Archive for the 'World War II' Category

Jan 22

So You Want to Interview a Kamikaze

Friday, January 22, 2016 12:01 AM


Kaoru Hasegawa. Naval Institute photo archives.

The call came to our headquarters at the Naval Academy’s Preble Hall in mid-1995. It was retired Navy Captain Bill Horn, asking whether I’d be interested in an interview with a Japanese kamikaze from World War II. Without logically pondering the idea, I blurted out “Of course!” Then it slowly began to sink in. Bill Horn is an intelligent and knowledgeable guy, but I wondered whether somehow he simply had been tricked by a crank caller. If this person were indeed a kamikaze, I wondered, how could he be alive to tell the tale? Captain Horn had the answer. At… Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 7


Thursday, January 7, 2016 12:01 AM


The inside of the kit, showing its compact arrangement.

In the Pacific Campaign of World War II, Navy medicine was forced, to paraphrase author Jan K. Herman in his Battle Station Sick Bay, to practically reinvent itself. The Pacific islands were far from the paradises that many had read about in popular literature, ranging from atolls of jagged coral to perpetually wet, stinking equatorial jungles filled with deadly creatures and terrible tropical diseases — not even to mention the Japanese troops against whom the Marines, soldiers, and sailors were fighting. Navy corpsmen, accompanying the Marines, in particular faced a formidable task. Often on the front lines far from field… Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 5

The First Surface Action

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 12:01 AM


Action Report

U.S. victories were few and far between during the early months of the Pacific war, especially for the hard-pressed and understrength U.S. Asiatic Fleet, which along with other Allied forces was attempting to stem Japan’s conquest of the Dutch East Indies. Nevertheless, four Asiatic Fleet CLEMSON-class destroyers share the honor of winning the first surface action of the Pacific contest, a tactical victory that was of little strategic importance. In the early hours of 24 January 1942, the flush-deck four-pipers attacked a dozen Japanese transports assembled off Balikpapan, Borneo, prior to the invasion of the oil center, sinking four of… Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 14

German Admirals on Trial

Monday, December 14, 2015 12:01 AM


Did famed U-boat commander Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz escape justice at Nuremberg? (National Archives)

The 22 German leaders who stood trial at Nuremberg 70 years ago included Grand Admirals Erich Raeder and Karl Dönitz. In addition to conventional war crimes, for which they were separately charged, the admirals were accused of engaging in aggressive warfare. Conceived in an effort to encourage nations to renounce war, the unprecedented aggressive warfare charges were criticized by some as ex post facto law. Having participated in a prewar conference during which German Führer Adolf Hitler made known his war plans, and having later recommended to Hitler the invasion of Norway, Raeder was heavily exposed by the aggressive warfare… Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 10

A Midget Submarine Emerges

Thursday, December 10, 2015 12:01 AM


current hoist

Monday last marked the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Much indeed has been written about the attack, which killed 2,403 US servicemen died, as did 64 of the Japanese attackers and 35 civilians. One particular area of interest has been the operations of the Japanese midget submarines during the attacks. For several decades after the attack, many mysteries surrounded the efficacy and fate of the two-man submersibles. With 9/10 of their crews having perished in the attack, one man (and his vessel) being captured, very little could be found to piece together just what had happened… Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 9

Midwatch in Surigao Strait

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 12:01 AM


Roy West and his shipmates on the McDERMUT escaped being sunk by Japanese torpedoes in the Battle of Surigao Strait. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

On the night of 24–25 October 1944, Torpedoman’s Mate Third Class Roy West and the other men manning a torpedo mount on the destroyer USS McDERMUT (DD-677) did not know the details of the battle plan, but they did know that a large Japanese force was coming north through Surigao Strait directly toward them. The lifejackets and helmets that always seemed a burdensome nuisance during drills now brought a mixed sense of foreboding and comfort as the minutes ticked slowly by. Sometime after 0200 a quick look at the gyro repeater confirmed that the ship had turned south. West heard… Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 5

‘Marquee Title’

Saturday, December 5, 2015 12:01 AM


Marine Corps Visionary: Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, in sunglasses,
and Brigadier General Frederick J. Karch (center) study the terrain atop Hill 327, near
Danang, Vietnam in March 1965.

I require all Marines to read and discuss . . . — LTGEN Brute Krulak’s FIRST TO FIGHT: AN INSIDE VIEW OF THE U.S. MARINE CORPS These words appeared some years back in an “ALMAR” message sent to the entire U.S. Marine Corps by its then-Commandant, General James Conway, in which he described the importance of a Marine Corps reading program and designated FIRST TO FIGHT as the “Marquee Title” of that program. Because the Marine Corps values its heritage so highly, it is likely that many Marines readily knew why he chose this book from the thousands that have… Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 4

Impact of Japanese Source Materials on “No One Avoided Danger”: NAS Kaneohe Bay and the Japanese Attacks of 7 December 1941

Friday, December 4, 2015 12:01 AM



Upon the publication of “No One Avoided Danger”: NAS Kaneohe Bay and the Japanese Attacks of 7 December 1941, Naval Institute Press invited me to share some of the observations that my co-authors, Robert J. Cressman and John F. Di Virgilio, and I faced when we researched American and Japanese source materials for our book. This post is intended to illustrate the impact Japanese source materials had on the compilation of “No One Avoided Danger.” Nowhere are the difficulties of writing military history more apparent than in presenting the history of World War II in the Pacific using Japanese source… Read the rest of this entry »

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