April 24, 1945: Death of Father Cyclone

Father Larry Lynch

 

Larry Lynch was born, the first of 12 kids in his family, in the City Line neighborhood of Brooklyn on October 17, 1906.  He grew up on some pretty tough streets while also serving as an altar boy at Saint Sylvester’s.   He came to greatly admire the Redemptorists, an order of missionary priests founded by Saint Alphonsus Liguori in 1732.  In America the order had distinguished itself by its work in some of the roughest slums in the country and thus it was small wonder that a tough street kid would be attracted to them.  Larry Lynch was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Order in 1932.

His initial assignment was as a missionary priest in Brazil, in the parishes of Miranda and Aquidauana in the State of Mato Grosso, quite a change from Brooklyn!  In 1937 he served at Old Saint Mary’s in Buffalo, New York with mission assignments to Orangeburg, North Carolina and Ephrata, Pa.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, in September 1941, Father Lynch enlisted in the Army as a chaplain.  He served at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, Fort Polk, Lousiana, and in the Mojave Desert in California with the 31rst regiment of the 7th Armored Division.  In December 1943 he was sent overseas to New Caledonia in the Southwest Pacific.

Assigned initially to the 42nd Quarter Master Battalion in Noumea, Captain Lynch quickly began making himself unforgettable.  The commander of the outfit was Lieutenant Colonel Julius Klein, a remarkable man in his own right who had served as an American spy in Germany during World War I.  Klein, to his astonishment, found himself agreeing that he and all the staff officers in the battalion would be at Christmas Mass that evening, although he wondered what a Jew like him would be doing at a  Catholic Mass!  Father Lynch had that type of effect on people, his enthusiasm tended to overwhelm all opposition.  He decided that the chapel was too small for the Mass and it was held in the base amphitheater.  The amphitheater filled to capacity, the Christmas carols at the Mass were led by a soldier named  Goldstein, a great tenor, who Father Lynch had met on the troop transport.  Father Lynch explained the priest’s vestments prior to beginning for the benefit of the non-Catholics present:

“Father Stearns of the Navy will celebrate the Mass.   Before he begins, there’s a lot even Catholics should know and I’ll bet a nickel there are some right here who couldn’t explain why a priest wears all those vestments, for example.  Well, it’s time we all knew why and it won’t hurt you non-Catholics to know either.”

“Father Stearns will begin to put on his vestments, and while he does, well talk about them a little. First, as to the why. Every one of them is a symbol, a symbol of service to God.”

He picked up the amice and held it high. “This, for example. It’s just a piece of linen, and it is called an amice: A-M-I-C-E. Jesus was blindfolded, and the amice represents that blindfold. Okay, Father.”

He extended the amice to Father Stearns who put it on.

“Herod placed a garment on Jesus to make a fool of Him. You remember that.  This white robe white to signify purity is an alb: A-L-B, and the alb is symbolic of that garment.  Incidentally there are six colors used by the church and each one of them is significant: white for purity and joy, red for blood and fire, green is the symbol of hope, violet for penance. . . .”

The Mass had a huge impact on everyone present, and Colonel Klein announced that he was glad he came. (more…)

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Published in: on April 24, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Sherman Tank

 “A Tiger can destroy 10 Sherman tanks, but the Americans have 11.”

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

 

 

 

 

A military maxim proclaims that quantity has a quality all its own.  Some 50,000 M4 Sherman tanks were manufactured by the US during the World War II.  A speedy and maneuverable medium tank, the M4 was designed to be shipped easily by sea and rail.  As an infantry support platform it was much loved by GI’s.  The only problem was that the Sherman was totally outgunned by  German Tigers and Panthers.  One dismayed tanker recalled seeing a Tiger fire through two buildings and still take out a Sherman.  The Sherman 75 gun could not penetrate the front armor of a Tiger.  Tiger and Panther shells had little problem penetrating the Sherman’s armor, causing American tankers to sometimes refer to their tanks as Ronsons, after a popular lighter of the period.  However, the Americans usually heavily outnumbered the enemy armor they confronted and almost always could call on air support to knock out enemy tanks.  Enemy armor also had to confront endless American infantry with anti-tank weapons and mortars, backed up by plentiful artillery and abundant tank destroyers, which made most German armored offensives against American positions risky propositions for them.

 

Most losses of the Sherman were not caused by German armor.  However, the fact that the Shermans were clearly inferior to the top classes of German armor was demoralizing for American tankers.  Variants on the Sherman saw service during the campaigns in France and Germany with heavier frontal armor and  mounting heavier guns partially alleviating the problem.

Published in: on April 22, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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April 15, 1945: Edward R. Murrow Reports on Buchenwald

 

 

I have reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it, I have no words.

