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It’s Always There YOU JUST CAN’T GET AWAY FROM WORLD WAR II. There you are, sitting in the safety of your living room peeling green, red, and silver foil off holiday Hershey’s Kisses and eating them as you watch one of the great soliloquies in history: “…And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord….’” You can read the whole thing in the Book of Luke, but there’s a surprising power in this animated boy named Linus, standing there clutching his blanket, reciting the passage alone in the spotlight. At the next commercial interruption, you look to the coffee table for something to rescue you from some commercial where a bunch of neighbors dismiss the fantastically gaudy lights that decorate their houses to follow the other would-be beacons of Christmas spirit: the headlights of a brand-new, gift-wrapped Lexus. On the table you find this very issue of America in WWII, with the young sergeant dressed in khaki on the cover. The sergeant is, as the cover says, Charles Schulz, creator of Linus, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts who star in the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Known to have wielded a machine gun almost as ably as a pen and brush, Schulz fought in World War II. And that war shaped him and everything he created afterward.
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Heidi Kushlan 717-564-0161, [email protected] A Publication of 310 PUBLISHING, LLC CEO Heidi Kushlan EDITORIAL DIRECTOR James P. Kushlan AMERICA IN WWII (ISSN 1554-5296) is published bimonthly by 310 Publishing LLC, 4711 Queen Avenue, Suite 202, Harrisburg, PA 17109. Periodicals postage paid at Harrisburg, PA. SUBSCRIPTION RATE: One year (six issues) $29.95; outside the U.S., $41.95 in U.S. funds. Customer service: call toll-free 866-525-1945 (U.S. & Canada), or write AMERICA IN WWII, P.O. Box 421945, Palm Coast, FL 32142, or visit online at www.americainwwii.com. POSTMASTER: SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO AMERICA IN WWII, P.O. BOX 421945, PALM COAST, FL 32142. Copyright 2012 by 310 Publishing LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this issue may be reproduced by any means without prior written permission of the publisher. Address letters, War Stories, and GIs correspondence to: Editor, AMERICA IN WWII, PO Box 4175, Harrisburg, PA 17111-0175. Letters to the editor become the property of AMERICA IN WWII and may be edited. Submission of text and images for War Stories and GIs gives AMERICA IN WWII the right to edit, publish, and republish them in any form or medium. No unsolicited article manuscripts, please: query first. AMERICA IN WWII does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of advertisements or letters to the editor that appear herein.
If you turn on the radio after the special to sip a cup of hot chocolate while you listen to one of those radio stations that plays Christmas songs 24-7 through the season, you might hear “Happy Holiday,” which also turns up in this issue. I usually hear the classic Andy Williams version, sung in medley with “It’s the Holiday Season.” The song is from 1942, from the musical Holiday Inn, which happens also to be the source of “White Christmas.” Almost anywhere you look, you’re likely to find some legacy of World War II. We covered this phenomenon a couple of years ago in our October 2010 issue, listing and describing 100 ways the war has shaped the world as we have known it since the early 1940s. You may have heard of some of them: cars, immunization shots, nuclear bombs, computers, teenagers, Slinky, the United Nations, artificial Christmas trees, Batman, jeeps, helicopters, suburbs, Frank Sinatra, fast food, the Cold War, cell phones, women in the workplace, the race to outer space. The list goes on, but the room I have here does not. You’d have to order a copy of that issue to see more. So here I’ll make a shameless plug for you to do just that. Just go to our website, click on Back Issues in the menu bar, and you’ll see instructions for ordering a copy. If the war is going to follow you around wherever you go—and it will—you should know what it looks like. Sometimes it looks like Linus van Pelt.
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A LITTLE LATE FOR THE WAR THE P-51S [on the cover of the October 2012 issue] weren’t shiny new. Aircraft 873 [the plane in the foreground] was probably six-plus years old when the picture was taken, and it was taken after the war. The star and bar with the red stripe [insignia] were not used during World War II. These aircraft probably were assigned to the 3595th Pilot Training Wing, established 1948, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Aircraft 443 [toward the top of the formation] was reported to have crashed in July 1950. JERRY HELLINGA US Air Force captain (retired) received via e-mail
THE REAL MRS. CALABASH STORY REGARDING YOUR ARTICLE about Jimmy Durante and Mrs. Calabash in the October issue [“A Nose for the Limelight,” 78 RPM], my family had a different version of the story from my uncle, Phil Cohan, who produced The Durante-Moore Show. Jimmy was a household regular as my cousins were growing up, and he even introduced me to the horse races on my first trip to California after the war. According to my uncle, they needed a gimmick for signing off the show each week, an unusual name with some mystery behind it, and at rehearsal, my uncle’s calabash pipe was on the desk, and bingo, the name stuck. M URIEL ENGELMAN Laguna Woods, California
THE MYTHICAL GARAND CHING THE ARTICLE “The Guns that Won the War” [October 2012] was very informative, but it perpetuated the myth that the downside to the Garand was that the ching of an empty clip being ejected alerted the enemy. I have read numerous accounts from soldiers and marines that the sound would never have been heard in the surrounding battle noise. I shot my Garand at a marksman course long ago and guarantee that I was the only one to hear my clips eject. H IRAM PATTERSON Dallas, Texas received via e-mail
A VERY YOUNG FOSTER PARENT? IT WAS VERY UPLIFTING to read the article “Foster Parent No. 200” [October 2012]. I 4 AMERICA IN WWII
was surprised to see Julie Andrews’s name listed among the sponsors. She was born October 1, 1935. My math tells me she would have been nine years old at war’s end. VINCE MURPHY received via e-mail
THERE’S NO ‘ME’ IN BAYERISCHE THE MESSERSCHMITT STABLE has three fine aircraft that have never been designated Me: the Bf 108, Bf 109, and Bf 110 [“The Messerschmitt Hunters,” October 2012]. When Bayerische Flugzeugwerke [the manufacturer] was redesignated [Messerschmitt], these three aircraft were not redesignated. MICHAEL J. RUNKLE
Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group. But before Bradley crossed the Rhine, he again controlled the Ninth, and they crossed on March 24, 1945. There are parts of the Bradley crossing that have just been declassified (1996) and are yet to be incorporated into many accounts. These parts are about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, the Ghost Army. These 1,100 US infantry in the Düsseldorf area appeared as 30,000 troops of the 30th and 79th Infantry Divisions. This allowed the true 30th and 70th to cross north of Düsseldorf with virtually no resistance. There is a documentary about the 23rd that will, if completed, air on PBS next year. This clandestine division can be read about at www.ghostarmy.org R OBERT MAYER son of Private Irving Mayer 23rd Headquarters Special Troops received via e-mail
received via e-mail
Editor’s note: In the United States, Me is commonly used to refer to all Messerschmitt warplanes. IN SCHOOL AND AT THE BEACH I WAS BORN IN 1936 and started school in 1941 in Chester, Pennsylvania. As regards the article “Hail Old Glory” [Home Front, August 2012], that’s exactly the way we saluted the flag during morning exercises— military salute to extended hand, palm down. By the time I started second grade in Brockton, Massachusetts, the hand-overthe-heart salute was in vogue. Regarding “A WWII Scrapbook” [War Stories], when we were living in Chester, we went to Atlantic City frequently, as my dad’s family was there. I can remember watching troops marching and singing on the boardwalk. I can also remember, a little earlier, watching smoke from burning ships that had been torpedoed by U-boats. H.A. M ARSHMAN, SR. received via e-mail
A PLEDGE TO NATIONALISM THE HISTORY OF the Pledge of Allegiance and pledge salute is very rarely described in print [Home Front, “Hail Old Glory!” August 2012]. Francis Bellamy, I think it is accurate to say, was a socialist. More specifically, he was part of the nationalism and socialist movement imported from Europe in the time prior to the Great War. The pledge and salute were adopted in US schools beginning in 1892 and continuing after the Great War. This era was the time of colonialism, during which the United States governed the Philippines after the Spanish-American War (1898). Nationalism, colonialism, and socialism were popular among the educated elites. There have been many legal challenges both to the pledge itself and its mandatory participation requirement. I believe it is correct to say it is a remnant of the era of the federal government’s first involvement in public schools on a large scale. L ARRY G. DEVRIES Eden Prairie, Minnesota
GHOSTS OF THE NINTH ARMY WHILE ÉRIC GRENIER did an excellent job sorting out General Omar Bradley’s march to the Rhine [“To the Rhine!” August 2012], my father aided the Rhine crossing by the Ninth Army. During the Battle of the Bulge, the Ninth was shifted to British
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A AMERICA IN WWII FLASHBACK
BOB GABRICK COLLECTION
R. J. R E Y N O L D S T O B A C C O C O M P A N Y
1942 DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 5
A HOME FRONT
FDR’s Soggy Spinach by Carl Zebrowski
January 20, 1945, was a big deal in Washington, DC. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was just sworn in for his fourth term as president of the United States. Now it was time to feed the 2,000 dignitaries, politicians, businessmen, party loyals, and others who filled the White House for lunch. Chicken à la king might have seemed a reasonable choice for the occasion, and that was Roosevelt’s pick. But that’s not what got served. Henrietta Nesbitt, the housekeeper in charge of White House domestic operations, overruled FDR. She made the decision—the sort of decision she was infamous for making—to serve cold chicken salad instead. It was a memorable main course that prompted the meal’s toastmaster, George Jessel, to wonder “How it is humanly possible to make chicken salad with so much celery and so little chicken?” No help for the underwhelming offering came from its accompaniments: rolls with no butter, cake with no frosting, and coffee with no sugar. Roosevelt survived the affair by the grace of his son James smuggling him some bourbon from upstairs. By this time in the Roosevelt presidential reign, it was common practice for the first family’s dinner guests to eat before arriving, and just as common for publishing and whispering critics to skewer the menu with pointed words. And any skewering generally also targeted Nesbitt, the lifelong homemaker who had come to the White House along with the Roosevelts from Hyde Park, New York, where she’d met Eleanor when volunteering for the League of Women Voters. When Nesbitt’s husband couldn’t find work during the Depression, Eleanor contracted with her to supply baked goods to FDR’s gubernatorial election campaign. After FDR won the presidency, Eleanor hired her to oversee the 32-person domestic staff at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. HE MORNING OF
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
6 AMERICA IN WWII
Housekeeper Henrietta Nesbitt, perhaps the least liked person in Franklin Roosevelt’s White House, attends to the linens.
Baking was Nesbitt’s forte. “My mother had taught me all the baking tricks,” Nesbitt wrote. “She had come from near Vienna…. All the coffeecakes and pies I began baking for Mrs. Roosevelt came from my mother.” But a good baker isn’t necessarily a good cook, and the trouble with White House fare began with main course staples such as roast beef and meat loaf that were seasoned with nothing more imaginative than salt and pepper. Then there was Nesbitt’s penchant for canned goods and fad ingredients. Salads were basted in goopy dressings made from the syrup from canned fruit, and sweet potatoes were turned into casseroles with marshmallows on top. Nesbitt’s prided Ashville salad was an appetite-stifling concoction of canned soup, vegetables, gelatin, cream cheese, and mayonnaise. Even the most basic preparation of vegetables was a disaster: greens were submerged in not-quite-boiling water until much of the color cooked out. The result
was bland mush, and FDR hated it. Nesbitt determined that his reaction was simply characteristic of his gender. “I’ve come to the conclusion men just don’t like vegetables,” she wrote. “They’re meat eaters by nature.” She kept serving him soggy spinach and blanched broccoli, believing that she knew better what was good for him, and because Eleanor wanted her to feed him healthy food. In Nesbitt’s defense, she was responsible for overseeing the White House kitchen at a tough time. She held her job through the Depression and World War II, and she and Eleanor agreed that it would have been inappropriate to serve fancy, expensive dishes. “With so many Americans hungry,” Nesbitt wrote, “it was up to the head house of the nation to serve economy meals and act as an example.” So diners got budget-stretchers such as chicken croquettes and ham loaf. Another unwelcome consequence was a selection of cheap butcher cuts that included calf brains, tongue, kidneys, and pigs feet. An obvious question through all of this was why the first couple didn’t just fire a housekeeper so inadequately equipped for her responsibilities. FDR indeed wanted to fire Nesbitt. “I am getting to the point where my stomach positively rebels and this does not help my relations with foreign powers,” he wrote. “I bit two of them today.” But White House operations were the domain of the first lady, who happened to like Nesbitt personally—as few others on the premises did—and who, despite her own blueblood background, was no gourmand. “Now Mother is a wonderful woman and I yield to no one in my admiration for her,” wrote her son James, “but, as she herself will tell you, she has no appreciation of fine food.” With the good graces of the boss on Nesbitt’s side, her tenure in Washington lasted as long as Roosevelt’s. A
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The Magazine Of A People At War 1941–1945
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AM E RICA I N
Marie McDonald “Husbands are easier to find than good agents,” Marie McDonald once said. She knew a little about agents, and a lot about husbands. She was married seven times. Born Cora Frye in a small Kentucky town in 1923, Marie McDonald grew up to be famous more for the physical assets that helped her attract all those husbands than for her talent. The teenager later known as The Body first cashed in on her good looks at age 16, when she became a Broadway showgirl. In 1940 she headed for Hollywood and before long landed a brief singing gig with bandleader Tommy Dorsey on his weekly radio show. The following year, Universal Studios gave her a movie contract. She ended up playing only minor parts in minor films, but she did find a loyal following when the army’s Yank magazine featured her as its Pin-Up Girl in August 1944. McDonald never did get her big break in showbiz, and she eventually resorted to publicity stunts to gain fame, including faking her own kidnapping. Earnest efforts to boost her career later on didn’t amount to much. She fell prey to the old Hollywood curse of drug and alcohol addiction and died in 1965 of an overdose. PHOTO COURTESY OF WWW.DOCTORMACRO.COM
A AMERICA IN WWII FLASHBACK
BOB GABRICK COLLECTION
C O R N P R O D U C T S R E F I N I N G C O.
1942 DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 9
An Airport Built forWar by Robert Gabrick
N ESTIMATED 10,000 people crowded the airstrip at Millville, New Jersey, on August 2, 1941. Full of civic pride, they came to witness the dedication of what the federal government referred to as “America’s first defense airport.” It would be another year before construction and upgrades made Millville’s airfield ready for military use—in fact, in May 1942 the lack of facilities made it impossible for a squadron of Curtiss P-40F Warhawks to stay longer than three weeks—but the first step had been taken. Millville’s airport was on its way to becoming a WWII army airfield, the first of its kind in the United States. Today, Millville Airport is a civilian operation again, but its WWII military heritage remains proudly on display at the Millville Army Air Field Museum. Located in the airfield’s refurbished WWII headquarters, the museum reminds visitors of the days when P-47 Thunderbolt fighters roared overhead, preparing for combat overseas. Millville Army Air Field’s role was a crucial one. In 1940–41, America was completely unprepared for the global war that was fast overtaking it. During US First Army maneuvers in upstate New York in August 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt heard from Major General Clifford R. Powell of the 44th Infantry Division that troops were using “drain pipes to simulate mortars and broomsticks to simulate machine guns” during the war games. A month later, Roosevelt learned the United States had just 49 operational bombers in its mainland air corps. The army fielded only 80 tanks in 1940, even as it purchased an additional 20,000 horses for its cavalry units. The time had come for America to wake up and prepare for war.
10 AMERICA IN WWII
Millville, New Jersey, wears its WWII heritage proudly. City hall features a mural alive with P-47s like the ones that flew at the town’s army airfield.
Congress established the nation’s first peacetime draft in September 1940 and began growing the armed forces. In addition, Congress appropriated $40 million for a program called the Development of Landing Areas for National Defense. By 1941, the US Army Air Corps began developing airfields using DLAND funds, and by 1943, there were 783. One of those bases was Millville. By January 1943, the town’s airport became a gunnery training base for P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilots. At 9,900 pounds empty, the Thunderbolt was WWII America’s heaviest singleengine fighter. Powered by a 2,000-horsepower Pratt and Whitney engine, the P-47 could reach 550 miles per hour in a dive. It carried eight .50-caliber machine guns, 3,200 rounds of ammunition, and 2,500 pounds of bombs. Thunderbolt production
totaled 15,686, more than any other US fighter. P-47s flew more than 546,000 combat sorties, destroying 11,874 enemy aircraft, some 9,000 locomotives, and about 6,000 armored vehicles and tanks. Of the more than 10,000 military personnel who trained at Millville, more than 1,500 were P-47 pilots. They fired at wooden models of ships, bridges, tanks, trucks, and trains in nearby woods and fields. And they shot at copper mesh targets towed over the Atlantic Ocean between Atlantic City and Wildwood, New Jersey. After the war, the government declared approximately 500 of the DLAND airports to be surplus. Millville Army Air Field was on the list. It was returned to the city of Millville in 1947, and 42 of its wooden buildings were relocated to Atlantic City, some 40 miles away, to be used to alleviate postwar housing shortages. Fortunately, not all the airfield buildings went elsewhere. In 1988, the old headquarters became home to the Millville Army Air Field Museum. Another refurbished WWII building houses the museum’s Henry E. Wyble Historic Research Library and Education Center, which includes material about World War II and armed conflicts from World War I to the present. In partnership with Millville’s schools, the museum records interviews of WWII veterans for the Library of Congress. Increasingly, museums must acknowledge that visitors may not have experienced World War II directly. Recognizing this, the Millville Army Air Field Museum offers artifact-rich exhibits reflecting the war’s human dimension, and focusing not just on the P-47 training there, but on military aviation in general and on various aspects of war and home-front life.
