Saturday, April 13, 2013

Secret pilots of World War II

These women deserve our nation's gratitude.  They didn't see combat.  They didn't get any recognition at all for decades; nobody was even supposed to know they existed, since their records were sealed.  But I'm sure any pilot would tell you that training can be nearly as dangerous as combat.  Many service members have been killed in training accidents related to flying.
Back in the early 40s, the government started their unit as an experiment to see if women could learn to fly. They ended up flying every type of aircraft men did.

"We were given the same training as the male cadets," explained WASP Nell Bright. "Except we finished our program in six months and it usually took the guys nine months."
Hey now, wait a minute!  :-)

Read the entire article here:

April 13, 1943 - Discovery of mass graves related to Katyn Massacre in Russia

Radio Berlin announces the discovery by Wehrmacht of mass graves of Poles purportedly killed by Soviets in the Katyn massacre.

For more on the Katyn Massacre see the Wikipedia article here :

Friday, April 12, 2013

Veterans share experiences with middle school students

The collective "we" need more of this.  Veterans of all wars should be gathered periodically to recount their own oral history to young people.  Middle school and high school students will be able to not only listen, but understand better what the veterans went through and the sacrifices they endured.
...World War II veterans who enthralled seventh- and eighth-grade history students with their experiences and hardships during the conflict with the Axis powers, including Germany and Japan.
Retired Lt. Col. C.E. "Mac" McLean, USMC, takes his turn to tell of his World War II experiences as he and other veterans share their stories with students at Marshwood Middle School on Thursday morning. Deb Cram/

Families should make an effort, while they can, to record their veteran's stories.  These accounts of our nation's history should be treasured.

Read the entire article here :

April 12, 1945 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt passes away.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies suddenly. Harry S. Truman becomes president of the United States.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

France awards 19 American World War II veterans

I'm always glad to see other countries remembering the sacrifices of American, British, Canadian and other troops that essentially saved Europe and the Pacific.  There are many examples of French people being appreciative and showing the veterans ultimate respect for what happened "over there".  Some of our own citizens could learn a thing or two about history and what freedom actually means.
Many of these men, who are approaching 90-years-old, received the French Legion of Honor, which is the highest distinction the country can give to any person, military or civilian.
A French Admiral, currently serving alongside the American forces in Tampa, presented the awards. He was joined by the Consul General of France in Miami. He thanked the veterans for fighting with France in WW2 and continuing the friendly relationship between the U.S. and France.
Read the entire article here:

April 11, 1940 - British Attack During the First Battle of Narvik, Norway

During the First Battle of Narvik, British destroyers and aircraft successfully make a surprise attack against a larger German naval force.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April 10, 1941 - The United States Occupies Greenland

Greenland is occupied by the United States. With the approval of a "free Denmark", the US will build naval and air bases as counters to the U-boat war.

68 years later, Veteran gets Distinguished Flying Cross medal

 Seward Meintsma and his wife, Nellye, have been married nearly 64 years. Photo by Steve Gust, For The Oklahoman Steve Gust
For Lt. Col. Seward Meintsma, 91, World War II wasn't quite over until this year when he finally was awarded the military's Distinguished Flying Cross medal.
I'm glad to see stories like this.  I hope all veterans receive any citations they are due after their service.  It is the very least our country can do for them.  It's not about the medals, but they should be recognized for their extraordinary service.

Mr. Meintsma and his crew completed 35 missions over Europe without any major incidents or any of the crew being wounded. He was pilot of a B-24 Liberator, part of the 785th Bombardment Squadron, 466th Bombardment Group, Second Air Division. He continued his military career as a pilot, and retired in 1972 after he served as an adviser to the Vietnamese Air Force during the Vietnam conflict. He was awarded a Bronze Star for service there.

This does make me wonder how many more deserving veterans from all wars have not been recognized?

Read the entire article here:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Veteran Spotlight : Jack Lucas

How do you define "hero"?  Is there just one definition?  I have heard and read many opinions, both from veterans themselves to talking heads on the news channels.  One description (nearly?) all would agree on : A military member who dies fighting to defend freedom and liberty for their fellow citizens is a hero.  Jack Lucas did not fit this definition of "hero".

But, it wasn't for a lack of trying.

April 9, 1942 - The Bataan Death March begins

Thousands of American and Filipino service members were forced by Japanese forces to walk through an 80-mile stretch of land without being able to stop for a drink of water or rest. Immediate death came to those who fell or showed signs of weakness. The Allied troops who survived endured much more suffering as prisoners of war. Up to 10,000 Filipino and 650 American prisoners of war died (some totals go to 15,000 for both forces) before they could reach Camp O'Donnell.

