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Operation Varsity

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Thursday 05 February 2009
05 Feb 2009 Posted by RAW Comments: 0 Views: 
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During WWII, I had a personal interest in the Liberation of Stalag VIIA, both times. I had a lot of contact with the former POW's as a member of Service Company 25th Tank BN. 14th Armored Division.
VIIA Main Gate #1 and Watchtower

[center]

Liberation of Stalag VIIA


Editors Note: This article was originally published in the April 2005 issue U.S. Legacies Magazine. However, since the author of this story Milton J. Long passed away February 5, 2009, we are republishing this article in his honor and memory.


I had a personal interest in the Liberation of Stalag VIIA, both times. I had a lot of contact with the former POW's as a member of Service Company 25th Tank BN. 14th Armored Division.

The date of the first Liberation of Stalag VIIA was April 29, 1945, and the former POW's will never forget it.

Each tank battalion had four companies of tanks and one service company. My company was the service company for the 25th Tank Battalion. We had the job of servicing all the vehicles and to supply the entire unit with gas, ammo and water. My job was to take the loaded trucks up to where the tanks were located and resupply them with ammo and gas.

I would then take the empty trucks back to the supply points in the read and reload them with gas and ammo and then return to the unit. This was a daily function. Most resupply was done at night so the enemy wouldn't try to stop us.

The vehicles all had names. A company names started with "A" and B companies names started with "B", etc. Service companies vehicles names started with "S." Thus the name of my jeep became "Some Junk." A name it got from the fact that the day I received it, was a day when it didn't want to run. So they towed it back to our maintenance section and corrected the problem. I was upset over the fact that it didn't want to run, so I gave it the name "Some Junk." This became a code word in the tank companies when they needed to be resupplied. They would radio back that they would need "Some Junk." Tonight. The Germans never did figure this out.

This story starts in the Nurnburg area, about April 20th, 1945. My diary isn't exact on this date as we were moving very fast. I remember my service company was providing roving patrols and outpost guard duty, which wasn't any fun. We had two men badly wounded and I almost got blown up by shelling. I had 5 flat tires on my jeep as a result of the fighting.

A Service company was not used for patrols unless there was a special situation requiring it. The reason we were doing this was that they had pulled out our tanks and left a hole in the lines where the enemy could get through if they learned about it. So we placed trucks where the tanks had been and tried to make them look like tanks. Lucky for us, the enemy never learned what we had done.

While on a billeting party, I parked my jeep in front of a building that I wanted to check out to see if it was suitable for the company command post, (CP).

When I came out, I was surprised to find two Germans looking over my jeep. They were just as surprised to see me and for a moment it was a stalemate. I didn't like coming face to face with armed enemy soldiers but since I had been trained to react, that is what I did. I pulled my Tommy Gun up at waist height, took it off of safe and stood my ground. The enemy soldiers had their rifles hung over their shoulders and it did not appear that they were ready to fight.

I put my finger on the trigger and waited. The Germans said something to each other that I couldn't understand. They started to take their rifles off their shoulders and I thought, "This was it." The one German could speak English and he said, "You in 14th Panzer Division?"

To that, I replied, "Yes."

"Do you always feed German Prisoners before they are locked up?" the German asked.

I replied, "We try to feed them if it is possible." The German said, "We surrender, the war is over." With that comment, they took off their steel helmets and tossed them to the ground. This was always a signal to us that they didn't want to fight anymore. They unloaded their rifles and leaned them against the jeep. They put their hands behind their head.

Milt Long Stalag1c

PFC. Milton J. Long, a jeep driver with service company 25th, is pictured with two German Soldiers that he captured. They are aitting on the hood of his jeep, which he named "Some Junk."


I was surprised but I ordered them to empty their pockets onto the hood of the jeep, which they did. I put a bandage on the arm of one of the soldiers because he had been wounded. Then I drove them back to the company where they received a hot meal prior to the time the MP'S picked them up.

The problem was that the MP'S would pick them up at about 1730 hours (5:30 PM) and by the time they were processed and arrived at the POW compound, it was late and they wouldn't get fed until the next morning. So, the 14th Division had a policy that if the enemy soldier would surrender without a fight, we would feed them prior to their being taken to the rear. This saved a lot of lives. Sometimes our men played games with them, however, not wanting to guard the Germans, they at times would not let them surrender until late in the day. When the Germans would wave a white flag, there were times that our troops would shoot off the staff that held the flag.

April 23rd, we were transferred to Patton's 3rd Army and we met him on the road. He didn't like the sand bags on our tanks and ordered them removed, which made the tankers unhappy.

My part in the Liberation of VIIA started on the 27th of April. We were sent back to the Quartermaster to draw rations to feed the POW's. We unloaded several trucks and filled them with 10 in 1 rations. These were better than C or K rations. Designed for use by tankers, they contained two meals for five (5) men (tank crew). We also picked up some white bread that was supposed to be for a general officers mess.

Back at Moosburg, we were in the city and not sure if we would get to the camp that day. T/4 Charles Brix and I found out that the twin church steeples could be seen from the camp.

We decided to replace a German flag on one of the steeples with an American flag. Keep in mind the flag pole had been placed there by the Germans and to make the job rough, they had cut the rope off and tied it to the pole about 10 feet from the bottom. Well, I didn't want to die by falling off the steeple so Brix said he would shinny up the pole and do the job. Keep in mind he was about half drunk from drinking Schnapps.

Well, I had a flag that my folks had sent me to put up in Berlin, so Brix took the flag and worked his way up the pole. He lowered the Nazi flag and replaced it with the American flag and slid back down the pole. He asked me how that looked, and I told him it looked ok except it was upside down. He said a few words and back up the pole he went. He corrected the error and slid back down.

VIIA Tank1c

Exuberant Ex-Kriegies join the 14th Atmored Liberators on the tank to crash through the front gate on April 29, 1945. The Krigies, next to the soldier is A.P. Clark, R.M. Stillman, and E.F. Schupp. In the back row 2nd from left is PFC Milton Long. This is the proudest day of WWII for the men of the 14th armored division and General George S. Patton, Jr.

He asked me if I heard the bees while he was up on the pole, and I said that I didn't think there were any bees around. About that time a bullet hit the pole and tore a hole in the blue area of the flag. We both knew the bees he had heard were Germans shooting at him. We made record time getting down out of the steeple, I want you to know, and Brix was stone sober.

As a note about the flag, I mentioned this at our reunion a few years back and wouldn't you know I received a package in the mail that contained that flag. The soldier that ended up taking it down sent it to me. It is now a part of my Moosburg display.

Back at the camp I was told that they saw the flag and a dry eye was hard to be found. A cheer had gone up when the POW's saw the flag.

On Liberation Day, the tank that went thru the gate was swarmed over by the POW's. When I got inside the compound I found the former POW's were hungry for news from back home. I received copies of the Wooster Daily Record, my hometown in Ohio, and they came through in bundles. I had several bundles that I had not read so I gave them to the POW's.

One copy ended up in a tent and the soldier reading it said to his buddy, "You're from Ohio, I have an Ohio paper for you to read. "

This soldier was Harold Mahler. He looked at the paper and started to cry. He looked at the address stamped on the paper and said, "That is my hometown and the fellow that it was sent to was a friend of mine. My girlfriend Midge Blough and I double dated with his Milton's sister Jean Long and her boyfriend Ohmer Calhoun. What do you think the chances are that you would get a hometown paper on Liberation Day in Germany?"

