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Women Warriors of the Philippines – WWII Heroines Helped Liberate Their Country

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H/T War History OnLine.

The story of these valiant women must to told.

Filipina Soldiers in WWII

War History Online proudly presents this Guest Piece from Pacificatrocities.org

The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th of 1941 represented the initial step of the Japanese military onslaught of Southeast Asia.  The following day, the Japanese continued their aggressive military strategy in the Pacific, targeting American and European holdings in Southeast Asia.

From December 8th, 1941, to May of 1942, the Japanese campaign in the Philippines resulted in both the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands and the ultimate surrender of both Filipino and American troops[2].  It is estimated that 80,000 Filipino and American soldiers were forced to relocate and enter POW camps throughout the island of Luzon – if they survived the horrors of the Bataan Death March.

U.S. and Filipino soldiers and sailors surrendering to Japanese forces at Corregidor

The Japanese maltreatment of the Filipino and American POWs was visible to Philippine citizens, who witnessed first hand the Bataan Death March as it passed them by. The Philippine civilians who witnessed the brutality and killing of POWs as they marched to the prison camps were themselves vulnerable to the merciless cruelty of the Japanese military. Filipino men and women who attempted to give food or water to the marchers were wounded or killed – usually bayoneted – as a result of their actions.

American and Filipino troops surrendering at Bataan, Luzon, Philippines, 9 April 1942.

The Bataan Death March would serve as the precursor to the Japanese Imperial Military’s brutal treatment of the Philippine citizenry throughout the islands.  The visible signs of maltreatment, the aggressive removal of civil liberties, the torture and capture of Filipino citizens who sympathized with the Allies, and the immediate severing of foreign relations and aide would spur a grassroots movement to resist the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands.

Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific 1941-1942.

The roots of the Philippine Resistance represented the cultural and socio-economic diversity of the Philippine Islands.  From socialist peasant farmers, middle school teachers, ROTC youths, to Moro (Philippine Muslim) warriors, the range and inclusivity of the men and women who participated in the struggle against the Japanese Imperial Army was seemingly inexhaustible.

Women guerrilla fighters especially made major contributions to the liberation of the Philippines, but unfortunately, similar to the guerrilla fighters from the Islands’ ethnic minorities, have received less acknowledgment and discussion in the history of the Pacific Theater during World War II.

WAS founder, Josefa Capistrano.

The Philippines, during the early half of the twentieth century, witnessed few advances in women’s rights.  But with the threat of war and the encroachment of the Japanese Imperial Army, the patriarchal and religiously conservative culture of the Philippines could not afford to maintain its traditional standards regarding gender.

The grassroots resistance drew heavily on the patriotic fervor of many Filipinas who saw the guerrilla resistance as an opportunity to liberate their homeland as well as prove the capabilities of their sex.

Their guerrilla efforts proved women were more than capable of taking on numerous roles: soldiers, leaders, activists, journalists, nurses, doctors, spies, and dedicated patriots.  Filipina guerrillas proved to be a vital aspect of both the soldiering and reconnaissance missions that allowed the Allies an opportunity to retake the Philippines.

Captain Pajota’s guerrillas at Cabanatuan

Historians estimate that for every ten male guerrillas, one Filipina guerrilla served in the underground resistance.  Over 260,000 male Filipino guerrillas served the resistance effort.  This number reflects how Filipinas have been neglected in the history of the war, or who, because of their status as women, were not officially counted as serving, and that female guerrillas represented possibly more than 10% of the resistance force.

Propaganda poster depicting the Philippine resistance movement.

These statistics, given the few surviving resources available regarding Filipina guerrilla efforts, brings to light the missing narratives of a traditionally very American-centered written history on the liberation of the Philippines of World War II.  The wartime experiences of women of color in the Pacific provide opportunities to address the various contributions, struggles, and cultural diversity that aided and represented the Allied front of the Pacific.

Captain Nieves Fernandez with her husband 1944. A former school teacher, she would lead a resistance group throughout the Japanese occupation. – JollyJoker83 CC BY-SA 4.0

Filipina guerrillas, similar to their male peers, were aware of the risks and the ultimate sacrifice they would have to make in their efforts to push the Japanese Imperial Army out of their homeland.  One of the added fears and risks that Filipinas shared that their male peers did not was the threat of rape and being forcibly used as ‘comfort’ women (sex slaves) for the Japanese Imperial Army.

Despite the risks of death, torture, and rape, the Filipina guerrillas of the Philippine Resistance gave themselves selflessly and heroicly to the cause of both the liberation of their people from the Japanese imperial regime and to the progress of women’s rights in Southeast Asia.

Captains Jimmy Fisher and Robert Prince and several Filipino guerrillas a few hours before the start of a raid.

Filipina guerrillas took on various roles.  Many served as medical aides or nurses.  The late Dorothy Dowlen, a Filipina mestiza (mixed ancestry of Philippine and European heritage) born and raised in Mindanao, served as a medical aide helping Allied soldiers and guerrilla fighters while helping her own family escape the brutalities of the Japanese invasion.

Filipina nurses provided the much needed medical help for struggling American soldiers who escaped the POW camps throughout the Philippine Islands.  Filipina nurses and doctors such as Bruna Calvan, Carmen Lanot, and Dr. Guedelia Pablan would continue to help civilians, soldiers, and POWs in the region surrounding Bataan despite the loss of their hospital and lack of supplies and food.

