Friday, March 29, 2019

Vietnam War Facts

Since today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day, I thought some facts would be appropriate.

From Vietnam War Facts.

1.  58,148 Americans were killed and 304,000 wounded out of 2.59 who served.

2.  The average age of those who were killed was 23.11 years.

3.  The average infantryman in World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years.  The average infantryman in the Vietnam War saw 240 days of combat a year.

4.  After Vietnam,  the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia managed to stay Communist free.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Camp Sibert, Alabama's First Chemical Warfare Center

In the last post, I said that Leo Olson of DeKalb County, Illinois, had been promoted to corporal and was stationed at this camp, though the newspaper article called it Camp Siever, Alabama.  The actual name was Camp Sibert.

From Waymaking.

From the marker:

"On 6/18/1942 the U.S. took possession of 36,300 acres in Etowah and adjoining St. Clair County to establish Alabama's first Chemical Warfare Center.  The area was dedicated on 12/25/1942 and named for U.S. Army M/G William Luther Sibert, first chief of Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) and a native of Etowah County.

The camp served as  a Unit Training Center and a Replacement Training Center for the CWS and could accommodate up to 30,000 troops.  Forty-seven percent of all CWS units of WW II were trained here.  The camp was deactivated on 12/31/1945.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Leo Olson Promoted in a Chemical Warfare Unit

From the May 23, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Leo B. Olson, who entered the service on February 5, has been promoted to the rank of corporal according to word received from his by his wife.

"He is in a chemical warfare unit of the air corps and is stationed at Camp Sievert  (Camp Sibert), Alabama.  he was advertising manager for the DeKalb Agricultural Association before he entered the service."


A Tale of Dog Tags and Dogs in 1943

From the May 16, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Not only are the auto license plates no longer being made of metal but the new dog tags which have been received by DeKalb are being made of some plastic instead of metal as in the past."

And, speaking of dogs.

From the May 23, 2018, MidWeek  (DeKalb County, Illinois)  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Complaints continue to be received at the police station from indignant residents who are working after hours seeking a successful victory garden, but say the work is discouraging, to say the least, due to the number of dogs roaming in the city."

Mutts!!  STAY OUT of the Gardens!!!  --GreGen

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Pearl Harbor News: A Death and An Identification

March 2019

**  Dorwin Lamkin, 96,  died March 17, 2019.  He was a corpsman on the USS Nevada and later served on the USS San Francisco.

**  The remains of Angelo Gabriele, Fireman 1st Class, 21, were identified.  He was one of 106 who died on board the USS West Virginia in the attack on Pearl Harbor December, 7, 1941.

The military are not just looking to identify the remains of the USS Oklahoma sailors.


Bernie Weber, Pearl Harbor Survivor, Turns 101

From the March 22. 2019, Garfield County, Colorado Post Independent  "Bernie Weber turned 101 Thursday March 21."

It is such a pleasure to write about a Pearl Harbor survivor getting another year older these days.

Mr. Weber is a Colorado native.  On December 7, 1941, he was at Pearl Harbor on the USS Oklahoma.  He was listed as MIA to his family for ten days before the Navy located him.

Nearly a year later, he was on the USS Northampton when it was sunk at the Battle of Tassafaronga November 30, 1942.


Monday, March 25, 2019

USS Maumee (AO-2)-- Part 2: Service in North Africa, North Atlantic, Pacific and Republic of China

The Maumee steamed from Norfolk, via Bermuda and arrived at Casablanca 25 November 1942.  Then she returned to Norfolk.  She got underway for North Africa with March 19, 1943.  It made other fuel runs  until 8 July when she was ordered to carry oil from  the Netherlands West Indies to east coast navy bases.  For the next eight months the Maumee operated between the Caribbean and  and bases as far north as Newfoundland.

On 25 March 1944  the Maumee resumed its transatlantic runs, this time along the North Atlantic convoy route to Northern Ireland and England.  After two of these runs, she returned to her  Aruba-east coast runs.

In May 1945, orders were received to proceed to the Pacific Fleet.  She departed Norfolk 20 June and arrived at Pearl Harbor 15 July.  That same day she was redesignated the AG-124.  After a month there, the Maumee left for China and arrived at the Yangtze River 30 September and then went to Shanghai where she was the station fuel ship until November when she returned to Pearl Harbor.

