Dogs of War: A Saint Bernard Mascot – 67th Coastal Artillery Company Veteran “Barney”


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here to PortraitsofWar, so I’m taking a quick moment to add a recently acquired real photo postcard of a St. Bernard mascot from the 67th Coastal Artillery Company. He’s even sporting his own uniform!  Check out the 1st Army variant patch with the 67 denoting the unit number and a double overseas chevron for a year of service.  Good work Barney!

Mascot photos are one of my favorite avenues of WWI photo collecting. They are relatively hard to come by and are tough to research.  All the better for a unique challenge when trolling through the pages of eBay.

 

Barney the St. Bernard in WWI

Barney the St. Bernard in WWI

Women of the YMCA in WWI: Kittie Kunz’s Service in YMCA Hut 16


 

Material related to wartime (and postwar) activities of the YMCA can be easily researched through the help of internet databases, digitized books, collectors forums and various other digital avenues.  What is lacking, however, is information directly related to the individuals who volunteered their time and money to travel to a foreign county to serve donuts to war-weary doughboys waiting to return to their families in the US.

I was lucky enough to track down a large grouping of ephemera collected during the war by a YMCA canteen entertainer, a Miss Kittie Kunz.  Included in the grouping is a selection of rare YMCA “unit history” paperwork which gives names and identities to many of the women and men who served alongside Kittie.  I researched each of the names in hopes of tracking down passport application portraits.  I was overwhelmingly successful and found nearly 75% of the names in the US Passport database that matched perfectly.  Each was listed as being a member of the YMCA or Red Cross, and each matches the date range for the YMCA hut. A neat find!  Please read on to see the faces of the women who served alongside Kittie.  You will also find a smattering of hard-to-find ephemera related to the YMCA.  It’s amazing that Kittie saved some of these items.  Not all the paperwork is contained in this post, but the scanned material gives a quick glimpse into the typical material a YMCA canteen worker would deal with.

Kittie Kunz's YMCA ID

Kittie Kunz’s YMCA ID

 

Kittie's YMCA Paris Travel Permit

Kittie’s YMCA Paris Travel Permit

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Kittie’s YMCA Paris Travel Permit Reverse

Kittie's Permit to Travel to Reims

Kittie’s Permit to Travel to Reims

YMCA War Service Pin Card

YMCA War Service Pin Card

YMCA War Service Pin Card Interior

YMCA War Service Pin Card Interior

Tea Service Notice for the 28th Division

Tea Service Notice for the 28th Division

 

Here is where my favorite piece of researching WWI material came handy….. I was able to research the names of the women listed in the distribution section and track down their WWI era passport applications.  Here are my results:

YMCA Women

Miss Gertrude Garden - YMCA

Miss Gertrude Garden – YMCA

 

Miss Dorothy Berry - YMCA

Miss Dorothy Berry – YMCA

Harriet McKenzie - YMCA

Harriet McKenzie – YMCA

Margaret Robinson - YMCA

Margaret Robinson – YMCA

Katherine Parks - YMCA

Katherine Parks – YMCA

 

Janet Kunz - YMCA (sister to Kittie Kunz)

Janet Kunz – YMCA (sister to Kittie Kunz)

Kittie Kunz - YMCA

Kittie Kunz – YMCA

Pauline Brown - YMCA

Pauline Brown – YMCA

 

Mary Waden - YMCA

Mary Waden – YMCA

Dora Lewis - YMCA

Dora Lewis – YMCA

Katherine Beakes - YMCA

Katherine Beakes – YMCA

Cora A. Kennedy - YMCA

Cora A. Kennedy – YMCA

 

RED CROSS WOMEN

Lois Loyhed - Red Cross

Lois Loyhed – Red Cross

Harriet Maxon - Red Cross

Harriet Maxon – Red Cross

Dorothy Peters - Red Cross

Dorothy Peters – Red Cross

Alice McCoy - Red Cross

Alice McCoy – Red Cross

Esther Edmondson - Red Cross

Esther Edmondson – Red Cross

Mary Jones - Red Cross

Mary Jones – Red Cross

Eleanor Little - Red Cross

Eleanor Little – Red Cross

Mary Healy - Red Cross

Mary Healy – Red Cross

WWII Photo – Lancaster, PA WWII Veteran Portrait Photos on Display, 1944


Straight from the dusty PortraitsofWar archives comes an incredibly unique 8×10 photo of a window display in Lancaster, Pennsylvania during World War Two.   I typically shy away from purchasing and posting “press photos” taken during the war, but this shot has so much potential research  that I felt it deserved to be digitized.

