The unfortunate career of L. Ron Hubbard

l rON hUBBARD

Most people will associate the name of   L. Ron Hubbard with the Church of Scientology and his work as an author of science fiction books. Although one may not fully understand the concept of the Church of Scientology or agree with its teachings, you would have to agree it is a successful venture, and the same can be said about his work as an author.

blackout

But as the title suggests this blog is about his lesser known career. A career which wasn’t as  fruitful.

During WWII L. Ron Hubbard served in the US Naval and had actually commanded 2 naval vessels, the USS YP-422 and the USS PC-815. It is  the latter one I will be focusing on

The USS PC-815 was a PC-461-class submarine chaser built for the United States Navy during World War II.

PC 815

In November 1942, Hubbard was sent to the Submarine Chaser Training Center in Miami, Florida for training on submarine chaser vessels. He then went on a ten-day anti-submarine warfare training course at the Fleet Sound School in Key West .On January 17, 1943 he was posted in Portland, Oregon,where he took command of USS PC-815.

While he was in command of the vessel, Hubbard was involved in two bizarre naval incidents. In May 1943, he reported that his vessel had damaged and sank two Japanese submarines that surfaced off the coast of Oregon.

Over a duration of  68 hours, the ship dropped 37 depth charges in a “sea battle” that also involved the U.S. Navy blimps K-39 and K-33, the United States Coast Guard patrol boats Bonham and 78302, and the sub chasers USS SC-536 and USS SC-537, all were called upon to  to act as reinforcements. PC-815 was finally ordered back to base on 21 May. His superiors couldn’t find proof that any submarines had been sunk anywhere near the place which Hubbard indicated; his claims were dismissed.

In an eighteen-page after-action report, Hubbard stated  to have “definitely sunk, beyond doubt” one submarine and critically damaged another. The  submarine he claimed to have sunk was the I-76.

76

However that submarine was still operational in April 1944.

Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher a decorated Navy officer, was assigned to investigate Hubbard’s sinking of a Japanese submarine.In his report dated June 8, 1943 to the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, Fletcher writes, “An analysis of all reports convinces me that there was no submarine in the area.”

Admiral Fletcher’s investigation suggested that Hubbard mistakenly read a magnetic iron ore deposit on the ocean floor as two enemy submarines on their sonar.

report

The second incident nearly caused a diplomatic conflict between the US  and Mexico.In June 1943, the PC-815 traveled to San Diego, which was to be the new home port  for the vessel . She arrived there on the 2nd of  June 1943, and at the end of June was ordered to sea to join an anti-submarine training exercise.The exercise, held on 28 June, ended early and Hubbard took the opportunity to order an unscheduled and improvised gunnery exercise while anchored just off the Mexican territory of South Coronado Island to the south-west of San Diego.He mistakenly believed that the islands were uninhabited and situated within U.S. territory, so he carried out gunnery practice close to the islands.The islands were actually a base to  Mexican Navy personnel during the war.The Mexican government sent an official protest to the U.S. Government, as no gunnery operations had been scheduled.

The Mexican government filed a complaint  and two days later, Hubbard had to appear before a naval Board of Investigation in San Diego. He was found to have disregarded orders by carrying out an unsanctioned gunnery practice and violating Mexican waters. He was reprimanded and removed from command, effective July 7.

mexican report

 

The official incident report stated that he was “unsuitable for independent duties and lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership, and cooperation,” and he was forced to perform administrative tasks for the rest of his years in service.

pc 815 2

 

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The cowardly execution of Sgt.Leonard Siffleet.

Siffleet

The Japanese Imperial  Armed forces did claim they were honorable and conducted themselves in the way of the Bushido. In reality there was very little honour in how they conducted themselves, especially when it came to treating prisoners of war.

The Bushido code consists of a set of 8 virtues, one of them being Benevolence or Mercy this was virtue 3. It goes on to say:3.

“A human invested with the power to command and the power to kill was expected to demonstrate equally extraordinary powers of benevolence and mercy: Love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, are traits of Benevolence, the highest attribute of the human soul. Both Confucius and Mencius often said the highest requirement of a ruler of men is Benevolence.”

