Category Archive 'WWII'
28 May 2018

My Father’s War

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WGZInduction1942
My father (on the left, wearing jacket & tie, holding the large envelope), aged 26, was the oldest in this group of Marine Corps volunteers from Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, September 1942, so he was put in charge.

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William G. Zincavage, Fall 1942, after graduating Marine Corps Boot Camp

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WGZBillyClub
Military Police, North Carolina, Fall 1942
He was only 5′ 6″, but he was so tough that they made him an MP.

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3rdDivision
Third Marine Division

1stAmphibiousCorps
I Marine Amphibious Corps

First Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Solomon Islands Consolidation (Guadalcanal), Winter-Spring 1943
New Georgia Group Operation (Vella LaVella, Rendova), Summer 1943
“The Special Troops drew the first blood.” — Third Divisional History.

“We never saw them but they were running away.” — William G. Zincavage

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3rdAmphibious-Corps
III Marine Amphibious Corps

Third Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Marianas Operation (Guam), Summer 1944

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5thAmphibious-Corps
V Marine Amphibious Corps

Fifth Amphibious Corps, Third Marine Division, Special Troops:
Iwo Jima Operation, February-March 1945

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Navy Unit Commendation (Iwo Jima)
Good Conduct Medal
North American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Four Bronze Stars

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While recovering from malaria after the Battle of Iwo Jima, he looked 70 years old.

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But he was back to normal in December of 1945, when this photo was taken shortly before he received his discharge.

28 May 2018

Memorial Day

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WWII Victory Medal

All of my grandparents’ sons and one daughter, now all departed, served.

JoeZincavage1
Joseph Zincavage (1907-1998) Navy
(No wartime photograph available, but he’s sitting on a Henderson Motorcycle in this one.)


William Zincavage (1914-1997) Marine Corps


Edward Zincavage (1917-2002) Marine Corps


Eleanor Zincavage Cichetti (1922-2003) Marine Corps

30 Apr 2018

Dornier 17 in Suburban London, September 1940

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18 Mar 2018

WWII Veteran Vince Speranza Sings Paratrooper Song “Blood Upon the Risers”

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Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to diel
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more

There was blood upon the risers,
there was brains upon his chute
Intestines were a-dangling
from his paratrooper suit
They poured him from his helmet,
and they poured him form his boots
And he ain’t gonna jump no more.

Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more.

Now the letter they sent home,
to his wife and baby son.
Madam we regret to say,
your troopers life is done.
But hold your head up high,
his name is written in the sky!
He ain’t gonna jump no more!

Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more.

Now the baby son grew up and said,
“A troopers life for me!”
A jumper like my daddy was,
is all I want to be.
I only hope that I can jump
just half as good as he!
He ain’t gonna jump no more!

Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more.

Now they sent him to Afghanistan
and then into Iraq!
The bullet then came speeding up,
and deep into his back.
He hit the ground but his grenade
found enemy on track!
He ain’t gonna jump no more!

Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
Gory, gory what a helluva way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more.

17 Mar 2018

If Jeremy Corbyn Had Been PM During the Blitz

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Following Jeremy Corbyn’s recent defense of Mr. Putin in Parliament, Richard Littlejohn cannot help imagining the Labour leader as Prime Minister during the early part of WWII.

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister, Mr Corbyn, refused to join the chorus of condemnation which has followed repeated German bombing attacks on British towns and cities.

He said there was no conclusive evidence that Herr Hitler was responsible for the Blitz, which he speculated may well have been carried out by rogue elements in the Luftwaffe with the specific intention of damaging the international reputation of the Nazi regime.

Mr Corbyn insisted it was essential to maintain robust dialogue with Berlin and told MPs he was ordering the War Department to return any unexploded bombs to Berlin for further investigation.

Just because they were dropped from German planes, which took off in Germany, and had ‘Made In Germany’ stamped on them, that was no reason to leap to the conclusion that the German government was involved in any way.

The Americans could well be behind it, he suggested, as an excuse to get involved in another European war.

There would be no official response from Downing Street until the full facts could be established, he insisted. He said those bellicose Conservatives who wanted to fight the Germans on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, the streets and the hills, were guilty of reckless provocation against one of our leading European partners.

Britain’s earlier decision to send 300,000 heavily armed soldiers to occupy the pleasure beaches at Dunkirk, without a League of Nations resolution, had only served to heighten tensions and may well be a war crime.

Challenged about German military expansionism, the Prime Minister said Herr Hitler had every right to annex Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, the Low Countries and the Sudetenland, as a vital bulwark against Western aggression.

