Archive for January, 2015

More D-Days 70 Years Ago: Ralph Robinson, Landing Ship Medium 34 and the Campaigns to Liberate the Philippines

January 29, 2015


Below deck on Landing Ship Medium 34
probably somewhere in the Philippines.

Date and sailors unidentified.


70 years ago after Ralph E. Robinsson and Landing Ship Medium participated in that other major D-Day, the landings at Leyte in the Philippines, they continued to serve in the campaigns to liberate the Philippines.

Ralph’s account from October, 1944 to January 1945 (Editing details in note at the end.):

1944

OCTOBER

On October 23, 1944 we saw the first Japanese dive-bomber. It dropped its bomb and missed. A few seconds later, it was hit by anti-aircraft and its engines began burning. Seeing that he was going down, he headed for an Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) with a Wildcat right on his tail, but nothing could stop him. He crashed right into the LCI which immediately burst into flame. It burned for about an hour and a half, rolled over and sank.

That gave us an awfully queer feeling. It was the first ship we had ever seen going down and we hoped it was the last.

After that day, it was one raid after another–morning, noon and night. There were certain things that stood out more though.

On the night of the first sea Battle of the Philippines, one of our light carriers was sunk.

(Ralph is referring to the three sea battles of the Battle For Leyte Gulf from October 23 to 27, 1944: Battle Of Surigao Strait, Battle Off Samar, and Battle Off Cape Engano (East Of Luzon).

It was about nine PM when the radio message came in that around twenty-four Wildcats would be landing on the unfinished air strips at Tacloban. At this time we had no land-based planes in the Philippines. The particulars were that we could identify them as they would have their landing lights on. In a short while they began coming in, landing one after another. We were not more than a mile off shore. We could watch everything that was going on.

As the last plane was coming in, he suddenly zoomed up and there was a large explosion in the center of the air strip. Immediately all the guns around opened up on him, and they shot him down back over the island.

That was one of the Japanese. They picked up our message immediately, sent out one of their own planes to follow our own planes in under cover of the darkness to join our planes, turn on her running lights and bomb our air strip that we were trying to build as quickly as we could. I could go on telling these things by the hour, but writing them all down would become very tiresome and lengthy.

NOVEMBER

All through the month of November we continued to unload Liberty Ships and weather out the air raids.


Landing Ship Medium 34.

Date, place and sailors unidentified.


DECEMBER

About the first of December we loaded up with army engineers and equipment and prepared to leave for the invasion of Mindoro, but about then the second sea battle of the Philippines started. This blocked our passage to Mindoro, so we unloaded, and on the third of December prepared for another mission.

The Japanese were reinforcing their troops in Leyte through Ormoc on the other side of the island, so we were to take reinforcements to Bay Bay about forty miles below Ormoc.

The trip around the island was uneventful, but on landing we found that our navigation had been faulty. We had landed about Bay Bay, almost on the Japanese beach.

We landed about one AM and it was very dark that morning on the fifth of December.

The Army told us that we would have to pull off and rebeach at Bay Bay. Our commander told them that either we unloaded there or were taking our loads back to Dulag. We unloaded.

Kamikaze Attacks

About ten AM we were rounding the bottom of the island, and I was sitting topside leisurely watching our small convoy–three destroys, six LCIs and 12 LSMs. There was a spotty covering of clouds and the day was bright and hot. I happened to glance back and saw a plane diving at top speed not five hundred feet above a destroyer. It was Kamikaze. The destroyer never altered course or fired a shot as it all happened too quickly, but the plane exploded in the water, missing its target by at least a hundred feet.

Our GQ (General Quarters) buzzer sounded and then all hell broke loose.

Two planes headed for us almost at the same time.

Our guns got one about fifty feet from the starboard side of our ship.

The second one exploded and crashed a few yards from our bow. Gasoline, water and parts of planes were flying all over the place.

Then a third came in straight for our conn (area of the ship where steering and engine orders are given) from the starboard side. The skipper had stopped, and the Japanese shot in from our conn down over the lifelines on the port side, into the water and exploded. The ship lurched the other way.