After the war, the Maumee was one of several vessels transferred to the service of the Chinese Nationalist Republic under Lend-Lease  and saw service with the Republic of China Navy until 1967 when she was scrapped.

I am still writing about the Civil War USS Maumee in my Civil War Navy blog Running the Blockade and this ship's service prior to World War II in my Cooter's History Thing blog.


Friday, March 22, 2019

USS Maumee (AO-2) in World War II-- Part 1: Fleet Oiler

I am writing about this ship in my Cooter's History Thing blog as it was the first ship in the U.S. Navy powered by diesel engines, first ship to resupply destroyers at sea and commanded by William Tomb, who was the son of a Confederate Navy officer James Tomb (whom I wrote about in my Running the Blockade: Civil War Navy blog.

Here is the Maumee's service as a fleet oiler and training ship during World War II, from Wikipedia.

After World War I, the Maumee was put into reserve at Philadelphia, but when hostilities began in Europe in 1939, it was brought out and given extensive overhaul in Baltimore and had the diesel engines reverted to steam power.  Recommissioned 2 June 1942 and assigned to the Atlantic fleet where she was a training ship off the North Carolina Capes.  In November 1942, it sailed across the Atlantic to Europe for the first time since World War I.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Wilmington N.C.Could Become the First WW II Heritage City

From March 12, 2019, WWAY News, Wilmington, N.C..

President Trump signed the bill into law today.  It was authored by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC).

The new law allows the secretary of the interior to annually designate a U.S. city as American World War II Heritage City and there is a good chance Wilmington will be the first one.

Wilmington was the site of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company which built 243 ships during the war as well as many other items from the war.  Click on the Wilmington NC At War label for more information.

This has been the dream of Wilmington resident Wilbur D. Jones who has been the force behind this for many years.

So Congratulations Mr. Jones!!!  --GreGen

USS Arizona Memorial Site Gets Name Change

From the March 913, 2019, Honolulu (Hawaii) Star-Advertiser by William Cole.

It was part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument named in 2008 by President George W. Bush.  It is now the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

It also includes the Arizona Memorial Center, USS Utah and USS Oklahoma Memorials, six chief petty officer bungalows on Ford Island and three pairs of mooring groups along Battleship Row.  With the exception of the Memorial Center, all of these sites were there when Pearl Harbor was attacked December 7, 1941.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

USS Helm (DD-338)-- Part 5: Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Atomic Testing

Task Force 38 retired to Ulithi, arriving November 2, 1944, after almost two months of continuous action.  After three days, they departed on 5 November and headed back to the Philippines.  The Helm later took part in the landings at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon.

The Japanese put up fierce resistance with their only remaining weapon, suicide kamikaze planes.  On January, 4, 1945, the escort carrier USS Ommaney Bay was struck and sunk.

Next up was Iwo Jima where she screen carriers and rescue survivors of the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea.  After that, it was on to Okinawa where it shot down many kamikazes.

Afterwards, the Helm did mostly patrol duty and helped search for survivors of the USS Indianapolis.  After the Japanese surrender, it took part in the occupation of Japan.  It was decommissioned in 1946 and used that summer as a target ship of the Operation Crossroads atomic tests in the Pacific.  Her hulk was sold for scrapping in October 1947.

Mr. Winslow's ship was definitely involved in a lot of action.  I wonder if any other ship was involved with that much.


USS Helm (DD-338)-- Part 4: Iwo Jima, Formosa, Leyte Gulf

After the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Helm and the fast carriers she protected attacked Japanese islands at Bonin and Volcano and supported the invasion of Guam.  On 25 July 1944 they began attacks on the Palau Islands.  Then came Iwo Jima.  The Helm sank a small Japanese freighter on 2 September.

Then came Okinawa, 10 October and Formosa.  Japanese retaliation came strong and on 12 October, the Helm's 5-inch guns shot down a Japanese bomber and assisting in the destruction of several others.  After Formosa, Task Force 38 returned to Leyte and the Japanese made one last attempt to destroy the American fleet in what is known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

After victory here, the Helm and carriers resumed supporting ground operations on Leyte.  During this time, they were attacked by aircraft and on  28 October 1944, they had a submarine attack where the Helm and Gridley used depth charges to sink the Japanese submarine I-46.