Earlier, in an interview with the broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw on the wireless station Nazism Today, Mr Corbyn defended his official spokesman, Mr Milne, who had claimed that intelligence reports from MI5, MI6 and the Special Operations Executive were unreliable and ‘problematic’.

Mr Milne also suggested that Herr Hitler might be the victim of a smear campaign by Israel, even though Israel doesn’t actually exist yet.

Mr Corbyn has rejected out of hand widespread reports that millions of Jewish men, women and children across Europe are being rounded up by the Nazis. He said that was as absurd as trying to suggest that there was any anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

The Prime Minister further refused widespread demands to expel German diplomats from the Court of St James’s and intern any German citizens living in Britain. Mr Corbyn said the bombing had ‘nothing to do with Nazism’ and said he had asked Scotland Yard to be on full alert for any backlash against ‘the vast majority of peace-loving Nazis’.

Even as large swathes of Coventry, Plymouth and the East End of London are devastated by the nightly bombardment from the skies, with civilian casualties currently estimated at 50,000, Mr Corbyn vowed there would be no retaliation.

He has rejected a proposal from the Royal Air Force to launch 1,000 bomber raids on German cities, and has ordered Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons in the South-East to remain on the ground.

Mr Corbyn is adamant that the young German pilots crossing the Channel from France every day are not enemy combatants and must be considered refugees fleeing conflict and possible torture at the hands of the French Resistance.

Any who crash, or are captured, should be treated as asylum seekers and directed immediately to the National Assistance headquarters in Croydon. There will be no shoot-to-kill policy on his watch, Mr Corbyn stated.

The Prime Minister believes that the best way to secure a lasting peace in Europe is by inviting his ‘friend’ Herr Hitler to the Houses of Parliament for a nice cup of tea.

Mr Corbyn blamed the failure of diplomatic efforts thus far to end the bombing on savage spending cuts in the Foreign Office brought in after World War I.

RTWT

25 Nov 2017

VDH Remembers the Old Breed

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William G. Zincavage, 1945.

At Thanksgiving, Victor Davis Hanson is grateful for our parents’ generation, the generation that won the War, particularly those like my own father who served in the Marine Corps.

Much has been written about the disappearance of these members of the Greatest Generation—there are now over 1,000 veterans passing away per day. Of the 16 million who at one time served in the American military during World War II, only about a half-million are still alive. …

More worrisome, however, is that the collective ethos of the World War II generation is fading. It may not have been fully absorbed by the Baby Boomer generation and has not been fully passed on to today’s young adults, the so-called Millennials. While U.S. soldiers proved heroic and lethal in Afghanistan and Iraq, their sacrifices were never commensurately appreciated by the larger culture.

The generation that came of age in the 1940s had survived the poverty of the Great Depression to win a global war that cost 60 million lives, while participating in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history as a once rural America metamorphosed into a largely urban and suburban culture of vast wealth and leisure.

Their achievement from 1941 to 1945 remains unprecedented. The United States on the eve of World War II had an army smaller than Portugal’s. It finished the conflict with a global navy larger than all of the fleets of the world put together. By 1945, America had a GDP equal to those of Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire combined. With a population 50 million people smaller than that of the USSR, the United States fielded a military of roughly the same size.

America almost uniquely fought at once in the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe, on and beneath the seas, in the skies, and on land. On the eve of the war, America’s military and political leaders, still traumatized by the Great Depression, fought bitterly over modest military appropriations, unsure of whether the country could afford even a single additional aircraft carrier or another small squadron of B-17s. Yet four years later, civilians had built 120 carriers of various types and were producing a B-24 bomber at the rate of one an hour at the Willow Run factory in Michigan. Such vast changes are still difficult to appreciate.

Certainly, what was learned through poverty and mayhem by those Americans born in the 1920s became invaluable in the decades following the war. The World War II cohort was a can-do generation who believed that they did not need to be perfect to be good enough. The strategic and operational disasters of World War II—the calamitous daylight bombing campaign of Europe in 1942-43, the quagmire of the Heurtgen Forest, or being surprised at the Battle of Bulge—hardly demoralized these men and women.

Miscalculations and follies were not blame-gamed or endlessly litigated, but were instead seen as tragic setbacks on the otherwise inevitable trajectory to victory. When we review their postwar technological achievements—from the interstate highway system and California Water Project to the Apollo missions and the Lockheed SR-71 flights—it is difficult to detect comparable confidence and audacity in subsequent generations. To paraphrase Nietzsche, anything that did not kill those of the Old Breed generation made them stronger and more assured.

