#DDay71: June 5, 1944

DDay Normandy

‪#‎HonorTheFallen‬ ‪#‎HonorTheSurvivors‬ ‪#‎RememberDDay‬ #DDay71

June 5th, 1944 – the Allies prepare for D-Day.

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On this day in 1944, more than 1,000 British bombers drop 5,000 tons of bombs on German gun batteries placed at the Normandy assault area, while 3,000 Allied ships cross the English Channel in preparation for the invasion of Normandy — D-Day.

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The day of the invasion of occupied France had been postponed repeatedly since May, mostly because of bad weather and the enormous tactical obstacles involved. Finally, despite less than ideal weather conditions—or perhaps because of them—General Eisenhower decided on June 5 to set the next day as D-Day, the launch of the largest amphibious operation in history.

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Ike knew that the Germans would be expecting postponements beyond the sixth, precisely because weather conditions were still poor….

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#WarriorWednesday #MilitaryAppreciationMonth: Duty, Honor, Courage, Sacrifice, Remember, Honor

Honoring Their Own May 2011: U.S. Navy, United States Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard personnel unfurl an American flag on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at a Memorial Day ceremony during Fleet Week New York. Fleet Week has been New York City’s celebration of the sea services since 1984 and is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and see firsthand the capabilities of today’s maritime services.  Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew R. White.

Honoring Their Own
May 2011: U.S. Navy, United States Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard personnel unfurl an American flag on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at a Memorial Day ceremony during Fleet Week New York. Fleet Week has been New York City’s celebration of the sea services since 1984 and is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and see firsthand the capabilities of today’s maritime services.
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew R. White.

The Heritage of the Military Funeral and Burial at Sea

Honoring the deceased is a centuries-old practice that includes many traditions across cultures. The customs and traditions behind military funerals and burial at sea date as far back as ancient Greece and Rome. In the Navy’s culture, as  the final honor to give to shipmates, traditions are employed that not only signify the service of the deceased, but also display our nation’s commitment to their legacy.

Atlantic Ocean, December 6, 2014. Capt. John Carter, commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) salutes during a burial-at-sea.  Bataan is conducting an underway evolution in preparation for an upcoming planned maintenance availability.  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julie Matyascik

Atlantic Ocean, December 6, 2014.
Capt. John Carter, commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) salutes during a burial-at-sea. Bataan is conducting an underway evolution in preparation for an upcoming planned maintenance availability.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julie Matyascik

Reversal of Rank

In Royal Connell and William Mack’s “Naval Ceremonies, Customs, and Traditions,”it is noted that the reversal of rank at military funerals is modeled after an ancient Roman custom of “reversing all rank and position when celebrating the feast of Saturn,”showing that, at death, all are equal. This is signified by positioning the honorary pallbearers and all other mourners, if practicable, in reverse order of rank.

Firing Three Volleys

The custom of firing three volleys at funerals comes from an old superstition. It was once thought that evil spirits escape from the hearts of the deceased, so shots are fired to drive away those evil spirits. “The number three has long had a mystical significance,”write Connell and Mack. They note that in Roman funeral rites, earth was cast three times into a grave, mourners called the dead three times by name, and the Latin word vale, meaning “farewell,”was spoken three times as they left the tomb. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also notes that the firing of three volleys “can be traced to the European dynastic wars when fighting was halted to remove the dead and wounded.”The funeral volley should not be mistaken for the twenty-one gun salute which is fired for the U.S. President, other heads of state, Washington’s birthday, and the Fourth of July. At Navy military funerals today, three volleys are fired by a firing detail of seven riflemen during the funeral of active duty personnel, Medal of Honor recipients, and retirees just before the sounding of taps.

Pacific Ocean, August 19, 2007. US Navy flag bearers bow their heads in prayer during a burial at sea ceremony aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Lincoln conducted the solemn and sacred tradition of burial at sea for 11 former service members during her transit home to Everett, Washington. Lincoln completed carrier qualifications, Tailored Ship's Training Availability and Final Evaluation Problem during a scheduled work-up off the coast of Southern California.  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James R. Evans.

Pacific Ocean, August 19, 2007.
US Navy flag bearers bow their heads in prayer during a burial at sea ceremony aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Lincoln conducted the solemn and sacred tradition of burial at sea for 11 former service members during her transit home to Everett, Washington. Lincoln completed carrier qualifications, Tailored Ship’s Training Availability and Final Evaluation Problem during a scheduled work-up off the coast of Southern California.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James R. Evans.

Taps

The sounding of taps is perhaps one of the most moving and well known elements of military funerals. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, taps originated from the French final call, “L’Extinction des feux,”to extinguish the lights. This “lights out”bugle call was used by the U.S. Army infantry during the Civil War, but in 1862 Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield suggested a revision of the French tune, and we now have the 24-note bugle call we hear today. Taps was first played at a military funeral in Virginia when Union Capt. John Tidball ordered it to be played as a substitute to the traditional three rifle volleys so as not to reveal the battery’s position to the nearby enemy. At Navy military funerals today, taps is played by a military bugler after the firing of three volleys and just before the flag is folded.

The National Ensign

The National Ensign plays a very special role in today’s military funeral traditions. The custom of placing a flag over the body of a fallen soldier has been recorded in the days before the American Revolution when a private in the British Guards by the name of Stephen Graham wrote that the Union Jack was laid upon the body of a fallen soldier who died in the service of the State to show that the State “takes the responsibility of what it ordered him to do as a solider.”Today, this custom is practiced in American military funerals as a way to honor the service of the deceased veteran. The National Ensign is draped over the casket so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased. After Taps is sounded, the body bearers fold the flag 13 times—representing the 13 original colonies—into a triangle, emblematic of the tri-cornered hat word by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded, only the blue field with stars should be visible. The flag is then presented to the next of kin or other appropriate family member.

Arabian Sea, April 9, 2011. Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) prepare to cast ashes overboard during a burial at sea.  Enterprise and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 are conducting close-air support missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jesse L. Gonzalez.

Arabian Sea, April 9, 2011.
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) prepare to cast ashes overboard during a burial at sea.
Enterprise and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 are conducting close-air support missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jesse L. Gonzalez.

Burial at Sea

Another type of ceremony for honoring the deceased is the burial at sea (also called the “at sea disposition”) performed on a U.S. Navy vessel. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the tradition of burial at sea is one that dates back to ancient times and has been a practice for as long as people have gone to sea. The body was sewn into a weighted sailcloth and in very old custom, the last stitch was taken through the nose of the deceased. The body was then sent over the side, usually with an appropriate religious ceremony.

During World War II, many burials at sea took place when naval forces operated at sea for months at a time. Today, active duty service members, honorably discharged retirees, veterans, U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command, and dependent family members of active duty, retirees, and veterans are eligible for at sea disposition.

The ceremony for burial at sea is conducted in a similar manner to that of shore funerals, with three volleys fired, the sounding of taps, and the closing of colors. The casket or urn is slid overboard into the sea after the committal is read, or, if requested, the cremated remains are scattered into the sea. Flowers or wreaths are also allowed to slide overboard or tossed into the sea by a flag bearer.

Because the committal ceremony is performed while a ship is deployed, family members are not permitted to attend burials at sea. So, within 10 days after committal, the commanding officer of the ship will mail a letter giving the date and time of committal and include any photographs or video of the ceremony, the commemorative flag, and a chart showing where the burial took place.

For many centuries, funerals have been a way to give our final respects to our loved ones. The customs and traditions that we share during the ceremony make it all the more meaningful.

HonoringTheFallen

World War II Unknown Serviceman

Ceremonies for the selection of the World War II Unknown Serviceman were conducted on board USS Canberra (CAG 2) on May 26, 1958. Medal of Honor recipient Hospitalman William R. Charette, selected the Unknown Serviceman. After the ceremonies, the ‪‎WWII‬ Unknown Serviceman was transported for interment at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day‬, which fell on May 31.