The last virtue indicates Character and Self-Control.8

“Bushido teaches that men should behave according to an absolute moral standard, one that transcends logic. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. The difference between good and bad and between right and wrong are givens, not arguments subject to discussion or justification, and a man should know the difference.Finally, it is a man’s obligation to teach his children moral standards through the model of his own behavior: ”

Len Siffleet, was an Australian  special operations soldier,born on 14 January 1916 in Gunnedah, New South Wales. In the late 1930’s he moved to Sydney trying to join the Police. Unfortunately due to his eyesight he didn’t qualify to become a Police officer. In 1940 however he served with a searchlight unit at Richmond Air Force Base but was released after three months and returned to civilian life. In 1941 returned to his family to help look after his young brothers following the death of his Mother.

After completing a  radio communications course at Melbourne Technical College, he volunteered for special operations in September 1942 and was posted to the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) of the Allied Intelligence Bureau in Melbourne.

He was promoted to the rank of sergeant and transferred to M Special Unit in May 1943. Siffleet joined a party led by Sergeant H. N. Staverman of the Royal Netherlands Navy, which included two Ambonese privates, in New Guinea.

The reconnaissance group commenced its mission in north-east New Guinea in July, trekking across New Guinea’s mountainous terrain.

new guinea

In mid-September the mission, along with members of another special operations team travelling with them to Aitape, were discovered by New Guinean natives. During a short scuffle Siffleet managed to shoot  and wound one of their attackers,and  he managed to get away.However he was soon  caught again  and, along with his companions, was handed over to the Japanese.

The men were confined for several weeks before they were  taken down to Aitape Beach on the afternoon of 24 October 1943. Bound and blindfolded, surrounded by Japanese and native onlookers, they were forced to the ground.

3 men

 

On the orders of Vice-Admiral Michiaki Kamada of the Imperial Japanese Navy the men were beheaded. The officer who executed Siffleet, Yasuno Chikao, ordered a private to photograph him in the act.

There was absolutely no valid reason for the executions. The men were prisoners of war and should have been treated as such. Even according to their own Bushido code they should have shown compassion. But instead the executed unarmed men who were bound and blindfolded.

The photograph of Siffleet’s execution was  later discovered on the body of a dead Japanese major near Hollandia by American troops in April 1944.

beheading

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Australian War Memorial

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The Pig Basket atrocity

basket

We all know about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime and they are truly awful, mostly even hard to fathom, but we should never forget the crimes committed by the Japanese regime, very often they were just as evil if not worse..

One only had to look at the rape of Nanking or at the actions of Unit 731.

731

After the Allies capitulated to the Imperial Japanese army  in East Java,Indonesia, in 1942, approximately  200 allied troops  took to the hills around Malang. to fight as a guerrilla resistance force. Unfortunately they were eventually captured and tortured  by the Kempeitai,the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Kempeitai

The captured soldiers were forcibly squeezed into 91-95 cm long bamboo baskets and transported in open trucks,the bamboo baskets were usually used to transport pigs, in temperatures reaching 38 degrees Centigrade . The prisoners of war , already suffering from severe dehydration due to the extreme heat, were then placed on waiting boats, which sailed off the coast of Surabaya, the baskets  were then thrown into the ocean. The prisoners were drowned or eaten alive by sharks.

Dutch girl Elizabeth Van Kampen, who was 15 at the time was one of the witnesses, below is her testimony

“At the beginning of October 1942 when my father and I walked over the main road near the coffee and rubber plantation Sumber Sewu, laying on the ridge of the Mount Semeru, when we heard trucks from a distance coming our way. We quickly hid behind the coffee bushes laying higher up than the road, (alas) we could see everything quite well.
We saw 5 open trucks, they were loaded with bamboo baskets with therein laying white men. We heard the men screaming and crying for water and for help in English and Dutch. The baskets were piled up on the open trucks, they were driving direction Banyuwangi.

I was 15 years old and so I could fully understand what was happening there in front of my eyes, but what touched me so much deeper were the voices of the desperate men begging for help and water.
I was hiding behind my father and I heard him softly saying; “Oh my God”.

We slowly walked home but over another road, neither of us said a word. There were no words for what we both had seen and heard…

After the war, I often wanted to talk with my father about that drama we had seen together. Had the Indonesians from Sumber Sewu seen those trucks? I shall never know.”

I believe the drawing at the start of the blog was drawn by Elizabeth

It is important to note that Indonesia was and still is predominantly a Muslim country, pigs are considered ‘dirty animals’ and any contact with pigs is seen as unholy. It is therefor not hard to believe that the allied troops were put in ‘pig baskets’ deliberately to ensure that local people would or could not help them, But even if they would have attempted to help they more then likely would have been executed anyway

Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura, commander in chief of the Japanese forces in Java, was acquitted on war crimes charges by a Netherlands court due to lack of evidence but was later charged by an Australian military court and sentenced to 10 years in prison, which he served from 1946–54 in Sugamo, Japan.

