Remains of WWII fighter pilot killed in 1944 crash in Germany identified

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This is from Stars and Stripes.

R. I. P. Army Air Corp 2nd Lt. Alvin Beethe.

Gods Speed and Hand Salute. 


U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Alvin Beethe went missing on Nov. 26, 1944, while flying a P-38 Lightning over Germany. He was with the 393rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force. Beethe’s remains have been identified and are to be buried on June 8, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery. COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

STUTTGART, Germany — The remains of a U.S. pilot shot down during a World War II mission over Germany will be returned to relatives for a full military burial after recently being identified through DNA testing, according to the military.

U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Alvin Beethe of Elk Creek, Neb., is to be buried June 8 at Arlington National Cemetery more than 70 years after he failed to return from a bombing mission in the western part of Germany, said the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

On Nov. 26, 1944, Beethe was piloting a P-38 Lightning aircraft that didn’t make it back from an operation against enemy forces.

At the time, another U.S. pilot reported that Beethe’s aircraft crashed near the village of Morschenich. Beethe, who was assigned to the 393rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force, was reported killed in action.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning — the first purely military design built by Lockheed — was a long-range, twin-engine single-seat fighter. Because of its distinctive twin-booms, it was nicknamed the “Fork-Tailed Devil” by its German opponents.

After the war, the American Graves Registration Command found Beethe’s crash site, but no remains were recovered at that time, according to the Pentagon’s MIA accounting agency.

Last week, Beethe’s younger cousin, Eileen Thiesfeld, told the Elk Creek Journal Star that the crash happened when Beethe failed to bring his plane out of a power dive.

“He could do things with an airplane that other guys wouldn’t even attempt to do,” she told the newspaper in a May 22 story.

“His mother and sister went out to California to see him before he went overseas and he performed for them in his airplane and they were just shocked how close he would come to the ground before he would pull that plane back up,” said Thiesfeld, who was 13 when Beethe was killed in action.

In 2008, there was a breakthrough in the case when local citizens informed U.S. authorities that a possible wartime crash site has been located in Morschenich. Such discoveries are not uncommon in Germany and other parts of Europe, where amateur researchers and hobbyists scout World War II crash sites for pieces of wreckage or evidence of remains.

Acting on the tip, the Defense Department dispatched a team in 2013 to survey the suspected crash site. Later in 2013, another DOD team returned to excavate the spot, and in the process, recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage.

To identify Beethe, military scientists used forensic identification tools including two types of DNA analysis, which matched a cousin and a nephew, according to DOD. It was not clear whether the cousin was Thiesfeld.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died. More than 73,000 of them remain unaccounted for.


Army to force out 550 majors; some in Afghanistan

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This is from Stars and Stripes.

This scares the Hell right out of me Stalin would be proud..

I know history and remember that our military was gutted prior to Pearl Harbor.


WASHINGTON — About 550 Army majors, including some serving in Afghanistan, will soon be told they have to leave the service by next spring as part of a budget-driven downsizing of the service.

Gen. John Campbell, the vice chief of the Army, acknowledged Friday that telling troops in a war zone that they’re out of a job is a difficult task. But he said some of the soldiers could join the National Guard or the Army Reserve.

The decision to cut Army majors comes on the heels of a move to slash nearly 1,200 captains from the ranks. Army leaders were criticized at the time for giving 48 of them the bad news while they were deployed to Afghanistan.

The Army declined to say how many majors will be notified while they are at the battlefront.

“The ones that are deployed are certainly the hardest,” Campbell told reporters. “What we try to do there is, working through the chain of command, minimize the impact to that unit and then maximize the time to provide to that officer to come back and do the proper transition, to take care of himself or herself, and the family.”

Campbell said it’s difficult to avoid cutting deployed soldiers because of the timing schedules.

All the soldiers being forced to leave have probably already been given a heads-up that they were at risk of the job cut and will meet with a senior officer, according to the Army.

Those who are cut have nine months to leave the Army. And the soldiers who are deployed, including those in Afghanistan, will generally have about a month to move out of that job and go home to begin to transition out of the service.

The cuts have been difficult for many young officers, particularly captains, who tend not to have enough years in service to retire.

To make the cuts, the Army looked at about 8,500 majors who joined the service between 1999 and 2003. Some may have about 15 years of service, depending on all factors that go into credit for years of service, and might be able to retire, but many won’t have enough time in the job, Campbell said

Guard and reserve leaders are looking for officers, especially captains, so there could be opportunities for the soldiers to continue to serve, he said.

After 13 years of war that forced a significant and rapid build-up of the Army to about 570,000, the military now has to reduce its combat forces to meet budget cuts.

