alive now.

There are just nine remaining USS Arizona survivors and four were in attendance.

Arizona survivors Don Stratton, 92, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Lauren Bruner, 94, of La Mirada, California, escaped the inferno that the forward half of their ship had become by negotiating a line, hand-over-hand, about 45 feet in the air, despite burns over about 60% of their bodies..

John Anderson, 97, of Roswell, New Mexico, was ordered off the Arizona, but didn't want to leave his twin brother Delbert behind.  He was forced into a small boat and taken to Ford Island, but found an empty boat and returned to his ship and rescued 3 shipmates, but never found his brother.


Survivors Gather to Remember Pearl Harbor Attack-- Part 1: Mad Because He Stood Her Up

From the December 7, 2014, Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher.

Many of the Pearl Harbor survivors and World War II veterans who arrived in Pearl harbor for the commemoration, came with the help of canes, wheel chairs and motorized scooters.

About 100 of them gathered, wearing purple orchid leis, for the ceremony overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial.  This was the 10th consecutive trip for USS Utah survivor Gilbert Meyer, 91, who traveled from San Antonio, who said this may be his last as it was getting more difficult to attend.  When asked if he will attend next year's ceremony, he replied, "That's like asking me if I'll still be alive."

Harold Johnson, 90, survived the USS Oklahoma and hopes to make it to the 75th anniversary in 2016.  He had been on the USS Oklahoma for just six months and was looking forward to a day off that day and a "date with a little Hawaiian girl."  he was shining his shoes when the alarm went off.  He said, "Three months later I ran into her in town in Honolulu.  She was mad at me because I stood her up."

Personally, I Believe He Had a Very Good Reason for Standing Her Up.  --GreGen

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bay Area Survivors Recount Pearl Harbor Bombing

From the Dec. 5, 2014, ABC San Francisco News by Eric Thomas.

Two Bay Area men are part of the dwindling group of Pearl Harbor survivors.

Richard "Johnny" Johnson, of Lafayette was a young sailor on the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco and looking forward to a day at the beach when the attack came.  He recalls, "And I saw these airplanes coming over the mountainsides and they're all lined up and they are moving kind of slow, but there are so many airplanes flying around Hawaii anyway that it didn't really mean much at first."

"Two bombs dropped on the Arizona and it began smoking."

John Tait, of Concord, was below deck on the cruiser USS St. Louis when the ship's skipper decided to get out of Pearl Harbor and into deeper water for maneuvering.

There was a two man submarine waiting for a ship and they fired two torpedoes at us, but there was a coral reef between us so the coral reef took the hit."

He went on to say the ship was at sea for three days after that chasing reported Japanese sightings.  Then, they returned to a scene of carnage in the harbor.  "We just didn't think the Japanese would be that bold to come all that way.  We thought we were impregnable."

After the war, Tait and his family were stationed in Japan for three years and got along well with the Japanese people, "they're a wonderful people and its their warlords and our warlords I don't like."


James Vyskocil, Pearl Harbor Survivor: At Signal Tower

From the Dec. 6, 2014, Whidbey (Washington) News-Times "Story of Pearl Harbor survivors to be shared Dec. 7" by Janis Reid.

Gayle Vyskocil will share her late husband's story as part of the annual Pearl Harbor of the Pearl Harbor remembrance at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, December 7th in the chapel at Ault Field.  She will be the keynote speaker.  She will be delivering a speech written by her late husband James Vyskocil.

The cascade chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association has lost many members in the last several years and is now down to just a few.

James Vyskocil was a signal man third class at the attack and retired as a lt.-cmdr. after thirty years.  He not only fought in World War II, but also the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Mr. Vyskocil was on duty at the naval shipyard tower that morning, Dec. 7, 1941, and watched as Ford Island was bombed and ship after ship exploded.  He and his shipmates gave the first warning alert of the attack and remained on duty on the open platform of the 90-foot tower until the next day.

They came down and then helped recover bodies.

Later in the war, he saw combat at five major sea battles and survived three aircraft crashes.

Gone, But Not Forgotten.  --GreGen

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fresno Survivor Remembers Pearl Harbor

From the December 5, 2014, Fresno (cal.) Bee by Nonhia Lee.

Joe Quercia, 92, was talking to a buddy and staring out a porthole on the USS Medusa when he heard gunfire and an explosion.  "I watched all these planes coming over and (heard) the Arizona get blown up.  When it exploded, you could sure feel that."

The former chief petty officer is one of the few surviving San Jonquin Valley Pearl Harbor survivors left.  They once had 150.

Sunday he will join a handful of others in the annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony which this year will be held at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District.  Quercia believes that there may be as many as ten remaining local survivors, but only four have attended the ceremony several years.

He grew up in west Fresno and enlisted in the Navy at age 18 and was stationed on the repair ship Medusa on that fateful day.  The ship had no guns and was about a block away from the Arizona.

The motto of the now defunct Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is "Remember Pearl Harbor, Keep America Alert."

The local branch of it disbanded in 2011, the 70th anniversary.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

USS Nevada Sailor Dies in 2012-- Part 2

Don Blair had been the president of the Santa Rosa based chapter of the now defunct Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

He was born in North Dakota and grew up poor, one of nine children, on a farm.  Persuaded by his girl friend, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939.  Two years later, he was a yeoman doing a host of clerical duties on the USS Nevada.  (Perhaps he was the one who originally wrote the Log Summary of the attack that I posted yesterday and today?)

On December 7, 1941, he was  21-years-old and looking out a porthole, "I saw this plane flying in low-- and had this meatball on it."

The Nevada was damaged, but also was the only battleship to get underway during the attack.  Mr. Blair spent most of the battle below deck receiving and forwarding damage reports and standing ready to answer ship structure inquiries which would require review of the Nevada's blueprints.

It was afternoon before he received permission to go topside, "I could see blood all over the deck." He also saw pallets waiting to be taken off with bodies and parts of bodies.


USS Nevada Sailor Dies in 2012-- Part 1

From the December 10, 2012, Santa Rosa (Cal.) Press-Democrat "Pearl Harbor survivor dies at 92 in Rohnert Park."

DON BLAIR, 92, died in his sleep Saturday night or Sunday morning (12-9 or 12-10).  On Friday, he was too sick to join four local Pearl Harbor survivors for a commemoration ceremony.

He was on the USS Nevada and is the fifth Sonoma County survivor to die of old age in the past year.(perhaps the four men listed in the previous post?).  No more than six are known to still be living.

In a phone interview before his death, Mr. Blair said he hoped the surprise attack will long inspire Americans to be vigilant of potential enemies, "I think we should definitely keep an eye out on China.

--More to Come.  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor Survivors Honored in 2012

From the December 7, 2012, "Pearl Harbor survivors honored."

The names of other Pearl Harbor survivors who had since died from the previous year:

GARTH SAWYERS--  Served in the Army but on USS Antares which was followed by a mini sub.

LEE WARREN--  On USS MacDonough

DICK WERNER--  On leave from the USS Arizona at his home in Albuquerque trying to get "this sweet lady to marry me."

WARDELL JENKINS-  Army-- Camp Malakole in Hawaii.


Reminiscences of Pearl Harbor

From the December 8, 2012 Everett (Washington) Herald.

EDWIN SCHULER, 91, of San Jose, California, remembered going to the bridge of the USS Phoenix to read a book when he saw the planes, "I thought: 'WHOA, they're using big practice bombs,'  I didn't know."

EWALT SHATZ, 89, of Riverside, California, was on the USS Patterson putting a boiler back together  but found himself soon manning a 50-caliber machine gun for the first time.  The Navy credited him with shooting down a Japanese plane.


Log Summary of USS Nevada, December 7, 1941-- Part 3


(1)  Boat Deck aft of stack.
(2)  Forward of the stack thru bridge, thru Captains cabin, signal bridge.
(3)  Forecastle (2) frams 15.
(4)  Torpedo, port bow, frames 38-65.
(5)  Bomb, port bow, frame #25.


Central station ordered station secured when smoke filled compartment.  Six men or more overcome who were evacuated and revived except one CPO who died from suffocation or better still an acute heart attack as he died with gas mask on, sitting at the table.