On 30 October, two of the group's carriers, the Franklin and Belleau Wood were badly damaged by kamikazes.


Monday, March 18, 2019

USS Helm (DD-388)-- Part 3: The Marianas Turkey Shoot

After Savo Island, the Helm remained in the dangerous waters off Guadalcanal before leaving in September to escort transports between Australia and New Guinea.  On 15  May 1943, the ship assisted in the search for survivors from the Australian hospital ship Centaur which had been torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-177.  Some 268 of 332 aboard died.

The Helm later that year participated in Woodlark Island,  Milne Bay,  Cape Gloucester and Saidor.

In 1944, the Helm escorted the battleship USS Maryland to Mare Island.

In June, she was involved in the invasion of the Marianas Islands, which turned into the biggest carrier battle of the war, helping provide anti-aircraft protection.  With the help of American submarines, two Japanese carriers were sunk and  there were such staggering losses to the Japanese naval air power that it was dubbed the "Marianas Turkey Shoot."


USS Helm (DD-388)-- Part 2: The Battle of Savo Island

After the attack, the Helm joined the task group of aircraft carrier Saratoga which had just arrived from San Diego.    It served as a screening and anti-aircraft ship.

On 20 January 1942, the Helm sailed on a special mission to rescue Department of the Interior workers from the islands of Howland and Baker in the Pacific.  Using her whaleboat, the Helm brought off six men from the two islands 31 January.  A Japanese patrol bomber attacked her  later that day but was driven off.  The Helm returned to Pearl Harbor.on 6 February.

Later in 1942, the Helm operated in the Pacific and near Australia.  Then, the ship provided cover for troopships going to Guadalcanal in August 1942.  On the night of August 8, the Helm was in the Battle of Savo Island which resulted in a huge loss of ships for the Allies but did save the landing ships at Guadalcanal.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

USS Helm (DD-388)-- Part 1: Pearl Harbor and the Japanese Mini-Sub

In the last post I wrote about the death of Pearl Harbor survivor Robert Winslow, 98, who was on the USS Helm and served on that ship for the rest of the war.

The USS Helm (DD-388) was a Bagley-class destroyer named for Rear Admiral  James Meredith Helm who was an officer in the Spanish-American War and World War I.  The ship earned 11 Battle Stars during World War II.It was launched at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 27 May 1937 and commissioned  16 October 1937 with Lt.Cmdr. P.H. Talbot in command.

At 0755 on the morning of December 7, 1941, the Helms had just turned into West Loch, Pearl Harbor, en route to deperming buoys when the attack began.  They manned the guns and shot down at least one plane while being strafed and suffering slight damage from two nearby bomb hits.

As the Helm left the channel, the lookout spotted a Japanese mini-sub, HA-19, snagged on a reef and ran hard right towards it, shot and missed.  The two-man sub broke free and submerged  but got snagged again.  Trying to escape, one crew member drowned and the other washed ashore and became the first U.S. World War II prisoner of war.


Friday, March 15, 2019

One of Nebraska's Last Pearl Harbor Survivors Dies, Robert Winslow

From the March 4, 2019, Omaha (Neb.) World Record by Steve Liewer.

Robert Winslow, 97, served on the destroyer USS Helm (DD-388) before and during World War II.  He died February 21.  Born November 10, 1921, in Blue Springs, Nebraska and enlisted in the Navy three weeks after turning age 18.

The USS Helm was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked and was the only ship already underway steaming toward dry dock.  It reversed course and headed back to open ocean.  The crew believed it shot down at least one enemy plane during the attack.  They also encountered a mini submarine and attacked it, forcing it aground.

A month later the Helm was on a secret mission to rescue personnel on Howland and Baker islands in the Pacific.

Mr. Winslow was discharged from the Navy in 1946.

Now, there are just two known Pearl Harbor survivors living in Nebraska:  Ed Guthrie, 100, of Omaha and Melvin Kennedy, 95, of Grand Island.

Losing That Greatest Generation.  --GreGen

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

DeKalb County's 1943 Hemp Crop Is In

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

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"Harvesting the first crop of hemp in the northern part of DeKalb County is rapidly nearing completion according to the manager of the Kirkland mill.  He reports that 3,600 acres of hemp have been cut and are now retting in the swath, where it will remain exposed to the weather until it has properly retted to be ready for the next step of binding.

