Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas For the Boys At War-- Part 2: Miss Connie & the Sergeant

"The response was overwhelming.  About 21,000 readers volunteered o send gifts, and for some it was the start of long pen-pal relationships with soldiers they'd never met."

One even turned into romance and marriage.  Years later, the Tribune found Connie and Francis Harmon living on a farm near Ottawa, Illinois, and wrote:

"Sgt. Harmon, a member of the 129th Infantry regiment, opened a tinsel-wrapped parcel bearing an unfamiliar name, that of Miss Connie Roberts of Madison, Wis..  He was puzzled for he had not heard about the Tribune campaign.  ...Grateful for being remembered with candy, a fountain pen, and other presents, Sgt. Harmon wrote to thank Miss Roberts."

Soon they were writing each other regularly and sharing photographs.  They met in person for the first time in 1945 and got married on Valentine's Day 1946.  They had six children by the time the Tribune wrote their story in 1954.

Romance After a Gift of Friendship.  --GreGen

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas For the Boys At War-- Part 1: The Tribune Does Its Part

From the December 24, 2017, Chicago Tribune by Lara Weber.

"As long as wars have been fought, troops have sent letters home from the battlefield -- homesick missives and pleas for loved ones to remember them.

"By the time the United States entered World War II, though, air travel and modern communications made it much easier for Americans to send gifts and letters to their family, friends and neighbors serving in the armed forces -- and the Chicago Tribune stepped up to make it easier yet.

"Three days after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor drew the U.S. into the war, the Tribune announced a plan for readers to 'Adopt a Yank for Christmas' and send holiday gifts to the troops."

"'Let him know that he wasn't forgotten,' the Tribune said, 'when he gave up his job, put on his country's khaki, and went away where there are only strangers and other lonely men -- where there is no familiar west side, or north side, or south side.'"


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wofford College in World War II

Still smiling about that huge upset Wofford College pulled on last year's National Champion #5 University of North Carolina.  And, I am a huge Tarheel fan, but not when they play one of the "little guys."

During World War II many Wofford students were deployed overseas.  The U.S. Army took over the campus for aviation training.  The few remaining undergraduates attended neighboring Converse College, a women's school.

Enrollment at Wofford increased significantly after the war thanks to the G.I. Bill.

From F-A Military

The Army Air Corps took over Wofford for over a year 1943-1944.  It was used as a training detachment before aviation students went on to pre-flight training and flight school.  The remaining Wofford undergrads went to either Spartanburg Methodist or Converse College.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Bits of War: Pearl Harbor-- Wofford College Beats UNC!!

1.  PEARL HARBOR--  The Dec. 6, 2017, Fortune magazine had an article "What You Should Know About the Pearl Harbor Attack."

It mentioned that after the first wave came in, there were five additional attacks that lasted until 9 p.m., December 7, 1941.  I knew of the two waves, but not the additional attacks.  Unfortunately they didn't say anything about the other attacks.

The article also mentioned that the wreck of the USS Ward, the destroyer that engaged the Japanese mini submarine at the harbor entrance before the planes arrived, had been found at the bottom of Ormoc Bay, Philippines.  I had heard nothing of this story.

2.  WOFFORD COLLEGE--  Still all excited by Wofford College's huge victory over defending national champion and #5 UNC last week.  The Carolina student newspaper describes it as an "unthinkable upset."

In case you are wondering why I included this, I also found that the Wofford College campus was taken over during World War II to train Army Air Corps officers.

Go You Wofford Terriers!!  --GreGen

Friday, December 22, 2017

Modern Technology Keeps Pearl Harbor Alive-- Part 4: A Forced Letter

According to family history, Steve Trafny's Aunt veronica wrote a letter to President Roosevelt asking what had happened to him.  The letter was forwarded to the Red Cross and then on to Trafny's colonel who orderted him to sit down in his presence and write his family a letter to let them know he was still alive.

Steve Trafney died in 1991 and now his story will have to be told by his family.

In his classes, John Trafney favors tow documentaries for his students:  Ken Burns' "The War," a seven-part PBS documentary on World War II and "Victory At Sea."


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Modern Technology Keeps Pearl Harbor Alive-- Part 3: "One of the Stoves Exploded?"

John Trafny has written four books in the "Images of America" series.  His father, Steve Trafny, enlisted in 1939 and served in the 24th Division of the U.S. Army, stationed at Schofield Barracks in Oahu.

"He was set to return stateside when they bombed Pearl Harbor," Trafny said.  "He was on his way to the mess hall  -- he thought one of he stoves exploded.  Then he saw the rising sun (the Japanese emblem) on the side of the plane.