Lancaster, PA WWII Portrait Photo Display

Lancaster, PA WWII Portrait Photo Display

 

I purchased this photo while visiting a friend in the Philadelphia area.  The reverse side of the photo identifies the photo as the F.W. Woolworth building in Lancaster, PA.  The store identity is confirmed in the image; the tiled entrance and gilded placard identify the establishment as such.  The date of the photo wasn’t noted, but the presence of the 4th Liberty Loan Bond dates the image to 1944.

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4th War Loan Drive Poster, ca. 1944

My guess is that the store asked for portrait photos of local veterans to post in the storefront.  A rough estimate puts the number at 100 portraits visible in the window.  The shots runt he gamut of WWII service branches, including the Marine leathernecks, Army Air Force pilots, female WAC and Waves, Navy Sailors as well as regular Army soldiers.

 

4th Loan Poster

4th Loan Poster

I plan on contacting a number of Lancaster, PA historical societies, veteran groups and newspapers in hopes of identifying a few of the veterans posed in the Woolworth’s window.

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Moving WWII Candid Snapshot – The FFI Free French and Captured Female German Collaborators


This incredibly moving snapshot from my WWII collection captures a wide range of emotions.  The only identification I have for the photo is that it was taken in a town/village/city named Poules during the tail end of the war. A US GI followed a joyous parade of French citizens and Free French (FFI) underground soldiers as they proudly walk down the streets of their newly liberated city. It’s a photo that speaks volumes.

German Collaborator Parade

German Collaborator Parade

After nearly four years of German occupation, a contingent of the French population were eager to fight back against the oppressive rule of their German visitors. In this post’s main photo we see a young, attractive female underground soldier causally smoking a cigarette, toting German “potato masher” stick grenades while holding a captured German rifle and briefcase.  To her left we see a group of young French women who have been publicly shamed.  Their shaved heads were shaped to show a swastika.  A joyous moment for the FFI, yet a horrible moment for the women who were caught up in the frenzy of the German occupation.  This photo has never been digitized for display on the web. You’re the first to see it!

Collaborator Parade

Collaborator Parade

FFI Female Underground Soldier

FFI Female Underground Fighter

US Signal Corps Footage of Collaborator Hair Cuts

Similar Photos From the Web

Another hero of the French Resistance during World War II and decorated for saving the lives of U.S. soldiers shot down behind enemy lines was Micheline Blum-Picard. Only eighteen-years-old when she first became involved in the Resistance, Blum-Picard started by carrying messages taped to her back and then progressed to photographing inside factories damaged by bombing raids By D-Day, however, she was carrying a rifle, a pistol, and a hand grenade wherever she went.

Another hero of the French Resistance during World War II and decorated for saving the lives of U.S. soldiers shot down behind enemy lines was Micheline Blum-Picard. Only eighteen-years-old when she first became involved in the Resistance, Blum-Picard started by carrying messages taped to her back and then progressed to photographing inside factories damaged by bombing raids By D-Day, however, she was carrying a rifle, a pistol, and a hand grenade wherever she went. inyourfacewomen.blogspot.com

Female French Resistance

Female French Resistance

World War II resistant woman fighter - Paris,1940s photograph the New York Public Library Picture Collection

World War II resistant woman fighter – Paris,1940s photograph the New York Public Library Picture Collection

Member of the French resistance with German tunic and thompson machine gun by Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, via Flickr

Member of the French resistance with German tunic and thompson machine gun by Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, via Flickr

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 2

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 4

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 5

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 6

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944

My 200,000th Viewer Post! – Remembering My Grandfather, Ambrose R. Canty, 777th Tank Battalion, 69th Division


Today I quietly celebrated my 200,000th blog view from my desk at work.  I knew the number was coming, and with nearly 300 views a day I was able to predict that the 200k plateau would be reached this week.  What should I write about on this momentous day?  I thought back to all my favorite posts…….

