Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Eric and me.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Amazon.com has had some excellent discussions on history of late, and I've been participating. It's a good way to touch base with other people who share my interests. I started a topic tonight on the best planes of World War Two. I know many of my blog readers have opinions on this, so click this link and jump right in!!
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Maurice Rockett. Lost an eye over Europe as a B-17 Bombardier.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Jay, a Vietnam pilot, sent me this website, which is a visual and audio tribute to those who died in Vietnam and to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington.
Jay writes: "Turn on your sound. These were the people I knew. Actually the couple of pilots that went down I knew are still MIA."
Just click this link to see the show. The music is by country great George Jones.
Thanks, Jay. May we never forget these young people. God bless them all.
My uncle graduated in the rush class of 1942 on December 8, 1941 from the Naval Academy. He was assigned to the USS Hornet as gunner officer. He was aboard the Hornet when they took on the B-25's and sailed for the seas off Japan to launch the raid.
After the Hornet was sunk, he came home on leave. I was able to persuade the principal of the grade school to let him give a talk about the raid. Well, the idea caught on and all the schools had him give a talk. I had the honor of introducing my uncle Bob, Lt. Robert Thum as a survivor of the USS Hornet. Pretty heady stuff for a young second grader.
Gunners on board the Hornet fire at aircraft during battle. This scene would have been a familiar one to Jay's Uncle Bob.
An interesting story happened during the sinking of the Hornet. The day it was sunk, which was in the evening in Rock Springs, Wyoming, my Aunt had a feeling not all was right with her son. There was a large portrait hanging in their music room. She went in there and looked at the portrait of her son. In the background of the picture, the artist had painted a carrier with planes taking off. My aunt sat there through the night just looking at the portrait and praying. She later told us, a voice said, "Mom, I am alright, I will survive". Of course, there was a black out of the news and the sinking of the Hornet was not made public for several months. But she knew the Hornet had been sunk and her son did survive. The date this happened coincided with the date of the sinking of the Hornet.
The Hornet, already mortally wounded, is about to be hit by a damaged Japanese bomber, above left. The ship sank shortly after this. The ship was lost on October 7, 1942 during the Battle of Santa Cruz.
The musicians made several references to the difficulty getting enough air at our high altitude and worked very hard to put on a rousing, hand-clapping, foot-stomping show.
Since then, the praise has only grown louder. The Philadelphia Inquirer said they make "mind-blowing Irish folk music, maybe the world's best". The New York Times praised their "unbridled vitality", the Washington Post dubbed them one of the "world's finest Celtic-folk ensembles" and the Austin American-Statesman called them "the standard by which contemporary Celtic groups are judged."
Solas is virtually unique in the new territory it has opened up for Celtic music. It has performed at all the major Celtic and folk festivals, including Philadelphia, Edmonton, the legendary National Folk Festival, and Milwaukee's Irish fest; but also at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and the chamber music summer series at Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It has performed at Symphony Hall, Wolf Trap, the Ford Amphitheater, and Queens Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland. In New York City, where the band was based in its early years, it has played at the legendary Bottom Line folk club, but also at vaunted classical venues Town Hall and Symphony Space.
The Solas sound today is anchored by founders Seamus Egan, who plays flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, whistle, guitar and bodhran, and fiddler Winifred Horan. They are two of the most respected—and imitated—musicians anywhere in acoustic music. Mick McAuley from Kilkenny plays accordion and concertina; Eamon McElholm from Tyrone plays guitar and keyboards. Deirdre Scanlan is the band's latest vocal discovery, gorgeously filling the role carved out by founding vocalist Karan Casey.