As a teacher, he makes sure students hear the veterans speak first-hand about their war experiences.  He talked with his father and other family members to learn about what happened to them.  he saved photos and letters his father wrote home -- including the first letter from him that his family received after the attack.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Modern Technology Keeps Pearl Harbor Alive-- Part 2: Getting Virtual

Even though the U.S. government took efforts to censor the horrible images back them, today it is very easy to see what happened from a TV or home computer.  You can go on You Tube, founded in 2005, and see all you want.  A quick search will also get you lots of information.

Time Inc.' Life VR -- as in virtual realty -- has recently released "Remembering Pearl Harbor," which can be seen on Vive, a virtual reality game system.  The story on this goes through the eyes of an actual Pearl Harbor veteran, Lt. James Downing, who served as a postmaster on the USS West Virginia.

The Smithsonian Channel has a new series called "The Lost Tapes," and has an episode on Pearl Harbor.  It includes radio reports, film footage, audiotape, photos, wire dispatches and first-person accounts.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Modern Technology Keeps History of Pearl Harbor Alive-- Part 1

From the December 7, 2016, Chicago Tribune by Nancy Colton Webster.

The eyewitnesses to that attack are fewer and fewer with each passing year.  But, many are leaving their stories via technology for future generations.

Technology not dreamed of in 1941 makes it possible to retell those stories in new and exciting ways showing film footage, photos and audio from that day.

"The interesting thing in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack -- the government censored the showing of any images so as not to alarm to the tremendous extent of the damage to our fleet, said James B. Lane, professor emeritus of history at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.


Monday, December 18, 2017

For Pearl Harbor Unknowns, A Final Rest --Part 4: Joseph Triolo Remembers His Friend Donald McCloud

Joseph Triolo, 96, is in an assisted living facility in Zion, Illinois.  He is waiting to hear from the Defense Department when they identify Donald R. McCloud, a sailor aboard the Oklahoma and one of the unknowns.

McCloud was one of Triolo's closest friends growing up in Waukegan and he followed Triolo's lead to enlist in the Navy in 1937.  The two were at Pearl Harbor that day, but on different ships.  The night before the attack, they had watched a baseball game between two Navy teams.  Then McCloud had bought Triolo a beer.

Triolo was on the USS Tangier when the attack came.  He remembers the chaos:  "There were so many men getting killed, you couldn't think about it.  You just went on and did what the hell you needed to do."


Friday, December 15, 2017

For Pearl Harbor Unknowns, A Final Rest-- Part 3: "Everyone Has the Right to Have Their Names Back"

Researchers using genealogical records to track down descendants who could provide DNA samples.  These samples are crossed with DNA pulled from the skulls and teeth of the servicemen to find a match.

So far, according to Captain Edward A Reedy, a medical doctor who is lab director for the POW/MIA Accounting Agency, research teams have found strong DNA or dental evidence for nearly 350 of the 388 sailors and Marines from the USS Oklahoma.

The oil from the stricken ship has helped to preserve the bones and Reedy is confident that the teams will identify nearly 310 of the servicemen by the time the project is scheduled to end in 2020.

This article is from December 7, 2016.  Just recently the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command has released a report that they have now identified 100 of the men.

"In my line of work, there is no higher honor than returning a missing individual to their loved ones,"  Reedy said.  "Everyone has a right to have their names back.  It's been nearly 75 years since they have had their names back.  It is about time they do."


Thursday, December 14, 2017

For Pearl Harbor Unknowns, A Final Rest-- Part 2: The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command

The military buried the remains of the unidentified in group graves in two cemeteries in Hawaii.  In 1947 the remains were exhumed and brought to a military lab on the islands to be identified.

But that effort fizzled after disputes arose over how to conclusively identify the remains.  Disagreement also existed over whether individual remains could be segregated from group graves with scientific certainty.  The two groups of unknown were united for reburial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).

The situation changed in 2003 when a Pearl Harbor survivor who was researching buried unknown sailors and Marines persuaded the military lab in Hawaii to exhume the remains of an ensign.  That exhumation revealed that approximately 100 servicemen's remains in the same casket.

In 2012 the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command proposed a full disinterment, which led to a Defense Department directive to begin the exhumations in June 2015 and to identify each of the 388 remains of the unknown servicemen.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

For Pearl Harbor Unknowns, A Final Rest-- Part 1: Below Deck On the USS Oklahoma

From the December 7, 2016, Chicago Tribune  Ted Gregory.

A total of 64 of those nearly 400 sailors and Marines who died on the USS Oklahoma and buried as unknowns have been identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

One of the remaining unidentified  is Michael Galajdik, Navy Fireman 1st Class from Joliet, Illinois.  He enlisted in April 1940 and was one of three brothers who served during World War II.

