Tuesday, September 17, 2019

U.S. Vet Returns Captured Japanese Flag-- Part 4: Nearly half of Japanese Soldiers Killed Overseas Have Not Been Found

Marvin Strombo was not only able to return Sadao Yasue's flag, but could also provide the Yasue family with some answers involving his death.

He said that he found Sadao Yasue's body on the outskirts of Garapan, a village in Saipan, when he got lost and found himself near the Japanese front line.  He told them that their brother likely died of concussion from a mortar round.  That Sadao was lying on the ground on his left side, looking as if he was sleeping and without severe wounds.

Garapan is in the United States Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

And, importantly, with those details, the family can now hope that they might be able to find his remains now.

The remains of nearly half of the 2.4 million Japanese war dead overseas have yet to be found.  It is an increasingly pressing issue as bereaved families are reaching old age and memories fade.

In 2012, Marvin Strombo was connected to the Obon Society, an Oregon-based non-profit that helps U.S. veterans and their descendants return Japanese flags to the families of the fallen soldiers.

Tuesday's handover meant closure for Strombo, too.  "It means so much to me and the family to get the flag back and move on," he said.

A Great Story.  --GreGen

Monday, September 16, 2019

U.S. Vet Returns Captured Japanese Flag-- Part 3: "My Brother Came Out of Limbo"

The return of the flag brought closure to the Yatsue family.  "It's like the war has finally ended and my brother can come out of limbo," younger brother Sadao Yasue, 89, said.

Tatsuya Yasue last saw his older brother  the day before he left for the South Pacific in 1943.  he and two siblings had a small sendoff picnic for his oldest brother outside his military unit over sushi and Japanese sweet mochi.  At the end of it, his older brother whispered to him to take care of the parents as he was going to the the Pacific island s where chances of returning were minimal.

A year later, the Japanese government sent the family a wooden box with a few stones at the bottom -- a substitute or the body.  They knew no details of Sadeo's death until months after the war ended, when they were told he died somewhere in the Mariana Islands, presumably on July 18, 1944, the day Saipan fell.  The brother was just 25.

"That's all we were told about my brother," he said.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

America's Oldest World War II Veteran Celebrates His 110th Birthday in New Orleans

From Fox News by Nicole Darrah.

Lawrence Brooks, considered to be our oldest WW II veteran, celebrated his 110th birthday Thursday in New Orleans at the National World War II Museum  he was born September 12, 1909 and served in the 91st  Engineer Battalion stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines.  The 91st was predominately a black unit.

He served between 1940 and 1945 and his primary duty was as a servant to three white officers.  He attained the rank of private 1st class.

he is now considered to be the oldest veteran after the death of Richard Overton in December at the age of 112.  He has been returning to the museum for birthday celebrations ever since his 105th birthday.

One of the Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Friday, September 13, 2019

USS Arizona Survivor Lauren Bruner Dies at 98

From the September 11, 2019, Hawaii News Now  "USS Arizona survivor who was second to last to leave  the sinking battleship dies at 98"  by Lisa Kubota.

One of just four remaining survivors from that fated ship.  Died Tuesday, September 10 in California.

On December 7, 1941, he was a 21-year-old fire controlman third class.  Bruner, fellow survivor Donald Stratton, and four others narrowly escaped by pulling themselves along a rope connected to another vessel.

In the attack, he was wounded by enemy  fire and suffered burns over  more than 73% of his body.

His story is chronicled in the recently published memoir "Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona."

One of the Greatest.  --GreGen

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Deaths of 9-11 First Responders Continue to Rise

Continued from my Not So Forgotten: War of 1812 and Cooter's History Thing blogs posted today.

Three hundred forty-three New York City firefighters died during the initial response on Sept. 11.  In July, NYC mayor Bill Deblasio announced that the 200th NYC firefighter had died from a Ground Zero-related illness, a number expected to continue to grow even to exceeding the original firefighter toll.  (The number of these deaths this date in 2018 was approaching 180.)

Tom Frey remembers a detective who sat at the desk next to his, who was one of the first to succumb to a pulmonary illness.  His friend and fellow NYC detective Luis Alvarez, who supported Frey through his cancer treatments and made news in June when he gave emotional testimony before Congress in support of extending the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, died two weeks after his testimony.

In July, the victim fund was extended through 2090 -- a necessary measure, says Dr, Greg Cosgrove, chief medical officer at the Chicago-based Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, because illnesses such as that will continue to be linked to ground zero exposure.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

"Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)"-- Part 1

Because of the anniversary of 9-11, I will again write about it in all seven of my blogs.

This song hit me hard back then.  By Alan Jackson.


Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?

Were in the yard with your wife and children?

Or working on some stage in L.A.?

Did you stand there in shock

At the sight of that black smoke

Risin' against that  blue sky?

Did you shout out in anger

In fear for your neighbor

Or did you just sit down and cry?


Eighteen Years Ago.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

U.S. Vet Returns Captured Japanese Flag-- Part 2: "It Meant Everything In the World To Her"

U.S. veteran Marvin Strombo reached over to Sayoko Furata's shoulder and gently rubbed it,.  "I was so happy that I returned the flag," he said.  "I can see how much the flag meant to her.  That almost made me cry.  It meant everything in the world to her."

The flag's white background is filled with signatures of 180 friends and neighbors in this tea-growing mountain village of Higashishirakawa, wishing for Yasue's safe return.  It was those signatures that helped Strombo find the flag's rightful owners.

The brother of Sadao Yasue, the slain Japanese soldier, Tatsuya Yasue said the smell of the flag brought back old memories.  "It smelled like my hood old big brother, and it smelled like my mother's home cooking we ate together.  The flag will be our treasure."

The return of the flag brought closure to the 89-year-old farmer and his 93-year-old sister, Sayoko Furuta.

A Very Touching Story.  --GreGen

Monday, September 9, 2019

U.S. Vet Returns Captured Japanese Flag-- Part 1: Taken From a Dead Soldier's Body

From the August 16, 2017, Chicago Tribune "U.S. vet: 'I was so happy that I returned the flag' by Mari Yamaguchi, AP.

Higashishi, Japan.  Tatsuya Yasue buried his face into the flag and smelled it.  Then he held the 93-year-old hands that had brought the treasure home, and kissed them.

Marvin Strombo, who had taken the calligraphy covered Japanese flag from a dead soldier during a World War II battlefield 73 years ago, returned it Tuesday to the family of Sadao Yasue.  They had never gotten his body or -- until that moment -- anything else of his.

Yasue and Tatsuya's sister, Sayoko Furuta, 93, sitting in her wheelchair, covered her face with both hands as Tatsuya placed the flag in her lap.

A Touching Story After All This Time.  Time to Heal.  --GreGen

Suspected Nazi Artifacts Found in Argentina

From the June 21, 2017, Chicago Tribune  "Suspected Nazi artifacts found in a hidden room in Argentina"

Police have found the biggest collection of Nazi artifacts in Argentina's history in a secret room of the home of a collector near the nation's capital, Buenos Aires  These include a bust relief of Adolf Hitler and magnifying glasses inside elegant boxes with swastikas.  Some 75 items in all.

Authorities believe them to be originals.

Among the items were toys that would have been used to indoctrinate children and a large statue of the Nazi Eagle above a Swastika, a Nazi hourglass and a box of harmonicas.  One of the most compelling pieces is a photo negative of Hitler holding a magnifying glass similar to the ones found in the boxes.

They did not release the name of the collector who is under investigation.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Leaving for the WAVEs

From the March 6, 2019, MidWeek   "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

"Mildred Byers of Kirkland has resigned her  position at the DeKalb Agriculture office.  She will leave this week to enter training in the WAVES."


Friday, September 6, 2019

Some More on Bernard Dargols-- Part 2: To the French People He Was a Liberator

**  A few hours after landing on Normandy, Bernard Dargols was on a jeep nicknamed "La Bastlle" and he found himself surrounded by  Frenchmen who couldn't believe their ears.

"What a feeling to hear French spoken, to be taken in the arms of all these people older than me, calling me their liberator," he recalled.

**  "If I had kept all the bottles of calvados brandy  they were giving me, I think I could have opened my own specialist shop!"

**  IN 2014, he told Time magazine how badly he wanted to fight the Germans after he saw newsreel footage of Adolph Hitler shaking hands with French leader Philipe Petain, whose government collaborated in deporting 73,000  Jews from France to Nazi concentration camps.

**  His mother survived the Nazi occupation by hiding in her building.

**  He later moved to Paris.

**  "Today we're seeing the signs of anti-Semitism, he told AFP in 2014.  "I want young people to fight back against it."


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Germany Apologizes to Poland for 1939 Invasion and Atrocities

From the September 2, 2019, Salt Lake (Utah) Tribune  WW II's start marked in Poland with German  remorse, warning about nationalism" by Monika Scislowska and Vanessa Gera.

Germany's President Frank Walter Steinmeyer told Poland's  top leaders and others that Germany felt great remorse for the suffering his nation inflicted on the people of Poland and the rest of Europe on Sunday, the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II.

"The war was a German crime," he said.  "I bow  in mourning to the suffering of the victims.  I ask for forgiveness for Germany's historical debt.  I affirm our lasting responsibility."

Two weeks after Germany's invasion of Poland, the Soviet Union did likewise.  Six years later, about six million Polish people were dead, more than half of them Jews.

About Time.  --GreGen

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

USS Arizona Memorial Reopens After 16 Months

From the September 3, 2019, Military.com  "USS Arizona Memorial reopens after repairs" the Honolulu Star-Advertiser by Rob Shakina.

"With the American flag billowing in the wind above and 'The Star-Spangled Banner'  playing on the loudspeakers from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Field, the first boatload of tourists and residents in nearly sixteen months stepped onto the USS Arizona Memorial on Sunday morning."

The 145 persons disembarked from the Navy boat and spent solemn minutes looking at the long list of names of the 1,177 men who died that December morning.  Among the dead were a father and son named Free and 23 sets of brothers.

The oil is still seeping up from the ship which to me is the most moving sight.  The life blood of the ship and those men.  That oil is from the million gallons of bunker oil aboard the ship when it blew up.

While the memorial was closed, Navy boats still gave tours by it with a narrated story.  But no one was allowed to go into it.

It was closed in May 2018 after park staff found major damage to the anchoring system for the boat dock at it.    This damage possibly came from king tides in 2017.  Originally the memorial, which is one of Hawaii's biggest tourist attractions with about 4,300 people a day, was supposed to reopen in October 2018, but that was pushed back to December, then March of this year.

