Forever Faithful

Still Standing Guard:  Today was the first snowfall of the year at Arlington National Cemetery and, as always, the Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were standing guard.

3rd Infantry Regiment Old Guard
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Arlington National Cemetery
U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser

The U.S. Congress adopted “the American continental army” on June 14, 1775
Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, march to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,
as part of the Army’s 233rd birthday tribute.
Arlington National Cemetery, VA
June 14, 2008

The military guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is changed in an elaborate ceremony which happens every hour on the hour from October 1 through March 31, and every half hour from April 1 through September 30.

Twenty-four hours a day, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” stand watch over the Tomb. The Tomb Guards, also called Sentinels, are chosen for this prestigious and highly selective post only after rigorous training and a demanding series of examinations. The Old Guard has held this distinguished duty since 1948.

An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the changing of the guard. Soon, the new Sentinel leaves the Tomb Guard quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle, signaling to the relief commander to begin the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and remain silent during the ceremony.

The Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia,
June 15, 2018
U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery

The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving Sentinel meet the retiring Sentinel at the center of the black mat in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknown Soldiers who have symbolically been given the Medal of Honor. The relief commander orders the relieved Sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current Sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The newly posted Sentinel replies, “Orders acknowledged,” and steps into position on the mat. When the relief commander passes, the new Sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.

The Tomb Guard marches exactly 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process.  (The number 21 symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed, the 21-gun salute).  Next, the Sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.

When not “walking,” the Tomb Guards spend their duty time in quarters below the Memorial Display Room of the Memorial Amphitheater, where they study cemetery history, clean their weapons and help the rest of their relief prepare for the changing of the guard.

Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stand watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in any weather. Sentinels, who volunteer for this post, are considered the elite of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at nearby Fort Myer, Virginia.

After members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment become ceremonially qualified, they are eligible to volunteer for duty as Sentinels at the Tomb. If accepted, they are assigned to Company E of The Old Guard. Each soldier must be in superb physical condition, possess an unblemished military record and be between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet, 4 inches tall for men or 5 feet, 8 inches and 6 feet, 2 inches tall for women, with a proportionate weight and build.

Would-be Tomb Guards must first undergo an interview and a two-week trial. During the trial phase, they memorize seven pages of Arlington National Cemetery history. This information must be recited verbatim in order to earn a “walk.”

If a soldier passes the first training phase, “new soldier” training begins. New Sentinels learn the history of Arlington National Cemetery and the grave locations of nearly 300 veterans. They learn the guard-change ceremony, the manual of arms, and methods for keeping their uniforms and weapons in immaculate condition.

The Sentinels must pass multiple tests to earn the privilege of wearing the silver Tomb Guard Identification Badge. First, they are tested on their manual of arms knowledge, uniform preparation and walks. Then, they take the badge test, consisting of 100 randomly selected questions from the 300 items memorized during training. The would-be badge holder must get more than 95 percent correct.

The Tomb Guard Identification Badge is a temporary award until the badge-holding Sentinel has honorably served at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for nine months. At that time, the award can become a permanent badge, which may be worn for the rest of a military career. The silver badge is an upside-down, laurel-leaf wreath surrounding a depiction of the Tomb’s front face, the words “Honor Guard,” and figures representing Peace, Victory and Valor. Over 600 Tomb Guards have earned the badge since the late 1950s.

Silver Badge of the Honor Guard
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb Guards work on a three-relief rotation; each relief has one commander and about six Sentinels. The three reliefs are organized by height, so that those in each guard change ceremony look similar in appearance. The Sentinels wear the Army dress blue uniform, reminiscent of the color and style worn by soldiers during the late 1800s.

 

The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment

3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

 

The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, traditionally known as “The Old Guard,” is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving the United States since 1784. The Army’s official ceremonial unit and escort to the President, it also provides security for Washington, D.C. in times of national emergency or civil disturbance. The unit received its name from Gen. Winfield Scott during a victory parade at Mexico City in 1847, following its valorous performance in the Mexican War. The black-and-tan “buff strap” worn on the left shoulder replicates the knapsack strap used by the unit’s 19th-century predecessors to distinguish its members from other Army units.

The Old Guard annually participates in more than 6,000 ceremonies, an average of 16 per day. Despite this arduous schedule, The Old Guard also continuously prepares for its security and infantry missions by conducting year-round training. All soldiers are as familiar with traditional infantry or military-police duties as they are with ceremonial duties.

Historical Summary

On March 4, 1921, Congress approved a resolution providing for the burial of an unidentified American soldier, following the custom adopted by other allied countries after World War I. The site was to be the plaza of Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater, which had been dedicated the previous year.

WWI Unknown

On Memorial Day, 1921, an unknown was exhumed from each of four cemeteries in France. The remains were placed in identical caskets and assembled at Chalon sur Marne.

On October 24, Army Sergeant Edward F. Younger, wounded in combat and highly decorated for valor, selected the unknown soldier for World War 1 by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France. The Unknown Soldier then returned home to the U.S. to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda until Armistice Day. On November 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Amphitheater.

The monument which rests on top of the Unknown grave is a sarcophagus simple but impressive in its dimensions. Its austere, flat-faced form is relieved at the corners and along the sides by neo-classic pilasters, or columns, set unto the surface.

Sculpted into the panel which faces Washington are the three figures of Valor, Victory, and Peace. On the plaza face the words “Here Rests in Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God.”

WWII Unknown

On August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to select and pay tribute to the Unknown Soldiers of World War II and Korea on Memorial Day 1958. The World War II Unknown was selected from 19 remains exhumed from military cemeteries in Hawaii, Europe, and the Philippines.

Two Unknowns from World War II, one from the European Theatre and one from the Pacific Theatre, were placed in identical caskets and taken aboard the U.S.S. Canberra, a guided missile cruiser resting off the Virginia capes. Hospital Man First Class William R. Charette, then the Navy’s only active duty Medal of Honor recipient, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War II. The remaining casket received a burial at sea.

Korean Unknown

Four unknown Americans who had lost their lives in Korea were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Master sergeant Ned Lyle, U.S. Army made the final selection. Both the caskets arrived in Washington on May 28, 1958 where they lay in the Capital Rotunda until May 30.

That morning they were carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor and the Unknowns were interred in the Plaza beside their comrade of World War 1.

Vietnam Unknown

Twenty six years later, on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984, after a search made difficult because of advances in technologies used to identify the remains of unknown soldiers, President Ronald Reagan presided over the interment ceremony for the Vietnam Unknown service member. Like his predecessors, he was laid to rest in the plaza of the Tomb during a ceremony that received national coverage.

3rd U.S. Army Infantry Assumes Guard

Originally a civilian watchman was responsible for the security of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then, March 24, 1926, a military guard from the Washington Provisional Brigade (forerunner of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington) was established during the day-light hours. In 1948 the 3d U.S. Infantry “The Old Guard” assumed the post following the units reactivation in the nation’s capital. Members of the 3d Infantry’s Honor Guard continue to serve in this distinguished duty today.

A soldier seeking the honor of serving as a sentinel at the Tomb must possess exemplary qualities, to include American citizenship, a spotless record, and impeccable military bearing.

While on duty the sentinel crosses a 63-foot rubber surfaced walkway in exactly 21 steps. He then faces the Tomb for 21 seconds, turns again, and pauses an additional 21 seconds before retracing his steps. The 21 is symbolic of the highest salute accorded to dignitaries in military and state ceremonies.

As a gesture against intrusion on their post, the sentinel always bears his weapon away from the Tomb.

Only under exceptional circumstances may the guard speak or alter his silent, measured tour of duty. He will issue a warning if anyone attempts to enter the restricted area around the Tomb, but first will halt and bring his rifle to port arms.

The Guard wears the Army Dress Blue Uniform, reminiscent of the color and style worn by soldiers during the late 1800’s. Tomb Guards are privileged to wear the Tomb Identification Badge on the right breast pocket. The design is an inverted open laurel wreath surrounding a representation of the front elevation of the Tomb. The words “Honor Guard” are engraved at the base of the badge. A guard leaving after at least nine months of service is entitled to wear the badge as a permanent part of the uniform.

One Legion Battalion

Most of the battalion’s leaders pictured below, are ‘hand-selected’ from across the Army to serve in the Old Guard. They are confident, competent leaders who are all committed to  their Soldiers, the mission and to ceremonial excellence, and train non-stop for this ‘no-fail’ mission. I am humbly grateful to be their commander and am extremely proud to serve with each and every one of them; America’s finest!  …it’s not what we have to do, it’s what we have the privilege to do!’

Rich Towner
Battalion Commander at 1st Battalion, 3rd US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

One Legion Battalion of the Old Guard
Rich in its history and tradition, the leaders and soldiers of the battalion serve with pride and honor, as part of the oldest active duty Infantry Regiment in the Army, dating back to 1784.

One of the most versatile, capable and diverse units in the United States Army, the One Legion Battalion of the Old Guard. Rich in its history and tradition, the leaders and Soldiers of the battalion serve with pride and honor as part of the oldest active duty Infantry Regiment in the Army, dating back to 1784. Stationed just outside of our nation’s capital and in support of the Military District of Washington, our mission is to conduct memorial affairs in honor of our nation’s fallen heroes, conduct ceremonies and special events that represent our Army and communicate its story to our nation’s citizens and the world, and on order, execute assigned contingency missions across the National Capital Region.

 

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GOD BLESS OUR MILITARY FORCES

GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES

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New Year’s Eve – 1944

Whether currently or years long past, those serving our country far from home deserve eternal gratitude.

The Battle of the Bulge

There were many battles during WWII and the Battle of the Bulge was another served by our forces valiantly under extreme conditions.

