Near what is now known to be the end of World War II, a plan was devised to invade the Japanese home islands. In the end, Operation Downfall was not carried out, because Japan surrendered following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet declaration of war, and the invasion of Manchuria. Nevertheless, in the days and months leading up to the planned attack, with its two parts…Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet, the United States Armed Forces ordered 1 million Purple Heart medals, in anticipation of a bloody battle. Operation Olympic was set to begin in November 1945, and was intended to capture the southern third of the southernmost main Japanese island, Kyushu, with the recently captured island of Okinawa to be used as a staging area. The second attack was planned for early 1946. Operation Coronet was supposed to be the invasion of the Kanto Plain, near Tokyo, on the main Japanese island of Honshu. Important airbases on Kyushu that would be captured in Operation Olympic would allow land-based air support for Operation Coronet. If Downfall had taken place, it would have been the largest amphibious operation in history…even surpassing D-Day.
This planned set of attacks was no mystery to Japan either, because their geography made this invasion plan quite obvious. The Japanese were able to accurately predict the Allied invasion plans, and they adjusted their defensive plan, known as Operation Ketsugo, accordingly. The Japanese planned an all-out defense of Kyushu, with little left in reserve for any subsequent defense operations. Casualty predictions varied widely, but they were expected to be extremely high. Depending on the degree to which Japanese civilians would have resisted the invasion, estimates ran up into the millions for Allied casualties. No wonder the United States expected to need 1 million Purple Heart medals. Thankfully, those millions of Allied casualties never materialized, because when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war ended. The United States was left with 1 million Purple Heart medals, which they are still using today. I think that while having 1 million Purple Heart medals isn’t the worst thing ever, just the fact that we still have some of those 1 million Purple Heart medals means that, in some way, we have kept some of our soldiers safe over the years. I don’t know how many are left, but it doesn’t matter, because at this point, 78 years later…there are some left.
What would make a tiny nation try to invade a nation that is more that 25 times larger, with a population that is at least 8 times larger? It makes no sense, and yet on February 15, 1937, Japan attempted to invade China. Japan, with a total of 60,000 soldiers enter Northern China using planes and tanks. The invasion was something they had studied so they would have a plan before they attempted such an outlandish scheme. The type of conquest they were trying to mimic was that of Kubia Kahn, the Mongol emperor, who in 1271, established the Yuan dynasty and formally claimed orthodox succession from prior Chinese dynasties. The Yuan dynasty came to rule over most of present-day China, Mongolia, Korea, southern Siberia, and other adjacent areas. Kahn also amassed influence in the Middle East and Europe as khagan. By 1279, the Yuan conquest of the Song dynasty was completed, and Kahn became the first non-Han emperor to rule all of China proper.
So, with dreams of power and world domination, among other things, including a need for the resources Japan lacked and China had, the Japanese army under Emperor Hirohito made the decision to attack the much larger and more populated China. They threatened to bottle up 400,000 Chinese people on China’s central front. The attack area was approximately 20 miles, from the Yellow River to the Henan Capital provincial (Kaifeng). The Japanese Army displayed far superior air power and many more combat troops during the Japanese onslaught. In fact, their might could easily be called terrifying. China was helpless at stopping the Japanese forces from occupying Shanghai, and they were barely able prevent the invasion of Japan on the capital. The Chinese desperately tried to fight back with small caliber weapons against the heavy artillery fire power, air and naval might, and armored defenses of Japan. While they were severely outgunned, the bravery, stubbornness and determination of the Chinese made it possible for the country to withstand three months of defending Shanghai. Nevertheless, in the end, Shanghai fell, and Japan gained control over the city. The best of China’s troops were defeated. Still, the Japanese were surprised at the length of time that the Chinese troops were able to make a stand for their capital city. Because of their military superiority, the Japanese fully expected a short battle and a swift victory. They were not prepared for the one variable…the determination of the Chinese people. Morale plummeted over the heavy losses incurred, but not for long.
