MHT Blog December 3, 2020 - Deployment – Baggage
The B-4 – Valpak Bids Farewell
Cleaning out the back room my lovely wife asked the question if we really needed this dusty old suitcase. It struck me how many places my Valpak had been, Okinawa, Guam, Mt. Fuji, Panama, Norway and all over the Medeterrainian. I was lucky to get one being tight with the Supply Officer in 5th Battalion, 10th Marines and so I decided to check out the Valpak history but found it is a massive coupon company now.
I did find that before the adoption of the B-4 bag what the Valpak is called in the U.S. Army and the WWII Army Air Force officers had to buy their own suitcases commercially. The Military Issued Garment Travel Case, sometimes called “the 2 suiter” features the one large internal compartment and two outer side pouches. Originally canvas in the Valpak era it was more plastic but both with leather handle. Made by numerous manufactures for the government including Hinson Manufacturing Company, Knight Leather Products Company and Canvas Products Corporation and two had the same DWG Number 40K3719.
Here are some WWII examples:
The WWII USMC Uniform Suit Luggage Bag was issued to J.G. Abdoo who got good use in the Corps from 1942 to 1972.
The U.S. Army Air Corps B-4 garment/flight bag was issued to S/Sgt R.N. Schade as a tail gunner with the 429th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Group, 15th Air Force in England. He was on his 13th mission with the B-17G "Dollar 98” heading for Vienna, Austria when it was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire on February 21, 1945. Schade survived and spent the remainder of the war as a POW at Stalag Luft VIIA near the town of Moosburg in southern Germany.
U.S. Army B-4 was used by W.J. Murray with the 623rd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron on Okinawa, Japan in 1949. The bag is decorated with a hand painted dragon.
The B-4 is in many WWII movies here are two: Clooney and Damon in “Monuments Men” & Beckinsale and Hartnett in “Pearl Harbor.”
The B-4/Valpak’s day has passed with the advent of MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) technology and rolling Loadout Bags.
MHT Blog December 1, 2020 - Chosin Reservoir – North Korea
The Desperate Struggle of RCT-31 on the Eastern Side of the Reservoir
The Regimental Combat Team 31 (RCT-31), is a United States Army unit known for its role in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War and was part of the "Chosin Few." RCT-31 primarily consisted of infantry, artillery, and tank units from the 7th Infantry Division (ID) that had been attacking north on the eastern side of the reservoir. The units of RCT-31 positioned at the Chosin Reservoir consisted of 3rd Battalion/31st Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion/32nd Infantry Regiment, A and B Batteries/57th Field Artillery Battalion, D Battery/15th Anti-aircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion and 750 Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) soldiers. Two Communist Chinese Army (CCA) Divisions from the elite 27th Corps surrounded the 7th ID units and attacked them relentlessly for three days and had only survived by bravely resisting against overwhelming numbers aided by massive U.S. Marine and Navy Close Air Support (CAS.)
COL Allan MacLean & LTC Don Faith
U.S. Army historian in the 1960s began to use the name "Task Force Faith" for LTC Faith, USA who had taken over for the WIA and captured Col MacLean, USA however the unit was not known by that name during the Korean War. The Americans were running low on ammunition with over half their soldiers having been KIA or WIA, including a high proportion of small unit leaders. Faith, realizing he was surrounded, greatly outnumbered and unable to withstand another major attack, decided to attempt a breakout to the south, toward the Marine lines at Hagaru-ri. The situation was so desperate that only a minimum of equipment and sufficient vehicles to carry the wounded were placed in the convoy, freeing more soldiers to fight as infantry. The rest of the equipment was destroyed in place, including the artillery's howitzers after they fired their last rounds.
The breakout began on 1 December, again greatly aided by U.S. Marine F4U Corsairs and Navy Grumman F7F Tigercat fighters which strafed and bombed Chinese positions as the American truck column, carrying hundreds of wounded and under constant attack, made its way south down a gravel road. The march momentum was broken when the Corsairs mistakenly bombed short, spraying the lead platoons of the task force with napalm, demoralizing the task force. As the front of RCT-31 ran into CCA roadblocks and close-range heavy small arms fire the trucks became death traps as enemy fire killed those already in the trucks as well as the drivers who viewed the job as a form of suicide. In the late afternoon, with light fading, LTC Faith got the column moving again until it approached Hill 1221 overlooking the road. Strong CCA defensive positions on the Hill and a roadblock beneath it blocked Faith's retreat. Several units attacked Hill 1221 trying to clear it. As Faith led an assault on the roadblock, he was hit by an enemy grenade and badly wounded.
