Archive for October, 2014

70th Anniversary of Ralph E. Robinson and Leyte Landings

October 28, 2014


Undated photo of Ralph E. Robinson with Gizmo and LSM34 somewhere in the Philippine Islands.

From the collection of Ralph E. Robinson

© The family of Ralph E. Robinson

70 years ago on October 20, 1944, Ralph E. Robinson, my late father-in-law, served as a Seaman First Class aboard Landing Ship Medium 34 (LSM 34) during the Leyte Landings to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese.


Lower right: October 20, 1944 location of Landing Ship Medium 34 on which Ralph Robinson served.

Click for larger MAP.

LSM 34 location added to public domain image from the

Republic of the Philippines Presidential Museum and Library

Ralph’s account (Editing details in note at the end.):

October 20, 1944 — San Pedro Bay, Leyte

Having breakfast at about four AM was a ritual which we carried on through the rest of our invasions. The army cooks fixed breakfast. The main food was pancakes with syrup which we later nicknamed “Invasion Cakes”.

At five AM we went to GQ (General Quarters). Everything was quiet at sunrise but at about eight a Japanese plane flew over. It was higher than gun range. All hell broke loose as all the ships shot at it. However, it went over undamaged but passing over the convoy it came lower. One of our outlaying destroyers downed it.

Soon we were far enough up in the bay to see and really hear the battleships and cruisers firing on the beach. They were really pounding it, and had been for a good many hours, Coming closer we could the little destroyers running up and down the beach firing everything they had.

One thing we will never forget is a little black destroyer which was shelling a small island just off from Tacloban, between Leyte and Samar. After firing his forward batteries, he would swing around to give his after-batteries a chance. She kept swinging around and around cutting loose all hell. It look like she was putting out more ammunition in fifteen minutes than any other destroyer in the whole invasion. With her and the two LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) rocket boats, every palm tree on the island was shattered.

About 9:45 the noise really began as the rocket boats cut loose on the beach. It was just a steady roar.

At 10:00 the noise stopped and the first small boats landed. We were the second LSM to hit the beach at 10:30. The first LCM (Landing Craft Medium), dropping her anchor too far out, had too much cable out and was afraid she would lose her cable. She retracted and hit again, so as far as I know we were the first LSM to make a successful landing on an enemy beachhead.

There was practically no trouble on White Beach that morning, only a few snipers and one pillbox which we heard the story of later.

A soldier, seeing a pillbox, approached it to look it over and was shot. Several soldiers, upon seeing this, opened up on it with machine guns and rifles, shooting into the door as much as possible. Another solider, thinking all the Japanese were dead, walked up to it and was shot from within the pillbox. The rest of the soldiers, seeing this, made up a bomb with hand grenades and dynamite and threw it into the door. Two of the Japanese flew right through the heavy screen and dirt sides of the pillbox, throwing one of them more than fifty feet. That was the end of that.

There was only one trouble with the invasion that morning. If the Japanese had known we were coming, they would have been fortifying their base on White Beach. They would have been practically demolished but as it was, they were holding maneuvers near Dulag (Red Beach) which was not bombarded so much.

A lighter force landed there and really had a surprise to meet a large Japanese force. It was really tough at Dulag. That was our first of may lucky happenings in the Philippines. We hadn’t been chosen for Red Beach.

After unloading we pulled out about a mile off the beach and anchored. Everything remained quiet that afternoon except for an occasional rifle shot, rattle of a machine gun or mortar burst.

We had General Quarters that evening but it was still quiet. As it got darker we could see that bright flares, Japanese flares, landing near the beach. Hours after, the flares disappeared behind the hills. As it got darker, things got quieter. Only the occasional crackling of a machine gun was audible from back in the jungle.

About midnight, one of the officers on the com said “It looks like they’re firing this way”. He was right. It went over us with an angry hissing and exploded about a half mile beyond, near the water. They were shooting at a group of LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks) setting in a group. They were falling short, and we were directly between the gun and their target. From the appearance of the explosion, it must have been about a three inch shell. After several more shells went over we called the captain. He came up on the conn (area of the ship where steering and engine orders are given), sat down, and after a few more shells went over, he said, “disconcerting, isn’t it?”. It didn’t seem to bother him a bit.

The next day and night were quiet for us, but was very noisy on shore. We remained at anchor.

Note on editing:

As are almost all wars, WWII was racially charged. My late father-in-law’s original language reflected that.

The Ralph I knew and loved valued civility and politeness. He strove never to hurt or offend.

To respect that and to avoid outmoded language from distracting from his story, I have made slight edits.