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VIIA POW'S waiting to depart at Landshute Air Base

As a passing note, Harold Mauler returned home and went to the Defense Plant where my dad worked and told him the story of the Wooster Daily Record he had received on Liberation Day.

Some didn't realize that General Patton wasn't there on the 29th of April and that's ok. We in the 14th Armored know the truth about this. Patton was down in Bavaria looking for the Nazi Redoubt on Ike's orders and thus he was not present for the Liberation of VIIA. He told our general not to wait for his return to liberate the POW compound. His fear was that the Nazi guards might kill the POW's as Hitler had ordered.

He arrived at Moosburg on April 30th, and was unhappy that he wasn't present for the Liberation. So he had us pull the gate back up and they got some Germans to stand outside the gate with empty rifles, and he proceeded to liberate the POW compound again. The signal corp. photographers took the pictures on May 1st and spliced the film on to the one they took on the 29th so it looked like Patton was present on Liberation Day. The POW's were so happy to see the General that it didn't matter to them that they were liberated again. General Patton took a tour of VIIA and the conditions under which they had lived. There were 110,000 happy former POW's that day.

The trucks that I had with me that were loaded with food were parked just outside the compound. We were told not to give the POW's any rations because it might make them sick. Well I told a captain that I was going to chow and asked him if he would guard the trucks that were loaded with rations. He agreed to do his best. When I came back, the captain and the rations were gone.

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VIIA POW'S departing from Landshute Air Base

We raised several flags that day and you could see the flags of a lot of nations flying. The one I had put up on the 29th, on the gate, one guard tower was replaced by a much larger one provided by General Patton.

Among the former POW's we met that day were the ones Patton had lost on his failed trip to Hammelburg. Task Force Braum left the American lines on March 26th, to liberate the POW camp at Hammelburg, with 53 vehicles and 294 men. All the vehicles were destroyed or captured. All the men were either killed or captured. In the Liberation try, LTC John Waters, Patton's son-in-law, was wounded. Patton always said he didn't know that LTC Waters was in the camp. We had the chance to meet the men of this task force and to talk to them about their experience.

Over the next few days we hauled the former POW's to the Landshute Airfield. They flew hundreds of C-47's in to fly out the former POW's on their first leg of the trip back home. As a side note, I wish to say this was the proudest moment for the 14th Armored Division in WWII. Our men gave the POW's guns, cameras and pistols so they could take them home. They gave them anything they had that was of interest to them.

While I was sitting in my jeep, an Aircorp Captain came up and shook my hand and thanked me for being a part of the Liberation. He said the only thing that would make this a perfect day would be to have a bottle of Coke to drink. I told him "Captain, this is your lucky day cause I have here a package from home that contains a bottle of Coke." My folks sent me two bottles of Coke every week while I was overseas. I opened it and he drank it very slowly. He looked on the bottom and it read Wooster, Ohio. He told me he was from Barberton, just 30 miles from Wooster. So I told him I wanted him to take the Coke bottle back home with him and when he had a chance to take it to the Coke factory in Wooster and tell them where he had gotten it. He did this and for a long time they had it on display along with a picture of the Captain.

They took all the trucks they could find and used them to haul the POW's to the airport. One morning when we were lined up, a British officer saw all the trucks and said "the bloody Americans are fighting the bluming war with loories."

You don't know how precious your freedom is until you don't have it any more. The former POW's help me appreciate the fact that freedom isn't free. This was a great day for the 14th Armored Division and the former POW's.



The Liberation of Stalag VIIA

by Milton J. Long


Originaly published in the April 2005 issue U.S. Legacies Magazine
Thursday 06 January 2005
06 Jan 2005 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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After landing in Normandy, I saw men die in brutal ways. Some were instantly killed by mortar blasts. Others were shot. Some lingered for a last few moments of life before slipping away. One killed himself with morphine that was left untended.

After Landing in Normandy
The Don McKee Story



By Christopher Gosier






This photo of Don McKee was taken at a veterans' cemetery in the mid 1990s, while delivering a speech during the dedication of a memorial plaza in Frederick County, MD.




The men died in various brutal ways. Some were instantly killed by mortar blasts. Others were shot. Some lingered for a last few moments of life before slipping away. One killed himself with morphine that was left untended a mistake that might have brought a serious reprimand in a place less filled with random, ubiquitous death.


Don McKee left the University of Michigan for this French farmland where the dead were carried off by day and the living slept at night in shallow pits that they dug like graves. He bandaged the wounded and sometimes retrieved them from the wide-open fields where they lay punctured by enemy bullets. He would walk carefully into the fields, an unarmed medic, hoping the enemy soldiers on the other side would decide to heed the rules of war and hold their fire. Sometimes they didn’t.
Thursday 12 March 2020
12 Mar 2020 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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Wartime Memories: Operation Varsity
Wartime Memories: Operation Varsity

U.S. Legacies: October 2004

I was a POW January 6, thru April 29, 1945. There was a lot we missed out on in those days as POW's. We were on a 95 mile forced march in 1945 between Nurenburg and Moosburg.

What do you know about Operation Varsity or are there any others that flew two missions on March 24, 1945? I read a lot of my 91st BG and other BG's history of WWII era from my library books of time. It is most interesting. But being a POW at that time missed out on some adventures.

I am always looking for the largest group of aircraft in a one day mission outside of D-Day landing and "Operation Cobra" July 19 to 21, 1944, of 3,000 planes. I had the impression Christmas Eve, December 24, 1944, 2045 Bombers and 800 fighter was my greatest day. But I was wrong. There was a greater number of 8th Air Force and British aircraft in the air on March 24, 1945.

We acquired this book at our monthly Dayton Chapter POW Meeting. One of our (non-joiner) members died and his widow wanted to give his books to someone worthy. My Chapter Commander was Infantry and he gave this one to me. While reading this book, (B-17's Over Berlin) by Ian Hawkins, it is composed of "Personal Stories from the men of 95th BG (H)."

After reading the book, being more curious than before, I went to my 91st BG buddie Marion Havelaar's Book "The Ragged Irregulars of Bassingbourn." In it Marion says on page 186, March 24, 1945, marked "Varsity" which was the airborne drop of American and British units across the Rhine River. Two missions were flown by my 91st BG in support of the operation. On the first mission the full group attacked the airfield at Vechta visually. Results were good and there was no flak in the target area.

The second mission of the day saw one squadron bomb the airfield at Twente/Enscheden. Once more bombing was done visually with excellent results.

Quoted From The Book:
“The story from this book I will quote called, "Operation Varsity" was listed by name Ellis B. Scripture Group and Air Division Navigator. Mr. Scripture fortunately was able to fly lead navigator for the 95th BG on each of the BG 100th mission, 200th mission and 300th mission. With the 300th mission scheduled to fly a diversionary mission on March 21, 1945 to Handorf, Germany which did not promise much.”

The mission for March 24, 1945, Scripture ask General Earle Partridge Third Air Division commander for permission to fly as navigator in the B-17 that would lead the paratroopers across the Rhine River to their dropping zones. Permission was granted. On March 24, 1945 he says we met the stream of C-47 Dakota troop carrying aircraft North of Paris and headed for the drop zone. They were to lead them across the Rhine River at 1000 hours, at 500 feet altitude, air speed at 120 knots, arriving at the assigned target, on time, at 500 feet.