Supplemental background information:
Solas has emerged as the most exciting band in traditional Irish music. The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine says, "Seamus Egan and Solas make mind-blowing Irish folk music, maybe the world's best," while the Los Angeles Times says, "Solas offers a compellingly original, strikingly contemporary view of traditional Celtic sounds." Although Solas can play undiluted traditional Irish music as well as anyone alive or departed, they are always varying the mix of fire tested tradition and contemporary sensibility with an ease and naturalness that is as astonishing as their overwhelming musicianship. As a result, they transcend musical genres into the realm of pure musical expression that only a relative handful of musicians attain. The internationally acclaimed supergroup has not only captured the hearts and ears of Irish music fans, but fans all around the globe with their blend of Celtic traditional, folk and country melodies, bluesy sometimes jazz-inspired improvisations and global rhythms. Solas has built a fanbase that includes the likes of Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris and the much sought-after rap producer Timbaland who surprisingly sampled the band on his radio hit "All Yall." Waiting for an Echo, Solas' newest gem, promises to attract new fans and further endear old ones.
Seamus Egan is an instrumental wizard who has mastered everything from the flute to tenor banjo, mandolin, tin whistle, low whistle, guitars and bodhran. Born in Hatboro, PA. and raised for a time in Foxford, Co. Mayo, Ireland, he has been signed to Shanachie Entertainment since the age of 13! Fans may remember Sarah McLaughlan's Grammy-winning hit "I'll Remember You," penned by Seamus along with Sarah and Dave Merg. The master composer has also written music and played on soundtracks for the films Brothers McMullen and the Oscar winning movie Dead Man Walking, as well as the stage show Dancing on Dangerous Ground. Seamus recently added acting to his many list of talents. In the summer, he completed filming the independent film "American Wake."
Native New Yorker Winifred Horan is a graduate of Boston's prestigious New England Conservatory of Music. She has played in Cherish the Ladies and the Sharon Shannon Band and has recorded with everyone from Richard Shindell and Patty Larkin to Liz Carroll and Eileen Ivers. Incidentally, Winifred is a nine-time Irish stepdancing titlist, and an All-Ireland fiddle champion. Horan's recent solo outing, Just One Wish, was hailed as one of the best Celtic or roots albums of 2002 by the Boston Globe, Philadelphia City Paper, Irish Times and Irish Echo. Horan's technical virtuosity coupled with her yen for musical roaming is a key element to the fascinating sound of Solas.
Mick McAuley hails from Callan, Co. Kilkenny and has long been regarded as one of Ireland's finest button accordionists. Born into a well known musical family, Mick has been playing whistles and accordion from the time he was a child. By the time he was eleven, he had already appeared on national tv. As a teenager he toured extensively throughout Europe at various cultural festivals while turning his hand to the concertina. Mick, who also sings background vocals for Solas, has performed and/or recorded with Ron Kavana, Terry Woods as "the Bucks", The Alias Band, Niamh Parsons and the Loose Connections, Karan Casey, Susan McKeown, and Paul Brennan of Clannad. In September 2003, Mick will release his Shanachie debut as a leader, An Ocean's Breadth.
Just before joining Solas, Deirdre Scanlan released her solo debut, Speak Softly, which attracted widespread praise throughout Ireland. Deirdre possesses one of those ethereal voices that keeps listeners hanging on to her every word. A native of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, she also appeared on a recording by Nenagh Singers Circle and played fiddle with the Paddy O'Brien Ormond Ceili Band in her home county.
Eamon McElholm is a multi-talented musician, who is also an accomplished singer/songwriter, also plays keyboard and sings background vocals for Solas. He has been touring with Solas since August 2002. Eamon was born and raised in County Tyrone in the North of Ireland. For the last several years he has been heavily involved with the well-known Irish band 'Stockton's Wing' as singer, songwriter and guitarist. A few years ago Eamon was awarded the Performing Rights Society/ John Lennon Songwriters Award, at the time he was a student in Manchester, England.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
October 15, 2007
NEW YORK - Nolan Herndon, a navigator-bombardier in the storied Doolittle raid over Japan in World War II who spent more than a year interned in the Soviet Union after his plane made an emergency landing in Russia, died yesterday in Columbia, S.C.
The cause was pneumonia, said his son Nolan Jr.