Hitoshi

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Shark attack file

De Indische kwestie

 

A destructive beauty.

boom

On July 16,1945,at 5:29 a.m the world witnessed a beautiful yet devastating event. When I say world I really mean only a select few. What they witnessed was the first ever nuclear test, designated the ‘Trinity Test’ it was part of the Manhattan Project.

The bomb that was detonated was ‘the gadget’.

gadget

Although we all know how devastating a nuclear device can be, there is something beautiful about it. Don’t get me wrong I don’t like nukes but the direct aftermath of the explosion does display a beautiful fireball and cloud.

The expanding fireball and shockwave of the Trinity test explosion, seen .025 seconds after detonation on July 16, 1945. It nearly looks like a perfect sphere.

0.025

The evolution of the Trinity fireball over the first 9 seconds, with the Empire State Building for scale. Image by Alex Wellerstein.

empire

The evolution of the Trinity fireball over the first 9 seconds, with the Empire State Building for scale. Image by Alex Wellerstein.

The fireball of the conventional explosion was visible from Alamogordo Army Air Field 60 miles (97 km) away, but there was little shock at the base camp 10 miles (16 km) away.

A few weeks after the Trinity test the US Army Airforce would drop 2 nuclear bombs on Japan,, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

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Rare historical Photos

 

Japanese attack on Fort Stevens-Oregon.

i 25

After the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7 1941, there was a fear that Japan had plans to invade the US. This never happened, although there had been a few attacks on American soil by Japan, these did very little damage.

The only military base ever to be attacked by Japan was Forts Stevens on the Oregon side of the mouth of the Columbia River.

The attack  occurred on June 21, 1942. After trailing American fishing vessels to bypass minefields, the Japanese submarine I-25 made its way to the mouth of the Columbia River. It surfaced near Fort Stevens.

Fort

The Japanese submarine I-25, commanded by Tagami Meiji, had been assigned to sink enemy shipping and attack the enemy on land with their 14 cm deck gun. Transporting a Yokosuka E14Y seaplane, it had a crew of 97.

i 25 plane

Just before midnight, the submarine used its 140-millimeter deck gun and fired 17 shells at the fort. Thinking that the return fires of the fort’s guns would only serve to more clearly reveal their position, the commander of Fort Stevens ordered his men not to return fire.  Instead a compete black out was ordered. The plan worked, and the bombardment was almost totally unsuccessful—a nearby baseball field bore the brunt of the damage.

Damage

The only significant damage was caused when one shell severed several large telephone cables.

American Army Air Corps planes on a training mission had seen the  the I-25 and called in her location,requesting  an A-29 Hudson bomber to attack. The bomber spotted the I-25, but she successfully escaped the falling bombs and submerged undamaged and got away.

Bomber

Although there were no injuries and very little damage, the Japanese attack on Fort Stevens did increase the fear of a Japanese invasion.

The Fort Stevens shelling was the only time that a continental United States military installation was attacked by the Axis Powers during World War II.

News Papaer

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Discerning History

Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal

IMTFE_judges

When we think of the WWII war crime tribunal we usually think about the Nuremberg Trials, however there were several trials for the Nazis weren’t the only ones who had committed war crimes. The Japanese Imperial Army were also guilty of atrocities, and some of them were more brutal and evil then the crimes committed by the Nazis.

The Tokyo trials or The International Military Tribunal for the Far East began on May 3, 1946 and lasted two and a half years. Three broad categories of war crimes were established. Class A charges, alleging “crimes against peace”, were brought against Japan’s top leaders who had planned and directed the war. Class B and C charges, which were leveled at Japanese of any rank, covered “conventional war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. Former U.S. assistant attorney general, Joseph Keenan, served as the chief prosecutor. He was a Roosevelt New Dealer and had once personally prosecuted such infamous American gangsters as “Machine Gun Kelley”

 

IMTFE_court_chamber

Sir William Webb of Australia served as the tribunal’s president. Eleven judges representing various countries presided. On November 4, 1948 Webb announced that all defendants had been found guilty. Seven were sentenced to death (including the most infamous, former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo); sixteen received life terms (though many of these were paroled in the 1950’s), and two were given lesser terms. Two had died during the trials and one was found insane. Hundreds of subsequent war crimes trials were held in other countries in Asia into the 1950’s. These Tokyo trials, while important, have often remained in the shadow of the more publicized Nuremberg war crimes trials in Europe.2017-3039-01

