Category Archives: World War II

Pearl Harbor-Few Words Needed

Pearl Harbor is not like any other museum experience.  One must prepare for this excursion.  I get up at 0530 in the morning in anticipation of getting free tickets.  Driving to Pearl from Waikiki is a half hour and I want to be sure to be there in time to stand in line to get tickets especially for my girlfriend who has never been.  Yes. FREE.  Tour guides ask for top dollar to take you to this site.  Tourism is high up as a way of making a living on the islands.  I think the price they ask is a bit high.  I was quoted $115/person.  I rented a car..

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Entering sacred waters toward the USS Arizona Memorial .  The ship is beneath the white structure  

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Memorial Day

My Dad Shot Down Over Germany In WWII. MAY WE NEVER FORGET THE SACRIFICES!

My Dad Shot Down Over Germany In WWII. MAY WE NEVER FORGET THE SACRIFICES!

Dear Mom and Dad,
How are you? We have been assigned for five combat flights with our B 17 Bomber plane and have completed three of them. I am very scared. I am writing this to tell you I love you, but I do not think I will come out alive. We are losing a lot of men after their planes are being shot down over Germany. I don’t think we will make it. When you are in the sky dropping bombs, the germans are right above us to see what we are up to and then below on the ground they are shooting anti-aircraft flak at us. We can’t see a damn thing from the black clouds the flak make. No one has our back. It is not a good thing. I hope one day to see you again, but if I do not I want you to know how much I love you.
Your son,
Roy
On Roy’s 4th combat flight as a gunner of a B-17 Bomber, he was shot down. Something in Roy told him that his days were numbered. Roy’s parents received the news he was missing in action by the Red Cross as was customary in those days. No one knew for sure what had happened except the 10 member crew on that fateful day in 1943. The Bomber was shot in several places, but with the handiwork of Coles, the pilot, the plane was able to be crashed landed in a field. The crew all survived and ran for their lives. All were captured alive.
Roy then spent the next 19 months in the notorious Stalag 17 camp. The Americans occupied five compounds. There were at least 4000 American GI men in the overcrowded barracks. Hollywood has made films about this camp and what our American soldiers had to endure. Roy recalls many times when they were forced to stand outside in extreme cold weather for long periods. He lost a huge amount of his body weight during this time, but did survive to come home and tell his story.
On April 8, 1945, Roy was among 4000 POW forced to march to where freedom was at hand. He with his fellow soldiers were finally liberated on May 9, 1945. General Patton’s Army had arrived on May 2nd to where they were closely located, but it took an additional week before Roy was finally free. Roy said he never prayed much before in his young life, but after being captured he prayed a lot. Roy still prays a lot. He can not believe he is still alive!

Misguided Views And Attitudes: The German War Bride

This is one of the original German letters written during WWII.

This is one of the original German letters written during WWII.

This blog has been honored with a unique historical opportunity. It is to share letters written by a WWII German war bride to her beloved husband. These letters capture images of a time long ago. They give us a face to German life and war that perhaps our own history books have not shed a light on. Her masterful letter writing spans five years. These correspondences are one-sided since the husband’s letters were burned, but we do hear through the wife’s voice pureness that transcends time.
During the next several decades after WWII, daughter and mother discussed those letters at different intervals. He never returned home and his body was never found. The author of those letters loved her husband more than life itself and never remarried. She cried insufferably at times to her daughter. When it seemed so unbearable for her to go on, The daughter finally said, “burn them.”
As time went on, the mother did get rid of the letters that were written by her husband. She did not destroy the ones she had written to him. As you travel along with these excerpts, remember that by the end of the war the German women outnumbered their counterparts by over 7 million. The atrocities of Hitler’s regime impacted everyone.
The letters not burned were preserved by that daughter.

Letters of a German bride-excerpt one:

February 20th, 1944 ( historical fact we know is that American and Russian forces were advancing on Germany.)

“My beloved Willy – our sweet, dear Vati! The days are passing here in anxious anticipation of what the future will bring. Whatever it is, my love, we must accept it. We cannot change the course of this mighty occurrence in this troubled time. We feel that something big will happen, feel that all this will come to an end soon. In my heart I hope that it will end well. It would be hard to understand that our great Germany will fall. This great nation, so strong – no I can’t and won’t believe that. I wish, and this is egotistical of me, that we will survive this war, that it will have a good ending for us, Willy, that I can again wrap my arms around you, be happy with you and my children, and be safe. Do you think this is too much to ask for? My heart is so homesick for you and I long to let you be strong for me again, protect me and spoil me. I need you so much – you are missed everywhere!”

Berlin Wall

A portion of the Berlin Wall. Photo taken by Alesia in 1989

A portion of the Berlin Wall. Photo taken by Alesia in 1989

In 1989, I was living in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. This week in 1961 over a period of several days, the wall was first erected to keep freedom away from communist-controlled East Berlin. May we never forget this history. Nothing more dramatizes the fall of mankind than this wall. Nothing more causes one to pause than the taking down of that wall. Liberation can prevail. May other parts of the world that are in conflict learn from this wall.