On April 18, 1942, a group of 16 Army Air Forces B-25 bombers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, took off from the carrier Hornet on a daylight bombing raid that carried the war to Japan for the first time.
The raid resulted in only light damage to military and industrial targets, but it buoyed morale on an American home front stunned by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier, and Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor.
After completing their bombing runs, the planes were to land at airstrips in China that had not fallen to the Japanese. But they ran into a storm, forcing crash-landings and bailouts that killed three of the 80 crewmen. Eight others were captured by Japanese troops, with three of them later being executed and one who died of malnutrition while in captivity.
Mr. Herndon's plane, the eighth one off the Hornet, was the only bomber that never made it to China. It quickly ran low on fuel, evidently a result of carburetor adjustments during flight preparations in California. The plane bombed a factory and strafed an airfield, and then the pilot, Captain Edward York, headed toward Russia's Pacific port of Vladivostok as his only alternative to landing in Japan.
The bomber touched down at a small airport near Vladivostok, the crew hoping that it would receive gasoline and continue on to China. But the Soviet Union was not fighting Japan. As a neutral nation in the war between the United States and the Japanese, it interned the five crewmen.
While detained in European Russia, the crew members braved temperatures plunging to 50 degrees below zero, and they subsisted on cabbage, black bread, and tea.
"I can't blame the Russian people," Mr. Herndon told The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C., in 2002. "They were starving, too."
The airmen wrote a letter to Stalin, asking for their release, and while the note did not win their freedom, it did reach high-level Soviet authorities, who transferred them to a warm-weather area, a town about 15 miles north of the border with Iran, where they were assigned to work in a factory repairing trainer planes.
On May 26, 1943, the five airmen made their escape, paying a smuggler $250 to take them by truck to Iran. They found a British Consulate just across the border.
Mr. Herndon, a native of Greenville, Texas, raised cattle and ran a wholesale grocery business in South Carolina after the war.
In an interview with The State, in 2001, Mr. Herndon theorized that Captain York and his copilot, Lieutenant Robert Emmens, had received secret orders to fly to Vladivostok to test the willingness of Stalin's government to cooperate in the war against Japan. But Mr. Herndon had no direct evidence, and there has been no corroboration of his suspicions.
In addition to his son Nolan Jr., of West Columbia, S.C., Mr. Herndon leaves his wife, Julia; his son James, of Pawleys Island, S.C.; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
The crews of 11 bombers bailed out over China
One crew make a wheels-up crash landing in a rice paddy
Three bombers ditched in the waters off the China coast
One bomber landed in the Soviet Union where it was confiscated
Of the 80 men who flew with Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle:
3 were killed exiting their aircraft on the night of the raid8 were captured by the Japanese
3 POWs were executed by their captors on October 15, 19421 POW died of malnutrition and mistreatment while confined4 POWs were repatriated at the end of WWII after 40 months of captivity
Following the mission most of the raiders went on to fly other combat missions. Before the war ended:
10 raiders were killed in action in Europe, North Africa, and Indo-China 4 were shot down and interred as German prisoners of war
As of October 14, 2007 only twelve of the raiders are still living. They are:
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Traditionally, this is the time of year for reunions, however there was nothing traditional about the gathering I attended in West Palm Beach, Florida recently. People who had never met, of different ages and backgrounds, reunited because they shared one common bond, St. Ottilien, a Benedictine Monastery nestled in the idyllic countryside of Upper Bavaria in Germany.
Named for a pious and charitable nun, known as the “saint of vision” because of her remarkable healing powers, the monastery had been converted to a Displaced Persons Camp after the war. It was here that I was born in 1947 when my parents, Polish Jews, were waiting to emigrate to America.
In 1997, I traveled back to Germany to confront my past and to make peace with it. And although I toured the grounds of the monastery and interviewed the monks, it was not until three years later that many of my questions, both personal and historical, would finally be answered by Dr. Robert L. Hilliard. Fate brought us together at a conference on Displaced Persons, sponsored by the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. During a panel discussion on the role of the military in the DP camp experience, I learned of his book “Surviving The Americans: The Continued Struggle of the Jews After Liberation” and the miraculous story of the role he played in the lives of the Jews of St. Ottilien.
