Category Archive 'WWII'
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


WWII Victory Medal

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

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

25 May 2020

My Father’s War


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.


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


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


Third Marine Division

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


III Marine Amphibious Corps

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


V Marine Amphibious Corps

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


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


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


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

04 May 2020

Found in 1944

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While entrenching in defense of the Soviet Bagration Offensive of 1944:

“On that road, 132 years before, the Grande Armée had moved on Moscow. Not far from there is the source of the Beresina at Stujanka, the site of the historic battlefield. During the entrenching work at that time a Napoleonic eagle had been found. They had immediately sent it to the Fuehrer’s headquarters. The parallels with the Napoleonic retreat were borne in on us in a shattering way.”

— Armin Scheiderbauer, Adventures in My Youth: A German Soldier on the Eastern Front 1941-45, 2006.

26 Mar 2020

Japanese Battleship Armor Post-War Tested

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26″ (66cm) Class “A” (Yamato-Class) Main Armament Turret Face (Port) Plate.

This section of armor plate was meant for use on an 18″ Main Gun Turret on a Yamato class battleship and was found at the Kure Naval Base in Japan after the end of WWII then brought back to the US for testing.

This plate section was originally intended for IJN SHINANO, the third Japanese YAMATO-Class super-battleship, which was converted into an aircraft carrier instead, and sunk on its way to final fitting out yard by a U.S. submarine.

The damage is the result of the impact of a 16″ US armor piercing naval shell during ballistic testing 16 October 1946 at the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgreen, VA.

This plate is now on display at the U.S. Navy Memorial Museum at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC, just in front of the old Gun Factory building.


24 Mar 2020

St. Paul’s Watch

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Members of the St. Paul’s Watch at one of the advance locations around the Cathedral.

During the German Blitz, civilian volunteers, many in old age, risked their lives to protect London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral from bombs and fire. One such volunteer who served in the St. Paul’s Watch left a diary (alas! long out-of-print, expensive, and scarce).

Arthur Butler was a melancholic, artistic man, a retired architect known for his slightly rambling way of speaking. On the night of April 16, 1941, when a bomb fell through the roof of St. Paul’s, London, he was high on the cathedral’s dome, wearing a flashlight on a belt around his waist, looking at the fires reflected in the Thames, far below. Butler liked the shadows on nights like these, cast from strange angles by falling flares. He had enjoyed the bursts of artillery in the previous war too, flashing orange over the trenches, when he was young. Now, flames crept into crimson smoke, as buildings burned white, then red, then orange. Many were skeletal, from earlier raids. It was a “weird and terrible loveliness,” Butler recalled. As planes flew closer – “silly screaming dragons,” he wrote – there was a crescendo of anti-aircraft fire. Memories overcame him. Fire engine bells rang in the distance.

Isolated amongst ruins, the German planes seemed to seek out St. Paul’s. It was, according to Butler, “the very heart of London and the symbol of it,” apparently defiant and certain. In his long out-of-print diary, which was published in 1942 as Recording Ruin, he called it a “sacred place as a race.” (I recently found a copy in a secondhand store and thought it looked interesting.) A church had stood here since the year 604, and cathedrals had been built, and destroyed by fire, ever since. The present St. Paul’s was begun in 1675, and it was still the city’s tallest building. During the war, it took on huge psychological significance. At the end of 1940, two weeks before Butler began writing his diary, the Daily Mail printed what would become the most famous photograph of the Blitz, with the dome rising from smoke, beneath the headline: “War’s Greatest Picture: St. Paul’s Stands Unharmed.” (The same photograph was reprinted in German newspapers, to suggest London’s destruction.) During the worst raids, Winston Churchill himself ordered fire fighters to protect St. Paul’s, passing needier buildings.

Inside the cathedral that April night, as Butler watched the buildings burn, a single red light hung from the underside of the dome. Water sometimes pooled beneath it, blown in through shattered windows. The high altar lay ruined, destroyed in the raid featured in the Daily Mail’s “unharmed” photograph, a tangle of scaffold supporting the arch above. The little remaining stained glass glowed from the fires outside, picking out a mechanism of pulleys and gantries, designed to lower the injured from the upper floors. Butler liked the cathedral most this way, icy blue and painterly in the moonlight, the white stone whiter somehow, the shadows rich and dark, with just a hint of red. Dim flashlights could be seen scurrying around the Whispering Gallery, and down the mile or so of cathedral corridors. A dozen men, mostly middle-aged or elderly, carried sandbags and water pumps, hurrying to the incendiaries that rattled on the lead roofs, like coals falling from a scuttle. Water ran down the staircases hidden in the hollow walls, as women carried up cups of tea.