As an ignorant teenager, I once asked my father whether the war had been worth it. After all, I smugly pointed out, the “victory” had ensured the postwar empowerment and global ascendance of the Soviet Union. My father had been a combat veteran during the war, flying nearly 40 missions over Japan as the central fire control gunner in a B-29. He replied in an instant, “You win the battle in front of you and then just go on to the next.”

I wondered where his assurance came. Fourteen of 16 planes—each holding eleven crewmen—in his initial squadron of bombers were lost to enemy action or mechanical problems. The planes were gargantuan, problem-plagued, and still experimental—and some of them also simply vanished on the 3,000-mile nocturnal flight over the empty Pacific from Tinian to Tokyo and back.

As a college student, I once pressed him about my cousin and his closest male relative, Victor Hanson, a corporal of the Sixth Marine Division who was killed on the last day of the assault on Sugar Loaf Hill on Okinawa. Wasn’t the unimaginative Marine tactic of plowing straight ahead through entrenched and fortified Japanese positions insane? He answered dryly, “Maybe, maybe not. But the enemy was in the way, then Marines took them out, and they were no longer in the way.”

RTWT

20 Aug 2017

“Honoring Fallen Enemies”

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Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr., at Ricochet, has a little story that seems especially relevant these days. Alas! it’s the kind of thing that people on the Left will never understand.

In 1944, a 20-year-old U.S. Marine corporal named Marvin Strombo got separated from his unit on the island of Saipan. Making his way back toward the rally point, he stumbled across the supine body of a young Japanese soldier. The man had apparently been killed by the concussion from a mortar explosion: his body was completely intact, bearing no apparent wounds. The sword at his side marked him as an officer. And poking out from underneath his jacket Strombo could see a folded Japanese flag.

Strombo hesitated but then reached out and removed the flag. It was covered with Japanese calligraphy: good-luck messages and signatures from the young officer’s friends and family. Flags such as this were popular souvenirs among Allied troops, so Strombo knew that if he hadn’t taken it someone else would have. But Strombo made a silent vow: “I knew it meant a lot to him … I made myself promise him that one day, I would give back the flag after the war was over.” …

a few days ago, 93-year-old Marvin Strombo made the long journey to Higashishirakawa, where he met with the surviving family and friends of the young enemy soldier whose final resting place he had seen. He was able to bring them the closure of knowing where, when, and how Yasue died; and he was able to return to them the flag they had sent with Yasue when he’d gone off to war. “I had such a moment with your brother. I promised him one day I would return the flag to his family,” Strombo told them. “It took a long time, but I was able to bring the flag back to you, where it belongs.”

The Japanese were our enemies in World War II. And make no mistake: they were on the wrong side. Even the Japanese themselves know that today. Sadao Yasue was fighting for the wrong cause, defending a militaristic regime that was bent on conquest and domination of its neighbors, at the expense of its own populace. He was part of a military that, elsewhere in the same war, committed atrocities that are too horrible to contemplate.

But he was also a human being, a young man with a family and friends who loved him. People he left behind, people who had nothing to do with the war, except insofar as they suffered its miseries and the pain of his loss. Returning the flag to these people and honoring the sacrifice he made in no way undermines the outcome of the war, nor does it represent an endorsement of the evil for which he fought. It is nothing more and nothing less than an expression of human decency, a way of reaching out and acknowledging the pain of war.

In front of the courthouse at the center of my small North Carolina town is a statue of a Confederate soldier. Not a hero, not a leader, just a generic representation of the thousands of young men who went off to war and left grieving families behind. It is not an endorsement of slavery or a message of racism; it is nothing more and nothing less than a somber acknowledgement and reminder of the pain that war brought.

The next time I drive through town, I wonder if it will still be there.

RTWT

29 May 2017

Memorial Day

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WWII Victory Medal

All of my grandparents’ sons and one daughter, now all departed, served.

JoeZincavage1
Joseph Zincavage (1907-1998) Navy
(No wartime photograph available, but he’s sitting on a Henderson Motorcycle in this one.)


William Zincavage (1914-1997) Marine Corps


Edward Zincavage (1917-2002) Marine Corps


Eleanor Zincavage Cichetti (1922-2003) Marine Corps

28 May 2017

If Churchill Had Been Like Today’s Politicians

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22 May 2017

US Government Still Handing Out Purple Heart Medals Made for the Invasion of Japan

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A WWII-era Purple Heart (left) next to one received in Afghanistan (right).

We are the Mighty:

The… Battle of Okinawa with its high casualty rates and fierce defenders made it clear to American leadership that the upcoming invasion of Japan’s main island would be a costly one for both sides.

