Christmas in January 1943

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Cabanatuan Prison Camp Cabanatuan Prison Camp

Commander Melvin H.McCoy of the U.S.Navy had survived the Bataan death march on the Philippines and was now in the notorious Davao Prison camp on Mindanao. Like most prisoners of the Japanese they were on starvation rations and men were dying on a daily basis.

On 29th January 1943 they got a lucky break. For whatever reason the Japanese had for once decided to hand over the Red Cross parcels that had been sent from the States. This was a very irregular event. Many prisoners of the Japanese never saw any of them.

Red Cross parcel Red Cross parcel

The importance of such support from home could never be underestimated:

“It’s Christmas, Commander McCoy!” he shouted. “It’s Christmas!”

I was well aware that Christmas had already passed, practically without notice, so I asked him to explain his excitement.

“Stuff from home,” he babbled. “Boxes from the States. Red Cross boxes.”

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An Unusual Tale

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Crusader Crusader

Story brought to us by Ian from Welcome to My World and Aussie Emu.

The Time a Fighter Pilot Ejected Into a Thunderstorm and Rode the Lightning

Marine Corps Lt. Col. William H. Rankin had flown combat flight operations in both World War II and the Korean War, but it wasn’t enemy fire that came closest to killing him during his military flying career. It was a summer thunderstorm over the east coast of the United States.

Lt.Col. William Rankin Lt.Col. William Rankin

On July 26, 1959 Rankin and his wingman, 1st Lt. Herbert Nolan, were flying a pair of F-8 Crusaders from South Weymouth, Mass back to their home base at Beaufort, S.C. when they encountered a line of severe thunderstorms over North Carolina. Shortly after the fighters climbed up to 47,000 feet to go over the growing cumulonimbus clouds, Rankin heard a loud grinding noise followed by a loss of power from…

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Current News

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Marines come home. Marines come home.

Remains of Missing WWII Veterans Return

Story courtesy of KHON.com & info from “Goodbye Darkness” by William Manchester

PEARL HARBOR (KHON2) — 39 U.S. marines who were missing in action during World War II were honored in a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam on July 26th.

These veterans were reunited with their families after 72 years as unidentified remains. After the Battle of Tarawa during World War II the marines were considered to be missing in action.

Crews of scientists, historians, and surveyors from the non-profit History Flight have combed through Tarawa for the past decade. This is considered to be the largest recovery of missing in action veterans ever recorded.

Four of the veterans received the Medal of Honor; including 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr.  Bonnyman, an engineer officer, along with 5 of his men, were responsible for approximately 200 enemy KIA, including the commanding…

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Japanese Views

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'Shrine Entrance in Snowstorm' by Tosuke S. ‘Shrine Entrance in Snowstorm’ by Tosuke S.

Despite some common belief and wartime propaganda, not all the Japanese people wanted war with either America or England.  Here are some quotes located to help clarify that misconception.

The following quotes have been taken from Saburo Ienaga’s “Pacific War” (Taiheiyo senso) translated by Frank Baldwin.

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In the midst of the excitement and successful sinking of the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, Onozuka Kiheiji, former president of the Tokyo Imperial University, whispered to a colleague, “This means that Japan is sunk too.” ___ Ienaga Miyako

Onozuka Kiheiji Onozuka Kiheiji

This was true for even those members of the political elite who belonged to the cautious school of thought, made their point of view at the Senior Statesmen’s Conference by, Wakatsuki Reijiro: “Do we have adequate resources for a long war or not?  I am concerned about this problem.”  Yonai Mitsumasa added, “In attempting…

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Fepows

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F Force enroute to the Burma Railroad, by Otto Kreeft F Force enroute to the Burma Railroad, by Otto Kreeft

Fepows – Far Eastern POWs

Countless films and books concerned with the Second World War have, through the decades, concentrated on Europe and the Holocaust and the Far East prisoners of war have barely been mentioned.  The official 5 volumes of British history for this war include only 10 pages devoted to the subject, compared to the Australian history with 170 pages.

sketch by Jack Chalker, Fepow;British Army, Konyu, Thailand sketch by Jack Chalker, Fepow;British Army, Konyu, Thailand

Japan’s army conquered the Far East in 1941-42.  Prisoners were taken from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaya, Thailand, Java, Sumatra, Ambon, New Britain, Celebes, Guam and the Philippines.  According to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, Japan took more than 50,000 British and Australian troops in Singapore alone; 42,000 Dutch (N.E.I.); 10,000 British in Java and 25,000 Americans in the Philippines and then transported to the mainland camps.