The Army has close to 514,000 soldiers now, but will have to be down to 510,000 by October, shrink to 490,000 by October 2015 and be down to 450,000 by 2019. In addition, if Congress doesn’t act to prevent automatic budget cuts from resuming, the Army may eventually have to get down to 420,000 — a size that that leaders say may not allow them to wage even one major, prolonged military campaign.

The Army tried to avoid some cuts by slowing enlistments and using attrition and some voluntary separations. It also has been combing through files looking for soldiers with disciplinary or other problems in their annual evaluations to weed out lower-performing officers first, officials said.

The American Flag: ‘A Threat’?

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This is by Chuck Norris in Town Hall.

Was this flag offensive when Francis Scott Key wrote “Oh say can you see?”

How about the immortal line from Barbara Fritchie which goes,

Shoot if you must this old gray head, But spare your country’s flag!”

The American Flag never has been,nor will it ever be offensive.

If you are offended by the American flag just pack up and return to whatever third world sewer you crawled out of.


photo credit


It’s the very symbol of patriotism — Old Glory, as William Driver, a 19th-century American sea captain, nicknamed it. But even as we close in on Independence Day, more and more people across the country are calling the American flag a threat and inappropriate home garnishing.


A week ago, the landlord of a Texas man called the American flag “a threat to the Muslim community” and ordered him to remove it from his home, according to KHOU-TV.

Duy Tran said the Stars and Stripes means a lot to him. Posting the flag was the least he could do, he said, especially in the light of his friends who died for this country.

Tran added: “What really stunned me is that she said it’s a threat towards the Muslim community. I mean, I’m not a threat to (anybody).”

When KHOU-TV tried to confront the manager about the statement, she answered no questions, and the crew was escorted from the premises by a security officer with a note that read: “While the Lodge on El Dorado admires our resident’s patriotism, we must enforce our property rules and guidelines. Such guidelines maintain the aesthetics of our apartment community and provide for the safety of all residents. The apartment community already proudly displays our country’s flag in a safe and appropriate manner at the entrances to our community.”

So even though Tran had hung his flag with proper etiquette from his balcony, it wasn’t “safe and appropriate”? Are we now going to tell Americans that only one flag is allowed per 1,000 residents?

Tran rightly rejected that assault on his liberty, freedom and patriotism by saying, “I’m gonna leave my flag there, as an American, until she shows me proof that I don’t have the right to leave my flag there.”

That situation reminded me of another one that happened just last summer.

KOVR-TV reported that former Army Spc. Jen Elliot, who was a heavy-wheeled vehicle operator and a .50-caliber gunner in Afghanistan before being blown into a wall there and receiving a traumatic brain injury, came home to her California apartment only to find an official violation on her door from property management stating that she could no longer fly her American flag from her balcony.

Elliot explained to KOVR-TV that she flew the Stars and Stripes because it reminded her of her Army unit overseas, which had incidentally lost six soldiers in the previous three months. She explained that she was particularly “upset and very offended” by the notice of violation because it demanded that she take down the flag for which she and her fellow comrades fought and still fight.

Elliot said she would move out before she would take down her American flag. She added: “It’s very important for me to have that up there. … I’m not taking that flag down.”

Am I missing something? Do you remember the days when Americans not only used to be proud to fly Old Glory but frowned upon neighbors who did not?

These travesties regarding flag flying wouldn’t be so tragic if they weren’t becoming so prevalent and symptomatic of an America moving away from its original mission and Founding Fathers’ intent.

So for this July Fourth, I say we not only fly Old Glory proud and high but also remind our families, friends co-workers and neighbors exactly why we do.

I agree wholeheartedly with Elliot, who concluded: “We live in America. Why shouldn’t we fly our flag proudly?”

And what about those who oppose Old Glory’s posting?

Take your orders from Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “I see that the old flagpole still stands. Have our troops hoist the colors to its peak, and let no enemy ever haul them down.”

Then don’t hesitate for a moment to place your hand over your heart and say loudly and proudly for all to hear: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”


US personnel in Bahrain prepare for Ramadan


This is from Stars And Stripes.

The Gideons are not allowed to pass out Bibles to our troops.

Military Chaplins can not display the cross  and other religious icons and they cannot pray in Jesus’ name.

Now our troops are supposed to follow Ramadan.


Ali Hassan, a cultural adviser at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, gives a presentation about Islam, the Islamic lunar calender, and about customs and traditions during Ramadan. About 150 personnel at the Bahrain base attended the briefing on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. HENDRICK SIMOES/STARS AND STRIPES


MANAMA, Bahrain — U.S. personnel accustomed to drinking their coffee on the drive to work will have to put that habit on hold for about a month. It’s one of a few lifestyle changes Americans will have to make during the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Officials expect Ramadan to begin at sunrise on Saturday, depending on when the new moon is sighted. The holy month lasts for approximately 30 days — until about July 28. For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a month of fasting and devotion to God. Most Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, when families gather for Iftar — the meal that breaks the fast.

