Father and the Flag

Wednesday, June 14, AD 2017

One of the most highly decorated chaplains of World War II, Father Elmer W. Heindl used to joke that his decorations were simply due to him being in the wrong place at the right time.  Born on June 14, 1910 in Rochester, New York, the oldest of six children, Heindl decided at an early age that he was meant to be a priest and was ordained on June 6, 1936.  He said that being born on Flag Day indicated to him that during his life he would do something to honor the Stars and Stripes.

In March of 1942 he joined the Army as a chaplain.  Assigned to the 2nd Battalion of th 148th infantry attached to the 37th Division, he served on Guadalcanal, New Georgia and in the Philippines.  He quickly gained a reputation for utter fearlessness under fire, giving the last Rites, tending the wounded and rescuing wounded under fire.    In regard to the Last Rites, Father Heindl noted that he did not have time to check dog tags to see if a dying soldier was a Catholic.  “Every situation was an instant decision.  You didn’t have time to check his dog tag to see whether he was Catholic or not. I’d say, in Latin, ‘If you’re able and willing to receive this sacrament, I give it to you.’ And then leave it up to the Lord.”

He earned a Bronze Star on New Georgia when on July  19 and July 23 he conducted burial services, although in constant danger from Japanese sniper fire.  The citation noted that his cheerful demeanor and courage inspired the troops who encountered him.

During the liberation of the Philippines, Captain Heindl participated in the bitter fighting in Manila.  He earned a Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award in the United States Army for valor, during the fighting at Bilibid prison to liberate American and Filipino POWs who had been through horrors at the hands of their Japanese captors that I truly hope the readers of this post would find literally unimaginable.  Here is the Distinguished Service Cross citation:

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6 Responses to Father and the Flag

  • When I read stories likes this, I wonder what exactly Protestant preachers and minsters have to offer the dying on the battlefield. The answer of course is nothing. Oh, there were many brave Protestants on the battlefield. Desmond Doss of Hacksaw Ridge fame comes to mind – a subject of a previous post here. But he wasn’t a preacher. Dietrich Bonhoffer, a Lutheran pastor and an anti-Nazi spy in WW II also comes to mind, but did he give spiritual aid and comfort to the dying on the battlefield? I just wonder: what logic is there in a Protestant preacher being on the battlefield when he doesn’t believe in the power of the Sacraments for the dying?

  • Am reading (started 2014 and going 100 years ago daily) Kipling’s The Irish Guards in the Great War, he writes how the chaplains were so important to troop morale/unit cohesion that the brass tried to order them to stay back. The priests’ response was “What is a wound when a soul is to be saved?”

    Born on Flag Day! The only better birthday would be the Independence Day.

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  • Thank you for another example of heroic faith and cheerfulness, always ready to give an explanation of why hope and optimism flow out from a wellspring that is the water never leaves one thirsty..a water the Samaritan woman heard about from the source itself. May we all have Fr. Heindl courage and Faith. God bless him!

    Thanks again.
    Great story.

  • Happy Birthday Father Elmer W. Heindl

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Father Ranger

Tuesday, June 6, AD 2017

raaen&lacy

The men of the 5th Ranger Battalion could barely keep from laughing when they first saw their chaplain, Lieutenant Joe Lacy, a week before D-Day.  These were young men, in peak physical condition.  Father Joe Lacy was old by Ranger standards, knocking on 40, overweight by at least 30 pounds, wearing thick glasses and short, 5 foot, six inches.  He was described by one Ranger as “a small, fat old Irishman.”  No way would he be able to keep up when they  invaded France.

On the trip across the Channel to France,  Chaplain Lacy told the men:  “When you land on the beach and you get in there, I don’t want to see anybody kneeling down and praying. If I do I’m gonna come up and boot you in the tail. You leave the praying to me and you do the fighting.”  A few of the men began to think that maybe this priest was tougher than he looked.