As darkness closed in, ending the protective Marine CAS protection the Chinese infantry assaults grew bolder, penetrating closer and closer to the convoy. Here is when RCT-31 began to disintegrate as almost all of its officers were dead or seriously wounded. An attack on the hill cleared part of it, but many of the leaderless soldiers, instead of returning to the column, continued out onto the frozen reservoir beyond the hill and walked on the ice south toward the Marine positions seeking safety. At last the roadblock at the base of the hill was removed and the truck column again crept forward in the dark but was finally halted by yet another Chinese roadblock just north of Hudong. The U.S. troops and tanks that had occupied Hudong and might have saved the remains of the task force, had been controversially ordered back to Hagaru-ri the previous day
Now the Chinese renewed their attack, swarming among the trucks, throwing white phosphorus grenades into vehicles loaded with wounded. LTC Faith, hit again by rifle fire, died of his wounds (he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.) The breakout attempt collapsed as the remaining soldiers abandoned the truck convoy and attempted to escape individually, many crossing onto the ice of the reservoir.
The 385 able-bodied survivors of Task Force Faith were formed into a provisional rifle battalion which was attached to the Marines and fought with them in the breakout of the 1st Marine Division during the remainder of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.
MHT Blog November 30, 2020 - 245th USMC Birthday – Quantico, VA
A Report from a National Museum of the Marine Corps Docent Carol Quinn-Lassell
Pandemic or no pandemic, the Marine Corps celebrated its 245th Birthday!!
On November 10, a small group of stalwart National Museum of the Marine Corps (NMMC) Docents gathered to commemorate this most auspicious occasion. For the past many years, this “Mess O'Docents” as we are famously (or infamously) known, has undertaken this solemn obligation at Major Rick Spooner's USMC(Ret) legendary Globe & Laurel Restaurant in Stafford, VA (originally located in Quantico town & then in Dumfries on US 1 by the main gate & now still on US 1 South of the back gate.) Forced by current circumstances to abandon that revered venue, we did as Marines always do, we adapt and overcome!
In a large white tent adjacent to a nice local restaurant, we observed all the protocols and formalities. The highlight of the evening was the presence of Maj Rick Spooner (the oldest Marine present at 94 years young) who recited "The Tribute to the Flag" and another poem completely from memory. The youngest Marine present was a Captain. The Cake was cut with the traditional Mameluke Sword and Maj Spooner as Guest of Honor & Oldest Marine received the first piece of cake which he passed to the youngest Marine signifying the passing of experience and knowledge from the old to the young of our Corps.
Then, all proceeded to party with the satisfaction that not even COVID-19 can stop a Marine Corps Birthday Celebration!
SEMPER FI to all!!
A Tribute to Our Flag by CDR John W. W. Cumming, USN June 3, 1942
A Salute to thee, Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes—Our Flag!
Thou wast born, June 14, 1777;
Thy field of blue with forty-eight stars of white doth represent the union of States while thy thirteen stripes of red and white, the original colonies; but thou art more;
Thou art a silent symphony of Red, White and Blue, the harmony of Home and Country composed by GOD, HIMSELF, the Master of Life, Liberty, Equality and the Pursuit of Happiness;
Thy azure Blue, like the firmament, displays now a galaxy, a constellation of bright shining stars in one of which each of us has a Home, yet, every other star is likewise a Home for each of us—one for all and all for one—a Perfect Union;
Thy stripes of White, six in number, emblazon on high, the purity of purpose of Creation by the Almighty GOD whose Omniscience and Omnipotence, in six days, brought into being all there is, including Earth and over all therein gave HE dominion to Man—and—God was pleased because all was good; thus was thy birth first planned;
Thy stripes of Red, seven in number, one for each day of the week in which to render passionate, living, virile worship and service to the Infinite, by man serving man in joy and sadness, in plenty and poverty, in health and sickness, regardless of cost, sacrifice, race, color or creed; thus do our part by Providence planned;
I salute thee, my Flag, because thou dost symbolize all I hold most dear—GOD! Home! Country!— and I will defend thee against all enemies, domestic and foreign!
