Monday, November 30, 2015

Goldsboro, N.C., USO Club-- Part 2: Activities and Volunteerism

For four and a half years the USO was a round-the-clock haven for thousands of service men with time on their hands.  It was often their last stop before shipping off overseas.  Alterations to the building's structure became necessary.  Then, as today, the exterior resembled that of "an old southern mansion," which was how the soldiers referred to it.

Attendance reached as high as 12,000 a month.

Dances were held, picnics organized, crafts and and wives had a club of their own.   In the music room, a snack bar was provided and a comfortable furnished lounge with an open fireplace was available when needed.

My grandmother chaperoned many dances and my mom, then 12-15 during the war years, often danced with the soldiers (under "close" supervision of my grandmother, of course.

Woman's Club members acted as volunteer hostesses, chaperons, and even sewed on chevrons as well many other acts of kindness.

Special mention is made for Mrs. Henry Bartholomew, who gave over 6,000 hours of volunteer service time to the USO work and at the Traveler's Aid Housing Desk.  This is thought to be a record for any USO across the nation.

--GreGen

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Goldsboro, N.C., U.S.O. Club-- Part 1: Goldsboro Woman's Club Building

From "A History  of the Goldsboro Woman's Club" by Emma R. Edwards and Ovelia  D. Rockwell.

The Goldsboro Woman's Club erected their own building in 1927.

During World War II, the Woman's Club went all out for the effort.  They sold war bonds among many things, but by far their biggest effort was when they "enlisted their beautiful building for the duration."  They inconvenienced themselves by doing so and had to find other places to meet.

One week after Pearl Harbor, the building became a defense center and later a city and county headquarters for rationing.  Red Cross Air Raid classes were also held there.  But, by far the biggest effort involved becoming the recreational headquarters of the newly established Seymour Johnson Field, a major Army Air Force Base.

The Woman's Club offered its building to the U.S.O. on a nonprofit basis, giving it the privilege of making interior alterations as needed.  Six agencies of the United Services Organization started using the building in August 1942.

--GreGen

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Death of Pearl Harbor Survivor Jack Carson, 92

From the Nov. 24, 2015, Kansas City Star "Kansas City area  Pearl Harbor survivor dies" by Brian Burnes.

Died Monday at 92.

Was a member of U.S. Army Air Corps with a tow target detachment at Hickam Field.  Was awakened by a droning noise and went to his balcony and saw a Japanese plane pass overhead.

He never talked much about it until he attended a survivors commemoration in Pearl Harbor in 2006 and then became very active.

Born 1923 in Keokuk, Iowa and retired fro Air Force after 30 years.His death leaves just three Kansas City area survivors.

--GreGen

Monday, November 23, 2015

Death of Pearl Harbor Survivor Charles Ebel in 2014

From the Nov. 27, 2014, Albany (NY) Times Union "Pearl Harbor Survivor from Guilderland dies at 95."

Charles Ebel died Tuesday.  he enlisted in the Navy in 1940 and was on the USS Curtiss having showered and eaten breakfast and was waiting for a friend to go surfing with him when the attack came.

He remembers looking up and seeing a Japanese pilot so close by that he could see him grinning, something that he will never forget.  Several of his shipmates died in the attack.  Later service in the war was on the USS Hornet.

Mr. Ebel was among the last three Pearl Harbor veterans in the area.

--GreGen

Last Living USS Arizona Survivors Toast Lost Shipmates

From the November 15, 2014, Hawaii Star Advertiser "Last living Arizona sailors to share a toast" by William Cote.

Four of the eight remaining survivors of the USS Arizona will be sharing a toast to their comrades still entombed on the ship as well as the ones who have since passed on the 73rd anniversary of that fateful day.

The four who will be attending are John Delmar Anderson, Lauren Fay Bruner, Louis A. Conter and Donald Gay Stratton.

They will drink from an original champagne glass from their stricken ship and do it at the USS Arizona Memorial.

This is especially sad in that one of the four, John Anderson died recently.

--GreGen

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Death of Pearl Harbor Survivor John Schleicher

From the December 8, 2014 Herald Tribune (Florida) "Pearl Harbor survivor dies at age 93."

John Schleicher, 93, died Saturday night.  he waited 73 years to tell his family about his experiences that day.  he was being interviewed for an oral history and suffered a stroke while doing it last Wednesday.  he was sharing his story for the first time.