After lull in the battle, about 8 to 10 burn cased treated, several chest wounds and one amputation of foot.  One shattered jaw.


After lull in battle about 20 cases of burns, fractures, gunshot wounds, etc were treated.


Log Summary of Battleship USS Nevada from December 7, 1941-- Part 2

Taking you there, 73 years ago tomorrow.

0850--  Concentrated, several hits on the forecastle exploding below decks-- 1 or 2 near crews galley.  Fire forward and amidships.

0900--  Grounded bow of ship intentionally between floating dry dock and channel Buoy #24, starboard side toward beach.  Personnel casualties transferred to to Repair #1. (Crews reception Room).

0907--  Bomb hit forecastle killing Chief Boatswain E.J. Hill, USN (blown overboard) and an unknown number of men.

0920--  Tugs fight fire in the wardroom country and forward.  Casualties transferred to USS Solace and Navy Hospital, Pearl Harbor.

1015--  No progress in overcoming fires forward.  Stern began swinging to middle channel.

1020--  Tugs pushed stern towards beach to prevent blocking of channel.

1035--  Ship floated off beach and drifted toward Western side of channel.  Air attack ceased.

1045--  Ship grounded on western side of channel Bouy #9 15 yards off starboard bow.

A Lot Happened from 0802 to 1045.  --GreGen

Friday, December 5, 2014

Log Summary of Battleship USS Nevada, December 7, 1941-- Part 1

As we come up on the 73rd anniversary of the "Day of Infamy."  here is a relating of events as they took place aboard the USS Nevada.  This shows how fast things went from peace to war.  The Nevada was the only battleship able to get underway that day.

 0801--  Condition Zed set.
0802--  Machine Guns opened fire on torpedo planes approaching port beam.
0803--  Torpedo struck on bow, port, frame #40.

0806--  Several bombs fell close aboard.
0809--  Arizona afire.
0830  Bomb hit bridge, penetrated to forecastle deck resulting severe shock, flareback and water leakage.  Fire on the bridge and below.

0835--  Smoke and gas in fire-room.
0840--  Underway on various courses at various speeds conforming to channel.

More to Come.  --GreGen

The Face of the Marine Corps Women Reserves-- Part 2: Her Picture on the Golden Gate Bridge Led to Marriage

Most women in the Armed Forces were assigned to "safe" duty such as secretaries, quartermaster clerks, mail sorters and truck drivers.

Norris Dolvin of St. Louis, was 21 when she enlisted in 1944.  After visiting several recruiting stations, she chose the USMC.

After boot camp in North Carolina, she was assigned to office duty at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C..

Her photograph was used on recruiting posters.  One of them stood several stories tall on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and greeted ships returning from Pacific duty

Woodruff (Woody) Deem, coming home at the end of the war, first saw the picture of the woman he'd eventually marry right there.  He continued to see her face as he traveled across the country to his D.C. home.

I Saw Her on a Billboard.  --GreGen

The Face of the Marine Corps Women Reserves-- Part 1

From the August 26, 2012, Salt Lake Tribune "Living History: Norris Dolvin Deem, the face of the Marine Corps Women Reserves" by Ardis E. Parshall.

During the war, women conserved resources, grew Victory Gardens, built ships, packed parachutes, served as nurses and replaced men in the civilian work force.

More than 350,000 became members of the Armed Forces.

Army (WACS)
Navy (WAVES)
Coat Guard (SPARS)
Marine Corps (Women's Reserve)
Air Force (WASPS)

Resistance to their service was string initially.  They were barred from combat duty, although a few, especially nurses, died under enemy fire.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Whole Lot of Silver Recovered From WWII Wreck

From the July 18, 2012, ABC News "48 Tons od Silver Recovered From World War II Shipwreck" by Alon Harish.

The Odyssey Maria Exploration Co. of Tampa, Florida recovered 48 tons of silver bullion from the SS Garsoppa, a sunken British cargo ship about three miles off the Irish coast.  It was under contract by the British government and the company will receive 20% of the tens of millions of dollars that the find is expected to yield.  That silver cargo was worth 600,000 pounds in 1941.

It was sunk by a U-boat.  The ship is owned by the British government because it paid the ship's insurance of 625,000 pounds.

The ship is located three miles deep and the initial recovery was 1,203 silver bars.

Money When You Can Get It.  --GreGen

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Top Ten Battles of World War II

From the August 26, 2012, Listverse.

10.  Battle of France--  capture of France in 1939
9.  Operation Overlord--  D-Day
8.  Battle of Guadalcanal--  1942

7.  Battle of Leyte Gulf--  1944
6.  Battle of Moscow--  1941
5.  Battle of Kursk--  took place after the Battle of Stalingrad, the final German offensive in the East
4.  Battle of Midway--  1942

3.  Operation Barbarosa--  German invasion of the Soviet Union
2.  Battle of Stalingrad
1.  Battle of Britain


Wilmington at War: Driving Around the Coast

From the July 17, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then."

JULY 10, 1942:  Brigadier General P.A. Wethered of District 2 Interior Defenses announced that motorists along the coast could drive anytime of the day on unrestricted roads as long as they followed regulations, including a nighttime speed limit of 15 mph and use of parking lights only.


Wilmington at War: War-Time Prices in 1942

From the August 21, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

AUGUST 10, 1942:  The Colonial Store in Wilmington advertised the following prices:

All popular brands of cigarettes 13 cents a pack, $1.20 a carton
Post Toasties: 6 cents a pack
Campbell's tomato soup: 2 cans for 15 cents
No. 2 can of Whitehouse apple juice: 9 cents
pot roast: 29 cents a pound
bacon: 31 cents a pound
Pillsbury flour: 61 cents for a 12 pound bag
eggs: 41 cents
bleach: 9 cents per quart bottle
peaches $1.98 a bushel
fresh shrimp: 33 cents a pound

I Could Have Eaten Well Back Then.  --GreGen

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Deaths: Devised Daring WWII Air Rescue

From the May 3, 2012, Chicago Tribune.


In 1944, as head of the Office of Strategic Services in Italy, he guided a team of agents who worked with Yugoslav guerrillas to airlift more than 500 airmen from a makeshift airstrip carved out of a mountain top in Nazi occupied Yugoslavia.

It was called Operation Halyard and was relatively obscure until the release of the 2007 book "The Forgotten 500" by Gregory Freeman.

In the summer of 1944 U.S. bombers started attacking German oil fields in Romania.  The planes flew from Italy across Yugoslavia to the oil fields and many were shot down.  About 1,500 airmen were forced to bail out over Serbia and were taken in by local villagers and sheltered.

Mr. Vujnovich devised his plan involving the airfield being built without tools and assembled a team of Serbian-speaking  agents to parachute in and lead the effort

The team jumped on August 2, 1944 and went to building the 700-foot-long airstrip, just barely long enough for the 15th Air Force's C-47s to use.  From August 9 to Dec. 27, they were able to get 512 airmen to freedom under the noses of the Nazis.

They didn't  lose a man in the operation.

And, I Had Never Heard of It.  --GreGen

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Empty Grave Holds Story-- Part 3

John Sikes of Joliet is a great-nephew of Emil Wasilewski and has Emil's purple Heart, the flag that was draped over the empty coffin, the letter from Franklin D. Roosevelt offering his condolences, Emil's cigarette lighter and a letter sent to the family by Sgt. George F. Clark, the only survivor of the crash.

In part, it read:  "...The pilot then ordered us to jump.  I can't say for sure, but I imagine we were between one and two thousand feet when we were told to jump.  I jumped and soon after my chute opened...I heard the plane crash.  I looked down and saw it burning."

The remains of Emil Wasilewski are scheduled to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on June 26, 2012.  If more remains are recovered, relatives say they will be cremated and sprinkled over the grave at St. Casimir's.

Quite the interesting story.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Empty Grave Holds Story-- Part 2

In the winter 2010-2011, Emil Wasilewski's nephew Wally Wade received a strange phone call from a man at Fort Knox saying they thought they had found the remains of his uncle.  He blew it off thinking it was a scam, but his older brother Wade got the same message and took a DNA swab.  In the fall of 2011, they got news that the DNA was a match.