I salute thee!
Thanks to Carol Quinn-Lassell, NMMC Docent & MHT Volunteer for the update
MHT Blog November 27, 2020 - Civil War – Charleston, SC
A Rare Version of a Coehorn Mortar
Artilleryman's Delight: On tour at Fort Sumter, there were many huge cannons: 10-inch & 8-inch Columbiads (large-caliber, smoothbore, muzzle-loading cannon able to fire heavy solid shot or shell projectiles at both high and low trajectories to long ranges, making it an excellent seacoast defense weapon); 10-inch seacoast mortars; 8-inch Brooke (Confederate Parrott-style) & 42-poulders but one of the smallest was the most interesting.
Up on top of Fort Sumter was a Cyrus Alger & Company 24-pound Coehorn Mortar.
In 1812 Alger furnished the US with shot and shell before starting South Boston Iron Company in 1817 which was to become Cyrus Alger & Co. The Massachusetts firm was a leading cannon manufacturer in the mid-1800's.
During the Civil War, both US Army and Navy were supplied with large numbers of Alger weapons with the traditional "C.A. & Co." signature. This is a good example of a Civil War bronze cannon which many examples saw very hard use at the end of the Civil War, especially in the trench warfare around Richmond and Petersburg, VA or sieges of Southern cities.
This is one of the mid-war made Coehorns made and dated in 1863 with the Registry Number on muzzle is No. 254, with a weight of 221 lbs., inspected by Ordnance Officer, Thomas Jefferson Rodman the “T.J.R.” This is a very scarce Civil War cannon, as it is mounted on a wheeled carriage rather than in the traditional box carriage.
It is worth seeing as is all the National Park Service Forts Sumter & Moultrie National Monuments.
MHT Blog November 26, 2020 - Civil War – Charleston, SC
The Battles of Fort Sumter
Most of us know that the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC Harbor. Major Anderson, USA had refused to surrender the fort and his 85-man garrison that had moved from Fort Moltrie to Sumter. Beginning at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861 the South Carolina Militia bombarded the fort from artillery batteries around the harbor. Although the Union garrison returned fire, they were significantly outgunned and, after 34 hours, Major Anderson surrendered the fort. Surprisingly there were no fatalities on either side as a direct result of the artillery exchange. However, an accidental gun explosion during the surrender ceremonies on April 14 resulted in Pvt Daniel Hough, a Union artillerymen's death, the first of what would become the Civil War.
Far less is known of the Union efforts to take Charleston Harbor with retaking Fort Sumter as the first step. It began on April 7, 1863, when RADM Du Pont (of the Delaware Gunpowder Conglomerate), Commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, led nine Union ships in an attack on the harbor's defenses. The attacking fleet was the largest deployment of monitors in action up to that time with the ironclad frigate New Ironsides, the tower ironclad Keokuk, and the monitors Weehawken, Pasaic, Montauk, Patapsco, Nantucket, Catskill, and Nahant. The attack was unsuccessful, as Du Pont's flagship & best ship, USS New Ironsides never effectively engaged Fort Sumter. The Union ironclads fired only 154 rounds at the fort, while 2,209 shells were fired by the Confederate defenders sinking the USS Keokuk off the southern tip of Morris Island. Over the next month, working at night to avoid the attention of the Federal squadron, the Confederates salvaged the USS Keokuk's two eleven-inch Dahlgren guns. One still rests today in Charleston’s Battery Park.
In August 1863, the Union initiated a devastating bombardment on Fort Sumter destroying much of the fort and fired long-range artillery at the city of Charleston for nearly two years with the most feared Union siege gun being the Parrott rifled gun named the Swamp Angel.
After the failed naval attack, the Union, decided on a joint Federal Army and Navy assault on the wreckage of the fort. RADM Dahlgren, now commanding the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, refused to place his sailors and Marines under the command of an army officer, Major General Gillmore. So, cooperation between the Army and Navy was poor so two seperate flotillas set out towards Fort Sumter on the night of September 8–9, 1863. The army flotilla was detained off Morris Island by a low tide.
