Monday, December 31, 2007

Lest We Forget... A New Year's Photo

As we begin a new year, may our prayers be for peace around the world. The photo below is a poignant reminder that some give all. My friend Frank Irgang, who as a young infantryman landed at Normandy on D-Day and fought his way across Europe, sent me this email, and it is worth sharing with everyone.

Photo by Todd Heisler
The Rocky Mountain News

When 2nd Lt. James Cathey's body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac.

During the arrival of another Marine's casket last year at Denver International Airport, Major Steve Beck described the scene as one of the most powerful in the process: "See the people in the windows? They'll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines. You gotta wonder what's going through their minds, knowing that they're on the plane that brought him home," he said.

"They're going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They're going to remember bringing that Marine home. And they should."


December 2007 A Great Month for Untold Valor

Untold Valor sold 600 copies in the month of December. Thanks to all who purchased the book.

2 Books of Note

I've picked up a couple of very interesting books in the past two weeks. The first, Down to Earth: A Fighter Pilot's Experiences of Surviving Dunkirk, The Battle of Britain, Dieppe and D-Day, is by Squadron Leader Kenneth Butterworth McGlashan, AFC, with Owen Zupp. I found out about this book during a history discussion on Amazon, and became acquainted with the co-author, Owen Zupp, an Australian pilot for Quantas Airlines who shares my passion for aviation and aviation history. Owen and I traded books by mail. The book was published by Grub Street Press, London in 2007. Owen conducted many interviews with the late Mr. McGlashan to write this outstanding account.

McGlashan started his RAF career in 1939 in a Hawker biplane, and ended it in the jet era of the 1950's. Shot down over the beaches of Dunkirk in heated aerial combat, McGlashan returns to England to fly again. He flies in support of the ill-fated invasion at Dieppe and takes on clandestine night operations before D-Day.

The book is illustrated with photographs spanning Mr. McGlashan's interesting career.

You can buy this book here: This is from The book is not available on US Amazon at this time.

The second book I picked up at a used book store. It is entitled Flying Through the Fire: FIDO--The Fogbusters of World War Two: Freeing the RAF's Airfields from the Fog Menace by Geoffery Williams. This book, published in 1996 by Grange Books, London, chronicles the British attempt to control the fog and low clouds that caused many Allied aircraft to crash upon return to base. Early in the war, many British bombers returned from harrowing missions unable to find their bases, which were completely fog-bound. This took a savage toll on aircraft and aircrew. Winston Churchill prompted the government's Petroleum Warfare Department to develop a cure for this problem, and they came up with FIDO--Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation. Lines of burners feulled by thousands of gallons of petrol were installed beside runways to literally burn off the fog, thereby allowing aircraft to take off and land safely. Over 100 photos accompany this fascinating book.

And on that note, Happy New Year to all readers. I look forward to many postings in 2008, and will be working on two books in the coming year. First, the 95th Bomb Group history, and second, a sequel to Untold Valor tentatively entitled Untold Valor: Forgotten Stories of Aerial Combat in the Pacific.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Artist Profile: Scott Nelson

I ran across a print by Scott Nelson around a month ago and purchased it. Scott and I then struck up an email dialogue about our shared passion of World War Two aviation. Scott is a farmer and rancher by trade who puts in long hours tending the farm, but in his spare time, he is an artist, and a mighty good one, too. Though Scott tends to downplay his art due to the fact he is self-taught, I think it's some of the best aviation art on the market, and here's why:

1. Nelson seeks out veterans with outstanding stories, talks to them until he knows the story inside and out, and then paints the crucial moments from the vets' experiences.

2. Nelson focuses on veterans from the West, especially the Dakotas, and preserves the aviation history of this sparsely-populated region.
3. Nelson's art is packed with action, and is rendered in brilliant colors with superb attention to detail.
4. All of Nelson's prints are signed by both himself and the subject of the print. Prints that are signed in this way are standard in the aviation art world, but what makes Scott's work extraordinary is that his prints are still relatively unknown nationally and his prices are much lower than bigger-name aviation artists.
Visit Scott Nelson's website:
Visit Scott Nelson's eBay store:
Currently, no prints for sale, but check back often.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Book Winner Chosen

I selected the winner of the Christmas book drawing today. It was fair and scientific. I put the names on pieces of paper and had my son Matt draw the winner. And the winner is...

