V-2 to Apollo – Wernher von Braun
The German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun was a complex character. Fascinated by astronomy since childhood, he studied at the Technische Hochschule Berlin and the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin, receiving a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a Ph.D. physics. Joining the Nazi party in 1937, von Braun rose to spearhead Hitler’s ballistic missile program. Although he later claimed that joining was merely a means to the end of obtaining his career goals, von Braun rose in the ranks of the infamous Schützstaffel (SS) during the war with three promotions from Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler. Recognizing its value as a weapon of terror, Hitler deployed von Braun’s long-range V-2 rockets developed at Peenemünde against Antwerp and London in 1944 to kill ~2400 people. At the end of the war, von Braun, along with his rocket team, was secretly moved to the United States in Operation Paperclip. Becoming a U.S. citizen in 1952, he was named technical director of the U.S. Army guided missile project in Alabama known as the Redstone Arsenal. Working with Dr. William H. Pickering and Dr. James A. van Allen, von Braun developed the Juno-I booster rocket that launched America’s first earth satellite Explorer I in 1958. Additionally, he developed the Jupiter Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), and the Pershing missile. As director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Marshall Space Flight Center, from 1960 to 1970, von Braun developed the Saturn IB and Saturn V space vehicles and the Saturn I rocket that powered the Apollo 8 that orbited the moon on Christmas Eve 1969. In 1972, von Braun was named vice president of the aerospace company Fairchild Industries. Several years later he founded the National Space Institute which was designed to gain public support for space exploration. Werner von Braun died in 1977.
With the inevitable loss of the war apparent, Imperial Japan dispatched young kamikaze (神風 = divine wind) pilots of the 205th Air Group on suicidal missions against the American ships in the Pacific, especially at Okinawa. Although damage to the American fleet at Okinawa was significant (21 ships sunk and 66 damaged), it did not change the outcome of the battle. Nothing is sadder, more desperate, than the many young men who volunteered for suicidal attacks. Reportedly, those who volunteered for the 205th Air Group were guaranteed a place in heaven for sacrificing their life for the emperor. Although theoretically barred from joining the 205th, parental appeals usually allowed an only son to join. At the beginning of the Pacific War, Imperial Japanese pilots received up to 500 hours of training before being sent into action. Additionally, many of these pilots were older and more experienced. In contrast, kamikaze pilots were usually much younger (most <24 years old) and usually received only 40-50 hours of training. Escorted to their targets by more experienced pilots, they were left on their own to make suicide attacks Although terrifying in the battle of Okinawa, the strategy of kamikaze attacks ultimately proved futile: Due to the overwhelming firepower of the U.S. Navy, most kamikaze pilots never reached their targets While the raids inflicted significant damage, a staggering 169 of 193 kamikaze planes were destroyed at Okinawa __________________ The concept of the Divine Wind comes from a 13th Century typhoon that wrecked a Mongolian fleet, saving Japan from an imminent invasion. It was seen at the time as the work of the gods, who had heard and answered the prayers of the Japanese Emperor. ____________ Here is an excerpt from my book Enemy in the Mirror: Love and Fury in the Pacific War: Training Manual for Special Attack Force Pilots Transcend life and death. When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination, meanwhile reinforcing your excellence in flight skills. When diving and crashing onto a ship, aim for a point between the bridge tower and the smokestacks. Do your best. Every deity and the spirits of your dead comrades are watching you intently. Just before the collision it is essential that you do not shut your eyes for a moment so as not to miss the target. You are two or three meters from the target. You can see clearly the muzzles of the enemy's guns. You feel that you are suddenly floating in the air. At that moment, you see your mother's face. She is not smiling or crying. It is her usual face. Remember when diving into the enemy to shout at the top of your lungs: “Hissatsu!” (Sink without fail!). At that moment, all the cherry blossoms at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo will smile brightly at you. __________
Patton’s Weather Prayer
Midst bad weather in the Battle of the Bulge, General George S. Patton commissioned his chaplain to write a prayer for good weather and victory. 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. At the suggestion of the chaplain, Patton also sent this Christmas message to his staff.
In December 1944, U.S. Army troops, supported by the Navy and Air Force, made an amphibious landing on Mindoro Island in the Philippines. With the aid of local guerrillas, U.S. forces easily defeated the relatively small detachment of Imperial Japanese Army forces stationed on the island. With the capture of Mindoro, U.S. forces were able to establish airfields within fighter range of the Lingayen Gulf where the next major amphibious assault against the island of Luzon was planned.