Edward R. Murrow at Buchenwald, April 15, 1945

 

When Buchenwald death camp was liberated, General Patton was so outraged that he ordered military police to go to Weimar, the nearest town, and bring 1000 German civilians back to tour the camp to see what their leaders had done.  The MPs were just as outraged, and brought back 2000.  Edward R. Murrow did a radio broadcast from Buchenwald on April 15, 1945 that is absolutely unforgettable.  Evil can grow so strong in this world that it has to be stopped, no matter the cost.  Here is the transcript of Murrow’s broadcast: (more…)

Published in: on April 15, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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February 26, 1941: Eddie Rickenbacker Cheats Death Again

Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s Ace of Aces in World War I, cheated death in aerial combat many times over France.  Between April 29, 1918 and October 30, 1918, with several weeks lost due to being grounded for an ear infection, he shot down 26 German planes and observation balloons and earned seven Distinguished Service Crosses, the French Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Honor.  Here is the Medal of Honor citation:

Edward V. Rickenbacker, Colonel, specialist reserve, then first lieutenant, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, September 25, 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines Lieutenant. Rickenbacker attacked seven enemy planes (five type Fokker protecting two type Halberstadt photographic planes). Disregarding the odds against him he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.

One would have thought that with the ending of the War Rickenbacker could have said farewell to the Grim Reaper until his peaceful death in civilian life, but such was not the case with Rickenbacker.  He went on to an extremely successful business career, most notably as the head of Eastern Air Lines. 

On February 26, 1941, Rickenbacker was on board a Douglas DC-3 that crashed outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  Rickenbacker suffered grave injuries and was trapped in the wreckage.  Despite his own predicament he did his best to keep up the spirits of the other survivors who were injured, and guided the ambulatory survivors to find help.  Rickenbacker’s death was erroneously reported in the press, and he spent ten days near death, an experience he reported as being one of overwhelming calm and pleasure. (more…)

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January 26, 1945: Audie Murphy Earns Medal of Honor

The real heroes are dead.

Audie Murphy

When Audie Murphy starred in his aptly titled World War II biopic, To Hell and Back, his battlefield exploits were downplayed.  Partially this was due to Murphy’s modesty, he had not wanted to appear in the movie and did so only after he was promised that much of the focus of the film would be on his buddies who died during the War, and partially due to the fact that what he did during the War was so unbelievably courageous that film audiences might have refused to believe it.  Here is his Medal of Honor citation that he earned in truly hellish fighting near Holtzwihr, France on January 26, 1945:

 

General Orders No. 65

WAR DEPARTMENT

Washington 25, D.C., 9 August 1945

MEDAL OF HONOR – Award

Section
1
* * * * *

I. MEDAL OF HONOR. – By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved 9 July 1918 (WD Bul. 43, 1918), a Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty was awarded by the War Department in the name of Congress to the following-named officer:

Second Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy, 01692509, 15th Infantry, Army of the United States, on 26 January 1945, near Holtzwihr, France, commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. Lieutenant Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him to his right one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. It’s crew withdrew to the woods. Lieutenant Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, Lieutenant Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer which was in danger of blowing up any instant and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to the German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. the enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminated Lieutenant Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he personally killed or wounded about 50. Lieutenant Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.
* * * * *

BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:
OFFICIAL:

EDWARD F. WITSELL
Major General
Acting the Adjutant General

G.C. MARSHALL
Chief of Staff

 

During his post war screen career Audie Murphy played many heroes, but in his real life he had earned that title many times over.

 

Published in: on January 26, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 26, 1945: Audie Murphy Earns Medal of Honor  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Winston Churchill

 

 

You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

Winston Churchill, May 13, 1940

Published in: on January 23, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Winston Churchill  
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Darkest Hour: A Review

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Winston Churchill, June 4, 1940

 

 

My bride and I and our son saw Darkest Hour on December 23, 2017.  It is a very good film, perhaps a great one.  My review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in full effect. (more…)

Published in: on January 12, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Darkest Hour: A Review  
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Christmas 1944: Battle of the Bulge

In 1944 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.  Patton prayed the prayer, along with an extemporaneous one he prayed for good weather on December 23, 1944.  The skies cleared after Patton prayed, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101rst Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle.  On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101rst 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: (more…)

Published in: on December 24, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Christmas 1944: Battle of the Bulge  
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The Lessons of Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor, the date which will live in infamy in F.D.R.’s ringing phrase, happened 71 years ago today.  Less than 2000-2500 of the 42,000 sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen stationed there that fateful day are still with us.  Time has done what the forces of Imperial Japan could not, and soon the memories of that attack will be only a page in history.  The lessons of Pearl Harbor are however as timely today as they were on December 7, 1941:

1.  It Takes Two to Avoid a War-Today, too many people speak the most dreadful rubbish that boils down to the contention that the US can avoid war if it simply adopts a peaceful policy to all other nations.  Nations, like people, have their own goals, and they will pursue those goals as they will, whether the US adopts a “smiley-face” foreign policy or not.

