Have you ever told a story that you find hilarious or amazing, only to see your audience stare back at you blankly, expressionless, utterly unmoved? Perhaps you blushed a little, mumbled “I guess you had to be there…,” and moved on.
Sometimes, when we dive into history and immerse ourselves in a bygone era, we’re the ones left standing there blank, expressionless, and utterly unmoved, because we don’t fully “get” the culture and people of the past. I ran into that problem years ago while working for a magazine about the American Civil War. I just didn’t get most mid-19th-century humor.
Looking through popular periodicals of the era, I’d run across a cartoon or perhaps a joke. Even though I had crammed my head with period jargon and expressions and endless information about the era, I never saw anything remotely amusing about those Victorian attempts at humor. I just didn’t share the 19th century’s cultural framework.
Working with World War II material, I run into that a lot less. I do get the jokes and cultural references. After all, my mom and dad were WWII people. Folks then looked, dressed, and spoke much like we do (at least a lot more than people of the 1800s did). Even so, there are things that don’t come across at first, nuances we don’t catch without lots of research, because we weren’t there in the midst of those turbulent times and life-altering events.
Putting together this special issue—WWII Mysteries and Mayhem—took me a long way toward understanding an unspoken but important and ever-present reality of the American WWII home front: fear. We all know the WWII generation to have been plucky, brave, hardworking, ready to make sacrifices. But underlying everything, every day, was fear.
There was fear that loved ones serving overseas might not return, or might return broken or forever changed. There was fear that Axis enemies might attack on US soil via air raids, submarines, ground invasion, or secret agents and saboteurs. The government reinforced this fear, requiring civilians to black out their windows at night so enemy aircraft wouldn’t be able to detect US towns. By day, trained civilian plane-spotters across the States scanned the skies, identifying every plane by its silhouette so they could report any enemy incursion. Meanwhile, government posters warned that spies were everywhere.
Home-front fear inspired great efforts and sacrifices. It also inspired ugly things, like the internment of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans. And for better or worse, it would shape US domestic and international policy to one degree or another for decades.
This special issue is a sampler of things that kept WWII Americans on edge. It is by no means exhaustive. But I think it provides important context to help us better understand and connect with the people of the WWII home front. They helped fight and win the war through their industrial production, volunteerism, financial support, and sacrifice—and through their prayer and support for the military personnel overseas. Knowing they did all that with fear gnawing relentlessly at their souls makes me admire them all the more.
Note: The numbers below correspond to arrows on the labelled version … continue reading »]]>
Note: The numbers below correspond to arrows on the labelled version of the photo, below.
1. You’re standing on Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island, home to a naval air station and mooring point for much of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet. You’re at the fleet landing area, where launches from the mighty warships tie up to load and unload people and supplies. It’s Sunday morning. It should be calm, quiet, even leisurely. Instead, everything is chaos, motion, smoke, noise, and terror. And you’re in the middle of it.
2. You’re waiting to catch the line from a launch coming in on your right, manned by battle-shocked sailors in their underwear. They’re bringing casualties from the navy’s first mass attack by Imperial Japanese carrier planes. Enemy aircraft came roaring over Pearl Harbor without warning just before 8 a.m., unleashing hellfire in the form of aerial torpedoes and bombs. The surprise was absolute. The results were devastating.
3. To your left, smoke is rising from USS California (BB-44), tied to a mooring quay at the southern end of Battleship Row, where most of the Pacific Fleet’s deep-draft battleships are moored in two neat rows. California, the fleet’s flagship, has taken torpedo and bomb hits. She’s listing to port and taking on water, but smoky fires on board have forced the crew to stop pumping out the inflowing water (note the smoke curling out from the bridge). The ship is sinking slowly but surely.
4. Straight ahead of you, farther up Battleship Row, USS Maryland (BB-46) is holding her own, her guns blazing away at enemy dive bombers. 5. But next to her, a whitish wedge protrudes from the water—the keel of USS Oklahoma (BB-37), which has capsized, sunk by aerial torpedoes. Many Oklahoma crewmen have climbed aboard Maryland to help man her guns and fight back. 6. More launches like the one you’re assisting are on their way from Oklahoma and beyond, working hard and fast to save lives.
7. Still farther back on Battleship Row, USS Arizona (BB-39) is hidden from view by the ships in front of her. But a thick column of black oily smoke billowing from the dying battleship pinpoints her position. Struck by a Japanese bomb, Arizona’s forward magazines blew apart in a violent explosion that killed most of the crew. The ship sank, burning uncontrollably.
8. Ahead of Arizona, just past Maryland and sitting low in the water, you see USS West Virginia (BB-48). She too has sunk, though timely counter-flooding kept her upright and level as her keel settled onto the bottom. More than 1,700 sailors and marines from Arizona, West Virginia, and Oklahoma alone are dead.
9. Far to your right, you see another ship—fleet oiler USS Neosho (AO-23)—backing away from the attack area, firing at Japanese planes all the way. Fortunately, she unloaded her cargo of airplane fuel on Ford Island the day before. Otherwise she would have been a floating bomb.
As you help unload mangled, bloodied, and burned men from the launch in front of you, you’re not sure you won’t be a casualty yourself. 10. Planes and buildings are burning behind you on Ford Island. No one knows what’s going to happen next. But you stay at your post, you keep doing your duty. You feel surges of anger, fear, worry—and a fierce determination to make Japan pay for this savage attack.
The people and events of this pivotal moment in history—over 75 years ago—are what America in WWII’s 120-page special issue PEARL HARBOR REMEMBERED is all about. We invite you to keep the memory alive. Click here for more info, or to order.]]>
“[Patton’s] nervous energy, his drive, his sense of history, his concentration on details while never losing … continue reading »]]>
“[Patton’s] nervous energy, his drive, his sense of history, his concentration on details while never losing sight of the larger picture combined to make him the preeminent American army commander of the war.”
—Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany (1997), Stephen Ambrose
“[Patton was] a swaggering bigmouth, a Fascist-minded aristocrat…brutal and hysterical, coarse and affected, violent and empty…quite mad.”
—Dwight MacDonald, America social critic quoted in The New York Review of Books, December 31, 1964
“Everything that everyone has ever said about George S. Patton, Jr., is probably true.”
—The Patton Papers (1972), Martin Blumenson
George S. Patton, Jr., first became a national hero as a cavalry officer chasing Mexican revolutionaries with future General of the Armies John J. Pershing in 1916. He sealed his iconic status during World War II, commanding armored troops racing to victory across North Africa, Sicily, France, and Germany from 1942 to 1945.
That didn’t mean everyone was ready to crown him with laurels.
A man of many contradictions, Patton aroused intense emotions in admirers and detractors alike throughout his life. When his French counterpart Major General Paul Girot de Langlade called him “an offensive warrior of high class who seems to have no equal among his compatriots for exploitation warfare,” offensive could have been taken either way.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the only World War II figure whose speeches attracted as much attention as Patton’s, could just as easily have been talking about Patton when he referred to Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” For example, Patton was a cavalry officer steeped in the romantic traditions of his Confederate ancestors, yet he was the first to make moves to push the US Army into modern, motorized warfare. He was a wealthy aristocrat—his mother’s father was the first mayor of Los Angeles and had a 14,000-acre ranch that later became several California towns, including Pasadena—yet the common men under his command adored him. He was considered an anti-Semite, yet he fought furiously to save Jews from death in the concentration camps of Europe. He hated the Germans he fought against, but aroused controversy after the war when, as military governor of Bavaria, he retained former Nazis in key government positions.
A bigot, Patton was the only major American general to request more black soldiers, the first American general in history to integrate rifle companies, and the first to use black tank units. “I would never have asked for you if you weren’t good,” Patton told the all-black 761st Tank Battalion. “I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don’t care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of bitches.”
The contradictions only continued. Deeply religious, he was perhaps the most profane man in the military. Martin Blumenson, editor of The Patton Papers, writes, “He was unpredictable, capricious, at the same time dependable, loyal. He was brutal yet sensitive. He was gregarious and a loner. Enthusiastic and buoyant, he suffered from inner anguish…. Throughout his lifetime he prompted intense devotion as well as instant dislike.”
Many considered Patton to be an oaf (though it’s now assumed he was dyslexic, which could have helped create that perception). But according to military historian Victor Davis Hanson, he was “without question the best-educated, most experienced, and most widely read general in the American army.” Some use the term “genius.” Carlos D’Este titled his Patton biography A Genius for War. “What made Patton so remarkable was his willingness to take risks and to make crucial life-and-death decisions no one else would dare…,” he wrote. “[He had] that intangible, instinctive sense of what must be done in the heat and chaos of battle: in short, that special genius for war that has been granted to only a select few.”
Others are convinced that, far from being a genius, Patton was mentally ill, having suffered permanent brain damage thanks to his reckless lifestyle and long history of injuries. The index to the first volume of The Patton Papers lists almost 40 entries under “sicknesses and accidents.” Over the years, Patton fell off of or was kicked or butted in the head by horses, fractured numerous bones, was shot in battle, and had a gasoline lamp blow up in his face and set his tent on fire. The traffic accident that would finally kill Patton in late 1945 was minor compared to others. “I had my usual yearly accident,” he wrote to his wife, Beatrice, from France in 1917. “The car ran into a closed railroad gate and I carelessly put my head through the front window….”
Patton thrived on publicity, but it brought him low after he slapped two soldiers suffering in Sicily from battle fatigue. Known as Old Blood and Guts—“his guts, our blood,” some GIs said—he was criticized for his viciousness, but also scorned because he raced his troops in swift flanking movements around an enemy, trying to save lives by avoiding bloody frontal assaults.
Patton did have a temper. And he did love war, “but not the death and destruction,” writes Blumenson in The Patton Papers. “The concentration camps and the ruined cities sickened him, and the losses of his soldiers hurt him…. He loved the excitement of war, the responsibility of war, the prerogatives of his position, and, most of all, the opportunity that war presented to use the skill, leadership, and courage required by his profession—in the same way that a surgeon loves his calling but not the disease, illness, and injury he treats.”
“Never take counsel of your fears.”
“Pursue the enemy with the utmost audacity.”
—inscriptions on the Patton statue at West Point
Patton described war as “very simple, direct, and ruthless.” In one of his earliest preserved writings, he outlined his creed: “Attack, push forward, attack again until the end.” Blumenson explains that “the principles he utilized in armored warfare came from the cavalry. He constantly sought surprise, mobility, maneuver…and the relentless pursuit.” According to Hubert Essame, a British major general in WWII and the author of Patton: A Study in Command (1974), Patton worked “in the light of the cavalry tradition—quick decision, speed in execution, calculated audacity; better a good plan violently executed now than a perfect plan next week.”
At the end of July 1944, just before the Third Army became operational with Patton as commander, the general reminded his men, “Forget this goddamn business of worrying about our flanks…. Flanks are something for the enemy to worry about, not us. I don’t want to get any messages saying that, ‘We are holding our position.’ …We’re not interested in holding on to anything except the enemy. We’re going to hold on to him by the nose and we’re going to kick him in the ass.”
Digging a foxhole, Patton believed, was the same as digging a grave. He considered hiding behind fortifications demoralizing; it made a soldier think “the other man must be damned good, or I wouldn’t have to get behind this concrete.” For Patton, speed was essential, a continual forward motion that demoralized the enemy while energizing yourself. This came naturally to the Americans, wrote Australian war correspondent Chester Wilmot, for they “had in their blood a longing for adventure and an instinct for movement, which they inherited from those pioneers who had broken out across the Alleghenies and opened up the Middle West. To the American troops driving across France, distance meant nothing.” Patton felt that troops sitting still, while in contact with the enemy, began brooding and finding their thoughts turning to what could go wrong. “Action, and offensive action at that, alone brings release,” Essame writes. “This, allied with the concept of speed, was the very heart of the Patton approach to battle.”
In the same manner, Patton preached to his Third Army platoons the idea of marching fire, moving forward while everyone shot off a round every two or three steps. “Shooting adds to your self-confidence because you are doing something,” he told them. And the constant noise of the bullets and their ricochet kept the enemy cowering and unable to return fire.
“Truly in war: ‘Men are nothing, a man is everything.’ …The leader must be an actor…. He is unconvincing unless he lives his part.”
—The Secret of Victory (1926), George S. Patton, Jr.
“Drama and Corn. Patton the General is also Patton the Actor. Showmanship is instinctive in him.”
—Time magazine cover story, April 9, 1945
“For Patton, leadership was never simply about making plans and giving orders,” writes Alan Axelrod, author of Patton: A Biography (2006). “It was about transforming oneself into a symbol, a kind of totem or talisman with which the group identified. His message was never we must succeed but always we will succeed.”
Patton worried that his high-pitched speaking voice would not inspire confidence among his troops and would keep him from being the powerful symbol he wanted to be. And annoyed that “for so fierce a warrior, I have a damned mild expression,” he practiced what he called his “war face” before public appearances.
One of the keys to being a successful leader, Patton believed, was to be everywhere, leading by example. To that end, he even went into the skies. Hoping to understand how enemy aircraft would approach a tank squadron, he bought a small plane, took flying lessons, and at age 55 earned his pilot’s license. “Whenever air and armor can work together,” he said, “the results are sure to be excellent. Armor can move fast enough to prevent the enemy having time to deploy off the roads, and so long as he stays on the roads the fighter-bomber is one of his most deadly opponents.”
Coordinating with airpower also meant that Patton would not have to destroy enemy infrastructure, as earlier raiding parties in history had. As he crossed the Rhine, American and British planes blasted German cities. The Third Army was free to concentrate on opposing troops.
“We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks….
“When we get to Berlin, I am going to personally shoot that paper-hanging Goddamned son of a bitch just like I would a snake….”
“The quicker we clean up this Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple-pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too.”
—excerpts from a Patton speech on the eve of the Normandy invasion, June 5, 1944
Typically, Patton improvised his famous orations. After giving a speech in May 1944, he wrote in his diary, “As in all my talks, I stressed fighting and killing.” It seems fair to say, as Hanson writes, that “Patton never understood [the] rhetorical responsibilities of a public figure.” His words often jarred Americans, whose censors had kept away from them images of death. The first photo of war dead in the immensely popular Life magazine—three dead soldiers on a New Guinea beach—didn’t appear until September 1943, seven months after the shot was taken. Of the 61 war movies made in America during the latter part of 1942, only five showed anyone being killed in combat. Yet there was Patton, during a Memorial Day speech in 1943, saying, “To conquer, we must destroy our enemies…. We must kill devastatingly. The faster and more effectively you kill, the longer you will live to enjoy the priceless fame of conquerors.”
Patton also offended public sensibility by acting on his conviction that “you can’t run an army without profanity…. When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty.” Hanson thinks Patton used his “tirades and crudity” to gear himself up for playing the role of leader. As “efforts to mask the embarrassment of [having] an aesthetic sense,” he writes, Patton’s “often vulgar outbursts about killing, war, sex, and race” put forth “an image of a general who was a warrior always, not a keen student of the arts and sciences.” Patton himself was blunter: “Sometimes I just get carried away with my own eloquence.”
Patton’s best-known speech, delivered in England on the eve of the Normandy invasion, was later sanitized for public consumption and made immortal in that version by George C. Scott as the opening of the movie Patton. Even in its cleaned-up form, it was so strong that Scott worried it would overshadow his performance in the rest of the film. So, director Franklin J. Schaffner reportedly lied and told Scott he wouldn’t place it at the beginning.