R.I.P. Glenn Miller
Alton Glenn Miller (1904 – 1944) was a big band star in the American swing era whose recordings were best-sellers from 1939 to 1943. Traveling to entertain U.S. troops in France in December 1944, his single-engine UC-64 Norseman disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. Of several theories proposed for the crash, it seems unlikely that Glenn Miller's aircraft was hit by a bomb jettisoned from an Allied bomber or shot down by the Luftwaffe. More probably, the airplane crashed because of a faulty carburetor that was known to malfunction in cold weather. In February 1945, with the nation mourning his loss, his wife Helen Miller accepted his Bronze Star medal for heroic and meritorious service in a combat zone. Listen: Glenn Miller Big Band Favorites
Race Riot Guam
Montford Point Marines In July 1944, the U.S. Army and Marines recaptured Guam from the Japanese at a cost of 1,783 Americans killed and ~6000 men wounded. ~18,000 Japanese died. After the battle, the Allies developed five airfields on Guam to attack targets in the Western Pacific and on mainland Japan. Occupying Guam, racial tensions developed among enlisted U.S. Marines when an all-black supply depot company arrived. White Marines, trying to prevent blacks from socializing with Guamanian women, shouted racial slurs, threw rocks and occasional smoke grenades into the depot area. Tension escalated when a white sailor killed a black Marine in a fight over a woman; and a black sentry fatally wounded a white Marine who was harassing him. Subsequently, each of these men was court-martialed for manslaughter. On Christmas Eve 1944, with rumors circulating among black and white Marines that one of their own had been injured or killed, truckloads of angry Marines harassed each other’s turf without injuries. On Christmas day, two black Marines were killed in separate incidents by drunken whites. On December 26, a jeep of white Marines fired on the black Marine depot, injuring a white MP. A group of armed blacks chasing the whites’ jeep, were stopped at a roadblock and charged with unlawful assembly, theft of government property and attempted murder. 43 Marines (including a few whites) were court-martialed and given prison terms of several years each. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People later successfully campaigned to have the guilty verdicts overturned and the black marines were released from prison in 1946.
In December 1944, in order to prevent their rescue by the advancing Allies, units of the Japanese 14th Area Army, under the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita, murdered 139 Allied POWs at Puerto Princesa, Philippines. 150 POWs hiding in three covered trenches during an air raid warning were doused with gasoline and set afire. Escapees were machine-gunned immediately or tracked down and killed. Only eleven POWs survived. The December 1944 Palawan massacre instigated a series of American POW rescue missions including the raids at Cabanatuan in January 1945, and Santo Tomas , Bilibid Prison and Los Baños in February 1945.
In December 1944, 84 American POWs were killed near Malmedy, Belgium by the SS Panzer division Kampfgruppe Peiper. The term "Malmedy massacre" was later applied to a series of massacres committed by the same SS unit over several days during the Battle of the Bulge. Although portrayed as outright atrocity in this video clip, some controversy remains regarding how calculated these executions actually were. Several former American prisoners testified that a few of their comrades had tried to escape, and some may have picked up discarded weapons to shoot at their German captors. Upon discovery of the murdered American POWs near Malmedy, several U.S. units declared that all SS troops were to be shot on sight rather than taken prisoner. It is also possible that some American forces may have killed German prisoners in retaliation. At the 1946 Dachau Trials, all war crimes attributed to Kampfgruppe Peiper were reviewed. 43 death sentences, 22 life sentences and 8 shorter sentences were pronounced. But after the verdict, the way in which the court had functioned was disputed, and the case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The court made no decision, but subsequent review by a U.S. Senate sub-committee noted judicial irregularities during initial interrogations of the defendants. Because the US Army conducted a trial revision, the death sentences were commuted, and the other life sentences were subsequently commuted within the next few years.
“I have returned”
On 20 October, 1944, during the battle of Leyte Gulf, the U.S. Sixth Army landed on the Leyte Island in the Philippines. Shortly after the landing, General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore with his famous declaration “People of the Philippines, I have returned.” As the Japanese rushed reinforcements to the western side of the island, the U.S. Sixth Army continued to advance from the east,. With subsequent reinforcement, the American Army was reinforced successfully, and the U.S. Fifth Air Force was able to devastate further Japanese attempts at repelling the attack. In torrential rains, the American advance continued over difficult terrain to the neighboring island of Samar to the north. In December 1944, U.S. Army units landing at Ormoc Bay fought a major land and air battle that ultimately eliminated Japanese ability to reinforce and supply the island of Leyte. Although fierce fighting continued on the island for months, the U.S. Army was now in control.