"The process of retting is nothing more than allowing the weather to rot and start breaking down the bark of the hemp plant.  Certain forms of mold work on the straw, causing the removal of the resin or green color.  The process must be allowed to continue until the hemp reaches what is known as the 'bow-string' stage, a condition where the fiber or outer skin of the begins to separate from the inner.  Hemp usually has reached a dark slate color with dark specks at this time."

No Smoking the Product.  --GreGen

"E" Pennants-- Part 4: And, You Could Add Stars To It

District procurement  officers,  chiefs of supply services,  agencies concerned with  production and Commanding Officers for Materiel Commands would recommend plants along with  reasons.  The recommendations would then be reviewed by an Award Board which would make the final decision.

The production plant of the winners would get a pennant and  emblems would be given to employees.  If a plant continued exhibiting performance for six months afterwards they were granted a star award and a white star added to the pennant.

Only a small percentage of plants earned the Army-Navy "E" Award to start with and only a small number of those earned a star.  An even smaller number received six stars during the war.  So, again, getting one was a real big deal.

Usually, an Army or Navy officer would present the award at a ceremony, where employees involved would be assembled.

A total of 4,283 companies received  the award during the course of the war.  This was about 5% of all companies involved in war work.

The Army-Navy "E" Award was terminated three months after the end of the war on December 5, 1945.

Going For the Award.  --GreGen

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"E" Pennants-- Part 3: How To Get One

Also referred to as Army-Navy  "E: Awards.

Very difficult to get.    Some factors considered in getting one:

**  Quality and quantity of production

**  Overcoming production problems

**  Avoidance of work stoppages

**  Maintaining of fair labor standards

**  Training of additional labor forces

**  Good record keep in relation to health and safety


Monday, March 11, 2019

"E" Pennants-- Part 2: A Combination of Awards and Iowa State

An earlier award, the Navy's "E"  Award, was created during Theodore Roosevelt's administration in 1906.  By the end of World War I, there was also the Army's "A" Award and the Army-Navy Munitions Board "Star".

These three separate awards continued for six months after the U.S. entry into World War II.  In July 1942, the War department proclaimed  that the new Army-Navy "E" Award would merge the three into a single, service-wide award.

All factories engaged in war production were eligible to receive this new award.  Government, as well as privately-owned plants  were also eligible, along with contractors.

The award was for industry, one academic institution and one individual received one.  Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) received one for its contribution to the production of uranium for the Manhattan Project.  Dr,  Harley L. Wilhelm received the award for inventing the Ames process for the extraction, purification and  mass production for the Manhattan Project., while he was at Iowa State.


Friday, March 8, 2019

"E" Pennants-- Part 1: A Very High Honor

From Wikipedia  "Army-Navy 'E' Award

The Turner Brass Works Company in Sycamore, Illinois, was very proud to receive an "E" Pennant during World War II, as mentioned two posts ago.

Well, what was an "E" Pennant?

It was officially called the Army-Navy "E" Award.  It was honor  presented to companies during World War II "Excellence in Production" ("E") of war equipment.  It was also known as the Army-Navy Production Award.  By war's end, only some 5% of  the more than 85,000 companies producing  materials for the U.S. war effort had received one, so it was quite an honor for Turner Brass Works.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Turner Brass Works, Sycamore, Illinois

From the Made in Chicago Museum   "Turner Brass Works Est. 1871.

In a 1925 article in Sycamore's True Republican newspaper, put it:  "The world's largest exclusive manufacturer of blow torches, fire pots and braziers carry the name Sycamore to every corner of the globe and thus does the lion's share in advertising  its home city."

The company was originally in Chicago until 1907, when it moved to Sycamore, Illinois.   Especially known for their blow torches of which they were one of the biggest makers.

From 1890s to 1990s "when it closed via wrecking ball."

Vintage  Blow Torches site says:  The Turner Brass Works  originally made harness and saddle fittings, as well as components for bicycles.  By the 1890s , Turner was making blowtorches and its merger with another Chicago torch maker, the White Mfg.  Co., led to Turner becoming the largest of all the blowtorch makers.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Turner Brass Works Gets the "E" Pennant

From the December 5, 2018, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1943, 75 Years Ago.

