Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Detroit's Hotel Pontchartrain

The July 28, 2008 Shorpy blog had a circa 1916 photo of Detroit's Cadillac Square and the Hotel Pontchartrain as viewed from City Hall. They also ran a similar picture from 1907. By the 1916 picture, a huge mansard roof had been added. Built in 1907, it was torn down in 1920 to make way for a bank. Wow, only 13 years. Too bad because it was an impressive structure.

There was also a Hotel Pontchartrain in New Orleans. There is currently the Riverside Hotel in Detroit which evidently is sometimes called the Hotel Pontchartrain as well.

The hotel was designed by famed architect George B. Mason.

The new hotel sits on the exact site of the first European settlement in Detroit, called Fort Pontchartrain which later became known as Fort Detroit.

The Hotel Pontchartrain in New Orleans is still there and known for its Mile High Pie. It did suffer some damage during Hurricane Katrina.

Guess I Can't Stay There Anymore. --Cooter

Monday, June 28, 2010

The LST Anchor

I was in Dixon, Illinois, from Tuesday to Saturday this past week and had the opportunity to see the petunias growing alongside the downtown roads (their Petunia Festival starts this week and they are called the Petunia City). In addition, the famous Lincoln Highway goes through the town which is why I was there because of the 2010 National Conference.

We visited President Ronald Reagan's Boyhood Home also.

Dixon has to have one of the most impressive Veterans Memorials anywhere in the US and they are constantly adding on to it. They already have a Cobra helicopter, a 155 mm Howitzer, used in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and a M-60 main battle tank used by US forces from the 50s to 80s. They just recently acquired a Korean War jet.

But, what I found the most interesting was a US Navy Lightweight Mark 2 anchor weighing in at 6,600 pounds (I'm not sure why they call that LIGHT).

They were used on small yard and patrol vessels as well as LST (Landing Ship Tanks or Large Slow Targets as some refer to them). Of interest, on LSTs, they were the stern anchor. As the ship approached the shore, the anchor was dropped. After unloading its tanks, vehicles and men, the LST would used its powerful wench to pull the ship off.

I talked with a friend at the Fox Lake American Legion who was in the Navy. he said that the Navy no longer uses LSTs.

Sure Got Me Interested in LSTs. --Cooter

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Repairs of the USS North Carolina-- Part 3

From the June 10th Wilmington Star News article by Amy Hotz.

The folks at the USS North Carolina took their cue from the repairs done on the battleship USS Alabama. It too needed hull repairs back in 2002 and a full cofferdam was built around it. It included a walkway around the top so tourists could see what was being done.

The North Carolina participated in most major Pacific Ocean offensives, including nine shore bombardments, sank a Japanese troopship and destroyed at least 24 Japanese aircraft and assisted in many more.

Then, it survived a trip to the scrapyard and ended up as a memorial in Wilmington, North Carolina. Back in 2001, the Battleship Commission announced that the 73-year old vessel would require a trip to Norfolk or Charleston.

However, after learning about the USS Alabama, the commission reversed itself and decided on the cofferdam.

To Be Continued. --Cooter

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Repairs of the Battleship USS North Carolina-- Part 2

From the June 10th WWAY TV.

The USS North Carolina has been sitting for decades in the Cape Fear River mud and is now in dire need of work on the hull. Plans until now had it being towed to Norfolk or Charleston for dry docking.

The ship's commander, Terry Bragg said, "If you take it away it would leave us with nothing but a big hole in the ground." They have come up with a way to keep the battleship in Wilmington and save $11 million. They now intend to build a cofferdam around the ship with work starting this fall and continuing for three years.

Bragg believes that if the North Carolina Shipyard could build all those Liberty Ships in Wilmington during World War II, they can restore the hull of one battleship.

Sounds Like a Win-Win Situation to Me. --Cooter

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Repairs to the Battleship USS North Carolina-- Part 1

Back on June 12th, I wrote about the USS North Carolina remaining at its berth during the extensive hull repairs it has to undergo in the upcoming years. I applaud the decision. Downtown Wilmington just wouldn't look right with its silhouette gone.

By far, my all-time favorite US warships are the battleships. And, of the battleships, my favorite is, of course, the USS North Carolina. By the time Naval architecture had reached the late 1930s, the battleship was the most beautiful ship afloat and reached the ultimate design with the last four (New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri). I am so happy that these last four will be preserved.