Even when his language was clean, Patton himself got into trouble for his frankness. Hanson points out, however, that although the general was criticized for just plain being too blunt—whether about the brutality necessary to defeat the Nazis, the evils of Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union, the need to protect Eastern Europe from Communism, or his hope for a strong, united Germany—“it is difficult to find evidence…that any of Patton’s major political pronouncements were fundamentally wrong.” He also believes, “In every tactical crux of the Normandy campaign, Patton alone offered the correct advice.”
“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.”
—the Patton Prayer, December 1944
Patton achieved even more notoriety at the end of 1944 when he decided to address a greater audience: God. As James O’Neill, a Catholic priest serving as chief chaplain of the Third Army, tells the story in a 1950 government document, Patton called him in early December and asked, “Do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about [the rain that had been falling for months] if we are to win the war.” O’Neill quickly composed a prayer and showed it to Patton, who then asked for 250,000 copies to be printed, so it would be available to every soldier in the Third Army. “I am a strong believer in prayer,” he told the chaplain. “There are three ways that men get what they want: by planning, by working, and by praying.”
The prayer cards, along with Patton’s Christmas greeting to his troops, were passed out during the following week, before the Battle of the Bulge began on December 16. As Patton’s men, now tramping through snow, hurried to the relief of besieged American paratroopers at Bastogne, the heavy cloud and fog cover finally let up enough for hundreds of Allied planes to provide air support. Apparently God was listening.
As O’Neill told it, the next time he saw Patton, in late January 1945, the general smiled and said, “Well, Padre, our prayers worked. I knew they would.” Patton then swung his riding crop and smacked it against the side of the chaplain’s steel helmet. O’Neill explains, “That was his way of saying, ‘Well done.’” Patton would go farther: for writing the seemingly successful prayer, O’Neill received the Bronze Star.
“I am convinced that the best end for an officer is the last bullet of the war.”
—Patton diary entry, August 19, 1944
“…All joking aside I don’t expect ever to be sixty not that it is old but simply that I would prefer to wear out from hard work before then.”
—letter from Patton to his future wife Beatrice, February 21, 1909
Patton survived long enough to make it to V-E Day and, six months later, to age 60. In early December 1945, however, having survived two world wars and a civil war in Mexico, he suffered the last of what he termed his “usual yearly accidents.” One day before he was scheduled to leave Germany for America, while he was on his way to hunt pheasants, his chauffeured 1938 Cadillac staff car rammed into a 2.5-ton truck that suddenly turned into its path. The car was traveling about 30 miles an hour, the truck only 10. Patton’s driver and another passenger in the Cadillac were unhurt, but the general, thrown forward into the roof and the partition behind the driver, suffered severe scalp lacerations and a broken neck. This tank commander who believed in ceaselessly pushing forward was paralyzed, unable to move his arms or legs. He died 13 days later.
General Omar Bradley, who had started as Patton’s subordinate but became his superior (and, eventually, senior military advisor for the movie Patton), thought, “It was better for Patton and his professional reputation that he died when he did. The war was won; there were no more wars left for him to fight…. In time he probably would have become a boring parody of himself—a decrepit, bitter, pitiful figure, unwittingly debasing the legend.” As Axelrod writes, “Dead heroes make the best heroes.”
General George Patton was indeed a hero, even among the best heroes—except to those who thought the contrary. Like most of history’s famous and infamous politicians and generals, he was both revered and reviled. But whether it was friend or foe observing and evaluating him, Patton stayed on course, remaining true to the creed he’d scribbled quickly in his West Point notebook: “Never stop until you have gained the top or a grave.”
Photos, from top:
• In Tunisia in March 1943, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., keeps an eye on his II Corps as it battles German and Italian forces for control of the El Guettar Valley. Patton had just taken over command of the corps from Major General Lloyd Fredendall, bringing an aggressive leadership style that resulted in victories. NATIONAL ARCHIVES
• Patton was known for racist remarks and attitudes. But when it came to battlefield performance, he valued brave and hard-fighting troops of any skin color or ethnicity. Here, Patton (wearing his famous pearl-handled revolvers) pins the Silver Star on Private Ernest A. Jenkins of New York City, a Quartermaster Corps soldier in Patton’s Third Army. In August 1944, Jenkins and an officer he was driving discovered a German machine-gun nest at Chateaudun, France, and eliminated it, killing three enemy soldiers, wounding others, and capturing 15 Germans hiding in a cave. NATIONAL ARCHIVES
• Patton was a driving force behind development of a substantial modern tank force for the US Army on the eve of American involvement in World War II. Before he was sent overseas to North Africa, Patton (then a major general) commanded the army’s I Armored Corps, leading it in extensive exercises in California’s vast Desert Training Center, which he established. Here, during 1942 maneuvers there, he shoots an azimuth with his compass, standing next to a M3 Stuart tank. NATIONAL ARCHIVES
• Patton’s journey through World War II led him from Tunisia all the way to Czechoslovakia. DREAMLINE CARTOGRAPHY/DAVID DEIS
• With the war won and over, Patton, a master horseman, enjoys a chance to ride Favory Africa, from the world-renowned Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria. It’s August 22, 1945, at St. Martin, Austria, where the US Army has returned the horse, a bit of living war plunder. Nazi German Chancellor Adolf Hitler had seized the horse as a future gift for Emperor Hirohito of Japan. NATIONAL ARCHIVES
Links to More Information
GEORGE PATTON AND THE CAMERA
See more images of the much-photographed General George S. Patton, Jr.
PATTON’S GHOST ARMY
Find out about the secret project handed to Patton before he publicly took command of the Third Army.
By mid-morning of December 7, 1941, the fate of the USS Arizona and its crew was no longer in doubt. Fires roared from the amidships to the bow. Thick black smoke billowed out in large volumes, cloaking the details of the vessel’s terrible destruction. It was evident that there were few survivors of the celebrated battleship Arizona. Three days later the fires went out and the mangled remains of the ship gave mute testimony to the successful attack on the Pacific Fleet.
Over the next few days, Pearl Harbor and its survivors began to restore order out of the chaos that was brought about by the raid. The command soon understood the losses that Arizona had suffered. She had lost more men than any warship in United States Naval history. Of the 1,514 men attached to the ship’s company, 1,177 were killed. Of the marine detachment of 88 men, only 15 survived. The math was horrifying; 77.7% of the crew was dead. Only 337 of the crew survived. Most were from the ship and a small number were on leave, liberty, or detached duty.
A week later a young ensign named Joe Langdell was having breakfast at Bachelor Officers Quarters when a naval officer interrupted the meal by shouting out: “Is there an officer here from the Arizona?” Joe raised his hand. Langdell was ashore during the attack, assigned to the Fleet Camera Party. He was aware the ship was lost but had no idea what had happened to his shipmates. The officer took him aside and explained his task. Joe was to lead a party of some 20 men, most of them survivors from the ship, to recover bodies. They were chosen because they were familiar with the ship and its crew. This knowledge could be helpful in the duty assigned to them. The men marched down to the landing and got into a large whaleboat. They were issued sheets and pillowcases to collect human remains.
Author Paul Stillwell, noted in his book, Battleship Arizona: An Illustrated History: “On the other hand, the emotional impact of seeing dead shipmates was even more profound than would be the case for men who had never known the crew of the USS Arizona. The recovery party wrapped the complete corpses up in sheets and took them to a waiting motor launch for further transfer. The men retrieved portions of bodies and sometimes swept up ashes; storing them in pillowcases for the trip to the cemetery…. The memory of those days has bothered him [Langdell] many times since then. He thinks of the many who would now be grandfathers but never got the chance.”
In the weeks that followed, the navy moved forward in retrieving the personal effects of the officers and the removal of the dead. A total of 235 bodies were found and buried primarily at the newly established cemetery at Halawa Valley.
Officer country [maritime slang for the officers’ quarters aboard a ship] was located in the aft section of the ship. This area was virtually untouched by the fatal explosion of the forward magazines. Pay records [likely to be found in the officers’ area] were vital. Many families had been notified that their loved one was either missing in action or declared dead. Without these records, the families could not receive the money owed to them. Dealing with grief was hard enough without the additional financial burden the dependents would suffer if they couldn’t be paid or receive Navy Relief.
These valuable documents would later be preserved in the service jackets [folders containing military personnel’s service records] of the fallen and those who survived, becoming part of a legacy of those who served on the Arizona. Chief Commissary Steward Ralph Byard took a personal and professional interest in preserving these records. His meticulous work helped preserve the papers of his fallen shipmates. Arizona survivor Yeoman Jim Vlach went to work compiling a muster role of the 350 men who survived, but he could only confirm 80 names. In February of 1942, salvage divers found the ship’s muster roll in the executive officer’s office. With those records in hand an accurate count of the dead and living could be constructed.
Twenty years later the USS Arizona Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1962. A key feature of the Memorial is the shrine room wall. Alfred Preis understood the importance of listing the names of those who lost their lives. He designed a wall made of Vermont marble and had each individual casualty engraved with name and rank or rate. How the names were collected and what database was used is still a mystery. The wall was replaced twice in its history. Verification of those names has been the grist of controversy and confusion.
In 2015, after much discussion about historical accuracy regarding the names on the replacement wall, Superintendent Paul DePrey, Chief Historian Robert Sutton, and I made a decision. A comprehensive research study on the casualties of the USS Arizona would be conducted at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. The center is operated as a division of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The project was daunting to say the least.
The first order of business was to put together a comprehensive research plan, beginning with finding an expert. Enter Mr. Mike Wenger. Mike is one of the finest researchers of World War II documents in the nation and his specialty is personnel records. Over the years, Mike has been contracted to do a number of research projects for the monument.
With completion of the research plan, the team traveled to St. Louis in January of 2015. During that time, discussions with Mr. Eric Kilgore and Mr. Whitney Mahar began in an effort to coordinate the research and scanning of the Arizona crew records.
The first trip to the record center in St. Louis would determine how this project would unfold…. My meetings with the officials at NARA went well. I soon found out that a research project of this size was unprecedented in the history of the records center.
From the start, there were a number of questions that needed to be answered. How do you organize and pull 1,177 service jackets from the millions of records that exist in their holdings? How many staff members would be needed to observe the work being done by the research team and how would the records be dispensed? How much workspace would the National Park Service research team require? And finally, once the records had been reviewed and tabbed, how much time would be needed for staff to prep the records for scanning? (Prepping includes the process of flattening the documents and determining their condition. If the record is too fragile, Mylar sleeves are used to protect the document.) Other factors would come up later as we began the project in mid-March.
Another criterion was the cost. The funding source for such a robust research project was vital. Could diminished NPS funds be used or was there an alternative source? We were fortunate to have the interest and support of Pacific Historic Parks, the monument’s non-profit association whose funds are primarily raised from sales in the visitor center’s bookstore. President and CEO Gene Caliwag and CFO Aileen Utterdyke were briefed about the project and committed their financial support. It’s safe to say that without PHP’s support, the USS Arizona Casualty Project would not have happened.
It became evident that Mike Wenger’s expertise would play a major factor in the planning and execution of this project. Over the years he has developed relationships with the NARA staff and understands the culture of this National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. He paved the way for success.
Upon my return from St. Louis, my discussions with Mr. Wenger now centered on developing a research team. What would it take to scan thousands of documents? How many people were needed to scan these records? How would they be organized?
During our visit we scanned and reviewed more than 30 service jackets (commonly referred to as “bricks” because the paper record holder is red and square). After looking into these records and seeing what information they contained it dawned on me that this project was not just about the accuracy of the subjects’ name or rate/rank. It was also about an individual’s life and death.
These records spoke to me. They disclosed the subjects’ place of birth, their parents’ names, where they grew up, went to school, and the age when they enlisted, some as young as 17 years of age. Some of the men were single; some were married with children. One young Marine reported to the Arizona on December 6, 1941, and would perish in less than 24 hours. One sailor’s birthday was on December 7.
And the letters inside these records, handwritten to President Franklin D. Roosevelt or to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, pleading and begging as to where their boy, husband, or father might be. For a great many dependents, the only communication was a telegram or letter declaring them “missing in action.” This left loved ones to wonder or speculate: were they dead or alive? I cannot think of another phrase that could be so emotionally troubling. Oh yes, there was one… “Declared dead.” Those messages came too.
One can only imagine the fear that Americans felt when the Western Union Telegram truck drove down their street in 1941.
Order a copy of our Winter 2011 special issue, PEARL HARBOR STORIES.
Photos, from top:
• A National Park Service team scanned these and other images and records from the service folders of USS Arizona crewmen killed in the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. The work will continue as part of the USS Arizona Casualty Research Project. PACIFIC HISTORIC PARKS
• The battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) burns wildly after the Japanese air attack and the explosion of the ship’s forward magazine. WWII VALOR IN THE PACIFIC NATIONAL MONUMENT
• Arizona as she appeared after the fires were extinguished. The work of recovering human remains and important records began. WWII VALOR IN THE PACIFIC NATIONAL MONUMENT
• Workers complete corrections to the wall bearing the names of the Arizona’s killed, in the shrine room of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. This round of corrections to the wall was completed in November 2014. PACIFIC HISTORIC PARKS
• A “Remember Pearl Harbor” pin worn on the US home front during World War II. The memory of the December 7 attack became a powerful inspiration to Americans as their nation joined the global war against the Axis powers. AMERICA IN WWII COLLECTION
Links to More Information
PEARL HARBOR DEAD
See the list of Pearl Harbor dead we published in 2011 special issue Pearl Harbor Stories.
USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL
Read author Allyson Patton’s article on visiting the site.
VALOR IN THE PACIFIC
Find history and more on the official website of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, home of the USS Arizona Memorial.
PACIFIC HISTORIC PARKS
Check out the website of the private non-profit partner of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
“Beheading of the Ghosts” was the name of what the gathered were … continue reading »]]>
“Beheading of the Ghosts” was the name of what the gathered were watching. Armed guards led a victim into a dimly lit chamber and prepared him for the executioner who waited there. “The axeman then raised his axe and as it descended, apparently on the victim’s neck, the lights were extinguished and a resounding whack was heard, followed by a scream,” read an item in the 1940 edition of The Fun Encyclopedia.
The scene was just fun and games, a skit that was part of a Halloween celebration. The would-be victim was acting. But skits like this didn’t seem right when boys were heading overseas to face real deadly weapons. Halloween had to change during the war, and it did.
Halloween festivities in those days focused less on trick-or-treating than they would in the postwar years. That tradition was just coming into its own, and wartime sugar rationing didn’t help. Still, when kids did walk door to door, people gave what they could. “Dressed in makeshift costumes, a bunch of 8-year-olds roamed the neighborhood—a block each evening for three nights until 7:30 p.m. or so…,” recalled Nancy Hoag of her childhood days in Racine, Wisconsin. “We weren’t only given candy but often invited in to visit with the moms and dads whose loved ones were serving our country.”
More typical of Halloween celebrations were town parades and parties, which had grown in popularity through the thirties. In 1939, for example, the City of Newark, New Jersey, had hosted a grand parade featuring 40 large floats. “Police estimate that more than 300,000 persons lined both sides of Broad Street from Lincoln Park to Washington Park, the line of march of the parade,” reported the New York Times.