On June 6, 1944 at 7:30 AM,  LCA 1377 landed the Rangers on Omaha Dog Green Beach, the first landing craft to land on that section of Omaha Beach.  Father Lacy was the last man out just before an artillery shell hit the fantail.  Everything was chaos with the beach being swept by German artillery and small arms fire.  Wounded men were everywhere, both on the beach and in the water feebly trying to get to the beach.  Father Lacy did not hesitate.  With no thought for his own safety he waded into the water to pull men out of the ocean and onto the beach.  He began treating the wounded on the beach and administering the Last Rites to those beyond human assistance.  On a day when courage was not in short supply men took notice of this small fat priest who was doing his best under fire to save as many lives as he could.  While his battalion led the way off Omaha Beach, and sustained 50% casualties doing so, Father Lacy continued to tend their  wounded and the wounded of other units.  For his actions that day Father Lacy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor, after the Medal of Honor, in the United States Army.

Here is the text of his citation:

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3 Responses to Father Ranger

  • Thank God for Father Joe Lacy. Angel from heaven

  • Stories like this are great. But they always seem to bring me back around to my hobby horse, the lack of a strong Catholic identity in the US. We need more canonized saints. We need more shrines. We need a sense that we’re not merely another religion in a pluralistic, nearly secular country. We have a very practical immigrant’s sensibility: hospitals and schools, help people to get by. We need to avoid ghettoizing ourselves.

  • There is a process ongoing to canonize Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno for similar “heroic and dauntless actions” in Vietnam. His tomb is on Staten Island. A Chaplain’s Chaplain – WSJ
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB120486293330118997

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FDR’s D-Day Prayer

Tuesday, June 6, AD 2017

 

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

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D-Day Factoids

Tuesday, June 6, AD 2017

 

Random observations on D-Day.

  1. Churchill and the King– Churchill had begun his career in the days of Queen Victoria in the Army, and had fought in India, the Sudan and in the Boer War.   In World War I he had served briefly as the commander of a battalion in the trenches of the Western Front.  He was determined to land with the British troops on D-Day.  His generals were appalled.  King George VI remedied the problem when he told Churchill at an audience that he, the King, had determined that he should land on D-Day with his troops.   Churchill, aghast, said this was impossible since the King might be killed.  The King responded that since that was the case he didn’t want his Prime Minister risking his life on D-Day.  No more was heard of the idea of Churchill landing with the troops.
  2. German Build Up-There was little doubt that troops would successfully fight themselves ashore on D-Day.  The question was whether the Allies could build up successfully the beachhead and expand it in the face of the German buildup after the invasion.  This concern led to the initial assault force being increased from three to six divisions, not counting the Allied airborne forces dropping behind enemy lines.  The limiting factor was the number of landing craft the Allies had, with a six division assault force requiring bringing landing craft from the Mediterranean theater and delaying until July Operation Dragoon, the amphibious invasion of southern France.
  3. Oil-Modern armies move on fuel and getting enough gas into the D-Day beachhead was a major concern until the solution of laying pipelines, Operation Pluto. under the English channel was hit upon.  Disappointing initially in the amount of fuel transported via this means, by the end of the War 4000 tons was transported daily by these pipelines, providing the absolutely critical margin by which the mechanized Allied armies swept into Germany.
  4. Of Icebergs and Mulberries-Churchill was the quintessential idea man.   The problem was separating his good ideas from his bad ones.  Throughout the War he had the bizarre idea of using an iceberg as an unsinkable aircraft carrier.  His generals and admirals strove successfully throughout the War against his demand that this lunatic proposal be implemented. However he was also the main proponent of mulberries, the construction of prefabricated artificial harbors to be set up in France following D-Day.  These artificial harbors proved critical in the buildup in Normandy following D-Day.
  5. Patton-In the doghouse after slapping a soldier in Sicily, General George Patton still had an important role to play in D-Day.  Patton in the months of 1944 leading up to the invasion of Normandy found himself at the head of an impressive force: the First US Army Group, consisting of the US 14th Army and the British 4th Army.  It was entirely fictitious.  Codenamed Operation Quicksilver, the First US Army Group produced lots of radio chatter and paper reports, along with endless dummy tanks and fake troop bases.  It worked along with the other allied deceptions that made up Operation Fortitude South.  The Germans were convinced that the First US Army Group was a real formation and that the Allies were going to invade with it at Calais.  Patton made speeches and appearances throughout England at this time that received maximum publicity to enhance his assumed position as head of the Allied invasion.  At the same time he was secretly training Third Army for its role after the invasion.
  6. Rommel-The Desert Fox was not an infallible commander, but he did have an eerie ability to often guess the intentions of his foes.  So it was when he requested that the 12th SS Panzer Division, the fanatical Hitler Jugend, be moved to Carentan, which lay between the beaches that would become known as Utah and Omaha.  His request was refused.  Additionally, in early May Rommel ordered the commander of the 352nd Division to withdraw most of his men from reserve and have them concentrated on the beach that would be Omaha.  Fortunately for the Americans who landed there, the commander of the 352nd Division ignored Rommel’s order.
  7. Daily Telegraph-In May of 1944 crucial codewords for Operation Overlord began showing up in crossword puzzles of the Daily Telegraph newspaper.  An intensive investigation by MI5 failed to uncover any security breach.
  8. Mississippi-The flat bottomed landing craft had originally been designed to rescue Mississippi River flooding victims.
  9. Wonder Drug-The assault troops went ashore equipped with the new wonder drug Penicillin which saved thousands of lives.
  10. Casualties-The Allied casualties were much lighter than anticipated, some 10,000 of which 4500 were killed.  Churchill had feared a second first day of the Somme with some 20,000 Allied KIAs.
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2 Responses to D-Day Factoids

