Category Archive 'WWII'
31 Aug 2021

“Two Photos: Two Different Americas”

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Warren Kozak, in the NY Sun, points to two images as metonymies for the change in American leadership over the last three quarter century.

Both wars began with unprovoked, surprise, and devastating attacks against the United States. In 1941, the Japanese destroyed much of our Pacific fleet and killed more than 2,000 Americans, mostly servicemen. Sixty years later, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed 3,000 Americans, mostly civilians.

That is where the parallels end. The two adversaries were not remotely alike. The Japanese were a major military power with a large, unified, and advanced population. Afghanistan, which harbored the al Qaeda terrorists that attacked on 9-11, is a small, backward, failed state run by 7th century jihadists.

To achieve our victory in World War II over Japan and its ally, Nazi Germany, America focused its entire economy for four years, built a military of over 16 million men, mostly civilians, and maintained its will, even with the loss of more than 400,000 of its sons. In the latter war, with an all-volunteer military, Americans felt little economic hardship.

Many didn’t even know a single serviceman or woman who died, much less fought, in the war. America’s military today constitutes less than one percent of our population. In World War II, practically every family had someone serving, and that included the nation’s wealthiest families, from the Rockefellers to the Kennedys to the Bushs’.

The greatest change we have witnessed has come in the leadership of our country. Consider how the earlier military and political officials conducted themselves after their extraordinary achievement in World War II. The head of our entire military, General George C. Marshall, declined from Time Life’s Henry Luce an offer of $1 million, $15 million in today’s money, to publish his memoir.

One of the signers on the deck of the Missouri, Admiral Chester Nimitz, chief architect of the naval victory in the Pacific, also declined every lucrative offer to tell his story. Nimitz spent his retirement as an advisor to the Navy and served as a Regent for the University of California.

Another officer — he requested not to be at the ceremony, but was ordered to be present — was Admiral John McCain Sr, grandfather of the senator. The 61 year admiral pushed himself so hard during the war that after the signing he immediately flew home. He died four days later, probably from heart failure and exhaustion.

General Curtis LeMay developed the devastating air war against our enemies. He took a humble view of the proceedings, though. Instead of feeling any personal glory or accomplishment, LeMay was thinking about all the young men under his command, who did not live to see the day. “Seemed to me that if I had done a better job, we might have saved a few more crews,” he wrote later.

The man at the top of the chain-of-command, President Truman, was barely known when he took over the presidency following the death of FDR. Yet Truman proved to be one of the most capable leaders this nation has ever produced. On a mind numbing number of vital decisions that came his way in hurried order, “Given ’Em Hell” Harry made the right choice every single time.

When Truman retired in 1953, he went back to the same home he and the First Lady lived in long before they went to Washington. He was given no pension (presidential pensions were conveniently set up by Lyndon Johnson just before he retired). Like Marshall and Nimitz, Truman turned down numerous offers that certainly would have made his life easier. His reasons now seem so quaint. He thought it undignified.

No one figure or political party today can be singled out for the terrible decisions and exceptional greed that we have witnessed in recent years. Or for the cringing face of our diplomacy. Can one even imagine Truman begging the Iranian ayatollahs for a nuclear deal not in our favor? Or handing over the keys to a country to the same terrorists who used it to launch an attack on America only 20 years ago?

Which presents the question: How did Americans come to simply accept the million dollar gigs, the mansions, and the celebrity parties that are now considered a well-earned perk of government service? From the rear-view mirror, those World War II leaders now seem so antiquated … and so missed.

RTWT

31 May 2021

Memorial Day

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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.

31 May 2021

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.

03 Feb 2021

The Four Chaplains

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A painting by Dudley G. Summers depicts the Four Chaplains in prayer together on the deck of the torpedoed USAT Dorchester Feb. 3, 1943.

The Dorchester went down 78 years ago today.

Chaplain Corps History:

It was Feb. 3, 1943, and the U.S. Army Transport Dorchester was one of three ships in a convoy, moving across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to an American base in Greenland. A converted luxury liner, the Dorchester was crowded to capacity, carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers.