It's been a long time, but glad it has reopened.  I know that when I went to Hawaii, that was number one on my list of things to see.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Some More on Bernard Dargols-- Part 1

I have just finished writing five posts about this Frenchman's role in liberating his country as an American soldier during the war.

From 30 April 2019, Breitbart News "Bernard Dargols, Paris-Born GI who fought at Omaha Beach, dies at 98" by Simon Kent.

**  Paris-born Jew and only Frenchman to storm ashore at Omaha Beach in an American uniform.

**  Immigrated to U.S. in 1938 to work in Manhattan.

**  Became an American citizen.

**  Waded ashore as U.S. Army staff sergeant at age 24.

**  "If the Liberty Ship had been able to quickly ho into reverse, I think I would have asked them to do it."  He recounts coming to the shore.

More to Come.  --GreGen

One By One, D-Day Memories Fade-- Part 5

The road Bernard Dargols took from Omaha Beach inland now nears his name.

The battle to wrest Normandy from the Germans took longer than the Allies had figured, but, for Dargols, the final prize was invaluable.  When he made it to Paris, he went to his childhood apartment and found his mom -- unexpectedly alive.

For four decades, he didn't talk much about the war. But as more and more survivors died, and at his granddaughter's urging, he realized the importance of speaking out and sharing his stories with schools and journalists.

Dargols would have had a clear message for the D-Day anniversary had he lived, his granddaughter said:  "Never take democracy for granted.  Dictatorship is always a bad solution. Keep democracy alive.  Fight for democracy, for freedom, for peace."


Monday, September 2, 2019

One By One, D-Day Memories Fade Away-- Part 4: Bernard Dargols

Bernard Dargols might have made it back to Normandy this year had he not died in May.  It meant a lot to him.

His story is both unusual and emblematic.  He was born in France, but left Paris in 1938 for New York to learn his father's sewing machine trade.  He watched from afar as the Nazis occupied his homeland.  His Jewish relatives were sent to camps or fled in fear.

Determined to fight back, but skeptical of French gen. Charles de Gaulle's resistance force, he joined the U.S. Army instead.

With the 2nd Infantry Division, Dargols sailed from Britain on June 5 and only made it to Normandy on June 8, after three interminable days on choppy seas.

Then, he landed on Normandy on D-Day +2.


Saturday, August 31, 2019

One By One, D-Day Memories Fade-- Part 3: How Many Are Still Alive?

Normandy school teachers, veterans' families and military memorials are racing against time to record survivors' stories for posterity.

It was history's biggest amphibious invasion, on that fateful June 6, 1944, day, some 160,000 Allied forces came ashore to launch Operation Overlord to wrest Normandy from German control.  More than 4,000 Allied forces were killed that day alone.  Nearly a half a million people were killed on both sides by the time the Allies liberated Paris in August 1944.

It is unclear how many D-Day veterans are alive today.  The survivors are now in their 90s or 100s.

Of the 73,000 Americans who took part, just thirty are currently scheduled to come to France for this year's 75th anniversary.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

One By One, D-Day Memories Fade As WW II's Witnesses Die-- Part 2

An ever-smaller number of veterans will stand on Normandy's shores on June 6 for D-Day's 75th anniversary.  Many will salute fallen comrades from their wheelchairs.  As each year passes, more firsthand history is lost.

Bernard Dangols has outlived many of those men storming ashore June 6, 1944 and knows the importance of sustaining their memory.  "I'm convinced that we have to talk about the war to children, so they will understand how much they need to preserve the peace," he wrote in his memoir.

Even to his death, Dargols battled today's complacency, intolerance and those who think of D-Day as just a movie.

In recent years, "seeing any type of violence, of anti-Semitism and racism, either in France, in Europe or in the U.S." really upset him, said his granddaughter, Caroline Jolivet.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Halloween Prank in 1958

Okay, not WW II, but an interesting story anyway.

From the October 3, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

A photograph of a Halloween prank at Northern Illinois.

Caption:  "Halloween prank in 1958.  A fully assembled car sits on the structure that will become the Neptune building on the Northern Illinois University campus in De Kalb.

The photo was taken by Perry and Edythe Larson from their home on Carroll Avenue where the Holmes Student Center now stands.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

One By One, D-Day Memories Fade As WW II's Witnesses Die-- Part 1

From the May 12, 2019, Chicago Tribune by Angela Charlton, AP.

Growing up, World War II veterans were everywhere so I never thought too much about them being around.  (I was born in 1951, just six years after the war.)  But, they are getting very rare these days as age claims so many daily.

"Paris --One more funeral, one fewer witness to the world's worst war.

"Bernard Dargols lived almost long enough to join the celebrations next month marking 75 years since the D-Day, 75 years since he waded ashore at Omaha Beach as an American soldier to help liberate France from the Nazis who persecuted his Jewish family.

"Just shy of his 99th birthday, Dargols died this month.  To the strains of his beloved American jazz, he was laid to rest Thursday at France's most famous cemetery, Pere Lachaise."


Monday, August 26, 2019

Shoe Rationing and Books for the Men in 1944

From the April 17, 2019, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

"Shoe retailers may temporarily sell children's shoes ration-free in ranges from size  eight and one half through twelve, and misses' and little boys' shoes in sizes twelve and one-half through three.  These shoes may be sold to consumers ration free from May  1 through May 20, at a maximum price of $1.60 per pair."


"Mrs. Leta Best Muller, Sycamore librarian, who is putting forth an extra effort to secure books for the men in service, reports that of late, a greater interest is being shown in the work and she expects to be able to send out a large shipment before many days pass."


Thursday, August 22, 2019

At 94, Bob Dole Greets Aging WW II Vets-- Part 3

Besides his service in World War II, Bob Dole's life has been one of service in all manners.  He is a champion of the disabled, Senate majority leader, 1996 Republican presidential candidate.  Meeting his fellow veterans is down to his final calling.  It is a duty to be fulfilled as long as he is able.

"It's just about the one public service left that I'm doing,"  Dole says.  "We don't have many of the World War II vets left.  It's important to me."

he has watched the proportion of WW II vets fall over the years from half the bus to just a few per group.

Dole's wife, former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, says her husband is just wired to serve.  She frequently joins him on these Saturday outings.

I Still Think He Would Have Made An Excellent President.  --GreGen

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

At 94, Bob Dole Greets Aging WW II Vets-- Part 2

The aging vets recognize him, "Oh my gosh, Bob Dole!"

"Good to see you.  Where are you from?"  Dole says this over and over as they roll close, sometimes one on each side.  New York, Tennessee, Nevada.

He'll do this for more than three hours some days. and more than six hours on others.  They pump his left hand -- the one with some numb feeling left -- and squeeze his shoulders and sometimes he gets home not just tired, but gently battered by humanity and humidity alike.

"Physically, it takes a toll," says his nurse, Nathaniel Lohn.  "I may find five new bruises on him tonight.  But he won't miss it."

Dole has been doing this for years, weather and his health permitting, to greet his comrades.  They are brought there at no cost to them by the nonprofit Honor Flight Network.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

At 94, Bob Dole Greets Aging WW II Vets-- Part 1

From the June 24, 2018, Chicago Tribune  "At 94, Dole embraces role to greet aging WW II vets" by Steve Hendrix, Washington Post.

"Each Saturday, before Bob Dole sets off on his latest vocation, he has cornflakes, a little sugar on top, and a bottle of chocolate Boost.

"It takes less time to get dressed now that the 94-year-old allows a nurse to help him, but it remains a rough half-hour on a body racked by injury and age."  His shirt has to be maneuvered over his dead right arm and the shoulder that was blown away on an Italian hillside in World War II.

A pair of North Face running shoes have to be tied for him because his artillery blasted hands have been unable to tie since 1945.

Then, it is a 20 minute drive to the memorial that Bob Dole is very responsible, the National World War II memorial.

There, they come.  "Bus after bus, wheelchair after wheelchair, battalions of his bent brothers, stooped with years, but steeped in pride, veterans coming to see their country's monument to their sacrifice and to be welcomed by one of their country's icons."

He is there to  greet them.

Of course, Bob Dole is 95 now.  I am not sure he still does this.

One of the Greatest Generation and I think he would have made an excellent president.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Victory Gardens in DeKalb in 1944

From the April 17, 2019, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

"Waiting only for a change in the general weather conditions, home gardeners of DeKalb are preparing for victory gardening this year on even a greater scale than last.

"Gardens last year were well above expectations, and this year the government is asking that home gardens produce 25 percent more food than in the 1943 season."


Friday, August 16, 2019

Housing, Hemp and Books on the Home Front

From the March 27, 2019, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

"With completion of some of the apartments in the State theater building, it is announced that two of them are now occupied.    These apartments are three room kitchenettes an make a comfortable home for a family  of two or three."

War industries caused a big housing shortage all over.  This was in Sycamore.


"Announcement was made  at Decatur that the 1944 hemp crop of six midwestern states, including Illinois, will be decreased by two-thirds of 1943 production on record because of the current large reserve supply of fiber in the United States."


"Mrs. Leta Best Mueller has started a campaign to secure a large number of the better books for the men in service, and while there has been some response it is not what she thinks it should be, due to the fact, possibly,  that many persons have forgotten the campaign."

Home Front.  --GreGen

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Death of WASP Dorothy Olsen-- Part 5: "Despite the Fact That A Woman Once Flew It"

In 1945, just weeks after the end of the war in Europe, she married Harold Olsen and after raising their children, she ran antique shops near her University Place home, where she had lived since the 1960s.  Her husband died in 2006.

There are 37 living WASPs today, according to Kimberly Johnson, the archivist and curator of the WASP archive at Texas Woman's University in Denton.

They and their late colleagues were 'vitally important" -- not only to the war effort but "also for the impact they had on the experiences of women in future aviation" and other careers in engineering and science.

Sometimes before sending a plane off to combat,, WASPs would leave a note for its next pilot, occasionally sealing the missive with a red-lipsticked kiss.  In 1945, Dorothy Olsen received a letter sent from Italy by the pilot of a P-38 she had ferried.

It read:  "I thought I'd write a few lines," the lieutenant wrote, "to  let you know that despite the fact that a woman once flew it, the ship performs perfectly and is apparently without flaws of any kind."


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The End of World War II This Date, 1945: Japanese Surrender


1941--  President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter, a statement of principles that renounced aggression.

1945--  President Harry Truman announced that Japan had accepted the terms of unconditional surrender, that World War II was over and that he had proclaimed the following day to be V-J Day (Victory Over Japan).

