Past History News for 2003

Other Past News History Pages in the Site

A Brief History of Copyright

This site, First Monday, has a new article (October 2003) concerning the history of Copyright. It is an interesting read. This should concern all historians since lots of material could be locked away for almost 100 years due to the recent US Rulings on copyright.

PT Boat Suffers Fire Damage

The PT Boat that is being restored here in Portland, Oregon, had an electrical fire the first week of October 2003 that caused $100,000 damage to the ship. This will likely set back the full restoration of it by at least 5 years.

ACLU Opposes Christian (and other religious?) Crosses on Federal Property

Recently (August, 2003) this organization has started to support some lawsuits concerning crosses being displayed on US Federal Property. The main gist is that by putting crosses on Federal Property the Federal Government is endorsing Christian values and that would violate, in their opinion, the separation of Church and State clause in the US Constitution. (Which was put there to avoid having a national religion imposed upon the nation. They used the Anglican church as the example. The King of England is also the head of the Anglican Church so therefore the framers wrote that article into the rules to stop that from happening here.)

Chateau-Theirry World War I Graveyard in France.One of my retired WW II 8th Air Force veteran friend then sent this out in an e-mail asking what about all the graveyards with crosses on them. Should they all be pulled up since they have thousands of Christian and Jewish crosses on them?

Isn't this endorsing Christian / Jewish religion by having crosses over their graves?

The picture that is of the World War I graveyard at Chateau Theirry in France. I visited there in 1982. Not my picture, this came with the e-mail.

"The ACLU is not pursuing, nor has it ever pursued, the removal of religious symbols from personal gravestones. Personal gravestones are the choice of the family members, not the choice of the government. The ACLU celebrates this freedom to choose the religious symbol of your choice."

The above was actually a chain-letter that was distributed over the Internet. See: http://www.breakthechain.org/exclusives/aclucross.html

<Tom's opinion.> Note the wording that ACLU used in their disclaimer about this chain letter. Removing religious symbols from public sites it does, it just will not do that with gravestones in public graveyards. Of course the memorial chapels are on public graveyards are FILLED with religious symbols, so they are, in effect, fair game to have them removed. One day the ACLU will likely go after them.

Saving a Portland Oregon built WWII attack-troop transport

A group of naval ship veterans and volunteers are trying to save the USS Gage from being sunk in a naval target exercise in 2004 called Sinkex 2004. The ship was built in Portland Oregon and was used in the assault on Okinawa on April 1, 1944. The Gage is anchored in the James River in Virginia as part of the Naval Reserve (The "Ghost Fleet". Saved for future use after World War 2 in case of emergency but will never be used now since none are capable of carrying any modern combat arms or finding even people capable of sailing them.) The Naval Maritime Administration actually owns the ship.

The Cage is a modified "Victory" ship used to carry 300 or so troops and 17 assault craft.

A petition is circulating to save the APA-168 (naval designation and hull number of this type of assault ship.) To raise the money needed and to get ownership of the USS Cage you can go to APA Historical Preservation Project.

Bridge Named after Colonel Rex T. Barber

The new bridge over the Crooked River on US Route 97 was named in his honor the summer of 2003. Signs were erected at each end of the bridge showing its announced name. The official declaration of the bridge's name was done on the 60th anniversary of the April 18, 1943 mission in which Rex Barber shot down Adm. Yamamoto.

The original bridge being replaced was flown over and UNDER by Rex in a P-80 after WWII. The official dedication was Aug 9, 2003.

Rex grew up in Culver Oregon and died in July 2001 in Bend, Oregon.

A Spy Stole a Hurricane

In an article written by Robin Aitken he reported that a German spy was able to steal a Hurricane and deliver it to the Luftwaffe during 1941. This photograph, by Aeroplane magazine (www.aeroplanemonthly.com); was unearthed by amateur historians in the German National Aviation Museum in Berlin and is dated from 1941. Hawker Hurricane stolen by Augustin PreucilIt shows the aircraft is inside a German hanger along with other planes. It still shows the markings of the training unit! It came from 55 OCU - Operation Conversion Unit. OCU trained just graduated student pilots to specific aircraft types.

