Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Battleship USS North Carolina's Alligator Gets a Name Back in 1965

From the Sept. 27, 2015, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

I am sure glad to see they've started up this interesting column looking back on the area history over the years in the Wilmington papers.  They were doing this regularly for awhile, but not often  the last year or so.  The big problem is that this paper only allows a small number of views each month.

SEPTEMBER 12, 1965:  The USS North Carolina had been moored in Wilmington for about four years at the time and animals had started hanging out in her slip across from the city.  The best-known was an alligator that the people on the ship had named Charley (but who could just as well be Charlene, as no one checked for some reason).

Other fauna hanging around were jumping mullet (probably because of Charley), gar, otters, marsh hens and lots and lots of turtles.

The USS North Carolina battleship superintendent, Retired Rear Admiral Robert B. Ellis, joked that they should open an aquarium because of all their animal and fish residents.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

World War II Museums Show Way to VJ Day-- Part 6: National World War II Museum

The war with Japan and the country's eventual surrender are told in a new exhibit opening this December at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

The "Road to Tokyo" follows the trail of GIs beginning at Pearl Harbor and then through the island hopping across the Pacific over the next nearly four years.  The exhibit will show the grueling conditions faced by our men, but also facing an enemy from a vastly different culture.

Aging veterans greet visitors in the lobby at a small table and will share their experiences.


Monday, September 28, 2015

World War II Museums Show Way To VJ Day-- Part 5: National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

It was new President Harry Truman who ultimately made the decision to drop the atom bombs on two Japanese cities--  Hiroshima and Nagasaki--  in August 1945.  The devastating blasts brought the Japanese around to surrendering.

The impact of unleashing the then-new technology can be seen at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The atom bomb was developed at the "secret city" of Los Alamos, N.M., and the first test detonation occurred near Almogordo, N.M..

Curator David Hoover says, "We just present the facts.  We let people draw their own conclusions."


Saturday, September 26, 2015

World War II Museums Show Way to VJ Day-- Part 4: Ernie Pyle, "Dead Men By Mass Production"

In Ernie Pyle's pocket the day he was killed April 18, 1945, was his final dispatch in his own handwriting, that eloquently described the horrors of war:  "Dead men by mass production-- in one country after another--  month after month and year after year.

"Dead men in winter and dead men in summer.

"Dead men is such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous.

"Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them."

Though most Americans nowadays have probably never heard of him, Pyle was so famous that Harry Truman, who had become president just six days earlier, announced his death.  "More than any other man, he became the spokesman of the ordinary American in arms doing so many extraodinary things," Truman said.


Friday, September 25, 2015

World War II Museums Show Way to VJ Day-- Part 3:The Ernie Pyle World War II Museum in Indiana

It is in tiny Dana, Indiana and volunteer Phil Hess believes that war stories should be preserved, "History is fragile."

He is one of the people who keep the Ernie Pyle World War II museum going..

Ernie Pyle was a very famous war correspondent who grew up in Dana, actually in a farmhouse that is now part of the museum.  He is one of the most famous war correspondents of all time.

"He had about 40 million daily readers.  He was in 700 newspapers," Hess explained.  "He spent his time with the enlisted guys.  He'd go to the front lines.  He'd go up to the repair shops He'd go with truck drivers.  ...People who read (his columns) felt like they were reading a letter from their servicemen."

The museum features dioramas from various places from where he wrote his columns-- North Africa; Normandy; France; and the Pa Near the end of the museum tour, visitors see a mural depicting the ditch in which Ernie Pyle was killed by Japanese gunfire on April 18, 1945.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

World War II Museums Show Way to VJ Day-- Part 2: The USS Missouri

One of the best of these museums is none other than the big ship itself, the "Mighty Mo."  The battleship USS Missouri was where the war officially ended and is today permanently moored at Pearl harbor's Ford Island, just a few hundred yards from the USS Arizona Memorial, atop that battleship.  Between the two of these ships, we have the beginning and end of World War II for the United States.

Visitors can now stand on the Missouri's deck by a bronze plaque marking the spot where General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz led a 22-minute surrender ceremony while the USS Missouri was in Tokyo Bay.


"On surrender day, all of the guns here were locked and loaded because nobody knew if this was a trick or not," said Mike Carr, president and CEO of the Battleship Missouri Memorial.  "In fact there were almost a thousand planes in the air at that time, with either landing sites or bombing targets designated."