To make matters worse President Roosevelt died and his vice-president and successor, Harry Truman, was faced with a choice: an amphibious invasion that would kill an estimated 1 million Allied troops and upwards of 10 million Japanese or drop the new destructive superweapon – the atomic bomb – and force a Japanese surrender.

As Truman worked on his next move, the military’s top brass had no idea what his choice might be. In preparation for the invasion option, the U.S. military ordered hundreds of thousands of Purple Heart medals made, and stored them in a warehouse in Arlington, ready to be handed to those wounded in Operation Downfall.

The attack, of course, never came. Truman went for the nuclear option.

So what to do with all those medals? Give them to the troops, of course. World War II was over but there was still plenty of American combat to come in the 20th century. Though the U.S. has ordered 34,000 more of them after the Vietnam War, the medals from 1945 are still updated and issued as needed.

“Time and combat will continue to erode the WWII stock, but it’s anyone’s guess how long it will be before the last Purple Heart for the invasion of Japan is pinned on a young soldier’s chest,” historian D.M. Giangreco, said in a 2010 e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The refurbished medals were distributed to military posts, units, and hospitals between 1985 and 1999. Even if new ones were made, the number given wounded service members through 2010 is still less than the number manufactured in 1945.

My father was in the Special Troops of the Third Marine Division, scheduled to be the spearhead of the Invasion of Southern Kyushu. Having blasting experience from the Pennsylvania coal mines, my father would have been tasked with blowing up Japanese pillboxes. Lucky for me this never happened.

09 Mar 2017

Best Shot With a 1911. Ever.

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Phil Bourjaily, in Field & Stream 2011, remembered the best shot ever made with a Model 1911.

The most unusual shot,(and possibly the best ever) made in wartime with a 1911 pistol had to be the one fired by a USAAF B-24 co-pilot named Owen J. Baggett in March, 1943 in the skies over Burma. …

On a mission to destroy a railroad bridge, Baggett’s bomber squadron was intercepted by Japanese Zero fighters and his plane was badly damaged. After holding off the enemy with the top turret .50s while the gunner tried to put out onboard fires, Baggett bailed out with the rest of the crew. He and four others escaped the burning bomber before it exploded.

The Zero pilots circled back to strafe the parachuting crewmen, killing two and lightly wounding Baggett, who played dead in his harness, hoping the Japanese would leave him alone. Though playing dead, Baggett still drew his .45 and hid it alongside his leg…just in case. A Zero approached within a few feet of Baggett at near stall speeds. The pilot opened the canopy for a better look at his victim.

Baggett raised his pistol and fired four shots into the cockpit. The Zero spun out of sight. Although Baggett could never believe he had shot down a fighter plane with his pistol, at least one credible report said the plane was found crashed, the pilot thrown clear of the wreckage with a single bullet in his head.

If Baggett really did shoot down a fighter with his 1911, it has to count as one of the greatest feats ever accomplished with a .45.

19 Feb 2017

71st Anniversary Battle of Iwo Jima

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V Amphibious Corps Shoulder Patch

February 19, 1945, the Marine Corps landed on Iwo Jima. The battle went on for five weeks and cost 6,821 Americans killed, 19,271 wounded.

My father’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Graves B. Erskine, commander of the 3rd Marine Division, said: “Victory was never in doubt. What was in doubt was whether there would be any of us left to dedicate our cemetery at the end.”


My father, William G. Zincavage, later in 1945, a farewell to the service photo taken just before his discharge in December.

09 Dec 2016

USS Nevada on December 7th

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USS Nevada, beached and burning at Hospital Point.

James Gawron, at Ricochet, quotes Walter Lord’s Day of Infamy describing one of the braver incidents that fatal December 7th:

At 8 am on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, the 183 Japanese planes of the first attack wave descended on Pearl Harbor. Admiral Nagumo’s attack fleet was less than 100 miles from Pearl. Luckily the Enterprise, the huge American aircraft carrier, was at sea. Not so lucky was the fact that the American battleship fleet was anchored and inert, tied up in a neat row called Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. The battleships were huge sitting targets. Even if someone had sounded an alarm when the planes were spotted on radar, it wouldn’t have made that much difference as it takes two hours for a battleship’s boilers to come up to full pressure so she can move properly. All of the battleships at Pearl had dead cold boilers that morning. Completely tied up at anchor, after coming up to full boiler pressure, it would have taken another 45 minutes with the help of multiple tugboats to get a battleship away from Battleship Row and moving.

It was Sunday morning and almost everyone was at Sunday morning services. However, to this fact and everything I stated in the preceding paragraph, there was one exception. The Battleship USS Nevada had about one-third of her crew and one officer and one quartermaster aboard. The boilers of the Nevada were at about half pressure. She was making repairs, even on Sunday morning.