In 1991, a German digging in the area found the dog tags of one of the crew members.  German law prohibited more searching on the site and it wasn't until 2007 that a POW/MIA group investigated the mass burial site.

A few years ago, 117 bone and tooth samples were submitted to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Empty Grave Now Has An Ending-- Part 1

From the May 27, 2012, Chicago Tribune "empty WWII grave holds a story that now has ending" by John Kass.

"There are many graves at St. Casimir Cemetery on the Far South Side of Chicago, and one belongs to Emil Wasilewski.

"Emil's coffin is there, but Emil isn't in the ground.

"The empty casket was buried after his family learned that Lt. Emil T. Wasilewski, a decorated bombardier, was killed in action in Germany in 1944.  Emil's body wasn't recovered, but his father, a Polish immigrant, wanted a place to grieve."

The Chicago Tribune had run a story on May 7, 1944, saying that Emil had recently graduated from Deming Army Air Field in New Mexico and that he had received silver bombardier wings after an 18-week course in high altitude precision bombing.

According to the Army, Emil Wasilewski was part of the crew of a B-17G Flying Fortress on a bombing run over Germany to take out oil refineries on September 13, 1944, when his aircraft was shot down by enemy fire and crashed.  Only one man survived.

The other eight died in the crash and were buried near the town of Neustadt.  For years, this area in what became East Germany was off limits to American forces by the Soviets.

And, Then, The Burial Site Was Found.  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Sgt. Rock" Co-creator Joe Kubert, Died in 2012

From the August 14, 2012, Chicago Sun-Times


Ground-breaking comic artist and educator died August 12th.

Founded the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art in 1976

But, to me, he was the one who gave me those great old Sgt. Rock and Easy Company comic books that I religiously read back in my way-younger years.  I also see he helped create the Hawkman character.

Sgt. Frank Rock had a dangerously accurate shot and the uncanny ability to survive war wounds with his Easy Company.  And, he was a youthful hero of mine.Plus, I liked the haunted Jeb Stuart tank, the Indian Mustang pilot.

Sgt. Rock and his company sure killed a whole lot of enemy soldiers with all that "Rat-a-Tat" and "Ka-Pows."  "Kubert was known for his war comics, expressionist drawings of macho men, muscles rippling as they performed heroics."

He was born to a Jewish family in Poland in 1926 and came to the U.S. as a baby, growing up in Brooklyn.  He did his first work for D.C. Comics in the 1940s.

Sgt. Rock first appeared  in a comic book in June 1959 and was created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert.

With all the success that Marvel has had with their movies, I sure wish we'd get some Sgt. Rock ones.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wilmington at War: "Y" Gun Becomes War Scrap, No More Civilian Typewriters

From the August 14, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then."

AUGUST 4, 1942:  The "Y" gun at the entrance to the New Hanover Count Court House, dropped depth charges on German subs during World War I.  It will become scrap metal for the war effort.

AUGUST 5, 1942:  Production of many items has been stopped or curtailed.  The latest order calls for production to cease on typewriters in all U.S. factories except the ones that are produced for the war effort.

The War Hits Home.  --GreGen

Wilmington at War: "The Chief" WWI Secretary of Navy Visits

From the August 14, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

AUGUST 2, 1942:  The skipper of the U.S. Navy in World War I, Josephus Daniels, former secretary of the Navy and recently elected ambassador to mexico, is the only man FDR calls "Chief."  he is expected to be in Wilmington on August 8th to speak when the local Navy recruiting station climaxed its Eastern North Carolina Navy Day Drive to enlist 100 men.

Daniels was publisher of the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.  The Navy recruiting publicist was the late Jesse Helms (later U.S. Senator).


V-J Day in Honolulu

From 2012 discovering Richard Sullivan

VJ Day, Honoluly, Hawaii, August 14, 1945.

Sixty-seven years ago my dad shot this film along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, capturing the spontaneous celebration that broke out upon hearing of the Japanese surrender.


Jim Gailey, Pearl Harbor Veteran, Dies-- Part 2

Gailey was a signal man on an anti aircraft mount and described the Japanese planes that day "as like a swarm of hornets attacking--you just fire your gun in the air and hit something."

He remained on the Helena at Guadalcanal and Okinawa.  He was transferred to the USS Chase and not aboard the Helena when it was sunk at the Battle of Kula Gulf.

Gailey retired as a senior chief quartermaster and joined his fellow Pearl Harbor survivors there for the 70th anniversary and earlier in June he went to Washington, D.C. to view the World War II Memorial on an Oklahoma Honor Flight.

Another of the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Jim Gailey, Pearl Harbor Veteran, Dies in 2012-- Part 1

From the August 12, 2012 Tulsa (Ok) World by Tim Stanley.

James Russell Gailey, 88, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, was aboard the USS Helena at Pearl Harbor.  he kept looking at the battleship USS Oklahoma and thinking it was incredibly majestic, but it made him think of his home state of Oklahoma.

He saw many survivors of the Oklahoma swimming toward his ship where they climbed aboard and immediately took up fighting positions.

In June 2010, he was at the dedication of the Oklahoma's mast at the Muskogee War memorial Park.

A native of Commerce, Oklahoma, he enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and his ship, the Helena, arrice at Pearl in November.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Rare Naval Document Announcing War's End to Be Auctioned

From the August 10, 2012, Washington Post "Rare naval dispatch declaring war's end to be auctioned on the 67th anniversary of V-J Day" AP.

Chief Yeoman Robert W. York went to the commander of the USS Holland with a dispatch from the Secretary of the Navy dated August 15, 1945, reading: "All hands of the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard may take satisfaction in the conclusion of the war against Japan."

It was on an 8-inch-by 6.5-inch piece of paper.

York died in February at the age of 91, and had kept that short message in a shoe box since then.  His son is auctioning it.  York enlisted in the Navy on August 25, 1942 and he was assigned as the personal secretary of Rear Admiral Francis Denebrink.  He later served on the ill-fated USS Ocelot that was wrecked in a typhoon.  Then he was on the sub-tender Holland, headquarters of Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood, Jr., commander of the Pacific submarine fleet.

A massive invasion fleet was being assembled in August for the dreaded invasion of Japan

Denebrink read it and then handed it back to York and told him to keep it as a souvenir.

The auction house had hoped to get $7,000 for it.  It ended up going for $20,000.


Wilmington at War: Maffitt Village

From the August 7, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News, "Back Then"

According to Wilmington's World War II expert, Wilbur Jones, the public housing project built near the shipyard in Wilmington was built in late 1942 and 1943.  It is now called Long leaf Park, but then was known as Maffitt Village.  The old Maffitt Village homes were cinderblock were torn down.  They had been built earlier in 1942.

There were dormitories on the east side of Carolina Beach Road, across from Maffitt Village.  They are located near an extended stay motel and the Frontier.

The barrack-looking building that still stands near the port on Burnett Boulevard was housing for the N.C. Shipbuilding Company's apprentice school and later was the USMC Reserve Center.

You can find out more about the World War II housing project at


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Capture of German Blockade-Runner Odenwald-- Part 2

This took place even though the United States was not yet officially involved in the war.

An Admiralty Court ruled that since the ship was claiming American registration, this was grounds for confiscation and that the crews of the American ships involved, the USS Somers and USS Omaha had salvage rights because the German crew was attempting to scuttle it.

The court case was settled in 1947.  Members of the boarding party received $3,000 apiece and crewmen of the Somers and Omaha were entitled to two months pay and an allowance.  This was the last-ever official prize money issued by the U.S. Navy.  Quite a bit was given out during the Civil War.

The Odenwald was built in Hamburg, Germany, in 1923 and had set a record for speed between Honolulu and San Francisco in 1932 at 75 hours and 40 minutes.

At the time of its last capture, it had made four runs through the Allied blockade to Europe.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Capture of German Blockade-Runner Odenwald by U.S. Navy, Before the War- Part 1

After writing about blockade-runners during the Civil War for so long, it never occurred to me that the Germans would have needed blockade-runners of their own during World War II as they were also under blockade, much as the Confederacy was.

