One of the odder incidents of World War II is the story of the training of US carrier pilots on the Great Lakes. Confronted with the necessity of training massive numbers of carrier pilots, the Navy decided to do almost all of the initial training of carrier pilots where no enemy action was possible, on the Great Lakes. Purchasing two coal burning paddle wheeler excusion vessels, the Navy converted them to the USS Sable and the USS Wolverine, training carriers. The idea of training pilots on the Great Lakes was the brainchild of Commander Richard Whitehead who was stationed at the Naval Training Center 35 miles north of Chicago. The USS Wolverine operated out of Chicago and its flight operations, often conducted within sight of Chicago, frequently caused massive traffic jams on Lake Shore Drive due to the hordes of gawkers who turned out to witness the training. Pilots on their way back to the carriers would often get frisky, buzzing the streets of Evanston, Illinois for example. (more…)
Probably the most realistic depiction of World War II combat put to film, The Battle of San Pietro, in the public domain, is now considered a minor masterpiece. At the time of its release in 1945 it was intensely controversial. Fought between December 8-17 in 1943, the assault of the 143rd Infantry of the 36th Division was filmed by Captain John Huston, who was making films for the Army, a rare case where the Army actually made use of the civilian expertise of one of its soldiers. Huston’s film shows war in all of its unglamorous horror. After the Hollywood depiction of war during World War II it came as an unpleasant revelation for viewers. Army brass were concerned about the film having a depressing effect on the morale of the troops. Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, however, came to the defense of the film, thinking that it would make a good training film, underlining to troops why they had to take their training seriously. The film was used in training and Huston was promoted to major.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
In 1943 Anzac Day, April 25, fell on the same day as Easter. Anzac Day commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I. Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.
New York City saw its first public observance of Anzac Day that year as some 300 Australian airmen and sailors marched in the Easter Parade and were cheered by the crowds lining the parade route. Anzac Day observances in Australia and New Zealand were muted that year, due to the day falling on Easter, and so many men were away fighting in the War.
American audiences had become familiar with the courage of Anzac troops by viewing the documentary Kokoda Front Line, the video at the beginning of this post, which memorialized the struggle of Australian troops fighting in New Guinea. Damien Parer, the cinematographer on the film won an Oscar for the film in 1943. He would die on September 17, 1944, age 32, filming Marines in combat on Peleliu
In Melbourne, Australia on Anzac Day, the US 1st Marine Division marched through the streets in honor of the day to the cheers of their Australian hosts. (more…)
Inevitable, but still sad:
Casey said he hopes everyone who has had a chance to interact with the men will keep their legacy alive. “I want them to tell the story to their children, their grandchildren, their neighbors and keep their story going because their story is worthwhile telling.”
At each reunion is a case containing 80 silver goblets with the name of each raider inscribed right-side up and upside down on a single goblet. The men toast their fallen comrades each year and turn their goblets upside down in their honor.
The sons of Saint Dominic have supplied many heroic military chaplains throughout their illustrious history, and one of these men was Father Paul Redmond. Born on March 27, 1899 in New Haven, Connecticut, he served as an enlisted man in the United States Navy during World War I. He was ordained a priest in the Dominican order in 1930.
By 1942, Father Redmond was 43 years old, about a decade older than the average chaplain. No one would have said anything if he had sat this World War out. Instead he joined the Navy and became a Marine chaplain, and not just any Marine chaplain. He took a demotion in rank from corps chaplain to battalion chaplain to serve with the 1st and 4th Raider battalions, elite combat formations. Among men who were brave simply by virtue of qualifying to join such outfits, Chaplain Redmond stood out. During the campaign on Guam, Father Redmond would go into the mouths of caves occupied by Japanese troops to attempt to convince them to surrender, and I find it difficult to think of anything more hazardous offhand. (more…)
Thanks to the protest of Cardinal O’Connell to Pius XI after the Conclave of 1922, and the development of transoceanic air travel, all Cardinals not prevented by illness or extreme old age were able to participate in the Conclave of 1939, beginning on March 1, 1939 on the eve of World War II. One of the American cardinals participating was George Cardinal Mundelein of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Born in 1872 on the lower east side in Manhattan, Mundelein broke the mold for most American Cardinals of his era in not being of Irish extraction, He was only half-Irish on his mother’s side! His father’s family was of German origin. He spent all of his early career in the Brooklyn diocese, rising to Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn in 1909. He was made Archbishop of the Chicago Archdiocese in late 1915.
His introduction to Chicago was turbulent in that an anarchist dosed chicken with arsenic at a banquet held in his honor. An emergency emetic prepared by a Doctor in attendance prevented any fatalities.