The US Navy's assault involved 400 sailors and Marines in 25 boats. The operation was a fiasco from the start as the operation had poor reconnaissance, planning and communications. CDR Stevens, commanding the monitor USS Patapsco, was placed in charge of the assault being told by Dahlgren, "There is nothing but a corporal's guard [about 6–10 men] in the fort, and all we have to do is go and take possession." Dahlgren vastly underestimated the Confederate garrison probably believing it would be an easy victory for the US Navy. However, less than half of the Navy boats reached the fort. Those that did landed on the rocks below the fort rather the chosen site where there was a passable beach. The Union Marines and sailors who did land could not scale the fort's walls despite the heavy destruction by the August barrages. The Confederates fired down upon the landing boats as well as throwing hand grenades and loose bricks. The men in the boats that had not landed fired muskets and revolvers blindly at the fort, endangering the landing party ashore more than the garrison. The landing party survivors took shelter in shell holes in the fort's wall while Fort Johnson and the Confederate warship CSS Chicora added their fires upon the Union boats and landing party. The remaining boats retreated and the landing party quickly surrendered. Union casualties were 8 killed, 19 wounded, and 105 captured. The Confederates did not suffer a single casualty in the assault. By the time the Army boats arrived, the Navy assault had already been defeated so the Army's small boat flotilla returned to shore.
The National Park Service have an outstanding museum and ferry to Fort Sumter and is well worth the trip to see before like other Civil War History it is erased by the revisionists.
MHT Blog November 25, 2020 - Korean War – Second Phase Offensive
The Communist Chinese Army Fully Enters the War
The Communist Chinese Army (CCA) had first engaged UN Forces on 25 October at the Battle of Onjong, about 53 miles south of the Yalu River. This battle heralded the opening of what China called the First Phase Offensive which would last until 6 November. Marshal Peng Dehuai, the Chinese commander, ended the First Phase Offensive because his soldiers were tired and lacked food and munitions but had quickly found the weakness of the Republic of Korea (ROK) units.
Marshal Peng's strategy for the Second Phase Offensive was to lure the UN forces into advancing as far north as possible towards the Yalu into a trap with Chinese forces positioned on all sides of them. That strategy would shorten the supply lines of the logistics-challenged Chinese forces that had to move most supplies by man and disperse the UN advancing forces over a wider front. The Chinese would be familiar with the territory and the UN transportation and supply lifelines for their artillery would be longer and more vulnerable to attack by guerrillas. Peng reasoned that if the CCA forces could destroy two or three UN Divisions, the character of the war would change the momentum to the China and North Korea Armies.
Nine Chinese armies and 30 divisions were in North Korea when the Second Phase Offensive began on 25 November. The total number of CCA soldiers has been estimated at upwards of 300,000. Few North Korean soldiers were involved in the offensive. Eighteen divisions were allocated for the western offensive, the Battle of the Ch'ongch'on River against the 8th Army while 12 divisions were allocated for the eastern offensive against the X Corps, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir and the destruction of the 1st Marine Division.
This ended General MacArthur’s Home-by-Christmas UN Offensive in its tracks and would ensure the war would continue for another 3 years. As Author and Historian David Halberstam stated, "Rarely has so large an army had such an element of surprise against its adversary. The Americans on the west coast...were essentially blind to the trap they had walked into." Korean War (miltours.com)
MHT Blog November 24, 2020 - Saipan – Bombing of Tokyo
B-29s from Saipan
The US’s Second Trip to Tokyo During WWII: The B-29s stationed in China couldn’t reach Tokyo due to the distance so construction of the B-29 airfields on Saipan began almost immediately, even while the fighting was still going on in the northern part of the island. Naval Construction Battalions, the "SeaBees" began construction at a former Japanese airstrip called Aslito. This was later renamed Isley Field, after Navy Commander Robert H. Isely (unfortunately his name was misspelled and the incorrect version stuck. On June 13, 1944, Commander Isely led his squadron, VT-16, on a pre-invasion bombing attack against the Japanese at Aslito Airstrip on Saipan. While carrying out a low altitude bombing run, his TBF Avenger was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and crashed in flames at the south edge of the runway. In recognition of his supreme sacrifice, Commander Isely was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Navy Cross.) The SeaBees had a difficult construction schedule, in a little over three months they had built a support base and air field complex on Saipan, capable of supporting the 240 B-29s of the 73d Bombardment Wing and their logistical support units.