Private First Class Frank Calvin, USMC, places the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Private Calvin is himself the recipient of two Navy Crosses, the Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation, circa 1943.

Private First Class Frank Calvin, USMC, places the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Private Calvin is himself the recipient of two Navy Crosses, the Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation, circa 1943.

Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Crewmen of USS Boston (CAG 1) render honors as the first casket is transferred to USS Canberra (CAG-2), prior to ceremonies on board Canberra to select the Unknown Serviceman of World War II. Two more caskets are still on board Boston, visible just aft of the starboard whaleboat davits. The ceremonies took place off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Crewmen of USS Boston (CAG 1) render honors as the first casket is transferred to USS Canberra (CAG-2), prior to ceremonies on board Canberra to select the Unknown Serviceman of World War II. Two more caskets are still on board Boston, visible just aft of the starboard whaleboat davits. The ceremonies took place off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, who received the Medal of Honor for Korean War heroism, selects the Unknown Serviceman of World War II, during ceremonies on board USS Canberra (CAG-2) off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. The other World War II Unknown Serviceman candidate's casket is at left, with the Unknown Serviceman of the Korean War in the middle. The other Unknown Serviceman from WWII not chose was given a solemn burial at sea. After completion of the selection ceremonies, the World War II and Korean War Unknown Servicemen were carried to Washington, D.C., for burial at Arlington Cemetery. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Note: At that time, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette was the Navy's only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient.

Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, who received the Medal of Honor for Korean War heroism, selects the Unknown Serviceman of World War II, during ceremonies on board USS Canberra (CAG-2) off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. The other World War II Unknown Serviceman candidate’s casket is at left, with the Unknown Serviceman of the Korean War in the middle. The other Unknown Serviceman from WWII not chose was given a solemn burial at sea. After completion of the selection ceremonies, the World War II and Korean War Unknown Servicemen were carried to Washington, D.C., for burial at Arlington Cemetery. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.
Note: At that time, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette was the Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient.

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Above photo: An Army member of the joint services casket team carries the folded U.S. flag from the casket of the Unknown Serviceman of the Vietnam Era to President Ronald Reagan, left, during the interment ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. Photographed by Mickey Sanborn, 28 May 1984.

The Unknown service member from the Vietnam War was designated by Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, May 17, 1984. The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day.

Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower poses with three men to whom he has just presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in Korean War combat action, at the White House, Washington, D.C., 12 January 1954. Those who received the medal are (from left to right): First Lieutenant Edward R. Schowalter, Jr., U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Kumhwa, Korea, on 14 October 1952; Private First Class Ernest E. West, U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Sataeri, Korea, on 12 October 1952; and Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette, U.S. Navy, honored for his actions in Korea on 17 March 1953. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower poses with three men to whom he has just presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in Korean War combat action, at the White House, Washington, D.C., 12 January 1954. Those who received the medal are (from left to right): First Lieutenant Edward R. Schowalter, Jr., U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Kumhwa, Korea, on 14 October 1952; Private First Class Ernest E. West, U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Sataeri, Korea, on 12 October 1952; and Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette, U.S. Navy, honored for his actions in Korea on 17 March 1953. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

1973, the first U.S. manned orbiting space station, Skylab 2, was launched with an all US Navy‬ crew. Commanding was Capt. Charles Conrad, Jr., with Cmdr. Paul J. Weitz, as the pilot, and Cmdr. Joseph P. Kerwin as the science pilot. Recovery was by USS Ticonderoga (CVS 14)…

Skylab 2 Astronauts pictured in-front of a Skylab 2 model. Left to right: Cmdr. Joseph P. Kerwin, USN; Capt. Charles Conrad, Jr., USN; and Cmdr. Paul J. Weitz, USN. NASA Photograph.

Skylab 2 Astronauts pictured in-front of a Skylab 2 model. Left to right: Cmdr. Joseph P. Kerwin, USN; Capt. Charles Conrad, Jr., USN; and Cmdr. Paul J. Weitz, USN. NASA Photograph.

USS Ticonderoga (CVS 14). With her rails manned, circa 1970-72, following conversion to an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

USS Ticonderoga (CVS 14). With her rails manned, circa 1970-72, following conversion to an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

These three men are the crewmen for the first manned Skylab mission. They are Charles Conrad Jr., commander, standing left; scientist-astronaut Joseph P. Kerwin, seated; and Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, pilot. They were photographed and interviewed during an "open house" press day in the realistic atmosphere of the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) trainer in the Mission Simulation and Training Facility at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). The control and display panel for the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) is at right. NASA Photograph Collection.

These three men are the crewmen for the first manned Skylab mission. They are Charles Conrad Jr., commander, standing left; scientist-astronaut Joseph P. Kerwin, seated; and Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, pilot. They were photographed and interviewed during an “open house” press day in the realistic atmosphere of the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) trainer in the Mission Simulation and Training Facility at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). The control and display panel for the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) is at right. NASA Photograph Collection.

Heroes and Warriors, all of them!

On the Web: Request Military Funeral Honors

For information on requesting military funeral honors, visit https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/mfh.

For detailed information and protocol for Navy military funerals, see Bureau of Naval Personnel instruction NAVPERS 15555D. For information on burial at sea, contact the U.S. Navy Mortuary Affairs Burial At Sea Program.

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#WarriorWednesday: The Navy-Army Nurses Act

“Serve with Pride and Patriotism” Artwork by Lloyd Nolan. Navy Recruiting Aids Facility Poster. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 67041

“Serve with Pride and Patriotism” Artwork by Lloyd Nolan. Navy Recruiting Aids Facility Poster. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 67041

It’s 1947 and Congress passes Army-Navy Nurses Act, giving Navy Nurse Corps members commissioned rank. The U.S. Navy Nurse Corps volunteered on board ‪‎US Navy‬ ships beforehand, such as during the Civil War on board USS Red Rover and during the Spanish-American War on board USS Solace (AH 2).

Navy Nurses pictured on board USS Solace (AH-5) in June 1945. NHHC Photograph Collection, L-File, Ships.

Navy Nurses pictured on board USS Solace (AH-5) in June 1945. NHHC Photograph Collection, L-File, Ships.

A collection of images depicts the past and present of retired U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Omilio Halder Jensen, a World War II flight nurse, compiled in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in Denver, Colo., May 13, 2008. Illustration by Lieutenant Kris Hooper. DOD Still Media Photograph: 080513-N-4965H-001.

A collection of images depicts the past and present of retired U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Omilio Halder Jensen, a World War II flight nurse, compiled in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in Denver, Colo., May 13, 2008. Illustration by Lieutenant Kris Hooper. DOD Still Media Photograph: 080513-N-4965H-001.

Navy Nurses. At the U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914. They are wearing the indoor duty uniform. Courtesy of the Nursing Division, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, September 1962. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 52970.

Navy Nurses. At the U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914. They are wearing the indoor duty uniform. Courtesy of the Nursing Division, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, September 1962. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 52970.

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Friday Reader: The Real Stalag 13

A US Army M4 Sherman tank of the 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, crashes through the fence of Oflag XIII-B, April 6, 1945.

A US Army M4 Sherman tank of the 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, crashes through the fence of Oflag XIII-B, April 6, 1945.

Stalag 13 didn’t just exist in the celluloid world of Hogan’s Heroes. There really was a POW camp called Stalag 13 (or Stalag XIII C) on the outskirts of Hammelburg, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Frankfurt.

Oflag XIII-B was a German Army World War II prisoner-of-war camp camp for officers (Offizierlager), originally in the Langwasser district of Nuremberg. In 1943 it was moved to a site 3 km (1.9 mi) south of the town of Hammelburg in Lower Franconia, Bavaria, Germany.