The Power Of The Pen
In 1945, 19 year-old Robert Hilliard and 25 year-old Edward Herman, two GIs stationed on an army base in Germany after WW II, were so distressed by the conditions they observed at nearby St. Ottilien they started a massive letter writing campaign to the American people. Ultimately, the contents of the letter came to the attention of President Truman and played a key role in reversing US policy towards the Jews. An excerpt from their lengthy letter, which appears in Dr. Hilliard’s book and details the plight of the survivors, reads:
At the hospital of St. Ottilien there are today 750 people including a staff of doctors...attempting to preserve the life they find it hard to believe they still have. Four months ago this same hospital was being used to care for German soldiers. At the same time there were thousands of Jews roaming Germany, sick, tortured, wounded, without food, clothing or help of any kind. One particular group was led by Dr. Zalman Grinberg. For months he has tried to obtain aid for these people. The Germans refused him. The local governments refused him...For these people the Red Cross, UNRRA, the various Hebrew organizations were, although present, nonexistent. If they are to survive the coming winter they need shoes...they need sheets and blankets...medical supplies...the necessities of life and they are depending on you to get it for them. The intolerable situation of the Jews having to beg the Germans for food exists...We are writing to you for you are the only ones that can help...These surviving Jews of Europe want to live. The fact that five children have already been born at St. Ottilien is proof enough.”
Olga Salitan was one of those first babies to be born in St. Ottilien. I met her recently during the gathering organized and sponsored by E. Edward Herman, now a retired financier in Palm Beach and Robert Hilliard, presently a Professor of Mass Communication at Emerson College in Boston. By the time I was born in 1947, conditions at St. Ottilien had greatly improved due to the crusading efforts of these two remarkable men.
“Most of us have no family so when we get together with surviviors we consider them family. That’s what our meeting is all about...the living,” said Jean Einstein, Olga’s mother. This same sentiment was echoed by the participants who came from California, Ohio, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Chicago and New York to join those now residing in Florida. When I traveled to St. Ottilien three years earlier I had never met anyone connected with that DP camp. Now, suddenly, I was surrounded by an entirely new “family.” The reunion brought together eight St. Ottilien “babies” who were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet each other and Dr. Isaac Vidor, the obstetrician who delivered many of those born in the monastery. The group also consisted of former patients and orphans who brought along family members to share the experience.
My daughter Sara accompanied me to Florida and spent the next four days learning first-hand about the DP era as she listened to survivor’s stories, looked at the precious photograph albums we each brought along and participated in activities which included a special Yom Hashoah program at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach; a visit to Florida Atlantic University where we listened to a performance of their klezmer band and viewed the Jewish Library and exceptional work of the Jewish book bindery; a meeting with a member of the Jewish Claims Commission who focused on the status of current negotiations; and discussions about how to locate missing relatives with representatives of the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center.
Connecting Past And Present
But it was the conversations with the other survivors, over meals and during the lengthy bus rides, that proved to be the most significant part of our reunion. As we got to know each other and caught up on the last 50 plus years, each of us made new connections and discovered old ones. Philip Sal, who met and married his wife Esther in St. Ottilien, had been the ambulance driver who brought patients from Munich to the hospital between 1945-50. More than likely he was the one who had transported my ailing mother from the Gabarze DP camp to the monastery where she gave birth to me. Yetta Marchuck, who came with her father, Max Goldsammler, was born the same year as I was. Today she lives in a house right next door to my uncle Moshe Berger, my mother’s only surviving family member.
Like a pebble thrown into the water that creates ripples far beyond what the eye can see, the two young GIs had poured out their hearts in a letter to the American people which continues to make waves fifty-five years later. As we gathered together on the last evening of our reunion, we presented Bob and Ed with a momento, a photo-poster of the St. Ottilien hospital expressing our gratitude and appreciation for their efforts, then and now and signed by the survivors, their children and their children’s children."
