Reader Provided Stories
World War II -- the early years
I enjoyed reviewing your web page. One related item to your listing of the
November 6, 1941 capture of the German freighter ODENWALD.
An interesting footnote is a summary conclusion reached in a report of the
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. They concluded that one of the 45
OLDENWALD crewmen captured was actually an active duty member of the German
Navy. As such Helmut Ruge was proclaimed as the "first German prisoner of
war captured by the United States" in a classified Navy report published
March 12, 1942 and since declassified by the National Archives.
Helmut Claus Hinrich Ruge, 24 years old, was serving as the 2nd Radio
Operator when the ODENWALD was captured by the USS OMAHA and USS SOMERS. It
was later discovered that Ruge had been one of the crew of the German pocket
battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE which was scuttled off Montevideo on December
17, 1939. He was able to make his way from Argentina to Chile and then, in
the summer of 1941, to Japan. He had worked briefly in the German Embassy
radio station in Tokyo when he was ordered to return to Germany on the
ODENWALD. The ODENWALD left Yokohama, JAPAN on August 21 and began its
attempt to reach France with materials for the German war effort. They had
reached the South Atlantic and were near the equator when stopped on November 6.
It was very interesting to read your page. I noticed that
my father, Helmut Ruge, happened to be the first prisoner of war taken
by the US on Nov. 6, 1941 from the merchant ship Odenwald. He is still
alive (now 85). He might be able to give you further details of what
happened during those days prior to the US declaring war.
Please let me know if you are interested in reaching him.
We contacted him and record the email of some of
He has now recorded his memories: The Story of Helmut Ruge
Return to : Belligerent Acts Prior to US Entry into WW2
Great website - Many thanks for the comparisons and notes to review.
I would like to share this comment regarding the entry "
Apr 17. Neutral Egyptian steamship Zamzam is shelled and sunk by auxiliary cruiser Atlantis..."
The notations if corrected should simply be adjusted to read: (24) Ambulance Drivers of the British-American Ambulance Corps.,
which was based in New York City.
As a side note, two of the remaining 23 drivers escaped from the
Germans as they were being transported by train across France.
They evaded the Germans and walked on their own into Vichy France
and later made passage back to the United States via Lisbon.
The other two drivers were mistakenly released by the Germans
based on passport status. Those drivers were allowed to move
with the Americans Civilians and Missionaries upon their release
at the Spanish border.
The 24th driver, F.J. Vicovari, commander of the detachment
remained aboard the German Raider due to his injuries at the time
of the attack on April 17th. His incredible odyssey continued
into the month of November, 1941 when the British Cruiser
M.S. DEVONSHIRE attacked the Hilfskreuzer. The Raider ATLANTIS
was scuttled/sunk and those survivors took to lifeboats and huddled
aboard U-126/Bauer until being taken aboard the German supply ship
PYTHON. She too met her fate to the guns of the H.M.S. DORSETSHIRE
just days later and Vicovari was in the water for the 3rd time!
German orders to rescue these crews and survivors (500+) were
issued and it took the combined effort of 8 German and Italian
submarines to bring them all ashore. Vicovari was later transferred
to the Merchant Marine camp, MARLAG und MILAG near Bremen.
He was released in a POW exchange program and arrive back in the
USA in March of 1944.
Although neutral, ZAMZAM had been running in BlackOut with neither
Lights nor National Ensign to show her true registry. ZAMZAM was
considered to be an Armed Merchant Cruiser or Troop Ship based on
silhouette and recollection that she had been a trooper during the
World War as LEICESTERSHIRE under the BIBBY Line flag.
Return to : Belligerent Acts Prior to US Entry into WW2
Japanese mini-sub Commander
I was in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack.
A convoy was made up in February to transport military
dependents to San Francisco. My mother, sister and myself were
on one of those ships, U.S. Grant.
I was only eleven at the time.
Two cabins down from us was Lt.Sakamaki, the sub commander
captured in the grounded mini sub. He was being taken back for
interrogation. As the cabins faced on to the deck, everyone left
their doors open during the day. I saw the prisoner several times. He was
guarded around the clock. He was very aware of his dishonor. Each day he
was allowed a walk on the deck during which he was surrounded by so many
guards he disappeared in a well of khaki. It seems they were afraid he
would jump overboard and commit suicide. While he was in his cabin, the
guards stayed outside the door. During one of these periods when he had
relative privacy, he burned his cheeks with a cigarette, the only means
available to him to punish himself.
There was a little girl aboard that somehow became acquainted
with the prisoner. The guards allowed her to visit him once in awhile.