An official loss report stated it was lost when the pilot, Augustin Preucil, crashed, in the North Sea off Sunderland during a practice dogfight with a fellow pilot.

The pilot was in fact a Czech Gestapo agent. After bringing back the a/c back he spent the rest of the war infiltrating Czech political prisoner groups in concentration camps. After the war he was turned over to the new Czech government and executed in 1947.

Another Battle Of Britain Pilot Unearthed

Pilot Officer Gordon died in September 1940 when he was shot down over Sussex Downs. A group of people digging up his Spitfire in the summer of 2003 found more bones in the aircraft and thus now a second set of remains came into being.

Spitfire Pilot Officer Gordon KIA September 1940 over the Sussex DownsOriginally, his body was recovered at the time and buried. In England an a/c (or any type of military vessel) cannot be excavated if it known or thought to have crewmen still in it. Since he was buried during the war they had not expected to discover any remains.

PO Gordon was 20 when killed in action. His remains were shipped back to his home in Mortlach, Scotland.


Holocaust Suit Vs. SNCF (French Rail Line) Reinstated

On June 19th a suit accusing the French national railroad of making a profit by delivering more than 70,000 Jews and others French citizens to Nazi concentration camps during World War II has been revived by a federal appeals court.

Originally dismissed in 2001 after a federal judge said the railroad was immune from American litigation under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976.

The lawsuit alleges that Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer (where SNCF gets its initials) delivered 72,000 "passengers" during World War II to Germany. It then billed the German and French governments based on a per person per kilometer rate.

July 2003 News

A UXB - UneXploded Bomb - went off on the Saltzburg Railway station grounds as it was being lifted out. It had a chemical fuse (instead of the normal impact) and thus was more unstable and killed two of the people removing it.

A Firefly aircraft crashed at Duxford during an airshow. Both crew members were killed.

A Ring, found in a B-24 crash site in April 8, 1945 near the village of Plaus (near the Italian Swiss) was traced back and returned to the daughter of the crew member. It had been in a "memory case" in honor of the crewmen who were killed when it was shot down by flak.

Locals tracked down the owner by figuring out the initials on the back of the ring and interviews with the surviving crewmen (who had survived and been POWs).

It originally belonged to Sgt. Harold D. Holmquist of Placerville, California. He is buried in an American Cemetery in Europe.

Elsewhere, north of Berlin, a historian tracking down a downed German fighter instead found a downed Lancaster. The wreck was so bad, however, the ID of the aircraft could not be ascertained. They knew that it was shot down after July 1943 since that was when chaff was routinely used by the British and chaff was found on board. Thousands of British Lancasters had been shot down so figuring out which one this was would be almost impossible. As luck would have it, a relative of the crew just wrote to Germany asking for help in trying to find the grave of her relative. She had a letter from the British war department stating that it was shot down 9 January 1944 and the name of the town where it went down (Note: I would like to know how the British knew exactly where one of their Lancasters was shot down at night over Germany when none of the crew survived.) This letter naming the town, coupled with the close location to that town of the Lanc, allowed them to do dental records and confirm the find.

LOS ANGELES - Freddie Meeks

Who was a black sailor court-martialed by an all-white jury when he lead the protest against unsafe working condition loading ammunition ships during World War II in Oakland. He was later pardoned by President Clinton. This was after two ammunition ships exploded. He was 83 and died on June 21, 2003.

On July 17, 1944, 320 servicemen (mainly black) were killed and nearly 400 others were injured when two ships loaded with 10,000 tons of ammunition exploded at the Port Chicago naval base across the bay from San Francisco. It was the worst stateside disaster of World War II.

He dedicated a National Memorial there in 1994.

Memories of World War I

The National Archives of Canada is now offering "War Diaries of the First World War" at http://www.archives.ca/02/020152_e.html. These records of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units have been digitized. Most every unit (in many nations) since the 1850s have unit diaries and keep a daily account of their "Actions in the field."