The weather was a beautiful Spring morning and as we led them to the middle of the Rhine River then flew back across the river three miles away to watch the stream of planes as they came through. First were the paratroops, then the gliders towed by Stirling bombers and C-47's. The scene was awesome knowing we were pouring tens of thousands of troops across the final barrier to the Fatherland the beginning of the end to Hitler's, Germany.

The records reveal that the stream of Allied aircraft on that memorable day consisted of 1,696 transport planes, 1,348 gliders, and 889 fighters for escort purposes. An additional 2,153 combat airplanes participated in this operation, silencing and suppressing the German defenses in the drop zones. In addition to these, another 2,596 heavy bombers and 821 medium bombers were attacking strategic targets in Germany. A total of 9,503 aircraft graphically demonstrated the truly overwhelming superiority of Allied air power at that stage of the war.

Our 95th BG B-17 circled for two hours at low altitude while we took photographs and watched the action. It was a stunning and amazing sight to see the great number of aircraft assigned to this one operation.

One thing stands out in memory of this day. We took photo's of several C-47's crashing soon after they'd recrossed the Rhine and headed back to friendly territory. We counted eighteen C-47's that turned after dropping their paratroopers, crossed the river and a few seconds later literally explode in mid-air. At that low altitude of course, the pilots had no chance of bailing out.

These extraordinary incidents were photographed and discussed when we got back to our base in England but we never did file a formal mission report.



Operation Varsity

By Marion Hoffman
 None
12 Mar 2020 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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U.S.
U.S. Legacies: October 2004

Union City, Pennsylvania, Yankees at Fredericksburg

Just like any small town cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery in Union City, Pennsylvania, has its share of Civil War veterans. Although it doesn't actually have a section labeled "Fredericksburg Casualties," Evergreen Cemetery should have such a section because so many soldiers from the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry who fell in front of the stone wall at Fredericksburg rest there. In fact, the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which is referred to in accounts of Fredericksburg as the "Pennsylvania regiment," was nearly decimated at Fredericksburg. Only a fragment of it remained when the battle was over.

The 145th was recruited in Erie, Warren, Crawford, and Mercer Countries in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Families from such Erie County towns as Waterford, Wattsburg, Union City, and Corry, had stone walls running across their farms and fields similar to the one at Fredericksburg. Their sons would never see those stone walls again, because General Ambrose Burnside had decided that they would hold a stone wall at Fredericksburg. Company B of the 145th is represented in part by privates John L. Osborn, Henry Putnam, and Charles Sherman. All died at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. Private Edmund B. Williams was wounded in the left leg at Fredericksburg and discharged from the army on a surgeon's certificate on October 17, 1863.

Company C members included Corporal Samuel Northrop, and Privates John C. Strong and Byron E. Pierce. They were all mustered in on August 26, 1862, and all died at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.

Company B, mustered in on August 27, 1862, is represented in Evergreen Cemetery by First Lieutenant John H. Hubbard. He was wounded at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, and died of his wounds at Falmouth, Virginia in December 1862. Second Lieutenant Charles H. Riblet was killed at Fredericksburg on that fatal December 13th. Sergeant Henry Skinner died on December 15, 1862, of wounds received at Fredericksburg and Private Henry Whitney died on January 11, 1863 of wounds received at Fredericksburg. Privates Henry Shoemaker, Calvin Pier, Frank G. Lewis, and Russell L. Bliss were killed at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. Corporals James Buchanan and Sidney Austin fell near the stone wall on December 13th.

Many members of Company E of the 145th Pennsylvania lie in Evergreen. Second Lieutenant Charles S. Carroll's family had been among the first settlers in Erie County and so had the ancestors of Corporal Frederick W. Barnes, Sergeant Frank Sherwood, Private David D. King, Private George W. Sherwood and First Sergeant Simeon Putnam. They died together at Fredericksburg on December 13th and they sleep together in Evergreen. Privates Josiah Churchill, Nathan Dine, Edward Arrow, Christopher Hess, Cyrus Hatch, Riley Hoyt, James Wellman, Albert Woodin and John Lasure all died at Fredericksburg and most rest in Evergreen.

Private Norman W. Bartlett of Company E was wounded at Fredericksburg, and so was Private Melville Clark. Private John Mitchell and Private Frank B. Harris were both wounded at Fredericksburg. Private Harris suffered a gunshot wound in the head and left shoulder. When he died in 1925, his comrades from the Grand Army of the Republic laid him to rest with military honors in Evergreen Cemetery. Private Melville Clark is also buried in Evergreen. Private Harvey Lyons suffered a gunshot wound in the left ankle at Fredericksburg and Private Alonzo C. Patch died January 12, 1863, of wounds received at Fredericksburg. Company E of the 145th contributed many men to the Union casualties at Fredericksburg.

These are just a portion of the men from the 145th who fought and died at Fredericksburg. These Pennsylvanians had responded to the urgent command of General Ambrose Burnside and the urgent need of their country. The 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was recruited in Northwestern Pennsylvania and organized on September 5, 1862. Its field officers were Colonel Hiram L. Brown of Erie, Lt. Colonel David B. McCreary of Erie, and Major John W. Patton of Crawford County. Colonel Hiram Brown had already received a severe wound at the Battle of Gaine's Mill and wasn't fully recovered from it when he was selected to lead the 145th.
12 Mar 2020 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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I was assistant communications officer of a non-divisional heavy artillery group (the 52nd), which was pretty much permanently garrisoned on Artillery Hill in Pleiku. As such, I had the time for, and was frequently assigned, a variety of extra duties.
Picture: A Marine keeps a battery pack dry as he wades through a muddy hole while on a search mission in Vietnam. Photograph courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.

Wartime Memories: Surveying the Field

U.S. Legacies: November 2004

I was assistant communications officer of a non-divisional heavy artillery group (the 52nd), which was pretty much permanently garrisoned on Artillery Hill in Pleiku. As such, I had the time for, and was frequently assigned, a variety of extra duties.

One time-consuming and paperwork-intensive task was that of survey officer. That is, I would be assigned to investigate the loss of, or serious damage to, government property. In the resulting report of survey, I would determine whether gross negligence had been involved. If so, I would recommend to the Commander that the person or persons involved be held pecuniarily liable, the cost of the lost or damaged property to be deducted from their pay.

This is normally a rare occurrence in a combat or combat support unit during a war. If a unit were rocketed or, better yet - from this viewpoint - overrun, everything the parent organization had lost, mislaid, ruined or traded to another unit since the last enemy attack would have some how magically been present at that precise time and place, allowing it to be wiped off the unit records as a combat loss. Nevertheless, surveys were called for from time to time.

At my previous unit, for example, I had been assigned to do a Report of Survey on an M-16 rifle lost by one of our Forward Observers (FO - someone who accompanies an infantry or other combat unit to call in supporting artillery fire). This was sheer vindictiveness on the part of the Battalion Commander, as the fellow was out with a 173rd Airborne Brigade unit when he lost his weapon, and the incident could easily have been overlooked. But I'd heard rumors that the lieutenant concerned had run afoul of the Battalion staff soon after arriving in country and as a result had been kept on (dangerous) FO duties during his entire assignment rather than for the normal six months.

The very fact that the infantry unit the guy had been with wouldn't certify that his weapon had been lost in combat told me something about him, and left me no choice but to find him grossly negligent and thus, pecuniarily liable.