On November 6, 1941, on Neutrality Patrol, the destroyer USS Somers and light cruiser USS Omaha, spotted a suspicious ship near the equator.  Notice the date was a full month before Pearl Harbor.  This strange ship was in what was referred to as the American Security Zone.

The ship refused to identify itself  The ship was flying an American flag and had the name Wilmott on its stern

A boarding party was dispatched while the Wilmott's crew took to their lifeboats and left the ship.  The approaching Americans could hear explosions on boat the ship, but boarded anyway, facing great danger.  It then became a prize.

The Wilmott was taken to Puerto Rico and it was discovered the ship was actually the German freighter Odenwald and was carrying 3800 tons of scarce rubber.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

USS Hoga, WWII Tug, at Mare Island for Repairs-- Part 2

The Hoga served four years as an Oakland, California, fire department boat.  The Navy signed the Hoga to the N.L.R. in 2005 after two years of effort.  Fundraising problems delayed the move from Suisun Bay.

Parts for the 325-ton tug will be scavenged from two ex-Navy tugs in Richmond.  Seagoing tugs Lion and Tiger will be taken to Mare Island's Dry Dock 2 for dismantling.  They were formerly the USS Quapaw and USS Moctobi, built just a few years after the Hoga.

At 8, Mare Island-built submarine tender Nereus left for its final voyage to Akllied defense Recycling.  It is 67 years old.  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

USS Hoga, WWII Tug, at Mare Island for Repairs-- Part 1

From the August 1, 2012, Vallejo (Cal.) Times -Herald "Historic USS Hoga tug at Vallejo's Mare island drydocks for repairs" by Jessica A. York.

The USS Hoga will become a Mississippi River waterfront museum in Arkansas, but in 2012 was at Mare island for repairs before her trip there.

The Hoga is a 71-year-old ship that was in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet and was there at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked.

Its firefighting ability was put to use that day and it helped tow the USS Nevada out of the major channel it was partially blocking.  While doing it, the tug received a dent from the battleship which was kept as a "momento" of that day.

It will be joining the submarine USS Razorback at North Little Rock as capstones for the beginning and end of World War II.  The Razorback was one of 12 U.S. subs at Tokyo bay for  Japan's surrender on September 2, 1945.


Truman's Grandson Unapologetic for Atom Bomb Decision

From the August 3, 2012, RT.

Clifton Truman Daniel met Hiroshima survivors in Tokyo and said his grandfather decided to end the war as quickly as possible and that is why he decided to drop the atom bombs.

Just ask any of the surviving U.S. military personnel who were preparing for the invasion of Japan what they thought about the decision.

My opinion is that the decision saved probably millions of lives, both American and Japanese.  perhaps, he should feel regret that it was necessary, but in no way should he apologize for it.


German Sub, Ship It Sank Found Off N.C. Coast-- Part 2

On July 15, 1942, a convoy of 19 merchant ships escorted by ships from the Navy and Coast Guard were sailing to Key West, Florida, from Norfolk, Virginia, to deliver war cargo when the U-576 attacked them.

Alerted to the U-boat's presence, a Coast Guard cutter dropped depth charges but the German sub was able to get off four torpedoes, striking the Bluefields and severely damaging two other ships.

The Bluefields sank.

The U-576 was evidently surfaced at one point as it was struck by gunfire from an armed merchant ship and then it was straddled by depth charges dropped by escort aircraft.

The Bluefields and U-576 rest on the seabed less than 240 yards apart.

All 45 men aboard the U-576 died and the convoy had four dead.

The discovery of the two ships was because of a 2008 partnership between the NOAA and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to survey vessels lost during World War II off North Carolina.  The two vessels were located this past August by a NOAA research ship.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day in College Station, Texas

There was an article about the new Civil War Memorial to be dedicated April 9, 2015, the 150th anniversary of Appomattox.

It will be joining other memorials along the half mile Lynn Stuart Trail.  Two of them honor World War II veterans.

One is the Day of Infamy, dedicated Dec. 7. 2011, the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and honors those who served and died in the Pacific Theater of World War II.  The other is Letters From Home and honors those who served in the European Theater.

Thanks, Veterans.  --GreGen

Monday, November 10, 2014

German Sub and Ship It Sank Found Off N.C. Coast-- Part 1

From the October 23, 2014, Chicago Tribune.  Reuters.

The wreck of a World War II German U-boat and a freighter it sank 72 years ago have been discovered off the North Carolina coast by researchers.

The U-576 and the Nicaraguan-flagged freighter SS Bluefields were found about 30 miles off Cape Hatteras in an area known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic for the many wrecks found there.

The discovery underscores how close the war and the Battle of the Atlantic came to the U.S. coast and is a rare view of an underwater battlefield.

NOAA sanctuary scientist and chief scientist of the expedition Joe Hoyt said, "These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories."


Mission to Recover Sunken HMS Hood's Bell

From the July 30, 2012, BBC News.

U.S. philanthropist Paul G. Allen has offered to recover the bell of the HMS Hood, sunk in action with the German battleship Bismarck in 1941 at no cost to Britain.  He is co-founder of Microsoft and a yacht owned by him will be equipped with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

Blue Water Recoveries, which found the Hood 2,800 metres underwater in 2011 will coordinate and film the recovery.

The bell is lying on the sea floor away from the hull, which will not be disturbed during the operation.

The HMS Hood, based out of Portsmouth was the largest Royal Navy warship sunk during World War II.  When it went down there were 1,415 killed, the largest single loss of life ever suffered on a British ship.  It was the flagship of the fleet chasing the Bismarck which was sunk by the RAF on 27 May 1941.  When the Bismarck was sunk, it had a loss of 2.090.

If the bell is recovered it will go on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2014.

Rear Admiral Philip Wilcocks is president of the HMS Hood Association and said the bell would be a fitting memorial.


Jock Moffat, 92, Fired Torpedo That Damaged the Bismarck's Rudder

From a 2011 interview.

A Swordfish biplane from the HMS Ark Royal, one of the ships pursuing the German battleship KMS Bismarck, is credited with launching the torpedo that jammed the Bismarck's rudder which spelled the ship's eventual doom.  Jack Moffat is believed to be the last surviving member of the air attack that day against the Bismarck.

"Jock, we got a runner."  After dropping the torpedo, "I got the hell out of there as fast as I could go."


Ireland Pardons Soldiers Who Deserted to Fight Hitler

From the June 12, 2012,Reuters.

On Tuesday, the government of Ireland pardoned thousands of soldiers who deserted to fight for Allied forces after the Irish state decided to remain neutral in World War II.

About 60,000 Irish fought in British forces, including 7,000 servicemen who deserted from the Irish armed forces.

At the  time, the Irish government summarily dismissed them and disqualified them from state employment for seven years.  Many of these Irish men were stigmatized by this move for decades.


German Divers Recover Stuka Radiator-- Part 2

Stukas carriedsirens that produced a distinctive sound during dives.

The wreck of the Stuka was first discovered in the 1990s when fishing nets snagged on it about ten kilometers off the coast of the German Baltic island of Ruegen in about 18 meters of water.

The only two surviving Stukas are at the Royal Air Force Museum in London and Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The German Stuka in Chicago

In the last entry, I came across mention that there is a Stuka in Chicago.  I was unaware of it, however.  It is in the Transportation Gallery of the Museum of Science and Industry.  It is a 1941 Junkers Ju-87R-2 Tropical Stuka.

Their website also refers to it as one of the only two-known surviving Stukas in the world.  (The museum also has the German U-boat U-505.)

This plane revolutionized military aviation and warfare with its blitzkrieg tactics using its fast, aggressive dive to support the quick advancement of German ground troops.

The one at the museum is shown in a steep dive, much like Allied ground forces would have seen.  With its wind design, this is one really scary-looking plane, especially coming right at you.


German Divers Recover Stuka Dive Bomber Radiator-- Part 1

From the June 12, 2012, Washington Post.  AP.

