Tag Archives: WWII

Remembering Doolittle’s Raiders 75 Years Later

On this date 75 years ago, eighty American airmen aboard sixteen B-25B medium bombers launched an attack against the Japanese Home Islands. Despite a series of technical challenges, the raiders, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, managed to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bomb military targets in cities across Japan. Forced to ditch or crash along the coast of China, all but three of the eighty men survived the mission, although eight of those were captured by the Japanese.

This attack­­—the first of its kind—did relatively little material damage, but proved that Japanese cities were within the reach of the American war machine and vulnerable to aerial bombardment. It boosted the morale of an American public left reeling by Pearl Harbor, and was an important turning point in the Pacific War.

The remarkable story of Doolittle’s Raiders is a legendary chapter in the annals of military aviation history. The University Press of Kentucky is now seeking manuscripts for a new Aviation and Airpower series dedicated to such stories.

In this new series, edited by Brian D. Laslie, each volume will bring together leading historians and emerging scholarship in the fields of military aviation and air power history. The series seeks a broad-based look at aerial battles, air warfare, and campaigns from the First World War through modern air operations, but also seeks works on the heritage, technology, and culture particular to the air arm. Biographies of leading figures are also sought. This series seeks to cover the American Air Force, Army, and Naval aviation, but also other world powers and their approaches to the history and study of the air arm.

Brian D. Laslie is Deputy Command Historian at NORAD and US Northern Command as well as an adjunct professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is author of The Air Force Way of War: U.S. Tactics and Training after Vietnam, chosen for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s professional reading list in 2016, and Architect of Air Power: General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force.

Email Inquiries: Melissa Hammer

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Operation Dragoon from the Front Lines

72 years ago, Allied forces invaded Southern France as part of Operation Dragoon, pushing the German forces back into the Vosges Mountains. Originally conceived to be executed in tandem with the better-known Operation Overlord, Dragoon was overwhelming successful. Along with the German retreat, the important and strategic port of Marseilles was liberated by the Allies.

Aboard the U.S.N. transport General George O. Squier, surgeon Paul A. Kennedy was on watch—4 am to 8 am—as, “Naval guns [were] throwing salvo after salvo into the beach area,” at Le Dramont Plage.

kennedyComps.inddAs a member of the US Army’s 2nd Auxiliary Surgical Group, Kennedy spent thirty-four months working in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany, and participated in some of the fiercest action of the war—Operation Avalanche, the attack on Anzio, and entered the Dachau concentration camp two days after it was liberated, and 72 years ago, Operation Dragoon.

From the beginning of 1944 until the end of the war, he kept a medical journal in which he meticulously recorded and illustrated 355 of these cases. He also kept a personal diary and took more than 1,500 photographs, most of which were developed and carefully labeled, but never printed. Below, in an excerpt from Battlefield Surgeon, Kennedy’s diary describes the wait before Dragoon, the confusion of landing, and the routine of setting up a mobile surgical hospital.

 Thursday, August 10, 1944

Aboard the U.S.N. transport General George O. Squier

Had a poor night last night—the British right behind us drank scotch ’til all hours. Up at dawn to start a long wait ’til noon. Had cold meat and beans for breakfast. Large truck convoy to Naples and the docks—greeted there at 1:00 by the Red Cross with doughnuts and lemonade (pretty good). Ship is a new navy transport (2,500 troops) and the accommodations excellent, much to our surprise. Room for 18 but only 10 of us in it. Had a saltwater bath (hot and filthy dirty when we boarded), then later had an excellent dinner. (Another real surprise—we expected C rations.) I’m certain where we’re going but we’ll see—and it won’t take long to get there.

Friday, August 11, 1944

On ship—

Pulled away from the harbor of Naples and sailed across the bay to Castelammare, where we’re lying at anchor with other transports and L.S.T.s (Landing Ship, Tank), most of them combat loaded. Weather still hot but cloudy—rained hard last night. Meals still excellent and ship more comfortable than anyone expected. (They sell ice cream on board here that is excellent and there seems to be plenty of it.) (The navy lives right!) Still lots of speculation as per usual as to where we’re going. I got a job assigned to me—a watch from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Paul A Kennedy

Surgeon Paul A. Kennedy

Saturday, August 12, 1944

On ship

Still just off Castelammare sitting in a blazing hot sun and minding the heat more all the time. Up at 4 a.m. to sit out watch from then ’til 8 a.m.—a long four hours in a dark hatch filled with sweating soldiers. Fortunate your sense of smell tires after a time and you smell nothing. Eating two meals a day with sandwich at noon, and the food continues excellent. Reading—on my bunk, on deck, a saltwater shower, ice cream, more speculation—signs!! The L.S.T.s pulled out this evening—a sign we may go tonight or early tomorrow. This waiting is difficult, particularly for something that might be disastrous.

