World War II
The Rest of the Story
The Greer Incident
The "Greer Incident" occurred 4 September 1941
two hundred miles southwest of Iceland, USS Greer knifed through the
cold, gray Atlantic, taking the mail to our troops in Reykjavik.
Suddenly the wake of a torpedo came streaking towards the ship.
The little destroyer put her helm over and by the grace of God
was not hit. For several hours the Greer quartered the seas releasing
depth charges at every suspicion of an underwater object. Apparently
the U-boat escaped.
The Navy later recanted its tale of the Greer's innocence
and admitted that the destroyer had been aiding a British
air patrol against the U-boat when it was attacked.
The President addressed the nation saying "This is piracy.
If German or Italian vessels of war enter the waters the protection
of which is necessary for the American defense, they do so at their
own peril." This was the shoot on sight order in which "the waters ... necessary..." extended protection (attack) to the whole North Atlantic.
Return to : Belligerent Acts Prior to US Entry into WW2
On October 16, 1941, three ships in convoy SC-48 of four dozen ships bound for England, were torpedoed by U-Boats. One of the escorts was the new American destroyer, USS Kearny (DD-432). Kearny moved toward the position of the U-Boats and began dropping depth charges. The attack continued throughout the night. Just after midnight, October 17, Kearny was torpedoed by U-568. This caused the deaths of 11 sailors ; another 22 were injured. The torpedo struck on the starboard side with such force that it nearly cut the ship in two. The crew managed to confine the flooding to the forward fire room. The ship was able to steam away with power from the after fire room toward Iceland at between 5 and 10 knots for temporary repairs. On May 28, 1942, the British sank U-568 in the Mediterranean Sea. All hands survived the sinking and were taken as POWs.
In March 1941, Reuben James (DD-245) joined the convoy escort force established to promote the safe arrival of war material to Britain. This escort force guarded convoys as far as Iceland, where they became responsibility of British escorts. Based at Hvalfjordur, Iceland, it sailed from Argentia, Newfoundland, 23 October 1941, with four other destroyers to escort eastbound convoy HX-156. Reuben James had dropped two depth charges on targets and had tied the safety locks to automatically arm the depth charges. While escorting that convoy at about 0525, 31 October 1941, Reuben James was torpedoed by German submarine U-552. The ship had postured itself between an ammunition ship in the convoy and the known position of a German U-Boat Wolfpack. Its magazine exploded, and the foreward half of ship sank quickly. When the stern half went down, the depth charges went off. Of the crew, 44 survived, and 100 died. Reuben James was the first U.S. Navy ship sunk by hostile action in World War II.
Short of War :
On 28 October, while Yorktown(CV-5), New Mexico (BB-40), and other American warships were screening a convoy ; these were some of the ships FDR had transferred from Pearl Harbor to the Atlantic in May 1941. A destroyer picked up a submarine contact and dropped depth charges while the convoy itself made the first of the convoy's three emergency changes of course. Late that afternoon, engine repairs to one of the ships in the convoy reduced the convoy's speed to 11 knots.
During the night, the American ships intercepted strong German radio signals, indicating a submarine was reporting the group. RAdm Hewitt, commanding the escort force sent a destroyer to sweep astern of the convoy to destroy the U-boat or at least to drive him under.
The next day, while cruiser scout-planes patrolled overhead, Yorktown and Savannah fueled their escorting destroyers, finishing the task just at dusk. On the 30th, Yorktown was preparing to fuel three destroyers when other escorts made sound contacts. The convoy subsequently made 10 emergency turns while Morris (DD-417) and Anderson (DD-411) dropped depth charges, and Hughes (DD-410) assisted in developing the contact. Anderson later made two more depth charge attacks, noticing "considerable oil with slick spreading but no wreckage."
The short-of-war period was becoming more like the real thing as each
day went on. Elsewhere on 30 October, more than a month before Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, U-562 torpedoed the destroyer Reuben James (DD-245), sinking her with a heavy loss of life -- the first loss of an American warship in World War II.