This was 74 years ago.   This past Sunday I attended the Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive commemoration in McHenry, Illinois, at Veterans Park. which is always held the second Sunday of August to remember the Greatest Generation.

Finally, Over.  --GreGEn

Death of WASP Dorothy Olsen-- Part 4: Group Finally Gets Veteran Benefits and Gold Medal

The WASPs were disbanded in 1944, the year before the war ended.  Only in 1977 did they receive full veterans' benefits, and only in 2010 did they receive the recognition that their admirers thought to be their due, with the conferral of the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's second highest military honor.

"I was doing what I loved.  And I was lucky," Olsen told KOMO News.  "I loved it.  Every minute."

Dorothy Eleanor Kocher was born in Woodburn, Oregon, on July 10, 1916.  She became hooked on aviation after riding a biplane at a state fair and thereafter spent "all her available rime and money" on flying lessons," according to her daughter.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Death of WASP Dorothy Olsen-- Part 3: Buzzed the Base

In some cases, WASPs flew captured German and Japanese planes that had been transported back to the United States to be tested for their capabilities and vulnerabilities.

A total of 38 WASPs died during the war.

"The government didn't treat us very well, Olsen related.  "A bay mate was killed in a plane crash and the rest of us had to take up a collection to get her body back to Portland because they wouldn't pay for it."

Dorothy Olsen said she flew twenty types of planes during the war and became known for her moxie she brought to her sky duties.  At least once she flew her plane upside down for a thrill.

Another time the beauty of the nighttime sky overcame her:  "The moonlight came over Texas, and I was able to get big band music.  It was the closest to heaven I have ever been," she said.  "When I saw the lights of Coolidge Runway, I was excited and I came in low and buzzed the base before landing.   It was 11 o'clock during wartime, and I guess I woke up everybody.  The commander had a few words with me."

Wonder What He Said?  --GreGen

Monday, August 12, 2019

Death of WASP Dorothy Olsen-- Part 2: Flew Planes From Factories, Test Flights and Pulled Targets

She traced her love of airplanes back to reading a book about "The Red Knight of Germany" Baron Manfred von Richthoven during World War I.  For other WASPs, inspiration came from stories about Americans Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart.

The WASPs were formed by combining two earlier groups, the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and the Women's Flying Training Detachment.  WASPs were treated as civilians and limited to domestic flights that freed more men to fly in combat.

But their missions, which totaled 60 million were of critical importance and sometimes of life-threatening danger.

They ferried planes from factories to their points of embarkation for the war front, performed test flights and towed targets (the ones at Fort Fisher did this) for gunnery practice.


Death of Daring WW II WASP, Dorothy Olsen-- Part 1: One of Just 1,074

From the August 8, 2019, Chicago Tribune "Daring aviatrix flew with WASPs during World War II" by Emily Langer, Washington Post.

DOROTHY OLSEN  1916-2019

Growing up on a farm in Oregon, Dorothy Olsen fell in love with flying.  She recalled, "From the time I was a little girl... until the time I was flying night missions as a Woman Airforce Service Pilot (WASPs) over moonlit Texas during World War II, I just loved to fly."

Olsen was one of the few surviving WASPs, the long unrecognized corps of female pilots who flew vital domestic missions for the Army Air Forces during World War II, died July 23 at her home in Washington state.  She was 103.

Olsen, then Dorothy Kocher, was working as a dance instructor in Portland, Oregon, when she joined the WASPs in 1943, the year the program was established.

Olsen had scrimped by to pay for private flying lessons for a pilot license and was one of mire than 25,000 women who applied to be WASPs, one of 1,879 candidates accepted and one of 1,074 to complete the training program.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Some More On USS Arizona Survivor Lonnie Cook

From MSN News.

Served eight years as gunner's mate in the U.S. Navy.

A fateful switch on December 7, 1941, probably saved his life.He switched shower times with a buddy at his buddy's request.  Had he not switched times he would have died that day as the buddy was in the shower and did not survive.

He fought in eight battles during the war.

Services will be in Morris, Oklahoma, where he will be buried next to his wife of 69 years.


The Four Remaining USS Arizona Survivors

With the recent death of Lonnie Cook, that leaves just four remaining USS Arizona survivors, all in their upper 90s:

Don Stratton

Lauren Bruner

Lou Conter

Ken Potts.

Earlier this year, the last survivor of the Doolittle Raid died.

It Will Be A Sad Day When These Four Die.  --GreGen

Thursday, August 8, 2019

One of the Last Known USS Arizona Survivors Dies: "L.D." Cook

From the August 2, 2019, KTIV NBC Channel 4 "Oklahoma, native, 1 of last-known USS Arizona survivors, dies

According to daughter Pat Cunanan, her father, Lonnie David  "L.D." Cook died Wednesday, July 31, 2019,  at age 98 in California where he was living near her family in Salinas.

He was born in Morris, Oklahoma, and his death leaves four known remaining survivors of December 7, 1941.  A total of 1,177 of the 1,512 on board died on the Arizona that day.

She said her father talked little of that day except to attribute his survival to being in one of the turrets at the time.

Funeral services will be held in Morris, about 35 miles south of Oklahoma City.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Her Wedding Dress Made From Husband's Parachute-- Part 7:

Aida and Gerald Bonsonto went on to have four sons, one of whom, Vince, died a few years ago.   Gerald worked as a truck driver and wore his Army boots until they disintegrated, Aida said.

"I wanted to have them bronzed," something she did for her son, Joe, after he returned from serving in Vietnam, she said.   "But he insisted on wearing them every day, as a reminder of all he went through and why he went through it -- for freedom."   It also served as a tribute to his buddies who were killed in action, she said.

"He would say, 'Shut it off. It's not the real thing.  You've got to be there to know what it is really like,' "she said.

Aida said she is lending the dress to the museum instead of donating it, because she has several great granddaughters who might decide they'd like to wear it on their wedding day.

For now the dress will be displayed as a testament to a time when love and war intersected, creating a fahion statement.

So Glad It Is Going To a Museum.  --GreGen

Monday, August 5, 2019

Her Wedding Dress Made From Husband's Parachute-- Part 6: About That Nightgown

For months, Gerald Bonsonto recovered in hospitals in France, England and Capri, Italy.

While in France, he asked a woman to make a nightgown for his bride out of parachute material;.  The long-sleeved, sashed gown even has a nickname, "Edith," embroidered across the top left side.

Aida said that Gerald told her the cost of the seamstresses' work was two packs of cigarettes.

It was a different time, Aida said, and even though she only wore the nightgown on her wedding day, she machine sewed the originally hand-stitched seams to add durability.  She has also hand-washed the gown over the years.

Back then, the parachutes, said Jerry Bonsonto Jr., "were thin and lightweight, designed to get the men down fast so they wouldn't be targets in the air."

Caroline Bonsonto said the parachute nightgown "looks delicate but it is sturdy as steel."


Her Wedding Dress Made From Husband's Parachute-- Part 5: Her Photo Saved Gerald's Life

As Gerald Bonsonto, a medic and paratrooper assigned to the 307th Medics of the 82nd Airborne Division, saw duty around Europe and Africa, Aida worked in a shoe factory, first piecing together athletic shoes then sewing aviation lit bags for the Army.

One day, while on the job, she received a call from her future mother-in-law, asking her to come quickly.  Gerald had been shot in the chest while parachuting over Sainte-Mere-Eglise, which would become the first town liberated after the D-Day invasion.

A German sniper's bullet grazed Gerald's heart and lodges in his back, she says.  She believes "my picture saved his life."

Before he left for duty, she'd given Gerald a photo of herself that was taken at her brother's wedding.  He'd kept the picture, which had a metal, mirror-like backing in his chest pocket.  The photo was shredded by the bullet, but Aida kept it, an it is now buried with her husband.

Quite the Story.  --GreGEn

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Her Wedding Dress Made From Husband's Parachute-- Part 4: Wrote To Him Every Day

Aida "Edith" Bonsonto shared her story.  She and Jerry, her future husband, lived across the street from each other in Chicago but didn't meet until one summer night in 1938 when she ran into him as she was leaving a neighborhood ice cream shop with her sister.

He was standing on the corner with his cousin and the four got to talking.  "Before you knew it, we were walking and talking," Aida recalled.  "Then he asked me id I'd like to go to a movie."

From there they dated and spent many evenings sitting on her front porch.

By December 1942, when Gerald was inducted into the Army, the couple was going steady.  "Before he left, he asked if I would accept his ring and if I would wait for him," Aida said.  She promised she would.

"I wrote to him every day without fail.  Every day he had a letter from me.  I never stopped writing to him," she said.

A World War II Love Story.  --GreGen

Friday, August 2, 2019

Her Wedding Dress Made From Husband's Parachute-- Part 3: "People Who Started the Baby Boom"

Chris Ruff, curator of the 82nd Airborne Museum says:  "Everybody hears about these dresses made from parachutes but it seems there are very few that survived to this day and this one is a gem."

After the war there were shortages of materials so people would make do with what they could get their hands on.  He's heard about theses dresses but this is only the second one he's actually seen.  "There are only maybe three or four in the whole Army enterprise collection," he said.

"It's dresses like this and the people behind them that started the Baby Boom,"  Ruff said.  "That's a big deal, not to mention the military service of these soldiers who brought these back to their wives."

"Now we can enjoy them and tell their story today.  That's what museum artifacts are about."

Now, People Will be Able to View the Real Thing For A Long Time.  --GreGen

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Her Wedding Dress Made From Husband's Parachute-- Part 2

It took months of recuperation from the wound he received on D-Day, but when Gerald Bonsonto recovered, he sent his parachute back to the U.S. in two boxes.  Aida would be wed in it after transformed to dress both practical during wartime rationing and fashionable for the time.

Aida, who turned 97 on July 10, recalled how she brought the fabric to an Italian immigrant who hand-stitched it into a beautiful gown with a sweetheart neckline and a long train.

It is now 73 years later and Gerald has been dead 39 years but that dress is still a work of fine craftsmanship.

On May 27, Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger met Aida in the Orland Park home of her son, Jerry Bonsanto Jr. to pick up the dress and transport it to the 82nd Airborne Museum at Fort Bragg, N.C., where it will be put on exhibit as a testament to the time.


Her Wedding Dress Made From Husband's Parachute-- Part 1

From the July 7, 2019, Chicago Tribune "For 73 years, a wedding dress made from husband's parachute was kept" by Donna Vickroy.

Now it's heading to a WW II museum.

That beautiful day, a crowd gathered in front of Aida's home in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood.  It was her wedding day and she wore a gown made of silk and nylon.  It was light that she felt she was "floating on air."  And, in a way, she was.

