Category Archive 'WWII'
28 Oct 2018

Peaceful Coexistence on Bougainville During WWII


US Army personnel playing baseball on Bougainville.

Some good stories from Werner Hermann on Quora:

During the Pacific war on the islands of Bougainville in the South Pacific, American and Japanese forces clashed with each other. The American invasion of the island was intended to be a mop-up operation to eliminate Japanese forces stationed there. Thanks to American air and naval superiority that made possible the island-hopping strategy, the operation on Bougainville was of little strategic value.

Consequently, in a bizarre and little known turn of event, neither side had any incentive to seek confrontation against each other, because the Japanese could not win and the Americans no longer needed to fight for total control of the island, the armies of both sides settled into a pattern of co-existence. This was when some strange and funny events occurred.

For example, in the 37th Division area, one infantryman recalled that at a company baseball game:
Someone noticed a raggedy-assed Jap way out in the shadows of the jungle off right field watching a game…. He came back for other games and was soon a rather regular fan… The 37th GIs figured “he can’t be all bad”; besides, he somehow managed to root for 37th teams, showing his approval of hits and runs for the home team!

In another event, a Japanese soldier infiltrated the US camp to watch movies. When a captured Japanese film showed the sinking of the USS Lexington, he gave himself away:

There suddenly came shouts of “Banzai! Banzai!” from the tangled but huge branches of a banyan tree on a near side of the row of seats… [he] was overcome with patriotism at the sight of his comrades in the air force sending an enemy ship to the bottom! He was pulled from the tree … Perhaps the last victim of the carrier Lexington.

ROTFLOL. Poor fellow. That guy should have known better to keep quiet when inside enemy-held territory. He could have saved himself.

01 Oct 2018

1LT Waverly Wray and his Garand Rifle

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1st Lt. Waverly Wray, 82nd Airborne.

Guns America pays tribute to an American hero.

1LT Waverly Wray was born in 1919 and raised in the wooded hills around Batesville, Mississippi, perhaps a forty-five minute drive from where I sit typing these words. An expert woodsman steeped in fieldcraft from his youth, Wray was described by his commander, LTC Ben Vandervoort, thusly, “As experienced and skilled as an Infantry soldier can get and still be alive.” At 250 pounds Wray was an intimidating specimen, yet he was also a committed Christian man of character. He fastidiously eschewed profanity and sent half of his Army paycheck home each month to help build a church in his hometown.

Immediately after jumping into Normandy with the 82d Airborne, 1LT Wray set out on a one-man reconnaissance at the behest of his Battalion Commander. Wray’s mission was to assess the state of German forces planning a counterattack against the weakly held American positions outside Ste.-Mere-Eglise. Wray struck out armed with his M1 rifle, a Colt 1911A1 .45, half a dozen grenades, and a silver-plated .38 revolver tucked into his jump boot. Hearing German voices on the other side of a French hedgerow, Wray burst through the brush and shouted, “Hande Hoch!” Confronting him were eight German officers huddled around a radio.

For a pregnant moment, nobody moved. Then seven pairs of hands went up. The eighth German officer reached for his sidearm. 1LT Wray shot the man between the eyes with his M1.

A pair of German soldiers about 100 meters away opened up on Wray with MP40 submachine guns. 9mm bullets cut through his combat jacket and shot away one of his earlobes. All the while Wray methodically engaged each of the seven remaining Germans as they struggled to escape, reloading his M1 when it ran dry. Once he had killed all eight German officers he dropped into a nearby ditch, took careful aim, and killed the two distant Wehrmacht soldiers with the MP40’s.

Wray fought his way back to his company area to report what he had found, blood soaking his ventilated jump jacket. His first question was to ask where he could replenish his supply of grenades. When American forces eventually took the field where Wray had waged his one-man war against the leadership of the 1st Battalion, 158th Grenadier Regiment, they found all ten German soldiers dead with a single round each to the head. Wray had completely decapitated the enemy battalion’s leadership singlehandedly. Wray stopped what he was doing and saw to it that all ten German soldiers were properly buried. He had killed these men, and he felt a responsibility to bury them properly.

Waverly Wray survived the savage fighting in Normandy only to give his life for his country at Nijmegen, Holland, during Operation Market Garden later in the year. He has a granite marker in Shiloh Cemetery in Batesville, Mississippi, near the church he helped build. 1LT Wray was, by all accounts, an exceptionally good man who died six days before his twenty-fifth birthday.

RTWT

16 Sep 2018

Would You Surrender to the Germans?

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02 Sep 2018

P-38 Lightning Critiqued

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Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

On Quora, somebody asked “Why was the P-38 never used in the European theater against the Germans?” and the reply from Nick O’Dell was particularly entertaining.