In 1893, the Kaiser created a training camp for German soldiers in a large forested area about 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Hammelburg. This training area was called Lager Hammelburg (or Camp Hammelburg) and it still goes by that name.

Lager Hammelburg and the Town of Hammelburg, 1920's (Truppen-Übungsplatz is the camp)

Lager Hammelburg and the Town of Hammelburg, 1920’s
(Truppen-Übungsplatz is the camp)

During World War I, the camp was used to house Allied prisoners of war and in 1920, a Children’s Home was established on the premises.

The Home for poor children was run by the Benedictine nuns and expanded over the years to take over many of the buildings. When it closed in 1930, over 60,000 children had been cared for there.

Lager Hammelburg in 1916

Lager Hammelburg in 1916

How the camp looked in 1938 when an artillery regiment was stationed there:

Future Stalag 13C (or rather Oflag 13B), 1938

Future Stalag 13C (or rather Oflag 13B), 1938

Lager Hammelburg, 1938

Lager Hammelburg, 1938

An expansion of the camp in 1938 swallowed two nearby villages. The ghost town of Bonnland is still there and is now used for urban warfare training.

The Birth of Stalag 13

In the summer of 1940, the southern end of the camp was prepared for prisoners of war from the enlisted ranks. The camp was called Stammlager XIII C, or Stalag XIII C for short, and wooden barracks were built to house POWs of a variety of nationalities.

The first to arrive were the Dutch, Belgian and French soldiers captured during the Blitzkrieg invasion of France in 1940.

In 1941, Serbian, Polish and Russian soldiers joined them after battles on the eastern front; the Serbians arrived in the spring, and the Russians in the summer.

Some of the British, Australian and other Commonwealth soldiers captured in the fighting in Crete in 1941 also ended up in the camp.

Australian POW's at Stalag 13

Australian POW’s at Stalag 13

The third man from the right, bottom row, is Arthur Hunt, father-in-law of the contributor of the photo. Below is the reverse side of the photo, with the official Stalag XIII C stamp.

Other side of the photo.

Other side of the photo.

Here’s an interesting article about an Australian POW and undercover work at Stalag 13.

After the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, several hundred captured American officers were sent to Oflag 13B. More Americans started arriving from camps in the east as the Russian army advanced.

The Lager held over 30,000 POW’s, with the Russians as the largest group. As required by the Geneva Convention, different nationalities were housed separately.

Junior enlisted prisoners, corporal and below, were required to work. These POW’s were assigned to work units in neighboring factories, farms and forests. They lived outside the camp and were guarded by a battalion of Home Guards (Landschützen).

The real Kommandants of Stalag 13 between 1940 and 1945 were Lieutenant Colonel von Crailsheim, Colonel Franck and Colonel Westmann.

Officer’s Camp

The officers were housed in stone buildings at the northern end of the camp (the Nordlager), separately from the enlisted prisoners, except for a handful of privates and NCO’s who assisted the officers. This camp was called Offizierlager XIII B, or Oflag 13 B.

The officers’ camp was divided into two sections: Serbian and American.

In the spring of 1941, 6,000 Serbian officers arrived, and they witnessed the arrival of the Russian prisoners a few months later.

Judging from the large number of Russians buried at the camp (over 3000), the appalling treatment of Russian POW’s in general, and a report from a Serbian officer at Oflag 13B, it appears the Russian prisoners were treated very poorly and had a very high mortality rate, unlike most of the other nationalities.

Among the Russian officers arriving in Hammelburg in 1941 was the eldest son of Joseph Stalin, Yakov. He only spent a few weeks in Oflag 13 before the SS came and moved him to another camp.

The Germans offered to exchange him for Field Marshall Paulus. Stalin replied, “You have millions of my sons. Free all of them or Yakov will share their fate.” Later, Yakov allegedly committed suicide in Sachsenhausen concentration camp by running into the electrified fence.

In March of 1945, a group of about 400 Americans arrived from Poland after marching hundreds of miles in snow and extreme cold. One of the men was Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters, the son-in-law of General George Patton.

The 11th Hour Raid

By early April of 1945, the Americans had crossed the Rhine and were within 80 miles of Hammelburg. General Patton ordered a special armored task force to go deep behind the German lines and free the prisoners in Oflag/Stalag 13.

Lieutenant Colonel John Waters, here, seen as a general. He was General Patton's son-in-law.

Lieutenant Colonel John Waters, here, seen as a general. He was General Patton’s son-in-law.

The men of Task Force Baum, as it was called, ran into heavy resistance coming in but they reached the camp on March 24, 1945. The tanks knocked down the fences, but they also started firing at the Serbian officers, mistaking them for Germans. Lieutenant Colonel Waters came out with a white flag, accompanied by a German officer, to contact the Americans and stop the shooting. Waters was shot in the stomach by a German guard and was taken to the camp hospital.

The tanks left, accompanied by many of the able-bodied prisoners, but without Waters. On the way back, the Task Force was ambushed and forced to surrender. Out of the 314 men in the unit, 26 were killed and most of the rest were captured. Most of the POW’s returned to the camp as well. Lt.Col. Waters survived and eventually retired as a four-star general.

For more information, see Task Force Baum , a very interesting website about this event.

After the failed rescue attempt, the Germans moved all of the Western Allied prisoners to other camps, except the ones in the camp hospital.

Stalag 13 Camp Conditions

Life in Oflag and Stalag 13 became grim as the war neared its end. The Germans were running out of food and fuel and having difficulty getting supplies for the prisoners.

A Red Cross report following an inspection of Oflag 13B by the Swiss in March, 1945, revealed dreadful conditions. Daily calories provided by the Germans were 1050 per day, down from 1700 calories earlier. The average temperature in the barracks was 20 degrees F (or -7 degrees C) due to lack of fuel.

Many men were sick and malnourished, and morale and discipline were low. No Red Cross packages had reached the Americans since they started arriving in January. They only reason they didn’t starve was the generosity of the Serbian officers, who shared their packages.

You can read the full report at International Red Cross Report on the Task Force Baum website.

Liberation of Stalag 13

The prisoners are freed.

The prisoners are freed.

The buildings in the above photo still stand. The map below shows where they are now, on the grounds of Lager Hammelburg. They’re inside the restricted area, but can be easily seen from the fence near the main gate. The locations of the first building and the tank from the title photo of this piece are marked, as well the main gate of the camp and a good spot for viewing the remaining buildings. (Thanks to Geoff Walden of thirdreichruins.com in identifying it.)

On April 6, 1945, the US Army’s 47th Tank Battalion liberated Lager Hammelburg without a fight. Lt. Col. Waters was still there, recuperating in the hospital with some other sick or wounded men. Otherwise, the only prisoners left were the Serbian officers and the Polish and Yugoslavian enlisted men.

One of the American prisoners in Stalag XIIIC at the end of the war was Sergeant Bradford Sherry. His son in the past has posted photos and documents related to his father’s captivity.

Several days later, the tank battalion left to rejoin the fighting, leaving a supply unit at the camp. For the next month, no one was in charge of the POW’s and there was widespread looting of the surrounding villages, including Hammelburg.

When peace came with the German surrender on May 8, 1945, the Americans returned to occupy Lager Hammelburg and restored order in the town. The remaining prisoners were sent home.

Stalag 13 After World War II

The Americans continued to occupy the camp until 1956. They renamed it Camp Denny Clark, after a medic who was killed in action.

Barracks housing POWs, photographed in 1948 by ex-POW Lt. Donald Prell when he visited the camp in 1948.

Barracks housing POWs, photographed in 1948 by ex-POW Lt. Donald Prell when he visited the camp in 1948.