Later, I was assigned to do the required Report of Survey when the 52nd Group Commander's driver wrecked the CO's jeep. This hot potato involved a kid who was extremely popular around the headquarters but who had wrecked his jeep while, as far as I could tell, drag racing. The diplomatic way in which I handled it convinced the Group XO (Executive Officer) that I was just the man to handle another potentially embarrassing situation when it arose. At the beginning I had no idea just how complicated and ultimately dangerous the investigation would be!

The background was this: Almost two years before, a decision had been made at the Corps (IFFV - First Field Forces Vietnam) level to establish an artillery headquarters at Buon Me Thout in support of operations along the Cambodian border. The 52nd Group's XO and a number of other senior officers and NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) from Pleiku were sent south to establish a Provisional Group.

Later, this organization was made permanent and the people who had gone down to Buon Me Thout were reassigned. They had taken all the equipment (mostly communications gear, generators, etc., valued at about $900,000) with them needed to establish a forward Tactical Operations Center (TOC). The equipment came from the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 52nd Group and thus technically belonged to the HHB's commander, a captain. A hand receipt had allegedly been signed by the senior NCO involved, a sergeant major.

As time passed, everyone involved had rotated. A new HHB commander had assumed command, accepting the hand receipt as evidence that the equipment for which he was signing was accounted for. Then he suddenly developed a serious illness and was medevaced out of country to Japan. His replacement refused to sign for the unit without a sight inventory of all the border. The cleared area was no more than 40 by 100 yards, with two 105mm howitzers and about 20 US troops. Around the perimeter on the downward slope, 80 or so Vietnamese troops were precariously dug in.

The place was overrun the following week: afterwards, B-52s bombed it in an effort to destroy the captured equipment. This event brought to an end the ill-fated notion that artillery could somehow be a combat arm on its own without the grunts. Back in Pleiku, we heard that some of the troops had E&E'd (escaped and evaded) their way through the jungle to safety. (Ten years later I happened to run into one of the officers I had met there, who confirmed this.)

After a little more of this, I gave up and returned to Pleiku. On one hand, my rotation date was nearing and I had no idea how to resolve the situation. On the other hand, no one was asking me about the survey, either.

Finally, I typed up a Report of Survey which concluded, naming each individually, that all of the senior officers and NCO's and the two previous HHB commanders involved had been negligent (but not grossly so) in failing to maintain proper accountability for the equipment.

My bottom line though, was that the equipment was almost certainly still in government service and should be written off the Group's books. As my ride to the airport for the trip to Cam Ranh Bay waited, I placed the signed report in the XO's in-box. Then I left for home.

Viet Nam

Surveying the Field

By Charles J. Jefferson © (1997)
Wednesday 11 March 2020
11 Mar 2020 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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The soldier in this story can honestly say that he only enjoyed two meals during the 2½ years of his military service and they were both on Christmas day.
Wartime Memories: Military Christmas

U.S. Legacies: December 2004

George Bernard Shaw wrote, "There is no sincerer love than the love of food," so chances are that he had never served in the British army.

The soldier in this story can honestly say that he only enjoyed two meals during the 2½ years of his military service and they were both on Christmas day. The celebration at Moascar, Egypt was the most memorable, because of the relaxed atmosphere and warm weather. If everyday in the army was like Christmas in Egypt, there would be long lines of men attempting to enlist and they wouldn't have to bother non-believers like our hero.

In 1948 the men of the 139 Static Bakery unit assembled in the cookhouse where they anxiously awaited a meal delivered to them by officers, which was the tradition in the British army for generations. Prior to the meal officers placed Stella beer bottles on the tables in front of every soldier and when no one was looking four of them transferred the bottles onto the floor beneath the table. Within seconds the efficient officers replaced them and as soon as they turned their backs, the second four went underneath also. This could have probably continued all afternoon, except that there was no more room for bottles under the table and they had to be satisfied with 28 plus the 4 on the table. The meal consisting of turkey with the trimmings was absolutely delicious and fit for a king. Being waited on by officers in addition to the generous amount of Stella completed the perfect day.

After dinner they carried the bottles to the tent in relays and on the last lap they noticed the Old Man and CSM Akins chewing the fat outside the cookhouse, where they had been slaving away. The men completed the transfer of bottles and decided to go back and chat with the Old Man who they greatly admired. Normally it would be considered a no-no for a private to talk to an officer before being spoken to, but they felt differently about the Old Man and were comfortable approaching him on Christmas day.

Their feelings were not misplaced; the Old Man and the CSM greeted them cordially and to put things into prospective, it appeared that their superiors had been dipping into the Stella while conducting their duty as waiters and not wishing to hold these transgressions against them, the soldiers invited them to their tent for more drink. Somebody swung the lamp and everyone sat around for about 20 minutes on the beds with a bottle in their hands shooting the bull. Finally, the Old Man announced that it was time for him to have his own dinner and the two gentlemen shook hands with everyone and departed.

Fifty-six years later, Billy tried to express his feelings about that afternoon in the tent on Christmas day 1948 and every time he thought of things to say, tears came to his eyes and he had to move on. However, he was then compelled to go back and ponder the reason for his emotions about a meeting, which he normally would have avoided like the plague.

Could it have anything to do with the fact that although the Old Man never actually let his hair down, so to speak, he also never exhibited the swaggering arrogance, affectation, pomposity and self-importance prevalent with younger officers at the time?

Or could it have been something to do with the aura of serenity and humility about the Old Man, which was unusual in the army and particularly in a person of authority? The Old Man also reminded the soldier of his father, who was an RSM during the war and had a similar disposition. Another comparison was the Commanding Officer who read Rudyard Kipling's poem in the movie Gunga Din.

Terrible things happened on the New Years Eve when Billy and his friend Pat Hughes went for a drink at an establishment in the garrison. They entered a large bar room where soldiers were making merry and passing out all over the place. To avoid stepping over drunken bodies lying in the beer suds covering the floor, the two men went into a smaller sergeants bar in the belief that they wouldn't be questioned in civilian clothes on New Year's Eve. They drank with an amiable sergeant whose company provided a certain amount of credibility that they belonged there and the bartender was too busy to pay any attention.

For reasons Billy will never know he decided to drink Martells Three Star Brandy and before he knew what hit him, he was as drunk as a skunk. Apparently the sergeant suggested taking him to his tent, which was nearby and they half carried and half dragged him over the sand. Arriving at the tent the sergeant gave Pat some money to return to the bar and buy a bottle of whiskey.

The next thing Billy remembered was the sergeant taking out a pair of ladies panties from a cupboard drawer and insisted that he put them on. The seducer was so aggressive that the drunken soldier miraculously sprang back to life, knocking the amorous one out of the tent and proceeded to strangle him on the ground outside.

While the sweet sergeant was screaming for his life as loud as he could with the limited amount of available air, Pat returned and attempted to pull his friend off the sergeant. Within minutes the military police arrived, arrested Pat who they thought was also attacking the sergeant and began to beat Billy on the head with a large torch. Apparently there was an immediate concern for the sergeant's safety, whose demeanor suggested an aversion to the activity.

In short, the bugger was having the life throttled out of him! Fortunately, or unfortunately, the sergeant survived and the two soldiers were literally and unceremoniously thrown in the local guardhouse. Within a half hour of being in the cell a CSM entered, ordered Billy to stand up and proceeded to beat the living daylights out of him. Fortunately he passed out and didn't feel most of the punishment.

