World War II

The Crew of the Mi Amigo

The Crew of the Mi Amigo

Visitors to Endcliffe Park, a small green space on the west side of the UK city of Sheffield, might come across a curious monument. It begins with a large, permanent American flag. Then, they'll notice several trees surrounding a large boulder. Flags representing the United States Air Force, small wooden crosses, and other tokens of appreciation flanking that boulder, which bears plaques and, often, ten photos of World War II-era airmen.  Those airmen, 1st Lt. John Kriegshauser, 2nd Lt. Lyle Curtis, 2nd Lt. John Humphrey, 2nd Lt. Melchor Hernandez, Staff Sgt. Harry Estabrooks, Staff Sgt. Bob Mayfield, Sgt. Charles Tuttle, Tech. Sgt. Malcolm Williams, Sgt. Vito Ambrosio and Sgt. Maurice Robbins fought to die on that spot in 1944 because the alternative was much, much worse.  The Tragic Flight of Mi Amigo On February 22, 1944, the B-17 Flying Fortress, dubbed "Mi Amigo," was sent on a bombing mission on an airfield in Nazi-occupied Denmark. The target air base was obscured by fog when...

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WW2 – The Heroes Of Eager Beavers

WW2 – The Heroes Of Eager Beavers

In 1943, several U.S. airmen went on a suicide mission. Two men, who were part of Eager Beavers, on the mission were awarded a Medal of Honor - the only time in WWII that two men received the same award for the same engagement. Interestingly, their careers didn't start out well. Biography of Lt Col Jay Zeamer Jr. Jay Zeamer, Jr. got his wings in 1941 at Langley Field. All his classmates became pilots and got their own planes and crews, but not Zeamer. Although he could fly and had a passion for it, he just didn't have what it took to be a pilot. Still, he could fly, so when America entered the war, they made him a co-pilot. In March 1942, they sent him to Australia where he again tried to become a pilot but again failed. They sent him to the Solomon Islands - the same thing. Zeamer was to spend WWII as a co-pilot, navigator, gunner, and anything else; just not a pilot. Biography of 2nd Lt Joseph Raymond Sarnoski Joseph Raymond Sarnoski met Zeamer at Langley. Sarnoski got his wings,...

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B-17 Bomber Crews of World War II

B-17 Bomber Crews of World War II

Even at the time, the idea was kind of crazy. Untold numbers of heavy bombers, flying in massive formations without any kind of fighter escort, would fly to heavily-defended targets inside Nazi Germany to drop a 6,000-pound bomb load and come home – all during broad daylight.  If that sounds like an incredibly dangerous mission to you, you're correct. "Masters of the Air," a new limited series from Executive Producers Tom Hanks and Steven Speilberg, will debut on January 26, 2024, on Apple TV+ and will show viewers just how devastating air combat over Nazi Germany really was. Masters of the Air — Official Teaser | Apple TV+ The Harsh Realities of B-17 Bomber Crews A B-17 Flying Fortress crew had a 50-50 chance of coming home alive during a bombing mission. The average age of a bomber crew was just 25 years old, and they were expected to fly over a target 25 times before they could go home. Needless to say, there were a lot of airmen (and aircraft) that never made it to 25 missions....

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US Navy C-130 Hercules Plane Lands & Takes Off From An Aircraft Carrier

US Navy C-130 Hercules Plane Lands & Takes Off From An Aircraft Carrier

Aircraft carriers are enormously important. They serve as mobile bases for warplanes at sea. They have flight decks for planes to take off and land. They carry equipment for arming warplanes and recovering planes that have been damaged. An aircraft carrier is considered a capital ship, the most important ship. This is because the Navy can use it to extend its power anywhere in the world. Countries that want to exercise influence need to have aircraft carriers. History of the C-130 Hercules Plane Aircraft carriers arose from cruisers that had been converted to carry aircraft in the early twentieth century. They were important during World War II, especially in the Pacific. Nowadays, they are some of the largest ships on the water and carry all kinds of aircraft, including helicopters, fighters, reconnaissance planes, and strike aircraft. They are, of course, enormously expensive to build. When on duty, and especially in war zones, they are protected by other ships. When it comes to...

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Ending the Battle of the Bulge

Ending the Battle of the Bulge

In December 1944, the German Wehrmacht launched what would be its last offensive of World War II, a last-ditch, all-out effort to throw the Western Allies back from Germany's borders. It would take the Allies almost six weeks to blunt the effort and force the German Army back, but for a time, it looked like the Nazi offensive might actually succeed in splintering the Allied invasion of Europe.  Germany threw everything it could into the effort, including an estimated 410,000 men, 1,500 armored vehicles, a thousand combat aircraft, and thousands of artillery guns. The response to such an assault would turn the Battle of the Bulge into the largest and one of the deadliest battles in U.S. military history.  The Ardennes Offensive: The Battle Unleashed Only in January 1945 did it become apparent the offensive had failed and that Germans would spend the rest of World War II in retreat.  On the morning of Dec. 16, 1944, the German Army achieved total surprise against an Allied force...

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WW2 – Battle Of Wake Island (1941)

WW2 – Battle Of Wake Island (1941)

The Battle of Wake Island was fought December 8-23, 1941, during the opening days of World War II. A tiny atoll in the central Pacific Ocean, Wake Island was annexed by the United States in 1899. Located between Midway and Guam, the island was not permanently settled until 1935 when Pan American Airways built a town and hotel to service their trans-Pacific China Clipper flights. Consisting of three small islets, Wake, Peale, and Wilkes, Wake Island was to the north of the Japanese-held Marshall Islands and east of Guam. As tensions with Japan rose in the late 1930s, the U.S. Navy began efforts to fortify the island. Work on an airfield and defensive positions began in January 1941. The following month, as part of Executive Order 8682, the Wake Island Naval Defensive Sea Area was created which limited maritime traffic around the island to U.S. military vessels and those approved by the Secretary of the Navy. An accompanying Wake Island Naval Airspace Reservation was also established...