The northern part of the Stalag 13 was used to intern former Nazi Party members. The camp also housed large numbers of German refugees who had fled the advancing Russian army in eastern Germany as well as ethnic Germans who had been expelled from areas of Poland and Czechoslovakia.

POW Background Information

P47 Thunderbolt (Kogo, GNU FD license.)

P47 Thunderbolt
(Kogo, GNU FD license.)

One of the American POW’s at Oflag 13 in Hammelburg was Walter Frederick Morrison, the inventor of the frisbee. He was a fighter pilot and was shot down flying a P-47 Thunderbolt. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 90.

There was a real life counterpart to the fictional Colonel Robert Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes of Stalag 13. Lieutenant Robert Hogan was an American bomber pilot shot down and imprisoned in Oflag 13D near Nuremberg.

Although the studio maintains that Colonel Robert Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes was a completely fictional character, there really was a POW in a Stalag 13 named Robert Hogan whose story bears striking similarities to the Hollywood version.

The real Robert Hogan was a pilot flying B24 bombers out of Italy, who was shot down in January of 1945 over Yugoslavia and sent eventually to the Stalag 13 camp outside of Nuremberg (actually the Oflag 13 camp, since he was an officer. Stalags were only for enlisted men.) This camp was adjacent to Stalag 13 D, not the Stalag 13 C camp outside of Hammelburg, but close enough for the producers of the TV show to be interested when Dr. Robert Hogan contacted them. The real Robert Hogan got to meet Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes in 1966.

Robert Hogan’s son stated his father didn’t talk much about his POW experiences, but he did mention the following:

The POW’s were reasonably well-treated by the German guards, though they were gradually starving to death. Of course, the German guards were not much better off than the prisoners – food was scarce. A young girl from the nearby village would occasionally throw pieces of fruit over the fences for the prisoners. He said that food was the thing they thought and talked about the most…and also dreamed about.

The prisoners’ rations consisted of only one meal a day: a bowl of “cabbage soup”, which was nothing more than a bowl of warm water with a few cabbage leaves thrown in. Each barracks also shared one loaf of “bread”, baked with a significant amount of sawdust mixed in to stretch it further.

Though there was little similarity between his real-life experience and the Hogan’s Heroes series, there were three significant things that were similar: 1) the commandant wore a monocle like Colonel Klink, 2) there was a big, fat, goofy sergeant like Sergeant Schulz, and 3) the prisoners had a “secret” radio.

As for item #3, that radio was not very “secret”. In fact, the commandant of the Stalag allowed the POW’s to continue to operate their “clandestine” radio because the commandant got more reliable information from that source than he did from the official Nazi propaganda.

For more information about Lt. Robert Hogan (later Dr. Robert Hogan), his life and wartime experiences, see this article from the Jefferson County Historical Association in Alabama.

On the Web:

List of Kriegsgefangenenlager Moosburg Online (in German)

A Brief History of Oflag 64

Oflag XIII-B, Report of the International Red Cross

Task Force Baum and the Hammelburg Raid

Oflag 64 Association

First hand account of Oflag XIII-B by Donald Prell

Patton’s Ill-Fated Raid

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#RedFriday: WWII Veterans Receive French Legion of Honor Medals

French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

Six World War II veterans were honored with French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

The medals were bestowed upon the veterans by French Consul General Gregor Trumel. A ceremony was held on Thursday at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

The Legion of Honor Medal was created by Napoleon in 1802 to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of exceptional merit and accomplishments. French representatives expressed their gratitude and appreciation for their contribution to the liberation of France during World War II.

Medals were bestowed upon:

  • Mr. Ralph J. Bertheaud (Posthumous),
  • Mr. Louis Bradley(Plaquemines Parish, LA),
  • Mr. Aubrey H. Covington (Metairie, LA),
  • Mr. Leonard J. Kuckelman (Atchison County, KS),
  • Mr. Ubert J. Labat Jr (Slidell, LA),
  • and Mr. Lampton C. Terrel (Bush, LA),

The six were named Chevaliers de la Légion d’honneur, Knights in the order of the Legion of Honor.

Last month: Charles Bruns recipient of French Legion of Honor

Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns

Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns

WWII Veteran Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns of Champaign IL was selected and appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest distinction. Through this award, the French government pays tribute to the soldiers who did so much for France 70 years ago.

Charles Bruns served with the 3rd Division, 10th Engineer Battalion throughout WWII and was active during the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Southern France. He ended military service in August, 1945 at the rank of Technical Sargent. During his service, Chick kept a diary, took photographs and collected postcards. This along with the letters he wrote home to his parents is being shared in the most complete daily account of a solider during WWII on the Website: 70yearsago.com

Presented by Vincent Floreani, Consul General de France a Chicago, “you gave your youth to France and the French people. Many of your fellow soldiers did not return but they remain in our hearts”. The French National Order of the Legion of Honor is an order of distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. American recipients include Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Michael Mullen. Today there are approximately 93,000 Legion of Honor recipients.

American veterans like Chick who risked their lives during World War II and who fought on French territory qualify to be decorated as Knights of the Legion of Honor. Veterans must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France.

Veteran Charles F. wrote a diary during the second world war which is now being published by his son. He served in North Africa and Europe until the war ended.  John Bruns, his son, has re-purposed the diary into a website called http://www.70yearsago.com . The website is updated daily.

He argues that it is his father who is blogging from the past.

Chick Bruns, 94 used to sell clothes at Joseph Kuhn & Co in downtown Champaign before he volunteered to join U.S. Army.

Crash

#WarriorWednesday: Battle of the Bulge at 70 in Photos

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A patrol, growing when Lt. Thomas of a Cavalry reconnaissance squadron started across the snow with rifle grenades, attacks German snipers discovered on the outskirts of the newly captured town of Beffe, Belgium. Lt. Thomas was followed by volunteers consisting of members of his squadron, an infantry headquarters company and an infantry company. The attack was launched with with rifle fire, fragmentation rifle grenades, hand grenades, rifles, BARs, and bazooka company armed with machine guns and light mortars. Twelve Nazis were killed in the engagement. Here, can be seen part of the patrol advancing cautiously through the snow. (A Co., 1st Bn., 290th inf., 75th Div., B troop.) 1/7/45. 7th Corps, 4th Cav. Reconn. Sq.

A patrol, growing when Lt. Thomas of a Cavalry reconnaissance squadron started across the snow with rifle grenades, attacks German snipers discovered on the outskirts of the newly captured town of Beffe, Belgium. Lt. Thomas was followed by volunteers consisting of members of his squadron, an infantry headquarters company and an infantry company. The attack was launched with with rifle fire, fragmentation rifle grenades, hand grenades, rifles, BARs, and bazooka company armed with machine guns and light mortars. Twelve Nazis were killed in the engagement. Here, can be seen part of the patrol advancing cautiously through the snow. (A Co., 1st Bn., 290th inf., 75th Div., B troop.) 1/7/45. 7th Corps, 4th Cav. Reconn. Sq.

Tanks of the 4th Armd. Div., ready for action in the front lines. 8 January 1945. Bastogne, Belgium. Just 2 weeks earlier, on December 26, 1944, elements of the 4th Armored Division had broken through German lines to relieve the 101st Airborne and 10th Armored Divisions, surrounded and under siege in Bastogne.

Tanks of the 4th Armd. Div., ready for action in the front lines. 8 January 1945. Bastogne, Belgium.
Just 2 weeks earlier, on December 26, 1944, elements of the 4th Armored Division had broken through German lines to relieve the 101st Airborne and 10th Armored Divisions, surrounded and under siege in Bastogne.

The following 4 photos of an anti-aircraft emplacement outside Bastogne, Belgium are part of a collection compiled by staff at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Radiation Laboratory, known familiarly as the MIT Rad Lab. The word “radiation” was used in the Rad Lab’s name rather than “radar” to disguise the type of research being done.