For the 8,200 U.S. personnel living here, and those serving throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility — including servicemembers, civilian personnel, contractors and family members — the month may require changing some daily routines.

Businesses and government offices will reduce hours and most restaurants will be closed during daylight hours.

While not required to fast during Ramadan, in Bahrain, Americans can be fined or detained by local authorities for eating, drinking or smoking in public when off-base during daylight hours.

Navy officials are requiring U.S. personnel to dress more conservatively off-base during Ramadan. Although not a requirement by Bahraini authorities, the Navy is demanding that men wear long-sleeved shirts and women wear sleeved blouses that cover their elbows. Also, men must wear long trousers, and women should wear pants or skirts that cover the knees.

Base cultural advisers have spent the last few weeks conducting Ramadan briefs to educate Americans about the holy month. Ali Hassan briefed about 150 personnel Tuesday about Islam, the lunar calendar and customs and traditions during Ramadan.

“It actually made me want to do a lot more research into the religion,” said Petty Officer 1st Class James Ramirez. He said the additional requirements during the month aren’t a big deal to him. “For such a small period of time, it’s a small sacrifice,” he said.

Other servicemembers echoed that sentiment.

Hassan encouraged personnel to experience Iftar in a Ramadan tent, many of which are set up at various locations around Bahrain during the holy month and welcome non-Muslims.

“Make it a point to visit these tents while you’re here. You don’t know if you’ll ever come back to Bahrain in the future,” Hassan said during the brief.

While the tents offer a more traditional atmosphere, many restaurants put aside their regular menus during the month and serve special Iftar dinners.

Things to Know During Ramadan

  • Eating, drinking, chewing and smoking in public are civil offenses in some Islamic countries.
  • Men should wear long sleeves and pants. Women’s sleeves should extend below the elbow and pants or skirts should cover the knees.
  • Avoid critical remarks about fasting or any religious practice.
  • Most restaurants will be closed except those in 4- and 5-star hotels.
  • Businesses alter and reduce hours during the day; some open at night until early morning hours.
  • Arabs are good hosts and may offer you food or refreshments during daylight hours. Such offers should be declined.
  • All consumption of alcohol by U.S. military personnel is prohibited at any off base public venue in the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility during Ramadan.
  • It’s customary to say ‘Ramadan Kareem’ during Ramadan.



Veteran remembers interrogating Goering, other Nazis

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This is from Stars and Stripes.

How many stories like this story about the Ritchie Boys will hardly if ever shared?

It is a shame these stories will not get shared.

Historically, this is a great loss.


Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, as an Allied prisoner after World War II.


SAN FRANCISCO — Ed Holton was 21 years old when he found himself face-to-face with Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler’s second-in-command. It went nothing like what he’d expected.

Holton was a U.S. Army intelligence officer interrogating the imprisoned Nazi in preparation for the postwar Nuremberg trials, but Goering wasn’t cracking loose about his slave labor programs or how many Jews he’d ordered gassed.

Goering, speaking only in German, just wanted to complain.

Little did he know he was whining to a Jewish refugee from Nazi-controlled Austria — a refugee who was now a Ritchie Boy, one of the most valuable interrogation units in the Allied forces.

That unit is largely forgotten today, and all save 300 of the 3,500 members have died. But their adventures live on in the memories of survivors such as Holton, 90, who according to the sketchy available records is the only one living in the Bay Area.

And when it comes to memories, he’s got whoppers few can match — like interrogating Goering in a military prison in 1946.

“Goering was very upset that day and said, ‘I don’t want to talk,’ and I said, ‘Why, Herr Goering, what is wrong?’ ” Holton recalled. “He said soldiers had plundered his villa in Germany. I translated it to the other officers as ‘looted,’ and he understood that little bit of what I said.

“The next thing I know, he jumps up and shouts, ‘Nein! I said plundered, not looted!’ ” Holton recalled, chuckling. “And I suppose he was right, since looting is a civilian action and plundering is military.

“So I said, ‘Herr Goering, since you are the known expert in both of those fields, I will defer to you.’

“Afterward, one of the other officers said, ‘Do you think he knew you are Jewish?’ and I said, ‘I certainly hope so.’ ”

Even seven decades later, as he sat in his retirement home in Mill Valley, Holton got a kick out of being able to get stroppy with the high-ranking Nazi. Not many soldiers had that opportunity.

But the Ritchie Boys did.

The interrogation unit was composed of young German and Austrian Jewish men who fled to America as World War II broke out, got drafted as foreigners and were trained to be intelligence officers. Army brass reckoned they would be good interrogators because they not only hated the Nazis with a personalized fury, but they knew how to wheedle German prisoners of war in their own tongue.

