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.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

War Industries Working Together in DeKalb County in 1944

From the January 9, 2019, MidWeek   "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

"In order that a better understanding of what the other fellow is doing and the problems that each industry faces could be learned, a tour of a group of manufacturers was conducted in the past few days through the industrial parts of DeKalb, Sycamore and Genoa.

"The tour proved to be very worthwhile as each manufacturer was able to see the products which are being produced in the other plants and also had the opportunity to discuss the various problems encountered by each."


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

More Apartments for War Industry Workers in DeKalb

From the January 9, 2019, MidWeek   "Looking Back."

1944, 75 Years Ago.

"Announcement was made today that the new apartments on the east side of Seventh and Lincoln Highway, formerly known as the Ferguson flats, have been completed and now are ready for occupancy.

"The three apartments that were on the second floor of the building have been converted into six convenient living quarters, and it is reported that all of them have been leased.  The conversion  was made at the insistence of one of the war industries of the city and the work was completed in about two months' time."


Monday, May 6, 2019

Palmyra (Cooper Airport)-- Part 2: Three Runways At One Time

On January 16, 1942, six Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses from Hawaii, under the command of Lt. Col. Walter C. Sweeney Jr. (who commanded the Army Air Force Task Group during the Battle of Midway in June 1942).  Also, the Marine VMF-2211 used the airfield.

Two other runways were also built and used.  One was on Mengle Island  and the other one on Sand Island.    Both of these runways are now overgrown with plants and returning to jungle.

The U.S. Air Force maintained the main runway until 1961  It still exists today but can only be used by prior permission or in case of emergency.


Palmyra (Cooper) Airport-- Part 1: Paved With Coral

From Wikipedia.

Is an unattended airport  on Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.    It was originally built during World War II and is now owned by The Nature Conservancy.  It has one 5,000 foot long runway.  The name Cooper comes from Henry Ernest  Cooper Sr. who owned Palmyra from 1911 to 1921.

When built, the airfield was called Palmyra Atoll Airfield and later Palmyra Naval Air Station as it was a naval airfield in the Line islands of the Central Pacific area.

The Navy made preliminary surveys of the site in 1938 and construction began in 1939.  The runway was made from crushed coral.  During the war, the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion dredged a channel so that ships could enter the protected lagoons.  They bulldozed coral rubble into a long, unpaved landing strip for refueling  transpacific  supply planes.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Palmyra Atoll/Island-- Part 2: Handy Spot to Refuel

From Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields Western Pacific Islands: Palmyra Atoll/Island.

**  Two Army B-17s briefly flew in from Hawaii shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked and landed for anti-submarine patrol.

**  The 5000-foot runway on Cooper Island was completed on January 1, 1942.   Another 3,700-foot runway was built on adjoining Menge Island.

**  The earliest-known aircraft accident there was June 16, 1942.  An Army Douglas C-53 was damaged beyond repair.

**  Eighteen P-39s arrived 10/24/42 and departed  11/2.

**Long range AAF B-24s  also made frequent stops.

**  Contract civilian pilots from Pan American Airways, Consolidated Aircraft and United Airlines flying cargo and personnel to South Pacific areas,  also refueled at Palmyra.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Palmyra Island/Atoll-- Part 1: Naval Defensive Area

A little over a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Grebe went to Palmyra Island towing a fuel barge.

From Wikipedia.

Palmyra Island (also referred to as Palmyra Atoll) is in about the middle of the Pacific Ocean which gives it is strategic location.  It is named after the USS Palmyra which shipwrecked on the reef there in 1802.  (I can find no mention of this ship.)  It is an incorporated U.S. Territory.  Today it has no permanent residents.

In the 1930s, the island, because of its strategic location, was placed under the control of the U.S. Navy.  On February 14, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Palmyra Naval Defensive Sea Area which allowed only naval ships and aircraft to enter the area.

The Navy established the Palmyra Island Naval  Air Station there on August 15, 1941.  The island was shelled by a Japanese submarine in 1941.  A ship canal was blasted and dredged to the open sea from the West Lagoon.

A hotel was built by the Seabees for airmen on their way to the Pacific Front.

After the war, much of the air station was destroyed.


USS Grebe (AM-43)-- Part 2: Pacific Cruises and Destroyed By a Hurricane

On January 24, 1942, the Grebe towed a fuel oil barge to Palmyra Island, then back to Honolulu where she remained until fall.  On 30 September, the Grebe joined a convoy to Johnston Island and then towed two vessels to Canton Island.

On 6 December 1942, the Grebe grounded while trying to float  the SS Thomas A. Edison at Vuata Vatoa Island in the Fiji Islands.  Salvage efforts were broken up  by a hurricane which destroyed both ships on 1-2 January 1943.

I am unable to find out any information on the Grebe's shipwreck or  the SS Thomas A. Edison.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

USS Grebe (AM-43)-- Part 1: At Pearl Harbor

From Wikipedia.

I have been writing about this ship in my Not So Forgotten: War of 1812 blog and my Cooter's History Thing blog as this ship led a long naval career spanning from the end of World War I to  part way through World War II.  It was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

It also spent nearly three years towing the USS Constitution to most every American port on the East and West Coasts.

After towing the Constitution, the Grebe was transferred to the West Coast.   On 3 June 1940, the Grebe arrived in Pearl Harbor and was assigned to tow  for gunnery and bombing practice.  It was also assigned to mine sweeping practice.

The Grebe was in the process of repair when the Japanese attack came.  Her three-inch guns had been dismantled in the overhaul, so the crew had to fight with rifles and pistols and is credited with shooting down one of three unidentified planes flying low over the yard.