The 73d Bombardment Wing was ordered to the Marianas rather than to the CBI Theater after its initial training with Second Air Force in Kansas. The first B-29 arrived on Saipan on 12 October 1944 and by 22 November, over 100 B-29s were at Isley Field. The XXI Bomber Command was assigned the mission of destroying the Japanese aircraft industry in a series of high-altitude, daylight precision attacks.
All four groups of the 73d Bomb Wing were tasked for their first mission to Japan on 24 November with 111 planes available a far cry from the 16 B-25’s of the Doolittle Raid in April 1942. The target was the Nakajima Aircraft Engine Plant at Musashino in the arsenal sector of Tokyo. Also, for the first time, the bombers encountered the Jet stream, the high-speed wind coming out of the west at speeds as high as 200 mph at precisely the altitudes at which the planes were operating. This caused the bomber formations to be disrupted and made accurate precision bombing impossible. Due to the jet stream winds and bad weather over Tokyo, only 24 planes attacked the primary target; the majority dropped their bombs on the secondary target the Tokyo Dock Yards. MHT will return to Saipan as a pre-tours during all the IJAA Iwo Jima Reunions of Honor: https://www.miltours.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=24
MHT Blog November 23, 2020 - Stalingrad – Operation Uranus
The Death of the Wehrmacht
Operation Uranus (19-23 Nov 1942) was the Soviet Red Army's codename for the strategic counterattack on the Eastern Front near Stalingrad which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army and portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army besides the destruction of the Third and Fourth Romanian Armies. The operation was executed at roughly the midpoint of the five-month long Battle of Stalingrad, and was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. The Red Army took advantage of the Wehrmacht's (German Army's) poor preparation for the Russian Winter and the fact that its forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched near Stalingrad. The German flanks were guarded by weaker Romanian units. The Soviet Artillery barrages were centered on the Romanian units to allow Soviet armor breakthroughs. These Axis Allies lacked tanks and antitank weapons to deal with Soviet armor. The encirclement of General Paulus and his 6th Army was effective at 1600 on 23 November near the village of Sovetsky. The forward detachments of 36th Mechanized Brigade from the Stalingrad Front's 4th Mechanized Corps sighted the approaching tanks of 45th Brigade from the Southwestern Front's 4th Tank Corps. At first, they mistook them for Germans because they did not fire green flares as was agreed upon and several tanks were damaged in a short exchange of fire. After clarification the linkup was achieved. It was reenacted later for the Soviet propaganda newsreels, without the friendly Russian fire of course.
The junction between the armored troops of 21st and 51st Armies from Generals Vatutin's and Eremenko's Fronts completed the surrounding of Paulus's group of forces: the 6th German Army among the most powerful in the Wehrmacht, 22 divisions and 150 separate regiments or battalions, and an enormous amount of materiel. Never before in the war were so many troops of Nazi Germany encircled together. Fighting continued as the Germans attempted in vain to mount local counterattacks to break the Soviet encirclement. When Axis personnel inside the encirclement began moving east towards Stalingrad to avoid the Soviet tanks they were trapped. Hitler's order to Paulus to hold Stalingrad rather than mount an immediate coordinated breakout would doom his army.
Operation Uranus trapped between 250,000 and 300,000 Axis soldiers within the pocket containing four, IVth, VIIIth, XIth & List Infantry Corps, the XIV Panzer Corps belonging to the Fourth Panzer Army, and surviving elements of the 20th Infantry & 1st Cavalry Romanian Divisions, the 369thCroatian Infantry Regiment and other combat service support & Luftwaffe units. Trapped equipment included around 100 tanks, 2,000 artillery pieces and mortars and 10,000 trucks.
MHT will visit Stalingrad and sail along the Volga River and also visit the epic battles of Kursk and Moscow next Summer. https://www.miltours.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=17&product_id=85
MHT Blog November 22, 2020 - China Clipper – Inaugural Flight
The Martin M-130 was a commercial flying boat designed and built by the Glenn L. Martin Company in Baltimore, MD, for Pan American Airways. Three were built for PanAm’s Pacific Operations: the China Clipper, the Philippine Clipper and the Hawaii Clipper. None of the three survived WWII. Named by the manufacture as the Martin Ocean Transports, but to the public they were the "China Clippers," a name that became a generic term for all of Pan Am's large Pacific flying boats – the Martin M-130s besides the later Sikorsky S-42s and Boeing 314s.
