Tag: World War II

Was the Doolittle Raid a Mistake?

 

Recent events have me thinking about military strategy, and the importance of morale. I found myself mulling over the famous Doolittle raid during World War II.

For those who might not recall the details, this was an air raid on Tokyo in April 1942 by a handful of American bombers, B-25 Mitchells, which were land-based bombers but were, in this instance, launched off the carrier Hornet. The damage to Tokyo was minimal, but the propaganda victory was significant, after a series of catastrophic American and allied losses in the first months of the war.

A Memoir of Endurance and Survival

 

In January 1945 Major Donald J. Humphrey commanded a B-29 Superfortress. During a 1900-mile mission from India to bomb Singapore, his bomber was shot down over Malaya. Humphrey and four other members of the crew of Postville Express successfully parachuted out of the dying bomber. The rest of the crew failed to escape.

“8 Miraculous Months in the Malayan Jungle: A WWII Pilot’s True Story of Faith, Courage, and Survival,” edited by Donald J. “DJ” Humphrey II, tell what happened next.

They landed in Malaya, then occupied by the Japanese. Had they been found by the Japanese or the pro-Japanese militia they would likely have been executed or spent the rest of their war in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. The Japanese even offered a $10,000 reward for every Allied airman turned over to them.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and guest co-host Kerry McDonald talk with Paul Reid, co-author, with William Manchester, of the New York Times best-selling biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.

Reid shares how he was enlisted to complete William Manchester’s biographical trilogy on the greatest political figure of the 20th century, which became a best-seller. They discuss Churchill’s remarkable foresight about the dangers of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, his courageous World War II leadership, and what students should know about his central role in the Allies’ defeat of Hitler, as well as big-picture lessons on statesmanship during times of crisis. They review the significance of Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech, delivered in Missouri 75 years ago, a seminal Cold War event warning about communist totalitarianism. Reid offers insights on Churchill’s liberal arts education and grounding in classical history, which informed his actions as well as his 43 book-length works and extraordinary speeches. He also sheds light on the more private side of this great figure, who was an ambitious, driven workaholic, yet also charismatic, playful, and artistic. The interview concludes with a reading from Reid’s Churchill biography.

Adventure in the Roaring Forties

 

Jack Pembroke is a Royal Navy officer badly injured during the Dunkirk evacuation, now assigned to command a minesweeping flotilla in South Africa. Emil Falk commands a Nazi auxiliary cruiser – a disguised and armed merchantman conducting commerce raiding far from Europe.

In “The Cape Raider,” a novel by Justin Fox, the two have a rendezvous in the waters between Africa and Antarctica.

Pembroke is a reluctant warrior. A member of a prominent naval family, he bucked family tradition to become a journalist in the 1930s. When World War II started, he accepted a commission in the Royal Navy, serving aboard minesweepers and destroyers.  A long recovery from battle injuries and his civilian mother’s death from bombs during the Battle of Britain led to him asking for a posting in the Union of South Africa, where his Admiral father is stationed

This Week’s Book Review: Liberty Factory

 

Before Portland, OR, became the upscale city mocked in Portlandia, it was a down-at-the-heels lumber town and port hard hit by the Great Depression. Its transformation began in World War II, when Portland and its cross-river companion, Vancouver, became major shipbuilding centers. Henry Kaiser established shipyards in the two cities.  These produced ships by the score: Liberty ships, Victory ships, escort carriers, troop transports, and tankers. The wartime shipyards turned Portland into an industrial powerhouse, financing its future prosperity.

“Liberty Factory: The Untold Story of Henry Kaiser’s Oregon Shipyards,” by Peter J. Marsh, tells the story of that transformation. Marsh reveals how Portland acquired the shipyards and chronicles their activities during World War II. Along the way, these shipyards produced over 700 ships. Big ships – all displaced over 10,000 tons.

Marsh shows why Henry Kaiser chose Portland for the location of two major shipyards and Vancouver for a third.  Marsh shows how the shipyards were built – all within months. As Marsh shows, this included more than building the manufacturing centers. Kaiser also built the offices these shipyards needed and housing, child care centers, and hospitals for its workers.

7 Inspiring Baseball Players Who Overcame Adversity

 

Mordecai Brown, Chicago Cubs

It’s tough to make it to the major leagues and it’s even tougher to stay there. It takes a not-insignificant amount of natural physical ability, a lot of hard work, and plenty of self-confidence to get there and stay there. It’s a battle that plays out every day through competition from the amateur level through the minor leagues and at the major league level. It’s even tougher for some who have an additional opponent they have to conquer along the way. That’s the purpose of this post – to briefly tell the stories of a few of those who had an additional obstacle on their way to the majors. I think I’ll proceed in chronological order.

Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown

Fighting On Despite Desperate Odds

 

Why do men fight, and why are willing they willing to continue to fight to the last man, preferring death to surrender? T. E. Lawrence’s said men go to war “because the women were watching.” According to Michael Walsh, in his new book, Lawrence’s answer holds more truth than irony. Men fight for their families.

“Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All is Lost,” by Michael Walsh, investigates the last man phenomena. It explores why men fight, and why they are willing to continue fighting even when they know they will lose.

Walsh examines history through the lens of combat, starting with the Ancient Greek Battle of Thermopylae and continuing through the Marine retreat from the Chosin Reservoir in the Twentieth Century. In thirteen chapters he explores sixteen last-stand battles.  Some, including Thermopylae, Masada, and the Alamo, the defenders lost and dying almost to the last man. In others, like Rorke’s Drift and the Battle of Pavlov’s House at Stalingrad, defenders triumphed against terrible odds.

Action in the Dark Days of the Battle of the Atlantic

 

C. S. Forester was one of the most popular authors of the middle twentieth century. He died in 1966. Best known for his Horatio Hornblower novels, he wrote many other books, including mysteries and many other sea stories.

“The Good Shepherd,” by C. S. Forester, was one of those other sea novels. Originally published in 1955, it was adapted into the movie “Greyhound” by Tom Hanks. Released in 2020, the movie led several publishers, including the Naval Institute Press, to republish the book.

“The Good Shepherd,” set in World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic, recounts 52 hours of a 1942 winter crossing of the Atlantic by a slow convoy. It was the worst part of the Battle of the Atlantic. The escort is inadequate; German U-boats numerous.

Robinson’s Rescues

 

This is about a World War II Navy Chaplain, Charles Robinson, who helped free the first Allied POWs in Japan. I’m posting this on Ricochet partly because I was irritated by the recently discovered comments by the Democrat candidate Raphael Warnock in the Georgia special election for Senate, who orated from the pulpit that people cannot serve the military and God. I didn’t find this to be true during my Navy career, whether one was serving as a Chaplain or just an adherent of a religion. Some of the people I respected the most were men of the cloth and I still value their friendship and the time we served together.

The essay is unrelated to the politics of the moment, so if you’d like a break from news about the election, the essay is safe to read. I doubt any of you have heard about Father Robinson, but his story is one that is worthy of sharing and, I believe, undercuts the narrative that Reverend Warnock peddles. Father Robinson pursued studies in theology that led him to become a Jesuit Priest almost 100 years ago, and he went overseas to Japan for his first posting. What he learned while in Japan ended up helping hundreds of prisoners of war in the Tokyo area who had been tortured or were starving at the end of the war.

The full essay is based on a research project for a history class I completed earlier this year. The professor described how Father Robinson had accomplished a mission of mercy for the Jesuits at the Jesuit Sophia University in Tokyo, and due to my Navy background, she suggested I research it for the term paper. My research determined that he had done a lot more of consequence before his rescue mission to Sophia. At the war’s end, he was stationed onboard the Battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), which arrived at the entrance to Tokyo Bay a few days before it would host the surrender ceremony on 2 September 1945. Of the tens of thousands of sailors who came to Tokyo Bay and were present for the surrender ceremony, Father Robinson had a skill that ended up being critical for rescuing hundreds of prisoners of war (POW) languishing in Japan’s numerous POW camps. He used his knowledge and abilities with distinction, in ways that helped smooth the process of quickly freeing the first group of POWs and saving other lives.

Pioneering Allied Airborne Operations Recounted

 

The Germans were the first nation to airborne troops in combat, using them decisively in 1939 and 1940.  The British were not far behind, developing their own airborne forces in 1940. They initially used their airborne troops as raiders.

“Churchill’s Shadow Raiders:  The Race to Develop Radar, WWII’s Invisible Secret Weapon,” by Damien Lewis examines the first two combat operations by British paratroopers, Operations Colossus and Biting. It combines these stories with a look at the “Wizard War” – the battle between Britain and Germany for electronics superiority.

Colossus and Biting were intended to smash vital targets unapproachable to soldiers, except by air. Operation Colossus was a February 1941 landing by paratroopers to destroy an aqueduct delivering water to Southern Italy. Operation Biting, in February 1942, was supposed to appear to be a British attempt to destroy a German radar station. In reality, it was to carry off the radar for intelligence analysis.

Thanks for RAF Cadet Memorial Service, 8 November 2020

 

I was very pleasantly surprised Sunday morning in Mesa, AZ. The Royal Air Force Cadet memorial service was held as it has been for the past three decades or so at the Mesa Cemetery. I bore witness to this as I feared it would be another remembrance cast aside on the pyre of our fearful reaction to a middling pandemic. Not so. While people wore the city council mandated face masks, the mayor of Mesa was there to speak, as he had in the preceding years. This annual memorial service is held the Sunday before Remembrance Day, our Veterans Day, and calls to mind the special relationship between our two countries and the service and sacrifice of those who have served.