I remember recently seeing an aerial picture in Pearl Harbor of one of the last four tied up next to the raised hull of the USS Oklahoma and it truly dwarfed the older one.

I can remember donating pennies, nickels and dimes (and even a few quarters, a real lot of money back in the early 60s) to save the ship. School children all across North Carolina donate change.

My brother and I constantly argued about which was the more important, battleships or aircraft carriers, with me taking the former even though I clearly knew the age of battleships was over.

I came across a couple of articles about the repairs on the North Carolina and will give some more detail.

The Showboat's the Finest. --Cooter

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dead Page: Kiss Nurse Dies

From the June 23rd Los Angeles Times.

Sad to find out that the nurse who received that big old kiss from the celebrating sailor on the day It was reported that Japan had surrendered, August 14, 1945, has died.

Edith Shain was 92 and made the front page 65 years ago while a student nurse who went to Times Square to join the celebration there. Photographer Alfred Eisenstadt was there and saw a young sailor kissing every female he came across, both young and old.

Edith was wearing her white uniform and Eisenstadt thought it would make a nice contrast with the sailor's dark one. He waited and sure enough the sailor swept Edith into his arms and gave a her a big one on the lips.

She kept her identity secret until the 1970s. The name of the sailor has never been conclusively determined.

After the war, Shain taught kindergarten for 30 years and worked as a night shift nurse.

One of the Great Photos of All Time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Looking Back at the AHS Centaur-- Part 2

Continuing from yesterday's entry from the Northern Star.

The M/V Limerick, sunk by the I-177, was in a convoy of five ships going from Brisbane to Sydney and escorted by two Australian minesweepers, the HMAS Colac and HMAS Ballarat.

The Limerick became separated from the rest while having engine problems and was zig-zagging. "Around 1 am on the 126th, the I-177 announced her presence torpedoing the Limerick abaft her beam on the port side and the vessel quickly developed a heavy list to port.

The Colac began anti-submarine search and dropped depth charges while the Ballarat continued with the convoy. The Colac picked up survivors during the night. The Limerick sank at 6:30 am. The captain and 70 crew members were picked up, but the 3rd and 4th engineers went down with the ship.

The Wollongbar was bound for Byron Bay from Sydney at the time the Limerick was sunk and was diverted to search for survivors. Gale force conditions hampered the search and the ship returned to Ballina, only to be sunk three days later. Of 37 crew, only five survived in a lifeboat.

The I-177 was later sunk by the USS Samuel S. Miles.

That I-177 Was Really One Busy Submarine. --Cooter

Monday, June 21, 2010

Looking Back at the AHS Centaur

From the January 15th Northern Star.

Two months before the Centaur was sunk, the I-177 torpedoed and sank the MV Limerick 32 kilometers off Cape Breton. Three days later, on April 29, the passenger steamer SS Wollongbar was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Crescent Head. That submarine is not known, but believed to be the I-177 which was operating in the area.

The same day, the SS Bonalbo had sailed through the same area but encountered no problem. It was held in Ballina for safety.

These were extremely rough days for the Australian Merchant Marine which was delivering supplies between Sydney, Darwin and Papua New Guinea. Japanese subs sank five ships in April alone. A total of 87 died and 25 tons of cargo lost.

Rough Times for Australia. --Cooter

The Seneca Shipyard During World War II

Little Seneca, Illinois, was nowhere near the fighting front, but even then, participated in a big way sending troops and their shipyard was kept busy constructing LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks). After completion, these ships would go down the Illinois River to the Mississippi River and on out to the Gulf of Mexico.

From 1942 to 1945, the Seneca Shipyard built 157 LSTs. The first, the LST-197, was finished Dec. 13, 1942. Every single LST was delivered on schedule, something the shipyard was quite proud of. LST-1152 was the last one, delivered June 18, 1945.

Thirty-nine gallons of champagne was used for christening.

There are still people living in Marseilles and Seneca who worked at the ship yard.

The original shipyard is located on Shipyard Road by the Illinois River. Just turn at the LST Park.

