Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TFH 7/31: PVT Rodger W. Young, USA

Rodger Wilton Young was was born on April 28, 1918 in Tiffin, Ohio. He grew up in Clyde, Ohio. Young was a small man, only reaching 5 feet, 2 inches in adulthood. While a student, he was a tenacious if not gifted athlete. During a basketball game, he suffered a head injury that would plague his vision and hearing for the rest of his life. His failing eyesight and hearing led him to drop out of high school after his sophomore year because he couldn't hear his teachers well or make out what was on the blackboards.

In order to earn some extra money, Young enlisted in the Ohio National Guard in 1938 and was accepted. He was placed as an infantryman with Company B, 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment as part of the 37th Infantry Division. Despite his vision and hearing problems, Young excelled as a soldier and had reached the rank of Corporal and was a marksmanship instructor when the 37th Infantry Division was federalized for potential war service with the United States Army in October 1940.

Monday, July 29, 2013

TFH 7/29: 2LT Robert S. Scott, USA

Robert Sheldon Scott was born in our nation's capital on November 30, 1913. He grew up in New Mexico, graduating from the University of New Mexico in 1937. He was drafted into the United States Army in September 1941. Thanks to his education, he was enrolled in Officer Candidates' School and was ultimately commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry branch.

Lieutenant Scott was assigned as a rifle platoon leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 172d Infantry Regiment which was part of the 43d Infantry Division, a National Guard unit federalized for war service from Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont. The division arrived for action in the South Pacific in October 1942 and saw their first heavy combat during the New Georgia Campaign in the summer of 1943.

Seventy years ago today, Lieutenant Scott led his platoon against a Japanese hilltop strongpoint near the Munda Airstrip, which had to be captured. When the lead element's attack bogged down and they began to withdraw, he advanced alone. At that moment, the Japanese counter-attacked and it was up to Scott fighting alone to hold them off.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

TFH 7/28: 2d Lt. John C. Morgan, USAAF

John Cary Morgan was born on August 24, 1914 in Vernon, Texas. He graduated from a military school in 1931 and bounced between colleges and universities until 1934 when he dropped out. During his college days though, he did learn to fly. Into 1938, he was working in the Fiji Islands on a pineapple plantation. Later in that year, he returned to the United States and tried to join the Army Air Corps as a flight cadet, but was rejected for his poor education record.

Morgan went to work for Texaco, and was injured in an accident that resulted in him being declared "4-F" - unfit for military service - by the Selective Service System. With the world at war in 1941, if his own country wouldn't take him for service, he decided to find one that would. He journeyed to Canada and was accepted into the Royal Canadian Air Force in August, 1941. Morgan was trained as a pilot, and saw action with the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command over Europe.

On March 23, 1943 he was transferred to the United States Army Air Forces and put on his own country's uniform. On July 28, 1943 he took off as the co-pilot of a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress belonging to the 326th Bombardment Squadron of the 92nd Bombardment Group (Heavy). It was his fifth mission with the unit.

John Morgan's actions after his aircraft was heavily damaged by enemy fighters before reaching the target saw him decorated with our nation's highest honor. If you think his citation sounds like a movie excerpt, well, you'd be right.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

TFH 7/27,29,31: PFC Frank J. Petrarca, USA

Frank Joseph Petrarca was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 31, 1918. He joined the United States Army in October 1940 and was assigned as a medic in the 145th Infantry Regiment, part of the 37th Infantry Division. The 37th was part of the Ohio National Guard, and was activated for federal service as the United States prepared for possible involvement in World War II the same month.

The 37th Infantry Division deployed overseas for combat in the Pacific on May 26, 1942. The division first garrisoned Fiji, and then Guadalcanal after that island had been recaptured from the Japanese and secured. On July 20, 1943, the 37th landed on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands for their first combat action of the war.

On three different days at the end of July 1943, Private First Class Frank Petrarca repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fires and action to render aid to wounded men. He lost his life struggling to reach a fellow soldier, and as he succumbed to shrapnel wounds, hurled verbal insults at the enemy as he tried in vain to reach his comrade. A grateful nation decorated him posthumously with the Medal of Honor.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

TFH 7/17: 1LT David C. Waybur, USA

David Crowder Waybur was born in Oakland, California in 1919. He enlisted in the United States Army on November 22, 1940. Before becoming a soldier, he was a grocery clerk and a ranch hand. By 1943 and the Allied invasion of Sicily, he had been commissioned as an officer and promoted to First Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.