The effort to keep up traditions like this was enthusiastic, but as the war demanded ever more resources, celebrations had to be scaled back. In some places, volunteer organizations cobbled together what they could to save local events. But some municipalities decided to cancel the holiday outright. “If plans work out, there will not be any Halloween in Chicago,” reported the New York Times on October 15, 1942. “The City Council voted unanimously today to abolish Halloween for the duration….”
Lack of resources wasn’t the only reason for cancellations. Another was to discourage the expanding tradition of Halloween mischief. “Soaping windows isn’t fun this year,” James Spinning, superintendent of schools in Rochester, New York, wrote in 1942. “Your government needs soaps and grease for the war…. Even ringing door bells has lost its appeal because it may be disturbing the sleep of a tired war worker who needs his rest.” By the war’s end, Halloween mischief was on the wane, due to a national mood firmly set against it, with citizens volunteering for neighborhood watches.
Private home parties were the most common events. Magazines and books offered advice for hosting in those war-strapped times. “Spread a few sheaves of corn around the room or stand up some stalks of corn amid a profusion of gay autumn leaves” was one of the tips for decorating with limited supplies that Ethel X. Pastor offered in the 1942 book Wartime Entertaining. Games were a focal point of wartime parties. One of the more popular had blindfolded girls reaching into a bowl to pull out colored cloths–a red one might mean she would marry a soldier; blue, a sailor.
Kids and adults alike showed up in costumes. Clowns, cowboys, and Indians were common. Hobos were everywhere. Witches were, too, modeled on the stereotype Hollywood had recently created in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Wizard of Oz (1939): hags with pointed hats, long noses, warts, and evil cackles.
The entertainment industry occasionally took up a Halloween theme during the war. In 1944, Ray Milland starred in The Uninvited, the first Hollywood film to focus on ghosts. Released in mid-October, the film established a formula for future haunted house features, climaxing with a scene atop a windy seaside cliff as waves crashed below. On the music side, the Brian Sisters gave Americans “The Boogie Woogieman” in 1942. In a short clip that played on a Panoram (a sort of video jukebox), the three teenagers were dressed like little girls as they sang in mock fear of “the Boogie Woogie Boogie Man” in Andrews Sisters–like harmony.
After the war ended, Halloween began to return to normal. Parades regained their prewar splendor. Candy was plentiful. Parties perked up to their former level of gaiety, with restored license to treat the scary as fun. Of course, the news was not all good: mischief made a comeback, too.
Photos, from top:
• Jimmy Clark and Jeanne Hansel put the finishing touches on their jack-o’-lantern in time for 1942’s Halloween in St. Paul, Minnesota. PHOTO BY ST. PAUL DISPATCH & PIONEER PRESS. MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
• Veronica Lake makes a glamorous sorceress in Paramount Pictures’ 1942 Halloween release I Married a Witch. WWW.DOCTORMACRO.COM
• Kids try to catch apples hanging on strings—using only their teeth, not their hands—in a game at a 1944 Halloween party at the Frederick Douglass Community Center in Washington, DC. PHOTO BY FRANK R. JACKSON. HENRY BAZEMORE COLLECTION OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS DWELLINGS PHOTOGRAPHS, ANACOSTIA COMMUNITY MUSEUM ARCHIVES, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION. GIFT OF HENRY BAZEMORE
• The war years had their share of Halloween-appropriate scary movies—like Paramount’s chilling 1944 ghost story The Uninvited, starring Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey.
• William Patrick Hitler, nephew of Adolf Hitler, in his uniform as a member of the US Navy during World War II.
• In the United States in 1941, Bridget Dowling, ex-wife of Adolf Hitler’s brother Alois and mother of William Patrick Hitler, staffs a table promoting help for war-stricken Great Britain through the British War Relief Society. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
• In January 1933, Adolf Hitler—newly appointed chancellor of Germany—pays his respects to President Paul von Hindenburg in Berlin. Future high officials of Nazi Germany are visible just behind Hitler, to the left: Hermann Göring (in helmet) and Josef Göbbels (in top hat). NATIONAL ARCHIVES
• William Patrick Hitler is sworn into the US Navy at a recruiting station in New York City on March 6, 1944. NATIONAL ARCHIVES
• Finally a member of the US Navy, William Patrick Hitler points to “Target Berlin”—capital city of his uncle Adolf’s Nazi Germany—on a wartime poster. US NAVY
• With his “Ruptured Duck” patch sewn on his navy tunic, William Patrick Hitler receives his US Navy records as he leaves the service in 1947. US NAVY
By Jay Wertz When the City of Alhambra, California, needed an idea for … continue reading »]]>
It’s November 2014—almost six years since Cobra King, the American Sherman Jumbo M4A3E2 assault tank famous for being the first to break through the German lines surrounding Bastogne, Belgium, returned to the United States. Now, after years of restorative work, the tank is ready for display, but in a museum facility that has not yet been built.
After World War II, the historic tank’s whereabouts were unknown, and remained so until 2004. That year, army Chaplain Keith Goode became curious about the old tank on display near the back gate of the US Army’s Rose Barracks at Vilseck, Germany. After examining the tank, he came to believe it was actually the famous Cobra King. Armor experts looked into the matter, and in December 2008 they officially confirmed the tank’s identity. Cobra King had emerged from the shadows.
In July 2009, the US Army Center of Military History shipped Cobra King from Germany to the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for restoration work. Len Dyer, former director of the Patton Museum and now director of the National Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, helped restore the newly returned tank. In a phone interview early this month (November 2014), he noted that the most difficult component of the restoration process was finding replacement parts from original sources. That’s the challenge with most artillery refurbishment projects, he said.
In the case of Cobra King, the goal of the restoration process wasn’t to make the tank operational, said Dyer, but to make it as historically accurate as possible. The restoration staff used archived photos of the tank and Sherman M4A3E2 technical manuals during the process, Dyer said. These materials helped restoration workers ensure historical accuracy.
Locating an original Ford V-8 engine and matching Cobra King’s original tracks were two major difficulties of the restoration process, said Dyer. When the tank was identified in Germany, it was missing its engine, so the team at Fort Knox faced the challenge of finding a period replacement. And Cobra King’s original tracks were difficult to restore because they had a unique addition: a duckbill, or metal extension used to compensate for the tank’s extra weight when traveling over marshland.
Cobra King’s war service didn’t end with that triumphant moment at Bastogne on December 26, 1944. In fact, damage from later combat would prevent restoration of the tank’s interior.
Physical evidence showed that an explosion caused an internal fire, destroying the tank’s interior, and causing the famous “First in Bastogne” tank to be unceremoniously abandoned. When, decades later, the tank was identified and returned to the United States, says Dyer, the restoration staff decided the extent of the damage made interior restoration impossible.
The damage, the restoration crew came to believe, may have happened in one of World War II’s more controversial raids. In the process of researching the tank’s history, said Dyer, a combination of physical and photographic evidence, primary sources, and historical records led the team at Fort Knox to conclude that Cobra King may have participated in the disastrous Hammelburg Raid of late March 1945, in Germany. The raid was a secret mission to penetrate German lines, liberate the Oflag XIII-B POW camp near Hammelburg, and return safely with US officers held there. One of the POWs at the camp was the son-in-law of Lieutenant General George Patton, who ordered the raid, and this later raised questions about the mission’s legitimacy.
Conducted by Task Force Baum, under the capable and seasoned Captain Abraham Baum, the Hammelburg Raid failed when it became trapped by German forces. In the end, 32 Americans were killed and some 247 others were wounded, missing, or captured. One casualty of the Hammelburg Raid seems to have been Cobra King. The tank’s company participated in the raid, and Captain Baum even mentioned a tank named Cobra King in his postwar account of the operation. There are photographs of a disabled Sherman Jumbo tank in the years just after the war at a US transportation center—in Hammelburg.
Despite the challenges of Cobra King’s restoration, Dyer says, it was a successful project. After two years of work at Fort Knox, the tank was shipped out on July 29, 2011, and arrived safely at Fort Benning, Georgia, the following day. Cobra King is now in storage at Fort Benning, says Dyer, and functions as an educational tool for the US Army Armor School. According to Dyer, the tank will eventually be displayed at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning, still in the process of raising construction funds. Although a building is not yet built, Dyer says, he envisions the tank as part of a large diorama, which will be a central feature of the museum.
In addition to Cobra King, the National Armor and Cavalry Museum will feature the armor collection previously displayed at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox.
The men who operated Cobra King or fought alongside her during World War II are all gone now. The last survivor of Cobra King’s home unit—Charlie Company, in the 4th Armored Division’s 37th Tank Battalion—passed away in 2009, the year the tank returned to the States for restoration. The refurbished Cobra King will be a monument to their service and, once on display as an artifact, will enable future generations to learn their story.
For more information on the restoration of Cobra King, including photos, visit the Cobra King Project page on the Armor for the Ages website.
Photos, from top:
• The five-man crew of the M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo assault tank Cobra King poses for a triumphant photo with their siege0-breaking war machine. NATIONAL ARCHIVES
• Cobra King sits in a shop at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky, awaiting the start of a lengthy restoration project. PHOTO COURTESY OF GARRY REDMON
• The stenciled name Cobra King emerges from beneath layers of paint during the refurbishment. This is on the tank’s right side, not visible in photos shot after the liberation of Bastogne. No one was sure whether the name was painted on both sides of the tank. PHOTO COURTESY OF DON MORIARTY
• Restored to her December 1944 exterior appearance (and with her 1945 burned-out interior stabilized but left unrestored), Cobra King is loaded onto a trailer at Fort Knox for transport to Fort Benning, where she remains today. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHUN-LUN HSU
As General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s massive air and amphibious … continue reading »]]>
As General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s massive air and amphibious invasion force prepared to launch its great assault across the English Channel into Nazi-occupied France, another battle raged: the fight to rid the Atlantic of its deadliest predator, the German U-boat. Just two days before D-Day, a US Navy patrol made history by capturing one of these German subs off West Africa’s coast.
That sub—U-505—turned out to be the only U-boat captured by the Allies during World War II. Today, she is a permanent feature at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, which is this year marking the 70th anniversary of her capture.
In 1943 the US Navy organized Hunter-Killer Task Groups to help stop the U-boats from shredding Allied supply convoys. In mid-May 1944, Captain Daniel V. Gallery, Jr.’s Task Group 22.3 (TG 22.3) was sent to the waters around the Canary Islands, off Africa’s northwest coast. The group consisted of the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) backed by five destroyers.
Bound for refueling at Casablanca on the morning of June 4, TG 22.3 picked up a U-boat on sonar. A burst of anti-sub mortar rounds from a Hedgehog battery, depth charges, and fire from two Guadalcanal F4F Wildcat fighters brought U-505 to the surface.
Lieutenant Albert L. David led a nine-man boarding party that—despite the dangers of the sub sinking or blowing up—climbed down blindly into the sub. U-boat captains were under order to scuttle their subs rather than allow them to be captured. So, before hastily abandoning ship, the German crew opened a sea-strainer and set time-delay explosives to flood and sink the craft. The Allied boarding party quickly closed the sea-strainer and defused the explosives. U-505 then began a secret journey to Bermuda for study by the US Navy.
About a year later on May 4, 1945, the German Naval Command ordered all U-boats to cease combat. At war’s end, the US Navy planned to use the captured U-505 for target practice, but Captain Gallery, a Chicagoan, instead succeeded in rescuing the U-505. The sub finally came to rest at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry on September 25, 1954, 10 years after her capture.
Photos, from top:
• A boarding party of sailors from the USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) works with lines and boat hooks to take the captured U-505 under tow. US NAVY
• Captain Daniel V. Gallery, Jr. (left), commander of Task Group 22.3, and Lieutenant Albert L. David aboard the USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) in 1944. When the Guadalcanal captured the U-505 in June 1944, David led the boarding party. US NAVY
• The intact U-505, surrounded by related exhibits, is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. MUSEUM OF SCIENCE + INDUSTRY CHICAGO
Yaeko Lillian Oda. Francisco Tacderan. John Kalauwae Adams. Joseph Kanehoa Adams. Nancy Masako Arakaki. Patrick … continue reading »]]>
Yaeko Lillian Oda. Francisco Tacderan. John Kalauwae Adams. Joseph Kanehoa Adams. Nancy Masako Arakaki. Patrick Kahamokupuni Chong. Matilda Kaliko Faufata. Emma Gonsalves. Ai Harada. Kisa Hatate. Fred Masayoshi Higa. Jackie Yoneto Hirasaki. Jitsuo Hirasaki. Robert Yoshito Hirasaki. Shirley Kinue Hirasaki. Paul S. Inamine. Robert Seiko Izumi. David Kahookele. Edward Koichi Kondo. Peter Souza Lopes. George Jay Manganelli. Joseph McCabe, Sr. Masayoshi Nagamine. Frank Ohashi. Hayako Ohta. Janet Yumiko Ohta. Kiyoko Ohta. Barbara June Ornellas. Gertrude Ornellas. James Takao Takefuji, aka Koba. Yoshio Tokusato. Hisao Uyeno. Alice White. Eunice Wilson. Robert H. Tyce. Kamiko Hookano. Isaac William Lee. Rowena Kamohaulani Foster. Chip Soon Kim. Richard Masaru Soma. Tomoso Kimura.
August Akina. Philip Ward Eldred. Virgil P. Rahel. Tai Chung Loo. Daniel LaVerne.
John Carreira. Thomas Samuel Macy. Harry Tuck Lee Pang.2
Henry C. Blackwell. Clyde C. Brown. Warren D. Rasmussen. Joseph A. Medlen. Claude L. Bryant. Eugene B. Bubb. Oreste DaTorre. Donat G. Duquette, Jr. Private Edward F. Sullivan. Arthur A. Favreau. William G. Sylvester. Paul J. Fadon. Theodore J. Lewis. Walter R. French. Conrad Kujawa. Torao Migita.