The World War II Homefront. --DaCoot

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Canadian World War II production-- Part 3

Just looking at this short overview of the efforts of Canada's Homefront during World War II, I'd have to say there are several books waiting to be written if they already haven't been.


A total of 15,418 aircraft were built for Britain and the United States as well as planes for the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force).

The famous Avro Lancaster bombers were built at a plant in Malton, Ontario, now the site of the Lester B. Pearson International Airport.


Canada also built 1420 28-ton Valentine tanks were also built, each one requiring 40,000 parts at a cost of $90,000 each. Their top speed was 25 mph. All but 30, were sent to the USSR. A plant emplying 3,500 workers kept them coming.

List This Under Stuff I Didn't Know. --Cooter

No LST Festival for Me

I had been considering driving south to Seneca, Illinois, for their LST Festival, those letters standing for the old World War II stalwart, Landing Ship Tank. Those poor numbered and nameless ships made to transport tanks, vehicles and soldiers to beaches in amphibious operations; so important at D-Day and the Pacific operations.

Due to a major vehicle breakdown on the 2003 Chevy Malibu which required all new tires, a brake job, new windshield wipers and an oil change. It is still at the Chevy place and won't be ready until noon, too late to start a hundred mile trip.

I'll just have to go boating, to Round Lake Beachfest, work around the house and enjoy the gazebo, patio, deck and front porch. Oh, the sacrifices.

However, we plan to visit Seneca and find out what we can about the LST shipyard and visit it if possible (I know there is an LST Park in town). Then, we can drive along the Illinois River and IM Canal and out to Starved Rock. That would make a nice two-three day vacation.

As the song says, "You can't always get what you want."

No LSTs for Me. --DaCoot

World War II Ship Sunk in Lake Michigan

From the June 19th Chicago Tribune "Cheers rise as ship sinks" by Duan Eldeib.

They pumped 30,000 gallons of water into it and after 3 hours, the M/V Buccaneer sank to the bottom of Lake Michigan in 70 feet of water about ten miles off Burnham Harbor.

It's loss is a boom for Chicago area divers as there are only eleven known shipwrecks off the city and most of those not intact. It also provides an artificial reef for fish.

The ship is 98-feet long and served in World War II although as of yet I haven't found any information about what it did. Perhaps it was on anti-submarine duty. Until recently, it was a cruise ship offering tours, and drinking on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

It was sold at auction three years ago. The total cost for the purchase of the ship and turning it into a dive site came to $20,000 most coming from donations. Lots of approval and many permits were needed from agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Coast Guard and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

I found no information about its construction or launch.

Interesting Story and a Good One for the Divers. --Cooter

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Canadian World War II Production-- Part 2

The Bombardier Co, of Valcourt, Quebec, built over 150 military snowmobiles. GM developed a frame for another snowmobile and built 300 of them.

Canadian shipyards starting building patrol vessels in 1940 to protect the coasts. Britain placed an order for twenty-six 10,000 ton cargo ships and then orders for naval escorts and minesweepers.

Before the war, Canada had three shipyards employing less than 4,000 men. At peak production during the war, there were 90 plants on the coasts, Great Lakes and even inland employing 126,000 men and women (Canadians had their own Rosie the Riveters).

All told, Canada built 4,047 naval vessels, 300 anti-submarine warships, 4 tribal-class destroyers and 410 cargo ships.

At the peak production in 1943, the 10,000 tons Fort Romaine ship was made in just 59 days start-to-finish.

Impressive Stats Indeed. --DaCoot

Canadian World War II Production-- Part 1

I have often read about the tremendous production capacity achieved by American factories during World War II, but recently came across mention of what Canadian industry achieved.

From the website Canadians in WW II.

The government took full control of the economy and made war materials for Canada and the other Allies, especially Britain.


$11 billion in munitions
1.7 million small arms
43,000 heavy guns
16,000 aircraft
2 million tons of explosives
815,000 military vehicles
50,000 tanks
9,000 boats and ships
anti-tank, field artillery and naval guns
small arms and automatic weapons
radar sets and electronics
synthetic rubber
uranium for the "Manhattan Project"

No Wonder the Allies Won. --Cooter

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

USS Oklahoma Sailor Identified and Laid to Rest

From the April 14th USA Today.