I sometimes wonder if these heads of governments really think that they can somehow control the world, or even, if they really think they can control the country they have invaded. The main reasons that nations and borders change as often as they do, is that people will only live under oppression for so long. Then, they will fight back. As to the heads of nations and ruling the world. While they might be the “head” of their nation, in a situation of world domination, I seriously doubt if any of these national leaders would be the one in control.
I would never have considered that an earthquake in Chili could affect Hawaii, which is 6,593 miles away, but on May 23, 1960, that seemingly huge distance suddenly became very small. When a 9.5 magnitude earthquake hit Chili on May 22, 1960, thousands of people lost their lives, and a giant tsunami was triggered. By the next day, that tsunami had traveled across the Pacific Ocean and killed an additional 61 people in Hilo, Hawaii. That distance and the amount of devastation seems incredible to me.
The earthquake, which involved a severe plate shift, caused a large displacement of water just off the coast of southern Chile at 3:11pm. The resulting wave, traveling at speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour, moved west and north. The damage to the west coast of the United States was estimated at $1 million, but there were no deaths there.
In 1948, the Pacific Tsunami Warning System was established in response to another deadly tsunami. It worked properly and warnings were issued to Hawaiians six hours before the deadly wave was expected to arrive. Unfortunately, some people ignored the warnings, as always seems to happen. Some other people actually headed to the coast in order to view the wave…like the warning was actually an announcement of a coming attraction. The tsunami arrived only a minute after it was predicted, and it absolutely destroyed Hilo Bay on the island of Hawaii.
People really don’t fully understand just how much destructive power water has, until they see it in action. When the waves hit Hilo Bay, they were thirty-five-feet high. They were so strong that they bent parking meters to the ground and wiped away most of the buildings. When the wave hit a 10-ton tractor, it was swept out to sea like it was made of Styrofoam. you would think that boulders would be sturdy enough to hold back the waves, but the 20-ton boulders that made up the seawall were easily moved 500 feet. The 61 people who lost their lives were in Hilo…the hardest hit area of the island chain.
With all of that destruction, you might be inclined to think that the waves would have lost power, and to a degree, I suppose they did. Nevertheless, the tsunami continued to race further west across the Pacific. Even given a ten-thousand-mile distance from the earthquake’s epicenter, Japan still wasn’t able to provide enough warning time to get the people out of harm’s way. The wave hit Japan at about 6:00pm, more than a full day after the earthquake. The tsunami struck the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. The wave’s power was still enough to crushing 180 people, and to leave 50,000 more homeless. In Japan, it caused $400 million in damages. With everything destroyed by this one earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, you would think that people would finally learn to stay away from the shore during a tsunami warning, but every year people lose their lives because they decided to cross paths with waves…be it from tsunamis, hurricanes, and other floods. Water is a force to be reckoned with. It should be considered very dangerous.
World War II was coming to a close and everyone was just doing whatever they could to stay alive. Staff Sergeant Henry E “Red” Erwin Sr was the radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress bomber, piloted by Captain George A “Tony” Simeral. Formed at Dalhart, Texas, in June 1944, and deployed overseas in January 1945, this was a seasoned crew. Erwin’s unit was the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Wing, and Erwin’s B-29 was one of the few planes in Major General Curtis E LeMay’s XXI Bomber Command to have two names. The B-29, serial number 42-65302, was called Snatch Blatch and The City of Los Angeles. On April 12, 1945, the crew was on a bombing mission over Japan. They were part of a campaign to bomb Tokyo and other major Japanese cities.