ALL PHOTOS BY ROBERT GABRICK
Today the airfield is a civilian airport. But the Millville Army Airfield Museum keeps the memory of the first US airbase built specifically for World War II. Above, left: Packed with artifacts, the museum fills the airfield’s headquarters. Top right: A Republic P-47 engine helps tell the story of Thunderbolt pilots who trained at Millville. Above, bottom right: Displays evoke the feel of 1940s airfield operations.
Model aircraft abound, hanging from the ceiling and filling display cases in the museum and library. Photographs, paintings, posters, and illustrations adorn the walls. Artifacts run the gamut from a P-47 engine to military-issued Dentyne Chewing Gum. Sometimes a single artifact is the key to a larger story. A Pepsi-Cola artifact, for example, opens a narrative of how the soda manufacturer offered free shaves and showers—and free Pepsi—at a series of Pepsi-Cola Centers for GIs that each provided “a lounge, reading and writing facilities, and low cost sandwiches.” The centers featured equipment for GIs to record messages that were sent free of charge to family and friends. A copper mesh training target, which
was towed by aircraft often piloted by Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), forms a backdrop to an exhibit on gunnery skills. Painted bullet tips left a trace of color on impact, revealing who had hit the target. Training was often as hazardous as combat, as a display of debris from Millville crash sites demonstrates. Elsewhere, a bunk bed, boots, clothing, and other equipment provide a glimpse of WWII barracks life. A US Navy emergency fishing kit, saltwater purifier, and spit for roasting meat or fish represent pilots’ preparation for the worst. Other exhibits feature ration stamps and books, V-Mail stationery, souvenir pillowcases, wedding photographs, and commemorations for men who died in training
IN A NUTSHELL WHAT The Millville Army Air Field Museum WHERE Millville Airport, Millville, New Jersey WHY A museum housed in the original base headquarters building of what was dubbed “America’s first defense airport” • Artifact-filled exhibits focused on World War II and the P-47 Thunderbolt • Unrestored war-era buildings For more information visit www.p47millville.org, e-mail [email protected], call 856-327-2347, or write the museum at 1 Leddon Street, Millville Airport, Millville, New Jersey 08332
at Millville. German and Japanese artifacts include gas masks, swords, combat gear, insignia, and rifles. Outdoors, to walk the grounds of America’s first defense airport is to step back 70 years. There are nearly 20 unrestored WWII buildings, ghost-like reminders of the past. Minutes away, in Millville, the impressive three-story Wall of Remembrance mural, painted on city hall in 1998 and restored in 2007, honors veterans. Dedicated to the “glory and importance of the Millville Army Air Field” and “to the men who trained here, who served and who died here,” the mural features a pilot, two P-47s, and the names of the 14 men who lost their lives training here. Not far from the museum stands a monument to Lieutenant Maurice W. Garton that makes for a meaningful last stop on a visit to Millville. Garton was killed while flying a mission in his P-47 over Germany in September 1944. He was one of Millville’s own, a pilot of the fighter planes that American airmen of World War II learned to fly in his hometown. A R OBERT G ABRICK writes frequently on WWII sites and museums and on military and civilian vehicles of the past. DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 11
U-boats preyed at will on helpless ships. Then the Allies started hunting them. The Battle of the Atlantic was on—six years of it. by Brian John Murphy
shark hunt by Brian John Murphy GERMAN U-BOAT OF WORLD WAR II was a sealed metal tube in which 50 to 60 men lived, worked, ate, and sweat. The odors from its bathroom and kitchen mixed with those of penetrating diesel fuel and unwashed men to create a smell all its own. When a U-boat was submerged, the stench was nearly intolerable.
The incident underscored the problem of England’s isolation. An island nation, England depended on international trade for the raw materials of war, manufactured goods, even basic foodstuffs, the production of which exceeded her industrial capacity at that time. Without access to sea, her war effort would be short and futile. Within a month of the Athenia sinking, German submariners had sunk 41 Allied ships at a cost of just 2 of its small fleet of 25 oceangoing subs. Then, in mid-October, they pulled off a mission that stunned and embarrassed the Royal Navy. The attack had ties to the WWI armistice, when the victorious Allies had directed the fleet of defeated Germany to report to the British naval base at Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands, for internment. Upon arrival, the fleet’s humiliated commanders had scuttled their ships. A generation later, in a symbolic moment of revenge, Captain Günther Prien’s U-47 slipped past security at Scapa Flow and, after midnight on October 14, 1939, torpedoed the battleship HMS Royal Oak, which capsized and sank with 833 people aboard, including Rear Admiral Henry Blagrove and roughly 100 boys no older than 18. Prien’s daring feat earned him the coveted Iron Cross, First Class, and each of his men the Iron Cross, Second Class. Hitler himself honored Prien during a ceremony in Berlin. Still, Prien, like other U-boat skippers, was deeply concerned about the quality of his torpedoes. At Scapa Flow, U-47 had launched seven torpedoes at nearly point-blank range. Each should have detonated,
Previous spread: Men of the US Coast Guard Cutter Spencer (WPG-36) watch a depth charge blast a German submarine, or U-boat. Soon U-175 surfaced and surrendered. The sub was stalking a convoy (on the horizon) that Spencer was guarding. Top: Artist Ess-Ar-Gee’s iconic poster, circa 1942. U-boats surely sank more ships than loose lips did, sending down Allied freighters by the dozens. Above: Commander Johann Mohr’s U-124 alone sank 27 merchant ships and 2 warships between September 1941 and her own sinking in April 1943. Opposite, top: U-boats of the 5th U-boat Flotilla post the ensign of the Third Reich at Kiel, Germany, in November 1935. Opposite, inset: As head of Germany’s navy, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz gave U-boats free rein. His War Order No. 154 in late 1939 instructed them not to aid crews of ships they sank. 14 AMERICA IN WWII
ALL PHOTOS THIS STORY: NATIONAL ARCHIVES
U-boats (short for unterseeboote, or “undersea boats”) reeked also of tension and the scent of naked fear—with good reason. As devastatingly effective as the subs were early in the war, they were scarce in number, and they faced the world’s most powerful sea force in the British Royal Navy. Ultimately, the majority of German submariners who served in the 1939–1945 Battle of the Atlantic would find themselves drifting in a crippled vessel to the ocean bottom, driven to near panic by exploding Allied depth charges and popping hull rivets until water pressure cracked open or crushed their vessel. Still, for a time, it seemed as though these men, in these boats, would drive England to her knees. They became celebrated national heroes, but at a stunning price. Early in its high-seas showdown with Great Britain, Nazi Germany put the Royal Navy on notice that its U-boat fleet would fight unfettered. On September 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, U-30, on patrol near Ireland, attacked what its skipper, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Fritz-Julius Lemp, thought was a merchant, troop, or Q-ship (a warship disguised as a freight carrier). Actually, it was the British civilian passenger liner SS Athenia. Struck by one torpedo, the liner exploded and sank, killing 112 passengers and crewmen, including 28 Americans. As the news media condemned the act as a war crime, Adolf Hitler and his senior commanders denied responsibility, altering the U30’s log to expunge any record of the event.
but three didn’t. A month earlier, another sub, U39, had managed to strike Britain’s formidable aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal with three torpedoes, none of which exploded. British destroyers responded by making U-39 the first U-boat sunk during the war. Prien suspected that the trouble lay with the torpedoes’ magnetic detonators, the same issue that would soon plague the US Navy. Britain’s best hope against Germany’s submarines early on was ASDIC, an underwater detection device similar to American sonar whose name probably derived from the initials of “anti-submarine division” with ic, meaning “of or related to,” tacked to the end. Royal Navy officials had confidently predicted ASDIC would help sweep U-boats from the seas, but U-boat skippers quickly learned to foil the system by slipping through the ocean’s signal-suppressing, layered temperature zones. In shallower waters, they sought to blend in among rock outcroppings and anything else that would produce multiple sonic returns and make it difficult for ASDIC operators to get a fix on their boats. U-boats kept up their pressure, sinking 57 unguarded merchant vessels and neutral cargo ships at a cost of just 5 boats through 1939 as British officials labored to hash out the details of a new trans-Atlantic convoy system to protect their ships. The Germans
also retrofitted their troublesome torpedoes, Model G7e/T2, with new contact-exploders. That failed to solve the problem, however, a fact made glaringly obvious when a U-56 torpedo struck the battleship HMS Rodney squarely but to no effect. As U-56 sailed home following the relief of her captain from command due to acute depression, the German navy prepared to unveil stunning new capabilities fated to render issues like this almost moot. By this time, the Germans, who had pushed France to surrender on June 22, were turning France’s western harbors into U-boat bases, validating long-held Allied concerns about growing numbers of subs operating hundreds of miles closer to Allied convoy lanes. With locally conscripted labor and about 4.4 million cubic tons of steel-reinforced concrete, the Germans built bombproof submarine pens at Bordeaux, Brest, La Rochelle–La Pallice, Lorient, and Saint-Nazaire. These were in addition to six bases on the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts of Germany and at Bergen and Trondheim in Norway. The Royal Air Force and the US Army Air Forces would score many a direct hit on these concrete pens, but without caving them in on the U-boats they sheltered until later in the war, when RAF-delivered Tallboy blockbuster bombs would finally do the trick. With quicker and safer access to the Atlantic, Commodore Karl DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 15
shark hunt by Brian John Murphy Dönitz, head of the U-boat fleet and future chief of the German navy, began slashing away at Britain’s precious cargo vessels using what became known in English as “wolf packs,” groups of subs usually numbering 5 to 12 but sometimes as many as two dozen. The Germans had tried this strategy—rudeltaktik, literally “pack tactic”—on a limited basis during World War I, but now they could shift their boats around like chess pieces, confident in radio communications protected by the complex secret code system Enigma. The idea behind the wolf packs was simple enough. A wolf pack under the tactical command of one of the boats’ captains waited in ambush as a convoy approached, almost always at night. The first boat to sight the column would report its progress by radio, giving the other boats plenty of time to get into positions calculated to ensure surprise. Assailed from all points on the compass, Allied convoy escort ships would inevitably race off to face
ship column guarded by 3 Royal Navy sloops and 2 corvettes. In a four-day running fight, the pack sank 20 ships and damaged 6 others. All the U-boats escaped. That night some of the same U-boats joined an attack on Convoy HX-97, a 49-ship mini-fleet with a heavy escort of 2 destroyers, 4 corvettes, 4 anti-submarine trawlers, a minesweeper, and the Royal Navy sub Q-14. During the night of October 19–20, 5 U-boats assaulted the convoy with torpedoes and 88mm deck guns. They sank 12 ships and made a clean getaway. In just these five harrowing days of October, then, Dönitz’s hungry wolf packs had destroyed 32 Allied ships carrying millions of dollars’ worth of vital war supplies for Britain. It was a breathtaking toll that shocked leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Steady convoy losses underscored how badly the British needed better—and more—nimble and tenacious destroyers for escort duty. And by now President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had made
one threat only to discover multiple others. To guarantee maximum disruption, U-boats would torpedo the convoy from outside and inside the shield of escorts, and even from the convoy’s very center, a favorite tactic of U-boat ace Otto Kretschmer. “The destroyers are at their wit’s end, shooting off star shells the whole time to comfort themselves and each other,” Kretschmer reported after one attack. The results of Dönitz’s terrifying new wolf-pack hunts were dramatic. Between January and May 1940, U-boats sank a total of 42 ships. In June they sank 56. Through the rest of the year, kills ranged from 35 to 57 per month, while Allied vessels claimed a scant 5 subs (plus 2 Italian ships). It was a rich stretch of hunting that German submariners would remember as “the happy time.” In one particularly hair-raising stretch from October 16 to 19, 1940, a wolf pack of just 7 boats tormented Convoy SC-7, a 30-
up his mind to aid Britain, despite strong antiwar sentiment in the United States. On September 2, Roosevelt announced that he was trading 50 obsolescent 1,200-ton-type destroyers of World War I vintage (known semi-affectionately in the navy as four-stackers, for their four smokestacks) to England for the rights to naval bases on British colonies in the Western Hemisphere. Among these were facilities on Bermuda, Newfoundland, the eastern side of the Bahamas, the southern coast of Jamaica, the western coast of Saint Lucia, the west coast of Trinidad, the island of Antigua, and in British Guiana. British and Canadian ships would be given full access to any American facilities installed in these territories, while the US Navy would take over naval defense of Bermuda, freeing up additional Royal Navy vessels for duty in the Atlantic. On the heels of this deal, Roosevelt ironed out details of something much more ambitious: a massive aid program that would
Above, left: The fully laden oil tanker SS Byron D. Benson burns wildly off North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras on April 5, 1942, victim of a torpedo from U-552. Of the ship’s 37 men, 10 died. Above, right: During the cutter Spencer’s attack on U-175, a K-gun (Mark 6 Depth Charge Projector) shoots a charge overboard. K-gun charges were attached to a T-shaped bracket that fit in the gun’s barrel. Opposite, left: West of the Canary Islands on June 12, 1943, U-118 comes under attack by torpedo bombers from USS Bogue (CVE-9). All but 16 of the sub’s 59 men perished. Opposite, right: In January 1942, a US Navy blimp drops a depth charge at the end of an oil slick, a telltale sign of a lurking sub. 16 AMERICA IN WWII
become known as Lend-Lease. Under it, the United States would ultimately provide some $50 billion in loans and equipment to Allied nations that included Britain, Canada, China, and, eventually, the Soviet Union. Roosevelt took to the airwaves on December 29, 1940, to announce the news and prepare the public for increased American involvement in the growing overseas conflict. He described a world on a path toward domination by Nazi Germany and declared that isolationist sentiment in the face of such a threat amounted to surrender. “The people of Europe who are defending themselves do not ask us to do their fighting,” he said. “They ask us for the implements of war, the planes, the tanks, the guns, the freighters which will enable them to fight for their liberty and for our security. Emphatically, we must get these weapons to them, get them to them in sufficient volume and quickly enough so that we and our children will be saved the
agony and suffering of war which others have had to endure…. We must be the great arsenal of democracy.” On January 10, 1941, Roosevelt sent his Lend-Lease bill to Congress under the title An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States. Congress passed the bill, and Roosevelt signed it on March 11. Although the United States and Germany were still technically at peace, all pretense of neutrality was gone.
ROOSEVELT WAS PLANNING to get the US Navy actively involved in protecting convoys before U-boat attacks threatened Britain’s very ability to stay in the war. In April, he expanded the range of American naval activity in the Atlantic—the area known as the Pan-American Security Zone—as far east as Iceland, and marines were dispatched there in July. American destroyers would join ships of the Royal Canadian Navy in escorting convoys to the new boundary, at which point British ships would take over. Standing out among the changes for the US Navy was the creation of another fleet, the Atlantic Fleet, officially organized under the command of Admiral Ernest J. King, the future chief of US naval operations. To augment this new second half of the navy,
roughly one-quarter of America’s total naval assets were transferred eastward from the Pacific Fleet through the Panama Canal. On April 18, 1941, King issued Operation Plan 3-41, which declared, “Entrance into the Western Hemisphere by naval ships or aircraft of belligerents…is to be viewed as possibly actuated by an unfriendly interest toward shipping or territory in the Western Hemisphere.” In other words, warships of any belligerent in the ongoing war—except those of countries with territories in the West Indies, such as Britain, the Netherlands, and France—that came within 25 miles of the pan-American zone would be deemed trespassers and treated as pirates. In July, without public debate and without consulting Congress, Roosevelt instructed King to seek out U-boats that could plausibly pose a threat to shipping within
the zone. This directive effectively switched American vessels from the defensive to the offensive in the widening battle against Uboats. Such a policy was almost certain to provoke trouble, and it did. On May 21, U-69 sank the American freighter SS Robin Moor. Then, on October 31, 1941, U-552 sank the elderly fourstacker USS Reuben James (DD-245). American public opinion was naturally inflamed, but there was no immediate outcry for war—until December 7, 1941, when Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor dragged the United States unmistakably into the fight. Following reciprocal declarations of war between the United States and the Axis powers, including Japan and Italy, Germany launched Operation Drumbeat, the rapid deployment of U-boats into the territorial waters of the continental United States. For battle-sharp German sailors, this produced a second happy time. Neatly outlined by bright lights along the shores, American merchant ships and freighters moving about alone at night made juicy targets, and in the months before the US Navy ironed out an acceptable protection system, U-boats fattened their kill counts in waters stretching from the Saint Lawrence River to the Texas coast. Within DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 17
shark hunt by Brian John Murphy
sight of Miami, Cape Hatteras, and Virginia Beach, ponderous oilers were plugged by torpedoes and erupted into blazing Wagnerian pyres, disasters that the navy labored to keep from the public. The British wound up sending ships to the US East Coast to bolster hapless American anti-submarine defenses. (Today, visitors to North Carolina’s Okracoke Island can find a little cemetery that contains the graves of British sailors killed just offshore in defense of the United States.) Eventually, coastal convoys augmented by aircraft and surface escort protection reduced U-boat effectiveness enough to convince Dönitz to reassign many of his subs from North American waters to convoy lanes closer to England. If the American happy time was over, hunting in the North Atlantic quickly improved, as the Germans honed their wolf-pack techniques.