In late 1944, during the wake of the Allied forces’ successful D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, it seemed as if the Second World War was all but over. On Dec. 16, with the onset of winter, the German army launched a counteroffensive that was intended to cut through the Allied forces in a manner that would turn the tide of the war in Hitler’s favor. The battle that ensued is known historically as the Battle of the Bulge. The courage and fortitude of the American Soldier was tested against great adversity. Nevertheless, the quality of his response ultimately meant the victory of freedom over tyranny.

Overview

Early on the misty winter morning of Dec. 16, 1944, more than 200,000 German troops and nearly 1,000 tanks launched Adolf Hitler’s last bid to reverse the ebb in his fortunes that had begun when Allied troops landed in France on D-Day. Seeking to drive to the coast of the English Channel and split the Allied armies as they had done in May 1940, the Germans struck in the Ardennes Forest, a 75-mile stretch of the front characterized by dense woods and few roads, held by four inexperienced and battle-worn American divisions stationed there for rest and seasoning.

After a day of hard fighting, the Germans broke through the American front, surrounding most of an infantry division, seizing key crossroads, and advancing their spearheads toward the Meuse River, creating the projection that gave the battle its name.

American engineers emerge from the woods and move out of defensive positions after fighting in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium.

Stories spread of the massacre of soldiers and civilians at Malmedy and Stavelot, of paratroopers dropping behind the lines, and of English-speaking German soldiers, disguised as Americans, capturing critical bridges, cutting communications lines, and spreading rumors. For those who had lived through 1940, the picture was all too familiar. Belgian townspeople put away their Allied flags and brought out their swastikas. Police in Paris enforced an all-night curfew. British veterans waited nervously to see how the Americans would react to a full-scale German offensive, and British generals quietly acted to safeguard the Meuse River’s crossings. Even American civilians, who had thought final victory was near were sobered by the Nazi onslaught.

Three members, of an American patrol, Sgt. James Storey, of Newman, Ga., Pvt. Frank A. Fox, of Wilmington, Del., and Cpl. Dennis Lavanoha, of Harrisville, N.Y., cross a snow-covered Luxembourg field on a scouting mission in Lellig, Luxembourg, White bedsheets camouflage them in the snow.
Dec. 30, 1944.

But this was not 1940. The supreme Allied commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower rushed reinforcements to hold the shoulders of the German penetration. Within days, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. had turned his Third U.S. Army to the north and was counterattacking against the German flank. But the story of the Battle of the Bulge is above all the story of American Soldiers. Often isolated and unaware of the overall picture, they did their part to slow the Nazi advance, whether by delaying armored spearheads with obstinate defenses of vital crossroads, moving or burning critical gasoline stocks to keep them from the fuel-hungry German tanks, or coming up with questions on arcane Americana to stump possible Nazi infiltrators.

Camouflaged tanks and infantrymen wearing snow capes
move across a snow-covered field during the Battle of the Bulge.
December 1944
History Archive

At the critical road junctions of St. Vith and Bastogne, American tankers and paratroopers fought off repeated attacks, and when the acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne was summoned by his German adversary to surrender, he simply responded, “Nuts!”

Within days, Patton’s Third Army had relieved Bastogne, and to the north, the 2nd U.S. Armored Division stopped enemy tanks short of the Meuse River on Christmas. Through January, American troops, often wading through deep snow drifts, attacked the sides of the shrinking bulge until they had restored the front and set the stage for the final drive to victory.

Never again would Hitler be able to launch an offensive in the west on such a scale. An admiring British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill stated, “This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory.” Indeed, in terms of participation and losses, the Battle of the Bulge is arguably the greatest battle in American military history.

U.S. Army Center of Military History

 

Soldiers of the U.S. 99th Infantry Division WWII

Attending Christian service on New Year’s Eve 1944 in the Ardennes Forest, during the Battle of the Bulge and worst winter in 60 years.  Under cripplingly cold winter conditions, American troops proved their mettle.

Soldiers of the US 99th Infantry Division attend a Christian service on New Year’s Eve in the Ardennes
1944

Infantrymen of the US First Army

In Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, soldiers advancing to contact German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944.  After the initial confusion and chaos of the Nazi surprise attack, American soldiers regrouped and relied on old-fashioned ingenuity to hold off the German advance until reinforcements could arrive.

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

 

In Appreciation of our Past and Present Military

Serving  their Country Worldwide in Need

 

U.S. Joint Military Services


 #ForeverVigilant  #AmericanMilitary  #ProudToServe

 

 

New Year’s Eve

24 December 2021

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Christmas Celebrated – WWII

For our WWII troops serving far from home, the celebration of Christmas was met in various ways…poignant packages from loved ones, a traditional meal, the decoration of a tree, and carols sung across the globe. 

CHRISTMAS – ARMY STYLE 
Pennsylvania soldiers, Co. B of the 10th Regiment, singing Christmas carols around the tree
Camp Lee’s Quartermaster Replacement Center
Camp Lee, Virginia
December 1941
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Fort Leonard Wood Chapel
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
Christmas time, WWII
U.S. Army Center of Military History

CHRISTMAS – ARMY STYLE
The guard of honor stands on each side presenting arms to the Christmas visitor
Camp Lee, Virginia, Quartermaster Replacement Center
December 1941
U.S. Army Center of Military History

 

CHRISTMAS – ARMY STYLE
Panzer “Santa” with well-filled sack of radios, books, cookies, and other gifts dear to soldiers’ hearts,
glides up to the door of the barracks in Camp Lee’s Quartermaster Corps.
Camp Lee, Virginia, Quartermaster Replacement Center
December, 1941
(Courtesy of U.S. Army)

Santa arriving by tank instead of outdated sleigh via M.3. Tank of 1st Tank Group.
Sgt. Hiram Prouty, member of 175th Infantry, playing Santa for British children
5 December, 1942
U.S. Army Center of Military History

 

General view of the speakers platform at the Christmas exercise, in the court of the Pentagon Bldg.
Arlington, Virginia
24 December 1942
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Sitting around a miniature Christmas tree and opening Christmas packages
(front row, left to right) S/Sgt. John F. Suchanek and Pfc. Joseph G. Pierro
(back row) Sgt. Charles M. Myrich and Sgt. Leon L. Oben
All are members of F. A. Bn., 3rd Division
Pietramelara, Italy
December 16, 1943
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Two U.S. Army infantrymen of the 84th Training Command decorate a Christmas tree
in the cellar of a home in Geilenkirchen Heinsberg
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
December 1944
Photo courtesy of Anton Pihlstrom, U.S. Army Center of Military History

Pvt. Walter E. Prsybyla, 2nd Infantry Division, addresses Christmas cards to the folks back home.
B Btry, 37th FA, 2nd Inf. Div., FUSA
Heckhalenfeld, Germany
30 November 1944
U.S. Army Center of Military History

U.S. Soldier Carolers Circle Globe
The Christmas spirit is universal, the traditions unchanging even in the midst of war.
Where American troops are found in the world, Christmas Carols will be heard in joyful hymns.
In Iceland – “O, Come Ye, O Come Ye, To Bethlehem”
Christmas 1942
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Sgt. Joseph H. Kadlec approaches crossroads leading to Roetgen and Stolberg, Germany,
loaded with his first batch of Xmas packages to be delivered for the troops.
Kadlec belongs to an infantry unit bivouacked nearby
14 November 1944
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Pfc. Edmund Dill opens the Christmas package received from his wife and his buddies share the treat.
Left, Pfc. Carl Anker; Right, Sgt. Ted Bailey. ETO
18 November 1944
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Pfc. George E. Neidhardt, 9th Army in Germany, opens a holiday package sent from home.
December 1944
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Bundles from America for soldiers in the field with Field Artillery Unit in Germany.
Holding Christmas packages are, left to right:
Pfc. W.J. Kessler, Pfc. J.L. Proffitt, Pvt. B. Narter, Cpl. T.J. Barnewski, and Pfc. J. Stoll
26 November 1944
U.S. Army Center of Military History

U.S. Soldier Carolers Circle Globe
The Christmas spirit is universal, the traditions unchanging even in the midst of war.
Where our American troops are found, Christmas Carols will be heard in joyful hymns.
In India – “Come and Behold Him, Born the King of Angels”
Christmas 1942
U.S. Army Center of Military History

A Christmas Eve congregation at Midnight Mass in a theatre in Trinidad, B.W.I.
 Dockside, Trinidad
24 December 1941
U.S. Army Center of Military History

Sgt. Edward F. Good feeds his buddy a leg of Christmas turkey for Pfc. Lloyd Deming.
Both are casualties at the 2nd Field Hospital
(San Jose, Mindoro, PI)
25 December 1944
U.S. Army Center of Military History

One of the most successful Christmas decorations was this ward of a hospital.
With the help of nurses and mobile patients, it was designed and trimmed, including a tree.
Iceland
25 December 942
U.S. Army Center of Military History

In Memory of American Veterans

Who Valiantly Served in WWII

Soldiers, perched atop their hut embankment, serenaded passers by with Christmas Carols
Camp Hickham, Iceland
24 December 1942
U.S. Army Center of Military History

In Appreciation and Gratitude

25 December 2021

 

 

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Pearl Harbor Heroes – 7 December 1941

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 men are but a few of the extraordinary acts of bravery and service.

 

   Samuel Fuqua

Lieutenant Commander Samuel Fuqua of the USS Arizona
Pearl Harbor
7 December 1941
(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 would remember, “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

Chief Watertender Peter Tomich
USS Utah. Pearl Harbor
7 December 1941
(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.

 

Kenneth Taylor and George Welch

Army Air Corps Pilots Kenneth Taylor (left) and George Welch
Pearl Harbor. 7 December 1941
(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

Doris Miller, Cook Third Class
USS West Virginia, Pearl Harbor
Awarded Navy Cross for heroic action
7 December 1941
(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.

Doris Miller, USN, receiving the Navy Cross from Admiral Nimitz
for heroic action on USS West Virginia, 7 December 1941
Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

 

John Finn

John Finn signs autographs following the opening ceremony
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 USS Pennsylvania following the attack on Pearl Harbor
7 December 1941
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 50-ton 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.

