75th Anniversary- The End of WWII

VJ-Day 15 August,1945: The World Rejoices
American military personnel celebrate in Paris with news of the Japanese surrender

September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war lasting from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world’s countries—including all the great powers—forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis.

The chief Allied powers were Great Britain, France (except during the German occupation, 1940–44), the Soviet Union (after its entry in June 1941), the United States (after its entry on December 8, 1941), and China.

The three principal partners in the Axis alliance were Germany, Italy, and Japan. These three countries recognized German domination over most of continental Europe; Italian domination over the Mediterranean Sea; and Japanese domination over East Asia and the Pacific.

The Start of World War II in Europe

Lead by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, over one million German troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.   Just two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany—and the world was once again at war.

After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, Hitler parades in the streets of the city of Danzig. Keystone-France Gamma-Keystone

World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion).

The End of World War II in Europe

Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, center, joins the royal family, from left, Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, and Princess Margaret, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, England, on VE Day.
May 8, 1945.

Crowds in New York City’s financial district celebrate. VE Day, May 8, 1945

Russia celebrates V-E Day on May 8, 1945

Parisians march through the Arc de Triomphe jubilantly waving flags of the Allied Nations as they celebrate the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. German military leaders signed an unconditional surrender in Reims, France, on May 7. (AP Photo)

REIMS, France  — World War II ended in a French schoolhouse 75 years ago on May 7, 1945 when German commanders signed their surrender to Allied forces.

Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union at 2:41 a.m. French time.  It took place in the headquarters of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and was signed for Germany by Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl, new Chief of Staff of the German Army.   The surrender was signed for the Supreme Allied Command by Lt. Gen. Walter Beddel Smith, Chief of Staff for Gen. Eisenhower. Also participants in the signings were Gen. Ivan Susloparov of the Soviet Union and Gen. Francois Sevez for France.

Gen. Eisenhower was not present at the signing, but immediately afterward Gen. Jodl and his fellow delegate Gen. Adm. Hans Georg Friedeburg were received by the supreme commander.   Asked sternly if they understood the surrender terms imposed upon Germany, and whether they intended to carry them out, their response was confirmed.  Elation at the news was tempered by the realization that the war against Japan remained unresolved.

The end of the European warfare, the greatest, bloodiest, and costliest war in human history — claiming at least 40 million casualties on both sides of killed, wounded and captured — resulted after five years, eight months and six days of conflict which circled the globe.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower holds up a V-for-Victory gesture with the two pens used by high ranking German officers in signing the surrender document in Reims, France on May 7, 1945. Official photo taken by T/Sgt. Al Meserlin, Ike’s personal photographer. (AP Photo/Al Meserlin)

General Alfred Jodl (1890 – 1946) Hitler’s military advisor, controller of German High Command and chief of the Operations Staff (centre), signs the document of surrender (German Capitulation) of the German armed forces at Reims in General Eisenhower’s headquarters. He is joined by Major Wilhelm Oxenius (left) and Hans Georg von Friedeburg, Admiral of the Fleet (right). Original Publication: People Disc – HF0475 (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Japan Surrenders – 2 Sept 1945

Although the unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan to the Allies was announced on August 15, 1945, the hostilities of World War II ended with the formal signing aboard the USS Missouri on September 2nd which effectively ended World War II.

Representatives of the Empire of Japan stand aboard USS Missouri prior to signing of the Instrument of Surrender
Sept 2 1945

Japanese foreign affairs minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri as General Richard K. Sutherland watches, September 2, 1945

General Douglas MacArthur signs the Japanese surrender document, U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945.

With the jubilation of V-E Day and Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, followed by Japan’s on August 15th and the formal Instrument of Surrender on September 2nd, the United States and its Allies celebrated the end of World War II.

Since the European Axis Powers had surrendered three months earlier (V-E Day) on May 8, 1945, V-J Day was the effective end of World War II, although a peace treaty between Japan and most of the Allies was not signed until 1952 and between Japan and the Soviet Union in 1956. 

Americans Rejoice

Following news of the Japanese acceptance and before Truman’s announcement, Americans began celebrating “as if joy had been rationed and saved for the three years, eight months and seven days since Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941’s attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.”

The largest crowd in the history of New York City’s Times Square gathered to celebrate.  The victory itself was announced by a headline on the “zipper” news ticker at One Times Square, which read “OFFICIAL *** TRUMAN ANNOUNCES JAPANESE SURRENDER. ***” The six asterisks represented the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.  In the Garment District,  workers threw out cloth scraps and ticker tape, leaving a pile five inches deep on the streets. The news of the war’s end sparked a “coast-to-coast frenzy.”

A crowd in New York City’s Times Square celebrates the unconditional surrender of Japan

The Voices of our Heroes

In considering the sacrifice and endurance of our military forces during WWII, we continue to remember their extraordinary service, as exemplified by a few for the many.  These veterans are no longer with us but their “Voices From the Front Lines” continue.

Japanese POW Fiske Hanley II endured his harrowing 5 months of brutal captivity and torture as a special prisoner before his release on August 29, 1945. Hanley described the most beautiful sight of the war was that of American planes flying overhead in mass in coming to his rescue.

Honolulu, Hawaii and Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, James Hardwick was there, survived, and earned 5 Battle Stars.  He would later witness General MacArthur’s “I Shall Return Speech” while serving in the Philippines as the Japanese invaded.

Santiago Diaz, a Mexican immigrant, joined the US Army as a Medic.  As one of the most targeted military personnel by the Japanese, he requested and served in this dangerous position.  During one of the bloodiest battles in the jungles of Guadalcanal, Santiago earned his greatest wish and became a US Citizen.

James Reid, 4th Marine Division, served on Saipan in the battle between the Japanese and Americans for strategic possession. While there, Reid would coax Japanese women and children not to commit suicide by jumping off a ridge.  Suffering a head wound from a Japanese soldier, Reid was sent to Maui to recover, and later served on Iwo Jima.

Those who survived the battle of Iwo Jima and its immense casualties, were training at Hilo, Hawaii for the Invasion of Japan. Don Graves, of the Marines 5th Division, was attending an event August 15, 1945, when at 9:00 p.m. six photographers burst into the room, yelling “the war is over!”

Graves recalled, “is this true? We could not believe it. We returned to our bunks; there was not a dry eye!  The long war was behind us. We immediately stopped training for invasion and were to be the first troops to occupy Japan.

In Reverence and Gratitude

For Your Service

God Bless America

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VJ-Day 75th Anniversary

VJ-Day 15 August,1945: The World Rejoices
American military personnel celebrate in Paris with news of the Japanese surrender

On August 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II.  To that effort, the United States had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively on August 6 and 9, 1945. On August 10, the Japanese government communicated its intention to surrender under the terms of the Potsdam Declaration.

Bombing runs of HIroshima and Nagasaki-Aug 6 and 9, 1945
Kokura was the original target for August 9

Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)
August 6 and August 9, 1945

Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender

On July 26, 1945, United States President Harry S. Truman,  United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chairman of China Chiang Kai-shek issued the document outlining the terms of surrender for the Empire of Japan, as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference. The ultimatum called for the surrender of all Japanese armed forces during World War II and stated if Japan did not surrender, it would face “prompt and utter destruction.”

The news of the Japanese offer of surrender began early celebrations around the world.  Germans stated the Japanese were wise enough—unlike themselves—to give up in a hopeless situation and were grateful the atomic bomb was not ready in time to be used against them.  On Tinian  island, B-29 crews preparing for their next mission over Japan were told it was cancelled, but considering it might be rescheduled, they could not celebrate.

Japan’s acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration

A little after noon (Japan Standard Time) on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito’s announcement of Japan’s acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration was broadcast to the Japanese people over the radio.  Earlier the same day, the Japanese government had broadcast an announcement over Radio Tokyo that “acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation [would be] coming soon,” and had advised the Allies of the surrender by sending a cable to U.S. President Harry S. Truman via the Swiss diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C.   A nationwide broadcast by Truman was then aired at seven o’clock p.m. (daylight time in Washington, D.C.) on Tuesday, August 14, announcing the communication and that the formal event was scheduled for September 2.  In his announcement of Japan’s surrender on August 14, Truman said “the proclamation of V-J Day” must wait upon the formal signing of the surrender terms by Japan.

Representatives of the Empire of Japan stand aboard USS Missouri prior to signing of the Instrument of Surrender

Japanese foreign affairs minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender
aboard the USS Missouri as General Richard K. Sutherland watches
September 2, 1945

General Douglas MacArthur signs the Japanese surrender document on U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay
September 2, 1945.

Aircraft fly in formation over the U.S.S. Missouri during the Japanese surrender ceremony
Tokyo Bay
September 2, 1945.

Since the European Axis Powers had surrendered three months earlier (V-E Day) on May 8, 1945, V-J Day was the effective end of World War II, although a peace treaty between Japan and most of the Allies was not signed until 1952 and between Japan and the Soviet Union in 1956. 

Public celebrations

Following news of the Japanese acceptance and before Truman’s announcement, Americans began celebrating “as if joy had been rationed and saved for the three years, eight months and seven days since Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941’s attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.”

The largest crowd in the history of New York City’s Times Square gathered to celebrate.  The victory itself was announced by a headline on the “zipper” news ticker at One Times Square, which read “OFFICIAL *** TRUMAN ANNOUNCES JAPANESE SURRENDER. ***” The six asterisks represented the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.  In the Garment District,  workers threw out cloth scraps and ticker tape, leaving a pile five inches deep on the streets. The news of the war’s end sparked a “coast-to-coast frenzy.”

A crowd in New York City’s Times Square celebrates the unconditional surrender of Japan

General Eisenhower celebrates peace in Time Square, New York, NY. 1945

 

Fiske Hanley II
Second Lieutenant (AAC)
Japanese Special Prisoner

In considering the sacrifice and endurance of our military forces during WWII, we continue to remember their extraordinary service, as exemplified by Fiske Hanley II, who passed away on August 9, 2020 at the age of 100.

Upon graduating from Texas Tech with  a degree in mechanical engineering on May 31, 1943, he enlisted later that day in the Army Air Corps at the Lubbock County Courthouse and immediately placed on a train bound for basic training.

After finishing Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and served as flight engineer on a B-29 Superfortress while flying bombing raids from Tinian Island.  He flew on the infamous fire-bombing raid over Tokyo on March 9, 1945, and on March 27, his B-29 encountered anti-aircraft fire and was shot down over northern Japan. Bailing out of his burning plane, he was captured with his copilot during his 17th mission after parachuting into a rice paddy. Already wounded by gunshots and plane shrapnel, he was moved by train to a Tokyo police facility and imprisoned in the Japanese prison camp made famous by the movie Unbroken. 

As B-29 prisoners were classified as war criminals and treated more harshly than other prisoners,  Hanley was brutally interrogated and tortured for over five months until his release in August. 1945 when Japan surrendered.  During his incarceration, he faced imminent death on 14 different occasions, including a firing squad.  He lost almost half his body weight during starvation by his captors and flak fragments remained in his legs throughout his life.  He credited his survival to his faith and his body’s ability to heal his infected wounds.

FISKE HANLEY – SPECIAL PRISONER SURVIVAL EXCERPT

Second Lieutenant Hanley wrote two books about his accounts of World War II and had planned to return to Japan for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

 

In Reverence and Gratitude

For Your Service

God Bless America

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An Inspiration to WWII Troops

British Singer and Songwriter Vera Lynn

Vera Lynn at 27 and already a celebrity who chose to travel 5000 miles
to Burma, during WWII in treacherous wartime conditions. to entertain the troops.

An inspiration who brought hope, happiness, and thoughts of home, if only briefly, to those who needed it most.

Early Years

Vera Lynn as a young child.
Dame Vera Lynn Archive / Courtesy of Captive Minds

Vera Welch was born on 20 March 1917 in East Ham, London.  Neither of her parents were involved in show business – her father Bertram a plumber and mother Annie a dressmaker.  At the age of seven, however, the talented Vera was singing in clubs, an audience she described as “great,” and soon became the family’s main breadwinner.

Vera Lynn at 7 years of age.
Dame Vera Lynn Archive / Courtesy of Captive Minds.

When she turned 11, Vera took her grandmother’s maiden name of Lynn as a stage name. She had no formal singing lessons as a child and just one as an adult as her instructor felt she had nothing to offer her natural gift.

While singing, Vera’s talent was spotted at age 15 by local band leader Howard Baker.  He signed her on the spot and in 1936 at 19, she had her first solo record.

By the age of 22, she had sold more than a million records.  However, it was during World War II that her reputation was made.  She frequently sang to the troops at morale-boosting concerts, becoming known as “The Forces’ Sweetheart.”

Vera Lynn at 22 years of age

Wartime Service

Vera’s wartime contribution began when she would sing to people using London’s tube- station platform shelters during air raids.  Between 1937 and 1940, she also toured with the aristocrat of British dance bands, Bert Ambrose, as part of the Ambrose Octet.  The group appeared in broadcasts for the BBC and for Radio Luxembourg prior to her leaving Ambrose in 1941.  She would then spend countless visits servicing the war effort wherever she could.

Lynn sings at a munitions factory in wartime Britain, early 1941.

Vera Lynn serving tea to servicemen stationed in Trafalgar Square on June 4, 1942

Lynn is forever best known for the popular song “We’ll Meet Again” which she first recorded in 1939 and later again in 1953 accompanied by servicemen from the British Armed Forces. The nostalgic lyrics (“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day”) were very popular during the war and made the song one of its emblematic hits.

Vera Lynn sings to troops in 1940.
Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty

British singer Vera Lynn receives a grand welcome as she arrives in Trafalgar Square, London,
to sing during the ‘Salvage Week’ campaign in 1943.
Getty Images

Her continuing popularity was ensured by the success of her radio program “Sincerely Yours,” which began with messages to British troops serving abroad.  In continuing to perform songs most requested by the soldiers, her other great wartime hit was “The White Cliffs of Dover” in 1943.  

Vera Lynn’s portrait would be later projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover
to celebrate her 100th birthday and namesake song of WWII.

The Front Lines

During the war years, Vera Lynn traveled world-wide to entertain troops. Joining the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), she toured  Egypt, India and Burma, for three months in early 1944, giving outdoor concerts for British troops.

Vera Lynn is pictured with troops in Burma, 1944.
She received a rapturous reception from soldiers fighting there.

Vera Lynn, already a celebrity, had just turned 27 when she set out from the Dorset coast with her pianist, Len Edwards, and a small piano in March 1944.

Frederick Weedman, who heard her in Burma, remembered: ‘The men of the 4th Brigade were divided in their opinion of her voice — but not after that hot, steamy evening in 1944 in the Burmese jungle, when we stood in our hundreds and watched a tall, fair-haired girl walk on to a makeshift stage and stand by an old piano.  It was Vera Lynn. She sang half a dozen songs in a strong, clear voice.

Vera recalled it ‘was impossible for me to be impassive’ when she saw ‘happiness, hope and sadness move across their faces and I felt those emotions, too.’

‘She tried to leave the stage but the men were clapping and cheering. She sang three more songs but still they went on cheering. She started to sing again but whenever she tried to stop, they yelled the name of another tune. ‘She sang, until her voice had become a croak and was the only star we ever saw in the jungle.’

Lance Corporal Lindsay wrote from Burma to his sister in London: ‘We went mad. Never have I yelled, bellowed, hollered or clapped so much before . . . we gave her an ovation, all right.  She couldn’t sing for ten minutes and she cried, too.

‘Broken hand or not, I made it clap . . . I saw blokes crying with joy at seeing our own Vera.’

Vera living on tour with the troops in the most modest circumstances.

In Burma itself, the intense heat was punishing and young Vera also had to cope with insects, humidity, monsoons, lack of facilities and sheer exhaustion.

Vera Lynn visiting with British servicemen wounded in World War II

Vera Lynn in her ENSA uniform. She arrived back in Britain on D-Day
from what she said was a life shaping experience in Burma

In March 1944, she went to Shamshernagar airfield in Bengalto to entertain the troops before the Battle of Kohima.  Her host and lifelong friend Captain Bernard Holden  recalled “her courage and her contribution to morale.”  In 1985, she received the  Burma Star for entertaining British guerrilla units in Japanese-occupied Burma.

