25 August 2012
Samuel W. Smith speaks after he is presented the Distinguished Flying Cross by Major General Timothy Zadalis in a ceremony at Randolph AFB on August 24, 2012.
Back L-R) 1Lt Samuel W. Smith (P), 2Lt Arthur S. C. Shanafelt, Jr. (CP), F/O Russell A. Knudson (N), S/Sgt Earl K. Lawson (WG) (Front L-R) S/Sgt Walter A. Geyer (TOG- holding "Tailspin"), T/Sgt Robert A. Bridgman (R), S/Sgt Jens C. Jensen (TG), Sgt Michael J. Kucab (BTG), T/Sgt Thomas E. Zenick (E)
By Sig Christenson
Second Lt. Samuel Smith knew what he was up against when his B-17 bomber group got orders to strike a German base that was home to 16 of the war's newest planes, the Messerschmitt Me-262 — the first jet-powered aircraft to be used in combat.
“On the mission before this we went to Hamburg and there must have been 15 of them in the air, and I must have seen 10 or 15 bombers go down,” he said.
A few weeks shy of 88, Smith was honored Friday for his heroics on the mission that took them Hopsten on March 21, 1945. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph's Taj Mahal, a crowd of more than 80 people giving a long standing ovation.
“He's a representative of a generation of Americans that did something special,” said Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., head of the Air Education and Training Command and himself a bomber pilot. “We were talking about the thousand-plane raids that will probably never again be replicated.”
The medal, which falls between the Bronze Star and Silver Star, was given decades late because a commander during World War II refused to sign off on them.
Long after the war, at a reunion, the commander admitted he was wrong, apologized and helped Smith get the medal.
Still, it was a bittersweet day. Only three of Smith's eight crewmen and a few pilot buddies still are alive. Still sharp, he's the only member of the crew who is mobile.
“Here it is 60, 70 years later and finally the award is being made,” said Smith, a Kerrville petrochemical plant consultant. “It's a great thing to me, but in lots of respects it's kind of sad because the guys who flew with me and helped are not here.”
In World War II, he commanded a Flying Fortress called “Jackie” out of Molesworth, a tiny town 70 miles north of London.
Awakened around 3 a.m. that March day, Smith and his crew ate the traditional pre-mission breakfast that included real eggs.
One by one, the B-17s with the 303rd Bombardment Group, called “Hells Angels,” took off. Even before reaching Hopsten, they got a rough welcome.
“We got bounced a lot with flak; the whole squadron did. All of the Plexiglas got shot out of my airplane on the right-hand side, but it happened so quick,” he said. “I didn't have any people hit. All I had were holes in my airplane so I didn't think anything about it.”
Amazingly, no one was hurt. Smith credits that to his standing order requiring everyone to wear their flak vests. He also got his procurement chief to provide cloth-covered chain mail mats, which were like carpet runners that lay between walls and blunt shrapnel.
Their approach at Molesworth appeared normal until the plane touched down. Suddenly, it made a hard right turn.
Realizing the bomber had damage to the landing gear and undercarriage, Smith lifted the right wing off the ground and pressed hard on the left brake. His goal was to guide the B-17 off the runway and into the grass.
“I literally stood up on the brakes,” Smith said.
Rather than losing control of the plane and possibly closing the runway, he parked the plane in the grass. A shot-out wheel was the culprit.
Smith and his crew flew 24 missions and were selected to fly the new B-17G as part of the U.S.-led invasion of Japan. The war ended and he came home, marrying and earning a chemical engineering degree from Texas A&M. Two children followed as he built a successful company.
Wearing the medal on his suit jacket Friday, he was surrounded by family, friends and Air Force brass after the ceremony. Col. Dave “Slick” Morrissey, a veteran of Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo, brought his son, Brady, 12, to the ceremony.
“I thought he should see it, the history and the legacy,” explained Morrissey, whose grandfather, Pfc. William T. Morrissey, died at Anzio.
Standing before the crowd, Smith said he was amazed that America could take kids from around the nation in their late teens and early 20s and transform them into a fighting force that “whipped” the Nazis.
