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America In WWII - April 2018

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Gory Propaganda and
A Stale Stick of Gum
The War • The Home Front • T
U-Boat Death Match
Medal of Honor Recipient
The Final Hours of USS Borie
WWII Tupper Wares A The Siege Symphony
April 2018
09281 01971
Display until May 1, 2018
The War
• The Home Front • The People
April 2018, Volume Thirteen, Number Six
The sky was dark. The sea roared. Water flooded in through gashes in USS Borie’s hull.
But her crew fought on. U-405 wasn’t getting away, no matter what the cost. By Mark Weisenmiller
Long before “homeland security” was an everyday term, the shock of Pearl Harbor put Americans
on high alert to keep enemies away from US soil, skies, and seas. By Raoul Drapeau
Medic Desmond Doss went to war without a weapon. Other GIs thought he was crazy.
On Okinawa’s Hacksaw Ridge, his heroism changed their minds. By Mark Weisenmiller
Parents were appalled by the graphic war imagery Gum Inc. was selling to their kids.
But government propagandists told the company to keep its cards coming. By Lee W. Jones
2 KILROY 4 V-MAIL 6 HOME FRONT: Earl Tupper’s Wartime Wares 8 PINUP: Frances Langford 10 LANDINGS:
America’s WWII Museum 40 FLASHBACK 41 WAR STORIES 44 I WAS THERE: “There Are Some Awful Men in Here”
57 BOOKS AND MEDIA 58 THEATER OF WAR: PT 109 61 78 RPM: From Russia with Hope
63 WWII EVENTS 64 GIs: On a Stretcher with a View
COVER SHOT: Corporal Desmond Doss had just become the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor when he sat for this
October 1945 portrait. A combat medic who went into battle unarmed and saved some 75 wounded men on Okinawa’s Hacksaw Ridge, he often
remarked that he “would rather save life than take life.” COURTESY OF THE DESMOND DOSS COUNCIL, WWW.DESMONDDOSS.COM
March-April 2018
Volume Thirteen • Number Six
Weekend at the Museum
The War
• The Home Front • The People
James P. Kushlan,
Carl Zebrowski,
Eric Ethier
Allyson Patton
Drew Ames • Michael Edwards • Robert Gabrick
Tom Huntington • Joe Razes • Jay Wertz
Kaylee Schofield • Nathan Zaccarelli
Jeffrey L. King,
David Deis, Dreamline Cartography
Megan McNaughton,
Debbie Librandi,
4711 Queen Ave., Suite 202, Harrisburg, PA 17109
717-564-0161 (phone) • 717-977-3908 (fax)
Sales Representative
James P. Kushlan
Ad Management
James P. Kushlan
Circulation and Marketing Director
Heidi Kushlan
A Publication of 310 PUBLISHING, LLC
CEO Heidi Kushlan
AMERICA IN WWII (ISSN 1554-5296) is published
bimonthly by 310 Publishing LLC, 4711 Queen Avenue,
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I COULDN’T WAIT TO VISIT the National WWII Museum in New Orleans for the first
time. It was 2005 and this magazine was brand new. The museum was fairly new too,
having opened in 2000. It still went by its original name, the National D-Day Museum.
I was headed to the museum for its first conference—not the usual staid summit of
scholars, but an open-to-the-public gathering of WWII-history enthusiasts and veterans
from all over the country and world to celebrate the beautiful, young facility that stood
within walking distance of America’s most famous party street.
Then came Hurricane Katrina. Suddenly, the much-heralded introductory event plummeted from New Orleans’ priority list. A lot more important things had to be attended
to in the devastated Crescent City before anyone there could worry about hosting much
of anything.
The conference finally happened in 2007. And it was a great success, for the museum,
the magazine, and me. A volunteer named Ronnie, a Korean War veteran, grabbed
me from the magazine’s exhibit booth and gave me an inspired whirlwind tour of the
facility—a truly modern museum with immersive exhibits, stimulating sights and sounds,
and lively storytelling. And this was just the beginning, Ronnie told me: wait until the
next time you visit.
Some of the people I met that weekend have remained friends. Mike Edwards, who
became one of our contributing editors, was manning a booth for the University of
New Orleans. He saw me across the aisle discussing the magazine with one conferencegoer after another. He disappeared for a minute, came back, and plunked down a can
of Coke in front of me. I thanked him and made a remark about how glad I was he
chose the Real Thing. He replied with something like, We don’t mess with that other
stuff down here.
George Cholewczynski was another history guy I met at the museum. George and his
wife took me out to a restaurant far from the beaten tourist path. As I dumped
Louisiana hot sauce on crawfish that he taught me how to eat, he talked about the
Polish airborne in Europe. He has written on related topics in our pages more than
once, making him our resident expert.
Thanks to the financial realities of publishing today, I haven’t been back to the museum
for many years. But what Ronnie suggested about its future may have been an understatement. These days it is many times the size it was back then, spread among multiple
buildings, and its scope extends well beyond D-Day. BB’s Stage Door Canteen serves up
food and drinks and 1940s-style entertainment. Those of you who realize I write the 78
RPM column for each issue of this magazine can imagine I’d really like to stop in there
for a show.
We first wrote about the museum as our Landings destination in our December 2005
issue, which reached newsstands not long after Katrina hit. I don’t think we’ve revisited
any Landings sites since our beginning. But so much has changed at this one over the
years that it was time to take another look. Make sure you turn to Mark Orwoll’s tour
on page 10. And one of these days, visit the museum in person. Maybe I’ll be lucky
enough to run into you.
© 2018 by 310 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
Toll-free 1-866-525-1945 or
Carl Zebrowski
Editor, America in WWII
wartime child on the home front
courtesy of john doxsee
F IRST OF ALL, congrats on your fine magazine. I read every issue cover to cover.
I was six years old when World War II
ended, but still retain strong memories. I
lived in Islip, Long Island, New York, on
the shore of the Great South Bay. Being
close to Grumman, Republic, and other
airplane manufacturers, I saw many Vshaped flights of fighter planes (Wildcats,
Hellcats, and others) fly over my house and
do maneuvers out over the bay. I remember
the remains off a Wildcat that crashed
being brought back to the dock on a barge.
The pilot, unfortunately, did not make it.
My dad, who worked at Ranger (a
smaller defense company), was also an airraid warden in our neighborhood and
learned to identify many types of aircraft
by sight. The aircraft spotters had a lookout station on the roof of our local high
school—he would often take me up there
to spot aircraft (I would later become a
pilot; that probably set the stage).
Copies of two things I’ve managed to
hang onto all these years are enclosed: silhouettes of an American SB2U-3 Vindicator scout bomber and a German Me 109E
Messerschmitt fighter (officially, the Bf
109E). They are unused and still in their
original, slightly worn envelopes. I wondered if you could comment on them, tell
me a little of their history, etc. Any info you
may have would be appreciated. Value?
Visual aids like this helped home-front
plane spotters identify aircraft.
were also die-cut cardboard models like
Mr. Doxsee’s, made to be shipped flat and
then assembled into three-dimensional
models. They resembled toy gliders, but
were true to the silhouettes of the planes
they represented. There were separate sets
from the army and navy, joint sets, and sets
by different makers, altogether representing 142 aircraft and totaling about 7 million models. According to online collector
guides, few remain. We’re not sure about
value, but if scarcity drives prices, Mr.
Doxsee may be in luck!
South Portland, Maine
Editor’s note: Silhouette models were
made to help military personnel, plane
spotters, and the general public identify
friendly and enemy aircraft overhead by
shape. The black models were hung from
ceilings on strings, allowing users to look
up at them, much as they might look up at
planes outdoors. There were three-dimensional plastic models (covered in “Tiny
Planes at 12 O’Clock!” by J.R. “Bill”
Bailey in our October 2006 issue). There
APRIL 2018
I N YOUR AUGUST 2017 ISSUE is an article
titled “Red River Kids at War” [by Kevin
M. Hymel]. It was a nice story of how
three teenagers spent the war years in the
southern part of America. They had the
privilege to live a free life and experience
the war’s effects for four years. I like to
compare my teenage years.
The Japanese invaded the island of Java
in the Dutch East Indies [now Indonesia],
which surrendered on March 20, 1942. I
was 13 at the time and was taken prisoner
at age 14, along with the rest of my family—my father, mother, and younger brother
—living in Malang. For almost four years I
did not know where my dad was located.
My mother ended up in a female prison
camp called Lampersari.
Here is a concise story of our liberation…. [See Dr. Stutterheim’s account in
War Stories on page 41 in this issue.]
Afterwards I had to overcome several
gruesome flashbacks. I went to high school
at age 18, after which I went to medical
school and practiced medicine for 30 years
in Tacoma, which I enjoyed immensely. But
even at my age of 89, I often look back
with sadness in my heart at those years in
the prison camp.
wartime teen prisoner of the Japanese
Lakebay, Washington
THANK YOU FOR printing the story of Robert
Whaley, “Germans Off Cape May!” [GIs],
in the February 2018 issue.
Bob passed away on Christmas Eve, before the magazine hit the shelves. But it
came out just in time for his family to read
the article at his funeral service as part of
the eulogy.
Bob spoke very little about Operation
Tiger, very much due to the secrecy the participants were held to for decades. It was
all too fitting that his story was publicized
in America in WWII in time to honor his
Wilmington, Delaware
December 2017: War Stories, “Beginning
of the End, Part 2”—Overseas Service Bars
indicated six months, not one year, each.
Send us your comments and reactions—
especially the favorable ones! Mail them to
V-Mail, America in WWII, 4711 Queen Avenue,
Suite 202, Harrisburg, PA 17109, or e-mail
them to
Earl Tupper’s Wartime Wares
by Carl Zebrowski
figure out how to make more money.
Born into a struggling farm family in
Berlin, New Hampshire, in 1907, he decided
as a teenager that there would never be
enough profit for him in planting, harvesting, and taking the yield to market. He figured there was more to be made pushing
the produce door to door.
The teenage Tupper soon went off to
study at Bryan and Stratton College in
Rhode Island, but he didn’t accomplish
much there. Later in life, he would write
that “I have developed a ravenous appetite
for knowledge…. Why couldn’t I have realized my real future desires while in
school?” He did leave college with at least
one critical takeaway: the insight, inspired
by an advertising course, that marketing
was the future.
To pay bills as a young adult, Tupper
ran his own landscaping company. But the
Great Depression eventually caught up
with him; lush shrubbery and colorful
flowers weren’t a top priority for people
worried about putting food on the table
and paying a mortgage. Tupper shuttered
the business and, after some job hunting,
landed a position in the plastics division at
DuPont in 1936.
After three years with DuPont, Tupper,
now 31, left on good terms to found the
Earl S. Tupper Company. He purchased
some used manufacturing machinery from
DuPont and started working on plastic
products for the consumer market.
Then came the war. War years could
drive a business under or rain gold on it. It
all depended on what a company was selling and how it adapted to changing market
demands. Tupper chose to manufacture
products for the military. It was a proven
path to success, and it worked for him, too.
APRIL 2018
Earl Tupper was forever experimenting
in the lab, trying to find the right mix
to make him a millionaire.
Tupper turned to his old friends at
DuPont to subcontract war work. He
opened his first factory in 1942. Again he’d
found a way to pay the bills, this time
doing something that put him closer to his
ultimate goal of inventing a consumer product that would wow America and bring
him millions.
Tupper’s standard working material was
polyethylene, a plastic developed as a substitute for substances lost to wartime shortages. Tupper specifically used polyethylene
slag, a byproduct of plastic-making that he
bought from DuPont. He turned some of it
into consumer products, but most became
parts for gas masks, navy signal lamps, and
other war materiel.
All the while, Tupper stuck to his yearsold habit of jotting down invention ideas
and making sketches in a notebook that
lived in his pocket. He imagined mostly
items that could be sold in five-and-tencent stores, and not all of them made of
plastic. One of his musings was for a nodrip ice cream cone that had a sort of rain-
gutter molded onto the outside to catch
drippings. Another was the Kamouflage
Comb, a nail file and comb disguised as a
fountain pen to be worn discreetly in a
shirt pocket.
In 1942, while busily preparing some of
his novelty ideas for market, Tupper invented his cash cow: Tupperware. What
evolved into a long and enduring product
line started with a bowl made of an injection-molded polyethylene that he trademarked as “Poly-T: Material of the Future.”
Next he figured out the covering, which
was the real trick, a lid that quickly and
easily created an airtight seal. A paint-can
lid inspired his final design. By the fifties,
the act of putting on a Tupperware lid and
pushing down on it to force out excess air
became famous as “burp and seal.”
Tupperware proved an innovative and
useful product. But it didn’t immediately
bring the fortune Tupper sought. That
came after he met Brownie Wise in 1951.
Wise provided the marketing savvy to
match Tupper’s inventiveness. She brought
in the idea of marketing exclusively
through Tupperware parties. One of the
more memorable cultural institutions of
the fifties, a Tupperware party was set up
by a woman who agreed to work on commission, inviting her friends to her house to
eat finger sandwiches, drink punch, and
socialize—and buy Tupperware, raising a
tidy sum for the hostess and even more for
the company.
Tupperware was the best known and
most lucrative product of Tupper’s career.
Many housewives of America’s Golden
Age could hardly have imagined life without their convenient little plastic containers
for sealing up leftovers. But those wartime
gas masks and signal lanterns were pretty
important too. A
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IF YOU MET SINGER FRANCES LANGFORD, the descriptor “miniature giant” would hardly
seem a contradiction. The pint-size bottle blonde, born in 1913 and raised on a Florida
houseboat, barely cleared five feet, but she was a tower of talent and personality.
Langford purred “I’m in the Mood for Love” to GIs in Europe and the South Pacific
on Bob Hope’s wartime USO tours. Known as the Sweetheart of the Fighting Fronts,
she once reportedly flew in a US Army Air Corps P-38 Lightning fighter only to get an
unexpected front-row seat to a dive-bombing when the pilot targeted a Japanese ship.
In the fifties, Langford’s charm drew audiences for The Frances Langford—Don
Ameche Show (1951) and Frances Langford Presents (1959). Langford continued to
join USO tours into the 1980s. She devoted the final years before her death in 2005
to philanthropy and sportfishing in her boat, which was upholstered in pink.
APRIL 2018
photo courtesy of
Abandoning early operatic training, Langford left college for vaudeville and radio,
landing roles on Louella Parsons’s and Rudy Vallee’s radio shows starting in 1931.
Her film appearance as Susan in Every Night at Eight (1935) was the first in a succession of musical comedy roles, including one with Lucille Ball in 1940’s Too Many Girls.
America’s WWII Museum
by Mark Orwoll
A strong first impression: immediately inside, your attention shoots to the stunning warplanes overhead.
INCE H ERODOTUS , the history of war
has best been told as a narrative.
Sometimes that story—with a beginning, middle, and end—is artificially
imposed in a vain attempt at coherence.
Other times, painstaking research fuels a
robust and satisfying narrative. That’s the
case with the National WWII Museum in
New Orleans. Of course there are some
rough edges, controversies, and inconclusive outcomes. The museum’s mission is
quite a lot for one institution to handle.
Appropriately, the museum opened its
doors under the nom de guerre the National D-Day Museum on June 6, 2000,
the 56th anniversary of the start of the Normandy invasion. (The main switchboard
number is 504-529-1944.) In 2004, Congress designated the institution the official
WWII museum of the United States, and in
2005 America in WWII made its first visit
to the site and published a Landings article
about it in the December issue.
From a modest start, the institution has
grown from a single building to an entire
campus, including a “4D” movie theater,
five massive exhibition buildings, an astonishing collection of artifacts, two restaurants
and a bar, and, coming in 2019, a 34,800square-foot research pavilion and a hotel. It’s
APRIL 2018
little wonder that in 2017 the voters of
the TripAdvisor Travelers Choice Awards
ranked it as the No. 2 museum in the United
States—in fact, the No. 2 museum in the
world. (The Art Institute of Chicago was
No. 1 in both categories.) With so much to
see inside what’s arguably the world’s most
comprehensive museum dedicated to World
War II, I’ve broken down the tour into
a building-by-building walk-through.
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
GUESTS BEGIN THEIR museum journey by
boarding a 1940s-era Pullman sleeping car,
just as many recruits did on their way to
basic training. Each is given a dog tag bearing the name of a WWII veteran, and at
key points throughout the museum, displays are activated by the tag to tell the
story of the GI’s involvement in some
aspect of the war.
The museum’s newest permanent exhibit, Arsenal of Democracy, opened in June
2017 in this building and is dedicated to
the home front. Guests walk through a typical 1940s suburban living room, where a
Victory quilt hangs on the wall, and pass
into a kitchen, where booklets of ration
stamps lie in a drawer. On a massive, 50foot screen, the shock and horror of Pearl
Harbor as experienced by the average
American is recounted. Another gallery
describes how, in the words of Stephen
Ambrose, historian and founder of the
museum, US “soldiers were fighting the
world’s worst racist, Adolph Hitler, in the
world’s most segregated army.”
On the third floor is the museum’s original exhibit, devoted to D-Day. The trove
of uniforms, battle flags, maps, and blownup photos provides a compelling account
of the effort.
Campaigns of Courage:
European and Pacific Theaters
THIS BUILDING IS the meat-and-potatoes of
the museum, with two permanent exhibits:
the Road to Berlin (opened in 2014) and
the Road to Tokyo (opened in 2015). Dioramas, walk-through scenes, traditional
glass-case displays, and cutting-edge technology viscerally engage visitors in these
twin efforts.
The Road to Berlin is full of firearms,
artillery, jeeps, helmets, and uniforms. One
gallery is shaped like a Quonset hut whose
ceiling has been burst by bombs; guests
gaze up through the gaping hole to see a
virtual sky full of bombers in flight. The
Battle of the Bulge exhibit shows a German-
all photos this article by mark orwoll
The museum immerses visitors in its subject. Clockwise from above, left: a snowy, forested Battle of the Bulge exhibit;
the sunny- and warm-looking “The Desert War”; a theater that turns the road-to-war story into a “4D” experience.
built Opel sedan circa 1934 that was used as
a staff car. Another gallery allows visitors
to walk along a bombed-out Berlin street.
The Road to Tokyo exhibition is, if anything, even more dramatic. Video maps
outline the expansion of the Japanese Empire. One exhibit describes Higgins boats,
the landing craft without which, according
to General Dwight Eisenhower, the United
States couldn’t have won the war against
Japan. Life in the US Navy is examined in
a gallery set up as the deck of the aircraft
carrier Enterprise (CV-6), with wall-size
footage of the Battle of Midway, the Coral
Sea, and the Doolittle Raid. The warehouselike space devoted to Guadalcanal, known
to troops as Green Hell, gives the feeling of
walking through a jungle, complete with
palm trees and thick undergrowth.
