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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fallen Heroes

Countdown to D-Day:
The World War II Experiences of a U.S. Coast Guardsman

18-year-old Seaman Second Class Jack Rowe, from Rhode Island, kept a meticulous diary of his United States Coast Guard experiences leading up to the allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Aboard the USS Joseph T. Dickman, Rowe carried with him a typewriter and kept daily accounts of his time at sea and when the ship arrived at Portsmouth, England. Beginning in May 1944, Rowe really starts to question where they are headed; the success of the D-Day invasion was contingent on secrecy, and so, the allied forces involved had no idea where they were going or when the invasion would take place. As a result, Rowe began noting clues around the ship that he would eventually piece together and determine they were headed to France. 

May 18, 1944
1100 - Payday. Rumors are the pay records are going ashore. That means one thing, the invasion is not far off.

May 25, 1944
1100- Just finished gas attack drill which the entire boat division had to attend as we are most likely to come in contact with gas.

Though the Geneva Accords prohibited any armed forces to utilize poison gas as a weapon on the battlefield, the Allies did not want to take any chances of being unprepared for such an attack on the D-Day invasion, given that the Germans used poison gas during World War I. As a result, allied forces preparing for the D-Day invasion were also given gas masks carried in plastic knapsacks just in case. When the allies realized there was no poison gas on the beaches, soldiers ditched their gas masks to reduce weight they were carrying.

May 26, 1944
1750- Moored to a buoy at Falmouth...There are two sunken ships in the harbor...A grim reminder that the Germans have bombed here and what can happen.

Following Rowe’s docking in England several days before the invasion took place, he and his buddies explored the town, went to dance halls, and went on dates with girls from the area. Rowe writes of converting his pay into the local currency and that he spent most of it each day by buying food and gifts for the girls he met in town. However, being able to see the effect that the Germans had on the English, and knowing that an invasion was coming, Rowe felt more inspired and proud of what he was going to be a part of.

2000-Been reading and talking about the invasion with the fellows, we all figure it won’t be long now.

Rowe and his friends spent time trying to put all the clues together and determine and when and where the invasion would take place.

June 1, 1944
2200-...We have two correspondents aboard for the invasion. One is from “Life Magazine”. It is only a matter of days now till the big bang.

The fact that news correspondents were aboard the same ships and that they were also preparing to cover the invasion, indicated to Rowe and the other allied forces, that this invasion was going to be large and if successful, history in the making. For Rowe, being apart of the invasion made him incredibly proud.

June 2, 1944
0530- Entire eighth division got up early for chow. Over the side at 0630. LCM’s didn’t go. We are bringing on troops now. It is France we are to hit and south. I know on a map about where it is but don’t know as yet which city of any size it is near.

Four days before the invasion, Rowe has finally determined where the invasion is going to take place: France. This is all he knows at this point - that they are going to face the Germans in France; however, they do not know where exactly. The Germans beleived that the allies would try to cross and perform the invasion at Calais, which is the closest distance between England and France, but the allies ultimately chose Normandy for the invasion, even though it was a larger distance to cross, it was a less suspected location.

June 3, 1944
1400-1500-...My bet is we will invade Monday, (morning) June 5.

2000-Got seven letters and some pictures of my aunt and uncle plus a picture of my best girl. Boy, it was swell to get up to date mail before we go into action. Am going to carry my girl’s picture with me plus my money, etc.

June 5th, Rowe and the others started to more readily prepare for the invasion and believed it was going to happen in a few days. The D-Day invasion was actually meant occur on June 5th, as Rowe suspects, but bad weather made Eisenhower, postpone the invasion to June 6th.

June 4, 1944
0945-An Army Colonel talked to us this morning of his great faith in us, as to getting his men onto the beach on time and in the right spot. A Navy Intelligence Lt. Commander gave us last minute dope on beach, what to expect - the various steps required to take a cement fortification. Next one of the boat wave officers (1st and 2nd wave) told us about the obstructions likely to be encountered; possibility of burning oil on water, gas, machine gun nests, air raids, etc. The chance of them using gas is 3 to 1.

During the weeks leading up to the D-Day invasion allied ships and planes bombarded Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, which is described above. Beginning in 1940, the Germans knew that the allies would attempt an invasion into Northern Europe, and thus, established the Atlantic Wall, which was a thick line of defenses lining the entire coastline of Northern Europe. These defenses included barbed wire fences, hedgehogs - which were structures meant to rip open the bottoms of ships at high tide, mines, and finally, the German cement bunkers. This was a lot for the allies to try to overcome while also being shot at by the Germans during the invasion, and so, before the invasion took place, the allies worked to bombard the wall and weaken German defenses.