Each of the 12 crew members on the B-29 had additional duties to perform, along with their primary jobs. Erwin’s was to drop phosphorus smoke bombs through a chute in the aircraft’s floor when the lead plane reached a designated assembly area. During the campaign, Erwin pulled the pin and released a bomb into the chute, but the fuse malfunctioned and ignited the phosphorus prematurely, burning at 1,100 degrees. The canister flew back up the chute and into Erwin’s face, blinding him, searing off one ear and obliterating his nose. Phosphorus pentoxide smoke immediately filled the aircraft. It was impossible for the pilot to see his instrument panel. At such a high heat, Erwin was afraid the bomb would burn through the metal floor into the bomb bay. Nevertheless, Erwin had a quick, fleeting chance to save the lives of his fellow crewmembers by risking severe, probably fatal, burns to his own body, and he knew he had to act. He was completely blind, and yet he picked up the flare and feeling his way, crawled around the gun turret and headed for the copilot’s window. His face and arms were covered with ignited phosphorus and his path was blocked by the navigator’s folding table, hinged to the wall but down and locked. By now the navigator was setting up to make a sighting. The table’s latches could not be released with one hand, so Erwin held the white-hot bomb between his bare right arm and his ribcage. It only took a few seconds to raise the table, but by then, the phosphorus had burned through his flesh to the bone. His body on fire, he stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window and collapsed between the pilot’s seats, and with that heroic act, the rest of the crew was saved.
It was the moment of truth for Erwin, who was a modest, humble kind of guy. His thoughts on his heroic actions would have been something along the lines of, “I just did what any soldier would have done…it’s nothing special,” but the truth is, it was something very special and very heroic. Red Erwin came to the war zone as one of thousands of B-29 crewmembers placed in the North Pacific, on the Marianas islands of Guam, Saipan, and Tinian for the purpose of attacking Japan. The American taxpayer had equipped them with the largest and costliest aircraft of the war, the first large combat plane to be pressurized, enabling the crew to dispense with heated clothing and oxygen masks and to work in shirtsleeves, a fact that also put Erwin in an even more vulnerable position, because his skin was less protected than it would have been in a coat.
Erwin survived his burns. He was flown back to the United States, and after 30 months and 41 surgeries, his eyesight was restored, and he regained use of one arm. He received a disability discharge as a master sergeant in October 1947. In addition to the Medal of Honor and two Air Medals received earlier in 1945, he was also awarded the Purple Heart, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, three Good Conduct Medals, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze campaign stars (for participation in the Air Offensive Japan and Western Pacific campaigns), and the Distinguished Unit Citation Emblem. He was a remarkable soldier.
For 37 years, Erwin served as a benefits counselor at the veterans’ hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1997, the Air Force created the Henry E Erwin Outstanding Enlisted Aircrew Member of the Year Award. It is presented annually to an airman, noncommissioned officer and senior noncommissioned officer in the flight engineering, loadmaster, air surveillance and related career fields. It is only the second Air Force award named for an enlisted person. Henry Erwin, despite his scars and wounds, went on to lead a typical life… marrying, raising children, and becoming a grandfather. But there was nothing “typical” about Red Erwin. “Red” Erwin died at his home on January 16, 2002, and was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama. His son, Hank Erwin, became an Alabama state senator.
Many people believe that there was no good reason for the war in Vietnam. It seemed like a war we were not going to be allowed to win, and many thought it should have been one we just stayed out of. Vietnam became a French colony in 1877 with the founding of French Indochina, which included Tonkin, Annam, Cochin China and Cambodia…Laos was added in 1893. The French lost control of their colony briefly during World War II, when Japanese troops occupied Vietnam.
After the war, Japan and France continued to fight over Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, a revolutionary leader inspired by Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution began forming an independence movement. He established the League for the Independence of Vietnam, better known as the Viet Minh, in May of 1941. On September 2, 1945, he declared Vietnam’s independence from France, just hours after Japan’s surrender in World War II. When the French rejected his plan, the Viet Minh resorted to guerilla warfare to fight for an independent Vietnam.
One of the most well-known campaigns of the Vietnam War was codenamed Operation Rolling Thunder. It was an American bombing campaign in which US military aircraft attacked targets throughout North Vietnam from March 1965 to October 1968. This operation was intended to put military pressure on North Vietnam’s communist leaders, thereby reducing their capacity to wage war against the US-supported government of South Vietnam. With that, operation American began its involvement began, not only its assault on North Vietnamese territory, but the expansion of US involvement in the Vietnam War.