On lower decks, restored crew quarters, exhibits and an excellent film tells the ship's story.

The Missouru was also featured in the movie "Battleship."  When I went to Hawaii, we went out to the USS Arizona memorial, but unfortunately did not have time to go to the Missouri.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

World War II Museums Show Way to VJ Day-- Part 1

From the August 30, 2015, Chicago tribune by Jay Jones.


Most Americans weren't even alive when the Japanese surrendered aboard the battleship USS Missouri, officially ending World War II 70 years ago.  There are fewer still of the soldiers who fought to preserve out freedom, and those are dying at an alarming rate.  The Department of Veteran Affairs reports that one of them dies every three minutes on average.

Therefore it becomes increasingly up to museums to share their experiences that led to VJ (Victory over Japan) Day on September 2, 1945.

"A fascinating mix of museums stretching from one end of the country to the other explains how sheer grit and new technology ultimately turned the tide and led to surrender.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reconciling Iwo Jima-- Part 6: Afterwards Used As Emergency Landing Place for B-29s

Though a very small island, now called Ioto or Iwoto on Japanese maps, it was strategically important because it was being used by the Japanese to launch air attacks on American bombers.  After its capture, it was used by the U.S. as an emergency landing site for B-29s, which eventually made 2,900 emergency landings there that are estimated to have saved the lives of 24,000 airmen who would have otherwise crashed into the sea.

Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded at the battle, more than at any other battle in history.

The only surviving Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima, Hershel "Woody" Williams, 91, attended the ceremony.  Afterwards he said that his feeling against the Japanese soldiers he faced had still not changed.  "They were just doing their jobs like we were.  We tried to kill them before they could kill us.  But that's war."


Monday, September 21, 2015

Reconciling Iwo Jima-- Part 5: The Island Today

Wreckage of the battle can still be seen.  Military equipment can be seen on some beach areas.  There are also pill boxes and extensive mazes of caves.

There have been ideas for decades to turn the island into a tourist area, possibly using its natural hot springs as a draw, but nothing, fortunately, has ever come of that.  Not historic tourism as a place like that is just not right.

The island has remained virtually untouched other than the small airfield used by the Japanese.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Reconciling Iwo Jima-- Part 4

The Marines invaded Iwo Jima in February 1945, and it wasn't declared secure a month later after a month of fierce fighting.  About 70,000 U.S. troops fought more than 20,000 Japanese.  Of the other side, just 216 were captured.  The others either were killed or took their own lives.

Iwo Jima was declared secure on March 16, 1945, but skirmishes continued.  In about 36 days of battle, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed and 20,000 wounded.

To this day it is considered sacred ground to many Japanese.  Search teams still dig up remains each year, though an estimated 12,000 are yet to be found.

The United States returned the island to Japan in 1968.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Reconciling Iwo Jima-- Part 3: A Joint Ceremony and the "Very Ethos" of the Corps

Former Sgt. John Roy Coltrane, 93, of Siler City, N.C. said, "I hated them. For 40 years, I wouldn't even buy anything made in japan.  But now i drive a Honda."

Speeches at the Reunion of Honor ceremony, held near the beaches where the Americans landed were made by senior Japanese  politicians and descendants of the few Japanese soldiers who survived the battle.  Also speaking were U.S. secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Gen. Joseph Dunford, commandant of the USMC, who said that the Battle of Iwo Jima remains the "very ethos" of the Corps.

This was the first time that Japanese cabinet officials attended the ceremony which is now in its 16th year.  The presence of veterans, however, has been sadly dwindling.  Although for this year, the 500 attending was nearly double what it was the previous year.

After the ceremony, the Americans and Japanese went their own ways to parts of the island most meaningful to them.  The Japanese have erected several memorials to their dead and in the traditional way of placating their souls poured water and placed flowers on the sites.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reconciling Iwo Jima-- Part 2: Now Called Ioto And Still Under Japanese Control

Some very interesting photos accompanied the article.

One shows U.S. Marines hoisting the U.S. flag on the summit of Mt. Suribachi, but one a flagpole.  Iwo Jima is now called Ioto.  It was one of the war's most bloody and iconic battles.

Picture of Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani shaking hands with a U.S. veteran of the battle.

Picture of the wreath-laying ceremony.

