Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Big Mo" Gun On Delaware Coast

From the April 29, 2012, Newsworks Beta "Big Mo final home is on the Delaware coastline" by John Husson.

A gun from the USS Missouri that was present at the Japanese surrender in 1945 was dedicated Saturday, April 28th at the historic Fort Miles.  The 16-inch, 66-foot long, 116 ton gun could fire a 2,700 pound shell 23 miles in 50 seconds.

It had been in a storage facility in Norfolk, Virginia, and was headed for the scrap yard until the Fort Miles Historical Association raised $113,000 to bring it to Delaware where it is to be the centerpiece of the Fort Miles Museum.

--GreGen

Monday, September 29, 2014

AP Apologizes to Reporter for His World War II Scoop: Germany's Surrender

From the May 4, 2012, Bloomberg Business Week by David R. Caruso.

AP correspondent Edward Kennedy reported Germany's surrender a full day ahead of his competition back in 1945 and was publicly rebuked by AP and then quietly fired for having bypassed military censors.

President Truman and Churchill had agreed to suppress news of Germany's surrender for a day so Stalin could stage a second surrender ceremony in Berlin.

Sixty-seven years later, AP's top executive apologized to Kennedy's family.

Edward Kennedy was one of 17 reporters taken by the military to the ceremony, but whom had been barred from reporting on it until the Allied Command said they could.  According to Kennedy, he was originally told to keep a lid on it for a few hours.

--GreGen

Wilmington at War

From the May 15, 2012, Back Then

On May 12, 1942, Wilmington residents were getting their first taste of war rationing as thousands of housewives and husbands flocked to county schools to register for War Ration Book Number One which entitled families to a half pound of sugar per person per week.

Some 10,755 sugar ration books were issued  Some of the items that were later rationed were needed for the war effort, but sugar was rationed primarily because it was imported and shipping had been drastically curtailed, both by need for war material and the U-boat menace.

--GreGen

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Did the Tiny Piper Cub Plane Beat the Germans?

From Dan Moore's May 25, 2014, War Tales Blog.

Captain Johnson says the Piper Cub beat the Germans, saying that as a military plane it had no equal.It was an artillery spotter plane and "did more to defeat the German Army in World War II than any other American plane."

Air Force bombers flew over German cities and dropped their loads, but the Army's Piper Cibs spotted and charted German positions so American artillery was able to tear them up.

The little single-engine, fabric-covered, 65-horsepower plane could fly as low as 200 feet and as slow as 55 mph.  It would then call in map coordinates

Johnson, a forward aerial observer, flew a L-4 Cub as part of the 12th Corps Artillery assigned to Patton's Army.

I also have heard that Piper Cubs helped turn the tide of the German U-boat campaign off the coast of the United States in 1942 with their submarine sightings and marking position.

--GreGen

RAF Plane Found in Sahara Desert in 2012

From the May 11, 2012, Catholic Online.

The discovery of the RAF Kittyhawk P-40 is hailed as the "aviation" equivalent of finding Tutenkhamen's Tomb.

The pilot of the plane, Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping,  is believed to have survived the crash but most likely died trying to walk out of the desert.  The plane has been unseen and untouched ever since.

The crash took place in June 1942 and took place during the North Africa Campaign.  Copping is believed to have lost his bearing while flying the damaged, American-made, plane to another base for repairs.

It was not hidden by the sand, just sitting there.

Hard to believe something like that could have been above ground for that long and not seen.

--GreGen

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wilmington At War: "We Are All Targets"

From the May 8, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then."

MAY 1, 1942:  On most days, the Wilmington Star ran ads for war bonds.

One showed soldiers manning a large anti-aircraft gun with the words "It takes money to win victory--Here's an example, this anti-aircraft gun cost $50,000.  Your house may not be a military target, but bombs do not stop to inquire....  In this war, as in no other in history, we are all targets."

The ad went on to say that 20,000 of these guns were needed and Americans were urged to use 10% of their income to buy war bonds.

Series E bonds were being advertised which matured in ten years and if kept the full-term, paid $4 on every $3 loaned to the government.

Buy Those Bonds.  --GreGen

Pearl Harbor Guns Used to Defend Oahu After the Attack

From the Defenses of Pearl Harbor and Oahu 1907-1950.

On July 1945, the guns at Battery Pennsylvania were proof-fired, the last fixed-gun emplacement completed on Oahu.  The work on Battery Arizona was suspended.

In 1948, all armament except the largest permanent batteries were removed from Oahu.

After Pearl Harbor, the Army was desperately looking for ways to augment its coast defense on Oahu.  The Navy offered excess turret mounts to them.

Guns from the USS Arizona's wreck were used as were eight dual 8-inch guns scheduled for removal from the aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga in February 1942.

--GreGen


World War II Pinup Girl Dies in 2012: Margie Stewart

From the May 6, 2012, New York Times "Margie Stewart, WWII Pin-up Girl With Wholesome Air, Dies at 92."

The U.S. Army made a dozen different posters of Margie Stewart originally, but by the end of the war, that had expanded to 94 million copies.  Most of them had the message "please...get there and BACK."

She posed in practical clothes in contrast with provocative ones of Betty Grable's "The girl with the million dollar legs" and Ann Sheridan's "The Oomph Girl."

American soldiers yearned to know who she was.

She died April 26, 2012, and was born Dec. 14, 1919, in Wabash, Indiana.

--GreGen

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ill-Fated Operation Tiger Commemorated

From the April Asbury Park (NJ) Press "Secret World War II drill commemorated: Casualties, survivors honored at Coast Gurad Station."

A commemoration for Operation Exercise Tiger (Operation Tiger) was held at the Coast Guard's Barnegal Light Station.  This was a full scale rehearsal for the D-Day invasion which unfortunately attacked by German ships and resulted in 946 American deaths because of secrecy, radio silence and miscommunication.

Thomas Glynn, 86, was a crew member on the (Landing Ship Tank) LST-289.