Looking through quick sight before viewing through scope to determine marks on questionable aircraft flying near AA battery at Bastogne. The scope was captured from the Germans. National Archives Identifier: 6116625

Looking through quick sight before viewing through scope to determine marks on questionable aircraft flying near AA battery at Bastogne. The scope was captured from the Germans. National Archives Identifier: 6116625

Straw prevents remote control cables from freezing to ground on site of AA installation near Bastogne. National Archives Identifier: 6116627

Straw prevents remote control cables from freezing to ground on site of AA installation near Bastogne. National Archives Identifier: 6116627

Anti aircraft locator device, the M-7, is shown in operation outside Bastogne. Crew checks the readings. Device is safely emplaced behind sandbags. National Archives Identifier: 6116621

Anti aircraft locator device, the M-7, is shown in operation outside Bastogne. Crew checks the readings. Device is safely emplaced behind sandbags. National Archives Identifier: 6116621

Gun crew of the ‘Black Widow’, 90 mm anti aircraft gun dug in outside Bastogne, Belgium, about to fire at enemy plane sighted in area. Battery B 217th Bn (Radar) Bastogne. 1/11/1945.  National Archives Identifier: 6116622

Gun crew of the ‘Black Widow’, 90 mm anti aircraft gun dug in outside Bastogne, Belgium, about to fire at enemy plane sighted in area. Battery B 217th Bn (Radar) Bastogne. 1/11/1945. National Archives Identifier: 6116622

Chow is served to American Infantrymen on their way to La Roche, Belgium. 347th Infantry Regiment, 01/13/1945

Chow is served to American Infantrymen on their way to La Roche, Belgium. 347th Infantry Regiment, 01/13/1945

After holding a woodland position all night near Wiltz, Luxembourg, against German counter attack, three men of B Company, 101st Engineers, emerge for a rest., 01/14/1945

After holding a woodland position all night near Wiltz, Luxembourg, against German counter attack, three men of B Company, 101st Engineers, emerge for a rest., 01/14/1945

A German prisoner captured by the 16th Infantry Regiment, near Weywertz. Belgium., 1/15/1945

A German prisoner captured by the 16th Infantry Regiment, near Weywertz. Belgium., 1/15/1945

This burning home near Lmore, Belgium, drew a heavy barrage of enemy shellfire which wounded a Signal Corps photographer. 1/16/45.

This burning home near Lmore, Belgium, drew a heavy barrage of enemy shellfire which wounded a Signal Corps photographer. 1/16/45.

Tanks of the 42nd Armd. Bn., move into attack. 16 January 1945. Mabompre, Belgium.

Tanks of the 42nd Armd. Bn., move into attack. 16 January 1945. Mabompre, Belgium.

Members of the 30th Infantry Division crawl prone while crossing open terrain near Pont, Belgium. (Co. E, 2nd Bn.) 1/17/45

Members of the 30th Infantry Division crawl prone while crossing open terrain near Pont, Belgium. (Co. E, 2nd Bn.) 1/17/45

A view of the damage done in Houffalize, Belgium, by shelling. The town was retaken from the Germans by the 2nd Armored Division. FUSA, 1/18/45. National Archives Identifier: 12010159

A view of the damage done in Houffalize, Belgium, by shelling. The town was retaken from the Germans by the 2nd Armored Division. FUSA, 1/18/45. National Archives Identifier: 12010159

An American jeep enters the shell-torn town of Houffalize, Belgium, by the main road. The town was retaken from the Germans by the 2nd Armored Division. 1/18/45. National Archives Identifier: 12010160

An American jeep enters the shell-torn town of Houffalize, Belgium, by the main road. The town was retaken from the Germans by the 2nd Armored Division. 1/18/45. National Archives Identifier: 12010160

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American soldiers of the 289th Infantry Regiment march along the snow-covered road on their way to cut off the Saint Vith-Houffalize road in Belgium., 1/24/1945

16

American infantrymen of an armored division march up a road southeast of Born, Belgium. Note the height of the snow bank on either side of the road. 1/22/45. Co. C, 23rd Armd. Inf, bn., 7th Armd.

15

American Infantrymen trudge through the snow as they march along the edge of a woods near Iveldingen, Belgium, in the drive to recapture St. Vith. (Hq. Co., 2nd Bn., FUSA) 1/20/45. 517th A/B Reg’t., 7th Arm’d. Div.

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American soldiers of the 289th Infantry Regiment march along the snow-covered road on their way to cut off the Saint Vith-Houffalize road in Belgium., 1/24/1945

On the Web:

#MilitaryMonday: Battle of the Bulge at 70 – Newly Digitized Color Photos 

 

The Bloodiest Battle: The Battle of the Bulge Loomed Large 70 Winters Ago (PDF)

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#MilitaryMonday: Battle of the Bulge at 70 – Newly Digitized Color Photos

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St. Vith, Belgium was the scene of bitter fighting during the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge.  

Although the German assault was delayed by fierce resistance, American defenders were eventually forced to withdraw from the town on December 21, 1944.  A month later, as the Allied counter-attack rolled back German gains, St. Vith was re-liberated on January 23, 1945.

Recently digitized by the National Archives Still Pictures Branch, these color photographs from the U.S. Army Signal Corps show St. Vith and its surroundings in the days following its liberation.

This dug-in mortar emplacement near St. Vith, Belgium is manned by, left to right, Pvt. R.W. Fierde, Wyahoga Falls, Ohio; S/Sgt. Adam J. Celinca, Windsor, Conn., and T/Sgt. W.O. Thomas, Chicago.  24 Jan. 1945.  NARA ID 16730734

This dug-in mortar emplacement near St. Vith, Belgium is manned by, left to right, Pvt. R.W. Fierde, Wyahoga Falls, Ohio; S/Sgt. Adam J. Celinca, Windsor, Conn., and T/Sgt. W.O. Thomas, Chicago. 24 Jan. 1945.
NARA ID 16730734

American soldiers trudge through snow from Hunnange, Belgium to St. Vith. Soldiers are with Co. C., 23rd Armored Bn., of the 7th Armored Division. NARA ID 16730736

American soldiers trudge through snow from Hunnange, Belgium to St. Vith. Soldiers are with Co. C., 23rd Armored Bn., of the 7th Armored Division.
NARA ID 16730736

Snowsuited soldiers walk through the snow-covered streets of St. Vith, Belgium. These men are with Co. C, 48th Bn., 7th Armored Div. 24 Jan. 1945 NARA ID 16730733

Snowsuited soldiers walk through the snow-covered streets of St. Vith, Belgium. These men are with Co. C, 48th Bn., 7th Armored Div. 24 Jan. 1945
NARA ID 16730733

Lined up in a snow-covered field, near St. Vith, Belgium are these M-4 Sherman tanks of the 40th Tank Bn. NARA ID 16730735

Lined up in a snow-covered field, near St. Vith, Belgium are these M-4 Sherman tanks of the 40th Tank Bn.
NARA ID 16730735

A portion of the wreckage in St. Vith, Belgium, after units of the 7th Armored Division, took the town. NARA ID 16730732

A portion of the wreckage in St. Vith, Belgium, after units of the 7th Armored Division, took the town.
NARA ID 16730732

On the Web: The Bloodiest Battle: The Battle of the Bulge Loomed Large 70 Winters Ago (PDF)

Next: for Warrior Wednesday, more photos (black and white) of the Battle of the Bulge at 70

Crash

#MilitaryMonday/#WarriorWednesday: SSG Latayette G. Pool – American WWII Tank Ace

Staff Sergeant Lafayette G. Pool  Third Armored Division. Third Battalion, 32nd Armored Regt

Staff Sergeant Lafayette G. Pool
Third Armored Division. Third Battalion, 32nd Armored Regt

Contrary to popular belief, other countries, aside from Germany, were capable of producing tank aces.