The date was June 8, 1946, and that dress had been made from her soon-to-be husband's Army parachute.

She went to Chicago's Holy Family Church and made good on her promise to marry Pfc. Gerald Bonsonto that she had made before he left to fight in World War II.  That promise had almost ended with a sniper's bullet during the Normandy Invasion.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mary Ellis, Dead at 101. Flew British Spitfires

From the July 28, 2018, Washington Post  "Mary Ellis, wartime volunteer who flew Spitfires, dies at 101" by Phil Davison.

Mary Wilkins stood just 5 feet 2 inches who, during the war, had the job of transporting military aircraft to bases.  She flew Spitfires, Hurricanes, Wellingtons and Lancasters and 70 other kinds of aircraft from factories to scramble-ready male pilot at bases.

She was a member of Britain's Air Transport Auxiliary.

Later, she wrote a memoir titles "Spitfire Girl."  She died July 25, 2018.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

FDR's D-Day Prayer

From the June 6, 2019, Chicago Tribune editorial page.

"And, O Lord, give us Faith.  Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons, Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.  Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled.

"Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose."


Monday, July 29, 2019

Don't Forget D-Day-- Part 5: "Now, Let's See What You're Made Of"

"Mortar rounds killed a trio of soldiers next to (U.S. Gen. Norman) Cota and wounded his radioman; knocked flat but unscratched, the general regained his feet and followed the snaking column toward the hillcrest, past captured Germans spread-eagled on the ground.

"Then over the lip of the ridge they ran, past stunted pines and through uncut wheat as Cota yelled, 'Now let's see what you're made of!'   GIs hauling a captured MG-12 machine gun with ammunition belts draped around their necks poured fire into enemy trenches and at the broken ranks pelting inland.'

"War is terrible.  Tragic.  D-Day was those things.  It also was heroic and necessary.  Younger generations of Americans won't understand what happened on June 6, 1944, unless they are inspired to learn it.

"If you know the D-Day story, share it, teach it."

So True.  --GreGen

Saturday, July 27, 2019

World War II Planes at Chicago Executive Airport This Weekend

It's the Wings of Freedom Tour and your chance to see and walk-through five famous World War II aircraft at  the Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling in Chicago's Northwest Suburbs.

It runs July 25-28 from 9:30 to 5:00 p.m..  Adults pay $15 and children12 and younger $5.

Featured planes:

B-17 Flying Fortress
P-40 Warhawk
B-24 Liberator
B-25 Mitchell
P-51 Mustang

You can also have a Bomber Flight Experience where you go up in one for $400 to $450 and actually fly (with dual control) the two fighters.

Quote An Opportunity.  --GreGen

Friday, July 26, 2019

Don't Forget D-Day-- Part 4: Books, Movies and Participants

This is from the June 6, 2019, Chicago Tribune editorial page.

"True, books and movies do capture the action of D-Day and testify to the bravery of the combatants.  But libraries and digital archives are no more than repositories.  Books can't teach unless they are opened.  Movies can't add perspective if they aren't watched or appreciated.  (The first part of "Saving Private Ryan" for example.)

"For years D-Day's participants played a key role as storytellers, though often reluctantly.

They dropped from parachutes and charged heavily defended beaches to free a continent from tyranny.  They struggled inland as their comrades fell.  They suffered through battle.  They won the day.

"Now they are disappearing."


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Marvin Kornegay of the USS Texas at D-Day

From AR-15.com  "Air and Naval Bombardment of the Normandy beaches."

The USS Texas was at D-Day, the second-oldest dreadnaught  in the fleet and though obsolete by then as major fighting ship, its ten 14-inch guns were still able to pack quite a wallop.  It was stationed just off Point de Hoc that morning.

As the Texas sat offshore  of Omaha Beach, her crew had front row seats to the carnage referenced by Captain Baker.  Seaman Second Class Marvin Kornegay manned a five-inch gun on the Texas and while he maintained his confidence in the result of the coming battle, he cringed as he watched the Allied craft  fall to the sea in the pre-dawn aerial bombardment.

This reaction was repeated as Kornegay watched landing craft explode from well-placed German mortar rounds.

At 0550, the Texas got her first chance that day to demonstrate the power of Allied naval fire.  Targeting Point de Hoc with her main 14 inch battery and strongpoints surrounding Omaha Beach Exit D-1 with her secondary armament (Kornegay was on the secondary armament), 260 shells were hurled at the Germans over 40 minutes.

A painting of the Texas and a picture of it today accompanies the blog thread.


Don't Forget D-Day-- Part 3: Incoming Tide Claims Wounded

"Among the books about D-Day is Rick Atkinson's "The Guns At Last Light."  In it he describes the ferocious battle scenes, quotes the participants and honors the dead at Omaha, Utah and other beaches.

" 'By 8:30 a.m., the Omaha assault had stalled.  The rising tide quickly reclaimed the thin strip of liberated beach, drowning those immobilized by wounds or fear.  ...Only where escarpment turned to cliff, four miles west of Omaha, did the early-morning assault show promise.

"Three companies from the 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled the headland at Pointe du Hoc, first climbing freehand despite a rain of grenades, then using grapnels and braided ropes fired  from mortar tubes."


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Don't Forget D-Day-- Part 2: WW II Vets Are Dying Off

"This tale of valor and sacrifice has become more important to retell because those who fought the war -- and learned its lessons of selfless service for the common good -- are disappearing.  More than 16 million Americans served in the military during the war,  Fewer than 500,000 veterans are still alive.  Most are in their mid-90s now.

"Books recount U.S. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's agonizing responsibilities as supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe.  He didn't know if his invasion order would result in success or slaughter for the Americans, British, Canadians and others he ordered ashore at Normandy.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Honor D-Day's 75th Anniversary, Know the Story and Teach Others-- Part 1

From the June 6, 2019, Chicago Tribune editorial "Honor D-Day's 75th anniversary by knowing the story -- and teaching others."

"All great historical achievements risk fading into obscure past events, reduced to calendar notations or unread Wikipedia entries -- unless those moments are kept vivid and meaningful for future generations.

"June 6 is one of those imperiled dates.  It's the 75th anniversary of D-Day, one of the most audacious military actions in American history.  On June 6, 1944, about 156,000 troops of the United States and its allies invaded Nazi-occupied France by sea and air, gaining a foothold in northern Europe that would help lead to victory over Germany in World War II within a year.

"At 4 a.m., as thousands of lost and scattered parachutists blundered about in the dark, the first 52 gliders arrived 'like a swarm of ravens', in one German description."


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Were Any Apollo 11 Astronauts in World War II?

Since today marks the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing, I was wondering if  any of the three Apollo 11 astronauts:  Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, fought during World War II.

All three were born in 1930, which would gave put them between the ages of 11 and 15 during the war, so they did not fight.

However, two of them, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, did fight in the Korean War as aircraft commanders.  Buzz was credited with shooting down two MiG fighters.


Friday, July 19, 2019

Just Got Back From Fort Fisher (It's Role in WW II)

Liz and I were on vacation to North Carolina the last ten days for a family reunion and a mini vacation at Carolina Beach.  Right down the road (US-421) from Carolina Beach is Kure Beach and on the south end of that is my favorite Civil War site and the reason I got interested in that war and history in general, Fort Fisher.

Though best known for its role in the Civil War, Fort Fisher also served as an auxiliary camp for Camp Davis in training anti-aircraft gun troops.  Planes would tow targets out over the Atlantic Ocean.  Unfortunately, some of the fort was removed to make an airstrip for those planes.  WASPs pulled those targets.

The Fort Fisher Museum has a display on the fort's role in World War II.


His Dad and Gen. Eisenhower-- Part 3: And That Is Why He Voted Republican in 1952 and 1956

"What was so impressive was that not only did the general defuse an uncomfortable situation, but he did it without embarrassing either the major or the private in front of the rest of us.

"Eisenhower disappeared into the tent, emerged a half-hour later, shook our hands and departed.  That was the only time I ever saw him in person, but I will never forget it."

Then Cory Franklin's dad, Murray Franklin, answered his cousin's question as to why he had voted for Eisenhower instead of Adlai Stevenson for president.  "Adlai Stevenson was a good man, but I voted republican.  Dwight Eisenhower was my commanding officer on D-Day."

That ended the politics discussion.

This is one of those special stories that I so love in history.  It is the human side of things.  I am hoping that the ever shrinking number of World War II veterans are writing down their memories as I'd hate to be losing stories like this.

What Dwight Eisenhower did in this story is a good example of why he was the commander to get D-Day accomplished.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

His Dad and Gen. Eisenhower-- Part 2: "Doing Your Job"

"Before the general could do anything, the major standing next to me exploded.

" 'Private, do you know what you are doing?'  He was about to ream out the poor private in front of everyone standing there.

"That moment, Eisenhower came over to the major and spoke to him quite softly.  Because I was standing next to the major, I could hear what the general was saying.

" 'Major, that's OK.  He was just doing what he was trained to do.  There's no problem.'

"Then Eisenhower turned to the private, showed him some sort of identification, smiled at him and said, 'Good work private.  Doing your job'.

Just Doing His Job.  --GreGen

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

His Dad and General Eisenhower-- Part 1: Five Days After D-Day

From the June 6, 2019, Chicago Tribune "When service transcended party:  D-Day, my dad and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower" by Cory Franklin.

His family traditionally voted Democrat, except his father, who voted for Eisenhower in both 1952 and 1956.  And, he had a reason.  It came from the D-Day campaign.

His father had an Eisenhower story from that event.

"It was about five days after the Normandy beachhead was established, word came down that Gen. Eisenhower was coming to visit our company and talk to our chief officer in his tent.  Sure enough, on the appointed day, he came with a retinue that was surprisingly small.

"I was using a crutch but as third in command I stood with my superior, a major, outside the tent as our men stood at attention.  When Eisenhower approached the tent, everyone saluted, but before he entered, the private assigned to  guard the entrance stopped him and asked for his identification -- he was asking the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe for identification."

Well, What Do You Think Happened?  --GreGen

Monday, July 8, 2019

Solemn Tribute to Mark D-Day-- Part 6: History Will Repeat Itself

British Prime Minister Theresa May said:  "If one day can be said to have determined the fate of generations to come, in France, in Britain, in Europe and the world, that day was the 6th of June, 1944."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed those who sacrificed their lives on the Normandy beaches for future generations, "for you and me."