George Walters worked for the shipyard for 25 years after Japan’s attack. He died in 1999 and an annual shipyard award bears his name.

 

Edwin Hill

Chief Boatswain Edwin Hill, USS Nevada
Killed in action during the bombing of Pearl Harbor
7 December 1941
(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

Second Lieutenant Phil Rasmussen, Pilot
Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941
(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.

 

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 the gallant men here entombed and their shipmates
who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941 on the USS Arizona”
(U.S. Navy Photo)

In Eternal Remembrance

7 December 1941

 

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Honoring Our Veterans

For Love of Country

Statue of Liberty-2

They Serve

Joint Services

They Sacrifice

Gratitude-5

and

We Honor Their Commitment

Commitment

Their Valor

Unknown Soldier-2

In Gratitude For Our Freedom

U.S. flag

 Veterans Day 2021

Never in the History of the World, have others
Sacrificed more for the Freedom and Liberty of All

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No Greater Glory – 3 February 1943

 

Four Chaplains and the Sinking of the USAT Dorchester

In the early morning hours of 3 February 1943, First Sergeant Michael Warish nearly gave up hope as he floated helplessly in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.  Just minutes earlier, he and almost 900 others aboard the USAT Dorchester were near safe waters when a German torpedo slammed into the engine room far below. Soon thereafter, the Dorchester began to slip underneath the waves.

Warish accepted his fate, fully aware that life expectancy in these cold waters was about twenty minutes.  Surrounded by hundreds of his equally doomed shipmates, the blinking red lights of their life preservers reminded him of Christmas lights.  Other than a burning sensation in his throat from swallowing oil-fouled salt water and some minor pain from wounds suffered when the torpedo hit, he mostly felt numb.

Resigned to losing consciousness and shortly freezing to death, his thoughts turned to the courageous and selfless acts of the four Army chaplains he witnessed just before abandoning ship.  Those four men, according to Warish and other eyewitnesses, remained calm during the panic following the attack.  They spread out among the soldiers, calming the frightened and tending the wounded, while guiding the disoriented toward safety.  On deck, they distributed life preservers, including their own, as they assisted others to abandon ship. 

As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains — arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could be heard offering prayers and singing hymns.

Four Chaplains onboard the USAT Dorchester after assisting soldiers to abandon ship.

The story of these four chaplains, a Catholic, a Jew, and two Protestants, stands out among the countless stories of commitment and bravery that make up the pantheon of the U.S. Army, as one of the finest examples of courage to God, man, and country.  These men, John P. Washington, Alexander D. Goode, George L. Fox, and Clarke V. Poling, were drawn by the tragedy at Pearl Harbor to serving the armed forces.  Each wanted more than anything else to serve God by ministering to men on the battlefield.  Each felt great disappointment at being relegated to service in a rear area, in this case the airfields and installations of Greenland.  Yet, each, when the moment came, did not hesitate to put others before self, courageously offering a tenuous chance of survival with the full knowledge of the consequences.

The four chaplains serving onboard the USAT Dorchester
3 February 1943

One survivor and witness would later say, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”

John P. Washington was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on 15 June 1935
He entered the Army in May 1942 after Navy rejection following Pearl Harbor
(U.S. Army Chaplain Museum)

Though the chaplains had vastly different backgrounds, their similar experiences brought them together on the deck of the Dorchester.  Each was tested at a young age and came to the realization that his would be a life of service to God and man.  John P. Washington, born in Newark, New Jersey, on 18 July 1908, was eldest of seven children.  He was the product of tough Irish neighborhoods, where he almost lost his sight to a BB gun accident and nearly died of fever.  By the age of seven, John was on the path to priesthood.  After attending Catholic elementary and high schools, he entered the seminary in Darlington, New Jersey, and was ordained on 15 June 1935.

Father Washington was initially turned down by the Navy after Pearl Harbor because of his poor eyesight.  Disappointed but not defeated, Washington went to the Army.  This time, when it came to the eye test, he covered up his bad eye both times when reading the eye chart, correctly assuming that the doctors would be too busy to pay much attention.  He hoped that God would forgive his subterfuge.

In May 1942 Father Washington left for training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.  After a month, he was posted to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.  Eager to serve overseas, he applied for a transfer.  In a letter to Army Headquarters dated 23 September 1942, he wrote, “Once more may I ask you to consider my application for overseas duty.  The requests finally worked when, in November 1942, he was transferred to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts, to await overseas deployment.  There he met fellow Chaplains Fox, Goode, and Poling.

Alexander D. Goode, a native of Washington, DC, followed in his father’s footsteps as a rabbi in 1937.
Like Chaplain Washington, he originally wanted to serve as a Navy chaplain but was rejected.
(U.S. Army Chaplain Museum)

Alexander D. Goode was born on 10 May 1911, the son of a rabbi.  From his earliest days, he planned to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1934, followed by a degree from the Hebrew Union College in 1937.  Virtually penniless as a college student during the Great Depression, Alexander contemplated quitting school and giving up on his dream to become a rabbi, but he believed it was God’s plan for him to pursue a religious vocation.  For much of his youth, he served in the National Guard to help make ends meet.  

In January 1941, the Navy turned down Rabbi Goode’s application to become a chaplain but the Army Air Force accepted him after Pearl Harbor.  After training at the Harvard Chaplain School, along with classmates Fox and Poling, he was assigned to Seymour Johnson Field in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he served until October 1942.  In November 1942, he was reassigned to Camp Myles Standish.

George L. Fox, the oldest of the Four Chaplains, served as a WWI medic. During the war, he was ordained a Methodist minister and Army chaplain in July 1942. (U.S. Army Chaplain Museum)

 

As with the other chaplains, Pearl Harbor drew George L. Fox back to the military.  In July 1942, he was appointed as an Army chaplain and returned to active duty at the age of forty-two on 8 August, 1942, the same day his son Wyatt entered the Marine Corps.  After training at Harvard, he joined the 411th Coast Artillery Battalion (Anti-aircraft Gun) at Camp Davis, North Carolina, until
ordered to Camp Myles Standish.

Clark V. Poling volunteered in the Army as a Chaplain,
following Pearl Harbor, and was a Dutch Reformed minister.
(U.S. Army Chaplain Museum)

Clark V. Poling was born into a prominent family that had produced six generations of ministers.  His father was a well-known radio evangelist and religious newspaper editor.  Born on 7 August 1910, Poling was educated in Massachusetts and New York with never any doubt he would become the seventh generation of his family to enter the ministry.

After studying at Hope College in Michigan and Rutgers University in New Jersey, he entered Yale University’s School of Divinity, where he would be ordained a minister in the Reformed Church of America.  

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Reverend Poling volunteered as a chaplain.  Before departing for the service, his father, Dr. Daniel A. Poling, reminded him of the high casualty rate of chaplains in World War I.  The younger Poling downplayed the danger, confident that God’s will was to keep him safe while he served others.  He was appointed a U. S. Army Chaplain in 10 June 1942 and reported to the 131st Quartermaster Truck Regiment at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, on 25 June.  Later he went on to Harvard and then to Camp Myles Standish.  In November 1942, the four chaplains were all together for the first time.

The Dorchester (American Troop Transport) sunk by a German U-Boat during WWII
3 February 1943

The Dorchester was as austere and dank as any of the tubs ferrying troops to and from the war zone across the North Atlantic—a suitable venue for one to suffer the dreaded anxiety of an uncertain future passing through Torpedo Junction, as the stretch of dangerous waters was known.

With war looming, the U.S. government requisitioned the Dorchester and had the Atlantic, Gulf and West Indies Steamship Company in New York convert her into a troop transport.  Stripped of its original cruise ship luxuries, the USAT Dorchester was outfitted to carry 750 troops, with a complement of 130 crew and twenty-three Navy armed guards.

On 29 January 1943, the Dorchester departed St. John’s, Newfoundland, for its fifth north Atlantic voyage, hitting bad weather almost as soon as it entered open water. Its passengers included 597 soldiers and 171 civilians bound for airbases in Greenland.  In its holds were one thousand tons of equipment, food, and cargo.  Merchant Marine Captain Hans Danielsen skippered the ship while Army Captain Preston S. Krecker, Jr. commanded the troops.  First Sergeant Warish was the senior noncommissioned officer aboard.

6

After the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves on 3 February 1943, the USCGC Escanaba
and other Coast Guard vessels rescued dozens of survivors from the doomed Army troopship.
(U.S. Coast Guard History Office) 

Despite heavy security, there were few secrets in St. John’s. German authorities had become aware that convoy SG-19 was bound for Greenland, so four U-Boats took up stations along its route.  One of those was U-233, on her maiden voyage, commanded by twenty-six-year-old Lieutenant Commander Karl-Jürg Wächter.  In the fog and darkness of 3 February, U-233 floated on the surface as Wächter, binoculars raised to his eyes, studied the dark silhouettes of SG-19 passing in the distance.

Earlier, U-233 survived a depth charge attack brought about by the sonar indications of the escorts.  When submerged, U-boats could be detected by sonar, but when on the surface, the escorts were blind to their presence because they lacked radar.  As a result, Wächter used that advantage, along with the haze and darkness, to keep pace with the convoy.

All that the ships of SG-19 knew was a U-boat was in the area.  The evening before Captain Danielsen of the Dorchester announced over the ship’s public address system, “Now here this:  This concerns every soldier.  Now here this:  Every soldier is ordered to sleep in his clothes and life jacket.  Repeat, this is an order!  We have a submarine following us…If we make it through the night, in the morning we will have air protection from Blue West One, which is the code name for the air base in Greenland, and of course, we will have protection until we reach port.”

With the known presence of a submarine and the rough weather that night, there would be little sleeping on the Dorchester that night.  First Sergeant Warish chose to share the hardship of soldiers assigned to lookout positions out on the open deck in the thirty-six-degree weather.