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
T HE SOARING INTERIOR will make the most
complacent guest giddy with anticipation,
thanks to authentic aircraft dangling from
the ceiling (catwalks allow visitors to get up
close) and vehicles that include an M4A3
Sherman tank and a White M3 half-track.
The renovated and repainted warbirds
are the highlight. Among the most fascinating are the B-17E Flying Fortress My Gal
Sal, which crash-landed on the Greenland
ice cap and remained there for some 50 years
after the crew was rescued; a P-51 Mustang
painted in the red-tail livery of the Tuskegee Airmen; and the forward fuselage of
a B-24 Liberator that is situated so guests
can get an intimate peek inside.
Solomon Victory Theater Complex
T HE HIGHLIGHT OF THIS COMPLEX is a dynamic theatrical experience, Beyond the
Boundaries, which employs multiple movie
screens, multiphonic sound, in-seat vibrations, and even falling snow to create what
the curators call a “4D” experience. The
film, eloquently narrated by actor Tom
Hanks, sets the stage for the war. It would be
a fitting way to begin your museum journey. Elsewhere in the building are the Merchant Marine gallery, a gift shop, the American Sector Restaurant and Bar, and the
event-rental space BB’s Stage Door Canteen.
WHAT The National WWII Museum
WHERE New Orleans, Louisiana
WHY It’s arguably the world’s most comprehensive museum dedicated to World
War II • Visitors walk through a re-created Guadalcanal jungle, a bombed-out Berlin
street, and a 1940s American living room and kitchen • A film narrated by Tom Hanks
brings the road to war to life in “4D”
For more information call 504-529-1944 or visit
John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion
MANY OF THE MUSEUM’S artifacts were
brought to new life here, and guests can get
a first-hand look at the preservation
process. New to the pavilion is the STEM
gallery, focusing on the role played by science, technology, engineering, and math in
winning the war.
IN THE MUSEUM’S present form, its vast
collection merits a full-day visit. “The
truth of the matter is that when the master
plan is finished in 2020,” says Keith
Huxen, the museum’s senior director of
research and history, “people will spend a
whole weekend here.” But as the museum
continues to grow, Huxen vows that the
institution will never lose sight of its core
goals. “We take our mission so seriously
that we even print it on the back of our
business cards.” Perhaps that mission
statement is a fitting way to end:
“The National WWII Museum tells the
story of the American Experience in the
war that changed the world—why it was
fought, how it was won, and what it means
today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired
by what they learn.” A
MARK ORWOLL was an editor at Travel and
Leisure magazine for 29 years. He is now
an independent journalist who writes for
Condé Nast Traveler, Departures International, Robb Report, Town and Country,
and other travel and lifestyle publications.
APRIL 2018
Background: Sailors aboard destroyer USS Borie (DD-215) blaze away with a .30-caliber machine gun and small arms at men of
the German submarine U-405 in the first hours of November 1, 1943. Borie’s bow is stuck atop U-405’s foredeck after a failed
attempt to ram the sub. The two vessels fought a battle to the death off the Azores in the North Atlantic.
The s
ky wa
s dark
. The
sea r
d in t
oar ed
hr oug
But h
h gas
er cr e
hes in
w fou
ght on
t gett
ing aw
by Ma
ay, no
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r wha
t the
by Mark Weisenmiller
shout sent a wave of excitement tinged with anxiety through the men of the destroyer USS Borie (DD-215). It
was only 8 P.M. but it was already dark as pitch on the North Atlantic that night, October 31, 1943. Somewhere
out in the darkness was a U-boat, a submarine of the deadly Nazi German wolf packs that prowled the North Atlantic.
Top: Borie first exposed U-405 by dumping depth charges on her. The sub, painted with the 11th U-Boat Flotilla insignia (seen here on a replica
pin) popped to the surface. Above: Captain Rolf-Heinrich Hopmann and U-405 had so far sunk two ships delivering boats to Allied forces.
Opposite: U-405 had machine guns on her tower and this 8.8cm gun on her foredeck. But her best hope of besting Borie was her torpedoes.
APRIL 2018
hunter-killer duty, tracking down and destroying enemy submarines. Built around the escort carrier USS Card (CVE-11), the
task group would protect convoys, using its destroyers and aircraft
to find and stop enemy attackers at sea before they could strike.
As exhilarating as the designation “hunter-killer” sounded,
Borie’s men quickly realized the reality was more mundane. The
main role of their task group was still escort duty, plodding along
in the Atlantic alongside slow-moving cargo ships. Many of the
destroyer men longed for more stimulating action.
The Borie’s skipper—at that time the navy’s youngest destroyer
commander at 30 years of age—was Lieutenant Charles Hutchins.
In civilian life he had worked for a box company in Indiana. Cool,
confident, and able to think clearly in the
most desperate and confusing circumstances,
Hutchins had the unquestioned respect and
loyalty of his crew.
From late July through October 1943, the
Borie sailed with Task Group 21.14 on three
North Atlantic patrols. The North Atlantic
Ocean, with its seemingly perpetual gales and
towering tides, was a favorite stalking ground
for U-boats, which sent their torpedoes into
Allied vessels of every kind, naval and merchant alike. The ongoing Battle of the Atlantic
raged on and on as Allied forces struggled to
neutralize the U-boat threat and keep supplies
flowing from the United States to Great
Britain and Continental Europe.
The Borie’s unique role in that struggle
came to be as she traveled north from Casablanca, Morocco, after escorting a convoy there. It was late
October 1943, and she was on her fourth patrol with the Card
and Task Group 21.14.
On October 31, Avenger torpedo bombers from the Card spotted two German submarines, and the Borie set out to hunt them
down. Suddenly, at 8 P.M., Borie radar man Earl Potter shouted
The Borie’s mission was to protect Allied convoys of war supplies and troops by hunting and killing U-boats (from the German
U-boot, short for Unterseeboot, or “Undersea boat”). Now her
defining moment had come. Starting with the first radar contact
on that dark Halloween night, the Borie and her crew would enter
into a two-day ordeal battling U-boats. Fought mostly in the black
of night, during a storm and with seas running high, the battle
would leave the Borie both victorious and defeated. And her
crew—at least those who survived—would have a gut-wrenching
story to tell.
The Borie had nearly a quarter century behind her as she swung
into action that October night. A member of the Clemson class of
flush-deck, four-stacker destroyers originally
planned for use in World War I, she slid down
the ways of the William Cramp and Sons shipyard in Philadelphia on October 4, 1919, just
11 months after Armistice Day. She was
named for Adolph E. Borie, navy secretary for
one year under President Ulysses S. Grant.
During the tense peace in the decades after
World War I, the Borie served in the Black Sea,
Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. In December 1941, when the United States entered
the new world war, the Borie was in the
Caribbean, and she immediately went to work
guarding convoys there and in the Atlantic.
In February 1943 the Borie joined her sister
Clemson-class destroyers Barry (DD-248) and
Goff (DD-247) in Escort Unit 23.2.4. Other
vessels in the group were gunboats Courage
(PG-70) and Tenacity (PG-71) and patrol boats PC-575 and PC592. Serving in the South Atlantic Fleet, the escort flotilla operated mostly between Recife, Brazil, and the island of Trinidad,
protecting convoys.
Summer 1943 brought a new assignment for Borie, Barry, and
Goff. The three destroyers were assigned to Task Group 21.14 for
out that he had picked up a German U-boat. He had discovered
U-256, commanded by Navy First Lieutenant Wilhelm Brauel. U256 had been conducting a resupply mission to sister submarine
U-91, which had already made its getaway.
U-256 was on the surface, but no matter how hard the Borie’s
crewmen strained to spot it, they couldn’t make it out through the
darkness. Hutchins gave the order to mark the sub’s bearing,
increase speed, and chase. Borie took off at 22.5 knots (26 mph).
Borie Fire Controlman First Class Robert Maher described what
happened next in his 1998 book with Captain James E. Wise Jr.,
Sailors’ Journey into War:
by Mark Weisenmiller
B ORIE HAD CLOSED TO within a mile of U256, Hutchins ordered a turn to starboard. Borie’s gun
crews sent up a spread of star shells that lit up the dark,
sky. Her stern then starting sliding underwater, and Hutchins was
convinced she was no more. “Scratch one pig boat, am searching
for more,” he signaled to the Card. That was just after midnight
on November 1.
Incredibly, U-256 was still operational, and Brauel managed to
return the damaged vessel to the massive German U-boat base at
Brest, France. She arrived there for repairs on November 17.
Still searching for the second U-boat, the Borie cruised along at
17.5 knots, north-northwest of the Azores islands. Around 1:45
A.M. Manning yelled, “Radar contact, bearing 170, range 8,000
yards.” Hutchins ordered, “All ahead full, come left to course
170.” Borie’s boilers went into overdrive as the ship quickened
her pace to 27 knots. When she was 2,800 yards away from the
unknown submarine, she temporarily lost radar contact. But
Hutchins kept hunting and suddenly the U-boat was back on the
screen, just 600 yards away.
Borie slowed down to 15 knots. Soundman Second Class
Lerten V. Kent could hear a crystal-clear “ping-ping-ping” on
sonar as sound waves bounced off the sub. When Borie was 500
yards away, the U-boat swerved to starboard, and Borie followed.
Meanwhile, the seas were getting dangerously rough. Journalist
John Hersey described the situation in an article for the December
1943 issue of Life magazine: “So heavy was the sea’s impact that
overcast sky—and there, in plain sight, was the surfaced German
sub. U-256 dove immediately, slipping off Borie’s radar, but
Soundman Bob Manning quickly reestablished contact via sonar.
U-256 was creeping along at four knots. The Borie easily overtook her and made two depth-charge attacks, blasting her back up
to the surface. When the sub re-submerged, Hutchins ordered a
third depth-charge attack. The sound of a massive underwater
explosion followed, and the Americans saw and smelled a large
diesel slick. The German sub surfaced, her bow visible against the
four of the portholes on the bridge—30 feet above water level,
and made of 3/4-inch glass—were smashed, and after that, water
only a few degrees above freezing began splashing into the wheelhouse through the broken ports.”
When the mystery U-boat dove, Hutchins ordered the Borie
directly over the submarine for a depth-charge attack. Chief
Torpedoman Frank G. Cronin prepared the ashcan depth charges
(so called because of their resemblance to refuse bins) and received
orders to drop two. To his dismay, a malfunction in the release
At almost the same time, the enemy detected us. We were in a
perfect position for them to fire a stern shot, but we lucked out.
With the obvious success of hunter-killer groups, the sub had
recently been converted to an antiaircraft U-boat. The after [rear]
torpedoes had been removed to provide more room to store antiaircraft ammunition. (Commanding officer of U-256 Wilhelm Brauel
told me years later that we would have been dead except for that.)
Above: U-405 (perhaps at her June 1941 launch at Werft Danziger shipyard in Danzig, now Gdańsk, Poland) was a Type VIIC U-boat, well built
for combat. Opposite: After U-405 broke loose in the November 1 battle, Borie overcame her with depth charges and gunfire. But Borie herself was sinking; on the 2nd, 27 men died abandoning ship. The survivors stood on USS Card’s deck for a memorial service on November 7.
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mechanism loosed all the ashcans in the racks. One cylindrical
bomb after another went rolling off the stern and into the sea.
Lerten Kent could hear the thunderous underwater explosion that
resulted. The crew lit a floating flare to mark the spot where the
attack was made.
Moments later, Maher shouted “There it is—about 40 feet to
the right of the flare!” Poking up above the waves was a U-boat
conning tower decorated with a painting of a polar bear (the
insignia of the 11th U-boat Flotilla). The depth charges had blown
the submarine to the surface. The suddenly exposed sub was U405. Commissioned in 1941 and commanded by 37-year-old
Corvette Captain Rolf-Heinrich Hopmann, the 500-ton, 220-footlong sub had already been on eight patrols and sunk five ships.
Whenever Hutchins found himself in the high-pressure environment of combat, he would start punctuating his orders by lowering his head, raising his right arm high, and then bringing it crashing down as if he were striking his opponent with a club. That was
what he did as he ordered Seaman Third Class James M.
Aikenhead, who was manning Borie’s helm, to turn hard to starboard. This swung the destroyer away from rather than toward the
sub. This maneuver, thought Hutchins, would give the Borie’s gunners a better field of vision for the upcoming battle. The trouble
was, it also made the Borie a broad, visible target for return fire.
In volume 10 of The History of United States Naval Operations
in World War II, titled The Atlantic Battle Won: May 1943–May
1945 (published in 1956), naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison
described what happened next:
Then followed a gunfire-torpedo duel. Hutchins trained his 24inch searchlight on the target and opened fire with main battery
and machine guns, starting at 1,400 yards, and also trying to ram.
German sailors swarmed out of the conning tower, some wearing
only skivvies, many with long hair and brightly colored bandannas, which offended our bluejackets’ sense of propriety and made
them the more eager for a kill. A few submariners reached their
guns and slammed shells into Borie’s forward engine room and
bridge, but many were cut down by the destroyer’s 20-mm
machine gunfire; and U-405’s largest gun was literally blasted over
the side by a well directed 4-inch shell.
HOPMANN KNEW HIS U-405 HAD a much tighter turning radius
than the Borie, so he kept moving in circles, trying to get his stern
into position for a clean torpedo shot. The Borie kept moving too,
to avoid becoming a static target. When Hopmann finally fired torpedoes, his “eels,” as the U-boat men called their underwater missiles, missed their mark, streaking off harmlessly into the open sea.
All the while, the Germans who rushed on deck to man U-405’s
guns were being killed most gruesomely. Maher described one
incident that “was to give me nightmares for months”:
A man appeared on the bridge in the bright and shining beam of
our searchlight and started to wave his arms in crossing movement…. Seeing the man on the deck of U-405 waving, Captain
Hutchins commanded “Cease fire.” But the galley deckhouse fourinch gun continued to fire. Hutchins then tried to shout directly
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across to the gun crew, and we on the flying bridge could hear
plainly “Cease fire, cease fire.” Unfortunately, no gunner could
hear above the noise on the galley deckhouse, and the big gun continued to boom out its deadly fire. Watching that one man standing alone amidst all the destruction…was awesome. It was not to
last. Within a few moments his body stood there momentarily,
arms extended over his head, and then his head just disappeared.
LIEUTENANT Walter Dietz Jr. next passed
down the order “Stand by for a ram!” The men of the
Borie braced themselves for the collision, but they were in
for a surprise. At the last possible second, Hopmann turned U405 hard to port. At the same moment, a massive wave lifted the
Borie’s bow high above U-405 and brought it down on the sub’s
foredeck. There was no scraping of metal, nothing to alert the
below-decks crew to what had just happened. But the sub and the
destroyer were caught fast, interlocked in a V shape at a 25-to-30degree angle, neither vessel able to break free.
The battle that now developed was like a scene from the age of
sail—gunwale to gunwale with crews shouting, rifles cracking,
and blades flashing. Borie Chief Boatswain’s Mate Richard Menz
broke open the main deck’s small-arms locker with a fire ax and
quickly passed out pistols, rifles, shotguns, and tommy guns.
There weren’t enough weapons to go around, so Borie crewmen
improvised. Chief Boatswain’s Mate Walter Kurz threw a fourinch shell casing at a man on U-405’s main deck; it hit him directly in the head, knocking him overboard, and he was never seen
again. Fireman First Class David Southwick threw a knife at an
oncoming U-405 crew member; it pierced deep into his abdomen,
and he fell overboard and disappeared.
While the fighting raged, the sea fought a battle of its own
against both vessels, twisting and tossing their metal hulls. The
Borie got the worst of it. As John Hersey wrote, “The submarine,
built to withstand tremendous underwater pressures, was better
able to survive the grinding than the destroyer, whose skin was
only 3/16 of an inch thick.” Water began flooding the Borie’s
Two US Navy ships have born the name USS Borie: DD-215 and DD-704. After DD-215 sank following
the battle with the U-405, the navy had DD-704 afloat in time to fight at Iwo Jima in early 1945.
AUNCHED IN 1919, the USS Borie (DD215) was a relic of a bygone age when
she sailed into WWII service in 1941.
Together with 155 other ships, Borie
belonged to the Clemson class of destroyers, named for USS Clemson (DD-186) and
based on a design created during World
War I. The Clemson class was actually a rejiggering of the Wickes class, with
improved fuel capacity.
Clemson-class destroyers such as the
Borie had four smokestacks, and her decks
lacked the raised forecastle that was common on earlier destroyers. Consequently,
the Clemson-class destroyers were dubbed
four-stackers or four-pipers, or flush-deckers. Sailors also called these older destroyers tin cans, as comfort was seemingly not
a design consideration.
The twin-screw Borie was 314 feet, 4
inches from stem to stern; 31 feet, 9 inches
at the beam; and had a draft of 9 feet, 10
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inches. Her top speed was 35 knots. She
could carry 122 men, including officers.
Regarding firepower, Borie definitely
had teeth. In addition to four 4-inch guns,
she had a 3-inch anti-aircraft gun, two
20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns, two
.30-caliber machine guns, and four clusters of three 21-inch torpedo tubes
mounted along the beam on either side.
For coaxing enemy subs to the surface (or
sending them to the bottom), she had
ashcan depth-charge racks plus depthcharge projectors. Radar and sonar gave
her eyes and ears for surface and underwater enemies.
After the sinking of the Borie following
her victory over U-405, another destroyer
of the same name took to the seas, in time
to fight in World War II. Built by Federal
Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, the
second Borie—DD-704—was launched at
Kearny, New Jersey, on the Fourth of July
1944 and commissioned that September
21. She was an Allen M. Sumner-class
destroyer, a modern ship very unlike her
WWI-era predecessor.
The new Borie sailed to the Pacific and
helped bombard Iwo Jima before and during the February 1945 invasion. She participated in raids against Tokyo in February
and against Okinawa from March through
May. While on a raid against the Japanese
home islands that August, she was struck
by a kamikaze that caused serious damage and claimed the lives of 48 men and
wounded 66.
DD-704 underwent repairs and went on
to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Decommissioned in June 1972, she was
sold to the Argentine navy the next
month. She remained on active duty as
Hipólito Bouchard (D-26) until 1984, after
which she was broken up for scrap.
by Mark Weisenmiller
engine rooms, pouring in through holes torn in her port side.
“Torpedoes bearing 220” (coming from a point 220 degrees
In the forward engine room, water reached the men’s chests.
clockwise from the ship’s bow). The approaching enemy sub had
Lieutenant Morrison Brown, the chief engineer, sent everyone up,
fired on the Borie. To avoid the torpedoes, Hutchins immediately
staying behind alone to keep the boilers lit and the steam up. In
commanded “Hard to port, heading 220, all available speed.” It
the after-engine room, Motor Machinist’s Mate Irving R. Saum
was the only way to save the Borie, but the evasion sent the
dove beneath the compartment’s oily saltwater multiple times
destroyer right through the U-405’s lifeboats. The U-boat that
until he succeeded in closing a drain that was preventing the
fired the torpedoes did not come for the handful of U-405 surapplication of suction to remove the water. He broke his arm in
vivors who were left behind when the Borie had to flee. None of
the process.
the Germans lived.