Risking their lives to smuggle medicine into POW camps and maintain their self-built health centers (nipa huts), Filipina guerrillas and female resistance supporters helped not only to physically heal the wounded but strengthened community and soldier morale to better fight the Japanese invaders.

Bicycle-mounted Japanese Troops during the Battle of the Philippines (1941-42)

Often, Filipina nurses used their medical training to assist other guerrilla groups such as the WAS (Women’s Auxiliary Service), led and founded by Josefa Capistrano. Josefa Capistrano, a Chinese-Filipina mestiza would be one of the first Filipinas to establish and train women as soldiers, nurses, and spies, schooling them in methods of reconnaissance and the use of firearms and self-defense.

Capistrano’s female troops served under the tenth military district in Mindanao and would also supply the guerrillas and local communities with food, medical, and military supplies.  In 1963, the WAS would be renamed the WAC (Women’s Auxiliary Corps) and would become an official military branch of the Philippine Army managed by women for women.

Other Filipina guerrillas undertook reconnaissance missions, establishing guerrilla networks throughout the Philippine archipelago, maintaining contact with the Allied forces, and thwarting Japanese propaganda efforts (film, radio broadcasts, newspapers, pamphlets) seeking to win over the Philippine people’s support. Filipina guerrillas like Colonel Yay Panlilio served as a radio and newspaper journalist while fighting alongside and leading her very own unit of male guerrillas under the Markings Guerrilla troops on the island of Luzon.

U.S. troops fighting in the Walled City, Manila, 27 February 1945

Panlilio used her journalist skills to cleverly hide resistance messages in public radio announcements. She also documented and maintained guerrilla activities, relaying information to the Allied forces and to other guerrilla organizations. Panlilio also routed out undercover Filipino collaborators (makapili) who sought to paint the Philippine Resistance as detrimental to Imperial Japan’s efforts to absorb the Philippines into a “friendly” pan-Asia.

These courageous women broke their society’s gender norms while playing a central role in ultimately liberating their homeland from Japanese imperialism.   And they did so while promoting the abilities, talents, and skillsets women were capable of in a male-centered society. Through their sacrifices, Filipina resistance fighters like Josefa Capistrano championed gender and racial equality as one of the goals for their resistance efforts.

Capistrano would not accept honorable mentions or awards for her efforts until the Philippine government recognized the WAC as an official branch of the military. Most importantly, their contributions in the Pacific Theater demonstrated the many strengths of past colonial territories who were undoubtedly deserving and capable of self-governance in the post-war era.

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The Owl-Eagle – 14 Facts About the Heinkel He219 Night Fighter

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H/T War History OnLine.

A look at one of the most successful night fighters or World War II the Heinkel He219 Night Fighter.

Heinkel He219

During the Second World War, night-time bombing raids became common, and both sides of the conflict tried to give their pilots and planes a better chance of survival. The response was inevitable – the creation of night fighters, planes specially built and equipped to identify and attack enemy planes in the dark. One of the most successful models was the German Heinkel He219.

Versatile Beginnings

The plane that would become the Heinkel He219 started out in 1940 as project P.1060, a design for a high-speed aircraft that could be used in multiple roles. It was common for aircraft of the era to be adapted for a range of different roles, with variations in equipment letting them fill different specialties. A plane that could be used in multiple roles increased an air force’s flexibility and created efficiencies in maintenance and training, as the same parts and skills could be used across different versions.

Heinkel He 219 as a night fighter. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

A Neglected Option

Germany was home to several excellent warplane design teams. As a result, the He129 didn’t stand out against the competition. It drew little interest for over a year until the tide of war changed what the Luftwaffe was looking for.

Strategic Bombing Takes its Toll

Renewed interest in the He219 was driven by the achievements of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF).

Heinkel He219

By late 1941, RAF Bomber Command was launching regular raids against German military and industrial targets. The aim of these attacks was a strategic one – to cripple German’s economy and war machine so that it could not keep up the fight. As the raids started affecting Germany’s military capacity, something had to be done to counter them. The British bomber raids were launched at night. Therefore, effective night fighters were needed to stop them.

As the need to counter the British increased, the authorities asked Ernst Heinkel to revive his neglected design and adapt it as a night fighter.

First Flight

At last, a prototype of the He219 was given its chance to take to the skies. It first flew on the 15th of November 1942.

Heinkel He 219 Uhu, 1:72 Revell plastic model. By xJaM – CC BY-SA 3.0

Combat Trials

A second prototype was built. This one took part in mock combat against other Luftwaffe planes, to see how it would perform. The test was so successful that an order was immediately placed for more of the planes.

A Bird of Prey

The He219 was given the name Uhu, meaning eagle-owl. It was a suitable match for its namesake – a deadly night-time predator that others would rightly fear to face.

Innovations in Aircraft Design

The He219 included several innovative features. It was the first operational Luftwaffe plane equipped with a tricycle undercarriage and the first operational aircraft in the world to include ejector seats. Powered by compressed air, these could eject both crewmen from the aircraft in an emergency.

He 219 Uhu.

Radar Targeting

The He219 used radar to find enemy bombers at night. Radar was one of the technologies that developed quickly over the course of the war, and plane-portable radar devices were critical to the development of effective night fighters. The equipment gave planes such as the He219 a distinctive look, with aerials protruding from the front of the plane.

