Monday, December 11, 2017

WW2 Fallen - Henry Deckert, first US tank soldier killed by enemy tank in WW2

Former cook Pfc. Henry Deckert crewed a M3 Stuart like the one in this photo.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/20945141
http://ww2awartobewon.com/wwii-articles/192nd-194th-tank-battalions-bataan/ 
Henry John Deckert never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on December 11, 1917 in Illinois. His parents Adam and Maria were both born in Russia. His father worked as a laborer. Henry had an older brother and a younger brother and sister. By 1940 Henry was still living at home, had completed one year of high school, and was working as a sander.

Henry joined the 33rd Divisional Tank Company in the Illinois National Guard in November 1940. His unit was federalized in September 1941. At that time Henry was trained and working as an army cook, but wanted to work in a tank crew. Within weeks Henry's unit got orders to steam for the Philippines. He became a private first class in Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion. This unit was equipped with M3 Stuart light tanks. Pfc. Deckert arrived in Manila on November 20, 1941. Shortly after this, Pfc. Deckert transferred from cook to join a tank crew. He and his tank were guarding Clark Field when the Japanese planes attacked on December 8, 1941.

Two weeks later his unit got orders to move north to Lingayen Gulf. While engaged with the enemy on December 22, 1941, Pfc. Deckert's tank was hit by an armor piercing shell and Deckert was instantly killed. He was the first American tank crew member killed in tank-to-tank action in World War 2.

Both his brothers served in the US Marines during the war and returned safely home.

His grave is at Oakridge Glen Oak Cemetery in Hillsdale, Illinois.

Thank you Henry for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Henry.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.

Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100
Join the public Facebook group WW2 Fallen 100

Sunday, December 10, 2017

WW2 Fallen - F4U Corsair pilot Henry Graham, US Naval Academy

Lt. Cdr. Henry Graham, flew Corsairs for VFB-83. The above painting is by Charles Thompson.
https://usnamemorialhall.org/index.php/HENRY_F._GRAHAM,_LCDR,_USN
http://www.asaa-avart.org/exhibits_forums/images/2011%20500x500/Thompson._BUDDIES.jpg 
Henry F. Graham never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on December 10, 1917 in New York. His mother Johanna was also born in New York and his father Henry was born in Massachusetts. His mother's parents were from Germany and his father's parents were from Ireland. His father worked as a steamship company auditor and later as a railroad auditor. Henry had a younger brother. By 1940 Henry was a midshipman at the US Naval Academy and graduated that year.

He became a carrier based pilot. I was not able to find his service record for the first part of the war. By April of 1945 Graham had advanced to the rank of lieutenant commander and flew F4U Corsairs for VFB-83, most likely from the carrier USS Essex. Essex was part of the naval support in the Battle of Okinawa. His plane was shot down on April 11, 1945. His remains were never recovered. After his death, Lt. Cdr. Graham was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Lt. Cdr. Graham is memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial.

Thanks to Darillyn Lamb Starr for recommending that Henry be profiled.

Thank you Henry for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Henry.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.

Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100
Join the public Facebook group WW2 Fallen 100

Saturday, December 9, 2017

WW2 Fallen - 75 years ago today the 1st Marine Division departed from Guadalcanal. 774 marines did not.

General Alexander Vandegrift visited the 1st Marine Division Guadalcanal cemetery
before his division was pulled out on December 9, 1942.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/65794844536094275/?lp=true
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/498140408770335670/?lp=true
Seventy-five years ago today, on December 9, 1942, the 1st Marine Division commander General Alexander Vandegrift handed operational command of Guadalcanal to the Americal Division commander Sandy Patch. The 1st Marines were being relieved.

The 1st Marine Division lost 774 dead or missing on Guadalcanal. Before leaving the island, General Vandegrift stopped at a cleared area in the Lunga Point coconut groves. It was the location of Flanders Field, the cemetery where hundreds of his men were buried.

Vandegraft's grandfather had fought with General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg. Gazing over some many of the fallen, many whom he personally knew, Vandegraft recalled something that General Lee had once observed:

"What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of the beautiful world."

Thanks to the 1st Marine Division Guadalcanal fallen for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for these men who succeeded in turning the tide that would result in the defeat of Imperial Japan and a peace that has lasted more than seven decades.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.

Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100
Join the public Facebook group WW2 Fallen 100

WW2 D-Day Fallen - Forrest Brewer, 82nd Airborne Division

Cpl. Forrest Brewer, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment was killed in action on D-Day.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29958671
http://www.nchsinc.com/product_p/b1744.htm
Forrest Vernon "Lefty" Brewer never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on December 9, 1917 in Tennessee. His parents Frank and Mattie were also both born in Tennessee. His father worked as a general merchandise store salesman. By 1930 the family had moved to Florida and Frank worked as a filing station manager and later as a clerk. Forrest had two older sisters, one older brother and one younger brother (who served in the navy). By 1940 Forrest had completed three years of high school and worked as a baseball player, excelling as a top notch left handed pitcher.

http://www.baseballsgreatestsacrifice.com/biographies/brewer_lefty.html
He enlisted in the army on March 3, 1941. He volunteered for parachute duty and after completing jump school he joined the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He married Mary Dixon during the summer of 1942. He advanced to the rank of staff sergeant but was busted back to private for fighting and breaking another soldier's jaw.

By early 1944 the 508th PIR was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division and Forrest became a corporal (for the second time after being busted back to private again for another fight) in Company B, 1st Battalion. He no doubt had many opportunities to use his baseball skills in the games played with his fellow paratroopers. Baseball really was America's game back in the 1940's. (Another baseball player, Henry O'Neill, who played for the Philadelphia Athletics, was profiled earlier this year.)

On June 6, 1944 the 508th PIR was given the assignment of the southwest portion of the 82nd AD sector of the airdrop. Poor weather and heavy flak resulted in the 508th air transports to stray off course. German units in the scheduled drop zones prevented pathfinders from setting expected markings. As a result the troops from the 508th PIR were widely scattered and many drowned when they landed in unexpected marshes. 

Cpl. Brewer was killed in action on the afternoon of D-Day when he was unable to escape from counterattacking German tanks who machine-gunned the outmatched paratroopers.

His grave is at Riverside Memorial Park in Jacksonville, Florida. I don't know what happened to his widow.

Fifty years later, Bill Dean, the paratrooper who was with Brewer the day he died, admitted that not a day went by when he did not remember his comrade. “I will never forget Lefty,” said Dean, “...nor how fickle fate is ... he taught me how to soldier and I made it back ... he didn’t.” (Source here.)

Thank you Forrest for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Forrest.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.

Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100
Join the public Facebook group WW2 Fallen 100

Friday, December 8, 2017

WW2 Fallen - Medal of Honor hero Joseph Sadowski, 4th Armored Division

Medal of Honor hero Sgt. Joseph Sadowski, was a tank commander of a M4 Sherman
like this one in the 37th Tank Battalion.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7511978
http://www.privateletters.net/featured_arracourt.html
Joseph J. Sadowski never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on December 8, 1917 in New Jersey. His parents Walter and Frances were both born in Poland. His father worked as a bottle maker. Joseph had an older sister and a younger sister. Joseph had a grammar school education and worked as baker.

He enlisted in the army on May 13, 1942. He became a sergeant and tank commander in Company A, 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division. The 4th AD landed on Utah Beach on July 11, 1944. It took part in Operation Cobra to break out of Normandy. By September it was across the Moselle River were it faced SS units. On September 14, 1944 Sgt. Sadowski made a difficult, selfless decision that would lead to a posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.

His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty at Valhey, France. 

On the afternoon of 14 September 1944, Sgt. Sadowski as a tank commander was advancing with the leading elements of Combat Command A, 4th Armored Division, through an intensely severe barrage of enemy fire from the streets and buildings of the town of Valhey. As Sgt. Sadowski's tank advanced through the hail of fire, it was struck by a shell from an 88-mm. gun fired at a range of 20 yards. The tank was disabled and burst into flames. 

The suddenness of the enemy attack caused confusion and hesitation among the crews of the remaining tanks of our forces. Sgt. Sadowski immediately ordered his crew to dismount and take cover in the adjoining buildings. After his crew had dismounted, Sgt. Sadowski discovered that 1 member of the crew, the bow gunner, had been unable to leave the tank. Although the tank was being subjected to a withering hail of enemy small-arms, bazooka, grenade, and mortar fire from the streets and from the windows of adjacent buildings, Sgt. Sadowski unhesitatingly returned to his tank and endeavored to pry up the bow gunner's hatch. While engaged in this attempt to rescue his comrade from the burning tank, he was cut down by a stream of machinegun fire which resulted in his death. 