He wrote her name for her in Japanese, which suggests he knew at least
a little English.
I did not see Lt. Sakamaki removed from the ship nor do I know where he was
taken. I am sorry I can't tell you more, but the prisoner was kept away
from the civilians. All his activities, including meals, took place in his
Yvonne Her story at Pear Harbor
Return to : Japanese Submarines at Pearl Harbor
USS President Taylor
In your great site you mention that the troopship
USS President Taylor went aground at Canton Island early in 1942
and that it was destroyed by Japanese Aircraft.
For a year 1943-1944 I was stationed a stones throw from that ship
on the beach, went aboard a few times, saw little damage.
Furniture from the old Taylor was all over our little island
-- I saw a full length mirror in a tent -- the shack we called a
'day room' was filled with wicker chairs and sofas. The Japanese
bombed us from flying boats with four engines at night in March and
July 1943. I was a new arrival, and was Sgt of the Guard on the beach, when one
the guards called "Light on the old Taylor" -- it was Venus shining
through a porthole!! -- the moon and stars are huge near the equator.
I sailed on the USS President Johnson in 1942 and the
inter-island ship Haleakala.
I think if you check Canton history, now called Kanton, you will
find that the ship is still there on the beach.
Former Staff Sgt. Richard C. Schmal
His newspaper story is here.
Return to : Carrier Raids
Sinking of the I-174
FOR THE RECORD: It has now been confirmed by the Navy Dept. that the
Japanese submarine I-174 was sunk 12 April 1944 by Lt. John Muldrow
and crew flying a PB4Y-1 Liberator. I was the co-pilot. We were
attached to Bomber Squadron VB-108, flying out of Eniwetok. The attack
took place at Lat.10 min. 45 degrees N., Long. 152 min. 29 degrees E.
29 Apr 44 RO-45 was sunk by Montgomery
(CVL-26) task group, MacDonough (DD 315) and Stephen Potter
(DD-538). They were originally credited with sinking the I-174,
but postwar examination of records indicate that it was the RO-45
that they sunk, crediting us with sinking the I-174 since she
failed to answer when called on 11 Apr. 44.
Let me know if I can be of any other service.
Lt. Leo G. Wetherill. USNR (Ret)
Return to : Japanese Subs at Pearl Harbor
Seahorse (SS-304) had been credited with
sinking RO-45 on 20Apr44. One can see how difficult it is to
determine when submarines went down, were damaged, or escaped,
with dozens of attacks made each day -- some on whales.
My father was a Seabee and served on Okinawa.
He took some very nice pictures of both Okinawa
and the suicide boats. He also made drawings of the construction of
the boats and brought home a piece of plywood from the boats.
The officers became bored and had the Seabees
disarm and repair the boats, and subsequently raced them
around the harbor. My father, a professional boat racer,
made more than a few bucks before being injured.
My father was on the USS Sheridan APA-51 at Lingayen Gulf.
He saw the cruiser HMAS Australia hit by a kamikaze twin-engine bomber. The
Australia was painted white, and she was hit by suicide planes 4 times at Lingayen.
At the Lingayen invasion, the troop transport USS War Hawk AP-168 was hit by a
suicide motorboat on 10 Jan 1945. Information below is from the Dictionary of
American Naval Fighting Ships. She was repaired eventually, but was heavily damaged
with loss of 61 men.
It seems bizarre that anyone would question the decision to use the atomic bombs.
That decision obviously saved millions of lives, especially Japanese.
Below is a quote from DANFS: USS War Hawk AP-168
The warship arrived off the beaches of Lingayen Gulf on 9 January 1945, D day, to
find that the Japanese were determined to use all their forces available against the
invading American forces-every weapon from kamikazes to suicide motorboats. At 0410
on 10 January 1945, War Hawk suddenly shuddered heavily as a Japanese suicide
motorboat, laden with explosives and going full-throttle, crashed into her port
side, tearing a 25-foot hole in number three hold and killing 61 men. The ship lay
without power as an engine room began to flood, and repair crews, below decks in
stifling heat with only dim emergency lights and with little, if any, ventilation,
worked to restore power and to patch the gash in the ship's side.
Meanwhile, War Hawk's gunners fought to repel the Japanese air attacks. The
transport then gamely disembarked her remaining troops and began unloading her
embarked mechanized equipment. Christened the "sitting duck" by her crew, War Hawk
a day later she began her creeping trek to Leyte Gulf.
Return to : Suicide Weapons
USS Edsall Bodies Identified
My grandfather was Henry Franklin Thaw, EMC1 of the USS Edsall DD-219
I have the names of the five men who were identified.