Ambrose R. Canty ca. 1944

Ambrose R. Canty ca. 1944

 

 

With all those topics in mind I kept coming back to the one man who “brought me into the fold” of researching WWII history.  My grandfather.  Ambrose R. Canty taught me from a young age that you should respect your elders, listen to their stories, as well as how to play poker, pitch, bridge, rummy and pocketknife baseball.   He also told me stories of his experiences during the second world war.  Stories that would be gradually elaborated on as I grew older.  Having spent the majority of my youth with him, I was able to learn a lot about the 69th Infantry Regiment and specifically the 777th Tank Battalion.

Ambrose on Furlough, 1944

Ambrose on Furlough, 1944

My interest in WWII history started with my grandfather, and I feel that on my 200,000th view that I should post a rememberance post to him.  Although he passed away nearly five years ago, I still feel a connection with him.  My early interaction with him live on through this website, and I hope I’m able to help pass on the passion Amby imbued in me at a young age.

Amby (second from right) Holds a Captured German Flag in Leipzig

Amby (second from right) Holds a Captured German Flag in Leipzig

Grampy, thanks for everything.

 

Ambrose Washing in His Helmet, Germany 1945

Ambrose Washing in His Helmet, Germany 1945

777th Reproduction WWII Patch

777th Reproduction WWII Patch

The First US Fighter Ace of the European Theater of Operation: Charles P. London of Long Beach, California


Military historians constantly refer to “Aces” as being military aviators credited with shooting down five or more enemy planes during aerial combat.  Most of these historians don’t actually know the name of the first ETO fighter ace.  I was only made aware of his story while researching a recent photograph acquisition through an internet source who acquired the wartime collection of the Baltimore Sun newspaper.   All priced at US $15.00, the shots made available for resale were mostly unnamed or impossible to research.  When I saw that this shot was well identified, dated, cross referenced and well taken, I was “quick to click” and make the purchase.

 

Captain Charles P. London

Captain Charles P. London

Captain London is identified standing in front of his plane with his Crew Chief Sgt. Percy M. Scott cut off from the photo, yet identified in the caption.  The photo was acquired by the Baltimore Sun from the USAAF(sic in caption).  The photo is a typical standard size shot typical of the USAAF during the war. The shot is crisp, clear and was printed directly from the original negative in 1943.   This isn’t a shot produced in later years for a book, publication, or film.

Photo Caption

Photo Caption

 

The reverse side of the photo contains an interesting chain of custody record for the image.  The first thing likely applied to the photo is the light penciling correctly identifying the pilot as LONDON in cursive in the left top center of the reverse.  This shot was then stamped by the Baltimore Sun apparently while a correspondent in the London office compiled shots for publication.  Here it was identified, described and prepared for shipment back home.   The next application is the ETO Censor stamp from December of 1943.  All photos sent home during the war (with some exception) were censor examined before being sent back to the US.   The bar code stamp on the top right was placed on the shot by the photography dealer I purchased the shot from.  It’s incredible how much information can be extrapolated from a few stamps on the back of a piece of paper……

Reverse of Image

Reverse of Image

Compared to other high-profile US fighter aces of WWII, relatively little can be found about Captain Charles London.  He was a Captain with the 78th Fighter Group, 83rd Fighter Squadron in 1943.   We also know he is considered the first US fighter ace in the ETO.  A description of him in the Stars and Stripes (March 9th, 1944) describes him as follows:

First fighter pilot in the ETO to become an ace.  Capt. Charlie London, of Long Beach, Cal., has returned to the States to teach some of the tricks he learned in more than 100 mission, sweeps, and sorties in the ETO.  One of the first A4F fighters to score a double victory’s over here last June, he started flying P-36’s in 1941, then P-40’s, next the obsolete P-66 and finally P3Ss before he took over a Thunderbolt.  He has destroyed five enemy aircraft. 

He awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his work in June and July of 1943,

medals_dist_svc_cross_army_100x200

(Citation Needed) – SYNOPSIS: Captain (Air Corps) Charles P. London (ASN: 0-421260), United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-47 Fighter Airplane in the 83d Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, EIGHTH Air Force, in aerial combat against enemy forces from 22 June 1943 through 30 July 1943. On 22 June while engaged in aerial combat, Captain London shot down an enemy airplane. On 29 June Captain London shot down two enemy aircraft in a single engagement. When, on 30 July 1943, Captain London again shot down two enemy aircraft in a single engagement, bringing his total to five victories for the period, he became the first American ACE in the European Theater of Operations. Captain London’s unquestionable valor in aerial combat is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

General Orders: Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, General Orders No. 82 (1943)

Action Date: June 22 & 29 & July 14 & 30, 1943

Service: Army Air Forces

Rank: Captain

Company: 83d Fighter Squadron

Regiment: 78th Fighter Group

Division: 8th Air Force

Plus, an article with his photo: http://www.cybermodeler.com/history/354fg/images/63aces.pdf

London

 

Maine in the First World War: The Maine National Guard and the 54th Artillery Regiment Coastal Artillery Corps in WWI


Everyone knows that I love Vermont WWI material, but I also enjoy collecting photos from other New England states as well.  I have a handful from every state but only one from Maine.  Now I have another!

This fantastic interior studio RPPC has a ton of great qualities that drove me to make the purchase.  The crossed flags at center, the helmet and pistol props, the uniform details, and the identification on the reverse all make it a great shot to add to the collection.  This particular group is comprised of men from Portland and Bath.

Battery D of the 54th Artillery Regiment, C.A.C.

Battery D of the 54th Artillery Regiment, C.A.C.

Identified to a Corporal Carl L. Pearson who I believe is positioned directly right of the flag, this shot shows a group of 19 soldiers posed in a French studio.  This may be a record for my collection!   I have a few with 6-8, but none with more than 10.

Pearson was from West Falmouth, Maine and was born in January of 1893.  He enlisted with the National Guard in Portland in March of 1917 and reported for Federal service in June of that year.  He was overseas from March of 1918 to March of 1919.  This photo was taken in either late March, or April or May of 1918.  He was promoted in early June of 1918.  Since this photo shows him as a Corporal at the time of the photo, we know it was taken before his promotion.  Also, his lack of OS chevron and the abundance of spats likely points towards an early photo taken in France.

54th037a

A little info on the 54th CAC

Source: http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cacunithistories/54thcac.htm

WORLD WAR I — 1917 – 1919The Coast Artillery Corps a Maine National Guard were mobilized on 25 July, 1917, and all companies, band, field officers, and non-commissioner staff officers reported on 27 July. 14 staff officers reported at Portland Coast Defenses and were assigned to duty in the Coast Defenses. The several companies were re-designated at once. This designation was changed again on 23 August 1917, and on 25 December 1917, nine of the thirteen C.A.C. Maine National Guard companies were made a part of the 54th Artillery, C.A.C., the supply company and Batteries B, D, E, and F, of the new 54th Artillery, C.A.C. 6 inch guns (Motor drawn), were entirely constituted from the nine companies Maine National Guard.

The 54th Artillery, C.A.C., was organized with a Headquarters Company, a supply company, and three battalions of two batteries each. Of the 6 batteries, four were taken from the Maine National Guard and from 25 December 1917, the further World War history of the C.A.C. Maine National Guard is properly that of the 54th Artillery since over 62 percent of its units were entirely Maine National Guard. In addition, only 30 percent of the units of the Maine National Guard were not included in the organization of the 54th Artillery C.A.C.

The 54th Artillery, CAC, (6-Inch Guns, Motor)

This regiment was organized in Portland Harbor Forts on 25 December 1917, five of its units being formed from National Guard units and three from Regular Army units.

The batteries of the 54th Artillery were organized as follows:

Headquarters Company, and Batteries A and C from the Regular Army.

Supply Company, from 20th Company, Lewiston.

Battery B, from 4th Company, Portland, and 7th Company, Biddeford.

Battery D, from 2nd Company, Portland, and 4th Company, Bath.

Battery E, from 3rd Company, Auburn, and 3rd Company, Kennebunk.

Battery F, from 9th Company, Lewiston and 11th Company, Portland.

Headquarters Company, Batteries C, D, E, and F, sailed from Portland, Maine, on the CANADA, 22 March 1918 and arrived Glasgow, Scotland 2 April, Winchester, England 3 April, and LeHarve, France, 6 April 1918.

The Supply Company, Batteries A and B, left Portland 14 March, sailed from Hoboken 16 March, 1918 on BALTIC arrived LeHarve, France, 6 April 1918.