An engine was recovered from the Baltic Sea this weekend.  It was originally thought to be from a JU87D model, but now, because of the radiator, historians are about sure it is from a later model, the JU87G.  What makes the recovery remarkable is that there are only two-known complete Stukas on display (one at a museum in London and the other in Chicago.

There are pieces of others at other sites, but only those two complete ones.


Friday, November 7, 2014

The Japanese Akutan Zero-- Part 2

U.S. forces then got valuable information, unknown before this, on the mainstay of the Japanese fighters.  It was an extremely good fighter plane, but it did have two huge problems.

Starting on September 20, 1942, Lt.Cmdr. Eddie Sanders flew 24 flights in it over a period of 25 days.  It performed tremendously but did have a glaring Achilles heel.  It could not perform rolls at moderate speed.  If it could be forced  into a roll, the advantage would be to the Allied pilot.

The second problem with the Zero was that it had a poorly-designed carburetor which caused the engine to sputter badly when in a dive at a high rate of speed.  Force one to do that and it was an easy target.

Koga's Zero was later hit by a Curtis SB2C Helldiver while taxiing out for a training run.  Not much was left of these very important plane.

Stuff You Didn't Know.  --GreGen

The Japanese Akutan Zero-- Part 1

From the June 4, 2012 History Channel "The Akutan Zero: How a Captured Japanese Fighter Plane Helped Win World War II" by Elizabeth Hanes.

On June 4, 1942, Japan attacked an Allied position at Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island in the Aleution Island chain.

Japanese pilot Tadayoshi Koga was hit by ground fire and crashed.  After he was hit, Koga headed to Akutan Island which had been designated as an emergency landing field.  The boggy soil snared his landing gear and flipped the Zero over end-to-end and it landed upside down.

Japanese pilots were under strict orders to destroy their Zeros if they were disabled so they wouldn't fall into enemy hands and be examined.  Koga died instantly from a broken neck.

A U.S. Navy pilot on routine patrol spotted it and and after three attempts to recover the wreckage, Americans succeeded and sent it to San Diego to be restored.


USS Oklahoma Mini Reunion

June 8, 2012, San Diego Union Times.

Four survivors of the famous battleship that turned turtle at the Battle of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, held a mini reunion of their own at the USS Midway Museum Friday morning June 8th.

Paul Goodyear, Ed Vezey, Bill Hendley and Harold Johnson toured it.

Johnson said he was below deck but managed to scramble out through the main turret.

Of the survivors that day, only 25 are alive today.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

USS Oklahoma Reunion Draws Guests With Ties to Ship's History

From the June 9, 2012, News OK by John Greimer.

The daughter and granddaughetr of the woman who christened the USS Oklahoma on March 23, 1914, in Camden, New Jersey, came to this final reunion in San Juan Capistrano, California.

The ship was christened by Lorena Cruce, whose father was Lee Cruce, the second governor of Oklahoma.  her daughter, Lee Shaw and granddaughter Lorena Cruce Maldonado both live in California.

Just three survivors had arrived by Thursday afternoon, but one more is expected.


Last Reunion of the USS Oklahoma

From the June 9, 2012, San Juan Capistrano Patch "Pearl Harbor Survivors' Last Reunion for Survivors of Doomed Ship" by Penns Arevale.

The survivors of the USS Oklahoma started having reunions in 1966, 25 years after the ship was sunk.  There are only five of them left now and they met this weekend in San Juan Capistrano, California.

Ed Vezey, 92, from Moore, Oklahoma was on hand and said, "I was a simple-minded young man.  My roommate and I were arguing whether to go swim before we eat breakfast or swim first.  Five minutes later, most of my friends were dead."

Gene Dick, 91, of Placentia, California, was a hospital apprentice working sick bay duty on the third deck and was trapped underwater when the ship rolled over.  Up until then, he had felt the third deck was a very safe place to be, that is, until the first four torpedoes hit.

An air pocket allowed him and the men around him to survive during the five hours it took to open a porthole that was too narrow for most to fit through.  He and four others were the only ones to get out.

Bill Headley, 92, flew in from Wilmington, North Carolina.


USS Nevada Strikes Back at Normandy

From the June 11, 2012, Today's Document.

Repaired from damage sustained at Pearl Harbor, the battleship USS Nevada provided naval gunfire for the troops storming Omaha and Utah beaches at Normandy in June 1944.

During the first three days of the invasion, it fired 876 rounds from its 14-inch guns and 3,491 from its 5-inchers.

The 14-inch guns fired 1800 pound shells that landed as far as 18 miles away..

That's One Big Gun!!  --GreGen

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jack Clabaugh's Death in 2013

The previous post was about Jack Clabaugh, but since it was from 2012, I decided to look for a followup, and, sadly, as is all too often the case, I found out he had died July 18, 2013, at age 93.

From the La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch.

Mr. Clabaugh was born to a poor family in Iowa in 1920.  His mother died when he was seven and he and his six siblings were sent to live at farms all over the state.  Even so, he was able to finish high school and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy upon graduation in 1938.

He said, "Many of the other boys who enlisted had tears from leaving their loved ones but I had tears of joy.  It was the first time in my life I had two pairs of clean clothes and three square meals."

After basic training in Virginia, he was briefly stationed in San Diego and fell in love with the area and met the first love of his life who he eventually married.

He was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked and spent most of the war in the foundry of the destroyer tender USS Whitney where he made the stars for Admiral Halsey's uniform.  he later served aboard the USS Ajax.


Stars for an Admiral

From the June 8, 2012, San Diego Union-Times by John Wilkens.

Jack Clabaugh, 91, was a 21-year-old foundryman and firefighter on the USS Whitney, a destroyer tender at Pearl Harbor and standing on the deck when he saw the first plane coming in low that morning.  Then he saw the red sun on its wing.

He volunteered to go aboard the USS West Virginia, which had already sunk in the shallow water, and manned a hose for 7 to 8 hours battling the flames of an oil-fire on the water to keep them from spreading.

He served on the Whitney during the rest of the war in the Pacific.

One day, he was asked to make the stars for Admiral "Bull" Halsey's uniform.  His ship's officers sent coins down to be melted, but they arrived too late as Clabaugh and other sailors had already donated their coins.

He spent 20 years in the Navy and now lives in La Mesa, California.


A World War II Destroyer Meets Its Demise in 2012-- Part 2

The USS John Rodgers (DD-574),  served as the Cuitlahuac in the Mexican Navy until 2002 when it was decommissioned.

A veterans group was interested in saving it  The Mexican Navy also wanted to turn the ship (which served in the U.S, Navy for four years and the Mexican Navy for 33) into a museum ship.

However, saving the ship would require a whole lot of money with its lead-based paint, asbestos and toxic lubricants.

The ship was dismantled in 2010 and 2011.

Now only four of the 376-foot-long, 310 crew Fletcher-class destroyers remain.  Three are in the United States at Boston, Buffalo and Baton Rouge.  One other one is in Athens, Greece, where it is a museum honoring the Greek Navy.


A World War II Destroyer's Demise in Mexico-- Part 1: USS John Rodgers

From the April 4, 2012, New York Times by Walk Baranger.

The USS John Rodgers met its end in the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas.  It was one of the last American warships from the war that had not been scrapped, sunk or converted into a museum.  This, despite an international effort to save it that had been going on for five years.

It was built in Texas in 1942 and commissioned in early 1943, one of 175 Fletcher-class destroyers and mostly served in the Pacific, participating in most of the major battles.

It was given to mexico in 1968 after being out of service for two years.  It was renamed the Cuitlahuac and served 33 years, the last Fletcher-class destroyer on active duty anywhere.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

USS Midway Museum Records Record One Millionth Visitor in One Year in 2012

The USS Midway aircraft carrier, now a museum ship in San Diego, recorded its one millionth visitor in a year between June 1, 2011 and May 31, 2012.

It was launched on March 20, 1945, commissioned September 10, 1945 and decommissioned 11 April 1992.  It became a museum in 2004.  Although it was commissioned too late to fight in World War II, it did see action in the Korean War and Vietnam War.