Death below deck on the USS Oklahoma was particularly nightmarish.  Althougjh about 32 men were rescued by cutting through the hull, many suffocated after those efforts had to be abandoned for fear that the work would ignite explosive fires from oil and gas in and around the ship.

The vast majority of bodies were recovered from July 15, 1941, to May 10, 1944.  The bodies had by then decomposed extensively and were unidentifiable.

This Effort to Identify the Ramains Is Very Commendable.  --GreGen

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lack of Waitresses Causes Sycamore Restaurant To Close On Sundays

From the October 27, 2017, MidWeek  (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"War is striking hard at the restaurants in Sycamore as well as other cities and waitresses are difficult to find.

"Because of this, the State Street Cafe near California, has announced that it will be closed on Sunday for the duration."

Many of the women who used to work as waitresses are now working in defense industries.

The War's Impact on Restaurants Now.  --GreGen

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two Pearl Harbor Survivors To Speak At WW II Round Table

From the November 29, 2017, Press & Journal (Pennsylvania)  "Pearl Harbor survivors to speak at local World War II Roundtable event December 7."

Richard "Dick" Schimmel of Allentown was at a radar station at Fort Shafter where he worked a s a plotter and switchboard operator.

William Bonelli was an aircraft mechanic with the Army Air Corps at Hickam Field

The Central Pennsylvania World War II Roundtable meets at the Grace United Methodist Church in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.

I Sure Wish We had a WW II Round Table Around Here.  --GreGen

Warning Signs That War Was On the Way-- Part 2: Accurate Predictions

JANUARY  27, 1941

Though the Navy relays the ambassador's note to Admiral Husband Kimmel, the newly named commander at Pearl Harbor, it places "no credence" in it.  Such rumors had existed long enough to become a cliche in military circles.

MARCH 31, 1941

Two U.S. air-defense officials say a Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor would probably happen at dawn, from carriers less than 300 miles away, and before war was officially declared.

The Martin-Bellinger report proved remarkably accurate.

Sounds Familiar.  --GreGen

Friday, December 8, 2017

Warning Signs That War Was On the Way-- Part 1: It Could Happen

From the December 7, 2016, USA Today.  "War games, embassy rumor, report said attack could happen."

1932 and 1938:  Two separate U.S. Navy military exercises showed that a surprise attack against Oahu could succeed.

Japanese assault positions and times were similar to those of the simulated attacks.

Jan. 27, 1941:  Joseph Grew, U.S. ambassador to Japan, secretly cables Washington that Japan is planning a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Washington disagrees, believing instead that Japan will attack the Philippines if war starts.


Japan Struck Pearl Harbor in Two Waves

From the December 7, 2017, USA Today.

The Japanese launch their attack planes from a six-carrier task force about 220 miles north of Oahu.  determined to dominate Asia, and convinced that war with the United States is inevitable, Japan hopes it can swipe out the Pacific Fleet in a surprise attack.

The infamous day starts at about 4a.m. when a submerged submarine is sighted near the harbor entrance.  The destroyer USS Ward sinks it about 6:45 a.m., but by then the Japanese planes are in the air.

Too late.  --GreGen

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Joe George Gets Medal for Saving USS Arizona Sailors-- Part 3: Bronze Star

At around sunset, rear Admiral Matthew Carter, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, will present the Bronze Star to Joe George's daughter, Joe Ann Taylor, at the USS Arizona Memorial -- reversing a past decision by the Navy not to give him a medal for disobeying the order.

"Bruner, 97, and Stratton, 95, will be in attendance as well.  George died in 1996.

"'It means everything,'  Taylor said.  'It's a wonderful thing because it validates everything we know about my father.'

"Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., introduced the proclamation in August and, with five co-sponsors -- both Republican and Democratic --  it passed unanimously in September.

"Flake called the honor 'long overdue.'

"Randy Stratton notes that 'I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for what Joe George did.  I have him to thank for saving my father.'

"Bruner got emotional during a phone interview.  His caregiver, Ed Hoeschen, said Bruner fought back tears before saying that the medal should have been given to George a long time ago.

"'It's about damn time,' Bruner said."

Congratulations to the Joe George Family and Thanks To All Involved In his getting It.  --GreGen

Sailor Gets Medal for Saving USS Arizona Lives-- Part 2

Jumping into the water was not an option as it was on fire because of the fuel from the ruptured tanks on the Arizona.

Joe George "threw the rope anyway.  It was caught and secured to the Arizona, and Stratton and Bruner began scooting along it, hand over hand, for 75 feet.