Dog tags hanging from a memorial on Mount Suribachi

Japanese family members of soldiers who died at the battle offer water Saturday on the cenotaph on Iwo Jima.


Reconciling Iwo Jima-- Part 1

From the March 22, 2015, Goldsboro (NC) News-Argus, AP.

Dozens of aging U.S. veterans, many in their early 90s and some in wheelchairs gathered on Saturday to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle.  More than 30 veterans were flown in from Guam and toured the black sand beaches where they fought dug-in and determined Japanese soldiers in early 1945.

They were bused to the top of the famous Mount Suribachi, a still active volcano, where the famous AP photo was taken of the Americans raising the flag.  It was a potent symbol of hope and valor to a war-weary public back in the States.

The island is still garrisoned by a small contingent of Japanese soldiers.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Survivor of HMS Royal Oak Sinking Dies

From the August 4, 2014, Herald Scotland.

Bert Pocock, 92, died.  He survived the sinking of the British HMS Royal Oak sinking.  His ship was hit by two torpedoes from the U-47 which had managed to penetrate the defenses of the British home port of Scapa Flow.

Most of its 1,200 men were asleep below deck and over 800 died.

Mr. Pocock was 17 at the time.  he always said the only reason he survived was because he was sleeping next to the ladder to the escape hatch.


Death of Rear Admiral Robert Broussard Erly in 2014: Pearl Harbor Survivor

Died July 31, 2014, at the age of 100.

Graduated the USNA in 1937 and was a Lt.jg when the attack came.  He organized hoses on the burning battleship USS Pennsylvania and the destroyers USS Downes and Cassin in the drydock.  He importantly hosed down the torpedoes and depth charges on the destroyers to prevent even worse destruction.

He served on destroyers for teh rest of the war in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and eventually commanded the USS Phelps.

He also was in the Korean and Vietnam wars.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu-- Part 2

On April 29, 1932, while attending the celebration for Emperor Hirohito's birthday in Shanghai, a Korean Independence activist threw a bomb into the reviewing stand, killing a general and wounding many others, including Shigemitsu who lost his left leg as a result and walked with an artificial leg and cane for the rest of his life.  This was one thing James Starnes had to plan for in the surrender ceremony was the foreign minister's disability.

After that, he became ambassador to the Soviet Union.  He tried to warn his government against signing the Berlin Pact, saying it would greatly worsen U.S.-Japan relations.

He later went to Washington, D.C., for two weeks to try to defuse the worsening relations.  After Pearl harbor, he was sent to China.

He signed the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, along with Japanese General Umezu.


Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.


In the last weeks i have been writing about the official Japanese surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri.  The Instrument of Surrender was signed by Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu.  I did some more research on him.

He was a diplomat and politician of the Empire of Japan and Minister of Foreign Affairs at the end of World War II.  To him fell the job of signing the surrender document ending the war.

After graduating from law school in 1909, he served various diplomatic postings including Germany, United Kingdom and was briefly consulate in Seattle, Washington.

He was active in various European capitals to reduce alarm at Japanese military actions in Manchuria.


Monday, September 14, 2015

One Thousand "Rosie the Riveters"

From the August 27, 2015, KQED "Watch a Thousand Rosie the Riveters Set a World Record in Richmond."

Richmond, California.

And some of them were real Rosies who provided the weapons our troops used.  Some were blacks.

All sported the signature white polka dot red bandannas as seen on the era posters.  An Andrews Sisters tribute group performed.  A video accompanied the article.

From 1940-1944, some 8 million women worked in the nation's factories to replace the men who had gone off to war.  They produced the weapons, munitions, planes, ships and other items the military needed.

Their emblem was a determined-looking woman in blue overalls, flexing her right bicep.  She wore red knee socks, work boots and a red bandanna with white polka dots.  She was called "Rosie the Riveter."

On August 15, in Richmond, California, more than 1000 women of all ages gathered to set a new world record in "The Largest Gathering of people Dressed as Rosie the Riveter."  This will be officially confirmed by the Guinness World Records in September.

This event also marked the end of World War II.


Pearl Harbor Survivor's Ashes Spread At USS Utah Memorial in 2014

From the March13, 2014, "Ashes of Pearl harbor Survivor's Ashes Spread."

Machinist's Mate, 1st Class William Henderson's ashes were scattered in the water by the USS Utah Memorial at a ceremony on March 10th.