Pennsylvania Archives Add Civil War Card File

The Digital Archives of the state of Pennsylvania have added a new item to their collection - - the Civil War Veterans' Card File, 1861-1866.

Latvian Seamen during WW II

After the Soviet Union occupied Latvia, after the fall of Poland but before the German invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941, eight ships refused to return to Latvia and live under Communist Russia. The Ciltvaira, Everasma, Abgara, Everalda, Regent, Everelza, and Ke'gums.

They sailed in Allied convoys during the war. Only the last two in the list survived the war.

Hitler's Iron Crosses

Richard Dimbleby. a BBC reporter during the Second World War, was the first into Hitler's bunker and he took two Iron Crosses as war trophies. He also grabbed personal stationary with Hitler's letterhead and wrote:

"Don't lose the paper. It is quite precious. You will see that the old man had his name printed in gold on the top, but it did not get him very far!"

Auctioned off in May of 2003.

Posthumous Awards

Wednesday April 16, 2003

Nearly a dozen medals were awarded to Lt. Hector J. Polla: the Silver Medal, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart among other medals for his service and sacrifice more than a half-century ago.

Fresh out of West Point, Polla was shipped to the Philippines. Polla earned the medals first fighting off the Japanese at Battaan and then as a prisoner of war. But because of his prisoner-of-war status, Polla was never awarded the medals until now.

" He was part of the Battaan Death March, where many Americans were tortured and killed on the way to the camps," Rep. Ike Skelton said.

" It means to me, what a man of courage he was and how he could hold up under all that," said John Giorza, Polla's nephew.

While being held prisoner, Polla kept a calendar and a diary. Antonia reported that Polla's mother could never bear to open them. His family recently discovered his notes in the attic.

" Page after page, it records the days they died and where they died," Giorza said.

Polla survived nearly three years in a POW camp. He was being transferred by the Japanese on a ship that was never identified with a POW flag when Allied forces bombed it. Polla was killed.

Antonia reported that the family is donating Polla's diary to West Point Academy. The information in it about the deaths of other soldiers may help other families know more about what happened to their loved ones.

WW II Trials Continue

On April 8, 2003 Poland's Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the eight-year sentence for an 80-year-old Polish man convicted of helping kill Jews in a World War II death camp.

Henryk Mania was sentenced to eight years in prison in July 2001 for taking part in acts of genocide at the Nazi death camp of Chelmno between Dec. 8, 1941, and April 7, 1943.

Mania has denied the charges. His lawyer, Jaroslaw Ladrowski, appealed the verdict but it was thrown out by the Polish Supreme Court. Mania used the "Nuremberg Defense" idea of just following orders with the added emphasis that he was a prisoner himself at the camp by the Nazis and was threatened to be killed if he disobeyed or tried to escape.

" There is no doubt that Mania was a prisoner, but his role was confirmed unequivocally," Judge Rafal Malarski said in upholding the verdict.

Last year an appeals court in the western city of Poznan also upheld the 2001 ruling, citing evidence that Mania had shown eagerness to beat victims and rob them of their belongings.

Mania was arrested in November 2000 in the first such case brought to court by the government's Institute of National Remembrance. Earlier that year the institute began investigating archives and documents relating to communist- and Nazi-era crimes. Mania had been freed pending the outcome of the appeal.

The central Polish town of Chelmno was the site of the first Nazi extermination camp. Jews were killed by deadly gasses as early as 1941.

About 3 million of Poland's prewar Jewish community of 3.5 million people died in the Nazi Holocaust, which claimed a total of 6 million Jewish lives across Europe. Around 500,000 other ethnic groups were also killed in the German camps.

Polish sources say as many as 300,000 people, mostly Jews from the ghetto in the city of Lodz, were killed at Chelmno.

New WW II Poetry Book

Poets of World War II, edited by Harvey Shapiro, a poet and former editor of The New York Times Book Review, who flew 35 missions as an Air Force crew member during World War II was published in March 2003.