The 54th Artillery C.A.C. was sent to rest camp at Mailly-le-camp (Aube) and on 2 May 1918, transferred to Haussimont (Marne), as replacement regimen to Railway Artillery Reserve and Tractor Artillery Regiments. On 20 September 1918, the 54th Artillery was reorganized into three battalion stations as follows:

1st Battalion, Training Battalion (A and B Battery) Angers (Marne-et-Loire).

2nd Battalion, Tractor replacement(E and F Battery), Haussimont (Marne) Angers (Marne-et-Loire.)

3rd Battalion, Unknown.

After the Armistice the 54th Artillery was assigned to Brest, and part of the Regiment sailed 23 February 1919 on the Vedic arriving in Boston 7 March 1919. It was completely demobilized at Camp Devons by 13 March 1919.

The four companies (1st, 6th, 10th and 12th) that were not formed into the 54th Artillery, C.A.C. were demobilized in January 1919 at Harbor Defenses of Portland however, but few of the original members of the companies remained in them late in 1918. Two large transfers of enlisted men from these batteries were made. The first was made on 23 August 1917, to the 26th Division Artillery and Engineers. One hundred-sixty-nine men were taken from these four companies in the transfer. On May 31 1918, the other large transfer was made to the 72d Artillery, C.A.C. From the 1st Company, 147 men were taken, and from the other three companies large numbers. However, the transfers were made as individuals no units being reformed or discontinued.

In July 1922, the regiment was reorganized and designated as the First Coast Defense Command, C.A.C., Maine National Guard. The regiment was formed into Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, Band, Medical Detachment and 1st Fort Command.

1st Fort Command

301st Company, Portland, org. 1803 – later Btry A

306th Company, Sanford, org. 1903 – later Btry B

307th Company, Brunswick, org. 1884 – later Btry C

311th Company, Portland, org. 1807 – later Btry D

2nd Fort Command

303d Company, Camden, org. 1920 – later Btry E

304th Company, Thomaston, org. 1921 – later Btry F

305th Company, Rockland, org. 1921 – later Btry G

302d Company, Vinalhaven, org. 1921 – later Btry H

On 17 September 1923, the 1st C.D.C. was re-designated as the 240th Artillery, C.A.C., and individual batteries as shown above. The designation was again changed to 240th Coast Artillery, Harbor Defense, on 16 April 1924.

WWII Color Slide Photo – Aerial Shot of the Opening Hour of the Battle of Tarawa Shot by Carrier Fighter Pilot


Talk about rare!  A recent color slide collection has provided a rare glimpse into the opening hours of the infamous Battle of Tarawa.  A Navy carrier-based fighter pilot snapped this 35mm color slide while flying cover over Betio on that fateful day on November 20th, 1943.  I’ve never personally seen a color shot taken from the air during this battle.  The series I recently acquired may be some of the only known color aerial shots taken during the opening hours of the battle.  And the kicker is that I digitized the veteran’s audio cassette tape describing the image.

Collectors Note: The best thing about collecting 35mm color and B/W negatives/slides is that they were physically present during the event.  Photographs were printed afterwards, but nitrate and celluloid negatives were physically processed through the camera during the event.

 

Please forward to 3:45 for a verbal description of the slide by the veteran who snapped the image

Aerial Shot of the Invasion of Tarawa

Aerial Shot of the Invasion of Tarawa

Veteran Description on 35mm Slide Mount

Veteran Description on 35mm Slide Mount

 

And some info on the opening day of the Battle of Tarawa (from Wikipedia):

The Battle of Tarawa (US code name Operation Galvanic) was a battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II, largely fought from November 20 to November 23, 1943. It was the first American offensive in the critical central Pacific region.

It was also the first time in the war that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance. The 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared, and they fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the United States Marine Corps. The US had suffered similar casualties in other campaigns, for example over the six months in the campaign for Guadalcanal, but in this case the losses were suffered within the space of 76 hours. Nearly 6,000 Japanese and Americans died on the tiny island in the fighting.[2]

Background

In order to set up forward air bases capable of supporting operations across the mid-Pacific, to the Philippines, and into Japan, the U.S. needed to take the Marianas Islands. The Marianas were heavily defended. Naval doctrine of the time held that in order for attacks to succeed, land-based aircraft would be required to weaken defenses and provide some measure of protection for the invasion forces. The nearest islands capable of supporting such an effort were the Marshall Islands, northeast of Guadalcanal. Taking the Marshalls would provide the base needed to launch an offensive on the Marianas but the Marshalls were cut off from direct communications with Hawaii by a garrison and air base on the small island of Betio, on the western side of Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Thus, to eventually launch an invasion of the Marianas, the battles had to start far to the east, at Tarawa.