It was the lead ship of its class, the others being the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt and the USS Coral Sea.

A total of 1,002,000 visited the ship, eclipsing the previous high of 941,000 in a year. Of those, 12% were from foreign countries and 25% under the age of 17.


The Final USS Oklahoma Family Reunion in 2012

Was held in San Juan Capistrano, California June 7-10

The last six survivors:  I took this from the organization's website and evidently this was a list of recnt deaths.

Herbert Rommel
George Brown
George Smith
Paul Goodyear
George Delong
Robert McMahon


Monday, November 3, 2014

Redding Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies in 2012

From the June 4, 2014, Redding (Cal.) Record Searchlight" by Jim Schultz.

The Shasta County Pearl Harbor Survivors Association lost another member.  Carroll Halcomb, 92, died May 28, 2012.  The chapter is now down to five members.

The 22-year-old Army  master sergeant was at Schofield Barracks at Wheeler Field near Pearl Harbor and on the upper floor of the barracks when he heard planes circling overhead, then explosions and machine-gun fire.  At first he thought it was a training exercise.

He assisted a chaplain administering last rites and lost a good friend and fellow Shasta High School grad Richard J. Miller who was on the USS Arizona where his body is still entombed.


The USS Yorktown a Shot in the Arm for Newport News Shipbuilding Company-- Part 2

President Franklin D. Roosevelt loved the Navy, stemming from his days as Secretary of the Navy.  His goal was to build up the Navy in preparation for World War II.

The Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company was declared the low bidder on August 5, 1933 and won the $40 million contract.

Neil Woodall, 100, then a 21-year-old boilermaker said, "We'd gone through some pretty lean times before that.  Everyone was elated when we got the contract for those two carriers."  They had to rearrange and expand the yard's shops and departments.  Plus, many new hires were made.

By the spring of 1936, they were preparing to launch the Yorktown and Eleanor Roosevelt was the sponsor.  A huge crowd attended the launch.

On April 4, 1936, the Yorktown was christened with a bottle of champagne and the 824-foot, 20,000 tons aircraft carrier slid into the James River for outfitting.

One Way to Break the Depression.  --GreGen

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The USS Yorktown a Shot in the Arm for a Newport News Shipyard-- Part 1

From the June 4, 2012, Newport News (Va.) Daily News by Michael Welles Shapiro.

The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown was sunk at the Battle of Midway on June 5, 1942.

However, it and its sister ship, the USS Enterprise, two ships being built because of the new naval warfare strategy based on the use of aircraft carriers and their squadrons of planes instead of battleships, were just what a struggling Newport News shipbuilding company needed.

The two Yorktown-class carriers were big for the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company which had been struggling before receiving the contracts because of the Great depression and the post World War I Naval limits on warships.

The company had resorted to building locomotives, rail cars and even traffic lights in the 1920s to stay afloat.

As war clouds in Europe approached, the U.S. government decided to help jump start the end of the Depression economy with war production.


Nebraska Soldier Was a World War II Sergeant York

From the June 4, 2012, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star by Tim Gay.

Donol McKay of Grand Island joined the Army in 1942.  On the outskirts of Rennes, France, in early August 1944, over a period of 48 hours, Private McKay killed six German soldiers, captured 28 and volunteered twice to be led blindfolded into a German command post to plead for its officer to surrender.

He returned with the message, "They still want to make a fight of it.  His commander, Lt.Col. William Bailey replied' "They can have a fight then.  We will blow some sense into them."


Wilmington Aviators Helped Win Battle of Midway-- Part 4

Clarence Dickinson's parents lived at Wrightsville Beach and he was a 1934 graduate of the USNA,  he wrote the book "The Flying Guns: Cockpit Record of a Naval Pilot from Pearl Harbor Through Midway."

Ensign Peiffer was a 1940 University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate.  In 1944-1945, the new destroyer USS Peiffer was named for him.  Peiffer Avenue in Wilmington is named for him.


Wilmington Aviators Helped Win Battle of Midway-- Part 3

Ensign Carl Peiffer's bomb hits were never verified and he disappeared on his way back to the ship and was never found.

Army Air Force Lt. Col. Brooke Empie Allen flew four missions from Midway Island over two days, but was too high and struck nothing, but he did scatter the Japanese formation to the advantage of the naval planes.

Peiffer posthumously received the Navy Cross.  Dickinson earned a Navy Cross on December 7, 1941, and then again on December 10th when he was credited with sinking the first enemy surface ship in the war.  He also received an Air Medal in February for sinking a Japanese transport at Kwajalein.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Wilmington Aviators Helped Win Battle of Midway-- Part 2

All of these aviators were graduates of New Hanover High School.  (Wilbur Jones' wife Carol's father served on the cruiser USS Astoria at the battle which became the flagship of the fleet after the sinking of the USS Yorktown on June 7th.)

At about 10 a.m., three waves of torpedo planes from the carriers Yorktown, Hornet and Enterprise were obliterated by the Japanese.  Right after that, Dickinson's and Peiffer's group attacked the Kaga.  Dickinson used the rising sun painted on the carrier's deck as his target and scored a direct hit.

He ran out of fuel on the way back and was forced to ditch into the sea and was rescued by a destroyer.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Wilmington Aviators Helped Win the Battle of Midway-- Part 1

From the June 3, 2012, Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News by Wilbur D. Jones, Jr..

Five weeks after the Battle of Midway in 1942, Lt. Clarence Earle Dickinson, Jr., a pilot on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, spoke at his hometown of Wilmington's Rotary Club after he had won his third Navy Cross in six months.

At the battle, in just ten minutes, at about 10:20 a.m. on June 4, 1942, U.S, planes destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers of a Japanese attack force, turning the tide in the war with Japan in the Pacific.  The remarkable success came from a combination by fusing intelligence, analysis, leadership, initiative, daring, bravery, enemy miscalculation, timing and good fortune.  That pretty well sums it up.

Besides Dickinson, Wilmington's Ensign Carl David Peiffer flew a Dauntless Dive Bomber with the Enterprise's Scouting Squadron Six.

Also flying that day was Army Air Force Lt.Col. Brooke Empie Allen, commanding the 42nd Bombardment Squadron of Flying Fortresses based on the island of Midway.

However, only the carrier-based aircraft succeeded in their mission.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Black Sailor on the USS North Carolina-- Part 2

John Seagraves served on the battleship USS North Carolina, eventually becoming one of eight blacks assigned to man 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, but remembers it wasn't an easy thing to do.

He told his chief that he would not clean up the officers' rooms.  "I refused to be a servant on the ship.  They called me a troublemaker.  I just don't want to be a flunkie to anybody."

There is a picture of Seagraves and his gunner crew taken on April 14, 1945.  It was taken by a U.S. Navy photographer just a moment after they had shot down a Japanese kamikaze plane that had slipped by dozens of American planes as well as spotters.

Seagraves remembers seeing the plane's propeller, tracers of his 20 mm shells and the two pilots in the front.  The plane went down 30 yards from the North Carolina, "You could see the fire under the water, and it actually jolted the ship when it exploded,"

Sixty-four years later, John Seagraves attended the USS North Carolina's reunion and found that that photo is now on the ship.

Fighting the Enemy and Segregation.  --GreGen

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Black Sailor Rose Above Segregation on the USS North Carolina-- Part 1

From the June 3, 2012, Fayetteville (NC) Observer "Black sailor who refused to be held back made a difference aboard the USS North Carolina during World War II" by April Dudash.

John Seagraves worked his way up from a cook in the officers' mess to 20 mm gunner on the battleship USS North Carolina.

He joined the Navy in 1943, a week before his 17th birthday and went to Jacksonville, Florida, for boot camp where the barracks and chow hall were segregated.  His white petty officer didn't want to train blacks, but as the weeks of training went by, he changed his mind.  Upon graduation, Seagraves was assigned to the Stewards' Branch, a group of black sailors assigned to serve white officers.

He was sent to the USS North Carolina.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Top Ten Bizarre Weapons of World War II

4.  BAT BOMBS--  A U.S. weapon.  A small incendiary device device was attached to them.  Dropped in a carrier from a bomber by parachute and opens and lets 1040 bats escape.  They would roost in Japanese buildings and the device would go off by timer.