-BOATS TURNED 1942 into an unmitigated disaster for the Allies. There was no month that Dönitz’s crews sank fewer than 2 ships a day on average. In March they averaged 3 kills per day. In May and June they upped that to a remarkable 4.7. The subs came close to sinking the 700,000 gross registered tons of shipping that, according to German thinking, should have prevented Britain from sustaining its war effort. That pace continued into early 1943. In March, U-boats claimed 131 more vessels. “The enemy never came so near to disrupting communications between the New World and the Old as in the first twenty days of 1943,” wrote American naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison. “Clearly we could not go on losing ships and men at that rate.” And by this time no place seemed safe from German marauders. The Germans even had a U-boat squadron called the
Opposite: A sailor stands watch on sub-chaser USS PC-556’s fantail. He wears an intercom headset that connects him to the bridge. His helmet hangs at the ready. Just beyond him is a loaded K-gun. Above: Perhaps the most impressive anti-sub weapon was the Hedgehog, shown here being loaded. Its 24 depth charges slid onto firing spigots, which launched an elliptical spread that could encircle a submarine. DECEMBER 2012
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A navy blimp from Naval Air Station Weymouth, Massachusetts, watches over a Liberty ship convoy on January 3, 1944. Liberty ships, manned by merchant mariners and a US Navy Armed Guard contingent, were a lifeline for the war effort overseas. Armed blimps helped protect them.
Monsoon Group operating from bases in Japanese-held Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and Kobe, Japan, whose mission was to prey on Allied shipping in the Indian and Pacific oceans. By the late spring of 1943, however, an effective combination of new Allied technology, weapons, tactics, industrial production, and intelligence began to catch up with the once-unstoppable Uboat fleet. Between 1942 and 1944, the U-boats’ ratio of kills to boats lost dropped from a stunning 18:1 to an unsustainable 1:1. Chief among the causes of this was exploitation of intelligence gleaned through the cracking of the German Enigma code. The way the Enigma code worked was that a message was encoded by an Enigma machine on the sender’s end and decoded by one on the receiver’s end. The more sophisticated versions of the machine could re-encrypt the code with each keystroke and generate astronomical numbers of code variations. German intelligence officers 20 AMERICA IN WWII
believed the system could not be cracked, but before the war, Polish intelligence agents had managed to secure an Enigma machine without the Germans realizing it. They handed it over to the Brits in July 1939, and at a secret British lab at a former country estate called Bletchley Park, mathematics genius Alan Turing and 9,000 boffins (expert civilians and members of the armed forces) eventually broke the code. Around the same time, the Allies had begun intercepting radio communications between Dönitz’s headquarters and his dispersed U-boats through the use of high-frequency direction-findA WEB
Visit our website at www.AmericaInWWII.com for more Battle of the Atlantic photos.
shark hunt by Brian John Murphy Meanwhile, increasing numbers of Allied anti-submarine warships equipped with modern radar were getting improved weapons arsenals. The crews of nimble new destroyers could roll state-ofthe-art depth charges off their ships’ sterns or launch them with deck-mounted projectors known as K-guns. A vessel armed with both rear racks and K-guns could lay down a lethal pattern of explosives at virtually any depth. The new 24-barrel Hedgehog S ALLIED EFFORTS GAINED STEAM at sea, the Allies were mortar further expanded depth-charge ranges, and in 1943 the winning the industrial battle on the home front, with Royal Navy improved on the Hedgehog with a three-barrel mortar Americans turning out Liberty ships faster dubbed the Squid that made aiming charges than the Germans could sink them and replace and setting them for the right depth easier. All their own losses. The brains behind the unprecethis state-of-the-art weaponry was waiting to be dented level of production was industrialist Henry used once British ASDIC and American sonar J. Kaiser, who had adapted the principles of mass men pinpointed the location of a U-boat from its production to ship construction. Sections of the engine and propeller noise or voices and miscelships were prefabricated and speedily delivered laneous sounds inside the vessel. to the appropriate slipway to be assembled. To By the end of 1943, Dönitz’s increasingly besave the time required for riveting, shipbuilders sieged U-boats could barely poke their noses out welded instead. Eventually, the Bethlehemof their bombproof pens into the Bay of Biscay Fairfield shipyard in Baltimore was able to without being pounced on by Allied planes. The complete a freighter just 24 days after laying hunters had become the hunted. Punctuated by the its keel. Seventeen other shipyards along the successful Allied invasion of France launched on DPacific, Gulf, and Atlantic coasts churned out Day—with which Germany’s dwindling U-boat fleet a total of 2,751 Liberty ships. Seven of the was scarcely able to interfere—1944 ships betrayed hasty workmanship proved even worse for the hardby splitting in half without warning, pressed German navy, now under the but by and large they were sturdy, command of Dönitz. The tattered transporting men and materiel to farremnants of the once-proud navy flung warfronts. continued to sink Allied ships during The hulls of Liberty ships hapthe war’s final, exhausting months. pened to make solid foundations for But by then, U-boat patrols had the navy’s new light escort carriers become suicide missions. (designated CVEs and known wideBy war’s end in May 1945, Hitler ly as baby flattops or jeep carriers), had, in a purely symbolic act, named and 17 were requisitioned for that Dönitz his successor as chancellor of use. But soon the navy began orderGermany and then committed suiing jeep carriers that were built from cide. In coastal U-boat pens, swiftthe keel up to be the centerpieces of moving Allied forces discovered a serious new U-boat deterrent: the scores of operational subs; German hunter-killer group. Working from crews had scuttled dozens of others. within a ring of destroyers, a jeep Statistics for the seemingly endless carrier with a deck filled with Top: A sailor loads a K-gun on a recruiting poster. Above: Battle of the Atlantic tell a simple Grumman Wildcat fighters and A coast guard sub chaser (foreground) and Chance Vought story of attrition, first in favor of the Avenger torpedo-bombers could disOS2U Kingfisher floatplane guard a convoy. Kingfishers could Axis, mostly Germany, and then in cover and target U-boats before they be launched from ships by a catapult for reconnaissance. favor of the Allies. In nearly six years came in reach of the precious cargo of sea war, Axis submarines had sunk 3,500 Allied merchant ships ships. When neither they nor submarine-sniffing destroyer escorts and 175 warships, killing 36,200 servicemen and another 36,000 reached their prey in time, planes dispatched by the Canadian civilian crew members. German losses were nearly as bad. Of Royal Air Force, the US Navy, or the US Air Forces often did. And roughly 40,000 German submariners sent to sea, only one-quaronce longer-range B-24 Liberators and British-built Lancaster ter returned. It was a loss Nazi Germany could not afford. A bombers became available, the Atlantic’s most dangerous stretch—a vulnerable gap formerly beyond the reach of landbased planes known as the Black Hole—quickly closed up. Still, BRIAN JOHN MURPHY of Fairfield, Connecticut, is a contributing the lion’s share of the anti-U-boat war was fought by RAF Coastal editor of America in WWII and frequently writes articles and Command, which had bases around the Atlantic Rim, including reviews books for the magazine. one in Rhode Island. ing gear. This equipment allowed warships to determine quickly the origin of signals and send convoy escorts scurrying after an approaching U-boat or alert a convoy to avoid a sub’s location. The messages were later passed along to Bletchley Park for further analysis.
Charlie Brown’s War Charles M. Schulz found out firsthand what it was like to fight in a war. His melancholy car toon boy and friends never forgot. by Melissa Amateis Marsh lished his final strip in 2000, he referred many times to what was known as the Good War and to the GIs who fought it. Though Schulz didn’t create Peanuts until after the war, he was on the road to being a cartoonist at a very early age, having inherited a passion for comics from his father, Carl, along with a solid work ethic. The grim sense of humor that turned up in his strips came from his homemaker mother, Dena. Charles was the Schulz’s only child, born on November 26, 1922. By the age of five, the boy who often went by the nickname Sparky, given to him by an uncle, was drawing well enough to impress. “Someday, Charles,” his kindergarten teacher told him, “you’re going to be an artist.” When Schulz was a senior in high school in 1940, his mother spotted a newspaper advertisement for an artist correspondence course. His father paid the $170 tuition in installments, and Schulz enrolled in the Federal School of Illustrating and Cartooning (also known as Art Instruction Incorporated and later as Art Instruction Schools), a 12-lesson home-study program. He earned just a C+ in Division Five: Drawing of Children. After high school, Schulz worked menial jobs and tried to break into the world of cartooning. But in November 1942 he received
Top: Charles Schulz’s WWII service helped shape his classic cartoon strip Peanuts. He had special reverence for the sacrifices GIs made on the beaches of D-Day, June 6, 1944. This strip for June 10, 1994, was last in a series marking D-Day’s 50th anniversary. Above: Private Schulz stands with his dad, Carl, probably at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 1943. Schulz’s father and mother encouraged his interest in art. Opposite: War interrupted Schulz’s art career, but he ultimately thrived in the army. By February 1944 he was a sergeant. 22 AMERICA IN WWII
LEFT AND OPPOSITE: COURTESY OF THE CHARLES M. SCHULZ MUSEUM AND RESEARCH CENTER, SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA
HARLES M. S CHULZ WAS IN St. Paul, Minnesota, home from the army. He was there only on furlough, but maybe his stay would turn permanent: the United States had just dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima a couple of days earlier, on August 6, 1945. “The streetcar pulled up in front of my dad’s barber shop,” wrote the 20th Armored Division machine-gunner. “I put the duffel bag on my shoulder and got off the back of the streetcar. Walked around, crossed the street, and into the barber shop. He was working on a customer.” The creator of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang later lamented not getting a warmer welcome. “That was my homecoming,” he said. “There was no party. Nothing…. I look back on it, and I think, ‘Well, that was robbery. I didn’t get to be in a parade, no one gave me a hug, or anything like that.’” It was the sort of experience that stays with someone, and it may be no coincidence that Schulz went on to make a point of paying regular tribute to his fellow WWII veterans. His legendary Peanuts debuted in 1950, and during the 50 years it appeared in newspapers and other publications around the world until Schulz pub-
BO TH PH OTOS: CO URTESY OF THE CHARLE S M. SCH UL Z M USEUM AN D RESEAR CH CEN TER, SAN TA ROSA, C ALIFORN IA
a draft notice, at the worst possible time. His mother was suffering from cervical cancer, and he hated to leave her behind. Yet he dutifully reported to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and visited her whenever he could secure a weekend pass. Dena Schulz died several months later, on March 1, 1943. It was a pivotal time for her son. “I was only twenty at the time, and it saddens me that this wonderful woman who encouraged my drawing so much never lived to see any of my work in print,” he later wrote in his 1980 book Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Me and All the Other Peanuts Characters. Shortly after his mother’s funeral, the army shipped Schulz to newly built Camp Campbell in Kentucky. A crushing sense of loss and loneliness traveled with him, and he sometimes cried himself to sleep in his bunk. “The first few days— maybe a week or so—I was totally alone,” he remembered. Going home wasn’t an option. He would have to remain with his outfit, Company B of the 8th Armored Infantry Battalion, as he coped with his mother’s death and struggled to adapt to unpredictable weather, bad food, and crowded barracks. The sheltered kid from Minnesota froze the first time he heard the rattle of a machine gun on the firing range, but he soon got used to the sound. And like the other fresh-faced young men around him, he adapted to the mental and physical challenges of combat training and gradually made a few friends. Drawing remained foremost in his mind. Unfortunately, when he asked his master sergeant about
painting camp signs, he was told, “What we need in this outfit are riflemen, not artists.” Things finally took a turn for the better for the homesick Schulz when he made a friend in Corporal Elmer Roy Hagemeyer, a fellow Midwesterner from St. Louis who was 10 years older. “It was a time when you needed a friend, more than you did in civilian life,” Hagemayer later told Rheta Grimsley Johnson, one of Schulz’s biographers. “He [Schulz] would get depressed, but I just wasn’t the type to get depressed. So I’d get him out, to a movie or something.” Schulz sometimes tagged along when the easygoing Hagemeyer returned home on leave to visit his wife. “He was like a big brother to me,” Schulz later recalled. “He really kept me going.”
a lot of time and energy, Schulz sketched when he could, and soon his whole barracks knew he was a cartoonist. He gladly fulfilled requests to doodle images of army life on soldiers’ letters home and began drawing wartime gag cartoons. He once attended an exhibition of original published gag cartoons at a camp service club, but that only frustrated him. “I was admiring so much the quality of the drawing and the rendering of these things, and I was thinking, ‘When in the world am I ever going to get a chance to do this?’” he recalled. What made it worse was that he remained unsure of his abiliHOUGH ARMY LIFE TOOK
Above, left: Unlike his future star character Charlie Brown, who was always the pitcher, Schulz plays catcher in a GI ball game in Germany. Above, right: Schulz’s service with the 20th Armored Division took him deep into Nazi Germany in a half-track that bore his nickname, Sparky. Schulz was a staff sergeant leading a machine-gun squad. Opposite, top: Schulz had much in common with GI cartoonist Bill Mauldin’s hardslogging grunts Willie and Joe. What he wished for, however, was to become a cartoonist as accomplished as Mauldin. Opposite, bottom: Most of the war-themed strips Schulz would draw for Peanuts would be about World War I, with Snoopy as the WWI Flying Ace. 24 AMERICA IN WWII
ties, unready to submit samples of his work to widely read US military publications such as Yank magazine or the newspaper Stars and Stripes. He felt he couldn’t meet the standard set by Bill Mauldin, whose Willie and Joe comic strip tellingly portrayed the life of the average soldier in the US Army. “I think Bill Mauldin’s work made me realize it,” he said. “It wasn’t intimidating. I just wasn’t even close to being able to do that.” So Schulz focused on being a good infantryman. After 13 weeks of training, he was made a private first class and had transformed himself from a soft civilian into a muscular soldier brimming with confidence. He had also become an excellent shot, mastering .30- and .50-caliber machine guns. In February 1944, he was promoted to sergeant and made the assistant leader of his platoon’s machine-gun squad. A sudden opening then thrust him into a command position as squad leader. Schulz took the role seriously, and when he was promoted to staff sergeant in September 1944, he was proud, perhaps for the first time in his life. He was popular with his men, who called him “our Sergeant Schulz” or “our company artist.” As Allied victory in Europe edged to within reach, the 20th Armored Division received its orders to go overseas and shipped out on February 5, 1945. It landed at Le Havre, France, on
by Melissa Amateis Marsh February 18, and Schulz’s division was billeted at the Château de Malvoisine—the Castle of the Bad Neighbor Woman—near Rouen, Normandy. “It was gray stone with a stone wall around it and forming a paddock where my squad set up camp,” Schulz remembered. While the division awaited orders that would send it into combat, Schulz sketched the imposing castle and the surrounding countryside. On April 1, the 20th, now part of the US Seventh Army, struck out for Germany. Schulz’s platoon set out in rolling columns of armored vehicles, with the future cartoonist and 11 squad mates tucked into a half-track nicknamed Sparky after their leader. The columns rumbled over corners of Belgium and the Netherlands before crossing the Rhine River and entering Germany via a pontoon bridge at Remagen. “Everything was bombed out, crushed, every building shot up,” Schulz recalled. “Bullet holes were every place.” The 20th met its first enemy resistance in the village of Rossbach, whose ubiquitous white surrender flags belied the presence of defiant German soldiers. Bullets clanged off the side of the half-track as Schulz and his buddies crouched low in it. They emerged unscathed, and the village was subsequently set ablaze. From that day forward, Schulz could not erase the image
of a “hysterical woman standing in her front yard while her house was on fire and all the cows were walking around.” The division was bound for Austria via Munich when, on April 29, it reached the village of Dachau, home of the first and perhaps worst of the Nazi extermination camps. “We spent the night out in a field,” Schulz remembered. “They said that we had to be ready because there may be a counter-attack by the SS [for Schutzstaffel, “protection squadron,” the elite Nazi troops]. But it never happened. So the next morning, soon as the sun came up, we moved out. And then, that day, they told us that Dachau had been discovered.” Spared the horrific sights of the camp, Schulz was amazed to spot emaciated survivors hugging American tanks. The war was winding down. On May 1, 1945, Schulz’s convoy received word that Adolf Hitler was dead. Outside Munich short-
and had second thoughts about entering the building. “I thought I’d just roll a concussion grenade down the steps to knock out anyone who was around,” he remembered. “Just then, this nondescript little dog trotted down the stairs and into the building. I couldn’t hurt that little dog. He didn’t even know what was going on. So I didn’t get the Luger.”
ly afterward, Sparky the half-track rolled through a stretch of ground concealing a body of German soldiers, spurring Schulz to reach for the vehicle’s mounted .50-caliber machine gun. Years later, Schulz would clear up a misconception that he had been caught off-guard without ammunition. “I was the squad leader, and one of my men in the half-track called my attention to a movement in a field,” he said. “Rifle fire came from the spot. I swung my gun around. I was a pretty good marksman, too. I just forgot that a .50-caliber machine gun has to be pulled not once, but twice, before it will fire. But it was just as well. The fellow threw his hands up and surrendered before I was ready to fire.” Bound for Salzburg, the 20th Armored Division stopped in a
Schulz made up for his missed opportunity later that day when he found a Luger in a cache of German weapons at a quartermaster depot in Salzburg. Then, while relaxing on the front porch of a house, he saw a medic sitting across the street. Lulled by complacency or overly excited by the day’s events, Schulz pointed the pistol at the red cross on the medic’s helmet without checking to see whether the gun was loaded. “I aimed very carefully at that helmet and pulled the trigger very slowly,” Schulz said. A bullet shot out at the man. Luckily it only “grazed the medic’s cheek.” The nearly tragic mishap would haunt Schulz for years. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, but fighting in the Pacific was still raging, and Schulz had not yet accumulated
small village on May 5. Nearly every American soldier wanted a souvenir to take home, and one of the most-prized catches was a Luger pistol. Schulz seized his chance. “There at the end of the village was a huge artillery emplacement, with stairs going down to a dark building, painted all black,” he recalled. “It must have been barracks. There wasn’t a soul around, and I thought if I went down there I might even find a Luger.”