He was on the USS Pennsylvania which suffered 15 dead, 38 wounded and 14 missing.  He was a storekeeper First Class and later served on the battleship USS New Jersey and participated in many big actions in the Pacific including the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

--GreGen

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Death of Pearl Harbor Survivor Marion Kesler-- Part 2

Mr. Kesler was standing on deck of the USS Hulbert talking with the cook when he saw planes.  One was so close he could clearly see its pilot.  The ship's alarm didn't work and he ran below to alert the men eating breakfast who didn't believe him.  They said, "You're crazy.  Go get us more hash browns and eggs."

The cook, Wally Martenson, manned the 50-caliber machine gun and shot down a Japanese bomber.

Marion Kesler  was born September 21, 1919 in Parowin and was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps before enlisting in the U.S. Navy for six years to avoid being drafted into the Army.  After Pearl Harbor, he remained on the Hulbert for the rest of the war, including the Aleutian Islands.

He was a cook's helper and a cook.  A train trip while home on leave from Delta to Tooele enabled him to meet his wife, Viola, and they married September 10, 1944 in Los Angeles.  Viola was a Rosie the Riveter and placed control panels on aircraft being manufactured in South Dakota.

--GreGen


Death of Pearl Harbor Survivor Marion Kesler, 93-- Part 1: On USS Hulbert

Fr5om the April 14, 2015, Salt lake City Tribune "Marion Kesler, Utahn who survived Pearl Harbor, dies at 93" by Nate Carlisle.

He was a cook's helped on the USS Hulbert who warned his shipmates and then helped load cartridges into machine guns, died Friday at home in Taylorsville.  His wife, Viola, had died on February 17th.

Mr. Kesler  was one of seven Utahn Pearl Harbor survivors honored at the state Capitol on the 70th anniversary of the attack in 2011.  At least three of them still remain alive.

He was 22 and on the destroyer built at the end of World War I and converted to maintain Catalina amphibian patrol bombers.  His main duty was to take food from the galley to 125 men at mess below.

--GreGen

Friday, November 20, 2015

USS Arizona Survivor John Anderson Dies-- Part 2

John Anderson reported to his turret when the bomb hit the top of it, bounced off and penetrated the deck.  The resulting explosion killed many.  Shortly afterward,the forward magazine blew up with 1.5 million pounds of gunpowder.  This was killed the Arizona.

He was forced to board a boat to Ford Island, but came back to his ship to search for Jake.  After not finding his brother and now wounded, he swam back to the island.  Once there, he grabbed a rifle and two bandoliers of ammunition, jumped into a bomb crater and thought to himself, "Let 'em come."

A Marine patrol told him that survivors of the USS Arizona were to gather ar a nearby dock for a head count.  "Everybody I saw there had rags around their heads."  Bandages covered their arms, skin was scorched and hair burned off.  "Beat up something awful."

He spent the rest of the war on the destroyer USS MacDonough, which earned 14 Battle Stars.

I see the correct spelling of the destroyer USS MacDonough is Macdonough, named after the hero of the War of 1812's Battle of Lake Champlain. This ship was also at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

The Huffington Post has an extended video of Mr. Anderson going into greater detail of his Pearl Harbor and World War II experiences.

--GreGen


USS Arizona Survivor John Anderson Dies-- Part 1: On the Ship with His Twin Brother

From the Nov. 18, 2015, Twin Cities.com (Minnesota)  "former Minnesotan, oldest survivor of USS Arizona attack, dies at 98" by Helmut Schmidt.

John Anderson was born in Verona, North Dakota and had a twin brother named Jake.  The family moved to Dilworth, Minnesota, where they grew up.  John was one of 355 survivors of the Arizona that day.  His twin brother Jake was one of the 1,177 who did not.  He is also one of the 900 still entombed in the ship.

John began his Navy career on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, then served on a destroyer.  In 1940, he was transferred to the USS Arizona where he joined his twin brother Jake.  Both were turret gunners, though on different turrets.  John also had the additional duty of setting up chairs for Sunday morning worship and had just finished and was eating breakfast when the attack began.

--GreGen


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Now, Just Seven USS Arizona Survivors Remain

From the previous two posts.