On July 17, 1943 - seventy years ago to the day - Lieutenant Waybur commanded a motorized patrol to locate a Ranger unit that had become cut off. Advancing in darkness, the patrol was stopped at a knocked out bridge by four enemy tanks. Even though the small patrol was outnumbered and vastly outgunned, Waybur rallied his men, organized a defense, and when all their machine gun ammunition was expended, stood alone with just a Thompson submachine gun. His indomitable courage was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TFH 7/11: 2LT Robert Craig, USA

Robert Craig was born in Scotland in 1919. He emigrated to the United States with his family; the Craigs settled in Toledo, Ohio. Robert enlisted in the United States Army on February 28, 1941 - before the United States entered World War II, and according to his enlistment record, before he became a citizen of the United States.

By 1943, he had been commissioned as an officer and was a Second Lieutenant with the 15th Infantry Regiment, part of the 3rd Infantry Division. At dawn on July 10, 1943, Lieutenant Craig stormed ashore with his unit in the Licata area on the Gulf of Gela during the Invasion of Sicily. The next day, an enemy machine gun had already wounded three of his company's officers when Craig volunteered to find it and silence it. Not long after, as the platoon he led was counter-attacked by an enemy as much as three times as large, he used himself as a diversion to allow his men to reach a hill crest. Lieutenant Craig's gallant self-sacrifice inspired his men and rallied them forward to route the superior force.

Lieutenant Craig posthumously received his adopted home's highest honor:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ashore on Sicily: the main landing of Operation HUSKY

On April 30, 1943, British Intelligence launched one of the boldest military deception operations of all time: Operation MINCEMEAT. Its goal was to convince the Axis enemy that after North Africa, their next target would be anywhere except Sicily. In the pre-dawn hours of July 10, 1943, an Allied fleet transported the Seventh United States Army, Lieutenant General George S. Patton commanding, and the British Eighth Army, Lieutenant General Bernard Law Montgomery commanding, to their landing points on Sicily's southern point.

The Sicily attack was the largest amphibious operation ever attempted to that point in time. Seven Allied divisions, of a force totaling 12 divisions plus attached units, were to land on July 10th. The lives of thousands of men hung in the balance. Had the deception plan worked, or were the British and American soldiers about to hit the beach heading into prepared defenses that would chew them up and spit them out?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

TFH 7/9-10: ENS John Joseph Parle, USNR

John Joseph Parle was born on May 26, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated from Creighton University in Omaha in 1942 and received and officer's commission in the United States Naval Reserve at that time. He served on active duty for World War II with the United States Navy's USS LST-375 (tank landing ships being built so numerous and so fast, they weren't named!).

On the night of July 9-10, 1943, LST-375 approached the shores of Sicily along with the rest of the Anglo-American invasion fleet for Operation HUSKY. With just hours before the assault forces would stream ashore, Ensign Parle was the officer in charge of the LST's small boats and landing craft. When a fire broke out among ammunition and explosives, Perle recognized quickly that an accidental explosion would both damage his ship, kill many of her crew and the soldiers she carried, and alert the enemy ashore to the impending attack. The 23-year old Nebraskan acted:

Operation HUSKY Kicks Off

In the evening hours of July 9, 1943, Allied forces under the overall command of United States' General Dwight D. Eisenhower were crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Africa and elsewhere for Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily.

Around midnight local time, July 10 (about 6:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, by present standards) British and American parachute and glider-borne forces began the first large-scale airborne operation for the Allies in the war. It turned out that they had a lot to learn about transporting men into combat that way.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Hero of Asiana Flight 214

Yesterday (Saturday, July 6, 2013) saw what could have been a true civil aviation disaster: the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214 from Shanghai, China to San Francisco, California, via Seoul, South Korea. There were 307 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft. 305 are alive today to tell the harrowing tale of the final moments of flight and their miraculous survival.

Two sadly perished. They were Chinese teenagers Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan, both just sixteen years old. The two young women were coming to the United States for summer camp, on what (I'm assuming) was their first visit to our country. If either of their families ever happen upon this post, I hope they accept my sincere sympathies. As many as 182 others were injured in the crash, some severely.

Known details and evidence available to this point points to pilot error as the cause of the accident. In fairness to the aircrew, the investigation is just beginning and they might be absolved. I'm not an expert, just a layman aviation fan. There was a hero yesterday, but it wasn't a human.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

TFH 7/6: LCDR Bruce A. Van Voorhis, USN

Bruce Avery Van Voorhis was born on January 29, 1908 in Aberdeen, Washington and spent his childhood years in Nevada. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1925, and graduated with the class of 1929. His first assignment was to the USS Mississippi (BB-41), but he only spent about one year with the battleship before reporting to Naval Air Station Pensacola for training as a Naval Aviator.

After earning his "Wings of Gold" on September 3, 1931, Van Voorhis flew a variety of carrier-based and other aircraft, and served aboard and flew off off the USS Saratoga (CV-3), USS Ranger (CV-4), USS Yorktown (CV-5), and USS Enterprise (CV-6) before the United States entered World War II.