1945

Military Monday: USS Harmon DE-678 1943

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USS Harmon DE-678 Image One
Destroyer Escort USS Harmon
Circa August 1943
Image was censored and retouched.
Radar antennas removed.
Pennant added in its place.
Released for publication March 1944
Photo Credit: Naval History & Heritage Command
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

The USS Harmon was a U.S. Navy Buckley class destroyer escort named after Leonard Roy Harmon, a Mess Attendant (Messman) First Class that served aboard the USS San Francisco. It was the first U.S. warship to be named after a Black American. It was launched July 25, 1943, by Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, MA, sponsored by Harmon’s mother and, seventy-seven years ago, today, it was commissioned. She spent nearly a year serving as an escort ship near New Caledonia. After a short period at Pearl Harbor, she joined the Luzon Reinforcement Group. By March 1945, she was an escort and an anti-submarine screen off Iwo Jima. She returned to Pearl Harbor for training, then to Mare Island for a weapons upgrade and, when the war was over, she conducted training operations with submarines.

Leonard Roy Harmon Image Two
Commemoration Poster
Source: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Photo Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Decommissioned March 25, 1947, she joined the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was stricken August 1, 1965 and sold for scrap January 30, 1967. She received three battle stars for her World War II service.

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Leonard Roy Harmon, born in Cuero, Texas, on January 21, 1917, enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 10, 1939, as a Mess Attendant Third Class. He trained at the Naval Training Station, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia and reported to [the] San Francisco (CA-38) on October 28, 1939. On November 12, 1942, [the] San Francisco was covering a force of transports disembarking reinforcements off Guadalcanal when Japanese land attack planes, carrying torpedoes, attacked. [The] enemy aircraft crashed into the ship causing “considerable damage and intense fires” that put the after anti-aircraft director and radar out of commission. One officer and 15 men were either killed outright or died of their injuries. Harmon rushed in to evacuate the wounded. He was then assigned to assist Pharmacist’s Mate Lynford Bondsteel in evacuating and caring for the wounded. While the ship was being raked by enemy gunfire, Harmon deliberately shielded Bondsteel in order to protect his wounded shipmate. Although Bondsteel managed to get his courageous shipmate below, Harmon died of his wounds soon afterward.

Democracy In Action Poster Image Three
Artist: Charles Henry Alston
Collection: National Archives at College Park
Office of War Information poster from 1943
Photo Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Harmon was awarded a Purple Heart and, in March 1943, the Navy Cross.

Citation Excerpt:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Mess Attendant First Class Leonard Roy Harmon (NSN: 3600418), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty in action against the enemy while serving on board the Heavy Cruiser U.S.S. San Francisco (CA-38) […]. With persistent disregard of his own personal safety, […] Harmon rendered invaluable assistance in caring for the wounded and assisting them to a dressing station. In addition to displaying unusual loyalty [on] behalf of the injured Executive Officer, he deliberately exposed himself to hostile gunfire in order to protect a shipmate and, as a result of this courageous deed, was killed in action. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Addition Reading & Sources:
First US Ship Named For An African-American (History & Headlines August 31, 2016)
USN Ships: USS Harmon (DE-678) (Ibiblio Database)
Citation: Leonard Roy Harmon (Military Times)
Modern Ships: USS Harmon DE-678 (Naval History & Heritage Command)
Ship Histories: Harmon (DE-678) (Naval History & Heritage Command)
USS Harmon (DE-678) (Naval Warfare Blogspot)
World War Two: Told In A Museum (New Caledonia Site)
Leonard Harmon (Smithsonian)
Leonard Harmon, USN (USS San Francisco Site)
Leonard Roy Harmon (Wikipedia)
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (Wikipedia)
USS San Francisco (Wikipedia)

Flick Friday: Captain Eddie 1945

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Captain Eddie IMDB Image One
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Seventy-five years ago, today, the drama film Captain Eddie was released. Directed by Lloyd Bacon and produced by Winfield Sheehan, it starred Fred MacMurray, Lynn Bari, Charles Bickford, Thomas Mitchell and Lloyd Nolan. Based on Seven Came Through (by Eddie Rickenbacker) and We Thought We Heard The Angels Sing (by James Whittaker), John Tucker Battle wrote/adapted the screenplay. A biopic of Rickenbacker, it reflects his experiences as a flying ace during World War I to his later involvement as a pioneering figure in civil aviation.

Plot/Summary:

In World War II, while serving as a United States Army Air Forces officer, famed World War I pilot Eddie Rickenbacker (Fred MacMurray) is assigned to tour South Pacific bases. On October 21, 1942, his Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress has to ditch at sea, forcing Rickenbacker, pilot Lt. James Whittaker (Lloyd Nolan), co-pilot Capt. Bill Cherry (Richard Crane) and other crew members to survive for 19 days on a tiny rubber raft. While awaiting their rescue, Rickenbacker recalls his other adventures that have highlighted a remarkable life.