She remained popular following the war, appearing on radio and television in the United Kingdom and the United States, and recording her hits.

Lynn devoted much time and energy to charity work connected with ex-servicemen, and was held in great affection by Second World War veterans.  In 2000, she was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century.

Vera Lynn with ex-servicemen at a post-war garden party in 1950 at Buckingham Palace.

Vera Lynn helped mark the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain at the age of 93.
10 August 2010

Vera Lynn continued all her life to dedicate herself to veterans.  Her daughter said fan letters continued to arrive from all over the world, sometimes simply addressed to “Vera Lynn, UK.”

 

20 March 1917  – 18 June 2020

In Devoted Inspiration
To Troops During WWII

A Voice of Hope to Wartime Britain

 

 

 

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When Needed Most

Allied invasion of Normandy
June 6, 1944
(U.S. Air Force Photo -Illustration/Dennis Rogers)

 

A Staggering Scale

At 10:00 pm on 5 June 1944, Allied troops began departing from British shores on the English Channel in launching a successful invasion of German-occupied western Europe.  Five assault groups set sail under darkness in an armada of nearly 7,000 vessels with 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944, along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.  Five beaches in northern France code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold were the main targets for the landing of this great magnitude of troops by sea.

 

U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander,
talks with men of the 101st Airborne Division at the Royal Air Force base
Greenham Common, England
June 6, 1944, before joining the D-Day invasion. (U.S. ARMY)

A column of landing craft proceed to Utah Beach on D-day.
Credit: © IWM (HU 102348)

U.S. Soldiers departing LCVP landing craft approach Utah Beach
6 June 1944

After anchoring off the coast of France for a couple of hours, U.S. troops landed on Omaha and Utah beaches near 6:30 am.  About an hour later, Canadian forces landed at Juno, and British troops at Gold and Sword.

U.S. troops faced stiff German resistance at Omaha beach in particular and were pinned down for several hours, suffering heavy losses.

Some of the first assault troops to hit the beachhead hide behind enemy obstacles to fire on the Germans, others follow the first tanks plunging through water towards the Normandy shore
June 6, 1944

German obstacles on Omaha Beach, as vehicles land
D-Day, 6 June 1944

HMS Warspite shown shelling German invasion coast position in protecting landing troops
June 6, 1944
AP credit

Allied ships are attacked by German fighters as the largest massed assault of World War II begins to land men and supplies on the coast of northern France
June 6, 1944

German prisoners escorted along one of the Gold area beaches on D-Day.
Credit: © IWM (B 5257)

 

D-DAY Strategy

Despite involving a large number of troops, keeping D-day secret was vital to the success of the operation.  A disinformation campaign had led the Germans to believe that Operation Fortitude was the main plan for the allies to invade the continent, via a two-pronged attack involving Norway and Calais.  Even once the D-Day landings began, German commanders were convinced they were just a diversionary tactic before the real invasion.

The public had also been kept in the dark until the operation had begun. On D-Day, at 9:00 am, Gen Dwight Eisenhower issued a communique announcing the invasion had commenced. Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons in London at noon: “So far, the commanders who are engaged, report that everything is proceeding according to plan.  And what a plan!”

At 9:00 pm, King George VI addressed the British public in a broadcast, describing the operation as a “fight to win the final victory for the good cause.”  By midnight the allied forces had full control of the beaches, and the push into occupied France was under way.

 

U.S. assault troops carrying equipment onto Utah Beach following
deployment from landing craft seen in the background
6 June 1944

US Army soldiers of the 16th Infantry Regiment, wounded while storming Omaha Beach,
wait by the chalk cliffs for evacuation to a field hospital for treatment.
D-Day, Normandy, France,
06 June 1944

Once on shore, Pointe du Hoc was a 100-foot cliff overlooking the English Channel and the highest p0int between the American sector landings at Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east.  As part of the Atlantic wall fortifications, the prominent cliff top was heavily fortified by the Germans.  Assigned the task to scale and capture this highly strategic point during the early morning hours of D-Day, 6 June 1944 were the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions in their successful mission.

The careful and meticulous planning of the Normandy invasion determined that key missions required painstakingly accurate execution for the invasion to succeed as planned.  One of those was the capture of Pointe du Hoc which Allied planners named as one of the most dangerous German defensive positions on the Norman coast.

Not without great cost following their actions on Pointe du Hoc on 6-8 June 1944, the Rangers suffered a seventy percent casualty rate.  Less than 75 of the original 225 who came ashore on 6 June were fit for duty.  Of those who served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day, seventy-seven were killed and 152 wounded.

U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling the critical Pointe du Hoc at Normandy landings on D-Day
6 June 1944

Just after midnight on 6 June, aerial bombardment of enemy positions on the Normandy coast had begun. That night, more than 5,300 tons of bombs were dropped.  Special operations troops were parachuted into the country to attack bridges and secure vital infrastructure targets before the landings.  13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day.  Carrier pigeons were additionally used to transmit information about German positions.

American planes flying over Northern France on D-Day
June 6, 1944

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, and air. World War II combat photos.

 

Steep Casualties

U.S. soldiers waded through surf and German gunfire to secure a beachhead during the Allied Invasion, June 4, 1944, on the beaches of Normandy.  On the first day of Operation Overlord, around 4,300 Allied personnel lost their lives serving their country, with thousands more injured or missing, in what would be the largest amphibious invasion ever launched.

By the end of the day, the allies had disembarked more than 135,000 men and 10,000 vehicles on the beaches, and established bridgeheads of varying depths along the Normandy coastline.

 

NORMANDY

 

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe during WWII. Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

 

In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude

 

Sunrise on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France
June 6, 2014
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

 

For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

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D-Day

June 6, 2020

 

 

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In Remembrance

Unwavering Valor

The Old Guard transports a flag-draped casket in full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery
Army Photo

 

Whether at present or years long past, so many of us are families of veterans. Their commitment and service is a legacy to succeeding generations on true values in life… honoring our country and those who serve.  In a sacrifice repeated through time, families send sons and daughters to peacetime duty or periods of war and conflict.

 

Immigrants to these Shores

Statue of Liberty
Liberty Island
New York City, New York
Welcoming those who yearn to be free

 

The origination of our veterans stem from major waves of immigration in native lands around the world in seeking America.  They sought the colonial era of the 1600s, the early 19th century, and the 1880s to 1920 with the dream still in existence.  Many came seeking greater economic opportunity and religious freedom. Others sought solace from war, famine, and oppression.  Their profound memories of gratitude in a new land of freedom are still cherished and relevant so many generations later.  As those sons and daughters have fought and died when the need arose, they are owed eternal devotion for their defense and love of this country.

 

Willingly Have Served

The National Mall
Washington, D.C.

Memorial Day
Arlington National Cemetery

The Unknown Regarded with No Less Honor

“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Arlington National Cemetery

U.S. Joint Military Forces Forever Steadfast

U.S. Armed Forces are comprised of the six military branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and, most recently, Space Force.

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In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude

For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

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God Bless America

Memorial Day
2020

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VE Day’s 75th Anniversary – May 8,1945

The End of World War II in Europe

Parisians march through the Arc de Triomphe waving flags of the Allied Nations to celebrate the end of World War II – May 8, 1945. German military leaders had signed an unconditional surrender in Reims, France, on May 7. (AP Photo)

REIMS, France  — World War II ended in a French schoolhouse 75 years ago when German commanders signed their surrender to Allied forces. Unlike the massive celebrations greeting the momentous news in 1945, today’s surviving veterans quietly marked V-E Day with private memories, confined by a global pandemic, and without usual fanfare of public honor.  Regardless, the world’s undying gratitude for their service and sacrifice remains eternal.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower holds up a V-for-Victory gesture with the two pens used by high ranking German officers in signing the surrender document in Reims, France on May 7, 1945. Official photo taken by T/Sgt. Al Meserlin, Ike’s personal photographer. (AP Photo/Al Meserlin)

General Alfred Jodl (1890 – 1946) Hitler’s military advisor, Controller of German High Command and Chief of the Operations Staff (centre), signs the document of surrender (German Capitulation) of the German armed forces at Reims in General Eisenhower’s headquarters. He is joined by Major Wilhelm Oxenius (left) and Hans Georg von Friedeburg, Admiral of the Fleet (right).
(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union at 2:41 a.m. French time.  It took place in the headquarters of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and was signed for Germany by Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl, new Chief of Staff of the German Army.   The surrender was signed for the Supreme Allied Command by Lt. Gen. Walter Beddel Smith, Chief of Staff for Gen. Eisenhower. Also participants in the signings were Gen. Ivan Susloparov of the Soviet Union and Gen. Francois Sevez for France.

Gen. Eisenhower was not present at the signing, but immediately afterward Gen. Jodl and his fellow delegate Gen. Adm. Hans Georg Friedeburg were received by the supreme commander.   Asked sternly if they understood the surrender terms imposed upon Germany, and whether they intended to carry them out, their response was confirmed.  Elation at the news was tempered by the realization that the war against Japan remained unresolved.

The end of the European warfare, the greatest, bloodiest, and costliest war in human history — claiming at least 40 million casualties on both sides of killed, wounded and captured — resulted after five years, eight months and six days of conflict which circled the globe.

Germany, beginning the war with a ruthless attack upon Poland on September 1, 1939 and following with successive aggression and brutality in concentration camps, later surrendered with an appeal to the victors for mercy toward the German people and armed forces.

After having signed the full surrender, Gen. Jodl requested leave to speak and received leave to do so. “With this signature,” he said in soft-spoken German, “The German people and armed forces are for better or worse delivered into the victors’ hands. “In this war of more than five years, both countries have achieved and suffered more than perhaps any other people in the world.”

On May 8, 1945, President Harry S. Truman addressed the nation that Allied Armies have won unconditional surrender from the German forces on all fronts and the flags of freedom fly over Europe., although the war with Japan remains unresolved. (AP Photo/stf)

President Harry S. Truman smiles happily as he announces to the press the complete victory of the Allies over Germany, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 8, 1945.

 

THE WORLD

People crowd into the street outside the U.S. and British Embassies in Lisbon, Portugal, on VE-Day.
Jubilant crowds celebrated for two days and nights.
May 8, 1945 (AP Photo)

The great bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out over Rome soon after the Associated Press reported peace had come to Europe, while several Allied capitals proclaimed VE holidays, and Tokyo announced continuation of “The Sacred War.”

Many of the world’s cities went wild at the news, and even neutral capitals were bedecked and filled with celebrating crowds. Masses of people gathered in front of loudspeakers and newspaper offices, which were frantically answering inquiries and rolling out extras.

War-scarred London burst into jubilant celebration at the end of the war in Europe, its millions of citizens unable to wait for the government’s V-E Day proclamation. Millions surged into the streets, from Buckingham Palace to the sedate East End. The Picadilly Circus, Whitehall and Westminster areas filled with a laughing, shouting throng. Some old-timers said the scene eclipsed those of the 1918 Armistice.  Pubs were jammed, Champagne was brought up from deep cellars and long-hoarded whisky and gin came out from hiding.  The great bells of Big Ben tolled the hours of the historic day.

In Paris, which lived through four years of German occupation to become a base for Supreme Allied Headquarters, the French government announced a two-day holiday. France had special cause for satisfaction in having staged a comeback and won the right to share in accepting Germany’s surrender.

In Washington, crowds gathered in Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in anticipation of an announcement by President Truman to proclaim Allied V-E Day.

Historic photos capture the joy that erupted throughout Allied countries after Nazi Germany surrendered in the spring of 1945, ending the horror of World War II in Europe.

 

UNITED STATES

Crowds in New York City’s financial district celebrate. VE Day, May 8, 1945

A huge American flag unfurled in New York’s Herald Square on VE Day, May 8, 1945. This 80×160 foot flag was hung from the eighth floor balcony of Macy’s New York department store, covering the façade from 34th and 35th Streets along Broadway. (AP Photo)

General Eisenhower celebrates peace and VE Day in Times Square, New York, NY. 1945

 

FRANCE

A group watches from the top of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe as crowds gather on VE Day May 8, 1945

A spontaneous parade of Parisians marches through the streets of the French capital on May 8, 1945.

 

SOVIET UNION

Moscow’s Red Square, packed with people as fireworks explode around the Kremlin. One man who was there later told Russian media “Strangers kissed each other. I don’t remember such a unity of people as it was on May 9, 1945; we were all one and the same — Russians, Tatars, Uzbeks, and Georgians — we were all united as never before.”

A British sergeant is thrown into the air by a crowd of youngsters in Moscow. The Soviet Union celebrated Victory in Europe one day after most Allied countries, as Germany’s high command signed a second surrender document demanded by Josef Stalin, late on May 8, 1945.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

A packed pickup rolls through London. A witness to the giant party described an infectious atmosphere that “combusted spontaneously” from the smallest to the oldest with revellers passing through the Strand in London, England. May 8, 1945

Churchill waves to crowds in Whitehall on the day he broadcast
to the nation the war against Germany had been won.
8 May 1945 (VE Day)

St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the buildings that survived the wartime blitzes, is shown at night in floodlighting for the first time in nearly six years as a symbol of victory on V-E Day.
London, England,
May 8, 1945. (AP Photo)

Only in the unnatural calm of the European fronts was the news reported to have been taken soberly, by soldiers who had seen the fighting taper off in one sector after another for the past two weeks.

LONDON, England

Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, center, joins the royal family, from left, Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, and Princess Margaret, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, England, on VE Day on May 8, 1945.

In this May 8, 1945 file photo a vast crowd assembles in front of Buckingham Palace, London to cheer Britain’s Royal family as they come out on the balcony, centre, minutes after the official announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II. They are from left: Princess Elizabeth; Queen Elizabeth; King George VI; and Princess Margaret. Nazi commanders signed their surrender to Allied forces in a French schoolhouse 75 years ago this week, ending World War II in Europe and the Holocaust.

A vast crowd assembles in front of Buckingham Palace, London to cheer Britain’s Royal family just minutes after the official announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II. They are from left: Princess Elizabeth; Queen Elizabeth; King George VI; and Princess Margaret. Nazi commanders signed their surrender to Allied forces in ending World War II and the Holocaust.  May 8, 1945

 

“Never in the field of human conflict
was so much owed by so many to so few.”

                                                                     Winston Churchill

 

God Bless America

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A Christmas Truce – 1944

What more profound compassion at Christmas than to enemies in the midst of war

Infantrymen of the US First Army in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest
advance to contact German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, 1944

Christmas 1944

December 24th

Three American soldiers, one badly wounded, were lost in the snow-covered Ardennes forest.  They wandered for three days, unable to find their unit.  If shelter was not found soon, the injured soldier would most likely die.

Lost, cold, and in pain, with the sounds of war exploding everywhere, the thought of returning home to family kept them going.  Eventually stumbling upon a small cabin in the middle of the woods, they knocked on the door.

When Elisabeth Vincken and her 12-year-old son Fritz heard the knock, they were terrified. Elisabeth cracked the door open, shocked to see three enemy soldiers on her doorstep.

Upon viewing the injured man, Frau Vincken’s compassion welcomed them inside.  She had little – a single chicken was all she could produce for the war-weary soldiers – but willingly offered them all she had.  As the chicken roasted in the oven, there was another unexpected knock. Her son opened the door, assuming there were more lost Americans.  The four men standing outside the cottage were not Americans.  They were Germans.

The punishment for harboring enemy soldiers was death.  Elisabeth, fearing for her life, pushed past Fritz and stepped outside.

The German soldiers explained they were lost and hungry and asked for Christmas Eve refuge in her home.  Elisabeth told them they were welcome to share what little food she had but warned she had other “guests.” The German soldiers sternly asked if they were Americans.

Frau Vincken nodded. “Es ist Heiligabend und hier wird nicht geschossen,” she said. “It is the Holy Night and there will be no shooting here.”

She told the German soldiers to leave their weapons outdoors and then invited them inside.  The tension in the air was palpable as the German and American soldiers stared at each other.

What happened next can only be described as a Christmas miracle.

One of the German soldiers, a former medical student, noticed the badly injured American soldier.  The German had compassion towards his enemy and offered to tend his wounds – a simple act of kindness that eased the tension. The American soldiers began to converse using what little German they knew.