This story is about a tank commander who destroyed 258 enemy vehicles, but he never was awarded the Knights Cross. He was never presented to Hitler, he never wore a fancy black uniform with death heads and S.S. runes, and he never commanded a Panther or a Tiger.

The reason? He was an American G.I., and he set the above record in a Sherman tank!

Staff Sergeant Lafayette G. Pool was typical of some of the fine tankers produced by the U.S. Army during World War II. Pool was born on July 23,1919, on a farm in Odem, Texas. He graduated from high school in Taft, Texas in 1938. Pool tried to enlist in the Navy. He was turned down due to an eye injury, although his twin brother was accepted. He then enrolled in an all boys Catholic Academy where he graduated as class valedictorian. Afterwards, he enrolled in Texas, A and I College, as an engineering major.

He quit to enlist in the Army on June 13, 1941. He took basic training at San Antonio, Texas, and then was sent to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, to the newly forming Third Armored Division. Pool joined the Third Battalion, 32nd Armored Regt, when the division was reorganized in January of 1942. He took time out from training to get married to Evelyn Wright in December of 1942.

M4 Sherman tank in the European theatre during WWII.

M4 Sherman tank in the European theatre during WWII.

Pool had been a boxer in college and he joined the divisions golden gloves team. He became regional champ in his weight class and was to go to the national meet in Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 1942. He turned down the opportunity because the division had gotten a shipment of new M-4 Sherman Tanks and Pool wanted to start training with his men on the M-4 immediately.

Pool was a tall, lanky 6’3″ Texan, who drove his men and himself and trained them rigorously. He always wanted things done right and would not tolerate slipshod methods, whether in maintenance, gunnery, or driving. He demanded the best out of his men and got it.

The 3rd Bn, 32nd Armor moved to the Desert Training Center near Victorville, California, followed by final training at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

The only known side angle of Pool's IN THE MOOD Sherman M4A1(76)W. A number of private collectors and 3AD WWII veterans have prints of varying quality made from the same, original, apparently long-lost negative, but the above image is the most-detailed and sharpest known. The photographer, probably a G.I. amateur, is unknown. The original negative suffered from some blurriness at the bottom left that is probably a camera lens problem. The Sherman, painted camouflage (barely apparent in black & white), appears to be in motion, and Pool is assumed to be in the commander's hatch. After looking through some of what is published about S/Sgt Lafayette Pool's tanks named IN THE MOOD, the case can be made that the M4A1 76mm Sherman pictured above is in fact the third tank commanded by Pool to be named IN THE MOOD. From the 22 September 1944 edition of YANK magazine, in an interview with Pool's driver Cpl. Wilbert Richards and bow gunner Pfc. Bert Close, we are given the locations that the tanks were lost. The first M4 Sherman named IN THE MOOD was lost near the town of La Forge Bois de Bretel, France. The second in the town of Fromentel, France. The third was lost near Munsterbusch, Germany.

The only known side angle of Pool’s IN THE MOOD Sherman M4A1(76)W. A number of private collectors and 3AD WWII veterans have prints of varying quality made from the same, original, apparently long-lost negative, but the above image is the most-detailed and sharpest known. The photographer, probably a G.I. amateur, is unknown. The original negative suffered from some blurriness at the bottom left that is probably a camera lens problem. The Sherman, painted camouflage (barely apparent in black & white), appears to be in motion, and Pool is assumed to be in the commander’s hatch. After looking through some of what is published about S/Sgt Lafayette Pool’s tanks named IN THE MOOD, the case can be made that the M4A1 76mm Sherman pictured above is in fact the third tank commanded by Pool to be named IN THE MOOD. From the 22 September 1944 edition of YANK magazine, in an interview with Pool’s driver Cpl. Wilbert Richards and bow gunner Pfc. Bert Close, we are given the locations that the tanks were lost. The first M4 Sherman named IN THE MOOD was lost near the town of La Forge Bois de Bretel, France. The second in the town of Fromentel, France. The third was lost near Munsterbusch, Germany.

Before sailing for England in September, 1943, Pool was promoted to Staff Sergeant in Company I. He was also given the opportunity to go to OCS, but he turned it down as he later was to turn down a battlefield commission stating “I just want to have one of the best tank crews in the division.”

His crew consisted of driver, Wilbert “Baby” Richards, one of the best drivers in the ETO according to Pool; Bert “Schoolboy” Close who was just seventeen years old and was his the bow gunner. Given the choice of prison on a manslaughter rap or the Army, Del “jailbird” Boggs elected to be Pool’s loader. Willis “Groundhog” Oiler was the gunner. Pool said of Oiler, “He could shoot the eyebrows off a gnat at 1500 yards.” He was very quick and alert. One time near Origny in France, it was getting dark when the order came down to halt and coil up for the night. Pool opened his mouth to say “Driver Halt,” but found himself looking down the barrel of a German 88mm in the gloom ahead. He said “Gunner, Fire!” and Oiler, without hesitation, holed the enemy gun before its crew could recognize the Sherman Tank.

While in England, Pool did some more boxing. In Liverpool in early 1944 he boxed against Joe Louis. It was meant to be an exhibition bout, but Pool got a little to enthusiastic and rapped Louis a few good ones. Louis put his arm around Pool and said, “White man, I’m going to teach you a big lesson. “He then proceeded to give Pool a good going over, although there was no knockout.

Pool was what we would call today a “hard charger.” He was also inclined to have things his own way. He believed that the quickest way home was to smash the German Army to pieces, and he believed that he was the guy with the crew and the tank that could do it. He made friends easily and also made enemies. He had a quick temper and was not above ignoring orders when they didn’t suit him.

Pool landed at Normandy in June, 1944. His battalion fought its first engagement on June 29, 1944 near Villier-Fossard, northeast of St. Lo.

The loss of Pool’s first tank “In the Mood,” (all succeeding tanks were named “In the Mood!”) was to a Panzerfaust at the village of Les Forges not far from the beachhead. Pool’s crew survived and got a new Sherman, and pushed on undauntedly against the panzers.

c. 1944/45: Tanks of an Armored regiment are debarking from an LST [US 77] in Anzio harbor [Italy] and added strength to the U.S. Fifth Army [VI Corps] forces on the beachead (WWII Signal Corps Photograph Collection).

Falaise Gap on August 7,1944, was the big battle and Pool was, as usual, right up front. As the 3rd Armored Division was near to closing the ring with the British forces around the Germans, Lt. Col. Walter B. Richardson, commanding task force Y of CCA. 32nd Armored heard Pool say over the radio “Ain’t got the heart to kill um,” meaning the Germans. The rattle of machine gun fire came over the radio followed by Pool’s Texas drawl “Watch the bastards run, – give it to ’em Close.”

At Fromentel, Pool’s tank headed the task force Y column as usual which closed the gap. During the closing, Pool’s second tank was destroyed by enemy bombers, which only made Pool more mad at the Germans. Again the crew survived intact. At Colombrier, France, Pool’s tank leading the column almost collided with a Panther. The Panther fired twice and missed. Oiler, the gunner, fired a single shot which penetrated the turret and internal explosions blew the turret clean off the hull of the Panther.

At Namur, Belgium, “In the Mood’s” crew destroyed sixteen enemy vehicles, including assault guns, self-propelled anti-tank guns, plus several armored personnel carriers in one day. At Dison, Belgium, Pool distinguished himself while acting as a platoon leader. He decided to use his own tank to clean out an annoying pocket of resistance on the left flank of the route they were traveling. After finding and destroying six armored personnel carriers Pool discovered that the head of his column had been fired upon by a German Panther. Quickly he ordered his driver to regain the column. Upon arriving upon the scene of the action he spotted the enemy tank, gave a single estimated range to Oiler. The gunner fired an A.P. projectile at 1,500 yards to destroy the Panther.