Hans C. Christiansen. George A. Whiteman. Lawrence R. Carlson. Donald F. Meagher. Louis Schleifer. George P. Bolan. Richard A. Dickerson. Alfred Hays. Richard E. Livingston. George M. Martin, Jr. Harold W. Borgelt. Daniel A. Dyer, Jr. Sherman Levine. James M. Topalian. Robert L. Avery. Robert S. Brown. Edward J. Cashman. Donal V. Chapman. Monroe M. Clark. Robert H. Gooding. James A. Horner. George F. Howard. Lawrence P. Lyons, Jr. Wallae R. Martin. William W. Merithew. George A. Moran. Herman C. Reuss. Robert M. Richey. Harry E. Smith. Edward F. Vernick. Marion H. Zaczkiewicz. Jerry M. Angelich. Malcolm J. Brummwell. Jack A. Downs. Paul R. Eichelberger. Arnold E. Field. Joseph Jedrysik. Andrew J. Kinder. Herbert E. McLaughlin. Emmett E. Morris. Joseph F. Nelles. Willard C. Orr. Halvor E. Rogness. Leo H. Surrells. Joseph Bush. John H. Couhig. Harold C. Elyard. Willard E. Fairchild. Paul V. Fellman. Homer E. Ferris. Stuart H. Fiander. James J. Gleason. Otto C. Klein. Harry W. Lord, Jr. Joseph Malatak. Russell M. Penny. Allen G. Rae. George J. Smith. Elmer W. South. Hermann K. Tibbets, Jr. George W. Tuckerman. Martin Vanderelli. Walter H. Wardigo. Lawton J. Woodworth. Thomas M. Wright. Virgil J. Young. Garland C. Anderson. Manfred C. Anderson. Gordon R. Bennett, Jr. Frank G. Boswell. Frank B. Cooper. John E. Cruthirds. Robert C. Duff, Jr. Lyle O. Edwards. Russell E. Gallagher. James E. Gossard, Jr. Johon S. Greene. Earl A. Hood. Theodore K. Joyner. Edmund B. Lepper. Durward A. Meadows. LaVerne J. Needham. Paul L. Staton. Anderson G. Tennison. William T. Anderson. William T. Blakley. Russell C. Defenbaugh. Joseph H. Guttmann. John J. Horan. Carl A. Johnson. Olaf A. Johnson. Doyle Kimmey. James I. Lewis. William E. McAbee. Stanley A. McLeod. Walter D. Zuckoff. Arthur F. Boyle. Billy O. Brandt. Rennie V. Brower, Jr. William J. Brownlee. Brooks J. Brubaker. Weldon C. Burlison. Leroy R. Church. Jack H. Feldman. Leo E. A. Gagne. Allen E. W. Goudy. William E. Hasenfuss, Jr. James R. Johnson. Robert H. Johnson. Marion E. King, Jr. Roderick O. Klubertanz. John H. Mann. James J. McClintock. Horace A. Messam. Victor L. Meyers. Edwin N. Mitchell. Thomas F. Philipsky. William F. Shields. Ralph S. Smith. John B. Sparks. Merton I. Staples. Jerome J. Szematowicz. William F. Timmerman. Ernest M. Walker, Jr. Lee I. Clendenning. Richard L. Coster. Byron G. Elliott. William Hislop. Howard N. Lusk. Lionel J. Moorhead. Francis E. Campiglia. Herbert B. Martin. Joseph G. Moser. Frank St. E. Posey. Raymond E. Powell. William T. Rhodes. Maurice J. St. Germain. James E. Strickland, Jr. Joseph S. Zappala. Walter J. Zuschlag. Felix Bonnie. Clarence A. Conant. Frank J. DePolis. Patrick L. Finney. Elwood R. Gummerson. Vincent J. Kechner. Robert H. Markley. Jay E. Pietzsch. Antonio S. Tafoya. Robert H. Westbrook, Jr. Jack W. Fox. Frank J. Lango. William M. Northway. Felix S. Wegrzyn. William R. Schick. Leland V. Beasley. William Coyne, Jr. Eugene B. Denson. Robert R. Garrett. Charles l. Hrusecky. Joseph N. Jencuis. Robert R. Kelley. Hal H. Perry, Jr. Carey K. Stockwell. Ralph Alois. Louis H. Dasenbrock. John T. Haughey. Clarence E. Hoyt. Henry J. Humphrey. Lester H. Libolt. Harell K. Mattox. William H. Offutt. Edward R. Hughes. John J. Kohl. George Price. Louis G. Moslener, Jr. Daniel J. Powloski. Dave Jacobson. Mathew T. Bills. Joseph J. Chagnon. Carlton H. Hartford. Ardrey V. Hasty. Donald E. Bays. George K. Gannam. Andrew A. Walczynski. Eugene L. Chambers. John G. Mitchell. Robert L. Schott. Robert R. Shattuck. Russell P. Vidoloff. Lumus E. Walker. Theodore F. Byrd, Jr. James H. Derthick. Joseph C. Herbert. William H. Manley. George R. Schmersahl. Robert O. Sherman. Anson E. Robbins. Robert G. Allen. Robert P. Buss. Donald D. Plant. Gordon H. Sterling, Jr. John L. Dains. Edward J. Burns. Malachy J. Cashen. Dean W. Cebert. William C. Creech. James Everett. Paul B. Free. Joseph E. Good. James E. Guthrie. Robert L. Hull. George G. Leslie. John A. Price. James M. Barksdale. Vincent M. Horan. Morris E. Stacey.
John A. Blount, Jr. Roy E. Lee, Jr. Shelby C. Shook. Earl D. Wallen. George E. Johnson. Thomas A. Britton. Francis C. Heath. Orveil V. King, Jr. Jack L. Lunsford. Edward F. Morrissey. Keith V. Smith. Richard I. Trujillo. Marley R. Arthurholtz. Waldean Black. Walter L. Collier. Alva J. Cremean. Elmer E. Drefahl. Harry H. Gaver, Jr. Ted Hall. Otis W. Henry. Robert K. Holmes. Vernon P. Keaton. John F. Middleswart. Robert H. Peak. Raymond Pennington. Charles R. Taylor. Thomas N. Barron. Morris E. Nations. Floyd D. Stewart. Patrick P. Tobin. Jesse C. Vincent, Jr. George H. Wade, Jr. William E. Lutschan, Jr. William G. Turner. Edward S. Lawrence. Carlo A. Micheletto.
Howard L. Adkins. Moses A. Allen. Thomas B. Allen. Wilbur H. Bailey. Glen Baker. James W. Ball. Harold W. Bandemer. Michael L. Bazetti. Albert Q. Beal. Thomas S. Beckwith. Henry W. Blankenship. Edward D. Bowden. Robert K. Bowers. Robert L. Brewer. Samuel J. Bush. James W. Butler. Elmer L. Carpenter. Cullen B. Clark. Francis E. Cole. Kenneth J. Cooper. Herbert S. Curtis, Jr. Lloyd H. Cutrer. Edward H. Davis. John W. Deetz. Marshall L. Dompier. Norman W. Douglas. Guy Dugger. Billie J. Dukes. Thomas R. Durning, Jr. Robert W. Ernest. Alfred J. Farley. Marvin L. Ferguson, Jr. Stanley C. Galaszewski. Robert S. Garcia. Thomas J. Gary. George H. Gilbert. Tom Gilbert. Helmer A. Hanson. Gilbert A. Henderson. John A. Hildebrand, Jr. Merle C. J. Hillman. Paul E. Holley. Richard F. Jacobs. Ira W. Jeffrey. Melvin G. Johnson. Ernest Jones. Herbert C. Jones. Harry Kaufman. Arlie G. Keener. Harry W. Kramer. John T. Lancaster. Donald C. V. Larsen. John E. Lewis. James E. London. Howard E. Manges. John W. Martin. George V. McGraw. Clyde C. McMeans. Aaron L. McMurtrey. James W. Milner. James D. Minter. Bernard J. Mirello. William A. Montgomery. Marlyn W. Nelson. Wayne E. Newton. June W. Parker. Kenneth M. Payne. George E. Pendarvis. Lewis W. Pitts, Jr. Alexsander J. Przybysz. Roy A. Pullen. Edward S. Racisz. Thomas J. Reeves. Joseph L. Richey. Edwin H. Ripley. Earl R. Roberts. Alfred A. Rosenthal. Joe B. Ross. Frank W. Royse. Morris F. Saffell. Robert R. Scott. Erwin L. Searle. Russell K. Shelly, Jr. Frank L. Simmons. Tceollyar Simmons. Lloyd G. Smith. Gordon W. Stafford. Leo Stapler. Charles E. Sweany. Edward F. Szurgot. Frank P. Treanor. Pete Turk. George V. Ulrich. George E. Vining. David Walker. Milton S. Wilson. Steven J. Wodarski. John C. Wydila. Mathew J. Agola. Clarence A. Wise. Joseph I. Caro. Lee H. Duke. Clifton E. Edmonds. John W. Frazier. Nickolas S. Ganas. George H. Guy. Kenneth J. Hartley. Edward S. Haven, Jr. Anthony Hawkins, Jr. Thomas Hembree. Andrew Kin. Robert S. Lowe. James E. Massey. Maurice Mastrototaro. Jesse K. Milbourne. Dean B. Orwick. William J. Powell. Wilson A. Rice. Howard A. Rosenau. Benjamin Schlect. Joseph Sperling. J.W. Baker. Howard F. Carter. Roy A. Gross. Andrew M. Marze. James E. Bailey. Benjamin L. Brown. Marvin J. Clapp. Thomas W. Collins. Edward C. Daly. Albert J. Hitrik. George E. Jones. John A. Marshall. Nolan E. Pummill. William H. Silva. Perry W. Strickland. James Vinson. Mitchell Cohn. Fred J. Ducolon. Manuel Gonzalez. Leonard J. Kozelek. William C. Miller. Sidney Pierce. John H. L. Vogt, Jr. Walter M. Willis. Eric Allen, Jr. Frederick F. Hebel. Herbert H. Menges. Salvatore J. Albanese. Thomas E. Aldridge. Robert A. Arnesen. Loren L. Beardsley. Regis J. Bodecker. William J. Carter. Luther E. Cisco. Allen A. Davis. Ernest B. Dickens. Richard H. Dobbins. Robert N. Edling. Leland E. Erbes. Robert J. Flannery. Eugene D. Fuzi. Arthur J. Gardner. Robert D. Greenwald. Arvel C. Hines. Donald W. Johnson. Ernest G. Kuzee. Carl R. Love. Marvin W. Mayo. Orville R. Minix. Edo Morincelli. Hugh K. Naff. John C. Pensyl. Joe O. Powers. Ralph W. Thompson. Edward B. Uhlig. John J. Urban. Benjamin F. Vassar. Hoge C. Venable, Jr. Oswald C. Wohl. Michael C. Yugovich. Claire R. Brier. Howard D. Crow. James B. Ginn. Warren H. McCutcheon. Arnold L. Anderson. Zoilo Aquino. James R. Bingham. Herman Bledsoe. Lyle L. Briggs. Harold J. Christopher. Joseph W. Cook. Leon J. Corbin. Leo P. Cotner. Frederick C. Davis. Lonnie W. Dukes. Edward W. Echols. Harry L. Edwards. George L. Faddis. Kay I. Fugate. Samuel M. Gantner. Thomas R. Giles. Herman A. Goetsch. Arthur K. Gullachson. Johnie W. Hallmark. Charles W. Harker. Gerald L. Heim. Edwin J. Hill. Edgar E. Hubner. Robert C. Irish. Flavous B. M. Johnson. Kenneth T. Lamons. Wilbur T. Lipe. John K. Luntta. Andres F. Mafnas. Dale L. Martin. Frazier Mayfield. Lester F. McGhee. Edward L. McGuckin. William F. Neuendorf, Jr. Alwyn B. Norvelle. Elmer M. Patterson. Eugene E. Peck. Mark C. Robison. Emil O. Ronning. Harvey G. Rushford. Herbert C. Schwarting. Donald R. Shaum. Adolfo Solar. Herman A. Spear. Delbert J. Spencer. George J. Stembrosky. Charles E. Strickland. Lee V. Thunhorst. Ivan I. Walton. Marvin B. Adkins. Willard H. Aldridge. Hugh R. Alexander. Stanley W. Allen. Hal J. Allison. Leon Arickx. Kenneth B. Armstrong. Daryle E. Artley. John C. Auld. John A. Austin. Walter H. Backman. Gerald J. Bailey. Robert E. Bailey. Wilbur F. Ballance. Layton T. Banks. Leroy K. Barber. Malcolm J. Barber. Randolph H. Barber. Cecil E. Barncord. Wilber C. Barrett. Harold E. Bates. Ralph C. Battles. Earl P. Baum. Howard W. Bean. Walter S. Belt, Jr. Robert J. Bennett. Harding C. Blackburn. William E. Blanchard. Clarence A. Blaylock. Leo Blitz. Rudolph Blitz. John G. Bock, Jr. Paul L. Boemer. James B. Booe. James B. Boring. Ralph M. Boudreaux. Lawrence A. Boxrucker. Raymond D. Boynton. Carl M. Bradley. Oris V. Brandt. Jack A. Breedlove. Randall W. Brewer. William Brooks. Wesley J. Brown. William G. Bruesewitz. James R. Buchanan. Earl G. Burch. Oliver K. Burger. Millard Burk, Jr. Rodger C. Butts. Archie Callahan, Jr. Raymond R. Camery. William V. Campbell. Murry R. Cargile. Harold F. Carney. Joseph W. Carroll. Edward E. Casinger. Biacio Casola. Charles R. Casto. Richard E. Casto. James T. Cheshire. Patrick L. Chess. David Clark, Jr. Gerald L. Clayton. Hubert P. Clement. Floyd F. Clifford. George A. Coke. James E. Collins. John G. Connolly. Keefe R. Connolly. Edward L. Conway. Grant C. Cook, Jr. Robert L. Corn. Beoin H. Corzatt. John W. Craig. Warren H. Crim. Samuel W. Crowder. William M. Curry. Glenn G. Cyriack. Marshall E. Darby, Jr. James W. Davenport, Jr. Francis D. Day. Leslie P. Delles. Ralph A. Derrington. Francis E. Dick. Leaman R. Dill. Kenneth E. Doernenburg. John M. Donald. Carl D. Dorr. Bernard V. Doyle. Stanislaw F. Drwall. Cyril I. Dusset. Buford H. Dyer. Wallace E. Eakes. Eugene K. Eberhardt. David B. Edmonston. Earl M. Ellis. Bruce H. Ellison. Julius Ellsberry. John C. England. Ignacio C. Farfan. Luther J. Farmer. Lawrence H. Fecho. Charlton H. Ferguson. Robert A. Fields. William M. Finnegan. Francis C. Flaherty. James M. Flanagan. Felicismo Florese. Walter C. Foley. George P. Foote. George C. Ford. Joy C. French. Tedd M. Furr. Michael Galajdik. Martin A. Gara. Jesus F. Garcia. Eugene Garris. Paul H. Gebser. Leonard R. Geller. George T. George. George H. Gibson. George E. Giesa. Quentin J. Gifford. George Gilbert. Warren C. Gillette. Benjamin E. Gilliard. Arthur Glenn. Mach. Daryl H. Goggin. Jack R. Goldwater. Charles C. Gomez, Jr. George M. Gooch. Clifford G. Goodwin. Robert Goodwin. Duff Gordon. Claude O. Gowey. Wesley E. Graham. Arthur M. Grand Pre. Thomas E. Griffith. Edgar D. Gross. Vernon N. Grow. Daniel L. Guisinger, Jr. William I. Gurganus. William F. Gusie. Hubert P. Hall. Robert E. Halterman. Harold W. Ham. Dale R. Hamlin. Eugene P. Hann. Francis L. Hannon. George Hanson. Robert J. Harr. Charles H. Harris. Daniel F. Harris. Louis E. Harris, Jr. Albert E. Hayden. Harold L. Head. Robert W. Headington. William F. Hellstern. Floyd D. Helton. Jimmie L. Henrichsen. William E. Henson, Jr. Harvey C. Herber. George Herbert. Austin H. Hesler. Denis H. Hiskett. Joseph P. Hittorff, Jr. Frank S. Hoag, Jr. Herbert J. Hoard. Joseph W. Hoffman. Kenneth L. Holm. Harry R. Holmes. James W. Holzhauer. Edwin C. Hopkins. Chester G. Hord. Frank A. Hryniewicz. Charles E. Hudson. Lorentz E. Hultgren. Robert M. Hunter. Claydon I. C. Iverson. Willie Jackson. Herbert B. Jacobson. Challis R. James. George W. Jarding. Kenneth L. Jayne. Theodore Q. Jensen. Jesse B. Jenson. Charles H. Johannes. Billy J. Johnson. Edward D. Johnson. Joseph M. Johnson. Jim H. Johnston. Charles A. Jones. Fred M. Jones. Jerry Jones. Julian B. Jordan. Wesley V. Jordan. Thomas V. Jurashen. Albert U. Kane. John A. Karli. Howard V. Keffer. Ralph H. Keil. Donald G. Keller. Joe M. Kelley. Warren J. Kempf. Leo T. Keninger. William H. Kennedy. Elmer T. Kerestes. David