With the help of another USS Edsall family member,
three more bodies had been recovered. Apparently, the bodies are
all buried in Missouri.
[ Five survivors of Edsall were rescued and then executed - Ed.]
Return to : Battles for Java
B-17's at Pearl Harbor
Of the 4 combat ready B-17's
that survived the attack, my father's and one other Flying Fortress
took off from Hickam Field to search for the Japanese invasion force.
My father was in the first one off the ground on what was considered
a suicide mission. The plane had been strafed on the ground and the
wing tanks were leaking and other hits damaged other vital components.
My father was the radio instructor for the B-17's at Hickam, having
been there about 2 years prior to Dec. 7. Instead of asking for a
volunteer, he manned the position himself. Had they found the
flattops, they most likely would have been attacked and shot down
while attempting to bomb the fleet. My father's plane, due to leaking
fuel had to head back after 3 hours in the air, while the other plane
swung back to the south searching for 7 hours before landing.
These first offensive combat flights seem to be overlooked in the
My brother has compiled exhaustive information on
our father's wartime record and that of our bombardier uncle,
a crewman on "Shorty" Wheless's famous flight in the Philippines on
Dec. 14, 1941 for which he was awarded the "Silver Star."
I hope we can fill in the history of the Flying Fortress a little more.
Return to : AAF 1941
More on B-17 over Philippines
Murals at Fort Lincoln Relocation Center
My grandfather painted several murals while at Fort Lincoln.
USS ANZIO CVE 57.
According to information I include below she won 10 stars. Other
information I have seen shows 11 stars. The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships,
shows Anzio as having only 6 battle stars. [ I lost his listing of 11 battle stars,
does anyone have info on Anzio stars?]
A B-24 at Pearl Harbor?
"I was just browsing the internet and ran across your page aaf41.html. I noticed something that you (or the person who you got your information from) did not know...not many people do...but it is significant.
"There was a B-24 at Pearl Harbor. In your webpage you mention the B-24, and that it did not enter service until 1942. Not entirely accurate ; there were 9 B-24A's built that were serving in late 1941. In fact, the third production B-24, had been in the service of the Ferry Command (as a cargo/personnel carrier). Air force brass decided that they wanted to secretly photograph some Japanese-held islands. They grabbed a B-24 (two, actually, but one didn't make it to Pearl), and sent it to Pearl Harbor to be refitted with armor and guns prior to the secret photo mission, which would have been "on the way" to the Philippines.
"This B-24 arrived Dec 5th. See this website, http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/academic/history/marshall/military/airforce/bombers/US.bombers/b24.4, for mention of this B-24 at Pearl Harbor. It was destroyed by one of the first bombs to hit Hickam. Several of the crew were killed, see http://www.nps.gov/usar/PHcas.html, about halfway down the page, under "Photo Group" for casualties.
"Just thought you'd like to know ...
"P.S. The pilot of the B-24 was my grandmother's cousin, Ted Faulkner. He went on to fly B-17's and B-29's. He was lost on a mission Nov 5, 1944.
Return to : AAF 1941
I was assigned to the Vincennes as a radioman striker, right out of boot
camp and sent to Pearl. I waited at the reassignment facility at radio
operations at Pearl copying code but never made it aboard the Vincennes.
Later, I was assigned to the Essex as a Radioman Striker, but never made it
aboard. All of a sudden, I was sent to the Aviation Gunnery School in
Kaneohe and I was now an Aviation Radioman Striker. I got my Air Crewman's
wings and was assigned as an Aviation Radioman Third to CASU7 and spent
several months flying around the Island looking for Subs, (Mostly whales) . I
spent the last part of the war, controlling drones used for target practice.
Some battle record huh. Well, that's my story. No medals, no action, just
We know a cost of war is lives lost and the lose of industrial capacity dumped into jungles. We seldom consider the lost of productivity of lives just spent in years of service.
In Dec 1939 as a crew member of HMS Orion (Leander class cruiser) part of British West Indies squadron, we were dispatched from Kingston, Jamaica, to try and intercept the German liner Columbus, which eluded HMS Orion but was intercepted by the British destroyer Hereward and scuttled by her crew. Survivors were picked up by USS Tuscaloosca. At this time HMS Orion was off Miami Beach and we could see the large buildings on the beach front. A ship was spotted approaching Orion and was identified to be a German freighter. Signals transpired for her to stop which were ignored and HMS Orion fired sub calibre rounds across her bow. I believe the German ship was the Aurica (Araucaor) a name similar. The American government sent a destroyer to watch our movements and the local Miami radio station gave our daily position. A ferry used to come out daily and you good folks would throw us cartons of cigarettes and the daily newspapers. We were off there for 23 days the Xmas of 1939. I will never forget the generosity of those American people. I would like to know if you have any knowledge of this incident as trivial as it may be in the overall history of WW2. See details for some insight into this period.