Each night, a shift of these volunteers, known as St. Paul’s Watch, guarded the cathedral. Many, like Butler, had been architects, and had fought in World War I. Shortly before the Blitz began, the Dean of St. Paul’s advertised for help, hoping former architects might familiarize themselves most easily with the cathedral’s labyrinthine plans, and perhaps cared enough to risk their lives for it. Two hundred and eighty people put their names forward. They were issued overalls and tin hats, and given training on explosive incendiaries, delayed action bombs and parachute mines. They walked through tear gas, to prepare for what might come.

Alongside the architects, there were minor canons and elderly gentlemen of the Choir, Red Cross workers, and members of the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service. There were university professors, and students of medicine and theology and music. John Betjeman, the future Poet Laureate, volunteered, with Post Office workers, and members of foreign governments in exile. “A cross-section of English society,” the Dean wrote in his account of the war, “essential, yet unobtrusive, vital but anonymous.” Some would find their evenings empty after the war, with nothing to do, feeling old again.

Before their shift began, those on duty prayed the same prayer at the Watch headquarters in the cathedral Crypt – “lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night” – and listened to the news on the wireless. Many felt the hand of God protected them. One volunteer routinely circled the exterior of the dome, reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Each wore a gold pin on their left breast, decorated with crossed swords. A friend of Butler’s had once laughed at his badge, when he wore it to a dinner party. “I suppose it’s the same as displaying emotion and is therefore not done,” he recalled.


The story of the St. Paul’s Watch.

This tablet remembering The Watch is set in the floor by the western end of the Cathedral

19 Mar 2020

“And They Lived Happily Ever After…”

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HT: Karen L. Myers.

15 Mar 2020

“At Home in the Sky”

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Chuck Yeager interviewed in 1991 in Grass Valley, CA on aerial combat. This footage came on VHS with the deluxe edition of Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat flight simulation game in 1991.

03 Nov 2019

22-Year-Old “Instagram Influencer Thinks Teaching WWII History Harms Millennials’ Mental Health

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The British newspaper the Scottish Sun reports on a recent pronouncement from an “Instagram Influencer.” I know what Instagram is, but I had not been aware that it had “influencers.” I also had not really been aware that British millennials successfully rivaling ours in deficient masculinity. Wow!

Freddie Bentley, 22, said he thought the schools’ curriculum on the devastating conflict should be cut back because it was “so intense”.

Bentley, who appeared on The Circle, told Good Morning Britain today: “It was a hard situation, World War 2, I don’t want anyone to think I’m being disrespectful.”

He added: “I remember learning it as a child thinking ‘Oh my God it’s so intense’.”

He thought that any mental health issues a youngster may have could be worsened by learning about the war that saw the Allied forces defeat Nazi Germany.

He told the show’s presenters Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway: “’I don’t think encouraging death or telling people how many people died in the world war is going to make it better.”

Instead of youngsters learning about the horrendous war that claimed at least 70million lives, Bentley suggested schools could instruct pupils in topics such as understanding Brexit and how to get a mortgage.

He said: “There’s so many problems going on in the world, like Brexit, that’s not taught in schools.

“When I left school it hit me like a ton of bricks – I didn’t know anything to do with life.”

Currently, Key Stage 3 pupils learn about about the war, covering areas such as the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, the Battle of Dunkirk and Winston Churchill’s leadership.


09 Oct 2019

“Jeep in a Crate” — A Persistent Urban Legend

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Somebody posted the above photograph in the Vintage Firearms Discussion Group on Facebook (the link probably won’t work if you aren’t a member), and a lengthy argument ensued. I’m afraid the skeptics won.

WWII Jeep Parts debunks the legend:

“Cheap Army Surplus Jeeps! You can buy a brand new jeep in a crate for $50!” Ads with headlines like this ran for decades in the back of Boy’s Life, Popular Mechanics, and several other magazines I used to read as a kid in the 1960’s (and those ads probably ran in the 1940’s and 1950’s as well). The ads promised to tell you how to buy Willys MB and Ford GPW jeeps and other government surplus for extremely low prices. They charged a fee for sending you this information. You mailed in your payment and waited for the postman to deliver the pamphlet that would divulge the secrets of buying tools, equipment, jeeps, trucks, etc. etc. on the cheap for “your fun and profit”.


24 Jul 2019

Taki Looks at Generation Wuss

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Taki recently had some unkind thoughts about today’s rising generation, all their talk about trigger-warnings and microaggressions, their complaints about being made to feel “unsafe.”