L. Kesler. William A. Klasing. Verne F. Knipp. Hans C. Kvalnes. William L. Kvidera. D. T. Kyser. Elliott D. Larsen. Johnnie C. Laurie. Elmer P. Lawrence. Willard I. Lawson. Gerald G. Lehman. Myron K. Lehman. Lionel W. Lescault. Harold W. Lindsey. John H. Lindsley. Alfred E. Livingston. Clarence M. Lockwood. Adolph J. Loebach. Vernon T. Luke. Octavius Mabine. Howard S. Mrs. Michael Malek. Algeo V. Malfante. Walter B. Manning. Henri C. Mason. Joseph K. Maule. Edwin B. McCabe. Donald R. McCloud. James O. McDonald. Bert E. McKeeman. Hale McKissack. Lloyd E. McLaughlin. Earl R. Melton. Herbert F. Melton. Archie T. Miles. Wallace G. Mitchell. Charles A. Montgomery. John M. Mulick. Ray H. Myers. George E. Naegle. Elmer D. Nail. Paul A. Nash. Don O. Neher. Arthur C. Neuenschwander. Sam D. Nevill. Wilbur F. Newton. Carl Nichols. Harry E. Nichols. Frank E. Nicoles. Arnold M. Nielsen. Laverne A. Nigg. Joe R. Nightingale. Charles E. Nix. Camillus M. O’Grady. Charles R. Ogle. Eli Olsen. Jarvis G. Outland. Lawrence J. Overley. Alphard S. Owsley. Millard C. Pace. James Palides, Jr. Calvin H. Palmer. Wilferd D. Palmer. George L. Paradis. Isaac Parker. Dale F. Pearce. Walter R. Pentico. Stephen Pepe. SCharles F. Perdue. Wiley J. Perway. Milo E. Phillips. James N. Phipps. Gerald H. Pirtle. Rudolph V. Piskuran. Herbert J. Poindexter, Jr. Brady O. Prewitt. Robert L. Pribble. George F. Price. Lewis B. Pride, Jr. Jasper L. Pue, Jr. Paul S. Raimond. Eldon C. Ray. Dan E. Reagan. Leo B. Regan. Irvin F. Rice. Porter L. Rich. Clyde Ridenour, Jr. David J. Riley. Russell C. Roach. Joseph M. Robertson. Harold W. Roesch. Walter B. Rogers. Joseph C. Rouse. Charles L. Ruse. Edmund T. Ryan. Roman W. Sadlowski. Kenneth H. Sampson. Dean S. Sanders. Charles L. Saunders. Lyal J. Sav. John E. Savidge. Paul E. Saylor. Walter F. Schleiter. Herman Schmidt. Aloysius H. Schmitt. Andrew J. Schmitz. John H. Schoonover. Bernard O. Scott. Chester E. Seaton. Verdi D. Sederstrom. William L. Sellon. Everett I. Severinson. William K. Shafer. William J. Shanahan, Jr. Edward J. Shelden. William G. Silva. Eugene M. Skaggs. Garold L. Skiles. Edward F. Slapikas. Leonard F. Smith. Merle A. Smith. Rowland H. Smith. Walter H. Sollie. James C. Solomon. Maurice V. Spangler. Kirby R. Stapleton. Ulis C. Steely. Walter C. Stein. Samuel C. Steiner. Charles M. Stern, Jr. Everett R. Stewart. Lewis S. Stockdate. Donald A. Stott. Robert T. Stout. James Stouten. Milton R. Surratt. Charles H. Swanson. Edward E. Talbert. Rangner F. Tanner, Jr. Monroe Temple. Houston Temples. Benjamin C. Terhune. Arthur R. Thinnes. Charles W. Thompson. Clarence Thompson. George A. Thompson. Irvin A. R. Thompson. William M. Thompson. Richard J. Thomson. Cecil H. Thornton. Robert L. Thrombley. David F. Tidball. Lloyd R. Timm. Lewis F. Tindall. Dante S. Tini. Henry G. Tipton. Everett C. Titterington. Neal K. Todd. Natale I. Torti. Orval A. Tranbarger. Harold F. Trapp. William H. Trapp. Shelby Treadway. William D. Tucker. Victor P. Tumlinson. Billy Turner. Louis J. Tushla. Russell O. Ufford. Lowell E. Valley. ADurrell Wade. Lewis L. Wagoner. Harry E. Walker. Robert N. Walkowiak. Eugene A. Walpole. Charles E. Walters. James R. Ward. Edward Wasielewski. Richard L. Watson. James C. Webb. William E. Welch. Alfred F. Wells. Ernest R. West. John D. Wheeler. Claude White. Jack D. White. Alton W. Whitson. Eugene W. Wicker. Lloyd P. Wiegand. George J. Wilcox, Jr. Albert L. Williams. James C. Williams. Wilbur S. Williams. Bernard R. Wimmer. Everett G. Windle. Starring B. Winfield. Rex E. Wise. Frank Wood. Lawrence E. Woods. Winfred O. Woods. Creighton H. Workman. John L. Wortham. Paul R. Wright. Eldon P. Wyman. Martin D. Young. Robert V. Young. Joseph J. Yurko. Thomas Zvansky. Robert E. Arnott. Henry E. Baker, Jr. Charles Braga, Jr. Evan B. Brekken. Frederick A. Browne. Harold K. Comstock. James E. Craig. Clarence F. Haase. Dancil J. McIntosh. Joseph A. Muhofski. James P. Owens. Joseph W. Pace. Damian M. Portillo. Richard R. Rall. William H. Rice. Martin R. Slifer. Payton L. Vanderpool, Jr. Claude B. Watson, Jr. George R. Keith. Frank J. Annunziato. Anthony Bilyi. Albert J. Bolen. Guy W. Carroll. Leon Egbert. Fred Fugate. Joseph L. B. Gaudrault. Paul G. Gosnell. Rodney W. Jones. John S. McAllen. Robert C. McQuade. Clyde C. Moore. Chester L. Parks. George A. Penuel, Jr. Robert A. Petz. Ernest C. Porter, Jr. Daniel P. Platschorre. Edward J. Quirk. John T. Rainbolt. Benjamin N. Russell. Johnnie H. Spaeth. Frank W. Stief, Jr. Palmer L. Taylor. James R. Westbrook. Clyde Williams. Warren P. Hickok. Jesse L. Adams. Alfred W. Hudgell. J.B. Delane Miller. Eugene O. Roe. Gerald O. Smith. John A. Bird. John W. Pence. Laddie J. Zacek. William D. Arbuckle. Joseph Barta. Rudolph P. Bielka. Virgil C. Bigham. John E. Black. John T. Blackburn. Pallas F. Brown. William F. Brunner. Feliciano T. Bugarin. George V. Chestnutt, Jr. Lloyd D. Clippard. Joseph U. Conner. John R. Crain. David L. Crossett. Billy R. Davis. Leroy Dennis. Douglas R. Dieckhoff. William H. Dosser. Vernon J. Eidsvig. Melvyn A. Gandre. Kenneth M. Gift. Charles N. Gregoire. Herold A. Harveson. Clifford D. Hill. Emery L. Houde. David W. Jackson. Leroy H. Jones. William A. Juedes. John L. Kaelin. Eric T. Kampmeyer. Joseph N. Karabon. William H. Kent. George W. LaRue. John G. Little III. Kenneth L. Lynch. William E. Marshall, Jr. Rudolph M. Martinez. Charles O. Michael. Marvin E. Miller. Donald C. Norman. Orris N. Norman. Edwin N. Odgaard. Elmer A. Parker. Forrest H. Perry. James W. Phillips. Walter H. Ponder. Frank E. Reed. Ralph E. Scott. Henson T. Shouse. George R. Smith. Robert D. Smith. Joseph B. Sousley. Gerald V. Strinz. Peter Tomich. Elmer H. Ulrich. Michael W. Villa. Vernard O. Wetrich. Glen A. White. Harold R. Arneberg. William Duane. Lowell B. Jackson. Charles W. Jones. Raymond J. Kerrigan. Guy E. Long. William H. Reid. Welborn L. Ashby. Benjamin E. Bargerhuff, Jr. William L. Barnett. Frank J. Bartek, Jr. Mervyn S. Bennion. Charlie V. Booton. Fred H. Boyer. George O. Branham. Ennis E. Brooks. Charles D. Brown. Riley M. Brown. John E. Burgess, Jr. William C. Campbell. William G. Christian. Harold K. Costill. Louis A. Costin. Charles E. Cottier. Howard D. Cromwell. Eugene V. Downing. Donald L. Drum. George S. Dunn, Jr. Edward N. Durkee. Clement E. Durr. Tommy Dye. Roland W. Edwards. Ronald B. Endicott. Richard B. England. Woodrow W. Evans. Jose S. N. Flores. Jack Foth. Gilbert R. Fox. Neil D. Frye. Angelo M. Gabriele. Claude R. Garcia. Bibian B. Gonzales. Myron E. Goodwin. Arthur Gould. Harry J. Halvorsen. Hugh B. Harriss. Hadley I. Heavin. Fred A. Hilt. Howard D. Hodges. Joseph E. Hood. William D. Horton. Ira D. Hudson. William C. Jackson. Carl S. Johnson. Sanford V. Kelley, Jr. Chester F. Kleist. Milton J. Knight, Jr. William P. Kubinec. Henry E. LaCrosse, Jr. Thomas F. Leary. Joseph S. L. Lemire. Eugene V. Lish. Royle B. Luker. Donald W. Lynch. Arnold E. Lyon. Charles W. Mann. Jesus M. Mata. Donald J. Mathison. Luther K. McBee. Thomas A. McClelland. Lawrence J. McCollom. Clarence W. McComas. Quentin G. McKee. John A. Meglis. John R. Melton. Enrique C. Mendiola. Joe E. Mister. Wallace A. Montgomery. William F. Morris. Albin J. Mrace. Clair C. Myers. Earl T. Nermoe. Paul E. Newton. Emile S. Noce. Maurice M. O’Connor. Clifford N. Olds. Arnold J. Owsley. Walter J. Paciga. James A. Paolucci. Andrew A. Pinko. Jack A. Pitcher. Roy W. Powers. George B. Reid. Albert Renner. Leonard C. Richter. Ernest C. Rose. Glenn D. Sahl. Theodore H. Saulsbury. Richard M. Schuon, Jr. George W. Scott. Gordon E. Smith. Ernest E. Speicher. Otis D. Sterling. George E. Taber. Ernie E. Tibbs. Keith W. Tipsword. Albert P. VanderGoore. Joseph Vogelgesang, Jr. Thomas G. Wagner. Bethel E. Walters. Harold Wilbur. Clyde R. Wilson. Lester F. Zobeck. Theodore W. Croft. Stanley D. Dosick. John D. Buckley. Clarence M. Formoe. Rodney S. Foss. Milburn A. Manning. James H. Robinson. Joseph G. Smartt. Luther D. Weaver. Walter S. Brown. Lee Fox, Jr. Daniel T. Griffin. George W. Ingram. Charles Lawrence. Carl W. Otterstetter. Robert K. Porterfield. Robert W. Uhlmann. Raphael A. Watson. Laxton G. Newman. Arthur W. Russett. John H. Thuman.
This list originally appeared in Pearl Harbor Stories, a special issue from America in WWII. For more information or to order a copy of Pearl Harbor Stories, click here. To get more content like this, subscribe to America in WWII magazine.
In the 70 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, people have assigned memories and meanings … continue reading »]]>
In the 70 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, people have assigned memories and meanings to the iconic images of the raid that are emblazoned in our national memory. But with the passage of time, memories and meanings can start to shift and blur. The story is so detailed, sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between fact and fiction. That is how myths and legends are born, and Pearl Harbor has its share.
Here are some of the myths most frequently associated with the events of December 7, 1941.
Myth: The Japanese fired the first shot in the war with the United States.
Fact: On December 7, 1941, the Japanese sent five midget subs to attempt to enter Pearl Harbor and wreak havoc on the ships there. One of these midget subs was spotted at 6:37 a.m. by the destroyer USS Ward (DD-139), which was on patrol that morning. The Ward promptly dropped depth charges, fired at the sub, and reportedly sank it. So, it was the Americans who fired the first shot in the war between the United States and Japan. (Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, did not receive a call about the Ward incident until 7:40 a.m., just 15 short minutes before the attack began.)
Myth: Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto believed that if the Pearl Harbor attack succeeded, Japan would ultimately win the war.
Fact: Yamamoto, who was responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor, believed that although Japan’s navy was strong, American military capabilities were much greater. Yamamoto’s hope for the Pearl Harbor raid was that it would cripple US forces in the Pacific long enough for Japan to seize the resource-rich islands in the southern Pacific without having to battle against intervening US forces. Japan grossly underestimated the Americans’ ability to bounce back, however. By June 1942, Japanese forces were already on the defensive.
Myth: The approach of the Japanese planes was reported from the Opana Radar Station to Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, but he decided not to act upon the warning.
Fact: When Privates George Elliot and Joseph Lockard noticed a fleet of aircraft approaching from the north on their radar equipment on Opana Ridge, they immediately called the information center at Fort Shafter. Lieutenant Kermit Tyler received the call. Knowing a flight of B-17s was due in from the mainland that morning, Tyler replied, “Don’t worry about it.” Kimmel never received the radar report. (The B-17s did fly in at 8:15 that morning, straight into the attack. Most crash-landed on Ford Island.)
Myth: The battleships in Pearl Harbor were always the primary targets of the Japanese attack.
Fact: When planning for the raid began in July 1941, the Japanese knew the era of the battleship was giving way to the era of the aircraft carrier. Consequently, they focused their planned attack on the US aircraft carriers that were supposed to be in Pearl Harbor on December 7: Lexington (CV-2), Enterprise (CV-6), and Saratoga (CV-3), all home-ported at Pearl Harbor with the Pacific Fleet. Fortunately for the United States, the Lexington was on her way to Midway Island, the Saratoga was in San Diego, and the Enterprise was returning from Wake Island. All three escaped damage on the day of infamy.
Myth: All ten Japanese sailors manning the five midget submarines launched on December 7 perished in the attack.
Fact: The Japanese midget submarines were launched from mother subs several miles off the island of Oahu and tasked with wreaking havoc in the harbor. These tiny, battery-powered craft were manned by two submariners each. All but one was lost in the attack. The remaining midget sub lost control and power early in the attack. Her crewmen, Ensign Sakamaki and Petty Officer 2nd Class Inagaki tried to destroy their disabled sub by lighting a fuse, but were unsuccessful. Inagaki was swept out to sea, while Sakamaki was captured by the 298th Infantry Regiment. Sakamaki became the first prisoner of war.
Myth: The Japanese planned only two waves of attack, one for the airfields and one for the ships in the harbor.