July 4, 1944 (WAR TIME)

Babe Ruth and Baseball an American Sport's Past time. Photo owned by your blogger.

Babe Ruth and Baseball an American Sport’s Past time. Photo owned by your blogger.

There is irony in knowing that half across the world July 4th, 1944 was celebrated by a number of American POW soldiers at Stalag 17B by playing baseball. In America on that very same day, those soldiers’ loved ones were not so celebratory. There were no fireworks going off in the small towns that many of these soldiers grew up in.
Roy and his wife Hilde McGinnis enjoying a summer day in 2014.  Quite different from his POW days 70 years ago.

Roy and his wife Hilde McGinnis enjoying a summer day in 2014. Quite different from his POW days 70 years ago.

As a matter of opinion, the understanding of individual experiences as related to collective memory of the past have always interested me. There is no other way to describe a day in the life of a POW soldier unless you have asked him. As a way of remembering what July 4th should mean to all of us, I spoke with my dad POW Roy McGinnis. Here is his take on what he was doing on July 4, 1944:
Roy was 22 years old and had just been woke up by the usual prison guards making their rounds and yelling at the soldiers. The treatment at Stalag 17B was never good and at times brutal. It was a beautiful summer day and besides being July 4th, it was a great day to play a competitive game of softball. The Wehrmacht (German soldiers) had much friction with the Americans, but they did let them play their games.
The GIs’ loved playing ball. It passed the time by and it was one of the only real morale boosters the soldiers did have. The International YMCA almost always fulfilled requisitions for sports equipment for the American soldiers in prison. It is also noteworthy that the Wehrmacht let the Americans have their things to play and enjoyed watching the fierce competition of the American GI with his brother in captivity!
“We formed our teams. You know the North Versus South. I was of course on the southern side since I grew up in Alabama.”
I laughed with Roy and said, “Yes. Alabama would certainly make you a southerner. No doubt.”
“Well, the game was very competitive. We bet our rations from the Red Cross. This was serious business and you better believe I wanted the south to win!” Roy stated as if he could still hear the crack of the ball being hit by the old wooden bat.
Chuckling I said, “Seriously, you did not take the other soldier’s food over a game.”
Roy said sternly,”You damn straight we did.”
I guess that answered that.
In fact, the rations were like betting your life’s savings. The normal ration included:
Bread, Potatoes, Cottage cheese, Sugar, Jelly, Coffee, and Raisins. The International American Red Cross would try their best to supply what the soldiers needed at that time.
There was a large recreation area in the camp that sports did take place. Pride was taken in teams formed and thus the first POW baseball league was born.
On the playing field that July 4, 1944, the south and north began their game.
“Who won?” I asked
“Well of course, we did. You know the south.” Roy stated.
“Did you really take the Northerners’ rations?” Half seriously I wondered.
“Yes we did. They lost.” Sternly Roy stated as if the war could still be going on.
In fact, as he and I talked of a time that was over 70 years ago, I could see in Roy’s eyes that he was taken back to that ball game and that ball field. It was still war-time to him at that very moment when we spoke. There was nothing else going on at all.
Happy July 4, 2014 to all my readers. May you know how free we are because of many who fought and gave their lives for us. America-what would you have been if not for the brave soldiers of times gone by? Would you have been at all?

Corn Patch Hiding Place

This is an actual photo of my dad's  B-17 that was shot down over Germany during WWII!

This is an actual photo of my dad’s
B-17 that was shot down over Germany during WWII!

Roy McGinnis, a WWII POW, remembers vividly hiding in a corn patch after sliding through mud from a crash landing in his B-17 over Schweinfurt, Germany. The day remains etched in his brain which was October 14, 1943. More than 53 B-17 planes were shot down to the ground from the clear skies over Germany on THAT day. War historians would come to call this day BLACK THURSDAY.
Roy and his crew of 10 service men were on a raid during WWII to destroy ball bearing factories. Instead they ended the day’s mission captured as war prisoners at Stalag 17 near Krems an der Donau, Austria, 43 miles from Vienna. In fact, Roy recalls thinking all of the military planes must have been shot down because of the amount of soldiers he saw captured.
Roy remembers vividly the RED CROSS packages he got that kept him somewhat sane for a short while. It was something to look forward to. It contained coffee, salmon, sardines,cheese, crackers, chocolate and cigarettes. This was a big deal to a soldier. But as the war lingered on, the red cross packages diminished and mostly were stolen by the guards. The packages also had a lot less in them. Roy remembers the bread contained 20% sawdust and 10% straw!
As the war came closer to the end, Roy and his fellow soldiers who had survived were made to march 280 miles. This march led to his freedom. General Eisenhower had at the time set up processing camps in France. This liberation took place on May 5th, 1945 after a painful walk to freedom. In fact many had no clothes and had to use bark from trees to cover themselves.
This story is told in remembrance of many men who did not come back as Roy did. He considers himself one of the lucky ones. If not for his story, we would not really understand what our soldiers went through. Roy volunteered for his service. This was an honor to him to be doing what he believed was the right thing to do and that was to fight for the cause of freedom.
Today Roy at the age of 91 and his wife and my mother, Hilde, live in Montgomery, Alabama. They attend church regularly and live full lives. Roy is asked to speak on regular occasions to the active and retired military throughout the country.
I am lucky to be able to share tidbits with my readers at times so you understand a bit of American History through the eyes of one that lived it.
Thank you for dropping by my blog. It is a versatile blog and I try to share on many topics that typically are about my family. This is one of those stories.