By the 1950s, the US military began providing equipment and advisors to help the government of South Vietnam to resist a communist takeover by North Vietnam and its South Vietnam-based allies, the Viet Cong guerrilla fighters. The American military initiated limited air operations within South Vietnam in 1962, in an effort to offer air support to South Vietnamese army forces, destroy suspected Viet Cong bases, and spray herbicides such as Agent Orange to eliminate jungle cover. It was an ugly time for anyone in the area. In August 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson expanded American air operations, when he authorized retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam following a reported attack on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. Later that year, Johnson approved limited bombing raids on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a network of pathways that connected North Vietnam and South Vietnam by way of neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The president’s goal was to disrupt the flow of manpower and supplies from North Vietnam to its Viet Cong allies. Nothing the United States tried really worked to remove the tensions in the area, and so in 1963, the United States withdrew from Vietnam. Unfortunately, they left behind bombs and land mines from Operation Rolling Thunder and other bombing campaigns of the Vietnam War. By some estimates, those bombs and land mines have killed or injured tens of thousands of Vietnamese people since the United States withdrew its combat troops in 1973.
Built in Seattle, Washington by Boeing, the B-17G, which was later converted to a B-17H for use as an emergency air-sea rescue plane. It was equipped with a Higgins A-1 lifeboat attached to the lower fuselage. The plane and crew including Pilot, 1st Lieutenant William C Motsinger; Co-Pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Robert W Ball; Crew, 1st Lieutenant Rollin C Marsh; Engineer, Captain Norman E Zahrt; Navigator, Technical Sergeant Robert W Conger; Gunner, Staff Sergeant Gerard J Doody; Crew, Staff Sergeant Charles J Parkins; Crew, Sergeant Charles Edward Hurn; Crew, Sergeant Elliott Leroy Griffin; and Crew, Sergeant Otis E Anderson Jr; was assigned to the 20th Air Force, 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron. The plane was given no known name or nose art, which happened more than people knew, but it had a Radio Call Sign of “Jukebox 21.”
B-17H Flying Fortress Serial Number 43-38882, aka Jukebox 21, took off from Motoyama Number 1 Airfield on Iwo Jima, on July 25, 1945, on a night search mission for F4U Corsair 81319 that crashed the day before near Arai at roughly over Lat 34° 35′ N, Long 137° 35′ E on the southern coast of Honshu, Japan. The weather was good, and yet Jukebox 21 was lost, without making a distress signal. That fact made the circumstances of the crash hard to figure, and only known when the B-17 failed to return. The crew was officially listed as Missing In Action, and later as killed in action.
The B-17 flew over Maisaka near the Benten Jima bridge, flying northward at an altitude of roughly 984 feet. Crossing the coast, 75mm anti-aircraft guns on the south side of the highway at Benten Jima opened fire on the bomber. Jukebox 21 was hit by anti-aircraft fire, one of the engines began smoking as the plane flew northward, then attempted to circle to the west over Lake Hamana, then southward. Trailing black smoke, one of the engines on the right wing broke off before the bomber crashed at Yakute to the northwest of Arai. Jukebox 21 impacted pine trees before crashing into the ground nose first at Yakute, to the northwest of Arai. Immediately after the crash, Japanese civilians ran to the crash site and observed several mounds of debris and fire and observed the rescue boat in the wreckage. There were no survivors. Thirty minutes after the crash, Japanese Keibodan (wartime guards) reached the crash site and extinguished the fire. The bodies of the ten crew were recovered, all badly burned from the fire and no identification was possible. Afterwards, the bodies of the crew were cremated and buried at the nearby Arai crematorium, along with the body of the Corsair pilot that crashed the previous day.
Twelve Allied aircraft participated in a search over two days under the direction of Major Ivan K Mays. No wreckage was located, and all stations and ships were told to be on the lookout for this bomber. On May 22, 1947 US Army investigators visited Arai to investigate the possibilities of any atrocities in connection with the death of this crew, but found none. During their visit, they interrogated Katsumi Kumagai the former Kempei Tai commander for Arai who explained how the B-17 crashed and how the crew’s bodies were recovered, cremated, and buried. Afterwards, the remains of the crew were recovered and transported to the United States for permanent burial. Somewhat strangely, the Japanese placed a memorial to the men of Jukebox 21 at the Jingu-ji Temple in Kosai, Japan.