This all happened in about five minutes, but it was almost lifetime. The attack continued on furiously. A plane had crashed into the stern of the LSM 20 and she was taking on more water than she could stand. A plane had crashed into the radio shack of the LSM 23, and she was burning from the splattered gasoline.

In about twenty minutes, the 20 began going down stern first. We began picking up survivors s and the planes were still coming in. Our ship picked up three men, two badly burned, and the third unharmed. They were blown off a destroyer by an explosion.

We had several other raids before the day was over. They hit two of the destroyers, one just behind the conn, and flame shot up the ship all the way to the bow. The second, at just about dark, was hit by two bombs midship, and we ended up towing that destroyer for four hours until she got one of her engines fixed.

Upon arriving at Dulag, we loaded again and left again, only this time for the invasion of Ormoc. We went out with twelve LCIs, four APDs (World War I destroyed converted to carry troops and land them, with attack boats that they launch), three destroyers, six LSTs and twelve LSMs. If those aren’t the exact numbers, it is close and to the best of my memory.

The morning of December seventh, we hit Ormoc with little opposition on the beach.

Only a few snipers were there, but while pulling off the beach, a few planes came over and one hit an APDs. It began burning badly. They had to abandon it and our destroyers sank it.

We found out then that when we were pulling in, three Japanese transports and three Japanese destroyers had been coming in. The were only about twenty miles away when we landed, but our planes went out and sank them all that day. We had been just in time.

We pulled out about ten leaving three LSMs and 1 LCI stuck on the beach Two of the LSMs and the LCI came back. The third LSM was sunk that day.

We had plenty of excitement that day, but we had better cover of our own planes. Out of sixty planes that the Japanese sent for us, forty were shot down by our planes, mostly P38’s. They kept coming in the rest of the day. Every twenty to thirty minutes we could expect three or four of them the rest of the afternoon. The sank one destroyer and hit an LSTs with little damage.

However, after those exciting times in such a short number of days, our ship had not been hit. No one was hurt on our ship so they decided we were ready to go on the invasion they had listed us for a week before.

Our fleet had chased the remainder of the Japanese fleet away and our way to Mindoro was clear.

This was a much longer convoy with several cruisers and aircraft carriers along. This was a much longer convoy with several cruisers and aircraft carriers along.

On the way up, two Japanese planes hit the cruiser Nashville. They had one hundred twenty-some killed and over two hundred injured.

Rescue Operations

Nothing else happened until D Day, December fifteenth. When, just as we were pulling off the beach, five Japanese planes came over and hit two LST (Landing Ship Tanks).

They started burning badly. As the LSMs started warming up to pull out, we got a call from the Admiral in charge to pick up survivors from one of the LSTs so we headed for her.

The ammunition on her began going off by then, and it looked like regular fireworks. The tracers shot out in all directions and splashed in the water. There were little streaks of fire all over the where oil and gasoline had poured out. The water was filled with men in life jackets, both Army and Navy.

We opened our bow doors and lowered our ramp and began picking up men from the water and PT boats.

In about an hour, the well deck was full of wet and frightened men.

Just as we began picking up the men, the “T” blew straight up with a huge explosion blowing a big black rolling smoke ring into the air about a thousand feet. It looked as though any men left on the ship when it exploded would be gone. But, I talked with many men afterward that were on her then and were not even bruised.

We picked up about five hundred men, mostly Army. We put all the Army men that could walk off on PT boats, and they were taken ashore as our troops hadn’t even met any Japanese on the beach yet.

We had ten casualties, aboard, nine Army and one Navy. They were all badly burned, and one had a broken back and almost died. We had most of the ship’s crew aboard and some were aboard a destroyer. The Navy men got their heads together, and as far as they could tell, none had been killed. The planes hit midship where she was loaded with eight hundred Air Force ground crew, aviation gasoline and five hundred pound aerial bombs–a hot load.