General Douglas MacArthur was pleased with the Tokyo trials and stated, “No human decision is infallible but I can conceive of no judicial process where greater safeguard was made to evolve justice.…no mortal agency in the present imperfect evolution of civilized society seems more entitled to confidence in the integrity of its solemn pronouncements. If we cannot trust such processes and such men we can trust nothing.”

imtfe

The U.S. and its allies established an International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMFTE) to prosecute Japanese military and government leaders. Twenty-eight high-ranking Japanese political and military leaders, often referred to as the “Big Fish”, along with others were indicted on 55 counts in the most publicized Tokyo trial. The accused group included former prime ministers, foreign ministers, economic and financial leaders, ambassadors, war ministers, navy ministers, and senior military officers. General Douglas MacArthur decided, with President Truman’s concurrence, not to place Emporer Hirohito or any member of the royal family on trial. He was seen by the victors as a much needed leader and symbol for the new, peaceful and democratic Japan to arise from the ashes of WW II. The U.S. was entering a new Cold War era and needed a militarily purged, newly reborn Japan as any ally with Hirohito as its unifying symbol.

1280px-Showa-family1941_12_7

As many as 50 suspects, such as Nobusuke Kishi, who later became Prime Minister, and Yoshisuke Aikawa, head of Nissan, were charged but released in 1947 and 1948. Shiro Ishii received immunity in exchange for data gathered from his experiments on live prisoners. The lone dissenting judge arguing to exonerate all arrested suspects was Indian jurist Radhabinod Pal.Radhabinod_Pal

Following the model used at the Nuremberg Trials in Germany, the Allies established three broad categories. “Class A” charges, alleging crimes against peace, were to be brought against Japan’s top leaders who had planned and directed the war. Class B and C charges, which could be leveled at Japanese of any rank, covered conventional war crimes and crimes against humanity, respectively. Unlike the Nuremberg Trials, the charge of crimes against peace was a prerequisite to prosecution—only those individuals whose crimes included crimes against peace could be prosecuted by the Tribunal.

The indictment accused the defendants of promoting a scheme of conquest that “contemplated and carried out…murdering, maiming and ill-treating prisoners of war (and) civilian internees…forcing them to labor under inhumane conditions…plundering public and private property, wantonly destroying cities, towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity; (perpetrating) mass murder, rape, pillage, brigandage, torture and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population of the over-run countries.

Indictment 1

Indictment 2

The prosecution began opening statements on May 3, 1946, and took 192 days to present its case, finishing on January 24, 1947. It submitted its evidence in fifteen phases.

The Charter provided that evidence against the accused could include any document “without proof of its issuance or signature” as well as diaries, letters, press reports, and sworn or unsworn out-of-court statements relating to the charges.[6] Article 13 of the Charter read, in part: “The tribunal shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence…and shall admit any evidence which it deems to have probative value”.

Numerous eye-witness accounts of the Nanking Massacre were provided by Chinese civilian survivors and western nationals living in Nanking at the time. The accounts included gruesome details of the Nanking Massacre. Thousands of innocent civilians were buried alive, used as targets for bayonet practice, shot in large groups and thrown into the Yangtze River. Rampant rapes (and gang rapes) of women ranging from age seven to over seventy were reported. The international community estimated that within the six weeks of the Massacre, 20,000 women were raped, many of them subsequently murdered or mutilated; and over 300,000 people were killed, often with the most inhumane brutality.
Dr. Robert Wilson, a surgeon who was born and raised in Nanking and educated at Princeton and Harvard Medical School, testified that beginning with December 13, “the hospital filled up and was kept full to overflowing” during the next six weeks. The patients usually bore bayonet or bullet wounds; many of the women patients had been sexually molested.

The international community had filed many protests to the Japanese Embassy. Bates, an American professor of history at the University of Nanking during the Japanese occupation, provided evidence that the protests were forwarded to Tokyo and were discussed in great detail between Japanese officials and the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo.

Brackman (reporter at the trial and author of the book “The Other Nuremberg”) commented: “The Rape of Nanking was not the kind of isolated incident common to all wars. It was deliberate. It was policy. It was known in Tokyo.” Yet it was allowed to continue for over six weeks.Nanking

The defendants were represented by over a hundred attorneys, three-quarters of them Japanese and one-quarter American, plus a support staff. The defense opened its case on January 27, 1947, and finished its presentation 225 days later on September 9, 1947.