At last the two vessels separated, and Hopmann rushed
U-405 away. Borie gave chase with its searchlight fixed
on the sub. Hopmann tried desperately to get his
clear the Borie was in serious
stern pointed at Borie so he could fire torpedoes;
trouble. She struggled along
he had many opportunities, but never managed to
through dense fog and seas with
make it happen. The Americans fired a torpedo
waves 20 or more feet high. The forof their own, but it missed.
ward-engine room was completely
Finally, Hutchins, frustrated at steering in
flooded and what little electrical
endless circles in constant danger of being torpepower it could generate went to
doed, ordered the searchlight turned off. He
pump out seawater. There was no
expected U-405 to make a desperate break
way around it; the Borie was sinking.
to escape in the darkness, and he was right.
Hutchins ordered his exhausted men to
When he snapped the light back on, the Ujettison everything they could to lighten
boat had broken from its circular course
the ship.
and was pulling away to the northeast.
Communications officer Lieutenant
Hutchins pursued U-405. He ordered
Robert H. Lord had an idea to try to restart
depth charges to be mounted on projectors
the emergency radio’s generator with a com(explosives-powered devices that hurled
bination of lighter fluid and alcohol from
depth charges overboard) and set the detothe ship’s medical supply. It worked, and at
nations to occur at a shallow level. Then he
11 A.M. he was able to send “Can steer
put the Borie on a path to ram the sub.
another two hours. Commencing to sink”
To the Americans’ shock, U-405 suddenly
before the radio’s generator went kaput.
turned toward the onrushing destroyer and
An Avenger from the Card spotted the
prepared to do some ramming of its own.
foundering destroyer, and Barry and Goff
Top: The abandoned Borie erupts in smoke
Hutchins reacted fast, slamming the Borie
hurried to Borie. But high waves and the
to a stop that skidded it across U-405’s and flames after an Avenger torpedo bomber great distance from any port ruled out towfrom the Card bombed her to sink her.
path, with the destroyer’s starboard side
ing the wounded destroyer. At 4:30 P.M.
Above: Aboard Card, Admiral Royal E.
facing the sub. At that moment, Hutchins
Hutchins ordered “Abandon ship!” and the
Ingersoll, the US Atlantic Fleet commander,
ordered the depth-charge projectors fired.
thoroughly exhausted crew put their
pins the Navy Cross on Lieutenant Charles
Three charges arced from the ship, splashlifeboats into dangerous seas, with water a
Hutchins, the late Borie’s fearless skipper.
ing down on both sides of U-405, and
shockingly cold 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
exploded. The force of the blasts lifted the sub completely out of
No Borie men had died in the battle with U-405. Now, 27
the water. Somehow, however, the sub’s engines were still funcmen—24 sailors and 3 officers, one of whom was Robert Lord—
tional, and Hopmann made a break for it.
died during the rescue process. Some died in the cold water when
There was no getting away this time. Borie’s crew continued
their lifeboats capsized. Others were crushed between lifeboats
plastering U-405 with gunfire and shells, one of which killed
and the rescuing destroyers. Still others were just too tired and
Hopmann. Of the sub’s 49 men, 35 were now dead. Finally, the
weak from exertion, wounds, and the cold to pull themselves
few remaining German sailors realized they should surrender, so
aboard the rescuing vessels.
one of them yelled “Komrade!” The Germans evacuated their sub
On the morning of November 2, 1943, Barry and Goff opened
in yellow life rafts, and U-405 slid lifelessly below the waves,
fire on the abandoned and unsalvageable Borie. But a torpedo
stern-first, at 2:57 A.M., just a little more than an hour from the
missed, and artillery and machine-gun fire weren’t enough to sink
her. Finally, an Avenger from the Card dropped a 500-pound
time Borie’s radar had first detected her. She exploded underwabomb and Borie sank at 9:55 A.M. She had emerged the victor in
ter and sank.
one of the hardest-fought and most unique naval battles of World
The Borie approached to pick up survivors. To the Americans’
War II. But her victory had cost her everything. A
surprise, however, flares shot into the sky from some of the survivors’ rafts. They were signaling yet another German U-boat that
MARK WEISENMILLER writes from Tampa, Florida. More informawas in the area, and soon a distant flare revealed that a sub was
tion about his work is available at
responding. Suddenly, radar operator Earl Potter announced,
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Long before ‘homeland security’ was an ever yday term, the shock of Pearl Harbor
put Americans on high aler t to keep enemies away from US soil, skies, and seas.
all images this story: national archives
by Raoul Drapeau
HE P EARL H ARBOR ATTACK WAS a major shock to the
government and people of the United States. Not a soul
disagreed with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s assessment that December 7, 1941, was “a date which will live in infamy.”
Shock quickly galvanized into action. The US military, whose
branches together totaled about 1.8 million in 1941, more than
doubled that number the next year (the wartime high came in
1945, with more than 12.2 million in uniform). Aircraft, tanks,
weapons, and military supplies poured from factories across the
continent. America was quickly ready to take
the war to the enemy.
In the wake of the December 7 attack, however, a question arose: What if the enemy continued to bring the war to America? An outright
invasion seemed extremely unlikely, but there
were other ways that enemies could punish and
harm the US homeland.
We who live in the era after September 11,
2001—the 21st century’s own day of infamy—
have had to envision the worst and create safeguards against it. Prior to 9/11, responsibility for
countering threats on US soil had rested primarily with the FBI. After 9/11, however, Congress
swiftly set up an entire new federal department
to bring considerably more resources to the
problem. The Department of Homeland Security
now has some 240,000 employees and a budget
of $41 billion. It absorbed 22 existing federal
agencies including the US Coast Guard, the
Transportation Security Administration, and the National Guard.
America in the 1940s faced a different set of threats, real or
imagined, than we do today, and it was able to rely heavily on
government-supervised volunteers rather than a quarter-million
professionals. But WWII America’s response was nonetheless
thorough, covering every conceivable threat and touching every
area of society. Then as now, homeland security required watchfulness and preparedness.
America’s 21st century wars are fought by lean, high-tech, nonconscripted forces outfitted and armed by specialized defense
contractors. Not so during World War II. Back then, practically
every family had someone in the military. The war was the focus
of American life, and nearly everyone participated, whether by
working in a factory or government job or by participating in volunteer activities.
But WWII homeland defense involved more
than civilians simply pitching in. The federal government generated and oversaw a wide range of
programs to organize their efforts—along with
interventions, policies, and campaigns intended
to keep enemies from striking a blow on
American soil. Some of those efforts were more
effective than others. In retrospect, some were
misguided, even wrong. But taken together, they
were WWII America’s homeland defense. Here
are some of the many aspects of that effort.
Civilians versus the Luftwaffe
AMONG THE MANY ROLES civilians played in safeguarding against enemy activity on—or over—
US soil was airplane spotter. High school kids
memorized airplane profile cards and participated in contests to see who could identify planes
the fastest. Adults manned watchtowers, peering
into the skies with binoculars.
No plane spotter ever saw an enemy plane. The oceans were so
vast that pulling off an air raid would have been beyond impractical for America’s enemies. Still, there were plenty of false alarms
that raised anxiety.
Opposite: Uncle Sam expected everyone to pitch in to keep enemies from striking US soil. One mandate forced all homes to become invisible
to Axis aircraft by darkening their windows. This Office of Emergency Management photo shows how to install blackout curtains. Above:
No Axis planes appeared in US skies, but official plane spotters—and many civilians—used tools like this chart to learn to identify aircraft.
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Also working to head off any enemy planes were
neighborhood air-raid wardens. These men and
women had the job of walking around their
neighborhoods to make sure no light was
coming from homes at night—light that
could conceivably assist any enemy planes
overhead in identifying bomb targets.
Residents used heavy black drapes to
keep interior light from shining through
windows. The wardens had authority to
enforce the blackouts, too. Many a family had to respond to an air-raid warden
pounding on the front door with a warning that light was escaping the house.
The plane-spotter and air-raid warden programs were created by the US Department of
Civilian Defense, which was activated in May 1941
when US involvement in the global war seemed increasingly
likely. Eventually, as many as six million volunteers were serving as
air-raid wardens or plane spotters or in other civilian defense roles.
Little Planes Menace U-boats
ANOTHER IMPORTANT PROGRAM of the Department of Civilian
Defense was the Civil Air Patrol, whose pilots and aircraft monitored America’s skies and coastlines. It was an especially important
duty early in the war, when U-boats (German submarines) were
moving along the East Coast with impunity, sinking cargo ships.
Civil Air Patrol air crews were civilians who operated in pairs,
one as the pilot, the other as a spotter. They received a small
stipend for fuel, but flew their own aircraft. These civilian flyers
monitored the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, watching for U-boats and
for survivors of torpedoed ships.
They also provided courier services, transporting crucial material
and ferrying personnel. Scarier
duties included towing target sleeves
for gunnery practice by fighter planes
and ground-based anti-aircraft batteries, or
acting as targets for searchlight operators.
At its peak, the Civil Air Patrol had 45,000
pilots, some of them women. The pilots flew
87,000 missions for a total of 24 million miles
and attacked 57 U-boats with bombs, sinking
two of them.
Blimps versus Wolf Packs
T HE CIVIL AIR PATROL wasn’t the only force watching over America’s coastal waters from above. The US
Navy put lighter-than-air blimps to work patrolling for enemy
subs, rescuing mariners in trouble, and escorting ship convoys.
Unlike airplanes, blimps didn’t have to keep up a certain rate of
speed to maintain lift. They could sail along overhead at the same
speed as the ships they were escorting, staying low enough that
they could spot submarines cruising near the surface. And unlike
aircraft, blimps could operate relatively safely in bad weather, in
conditions of poor visibility, and at night. They could operate for
26 hours at a time without refueling.
In 1942, German
U-boat wolf packs sank 454 merchant ships off the East
Coast. (Certainly, part of the U-boats’ success was due to
the lack of port-city blackout protocols early in the war; moving
The Department of Civilian Defense organized volunteers for very real jobs in domestic security. Top: A Civil Air Patrol unit drills.
Members used their own planes to patrol coasts, assist with search and rescue, and more. Second from top: Air-raid wardens direct civilians
during an October 1941 drill in New York City. Bottom: In a government film still, air-raid wardens discuss a situation.
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past a lit-up city, ships were backlit, presenting easy targets for Uboats.) But once the full complement of 132 K-class blimps went
into operation, Allied ship sinkings were drastically reduced. By
1943 they were down to 65; in 1944 there were 8, and in 1945
only 3. In what stands as a remarkable record, only one blimpescorted ship was ever sunk.
Blimps were effective because their presence overhead forced
enemy submarines to dive, which made them unable to keep up
with a convoy they were hunting. Blimps could also alert friendly
naval vessels, such as destroyers escorting a convoy, when they
spotted a submarine. They had firepower of their own, too—typically, four depth charges and a .50-caliber machine gun.
Guards on the Beach
W HILE NAVY BLIMPS and Civil Air Patrol planes were on guard in
the sky, US Coast Guard beach patrols were on the ground below,
observing ships offshore to make sure no saboteurs landed and
hunting down any who did. Eventually, there were 24,000 officers
and men operating along some 3,700 miles of coastline. Some of
the operations included horses for better mobility and dogs for
better detection.
by Raoul Drapeau
the war, the masks were sold in military-surplus stores, serving
legions of kids as fun playthings.
Making Factories Disappear
ON FEBRUARY 23, 1942, in the first attack on the US mainland
since the war of 1812, Japanese submarine I-17 surfaced off Santa
Barbara, California, and fired several dozen shells from its 5.5inch deck gun at petroleum storage tanks. That June, there were
additional shelling incidents at Canada’s Vancouver Island and at
Fort Stevens, Oregon. None of these attacks caused any significant damage, but they did escalate federal authorities’ anxiety
about the vulnerability of manufacturing infrastructure near the
West Coast.
Two places that especially concerned officials were the Los
Angeles and Seattle areas, both home to major aircraft manufacturing facilities. The plants’ size and their ready supply of workers made it impractical to move them farther inland. Instead, the
army decided to camouflage them so that, from the air, they
would appear to be housing developments.
Such an effort was outside the army’s area of expertise, so landscape architects and Hollywood prop and set designers were
Above, left: A navy blimp patrols East Coast waters. Blimps, able to stay low and move slowly, were effective against enemy submarines
along US coasts. Above, right: Mounted coast guard beach patrolmen show off for the camera. They watched for saboteurs sneaking ashore.
There are no recorded incidents of spies landing on the West
Coast, but the Germans did succeed in landing three separate parties of saboteurs along the East Coast, two in 1942 and one in late
1944. Eventually, all the operatives were captured, and some were
Masks On for Safety
B ECAUSE BOTH SIDES in World War I had used poison gas, there
was a fear that this airborne killer might be used again in World
War II, perhaps even on civilians. Consequently, the government
issued millions of M1A1 personal gas masks to military personnel
and civilians.
Fortunately, no gas attack ever occurred on US soil. What could
have been a lifesaving tool instead became a toy: for years after
hired. They brought in fake trees and bushes made from wire
mesh covered with chicken feathers. There were fake houses made
from plywood. The factory roofs were painted to simulate grass
and roads. Period photographs show that the results were very
convincing. But no Japanese aircraft ever got close enough to test
the camouflage’s effectiveness.
Big Guns on Delaware Bay
MANY AMERICAN HARBORS PUT systems in place to block enemy
incursions or defend against them—everything from gun emplacements to submarine and torpedo nets and manmade reefs made
from sunken retired ships. But the defensive measures at one of
the country’s most important ports, Philadelphia, had some
unique features that are still plainly visible today.
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The US government was in the propaganda business, abroad and at home. Posters were one means of keeping Americans focused—and alert.
The approach to Philadelphia led through the Delaware Bay and
into the Delaware River. Along the shoreline stood the DuPont
chemical plant (home of one of the US armed forces’ chief suppliers of gunpowder, explosives, and nylon), numerous oil refineries,
factories, and the Philadelphia Naval Yard. The fear was that
German battleships could stand at a considerable distance offshore
and shell these facilities or the port of Philadelphia with impunity.
The army addressed this fear by building Fort Miles, a complex
of heavy artillery batteries, at the mouth of the Delaware Bay.
Along the shore around the fort stood 15 manned seaside fire-control towers, 75 feet tall and built of concrete. The towers’ purpose
was to provide the bearing of any enemy ship that came within
range. The tower observers would transmit the bearings to the batteries so artillerists could calculate angles and ranges for their 16inch guns. Those guns could hurl a 2,000-pound shell 25 miles—
the same distance an enemy battleship could fire its own shells.
set up during World
War II, Delaware’s Fort Miles never fired a shot in anger.
Today one battery at the fort, Battery 519, has been
restored and can be visited. But the most conspicuous artifacts are
the fire-control towers strung along the Delaware and New Jersey
coasts. The structures are clearly visible from the roadway.
Unfortunately, salt from beach sand used in building some of the
towers is causing the concrete to deteriorate. One day, some of the
structures may have to be torn down for safety.
APRIL 2018
Saving the Soo Locks
G ERMANY WAS MUCH CLOSER to the American East Coast than
Japan was to the West Coast. For the US high command, this created a lingering worry that the Germans might develop a bomber
with sufficient range to strike the United States, flying either from
Europe or from a captured base in Canada. Such a bomber might
be able to strike New York or Washington, DC—or, perhaps, the
Soo Locks.
The Soo Locks (from a colloquial pronunciation of sault, a
French Canadian word for waterfall) in Sault Sainte Marie,
Michigan, enable ships to descend from Lake Superior to Lake
Huron. During World War II, as much as 90 percent of the iron
ore feeding the all-important steel mills of Michigan, Ohio, and
Pennsylvania came through the Soo Locks. And steel was the stuff
of which war machines and weapons were made.
As a result, the army fortified the area around the locks with
7,300 soldiers to safeguard against saboteurs. It also installed antiaircraft emplacements in case the Germans managed to get a bomber
over Michigan. Barrage balloons—heavy-duty inflatables built like
mini-blimps and tethered in place as obstacles to low-flying enemy
planes—were deployed in the air and torpedo nets in the water,
much the same tools as were used by the British to protect their
ports, cities, and other important targets. Again, no threat actually
ever materialized, and the protection was gradually reduced.
It turned out that the Americans’ fears had not been entirely
baseless. Unknown at the time, the German aircraft manufacturer
Messerschmitt had designed the Me 264, a transatlantic bomber
with a range of more than 9,000 miles, enough to fly from
German-occupied western Europe to the United States and back.
Messerschmitt built several prototypes, but due to competing
projects, the Me 264 never made it into service.
by Raoul Drapeau
on numbers: the Italian and German Americans greatly outnumbered the Japanese Americans, so exclusion and internment would
have been much more logistically challenging. The outcry would
also have been greater.
Fighting the Fu-Go
THERE WAS SIMPLY NO WAY to imagine every possible menace to
the American homeland. There were bound to be surprises, outside-the-box threats such as Japan’s Fu-Go (“Code Fu”) campaign. Who could have imagined giant paper balloons loaded
with bombs, floating silently in the jet stream for 5,000 miles from
Japan across the Pacific Ocean to start fires in the United States
and Canada?
The Japanese launched their first hydrogen-filled fusen bakudan (“balloon bomb”), history’s first intercontinental weapon, in
November 1944. By the time the Fu-Go campaign ended, 9,000
balloons had been released, each carrying a
cleverly designed payload of one fragmentation bomb and several incendiary ones. The
flight across the ocean took three days.
The only defense the US military could
think of was to scramble fighter planes and
try to shoot the balloons down before they
made landfall. It worked on only a few
occasions. Fortunately for the Americans,
however, Operation Fu-Go wasn’t as successful as its creators had hoped. Only
about 300 of the balloons were reported as
having reached the West Coast. Many of
those that did complete the journey were
rendered harmless by technical failures or
by the wet or snow-covered condition of
North American forests at the time. All the
while, strict censorship kept reports of balloon bombs out of the American media,
Executive Order 9066
helping keep Americans calm and the
IN FEBRUARY 1942, anxiety about domestic
Japanese in the dark about the results of
security led to a grave injustice. Roosevelt
their attack efforts. Ultimately, US bombing
issued Executive Order 9066, which estabOne attack that reached the United States
of Japan forced an end to Fu-Go, cutting off
lished an exclusion zone on the West Coast
was Operation Fu-Go. Here, sailors at
the project’s hydrogen supply.
that included all of California and parts of
California’s Naval Air Station Moffett Field
The only documented case of American
Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. The
handle a captured—and, presumably,
deaths caused by the balloon bombs
people excluded were those of Japanese
defused—Fu-Go balloon bomb.
occurred when an Oregon church group,
descent, whether American citizens or
out for a Sunday picnic, came upon a Fu-Go balloon in the
woods. Its fragmentation bomb exploded.