The following morning he could hardly see out of both eyes because of the swelling on his face and running his fingers over the lumpy pulp, he realized that he could easily be mistaken for Freddy Mills the boxer after one of his losses. A prisoner in another cell informed him that he saw the brutal one beat him up the night before and gave him the attackers name. He also agreed to be a witness if Billy decided to bring charges against the unpleasant CSM. Later the sergeant in charge of the guardhouse, but absent the night before, indicated his strong disapproval of the beating, which didn't help, but was a little comforting under the circumstances.

By mid morning the two soldiers were marched in front of a Major, the camp's OC, who informed them that the offending sergeant's peccadilloes were known to them and in the OC's exact words, "We have been keeping an eye on him for a while." The Major then went on to say that the sergeant would be shipped back to England and they were free to go.

Our hero wanted a redress in the worst way and although he felt he had enough evidence to prove an unprovoked attack by the CSM, he was concerned that if he brought charges he would also face similar ones involving the sergeant, because the two cases were entwined. He also realized that the only thing to be gained was satisfaction and it wasn't worth the risk, considering he was so close to being de-mobbed.

Also the surprise and pleasure of being able to walk away from this latest misadventure overshadowed everything else and it was time to close the book. What he was tempted to tell the Major he really wanted, was another round in the cell with the bully after he had rested, but he knew it would never happen, so he bit his tongue adding to his discomfort!

In April of 1949, Billy departed Egypt with a kitbag full of cigarettes in cans, which was given to him by a corporal who dispensed cigarettes from the Nuffield fund, which was established for troops serving overseas. During and after the war troops received 50 free cigarettes and were offered an additional 50 at half price every week. At the exact time Billy was going home the Nuffield fund in Egypt closed down and he was fortunate to enjoy a share of the remaining inventory in storage.

Before leaving for Blighty, the Old Man invited Billy into his office to discuss his aspirations for Civvy Street. The Major then wrote a glowing reference, which the soldier will always cherish. - More watery eyes!

In the twilight of his years, Billy considered how wonderful it would be if he could send the Old Man a thank you letter now! It wasn't difficult for him to visualize the Old Man with his white hair and mustache sitting in his wicker chair in the tent surrounded by small palm trees and fruit bushes in the big desert in the sky.

"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance.

They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom,

and make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.

Some people stay in our lives awhile, leave footprints on our hearts and we are never,

ever the same.

—— Flavia Weedn.



Copyright: Bill Hawksford. @

A Memorable Military Christmas
By Bill Hawksford

Christmas 1952 at HQ 148 Field Bakery Coy., Fayid, Egypt.

The Christmas tree was manufactured from a desert bush
Photograph submitted by L/ Cpl. Denis Aston.
(seen on the extreme right)

Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling:

So I'll meet 'im later on
In the place where `e is gone——

Where it's always double drill and no canteen
E'll be squattin' on the coals,

Givin' drink to pore damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din.

Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!

Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' gaud that made you,

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
Rudyard Kipling.



Billy with Pat Hughes,
Moascar, October 11, 1948.
Saturday 07 December 2019
07 Dec 2019 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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my sister, Mickey McNulty still remembers the news broadcast blaring from the radio on that fateful Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941. It was two pm in the small Brooklyn apartment but only 8 am at Pear Harbor, Hawaii.
Wartime Memories: Pearl Harbor Remembered

Originally Published by U.S. Legacies: April 2005

Image of Mickey McNulty age 4

Although only three years old at the time, my sister, Mickey McNulty still remembers the news broadcast blaring from the radio on that fateful Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941. It was two pm in the small Brooklyn apartment but only 8 am at Pear Harbor, Hawaii.

"We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important bulletin from the United Press," the newsman said.

"Flash! Washington! The White House announces Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."
Thursday 05 March 2015
05 Mar 2015 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
disabledvet1c.jpg
As my father was driving down the highway, he passed a soldier in uniform hitchhiking home to his family. Deep in grief, my father had no inclination at that moment to do a good deed. Yet it was almost as if something outside himself pulled him to a stop,
Wartime Memories: The Stranger
By Chaplain Robinson


U.S. Legacies: March 2005

In 1949, my father had just returned home from the war. On every American highway you could see soldiers in uniform hitchhiking home to their families, as was the custom at that time in America. Sadly, the thrill of his reunion with his family was soon overshadowed. My grandmother became very ill and had to be hospitalized. It was her kidneys, and the doctors told my father that she needed a blood transfusion immediately or she would not live through the night.
Thursday 07 April 2005
07 Apr 2005 Posted by RAW Comments: 0 Views: 
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It was the winter of his discontent. On the first weekend he couldn't wait to get away from the camp and decided to investigate the town. He had no appreciation for the old magnificent architecture and was totally unimpressed with his new surroundings. To

Excused Boots


By Bill Hawksford


U.S. Legacies: April 2005

Out of genuine respect for the hardworking friendly, warm people of Yorkshire, Billy sincerely hopes that his observations of Halifax will not be offensive.

The Halifax RASC camp was located at Ovenden Park which was a few miles north of the town. In 1947, the scene was like a really old black and white movie, completely devoid of color. (The scene at the Halifax RASC camp in 1947, which was located at Ovenden Park a few miles north of the town, was like a really old black and white movie, completely devoid of colour.) The soot from the nearby industry blanketed the whole area, and everything including the hills overlooking the camp and the grass in the park, were the same muddy gray color. The dark stonewalls separating the fields contributed to the stark scene, and the dampness from the fine misty drizzle penetrated his bones.
Tuesday 07 December 2004
07 Dec 2004 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
west_dec04_1x_.jpg
The end for him was near, he could sense it. It was December 1944, in Neiderbroon, France, a time that would later be named the Battle of the Bulge.
Photo of KARL M. WEST, PVT 253 INF 63 DIV
Published by U.S. Legacies Dec 04



Wartime Memories: A Life Cut Short
The Story of Karl Marion West
Written by Leslie Nelson based on interviews with his sister, Hazel, and his own letters to his wife



The winter wind was biting but the soldier did not notice the cold. The pain all that his mind could focus on. The end for him was near, he could sense it. It was December 1944, in Neiderbroon, France, a time that would later be named the Battle of the Bulge. Some 80,000 soldiers lost their lives here. Karl Marion West was one of them.