Earl Thatcher, 87, of Runnemeade was also on LST-289 and remembers, "I was 17 at the time.  I was on watch when we were attacked.  I was the captain's messenger and he sent me to go to the crew quarters to tell them that this was no drill..

"We were carrying 10 to 12 ducks and when we were hit we were lucky that the circuit breakers on board went out that controlled the doors, or they would have been out in the English Channel.

"We were told we could not receive a combat medal because they said we weren't in combat.  They finally got one in 2002.

The commemoration takes place yearly.

Michael "Tex" Gydos, USN, attended every year, but was not at this one as he died last year at age 93.

--GreGen

Bits of War: Mein Kampf-- Heinkel Fighter

From April 29, 2012.

1.  MEIN KAMPF--  Germany is going to publish Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf" for the first time since World War II.

2.  HEINKEL FIGHTER--  A rare German World War II Heinkel fighter plane was off the coast of Denmark.  Less than 300 were ever made.

--GreGen

Leader of Local Pearl Harbor Group Died at 90 in 2012

From the April 27, 2012, Virginian-Pilot

Frank Chebetar was a cook on the destroyer USS Phelps at Pearl Harbor and was president of the local Pearl Harbor Survivors Association which he founded in 1971.  Many local school children heard him speak of his experiences.

He said, "I just couldn't believe.  Nobody ever shot at me before and I never shot anybody else, but I was so scared I was vibrating..."

Mr. Chebetar was a driving force behind the Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony held each December 7th at the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek.

In January, another local Pearl Harbor survivor, Bill Temple, 92, died.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Silly Putty Developed During World War II

From Yahoo! Games Unplugged "Five Things You Didn't Know About Silly Putty" by Mike Smith.

1.  Silly putty is/was a rite of passage for kids and developed as a result of a World War II accident.  In 1943, rubber was in short supply in the U.S. and its armed forces.  The War Production Board had engineer James Wright developing synthetic rubber.

He tried mixing boric acid with silicone oil into a soft polymer.

As a toy, it was first introduced at the International Toy Festival in 1950 and has since sold over 300 million units, weighing in at 4,500 tons of the silly stuff.

2.  It probably can't lift newsprint off newspapers anymore and they have moved away from petroleum based inks.

3.  Silly Putty has been to space.

4.  You can make your own Silly Putty with two parts of Elmer's white glue and one part liquid starch.

5.  Sometimes a liquid, sometimes a solid.

As I Recall, It Used to Come in a Little Plastic Egg for Storage.  Don't Leave It Sitting Out, As I Found Out.  --GreGen.

Back in 2012, Battleship North Carolina Attendance Down

From the April 23, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star- news "Attendance decline at Battleship North Carolina" by Cassie Foss.

There were some 16,000 fewer visitors to the famed battleship tied up and serving as a museum ship at Wilmington, North Carolina, in fiscal year 2011 than the previous year.  The 7.5% decline ended with 193,150 visitors between Oct. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011.

In 2009, 209,000 boarded the ship, the best in the previous eight years.

The drop in attendance is attributed to the still-sluggish U.S. economy and poor weather (one of the coldest winters)

To offset the decline, the ship now has an online store and it also now hosts private events.

--GreGen

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wilmington at War, April 1942

From the April 24, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

Looking through newspapers from back then.

APRIL 10TH, 1942:  The Port of Wilmington, including downtown waterfront are now under control of the Navy and no one was allowed downtown area without a permit.

APRIL 12TH, 1942:  Michael Thomas Davis, New Hanover County's  last Civil War veteran died at age 95.

APRIL 13TH, 1942:  An Army Information Center was established at the Lake Forest homes "for the purpose of furnishing information to wives and dependents of military personnel when they latter are suddenly called from Camp Davis to duty elsewhere.

From One War to Another.  --GreGen

Montana Had Two of the Five Remaining Doolittle Raiders in 2012

From the April 17, 2012, Great Falls (Montana) Tribune.

Along withDavid J. Thatcher of Missoula, Montana, there was also Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, 92, of Brusett, Montana, but now living in Puyallup, Washington.

--GreGen

Monday, September 22, 2014

Joplin Family Has Doolittle Connection

From the April 18, 2012, Joplin (Mo.) Globe "Joplin Family has connection to Doolittle's raiders" by Mike Pound.

Of the 80 Raiders along with Doolittle, 3 were killed, 8 captured, 3 shot, 1 died of disease.  The rest returned to action and 13 more were killed during the war.

In 1988, Col. Travis Hoover moved to Japan to be closer to his stepdaughter, Beverly Zerkel.    Her husband Jim is a former B-25 pilot who served under Hoover.

After bombing his target, he flew to a safe landing zone in China, but ran out of fuel and was forced to land in a rice paddy.  With the help of locals, he was able to avoid Japanese patrols.  A young English-speaking engineer, Tung-Sheng Lin helped lead Hoover to safety.  Lin and Hoover reunited in 1948 and remained friends for the rest of their lives.

Hoover died in 2008.  In 2009, Lin was named an honorary Doolittle Raider.

--GreGen

Denver Veteran Saw Doolittle Take Off-- Part 2

"About noon, the captain came on the speaker and said, 'In case you are wondering what we are going to do will all these here planes, we're going to bomb Tokyo.'  It was just silent for a few minutes, then everybody started yelling and hollering."

In June, Russell Plybon was on the USS Hornet at the Battle of Midway and in October at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands where the Hornet was attacked by dive bombers and torpedo planes and he was nearly killed.  A plane crashed and then a 2,500 pound bomb went off.  Shrapnel from a second bomb killed 33 gunners and gravely wounded others, including Plybon.

He was taken to the fantail where the chaplain was performing sea burials.  Plybon remembered thinking, "Gosh, I got to not die or they'll have me on that board.  Fortunately, before the Hornet sank, he had been evacuated to a destroyer. via a rope between the two ships.  One man was evacuated at a time in a bucket.  Afterwards, he spent eight months in a hospital and still has some shrapnel in his body from that day.