Battle of the Bulge
In December 1944, under overcast skies that limited Allied aerial surveillance, >250,000 German troops and armored divisions launched a surprise attack in the weakly-defended, rugged forest of Ardennes. With a thrust toward Antwerp Belgium, the advance was intended to split the Allied armies in northwest Europe. Caught completely off guard, reeling American units fought desperate battles to stem the German advance at St.-Vith, Elsenborn Ridge, Houffalize and Bastogne (where the American General Anthony C. McAuliffe replied "nuts" to a German demand for surrender.) Fierce American resistance on the northern and southern borders of the offensive, blocked German access to key roads needed for success. American resilience, improved flying weather, terrain favorable for defense and shortage of fuel delayed the German advance, allowing the Allies to reinforce their lines and foil the last great German offensive of the war. Casualties and losses 20,876 Allied soldiers were killed during the Battle of the Bulge, with 42,893 wounded and 23,554 reported captured or missing. German losses totaled 15,652 killed, 41,600 wounded, and 27,582 reported captured or missing.
Japanese Balloon Bombs
From November 1944 to April 1945, Japan launched over 9,000 hydrogen balloons carrying antipersonnel and firebombs into the jet stream from the island of Honshu. Although many found their way to diverse regions of Western North America, only one caused fatalities - On May 5, 1945, a pregnant minister's wife and five adolescents on a Saturday church outing were killed when they tampered with a balloon bomb that had landed in the trees of Gearhart Mountain in Southern Oregon. When I moved to the northern Oregon coast in 2000, I became aware of this story and proceeded to research and write an historical fiction novel (with fictionalized characters) based on this event as well as the firebombing of the southern Oregon forest by a Japanese floatplane launched from a submarine and the attack on a Fort near the Columbia River by a Japanese submarine. Enemy In The Mirror: Love and Fury in the Pacific War, was published in 2012. Below is an excerpt from the book. "Come here!" June called, waving from a point farther upstream. Emma and the rest of the group picked their way among the rocks and clambered up the bank where June stood pointing at a clearing below. Great folds of tan colored material were tangled in the lower branches of a fir tree. They decided to investigate. Emma paused on top of the bank before following the teenagers down into the clearing, and looked back at Arthur who was working his way up the stream bed to join them. "Come see what we found, dear," she shouted gaily and slipped out of sight. A large raven watched from a sun-bleached tree trunk that had been splintered by lightning. Emma could now see that the fabric tangled in the fir tree was made of quilted paper squares that appeared to have been lacquered. A metal object shaped like a cog wheel was hanging from ropes attached to a ring that gathered in the billowing fabric. The cog wheel device contained several metal containers, a barometer and an array of small sandbags. Emma thought it must be some sort of weather balloon. They'd been found around here before. Still, there was something strange looking about it. ______________
First elected in 1933 during the Great Depression, the Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted successful "New Deal” programs designed to stabilize the economy and provide jobs and relief for the unemployed (e.g., the Agricultural Adjustment Act, National Industrial Recovery Act, Public Works Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority). With the U.S. economy substantially improved, he was re-elected for a second term in 1936. During his second term, with increasing Japanese and German aggression across the world, FDR attempted to deftly maneuver the country from a position of relative isolationism (exemplified by the America First Committee championed by Charles Lindbergh) into support for the Allied powers battling the Axis. In 1940, with Nazi Germany over-running much of Europe and Imperial Japan sweeping across the Western Pacific, FDR ran for an unprecedented third term. With his subsequent wartime leadership proving highly effective, he defeated his Republican challenger Thomas Dewey and was reelected to a fourth term in 1944.
Bombing Japan from Marianas
At a cost of ~3000 American and 24,000 Japanese lives, the Northern Marianas island of Saipan was taken in July 1944. With the subsequent seizure of Guam and Tinian in August, the U.S. now had ideal locations (~1500 miles from Japan) to construct airfields within the range of the new B-29 superfortress (~5000 miles). Additionally, these new airfields could be directly supplied by ship from the USA. The 4-engine Boeing B-29 Superfortress was one of the largest aircraft flown during WWII. (Other behemoths included the German Messerschmitt Me-323 and Junkers Ju-390). With state-of-the art technology, the development and manufacture of the B-29 was the most expensive American weapons project of the war (far more expensive than the A-bomb Manhattan project).