As he lay there in the snow, his clothes wet and his body rendered immobile by the pain, his eyes tightly closed, his nostrils assaulted by the smell of death. Fear threatened to overcome him, and he struggled to keep control. His years of boxing had taught him to steel himself against the pain, to think in spite of it and yet the pain in the ring was never like this. Then like waking from a nightmare, the pain, the sounds, and the stench stopped.
Thursday 12 August 2004
12 Aug 2004 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
Purple_Heart_1c.jpg
Dad only fought in those steamy jungles in that exotic land for about three months before he was shot in the left hand by a .25 caliber Japanese bullet.
Wartime Memories: My Daddy's Heart

Three years after my daddy died, he was issued one of the most prestigious honors a soldier can receive, the Purple Heart. During World War II, my father, Dalton F. Williams, began his military enlistment in a Cavalry unit, but was transferred to the 475th Infantry when the need arose. In the fall of 1944, he was shipped to the Asiatic-Pacific where his company joined forces in Burma with a group of men known as Merrill's Marauders. The new brigade-sized unit was renamed the Mars Task Force.
Wednesday 23 June 2004
23 Jun 2004 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
Woody2a.jpg
During WWII, I couldn't stop the tears when I saw my ship disappear under the water, but just then I felt the shark bump against me. I reached out a hand and tried to push him away.
Wartime Memories: My Island Tour
by E.C.Woodward

Published by U.S. Legacies June 2004

I joined the navy while still in high school in Minnesota. It seemed to me they took too long to call me up so I signed up again. This came back to haunt me later. I was sent to boot camp in Idaho. When I finished there, I was sent to CA to San Pedro to work on the USS Callaghan. She was commissioned on Nov 27, 1943, and attached to the Pacific fleet. We sailed to Hawaii for our shake down cruise.
Sunday 04 April 2004
04 Apr 2004 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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At Pearl Harbor, all the ships that had been hit _ well, not all of them, but so many had been hit and were on fire and everything, and here we were in this little canoe all in the middle of this.
Wartime Memories: Living on Borrowed Time

Photo: USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes during the second Japanese attack wave.


Interview with Bunny Wayne Chambers About his World War II experiences
Born April 24, 1915 De Leon, Texas
Conversation exactly as told by Bunny Wayne Chambers to Rusty Macon Weber on October 19, 2003


Now let me ask you this. There's a lot of side things, should I tell all of those? There are a lot of side things that are unusual, and nobody else had one exactly like I had.

At the, well, I probably need to tell that, because to me, that's the most important thing that happened to me because I was teaching school.

I had started my fifth year of teaching, and my brother and a cousin came to where I was teaching on the 14th of September 1940 and wanted me to go with them to Dallas and join the Navy Reserves.

Now the reason why, and I'm telling you this, is that all three of us had signed our draft papers and had our physicals, and we were eligible for the Army draft.

None of us were married, so they came and wanted me to go with them on Saturday the 15th to join up. They had a hard time convincing me, but I gave in, and the next morning we went and signed up.

And the last thing the commander asked if anybody had any questions and I said, "I do."
I asked, "Do you think they will call me into the service anytime in the near future?"
And the commander said, "No. Go back to your teaching and forget about it."
I went back, and one month to the day I got my orders.
Now, they got theirs fifteen months later.

But, I got mine one month, and then they, now this is what I'm wondering.
I went to school, and I went to school aboard the Battleship New York at Norfolk, Virginia, then I went to school aboard the Battleship Illinois at New York.
I think all of that need not even be there, but I was commissioned an Ensign the sixth of June in nineteen hundred and forty one.

Now, my life was a mess from beginning to the end. Another boy and I, we had met and we were always together, and when I was commissioned, he and I were sent aboard a Navy transport called the Haywood. It was in San Diego, and we were supposed to report the 1st day of July in 1941.

We went there and reported in to the commander at the base at eight o'clock, and he said, "Well boys, the Haywood is not in port." He says, "We don't know what has happened to it, and we don't know when it will be here, but you both report to my office every morning at eight o'clock until the ship comes in."

So we did every morning. The first morning, "He says no it's not here," the second morning, "No," the third, "No," the forth, "No." Then on the forth morning he says, "No, but the Navy has changed both of your orders." "Chambers he said, you are supposed to go aboard the destroyer Henley, and Joseph (Childs), you are to go aboard the destroyer Jarvis, and both ships are in Pearl Harbor _ now I'm just asking this, this probably needs to go in there. He says, "I'll put you both on a transport and send you to Pearl Harbor."

And we reported in on the 15th of July of nineteen and forty-one. We reported, and that's when I reported aboard the Henley, and then I was there, of course I was _ now the important thing is about my brother. He was called fifteen months after I got mine, and I had a cousin by the name of M. T., and they came there where I was and wanted me to sign up.

On December 1st, nineteen forty-one, I had a letter from my brother saying that he had finally been called into the Navy and he says there putting me in Naval Intelligence, He says, I'm being put on one floor of the Alexander Young, our offices are on one floor of the Alexander Young building in downtown Honolulu.

He says, now I'll be there sometime the first week of December nineteen forty _ one. And he says, When you come into port on Saturday, come down and we'll have the weekend together.

We came in at eight o'clock that morning, and at twelve o'clock, I went down and met my brother. We had a wonderful day _ twelve hours. He wanted me to go and spend the night with him, and I told him, no, I'll go back to my ship and I'd see him the next morning at nine o'clock.

Then the next morning at nine o'clock _ now, this is an interesting thing that happened. The next morning at twenty minutes before eight o'clock, general alarm sounded inside my ship. I dressed immediately, and my job was in the engine room. Just as I walked out of the room, the quartermaster of the days duty came running through the ship saying "I made a mistake. I should have pressed the button to call the officer, but I pushed the button that sounded the general alarm."

Now this happened just before eight o'clock, so I turned around and went to my room and went to bed. Just as I was lying down, the general alarm went off the second time.

You know what I did, I said, "That sucker's done the same thing again. I'm going to get that sleep." But no more than that thought ran through my mind than that same quartermaster came running through the ship saying Japanese were attacking Pearl Harbor.

That was December seventh nineteen forty one

To me, that was one of the most unusual things that happened the whole thing. And let me tell you this. Now there's not but, every weekend at noon, seventy five percent of the crew was given weekend liberty. Of course that meant that that morning there was only twenty five percent of the crew. Most every officer was ashore except the one's that had the duty.

I remember the guys name, it was Lt. Flack, and when he, that morning when that sounded, he went to the bridge and I went to the engine room, and he called me and says, "Fire up the boiler, we're going to get out of Pearl Harbor."

We did, we fired `em up, and we got underway in twenty minutes. Now that's unusual.

We got under way _ we didn't take down and disconnect, we just jerked trough from our anchor and headed for that - We had been under way for one minute until they announced over the spout _ now me, all my experiences, I don't get to see anything, you know, cause where I am, I'm down in the engine room. But they called me, and when we got underway and told me bout this, and so that destroyer dropped his bombs, all of them missed, and we got by that, and then we started on to go out of the harbor.

And one minute later, they spotted one of those little two men submarines. I don't know if you remember about those, there were many of those in the harbor, and they spotted one of those and we dropped our depth charges on it _ I don't know if we sunk it, but when we did, we left and went out of the port.

Oh, I didn't tell you. Do you know how many days it was before any orders were issued to any ship? It was Wednesday at noon before any orders _ I'm just putting that in right now.

Sunday to Wednesday, no orders.

Now we got out of port and we said, "Well where we going?" so we decided we were going to go to Waikiki Beach down at Honolulu _ the famous beach. And we did, and we steamed backwards and forwards, and we did that until just before noon, and we saw two men signaling us from the beach, and we said, "Who are those men?"

And finally they recognized them and they was our Captain and Executive Officer. It was that long before they were notified. You see, they owned their homes, and it was four hours before they ever knew that Pearl Harbor had happened.

But they had gone to Pearl Harbor to get the ship and they told them that it was down at Waikiki Beach. And they came onboard, so that was one of the best things that happened to us. We steamed back and forth, and at five o'clock that afternoon, we went back into Pearl Harbor, and picked up the rest of the crew.

Now this was an experience. So we picked `em up, and now we got all our crew and everybody. Now that's still on the seventh, and it's, oh, about six o'clock that afternoon. The Captain called me and says, I have already talked with the keeper of the stores, ship's stores, and the head of the galley, and I want you to take them and go to the ship's store and get all of the supplies we need.

