Saipan Banzai Charge

Today in History, July 7, 1944:

The largest Japanese Banzai charge (suicidal attack) of World War II is conducted during the Battle of Saipan, when the Japanese military is finally cornered on the island.

3,400 Japanese soldiers, including the wounded and civilians were killed as they charged the US Army and Marines. 650 Americans would die in the massive attack, but they held firm, and within two days the island was declared secure.

I won’t post the photos and videos I found, as they are gruesome. Look them up if you’d like.

3 posthumous medals of honor would be awarded out of this horrific battle.

Circus Horror

Today in History, July 6, 1944:

The Hartford, Connecticut Circus Fire.

During a performance by Barnum & Bailey Ringling Brother’s Circus, held in a massive tent, the tent suddenly caught fire. The tent had been treated with a mixture to make it waterproof that was also flammable, and the fire spread very quickly and within seconds large flaming sections were falling on the spectators below.

Many managed to escape by cutting holes in the sides of the tent, but when the supporting ropes burned through, the tent poles gave way and the entire structure came down. Between 167 and 169 people were killed and 700 injured, mostly children.

The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot

Today in History, June 19, 1944:

Reversal of Fortunes, exhibited by “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”, or the First Battle of the Philippine Sea.

US Marines, supported by their parent service, the US Navy, are invading Saipan and other islands in the Marianas Islands, which is such a threat to Japan that the Imperial Japanese Navy finally comes out to fight a definitive battle.

When the war began the Japanese had the most advanced aircraft available, while the US Navy lagged sorely behind. The Japanese Zero, for example, was much faster and more maneuverable than the American Wildcat fighter. But by 1944 the American industrial complex had engaged fully. As late as 1943 the USS Enterprise stood alone in the Pacific against numerous IJN Carriers.

But by June of 1944 the Americans put to sea 15 Aircraft Carriers in 4 Task Groups equipped with modern aircraft that far out matched Japan’s aircraft, which had not been updated since the war began. In addition, Japan’s air service had lost nearly all of it’s experienced pilots, while the Americans had thousands of combat hardened, well-trained pilots and crews.

When the IJN sent it’s carriers and their crews against TF 58, they were massacred. In two days the Japanese lost over 400 aircraft and their crews, 3 aircraft carriers they could not spare, and the Americans lost 29 aircraft (some of the crews were rescued) and no ships. So many Japanese aircraft fell from the skies that a Lexington pilot referred to it as an old time turkey shoot, and the name stuck.

The air crews of the task force had been launched late in the day on the 20th to attack the Japanese fleet. When they returned, it was well after dark and they began landing their planes in the sea, unable to see the carriers well enough for landings aboard.

With the threat from enemy submarines and aircraft during the war, blackout conditions were the rule. Admiral Marc Mitscher wasn’t going to lose his boys and their planes, however. With his order the fleet lit up, and the planes began landing on fumes.

NUTS!!

Today in History, December 22, 1944:

The 101st Airborne Division was surrounded by the Nazis at Bastogne, Belgium, after the Germans had broken through Allied lines in their last major assault of WWII. The “Battle of the Bulge” had caught the Allied command (well..not all, but thats another story) by surprise. The weather had Allied air support grounded and the German mechanized units (tanks) helped them quickly overrun the Americans. Freezing temperatures contributed to their woes.

Low on supplies and ammo, no air support due to the weather, three days before Christmas, their commander, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe received a demand from the German commander to surrender.

It took the Germans a bit to comprehend the one word, typically American vernacular,

“NUTS!”

The 101st would not surrender and fought on in desperate conditions until finally relieved by General Patton’s Army Corps and Allied Air Support when the weather broke.

Tragedy for Christmas

Today in History, December 15, 1944:

Think of any of your favorite singers, musicians, or groups, roll them altogether, and they aren’t as popular as Glenn Miller and his band were from 1937 to 1944.

In September of 1942 Miller, at the apex of his popularity, gave up the luxuries of home and entered the US Army Air Corps as a Captain to lead the US Army Air Corps Band. He and the band went to England and gave concerts to the troops, which was richly received.

On this date in 1944, Miller took off in a single engine aircraft from England en route to Paris to set up a show for the troops who had just taken that city back from the Nazis. Its the last time Miller was heard from, his plane went down over the English Channel; his remains nor his plane were ever found.

I can’t listen to this song without picturing all of the men and women…girls and boys…who put their lives on hold and saved the world during World War II, from Normandy to Iwo Jima to the Homefront.  Glenn Miller represented them, they were listening to his music before the war at High School dances and on radios before they went into combat.  Thank you, Mr. Miller.

  https://youtu.be/FhZ-yTIXXYI

Consequences of Propaganda

Today in History, July 9, 1944:

Victory at the Battle of Saipan. The US Marines defeat the Japanese military on Saipan, the first island with Japanese civilians to be taken by the US.

It was a difficult battle, made all the more so by the existence of a civilian population. The Marines set up well lit camps for the civilians to be safe from battle.

Fearing that his citizens would find out that the Americans were not the vicious, heartless enemy projected by propaganda, the Emperor issued a communique to the civilian population of Saipan, telling them that if they committed suicide they would receive the same treatment in the afterlife as Japanese soldiers that died in battle.

American servicemen were horrified as Japanese civilians threw their children from cliffs, then followed them to the rocks below. The newly won island would be used as an air base for B-29 Superfortress bombers that would bomb the Japanese mainland.

The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot

Today in History, June 19, 1944:

Reversal of Fortunes, exhibited by “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”, or the First Battle of the Philippine Sea.

US Marines, supported by their parent service, the US Navy, are invading Saipan and other islands in the Marianas Islands, which is such a threat to Japan that the Imperial Japanese Navy finally comes out to fight a definitive battle.

When the war began the Japanese had the most advanced aircraft available, while the US Navy lagged sorely behind. The Japanese Zero, for example, was much faster and more maneuverable than the American Wildcat fighter. But by 1944 the American industrial complex had engaged fully. As late as 1943 the USS Enterprise stood alone in the Pacific against numerous IJN Carriers.

But by June of 1944 the Americans put to sea 15 Aircraft Carriers in 4 Task Groups equipped with modern aircraft that far out matched Japan’s aircraft, which had not been updated since the war began. In addition, Japan’s air service had lost nearly all of it’s experienced pilots, while the Americans had thousands of combat hardened, well-trained pilots and crews.

When the IJN sent it’s carriers and their crews against TF 58, they were massacred. In two days the Japanese lost over 400 aircraft and their crews, 3 aircraft carriers they could not spare, and the Americans lost 29 aircraft (some of the crews were rescued) and no ships. So many Japanese aircraft fell from the skies that a Lexington pilot referred to it as an old time turkey shoot, and the name stuck.

The air crews of the task force had been launched late in the day on the 20th to attack the Japanese fleet. When they returned, it was well after dark and they began landing their planes in the sea, unable to see the carriers well enough for landings aboard.

With the threat from enemy submarines and aircraft during the war, blackout conditions were the rule. Admiral Marc Mitscher wasn’t going to lose his boys and their planes, however. With his order the fleet lit up, and the planes began landing on fumes.