Gerald Lehman had just turned 18 after enlisting in the US Navy after graduating from high school at 17 and having his father sign for him so he could join.

He sent letters home and the DNA from the envelopes seal that he licked was used to identify his bones which were exhumed from the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Oahu's Punch Bowl.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command positively identified his remains 68 years after he died aboard the capsized USS Oklahoma. Nuclear DNA was used.

Here are some excerpts from letters he wrote home and the Navy.

SEPTEMBER 9, 1941-- Gerald was aboard the Oklahoma and working in the starboard pump room "All I do is turn a lot of valves...I am studying to take an exam to be a fireman second class, which pays $54 per month."

OCTOBER 12, 1941-- They were out of dry dock and on trial runs going out to sea and "probably Honolulu."

-- At sea for 11 days and near Hawaii. Couldn't go into port because of a 15-day patrol.

DECEMBER 21, 1941 Western Union telegram.

"The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your Gerald George Lehman, fireman third class US Navy is missing in action in the performance of his duties and in the service of his country."

FEBRUARY 17, 1942 Western Union telegram.

"After exhaustive search it has been found impossible to locate your son, Gerald George Lehman."

His remains were laid to rest yesterday. Now, he is no longer listed as an unknown.

A Day That Still Lives in Infamy. --Cooter

More on the AHS Centaur

The Jan. 15th Sky News reported that a 200 hectare protection zone has been established around the wreck of the Centaur to stop souvenir hunters. It is too deep for a buoy, but would be marked on marine maps as a war grave and will be patrolled by Customs. It is expected that in another 10-20 years, all the paint work will be gone.

One really striking photograph was of the slouch hat on the ocean floor.

The Jan. 16th Courier Mail had an article accompanied with a 3D interactive graphic of the ship. With this, you could see where the pictures were taken.

The article mentioned that an explosion in the oil tank was the likely reason the ship went down so fast. The steep terrain on the ocean bottom made finding it hard. No munitions were discovered on the ship or in the debris field.

When the torpedo hit, it caused an explosion in the oil tank.

Some 1400 photos were taken and 24 hours of video.

The ship's bell was found upright and wedged between two ventilator pipes. The ship's name is clearly visible.

Thanks to the Centaur's navigator, the late Gordon Rippon, who provided the bearings, the ship was found within 2 kilometers of where he had judged it sank.

I Am Sure Glad They Found It. --Cooter

Monday, June 14, 2010

Some More on the AHS Centaur

Looking back at some older things I've written down. here are some more stories regarding the Centaur.

The I-177, was the Japanese submarine that sank the Centaur. It was a Japanese KD7-type Kaidai-class submarine, commissioned December 28, 1942. It was sunk itself on October 3, 1944, by the USS Samuel S. Miles (DE-183) with the loss of the whole crew of 101. The commander of the submarine when it sank the Centaur, Lt.-Cmdr. Hajime Nakagawa, was not aboard at the time, however.

The Miles was a destroyer escort of the Cannon-class and was commissioned November 4, 1943 and served in the Pacific Ocean doing convoy duty and protecting against Japanese submarines. During the war, the Miles won a remarkable 8 battle stars.

One of Those Little-Known Stories. --DaCoot

Thinking About Heading to Seneca, Illinois, Saturday

I came across the announcement that this city was was having the Seneca Shipyard Days Festival June 16th to 19th.

They will be celebrating their World War II heritage when many LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) ships were launched from 1942 to 1945. These ships provided a valuable service for the US war effort. I have really become interested in these vessels since I toured the one home ported in Evansville, Indiana back in March.

They will have bands, food booths, arts and crafts and a carnival midway.

I figure it is about a two to three hour drive away from here.

Until I read this, I didn't know any LSTs were built in Illinois. Once launched, these ships went down the Illinois River to the Mississippi.

Last month, I wrote about World War II submarines that were built in Manitowac, Wisconsin.

But, then again, we just got back from a 1, 249 mile, six day Midwest jaunt that went through three states and a considerable drive along Route 66. And next week, i will be at the Lincoln Highway National Conference in Dixon, Illinois five days.

Seriously Considering a Trip. --Cooter

Saturday, June 12, 2010

USS North Carolina to Remain in Wilmington

After sitting in the Cape Fear mud ever since the 1960s, the hull of the battleship USS North Carolina, my favorite all-time warship, is in really desperate need of repair.