War Loot / Trophy / Spoils Still Causes Problems 50+ year after WW II

In Moscow on March 29 a collection of World War II trophy art caused a storm of controversy and brought a judicial reprimand to Russia's culture minister - ordering him not to return the art to the original owners in Germany.

The art was collected by a Russian Officer who found some, bought other parts of the collection from other soldiers who had plundered it while in Germany. The collection is estimated to be worth around $15 million dollars if auctioned off.

This is the same problem that arises when the treasures of Troy was plundered from the German Museum in Berlin that still is in Russia.

NEW DD Goes to Sea

On April 13 at Port Canaveral, Florida, the Navy commissioned an advanced guided missile destroyer the USS Mason. It cost $1 billion. It is interesting that it took two years to fit it fully out after it was launched in 2001. It is an Arleigh Burke class of destroyer.

Gold Star and Blue Star Flags

The tradition dates to World War I. In 1917, Army Capt. Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry designed and patented a simple flag to reflect the active service of his two sons in the war.

The flags were picked up by a group called the American War Mothers and were soon seen in the front windows of homes across the country. A blue star centered on a white background with a red border represented a family member in active duty.

As casualties mounted, a new tradition developed: those who had lost a son sewed on a gold star over the blue one to represent the ultimate patriotic sacrifice.

The phenomenon, so widespread that President Woodrow Wilson called the group the "Gold Star Mothers," remained an American military fixture through World War II.

News Coverage of the Iraq War (2003 edition)

This is an opinion that I sent off to the BBS Online News system:

Desk chair Generals is a good catchphrase - - it is usually a term put upon people who have no real experience or ability to support their views when they state an opinion.

Using the web is relying on multiple singular perspectives. Most people have no ability to put disparate pieces of information together - - along with a historical perspective (operational analysis) - - to form a coherent picture of what is going on which makes these people really less informed.

All of the TV /Web commentators and news that I have seen, even the British which have far more military historical operational experience to draw upon, as well as their US counterparts and their support staffs are in this same category of detailed rich but operational deserts of information. Reporting lots of details while simultaneously reporting badly the overall campaign in context of what people can understand using historical similarities.

When they have pointed out similarities they failed to point out some of the BIG differences between those historical operations and the current combat situation.

The web has hastened putting data bits online without structure.

Hailstorm Damages The Feathers of Collins Foundation B-17 and B-24

An un-forecast hailstorm April 5, 2003 shredded the ailerons and the elevators of the two aircraft - - most WW-II aircraft had fabric over their control services to lessen the pilot's work load.

They were parked outside at Addison Texas when the evening storm hit.

It will be a few weeks before they return on tour. The B-24 later than the 17 due to the complications involved in recovering its control surfaces.

Sgt Lucian Adams, Medal of Honor Winner

On March 31, 2003 Sgt Lucian Adams died in San Antonio Texas. During the Second World War he was part of the 3rd Infantry Division that participated in Operation Anvil landing in Southern France. The division fought up through France and were fighting in the Vosges Mountains (these mountains form the border of Alcase Lorraine to the east and the Rhine River is the western border of the province). A sister unit had been cut off by a German attack he was part of the unit ordered to reopen a supply line to them. His won the medal since at the initial attack three members of his squad had been killed the other 6 were wounded. So he charged the Germans with with BAR going from tree to tree and using it and hand grenades to eliminated three machine gun nests killing at least nine of the enemy and capturing two. Thus by himself he opened up the supply line through the woods and kept it open.

He also won the Bronze Star while fighting in Italy before Operation Anvil.

"In combat I had no fear. None, until the events were over, and I began to realize how serious and how dangerous the situations were."

History Book Wins Pulitzer Prize in 2003

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick Atkinson (Henry Holt and Company) won the Pulitzer Prize this year. The book starts just before "Operation Torch" when the allied (mainly US) troops invaded (neutral) countries in order to cut off Panzer Armee Afrika from their supply base. It is the first book of a planned trilogy.