Les Poitras, of Massachusetts.

Les, get in touch with me about how you want the book signed and inscribed.

My thanks to all who entered. The most distant entry was from India.

Enjoy the book, Les!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning in Idaho

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah and other seasonal greetings to blog readers. We had about a foot of snow yesterday so today we woke up to a Bing Crosby 'White Christmas'.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Beautiful Photo of B-17s

Sent to me today by Maurice Rockett, 95th Bomb Group bombardier, WWII.

1/6 Scale German Army Diorama---You Must See This

A British man named Peter Shaw built a complete scene of a German unit deboarding a train. The whole scene is one-sixth scale. This link has many photos of an incredible task of setting up a 1/6 world to look real.

Thanks to my brother John Morris for the tip and the site.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Holiday Gift Chance for My Blog Readers

Dear readers:
In the spirit of the holiday season, I am offering you the chance to enter into a drawing for a FREE copy of my book, signed by me and shipped at my expense (to the US--if you live overseas, you have to pay the shipping).

This is just my way of saying 'thank you' to those who drop by and read the blog. Everybody is eligible, whether you already have a book or not (you can always give it away as a gift).

All you have to do to enter is send me an email with "UNTOLD VALOR HOLIDAY BOOK" in the title and your name and address. My email address is found on my book website at . I will not use your name and address for any promotion. This is strictly for fun and as my way of saying 'Thanks!'.

This would make a great gift for a veteran of the Air Corps in World War Two or anyone interested in the air war. Maybe it would make a great gift for you.

Again, signed/inscribed to your specifications, and mailed at my expense.

Follow the instructions and good luck. I will draw the winner from all entries and let you know in next week on Tuesday who wins.

By the way, the book is currently sold out on Amazon. It has been selling briskly and has good reviews. Check out the Amazon reviews here:

Check out my book website here for more detailed information and more reviews:
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah to all.
Rob Morris

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Site Dedicated to Remembering a Forgotten Airman

The crew of the 'Jolly Roger', of the 385th Bomb Group. Joe Schreppel is back row, far left.

Scott Nelson of North Dakota wrote me that he is in the process of illustrating a website dedicated to the memory of Sgt. Joe Schreppel of Kansas, a B-17 Tailgunner who is listed as 'unknown' on his grave marker. Scott writes:

"I am in the process, illustrating a web site from Belgium about an airman that was shot down there during the first Schweinfurt (17 Aug 43). He landed in his parachute mortally wounded and was aided by some Belgium Boy Scouts, and he told them his name before he died and that he was from Kansas. German authorities imprisoned several Belgium civilians who had helped and shown sympathy toward this airman. For some reason this airman was buried as "unknown" and even after the war (body was moved to one of the Belgium US Cemeteries) it is still inscribed as unknown. This website's mission is to try and get that changed. My pictures will be up on the site hopefully in the next couple weeks. The site in case you are interested is:"
This site is run by the son of the man who aided the mortally wounded Schreppel after he landed. Schreppel had time to communicate briefly with the young Scouts before he passed away.

This is a very interesting website and I recommend it. I look forward to seeing Scott's artwork on this site. I think his stuff is great. Check out some of his work at his artist website:

An Exercise in Humility

Another book signing last night, though I doubt John Grisham or J.K. Rowling have the same experiences. The manager of the book department at a large bookseller here in town asked me to do a signing about a month ago. I'm not a big fan of these, but they are part of the contract with the publisher and they are a good way to get the book out there, so I said yes.

The last two times I did signings, they were advertised on the store's marquee, which is on the busiest street in town. I noted this week that there was no advertising--not an auspicious start.

When I showed up last night, it dawned on me that they had entirely forgotten I was coming. There was no table, no chair, no pens. Luckily, they did have books on the shelf.

I was supposed to sign from five to eight, but packed up and went home at 7:30 after selling six books. Granted, those six people were happy to get them, but the lack of effort on the part of the store, coupled with the fact that Idaho Falls is not much of an aviation town, doomed my signing to failure.

In any case, this will keep me very humble.

Below is a photo of people lined up to get a signed copy of my book 'Untold Valor'. Pushing and shoving was not a problem this evening.

An Overdue Wyoming Tribute

As a former resident of the great state of Wyoming, which remains the best place I've ever lived, I was saddened to receive a letter a few weeks ago from Scott Nelson, a farmer/rancher/aviation artist from North Dakota, who became friends with the late Gale 'Buck' Cleven, of the 100th Bomb Group.