--GreGen

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Denver Veteran Saw Doolittle Takeoff from USS Hornet-- Part 1

From the April 18, 2012, Denver Post "Denver veteran aboard USS Hornet watched Doolittle Raiders take off for 1942 raid."

Russell Plybon will never forget April 18, 1942: "I stood right at the center of the flight deck and watched them take off.  One of the pilots forgot to put his flaps down, and when he went off the end of the ship, he sunk down, but pretty soon, here he come back up."

Plybon was a 24-year-old farm boy from Missouri who enlisted in the Navy immediately after Pearl Harbor and trained as an aircraft mechanic.  The men of the Hornet were not told the nature of the mission until at sea.

They had wondered why the sixteen B-25s were loaded on board at San Francisco, but just assumed they would be ferrying them to Hawaii. since these bombers were designed for land bases.

But....  --GreGen

Two Lincolnites Flew With Doolittle

From the April 18, 2012, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Daily Nonparell.

Two men from Lincoln, Nebraska, flew with Col. Doolittle on that famous mission in 1942.

1ST. LT. RICHARD O. JOYCE, pilot  Joyce died in 1983 and first met James H. Doolittle when he was seeking a B-25 crewmen for his raid while Joyce was flying anti-submarine patrols on the East Coast of the United States.

Joyce;s target on the raid was the Japanese Special Steel Company in South Tokyo.  he dropped his bombs and headed southwest, twice flying under Japanese fighters but found a cloud and lost them.

He couldn't reach China and had to bail out over water.  After his rescue, he returned to service, but recalled to the U.S. after his father died.


SGT. DONALD FITZMAURICE, gunner, believed to have drowned.

--GreGen

Friday, September 19, 2014

2012 Doolittle Raiders 70th Reunion

From the April 19, 2012, Army Times.

Twenty B-25 planes preformed a fly-over and the surviving Raiders had their annual private toast.

Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 96, "We honor the people we lost, and we remember them, and then we enjoy the camaraderie of being together again."

Cole is a Dayton native, now living in Comfort, Texas.  He was Col. Doolittle's co-pilot on the famous raid.  Cole later remarked, "We don't like being singled out.  We were just part of a big team."

The other four Raiders and where they live:

Griffin--  Cincinnati suburbs
Saylor--  Puyallup, Washington
Thatcher--  Missoula, Montana
Hite--  Nashville, Tennessee  (Couldn't make it to the 70th because of health issues.)

According to Hite, referring to Pearl harbor, "We were saying, 'You started it, and we're going to finish it.'"

He Shaoying, 76, daughter of Zhejiang, a Chinese provincial official who helped hide and take care ofDoolittle, Cole and other survivors was also there.

For the 71st Reunion in 2013, they are going to Eglin AFB in Florida by Fort Walton Beach (where they did some of their pre-raid training.

--GreGen

Wilmington At War: Rooms Needed for Workers, Building Moratorium

From the April 17, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then."

APRIL 1, 1942:  A page one story "Rooms Are Needed Here for Workers--  Residents Urged to List All Available Living Quarters at Once."

APRIL 9, 1942:  Headline: "Non-Essential Building Must Cease Today."  This was nationwide edict from the War Production Board.  No non-essential residences, roads or commercial buildings were to be built for the war's duration.

--GreGen

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wilmington At War: Camp Davis, Rationing, Price Controls and Income Tax

From the March 20, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

MARCH 1, 1942:  Other than the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, the biggest impact on Wilmington during the war was the 26,000 soldiers stationed and training at Camp Davis located north of the city in Holly Ridge.  The camp covered 45,000  acres and had over 3000 buildings.  Anti-aircraft men were trained there.

MARCH 3, 1942:  Rationing and price controls were starting to have an impact.  In a front page story.  Wilmington was one of twenty "defense watch areas" nationwide ordered to keep 1941 levels on prices.

The government feared profiteering due to the high demand for housing for those coming to work in the growing defense industry.

MARCH 3, 1942"  The Treasury department asked Congress to double the income tax payments of most people to raise $9.6 billion for the war effort.

The Impact on the Homefront.  --  GreGen

Spitfires Buried in Burma to Be Returned to U.K. Back in 2012

From the April 14, 2012, Telegraph (UK).

It is believed that twenty Spitfires were buried 40-feet below the ground for near the end of the war in Burma.

David Cundell, 62, has spent 15 years searching for them and has made 12 trips and spent over 130,000 pounds looking for them.  He reports he found them in February.

This is a huge find as there are only 35 Spitfires of the 21,000 produced left in the world still capable of flying.

They were buried in July 1945 in their transport crates.  They were shipped to Burma unassembled.

The British government refuses to claim them.

--GreGen

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

While on the Subject of World War II Battleships

***  The USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) had two beam submerged torpedo tubes.  I didn't know battleships had torpedoes.

***  The USS South Dakota name resurfaces on a Virginia Class attack submarine.  The USS South Dakota was the most decorated battleship in World War II with 13 Battle Stars.  (April 14, 2012)

***  April 13, 2012.  The gun barrel from the USS Arizona was in East St. Louis, Illinois where it will be placed on the BNSF Railway.

Arizona is paying $100,000 to have it transported from Virginia to Phoenix.

--GreGen


USS Arizona Gun Barrel Headed for Arizona in 2012

From the April 11, 2012, Navy.Mil.  "USS Arizona Gun Barrel Begins Trek to Arizona Capitol Museum after 63 years at Virginia Naval Base" by John J. Joyce.

The huge gun was lifted onto a trailer that departed Navy Support Facility Dahlgren on April 10, 2012.

The 14-inch gun will join a 16-inch one from the USS Missouri at a dedication expected to happen in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 7, 2012.