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The Sullivan Brothers

The Sullivan Brothers

Ever since the premiere of "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998, there's been a little bit of confusion around how and why the Army might want to pull one of its soldiers out of a combat zone, even if all of his many brothers were killed in combat.  During World War II, there were very few exemptions to the military draft. Most of the time, potential recruits were rejected for things like medical issues, having jobs critical to the war effort, or religious exemptions. It wasn't until after the war that the Department of Defense began considering things like families losing multiple sons in combat.  "Saving Private Ryan" was loosely based on the story of the four Niland Brothers. Edward Niland's B-25 Mitchell Bomber was shot down over Burma in May 1945, and he was considered killed in action (he was later liberated from a Japanese POW camp). Brothers Preston and Robert Niland were both killed at Normandy in June 1944. Sgt. William "Fritz" Niland was with the famed 501st Parachute Infantry...

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Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1968)

Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1968)

Kurt Chew-Een Lee is believed to have been the first Asian-American officer in the Marine Corps, rising through the ranks beginning his career from World War II to the Vietnam War.  Lee was born in 1926 in San Francisco and grew up in Sacramento, California. Lee's father was M. Young Lee, born in Guangzhou (Canton), emigrating in the 1920s to the Territory of Hawaii and then California. Once established in America, M. Young Lee returned to China to honor an arranged marriage. He brought his bride to California and worked as a distributor of fruits and vegetables to hotels and restaurants. Two of his brothers, Chew-Fan and Chew-Mon, became Army officers who also served in the Korean War. Chew-Mon received the Distinguished Service Cross and Chew-Fan the Bronze Star. Kurt Chew-Een Lee Joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1944 Eager to fight in World War II, Kurt Chew-Een Lee joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1944. Instead, he was based at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as a...

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Famous Navy Unit: VFA-31 Tomcatters

Famous Navy Unit: VFA-31 Tomcatters

VFA-31 (Strike Fighter Squadron 31) is the second oldest Navy attack fighter squadron. Known as the Tomcatters with the call sign "Felix," it is currently based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA. It flies the F/A-18E Super Hornet. "V" stands for fixed wing, "F" stands for fighter, and "A" stands for attack. Chief Of Naval Operations Instruction (OPNAVINST) governs the squadron designation system. The Navy's oldest currently active squadron is VFA-14, and it has been redesignated 15 times since it was established in 1919. The Enduring Tale of Felix and the Tomcatters Over the history of U. S. Naval Aviation, many designations have been used multiple times, resulting in numerous unrelated squadrons bearing the same designation at different times. The use of letter abbreviations for squadrons was promulgated in the "Naval Aeronautic Organization for Fiscal Year 1923," which is the first known record associating the abbreviated Aircraft Class Designations (V-heavier than...

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TSgt Norman Lear, U.S. Army Air Force (1942-1945)

TSgt Norman Lear, U.S. Army Air Force (1942-1945)

Norman Lear, most known for his TV producing as the creator of such shows as All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, Sanford and Son, Different Strokes, Mary Hartman, Mary, One Day at a Time and Good Times, didn't always bask in the glitz of Hollywood. Before crafting iconic television shows, Lear's journey unfolded in the United States Army during World War II. Norman Lear's military service, encompassing various roles and a transformative encounter, marked the inception of a prolific career that spanned seven decades.  Norman Lear’s Early Years Born on July 27, 1922, in New Haven, Connecticut, Norman Milton Lear was 19 years old when the Japanese Nava Air Forces bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Raised in a Jewish household, Lear's early years were marked by the Great Depression. His family relocated multiple times during his childhood, finally settling in New Haven. During his formative years at Weaver High School in Hartford, Connecticut, Lear displayed a keen interest in music and...

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Col Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, U.S. Marine Corps (1934-1947)

Col Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, U.S. Marine Corps (1934-1947)

Stories of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington are legion, many founded in fact, including how he led the legendary Black Sheep squadron, and how he served in China as a member of the American Volunteer Group, the famed Flying Tigers. He spent a year and a half as a Japanese POW, was awarded the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross, and was recognized as a Marine Corps top ace. Always hard-drinking and hard-living, Pappy's post-war life was as turbulent as his wartime experiences. Biography of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington Born on Dec.4, 1912, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, young Boyington had a rough childhood, as divorced parents, an alcoholic step-father, and lots of moves withheld much-needed parental guidance. He got his first ride in an airplane at the ripe young age of six, when the famous barnstormer, Clyde Pangborn (who later flew the Pacific non-stop), flew his Jenny into town, and young Gregory wangled a ride. What a thrill for a little kid! In 1926, at the age of 13, his family moved to Tacoma,...

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George Walters, The Civilian Who Fought at Pearl Harbor

George Walters, The Civilian Who Fought at Pearl Harbor

World War II was a total war, meaning that once the United States entered the war, everyone fought it somehow. The troops, of course, did the fighting, but civilians on the home front made sacrifices, collected scrap and grew gardens to keep food fresh for the soldiers and sailors on the real front. There was also the American workforce, who built the machines and materials needed to do the job. From the very moment the U.S. was thrust into World War II, civilians were ready to do their part. There were some like George Walters who literally fought in World War II, even though he wasn't wearing a uniform. Walters was a dock worker at Pearl Harbor who happened to be on duty when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched its surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941. What he did that day may not have changed the outcome, but it made sure some Japanese airmen didn't make it to the victory celebration. George Walters: A Hero Who Worked on a 50-Ton Crane Walters was born in Colorado but came to Hawaii...

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