Nauru - Japanese Occupation
I have recently returned from the Pacific Island of Nauru.
What I found there astonished me. There are Japanese
naval guns still intact with the manufacturers stamp, a naturally made
prison camp with barbed wire and old sake bottles embedded on the top of
the walls, original doors and isolation cells where hundreds of
Islanders were killed, a museum that hosts a wide assortment of
historical items relating to the occupied times. What amazes me is that
I can find no information on the Japanese invasion, occupation and
eventual downfall on this island. There were several battles fought on
and over the island with the remains of a US fighter plane on display at
the small museum. Is there any way to get more info, perhaps to find
out how the Japanese invaded, how they moved huge naval guns into dense
hilltop areas and whether the island was liberated by the Americans as
the locals tell us?
There is enough to make a separate web page. See Nauru for some details.
First Japanese ship sunk by the US in WWII.
I am the son of a US Navy Patrol Wing Ten pilot (Edward W. Bergstrom) who was in
VP-102 at the start of the war in the Philippines (Dec. 8th, 1941). My father
passed away in 1967 and since I was very young not much oral history was passed down
to us. We did have some letters from that time. One letter that he sent to my
mother from the Philippines at the start of the war talks about him flying out on
patrol the first day of the war and bombing and sinking a Japanese "spy boat" near
Formosa. I cannot find that letter now. A few years ago a son of a crewman on that
plane (Houston Cannon) sent me a copy of a diary that he had kept at the start of
the war. In this diary he describes bombing and sinking a Japanese fishing boat
near Formosa on the first day of the war. I had never mentioned my fathers letter
to him and when I received the diary copy it confirmed what my father said in his
letter. This proves that the first Japanese ship sunk during WWII by the U.S. was
done by my father and his PBY. The ship sunk was probably a spyboat like my father
said or a picket boat used to rescue Japanese fliers who may have had to ditch after
bombing Clark Field on the first day of the war. Thanks Bob
We all know that the first boat sunk was a mini-sub
attempting to enter Pearl Harbor. A boat is carried by a ship. Bob tells of the
first sinking of an enemy ship. PatWing 10, two squadrons, had 28 PBYs Catalinas, 4 J2F Ducks, and an OS2U Kingfisher, operating from six places in the Philippines including two seaplane tenders. Half the force was in the air before sun up, the other half sat armed ready to
attack anything found. Two loaded with torpedoes were sunk before they could get airborne. The Army Air Force was destroyed by Day 3 of the war. On Day 4
seven PBYs were destroyed, leaving only eleven flyable. It was a rough period.
Bellows Field, Dec 7, 1941. .
I would love to see
Bellows covered in a Pearl Harbor movie (or anything else on the subject), since it
is usually mentioned little if at all. Unusual, since that is where one of the
mini-subs beached and where one of the B-17's crash landed with wounded on board.
Those 3 [P-40] pilots are heroes in my book, trying to take off with the Zeros right on
them. My dad had some tales to tell of Dec. 7, and he was not one to embellish the
truth. In an interview in the 1990's, he said that he was more frustrated than
scared because they weren't set up at all for defense. Regards, Tom
Most of this email was about a Martin B-12 of 87th at the field. The B-10/B-12 was faster than any fighter when introduced in 1934, had been superseded by the Douglas B-18 Bolo by the time of Pearl Harbor, where most were destroyed.
Diver, Oct. 1944. .
My father was a deep sea diver in the USCG which was under the Navy in WWII.
He trained at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard, deep sea diving school in
He often mentioned, while he was a diver, that they were diving up torpedo's
that were being tested at Cape May N.J. The units that did not surface,
went down to the bottom and got stuck in the mud. The hard hat divers then had
to "water blast" or "air blast" them lose to float to the surface.
any references to the Cape May testing would be greatly appreciated. Attached is a picture of my father in the Navy dive gear.
Dutch PBY's at Pearl Harbor.
At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were 2 Dutch PBY-5
Catalina's on Pearl Harbor. They were on transit with from the factory to
Soerabaya on the island of Java. They carried the numbers Y68 and Y69 of the
Dutch Naval Air Service (Marine Luchtvaart Dienst). Y68 was destroyed in the
attack and Y69 was damaged. After repair Y69 was used by the USN before it
was released. It then flew to Soerabya via Australia because the original
route via Wake Island and the Philippines was not safe. Y69 arrived in
Australia in the end of February 1942 and delivered to the flying school that
had been evacuated to Australia.