June 5, 1944
1000- (D) Day is tomorrow morning, (H) Hour is 0600 - if all goes well. 

1300- While eating chow we were read some farewell addresses from various generals and Lt. Generals. Lt. General Omar Bradley, General Montgomery and some English generals. Eisenhower’s speech is to be passed out to us sometime this evening. All the speeches ran along the same lines; How the world was awaiting the news of this invasion; why we are making it; how they were confident we would succeed, etc.

On June 5, 1944, General Eisenhower issued his Order of the Day to each soldier, which encouraged and inspired them in regard to the upcoming invasion. Many soldiers got their buddies to sign their Order of the Day as a memento of the invasion, and then carried that paper throughout the rest of the war. Eisenhower’s speech instilled valor, fidelity, and sacrifice in the men. However, the Order of the Day was not the only letter that Eisenhower wrote for D-Day; half-expecting a huge defeat, Eisenhower prepared a second letter in which he took full responsibility for the invasion, should it not go well.

Seaman 2nd Class Jack Rowe is prepared for the invasion and is very optimistic about his chances at survival. As seen in the final passage of Rowe’s diary, he was certain that he would be able to return to his typewriter at the end of the day and write about the invasion. Sadly, Jack Rowe was one of the 99 Americans who died on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944. His diary ends with the quote below, and as a whole, Rowe’s recollections of the months and days leading up to the D-Day invasion provide an intimate glimpse into the daily life, struggles, and moments of happiness that D-Day soldiers experienced.

June 6, 1944
0300-Entire eighth division has just been called to chow down in 15 minutes. I have been up since 1130, put on some heavy underwear because it is cold out. It is rough and windy. Mine sweepers are sweeping the way and dropping buoys as they go. The sky is being lighted up by constant flashes about 2 points off the starboard now. My shipmates are climbing out of the pits, some noisy as usual, some of the noisy ones are very quiet, others talking, making speeches in a kidding way; the heavy sleepers weaving around the compartment trying to wake up. It’s hard to tell who is putting on a show to cover up his feelings but I think I spotted a couple. Most are glad the time is here at last. It has been tiresome waiting month after month for something you know is bound to happen. Well I have a few little odds and ends to do before I go over the side, so I guess I will be off to see history made and the biggest show of any war yet of its type. When I come back I will have a lot to write about. As to coming back, there is no doubt in my mind that I will.

Monday, May 8, 2017

V-E Day: May 8, 1945

Tuesday, May 8, 1945, the newspapers read “VE-DAY,” a victory for the Allied forces and the Soviet Union against Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Banners were raised all across the world, with celebrations and dances in the streets, as people read the newspapers and heard through radio broadcasts the Germans had unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. In London, at the House of Commons, Winston Churchill made an official statement on May 8, 1945 in honor of Victory in Europe day.  Although celebrations, parades, and bonfires, spread across the United States, Western Europe, the Soviet Union, Australia, and New Zealand, the brutal, gripping, and devastating war remained in the hearts and minds of every person in every nation.

“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued…We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Brittania! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!” –Winston Churchill May 8, 1945

Winston Churchill in London May 8, 1945.

President of the Third Reich for a week, after the suicide of Adolf Hitler on April 30, 1945, Grand Admiral Karl Donitz declared an unconditional surrender against the Allied forces and the Soviet Union on May 7, 1945. In Reims, France, Dwight D. Eisenhower accepted the surrender of all Germans from the East and the West. With the European theater of war concluded, nations across the world celebrated the defeat of Germany. Flags were raised, many stormed the city streets, pubs and bars stayed open late, and many danced the night away. Times Square in New York City held thousands of people reuniting and celebrating, New Orleans held Mardi Gras celebrations, and Paris roared in wild parties. People in towns and cities raised the banners and held parades to glorify an ultimate victory in a brief occasion of relief. Production and manufacturers were still open across the United States, where only a select amount of businesses closed early on May 8, 1945. When President Harry S. Truman addressed the U.S., he stated full effort now went to defeat imperial Japan.

"For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity. Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and the heartache which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors--neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty…If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is work, work, and more work. We must work to finish the war. Our victory is only half over." From President Harry S. Truman’s radio broadcast to the U.S. 