Frau Vincken finished preparing supper and motioned for everyone to sit at the table.  As they said grace, the exhausted soldiers forgot about the war – if only for a moment.  Several of the soldiers – both American and German – had tears in their eyes as they ate their humble Christmas dinner. That evening, enemies declared an informal truce as the spirit of Christmas filled Frau Vincken’s tiny home.

The next morning, the German soldiers provided directions to the American front lines – and provided the Americans with a compass.  They shook hands, thanked Frau Vincken for her hospitality, and went their separate ways.

With carnage all around them, the Spirit of Christmas proved to be a more powerful force than the hatred of war.

James C. Roberts
American Veterans Center

Christmas 2019

Christmas wreaths placed on veteran graves in remembrance
Arlington National Cemetery

American forces, far from home, in unending service at Christmas

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Christmas Blessings in Gratitude for the Service of our Military

Past and Present

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U.S. Joint Military Services

GOD BLESS AMERICA

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Pearl Harbor Heroes

From the man who led the evacuation of the USS Arizona to the fighter pilot taking to the skies in pajamas, there were servicemen and civilians who distinguished themselves on one of the darkest days in American military history.  These are but a few of the extraordinary acts of bravery and service.

 

Samuel Fuqua

(Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

Missouri-born Samuel Fuqua had a front row seat to the devastation at Pearl Harbor from aboard the USS Arizona, a battleship heavily bombed during the first wave of the attack. The 42-year-old Lieutenant Commander was having breakfast when the ship’s air raid sirens first sounded at 7:55 a.m.  Immediately rushing to the quarterdeck, he was strafed by enemy fire and incapacitated by a bomb falling mere feet from his position.  Though dazed, Fuqua jumped to his feet upon regaining consciousness to begin directing firefighting operations.  Moments later, he became the Arizona’s senior surviving officer after another bomb detonated the ship’s ammunition magazine, killing more than 1,000 men.  As burned and maimed sailors poured onto the deck, Fuqua ignored gunfire from passing aircraft and calmly led efforts to evacuate his sinking ship.

“I can still see him standing there,” Arizona crewman Edward Wentzlaff later remembered, “ankle deep in water, stub of a cigar in his mouth, cool and efficient, oblivious to the danger about him.”

Fuqua was among the last men to abandon ship. He and two fellow officers then commandeered a boat and braved heavy fire while picking up survivors from the fire-streaked waters. He went on to win the Medal of Honor for his actions at Pearl Harbor, and was later promoted to Rear Admiral upon his retirement from the Navy in 1953.

Peter Tomich

(Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

Around the same time the USS Arizona was being bombed, the training and target ship USS Utah was rocked by two torpedo strikes from Japanese aircraft. The aging vessel soon began to list to one side as water flooded its hull.  Inside the boiler room, Chief Watertender Peter Tomich ordered his crew to abandon ship.

After ensuring his men had escaped their engineering spaces, the Austro-Hungarian immigrant and World War 1 veteran, returned to his post and single-handedly secured the boilers, preventing a potential explosion that would have claimed many lives.  The USS Utah then proceeded to roll over and sank just minutes later. Fifty-eight men—Tomich among them—went down with the ship. The 48-year-old was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his life-saving actions but, in an unusual twist, the Navy was unable to locate any family members.  His award went unclaimed for nearly 65 years until 2006, when finally presented to a relative during a ceremony in Split, Croatia.

George Welch and Kenneth Taylor

Taylor (left) and Welch
(Credit: U.S. Air Force)

Army Air Corps pilots George Welch and Kenneth Taylor spent the evening before Pearl Harbor’s attack attending a formal dance and playing poker until the wee hours of the morning.  Still sleeping, they were awakened at 8 a.m. by the sound of exploding bombs and machine gun fire.  Speeding to Haleiwa airfield, they dodged strafing Japanese planes along the way.  Just minutes later, they became the first American pilots to get airborne after taking off in their P-40 fighters.

Welch and Taylor went on to wage a lonely battle against hundreds of enemy planes.  They would land at Wheeler airfield at one point and had their ammunition replenished before rejoining the fray.  By the time the attack ended, the Second Lieutenants had shot down at least six fighters and bombers between them.  Both were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their high flying exploits, and Taylor was given a Purple Heart for a shrapnel wound received when his P-40 was struck by machine gun fire.

Doris Miller

(Credit: U.S. Navy)

Doris Miller’s race usually relegated him to the role of cook and laundry attendant aboard the USS West Virginia, but when the ship was struck by multiple bombs and torpedoes on December 7th, he became one of its most vital crewmembers.  Miller had rushed to his battle station amidship as soon as the shooting started.  Finding it destroyed, the amateur boxer sprinted to the quarterdeck and used his hulking frame to help move the injured.  Miller was among the men who carried the ship’s mortally wounded skipper to safety, and then helped pass ammunition to the crews of two .50 caliber machine guns.

Despite having no weapons training, he eventually manned one of the weapons himself and began blasting away at the Japanese fighters swarming around the ship. “It wasn’t hard,” he later remembered. “I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine…”

Miller continued to operate the gun for some 15 minutes until ordered to abandon ship.  His actions would earn him the Navy Cross—the first ever presented to an African American—and he was widely hailed as a war hero in the black press.  He later toured the country promoting war bonds before being reassigned to the escort carrier Liscome Bay.  Sadly, Miller was among the 646 crewmen killed when the ship was torpedoed and sunk in 1943.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller
at ceremony on board USS Enterprise (CV-6)
Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942

John Finn

John Finn signs autographs at the opening ceremony for the Medal of Honor Society Convention
September 15, 2009.
(Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Chief Petty Officer John Finn was still in bed when Japanese fighter planes descended on his post at the Kaneohe Bay air station some 15 miles from Pearl Harbor.  After throwing on clothes and driving to the base, he commandeered a .30 caliber machine gun and dragged it to an open area with a clear view of the sky.  For the next two-and-a-half hours, Finn kept up a near-constant rate of fire against the strafing hordes of Zeroes, and may have been responsible for destroying at least one plane.

“I can’t honestly say I hit any,” he remembered in 2001. “But I shot at every damn plane I could see.”  Finn suffered more than 20 wounds from bullets and shrapnel during the battle. One shot left him with a broken foot; another completely incapacitated his left arm. He received medical aid after the attack ended but returned to duty that same day to assist in arming American planes.  Finn’s machine gun heroics won him the Medal of Honor—the only one awarded specifically for a combat action during Pearl Harbor. He would go on to survive the war and live to the age of 100.

George Walters

Damage to the USS Pennsylvania following the Pearl Harbor attack
Credit U.S. Naval Historical Center

One of the many civilians to win plaudits during the Pearl Harbor attack, George Walters was a dockyard worker who manned a massive rolling crane positioned alongside the dry-docked battleship USS Pennsylvania. When the yard came under fire during the early stages of the raid, he valiantly moved his crane back and forth on its track, effectively shielding Pennsylvania from low flying dive-bombers and fighters. Walters even tried to use the crane’s boom to swat the enemy planes out of the sky.

The gunners on the USS Pennsylvania initially considered the dockworker a nuisance, but soon realized his 50-foot-high cab gave him an excellent view of incoming aircraft. Using the movements of the crane arm as a guide, they were able to return fire against the enemy to devastating effect. Walters continued his suicidal maneuvers until a Japanese bomb exploded on the dock and sent him to the hospital with a concussion. His actions may have helped save Pennsylvania from destruction, but his story went largely untold until 1957, when it appeared in author Walter Lord’s famous book Day of Infamy.

Edwin Hill

(Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

The USS Nevada was the only ship from Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row to make a break for the open ocean but its great escape might never have happened, if not for the efforts of 47-year-old Chief Boatswain Edwin Hill.  Shortly after the battle began, Hill and a small crew braved heavy fire and strafing to go ashore and cut the moorings holding the Nevada to the quay at Ford Island.  He then dove into the oil-stained water and swam back to his ship to continue the fight.  As Hill directed an ammunition train, the ship ran a gauntlet of enemy fire and tried to steam out of the harbor.  The lone battleship was an obvious target, however, and after taking repeated hits from Japanese dive-bombers, its Captain opted to beach his vessel to avoid bottling up the rest of the fleet.

Chief Hill was soon called into action a final time. He was on the forecastle working to drop anchor when a group Japanese planes rained bombs on the deck, blowing his body off the ship and killing him instantly.  Hill was later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the USS Nevada survived Pearl Harbor to participate in the Normandy invasion in 1944.

Phil Rasmussen

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Phil Rasmussen was one of the handful of American pilots who managed to take to the skies during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Like many others, the 23-year-old Second Lieutenant was still sleeping when his post at Wheeler Field was bombed.  Rushing outside,  he found an undamaged P-36 fighter sitting on the runway.  Still clad in a pair of purple pajamas, Rasmussen took off and joined three other pilots in a dogfight against 11 Japanese aircraft.

Rasmussen’s plane was slower and less maneuverable than the enemy Zeroes but he quickly managed to shoot one of them down.  He then crippled another plane before two Japanese pilots raked his P-36 with machine gun and cannon fire, leaving behind some 500 bullet holes.  Another Zero just narrowly missed when it tried to ram him. Rasmussen’s canopy was blown off and he briefly lost control, but he managed to right his damaged plane and make a miraculous landing without brakes, rudders or a tail wheel.  The young pilot was later awarded a Silver Star for his bravery and  served in the Air Force for another 24 years, retiring as a Colonel.

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HISTORY: Pearl Harbor

gettyimages-615318410-2

gettyimages-2660140-2

Kamikaze-GettyImages-615309728

History.com

In Service and Sacrifice

The very soul of a nation is its heroes”

USN Pearl Harbor Survivor, Bill Johnson (January 20, 2004)
Wall of Casualties – USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
To the memory of gallant men and their shipmates
here entombed who gave their lives in action
December 7, 1941
(U.S. Navy Photo)

 

In Eternal Remembrance

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Valor Delayed – 73 Years

 

Lt. Garlin Murl Conner

Second-most Decorated WWII Soldier

Did Not Receive the Medal of Honor

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.

Lt. General Alexander M. Patch awards 1st Lieutenant G. Murl Conner
the Distinguished Service Cross, Feb. 10, 1945 for extraordinary heroism in action
on January 24, 1945 near Houssen, France.
(photo credit: courtesy photo, army.mil)

Despite backing from congressmen, senators, military veterans and historians, he never received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military distinction, awarded for life-risking acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

A federal judge in Kentucky would end his widow’s 22-year quest to see that her husband received the medal.

The Medal of Honor
America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration
awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor.

U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell, in an 11-page opinion issued March 12, 2014, had said a technicality prevented Pauline Conner of Albany, KY from continuing her campaign on behalf of her husband, who died in 1998.  Russell concluded that Pauline Conner waited too long to present new evidence to the U.S. Army Board of Correction of Military Records, which rejected her bid to alter her husband’s service record.

Russell praised Conner’s “extraordinary courage and patriotic service,” but said there was nothing he could do for the family.

“Dismissing this claim as required by technical limitations in no way diminishes Lt. Conner’s exemplary service and sacrifice,” Russell wrote.

Richard Chilton, a former Green Beret and amateur military historian who had researched Conner’s service, said Conner deserved the Medal of Honor. Chilton pledged to get resolutions from lawmakers and veterans’ groups in all 50 states in an attempt to get Congress to act on Conner’s behalf.

“I want to make sure they can’t walk away from this,” Chilton told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “He’s a man worthy of this.”

Pauline Conner, widow of 1st Lt Gavin Murl Conner, holds photo of her husband
the 2nd most decorated soldier of WWII

Roughly 3,400 people have received the Medal of Honor since its creation in 1861, including actor Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II.

Conner served with the 3rd Infantry Division, which fought in France and Europe in 1945. His citation for the Distinguished Service Cross states that on Jan. 24, 1945, near Houssen, France, he slipped away from a military hospital with a hip wound to rejoin his unit rather than return home to Kentucky. He would unreel a telephone wire and plunged into a shallow ditch in front of the battle line to direct multiple rounds of fire for three hours, as German troops continued their offensive with sometimes getting within five yards of Conner’s position.

The board had first rejected Conner’s application in 1997 on its merits and turned away an appeal in June 2000, saying at the time no new evidence warranted a hearing or a new decoration despite more than a dozen letters of support for Conner.

In the years that followed, lawmakers in Kentucky, Tennessee and three other states passed resolutions backing the effort to see Conner receive the Medal of Honor. After Chilton found three eyewitness accounts to Conner’s deeds in 2006, Pauline Conner resubmitted the case to the board in 2008 – two years after the statute of limitations expired.

A bipartisan group of current and former members of Congress backed Conner’s application in the past, including retired Sen. Bob Dole, a Kansas Republican and World War II veteran; retired Sen. Wendell Ford, a Democrat from Kentucky; current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; and Whitfield, who represents Conner’s home town near the Tennessee line. Noted World War II historian Steven Ambrose, who died in 2002, wrote in November 2000 to support Conner’s application, saying his actions were “far above the call of duty.”

The review board remained unmoved by Conner’s submission.

“The most recent information received 22 December 2008 is not new evidence and does not warrant granting an exception to the above cited regulation and a formal hearing,” wrote Conrad V. Meyer, the director of the Army Board for Correction of Military Records on Feb. 9, 2009.

The military can also conduct a review at the behest of Congress.

Conner’s commander in World War II, retired Maj. Gen. Lloyd B. Ramsey of Salem, Va., filed an affidavit saying Conner’s work, while injured, provided valuable intelligence.

“There is no doubt that Lt. Conner should have been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions,” Ramsey wrote. “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve ever had the privilege of commanding.”

Conner’s fellow soldiers also filed affidavits crediting Conner with helping not only save the lives of fellow soldiers but being key to defeating the Germans in the battle.

Retired Lt. Harold Wigetman, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, said that between the artillery strikes Conner called in and spray from his own machine gun, he killed at least 50 German soldiers and wounded twice as many.

“His heroic and entirely voluntary act saved our battalion,” Wigetman wrote.  “If he hadn’t done what he did, we would have had to fight for our lives.”

First published March 12, 2014 / AP

WASHINGTON — Garlin “Murl” Conner never wavered under fire during his 28 consecutive months of combat in North Africa and Europe. In the two decades since Conner’s death, his family never wavered in their quest for the recognition that they knew he deserved – the Medal of Honor.

On June 26, 2018, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the nation’s highest military honor to Conner, explaining how he might not have been an imposing figure by stature but his bravery on battlefields during World War II made him larger than life.

Medal of Honor posthumously presented to 1st Lt Garlin Murl Conner’s widow, Pauline, in a White House ceremony
June 26, 2019

“Today, we pay tribute to this Kentucky farm boy who stared down evil with the strength of a warrior and the heart of a true hero,” the president said before presenting the Medal of Honor to Conner’s widow, Pauline. “Murl was indeed a giant in his daring, in his devotion and in his duty.”

Garlin Murl Conner and wife Pauline
Courtesy of Pauline Connor Collection

Conner stood five feet, six inches tall and weighed about 120 pounds, but soldiers who served with the first lieutenant described him as fearless.

Conner had already received three of his four Silver Stars for risking his life to save the men with whom he served when his unit – 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment – found itself facing down some 600 German infantrymen and six Panzer Mark VI Tiger tanks near the town of Houssen, France.

It was the morning of Jan. 24, 1945 and the German army was launching desperate attacks on American formations in the wake of its defeat in the Battle of Bulge.

Conner, his battalion’s intelligence officer, could see his unit was in danger of being overrun and took it upon himself to ensure U.S. artillery was hitting the German positions not entirely visible from behind the front lines.

The soldier – already wounded in his hip from sniper fire in an earlier fight – grabbed a telephone, unspooling the wire that connected it to his commander’s telephone, and dashed 400 yards forward, passing his battalion’s defensive position. Ignoring warnings from soldiers around him, Conner continued another 30 yards past the line, maneuvering through a field of artillery fire before diving into a snowy, shallow ditch from where he could observe the enemy formation, according to recounts of the battle.