Sunday, August 13, 1944

At sea Up for my watch at 4 a.m. to find us still at anchor. My watch interrupts my sleep no end. To Mass and Communion at 9 a.m. Pulled anchor and sailed at 1300 hours—all the transports that were around us plus a few line ships. Speed pretty good—must be 18 knots—wasn’t long before we were at sea. Four hours out all C.O.s were briefed on the mission, but we’ve not been enlightened as yet. Our general guess was right. Got my money back in francs—13 500-franc notes. A Grumman Wildcat  zoomed past us—there are many carriers in the vicinity, so the story goes. But you can hear anything you want on the ship.

Monday, August 14, 1944

At sea—on eve of D-day.

What I feel—the million things that are running thru my mind would more than fill this page. What happens tomorrow can be so disastrous in so many ways. I hope and pray that all goes well.

The day has been very quiet. More ships have joined us—battlewagons among them, other transports, but we can see only a small part of the task force. There’s no great excitement among the men though they know as well as anyone that tomorrow may be their end. The morale is good and most everyone feels that only success will be ours. I’m sure it will but I’m not sure of the price.

Tuesday, August 15, 1944

Le Dramont Plage on the Riviera

Things started to happen at 5:30 this morning while I was on my watch. Naval guns throwing salvo after salvo into the beach area. At 7 it stopped, and heavy bombers in waves of 36 each then came out of the southwest and hit the beach area. Just before the first assault wave went in to land at 8:00, ships mounting hundreds of rockets “peppered” the beach. We landed at H 10 riding from our transport 15 miles out on an L.C.I. (Landing Craft Infantry). Uneventful ride in—landed on green beach. Things seemed a bit confused—100 prisoners waiting on the beach to be taken out to a ship.

They were shelling the beach occasionally so we got out of there (loaded down) and found a bivouac area for the night on the side of a hill overlooking this little town. At 9 p.m., just at dusk, a Jerry plane came in from the east and when it was still 1,000 yards from the beach it released a robot radio-controlled bomb which flew just ahead of the plane and then gracefully slid downward and hit an L.S.T. square on the bridge. Flames and a terrific explosion and the L.S.T. burned and exploded all night. Four Long Toms were on it plus lots of ammunition.

No other ships lost. There were three other beaches but news from there is scarce tonight. 155s are just below us and are firing over us—the noise is terrible—that plus the ack-ack would wake the dead. We’re right in the middle of it too and the flak falls too close. I’ve got my bed laid out in a ditch with a door lying crossways over my head. Here’s where an air mattress comes in mighty handy.

I’ve landed on D-day and I’m all in one piece, thank God. Things seem to be going well although they’re only six miles from the water as yet. There was little resistance here, and with the way the Normandy front is going I think we’ll meet little.

Wednesday, August 16, 1944

In a villa on the French Riviera just east of San Raphael. Had a good night in spite of the noise, et al. Explored the countryside this morning, and this place looks like a war hit it all of a sudden. I can see that it was a beautiful place in peacetime—villas all overlooking the sea—small coves that seem to be separate little lakes hidden from everything, war included. Saw Jerry pillboxes dotting the hill that naval shells blasted out of existence.

The L.S.T. still burning. Many prisoners in the 36 Division P.O.W.enclosures. Not looking too happy.

Progress is good. The 155s have moved up some and we have a house to sleep in. Tomorrow we’re setting up six miles from here on a golf course.

On the Road to Le Muy via Battlefield Surgeon by Paul A Kennedy

On the Road to Le Muy

Thursday, August 17, 1944

One mile south of Le Muy

Had another robot bomb thrown at the beach last night just after sunset. We could hear it roaring, getting closer all the time, and everyone dove for the floor—it hit the water and exploded. A 155 is just outside our yard and it fired a mission (15 rounds), almost making me deaf. We waited around all day to move and finally left at 3:00 in a 6 x 6—passed thru San Raphael, Frejus. French flags flying from every house—people all in a holiday mood waving to us.

