World War II

The Last Airborne Deployment of WWII

The Last Airborne Deployment of WWII

In the early morning hours of March 24, 1945, a massive WWII airborne operation known as Operation Varsity launched with an attempt to deploy 17,000 American and British Airborne troops across the Rhine River. It was the largest single-day airborne operation in history. C-47 Transport Planes Release Hundreds of Paratroopers during Operation Varsity. In the final months of WWII, Western Allied Forces advanced east into Germany. This meant crossing numerous rivers, many of which no longer had standing bridges. The Rhine River was especially treacherous, with steep banks and swift currents, providing German forces with a natural defensive barrier. Planning got underway to deploy airborne forces on the east side of the Rhine. The principal mission was to seize and hold the high ground five miles north of Wesel, Germany, and to facilitate the ground action and establish a bridgehead. The soldiers would then hold the territory until the advancing units of the British 21st Army Group joined...

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WW2 – Behind Enemy Lines – The 82nd and 101st Airborne on D-Day (1944)

WW2 – Behind Enemy Lines – The 82nd and 101st Airborne on D-Day (1944)

The amphibious landings of D-Day were hours away when the first combat missions by the US Army started in France. The invasion of Normandy began with a large-scale parachute drop that included 13,100 Soldiers of the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions. The attack occurred during the night in the early hours of June 6th, 1944, and was the vanguard of the Allied operations in Normandy. The troops were all part of the US VII Corps assigned to capture Cherbourg, the coastal city in Normandy, that would serve as a supply port for the Allied troops after the landing. They were also tasked with a specific mission: to block approaches into the vicinity of the amphibious landing at Utah Beach, to capture causeway exits off the beaches, and to establish crossings over the Douve River at Carentan to assist the US V Corps in joining up the two American beachheads. Once the paratroopers landed, all hell broke loose. The heavy fighting marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War in...

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Sgt Drew Carey, U.S. Marine Corps (1980-1986)

Sgt Drew Carey, U.S. Marine Corps (1980-1986)

Drew Carey, who served in the US Marine Corps between 1980 and 1986, may be better recognized as the host of the game show The Price is Right, or for his previous work as host of improv comedy show Whose Line is it Anyway? It might surprise some to learn, however, that his distinctive haircut and glasses are artifacts from his years of service as a Marine.Born the youngest of three sons to the Carey family of Old Brooklyn in Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of eight Carey lost his father Lewis to a brain tumor. Due to this, and sexual abuse from a member of his extended family, Carey battled depression throughout his youth. He took up marching band in high school, playing the cornet and trumpet. When he graduated from high school he attended Kent State University, yet he was expelled twice for poor academic performance. He twice attempted suicide by sleeping pills before the age of 25. Leaving college without a degree, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1980. He served for six...

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Cpl William (Bill) Ralph Blass, U.S. Army (1943-1945)

Cpl William (Bill) Ralph Blass, U.S. Army (1943-1945)

William (or Bill) Ralph Blass who served in the US Army between 1943 and 1945 is better known for his contributions to the fashion industry. However, his efforts during World War II are as remarkable as they are unusual. William Ralph Blass was born on June 22 1922, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His father was a traveling salesman, his mother a dressmaker. Sadly, Blass’ father committed suicide when Bill was 5. Bill took after his mother, sketching Hollywood-inspired fashions in the margins of his schoolbooks. At the young age of fifteen, he sewed and sold evening gowns to a New York manufacturer for $25 a pop. At seventeen, he had enough money to move to Manhattan and study fashion at Parson’s School of Design. One year later, he was the first man to win Mademoiselle’s Design for Living award. In 1942, he enlisted in the US Army. Bill Blass's Military Career Bill Blass’s talents were recognized by the Army and he was assigned to the 603rd Camouflage Division, a top-secret division that...

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MA2 Doris Miller, U.S. Navy (1939–1943) – Navy Named Aircraft Carrier for Pearl Harbor Hero

MA2 Doris Miller, U.S. Navy (1939–1943) – Navy Named Aircraft Carrier for Pearl Harbor Hero

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 20th, 2020, at Pearl Harbor, the Navy announced that a $12.5 billion aircraft carrier will be named after Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller, the first African American to receive the Navy Cross for valor for his actions on December 7, 1941, when he manned a machine gun on the USS West Virginia to fire back at attacking Japanese planes. "I think that Doris Miller is an American hero simply because of what he represents as a young man going beyond the call of what's expected," said Doreen Ravenscroft, president of Cultural Arts of Waco (Texas) and team leader for the Doris Miller Memorial. Doris Miller Was The First African American Who Earn The Navy Cross In 1941 an African American was not allowed to man a gun in the Navy, and as far as rank was concerned, "he could not really get above a Messman level," Ravenscroft said. Miller's actions started to turn the tide, she added. "Without him really knowing, he actually was a part of the civil...

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SSgt Desi Arnaz, U.S. Army (1942-1945)

SSgt Desi Arnaz, U.S. Army (1942-1945)

Desi Arnaz who served in the US Army between 1942 and 1945 is perhaps most famous for his starring role as Ricky Ricardo opposite his real-life spouse Lucille Ball in the foundational modern TV sitcom I Love Lucy. Desi was already on his way to becoming a star when he was drafted into the US Army, but his time as a soldier gave him plenty of opportunities to hone his skills not only as a performer, but as a producer. Desi Arnaz’ Military Service Born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III in 1917, Desi was a child of privilege, his father the mayor of Santiago, his grandfather an exec at Bacardi. However, his family’s fortunes changed with the Cuban Revolution of 1933. Narrowly avoiding a sticky end, the Arnaz family fled to Miami with their lives, if not their seized property. Desi went to high school and then prep school to improve his English, and formed a band, the Siboney Septet. The band was successful in Miami and gained the attention of Xavier Cugat, who hired Arnaz for his...

