Tag Archives: WWII

Code Talkers

youtube code talkers-white house
L-R: Fleming Begaye, Donald Trump, Thomas Begay, Peter MacDonald, Nov. 27/17

In the early part of World War II, the enemy was breaking every military code that was being used in the Pacific. This created a huge problem for strategizing against the enemy. Eventually a suggestion was made in early 1942 to use the Navajo language as a code.

The Marine Corps recruited 29 young Navajos, not telling them what they are being recruited for because this was a top secret operation. They were just asked ‘you wanna join the Marines? You wanna fight the enemy? Come join the Marines.’ Then they were separated from all the rest of the Marines. Took them to a top secret location. That’s where they created a military code to be used in the Pacific.

After creating 260 code words, the 29 young Marines – half of them were sent overseas to join the 1st Marine Division. On August 7th 1942, 1st Marine Division hit the beaches of Gaudalcanal. This was the first battle where the Navajo code was to be tested in actual battle.

Three weeks after the landing, General Vandegrift, Commander of the 1st Marine Division, sent word back to United States saying, this Navajo code is terrific. The enemy never understood it, he said. We don’t understand it either, but it works. Send us some more Navajos. So that opened up the gate for United States Marine Corps San Diego to start recruiting more and more Navajos, using the same tactics.

The 13 of us, we still have one mission. That mission is to build National Navajo Code Talker Museum. We want to preserve this unique World War II history for our children, grandchildren, your children, your grandchildren.

Why? Because what we did truly represents who we are as Americans. America, we know, is composed of diverse community. We have different languages, different skills, different talents, and different religion. But when our way of life is threatened, like freedom and liberty that we all cherish, we come together as one. And when we come together as one, we are invincible.

-Peter MacDonald, Sr., Navajo Code Talker

This is part of what Peter MacDonald Sr. said at the White House on Monday. Mr. MacDonald, Fleming Begaye and Thomas Begave are Marine Corps veterans of World War II, Navajo Code Talkers. It played on Wednesday’s As It Happens on CBC Radio (beginning of Part 3).

Navajo US Marine Corps code talker recruits, Fort Wingate NM wikicommons
First 29 Navajo US Marine Corps code talker recruits being sworn in at Fort Wingate NM

This was a rare opportunity to hear about the history of the unit directly from those involved. But Mr. MacDonald’s speech didn’t get a lot of television coverage. Yep, President Trump opened his mouth.

So thank you, CBC, for playing this excerpt. It made me go look for the full speech, which I found on Real Clear Politics – both transcript and video.

Wartime Foresters

“The King’s Government call for lumber men and all skilled workmen not eligible for the Regiment or the Royal Naval Reserve for service in the forests of the United Kingdom.”forestry corps evening tele-7-apr-1917-heritage-nf

In World Wars I and II, Britain needed foresters. Lots of timber available, especially in Scotland, and both military and civilian need for lumber. But not enough people left in the UK with the necessary skills and strength to cut and mill it. That’s where Newfoundland, Canada and other British dominions came in: to provide the skilled labour.nfld-forestry-corps-scotland-wwi-heritage-nf

The Newfoundland Forestry Corps sent about 500 men overseas in 1917 to cut and mill wood. From 1939 to the end of WWII, the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit sent about 3,680 men. They worked in Scotland, England and France.

nofu-badge-wwiiAccording to Neary and Baker (2010:9), “the largest single group of Newfoundlanders to go overseas during the Second World War did not go in uniform, but as members of the Newfoundland Forestry Unit.” In both wars, the forestry units were civilian.

The same rules for recruitment applied in the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) but it was part of the Canadian Armed Forces. The CFC was created in 1916 and disbanded in 1920. It resumed service in 1939 to 1945.