The seven remaining survivors:

Lauren Bruner, 95  La Mirada, California
Lou Conter, 94  Grass Valley, California

Connie Cook, 94  Morris, Oklahoma
Raymond Haerry, 93  West Warwick, Rhode Island

Clarendon Hetrick, 93  Las Vegas
Ken Potts, 94  Provo, Utah

Donald Stratton, 93  Colorado Springs, Colorado

Dwindling Numbers.  So Sad.  --GreGen

John Anderson, One of Last USS Arizona Survivors, Dies-- Part 2

John Anderson was eating breakfast on the Arizona when he heard an explosion and then one of the mess cooks yelled, "A bomb hit the island!"  (Ford Island by where the ship was docked)

He then headed to his post and then looked for his brother as the ship sank after the explosion.  An officer shoved him onto a boat and he was taken to nearby Ford Island, but he found his way on another boat and went back to the Arizona to look again for his brother but was never able to find him.

After the attack, he was transferred to the destroyer USS McDonough and took part in Pacific battles for the rest of the war.

--GreGen

John Anderson, One of Last USS Arizona Survivors, Dies at 98-- Part 1

From the November 16, 2015, AzCentral by Shaun McKinzie.

John Delmar Anderson, the oldest surviving crew member of the fated USS Arizona, died November 14th.  Less than a year earlier, he had returned to Pearl Harbor with three other survivors of that ship to toast the sailors and Marines who died that day which they did on the Arizona Memorial.

Just seven Arizona survivors now remain.

Mr. Anderson was well-known in Roswell, New Mexico as deejay "Cactus Jack" who met Elvis Presley before he made it big.  Later he was a weather meteorologist.

He was born on August 26, 1917 and had a twin brother named Delbert "Jake".  The family had another four sons and four daughters.  They grew up in Minnesota.  In 1937, John and his twin Jake decided to enlist in the Navy.

John reported to Bremerton, Washington, where he was assigned to the USS Arizona and later transferred to an aircraft carrier and then a destroyer before going back to the Arizona where he joined Jake in 1940.

--GreGen

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pearl Harbor Survivor James Downing, USS West Virginia

From the Dec.7, 2013, Denver Post "Pearl Harbor survivor James Downing, 100, shares story of that fateful day" by Ryan Parker.

James Downing was then 28.  No one asked him as he hurried and memorized the names on the dog tags of men on his ship who had been killed or injured.  This was with the intention of notifying their families which he did.

He was gunner's mate 1st Class and postmaster on the USS West Virginia, which had just returned from a week long patrol off the coast of Hawaii.

Downing was off the ship and at his house where his wife of five months, Morena, was cooking Sunday morning breakfast for him and some other service members.  That was when they heard explosions off in the distance.  Then an anti-aircraft shell landed in the yard and, according to Downing, blew a hole about 25-feet across.  he and the others jumped into a truck and sped back to Pearl harbor.

He got out to his ship, which was sinking and was there when a Japanese plane opened fire on it, but wasn't hit.  Afterwards, he began gathering the names.

Downing joined the Navy after high school for financial reasons and ended up spending 24 years in it, commanding the tanker USS Patapsco during the Korean War.

--GreGen

University Honors Oldest Living Pearl Harbor Survivor in 2014

From the Dec. 4, 2014, Daily Athenium (West Virginia University) by Courtney Gaffo.

Lt. James Downing, 101, was postmaster on the USS West Virginia the day the Japanese attacked.  Afterwards, he memorized the names of ever crew member killed or wounded and wrote notes to their families and explained what happened to their sons.

--GreGen

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Two Members of Famed Tuskegee Airmen and Best Friends Die on Same Day

From the Jan. 12, 2015, Star-Tribune by John Rogers.

Clarence E. Hunley and Joseph Shambrey grew up running track in the same Los Angeles neighborhood in the 1930s.  They both enlisted in the U.S. Army and then joined the famed Tuskegee Airmen together.  They were mechanics

After the war, they came home and married their respective sweethearts and got together almost once a month.

Around 19,000 men were in the Tuskegee Airmen counting pilots and ground personnel.

Quite a Story of Friendship.  --GreGen

One of Last Pensacola Pearl Harbor Survivors Dies, James Landis

From the Jan. 7, 2015, Pensacola (Fla.) News-Journal "One of the last Pearl Harbor survivors passes" by Troy Moon.

James Landis was 21 and a Navy machinist mate on Ford Island and about 500 yards from the planes parked near the USS Utah, the first battleship sunk in the attack.