He was born in 1922 and joined the Navy the day after his 18th birthday, November 13, 1940.  When the attack came, he was asleep in his rack on the USS Helena when he was awakened by a general alarm calling for the men to report to their battle stations.

Mr. Henderson was quickly getting dressed when a Japanese torpedo hit the ship, knocked out the Helena's power and flooded the engine and boiler rooms.  Mr. Henderson was knocked unconscious for a short time and then was able to get to his battle station.

The Helena was repaired and saw service in the Battles of Esperanza, Guadalcanal and Kula Gulf.  In this last battle, the USS Helena was hit by three torpedoes and broke into three pieces before sinking.

He survived that and was later assigned to the attack transport USS President Polk.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pearl Harbor Survivor Deaths in 2014

Ashes of Pearl Harbor Survivor Theodore F. Roosevelt interred aboard the USS Utah on March 24, 2014.  Died at age 89.  One of 12 Pearl Harbor survivors interred aboard the ship.

March 21, 2014, WXOW 19, ABC "Remembering Joe Sweeney.  Died March 19, 2014.  On USS Whitney, docked near Battleship Row.  In 2012, he and 18 other Wisconsin Pearl Harbor survivors returned to it.

April 19, 2014, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader "Last known Ozarks survivor of Pearl Harbor dies at 90" by Christine Temple.  William Martin was 18 when the attack came.  Gunner's Mate, Seaman 2nd Class William Martin enlisted in the Navy on December 9, 1940, and was on the USS Nevada.

He was firing an anti-aircraft gun when an explosion knocked him unconscious.  He lost an eye and was wounded by shrapnel and tagged for dead three times.  He spent six months recovering in a San Francisco hospital.

April 9, 2014, Lehigh Acres Citizen.  "Dominick S. Bruno Sr, 93.  Died April 1, 2014,  In the U.S. Army at the attack and a life member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.


World War II's High School Victory Corps

From Wikipedia.

In the last post, I wrote about the Shorpy photo about this organization.

Referred to simply as Victory Corps, it was a World War II program for male and female high school students established September 25, 1942, by Commissioner of Education John W. Studebaker.

It focused on skills relevant to the war effort such as physical conditioning as well as to more specific things like trigonometry for the U.S. Navy.  Overall, it focused on "science, math, and physical education."

It began phasing out as the war neared its end, starting in June 1941.


Shorpy Photos: High School Victory Corps and Tires

From the Shorpy Photos site.

This site is always a great source of the American home front with obviously a huge collection of Office of War Information (OWI) photographs.

Sept. 2, 2015,  LEARNING THE ROPES:1941.  Oct. 1942.  "High School Victory Corps.  Flushing High School, Queens, New York.  Boy climbing a rope without using his legs.  Very difficult.  Photo by William Perlitch, OWI.

High school boys would soon be in the service so needed to be in good shape.

Sept. 1, 2015,  TIRE SERVICE: 1941.  "Hollywood, California.  "Tire service station."  Photo of Mosher Tire, next to the Dix Hotel.  Photo by Russell Lee, OWI.

Comment:  Owner of Mosher Tire Service was Lewis Dean Mosher, born in Illinois on Sept. 26, 1885.

Of course, tires were in short supply due to the war.

You can view the photos by typing in Shorpy and the capital letter words.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering 9/11 in 2015: "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue"

Continued from mt Not So Forgotten War of 1812 blog.

His father was Hunert Keith (H.K.) Covel, who was killed in a car crash in March of 2001.

It took Toby Keith twenty minutes to write the song.

At first, he refused to record it and only played it at concerts for American military, but it was a huge hit among them.  The Commandant of the USMC, James L. Jones, told him it was his duty as an American citizen to record the song.

This song helped spark problems between correspondent Peter Jennings and the country group Dixie Chicks.

Continued in Cooter's History Thing blog.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

See James Starnes at Japanese Surrender-- Part 3""What Were the Three Guys at the Railing Looking At?"

Another comment:  "What were the three guys at the railing looking at?  There were three sailors by the railing in the photo looking away from the ship, one with binoculars.  They were not paying attention to the proceedings of surrender.

Another person said that their great uncle Carroll A.L. "Whiskey" Herget was on the USS Missouri during the surrender.