The Arizona gun, however, was not on the ship that fateful day.  It had been removed to be relined before the attack came and was at Dahlgren the day of the event.  It was on the Arizona from 1925 to 1938.  It was later installed on the USS Nevada in 1942.

Between June 25, 1943, and August 26, 1944, it fired 224 rounds and was at D-Day.

In the 1950s, no longer having use for battleships, the Navy scrapped 38 of these barrels which were cit up and melted down.  The Navy now plans to do the same with eight more of them, one of which was the Arizona's, but now it has a new home.

The barrel weighs in at 147,000 pounds.

--GreGen

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

McHenry's "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive"-- Part 3: The "Kiss" Statue

The life-size statue depicting the famous Times Square V-J Kiss, with the sailor kissing the nurse made a final appearance at the event.  It was there last year.  It is called the "Unconditional Surrender, the Kiss Seen Around the World' and it travels across the country, weighing in at 600 pounds.  Sadly, this is the last time as it now goes on permanent exhibit at a memorial in Branson, Missouri.

Buglers from Bugles Across America helped conclude the event by playing "Taps."  And, this is not your usual taps played by a single bugler.  There had to have been at least twenty of them positioned around the gazebo.  One would start, then the next would start, then the next and so on all around the place.  Sent shivers down my spine and brought a tear to the eye.  This is where I met the gentleman from the USS Wisconsin that I wrote about last month.

As "Taps" was played, 29 white doves were released and did several laps over Veterans Memorial Park, before getting their bearings and heading off for Crystal lake, I believe.

Planning On Being At It next Year.

Monday, September 15, 2014

McHenry's "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive"-- Part 2

Stella Vogt was 16 when she started making equipment for the war effort, but said she didn't think much of it, it was just something you did to help.

The reported estimated that there were at least 500 people in Veterans Memorial Park.

This is Ron Bykowski's event and he was both the organizer and emcee of it.  He said he wanted to honor the oft-overlooked workers on the homefront.  Without their efforts, the military couldn't have fought.  "They are part of the greatest generation and without them, there was no way our military would have won the war," he said.

Each year the event honors area World War II veterans and this year around 35 were recognized.

I am hoping that next year, those who served in the U.S. Merchant Marine will be so recognized because of their perilous service.

--GreGen

McHenry's "Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive"-- Part 1

From the August 11, 2014, Northwest Herald (Illinois)  "Homefront heroes" by Stephen Benedetto.

"Aftre being recognized in front of hundreds Sunday, some of the people who helped furnish the equipment and supplies for the American soldiers fighting World War II were left nearly speechless.

"McHenry natives Bernice Etten and Stella Vogt were a part of the half dozen area homefront workers honored during the city's fifth annual 'Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive' event, intended to honor the many people from the generation that lived through the war."

Both of these women worked in area factories during the war.  Bernice Etten is 90 and started making tents for the Army at a McHenry factory in 1942 after her husband enlisted in the Navy.

I was at this event for the second time in a row and was impressed at the large turnout.  I posted several times about it in this blog.

--GreGen

Death of Pearl Harbor Survivor in 2012

From the April 11, 2012, Panama City (Fl) News Herald:"Update: Pearl Harbor survivor dies."

Ronnie Everitt, 93, died April 11, 2012.

He was an Army radar technician at Hickam Field on Oahu and was having breakfast.  he thought the Marines were having exercises.

After the attack, day and night, he manned a machine gun in  a pit along with others spaced every 50-100 yards apart.

--GreGen

Noble House Pub Named After Second World War Pilot in England

From the April 8, 2012, Mail Online (U.K.)  "Pub named after Second World War pilot on spot where he was shot down" by Tara Brady.

Sergeant Dennis Noble, 20, was killed during the Battle of Britain, 72 years ago.  His Hurricane fighter plane crashed in a street in Hove, Sussex.  This weekend, a pub opened, named after him.  There is a large painting of him above the bar and even the beer taps feature his face.

He had been in his squadron just 27 days before a German Messerschmitt shot him down in August 1940.  Noble had been working in a London radio shop when the war broke out.

His plane hit the ground with such an impact that it left a 15-foot crater.  They couldn't recover the body so filled in the hole.  In 1996, his remains were excavated and buried in his home town of Retford Nottinghamshire.

--GreGen

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Salvage of the USS Oklahoma

From the New Weapons Forum.

The salvage of the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) took place between 1942 and 1944.

The main battery turrets were still in place and that was thought that they were held in place by their weight.

All the other turrets fell off.

--GreGen

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wilmington, N.C., At War-- Part 3: Gas, Huge Profits and Deferments

MARCH 19, 1942:  Wilmington gas stations could only be open 12 hours a day and customers had to cut their gas purchases by 20%.

MARCH 21, 1942:  The War Department announced that military service deferments were not to be based on family considerations, but rather on how critical their civilian job was to the war effort.

MARCH 25, 1942:  U.S. Representative Al Gore of Tennessee testified before the House Naval Affairs Commission that some companies doing business with the War department were reaping 700% profit margins and that top managers of some companies were making what he called were outrageous salaries and bonuses since the start of the war.

Some Things Just Don't Change for the Last Thing.  --GreGen

Wilmington, N.C., At War-- Part 2: All Together Now

MARCH 17, 1942: An editorial on page one of the Wilmington Star called for an absolute 40-hour work week during the duration of the war with around-the-clock production and no overtime.

Another story reported U.S. officials calling for a 6% cap on profits made on defense contracts and voiding all labor contracts during the war.

All for the war effort.  And, Wilmington with all its war industries, especially the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company was one of the biggest industrial centers of that effort.  Then, there were all the military personnel in and around the city.

--GreGen

Wilmington, N.C., At War-- Part 1: War Off the Coast

From the April 4, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then"  by Scott Nunn.

I really looked forward to reading Mr. Nunn's trip back through the newspapers of 70 years earlier and the interesting tidbits that he found about Wilmington's homefront.  Sadly, he rarely does these any more.  I'd like to volunteer to continue these posts, but live too far away.