Following the completion of their campaign on Guadalcanal, the 2nd Marine Division had been withdrawn to New Zealand for rest and recuperation. Losses were replaced and the men given a chance to recover from the malaria and other illnesses that weakened them through the fighting in the Solomons. On July 20, 1943 the Joint Chiefs directed Admiral Chester Nimitz to prepare plans for an offensive operation in the Gilbert Islands. In August Admiral Raymond Spruance was flown down to New Zealand to meet with the new commander of the 2nd Marine Division, General Julian Smith, and initiate the planning of the invasion with the division’s commanders.

Located about 2,400 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor, Betio is the largest island in the Tarawa Atoll. The small, flat island lies at the southern most reach of the lagoon, and was home to the bulk of the Japanese defenders. Shaped roughly like a long, thin triangle, the tiny island is approximately two miles long. It is narrow, being only 800 yards wide at the widest point. A long pier was constructed from the north shore from which cargo ships could unload out past the shallows while at anchor in the protection of the lagoon. The northern coast of the island faces into the lagoon, while the southern and western sides face the deep waters of the open ocean.

Following Carlson’s diversionary Makin Island raid of August 1942, the Japanese command was made aware of the vulnerability and strategic significance of the Gilbert Islands. The 6th Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force arrived to reinforce the island in February 1943. In command was Rear Admiral Tomanari Sichero, an experienced engineer who directed the construction of the sophisticated defensive structures on Betio. Upon their arrival the 6th Yokosuka became a garrison force, and the unit’s identification was changed to the 3rd Special Base Defense Force. Sichero’s primary goal in the Japanese defensive scheme was to stop the attackers in the water or pin them on the beaches. A tremendous number of pill boxes and firing pits were constructed with excellent fields of fire over the water and sandy shore. In the interior of the island was the command post and a number of large shelters designed to protect defenders from air attack and bombardment. The island’s defenses were not set up for a battle in depth across the island’s interior. The interior structures were large and vented, but did not have firing ports. Defenders in them were limited to firing from the doorways.[3]

The Japanese worked intensely for nearly a year to fortify the island.[4] To aid the garrison in the construction of the defenses, the 1,247 men of the 111th Pioneers, similar to the Seabees of the U.S. Navy, along with the 970 men of the Fourth Fleet’s construction battalion were brought in. Approximately 1,200 of the men in these two groups were Korean forced laborers. The garrison itself was made up of forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Special Naval Landing Force was the marine component of the IJN, and were known by US intelligence to be more highly trained, better disciplined, more tenacious and to have better small unit leadership than comparable units of the Imperial Japanese Army. The 3rd Special Base Defense Force assigned to Tarawa had a strength of 1,112 men. They were reinforced by the 7th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force, with a strength of 1,497 men. It was commanded by Commander Takeo Sugai. This unit was bolstered by 14 Type 95 light tanks under the command of Ensign Ohtani.

A series of fourteen coastal defense guns, including four large Vickers 8-inch guns purchased during the Russo-Japanese War from the British,[2] were secured in concrete bunkers and located around the island to guard the open water and the approaches into the lagoon. It was thought these big guns would make it very difficult for a landing force to enter the lagoon and attack the island from the north side. The island had a total of 500 pillboxes or “stockades” built from logs and sand, many of which were reinforced with cement. Forty artillery pieces were scattered around the island in various reinforced firing pits. An airfield was cut into the bush straight down the center of the island. Trenches connected all points of the island, allowing troops to move where needed under cover. As the command believed their coastal guns would protect the approaches into the lagoon, an attack on the island was anticipated to come from the open waters of the western or southern beaches. Kaigun Shōshō Keiji Shibazaki, an experienced combat officer from the campaigns in China relieved Sichero in July 20, 1943 in anticipation of the coming combat. Shibazaki continued the defensive preparations right up to the day of the invasion. He encouraged his troops, saying “it would take one million men one hundred years” to conquer Tarawa.