Scott wrote me: "When Buck passed away in Sheridan, Wyoming, I tried to get the papaer there to run an obituary on him--Buck always considered himself as a Wyoming native and I thought it would be nice if the state would recognize him. No luck. Guess they figured he wasn't 'important' enough.

I then contacted the small Lemmon, South Dakota paper and they thought it was very important and they ran it, with some errors. This is the only obituary run of Buck that I know of--unfortunately, this small paper is not on the AP wire so the story went no further."

Time to rectify that situation, Scott. What follows is the obituary for Dr. Gale W. 'Buck' Cleven in its entirety, though it may take me a while to type it all. Because, Buck, you were and are an American hero and you deserve it.

'Dr. Gale W. 'Buck' Cleven passed from this life on November 17, 2006. Born December 27, 1919 in the Lemmon (SD) area, he moved to the Casper, Wyoming area where he worked on drilling crews and worked his way through the University of Wyoming. Dr. Cleven received degrees from Harvard and his geological doctorate degree at George Washington University. Dr. Cleven led a very accomplished life including fighting in three wars (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam), held a post at the Petnagon and was in charge of EDP information at Hughes Aircraft. Later, Dr. Cleven reorganized staffing and leadership at Webber University in Florida. Dr. Cleven retired in Dickinson, North Dakota and later at the Sugarland Ridge Retirement Center in Sheridan, Wyoming, where he resided until his death.

There are several books and web site postings of Buck's service in WWII including Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. In Masters of the Air, author Donald Miller credits Cleven, Eighth Air Force Squadron Commander, for giging the 100th Bomb Group its personality. Miller's book retells Major Cleven's story: 'On October 8, 1943, Major Buck Clevens (sic) was shot down over Bremen by three Luftwaffe fighters when they flew out of the sun and tore into his fortress, knocking out three engines, blowing holes in the tail and nose, sheering of a good part of the left wing. The situation hopeless, Cleven ordered the crew to jump. He was the last man out of the plane. When he jumped the bomber was only about 2,000 feet from the ground. Hanging from his parachute, Cleven saw he was going to land near a small farm house. He spun out of control and went flying through the open back door and into the kitchen, knocking over furniture and a small iron stove. The farmer's wife and daughter began screaming hysterically and, in a flash, the farmer had a pitchfork pressed against Cleven's chest. 'In my pitiful high school German I tried to convince him I was a good guy. But he wasn't buying it.'

Buck was taken to a prison camp where he spent about 18 months before escaping to Allied lines. Cleven escaped while being marched to Moosburg's Stalag VIIA. Among his many accomplishments during his time of service, Buck earned a Distinguished Service Cross, and Silver Star, Bronze Star. The DFC was for his heroic participation in the 'double-strike' of Regensburg and Schweinfurt on August 17, 1943. Sixty bombers and almost 600 men were lost. The aircraft factories and ball bearing plants were being guarded by the most formidable aerial defenses in the world at the time. Cleven was in the vulnerable low squadron--so called the Coffin Corner, the last and lowest group in the bomber stream. Cleven's plane was being shredded by enemy fighters. Cleven's co-pilot panicked and prepared to bail out. Cleven ordered his co-pilot to stay put. His words were heard over the interphone and had a magical effect on the rest of the crew. They stuck to their guns. His actions that day at Regensburg were said to 'electrify the base'. Lt. Col. Bierne Lay (who would later write the famous 'Twelve O'Clock High) recommended Cleven for a Medal of Honor. This was downgraded to a DFC, but Cleven never went to pick up the medal, claiming he didn't deserve it. He was quoted as saying, "Medal, hell, I needed an aspirin".

More history of Dr. Cleven's leadership at Hughes Aircraft is detailed in The King and the Seven Dwarfs, by Barney Oldfield.

Dr. Cleven is survived by his wife Lee Cleven of Ooltwah, TN, his sister Doris Shaw and one nephew of Dallas, TX. He was proceeded in death by his first wife Marge Cleven. His remains were laid to rest in Sante Fe, New Mexico."

Rest in peace, Buck. Wyoming honors you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Remembering Gale 'Buck' Cleven, 100th Bomb Group

In artist Scott Nelson's painting, Gale Cleven mans the left seat as his plane goes down over Germany and his crewmates bail out.