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Sgt Alvin York, U.S. Army (1941–1947) – Medal of Honor Recipient

Sgt Alvin York, U.S. Army (1941–1947) – Medal of Honor Recipient

Sergeant Alvin York was seemingly born to a hardscrabble existence and anonymity in death, but World War One changed that forever. The story of York is one that twists and turns like the Mississippi river as he went through redemption and battled personal demons. At the end of it, all was the story that could have secured fame, finance, and his future - but York turned his back on it all to go back to the simple life and try and make a positive impact on the community in which he lived. York's early upbringing laid the foundations for the heroic feats that he would perform later on in life. He was born in a log cabin in 1887 close to Pall Mall in Tennessee, the third of 11 children. His upbringing was typical of the poor, subsistence farmers living in the area. Alvin was only sent to school for nine months as his father wanted him to help out on the farm and hunt to provide extra food on the table. This lack of schooling may have set York back in some ways, but it gave him the...

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Destroyed Military Records. A Disaster with Long-Lasting Repercussions

Destroyed Military Records. A Disaster with Long-Lasting Repercussions

In 1973 a devastating fire in the National Personnel Records Center destroyed about 17 million military personnel files. A loss with long-lasting repercussions, it affects our understanding and knowledge of many individual WWII stories. Here in New Orleans, the destructive power of fire and especially water is well known. Large disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and fires affect our national consciousness, and their devastating power often goes beyond the destruction of buildings and landscapes. In many cases, invaluable records, images, and other memories of human experience are lost in their wake. One such disaster affects our understanding of World War II to this day in that it took millions of records of those who fought it: the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The National Personnel Records Center was formed in 1956 in an effort to streamline archival processes and merge several archival agencies. Its key job: to house and handle service...

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Native American Contributions in the U.S. Military

Native American Contributions in the U.S. Military

Throughout American History, Native Americans have distinguished themselves with bravery and courage in military service to their country, often without enjoying the same rights and privileges afforded other soldiers.  During WWI, more than 10,000 Native Americans served in the American Expeditionary Force. The majority were volunteers, and most were not considered U.S. citizens. Only U.S. citizens were eligible for the draft. Despite this, the government required Native American men to register for the draft, causing frustration and sometimes rebellion. Many hoped their service would lead to the government granting them full U.S. citizenship. At the time, only Native Americans who accepted an allotment of land under the Dawes Act of 1887 received citizenship. As a result, thousands of Native Americans served before they even won the right to vote. It was during WWI that military officials realized the value of Native languages to transmit sensitive information. German officials...

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The Ship That Wouldn’t Die

The Ship That Wouldn’t Die

The USS Laffey (DD-724) was laid down 28 June 1943 by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine. She was launched 21 November; sponsored by Miss Beatrice F. Laffey, daughter of Medal of Honor recipient S1c Bartlett Laffey. Commissioned 8 February 1944, Cdr. F. Julian. Becton as her first "Captain". Commander Frederick Julian Becton, Captain of the Destroyer USS Laffey After shakedown, the Laffey traveled the world in the war effort. She was off the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Off Cherbourg, France where an unexploded shell bounced off her hull above the waterline and did little damage. Rescuing a badly wounded Japanese pilot off the Philippines. Firing support in Leyete Gulf and Ormoc Bay. Transported intelligence to McArthur in the Philippines. Supported landings at Mindoro and Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Kerama Retto.  That is where this story begins. Commander Frederick Julian Becton, Captain of the destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724), took the radio message his communications officer handed...

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World War II Veterans

World War II Veterans

How Many World War II Veterans are Still Alive Today? According to Pew Research, the number of living WWII veterans dropped to under 300,000 in 2020 from over 930,000 in 2015. The oldest of these veterans is Lawrence Brooks, an Army veteran born in Louisiana in September 1909, drafted at the age of 31, and sent to the Pacific front with the 91st Engineers. One of the 1.2 million African-Americans served during the war, PFC Brooks mainly cooked and cleaned for his superior officers. The Coast Guard has contributed to the nation’s maritime protection since its previous incarnation was founded in 1790. The United States Revenue Cutter Service initially had a fleet of just ten cutters, known as the Revenue-Marine, to enforce tariffs and collect vital income for the young country. From this humble beginning, the Revenue Cutter Service’s responsibilities grew, taking on more maritime services and even homeland security missions, starting with the Quasi-War with France in the late...

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Fascinating Facts About The Film “Saving Private Ryan”

Fascinating Facts About The Film “Saving Private Ryan”

One of the most accurate and raw depictions of World War II can be found in the film Saving Private Ryan. This film portrayed the terror and chaos that typifies war, rather than the sanitized and unrealistic images that Hollywood tended to put out in past films. Opening scene capturing D-Day, storming the beaches of Normandy, FR. With the realism portrayed in the film, there were many behind-the-scenes tricks that director Steven Spielberg employed to ensure that the ageless footage and intense combat scenes made it from the film set to the cinema screen. Here are a few of the little-known facts that make this film so unforgettable. Scenes of D-Day Landings in Saving Private Ryan One iconic part of the film is the D-Day Landings. The realistic portrayal of the terror of the men landing on the beach, along with the inevitable chaos of efficiently getting so many men into such a small area, is realistically shown, but this came at an enormous cost. The D-Day shoot cost $12...

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