Wang Pi-Cheng

Wang Pi-Cheng was a esteemed Chinese general who represented his nation at ceremonies ending World War II, he died on March 1, 2003. He was either 98 or 102 depending on whose records you looked at.

Wang was born in Jiangxi province. As the Chinese military attache to the Soviet Union he played a part during the Sino-Japanese War of the 1930s and early 1940s,

He was on the battleship USS Missouri when the Japanese surrendered aboard her in Tokyo harbor in August of 1945. Wang and others who attended "were the absolute top among the Allied generals," said Mike Weidenbach, curator of the Battleship Missouri Memorial.

Pearl Harbor Survivor goes into Dry dock

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Roger B. Taney, the last floating survivor of the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, was hauled into dry dock in Baltimore in March of 2003.

The 327-foot 2,700-ton cutter, normally docked as a museum in the Inner Harbor, will be cleaned, painted and repaired during the next six weeks. The $400,000 cost came from the Federal Government in order to keep the 67-year-old ship afloat and visitable.

Return of Veterans from France?

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite introduced legislation providing financial help for the reburial of veterans from the two world wars out of France back to the US for any relative who wants them back in the states.

The last time something like this occurred was in 1966 when the French pulled out of NATO.

Lyndon Johnson asked the same type of question to Charles DeGaulle.

Claus Helberg

On March 6 2003 Claus Helberg, a Norwegian resistance fighter and member of a commando team that destroyed Germany's atomic weapons heavy water plant in a daring World War II raid, died. He was 84.

Operation Gunnerside, planned by the British and carried out in 1943, destroyed the Nazi's heavy water plant near Rjukan, 90 miles east of the capital, Oslo.

Attacks by British Lancasters and other aircraft failed to hit it. There is a movie, and a TV documentary, about the actual raid.

Japan Throws out WW II Lawsuit

Another suit brought this time by Chinese in 1997 was thrown out in March by a Japanese court. They wanted compensation from the Japanese government and 10 companies for allegedly using them as slave laborers during World War II.

Tokyo District Court Judge Mariko Watahiki dismissed the claims. This is similar to other rulings by the US saying the government and companies were not responsible for individual damages.

Course this only applies to JAPANESE crimes and victims, if you are the Germany, or a German company or individual then they allow it. A obvious double standard exists in the US and elsewhere.

The Japanese government still claims that that the US started the war and they acted only in defense and their troops never harmed anyone in the lands they occupied during the war.

New London Monument Will Honor WWII Battle of Britain Pilots

New Battle of Britain Memorial on Victoria EmbankmentNew plans are set for this new monument to be erected on the Victoria Embankment above the Thames River. In mid-May of 1940 Air Marshall Dowding (full name: Hugh Caswell Tremenheere Dowding) stopped the flow of pilots and aircraft to France once it was apparent that France was going to fall and that planes and pilots (mainly pilots) need to be conserved as England was going to be standing alone.

Thus when Germany's Luftwaffe of 2,500 aircraft started to attack shipping and ports on July 16 1940 Britain had close to 600 first lines fighter planes of which the majority were Hurricanes and close to 200 Spitfires (and also Bleinheims, Gloster Gladiators, and Defiants). Most pilots had no combat experience. Only 25% of the pilots who fought during the battle survived World War II (As a comparison out of 20,000 pilots trained during the war in Germany only 10% survived).

The monument will list the names of all the pilots who fought in the battle. Organizers hope to complete the project by September 2004.

See my page on the list of American Battle Of Britain Pilots.

Bill Mauldin

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin, whose darkly humorous renderings of GIs Willie and Joe won him the admiration of World War II's combat veterans, died in January of 2003 in Newport Beach, California after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, family members said.

Robert St. John

Newsman and author Robert St. John, who covered Al Capone, World War II and turmoil in the Mid-East, died in February of 2003. He was 100.

Born in 1902, St. John lied about his age and joined the Navy at the age of 16 to fight in World War I. After the war, he began a career in newspapers. He started a Cicero, Ill. paper writing against Capone's mob — for which he was almost beaten to death.