He ran to a plane but jumped in the wrong side.  A bullet went through his hand as he reached to open the canopy, but he managed to return with weapons from it and began firing.  He didn't even know he was wounded.  Mr. Landis went on to serve 30 years in the Navy, serving also in the Korean and Vietbnam wars  and received three Purple Hearts.

He died Nov. 24, 2014, at age 94.

--GreGen

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pearl Harbor Survivor's Death in 2014: Steve Jager

From the Dec. 16, 2014, Pennsylvania TribLive "Pearl Harbor Survivor, Steve Jager, 'kept their memory alive'" by Mary Ann Thomas.

Steve Jager, 94, died Sunday.  Regularly spoke at schools although he didn't speak about his wartime experiences until late in life.

He was a sergeant in the Army in the Hawaiian Department of Defense-Communications Division stationed ar Schofield Barracks when the attack started.

--GreGen

Pearl Harbor Survivor's Death in 2014: Rich Cmeyla.

From the Dec. 20, 2014, Green Bay (Wis) Gazette " Pearl Harbor Survivor gets deserving final salute" by Scott Cooper Williams.

Rich Cmeyla, 96, was 23 that day and died last week.  He was among perhaps the last 20 Wisconsin survivors and was the last survivor of the attack from Kewaukee County.

He was from Luxembourg, Wis. and after graduating from Algoma High School, enlisted in the Navy and was transferred to Hawaii just a few months before the attack.

He was getting ready for church when it started and remembered looking up and seeing a Japanese pilot waving at him.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

World War II Re-enactors Preserve History-- Part 5: Battle of the Bulge

Kyle continued, "Interacting with veterans helps us in what we are trying to portray.  My grandfather, a Pearl Harbor survivor, never really talked about it.  I regret I never sat down and picked his brain about it, but by the time I was older, he had Alzheimer's disease."

If you're interesting in watching a World War II re-enactment, it is not too late this year.  The Battle of the Bulge, the last great offensive of the German Army in the war, will be re-enacted at Sommer Park in Peoria by the Central Illinois WWII Reenactors.

--GreGen

World War II Re-enactors Preserve History-- Part 4: Living History the Public Can See

Most people know about Civil War re-enactors but not so many know about the ones for World War II.  However, this group is growing rapidly.

"This is living history that the public can see up close and touch.  It's an experience that they can not get from movies or books," said Kent Berg.

Both Russo and LeTourneau had relatives who fought in World War II but died before their stories could be fully told.  Since there are so few WWII veterans around these days (an 18-year-old in 1941 would be 92 today) it is a race to preserve their memories.  reenactments can bring out this hidden side of history, especially when veterans attend.  It is also an opportunity for veterans to connect with each other.

Kyle, a 31-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from Rockford has been reenacting since he was 16.  He says the best part of it is the camaraderie among his unit and the connections they make with the veterans who attend.

For example, at a 2012 event he witnessed a German veteran who was a tank commander meeting a former Russian tank commander.

"They were both involved in the Battle of Kursk, one of the largest tank battles ever fought before desert Storm.  Atone time they were locked in deadly combat.  To see them come together now and share laughs and stories is one of my best memories," said Kyle.

--GreGen

Friday, November 13, 2015

World War II Re-enactors Preserving History-- Part 3: Of Pigeons and Cigarettes

Rich Russo says reenactors and collectors love to share their memorabilia, restored vehicles and research with the public at re-enactments and living history presentations.

In the past 21 years he has learned about everything from the role of carrier pigeons in WW II to German battle whistle commands to the different ways American and German soldiers held their cigarettes.  "It is amazing how many individuals are willing to spend their own time and money acquiring, restoring and transporting these things to events," said Russo.

This is especially tricky when it comes to 30-ton tanks which must be brought in on tractor trailers and cost thousands to transport.

So why bother to repeat history?  Reenactors say they are preserving it-- both physically in artifacts and culturally through stories and research.

--GreGen

Thursday, November 12, 2015

World War II Re-Enactors Preserving History-- Part 2: A Local Mecca

There are several World War II reenactment groups and locations in the Chicago region.  They include the WWII Historical reenactment Society and the Central Illinois WWII Reenactors.  Midway Village and Museum in Rockford and the Lockport Township Park District hold WWII reenactments.