The defense argued that the trial could never be free from substantial doubt as to its “legality, fairness and impartiality”.

The defense challenged the indictment, arguing that crimes against peace, and more specifically, the undefined concepts of conspiracy and aggressive war, had yet to be established as crimes in international law; in effect, the IMTFE was contradicting accepted legal procedure by trying the defendants retroactively for violating laws which had not existed when the alleged crimes had been committed. The defense insisted that there was no basis in international law for holding individuals responsible for acts of state, as the Tokyo Trial proposed to do. The defense attacked the notion of negative criminality, by which the defendants were to be tried for failing to prevent breaches of law and war crimes by others, as likewise having no basis in international law.

The defense argued that Allied Powers’ violations of international law should be examined.

Former Foreign Minister Shigenori Tōgō maintained that Japan had had no choice but to enter the war for self-defense purposes. He asserted that “[because of the Hull Note] we felt at the time that Japan was being driven either to war or suicide”.

Shigenori_Togo

One defendant, Shūmei Ōkawa, was found mentally unfit for trial and the charges were dropped.

Two defendants, Matsuoka Yosuke and Nagano Osami, died of natural causes during the trial.

Six defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace (Class A, Class B and Class C):

General Kenji Doihara, chief of the intelligence services in Manchukuo
Kōki Hirota, prime minister (later foreign minister)
General Seishirō Itagaki, war minister
General Heitarō Kimura, commander, Burma Area Army
Lieutenant General Akira Mutō, chief of staff, 14th Area Army
General Hideki Tōjō, commander, Kwantung Army (later prime minister)
One defendant was sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes and crimes against humanity (Class B and Class C):

General Iwane Matsui, commander, Shanghai Expeditionary Force and Central China Area Army
They were executed at Sugamo Prison in Ikebukuro on December 23, 1948. MacArthur, afraid of embarrassing and antagonizing the Japanese people, defied the wishes of President Truman and barred photography of any kind, instead bringing in four members of the Allied Council to act as official witnesses.

Sixteen defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment. Three (Koiso, Shiratori, and Umezu) died in prison, while the other thirteen were paroled between 1954 and 1956:

General Sadao Araki, war minister
Colonel Kingorō Hashimoto, major instigator of the second Sino-Japanese War
Field Marshal Shunroku Hata, war minister
Baron Kiichirō Hiranuma, prime minister
Naoki Hoshino, Chief Cabinet Secretary
Okinori Kaya, finance minister
Marquis Kōichi Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
General Kuniaki Koiso, governor of Korea, later prime minister
General Jirō Minami, commander, Kwantung Army
Admiral Takazumi Oka, naval minister
Lieutenant General Hiroshi Ōshima, Ambassador to Germany
General Kenryō Satō, chief of the Military Affairs Bureau
Admiral Shigetarō Shimada, naval minister
Toshio Shiratori, Ambassador to Italy
Lieutenant General Teiichi Suzuki, president of the Cabinet Planning Board
General Yoshijirō Umezu, war minister
Foreign minister Shigenori Tōgō was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and died in prison in 1949. Foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu was sentenced to 7 years.

The verdict and sentences of the tribunal were confirmed by MacArthur on November 24, 1948, two days after a perfunctory meeting with members of the Allied Control Commission for Japan, who acted as the local representatives of the nations of the Far Eastern Commission. Six of those representatives made no recommendations for clemency. Australia, Canada, India, and the Netherlands were willing to see the general make some reductions in sentences. He chose not to do so. The issue of clemency was thereafter to disturb Japanese relations with the Allied powers until the late 1950s, when a majority of the Allied powers agreed to release the last of the convicted major war criminals from captivity.

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Law Virginia

 

 

Calcutta Light Horse-Operation Creek

Calcutta-Light-Horse-Raid

Operation Creek (also known as “Operation Longshanks”) was a military operation undertaken by the British in World War Two on 9 March 1943.

Organized by the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the Calcutta Light Horse regiment was deployed to attack the German ship Ehrenfels, anchored in the Portuguese, hence neutral, Mormugao harbor in Goa, Portuguese India.

The Calcutta Light Horse was raised in 1872 and formed part of the Cavalry Reserve in the British Indian Army. The regiment was disbanded following India’s independence in 1947.Most of them had already volunteered for active duty and been rejected, and all of them were discontent–they did not like being left out of the war. They still trained regularly and enthusiastically, but any hope of seeing real action was gradually fading away.

