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Tag: World War II

John F. Kennedy and PT Boat 59

Today’s post is written by archivist Dr. Greg Bradsher.

When one thinks about President Kennedy’s naval career in World War II, what most often comes to mind is his command of Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109.

Thanks to the 1963 movie PT 109, adapted from the 1961 book PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II by Robert J. Donovan, Kennedy’s wartime exploits with PT-109 were well-publicized and became part of the Kennedy legend (see Stephen Plotkins’s “Sixty Years Later, the Story of PT-109 Still Captivates” in the summer 2003 issue of Prologue.)

What few people realize is that after the loss of PT-109, Kennedy was given command of another boat: PT-59. Actually, the last scene in the movie PT 109 shows Kennedy and this boat sailing off into the sunset to begin new adventures on his path to the White House.

The story of Kennedy and PT-59 begins on the morning of August 2, 1943, in the Solomon Islands, when PT-109. Lt. (jg) John F. Kennedy, USNR, was in command when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer and sunk. Kennedy and the surviving crew members were rescued on August 8, and Kennedy was then sent to Tulagi Island to recover.

But Kennedy was eager to get back into the fight, and he was soon was assigned to command PT-59. He reported … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest: July 12

It’s been hot here in Washington, DC.

So hot that a plane got stuck in “soft spot” in the asphalt of the runway at Reagan National Airport just across the river in Alexandria, Virginia.

So hot that our brains melted and we could not choose a winner from last week’s caption contest. So we turned to the freshest, youngest brain we could find in the office. Our new intern, YouTube whiz and future Pieces of History blogger Nikita Buley, agreed to pick the winner.

Congratulations to Tom! Check your email for a discount code for 15% off in our eStore.

So were these men hauling a plane off an overheated runway? Well, although it looks hot, the answer is no. Instead, it turns out that life does imitate art. These men are the actual crew of the place, and they are imitating the images of themselves on the plane!

According to the original caption: “B-29 Men bombed Tokyo. The crew of ‘Waddy’s Wagon,’ fifth B-29 to take off on the initial Tokyo mission from Saipan, and first to land after bombing the target. Crew members, posing here to duplicate their caricatures on the plane, are : Plane C. O., Capt. Walter R. ‘Waddy’ Young, Ponca City, Okla., former All-American end; Lt. Jack H. Vetters, Corpus Christi, Texas, pilot; Lt. John F. Ellis, Moberly, Mo., bombardier; … [ Read all ]

An Orphan of the Holocaust

His parents were victims of the Nazis when he was only four, and he and his uncle spent two years hiding in the forests of Poland, waiting until the end of World War II.

But the ordeal of Michael Pupa was far from over. He became a “displaced person,” or DP, moving from one DP camp to another until 1951, when Michael, by then 12, and his cousin were flown to the United States and sent to a home for refugee children, then to foster homes in Cleveland.

Michael Pupa’s story does have a happy ending, and it is told in a new exhibit that opens at the National Archives on Friday, June 15, called “Attachments: Faces and Stories from America’s Gates.”

Curator Bruce Bustard says the exhibit draws from millions of immigration case files in the National Archives holdings to tell a few of these stories from the 1880s through World War II.

“It also explores the attachment of immigrants to family and community and the attachment of government organizations to immigration laws that reflected certain beliefs about immigrants and citizenship,” he says. “These are dramatic tales of joy and disappointment, opportunity and discrimination, deceit and honesty.”

Of the individuals chosen randomly to be included in the exhibit, only Michael Pupa is alive, and he and his family from Cleveland will be at the … [ Read all ]

More Hitler art albums discovered

This morning in Dallas, TX, the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, Senior Archivist Greg Bradsher, and President of the Monuments Men Foundation Robert M. Edsel announced the discovery of two original albums of photographs of paintings and furniture looted by the Nazis.

The Monuments Men Foundation will donate these albums, which have been in private hands since the end of World War II, to the National Archives.

These albums were created by a special Nazi task force, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), to document the systematic looting of Europe by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The ERR was the main Nazi agency engaged in the theft of cultural treasures in Nazi-occupied countries.

“The Foundation often receives calls from veterans and their heirs, who don’t know the importance of items they may have picked up during their service, or aren’t aware that anyone is looking for the items,” Edsel said. “These albums are just the tip of the iceberg for hundreds of thousands of cultural items still missing since World War II.”

In the closing days of World War II, U.S. soldiers entered Adolf Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps. Many picked up souvenirs to prove they had been inside the Berghof.

Cpl. Albert Lorenzetti (989th Field Artillery Battalion) and Pfc. Yerke Zane Larson (501st Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division) each took … [ Read all ]

Unbreakable: Remembering the Code Talkers

Keith Hill passed away yesterday at the age of 87. He was  president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association and Congressional Silver Medal recipient. At 17, he joined the Navajo Code Talkers, a group of men who used their Native American language to communicate and coordinate the movements of Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Hill started with the U .S. Marine Corps in December of 1943, and he fought at the Marshall Islands, Sai Pan, and Iwo Jima. Over 400 over Navajo Code Talkers also served.

Encryption could be a complicated and time-consuming task. A quicker and more secure means was needed.

Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary, had presented the idea of Navajo speakers to the Marines. He was a World War I vet who knew that the military was looking for a quick and secure way to send messages. Using speakers of a language that few outsiders ever heard—and that fewer than 30 outsiders spoke—seemed like a plausible solution.

Why Navajos? There were very, very few speakers of the Navajo language outside the tribe, with exception of a limited number of scholars and missionaries (Johnston estimated 28 people), so it was unlikely anyone else would recognize the langauge and be able to translate it. Even among other Indian tribals, the language was considered different.

But after a demonstration on February 28, 1942, General Vogel wrote … [ Read all ]