8. Stories of World War II History

My love of history is based on stories of people and events in lives of people. It helps in studying history to have a framework – hence, names, dates and facts. But the real essence of history is people – that is basis of these stories.

Story #1.        Salute to World War II veterans, men and women, on this the 75th anniversary Pearl Harbor, 2016.

World War II, United States serious shortage pilots so government created experimental paramilitary aviation organization – the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). There were over 25,000 women who applied but only 1,074 were accepted in the WASP. All of them were women with previous flying experience and pilot’s licenses. These women flew over 60 million miles in all kinds of military aircraft. In 1977, the organization acquired a veteran status, waiting until 2009 to be awarded with the Congressional Gold Meda

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Story #2.    Nothing like taste of Fanta to quench thirst of evildoers during wartime.   Fanta emerged Germany early 1940’s, created specifically sate Nazi thirst.

Coca-Cola had factories in Germany, but these were deeply threatened war, which made trade of ingredients tricky. The Nazi regime took over plants putting a loyal Nazi in charge, German born Max Keith. The syrup makes Coca-Cola what it is no longer shipped from United States to wartime Nazi Germany. Had to come up with another plan, keep Coca-Cola’s numerous German bottling plants alive. Challenged employees with contest, come up name for new drink, telling them use imaginations. The German translation of ‘imagination’ is fantasie, and at utterance of brilliant word, brainstorming session ended and drink’s name shortened to ‘Fanta’ Became official soft drink Third Reich. 

Story #3 – Battle of Saipan, one soldier gave life for so many – Terrifying banzai charge over 5,000 Japanese soldiers.

Thomas Baker cemented legend before charge of 5,000 Japanese in bonzai attack. He charged across open terrain under enemy machine gun fire to fire a bazooka into enemy pillbox, killing 12 men in fortified position. He surprised group 6 enemy soldiers concealed waiting ambush next group Americans to pass. He shot all 6 dead. Several days later, Baker surprised another group 12 Japanese 12  manning  concealed machine gun, lying behind American lines. Baker shot all 12 Japanese, preventing devastating ambush. On front lines during fateful bonzai charge, wounded in abdomen shot down scores enemy until out of ammunition. Began using rifle as club killing 10 attackers. His last words “Give me your .45”. A fellow soldier complied and Baker last seen alive propped against tree, Colt in hand.. Americans repelled banzai attack retook position, Baker there, gun empty, 8 dead Japanese front of him. Baker was posthumously promoted Sergeant and awarded Medal of Honor all his actions on Saipan.

 

Story #4 – The White Death – top sniper in World War II and ever – Russo-Finnish War 1939-1940

Lt. Simo Häyhä single most successful sniper in military history. Nicknamed “White Death” for totally white camouflage and eerie white mask worn in combat, Finnish marksman amassed at least 505 confirmed sniper kills during Winter War between Finland and Soviet Union. He got additional 200 kills with submachine gun.  Häyhä kept snow in mouth while engaging enemy make sure not emit steamy breaths give away position. Häyhä had half his face blown off by stray shot in 1940. Fellow soldiers carried him to safety, but not believe would live.. Häyhä survived.

Story #5 –     World War II – One of most secret, important center British Military.  Dover Castle – built 1100’s, largest castle in England – Key WWII

Tunnels originally built Napoleonic Wars command center invasion of England by Napoleon. Housed over 2,000 men massive layout of tunnels, artillerty observation openings. Closed end Napoleonic Wars 125 years ordered reopened by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Top secret operation 75 feet below castle – first line defense if Hitler invaded England. Served as military command center. May 1940, evacuation French and British soldiers from Dunkirk directed here. Code-name Operation Dynamo cliff tunnels 3500 feet of tunnels. 

 

Story #6 –   World War II  – Christmas away from home for many serving country.  All over the world, Christmas was/is celebrated in services, prayers.