  • “[H]e did have an eerie ability to often guess the intentions of his foes”

    Perhaps, this is the sort of prescience Napoléon had in mind, when he enquired about anyone recommended for promotion, “But is he lucky?”

  • Doubtless. I think it is akin to the genius that we see at work in other fields. I recall an attorney who could tell when the tide was turning in a jury trial by subtle shifts in how jurors were sitting, subtle shifts that completely eluded me. He was never wrong in my experience.

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June 4, 1942: Battle of Midway Begins

Sunday, June 4, AD 2017

My bride has the distinction of being one of the few people born on the Island of Midway.  (We have pictures of her as an infant with some Laysan Albatrosses, better known on Midway as Gooney Birds.  The medical staff was so excited at her birth that they put her in the new incubator, although they did not turn it on.)  This has led to never-ending confusion over the years when she has presented her birth certificate, with puzzled individuals wondering where Midway is.  Seventy-five years ago today the battle of Midway began.  A battle which has been called a miracle, Midway was the turning point of the war in the Pacific, with the decisive defeat of the Japanese strike force aimed at Midway that Admiral Yamamoto had intended to give a crushing blow to the remaining US carriers.  The victory of Midway was the product of hubris, MAGIC, luck, courage and skill.

1.  Hubris-Since Pearl Harbor the Japanese had won incredible victories on land, sea and in the air, and now controlled a huge Empire throughout East Asia.  Japanese historians have described this as the period of “victory fever”.  Even a very level headed and pragmatic individual like Admiral Yamamoto was affected by this atmosphere of seeming invincibility.  Japanese intelligence as to the dispostion of the US fleet in the Pacific was poor, and Yamamoto’s plan to lure the Americans into battle by threatening Midway was very much a strike into the unknown, and risked Japan’s fate in the war on one battle. 

2.  MAGIC-US cryptographers had broken many Japanese diplomatic and military codes.  The project was collectively known as MAGIC.  In December of 1941 Naval cryptographers had broken the Japanese high command naval fleet code designated JN-25.  Nimitz, the commander in chief of the US fleet in the Pacific, knew as a result that Midway was the target of the Japanese fleet and assembled his three carriers and support ships to oppose the Japanese fleet with its four carriers, two light carriers and support ships.