Of course he knew we'd be leaving. So we did. We left and got them and came back, and when we got to where the ship was, the ship wasn't there. So we asked the ship right by and he said when they saw one of those little two men subs, they left and went to sea.

Well, there we were loaded with all those stores, and this whole mess in Pearl Harbor. And we said, "What are we going to do with them?" So, somebody said, "Let's just find a ship."

Now, I'm going to tell you this, now that was the most hardest things, cause after all of this uprising, and all the ships that had been hit _ well, not all of them, but so many had been hit and were on fire and everything, and here we were in this little canoe all in the middle of this, but you know, we never got a scratch.

So we took the supplies, and we said we're going to give them to somebody. The first ship we stopped at, there were three carriers that came in, and the first carrier we stopped at, they said they'd be glad to take them, so they took them.

Then we said, "Now where are we going to go?" Well, we went to ships landing. What ships landing is, when any ship comes into Pearl, they go to ships landing and get transportation throughout the whole island.

Well, we tied up, and that's where we spent that night. We did that, and our ship _ now we had a loud speaker that gave us good information, and about ten o'clock, it told us that our ship had returned. We went back and got on board, and for us, everything was just smooth, and we got our orders to go to San Francisco and then back to the war again. Now is that too much? That covered two days.

I went in the fifteenth of July in nineteen and forth-one, and I got home the twentieth of December nineteenth forth-five, and I got one ten day leave in that whole time. I was at sea all that time, other than that ten days.

Now I changed from the destroyer to a battleship to a heavy cruiser. Two of them I went back to the States, one of them I went to Pungent Sound, and the other one I went to New York, but just as soon as we got there, I went to a new ship and we went back to sea.

The destroyer was the Henley, the battleship was the Tennessee. Now there's a story behind that.

The Tennessee was one of the ships that was heavily damaged at Pearl Harbor. Right after that, they took it to Pungent Sound, in Seattle, and one year later they had repaired it, and improved it, and I was sent to there, and got on it, and we left and took it on its trial run and took it up to Alaska, and on over to Russia, and then got orders to go from there to the South Pacific and re-take all the islands that the Japanese had settled on in the Pacific.

Now that was our duty on - oh, I forgot to tell you that on the destroyer we went to Guadalcanal _ that's the first island we went to after we left Pearl Harbor that day, and ah, that was south of the Philippines and just west of Australia. It was a strategic island because it put us in such a position that it gave us a good place to work, but it was one of the most difficult things that happened because being so close to the Philippines, every day we were attacked by Japanese bombers from the Philippines. We were at that island for one year, but finally succeeded, and everything got by.

While we were there, the first thing that happened was the Blue _ now the four destroyers were the Blue, the Henley, the Helm and the Jarvis. We were the four that always worked together as a group. And our first order after Pearl Harbor was to go there and help when the Marines landed at Guadalcanal, we was to be there and the squadron was to remain there just to be a guard there just for the Marine base there. And that was our job there. Course, the whole channel there was covered in ships, and battleships were in and out, but we stayed there.

Now, our first casualty was the Blue. The Blue and the Henley, the one I was on, was sent to go to sea because a transport from the United States that was coming to this island bringing supplies and we were to meet it to escort it in, and just as we got to the straits a torpedo hit the Blue in the stern and just blew the stern off, and of course, it was out of commission, but fortunately, only nine men lost their lives.

But, it happened at three o'clock in the morning, and of course, the admiral came in and told us, our ship, to stay with the Blue til sunup. But he told the supply ship, "I think you can make it on to where the Marines are. You go ahead." And they did, and they made it. And we stayed until sunup, and then the admiral told us, take all the men aboard your ship, then you tow the Blue to the open sea and fire a torpedo at the Blue and sink it. He did this for fear that the Japanese might capture the ship.

Now the Japanese were pretty much in control of the Pacific at that time. So we took the men and towed the ship to the open sea and fired the torpedo. And we took the survivors to a little island just west of Australia and came back. That was the first destroyer.

The second, we got word that there were forty twin motored _ looked like our B 17 _ Japanese planes _ they noticed that there were forty of them coming to Guadalcanal to be ready for them. And they came and attacked, and in the attack that morning, the Jarvis was hit. It was hit in the bow of the ship, but it could still make ten knots. But its effectiveness was all gone.

The Captain of the Jarvis requested of the admiral to let him take it to the same island. But he said it was too dangerous, and I will not give you permission. Now this will tell you how a man acts. He kept asking, and on the forth day, he convinced the admiral to let him go. But the admiral told him. "All right, I'll give you permission, but you will be by yourself, no help, but you can go."

I'll never forget it when I watched it go around Guadalcanal. I was probably the last American to see that ship. But no one knew that though. Ten days, we never heard a word from that. And they assumed that it was sunk. And on the fourteenth day, they said it was sunk, but they didn't know from what. What sunk it.

Now this is a very interesting story. The closets friend that I had, this boy I was telling you about, he was on this ship, and of course I had visited his parents in Los Angeles before the war and everything and they got me to write a letter to his people, and I did, but they did not know where, but let me add you this _ jump to the end of the war, and they had us go through the Japanese logs to see if we could find out where the ship went down. And we did. We found out who, and it was planes from a carrier and where it went down. Now back then, of course the boy was killed, no survivors on this ship. The Navy did then after the war notify the family that they knew where their son went down.

That first year was one of the worst years I've guess I've had. Just let me quickly say, the next thing that happened to us was the Neosho and the Sims. We got from the admiral, it got hit by torpedoes.

The Neosho was a tanker, and the Sims was the destroyer escort. It got hit and sunk there at Guadalcanal, and our ship got orders to go to it and take all of the survivors aboard our ship. We did, and when we got there, the destroyer had gone down immediately. A few men from the destroyer, the Sims, made it to the tanker. And the tanker was listing. If it had listed three more degrees, it would have turned over and would have sunk, which would have been a tragedy for that area. But, we took the men, and we towed it out to sea and sunk it. That was the next thing.

Now while we were doing that though, they had the Coral Sea battle. So we missed the Coral Sea Battle, so I guess that's good.

From there, I got my orders to go aboard the Tennessee. I went on it in the month of December nineteen and forty-two, and I stayed on it one year, then I was transferred to the Quincey, which was a heavy cruiser, and I went aboard it one year later. That was in December of forty-three. And then I stayed on it until the end of the war.

And I was in Tokyo and at France. I was at France, we made both D-Day at Normandy, and then also after that, we took Roosevelt to the Crimean. Our ship took Roosevelt to the Crimean Conference if you knew about that.

That was when Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met at Yalta. And his daughter went. We picked up him and his daughter and took them to the Crimean Conference, but now, we never did get to see him. And do you know why? He was very ill. When we took him back, we got back in February, and he passed away in April.

After the conference was over and Roosevelt and his daughter returned to the ship, Stalin and Churchill came aboard our ship for about four hours.

I was assistant engineering officer on the destroyer, boiler room division on the battleship, and I was assistant engineer on the Quincy, then when I was promoted to Commander, then I went to head of the engineering department.

Now this is an interesting thing. On all of my ships, we only had two deaths.

