Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas on Guadalcanal

A rowdy group of American servicemen — note Santa Claus in center — are celebrating Christmas on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, December 25, 1942. Note the sign posted on tree that reads “MERRY CHRISTMAS GUADALCANAL & TO HELL WITH TOJO.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

Battle-Stained Guadalcanal Soldier

An American infantryman posing with his weapon is seen after a bloody battle for a 1,500-ft. peak euphemistically called the “Grassy Knoll” on Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands — 1943.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Evacuating the Wounded from Guam

A wounded U.S. Marine is evacuated from the front lines during the Battle of Guam — July 21-August 8, 1944.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa Claus — Army Style, 1941

The panzer “Santa,” with well-filled sack of radios, books, cookies, and other gifts dear to soldiers’ hearts, glides up to the door of the barracks in Camp Lee's Quartermaster Corps, and it isn't hampered by lack of snow in Virginia. Camp Lee, Virginia, Quartermaster Replacement Center — December 1941.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Wartime

On the front lines in war-torn Europe, Pfc. Edmund Dill opens the Christmas package he received from his wife for Christmas 1944. His buddies share the treat. Left, Pfc. Carl Anker; Right, Sergt. Ted Bailey.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sharing Christmas Turkey

Seen here on December 25, 1944, Sgt. Edward F. Good feeds his buddy — Pfc. Lloyd Deming — a leg of Christmas turkey as they “celebrate” the holidays far from home. Both were casualties at the 2nd Field Hosp, (San Jose, Mindoro, Philippine Islands).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas in the Hospital — 1942

According to a U.S. Army publication, “one of the most successful Christmas decorations set up was the ward of this base hospital in Iceland. Together with the help of nurses, patients who were not tied down to their beds designed and put up the trimmings. Note the home made Christmas tree. Iceland, December 25, 1942.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Card for Adolf

Private First Class Lyle School and Private First Class Lawrence W. Miller made this “bullet” Christmas card for "Dear Adolph" — Tidworth, England, U.S. Army, 175th Infantry, December 5, 1942. Never mind that they spelled the German dictator’s name wrong.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Carols — Stateside

All Pennsylvania soldiers in Co. B of the 10th Regiment in Camp Lee's Quartermaster Replacement Center gather to sing carols around the tree to show how men of the Keystone State demonstrate Christmas spirit. Camp Lee, Virginia. December 1941.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas — Army Style, 1941

“Santa Claus” may find a barracks chimney too narrow and try the windows, so that's a good place for socks and a helmet, say Pvts. Kotula and Queen as they put more Army issue socks where Santa may turn into the barracks. Camp Lee, Virginia, Quartermaster Center. December 1941.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Time in Italy — 1943

Sitting around a miniature Christmas tree and opening a Christmas package are (front row, left to right) S/Sgt. John F. Suchanek; and Pfc. Joseph G. Pierro; and (back row) Sgt. Charles M. Myrich; and Sgt. Leon L. Oben. All are members of F. A. Bn., 3rd Div. Pietramelara, Italy. December 16, 1943.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Battle of the Bulge Anniversary

Today marks the 64th anniversary of the beginning of what has come to be known as “The Battle of the Bulge.” Early on the misty winter morning of 16 December 1944, over 200,000 German troops and nearly 1,000 tanks launched Adolf Hitler's last bid to reverse the ebb in his fortunes that had begun when Allied troops landed in France on D-Day. Seeking to drive to the English Channel coast and split the Allied armies as they had done in May 1940, the Germans struck in the Ardennes Forest, a seventy-five-mile stretch of the front characterized by dense woods and few roads, held by four inexperienced and battle-worn American divisions stationed there for rest and seasoning.

After a day of hard fighting, the Germans broke through the American front, surrounding most of an infantry division, seizing key crossroads, and advancing their spearheads toward the Meuse River, creating the projection that gave the battle its name.

Stories spread of the massacre of soldiers and civilians at Malmedy and Stavelot, of paratroopers dropping behind the lines, and of English-speaking German soldiers, disguised as Americans, capturing critical bridges, cutting communications lines, and spreading rumors. For those who had lived through 1940, the picture was all too familiar. Belgian townspeople put away their Allied flags and brought out their swastikas. Police in Paris enforced an all-night curfew. British veterans waited nervously to see how the Americans would react to a full-scale German offensive, and British generals quietly acted to safeguard the Meuse crossings. Even American civilians who had thought final victory was near were sobered by the Nazi onslaught.

But this was not 1940. The supreme Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower rushed reinforcements to hold the shoulders of the German penetration. Within days, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. had turned his Third U.S. Army to the north and was counterattacking against the German flank. But the story of the battle of the Bulge is above all the story of American soldiers. Often isolated and unaware of the overall picture, they did their part to slow the Nazi advance, whether by delaying armored spearheads with obstinate defenses of vital crossroads, moving or burning critical gasoline stocks to keep them from the fuel-hungry German tanks, or coming up with questions on arcane Americana to stump possible Nazi infiltrators.

At the critical road junctions of St. Vith and Bastogne, American tankers and paratroopers fought off repeated attacks, and when the acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne was summoned by his German adversary to surrender, he simply responded, "Nuts!"