Fact: There were actually three waves of attack planned for the morning of December 7, 1941. The first wave, at 7:55 a.m., consisted of 183 planes—Kates (B5N torpedo-bombers) to attack the battleships with bombs and torpedoes, and Vals (D3A dive-bombers) and Zeroes (A6M fighters) to attack the air bases. The second wave, arriving at 8:54 a.m., consisted of 167 planes (Kates, Vals, and Zeroes) that focused their attack on the airbases. The third wave was designed to destroy Pearl Harbor’s fuel storage, maintenance, and dry dock facilities. It was cancelled because US forces began mounting a significant defense, and Admiral Chūichi Nagumo believed more Japanese aircraft would be lost, now that the element of surprise was gone.
Myth: The USS Arizona is a decommissioned ship.
Fact: In December 1942, when salvage operations at Pearl Harbor were coming to a close, the USS Arizona was taken off the Naval Vessel Register. But she was symbolically recommissioned on March 7, 1950, when the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet began the tradition of raising the colors over the sunken ship.
Myth: The USS Arizona Memorial’s 21 openings represent a 21-gun salute to the men who died aboard the Arizona.
Fact: Architect Alfred Preis designed the openings in the Arizona Memorial specifically to lessen the structure’s weight. The memorial spans the hulk and does not touch the ship in any place, so it had to be carefully designed and constructed. Preis did include symbolic elements in his design, and the shape of the openings is symbolic; it represents marines standing at eternal parade rest, watching over those entombed below. The number of openings, however, represents nothing.]]>
A search party struggled through thick woods on Virginia’s Brush Mountain. Atop the 3,065-foot peak about 12 miles from Roanoke, the searchers came upon the plane wreckage a helicopter crew had spotted earlier. They found three bodies in the mangled fuselage and three others in the scattered debris. Among the dead was 46-year-old Audie Murphy, the most decorated veteran in US history.
Murphy, who had been flying to Virginia to check out an investment opportunity, had earned 21 medals in World War II, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. After the war he had appeared in many movies, some good, most mediocre. By the time the plane crashed on May 23, 1971, he seemed to be a man from another time. News of his death shared the front page of the New York Times with accounts of Memorial Day protests against the Vietnam War.
Murphy was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery as his wife and two sons looked on. Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland attended the ceremony. President Richard Nixon’s White House issued the statement that Murphy had “not only won the admiration of millions for his own brave exploits, he also came to epitomize the gallantry in action of America’s fighting men.”
Sadly, Murphy just as thoroughly epitomized the dark corollary to “gallantry in action,” the psychological toll that war can inflict on even the most courageous warriors. Although he was wounded three times in battle, his deepest scars weren’t physical. He suffered from terrible nightmares, slept with the lights on and a gun under his pillow, gambled heavily, and found little to interest him after his high-stakes existence on the front lines. “Seems as though nothing can get me excited any more—you know, enthused?” he told director John Huston after being cast in The Red Badge of Courage. “Before the war, I’d get excited and enthused about a lot of things, but not any more.”
Born on June 20, 1924, near the Texas town of Kingston, Murphy was one of nine surviving children of parents who eked out a living from the land. “We were share-crop farmers,” he wrote. “And to say that the family was poor would be an understatement. Poverty dogged our every step.” When Murphy was 16, his father left. “He simply walked out of our lives, and we never heard from him again,” Murphy wrote. His mother died the next year, and Murphy took her death hard. The family had to break up, and Murphy’s three youngest siblings were sent to an orphanage.
The coming of war with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, seemed to promise a way out of a bad situation, although Murphy—short, freckle-faced, and slight—seemed an unlikely warrior. The marines wouldn’t take him. Neither would the paratroopers. When he finally managed to enlist in the infantry, he was 18, but he looked younger. His sergeant at training camp called him Baby, and Murphy passed out during his first close-order drill. Commanders tried to keep him from combat, suggesting they could get him posted as a clerk or a baker. But he wanted to fight.
The chance finally came when Murphy’s Company B of the 15th Regiment, 3rd Division, landed in Italy. He killed his first enemy soldiers in Sicily: two Italian officers who tried to gallop away on horseback. “I feel no qualms; no pride; no remorse,” he said in To Hell And Back, the 1949 autobiography he co-wrote with journalist and friend David McClure. “There is only a weary indifference that will follow me throughout the war.” Even at this early stage in his combat career, he was learning how to suppress his emotions.
From Sicily, Murphy’s company moved to the Italian mainland. A bout of malaria kept him from participating in the initial landings at Anzio, but he saw action enough. German resistance stiffened after the landings, and the Allied soldiers endured a miserable stalemate. One night, while under fire, Murphy crept up to a damaged German tank and put it permanently out of commission. The attack earned him his first medal, a Bronze Star.
Such a daring attack became typical of Murphy. He was a crack shot, his battlefield instincts were razor-sharp, and he seemed to be fearless. “If I discovered one valuable thing during my early combat days, it was audacity, which is often mistaken for courage or foolishness,” he said. “It is neither. Audacity is a tactical weapon. Nine times out of ten it will throw the enemy off balance and confuse him.”
Audacity or not, fear never completely disappeared. “In the heat of battle it may go away,” Murphy wrote. “Sometimes it vanishes in a blind, red rage that comes when you see a friend fall. Then again you get so tired that you become indifferent. But when you are moving into combat, why try fooling yourself? Fear is right there beside you.”
Company B left Italy on August 12, 1944, to fight in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France. The Americans swarmed ashore almost unopposed. Murphy, now a sergeant, was heading inland with Company B when a German machine gun on a ridge above a vineyard pinned them down. Private Lattie Tipton, a lanky 33-year-old Tennessean who had become Murphy’s closest friend and a father figure of sorts, followed Murphy forward to take on the Germans. Murphy urged him to head back and get a wounded ear treated, but Tipton refused. “Come on Murphy,” he said, “let’s move up. They can kill us, but they can’t eat us. It’s against the law.” Minutes later Tipton was dead. The Germans waved a white flag, and Tipton, though an experienced infantryman, made the mistake of standing up. German machine guns treacherously shot him right back down.
Tipton’s death swept Murphy into a blur of fury. “I remember the experience as I do a nightmare,” he wrote. “A demon seems to have entered my body. My brain is coldly alert and logical. I do not think of the danger to myself. My whole being is concentrated on killing. Later the men pinned down in the vineyard tell me that I shout pleas and curses at them, because they do not come up and join me.” Using a captured German machine gun, Murphy methodically mowed down the Germans who had killed his friend. “As the lacerated bodies flop and squirm, I rake them again,” Murphy wrote; “and I do not stop firing while there is a quiver of life left in them.” Murphy won the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day. He gave the medal to Tipton’s daughter.
To this point in the war, Murphy had somehow survived physically unscathed. He received his first wound as the Americans pushed northward through France, the German army retreating before them into the Vosges Mountains. During one fight, a mortar shell struck near him, killing two soldiers and knocking him unconscious. The blast shattered the stock of his lucky carbine (which he wired back together), but his own injuries were only minor.
Murphy’s battlefield prowess did not go unnoticed, and despite his protests that he wanted to remain among the rank and file, he was commissioned a second lieutenant on October 14, 1944. Less than two weeks later, as frosty weather hinted at the bitter winter to come, a hidden German rifleman shot him in the hip. Even wounded and on the ground, Murphy managed to kill the sniper before the sniper could finish him off. But his wound soon became infected, and surgeons had to remove a large chunk of flesh from his hip. Murphy rejoined Company B three months later, just in time for one of the unit’s most difficult actions: defeating the German troops in the Colmar Pocket, a bulging salient that extended into France on the west bank of the Rhine River.
On January 26, Murphy and Company B found themselves on the outskirts of woods facing the German village of Holtzwihr. The day dawned miserably cold and uncomfortable as the small American force waited tensely for an attack. Finally, six German tanks supported by infantry began moving toward them from the village and quickly put two American tank destroyers near Murphy’s company out of action. Murphy sent his men back, but he stayed put with his field telephone. He was only 20 years old, and it did not look like he would live to see 21.
With his phone, Murphy called in artillery fire on the advancing German infantry. German tanks were approaching on his sides, but Murphy climbed onto a burning tank destroyer—which could have exploded at any second—and began firing its .50-caliber machine gun. He killed dozens of German soldiers, forcing the tanks to fall back due to lack of infantry protection. One German squad sneaking up on Murphy’s right got as close as 10 yards from him before he detected the threat. He shot the whole squad down. Somewhere along the way, Murphy got hit in the leg, but he kept fighting until he ran out of ammunition. Having killed about 50 Germans, he returned to his company, where he refused medical help and instead rallied his men to make a counterattack. The Germans were forced to retreat.
Later, Murphy heard that the enemy had stayed away from his burning tank destroyer because it looked ready to blow up. “I do not know about that,” he answered in his memoir, putting himself back into the scene. “I am conscious only that the smoke and the turret afford a good screen, and that, for the first time in three days, my feet are warm.”
Murphy’s heroics at Holtzwihr earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. The citation read, “Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.” When the army found out Murphy was going to receive the medal, it pulled him off the front lines; too many of these medals had ended up being awarded posthumously. Still, Murphy found a way into combat. On one occasion he went in to rescue his company when it was pinned down by German fire along the Siegfried Line in western Germany.
In June 1945, Murphy finally returned. He was a national hero. Life magazine put him on its cover, identifying him simply as “America’s Most Decorated Soldier.” The story inside told of his return to Farmville, Texas. One photograph showed him with his “special girl,” 19-year-old Mary Lee. “Audie hopes she is his own girl,” the caption read, “but he isn’t quite sure yet because he usually blushes when he gets within ten feet of any girl.” The Murphy Life portrayed could hardly have been more different from the Murphy that McClure came to know. While the two men worked together on To Hell And Back, Murphy told McClure about an Italian family in Rome that had invited him to dinner one day. Murphy said that before dinner he seduced the two daughters, and afterward, for good measure, he seduced the mother. “Audie seduced more girls than any man I ever knew with the possible exception of Errol Flynn,” McClure said. “He might even have topped Flynn.”
The Life story opened an unexpected door for Murphy. Actor James Cagney saw it and invited the young veteran to Hollywood. “All I saw him as was a typical fighting Irishman,” Cagney said. “Perhaps I imagined there was a little bit of me in Audie.” Cagney put Murphy up for a time in his Hollywood home and provided him with acting classes, but after two years, the country’s most decorated soldier was broke and living above a gymnasium.
It was around this time that McClure met Murphy. McClure was a fellow Texan and ex-army man, now working as an assistant to Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. He heard of Murphy’s plight and began to champion him. The two men became friends and started working on To Hell And Back, with McClure prodding the reluctant Murphy to provide material he could use in the book. “Audie had been burned out by the war,” McClure said later. “He reacted intensely to the death of his friends in combat. I supposed in order to keep from going insane he buried his emotions so deeply that getting them back was difficult if not impossible.” But McClure persevered, making up the material that Murphy couldn’t—or wouldn’t—supply, and the book came out in 1949 to favorable reviews.
McClure also used his Hollywood connections to help Murphy get movie roles. The first was in 1949’s Bad Boy. Murphy remained clear-eyed about his abilities. “You must remember I’m working under a handicap,” Murphy told the director in his self-deprecating way. “No talent.”
For the most part, Murphy acted in Western B-movies. One exception was The Red Badge of Courage, director John Huston’s 1951 adaptation of Stephen Crane’s story about a Civil War soldier who flees from battle. MGM didn’t want Murphy, but Huston fought for him, realizing he had the right qualities for the role. “They just don’t see Audie the way I do,” he said. “This little, gentle-eyed creature. Why, in the war he’d literally go out of his way to find Germans to kill. He’s a gentle little killer.”
There was another famous WWII veteran in Red Badge: Bill Mauldin, whose cartoons about the inanities of army life entertained GIs in the army publication Stars and Stripes. He had some sharp recollections of Murphy. “He was a scrappy little sonofabitch,” Mauldin said. “He would get into bare-knuckle fistfights just for fun with stuntmen. He was five foot four and he’d beat these guys up. They were tangling with a wildcat. That’s why Huston really liked him.”
Murphy delivered a fine low-key performance, but the movie never found an audience. After two disastrous previews, MGM cut the running time to less than 70 minutes and the film flopped. Red Badge was probably Murphy’s best shot at stardom; now he slowly slipped back into the grind of forgettable B-movies. “I’m grateful to the movie business,” he said. “The only trouble is the type-casting. You make a success in Westerns, they milk it dry—until you are dry. That’s why Hollywood has just about dried up for somebody like me.” Murphy categorized himself as “a middle-sized failure.”
Murphy had one undeniable film success: playing himself in Universal’s 1955 adaptation of To Hell And Back. He re-created his combat experiences—even though they were layered over with Hollywood gloss—with an understated dignity that helped lift the movie above its otherwise pedestrian treatment of the war. The movie remained Universal’s biggest moneymaker until Jaws in 1975.
On the personal front, Murphy’s life maintained a slow downward slide. He married starlet Wanda Hendrix in 1949, but the marriage lasted only 15 months. Four days after his divorce, in 1951, he married Pamela Archer. That marriage, too, was strained. Murphy was a haunted man, tortured by insomnia, his nights interrupted by a recurring nightmare in which an army of faceless men attacked him on a hill. Murphy fought back in the dream with his trusty M-1 Garand rifle, but pieces of the gun kept flying off until he had only the trigger guard left.
Plagued by nightmares and sounds he thought he heard, Murphy began sleeping in a bedroom made up in his converted garage, with the lights on and with a pistol under his pillow. He tried using tranquilizers but got addicted to them, finally throwing away the pills and locking himself in a hotel room until the withdrawal symptoms ceased. He acted in more and more forgettable movies, invested in real estate, bred horses, and gambled. “I didn’t care if I won or lost,” he said; “it was as if I wanted to destroy everything I had built up.” In 1968 he went bankrupt. Two years later, he was in the headlines again, when he and a friend were charged with beating up a dog trainer. In every news story, he was invariably identified as “America’s most decorated soldier.”
The experiences that had earned Murphy his decorations had taken their toll. Today, his symptoms would be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder, but that term didn’t exist during his lifetime. He had emerged from the crucible of war, but he had not emerged unchanged. He had seen men die—ripped apart by machine guns, run over by tanks, obliterated by mortar fire. He had killed many men himself, supposedly accounting for 240 Germans single-handedly. “To become an executioner, somebody cold and analytical, to be trained to kill, and then to come back into civilian life and be alone in the crowd—it takes an awful long time to get over it,” he told journalist Thomas Morgan in 1967. “Fear and depression come over you.”
When Morgan visited Murphy at his house in California to interview him, he saw a small glass display box with some of his medals inside. The display was in disarray. The Medal of Honor looked “tacky,” Morgan noted, while the first of Murphy’s three Purple Hearts had fallen and lay face down at the bottom of the case. Like Murphy himself, the medals were ignored, forgotten. At the time of Morgan’s visit, Murphy, America’s most decorated soldier, had four more years to live. But part of him had already died, long before his airplane crashed into the top of Brush Mountain.
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At sea off Greenland in the wee hours of February 3, 1943, coast guardsman Charles W. David, Jr., left the safety of the cutter Commanche (left) to save others. His heroism won him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal (right), but cost him his life. (Ship from the National Archives and portrait and medal from the US Coast Guard) David enlisted in the coast guard early in the war and left his New York City home with the ominous parting line, “I have to die some day, and I can’t think of a better way.” A black man, he was made a mess attendant, one of the few positions open to African Americans at the time. But despite official segregation, Stewardsmate 1st Class David had a lot of white friends. He regularly played the blues on harmonica with white crewmate Richard Swanson on sax.