For decades the Calcutta Light Horse, was more a social club than territorial regiment. The unit’s last military action had taken place in the Boer War almost 50 years earlier.

Ehrenfels became a target when it was discovered that she was transmitting information on Allied ship movements to German submarines, which played a part in the sinking of 12 Allied ships in the Indian Ocean in early Mar 1943.

The Germans had a secret transmitter on one of tthe Ehrenfels, a freighter that had sought refuge with two other German vessels, the Braunfels and the Drachenfels, in the neutral harbour of Goa on the outbreak of WW2

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The Calcutta Light Horse regiment sailed aboard the barge Phoebe and sailed from Calcutta to Goa. Upon reaching Mormugao harbor in the night of 9 Mar 1943, the men of the regiment infiltrated the German ship and detonated explosives.

Hopper-Barges

When British intelligence received word of the successful destruction of Ehrenfels, it sent an open message to announce that the British was about to invade Goa, which was a bluff. The crews of the other two German ships at Mormugao, Drachenfels and Braunfels, along with several Italian ships also present, scuttled their own ships to prevent British capture.

the-daring-calcutta-light-horse-raid-01

 

The operation was later the inspiration for the movie “the Seawolves”

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Warfare History

February 24 1941 Gallup Poll

gallup poll

I have always been fascinated by polls(I know it’s sad) more specifically how questions are asked in polls and how just wording the question slightly different can completely change the outcome of the poll as was the case in February 1941.

On 24 February 1941 a Gallup poll was published asking Americans, “Do you think the United States should try to keep Japan from seizing the Dutch East Indies and Singapore?” 56% said yes, 24% said no, 20% expressed no opinion.

invasion

A different version of the question asked, “Do you think the United States should risk war with Japan, if necessary, in order to keep Japan from taking the Dutch East Indies and Singapore?” 46% said no, 39% said yes, 15% gave no opinion.-

Funny enough not much has changed when it comes to polling.

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Whatever happened to Lieutenant Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams.

Ghost_blimp2_pilot

Early on the morning of Sunday, August 16, 1942, a U.S. Navy blimp prepared to take off from Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay to search for enemy submarines. The United States had entered World War II only nine months earlier, but Japanese subs had sunk at least half a dozen Allied ships off the American West Coast. Japan’s frontline combat sub, I-17, had even shelled one of California’s largest oil drilling facilities in February 1942—the first time a country had attacked the U.S. mainland since the British shelled New Orleans in the War of 1812. As a result, L-8 carried two 325-pound Mark 17 depth bombs mounted on an external rack, a .30-caliber machine gun and 300 rounds of ammunition. The blimp’s mission: Locate and sink any Japanese subs its crew spotted off San Francisco.

L8-960_640

L-8’s two-man crew boarded the gondola shortly before takeoff. Lieutenant Ernest Dewitt Cody and Ensign Charles Ellis Adams were both Navy veterans, married and with exemplary service records.Adams was even being decorated by the German government for rescuing passengers from the infamous Hindenburg disaster.

hindenburg-crash

At 7:42 a.m. Cody radioed in to inform HQ that they were investigating “a suspicious oil slick,” which could be the sign of submarine lurking below the ocean’s surface. There would be no further communications from the aircraft.

But when L-8 still hadn’t responded by 8:50, two Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes were sent to search for the blimp. Other aircraft in the area were also alerted to be on the lookout.

The next indication of L-8’s whereabouts came at 10:49, when a Pan American Clipper pilot reported seeing the blimp over the Golden Gate Bridge. He spotted nothing wrong with the ship, which appeared to be under control and heading back to base. At 11 one of the Kingfishers reported seeing L-8 three miles west of Salada Beach, rising through the overcast at 2,000 feet.

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A few minutes later the blimp began to descend, disappearing in the clouds. Nothing indicated that L-8 was not in controlled flight, but 2,000 feet was close to the blimp’s pressure height, the altitude where its valves would automatically open and vent helium, to prevent its gas cells from bursting. Normally, the crewmen would have avoided surpassing pressure height, but for some reason they had apparently ignored this restriction.

Sunday morning golfers at San Francisco’s exclusive Olympic Club stopped to watch the blimp limp by overhead. They probably didn’t realize that the remaining depth charge could only be detonated by water pressure, which is why they gave it a wide birth. One club member reported having seen a parachute descending from L-8 while the blimp was still offshore—and he wasn’t the only one to see something of the crew.