Speaking at Juno Beach where 14,000 Canadians landed, Treadeau said they "took a gamble the world had never seen before."a

A group of five Americans parachuted into Normandy on Wednesday as part of a commemorative jump and showed up on the beach on Thursday still wearing their jumpsuits, all World War II-era uniforms, and carrying an American flag.  The group included Richard Clapp, and all five expressed concern the sacrifices of D-Day are being forgotten.

"If you forget history, it's doomed to repeat itself."

The 75th Anniverasy.  --GreGen

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Solemn Tribute to Mark D-Day-- Part 5: Ceremonies At Gold Beach

Hundreds of people packed the seaside square in the town of Arromanches to applaud veterans of the Battle of Normandy.  A wreath was placed outside the town's D-Day Museum.

At daybreak, a lone piper played in Mulberry Harbor, 75 years after British troops came ashore at Gold Beach.

"It is sobering, surreal to be able to stand here on this beach and admire the beautiful sunrise where they came ashore, being shot at, facing unspeakable atrocities," said former U.S. paratrooper Richard Clapp, 44, of Julian, North Carolina.

Gratitude was a common theme.

Macron thanked those who did not survive the assault "so that France could become free again" at an earlier ceremony overlooking Gold Beach with May and uniformed veterans to lay the cornerstone of a memorial that will record the names of thousands of troops under British command who died on D-Day and the  ensuing Battle of Normandy.


Friday, July 5, 2019

Solemn Tribute to Mark D-Day-- Part 4: At the Normandy American Cemetery

Up to 12,000 people gathered hours later at the ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, where Macron and Trump spoke.  U.S. veterans, their numbers fast diminishing as years pass, were the guests of honor.

A 21-gun salute thundered into the waters below the cemetery, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach and across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David.

Britain's Prince Charles, his wife, Camilla, and Prime Minister Theresa May attended a remembrance service at the medieval cathedral in Bayeux, the first Normandy town liberated by Allied troops after D-Day.  Cardinal Marc Ouellet read a message from Pope Francis honoring those who "gave their lives for freedom and peace."


Solemn Tribute to Mark D-Day-- Part 3: Where the Water Ran Red

Leaders, veterans, their families and the grateful from France, Europe and elsewhere were present for the solemn day that begun under a radiant sun.

At dawn, hundreds of people, civilians and military alike gathered at the water's edge to remember the troops who stormed the fortified beaches to help turn the tide of the war and give birth to a new Europe.

Dick Jansen, 60, from the Netherlands, drank Canadian whiskey from an enamel cup on the water's edge.  Others scattered carnations into the waves.

Randall Atanay, to son of a medic who tended to the dying and wounded, waded barefoot into the water near Omaha Beach, where the waters ran red on D-Day.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Movie Watching on 4th of July-- Part 4: Kind of Surprised Just One WW II Movie on the List: "The Dirty Dozen"

From the July 4, 2019, Chicago Tribune "Celebrate Independence Day with 13 all-American movies" by Rex Crum.  This began in my Not So Forgotten: War of 1812 blog.

I was surprised that the least had only one World War II movie, "The Dirty Dozen."  I would gave thought "Saving Private Ryan," "The Longest Day,"  "Tora, Tora, Tora," "Kelly's Heroes" and "Pearl Harbor" would have been good ones to see.


Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland a nine other military convicts lead a raid against the Nazis.  Their leader, Lee Marvin actually fought in the war and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

If that doesn't scream 'AMERICA" then nothing will.


Movie Watching on 4th of July-- Part 3: "Miracle" and "1776"

Continued from my today's  Not So Forgotten: War of 1812 blog.

Movies to watch if its too hot or rainy, or too many mosquitoes.

These movies show the American spirit.

"MIRACLE"  (2004)

Speaking of that "USA!  USA!  USA!" chant.  This originated from the "Miracle On Ice" Team USA's Olympic hockey  win over the Soviet Union in 1980.

This movie is about that event when a group of college hockey players defeated the heavily favored Soviet Army hockey team.

"1776"  (1972)

A less expensive experience than the ubiquitous "Hamilton."  See  the Founding Fathers singing and dancing their way through some of America's earliest days.

Getting In the Patriotic Mood.  --GreGen

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Solemn Tribute to Mark D-Day-- Part 2: "We Owe You, Veterans, Our Freedom"

French President Macron expressed France's debt to the United States for freeing his country from Hitler.

He then awarded five U.S. veterans of the battle with the Chevalier of Legion of Honor, France's highest award.  "We know what we owe you, veterans, our freedom," he said.  "On behalf of my nation I just want to say 'thank you.' "

D-Day was history's largest air and sea invasion, involving around 160,000 troops on the day itself and many more in the ensuing Battle of Normandy.  Of  those, 73,000 were from the United States, while 83,000 were from Britain and Canada.

Troops started landing overnight from the air, then were joined by a massive force from the sea on the beaches code-names Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold.

The Battle of Normandy hastened Germany's defeat less than a year later.


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Solemn Tribute to Mark D-Day-- Part 1: "You Are the Pride of Our Nation"

From the June 7, 2019, Chicago Tribune by Raf Casert, John Leicaster and Elaine Ganley, AP.

"With silent remembrance and respect, nations honored the fallen and the singular bravery of all Allied troops who sloshed through bloodied beaches of Normandy 75 years ago on D-Day, the assault that portended the fall of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

"French President Emmanuel Macron and President Donald Trump praised the soldiers, sailors and airmen, the survivors and those who lost their lives in powerful speeches Thursday that credited the June 6, 1944, air and sea operations that brought tens of thousands of men to Normandy, each not knowing whether he would survive the day.

" 'You are the pride of our nation, you are the glory of our republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart," Trump said.

"Macron praised their courage, generosity and strength of spirit that made them press on 'to help men and women they didn't know, to liberate a land most hadn't seen before, for no other cause but freedom, democracy.' "


Reporting the D-Day Landing-- Part 8: Army's Correspondent Communications System Broke Down

"A runner came from an advance unit bearing a message for the general. (Brig. Gen. Norman Cota). He was John P. Foley, Trenton, New Jersey.

"Although nicked by a bullet over one eye, Foley came through enemy fire to carry an important message which resulted in the general sending reinforcements to a certain sector.

" 'You've done a fine job, lieutenant," said the general, "and shown great initiative and good judgement.'

"Then the general began working to get troops off the beach.  He sent a group to the right flank to help clean out the enemy firing directly on the beach.  Quietly he talked to the men, suggesting the next move.

"The Army's communication system for correspondents accompanying American troops broke down completely and for more than 28 hours we were unable to get news out.

"We were even more bitterly disappointed when we turned on the radio and heard a B.B.C. report from British correspondents accompanying British troops.  Their communications apparently functioned very well."

Obviously Not Happy That the Bristish Corerspondents Could get Their Reports Out Right Away.  --GreGen

Reporting the D-Day Landing-- Part 7: "Damn Glad To Get On The Beach"

"Wounded men , drenched by cold water, lay in gravel, some with water washing over their legs, shivering and waiting for stretcher bearers to take them aboard returning small craft.

" 'Oh, God, let me aboard a boat,' whimpered one youth in semi-delirium.  Near him a shivering youth dug with bare fingers into gravel.

"Shells burst on all sides of us, some so close they threw black water and dirt all over us in showers.  They smacked into the water around the boats, but in all the shelling I saw only one boat hit and she pulled out under her own power.

"An A.E.F. sergeant, William McFadden, Olean, New York, said, "I was damn glad to get onto the beach, and I'll be glad to get off."


Monday, July 1, 2019

Reporting the D-Day Landing-- Part 6: The Brave General and His Lieutenant

"In my books much credit must be given to the tall lean brigadier general who showed absolute disregard for his own safety in organizing his troops and getting them moving inland.

"I cannot name him.  But I can name the cool calm lieutenant who stayed by his side during the whole time.  He was Robert J. Rieske of Battle Creek, Mich..

"Eight hours after landing, not a single enemy plane made an appearance over our beach.

We had waded ashore to the rattle of machine guns and the bursting of shells.

"A soldier riding on the rear of a 'duck' at the water edge behind me suddenly gave a startled cry and toppled into the water.  A medic dragged him to the beach and treated a wound to his thigh."

After some research, I believe this brigadier general whom Don Whitehead could not identify because of censorship very likely was Norma Cota, who landed with the second wave.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Reporting the D-Day Landing-- Part 5: German Counter Attacks

"During the night,  German snipers infiltrated our lines and made life uncomfortable.  The troops were wet from wading through the surf and the bedding of most troops was lost in vehicles swamped on the beach.

"Big guns of our warships are standing offshore and belching flame and smoke.  Small craft are shuttling troops and guns to the strip of beach.  Big bulldozers are gouging out a road.

"Along the beach are still the khaki-clad bodies of the boys who gave their lives in the United Nations bid to crush Germany's armed might.  But there were not so many as I had expected to see, and I patrolled this strip from end to end.

"Canadians reported that German parachute troops were being dropped on a small scale behind American lines.

"American parachutists took one village."


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Reporting the D-Day Landing-- Part 4: Two Prisoners Didn't Want to Fight Anymore

Two young Germans were supposed to man the weapon (88-millimeter gun) but were in quarters when the naval bombardment began and a shell ripped squarely through the gunport.

"They ran out of their tunnel and hid under a bridge where Lieut. Carl W. Oelze, Cleveland, found them and took them prisoner.

"One was 17 years old and the other 18 and both said they were glad the invasion had come and that they were prisoners as they did not want to fight anyway.

"On the other side of the draw was a similar position and further inland above the exit from the beach was another concrete blockhouse with its 88-gun pointing down the approach.

The prisoners coming back to the rear looked rather small and scrawny.  They looked with wonder at the bigger and stronger American boys."


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Reporting the D-Day Landing-- Part 3: Some Really Strong German Defenses

"In the matter of a few hours the engineers had roads built from the beach and heavy equipment was pouring across.

"Along the beaches were underwater barriers, barbed wire, emplacements, concrete houses with 88-mm guns covering the beach approaches.  The walls of houses were of reinforced concrete four to six feet thick.

"Two hundred yards from the beach on the side of a steep bank the Germans had built one strong-point and had another under construction.  This blockhouse was about fifteen feet square with one opening through which was poked the snout of an 88-mm. gun.

"Behind the thick walls were cases of ammunition.  Behind the blockhouse the gun crew had tunneled into the side of a hill and installed living quarters."

Fortress Europe, the Vaunted Atlantic Wall.  --GreGen

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Reporting the D-Day Landing-- Part 2: The Beach Pile Up and Breakout

"When we landed behind the assault troops the enemy still was pouring a heavy machine-gun mortar and artillery fire into the boat as they drove ashore and had our troops pinned behind a gravel bank just above the water's edge.