I recently bought an outstanding art print by North Dakota artist Scott Nelson. Scott knew 100th Bomb Group commander Gale 'Buck' Cleven quite well through a mutual friend, and Mr. Cleven told Scott his story. Scott in turn made a painting of the shooting down of Cleven's B-17, which was made into a limited edition print and signed by both.

When Scott sent me this print, he also sent more information about Mr. Cleven. As a former Wyoming resident with strong ties to the state, I was suprised to learn that Cleven was a Wyoming native, from the Sheridan area. And I was disturbed to find that when Scott sent the Wyoming papers an obituary about the passing of this great WWII veteran, none of the Wyoming papers ran the obituary, ostensibly because they had never heard of him and didn't think the obit was of any interest.

As a former Wyomingite, I am going to try to rectify this great wrong to a good man by running his story here. I will be adding the obituary Scott wrote in a day or so, plus more photos of Mr. Cleven.







Medals:Distinguished Service Cross- Sept. 10, 1943 for Regensburg Mission August 17, 1943 Distinguished Flying Cross- Nov 30, 1943 for Paris Mission Sept 3, 1943 Air Medal-Aug 6, 1943 OLC to Air Medal-Aug 22, 1943 OLC to Air Medal-Sept 24, 1943 OLC to Air Medal-Oct 20, 1943 Major Gale Cleven passed away on Nov 17, 2006 at the age of 87 years old.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Survivor Remembers Pearl Harbor--Dec. 7, 1941

Survivors Remember Pearl Harbor

by Audrey McAVOY

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — Everett Hyland was ferrying ammunition to an anti-aircraft gun aboard the USS Pennsylvania on Dec. 7, 1941, when a bomb hit, throwing him down.
"I never heard anything. The only thing I knew I was flat on my face and my arms were extended in front of me and they were all purple and bleeding," Hyland said. "I ended up pretty well banged up."

On Friday, Hyland joined some 50 survivors and hundreds more family members and officials at a Pearl Harbor pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial to honor the attack's victims.
The crowd observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the time of the attack on Dec. 7, 1941, and Chinook helicopters flew over in formation, followed by a B-2 stealth bomber.

The USS Pennsylvania was among the last ships hit by Japanese bombs 66 years ago as it was dry-docked and not sitting in Battleship Row. The vessel escaped with moderate damage and set sail again after being repaired. Even so, 15 men aboard were killed and 38 men were wounded. Fourteen were judged missing in action.

The casualties added to the overall Pearl Harbor attack toll of 2,388 dead and 1,178 wounded. The shocking assault thrust the United States into World War II.

Hyland spent nine months in the hospital recovering from the blast. Shrapnel tore through his left leg and he lost part of his left elbow and bicep. He suffered flash burns that seared skin off his arms and legs.

"I got a quick facial out of it," joked Hyland, 84. His brother, after visiting the burn unit where Hyland was staying, "said we looked like roast turkeys lined up."

This year, survivors and their family members are dedicating a new memorial for the USS Oklahoma, which lost 429 sailors and Marines — the second greatest loss of life among any of the battleships in Pearl Harbor.

About 18 of the estimated 90 living survivors who were aboard the USS Oklahoma were expected to join Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and other dignitaries for the dedication of the $1.2 million memorial.

The monument includes 429 white marble standards, each with the name of a fallen sailor or Marine, surrounded by black granite panels etched with a silhouette of the battleship and notable quotes from World War II-era figures that were selected by some of the survivors, said retired Navy Rear Adm. Greg Slavonic, co-chair of the USS Oklahoma Memorial Committee.
The Oklahoma was hit with the first torpedo of the morning assault. It capsized after being struck by eight more, trapping 400 men in its overturned hull. About 30 of the trapped men were later rescued by Pearl Harbor Navy Yard workers who hammered their way through the ship's metal.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Tucker McHugh, who co-chaired the USS Oklahoma Memorial Committee, said he thinks the memorial will bring some sense of closure to those who survived and even to those who perished.

"I think there's been a void in the minds and hearts of these shipmates that their shipmates were never honored with a lasting memorial," McHugh said. "Total closure might come when the last survivor passes away and they're all reunited together.

"Even though 429 soldiers and Marines died, I believe they're still with us. I think they're looking down and saying, 'Thank you.'"