The column then moved on with Pool again in his customary place in the lead. Although Pool had two tanks knocked out from under him, he had nerves of steel. His crew drew added confidence from his bearing and as a result they moved as a single unit, like clockwork. Pool’s one problem was that he was claustrophobic and preferred to remain, as much as possible, on the outside of his tank. Col. Richardson said that Pool rode his tank like a “bucking bronco.” He was always exposed in the turret or on top of it. His driver, Richards, shared his commander’s condition in that he always drove with his overhead hatch open, having been trapped once with a jammed hatch. Corporal Richards said “Pool hated the Germans and thought he could lick them all. The men would draw straws to see who would lead the spearhead the next day. Pool would just say, ‘Ah’m leading this time,’ and stand there grinning while we cussed him out.”

Pool’s luck ran out at the town of Munsterbusch, south of Aachen, Germany, on September 19, 1944, while leading the breakthrough through the Westwall. The crew was due to rotate home in a few days for a war bond tour. “In the Mood” was not leading this time but was a flank guard for the task force that day. Pool spotted a heavy anti-tank gun hidden in a house. They had a substitute loader that day as Boggs was sent back for a hearing check-up prior to their rotating to the states. The new guy shoved a round in the breech of the 76mm gun and jammed it.

Unable to fire Pool yelled “Back up baby!” as the first shell hit the turret blowing Pool off the tank onto the ground. He landed running and his right leg folded like an accordion. He quickly gave himself a morphine injection, sat down and tried to cut his shattered leg off with his pocket knife. Meanwhile, a second shell hit the tank well forward as Richards backed the tank up slowly. To Richards, Oiler, the loader and Close, there was only the bell sound of the hit, the stench of powder and shower of sparks. Richards didn’t know that Pool had been thrown clear of the turret and kept on backing up. Col. Richardson saw “In the Mood” slowly reach a cut bank and, as if in slow motion, topple over, almost upside down.

Oiler felt the blood on his legs and knew that he had been wounded. The others were unhurt and all four crawled out of the overturned tank.

Col. Richardson came up to Pool and gave him another shot of morphine. Aid men then reached Pool who was bleeding badly from the splinter wound. They gave him a third shot of morphine. Two of them quickly attended to Oiler. Pool cursed the Germans bitterly as the aid men bandaged his wound. As they put him on the litter he twisted suddenly and said, “Somebody take care of my tank.”

The war was over for Lafayette G. Pool. He knew that he and his crew could beat the Germans. He proved it so often that his record is almost an unbelievable document of total victory. The amazing score compiled by the Texan and his crew is fully authenticated by the Third Armored Division. Pool was twice nominated for the Medal of Honor. The first time the papers were lost, the second time it was turned down as the higher-ups felt that it was a crew, not an individual effort. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, French Croix de Guerre, with Bronze Star, Belgium Fourragere, and Order of St. George Medal.

Pool’s career was far from over though, but first he had an ordeal that he had to go through with his wounded right leg. After three shots of morphine he awoke nineteen days later in a hospital in Belgium. Due to rain and exposure, he contracted double pneumonia. He did not get back to the states until January, 1945. When he was wounded he weighed 196 pounds and when he returned to the United States he weighed 85 pounds! The bone in his leg from the knee to the ankle was gone but his toenail would still grow, so doctors hesitated to amputate. Later they amputated it eight inches above the knee at Temple, Texas Army Hospital. He was discharged in June of 1946, and went home with an artificial leg, later to farm and run a gas station. In 1948 he was called back to active duty along with seven other amputees because of their technical skills as specialists.

He returned as a staff sergeant and taught tank mechanics as a master mechanic. After a promotion to Warrant Officer in 1952, he worked as an ordnance inspector. He was classified as “Z.I.” (no duty out of zone of interior).

While at Fort Knox, he was offered the job as technical advisor for the movie “The Tanks are Coming” (released in 1951). He refused, and decided to sue Warner Brothers for one million dollars. He was under contract to Universal Studios for his life story and he felt that Warner Brothers plagiarized his script. The judge ruled that Warner Brothers had changed the names and scenario in their version enough that it was not an infringement. Pool thought that actor Steve Cochran, in the Warner Brothers version, did do a good portrayal of himself, although the name in this movie was changed to “Sgt. Sullivan.”

Pool retired from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer Second Class, at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas on September 19,1960. Afterwards he went to business college, followed by a job as a preacher for $25.00 a week. He also coached little league.

In 1986, while living quietly in Taft, Texas, he was contacted by 3-32 Armor members who were doing research on the unit history. He was invited to visit them at Ft. Hood. He was very surprised to find out that they remembered him. The first thing that he did when he got to Ft. Hood was go for a ride in an M1 tank. Afterwards, Pool told the young 3-32 tankers gathered around him some of the differences between being a tanker in WWII and being one today. “The most important thing for a tank commander to do is to keep his crew alive. The tank crews today have the technology to do what we had to do with our eyes and ears,” Pool said. “We did very little fighting at night.” He added, “I only fought once at night and I never wanted to do it again. Today you have the thermal sighting capability that we didn’t have.”

On his third visit to the post, he watched the tanks live fire on the range. “Colonel, if we had the equipment back then that you have now, we would have cleaned up,” he told the commander of the 3-32nd Armor. The colonel said of Pool, “I want him to talk to the soldiers. He tells them the same kinds of things that I try to teach them, but coming from him it’s special because he’s lived it.”

Later Pool was the honored guest speaker at the battalion NCO ball. Three hundred and twenty-five NCO’s attended. Lafayette was adopted by the 3-32 Armor and he, in turn, adopted them, referring to them as “His boys.”

Desert Storm found the 3-32 Armor in the thick of battle against the Iraqi Armor. Lafayette was in a hospital bed, very ill, but he watched the war constantly on television, fretting and worrying about “his boys.” When the fighting had ceased, he kept asking his wife Evelyn, “Honey, are my boys back yet?” When they finally got back to Fort Hood, Evelyn told him they were back and soon after this on May 30,1991, Pool passed away in his sleep.

Pool was survived by his wife Evelyn, three sons and four daughters. One other son, Capt. Jerry L. Pool, was missing in action in Cambodia in 1970. Before his death the Army decided to name its new Ml tank driver training simulator facility after Pool, even waving the fact that he was still alive. Dedicated on July 1, 1993, today the facility at Ft. Knox serves to train new tank drivers to drive the Ml series of tanks.

At present the facility has ten systems of two simulators each. One system has been converted to Ml AR configuration. The authors were able to try out a simulator, thanks to Irene Armstrong – secretary of protocol, and found it an excellent approach to learning to drive. The savings in fuel, thrown tracks, and wear and tear, plus damage to the real tanks is tremendous, and it will more than pay for its initial cost.

Each new tanker is given twelve hours of training before he transitions into the real thing. Scenarios can be varied from desert and arctic terrain to urban driving. Weather can vary, artillery fire can be received, the tank’s main gun can be fired by the controller, plus night or day time driving with open hatches or closed down on periscopes. All these things make this simulator the closest thing to actual driving a real tank to date. Our controller, SFC Byrd, said the simulator is much more difficult than actually driving the “real” M1.

Today Lafayette G. Pool is remembered not only as our top tank ace but also as a man who believed in training hard and doing the job right the first time, as there may not be a second time in modem warfare.

“Fury”

The cast of Fury used a reconditioned WWII M4 Sherman tank

“Best job I ever had.” The cast of Fury used a reconditioned WWII M4 Sherman tank

The film was shot in England in large part due to the availability of working World War II-era tanks. The film featured Tiger 131, the last surviving operational Tiger I. The tank belongs to Bovington Tank Museum at Bovington, England. It is the first time since the 1946 film Theirs Is the Glory that a real Tiger tank – and not a prop version – has been used on a film set. 

