World War II

WW2 – Midway and Guadalcanal

WW2 – Midway and Guadalcanal

There is some debate on the turning point of the war in the Pacific Theatre. Some historians believe the Allied victory at the Battle of Midway was the defining moment, followed by aggressive island-hopping all the way to the Japanese homeland. Others view Midway as the tipping point in the war where the initiative hung in the balance only to swing toward the Allies following its major victory in the Guadalcanal campaign. According to many other historians, however, the turning point of the war in the Pacific resulted from the two battles combined. They point out that the Battle of Midway inflicted such permanent damage on the Japanese Navy that when the Battle of Guadalcanal began two months later, they did not have enough resources to hold onto the island or to take it back once the U.S. Marines had landed. Together, these two victories ended major Japanese expansion in the Pacific, allowing the Americans and its allies to take the offensive. Battle of Midway In the months...

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The Muslim Princess Spy

The Muslim Princess Spy

Biography of Nur Inayat Khan Noor Inayat Khan was born New Year's Day 1914 in Moscow to Hazrat Inayat Khan an Indian Sufi mystic of royal lineage and his American wife, Ora Ray Baker, half-sister of Perry Baker, often credited with introducing yoga into America. On her father's side, she was the great-great-great-granddaughter of Tipu Sultan, the celebrated Muslim ruler of Mysore, who in the 18th Century successfully fought the British, stemming their advance into South India. He was killed in battle in 1799. As a child, she and her parents escaped the chaos of revolutionary Moscow in a carriage belonging to Tolstoy's son. Raised in Paris in a mansion filled with her father's students and devotees, Khan became a virtuoso of the harp and the veena (a plucked stringed instrument originating in ancient India), dressed in Western clothes, graduated from the Sorbonne and published a book of traditional Indian children's stories - all before she was 25. One year later, in May 1940, the...

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First WW II Aircraft Crew to Reach 25 Missions

First WW II Aircraft Crew to Reach 25 Missions

1917, and 1918, the United States government issued Liberty Bonds to raise money for our involvement in World War I. By the summer of 1940 when it appeared the United States would be drawn into World War II, bonds again were being sold as a way to remove money from circulation as well as reduce inflation. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the bonds became known at War Bonds. To promote selling the War Bonds, rallies were held throughout the country with famous celebrities, usually Hollywood film stars, sports personalities, and war heroes such as John Basilone and Audie Murphy. Famous American artists, including Norman Rockwell, created a series of illustrations that became the centerpiece of war bond advertising. Although the U.S. Army Air Force sent its individual war heroes to War Bond rallies, it preferred sending 10-man heavy bombers crews. That because the American public knew heavy bomber crews faced death on every mission with only one in four...

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Bayonet Charge

Bayonet Charge

Following World War I, Americans reached the conclusion that our country's participation in that war had been a disastrous mistake, one which should never be repeated again. This resulted in a major segment of the population becoming "isolationist" hoping to avoid dragging the country into another disastrous foreign war. Lewis Lee Millett Enlisted Into the National Guard While Still in High School Even when Nazi German invaded Poland in 1939 and began conquering and controlling much of continental Europe, most Americans were adamant we stay out of the war - even though the war in Europe posed a serious challenge to the U.S. neutrality. Americans eager to help fight fascism and Hitler grew frustrated. A large number of these were young American males. Romanticized by the idea of fighting in battle and not wanting to wait until the United States decided to enter the war, many crossed the border into Canada. Among them was a South Dartmouth, MA. teenager by the name of Lewis Lee...

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The Forces Pin Up – GI Morale Boosters

The Forces Pin Up – GI Morale Boosters

America's entrance into World War II back in 1941 triggered the golden age of pinups, pictures of smiling women in a range of clothing-challenged situations. The racy photos adorned lonely servicemen's lockers, the walls of barracks, and even the sides of planes. For the first time in its history, the US military unofficially sanctioned this kind of art: pinup pictures, magazines, and calendars were shipped and distributed among the troops, often at government expense, to "raise morale" and remind the young men what they were fighting for. The heyday of the pinup was the 1940s and 50s, but pinup art is still around. To this day, pinup fans emulate the classic style in fashion, merchandise, photography, and even tattoos. The Second Most Popular Pin-up Picture in All of World War II Rita Hayworth's famous pose in a black negligee quickly made its way across the Atlantic in 1941, as troops brought the picture with them on the way to war. It ended up as the second most popular pin-up...

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WW2 – The Battle of Iwo Jima

WW2 – The Battle of Iwo Jima

Japan's ambition as a world power began in the late 1800s, but lacking in raw materials (oil, iron, and rubber) necessary to make it a reality, it seized material-rich colonies and islands. Ensuring they kept what they seized, Japan established naval and army bases throughout the Pacific. Following long-standing complaints from the United States about their laying claims on territories that did not belong to them, Japan's military leaders unwisely decided to attack America, beginning with the infamous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the naval officer, tasked with planning and carrying out the attack, said: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." His insightful prophecy became a horrible reality for Japan. As the Americans prepared to take the offensive in 1942, military planners realized it would be impossible to recapture every Japanese-held island in the Pacific, so a strategy of...