With only the telephone and his submachine gun, Conner spent the next three hours laying in that ditch, directing American artillery fire as swarms of German soldiers moved toward his battalion, according to his Medal of Honor citation. When his position was eventually spotted by the German soldiers closing within some 10 yards of him, Conner remained calm. He called in fire on his own position, “having resolved to die to stall the enemy advance,” fearing if the Germans near him moved forward they would decimate the U.S. soldiers behind him, according to the citation.

“By his incredible heroism and disregard for his own life, Conner stopped the enemy advance,” the citation reads. “The artillery he expertly directed under constant enemy fire killed approximately 50 German soldiers and wounded at least 100 more, thus preventing heavy casualties in his battalion.”

“Those people who were with him, many of them say it was the single bravest act they’d ever seen,” Trump said of Conner’s actions that day for which he was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. “Somehow Lt. Conner survived the attack.”

Pauline Conner, 89, beamed Tuesday as Trump upgraded the award. She was helped onto the stage at the front of the White House’s East Room to receive the honor that she had fought to attain for her husband for 22 years. In attendance was a crowd of U.S. officials, friends and family members including her son Paul, her five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Pauline Conner Accepts MOH for her husband 1st Lt Garlin Murl Conner in a White House Ceremony
June 26, 2018

It was a moment Pauline Conner never thought would come.

“After all these years it really is and truly is an honor,” Conner said Monday at the Pentagon. “I had really and truly given up on it. I just didn’t think it would ever happen. But he has a [combat] record that speaks for itself. I don’t have to tell it.”

Conner’s Army record earned him decorations in savage battles between October 1942 and March 1945 as his 3rd Infantry Division unit pushed from Morocco, across Tunisia into Italy, across France and into Germany.

The Medal of Honor raises Conner into the ranks of the highest-decorated soldiers in the Army’s history, according to Erik Villard, a historian with the Army’s Center for Military History.

His actions earned him the respect of his fellow soldiers and of his commanders, who in 1944 granted him a battlefield commission from technical sergeant to second lieutenant.

Lloyd Ramsey, Conner’s battalion commander who would rise to major general, wrote Conner was the best combat soldier he had ever observed in action.

“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote after the war. Conner was “always willing to do more than his part.”

But people who knew Conner after he left the Army knew little of the small-town Kentucky farmer’s battlefield exploits. He rarely, if ever, spoke of his service because he was concerned it could come across as bragging, said Pauline Conner. He instead chose to tell people who inquired about his time in combat that he’d left those memories across the Atlantic Ocean, she said.

The Conner family’s quest to see Murl Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for combat valor, upgraded to the Medal of Honor, launched a struggle that would last the next 22 years through battles with the Army’s awards branch and eventually in courtrooms. Luther Conner said the family had finally found some closure with Trump’s upgrade of Murl Conner’s award, 20 years after his death at the age of 79.

“We were quite sure from the outset,” Luther said about his cousin’s deserving a Medal of Honor. “You could read the account. There was just no doubt he was deserving of it. That’s separating any emotion or family interest.”

Trump agreed, saying his decision to approve the upgrade was easy.

“He couldn’t stop [fighting] because he loved our country and he fought with everything he had to stop the Nazi menace,” the president said. “ We will always be grateful to God for giving us heroes like Murl.”

Pauline Conner said her only wish was that her late husband had lived long enough to receive his Medal of Honor himself.  “He would feel highly honored,” she said.

Stars and Stripes

 

In Grateful Appreciation of WWII Service and Valor

Veterans Day

2019

God Bless America

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Our Enduring Anthem of 1814

The Star-Spangled Banner

U.S. Flag flown over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812

On September 13, 1814, the lyrics to our national anthem were penned by Francis Scott Key.  An American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Georgetown and Washington, D.C., he was inspired by witnessing the sight of our flag, still waving at dawn, in the aftermath of British bombardment on Ft. McHenry.

Quickly published on September 21 1814, the lyrics were adapted to music and became known as the “The Star Spangled Banner.”  More than a century later, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and later by Congressional resolution in 1931, to be signed by President Herbert Hoover.

Hand-written copy of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner
Housed at the Library of Congress

Since its inception, there have been many poignant and patriotic renditions performed over the years, both nationwide and around the world.

In 2015, over 1,000 high-school choir students sang the U.S. national anthem during their Kentucky conference.  They gathered on balconies in the lobby of their high-rise hotel as below an appreciative audience listened enthralled.  The students repeat their touching performance each year.

Then there’s 96 year old WWII veteran, Pete DuPré, performing his stirring rendition to millions of admiring fans, during the Women’s soccer match in Harrison, NJ, on Memorial Day, 2019.

Pete DuPre’ WWII US Army Veteran

AN INCOMPARABLE GENERATION

Women’s soccer match between U.S. and Mexico
Harrison, New Jersey
May 28, 2019

History of Independence Day

On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music.  One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells, and fireworks.

243rd Anniversary

1776 – 2019

4th of July fireworks
Washington D.C.

God Bless America

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Inconceivable Courage – June 6, 1944

Allied invasion of Normandy
June 6, 1944
(U.S. Air Force Photo -Illustration/Dennis Rogers)

Almighty God: Our sons and the pride of our Nation this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

                                                                                                           President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Address to the Nation
June 6, 1944

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At 10:00 pm on 5 June 1944, Allied troops would begin departing from British shores on the English Channel to launch a successful invasion of German-occupied western Europe.  Five assault groups set sail under darkness in an armada of nearly 7,000 vessels with 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944, along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.  Five beaches in northern France code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold were the main targets for the landing of this great magnitude of troops by sea.

U.S. assault troops in LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach
6 June 1944

After anchoring off the coast of France for a couple of hours, US troops landed on Omaha and Utah beaches at about 6:30 am.  About an hour later, Canadian forces landed at Juno, and British troops at Gold and Sword.

U.S. troops faced stiff German resistance at Omaha beach in particular and were pinned down for several hours, suffering heavy losses.

U.S. Soldiers departing LCVP landing craft approach Utah Beach
6 June 1944

Despite involving a large number of troops, keeping D-day secret was vital to the success of the operation.  A disinformation campaign had led the Germans to believe that Operation Fortitude was the main plan for the allies to invade the continent, via a two-pronged attack involving Norway and Calais.  Even once the D-Day landings began, German commanders were convinced they were just a diversionary tactic before the real invasion.

U.S. assault troops carrying equipment onto Utah Beach following
deployment from landing craft seen in the background
6 June 1944

Just after midnight on 6 June, aerial bombardment of enemy positions on the Normandy coast had begun. That night, more than 5,300 tons of bombs were dropped. Special operations troops were parachuted into the country to attack bridges and secure vital infrastructure targets before the landings. Information was also transmitted about German positions via carrier pigeons.

U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling Pointe du Hoc at Normandy landings on D-Day
6 June 1944

The public had also been kept in the dark until the operation had begun. On D-Day, at 9:00 am, Gen Dwight Eisenhower issued a communique announcing the invasion had begun. Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons in London at noon: “So far the commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan.  And what a plan!”

At 9:00 pm, King George VI addressed the British public in a broadcast, describing the operation as a “fight to win the final victory for the good cause.”  By midnight the allied forces had full control of the beaches, and the push into occupied France was under way.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, talks with men of 101st Airborne Division
Royal Air Force base in Greenham Common, England
June 6, 1944, before joining the D-Day invasion. (U.S. ARMY)

13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day.

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, air, World War II combat photos.

By the end of the day, the allies had disembarked more than 135,000 men and 10,000 vehicles on the beaches, and established bridgeheads of varying depths along the Normandy coastline. This came at a cost of 4,400 allied troops killed, with thousands more injured or missing.

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe during WWII. Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

 

NORMANDY

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For Those Recognized To All

 

 

And Those Only Known To One

 

 

 “Lord, where did we get such men?”

 

Veterans and dignitaries gather for D-Day service at Bayeux cathedral in France. June 6, 2014
Photograph: Reuters

 

In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude

 

Sunrise on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France
June 6, 2014
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

 

For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

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“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

John F. Kennedy

 

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75th Anniversary of D-Day

June 6, 2019

 

 

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A Rare Original “D-Day Clicker” Found

 

A rare D-Day “clicker” security device used by British and American Paratroopers
landing on Normandy during the evening of June 5 and early hours of June 6, 1944.
Located in Birmingham in time to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in tribute.
Photo courtesy of ACME Whistles, manufacturer in WWII

 

In a desperate bid to retrieve a missing part of history from June 6, 1944, a campaign was launched to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and the veterans who served and were likely saved by it.  A top secret security device used by British and American paratroopers in evading German forces behind enemy lines, an original “clicker” had not been seen since WWII.  Upon parachuting into Normandy in 1944, paratroopers were ordered to use the device only for the initial 24 hour period and discard thereafter to prevent falling into German hands.

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ACME Whistles News, Military (UK)

How We Found The Lost ACME Clicker

Earlier this month we launched a campaign to find the “Lost D-Day Clickers” produced by ACME Whistles for use by the 101st American Airborne Division in June 1944.  Their purpose at the time of manufacture was kept top secret but later became evident that these clickers, which we produced in complete secrecy, were a vital piece of survival equipment for the heroic paratroopers involved in the famous D-Day Landings during World War II.

We have been delighted with the incredible coverage that the “Search For The Lost Clickers” campaign has had and we’d like to take a moment here to say a very sincere Thank You to everyone who helped to spread the word about the campaign. We even had the opportunity to appear on BBC News.

As a result of the campaign’s coverage, we are overjoyed to be able to reveal that we have been successful in our attempts to locate one of these lost pieces of significant military history.  To our amazement, we found a clicker located in Birmingham, just a short drive from the ACME Whistles factory!

The clicker was found by Diarmid and Liz who discovered it amongst the collection of military items kept by Liz’s father, Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond (1906 -1997).  Speaking about the significant find, they said: “Whilst sorting through Liz’s father’s collections, we came across the clicker and realised what it was.  However, until we read the news about ACME’s ‘Search for the Lost Clickers’ – we hadn’t realised how rare they were,” said Diarmid.  “It’s great to help save this little part of history for others to enjoy.

After investigation of other items from the same period in Geoffrey’s collections, Liz and her family were able to place their father in the Normandy region at the time of the D-Day Landings – thanks to notes and memoirs he wrote during the war.  Although there is no direct reference to the clicker within his writings, or any indication of how it came into his possession, it clearly indicates Geoffrey arrived in Normandy and was working on the vehicle staging areas during that time.

WWII Normandy clicker and artifacts of Capt Geoffrey Kemp Bond (UK)

Our objective at the start of this campaign was to honor the memories of all the brave heroes who fought in World War II as part of the D-Day 75 commemorations by attempting to preserve an extremely rare piece of D-Day history.  Thanks to Diarmid and Liz reading about our campaign and reaching out to us, we are now extremely proud to be able to say that one of the few remaining original clickers has found its way back to its factory birthplace and is now part of an ACME Whistles display at our headquarters in Birmingham.

“During the war, the order to produce 7000 clickers would have been Top Secret, so we wouldn’t have been allowed to keep a clicker even if we had wanted to. Therefore, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we put out a search around the world from Europe to America to try and find an original clicker to ensure this part of D-Day history could be kept.  Little did we know that we’d find one so close to the factory in Birmingham!”

Simon Topman, Managing Director of ACME Whistles

Simon Topman, Managing Director of ACME Whistles

 

“My father was an avid collector and interested in history.  Stamps were his thing but keeping these military items would have appealed with the view of saving a piece of history.   I think the clicker now being displayed back at the factory where it was made would have really put a smile on his face.”

Liz, Daughter of Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond  (1906 – 1997)

 

Acme 470 clicker used during the D-Day landings by British and American paratroopers in 1944,
as a means of communicating with allied troops.

Story of Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond  (1906-1997)

Geoffrey Kemp Bond was a schoolmaster at the Royal Masonic Junior School, Bushey, Watford, Hertfordshire prior to being called up for service and went into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and reported to the Hillsea Barracks, Portsmouth as Private 10583753 in the Spring of 1942.  He was originally due to be called up in 1941 but unfortunately broke his ankle very badly playing football with the schoolboys and when call-up did come, which would have been for the North Africa campaign, he was deferred for another year. When he did join up he was amongst the oldest of the recruits and from March to May went to various companies and training camps including Woollaton Park, Nottingham.

In July 1942 he was sent to Chilwell where the job he was given was “chasing” i.e. finding spares and items needed urgently by Military Transport.  This is where he gained a wide-ranging knowledge of all the vehicles being built and developed.  He then applied for a commission and was transferred to Bicester. There he was trained in all aspects of ordnance procedures – organisation – branches – paperwork and weapons and mock attacks and so on.  He passed and was sent to Officer Training School at Repton where he received his commission as a Lieutenant.

He was allocated to Armoured Fighting Vehicle Park divided into A tracked vehicles and B wheeled vehicles – he went into A at this stage and in particular Troop Carriers.  It became clear that they were being prepared for the long awaited ‘Second Front’. During this period, he went to Chilwell, Handforth (Cheshire), Craven Arms (waterproofing course – BOSTIK and high steel plates fitted to the sides of vehicles) and a mock battle practice in North Wales.

WWII Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond (UK)

The unit had all its carriers they expected instinctively to move South, but went to Walton-on-the-Naze for a week (possibly to back up the false rumours of the invasion being in Norway).  They were still there when the invasion in Normandy began.  After this they were embarked onto a tramp ship at Tilbury to go down the Thames Estuary, through the Dover Straits, and across to the landing beaches.  They arrived on about D+8 and he described what he saw as “the biggest jungle of shipping you can imagine”.

They were kept lying at anchor for 2 days before being ordered ashore and told to contact 17 Vehicle Park.  It was late in the day when the company of 6 carriers started the slow crawl up the beach where they lined up and stripped off the BOSTIK to stop the engines overheating.  He had to wait overnight as he had no instructions where the Vehicle Park was, and the Beach Master had gone off for the night. The next morning they were instructed to go to Bayeux and then turn back to the village of Vaux-sur-Aure where 4 Vehicle Park was to be set up in fields with high hedges and wide dry ditches around them. They could hear the battle for Tilly a few miles away. The REME mechanics prepared the carriers immediately and sent them off loaded with infantrymen to the front.

The Vehicle Park was set up in this field with vehicles as they arrived from the beaches parked down one side and the cookhouse and sleeping tents – set up in the wide ditch – down the other side.  They could hear the battle for Tilly getting louder and quieter as it raged on.

Signed book and note to Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond from Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery,
A senior British Army officer nicknamed “Monty” who fought in both WWI and WWII.

Lt Bond’s routine was to go in a Utility vehicle (Tilly for short) and a couple of 3 tonners with drivers to fields near the sea each morning where carriers had been landed and the men drove the carriers back. He observed the Mulberry Harbour being built day by day until the vehicles were able to be driven over pontoon roadways to shore.  He described the traffic as being enormous and that a bypass was being built round Bayeux to move the traffic through quickly.  He remembers seeing Monty in the main street in Bayeux driving past in an open Staff Car, acknowledging everyone’s salutes with a grin!

Bond was then transferred to B Vehicle Park on the other side of Vaux-sur-Aure and found himself in charge of older men who had been called up from driving lorries and trucks to do the same in France.  He was there through to October.

Geoffrey was later sent on behind the army to a vehicle park in Woluwe, Brussels.  By the time of the surrender to mark the end of the war, Bond was a Captain and in charge of a MT depot in Twistringen.  This involved searching out the dumps of German equipment all over the countryside and storing them together in the MT depot. After demobilisation in 1946, Geoffrey returned to teaching and eventually became a headmaster.

Captain Geoffrey Kemp Bond, pictured in the middle of the back row.

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The small metal life-saving tool was used by troops at Normandy in attempt to determine whether among friend or foe in pitch black conditions.  Every paratrooper was issued a clicker and, upon being dropped into darkness on the eve of D-Day, were told to utilize if suspecting someone was near.  (On the night of the invasion, only approximately 15% of paratroopers landed in the right location and clearly at a disadvantage.)  They were instructed to click once and, if heard two clicks in reply, that meant friend. No response meant something else, Simon Topman noted.

General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the American 101st Airborne Division at Normandy, introduced the use of the “cricket” in 1944 for the 101st and would soon discover first hand its value.