Ten working M4 Sherman tanks were used. The Sherman tank Fury was played by an M4A2E8 Sherman tank named Ben/Harry (T224875), also loaned by Bovington Tank Museum.

While the plot of the film is fictional, the depiction of the tank Fury and its commander Wardaddy parallels the experience of several real Allied tankers, just like Staff Sergeant Lafayette G. Pool who landed just after D-Day. The small number of Sherman tanks to survive from the landing at D-Day to the end of the war, such as Bomb, a Sherman tank that landed at D-Day and survived into bitter fighting in Germany at the war’s end, the only Canadian Sherman tank to survive the fighting from D-Day to VE Day.

 Crash

Sources:
Interviews with Evelyn Pool.
Killeen Herald: vol. 35 #113.

Yank, the Army Weekly written during WWII.

Turret (Ft. Knox newspaper); November 21, 1991.

Tribune Herald Tuesday: May 5,1987.

Speech by Col. Brewster – July 1, 1993 during dedication of
Pool Hall; Ft. Knox, Kentucky.
Disposition Form-SB-WP-ASD (350) on Naming New
Building for Driver Training Simulator, Oct. 5,1988.

Killeen Daily Herald: August 29,1987; “World War II Legend
Tells Hood Tankers ‘stay alive'”

#ThrowbackThursday: The Books that Fought in WWII

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When the American armed forces prepared for the D-Day assault, the most in demand item was a book.

During World War II, books were one of the few items distributed to the American armed forces that were meant to make life at war bearable. American publishers, wanting to do their bit in the war, designed books that would fit the servicemen’s needs: small volumes in tempting titles that weighed next to nothing. These books were Armed Services Editions (“ASEs”), incredibly tiny paperbacks designed to fit the pocket of a standard issue military uniform. Over 120 million were printed over the course of the war with titles ranging from comics to Shakespeare and everything in between. Lonesome, homesick GIs eagerly grabbed these books and read them everywhere—while waiting in line for chow or a haircut, when pinned down in a foxhole, and while swinging in their hammocks below deck. And they were even carried into the Battle of Normandy.

Sailor reading in his bunk aboard USS CAPELIN. Credit: Lt. Comdr. Charles Fenno Jacobs, August 1943

Sailor reading in his bunk aboard USS CAPELIN.
Credit: Lt. Comdr. Charles Fenno Jacobs, August 1943

Under the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, plans for D-day were in the works for months before the invasion occurred in June 1944. In the final days leading to the boarding of the landing craft that would set out across the English Channel, American soldiers readied themselves. They crammed into their packs dozens of pounds of ammunition, provisions, extra weapons, and other necessities. Although the recommendation was that the men not bring more than forty-four pounds of equipment, it was estimated that some men weighed at least three hundred pounds as they waddled under the weight of their packs. As they waited for an announcement of when the invasion would begin, there was little to do but worry, pray, or read. Silence pervaded. A rosary could be seen in many a hand. According to one man, “Priests were in their heyday. I even saw Jews go and take communion. Everybody [was] scared to death.”

General Eisenhower took an especial interest in the morale of his troops. As he noted in his own memoirs, “morale, given rough equality to other things, is supreme on the battlefield.” Eisenhower was known to read western novels to relax and relieve stress, and the men who would be doing the fighting deserved no less. Anticipating the time it would take to assemble all of the men needed for the mission, and the boredom and anxiety associated with the chore of waiting, General Eisenhower’s staff earmarked over a half-million books to be distributed to the Americans as they waited for the invasion to begin. Among the ASEs that were set aside were Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Joseph Mitchell’s McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon, Charles Spalding and Otis Carney’s Love at First Flight, Booth Tarkington’s Penrod, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dozens of other titles joined the men on the shore of the English Channel.

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Prior to the invasion, the Army’s Special Services Division, which was responsible for serving the morale needs of soldiers, distributed some of the soldiers’ favorite items. Packs of cigarettes were shoved into pockets, candy bars were grabbed by the handful, but of all things, the most sought-after item was the ASEs. As one Special Services officer recalled, palpable tension mounted in the staging areas, and books were the only thing available that “provided sorely needed distraction to a great many men.” When the loading process finally began, many men, realizing how much weight they were carrying, stopped to unburden themselves of unnecessary items near the docking area. The ground was littered with a variety of objects, but among the heaps of discarded inessentials “very few Armed Services Editions were found by the clean-up squads that later went through the areas.” Weighing as little as a couple of ounces each, ASEs were the lightest weapon that the men could bring along.

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The Americans who landed at Utah and Omaha Beaches on June 6 had vastly different experiences. The American Fourth Division poured ashore at Utah Beach, meeting very little opposition. In fact, some men were a little let down at how anticlimactic the landing was; they described it as seeming like just another practice invasion. The early waves of troops landing at Omaha Beach, by contrast, faced near-certain death. As soon as the transports lowered their ramps, the exiting men were thrust into the line of fire. German machine-gun spray ripped across the boats, instantly killing the hapless Americans on them. For the first wave of LCIs that reached Omaha Beach, the death rate was nearly 100 percent; no one got off the beach. Later waves of troops faced grievous losses on the shore. Shell-shocked, many men simply froze, unable to move toward safety. Others who forded through the barrage of gunfire and mortar blasts and moved to the shelter of the cliffs at the top of the beach suffered injuries along the way. Unable to go farther, their shattered bodies dropped to the sand and stayed there until medics arrived. Many men who climbed the beach later that day would never forget the sight of gravely wounded soldiers propped up against the base of the cliffs, reading.

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Excerpted from When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning. Copyright © 2014 by Molly Guptill Manning. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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Veteran’s Day 2014: “Dear Mom and Dad” – Victory Mail from WWII

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V-mail, or Victory mail, was a valuable tool for the military during World War II. The process, which originated in England, was the microfilming of specially designed letter sheets.

Instead of using valuable cargo space to ship whole letters overseas, microfilmed copies were sent in their stead and then “blown up” at an overseas destination before being delivered to military personnel.vm2 vm3 vm4V-mail ensured that thousands of tons of shipping space could be reserved for war materials. The 37 mail bags required to carry 150,000 one-page letters could be replaced by a single mail sack. The weight of that same amount of mail was reduced dramatically from 2,575 pounds to a mere 45. The blue-striped cardboard containers held V-mail letter forms.
vm5 vm6 vm7 vm8The system of microfilming letters was based on the use of special V-mail letter-sheets, which were a combination of letter and envelope. The letter-sheets were constructed and gummed so as to fold into a uniform and distinctively marked envelope. The user wrote the message in the limited space provided, added the name and address of the recipient, folded the form, affixed postage, if necessary, and mailed the letter.

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V-mail correspondence was then reduced to thumb-nail size on microfilm. The rolls of film were sent to prescribed destinations for developing at a receiving station near the addressee. Finally, individual facsimiles of the letter-sheets were reproduced about one-quarter the original size and the miniature mail was then delivered to the addressee.

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The first large Army operated V-mail station overseas was opened on April 15, 1943 at Casablanca, North Africa. Hastily set up in a field following the Allied invasion of North Africa, this makeshift station continued to operate until September 15, 1943.

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The science of V-mail, 1940s on microfilm.

The science of V-mail, 1940s on microfilm.

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V-mail box

Between June 15, 1942 and April 1, 1945, 556,513,795 pieces of V-mail were sent from the U.S. to military post offices and over 510 million pieces were received from military personnel abroad. In spite of the patriotic draw of V-mail, most people still sent regular first class mail. In 1944, for instance, Navy personnel received 38 million pieces of V-mail, but over 272 million pieces of regular first class mail.

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