It was only 150 miles from its destination when shortly after midnight, an officer aboard the German submarine U2 spotted it. After identifying and targeting the ship, he gave orders to fire. The hit was decisive, striking the ship, far below the water line. The initial blast killed scores of men and seriously wounded many more.

Others, stunned by the explosion were groping in the darkness. Panic and chaos quickly set in! Men were screaming, others crying or franticly trying to get lifeboats off the ship.

Through the pandemonium, four men spread out among the Soldiers, calming the frightened, tending the wounded and guiding the disoriented toward safety. They were four Army chaplains,

Lt. George Fox, a Methodist;
Lt. Alexander Goode, a Jewish Rabbi;
Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest;
and Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister.

Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains worked to bring calm to the men. As soldiers began to find their way to the deck of the ship, many were still in their underwear, where they were confronted by the cold winds blowing down from the arctic.

Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, reeling from the cold, headed back towards his cabin. “Where are you going?” a voice of calm in the sea of distressed asked. “To get my gloves,” Mahoney replied. “Here, take these,” said Rabbi Goode as he handed a pair of gloves to the young officer. “I can’t take those gloves,” Mahoney replied. “Never mind,” the Rabbi responded. “I have two pairs.” It was only long after that Mahoney realized that the chaplain never intended to leave the ship.

Once topside, the chaplains opened a storage locker and began distributing life jackets. It was then that Engineer Grady Clark witnessed an astonishing sight. When there were no more lifejackets in the storage room, the chaplains simultaneously removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men. When giving their life jackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did Fox or Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their life jackets to the next man in line. One survivor would later say, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”

As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains — arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers and singing hymns.

Of the 902 men aboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, only 230 survived. Before boarding the Dorchester back in January, Chaplain Poling had asked his father to pray for him, “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”

RTWT

03 Dec 2020

Wilhelm Furtwängler’s 1939-1945 Radio Broadcast Recordings

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There is a perverse kind of romantic interest in sharing via Wilhelm Furtwangler’s 1939-1945 Berlin Philharmonic Radio Recordings the great conductor’s unique and astoundingly intense performances all taking place in the damned and doomed atmosphere of WWII Berlin and the living presences of Hitler and Goebbels and many of the other principal figures of the Third Reich.

This 22-SACD set is accompanied by a 184-page hardcover book.

The earliest broadcasts (1939) were originally recorded on shellac discs. Beginning in 1942, the broadcasts were preserved on magnetic tape invented by AEG/ Magnetophon.

Every Furtwängler concert would be taped and edited for broadcast during one hour every Sunday night.

At the close of the war, the broadcast tapes were captured by the Soviet Union. It was not until 2017 that the original tapes were finally returned.

Needless to say, it is an expensive set (currently $245.25 at Amazon, and gradually increasing in price as it sells out), and is likely to produce some duplication for any serious fan of Furtwängler.

It was clearly issued originally last year, as there is this May 2, 2019 New Yorker review by Alex Ross.

The German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler has long held an exalted place among practitioners of the enigmatic art of waving one’s arms in front of an orchestra. A tall, willowy man with the air of a distracted philosopher, Furtwängler led the Berlin Philharmonic from 1922 until 1945, and again from 1952 until his death, in 1954. Many of the recordings he left behind are so charged with expressive intensity that comparing them to modern accounts of the same repertory can be invidious. Consider a performance of Beethoven’s “Coriolan” Overture, which the Berlin Philharmonic has released as part of a new box set titled “Wilhelm Furtwängler: The Radio Recordings, 1939–1945.” It begins with an octave C in the strings, followed by a loud, curt F-minor chord in the full orchestra. Few orchestras fail to shake up the audience with this gesture. Furtwängler’s players unleash a sound that falls somewhere between the musical and the geological—a seismic rumbling followed by a concussive crack.