So busy were the flight crews flying almost around the clock from bases in England over Nazi controlled Europe – flight crew must have Christmas in hangers with chaplain between flying missions. Thank you the greatest generation and all have served or are serving protecting ability to celebrate Christmas in peace.
WWII American airmen England.

 

Story #7 – Christmas Eve, 1943 – Airman has life threatening encounter with Nazis

Germans announce “Murder Inc. Gangsters” Shot down, captured, be shot.
Crew never knew why B-17 assigned called “Murder Inc.”Name on plane, crew jackets name on back. Early December, 1943 B-17 shot down. Germans capture navigator – Airman Kenneth Williams. When see jacket, German Propaganda says “Pres. FDR ordered head Alcatraz Prison pick deadliest convict, head Al Capone death squad, Chicago, special mission. This man led 100’s convicts kill thousands German women and children.” Captured, tortured to confess was head of Murder Inc. plot to kill German civilians. Refused, interrogated by Hitler’s personal interpreter – finally sent to German POW camp for Russians, solitary confinement till end of war.

Story #8 – World War II – British Lt.Clifton James made D-Day Invasion successJames was British actor friend of David Niven, Colonel British Special Forces

James received phone call from friend Col. David Niven, British Special Forces, asking come London for screen test, 1943. Not typical test – “You have been chosen to act as double for Field Marshall Montgomery.” James 12-14 hours day reading, studying photos, two weeks on Monty’s staff just studying Monty, dawn to dusk. April, 1944, James full uniform and full staff on trip to North Africa inspect Allied troops there. Met old friends of Monty, fooled them, inspected and closed planning sessions. All recorded by German spies. He deliberately encountered pair of bogus Spanish businessmen in public garden and talked about a “Plan 303” then realized said more than should, shut up. British Intelligence issued bogus statements about Plan 303. Plan 303 was massive invasion from North Africa into southern France. This deception drew huge numbers of  German General Rommels armored divisions away from Normandy along with tens thousands German infantry.  Below: Left – real Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery    Right: actor Clifton James, double for “Monty”

 

 

Story #9 World War II – “The Greatest Generation” – my lifelong greatest hero. Since a little kid, my hero has been my mother’s youngest brother.

I post this now because 75 years ago this month my beloved Uncle Paul (son named after him) left for boot camp Missouri. He and his wife married Nov., 1941 – two weeks later Pearl Harbor. Month and half later, left for basic training. Two months later passed through Denver on troop train, tried call wife at work – at lunch. Left San Francisco for South Pacific. At Battle of Guadalcanal, Saipan, Iwo Jima – ready invade Japan and war ended. At Tokyo Bay for surrender of Japanese. Coming home 1945? No, Occupation of Japan under General MacArthur for two years. Finally, home 1947 – hadn’t seen wife of two months for five years. He was like a father to me. Humble, kind, encouraging, patient, wise and fun. 75 years ago his call to serve was met with that of a patriot.

Story #10 – Fought For Three Different Armies in World War II, Never by choice. Strange story of Yang KyoungJong, fought for Japan,, USSR, Germany

Yang Kyoungjong might be the unluckiest person who survived WWII.. June 1944, U. S. paratroopers fighting in Normandy took an unusual prisoner. He clearly from east Asia, but was wearing uniform of a German Wehrmacht soldier. His name was Yang Kyoungjong, a Korean. Imperial Japan annexed Korea 1910 and invaded China in 1930’s, In 1938, Yang then 18-years-old, was conscripted by Japanese army and sent to Russian front. Yang captured by Red Army and sent to labor camp for three years.. But by 1942, Soviets desperate for manpower pressed thousands prisoners into penal battalions. Yang sent to eastern Europe fight for Mother Russia. 1943, Yang captured by German army at Battle of Kharkov in Ukraine. Germany was also short manpower. Yang pressed into service, as part of Wehrmacht’s “Eastern Battalions.”. Yang sent to France guard the Atlantic Wall from Allied invasion. Yang stationed near Utah Beach, landing point of D-Day invasion. Captured by American paratroopers, who assumed he was Japanese. Why else would Asian man wear a German uniform? Yang sent to British prison camp, eventually ended up in the United States. He settled in Illinois after war and died in 1992.