The nickname came from the base where they received their eight weeks of intelligence training, Camp Ritchie in Maryland.

After graduating, the Ritchie Boys fanned out across the European war theater, and their biggest push came right after D-Day. They were embedded with the soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy so they could not only interrogate freshly captured Nazi prisoners, but also use loudspeakers to shout at the enemy that all hope was lost.

Holton was a second lieutenant when he came ashore several days after D-Day, and his first assignment was raiding the vacated Gestapo headquarters. His training for spotting improvised explosives paid off right away.

“The only thing the Gestapo left behind as they fled was booby-trapped toilet seats, and I could tell by the elevation of the seat,” he said. “We had to do our business on the floor of their headquarters. Interesting way to start out.”

He soon found himself at the Battle of the Bulge, interrogating prisoners, civilians and defectors to discern troop movements and other tactical nuggets. The gentler approach worked best.

“We’d ask the newly captured prisoners what they had for dinner,” Holton said. “Then we’d say, ‘Gee, only sauerkraut for five days? We’ve got eggs, tuna and Hershey’s chocolate — come on in the tent and eat!’

“It almost always worked. We treated them with respect — they were draftees, like us. After they got that chocolate, soon they’d be telling you everything.”

By the end of the war, he had made captain, earned a Bronze Star — and was made a U.S. citizen, like the other Ritchie Boys, for his service. Then came Nuremberg.

His next assignment after Goering was SS Brigadefuhrer Walter Schellenberg, who told Holton his main regret in the war was that the portable-trailer gas chambers he ordered up to kill Jews had a design flaw.

“He said the company put the loading door on the right rear, so when gas was pumped in the people rushed to that side and the chamber fell over,” Holton recalled. “He was very angry about that. When he made designers redo it, he did not pay them.”

That chamber also earned Schellenberg a special medal from Hitler, “and he was very proud of that,” Holton added. “I asked him how many people he gassed, and he said 345,245 was his weekly total at one point.

“He was very happy to tell how he did such a wonderful job using his initiative to solve a problem. He was a terrible man.”

Holton’s interrogation helped send Schellenberg to prison for two years after the war — he was released shortly before dying of cancer in 1952. Goering cheated the hangman by swallowing cyanide.

After the war, the Army ordered up an assessment of the Ritchie Boys by Col. Robert Schow, who concluded in a lengthy report that the unit was “extremely valuable to all commands to which they were attached.”

Holton takes great pride in that.

“When you do a job like we did, you determine what your strengths are,” he said. “After you learn how to handle Nazis, other people are no problem for the rest of your life.”

A German-made documentary in 2005 traced the history of the Ritchie Boys, but other than that there’s been little mention of the unit. Among Holton’s comrades were writer Klaus Mann, son of Nobel-winning novelist Thomas Mann, and Fred Howard, who invented L’eggs pantyhose.

Holton became an accountant, raised a family, and after retirement did travel consulting in San Francisco until he finally gave that a rest a few years ago.

He spends a lot of time now studying World War II and has 300 books on the subject. But as for the Ritchie Boys? There is no legacy organization, no annual gathering, no steady correspondence.

Holton finds that a little sad.

“Once the war was over, we all just wanted to go home to America and take advantage of the GI Bill,” he said. “We didn’t contact each other until about a dozen of us had a reunion in Detroit 10 years ago. But nobody keeps in touch.

“It’s all dwindled away. It was an amazing thing we did, but in 10 years we will all be gone. We will truly be just history.”

See a video of World War II Nazi interrogator Ed Holton


Buy a Knife, Lose Your Firearms? California Bill Stabs Bill of Rights in its Heart


This is from AmmoLand.

What flag flies above the California State flag?

Is it the Nazi Swastika, the Russian Hammer and Sickle or the Red Chinese Star?

It’s sure not the Stars and Stripes  because Liberty no longer exists in Kalifornia.


Gilbert, AZ –-( While the focus of California Assembly Bill 1014 is firearms, the reality is that if this bill passes, even simply purchasing a knife would potentially give sufficient cause to allow the state to seize a knife owner’s firearms.

If they can do that, it’s not much of a jump to seizing your knives using the same sort of law.

Assembly Bill 1014 really is a nightmare waiting to happen. Under the bill, a court could issue a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” — and then a “Firearms Seizure Warrant” — based on mere hearsay allegations and lay, non-expert opinion from someone that doesn’t even have to know you (or even live in California).

That’s not hyperbole. If AB 1014 passes, “(a)ny person may submit an application to the court” to take away someone’s guns — and probably their knives — without notice or even a chance to defend him or herself in court. The first they may know is when the SWAT team bursts through the front door. Does anyone think that the anti-weapons courts in California won’t jump at the opportunity on the slimmest of so-called “evidence?”