These Japanese Americans were abruptly and forcibly removed
to 10 remote locations in 7 states, often hundreds of miles away
LL IN ALL , America’s effort to protect the homeland
from their homes, and were interned in camps. They were allowed
against Axis threats was a success. The balloon bomb
to take with them only what they could carry. Ultimately, more
casualties were the only known victims of enemy action
than 120,000 men, women, and children were incarcerated. Many
on the American mainland during the entire war. In part, that was
lost homes, farms, and businesses.
because the enemy had trouble getting here. But part of what
No Japanese Americans were ever charged with espionage. The
made getting here so difficult was that Americans—from military
army accepted men from the internment camps, and they had an
and government officials down to ordinary citizens—were vigilant
exemplary record in the European theater.
and prepared. A
Although the United States was at war with both Germany and
Italy, there was no mass internment of German or Italian
RAOUL DRAPEAU has written several articles on WWII topics for
Americans. Some were incarcerated or interned on a case-by-case
history magazines. He also writes on energy-related subjects.
basis. The reason for this difference in treatment seemingly rested
Think This, Do This
DURING THE WAR, the US military routinely dropped propaganda
leaflets on enemy troops and on Axis civilians. At home, the government didn’t hesitate to use propaganda on its own people, trying to control citizens’ thoughts and actions in the interest of
homeland defense (and in winning the war, of course). A look at
the rich array of wartime posters issued by the Office of War
Information and other federal agencies proves that.
One history of WWII American popular culture estimates that
nearly 200,000 different posters were created and circulated
during the war. The artwork came from
some of the nation’s preeminent artists and
illustrators, including the likes of Thomas
Hart Benton, Norman Rockwell, Glenn
Grohe, McClelland Barclay, and Lawrence
Beall Smith.
Posters told Americans to work harder,
buy war bonds, save scraps and leftover
fats, conserve resources, grow their own
food, take care of their health, join the military, become nurses, avoid taking time off
work, and more. Posters with a domestic
security focus typically urged civilians to
watch what they said about military matters
such as ship departures or unit deployments, to hate the enemy, and to report anything suspicious.
APRIL 2018
‘I Would Rather Save Life’
Medic Desmond Doss went to war without a weapon. Other GIs thought he was crazy.
On Okinawa’s Hacksaw Ridge, his heroism changed their minds.
by Mark Weisenmiller
1945, and snapped a salute that belied the true condition of his battle-worn body. President Harry S. Truman
smiled warmly and shook his hand. Leading Doss toward a table, he picked up a light blue ribbon from which
hung a five-point gold star, encircled by a laurel wreath and crowned with an eagle. In the eagle’s talons was a bar inscribed
with a single word: Valor. It was the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military award.
As Truman fastened the ribbon around Doss’s neck, he told the
young Virginian, “I’m proud of you. You really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being president.”
With that, Doss, a combat medic, became the first conscientious objector in US history to receive the Medal of Honor. And
there was no doubt he deserved it. In the thick of battle, at great
risk to his own life, this devout, unarmed young man had saved
the lives of numerous wounded on Guam, in the Philippines, and
on Okinawa, where in one incident he singlehandedly moved an
estimated 75 injured men out of an enemy-held battle zone to
safety one by one (Doss believed the number was 50, but eyewitnesses claimed it was 100).
To the US military, that was valor indeed. To Doss, it was what
he had to do. He was just living out his faith.
Private First Class Desmond Doss relaxes on Okinawa on May 15, 1945. If any soldier should have been full of bullet holes, it was he. A medic
who wouldn’t touch weapons, he risked his life 50 to 100 times on May 1, saving wounded men trapped in combat on Hacksaw Ridge.
APRIL 2018
all images this story: national archives
A Foundation for Character
FAITH WAS AT THE CENTER of Doss’s upbringing. Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, on February 7, 1919, to Thomas and Bertha Doss,
he grew up under the care of a pious Seventh-Day Adventist mother. It was she who helped his alcoholic father battle his way to
sobriety. And it was she who made sure young Desmond received
his education in a Seventh-Day Adventist school. Doss attended
through eighth grade. That was where the curriculum, and his formal education, ended.
The Seventh-Day Adventist teachings that guided Doss’s family
originated with Baptist layman William Miller in upstate New
York in the early 1800s. Studying the biblical book of Daniel,
Miller came to believe the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would
occur in the early 1840s. His prediction proved disappointing, but
his followers retained a conviction that the Second Coming was
imminent: Adventism. By the end of the 1840s, the Adventists
began strictly observing the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day
of the week. Later developments, particularly influenced by Ellen
G. White, a New England Adventist who was believed to have
revelatory visions, helped coalesce the movement into the SeventhDay Adventist Church. It was formally established in May 1863
in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Much Seventh-Day Adventist teaching resembles that of other
Protestant Christian denominations. But the church also teaches,
among other things, pacifism—a refusal to engage in war or harm
other human beings.
Doss grew up steeped in this teaching. On the wall of his family’s home hung a framed print listing the Ten Commandments,
with color illustrations. The sixth, “Thou shalt not kill,” was
matched up with a drawing of Cain killing his brother, Abel. That
image made a deep impression on Doss. He wondered aloud how
anyone could kill his own brother. That, he later reflected, made
him determined never to take a life.
A close call with a gun at home shook up the young Doss. One
day, his father and uncle, both intoxicated, were arguing loudly
when his father pulled out a .45-caliber pistol. Mrs. Doss broke
up the fight, averting a disaster, and gave the gun, by then
unloaded, to Desmond, telling him to hide it. Mr. Doss was arrested for drunkenness, but not for the more serious crime of threatening his brother-in-law with a pistol. Then and there, Desmond
decided never to touch a weapon again.
At an early age, Doss liked to do kind things for other people.
A lover of nature, he especially appreciated flowers and would
take them to anyone he thought needed cheering. This included
trips to the county jail and local hospitals.
Doss was 21 years old in September 1940 when the United
States, concerned about the outbreak of tensions and war in
Europe and Asia, instituted a military draft. He obeyed the law
and registered. Then, in December 1941, the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor pulled the United States into the global war. A few
months later, in April 1942, Doss got his conscription notice. By
then he was a carpenter at a shipyard in Newport News,
Virginia—a war production job that made him eligible for a defer-
ment. But he didn’t take it. “I felt it was an honor to serve God
and country,” he told director Terry Benedict for the 2004 documentary The Conscientious Objector. “We were fighting for religious liberty and freedom.”
A Man of Peace in the Army
FROM THE START, Doss and the army seemed to be an unlikely
match. What was there to do with a man who wouldn’t work
from sunset Friday through sunset Saturday, refused to kill, and
wouldn’t touch a weapon? He was classified 1-A-O, a conscientious objector available for noncombatant military service. But
what service?
Doss and the army found the perfect role: combat medic. “I
would rather save life than take life,” Doss often said. As a medic,
he would be saving lives. He wouldn’t have to harm anyone, and
he’d have no need to carry a weapon (though medics were normally armed with .45-caliber pistols). As for working on
Saturdays, Doss believed combat medic duty was permissible:
“Christ healed on the Sabbath.”
On April 1, 1942, Doss reported to Camp Lee in southeast
Virginia. Soon afterward he was sent to Camp Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, for basic and advanced training with the
307th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division—
the Statue of Liberty Division.
The army was unkind to Doss. Instead of placing him in the
medical detachment, officers assigned him to a rifle company, the
307th’s Company B, where he was repeatedly confronted about
his refusal to bear arms. Other GIs abused him constantly. When
he knelt to pray, some threw their boots at him. Men purposely
cursed loudly in conversation, knowing he objected to cursing,
swearing, and profanity. Soldiers ransacked his bunk and footlocker. They snatched a Bible his girlfriend, Dorothy, had given
him, and they kept it from him. His commanding officer, Captain
Jack Glover, was no help. He, too, actively mistreated Doss.
Some men who witnessed the abuse later told Benedict about it
for his documentary. Charles Steiglitz of the 307th Medical
Detachment recalled that Doss “was regarded as a pest.” Litterbearer Ralph Baker said, “I don’t think he had any friends.”
Mortar-squad member Henry Haverlock commented, “I have to
give him credit for having a lot of intestinal fortitude to stand up
to that ridicule.”
MAY 1942 was Doss moved to the medical detachment, where he belonged. Throughout all the rough
treatment, he drew consolation and encouragement from
prayer, the Bible, and his relationship with Dorothy, whom he
married that August.
Marches with Company B, which Doss now served as a medic,
gave him a chance to prove his worth, treating blistered feet, heat
exhaustion, and other problems. Nevertheless, his refusal to work
on Saturdays (he instead went into nearby towns on a pass to
attend Adventist church services) or to train with weapons continued to rankle his superiors and fellow GIs.
While the 77th Division was on grueling desert maneuvers in
Arizona under debilitating conditions that kept medics busy, Doss
discovered that Glover and other officers were trying to get rid of
Above: GIs carry a dead 96th Division man off Hacksaw Ridge on April 22, 1945. Doss’s 77th Division relieved the 96th. Opposite, left:
Medics help a 77th Division casualty on an island near Okinawa on March 26. Medics stabilized wounded men for transport to aid centers.
Opposite, right: Serious cases went to hospital ships like USS Mercy, here hauling a patient aboard. Doss ended up on Mercy in late May.
APRIL 2018
‘I Would Rather Save Life’
by Mark Weisenmiller
him. He found himself transferred out of the medical battalion
into the headquarters company as an infantryman. Then he was
summoned to a proceeding attempting to send him home with a
Section Eight discharge for mental instability because of his strict
religious observance. Doss refused to accept such a discharge, and
the effort failed.
Next came training at Fort Indiantown Gap in central
Pennsylvania, where Doss endured yet another attempt to get rid
of him. There, the officer in charge of passes and furloughs,
Captain William T. Cunningham, refused to acknowledge Doss’s
conscientious objector status. There was a rule that each GI in the
regiment had to qualify with his rifle before getting a pass.
Cunningham saw that Doss had not qualified. So, when Doss
reported for a pass, Cunningham held out a carbine and ordered
him to take it or he would court-martial him. Doss refused, twice,
so Cunningham said he would face a court-martial. Fortunately
for Doss, a superior officer showed up at that moment, overruled
and chided Cunningham, and ordered him to give Doss the pass.
Into the Fire
THE DIVISION’S FIRST ENCOUNTER with battle came on Guam, in the
Mariana Islands of the Western Pacific. In July 1944, the Statue of
Liberty men waded ashore from a reef into withering enemy fire
and joined US marines in wresting the island from Japanese forces
that had seized it in December 1941. Doss went ashore with the
2nd Platoon of Company B, in the 307th Infantry’s 1st Battalion.
When he landed on Guam, the skinny Doss (he never weighed
more than 160 pounds) was carrying 75 pounds (his canteen and
Cunningham wasn’t finished. He put Doss on permanent KP
(kitchen police, doing kitchen chores). Worse, when Doss requested a furlough to visit his family before his brother left for navy
duty overseas, Cunningham denied it at the last moment, tearing
it up in front of him. Doss was devastated.
Back home, Doss’s father had reached his limit. He telephoned
the Seventh-Day Adventist Church’s War Service Commission.
Suddenly, the 307th Infantry’s commander received a reminder
about the order President Franklin Roosevelt had signed mandating that conscientious objectors were not required to bear arms.
By the next morning, Doss was back in the medical detachment,
and he received his furlough.
As the 77th Division continued preparing for deployment, it
moved to West Virginia for more exercises. There, Doss taught
himself to tie a double-loop bowline with a piece of rope. It was a
skill that would help him greatly on Okinawa.
shovel, field pack, and canvas first-aid bag). He saw many dead
bodies as his unit moved to its bivouac area, and he treated native
people who had been hurt. At Barrigada, a village with an important fresh water supply, the 307th got into its first firefight; 85
men were killed or wounded.
Now the other men started changing their minds about Doss.
They saw him run or crawl into firefights over and over, seeking,
treating, and evacuating wounded soldiers. “If the patrol was fired
upon and a man was hit, the other men would close in and cover
Doss while he administered first aid. Then they’d all retreat together, helping the wounded men to safety,” wrote Booton Herndon in
his 1967 book The Unlikeliest Hero. Doss moved along with his
unit, treating wounded GIs, until Guam was secured on August 8.
That November, the 77th Division boarded ships bound for New
Caledonia, east of Australia in the Southwest Pacific. The fleet was
ordered to change course, however, and on the 23rd the division
In March 1944, the 77th Division went west by train, heading
toward the Pacific coast to board ships and sail to the fighting
front. No longer would Doss be able to visit Dorothy and go to
church with her. He told Benedict that as he and Dorothy said
good-bye before he got on the train, each was struggling not to cry
in front of the other. They didn’t know whether they would ever
see each other again; not carrying weapons didn’t mean Doss
wouldn’t be a target.
APRIL 2018
‘I Would Rather Save Life’
landed on Leyte in the Philippines. In early December the division
re-embarked, landed at Ipil, on the east coast of Leyte’s Ormoc Bay.
The men fought their way northwest toward the town of Ormoc
and beyond. By early February, the area was completely secured.
Caring for Company B on Leyte, Doss suffered some painful
losses. His best friend, fellow medic Clarence Glenn, was wounded while treating an injured soldier, so Doss and medic Herbert
Schechter rushed to help Glenn. But as Doss was bringing him to
safety, Glenn died. Later, while Doss and Schechter were evacuating casualties, Schechter was shot and killed.
Amid all this death, Doss took care of his first baby patient. He
was reluctant to do so, because he had had no pediatric training,
but the baby lived. Doss received the Bronze Star for his repeated
acts of bravery on Leyte.
by Mark Weisenmiller
more troops to scramble up faster. Doss and two other soldiers
volunteered to climb a long, improvised ladder and hang the nets.
On May 1, 1945, Company B had 155 men atop Hacksaw
Ridge and seemed to be making progress. But it was a trap. The
Japanese launched a massive attack, lobbing grenades, ripping the
Americans apart with machine-guns, mortars, and artillery, and
attacking with infantry. Men raced to escape, but only 55 were
able to retreat to safety without help. The other 100 were dead or
wounded, and the wounded were unable to get away.
DOSS. Trying to stay
low, Doss went into the carnage again and again. Finding a
wounded man, he would stabilize him and then drag him,
crawling along the ground, to the cliff edge. There, using rope and
the double bowline knot he had mastered during training in West
Bloodbath on Okinawa
Virginia, he would lower the man to medics waiting below. Then he
BY THE SPRING OF 1945, the war was ending in Europe, but not
would go back to look for more wounded, venturing even to the
mouths of the Japanese caves. In all, Doss evacuated 50 to 100 men.
in the Pacific. Operation Iceberg, the US invasion of Okinawa,
Doss’s fatigues were covered with other men’s blood, but he
was just getting under way. The struggle to unseat the Japanese
was unharmed. He kept going. “I was prayfrom this island some 400 miles southwest
ing all the time ‘Lord, help me get one
of Japan would become one of the war’s
more,’” he told Benedict. Years later, on a
bloodiest battles. By the time it ended,
tour of Japan, Doss met a man who had
15,000 Americans, 115,000 Japanese, and
been one of Hacksaw Ridge’s defenders.
as many as half of Okinawa’s civilians (the
The man told Doss he had tried to shoot
most detailed count stands at 149,193 out
him, but the gun malfunctioned every time.
of approximately 300,000) would be dead.
On May 5, 1945, the 307th had orders to
After invading nearby Yakabi Shima on
make an all-out assault to take control of
March 26, the 77th Division sat bobbing in
Hacksaw Ridge once and for all. The Comships off Okinawa from April 1 through 15.
pany B men wanted Doss with them, but
Kamikazes were pouring down on the AmerMay 5 was a Saturday—the Sabbath. The
ican fleet. On the 16th, the division assaultcompany commander asked Doss if he
ed Ie Shima, next to Okinawa, and fought
would come, and Doss replied that he
there until it was secured, around April 21.
would do so after finishing his prayers.
Six days later, Doss was on Okinawa.
With that, one of the major infantry attacks
The men of the 307th soon learned they
of World War II was delayed while one man
would have to attack and hold Okinawa’s
With 17 pieces of grenade shrapnel in his
prayed; Doss was Company B’s only medic
Maeda Escarpment, a cliff that ran nearly the
breadth of the island’s southern end and gave body and his left arm shattered by a sniper’s that day, and he also cared for the men of
bullet, Doss still has a smile for the camera
Company A.
the Japanese forces who occupied it a clear
while recuperating at a hospital.
By that evening, the Americans convista for many miles. The Japanese had
trolled Hacksaw Ridge. The next day, the 307th had completely
turned the cliff into a fortified honeycomb of caves and gun
cleared out the Japanese there.
emplacements, all connected by tunnels. The only way to gain conIn the aftermath of the Hacksaw Ridge conquest, Jack Glover,
trol of Okinawa was to get past this massive obstacle, and there was
the captain who had worked so hard to get rid of Doss back in the
no easy way to do so. The Japanese had planned their gun, mortar,
States, was seriously wounded by enemy artillery. Long ago, when
and machine-gun positions to give them complete coverage of the
Doss had assured Glover he would be right by his side in combat,
top of the escarpment. No enemy could stay there and live.
Glover had spat back: You “would never be by my damn side at
A pattern soon emerged. Every day, the Japanese let the
all unless you had a rifle.” Seeing Doss’s courage and dedication
Americans take the cliff in the morning only to drive them off
under fire, Glover had long ago changed his mind. Now, as he lay
around sunset. At times Japanese machine-gun fire was thick
wounded, Doss found him, treated him, and got him to safety.
enough to cut men in half. During the most intense fighting, eight
Through all the fighting at Hacksaw Ridge, Doss had avoided
American company commanders were killed in 36 hours. Over
serious injury. Finally, during a night operation on May 21, the man
seven days the Japanese drove the GIs from the top nine times.
who had cared for so many wounded men became a casualty himThe back-and-forth action earned the escarpment the nickname
self. Shrapnel from an enemy grenade struck his legs. He lay waitHacksaw Ridge.
ing for five hours before he received medical attention. But as he
To ease the climb to the top, the Americans decided to use
was being evacuated through heavy machine-gun fire, with what
cargo nets from the ships that had transported them, nets they had
turned out to be 17 pieces of shrapnel in his legs and body, he rolled
used to climb down into their landing craft. That would enable
APRIL 2018
President Harry Truman decorates Doss with the Medal of Honor on October 12, 1945.
Presenting the medal, Truman said, was “a greater honor than being president.”
off the litter to treat a soldier with a head injury. While awaiting
another litter, he was shot in the arm by a sniper. Now, for the first
and only time during the war, Doss touched a gun. Making a splint
from the rifle’s broken stock, he crawled to safety and collapsed.