Heavy Weapons

Along with the radar, the He219 was equipped with heavy weaponry to take out its targets. It carried four 20mm cannons, two under the belly and one near the base of each of its wings. Two larger 30mm cannons were fitted at the rear of the cockpit so that they could fire obliquely forward. The use of cannons was important. By the middle of the war, machine-guns were increasingly being abandoned on planes in favor of cannons, whose greater destructive capacity countered the sturdiness of advanced plane designs.

Slow by Design

Heinkel He 219 A Uhu. Photo: Mark Pellegrini – CC BY-SA 3.0

The He219 was slow for a fighter plane, with a maximum speed of 286 miles per hour. This would have made it useless as a daytime fighter plane, unable to keep up with Allied aircraft. But for a night fighter, relying on the cover of darkness to hide its approach, it was not a problem.

Swiftly Entering Service

This combination of night vision and heavy weaponry hugely impressed the Luftwaffe. They were so keen to get hold of He219s that they put the early prototypes into active service from April 1943, forming a unit in Holland, where they could intercept Allied bombers approaching the continent.

Early Achievements

He219s lived up to expectations, and they quickly started to rack up kills. Their pilots claimed to have destroyed 20 RAF bombers during their first six night missions, an amazing total by the standards of the time. The kills included six de Havilland Mosquitoes, the most versatile planes of the war and far from the lumbering targets some other bombers presented.

One of the most impressive individual achievements was that of Major Werner Streib. In a single sortie on the night of the 11th of June, Streib shot down five RAF Lancaster bombers using his He219.

The He219 had proven not only its own value but the importance of dedicated night fighters in countering bomber fleets.

Profusion Confusion

Still, some officials remained skeptical. To try to prove the value of the plane to them, Heinkel produced a huge number of variants on the He219. These carried different equipment and weapons to show what the aircraft was capable of.

Instead of ensuring the He219’s future, this confusing range of versions prevented the main plane from being produced in sufficient numbers. Germany shifted towards jet production in late 1944, seeking a magic bullet to save the nation from defeat, and the He219 once again lost the attention of the Luftwaffe.

Only One Unit

Individual He219s were attached to several Luftwaffe units, but only one unit was completely outfitted with these planes – 1/NJG 1, based at Venlo in Holland. As a result, the He219 never had the impact its early performance had promised. Let down by the government and Luftwaffe leaders, it became a novelty rather than a serious weapon.

Dogs of War: New Memorial for Unsung Heroes of The Battlefields

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H/T War History OnLine.

The story of these brave animals need to be told and they need to be honored.

Heroes of past wars have contributed significantly to the freedoms we enjoy today. Those that have saved lives by risking their own will never be forgotten. However, one particular hero who ranks near the top of the list is not widely known. He had an unusual name for a hero; his name was Chips.

Chips served in World War II and he was a mutt – part German Shepherd, Collie, and Husky, all mixed in together.

Chips was serving in Sicily when he charged an enemy fireteam that had temporarily immobilized a number of Allied soldiers. He knocked the monstrous gun from its foundation, clamped on to a German soldier’s neck and dragged him out of the pillbox. The other nine soldiers were so shocked and afraid that they merely followed with their hands up.

Chips received a Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, and Purpleheart for his service in the war. He was even congratulated in person by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was bitten when he tried to pet him.

General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Chips represents the thousands of courageous canines who have served in wars all over the world. These canine veterans are great trackers, reliable scouts, and loyal protectors. But you don’t have to be a soldier to know that already.

The Highground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville, Wisconsin, was founded in 1964 by Marine veteran Tom Miller after his service in the Vietnam War. While holding off Viet Cong forces, his partner, fellow Marine Jack Swender, was shot and died in Miller’s embrace. When Tom returned, he set about creating a memorial for Jack and veterans of all wars; including women, Native Americans and, of course, the dogs.

A United States Coast Guardsman with working dog and Reising SMG during WWII

On June 2, 2018, the park dedicated a new bronze sculpture to pay overdue homage to all the dogs that have served faithfully in all of America’s wars. The life-size statue is of a soldier wearing a “boonie” hat with a rifle slung over one shoulder and holding the harness of a German Shepherd with his other hand. He holds two canteens because a soldier carried food and water for both of them. It is somber sight, indeed.

U.S. Air Force military working dog Jackson sits on a U.S. Army M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle before heading out on a mission in Iraq.

Veteran Mike Voorhies gave the invocation at the unveiling of the statue. Voorhies likes to say, “I have one distinction no other pastor can say. I can say Satan saved my life at least three times,” referring to his unfortunately named service dog. Voorhies handled dogs during the Vietnam War and became a chaplain when he came home.

They earned their place in history

Michael Martine of La Crosse was awarded the commission for the sculpture after submitting drawings and bringing in a model. The ceremony drew a full park of military dog handlers, law enforcement handlers with their K-9s, other veterans, dog trainers, and dog lovers.

During Highground’s Dedication Ceremony, the Quilts of Valor honored Vietnam dog handlers with special dog blankets. A local handler, Erling Anderson from Eau Claire, who was killed in the Vietnam War, was singled out for special appreciation.

War Dog Memorial Vietnam Museum in New Jersey, USA.

After the ceremony, a State Police K-9 Unit put on a performance that almost hypnotized the entire crowd. There is nothing more beautiful to a dog lover than watching a dog work—the run across the field, the leap into the air and clench an arm that cannot be shaken off.

They were loved and cared for.