The Japanese government made…

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Japanese Eye Witness Account

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Captain Mitsuo Fuschida Captain Mitsuo Fuschida

Capt. Mitsuo Fuschida, Imperial Japanese Navy, pilot

Fuchida was the first pilot to fly over Pearl Harbor when the attack of 7 December occurred – here he describes his view of the Battle of Midway from the deck of the IJN Akagi;

“The first enemy [U.S.] carrier planes to attack were 15 torpedo bombers.  When first spotted by our screening ships and combat air patrol, they were still not visible from the carriers, but they soon appeared as tiny dark specks in the blue sky, a little above the horizon, on Akagi’s starboard bow.  The distant wings flashed in the sun.  Occasionally one of the specks burst into a spark of flame and trailed black smoke as it fell into the water.  Our fighters were on the job and the enemy again seemed to be without fighter protection.

IJN Akagi IJN Akagi

“Presently a report came in from a Zero…

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Eye Witness Account (1)

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The following has been condensed from an article by author Jim Reardon.

In the raid of 4 June, 20 bombers blasted storage tanks, a warehouse, hospital, a hangar and a beached freighter, while 11 Zeros strafed at will.  Chief Petty Officer Makoto Endo led a 3-plane Zero group whose pilots were Flight Petty Officers Tsuguo Shikada and Tadayoshi Koga, 19 years old.  Koga’s Zero, serial number 4593, was light gray, with the Imperial Rising Sun insignia on its wings and fuselage.  It had left the Mitsubishi Nagoya aircraft factory on 19 February, only 3½ months earlier, so it was the latest design.

Tadayoshi Koga Tadayoshi Koga

Earlier that day, soldiers at an US Army outpost had seen 3 Zeros shoot down a lumbering Catalina amphibian.  Most of the 7-member crew climbed into a rubber raft and began paddling to shore.  The soldiers watched in horror as the Zeros strafed the crew until…

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Intelligence

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The Dozier Family in Japan, circa 1920's The Dozier Family in Japan, circa 1920’s

The Japanese altered their pre-war message codes after the Coral Sea (6 May 1942), and a few weeks before the Aleutians and Midway ( June 1942).  The changes were enough to send US Naval Intelligence in Honolulu scrambling.

The Secret Service brought in a well-known Southern Baptist missionary who had recently arrived in Hawaii after being booted out of Japan along with the other undesirable westerners.  Reverend Edwin Burke Dozier, who became part of the Olivet Baptist Church in Honolulu, was the son of S.B.C. missionaries from Georgia.  He had been born and raised in Japan – the Nagasaki-Fukuoka area of Kyushu’s west coast.

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Rev. Dozier’s masterful ear for the Japanese language discerned that the enemy was using Japanese baby-talk in the key parts of their altered code.  These were not words found in any dictionary and a person would have had to…

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Eye Witness Account (1)

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Doolittle_Painting_Final

The Doolittle Raid was launched on the morning of 18 April 1942, 150 miles further from mainland Japan than originally planned. At 0843 hours, Lt. Ted William Lawson took flight in “The Ruptured Duck” B-25B # 40-2261, of the 95th Bomber Squadron/17th Bomber Group.

Lt. Ted W. Lawson Lt. Ted W. Lawson

“A Navy man stood at the bow of the ship with a checkered flag.  He gave Doolittle [the lead plane] the signal to begin racing his engines again.  Doolittle gave his engines more and more throttle until I was afraid he’d burn them up.  A wave crashed at the bow and sprayed the deck.

leaving the USS Hornet leaving the USS Hornet

“The man with the flag was waiting, timing the dipping of the ship for it’s take-off.  The man gave a new signal.  Navy boys pulled the blocks from under the wheels.  We watched him like hawks, wondering what the wind would do to him…

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Halloween WWII Style

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This story is condensed from: EVERY VETERAN HAS A STORY_______

The other morning I woke up and looked out the window and saw pumpkins smashed and some decorations strewn.  “Ah, good,” I said to my daughters, “someone has done their research on the history of Halloween!”
motherjones
 
They rolled their eyes and kept reading the comics over their bowls of cereal.  After 13 years of fatherhood, I’d lost the ability to shock them…or they were hoping by their indifference to ward off the inevitable history lecture to follow.  If so — it didn’t work.
Foe much of our history, Halloween wasn’t about trick-or-treating or going around in costumes – it was about vandalism.  Halloween celebrates the dark side, the side we reject and fear – all that we try to deny.  Mischief making has historically been a part of that.  If you look at newspapers 80 or 90 years ago…

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New Year’s Day 1942

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Carl Mydans, "Life" mag. photographer Carl Mydans, “Life” mag. photographer

While the people of Japan celebrated New Year’s Day in their usual fashion, debts were paid, people thronged to the Meiji Shrine to throw coins at midnight and for good luck, red daruma dolls were purchased, all this was topped off with the news of military success against the Allies.  But all this gaiety did not please the military.  They were aware of just how arduous the war was going to be and strict discipline must be maintained.  General Muto said:  “The first step is to replace Tojo as Prime Minister.”  (Tojo had been opposed to the military aggression.  He had to go.)