The air filled with the sound of bagpipes and bugles blew clear and true. Prayers, poems, and remembrances were offered. The roll of the honored dead was read. Mayor Giles spoke brief and appropriate words, as did the honorary British consul for Arizona. I thought the best remarks were offered by the young Royal Air Force officer, on assignment at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. More on that in a bit, but first the event in pictures:

The US Navy Faces Off Kamikazes at Okinawa

 

As the war turned against them in World War II, Japan tried a new tactic: the kamikaze. Pilots used their aircraft as one-way bombs against Allied warships and transports.  The campaign started during the invasion of the Philippines in October 1944 and continued until the last day of the war.

“Rain of Steel: Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Ukagi’s Thunder Gods and the Kamikaze War off Okinawa,” by Stephen L. Moore, examines the most intense phase of the kamikaze campaign, that fought during the Allied invasion of Okinawa.

Moore touches on the whole of the kamikaze effort. He looks at its origins, how the Japanese developed it, and their kamikaze attacks prior to and after the conquest of Okinawa. He also examines the US reaction to the campaign, including the tactics developed to counter the kamikazes. The meat of the book is the fighting off Okinawa, however.

The French Resistance and German Defiance at the Liberation of Paris

 

Billy Boyle was a detective in the Boston Police Department when the US entered World War II. He came from the stereotypical cop Irish Catholic family. His family mistrusted the English. His father and uncle wanted him to serve their country, but want him safe.  To do this they get Billy a posting with Uncle Ike, an obscure brigadier general, assigned to the General Staff in Washington, DC.

“When Hell Struck Twelve: A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery,” by James Benn, is the fourteenth novel about the results of this pairing.

Uncle Ike was Dwight Eisenhower. Shortly after Billy joins Eisenhower’s staff, Eisenhower gets tagged as Commanding General European Theater of Operations. Uncle Ike is delighted to have Billy, a trained detective, around. Eisenhower needs someone for sensitive (and frequently dangerous) confidential investigations. Billy finds himself in a world of military intelligence, counterintelligence, and espionage. He becomes Ike’s go-to guy when the general needs of unquestioned loyalty for a quiet look.

The United States in a Perilous Year

 

The United States is going through some hard times right now. Some might believe 2020 to be the most challenging year faced by the Republic. The oldest among us remember a year far worse than 2020 or even the 1960s.

“The Year of Peril: America in 1942,” by Tracy Campbell, recalls that year. The United States had been unexpectedly thrust into a war, one we appeared to be losing in 1942.

Campbell takes readers through that year. He reveals the fear stalking the American public, especially early in 1942. People expected the attack on Pearl Harbor to be followed up by a Japanese invasion of the American homeland. Air raids by long-range German bombers were also expected.

Countering Domestic Spies and Saboteurs in WWII

 

The Duke of Windsor was rumored to have been a Nazi collaborator, supposedly on their list to take Great Britain’s throne when the Nazis conquered Britain. He was not alone.

Hitler’s Secret Army: A Hidden History of Spies, Saboteurs, and Traitors in World War II, by Tim Tate reveals pro-Nazi collaboration was widespread in Britain before and during World War II. The rot of fascism pervaded England’s best and beautiful.

The existence of a British Fifth Column has long been held wartime scaremongering. Tate reexamined the issue using Home Office and Treasury Solicitor files declassified between 2000 and 2017. These records expose a widespread network of espionage, sabotage, and subversion conducted by British subjects during World War II.

Member Post

 

From Sapper to Spitfire Spy: The WWII Biography of David Greville-Heygate DFC, by Sally-Anne Greville-Heygate is an endearing memoir of a father’s military career, put together and fleshed out by his loving daughter, and given life by that father’s vivid diaries of his World War II experiences combined with a large selection of family photographs, […]

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This Week’s Book Review – The Atlantic War Remembered

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Atlantic War Remembered’ delivers raw memories from those who lived it

By MARK LARDAS

From the ages of 11 to 16 Jacob Bresler survived five years of ghettos and concentration camps during World War II. He credits his inventiveness, his stubbornness, his resilience, and his will to survive as the reasons he made it through the war and created a new life for himself in America. He is a humanist. He does not hate. He has no enemies. He remains optimistic about the future, and believes that communication is the only way to combat ignorance and pierce the ideological bubbles we’ve segregated ourselves into. He and Bridget cover a variety of topics including the many different paths he’s traveled in his life, how he feels about the phrase “Trump is Hitler,” when we should teach children about the Holocaust, how best to counter hate, and the idea that the potential for brutality lies within all of us. Don’t miss Jacob’s autobiography: You Shall Not Be Called Jacob Anymore.

Full transcript available here: WiW68-JacobBresler-Transcript

Member Post

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday. Book Review ‘Churchill’s Phoney War’ a nuanced view of a leader By MARK […]

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This Week’s Book Review: Heavy Date over Germany

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Heavy Date’ offers a look at war through a young man’s eyes

By MARK LARDAS