War machines…the weapons of war…everything from tanks to airplanes to ships. A war cannot be fought without the equipment that transports, shoots, bombs, floats, and flies over the war. What happens to the shattered remains of the equipment that didn’t make it back to base? Obviously, if a ship is hit, it ends up at the bottom of the ocean, as does a submarine, but what of the planes, tanks, jeeps, and even the bases that have been bombed out, shot up, or otherwise rendered useless? The world is littered with the wreckage of the many wars that have taken place over the years of human existence, because humans have a propensity for fighting. We don’t like when things don’t go our way, and if we don’t understand that we can’t always have it our way, we tend to go to war.
On an island in the North Pacific, lies a remote island called Shikotan, at the southern end of the Kuril archipelago. The island seems like a simple place, green and lush in the summertime, but the island hides a secret. It has one particularly astonishing characteristic. The island is dotted with the decaying hulks of Russian military tanks from the 1950s. And these rusting relics hint at the troubled past…and present of Shikotan. Shikotan is a part of an ongoing battle for ownership between Russia and Japan.
Shikotan is part of the Kuril archipelago, a chain of islands stretching from the southeastern tip of Russia to the north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The Pacific lies on one side of the Kuril Islands, with the Sea of Okhotsk found on the other. Its location makes it an important island to both countries, hence the battle. After World War II, the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which was signed between the Allies and Japan in 1951, stated that Japan must give up “all right, title and claim to the Kuril Islands.” Unfortunately, it didn’t specifically recognize the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over them. That allowed the dispute that has ensued. Japan claims that at least some of the disputed islands are not a part of the Kuril Islands, and thus are not covered by the treaty. Russia maintains that the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over the islands was recognized in post-war agreements.
Since that time, Japan and the Soviet Union had been fighting over the island. They finally ended their formal state of war with the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956, but did not resolve the territorial dispute. During talks leading to the joint declaration, the Soviet Union offered Japan the two smaller islands of Shikotan and the Habomai Islands in exchange for Japan renouncing all claims to the two bigger islands of Iturup and Kunashir, but Japan refused the offer after pressure from the US. Japan did not really intend to give up the island, and no one really knows how strong their army there was, but what is left on the island are the remnants of that army…a few masterpieces of Soviet engineering, IS-2 and IS-3 tanks.
When Audrianna “Anna” Masterson was born, her mom, Dustie Masterson, knew that the baby girl completed their family. Now, 12 years later, her mom says that Anna’s very presence makes her smile. Anna loves cheesy jokes as much as her mom, so they laugh and joke off of each other a lot. Still, those 12 years weren’t all carefree and easy…just mostly. Once, when Anna was just three years old, she gave her parents quite a scare. They were freaking out because she had buried herself in a pile of clothes and fallen asleep. Anna slept so soundly, that she did not hear her family yelling and screaming her name. Still, if that is the worst thing Anna ever does, I’d say she’s a keeper. Her parents, Rob and Dustie are finding it really hard to believe Anna is turning 12 this year.
Anna is very into Anime…which is hand-drawn and computer animation game out of Japan. I’m told that her sister, Raelynn can be held responsible for this. Apparently, she doesn’t love board games…or so she says, but when the family sits down to play, she has a blast. The same applies to bowling. The latest thing these days is Comic-Con, and Casper is holding their very first Comic-Con. Raelynn and Anna are going this weekend. Anna graduated from elementary school this year and her graduation gift was a ticket to go to Comic-Con with her best friend Julie. She was also invited to go with a close friend of the family and his daughter who is a good friend of Anna’s too.