There is no way to avoid thinking about the circumstances under which this recording was made. Furtwängler was Hitler’s favorite conductor, and the Philharmonic’s wartime concerts were taped, according to minutes from a meeting with Joseph Goebbels, “in accordance with the Führer’s wish.” … What did the music mean to him? To the audience? To Furtwängler? The conductor’s defenders profess to hear an anguished defiance in his Nazi-era performances. Surely this borderline-deranged account of the “Coriolan” cannot be in accord with Hitler’s ideology. But you could also hear it as a defiance of the enemy—a willingness to fight to the death. …

[T]he nimbus of greatness around Furtwängler arises not in spite of the historical situation but because of it. The conductor and his musicians were working “as if there were no tomorrow,” Taruskin writes, in discussing the last item in the set—the final movement of Brahms’s First Symphony, recorded amid the inferno of January, 1945. “The music builds unbearable tension, abjures all ‘Brahmsian’ restraint or relaxation, and its raging subjectivity hits dumbfounding extravagances of tempo at both ends of the scale. . . . The bloodiest of all wars brought the foremost classical musician in the country with the most distinguished tradition of classical music to the pinnacle of his career, setting a standard neither he nor any other symphonic conductor was ever moved to duplicate.” …

Nor are Furtwängler’s legendarily explosive accounts of nineteenth-century repertory beyond criticism. As the hours went by, I found myself tiring of his determination to wring significance from every phrase. The atmosphere is always dire; there is a dearth of pleasure, grace, and wit. Furtwängler often criticized what he called an “American” manner of orchestral playing—soulless, machinelike, monotonous. He associated that style with Toscanini, whose fame obsessed him inordinately. But he, too, was prone to a certain hectoring relentlessness. He brings an astonishing demonic energy to the final movements of the Beethoven Seventh and the Schubert Ninth, but the effect is more battering than it is uplifting.

That said, these recordings are precious documents, from which there is much to be learned. In an age of note-perfect digital renditions, what’s most striking is Furtwängler’s willingness—and his musicians’ willingness—to sacrifice precision for the sake of passion. The conductor had a famously wobbly, hard-to-read beat, which inspired many jokes. A member of the London Philharmonic quipped that one should wait until the “thirteenth preliminary wiggle” of the baton before beginning to play. Furtwängler’s renditions of Beethoven’s Fifth tend to begin not with “bum-bum-bum-BUM” but with “b-bumbumbumBUM.” The inexactitude was by design. It’s the roughness of the attacks at the beginning of the “Coriolan” that provides a sense of catastrophic power. As Taruskin points out, Furtwängler was entirely capable of eliciting unanimity when he wanted to, as rip-roaring accounts of Strauss’s “Don Juan” and “Till Eulenspiegel” attest. One never knows quite what to expect: spontaneity is the rule.

RTWT

John Fowler’s Amazon review is useful and valuable.

11 Nov 2020

Sloan Wilson’s WWII Trilogy

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Sloan Wilson, now largely forgotten, was once famous for his 1955 novel The Man in the Gray-Flannel Suit, which captured, and did much to define, the 1950s ethos of corporate conformity.

I recently stumbled upon Kindle versions of his WWII Trilogy, which delivered somewhat fictionalized versions of his war-time experiences as a Coast Guard officer.

Most of us were not actually aware that, during the WWII Emergency, the Coast Guard sailed far beyond the coast, operating as an extension of the US Navy.

In the first book, Ice Brothers, the protagonist, just out of college and married at the outbreak of the war, having a recreational yachting family background, wangles himself a commission as an officer in the Coast Guard, and finds himself immediately appointed Executive Officer of a meagerly-armed fishing trawler destined to fight the ice, deliver supplies, and finally eliminate German weather stations on the Greenland coast. It’s a darn good story.

In book 2, Voyage to Somewhere, after shore leave and recovery following two years service on the Greenland coasts, the protagonist (now with a different name) is handed command of a brand-new, hastily constructed and far-from-fully-equipped freighter with a crew made up of 26 newly enlisted seamen, all with surnames beginning with W, tasked to sail from California to Hawaii then on to New Guinea and every small island in between.