In June 2001, Dana Rohrabacher, a U.S. congresswoman, described and tried to explain the horrors and brutality that the prisoners experienced on the march:

They were beaten, and they were starved as they marched. Those who fell were bayoneted. Some of those who fell were beheaded by Japanese officers who were practicing with their samurai swords from horseback. The Japanese culture at that time reflected the view that any warrior who surrendered had no honor; thus was not to be treated like a human being. Thus they were not committing crimes against human beings.  The Japanese soldiers at that time felt they were dealing with subhumans and animals.
Already suffering from battle fatigue, The Filipino and Americans troops were strained to utter exhaustion by this long march on foot, as many were physically ill as well.  Filipino townspeople risked their lives by slipping food and drink to the POWs as they went by.

POWs who could not keep up were summarily executed. Stopping to relieve oneself could bring death, so many chose to continue walking while doing so.

Some guards made a sport of hurting or killing the POWs.  Most of the POWs got rid of their helmets because some Japanese soldiers riding on passing trucks hit them with rifle butts. Enemy soldiers savagely toyed with POWs by dragging them behind trucks with a rope around the neck. Guards also gave the POWs the "sun treatment" by making them sit in the sweltering heat of the direct sun for hours at a time without shade.

POWs only received a few cups of rice, and little or no water. Thirst began to drive some of the men mad, but if a POW tried to drink stagnant, muddy water at the side of the road, he would be killed. Artesian wells along the route poured out clean water, but the POWs were not allowed to drink it.

From The Official Site of the National Museum of the USAF :
The POWs marched roughly 65 miles over the course of six days until they reached San Fernando. There, groups as large as 115 men were forced into boxcars designed to hold only 30-40 men. Boxcars were so full that the POWs could not sit down. This caused more to die of heat exhaustion and suffocation in the cars on the ride from San Fernando to Capas. The POWs then walked seven more miles to Camp O'Donnell. At the entrance to the camp, the POWs were told to lay out the few possessions they still had; any POW found with any Japanese-made items or money was executed on the spot.

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8 - Holocaust Remembrance Day

Never forget.

In an annual ritual, the country came to a standstill at 10 a.m. Monday to honor the victims when sirens wailed for two-minutes across the country. Pedestrians stood in place, buses stopped on busy streets and cars pulled over on major highways, their drivers standing on the roads with their heads bowed.
In homes and businesses, people stopped what they were doing to pay homage to the victims of the Nazi genocide, in which a third of world Jewry was annihilated.

And never again.

Marines Reveal True Story of World War II's Pacific Theater

This book looks like it will make it on my wish list.
"Voices of the Pacific: Untold Stories From the Marine Heroes of World War II" chronicles the United States Marine Corps' actions in the Pacific theater in World War II, within the wider war, presenting the true stories of heroism and honor told by 15 men who lived it.
As the article mentions, Richard Greer served with John Basilone, a legendary USMC figure from Iwo Jima and Mr. Greer had a role in helping with the HBO series "The Pacific", which is second only to "Band of Brothers" in my favorite Blu-Ray collection.  Other than John Basilone's story, "The Pacific" primarily followed Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie of the 1st Marine Division.  It was special for me (and my family) to watch the path of the 1st Marine Division through the Pacific islands and know that (starting with Cape Gloucester), my father's boots were in the same sand and on the same coral rock as the characters portrayed in the series.

The book sounds fantastic and I will post a sort of review when I read it.

Read the entire article here :

April 8, 1943 - Russian forces retake Cimea

The Red Army attacks in an attempt to retake all of the Crimea; they take Kerch in the east on the 11th, and the Germans retreat westward to Sevastopol.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

POW's diary full of World War II detail

This is a piece of history that should be treasured.  I do hope they follow through with putting the diary online at some point because it would be fascinating.

Like any U.S. Navy chief storekeeper worth his salt, Albert S. Johnston kept precise records, taking care to print neatly.
His data-filled diary of the Zentsuji War Prisoners Camp on Shikoku Island in Japan where he spent all but a few days during World War II reflects that close attention to detail, says Jim Klug of Ashland.
"This is an historical treasure," said Klug, commander of the Oregon Military Order of the Purple Heart and the historian for the group nationally.
Klug's historian status put the diary in his hands for several months when he was loaned the diary by former Marine Jack Shimizu of Guam. Shimizu acquired the diary from a grandson who is married to one of Johnston's descendants.
Klug hopes to make copies of the diary available for public review, likely online. He has returned the original to Shimizu.

Read the entire article here :

April 7, 1943 - Tunisia

Allied forces–the Americans from the West, the British from the East–link up near Gafsa in Tunisia.