An attack dog transforms instantly from a stately ‘sit’ to a ferocious opponent and instantly back with one brief command. The memorial honors all working dogs who save and improve lives every day in the form of service dogs and companions.

Great Female Aviators – WASPs of WWII

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H/T War History OnLine.

These women deserve a special place in history and need to be honored more than they have been.

WASPs on runway

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, and when the United States faced a pilot shortage in 1942, they freed up male pilots for overseas combat duty by training women to fly military aircraft.  Hence, WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, was born.

Despite the usual sexist comments and concerns about women being able to fly in challenging conditions at the time, the women did just fine.  More than 1,100 young women signed up to fly every type of military aircraft, including both the B-26 and B-29 bomber.

Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leaving their plane, “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” at the four-engine school at Lockbourne AAF, Ohio, during WASP ferry training B-17 Flying Fortress.

Their tasks included ferrying planes long distance to and from military bases and departure points.  The expectation was that they would see full military service, but instead, they were canceled after two years.  The WASP wouldn’t see military status until the 1970s. Then, 65 years overdue, they received the highest civilian honor by the U.S. Congress.  Further, President Obama granted the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

President Barack Obama signs S.614 in the Oval Office July 1 at the White House. The bill awards a Congressional Gold Medal to Women Airforce Service Pilots. The WASP program was established during World War II, and from 1942 to 1943, more than 1,000 women joined, flying 60 million miles of noncombat military missions. Of the women who received their wings as Women Airforce Service Pilots, approximately 300 are living today. (Official White House photo/Pete Souza)

Jacqueline Cochran was the head of the WASP program.  She was not only an experienced pilot but a pioneer in the field, who would later go on to be the first woman to break the sound barrier.  Her goal was to train women to fly for the army, not just a few dozen that would be integrated into the men’s program.

She wanted the formation of a separate organization with militarization to follow in the wake of her success.  In the end, she was successful.  The women’s safety records weren’t just comparable, they were often excellent, even surpassing the men doing the same jobs.

Pioneer American aviator Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran in the cockpit of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter plane.

The WASP training included nineteen groups of women.  First and foremost is the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) who were an experienced group of pilots, and second, Jacqueline Cochran’s Guinea Pigs – eighteen classes of female pilots.  They charged through primary, basic and advanced training courses the same as male Army Air Corps pilots, and plenty went on to specialized flight training.

By 1944, there was a significant amount of controversy regarding women piloting aircraft, and the debate raged about whether it was even required.  By the summer of that year, the war was winding down and with it flight training programs, and that meant that the male civilian instructors were losing their jobs, so rather than end up in the common draft they lobbied to take the women’s jobs.

Jackie Cochran (center) with WASP trainees.

The idea that men could somehow be replaced by women was unthinkable and unacceptable, and so the program was disbanded in December 1944.  The final class graduated after training was disbanded.  The Lost Last Class, as they were called, served for two and a half weeks before going home on December 20th.

After being told to go home, they went on with their lives, but the former WASP servicewomen were definitely stung by this news.  Many of the former WASPs got jobs in aviation, but not for any major airlines, and disappointingly, considering their level of expertise, as airline stewardesses.

However, they didn’t take this lying down, and instead used the fact that the WASP had been forgotten as a uniting force.  First, they lobbied Congress to be militarized, even persuading Senator Barry Goldwater to help them.  Then, in 1977, as a result of their efforts, the WASP were granted military status.

World War II Victory Medal

After that, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation indicating that service as a WASP would be considered “active duty” and therefore be subject to all the rules, regulations, and benefits that applied to any other serviceman.  Honorable Discharge certificates were henceforth issued in 1979 to former WASP members, and in 1984, each WASP was awarded the World War II Victory Medal.

Focke-Wulf Fw190 – 13 Facts

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H/T War History OnLine.

A look at the Focke-Wulf Fw190 considered by many as the best fighter plane of Luftwaffe during World War II.

Many consider the Focke-Wulf Fw190 to be the best Luftwaffe fighter plane of the Second World War. It was rightly one of the most famous and feared aircraft of the war.

Just in Time for War

The Fw190 was designed just as war was about to break out. The first flight by one of these fighters took place on the 1st of June 1939, three months before the German invasion of Poland triggered the war in Europe. It would go on to become a vital part of the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force.

Entering the Fray

The Fw190 first appeared in combat in September 1941. Launched into the fighting in the skies above France, it provided a shock to the Allied airmen facing it.

A German Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

Challenging the Spitfire

The Royal Air Force (RAF) Spitfire V had dominated aerial combat since it first entered the fighting in February 1941. With its speed and maneuverability, it had become a menace that the Luftwaffe could not match.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk V

The arrival of the Fw190 turned things around. The Fw190 was faster than the Spitfire V and more maneuverable in every way except its turning circle. Fw190s shot down three Spitfires during their first appearance, transforming the dynamic of the air war. They continued to dominate until June 1942, when the Mark IX Spitfire arrived, once again tipping the balance in the RAF’s favor.

Radial Engine

Fighters of the era were powered by two types of engines – air-cooled radials and in-line engines. Radials were generally simpler, more reliable, and less vulnerable to overheating caused by battle damage. But they suffered from greater drag and struggled to reach the same power output as in-lines while being more likely to obstruct a pilot’s view.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190, 1942. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The Fw190 had an air-cooled radial engine. It proved that, in the right plane, such an engine could still outperform in-lines despite its drawbacks.