COURTESY OF THE CHARLES M. SCHULZ MUSEUM AND RESEARCH CENTER, SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA
CHULZ WAS ALONE
Opposite, top strip: Straining through the surf like the GI in the iconic D-Day photo by Robert Capa, Snoopy approaches a Normandy beach in Schulz’s June 6, 1996, tribute. Opposite, middle strip: The hardship soldiers endured—whether in World War II or in this soggy Great War strip featuring Snoopy’s cousin Spike—was a recurring theme in Peanuts. Opposite, bottom: In this strip, the part about Rommel’s wife’s birthday being on June 6 is true. The historical record is cloudier on the role of a certain soldier dog in fixing the date of the Normandy invasion. Above: During maneuvers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, prior to shipping out for Europe, Schulz (left) serves in a machine-gun crew. DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 27
Charlie Brown’sWar enough combat points to earn a trip home. Worse, the 20th Armored Division had been penciled in for the upcoming invasion of Japan. “None of us liked the idea of traveling clear across the Pacific,” he said. That’s when Schulz went home on furlough in August and heard there of the atomic bombings and the Japanese surrender. The war had transformed Schulz. “By the time he got out of the army he was a bigger, better, stronger person than when he went in,” remembered Elmer Hagemeyer. Schulz thought so, too. “Those first few months I was home were probably the best months of feeling good about myself I’ve had in my whole life,” he recalled. Home with his father in the five-room apartment over the barber shop, the budding cartoonist began penning drawings and sending them to some of the biggest distributors in the business, including King Features Syndicate in New York City and Walt Disney Studios in Hollywood. In August he landed a job with his alma mater, Art Instruction Incorporated, across the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. About this time, Schulz developed a strip called Just Keep Laughing, which ran in a
by Melissa Amateis Marsh The following half-century saw Schulz’s creation enter the funny pages of more than 2,000 newspapers. It evolved into an international phenomenon that spawned popular books, television specials, and enough merchandise to fill a city of retail stores. According to Forbes, for example, the Peanuts empire earned $35 million in 2006, six years after Schulz’s death. It was the warm sentiment and folksy humor of Schulz’s daily strips that drove his stunning success. And from the start, Schulz referenced his soldiering days, sometimes to hilarious effect. In one strip he introduced as an arch-enemy for Snoopy a vicious neighborhood cat named World War II. Schulz also used his panels to work through his own haunted thoughts about the war, including the troubling Luger incident of 1945. In one of the earliest Peanuts strips, Charlie Brown aimed a toy pistol at the character Shermy, shouted “Bang!” and then immediately apologized, saying, “Gee, I’m sorry…it went off!” Schulz confirmed that the oft-melancholy Charlie Brown epitomized the emptiness he struggled with during the war. “A sympathy for the loneliness that all of us experience was dropped heavily on poor Charlie Brown,” he said. Even piano-playing Schroeder’s love for classical music was inspired by Schulz’s time
Catholic magazine called Timeless Topix. On June 8, 1947, the Minneapolis Star Tribune printed Schulz’s work in a strip called Sparky’s Li’l Folks. After trying unsuccessfully to syndicate it, he decided to change tactics. “I was looking for an angle,” he said. “I figured if I’m going to break into this business, I’ve got to do something which is a little bit different.” Adopting a minimalist approach, Schulz changed the way he drew his characters and developed a simple but unique brand of humor. Charlie Brown and the gang were born, and on June 14, 1950, United Features Syndicate offered Schulz a five-year contract. Because L’il Folks was already trademarked, the strip’s name was changed to Peanuts. Schulz didn’t like it. “I don’t think with a name like that it will go very far,” he told his new boss.
in the service. “My interest in music began one night when I was in the Army,” Schulz wrote. “We were watching a film on the life of George Gershwin, and I was taken with the beautiful music that he had written. Up until then, the only things that I had listened to were the top ten songs on the Hit Parade.”
N LATER YEARS Schulz often drew strips specifically to honor WWII veterans. From 1993 to 1998 (with the exception of 1995), Schulz memorialized D-Day—the June 6, 1944, launch of the Allied invasion of continental Europe—with special panels on its anniversary. Surprisingly, the first of these had not been planned. “I was looking at my calendar to see where my next Sunday page was going to be printed,” Schulz recalled. “It said June 6th and all of a
Top: Schulz continued to idolize Mauldin. On many a Veterans Day—as in this November 11, 1996, panel—Snoopy mentioned Mauldin, and he often went to quaff root beers with him. Sometimes Snoopy went in WWII uniform, but often he went as the WWI Flying Ace. Above: On Veterans Day 1998, Snoopy ran into Mauldin’s Willie and Joe on a battlefield. Opposite: Schulz’s final D-Day tribute came on Sunday, May 31, 1998. Snoopy stands with 101st Airborne Division paratroopers as they meet General Dwight Eisenhower before jumping into Normandy. 28 AMERICA IN WWII
comic strips alone. In 1997, he headed the capital campaign for the National D-Day Memorial, donating $1 million toward its construction in Bedford, Virginia. “It’s so easy for us as generations come and go, to forget what other generations did,” he once wrote. “It’s still disconcerting to talk to younger people and find that they have almost no knowledge of what was done. I think there are certain things that must never be forgotten. Perhaps sometimes we do have too many monuments, too many holidays, and things of this kind. But D-Day is not one of them.” The completed memorial was dedicated on June 6, 2001. By then, the beloved GI-turned-cartoonist was gone, having died from colon cancer. On January 3, 2000, he had announced his retirement in his final daily strip. His final Sunday strip—a
For years, Schulz marked Veterans Day with a nod to Bill Mauldin, usually by sending off Snoopy in his Ike jacket (US military waistcoat named after General Dwight Eisenhower) to drink a few root beers with Schulz’s one-time idol. “I asked Schulz once ‘Why are you doing this?’” Mauldin recalled. “‘You’re keeping me alive. I’m the forgotten cartoonist, except for this.’” When Schulz told him that he had served in France, Maudlin said, “That was all the explanation I needed.” On November 11, 1998, Schulz paid Mauldin the ultimate tribute with a strip showing Mauldin drawing his characters Willie and Joe. Mauldin the cartoon then signs his name, completing a special sign-off that read “Charles Schulz, and my hero Bill Mauldin.” Schulz didn’t urge people to remember the war through his
special celebration of most beloved Peanuts themes—ran on February 12, just hours after he died. Schulz’s pride in his own small role in World War II, and his devotion to honoring his fellow GIs, outlive him as part of the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, which opened in August 2002. The museum is a fitting legacy for a man who twice won the Reuben Award—the cartoonist’s equivalent of the Oscar—but was prouder of his Combat Infantrymen Badge, an everyman award that went to all enlisted men who participated in battle. As Schulz knew, theirs was no small accomplishment. A
sudden—Bang—it hit me, because I remembered that day so distinctly.” That 1993 strip featured GI Snoopy battling the surf at Normandy, France, above the words “June 6, 1944, ‘to Remember.’” Perhaps the most notable of Schulz’s D-Day tributes was an adaptation of the famous photograph of General Dwight D. Eisenhower talking to 101st Airborne Division paratroopers on the eve of the invasion. Into this scene, Schulz penned Snoopy, in his soldier’s garb. “Of all my D-Day cartoons, this Sunday page created the most interest from readers, who remarked that it was often the only reference to that momentous day of June 6, 1944, in their newspapers,” he wrote. “Most gratifyingly, I heard from those in the picture and still with us, family members, and friends of the men talking with General Eisenhower.”
MELISSA AMATEIS MARSH wrote “Armed with a Paintbrush” about US Army artist Ed Reep for our August 2012 issue. DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 29
FIRE from the mountain
GIs knew they would face fiery opposition when they invaded Italy. They had no idea that would include an erupting Mount Vesuvius. by David A. Norris
ALL IMAGES THIS STORY: NATIONAL ARCHIVES
OMBER CREWS OF THE US T WELFTH A IR F ORCE WERE USED TO CATCHING FLAK . They regularly braved fire from the enemy in Central Europe before being sent to support the 1943 Allied invasion of Italy. But on March 22, 1944, the 340th Bombardment Group took a pounding without ever leaving the ground, and from an enemy not even on its target list. The culprit: Mount Vesuvius, the ancient and infamous terror best known for turning the once-thriving Classical mecca of Pompeii into a frozen-in-time sculpture of the ancient world.
Like a morose old monument, Mount Vesuvius looms over Naples Bay and the surrounding region. Its distinctive doublehumped silhouette features two volcanic cones—the still-rumbling Vesuvius and its extinct cousin, Monte Somma. It’s civilizationchanging eruption of 79 A.D. had wiped out not only bustling Pompeii, but also other Roman towns such as Herculaneum, Oplontis, and Stabiae, whose homes, shops, and mansions were lost for centuries. By World War II, extensive archaeological excavations begun in the 18th century had revealed a stunning swath of a Pompeii buried in up to 20 feet of ash. In the centuries following Pompeii’s destruction, the modern city of Naples took root along the Tyrrhenian Sea’s serene edge, some six miles west of the troublesome twin peaks. Several smaller towns and villages also sprouted up, much closer to Vesuvius, in whose ominous shadow lay fertile soil perfectly suited to growing grapes and other staple crops. Not until 1906, when a blast from the volcano killed some 100 people, did the brooding mountain erupt again. In the years following World War I, it showed renewed energy, rumbling with increasing frequency before exploding on a limited scale in 1929. Mount Vesuvius continued to issue ominous threats as Allied forces set their sights on Italy in late 1943. The smoke and drips of
lava that issued forth from the mountain made it an unmistakable landmark for bombers soaring overhead. On September 9, General Mark Clark’s US Fifth Army landed at Salerno, while British 8th Army troops went ashore at Taranto, to the east (the initial British landings had occurred six days earlier at Reggio de Calabria). While the latter set out to confront Axis units along Italy’s eastern coast, Clark’s Americans began the grueling drive up the west, bound for Rome, and quickly ran into German artillery fire near Vesuvius’s broad base 30 miles up the coast. Nevertheless, on September 29, the world-famous ruins of Pompeii fell into Allied hands. Heavily damaged Naples followed on October 1. During the fall of 1943, American engineers laid out two temporary airfields near the mountain: Vesuvius Airfield, northeast of its gaping crater, and Pompeii Airfield, to its southeast, near the villages of Terzigno and Poggiomarino. Two and a half miles south of Pompeii Airfield lay the ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii. Stray bombs had occasionally exploded precariously close to its skeletal remains months earlier, but the site had remained open to tourists, including famed correspondent Ernie Pyle, who, like scores of other American and British servicemen, paid the 10-cent admission fee for a close-up look. Pyle later noted that the Italian tour guide spotted Major Edwin A. Bland of the US 525th Tactical
Previous spread: April 3, 1944. Seen from Naples, smoke billows from erupting Mount Vesuvius. Naples, west of the volcano and upwind, was relatively unharmed, unlike villages nearer the volcano. Top: Soldier-cartoonist Jack Ficklen found humor in Vesuvius’s impact on army plans. Above: The officers of the USS Philadelphia (CL-41) may not have shared the laugh. This March 18 nighttime photo of glowing lava pouring down Vesuvius was shot from the ship, anchored off Torre Annunziata south of the volcano. Lit up by the glow, the cruiser had to change position or risk being a target. Opposite: B-25 Mitchell bombers of the 447th Bomber Squadron view the eruption from above. 32 AMERICA IN WWII
Fighter Squadron in the group and “made four or five deadpan yet subtle digs about the bombings. All we could do was wink at each other. Major Bland had dive-bombed a lot of Italy, but never around Pompeii.” Navigating freezing mud and ice-slicked mountain paths, Allied forces advanced some 50 miles up the Italian boot before grounding to a slow, painful halt in front of German forces entrenched outside Monte Cassino. It would take a diverse mix of troops from nations all over the free world four separate battles over a five-month stretch to dislodge these Germans from their concrete pillboxes and open the road to glittering Rome. All the while, the fireworks spouting from Mount Vesuvius drew increasing attention. At first the mountain produced what appeared to be a wonderful omen for the Allies. Early in January, twin streams of red-hot lava spilled down its snow-covered slopes to merge into what looked like a huge V, as in the American slogan “V for Victory.” Seared into the white-clad mountainside, the spectacular, glowing symbol heartened battle-weary Fifth Army soldiers. On March 18, however, the Allies’ confidence that Mount Vesuvius was on their side began to fade. Ground crews going about their work at the Pompeii and Vesuvius airfields late that
afternoon noticed the volcano rumbling louder than usual. Bubbling out from the height’s fiery dome, a thick molten stream suddenly burst forth to wipe out a 100-foot section of a popular cable railway that had for years lugged tourists—and more recently, American GIs—up the mountain’s slopes. One soldier estimated the lava’s hustling pace at up to 30 miles per hour. “It was a lot faster than you could run,” said Staff Sergeant Fredrick Drake, whose Elmira, New York, hometown had never offered anything quite so exciting. “It was flowing just like water.” That night, the volcano’s flanks glowed with the stunning flare of a thousand neon lights, and molten rock spewed into the sky.
OR THE NEXT TWO DAYS , the crews of fresh American bombers flying past Vesuvius on missions eyed the steaming height with growing concern. Local residents were no doubt even more alarmed. “The column of lava which Neapolitans could see was described as a mile and a half long and appeared like a great river of fire by night while smoke from burning vegetation revealed it by day,” reported the US Army newspaper Stars and Stripes on March 20. The gooey magma’s outer surface soon cooled and hardened, but cracks continued to release intense heat DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 33
FIRE from the mountain
by David A. Norris
and smoke from its molten interior. Associated Press correspondent Edward Kennedy described the lethal lava as a “moving burning coalyard.” In seconds it converted tree sap to steam and reduced whole swaths of woods to lifeless, blackened skeletons. Late on the morning of March 21, things really heated up, and the cackle of sizzling embers, timber, and even stone filled the air. “The general sound was like that of an infinite number of clinkers rolling out of a great furnace—but sometimes a great chunk of rock bent rather than broke,” wrote New York Times correspondent Milton Bracker, who was on hand to witness the show. “Its effect was like that of the devil’s own taffy being pulled and twisted to suit his taste.” That afternoon, orders reached the 47th Bombardment Group at Vesuvius Airdrome to get its A-20 light
Trapped in the path of the oncoming lava were the towns of San Sebastiano and Massa di Somma, whose fate was all but sealed by a ravine that funneled the 30-foot-deep magma flow directly toward them. Residents were old hands at coping with the volcano’s periodic bursts of ash, but this was something different. They had been ordered to evacuate the previous day, and American military police and soldiers worked with Italian carabinieri (military police) to see that they did. Rolling American cameras captured families loading horse-drawn carts, piling them high with mattresses, furniture, and framed pictures and mirrors. Others raced to save artifacts from churches. Most evacuees then set off in stunned silence; others wept. Less aware of the danger looming over them, children pestered American GIs for chewing gum.
bombers in the air and send them northwest to Capodichino Airfield, near Naples, upwind of the eruption’s fallout. In Naples at about 5:30 P.M., traffic ground to a halt. Amazed soldiers hopped out of jeeps, and drivers stopped their cars to watch the majestic but frightening pall of smoke soar higher into the not-so-distant sky. A United Press reporter described the lower stretch of the mile-high funnel as “slate-grey, speckled with flame,” but brightening to “laundry-white” as it soared over Pompeii and Naples. To the east, thunder and lightning added their violent hallmarks to the ominous clouds swirling around the volcano. Hailstones poured from the sky, the ice sizzling and hissing on contact with the earth. Lava pouring down the slopes was easily visible to the US airmen staring up from the bases below.