MARCH 16, 1942:  The war really got close when a group of oil-stained and seared men were brought to Wilmington's Dosher Hospital.  they were eleven of twenty-six survivors of an oil tanker sunk of the southeast coast of North Carolina by a U-boat.

The Star noted that this story had been delayed 24 hours by Navy censorship rules.

--GreGen

Thursday, September 11, 2014

As Pearl Harbor Was, So Was 9-11

These were certainly generation benchmarks.  Everyone alive December 7, 1941, and old enough, remembers where they were when they heard.  Just as in my case and generation, the Kennedy assassination in November 1963.  And, so, September 11, 2001, as well.

"Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11."  President Barack Obama.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Deaths: Louis Zamperini, Hero of "Unbroken"-- Part 3

His plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean and for 47 days, Mr. Zamperini and two other crew members drifted on a life raft, fighting off sharks and starvation and thirst.  One of the others died.  When President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent Mr. Zamperini's parents a formal condolence note in 1944, he had no idea that their son was now being held captive in a horrific Japanese prison camp.

By the time of their capture, Mr. Zamperini had drifted 2,000 miles and weighed less than 100 pounds.  They were picked up by a Japanese patrol boat and the two survivors were tortured and beaten for more than two years.  He was among the prisoners forced to receive mysterious injections by the Japanese to test their reactions.

It is too bad that Mr. Zamperini did not live to see the movie about him released.

A true American hero.  Perhaps a Congressional Gold Medal is in order.

--GreGen

Deaths: Louis Zamperini, Hero of "Unbroken"-- Part 2

The film "Unbroken" has been planned ever since 1957 when Universal bought the rights to his memoir, "Devil at My Heels," with the idea of having Tony Curtis for the leading role, but then he became involved in "Spartacus."  After that, it just languished until the book increased interest again.

The son of Italian immigrants, he was born in New York and later moved to Torrance, California.  He surpassed more experienced runners to gain a place in the 1936 Olympics and ran the 5,000 meter race, finishing eighth, but his last lap was run so fast that it even impressed German leader Adolf Hitler.

After the 1940 Olympics were canceled because of the war, Mr. Zamperini enlisted as an Army airman and began flying missions as an officer and bombardier over the Pacific in late 1942.

His aircraft developed engine trouble and plunged into the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles south of Hawaii.

The heroic Story Continues.  --GreGen

USS North Carolina's First Skipper Visits Back in 1962

From the April 4, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star- News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

MARCH 28, 1962:  The battleship USS North Carolina, by then a newly acquired museum ship at Wilmington, N.C., got a visit from its first skipper, retired Vice Admiral Olaf Hustvedt.  The ship's last skipper, retired Admiral William S. Maxwell, now superintendent of the USS North Carolina Memorial, met him on the gang plank.

Hustvedt took the newly commissioned North Carolina out of the New York Navy Yard in Ap[ril 1941 and put her through its shakedown cruise.  He had to give up the command when he was promoted to vice admiral.

--GreGen

Bataan Survivors, Gray and Stooped, Proud and Unbowed in 2012

From the April 9, 2012, Alamogordo (N.M.) News by Milan Simonich.

Don "Nano" Lucero traveled from his home in Maine one last time to see his buddies who, like him, had survived the infamous Bataan Death March 70 years ago and are still here.

And, there are not many of them left any more.

There are six New Mexico veterans of it.  They met at the Bataan Memorial Building.

They saw fellow prisoners shot for simply not keeping up.  U.S. and Filipino soldiers were bayoneted for trying to sneak a drink of water.  Many were walking skeletons after liberation due to the march and slave labor camps they worked at for the duration of the war (The March was in 1942).

Mr. Lucero, then 20, describes it as "hell on earth."

Some 12,000 Americans and 63,000 Filipino soldiers dug in when the Japanese attack on the Philippines began on the same day as Pearl Harbor was attacked.  Among them were 1,800 Americans from New Mexico from the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery regiments who were called the New Mexico Brigade.

They fought on until finally forced to surrender April 9, 1942, after running out of pretty much everything.  It is estimated that between 7,000 to 10,000 died during the march alone.

--GreGen

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deaths: Hero of "Unbroken", POW and Olympic Runner: Louis Zamperini-- Part 1

LOUIS ZAMPERINI, 97,  ( 1917-2014)

Died July 2, 2014.

Louis Zamperini was an Olympic runner, a World War II prisoner who endured torture and humiliation and whose life inspired the book and film "Unbroken."

Mr. Zamperini was the "Torrance Tornado who set a national high school record for running the mile.  In 1936, he was known as "The Zamp" as an 18-year-old University of Southern California standout who was good enough to go to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and roomed with Jesse Owens.

In 1943, he was Lt. Zamperini, a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator, who, along with ten other crew members disappeared in the Pacific Ocean.

The film is to be released on December 25th and is based on the best-selling 2010 book of the the same name written by Laura Hillenbrand.  I was already planning on seeing it, but especially now..

GreGen




Monday, September 8, 2014

Back in 2012: A Toddler Finds Live WWII Grenade on Easter Egg Hunt

From the April 7, 2012, Mail (UK) "Toddler on Easter egg hunt stumbles on a live grenade...which has to be blown up by bomb squad."

A three-year-old boy was found standing on it. as an Easter egg hunt with more than 25 kids under the age of 5 were on hand.

The World War II grenade was found just yards off busy A39 after the child spotted it while looking for eggs and thought it was on.

The big question was how did it get there.

One reader commented that there was an American Army base nearby.

Another said to "Track down the Easter Bunny and Terminate him with Eggstreme prejudice."

Oh, Well, It Could Have been a Horrible Thing.  --GreGen

David Mearms of Blue Water Recoveries

For 24 years David Mearms, OAM, has led Blue Water Recoveries and has researched and discovered 22 major shipwrecks.