Arrival of the Model A

In February 1942, the second version of the Fw190 entered service – the Fw190A.

Fw 190A-3 in the Netherlands, summer 1942. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The Fw190A’s first task was the defense of a naval battlegroup retreating to German ports. The battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prince Eugen made a dash up the Channel, pursued by Britain’s Royal Navy and the RAF. Hundreds of bombers targeted the ships as Britain tried to destroy them.

Fw190As played an important part in the fighting. In one engagement, they destroyed a group of six Fairey Swordfish torpedo planes. The confrontation ended with the German ships returning to port, battered but still afloat.

Fighting at Dieppe

On the 19th of August 1942, the Allies launched a raid on the occupied French port of Dieppe. One of the purposes of this raid was to draw out the Luftwaffe based in northern France and do it significant damage.

Ariel view of the Dieppe raid.

Fw190s played a major part in the aerial battle over Dieppe. Their performance ensured that the RAF didn’t get its victory. While the amphibious landings turned into a disaster, the fighting in the air became an indecisive confrontation with disputed results, despite huge Allied efforts.

Fw190 pilots claimed 97 kills that day.

Dozens of Variants

Many different versions of the Fw190 were produced – over 30 of the Fw190A alone. These varied from torpedo carriers to night fighters.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190G fighter-bomber.

Home Defense

The Fw190 became the standard fighter defending Germany in the later years of the war. Some of these home defense fighters were fitted with rockets that could be used to inflict serious damage on defensive formations of enemy planes. This made them especially effective against the Allied bomber fleets.

One example of this took place on the 17th of August 1943. A force of over 300 Fw190As confronted a massive US bomber force. The Fw190As destroyed 60 bombers and damaged another 100.

Night Fighting

In June 1943, the Luftwaffe created a force of Fw190A night fighters. They weren’t fitted with radar, as the more advanced night fighters of the time were. Instead, they relied on attacking bombers as they reached their targets. There, the searchlights, flares, and fires on the ground would make the enemy visible even in the depths of night. The unit destroyed over 200 RAF heavy bombers in this way.

Giving the Game Away

Focke Wulf Fw 190A-3, Werk Nr. 313, at RAF Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, after being mistakenly landed there by its German pilot, Oberleutnant Armin Faber, the Gruppenadjutant of III/JG2, on 23 June 1942. IWM

In June 1942, a Fw190A-3 accidentally landed in the United Kingdom. This allowed British scientists and engineers to examine the plane, telling them everything they needed to know about the plane and so to counter it.

D for Dora

During 1943, it became apparent that Germany faced a problem with high-altitude Allied bombers. Most current fighters weren’t up to the task of reaching and destroying these aircraft.

In response, Focke-Wulf developed a new version of the Fw190 – the Fw190D, known as Dora. This long-nosed plane was the first Fw190 to feature a liquid-cooled rather than an air-cooled engine.

DAYTON, Ohio — Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Dora was an excellent interceptor that could match the Spitfire Mark XIV and reach heights well beyond the limits of the Fw190A.

Dora Goes to War

Fw 190 D-13/R11, Champlin Fighter Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.

The Fw190D went into production in the summer of 1944 and the first models reached fighting units in August that year. 3/JG 54 became the first Luftwaffe group to convert to the Dora. Its first mission was providing cover for new jet fighters during their vulnerable take-off.

Diverse Weapons

The weaponry of a Fw190 varied with its role, but it was capable of packing quite a punch. The Fw190D, the first D model to enter the war, carried two 13mm machine guns, two 20mm cannons, and a 500kg bomb.

Operation Market Garden: Almost 74 years after his loss, a part of Humphrey has returned home – his 82nd AB Jumpboots

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Second Lt. Frederick G. Humphrey 1923-1944.

JOHN LYTLE/U.S. ARMY

Second Lt. Frederick G. Humphrey was killed in action during Operation Market Garden in World War II. He left behind some letters, a few photographs, and many memories, but his family wanted more. They asked the US Army to send home his personal effects, but the Army was unable to locate any to send.

Almost 74 years later, that has changed.

Humphrey’s combat boots were unveiled during a ceremony at the 1st Battalion, 508thParachute Infantry Regiment headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The ceremony was part of the 82nd Airborne Division’s All American Week.

Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Current and former members of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment were on hand for the unveiling including retired Commander Sgt. Maj. Kenneth “Rock” Merritt who jumped with the regiment as part of Operation Market Garden along with Humphrey. The leaders of the two remaining battalions of the regiment were also in attendance.

The boots are on display as part of the history of the regiment and serve as a symbol of the 82nd Airborne Division’s legacy.

U.S. Army Paratroopers with Their Famous Jumpboots.

Humphrey served in H Company, 3rd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He jumped into combat and led a platoon on an attack on the eastern Holland town of BergenDal Beek-Kalorama which was occupied by German forces.

Allied planes dropping hundreds of paratroopers over the Rhine during Operation Varsity in March 1945

While giving orders, Humphrey was struck in the chest by machine gun fire. He was laid to rest in the US Military Cemetery Molenhoek, which is located near Nijmegen, Holland. Humphrey’s family received several letters from the Army after his death.

Father Joseph P. Kenny was the chaplain for the regiment. He wrote that Humphrey wouldn’t order his men to do anything he wouldn’t do himself, so he personally led the attack on that day.

Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, who was commanding the 82nd Airborne Division at the time, complimented Humphrey’s leadership and discipline.