Forestry Soldiers and Civilians

The difference in civilian or military categorization didn’t matter at the time, but it did afterwards. In Newfoundland, men of the forestry units were not eligible for veterans’ benefits. The same was true for veterans of the Merchant Marine, a civilian unit responsible for keeping shipping channels safe for military and commercial vessels. Finally in 1962, the forestry units and Merchant Marine were recognized under the Civilian War Allowance Act. In 2000, their veterans received the same benefits as those of military branches.nofu-log-loading-duthil-1944-ngb-chebucto

In both wars, many men left the forestry corps to sign up for combat units. Either they reached legal enlistment age or got the required education level. As war dragged on, and more and more fighting men were needed, the physical requirements changed. Those men rejected earlier due to maybe not meeting the height or eyesight standards became eligible.alfred-j-munnings-draft-horses-lumber-mill-in-the-forest-of-dreux-leicestergalleries-com

Lumbering was still needed, however, so men continued to be recruited to replace those who had left. And there were injuries and deaths. It may not have been combat, but woodswork is dangerous. While working, 335 NOFU men were injured severely enough to be sent back home and 34 were killed. That’s one tenth. In WWI, 14 names are on the honour roll for the NFC.

2010 Peter Neary and Melvin Baker (eds.), Introduction, History of the Participation by Newfoundland in World War II, Allan M. Fraser (pdf)

The story of NOFU is in They Also Served by Tom Curran, St. John’s: Jesperson 1987. See Newfoundland’s Grand Banks for names, records and photographs from WWI and II.

VE Day 70th

VE Day post, photo Jim Taggart, George Anger, Bill Carley 1944May 8th 1945, Victory in Europe Day, marked the end of one part of World War II. War with Japan continued until two atomic bombs were dropped in July. Japan signed a formal surrender on September 2nd.

My mother was on Dundas Street East in London Ont. on VE Day. She said when the news spread, everyone ran into the street screaming, laughing, hugging anyone at hand. They stayed outside for hours, revelling in the knowledge that the war was over. Bluebirds were flying over the white cliffs of Dover, the boys were coming home.

VE Day meant coming home

Coming home took time. Dad’s official discharge papers are stamped November 28th 1945, Wolseley Barracks, London Ontario. My mother and her parents met him. My 3½ year old brother was in his VE Day post, soldiers on Jeep at Camp Borden England 1944grandpa’s arms. He didn’t know the man they all were hugging and kissing and crying over. But he connected the name with the daddy he’d been told about. He slithered, Mom said, across from Grandpa’s arms to Dad’s.

My parents knew they had been luckier than others in the war and the post-war adjustment. Mom was happy to stop restaurant and factory work and stay home with her child. Dad had spent his war working on army vehicles in England and Scotland. At home, he worked on civilian vehicles. They made their photo wwii Bill Hardy and George Angercontribution to the Baby Boom. The war receded into the background, never forgotten but not active in their lives.

Decades later, Mom found an undeveloped film in a drawer. It wasn’t one of hers. From the printing on it, she saw it was from the UK. She realized it was Dad’s from the war. So she was a bit nervous about getting it developed. So was he, I think. What would be on the pictures? Soldiers. Some of them he hadn’t seen since.

VJ Day – war is over

photo Bill Stewart Captain US Army Air ForceMy parents-in-law survived it too. They had to wait until VJ Day for it to be over. Bill was a pilot in the US Army Airforce. A blast to his eardrum during training put an end to his hopes to be a fighter pilot. Instead he flew transport planes, cargo and people. Some of his passengers, near the end of the war, were survivors from POW camps and Buchenwald, a concentration camp.

He came home to Kentucky in August 1945. He brought gifts from Paris for a girl he had met when home on leave in 1944. One was a gold sequinned Juliet cap. She wore it at their wedding three months later.

 

Yorkie Doodle Update

After I wrote a review of Yorkie Doodle Dandy (St. Thomas Dog Blog, April 2012), I got a lovely email from author Bill Wynne. 

 Yorkie Doodle author Bill Wynne with Yorkie in Cleveland parkThank you so much for the wonderful review of my memoir about my dog Smoky… I’m working a on a second book because YDD has been popular and resulted in many diverse things happening. Among them, some readers asking for another book. It will be “Angel in a Foxhole:  Yorkie Smoky and Her Friends.”

Below is what is happening currently with our 69 year old hero:

A British TV company will record an interview in Cleveland Ohio, for “SUPER TINY PETS” broadcast, at the Smoky Memorial to be aired in the U.K. May 9, 2012

Smoky will have a memorial in Brisbane Australia within the next month or two. There are six memorials for her in the U.S.A. The following is part of the program that will be printed for a Smoky memorial dedication in Brisbane Australia.