The Battleship Commission had considered having the ship towed to either Norfolk, Virginia, or Charleston, SC, to be drydocked, which would have caused the ship to be gone for many months.

Now, they have decided to build a temporary cofferdam around the ship, pump the water out and do the repairs. Not only will the ship remain in place for the tourism, but this will result in s a savings of millions of dollars.

Great idea and at least Charlie the Alligator, the local resident of the basin, won't lose his home.

Glad to Hear It. --Cooter

Friday, June 11, 2010

World War Submarine Veterans Memorial

From the March 25th San Diego Tribune Union.

At Liberty Station in Point Lomo there is a memorial honoring World War II submariners and the submarines that never made it home. You can go on a walking tour past 52 granite slabs with etchings, one for each of the US submarines and their crews lost during the war.

This memorial comes after a ten year effort of the San Diego chapter of United States Submarine veterans. You will also find 52 Liberty American elm tress planted on the grounds.

The fairwater part of the conning tower of the USS Roncudar is also there.

The memorial is located at Sub Base Point Lomo, San Diego, California.

Something Else to See the Next Time I'm in San Diego. --Cooter

Thursday, June 10, 2010

66 Years Ago: D-Day-- Part 3

Continuing with 10 Things You Didn't Know about D-Day.

5. Among those landing at Normandy on D-Day was one J.D. Salinger (who later wrote "Catcher in the Rye"), Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (the son of former president Theodore Roosevelt, who died of a heart attack a month later) and Elliott Richardson (attorney general under President Nixon).

6. D-Day secrets were almost exposed in Chicago when a package arrived from Supreme Headquarters arrived at a Chicago mail-sorting office and was accidentally sorted. In it was a timetable and locations. Perhaps a dozen people saw it.

The FBI investigated and found that a US general's aide of German descent had sent the package to Ordnance Division G-4, but had accidentally put his sister's Chicago address on it. He was determined to have been overtired and worried about his sister, but just to be safe, they kept the postal workers under surveillance and the aide confined to quarters.

Some More Interesting Stuff. --Cooter

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

66 Years Ago, D-Day-- Part 2

Nothing at all to do with Route 66, however.

3. The people who planned D-Day were BIGOTS, the code word for anyone who knew the time and place of the invasion. It was the reversal of a designation "to Gib" that was used on papers of those traveling "to Gib"raltar for the invasion of North Africa in 1942. (How do they come up with this stuff?)

4. FORTITUDE-- the Allied code for the efforts to fool the Germans during the invasion. The Allies parachuted dummies outfitted with firecrackers that exploded on landing behind enemy lines to fool them.

WINDOW-- (Not a computer term) Code name for Allied planes dropping strips of aluminum foil cut to length that corresponded to German radar waves. This made the Germans think there were two more fleets of bombers.

So far, I have not known any of this stuff even though I am fairly well-versed in World War II. Thanks Mr. Jacob and Mr. Benzkofer.

Very Sneaky, Guys. Give Me Another Code. --Cooter

Monday, June 7, 2010

66 Years Ago, D-Day

Yesterday, 66 years ago, one of the greatest military endeavors ever attempted took place, the invasion of Normandy, France. It was the final thrust to put Hitler's Germany out of commission.

The June 6th Chicago Tribune had one of their very interesting "Ten things you might not know about" listings. This time, of course, it was about D-Day. This one was by usual suspect Mark Jacob who was helped by Stephan Banzkofer. Where these guys come up with their info is an amazement. Thanks guys.

1. War photographer Rober Capa landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day and took more than 100 pictures, but a darkroom technician messed up and only a dozen pictures were developed, but these few told the story better than anything else. He died in 1954 after stepping on a landmine in Indochina.

2. Before D-Day, British intelligence was extremely concerned about crossword puzzles. The London Daily Telegraph's puzzles had contained the words Overlord and Neptune (which were code names for the whole operation and landings), Utah and Omaha (the American invasion beaches) and Mulberry (the code name for the artificial harbors planned for after the invasion.

Agents interrogated the author, a Surrey head schoolmaster named Theordore Dawe. It turned out to be just a coincidence.

But, that was way too much of a coincidence so I don't blame them.