World War II reenactors have a larger array of large "props" to draw upon than those of the revolutionary War or Civil War because of the sheer number of automatic weapons and war vehicles that are available.  It has the infantry combat aspect like the others nut also the mechanical aspect in what Russo calls the "Wow Factor" that so impresses first-time spectators.

A recent event featured battles between 400 German and American infantry as well as working ta and other rare war vehicles such as a German Horch (similar to a Humvee), authentic weapons such as a 50-caliber machine gun, and a vintage military aircraft flying "bombing runs" over the battklefield.  A pyrotechnics team provided live gunfire and explosions.  This event drew 10,000 spectators.

--GreGennks

World War II Re-enactors Preserving History-- Part 1

From the Nov. 6, 2015, Chicago Tribune "Preserving History."

While it may seem like a modern-day hobby, reenacting is a tradition that dates back to the Roman Empire.  Today, the Civil War reenactments are the most popular here in America, especially during the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

However, World War II reenactments are becoming more popular here in the Midwest.  Kent berg of the Living History Reenactment Association estimates that 5,000 people participate in World War II reenactments in the U.S. and even more around the world.

I have been seeing ads for more and more World War II reenactments in the Midwest.

--GreGen


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In Honor of Veterans: Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial-- Part 2

In a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial is the Walls of the Missing inscribed with 1,557 names.  Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.  The memorial is a semicircular colonnade with a loggia at each end containing large maps and narratives of the D-Day landing and operations.  At the center is the bronze statue "Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves."

Facing west at the memorial is the reflecting pool in the foreground, beyond is the burial area with a circular chapel and at the far end is a statue representing the U.S. and France.

Nearby on Omaha Beach is the striking stainless steel sculpture called Les Braves that honors all the men who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day to liberate France.

Open to public display except Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.  Hours vary by season, but always from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m..

--GreGen

In Honor of Our Veterans: Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France-- Part 1

Former U.S. General Colin Powell said, "We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years...and put wonderful men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in."

The Normandy American Cemetery and memorial in France is the embodiment of this quote.  It is located on the site of the American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Ar,y on June 8, 1944, the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II.

According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, a federal agency and guardian of America's overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials, the cemetery site is 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 American dead, most of whom lost their lives on the D-Day landings and subsequent operations.

--GreGen

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Former Senator Robert Dole Recounts War Experiences-- Part 2

Q:  How do you describe World War II to young people who know little about it?

A:  Four hundred thousand Americans gave their lives, and hundreds of thousands were seriously wounded.  Because of that, we're a free country.  I wish they'd teach a little more history so young people understand the sacrifices made by their forebearers that gave them the possibilities they have today.

Q:  Tom Brokaw has described your generation as the "Greatest Generation."  What do you think of that term.

A:  We've passed it on to the people who fought in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  We were honored to be called the "Greatest Generation," but now we're a disappearing generation.  We're all in our late 80s and early 90s; some are over 100.

Q:  Why do you still go to the World War II Memorial every Saturday?

A:  I've always loved veterans and did a lot of work in Congress on veteran's' issues.  Having played a major role in raising $170 million for the memorial, I go down and take pictures, visit with the veterans.  I meet a lot of great men and women.

--GreGen


Former Senator Robert Dole on His Service-- Part 1

From the July/August AARP Bulletin "Robert Dole" by Charles Green.

"At 91, the former senator goes to his Washington law office nearly every day and visits the World War II Memorial every week.'  He is interviewed by Charles Green.

Q:  World War II in Europe ended just three weeks after you were severely wounded in Italy.  You must have wondered why it couldn't have ended a little earlier.

A:  Right.  We were supposed to start our push to get the Germans out of Italy and then when President Roosevelt died, we were in tears.  We were all young kids.  They had to delay our takeoff one day.  I've often wondered if we had done it on the day we should have, maybe that would have made a difference.  But things happen and you just turn the page and move along.

Q:  Have you ever visited Po Valley, where you were injured?

A:  Several times.  In fact, they have a plaque on a tree over there that says this is where Lt. Robert Dole was wounded.

Q:  What lessons about life did you learn from your wartime experiences?

A:  Dr. Hampar Kelikian, an American, operated on me half a dozen times and wouldn't let me pay him..  He said, "I'll get the money from my next rich client I have."

But, he told me, "You've got to make the most of what you gave left.  You just can't sell pencils on a street corner."  I couldn't use my arm very well, so I decided I'd use my head.  I went back to school and became a lawyer.