Twenty thousand British troops were met by New Mexico (BB-40), Yorktown (CV-5), Savannah (CL-42), Philadelphia (CL-41), and destroyers at Mid Atlantic on Nov 2, 1941, and escorted to Halifax. (See above.) The 18th Division embarqued six U.S. passenger liners converted to troopships (AP-21 - AP-26) Nov 10, 1941 under escort of USN TF-14 : Ranger (CV-4)
(to Trinidad), Quincy (CA-39), Vincennes (CA-44), and 8 destroyers, destination Egypt by way of Cape Town. En route, the attack on Pearl Harbor officially brought America into the war and a new destination for the British division. These troops debarked at Singapore as the Japanese were entering the city 30Jan'42. The troop transports were fired upon by Japanese artillary, Wakefield was hit with a bomb, but all escaped. The troops marched into the city and continued on to Prisoner Camps for the duration of the war, most sent to Thialand to build "The Bridge Over the River Kwai."
more -- offsite
Wakefield (AP-21), former SS Manhatten ; Mount Vernon (AP-22) former SS Washington ; Westpoint (AP-23) former SS America ; Orizaba (AP-24) former Ward liner ; Leonard Wood (AP-25) former SS Western World ; Joseph T. Dickman (AP-26) former SS President Roosevelt.
Wakefield was damaged by a bomb hit at Singapore which killed all in the sickbay. Departed that night for Colombo and repairs. She was repaired at Bombay, then proceeded to the U.S. via Capetown. Became "The Boston and Liverpool Ferry" carrying 217,237 troops.
Mount Vernon after offloading troops at Singapore, was ordered to Suez to bring Australian troops to Colombo and Fremantle. In Australia, she loaded survivors of the Java Sea Battle and proceeded to San Francisco, via Wellington, arriving in March. Troop transport San Francisco to S.Pac for two years, then to Atlantic.
West Point with Wakefield carried refuges to Colombo, Ceylon, then to Suez to take Australian troops to Adelaide and Melbourne before heading across the Pacific toward San Francisco.
Made trips round the world. Post war reconverted to SS America to carry passengers between New York and Southhampton, England, into 1964. Continued in foreign service until 1994.
Leonard Wood had boiler problems and proceeded independently from Trinidad. She returned, entering Philadelphia Navy Yard in March 1942 for conversion to an attack transport. Earned eight battle stars for World War II service.
Joseph T. Dickman retraced route then made trips to Caribbean, North Africa, S. Pac. Feb'43 reclassified APA-13, to Sicily, D-Day, then Pacific and Okinawa. Received six battle stars for World War II service.
The B-29 was accellerated into production with insufficient time to test and correct problems. To lighten weight, the engines had magnesium parts and added a second row of pistons that could not be sufficiently cooled. Upper cyliners had to be changed every 25 hours (400 hrs by end of war). If an overheated engine caught fire, the crew had 90 seconds to bailout before the wing burned through. The planes were assembled by massive numbers of people with no experience.
FDR promised 150 planes to attack Japan from China. This required a supply line through India. Some B-29 were converted to fuel tankers. Japanese army
threatened, so the air fields were well inland; only southern Japan could be reached. 92 planes left Indian bases to relay fields in China, then to Japan, 47 planes bombed the primary target 13June44 with one bomb hit. Theater commands demanded that B-29s be used to hit locally important targets. The XXth Air Force transferred to Tinian 1Apr'45.
Adm Nimitz had been told to bypass islands so as to occupy the Marianna's soonest.
The B-29 was rushed into operations from Saipan which was declared secure 9July44. Snipers continued to harrass construction crews.