Story #11 –  Feb. 3 is “Four Chaplains Day” as decreed by U. S. Congress, 1944.

On frigid night FEBRUARY 3, 1943, overcrowded Allied ship U.S. Dorchester, carrying 902 servicemen, plowed through dark waters near Greenland. 1:00 am, Nazi submarine fired torpedo into transport, killing many,, trapping others below deck, sinking in 27 minutes. Two escort ships, Coast Guard cutters were able rescue 231 survivors. In chaos of fire, smoke, oil and ammonia, four chaplains calmed sailors and distributed life jackets: Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish. When no more life jackets, four chaplains ripped off their’s,, put them on four young men. As ship went down, survivors in rafts saw four chaplains link arms, bracing themselves, heard prayers as sank to icy deaths. Congress honored them declaring this “Four Chaplains Day.” 

Story#12 –  The United States Air Force did not become independent of U;. S. Army until after World War II – it was U. S. Army Air Corps. More U.S. service members died in Air Corps than the Marine Corps. Air Corps members were required to complete 30 missions and had 71% chance of being killed. It was operated by crew of 10, including pilot, copilot, navigator-radioman, bombardier, and gunners. They carried 4 tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo. Throughout war the U.S. 8th Air Force shot down 6,098 planes – 1 for every 12,700 shots fired. Expression “the whole 9 yards” comes from them – officer to machine gunner, “Did you fire strip of machine gun bullets?” Answer, “Yes sir, the whole 9 yards.

 

Story  13 –  May 13, 1940 – Winston Churchill gives first speech as Prime Minister
All my life, Churchill with Washington, Lincoln, TR, Eisenhower my heroes.

Britain reeling with setbacks World War II. British army forced out of Norway, in three days Germans invade France, in month Battle of Britain starts. Churchill becomes Prime Minister May 10th. Time Magazine in 2003 called this speech 

one of 60 major events in World History.
” I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

Story 14 – Ford doesn’t have “A Better Idea”

Henry Ford feared international Jewish conspiracy – wrote bestseller “The International Jew.” Hitler read book 1928, said “I will do all I can see fear of Jews that Ford has, will be solved. Ford is my inspiration.” Hitler praised Ford’s anti-Jewish weekly “Dearborn Journal”, 700,000 subscribers in U. S. Ford sent Adolph Hitler a signed portrait of self, was on Hitler’s desk until end of war in 1945. Hitler’s preface to “Mein Kampf” dedicated book to “inspirational” Henry Ford. – only person mentioned in “Mein Kampf.”.

 

 

 

Story #15 – Why is airport in Chicago named O’Hare Airport? Goes back to hero of World War II

Chicago named O’Hare Airport for Lieutenant Edward “Butch” O’Hare who downed five Japanese planes February 20, 1942 – just over 2 months after Pearl Harbor. The planes headed for his carrier and he took initiative and attacked 9 heavy bombers and 12 fighter planes. O’Hare stationed on carrier “Lexington”was first Naval Ace of WWII and first Naval Congressional Medal of Honor. Flying from “Enterprise” carrier Central Pacific 1944 lost life in combat. Graduated from Naval Academy 1937. Was helped attend Academy by Federal government because of father’s vital help convicting Al Capone in 1932. Father became primary accountant for Al Capone. He turned Federal witness to clear name – he is man in Kevin Costner “The Untouchables” who has “books” nervous guy, straw hat. Capone tried have killed so wouldn’t testify. But saved by Feds – movie scene in train station, with baby carriage. Feds helped son as reward get into Naval Academy, he had a passion to fly and serve his country. Capone’s gang finally killed O’Hare Senior 1938.