8
The Chaplain’s Medal for Heroism, also called the Chaplain’s Medal of Honor,
authorized by Congress in 1960 to commemorate the actions of the Four Chaplains.  
(U.S. Army Chaplain Museum)

The chaplains bid good night to the men by reminding them of Captain Danielsen’s warning about wearing all their clothes, including boots and gloves, along with life jackets to bed.  Three of the chaplains had earlier made the rounds of the ship in an attempt to raise men’s spirits.  Meanwhile, Father Washington said mass in the mess area that was attended by men of many faiths.

Earlier that night, Captain Krecker had called his men together in the hold.  He repeated Captain Danielsen’s earlier warning. “This will be the most dangerous part of our mission,” he said.  “We’re coming through the storm and now we’re in calm waters.  And they can really spot us out here.”  He finished with the admonition to wear life jackets.

As the clock ticked past midnight, many began to breathe easier with the knowledge that they were near safe waters and would soon be under an umbrella of protection from Greenland-based planes.  Warish was making the rounds among the troops.  Aboard U-233, torpedo man Erich Pässler prepared to fire three torpedoes.  Within minutes, the three deadly fish were in the water heading toward the shadow creeping past at a distance of 1,000 yards.

Warish had just looked at his watch when, at approximately 0055 hours, one of the torpedoes ripped into the Dorchester’s starboard side.  The ensuing explosion rent a hole near the engine room from below the waterline to the top deck.  The lights went out, steam pipes split, and bunks collapsed like cards one on top of another.  The sounds of screaming and the smell of gunpowder and ammonia filled the air.  The initial explosion killed dozens outright, and a wave of cold water entering the ship quickly drowned dozens more.  Nearly one-third of those aboard died in the first moments of the disaster.

Men, many of whom had disobeyed Captain Danielsen’s orders to wear their clothes and life preservers, wandered through the darkened and mangled passageways searching for their clothes.  Warish lay trapped under some bunks that pinned his leg to the deck.  Within a minute, the ship listed thirty degrees to starboard.  Panicked men rushed topside, but many never made it through blocked passageways.  Others were overcome by ammonia fumes.  Those who did emerge into the freezing night faced tough choices.  Several life boats could not be deployed due to the Dorchester’s dramatic list.  Many others were so fouled by ice that they could not be freed before the ship went under.

In the middle of the confusion on deck was Roy Summers, a Navy gunner stationed on the Dorchester. A few months earlier, he had survived the sinking of  Dorchester’s sister ship, the Chatham, and he believed he would survive this attack.  Resigned to abandoning ship, he ran aft toward the stern, but thought better of it when he realized that jumping there would bring certain death from the still turning propellers, which had already breached the surface and claimed the lives of several who had already jumped.  Turning around, he witnessed two of the chaplains handing out life vests and assisting soldiers as they slid down ropes to the sea below.   One hysterical soldier grabbed a chaplain as if to choke him.  Summers wrestled the soldier away from the chaplain and watched the soldier run down the deck toward the rising water and probably to his death.  Summers then climbed over the railing and went down a rope into the ocean.

Several memorials dedicated to the Four Chaplains can be found across the United States, including this one, designed by Constantino Nivola, and dedicated in 1955.
National Memorial Park in Falls Church, Virginia.
(Army Historical Foundation)

 

Elsewhere on the top deck, Father Washington gave absolution to soldiers as they went over the side.  Private First Class Charles Macli, a former professional boxer, unsuccessfully urged Washington to go over the side with the men.  Instead, Chaplain Washington remained aboard as Macli slid into the cold water.  Another soldier, Walter Miller, saw knots of men in seemingly catatonic states bunched against the railings of the listing ship.  Too afraid to jump into the sea, they awaited the inevitability of being swallowed by it.  Over the din, he heard a terror-filled plaintive voice repeating, “I can’t find my life jacket.”  Turning toward that voice, Miller clearly heard Chaplain Fox say, “Here’s one, soldier.”  Then Miller witnessed Fox remove his life jacket and put it on the soldier.  At the same time, Navy Lieutenant John Mahoney cursed himself for leaving his gloves in his quarters.  Chaplain Goode stopped him from returning for the gloves, saying, “Don’t bother Mahoney.  I have another pair.  You can have these.”  Goode then removed the gloves from his hands and gave them to Mahoney.  Mahoney later realized that a man preparing to abandon ship probably would not carry a second pair of gloves.

Many of the survivors reported similar encounters with one or more of the chaplains.  They seemed to be everywhere on the deck until the very end.  Many survivors reported that the four chaplains locked arms and prayed in unison as the ship sank.  Whether this part is accurate is unimportant, for the truth is that these four Army chaplains sacrificed themselves for the soldiers and the God they served.

First Sergeant Warish freed himself after a ten-minute struggle.  He dragged himself through the passageways and over the side in time to see the Dorchester sink below the waves just twenty-five minutes after being struck by the torpedo.  After some confusion, the Coast Guard began rescue operations, saving 230 of the nearly 900 aboard and losing one Coast Guardsman in the process.

In the aftermath of the disaster, the story of the Four Chaplains garnered popular notice.  Many thought they should be awarded the Medal of Honor but was blocked by the stringent requirements of heroism performed under fire..  Instead, on 19 December 1944, they were each awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross.  In 1948, the U.S. Post Service issued a commemorative stamp in their honor, and Congress designated 3 February as “Four Chaplains Day.”  Twelve years later, Congress created the Four Chaplains’ Medal, which was presented to their survivors by Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker on 18 January 1961 at Fort Myer, Virginia.

Today, one can find memorials to the Four Chaplains all across the nation.  Several organizations exist to further their memory, including the Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia and the Immortal Chaplains Foundation in Minnesota.  Chapels, bridges, memorials, and plaques honoring the Four Chaplains are found in so many locations, including a stained glass window in the Pentagon, making it impossible to list all here.

First Sergeant Warish was rescued.  He recovered from his injuries enough to continue serving the Army, although he suffered chronic pain for the rest of his life.  He rose to the rank of sergeant major before retiring in 1963.  In 2002, he was injured in a car accident and for the remaining year of his life he could only move with the help of a walker.  He died in September 2003.

U-233 escaped after firing the fatal torpedo.  About a year later, it was sunk by British destroyers with the loss of most of its crew.  One survivor, Kurt Rosser, was interned in a Mississippi prisoner of war camp, where he picked cotton and sandbagged levees against flooding.  In 2000, the Immortal Chaplains Foundation brought him and the U-233 first officer, Gerhard Buske, to Washington, DC.  There they attended memorial ceremonies, toured the Holocaust Museum, and visited with Theresa Goode Kaplan, widow of Chaplain Goode, who reluctantly accepted the visitors’ expressions of respect for her husband and regret for her suffering.  Four years later, Buske spoke at the foundation’s sixtieth-anniversary ceremony, saying, “we ought to love when others hate…we can bring faith where doubt threatens; we can awaken hope where despair exists; we can light up a light where darkness reigns; we can bring joy where sorrow dominates.”  Those words, as well as any, represent the lessons of the Four Chaplains

Excerpts : Command Sergeant Major James H. Clifford, USA-Ret. and the U.S. Army

 

In Gratitude for the Service of our Military
Past and Present

GOD BLESS AMERICA

 

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Independence Day – 245th Anniversary

Let us remember the true meaning of this day and our country’s principles

Depiction of the 2nd Continental Congress Declaring Independence from King George

United States Declaration of Independence
Signed by the Continental Congress
July 4, 1776

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — 

A Beacon of Hope for Immigrants

Statue of Liberty
Liberty Island
New York City, New York
Dedicated October 28, 1886.
A gift to the United States from the people of France.

  “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…”

Sonnet by Emma Lazarus – 1883

Inscribed in the base of the Statue of Liberty

Immigrants on an Atlantic liner bound for New York and the United States
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

A Defender of  Democracy

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

The Price of Freedom

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

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

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Arlington National Cemetery

In Celebration of America

Independence Day

July 4, 1776 – 2021

4th of July fireworks Washington D.C.

God Bless America

 

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D-Day’s 77th Anniversary – June 6, 1944

 

Future Memorial site at Sainte-Mere-Eglise in Normandy.
Church tower and stained glass windows pay tribute to American paratroopers
who jumped into the first town liberated during WWII, June 6, 1944

 

A Family Remembers Liberation:  Saint-Mere-Eglise, 1944

In the early hours of June 6, 1944, a man knocked loudly on the door of Alexandre Renaud, Mayor of Sainte-Mère-Église.  Since the town’s occupation by the enemy in 1940 there had been a strict curfew. This late night visit could only mean an emergency.

The visitor explained rapidly that a house just off the main square was on fire. There were frequent air-raids in the area in 1944 and it was not unusual for fires to start.  They could not know this fire was probably caused by a flair set down by pathfinder aircraft  ahead of the D-Day invasion.

 

The burning house off the main square at Sainte Mere Eglise in the early morning, June 6,1944
Likely caused by a flair set down by pathfinder aircraft ahead of the D-Day invasion. This created problems for paratroopers landing and spotlighted to the Germans the approach landing of the America paratroopers.

 

A Normandy Family

Alexandre was a veteran from WWI and the town pharmacist who just two weeks before had taken on the questionable privilege of mayor in occupied Normandy.  He rushed out into the square to view the fire.  The Germans agreed to lower the curfew and soldiers with machine guns watched as locals formed a chain to ferry buckets of water from the town pump to the burning house.

Church bells rang, calling across the countryside for help but their efforts made little difference.  The blaze lit up nearby buildings and the church as they worked, then an incredible noise filled the night air.