“I mean, that's an extreme bunch of eagles,” he said. “And I'm fortunate to be one of that group.”
World War II veterans Howard Abbe, 84, James Lullie, 89, and George Simmons, 89, reunite every year in Oregon to reminisce about their friendship during the war.
By Dominique Fong
For decades, Howard Abbe thought his buddy was dead. The Dundee resident and his pal had each other's backs through one of the deadliest conflicts in World War II.
When the war ended, Abbe searched for his old friend for years. Nothing. Until one evening, his daughter punched the name into a computer. A phone number popped up. Abbe called it and instantly recognized the voice:
"Where the hell you been for 62 years?"
It was him all right. James Lullie.
The two reunited with a third veteran, George Simmons, and over the past four years have made a tradition of eating pizza, drinking beer and smoking cigars together on Abbe's porch, overlooking the wineries of Yamhill Valley.
The three Seabees, a name for U.S. Navy personnel who worked on military construction projects, shared their yearly ritual Friday over morning coffee in Gresham.
They know their future reunions are numbered. Well into their 80s, but still sharp, the men don't talk much about the war. But when prodded, the memories unfold.
Fighting in the Saipan and Tinian islands
Abbe, or Red, as they called him when he had ginger hair, is the young one. He was not yet 18, he said, when he was swept into service after U.S. Navy forces were weakened in the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942.
Abbe, 84, met his two colleagues in the barracks on Honolulu. One beer led to another in their easygoing friendship.
"It's like a woman. If you like her, you're going to stay with her," Lullie, 89, said matter of factly. "If you like a man, you stay with him."
The three remain humble about their wartime experience on Saipan and Tinian in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Islands. They didn't fight hand-to-hand combat, they said, so they reserve their highest respects for the Marines and other soldiers who put their lives on the line.
"Well, I didn't kill anybody, so I didn't do anything useful," Abbe said. He was an observer from the decks of aircraft carriers or the island shores. Never thought he'd get killed. But he lived to tell history.
"We lucked out hard," Lullie said.
Battles were fierce in 1944-45. The Mariana Islands were a crucial strategic point for American forces preparing to invade Japan.
During the invasion of Saipan, their unit stayed close to shore.
"The gunfire was like lightning, and then it'd fall to dark," Abbe said. "You could hear the shells over you."
Near Tinian Island, searchlights picked out Japanese bombers in the night sky. Anti-aircraft and machine gun fire popped. Every now and then, someone would get hit, lighting up a blaze of fire. Landing lights for B-29 planes stretched into the black. "It was like a stairway to heaven," Abbe said. "It would be stacked up as far out to sea as you could see."
After the island was secured, they lived in tents near sugar cane fields. They used to stand on a wooden platform outside with a bar of soap in hand until rain came, like a shower from Mother Nature, they said.
The tiny island bustled with thousands of troops, a prisoner camp with Japanese civilians and a hospital of pretty nurses. "The real culture was the women," Simmons, 89, joked.
Ships and boats passed through a narrow channel to port because Japanese troops had laid mines around the shores. Trip wires encircled coral caves at the edges.
Simmons was a boat skipper for a time, transferring military officers to and from the main carrier. The closest call he ever had with violent death was during one night in his tent. He woke up to a start. A Japanese soldier stood over him, two grenades hanging around his neck. Simmons, whose gun was above his head, pretended to sleep. The other man left.
Allied forces declared victory over Japan in August 1945. That Christmas, the three went home.
Life after the war
After the three parted ways, they didn't talk much of the war to anyone. Each got a job, met a woman, married her, had kids. Abbe became a millwright in Oregon, Lullie worked for a natural gas company in East Dundee, Ill., and Simmons was a fire investigator in San Francisco.
Any prejudice they once had against Japanese people wore off. They saved souvenirs. Lullie kept his dog tags and laminated his discharge papers, a yellowed leaf he still keeps in his wallet. Simmons held onto a photo album. Abbe stored away his old uniform.