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Parallel Lives, Shared History

Parallel Lives, Shared History

Herb Heilbrun and John Leahr were twenty-one when the United States entered WWII. Herb became an Army Air Forces B-17 bomber pilot. John flew P-51 fighters. Both were thrown into the brutal high-altitude bomber war against Nazi Germany. However, they never met because the Army was rigidly segregated - only in the air were black and white American fliers allowed to mix. Both came safely home, but it took a chance meeting 20 years ago when the two retired salesmen met at a reunion of the Tuskegee Airmen in Cincinnati. That meeting led them to review their parallel lives and discover their shared history. It began in 1995 when Herb read in the newspaper that the city was honoring the local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black 332nd Fighter Group. They flew "Red-Tail" P-51s on missions escorting bomber squadrons from Italy into Germany and German-held territories. Herb could still remember hearing, amid the radio chatter over the target, the distinctive voices of the...

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Veteran of Three Wars Under Three Flags

Veteran of Three Wars Under Three Flags

Lauri Allan Torni, later known as Larry Thorne, spent the majority of his life-fighting communists. First, the Soviets while in the service of Finland and Germany during World War II and then the Vietcong and North Vietnamese as a U.S. Army Special Forces officer during the Vietnam War. Biography Veteran of Three Wars Larry Thorne Lauri Torni was born in Finland, the son of a sea captain, in 1919. He enlisted in the Finnish Army at the age of 18 and was near the completion of his enlistment when the Soviet Union attacked Finland in late 1939. With his service suddenly extended as part of Finland's mass mobilization of troops, Torni was transferred to the front line, where he began a reputation as a determined fighter and strong leader. His heroism fighting the Red Army in what became known as the Winter War quickly caught the attention of his commanders resulting in commissioning as an officer. The Winter War ended with the Moscow Peace Treaty in March 1940. In 1941, when Hitler...

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Angels of Bataan

Angels of Bataan

When Americans woke up Sunday morning on December 7, 1941, they were stunned to learn Japanese naval aircraft had attacked Pearl Harbor. What they would soon find out that was only the beginning. Pearl Harbor was just one part of the Japanese plan for the day. Within hours, Japanese naval and ground forces attacked and invaded Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Singapore, Honk Kong, Thailand and Burma. Ten hours after the devastating surprise attack that crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Japanese planes launched the first in a deadly series of attacks on the Philippine Islands, bombing and strafing military airfields and bases in and around Manila. Caught in the air raids were ninety-nine army and navy women nurses. Immediately they rushed to their respective hospitals and began assisting with the endless flow of military and civilian casualties. It is almost certain that none ever dreamed they would be thrust into a deadly shooting war. Unknown to them and others was...

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The Only U.S. Woman POW in WWII Europe

The Only U.S. Woman POW in WWII Europe

On September 27, 1944, a C-47 assigned to the 813th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron lifted off from England into the clear morning sky. Its destination was a landing field at St. Trond, Belgium, to pick up casualties. Since the aircraft usually carried military supplies and troops on the outbound flight and casualties on the return trip, it was not marked with the Red Cross. Aboard the aircraft was 24-year-old Texas-born Second Lt. Reba Whittle, an experienced flight nurse with 40 missions and over 500 hours of flight time. Accident on the Plane in Which There Was Lieutenant Reba Whittle Somewhere along the way to Belgium, the plane strayed far from its intended route, entering German airspace where it was hit by German flak a couple of miles outside Aachen. The crew braced themselves as the plane gained and lost elevation from heavy shrapnel tearing through its thin-skinned fuselage and disabling an engine. Whittle held onto her seat for dear life as they began to nosedive. On...

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Japanese Soldier Surrenders 30 Years After End of WWII

Japanese Soldier Surrenders 30 Years After End of WWII

By the summer of 1945, the Japanese navy and air force were destroyed. Its army had been decimated. The Allied naval blockade of Japan and intensive bombing of Japanese cities had left the country and its economy devastated, it's people suffering. After the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack, factions of Japan's supreme war council favored unconditional surrender but the majority resisted. When the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito told the supreme war council to negotiate the unconditional surrender. To the Japanese his word was that of a god.On Sunday, September 2, 1945, more than 250 Allied warships lay at anchor in Tokyo Bay. Just after 9 a.m. on board the USS Missouri General Douglas MacArthur presided over the official surrender ceremony as Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed on behalf of the Japanese government. General Yoshijiro Umezu then signed for the Japanese armed forces. His aides wept as he made his signature. The most...

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Bravest Submariner Who Earned 5 Navy Crosses

Bravest Submariner Who Earned 5 Navy Crosses

Ask any Marine who was Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller and each would quickly respond by saying. "Why, he was the greatest, bravest and most highly decorated Marine in Marine Corp history." Another would inevitable say, "He was not only a tough, no nonsense Marine he is also the only one awarded five Navy Crosses." Both would be right. During his career, Puller fought guerrillas in Haiti and Nicaragua, and participated in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II and the Korean War where he earned his five Navy Crosses, an Army Distinguished Service Cross and a Silver Star. Now ask any Sailor who was Rear Admiral Roy Milton Davenport and while some submariners might know the answer, the majority of Sailor would not even venture a guess. Yet, like Marine "Chesty" Puller, he too was awarded five Navy Crosses making him the first individual (Puller was the second individual) and only Sailor so honored. Admiral Roy Milton Davenport Was Dubbed the "Praying...

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