3.  PIGEON GUIDED MISSILE--  This was proposed by American psychologist B.F. Skinner.  Something about a pigeon inside a missile.

2.  PROJECT HABAKKKUK--  Either an iceberg or an ice flow.  It would be leveled off and hollowed off inside.  A landing platform for aircraft and used to protect convoys.

1.  SOLBERVOGEL (SILVER BIRD) BOMBER--  Designed by Germany for extreme long range in order to attack the United States.

Some Real Weird Stuff, Indeed.  --GreGen

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Top Ten Bizarre Weapons of World War II-- Part 2

7.  OHKA (CHERRY BLOSSOM PLANE) SUICIDE PLANE--  Japanese purpose-built suicide kamikaze planes.

6.  ANTI TANK DOGS--  Deployed by the Soviet Union.  These dogs were kept hungry and taught to search under tanks for food.  Each one had a 10-12 kg mine detonator on a wooden level on the dog's back. When they would go under a German tank, the wooden lever would catch and explode the mine.

It didn't work as the dogs were scared by German gunfire and would run back to Soviet lines and explode there, but the Soviet Union claimed they destroyed 300 tanks this way.

5.  BACHEM BA349 NATTER FIGHTER--  German plane could be launched from a 25-foot rail and controlled by radio.  Once above the enemy bombers,the pilot would take over.  36 built.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Top Ten Bizarre Weapons of World War II-- Part 1

From the October 7, 2010, Listverse.

10.  X-CLASS MIDGET SUBMARINES--  a 4-man Royal Navy midget sub towed by a mother ship.

9.  V-3 SUPER GUN--  A Hitler vengeance weapon to strike back at London, capable of firing a 1310 pound shell 100 miles with a 460-foot long barrel.

SONDERKOMMANDO "ELBE"--  A stripped down (of weapons and armor) ME-109 plane designed to attack bombers.  They were to dive on the tails of bombers and destroy them.  The pilot was then to parachute out.  In the first attack of 120 of these, only 15 pilots returned, but they destroyed 17 B-17s and 5 P-51s.  Kind of a version of the Japanese kamikaze.

That's One Big Gun!  --GreGen

One of Maine's Last Pearl Harbor Survivors Dies-- Part 2

Bernard H. Hall was stationed at Schofield Barracks that fateful day and had just gone to the mess hall for coffee.  Asa he stepped outside it, he overheard another soldier say "a pretend emergency" was on.  He looked into the sky and knew it was not a false alarm.

"The plane went right over my head.  He was flying so low I saw the red circle and I could see his goggles."

He and some others shot at the plane with rifles, only to have their bullets ricochet off the plane.  Most of his fellow soldiers were scared to death.  Some ran away and hid.

That night there were no lights anywhere, not even a lit cigarette.  He and others loaded trucks with ammunition and supplies all day and night.

"Communication was bad.  We didn't even know the Japanese were coming.  They wiped out everything--all radio contact, even the water tower."


Thursday, October 23, 2014

One of Maine's Last Pearl Harbor Survivors Dies in 2012-- Part 1

From the May 31, 2012, Foster' Sanford News.

One of Maine's last-known survivors of the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Bernard H. Hall, died at age 96.

After having enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 25, he was one of the older soldiers when he was stationed at Fort Slocum in New York, where he served as a truck driver in Co. M, 19th Infantry, 24th Division.  December 7, 1941, he was stationed at Schofield Barracks.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

USS England Sinks Record Sixth Japanese Submarine

On May 31, 1944, the USS England (DE-635) sank a record sixth Japanese submarine in 13 days.


Death of Alf Kongslie, 93: Pearl Harbor Survivor

I looked up Mr. Kongslie's name after I posted the last entry and am sad to report that he died December 17, 2013.

He was on the USS St. Louis, a heavy cruiser at Pearl Harbor.  The ship got underway and a Japanese submarine fired two torpedoes at it, but fortunately missed.

After seeing the men jumping overboard from the liberty boat, he then saw the Japanese Zero strafing them.  His battle station was manning a 5-inch anti-aircraft gun..


Staten Island Pearl Harbor Survivor Visits Fleet Wekk

From the May 27, 2012, Military News by MC1 Patrick Gordon.

The last-known Staten island Pearl Harbor survivor, former Chief Boatswain's Mate Alf Kongslie, 91, was on his ship, the USS Saint Louis (CL-49) and recalls the day began like so many others on that December 7, 1941.

"I saw guys going across the harbor in a liberty boat.  I figured they were going to church.  Then I saw them jumping into the water.  I didn't know what was going on.

"I kept trying to climb my way up the ladder to get  to my battle station, but guys kept knocking me off coming down the other way.  I finally got to my station and got to work."

He served in the Navy until 1947.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

World War II Ship Gets Blue Star

From the May 29, 2012, Pinde Patch "World War II Ship Gets Blue Star from El Cerrito Garden Club" by Charles Burress.

The marker was set in stone next to the SS Red Oak Victory in Richmond, California.  It was built by the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond during the war and is in the process of being restored.

The Blue Star Memorial Program is a long-standing project of the National Garden Clubs dating to World War II to honor veterans.


USS Mohawk Makes Final Voyage

From the May 24, 2012, Sand Paper.

The former USCG "A" class cutter Mohawk (WPG-78) will be sunk 28 nautical miles west of Redfish Pass in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is the largest ship to be scuttled in Lee County's Artificial Reef Program.

Plans are to sink it in July 2012 after the ship has been cleaned and gutted.

It was built in Wilmington, Delaware 78 years ago for $500,000 and served during World War II.


World War II Reshaped the Bay Area-- Part 5

The population of San Francisco was 634,000 in 1940 and by 1950, it had grown to 774,821.  The populations of outlying towns doubled.  In 1940, there were only 4,864 blacks in San Francisco, making up less than 1% of the population.  By 1950, that number had grown to 43,821.

At the same time, the impact on those of Asiatic descent was mixed.  Chinese-Americans fared well during the war (since China was on the U.S. side.  However, many Japanese and Japanese-Americans were interred.

The economy of the Bay Area boomed as over $6 billion in war contracts were awarded to businesses.


Monday, October 20, 2014

World War II Reshaped the Bay Area-- Part 3

Government records show that 1,647,174 passengers, including soldiers, sailors, Marines and civilians like Red Cross personnel boarded ships at Fort Mason bound for different places in the Pacific Theater.Two-thirds of all troops fighting in in the Pacific passed through the fort.

Johnny Johnson was a sailor of the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco said that when he was on leave, "A sailor couldn't buy a drink in a bar.  They couldn't even buy a hot dog.  It was all free."

During and especially after the war, many military personnel moved to San Francisco.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

World War II Reshaped the Bay Area-- Part 2

In East Bay, Henry J. kaiser built three shipyards which together built 747 ships during the war.  One of them was built in a world record four days.

During its shipbuilding height some 240,000 workers were employed in Bay Area yards.  That is the equivalent of the number of men in 13 Army divisions.

Fort Mason, on San Francisco's northern waterfront, became the main port of embarkation for the Pacific War.


Friday, October 17, 2014

World War II Reshaped the Bay Area and Its People-- Part 1

From the May 28, 2012, San Francisco Chronicle by Carl Nolte.

World War II had a huge impact on the Bay's racial makeup, economy and even physical appearance.

The conversion of the orchard-rich Santa Clara County into Silicon Valley can be traced to the war.

Oakland and Richmond turned into boom towns.  After Pearl Harbor, the Bay Area became a centerpiece of FDR's Arsenal of Democracy.

Shipyards went up.  In San Francisco, Bechtel Corporation got a telegram from the government on March 2, 1942 asking if it wanted to build ships on San Francisco Bay.  Within ten days, the corporation began clearing marshlands in Sausalito for a shipyard named Marinship.  Just three months after the call, the keel of a freighter had been laid and in September, the William Richardson, named for Sausalito's founder, was launched.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

McHenry County's First World War II Casualty

From the May 29, 2012, Northwest Herald (McHenry County, Il.) "First WWII casualty in McHenry County remembered decades later" by Stephen D. Benedetto.