American paratroopers shelter in a ditch in Holland. © IWM (BU 1062)

Capt. Howard D. Kinney, Jr. said that the success of the mission was due to men such as Humphrey. According to Lt. Col. Robert McChrystal, Humphrey’s family had asked the War Department for his belongings, but they were unable to get anything.

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division attended the unveiling of a pair of World War II boots at Fort Bragg, N.C. JOHN LYTLE/U.S. ARMY

However, six months ago, a friend reached out to McChrystal. The friend was a brigade commander in the 101st Airborne Division who was working with historians in Holland.

504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at the Battle of the Bulge – December 1944

McChrystal then contacted Sgt. Maj. Thulai Van Maanan, an officer in the Dutch army who works to return WWII artifacts to the families of US troops.

A family in Holland had found the boots near the location of a field hospital in Nijmegen. They had kept the boots in the family the entire time since. Van Maanan was able to use a serial number to connect the boots to Humphrey, but he was unable to locate any living relatives.

Men of the 82nd Airborne Division drop near Grave in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden.

The battalion then sent a sergeant major to Holland last week to retrieve the boots. They showed up in Fort Bragg on Saturday, just in time for All American Week.

According to McChrystal, there are various symbols that represent the airborne divisions, such as the airborne wings parachutist badge and the maroon beret. Still, he said, nothing represents the soul of a paratrooper like his jump boots.

Operation Market Garden – AlliedPlan – Duncan Jackson CC BY-SA 4.0

Those boots were on him when he made his first jump at Airborne School. They were there for the innumerable miles of marches in training. The boots were the last thing in contact with the C-47 transport plane when Humphrey jumped during Operation Market Garden, and they were the first things to connect with the drop zone as he landed. And those boots were on his feet when he was hit with machine gun fire.

82nd Airborne Patch

The boots will remain encased in glass to act as a reminder of the sacrifices made by many paratroopers over the years. They’ll be there to motivate the future generations of paratroopers to continue that legacy.

WWII Airmen Lost in “Black Sunday” Raid Identified and Returned to U.S. for Burial

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. 2Lt.William Henry Harth Jr. February 27,1921- August 1,1943.

The long wait endured by the Harth family will soon be over.  It has taken over 70 years for the remains of their family member, Second Lt. William H. Harth Jr. to be returned to the United States for burial.

Harth was born on the 27th of February, 1921 in Columbia to William Henry Harth Snr. and Velda Baxter Harth.  William Harth Jr. was educated and graduated from Columbia High School.

He then studied at the University of Southern Carolina before deciding to enlist in the Army Air Corps.  He attended officer training school and was commissioned as a bombardier and an officer on the 10th of October, 1942.

He was assigned to ‘The Travelling Circus,’ officially known as the 329th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), which was part of the 93rd Bombardment Group.

This Group formed at Moody Air Force Base which was situated near Valdosta, Georgia, before being sent overseas to North Africa and then on to Italy in support of the US 5th Army. The particular bomber that Harth flew on was known as “Hells Angels.”

B-17F named Hell’s Angels after the 1930 Howard Hughes movie about World War I fighter pilots. Assigned to the 358th Bombardment Squadron.

The squadron was flying as part of Operation Tidal Wave in which American bombers would fly low-level sorties over oil refineries controlled by the Nazis in Ploesti in Romania.  The idea was to cut off the supply of fuel to Nazi Germany.  However, it was not a successful operation and failed to stop the steady flow of fuel to the German forces.

The 1st of August 1943 was a particularly bad day and became known as ‘Bloody Sunday.’  On this day the bombers took a terrible pounding, and the Allies lost 53 aircraft and 660 members of the aircrew, one of whom was Second Lt. William H. Harth Jr.

Ploesti Refinery Burning After Allied Bombing Raids in 1943

Following the raid, the Romanian people collected all the bodies of the downed American servicemen and arranged to have them buried in the Hero Section of the Bolovan Cemetery.

In the early years after the war, the American Graves Registration Command went to the various cemeteries around Europe and arranged to have the bodies disinterred and reinterred in what was then known as the American Military Cemetery which was situated at Neuville-en-Condroz in Belgium.  This cemetery is now known as the Ardennes American Cemetery.

At the time that the American Graves Registration Command disinterred the bodies, they made every attempt to identify the bodies.  They positively identified 145 of the airmen killed that day, including three of the 10-man crew of the bomber on which Harth served.  The graves registry listed Harth as non-recoverable but there was one set of remains that were unidentified and listed as Unknown X-5192 Neuville.

Aircraft and ground crew of B-17 “Hell’s Angels”

The American authorities are still working to try and positively identify every unknown soldier, and after many years of research, both historical and scientific, they decided that Unknown X-5192 from Neuville could be positively identified.  The body was disinterred on the 11th April 2017 at Neuville and sent back to the US for the attention of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Using mitochondrial DNA analysis, along with dental records and anthropological and circumstantial evidence, they confirmed the match.  A rosette will be placed next to his name on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Italy to show that he has been found and identified.

Florence American Cemetery and Memorial

None of the current Harth family have any recollection of him as they were all born after his death but that does not detract from their joy and gratitude that their family member has been identified and brought home for burial.

Harth’s niece, Bonnie Hipkins, of Irmo, received his body at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport and he was buried with full military honors at the Fort Jackson National Cemetery.  The family was presented with Harth’s Purple Heart.