I had my pistol in one hand, my ‘cricket’ in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate.  Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side.  I drew my pistol and got all set.  Then I heard the click.  That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.” ~ General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

The “crickets” have since become iconic symbols of the U.S. airborne brotherhood and indeed D-Day itself.

British 470 Acme clicker developed to allow British forces to communicate with Allied troops
Photo – Evening Standard

The Managing Director at ACME Whistles said the quiet noise created by the clickers was the “original sound of D-Day” and was a hugely important tool for soldiers to find allies in unfamiliar conditions.  The ACME Whistles Birmingham-based factory was given the “top secret” task of making 7,000 clickers, six months prior to D-Day.

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, air. World War II combat photos

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This British History once again Marks its Valued Contribution to Allies

in Honoring the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

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A Widow’s Journey to a Husband’s Valor

July 17, 1944

1st Lt. Billie D. Harris USAF and wife Peggy

Peggy and 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris (USAF) were married six weeks prior to his deployment in WWII.  Billie, a fighter pilot, would fly his last mission on July 17, 1944 over Nazi-occupied northern France.  With his plane shot down, he crashed into the woods near a small town in Normandy and did not survive.

Peggy, however, would receive no telegram or a knock on the door, nothing definitive to explain what had happened to her husband during his WWII service.  Initially he was reported missing, then alive and coming home, followed by a letter stating he was killed and buried in one cemetery, and then buried in another.  “Perhaps those weren’t his remains at all” would soon follow.

American planes flying over Northern France 
July, 1944

For Peggy, it was extremely frustrating and painful as she continued to wait for answers. Months turned into years and years into decades.  She wrote repeatedly to her Congressman for answers and the last response in 2005, from the Vice-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, stated Billie was still listed as “missing in action according to the National Archives,” although their records actually reflect “KIA.”

In the repeated absence of answers denied for decades, Billie’s cousin, Alton Harvey, felt closure was owed Peggy at long last and requested Billie’s service records.  In those would be revealed the long awaited history regarding the events and resting place of 1st Lt Billie Harris.  He was buried at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, in the WWII Cemetery and Memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe.  That, however, is not how they first discovered their long-awaited answers and not where the story ends.

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe
Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France

After requesting Billie’s service records in 2005, they were told a woman in France had also placed a request.   Puzzled, Peggy and Alton contacted her and were informed, by a French citizen 61 years following the death of her husband, that 1st Lt. Harris was buried in Normandy.

Peggy was told the small Normandy town of Les Ventes had named their main road “Place Billie D. Harris” where townspeople have marched every year since 1944 to honor in part his sacrifice.  It had been witnessed on that fateful day of Billie’s last mission that he had veered his downed plane into the woods and avoided crashing into the town itself.  Out of great respect and gratitude, he was initially buried in  their cemetery with honor, prior to his later removal to the American cemetery in Normandy.

Les Ventes, Normandy
The town saved by 1st Lt Billie Harris USAF
when veering from the town and crashing in a forest
upon being shot down by Nazi forces, July 17, 1944

Steet sign marking the sacrifice by 1st Lt Billie D. Harris USAF
in saving the town of Les Ventes during WWII
July 17, 1944

Overwhelmed by this news, Peggy was invited to attend a commemoration in honor of her husband by the townspeople.  Welcomed with open arms and gratitude, Peggy finally received details forever sought and needed, and the opportunity to at long last view her husband’s grave.

Peggy S. Harris, a World War II widow,
visits the grave of her husband, 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris for the first time in 2005
after more than 60 years in her attempt to discover his whereabouts
Normandy American Cemetery in France
(Courtesy photo)

1st Lt Billie D. Harris USAF
American Cemetery and Memorial
Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France

Villagers march along the Place Billie D. Harris 3 times a year, in part for commemoration for Billie’s sacrifice, and still place flowers on his grave to this day.  The admiration for her husband is now extended to Peggy and she makes an annual pilgrimage, even visiting the forest of her husband’s crash with the sole remaining witness of that day.

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Peggy and Billie’s love story began in 1942.  Peggy Harris, a native of Vernon, Texas, was working as an electrical instrument mechanic at Altus Air Force Base.   She loved poetry and the opera and would initially hear from 1st Lt. Billie D. Harris, a native of Altus, Oklahoma, via letters sent through his father (her boss and apparent matchmaker).  Although she tried to discourage Billie, their letter campaign commenced and continued until  finally meeting at a hanger at Altus AFB,  they quickly became inseparable.

Although their life together was brief, Peggy would remain forever devoted to her husband and a life-long widow.  “Billie was married to me all of his life, and I choose to be married to him for all of mine.”

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe
Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France

Since learning of her husband’s burial at Normandy, Peggy sends flowers to adorn his grave ten times a year which includes anniversaries, his birthday, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Christmas, among others.  The staff at the American Cemetery believe she is the last surviving WWII widow visiting her husband’s grave, which has been a comfort denied her for a lifetime.

 

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With Deep Respect and Gratitude

For Your Service and Sacrifice

MEMORIAL DAY
2019

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Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
The National Mall, Washington, D.C.

 

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Classified British Life-savers in D-Day Landings

Acme 470 clicker used during 1944 D-Day landings as a means of communicating with allied troops
Photo – Evening Standard

In approaching the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, perhaps there is history, unbeknownst to many, on safeguards instilled for British and American paratroopers prior to 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing at Normandy, June 6, 1944 – along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.

This particular defense was secretly crafted and classified by the British and also used by American forces.  “I had my pistol in one hand, my ‘cricket’ in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate. Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side. I drew my pistol and got all set. Then I heard the click. That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.” ~ General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division claims he introduced the use of the cricket in 1944.  An order was placed with J Hudson and Co. and the factory increased production to meet the large order, producing the quantity with existing stock. Genuine examples exist in brass and nickel.  Initially, the nickel version was utilized and the remainder were made of brass.  Today the numbers that are emerging indicate that for every seven to ten brass versions found, there is one nickel version.   This most likely indicates that nickel was the minority of the order make up  and the brass version was predominant.

The crickets were used during the night of June 5th / 6th 1944 by the young men of the 101st with the intention that they should be discarded thereafter. Many of the men retained their ‘crickets’ long after the war and they have since become iconic symbols of the U.S. airborne brotherhood and indeed D-Day itself.

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Desperate bid to track down life-saving ‘clickers’ British soldiers used in D-Day landings

The Evening Standard (UK)
Olivia Tobin

Manufacturers from ACME Whistles are attempting to trace the “lost clickers” of the Normandy Landings, a life-saving tool of the invasion, to mark the 75th anniversary.  The small metal device was used by troops abroad to try to determine if among friends or foes in pitch black conditions.  Every paratrooper was issued a clicker and upon being dropped into darkness on the eve of D-Day, were told to utilize if suspecting someone was near. (On the night of the invasion, only approximately 15% of paratroopers landed in the right location.) They were instructed to click once and, if heard two clicks in reply, that meant friend.   No response meant something else, Simon Topman noted.

ACME’s Campaign To Find The Lost D-Day Clickers

British 470 Acme clicker developed to allow British forces to communicate with Allied troops
Photo – Evening Standard

On D-Day – June 6, 1944 – World War Two Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France which was code-named Operation ‘Overlord’.  It marked the beginning of a long campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.  By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold on the Normandy beaches and could begin advancing into France.

The Managing Director at ACME Whistles said the quiet noise created by the clickers was the “original sound of D-Day” and was a hugely important tool for soldiers to find allies in unfamiliar conditions.  The ACME Whistles Birmingham-based factory was given the “top secret” task of making 7,000 clickers, six months prior to D-Day.

Simon Topman, Managing Director, of Acme Whistles
Photo – Evening Standard

Paperwork and instructions regarding the task were provided and the plans swiftly rushed away to London afterward.  Because of the secrecy, the factory could not be left with even one clicker and have not seen any since dispatched to soldiers in WWII.

Mr. Topman called the clickers “vital” for soldiers’ safety.  “No one knew of their existence and no German soldiers had them.  They were to be used only in the first 24 hours of landing to stop Germans from making their own or trying to mimic them.   It was only later we discovered their purpose.”

The importance of the devices was also highlighted when the factory creating them was targeted.  The factory itself was bombed when incendiary bombs were dropped and one found its way down the lift shaft, exploding in the cellar.  Whistles were sent raining out into the streets of Birmingham and a third of the factory was demolished, but so essential were its products that it was rebuilt in just four days.

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, air. World War II combat photos

During World War II, ACME played a vital role in the war effort.  There was no commercial trade, as production was given over entirely to making whistles for the war effort and,  of course, Clickers.

Supported by The Royal British Legion and intended to meaningfully mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, ACME Whistles is now appealing to people to try to trace the historical tools.

“It would be absolutely lovely to be able to put one in our showroom maybe, even for a few weeks, and be able to say it’s here.  It’s the original sound of D-Day and the sound of history. We would love to find as many of the original Clickers as possible.”

“Perhaps your great Grandfather was a D-Day veteran and has a box of war medals where it could lie unknown?  Maybe an elderly neighbor is a widow of a D-Day veteran who doesn’t realize the significance of the unassuming Clicker?   We ask that people start seeking them out, to see if they can unearth a lost piece of sound history.”

If you believe you’re in possession of an original ACME Clicker please contact: Ben McFarlane, Ben.McFarlane@ACMEwhistles.co.uk, 0121 554 2124 or feel free to message on Instagram: @ACME_whistles.

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Perhaps this bit of British history will again mark its valued contribution

by Allies in honoring the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

                                                                  ————————–

 

 

 

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The Passing of a Hero

Lt Col. Richard E. Cole
1915 – 2019

Lt Col Richard E Cole (USAAC, USAAF)
Co-Pilot to Lt Col James H Doolittle, attack group leader
Doolittle Tokyo Raid on Japan – April 18, 1942
U.S. response to Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor

The last surviving member of the WWII Doolittle Tokyo Raiders has passed away at 103.  2nd Lt Richard Cole was one of 80 airmen volunteering for the highly classified and dangerous operation, April 18, 1942, in retaliation for the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Lt Col James H. Doolittle, mission leader, would give the airmen every option to withdraw. All remained steadfast in accepting the inherent danger.

Richard Eugene Cole was born on September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. Enlisting in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on November 22, 1940, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Randolph Field, Texas on July 12, 1941.  His first assignment was as a B-25 Mitchell pilot with the 34th Bomb Squadron, 17th Bomb Group at Pendleton, Oregon from July 1941 until selection for the Doolittle mission in February 1942.  Lt. Cole would serve as co-pilot to Lt Col Jimmy Doolittle in the lead crew of 16 modified B-25 medium bombers.

Recruited from the Army Air Force, 17th Bombardment Group, the airmen were among the first to receive B-25 medium bombers, integral for the mission, and some of the finest pilots from 35 states.  Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, aviation legend and attack group leader, would oversee the operation and a maneuver never previously attempted – the unprecedented launching of B-25 bombers from a carrier deck, the USS Hornet, off the coast of Japan.   Following a mere  three weeks of simulated practice, the mission moved forward.   Highly cloaked in secrecy, the destination  remained unknown to the airmen until briefed at sea.

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, USS Hornet skipper, chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle (left), attack group leader of the Army Air Forces. The group of fliers, in coordination between the two services, carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a daring raid on military targets in major Japanese cities. The USS Hornet carried the 16 North American B-25 bombers to within take-off distances of the Japanese Islands.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Passing beneath the Golden Gate on the carrier USS Hornet, as the waves of  thousands cheered their departure, the hearts and hopes of a nation sailed for those sacrificed at Pearl Harbor.  10,000 Navy personnel and a task force of ships would deliver 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crewmen within striking distance of Japan.   In a high-risk launching of bombers in the western Pacific, they were all prime targets for Japanese  forces.

B-25 bombers on the flight deck of the USS Hornet
In route to the mission’s launching point for the Tokyo Raid
One of the escorting cruisers, the USS Nashville, is seen in the distance
(U.S. Navy photo)

Lt. Col. Doolittle’s B-25, the first of 16 bombers taking off from USS Hornet – 18 April 1942
(U.S. Navy photo)

Departure of an Army B-25 from the deck of the USS HORNET in the first U.S. air raid on Japan
Doolittle Tokyo Raid, April 18,1942
National Archives and Records Administration

Ultimately detected by the Japanese, hours prior to takeoff and 200 miles further out to sea than dictated, immediate departure in rough seas was required of the airmen.  What was always a dangerous mission was now possibly suicidal, as it was doubtful they had sufficient fuel to reach China following their raid.  Led by Lt Col James H. Doolittle, 16 B-25 bombers were swiftly launched from the carrier deck of the USS Hornet, weighed down with extra gas and stripped of unnecessary equipment, flying 200 feet above the waves toward the Japanese coast. Their targets were industrial and military installations in Japan with  escape to safe-landing destinations in China. With fuel consumption a major concern, as well as threat of anti-aircraft fire and enemy interception, it was a risky endeavor for safe passage of these men.

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1: 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole (front right), copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lt. Cole, at the age of 98, is one of four surviving Tokyo Raiders.

The raid would claim a sacrifice in return.  Although most of the 80 valiant men would survive, one would  lose his life  in parachuting over China and two by ditching off the China coast.  Three of eight airmen, captured by the Japanese, would die by execution.  A fourth perished in a Japanese prison as the others endured harsh and extreme confinement.  Essentially all  16  bombers  inevitably were  lost.  Of the 15 reaching China, 11 were destroyed  during bail-outs and 1 crash-landing, while 3 were ditched at sea. The remaining, seriously low on fuel, was confiscated on landing in Russia and the crew incarcerated.

Following their raid over Tokyo, without incident, the Doolittle crew’s navigator calculated their fuel would land them 180 miles short of the Chinese coast and their safe landing.  Their savior was a powerful developing storm with winds from east to west which would propel them over China.  They endured the subsequent flying at night in stormy weather until forced to parachute from the plane when their fuel was depleted.  Lt. Cole’s ultimate destination was a tree where he spent the night, hanging twelve feet from the ground, until connecting with his safely landed crew members the following morning.  Spared from detection and capture by the Japanese, they were rescued by Chinese nationalist forces which ultimately connected them with their remaining Raider crews.

In the aftermath of the raid, the Japanese Army were conducting a massive sweep through the eastern coastal provinces of China.  In effort to prevent this part of China from being used again for an attack on Japan. they were searching for surviving American airmen and inflicting retribution on the Chinese who aided them.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan.
(U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center)

Despite the minimal effect of the bombing, the mission proved a definitive success in its reciprocal lesson of vulnerability which took a toll on Imperial Japan and its military strategy. The undertaking by these Raiders, 131 days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, greatly boosted American and Allied morale and would generate strategic benefits for the U.S. in the Battle of Midway with subsequent disaster for the Japanese in the number of ships and pilots lost.

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In long overdue recognition, Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of WWII were honored with  a Congressional Gold Medal in 2014.   Bestowed for their tremendous valor and sacrifice at a pivotal point in our military history, it is one of our nation’s highest awards.  Lt. Richard Cole (below) was the only one of 4 surviving Doolittle Raiders able to witness the legislative signing in an Oval Office ceremony on May 23, 2014.

 

In full circle of Lt Col Richard Cole’s Air Force career, his memorial was held at Randolph Air Base-San Antonio, the site of earning his wings on July 12, 1941, prior to his February, 1942 acceptance in the raid.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, Commander, Air Education and Training Command, addresses the family of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole during a memorial service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas April 18, 2019. Cole was the last surviving Doolittle Raider who took part in the storied World War II raid on Tokyo and was a founding Airman of the USAF Special Operations community.

Memorial service for retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole. Last surviving member of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. Founding Airman of the USAF Special Operations Community. Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Air Base April 18, 2019 (Photo by Tristin English)

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Final Doolittle Raider’s Tradition of Honor
and Legacy of Valor Celebrated at Memorial

Dan Hawkins | Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs | April 19, 2019

The tradition of honor and legacy of valor that defined the life of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole were celebrated during a memorial service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph April 18.