This bill is insane: simply having purchased “firearms or other deadly weapons” — like knives — is “evidence” supporting the issuance of a court order that takes away Second Amendment rights and personal property. No doubt any knives possessed will be seized as well. And, if this bill passes, how long before we see exactly the same ill-advised law applied to knives and knife owners?

AB 1014 represents the worst kind of Constitutional slippery slope, effectively abrogating numerous of the Bill of Rights’ amendments. Yes, AB 1014 is almost certainly unconstitutional, but how many dollars and years will it take until that decision is handed down? How many citizens’ lives will be turned upside down, possibly even lost, before that happens? Better to stop it before we have to go there.

Civil rights don’t have borders or state lines, although some states seem to often try to forget that, and we all know that what starts in California too often ends up somewhere else soon enough.

Knife Rights is submitting a letter opposing AB 1014 and we encourage you to write in opposition as well. Our friends at CalGuns and The Firearms Policy Coalition have a page that allows you to easily send a letter of opposition with a few clicks (No donation is required to send a letter, just uncheck the box labeled “Yes, I want to fight…”)

Knife Rights ( is America’s Grassroots Knife Owners Organization, working towards a Sharper Future for all knife owners. Knife Rights is dedicated to providing knife owners an effective voice in public policy. Become a Knife Rights member and make a contribution to support the fight for your knife rights. Visit

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5 facts you may not know about the Normandy invasion


This is from Stars And Stripes.

  Tommorrow it will be the Normandy Invasion plus 70 years.

I will be posting to help remember the men who did and did not make it back from WW ll. 


Five facts you may not know about the Normandy invasion:

Bloody A Company

For most the men of A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, Normandy was their first taste of combat. For many of them, it would be their last. Four companies of the regiment, from the Virginia National Guard, were tapped for the first wave at Omaha Beach. A Company was tasked with seizing the road leading from the beach to the French town of Vierville a few miles inland.

Even before the first landing craft hit the beach, things began going wrong. Strong current left many soldiers seasick and disoriented. U.S. bombers that were supposed to soften up coastal defenses had missed their targets because of thick clouds, leaving German gunners unscathed and ready to spray the beach with intense machine gun, mortar and artillery fire.

A Company hit the beach in Dog Green Sector about 6:35 a.m., met by withering German fire. Within 15 minutes all the company’s officers and most of the NCOs were dead. More than 60 percent of A Company were killed or wounded.

Veteran joins the fight

Many of the soldiers who landed at Normandy were new to combat when they hit the beaches. But one combatant had already been in the war since Day One. The USS Nevada was docked at Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

The USS Nevada was struck by one torpedo and six aerial bombs, suffering 60 dead and 109 wounded.  Nevertheless, her crew ran the ship aground to prevent the Japanese from sinking her. The vessel was refloated, refitted at Puget Sound and sent to the European Theater. On D-Day, the USS Nevada fired on German positions in support of the Normandy landings and later returned to the Pacific in time for the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Following the war, the USS Nevada was decommissioned after 30 years in the fleet and was scuttled in the Pacific in 1948.

Old Man and the Beach

The oldest American soldier who came ashore at D-Day didn’t have to be there. He was 56 years old, suffered from arthritis and heart trouble and had been relieved once in a dispute with Gen. George Patton. He was also the son of a president of the United States.

However, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., then on the staff of the 4th Infantry Division, begged the division commander for permission to join the assault on Utah Beach, even appealing to his distant cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who approved the request.

Brig. Gen. Roosevelt landed at Utah with the first wave, personally changing the plan of attack under fire after German resistance proved stronger than expected. Nearly a month later, Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor and recommended for promotion to major general.

When Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower phoned to give him he news, he was told that Roosevelt had died of a heart attack the night before on July 12, 1944. He was buried with his comrades at the U.S. cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy.

The first to die?

Among the first American officers killed in the D-Day landings was mortally wounded even before he could join the fight. At 2 a.m. June 6, 1st Lt. Robert Mathias was standing in the door of a C-47 preparing to jump with his platoon from the 82nd Airborne Division’s E Company, 508th Parachute Regiment.

Suddenly German ground fire ripped through the aircraft, striking Mathias and knocking him to the floor. As the door light turned green, signaling time to jump, survivors said Mathias picked his bloodied body off the floor, shouted “Let’s Go,” and sprang from the aircraft. His lifeless  body was found on the ground, still hooked to his chute.

Not all the problems were from the Germans

As if the Germans weren’t enough of a threat, American paratroopers at D-Day had to contend with their own equipment. American parachutes were equipped with buckles to release the gear once paratroopers hit the ground.

