Filed under: Conferences, Veterans | Tags: 62nd Naval Construction Battalion, Iwo Jima, Navy, Sea Bees, Thompson SMG
During the reunion for the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, I had the chance to meet Norman L. Baker.
Norm served in the Sea Bees (Naval Construction Battalions) during World War II, but Norm wasn’t a skilled laborer like most of the men in the Sea Bees. He was just a young guy and assigned as part of the security detachment for Headquarters Company, 62nd Naval Construction Battalion. The battalion was attached to the Fifth Amphibious Corps, so he landed on Iwo Jima to provide security for the engineers and tradesmen.
Unlike Marines in the line, this ended up allowing him some opportunities for ‘wandering’. He told me of his fascination with airplanes, especially fighter planes. As soon as the airfields were “secured” enough that they could risk basing planes there, they did. So, Norm had a chance to get up close and personal with the planes. He related that one time, a fighter plane taxied off the runway and the pilot hopped down when he was nearby. The pilot was a young red-headed fellow, probably right about Norm’s age and was thrilled to be able to show him everything there was to know about the plane. It’s a thrill he still remembers. When he went back a few days later to see if he could find his new friend, Norm was told he wasn’t there anymore. One hopes that the pilot was merely injured or reassigned, but I can’t help but imagine that he was among the thousands who paid with their lives for the Marines to secure Iwo Jima.
Due to the proximity of the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the high profile of the event, several docents from the museum were in attendance and brought along some artifacts. When Norm was on Iwo Jima, he carried a Thompson Submachine Gun, as he is here in the photo. It was just happenstance that I saw him drift over and ask the docents if he could hold the gun. So, we all got some nice shots of Norm posing in front of the map they’d brought from the museum.
Attending these reunions is always among the highlights of my year because there’s such an opportunity to meet and mingle with some wonderful veterans, their families, historians and Marines of every era. Importantly, never forget the Sea Bees!
Filed under: Colmar Pocket, Conferences, Operation Dragoon | Tags: George Mason University, Spirit of America
There’s been a big change for the Dragoon/Colmar event this week. On Friday morning, we’ll be attending the Spirit of America show at George Mason University instead of conducting the third historical seminar session. That third session will now occur from 2-6pm that day.
|18 Sept:||9 AM to 1:30 PM||Spirit of American show at George Mason University|
|2 PM to 6PM||Historical seminar III|
Filed under: Conferences | Tags: Alan Turing, Alistair Horne, Andrew Hodges, Arthur Conger, Carl von Clausewitz, Christopher Bassford, Daniel Moran, Enigma, Erik Villard, Gregory A. Daddis, Gregory W. Pedlow, Jon Sumida, Katherine C. Epstein, Lawrence Freedman, Mark Mandeles, Michael Bigelow, Military-Industrial Complex, Pacific War, Paul Jankowski, Perry Jamieson, Richard Overy, Robert Goldich, Ron Spector, Saburō Ienaga, Stan Falk, Strategic Bombing, U.S. Grant, Verdun, Vietnam, Walton Moody, Waterloo, William Westmoreland, World War II
As I’ve noted before, I stumbled upon the Military Classics Seminar about a year ago and it’s the group I’ve been looking for the last twenty years. Each month, we gather in the Officers’ Club at Fort Myer to have a few drinks, enjoy dinner and hear someone give an oral review of a military history book. Some are classics, but some are more modern. Of course, the grandest benefit of attending is meeting your peers. There are military historians from every branch, authors of all kinds, retired military officers and interested amateurs like myself. Some of the greatest benefit to the meetings is the discussion between the attendees throughout the evening. It wanders across all periods of history, including sometimes dealing with personal experiences, and across all kinds of topics.
The dinners cost $35 and there’s a book raffle (I always put in an extra $5 and come away with a book a few times a year). We gather at 5:30pm for a social hour, followed by dinner at 6:30pm and the presentation at 7:30pm. To get onto Fort Myer, you need to use the Hatfield Gate unless you have a military ID. They will do an ID check and a routine inspection of your vehicle.