"Troops, supplies and vehicles began to pile up on the beach at an alarming rate.  The enemy controlled the exits with accurate fire and the time schedule was being disrupted.

"One unforeseen difficulty here was that three fresh regiments of German infantry moved onto the beach area just before the landing for anti-invasion maneuvers.  They were sitting in their positions when the armada arrived offshore.

"But under the urging of a soft-spoken brigadier general the organized enemy positions were silenced and the great surge inland began."


Monday, June 24, 2019

Reporting the D-Day Landing, June 6, 1944-- Part 1: " With American Forces in France"

From the June 7, 2019, Chicago Tribune  "Reporting the D-Day landing in 1944" by Don Whitehead, AP>

A technical glitch delayed war story of historic invasion.

This story was first published on June 8, 1944, after AP journalist Don Whitehead landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day with the 1st Infantry Division.  His story was delayed by more than a day as the Army's communication system for the war correspondents broke down, and journalists weren't able to get the news out for more than 28 hours.

This is his report:

WITH AMERICAN FORCES IN FRANCE --  Fighting as American troops did in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy, doughboys have smashed through the outer crust of Hitler's fortress in a gallant display of courage and skill.

Never before has an army attempted to land such vast numbers of men and materials in such a short time, but the job is being done after a shaky start.


D-Day +75 Years-- Part 14: "The Battle Belonged That Morning To..."

Troops poured through the opening and by nightfall, the Omaha Beach beachhead was secured.  However, the Allies held only a few miles of shoreline.  Their front lines wouldn't reach the hard-pressed parachutists until June 10.

"The ground troops have finally reached us," recalled Fayette Richardson.  "We've been surrounded for nearly five days, almost out of ammunition, with rumors that the invasion has failed, that we were done for.  Now, we are saved."

Tough battles lay ahead before Germany surrendered the following spring.  But after Operation Overlord, the end was never in doubt.

On June 6, 1944, 2,499 Americans and 1,915 soldiers of the Allied nations were killed.  Many of the GIs are buried under white crosses and Stars of David in a U.S. military cemetery on a bluff above Omaha Beach.  In the visitor center there is a quote from Gen. Bradley that, with simple eloquence, tells the D-Day story.

"The battle belonged that morning to the thin, wet line of khaki that dragged itself ashore on the channel coast of France."

Fitting.  --GreGen

Sunday, June 23, 2019

D-Day +75 Years-- Part 13: Rangers "Get Up There and Lead the Way"

General Norma Cota, born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, was told that one of the groups huddling on the shoreline were Rangers.  he went over to them and yelled "(Damn) it, if you are Rangers, then get up there and lead the way!"

Spotting an abandoned bulldozer, Cota asked for a volunteer to drive it.  A hand went up, and James Gilligan, a combat engineer, helped the redheaded GI load the bulldozer with explosives to blow a hole in the walls the Germans had built across an exit from the beach.

"The last I saw of (the volunteer) he was hightailing along the beach toward the draw, coolly sitting erect on the dozer, still with the complete load of TNT, seemingly protected by magic from harm,"  Gilligan recalled.  "By the time I got there walking, the mines were gone and the walls were down."


Friday, June 21, 2019

D-Day + 75 Years-- Part 12: "There Are Two Kinds of People Who Are Staying On This Beach"

John Raaen, of Arlington, Va., said he witnessed an unforgettable act of compassion when his Ranger unit landed.  Others ran for cover, but not the Rev. Joseph Lacey.  "He stayed right at the water's edge, pulling men who were dying out of the water so that perhaps they could live a bit longer."

At his command post on the cruiser USS Augusta, General Omar Bradley considered aborting the Omaha Beach landings, but U.S. destroyers moved in perilously close to shore and provide fire cover on German positions and a few officers slowly got the troops to moving off the beach.

"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die," said Col. George  Taylor from Flat Rock, Illinois.  "Now, let's get the hell out of here!"

A Great Quote.  --GreGen

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

D-Day +75 Years-- Part 11 "Fire Rained Down On Us"

In heavy seas, only a handful of tanks made it to the beach, and the bombers who were to take out German batteries dropped their bombs too far inland.  Such was the situation at Omaha Beach.

"The plans made back in England just didn't exist in reality when we hit the beach," Sergeant Harry Bare of Philadelphia told an interviewer.  "Fire rained down on us, machine-gun, rifle, rockets from the bunkers on top of the cliff."

Frank Colacicco, a major in the 1st Infantry Division, saw the slaughter from a landing craft that was taking his unit in.

"We could see it all," he told Max Hastings, author of the book "Overlord" that takes interviews from men who were there to p[ice together the story.  "We knew that something was knocking the tanks out, but we kept asking, 'Why don't they clear the beach?  Why aren't our people getting off?' "

A Mess on Omaha Beach.  --GreGen

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

D-Day + 75 Years- Part 10: American Reaction to the News, Success, But...

In the United States, Americans woke up to the news of D-Day.  A prayer service was held in Chicago at the corner of State and Madison streets.  In Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell rang.

Rushing to put out an extra edition, pressmen in Griffin, Georgia, put three pages of the Evening News on the press upside down.  Send them out as is, the publisher ordered.

For awhile, it seemed that subsequent editions would bring dreadful news.  Theodore Roosevelt Jr.'s men fought their way through the German defenses at Utah Beach and were moving inland.  British and Canadian troops were advancing their own sector of the shoreline, but a disaster was unfolding on Omaha Beach.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

D-Day + 75 Years-- Part 9: "D-Day Has Come"

The first report of what was taking place in Normandy came from Berlin.  But it said that the invaders landed farther up the French coast which vindicated the Allies' disinformation campaign.  To throw the Germans off scent, they flipped German spies who spoon-fed false information to Berlin and also dropped dummy parachutists on D-Day.

The first bulletin from London was terse:  "D-Day has come,"  a BBC announcer said.  It mirrored the mood of his audience:  hope mixed with trepidation.

In 1940, the French army had collapsed in the face of Hitler's invasion, and the British army barely escaped by being evacuated through the port of Dunkirk.  So it was natural to worry, lest British soldiers be headed to a similar disaster when they were mobilized for D-Day.


D-Day +75 Years-- Part 8: Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and An Accidental Shooting

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was a World War I veteran who walked with a cane, started striding up from the beach.  Meanwhile, a detachment of paratroopers attacked the de Valleville farm, where the Germans had stationed an artillery battery.

There was a firefight between the Americans and Germans.  In the confusion, Louis de Valleville's older brother Michel was shot by an American soldier who mistook him for a German.

"We cannot explain in French," Louis said.  Somehow, his family got Michel to a hospital and he survived.


Monday, June 10, 2019

D-Day 75 Years Later-- Part 7: "We'll Start the War From Here!"

General Theodore Roosevelt was aboard a landing craft heading toward Utah Beach,  The son of President Theodore Roosevelt, he was confronted with a colossal snafu upon stepping ashore.

"About ten minutes later, after we got ourselves protected, General Roosevelt got us together --  battery commanders, battalion commanders -- and told us we weren't where we were supposed to land,"  Joe Blaylock, who served in the 20th Field Artillery, recalled to an interviewer for the University of New Orleans.  "He gave us coordinates of where we were, and everybody checked it on their map, and he said, 'We'll start the war from here!' "

Wrong Place,  Oh Well, We'll Start Anyway.  --GreGen

D-Day +75 Years-- Part 6: "We Believed It Was A Joke"

Now, there was an armada of some 4,000 ships off the Normandy coast, and landing craft were ferrying tanks, infantry units and combat engineers toward the shore.

Louis de Valleville, a teenager who then lived on a farm near Utah Beach, could scarcely believe that France's liberation was at hand.

"Some person came through the flooded area out at about six in the morning, coming through this swamp, and said all of the sea is covered by boats," said de Valleville.  "And we believed it was a joke."


Sunday, June 9, 2019

D-Day + 75 Years-- Part 5: The Enemy Soldiers Were Alive, Then, Suddenly, Dead

The mission Fayette Richardson and the 82nd and 101st Airborne units were on was to stop any German attempts at counterattack and reinforcing the beaches where the Allies were landing.

Richardson very quickly realized that real-life combat is infinitely more brutal and tragic  than Hollywood's version.  At dawn, he and a few others set off on their assignment only to encounter a German staff car.

The Americans froze, then Richardson yelled, "Shoot!  Shoot!"  Three Germans were killed in a hail of fire, and the GIs moved on.  Yet Richardson couldn't stop thinking about the incident.

"It could not be that these ordinary men, riding along an ordinary road on an ordinary day could be shot like that, killed," he wrote.  These men who had been alive and going about life's business a moment before could be dead.  I could not accept it."


Saturday, June 8, 2019

D-Day +75 Years-- Part 4: "I'd Like To Volunteer, Sir"

These are the stories of those beaches on June 6, 1944, as told by those who were there -- the voices of D-Day.


As a boy in Machias, New York, Fayette Richardson was fascinated with airplanes and ear movies.  At 17, he enlisted but didn't qualify for pilot training.  Instead, he was asked to join a parachute regiment's Pathfinder team: those who jump first and guide those who follow.  It was strictly a voluntary thing according to his commanding officer.

"I think of Errol Flynn and how he and David Niven volunteered to do things in 'Dawn Patrol,' " Richardson recalled.  he told his commanding officer: "I'd like to volunteer, sir."   This is according to Richardson's personal story in an oral history story "I Wouldn't Want to Do It Again" by Joel Baret.

Richardson and others of the 82nd and 101st Airborne dropped inland on Normandy just after midnight the day of the invasion.


D-Day +75 Years-- Part 3: Oral Histories Are Setting the Record Straight

Stephen Ambrose is a historian and an author, best known for his books "Band of Brothers" and "Citizen Soldiers.  He has a knack for convincing veterans that every thing they have to say about their experience is worthy of being preserved.

'He knew that the voices of those who fought at Gettysburg are long gone, but thanks to recorded oral histories, those of the D-Day veterans will be with us long after they are gone.

Leonard Lomell was a sergeant in th 2nd Ranger battalion explained why he participated in Ambrose's D-Day oral history project at the University of New Orleans.  "I've kept a low profile for fifty years as have most of my men.  We weren't heroes, we were just good Rangers, as we believed the record would forever show.

But, inaccurate accounts by those who were not there, Lomell realized that time was running out to set the record straight, so he did.