"'As we got closer, he was standing there nodding his head yelling, 'You can make it!  You can make it!' Stratton said in a phone interview from Hawaii.

The two did make it -- along with four others from the Arizona.  Two eventually died from their injuries, but those who survived (and Stratton and Bruner are still alive) credit George with saving them.  despite his act, he never was awarded a medal.

"That will change Thursday.  His family will see him honored at Pearl Harbor on the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941."


Sailor Gets Medal for Saving USS Arizona Lives-- Part 1: In a Really Bad Place

From the December 7, 2017, Chicago Tribune  "USS Arizona survivors get sailor a medal for saving their lives" by David Montero, L.A. Times.

"The ship was burning and Donald Stratton and Lauren Bruner thought they were going to die.

"Bruner had been wounded aboard the USS Arizona, taking bullets to a leg.  he was bleeding badly.  Stratton was burned on his back, face and leg.  Part of his ear was missing.  Japanese planes buzzed above Pearl Harbor.

"Through the smoke and haze, Stratton saw Joe George standing on the deck of the USS Vestal, a repair ship moored next to the Arizona.  George had been ordered to cut the lines between the ships as the battleship (Arizona) was sinking.  But Stratton and Bruner were yelling at him to throw them a rope.  A lifeline.  An officer ordered George to let the men be."

A Bad Spot.  --GreGen

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tomorrow Is the 76th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

It was the "Event" of the Greatest Generation, much like the Kennedy Assassination was to my generation.  It is even more important as we continue to lose the Pearl Harbor survivors as fast as we are (and the World War II survivors for that matter).

In commemoration of it, all seven of my blogs will be about it.

I also am looking to find out if there are any Pearl Harbor events planned for the McHenry and Lake County part of Northeastern Illinois.  So far, sadly, I haven't found any.

My U.S. flags will be flying in remembrance tomorrow.

Pearl Harbor--  Not Forgotten.  --GreGen

100 USS Oklahoma Unknowns Identified-- Part 2: One to Be Interred Tomorrow at Arlington National Cemetery

Many of the identified sailors from the ill-fated ship have been buried in their home towns.  Others have been reinterred at the National Cemetery of the Pacific where they have rested as unknowns for so many years.  Now they have names on their plot.

One reburial is planned for the week.  Navy Radioman 3rd Class Howard W. Bean of Everett, Massachusetts, will be buried Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.  He was 27 when he died.

When the Oklahoma capsized, 429, the second largest number of killed during the attack (the USS Arizona was the largest), only 35 were identified in the following years.  Until now.

When the Oklahoma was finally uprighted months later, the skeletal remains were quite intermingled and buried together.

We Are One Day Away From the 76th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  -GreGen

Trying to Serve in 1942

From the November 22, 2017, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"After several attempts to enter some sort of war service, C.R. "Luke" McLagan, has given up and has returned to his home in Sycamore.  In Chicago last week after learning certain details regarding a service he had been investigating for some weeks, declined to sign, nor did he take the examination.

"Since Pearl Harbor, he has offered his services to the government censorship bureau, attempting to enlist in the army intelligence service, tried to obtain office work and even volunteered in the draft.  he now plans to turn his attention to ordering things."

If At First You Don't Succeed....  --GreGen

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

One Hundred USS Oklahoma Unknowns Have Been Identified-- Part 1

From the December 2, 2017, Review Journal  "100 killed on USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor identified" Audrey McAvoy.

This  project began two years ago with the removal of nearly 400 sets of remains from the National Cemetery of the Pacific on Oahu.  Using DNA advances in forensic science and genealogical help from families, researchers at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska have now identified 100 U.S. servicemen who died on the USS Oklahoma when it capsized at Pearl Harbor during that attack nearly 76 years ago.

The 100th set of remains were identified last week but the family has not been notified so his name has not been released.

By 2020, researchers hope to have 80% of the remains identified.

We are two days away from the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

This Is One of the Great Stories of Our Time.  Thank You U.S. Government.  --GreGen

Birth Certificates Becoming An Issue in DeKalb County in 1942

From the October 4, 2017, MidWeek  (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"Since the outbreak of the war there has been a great demand for birth certificates and some of the older residents are finding it a bit difficult in locating them.  Records were not kept as well as they are now years ago and many difficult situations have come up in regards to obtaining a certificate.

"All those working in defense industries are required to have a birth certificate and in many cases they are needed also.  Several people are at the city clerk's office each day obtaining the certificates, and since some of the plants in DeKalb are in war work the demand has increased."