On the day marking the 77th anniversary of the storied World War II Doolittle Tokyo raid and in a hangar surrounded by vintage aircraft linked to the Doolittle Raider’s career, Cole’s family and friends, Air Force senior leaders, and Airmen of all ranks gathered to recognize the accomplishments of the humble warrior from Ohio who answered his nation’s call in America’s darkest days.

Rich Cole, Lt. Col. Cole’s son and a retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. like his father, spoke passionately about his father and his willingness to be a wingman and leader, defending his country with his life.  “All the (Doolittle Raiders) considered they were doing their job and didn’t expect the adoration they received upon returning home,” Rich Cole said. “One of the greatest lessons my dad imparted on us was that being willing to do something impossible and die for your country was an honorable thing.”

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson talked to those gathered about the strategic importance of the Doolittle Raiders and their risky mission to fly, fight, and win in retaliation against Japan for their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor just months earlier.

“(The Raiders) planned the unthinkable,” Wilson said. “To strike Tokyo from an aircraft carrier…with a land-based bomber.  If the 16-ship package had been discovered by Japanese subs, it could have ended what was left of the U.S. fleet in the Pacific.”

Wilson recounted how Cole once described heroes as those “who took risks that brought about important consequences,” but never counted himself among them.

“When America was at its lowest point, it needed a hero,” Wilson said. “(America) found 80 of them who put the country on their back and flew straight into the heart of the enemy.  For this, we will never forget.”

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told the audience several stories centered on Cole and how unassuming he was about his career, which included becoming one of the first air commandos in the U.S. special operations community, viewing his own place in history simply as someone doing their job as part of the big picture.

“(Cole) and the Doolittle Raiders made the impossible possible since 1942 as pioneers of global strike,” Goldfein said. “On that fateful day, Lt Cole and his fellow wingmen cemented the very notion of joint airpower with the clear statement that America’s Air Force can hold any target at risk anywhere, anytime.”

Acknowledging the Cole family’s loss, the chief of staff spoke to Cole’s significant contributions to our nation’s defense and lifetime place in the Air Force family as “one of the rare giants of the Greatest Generation.”

“(Cole’s) legacy will endure because as long as there is a United States Air Force, Airmen will toast him and his fellow Doolittle Raiders,” Goldfein said.  “We are better prepared today to defend our great nation because of him…and because of you.”

American Career Officer

U.S. Army (USAAC, USAAF) 1940-1947
U.S. Air Force 1947-1966
World War II 1941-1945
Cold War 1945-1966
Korean War Theater 1952-1953

Bronze Star
Distinguished Flying Cross (3)
Air Medal (2)

His 1st (of 3) Distinguished Flying Cross Citations reads:

For extraordinary achievement while participating in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland on April 18, 1942.  Captain Cole volunteered for this mission, knowing full well that the chances of survival were extremely remote and executed his part in it with great skill and daring.   This achievement reflects high credit on Captain Cole and the military services.

Image by Air Force Magazine

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Lt Col Richard Cole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery

The Old Guard transports a flag-draped casket in full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery
Army Photo

 

In Profound Gratitude for your Service

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Capturing the Moment

Miracle on the Hudson

US Airways flight 1549, piloted by Captain Chesley Sullenberger
Emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River
January 15, 2009
Credit: Steven Day / AP

America’s military veterans never fail to persevere and inspire in their duty and missions.  How many iconic moments have forever been forged in our minds, our hearts, and on film to commemorate and revisit their heroism at home or abroad.  Such was exemplified by Captain Chesley Sullenberger, veteran USAF fighter pilot and US Air Force Academy graduate, January 15, 2009, during his extraordinary Hudson River landing in saving 155 souls in the process.

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Honoring “The Miracle on the Hudson” Pilot

On January 15, 2009 – ten years ago today – New Yorkers watched in awe as an Airbus A320 glided into the Hudson River with a splash.

Moments later, its passengers and crew calmly began climbing out onto the wings of the floating aircraft. All had survived, with few injuries. The event appropriately became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

A few minutes earlier, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from La Guardia Airport just before 3:30 pm. It was a clear, crisp day, and all was normal.

Suddenly, a flock of geese smashed into the nose, wings, and the engines of the plane. The airplane in crisis, control was shifted to its captain, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger.  A graduate of the Air Force Academy, Sullenberger’s career began as a fighter pilot thirty-five years earlier. Sully’s military training, and lessons learned since, would show themselves in the most dangerous three and a half minutes of his career.


On the tenth anniversary of this incredible event, take a moment to watch the story of Sully and Flight 1549, as told by George Clooney.

The story of the “Miracle on the Hudson” captivated the nation in a time when many Americans were still reeling from the financial crisis, and in a city still scarred by September 11th. The five-minute flight of 1549 gave us hope, reminding us of the best of who we are as Americans, and that, in the end, we’re all on the same team.

James C. Roberts
President & Founder

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In Profound Gratitude for All who Serve

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A Christmas Truce – 1944

Infantrymen of the US First Army in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest
advance to contact German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, 1944

Christmas 1944

December 24th

Three American soldiers, one badly wounded, were lost in the snow-covered Ardennes forest.  They wandered for three days, unable to find their unit.  If shelter was not found soon, the injured soldier would most likely die.

Lost, cold, and in pain, with the sounds of war exploding everywhere, the thought of returning home to family kept them going.  Eventually stumbling upon a small cabin in the middle of the woods, they knocked on the door.

When Elisabeth Vincken and her 12-year-old son Fritz heard the knock, they were terrified. Elisabeth cracked the door open, shocked to see three enemy soldiers on her doorstep.

Upon viewing the injured man, Frau Vincken’s compassion welcomed them inside.  She had little – a single chicken was all she could produce for the war-weary soldiers – but willingly offered them all she had.  As the chicken roasted in the oven, there was another unexpected knock. Her son opened the door, assuming there were more lost Americans.  The four men standing outside the cottage were not Americans.  They were Germans.

The punishment for harboring enemy soldiers was death.  Elisabeth, fearing for her life, pushed past Fritz and stepped outside.

The German soldiers explained they were lost and hungry and asked for Christmas Eve refuge in her home.  Elisabeth told them they were welcome to share what little food she had but warned she had other “guests.” The German soldiers sternly asked if they were Americans.

Frau Vincken nodded. “Es ist Heiligabend und hier wird nicht geschossen,” she said. “It is the Holy Night and there will be no shooting here.”

She told the German soldiers to leave their weapons outdoors and then invited them inside.  The tension in the air was palpable as the German and American soldiers stared at each other.

What happened next can only be described as a Christmas miracle.

One of the German soldiers, a former medical student, noticed the badly injured American soldier.  The German had compassion towards his enemy and offered to tend his wounds – a simple act of kindness that eased the tension. The American soldiers began to converse using what little German they knew.

Frau Vincken finished preparing supper and motioned for everyone to sit at the table.  As they said grace, the exhausted soldiers forgot about the war – if only for a moment.  Several of the soldiers – both American and German – had tears in their eyes as they ate their humble Christmas dinner. That evening, enemies declared an informal truce as the spirit of Christmas filled Frau Vincken’s tiny home.

The next morning, the German soldiers provided directions to the American front lines – and provided the Americans with a compass.  They shook hands, thanked Frau Vincken for her hospitality, and went their separate ways.

With carnage all around them, the Spirit of Christmas proved to be a more powerful force than the hatred of war.

James C. Roberts
American Veterans Center

Christmas 2018

Christmas wreaths placed on veteran graves in remembrance
Arlington National Cemetery

American forces, far from home, in unending service at Christmas

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Christmas Blessings in Gratitude for the Service of our Military

Past and Present

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U.S. Joint Military Services

GOD BLESS AMERICA

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Home of the Brave – 11/11/18

Capt. John H. “Lucky” Luckadoo

Capt John H. “Lucky” Luckadoo
Pilot and Operations Officer
351st Bomb Squadron and 350th Bomb Squadron
100th Bomb Group
(Photo courtesy of Matt Mabe)

John Luckadoo was born March 16, 1922 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  For John, the climate made it a depressing area to be raised as a boy and he longed to leave one day.  Set on the bend of the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains, the weather would frequently include clouds, rain, and fog.  Little did Luckadoo realize, years later, he would experience the same weather in England while in combat as a B-17 pilot.

A sophomore in college when Pearl Harbor was attacked, John yearned to be a pilot and joined the Army Air Corp after acceptance as an Aviation Cadet.  Initially on a two-month furlough with so many others in the pipeline, he was finally called early in 1942 to Montgomery, Alabama for six-weeks of pre-flight training and selected as wing adjutant of 4,000 cadets.  From there, they were transferred to the base in Avon Park, FL for primary training where he flew the old Steerman Yellow Peril, a PT-17 built by Boeing.

During initial flight training in Florida, Luckadoo was Captain of his Cadet class through Primary, as well as Basic and Advanced.   Sent to Shaw Field, SC for Basic training, they received a much more powerful low-wing airplane, the Vultee BT-13, with 450 horsepower in which they learned both night and formation flying.

Luckadoo and his fellow advanced graduate students, less than 30 days out from flight school, were to be assigned as Co-Pilots in the new B-17s for overseas duty.  The aircraft was an enormous plane and a quantum leap from the small twin-engine AT-10s flown during advanced training,  so it was a pretty rude awakening   The huge 4-engine plane with a 10-man crew was mounted with thirteen 50-caliber machine guns and described as a war machine.  The flying fortress would protect itself very adequately at high altitude and particularly in mass formation.  Nevertheless, it was an overwhelming experience with no prior introduction to the aircraft at all.

At the behest of his pilot who became his instructor, John more quickly learned the operation of the plane and was extremely impressed with the B-17’s capability of flight and its handling characteristics.

Cadet John Luckadoo
(Photo courtesy of John H. Luckadoo collection)

Cadet John Luckadoo during stateside training
Avon Park, FL base
(Photo courtesy of John Luckadoo)

Capt John H. Luckadoo
350th Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group
13 Feb 1944
(Photo courtesy of John Luckadoo)

2nd Lt. Luckadoo was with the original 100th Bomb Group cadre to arrive in England and the 351st Bomb Squadron based at Thorpe Abbotts.  He initially flew 21 missions with the 351st and the Lt. Glenn Dye Crew aboard the “SUNNY,” which was later lost on Sept 03, 1943 when shot down with the crew of Lt Richard King.

Following his 21 missions, Luckadoo was then checked out as a First Pilot and became Operations Officer first for the 351st Squadron and later for the 350th, as well.  He would then complete his tour as Captain with Bill DeSanders on 13 February, 1944.

Losses had begun to mount in groups already operational with the newly commissioned Eighth Air Force in England.  As the urgency for bomber crews escalated and, with scarcely 80 days in the B-17s, these newly integrated co-pilots of the 100th BG were released and found themselves spanning the North Atlantic, combat bound. With many having precious little time at the controls of the aircraft and sorely lacking in vital information techniques and emergency procedures, formidable risks were inherent.  As a consequence, of the nearly 40 members of the class of 43-B who replaced the original co-pilots of the 100th, only 4 completed their combat tours.

In all, this class of pilots actually sustained approximately a 90% loss factor within the first four months the group was operational.

Bar card at Thorpe Abbotts base, noting completion of 25 missions
(John Luckadoo collection)

Capt. John H. Luckadoo and Capt William D. DeSanders
350th Bomb Squadron
“Alice from Dallas II”
(Photo courtesy of John H. Luckadoo)

SUNNY II – Pilot Glen Dye crew
351st Bomb Squadron
Kneeling from left:
Francis C. Chaney – BOM, Timothy J. Cavanaugh – NAV
Ollen Turner – 351st Squadron Commander
Glen Dye – Pilot and John H. Luckadoo – Co-Pilot
(100th Photo Archives)

Capt Glenn Dye Crew with Sunny II
351st Bomb Squadron
(Photo courtesy of Guy Davis)

This  B-17 F  “Sunny II”  of the 100th Bomb Group and 351st Bomb Squadron, with its full crew led by Capt. Glenn Dye, presented its freshly painted nose-art.  The photo was taken at Thorpe Abbotts, England, in October 1943.  The plane would later be lost in crash landing safely with another crew on 30th December, 1943.

351st Squadron Officers of 100th Bomb Group
From left: Howard Keel – 351st Pilot, William Carleton – Engineering Officer
Alvin Barker – Operations Officer, destined to lose his life on the October 8th, 1943 Bremen mission, E. C. “Doc” Kinder – 351st famous Flight Surgeon and John “Lucky” Luckadoo – 351st Pilot who replaced Barker as Operations Officer following the Bremen mission on 8 Oct 1943
(100th Photo Archives)

In serving as operations officer for both the 351st and later 350th Bomb Squadrons, Luckadoo would become the only Operations Officer of two 100th Bomb Group Squadrons.  Following completion of his additional missions with the 35oth on 13 Feb 1944, Capt Luckadoo was offered Command of the 350th but decided instead on returning to the States with a record of 25 missions flown.

W.C. Gregg, John Luckadoo, Danny Schmucker, and Edward Moffly
Photo taken stateside following their return from England
(Photo collection of John Luckadoo)

The 100 Bomb Group flew its last combat mission of World War II on 10 April 1945.  In December 1945, the group returned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  Capt Luckadoo, as one of the 100th’s most respected officers, continued passing on his knowledge stateside in the Training Command of the 3rd Army Air Force.

French Legion of Honor presented to John Luckadoo
Courtesy of the John Luckadoo Collection

John Luckadoo is a frequent speaker in accepting requests from schools, churches, organizations and the media to convey his remarkable experience of service during WWII.

Capt John H. Luckadoo (Ret.)

In Gratitude for your Service and All who Serve

VETERANS DAY
2018

United States Joint Services
Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy

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WWII Fighter Pilot, American Hero

Captain M. M. Brooks

Major M. Brooks, a P-38 and P-47 fighter pilot during WWII, flew nearly a hundred missions in support of Allied troops, including Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Having flown 82 combat missions by the age of 23, Captain Brooks’ valor earned him several medals and decorations, including the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. His citations described his “distinctive aerial proficiency, exceptional valor, great courage, and extraordinary achievement.”

Hailing from middle America, Major was born September 28, 1922 in Ardmore, Oklahoma as the son of Major and Lillian Brooks.  Times were good in the small American town until the “Dust Bowl” and Depression of the 1930s left most families poor, with little food, and very few jobs.  At a young age, Major was up at 3:00 each morning to throw papers and joined his father at 5:00 in the local butcher shop and grocery store.

Major Brooks and sister in Ardmore, Oklahoma
1931

Downtown street in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Brooks Grocery
1930s

With the declaration of war, Major and 17 of his high school friends set out for California to build aircraft.  Enlisting in the Army Air Corp and stationed in Ontario, California, his adventure in flight school commenced when he was first among fellow recruits in breaking the sound barrier over Santa Barbara.  Many young men longed to join the Corp but few were chosen and, of those accepted, ten percent would die in training. Upon graduation, Major would leave for the flight line in 1943.

Major Brooks’ High School Photo
Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Flight training for the Army Air Corp
Ontario, California
1943

Major M. Brooks as a young Army Air Corp recruit

In 1944, Major joined the 367th Fighter Group, later known as the “Dynamite Gang,”  and initially shipped to England in preparation for war. At age 19, the men experienced exhilaration in being overseas and seeing the world for the first time but were resolute in serving their country during its greatest challenge.  Their photos depicted a brief period when the world was new and exciting before the horrors and destruction of war were fully realized.

Unusual for a 9th Air Force group, the 367th Fighter Group flew P-38 Lightnings from England in March 1944; only switching to P-47 Thunderbolts in February 1945 when flying out of Saint-Dizier, France.  Stoney Cross, Hampshire, was their first base in the European Theater of Operations (ETO).  As a base in southern England, it was the perfect location to fly short-range fighter sweeps and ground-strafing missions over German positions in northern France and provide air cover for invasion forces themselves in early June.

The group flew some incredible missions in the last year of the war.  For a mission on 25 August 1944, the Group received their first Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). The mission involved attacking landing grounds at Clastres, Peronne and Rosieries through an intense anti-aircraft barrage, engaging a number of enemy aircraft and then, despite a low fuel supply, strafing a train and convoy.  Later the same day the 367th flew a fighter sweep of more than 800 miles, hitting landing grounds at Cognac, Bourges, and Dijon. On 26 December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, the Group escorted C-47s dropping supplies to Allied troops encircled at Bastogne.  The Group was awarded a second DUC for action on 19 March 1945 when they managed to bomb and strafe the well-disguised headquarters of the German Commander-in-Chief (West), the newly-in-post Albert Kesselring, at Ziegenburg.