3.  Luck-It is hard in our era of satellite surveilance and ubiquitous electronic sensoring systems, to realize just how much a deadly game of blind man’s bluff a carrier battle was in 1942.  Radar, still in its infancy, gave the US a critical edge at Midway, but finding the Japanese fleet carriers to attack them was as much a product of luck as anything else.  If the Japanese had been luckier, Midway could easily have been a disastrous US defeat.

4.  Courage-There were many brave men on both sides, however the palm for gallantry has to go to the aviators of Torpedo Squadron Eight from the Hornet and Torpedo Squadron 6 from the Enterprise and their attacks on the Japanese carriers on June 4.  The men had to know that without cover from their own fighters they would almost certainly not survive their attack runs on the carriers.  They went in anyway, and almost all of them died.  Many Japanese observers were stunned while watching this.  Japanese propaganda called Americans weak, decadent and cowardly, and here were American pilots going to their deaths in the best samurai style as they attempted to sink the well guarded carriers.  The attacks failed, but they drew most of the Japanese carrier air patrols away from the carriers, kept the carriers off balance and unable to launch their own strikes and depleted the ammunition and gasoline of many of the Japanese planes guarding the carriers.

5.  Skill-Approximately 30 minutes after the torpedo squadron attacks, three squadrons of American SBD’s from the Enterprise and the Yorktown came upon the Japanese carriers.  They were led by Commander C. Wade McCluskey who decided to prolong the search for the Japanese carriers and found them by following the wake of a Japanese destroyer.  In a matter of minutes the three squadrons inflicted devastating damage on three of the four Japanese fleet carriers, winning the battle of Midway for the United States.

Here is the report of Admiral Nimitz on the battle.  Note the emphasis in his report on lessons learned and improvements that had to be made based upon these lessons, it is a model of how to learn from success:

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6 Responses to June 4, 1942: Battle of Midway Begins

  • The victory of Midway was the product of hubris, MAGIC, luck, courage and skill.”
    That and more than a little help from our Creator…..

  • Then, God was on our side. N.B. the use of the past tense.

    That being said, if the Japanese had taken Midway, they would have used it as a land base to bomb Pearl Harbor and US military bases in Hawaii. That would have been a huge loss for the US strategic situation.

    “A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

    “If everybody’s thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.”

    “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

    Above are useful quotes from Patton.

  • Even if we had lost at Midway the Japanese did not stand a chance. Beginning in 1943 an avalanche of new ships, air units and ground divisions would have turned the tide of the War. The War might have lasted a year longer, unless, as it did historically, the Bomb brought the War to a screeching halt.

  • Excellent post, Don. Thank you .

  • “Then, God was on our side. N.B. the use of the past tense.” God is still on our side. We have to ask .

One Response to Resisting Enemy Interrogation

  • Once I read a story of a couple of American POWs who had seen this film. When the Germans drove them up to the requsitioned French chalet they remembered the film and burst out laughing at the sight of it. Everything that happened after paralleled the film so much that they continued to lose their composure and laugh. One later said “The Germans thought we were a couple of nutcases”.
    Hey, victory by any means, right?

May 8, 1942: Victory at the Battle of the Coral Sea

Monday, May 8, AD 2017

 

Seventy-five years ago, although they did not realize it, the American and Australian forces had won the Battle of the Coral Sea.  The battle which ultimately saved Australia from Japanese invasion has been largely forgotten in the US.  That is a pity.  Just six months from the Pearl Harbor debacle, the US Navy won a strategic victory that largely shaped the outcome of the battle of Midway, the turning point in the Pacific War.

Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese Navy, launched an invasion force to take Port Moresby on the south side of the huge island of New Guinea.  Once New Guinea was taken Australia was next. Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue, in command of the Japanese of the Fourth Fleet would command this venture.