More to Come. --Cooter

Saturday, June 5, 2010

German World War II Ammunition Barge Found

The June 3rd BBC reports that Russia has found a German World War II barge loaded with over 10,000 shells in the Baltic Sea less than a mile off the port of Baltiysk, Russia, located in the small part of Russia located between Poland and Lithuania.

These shells contain explosives but lack detonators. It is expected to take 2 years to remove them. The ship has been fully surveyed and is not in a shipping lane so doesn't pose much of a threat. The shells will be taken ashore and exploded.

Intense fighting occurred in the area during World War II. Before the war it was part of Germany, but was captured by the advancing Red Army near the end of it.

Don't Go Swimming in That Water. --DaCoot

AHS Manunda

Yesterday, I wrote about the unfortunate sinking of the Australian Hospital Ship (AHS) Centaur and mentioned that a Japanese warship had trained a spotlight on the AHS Manunda eight months earlier at Milne Bay, Papua-New Guniea, but had not fired on it. I'd never heard of the Manunda so looked it up in good old Wikipedia.

The Manunda had been an Australian coastal cargo and passenger ship before World War II after being built in Scotland in 1929. It was converted into a hospital ship and commissioned the AHS Manunda July 22, 1940.

On February 19, 1942, it was damaged in the Japanese attack on Darwin with 13 crew and staff being killed, 19 seriouslr wounded and 40 slightly. After the attack, it served as a clearing station for casualties from the other ships in the harbor.

After repairs, the Manunda went to Milne Bay, Papua-New Guinea, and served as a floating hospital for actions in the area. Altogether during the war, the ship made 27 voyages from there to Brisbane and Sydney, carrying some 30,000 casualties.

After Japan's surrender, the Manunda went to Singapore to pick up POWs and civilian internees before being decommissioned in 1946. After that, it again carried passengers and cargo around Australia and then was sold to a Japanese company and renamed the Hakone Maru. In 1957, the ship was broken up

The Story of a Ship. --Cooter

Friday, June 4, 2010

AHS Centaur

From the Dec. 22, 2009 Australian.

In 2003, the Australian government declared the area east of where the wreck was presumed to be a war grave zone and at least one survivor has had their ashes spread there after death.

The Centaur had not always been a hospital ship and, upon its conversion, the Japanese government had been notified Feb. 5, 1943, of its change of status. The vessel was marked with green bands bow to stern on both sides and red crosses on either side of the funnel. In addition, three large red crosses were painted on either side of the hull.

The ship was also equipped with many lights and would be lit at night so as to be easily discerned. There were so many lights, one Centaur survivor described the ship as being "lit up like a Christmas tree."

Eight months before the Centaur was sunk, a Japanese ship in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, had trained a spotlight on the AHS Manunda, which was similarly marked but had not fired upon the ship.

It is not known why the Japanese submarine commander Hajime Nakagawa torpedoed the Centaur.

A Sad Story. --Cooter

When in Europe, Watch Out for the World War II Bombs

A lot of bombs fell on Europe during World War II. A lot of them did not explode and are still buried all over, many just waiting to go off.

The June 2nd Prokerata.com reported that three members of a German bomb disposal unit were killed and six wounded in Goettingen, Germany. the bomb had been found 7 meters deep in the ground. Over 7,000 people in a 1,000 meter radius had fortunately been evacuated, but some still wounded.

The June 1st Advertiser Normandy reports that 3,500 were evacuated for four hours in St. Lo after an unexploded World War II 245 kg bomb was found. This made the sixth bomb found in Normandy so far this year, the biggest being a half ton near the center of the town of Caen.

the region has a full-time team of bomb experts for disposal and estimate that it will be another 30 years before all are found and deactivated. Thousands of tons of bombs were dropped on German-occupied Normandy before and after D-Day and also in the following weeks.

Once defused and determined safe, the bombs are taken to two camps, put in a large hole and exploded.

Let's Be Careful Out There. --Cooter

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'll Have an Old Shipwreck and an A-Bomb-- Bikini Atoll

The name always brings a smile to my face. Was the swimsuit named after the atoll or the atoll after the suit?

Evidently, the place in the Pacific Ocean is safe to dive as it is a very popular site, but back in 2008, it was closed because of mechanical problems and rising fuel prices. For thirteen years divers had been coming for the fish viewing and especially the sunken warships in the lagoon.