More to Come.  --GreGen

Monday, November 9, 2015

Presidential Yacht Mayflower in World War II-- Part 2

The ship wasn't scrapped, however and was sold to the War Shipping Administration in 1942 and converted to wartime use by the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock, Co. of Portsmouth, Virginia from October 1942 to August 1943.  It was renamed the USS Butte but sent to the Coast guard where it became the USCGC Mayflower and was commissioned 19 August 1943.

As such, it patrolled the Atlantic coast in search of U-boats and escorted coastal shipping.  Later it served as a radar training ship.  it was decommissioned in 1946 and sold to private owners   It later ended up belonging to Israel and was broken up in 1955.

Quite an Interesting History.  --GreGen

Presidential Yacht Mayflower in World War II-- Part 1

I started writing about this ship in two entries in my Cooter's History Thing Blog today.  Since it was in World War II, I decided to post about it here as well.

The reason I wrote about it in the other blog was because seaman Leon D. Robinson of Sycamore, Illinois, was stationed to it after he was wounded at the Occupation of Vera Cruz, mexico, in 1914.

The ship had an interesting history and you can read about it in the history blog.  But, this is the ship's history immediately before and during World War II.

From the Jan. 25, 2011, Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News "My Reporter: Whatever happened to the Presidential Yacht Mayflower, once moored in Wilmington?" by Amy Hotz.

The Mayflower was a 273-foot steam yacht of 2,690 tons with a speed of 17 knots manned by a crew of 171, drawing 13 feet 2 inches of water.

After it stopped being the presidential yacht because of costs, it caught fire and sank at its berth in Philadelphia Navy Yard.  It was raised on sold to a private party who then sold it to Broadfoot Iron Works in Wilmington, North Carolina.

It was there either for repairs or to be broken up.

--GreGen




Saturday, November 7, 2015

Pearl Harbor Attack Jolts Michigan Men-- Part 2" "Got Drunk and Never Paid for Anything"

December 7, 1941

"It was hell.  We didn't hear any guns and all the planes were lined up nice and neat.  All our guns and the ammunition was in the No. 6 barracks and that was the first place to get hit."The car survived the attack at Wheeler Air Field, but Johnson later had to sell it.

"I had six hours to sell it after we got orders we were going to the Solomon Islands.  I sold it for next to nothing and that night I played poker and lost it all anyway," said Johnson.

SSgt. Leo V. Johnson spent the rest of the war in the Solomon Islands maintaining fighter planes.  "We got bombed and strafed all the time.  It was different (from pearl Harbor) because we were ready for it."  Over the course of time, he became really good at machine gun maintenance.

After the war, he said that on his way back to Michigan, he never paid for a meal, drink or bus ride.  "People gave us doughnuts, coffee, pies, whatever.  In Chicago, the street cars didn't cost us anything.  I was there for four days, got drunk and never paid for anything."

--GreGen

Pearl Harbor Attack Jolts Michigan Men-- Part 1: The Case of the Gas Cans

From the December 3, 2012, Michigan Live "Look back: Pearl Harbor attack jolts Michigan area servicemen into World War II action" by Dave LeMieux.

On December 6, 1941, S. Sgt. Leo V. Johnson, now 92, was 21 and stationed at Bellows Field, Oahu, Hawaii, had been alert for a long time, but now he had gotten a weekend pass.  he was quite the card shark and had won a car playing poker.

He put 100 octane (aviation) gas in the car and loaded a couple 5-gallon gas cans in the trunk.  The military police didn't like him and checked his trunk and turned him into the provost marshal.

Provost marshal, "What do you plan to do with that gas?"

Johnson, "Burn it in my car, just like an officer."

The provost marshal let him go and he drove to Wheeler Field, about 40 miles away.

--GreGen

Friday, November 6, 2015

Loss of USCGC Escanaba

From the June 17, 2013, M Live  "Look back: Grand Haven USCGC Escanaba lost during World War II" by Dave LeMieux.

Seventy years ago, Grand Haven, Michigan learned of the loss of "its" ship, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba.  The 165-foot-long ship was sunk at 5:10 a.m. June 13, 1943, on convoy duty off Greenland, resulting in the death of all aboard but two.

The cause is still unknown.  Perhaps it was sunk by a submarine or hit a mine or maybe even an internal explosion.  The two survivors were picked up by the Rariton.