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack as a 17-year-old high school senior and who later received the Medal of Honor for fighting in Europe, said he hoped the ceremony would prompt people to think of those serving today.

"There are over 1.4 million in many countries, not just Iraq and Afghanistan, serving us, ready to stand in harms way for us," Inouye told The Associated Press this week. "And there are an equal number of families, children and wives and husbands spending time at home thinking about them."

Inouye has regularly participated in annual Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremonies since he became a U.S. senator in the 1960s. But he's missing this year's event because of Senate business.

Organizers expected about 2,500 people to attend Friday's ceremony. But it was likely to be smaller than the 65th anniversary, which drew some 500 survivors and their families.
Associated Press writer Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Outstanding B-24 Video: Watch it Here

My friend Marilyn Walton, whose father was a B-24 crewman, emailed me about this outstanding B-24 tribute on Youtube. I checked it out. It is outstanding. Watch it by clicking here:
If this incredibly powerful video does not choke you up, nothing will.
These were brave men.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Emotional Video Tribute to 8th Air Force B-17 Crews

There is a fantastic tribute to 8th Air Force B-17 crews on Youtube. I only wish it were dedicated to all WWII airmen, of all Air Forces. The 15th Air Force also participated heavily in Europe, as did the 9th Tactical Air Force.

View it here:

The painting accompanying this blog entry is by one of my new favorite aviation artists, a self-taught North Dakotan by the name of Scott Nelson. It shows Gale 'Buck' Cleven's B-17, of the 100th Bomb Group, going down. Scott's prints are excellent and affordable. All are co-signed by the subject of the painting, after careful research and dicussion with the individual. I recommend buying them now before they begin to go up in value. I am the proud owner of this particular piece.

Check out some of Scott's other works here:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Honoring the Fallen at Christmas Time--Arlington National Cemetery

My friend Frank Irgang , himself a veteran of the D-Day landing and of the violent struggle across Europe in World War Two, sent me a poignant email today showing wreaths on the graves of our honored dead at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, DC.
The email forwarded by Frank reads:
"Rest easy, sleep well my brothers.
Know the line has held, your job is done.
Rest easy, sleep well.
Others have taken up where you fell,
the line has held.
Peace, peace, and farewell...
Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington , Maine. The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.

God bless you, Mr. Worcester.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Frank Irgang's Etched in Purple Available for Pre-Order

The new Potomac edition of Frank Irgang's 'Etched in Purple'--in my opinion the best WWII memoir ever written---is now available in the Potomac Books catalog.

A rediscovered classic memoir of World War II

Etched in Purple
One Soldier's War in Europe
Frank Irgang

248 pages; 5 1/4" x 8 3/4"
$17.95 $14.36
Available: April 2008

Order or view here:

“Pulls no punches in painting the life of a combat infantryman.” —Detroit Free Press

“One of the most brutal war books published. . . . Frank J. Irgang . . . has succeeded in doing what at least one million others who served with the infantry during the war wished they could have accomplished. He has told the story of the war simply and plainly as it is seen through the eyes of a combat infantryman. . . . Never once does the author let reader attention slip.” —Los Angeles Times

“A taste of the brutal truth.” —Cincinnati Enquirer

First published in 1949, Frank J. Irgang’s personal record of his unforgettable experiences as a combat infantryman during World War II has its beginning on the dawn of that famous “longest day” when Allied troops set foot on Normandy beaches. We know the surface facts of that invasion—what was planned, how it was executed, and what happened—but what most of us don’t know are the thoughts of those brave men who fought their way across France and into Germany.

What were they thinking? How did they meet the terror of each new day?In this revealing look at a young American soldier’s European tour of duty, the inner facts we have wanted to discover are found.

And they are revealed truthfully and with a freshness of reality that would be impossible to recapture unless the observations had been jotted down, as they were, soon after the events took place. Irgang’s keen eye, his unliterary terseness, his sometimes blunt way of stating brutal truths—all these contribute toward making this book more than one man’s record of the war. In its unpretentiousness, Etched in Purple says vividly and powerfully what hundreds of other soldiers would have said had they found a means of expression: that World War II would always be etched in purple in their memories.

About The Author:
Dr. Frank J. Irgang is a retired professor of industrial studies who taught at San Diego State University for twenty-six years and served as department chairman. He resides in San Diego.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wise Words About Recovering from Adversity

Liberation Day in the Japanese POW Camp, Tokyo, August 29, 1945. The 6'2" skinny guy in the circle is a malnourished version of Hap Halloran. Hap still calls this day one of the happiest of his life.