[L]et’s [discuss] the young, or snowflakes, as they’re called nowadays. Last year I spent a week on the beaches of Normandy in the company of some military historians preparing their books for this year’s 75th anniversary of D-Day. We visited the first German bunker to be hit right on the edge of the beach about fifty yards from the sea. James Holland, the noted British historian, pointed out that the first Victoria Cross was awarded to a Scot grenadier who blew up the bunker, killing all the Germans inside. I pointed out to him that the defenders were mostly men over 50 and some youngsters of 16 and 17. They had a couple of machine guns and a Panzerfaust—bazooka—as weapons. Looking out, they had seen 6,700 ships or so firing their huge guns at them. No one had run. They had stood and died at their posts. It was not a popular argument—everyone was British—but the courage of the German soldier was not disputed. Nor, of course, of the invading American, British, and Canadian troops.

What does the above have to do with the hissy fits sparked by our youth of today? Everything! The men who fought on the beaches 75 years ago never saw themselves as worthy of special treatment. None of them were “offended” or “upset” when ordered to jump into the water under a hail of bullets and hit the beaches. Ditto the Germans when ordered to stand and fight against incredible superior odds. When the snowflakes complain about some rape scene in a long-ago-published book, and the fact they had not been warned about it, I wonder what the men who fought on those beaches must think. (Thank God for the brave men, very few are left alive to read such BS.) But dear readers, try to imagine these phone zombies, selfie addicts, and me-me-me gamers of today being ordered to attack or defend those beaches. They would expire before the first shot was fired. Long live us oldies.

19 Jun 2019

A Chance Encounter in the Appenines

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Clouded Apollo (Parnassius apollo siciliae)

The Spectator has an excerpt from Eric Newby’s
Love and War in the Appenines:

I took off my rucksack and lay down in a grassy hollow at the edge of the cliff. The sun was hot and soon I took off my shirt and then my boots and socks. The air was filled with the humming of bees and the buzzing of insects and from somewhere further up the mountain there came the clanking of sheep bells, carried on a gentle breeze that was blowing from that direction. Then a single bell began to toll in the valley, and other more distant bells echoed it, but they soon ceased and I looked across to the distant peaks which previously had been so clearly delineated but were now beginning to shimmer and become indistinct in the haze that was enveloping them. And quite soon I fell asleep.

I woke to find a German soldier standing over me. At first, with the sun behind him, he was as indistinct as the peaks had become, but then he swam into focus. He was an officer and he was wearing summer battledress and a soft cap with a long narrow peak. He had a pistol but it was still in its holster on his belt and he seemed to have forgotten that he was armed because he made no effort to draw it. Across one shoulder and hanging down over one hip in a very unmilitary way he wore a large old-fashioned civilian haversack, as if he was a member of a weekend rambling club, rather than a soldier, and in one hand he held a large, professional-looking butterfly net. He was a tall, thin, pale young man of about 25 with mild eyes and he appeared as surprised to see me as I was to see him, but much less alarmed than I was, virtually immobilized, lying on my back without my boots and socks on.

‘Buon giorno,’ he said, courteously. His accent sounded rather like mine must, I thought. ‘Che bella giornata.’

At least up to now he seemed to have assumed that I was an Italian, but as soon as I opened my mouth he would know I wasn’t. Perhaps I ought to try and push him over the cliff, after all he was standing with his back to it; but I knew that I wouldn’t. It seemed awful even to think of murdering someone who had simply wished me good day and remarked on what a beautiful one it was, let alone actually doing it. If ever there was going to be an appropriate time to go on stage in the part of the mute from Genoa which I had often rehearsed but never played, this was it. I didn’t answer.

‘Da dove viene, lei?’ he asked.

I just continued to look at him. I suppose I should have been making strangled noises and pointing down my throat to emphasize my muteness, but just as I couldn’t bring myself to assail him, I couldn’t do this either. It seemed too ridiculous. But he was not to be put off. He removed his haversack, put down his butterfly net, sat down opposite me in the hollow and said: ‘Lei, non e Italiano.’

It was not a question. It was a statement of fact which did not require an answer. I decided to abandon my absurd act.

‘Si, sono Italiano.’

He looked at me, studying me carefully: my face, my clothes and my boots which, after my accent, were my biggest give-away, although they were very battered now.

‘I think that you are English,’ he said, finally, in English. ‘English, or from one of your colonies. You cannot be an English deserter; you are on the wrong side of the battle front. You do not look like a parachutist or a saboteur. You must be a prisoner-of-war. That is so, is it not?’

I said nothing.

‘Do not be afraid,’ he went on. ‘I will not tell anyone that I have met you, I have no intention of spoiling such a splendid day either for you or for myself. They are too rare.


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