U.S. Pilot Defects
For years a devotee of the ultra-conservative radio ministry of Father Charles Edward Coughlin, a 23 year-old USAAF P-38 pilot named Martin James Monti defected to the Axis powers in October 1944. Why a young American might actually defect to the Axis is hard to fathom. But it looks like the fiery Father Coughlin influenced his beliefs - particularly regarding ant-semitism and anti-communism. With millions of listeners throughout the USA and Canada, Father Coughlin was a hostile critic of FDRs liberal social programs. In the late 1930s he became vociferously anti-communist and anti-semitic to the point that he openly supported the Fascist regimes of Germany and Italy. When the war broke out, Father Coughlin's radio broadcast was finally taken off the air. Here is a short example of Father Coughlin's malignant rhetoric. If you close your eyes, or even leave them open and note his gestures, his style of speaking (and the crowd response) is unmistakably similar to Adolf Hitler.
As German military forces were beginning to suffer major losses, Adolf Hitler created a national militia called the Volkssturm ("people's storm") in October 1944. Under control of the Nazi party, rather than the Wehrmacht, the Volkssturm drafted nearly six million men aged 16-60 years who were not already members of the German Armed Forces. Inspired by the Prussian Landsturm militia that fought guerilla-type actions in the Napoleonic wars, the Volkssturm was created as part of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels' strategy of Total War.
Army (陸軍 Rikugun, a powerful, multi-generational epic about military legacy and parental love during wartime, was directed in 1944 by Keisuke Kinoshita. The film starred Chishū Ryū and Kinuyo Tanaka. The film's silent, final scene was controversial at the time and barely escaped rejection by Imperial Japanese censors. In that scene, as her son marches off for deployment to Manchuria, his mother (Kinuyo Tanaka) runs alongside him in tears. Apparently, the censors were concerned because Japanese mothers were supposed feel proud (not anxious) when their sons went off to battle. In the end, the censors backed off and the scene remained - perhaps (as suggested by critic Donald Ritchie) because the mother's display of emotion could be interpreted as caused by internal conflict between her duty to be proud and her own desire to love and possess him. Others have suggested the scene was left intact because it was wordless. Nevertheless, the director Keisuke Kinoshita was not permitted to release another film for the remainder of the war. This film seems to be another example of the sophistication and nuanced Japanese film industry during WWII. In comparison, it seems to me, characters in American films at the time were predictably brave, stoic and one-dimensional. I was unable to find a film clip of this interesting movie, but here are interesting biography.
After the 1943 defeat of the Afrikorps in North Africa, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was recalled to Europe to oversee the defense of the Atlantic coast. One of Germany's most successful and popular generals, Rommel soon began to harbor doubts about Adolf Hitler's reasons for initiating the war and his leadership capabilities in a possible negotiation for peace. After the successful Allied Normandy invasion and subsequent advance across France, Rommel was certain Germany would lose the war. In June 1944, apparently unaware of an assassination plot against Hitler, Rommel discussed possible surrender with several military men who were subsequently involved in the July assassination attempt. When his communication with the conspirators was revealed, suggesting possible complicity in the plot, he was given the option of suicide instead of a public trial which would taint his reputation and possibly harm his family. On the October 14, 1944, Erwin Rommel took his own life by biting into a cyanide capsule. He was subsequently given a full military burial.
Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 23–26, 1944) proved to be the most decisive naval engagement in the Pacific War. Japanese defeat resulted in severe losses of its remaining surface vessels and virtually ended its ability to move resources from Southeast Asia to the home islands. When the U.S. launched an amphibious assault on the central Philippine island of Leyte, the Imperial Japanese Navy implemented Operation Sho-Go, an attempt to use one attack force as a decoy to draw part of the U.S. naval forces away, while concentrating three other attack forces on Leyte Gulf landing site. Although the ruse did achieve initial success, and the Imperial Japanese Navy was able to inflict serious damage, U.S. forces prevailed after three days of heavy fighting. Casualties and losses: USA ~3,000 casualties; 1 light carrier, 2 escort carriers, 2 destroyers, 1 destroyer escort sunk 200+ planes Imperial Japan ~12,500 dead; 1 fleet carrier, 3 light carriers 3 battleships, 10 cruisers, 11 destroyers sunk ~300 planes Notably, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was the first time Japan employed suicidal kamikaze attacks.
Operation Market Garden
In September 1944 the Allies launched Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful, airborne operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany. The goal of the operation was to encircle the Ruhr valley, the center of German industry, with a pincer movement. Including the Battle for Arnhem, Operation Market Garden, was the largest airborne battle in history. Allied forces were commanded by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery . German forces were under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model . With thousands of aircraft and armored vehicles, and hundreds of thousands of troops, Operation Market Garden was the only major Allied defeat of the Northwest European campaign. Perhaps due to the failure of Operation Market Garden, the Germans were able to take advantage of tactical errors and counterattack in December 1944 with the infamous Battle of the Bulge.