Seventeen-year-old C.E. Taylor told the San Francisco Call-Bulletin, “I put my binoculars on it and could see figures…inside the cabin.”

The blimp then drifted into the suburbs. By this time, thousands of people had gathered to watch the aircraft’s progress, which was only halted when it crashed into a utility pole.

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Luckily, no one was hurt in the crash, and the blimp managed to avoid starting a major fire when it collided with the electrical wires. Policemen and firefighters rushed to the scene, in hopes of aiding the crew, but when they had cut through the wreckage, the rescuers found their efforts had been in vain: Cody and Adams were nowhere to be found.

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How two naval officers vanished from one of the most heavily trafficked areas between San Francisco and the Farallon Islands while their blimp was being tracked by ships and planes, not to mention people on the ground, remains a mystery. Word soon surfaced that warm coffee and a half-eaten sandwich had been found in the control car, a rumor that later proved to be untrue. But a hat belonging to of the crewmen was discovered resting on the flight controls. And L-8’s radio was in perfect working order.

An inspection soon revealed that all three of L-8’s parachutes were still on board, along with its single life raft. Two of the blimp’s five smoke bombs were missing, but those were accounted for because the crew had used them to mark the oil slick. A briefcase containing classified material was found behind the pilot’s seat. L-8’s engines were in perfect working order. The ignition switches were on, and the blimp’s instruments and flight controls operated normally, with four hours of gas remaining in the fuel tanks. In other words, there was nothing whatsoever wrong with L-8 except that it lacked a crew.

Unofficial answers for the ghost blimp’s missing crew range from an enemy attack to alien abductions

An explanation that falls somewhere between aliens and abductions is that one of the men fell out of the blimp while it was investigating the oil slick and the other had leaped out in an attempted rescue, and himself drowned in the process. If the rescuer had hoped to quickly save his comrade, he wouldn’t have bothered to radio in or toss the confidential papers overboard..

The only hole in this theory is that the L-8 had an audience while it was circling the suspicious area. The crews of both the Daisy Gray, a fishing trawler, and the Albert Gallatin, a cargo ship, had observed the blimp as it flew low to investigate the oil slick and not a single sailor had noticed anything amiss.

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Whether it was aliens, Axis spies, or a simple accident, Cody and Adams were never heard from again. The ghost blimp, however, became one of the Goodyear blimps and toured around the nation during sporting events until 1982.

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The Case of the Treasonous Dolls

Dickinsondollshop

The facts of the case are odd.

Five letters were written in early 1942 and mailed by seemingly different people in different U.S. locations to the same person at a Buenos Aires, Argentina, address.

Velvaleedickinsonfeb221942letter

In early 1942, five letters were written and mailed by seemingly different people in different U.S. locations to the same person at an address in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Even more strangely, all of them bounced “Return to Sender”—and the “senders” on the return address (women in Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, and Washington state) knew nothing about the letters and had not sent them.

The FBI learned about all this when wartime censors intercepted one letter postmarked in Portland, Oregon, puzzled over its strange contents, and referred it to cryptographers at the FBI Laboratory. These experts concluded that the three “Old English dolls” left at “a wonderful doll hospital” for repairs might well mean three warships being repaired at a west coast naval shipyard; that “fish nets” meant submarine nets; and that “balloons” referred to defense installations.

One of the letters, supposedly sent by a Mary Wallace of Springfield, Ohio, did indicate her home address – 1808 E High Street – but had been postmarked in New York, a place she had never been. The letter, primarily discussing dolls, contained references to a “Mr. Shaw, who had been ill but would be back to work soon.” The letter corresponded to information that the destroyer USS Shaw, which had been damaged in the Pearl Harbor attack, completed repairs on the West Coast and was soon to rejoin the Pacific Fleet.

Another letter, given to the FBI in August of that year and said to have been written by a woman in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was postmarked from Oakland, California. That letter, written in February, made reference to seven small dolls which the writer stated would be altered to look as though they were “seven real Chinese dolls”, designed to mimic a family of parents, grandparents and three children. The FBI determined that the letter was written shortly after a convoy of ships had arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. The letter contained certain details about the ships, that if made public, would have been detrimental to the war effort.

 

The FBI immediately opened an investigation.

It was May 20, 1942, when a woman in Seattle turned over the crucial second letter. It said, “The wife of an important business associate gave her an old German bisque Doll dressed in a Hulu Grass skirt…I broke this awful doll…I walked all over Seattle to get someone to repair it….”