When we finally left, the convoy had been gone about two hours and we were all alone. It didn’t make us feel so good as we knew there was a continual threat of air attack. One lonely LSM wouldn’t be able to do much about it so we took out at flank speed, cutting all the corners the convoy had taken. The engineers put screw drivers in the governors and held them down. We caught up to the convoy without seeing another planes, and we felt greatly relieved. Our navigator figured we made seventeen knots, as far as I know, it is still the record for LSMs. That thirty-six hundred horsepower did its job.

The trip back to Leyte was quiet, and we were glad to be back. Even though they were still having air raids every day, the planes were more interested in the air strip and the larger ships than us.

We were still in Leyte at Christmastime . Christmas Eve we had a movie in the aft troop compartment.  It was the first movie I had seen since we had left Manus.  There was an air raid that night, but we did not go to General Quarters (GQ) as the planes were a long way off.  We never went to GQ any more unless it looked as though the planes were coming close to us.

Christmas Day was a day we had looked forward to for a long time like a bunch of kids waiting to open their packages.  To build up the feeling of surprise, the deck force, the ship’s control and the engineering force had each separately planned a program for entertainment of the rest of the crew.  A prize was to be given for the best program.  It wasn’t really much, but it was something to keep our minds off the Japanese, if that were really possible.

After a wonderful meal of turkey, sweet potatoes, ice cream, pie, and all the extras such as nuts, celery and cranberry sauce, we put on the program.  (I ate so much that I was uncomfortable for the rest of the day).  The program was really funny-one of our fellows sang a song that he had made up about the ship, another did a southern shuffle.  Between singing songs and imitating our engineering officer going to GQ loaded down with life jacket, two rifles, two forty-fives, a pair of binoculars, and a trench knife, the show was a success.

That night we had the usual air raid.

1945

JANUARY

New Years (1945), we were still in Leyte Gulf, but we were getting restless, and the day was rather dull.  Although we had another big meal and the day off, the coming of the New Year didn’t seem much to look forward to.  It was just a time to rest and think about the last year and how much longer the war would last.

On January we left on a long, rough and tedious trip to Lingayen Gulf in a large convoy made up mostly of LSTs.  Our average speed was from three to five knots.  The LSTs were towing LCMs which took a terrible beating.  One lost its ramp and had to get underway under its own power and pull out.  Another, that had a LCM loaded in her, was swept by a big wave.  The LCM, including a truck that was in her, was swept out to sea.

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:

Philippines


Photos by Ralph E. Robinson © The Robinson Family

Ralph E. Robinson is Cheryl A. Robinson’s late father and my father-in-law.


Links, sources, and more information:

Animated map of the naval battles of Leyte Gulf. The U.S. Invasion Fleet off Letye first appears in slide 12. Ralph and Landing Ship 34 are in the U.S. Invasion Fleet.

Battles that changed the course of history, Part 2. Filipino journalist Ignacio Bunye‘s account of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, January 11, 2015.

Ralph E. Robinson and LSM 34 in WWII


Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-GD

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70 and 150 Years Ago: Two Promotions

January 26, 2015

70 years ago on January 1, 1945, Felix A. Cizewski, was promoted to Private First Class.

He was serving in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion, Army Service Forces in Paris. He was in a hospital recovering from frostbite.

He is my late father.


munichapriljuly45 1jan45promotion

LEFT: Private Felix A. Cizewski on

occupation duty in Munich between

April and July, 1945.

From the collection of Felix A. Cizewski

© Leonard H. Cizewski

RIGHT: Unit Morning Report recording

his promotion.

Public domain image

150 years ago on January 26, 1865, Anson Croman was promoted to corporal.

He served in Company F, 20th Michigan Infantry Regiment, Second Brigade, First Division,  IX Corps, Army of the Potomac. At that time the 20th Michigan was part of the Union siege of Petersburg  near Battery Nine just south of the the Appomattox River on the northeast edge of the city.

Anson Croman is Cheryl A. Robinson’s 2nd great-grandfather and my 2nd great-grandfather-in-law.


croman Promotion rotated 90 degress

LEFT: Corporal Anson Croman

© The descendants of Anson Croman

RIGHT: Official certificate of promotion.