Full Synopsis (TCM)

Captain Eddie IMDB Image Two
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Review:

It seems as though someone is kidding…kidding in more ways than one. For Captain Eddie, which came yesterday to the Roxy, is not the story it promises to be of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, ace of World War I and commercial airline executive who holds some rather rigid social views. Nor is it precisely the saga of the middle-aged flier who was lost at sea two years ago in the South Pacific and spent three harrowing weeks on a raft. It is just another sentimental comedy about a kid who jumped off the barn in his youthful passion for flying and courted his girl in a merry Oldsmobile. [This] is not the story of Rickenbacker…not the significant story, anyhow.

Bosley Crowther
The New York Times
August 9, 1945

Trivia Bits:
♦ Crash survivor Lt. James Whittaker was […] temporarily assigned to the production to serve as a technical advisor.
♦ The film’s premiere was held in Rickenbacker’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio. In attendance were politicians and celebrities, including Carole Landis, as well as family members.

Nomination:
Best Special Effects (Academy Awards 1946)

I can’t find a trailer to the movie on YouTube but, the entire movie appears to be uploaded in pieces. I did find this. ~Vic

Tune Tuesday: Casa Loma Orchestra 1944

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Glen Gray & Casa Loma Orchestra Image One
Image Credit: hotmusiccharts.com

Seventy-five years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was My Heart Tells Me (Should I Believe My Heart?) by Glen Gray, his Casa Loma Orchestra and singer Eugenie Baird. Written by Harry Warren (Lullaby of Broadway, Jeepers Creepers & That’s Amore) with lyrics by Mack Gordon (Chattanooga Choo-Choo), this was the theme for the 1943 musical film Sweet Rosie O’Grady. Betty Grable sang the song in the movie.

Glen Gray & his Orchestral version was number one for five weeks from January 29 to February 26, boosted by the popularity of the musical. As a popular standard for the 1940s, other well-known artists with their own versions include Etta Jones (1961), Frank Sinatra (1945), Nat King Cole (1958) and Tony Bennett (1955). Glenn Miller & his orchestra had a go in 1944, broadcasting to German soldiers. From Dance in the City (Page 191):

“One of the paradoxes of the Nazi terror was that SS officers themselves demonstrated a fondness for swing (Vogel, 1962).

Mike Zwerin (1985), in his exploration of jazz under the Nazis, described a Luftwaffe pilot who switched on the BBC hoping to catch a few bars of Glenn Miller before bombing the antenna from which these forbidden sounds were being broadcast. Allied propagandists recognised the potential for exploiting the contradictory allure that jazz possessed with Nazi society.

The sound barrier of 1944 was marked on the one hand by the music of the Nazi marches and on the other by the big band swing of Glenn Miller. The Allies attempted to exploit the popularity of swing inside Germany. On October 30, 1944, Miller’s swing tunes were aimed at German soldiers through the American Broadcast Station in Europe (ABSIE) in an effort to persuade them to lay down their arms.

Major Miller addressed German soldiers in their own language with the assistance of Ilse Weinberger, a German compere and translator. Ilse introduced Glenn Miller as the ‘magician of swing’ and, through a strange act of cultural alchemy, tunes like Long Ago and Far Away and My Heart Tells Me were rendered in German by vocalist Johnny Desmond.”

Wayback Wednesday: Flight 19 1945

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Flight 19 Image
Photo Credit: youtube.com

Seventy-three years ago, today, the infamous Flight 19 disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle in what was supposed to be a routine, three-hour exercise of combat training and navigation. Four TBM-1Cs and one TBM-3 Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers took off from NAS Fort Lauderdale at 14:10pm. Twenty-seven year old Navy Lieutenant Charles Carroll Taylor was the flight leader and pilot of FT-28, the TBM-3.

From The History Channel:

“Two hours after the flight began, the leader of the squadron, who had been flying in the area for more than six months, reported that his compass and back-up compass had failed and, that his position was unknown. The other planes experienced similar instrument malfunctions. Radio facilities on land were contacted to find the location of the lost squadron but, none were successful. After two more hours of confused messages from the fliers, a distorted radio transmission from the squadron leader was heard at 18:20pm, apparently calling for his men to prepare to ditch their aircraft simultaneously because of lack of fuel.”

From Wikipedia:

“Radio conversations between the pilots were overheard by base and other aircraft in the area. The practice bombing operation is known to have been carried out because at about 15:00pm, a pilot requested and was given permission to drop his last bomb. Forty minutes later, another flight instructor, Lieutenant Robert F. Cox in FT-74, forming up with his group of students for the same mission, received an unidentified transmission.