Força Expedicionária Brasileira
Brazil was the only South American country to send troops to fight in WWII. Initially neutral, the government of Brazil created the Força Expedicionária Brasileira (Brazilian Expeditionary Force) of ~25,000 men in 1943 after 34 Brazilians ships were sunk near the country's shore by U-Boats. Early reluctance by the Brazilian government to joining the Allied war effort, fostered the popular saying: Mais fácil uma cobra fumar um cachimbo, do que a FEB embarcar para o combate = It's more likely for a snake to smoke a pipe, than for the BEF to go the front and fight. Beginning in 1944, the BEF infantry, naval and air force fought alongside the Allies in the Mediterranean Theatre. Before entering battle, BEF troops, wearing a shoulder patch with a smoking cobra, declared: A cobra ai fumar! The snake will smoke! 948 BEF troops were killed in action from 1944-45.
Battle of Peleliu
Designed to capture an airstrip on a tiny coral island, the Battle of Peleliu was fought from September to November 1944 by the First Marine Division, and the U.S. Army's 81st Infantry Division. Although American military planners anticipated a relatively short battle, the Japanese, with new island-defense tactics and well-crafted fortifications put up stiff resistance for two months. 2,336 Americans were killed and 8,450 wounded vs. 10,695 Japanese killed and 202 captured. The battle of Pelieu was one of the toughest battles of the Pacific campaign. This excellent book by Eugene Sledge provides a vivid and moving account of the battle: We moved rapidly in the open, amid craters and coral rubble, through ever increasing enemy fire… I clenched my teeth, squeezed my carbine stock, recited over and over to myself, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me” … The sun bore down unmercifully… Smoke and dust from the barrage limited my vision. The ground seemed to sway back and forth under the concussions. I felt as though I were floating along in the vortex of some unreal thunderstorm. Japanese bullets snapped and cracked and tracers went by me on both sides at waist height… The farther we went, the worse it got. The noise and concussion pressed in on my ears like a vise… It seemed impossible that any of us would make it across… To be shelled by massed artillery and mortars is absolutely terrifying, but to be shelled in the open is terror compounded beyond the belief of anyone who hasn't experienced it. The attack on Peleliu’s airfield was the worst combat experience I had during the entire war.
Liberation of Paris
After a one month blitzkrieg by the Wehrmacht, Paris fell to Nazi Germany on June 14, 1940. An armistice with Germany subsequently established a French puppet government with its capital at Vichy. The Nazi occupation of Paris lasted four years until the city was liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. In August 1944, German defense of occupied Paris was minimal and an order by Adolf Hitler to destroy the city was ignored by General Dietrich von Choltitz, the commander of the German occupying force. On August 26, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a joyous liberation march down the Champs d’Elysees.
The Warsaw Uprising by the Polish resistance Home Army in August 1944 occurred as the Russian Army approached the city and the Germans were retreating. Unfortunately, the Russian advance stopped short of the city, leaving the Poles (who assumed the Russians would join in the battle) to stand alone against vastly superior German forces for two months. The Germans defeated the Poles and demolished the city before the Russian advance continued. Possible reasons for failure of the uprising included: Soviet hostility to the Polish government in exile in the wake of the 1940 Katyn Massacre of Polish nationals carried out by the Russian NKVD Soviet refusal to allow Allied planes on missions to Warsaw to land on its airfields The Teheran Conference agreement reached between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin that placed Poland within the Soviet sphere of influence
Hideki Tojo , known as kamisori (the razor) for his sharp, decisive and impatient qualities, rose rapidly through the Imperial Japan's military hierarchy. As War Minister in 1940, he promoted the righteous cause of casting off imperialist colonialization of East Asia and was strongly opposed to any negotiations with Western powers. In October 1941 Tojo became premier of Imperial Japan and formed a new cabinet. Although he had great power, Tojo was not a dictator like Hitler or Mussolini. Senior statesmen, the army and navy general staffs, and the Emperor Hirohito, exercised considerable power over him. In early 1944, although he acknowledged Japan was facing "the most critical situation in the history of the Empire," Tojo remained opposed to any negotiation with the Allies. In July 1944, with the fall of Saipan placing American bombers in range of the homeland, senior statesmen and ministers in his Cabinet forced him to step down as premier.