A Navy band was also there, having just played "The Star-Spangled Banner."  They are in dress whites.  One has a tuba.

The officer standing by the eight sailors in white uniforms by the gang plank with binoculars around his neck was James Starnes.  Two of the sailors are looking at the gang plank and one is turned around watching the surrender.


See James Starnes at Japanese Surrender-- Part 2: "Didn't Have to Tell Me Twice"

There were some interesting comments as well.

One comment referred to the fact that the man who organized it, James Starnes was still alive and gave the article I covered earlier last week.

Another comment mentioned that on the Allied side, the Instrument of Surrender, as it was called, was signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Soviet Union and France.

A third comment:  "When the surrender was announced in August, my mom gave me a metal dish pan and a wooden spoon and told me to go out by the front gate and bang it.  Wow!  Here I was, a little kid actually being encouraged to make noise!  She didn't have to tell me twice.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

See James Starnes in the Famous Japanese Surrender Photograph-- Part 1

From the September 2, 2015, Shorpy site.

After reading the article I wrote about the last several entries, it was really interesting to look at the photo taken of the surrender on the Missouri 70 years ago and to be able to see James Starnes standing on the deck.

You can view the photo at Shorpy 9-2-15, Japan Surrenders: 1945.  Even better, you can enlarge the photo to get even more stunning detail.  Starnes is standing by the railing on the lower deck by the sailors in two rows.  He is the officer wearing binoculars around his neck.

JAPAN SURRENDERS: 1945.  "Japanese foreign minister Manoru Shigemitsu signing the document of surrender aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay as General Douglas MacArthur and members of the Allied delegation watch."

Acme photo by Dave Davis, war pool correspondent.


The "Mighty Mo's" Place At the End of World War II-- Part 6: No Time to Celebrate

When it was all over, James Starnes felt tremendously elated.  "I'd gotten through all of it-- I had a lot of friends who died-- and here it was over."

Even as happy as he was, he showed none of it, saying, "I was on duty.  I wasn't in a position to jump up and celebrate.  I had to write the log after the ceremony."

After the war, he went back to Emory University and went on to have a successful career in real estate and banking.

He went back to Pearl Harbor a decade ago to celebrate the 60th anniversary of V-J Day on the USS Missouri and last year published a short book, "Surrender: September 2, 1945."  In it he chronicles his wartime experience.


Monday, September 7, 2015

The "Mighty Mo's" Place At the End of World War II-- Part 5: "Where Are Those Damn Planes?"

Thousands of men from the military's top brass to regular crewmen witnessed he signing of the documents, ending the war with the surrender of the Japanese Empire.  The Allied copy was bound in leather and the Japanese one in canvas.

There were a few glitches, despite Starnes' careful planning.  The Canadian representative signed on the wrong line.  Yet, for the most part the 23-minute ceremony, broadcast around the world, ran smoothly.

At the end, General Douglas MacArthur said, "Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world, and that God will preserve it always.  These proceedings are closed."

He then turned to Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey and said, "Where are the damn planes?"  The plan was to have a massive flyover of some 450 carrier aircraft from the 3rd fleet, followed by a formation of B-29 bombers.  A clear indication of the might of the United States.

They finally arrived as the Japanese delegation was escorted off the deck.  Starnes remembers, "They were so low they made the sky look black."


The "Mighty Mo's" Place At the End of the World War II-- Part 4: The Signing Table

When the Japanese delegation, some wearing tails and top hats saluted and asked for permission to come aboard, James Starnes said, "Permission granted."

There was no anger or hostility according to Starnes.  "This was peace time.  It was very a formal, very dignified ceremony.

Just before the proceedings got underway, it became evident that the mahogany table, a present from the British fleet, was too small to hold both documents.  With only minutes to go, a folding table was grabbed from the crews' mess where cooks and kp had just finished breakfast.  Captain Marray grabbed a green table cloth stained with coffee spots to drape on top.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

The "Mighty Mo's" Place at the End of World War II-- Part 3: The Tall Sailors

Of particular concern was the Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, who was peg-legged-- his right leg had been blown off by a Korean independence activist earlier in the war.  Young sailors were instructed to play his role, boarding small boats with swab handles strapped to their legs so that they couldn't bend their legs.