Fort Lauderdale Daily News Image
Photo Credit: nasflmuseum.com

An unidentified crew member asked Powers (Marine Corps Captain Edward Joseph Powers, Jr., pilot of FT-36), for his compass reading. Powers replied: “I don’t know where we are. We must have got lost after that last turn.” Cox then transmitted: “This is FT-74, plane or boat calling ‘Powers’ please identify yourself so someone can help you.” The response after a few moments was a request from the others in the flight for suggestions. FT-74 tried again and a man identified as FT-28 (Lt. Taylor) came on. “FT-28, this is FT-74, what is your trouble?” “Both of my compasses are out”, Taylor replied, “and I am trying to find Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am over land but it’s broken. I am sure I’m in the Keys but, I don’t know how far down and, I don’t know how to get to Fort Lauderdale.”

FT-74 informed the NAS that aircraft were lost, then advised Taylor to put the sun on his port wing and fly north up the coast to Fort Lauderdale. […] no bearings could be made on the flight and the IFF (transmitter) could not be picked up. Taylor was told to broadcast on 4805 kHz. This order was not acknowledged so he was asked to switch to 3000 kHz, the search and rescue frequency. Taylor replied: “I cannot switch frequencies. I must keep my planes intact.”

As the weather deteriorated, radio contact became intermittent and it was believed that the five aircraft were actually, by that time, more than 200 nmi (230 mi; 370 km) out to sea east of the Florida peninsula. Taylor radioed “We’ll fly 270 degrees west until landfall or running out of gas” and requested a weather check at 17:24pm. By 17:50pm, several land-based radio stations had triangulated Flight 19’s position as […] north of the Bahamas and well off the coast of central Florida.”

There is some question as to the exact time of Taylor’s last transmission (18:20pm or 19:04pm) but, he was heard saying “All planes close up tight…we’ll have to ditch unless landfall…when the first plane drops below 10 gallons, we all go down together.” By that time, the sun had set and the weather was much worse.

From the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum:

“Two PBM Mariner flying boats were dispatched from NAS Banana River in Melbourne, Florida (now Patrick Air Force Base), carrying rescue equipment. Less than a half hour after take-off (at approximately 19:27), one of the PBM’s (Trainer 49/BuNo 59225) radioed the tower that they were nearing Flight 19’s last assumed position. The rescue plane with a crew of 13 men was never heard from again.”

From Wikipedia:

“At 21:15pm, the tanker SS Gaines Mills reported it had observed flames from an apparent explosion leaping 100 ft (30 m) high and burning for 10 minutes. Captain Shonna Stanley reported unsuccessfully searching for survivors through a pool of oil and aviation gasoline. The escort carrier USS Solomons also reported losing radar contact with an aircraft at the same position and time.”

A 500 page Navy investigation was published a few months later. Initially, blame was placed upon Lt. Taylor for mistaking the Bahamas for the Florida Keys and not listening to his subordinate officers. The report was amended to ’cause unknown’ when Taylor’s mother stated that the Navy had no evidence for their conclusions…no planes and no bodies. Lt. Taylor was listed as ‘not at fault’ as his compasses were not working. The disappearance of PBM-5 Trainer 49 was attributed to a mid-air explosion.

Flight 19 has never been found.

For more interesting information, visit: Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum.

Wayback Wednesday: The Revenue Act of 1913

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Underwood Simmons Act Image
Image Credit: pixfeeds.com (defunct) &
buzzle.com

In 1913, The Revenue Act or the Underwood Act or the Underwood Tariff or the Underwood Tariff Act or the Underwood-Simmons Act or, simply, the Tariff Act (Federal Income Tax) was signed into law (re-imposed) by President Woodrow Wilson after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment. It was sponsored/introduced by House Majority Leader Oscar Underwood from Alabama.

The very first personal income tax was signed into law in 1861 by Abraham Lincoln as a way to fund the Civil War. It was largely ineffective and, was, originally, a flat rate tax before being repealed and replaced with the Revenue Act of 1862, converting the flat rate into a progressive rate. This act ended in 1866.

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the income tax provision of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894 via Pollock vs Farmers’ Loan & Trust in 1895, that opened the door for the Sixteenth Amendment 18 years later, affirming that “…the Constitution did not deny Congress the power to impose a tax on real and personal property“… Yay for us.

Thomas Kelley Unsplash Image
Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

Other things from October 3…

1922Rebecca Ann Latimer Felton of Georgia is the 1st woman in the U.S. Senate, if only for one day.

1929…The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes changes its name to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

1945Elvis Presley has his first public appearance at the age of 10. He was dressed as a cowboy, stood on a chair and sang “Old Shep” at the Mississippi–Alabama Fair and Dairy Show.

1955Captain Kangaroo and The Mickey Mouse Club both premier on CBS and ABC, respectively.

1990…At midnight on this day, the flag of West Germany was raised over Brandenburg Gate, signifying the reunification of Germany.