Allied intelligence learned of this plan, and Admiral Nimitz, Naval Supreme Commander in the Pacific, sent all four of his fleet carriers to intercept the Japanese force.

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One Response to May 8, 1942: Victory at the Battle of the Coral Sea

  • “Allied intelligence learned of this plan, and Admiral Nimitz, Naval Supreme Commander in the Pacific, sent all four of his fleet carriers to intercept the Japanese force.”

    The other two, the Enterprise and the Hornet, were too far away and did not arrive before the end of the battle. Nimitz had a fifth carrier, the Saratoga, under his command, but she was in Puget Sound finishing repairs to a Japanese submarine torpedo attack at the time.

    What desperate times. What if Americans then acted as they do now?

April 18, 1942: The Doolittle Raid

Tuesday, April 18, AD 2017

 

Seventy-five years ago 80 very brave Americans, led by Army Air Corps Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, brought the nation a badly needed morale boost.  The War in the Pacific was going badly as defeat followed defeat.  Navy Captain Francis Low hit upon a plan to send a message, not only to the American public, but also to Japan, that the United States was not beaten and that it would strike back and prevail.

16 Mitchell B-25B bombers were placed on the carrier USS Hornet.  In great secrecy the Hornet and its escorts steamed to within 650 nautical miles of Japan when the force was discovered by a Japanese picket boat which was sunk by gunfire from the USS Nashville.  Fearing discovery the Doolittle force launched immediately, some 10 hours earlier than planned, and 170 nautical miles further from Japan.

The raiders reached the Japanese Home Islands at around noon.  They had split up into groups ranging from two to four planes and struck targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka.  The raiders then planned to fly their planes into Nationalist controlled China and make their way back to the US.  Miraculously 69 of the raiders did just that.  Three of the raiders died and eight were captured.

Of the captured raiders, three were executed by the Japanese on October 15, 1942 following a show trial.

The remaining five POWs were placed on starvation rations, with one of them dying prior to liberation by the Allied forces at the end of the War.  Jacob DeShazer, one of the POWs, came back to Japan as a missionary in 1948 and worked there for 30 years spreading the Gospel.

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Chesty Puller and Catholic Chaplains

Thursday, March 30, AD 2017

(I first ran this back in 2011.  It has proven to be one of the most popular posts I have written for TAC.  Time to run it again.)

 

 

Some men become legends after their deaths and others become legends while they are alive.  Lewis Burwell Puller, forever known as “Chesty”, was in the latter category.  Enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1918 he would serve until 1955, rising in rank from private to lieutenant general.  Throughout his career he led from the front, never asking his men to go where he would not go.  For his courage he was five times awarded the Navy Cross,  a Silver Star,  a Distinguished Service Cross, and a Bronze Star with a V for Valor, along with numerous other decorations.  In World War II and Korea he became a symbol of the courage that Marines amply displayed in  both conflicts.

His fourth Navy Cross citation details why the Marines under his command would have followed him in an attack on Hades if he had decided to lead them there:

“For extraordinary heroism as Executive Officer of the Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, serving with the Sixth United States Army, in combat against enemy Japanese forces at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, from 26 December 1943 to 19 January 1944. Assigned temporary command of the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, from 4 to 9 January, Lieutenant Colonel Puller quickly reorganized and advanced his unit, effecting the seizure of the objective without delay. Assuming additional duty in command of the Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, from 7 to 8 January, after the commanding officer and executive officer had been wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Puller unhesitatingly exposed himself to rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire from strongly entrenched Japanese positions to move from company to company in his front lines, reorganizing and maintaining a critical position along a fire-swept ridge. His forceful leadership and gallant fighting spirit under the most hazardous conditions were contributing factors in the defeat of the enemy during this campaign and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Stories began to cluster about him.  When he was first shown a flame thrower he supposedly asked, “Where do you mount the bayonet?”    Advised that his unit was surrounded he replied:  “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.”  On an inspection tour of a Marine unit he became exasperated at the lack of spirit he saw and finally said,“Take me to the Brig. I want to see the real Marines!”  During the Chosin campaign in Korea when the Marines were fighting their way to the coast through several Communist Chinese corps he captured the tactical situation succinctly:  “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.”  Little surprise that Marine Drill Instructors at Parris Island still have their boots sing good night to Chesty Puller some four decades after his death.