On February 3, 1943, he was aboard the cutter Comanche as it escorted the troop transport Dorchester toward Greenland with 1,000 GIs aboard. In the darkness of early morning, a U-boat torpedoed the Dorchester and she began sinking. The alarm sounded aboard the Comanche, and the 26-year-old David stumbled out of his bunk, cutting short the sleep he had hoped would help knock out his nagging cough.
Survivors were floating in life rafts as the Comanche approached. The coast guardsmen threw a cargo net overboard for the freezing survivors to climb up. Many were unable to make it, so David and others jumped over the rail of their ship to help. Swanson went down to the water and could make it only halfway back, so David descended to carry him up. Then he went into the water to pull out his commanding officer and a drowning man the officer was struggling to save.
The exposure was too much for David. Suffering from hypothermia, he weakened as his cough turned into pneumonia, and a few days later he died. He received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal posthumously for his lifesaving effort. In 1999, the Immortal Chaplains Foundation awarded him its first annual Prize for Humanity.]]>
“There is a startling similarity between Bob Hope and Donald Duck,” wrote screenwriter and director Frank Tashlin. “Both became immensely popular during World War II. Both were braggers who backed down in a pinch but somehow prevailed.”
America’s greatest military entertainer during World War II (Bob Hope, that is), who couldn’t stop entertaining US troops for almost 50 years after the war, was not originally an American. Born Leslie Townes Hope in a London suburb in May 1903, Bob Hope came to Cleveland, Ohio, with his family when he was four years old. A few years after becoming a US citizen in 1920, he was a vaudeville performer appearing under the more masculine name Lester. But Lester becomes Les, and in 1929, perhaps feeling that Les Hope was not exactly inspiring, he changed his name again. “Bob—it seemed more down-to-earth—just like his audience,” wrote biographer Lawrence J. Quirk. “Bob Hope it would be.”
Hope’s five-decade career “covering the bases,” as his biographer William Faith describes it—some 60 tours from Korea to Vietnam to the Persian Gulf—began almost by accident. We weren’t even at war then. It was early May 1941 when his radio producer, Albert Capstaff, urged him to take The Pepsodent Show out of its Hollywood studio and do a live broadcast from March Field in nearby Riverside.
Hope didn’t see the point. Why not just bring the soldiers to the studio? Capstaff told him they numbered in the thousands. He didn’t mention his ulterior motive: his own brother was one of the soldiers. In the end, a group that included Hope’s mustachioed sidekick Jerry Colonna, announcer Bill Goodwin, and singer Frances Langford, who recently had replaced Judy Garland on the show, made the trip to March Field.
If nothing else, Hope figured, the show would provide welcome publicity for his upcoming summer movie, Caught in the Draft, but he was completely unprepared for what he found: “an audience so ready for laughter, it would make what we did for a living seem like stealing money.” He wrote later that “laughs came from simple harebrained foolishness, reluctant heroism, and even blatant cowardice set against a climate of high seriousness.”
“One of the aviators here took me for a plane ride this afternoon. I wasn’t frightened, but at two thousand feet one of my goose pimples bailed out.” (live at March Field, California)
The following week, the Pepsodent bunch was back in the studio after the trip to March Field, but when the impact of that first camp show became obvious, Hope and company began traveling around California in subsequent weeks to visit sailors at the San Diego Naval Station, marines at Camp Roberts north of Paso Robles, and soldiers at Camp Callan in La Jolla. By that time Caught in the Draft had become the most popular Paramount film of 1941. The pattern was set.
Only nine of Hope’s 144 radio shows during the war were broadcast from NBC’s studio. The others all took place at military bases. Hope would identify the base right away, opening his monologue with “This is Bob (insert location here) Hope.”
Sometimes the jokes were accidental. At one naval base, Langford set out to sing “You Go to My Head,” unaware that, to sailors, the “head” is the toilet. Almost always, the response was much greater than the material deserved. “The reason for our overwhelming welcome from troops all over the world,” Hope decided later, “was that we spelled, more than anything else, ‘home.’”
“In America, only the Boy Scouts were prepared.” (Don’t Shoot, It’s Only Me)
A poll published two days before Christmas 1941 in Radio Daily, the newspaper for commercial radio and television stations, confirmed the national appeal of the military broadcasts by naming Hope the top comedian and top entertainer of the year. Such honors didn’t mean much, however, coming in the somber weeks after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Quirk wrote that Hope was irked on Sunday morning, December 7, because This Week magazine, a supplement to the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times, had reported his gross income for 1940 ($464,161.78). But the startling news coming over the radio from Hawaii quickly made him forget his irritation.
“I’ve been offering to kiss every movie star who bought a $500 [war] bond. But I only sold one, and Boris Karloff wants his money back.” (live at the Hollywood Canteen)
In the spring of 1942, Hope became master of ceremonies for the Hollywood Victory Caravan, a two-week tour of 12 American cities that was part of a film industry effort that ultimately raised a billion dollars for army and navy relief agencies. The caravan included 50 Hollywood stars, among them James Cagney, Bing Crosby, Olivia de Havilland, Cary Grant, Laurel and Hardy, Groucho Marx, Merle Oberon, and Spencer Tracy. They did skits written by big-name writers George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart and performed songs by popular composers Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, and Frank Loesser.
“You heard about the airman who was making his first parachute drop? Well, his first lieutenant told him which cord to pull, and told him that when he hit the ground there would be a station wagon waiting to drive him back to the base. So the airman jumped out of the plane and when he pulled the cord nothing happened, and he said, ‘And I bet the station wagon won’t be there either.’” (live in Alaska)
By the end of the two weeks, the Hope Gypsies, as Hope called them, were exhausted. But still they set off for 65 more shows at military bases and hospitals. By September the Gypsies, now including guitarist Tony Romano, had arranged their first USO (United Service Organizations) tour and set off to the US Territory of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. The soldiers there, Hope later wrote, “were the loneliest guys in the world. Also the coldest.”
In the summer of 1943, the Gypsies, with Hope’s friend and ex-vaudevillian Jack Pepper filling in for Colonna, toured England and Northern Ireland. “The European theater,” Hope said, “was a little like vaudeville with foxholes.” Actor Burgess Meredith wrote to his future bride Paulette Goddard that “the most wonderful thing about England right now is Bob Hope…. He is tireless and funny, and full of responsibility, too, although he carries it lightly and gaily. There isn’t a hospital ward that he hasn’t dropped into and given a show; there isn’t a small unit anywhere that isn’t either talking about his jokes or anticipating them. What a gift laughter is!”
Hope made a cameo appearance in the one-hour 1943 training film Welcome to Britain, starring Meredith, which tried to explain the English people and their customs to newly arriving American GIs. (In the words of one reviewer, the documentary shows that “British coffee is awful, their beer is warm, they have a fetish about tea.”) Hope shows up in a scene with a taxi driver, discussing the English monetary system of pounds and shillings.
The Gypsies did their first USO combat zone shows that summer in North Africa, Italy, and Sicily. Palermo offered them both their largest audience—19,000—and a narrow escape with their lives when 100 Nazi Junker JU-88s with a fighter escort dive-bombed the docks, destroying the area around the troupe’s hotel a few blocks away. Hope said that returning safely to the States that fall “was something of a letdown. Hollywood was tinsel and make-believe and happy endings. Where we had been was mud and reality and horror.”
Along the road to the end of the war, Hope met his heroes Winston Churchill, Jimmy Doolittle, and Dwight Eisenhower, as well as other famous leaders such as General George Patton. Years later he admitted, “I miss the immediacy of feeling you’re a part of history, even though you’re not. Yes, I miss the wars, probably because I had the best of the excitement and the least of the danger.”
“What a beautiful swamp you have here…. It’s a top-secret base—even the snakes can’t find it. If you wanna hide from your draft board, this is the place to do it.” (live at Noemfoor, off New Guinea)
The following summer, 1944, the Gypsies were off again, logging more than 30,000 miles in the South Pacific, giving more than 150 performances on remote backwater islands, places like Eniwetok, Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, and Majuro. Hope called it “Loew’s Malaria Circuit” or “the Pineapple Circuit.” At one show, the troupe found out that a Japanese soldier had been killed a few hundred yards from the stage.
It didn’t take Hope long to figure out how to win an audience of troops. “The essential element of foxhole humor, in Hope’s view, is that the GI laughed hardest when the joke was on him,” Faith wrote. In Hope’s words, “[The GI] can take it. He’s laughing off the icy cold, the searing heat, the bugs and the scorpions, his fears and his frustrations.” He also believed that the GI’s “real enemies, even after war broke out, were never just the Germans or the Japanese. The enemies were boredom, mud, officers, and abstinence. Any joke that touched those nerves was a sure thing.”
“There are some cynics who say I never met a war I didn’t like. They’re the ones who haven’t smelled it close up, in the hospital wards…. Politics didn’t matter to me. I never saw a 75mm shell wearing a Willkie button.” (Don’t Shoot, It’s Only Me)
In Caught in the Draft, Hope played a movie star who enlists in the army (along with his agent and chauffeur) because he wants to impress the base colonel’s daughter (played by Dorothy Lamour). In real life, of course, Hope, unlike stars such as Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable, did not enlist. Some questioned his courage, carping that he kept appearing onstage in front of soldiers to stay out of the army. (When one GI in the back of a crowd in Tunisia, shortly after the August 1943 invasion of Sicily, yelled “Draft dodger!” at him, Hope quipped, “Don’t you know there’s a war on? A guy could get hurt.”)
Respected commentators such as combat reporter Ernie Pyle and novelist John Steinbeck disagreed with Hope’s critics. In a column for the New York World Telegram on September 16, 1943, Pyle wrote that he had traveled in two different cities with Hope’s Gypsies during air raids “and I will testify that they were horrifying raids. It isn’t often that a bomb falls so close that you can hear it whistle. But when you can hear a whole stack of them whistle at once, then it’s time to get weak all over and start sweating. The Hope troupe can now describe that ghastly sound.”
Steinbeck, who had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for The Grapes of Wrath and would win the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, spent the second half of 1943 as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. He wrote a column published on July 26, 1943, that was probably the finest review Hope ever got for his wartime work.
“When the time for recognition of service to the nation in wartime comes to be considered,” Steinbeck began, “Bob Hope should be high on the list. This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people…. And he has been doing this ever since the war started. His energy is boundless.”
Near the end of his report Steinbeck wrote, “Probably the most difficult, the most tearing thing of all, is to be funny in a hospital…. Everything that can be done is done, but medicine cannot get at the lonesomeness and the weakness of men who have been strong. And nursing cannot shorten one single endless day in a hospital bed. And Bob Hope and company must come into this quiet, inward, lonesome place, and gently pull the minds outward and catch the interest, and finally bring laughter up out of the black water. There is a job. It hurts many of the men to laugh, hurts the knitting bones, strains at sutured incisions, and yet the laughter is a great medicine.”
The last sentence of Steinbeck’s dispatch read simply, “There’s a man for you—there is really a man.”
Time magazine added its approval four days after Pyle’s column, putting Hope—with the tagline “First in the Hearts of the Servicemen”—on the cover of its September 20, 1943, issue. The accompanying article, “Hope for Humanity,” noted that the comedian had just performed “about 250 camp and hospital shows in eleven weeks.”
The article began by citing Jack Benny, Ray Bolger, Al Jolson, Martha Raye, and others. “Never before have the folks who entertain the [troops] been so numerous or so notable; never have they worked so hard, traveled so far, risked so much…,” it read. “From the ranks of show business have sprung heroes and even martyrs, but so far only one legend. That legend is Bob Hope.”
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“Over There” was the ultimate rah-rah American war song. It had a march rhythm, a military brass accompaniment, a rousing chorus, and patriotic lyrics. But “Over There” was World War I’s song. In 1942, US government propaganda flacks decided World War II needed a theme song of its own.
Label for the Andrews Sisters’ record Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (America in WWII collection)It turned out the government was better at managing a war than cajoling songsmiths, and after more than three years of wartime songwriting, World War II still did not have its own “Over There.” But one song did turn up that still says “World War II” probably more than any other: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” It didn’t have the serious purpose the government sought, but judging from all the jitterbugging it inspired, it did lift morale.
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” is an upbeat ditty about a fictional famous trumpeter from Chicago who gets drafted into the army and becomes his company’s bugler. It turns out, however, that he can’t play a lick without a band behind him. So a sympathetic captain transfers in some hip players, and from then on, Company B swings into its daily routines.
The Andrews Sisters made the song famous when they performed it in the 1940 Abbott and Costello movie Buck Privates. The tune begins on the silver screen with a solo trumpeter opening “Reveille” jazz style, before a piano enters with a boogie woogie bass vamp. Dressed in military uniforms and sitting on barstools drinking malts, the sisters stand up and start singing their inimitable close harmonies (notes near enough to grab with one hand on a piano). At the Academy Awards the following spring, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” won the Oscar for Best Song.
Born to a Greek immigrant father and Norwegian-American mother who ran a restaurant in Minneapolis, the Andrews Sisters had begun singing together as kids in the 1920s. In 1937, they cut the first record by a female group to sell a million copies, and by 1940 every American knew who they were. After America entered the war in December 1941, the trio traveled all over the states and overseas to perform for GIs, and helped found the Hollywood Canteen to entertain servicemen in or passing through southern California.
By the time they retired from singing professionally, the Andrews Sisters had become the most successful female vocal group in history to that point, recording some 600 tunes that sold 75 million to 100 million records. When the Vocal Group Hall of Fame opened in Sharon, Pennsylvania, in 1998, they were among the original inductees. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” remains their signature song and was voted number 6 of 365 on the 2001 list Songs of the Century.
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America was plunged into a panic in December 1941. The whole country wondered what would happen next. Might the Japanese bomb Los Angeles or San Francisco? Or might they or the Germans come from the other direction and bombard the most densely populated city in the world, New York? No one knew for sure. "I lived in Clinton [New York] during World War II," Barbara Williams Roberts wrote at the website www.clintonhistory.org. "It was scary. I was still in grade school and I remember hearing an airplane and looking up to see what it was. I think I expected the Japanese to bomb Clinton."
US leaders in Washington, DC, already had plenty on their minds. They didn’t have time to prepare for the highly unlikely event of a large-scale enemy attack on American neighborhoods. Their solution to easing the justifiable fears of the people was a stroke of genius: let the people defend themselves. That way, no precious resources would have to be diverted from essential military operations, and the people at home would feel not only safer, but also more involved in a war that they themselves were not actually fighting.
The US Office of Civilian Defense, established in May 1941 as the war spread across the globe, was responsible for coordinating preparations for war-related emergencies, preparations that were organized at the state and local levels. The civilian defense against air attacks began with pilots who flew along the coastlines and plane spotters who manned towers to watch for approaching enemy planes. There were also blackout drills that forced people to practice their response to the air-raid alarm signal—a series of intermittent siren blasts. Air-raid wardens supervised the blackout drills, cruising up and down neighborhood streets to make sure no light escaped the houses. By early 1943, there were about 6 million volunteers in public protection roles such as air-raid warden.