Another PBY-5, Y70, was at the time of the attack on it's way from Pearl
Harbor to Midway island. It returned to Pearl Harbor. It then flew with a
hired American crew to Soerabaya with major-general Van Oyen (of the Dutch
Army Air Service, ML-KNIL) who was returning from the US to Java. Y70
arrived at Soerabaya on the 16th of December.
A Dutch ship was among the first to fire at attacking
planes -- Holland had been at war in Europe for almost two years. Java's oil was the
goal of Japan so as to support their conquest of China.
Saw first mini-Sub at Pearl Harbor.
My dad, Capt Alfred A. Curtice, was the man on the Anteries who first saw the
Japanese mini-sub trying to sneak into Pearl Harbor. He was a civilian merchant
seaman who hitched a ride back from Palmyra Island after leaving a broken down old
Sampan there which the Army had hired him to tow as a barge to Palmyra. He was told to not
tell anyone what he'd seen, and so never was given credit for this sighting. It was
an interesting story which he mentioned in his diary.
Everything about Pearl Harbor was a secret to the Navy. Even the sinking of the battleships was not released for almost a year until after the battleship force was back to full strength.
First sinking of a Japanese surface ship.
One interesting note you could add to your WW2 site is the first sinking of a
Japanese surface ship by the US Navy in the war (the first sub was sunk by the
Ward [DD-139 at Pearl]). My father was flying a PBY-4 (VP-102) on the first day of the war
(Dec 8th, 1941 in the Philippines). He was sent out early when the news of Pearl Harbor was
received. He sighted and attacked a Japanese "spy boat" south of Formosa and sank
it. He took a movie of the sinking but the film was lost on Dec. 10 when his plane
was sunk. This boat was either a Japanese spy trawler or a rescue boat waiting to
pick up any planes that had to ditch on the way back from bombing Clark Field. I
learned of this attack and sinking from a letter my dad sent to my mother at the
start of the war. I had no proof of this attack and sinking until a few years ago
when Houston C.'s son sent me his fathers diary from that flight. Houston was
the copilot (enlisted pilot) on that flight. He says that two fishing boats were
sunk in his letter. My dad went on to fly a PBY (VP-42) in the Kiska Blitz (one of
the few Patrol Wing Ten pilots to go to the Aleutians). Houston also went to the
Aleutians with VP-43 but disappeared on a search mission. [signed] Bob B.
Two Japanese minesweepers were sunk 10Dec during the
invasion of Philippines -- W.10 by P-35 and W.19 by B-17. The first Japanese
warship sunk was convoy-escort destroyer Natsushio (Natushie] by submarine S-37 (SS-142) 8Feb42. The first Japanese capital ship sunk was escort carrier Shoho 7May42 by Fletcher's carrier aircraft at Coral Sea. Japanese suffered few losses before the Battle of Midway.
- Broken B-17 Dec 7th.
My father was on one of the B-17's that came in during the attack. It was the one that broke in half on landing at Hickam. I have been trying to find about the
flights after the attack on the 7th as my fathers plane went dead stick
into the pacific at about midnight of the 25th of Dec. 1941. There isn't much about what went on after the attack.
Loss of the MV Tulagi
My Dad was the petty officer gunner of a crew of five on the Burns Philip merchant
vessel Tulagi torpedoed about midnight on 27th March 1944 when I was 4-months old. My Dad was last seen alive on 19th May 1944 according to other
survivors -- the merchant men.
Larger bits of his raft were found on St. Joseph's Island in the Seychelles.
My Dad was dead only for the record so my Mum could get a widow's pension ; the Navy
has refused to declare him officially dead. I have the intelligence debriefings of
two survivors when they were finally brought into British territory. These
debriefings do not accord with the stories later told by the Caucasian survivors
whom my Dad, according to intelligence first saved when the ship went down.
My Dad's ship went down at 11.00S 78.40E. You can plot it on Google Earth. The
winds and currents at that time of year would have taken them to the Seychelles.
The German Commander was Fragattenkaptain Ottoheimleich Junker. I found that out
this week and his sub was the U-532 which had just refueled from the German tankers Charlotte
Schielmann and the Brake ... which were pursued by HMS Relentless and got the Brake. I'm still trying to find more about my dad. Elizabeth
Tulagi was one of 38 ships of the Burns Philip Line of Australia. She was sunk in the Indian Ocean, losing 47 crew members. German submarine U-532 is also known to have sunk U.S. freighter Walter Camp, 26 Jan 44 at 10°00'N, 71°40'E ; all hands (40 merchant crew, 28 Armed Guards and one passenger) survived. HMS Relentless (H85) was an R-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy operating out of Mauritius. On February 11th 1944 Relentless made contact with tanker Charlotte Schliemann and fired 8 torpedoes, 3 hit and she sank in 10 minutes. 41 survivors out of a crew of 88 were picked up by Relentless.