Approximately 80 million people, soldiers and civilians were killed in the Second World War. The Nazis killed approximately 6-7 million Jews, Gypsies, Serbs, and people with disabilities, political opponents and resistance fighters. Victory in Europe, or Victory Day in the Soviet Union, presided in a moment of humble triumph, but the devastation and hardships prevailed for decades to come.

 V-E Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square, London. 


Thursday, April 13, 2017

What’s in Store: Home School Day 2017!

This past weekend, over 200 Boy and Girl Scouts, troop leaders, and parents gathered at the National D-Day Memorial for its annual Scout Day – a day full of educational, hands-on programs that related to World War II and D-Day, a tour of the Memorial, a chance to meet and speak with a D-Day veteran, and the opportunity to participate in a program to earn a merit badge. On May 5, 2017 from 10am – 1pm, the National D-Day Memorial will be hosting a similar day for home school children in the area. 
Home School Day will feature three distinct hands-on activities: Ration Recipe Round-Up, Barrage Balloon Blitz, and Envision the Invasion. Each of these rotating stations allow children to learn about the World War II home front, a special military unit on D-Day, and the essential planning process and execution of the D-Day invasion. Volunteers and interns of the Memorial facilitate each station and present a lesson, followed by the activity.
Additionally, Home School Day will include a tour of the Memorial that will inform students and families all about the planning, execution, and victory stages of the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944. Furthermore, children will have the opportunity to also meet a local D-Day veteran and be able to hear a first-hand account of the invasion. Home School Day is a rare opportunity for children to learn about D-Day and World War II in a hands-on and creative way. Registrations for Home School Day is open now so don’t hesitate to sign up because slots will fill up fast! Visit the event page to find more information and to register!

 - Meika  


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Nisei Soldiers of World War II

           African-Americans were not the only ones to experience racism and discrimination by the armed forces during World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, first generation Japanese Americans, Issei, and second generation, Nisei, soon faced harsh discrimination and assaults on their character and loyalty to America. Out of wartime fear, two months after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of some 110,000 Japanese-American citizens. However, perhaps President Roosevelt and ordinary Americans should not have acted so rashly to detain over 100,000 Japanese Americans, because the war in Europe would soon demand any able bodied men to join the fight.

            As American-born citizens with Japanese descent, many Nisei were eager to serve their country, but due to further discrimination, Nisei were not permitted to join the United States military. About a year after internment began, President Roosevelt reversed this policy and authorized the enlistment of Japanese Americans. However, though they were now allowed to serve in the military, Japanese Americans were restricted to a segregated infantry outfit. This unit became known as the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. Upon requests for volunteers, 10,000 Japanese Americans reported to recruiting offices in 1943.

             In 1944, as the Allied fight in North Africa and Italy met increased opposition from German forces, the 442nd found themselves under the command of General Mark Clark, commander of the Fifth Army in Italy. The 442nd joined the 100th Infantry Battalion, which was a majority Japanese American unit from Hawaii, created in 1942 before the ban on Japanese American involvement in the military. This unit was battle hardened, having seen action in North Africa and Italy for some time. By June 1944 and the fall of Rome, the 100th experienced many casualties and were in need of reinforcements in order to continue the fight into central Europe. 

            The 442nd soon proved not only their loyalty to America, but also their indispensability in Clark’s army. They were instrumental in pushing the German lines back and their heroism and bravery were admired and revered by many. General George Marshall said of the 442nd: “They were superb! They showed rare courage and tremendous fighting spirit. Everybody wanted them.” The 442nd further demonstrated their “extraordinary bravery and valor” for their service and sacrifice in France in the fall of 1944. These Nisei soldiers who were “once considered a problem by the army, [were now] seen as a problem solver,” and were called upon for a special rescue mission of the 141st Regiment who were surrounded by German forces in France. In an effort to rescue these 275 men of the 141st, the 442nd experienced immense casualties. In addition to North Africa and Italy, Japanese Americans assisted in the Pacific Theater by serving as interpreters and translators against the Japanese as part of the Military Intelligence Service.

The 442nd in France. 

         The Japanese American soldiers, such as the 100th and the 442nd are often overlooked in the history of World War II. Despite the discrimination they met at home and on the battlefield, the Nisei soldiers proved to America their worth and loyalty. The role of minorities during World War II cannot be overstated; the efforts of Japanese Americans, African Americans, women, and Native Americans were vital to allied victory. While many recognized the effort and sacrifice of Japanese Americans in both theaters of war, these soldiers were not acknowledged for their service and bravery for almost six decades after the war. When they were finally recognized, twenty men from the 442nd were awarded the Medal of Honor. 