An unedited edition is on our family history web site at:



Orange arrow: LSM 34.Unloading of troops and supplies on White Beach at Leyte in the Philippines

(Source: Navsource Naval History)

Public domain photo.

Links with sources and for more information:

Philippines (unedited) from Ralph E. Robinson and LSM 34 in WWII

Information on “conn” from Naval Terminology, Jargon and Slang FAQ



Dad’s Cherbourg Photos

October 22, 2014

Seventy years in 1944 Felix A. Cizewski, my late father, served in Cherbourg in Company, C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion.

Ten photos of his survived, the most from his WWII experience.

Only one has my father.
lines Felix is first on the left.
In the background of several photos are street scenes of 1944 Cherbourg.
  GI on a Jeep in front of Cherbourg building.
Two photos have a military police officer and African-American GIs.twogischerbourg1Military police officer on a motorcycle with an African-American GIs on the right.

African-Americans served in segregated support, service, supply, and construction units in Cherbourg at the same time as my father.

All GIs in the above photos have helmets.

While Cherbourg was liberated in late June, 1944, Cherbourg remained under threat of attack from Nazi bombers and rockets.

Larger versions of these and the other seven are at:

Cherbourg Photos

All photos are from the collection of Felix A. Cizewski, Co. C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion

Copyright © Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

May not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without express prior written permission.

Links with sources and for more information:

The 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Normandy


Cherbourg Memorial

October 20, 2014

In March, 1942, the Nazis with the assistance of French fascist collaborationist government began deporting Jews in France to slave labor and death camps. The first were foreign born Jews followed by Jews born in France and having French citizenship.

In February, 1943, the Nazis imposed Service du Travail Obligatoire (S.T.O.) (Compulsory Work Service). Ethnic French resident of Cherbourg were deported from their homes for slave labor in occupied France and Germany.

Cheryl A. Robinson and I visited the Cherbourg memorial to those and other victims during our 2014 trip to France for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Normandy.

DSC01341Memorial in Cherbourg to those executed, deported, resistance fighters,and hostages. (Fusillés, Deportes, Maquisards, Otages.)

2014 photo by Cheryl A. Robinson

DSC01342  Plaques on the ground with the names of the slave labor and death camps to which victims were deported.

LEFT: Ravensbrück was a concentration and slave labor camp.

RIGHT: Neuengamme was a concentration and slave labor camp.

Schandelah was a satellite slave labor camp of Neuengamme.

2014 photo by Cheryl A. Robinson

In 1944 Felix A. Cizewski, my late father, served in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Cherbourg.

Links with sources and for more information:

The 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Normandy

Felix A. Cizewski WWII Cherbourg photos

Rommel’s image in popular culture

October 17, 2014

70 years ago on October 14, 1944 the Nazis forced Field Marshall Erwin Rommel to commit suicide.

In popular culture in the U.S. Rommel has a positive image.

Among the reasons are:

  • His competence as a military commander.
  • Unlike other German commanders especially on the Eastern Front, his adherence to the international standards of the treatment of POWs in North Africa from 1941 to 1943.
  • His association with the plotters of the July, 1944 attempted assassination of Hitler and coup and his statements of dissent about Nazi conduct of the war.

When his career is placed in its full context, his image is much less positive.

1933 to 1944

From the Nazis rise to power in 1933 until 1944 Rommel did nothing to oppose Nazism or to stop the Holocaust.

During those 11 years Rommel enjoyed the benefits of Nazi rule.

He failed to act in 1938 or 1939 when the Nazis were more vulnerable and would have been much easier to overthrow than in July, 1944.

For five years from 1939 until 1944, Rommel implemented the Nazi ideology of aggressive wars. Among the conquered populations were the majority of the victims of the Holocaust.

In 1939 among the earliest victims of the Holocaust were Polish Jewish officers and enlisted personnel executed when captured by Germans.

During the Polish campaign Rommel was commander of Hitler’s bodyguards (the Führer escort headquarters) as Hitler toured the Polish front.

From that position Rommel had to have been aware of the murder of Polish Jewish POWs.

During the 1940 Battle of France, troops under Rommel’s command motivated by the Nazi’s racial ideology executed captured French Senegalese troops.

French Senegalese soldiers 1940: Senegalese soldiers preparing to defend France against the Nazis.

Public domain image from Tales of War, page 239.

French Senegalese soldiers
1944: French children with their Senegalese liberator.

Public domain image from Amére patrie, devoir de mémoire et de vérité

Cemetery gate carvingCarving on the gate of the French military cemetery in Chasselay with Senegalese soldiers massacred by Nazi troops including some under Rommel’s command.

The cemetery is designed in the traditional Senegalese burial grounds.