Followup . The Naval Historian at HMAS
Cerebus has passed on to me photo copies of the death discharge book for the details
of the Naval gunners on the raft from the MV Tulagi. All next of kin had to give up
any claim to the wills. A sum of money was paid to each in 1947. I am laying a
wreath at the Crib Point RSL on Anzac Day this Friday for Dad and the Gunners on the
V.C. Memorial ... and the RSL President will lay a wreath on the general war
memorial. This year in Melbourne the Navy leads the Anzac parade through Melbourne. --
Elizabeth, a gunner's daughter.
With regards to the discussions about the RAAF Hudson crew that
reportedly landed and had a cup of tea before reporting their
sighting of the Japanese naval force.
My great uncle, Eric Geddes, was the wireless air gunner in Stutt's
crew, he is still alive and well in Australia. Radio silence was well
and truly broken on this occasion as he broadcast the warning in
plain language due to the fact that the Japanese were trying to shoot
them down. However the signals were unfortunately not taken seriously
by those that received them.
It seems to me that this is not entirely consistent with the
"official version of events".
This matter has recently been written about in the Autumn 2007 issue
of WINGS. Feature : "SIGHT SIGNAL DISASTER or - the disastrous
ignoring of a RAAF sighting signal" by Jack Woodward.
Kind regards, Graham
The "official version" is repudiated on these pages (savo update) by LCdr Gregory, officer of the watch on HMAS Canberra when the battle started and an author on naval matters who has made study of the events leading to the loss of his ship. His findings were that Milne Bay was under air attack at the time and
Fall River wireless station was off the air.
Official historian, Morison, who spread "this slur on an Australian air crew of 1942" tried too hard to make a story interesting. Endowed with naval Captain status, he did not even know that ships burned more fuel at combat speed than in convoy. He criticized Fletcher for losing two carriers (while sinking six enemy carriers), yet lets off his successors loss of two carriers in two months and sank no enemy. My apologies that Morison created these myths that were adopted by so many later writers.
I understand that you have been communicating with my nephew concerning that
debacle named Savo and I confirm that I am the Eric Geddes responsible for
that signal which according to Samuel Morrison and Richard Newcombe was
never transmitted and I still wonder about that "tea and apple pie" scenario ;
we were still repelling the Jap invasion of Milne Bay. To give some
indication of the food situation there at the time we, as a crew were flying up to 8 hour patrols with in-flight rations of one 850 gm tin of preserved pears to be shared and 1 packet each of 4 dog biscuits. On reflection I guess that under the circumstances all that luxury could equate to tea and apple pie.
Aside from that little bit of trivia what is there in your research that you believe I may be able to clarify or add to? My conclusion has been that all that remains to lay the whole debate to rest was to convince an authority in America with sufficient moral integrity to ensure that the truth of the whole sorry episode is officially processed into your history books so every student in America studying the subject will know the truth. I am about to embark on that very project at a high level of government in your country however I have enough political awareness to know that the "too hard tray"
is a haven to evade any action or the question is finally passed on to a junior clerk to take care of, unfortunately this is a political process in all countries.
If anything eventuates in the New Year to justify a celebration I will give you all the detail to include in your research. Please feel free to ask questions if I am able to deliver sensible answers then I will certainly do so.
Kindest Regards, Eric
My father was a flight mechanic on one of the Catalinas that
attacked Japanese shipping in the first days of the war. He was later
captured when Corregidor fell and was liberated from Omori POW camp in
Tokyo. I recall him telling me the Catalina was a lousy horizontal
bomber and that they missed their target. I guess he was not on
Bergstrom's plane. I have always considered his flight part of the
first organized U.S. counter-offensive of the Pacific war, feeble as it
was. Am I right?
Yes. PatWing 10 had half their PBYs
out -- some on long range search, some in the air loaded with 2,000 pounds of bombs,
and the remaining half, warmed up, loaded, waiting on the water. The enemy fleet was found, those in the air homed in on the beacon and attacked a heavy cruiser, damaging its steering so that
it withdrew from the formation. Those PBYs on the water were attacked by Zeros and
destroyed before they could lift off.