Though both Bob and Edward are Jewish, both were also adament to me when I was writing my book that it wasn't their motivation for saving the Displaced Persons. They would have done the same thing had these people been Christians, Buddhists, or atheists. They did it because they saw and injustice and wanted to make it right.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Ed and Bob's story is told in my book "Untold Valor" as well as in Bob Hilliard's excellent book, 'Surviving the Americans', and in an acclaimed video entitled 'Miracle at St. Ottilien'.
Ed and Bob were Army Air Corps enlisted men in Germany. Bob had been wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and had been transferred into the Air Corps, where he held a job as a reporter for an air base newspaper. Bob was assigned to cover a concert staged by concentration camp survivors shortly after war's end. The concert was held at a former monastery named St. Ottilien, part of which had been converted into a hospital for the Holocaust survivors. At the concert, Bob noticed that most of the people at St. Ottilien still wore their striped concentration camp uniforms, and that nearly all were emaciated and sickly.
Ed was a wonderful friend and a great man. He lived many exciting events in his life, and was one of the original catalysts behind supplying the new state of Isreal with arms and other material after its creation.
The world is poorer today because he is not in it. However, thousands of Jews and other concentraton camp displaced persons lived because of his efforts and those of his friend Bob Hilliard.
Here is a list of books and a video about these two great men:
Displaced: Miracle at St. Ottilien, a Film by John Michalczyk, available at this site: http://www2.bc.edu/~michalcj/displaced.html
A review of this fine film:
Displaced: Miracle at St. Ottilien (2002; 47 minutes) is a documentary based on the true experiences of US Army privates Edward Herman and Robert Hilliard, who were stationed in Germany at the close of World War II. They discovered the horrendous treatment of displaced Jews in St. Ottilien, a camp run by the US military. In an effort to alleviate the suffering, the two GIs stole food from their own mess hall and smuggled it into the camp. Then the two soldiers started a letter writing campaign which caught the attention of President Harry Truman, who ordered an investigation which led to the end to the abuse. The film is based on a memoir written by Mr. Hilliard. The world premiere, attended by Mr. Hilliard and survivors of St. Ottilien, was held at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in November 2002. A New England premiere was held at Boston College in February 2003 and was attended by Mr. Hilliard. It was recently featured at the Toronto and Boston Jewish Film Festivals.
Untold Valor, my own book, has an extensive chapter about Bob and Ed, and relies on first-person interviews with both, as well as with survivors of the death camps and their children.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Dedee (pictured with her father)helped rescue many Allied airmen
Both photos above, Andree Dumon.
Some might have wondered if all the suffering was worth it - but the British told them the Comet Line was making a huge difference. Not just because it was getting the pilots, radio operators and navigators home, but because men believed that if they were shot down, they would be rescued and would find friends in occupied Belgium. That was a huge boost to morale. Dumon is quite clear about what kept her going. "It was for freedom, against the occupier. We did everything we could against the occupier. I got one airman through who, after he got back, went on another mission and bombed two U boats, German submarines. He was decorated for that as well."
She thinks both sides still have a need to meet, perhaps' to express a mutual gratitude. "The airmen feel they can't thank us enough. We say if it wasn't for the English we might be German now."Next year, they'll celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Comet Line. "Our own children don't seem that interested," Andree Dumon says, "but then we didn't really speak about it to them. Maybe it was too painful. You know, my father died - I would so much have liked to have known him as an adult. Now I think we have to tell our story because younger people really should know - for the sake of those who died."
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Recommended reading about Chuck Yeager:
Yeager: An Autobiography, by Chuck Yeager. I have a signed copy of this excellent book. Find a copy for yourself at http://www.amazon.com/Yeager-Autobiography-Chuck/dp/0553256742/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-1823667-6149529?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192310357&sr=8-1.