The Bombers

My teenage son wrote the following post in honor of his grandpa by describing what this picture meant to him.

My teenage son wrote the following post in honor of his grandpa by describing what this picture meant to him.

The sky is a light blue.  Clouds sparsely decorate the top two-thirds of the picture; and the bottom third of the photo has almost what appears to be a blanket of clouds.  The sky has a wonderful pleasant look to it; and it almost looks like something you would imagine to see in heaven, if it weren’t for the bomber planes.  This could have been a beautiful day in Europe.

The first plane in the photo is right near the camera.  You can only see about half of the plane which is a B-17 Bomber.  The primary color of the plane is olive drab, which was the typical color of the U.S. military at the time, but the underbelly of the bomber is practically snow-white.  The propeller turbines are just in sight of the photo and the propellers are spinning so fast that they are barely visible.  The aircraft has multiple windows.  Some are lower or in the middle of the plane and some of the windows contain machine guns poking out.  The top part of the bomber has a cock-pit like area.  This is where the pilot is controlling the bomber.  Behind the pilots area there is a ball turret.  You can see sparks and flashes coming from the gun’s mouth.
The second bomber is in the upper left hand quadrant of the photo.  This plane is at a higher elevation than the first aircraft, so much so that you can actually see underneath one of the wings.  This plane displays its different markings.  For example, the tail has a blue “C” on a white square which presumably indicates that this plane belongs to Squadron C.  You can also see a white star on a blue circular background obviously signifying that the bomber is American.
The third plane is in the upper right quadrant of the photo.  Compared to the other two planes, this one is much more blurred out.  You can’t make out any details, but it must be in the same squadron as the other two bombers.
This photo gets even more riveting.  Near the bottom of the photo right above the “heavenly” clouds there is a disastrous scene.   A plane, potentially American, has been shot and has caught fire.  The pilot appears to have lost control and the plane is starting to make a nosedive, while nearly half of it is covered with fire.  Yellow and orange fire explodes out from the back of the aircraft leaving behind a plume of black smoke.  Furthermore, in the bottom left section of the photo you can see a number of other aircraft coming near the bombers.  The planes look German based upon their shape and obscured insignia.
The most amazing thing about this photo happens to be what had been added to it more than 60 years later.  On the left side of the photo there is a transparent almost ghostly looking figure of an older man.  He is wearing church clothes and has a bald head.  He has few wrinkles, but still retains the look of an experienced wise soul.  He also is smiling and looks happy.  This man is a WWII veteran who flew on one of those B-17 Bombers.
Why was this photo taken?  One reason could have been to show how dangerous flying in these bombers was.  The B-17 was called the ‘flying fortress”.  In reality if bullets hit just the right spot on the plane the whole thing could explode.  Airmen never knew for sure if they were going to survive that day’s mission.  I think this photo is trying to convey that these airmen had to work together to survive.  These B-17s were large targets; and if the German planes spotted one flying solo they could probably zone in on it and shoot it down quickly.  This explains why the bombers were flying in a formation in the photograph.   Also the way the photo is shot from the side view, makes the sky look more open.   During the war you could be attacked at any angle at any time while in a plane.   I think it is important that a plane is shown being shot down, and presumably it is to try to get the reader to think about how scary it would be to fall thousands of feet through the sky.
Another reason this photo may have been taken was to show us how aircraft have changed.  In WWII most planes were powered by propellers.  Jet engines were a thing of the future,   and very few counties in the world had developed jets.  Germany happened to be one of the first to do so; and therefore the German jets probably scared the living daylights out of the Allied airmen.  Most war planes during WWII did not have proper heating, and the crew had to wear heavy wool clothing and jackets just to stay alive at higher altitudes.  Another interesting thing is the manner in which this picture was taken.  Presumably the camera had to be exposed from outside the plane to get this kind of shot.  So imagine all the potential dangers of taking this photo back then.  Taking all this into account, as well as the fact that planes were being shot at and blown up all around the photographer, it is amazing that this photograph was captured.
           I think the main reason this photo was taken was to remind us what WWII veterans had to endure.  The inclusion of the WWII veteran in the picture shows these brave men are still alive today.  The photo also shows that veterans have not forgotten their wartime experiences; and it must be hard facing death in wartime and then live longer than all your comrades, only to spend days later in life with people who don’t truly understand what it was like.   By the way this is my grandfather Roy McGinnis.  He was a gunner on one of the B-17 bombers.  On his fourth mission in Europe his plane was shot down.  The whole ten man crew survived and they were all taken to Stalag 17 a German POW camp.  My grandfather spent 19 months there.  I think this photo is a reminder to him how close he came to death, and it is a reminder about how he served his country bravely.  My grandfather doesn’t regret serving and he never will.  This photo is a testament to the bravery of our armed forces and everything its men and women have gone through.