In 1939 he went to Europe and was hired by The Associated Press as a roving correspondent.

He resigned from AP in 1941 and went to work for NBC radio. He broadcast from London during the Mini-Blitz of 1943/4 and then from New York. He spent 117 hours before the microphone in coverage of the D-Day invasion and its aftermath.

St. John wrote 22 books cataloging his experiences and was working on a 23rd book at the time of his death.

Bombs in the South Pacific

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Eight people were killed when a bomb left over from World War II exploded in Hila village, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Ambon, the capital of Maluku province, in eastern Indonesia.

Shipping lanes around the Malukus archipelago were heavily attacked by Allied bombers in the closing stages of the war. The locals dive and salvage unexploded bombs to use for illegal fishing and against each other.

JS III Tank cut up for Scrap

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia - Police detained a man for stealing a World War II era tank in order to sell it to scrap metal dealers.

A Josef Stalin-3 (field in December of 1944) weighs 46 metric tons (50.71 tons) and belonged to a military unit in Khabarovsk. The tank was stationed at unguarded World War II-era fortification.

The suspect, identified as a 42-year-old Armenian citizen, allegedly hired workers and a rented a crane to cut up the armored vehicle and haul it to scrap metal dealers. He was caught while transporting chunks of the tank, police said.

The tank was in a working condition but its weaponry had been removed, police said. Its worth was estimated as 100 million rubles (US$3 million).

Joe Foss

World War II ace Joe Foss died in January of 2003 at the age of 87. Leading a group of Marine F4F "Wildcats" of VMF-121 out of Guadalcanal in October of 1942 till the spring of 1943 his group was credited with 86 kills of which he got 26. He was the first US aviator to equal Eddie Rickenbacker's 26 Kills in the First World War. He also was an "ace in a day" by shooting down five Japanese planes in a single mission.

He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor upon his return to the states after his initial tour.

1943 file photo shows Joe Foss standing 4th from the left with other members of his Squadron on GuadalcanalThis 1943 file photo shows Joe Foss standing 4th from the left.

Capt. Foss led a Marine air unit known as "Joe's Flying Circus" out of Guadalcanal in 1942 and 1943.

Foss became a well-known war hero; a 1943 Life magazine cover proclaimed him "America's No. 1 Ace".

Richard Bong, flying P-38s, was the US "Ace of Aces" with 40 kills. Foss flew F4F Grumman "Wildcats" which is a aircraft generation behind the P-38 "Lightning" that Bong flew and therefore was not as easy to engage in combat against the Japanese. Bong was killed on August 6, 1945 on takeoff when he stalled while test-flying the Lockheed P-80 "Shooting Star."

Another high scoring ace in P-38s was Tommy McGuire who downed 38 enemy aircraft. He was Killed in combat in January of 1945.



Canadian WW I Pilot Dies in Toronto

Henry Botterell died at the age of 106 on January 3, 2003. He was the last official World War I pilot living in Canada. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1916, was injured in a training accident, on medical leave for six months, then went to the front lines and flew till the end of the war.

He had one confirmed kill of a balloon (these were very difficult to shoot down, well defended) and wounded in combat by a bullet through his ear that also went through his goggles.

During the Great War was the only time he ever flew airplanes.

B-24 Bomber Discovered in New Guinea

An Army team will travel to Papua New Guinea late January 2003 to search for the remains of nine servicemen aboard a B-24 "Liberator" bomber that crashed in a rain forest during World War II.

The bomber is believed to from the Army Air Corps' 360th Service Group that left Nabzab, New Guinea — about 15 miles from the crash site — on a training mission and disappeared in October 1944. A B-24 usually had a crew of 10 men consisting of a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, aerial engineer, radio operator and four gunners.

A hunter came across the crash site in the mountains of the Lae Morobe Province. Investigators from the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii visited the site in November and discovered human remains and personal effects, including identification tags, spokeswoman Ginger Couden said.

From records it is estimated that there are about 200 additional crash sites in Papua New Guinea from World War II yet to be found and examined.