American and British personnel were fortunate to have their steel helmets for protection against falling volcanic refuse; civilians had to make do with whatever they could find: pots, washtubs, wooden boxes, heavy baskets. Parents wrapped their children in blankets to limit skin exposure. Homeowners had tried to prevent roof cave-ins by continually sweeping them clean of accumulating ash, but it was impossible to prevent red-hot rock from pouring underground into forgotten wells, forcing scalding steam up through foundations without warning. To expedite matters and prevent a disaster, soldiers and airmen arrived with 200 trucks to help some 5,000 people flee San Sebastiano and another 1,600 depart Massa di Somma. Some desperate residents had defied evacuation orders and
34 AMERICA IN WWII
remained in their homes, but US troops had orders to remove them before the lava destroyed their houses. The Americans had to break down doors with their rifle butts and search room by room inside houses reeking of volcanic fumes. Lieutenant John Barlow, in charge of a detachment of troops in San Sebastiano, saw a panic-stricken dog at the window of a house on the verge of collapse. He thought he was going to have to shoot the dog rather than let him die as the house crumbled and burned. At the last moment, the dog jumped out the window and fled as the house’s walls tumbled into the lava. By the afternoon of March 22, creeping magma had destroyed most of both towns and closed to within a thousand feet of the town of Cercola. Losing patience with disasters both natural and manmade, one Italian sighed, “Twenty years of Mussolini, four years of war, and now this!” Meanwhile, Vesuvius offered up a new pestilence; chunks of rock as small as peas or as large as footballs spat high into the air. Amid the barrage of stones settled a deep “snowfall” of fine volcanic ash, most of which fell southeast of the eruption. A layer of particles dusted Nazi-occupied Albania across the Adriatic Sea, but most of it blanketed a streak about 25 miles downwind from the volcano’s cone, sparing most of Naples. By day, the sun’s penetrating rays spotlighted the vast plume of smoke, dust, and gas soaring into the sky above the mountaintop. After dark, soldiers slugging it out 60 miles away at Monte Cassino could not help noticing Vesuvius’s fiery glow. Lieutenant Colonel James Leslie Kincaid had been placed in charge of the US Army’s relief efforts. In the village of Pollena, GIs set up emergency stations with bread, cheese, and soup to feed several thousand refugees. They handed out candles, as even in safe areas homes and shops were without electricity. And with crops and pastures now under as much as three feet of ash, they rounded up feed for hungry livestock. Even General Clark and Italian King Victor Emmanuel III visited the scene to offer their personal support. Meanwhile, US Army bulldozers cleared roads of piled-up debris to ease the flow of refugees and traffic. Plans were considered to send displaced families to Sicily, although this ultimately proved unnecessary. The eruption further clogged transportation by tying up almost 700 freight cars of the US Military Railroad Service for several days. Some of the service’s personnel had worked stateside rails before the war and had experience clearing heavy snow. Now, they faced the aftermath of a blizzard that had dropped up to 20 inches of ash on tracks. Armed with bulldozers, shovels, and even brooms, several hundred of them struggled to clear several miles
of rail line, even as freshly fallen dust replaced just-removed ash. Adding to their frustration, falling rain choked switches that then had to be dug out by hand.
REA - BASED MEMBERS of the Twelfth Air Force, meanwhile, found themselves dealing directly with Vesuvius. Stationed at the unluckily-named Pompeii Airfield was the 340th Bomb Group, which flew twin-engine B-25 Mitchells, medium bombers built by North American Aviation. Each was capable of delivering more than 3,000 pounds of bombs, any of which might trigger sizeable explosions amid the heat and destruction of a volcanic eruption. But while 47th Bomb Group aircraft had been ordered from Vesuvius Airfield, no such action had been taken at Pompeii Airfield. So the March 22 blast freely pelted the expensive planes parked on Pompeii’s exposed runways. Left behind while base personnel scrambled to safety, abandoned B-25s shook from the crunch of heavy rocks that bashed dents and holes in their fuselages and wings and twisted their frames. Projectiles punched through or cracked Plexiglas cockpit canopies; hot cinders melted others. Before evacuating, ground crews had tried to keep the drifting ash off their planes. Now, its accumulated weight left bombers tilting helplessly backward on their tails. Members of the 324th Service Group joined the 340th Bomb Group in salvage work. In the end, as many as 90 aircraft were lost. Offshore in the Bay of Naples, US Navy ships had had their own troubles. On March 18 the cruiser USS Philadelphia shifted position because the glowing lava six miles inland exposed her as an obvious target. A thickening layer of volcanic dust mixed with rain subsequently forced her to yet another new anchorage. The patrol craft USS PC-546 reported on March 24 that her “decks became covered with one and one half inches of ash resembling black sand.” Visibility in the bay diminished to little more than a mile. Meanwhile, 130 miles east, on the Adriatic coast, smoke smothered the city of Bari enough to require the use of electric lights until 10:00 A.M. For days, wary Allied officers kept their eyes on the mountain, afraid that Vesuvius’s cone might completely collapse and unleash a fresh, even more massive flood of lava. On March 23, the trickle of molten rock stopped barely 100 yards short of the cemetery at Cercola. Throughout the day, Vesuvius continued to hurl chunks of rock into the sky, as if to outpace the three-mile-high cloud of smoke drifting above it. The mountain began to run out of steam the next day; the eruption
Opposite: Coated with volcanic ash, a B-25 Mitchell bomber of the 340th Bomb Group sits at Pompeii Airfield, its cloth surfaces poked full of holes by rocks that rained from the sky. Up to 90 of the airfield’s B-25s were lost to volcano damage on March 22. Top: Tents in which the men of the 340th had lived were left in tatters. Above: An airman assesses the damage to one of the unit’s high-price-tag bombers. DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 35
FIRE from the mountain eased and was declared over on March 30. Residents of Cercola and other villages where one correspondent wrote that it had been “raining wine” gratefully returned home. With brooms and shovels in one hand and umbrellas in the other, they went to work clearing reddish sheets of ash from their roofs and streets. The village of Nazionale was blanketed in three feet of fine “black snow,” atop which now lay whole flocks of dead birds. Hungry locals who had been trapped and unable to get supplies gathered the birds up for cooking. The eruption had claimed 26 lives. Most of the dead had been killed by collapsed roofs or flying rocks hurled about like marbles. Timely evacuations had kept the death toll from climbing considerably higher. In the United States, the press had followed Mount Vesuvius’s lengthy temper tantrum since it first flashed its seemingly symbol-
by David A. Norris
ties, none of them serious. And less than a week after the volcano went silent, the group had scraped up enough B-25s to resume blasting German targets.
V ESUVIUS ’ S ILL - TIMED BLAST had caused $25 million worth of damage to American planes and facilities. But for all its growling, the volcano had scarcely slowed the Allied onslaught on Germany’s hard-pressed frontiers. On May 7, 1945, German officials signed surrender documents in Rheims, France. That day, an acid-tongued stateside newspaper columnist referenced the volcano’s eruption of the previous year: A volcanologist inclined to superstition might suspect old Vesuv of jealousy of its sulphurous rival, the German nation. There’s a spiritual resemblance between the two of them, come to think. OUNT
Opposite: GIs poke around in the ash and rubble in ruined San Sebastiano on March 24. American troops had helped evacuate the town ahead of the devastation. Above: On the 21st, townsfolk watched a 30-foot-deep river of lava hit their town and bury their homes in molten rock.
ic “V for Victory” sign in January. Coverage increased as the eruption intensified in March. By April, newsreels were offering stateside movie theater audiences startling images of the spectacular displays of smoke and fire. Most news stories, however, focused on the damage done to the towns and villages near the volcano and the relief efforts mounted by American and British forces. Left unmentioned for several months was the damage to the bomber squadrons at Pompeii Airfield. Radios in Italy picked up Nazi propagandist Axis Sally gloating with typical hyperbole that the eruption had destroyed the 340th Bomb Group as an act of God. Actually, besides the heavy damage to aircraft, the group had suffered only a handful of casual-
They’re terrors and troublemakers to all within striking distance. They blow off periodically, spreading ruin all around. And it never gets either of them anywhere. More or less quiet since 1944, Mount Vesuvius, along with the remarkable remains of old Pompeii, is now part of a large national park that lures visitors by the thousands. In the surrounding region as many as three million people still live with the specter of the next eruption. A DAVID A. NORRIS of Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote “Sherlock Holmes Stalks the Nazis” for the June 2012 issue of America in WWII. DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 37
ghost blimp It was odd enough for a US Navy dirigible to crash down in a California coastal town. But where was the crew? The question remains unanswered. by Chuck Lyons
ghost blimp by Chuck Lyons
LIEUTENANT ERNEST CODY and Ensign Charles Adams in August 1942? Rumors continue to circulate to this day. Were they captured by the Japanese? Did they conceive and execute a complicated AWOL scheme? Did they get into a fight and kill each other, or were they killed by a stowaway? Were they abducted by aliens? HAT HAPPENED TO
the L-8, which was commissioned in March 1942 and became part of ZP-32, or Airship Patrol Squadron 32 (later called Blimp Squadron 32), based at Moffett Field just south of San Francisco near Sunnyvale, California. The next month, on April 11, the L-8 was chosen to deliver 300 pounds of B-25 bomber parts to the carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) off the California coast. The parts were for the planes of Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle’s raiders, who were aboard the Hornet and on their way to bomb Japan. The mission assigned to the L-8 on Sunday, August 16, was mundane by comparison to the Hornet delivery. The blimp was to take off from Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay for a routine patrol. But before takeoff, the L-8’s ground crew determined that the ship was about 200 pounds overweight. To compensate, Aviation Machinist’s Mate Third Class James Riley Hill was cut from the blimp’s three-man crew. That left the pilot, 27-year-old Lieutenant Ernest DeWitt Cody, who had graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1938 and had piloted the L8 before, and 38-year-old Ensign Charles E. Adams, who had had 20 years’ experience with lighter-than-air vehicles as an enlisted man. Adams had been sworn in as an ensign the day before and was making his first flight as a commissioned officer. He had been at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, and had fired a deck gun at enemy planes. He had also been part of the ground crew during the crash of the German Zeppelin Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in May 1937. Both men were married. The L-8 finally took off at 6:03 A.M. and headed out to patrol for enemy submarines in an area bordered by San Francisco Bay, the Farallones (a chain of small islands 30 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge), and Point Reyes, on the coast 25 miles north of the bridge. At 7:42, Cody radioed that he and Adams had spotted what appeared to be an oil slick—a typical sign of submarine activity—five miles off the Farallones and that the L-8 was going down to investigate. Cody and Adams were never heard from again. Beginning at 8:50 A.M., repeated radio calls were made to the airship but without response. Finally, sometime between 9:30 and 10 A.M., a mesUS NAVY
Previous spread: The US Navy blimp L-8 comes in for a landing on September 2, 1942, less than a month after the airship became the center of an enduring mystery. Above: The L-8 was part of Airship Patrol Squadron 32, or ZP-32, based at Moffett Field south of San Francisco. Blimps like the L-8 (and the one featured on this Christmas card) flew from Moffett Field on offshore patrols, searching for enemy submarines. Opposite: One such patrol, on August 16, 1942, ended with the L-8 limping into Daly City, California, and crashing down onto a street. 40 AMERICA IN WWII
OPPOSITE AND PREVIOUS SPREAD: NATIONAL ARCHIVES
All we know for sure is that navy blimp L-8, which Cody and Adams were operating off the California coast, drifted ashore, snagged on a cliff at Ocean Beach, then broke free, dropping one of its depth charges on the Olympic Club golf course and finally crashing in the road in the 400 block of Bellevue Avenue in Daly City, California. When rescuers arrived, they found the airship empty. Cody and Adams simply weren’t there. “There was something eerie about it,” one of the responding firefighters later said. “We got chills down our spines, and we couldn’t wait till we got out of there.” The blimp’s parachutes were stored neatly in the gondola where they should have been, but two lifejackets were missing. The life raft was still aboard, the radio was in good working order, and a file of classified information was still in the gondola. Neither land nor sea searches turned up any sign of the two men. An official inquiry held days after the incident declared Cody and Adams missing. They were pronounced dead a year later. To this day, the mystery of what came to be called the Ghost Blimp remains unsolved. It is one of the greatest mysteries in the history of the US Navy. The story’s background began in the aftermath of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, when the navy became more and more concerned about enemy submarines lurking along US coasts. In the first half of 1942, Allied ships had been sunk along the East Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and within sight of San Diego and Los Angeles on the West Coast. Submarines had shelled shore facilities in Southern California and Oregon. The navy believed blimps were the key to defending against this threat. A submerged submarine was difficult to spot in a heaving sea; it left only a thin trail of bubbles as it retracted its periscope, a quickly disappearing oil slick, or a vague shadow beneath the waves—traces that were all but impossible to spot from the deck of a ship or from a fast-moving airplane. But blimps could hover in one spot for a better view, they had a range of more than 2,000 miles, and they could stay aloft for nearly 12 hours. The navy had contracted with Goodyear Aircraft Company in 1937 to produce a series of L-class blimps, relatively small airships based on Goodyear’s commercial model. One of these was
sage was sent out to all aircraft in the area asking them to keep watch for the L-8. The pilot of a Pan American Clipper reported seeing the blimp at 10:49 but said he noticed nothing obviously amiss. About 11:05, an army P-38 Lightning fighter also spotted the L-8, near Mile Rocks Light, a lighthouse close to the main shipping channel and about a half-mile from land. About 10 minutes later, people on the beach near Daly City, 9 or 10 miles south of the Golden Gate Bridge, noticed the L-8 drifting in from sea. Two men swimming in the water attempted to grab its guide ropes, but the blimp eluded them. It crossed the beach, apparently driven by the wind, and disappeared behind hills. “It was dished on top and appeared to be drifting with its motors off,’’ said witness Bruce McIntyre. “It came in over Mussel Rock very low, then over the hill back of us. It was so low I could see shroud lines almost touching the hilltop.” The blimp then floated up again, striking a cliff and dropping one of its two depth charges on the Olympic Club’s golf course. Fortunately, the charge did not explode. Later investigation would show that the starboard depth charge rack had been damaged by the impact with the cliff, which had torn the charge loose. The L-8 drifted on, scraping the roofs of homes, striking power lines, and spraying sparks before settling onto the road in the 400 block of Daly City’s Bellevue Avenue. William Morris, a volunteer
fireman who lived near the scene of the crash, was the first to reach the downed airship. “The doors were open,” he said, “and nobody was in the cabin.”
and tore open the blimp’s fabric covering to see if somehow the crew, or an intruder, had become trapped inside. They found nothing. Navy personnel arrived and saw that the two lifejackets that were to be worn by the crew were missing. That was not unexpected. Crew members were required to wear their lifejackets whenever they were over water. But the ship’s parachutes were in their proper place, the navy investigators noted. The life raft was stowed in its spot, and the radio was still in good working order. Most of the fuel had been dumped, and the controls for the ship’s engines were still switched to the on position. The two throttles were in positions that indicated the airship had been turning. Perhaps most alarming was the discovery of a file containing classified information, still in the gondola. Loss of such documents would have been a court-martial offense for any serviceman involved. Cody and Adams would not have left those documents behind by choice. There was no indication that there had been a fire or any damage aboard the L-8, other than rips in the ship’s fabric caused by ORE VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS ARRIVED
AMERICA IN WWII 41
ghost blimp by Chuck Lyons
the rooftops of Daly City and the actions of the volunteer firefighters, or the bent propellers caused by the collision with the cliff. One of the engines was packed with dirt from hitting the cliff. But a check of the helium gas valves showed they were set exactly as they should have been, and the L-8 had been perfectly airworthy. Shortly after the L-8 was taken back to base, rumors and false reports began to spread. One story claimed that early responders had found a sandwich in the cockpit with one bite out of it and a cup of coffee that had partially spilled on papers lying on the cockpit desk. Some versions claimed the coffee was still warm. The navy later refuted these stories. The navy also received a telephone call saying that Cody and Adams had left the ship at Fort Funston, just north of Daly City, and were safe. That claim, too, proved false. A search commenced in the area where L-8 had struck the cliff and widened to a broader sea and land search, with no success. The coast guard continued the search for several days, and navy patrols were kept on alert for any sight of the men. Even if the two men had drowned, the navy said, their lifejackets should have kept their bodies afloat. But they were not found. The navy convened a board of inquiry days later, and two fishermen testified that they had seen the L-8 in the area from which Cody had radioed his sighting of the oil slick. The fishermen said they saw the airship descend to about 300 feet above the ocean’s surface and circle. At no time, the men reported, did either of them see anything fall or drop from the airship. They had pulled in their nets, they said, expecting the airship to drop a depth charge.