Paratroopers

“Just at that moment,” Alexandre recalled in his war memoir “Sainte-Mère-Église,“ a large transport plane with all lights ablaze flew right over the tree-tops, followed immediately by others and yet others. They came from the west in great waves, almost silent, their giant shadows covering the earth.  Suddenly, what looked like huge confetti dropped from their fuselages and fell quickly to earth.  Paratroopers!”

His wife Simone and children, in their home above the pharmacy were now all wide awake.  Younger son Henri-Jean recalled that shooting outside were guns. My brother and I tried to look out the window but our mother screamed, ‘no, no!’ and pulled us back as we all knelt and prayed.”

Alexandre hurried back to his family. There had been rumors of a long-awaited invasion in Northern France but they expected the Allies to send small reconnaissance missions to scout out the area first.  With huge excitement, Alexandre told his family “It’s too many! It’s not commandos. It’s the liberation!”               

 

Inside the Airborne Museum at Sainte Mere Eglise, a 1944 plane.

 

Alexandre’s Children

The family headed out to a ditch away from the houses and fighting.  Paul Renaud was 14 years old, Henri-Jean was 10.  Henri-Jean recalled “I could see them, the soldiers, coming down in the night. We heard shouting but we were not afraid, my brother and I, as we were excited the Americans were coming.  Then a big shell exploded near the house and I couldn’t see my parents and started to cry.”

It was 1.30 am in the morning of 6 June 1944.

The burning house was a catastrophe for the men of the 82nd Airborne division, parachuting in and around Sainte-Mère-Église.  Well lit, some were easy targets for the soldiers already on the ground.  With little control over their parachutes, some were sucked into the fire.  Many were caught up in trees and utility poles, unable to free themselves before they were found and killed by the enemy.

But as more and more Allied soldiers fought in the streets of Sainte-Mère-Église, the hundred or so enemy realized they were outnumbered and fell back out of town.

 

Medical equipment 1944
Airborne Museum, Sainte Mere Eglise

 

Liberation

By 4.30am, while terrified families hid in the fields and in basements, the Third Battalion, 505th Regiment, 82nd Airborne forced the last few Germans out and LTC Edward C. Krause raised his unit’s colors in front of the town hall.

The Shock of Freedom

In the early morning light, Paul accompanied his father as he went out to greet their liberators.  “My father told me I was big enough to come with him and we crossed the square.  I saw my first bodies there. That of a German soldier and, at ten meters, that of an American paratrooper who held a small Bible in his hand. This image marked me.”

Henri-Jean was with his father when he saw “a paratrooper hanging from a tree. I had never seen a dead man before and I touched his boot. He began to turn around slowly in the air.”  And later “There was a German on the ground, but no blood.  It was the first time I saw one dead.  Then I saw several paratroopers killed, one of them had no equipment or shoes or helmet, as he had been robbed by the Germans.

 

Alexandre Renaud, Mayor, on the left with a Paratrooper and U.S. Priest L. Roulland,

 

A Friend and a Memory Made

Later that shell shocked morning, Paul passed an American soldier, resting on a bench. The soldier called him over. “He beckoned to me to approach and pulled a bundle of chewing gum out of his pocket, offering me one.  I did not know what it was and was about to swallow it, when he explained to me, by gestures, that it was necessary to chew it.”

It was not peaceful for long.  Later on 6 June the Germans launched a heavy attack that lasted two terrible days.

No Hiding from Danger

Families stayed out in the fields and woods, the Renauds’ in their ditch. The local butcher’s family joined them and Henri remembers moving up along the ditch to make room as gun fire filled the air.  Henri recalled “We made room for them and the next day, the butcher’s wife was killed by a shell just where I was the day before”.

By the afternoon of 7 June reinforcements arrived; tanks from nearby Utah Beach.  The town was secured for the Allies by then. The people of Sainte-Mère-Église would never forget their liberation, or that the Allied paratroopers stayed on as the Germans tried to take back the town.

Henri-Jean later said “If the Germans had succeeded, they would have destroyed the whole town and killed everyone. Thank God, these guys succeeded in stopping them. The feeling of the people here is so strong because of that.”  

 

After liberation, a paratrooper tries Normandy cider. The two boys are Henri-Jean and Paul Renaud. 
Mr. Simon on the left is behind his son Michel lighting a cigarette.  On the right is Mrs. Simon and her daughter.
Photo taken on 7 or 8 June 1944.

 

A Different Sort of Childhood

While Alexandre and the adults of the town worked to rebuild, the children of Sainte-Mère-Église remember that June as a time of treasures after years of deprivation.  They scoured the countryside and brought home what they found, the detritus of two armies; machine guns, radios, helmets, bayonets, caps, badges, brown packages provisions, strange medicines.  Crashed gliders nosed through hedges and spread across fields. Parachutes became shrouds for the dead and dresses for girls and their mothers.    

 

A Thompson M1A1 Submachine gun, on exhibition in the Airborne Museum, Sainte-Mère-Église

 

Towns around them spent days and sometimes weeks lurching between Allies and enemies so liberated Sainte-Mère-Église became an Allied headquarters. Perhaps nowhere was more aware of the cost of liberation.  Together with Bolsville, it was also the site of temporary war graves for around 13,000 soldiers killed so far from home.  Until the end of her life Simone Renaud, who tended the temporary graves with love and flowers, wrote to families who could not afford to visit their dead sons and husbands.  There is still a strong bond between Sainte-Mère-Église and the Allied countries that will never be broken.

 

Memorial window in Sainte-Mere-Eglise church designed by Paul Renaud. A young man’s gratitude preserved in glass,

 

A Fitting Memorial

A medieval church stands at the centre of Sainte-Mere-Eglise and took the brunt of battle, its windows destroyed.  It was agreed the new window should be a memorial and a symbol of the town’s thanks to their Liberators.  Paul Renaud was now 16 and a skilled artist.  Looking back at drawings he made of the night that changed all their lives, he designed a potent image.  It recalled the courage and sacrifice that freed them, and the power of the faith that helped the town endure.  

 

Detail of Paul Renaud and Gabriel Loire’s window in Sainte Mere Eglise, depicting American Parachutist.

 

Gabriel Loire from Chartres made Paul’s window and it is possibly the most compelling memorial in this town of memorials.  The Virgin Mary stands peaceful, holding the infant Jesus as around her paratroopers fall to the ground, their welcome well known.

A second window was donated on the 25th anniversary of D-Day by veterans of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, in 1972.  Made again by Gabriel, it is of Saint Michael, the patron saint of paratroopers.    

 

Memorial window Sainte-Mere-Eglise church at Normandy.
Donated by the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division
Depiction of the Patron Saint of paratroopers.

 

Today

Sainte-Mère-Église is a vibrant memorial to liberation.  The new Airborne Museum, built on the site of the burning house, gives visitors a good understanding of D-Day history and includes many personal stories of great bravery and humanity.  In the town, the flags of France and the Allies are always flying.

Every year there are celebrations, parachute drops, parties and enactments to remember the liberation.  Over the last 70 years the Renaud family have been involved in keeping the memory of liberation alive. Copies of Alexandre’s book ‘Sainte-Mère-Église’ can still be bought second hand online.  Paul Renaud never lost his love of American chewing gum.

 

Airborne Museum at Sainte-Mere-Eglise

 

A few miles from the Normandy landing beaches, the Airborne Museum has become the largest museum in Europe dedicated to the American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne engaged in the context of the Normandy invasion in 1944, during the Second World Word.

Credit:  Normandy Then and Now

 

American Greatness    

American GIs in First Wave Boats at Normandy, June 6,1944.
They would suffer major casualties from drowning or German gunfire from above them.

 

Airborne paratroopers dropped in mass outside Saint Mere Eglise
June 6,1944

 

RMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in New York with returning US Servicemen in 1945.
Finally WWII is over

 

 

In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude

Then and Now

For Your Service and Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

—————————

God Bless America

 

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Unwavering Valor – Memorial Day 2021

In Remembrance

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

 

Whether at present or long past, so many 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 willingly serve.  In a sacrifice repeated through time, families send sons and daughters to peacetime duty or periods of war and conflict.  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.

 

Arlington National Cemetery

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

 

  “The soul of our nation are our heroes”

                                

 

In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude

For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

—————————

God Bless America

Memorial Day
2021

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A Christmas Truce in the Forest -1944

American Soldiers in the Ardennes Forest
During the WWII Battle of the Bulge

Christmas 1944

December 24th

It was Christmas Eve 1944 and the last desperate German offensive of World War II raged around our tiny cabin.  When we heard the sudden knock on our door, neither Mother nor I had the slightest inkling of the quiet miracle which lay in store for us.

I was 12 then and we were living in a small cottage in the Hürtgen Forest, near the German-Belgian border.  Father had stayed at the cottage on hunting weekends before the war and when Allied bombers partly destroyed our hometown of Aachen, he sent us to live there.  Father had been ordered into the civil-defense fire guard in the border town of Monschau, four miles away.  “You’ll be safe in the woods,” he had told me. “Take care of Mother, as you are now the man of the family.”

View of the type of terrain and a tiny house in the Huertgen Forest

Approximate Site of the Vincken Cabin

Nine days before Christmas, Field Marshal von Rundstedt had launched the last, desperate German offensive of the war and now, as I went to the door, the Battle of the Bulge was raging all around us. We heard the incessant booming of field guns, planes soared continuously overhead, and at night, searchlights stabbed through the darkness. Thousands of Allied and German soldiers were fighting and dying nearby.

Mother stood silent, motionless, her hand on my shoulder.  As she opened the door, the men outside were armed and could have forced their entrance, yet they stood there and asked for entrance with their eyes.  A wounded man with them seemed more dead than alive. “Kommt rein,” Mother said finally. “Come in.” The soldiers carried their comrade inside and stretched him out on my bed.

None of them understood German. Mother tried French, and one of the soldiers could converse in that language.  As Mother went to look after the wounded man, she said to me, “The fingers of those two are numb. Take off their jackets and boots, and bring in a bucket of snow.” Soon I was rubbing their blue feet with that snow.