Fort Lawton Riot
In August 1944, a riot broke out at Fort Lawton, Washington between Italian POWs and U.S. African-American soldiers. Dozens of men were injured before military police intervened. The next morning, an Italian POW was found hanged. Interpretation of the riot and subsequent events, including an attempted coverup and inadequate initial criminal investigation by the Army, were highly controversial. Newspaper accounts, however, attributed the events to African-American soldiers’ resentment of lenient treatment of Italian POWs while racist practices by the Army continued. After weeks of investigation by a legal team from the Pentagon, 43 African-American soldiers were charged with rioting. Three of them received the additional charge of murder. A Court Martial found 28 of the 43 defendants guilty of rioting and one guilty of manslaughter. An automatic appeal was rejected by the U.S. Army's Board of Review. At the end of the war, President Harry Truman granted clemency to the defendants and, by 1949, all were released from prison. The 2005 book On American Soil by Jack Hamann prompted a review by the U.S. Army Board for Correction of Military Records. The Board subsequently ruled that the prosecutor of the Fort Lawton defendants had committed "egregious error," and all convictions should be reversed. In 2008, after efforts from Rep. Jim McDermott, President George W. Bush signed legislation allowing the Army to disburse back pay to the defendants or their survivors.
Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips
Unfortunately, this cartoon, released in April 1944, can no longer be found online in its entirety. Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips, portrayed classical Western racist stereotypes of the Japanese - short, buck-toothed people wearing thick eyeglasses and talking jibberish. At one point in the cartoon, Bugs hands out ice cream bars saying: Here's yours, bow legs Here, one for you, monkey face Here ya are, slant eyes The racism of this cartoon was largely ignored until the release of the laser disc The Golden Age of Looney Toons, Volume 1, when Japanese-American protests forced its withdrawal from the series.
In July 1944, a group of high-level German military leaders attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler and stage a coup d’état, code-named Operation Valkyrie. Lieutenant Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, wounded veteran and chief of staff of the reserve army, left a briefcase bomb beneath a table during a meeting with Hitler at his Wolf Lair headquarters in East Prussia. Although the bomb killed one person and wounded three others, Hitler escaped with minor injuries. With no official confirmation of Hitler’s demise, Operation Valkyrie stalled. Hundreds of people, including von Stauffenberg, were arrested, and ~200 were executed.
Great Marianas Turkey Shoot
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was the last large scale carrier battle the Imperial Japanese Navy was able to conduct. In the air, the sheer number of Japanese compared to U.S. losses inspired the American nickname for the battle - the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. In addition to Japan's lack of many experienced pilots, the lop-sided outcome of this battle has been attributed to improved American aircraft design, pilot training, tactics and technology (including the top-secret anti-aircraft proximity fuze automatic explosive device). A proximity fuze detonates automatically when the distance to the target becomes smaller than a predetermined value. June 1944 - Battle of the Philippine Sea Casualties and losses USA 1 battleship damaged 123 aircraft destroyed 109 dead Japan 3 fleet carriers sunk 2 oilers sunk 550–645 aircraft destroyed 6 other ships damaged ~2,987 dead
Port Chicago Disaster
In 1944, segregated African-American Navy units were assigned dangerous loading operations. Most of these men were not trained in munitions handling, and safety standards were apparently often overlooked under heavy pressure to complete loading schedules. In July 1944, a massive explosion occurred during the loading of two adjacent cargo ships at the U.S. Naval magazine at Port Chicago, California. 320 sailors and civilians were killed and 390 injured. Nearly two-thirds of the people killed at Port Chicago were African-American enlisted men. A month later, when 258 African-American sailors refused to carry out loading orders under conditions they deemed unsafe, 208 received bad conduct discharges and pay forfeiture. The remaining 50 men were court-martialed and sentenced to 8-15 years of hard labor. In 1946, all were granted clemency.
In June 1944, U.S. Marines landed on Saipan, the island in the Marianas nearest to the Japanese homeland. The Allied goal was to build an air base for new long-range B-29 bombers that could attack the Japanese home islands. Japanese resistance was fierce with particularly brutal fighting near Mount Tapotchau, where Marines named the battle sites “Death Valley” and “Purple Heart Ridge.” Ultimately, trapped in the northern part of the island, Japanese soldiers launched the largest Banzai charge of the war with the deaths of ~4,300 Japanese troops. On July 9, Saipan was secured by U.S. forces.
