Today in History, October 14, 1943:
During it’s Second Raid on Schweinfurt, Germany’s ball bearing plants, the Mighty US Eighth Air Force loses SIXTY B-17 Flying Fortress bombers to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.
That number becomes more ominous when you know that each aircraft had at least a 10 man crew, meaning that 600 airmen either lost their lives or were captured that day.
The casualties in the Eighth Air Force over Europe accounted for more than half of the losses for the entire US Army Air Corps.
With over 26,000 dead, it surpassed the horrific losses of the US Marine Corps during the war by far…the USMC having lost almost 18,000 dead in the bitter battles in Pacific Islands.
Today in History, November 3: 1943 – The USS Oklahoma (BB-37) is re-floated at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after a months long salvage operation. She had been on Battleship Row on December 7, 1941 when Japanese torpedoes caused her to capsize quickly. After being decommissioned, the ship was sold for scrap, being too old and too damaged for further service. En route from Pearl to San Francisco, the Oklahoma slipped the line from her tow ship and sank to the bottom of the Pacific. I guess she didn’t want to end up in a scrap yard.
Today in History, August 1-2, 1943:
PT-109 (Patrol Torpedo) is patrolling Blackett Strait in the Solomon Islands when it is rammed and cut in half by Japanese Destroyer Amagiri.
Two of the crew are killed outright, but 11 others survive, although some are badly injured/burned. Their very young commander carried one of the injured on his back in the mile + swim to a nearby island. He then took turns with the boat’s exec swimming back out into the channel attempting to signal other PT’s at night while avoiding Japanese patrols.
Finally they were rescued thanks to natives working for an Australian coast watcher. Lt. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who could have easily sat out the war due to his wealth, displayed incredible courage and loyalty to his crew.
One question not asked in the propaganda of his Presidential campaign was, how does a craft that is basically a speedboat, navigated by an experienced sailor, get rammed by a slow moving man-of-war? That aside, nobody can deny President Kennedy’s courage.
Today in History, May 17, 1943:
The Memphis Belle, a B-17 Flying Fortress of the 8th Air Force, completes it’s 25th mission and it’s crew has the opportunity to return to the states.
The event would be documented in an Army Air Force documentary, and later a blockbuster movie. What wasn’t documented in the original documentary was the fact that over 30,000 airmen lost their lives taking the skies over Europe, 8,000 bombers destroyed.
More airmen died in the skies over Europe than Marines in the Pacific.
Today (literally) the Belle was unveiled after years of restoration at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
Today in History, March 19: 1943:
Most of us are familiar with the scene from the “Untouchables” in which Elliott Ness pushes the incredibly evil Frank Nitti from the roof of the courthouse to his death, because Nitti is cajoling Ness about the death of his friend.
Nitti took over the Chicago rackets after Al Capone went to prison. He tried to extort California movie studios, and, failing, faced prison time.
He had also married the widow of Edward J. O’Hare, Capone’s attorney. Facing prison, he decided instead to get drunk (.23 bac), to walk to a nearby railroad center, and commit suicide.
He tried to stand in front of a train, but his courage failed. He then shot himself in the head with a .32 caliber pistol…missed the first two times…and finally on the third time, succeeded.
O’Hare had turned state’s witness to save his family…his son Butch would become a WWII hero, and O’Hare International Airport would be named for him.