We learned the stocky, dark-haired fellow was Jim;  his friend, tall and slender, was Robin.  Harry, the wounded one, was now sleeping on my bed, his face as white as the snow outside.  They’d lost their battalion and had wandered in the forest for three days, looking for the Americans and hiding from the Germans. They hadn’t shaved, but still, without their heavy coats, they looked merely like big boys.  And that was the way Mother began to treat them.

Now Mother said to me, “Go get Hermann and bring six potatoes.” This was a serious departure from our pre-Christmas plans. Hermann was the plump rooster (named after portly Hermann Goering, Hitler’s No. 2 man, for whom Mother had little affection).  Rooster had been fattening for weeks in the hope that Father would be home for Christmas.  Some hours before, however, when it was obvious Father would not make it, Mother had decided Hermann should live a few more days, in case Father could get home for New Year’s. Now she had changed her mind again. Hermann would serve an immediate, pressing purpose.

While Jim and I helped with the cooking,  Robin took care of Harry.  He had a bullet through his upper leg and had almost bled to death. Mother tore a bedsheet into long strips for bandages.  Soon, the tempting smell of roast chicken permeated our room. I was setting the table when once again there came a knock at the door.

Young German Soldiers in the Ardennes Forest
During the WWII Battle of the Bulge

Expecting to find more lost Americans, I opened the door without hesitation.  There stood four soldiers, wearing uniforms quite familiar after five years of war. They were German Wehrmacht Armed Forces!  I was paralyzed with fear. Although still a child, I knew the harsh law that sheltering enemy soldiers constituted was high treason. We could all be shot!  Mother was frightened, too.  Her face was white, but she stepped outside and said quietly, “Fröhliche Weihnachten.”  The soldiers wished her a Merry Christmas, too.

“We have lost our regiment and would like to wait for daylight,” explained the corporal. “Can we rest here? ”  “Of course,” Mother replied with a calmness born of panic. “You can also have a fine, warm meal and eat till the pot is empty.”  The Germans smiled as they sniffed the aroma through the half-open door. “But,” Mother added firmly, “we have three other guests, whom you may not consider friends.” Now her voice was suddenly sterner than I’d ever heard it before. “This is Christmas Eve and there will be no shooting here.”

“Who’s inside?” the corporal demanded. “Amerikaner?”  Mother looked at each frost-chilled face. “Listen,” she said slowly. “You could be my sons, and so could those in there. A boy with a gunshot wound, fighting for his life.  His two friends lost like you and just as hungry and exhausted.  This one night,” she turned to the corporal and raised her voice a little, “this Christmas night, let us forget about killing.”  The corporal stared at her. There  were two or three endless seconds of silence.  Then Mother put an end to indecision. “Enough talking!” she ordered and clapped her hands sharply. “Please put your weapons here on the woodpile and hurry up before the others eat the dinner!”  Dazedly, the four soldiers placed their arms on the pile of firewood just inside the door: three carbines, a light machine gun and two bazookas.  Meanwhile, Mother was speaking French rapidly to Jim.  He said something in English, and to my amazement I saw the American boys, too, turn their weapons over to Mother.

Now, as Germans and Americans tensely rubbed elbows in the small room, Mother was really on her mettle. Never losing her smile, she tried to find a seat for everyone. We had only three chairs, but Mother’s bed was big, and on it she placed two of the newcomers side by side with Jim and Robin.  Despite the strained atmosphere, Mother went right on preparing dinner. But Hermann wasn’t going to grow any bigger and now there were four more mouths to feed. “Quick,” she whispered to me, “get more potatoes and some oats. These boys are hungry, and a starving man is an angry one.”

While foraging in the storage room, I heard Harry moan.  When I returned, one of the Germans had put on his glasses to inspect the American’s wound. “Do you belong to the medical corps?” Mother asked him. “No,” he answered. “But I studied medicine at Heidelberg until a few months ago.” Thanks to the cold, he told the Americans in what sounded like fairly good English, Harry’s wound hadn’t become infected. “He is suffering from a severe loss of blood,” he explained to Mother. “What he needs is rest and nourishment.”

Relaxation was now beginning to replace suspicion. Even to me, all the soldiers looked very young as we sat there together. Heinz and Willi, both from Cologne, were 16.  The German corporal, at 23, was the oldest of them all. From his food bag he drew out a bottle of red wine and Heinz managed to find a loaf of rye bread.  Mother cut that in small pieces to be served with the dinner.  Half the wine, however, she put away for the wounded boy.”

Then Mother said grace and I noticed there were tears in her eyes as she said the old, familiar words, “Komm, Herr Jesus. Be our guest.”  As I looked around the table, I saw tears, too, in the eyes of the battle-weary soldiers, boys again, some from America, some from Germany, all far from home.

Just before midnight, Mother went to the doorstep and asked us to join her to look up at the Star of Bethlehem. We all stood beside her except Harry, who was sleeping.  For all of us during that moment of silence, looking at the brightest star in the heavens, the war was a distant, almost-forgotten thing.

Our private armistice continued next morning.  Harry woke in the early hours, and swallowed some broth that Mother fed him.  With the dawn, it was apparent he was becoming stronger. Mother now made him an invigorating drink from our one egg, the rest of the corporal’s wine and some sugar.  Everyone else had oatmeal.  Afterward, two poles and Mother’s best tablecloth were fashioned into a stretcher for Harry. The corporal then advised the Americans how to find their way back to their lines.  Looking over Jim’s map, the corporal pointed out a stream. “Continue along this creek,” he said, “and you will find the 1st Army rebuilding its forces on its upper course.”  The medical student relayed the information in English.  Then the Corporal provided them with a compass.

“Why don’t we head for Monschau?” Jim had the student ask. “Nein!” the corporal exclaimed. “We’ve retaken Monschau.” Now Mother gave them all back their weapons. “Be careful, boys,” she said. “I want you to get home someday where you belong.  God bless you all!”  The German and American soldiers shook hands, and we watched them disappear in opposite directions.

When I returned inside, Mother had brought out the old family Bible. I glanced over her shoulder. The book was open to the Christmas story, the Birth in the Manger, and how the Wise Men came from afar bearing their gifts.  Her finger was tracing the last line from Matthew 2:12: “…they departed into their own country another way.”

This story really helped me to know why we should be kind to everyone, whether in war or not… My mom was a hero whom I admired for asking both enemies to not hate but to give love and peace.

“Truce In the Forest”   by Fritz Vincken,  Readers Digest 1973

———————–

What more profound compassion at Christmas,
than to enemies in the midst of war, treating each other with humanity

———————–

Fritz and his parents survived the war. His mother and father passed away in the Sixties and by then he had married and moved to Hawaii.  For years he tried to locate any of the German or American soldiers without luck, hoping to corroborate the story and see how they had fared. President Reagan heard of his story and referenced it in a 1985 speech he gave in Germany as an example of peace and reconciliation. But it wasn’t until the television program Unsolved Mysteries broadcast the story in 1995, that it was discovered that a man living in a Frederick, Maryland nursing home had been telling the same story for years. Fritz flew to Frederick in January 1996 and met with Ralph Blank, one of the American soldiers who still had the German compass and map.  Ralph told Fritz “Your mother saved my life.”   Fritz said the reunion was the high point of his life.

Fritz Vincken also managed to later contact one of the other Americans, but none of the Germans. He died on December 8, 2002, almost 58 years to the day of the Christmas truce.  He was forever grateful that his mother got the recognition she deserved.

Christmas 2020

Christmas wreaths placed on veterans’ graves

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

 

In Gratitude for the Service of our Military

Past and Present

 

U.S. Joint Military Services

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GOD BLESS AMERICA

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Unexpected Hero of Pearl Harbor

Doris “Dorie” Miller, Petty Officer USN

When the attack on Pearl Harbor began, Doris “Dorie” Miller was working laundry duty on the USS West Virginia.

Enlisting in the Navy at age 19 in 1939, Miller had longed to expand his life and contribute extra money to his family.  The Navy, however, was segregated at the time and Miller and other African-American sailors of color weren’t allowed to serve in combat positions.  Instead, they worked as cooks, stewards, cabin boys, and mess attendants.  They received no weapons training and were prohibited from firing guns.

Prior to 1922, the Navy was authorized to recruit Blacks under the same conditions as members of other races.  During the 1923 Tea Pot Dome scandal of the Warren Harding administration, however, instructions were immediately issued to discontinue recruiting “Negroes” in ratings other than messman.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president in 1932,  the Navy was still open to Blacks but in the same area only; as mess attendants, stewards, and cooks,” says Clark Simmons, who was a mess attendant on the U.S.S. Utah during the Pearl Harbor attack.  “The Navy was so structured that if you were Black, this was what they had you do in the Navy — you only could be a servant.”

According to BlackPressUSA, The Pittsburgh Courier obtained the confidential report in 1942 detailing the enlistment of Negroes.  It read, in part, that “where qualified Negroes in competition for advancement in ratings attained them, an assignment had to be found where the rated Negroes exercised little or no military command” (as in giving orders to white sailors). It was against that backdrop in 1939 that Miller signed up for a six-year hitch as Messman 3rd class. He was soon promoted to second class, then first class, and finally to ship’s cook, third class.

USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee
Surrounded in smoke and flames following Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor
7 December 1941
Photo courtesy: U.S. National Archive and Records Administration

On the morning of December 7, the Naval History & Heritage Command reported that “Miller had arisen at 6 a.m., and was collecting laundry when the alarm for general quarters sounded. He headed for his battle station, the anti-aircraft battery magazine amid ship, only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it, so he proceeded on deck.  Because of his physical prowess, he was assigned to carry wounded fellow sailors to places of greater safety. Then an officer ordered him to the bridge to aid the mortally wounded captain of the ship.  He subsequently manned a 50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship.”