Fair use of image from by Petra Pulles at Tata Chasselay France – A WW2 Cemetery on French soil for massacred Senegalese troops

From 1941 to 1943 in North Africa Rommel reportedly refused to implement Nazi orders to execute Jewish and other categories of POWs. Many Jewish soldiers were serving in the British and Polish forces in North Africa.

That is further confirmation of the depth of Rommel’s knowledge of Nazi criminality.

While Rommel may have prohibited the execution of Jewish POWs at the front, no evidence exists that he did anything to stop the Nazis behind the front from rounding up of Sephardic Jews in Nazi occupied parts of North Africa for deportation to slave labor and death camps.

In 1943 when Rommel was given command of Normandy, he used slave labor to construct fortifications.

Stopping the Holocaust or protecting ethnic Germans?

By July, 1944, Rommel recognized that Germany was militarily defeated. Germany no longer had the military capacity to defend its borders.

To continue the war meant that the Soviets would overrun Germany.

Was Rommel’s 1944 dissent motivated by his concern for the potential sufferings of ethnic Germans at the hands of Soviet troops or to stop genocide?

July, 1944 status of the Holocaust

By July, 1944, most of Nazi Holocaust murders had already occurred.

The July 1944 assassination and coup attempts were much too late to save most victims.

Rommel’s role in the attempted coup and assassination

Rommel may not have supported assassination or a coup.

He may have hinted that after others killed Hitler and overthrew the Nazis he would be available to serve in the post-Nazi government and armed forces.

He may have looked the other way while members of his staff planned the coup and assassination. He refrained from alerting the Nazis of the plots to what if anything he knew.

As his troops were being defeated in Normandy he said to his superiors including Hitler that the time had come to negotiate an end to the war.

On July, 17, 1944 Rommel suffered a serious brain injury when British aircraft attacked his car near the Normandy front.

That injury seemed to have decreased his inhibitions on speech.

His comments became less guarded, more frequent, explicit, and strident.

On July 22, 1944, a coup and assassination Hitler were attempted. Both failed.

On October 14, 1944. the Nazis force Rommel to choose between torture, a show trial followed by an execution, and violent retaliation against his family or suicide.

To shield his family from retaliation, Rommel chose to execute himself by committing suicide.

My amateur historian’s assessment of Rommel’s legacy

  • 11 years of personally benefiting from the Nazi’s policies.
  • 5 years of waging the Nazi’s wars of aggression during which the majority of the Holocaust victims were captured.
  • Being present in Poland when Polish Jewish POWs were executed.
  • Being in command of troops who executed French Senegalese POWs.
  • Use of slave labor to construct Normandy fortifications.
  • After D-Day in 1944, stating that the Allies and Soviets had militarily defeated Germany and that Germany should end the war.
  • Doing nothing to increase the chances of the success of the July, 1944 assassination and coup attempts.
  • Dissent motivated more to protect ethnic Germans from the Soviets than to stop genocide.

3110th Signal Service Battalion and Rommel

From February to July, 1944, the 3110th Signal Service Battalion, my late father Felix A. Cizewski’s unit, and Rommel faced each other across the English Channel (La Manche in French).

Rommel was preparing to continue the Nazi occupation of France and the 3110th was building communications infrastructure to facilitate the supplies to the forces preparing to liberate France.
Links with sources and for more information:

(French) le maréchal erwin rommel se suicide le 14 octobre 1944: Site where I learned of the 1940 massacre of French Senegalese POWs by troops under Rommel’s command.

(French)  Le Tata sénégalais

In depth historical background and context: An occasional feature of my family history blog.

Revised: October 18, 2012

Café de l’hôtel de Ville in Cherbourg: 70 years ago and today

October 13, 2014

Among the places I have documented that Felix A. Cizewski, my late father, visited while serving in Cherbourg with Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion was the Café de l’hôtel de Ville.

The Café de l’hôtel de Ville is located just south of the l’hôtel de Ville (Cherbourg city hall).

Researcher and friend Claude Letelier shared these photos of the Café de l’hôtel de Ville from WWII and today.

The WWII photo is not only of the Café de l’hôtel de Ville but also documents the Nazi crime of slave labor.

wwii now
Sometime after February, 1943.

On the right of the photo on the side street is the Café de l’hôtel de Ville.

Note the sign above the doors.

On the main street Nazi troops are escorting ethnic French residents of Cherbourg for slave labor.

The column is moving in the direction of the Cherbourg train station.

The angle of this photo suggests the photographer is taking this photo clandestinely.

This documentation of slave labor may have been an act of resistance.


The Café de l’hôtel de Ville today is the Bar de l’hôtel de Ville.