“Fighting for Democracy: Japanese Americans.” PBS. 2007. Web. Accessed March 28, 2017.   

Prelude to Invasion

The National D-Day Memorial is gearing up for their annual spring event, Prelude to Invasion. This year the Memorial is putting a new spin on this classic education program by making Prelude to Invasion a living history experience. Prelude will still include the exhibits and information such as the uniforms, tactics, gear and weapons the Allies used on D-Day, just in a new format. Prelude to Invasion takes place April 22, 2017 at the National D-Day Memorial.
Prelude to Invasion seeks to give guests the feeling of time travel. Costumed interpreters giving accounts of their experiences on D-Day will help create an immersive experience for guests to see the details of the Normandy Invasion in a new light. Guests can interact with a range of characters from factory workers like “Rosie the Riveter”,  to French Resistance fighters, and the leadership, soldiers, sailors, and airmen who made D-Day possible. Guests will be able to hear the stories of these brave men and women and interact with them directly to ask questions and experience how life was on both the home front and warfront in the 1940s.

Prelude to Invasion is also featuring a special experience for younger guests. This April, Prelude to Invasion will give children the chance to try their hand at living history. A special station will allow children to learn about how children their own age would have lived during World War II in several countries then allow them to dress in 1940s clothing and see what it means to be a costumed living history interpreter. This is an opportunity to take advantage of this April for the young historians in your family.

As always World War II encampments will be scattered though out the grounds and World War II veterans will be on cite to give their first hand experiences of the War.  Prelude to Invasion will be a great opportunity to experience World War II in a new light as well as show your gratitude to those men who lived that experience first hand. We hope you will be able to come out and join us April 22, 2017 at the National D-Day Memorial for this classic event with a new and exciting twist. Contact the Memorial’s Education Department at (540) 586-3329 ext. 111 or for more information.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Scouts in the Second World War

Robert Baden-Powell, writer of Scouting for Boys and founder of the Boy Scouts organization in England in 1910, stated “An invaluable step in character training is to put responsibility on the individual.”

Trustworthiness, obedience, loyalty, and responsibility are just a few characteristics that define a true Scout. These qualities are exactly what the Office of War Information, created in 1941 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, needed for distribution of war posters across towns and cities in the United States. The work and diligence of Scout organizations played a key role in conserving materials for the war effort and providing propaganda materials in local businesses for the American public. 
Boy Scouts display a recruitment poster at a local store.

Many Scouts distributed posters, by the thousands to local stores. In October 1942, the first poster was issued for Columbus Day, which celebrated the 450th year of the Columbus voyage. Over 2,300 communities joined the program, by 1942, with new posters produced every two weeks. In 1943, the Boy Scouts were named the “Official Dispatch Bearers” with participation of approximately 1,600,000 members. Also, in 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order, which banned discrimination against government and defense workers. Due to Roosevelt’s order, African-American troops received the same war posters to distribute in their communities. Other organizations that participated in the program were the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, the Association of American Railroads, and Western Union.

Scouts also contributed on the home front by conserving materials for the war effort such as aluminum, paper, rubber, and milkweed (used to fill life jackets). Scouts were responsible for going door-to-door collecting substances. Between March and April of 1944, Scouts collected over 300,000 tons of wasted paper.  The War Production Board gave 299, 936 Scouts the Eisenhower Award for their contributions in collecting paper products.

Scouts collecting scrap metal during the Second World War.

“Truly, ours is a circle of friendships, united by our ideals.” –Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America

The Girl Scouts organization started in 1912 in a meeting of eighteen girls in Savannah, Georgia. Juliette Gordon Low developed an outdoor and educational program in order to develop character and confidence in young girls.

During the Second World War, the Girl Scouts collected scrap metals, fat, and clothing. They also grew Victory Gardens, participated in Farm Aide projects, and managed bicycle couriers. During the war, young girls had the opportunity to participate in new programs, such as the Defense Institutes, in which they learned survival skills.
Girl Scouts collecting fat or lard outside a local shop. 

Due to rationing of certain ingredients, including butter and sugar, the Girl Scouts stopped production of the famous Girl Scout cookies in 1941. Until 1945, Girl Scouts distributed calendars to the public.

The efforts of Scouts throughout the Second World War boosted morale among the American public. They provided tons of materials for supplies sent overseas throughout the war. For example, Girl Scouts collected 1.5 million pieces of clothing for war refugees, according to author Sarah Sundin. The achievements by Scouts were monumental for the U.S. home front commission.