B-17 over Philippines
My father was the co-pilot on the Dec. 14, 1941, mission over Legaspi Bay
in the Philippines flown by "Shorty" Wheless. Because
they lost their plane that fateful day and some of the crew members wounded, they
were not an intact crew when the 19th Bomb Group was sent to Australia and then to
Malang, Java. When the 19th evacuated from Java in Feb, 1942, my dad, Lt. Teborek and Sgt. Hess were left stranded. My dad was hidden by two Dutch families for 6-months before he was captured on Sep. 10, 1942.
There are two crew members still alive as far as I know - R.D. and Bill.
I have addresses for them if interested. I met Bill in 2003 at
a reunion of the 19th Bomb Group in Portland, Oregon. He, at that time, had all his
wits about him and seemed quite willing to share his story; he lives in Southern
Just today, January 22, 2008, Shorty Wheless' daughter Raymonda phoned me. She has a great deal of information on her dad and the 19th Bomb Group and the
Dec. 14 mission and she gave me some great information. I'd be happy to share.
Dad was sent to Burma to work on the infamous Burma-Thai railroad of death [Bridge Over the River Kai]. Thank
heaven, Dad survived the war and continued as a career officer in the Air Force. He passed in Feb, 2004.
Link: earlier story
During the initial attacks on bases in the Philippines most of the 35 B-17's assigned to the 7th and 19th Bombardment Groups were destroyed by strafing Japanese fighters.
On 14 December the Army Air Force scraped together five B-17s to attack the enemy ships anchored in Legaspi Harbor. Three got through and one of them, piloted by Capt. Wheless, succeeded in strafing a sweeper but got back by the skin of its teeth. Japanese naval pursuit planes killed the radio operator, wounded two other crewmen, knocked out two of the four engines, broke seven of the eleven control cables, cut off the tail wheel, blew the two other tires and punctured each gas tank in about 15 places. After a running fight lasting an hour and a quarter, the enemy pilots ran out of ammunition, flew in close to leer at Captain Wheless and then reversed course for home, less six or seven of their number.
Which ship was where Dec 8'41 in the Asian Fleet
Glad to have your response.
1. BULMER was definitely at Manila and not at Tarakan. She guided CHILDS (AVD-1)
through the minefields off Corregidor when that tender departed south on 15
December, and escorted the French Merchantman Mareschal Joffre south to Java a
couple of days later.
2. FINCH... your question triggers another detail. Commander, Yangtze Patrol, RADM
W. A. Glassford, USN, had closed the patrol on 2 December and departed with two of
the Yangtze River gunboats, LUZON (flag) and OAHU, Shanghai for Manila. MINDANAO
joined enroute. They arrived at Manila the afternoon of 8 December, so you ought to
include them as well, together with those two yet in China. To assist them in their
transit from the Taiwan (then Formosa) Straits, CINCAF had sent FINCH (AM-9) and PIGEON
(ASR-6) north into the Straits to meet them. FINCH broke down, PIGEON remained with
her, and the gunboats pushed on alone to Manila Bay without problem. FINCH and
PIGEON arrived Manila on 9 December.
3. The Yangtze River gunboats were:
MINDANAO (PG 47, ex-PR 7)
4. PIGEON. Incidentally, ASR = submarine rescue vessel. PIGEON was ASR 6, Submarine repair and salvage.
LUZON (PG 48, ex-PR 8) flag
OAHU (PG 46, ex-PR 6)
WAKE (ex-GUAM, PG 45, ex-PR 5), left stripped and immobile at Shanghai as a radio
station for the State Department reps still in the city.
PANAY (PG 47, ex-PR-7) had been sunk on the Yangtze in 1937 by Japanese Navy aircraft
TUTUILA (PG 47, ex-PR-7) upstream on the Yangtze at Chungking, turned over to the
Chinese Navy in 1942.
5. Patrol Wing TEN with 28 PBY-4 Catalina flying boats and a dozen float planes had
seaplane tenders HERON, WILLIAM B. PRESTON, LANGLEY, and CHILDS attached in support.
HERON is correct, her patrol station was Port Ciego, Balabac, with four OS2U-2 Kingfisher floatplanes.
PRESTON was at Malalag Bay on Davao Gulf, Mindanao, with three PBYs.
You ought, in my estimation, to include Patrol Wing TEN as an
operational unit in the order of battle.
6. To make the listing yet more complete, add the civilian Standard Oil tanker
George G. Henry, under time charter to the Asiatic Fleet from mid-1941. She was at Manila at the start of the war.