On October 10, 2010, he was awarded the Maritime Fellowship Award and in November of that year, an honorary Medal of the Order of Australia, the OAM, for locating the HMAS Sydney II and the AHS Centaur.

I have written much about the discoveries of these two famous Australian ships in this and in my Cooter's History Thing Blog.

Some of the ships Mearms has found:

AHS CENTAUR--  Australian hospital ship illegally sunk by a Japanese submarine.
HMAS SYDNEY II--  Greatest Australian maritime tragedy.
KORMORAN--  The German raider which sank the Sydney II.
HMS HOOD--  flagship of the British Navy and sunk by the Bismarck.
EXMERALDA--  a Portuguese ship from the fleet of Vasco da Gama.
RIO GRANDE--  Deepest shipwreck ever found, 5,762 meters deep.
DERBYSHIRE--  Largest shipping loss in British maritime history.
LUCONA--  Cargo ship sunk by time bomb that murdered its crew.

--GreGen

Why There Are So many 2012 Posts

I now have three full and am starting on a 4th notebook on World War II stories.  I'd like to get the first two finished before I get along much further.

I have many e-mail alerts about World War II and go through them most every day.  I delete most, but the ones I am especially interested in, I write down in a notebook.

Right now, the first notebook goes from December 2011 to June 12, 2012.  #2 goes from June 12, 2012, to June 2013.

--GreGen

`The Okinawa D-Day Invasion

From the April 12, 2012, Vindy.com "Easter Sunday to remember."

Michael J. Lacivita was there at the Okinawa D-Day invasion on April 1, 1945, Easter Sunday.  It was the second largest invasion of the war, after, of course, the Normandy, France, D-Day.  This one had the code name I-Day, or Operation Iceberg.

At dawn, he was on LST-582 along with 450 men from the First Marine Division.

The USS West Virginia was to their port side and the USS Idaho and USS Tennessee on their starboard.  To some that might make you feel safe to have three battleships surrounding you, but not so at this battle as battleships were major Japanese bomber and kamikaze targets.

One Japanese plane dropped bombs between the LST and the West Virginia.  Another aimed at the Idaho and missed just off its stern.  Within less than a half hour, 4 of 4 kamikazes were shot down.

They stayed in Okinawa for two weeks, then left for Guam on April 14th.

--GreGen

Saturday, September 6, 2014

U.S. 1940 Census Goes Online in 2012

From the April 3, 2012, Yahoo! News "1940 U.S. census viewable online after near freeze" by Cristian Salazar and Randy Herschaft.

The site received tens of millions of hits the first day it was online.  The 37 million hits were on the single largest collection of digital information ever made available online by the National Archives.

This was able to happen because confidentiality laws had expired even though 21 million of the persons listed are still alive.

This census gives details on 132 million Americans.

--GreGen

Death of a Pearl Harbor Survivor in 2012: Gene Oliver (USS Dale): "The Channel of Hell"

From the March 22, 2012, Press Democrat "Gene Oliver" by Chris Smith.

Gene Oliver was 20-years old that day and died at age 90 on March 6, 2012.  He was a seaman whose duty station was in the engine room and was walking up from his bunk on the USS Dale when he heard an airplane.

The plane "was doing a bank and I could see that it was all silver with a big red sun.  I still didn't know what it was.  I thought it was practice.  Then, one by one, I heard explosions."

The Dale's crew went to battle stations.  Oliver was ordered to a whaleboat to get the destroyer's captain from officers' quarters a quarter mile or so away.  When passing Battleship Row "it was like being caught in the eye of a storm."

He and the crew saw sailors in the water but had orders to get the captain so they didn't stop to help.  Once at the officers' quarters, they found that their captain was not there so headed back into "the channel of hell" as Oliver described it.

Oliver and the USS Dale fought throughout the war in were in 20 major engagements.  He named his first-born son Dale, after his ship.  He was active in the Luther Burbank Chapter, No. 23, PHSA.

--GreGen

Friday, September 5, 2014

German Rocket Removed from Mudflats in Britain Back in 2012

From the April 2, 2012, Saffron Walden Reporter 24 "Bomb disposal team remove German rocket from mudflats."

Bomb disposal experts from Carver Barracks removed remnants of a German World War II v-2 rocket found submerged in mudflats off the English coast.

The four-foot-long section was found nose down with two feet of it extending out of the mud about 300 feet from the shoulder.  A six man Navy team worked with the Army and first excavated the lowest part and found no war head so it was safe.

Wernher von Braun developed the V-2 and they were assembled in concentration camps by prisoners.

More than 3,000 were launched at Britain during the war and 7,250, mostly civilians, died, 2,750 in London.  Another 6,523 were injured.

--GreGen

. Doolittle Raider David Thatcher on Eve of 70th Anniversary in 2012

From the April 2, 2012, Helena (Montana) Independent Record "Missoulian 1 of 5 Doolittle Raiders on eve of 70th anniversary" by Kim Briggeman.

The Doolittle Raiders have always received a lot of media attention, especially back in 2012 when this article was written over two years ago.

The impact of their April 18, 1942, raid over Japan on America was huge.

David Thatcher, of Missoula, Montana, was an engineer on one of the sixteen B-25s, each with a five-man crew that took off from the USS Hornet, 600 miles east of Japan.  He was one of two raiders to receive a Silver Star for rescuing his four crew mates after a water crash landing in Japanese territory.

At 91, in 2012, Thatcher is the youngest raider.  Other Raiders still alive in 2012 were Dick Cole of Texas, age 96; Tom Griffin of Cincinnati, 95; Bobby Hite of Nashville, Tennessee and Ed Saylor of Puyallup, Washington, 91.

All five planned on being at Dayton, Ohio, April 17-19 for the 70th anniversary at Wright-Patterson AFB.

David Thatcher was born in Bridger in 1921 and later flew 26 more missions in the European Theater.