The Archbishop was made a Cardinal in 1924 by Pius XI.
For his day, Mundelein was viewed as a liberal and he certainly was in his politics. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the New Deal and he made this comment which would not be out of place in a Catholic Worker paper today:
The trouble with [the Church] in the past has been that we were too often allied or drawn into an alliance with the wrong side. Selfish employers of labor have flattered the Church by calling it the great conservative force, and then called upon it to act as a police force while they paid but a pittance of wage to those who work for them. I hope that day has gone by. Our place is beside the workingman.
His views on other matters reveal the limitations of political classifications when applied to Churchmen. He was an uncompromising foe of contraception and campaigned against sexual suggestiveness in films. On easy divorce he had this to say: “that not war, nor famine, nor pestilence have brought so much suffering and pain to the human race, as have hasty, ill-advised marriages, unions entered into without the knowledge, the preparation, the thought even an important commercial contract merits and receives. God made marriage an indissoluble contract, Christ made it a sacrament, the world today has made it a plaything of passion, an accompaniment of sex, a scrap of paper to be torn up at the whim of the participants.”
He did not live long after his participation in the Conclave of 1939, dying of a heart attack at age 67 in October of 1939. (more…)
The trailer for the movie Emperor which is being released today. I have long been a fan of the work of Tommy Lee Jones and having him play MacArthur, military genius and ultimate egotist, should be a treat. I will see it next weekend and then I will write a review. (more…)
The last of the Andrews Sisters, Patty Andrews, died yesterday at 94. The daughters of a Greek immigrant and a Norwegian-American mother in Minnesota, the Andrews Sisters were an amazingly successful singing act, selling over 75 million records. They were also ardent patriots.
During World War II The Andrews Sisters tirelessly performed for the USO stateside and in Africa and Italy. They were enormously effective at selling war bonds with their rendition of Irving Berlin’s Any Bonds Today. They helped found The Hollywood Canteen and donated their time to perform there, a memorable pleasant stopping off point for sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen on their way to the hell of war in the Pacific. When they were entertaining troops they often would pick three servicemen at random to dine with them after the show. Performing so frequently on Armed Forces Radio, they were designated the Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service. They recorded millions of V-Disks for distribution of their songs to the troops. (more…)
Something for the weekend. The song Thanks for the Memory made immortal by comedian Bob Hope. One of the great stand up comedians of all time, Hope was also a true patriot:
For fifty years Bob Hope entertained US troops, from 1941-1991, from World War 2 to the Gulf War. He brought old jokes, delivered in an unforgettable style, beautiful starlets, and a touch of home to troops far away from home. As long as there is a US military Bob Hope will never be forgotten. I have had many veterans tear up when recalling attending a Bob Hope show in a war zone, a bright moment in a fairly grim period of their lives. (more…)
Sixty-eight years ago at Christmas the American and German armies were fighting it out in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the War.
Patton’s Third Army fought its way through to relieve the Americans desperately fighting to defeat the attacking German forces. The weather was atrocious and Allied air power was useless. Patton had a prayer written for good weather. The skies cleared after Patton prayed the weather prayer, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.
During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle. Massively outnumbered, battle weary from already having done more than their share of fighting in Normandy and Operation Market Garden and short on food and ammo, they stopped the advancing Germans cold in their tracks.
On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101st troops at Bastogne, in attendance. Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.
General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops:
Headquarters 101st Airborne Division Office of the Division Commander
24 December 1944
What’s Merry about all this, you ask? We’re fighting – it’s cold – we aren’t home. All true but what has the proud Eagle Division accomplished with its worthy comrades of the 10th Armored Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and all the rest? just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the North, East, South and West. We have identifications from four German Panzer Divisions, two German Infantry Divisions and one German Parachute Division. These units, spearheading the last desperate German lunge, were headed straight west for key points when the Eagle Division was hurriedly ordered to stem the advance. How effectively this was done will be written in history; not alone in our Division’s glorious history but in World history. The Germans actually did surround us. their radios blared our doom. Their Commander demanded our surrender in the following impudent arrogance.
December 22nd 1944 To the U. S. A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U. S. A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hombres Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U. S. A. Troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U. S. A. Troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this Artillery fire would not correspond with the well known American humanity.
The German Commander
The German Commander received the following reply:
22 December 1944 To the German Commander:
The American Commander
Allied Troops are counterattacking in force. We continue to hold Bastogne. By holding Bastogne we assure the success of the Allied Armies. We know that our Division Commander, General Taylor, will say: Well Done!
We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms are truly making for ourselves a Merry Christmas.
A. C. McAuliffe (more…)