In the heat of the aerial attack, Miller had immediately decided to fly in the face of segregation and military rules to help defend his ship and country.  Despite having no weapons training, and as other sailors were jumping ship, Miller is credited with potentially downing 6 Japanese planes.

Miller’s heroism and bravery didn’t go unnoticed in Washington, D.C., either.  He was awarded the Navy Cross, the third highest honor awarded by the US Navy at the time, and was the first African American serviceman to receive that honor.

Of the 1,541 men on West Virginia during the attack, 130 were killed and 52 wounded. Although Miller’s courage under fire was initially overlooked, the Black press seized his story and pressured the Navy to recognize him.  In 2001, Black Press historian Clint Wilson wrote: “For months, the Navy didn’t disclose Miller’s name. In fact, his heroism wasn’t known publicly until nearly a month after the Pearl Harbor attack and then in a dispatch via Ralph Jordan, a correspondent for INS, the International News Service. It took three months of intense digging by Black reporters for the Pittsburgh Courier and other papers to finally discover the Pearl Harbor hero’s name.

Doris “Dorie” Miller became a celebrity when he returned stateside. He was featured on several national radio programs and a number of columnists, Black and white, praised his heroism. Miller’s acts were heavily publicized in the black press, making him an iconic emblem of the war for black Americans.

Two liberal members of Congress took it a step further.  On March 14, 1942, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., introduced a bill authorizing the President of the United States to present Miller with the Congressional Medal of Honor “in recognition of distinguished and courageous service at the risk of his life and above the call of duty while aboard a United States battleship at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.”  A similar measure was introduced in the Senate by James Mead.  While Miller did not receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, he became the first African-American sailor to receive the Navy Cross.

Miller was commended by the Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and the Pacific Fleet Admiral, Chester W. Nimitz, personally presented the Navy Cross to Miller onboard aircraft carrier USS Enterprise for his extraordinary courage in battle.  Speaking of Miller, Nimitz remarked:  “This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race, and I’m sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.”

Doris Miller, USN, receiving the Navy Cross from Admiral Nimitz
May 27, 1942
Courtesy: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Pittsburgh Courier called for Miller to be allowed to return home for a war bond tour like white heroes.  In November 1942, Miller arrived at Maui and was ordered on a war bond tour while still attached to the heavy cruiser Indianapolis.  In December 1942 and January 1943, he gave talks in Oakland, California, in his hometown of Waco, Texas, in Dallas, and to the first graduating class of African-American sailors from Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Chicago.

Doris Miller speaking at the Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois
Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy, National Archives collection

In May 1943, Doris Miller reported for duty at Puget Sound Navy Yard. His rate was again raised to Petty Officer, Ship’s Cook Third Class on 1 June, and he reported to the escort carrier Liscome Bay. After training in Hawaii for the Gilbert Islands operation, the carrier participated in the Battle of Tarawa which began on November 20.

USS Liscome Bay aircraft carrier prepares for action

On November 24, a single torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-175 struck the escort carrier near the stern. The aircraft bomb magazine detonated a few moments later, sinking the warship within minutes. There were 272 survivors. The rest of the crew was listed as “presumed dead.”  24 year old Miller did not survive.

On Dec. 7, 1943, two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Millers’ parents received word of their son’s death.  Miller posthumously received a Purple Heart, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, and the World War II Victory Medal.  There was also a park on the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor named in his honor.

His bravery led journalists, members of Congress and civil-rights activists to call for greater opportunities, better treatment, and higher honors for black service members.

In addition to Miller’s awards, in 1942 his actions were dramatized on the CBS radio series “They Live Forever” and his face adorned the U.S. Navy recruiting poster “above and beyond the call of duty.” Gwendolyn Brooks’ 1945 poem “Negro Hero” is narrated from Miller’s point of view.

Doris Miller on Recruitment Poster WWII

Although he was not identified by name, Miller was portrayed by Elven Havard in the 1970 film “Tora! Tora! Tora!” In 1973, the Knox-class frigate USS Miller was named for him. Oscar Award winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed Miller in the 2001 movie “Pearl Harbor,” and in 1991, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. dedicated a bronze commemorative plaque of Miller at the Miller Family Park located on the U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor.   In 2010, he was featured on a U.S. postage stamp.

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At the 55th annual Pearl Harbor commemoration in Hawaii, Adm. Archie Clemins talked about Miller’s impact on history.  “Through his name, we are reminded that heroism and valor transcend racial and ethnic bounds and that, as Americans, our strength lies in our ability to help one another in time of need,” Clemins said.

The U.S. Navy has additionally named an aircraft carrier in honor of an African American for the first time.  USS Doris Miller is scheduled to be laid down January 2026, launched October 2029, and commissioned in 2030.

Navy Acting Secretary Thomas B. Modly said the USS Doris Miller  will serve as a reminder of the nation’s pursuit for justice and as a tribute to its namesake.  “Doris Miller was the son of a sharecropper and a descendant of slaves,” Modly said at the ceremony at Pearl Harbor on January 20, 2020 in honoring African Americans of The Greatest Generation. “He was not given the same opportunities that men of a different color were given to serve this country.  But on Dec. 7, 1941, he would not be defined by the prejudice of other people.”  Miller, the first African American to receive the Navy Cross for his courage during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, helped evacuate the West Virginia battleship before it sank and fired a machine gun at Japanese attackers until he ran out of ammunition.

But one honor has eluded Miller.  Though his Navy Cross was never elevated to a Congressional Medal of Honor, the Congressional Black Caucus moved in 2014 to waive the statue of limitations to make it possible.

Since 1942, Texas lawmakers have unsuccessfully petitioned the government to award him the Medal of Honor. Last year, Dallas congresswoman and Waco native Eddie Bernice Johnson started a national letter-writing campaign to encourage Miller’s recognition, which she believes was denied him 74 years ago because of his race.

“I, like many others, passionately believe that Dorie Miller should be awarded the Medal of Honor for his service to our nation,” she said. “Because of his heroic actions, he deserves nothing less.”

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In Appreciation for Your Extraordinary Valor

79th Anniversary

Pearl Harbor – WWII

 

 

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The Bagpiper of Normandy -1944

Piper Bill Millin playing his backpipes for fellow soldiers
War Office official photographer, Evans, J L (Capt) – Imperial War Museum
3 June 1944

Commonly known as Piper Bill, Private William Millin was personal piper to Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat and Commander of 1 Special Service Brigade at D-Day. A commando brigade of the British Army, it was formed during the Second World War and consisted of elements of the British Army and Royal Marines.  The brigade’s component units saw action individually in Norway and the Dieppe Raid (in France), before being combined under one commander for service in Normandy during Operation Overload. On 6 December 1944, the Brigade was redesignated as 1st Commando Brigade, removing the hated title Special Service and its association with the German SS.

Early life

Millin was born in Saskatchewan, Canada on 14 July 1922 to a father of Scottish origin, who had moved the family to Canada but returned to Glasgow when William was three to attend his school years.  He would later join the Territorial Army in Fort William and played in the pipe bands of the Highland Light Infantry and the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.  Volunteering as a commando, he trained with Lord Lovat at Achnacarry along with French, Dutch, Belgian, Polish, Norwegian, and Czechoslovak troops.

Second World War

Operation Overlord – the Normandy landings on D-Day

The British 2nd Army, Commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade, landed from an LCI(S) (Landing Craft Infantry Small) on ‘Queen Red’ Beach, the Sword Area, approximately 8.40 am on 6 June 1944.  The brigade commander, Brigadier Lord Lovat DSO MC, can be seen striding through the water to the right of the column of men.  The figure nearest the camera is the brigade’s bagpiper, Piper Bill Millin.

Millin landing on Queen Red Beach, Sword (right foreground)
Lovat is wading through the water to the right of the column
Evans, J L (Capt), Army Film & Photographic Unit – Imperial War Museum
6 Jun 1944

Millin is best remembered for playing the pipes while under fire during the D-Day landing in Normandy.   Pipers had traditionally been used in battle by Scottish and Irish soldiers.  However, the use of bagpipes was restricted to rear areas by the time of the Second World War by the British Army.  Lovat, nevertheless, ignored these orders and ordered Millin, then aged 21, to play.  When Private Millin demurred, citing the regulations, Lord Lovat replied: “Ah, but that’s the English War Office.  You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”  Piper Millin then proceeded to play as his comrades fell around him on Sword beach.  In later conversation with captured German snipers, they stated he was not shot, as they thought he had simply gone mad.

Private Millin, whom Lovat had appointed his personal piper during commando training in Scotland, was the only man during the landing who wore a kilt – the same Cameron tartan kilt his father had worn in Flanders during World War 1 – and armed only with his pipes and the “black knife,” sheathed inside his kilt-hose on the right side.

Piper William Millin’s bagpipes played on Sword beach during the D-Day landings
Displayed at Dawlish Museum along with his bonnet, 100-year-old kilt and dirk
Credit: Creative Commons

Lovat and Millin advanced from Sword to Pegasus Bridge, which had been defiantly defended by men of the 2nd Batallion, the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry (6th Airborne Division) who had landed in the early hours by glider.  Lovat’s commandos arrived at a little past one p.m. at Pegasus Bridge although the rendezvous time in the plan was noon. To the sound of Millin’s bagpipes, the commandos proceeded to march across Pegasus Bridge.  During the march, twelve men died, most shot through their berets.  Later detachments of the commandos rushed across in small groups with helmets on.

Later life

Private Millin saw further action with 1 SSB in the Netherlands and Germany before being demobilized in 1946 and going to work on Lord Lovat’s highland estate.  He made regular trips back to Normandy for commemoration ceremonies and France awarded him a Legion of Honor for gallantry in June 2009.

Millin played the pipes at Lord Lovat’s funeral in 1995  and following his own stroke in 2003, died in a Torbay hospital on 17 August 2010 at the age of 88.