UPDATE:  There are now just four Raiders remaining after the death of Tom Griffin in 2013.

--GreGen

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pearl Harbor Vet Honored in Pennsylvania

From the March 30, Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Morning Call by Steve Egack.

JIM MURDY, 94.  His wit and profanity still flows.  On December 7, 1941, he was on the light cruiser USS Helena when he heard the alarm on the ship and thought it was just some officer;s idea for training and uttered, "You dirty bastards, we are supposed to be off.  I didn't know what was going on."

He served four years in the war and wouldn't talk about his experiences, but now he does on a regular bases.

Also honored was World War II veteran LaRohn "Dan" Deysher, a 1939 Liberty High School graduate.  He joined the Navy in 1942 and served on the battleship USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific Theater.  He was at the Battle of Surigao Strait and other engagements.

--GreGen

USS Henley (DD-391): At Pearl Harbor and at General Quarters

From Wikipedia.

This was the ship that R.J. Brown of Wyoming served on at Pearl Harbor and until it was sunk.  He died in March 2012 and I wrote about him on my March 30, 2012, blog.

The USS Henley (DD-391) was a Bagley-class destroyer named for Capt. Robert Henley, an officer in the Quasi-War, 1812 and the second Barbary War.

It was launched 12 Jan. 1937.

On December 7, 1941, it was moored in the East Loch with battle stations manned when the attack began because a new sailor had mistakenly sounded General Quarters instead of Quarters for Muster.  Too bad this wasn't the case elsewhere in the fleet,

As such, the Henley fired the first destroyer shots as the initial planes attacked.  It drew attacks and a bomb exploded about 150 yards off the port bow.  The ship slipped its chain from a buoy and got underway.

About that time it received the report that there was a Japanese submarine in the harbor.  The Henley dropped depth charges on a sonar contact outside the harbor, possibly a midget sub.  They also shot down one bomber and shared credit for the downing of another.

Unfortunately, the USS Henley was sunk by a torpedo 3 October 1943.

--GreGen

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Follow Up on the Lake County, California, Pearl Harbor Survivors: Just One Remains

Earlier today, I mentioned that as of the death of Walter Urmann March 25, 2012, there were still three Pearl Harbor survivors alive in this county.

Just one of the three was still alive as of December 6, 2013.

CLARENCE "BUD" BONER died Nov. 21, 2012, at age 90.

HENRY ANDERSON died Jan. 6, 2014, at age 95.

BILL SLATER was still alive at the 2013 Pearl Harbor anniversary commemoration.

--GreGen

Another Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies in 2012

From the March 26, 2012, Kitsap Sun "Manuel W. Cueller, 97."

Mr. Cueller joined the Navy in 1935 and served 22 years.  His was an electrician and first ship was the battleship USS Pennsylvania in 1937.  Then he became a plank owner (first crew) on the cruiser USS Helena.

His ship was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and in the berth which normally would have been occupied by his former ship, the USS Pennsylvania, had it not been in drydock.

The Helena was torpedoed and Manuel had to restore power to the bridge.

--GreGen

Back in 2010-2012, Lake County, California, Lost Four Pearl Harbor Survivors, But Three Still Living

From the April 1, 2012, Lake County News.

WALTER URMANN was the fourth Pearl Harbor survivor to die in the previous year and a half.

Also dying:

CHUCK BOWER, died Nov. 12, 2010,  of Clearlake Oaks, at the U.S. sub base.

JIM HARRIS, died Jan. 8, 2011, of Lucerne, on the USS Dobbin.

FLOYD EDDY, died May 14, 2011, of Kelseyville, on the minesweeper USS Trevor

THREE STILL LIVING:

CLARENCE "BUD" BONER on the USS Tennessee

BILL SLATER on the USS Pennsylvania

HENRY ANDERSON  on the USS Tennessee

Losing the Greatest Quickly Now.  GreGen

Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies in 2012

From the March 27, 2012, Lake County (Cal.) Record Bee "Pearl Harbor survivor dies at 87."

Walter H. Urmann, one of the last Pearl harbor survivors in Lake County died March 25th.

He was born Nov. 27, 1923, in Windsor and lived there until joining the Navy at age 17.

During the attack, he was on the USS Blue which was able to get underway and was the third vessel to get out of the harbor.  He remembered seeing a Japanese pilot wave at him as he flew by.

Mr. Urmann was also at the Battle of Guadalcanal where his ship was sunk August 22, 1942 in "Iron Bottom Sound," so named for the number of ships sunk there during the battle.    He figured he was lucky in that battle because a torpedo hit where his bunk was and had he been in it, he would have died.

He served on other destroyers during the rest of the war and was active in the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Chapter 23, North.

--GreGen

Wartime Wilmington, N.C.-- Part 5: Info Wanted on Mafffitt Village

Scott Nunn, who does the Back Then articles in the Wilmington Starr wanted readers to send in any information on the original Maffitt Village, southwest of current Long Leaf Park.  Maffitt Village was a federal housing complex built to house Wilmington's huge population growth during the war.

He grew up there and used to play on the old concrete slabs in the woods and also came across manhole covers while growing up.

His late uncle, Captain R.K. Buie drove a bus in the area during the war.

While growing up, he also came across some old earthworks from the Civil War.

--GreGen

Wartime Wilmington-- Part 4: Drinking and Partying

Of course, with all the military personnel and war industry workers flooding into Wilmington, there was bound to be a thriving nightlife.

A reader wrote that the Plantation Club patterned itself after a New York night club.  It was on Carolina Beach Road, south of Shipyard Boulevard.

Another famous place in Wilmington during the war was Jimmy McCoy's St. John's Tavern was popular with young officers from Camp Davis.  It was located in the old Masonic Lodge which is still standing.

The Sky Club was part of an airfield and was where Independence Mall is now located and owned by the Dunn brothers.