Only Simmons ever wants to go back to Tinian, to see how things have changed. The other two say it's a part of them that's faded into the past.
They've all agreed, though, to make the pilgrimage to Oregon as long as they can, to keep their stories alive.
"In time, you forget," Lullie said. "But you don't really forget. The memory's always there."
By BEN WRIGHT
Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, one of seven black soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor, and other heroes will be remembered today at Fort Benning when six buildings in Harmony Church are dedicated.
The dedications will be held at Headquarters, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment for armor and cavalry soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, the Korean War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their names will be placed on the headquarters building, a dining facility and four new barracks.
Capt. Weldon Wilson, Master Sgt. Robert Tedford, Staff Sgts. Erwin Becker and James Matteson, and Spc. Travis Babbit are the other soldiers to be honored at the dedications.
The 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment conducts one-station training for soldiers who will be armor crewmen. They take part in 15 weeks of training to learn basic soldier skills as well as the proper operation and maintenance of the M1A2 Abrams tank and weapons systems.
A barracks will be named for Rivers, a World War II armor crewman who died in action in November 1944 near Guebling, France, as a member of the 761st Tank Battalion, a black tank division. He was serving with the battalion from Fort Hood, Texas, when the unit called the "Black Panthers" was assigned under Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army as part of Patton's Saar Campaign.
Rivers, who was half Cherokee, was recognized for his actions on Nov. 8, 1944, when he attached a cable to a downed tree blocking the road with advancing tanks.
While under enemy fire, Rivers left his lead tank, hooked a cable to the tree and moved it from the roadway. For those actions, he earned the Silver Star.
A week later, Rivers was leading the attack and capture of Vic-sur-Seille when his tank hit a mine and the explosion slashed his leg from knee to thigh.
He refused a morphine injection and repeated orders to evacuate over the next few days.
Taking command of another tank, Rivers moved to take Guebling by firing on enemy positions east of town through Nov. 19, although the company lost three of five tanks.
He had spotted an anti-tank position and fired on the location near the town of Bourgaltroff when his tank took a direct hit.
Rivers was killed and the rest of his crew was wounded. Rivers was recommended by Capt. David J. Williams for the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor, but it didn't come until more than 50 years later.
Patton never officially recognized the battalion for its accomplishments.
The Stalingrad Trilogy, volume 1: To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942Glantz, David M. with Jonathan M. House. The Stalingrad Trilogy, volume 1: To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2009
xix + 655 pages
Preface; Prologue; maps; photos; tables; OBs; Endnotes; Selected Bibliography; Index
Over the last twenty years or so, David Glantz has almost single-handedly redefined and reinvigorated the study of the Russo-German War. It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to contend his output nearly outweighs that of everyone else working in the field in English. Certainly, the current state of our understanding of the course of campaigns on the Russian Front owes more to Glantz than anyone else. Unmatched as a researcher, Glantz on the other hand has never received accolades for scintillating prose. A certain lack of dynamism in his text tends to mean the unmatched levels of fresh information and interpretation are conveyed in a monotone. As we opined in a review of one of his earlier books, "Glantz writes austere, fact-laden prose intended to provide intense doses of data, not entertainment."
Read entire review at Second World War Books.
by Bob Makin
It’s hard to find these days, but it lives and breathes in Joe Kaschak, a 90-year-old World War II veteran who helped to occupy Germany and Czechoslovakia as a sergeant with Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army.
For his four years of military service, the Perth Amboy native won several medals, including a Bronze Star. But his service didn’t end with the war.
He continued to serve his country in the Navy Reserve from 1948 to 1953 while working at the Ford plant in Edison, where he installed back seats in Mustangs, Falcons and other cars. In 1960, he was promoted to manager of quality control for shipped parts, a post he held until his 1978 retirement.
In 1965, Kaschak moved to Edison with his new wife, Joyce, a widow with two sons, whom, she said, he loved like they were his own. Together, they have another son, as well as eight grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
For more than 25 years, the Kaschaks served their neighbors as Township Committee representatives. Joe Kaschak retired from the post two years ago, but Joyce continues to serve.