I was doing a little more research tonight on Raymond 'Hap' Halloran. In the course of my research and writing, I have talked to many men who survived as prisoners of war and returned to build a satisfying and normal life. Each day, a small group of us email each other about different things, and this particular topic comes up a lot---how was it that men who suffered so terribly were able to return almost literally from the gates of Hell and have normal lives? The bottom line, of course, is that their lives were never quite as normal as they let on to those around them. However, each man learned his own way of coping with the memories and what now is referred to medically as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Hap's crew was a close bunch. Five of his friends perished the day their B-29 went down over Tokyo. This was only one of a series of traumatic events Hap would have to deal with for the rest of his life.

Tonight I read Hap's words on the subject, and they are well worth sharing. Not only will they help anyone who has lived through a traumatic life episode, such as a POW or battered spouse, but they will help anyone who at times finds him- or herself worrying too much about life's daily hassles and petty complaints and feuds. It took Hap many years to arrive at his philosophy, and we can all learn from it. So here it is, with credit to the website:

"My feelings now are this - if you can go through adversities like I've described and survive, the possibility exists that one day you might actually make comparisons on events and problems in your present day life and actually appreciate how small some of the things we actually worry about really are.

One can actually become more positive and appreciative of life because of earlier hardships, even the most awful of hardships. I feel these positive changes and higher values can apply to individuals in their personal life, in their family life, and in the world of business and society.

As I look at myself today, I know I have a far greater appreciation of life. Yes, even the simplest of things that I formerly took for granted can take on a special meaning for me now. I appreciate that I was very fortunate to survive this experience. And I have this feeling that I should do things for others as a form of appreciation for having been so lucky - or blessed - or maybe both.

I definitely have a much higher level of confidence than I've ever had before. I set higher goals and I have higher expectations of myself and I've achieved a reasonable degree of success in many of the things I've attempted to accomplish.

Most importantly, I no longer sweat or stress over the small stuff. I guess I've finally taken time to stop and smell the roses. For instance, I've made significant progress in the matter of speaking before groups. Even when I was a man in my forties, I had a fear of public speaking. Hopefully my presentations, no matter how tough they were for me, have had a positive and motivating effect on my audience. Sure, we all have problems - but you don't have to give up. All of us can hang in there and solve our problems and appreciate the incredible gift of life.

I make it a point to speak to students - I've probably spoken to groups of young people over 200 times now. I tell them how - within each of us -there is a power and ability to solve and accomplish things we never before thought was possible. I appreciate my life - and my freedom.

And I love watching our Flag flowing in a gentle breeze.

I enjoy and appreciate sunrises and sunsets - and especially the stars. Stars that I use to navigate with during long nighttime missions in a B-29 over the Pacific. The stars are still - and will always be - my friends. I guess I've come to the conclusion that it was those difficult days during WW II that taught me a lot of things about myself - things that have helped me over the many years of my life. Lessons that are still helping me today. And I will always continue to use what I've learned to help other people grow too. Especially young people, who sometimes need a little help growing."

---Raymond "Hap" Halloran

Posters of Legendary Airmen--Halloran and Boyington

Recently I made the acquaintance of former WWII B-29 airman Hap Halloran. I contacted him about buying a copy of his book 'Hap's War'. We exchanged a few emails, and I told him I wanted to send him my book as a gift in appreciation of his service in World War Two. Hap was shot down and spent many months as a POW in Japan. He was tortured physically and mentally. He stayed in the same prison as Black Sheep Squadron leader Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington, who had received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his exploits, despite being alive. When Pappy found out about this in prison, he said he'd happily trade the medal for some food.
In talking about Pappy, I mentioned that I had written an article on this blog advocating that Boyington, an Idaho native, get a statue at his alma mater, University of Washington. There was a big flap a year or two ago because the students and some faculty at UW did not want to put up a statue of someone who killed others in the war. You can read this article here:

"Pappy", MOH winner.

Hap then suggested that I might like a poster he had in his home. Pappy Boyington had given it to him back in 1978. The poster shows Pappy getting ready to bail out of his flaming aircraft. He signed the poster "Aug 11, 1978, With Red Hot Regards--Pappy Boyington". Hap added at the bottom, under Pappy's photo, "We were POWs together in Omori POW camp SW of Tokyo in 1945. Pappy and I traveled together at air events and golfed together. I wrote and delivered his eulogy at Arlington National Cemetery 1-15-88."