On December 7, 1941, Private Joseph Nelles of Woodstock was preparing the altar for Mass at the makeshift chapel at Hickam Field.  He had dreams of becoming a priest and was an assistant chaplain.

He was at first thought to be missing but later was confirmed among the dead from that day.His body was found near the base of the altar.

His watch had stopped at 7:50.

He is buried at Diamond Head Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu.

In 1995, the current Air Force Base Chapel was named after him.


USS Arizona Memorial Turns 50 in 2012

May 22, 2012 Hawaii News Now.

A number of events were planned for May 25-28.

The USS Arizona's anchor is now at Phoenix, Arizona at Wesley Bolin Plaza.  It was retrieved from the wreck.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Top Ten Naval Warfare Movies of All-Time-- Part 2

And, best line:

6.  THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945)--  "I used to skipper a cake of soap in the bathtub, too."

7.  MIDWAY (1976)--  "Wait and see.  We waited December 7, we saw.  The 'wait and see'ers will bust your ass every time."

8.  THE CAINE MUTINY  (1954)--  "The first thing you've got to learn about this ship is that she was designed by geniuses to be run by idiots."

9.  PEARL HARBOR (2001)--  "I've got some genuine French champagne.  From France."

10.  ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC (1943)--  The trouble with you, Pulaski, is you think America is just a place to eat and sleep.  You don't know what side your future's buttered on."


Top Ten Naval Warfare Movies of All Time-- Part 1

From the May 22, 2012, Moviefone "Battleship, Memorial Day and the Top 10 Naval Warfare Movies of all-time" by Jason Apuzzo.  This got me to do yesterday's blog entry because of its mention of the movie "Battleship" being such a bomb.

And, best line from the movie:

1.  THE ENEMY BELOW (1957)--  "I don't want to know the man I'm trying to destroy."

2  DESTINATION TOKYO  (1944)--  "Congratulations, Wolf...It's been an hour since anything reminded you of a dame."

3.  TORA! TORA! TORA!  (1970)--  "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

4.  THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990)--  We will pass through the American patrols, past their sonar nets, and lay off their largest city and listen to them rock-and-roll...while we conduct missile drills."

5.  SINK THE BISMARCK (1960)--  "We are unsinkable...and we are German!"

This is one that I saw a whole bunch of times at the theater.  Afterwards, my friends and I came up with a game called "Sink the Bismarck."  The idea was to put your arms in defensive position up by your chest and run into everyone else as hard as you could and try to sink them by knocking them down.  Lots of fun. but mighty painful.  Our parents would wonder why we were so sore.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

That's Me, a Big Battleship Fan

Jason Apuzzo says the newly released movie "Battleship" capsized at the box office.  It did, bit I liked the movie a whole lot as I am and always have been a big fan of battleships ever since I saw my first one, the USS North Carolina.  I have seen "Battleship" on FX several times and have the DVD.

It was great that none of the new digital weapons or ships could stop the aliens, but bring that old "Mighty Mo" back and that did the trick, especially with part of the crew being our World War II veterans.

My brother and I used to argue a lot about which was better, aircraft carriers or battleships.  I, of course, went with battleships even though I knew a battleship would be no match for a carrier's planes.

Our battleships, especially the last four were the most striking looking warships ever built.

Coming Tomorrow, Jason Apuzzo's Top Ten Naval Warfare movies of all-time.

A Lot of Guns, A Lot of Punch in Those Battleships.  --GreGen

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wilmington's USS North Carolina in 1962

From the May 1, 2012, Wilmington-Star News.

APRIL 16, 1962:  A recent Sunday set a daily record for the new USS North Carolina battleship museum as it had opened recently.  That Sunday, 6,583 boarded, up 192 from the previous Sunday.

During the first six months 107,279 had visited the ship.

A 2012 Star article reported a drop in attendance for the previous year to 193,150 visitors between October 1, 2010, and September 30, 2011.

APRIL 30, 1962:  Thousands of people were on hand as high-ranking U.S. Navy officials and Governor Terry Sanford helped dedicate the USS North Carolina.

A tribute was presented to Battleship Commission Chairman Hugh Morton and te late Jimmy Craig (who had died in 1 1961 plane crash) and never got to see the ship they worked so hard to acquire actually get to Wilmington.

Governor Sanford noted that 700,000 North Carolina school children had donated to help bring the ship home.

I Was One of Them.  --GreGen

Wilmington At War, April 1942

From the May 1, 2012, Wilmington (n.C.) Star-News.

APRIL 17, 1842:  Construction across the whole United States was curtailed because of the war, but not at Wilmington where 800 jousing units were going up at this date.  650 of those units were meant for white shipbuilding workers and 150 for blacks

The black units were probably at Maffitt Village which is still there and now called Long Leaf Park.  Segregation was still very much alive during the war.

Maffitt Village was named after famous Confederate naval officer John Newland Maffitt.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sunken WWII Ship Causing Oil Slicks and Smell in Canada

From the May 3, 2012, Vancouver (Can) Sun "Sunken Second World War ship leaking fuel, natives say" by Larry Pynn.

The Gilga'at Nation wantes the Canadian government to do something about the sunken ship at Hartley Bay.  It is producing oil slicks and has a bad smell.

The U.S. Transport Ship Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski was carrying 700 tons of bunker oil and at least a dozen 227-kilogram bombs when it hit rocks in 1946 in Grenville Channel about 40 miles north of Hartley Bay and sank.  All 47 men aboard were saved even though the ship sank in twenty minutes.

It is 27 meters under the surface and oil slicks are forming.  Another ship, the ferry MV Queen of the North sank near the site in 2006.

The Zalinski was built in Lorain, Ohio, and delivered to the government in June 1919, too late for use during World War I.  It was sold in 1924, but reacquired in 1941.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Prince Philip Breaks the Silence on His Role Against Italian Warships at Battle of Cape Matapan

From the April 16, 2012, Mirror (UK) News.

Prince Philip, 90, describes his role in the Battle of Cape Matapan against Italian ships and destroyers off the coast of Greece in 1941.

He operated a battleship's search light. and they caught the Italians by surprise, picking out their targets and sinking 3 cruisers and 2 destroyers.

Prince Philip joined the Royal Navy at the age of 17 in the spring of 1939 and was a midshipman on the British World War I battleship Valiant.  Prince Philip recounted: that he was "ordered to 'open the shutter.'  The beam lit up a stationary cruiser, but we were so close by then that the beam only lit up half the ship.

"At that point all hell broke loose, as all our eight 15-inch guns, plus those of the flagship and Barham's started firing at the stationary cruiser, which disappeared in an explosion and a cloud of smoke.

His ship then destroyed another cruiser.

Later in the war, Prince Philip became one of the youngest officers to make first lieutenant and second in command of a ship.


USS Iowa Update from 2012

The USS Iowa took four days to be towed from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The ship is 887 feet long and was called "The Big Stick."

On May 21, 2012, the USS Iowa tow was delayed because of weather.

May 24, 2012: USS Iowa still in port

May 26th: USS Iowa sailed (towed)under the Golden Gate Bridge, the last time a battleship will ever pass under it.  It is expected to be open for the public in Los Angeles by July 7th.

May 29th:  USS Iowa just about at its final home.  A WWII merchant ship came by for a look.

May 30th:  The USS Iowa at anchor on Wednesday of the Port of Los Angeles, its final home.  Still expected to open to the public on July 7th after a reunion of USS Iowa veterans.


National Maritime Day Wreath Laying in N.C.

From the May 21, 2012, Cape Fear Business News "M.C. Ports to Host National Maritime Day Wreath Laying Ceremony.""

This is an annual event honoring the U.S. Merchant Marine.

The ceremony will take place Tuesday, May 22 at 11 a.m. at the veterans Memorial Wall on Water Street in downtown Wilmington.

From 1941-1945, Wilmington built 243 Liberty Ships.

During World War II, 243,000 served with the Merchant Marine and 9,500 died, the highest casualty rate of any U.S. service branch.