“Joe’s influence on the township has been enormous,” said Mayor Antonia Ricigliano, a family friend for more than 30 years. “Not only has he served his country nobly and honorably, but he has served as a committeeman. He and his wife always have been attentive of the people in the district. Joe has been a loyal husband, father and family man, devoted to his family, his church and his community. To me, you can’t ask for anything better.”
Ricigliano was among the friends and family who recently gathered to listen to Kaschak’s many stories about World War II. Surrounded by war memorabilia reflecting his distinguished service and photographs of his tight-knit family, Kaschak explained how he initially was rejected by the Navy but was drafted into the Army two weeks later, in October 1942.
After serving for two years in an Army Corps hospital near Baton Rouge, La., he was transferred in November 1944 to Patton’s 3rd Army in the wake of the victorious Battle of the Bulge against Nazi Germany. With the 3rd Squad of the 3rd Battalion of the 358th Regiment, Kaschak occupied several bombarded towns on the border of Germany and Czechoslovakia.
“After wearing white (hospital) uniforms and moccasins, I had to learn to be a soldier again,” Kaschak recalled. “I went over on the Louis Pasteur. It was a horrible ship, French ship. You had to sleep in a hammock, and we ate in the same room. We rolled the hammocks up, and we had the tables underneath. We had a British crew. If you wanted a sandwich, they charged you 25 cents.
“We had our full packs, but we had an extra pack attached to it that had extra shirts, socks and underwear,” he continued. “Often at nighttime, the guys would say, ‘Don’t talk too loud. The Germans are across the road.’
“The first day, we loaded up tanks. We had five tanks. We had knocked the heck out of the Germans in the Bulge. Afterward, the Air Corps came down and bombed them. We started taking towns, mopping up any Germans that were around. Every time we came to a town, they had white sheets up, meaning, ‘We give up.’
“I went through the Rhineland. There were all kinds of tanks and soldiers marching. We got to the other side about two miles in. We were so tired, we stayed overnight. We dug a foxhole, and there were haystacks there. The guys raided the haystacks to put into the bottom of the foxholes. The poor farmer got rid of his haystacks.
“You’d be about two or three weeks on the combat line, and they’d pull you back to let another outfit take over. They’d have a tent rigged up with a shower, and you’d get new clean uniforms, underwear and socks. I’d be grateful for that because I’d be wearing the same clothes for I don’t know how long.
“One night, we heard noise and thought, ‘Uh-oh, something’s coming up. We better get ready.’ And it was a doggone rabbit. Later on, we got shot at. The bullets were just missing us.
“Then one day, we tried to take this shack, so we started pulling (marching) through two inches of snow. All of a sudden, I start hearing this hissing noise. It was a piece of shrapnel about a foot from my head. Thank God, I would have gotten killed or wounded.
“We went into Czechoslovakia, about 15 miles from Pilsen. Then we got the news that the war is over. We met this Russian tank coming with people and soldiers. They came and joined us. The crazy Russians were going by in trucks, shooting like crazy. There were bullets going over our head.
“Then we pulled in for road blocks and watching for traffic. Sometimes, people would try to come through our lines, the American zone, because they didn’t want to be with the Russians. They knew the Russians were going to take over. They threw us a picnic and rolled out the beer.
“We were on the border of Germany and Czechoslovakia and stayed there for the occupation until November of ’45. Then I got transferred to a little town about five miles from Nuremberg, where they had the trials. I stayed there for two months with the 26th Cannon Company of the 1st Division. I was stationed across from the Nuremberg Opera House for about a week. They gave you a chip so you could go into the nice, big dining room, with the Germans taking care of you with the food. That was good.
“Then we ended up in Camp Lucky Strike, a deployment center. I was there for two weeks, just hanging around. Then I got on the transport ship, a Navy ship, USS Gen. J.R. Brooke. What a difference on that ship. We had nice, clean bunks, food and everything. That was in February of ’46.”
Family members couldn’t be more proud of Kaschak.