At one time, most of the crew lived in Grand Haven, where it was stationed.  the ship was built at a cost of $550,000 after a series of marine tragedies in 1929 that claimed the lives  of men with the sinking of four vessels.  The Escanaba underwent extensive renovation for war in late 1940 and 1941.  The hull was strengthened, ammunition lockers installed, machine guns, anti-aircraft guns and depth charges mounted.

No one still knows what caused it to sink.

Its 60-foot tall mast was removed in a 1940 refit and is today a memorial along with a life raft on Grand Haven's waterfront.

A third cutter named Escanabia was commissioned in 1985 and is stationed in Boston.

GreGen

The Long History of the USS Muskegon-- Part 2

The USS Muskegon was a Tacoma-Class patrol frigate which was much faster than its Navy cousin, the destroyer escort.

It was originally designed to combat submarines, but by 1944, when the Muskegon went to sea, the U-boat threat along the U.S. coasts was essentially over.  The Muskegon escorted an occasional convoy to Boston and sometimes went out on anti-submarine patrol.

It remained on duty in the Atlantic for years after the war.  At one point it was kind of a marker buoy for planes flying across the Atlantic.  After that, it went to the Coast Guard, the French Navy where it served as an unarmed weather ship, the Mermoiz until the late 1950s when it was sold for scrap.

There is still a USS Muskegon in the U.S. Navy, a harbor tug launched at Slidell, Louisiana, in 1962.

--GreGen

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Long History of the USS Muskegon-- Part 1

From the July 22, 2013, M Live "Lookback: The long history of the USS Muskegon" by Dave LeMieux.

The USS Muskegon was launched July 25, 1943, in Superior, Wisconsin, and had a crew of about 130.  It was launched in record time, cost $1.7 million, was 310 feet long and could cruise at 20 knots.

Muskegons first Gold Star mother of World War II, Mrs. David Hopkins, christened it.  her son, Homer David Hopkins had died on the USS Arizona that day Pearl Harbor was attacked.

It was Patrol Frigate 24 and was commissioned February 1944 in New Orleans.  Her crew referred to their ship as the "Mighty Musk" though the ship had never been to Muskegon, Michigan, its namesake.  Many of its crew was from the Grand Haven Coast Guard Training Station.

Seaman 2nd class Paul Meyers remembers, "Life on board out patrol frigate follows the pattern of every Navy ship, no matter where-- lots of watches, lots of work and the general alarm clanging in he middle of the night to send all hands to battle stations on the run."

--GreGen

Britain Recalls Pain, Triumph at Anniversary of End of War

From the August 16, 2015, Chicago Tribune.

As relatives of the fallen dabbed tears from their eyes, Queen Elizabeth II led ceremonies Saturday marking the 70th anniversary of the victory over Japan during World War II, recalling the triumph and pain of Britain's experience.

The monarch and other members of the royal family commemorated the event at a church service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London and were joined by veterans and former prisoners of war.

--GreGen

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Japan's Emperor Conveys Rare "Remorse" Over World War II

From the August 16, 2015, Chicago Tribune by Mari Yamaguchi, AP.

Emperor Akihito expressed rare "deep remorse" over his country's wartime actions in an address Saturday marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender.  This occurred a day after Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe fell short of apologizing in his own words to the victims of Japanese aggression.

However, Abe did stay away from the contentious Yasukuni Shrine that honors war criminals among other war dead.  he laid flowers at the nearby national cemetery to honor unnamed fallen soldiers.

The ceremony started with a moment of silence to mark the radio announcement by Emperor Hirohito, Akihito's father, announcing Japan's surrender. on August 15, 1945.

--GreGen

Bombs Linger Decades After a War is Over-- Part 6: Problems in Laos left Over from the Vietnam War

According to the Mines Advisory Group, nine people a day are killed by land mines and unexploded ordnance. worldwide.    Nowhere is the threat greater than in Laos which has the distinction of being the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.More than two million tons of ordnance was dropped on the country by the United States during the Vietnam War.

In the four decades since, more than 8,000 people have been killed and 12,000 wounded. Much of the harm is caused by cluster bombs, which spew dozens of smaller bomblets when detonated and can rip apart an area as large as a football field.