The gallant and noble sacrifice of his life in the aid of his comrade, undertaken in the face of almost certain death, so inspired the remainder of the tank crews that they pressed forward with great ferocity and completely destroyed the enemy forces in this town without further loss to themselves. The heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Sgt. Sadowski, which resulted in his death, inspired the remainder of his force to press forward to victory, and reflect the highest tradition of the armed forces.

His grave is at St. Stephens Cemetery in Keasby, New Jersey. The Sadowsky Field House in Fort Knox is named in his honor.

Thank you Joseph for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Joseph.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.

Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100
Join the public Facebook group WW2 Fallen 100

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Remember Pearl Harbor By Remembering Those We Lost

Lawrence Boxrucker, Howard Carter, and Welborn Ashby were among those killed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The Honolulu Memorial at the Punch Bowl remembers these fallen.
Last year, when we were commemorating the 75th anniversary or the attack on Pearl Harbor, I first contemplated that while some of the American servicemen who died in World War 2 have been recognized and honored, the vast majority remain unknown. Unlike the Vietnam War Memorial with the names listed on a wall, the World War 2 fallen have had to settle for representation of a star on the World War 2 Memorial for each 100 who didn't come home.

Even though these men died more than seven decades ago, it was still a modern age. There were records and photographs, letters and journals. With the development of the Internet, a lot of this information is relatively easy to find. I thought it would be a worthwhile project to tell some of their stories.

So far this year I have written 339 profiles. Each man (and one woman) left behind parents, siblings, sometimes a sweetheart and even children. As a group, most of them knew what they were getting into. They knew the risks and knew they might not come home. The exceptions to this were those killed on December 7, 1941. These men woke that morning to a nation at peace. Many died not even knowing they were under attack.

I was able to write about six of these men on their 100th birthdays. Click on their names to read their stories. Sadly, I was only able to find photos of only a few of these men. If any readers can find photos, I would love to add them.

Welborn Ashby, USS West Virginia 

Lawrence Boxrucker, USS Oklahoma

Howard Carter, USS Dobbin

Leo Gagne, Hickam Field

Richard Livingston, Hickam Field

Eugene Skiles, USS Arizona, and his younger brother Charles

After the attack, the nation rallied behind the slogan "Remember Pearl Harbor." While at first this was used to motivate America to defeat the enemy, today it means more.

In his memoir All the Gallant Men: Am American Sailor's Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor, one of the last Pearl Harbor survivors Donald Stratton wrote:

"We also remember it in order to hallow the memories of those who were lost. And that, I believe, is how past and present are connected, through remembrance.

"That is how I would like to conclude my words to you. May we all be reunited again very soon in the world to come. All the gallant men of the Arizona. And all the others gallant men who died on that date that lives in infamy."

Thank you Welborn and Lawrence and Howard and Leo and Richard and Eugene and Charles and all your comrades who tragically died 76 years ago today.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.

WW2 Fallen - B-29 Bombardier Werner Leu

2nd Lt. Walter Leu was the bombardier on the B-29 Southern Belle, 497th Bombardment Group.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/107830242
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/292734044502942244/
Werner S. Leu never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on December 7, 1917 in Wisconsin. His parents Sam and Lena were both born in Switzerland and immigrated to America in 1896. His father worked as a farmer. Werner had four older brothers, five older sisters, and one younger sister. Werner completed four years of high school and worked in a warehouse prior to joining the army.

He enlisted in the army on January 24, 1941. The future of his life changed on his 24th birthday with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At some point he joined the Army Air Forces and trained to be a bombardier. He became a second lieutenant in the 871st Bombardment Squadron, 497th Bombardment Group which was equipped with B-29 Superfortresses. The 497th BG operated out of Saipan.

On July 19, 1945 the mission for the 871st Bomb Squad was Hitachi. Lt. Leu's plane, named Southern Belle, ditched into the ocean shortly after takeoff. Five airmen returned to duty, one died of wounds and the other five, including Lt. Leu were killed in the crash.

His grave is at Union Grove Cemetery in Darlington, Wisconsin.

Thank you Werner for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Werner.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.

Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100
Join the public Facebook group WW2 Fallen 100