First Battle of Guam - Guam, a U.S. possession in the Mariana islands since the Spanish-American war of 1898, was captured by Imperial Japan in their initial Pacific offensive of December 1941. This first Battle of Guam resulted in 550 Allied and 5900 Japanese deaths. Second Battle of Guam - From July-August 1944, the Allies waged a bloody campaign to recapture the island. Allied casualties included 1,747 killed and 6,053 wounded. ~ 18,000 Japanese soldiers died. Although the island was declared secure in August 1945, a number of Japanese soldiers remained at large. In December 1945, several U.S. Marines were ambushed and killed by Japanese soldiers hiding in the jungle. In 1971 Imperial Japanese Army Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi was discovered by hunters after living alone in a cave for 28 years.
On June 6, 1944, >5,000 Allied ships, supported by 13,000 airplanes performed the largest amphibious landing in the history of warfare. Code-named Operation Overlord, the invasion of ~50 miles of beach in Normandy France signaled the beginning of the tough campaign to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe. By August 1944, northern France was liberated; in June 1945 Nazi Germany surrendered. The losses on both sides were staggering: 216,000 German and 209,000 Allied troops were killed, wounded or missing during the Battle of Normandy with an additional 16,714 deaths of Allied airmen. WARNING: this clip from the film Saving Private Ryan is a gruesome, vivid depiction of the landing on Omaha Beach.
My late father-in-law Jim Evans fought with the 163rd Infantry Regiment in this campaign. Discussions with him and his comrade Jim Jackson inspired the chapter on the battle of Biak Island in my book Enemy in the Mirror: Love and Fury in the Pacific War. First Sergeant James Lloyd Evans, U.S. Army. In April 1944, with the goal of establishing airfields on the northern coast of New Guinea, Allied forces under General Douglas MacArthur attacked Aitape and Hollandia. Expecting an Allied attack further east, the Japanese were taken by surprise. MacArthur’s troops found empty camps with rice still cooking on the stove and abandoned weapons and equipment. The Japanese soon regrouped and counterattacked Aitape in multiple waves. Although these attacks caused heavy Allied casualties, Allied machine guns and artillery decimated the attacking Japanese forces (perhaps ~10,000 men lost) and Aitape and Hollandia were taken. In May, MacArthur’s troops landed on Wakde island with little beachhead resistance. Advancing inland, however, they soon met the same fierce defense they’d experienced at Aitape. Although the island was taken, Allied troops were still fighting residual Japanese forces on Wakde at the end of the war. At the end of May 1944, MacArthur’s troops invaded Biak island. Again light resistance at the beachhead foreshadowed heavy resistance inland. An excellent defense plan that properly utilized terrain, numerous caves and tanks (unusual at that time in the Pacific War) was devised by Lieutenant Colonel Naoyuki Kuzume. Although effective for a month, Kuzume’s defenses were finally breached and he committed Seppuku (ritual suicide) in his subterranean command post. Undaunted, Japanese troops in the remaining caves continued to fight. Stymied by the hit-and-run tactics of cave dwelling enemy troops, the Allies resorted to dynamiting caves that held hidden defenders. Biak Island was finally secured at the end of July 1944.
In 1942, the Office of Economic Stabilization (OES) was created to combat rising inflation. Under this mandate, the OES controlled the allocation of scarce raw materials for wartime industrial production. In May 1943, the Office of War Mobilization (OWM) was established to coordinate all government agencies (including the OES) involved in the war effort. Overcoming initial problems, the U.S. government became quite successful in coordinating the wartime economy. Industrial production increased from $8 billion in 1941 to >$30 billion in 1942. In 1944 American factories produced twice as much war material for the Allies as the entire Axis.
The Great Escape
Allied airmen captured during WWII were incarcerated in POW Camps run by the Luftwaffe called Stammlager Luft (abrev., Stalag). Allied POWs reported that the Luftwaffe (unlike the Gestapo or SS) respected fellow flyers, and treated airmen POWs well, with the exception of an inconsistent food supply. Since the Geneva Conventions stipulated ~10 days of solitary confinement as reasonable punishment for attempted escape, many captured Allied airmen felt it was worth the risk. On March 24, 1944, under the leadership of RAF pilot Roger Bushell, 76 POWs escaped from Stalag Luft III (100 miles southeast of Berlin) by digging three tunnels with Red Cross powdered milk cans. 73 of the escapees were soon recaptured - only three men were able to flee to safety. Under direct orders of an angry Adolf Hitler, the Gestapo drove the Allied airmen to remote locations and murdered them. Shortly thereafter, potential escapees were warned of dire consequences.