Marine Killed in WWII Returned Home for Burial

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Corporal Raymond A. Barker December 20,1920-November 20,1943.

Corporal Raymond A. Barker died fighting with the US Marine Corps in World War II but his body has only recently been discovered and identified. He was buried with full military honors at Spring Grove Cemetery in Delavan, Wisconsin, on Saturday, 5th May 2018.

On November 20, 1943, the US attacked the Japanese forces on Betio, an island in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Around 1,000 US Marines and sailors were killed and over 2,000 were wounded during the three-day battle. Barker was one of the fatalities, dying on the first day of fighting at the age of 22.

For decades, authorities classified Barker’s body as “nonrecoverable.” Last year, however, the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) utilized “advanced investigative techniques” to find places on Tarawa that they believed had been used to bury fallen US troops. It is the DPAA’s responsibility to account for fallen troops to their families and to the government.

John Gibbus, Barker’s nephew, said that the DPAA found some bones and used DNA samples from living family members to positively identify the remains.

Marines alongside an LVT-1 “Alligator”

A second Marine was also discovered at Tarawa and returned to the US for burial on Saturday. Marine Corps Sergeant David Quinn was buried in Temple, New Hampshire, also with full military honors.

A group of Marines was on hand when Barker’s casket arrived in Wisconsin. They saluted his casket before carrying it and placing it in a hearse. A group of onlookers gathered, waving American flags and saluting Barker as he was taken through the streets of his hometown.

The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, ordered flags flown at half-mast in honor of Barker and his service.

Barker served in the 2nd Tank Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division. He was buried next to his parents. Previously, a gold star had marked his place in the cemetery while he was listed as missing in action.

A Marine fires on a Japanese pillbox.

The Battle of Tarawa was one of the bloodiest in World War II. The US suffered nearly as many casualties in three days of fighting there as they suffered in six months of fighting at Guadalcanal Island.

The Gilbert Islands were considered important to the US commanders as they were the first in a string of “stepping stone”s that would allow the military to cross the Pacific on the way to Japan. Operation Galvanic was thus launched in November 1943 with the intention of capturing key points on the islands.

The Japanese had heavily fortified the Tarawa Atoll, including the island of Betio. Though Betio is only two miles long and half a mile wide, it contained 100 pillbox bunkers, seawalls, an elaborate trench system, coastal guns, antiaircraft guns, heavy and light machine guns, and light tanks. The natural reefs of Betio’s beaches were augmented with barbed wire and mines. The island was further defended by over 4,500 Japanese troops.

Empty helmets and spent artillery shells mark the graves of Marines who fell at Tarawa, March 1944.

The US strategy for conquering Betio required precision timing but that timing was thrown off almost from the very beginning. Heavy turbulence slowed the boarding of the landing vessels by the Marines. An air attack scheduled to occur before the invasion began was delayed, throwing the rest of the timing off. The landing vessels were forced to wait, exposed to enemy fire, until the air raid occurred.

On top of everything else, the tide was lower than expected that morning. The troop transports made it onto the island, but the boats with the heavier equipment got jammed on the coral reefs. Marines had to abandon their boats and wade through the chest-high water while being shot at by the Japanese. Many died in the water. Those who got to shore were exhausted and many of them were wounded, without any means of communicating with the supporting forces. And things got worse when the abandoned craft and dead bodies hampered the landing of reinforcements.

By the end of the day, 5,000 managed to land on Betio, but another 1,500 had died in the process.

Medal of Honor Recipient Cleared the Way for Victory at Iwo Jima

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H/T War History OnLine.

Not even Hollywood could make up a story like the story of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody’ Williams.

Hershel “Woody” WiLlams served in the Marine Corps and in the Marine Corps Reserve for twenty years. When he retired, he had made Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CWO4).

The World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient once led a unit in successfully taking out seven enemy pillbox bunkers on February 23, 1945.

He went to Iwo Jima with the 3rd Marine Division, the reserve division of the 4th and 5thMarine Divisions. They were told that it was unlikely that they would even get off the boat since there were already 40,000 troops deployed on an island that was only two and a half miles wide and five miles long.

Officials told them that they should only expect to be there for five days. Instead, the division ended up on the island for 38 days.

He and his division found little difficulty in crossing the first airfield they came across, but the limited intelligence they had on Iwo Jima left them unprepared for the concrete pillbox bunkers they came across next. The Japanese took aim at the US troops through slits cut in the walls of the bunkers, making them nearly impervious to US return fire.

Hershel W. Williams

 

Artillery and bazookas were ineffective in removing the Japanese from their bunkers so the US troops turned to flamethrowers. An officer asked Williams to lead a team to take out the bunkers with their flamethrowers.

Williams strapped a 70-pound flamethrower on his back and began crawling toward the enemy.

Four Marines provided cover fire which allowed Williams to take out seven bunkers in four hours. While his fellow soldiers pinned the enemy down with their shooting, Williams would make his way to the top of the bunker and fire his flamethrower through the air vents, which killed all the soldiers inside.

Marines landing on the beach

Thanks in part to the work of Williams, the US Marines were able to take control of the strategically important island and deal a major blow to the Japanese war effort.

After WWII ended, Williams was invited to the White House where he received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman. The citation for the medal credited Williams with “unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance.”

Harry Truman, president of the United States, congratulates Hershel “Woody” Williams, a Marine reservist and survivor of the battle of Iwo Jima, on being awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II October 5, 1945 at the White House in Washington. Williams is the last living Medal of Honor recepient from the battle of Iwo Jima.