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In short order, the FBI turned up the other letters. It determined that all five were using “doll code” to describe vital information about U.S. naval matters. All had forged signatures that had been made from authentic original signatures. All had typing characteristics that showed they were typed by the same person on different typewriters. How to put these clues together?

It was the woman in Colorado who provided the big break. She, like the other purported letter senders, was a doll collector, and she believed that a Madison Avenue doll shop owner, Mrs. Velvalee Dickinson, was responsible. She said Ms. Dickinson was angry with her because she’d been late paying for some dolls she’d ordered. That name was a match: the other women were also her customers.

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Who was Velvalee Malvena Dickinson? Basically, a mystery. She was born in California and lived there until she moved with her husband to New York City in 1937. She opened a doll shop on Madison Avenue that same year, catering to wealthy doll collectors and hobbyists, but she struggled to keep it afloat. It also turned out that she had a long and close association with the Japanese diplomatic mission in the U.S.—and she had $13,000 in her safe deposit box traceable to Japanese sources.

Following her guilty plea on July 28, 1944, Ms. Dickinson detailed how she’d gathered intelligence at U.S. shipyards and how she’d used the code provided by Japanese Naval Attaché Ichiro Yokoyama to craft the letters. What we’ll never know is why the letters had been, thankfully, incorrectly addressed.

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FBI Laboratory examination of all five letters confirmed that the signatures on the letters were not genuine, but were forgeries which the experts decided were prepared from original signatures in the possession of the forger. The examination also showed that the typewriter used in the preparation of the letters was different in each case, but that the typing characteristics indicated that the letters were prepared by the same person.

The conclusion reached by the FBI cryptographers was that an open code was used in the letters, which attempted to convey information on the U.S. Armed Forces, particularly the ships of the U.S. Navy, their location, condition, and repair, with special emphasis on the damage of such vessels at Pearl Harbo

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On February 11, 1944, Velvalee Malvena Dickinson was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for violation of the censorship statutes, conviction of which could result in a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

She pleaded not guilty and was held in lieu of $25,000 bail. A continuing investigation by the FBI resulted in a second indictment on May 5, this time on charges of violating espionage statutes, the Trading with the Enemy Act, tradingwithenemy00natirichand the censorship statutes, conviction of which carried the death penalty. She pleaded not guilty and was released on the same bail.On July 28, 1944, a plea bargain was made between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Dickinson in which the espionage and Trade Act indictments were dismissed and she pleaded guilty to the censorship violation and agreed to furnish information in her possession concerning Japanese intelligence activities.

After pleading guilty, she admitted that she had typed the five forged letters addressed to Argentina, using correspondence with her customers to forge their signatures.

She claimed the information compiled in her letters was from asking innocent and unsuspecting citizens in Seattle and San Francisco near the location of the Navy yards there, as well as some details from personal observation. She stated that the letters transmitted information about ships damaged at Pearl Harbor and that the names of the dolls corresponded to a list that explained the type of ships involved. She furthermore stated that the code to be used in the letters, instructions for use of the code, and $25,000 in $100 bills had been passed to her husband by Yokoyama around November 26, 1941, in her doll store at 718 Madison Avenue for the purpose of supplying information to the Japanese. She repeated her claims that the money had been hidden in her husband’s bed until his death.

However, an investigation by the FBI refuted those claims, disclosing that while Dickinson had been a friend of Yokoyama, her husband had never met him. It was also learned that a physical examination done on him at the time indicated that his mental faculties were impaired at the time of the supposed payment. Both a nurse and a maid employed by the Dickinsons at the time emphatically stated that no money had ever been concealed there.

Velvalee Dickinson appeared in court for sentencing on August 14, 1944. Upon sentencing, the court commented:

It is hard to believe that some people do not realize that our country is engaged in a life and death struggle. Any help given to the enemy means the death of American boys who are fighting for our national security. You, as a natural-born citizen, having a University education, and selling out to the Japanese, were certainly engaged in espionage. I think that you have been given every consideration by the Government. The indictment to which you have pleaded guilty is a serious matter. It borders close to treason. I, therefore, sentence you to the maximum penalty provided by the law, which is ten years and $10,000 fine.

Still maintaining her innocence and claiming that her ,at that stage deceased. husband had been the Japanese spy, Dickinson was imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution for Women (now the Alderson Federal Prison Camp) in Alderson, West Virginia. She was released with conditions on April 23, 1951.

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I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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