Puller was an Episcopalian.  However he made no secret that he greatly admired Navy Catholic chaplains who served with the Marines, and had little use, with certain honorable exceptions, for the Navy Protestant chaplains sent to the Corps.  His reasons were simple.  The Catholic chaplains were without fear, always wanted to be with the troops in combat, and the men idolized them for their courage and their willingness, even eagerness, to stand with them during their hour of trial.

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Saints of Lent: The Lion of Munster

Sunday, March 26, AD 2017

Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us.  Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time.  This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints.  We began with Saint Athanasius.  Go here to read about him.  Next we looked at Saint John Fisher.  Go here to read about him. Last week we looked at the life of Saint Oliver Plunket.  Go here to read about him.  This week we turn to the Lion of Munster.

The Nazis hated and feared Clemens August Graf von Galen in life and no doubt they still hate and fear him, at least those now enjoying the amenities of some of the less fashionable pits of Hell.  This Lent, I am strongly encouraged by the story of Blessed von Galen.  I guess one could come up with a worse situation than being a Roman Catholic bishop in Nazi Germany in 1941, and confronting a merciless anti-Christian dictatorship that was diametrically opposed to the Truth of Christ, but that would certainly do for enough of a challenge for one lifetime for anyone.  (Hitler privately denounced Christianity as a Jewish superstition and looked forward after the War to “settling accounts”, as he put it, with Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular.)

Priests who spoke out against the Third Reich were being rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps.  What was a bishop to do in the face of such massive evil?  Well, for the Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, there could be only one answer.

A German Count, von Galen was from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Westphalia.  Always a German patriot, the political views of von Galen would have made my own conservatism seem a pale shade of pink in comparison.  Prior to becoming a bishop, he was sometimes criticized for a haughty attitude and being unbending.  He was chosen Bishop of Munster in 1933 only after other candidates, no doubt recognizing what a dangerous position it would be with the Nazis now in power, had turned it down.  I am certain  it did not hurt that he was an old friend of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

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A Century of Vera Lynn

Tuesday, March 21, AD 2017

 

 

The singing voice of Great Britain during World War II, Dame Vera Lynn is one hundred years old.  The Sweetheart of the Forces, she was tireless in her performances for the troops during World War II, and the veterans of that conflict have always held her in high esteem.  Contrary to the usual dismal history of the entertainment industry, she enjoyed a life long love affair with her one and only husband until he died in 1998.  Throughout her long life she has  championed disabled servicemen and disabled kids.   She is a living refutation of the falsehood that the good die young.

 

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Requiescat in Pace: Loyce Edward Deen

Monday, March 13, AD 2017

When you go home, tell them of us and say
For their tomorrow, we gave our today.
Inscription on the Memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima

Hattip to Ace of Spades.  As we go about our daily lives it is good to remember that we stand on the shoulders of giants.  One of those giants is a 23 year old sailor who died 73 years ago:

Loyce Edward Deen, an Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class, USNR, was a gunner on a TBM Avenger. On November 5, 1944, Deen’s squadron participated in a raid on Manila, where his plane was hit multiple times by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a Japanese cruiser. Deen was killed.The Avenger’s pilot, Lt. Robert Cosgrove, managed to return to his carrier, the USS Essex. Both Deen and the plane had been shot up so badly that it was decided to leave him in the plane.

It is the only time in U.S. Navy history (and probably U.S. military history) that an aviator was buried in his aircraft after being killed in action.

 

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January 26, 1945: Audie Murphy Earns Medal of Honor

Thursday, January 26, AD 2017

The real heroes are dead.