Public domain image

Links, sources, and more information:

Felix A. Cizewski and WWII

Anson Croman and the Civil War


Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-Gs

70 Years Ago: Felix Assigned to the 45th Signal Company

January 25, 2015

70 years ago on January 16, 1945 my late father Felix A. Cizewski had recovered from frostbite to his hands and feet.

During WWII, while recovering from wounds, injuries, or illnesses, soldiers were removed from their units so replacement could be assigned to fill their place.

After recovery they were not returned to their units and instead reassigned to other units.

After Felix was discharged from an Army hospital in the Paris area he was reassigned to the 3rd Reinforcement Battalion, 16th Reinforcement Depot.

In late January, 1945, the 45th Infantry Division was taken off the front line.

1,000 replacements were assigned to the 45th.

Among them was Felix who on January 29th was transferred from the 3d Replacement Battalion to the 45th Signal Company in bivouac at  Petersbach, France.


Petersbachcropped
“Petersbach, France”
in Felix’s handwriting
on the back.

GIs in the background.

From the collection of Felix A. Cizewski
© Leonard H. Cizewski

The 45th Signal Company was responsible for connecting 45th with its Corps and connections between Division Command Post and all of the support units that were part of the division headquarters such as medical, engineers, and quartermaster.


Links, sources, and more information:

Felix A. Cizewski & the WWII Rhineland Campaign


Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-G8

Anson Croman 150 Years Ago: August to December, 1864

January 23, 2015

150 years ago  Anson Croman and the 20th Michigan Infantry Regiment continued to serve in the Siege of Petersburg Virginia, south of Richmond.

By August, 1864 they could only muster about 85 men for duty. When the 20th Michigan began service in July, 1862 it had 1012 enlisted men and officers.


After the defeats in June and July, 1864, General Grant ceased frontal assaults on the Confederate defenses of Petersburg.

Instead he sought ways to cut off the railroads supplying Richmond and Petersburg and force the Confederates to extend their lines to the breaking point.

The IX Corps with the 20th Michigan were part of that campaign including:

August 19 to 21: The Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg connected the besieged Confederates with their last major port of Wilmington, North Carolina.

After a series of battles, the Union captured a section of the Weldon Railroad.

That forced the Confederates to extend their trenches, unload their supply trains further south, and haul supplies by wagon using a longer route to the west.


globetavren

Globe Tavern on the Weldon Railroad Battlefield.

Public domain photo from the Library of Congress.


August 25 During the Battle of Ream’s Station, the 20th acted as rear guard for the II Corps.

August 26 until September 30: The 20th was among the units that constructed fortifications to hold the captured sections of the Weldon Railroad southwest of Petersburg.

September 30: Battle of Poplar Springs, Church, Virginia. Captain Blood and Adjutant Siebert of the 20th Michigan were among the fatal casualties.

October 2: Skirmish at Pegram Farm.

October 8: Reconnaissance in force on the Boydton Plank Road.

October 27 and 28: Battle of Hatcher’s Run, Va.

During this period Col. Cutcheon was promoted to command of the 27th Michigan and Major C. B. Grant became commander of the 20th. Col. Cutcheon’s history is among the sources used to tell Anson Croman’s story.

November Presidential Election: Results from the 20th Michigan: 153 for Lincoln and 35 for McClellan.

The number of troops who voted (188) is higher than the number of men available for duty as it probably includes soldiers convalescing from wounds and disease.

About November 30:   The 20th Michigan was transferred to Battery Nine on the extreme right of the Army of the Potomac along the Appomattox River.


Links to sources and for more information:

The story of the Twentieth Michigan infantry, July 15th, 1862 to May 30th, 1865. Embracing official documents on file in the records of the state of Michigan and of the United States referring or relative to the regiment. Compiled by Bryon M. Cutcheon.

Record of service of Michigan volunteers in the civil war, 1861-1865.Michigan. George H. Turner, Adjutant General’s Office.