On the morning of September 2, clouds loomed over Tokyo Bay and the mood on the Missouri was somber as the U.S. Marine Band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Just before 9 a.m., Starnes, dressed in pressed khakis, with a pair of binoculars strapped around his neck, waited to meet the Japanese delegation, including Gen. Yoshijiro Umezi, chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff.

On reaching the deck, they had to walk past eight sailors, each one standing more than six feet tall.  James Starnes had picked them out in calculated effort to emphasize Allied superiority and intimidate the Japanese delegation.


The "Mighty Mo's" Place at the End of World War II-- Part 3: We'll Accept Surrender in Our Khakis

James Starnes was a Navy reserve Officer at Emory University and now he was in charge of working out the logistics of the formal end of a war that had killed over 60 million people.

At first he went with ceremonial white uniforms and swords, but before it took place, he got word that Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of the U.S. Army in the Pacific and the one who was to take the Japanese surrender, wanted officers to wear their daily service clothes-- knaki button-up shirts with open collars and no ties reportedly saying, "We fought them in our khaki uniforms, and we'll accept their surrender in our khaki uniforms."

Starnes worked very closely with the USS Missouri's captain, Stuart "Sunshine" Murray and the admiral's staff in getting the various parties as well as nearly 200 correspondents and photographers from all over the world on and off the battle ship.

He likened the job to being a symphony conductor  MacArthur made it clear he didn't want the Japanese dignitaries on the deck more than five seconds before 9 a.m., but he also didn't want them arriving late.


Friday, September 4, 2015

The "Mighty Mo's" Place At the End of World War II-- Part 1

From the September 2, 2015, Chicago Tribune by Jenny Jarvie.

James Starnes, 24-years old in 1945, was the navigator on the battleship USS Missouri when he learned he was to have a key role in the ceremony that took place 70 years ago today to mark the official end of World War II.  (The surrender occurred on the USS Missouri because that was Truman's home state.  I've talked with a member of the USS South Dakota during the war who said the surrender should have taken place on that ship.

After the Japanese conceded their defeat on August 14, 1945, President Truman announced that the official surrender would be on the huge 58,000 tons USS Missouri, flagship of the 3rd Fleet.  This is where dignitaries would sign the documents to end the war.

"My job was to make sure we did not screw up," said Starnes, 94, who was officer of the deck the morning of September 2, 1945.

He is now living in a retirement community in Stone Mountain, Georgia, near Atlanta.  He is one of the few surviving veterans who organized the ceremony all those years ago.


World War II Skiers-- Part 5: Based on the Finnish Army

The American ski corps was based on that of the Finnish Army and it recruited from the best skiers in the United States.

Recruiting was helped by the movie "Sun Valley Serenade" which featured skiing.  Later, two war movies were made at Camp Hale:  "Mountain Fighters" in 1943 and "I Love a Soldier" in 1944.

By 1944, Camp Hale was training as many as 14,000 soldiers at a time.  It also housed about 400 members of Rommel's Afrika Korps.

The base was closed in November 1945.  In 2003, the Army Corps of Engineers began cleanup of unexploded ordnance.

Today, the camp is located in the White River National Forest and part of it has camping.  Several markers and plaques about its World War II use are located there.


World War II Skiers-- Part 4: Camp Hale

Yesterday I mentioned that the 10th Mountain Division trained at Camp Hale in Colorado under often horrible conditions.  I looked it up to find out more information.

From Wikipedia.

Camp Hale in Colorado was constructed in 1942 and decommissioned in November 1945.  Recruits were trained for all aspects of winter fighting in what eventually became the 10th Mountain Division.  Sitting at an elevation of 9,200 feet provided excellent training.

Members were trained in mountain climbing, Alpine and Nordic skiing, cold weather survival, weapons and ordnance.

The camp was named for Brigadier General Irving Hale (1861-1930) who fought in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars.


World War II Skiers-- Part 3: A Surprise for the Germans

The 10th Mountain Division never used their skiing ability in actual fighting.  However, their other winter skills paid off.  In February 1945, members scaled a 1,500-foot vertical cliff in the dark to clear the way for a drive through northern Italy which helped liberate the country.

Richard Calvert remembers:  "The Germans had their guns pointed one way, and we came in the back door.  So that worked out pretty neat."

When they returned home, members of the division became some of the founding fathers of the new U.S. skiing industry and established resorts throughout the West.  Before the war, skiing had been essentially a northeastern thing.