Audie Murphy

When Audie Murphy starred in his aptly titled World War II biopic, To Hell and Back, his battlefield exploits were downplayed.  Partially this was due to Murphy’s modesty, he had not wanted to appear in the movie and did so only after he was promised that much of the focus of the film would be on his buddies who died during the War, and partially due to the fact that what he did during the War was so unbelievably courageous that film audiences might have refused to believe it.  Here is his Medal of Honor citation that he earned in truly hellish fighting near Holtzwihr, France on January 26, 1945:

General Orders No. 65

WAR DEPARTMENT

Washington 25, D.C., 9 August 1945

MEDAL OF HONOR – Award

Section
1
* * * * *

I. MEDAL OF HONOR. – By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved 9 July 1918 (WD Bul. 43, 1918), a Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty was awarded by the War Department in the name of Congress to the following-named officer:

Second Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy, 01692509, 15th Infantry, Army of the United States, on 26 January 1945, near Holtzwihr, France, commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. Lieutenant Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him to his right one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. It’s crew withdrew to the woods. Lieutenant Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, Lieutenant Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer which was in danger of blowing up any instant and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to the German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. the enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminated Lieutenant Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he personally killed or wounded about 50. Lieutenant Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.
* * * * *

BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:
OFFICIAL:

EDWARD F. WITSELL
Major General
Acting the Adjutant General

G.C. MARSHALL
Chief of Staff

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January 24, 1972: Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi is Captured

Tuesday, January 24, AD 2017

 

If there were any question as to the fanaticism, or raw courage and determination if one prefers, of the Japanese military during World War II, the tale of Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi would have answered it.  For 28 years after the liberation of Guam he survived in the jungles, initially with nine other soldiers.  He learned in 1952 that Japan had lost the War, but he did not surrender because Japanese soldiers did not do that.  On January 24, 1972 he was discovered by two local villagers on Guam who subdued him and brought him from the jungle with minor bruising.  On returning to Japan he said, “It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned.”

Two Japanese soldiers of World War II surrendered in 1974 and none since then.  Shoichi Yokoi married, became a popular television personality and advocated leading an austere lifestyle.  He passed away in 1997, his tombstone being the one purchased by his mother in 1955 under the assumption that he was dead.

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2 Responses to January 24, 1972: Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi is Captured

  • Donald, your historical posts are always informative and fascinating. Thanks.
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    Maybe you could do one on an A.A. Historical Note  …..
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    Bill Wilson (AA’s founder along with Dr. Bob Smith) was born on November 26, 1895, and passed away on January 24, 1971.
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    (at the age of 75 )………..46 years ago, today!!
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    He and Dr. Bob based the AA program – its 12 Steps and 12 Traditions – on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, St. Paul’s Love Chapter in 1st Corinthians 13, and the faith without works is dead philosophy of the Epistle of St. James.
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    For this once drunken dope fiend but now a recovering alcoholic drug addict that’s what works.
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    Thanks.

  • If Yokoi went back to Japan he would have been executed anyway.

January 15, 1943: Pentagon Dedictated

Sunday, January 15, AD 2017

Leslie Groves was not a pleasant man to work for, but if you wanted to get something done, he was the man to accomplish the seemingly impossible.  He demonstrated this twice during World War II:  spearheading the Manhattan Project and overseeing the construction of the Pentagon.  A ruthless driver of men, and a born problem solver, he managed to build the Pentagon under budget and in sixteen months, a project that was estimated initially to take four years.