November 20

Marines alongside an LVT-1 “Alligator”.

Marines seek cover amongst the dead and wounded behind the sea wall on Red Beach 3, Tarawa.

The American invasion force to the Gilberts was the largest yet assembled for a single operation in the Pacific, consisting of 17 aircraft carriers (6 CVs, 5 CVLs, and 6 CVEs), 12 battleships, 8 heavy cruisers, 4 light cruisers, 66 destroyers, and 36 transport ships. On board the transports was the 2nd Marine Division and a part of the army’s 27th Infantry Division, for a total of about 35,000 troops.

As the invasion flotilla hove to in the predawn hours, the islands four 8 inch guns opened fire on the task force. A gunnery duel soon developed as the main batteries on the battleships Colorado and Maryland commenced a counter-battery fire. The counter-battery proved accurate, with several of the 16 inch shells finding their mark. One shell penetrated the ammunition storage for one of the guns, igniting a huge explosion as the ordnance went up in a massive fireball. Three of the four guns were knocked out in short order. Though all four guns fell silent, one continued intermittent, though inaccurate, fire through the second day. The damage to the big guns left the approach to the lagoon open. It was one of the few successes of the naval bombardment.

Following the gunnery duel and an air attack of the island at 0610, the naval bombardment of the island began in earnest and was sustained for the next three hours. Two mine sweepers with two destroyers to provide covering fire entered the lagoon in the pre-dawn hours and cleared the shallows of mines.[5] A guide light from one of the sweepers then guided the landing craft into the lagoon where they awaited the end of the bombardment. The plan was to land Marines on the north beaches, divided into three sections: Red Beach 1 to the far west of the island, Red Beach 2 in the center just west of the pier, and Red Beach 3 to the east of the pier. Green Beach was a contingency landing beach on the western shoreline and was used for the D+1 landings. Black Beaches 1 and 2 made up the southern shore of the island and were not used. The airstrip, running roughly east-west, divided the island into north and south.

U.S. Coast Guardsmen ferrying supplies pass an LCM-3 which has taken a direct hit at Tarawa.

The Marines started their attack from the lagoon at 09:00, thirty minutes later than expected, but found the tide had still not risen enough to allow their shallow draft Higgins boats to clear the reef. Marine battle planners had not allowed for Betio’s neap tide and expected the normal rising tide to provide a water depth of 5 feet (1.5 m) over the reef, allowing larger landing craft, with drafts of at least four feet (1.2 m), to pass with room to spare. But that day and the next, in the words of some observers, “the ocean just sat there,” leaving a mean depth of three feet (0.9 m) over the reef. (The neap tide phenomenon occurs twice a month when the moon is near its first or last quarter, because the countering tug of the sun causes water levels to deviate less. But for two days the moon was at its farthest point from earth and exerted even less pull, leaving the waters relatively undisturbed.)

At 0900 the supporting naval bombardment was lifted to allow the Marines to land. The reef proved a daunting obstacle. Only the tracked LVT “Alligators” were able to get across. The Higgins boats, at four feet draft, were unable to clear the reef.[6] With the pause in the naval bombardment those Japanese that survived the shelling dusted themselves off and manned their firing pits. Japanese troops from the southern beaches were shifted up to the northern beaches. As the LVTs made their way over the reef and in to the shallows the number of Japanese troops in the firing pits slowly began to increase, and the amount of combined arms fire the LVTs faced gradually intensified. The LVTs had a myriad of holes punched through their non-armored hulls, and many were knocked out of the battle. Those ‘Alligators’ that did make it in proved unable to clear the sea wall, leaving the men in the first assault waves pinned down against the log wall along the beach. A number of ‘Alligators’ went back out to the reef in an attempt to carry in the men who were stuck there, but most of these LVTs were too badly holed to remain sea worthy, leaving the marines stuck on the reef some 500 yards (460 m) off shore. Half of the LVTs were knocked out of action by the end of the first day.