7. United States Asiatic Fleet was commanded by Admiral Thomas C. Hart, USN, in message traffic: CINCAF. This was a command on a par with the United States Pacific Fleet, and was a four star command, thus 'Admiral' - vice admiral is a three star rank.
Thanks for you interest and willingness to make additions, etc.
Cheers, Lou [CDR (ret)]
Much appreciated. These notes will be incorporated to the Not at Pearl page.
There is some difference on ID numbers, I have tried to use "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships" name, designation and number of the time.
Ashville (PG-21) and Tulsa (PG-22) had escaped from China earlier.
The story of PatWing 10 (and a few other PBYs) is told in "Black Cat Raiders" by Knott.
We have a page on Adm. Hart; his biography is "A Different Kind of Victory". US Asiatic Fleet was a full admiral's post and is entitled to that rank. Hart was raised to permanent admiral on return to the States.
Luck was really with the I-69 on Dec 7, 1941. She barely managed to escape the nets outside Pearl Harbor by blowing ballast. When she hit the surface, the patrolling DDs were not nearby and she escaped. However, luck can turn and a small error doomed her. On Feb 17, 1944, the I-69 was alongside other Japanese subs at the sub pen off Moen Island, Truk Lagoon. Captain Horakawa and half the crew was ashore when the aircraft from TF-58 started attacking. All the subs submerged to escape. Following the attack, the I-69 failed to surface. Divers were sent down and communicated with the crew by tapping on the hull. It turns out they failed to close a vent and the aft torpedo room was flooded. Attempts were underway to bring her up but more attacks stalled the efforts. Later, attempts to bring her up with a crane snapped a cable. By that time, there was no longer any sign of life. To avoid compromise, they dropped a depth charge on her. It damaged the conning tower but left most of the sub intact. It was re-discovered by Paul Tzimoulis and Ken Seybold in 1972. In 1985, with the support of a Trukese native who had witnessed the attacks and accompanied by a Dauntless pilot who had been shot down there, I opened the hatch to the after torpedo room and entered to film it. The entry is so small that I could not pass with my scuba. I utilized a 30-ft umbilical, removed my scuba and trailed my air line as I entered the room. The Japanese would later recover the remains of the crew.
Jim , CineMarine Team , CA
Japanese submarine I-69, had been reconnoitering Midway atoll since 21 January 1942, shells Midway on 8Feb and again on 10Feb, but is immediately bombed and damaged by USMC F2As (VMF 221).
17Feb44. TF-58 with nine carriers and six battleships raided Truk as part of the Marshalls campaign that included landings on Kawjalein and Eniwetok.
Hi Jim : Happy Birthday little boy!!
Heavy Cruiser Exeter was badly damaged, because
German commander Captain Hans Langsdorf concentrated his fire on her. She was sent
to England, and the two light cruisers pushed the pocket battleship into Montevideo
port. My father was officer in the base of Buenos Aires, and he told me something I
never could read in any publication. The reason of Germans retreating to port was
that the only one of her diesel engines was still operating. The shocks of British
artillery (and of the German's, too) had damaged the other seven engines.
Commodore Henry Harwood (Division Commander) had the reinforcement of his fourth
cruiser, the heavy Cumberland, which had been repairing at Falklands (Malvinas). Harwood
had to decide to fight or not in Uruguaian territorial waters. He finally ordered
Cumberland and Achilles to take position before him in a battle line, but then his
scout reported to him the blowing up of the pocket battleship by her own crew. Harwood was
immediately promoted to Rear Admiral. The British then created a lie : "outside of the
river had arrived a Carrier (Ark Royal) and a Battle Cruiser (Renown). Surely it was
another reason for Langsdorf to blow the ship.
The "Admiral Graf Spee", small
battleship, was named in honour to the Admiral Graf von Spee, commander of a group
of cruisers on 1914, which were sunk by two new battle cruisers (Invencible and
Inflexible) outside of the Falklands. Graf Spee was killed in the battle .
Later, the Inflexible damaged the German battlecruiser Lützowg at Jutland (1916) and
Invencible was blownup at during the deployment of
Jellicoe's Grand Fleet in a battle line. You were born just to be an homage to River
All best. Andrés
Andrés, PhD, consultant to the Argentine government, former naval cadet, and student of naval history,
is author of The Days of Fletcher about that Admiral's war in the Pacific. We have also heard, from
Helmut, that Admiral Graf Spee was almost out of ammunition for her big guns with just six salvo remaining. I found the hulk of the ship marked on my ship's charts as a caution to navigation.
Return to: WW2 Menu
About this page: Stories - Little known stories about World War II, the early years.
Last updated on December 13, 2014 -- add Graf Spee.
Contact us at