More prisoners coming in; walking, in trucks, and all seem not too unhappy. Glider traps covered the fields hereabout—poles with barbed wire strung between them. We set up just a mile south of Le Muy. 11th Evac next door.

 Friday, August 18, 1944

Draguignan, France

Moved here this afternoon and set up immediately—patients already waiting. Clean-looking town and people much improved. The countryside is pretty. We passed a couple fields on the way here that had hundreds of broken-up gliders in them. Jerry had lots of glider traps around.

Jerry had cleared out of here yesterday, so you see even the medics are close on his heels. There’s a building right behind us that a shell hit this morning—it’s still burning and fires are burning on the hill just ahead of us. Did one Jerry belly this evening.

Saturday, August 19, 1944

Patients have been nil all day. I guess nobody is getting seriously wounded.

The advance is still rapid and the news from Normandy is excellent—the Jerry 7th Army is in rout. Went into Draguignan this morning to look around. No war damage worth mentioning—people all very cordial and seem honestly pleased that we are here. One fellow who could talk English said that the Germans were correct but not nice—the Americans are nice. Bought some perfume for Marion and a French book for Paulie.

They have beer here in this town but in no way does it resemble our beer. Hospital is moving in a.m. but we’re staying behind as a holding company.

Wheeler’s ‘Jacob L. Devers’ Honored by Army Historical Foundation

Jacob L Devers WheelerThe Army Historical Foundation recently recognized outstanding contributions to U.S. Army history that were published in 2015. Among those select works honored by the Foundation was Jacob L. Devers: A General’s Life by James Scott Wheeler which won in the category of biography.

General Jacob L. “Jake” Devers (1897–1979) was one of only two officers—the other was Omar C. Bradley—to command an army group during the decisive campaigns of 1944–1945 that liberated Europe and ended the war with Nazi Germany. After the war, Devers led the Army Ground Forces in the United States and eventually retired in 1949 after forty years of service. Despite incredible successes on the battlefield, General George C. Marshall’s “dependable man” remains one of the most underrated and overlooked figures of his generation.

In this definitive biography, Wheeler delivers a groundbreaking reassessment of the American commander whose contributions to victory in Europe are topped only by those of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Wheeler’s exhaustively researched chronicle of Devers’s life and career reveals a leader who demonstrated an extraordinary ability to cut through red tape and solve complex problems. Nevertheless, Eisenhower disliked Devers—a fact laid bare when he ordered Devers’s Sixth Army Group to halt at the Rhine. After the war, Eisenhower’s and Bradley’s accounts of the generals’ disagreements over strategy and tactics became received wisdom, to the detriment of Devers’s reputation.

Bacevich Read Wheeler'seditorial on theV-E Day thatMight Have BeenThis exceptional work of military history was recognized at an annual awards program on June 16, at the Nineteenth Annual Members’ Meeting at the AUSA Building in Arlington, VA. The finalists were judged by a select awards committee of distinguished military historians and writers against a set of criteria, including significance to U.S. Army history, historical accuracy, and quality of writing. The win marks the ninth time a University Press of Kentucky title has won an award from the AHF. UPK’s previous winners in the category of biography are Beetle: The Life of Walter Bedell Smith by D. K. R. Crosswell, Exposing the Third Reich: Colonel Truman Smith in Hitler’s Germany by Henry G. Gole, and Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne by Douglas V. Mastriano.

The Army Historical Foundation is a member-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the American soldier. Established in 1983, the Foundation funds projects such as educational programs, research, publication of relevant historical materials, and the acquisition and preservation of Army artifacts.

Today in History: The Soviet Union Blocks Access to Allied Berlin

Following WWII, the segmentation of Germany–and Berlin in particular–amongst former Allied powers became a flashpoint and symbol of the beginnings of the Cold War. Amongst the iconic images such as the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie that came out of the Cold War struggle in Germany, the sight of a cargo plane flying over the war-ravaged capital remains a symbol of humanitarianism and the dramatic mobilization of military technology to save lives in the twentieth century.

As tensions mounted between the former allies, the Soviets blocked rail and road access to the western sectors of Berlin on June 24, 1948 in an attempt to thwart the Allied powers’ plans to create a unified West German government. With no other means of delivering food and supplies to the German people under their protection, the Allies organized the Berlin airlift.

German children look on as the flour bags are lowered from a U.S. Air Force C-74 Globemaster plane at Gatow airfield located in southwestern Berlin, Germany. Via the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr.