"In his speech of presentation of the 'E' pennant to the Turner Brass Works in appropriate ceremonies at 3:30 o'clock this afternoon, Major James A. McBride, Sr., told the audience of nearly 1,000  workers and guests there were two great forces engaged in winning the war.

"One is the fighting force, and the other is the production force.  Each is dependent on the other and our success here insures their success there."

Turner Brass Works was located in Sycamore, Illinois.

Production Matters Too.  --GreGen

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Ray "Pops" Merrick's Bronze Star

In January, I wrote about him in this blog.

I ran into Mr. Merrick this past Saturday and he said I hadn't mentioned his Bronze Star.

The Bronze Star was awarded to nay person who, after December 6, 1941,  while serving in any capacity in the United States military distinguishes themselves  by heroic or meritorious  achievement or service, not involving aerial service.

It is the fourth highest medal awarded by the U.S. military.

I'll have to find out what he received it for.

Also, I said that he had seen Roy Rogers while serving over at "The Hump."  But it was actually Gene Autry that he had seen.


Other U-boat Wrecks in the Black Sea, Part of "Hitler's Lost Fleet"


The U-9 was sunk  20 August 1944 by bombs from Soviet Air Force.  Was raised by Soviets.

U-18 was sunk 20  August 1944 by bombs from Soviet Air Force.  Was raised by Soviets but declared total loss.  Sunk by torpedo from Soviet submarine M-120

U-24 scuttled to prevent capture 25 August 1944.  Raised by Soviets.  Declared total loss.  Sunk by torpedo from Soviet submarine M-120.

U-23 scuttled by crew  10 September 1944.

U-20 scuttled by crew 10 September 1944.

U-19 scuttled by crew 11 September 1944.

This was the patrol area of the  30th Flotilla from October 1942 to October  1944.  All six U-boats were transported overland to the Black Sea.  All of them were lost there.  Four were scuttled by crews to prevent capture by the Soviets.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Wreck of U-boat in Hitler's 'Lost Fleet' Found in the Black Sea, the U-23

From the February 3, 2019, Ahual  "World War II submarine from Hitler's 'Lost Fleet' found in the Black Sea."

It was the U-23 found 40 meters deep and 4 kilometers off Agra.  It was one of six German submarine sent to attack Soviet ships in the Black Sea.  The U-20 was found off Turkey in 2008.

These submarines were carried some 2000 miles overland to get to the Black Sea.  In two years time they sank dozens of Soviet ships. losing three of their number.  At first they were stationed in Romania until August 1944 when that country changed sides.  The three remaining subs were then stranded.


Friday, March 1, 2019

USS Oklahoma's Unknowns: Robert Holmes, George Gibson and Eugene Wicker

Crew Members Identified this past year.


A survivor of the Oklahoma said:  "I saw Bob standing there with his handgun, shooting at the planes coming over."  His funeral will be in August at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.


Age 20, Electrician' Mate 3rd Class.  Kansas native. Buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in California July 21, 2018


Seaman 1st Class.  Buried August 4, 2018, in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.  His remains were identified January 10, 2018.  Born in Coweta, Oklahoma, and graduated from Coweta High School.  Died at age 20  "On duty in the radio room and alerted the crew to report to their battle stations."

So Glad the Government Is Doing This.  --GreGen

USS Oklahoma's Unknowns: Lowell Valley and James Solomon

Here are some of the men who have been identified in the last year.

LOWELL EARL VALLEY  Fireman 2nd Class, from Ontonagon, Upper Peninsula, Michigan.  Born July 20, 1922.  Reported to duty on the Oklahoma June 7, 11941.  Exactly six months later, he was dead at age 19.

Two other Upper Peninsula crew men on the Oklahoma were killed.  One was GEORGE LEHMAN of Hancock who was id'd in 2010 and WILLIAM MICHAEL FINNEGAN, a native of Bessemer, who grew up in Dollar Bay.  he was identified May 9, 2016.

JAMES C. SOLOMON  Seaman 1st Class    Montague County's first casualty in the war.  He will be buried in Perrymen Cemetery.  Born July 1, 1918 in Holdenville, Oklahoma.  Moved to Forestburg at age 9 months.

 Graduated Forestburg High School in 1936.  In the CCC before enlisting on April 2, 1940.  The family received a telegram notifying them that he was MIA.  On February 18, 1942, they received another telegram that he had lost his life.