Book 3, Pacific Interlude, the same Sloan Wilson-figure, again with another name, has his third command: a decrepit, rusty and leaky tanker loaded with high-octane aviation fuel for delivery to brand-new American bases on the Philippines. His chances of survival look slim.

Wilson’s alter ego knows perfectly well that he could easily escape this assignment, but just can’t bring himself to do it.

Did he really have to accept the likely death sentence of being assigned to the Y – 18? Like the woman who did not want to make love, a man who did not want to fight for life in a war could get constant headaches and backaches. If he complained enough to some doctor here in Brisbane, the word would be sent to the personnel officer in New Guinea and a replacement would arrive. Headquarters didn’t want skippers who are chronically ill. No one was forced to command a ship. So why not just beg off this crazy assignment?

He would not do that because he would not do that. Not much of an answer, but it was the truth. He remembered his father telling him that the Grants and his mother’s people, the Garricks, had fought in every American war and probably in the wars of England and Germany, where they came from, back through the centuries… “Wars never make much sense if you try to find fancy causes for them,” his father Charles had said. “No country is morally much superior to any other, if you think of history, the battles over religion and politics always seem ridiculous in retrospect. One fact remains: it’s the nature of any human society to expand until it collides with another. It then is repulsed or swallows the other. A nation without enough good fighting men is bound to be swallowed. In time of peace no one likes fighting men — they are a reproach to our morality. But when the bugle blows as it does and will in almost every generation, a nation stands or falls according to the strength of its fighting men. Nowadays industry and science have a lot to do with the fighting of wars, but they would be useless without the cutting edge of fighting men. Never be ashamed that all your people have been fighting men.”

25 Oct 2020

A Fine Read

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Members of the Baby Boom generation like myself are the product of WWII. Our parents typically met during the war, and the ultimate American victory led to their reunion and our post-war arrival.

We grew up in the post-war world of American political, military, economic, and cultural pre-eminence that they built.

My father served in the Marine Corps through the Pacific Campaigns, and I grew up familiar with the names of Guadalcanal, Guam, and Iwo Jima. I was, as a boy, eager to hear war stories, but like most veterans my father didn’t like to talk about it.

“Did you ever kill anybody?” I once demanded. And my father dismissively replied: “We were all shooting at them, and they were falling down. You couldn’t tell who hit anybody.” That was as far as he’d go.

Another time, I asked him if he had been afraid. He just laughed, and said: “We never saw them, but they were running away.” He mentioned that, on one island, they ran all the way to some cliffs on the far side, and jumped off.

My father never joined any veterans groups. He never used veteran hospitals, and he despised the kind of men who were always looking for veteran benefits. He had his last fist fight at age 78. He was in a barber shop on Mount Vernon Street in Shenandoah and some other old WWII vet was complaining that the government wasn’t doing enough for him. My father disagreed, and asked where the guy had served. He admitted that he’d never left the United States. My father laughed at him, and he got belligerent, so my father hauled off, hit him in the jaw, and knocked him down. The young people in the neighborhood were horrified at men of such age descending to fisticuffs.

When my father passed away, I became obsessed with the desire to understand where he had been during the war and what he’d gone through. I bought every history of the Pacific Campaigns, read them all, and contacted the Marine Corps to get his military records and to figure out what awards he was entitled to. I found that he was entitled to four stars (for combat service) on his Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal along with the Presidential Unit Citation (awarded long after the war to Marines from the Third Division who served on Iwo Jima).

Recently, I came across very positive references to the publication of the third, and last, volume of Ian W. Toll’s Pacific Theater Campaign histories. I bought the kindle versions, and I’ve read all three now with great pleasure.

Ian Toll does by far the best job I’ve found of elucidating and dissecting the perspectives, plans, strategies, and decisions of both sides, and he takes the reader through the individual battles and campaigns with a compelling narrative and a lot of technical insight and details that even a reader well acquainted with the same actions will find new.