Doss was recuperating aboard the hospital ship USS Mercy
(AH-8) when he realized that, back on Okinawa, he had lost the
Bible Dorothy had given him. He sent a message to Company B
asking if the soldiers could look for it. They did, despite dangerous conditions, and they found it. The Bible arrived by mail at his
home back in Lynchburg.
The Price of Service
was discharged from the army in 1946. In addition to the Medal
of Honor, he had received the Bronze Star with V for valor and a
bronze oak leaf cluster (indicating an additional award of the
same medal); the Purple Heart with two bronze oak leaf clusters;
the Philippine Liberation Medal with one battle star; the AsiaticPacific Campaign Medal with an arrowhead (for the amphibious
Guam invasion) and three battle stars (for Guam, Leyte, and
Okinawa); and other awards.
The Pacific ordeal had a lasting impact on Doss. For six years
he was in and out of hospitals. He learned he had contracted
tuberculosis on Leyte; his left lung was rendered useless and ultimately had to be removed along with six ribs. The injuries to his
arm made it impossible for him to return to carpentry.
For much of the 1950s, Doss, Dorothy, and their son, Tommy,
lived in dire circumstances in a log cabin on Lookout Mountain,
Georgia. That changed after a February 1959 episode of the
national TV show This Is Your Life told Doss’s story. The program’s sponsors gave Doss a power saw and other tools, a tractor,
a check to help him buy 10 acres of land, and a 1959 station
wagon with whitewall tires.
Doss continued to work for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church
and to give speeches about his WWII experiences. The church’s War
Services Commission dedicated a training camp for future medics in
his name; Doss helped build it, then taught and lectured there.
In 1976, Doss was mistakenly given an overdose of the antibiotic streptomycin to treat his TB, and it made him completely
deaf. A cochlear implant 12 years later finally restored his hearing. By then Doss and his family were living at Rising Fawn,
Georgia, where he continued farming.
Doss suffered a tragic loss in 1991. He was driving Dorothy,
who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, to a hospital for
treatment when he lost control of the car. The car struck a telephone pole and Dorothy was killed. Two years later, in 1993,
Doss got remarried, to Frances Duman.
For many years, Doss fended off movie producers seeking to
make a film about his life. He feared they wouldn’t tell his story
accurately. In 2000, he gave control over all movie and book
rights to his life story to the Georgia-Cumberland Association of
Seventh-Day Adventists. The trust finally granted the permission
that led to the making of the 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge, directed
by Mel Gibson and produced by Terry Benedict, who made The
Conscientious Objector documentary.
Doss died on March 23, 2006. At his funeral at the Southern
Adventist University Church in Collegedale, Tennessee, a troop of
US Army Pathfinders marched into the church singing “Onward
Christian Soldiers.” A
MARK WEISENMILLER is an author and reporter in Florida. His
website is
APRIL 2018
Parents were appalled by the graphic war imager y Gum Inc. was selling to their kids.
But government propagandists told the company to keep its cards coming.
by Lee W. Jones
ASIA AND EUROPE IN 1938, how shocking did a children’s candy store item have
to be to pique and polarize a nation? Rochester Divinity School representative Donald Hobbes labeled the product
“the rankest kind of poison,” whose “crassly commercial thoughtlessness” showed “a disregard for international
understanding.” Life, the leading magazine of the era, said the item exposed preadolescents to such “severe anti-Japanese
prejudices” that “future historians” might see it as the “cause of a future US-Japan war.” And many parents and schools
were so disturbed by the gruesome nature that they confiscated their children’s purchases. The product that so angered
America’s citizenry? Bubble-gum cards.
The card set was, despite the criticisms, antiwar. Though some
may have questioned whether a bubble-gum card set was a suitable platform for exploring such a matter, the set did educate its
preadolescent audience about foreign conflicts while it held a
position matching the nation’s majority stance on militarism
and war. In graphically presenting war’s horrors of
death and loss, the cards strove to prevent romantic illusions and excessive jingoism in the young.
Their depictions were stylistically parallel to
what historian John M. Harris described as
Life magazine’s “new way of covering
war,” with graphic images of “women and
children reacting to war’s totality.”
One card that sent a particularly strong
message was “Bombing an American
School Building,” which imagined a devastating attack with children bleeding and students jumping out of windows. It cautioned
about a terrible fate for the United States, asserting that the image is “not an exaggeration as to
what we could expect if America should be attacked
from the air…, surprised by cruel enemy bombers.” It elaborates in gory detail: “When the rain of death is ended, a smear of
gore and of bones is all that remains of what was once a playful
band of children.”
Gum Inc.’s message urging America to avoid this nightmare scenario was both realistic and idealistic. Realistically, there was the
Opposite: Gum Inc. designed its first set of WWII bubble-gum cards, Horrors of War, to indoctrinate its young customers against war.
The packaging gives a hint of the brutality depicted in full color on the cards themselves. Above: Cards such as “Bombing an
American School Building” (a detail from which appears here) went a bit too far for many parents, teachers, and cultural critics.
APRIL 2018
all images this story (unless otherwise noted): courtesy of lee jones
Sold in one-cent packages with one card and a stick of gum, the
trading cards of Horrors of War, the first-ever WWII bubble-gum
card set, covered in detail Japan’s brutal invasion of China—the
beginning of the Asian phase of what would become World War
II—and contemporary conflicts in Spain and Ethiopia. Almost
square in shape (different from latter-day rectangular
baseball cards) the war cards graphically portrayed
subjects that the film industry’s Hays Code had
outlawed for general audiences, namely brutal
killings and cruelty to children. Warren Bowman, owner of Philadelphia-based Gum
Inc., the producer of the set, defended his
product by saying his goal was simply “to
teach [young people] by exposing them to
the horrors of war.” Indeed the back of
each card (image on the front, text on the
back) bore the slogan “To know the horrors
of war is to want peace.” The set’s artistic creator, George Moll, responded to Life’s criticism
with the argument that his purpose was to produce
“a new means of influencing (favorably we hope) children’s opinions” and that he was “anti-war not anti-Japan.”
The strong negative reaction to the set was evidence that the
American public intensely desired that the United States remain
neutral and avoid war—even if that meant ignoring the horrors
unfolding in Japan’s invasion of China, which would ultimately
leave 15 million Chinese dead.
warning that “imminent peril surrounds our country” as improvements in travel decreased its “ocean security” (true). The cards contended mysteriously and somewhat hysterically that South
American interests (fascist sympathies?) “bring the chances [of war]
closer” and that Mexico is “just across the border!” (perhaps
remembering World War I’s Zimmerman Telegraph proposing an
alliance between Germany and Mexico). Idealistically, the company
held that “a condition of Patriotic Peace is the only substitute for
the threat of war” and that “peace workers be given every encouragement.” On this point—recommending a leadership role for the
United States as peacemaker—the set’s message differed from popular attitudes and policies. But true to its pacifist ideology, it made
no recommendation for America to begin military preparations.
by Lee W. Jones
Boy Scout–like faces of young soldiers, the Uncle Sam set presented
military training as akin to learning to play a sport rather than to
kill an enemy. There is no hint of danger or physical harm.
America is presented in a global, diplomatic vacuum with no mention of troubling world events or concerns.
The US military depicted in this second set seems to fit historian John Keegan’s characterization of a “warfare suited to the
American character,” combining “moral scruples, historical optimism, and technological pioneering.” Young men are shown
along with state-of-the-art equipment such as jeeps, radios, bombsights, carrier planes, submarines, and anti-aircraft guns. The
cards promote the idea that the men’s training prepared them not
just for war, but also “for good-paying positions on the outside
when their period of enlistment is ended” (foreshadowing the 1980s and 1990s “Be all you can
be” recruiting campaign). Members of the
“splendid services” are shown working underwater, patrolling on skis, and even taking part
in cowboy-like cavalry charges with guns
drawn—all likely to appeal to the young,
adventurous target audience. Other attractive
scenarios depict service camaraderie and
teamwork. Some cards tout a moral dimension, showing peacetime aid being given to
disaster victims and “friendly small neighbors,” such as Santo Domingo being rescued from “revolutionists” variously referred to as “troublemakers,” “bandits,”
and “desperadoes.”
A little fact-checking on Gum Inc.’s
idealized portrayals reveals a somewhat
less favorable picture. Much military
equipment was actually in very short
supply, with sometimes as much as half
of production being sent overseas as LendLease Act support for Great Britain and
the Soviet Union. In some cases, GIs had
to train with props rather than
weapons—“drainpipes for anti-tank
guns, stovepipes for mortar tubes…,
brooms for rifles” and “eggs as
grenades,” according to Rick Atkinson.
Many of the weapons the men did
have were dated and otherwise flawed.
The standard artillery piece shown on the
cards was the “modified French” 75 millimeter
gun, which US officers had labelled inadequate as
early as 1918. The 37mm anti-tank gun would prove not powerful enough to stop German tanks. Submarine and plane-launched
torpedoes were defective and, in the estimation of military historian Ronald Spector, the “worst in the world.” They fell short of
their targets, or failed to detonate, or exploded “nowhere near a
ship.” While President Franklin Roosevelt attested that airpower
of con
ITH THE BEGINNING OF the European phase of the war
in 1939, the United States continued to rely on its geographic isolation and diplomatic separation. When Germany swept through Europe in the spring of 1940 and defeated
France in 40 days, however, Americans
were shocked and panicked. Military
appropriations drastically rose and the
first-ever peacetime draft was begun.
America’s delayed response to the global
conflict contributed to military weakness
and backwardness. Rick Atkinson, author of
An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa,
1942–1943, described America’s equipment
and weaponry in the late 1930s as woeful,
including an air force of 1,700 mostly obsolete
planes and army of men carrying 1902
Springfield rifles. Even with increased military
spending and the draft, he wrote, the nation was
hesitant “to move to a full war footing.”
Adding to the military’s concerns was a
muckraking article in Life in 1941 charging that
morale was low in the army and that roughly 50
percent of draftees were planning not to reenlist
after their mandatory one year of service. The US
government reached out to Gum Inc. for public
relations help, and soon the war card set Uncle Sam
was issued. The company announced that it was
“glad as always to cooperate with Uncle Sam” and
that it hoped to bring to the “attention of millions of
young Americans” the work of the nation’s “splendid military services.”
The new card set profiled the training and laid out the weaponry
of all four military branches that would fight the war overseas: the
army, navy, marines, and army air corps. It represented a major
shift in ideology from the extreme pacifism of the first set. The
tone and imagery was different, too, due to the furor over the
original. Featuring bright, warm background colors and innocent,
Opposite: The World in Arms set highlighted war preparations of several European nations. Above, lower: The “Cavalry Charge” card
(a detail from which is shown here) dubiously described mounted forces as important for scouting and pursuit of the enemy. Above, upper:
J. Warren Bowman continued to run his successful gum company after the war (this is a postwar ad). Eventually, in 1956, Topps bought it.
APRIL 2018
by Lee W. Jones
the United States. Its assertion that defense efforts are “naturally…concentrated in the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts” strangely left
out the Pacific Coast. This Eastern emphasis is particularly ironic
since it was Japan that was pioneering long-range strategic bombing with a new aircraft carrier force. Germany, the Axis power
closest to the East Coast, had neither long-range bombers nor a
carrier force, as should have been made obvious by its failure in
the mid-1940 Battle of Britain.
These misjudgments can be attributed to the United States’
weak intelligence apparatus. British journalist Max Hastings has
pointed out that America lacked “secret agents abroad” and thus
did not have the ability to contradict faulty army intelligence
N THE BRIGHT SIDE of the preparedness ledger, the United
reports such as those claiming that Germany had 12,000 longStates had the best submarines in the world and was piorange bombers. Also at fault was a president who, as Overy put
neering the development of dive-bombing. Its marines were
it, so “deeply feared” Germany’s “scientific genius” that he was
mastering the tactics of amphibious assault “to a degree of effecsusceptible to hardly believable rumors about German capabilitiveness unknown in foreign armies,” according to Spector.
ties, such as one report that Germany had a stratospheric bomber
Gum Inc. had taken on a daunting propaganda challenge in trythat could remain in flight without
ing to portray a successful military
refueling for three straight days.
mobilization to a historically isolated
Another Gum Inc. blind spot conand anti-military nation before there
cerned Germany’s U-boats. It failed to
was officially a war to join. The commention them at all, even though they
pany managed to avoid jingoism and
were one of the big military and civil
militarism, and even as it idealized
defense issues of the time. In 1941,
and exaggerated the situation in favor
German subs were threatening Lendof the United States, US forces would,
Lease shipments, and once the deafter the Pearl Harbor attack, rapidly
stroyer USS Greer was attacked on
achieve remarkable success of the sort
September 4, there was a state of de
the card-makers had hoped for. In one
facto naval war between the United
year, a powerful military would be
States and Germany. Later, a U-boat
created, changing the “balance
would land saboteurs in America.
between the United States and her
Perhaps Gum Inc. ignored the threat
enemies…almost overnight,” Richard
of submarines because the United
Overy wrote.
Patriotism was the selling point of
States was, in the words of historian MichLater in 1941, but before Pearl Harbor,
the Uncle Sam set (this is a detail of a
Gannon, so “appallingly undefended”
Gum Inc. produced the supplementary civil
package wrapper). The cards featured
them that there was nothing
defense series Uncle Sam’s Home Defense.
the efforts of the four main military
that could be said.
The idea of preparing in peacetime to probranches: army, navy, marines,
The threat of poison gas was, on the
tect the US homeland from direct attack
and army air forces.
other hand, well covered. The “Gas Deconwas alien to the national experience in those
tamination” card lists the various types of gases in use and what
days. The last serious threat to the nation had been the British
they smelled like. Phosgene, for example, smelled like “new mown
fleet in the War of 1812. The threat Gum Inc. addressed in 1941
hay.” Also mentioned were some of the horrifying effects. Phoswas what it called “today’s form of warfare,” which meant airgene was described as “deadly and torturing.” Mustard gas ate
planes dropping conventional or poison-gas bombs on American
through clothing and flesh. The “Civilian Type Gas Mask” card
cities. Fears of such a danger were intense. According to Overy,
tells how gas masks worked (by filtering toxins out of the air);
the “terror of air power was obsessing every mind,” and gas warhow to put them on properly (hold one’s breath during the
fare was “an ever-present anxiety.” Germany’s 1940–1941 Blitz
process); and how to remove them (wearing gloves). “Home
on London, the use of gas by Japan and Italy, and the fact that
Shelter Room” advised that gas masks be stored in the basement
Germany had pioneered the weaponization of gas in World War I
and that doors and windows be made gasproof by sealing them
all substantiated Americans’ concerns. Gum Inc. stated that its
with wet blankets or rugs. The card advised people hiding in a
goals for Uncle Sam’s Home Defense were to show the “necessity
basement to “remain as still as possible.”
for…an army of Civilians trained and ready to protect” their comSome of the advice, collected from various authorities, was
munities in an emergency. Once again, the company was answerunorthodox. One Los Angeles city health official, for example,
ing a US government request for publicity help, specifically for the
urged those caught outside during a gas attack to “remove their
army air corps. Gum Inc. created a card highlighting the new sloouter clothing” before going inside, reasoning that it is “better to
gan “Keep ’em flying.”
have a red face than a burned body.”
The text on the Uncle Sam’s Home Defense cards reveals seveGenerally, the cards related to gas attacks reveal Gum Inc.
ral noteworthy blind spots in Gum Inc.’s assessment of threats to
was “the only means to gaining victory,” wrote British historian
Richard Overy, US preparations were “flimsy.” The nation lacked
a strategic bomber force and had to create one quickly “from
scratch.” The military’s weaknesses reflected “years of neglect in
weapons research.”
There were other erroneous contentions in the cards, too.
Bombers were not “nearly invisible due to special paint.” Cavalry
charges on horseback were no longer viable. Putting down revolutions in Latin America had ended when Roosevelt established
the 1933 non-interventionist Good Neighbor policy.
APRIL 2018
Three cards, front and back, from the Uncle Sam’s Home Defense set. The top one shows a commercially available backyard bomb shelter
that, judging from appearances, might not have been worth the investment. The middle shows an instructor leading a group in calisthenics,
which some people, controversially, considered essential for getting the nation ready to go to war. At bottom, a mother tries to extinguish
a bomb in the family living room. Running away would certainly have been the wiser course of action.
APRIL 2018
by Lee W. Jones
tap dancing, ballet and bowling.” The head of the Office of
struggling, and not always succeeding, to strike a balance between
Civilian Defense’s Children’s Activities section, Mayris Chaney, a
alarming and reassuring its young audience.
dancer, had said that among her goals were “providing recreation
A similar tension between educating and frightening turned up
for children during air raids” and “developing programs of dancin the coverage of responses on the ground to bombing threats.
ing and rhythmic exercises” for people “confined in an air-raid
Numerous cards depict simulations or drills, with would-be
shelter”—both of which seem unrealistic, to say the least. In the
enemy planes looming ominously above. While some cards porfuror and recriminations surrounding the Pearl Harbor attack,
tray controlled and well-managed reactions to air threats, other
Congress attacked these fitness activities as frivolous and prohibcards must have incited fear. Among the frightening cards is one
ited the use of Office of Civilian Defense funds for dance instructhat depicted a school evacuation, with scared children outside
tion. The office’s Physical Fitness Division, which oversaw the
and planes flying overhead. Another showed the arrival of an
program, was shut down.
ambulance, suggesting serious injury. Then there was one with a
crying little girl comforted by a nurse as someone is put in an
ambulance in the background.
HILE THE Uncle Sam’s Home Defense set tried to presOther nightmarish portrayals included fires, rescues, and unexent the civil defense program as efficient and wellploded bombs. “Individual Defense against Incendiary Bombs,”
organized, most historians saw it otherwise. Richard
while meant to be helpful, was quite terrifying. A mother and son
Overy described preparations as “flimsy,” and Lee Kennett argued
in the midst of their bombed-out home attempt to extinguish an
that shortly after Pearl Harbor, Americans felt that the nation did
incendiary bomb during an attack, appearing oblivious to the posnot have a civil defense program “worthy of the name.” One
sibility of additional firebombs landing nearby. The card claims
problem was that the Office of Civilian Defense lacked funding,
falsely that “incendiary bombs do not
as well as a sense of urgency, and unlike
explode.” The Germans actually armed
the workers depicted on the war cards,
their incendiaries with delayed-action
the actual volunteers were generally
hand grenades designed to kill civilians
deprived of necessities such as identifywho tried to extinguish them.
ing armbands, whistles, and even gas
Cards depicting bomb shelters ofmasks. They also often lacked essential
fered some dubious suggestions and
firefighting equipment and air-raid
strategies (though perhaps not as quessirens. The Pearl Harbor attack
tionable as the duck-and-cover advice
brought changes, providing funding,
of the early Cold War days). “Steel
better leadership, and the impetus for
Shelter” shows a commercially availvolunteering. Ten million civilians were
able backyard structure along with the
recruited by mid-1942.
alarming image of a frightened family
While air attacks never quite develrushing to safety, while the text on the
oped, civil defense units refocused and
Above: “Home Shelter Room” urges
back warns that this shelter model “was
worked with success in efforts such as flood
citizens to descend into their basements
not intended to withstand a direct hit.” It
to mitigate disasters that did occur.
and “remain as still as possible.” This
recommends safer types that were “buried
argues that the civil defense’s “best
father apparently took the latter advice
in the ground.” That bit of advice may not
came in war-related “campaigns,
to heart; he didn’t even loosen his tie.
have aligned perfectly with the federal govrallies and drives” such as Victory Gardens,
Opposite: Flip the “Civilian Type Gas
Mask” card over to find instructions
ernment’s guidance that “basements and
recycling campaigns, and organized moraleon use and cleaning.
cellars” were “hazardous.”
boosting events.