Election Returns By Regiment, 1864 Presidential Election: IX Corps, Army of the Potomac

The Siege of Petersburg Online:


If Anson Croman wrote letters home, none have survived. Therefore the best way to preserve the story of his service is by sharing the history of his regiment

Records document that Anson Croman was with his regiment from his 1862 enlistment until the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865.

The Musbachs and Robinsons are direct line descendants of Anson Croman and he is my 2nd great-grandfather-in-law.


Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-G1

Putin, the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Soviet Complicity in the Holocaust

January 15, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the January 27, 2015 ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation by Soviet troops of Nazi German extermination and concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.


Soviet troops assisting survivors of the Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp.

Fair use of photo from: Meczenstwo Walka, Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945. Poland. No. 538.


Russia has yet to acknowledge Soviet complicity in the Holocaust. Without that acknowledgement, President Putin’s absence is appropriate.

The history of Auschwitz-Birkenau is also the history of Soviet complicity in the Holocaust:

Prior to Soviet-Nazi military alliance, the Soviet Union provided the Nazis with the material assistance to wage aggressive wars of conquests and genocide:

  • The treaties that ended WWI prohibited German rearmament. The Soviets assisted the Nazis to evade their treaty obligations by allowing the Nazis to secretly develop and test their new weapons on Soviet territory.
  • The manganese in the steel the Nazis used to construct their military vehicles, weapons, and ammunition was supplied by the Soviets.
  • Nazi vehicles were fueled with Soviet oil.
  • Nazi troops were fed with Soviet grain.
  • Nazi horses, which made up 90% of Nazi military transportation, were fed with Soviet fodder.

In August, 1939, the Nazis and Soviets upgraded their relationship to include a military alliance:

  • The Soviets guaranteed that when the Nazis attacked Poland, the Nazis would not face a two front war as in WWI. The Nazis would only face the alliance of Poland, France, and Britain.
  • While Slavic and Jewish Polish troops were defending Poland against Nazi aggression from the west, the Soviets attacked Poland from the east.
  • The defeat of Poland by the Soviets and Nazis resulted in the Nazi capture of most of the Polish Jews along with Auschwitz-Birkenau and other sites where they constructed extermination and concentration camps.
  • From August, 1939 until June, 1941, the Soviet controlled Communist International (Comintern) ordered pro-Soviet Communist Parties, including the Communist Party USA, to support the Soviet-Nazi alliance, to oppose the war against the Nazis, and to oppose U.S. entry into the war. That is among many reasons the U.S. delayed entry into WWII.

By end of 1941 when the U.S. entered the war, Holocaust victims were beyond the reach of military rescue. The death camps and their rail lines were beyond the range of Allied bombers.

In January, 1945 when the Soviets finally reached Auschwitz-Birkenau, they found about 7,000 survivors.

So few were liberated because almost all the victims of the Holocaust were already dead and most of the other survivors had been evacuated to Nazi Germany.


Just as the post-war democratic state of Germany inherited the responsibility for the crimes of its predecessor state of Nazi Germany, Russia inherited the responsibility for the WWII crimes of the Soviet Union.

The obligation for acceptance of responsibility will not go away with the passage of time.

Acknowledging such histories is part of the process of a state maturing to a full member of the family of civilized nations.

The Russian people deserve such actions from their leaders such as President Putin.


In public consciousness and popular culture among the most common questions are why the Allies did not do more to stop the Holocaust such as attempting to rescue victims and bomb the death camps and their rail lines.

Similar questions about the Soviet Union’s conduct are rarely asked.

That may because of a very successful Cold War era propaganda campaign to promote questions about the Allies and divert attention from the complicity in the Holocaust of the Soviets and their allied Communist Parties.

Now that the Cold War is over the time has come to seek information about the Soviet Union’s Holocaust complicity to make WWII history more complete and accurate.


Links with sources and for more information:

The Buildup of the German War Economy: The Importance of the Nazi-Soviet Economic Agreements of 1939 and 1940 By Samantha Carl.

70th anniversary of liberation of the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – January 27, 2015 The official 70th anniversary site.

Putin Won’t Attend Commemoration of Auschwitz Liberation New York Times.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Assessing Atrocity


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


Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2ix3W-FM


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