The current division no longer specializes in winter warfare, but its members are invited to Cranmore for the annual race which raises money for the ski museum.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

World War II Skiers-- Part 2: "Camp Hell"

The 10th Mountain Division is now stationed at Fort Drum in New York.  The division was the brainchild of Charles Minot Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol.  He convince the U.S. government to create a special infantry force that was trained in winter warfare.

Under a special contract with the War department, the ski patrol hand-picked recruits from among the country's greatest skiers, mountaineers and outdoorsmen.

They spent several brutal winters training in skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing and other elements of winter combat at Camp Hale in Colorado.  Conditions were such that they nicknamed it "Camp Hell."  Richard Calvert remembers a two-week stretch there were temperatures never rose above -10 degrees.

He recalls: "It was tough.  We buried down in the snow, cut branches, threw our sleeping bags down, climbed in, got some sleep-- maybe.  No fires.  It was not fun and games.  It was probably the worst experience we all had.  I like camping out, but that was not fun.


World War II Skiers-- Part 1: Past Meets the Present

From the March 11, 2015, Goldsboro (NC) News-Argus/AP "WWII skiers-turned-soldiers meet servicemen slope side."

North Conway,, New Hampshire.

During World War II, the U.S. government turned skiers into soldiers.  Richard Calvert, 91, was one of them.  The Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race was held at Cranmore Mountain on Saturday and Calvert beat many of the younger soldiers.

This day was more about former and current members of the 10th Mountain Division meeting one another.  The 10th Mountain Division is credited with hastening the end of World War II and the rise of the American ski industry.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

U.S. Lightship Sunk Off North Carolina During World War I Surveyed-- Part 2

The Diamond Shoal Lightship No. 71 was built in Bath, Maine, in 1897, and is also known as the LV-71 and served as a beacon at its post for 21 years.

On August 6, 1918, the German submarine U-140 attacked the ship after torpedoing the unarmed American steamer Merak.  The U-140 then intercepted a warning from the lightship and attacked it, firing from its deck guns.  The 12-man crew escaped, but their ship went to the bottom.  Because of the LV-71's warning, it is estimated that 25 vessels escaped from the German ship.


U.S. Lightship Sunk Off North Carolina During World War I Surveyed-- Part 1

Many Americans are unaware of the number of Allied ships sunk off the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts during World War II, but even fewer, including myself until a couple years ago, knew that there was U-boat activity off the Atlantic coast even during World War I.

From the August 31, 2015, "historic WWI Shipwreck Survey Underway" by Eric Hawn.

The NOAA, USCG and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management began a survey of the Diamond Shoal Lightship No. 71 on August 30th.  This is the only American lightship sunk by enemy action during World War I.  And you thought it was only fought over in Europe.  Actually, ships were sunk off the U.S. coast by German U-boats.

The shipwreck is located off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina, where it warned ships of the ever dangerous Diamond Shoals.  Just recently, the shipwreck was added to the NRHP.

The survey is being done by the research ship Sand Tiger.  Also participating are East Carolina University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Australian Survivor of "The Great Escape" Dies-- Part 2: Paul Royle

Paul Royle distributed dirt from the 380-foot tunnel the Allied prisoners dug by releasing soil from his pants legs in similar-colored soil.  Upon getting away from the camp, he spent two days hiding in a snow-covered forest before he was recaptured.

Flight Lt. Royle was a pilot in the RAF and shot down on May 17, 1940.  he was finally liberated by British troops from the Milag Norg prison camp in Germany on May 2, 1945.  That was a really long time to be a POW.

He was born in Perth, West Australia in 1914.


Australian Survivor of "The Great Escape" Dies-- Part 1: Only One Remains

From the August 28, 2015, Fox News/ AP.

Paul Royle, 101, an Australian pilot who participated in World War II's "Great Escape" died August 23, 2015.  He and the others were the subject of the 1963 movie by the same name starring Steve McQueen.  Now, only one survivor of the 76 POWs who escaped from StalagLuft III, 100 miles southeast of Berlin, remains, British flyer Dick Churchill, 94, a former flight leader.

Paul Royle said he didn't much like the movie and they also never used motor bikes in their escape.

Only three of the escapees, 2 Norwegians and a Danish man made it home.  Fifty others were shot to death when captured and another 23 were returned to StalagLuft III or other prison camps.