Photo by Claude Letelier

In February, 1943, the Nazis imposed Service du Travail Obligatoire (S.T.O.) (Compulsory Work Service) on the people of Occupied France.

The photo above is of the deportation of ethnic French residents of Cherbourg for slave labor mostly in Germany.

In the Nazi racial hierarchy, ethnic French were among those to be enslaved rather than completely exterminated such as Jews.

The French Jews of Cherbourg

French Jews of Cherbourg are not among those in the photo.

Prior to February, 1943 enactment of the S.T.O. law, the Nazis deported to death and slave labor camps as many French Jews of Cherbourg as they could capture.

Some survivors returned to Cherbourg after liberation.

Links with sources and for more information:

(In French) La France sous l’occupation: Le S.T.O.

(In French)  Le S.T.O. (loi du 16 février 1943)

(Includes English): Louis PESNEL’s account from Mémoires de guerre: WWII stories, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie

The 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Normandy

Felix A. Cizewski WWII Cherbourg photos


The War of 1812 in Wisconsin

October 9, 2014

Two hundred years ago the only battle in Wisconsin of the War of 1812 was fought from July 17 to 20, 1814 at Fort Shelby, Prairie du Chien.

In the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War and granted American independence, Britain recognized as part of the U.S. all territory south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River including present day Wisconsin.

Among the causes of the war was the British failure to evacuate troops from the many sites including Wisconsin.

In 1814, America sent troops to the Mississippi River valley expel the British and secure the borders.

American troops constructed Fort Shelby on St. Feriole Island in the Mississippi River to secure Prairie du Chien.

The British sent a force of regular troops, Indians from America and Canada, French settlers from Canada and the U.S., and Metis of French and Indian ancestry.

The British force arrived at Prairie du Chien on July 17, 1814 and ordered the Americans to surrender.

The Americans refused. The British responded with a three day siege.


Fighting at Fort Shelby

On July 20, 1814 the Americans surrendered.


Diorama of the surrender of Fort Shelby

Fair use of image from the Fort Crawford Museum

The British held the Fort Shelby until May 25, 1815 when they received word of the treaty ending the war. The British burned the fort when the evacuated.

The French and Indian Allies of the British

In 1763 the British captured New France which included Wisconsin.

The British allowed the French residents of British North America to keep their language and practice Roman Catholicism.

The British had better relations with the Indians because the British were more observant of their treaties with the Indians than were the Americans.

Therefore both Indians and French settlers in Wisconsin, other parts of America, and Canada were willing to fight with the British against America.

Flags in downtown Prairie du Chien

In honor of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the 1814 Battle of Fort Shelby lamp posts on Blackhawk Street, the main street in downtown Prairie du Chien, have the U.S. 15 star flag and the early 19th century British red ensign.

us%20flag[1] British-Red-Ensign-Flag[1]

Links with sources and for more information:

Why are those flags flying downtown?  Prairie du Chien Courier Press June 23, 2014.

Bicentennial Celebration to honor the War of 1812 Battle of Prairie du Chien

The War of 1812 in Prairie du Chien, Fort Crawford Museum.

Prairie du Chien’s St. Feriole Island, an abundance of history

Site of the fort and battle

The War of 1812 in the old Northwest


"I am beautiful"

October 1, 2014

When I practiced with friends delivering my Tamerville speech I looked just over the top of their heads rather than at their eyes to minimize my anxiety.

I planned to do the same at Tamerville.

On May 31, 2014 when I got up to the podium to speak in the front of row in line with me was a French Air Force general with a wonderful, warm, kind, and supportive face.

 afgeneral.jpgFrench Air Force general at the Tamerville ceremony.

Photo by Julie Waldner

At that moment I decided that instead of looking over the heads of the audience, I would look right into his eyes and make my remarks as if I was giving them only to him.

At the reception following the ceremony with Bertille (granddaughter of Remy Agnes, researcher and witness of WWII in Tamerville) translating I told the general how he helped me.

He smiled and said he realized that was what I was doing. He added I made the right decision because referring to himself he said “I am beautiful!”.

Bertille translating Georges Dennebouy’s speech.

Bertille is the granddaughter of Remy Agnes, researcher and witness of WWII in Tamerville. She helped many of us converse with our French hosts.

Photo by Julie Waldner

Link with sources and more information:

Northern France Campaign: Includes details of the 3110th Signal Service Battalion’s service in Normandy.

Infantry, Air Force, Medical, and Signal Corps Units in Tamerville and Valognes

Another post in an ongoing series about our trip to France for the the memorial in Tamerville, part of the observance of the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of France.

My late father Felix A. Cizewski served in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion in Tamerville and Cherbourg providing communications and logistical support for the liberation of Normandy in 1944.


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