The Bikini Atoll is a Micronesian Island and part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands which consists of 23 islands.

The name Bikini comes from natives from the words "Pik" which means surface and "Ni" which means coconut. The name became famous after 23 nuclear devices were exploded there between 1946 and 1958 in testing, and, then the new swimsuit was named after it. (So, that answers my question.) In March 1, 1854, the first hydrogen bomb was exploded at Bikini.

Prior to the testing, the lagoon of the island was designated a ship graveyard as many surplus warships were sunk there including large ones like the USS Saratoga aircraft carrier, USS Arkansas battleship and submarine USS Apogon. Captured Japanese World War II ships were sunk as well.

I'd Sure Like to See Some of Those World War II Warships. --Cooter

Now, That's Low Tech, But Still Useful-- The Pencil

That little piece of wood around lead with an eraser at the end of it is 152 years old, having been patented by Hymen Lipman on March 30, 1858. Four years later, he sold the patent to Joseph Reckendorfer for $100,000.

The lowly pencil is still here despite inventions such as the typewriter, ballpoint pen, pcs and all sorts of messaging devices. And, the US remains the single largest market for wood-encased pencils, most of which come from China (big surprise there).

Except when the eraser gets hard (I hate that) or if, while erasing, the eraser falls out, there is not much that can go wrong with a pencil. There are no batteries or cartridges to replace. If the point breaks, just sharpen it. If you use it up, just get another one as they're cheap. During back-to-school sales I've bought eight pencils for as little as 5 cents.

Europeans generally prefer their pencils with a separate eraser.

Doug Martin, a design engineer at Bowling Green State University's Department of Chemistry spends most of his time designing computer interface modes, but has a collection of over 10,000 pencils.

The production of a pencil is a world effort. Raw cedar from the US is made into slats in China and then made into pencils, often with Malaysian rubber.

Looking around my desk, I see I have four pencils and ten mechanical pencils. My excuse is that I don't have a pencil sharpener at this site.

Can I Borrow Your Pencil? --DaCoot

World War II Dog Tags Returned-- Part 2

Lt. Ray received his Medal of Honor posthumously in December 1945. A Merchant Marine ship and later an Army barracks in Germany were named in his honor.

In February, collector Stefan Sayorski was exploring the battlefield with a metal detector and found the tag under three feet of earth along with a crucifix and a coat button.

Lt. Ray was evidently buried on the battlefield, dug up and reinterred in a German cemetery and later again reburied at the National Cemetery in Pine Lawn. Sayorski typed Ray's name into an internet search engine and found a web page. His search drew the attention of John Chiarella, 55, of Dix Hills who began a search of his own for relatives.

He was having no success until the chance meeting with DiLeo at the cemetery. It turns out that Ray's sister Grace Gustafson is his last living relatives and lives in Delray Beach, Florida.

I found nothing about the button or crucifix or if they might have belonged to Ray. I also don't know how the dog tag got from Germany to the US.

Of interest, when Elvis Presley had his stint as a soldier in Germany, he was supposed to stay at the Ray Barracks, but because he had money was able to live off base.

This is One Really Interesting Story. The Greatest Generation. --Cooter

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

World War II Dog Tags Returned

From the May 24, 2009 Newsday.

Army 1st Lt. Bernard J. Ray, of Baldwin, New York, received his nation's highest honor during World War II, the Medal of Honor and died in the war's last year, over 60 years ago. At Long Island National Cemetery, Louis DiLeo had just finished playing the bugle at two military funerals when he saw two strangers standing over by the grave of a distant cousin of wife's, so he went over to see what they were doing.

The two men handed him one of Bernard Ray's dog tags that had been buried in a German forest since 1944. John Chiarella and Charlie Jamison had a month-long quest to find Ray's relatives to return it after a German collector had unearthed it in February.

Back in November 1944, Ray's unit was pinned down in Hurtgen Forest, Germany, a month before the Battle of the Bulge. There was concertina wire in front of them and the 23-year-old Ray, platoon leader with Co. F, 8th Infantry grabbed several Bangalore torpedoes and crawled forward to blast a hole in it.