Instead, the blimp soared upward and disappeared in the clouds. Addressing the sag in the top of the airship that McIntyre and other witnesses had mentioned, the board concluded that it formed once the weight of the crew was no longer present. This lightening of the L-8’s load would have caused the blimp to rise to 2,500 feet. There, an automatic relief valve would have opened, releasing helium and bringing the airship down again. With the blimp now emptier and softened, the weight of the gondola pulling down at the center caused the top to sag. Such explanations did not come close to solving the mystery of what happened to Cody and Adams. Finally, the board of inquiry had no choice but to rule that that the two men’s disappearance was unexplained. The mystery of the Ghost Blimp persists to this day, though some theorists have put forth plausible suggestions as to what may have happened. One scenario suggests that one of the men fell out of the gondola because the door was left unsecured. The second man was ejected either when the blimp, suddenly lightened, lurched at an odd angle or when he tried to catch the first man. This theory seems to fit with the discovery of the throttles being set to turn the airship. Significantly, mechanic Riley Hill, the third crewmember who was ordered off the flight, later testified that he did not secure the door when he left the gondola. In a similar vein, some emergency might have required one of the men to leave the gondola and climb onto the balloon itself, a circumstance that occurred from time to time. That man could have fallen, and the loss of his weight, as in the previous sugges-
lighter than air
42 AMERICA IN WWII
blimp, unlike a hot air balloon, is a lighter-than-air vehicle that is powered and can be steered. It is a type of dirigible (literally meaning “steerable”) but does not have a rigid internal skeleton. The blimp L-8 was 150 feet long, about 47 feet at its widest, and had an envelope that held 123,000 cubic feet of gas. It was powered by two 145horsepower engines, could reach a speed of 61 mph, cruised at 46 mph, and was armed with machine guns and two depth charges. Besides locating enemy submarines, L-8 was considered capable of attacking them. L-8, like all US blimps, was filled with helium, a non-flammable gas that the United States possessed in large quantities. At the time, America
Above: With its bow tethered to a truck-mounted mobile mast, the blimp L-8 sits moored and at the ready at Moffett Field.
supplied 90 percent of the world’s commercial helium. After the L-8’s crash in August 1942, the airship was repaired and served as a navy training ship for the remainder of the war. Afterward, it was returned to Goodyear, and the gondola was put into
storage. In 1968 it was rebuilt and served until 1982 as part of the Goodyear blimp America, televising sporting events. The L-8’s gondola is now on display at the United States Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. —Chuck Lyons
Opposite, top: Seen from the sky from which it fell, the L-8 lies on Bellevue Avenue in Daly City. The blimp’s deflated envelope is a rumpled heap and its crashed gondola stands on end as a navy truck prepares to haul it. The blimp’s parts were all accounted for—but where were the L-8’s two crewmen? Above: Daly City residents watch from a distance as military personnel grapple with the mystery of the missing aviators.
tion, could have bounced the second man out of the gondola. The excess weight that the ground crew noticed before takeoff gave rise to other theories. At the board of inquiry, Lieutenant Commander George F. Watson, commanding officer of ZP-32, said that mechanic Hill was bumped from the flight because the L-8 was found to be 200 pounds too heavy. But Watson could not explain where the extra 200 pounds had come from. “There was no rain that week,” he said. “While San Francisco morning fog may add weight, I would be puzzled why it would differ from day to day. Flights the prior day were exposed to the same elements…and carried three men. This puzzled me. Who or what accounted for the extra 200 pounds?”
ATSON SPECULATED IN HIS TESTIMONY that “the most obvious thing to consider was that someone was hiding aboard already, and this intruder then sprang out, shot the pilots, dumped their bodies overboard, rendezvousing with a submarine and escaping.” Intruders had been discovered trying to get into buildings at Treasure Island a couple of weeks earlier. This theory would explain the added 200 pounds, but it doesn’t explain why an intruder would not have taken the classified documents that were aboard the airship. Besides, Watson concluded there simply was no place to hide “on or above the gondola without being seen.” So either there was no intruder or Watson
was mistaken about a determined stowaway’s ability to hide aboard a blimp. When the L-8 was recovered, its battery was almost drained, but nothing seemed to account for this loss of charge. The gondola, said Watson, showed no sign of coming in contact with water, which might have caused a power discharge. Other investigators have hypothesized that Cody and Adams spotted an enemy sub and descended only to be killed or captured by the submarine’s crew. It seems unlikely, however, that the blimp’s operators would have failed to radio their base before moving in. And the enemy would certainly have taken the classified documents from the gondola. In the end, despite the best efforts of navy and private investigators who have been examining the incident for the last 70 years, our knowledge of what happened to Cody and Adams remains the same as it was in 1942 when a navy spokesman admitted “Nothing the navy knows now has given a satisfactory explanation of what happened.” The fate of the L-8’s crew remains a mystery, and probably always will. A CHUCK LYONS has written about the accidental bombing of an Oklahoma city, a devastating 1942 nightclub fire in Boston, the wartime proliferation of “Kilroy was here” graffiti, and other topics for America in WWII. DECEMBER 2012
AMERICA IN WWII 43
A WAR STORIES
A WWII Scrapbook
GRESS OF CON LIBRARY
COURTESY OF JEFFREY A. COOK
DAD’S SECRET SHAME
Y DAD ,
Joseph J. Cook II, gained glory on a college football field in the late 1930s and was dreaming of a professional football career after wartime military service. But he lost that dream—and much more—before he even made it through the army physical. Dad was an Iowa First Team All-State Football Player at Greenfield High in 1937, but couldn’t afford college. Fortunately, the president of Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, offered Dad an opportunity to attend the school. He worked off his expenses as a waiter at the Tri-Delt fraternity house. Dad was a starting offensive end and punter for the college’s football team from
1938 to 1941. It was his punting that made him stand out. He was chosen for the Walter Camp Small College All-America Team his sophomore, junior, and senior years (first team the last year). Word spread about Dad’s punting prowess as he averaged 55–65 yards per punt in the fall of 1941. That November, Curly Lambeau, head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers, made a surprise visit to Simpson to look at Dad. Curly offered Dad a tryout in Green Bay after graduation in 1942, intending to have him be the new punter for the Packers. But December 7, 1941, changed everything. Two days after Pearl Harbor, Dad decided to leave Simpson to join the US Army. At that time, he was president of the
student body and Kappa Theta Psi, and was one of the most popular boys at Simpson. The night before Dad was to leave, his friends and Kappa brothers gave him a farewell party and a gold watch. The next day, Dad reported to Fort Des Moines for the required army physical. It was there that he found out his internal organs were not where they should have been. Dextrocardia situs inversus is a rare genetic phenomenon in which the positions of organs are reversed; for example, the heart is normally found on the left side of the body, but with dextrocardia, it is on the right. Few doctors at that time were trained to treat those with the condition. Thus Dad would be considered a battlefield surgery risk. Today’s advanced imaging equipment
Joseph J. Cook II (right) shows off his football form. In the fall of 1941, Cook was a college punter averaging about 60 yards a punt. Curly Lambeau (left), legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, invited him to try out for his team. 44 AMERICA IN WWII
helps physicians treat those who have this genetic anomaly. However, in 1941 the condition led Dad to be classified as 4F and thus rejected for military service. Dejected, dismayed, and embarrassed, Dad never returned to Simpson, despite being just shy of attaining his bachelor’s degree in history and a coaching certificate. He never talked about his football prowess with anyone, including Mom. The hardest time for him was when the war heroes came home. He felt as if he had let his country down. But eventually Dad did serve his country by becoming the mayor of Corning, Iowa. When my brother Joe took up juniorhigh football in the 1950s, Dad saw he was a natural punter. So Dad taught Joe everything he knew, and my brother became a first-team all-state selection in 1962. He was also awarded a full scholarship to play for the University of Iowa. At that time, Joe was the only one in the family who knew Dad’s secret. It wasn’t until Dad broke his hip in 2001 that he shared his secret with Mom, my sisters, and me. We had to promise not to reveal it until he had been gone for 10 years. Complying with Dad’s last wishes, the awards from Walter Camp and the letter from Curly Lambeau putting in writing what Lambeau had promised Dad in November 1941 were buried with him. But now it is 10 years since Dad’s passing, and I can reveal this story.
a memory that must have been locked away in a place where people put things they really don’t want to remember. And with that memory came his reply: “Three sticks.” I asked him what that meant, and he began his story. “The sound of battle was awful, just awful. But the cold was the worst part. At night the Germans would shell us, and trees and branches would fall into our trenches. My two buddies and I would move the shattered wood out of our trench and wait. When the shelling was done, the cold would come back, and so would the thought of sleep.” He slowly put his hands together and said, “Each night I would put three sticks between my hands from the branches that had fallen.” With his hands shaking, he
Jeffrey A. Cook youngest son of Joseph Jonathan Cook II
reached out as if giving me something. “I would let my buddies pick one. We all wanted the short stick and the warmth it would bring. The short stick meant you would be in the middle. It meant a soldier on each side of you sitting in that trench.” He looked at me, but clearly he had left the plaza and was back in that trench in Bastogne. “Then,” he quietly uttered, “that was as warm as you were ever going to be from the cold.”
I visited the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. The monument was full of people that day. As I stepped into the plaza, I saw a veteran in a wheelchair. I myself am a veteran, so I saluted him. He saluted back, albeit feebly. I walked over, knelt by him, and thanked him for his service. He smiled and said “You’re welcome” with a nod. He was wearing a cap with the words “Bastogne Veteran” on it. I knew about the tough Siege of Bastogne in December 1944. The question I asked him about it seemed strange, but his answer would forever change me. “How cold was it for you?” I asked. He looked at me, but in his mind saw WO YEARS AGO
AM E RICA I N
L ingo! 1940s GI and civilian patter birdbag: A flight suit. naff: British slang for soldiers’ clothing and ordinary belongings, perhaps from NAAFI—Navy, Army, Air Force Institutes, which supplied such things.
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AMERICA IN WWII 45
A I WAS THERE
Hillbilly Fighter Mechanic John A. Owad. Interviewed by T.W. Burger
PHOT OS AN D PATCH COUR TESY O F JOH N A. O WAD
OHN A. O WAD WAS BORN in 1923 and raised on a farm in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh. He might have lived his whole life there if not for World War II. But after the war came to the United States, the self-described “hillbilly” joined the US Army Air Forces in March 1943 and eventually became the chief mechanic for the Northrop P-61 Black Widow Hop ’n Ditty.
William Charlesworth was the pilot of Hop ’n Ditty, the man who gave the plane its name. His life depended on Owad keeping his P-61 in tip-top flying shape. “John Owad is one terrific gentleman…,” Charlesworth says. “He was an ace of a mechanic. I admire him a great deal. I’m very lucky to have had him as my crew chief. If not for him, I probably wouldn’t be here. Believe me.”
Above, right: John Owad was the chief mechanic for the Northrop P-61 Black Widow Hop ’n Ditty, responsible for keeping the plane in excellent fighting trim. He even helped keep it looking spiffy. Above, upper left: William Charlesworth gave the fighter its name and did all the flying. He credits Owad with keeping him in the air and alive through the end of the war. Above, lower left: Owad and Charlesworth were part of the 549th Night Fighter Squadron, whose stylized emblem features an angry, armed bat. 46 AMERICA IN WWII
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A Owad and Charlesworth were in the 549th Night Fighter Squadron. Originally assigned to the Fourth Air Force, the 549th was reassigned to the Seventh Air Force, stationed on Saipan in February 1945 to defend the Mariana Islands. The squadron’s main task was protecting the Twentieth Air Force’s B-29 airfields on Saipan and Tinian, from which attacks were launched against mainland Japan. In March 1945 the squadron moved to Iwo Jima for similar duty. Southwest of the midpoint between Tokyo and Saipan, Iwo was an important emergency landing site for B-29 Superfortresses bombing mainland Japan. And P-61s based there were able to fly missions over the mainland. John Owad told his WWII story to T.W. Burger in a July 2012 interview at Owad’s home in Muddy Run, Pennsylvania. America in WWII: How did you end up in the army? Owad: I graduated from high school in 1940, just right for World War II. I went to enlist but they told me to just wait for a
I WAS THERE
while, because I would be drafted. And not long after that, I was. America in WWII: Where did you go for training? Owad: We were shipped off to Fort Meade [Maryland] for all our tests. I remember that they put us all in a line. Every other recruit would turn to the left. The next went off to the right. The ones who went to the left got the infantry. America in WWII: We gather you turned to the right? Owad: Yes. The rest of us were sent to the Ponce de Leon Hotel down in Florida for basic training. America in WWII: You took basic training in a hotel? Owad: Yes, we did, and it was hard. We had our basic training in a hotel. They did that a lot down in Florida, I’m told. But believe me, just because it was in a hotel
doesn’t mean it was easy. No way. We took two years of training in nine months. They were in a big hurry. America in WWII: Where did you go after Florida? Owad: After Florida, we were shipped to the [Fourth Air Force] replacement depot at [Hammer Field in] Fresno, California. I volunteered to be part of a P-61 crew, and we were trained at the Northrop factory in Hawthorne, California. America in WWII: How was that? Owad: Those were the best bunch of guys ever. They had all volunteered to be there. Our officer was the best, a real Southern gentleman named Colonel Joseph E. Payne. He was the man in charge, but he was very fair, very genteel. You got the feeling that he really cared about us. America in WWII: You say that the P-61 crews were “the best bunch of guys.” How so? Owad: Like I said, they were all volunteers to be on P-61 crews. One of the most amazing things was the amount of things you could do together. You take an outfit
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COURTESY OF JOHN A. OWAD
Hop ’n Ditty was John Owad’s baby. Owad spent all his on-duty time in the Pacific working on this one plane.
of 200 men, and you would be surprised how much talent you have there. I think the good Lord really looked out for us. From California, Owad and his comrades went to Fort Lawton near Seattle to ship out for Kipapa Field in Hawaii, where they remained from October 20, 1944, into February 1945.
Owad: Our base in Hawaii was a single airstrip out in the boondocks called Kipapa Gulch. It was in the middle of nowhere. The runway was in the middle of the sugarcane fields. That’s where we did our final training. America in WWII: In your training, did you learn how to fly the Black Widow yourself?
Owad: I knew how to fly one if I had to. There was a lot of talk that the Japs were going to overrun Hawaii. If that happened, I was determined I was going to fly one of the P-61s out of there and worry about figuring out how to land it later. They weren’t going to take this boy prisoner! America in WWII: Were you worried about Japanese activity on Hawaii?
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A Owad: When we were getting ready to leave Hawaii, our plane was being prepped by people who looked to me just like the people we were fighting. When they were done, I went over the entire aircraft again myself, just to make sure. Then we left, but first, the pilot, Raymond Rudkin, buzzed one of our carriers. I don’t remember which one. They had men in formation on the deck, and he scattered them like chickens. Raymond was just a natural flier. Hell, he’s still flying. In February the 549th left Hawaii for some island-hopping in the Pacific, to Guam, Tinian, Saipan, and more. Finally, the squadron rooted itself in the dark volcanic soil of Iwo Jima from March 22 until the end of the war, about a month after the first US marines had landed on the island. America in WWII: How was the flight from Hawaii? Owad: I remember watching the cumulonimbus clouds over the Pacific, and the sun shining through. It was so beautiful that I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
50 AMERICA IN WWII
I WAS THERE
America in WWII: What was your rank by that time? Owad: I was a PFC [private first class] when I got [to Iwo Jima]. I made it to tech sergeant in about eight months. That’s what I liked about the wartime army. If you did a good job, you had it made. If you weren’t good at the job, they moved you to something else. But we were a good group, a bunch of young pilots and crews, and we really worked hard. America in WWII: You said something about the Seabees [members of the US Navy Construction Battalions, who built bases and laid roads and airstrips; their nickname comes from the branch initials C and B]. Owad: The Seabees? Those guys were the best. Before Iwo was even secure, they went out and made a runway for us. What a bunch of guys. One of the first things that was built at our base was a chapel.
They built it out of the crates the drop tanks came shipped in, though you’d have trouble believing it. It was beautiful. America in WWII: Most of the action your unit saw occurred on Iwo Jima? Owad: By the time we got to Iwo Jima, the Japanese didn’t bother us from the air. We had radar on the plane with a range of about 50 miles. The whole time we were there, we shot down only one [a Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bomber]. They stayed away. America in WWII: You lost a good friend at Iwo, didn’t you? Owad: Yes, my buddy all through the service, Roy Brown. The Japs did a banzai attack on our base one night [March 26]. They came in shooting and throwing grenades. One threw a grenade right into our tent, but I was away at the time. It killed him. I guess if I had been there, I’d be dead now, too. I feel pretty lucky. Out of our unit, there are only about 20 of us left now. We have been thinned out pretty well. The attack involved as many as 300 Japanese soldiers targeting the 549th, a
navy construction battalion, and several other units. The fight lasted about 90 minutes. American casualties included 53 killed and 120 wounded. All the Japanese were killed. America in WWII: You said earlier something about the war being in some ways the best period of your life. Owad: Well, I am proud to have been in World War II. We were just a bunch of kids, and we were fighting the two best armies in the world. And they were both ahead of us technologically in the beginning. And we won. America in WWII: You were on Iwo Jima for about a year. How many aircraft were you assigned to work on? Owad: There were 16 planes in our group, and I was assigned to just one of them, Hop ’n Ditty. It was my baby. I spent all my time keeping it in good shape. America in WWII: How many were on the crew taking care of Hop ’n Ditty? Owad: It was just me and another guy. We were the ground crew, but we had a service crew we could call on if we needed help.