Major Brooks at sea headed for Army Air Corp training in England
1943

Major Brooks visiting London during Army Air Corp training in WWII

Major Brooks-joined 367th Fighter Group-1944

Major Brooks joining the 367th Fighter Group
1944

Major Brooks and his P-38 fighter plane with the 367th Fighter Group

Major Brooks inside his P-38 fighter cockpit

In WWII, fighter pilots on all sides tended to be very youthful at 21 or 22 years on average; 25 was considered mature, and 30 even more so.  Yet there were many successful WWII fighter pilots aged around 30, some even older.  The average life of a pilot was 5 days and by the end of the war, over 40,000 airmen were killed in combat theaters and another 18,000 wounded.

Major would land in Sainte-Mère-Église on Landing Strip #2 and the 367th Fighter Group began to move from that point through France.  Four men were assigned to each tent in camp and Major returned from combat one fateful day to find himself alone, after 7 of 12 pilots were shot down and among the casualties.

Major Brooks and fellow flight crews of the 367th Fighter Group

Major Brooks arriving in camp at Sainte-Mère-Église, France
367th Fighter Group

Four pilots assigned to a tent at the Sainte-Mère-Église camp in France
367th Fighter Group

Initially, Major made many friends but as the war progressed, he understood the sadness of loss.  In the face of war and potential death, they took advantage of times during leave to enjoy what they could;  even arranging a party for a Sainte-Mère-Église orphanage.

Major M. Brooks (R) and fellow pilot

Major M. Brooks (R) and fellow pilot

Party arranged at Sainte-Mère-Église orphanage by Major Brooks and fellow pilot Walter Bridgeman

Major Brooks was made flight leader and awarded the Silver Star following a heroic mission where several of his flight team were attacked and shot down.  On  19 November, 1944 fighter sweep to Duren, the 367th helped to fight off 25 Focke-Wulf 190s which attacked P-47s of the 368th Fighter Group.   Lt Major M. Brooks dived almost to the treetops to shoot down his first plane.  Closing on a second enemy fighter, he fired a long burst and watched the pilot bail out only 50′ above the ground.  A few more rounds caused a 3rd 190 to erupt into smoke and flames, tumbling crazily to the ground.  Brooks then fired on another enemy fighter, causing pieces to fly from its left wing.  Only when 5 German planes appeared to fire upon Major, was he forced to break his attack.

Toward the end of the war, Major transferred to P-47s and a good friend, Hux, had orders to return home following his recently completed 99th mission.   He chose, instead, to fly once more which would prove a fateful decision, as he was killed in action during the flight.  Two other close friends were lost that same day, Cooney and Bowers, in August 1945.  Major, who never fully recovered from the pain and loss would return years later to France in search of their graves.  Of the 350 pilots of the 367th, over half were killed or captured during WWII.

Toward the end of Major’s tour, he recovered from flight fatigue with a brief stay in an English hospital.   He then joined fighting at the front with Patton’s tank army as a ground controller for air support and would later participate in the liberation of concentration and war camps.  With the declaration of the end of WWII, Major was awaiting orders to the Pacific in fighting against the Japanese.

Major Brooks
Last return to Normandy
2014

Captain Major Brooks passed away on April 20, 2018 and leaves an honorable legacy for both his country and community.  Having faced death during 82 missions, he faced life with abundant joy and love for his fellow man.

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IN GRATITUDE FOR YOUR SERVICE AND VALOR

 

Images and history, courtesy of the Brooks family

 

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American Revolution 1775-1783

Paul Revere

Paul Revere
Revolutionary Patriot and Soldier
1735-1818

“seldom has the tomb closed upon a life so honorable and useful”

There were many who contributed to the American Revolution and the conflict for independence between our “Thirteen Colonies” and Great Britain.  Paul Revere, a Patriot leader and symbol of the period,  was also a great craftsman, artisan, industrialist and manufacturer.  During his lifespan of 84 years, he created many careers and numerous technological achievements.

Originally a Goldsmith, Silversmith, and Copperplate Engraver, Paul learned his craft from his father, Apollos Rivoire (1702-1754), a French Huguenot and Protestant immigrant who later changed his name to Paul Revere. At the age of 19 with his apprenticeship nearly complete, his father died and left him as the main source for his family’s income.

Two years later, in 1756, Revere volunteered to fight the French at Lake George, New York and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the colonial artillery.  The war erupted and Revere went on to serve as Lieutenant Colonel in the Massachusetts State Train of Artillery and Commander of Castle Island in Boston Harbor.  Revere and his troops saw little action at this post but did participate in minor expeditions to Newport, Rhode Island and Worcester, Massachusetts.  Revere’s military career would end with the failed Penobscot Expedition, a 44-ship American naval task force mounted during the Revolutionary War by the Provincial Congress of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Battle of Lake George
8 September 1755
British Campaign to expel the French from North America
General Johnson saving a wounded French officer
Benjamin West, Anglo-American History Painter

Revere’s political involvement originated through his connections with members of local organizations and his business patrons.  As a member of the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew, he was friendly with activists James Otis and Dr. Joseph Warren.  In the year prior to the Revolution, Revere gathered intelligence information by “watching the Movements of British Soldiers,” as he wrote in an account of his ride.  He was a courier for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, riding express to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.  He also spread the word of the Boston Tea Party to New York and Philadelphia.

Boston Tea Party
Political and mercantile protest by the Sons of Liberty
Against the Tea Act of May 10, 1773
Boston, Massachusetts
December 16, 1773

The role for which he is most remembered today was a night-time messenger on horseback, just prior to the battles of Lexington and Concord.  His famous “Midnight Ride” occurred on the night of April 18/April 19, 1775, when he and William Dawes were instructed by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride from Boston to Lexington.  They were to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of British Army movements in a march from Boston to Lexington, ostensibly to arrest Hancock and Adams and seize the weapons stored in Concord.

Paul Revere’s Ride
Warning colonial militia of British forces prior to the Battle of Lexington
April 18-19 1775

The British army (the King’s “regulars”), stationed in Boston when ports were closed in the wake of the Boston Tea Party, was under constant surveillance by Revere and other patriots as word began to spread they were planning a move.  On the night of April 18, 1775, the army began its move across the Charles River toward Lexington and the Sons of Liberty immediately went into action.  At approximately 11 pm, Revere was sent by Dr. Warren across the Charles River to Charlestown, on the opposite shore, to begin a ride to Lexington, while Dawes was sent the lengthy distance, via the Boston Neck and the land route to Lexington.

In the days leading to April 18th, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, sexton of the Old North Church, to send a signal by lantern in alerting Charlestown colonists when troop movements became known.  One lantern in the steeple would signal the army’s choice of the land route, while two lanterns would signal the route “by water” across the Charles River.  This precaution was planned to provide the message to Charlestown in the event both Revere and Dawes were captured.   Newman and Captain John Pulling momentarily held two lanterns in the Old North Church as Revere himself set out on his ride to proclaim the British soldiers were, in fact, crossing the Charles River that night.  Revere rode a horse lent to him by John Larkin, Deacon of the Old North Church.

Sketch of the Old North Church Steeple in Boston
used to alert by lanterns the advance of the British by sea
1882

Riding through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Revere warned patriots along his route – many of whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own.  By the end of the night, there were probably as many as 40 riders throughout Middlesex County carrying the news of the army’s advancement.  Revere did not shout the famous phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols.  Additionally, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British, as they were all legally British subjects.  Revere’s warning, according to eyewitness accounts of the ride and Revere’s own descriptions, was “The Regulars are coming out.”

Revere arrived in Lexington around midnight, with Dawes arriving a half hour later.  Upon receiving the news, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, spending the night at the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, spent a great deal of time discussing plans of action.  Revere and Dawes, meanwhile, decided to ride toward Concord where the militia’s arsenal was hidden.  They were joined by Samuel Prescott, a doctor who happened to be in Lexington.

Revere, Dawes, and Prescott were detained by British troops in Lincoln at a roadblock on the way to Concord.  Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped into the woods; Dawes also escaped, although soon after fell from his horse and failed to complete the ride. Revere was detained and questioned and then escorted at gunpoint by three British officers back toward Lexington.  As morning broke and they neared Lexington Meeting-house, shots were heard.  The British officers, becoming alarmed, confiscated Revere’s horse and rode toward the shots.  Revere, now horseless. walked through a cemetery and pastures until arriving at Reverend Clarke’s home where Hancock and Adams were staying.   As the battle on Lexington Green continued, Revere assisted John Hancock and his family to escape with their possessions, including a trunk of Hancock’s papers.

The warning delivered by the three riders. Revere, Dawes, and Prescott, successfully allowed the militia to repel the British troops in Concord, who were met by guerrilla fire along the road back to Boston.  Prescott had known the countryside well, even in the dark, and arrived at Concord in time to warn the people there.

Revere’s role was not particularly noted during his lifetime.  In 1861, over 40 years after his death, his ride became the subject in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,”Paul Revere’s Ride. ” It has since become one of the best known in American history and memorized by generations of schoolchildren.   Its famous opening lines:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year

Heny Wadsworth Longfellow
American Poet and Educator
Circa 1850

As a tradesman, Paul Revere’s silver shop was the cornerstone of his professional contribution for more than 40 years.  As the master of his craft, Revere was responsible for both the workmanship and the quality of the metal alloy used.  He employed numerous apprentices and journeymen to produce pieces ranging from simple spoons to magnificent full tea sets. His work, highly praised during his lifetime, is regarded as one of the outstanding achievements in American decorative arts.

Paul Revere Silver Tea Set
Commissioned by Boston Citizens
In Gratitude for Edmund Hartt’s Shipbuilding Efforts for the Navy 
1799

Paul Revere Silver Tea Set
Commissioned by Boston citizens as a gift for Edmund Hartt (b. 1744 – d. 1824)
in gratitude for his efforts as a shipbuilder for the American Navy
1799

Revere additionally supplemented his income with other endeavors. During the economic depression before the Revolution, Revere began his work as a copper plate engraver. He produced illustrations for books and magazines, business cards, book-plates, a song book and bills of fare for taverns.  During the American Revolution, Revere’s engraved copper plates aided the patriotic cause with his series of political cartoons.

Paul Revere’s Engraved Copper Plate
A political cartoon of the Boston Massacre
1770

Expanding his business interests in the years following the Revolution, Revere imported goods from England and ran a small hardware store until 1789.  By 1788 he had opened a foundry which supplied bolts, spikes and nails for North End shipyards (including brass fittings for the U.S.S. Constitution), produced cannons and, after 1792, cast bells.  One of his largest bells still rings in Kings Chapel in Boston.

Concerned that the United States had to import sheet copper from England, Revere opened the first copper rolling mill in North America in 1801.  He became a major supplier for the U.S. Navy fleet and provided copper sheeting for the hull of the U.S.S. Constitution, as well as the dome for the newly built Massachusetts State House in 1803.

Paul Bevere Bell
King’s Chapel Church, Boston

USS Constitution
Copper Sheeting to the Hull Provided by Paul Revere
Earliest known painting
Attributed to Michele Felice Corne, c. 1803
Navy Art Collection

Massachusetts State House Copper Dome Created by Paul Revere 1802
Image c. 1862

By Any Measure, An Extraordinary Man

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Honoring Those Who Serve Our Independence

Flag of Thirteen Colonies 1777-1795

4th of July

1776 – 2018

4th of July fireworks – Washington D.C.

 American Revolution.org

 

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Hallowed Ground – June 6, 1944

 

Sergeant Major Robert Blatnik, U.S. Army
1st Division, 26th Infantry
WWII veteran of North Africa, Italy, and France

A farm boy from Ohio, Robert Blatnik enlisted with the Army in 1938 in determined desire to serve his country.  Assigned to the 1st Division, 26th Infantry, he worked with combat intelligence and proved skilled in drafting topographical maps following training with the Corps of Engineers.

Prior to the 1st Division’s initial WWII combat at Oran, North Africa in early November, 1942, Blatnik was handpicked by General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. to serve as his unofficial Sergeant Major. During WWI, Roosevelt learned the position was key for the morale of troops and valued that resource.  The Division would storm the beach of Oran and later was first ashore on Sicily’s tortuous terrain in July, 1943.  Following the Italian campaign, the 1st Division returned to England for D-Day’s intensive preparation.

U.S. assault troops in LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach
6 June 1944

U.S. Soldiers Landing on Utah Beach

U.S. Soldiers departing LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach
6 June 1944

U.S. assault troops carrying equipment move onto Utah Beach. Landing craft seen in the background

U.S. assault troops carrying equipment onto Utah Beach
following deployment from landing craft seen in the background
6 June 1944

In attacking Omaha Beach on D-day, 6 June 1944, there were units suffering 30 percent casualties in the first hour, although Formigny and Caumont were secured in the beachhead.  Assault boats, mined and shelled, were piled upon obstacles and formed additional obstructions.  Men were cut down as their landing crafts dropped their ramps or died wading through the surf.  A few of the early assault waves, having gained the dubious shelter of the shale ledge, were riddled by artillery bursts. Most supporting weapons were swamped or destroyed on the beach.

German obstacles placed on Omaha Beach
6 June 1944

US 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling Pointe du Hoc at Normandy landings on D-Day

U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling Pointe du Hoc at Normandy
6 June 1944

By the time Sergeant Major Blatnik hit the water with command of 900 men at Omaha, he was considered seasoned infantry.  His new recruits, however, feeling the tendency to dig in when facing the onslaught of tremendous firepower, were told the only way to survive was move forward.  Instructed not to tend to the wounded, the medics would follow from the rear.  Of the 900 men initially in his command, only 380 would survive to march inland.  Blatnik, wounded several times during his own WWII service and a recipient of a Silver Star and 4 purple hearts, was subsequently able to return to each period of combat.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr, rising to the rank of Brigadier General during WWII, served as Assistant Commander of the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division during D-Day landings at Normandy, France on 6 June, 1944.  The only General officer to land with the invasion forces that day, he led his men through France into the next month before dying of a fatal heart attack, July 12, 1944, following involvement in fierce fighting.  He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery on D-Day.  Buried at Omaha Beach American Cemetery, he was laid to rest alongside his brother, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed in the first World War.

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr
Veteran of WWI and WWII
Omaha Beach American Cemetery
Colleville Sur Mer, Normandy

The 1st Division would follow a St. Lo break-through with an attack on Marigny, July 27, 1944 and drove across France in continuous offensive, reaching the German border at Aachen in September.  Laying siege, they took the city following a direct assault on October 21, 1944.  Then attacking east of Aachen through Hurtgen Forest and driving to the Roer, they moved to a rest area on December 7th, the Division’s first real break in six months of combat.  When the von Rundstedt offensive suddenly broke loose on December 16th, the Division raced  to the Ardennes and fought continuously from December 17, 1944 to January 28, 1945, helping blunt and turn back the German offensive.  Thereafter, the Division attacked and again breached the Siegfried Line, fought across the Roer on February 23, 1945 and drove on to the Rhine, crossing at the Remagen bridgehead on March 15-16, 1945.  Breaking out of the bridgehead, they took part in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, captured Paderborn, pushed through the Harz Mountains, and were in Czechoslovakia, at Kinsperk, Sangerberg, and Mnichov, when the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945.

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Decades later, in remembrance of D-Day’s 70th Anniversary at Normandy, Sergeant Major Blatnik fell to his knees on Omaha Beach, praying for the souls of 400 men lost and a salute to Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr, “a soldier’s soldier loved by his men.”

Sgt Maj Blatnik-Omaha Beach

Sergeant Major Robert Blatnik
Omaha Beach, Normandy
70th Anniversary of D-Day

Sgt Maj Blatnik-Roosevelt grave

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr, U.S. Army
Omaha Beach American Cemetery
Colleville Sur Mer, Normandy
Saluted by his former Sergeant Major, Robert Blaknit, on the 70th Anniversary

In the years following retirement, Robert Blaknit has devoted his time to the Golden Age Olympics and Veterans Hospital.  A recent recipient of  a Presidential Award for over 9,000 volunteer hours for the Dallas veterans facility, he still proudly wears his uniform.  With an abundance of patriotism and enduring faith, Blaknit starts each morning with a rendition of God Bless America and religious hymns.