The tennis-ball-sized explosives known as "bombies" are often triggered by farmers or playful children.  One 9-year-old boy was killed when his hoe struck one.  here is another story of two children tossing one around, thinking it was a ball.  When it burst, one child was killed instantly.

Advocacy efforts have convinced the U.S. to quadruple its spending on bomb removal in Laos.  That sum is now $12 million.

--GreGen


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bombs Linger Decades After a War Is Over-- Part 5: Increasingly Brittle Detonators

After World War II, international agreements began to require warring countries to deal with the problem of unexploded ordnance.  But efforts are not always effective.  According to a 2008 article in Der Spiegel, discoveries of unexploded ordnance are a weekly occurrence in Germany.  And, even worse, the buried bombs become even more dangerous as their detonators erode.

"In the past few years we've found that the detonators we take out of such bombs are increasingly brittle," bomb disposal expert Hans-Juergen Weise told the German paper.  "Recently we've had three extractors go off with a pissssh sound while they were being transported away; all it took was a bit of vibration.  One day such bombs will be so sensitive that no one will be able to handle them.."

--GreGen


Bombs Linger Decades After a War Is Over-- Part 4: Fearing the Toxic Ones

The demineurs (de-miners) said that the most-feared unexploded ordnance they come across from World War I were the toxic ones.  They are the ones filled with now-banned poisons like mustard gas.

"You never know how solid their skins are.  They are often very rusty, so they make leak gas and kill you as you lift them," Henry Belot said.  Belot was later seriously injured when poison leaked from the shell and into his gas mask.

"Every day you can die.  It's something you remember each morning," he said.  "You can't anticipate it.  Out there is a shell with your name on it.  Today, if you lift it, you are in the past."

--GreGen

Bombs Linger Decades After a War Is Over-- Part 3: The Civil War and World War I

Explosives often aren't still potent a century and a half after they were made, but not always.

Union and Confederate forces lobbed an estimated 1.5 million artillery shells and cannonballs at one another during the war. and as many as 20% failed to detonate.  Some still pose a threat.

In small farming towns in France and Belgium, undetonated World War I shells turn up during each year's spring planting and autumn harvest.  This is referred to as the "Iron Harvest."

According to BBC, more than a billion shells were fired during this war and as many as a third failed to explode.  In 1996, the French Interior Ministry estimated that there  were at least 12 million shells still posing a danger near Verdun (site of major battles) alone.

And, of course, there are those World War II shells and bombs as France was a major scene of fighting again.

Since 1946 when France's Department du Deminage was established, more than 630 demineurs (de-miners) have been killed in the line of duty.

--GreGen

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bombs Linger Decades After a War Is Over-- Part 2 "Unexploded Ordnance"

Despite the distance of years and international protocols aimed at preventing them, still-active bombs, called "unexploded ordnance", linger underground for years after the conflicts are over.

This was the third such device the British Army has had to detonate or defuse in London this year.  And this problem isn't just a British one or even from World War II.

The oldest unexploded ordnance still being discovered these days dates back to America's Civil War, the first conflict where explosive shells were actively used.  Some of the  shells recovered from the CSS Georgia wreck site have been discovered to still be active.

In 2008, Sam White, a Virginia Civil War buff who often looked for war relics, was attempting to restore a cannonball when it exploded, killing him and sending shrapnel through his home and a porch a quarter mile away.

The fatal blast was unusual for a Civil War relic, especially when someone like White was working on it.  White had previously disarmed an estimated 1600 shells for other collectors and museums.

--GreGen

Bombs Linger Decades After a War Is Over-- Part 1: Wake Up and get Out!!

From the August 16, 2015, Chicago Tribune by Sarah Kaplan and  Nick Kirkpatrick, Washington Post.

"The knock came after residents of the east London apartment complex had already gone to bed.  They opened  their doors to see a police officer, a firefighter and a member of the army.

"A 500-pound bomb had been found a few hundred feet away, the officers said.  They needed to get out.

"How did an explosive wind up below this leafy London neighborhood?"

It was likely dropped by a German bomber more than 70 years ago.  Unlike hundreds of others that exploded, this one didn't, and instead sank deep into the London clay or was covered by debris.  It lay dormant for 70 years.

The disposal experts worked through the night and were able to defuse the device the next morning and residents were allowed to return home.

And this is not a rarity.  It happens fairly often and not just in London but in many places in England, France and Germany.

A New Way to Get Bombed.  --GreGen