On November 22, 1935, the original China Clipper, piloted by Captain Edwin Musick and First Officer R.O.D. Sullivan, flew the first trans-Pacific airmail route. A unique postage stamp was printed for use on the transpacific service with a design showing the M-130 in flight.
The China Clipper left Alameda, CA stopping overnights at Honolulu, Midway, Wake and Guam Islands. The mighty seaplane glided to a landing in about 60 hours of flying in Manila, PI the China Clipper had crossed nearly 8,210-mile distance between Alameda and Manila establishing transpacific air mail service. On the first flight, besides mail and supplies for the Wake Airways Station the Clipper also brought nine employees, who would be stationed there.
Weekly passenger service across the Pacific Ocean didn’t begin until October 1936 when the Hawaii Clipper left San Francisco for Manila, stopping overnight at Honolulu, Midway Island, Wake Island and Guam. MHT will return to both Midway & Wake Islands in 2021, join us on all four stops along the Clipper's route. We will revisit all of them in December as they would become prominent in 1941.
MHT Blog November 20, 2020 - Nuremberg – Military Tribunal
Martin Bormann – Dead or Alive
On November 20th, 1945 the International Military Tribunal convened in Nuremberg, Germany with 24 accused to stand trial. The most interesting case was that of Martin Bormann who had become second only to Hitler in the Nazi Party. During the chaotic days after WWII, many contradictory reports about Bormann’s escape from the Führerbunker on 1 May in Berlin. Sightings were reported in Argentina, Paraguay, Spain, and elsewhere as Bormann's long-time chauffeur claimed to have seen him in Munich in July 1946.
Hitler Youth Leader Artur Axmann who had been in the escape group reported that he had seen Bormann along with SS Doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger’s bodies near near the railway bridge near Lehrter Station but the Soviets never reported the bodies were found. In 1963, after 18 years of silence a retired postal worker named Albert Krumnow told West German Police that around 8 May 1945 the Soviets had ordered him and his colleagues to bury two bodies found near the railway bridge near Lehrter Station.
One was dressed in a Wehrmacht uniform and the other was clad only in his underwear. Krumnow's colleague found an SS Doctor's paybook on the second body identifying him as Ludwig Stumpfegger. Excavations in July 1965 at the site specified by Krumnow failed to locate any bodies. However, on 7 December 1972, construction workers near Lehrter Station uncovered human remains just 39 ft from the previous Krumnow burial location. Upon autopsy, fragments of glass were found in the jaws of both skeletons, suggesting that the men had committed suicide by biting cyanide capsules to avoid capture. Dental records and damage to the collarbone was consistent with injuries that Bormann's sons reported he had sustained in a riding accident in 1939 tentatively identified one skeleton as Bormann's. Forensic examiners determined that the size of the skeleton and the shape of the skull were identical to Bormann's. The second skeleton was deemed to be Stumpfegger's, since it was of similar height to the doctor. Facial reconstruction was also undertaken in early 1973 on both skulls to confirm the identities of the bodies. The West German Government declared Bormann dead, however the family was not permitted to cremate the body, in case further forensic examination later proved necessary.
In 1998, the remains were conclusively identified as Bormann's in when German authorities ordered genetic testing on skull fragments. Tests using DNA from one of his relatives identified the skull as that of Bormann. Fearing that a gravesite would be problematic his remains were cremated and ashes scattered in the Baltic Sea on 16 August 1999 ending the mystery of Martin Bormann who was convicted in absentia of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging, with the provision that if he were later found alive, any new facts brought to light at that time could be taken into consideration to reduce the sentence or overturn it.