Friday, June 7, 2019

D-Day +75 Years-- Part 2: Thank Goodness for the Oral Histories

Seventy-five years have passed and the ranks of men have thinned even more than they did that day.  They braved machine gun, rifle and cannon fire on the French beaches that were marked on the American maps:  Omaha and Utah.

Fayette Richardson died in 2010, but fortunately for us and future generations, he and other veterans kept diaries, wrote memoirs or recorded their memories.

Oral history as a study was in its infancy when Stephen Ambrose began tape recording D-Day veterans according to Toni Kiser, assistant director for collections management at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Kiser told the Tribune:  "Ambrose, who began collecting the oral histories housed in our archives, was a distinguished historian.  He recognized that official accounts couldn't capture the subtleties of a historic event like D-Day.  They are bound to reflect the generals' perspective.  He wanted to know how it looked to the GIs, who were on the beaches or dropped by parachute.  What was it like to see a buddy you have trained with for months get killed minutes after they rushed out of a landing craft?"

Thursday, June 6, 2019

D-Day +75 Years Today: "What Am I Doing Here?"-- Part 1

From the June 6, 2019, Chicago Tribune  ' I'd like to volunteer, sir' : Memories of D-Day live on through oral histories" by Ron Grossman.

"Just before parachuting into Nazi-occupied Europe, Fayette Richardson asked himself an existential question: 'My God Most Powerful, what am I doing here? '

"The thought had to be on the minds of myriad soldiers on June 6, 1844.  It was D-Day, the launch of a  long-awaited campaign by the U.S. and British armies to free the nations of Western Europe that Hitler had conquered.

"Mounted from airfields and ports in Great Britain, it was the largest amphibious assault in history.  Code-named Operation Overlord, it dramatically changed the course of World War II."


Monday, June 3, 2019

Three Days to D-Day +75 Years

Today is three days from D-Day, plus 75 years.  Three quarters of a century.  The youngest of the Allies storming Fortress Europe that day would be 93 now, if they were 18 at the time.

Hoping people will be putting their flags out to commemorate it.  What those men faced, going up the famed Atlantic Wall of the Germans had to have been frightening, but on they came, and as you're reading in this blog, jumping into it.

I will write about D-Day in all my blogs June 6.

The Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Dropping Into Normandy-- Part 5: It Was Like the 4th of July Only They Were Up There With the Fireworks

WILLIAM DUNFEE, 82nd--  "Then, looking down, I saw C-47s flying below us.  That scared the hell out of me, and I started cussing them.  I didn't want to be turned into hamburger by our own air force....  While descending, I regained my composure, since it appeared we were going to make it down in one piece."

CHARLES MILLER,  82nd--  It looked like a great big Fourth of July celebration.  The whole sky was lit up like a big show."

ROY ZERBE, 101st--  "The sky was filled with fire, and it looked like the Fourth of July.  I would guess we were low, at about 500 feet.  I could see fires off in the distance."

GUY REMINGTON, 101st--  "The black Normandy pastures tilted and turned far beneath me.  The first German flare came arching up, and instantly machine guns and forty-millimeter guns began firing from the corners of the fields, stripping the night with yellow, green, blue, and red tracers.  I pitched through a wild Fourth of July.

"Fire licked through the sky and blazed around the transports heaving high overhead.  I saw one of them go plunging down in flames.  One of them came down with a trooper, whose chute had been caught in the tailpiece, streaming out behind.  I heard a large gush of air: a man went hurtling past, only a few yards away, his parachute collapsed and burning.

"Other parachutes, with men whose legs had been shot  off slumped in the harness, floated gently toward the earth."

Only, They Were Up There With the Fireworks This Time.  --GreGen

Dropping Into Normandy-- Part 4: "The Staccato Sound of Machine-Gun Fire Broke My Trance"


RAY AEBISCER,  101st--  "The jolt from the opening shock was more intense than usual.  At the same second the chute opened, my leg pack broke loose from the straps around my leg.  All of my equipment, except one trench knife and a canteen of water went plummeting to the ground, never to be seen again."

TURK SEELYE, 82nd--  "As the prop blast forced air into my chute, I got the strongest opening shock ever.  The chute opened with such a violent jolt that a Beretta pistol I took from an Italian naval officer was torn loose, along with my new safety razor."

LESLIE P. CRUISE, 82nd--  "The chute tightened in my crotch as the planes droned overhead, and I knew my chute had opened though I could hardly look up to see it.  I had suddenly slowed as the chute fully opened and I floated in space....  The staccato sound of machine-gun fire broke my trance.  It was to the left.  No, it was to my right as I kept turning in my chute.  I couldn't tell where it was coming from."

ROY KING,  82nd--  "I was fascinated by the sight of the tracers flying around everywhere when I saw a huge explosion blossom directly below me....  A plane between me and the ground.  No, it was not in trouble, I was!  I was above the stream of airplanes that had just dropped their troopers and equipment.

"My immediate concern was that I could be chopped to pieces by the propellers of the oncoming planes.  I was trying furiously  to turn and face the oncoming planes in order to see how to safely maneuver through them.  I dropped safely through them in spite of my near-hysterical struggles."


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Dropping Into Normandy-- Part 3: Last Man Out

RICHARD GLEASON,  101st--  "As I stood near the door, a shell exploded under the left wing, and the old '47 did a handstand on the right wingtip, and I was thrown back across the cabin.  There was a mad scramble to get out the door, but I was able to get there first, so I didn't get tangled in any static lines."

HAROLD CANYON,  82nd--  Just as I approached the door the top of the airplane opened up.  It had been hit by some type of explosive shell.  As I turned into the doorway, the plane started a right wing dip going into its death spiral.

"It took everything I had to get over the threshold.  It seemed to me the threshold was just a little more than chest high as I rolled over and got out.  I was the last man out of the plane."

CLARENCE McKELVEY--  "We din't know how high we were, but I felt three things in succession -- my helmet popped off my head, I felt my chute open, and I looked down and there was ground."

ELMER BRANDENBERGER, 101st--  "The opening shock (of the parachute) tore the rifle from my grasp.  I can still remember the thought flashing through my mind that it would hit some damned Kraut and bash in his head."


Dropping Into Normandy-- Part 2: Of Puke and Hit Planes

Reminiscences of Paratroopers.

Getting out of the planes proved problematic as well.

LESLIE KICK, 82nd--  "Then we were going out, slipping on puke but keeping our balance by holding tight to the static line snap."

ED BOCCAFOGLI, 82nd--  "I fell out.  I slipped on vomit.  Some guys were throwing up from nerves, and as we pivoted out my feet went out from under me, and I went upside down."

VIRGIL DANFORTH, 101st--  "As we stood in the door, ready to jump, our plane took a close one, which threw men down in the door in such a way that my head was outside and my shoulder was inside and I was wedged in this position so I couldn't get up.  With the help of the man behind me, I finally managed to dive head first out of the door."

JACK SCHLEGEL, 82nd--  "I recall that I was the ...last to leave the plane ... the plane was going down.  I moved out as fast as I could to get out and, after bailing out, saw the plane go up in a ball of flame."

Mighty Scary (And Messy).  --GreGen

Friday, May 31, 2019

Dropping Into Normandy-- Part 1: Into the Darkness

From the WW II History Presents "D-Day 75th Anniversary" magazine.

By Kevin M. Hymel.

These are some individual accounts of members of the 82nd and 101st Airborne who parachuted into Normandy before the attack.  I will be following them up to June 6.


ROBERT WEBB, 101st:  "When I cleared the door, the plane was bucking like a horse, and the tracers were so thick it looked like a wall of fame."

KENNETH MOORE, 101st:  "The plane started bucking and jumping, as as [ a fellow paratrooper] fell down the green light came on.  They were all jumping, and he was scrambling trying to get out the door, so i grabbed him and pitched him out the door."

TOM POCELLA, 82nd:  "With the roar of the engines in my ears, I was out the door and into the silence of the night.  I realized I had made the jump into darkness."

TIM SEELYE, 82nd:  ""After I left the door, the plane nosed downward, and I watched the tail pass a few feet over my head."

Mighty Scary Jumping Into That.  --GreGen

Seven Days to D-Day +75

We are seven days away from the 75th anniversary of D-Day, quite an important day in human annals.

I have some more information on Lt. Richard Fassl, his plane and the others who died with him February 3, 1944, but will break for awhile to take a look at D-Day.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Lt. Richard Fassl of the "Dogpatch Raider" B-24

From the American  Air Museum in Britain


On 3 February 1944, B-24D #41-24192 named "Dogpatch Raider"  lost an engine and aborted during a mission to Emden and during the landing attempt the aircraft appeared to lose control and crashed near Hempnall.     Killed in Action (KIA)

2nd lieutenant Richard Fassl was born on February 28, 1920, the son of Ludwig and Mary Fassl.  His hometown was Chicago, Illinois.

He was serving as a bombardier aboard B-24 "Dogpatch Raider" tail  #42-24192, on February 3, 1944.  The bomber, part of 93rd Bomb Group, 328th Bomb Squadron, suffered engine trouble  shortly after Takeoff, and crash-landed at its base at Hardwick.

He is buried at  the U.S. Military Cemetery at Cambridge, England.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Lt. Richard Fassl and George Estes Memorials in Chicago

From the August 26, 2015, WTTW PBS Chicago Ask Geoffrey.  Geoffrey Baer is a noted Chicagoologist who has many shows on WTTW about the history of Chicagoland.

The question asked was :  "There is a World War II killed in action memorial marker to George Estes at Fullerton and Cleveland streets in Chicago.  Who was he, who erected  the memorial and are there other markers like it around the city?"

It is one of a few, vanishing  ones around the city.  George Estes was a seaman second class in the Navy during World War II.  He was killed in action in the South Pacific in October 1944 and buried at sea.  He had lived with his family a few blocks away from the memorial at 2046 N. Orleans.

There is another memorial like the one to Estes two blocks west at Fullerton and Orchard for Richard Fassl.  He was a bombardier and a fellow Lincoln Park resident who was killed in action in England.

Both memorials are taken care of by the Mid=North Neighborhood Association.


Saying a Thank You to Lt. Richard Fassl on Memorial Day-- Part 2

Loving his new country, Richard Fassl did what he knew was right.  He joined the military.  The U.S. Army Air Corps sent him overseas to the European Theater.

There he joined the 93rd Bomb Group, 328th Bomb Squadron.

He never came home.

His remains are not home either, buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Cambridge, England.

