World War II
One of the more daring air raids of World War II, on September 9, 1942 a Japanese float plane piloted by Warrant Office Nobou Fujita took off from the I-25 , a Japanese submarine, that was off Cape Blanco on the southwestern Oregon coast. The intention was to drop two incendiary bombs to start forest fires. Fujita dropped both bombs, one of which exploded, in the Siskiyou National Forest. The ensuing forest fire was minor and easily put out, the forest being damp from recent rains, and Howard “Razz” Gardner manning a fire lookout tower having spotted the plane as it conducted the bombing. Fujita flew back to the I-25. On September 29 Fujita made a second attack which caused only negligible damage.
Although one has to appreciate the daring of the Japanese involved, this operation barely deserves footnote status as the only time the continental United States has been bombed by an enemy power. What is more interesting, and encouraging in what it says about human nature, is that twenty years after the bombings, in 1962, Fujita was invited to Brookings, the town nearest the bombings. After the Japanese government ascertained that there was no intention of attempting to try Fujita as a war criminal, Fujita went. He was made Grand Marshal of the local Azalea Festival. Fujita gave the town a 400 year old samurai sword from his family as a token of regret. ( He had intended to commit seppuku with it if his reception had been unfriendly.) Continue reading
We must have this ship back in three days!
Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz
On Labor Day we honor the American worker and the repair of the USS Yorktown tells us why. Badly damaged at the battle of the Coral Sea, it was estimated that the Yorktown would take three months in drydock to repair. That was unacceptable. With the battle of Midway looming the Yorktown had to be gotten back into action if the US was to have any chance at all against the Japanese fleet with its heavy advantage in flattops.
What happened next was a true miracle. 1400 civilian dockyard workers and sailors swarmed over the Yorktown, working night and day for 72 hours. Hawaii Electric staged rolling blackouts in Honolulu to generate the enormous power necessary for the mammoth repairs. The Yorktown sailed for Midway on May 30, 1942 with civilian workers still on board, completing the repairs. At Midway, four days later, Yorktown’s role in the victory was absolutely crucial, her planes sending the Japanese carrier Soryu to the bottom before the Yorktown herself was sunk. Continue reading
Japan surrendered on a Sunday 67 years ago in 1945. The above is the only color video of the surrender ceremony. One of my uncles, a Navy enlisted man, was present in Tokyo Bay when the surrender occurred. Below is a newsreel that conveyed the news to the American homefront:
Here is the speech given by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan, that I believe deserves to be remembered today, as it still is relevant to the dangers facing Man: Continue reading
(This is a post I did in 2009. It seemed appropriate to repost it today. Father Gehring pray for us that we may have the courage to face our challenges in life and win victories over them.)
Frederic Gehring was probably lucky that he was born and reared in Brooklyn. It has always been a tough town and it prepared him for the adventurous life he was to lead. Born on January 20, 1903, he went on to attend and graduated from Saint John’s Prep. Setting his eyes on being a missionary priest, he entered the minor seminary of the Vincentians, Saint Joseph’s, near Princeton, New Jersey. Earning his BA in 1925, he entered the seminary of Saint Vincent’s in Philadelphia.
Ordained as a priest on May 22, 1930, he was unable to immediately go to China due to military activity of the Communists in Kiangsi province. For three years he traveled throughout the US raising funds for the missions in China, and, at long last, in 1933 he was able to pack his bags and sailed for China. Laboring in the Chinese missions from 1933-1939 in the midst of warlordism, civil war and the invasion of China, commencing in 1937, by Japan must have been tough, but Father Gehring was always up to any challenge. For example, in 1938 Japanese planes strafed a mission he was at. Father Gehring ran out waving a large American flag in hopes that the Japanese would not wish to offend a powerful neutral nation and would stop the strafing. The Japanese planes did fly off, and Father Gehring was pleased until someone at the mission pointed out that maybe the Japanese had simply run out of ammo! In 1939 Father Gerhring returned to the States to raise funds for the missions.
Immediately following Pearl Harbor, Father Gehring joined the Navy as a Chaplain. In September 1942 he began an unforgettable six month tour of duty with the First Marine Division fighting on Guadalcanal. Marines, although they are often loathe to admit it, are a component of the Department of the Navy, and the US Navy supplies their support troops, including chaplains. (One of my friends served as a Navy corpsman with a Marine unit in Vietnam. After his tour with the Navy he enlisted with the Marines, was commissioned a Lieutenant, and spent his entire tour with a detachment of Marines aboard an aircraft carrier. As he puts it, he joined the Navy and spent his time slogging through the mud with Marines. He then joined the Marines and spent his time sailing with the Navy.)