One was on the battleship, we carried one plane and they had these catapults, and we were at Guadalcanal, no, we were at Tarawa, so when we took the island at Tarawa, they wanted him to go and guide us, and when they put the pilot in the plane on the catapult, and as they were turning around, somebody made a mistake, and the plane fell off and fell in the ocean, and you know, we never did find that pilot. We never did find that pilot.

That was the first one, and then the second one was in my department. We were in the South Pacific, and he got overheated in the engine room and he requested to go up to the main deck and no one went with him. I know what he did, he went by a water cooler and he glutted himself and passed out and died, and we buried him at sea. And that's the only two deaths that we had.

I told my brother that he should have paid the Navy. He was at Pearl Harbor and stayed there the whole time. I said, you should have paid them instead of them paying you. And my cousin that joined up at the same time, he never left the States. So here I was, the youngest of the three of us, and they drug me kicking and screaming, and I was the first one to be called up.

On my one ten day liberty, I married Charlotte Miller on the twelfth day of September nineteen and forty-four _ smack kadab in the middle of the war. She was a school teacher too. The first date I ever had in my life was with Charlotte Miller. I was sixteen, and she was thirteen. We never got to have much time together until after the war, but I thought about her all the time. I never told anyone this, but we never had one argument. We had fifty-three years together before she died.

Interview with Bunny Wayne Chambers
Born April 24, 1915 De Leon, Texas
About his World War II experiences
As told to Rusty Macon Weber on October 19, 2003

© Rusty Macon Weber
Wetumpka, Elmore County, Alabama
Conversation exactly as told by Bunny Wayne Chambers.

Photo: USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes during the second Japanese attack wave

Published by U.S. Legacies April 04
Wednesday 04 February 2004
04 Feb 2004 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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As I recall, it was a Sunday morning when I first got the news on the radio that there was an attack on Pearl Harbor _ I chose my own way to get into the army,
Wartime Memories: Some Of My Army Experiences

Spoken by Stephen Maiden
Transcribed by Melanie Williams


Steve was born in Ohio in 1913. He had three brothers. His mother was a school teacher and his father worked in the steel mines. Steve has lived all over the world, and has many experiences to share.

I was in Baltimore Maryland, and was working in the General office for the Baltimore Railroad. As I recall, it was a Sunday morning when I first got the news on the radio that there was an attack on Pearl Harbor _ I chose my own way to get into the army, and I chose something to do to with transportation since I had a little experience with it.
Wednesday 03 December 2003
03 Dec 2003 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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To Merrill's Marauders in Burma during World War II, he was known as a replacement soldier, a member of the "Mars Task Force." To me, he was just Daddy.

The Replacement Soldier: Pfc. Dalton F. Williams
By: Sandy Williams Driver


His Honorable Discharge states his military occupation as a Trooper (Expert: M-1 rifle). To Merrill's Marauders in Burma during World War II, he was known as a replacement soldier, a member of the "Mars Task Force." To me, he was just Daddy.

Dalton Franklin Williams was born in Dekalb County in Alabama on March 9, 1925 to Frank and Dartha Williams. The family owned a small farm and struggled daily with nature to provide food and clothing for their twelve children.
Tuesday 04 November 2003
04 Nov 2003 Posted by srEDITOR Comments: 0 Views: 
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Although the U.S. flag was flying above the island, the Japanese were far from relinquishing their territory. The battle continued for another 29 days.
Photo of Bill Simpson

Iwo Jima Remembered
By Stuart Simpson


On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, 23-year old J.W. "Bill" Simpson wasn't worried about much of anything. His mind was far from the growing world conflict that day as he sat in a car parked off Second Street in Monticello, KY, shooting the bull and drinking moonshine with one of his buddies. An announcement on the radio, however, quickly put all the small talk to rest. Word had just reached the states of Japan's military action. Our country would soon officially join in the war effort, and life for Simpson and hundreds of thousands of other young men and women was about to take a drastic turn.

Beginning on October 24, 1942, Simpson spent three years, six months and six days as a signalman with the amphibious troop transport the U.S.S. Thurston, (AP77). From his post above the bridge, he had an unparalleled view of many of his nation¹s bloodiest and most important battles during the war.

Taking part in the invasions of North Africa, Southern France, Sicily, Normandy, and the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Thurston and her crew earned seven Battle Stars. This is the story of Simpson's view of one of the most memorable moments of the war.

It was at 6 am on February 19, 1945 that the Thurston began landing operations at Iwo Jima. The invasion of the small Pacific island turned out to be one of the bloodiest and most remembered battles of World War II.

For the next eight days, until Feb. 27 when it got underway for Saipan, the ship and her crew took part in the invasion during the day and retired from the area during the night.

Resistance to the Allied troops was fierce. The nearly 22,000 Japanese defending the island were secured in bunkers, which provided strong resistance to the landing. For U.S. troops, advancing 30 or 40 yards on shore during a day was not uncommon.

The advancing soldiers also found that the sands of Iwo Jima were only a myth. The terrain on the volcanic island was all ash - nothing but ash.
"It was no trouble to dig a foxhole," one Marine said. "You could dig it with your hand."

It was on the third day of fighting that Simpson and many other Thurston crewmembers witnessed one of the most symbolic events of World War II, the raising of the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi.

Suribachi, the highest point on the small island, was near where the Marines had landed. The Thurston held its place just off shore. When the flag was raised and captured in the now-famous photograph, Simpson was at his post near the top of the ship watching. The flag, he says, was raised and lowered a couple of times, apparently for photographers at the ceremony. He later wrote home to his mother that the sight of seeing "our flag" flying atop Mt. Suribachi was one of the most thrilling sights he had ever seen. A sculpture of the flag raising was the basis for the famous sculpture now at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.

Although the U.S. flag was flying above the island, the Japanese were far from relinquishing their territory. The battle continued for another 29 days. In the end, it took the Marines 32 days to finally take control of their eight-square-mile objective. The cost of victory, however, was very heavy. The U.S. suffered 25,852 casualties and nearly 7,000 killed. Almost all of the nearly 22,000 Japanese defending the island were killed.

For the Thurston it was on to Saipan, Guam, Talagi, Espiritu and Ulithi before taking part in the final invasion of the war, Okinawa. The ship arrived at the island on April 9 and withstood a Japanese bomber attack for 17 hours. On April 14, the ship began its return to Saipan.

During the spring of 1945, the crew of the Thurston and the rest of the U.S. forces were preparing for one last invasion on the mainland of Japan at Yokohama. After seeing how the Japanese troops had defended their turf on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, most expected the coming landing to be the bloodiest and deadliest yet. However, a new weapon in the U.S. arsenal made the invasion unnecessary, the atomic bomb.


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Today, retired at age 85, Bill Simpson still has vivid memories of his days on the USS Thurston.

When the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb on Japan and the country surrendered, the Thurston and her crew had just arrived in San Francisco. The ship was in port there from August 14 until August 25, 1945. With the coming of V-J Day, the war was over. All that was left to do was bring our boys home. The Thurston set out for Eniwetock on August 25.

After a return "Magic Carpet" trip to Manila, Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo and Noumea in New Caledonia, the ship returned to part in Seattle, Washington, arriving Oct. 17. It was here that Simpson took his leave of the Navy and made his way back home.

Returning to Kentucky, Simpson returned to work in the family newspaper, married Eileen Simpson and raised two sons.

Wartime Memories: Iwo Jima Remembered

Iwo Jima Remembered
© Stuart Simpson
Published by U.S. Legacies: November 2003

Bill Simpson
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