He was connecting the explosives when he was hit by mortar fire. He finished the wiring and fell on the plunger, destroying the barrier and killing himself.

Not Finished Yet. DaCoot

Windy City Landmarks Having Birthdays

These noted Chicago sites had birthdays during the month of May:

90-- Michigan Avenue Bridge was dedicated May 14, 1920.

37-- Sears Tower topped off May 3, 1973. Notice I didn't call it by the other name.

4-- Cloud Gate in Grant Park, better known as "The Bean" was dedicated May 15, 2006.

83-- Buckingham Fountain opened May 26, 1927.

--The Modern Wing of the Art Institute was dedicated May 15, 2009.

From the May 16th Chicago Tribune.

And, we have been in our new house since November 1992, so the new house isn't so new anymore. And, it isn't in Chicago, either.

Everything's Getting Older. --Cooter

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bits O' History: Real Cold Case-- Mitchell B-25s

Some New (Well Newer) News About Old Stuff. Both are from January of this year as I am catching up.

1. REAL COLD CASE-- Jan. 12th Chicago Tribune-- The Chicago police are looking again into the unsolved 1939 gangland-style murder of Edward J. O'Hare. It is believed hat Al Capone had a part in it.

O'Hare owned race tracks and part of the Chicago Cardinals (now Arizona Cardinals) football team and became an informant against Capone. His information helped get Capone arrested for income tax evasion.

His son, Edward "Butch O'Hare attended the US Naval Academy and was a Navy pilot who won the Medal of Honor for shooting down five Japanese bombers and damaging a sixth in an attack on his aircraft carrier at the Battle of Midway.

He was later killed and Chicago's O'Hare Airport is named after him.

2. MITCHELL B-25s-- From the Jan. 13th Aero-News Net. The Doolittle's Raiders 68th Reunion Celebration is April 15-19th at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Mitchell B-25s were used for the raid.

Mitchell bombers from all over the US are expected to attend. During the war, nearly 10,000 were produced and 200 are located in museums around the world with 40 still considered air worthy. Thirty-eight of these were contacted to attend the celebration.

A Squadron of B-25s Would Be Something to See. --DaCoot

Dead Page: Anne Frank's Protector


She was one of six non-Jews who provide Anne Frank and her family with supplies from July 1941 to August 1944 at a secret warehouse annex in Amsterdam during German occupation.

All she ever had to say about herself was, "There is nothing special about me."

After the Germans capture the Franks family, she gathered up scattered papers of Anne's diary and stored them away unread until Anne's father Otto returned, the only survivor of the family. She said she didn't read them because a teenagers privacy is scared.

Otto Franks published the diary in 1947.

Miep Gies was born in Austria in 1909 and moved to Amsterdam in 1920 to escape food shortages. Her host family gave her the name Miep. In 1933, she got a job as an office assistant in Otto Frank's spice business.

She refused to join the Nazis and in 1941, to avoid deportation, married her Dutch boyfriend Jan Gies.

In July 1942, Otto asked her to help hide his family in the annex above the company's canal-side warehouse at Prinsengracht 263. She also had to bring food and supplies along her husband and four other employees.

From the Jan. 12 US Today.

A Job Well Done.

World War II Submarines at Wisconsin Maritime Museum-- Part 2

Continued from May 27th entry. From the Feb. 19, 2006 Chicago Tribune.

The museum will now take care of the blueprints. And this is no small collection, weighing in at 1,200 pounds with 3,000 items including drawings called linens ranging from large-scale down to prints of nuts and bolts.

During the war, one set of plans was at the Manitowac Shipbuilding Co. with backups at the Rahr Malting Plant in case the shipyard was attacked. All prints were designed by the Electric Boat co. in Groton, Connecticut.

Once completed at Manitowoc, the submarines were placed on barges and eventually sent down the Mississippi River before out to battle.

That must have involved going through Chicago and the Illinois River at some point, so that would have been something to see, a submarine going down the river on a barge.

As of 2006, the prints were stored off site until funds could be obtained for proper display and storage. The originals won't be available to the general public, but a person can get a copy to peruse.

Looks like a trip to Manitowoc should be planned. And there is an actual World War II submarine at the museum.

Just Some More Homefront Stuff That People Don't Much Remember Anymore. --Cooter