Daughter-in-law Loretta Kaschak, who suggested the reflective gathering, said he fortifies the love she has for her country and the veterans who bravely have served it.
“I have been so interested in his service to our country because I am a very proud American,” she said, tearfully. “I love all the veterans who gave us our freedom. He showed me his artifacts from World War II. He’s been a loving father to my husband. I don’t call him father-in-law. I call him Dad. And I’m very proud of him and everybody else who fought in the war.”
Oldest grandson David, 37, added, “I just think it’s a great honor to have him in the family and call him my grandfather with all the achievements he’s accomplished. He’s a role model for his grandchildren, his children and the rest of the family. It’s a good story, but it’s sad, too, because with time, the stories get lost and the grandeur gets lost. It’s great he gets to tell his story. It shows what these people did for America and why we are free today. It’s an honorable thing. It really is.”
Now using a walker and sometimes a wheelchair, the aging veteran is kept on his toes by his wisecracking wife of 47 years.
Joyce, 85, has an outgoing manner that has been known to make some people blush, family members said. But she is extremely proud of and grateful for her husband. Each day, she looks out from their modest Russell Avenue home at the street sign placed in his honor five years ago at the intersection of Lillian Street.
“It really was a big honor to get that done,” she said. “The whole family loves that idea, and we’re very grateful to the township for doing that.”
Kaschak added, “I was really, really honored. I thought, ‘Geez, they’re putting my name on a street sign. That’s pretty good.’ ”
By Mike Monostra
For most people living today, knowledge of World War II is through history books, old films and photos. And while many of these recollections are interesting, most of them can't compare to the stories told by Gloucester Township's own Harry Moore.
A World War II vet who served in the Army, as well as one of the main organizers of Pony League Baseball, talking to Moore about his experiences in life is almost like jumping into a time machine. Through his vivid memories and very detailed descriptions, he brings many of his experiences from 60 years ago back to life.
Joining the Army
Moore joined the Army in 1943 at the age of 17. He was working in a glass factory in his hometown of Washington, PA, prior to joining. After going through his physical, he was sent to Pearl Harbor for amphibious and jungle training.
“We had our first combat there,” he said. “One night saboteurs broke into our compound and started shooting. They had us run into a cane field to stop it. I ran into barbed wire with my one (bad) eye and I was in the hospital.”
Despite the injury, Moore was not sent home. He was sent to join an anti-aircraft artillery group because of his proficiency with the machine gun. Moore was chosen to fight with the artillery because of his excellent talent at shooting down enemy aircraft. He even impressed a general during his training.
“A two-star general comes in to inspect us and check what we were doing,” he said. “He asked me to set the head of the gun. So I was showing him, had my screwdriver and was putting it on when a B-25 came along. So I just slapped the head cover down, whirled the gun around and knocked the general right down.”
Later, during an assembly, Moore was called to the stage. Worried that he may be in trouble, Moore was instead praised for his instincts and for doing the right thing.
Leyte and Okinwoa
Most of Moore's combat involvement took place at Leyte Island in the Philippines and at Okinawa, which was considered one of the largest amphibious battles in U.S. history. While the two battles had their differences, the brutality of the war was apparent in both.
“I landed on Leyte Island in the first wave,” he said. “Now the reason we went in on the first wave was because (the Japanese) were all over the surrounding islands and they were bombing us. So we got the anti-aircraft in to shoot their fighters down.”
Moore's artillery group remained at Leyte Island for the entire battle in late 1944. For a little more than two months, he fended off enemy aircraft, night after night. Moore noted that he had to get on his gun as soon the bombs started to fall on the beach.
It was relentless, the nightly Japanese bombings of Americans on the beach. Many of the soldiers that Moore fought alongside didn't make it home. Numerous times, he had to clean up the area of bodies.
While Moore was wounded in a few different battles, he just narrowly escaped more serious injuries on many occasions.
“There was one time during a really bad bombing raid on Leyte,” he recalled. “The general yelled out, 'Get on your gun!' So I went to get on and start shooting and another guy came along and pushed me aside and said, 'That's my gun!” A minute later, he got a bullet, right in the gut.”