Sergeant Major Robert Blatnik, U.S. Army (Ret.)
98 Years Young
Memorial Day, 2018

———————-

IN GRATITUDE FOR YOUR SERVICE
on the
74th ANNIVERSARY OF D-DAY

2018

GOD BLESS YOU
AND
AMERICA

 

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In Gratitude

Honoring the service and sacrifice of our Fallen

The Old Guard transports a flag-draped casket in full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery
Army Photo

The passage of time should not diminish our gratitude
for service and sacrifice to our country

The American Revolution

1775 – 1783

The Delaware Regiment at the
Battle of Long Island
Brooklyn, New York — August 27, 1776

The Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Liberty Bell
Iconic symbol of American independence
Liberty Bell Center, Independence National Historical Park
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Soldiers serving in the Continental Army fought on behalf of 13 colonies in the Revolutionary War.  They were young and inexperienced, especially in comparison with the formidable British army, but were highly motivated to win, as the freedom of the colonies was at stake.

In total, around 230,000 soldiers served, though never more than 48,000 at the time, and the Army was supplemented by approximately 145,000 militiamen.  It’s considered 6.5% of the population participated during the Revolutionary War, although probably too low a figure but higher than any American war since WWII.  All in all, the numbers are sizable for the population of any country fighting a war.

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A Common American Soldier

Christopher Geist
Professor Emeritus, Bowling Green State University

Revolutionary Soldier

­­­­­­­

What sort of soldier stood in the Continental Army? Historians have pieced together a composite portrait, using, among other evidence, muster rolls, and veterans’ pension applications posted in the 1820s and 1830s.

Like many soldiers in America’s conflicts, the common Continental was, on average, quite young. One historian found that in nine New Jersey towns nearly 75 percent of boys who were fifteen and sixteen at the onset of hostilities served in the army or the militia. Martin was fifteen when he enlisted, artilleryman Jeremiah Levering entered the service at twelve or thirteen, and hundreds more under the legal age of sixteen served in all services. Thousands more were under twenty.

One source of Continental Army troops was a more marginalized group than most.  About 5,000 free black men and slaves served. Many more filled such supporting billets as wagoners, drovers, and laborers.  Early in the Revolution, many freemen and a few slaves came from the New England states, especially Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

African-American soldiers at the Revolutionary War Victory of Red Bank

The Bay State declared slaves and free blacks eligible to enlist in 1777.  At the beginning of 1778, nearly 10 percent of Washington’s effective force was African-American. Later in the war southern slaves gradually gained the opportunity to enroll, although South Carolina and Georgia generally resisted such enlistments.

Some masters enticed slaves to serve as their substitutes, offering freedom at the end of the conflict, sometimes coupled with a small monetary reward. In general, slave recruits were required to serve for the duration, and they acquitted themselves well. A French officer said that the Second Rhode Island Regiment, 75 percent black, was “the most neatly dressed, the best under arms, and the most precise in its maneuver.”

But do the descriptions of general characteristics bring us nearer to knowing the common soldier of the Revolution?  It’s doubtful. Best estimates are that 175,000 men served under arms in some manner, and there must be thousands of individual exceptions to any composite portrait. We know that men from all walks of life fought, from the very wealthy to the most indigent.

Substantial numbers of troops were drawn from ethnic groups and immigrants, most notably the Irish and Germans. Combatants represented the states’ religious denominations, including a few whose doctrines were pacifist.

There can be no perfect portrait of the Revolution’s common soldier. But we can be certain that, whoever he was, the common soldier did, as Lincoln said, leave us “a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received.”

Of the men under arms in the Revolution, more than 25,500 perished in battle, or as prisoners, or from diseases in camp. More than 8,000 others survived serious wounds, and nearly 1,500 disappeared. Nearly one out of five of all soldiers were casualties—killed, wounded, or missing in action—the rate, about one of every three among the regulars of the Continental Army. The Union Army in the War between the States sustained about 13 percent casualties.

It may not be possible to perfectly describe the common Revolutionary soldier, but one thing is certain.

We remain in his debt.

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In Memory of  Sacrifice for Freedom and Independence

Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
The National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Ode of Remembrance

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

     Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen” – 1914

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God Bless America and our Military

Helicopter flying in front of the Statue of Liberty, New York. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement office of Air and Marine Interdiction provides airspace security over New York City.

Memorial Day

2018

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Remembering American Liberators

Faces of Margraten

The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial
Margraten

The Dutch have never forgotten their American Liberators.  Each year, as their cemetery hosts the Faces of Margraten and United Adopters of American War Graves, a unique tribute honors the men and women buried and memorialized there.

In collecting photos since 2014, they have linked a face to the names inscribed on marble headstones and Walls of the Missing.  Visitors paying homage can now visualize the faces of Americans who sacrificed their lives in liberating the Netherlands.  More than 6,000 images have been collected to date in that effort.

Faces of Margraten
Images of American Veterans buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery

American Cemetery Memorial Tower
Margraten, The Netherlands

The museum exhibits WWII maps of operations noting the achievements of American Armed Forces in the area.

Military operations in northwestern Europe shown via battle maps
The Netherlands American Cemetery

The walls on either side of the Court of Honor contain Tablets of the Missing on which are recorded names of 1,722 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country and rest in unknown graves.  Beyond the chapel and tower, the burial area is divided into sixteen plots. Here rest 8,301 American dead, most of whom lost their lives nearby. Their headstones are set in long curves and a wide tree-lined mall leads to the flag staff crowning the crest.

Each year on Memorial Day (28 May) the dead are commemorated. In 2005, President Bush attended a large solemn meeting which marked the first time an American president visited the cemetery. The following quote is from a speech President Bush gave that day:

“On this peaceful May morning, we commemorate a great victory for liberty, while thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David underscore the terrible price paid for that victory. For the Americans who rest here, Dutch soil provides a fitting home. It was from a Dutch port that many of our pilgrim fathers first sailed for America. It was a Dutch port that gave the American flag its first gun salute. It was the Dutch who became one of the first foreign nations to recognize the independence of the new United States of America. When American soldiers returned to this continent to fight for freedom, they were led by a President (Roosevelt) who owed his family name to this great land.”

The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten

The cemetery site reflects a rich historical background.  Lying near the famous Cologne-Boulogne highway, originally built by the Romans, the route was used by Hitler’s legions  in May 1940 to overwhelm the Low Countries.  In September of 1944, it was once more utilized by German troops in withdrawing from  countries they occupied for four years.

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HE CARRIES A PURPLE HEART

Reflections by Janie Simon

Living so close to Margraten allows me opportunity to visit often and proved especially wonderful this last week during Faces of Margraten.  Each visit, I become part of an unfolding story and each time thought it could not be  more heartfelt.  However, the stories kept coming and my heart overflows with a gratitude to Sebastiaan Vonk and his team of volunteers who provide the backdrop for these stories to come to life.

On one of my last visits, I started my meandering through the graves on the right side of section C and worked my way towards the flagpole and then back down the other side towards the carillon bell tower. Almost to the end of section A, I spotted an elderly couple next to a grave taking turns photographing each other.  I approached them and asked if they would like a photo together. Both of them were very emotional and I asked them if this was their adopted soldier and they began to tell me about Robert E. L. Price, the soldier buried there.

The elderly man, Mr. Stevens, began by saying that Robert had been part of his family since 1945. He told me they lived in Valkenburg in a home across from a laundromat where all clothes from soldiers who died on the battlefields were washed. This was quite an impression on the young boy and his mother and when learning the soldiers were buried in Margraten, they visited and vividly remember the muddy field and wooden crosses.  It was then his family adopted the grave of Robert E. L. Price and became a faithful “caretaker” of Robert’s memory ever since. Having communicated with the soldier’s family over the years, they have visited Mr. Stevens, Margraten Cemetery, and Robert’s grave.

WWII image of Pvt Robert E. L. Price

The initial WWII Grave of Pvt Robert E. L. Price
The Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten

As he finished his story, Mr. Stevens reached into his pocket and removed a small cardboard box that was clearly very old.  It was addressed to Mrs. Mary L. Price of Monroe, Ohio. Inside this box was a beautiful case which contained Robert’s original Purple Heart medal. I was dumbfounded.  Also inside was an original pamphlet of Purple Heart stamps and the official letter written to the family which accompanied the Purple Heart. He told us the grandchild of Robert E. L. Price was cleaning his mother’s garage after her death and found the medal.  He decided it more appropriate for the adopted family to be its caretaker, as he had no children of his own to receive it, and felt belonged with Robert’s adopted family who faithfully cared for his memory for so many years.

The Purple Heart sent to Mary Price, mother of Pvt Robert E. L. Price

The Purple Heart awarded to Robert E. L. Price for WWII service and the ultimate sacrifice

Mr. Stevens – caretaker for the grave and Purple Heart of American Pvt Robert E. L. Price
Buried at Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten

After listing to Mr. Stevens’s story, I observed his wife was very emotional. She was unable to speak so he continued to tell me her story.  Mrs. Stevens was born during the war and lived in Schevingen in The Netherlands.  Her father was a resistance fighter and was betrayed at the end of the war and taken to Germany and imprisoned.  He was able to escape and there ends his trail. There has never been closure for his daughter, so every visit to the grave of Robert E. L. Price feels for her that she is visiting her father’s grave. Several years ago she contacted the Red Cross and asked for any records of her father but to this day he lays somewhere in an unknown grave and, haunted by this, she lays her grief down at the stone of Robert Price.

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I have really been  privileged to meet so many Dutch people who love and remember their liberators and to hear their stories. Like ripples on the water, the spirits of these young men radiate outwards ensuring their names are never forgotten.

Gravesite of American Veteran Pvt Robert E. L. Price
The Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten

A nation reveals itself not only in the men it produces
but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

                                                                     John F. Kennedy

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A Defining Moment – 13 November 1942

The Sullivan Brothers

Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison, and George Sullivan
USS Juneau
14 February 1942
U.S. Navy Photo

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the Sullivan brothers enlisted in the U.S. Navy, January 3, 1942, with the stipulation they serve together.  All five brothers, in accordance with their wishes, were assigned to the light cruiser, the USS Juneau.  Although Naval policy addressed the separation of siblings, it was not strictly enforced.  This consideration by the Navy would become a defining moment in their lives.

USS Juneau in New York Harbor
11 February 1942
U.S. National Archives

Beginning in August 1942, the Juneau participated in a number of naval engagements during the lengthy Guadalcanal campaign and the first major Allied offensive in the Pacific theater.  Months later, in the early morning of November 13th, the Juneau would be struck by a Japanese torpedo and forced to withdraw.  Later that day, leaving the Solomon Islands for the Allied base at Espiritu Santo with other surviving U.S. warships, the Juneau was struck again with a second torpedo.  A thinly armored light cruiser, it was likely hit near the ammunition magazines and the ship exploded and quickly sank.

U.S. Naval Captain Gilbert C. Hoover
USS Helena, WWII

Captain Gilbert C. Hoover,  commanding officer of the light cruiser USS Helena and senior officer present in the battle-damaged U.S. task force, was skeptical anyone had survived the sinking of the Juneau.  Believing it reckless to search by exposing his wounded ships to a still-lurking Japanese submarine, his orders were to continue towards Espiritu Santo.  Helena then signaled a nearby U.S. B-17 bomber on patrol to notify Allied headquarters and send aircraft or ships to search for survivors.

In fact, approximately 100 of Juneaus crew, who had survived the torpedo attack and the sinking of their ship, were left in the water. The B-17 bomber crew, under orders not to break radio silence, failed to pass the message to headquarters until landing several hours later.  The crew’s report of the location of possible survivors was mixed with other pending paperwork actions and went unnoticed for several days.  It was then that headquarters realized a search had never been mounted and belatedly ordered aircraft to the area.  In the meantime, Juneau’s survivors, many of whom were seriously wounded, were exposed to the elements, hunger, thirst, and repeated shark attacks.

Eight days following the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water.  The survivors reported Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived several more before delirium and the loss of his brothers took its toll.  He went over the side of the raft he occupied and was never seen or heard again.

Security required the Navy keep the loss of Juneau and other ships as classified  to prevent information provided to the enemy.  With the sudden absence of wartime letters to home from the Sullivan brothers, their parents grew worried.  Alleta Sullivan would contact the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed all five sons were killed in action.

Alleta Sullivan’s Request to Bureau of Naval Personnel
January 1943

Her letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged the Sullivan brothers were missing in action.  By then, however, the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12th. That morning, the boys’ father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a Lieutenant Commander, a doctor, and Chief Petty Officer  – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Tom. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to Alleta Sullivan
following the death of her sons
13 January, 1943

The brothers left a sister, Genevieve (1917–1975).  Al was survived by his wife Katherine Mary and son Jimmy.  Joe left a fiancée named Margaret Jaros, while Matt left behind a fiancée named Beatrice Imperato. The “Fighting Sullivan Brothers” would become national heroes and in addition to President Roosevelt’s letter of condolence to their parents, Pope Pius XII sent a silver religious medal and rosary with his message of regret. The Iowa Senate and House adopted a formal resolution of tribute to the Sullivan brothers of Waterloo.

In spite of their great personal loss, Tom and Alleta Sullivan continued their speaking appearances at defense plants and shipyards on behalf of war bonds and the war effort.  Alleta would later participate in the launching of USS The Sullivans, in honor of five  sons who became the ultimate symbol of heroic sacrifice for wartime America.       

Alleta Sullivan stands with daughter Gen and husband Tom
at christening of the destroyer, USS The Sullivans
April , 1943

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76 Years Later

On March 17, 2018, the wreckage of the USS Juneau was discovered by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen off the coast of the Solomon Island’s in the South Pacific.  In total, 687 men, including the five Sullivan brothers, were killed in action as a result of its sinking.

 

USS Juneau wreckage discovered March 19, 2018
following the sinking by Japanese torpedoes in 1942
Navigea, RV Petrel

 

USS Juneau wreckage resting on the seafloor off the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific
Navigea, RV Petrel

USS Juneau wreckage of the light cruiser’s prop
following the sinking by Japanese torpedoes in 1942
Navigea, RV Petrel

———————–

Eternal Reverence and Gratitude
For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

——————-

 

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Final Combat Mission – Aug 14, 1945

 In Memoriam

Captain Jerry Yellin, USAAF
1942-1945

Captain Jerry Yellin, American fighter pilot, flew the final combat mission of WWII in targeting a military-airfield near Tokyo on August 14, 1945.

 

North American P-51 Mustang
A long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II

 

Yellin had enlisted in the United States Army Air Force on his 18th birthday, February 2, 1942, following Japan’s devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. After his graduation from Luke Air Field as a fighter pilot in August of 1943, he would spend the remainder of the war flying P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the Pacific Theater with the 78th Fighter Squadron.

Subsequently, upon Emperor Hirohito’s refusal two years later to surrender following the August 9, 1945 atomic-bomb drop on Nagasaki, Captain Yellin and their 16-plane squadron flew a combat mission over the Japanese city of Nagoya on August 14th. Upon landing on Iwo Jima, eight hours later, they learned the war had ended and their final combat mission had been flown.  While in the air, news of the unconditional surrender by Japan had failed to reach the pilots and the order to abort was never received. On this final flight, Yellin’s wing-man, Phillip Schlamberg, would be the last man killed in combat in WWII.

Having lost 16 fellow servicemen, Captain Yellin struggled in the postwar world but would become an advocate for vets suffering from PTSD.  With his co-founding of the organization, Operation Warrior Shield, he dedicated his efforts in later years toward veterans and first responders in overcoming their post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Jerry Yellin’s combat mission over Japan in the Dorrie R on the day Emperor Hirohito surrendered.
Culpeper Regional Airport in Virginia, May 2015
In observation of V-E Day’s 70th anniversary
.Credit Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

In Gratitude for your Service

Jerry Yellin
American Patriot

February 15, 1924 – December 21, 2017

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