Several cards suggested taking shelter in
Gum Inc.’s record by the end of its run of
subways, following the London Blitz model. But this made little
pre–Pearl Harbor war cards (another set followed in 1942) wasn’t
sense in the United States, where most cities did not have underall positive, but its mission had been a tricky one. The first set ran
grounds. Even the most substantial subway system, New York
head on into a generally skeptical population. Subsequent sets took
City’s, would not have provided adequate protection, because its
on the difficult task of persuading the people of a historically isolattunnels weren’t deep enough below the surface.
ed nation to rev themselves up for a war that hadn’t yet arrived on
Ultimately, the Office of Civilian Defense recommended the
their shores. The cards attempted to portray a controlled and
home as the safest place, specifically in a “prepared Refuge room”
rational military mobilization, and the depictions on them were cerin the center of the house, as shown on the card “The Family Unit.”
tainly idealized and exaggerated. Once war came to America at
The most unusual card in the set may have been “Hale
Pearl Harbor, however, military and civil defenses rapidly improved
America,” which depicted an exercise leader directing a large
in ways that Gum Inc. had hoped to encourage. One after the other,
group of young females dressed in white uniforms that seems eerithe company and the nation rallied to the needs of war. A
ly reminiscent of a Hitler Youth girls division. Gum Inc. described
the workout as part of a program to “build up” America “to withLEE W. JONES earned his doctorate degree under historian and
stand an attack.” Calisthenics may have contributed overall to a
John F. Kennedy advisor Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and is now retired
more able-bodied, war-ready population, of course, but the profrom teaching history at the Birch Wathen Lenox School in New
gram included frivolous defense-fitness activities such as “mass
York City. He has written for The Nation.
APRIL 2018
APRIL 2018
a meric a in w w ii collection
A WWII Scrapbook
23RD of August, 1945, we boys
in a Japanese labor concentration
camp on Java in the Dutch East Indies
[now Indonesia] were liberated.
Camp Bangkong (Indonesian for “Big
Frog”), a cloister with an additional Catholic middle school, was used to harbor
boys ages 10 through 17. [These were children of families from the United States or
other Allied nations who were living in the
Dutch East Indies when Japanese forces
invaded.] The 10-year-olds were located in
the gymnastics hall. I still can hear them at
night crying for their mothers.
We were fed a ladle of tapioca starch for
breakfast and dinner, a cup of rice at noon,
and, if we were lucky, a tablespoon of
corn. Diseases were rampant. We were required to perform heavy labor, like road
and bridge building, plant cabbage in the
fields, and, later on, work in a sawmill cutting logs. I stood on top, pulling the misery
whip [a two-man crosscut saw], which
made me lightheaded and fearful of falling.
Out of the 950 boys, 50 died, and by
August ’45, 700 were quite ill. I was 6 feet
tall and 95 pounds, with malaria and pellagra. If the war had lasted another four
months, many of us would not have survived.
Japan surrendered on August 15. We
were left in the dark about world events.
General Tojo had ordered all prisoners
killed. This was known to General Douglas
MacArthur, who stated that Emperor Hirohito would be killed if the POWs were.
The Japanese requested an extra eight
days to be able to contact all their outlying
posts. Everything in those days went by
radio only. The real surrender ceremony
took place aboard the battleship USS
Missouri (BB-63) on September 2.
On the 23rd of August, two B-25s [Mitchell medium bombers] flew over our
camp, circling lower and lower, and finally
we could see the heads of the pilot and the
tail machine gunner, who wiggled his
machine guns. The Japanese did not do
anything. Then we understood: The war
was over—Senso wa owatta in Japanese.
We went ape! Several sick boys crawled to
the outside of their rooms to witness this
event. Commandant Hashikawa ordered a
table to be placed at the commons and
climbed on it to inform us that America
had used a terrible bomb and Japan had
surrendered, but the Japanese army was
already preparing for the next war, which
they would win. He refused to open the
gate, but the next morning it was gaping
wide, and the Japanese had left.
wartime American teen
interned by the Japanese
Lakebay, Washington
Y MOTHER ’ S SISTER became a “camp
follower” of sorts, following her husband, Technical Sergeant Joe Williams,
from one stateside army post to another
from 1942 until 1945. Uncle Joe was in a
special mechanical unit that maintained
trucks, tanks, etc. During his three years of
service, he went from the East Coast to the
West Coast twice. My aunt Mary would go
with him as often as she could find a place
Top: A ride on Seaboard’s Silver Meteor looks like pure pleasure on this postcard. But first the taxi had to show up to start the journey…
APRIL 2018
to rent near the base. She would find a job
as a grocery checkout girl or a sales job in
a department store and set up housekeeping as best as possible.
An interesting incident occurred in the
last few days before Uncle Joe shipped out
of Fort Jackson, near Columbia, South
Carolina. He and Aunt Mary had found a
place to live in the home of a Southern
Railway chief dispatcher, George Coniffe
Sr., a 40-year employee with three sons in
the service. Uncle Joe usually worked a
Monday–Friday schedule and had the rare
privilege of using a jeep for his work. On
Friday afternoons, he simply signed out a
jeep and drove off base to go home for the
weekend, returning late on Sundays!
In June 1945, Uncle Joe knew his unit
was about to be shipped out when a train
of flatcars and Pullman cars arrived on
base. On his regular weekend home, he
told Aunt Mary the time had finally come
when they would be separated. By prearrangement Aunt Mary was to pack up
and return home—to Columbia, Tennessee
—and wait to hear from Uncle Joe. The
following Monday she got a ticket aboard
the Seaboard Air Line’s diesel-powered
L ingo!
1940s GI and civilian patter
coffee grinder: a hand-cranked
emergency radio, almost as
important as coffee
battery acid: K-rations’
powdered lemonade, better as
a solvent than as a drink
sky pilot: the friendly
military chaplain
APRIL 2018
Silver Meteor—no easy accomplishment,
due to the overcrowding of all modes of
travel—to Jacksonville, Florida, to visit relatives before heading home.
That morning, Aunt Mary had her two
suitcases sitting on the front porch and
called for a taxi to the train station. Mr.
Coniffe, meanwhile, went to his job in the
Union Station control tower. An hour or so
later, the taxi hadn’t arrived. Mr. Coniffe
called to ask if she had left, and his wife
said Aunt Mary was still waiting on the
porch. He told her to hurry up, as the train
would be there in 45 minutes or so. If she
missed it, she might have to wait several
days to get another ticket. And there were
no refunds.
Aunt Mary paced the porch. It was getting serious. When the Meteor was due in
15 minutes, Mr. Coniffe called again. His
wife said it looked like the taxi wasn’t
going to show. Then came the magic
words. Mr. Coniffe told her, “You tell Mrs.
Williams to hurry down here as fast as she
can when the taxi arrives. I’ll hold the train
till she gets here.” As senior dispatcher, Mr.
Coniffe had control of all trains passing
through his terminal. His authority was
usually unquestioned.
A few minutes later the taxi arrived and
raced to the station as fast as thin tires and
the speed limit allowed. The Meteor’s
departure time had come and gone. Mary
almost ran to the platform, lugging her two
suitcases through the crowd. She could see
the silver cars of the Meteor waiting. Mr.
Coniffe was standing next to the only open
door. The conductor was next to him,
watch in hand!
Mr. Coniffe took Mary’s bags, gave her
a peck on the cheek, and patted her head.
Then he turned around to the anxious conductor and, in his slow-as-molasses-inJanuary tone, said, “You can take the train
out now. Your passenger is on board.”
Jackson, Tennessee
Send your War Stories submission, with
a relevant photo if possible, to WAR
STORIES, America in WWII, 4711 Queen
Avenue, Suite 202, Harrisburg, PA 17109,
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By sending stories and photos, you give us
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‘There Are Some Awful Men in Here’
by Daniel Culler with Rob Morris
esy of
dan c
s: cou
of wartime England were a
long way from the Culler family farm in Syracuse, Indiana.
Daniel Culler, not quite 18 years old, could hardly have imagined what he would face in Europe when he signed up for the US
Army Air Forces in January 1942. He might have expected to
worry about German anti-aircraft flak catching up with his plane.
But even worse awaited him at a prison camp in Switzerland—
neutral Switzerland.
Technical Sergeant Dan Culler shipped out for England on September 26, 1943, as an airman of the 44th Bomb Group, part of the
Eighth Air Force’s 66th Squadron. Based at Royal Air Force Station
Shipdham in Norfolk and regularly flying missions over German
targets as top-turret gunner of the B-24 Hell’s Kitten, he was assigned to a major US bombing raid scheduled for March 18, 1944.
What follows is an excerpt from Prisoner of the Swiss: A World
War II Airman’s Story by Dan Culler and Rob Morris (Casemate
Publishers, 2017). It picks up early in that March 18 mission. The
second half covers the beginning of Culler’s internment in Switzerland. It is disturbing, maybe too much so for some readers.
AS USUAL, WE FLEW IN a different direction than our mission objective to confuse German fighters. We picked up a lot of flak over
the southern Dutch coast. It was never a good thing to get hit by
flak this early in a long mission, and soon we saw some of our
Above, left: A young Dan Culler in uniform, technical sergeant stripes on his shoulder. Above, right: Culler and his fellow B-24 crewmen
during training camp. He kneels third from right. The pilot, First Lieutenant George D. Telford, stands at far left.
APRIL 2018
Americans Who Cheated Death
Find out how they kept hope alive and fought their way
to victory in this very special 100-page issue.
Torpedoed A Shot Down A Captured A Starved A Hunted A Cut Off
Interrogated A Adrift A Hit by Kamikazes A Tortured A Left Behind
Enslaved A Pinned Down A Wounded A Escaping A Crashed A Bombed
Order by March 20, 2018, and take $2 off per copy!
Use the order card enclosed, order online at, or send payment to:
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PA residents add 6% sales tax. Ships upon publication April 2018. Allow 2- 4 weeks for delivery.
planes turning back to England, either from
flak damage or mechanical malfunction.
Every plane that turned around meant less
guns defending us from the enemy later.
It was strange to be out in the very front
of the entire formation, nothing in front of
us but empty sky. When I looked back from
my top turret, hundreds of B-24s bobbed
up and down in our wake, a veritable armada, the morning sun glinting off their silvery fuselages. With so many planes behind
us, I figured our rear was covered, so I
As expected, we were soon hit by swarming German fighters, engaged by our own
fighter escort, and we watched the dogfights between, above, and below us. It was
hazy, with scattered clouds, and below us,
the German mountains and countryside
courtesy of casemate publishers
Culler spent his earliest days in captivity at Adelboden, the village at the center
of this slice of a prewar postcard.
cranked my broken turret around to the
front. [The turret had malfunctioned during a previous mission and could be turned
only by hand, leaving the plane more vulnerable. The crew had repeatedly requested
repairs, but the problem remained.]
APRIL 2018
were blanketed by snow. As we approached the target, the flak became heavy
and accurate. As we lined up for the bombing run, we were also hit by buffeting turbulence that shook the plane in all directions. The pilot transferred control of the
aircraft to autopilot, and the bombardier
was now flying the plane during the bomb
run and would drop the bombs using the
Norden bombsight, if clear, or the radar, if
not. Between the flak and the turbulence, I
don’t know how our bombardier was able
to keep the bombsight lined up on the target, but he managed. Time slowed down as
flak exploded outside our plane, pieces of
jagged metal rattling like hail off the
plane’s thin skin. The bombardier waited
for the moment when he could release the
bombs, and we waited breathlessly as well.
Suddenly, we were pummeled by an intense explosion under our left wing. As the
plane rocked and righted itself, I staggered
back to see gasoline pouring in buckets out
of the left wing tanks.
“Flames are coming out of the left
inboard engine!” our waist gunner yelled
over the interphone, and made a move to
jump out the waist window. The older
waist gunner restrained him, reminding
him that he wasn’t wearing his parachute.
No matter how much our pilot must have
longed to take the controls back from the
bombardier, he had to wait until after
“bombs away.” Every plane in the formation was depending on us to drop our
bombs correctly. We were the only plane
equipped with radar for bombing accuracy,
and if we aborted the bomb run, the mission would be wasted. Even though the
plane was now veering alarmingly to the
left, the bombardier was able to pull it
back on course using the bombsight.
Finally, the target appeared in his crosshairs, he pressed the button releasing the
bombs, the bombs dropped from the bomb
bay, our plane lurched upwards in sudden
lightness, and the bombs screamed downward toward the ball-bearing plant.
The rest of the group dropped upon our
release and in a split second the sky below
was black with bombs. Our pilot now
yanked the control wheel over to the left to
escape the flak, then banked even tighter so
that we were looking down on the middle
of Lake Constance, the border between
Switzerland and Germany. The waist gunners reported that the fire had gone out but
gasoline was streaming from our wing
tanks. I got an oxygen bottle and walked
back to try to drain the fuel out of the left
wing tank into the right tank. The pilot
announced that everyone needed to put on
his parachute and be prepared to bail out if
the plane exploded. Wearing my portable
oxygen unit, carrying my parachute, I carefully crossed the narrow 4-inch catwalk
through the bomb bay, the only thing
between me and the earth 25,000 feet
below. If I fell I would probably be unable
to snap my chute on. Halfway across, I
could see we were in mortal danger. The
pungent reek of gasoline filled the bomb
bay, permeating through my oxygen mask,
and gas seeped through the rivets between
the wing tanks and the bomb bay. I made
it across and began pumping gas out of the
left tank into the right. Finally the leak
began to slow, and it appeared we might
not explode in a giant fireball.
The pilot struggled to keep the engines
firing while I transferred the fuel. The oil
pressure was dropping, and both engines
were overheating, even with the engine
cowl flaps wide open. He decided we had
to drop out of the formation, and the number two plane moved up to take our place.
I figured that flak had cut our oil lines and
the engines were not getting enough lubrication. It was only a matter of time before
each engine seized up.
During our briefings in England, we’d
been told that if any plane became too
damaged to make it back to England, or if
a plane was too low on fuel to get home,
and if the plane was close to the Swiss border, then the best course of action was to
divert to Switzerland. This would prevent
the recovery of the aircraft by the enemy,
and would keep the crew out of German
prison camps. Switzerland began to look
like an option.
We were flying away from the SwissGerman border. The drag on our aircraft
was intense, our air speed was dropping,
our group was already a formation of
small black dots miles ahead of us, and we
were losing altitude at an alarming rate.
We were all alone, somewhere over southern Germany, and the mountains that had
seemed so unthreatening at high altitude
now loomed menacingly in our path. It
was now or never. The pilot’s voice crackled over the interphone, asking the navigator for the quickest route to Switzerland.
As I made my way back to the waist area
to reassess our damage, four German
Me109 fighters [Messerschmitt Bf 109s,
commonly known as Me 109s] bobbed on
the air currents nearby, two on either side.
To our relief, the fighters did not open up on
APRIL 2018
us, and our gunners held their fire. These
fighters had the white cross of Switzerland
marking their sides, something the Swiss
pilots were careful to make sure we saw.
The gunners left their firing positions,
and we put on parachutes in case the pilot
gave us the order to bail out. We were surrounded by mountains, and our plane was
dying. The only question now was whether
we would jump or whether we could land
The pilot came on the interphone. “I’ve
been told by the Swiss pilot that they are
escorting us to a Swiss landing strip. We’re
courtesy of dan culler
The crew of Culler’s B-24, Hell’s Kitten,
at Shipdham in 1944. Culler kneels
second from left.
lowering the gear and going to one-quarter
flaps so that we won’t be able to abort.
Not sure why they think we’ll do that,
1,000 miles from our lines and with two
bad engines, but there you have it. Culler,
get ready to destroy the plane if we are able
to land safely.”
While I destroyed the plane, the bombardier would put a bullet through the
Norden bombsight to prevent it from
falling into enemy hands. The radio man
had already disabled our radio so the
Germans wouldn’t be able to receive and
transmit messages, and he was in the
process of tearing up his code book into
small pieces. I helped him throw the scraps
out the window.
Assuming we made a safe landing, my
plan was to run back to the waist gunner’s
position and hide above the wing section at
the fuel transfer station where all the large
fuel lines were exposed, then cut the lines,
switch on the pump, and set the plane on
APRIL 2018
fire using a flare gun once the crew was
clear of the plane.
We touched down, instantly pulled to one
side by a flat tire, and I was nearly thrown
from the plane. I made it to the wing section
and pulled out my small, rusty pocket knife.
The gunners bailed out of the plane as fast
as they could, the pilot gave me the “All
clear!” and I began sawing my way through
the fuel line, but it was like cutting through
steel with a butter knife. When we landed,
the hard landing had twisted the metal to
the point where the huge wing fuel tanks
ruptured. It’s a miracle we weren’t blown
sky-high. I jumped from the wing and ran to
the catwalk, flare gun in hand, planning to
shoot the flare into the gas streaming from
the wing tank once I was clear. Before I
could jump from the bomb bay, my leg was
caught in a firm grip and I was dragged
roughly from the plane. A large body flattened out on top of me and a hand wrestled
the flare gun from me just as my finger
pulled the trigger. The gun failed to fire,
probably saving both our lives. I was covered in gasoline, and if the plane had gone
up, I would have gone up with it, along with
the Swiss soldier and probably many others.
APRIL 2018
Three Swiss soldiers surrounded me,
and a gun was pointed at my head. We
were one of 13 Allied crews who diverted
to Switzerland that day. Some bailed out
before their planes exploded in fireballs
against the walls of mountains. Others
made it to the airport shot up and in bad
shape. One B-17 struggled in on one engine, and several others made belly landings, their gear shot up. We landed with 90
gallons of fuel left, not enough to have
made a go-round for a second approach.
The Swiss held Culler briefly in Adelboden, in the Alps. After he attempted to
escape, he was put en route to Wauwilermoos Federal Prison.