Williams was born in 1923 and grew up in West Virginia. When he first volunteered for the Marines, he was rejected because he was too short. A few months later, the height requirement was reduced and Williams joined the Marines Reserve.

He was assigned to the 32nd Replacement Battalion and fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal and Guam before being sent to Iwo Jima.

Williams’ heroic actions occurred on February 23, 1945, the day that the US flag was raised on the island. He opened a path through the Japanese defense, allowing the Marines to advance and ultimately take Iwo Jima.

Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sits alongside Medal of Honor recipient Hershel W. “Woody” Williams during the American Legion’s 98th national convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati Aug. 30th, 2016. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Williams received the Purple Heart for injuries received on March 6.

After the war, Williams continued serving in the Marines Corps Reserve. He retired in 1969.

After leaving the Marines, Williams served as a lay minister at his church. He also served as Chaplain Emeritus for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. He worked as a Veterans Services Officer at the Veterans Administration until he retired in 1978 after 30 years of service.

About receiving the Medal of Honor, Williams once said that he didn’t feel that it belonged to him. He credited the other Marines without whose assistance he could not have achieved what he did. He further stated that he did not wear the medal for his actions but for the two Marines that died protecting him.

Harold Agerholm: Medal Of Honor recipient saved 45 of his comrades to safety before he was cut down in the prime of his life by a sniper

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Private First Class Harold Christ Agerholm January 29, 1925 – July 7, 1944.

Left: Private First Class Harold Christ Agerholm. Right: Two Marines crawling under enemy fire to reach their assigned positions, Saipan, June 1944.

Harold C. Agerholm had a quiet start to his life. After qualifying from school in Racine, Wisconsin he worked as a multigraph operator for the Ranch Manufacturing Company. Then in July 1942, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve.

Upon completion of his recruit training in San Diego, California, Agerholm was sent to the Headquarters and Service Battery, 4th Battalion, 10th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. He received further training for eleven months with his battalion in Wellington, New Zealand. In January 1943 Agerholm was promoted to Private First Class.

PFC. Harold C. Agerholm, Medal of Honor recipient

In November 1943, a year and a half after first signing up, the young soldier took part in the war, engaging with Japanese forces on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll.

It was the first time American forces faced serious opposition to a landing. The 4,500 Japanese soldiers on the island were well prepared and fought to the last man. They extracted a high price for their deaths. Throughout the incredibly intense battle which lasted for 76 hours, the defenders killed 1,696 and wounded 2,101 US servicemen.

Battle of Saipan, June 1944. The ship in the foreground is the USS Birmingham (CL-62); the cruiser firing in the distance is the USS Indianapolis(CA-35).

The main Japanese defensive plan was to stop the attackers on the beach or in the water. To do so a large number of pillboxes and firing pits had been constructed – all of them with an excellent field of fire over the shoreline. Despite the challenges and the fierce resistance put up by the Imperial Japanese forces, the Marines won the day.

Agerholm then traveled to Hawaii to train for the impending invasion of Saipan. On June 9, 1944, just days after the D-Day landings in Europe, he sailed for Saipan.

In the build-up to the invasion, 14 battleships had fired 165,000 shells at the beaches, although a fear of mines had kept the craft 5 miles out to sea. Also, the inexperience of the artillerists resulted in the bombardment not being as efficient as it could have been.

On June 15, 3000 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the Island’s west coast, while 11 boats gave fire support to cover the operation.

The battle to take the island raged for three weeks as the Japanese displayed the courage and fanatical approach to war as they had shown previously. The defenders launched counter-attack after counter-attack. On July 7 a battalion neighboring Agerholm’s was overrun.

As the Marine’s had been mown down by the Japanese attack, the 19-year-old offered to evacuate casualties. Single-handedly, Agerholm commandeered an ambulance Jeep and made repeated trips, under heavy fire, loading, and unloading wounded men. For three hours he battled through Japanese sniper and mortar fire to move 45 of his comrades to safety before he was cut down in the prime of his life by a sniper.

Very effective Japanese sniper.

The final day of the battle on July 9 witnessed the largest banzai attack in the entire Pacific War. The suicide charge involved 3,000 of the remaining fighting Japanese and also, incredibly, the walking wounded behind them.

The terrifying Banzai charge.

The soldiers surged over the front line of the Americans, killing or injuring 650 members of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment. During the fifteen hour attack, over 4,300 Japanese were killed. Three men of the 105th Infantry earned a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Marines dig in after hitting the beach

 

The victory was costly for the American forces, who lost 2,949 men killed and 10,464 wounded. It was much worse for the Japanese. The defenders, who fought so fiercely to resist the invasion, had almost their entire garrison of 30,000 killed. Among the dead, were around 1,000 civilians who committed suicide. Emperor Hirohito ordered them to do so as he did not want the generosity offered to them by the Americans used as propaganda against Japan.

Agerholm was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. His citation read:

“Locating and appropriating an abandoned ambulance jeep, he repeatedly made extremely perilous trips under heavy rifle and mortar fire and single-handedly loaded and evacuated approximately forty-five casualties, working tirelessly and with utter disregard for his own safety during a grueling period of more than three hours. Despite intense, persistent enemy fire, he ran out to aid two men whom he believed to be wounded Marines but was himself mortally wounded by a Japanese sniper while carrying out his hazardous mission.”

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