Every year on the anniversary of Lt. Fassl's death, the article writer, William Dodd Brown, ties a bouquet of flowers to his memorial at Fullerton and Orchard streets in Chicago.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Saying a Thank You to Lt. Richard Fassl on Memorial Day-- Part 1

From the May 27, 2019, Chicago Sun-Times  "Why I will say 'thank you' to Lt. Richard Fassl on Memorial Day" by William Dodd Brown.

"It was going to be a routine mission, but something went terribly wrong.

"On Feb. 3, 1944, shortly after takeoff, the B-24 lost an engine and, returning to base, crash-landed at Hardwick Airfield in England.  Lt. Richard Fassl and eight other crew members were killed.

"There was nothing to be done except to collect the dead, say a few prayers and send a telegram: 'The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son...'

"Richard Fassl was born in Austria.  Like so many others, past and present, he and his family immigrated to Chicago in the 1920s, hoping to find a better future.  His father, Ludwig, worked as a janitor.

"Growing up, Richard graduated from Lane Tech High School and attended the Illinois Institute of Technology for a year.  By 1942, he had a steady job with ComEd.  Like just about every other young guy in Chicago, he'd get together with some buddies on a Wednesday or Thursday night.  They'd go out bowling, have a few beers, share a few jokes.  Someday, he'd get married, have kids, and start saving for a house.

"But, the war came along.  The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor."


Thursday, May 23, 2019

California Shipbuilding Corp.-- Part 4: End of War, End of Calship

The Calship yard had workers from every corner of the United States, lured by work and good wages.  Eventually the force here numbered some 40,000.  Only 1% had had any shipbuilding experience before they came.

After the war, the U.S. Navy and Maritime Commission cancelled their contracts with Calship and the level of shipbuilding decreased.  Calship closed in September 1945, after launching its last Victory Ship.  It was "four years to the minute after the first  slid into the water."

Calship ranks 49th  among U.S. corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.

In 1947 the Calship facility was taken over by  National Metal & Steel Corporation which operated a scrap yard there.  Fifty-five of the Liberty and Victory Ships that were built there were also scrapped there.

The surviving museum Victory ships SS American Victory and SS Lane Victory were built  in the Calship yard.  The SS American Victory is in Tampa, Florida, and the SS Lane  Victory is in Los Angeles.  They both are open to the public and sail occasionally.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

California Shipbuilding Corporation-- Part 3: "City Built On Invisible Stilts"

The huge Navy contracts also was a huge boost to California shipbuilding.    As a result, workers migrated to California in large numbers.  Shipyards sprang up from San Francisco to San Diego.  At its peak, shipbuilding in California involved 282,000 people.

Shipbuilding became a highly efficient industry.  The building of ships and workers peaked in 1943.

The Kaiser Steel plant in Fontana, California,  was completed in August 1943, which enabled further  production increases at Calship (California Shipbuilding Corp.).  Between September 27, 1941, and September  27, 1945, the shipyard launched 467 ships.

The Calship yard was known as "the city built on invisible stilts."  It was situated on marshy ground and was built on artificial earth supported by 57,000 piles driven into the mud.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

California Shipbuilding Corporation-- Part 2: Very Fast Ship Production

Calship (California Shipbuilding Corporation) was created from scratch and began production of Liberty Ships in May 1941.  In the early 1940s, contracts from the U.S. Department of Maritime Commission and a number of U.S. Navy contracts led to great prosperity in L.A. shipbuilding businesses.

The Calship yard covered  175 acres on the  north side of Terminal Island.  It initially had eight ways which were later increased to fourteen.  Some 40,000 men and women  worked on the construction of the ships  Altogether, the ships that were produced here are referred to as the "Liberty Fleet."

The cargo ships were built with rapid construction with lower costs.    Just thirteen months after commencing production, the company broke the record by delivering 15 Liberty Ships in June 1942.  For the year, they delivered 111 Liberty Ships. more than any other yard in the United States.  In June the following year, they broke their own record by delivering twenty ships.  Then, again in December 1943, they delivered 23.

They Could Build Ships Very Fast.  --GreGen

Monday, May 20, 2019

California Shipbuilding Corporation-- Part 1: Built 467 Liberty and Victory Ships

Last week I wrote about the USS Jaguar and its service during World War II.

It was built by this company.

From Wikipedia.

And, I thought the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company built a lot of ships for WW II service, but this one built almost twice as many.

Built 467 Liberty and Victory ships during the war, including Haskell-class attack transports.  It was often referred to as Calship (California Shipbuilding).

The Calship shipyard was created  at Terminal Island, Los Angeles as part of the U.S.'s huge shipbuilding effort during the war.  W.A. Bechtel Co. was given sponsorship  and was in charge of executive direction.

As of the 1940, the Los Angeles shipyards had not built a large ship  in 20 years.  By  late 1941, though, shipbuilding had become the second largest  manufacturing industry  in the Los Angeles area.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Two More Pearl Harbor Survivors Pass Away: Clement Hauger, Jr. and Joseph Catenazzo

These are some of our oldest World War II veterans since this was the first battle for the United States.


May 10, 2019    Was in the U.S. Army and when he went outside, saw a Japanese plane flying over: "When it went by, it had a big red ball on the side.  And someone said, 'That's the Japanese.  We're at war!'"

He served 1941-1944.


May 8, 2019  He was buried at Seaside Memorial Cemetery in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He was turned down for enlistment at the age of 16, but moved to the West Coast and found another enlistment office and was successful.

He was taking a church boat to shore for the 8:00 service:  "Just another few seconds, these tin plans come right over us so low it scared the hell out of me."

Sorry to Lose Them.  --GreGen

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Armadillo-Class Tankers

From Wikipedia.

The USS Jaguar was an Armadillo-class tanker.

Here is a list of the other ships in the class.








USS Jaguar (IX-120)-- Part 3: An Armadillo-Class Tanker

From Wikipedia.

These tankers were  a class of Type ZET1-S-C3 Liberty tankers.  They were given hull-classification as unclassified  miscellaneous vessels.

Looking at the picture of one of these ships, they closely resembled the Liberty ships which were redesigned to carry fuel oil.

They all served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and were launched in 1943 and decommissioned in 1946.  They served primarily in the Pacific-Asia Theater, bringing aviation gasoline to remote Pacific islands.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

USS Jaguar (IX-120)-- Part 2: Delivered Diesel Oil, Fuel Gasoline and Minesweeping Gear

The Jaguar arrived at New Caledonia 19 January 1944 via Wellington, New Zealand , and from there transported vital  diesel oil, aviation gasoline and minesweeping gear to the New Hebrides and Solomon Islands

It returned to the U.S. West Coast in 1946  and then to Norfolk Navy Yard via the Panama Canal on April 20, 1946, and was decommissioned there June 10 and turned over to the Maritime Commission.

It later served as a tanker for various shipping lines under the name Harry Peer in 1948 and Tini in 1949.

The ship was transferred over to the Panamanian flag  in February 1951.

There are warning of asbestos threat as the ship had it.


Monday, May 13, 2019

USS Jaguar (IX-120)-- Part 1: Launched By the California Shipbuilding Corporation

In my last post, I talked with a WW II veteran who served on this ship.  I;d never heard of the hip, so good ol' Wikipedia.

Was an Armadillo-class  tanker designated an unclassified miscellaneous ship   She was the only ship in the U.S. Navy ever to have this name. The keel was laid down as the  Charles T. Yerkes under Maritime Commission contract by the California Shipbuilding Corporation in San Pedro, California.

She was launched  on 20 November 1943 and acquired by the Navy December 15 and commissioned that day with Lieutenant Commander T.E. Hammond in command.  It was 441 feet long with a 57-foot beam and a complement of 70 officers and enlisted.

After a shakedown cruise, it departed 19 January 1944  for duty as a floating storage ship in the Pacific Theater.


The WW II Veteran in Menards: Served On the USS Jaguar

Friday, while in the Fox Lake Menard's store, I met an elderly man wearing a World War II veteran hat so I thanked him for his service.  I then inquired about his service.

He served in the Pacific Theater of the war and on a tanker ship named the USS Jaguar.  It told him that had to have been very scary, all those Japanese submarines with their torpedoes lurking out there.  He said he was just 17 at the time and really didn't much think about it or care.  It was all a great adventure.  His ship had a flatter hull bottom so it could get in closer to shore.

I have recently been writing about the Palmyra Atoll/Island in the Pacific which had an airbase midway across the ocean that was a frequent stop for planes going across it and asked if he had ever been there,  He didn't remember specifically, but said he had delivered fuel to many U.S. bases so might have.

Whenever you see a WW II vet, thank them, talk to them.

Always An Interesting Story.  --GreGen

Friday, May 10, 2019

USS Oklahoma Unknowns: Seaton and Glenn

Recently identified crew members of the battleship USS Oklahoma who died at Pearl Harbor on december 7, 1941.

CHESTER SEATON--  Would have been 97 on August 8, 2019.  Will be buried next to his parents.  Navy Petty Officer 1st Class.  He is the 149th of the USS Oklahoma's Unknowns to be identified and one of fifteen native Nebraskans identified from the ship.

Five western Iowa sailors also died that day.  Two of them were Eli Olsen of Exira and George Ford of Carroll County who have been identified.

In 1941, Seaton, age 20, served on the USS Oklahoma with Petty Officer Lorentz Hultgren, 23, who married Seaton's sister. Hultgren also died on the Oklahoma in the attack and was unknown but recently identified.

The loss of two family members on the Oklahoma like that had to have been hard on that family.

ARTHUR GLENN--  Machnist Mate 1st Class from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  He had also served during World War I  Military records have him stealing an officer's car and driving it to Tijuana where he got into a fight.  Matt  Glenn, a great, great nephew said, "He was kind of a wild dog.  he was a very colorful character."

Enlisted in the Navy April 12, 1917, six days after the U.S. entered World War I.  December 7, 1941, was his birthday and he was 43.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

USS Oklahoma Unknowns: Brueswitz, Johnson and Wade

Here are some of the recently identified crew of the battleship USS Oklahoma who died December 7, 1941, and whose bodies were recovered when the ship was uprighted but their bodies could not be identified.

WILLIAM G. BRUESWITZ--  Seaman 1st Class.  Funeral to be held later this year at Arlington National Cemetery.  From Menasha, Wisconsin.

JOSEPH JOHNSON--  From Minnesota.  Graduated from Rushford High School.  Was a football player.    Enlisted in Navy a year after graduation.  Among the 429 who died on the USS Oklahoma that day.

DURELL WADE--  24.  Aviation machinist.  Skipped college to enlist in Navy in New Orleans.  Will be buried at North Mississippi Veteran Memorial Park in Kilmichel.

I'm so glad the U.S. government is having the bodies identified.