W E WALKED FROM the village of Wauwil,
located in a flat, open field in a valley surrounded by towering mountains. The
foothills were covered with lush green
grass upon which fat Swiss cattle grazed,
and some sections near buildings had been
planted with crops. The path to the prison
was a simple dirt track; no cars or trucks
made the journey to the prison, only the
horse-drawn wagons that occasionally
brought supplies or removed bodies. The
prison was in the center of a large field
with no trees or shrubs; escape would be
About a hundred feet from the gated
entrance a large, 6-foot-high wooden stake
stuck out of the ground.
“What’s the stake for?” I asked the
“It’s for prisoners who disobey the
rules,” he said. “They are tied to the post,
and they stand outside all night. If they are
lucky enough to survive the wolves that
come down out of the forest at night, they
won’t be unruly again.”
Wauwilermoos Federal Prison sat in the
middle of the meadow, a series of one-story
wooden barracks surrounded by several
tall barbed-wire fences. Its wooden front
gate swung outward from either side on
hinges. A guard house sat to one side, and
inside more guards circled the perimeter,
us army
The WWII US Army didn’t acknowledge the existence of Wauwilermoos prison. But here it is in a 1943 army photo.
each with a fierce attack dog.
Inside the gate was a street lined with
many individual wooden barracks, each
surrounded by its own barbed-wire fence
and gate—in effect a small prison inside a
larger one. I’d held out some hope that the
prison might house resistance fighters, who
would be my allies. I would be honored to
serve time with them. The stares I received
as I passed each barrack sent a chill up and
down my spine and disabused me of this
notion, and I regretted not allowing myself
to die in peace on the mountain.
As we approached the camp commandant’s office, the guard left me with these
final words: “I am sorry to bring you to
this hellhole. Watch your every step. There
are some awful men in here, and you are so
The commandant looked like a carica-
ture of a pompous French Foreign Legion
officer. He was thick-bodied and bulletheaded, and wore cavalry-style high leather boots, riding britches, and carried a
horse whip. His name was André Béguin,
and he was, unbeknownst to me at the
time, a diehard Swiss Nazi. The guard
who brought me in stood to attention and
handed Béguin a large envelope that contained my records, which the corpulent
APRIL 2018
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APRIL 2018
figure read as he paced back and forth in
front of me, occasionally pausing to look
me up and down disapprovingly. Once he
saw I was a soldier, he made me stand at
attention. With every step he took, he
smacked his boot with his riding crop,
resulting in a loud cracking noise that
made me jump. As he read, he would
come to a section that he found particularly displeasing, and would hit his boot
with his riding crop with extra force and
exertion. When he opened his mouth, he
had a loud, shrill, high-pitched voice. He
began a five-minute harangue in German,
which the guard was supposed to translate. When he did, the guard told me that
I was now an enemy of the Swiss government. I had refused to obey the orders of
the American attaché, Barnwell Rhett
Legge, and his Swiss counterpart at our
initial briefing. I recalled that at that
meeting, when Legge, also decked out as a
World War I cavalry officer, had warned
us against escape, somebody in the back
of the room had piped up and said,
“What war orders are you reading?”
Everybody laughed. That had made Legge
angry, and he warned, “Disobey a Swiss
order, and you’ll pay dearly.”
After Béguin had finished, I told him,
through the interpreter, “I take my orders
only from the American Army Air Force,
and those orders are: ‘When an airman falls
into the hands of unfriendly forces, it is his
duty to try and rejoin his own command.’”
“I was unaware that Switzerland was an
unfriendly force,” replied Béguin, his eyebrows arching.
“We are held under armed guard in one
area,” I replied, “unable to travel as we
please, or leave to rejoin our own forces. If
the Swiss are so friendly, what am I doing
here? Also, I’ve been told on numerous
occasions that the German Luftwaffe, and
other high-ranking German military officers, can come and go across the SwissGerman border at will. If the Swiss are really
so friendly toward the Americans, why
can’t we rejoin our forces?”
We got nowhere, obviously, and soon I
was being led down the narrow dirt street
between the barracks to a room that served
as a warehouse, where they ordered me to
remove my two-piece suit, white shirt and
tie, shoes and socks, even my underwear,
and issued me with an ill-fitting, horrible,
wrinkled dark blue suit, shirt, socks, and a
Swiss Army blanket. My shoes were like
boxes, with binder-twine for laces, and
were coming apart from the soles, which
were full of holes. Everything itched, from
the socks to the suit, and all were filthy.
The waste from the person who’d worn
them before me caked the pants. The wool
next to my skin felt like barbed wire. I tried
again to reach for my underwear, and was
squealed open on its hinges, and the guard
pushed me inside. The building was about
10 by 30 feet, and next to the outside wall,
running the full 30-foot length, was a
ditch—the barrack toilet. There was a door
at one end of the barrack, facing the main
gate, and the ditch at the door end ran
underneath the wall of the barrack and
was thus used by the men on the inside as
wikimedia commons
André Béguin, the Swiss Nazi commandant of Wauwilermoos, was responsible for
the horrific treatment of POWs. He also embezzled prison funds.
struck in the hand with a rifle butt. A path
led between the barracks, and again I
walked a gauntlet of evil stares. Most prisoners appeared to be in their thirties or
older, had grubby complexions, greasy
hair, and unkempt beards. I felt like a child,
all alone, surrounded by horrible creatures,
even more alone because nobody else
spoke English. [Culler does not explicitly
say in his book who these barrack mates
were or what country they were from.]
My only protection was my blanket, and
I wrapped myself tightly in it.
Barrack Nine. The very name is evil
incarnate and capable of reawakening
memories that no man should have to face,
ever. The enclosure door was unlocked,
APRIL 2018
well. I found out later that we were
allowed to clean our filth out of the ditch
once a week, with a single pail of water.
The waste would be loaded into a wheelbarrow and taken out into the fields, to be
used as fertilizer.
The door swung shut behind me, slamming with a deathlike finality. Slowly my
eyes adjusted to the room’s dusty darkness.
The floor was covered with straw, and the
ditch had straw and human waste in it.
Both the floor and the ditch were made of
concrete. The walls were wood, unfinished
on the inside, with the studs and rafters
showing. There was a single blanket, doubled up, serving as a curtain on the window, and no stove.
The stench was overpowering and
almost made me vomit. There was only
one space left in the room, as far from the
door and window as possible, so I took it.
The rest of the day I paced in the small
compound outside Barrack Nine, like a
caged animal….
As I walked the exterior compound, I
noticed that the rest of the inmates at the
prison made a point to avoid the men from
my barrack. When it was time to get
locked in for the night, and after my eyes
adjusted to the rank darkness, I saw gaunt,
demented, and cruel eyes fixed upon me. I
made my way to my small area of straw, all
the while being kicked and reviled by my
barrack mates, and occasionally being
pushed into the waste trough. I lay down
and prayed, tried to become invisible, tried
to sleep so that I could escape this evil
place, if only temporarily. What happened
that night was beyond evil and has haunted my life ever since. I’m not sure how
many men were in that barrack, but they
all participated in torturing and raping me
over the course of that endless night. After
they were done with me, I crawled back to
my corner. I needed to relieve myself, but
was afraid to go past the other men.
Instead, I fouled my pants where I lay.
Later, they dragged me back into the middle of the room, wedged a stick in my
mouth and began shoving everything they
could find into my mouth, making me
choke. One man slapped me as hard as he
could with the flats of his hands, one on
each side of my head against my ears. After
several crushing blows, I blacked out. When
I came to, I bit down so hard on the sticks
in my mouth that I broke part of my right
back tooth. Finally, sated, they threw me
into the trench of waste and left the barrack
laughing. I crawled from the ditch and tried
to wipe myself off on the straw. I noticed
something was hanging out of my rectum,
then realized to my horror that it was skin
from inside my body. I tried to clean up with
the dry spindly grass outside the barrack. I
was numb. Slowly, I regained my senses and
the pain hit me. I became furious. If I’d had
my .50-caliber gun with me, I would have
killed everyone in that camp, guilty or not,
and saved plenty of rounds for the camp
commander. If they had been there, I would
have gladly killed every American and Swiss
official who had allowed this to happen to
me. I limped to Béguin’s office, ignoring the
guard’s motion for me to get out, and
shoved open the door, yelling every cuss
word a young Indiana farm kid knows. As I
screamed, they looked at me like I was stark
raving mad, and a nasty grin came across
their faces. They listened to me rant for a
while, then Béguin motioned for two of the
guards to take me and throw me in the dirt.
As I lay there on the ground, I realized that
I was completely alone on this earth. I
would never be able to escape from this evil
Godforsaken place. No, I’d never leave here
at all. I’d die here.
in a hospital, near death with tuberculosis.
When his fellow crewmen got word of his
predicament, they organized his escape. A
nerve-wracking train journey across Switzerland was followed by a very close call at
the French border, but Culler was finally
Culler’s physical wounds healed slowly,
first in England and then back in the
United States. The psychological scars of
his imprisonment would remain for the
rest of his life.
Soon after the Japanese surrender, Culler was discharged from the service. In
1947 he married Betty Strang and they had
three daughters. He worked as a maintenance supervisor for Parker Motor Freight
Trucking Company in Grand Rapids,
Michigan, for many years before retiring in
the early 1980s to Arizona, where the dry
desert air eased the residual effects of his
Culler was invited to return to Switzerland in 1994 and received a personal
apology from then-President Kaspar Villiger for his treatment in prison. Two years
later he was awarded the Prisoner of War
Medal, which made him the first of the
Wauwilermoos survivors so recognized. He
also received the Distinguished Flying
Cross for his efforts to keep his plane in the
air before it landed in Switzerland.
Culler died on April 24, 2016. A
DANIEL CULLER originally published his war
memoir in 1995 under the title Black Hole of
Wauwilermoos. ROB MORRIS, a high school
history teacher and author of history
books, edited that memoir and added new
material for the 2017 edition released by
Casemate Publishers as Prisoner of the Swiss:
A World War II Airman’s Story.
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APRIL 2018
World War II at Sea: A Global History
by Craig L. Symonds, Oxford University
Press, 792 pages, $34.95
AVING WRITTEN superb recent studies
of the Battle of Midway and the
Normandy landings, Craig Symonds
is no novice to the maritime history of
World War II. Building on those earlier
successes, he has written a one-volume
study of the entire war at sea, which covers
the fighting, strategy, tactics, personalities,
and logistics that drove the world’s navies
from 1939–1945—all in less than 650
brisk pages.
During the early, pre–Pearl Harbor
chapters, the British experience dominates,
including the near-catastrophe at Dunkirk,
France; Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s
bold preemptive attack on the French fleet
at Dunkirk Harbor; and his nation’s evolving mastery of convoy warfare. Not all
accounts are of victories. Symonds recounts
the obliteration of convoy PQ-17, ordered
to scatter, with the resultant loss of most of
its merchantmen, and then the British
naval escape from Crete, which promised
initially to be another Dunkirk but became
a fighting withdrawal across the entire
Mediterranean. Other subjects include the
British interdiction of Field Marshal Erwin
Rommel in North Africa and the desperate
efforts to supply the British colony of
Malta. For American readers, there is
much unexpected drama and desperation.
A critical Allied victory that recurred
throughout the war at sea, particularly in
the Atlantic, was code breaking. The inhuman intricacy of the German Enigma
encoding system is well-covered by Symonds as part of the larger war of ciphers,
practiced with varying success by all combatants. The Germans were ultimately
unsuccessful, but they scored tactical codebreaking successes during their Norway
invasion and in matters related to merchant shipping.
Allied code-breaking successes are well
known. Cryptology alone did not turn
around the Battle of the Atlantic, however.
Convoy tactics, jeep carriers, airborne
radar and searchlights, and hedgehog
depth charges all made contributions. Not
least critical was American industry, which
literally built merchant ships faster than Uboats could sink them, as the Germans
themselves realized by 1943, a year when
the indefatigable President Franklin Roosevelt ordered US shipyards to provide 1.25
million tons per month.
The Pacific provided a broader theater
of action, featuring most of the war’s preeminent naval personalities from Marshal
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to Fleet
Admiral Ernest King and General Douglas
MacArthur. Symonds’s narrative nimbly
navigates across the vast tracks of the
Pacific, with campaigns from the Dutch
East Indies to Guadalcanal to Leyte Gulf to
Saipan to Okinawa. His battle accounts of
naval engagement and island campaigns
are crisp and informative, and he effectively explores the dominating influence of
logistical constraints. The incomprehensible American mastery of this can be seen in
how the buildup for the Saipan invasion
occurred at the same time the Normandy
landings were being prepared (the Saipan
task force, halfway around the world, was
larger than General Dwight Eisenhower’s
D-Day fleet). Similar vast forces assaulted
Okinawa, and still larger ones were preparing for an assault on Japan when the
war ended.
Logistics had its say in the war at sea
and often dominated it. It was at the heart
of the convoy battles and was the raison
d’être of the merchantmen dispatched to
Murmansk in the Soviet Union. Its disruption by American submarines separated the
Japanese from the fruit of their conquest in
the Dutch East Indies and left their diminished navy gasping for fuel. It forced hard
choices at the highest levels of the Allied
and Axis commands and drove each side to
transport copious, precious resources
APRIL 2018
across hostile oceans. Symonds traces this
throughout his narrative, nowhere more
ably than in describing Eisenhower’s plan
ning for D Day, when he negotiated with
the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide more
LSTs (landing ships, tank). A hot commod
ity in 1944, LSTs were needed for inva
sions from Europe to the Far East and were
jealously parceled out to theater com
manders. Even Churchill wrote about the
“straitjacket” forced by the shortage of
these vessels, which delayed the Normandy
landings for weeks. An entire history could
be written exclusively focusing on this
aspect of the war. Symonds succeeds in
showing the skeins of logistical causality
that bound together navies and nations.
Many WWII naval events beg for elabo
ration and hint at complexity but seem to
have passed from history scarcely record
ed. The Japanese withdrawal from Guadal
canal was done with limited resources and
without the Americans ever noticing.
How? Similarly, at the conclusion of the
invasion of Sicily, German forces succeeded
PT 109
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson,
starring Cliff Robertson, Ty Hardin,
and James Gregory, 1963
T 109 CHRONICLES THE service of
John F. Kennedy (Cliff Robertson)
as a US Navy Reserve officer in the
Pacific theater in 1943. The movie was
released at the height of Kennedy’s popularity as president, a few months before he was assassinated on November
22, 1963. His legend only continued to
grow after his death.
As often happens, some have disputed
reported facts in order to dilute Kennedy’s legacy, including the circumstances surrounding the destruction of
PT-109. That sometimes has included
criticizing the film, which I don’t agree
with. The film does a credible job of
capturing the character and actions of
the man and the officer in this period of
his complex life, and it gives audiences a
strong depiction of this part of the war.
The movie begins, after an introduc-
APRIL 2018
Man of the Hour:
James B. Conant, Warrior Scientist
by Jennet Conant, Simon and Schuster,
587 pages, $30
in withdrawing personnel and materiel
across the Strait of Messina with no effective Allied intervention. How? Even after
reading 650 pages of tight text, I found
myself wanting a “director’s cut” for this
World War II at Sea is an effective, wellwritten account of the war above, on, and
below the oceans that draws on both classic and very recent writing to synthesize a
single narrative of the entire conflict—no
small feat. Even experienced readers will
find valuable insights about participants,
such as Finland and Italy, that are generally neglected. For anyone seeking a onestop-shop, up-to-date naval history of the
period, World War II at Sea is the book to
required the skill, determination, and
sacrifice of the soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors. In a relatively short time,
these men received the most advanced
weapons technology. The transformation
in the types and quality of armaments that
occurred between Pearl Harbor and
August 1945 was incredible. The scientists
and engineers who researched and developed these weapons do not always receive
the recognition they deserve. Like the soldiers, these warrior scientists should be
recognized for their skill, determination,
and sacrifice.
The new book Man of the Hour: James
B. Conant, Warrior Scientist by Jennet Conant details and describes the lives of many
scientists and engineers who served in
defense research and development in aca-
Flemington, New Jersey
tion of the war situation in the Solomon
Islands, with Lieutenant (Junior Grade)
Kennedy traveling on an LST (landing
ship, tank) to his first combat assignment. A conniving swabbie with obvious
knowledge of Kennedy’s background
tries to convince the officer to take him
along on an easy stateside assignment.
He’s surprised to learn that Kennedy
volunteered for South Pacific duty (in
fact over the objections of his influential
father, Joseph Kennedy).
The LST lands Kennedy and other
new officers at Tulagi, the principal base
for motor torpedo boats in the Solomons,
established during the Guadalcanal
campaign. Anxious for a command, he
accepts a rickety boat and promises stiff,
foul-tempered Commander J.R. Ritchie
(James Gregory) to get 109 seaworthy in
one week. This he does, with the help of
his enthusiastic executive officer, Ensign
Leonard J. Thom (Ty Hardin), and a ragtag crew that quickly learns to obey and
respect the skipper.
Kennedy is portrayed as good natured,
intelligent, and competitive. His competitive side gets him in some trouble as
he first maneuvers PT-109 the same way
he previously sailed in Cape Cod regattas. By the time missions begin in the
uncertain waters of the New Georgia
Sound (known as “the Slot”), boat and
crew are working well together. There is
a large amount of well-staged combat
action, much of it using full-size ships
and planes. This, combined with lush
Technicolor photography and high-level
cinematic work all around, make the
film highly entertaining. Some events
occur out of historical order to focus the
dramatic climax of the film on the ramming of PT-109 by a Japanese destroyer,
the stranding of the crewmen on a small
island, and their eventual rescue.
All but two crewmen survive. Kennedy leads the survivors to an island,
pulling a badly burned crewman behind
him while swimming the three miles to
land. This actually happened. Kennedy
is shown exerting strong leadership to
hold the crew together while awaiting
rescue some six days later. In reality the
crew fell in line behind its commander
to hold out.
Other boat commanders at the time
demic, industrial, or military laboratories
during World War II. The book focuses on
one of the most famous of these scientists,
James B. Conant, leader of the Manhattan
Project, tasked early in the war to develop
an atomic bomb. Conant led the project
from its initial phases of basic atomic
research and proof of concept to development, testing, and deployment of bombs.
questioned Kennedy’s leadership as leading to the loss of his boat. But collisions
and surprise attacks weren’t unusual in
the murky nighttime Solomons waters.
No inquiry was launched and Kennedy
was given another PT boat to command
before he left the South Pacific due to
having aggravated an existing back condition in the crash. He received a medal
for his rescue effort, though not the
Silver Star he coveted. No amount of the
immense political power he possessed
ever got him that.
Phillips Ranch, California
The author of the book is Conant’s
granddaughter. Through family connections, Jennet Conant had access to numerous diaries, journals, and papers. She also
had the unique opportunity to get to know
her grandfather during her teenage years.
Beyond that, she’s able to tap into her experience researching and writing several books
of WWII history, on covert intelligence and
weapons research and development.
James Conant was truly an exceptional
man. He had the scientific skills of a worldclass chemistry researcher, but also a rare
combination of talents as an administrator,
manager, and innovator. He knew how to
spot, recruit, and train top scientists and
then manage these people with their big
egos and personalities, keeping them
focused on striving toward a common,
challenging goal.