Smoky-with-wounded-soldiersThrough the encouragement of Nigel Allsopp, one of Australia’s foremost animal advocates and dog experts, Smoky is to be honored by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital on an original site where she medically served at a U.S. Military Hospital in 1944.  I am so proud that she is to be remembered here, the land of our close WWII Ally and in the city of her birth. Unwittingly we began the animal therapy movement which has proven its benefits for many of the maladies brought on during war and peace throughout the world. Smoky led the way, performing her special magic. Helping cure those in need in the unique way that therapy dogs are so innocently capable of doing. “Smoky is the First Therapy Dog of Record” (from Animal Planet, research)

Smoky Too beside pile of Smoky books
Click for larger view

My sincere thanks to the Board and Staff of Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for establishing this memorial. To the Australian Army Forces who participated in the ceremony honoring ” WWII’s smallest soldier,” thank you…

See attached photo for many publications inspired by YDD. This photo was taken last Sept [with Smoky Too]. There are 11 publications out since.

Sincerely, Bill Wynne

Thank you, Mr. Wynne, for keeping the memory of this little dog – soldier, therapist and entertainer – alive. What makes Smoky so remarkable is that she was truly a Renaissance Dog – she did it all. By honouring her, we remember and honour them all.   Military dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, search dogs, sled dogs – all working and service dogs, as well as those who simply excel at being our best friends. (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 7/12)

 

Yorkie Doodle Dandy

Click to buy on Amazon

I don’t know much about WWII, and even less about the American campaign in the South Pacific. I learned a lot, and felt it, reading about a Yorkshire Terrier. William Wynne’s book about his dog Smoky takes you to the war with him. He explains it so clearly, the geography of battle, the military sorties and the day-to-day existence of the soldiers.

Military history was not his purpose in writing Yorkie Doodle Dandy: A memoir. It is about a dog he acquired in New Guinea while stationed there as an aerial photographer. One part of the story of how Smoky came to be with Bill really struck me. Another soldier found the tiny dog alongside a road, trying to get out of a foxhole. He didn’t like dogs, but he couldn’t leave this little scrap of a being to fend for herself. He brought her back to camp even though he wasn’t even remotely tempted to keep her. That, in an environment where death, killing and suffering are part of everyday life, is the act of a truly good man.

26th photo recon squadron logoWhen Smoky came to Bill soon after, he did basic obedience training with her for her own safety. Then, out of boredom and seeing how quickly she learned and enjoyed it, he began teaching her tricks. She became a star performer, providing entertainment for his mates and putting on shows for troops and in hospitals for wounded soldiers. While not an official war dog, she performed military duty, becoming a mascot of his squadron and given the honourary rank of corporal. She logged many hours of flight time, in reconnaissance and combat missions. Yorkshire Terrier Smoky in her specially made war coatHer most important military action was pulling telephone wire 60 feet through a drainage pipe. It took her minutes to do what would have taken men days.

Back in the USA

He brought her back to the States where she became a celebrity both as a war dog and performer. With Bill’s wife Margie, they spent time in Hollywood in the movie dog training business. He tells us about kennels and trainers known to all of us who love watching dogs in movies. They returned to Ohio when Bill was offered an aerial photography job in NACA (National Advisory Memorial to Smoky and war dogs in Cleveland 2005Committee on Aeronautics), later NASA. But performing was in Bill and Smoky’s blood. They entertained in circuses, hospital wards, stage shows and on their own live television show. She also was the first therapy dog on record due to her work with wounded soldiers and later in US hospitals.

Yorkshire Terriers were not common in the US at that time and, with her, Bill became involved in dog shows and the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America. Smoky lived to a good old age, happy and pampered and forever the star, also forever the war hero. There are monuments to her for her war work and her irrepressible spirit of fun.

The greatest tribute to her is this wonderful memoir about her life by a man Bill Wynne accepting PDSA bravery award for Smokywho deeply loved her. It also is a tribute to the soldiers who loved and protected their official and unofficial war dogs. He tells of the extraordinary measures they took to make sure their animals were part of ‘bringing the boys home.’ He didn’t intend the book as such, but it’s also a testament to him – a good man and a great veteran. Thank you, Mr. Wynne, for sharing your war and your dog with us.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, April 26, 2012