Col Rich Yoder, USMC(Ret) I’ll take you to both Nuremberg and Berlin in the The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (14 - 27 Aug 2021)
MHT Blog November 20, 2020 - Tarawa – Operation Galvanic
The Singapore Guns – Spurious Origination
The Battle of Tarawa began today as the first U.S. offensive in the critical central Pacific during WWII. It would be the first time in the Pacific War that the U.S. forces would face serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. The Japanese on Betio Island had a year to prepare their defensive positions. One of the surprises for the U.S. Navy & Marines were the Japanese four 8-inch guns that fired the opening rounds in the battle. As the invasion flotilla closed on the invasion beaches the fact remains that many USN Officers were unpleasantly surprised to experience major caliber near-misses bracketing the amphibious task force early on D-Day.
The island's four 8-inch guns opened fire provoking a gunnery duel soon developed as the main batteries on the battleships Colorado and Maryland commenced rapid counter-battery fire. The USN guns proved accurate, with several of the 16-inch shells finding their marks. One battleship shell penetrated one gun's ammunition storage bunker, setting off a huge explosion and fireball as the ordnance went off. Three of the four guns were knocked out in short order. One continued its intermittent, though inaccurate, fire through the second day as pre-landing USN carrier aircraft bombing raids may have damaged their fire control systems. The naval gunfire damage to the big guns left the approach to the lagoon open.
Colonel David Shoup, USMC who was the architect of the Operation Order stated emphatically that the 2d Marine Division was fully aware of the presence of 8-inch guns on Betio as early as mid-August 1943. However, the division intelligence annex to Shoup's operation order, updated just nine days before the landing, discounts that the main guns were likely to be as large as 8-inch, insisting instead that "they are probably not more than 6-inch." The firing on Betio had barely subsided before unsubstantiated claims began to appear in print that the four 8-inch naval rifles used on Tarawa had been captured from the British during the fall of Singapore.
Many prominent historians unwittingly helped perpetuated this story, among them the highly respected Samuel Eliot Morison in his definitive 15 volume "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II." In 1977, British writer William H. Bartsch published the results of personally examining each of the four guns on Tarawa and found markings confirming their manufacture by Vickers, the British Ordnance Company. Under further investigation at the Imperial War Museum produced evidence that there were no 8-inch guns guarding the approaches of Singapore to be captured. The Vickers, Sons & Maxim Company records provided indicating the guns were part of a consignment of 12 8-inch guns sold in 1905 to the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese War. In truth, the guns at Tarawa came from a legitimate transaction with the British and not the conquest of Singapore in February 1942.
See the 8-inch Guns and walk Betio with Col Joe Mueller, USMC(Ret) https://www.miltours.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=24&product_id=106
MHT Blog November 19, 2020 - Morocco – Operation Torch
Casablanca – 5-Star Movie Review
Many of us have on our "Bucket List" to visit "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world" to walk into Rick's to sip a Champagne Cocktail or shop at the Souk for jewelry or linen like Ilsa in the film Casablanca. Well in 2021 you can join MHT as we walk the ground of George Patton as he leads "Operation Torch" and follow in the footsteps of the French Foreign Legion to the kasbahs in our Moroccan Tour.
To get you in the mood here is MHT's Movie Review of “Casablanca”, the 1942 Academy Award Winning American wartime romantic drama. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz who also took home an Oscar. Filmed and set during World War II, it opens in December 1941, as American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart who also certainly deserved an Oscar over Paul Lukas who won in his only nomination) owns an upscale nightclub and gambling den in Casablanca, Morocco. "Rick's Café Américain" attracts a varied clientele, including Vichy French and Nazi German officials, bon vivants, French Resistance, gamblers and refugees desperate to reach the neutral United States, and those who prey upon them for profit. Although Rick professes to be neutral in all matters, he has twice opposed the fascists by running guns to the Ethiopians 1935 during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and fought on the Republican (loyalist) side in 1936 in the Spanish Civil War besides leaving Paris on the last train before the Germans marched down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
The supporting cast that swirl around the café is magnificent none more so than Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault, the corrupt Vichy French Police Captain who thinks nothing of taking monetary or sexual bribes. You want to hate him for praying on the refugees but he is too good an actor to allow it. The threesome that vie for the most eye-catching screen time are first Peter Lorre as the criminal Ugarte who steals the priceless two “letters of transit” to fly to Lisbon and on to the USA that he trusts to Rick before dying under interrogation in police hands.