Major General Kenneth Nichols, who worked under Groves summed up the man:

First, General Groves is the biggest S.O.B. I have ever worked for. He is most demanding. He is most critical. He is always a driver, never a praiser. He is abrasive and sarcastic. He disregards all normal organizational channels. He is extremely intelligent. He has the guts to make difficult, timely decisions. He is the most egotistical man I know. He knows he is right and so sticks by his decision. He abounds with energy and expects everyone to work as hard or even harder than he does. Although he gave me great responsibility and adequate authority to carry out his mission-type orders, he constantly meddled with my subordinates. However, to compensate for that he had a small staff, which meant that we were not subject to the usual staff-type heckling. He ruthlessly protected the overall project from other government agency interference, which made my task easier. He seldom accepted other agency cooperation and then only on his own terms. During the war and since I have had the opportunity to meet many of our most outstanding leaders in the Army, Navy and Air Force as well as many of our outstanding scientific, engineering and industrial leaders. And in summary, if I had to do my part of the atomic bomb project over again and had the privilege of picking my boss I would pick General Groves.

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One Response to January 15, 1943: Pentagon Dedictated

  • If you have never watched the movie, “Fat Man & Little Boy”, order it and watch it ! It is well worth your “nickel”, Timothy R.

Christmas “Nuts!” at Bastogne

Thursday, December 22, AD 2016

 

 

Seventy-two years ago at Christmas the American and German armies were fighting it out in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the War.

 

Patton’s Third Army fought its way through to relieve the Americans desperately fighting to defeat the attacking German forces.  The weather was atrocious and Allied air power was useless.  Patton had a prayer written for good weather. The skies cleared after Patton prayed the weather prayer, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.

 

 

 

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle. Massively outnumbered, battle weary from already having done more than their share of fighting in Normandy and Operation Market Garden and short on food and ammo, they stopped the advancing Germans cold in their tracks.

On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101st troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.

General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops:

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7 Responses to Christmas “Nuts!” at Bastogne

  • The Lutheran Minister aptly provides the answer to us as to what we need to do about Islam. Thanks for the clip. Battleground is a great movie, one well worth watching. I believe it is on Netflix. Thank you, Donald. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  • I think of those hard men (cold, hungry, giving them Hell) whenever I hear the Christmas song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” The older I get, the less I can stand cold weather.
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    These men that had fought through D-Day and Market Garden were highly effective soldiers. Still, The Bulge was “above and beyond . . . ”
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    Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

  • If any have not read the first-hand eye-witness account of “7 Roads to Hell” (which aptly describes Bastogne and the fulcrum of The Bulge battle) by Donald R. Burgett, it is highly recommended. It is a great read, actually part of a 4-part set, starting with his air-drop behind the Normandy beaches on D-Day. But “7 Roads”, for its sheer honesty, shock-effect, and rawness, is the best of them all.

    The author, at the time a 19-year-old battle-weary paratrooper (101st Airborne, 506th Parachute Infantry Reg.), and his equally worn 1st Battalion, were hustled into the Bastogne cauldron —- after having been so certainly promised a 6-week R&R—and then the Bulge offensive hit.

    They had pretty much been fighting constantly since June 6th (they also participated in the disaster of Operation Market Garden)—but because they were so effective, the US Army couldn’t leave them out of so many of the engagements that followed. Including Bastogne and the Bulge.

    Burgett was (ostensibly) a life-long atheist, but was so moved and bothered at the dead that had to be left where they were killed in the woods, strewn on the snow, that he thought that was a grave wrong to the men who gave their lives in this maelstrom. He made it a point to help the recovery corps find the snow-covered frozen dead. Even atheists respect the sacrifice of a life for a desperate cause.

    By the way, Burgett is still living, age 91, and lives in Howell, MI, and has often contributed to a number of History Channel productions.

  • The speech at 1:45-2:11 seems applicable to the American Left today.

  • Sorry, I was referring to the bottom clip from Battleground. Forgot to add that.

  • I was a K9 MP in Germany for three years during the Cold War. How cold was it ? The official rule stated that if it got down near Zero, the dog ( my K9 friend’s name was “Ex”) stayed in his nice warm kennel. We went out on Post without the dog !
    I would like very much to move to Arizona; but, we have eleven Grand children, and three
    Great Grand children here. Whenever I bring up that subject, I get “The Look” from the Misses. I describe all of this in my book, “Wings held up by Hope”
    Timothy

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