Men of the 549th mug from inside a tent. Camp turned into battleground one night on Iwo Jima when Japanese made a surprise attack, tossing grenades into tents.
America in WWII: What do you think was the turning point in the Pacific theater? Owad: You know, the Battle of Midway [June 4–7, 1942] was when we really got back at the Japanese. We knocked the daylights out of them. They went back with
their tails tucked between their legs. But a buddy of mine from high school, Joe Mack, died at Midway. America in WWII: You said there was one leader in the army who was your hero. Who was he? Owad: It was General Curtis LeMay. He was the one who really engineered the defeat of Japan. He flew all the way to Washington and talked [President Harry] Truman into dropping the atomic bomb. A lot of people were critical of that decision, but it avoided us having to invade Japan, and that saved hundreds of thousands of lives, both American and Japanese. LeMay also noticed that the high-altitude bombing really wasn’t being effective, so he started a tactic of low-level incendiary bombing. That in itself was almost as effective as the A-bombs in getting the Japanese to surrender. Lemay was outstanding. He led by example. He wouldn’t ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do, and he wasn’t afraid to go out in the bombers. America in WWII: Did you ever see LeMay?
AMERICA IN WWII 51
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Owad: Yes, I saw him, didn’t speak with him. He was with a squadron once on Iwo. America in WWII: You said air battles against the Japanese air force were minimal while your unit was based at Iwo. What about other hazards? Owad: We lost more planes to the weather than we did to the Japanese. These fogs would come in out of nowhere, and they made you absolutely blind. We had one P-61—plane number 239560—that came back from a mission, and we were completely socked in [by fog]. They were low on fuel. Finally, we had them set their autopilot, and all three of them—pilot, gunner, and radar man—bailed out over the island. The plane flew on and eventually fell into the sea. But we saved the crew. Another time we had a B-25 coming in on autopilot. The pilot and co-pilot were both dead. There were five or six of the crew still alive, but nobody to land the plane.
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A crew of US Army Air Forces mechanics works to ready a P-61 Black Widow for a mission.
The surviving crew bailed out over the island, and we shot the plane out of the sky over the sea. America in WWII: You have said several times that you were no hero, just an ordinary guy trying to do his best. But don’t you think that is what makes it so remarkable, all those ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things? Owad: I’ll tell you who I think were heroes. It was the guys flying the [North American] P-51s escorting the B-29s to Japan from Iwo Jima. It was 800 miles each way to their targets. Even with drop tanks [fuel tanks that could be dropped once empty, to lighten the load and thus extend flying range], they had 15 or 20
A I WAS THERE
minutes over the target, no more, before they had to turn back, or they wouldn’t have enough gas. There were a lot who were lost without a trace. Those guys, they were the heroes. America in WWII: You were on Iwo Jima when Japan surrendered. How did the news impact everybody where you were? Owad: Let’s just say we were all pretty happy. America in WWII: How long were you on Iwo Jima after the surrender? Owad: We shipped out on the USS Starlight [a transport ship] on December 21, 1945, heading for San Pedro, California. As a treat, we got to celebrate Christmas twice, once before we crossed the International Date Line and once after. Owad’s war ended much as it did for millions of men and women heading back home from exotic locales. At San Pedro, the army put him in charge of getting 80 men and their paperwork from there to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where all of them were discharged in January 1946. Owad: I really wanted to stay in the service, but my mom and dad were getting up in years and needed me to help on the farm back home.
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John Owad returned to his family’s farm. He got married in 1947 and eventually stopped farming, though he still owns the farm. He and his wife, Barbara, and their family moved to rural central Pennsylvania, and he put his experience with machinery to use in working for more than 30 years as a mechanic, mostly repairing White trucks. He retired in 1985, but never stopped working on vehicles. He made the transition from fixing farm equipment and big rigs to fixing antique cars and farm tractors. He says it’s the best move he ever made. Since 1958 the Owads have lived in Muddy Run, across from a clear creek and above a workshop filled with tools, welding equipment, and now a pristine 1935 Ford
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coupe that Owad is almost finished restoring. Scattered across the property and in various outbuildings is a menagerie of historic automobiles and farm implements, including a 1926 Ford Model A that looks as though it’s fresh off the showroom floor and a 1911 Ford Roadster that Owad calls his “beater” and uses for running errands.
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A sign marks barracks of the 549th. The beams coming from the bat represent radar, essential to the nighttime flying the unit did.
“I think I will probably have to start selling off some of these cars,” he says. “I just can’t work on them like I used to.” Like the mechanical know-how gained from the air forces, the war itself still remains with Owad, as it tends to do with veterans. One of its lingering impressions comes through in comments relayed by long-time friend Bruce Warch, lamenting that he doesn’t make the drive to visit Owad as often as he should. “I could go down in my truck, but with the price of gas the way it’s been, I can’t really afford it,” he says. “I could take my Toyota—it gets great mileage—but John just gives me hell for having a Japanese car. He’s still pretty mad at them.” A T.W. B URGER is a freelance writer from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, who frequently interviews veterans for America in WWII’s I Was There department.
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Agent Garbo: How a Brilliant & Eccentric Double Agent Tricked the Nazis & Saved D-Day, by Stephan Talty, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 301 pages. $28.
T ’ S SAID THAT SOME PEOPLE are forgotten by history, and that may be true, but others have erased themselves from history, and for very pressing reasons. Juan Pujol, one of the Allies’ most successful intelligence operatives of World War II, counted himself among the latter group. He wanted and needed to be forgotten. Until his death in Venezuela in 1988, he remained on the lookout for vengeful ex-Nazis whose careers he’d dashed during the war and for German intelligence men who had known and trusted him as Alaric, their most resourceful spy in Britain. All the while, the Allies regarded Pujol as their own best double agent, a man they codenamed Garbo after actress Greta Garbo because, as one officer said, he was “the best actor in the world.” Today, Pujol is chiefly remembered as the agent who convinced Adolf Hitler that the Allies’ June 6, 1944, invasion of mainland Europe would begin at Calais, France, rather than Normandy. But this dedicated genius of duplicity accomplished much more, enough to make him a villain in Germany, a disappointment as a husband and father at home, an unsung hero in Britain, and a professional idol of
56 AMERICA IN WWII
America’s famously skeptical FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Only recently have the details of Pujol’s career been declassified and revealed piecemeal in numerous books. Stephan Talty’s work combines all those interesting pieces while adding something fresh about how the spy’s life began and ended. Pujol was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1912, one of four children of a prosperous dye manufacturer. He was a mischiefmaker and indifferent student who displayed a raw talent for coming up with unwieldy business ideas, though he was a terrible businessman. Following the example of his charitable father, he grew into a kind, romantic, and apolitical young man. After his father’s death and repeated financial missteps, he earned a certificate in chicken farming, found a sales job with a poultry business, and got engaged to a local girl who he later deemed uninteresting. He soon proved that loyalty to his fiancée, and to bourgeois convention, meant nothing to him. During the 1930s Pujol was called into national military service and made a lieutenant in the army of the Spanish Republic. But when the country dissolved into civil war in 1936, he realized that he had no interest in military affairs, the republic’s leftist politics, or combat. He wandered away from the crisis and, with his unloved fiancée’s help, went into hiding. Arrested in
a police raid, he expected harsh punishment. But his sweetheart once again came through for him, by arranging his escape from prison. After months of self-confinement, he came up with a unique new plan. With false documents and an assumed name, he reentered the republican army, and within weeks he was on duty at the front. One night, he leapt from his trench, dodged bullets as he crossed no-man’s land between opposing lines, and deserted to the enemy fascist forces of General Francisco Franco. Imprisoned by the wary, right-wing Nationalists, Pujol discovered that he liked fascists no more than republicans. Released from confinement shortly before the civil war ended in 1939, a sickly Pujol checked into a hospital. There he met a dark-haired nurse named Araceli Carballo and immediately forgot his self-sacrificing girlfriend. Pujol married Araceli, and in her found a daring partner. He took over a dilapidated Madrid hotel and fathered a son. But the oppression of the new fascist state repelled him, and with the start of World War II in September 1939, he finally made a commitment: he would help to defeat the Nazis. In exchange for helping influential aristocrats smuggle liquor into Madrid from Portugal, Pujol got himself a passport. With this and his wife’s help, he traveled back and forth between Madrid and Lisbon, visited British and German embassies, and
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tried to sell himself to the English as an ardent anti-Nazi willing to do anything to help them. British diplomats quickly dismissed him as a hustler, but the Germans did not. With a pocketful of wild schemes and lies, he slowly conned Nazi operatives that he could help them in money-changing schemes and by picking up bits of British military information. Giving up his hotel job, Pujol moved his wife and child to Portugal, received large cash payments from the Germans, and began sending the Abwehr (German military intelligence) detailed reports of military and political activity in Britain, while never actually visiting the country. Pujol, in fact, had never been to England and did not even know what it looked like. For details of his supposed travels around the island nation, he leaned on encyclopedias, newspapers, and public information tracts picked up in the lobbies of British embassies in Madrid and Lisbon. His reports to the Nazis, written in invisible ink, were supposedly picked up in Britain and mailed from Lisbon by a Dutch airline pilot who Pujol invented. Every scrap of the Spaniard’s information and movements were complete fiction, and for it the Germans paid him handsomely. Among the fibs Pujol foisted on the Nazis was that he was recruiting a gang of subagents across England. In time, British intelligence officers decoding intercepted German radio transmissions stumbled onto Pujol’s work. It was a startling discovery that initially spawned fear of a larger network of traitors. Soon enough, however, they realized Pujol’s cleverness, and when the mercurial Spaniard again approached British diplomats in Spain and Portugal, they were ready with an offer. He would move to Britain and work with Allied intelligence groups creating campaigns of deception. The rest of Pujol’s adventure changed history. Through an office that ran a string of double agents for the Allies, Pujol and his would-be British handler, Tommy Harris, created false naval missions, misdirected the enemy about troop movements, and invented an entire phantom army preparing for an invasion that would never take place. Ultimately, they convinced Adolf Hitler himself that gathering Allied armies would eventually land in France at Calais rather than Normandy. Along the
A BOOKS AND MEDIA
way, Garbo was nearly unmasked several times, and immediately following the German defeat, he was sent back to the Continent to hook up with his old Nazi associates. Meeting them face to face, he was to find out about any plans for a revival of the Reich. These last deceits may have been the most wounding to exAbwehr agents. British intelligence men subsequently helped Pujol fake his own death in Africa and relocate to South America, a scheme not revealed to the public until 1984. Its details, and painstaking descriptions of how Pujol’s wartime deceptions were worked out, move the author’s narrative along neatly. —John E. Stanchak Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September Hope: The American Side of a Bridge Too Far, by John C. McManus, NAL, 512 pages, $27.95.
by late 1944 that Nazi Germany was all but defeated, that was not the case. The latest book from prolific author and academic John C. McManus, September Hope, focuses on the two American divisions involved in the ultimately futile Operation Market Garden. McManus concentrates on the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and, later in the story—when the massive operation devolves into more grinding, more conventional fighting—on the 104th “Timberwolves” Infantry Division. The book features a more tactical view of the operations, drawing on a variety of sources, including after-action reports, personal histories, operational orders, and memoirs. By the fall of 1944, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower’s broad-front strategy was slowly squeezing Germany to the breaking point. Impatient with the war’s halting progress, however, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery offered up an ambitious but risky plan to shorten the war; because Britain was at the end of her resources, a quick end to the war would serve her best. Montgomery F IT APPEARED
suggested that a daring airborne operation, backed up by strong ground forces, should seize and hold a series of bridges across the Netherlands into northern Germany. Via this route Montgomery could cross the Rhine and dash into Germany. British forces would then capture Berlin and bring an end to the war. McManus explores not only Eisenhower’s stubborn commitment to the broadfront strategy, but also his management of a fragile, often-contentious political fellowship based on sometimes conflicting goals. Montgomery’s bold operation, for example, would require diverting a drive toward Antwerp, a target much favored by Allied commanders for the promise of new port facilities and resulting easing of Allied logistical difficulties. Eisenhower also had to consider the V-2 ballistic missile, the new German terror weapon that could not be thwarted as easily as its sputtering predecessor, the V-1 flying bomb. Great pressure existed to get to the launching sites and destroy them before a new Blitz brought more destruction to London. The problem with Montgomery’s plan was that Germany was far from on the ropes. Further, the proposed drop areas boasted a strong German presence, reports of which were delivered by the Dutch underground but ignored by higher levels of Allied command. Allied paratroopers, especially those of the British 1st Airborne Division and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, would pay a very high price for that mistake. As McManus notes, while Montgomery formulated and presented this plan, Eisenhower must be held responsible for approving it. The operation would consist of two elements: the airborne drop to seize bridges, codenamed Market, and the ground effort, called Garden. Units of the First Allied Airborne Army—the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the British 1st Airborne Division, supported by many other units, including the IX Troop Carrier Command—would seize the bridges and hold them while the British Second Army, led by the XXX Corps, would link up with the paratroopers. Ultimately, the XXX Corps and the 1st Airborne Division would cross the Rhine at Arnhem, spearheading drives into northern Germany.
McManus follows the operation through its beginnings in Britain to its final, bitter conclusion, starting with Eisenhower and Montgomery and filtering down to the men tasked with the fighting. He looks from the top down at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, striking gold among the rank-and-file of paratroopers, glider pilots, tankers, Douglas C-47 Skytrain pilots and crew, fighter pilots, and bomber crews, and in the voices of Dutch citizens who experienced the temporary joy of liberation as well as the abject terror of getting caught in the crossfire of battle. It is in these personal histories that McManus finds his most compelling material. He makes it easy for the reader to grasp the strategic significance of the operation, but also fleshes it out with riveting accounts of the fighting. The book’s strength is its tactical 25-yards-of-war approach, seen, for example, in McManus’s handling of the crossing of the Waal River by the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, one of the most audacious actions of Operation Market Garden. Also addressed are the efforts of the US 104th Infantry Division in reducing the German presence in the Scheldt Estuary, which were equally important to overall operations in the Netherlands. McManus provides a detailed, readable account of the American side of Market Garden and its aftermath. If the quality of his maps is uneven, the book serves as a fine study of the American side of the bridge too far. —Michael Edwards New Orleans, Louisiana The Axmann Conspiracy: The Nazi Plan for a Fourth Reich and How the U.S. Army Defeated It, Scott Andrew Selby, Berkley, 320 pages, $26.95.
AMERICAN, FRENCH, British, and Soviet forces closed in on Berlin during the spring of 1945, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower worried that battlefield defeats would drive German armies to brutal guerilla resistance. Indeed, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels suggested that Germany intended to keep the party’s spirS
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The Soldiers’ Battle
BY NATHAN N. PREFER
Long overshadowed by its naval counterpart in Leyte Gulf, the battle for the island of Leyte itself was one of the most grueling—yet decisive campaigns of WWII. Over a quarter-million U.S. troops of Sixth and Eighth Armies destroyed the cream of Japanese forces in the Philippines at such epic locales as Breakneck Ridge, Shoestring Ridge, and in fending off Japan’s sole airborne assault of the war. This book’s account of sacrifice and heroism finally gives one of the war’s great battles its due.
THE TRUE STORY OF CATCH-22
The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II
BY PATRICIA CHAPMAN MEDER
Written by the daughter of Heller’s commanding officer, who had access to his WWII companions as well as rare photos, this work unveils the real people and experiences that provided inspiration for one of the greatest classics in American literature.