The German V-2 (Vergeltungswaffe 2–"Retribution Weapon 2") was Mankind's first long-range guided ballistic missile. Powered by a liquid-propellant rocket engine, more than 3000 V-2 rockets were launched against Allied cities in 1944. The initial V-2 target was London; later, Antwerp and Liège were attacked. ~ 9,000 civilians and military personnel were killed in the V-2 attacks. Additionally, 12,000 forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners died during weapon production.
American Marine Diary
Here are excerpts from the American Marine Eugene Sledge's diary ( published as With the Old Breed) when Sledge was at the battle of Pelieu in 1944. Although Sledge wrote a year later at Pelieu, it's not hard to imagine that this is was what the Japanese soldier Toshihiro Oura (in our last blog post) was facing in New Georgia. It was hard to sleep that night [before the invasion.] I thought of home, my parents, my friends -- and whether I would do my duty, be wounded and disabled, or be killed. I concluded that it was impossible for me to be killed, because God loved me. Then I told myself that God loved us all and that many would die or be ruined physically or mentally or both by the next morning and in the days following. My heart pounded, and I broke out in a cold sweat. Finally, I called myself a damned coward and eventually fell asleep saying the Lord's prayer to myself. The world was a nightmare of flashes, violent explosions, snapping bullets. Most of what I saw blurred. My mind was benumbed by the shock of it… Up and down the beach and on the reef, a number of amtracs and DUKWs were burning, Japanese machine gun bursts made long splashes on the water as though flaying it with some giant whip…. Even before the dust had settled I saw a Japanese soldier appear at the blasted opening. He was grim determination personified as he drew back his arm to throw a grenade at us. My carbine was already up. When he appeared, I lined up my sights on his chest and began squeezing off shots. As the first bullet hit him, his face contorted in agony. His knees buckled. The grenade slipped from his grasp. All the men near me…began firing. The soldier collapsed in the fusillade and the grenade went off at his feet… I had just killed a man at close range. That I had seen clearly the pain on his face when my bullets hit him came as a jolt. It suddenly made the war a very personal affair. The expression on that man's face filled me with shame and disgust for the war and all the misery it was causing.
Smoke on the Water
There will be a sad day coming For the foes of all mankind They must answer to the people And it’s troubling their mind Everybody who must fear them Will rejoice on that great day When the powers of dictators Shall be taken all away [Chorus:] There’ll be smoke on the water On the land and the sea When our Army and Navy overtakes the enemy There’ll be smoke on the mountains Where the Heathen Gods stay And the sun that is rising Will go down on that day For there is a great destroyer Made of fire and flesh and steel Rollin’ toward the foes of freedom They’ll go down beneath its wheels There’ll be nothing left but vultures To inhabit all that land When our modern ships and bombers Make a graveyard of Japan [Repeat Chorus:] Hirohito along with Hitler Will be riding on a rail Mussolini’ll beg for mercy As a leader he has failed But there’ll be no time for pity When the Screaming Eagle flies That will be the end of Axis They must answer with their lives ___________________________
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0llB--aUnIc Video From:1944 Imperial Japanese War Movie Colonel Kato's Falcon Squadron (Kato hayabusa sento-tai). Rakkasan may be translated from Japanese as "man falling under an umbrella." Because elite units of highly trained Imperial Japanese Army paratroopers suffered very high casualty rates in 1942, most were withdrawn to the mainland. In late 1944 they were re-deployed in the battle of the Philippines were once again their losses were very high; often complete units were destroyed. The "Rakkassans" of the U.S. Army 187th Infantry Division were the only military unit whose nickname (still in use today) was designated by an enemy. Deployed to the Pacific in mid-1944 with the 11th Airborne Division, the 187th Rakkasans saw combat in New Guinea, Leyte and Luzon. The 187th Rakkasans also met and destroyed a a paratroop attack on their positions when Japanese airborne units tried to recapture airfields on Leyte taken earlier by the Rakkasans.
Etched in the Sand on Normandy Beach
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy. Allied casualties on the first day were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. The Germans lost 1,000 men. This largest seaborne invasion in history began the invasion of German-occupied western Europe, led to the restoration of the French Republic, and contributed to an Allied victory in the war. With 60 volunteers, Artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss recently etched silhouettes representing 9000 fallen German and Allied soldiers and civilians into the sand of Normandy. The Fallen 9000 is a stark visual reminder of the immense losses during the D-Day beach landings on June 6th, 1944. The installation lasted only a few hours before being washed away by the tide. (via Lustik)