It took so long to unhook the buckle, especially in the dark, in swampy ground and underfire, that a significant number of paratroopers were killed by Germans as they tried to wrestle out of their chutes. After the landings, the U.S. switched to quick-release buckles used by British airborne forces and which are in use today.

After-action reports complained that the 75 pounds of gear carried by assault troops — including ammunition, rations, heating units and even French language phrase books — proved too bulky and reduced mobility, especially for soldiers trying to wade ashore under fire.


Europe pulling all stops to mark 70th anniversary of key WWII events

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This is from Stars and Stripes.

Will America pull out all of the stops to mark the 70th Anniversary of WW ll events?

I know my family will be doing our best to honor our veterans.



FOULENG, Belgium — Some townspeople here still remember that day in April 1944 when a burning American B-17 screamed low overhead, crashed and exploded in a nearby field.

Crippled by German flak, the bomber sailed like a flaming arrow into ground now occupied by dozens of grazing cows. Antonio De la Serna, who was 11 when he witnessed the crash, shudders when recalling the sputtering roar of the dying engines.

“We were quite afraid,” he said.

But seven decades later, the town of Fouleng celebrates that day as if it were a holiday. Four Americans bailed out before impact. One was captured by the Germans; three were rescued by local residents. It was the villagers’ first brush with the forces that would, five months later, liberate Belgium.

“The reason we are here in Fouleng is that we all have a duty to remember,” Mayor Christian Leclercq said in a ceremony Sunday, marking 70 years to the day that the Flying Fortress crashed here. “For you Americans, it is to show your affection to the servicemembers who defended the country. For us Belgians, it is to thank the Americans for joining World War II against the invasion of the Nazis.”

The commemoration drew at least 100 people — the best-attended event marking the crash since a church service in 1944.

Those numbers were driven largely by the return of 94-year-old Troy Hollar, the sole surviving member of that ill-fated flight, and of more than 20 family members of the crew.

But time is also a critical factor.

Commemorations across the Continent are pulling out all the stops this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the last year of World War II, with an expectation that by the next major milestone in five years there might not be many WWII veterans to celebrate with.

The Netherlands American Cemetery, where 8,301 U.S. service-members from World War II are buried, is the second-most visited American cemetery in Europe — only Normandy gets more traffic. Yet despite healthy attendance of between 250,000 to 300,000 visitors annually, only three veterans of the war have visited in the last year, said Richard Arsenault, the cemetery’s assistant superintendent.

Not long ago, much of his time was spent accommodating veterans and their direct descendants.

“But now we realize that we are getting less,” he said. Visits by the siblings of World War II veterans also are in steep decline; same, too, for their children.

“We are getting a lot of, ‘He was our great uncle,’ or things like that,” Arsenault said.

Still, interest in the cemetery has not waned. Numerous groups, many of them made up of World War II enthusiasts from around Europe, are jostling to get their events on the cemetery’s calendar.

The crush is even more severe in Normandy, a large region of northern France where tens of thousands of Allied troops landed on five widely spread beaches on June 6, 1944, to establish the foothold that would lead to Germany’s defeat. Accommodations at local hotels have long been booked solid for the days of parades, fireworks, re-enactments and visits by world leaders that will commemorate the largest amphibious assault in history.

But there are scores — if not hundreds — of other events around the Continent over the next year, leading up to the 70th anniversary on May 8, 2015, of the Allied Victory in Europe. Many are organized by local groups and not much publicized. Others draw huge crowds and celebrities.

On April 28, a group dedicated to preserving the history of Exercise Tiger — a large-scale rehearsal for the D-Day invasion of Normandy — will hold a memorial service in honor of the 946 American servicemen who died at Slapton Sands in Devon, England.

On May 18, Britain’s Prince Harry goes to Italy to commemorate four major battles between January and May 1944 in which nearly a quarter-million Allied troops from Britain, the United States, Poland, India, France and New Zealand took part. Referred to by some as the Stalingrad of the Italian front, the fourth battle ended with the liberation of Monte Cassino and opened a passage for the Allies to advance on Rome.

Celebrations across France will dominate much of the late spring and early summer, starting with the Normandy invasion in June and continuing with the liberation of Cherbourg June 26, Caen on July 9, and scores of other lesser-known places along the route to Paris, which was retaken by friendly forces on Aug. 25, 1944.

In Belgium, where Fouleng held a memorial ceremony Sunday, the real celebration kicks off in September to mark the country’s liberation. From Sept. 5-7, the city of Mons will host “Tanks in Town,” featuring a large collection of vintage armor to commemorate its liberation by forces from the U.S. 3rd Armored Division.

The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial will be host to two concerts and a film from Sept. 12-14 to commemorate the country’s liberation.