Very early in Conant’s career as a
research chemist at Harvard University, he
was recruited to serve in the Chemical
Warfare Service of the US Army during the
Great War. While still in his early 20s, he
was put in charge of the chemical service
and earned the rank of major. This
wartime experience developed a profound
sense of duty and public service in him.
After World War I, Conant returned to
Harvard and worked his way to the top of
academia. At only age 40, he became president of the university. In that position, he
attempted to transform college admission
standards to be based on merit rather than
family connections. He wanted the top students nationwide, not just the average sons
of America’s elite Northeasterners.
During the Nazi consolidation of power,
Conant became very concerned with Adolf
Hitler’s assault on German universities.
The reputations of great German schools
were tarnished as mouthpieces for Nazism.
Conant became a vocal proponent of war
preparation, and Roosevelt placed him on
the National Defense Research Committee
as the head of the chemistry section. He
was a leading advocate for mobilizing science for military purposes at the time of
Pearl Harbor.
After the Japanese attack, Roosevelt
placed Conant on what became known as
the “Top Policy Group” as a scientific
advisor to the president and the military.
Conant thought the United States should
think not only defensively but also offen-
sively regarding scientific advancements.
Although frequently absent from Harvard
during the war, he placed the university on
a war footing and had professors contributing to military research.
Next, Roosevelt put Conant in charge of
the Manhattan Project. Conant guided the
atomic effort during the research phase at
the University of Chicago, University of
California, and other schools and then
through the development phase at Los
Alamos, New Mexico. Many officials were
skeptical of Conant’s choice of physicist
Robert Oppenheimer as chief at Los
Alamos, but Conant saw him as loyal, talented, and innovative.
After Roosevelt’s death in April 1945,
Conant was picked as a member of an
interim committee to advise President
Harry Truman on the atomic bomb. He
and the other members never questioned
the basic assumption of using the bomb.
They were very aware of the American and
Japanese death tolls at Iwo Jima and
Okinawa, the reports that the Japanese
would never surrender, and the staggering
death estimates for an invasion of Japan.
Although Conant questioned his role
and responsibility in developing the awesome and dangerous power of the bomb,
he never equivocated or wavered in his
advice to Truman to use it against Japan.
Responding to postwar criticism about
dropping the bombs, he became an articulate defender of Truman’s decision.
Some lovers of books on the United
States in World War II will be disappointed
that it takes almost half the book to get to
December 7, 1941. But the advantage is
that it covers the successes and failures of
the years between the world wars and then
the early years of the Cold War. James
Conant was not just the man of the hour,
but the man of half a century.
Hummelstown, Pennsylvania
The American Experience:
The Secret of Tuxedo Park
written and directed by Rob Rapley,
Public Broadcasting Service,
DVD $24.99
Los Alamos and the computer out of
Bletchley Park, microwave radar came
APRIL 2018
out of Tuxedo Park, a millionaires’ enclave
secluded in the heights overlooking the
Hudson River in New York State, where
retired financier Alfred Loomis turned his
mansion into a personal research laboratory. That is the story told in “The Secret of
Tuxedo Park,” a documentary that opened
the 2018 season of the Public Broadcasting
Service’s American Experience series.
Alfred Lee Loomis was born in 1887
into a privileged upper stratum of Manhattan society. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, he spent
World War I as an artillery officer at the
Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
He had a gift for mathematics and a penchant for tinkering, and he devised a new
method of measuring the velocity of
artillery shells.
Loomis made his fortune on Wall Street.
With his brother-in-law Landon K.
Thorne, he headed Bonbright and Company, a brokerage firm that specialized in
financing power companies. Selling his
investments in the summer of 1929, he
avoided the stock market crash. He left
business, but did not abandon technology.
With a fortune of $50 million, he was free
to pursue whatever experiments interested
him—and he was far more than a dilettante.
Beginning in the twenties, Loomis
brought to Tuxedo Park a glittering array
of physicists. Guests included Werner Heisenberg, Ernest Lawrence, Niels Bohr, and
Enrico Fermi. Albert Einstein hailed the
Tower House, as the laboratory was
known, as “a palace of science.” Visiting
scientists were chauffeured to a hulking
baronial pile, framed by forests and boulders, where a massive stone tower loomed
above a half-timbered warren of dormers
and gables. (Photos of Tower House recall
Batman’s stately Wayne Manor.)
“The Secret of Tuxedo Park” focuses on
Loomis’s work on sound waves and superpowered oscillators, which he began with
physicist Robert W. Wood of Johns
Hopkins University. From this, Loomis
went on to research brain waves, sleep levels, and the precise measurement of time.
By the late thirties, he was working on
microwave radar, testing mobile sets at
Tuxedo Park. In the summer of 1940, he
was named to oversee American radar
research. What radar meant to the war,
APRIL 2018
Perpetrators: The World of
the Holocaust Killers
by Guenter Lewy, Oxford University
Press, 195 pages, $29.95
and how American industry developed the
radar technology that gave the Allies a
war-winning edge, occupies half this program—rightly so. The atomic bomb ended
the war, it was said, but radar won it.
At the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, the Radiation Laboratory
(“the Rad Lab”) employed 4,000 scientists
and technicians, including six future Nobel
laureates, and wartime radar research cost
$3 billion. There were other costs, too.
Loomis had been, at best, a distant husband and father. His children grew up in
boarding schools. As the Rad Lab wound
down, Loomis tried to have his wife committed to a sanitarium, then divorced her
and married the younger ex-wife of a
research aide. With her, he moved from
Tuxedo Park to the Hamptons and withdrew from public life. (Not entirely—his
New York Times obituary noted that he
continued to sit on the boards of MIT and
the think tank the RAND Corporation.)
Loomis may have been hiding from
scandal, but just as much, he had been
eclipsed. The Rad Lab and Los Alamos had
summoned into being the military-industrial complex, which overshadowed the work
of any gentleman scientist.
Loomis shunned publicity. PBS researchers have combed through far-flung
archives to find images of his work.
Perceptive commentary is provided by
Jennet Conant, who wrote the book
behind this program: Tuxedo Park: A Wall
Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of
Science that Changed the Course of World
War II (2002). Other commentators
include David Zimmerman, the military
historian who wrote Britain’s Shield:
Radar and the Defeat of the Luftwaffe
(2010), and Michael Hiltzik, the Pulitzerwinning columnist and biographer of
nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence. Jacqueline Quillen, Loomis’s granddaughter,
speaks of family matters. Producer-director
Rob Rapley, who last year helmed the final
episode of PBS’s The Great War, has once
more brought in a fine piece of work.
Holocaust Killers author Guenter Lewy
investigates the complicity of the
German people in the Holocaust and the
systematic murder of six million Jews,
along with other political and social prisoners, during World War II. Specifically he
seeks to answer “What had converted so
many seemingly ordinary people into
killers, willing participants in what was
probably the worst crime in modern history?” and “Why did so few opt out when
evasion was possible and did not endanger
their lives?”
Lewy devotes a significant portion of his
study to detailing the atrocities of the
Holocaust. He does this because only a full
account of the “horrors and cruelties
enables us to address the issue of individual
participation.” He includes a few photographs to drive this point further home. As
disturbing to the readers as the text and
photos are, Lewy, the son of a camp survivor, says it was necessary to assume a
“quasi-clinical attitude” to write his book.
He goes almost too far with his accounts;
after reading four chapters, I was in danger
of adopting the same attitude. The deep
empathy that these accounts evoke can be
sustained for only so long, before the reader must establish a defense. The accounts
hold nothing new for any student of the
Holocaust, but they make a dense, unrelenting catalog.
Lewy’s source material includes diaries
and letters written by soldiers and officers,
many of which describe killing Jews; the
memoirs and recollections of Jewish camp
survivors; and trial records of Nazi functionaries, including from Nuremberg.
Additionally, material from the 49-volume
collection of the 929 German trial verdicts
published between 1968 and 2012 is
included. Lewy is the first to use this last
source in an English-language study.
The book’s last chapter, “Explaining the
Holocaust,” proves the most compelling. It
is here that Lewy summarizes the progressive complicity that resulted in the
Holocaust. Through a highly effective propaganda campaign within Germany, Adolf
Staten Island, New York
Hitler fed the deep-seeded, historic antiSemitism that ran through Europe. In
1933, Lewy writes, Germany was no more
anti-Semitic than any other nation. Yet
within Germany, Hitler portrayed the Jews
as an economic threat to honest Germans
and as a taint on the bloodlines of the
German people. Lewy argues that with
every move against the Jews—first the loss
of government jobs; then the loss of businesses and stability; then the Jews’ relocation to ghettos; etc.—each repressive act
gradually made average Germans immune
to the cruelty visited on their neighbors.
“At several different stages in their life,
[Germans] had to decide on a course of
action…,” Lewy writes. “They may not
have been aware that they had a moral
decision to make but whether they knew it
or not, they did make a choice. Many of
them became executioners.”
The anti-Semitic campaign was legitimized by institutions the German people
valued—schools, universities, and the scientific establishment. Prominent theologians Ethelbert Stauffer and Gerhard Kittel
encouraged people to support anti-Jewish
police, while criminologists likened Jews to
the spirochete bacteria that carry syphilis.
After six years of propaganda depicting
Jews as a threat to mankind in general and
to Germany in particular, many Germans
were ready to kill Jewish men, women, and
children as the “embodiment of evil that
rises against God and nature.”
For the average German citizen, soldier,
and death-camp worker, the level of ideological commitment varied but, writes
Lewy, “the great majority of Germans had
arrived at the conviction that the Jews were
a menace that had to be countered.” This
frame of reference “steered their perceptions,” allowing them to, if not approve,
turn a blind eye to the Holocaust as it
gained momentum. “Years of anti-Semitic
agitation had lowered the barriers to mur-
der.” In 1961 a former member of a police
battalion said, “The thought that one
should oppose or evade the order to take
part in the extermination of Jews never
entered my head.”
By exterminating Jews, Lewy writes,
Hitler asserted that he was doing the work
of God. He convinced his nation that the
fight was good versus evil and that “by
fighting a cosmic struggle against Jewish
evil, [he] would redeem Germany.” Lewy
notes that Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw
called the bond between Hitler and the
German people a “charismatic authority.”
In the end, though, the question of personal responsibility in extreme conditions
is not new (nor is it old). In the case of
the German people and the Holocaust,
the answer could be as simple as this:
they believed a mad man because they
wanted to.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
A 78 RPM
dead, as the story goes. For some reason, conductor Karl Eliasberg didn’t believe Dzaudhat Aydarov was actually dead. The doubting led him to
From Russia with Hope
the morgue and, sure enough, there on an examination table lay his drummer, moving around.
HE MASSES RARELY CARE for classical music,
The resurrected musician supplied the drumbeat
with its nuances, intricacies, and lengthy
of battle to the first movement.
development. But they do love a story, and
By this time, the score had already been phoon July 19, 1942, millions of Americans settled
tographed onto 100 feet of microfilm, smuggled
in front of their parlor radios to hear a serious
out of Leningrad to the West, and made its world
piece of music with an inspirational tale: Ruspremiere. US conductors had jockeyed to be first
sian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s new Lento perform it. But NBC radio had foreseen the
ingrad Symphony.
Dmitri Shostakovich
possibilities and locked up the rights. Arturo
The symphony arrived in America as an echo
of a patriotic fight by an Ally against an existential Axis threat— Toscanini, an Italian immigrant who opposed dictator Benito
the defense of Russia’s former capital city against an ongoing Mussolini, conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra for the
German siege begun in September 1941. Though one version of internationally broadcast performance.
Time magazine’s prose stylists put their inimitable stamp on
the story would have us believe Shostakovich conceived the symphony in response to the invasion, the first of its four move- the historic July 19 event: “After 73 minutes of nonstop conments—the invasion theme—had been scribbled onto paper a ducting, Arturo Toscanini looked as if he had just come through
year earlier. Still, Shostakovich did write some of the piece during the siege of Leningrad. The audience jumped up and cheered, as
the siege, largely between stints digging defensive trenches and if it had just heard news of a Nazi defeat.”
Victory over Nazi Germany was still three years away. Yet the
shifts watching for fires from the roof of the music conservatory.
In the summer of 1941, Shostakovich had gathered some broadcast gave its audience in America and other Western
friends to hear the first half of his work-in-progress on piano. He nations the feeling that Russia and the Allies would not lose this
was interrupted at the keys, however, by air-raid sirens and war. Critics were not overly kind in their assessment of the
exploding German bombs. The maestro promised his audience music, but it was the story that mattered. And this was a story
that he’d pick up where he left off once the bombs quieted and of heroic endurance in the face of raging adversity. As the symphony suggested, the ending would be happy.
he delivered his wife and kids safely to the local shelter.
The finished symphony premiered in Leningrad on August 9,
1942—with a percussionist who had recently been pronounced
editor of America in WWII
APRIL 2018
in WWii
to visit
and see Hitler’s headquarters
Andy BAkAlArski
and back-issues
APRIL 2018
To learn more contact me,
Offering individual tours by car
45 years of guiding experience
CALIFORNIA • Apr. 7, Chino: Living History Flying Day featuring the B-25 Mitchell.
Aviation experts, historians, authors, and veterans will discuss the B-25 Mitchell. Flight
demonstration and question-and-answer session follows. 10 A.M.–noon. Planes of Fame
Air Museum. 909-597-3722.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA • Mar. 15: By Thanksgiving We Were Americans: German
Jewish Refugees Remember the Holocaust. Lecture by Judith Gerson. 7 P.M. United
States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 202-488-0460.
GEORGIA • Apr. 21–22, Peachtree City: WWII Heritage Days. WWII-era planes and
vehicles, displays, speakers, demonstrations, battle simulations, period entertainment,
hangar dance. Hosted by Commemorative Air Force Dixie Wing. 11 A.M.–4 P.M. each
day. Falcon Field, Atlanta Regional Airport. 770-655-3315.
HAWAII • Mar. 3, Honolulu: Open Cockpit Day 2018. Female pilots, military
volunteers, and ground crew gather to commemorate Women in Aviation month.
Lecture and presentation by Wally Funk, first female air safety investigator for the
National Transportation Safety Board. 10 A.M.–4 P.M. Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl
Harbor. 808-282-6570.
LOUISIANA • Mar. 21, New Orleans: Women of Courage: Anne Levy and Nicole
Spangenberg. Reception, lecture, and book signing. Levy hid from the Germans as a
girl in Poland; Spangenberg joined the French Resistance as a teen. Reception at 5 P.M.,
lecture at 6 P.M. US Freedom Pavilion, National WWII Museum. 504-528-1944.
Apr. 19, New Orleans: The Pelican State Goes to War Symposium. Historians,
scholars, and veterans offer lectures and panel discussions on Louisiana citizens’
response to the war effort and the lasting impact of World War II in the state.
10 A.M.–4 P.M. National WWII Museum. 504-528-1944.
Americans arrive at Salerno
in September 1943
The Allies chose to invade at Salerno
in part because the surf was calm
there. The fighting was not.
Look for our next exciting issue on print
& digital newsstands May 1, 2018.
More Online!
Join us on Facebook and Twitter.
BATTLED IN 1918...
MISSOURI • Mar. 23–25, St. Charles: Weldonkrieg 2018. Western front battle reenactment. Period costume, equipment, and impressions strongly encouraged. Registration
required. 8 A.M. Friday–2 P.M. Sunday. Weldon Spring Training Area. 636-329-1200,
extension 2401.
NEBRASKA • Apr. 7, Ashland: War and Peace: A Centenary Celebration.
Commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the alliance between the United States
and United Kingdom. Lecture by a member of the Royal Air Force, film screening,
youth activities. 10 A.M.–2 P.M. Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum.
TEXAS • Apr. 21, Fredericksburg: Weapons of War: Secrets and Science. Children
ages 8–13 learn about the science of WWII weapons, how to crack secret codes, and
war’s human toll. Registration required. Presented by the Nimitz Junior Corps. 1–5 P.M.
National Museum of the Pacific War. 830-997-8600.
WYOMING • Apr. 10–14, Powell: Heart Mountain Week. Special events and lectures
on Japanese Americans’ life at Heart Mountain internment camp, and related topics and
issues. Presented by Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, Northwest College, and the
University of Wyoming. Lectures at 12:15 or 6:30 P.M. daily. At the University of Wyoming
College of Law, Park County Library, Powell Branch Library, and Heart Mountain WWII
Japanese American Confinement Site. 307-754-8000.
“Forgotten stories of the American soldiers who
went overseas in the bloodiest war the world had
ever seen.” –Rick Steves, TV travel authority
“Whether you travel or not, get this book.
It’s a great read.” – OnTravel Radio
432pages • Photos from Then & now
Please call the numbers provided or visit websites to check on dates,
times, locations, and other information before planning trips. travel guide /
APRIL 2018
os co
of na
cy pr
On a Stretcher with aView
Lloyd Griffith, shown in his US Army dress uniform and at home on leave in Chicago,
found words for poetry and hymns, but offered none to describe the combat he saw in Europe.
wisecracked to his granddaughter as she planned a trip to Paris.
Griffith’s experience of the City of Lights had come during World
War II, lying in an ambulance that drove under the Eiffel Tower
on the way to a hospital.
That ride had its roots in September 1943, when Griffith was
working in a Chicago bank. Born and raised in the Windy City, the
son of immigrants from North Wales, he grew up loving baseball,
writing poetry and hymns, and singing in the Welsh Presbyterian
Church choir. Then he received a summons from Uncle Sam.
The army trained Griffith as a rifleman, put him in Company K
of the 38th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division, and
sent him to England to prepare for the Allied invasion of Normandy, France.
Griffith landed on Normandy’s Omaha Beach with Company K
on June 7, 1944, a day after D-Day. He and his unit then fought
their way through northern France, crossed the Rhine River, and
moved toward Germany. In December 1944, the Battle of the
Bulge broke out in the Ardennes forest that connects Belgium,
Luxembourg, and France. In bitter cold and heavy snow, a
German counteroffensive drove the Americans back.
One day in the Ardennes, a bullet found Griffith, wounding
him in the left leg. He lay in a field in the cold, wondering what
would become of him. Eventually, medics came and took him to
a field hospital, beginning a year and a half of recovery in hospitals in Europe and the United States.
Griffith came home with a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and
other medals. He sometimes talked about the rations soldiers ate
and the foxholes they slept in and about his time in the hospital.
But he never spoke of the losses his unit suffered, the battles he
fought, or the incident, still unknown to his family, that earned
him the Bronze Star. He died in 2001. A
Submitted by Nancy Priegel, daughter of G. Lloyd Griffith.
Send your GIs photo and story to or to GIs, America in WWII, 4711 Queen Ave., Ste. 202, Harrisburg, PA 17109
APRIL 2018
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