Make your reservation no later than the Wednesday prior to the meeting by replying Eric Joyce at this e-mail address email@example.com or to Bob Goldich by phone at (703) 359-1074. Pay for the meal with check or cash ($35) at the entrance to the meeting room at Ft. Myer. Those who make a reservation and do not show are still obligated for the cost of the dinner.
September 15, 2015
Overy, Richard. The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. 2013.
Speaker: Walton Moody, Retired Historian
October 20, 2015
Saburō Ienaga, The Pacific War, 1931-1945: A Critical Perspective on Japan’s Role in World War II. 1978.
Speaker: Stan Falk, Independent Historian
November 17, 2015
Conger, Arthur. The Rise of U.S. Grant. 1931.
Speaker: Perry Jamieson, Independent Historian
January 19, 2016
Carl von Clausewitz, On Waterloo: Clausewitz, Wellington, and the Campaign of 1815. Transl. & ed. by Christopher Bassford, Daniel Moran, and Gregory W. Pedlow. 2010.
Speaker: Jon Sumida, Professor of History, University of Maryland, College Park
February 16, 2016
Daddis, Gregory A. Westmoreland’s War: Reassessing American Strategy in Vietnam. 2014.
Speaker: Erik Villard, Historian, U.S. Army Center of Military History
March 15, 2016
Hodges, Andrew. Alan Turing: The Enigma. 2014.
Speaker: Michael Bigelow, Command Historian, U.S. Army INSCOM
April 19, 2016
Speaker: Robert Goldich, Independent Historian
May 17, 2016
Katherine C. Epstein, Torpedo: Inventing the Military-Industrial Complex in the United States and Great Britain. 2014.
Speaker: Mark Mandeles, President, The J. de Bloch Group
June 21, 2016
Lawrence Freedman, Strategy: A History. 2013.
Speaker: Ron Spector, Prof. of History and International Relations; George Washington University
Filed under: Marines, Navy, Veterans, WWII | Tags: Albert Pagoag, BAR, Charles Frazier, Don Mates, Frank Matthews, Gary Bedingfield, Iwo Jima, James Roberts, Jimmy Trimble, Joe McCloskey, josef Reece, Lawrence Snowden, Mac Kolar, National Museum of the Marine Corps, Ron Scharfe, Rondo, Walter O'Malley, Warren Garrett, Warren Neitzel, Washington Senators, William Reed, Wilson Horde
Touring the National Museum of the Marine Corps with veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima is an amazing privilege. While one can often find Iwo Jima veteran Frank Matthews in the museum working as a docent (feel free to stop for a moment and Google Frank Matthews Iwo Jim Marine Museum), there have never been and will never be so many veterans of the battle in the museum as there were on Friday. As part of the Iwo Jima 70th Reunion and Symposium, there were more than 20 such veterans at the museum. You couldn’t swing a camera without finding another to interview.
Many of the veterans stopped in front of the map of Iwo out in the main hall and, prompted by the docents (generally retired Marines themselves), pointed out where they’d landed and some of what they saw.
PFC Albert Pagoag, with whom I share a Basque ancestry, pointed where he landed with E/2/27 in the first wave. By the time he was wounded 20 days later, there was only one other Marine left in his company. After time in hospitals on Guam and back at Mare Island, he was discharged in February of 1946. He was promoted on his discharge to E-3, Corporal at the time, but in modern terms, a terminal Lance Corporal. Efforts of a Viet Nam era Marine secured funding for Albert from the Boise community and he not only attended this reunion but will attend the Reunion of Honor on Iwo Jima itself in late March.
Looking down from the stairs, I spied Josef Reece speaking to docent Mac Kolar about his time on Iwo. Josef served as an amphibious tractor (Amtrac) driver, making two trips to deliver fellow 5th Division Marines ashore on Blue 1. His LST had enough supplies that he stayed busy with that ship unloading for 4 days, then began unloading other ships while the battle raged.
Many of them spoke of that terrible black sand of Iwo Jima. The short beach lead directly to a tall wall of sand. The black sand was ‘like coffee grounds’ and Marines tell of feeling as though all the were doing when trying to climb up it was slide further down it.