Second, the hulking menace of Sydney Greenstreet as Ferrari, owner of the rival Blue Parrott Bar and the Godfather of Casablanca crime is palatable despite his elegant manners. Finally, Conrad Veidt plays the Nazi Luftwaffe Major Heinrich Strasser (surprisingly the highest paid member of the cast despite his second billing) who is sent to Casablanca to ensure Czech resistance leader Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid) doesn’t escape from Vichy control.
I’ll leave the love story alone other than to say that Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund’s luminous desire also deserved a statuette but the Academy as more often than not failed.
Ilsa: I wasn't sure you were the same. Let's see, the last time we met...
Rick: Was La Belle Aurore.
Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.
Rick: Not an easy day to forget.
Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.
So many important movie moments but MHT’s favorite highpoint is Major Strasser leading a group of German Officers in singing “The Watch on the Rhine", Laszlo orders the house band to strike up La Marseillaise. When the band looks to Rick, he nods his head as Laszlo starts singing, alone at first, then patriotic fervor grips the crowd and everyone joins in, drowning out the Germans. Strasser demands Renault close the club, which he does on the pretext of suddenly discovering there is gambling on the premises as he quickly pockets his nights winnings.
If you want a 5-Star Movie you can "Play it!" MHT like Captain Louie says, will “round up the usual suspects” for a tour of Morocco and you can also do the follow-on tour to the French Riviera for Operation Dragoon and sip more Champagne in the South of France.
#casablanca #moroccotour #mhtwwii #operationtorch
MHT Blog November 17, 2020 - Ghost Towns and Military Battlefields
Fleury Ghost Town
Out in the calm and sleepy wilderness to the east of Paris, lies a little village called Fleury. Fleury is not unique but it is rather stark, there are 8 other villages just like it in a small, surrounding area. But oh, does Fleury have a story to tell. You see, Fleury is a ghost town, if you will. Just as in the old west, there are no inhabitants, it was left behind in days gone by. In fact, there is only one building that stands in this village, a memorial chapel that was erected sometime after the destruction that was wrought in this area.
Fleury is nestled within the man-made moonscape and deadly hollows created by artillery fire of a battle that happened over 100 years ago. Fleury is located in the Douaumont area of Verdun. Verdun of course, was the site of arguably the most destructive and brutal battle of World War I, a battle that lasted 10 months around France’s famed ring of forts. The casualty count is often argued and the number that I’ve settled on by best guestimate is 750,000 French and German combined. Casualties being KIA, WIA and MIA combined. However, it is very hard to truly name a number as for many men, there are only parts that were found. The Germans brought 1200 artillery pieces to Verdun and rained more destruction in one place than the world had ever seen.
Prior to the war, there were some 400 inhabitants in Fleury. There were sundry shops and houses in the village area, including a town hall or in French, a mairie. It was a ubiquitous farm village, which today still blanket the area of the Western Front. However, this farm village is silent. As the fighting built up, the village was evacuated. The men of Verdun fought for every inch of land and this village exchanged hands some 16 times. It was completely annihilated and there are signs in 3 languages that designate where a building stood and what it was. There are signs for visitors not to stray off the beaten path, for there may yet be UXO’s (unexploded ordnances). I tell folks about this in the states and they cannot fathom it.
But it is most certainly real. On our drives, we almost always come into view of a few UXO’s that farmers have found and laid to the side of a field for bomb crews to handle. This is rather infamously called the Iron Harvest, also replete with barbed wire, shrapnel, shell frags, bullets and the like. If you travel with me, you are surely to be reminded of it on many occasions and places.
Not far from Fleury is a very large French military cemetery from WWI as well as the Douaumont Ossuary, which holds the estimated partial remains of 130,000 French and German soldiers combined. It is certain that the remains of men who fell in Fleury reside in the ossuary or outside it. In the same area, there is a large German cemetery, as you might imagine.
This writer does not believe in ghosts. However, if you were one to believe, this would be a site of activity in that regard. Today, the battlefields of Verdun are serene. However, there is nowhere on the Western Front with more stark reminders of the Great War than here. If you close your eyes while standing in this little village of Fleury, you might imagine there could never have been hell on earth here.
-James W. White
World War I Tour Leader
JOIN ME ON MHT’S 2021 WWI TOUR https://www.miltours.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=17&product_id=72