Popular culture and legacy

Millin’s action on D-Day was portrayed in the 1962 film The Longest Day.  He was portrayed by Pipe Major Leslie de Laspee, the official piper to the Queen Mother in 1961.

One set of Millin’s bagpipes are exhibited at the Memorial Museum of Pegasus Bridge in Ranville, France.  His original set of bagpipes are now displayed at Dawlish Museum where he presented his pipes in 2004, prior to the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Landing, along with his kilt, bonnet, and dirk.  These items are still shown at the museum library with photographic archives and looped video telling of Millin’s exploits.

Dawlish Museum officials have written testimony from Millin that the bagpipe set on display in Dawlish is the genuine set which he played during the D-Day landings at Sword. The ones on show at the Pegasus Bridge Museum are a second set that were used by him later in the campaign, after the capture of Pegasus Bridge. 

With the help of son John Millin and the Dawlish Royal British Legion, a bronze life-size statue of Piper Bill Millin was unveiled on 8 June 2013 at Colleville-Montgomery, near Sword in France.

Life-size bronze statue of Piper Bill Millin
Placed on Sword Beach
Colleville-Montgomery in Normandy, France

 

On 7 August 2013, the BBC featured a film of Bill’s son John Millin playing  the bagpipes in memory of his father at the statue’s unveiling at Colleville-Montgomery in Normandy.  Broadcast live, from Weston-super-Mare, the film also showed scenes of more than 500 pipers from 21 countries taking part in the unveiling of the £50,000 statue by French sculptor Gaetan Ader, which took more than four years of fund raising by the D-Day Piper Bill Millin Association to complete.

 

In Appreciation for our British Allies

 At Normandy During WWII

 

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WWII Thanksgiving for our Troops

WWII Troops basting turkey in the field at Thanksgiving

Throughout U.S. involvement overseas, military officials did their best to provide a traditional, hot holiday meal for our soldiers. In 1943, the American people sent two liberty ships fully stocked with Thanksgiving supplies for those serving abroad. Included were turkeys, trimmings, cranberry sauce, and even various pies, all sent throughout the European and Pacific theaters and even to the frontlines.  Those lucky enough to be stationed on board one of the Navy’s vessels received excellent food at all times, but Thanksgiving was particularly scrumptious and appreciated by the servicemen on the ground and in the air.  Despite the good intentions of the higher ranks, every man missed their families, especially during the holidays and no Thanksgiving could quite compare to the ones held at home, although the soldiers had each other through the hardest time of their lives.

US Army Troops Roadside for WWII Thanksgiving Dinner

U.S. military Thanksgiving dinners were a far cry above the usual canned and precooked C- or K-rations. In fact, one British soldier who crash landed at an American airbase in Italy on Thanksgiving Day, later would remember with his first taste of an American military Thanksgiving that “the Americans were looked after slightly better [than the British were], so the lunch I was offered consisted of roast turkey, fresh vegetables and fresh white bread, the like of which we hadn’t seen since the war started.  Similarly, a young British boy who happened to be visiting an American airfield in England on Thanksgiving observed, “I was invited into the dining room and was amazed at the food that was there.  It was Thanksgiving and I thought Christmas had come early. I’d never seen so much food, as we were all living on rations.  I was even lucky enough to taste some.”

WWII Thanksgiving dinner, Italy, 1944

After receiving permission from a farm owner, these men, attached to an airbase at Norfolk, England, invade a turkey pen to choose their annual turkey day repast. The turkeys were given to the men for their Thanksgiving dinners, 6 November 1943.

WWII gift of turkeys for the troops from a local farm
6 Nov 1943

On 25 November 1943, a long line of men formed outside the mess hall on Alexai Point Airbase, each waiting for his turn to be served the traditional Thanksgiving dinner–the first Thanksgiving celebrated by military personnel on former American territory recaptured from the Japanese. The men were members of the 28th Bomb Group and the 54th Fighter Group, stationed on Attu, Aleutian Islands.

WWII Troops line up outside Alexai Point Airbase mess hall for Thanksgiving
25 November 1943

At Alexai Point, Attu, Aleutian Islands, officers of the 77th Bomb Group and the 54th Fighter Group also enjoyed their traditional Thanksgiving dinner on 25 November 1943 on former American territory recaptured from the Japanese.

WWII Thanksgiving Dinner at Alexai Point, Attu, Aleutian Islands
25 November 1943

Mess hall personnel readied to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the men of the 13th Air Force who formed a long chow line outside on Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, 25 November 1943.

WWII Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Mess Hall
Prepares Thanksgiving Dinner
25 November 1943

GI’s, holding plates heaped with food, grin broadly as they pass thru the chow line in the mess hall at Poltava Airbase, a shuttle bombing base in Russia. The Thanksgiving dinner, served by Russian girls, was the first meal prepared in the newly-opened mess hall,  November 1944.

WWII GIs pass thru chow line at Poltava Airbase in Russia
November, 1944

GI’s did justice to their Thanksgiving dinner, the first meal served in the newly-opened mess hall at Poltava Airbase, a shuttle mission base in Russia. November 1944.

WWII GIs enjoy Thanksgiving dinner-Poltava Airbase-Russia
November, 1944

WWII GI from the 26th Infantry Division enjoys Thanksgiving chow
26 Nov 1944

 

President Roosevelt’s 1943 Thanksgiving speech to the nation began “God’s help to us has been great in this year of our march towards world-wide liberty.  In brotherhood with warriors of other United Nations, our gallant men have won victories, have freed our homes from fear, have made tyranny tremble, and have laid the foundation for freedom of life in a world which will be free.”

He continued, “May we on Thanksgiving Day and on every day express our gratitude and zealously devote ourselves to our duties as individuals and as a nation. May each of us dedicate his utmost efforts to speeding the victory which will bring new opportunities for peace and brotherhood among men.”

 

In Appreciation of our Troops Who Serve

Thanksgiving Day

2020

 

God Bless America

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Their War Too, Military Women of WWII

During World War II, women’s service to their country was not limited to the factory floor.  It is true that millions of women were hired to work in factories and thousands were hired to work on farms through the Women’s Land Army program, but their options did not end there. The size of the global conflict was unprecedented and once the United States entered the war, its citizens had to mobilize quickly. The sheer volume of people needed called for the expansion of the role of women. Because of these factors, the roles women played during World War II far surpassed their involvement during previous conflicts. They were recruited for service in the United States military for the first time.

After Pearl Harbor, women signed up for the armed services by the hundreds of thousands; their numbers totaling approximately 350,000 by war’s end. They served in each branch of the military in separate units. The Army established the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the Marines Corps created the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard’s Women’s Reserve were known as the SPARS, and the Navy recruited women into its reserve known as the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). Another group of women served the military but were not recognized as service members during the war. This group, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), served in the Army Air Corps.

Enlistment was not limited to white women, women of color were also allowed to enlist and were vital to the success of females in the military.  A total of 6,520 African American women served in the military during the war, as well as an estimated 200 Asian American women. These women faced additional barriers such as limited recruitment numbers – kept to 10 percent – and segregation. They were generally not portrayed in recruitment films of the era and do not show up in any of the films below.  Later films from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts do include women of color but during World War II, the topic of race was generally avoided. Still, women of color were determined to serve and contributed a great deal to the cause.

Since women were to play a vital part in the war effort, it was extremely important to have the public’s support. They were to serve in non-traditional roles, which could be viewed as a threat to “traditional values” enforced since the Victorian Era. The government took to propaganda-type films to ensure the public that these opportunities were vital and would not disrupt the general order of society. These films were also used to recruit women, working to make them feel comfortable with the idea of joining the military and stress the importance of their role. The tactics used by the U.S. Government can be seen in the clips below.

FEMININITY

It was assumed that women would value their feminine characteristics over the war effort and great lengths were taken to address that assumption and reassure women they would not lose their “femininity” by participating in what was generally seen as the “man’s sphere.” The word “girls” is used instead of women, the narrator talks about nail polish, makeup and their “pretty little arms,” a recruit still needs a man’s help trying to complete a chin-up, and a quick clothing change allows the women to return to their feminine ways.

Women’s Training

Women’s Induction

It is worth noting that Leonora Anderson (Lonnie Anderson described as “the little blond”) went on to become a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. She and several WASP members fought to have their contributions recognized as military service.  Because of them, former WASP’s are now allowed to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

BENEFITS OF JOINING THE MILITARY

Another tactic used to recruit women for military service was to explain all of the benefits of the job, specifically the large variety of careers to choose from. Whether a woman wanted to become a secretary, switchboard operator or air traffic controller, there was an opportunity to do so. Other benefits highlighted are the payment of all recruits, equal pay with their male counterparts, special discounts on trains and movie theaters, and job training they could use in the civilian world.

Women’s Recruitment

Women’s Equality

DOING IMPORTANT WORK

The importance of work needing to be done by women was also highlighted in recruitment films. The idea that more men were needed on the front lines and women were doing the right thing by filling their vacancies was repeated again and again. Even though their jobs may not require direct contact with the enemy such as torpedoing an enemy submarine, the war could not be fought and won without them.

Women’s Duties – Army WACS

Women’s Vital Jobs – Coast Guard SPARS

Women Providing Men’s Active Duty

Women were also reminded from time to time that while their options were vast, they were also limited. A female could not be a doctor but she could serve as a nurse, or, as is stated in the clip below, a woman could not become an admiral but she could be the admiral’s secretary.

Women’s Limits of Service

These films serve as a reminder of the accomplishments of women in the military during WWII, as well as the barriers they faced when pushing against societal norms. Their jobs were no less vital to the war effort than those of their male counterparts. Many women faced scrutiny from their families and the public for wanting to join the military, but they saw the importance of doing so.  It is because of these women, that women today have the opportunities they do in the military.

National Archives

In Recognition and Gratitude

For Your Valued Service

Veterans Day

2020

God Bless America

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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

—————————

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

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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, and 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 at 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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