Also starting Sept. 14, the Belgians and Dutch launch a week of celebrations marking Operation Market Garden, the Allies’ unsuccessful attempt to bring the war to an early end depicted in the classic war film “A Bridge Too Far.” Though the schedule isn’t set, it’s expected to include convoys of some 600 vintage military vehicles that will drive from Leopoldsburg, Belgium, to Veghel, Netherlands, Sept. 14, and from Veghel to Nijmegen, Netherlands, Sept. 20.

After that, the winter is peppered with events in remembrance of the Battle of the Bulge, the German counteroffensive that left some 19,000 Americans dead and many more wounded or captured. Thousands of people, many in vintage uniforms, are expected to take part in road marches and re-enactments with special attention placed on the feats of the American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions.

All of these events are expected to be bigger than usual because, for re-enactors and other World War II enthusiasts, “if [the year] ends in a five or a zero, they’re going to want to be part of it,” Arsenault said.

70 years ago, disaster struck at Slapton Sands D-Day rehearsal — and was covered up


This is from Stars and Stripes.

I know  the need for keeping this tragedy secret due to the security needed because of the D-Day invasion.

These men need to be honored.




MILWAUKEE — In a way, Private 1st Class Helmer Panek was a D-Day veteran.


Panek died 70 years ago Monday, but not on a Normandy beach under a withering hail of gunfire and explosions. He died practicing for the invasion that turned the tide of the war against the Nazis.

The 20-year-old Milwaukee man was among more than 700 American sailors and soldiers killed during a large-scale rehearsal for the D-Day invasion dubbed Operation Tiger at Slapton Sands, England, when German boats fired torpedoes at them. Under orders from Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the tragedy was hushed up and families of the fallen were initially only told their loved ones were missing in action.

Partly because of embarrassing mistakes made by allied commanders and mostly because Eisenhower worried the Germans would learn of the invasion, survivors were sworn to secrecy. The soldiers and sailors were supposed to be part of the landing forces at Utah Beach on June 6. Sadly, more men died in the Slapton Sands debacle than on Utah Beach.

“It was swept under the rug. Although a smoking gun doesn’t exist, it looks clear it was made at the highest local authority — Eisenhower,” said Craig Symonds, a historian, whose book “Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings” was recently published. “If the Germans knew how much they had damaged the invasion fleet and that it was an invasion fleet rehearsing for the upcoming D-Day, it would also have damaged allied morale.”

Tom Mueller, an Oak Creek author of books on Wisconsin combat veterans, found six Wisconsin men killed in the D-Day dress rehearsal who were either buried at Cambridge American Cemetery in England or declared missing in action/buried at sea. It’s quite possible more Wisconsinites were killed at Slapton Sands, but their bodies were returned to the United States for burial.

Checking a comprehensive database for overseas burials and MIAs, Mueller compiled a list of Wisconsin men killed April 28, 1944, taking part in Operation Tiger: Army Pvt. Jacob A. Bohl; Army Pfc. Stephen G. Holzberger; Navy Fireman 1st Class Herman R. Kortenhorn; Army Pfc. Helmer E. Panek; Army Staff Sgt. Richard F. Von Wald; and Army Pfc. Lawrence C. Zempel. All were from Milwaukee County except Kortenhorn, from Sheboygan, and Zempel, from Waupaca County.

“They’re essentially D-Day veterans. They gave their lives for D-Day even though this was five or six weeks before the actual invasion,” said Mueller, whose most recent book, “Duty, Honor, Country and Wisconsin,” was published in November.

“It’s a rehearsal, and while those are not done in perfect conditions, to learn the Germans interfered with it and then we had to cover it up for years, is very sad,” said Mueller, whose maternal uncle was killed fighting in France in August 1944.

Slapton Sands is actually a gravel beach in the south of England, chosen for a training ground because it’s similar to the Normandy beaches that would soon see tens of thousands of Allied troops storming ashore. On the morning of April 28, more than 100 troops were killed by friendly fire as they practiced landing on the beach.

Meanwhile, a convoy of eight large tank landing ships called LSTs was maneuvering through Lyme Bay when German E-boats discovered the group. E-boats were similar to the American PT boat, fast wooden attack boats armed with torpedoes and machine guns.

Though two British ships were assigned to protect the American LSTs, only one actually made it that day, a fact unknown to American troops because the landing crafts and British naval headquarters were using different radio frequencies. British ships had seen the German E-boats and told the commander of the one British corvette protecting the convoy, but he didn’t let the LSTs know, assuming they already knew.

The German E-boats spotted the convoy traveling in a straight line and opened fire on the easy targets. LST 507 with Bohl, Panek, Von Wald and Zempel on board caught fire and was abandoned; LST 531 with Holzberger aboard sank quickly; and LST 280, whose crew included Kortenhorn, ignited but eventually limped to shore. Another LST was damaged by friendly fire.