Anna loves to read, and can often be found reading on her phone. I can relate to that. There is a whole world of stories and information out there. All we have to do is pick up a book, or even our phone. Anna is a very soft hearted girl, and she depends on her siblings, with whom she is very close, whenever she is upset…which isn’t really very often, but she counts on them when she is. She looks to both of them and will call them on the phone, if they are not home. While she depends on her siblings, Anna really enjoys having her own room for the first time ever. As she grows up, she is finding out that having your own space is really cool too. Today is Anna’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My niece, Gaby Beach spent much of her post high school years in the Navy. She worked very hard to get there, and continues to be an exercise enthusiast, and an inspiration to many people who would love to have such determination to stick to a program. She needed to get in shape to get into the Navy, and she wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way, especially something like a lack of determination. Now, she works out just about every day, because she doesn’t ever want to go back to a time when she was not physically fit.
While in the Navy, Gaby had the opportunity to be involved in a program that brought dogs into hospitals for the purpose of healing through comfort. Gaby loved that program, and since my mother-in-law was in a nursing home the last 5 years of her life, I can attest to the value of these dogs. So many of the residents loved the dogs that belonged to employees of the facility, and who wandered around the facility, “making their rounds” as it were. They were almost like little canine doctors. The experience was precious. The work Gaby did there was a benefit to many people.
Gaby has been a student for much of her life too, because she wants to prepare for her chosen career in nursing. Beginning January 20th, she will begin the journey through nursing school, and we are all very excited for her. During her time in the Navy, Gaby worked as a corpsman, so nursing is right up her alley. She was stationed in Japan, when she met my nephew, Allen Beach, and they have been married for four years now.
While Allen was going to school, Gaby worked, and then once Allen was hired by Wyoming Medical Center, it was Gaby’s turn. They moved to Casper, and she began the pre-requisites for the nursing program. Once those were done, she applied and was accepted into the program, and now she is waiting excitedly for the semester to begin. Gaby knows a lot about the nursing field, having come from a corpsman background, so there should be no surprises for her in the program. It is an exciting journey, and I am excited for her. Nursing school is a lot of hard work, but I know that she will do just fine, and very soon, she will be Nurse Gaby. Today is Gaby’s birthday. Happy birthday Gaby!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When someone is killed in a war, we are always in the hope that they will be found quickly, and identified by their friends, so that their remains can be returned to their family for a proper burial. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Nevertheless, we hope that the time passing between death and identification is a very short amount. Unfortunately that was not the case with Carl David Dorr, who was one of the 429 sailors and Marines killed on board the USS Oklahoma when it was sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Only 35 people on the ship were positively identified and buried in the years immediately following the December 7, 1941, military strike, according to the Defense Department. The unidentified remains were buried as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which fills the Punchbowl crater in Honolulu. For 77 years, Dorr’s family has been waiting and wondering what became of him. They knew he was at Pearl Harbor, and that he was on the USS Oklahoma. The bodies were there, but they could not be identified. I can’t think of anything that would be more frustrating than that. Sadly, the wait was beyond long…it was 77 years. When I think about his family, first losing their 27 year old son, and then not being able to bury their son. They died without that closure.
Carl’s family, like most American families, gathered around the radio on December 7, 1941. The news was grim. They didn’t know much yet, but they knew Carl’s ship had been attacked. With sinking hearts, they tied to hold out hope that by some miracle, he had survived. Then, they received the crushing news that he was missing in action…then, presumed dead. After the Defense Department began DNA collection in 2009, his family provided samples in hopes that one day it would help identify Carl’s body, his nephew said. His mother kept an heirloom photograph in her living room “so she could keep an eye on him,” Thomas Dorr said. She was able to see her son every day, even if he never made it home at all. And, of course, he never did, at least during their lifetime.
Recently, the DNA provided for identification purposed, finally paid off. Dorr’s body was finally identified, and he was going home at last. About 15 of Dorr’s relatives walked onto the tarmac of South Carolina’s Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. As they watched, a flag-draped coffin was lowered from the plane into a hearse. “There was nothing but dead silence,” Carl’s 70-year-old nephew, Thomas Dorr, who lives in St. Johns, Florida, told CNN. “I knew that what I was experiencing was history.” Carl David Dorr was finally going to be laid to rest, and how fitting that his funeral would be held on the same day that he died, December 7, but 77 years after the day he died…Pearl Harbor Day.