On Saturday, there was a veteran’s panel with 6 veterans of the battle. The participants were General Lawrence Snowden, Don Mates, Charles Frazier, Wilson Horde (Navy), Walter O’Malley and Ron “Rondo” Scharfe (Navy). They offered recollections on the service, poignant reminiscences of battle buddies, and insight into the plight of the average Marine or sailor. It’s 75 minutes you won’t regret.
If you’re curious about Jimmy Trimble, who was Don Mates’ tent mate and a Washington Senators pitcher, you can see Gary Bedingfield’s biography of Trimble on his Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice website or ESPN’s Page 2 article on The Legacy of Jimmy Trimble by James Roberts.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to add the videos from the Museum later. Thanks to the folks over at Load the HEAT for prodding me to publish.
Filed under: Films, Navy, WWI, WWII | Tags: Alvin York, Carlisle, Doug Mastriano, Pearl Harbor, US Army Heritage and Education Center
February shapes up to be an interesting month for those interested in WWII history.
The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) continues the Strategic Art Film Program with a viewing, dinner and discussion of the award-winning film, Tora! Tora! Tora!, depicting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 6:00pm, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
The evening will feature U.S. Army War College Professor Al Lord as film moderator. He will review the film while guests enjoy a Japanese themed dinner with a complimentary glass of sake. In addition, the event will feature local Pacific theater militaria collections, as well as miniature and model displays highlighting Japanese WWII aircraft. Finally, guests will also have the opportunity to participate in assembling paper models of the famed Japanese Zero fighter plane, which gained its notoriety because of its widespread use during World War II.
Those who wish to participate in the dinner must purchase tickets from Carlisle Barracks MWR and can do so by calling 717-245-3099 or 717-245-4329. Preferred seating is provided for dinner guests, but those who do not wish to purchase dinner are welcome to enjoy the movie for free. Parking is also free, and the USAHEC facility is handicapped accessible. For more information about this and all other events, please visit the website: www.USAHEC.org or call: 717-245-3972.
I was up in Carlisle for the showing of Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper, which included a revealing talk by Doug Mastriano, whose work Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne places York’s action very specifically, down to having dug up the actual shell casings from the fight (no other action in that area during the war). The dinner was very good, though since the main course arrived while the light were out, I was guessing what I was eating. The staff there is very helpful with the reservation process, as I’d already experienced with the library staff. We drove up for the night and stayed at the nearby Marriott Residence Inn.
Filed under: Conferences, Marines, Veterans | Tags: Arlington National Cemetery, Iwo Jima, James Mattis, Marines, Veterans, WWII
The Iwo Jima Association of America is holding it’s 70th Reunion and Symposium on 18-22 February 2015 at the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel. It’s always a magnificent event, with the opportunity to mix with Iwo Jima veterans, active duty and retired Marines, descendants and historians.
The base schedule is:
18 February – Registration (2-6pm) and welcome reception (6-8pm)
19 February – Ceremonies in DC/Arlington (8am-3:30pm) and a hospitality evening (6-8pm)
20 February – National Museum of the Marine Corps tour (8am-3:30pm) and Show & Tell (6-8pm)
21 February – Symposium and Panel Discussion (8:30am-3:30pm), Luncheon (noon-1pm, with a briefing by a senior Marine representative), reception (5-6pm, cash bar) and Banquet (6-11pm)
22 February – Farewells and departures
I can’t say enough about how well-run and well-attended this event is. As the touchstone event in the history of the Marine Corps, senior Marine leadership is actively in attendance and support. The Commandant will be the guest of honor at the Banquet and one of the top-level officers will speak at the luncheon. I have to admit that meeting and getting my photo with General Mattis two years ago was a true highlight. There are always several authors in attendance, selling and signing their books. They also usually have both a raffle and a silent auction to help support the organization. The band for the Banquet is our favorite big band, Radio King Orchestra, who do swing better than anyone else (and donate their time for this performance).
You MUST register by the 21st of January to ensure your space. After that, it is ‘space available’. Registration can be done online or by mail. In either case, best to download the event brochure, which details the schedule and provides the mail-in registration form.