2.  Peace Time Mentality-Pearl Harbor was such a disaster largely due to a mindset that gripped too many in the military that it was sufficient to simply go through the motions.  This is a common enough attitude in the world, and in peace time it becomes all too common in the military.  Pearl Harbor teaches us how disastrous this mentality is in war-time.

3.  Peace or War can be a Matter of Seconds- Throughout its history the US has often had wars start quite quickly:  The Revolution, The Civil War, Korea, World War II and 9-11.  George Washington warned us that: To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.   Too often in our history we have forgotten that sage advice and paid for it at our peril as we learn the old lesson that war can come upon us with the speed of summer lightning, especially in our modern age.

4. Assumptions-Behind every great disaster there are usually a string of bad assumptions.  We assumed that the Japanese if they attacked would likely not attack Pearl Harbor.  We assumed that a Japanese fleet could not sail from Japan to Hawaii unnoticed.  We assumed that our air power, especially with the new-fangled technology called Radar, would be on alert, and that in any case our fleet could defeat anything that Japan could send against it.  Pile enough bad assumptions on top of each other and a debacle is in the making.

5.  Killing More People Won’t Help Matters-That quote comes from Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the lone dissenting vote in the House against declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor.  A Republican from Montana, Rankin is an interesting figure.  The first woman elected to Congress, she served two terms.  In her first term she voted against declaring war on Germany in World War I and in her second term she voted against declaring war on Japan.  Both votes stemmed from her deep-seated pacificism, both votes were immensely unpopular and both votes effectively ended her political career at two different points in her life.  I give her the courage of her convictions.  However, her stance after Pearl Harbor illustrates the folly of pacifism as a national policy.  The sad truth is that in this vale of tears it is sometimes necessary to take up arms to avoid greater evils than war, and those peoples who forget that truth of the human condition will experience such evils sooner or later. (more…)

Published in: on December 7, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Lessons of Pearl Harbor  
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December 4, 1942: Long Patrol Ends

 

 

In one of the most stunningly successful small scale operations in the history of the US Marines,  from November 6, 1942, to December 4, 1942, the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, about 700 Marines, under Colonel Evans Carlson, in 29 separate engagements, killed 488 Japanese soldiers while pursuing a force of approximately 2500 Japanese troops under the command of  Colonel Toshinari Shōji on Guadalcanal, while suffering 16 killed.  Carlson was a double mustang.  He rose from the ranks while serving in the Army during World War I, ending up as a Captain of Field Artillery.  In 1922 he enlisted in the Marine Corps as a private and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1923.  While serving in China in the 1930’s he studied, and was greatly impressed by, the tactics used by the Chinese Communists.  Carlson’s political beliefs were always left wing, although David Shoup, a future Commandant of the Corps and who earned a Medal of Honor, noted at the time of Carlson, “He’s a red but he is not yellow.”

In 1942 he was placed in command of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion which he trained along the lines of the Communist guerillas in China.  If this strikes the reader as unusual, it was.  The high command of the Marine Corps was not happy, but President Roosevelt was a fan, as was his son, Captain James Roosevelt, who served in the Raiders.  (Roosevelt would rise to the rank of Colonel during the War and earn a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his courage.  A liberal Democrat, he turned conservative in later life, crossing party lines to back both Nixon and Reagan.)

The 2nd Raiders made headlines with their raid on Makin Island in August of 1942 and for their service on Guadalcanal, and were known popularly as Carlson’s Raiders.  War out with malaria and other illnesses, Carlson was relieved of command in March of 1943.  He served as technical advisor for the film Gung Ho, starring Randolph Scott, a World War I combat veteran, as Evans Carlson, which told the story, with the usual Hollywood indifference to history, of the Makin Raid.  Returning to active duty, he served at Tarawa and Saipan, where he was wounded while attempting to rescue a radio man.  That wound caused his retirement in 1946 with a terminal promotion to Brigadier General.  He died of coronary disease in 1947, age 51.

Here is the text of his Navy Cross, one of three he earned during his career, citation for the Long Patrol:

The Navy Cross is presented to Evans Fordyce Carlson, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and courage as leader of the Second Marine Raider Battalion in action against enemy forces in the British Solomon Islands during the period from 4 November to 4 December 1942. In the face of most difficult conditions of tropical weather and heavy growth, Lieutenant Colonel Carlson led his men in a determined and aggressive search for threatening hostile forces, overcoming all opposition and completing their mission with small losses to our men while taking heavy toll of the enemy. His personal valor and inspiring fortitude reflect great credit upon Lieutenant Colonel Carlson, his command and the United States Naval Service.

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