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A Flyboy's Adventures with the French Resistance and Other Escapades in Occupied France BY TED FAHRENWALD
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AMERICA IN WWII 59
it intact by marshaling well-armed diehard troops who were ominously dubbed “werewolves” in the fortress-like Bavarian Alps. In The Axmann Conspiracy, Scott Andrew Selby asserts that plans to build a Fourth Reich were indeed being laid and executed before the war ended. Selby’s narrative begins with Artur Axmann, a Berlin teen who made a name for himself in the early 1930s through his active role in Nazi Germany’s National Socialist Schoolchildren’s League and the paramilitary Hitler Youth. In 1933 Adolf Hitler appointed him head of the Social Office of Reich Youth Leadership, a position that he retained even after joining the army reserves and seeing action in Germany’s 1940 invasion of France. Returning to his beloved Hitler Youth, Axmann soon became its second, and last, senior officer and took over leadership of the German Young Folks, a junior organi-
A BOOKS AND MEDIA
zation for boys aged 10 to 14, as well as the League of German Maidens. Seriously wounded on the first day of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Axmann subsequently transformed the Hitler Youth into a feeder system for slowly disintegrating German armies. Poorly trained boys were slaughtered by the thousands. During the war’s final days, even preteen German Young Folks were dispatched to challenge swarming Soviet tanks with mere panzerfausts (the German equivalent of bazookas). Desperate to preserve the Nazi essence, Axmann ordered the Hitler Youth purchase of the crippled freight-hauling company Tessmann and Sons, which he
reestablished in the small city of Bad Tolz in the Bavarian Alps. There, as the war ground to a close, he sent top Hitler Youth and German Maidens personnel along with a prodigious amount of cash funneled through his new front company to finance underground operations and procure trucks and fuel. To unsuspecting US Army officers on postwar occupation duty in Germany, Tessmann was a godsend. It had the trucks and drivers necessary to transport coal and food to where it was most needed, and they happily granted the firm coveted passes to travel wide distances and through military checkpoints. As the company flourished, it morphed into a subversive organization, and Axmann used its company’s good name to place loyal Hitler Youth and
A THEATER OF WAR The Great Escape. Directed by John Sturgess, written by James Clavell and W.R Burnett from a book by Paul Brickwell, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, 1963, 168 minutes, color, not rated.
HIS IS A TRUE STORY,”
reads an opening credit of The Great Escape. Although characters are composites and some events have been compressed, “every detail of the escape is the way it really happened.” Such grounding in reality makes this the best of the widescreen, all-star WWII extravaganzas from the 1960s, a near-perfect balance of character, plot, and suspense that seems much shorter than its almost three hours. The Great Escape tells the story of what happened when the Germans opted to take all their incorrigible Allied prisoner escapees and put them in a new, ostensibly escape-proof facility. As camp commandant Von Luger (Hannes Messemer) says, they are putting all their rotten eggs in one basket. One of those rotten eggs is Ramsey
60 AMERICA IN WWII
(James Donald), the camp’s senior British officer. He informs Von Luger that a British soldier has a solemn duty to try to escape, and he immediately begins making preparations. His righthand man is Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), whose last escape attempt brought him unwelcome ministrations from the SS and Gestapo. Hendley (James Garner) is an American who had been flying for the Royal Air Force. He has a talent for scrounging. Danny the tunnel king (Charles Bronson), a Pole shot down when flying for the RAF, has a talent for digging (and a hidden fear of enclosed spaces). Blythe (Donald Pleasence), a mild-mannered photo interpreter, serves as the group’s forger. The Australian Sedgwick (James Coburn) has a talent for manufacturing things like air pumps from whatever material he has on hand. One of the few Americans is Hilts (Steve McQueen), a hotshot pilot whose escape attempts have earned him so much time in solitary he’s called “the cooler king.” As soon as he emerges from confinement, he plots his next escape. Bartlett plans to dig three tunnels—
Tom, Dick, and Harry—and spring 250 men all at once. Like the breakout, the film moves forward with seemingly clockwork precision, deftly introducing the characters, their roles, and the way they fool their captors, while steadily raising the tension (with occasional pauses for comic relief). When the Germans discover Tom days before the planned break, it proves to be too much for the little Scot Ives (Angus Lennie). He snaps and begins to climb the fence. The guards gun him down. The actual escape is a masterpiece of suspense. Although Harry turns out to end 20 feet short of the sheltering woods,
German Maidens in scores of civilian military offices, where they spied upon the US military government. Tessmann drivers became Hitler Youth couriers, and the company expanded across Germany, establishing a network capable of contacting and organizing pro-Nazi Germans. Meanwhile, however, the operation had attracted the notice of the US Army Counterintelligence Corps. Fluent in German, Captain Jack Hunter took the lead in investigating Tessmann. He infiltrated the group with the aid of German operatives, including Siegfried Kulas, a former officer in the SS Einsatzgruppen (“deployment groups,” the units charged with eliminating Jews and others the Nazis considered undesirable). Kulas proved instrumental in bringing Axmann and his company down. The Axmann Conspiracy is an engaging book. Selby offers a wealth of detail and three-dimensional portraits of the individu-
76 men make it out before the Germans realize what’s happening. By then the escapees have scattered across Germany. Hilts makes the most spectacular attempt at freedom when he steals a German motorcycle and attempts to jump the border fence into neutral Switzerland. It’s an amazing sequence (albeit fictional), with McQueen doing much of the stunt riding himself. He even donned a German uniform to play one of the pursuers, although a stunt man did the actual jumping. The Great Escape is a great movie. One of its strengths is its verisimilitude. It was shot on location in Germany near Munich with Clark Wallace Floody, the real-life tunnel king, serving as a consultant. Pleasence had been a prisoner in Stalag Luft I after his bomber was shot down and gave input on sets. The movie is not just a cinematic precursor to the inane TV series Hogan’s Heroes. The stakes here are serious. As the movie shows, the Germans executed 50 of the recaptured prisoners. Freedom has a price. —Tom Huntington Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
als involved on both sides. He takes readers from the claustrophobia of Hitler’s final bunker in Berlin and Axmann’s desperate escape from the city to a spy-versus-spy saga played out across Germany. This is one of the most fascinating yet least-known stories of World War II counterintelligence recently put on paper. As entertaining as a good spy novel, it is a rewarding read. —Brian John Murphy Fairfield, Connecticut
World War II on DVD! WAR IN THE PACIFIC – Collector’s Tin Depicts the numerous air, land and sea battles that unfolded from 1942 until the fall of the Japanese empire in 1945.
Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun, by John Prados, NAL, 400 pages, $26.95.
HE STORY OF the August 1942 US invasion of Guadalcanal has been told often and told well by Eric Hammel, Richard Frank, and others. In Islands of Destiny, John Prados examines the campaign as the turning point for Japan, which is how even the Japanese themselves came to see it. While some historians have analyzed the campaign as one of simple attrition, Prados sees its phases as parts of a strategic mosaic, arguing that the tide of war in the Pacific turned here, rather than at the June 1942 Battle of Midway. Even if you know this story, Prados’s book makes a great read. Numerous features commend Islands of Destiny. It presents the struggles around Guadalcanal and Rabaul in a fresh way and includes the Japanese perspective more than most other histories do. It skillfully weaves the acquisition, interpretation, and use of intelligence into the conduct of the war. In doing this, Prados resists the temptation to judge men of 1942 in more modern terms, and the remorseless attrition and friction of constant fighting on land, air, and sea are well-presented. The Japanese are portrayed as unbeaten after Midway and still looking forward to future victories. More than most authors, Prados capitalizes on the Japanese viewpoint with attentive, nuanced study. He scrutinizes the motivations of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s leading admirals, especially those of Combined Fleet commander in chief Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. He examines Yamamoto’s intervention to save some officers from bureaucratic oblivion while refusing to do the same for others. Readers will almost feel sympathy for the
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AMERICA IN WWII 61
Japanese leaders as they sensed victory slipping through their fingers. The evolving realization of their strategic predicament is one of the book’s most satisfying themes. Initially upbeat and confident, especially after such well-planned victories as the Battle of Savo Island, they were confident they would learn from the debacle at Midway and bounce back. After all, they still outnumbered and outgunned the US Navy. The early sections of the book cover the Japanese analysis of the Midway loss and efforts to learn from it. Indeed, the initial weeks of the fight over Guadalcanal featured much back-and-forth trading of control of the area, as the US Navy struggled to match Japanese night-fighting prowess. As time went on, however, the United States was able to pour more resources more effectively into the battle, while Japan’s land forces starved and its pilot elite thinned. The Americans could afford to lose more ships, aircraft, and men than the
A BOOKS AND MEDIA
Japanese could. Prados communicates the dawning Japanese dread through meetings in which Emperor Hirohito berated his military chiefs for their inability to regain the strategic initiative. As one would expect from the author of the epic Combined Fleet Decoded, Prados thoroughly explores the intelligence war in the Guadalcanal campaign. He ties the campaign to the evolution of separate US naval intelligence organizations, the development of Japanese intelligence in the region, and the exploitation by both sides of new-found materials and methods. Behind-the-scenes analysis and reports on exciting field discoveries that included the safe retrieval of lowlevel US code materials from a downed
American carrier aircraft, a code book from a crashed Japanese fighter, and even the capture of a Japanese submarine’s cryptographic materials are all included. Subjects covered besides the well-known battles on, over, and around Guadalcanal are incidents such as the April 1943 downing of Yamamoto’s aircraft that took his life, the loss of Lieutenant (Junior Grade) John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, and the Rabaul campaign—the Allied effort to leave the Japanese stronghold on the island of New Britain withering on the vine. With Islands of Destiny, John Prados does not look merely to repeat the successes of earlier writers. Instead, he offers an insightful, deeply researched account that shows the evolving strategic and tactical thought behind the Guadalcanal campaign, which, he asserts, had by late 1942 reversed Japan’s fortunes for good. —Thomas Mullen Flemington, New Jersey
A 78 RPM
A Holiday Melody that Grew on Us
RVING BERLIN HAD BEEN kicking around an idea for a musical about the holidays for nearly a decade after he wrote his hit song “Easter Parade” in the early 1930s. He pictured a getaway out in the country, where city folk weary of honking horns, grime, and crowds could go to relax during holidays throughout the year— breathe fresh air, eat fine food, and watch a show. In what became the movie Holiday Inn in 1942, Bing Crosby, the biggest name in the music biz, plays a burned-out New York City club performer who quits his night job to buy a farm in rural Midville, Connecticut, and eventually converts it into an inn that’s open only on holidays. The simple plot with its soon-resolved love triangle is what all Berlin musical plots were: a mere vehicle for Berlin songs. For each holiday, there was a different Berlin song, 14 of them. No music by anyone else appeared in the film. (A certain clout comes with having written hits that paid off like “Over There” and “God Bless America.”) Holiday Inn premiered on August 4. Most people involved in the production thought “White Christmas” would be the musical’s hit—and it would be—but critics hardly mentioned the song in their early reviews. The catchall theme song for the musical, “Happy Holiday,” got even less attention. It probably seemed to be little more than an afterthought with cloying lyrics:
62 AMERICA IN WWII
“If you’re laid-up with a breakdown / throw away your vitamin. / Don’t get worse, grab your nurse / and come to Holiday Inn.” “Happy Holiday” makes its debut about a third of the way into the film, on the snowy opening night of the inn, New Year’s Eve. Guests fill the tables of the dining room, decorated for the winter holidays, as a chorus starts things out before Crosby takes over. Marjorie Reynolds descends the open staircase behind the stage to join in (though she’s lip-synching to a part sung by Martha Mears). “Happy Holiday” would become popular only after the rise of television, when Andy Williams started singing it with the Osmond Brothers in a two-song medley with “The Holiday Season” on his annual Christmas special. He cut the “Happy Holiday” portion down to its essence—the section that goes “Happy holiday / Happy holiday / While the merry bells keep ringing / May your ev’ry wish come true”—and bookended “The Holiday Season” with it. The medley found its way onto the 1963 classic The Andy Williams Christmas Album. Though it took a while to catch on, the melody is familiar to most adults who hear it today—even if they do hear the hook as “Happy holidays,” plural. —Carl Zebrowski editor of America in WWII
ALABAMA • Through Jan. 6, 2013, Birmingham: Art exhibit “Norman Rockwell’s America.” Features original art and all 323 Saturday Evening Post covers from 1916 to 1963. Open daily except Mondays. Birmingham Museum of Art, 2000 Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr., Boulevard. 205-254-2565. artsbma.org ARIZONA • Nov. 10, Mesa: Fifth Annual Gathering of the Legends, sponsored by the Commemorative Air Force. One of the largest Veterans Day assemblies of military aviators in the Southwest. Includes WWII air veterans. 11A.M. Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum. 480-268-2144. azcaf.org CALIFORNIA • Dec. 31, Alameda: New Year’s Eve aboard the USS Hornet. Dance to big band music among vintage aircraft on the enclosed, heated deck of CV-12. Dance lessons, silent auction, fireworks. Reservations required. USS Hornet Museum. 510-521-8448, extension 282. uss-hornet.org CONNECTICUT • Nov. 4, Windsor Locks: Eighth annual Women Take Flight. Guests include WWII WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and mechanics, presentday pilots, and reenactors portraying famous early women aviators. New England Air Museum. neam.org FLORIDA • Nov. 10–11, Stuart: Stuart Air Show 2012. Aerobatics, WWII battle reenactment, special WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) guests. Whitham Field. 772-781-4882. stuartairshow.com ILLINOIS • Nov. 24, 25, Wheaton: Dog Tag Days. Tags made on WWII-era machine for purchase. Tuesday–Sunday, 10 A.M.–4 P.M. First Division Museum at Cantigny. 630-260-8185. firstdivisionmuseum.org
Mattoon, Illinois, as depicted on this 1940s postcard is hardly an obvious terrorist target.
GASSER Temporary paralysis, tremors, nausea, burning skin—was someone attacking the people of Mattoon, Illinois, with poison gas?
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LOUISIANA • Dec. 6–8, New Orleans: 2012 International Conference on WWII. The theme is “Stemming the Nazi Tide: The End of the Beginning, 1942–43.” National WWII Museum. 504-528-1944. ww2conference.com MASSACHUSETTS • Dec. 7, Fall River: Pearl Harbor Day at Battleship Cove. Wreathcasting and brief remarks at 12:55 P.M. (the time of the Japanese attack). Battleship Cove. 800-533-3194. www.battleshipcove.org NEW YORK • Through May 27, 2013, New York City: “WWII & NYC” exhibition. Explores the city’s war experiences. More than 300 objects, paintings, posters, and photos; lectures, films. New-York Historical Society Museum and Library. 212-873-3400. nyhistory.org PENNSYLVANIA • Dec. 1–31, Gettysburg: An Eisenhower Christmas. Discover how the victorious WWII general and postwar president celebrated the holiday with his family. Eisenhower National Historic Site. 717-338-9114. nps.gov/eise TEXAS • Nov. 11, Sweetwater: Run for the WASP. Annual 5K run and 1.3-mile run to benefit the National WASP WWII Museum. PT-19 flyover, free museum admission, and a chance to meet a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) pilot. National WASP World War II Museum. 325-235-0099. waspmuseum.org Dec. 7–8, Fredericksburg: Pacific Combat Living History Reenactment. Demonstration of Pacific-theater weapons, tactics, and strategy. National Museum of the Pacific War. 830-997-8600. pacificwarmuseum.org VIRGINIA • Nov. 10, Triangle: US Marine Corps birthday celebration. Cake-cutting ceremony to commemorate 237 years of national service. Noon. National Museum of the Marine Corps. 877-635-1775. usmcmuseum.com Dec. 8, Triangle: Curator’s Chat on British commandos and their contributions to the US Marine Corps. 1 P.M. National Museum of the Marine Corps. 877-635-1775. usmcmuseum.com
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AMERICA IN WWII 63
SY OF C COURTE
NATIONAL ARCHIV ES
KEY ARL MAN
Two Purple Hearts
Above, left: Carl Mankey (left) poses with a fellow marine in camp. Above, right: Marines descend into a landing craft at Tarawa. In hellish combat on the island, Mankey suffered a concussion from an exploding shell.
MANKEY WAS 19 YEARS OLD and working as a truck driver in his hometown of Craigville, Indiana, when he decided to join the US Marine Corps in 1943. “I figured the marines were the toughest soldiers,” he says. After training in San Diego and New Zealand, Mankey joined the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific as a private in Company B of the 6th Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. He fought the Japanese on Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian. The fighting on Tarawa in November 1943 was especially fierce. “We heard the number of soldiers who died there per mile was worse than anywhere else,” Mankey says. In one skirmish, he suffered a concussion from an explosion and was shipped out to a hospital in Hawaii to recuperate. He returned to combat four months later only to be injured again, in June 1944, on Saipan, when a bullet ricocheted off his rifle and removed the end of his nose. He stayed briefly in a hospital on the island before returning to combat again. In August 1944, Mankey led his platoon of 20 men up a mountain he says was on Saipan or Tinian with orders to destroy an ARL
enemy machine-gun nest. Despite heavy enemy fire coming at him from four guns, he moved into the open to shoot at the position. He also threw grenades. The nest remained, but he later came back and destroyed it. Mankey was discharged from the marine corps at the rank of corporal in August 1945 with two Purple Hearts (he received a Gold Star in lieu of the second, in accordance with marines policy) and a Silver Star for gallant conduct. He returned to Craigville and got married in 1947. He and his wife, Dolores, had six children and today have 15 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. In the summer of 2011, Mankey, then 88, flew to Washington, DC, to see the National World War II Memorial courtesy of an Indiana group associated with the nonprofit Honor Flight Network. A Submitted by KAYLEEN REUSSER, an author and speaker from Bluffton, Indiana, who interviewed Carl Mankey after another WWII veteran told her about Mankey’s wartime service.
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