--GreGen

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wartime Wilmington, N.C.-- Part 3: School Children Evacuation

MARCH 14, 1942:  Harriss Newman, chairman of the New Hanover (Wilmington's county) Defense Council committee on the Evacuation of School Children, announced a reciprocal agreement with the city of Smithville, which in case of attack or imminent threat of attack, New Hanover children would be bused there.

Smithville was further inland.

You can never be too careful.

--GreGen

Wartime Wilmington, N.C.-- Part 2: It's a Bike and a MilkThing

MARCH 12, 1942:  The War Production Board announced a 42% cut in the production of bicycles and a tentative plan to halt the production of all home washing machines.

Raw materials must be conserved for the war effort.  The conversion of plants to war production was hastened.

All bikes produced had to follow the design of the so-called "victory-model" and no children's bikes could be produced at all.

MARCH 14, 1942:  Five Wilmington restaurants were declared off-limits to military personnel for selling milk in excess of the 5 cent wartime cap.  they were the Southern Kitchen on Princess Street, USA Restaurant on Market Street, Bus Terminal Cafe at 2nd and Walnut streets, Cape Fear Sandwich Shop at 2nd and Grace streets and the Famous Grill at Sunset Park.

War at the Homefront.  --GreGen


Wartime Wilmington, N.C.-- Part 1: Liberty Ship and Laws

From the March 27, 2012, Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

This was a wrap up of stories occurring back 70 years earlier as reported in the Star-News.  They have since publishing these highly interesting tidbits of wartime Wilmington.  Wish they'd start doing it again.

MARCH 9, 1942:  The Daniel Morgan, the 5th Liberty Ship launched at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company was launched.  It was named for a Revolutionary War hero.

MARCH 11, 1942:  Special laws and regulations were put into place during the war.  One was: "The purchase or receipt in pledge or property issued to a soldier is prohibited."  I'm not real sure what this was about.  I guess it meant that you couldn't take a soldier's property as a pledge to cover gambling bets or other debts.

Another one:  "It is unlawful for any person not an officer or enlisted man of the armed forces to wear the uniform of those services, any part of a uniform, or anything resembling a uniform."  I guess this meant that not military personnel were trying to pass themselves off as military to get special privileges.

The Star reported that several of these laws had been violated according to the provost marshal at nearby Camp Davis.

And, there's More.  --GreGen

Monday, September 1, 2014

Medal of Honor Winner Mike Colalillo Dies in 2011

From the Jan. 4, 2012, Washington Post "Mike Colalillo, WWII Medal of Honor recipient, dead at 86.

Mr. Colalillo died December 30, 2011.  He received his Medal of Honor during a machine gun assault near the end of the war in which the Germans sustained 25 casualties.

On April 7, 1945, 19-year-old Army Pfc Colalillo was on patrol outside Untergricsheim, Germany when his unit came under fire.  They were pinned down and he told others to follow him in a dash toward the machine gun nest.  He was holding a submachine gun until it was knocked out of his hands bu shrapnel.

He the  ran toward a American tank and took over the machine gun of the turret and he then killed or wounded ten Germans at one position and took out another machine gun nest.  That wasn't the end as he killed three more at another machine gun nest.

The turret machine gun jammed and he jumped off, grabbed another submachine gun and continued his assault on foot.  Altogether, he killed or wounded 25 Germans that day.

When ordered to withdraw, he stayed behind and carried a wounded comrade back over his shoulder.

The Medal of Honor was given to him in December 1945 in a White House ceremony.

Quite the Hero.  --GreGen

Army Flying Ace James B. Morehead Dies in 2012

From the March 12, 2012, Press Democrat "WWII flying ace from Petaluma dead at 95" by Lori A. Carter.

Retired Army Colonel James B. Morehead, flying ace and recipient of two Distinguished Service Crosses has died.

He mostly flew P-40 fighters and was in 20 dogfights, shooting down 8 enemy planes in Europe and the Pacific.  Other honors he received were the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and 15 other air medals.

As a 25-year-old 2nd Lt at Darwin, Australia, in 1943, he led a flight of eight P-40s toward 31 Japanese "Betty" bombers and their fighter escorts. returning from a raid.  He destroyed two bombers and a Zero.

--GreGen

U.S. Navy WWII Airport at Half Day, Illinois

From March 11, 2012, Chicago Tribune  "Pilot putting region's old airports on the radar" by Jon Hilkevitch.

Approximately 45 old airports in the Chicagoland area are no longer in existence.  Nick Selig is researching the histories of 76 airports in the area and among them is/was Chicagoland Airport, near the northwest suburb of Half Day in Lake County.

It was one of 15 airports the U.S. Navy built to train pilots during World War II.  An old farmhouse served as the airport office and it continued operations into the 1970s.

"Very few people know these suburban airports.  What I am trying to put across in my book is that at the beginning of World War II, if it had not been for these little dirt and sod airfields to train the pilots we needed for the war, it might have been a significantly different outcome." said Nick Selig.  He estimates that some 90% of U.S. Navy pilots trained at Chicago airports during the war.

Of interest:  Dick Lloyd bought the Sky haven Airport near Bensenville in the mid-1940s and operated it until 1955.  He had a wooden leg and in those days before post-it notes, used to thumbtack notes to his leg.

His book "Lost Airports of Chicago" has been published and is available on Amazon and other sites.

--Ouch!!  --GreGen


Back Then: SS Lane Victory to Escort USS Iowa

From the March 3, 2012, Contra Costa Times "SS Lane Victory to bring riders for USS Iowa arrival" by Donnie Littlejohn.

It will probably be another 2-3 months before the battleship USS Iowa arrives from San Francisco at the Port of Los Angeles where it will become a museum ship.  But, the SS Lane Victory, a World War II merchant Victory ship has plans to meet it.

And, for just $250, you can go along for the ride.

The Iowa, at the time was in the Port of Richmond, by San Francisco, being readied to be towed.

The USS Iowa Veterans Association was to have their annual reunion in Los Angeles July 2-6th.

--GreGen