Colonel David Shoup was the senior officer of the landed forces, and he assumed command of all landed Marine Corps troops upon his arrival on shore. Although wounded by an exploding shell soon after landing at the pier, Colonel Shoup took charge of the situation, cleared the pier of Japanese snipers and rallied the first wave of Marines who had become pinned down behind the limited protection of the sea wall. During the next two days, working without rest and under constant withering enemy fire, he directed attacks against strongly defended Japanese positions, pushing forward despite daunting defensive obstructions and heavy fire. Throughout Colonel Shoup was repeatedly exposed to Japanese small arms and artillery fire, inspiring the forces under his command. For his actions on Betio he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Several early attempts to land tanks for close support and to get past the sea wall failed when the landing craft carrying them were hit on their run into the beach and either sank outright or had to withdraw while taking on water. Two Stuart tanks eventually landed on the east end of the beach but were knocked out of action fairly quickly. Three medium Sherman tanks were landed on the western end of the island and proved considerably more effective. They helped push the line in to about 300 yards (270 m) from shore. One became stuck in a tank trap and another was knocked out by a magnetic mine. The remaining tank took a shell hit to its barrel and had its 75 mm gun disabled. It was used as a portable machine gun pillbox for the rest of the day. A third platoon was able to land all four of its tanks on Red 3 around noon and operated them successfully for much of the day, but by day’s end only one tank was still in action.

By noon the Marines had successfully taken the beach as far as the first line of Japanese defenses. By 15:30 the line had moved inland in places but was still generally along the first line of defenses. The arrival of the tanks started the line moving on Red 3 and the end of Red 2 (the right flank, as viewed from the north), and by nightfall the line was about half-way across the island, only a short distance from the main runway.

Colonel David Shoup’s command post on Red Beach 2.

The communication lines which the Japanese installed on the island had been laid shallow and were destroyed in the naval bombardment, effectively preventing commander Keiji Shibazaki’s direct control of his troops. In mid-afternoon he and his staff abandoned the command post at the west end of the airfield, to allow it to be used to shelter and care for the wounded, and prepared to move to the south side of the island. He had ordered two of his Type 95 light tanks to act as a protective cover for the move, but a 5″ naval high explosive round exploded in the midst of his headquarters personnel as they were assembled outside the central concrete command post, resulting in the death of the commander and most of his staff. This loss further complicated Japanese command problems.[7][8]

As night fell on the first day the Japanese defenders kept up a sporadic harassing fire, but did not launch an attack on the Marines clinging to their beachhead and the territory won in the day’s hard fighting. With Rear Admiral Shibazaki killed and their communication lines torn up, each Japanese unit was essentially acting in isolation, and indeed had been since the commencement of the naval bombardment. The Marines brought a battery of 75 mm Pack Howitzers ashore, unpacked them and set them up for action for the next day’s fight, but the bulk of the second wave was unable to land. They spent the night floating out in the lagoon without food or water, trying to sleep in their Higgins boats. A number of Japanese marines slipped away in the night, swimming out to a number of the wrecked LVTs in the lagoon, and also to the Niminoa, a wrecked steamship lying west of the main pier. There they laid in wait for dawn, when they would fire upon the US forces from behind. The long night dragged on, but lacking central direction, the Japanese were unable to coordinate for a counterattack against the toe hold the Marines held on the island. The feared counterattack never came and the Marines held their ground. By the end of the first day, of the 5,000 Marines put ashore, 1,500 were casualties, either dead or wounded.

 

 

 

WWI Identified RPPC – 90th Division Veteran Victor H. Horner Poses in Germany 1919


Nothing spectacular jumped out at me when I first purchased this image on eBay last week.  I knew it was likely identified, but I wasn’t sure the name would be searchable. I was pleasantly surprised when the photo arrived and I was able to read the name and successfully search for his name on ancestry.com.  He was born in 1895 and passed away in 1978 in Springfield, CO. This photo was likely taken in 1919 after the Armistice.  Note the use of French numeric pins on his overseas cap.

Victor H. Horner

Victor H. Horner

FindaGrave.com photo

FindaGrave.com photo

 

World War One Solar Eclipse Captured in France 1918 – American Red Cross Nurse Photo Album Image


Although my East Coast residence prevented my viewing of the solar eclipse today, I am able to post a wonderful shot of an eclipse captured nearly 100 years ago.  Snapped by a US nurse while stationed in Rimaucourt, France.  I have an album of nearly 200 images following a Springfield, MA native through her WWI service.  Some of the best shots come from her time with the 52nd Base Hospital.  Enjoy!