The flight from Saipan to Tokyo and back was 3,200 miles. In the first raid, 24Nov44 of
110 planes, 17 planes aborted from overheaded engines. That raid had to fly around a typhoon and encountered the 200 mph jet stream, then unknown, plus cloud cover. There was one runway on Saipan, the next nearest was 1,200 miles away. Therefore if a plane crashed on return, all following would be lost. The need for Iwo Jima as an emergency landing site, and eventually a major base, was evident to support the strategy of bombing Japan into submission. The last raid was by 828 B-29s with no losses.
The Consolidated B-32 (improved B-24) was authorized at the same time as the B-29 (improved B-17) and flew first, but it had developmental problems, too, and only 115 were built and 17 saw combat from a test site in the Philippines. Others did photo reconn from Okinawa to monitor surrender compliance and were attacked on 17-18Aug'45 -- the last man killed in WW2 was a photographer crewmen of a B-32.
At the height of the Battle of Britain (Fall 1940), Gandhi had stated his support for the fight against fascism and of the British War effort, stating he did not seek to raise a free India from the ashes of Britain. Indians joined with other Commonwealth troops. However, his attitude changed as Allied fortunes waned.
On July 14, 1942, the Indian National Congress passed a resolution demanding complete independence from the British government ; if the British did not accede to the demands, massive civil disobedience would be launched.
The most militant wing, Bose's Provisional Government of Free India, formed the Indian National Army in 1943 and fielded troops which fought along with the Imperial Japanese Army against the British and Commonwealth forces in the campaigns in Burma, Imphal and Kohima, and later, against the successful Burma Campaign of the Allies. 40,000 troops surrendered with the fall of Japan.
Self-sealing fuel tanks were installed on all new fleet aircraft along with protective armor for pilots and observers by the time of Pearl Harbor. This was learned from the European war where a single bullet was found able to flame a Spitfire or Hurricane. When a self-sealing fuel tank is punctured, the fuel will spill onto a layer of absorbant rubber where the swelling seals the puncture. These were effective against .30 and .50 caliber bullets and an occational 20mm shell. There is no question that this saved American pilots and crewmen. Japanese planes, while lighter and more manueverable, were more fragile and this resulted in loss of trained pilots that were difficult to replace. However, early tanks could not withstand the stress of repeated carrier landings and leaked around the fittings. In some cases the expanding rubber, contained in a second rubber case, caused the tank to burst inward. F2A-3 Buffaloes had to be removed from carrier service. Yorktown (CV-5) was down to 12 operational Wildcat fighters immediately before the crucial Battle of the Coral Sea and had to put into Tongatabu for a supply of replacement tanks. Tongatabu (now Tongatapu) was a staging base in the Tonga Islands between and south of Fiji and Samoa and 1,500 miles from the Coral Sea.
Kooskia, Idaho was the base camp for construction workers on the Lewis and Clark highway from Lewiston, ID towards Missoula, MT. The highway was begun in the 1920's was continued with Federal prison trustee labor in the late 1930s. When federal funding ended during the war, construction was continued with volunteers from Japanese relocation centers until the end of the war.
Kooskia camp housed 200 men. It had started as a Civilian Conservation Corp tent camp until 1935 when it was rebuilt as a Federal prison facility housing trustees who worked on the Lewis and Clark Highway. When the federal prison camp ended, the construction jobs were opened to volunteers from Japanese relocation centers from May 1943 to May 1945. Prison management was replaced by highway department supervisors. Pay was about $60/month.
Civilian Public Service (CPS) was a program developed at the onset of WWII which provided those whose conscience forbade them to kill, the opportunity to do work of national importance under civilian direction rather than go to war. Nearly 12,000 men made this choice, and many women voluntarily joined the cause. They fought forest fires, worked in mental institutions, planted trees, did dairy testing and served as subjects for medical experiments in more than 150 camps scattered throughout the United States.
Bowsing the CPS website, it looks like a lot of CCC camps were taken over by
Quaker and Mennonite pacificst groups for alternate service for their members and others.
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Last updated on March 22, 2015 -- add CPS
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