The poster of Pappy Boyington.

Hap also adds under the photo of the Japanese credited with shooting Pappy down, Masajiro Kawato, that Kawato did not shoot Boyington down, and adds, "authority--Boyington" to end the argument.

The second poster shows Hap's B-29 on its final mission. The painting, 'Rover Boys Express' is by Roberto Cernuda. The plane went down and many of the men in the rear of the plane, despite the heroic efforts to reach them through the crawlspace, perished in the crash.

Hap's Plane on its Final Mission.

What a wonderful gift to a guy who loves aviation history. Nothing I will get for Christmas will come close.
Hap was plagued for forty years by nightmares of his POW experiences. Finally he decided to go back to Japan and face his fears head-on. He went back and has since gone back ten times, most recently just a few months ago. Here he is with some Japanese at the Nagasaki Peace Park in Nagasaki, near the site of the 1945 atomic bomb.
Once Hap went back, the nightmares got better. He now wages peace and teaches forgiveness. Every day that he has lived since his POW days he considers a 'bonus day'. He finishes many emails with 'Enjoy life'.

Those of you who have not read Hap's book "Hap's War" that Hap wrote in 1998, you can order one through this web site. For more information, click here:

Two Writing Projects, Two Incredible Stories

I'm currently working on two shorter writing projects and one long one. 'Short' is a relative term with me, because I tend towards perfectionism and hate letting go of a story until I'm sure it's perfect. The first of these is a future magazine article, to be submitted to aviation and WWII magazines. This story is about a day when the Swiss shot down two American B-17s, killing most of both crews. It is an amazing and troubling story on many levels. I originally wrote about it in my book, but this summer, I had a chance to visit Norris King, one of the survivors of that day, while in Denver, Colorado. We had a long talk and I took lots of photos. I posted a short copyrighted updated on this weblog after the visit, which you can read here:

Marilyn King, Norris King, and myself during our visit this summer in Arvada, Colorado.

Norris and his wife Marilyn were kind enough to make copies of some of the photos from his collection. I am including one of them here, of Norris as a young waist gunner upon graduation from gunnery school.

Norris King, graduation from gunnery school


The second shorter story I am working on just came about yesterday. My parish priest at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church here in Idaho Falls, Fr. Joe McDonald, had mentioned in a homily several years back that his dad had been in World War Two. As a result, about six weeks ago I gave Father Joe a copy of my book as a gift. A few weeks later he caught me on the way out of Mass and said he had some stuff to show me about his father's experiences. We finally got together yesterday afternoon for a long talk about his dad's experiences.

It turns out Fr. Joe's dad, also named Joe McDonald, went to Wake Island to work as a construction worker. Because his father worked at the Reno, Nevada State Journal, the paper hired young Joe on as a correspondant, charged with filing stories of interest from Wake Island.

Joe's early days on Wake were enjoyable. He drew a map of the island, noting where the sharks, octopii and other sea creatures were located offshore. He worked hard and filed the occasional story.
Joe's map of Wake Island

After Pearl Harbor, Wake Island was under attack from the Japanese Navy. All of a sudden, Joe was on the front lines of a brutal invasion attempt. He volunteered to help man an anti-aircraft gun and hunkered down.

On December 20, Joe filed this report from Wake: "Wake Island has suffered 11 bombings and one shelling since the beginning of the war...The Marine Corps and contractors personnel stationed on the island have successfully repelled all attacks bringing down around nine planes, four surface craft, one submarine and one patrol bomber...All is under control and the island is holding out fine. Total casualties to date: (approximately 65 dead, 60 injured)."

Joe ended the dispatch with: "This is a rush job, Frank--make what you can of it."

The last dispatch from Wake Island, written by Joe McDonald.

He handed the dispatch to the crew of a PBY Catalina patrol bomber, which had landed that day. At 0700 the next morning, December 21, the PBY took off.

Less than two hours later, the Japanese assault on Wake began. On December 24, Christmas Eve, Wake Island fell to the Japanese.

Joe was now a Prisoner of War.