After Leyte, Moore was sent to Okinawa, one of the larger Japanese islands. All branches of the U.S. military were there and it was the Army's job to split the island in half, along with the Marines.
“We were going to split the island in half,” said Moore about the Battle of Okinawa “The Marines went north and we went south. The southern end was where all of the fighting was at.”
“We were told the first three days to kill anything that moves,” he added. “If there's a dog that moves, shoot it.”
Okinawa was downright brutal. Because all of the fighting in the south, the Army bore the brunt of the war. The Japanese were using caves that were originally made for shelter from hurricanes to hide from artillery. This made it tough for the machine guns to get them.
“You could shoot at them all day and not get anyone,” he said.
Moore also recalled the determination of the Japanese. He remembers Kamikaze pilots who were crashing into the Navy's ships and carriers. The Japanese fighters even included children who fought to defend their homeland.
Eventually, the U.S. would take Okinawa in June of 1945. Moore remembers talk of the war not being over—everyone was preparing for the invasion of the Japanese mainland.
However, that invasion never happened.
The end of the war
According to Moore, the Army was prepared to enter the main Japanese islands in the days following the dropping of the atomic bombs. However, they never stepped foot there.
“We were on the beach,” he said. “We were ready for an invasion, to invade the Japanese main island. We were on the beach getting our equipment and stuff ready. When it happened that night, there was a lot of shooting going on. We didn't know what it was until we learned that the war ended.”
Moore said that hundreds of soldiers were killed that night, mainly from shooting their guns into the air in celebration of the end of the war.
At the end of World War II, soldiers were sent home based on a point system. Soldiers received points for certain achievements during the war. Because Moore had so many points, he was in the first group to come home.
“They piled us into cattle ships,” he said. “We were allowed up top for a couple hours a day, but the rest of the time we had to stay underneath in our cots. A bunch of guys were getting sea sick on that.”
Moore wasn't fond of the treatment he and his compatriots received on their way home. Once their ship landed, they were put into cattle cars on a train that was headed east. He was eventually given his discharge papers and $21 to take a bus home.
After the war: Pony League baseball
Moore returned to the glass factory after the war and eventually got a high-paying position with an international union. That job also led to a passion that he has to this day.
In his hometown of Washington, a group was looking to establish a new youth baseball organization called the Pony League. The first league officially formed in 1951. They enlisted Moore to help get the new league off the ground.
“They contacted my international union to help get this Pony League started,” he said. “So I attended meetings, but I was just a little guy. I was not part of the big brass.”
“We started with six teams,” he continued. “Now we have over 30,000 teams in 17 different foreign countries.”
Moore served on the board of directors for many years. He helped establish the league's by-laws and constitution, and helped organize a scholarship fund to send players to college.
Unlike Little League, Pony League allows kids ages 5-18 to play. Moore believes that the age brackets help the kids develop better.
“Ours is a better outfit in that we have our kids on two-year brackets,” he said. “There's two years between each group. It's a big difference between the two-year groups and the three-years.”
Every year, Moore returns to Washington for the Pony League World Series. He is, in many ways, a local legend there. Today, his name resides on the new building at the complex as well as on a commemorative brick there.
Memories that will never go away
Moore, who will turn 87 in November, has told his wartime and life stories to many different people, old and young. Unfortunately, there will be a day where people will no longer be able to hear these stories told firsthand.
However, Moore has something that others don't. Attached to poster boards that he uses in presentations to high schools are a couple hundred pictures from the battlefield. These were not interpretations or mock photos, but rather real pictures taken in the heat of battle, some of them graphic. Moore also has pictures of his friends in the service, some of who did not come home alive like him.
In addition, Moore has photocopies of an old journal he kept while at war. A firsthand account of grueling battles, long sleepless nights and brutal imagery that one can't find anywhere else.
In these artifacts, one can put the pictures and stories together in their mind. These items will remain living testaments to Harry Moore's life and will allow his story to remain alive forever.