Category: World War II

His Name Was Charles

His name was Charles and he was the first born in the family. He was my brother, but I never knew him as I was born two years after Mom and Dad got the MIA (missing in action) certificate from the government. He was on a volunteer mission after the attack on Pearl Harbor. His plane got off course and went down in the Pacific Ocean somewhere between Hawaii and Christmas Island.

When he was a teenager, the family lived in a town in the Mississippi Delta. They lived down the street from a Ham Radio Operator (Amateur Radio). Even back then radio was a kind of magic, and my brother got the radio bug. I am pretty sure he learned Morse Code from that Ham Operator. After all, the Ham Radio Community has a tradition and duty of mentoring others into the hobby.

During World War I and World War II, the US Government looked at the Amateur Radio community as a ready trained source of Morse Code operators.

Charles, like most young men wanted to grow out of his rural beginnings and see something of the world. His ticket was his skills with the code. Somehow, he became a radio operator in the Civilian Conservation Corps, which apparently had its own communications network.

From there, Charles managed to wrangle an enlistment into the US Army. That does not sound like a tough thing to do, but this was before Pearl Harbor, and Charles first posting was to Hawaii as a radio operator in the shore defense units. This was a prime posting, especially for a newbie.

The communications facility was on Diamond Head. On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 he took a break, stepping out of the radio building to take a smoke. That’s when he saw the Japanese planes. He witnessed the attack from Diamond Head. I’m not sure why the Japanese didn’t go after radio communications towers, but they didn’t.

Charles later wrote a letter to his little brother, Ray, about the event. This letter was published in the Cleveland, Mississippi newspaper as a first-person witness to the attack.

After the attack, liberties were cancelled, most soldiers were confined to base. It was so boring that Charles volunteered for a mission to ferry airplane parts from Hawaii to Christmas Island. He was on board as the radio operator and was undoubtedly the one to send the message that they were going down. They had gotten off course during a storm and ran out of fuel.

It was an emotional time. Losing a child, especially the first born, is a tough thing to handle. The first MIA certificate the government sent my parents had the incorrect date. Dad called Washington, DC and had this corrected, I was told, after a bit of spicy language with whomever was on the other end of the line. He had called for President Truman. Naturally, he was not put through to the President.

As World War II wound to a close and the soldiers started coming home, Dad would go to the train station in Memphis to look for Charles. Since he was missing in action, there was no proof of his death. Stories abound of how sailors and soldiers were rescued from certain death at sea, only to be held in Japanese prison camps.

Charles never came home.

It is important to remember those eager, young men. They left the farms, towns and cities before many were even shaving regularly. We honor them for their sacrifice.

 

 

June 6, 1944 – Seventieth Anniversary Of Courage

Picture from D-Day landing craft Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach Landing Craft

Can you picture yourself on a landing craft, approaching Omaha Beach in Normandy on this date, seventy years ago? Remember the men who did this. They were scared, unarmored, but dedicated to make it to the beach alive. Approximately two-thousand of these men were either killed or wounded that day on Omaha Beach during that invasion.

This scene was repeated on four other beaches on D-Day. For the Americans, there were Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. For the United Kingdom there were Gold Beach and Sword Beach, and for the Canadians there was Juno Beach. In addition to the brave men assaulting these beaches there were three divisions of airborne troops who landed behind the German lines to attack from the German rear.

The table below was copied from Wikipedia.

 

Approximate Casualties of the Allied Armies by Sectors, Normandy, 6 June 1944

NATION /
SECTOR

ESTIMATED CASUALTIES

U.S. AIRBORNE 2,499
U.S. / UTAH 197
U.S. / OMAHA 2,000
U.K. / GOLD 413
CAN. / JUNO 1,204
U.K. / SWORD 630
U.K. AIRBORNE 1,500
CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE
8,443
REASONABLE
GUESS
9,000 total (of which 3,000 may have been fatalities)

 

Note that of the approximately 9,000 Allied casualties, about 3,000 were fatalities. These are the men who gave their lives that day, and we should be particularly mindful of their sacrifice. I don’t believe that I could have gone charging off a landing craft while facing German machine gun and artillery fire. Many men didn’t survive their first view of France.

May God bless these men and let us all remember and respect the courage and love shown buy those heroes on June 6, 1944.

picture of US Memorial Graveyard in Normandy, France
Normandy American Memorial Cemetary

Pearl Harbor Day

It has been seventy years since the Japanese nation attacked the US Naval facilities at Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack. In the last few years our nation has let its attention drift away from the principles for which the defenders, and casualties of Pearl Harbor fought and died.

With our lack-luster leaders in Washington, there are few in the current government that understand what was at stake in World War II after Pearl Harbor. It was not a certainty that we would win a war against two of the best trained and equipped military machines in modern history. We won because we had to, and the spirit of the American people was unbeatable.

Now, I worry that the American people understand the meaning of freedom, and what those little liberties they surrender every day mean in the long run. Our Constitution has been defiled by Supreme Court rulings that retroactively write things into the document that were never intended. We have a Congress that refuses to do its financial duty, and a President who does not care about anything except his campaign for re-election.

Today, we ask, “Where are our leaders?”. Tomorrow we will ask, “What happened to our freedoms?”

This story is turning out to be not very pleasant, and will not have a good ending.

Remember not only Pearl Harbor, but the reasons for the sacrifices of millions of American men and women through history for the freedoms we enjoy today, and for which the rest of the world is envious.