The POWs were loaded onto a ship called the Nita Maru in January for shipment to hostile territory. Upon boarding the ship, Joe was given a typed paper telling him the regulations for prisoners on board ship. Almost every failure to obey orders would result in death, including talking without permission, walking or moving without orders, carrying unecessary baggage, taking extra food, or using more than two blankets.

Joe ended up in Section No. 8, Barrack No. 4 at Shanghai War-Prisoner's Camp in Shanghai, China. He would be imprisoned until the end of the war in August, 1945.

Joe's POW address book from the camp.

The POW Bulletin was sent to family members of POWs to keep them posted on news from the camps.

On December 24, 1941, Rear Admiral B. Moreell wrote to Joe's parents with bad news. "It is with sincere regret that it is my sad duty to inform you of the death of your son, Mr. Joseph McDonald, as the result of enemy action on Wake."
The letter informing Joe's family of his death on Wake Island.

A body was returned to the grieving family, a funeral was held, and the remains of Joe McDonald were interred in a cemetery in Reno. However, several months later, the military realized that the Joe McDonald killed on Wake was a different Joe McDonald. A second, apologetic letter was sent. The remains were exhumed and moved to Cody, Wyoming for re-burial with the correct family.

How devastating this ordeal must have been for both families.

In the camp, the men worked together to survive. Joe always scraped out the burned rice in the bottom of the cooking pots and together with his friends, they ate it. He credited this with helping him stay alive, and today, Fr. Joe remembers how the family ate rice nearly every meal growing up. His dad insisted the rice be burned brown a little on the bottom.

The POWs were occasionally helped by a kindly Japanese guard. After the war, some of the surviving POWs sat for a portrait with this man, and many years later, this Japanese guard sent Joe a Christmas card.
Joe McDonald, front row, second from left, shortly after the war ended, with other POWs and the friendly Japanese guard.

After the war, Joe returned, married, raised a family, and lived his life. He passed away in the eighties. His wife and son, Fr. Joe, put together a scrapbook, from which these artifacts were copied. Joe's complete POW papers are in a university library in Nevada.

Interestingly, Joe had the headstone from his grave put in his back yard, where he enjoyed it as a conversation piece for many years. He also said he enjoyed reading his obituary and hearing all the nice things people had to say about him at his funeral in 1942.

A postcard sent by Joe to the States.

A sad postcard, the back written in Japanese, tells of a young soldier's missing his family. We are uncertain when or how Joe got this card.

We are also unsure what these cards are. However, they seem to be American propaganda leaflets dropped or given to the Japanese civilians to encourage them to surrender. Perhaps they were left over, as these were mailed back to the States by Joe after his release and after the war was over.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Abandoned World War II C-47 Gets New Lease on Life

Nov. 20: French air mechanics dismantle a Douglas C-47 at Rajlovac airbase near Sarajevo, Bosnia.

AP-----A U.S. Air Force plane instrumental in saving Normandy from the Nazis during World War II has re-emerged in Bosnia and soon will be put on display as a war hero, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.

The Douglas C-47 was found at an air base near Sarajevo, Bosnia, after a search that began last January. It will be shipped to a museum in Merville, Normandy, as a symbol of D-Day, the Chronicle reported.

"We want to restore this plane to its original glory," Beatrice Guillaume, the administrator of a museum, told the Chronicle, "to explain the story of her crew members and how difficult it was for them to risk their lives to save a country they didn't know."

Nicknamed the “SNAFU Special,” the C-47 flew unarmed to a supposedly impenetrable German artillery battery to silence gunners for the D-Day invasion. It last was flown 13 years ago during Bosnia’s war for independence.

New Blog Devoted to the Memory of my Great-Grandmother

My great-grandmother, Aloisia, with my mom, Beverly, around 1932 in Kendrick, Idaho. Aloisia was born in Austria and moved to Idaho in the 1870's.

I recently wrote a biography of my great-grandmother, Aloisia Schupfer, who was born in a high mountain village in the Austrian Alps and ended her life as a Idaho pioneer woman. Aloisia endured many hardships and trials in her life, and she is a person who deserves to be remembered. That is the goal of the new blogsite. With the help of my mom, Beverly Schupfer Morris, I have put together memories of this amazing, strong, religious lady. Please pay the site a visit. I think you will enjoy it.

Until I figure out how to reverse the order, all posts will be in reverse chronological order.

This posting is accompanied by a photo of my great-grandmother Aloisia and my mom Beverly taken in Kendrick, Idaho around 1932.