The Right Stuff, by Thomas Wolfe, about the early supersonic pioneers and astronauts. Find a copy at http://www.amazon.com/Right-Stuff-Tom-Wolfe/dp/1579124585/ref=pd_bbs_11/104-1823667-6149529?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192310357&sr=8-11
Chuck Yeager and the Bell X-1: Breaking the Sound Barrier (Hardcover) by Dominic A. Pisano et al. Get a copy here at http://www.amazon.com/Chuck-Yeager-Bell-X-1-Breaking/dp/0810955350/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/104-1823667-6149529?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192310357&sr=8-2
The resourceful British soon began testing their Mustangs with the 12-cylinder Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the same engine that powered their Spitfires. The most famous fighter aircraft in history had been born. The Merlin-powered Mustangs soon would be escorting the American bombers to anywhere in the Nazi heartland and back. It was reported many Nazi generals knew the war was lost when they saw Mustangs in the sky over Berlin.
Many of these great planes have been rebuilt and overhauled many times over the years and look better than when they rolled off the assembly line some 60 years ago.
The legends that flew them have not been so lucky. You've seen pictures of many I'm sure. Leather flight jacket and cap, a cocky smile perhaps. At the age of 18 or 19 they were flying hundreds of miles into hostile territory, responsible for making sure those big bombers made it to their target and back. Bud Anderson, Bob Hoover, Tex Hill, the Tuskegee Airmen. Legends of the fighter pilot world. Heroes to me.
I had the great fortune to work as a volunteer at the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends. I was in awe of these great planes and the veterans I saw.
I'm an emotional guy, and one instance in particular really got to me. A golf cart drove up to one of the parked Mustangs near me. A man in his 60s got out and proceeded to assist a very feeble older man out of the cart. He had a VIP pass around his neck. He wore a ball cap emblazoned with "P-51." The weather was very warm, but he wore a cardigan sweater.
The younger man was asking some technical question or another about the Mustang as he helped him gather his cane and steady himself. I did not hear the older man respond. He walked a few steps and simply placed his time-worn hand on the wing of the Mustang, maybe his mind going back to the skies over Germany so many years ago. A lifetime to us, only yesterday to him.
John Morgan and family live in rural Knox County. He is a 2nd Lt. in the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, Land of Legends Composite Flight, in Newark.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Distinguished Unit Citation: Regensburg 17 Aug 43
In the meantime, here is a list of good books about the 95th that I highly recommend.
B-17s Over Berlin: Personal Stories from the 95th Bomb Group (H), edited by Ian Hawkins and produced by the 95th BG, found at http://www.amazon.com/B-17s-Over-Berlin-Personal-Memories/dp/1574888420/ref=sr_1_1/104-1823667-6149529?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1191982552&sr=8-1
Munster: Bloody Skies over Germany by Ian Hawkins, found at http://www.amazon.com/Munster-Raid-Bloody-Skies-Germany/dp/0830650016/ref=sr_1_11/104-1823667-6149529?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1191982581&sr=1-11
My War: The True Experiences of an Army Air Force Pilot in World War Two, by John C. Walter (reviewed yesterday on this blog) can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/MY-WAR-EXPERIENCES-FORCE-PILOT/dp/1418447250/ref=sr_1_1/104-1823667-6149529?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1191982687&sr=1-1
Fletcher's Gang: A B-17 Crew in Europe in World War Two, by Eugene Fletcher, found at http://www.amazon.com/Fletchers-Gang-B-17-Europe-1944-45/dp/0295966041/ref=sr_1_1/104-1823667-6149529?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1191982781&sr=1-1
Last Flight of the Lonesome Polecat II, by Michael I. Darter, found at http://www.amazon.com/Fateful-Flight-Lonesome-Polecat-II/dp/0595666515/ref=sr_1_1/104-1823667-6149529?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1191983317&sr=1-1
This book, which I wrote, contains many good stories about the 95th but is not focused ONLY on the 95th.