Japanese visiting Yasukuni Jinja during the New Year's period. Japanese visiting Yasukuni Jinja during the New Year’s period.

The Japanese in the Philippine Islands celebrated differently.  They closed in on Manila from two directions.  The southern troops were slowed about 40 miles out due to the amount of bridges that had…

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East and West (3)

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FDR & Cordell Hull, 1940 FDR & Cordell Hull, 1940

If Manchuria was controlled, the Japanese felt they would have the advantage over Russia.  Since the Chiang Nationalist government did wish to spend the money or the energy to combat Japan – but – still have communism squelched in the country, Manchuria was given up.

When the US started economic sanctions in 1939, Japan required new territories to supply their resources.  They issued a request to the French  for permission to enter Indo-China.  In September 1940, the Vichy government agreed.  The southeast portion of Asia was occupied, without incident, by the Japanese on 27-29 July 1941.

Vichy government, 1939 Vichy government, 1939

The US was incensed and proceeded to convince other countries to freeze Japan’s assets; the ABCD, (American, British, Canada, Dutch), power’s economic blockade began.  By mid-1941, relations between Japan and the ABCD countries had basically reached a point of no return.  The New York Times newspaper…

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East and West (1)

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There are centuries of information on this subject, but I’ve done my best to shorten the data, and maintain  the gist of affairs as they occurred:

A lithograph of Cmdr. Perry's fleet in Japan A lithograph of Cmdr. Perry’s fleet in Japan

Japan’s involvement with the West began early in the 16th century.  The Western missionaries and the contrasting firearms trading caused a disruption of the feudal lord system.  Later on, Dutch trading at Nagasaki became an avenue of scientific and political knowledge.  After which, the US naval mission and “Black Ships” of Commodore Matthew Perry in the mid-1800s basically forced Japan to open its doors.

Commodore Matthew Perry Commodore Matthew Perry

By the end of the 19th century, the views of the Asian world by the Anglos were of “Manifest Destiny” (global supremacy).  The British Union Jack flew over nearly one-third of the planet and the US wanted in.  But, after teaching the island nation how to conquer territory, the…

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Intermission Stories (19)

A truly extraordinary and inspiring story from WWII.

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The 414th Squadron, 97 Bomber Group The 414th Squadron, 97 Bomber Group

WWII B-17 SURVIVAL STORY

This amazing story of courage, ingenuity and survival of the B-17 “All American” 414th Squadron, 97BG Crew was given to me by my dear friend Scott Brady, who also gallantly served in the U.S. Air Force.

 A mid-air collision on 1 February 1943 between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of WWII.  An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot, then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named “All American” piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg.  When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17.  The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away.The two right engines were…

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D-Day veterans: The last voices of the longest day – History – Life & Style – The Independent

Re-blogged from The Independent.

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Today is D-Day plus 25,565. The pivotal Western European battle of the Second World War is about to pass over the horizon of living memory. Of the 61,000 British soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago this Friday, fewer than 500 are still alive.

The ranks of the 130,000 Americans, Canadians and other nations who took part in the greatest amphibious invasion in history have also been cruelly thinned by time. This week’s commemoration of the Normandy invasion – attended by the world’s leaders from the Queen to Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama – will be the last witnessed by large numbers of survivors.

A year ago, The Independent helped to launch an appeal to ensure that the voices of British veterans of the entire 10-week Normandy campaign – the survivors of the survivors – were not lost for ever. The appeal, though not complete, has been a great success.

Thanks largely to the £10,000 raised by Independent readers, more than 100 interviews have been filmed for a permanent archive, organised by the Normandy Veterans Association (NVA). At least another 150 interviews are being arranged. To reward our readers’ generosity, the NVA has allowed us to publish a selection of the interviews given by the dwindling band of British D-Day veterans. Their memories – recorded in some cases for the first time – offer a compelling eyewitness account of the invasion as seen from different vantage points: the infantryman; the sailor; the airman; the officer; the tank man; the gunner; the landing-craft commander.

Like D-Day itself, recording the “Normandy Voices” has been a race against time. Several veterans have died since their memories were recorded, including Ernie Brewer, the gunner represented here, whose funeral takes place today. His wife, Jeanie, has given permission for the interview to appear as a tribute to him…

Read more: D-Day veterans: The last voices of the longest day – History – Life & Style – The Independent.