Frankly, I think his three volumes put Samuel Eliot Morrison’s magisterial 15-volumes in the shade, and that is really saying something.

I recommend them in the strongest terms.

They are:

Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942

The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944

Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945

24 Oct 2020

Unexploded Bomb from World War II Washed up on North Carolina Beach

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NY Post:

A 100-pound unexploded bomb from the World War II era has washed up on a North Carolina shore, prompting authorities to establish a safety perimeter ahead of a planned detonation, according to a report.

US Navy officials said the large, rusty bomb was found Thursday morning in Buxton on Cape Hatteras, where members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit confirmed it is a live device, the News & Observer reported.

A half-mile safety perimeter was set up to keep tourists out, including the historic Cape Hatteras Light Station grounds and surrounding beach, the National Park Service said.

The US Navy EOD unit placed the bomb “deep inside the beach” near the lighthouse beach access parking area.

The Park Service on Friday morning said the detonation was postponed until later in the day due to a nearby residential fire.

Damage to nearby structures is unlikely from the expected blast, but “Buxton residents and visitors may hear the detonation,” officials said.

During World War II, military training exercises took place in the waters off the Outer Banks.

“The discovery of old military devices is not uncommon along the Outer Banks,” David Hallac, superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, said in the release.

RTWT

HT: Weasel Zippers via Bird Dog.

07 Sep 2020

Packard PT Boat Engine

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Bring a Trailer auctions sold this for $13,450 On 8/17/20.

This Packard 4M-2500 engine is one of approximately 12,700 built and is believed to have powered a US Navy patrol torpedo (PT) boat during World War II. The supercharged 41-liter V12 produced 1,200 horsepower when new and features overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It is not in running condition and sits in a wooden box equipped with castors. Retained equipment includes a Holley downdraft carburetor, centrifugal supercharger, and a Delco-Remy electric starter. The engine was donated in 2008 to the seller, the Tahoe Maritime Museum, and is now sold on a bill of sale at no reserve in Carson City, Nevada.

Originally developed by Packard in the 1920s for use in aircraft, the water-cooled 1A-2500 V12 was eventually developed into a marine engine. The 4M-2500 was the fourth marine variant, succeeding the 900 horsepower 1M-2500, 1,000 horsepower 2M-2500, and the 3M-2500, which debuted in 1939. Only 15 examples of the 1M, 2M, and 3M versions were built, but 4M production ramped up ahead of the United States’ entry into World War II, resulting in 12,700 examples being manufactured between 1940 and 1945.

With a 6.375” bore and a 6.5” stoke, this gasoline-powered OHC V12 displaces 2,490 cubic inches (40.8 liters). A Holley 1685FR downdraft carburetor, crank-driven centrifugal supercharger, and Delco-Remy 841 electric starter motor are retained. The 4M variant produced 1,200 horsepower when new.

Serial number P3255 is stamped in the crankcase base as pictured above. 4M engine serial numbers range from 701 to 13,400, and the seller states this unit was likely built during the early portion of US involvement in World War II. The engine and ancillaries are finished in gray paint, which is peeling throughout.

RTWT

It was evidently purchased by an enthusiast who is rebuilding a WWII PT-Boat. The discussion at the bottom goes into a lot of interesting technical details.

15 Aug 2020

75th Anniversary of V-J Day — 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.

01 Jun 2020

The First Marines on Peleliu

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Robert Leckie, Helmet for my Pillow, 1957:

We were leaving. The battle had been won. Extermination had come to the Japanese ten thousand on Peleliu and my regiment — the First — was licking its wounds on the beach. Of my battalion — a force of some fifteen hundred men — there remained but twenty-eight effectives when the command came for the last assault on that honeycomb of caves and pillboxes which the Japanese had carved into Bloody Nose Ridge — in men and blood and agony the most costly spit of land in the wide Pacific. When the command came, they rose from their holes like shades from sepulchers … and advanced. They could not run, they could barely walk — and they dragged their weapons. But they obeyed and they attacked.

25 May 2020

Memorial Day

,

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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