Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ardennes Foxhole

Two U.S. Army soldiers are seen holding their position in a foxhole near the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium, December 1944.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An American Sherman M4 tank moves past another gun carriage which slid off an icy road in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium on December 20, 1944, during the push to halt advancing German troops in what was to become known as the Battle of the Bulge — the last major German offensive of WWII.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 1943

Thanksgiving in 1943 fell on Thursday, November 25th, two days after the island of Tarawa was “secured.” The Tarawa invasion, was also the second time in the war that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance. The 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared, and they fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the American Marines.

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

The Japanese forces were well aware of the Gilberts' strategic location and had invested considerable time and effort fortifying the island. The American invasion force was the largest yet assembled for a single operation, consisting of 18 aircraft carriers, 12 battleships, 8 heavy and 4 light cruisers, 66 destroyers, and 36 transports. The force carried the 2nd Marine Division and a part of the Army's 27th Infantry Division, for a total of about 35,000 soldiers and Marines.

Only one Japanese officer, 16 enlisted men and 129 Koreans were alive at the end of the battle. Total Japanese and Korean casualties were about 4,713 dead. For the U.S. Marine Corps, 990 were killed and a further 2,296 wounded. A total of 687 U. S. Navy personnel also lost their lives in the landing attempts, giving a total of 1,677 American dead. Although the United States forces were seven times larger than the defending garrison, the Japanese were able to inflict substantial damage upon the U.S. force.

These heavy casualties sparked off a storm of protest in the United States, where the high losses could not be understood for such a tiny and seemingly unimportant island in the middle of nowhere. Writing after the war, Marine General Holland M. Smith asked,"Was Tarawa worth it?" "My answer," he said, "is unqualified: No. From the very beginning the decision of the Joint Chiefs to seize Tarawa was a mistake and from their initial mistake grew the terrible drama of errors, errors of omission rather than commission, resulting in these needless casualties." Thought Smith, "[We] should have let Tarawa 'wither on the vine.' We could have kept it neutralized from our bases on Baker Island, to the east, and the Ellice and Phoenix Islands, a short distance to the southeast.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Springtime Walk in England

In May 1944, a month before the D-Day invasion of continental Europe, an American soldier and his English girlfriend strolling dreamily past Serpentine pond on a blissful spring evening in London’s Hyde Park, one of the favorite haunts of lonesome G.I.s.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

General George C. Marshall

As Chief of Staff of the Army, George C. Marshall ordered the largest military expansion in U. S. history, inheriting an outmoded, poorly-equipped army of 189,000 men and, partly drawing from his experience teaching and developing techniques of modern warfare as an instructor at the Army War College, coordinated the large-scale expansion and modernization of the U. S. Army. Though he had never actually led troops in combat, Marshall was a skilled organizer with a talent for inspiring other officers.

During World War II, Marshall was instrumental in preparing the U.S. Army and Army Air Forces for the invasion of the European continent. Marshall wrote the document that would become the central strategy for all Allied operations in Europe. It was assumed that Marshall would become the Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord (The “D-Day” Normandy Invasion), but Roosevelt selected Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander. The President told Marshall: "I didn't feel I could sleep at ease if you were out of Washington."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Japanese Souvenir on Guadalcanal

American soldiers hold a captured Japanese flag on Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands in 1943. The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal, was fought between August 7, 1942, and February 9, 1943, in the Pacific theater. Fought on the ground, at sea, and in the air, this was a strategically significant, and decisive, campaign which pitted Allied forces against Imperial Japanese forces. The fighting took place on and around the island of Guadalcanal, and was the first major offensive launched by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saipan Marine

A U.S. Marine on the island of Saipan in 1944. The Battle of Saipan was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island in the Marianas from 15 June 1944 to 9 July 1944. The invasion fleet embarking the expeditionary forces left Pearl Harbor on June 6th, 1944 — the very same day the allies launched Operation Overlord and the cross-channel invasion of Normandy. The Normandy landings were the larger amphibious landing, but the Mariana's invasion fielded the larger fleet. The American 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith defeated the 43rd Division of the Imperial Japanese Army commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bugs Bunny Bond Rally

Some of the greatest politically-incorrect cartoons were made by the major animation studios during World War II. Cartoons were used for many functions during The War, from training soldiers about health and hygiene, to weapons training, to war bond sales and more. Today, we see our old pal Bugs Bunny doing his part to scrounge up some loot for Uncle Sam.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ready for Enemy Aircraft

Shells are loaded into a Bofors anit-aircraft gun by Private First Class Paul Kaiser of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at a U.S. air base in England.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mission: Completed

On June 6, 1943, General Jacob Devers congratulates Robert K. Morgan, Captain of the B-17 “Memphis Belle,” on completing twenty-five combat missions over occupied Europe. The “Belle” was chosen as the focal point of a war bond tour in the United States and was immortalized in William Wyler’s Oscar-winning documentary for the Office of War Information.

Friday, November 14, 2008

P-47 Pilot Briefing

A briefing of P-47 pilots of the 56th Fighter Group at their base at Halesworth, England. Seated third from the left in the fourth row is fighter ace Bob Johnson. Johnson was the first USAAF fighter pilot in the European theater to surpass Eddie Rickenbacker's WWI score of 26 victories. He finished his combat tour with 27 kills, was later credited by the Eighth Air Force claims board with a 28th victory when a probable was reassessed as a destroyed, then reduced back to 27 when a post-war review discovered that Eighth Air Force had inadvertently switched credits for a kill he made with a double kill made by a fellow 56th Fighter Group pilot, Ralph A. Johnson, on November 26, 1943, a day when Robert Johnson aborted the mission after takeoff.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Blessed “Flying Fortress”

Roman Catholic padre Captain M.S. Ragan blesses a B-17 “Flying Fortress” crew before take-off. Before the war Captain Ragan, of Youngstown, Ohio, had been assistant pastor of St. Paul’s Church, Cleveland, Ohio.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three Pilots Off Duty

Captains Louis Sebille, Roland Scott, and Howard Posson were among the first pilots to fly B-26 Marauders with the 322nd Bomber Group. They were photographed near their base at Great Saling, England, in September 1943.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fish and Chips in the English Countryside

The British saw U.S. servicemen as a mixed blessing. It was widely accepted that their presence and military prowess were vital to the outcome of the war, but local male pride found the impact of their glamor, money, and demeanor on British women hard to stomach. There was respect and resentment in equal measure.

Here we see an airman in the United States Army Air Force savoring one of the joys of English life: fish and chips served in and eaten out of a newspaper in 1943.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Getting Well on the U.S.S. Yorktown

An image showing part of the U.S.S. Yorktown’s sick bay is the subject for today, photographed around November 1943.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” Documentary — Part I

The “Mein Kampf” documentary — a compilation of old news footage and photographs, selected by a Swedish film maker and presented with narration aimed to cite the monstrousness of Hitler and the Nazi regime — was the first comprehensive documentary of the Hitler era to be shown widely in post-war West Germany — and not until 1960.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

News Parade: Bombing of Pearl Harbor (1942)

After a day off, we are back with a 1942 news film on the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Naval Photo Reconnaissance

A U.S. Navy photographer’s “mate” assembles a montage of aerial reconnaissance photos for naval intelligence officers to study Japanese movements and fortifications.