Guadalcanal marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific. In August 1942 the US went on the offensive for the first time when the First Marine Division, the Old Breed, landed on Guadalcanal and took the Japanese air base there. This set off a huge six month campaign, where US forces, often outnumbered on land, sea and in the air, fought and defeated the Imperial Army and Navy. The importance of Guadalcanal is well captured in this quote from Admiral William “Bull” Halsey: “Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours”.
Upon arrival on Guadalcanal, Lieutenant Gehring quickly became known as “Padre “ to the men of the Old Breed, the title usually bestowed upon chaplains, especially if they were Catholic priests. He soon became known for wanting to be where the fighting was in order to help the wounded and administer the Last Rites. Initially this took some of the Marines by surprise. Jumping into a foxhole during a heavy fire fight, a shocked Marine already in the foxhole, noticing the crucifix dangling from his neck, cried out to him, “Padre, what are you doing here?” Gehring calmly replied, “Where else would I be?” He would routinely say Masses so close to the fighting, that the Marines said that he would say Mass in Hell for Marines if he could drive his jeep there. The Marines quickly decided that it was a lost cause asking the Padre to stay behind the lines. They were doing well if they could convince him to stay within friendly lines! Three times he went out on behind the line missions to rescue trapped missionaries on the island, mostly Marist priests and sisters, rescuing 28 of them, assisted by natives of the Solomons. For this feat he was the first Navy chaplain to be awarded the Legion of Merit by the President. Continue reading
Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours.
Admiral William “Bull” Halsey
Seventy years ago Marines of the First Division, The Old Breed, launched the first offensive of America in World War II, by landing on Guadalcanal and seized the Japanese air strip, named Henderson Field by the Marines. This set off a huge six month campaign, where US forces, often outnumbered on land, sea and in the air, fought and defeated the Imperial Army and Navy.
Once the Marines seized Henderson, the Japanese commenced a cycle of shipping troops by sea to Guadalcanal, called by Marines the Tokyo Express, to take it back. The Imperial Navy, waged battle after battle with the US Navy to cut the supply line of the Marines. In the skies above Guadalcanal the Japanese sent wave after wave of fighters and bombers to establish air supremacy and to make Henderson unusable through bombing.
The Japanese were unable to establish air supremacy due to the “Cactus Air Force”, Cactus being the Allied code name for Guadalcanal, heavily outnumbered Marine aviators, who, operating under the most primitive conditions imaginable, successfully contested Japanese control of the air, and, eventually, with American carrier based air, established American air supremacy above Guadalcanal.
The US Navy, in seven large battles against its Japanese counterpart, eventually established naval supremacy in the seas around Guadalcanal. The battles were hammer and tongs affairs, with some of the most desperate naval fighting in the entire War.
The Marines on Guadalcanal learned many useful lessons in fighting and beating the Japanese: Continue reading
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: Continue reading
Getting the annual Saint Blogs August Bomb Follies off to an early start. Father Wilson Miscamble, Professor of History at Notre Dame, and long a champion of the pro-life cause, defends the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the video above. The video is a summary of the conclusions reached by Father Miscamble in his recent book, The Most Controversial Decision. Go here to read a review of the book by British military historian Andrew Roberts. Go here to read a review of the book by Father Michael P. Orsi. Go here to read a review by Michael Novak. Continue reading
The things you can find on Youtube! Pope Pius XII blesses 4000 American soldiers after the liberation of Rome in 1944. Here is what the Pope said:
It is a real joy for us to welcome you all here to the very own house of the Eternal Father of the Christians. You know very well you have experience now of the dangers and uncertainties of life in the midst of war. Make one thing certain, that you always keep close to God.
Pope Pius was quite popular among servicemen with huge numbers flocking to the Vatican to receive his blessing: Catholics, Protestants and Jews. Many soldiers wrote that it was a highlight of their service in Europe, and more than a few converted as a result. The Pope had a special fondness for those in the military who were risking their lives, and he made himself availabe in frequent audiences for them. Pius was grateful for the liberation of Rome, as he indicated to General Mark Clark when he first met the Pope. Continue reading
Hattip to Don the Kiwi for reminding me of this anniversary. Seventy years ago on June 12, 1942 the Marines landed in New Zealand. They were the vanguard of some 20,000 Marines who would train in New Zealand before going on to hellish battlefields throughout the Pacific, including Tarawa featured in the above video. In the memoirs of the Pacific War that I have read, US troops stationed in New Zealand and Australia viewed their time there as paradise and the Aussies and the Kiwis as some of the friendliest and most hospitable people on the planet. Some US servicemen settled in both nations after the war, and some 15,000 Aussie and 1500 Kiwi women went to America as war brides. Continue reading