On June 24, the Soviets cut off communications by land and water between the non-Soviet zones and Berlin and halted all rail and barge traffic in and out of Berlin. With only about 36 days worth of food and 45 days of coal, West Berliners were in a dire situation.

While land-supply routes had not been negotiated prior to the sectioning of Berlin, the agreed-upon air routes allowed for three, twenty-mile-wide air corridors into Berlin.  On June 25, 1948, General Lucius D. Clay, orchestrator of the airlift, gave the order to launch Operation Vittles. The next day thirty-two cargo planes lifted off for Berlin hauling 80 tons of cargo, including milk, flour, and medicine.

The result was a massive, international joint operation between the U.S., Great Britain, and the Royal Australian Airforce. At its height, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds. Initially, the Allies expected the airlift to last approximately three weeks, however, the Soviets did not lift their blockade officially until May 12, 1949, almost a year after it began. The airlift itself was not officially ended until September 30, 1949, ensuring a comfortable surplus of supplies.

The following is an educational film out of Great Britain detailing the airlift and its success (via the Internet Archive).

Related Titles:

Information in this post taken from Berlin on the Brink: The Blockade, the Airlift, and the Early Cold War by Daniel F. Harrington

Notes and Memos for March

A few notes for the middle of the week at the end of a fickle, Spring month:

  • A BIG thanks to everyone who participated in our first Free Book of the Month Program! We can see that you enjoyed the title immensely, and can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the book as you read. We hope our next title will excite you just as much (keep your eyes peeled 4/1!)
  • If you couldn’t make it to Kentucky Crafted: The Market this year, you missed out on a lot of great, Kentucky Proud vendors, but you can still check out a full listing of our Kentucky/Regional titles online.
  • A few events to pencil in your calendar:
  • New Books you may have missed:

Celebrated as the “Dean of Appalachian Literature,” James Still has won the appreciation of audiences in Appalachia and beyond for more than seventy years. The author of the classics River of Earth (1940) and The Wolfpen Poems (1986), Still is known for his careful prose construction and for the poetry of his meticulous, rhythmic style. Upon his death, however, one manuscript remained unpublished. Still’s friends, family, and fellow writer Silas House will now deliver this story to readers, having assembled and refined the manuscript to prepare it for publication. Chinaberry, named for the ranch that serves as the centerpiece of the story, is Still’s last and perhaps greatest contribution to American literature.

“James Still is a master . . . one who in execution is virtually flawless, in touch and ear so nearly perfect that the difference does not matter.”–Wendell Berry

“. . .There are small nostalgic pleasure to be found in reading this simple story or America.”–Publisher Weekly

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, political leaders in the United States were swayed by popular opinion to remain neutral; yet less than three years later, the nation declared war on Germany. In Nothing Less Than War: A New History of America’s Entry into World War I, Justus D. Doenecke examines the clash of opinions over the war during this transformative period and offers a fresh perspective on America’s decision to enter World War I.

“Doenecke paints intriguing potraits of leading figures, many now abscure, including Franklin Delano and Theodore Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan, plus the rich stew of newspapers, magazines, organizations,diplomats, and propagandists who fought over this issue.”–Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Doenecke untangles and clarifies the national debade in great detail in the dense, well-documented study. It will be of great use to serious students and researchers of the Great War.”–Library Journal

World War II submariners rarely experienced anything as exhilarating or horrifying as the surface gun attack. Between the ocean floor and the rolling whitecaps above, submarines patrolled a dark abyss in a fusion of silence, shadows, and steel, firing around eleven thousand torpedoes, sinking Japanese men-of-war and more than one thousand merchant ships. But the anonymity and simplicity of the stealthy torpedo attack hid the savagery of warfare—a stark difference from the brutality of the surface gun maneuver. As the submarine shot through the surface of the water, confined sailors scrambled through the hatches armed with large-caliber guns and met the enemy face-to-face. Surface and Destroy: The Submarine Gun War in the Pacific reveals the nature of submarine warfare in the Pacific Ocean during World War II and investigates the challenges of facing the enemy on the surface.

“Once again, Professor Sturma has presented a detailed study of a facet of World War II history that has so far received very little attention. His well-researched and very readable work makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of submarine warfare in the Pacific.”–Don Keith, author of War Beneath the Waves: A True Story of Courage and Leadership Aboard a World War II Submarine