Making Sure German Citizens Aren't Working In the War Industries.  --GreGen

Oakland Raiders Honor 98-Year-Old Pearl Harbor Survivor

From the November 27, 2017, Independent Journal Review  "Oakland Raiders Honor 98-Year-Old Pearl Harbor Survivor In Pregame Ceremony"  William Vaillancourt.

In the game against the Denver Broncos, Mickey Ganitch, a huge Raiders fan (wonder what he thinks about their move to Las Vegas) was honored for his service.  While in the Navy, he played football for his ship, the USS Pennsylvania, and was set to play the team from the USS Arizona that day.  Needless to say, that game never came to pass.

He was 22 at the time and had been in the Navy for ten months.

The Pennsylvania was in drydock with two destroyers at the time of the attack.  He didn't see the bomb blast, but felt it as the crow's nest shuddered.  It wiped out an entire gun crew.  The second bomb hit one of the destroyers, causing an oil slick which ignited.

The Japanese planes flew by very close to the ground.

Mickey Ganitch went on to serve in the Navy for 23 years.

It Is Always Good To Write About These Survivors While They Are Still Alive.  --GreGen

Monday, December 4, 2017

Honoring Those Serving At DeKalb Business

From the November 29, 2017, MidWeek "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"In the recreation room of the Ideal Commutator and Dresser Company on the south side of DeKalb hangs a large service flag containing a star for every man who has entered the service.  Also in the same room will be found a large plaque on which the name of every man in the service will be placed.

"The plaque and flag will ever call attention to other employees of the plant that many of their friends who were working alongside of them, now are fighting alongside others -- for them!!"

The actual name is the Ideal Commutator Dresser Company and the headquarters today are in Sycamore, Illinois.

Backing Those Serving.  --GreGen

DeKalb Library Closes On Sundays Because of Fuel Rationing

From the November 19, 2017, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"The Haish Memorial Library (DeKalb) which has been open each Sunday afternoon for reading purposes in the past will be closed on Sundays in the future.

"The closing is made necessary due to the situation created by the fuel rationing."

No Reading For You!!  --GreGen

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Sycamore Store Closes Because of the War Shortages

From the November 22, 2017, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"Because of the shortage of machines, and the inability to obtain repair parts, the Sycamore Implement Company will close its store here, which has been a aprt of the business section since 1937.

"All stock of the Sycamore store will be taken to DeKalb for the business there."

The War Was Really Good for Business...But Not Always.  --GreGen

That Problem With Sugar in Restaurants

From the May 24, 2017, MidWeek "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"By the use of individual servings of sugar in damp proof containers, restaurant owners of DeKalb believe they have solved the problem of how to the meet sugar rationing orders recently issued.

"Most of the leading eating places here have adopted this means, while there are some who inquire of the customer as to the amount of sugar he desires for his coffee or cereal.  In nearly all cases, the plan is meeting with approval by the patrons."

They reached a new decision by October 1942.  See my November 11 post.

Want Some Sugar for That Coffee?  --GreGen

Friday, December 1, 2017

Hoisting the Flag on the DeKalb County Court House

From the October 4, 2017, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"Members of the DeKalb County Board of Supervisors in their closing session ordered that arrangements be made at once to fly the National Flag from the dome of the courthouse, and thus eliminate the two flags now placed on the sidewalk in front of the main entrance.

"There is a flagpole in first class condition on the building, but the trouble has been with the roof, which in the opinion of some was not safe.  It was suggested that a catwalk be constructed if necessary to eliminate any danger of damage to the roof or to one who has charge of taking care of the colors each day."

And, speaking of flags, this Thursday is December 7.  You know what day that is.

Showing Your Patriotism  --GreGen

Gathering Scrap for the War Effort

From the September 27, 2017, MidWeek (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"George Littlejohn, Franklin Township road commissioner, is chairman of the scrap drive for the rural districts of the township."

Franklin Township is in the northwest corner of DeKalb County.

A Real Scrap Pile.  --GreGen

So, That's What Happened to Amelia?

I recently read an article that reports it knows what happened to Amelia Earhart.

According to it, she spent several days in a Japanese prison before being executed in Saipan in 1937.

Just One More Possibility.  What Makes History So Interesting.  --GreGen

No More Typewriter Rentals

From the September 27, 2017, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1942, 75 Years Ago.

"Under regulations issued by the Office of Price Administration all typewriter rentals companies, dealers and store owners are to cancel all rentals of machines which have been manufactured since January 1, 1935.

"Those machines which have been rented and are still out are to be picked up and put back into stock unless the renter can secure a certificate from the rationing board and present it to the dealer.  Otherwise the machine must be picked up."

Typing for the War.  --GreGen