Blackout drills were planned in advance and advertised. Street lights were turned off at the scheduled time. Anyone outside was to take cover inside. Those in their homes were instructed to pull down the blinds on their windows and keep the light inside to a minimum. People in cars were to pull over and find shelter in the nearest building. The idea was that enemy planes couldn’t target what they couldn’t see, and that any light visible from above could attract bombs and gunfire.
The federal government sponsored public service announcements to promote participation in the drills and make sure people knew what to do. Among the more unusual of these promotions was the 1942 song by Tony Pastor and his Orchestra "Obey Your Air Raid Warden," which instructed listeners, "Don’t get in a huff/Our aim today is to call their bluff./Follow these rules and that is enough./Obey your air-raid warden." Posters were more common. One flyer pictured the emergency supplies every household was supposed to keep: 50 feet of garden hose with a spray nozzle, 100 pounds of sand divvied into four containers, three three-gallon metal buckets (one filled with sand and two with water), a long-handled shovel with a square edge, a hoe or rake, an ax or hatchet, a ladder, leather gloves, and dark glasses.
Technically, people who didn’t comply with the blackout orders and keep the required supplies on hand could be arrested, though arrests on these grounds were rare. On his education website, the Doyle Report, Denis P. Doyle, who was a young child during the war whose father was in the service overseas, noted several things he remembered from the WWII days. "My most vivid single memory, however, was the visit of a helmeted air raid warden to our apartment in Shaker Heights, Ohio," Doyle wrote. "My mother was out for the evening and our grandmother was caring for my little sister and me. She spoke not a word of English. A knock on the door announced an air raid warden trying to explain that an air raid drill was underway and she must either turn off all the lights or lower the curtains. At three years of age, it fell to me to translate and we pulled down the living room shades."
Some books cite accounts of enemy plane attacks in various locations across the US mainland, but whether any such incidents actually happened is hard to confirm. No plane spotter ever saw an enemy plane. There were many false alarms however, and many unnecessary blackouts. Still, the air-raid defense effort had to be considered a success. Americans appreciated being asked to take responsibility for protecting themselves, and the opportunity to participate directly in the war effort boosted their morale—which was really the goal in the first place.
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When skinny Steve Rogers submitted himself for a top-secret US government experiment to create a Super Soldier, he had no idea he would become the Sentinel of Liberty and the embodiment of America’s greatest hopes and ideals. But with the downing of a powerful serum, Rogers was transformed into Captain America. The superhero soon known familiarly as Cap was just what WWII Americans needed.
Captain America’s sidekick, Bucky, battled Red Skull in a spinoff in 1941 (left). Heralds (center) told dealers of new Captain America issues. Kids were waiting, wearing their Sentinels of Liberty badges (right). (Geppi’s Entertainment Museum)
Hitler-socking Captain America debuted in March 1941. (Geppi’s Entertainment Museum)Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the crucible of World War II, the patriotic hero without peer first wowed kids in 1941’s Captain America Comics No. 1 from Timely Comics (which would one day become Marvel Comics). Cap quickly established himself—along with his sidekick, Bucky—as a tireless crusader in the war against the Axis powers. Fighting the Red Skull and countless other Nazi minions, Cap blazed a Stars and Stripes trail around the world before the war’s end slowed his super pace. He fell into temporary obscurity in the 1950s before being revived from a block of ice in the early 1960s, a man of the 1940s living in strange new times. Joining the super team the Avengers, he became the moral center of the modern Marvel Comics universe of heroes.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of Captain America was that he always strove to represent the aspirations that united America. When the law or the current presidential administration clashed with what he believed America should be, he often defied the government, shed his mantle, or went underground. He was invariably proven right.
In 2007 Rogers was assassinated, and his former sidekick, Bucky, took his place as Captain America. As has happened with so many fallen comic book heroes, the original Cap will inevitably return one day to resume his place as a quintessential heroic icon in American pop culture.
It’s October, and Christmas is coming fast to America. On one shelf there’s a rubber George W. Bush mask next to a few stacks of plastic vampire teeth and some packages of so-called baldhead wigs. Just across the aisle, a giant, inflatable Rudolph and Santa lawn ornament stands next to a skinny plastic Christmas tree with built-in rainbow-colored lights…
Some social critics believe that the holiday shopping madness that now begins months before Christmas—as well as the emphasis on gifts rather than religious observance—had its origin in World War II. It took a long time for packages to reach servicemen scattered across the globe, the theory goes, and merchants were only too happy to urge people to shop early for the season.
While the war may have brought some changes to the winter holidays, those holidays also brought some changes to the war. Christmas and Hanukkah gave a sense of hope and home to American GIs immersed in the vast horrors of the war.
Jack Gingrich of Easton, Maryland, now 79, was a signalman on the USS Chikaskia, an oil tanker in the Pacific during World War II. He served on the ship from its commissioning in 1942 through the end of the war. Gingrich says the officers on the Chikaskia made sure the holiday season was celebrated right. "We had Christmas dinner, on the deck," he remembers. "We always had religious services. We made a Christmas tree out of stuff the deck crew put together. We made do with what we had. We sang carols. I can’t remember if we had a chaplain, but we had religious services. I remember that."
Charlie McCue, 79, also served on the Chikaskia in the Pacific, as a bosun’s mate. He doesn’t remember any Christmas trees. "We were out in the South Pacific," he says. "Christmas just came and went. Of course we had a good meal. That’s about it. I believe it was turkey. We probably got them the last time we were in port. It was a Christmas meal, but like I say, no Christmas trees, nothing like that. We didn’t have any priest or minister at sea, no special services, but if we were in port, yeah, we’d have services."
Paul Meistrich, now 85, served in the navy, as did his brother Saul. His brother Jerry served in Europe with the army. All three survived the war, but Paul, who lives in the New York City area, is the only one of the three still living. "Saul served on an oil tanker in the Pacific," Meistrich says. "He was one of only two Jews on the ship. They were considered lucky, because they prayed every morning after strapping Tefillin (two small leather cases containing Hebrew scriptures that Jewish men traditionally wear on the forehead and the left arm during morning prayer). One day when the ship was under attack and everything was in chaos, the captain came running up to Saul and yelled, ‘Meistrich, have you put on those Tefillin yet?’"
Meistrich spent the war stateside, mostly on the west coast. The holiday season became important as a chance for Jewish soldiers and sailors to visit home. "For servicemen, it was either a chance to go home or to go out and have a good time," Meistrich says. "If you were near a synagogue…, they gave you the day off for religious observance. If you were on a ship or in the field, they were careful to have Passover and Yom Kippur. You always got time off for those two major holidays. I was fortunate to be 40 miles east of Los Angeles, and many homes were open to us."
Both Christmas and Hanukkah had been relatively minor holidays in American history. David Greenberg wrote for the magazine Slate in December 1998 that the Puritans who settled Massachusetts made it a crime to celebrate Christmas. The punishment for offenders was a fine of five shillings. Even just before World War II, Christmas was an important religious and family event, but was generally held close to the bosom of the family and community. It was not a major commercial opportunity.
The idea of exchanging gifts for the holiday came from a blend of German, Dutch, and English customs. The Christmas tree itself is a pagan custom that originated with the Germans and was Christianized in the early years of the church in Europe. German settlers introduced it to America, where it became popular after the Civil War.
Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is close enough to Christmas on the calendar to get caught up in its social and economic currents. It is a celebration of an event that occurred about 2,100 years ago after a battle between the Jews and Syrian Greeks. The Jews won the battle, but their temple had been reduced to rubble. "As the Jews set about to rebuild and rededicate the holy place, they searched for the specially prepared, pure olive oil they needed to light the flame of the menorah, or candelabrum, which is supposed to burn day and night," wrote Greenberg. "Sadly, they found only enough oil for one day, but, amazingly, the oil lasted eight days, long enough for the Jews to prepare a new supply of oil—the miracle of Hanukah. "
Gift-giving, not originally a part of the Hanukkah celebration, has become a tradition for children, Greenberg wrote, adding that American Jews were not altogether comfortable with their traditional celebration evolving into something "fundamentally Christian. But parents couldn’t very well deprive their kids of gifts or seasonal merriment, and Hanukkah benefited from convenient timing."
Charles H. Glatfelter, professor emeritus of history at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, has written extensively on the history of south-central Pennsylvania and its social and religious customs. He said that during his youth, in the decade of the Great Depression before World War II, Christmas was an important, if intimate, celebration. "I think if you look at Gettysburg newspapers leading up to Christmas, you’ll find churches had special services for the holiday," he explains. "The church where my wife grew up…had services on Christmas morning. The church was usually full on that day. In fact, it was one of the best attended services of the year."
Although the war ended in 1945, the extended shopping season it helped establish did not. In the space of a few years, Christmas, and to an extent Hanukkah, had evolved from homey religious observances to retail extravaganzas with a thin religious veneer. "It is possible that much of what Christmas is today is a byproduct of the unprecedented prosperity that followed World War II," says Glatfelter. "The view of a lot of people toward the end of the war was that we were going to relapse into the Great Depression.
It was difficult to imagine the prosperity that was coming. Nobody realized the purchasing power that veterans and veterans’ families had, and the GI Bill of Rights provided means to go to college and easy terms for purchasing homes."
Hanukkah had changed, too. "It’s a post-Biblical holiday, and more of a family holiday," Meistrich says. "It was mostly for the children, because you gave out gifts, like Christmas. We used to taunt the Catholic kids by telling them that we got presents for eight days, not just one. Hanukkah is mostly social, unless you’re very committed."
Besides changing the materialistic element of the winter holidays, the war also gave those holidays a new depth of meaning. America had wanted no part in the war that had been spreading across the globe for years. Polls taken in 1940 suggested that 85 percent of Americans wanted to stay out the fighting. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed that.
By the end of the war, more than 400,000 American military men and women were dead, and nearly twice that many had been wounded. Almost every American knew someone who had been killed or wounded. The hardest time was in the early months of the war, before American forces got traction, and when advances were few and losses heavy.
Even so, World War II was a so-called good war, if there is such a thing—a war where the distinction between good and evil was clear. The United States, perhaps for the last time, was acting united. It was an era of sacrifice—for those in the military, certainly, but also for the civilians. America’s dawning post-Depression consumerism, just beginning to flower when the war erupted, had to be put on hold. Rubber was in short supply because of the war effort and because Japan cut off sources of raw rubber from Southeast Asia. The average American could get only enough gas to drive 60 miles a week, and a Victory Speed Limit of 35 mph was introduced to save gas. People were urged to stay home. Autos became scarce, because none were built after early 1942. Everything that could be used to make materiel for the war effort was used, and at a feverish pitch. Even shoes and food and nylon stockings were rationed.
Despite the hardships, or perhaps because of them, Christmas and the Festival of Lights became stronger. John Otto, 84, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was serving the 82nd Airborne in December 1944, when the Germans launched their last big offensive, later known as the Battle of the Bulge. "We were supposed to be getting ready to jump into Berlin," Otto remembers. "That was the big plan. We weren’t ready for the Battle of the Bulge. I was just out of the hospital, after getting shot up in Holland."
As Christmas loomed, Otto, a company executive officer, says he wanted to get something special together for the guys under his command. "My guys didn’t have enough of anything, shoes, clothes, etc.," he says.
"We had a medical guy," he continues. "Every morning he would run from a house we were in to a small barn, where there was a goat. "He would milk the goat into his helmet and then run back to the house. The Germans would shoot at him, but they never hit him. Our radio man was a baker and knew where to find some flour. Another fellow found some apples. I said I’d get the sugar. At the time, we were getting C rations. So, when the rations were being broken down at company headquarters, I took all the sugar from the rations. The guys squawked, but I blamed it all on battalion headquarters.
"The baker got everything together and made apple pies. When they were ready, we took them out to all the strong points, to the machine gun crews, that sort of thing. It was their Christmas present. It worked real nice. I told them, ‘Here’s the damned sugar you were bitching about!’"
John Fague of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, has his own recollection of Christmas during the Battle of the Bulge. Now 80, Fague served as a staff sergeant in the 11th Armored Division, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion. "My division hadn’t been committed yet," he recalls. "We came up from southern France, and spent the night, Christmas Eve, in some French barracks. We had Christmas services and the next day headed for the front. We had a nice Christmas dinner in the field, though not exactly in combat."
After the war, Glatfelter says, Christmas remained an important time for families to gather together. All those Christmases apart during the war can only have made the holiday more important upon the GIs’ return. "My family had a store," Glatfelter says. "We were open 364 days a year. The only day we were closed was Christmas Day. We always had a meal for all of the family who were available. As far as the significance of Christmas was concerned, it was one of the key days in the year."
In the rural hills of south-central Pennsylvania where he grew up, in fact, Christmas as a season of religious significance—if not as a reason to shop—had been woven fast into the culture since at least a century before World War II. "I grew up in Glen Rock, a town which since 1848, without a break, has had a band of singers go through the streets singing Christmas carols, some of which were brought over from England," says Glatfelter. "The story is that the caroling was started by two men recently moved there from England. I believe the motive behind the creation of the caroling group was homesickness. The practice continued through the war.
"The singers during the war were very much aware that some of their number was in service. I remember…the case of one soldier still in the country [who] called by telephone Christmas Eve and heard some of the carols from wherever he was. It was obviously important to him. Everyone was aware that there was a war going on, but they [the carolers] didn’t stop. They thought they should carry on."
Perhaps the real legacy of the Christmases and Hanukkahs of the World War II years could be the hopeful lesson of those persistent carolers: whatever your worries and plights and heartaches, carry on.
Middle pair of photos: Sergeant William Rush of Washington, Pennsylvania, receives a belated Christmas package on his return from the Belgium front in January 1945, and Sergeants Harold Silver and Isadore Dennerstein donate their candy rations for European children who had little other hope of receiving Christmas gifts.
Bottom photo: Marines Arthur Felber and Jack Miller trim a tropical Christmas tree in New Guinea in 1943.
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Miller, known to most people … continue reading »]]>
Miller, known to most people as Dorie, had enlisted in the navy as a mess attendant in 1939 and earned promotion to cook, third class. On December 7, 1941, the 22-year-old Texan was collecting laundry aboard the battleship West Virginia, moored in Pearl Harbor, when Japanese planes suddenly roared overhead. Several torpedoes and two bombs hit the ship. The deck collapsed and fire and smoke were everywhere.
Wounded were everywhere, too, and Miller was ordered to help move them, including Captain Mervyn Bennion, who died soon afterward. After the fallen were evacuated, Miller took it upon himself to join in the defense of the harbor. He found an unmanned but loaded .50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft gun, and though he’d had no gunnery training, began firing it overhead at the buzzing planes. He eventually ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon the sinking ship.
Miller’s heroics during the Pearl Harbor attack were initially forgotten—until the press got wind of the story. On May 27, 1942, Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, personally pinned Miller with the Navy Cross, the navy’s second-highest honor. Miller was the first black sailor ever to earn the award.
In the spring of 1943, Miller found himself serving as a messmate aboard the brand-new aircraft carrier Liscome Bay. The carrier was in the central Pacific on November 24, sending planes to attack Japanese positions in the Gilbert Islands, when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine. Miller’s body was never found, and a year later, he was declared dead.
In June 1973, the navy gave this hero of Pearl Harbor another of its rarest honors: it named a new ship the USS Miller.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Arizona Memorial Museum Association
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