The Japanese planes of the first attack wave descended without any warning whatsoever. Seeing the sitting ducks on Battleship Row, the pilots converged instantly for the attack on the American ships.

The Nevada was the last ship on Battleship Row in position 8. Ahead of her at anchor was the Battleship USS Arizona. In the first 15 minutes of the attack, a bomb struck the Arizona perfectly penetrating her forward deck armor and exploding her forward ammunition magazine. The entire ship detonated in a huge explosion. The explosion killed 1,117 of her crew of 1,400. Half the ship was gone and the other half was a burning inferno.

All of Pearl Harbor was mad confusion. People running everywhere trying to get to their posts, pinned down by strafing Japanese planes. On the Nevada, the highest ranking officer was Ensign Joseph Taussig, Jr. [Read his obituary] He was the youngest officer, just out of the Naval Academy and had only been on the Nevada a few days. Also aboard was Quartermaster Chief Robert Sedberry, a man with many years of experience. Ens. Taussig manned the forward anti-aircraft battery himself. A shell smashed his leg, it would later be amputated. Still conscious, he continued to command the anti-aircraft defense. Meanwhile, Sedberry and others made the decision to take the ship into action. They must swing the ship free from her berth without the aid of tugboats, without two hours to bring the ship to full steam, without a civilian harbor pilot, without the navigator, and without the captain. Sedberry manned the helm.

She got past the burning remains of the Arizona just barely. As the Nevada slowly pulled free of her anchorage and steamed down past Battleship Row wild screaming cheers were heard all over Pearl. There she was, the Nevada moving! She was heading for the harbor mouth. She was heading out to sea for the counter attack! As she got about dead center of Pearl Harbor, out of the sky came 171 Japanese planes, the second wave attack.

The Japanese pilots of the second wave were greeted by a riveting sight. Most of the American ships were in flames but a single American battleship was moving out to sea. They knew very well that this ship had 14-inch guns on board. These guns could fire accurately over 20 miles. This ship could do over 30 knots (about 35 miles per hour). In two hours at full speed, she would be in range of their attack fleet. A single 14-inch shell would pierce the unarmored deck of any of their aircraft carriers. One shot might easily sink a Japanese carrier.

The entire second wave descended on Nevada. It is interesting to note that it is not so easy to hit a moving target as it is to punch holes in a sitting duck. However, Nevada wasn’t moving that fast and there were 171 planes to get her. Soon Nevada was on fire from one end of the ship to the other. She had been torpedoed and was taking on water. Ens. Taussig, although severely wounded, continued anti-aircraft fire at the Japanese planes. Chief Quartermaster Sedberry had been radioed a final order. If the Nevada sunk in the harbor channel she would plug Pearl Harbor for a prolonged period of time. Most of the crew had already abandoned ship. The Quartermaster and a few men guided the huge ship towards Hospital Point just inside the harbor mouth to the east. There they beached the Nevada in the sand like a giant canoe. Still conscious, Taussig was carried off the ship.

What is significant about this? Why am I relating this story? Simply because human events, their outcomes and their significance, are so hard to predict. At first, you might think the Nevada‘s short but glorious cruise a total waste and insignificant. However, because she was moving when the second wave appeared, most of the Japanese planes wasted their bombs attacking her. If the Japanese pilots had instead found all of the American ships out of action, they would have immediately turned their attention to the rest of Pearl Harbor’s extensive military facilities. The dry docks most of all. Back in Tokyo, Admiral Yamamoto received the full report. He was furious about the second wave and its failure to bomb the dry docks. He said:

Because of Nevada, most of Pearl remained intact and was fully operational in short order. With Pearl Harbor’s facilities, The American fleet quickly recovered. At the Battle of Coral Sea, the Japanese found themselves to be less than invincible and suffered major damage.

Wikipedia:


Subsequently salvaged and modernized at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Nevada served as a convoy escort in the Atlantic and as a fire-support ship in four amphibious assaults: the Normandy Landings and the invasions of Southern France, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

07 Dec 2016

Pearl Harbor

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The weather was warm that Sunday in the Eastern United States. Several WWII veterans I used to know told me they remembered being outside fixing the roof or painting the house, when news of the attack came over the radio.

I grew up in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania supplied the largest number of men who served in WWII of any of the 48 states, and Schuylkill County provided the largest number of servicemen of any county in the Commonwealth. All of my grandparents’ sons were in the service. The oldest, Joseph, was in the Navy. My father, William and his younger brother, Edward, were in the Marine Corps. Their youngest daughter, my aunt Eleanor, also served in the Marine Corps.

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