A survey of Stateside training bases in 1941 showed that 87 percent of prospective pilots requested to be assigned to the big, sleek, twin-engine Lockheed Lightning. “We were in awe of the P-38,” said future ace Jack Ilfrey. “It looked like a beautiful monster.” “If you were a boy in America, you wanted to fly it,” said another future ace, Winton “Bones” Marshall. “If you played with Dinky metal toys and balsa wood airplane models, you wanted to fly it.” On the eve of Pearl Harbor, the P-38 captured the imagination of young Americans like no other fighter. Eighth Air Force commander Lt. Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle would later call the P-38 “the sweetest-flying plane in the sky.”

With tricycle gear, twin booms and a centerline fuselage pod brimming with guns, the P-38 was powered by two 1,600-hp Allison V-1710-111/113 liquid-cooled engines driving three-bladed, 9-foot Curtiss Electric propellers. Although a fully loaded Lightning weighed more than 10 tons—nearly twice as much as a P-51 Mustang—a skilled pilot could fling the P-38 around like a lightweight. The problem was that while American pilots were generally well trained, they weren’t well trained for a complex twin-engine fighter. …

The P-38 performed usefully but suffered from a number of problems. Its Allison engines consistently threw rods, swallowed valves and fouled plugs, while their intercoolers often ruptured under sustained high boost and turbocharger regulators froze, sometimes causing catastrophic failures.
Arrival of the newer P-38J to fill in behind the P-38H was supposed to help, but did not help enough. The J model’s enlarged radiators were trouble-prone. Improperly blended British fuel exacerbated the problems: Anti-knock lead compounds literally seethed out and became separated in the Allison’s induction system at extreme low temperatures. This could cause detonation and rapid engine failure, especially at the high power settings demanded for combat.

The P-38’s General Electric turbo-supercharger sometimes got stuck in over-boosted or under-boosted mode. This occurred mainly when the fighter was flown in the freezing cold at altitudes approaching 30,000 feet, which was the standard situation in the European air war. Another difficulty was that early P-38 versions had only one generator, and losing the associated engine meant the pilot had to rely on battery power.

In an article on Air Power Australia, Carlo Kopp noted that in their early days in the European theater, “Many of the P-38s assigned to escort missions were forced to abort and return to base. Most of the aborts were related to engines coming apart in flight….[due to] intercoolers that chilled the fuel/air mixture too much. Radiators that lowered engine temps below normal operating minimums. Oil coolers that could congeal the oil to sludge. These problems could have been fixed at the squadron level. Yet, they were not.” …

The arrival of the improved P-38J-25 and P-38L models, modified on the production line based on lessons learned in Europe, helped, but problems remained. Lightning pilot 2nd Lt. Jim Kunkle of the 370th Fighter Group remembered: “The critical problem with us was we didn’t have much heat in the cockpit. On high altitude missions it was very cold. And we didn’t have the engine in front of us to help keep us warm. Bomber guys had those heated blue union suits that they wore but we tried heated clothing and it didn’t work for us.”

The only source of heat in the cockpit was warm air ducted from the engines, and it was little help. Lightning pilots suffered terribly. “Their hands and feet became numb with cold and in some instances frost-bitten; not infrequently a pilot was so weakened by conditions that he had to be assisted out of the cockpit upon return,” wrote Freeman.

Major General William Kepner, the fiery commanding general of VIII Fighter Command, wondered, as so many others did, why the P-38 wasn’t producing the results everyone wanted, and what to do about it. Asked to provide a written report, 20th Fighter Group commander Colonel Harold J. Rau did so reluctantly and only because he was ordered to.

“After flying the P-38 for a little over one hundred hours on combat missions it is my belief that the airplane, as it stands now, is too complicated for the ‘average’ pilot,” wrote Rau. “I want to put strong emphasis on the word ‘average,’ taking full consideration just how little combat training our pilots have before going on operational status.”

Rau wrote that he was being asked to put kids fresh from flight school into P-38 cockpits and it wasn’t working. He asked his boss to imagine “a pilot fresh out of flying school with about a total of twenty-five hours in a P-38, starting out on a combat mission.” Rau’s young pilot was on “auto lean and running on external tanks. His gun heater is off to relieve the load on his generator, which frequently gives out (under sustained heavy load). His sight is off to save burning out the bulb. His combat switch may or may not be on.” So, flying along in this condition, wrote Rau, the kid suddenly gets bounced by German fighters. Now he wonders what to do next.

“He must turn, he must increase power and get rid of those external tanks and get on his main [fuel tank],” Rau wrote. “So, he reaches down and turns two stiff, difficult gas switches (valves) to main, turns on his drop tank switches, presses his release button, puts the mixture to auto rich (two separate and clumsy operations), increases his RPM, increases his manifold pressure, turns on his gun heater switch (which he must feel for and cannot possibly see), turns on his combat switch and he is ready to fight.” To future generations this would be called multi-tasking, and it was not what you wanted to be doing when Luftwaffe fighters were pouring down on you.

“At this point, he has probably been shot down,” Rau noted, “or he has done one of several things wrong. Most common error is to push the throttles wide open before increasing RPM. This causes detonation and subsequent engine failure. Or, he forgets to switch back to auto rich, and gets excessive cylinder head temperature with subsequent engine failure.”

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

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