Within days, Patton's Third Army had relieved Bastogne, and to the north, the 2d U.S. Armored Division stopped enemy tanks short of the Meuse on Christmas Day. Through January, American troops, often wading through deep snow drifts, attacked the sides of the shrinking bulge until they had restored the front and set the stage for the final drive to victory.

Never again would Hitler be able to launch an offensive in the West on such a scale. An admiring British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill stated, "This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory." Indeed, in terms of participation and losses, the battle of the Bulge is arguably the greatest battle in American military history.

Courtesy The United States Army Center of Military History

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Dark Day at Pearl

Dense black smoke from the wreckage of U.S. warships damaged or sunk that morning is seen filling the sky in an ominous way following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

“Friendly Fire” in Hawaii

One of the aspects of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that is rarely publicized or discussed are the incidents of “friendly fire” (casualties caused by American forces) to the civilian population on the island of Oahu. Because no attack was obviously expected, much of the ammunition and artillery was not prepared for battle. While returning fire against the attacking Japanese planes, the anti-aircraft shells were not set for the proper detonation, and as a result didn’t explode until the shells came down in the midst of the residential and business districts outside of the naval and air bases.

In today’s photo, the bodies of dead men, killed by the anti-aircraft fire we described above, are slumped inside a shrapnel-riddled car in Honolulu.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Not Only Ships Were Destroyed

The wreckage of a U.S. Coast Guard Boeing B-17 bomber is seen after it was destroyed by flares set off by Japanese bullets. The flares burned the plane in half as pilot Ray Swenson made a crash landing at Hickam Field at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It was the only Coast Guard plane destroyed during Japan's surprise attack.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Capsized U.S.S. Oklahoma

The U.S.S. Oklahoma was moored in Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. Outboard alongside U.S.S. Maryland, she took three torpedo hits almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs fell. As she began to capsize, two more torpedoes struck home, and her men were strafed as they abandoned ship. Within 12 minutes after the attack began, she had rolled over until halted by her masts touching bottom, her starboard side above water, and a part of her keel clear.

Many of her crew, however, remained in the fight, clambering aboard the Maryland to help serve her anti-aircraft batteries. 429 officers and enlisted men were killed or missing. One of those killed — Father Aloysius Schmitt — was the first American chaplain of any faith to die in World War II. Thirty-two others were wounded, and many were trapped within the capsized hull, to be saved by heroic rescue efforts.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Destroyed U.S.S. Arizona

The exposed wreckage of the American battleship U.S.S. Arizona, most of which is now resting at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, is seen following the surprise Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. The Arizona (BB-39) was a Pennsylvania-class battleship of the United States Navy. She was commissioned in 1916 and saw action in World War I. The U.S.S. Arizona is best known for her cataclysmic and dramatic sinking, with the loss of 1,177 lives. The wreck was not salvaged, and continues to lie at the floor of the harbor. It is the site of a memorial to those who perished on that day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pearl Harbor — December 7, 1941

On this 67th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, we will commemorate the occasion by featuring a series of images from that fateful event for the next several days. The unprovoked attack thrust the United States into the Second World War against the Japanese Empire — and two days later, Germany declared war against America as well. After over two years of aiding the Allies through material shipments, we were now involved in the battle for freedom across the world. The Isolationists were no more... we were all in it together to fight and win.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Detroit Makes Some Serious Models

At the Detroit, Michigan Chrysler plant in February 1942, workers are assembling Sherman tanks — doing their part in aiding the war effort on the “home front” for the inevitable invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe that would eventually come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dutch Citizens Under Observation

Following the capitulation of Holland during the Nazi blitzkrieg (“Lightning War”) across the Low Countries of Europe, German troops stationed along a street near a windmill keep a watchful eye as local citizens chat nearby. These citizens would be under Nazi rule until their liberation in 1944.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bougainville: 1943

United States Marines are seen during a respite in the action of the Bougainville campaign to take the Solomon Islands, 1943.

Monday, December 1, 2008

British Children Evacuated

As war was declared in 1939, the British government knew that cities would be bombed, and thought that gas would be used. A million coffins were prepared. It was feared that many child casualties would affect morale, so pressure was put on parents to send the children away to the safety of the countryside.

Families gathered at railway stations. A label was tied to the children, giving their destination. The evacuations began on September 1, 1939. Some parents refused to allow their children to leave, but amazing numbers sent them away. Over one million evacuees left London by train.

School children travelled with their teachers, and children under five went with their mothers. Pregnant women were also evacuated. For many children the journey was exciting — they had never seen the country before. It was the first time they had seen farm animals. For many others, it was the first time they had been away from home and they were very distressed. Many evacuees felt homesick. Strangers chose them and took them to live in their homes. They went to the local school and had to make new friends. Some never settled down in their new homes. Others were happier with their new families than they had been at home. Very young children sometimes forgot their real parents.

Country people found the city children hard to cope with. They were horrified by their ignorance — for instance, many were amazed to find out that milk came from a cow. Many evacuees were poor — they had never worn underclothes, eaten food from a table or slept in a bed.

There was no bombing between September and Christmas so many parents took their children home again. Some children were evacuated again the next year and some stayed in the country for the whole of the war.