Many troops put on their life belts incorrectly, and when they jumped into the water their heavy backpacks flipped them over, pushing their heads under water. Most drowned. A total of 749 were killed in the Lyme Bay attacks, including 441 soldiers.

Helmer Panek’s parents were among the 749 families who received terrible telegrams at a time when pretty much every community in America had lost sons, brothers and husbands.

Doris Panek married Helmer’s older brother Arthur who, while he was fighting in the Army’s 95th Division in Europe, asked his little brother to look after Doris. Helmer Panek took Doris roller skating, to movies and out to eat. They became good friends and Doris was devastated to learn he was missing in action.

“It’s a terrible thing. It’s a relief to finally know what happened,” said Doris Panek, after a reporter explained how Helmer died.

Doris Panek turns 92 on Tuesday, but her memories of Helmer Panek, whose nickname was Punty, are fresh despite the seven decades since his loss. Helmer was the youngest boy out of eight children and liked to roller skate. He competed in roller skating contests with his sister in Milwaukee.

“I don’t know if it was the mother who got the message that Helmer went down in the ocean. I was never told whether he was found, where he is, anything like that,” Doris Panek said.

Helmer Panek’s body was never found — he is officially listed as missing in action or buried at sea.

Tony Kortenhorn, 65, of Sheboygan heard his father and grandfather talk about the death of his father’s cousin, Herman Kortenhorn, 19. His father, Henry Kortenhorn Jr., was a tool and die maker at the Kohler Co. making shell casings during the war and had just been drafted when World War II ended.

“I heard through family stories when I was a kid that they found out about (Herman) after the invasion. They didn’t want the Germans to know what they were doing,” Tony Kortenhorn said.

The death toll was announced a few months later in 1944, but a full report of the tragedy was not released until 30 years later when military records were declassified. Last month a Massachusetts company sent an unmanned submarine to Lyme Bay to take the first high-definition sonar images of LST 507 and 531.

Ten of the men lost in the German E-boat attack were officers with detailed knowledge of the D-Day invasion. For a few days allied commanders feared that the men might have been taken prisoner by the Nazis, but eventually all 10 bodies were recovered. Many of the victims were never found.

“While it would be comforting to say we learned lessons — no, it was simply a great tragedy,” said Symonds, who wrote an article on the Slapton Sands incident in the recent issue of World War II magazine.

“The long-term problem was three LSTs were lost. LSTs were the absolute bottleneck for the D-Day invasion, we barely had enough to carry out the operation. So the loss of three was devastating, almost as bad as the loss of all those lives.”

DNA test is latest to confirm ID of American WWII soldier buried in Germany

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This is from Stars and Stripes.



MILWAUKEE — An American forensic lab announced Monday it has independently confirmed through DNA testing that the remains recovered from a German ossuary in France are indeed U.S. Army Pfc. Lawrence S. Gordon, who was mistakenly buried with the enemy after World War II.

DNA was extracted from bones by the national crime lab in France after Wisconsin filmmaker Jed Henry’s dogged research through military records led to a crypt of an unknown soldier identified as a German.

The French crime lab announced in February that it had a mitochondrial DNA match, meaning the results matched DNA from maternal relatives of Gordon’s. Samples then were sent to a DNA testing facility at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and to Bode Technology Group in Lorton, Va., for independent confirmation.

Bode not only confirmed the French crime lab’s results on Monday, but announced that it did a more specific nuclear DNA profile for further proof of identification — all within eight days of receiving the DNA samples from France.

The DNA facility at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will begin its testing this week. In addition to confirming the Virginia lab’s results, the UW-Madison lab is working on refining techniques for recovering DNA from bones and teeth that are 70 years old and older.

Henry became interested in the Gordon case because his grandfather, Staff Sgt. David L. Henry of Viroqua, served in the same reconnaissance company, and Gordon was the only member of the company who died and was not identified for a proper burial.

The U.S. military accounting community refused to help confirm the remains in the German crypt were Gordon’s, but French and German officials agreed to allow DNA to be extracted and tested in hopes of identifying the soldier.

U.S. military anthropologists and historians typically work for years on an unidentified soldier case. Exhuming remains for DNA analysis does not happen often. In this case, Gordon’s remains were in a German cemetery in France and identified as those of a German. So the U.S. could not prevent the remains from being removed and tested.

Ed Huffine, Bode’s vice president of international development, said the successful DNA testing on Gordon’s case demonstrates how nuclear DNA testing can be incorporated in a large-scale, systematic DNA-led system of identifying service members, similar to how other large-scale identification projects are done in other nations.

Bode has assisted with testing thousands of missing persons cases, including the 1970s “Dirty War” in Argentina, mass graves in Guatemala and Peru, victims of Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes and air crashes.


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