AMERICAN ARMAGEDDON - WHEN THE UNITED STATES LOST WORLD WAR II
When I finished this novel in June of 1985 I had no great ambitions about it. Since I was a little kid, I always felt the need to write a novel and to try to get it published. It took 6 months to write and I am proud of it. I put a lot of myself into it. Over a period of about 10 years I occasionally sent the novel to various publishers, always receiving a form letter saying thanks but no thanks. I am one of many who has been rejected by the BEST publishing houses in New York City. (something to be proud of, I believe). Recently, believing that my work was worthwhile and at least a little interesting to the average populace, I have put it on this web site. I dedicate this novel to my hero, H.G. WELLS, who over 100 years ago, published his first substantial novel: WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898). He has always been an inspiration to me in my quest for literary excellence.
LARRY R. MATTHEWS. Website first established: June 9, 1999.
Website crashed in 2001 and I finally got around to rebuilding it on May 26, 2003.
Website last updated: June 26, 2011
PART ONE - PROLOGUE AND EXPLORATION
Over the centuries, many philosophers have expounded that the events in people's lives are pre-ordained. However, I have always tended to believe that we have a large amount of control over our futures. I feel that insignificant events, no matter how trivial, can radically change and contour our existances to the point that the whole course of a person's life can be changed 180 degrees.
The simple act of getting up in the morning can color the attitude of the whole day. The fact that it is raining and that you got cold rain down the back of your neck can work to warp a person's attitude. Decisions made during that day can be effected by a bad attitude brought on by irritation due to the cold rain.
The pretext of this novel is based upon a change in history. An attitude change brought on by a small, irritating event. A whim that could have changed one man's decision.
Most people are not in the position to radically change the history of the world. However, what would have happened if a person in the position to change history had acted differently for one reason or the other? What course would the history of the world have taken? Many times I have heard the comment that Adolph Hitler made two basic mistakes during his prosecution of the war against the Allied Powers in World War II.
Mistake One was his decision not to proceed with the invasion of England in 1940. Later, England provided the jumping off and staging point for the D-Day Invasion, that less than a year after it began, brought about Hitler's downfall. Additionally, this island provided a launching point for the Allied bomber offensive that literally destroyed the German nation's ability to wage war.
Without England, what would the remaining Allied Powers have done to pursue the war? Where would the invasion, if ever launched, have come from? Additionally, what super weapons would the Germans have manufactured in an environment where they were not harassed by Allied Bombers?
The Second Mistake was Hitler's 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa). This action was brought on by an underestimation on Hitler's part of the capabilities of the Soviets to defend themselves. This action placed Germany in a position of fighting a two-front war. While it is anyone's guess whether the Soviets would have long remained neutral in the conflict, Hitler's action brought a formidable opponent up against the Nazis.
In essence, hindsight has shown that Hitler backed away from one weakening enemy and awakened a formidable one that he had underestimated. These two actions were his undoing. Those, coupled with American's entry into World War II, brought about by Japanese underestimating, sealed the fate of the Axis Powers.
The following novel is a result of this hypothetical situation. I feel that it gives a logical, if fictional, account of what might have occured if these "mistakes" had not been made by Hitler. I have found that in writing a work of fiction it is very easy to take liberties regarding the size of forces and the results of actions that "might" have happened. However, I have honestly attempted to be as realistic and logical as possible in this work. The idea that haunts me is that the basic facts of this story could very well have happened. I think the following will show that we owe a great debt of gratitude to those persons who lived through the 1930's and 1940's and contributed to the struggle that resulted in the the lifestyle that Americans enjoy today.
This book is dedicated to those who's past actions have lead to our current situation. I also dedicate this book to those now currently in the pursuit of keeping our freedom safe and in pursuing peace.
PART I - EXPLORATION:
From: Jacob Q. Mattin, Colonel, Australian Expeditionary Force, California Sector.
To: Lawrence E. Gilliam, General, Australian Army, Director of North American Survey Project, Melbourne, Australia.
Subject: Status Report - ONE.
Date: March 13, 1997.
Sir, for my first status report of our expedition, I must first comment that your suggestion of half-track vehicles for our use was an excellent one. We have encountered much rought terrain in the countryside and many blocked and deteriorated roads while in various cities.
As predicted, we arrived off the coast of San Francisco today at 3 A.M. The weather was clear and when the sun came up about 7 A.M. we got a clear view of the San Francisco skyline. I had studied pictures of the great city but the sight that greeted us this morning was certainly nothing like the pictures of it taken in the late 1930's. We could tell that one or more great explosions had taken place in the central business district. I estimate that ground zero of the major explosion was at or near the southwestern end of Market Street. This was virtually in th center of the city. Many of the prominent high buildings were no longer there. I would estimate that one or more 30 kiliton bombs were used here. We found the radiation level light or non existant.
At 8 A.M. we cruised in closer to shore and embarked into our large amtracks. As expected, we included 3 of our halftrack vehicles in the amtrack and included 20 of our men to go along.
We landed near our primary landing beach. As you will remember, we felt that a landing near the Golden Gate Bridge would be close enough to the city to give an overview of whether any population still existed. Near the South side of the bridge we discovered an old, high walled fort that we estimated to be almost 200 years old. We established a temporary headquarters there.
I must report that the Golden Gate Bridge is still standing. However, several spans of the roadway have caved in and I would certainly not assume that it is safe enough to drive an armored vehicle across.
At 11 A.M. we loaded into our three half-tracks and proceeded southward on the peninsula. We had anticipated finding some signs of life. However, there was not a sound other than the faint chirping of birds and the rattle of our metal tracks on the pavement.
The going was rather rough in that many of the narrow streets were barracaded by fallen walls. We had to backtrack many times due to the ruins of buildings and the cars blocking our way.
We did find what can only be construed as human corpses. In the past 50 years they have lain in the streets unburied. Of course, this fact is not surprising, considering the magnitude of the destruction that the attack apparently brought. We even found one corpse still sitting in an upright position on a stone step inside an old barber shop. It was virtually a skeleton and had little skin or clothes on the bone. In the streets there were thousands of bits of bone. Time has deteriorated and scattered the remains of the dead.
We will not waste our valuable time in burying even one corpse. It would take a hundred years to bury the dead that we have seen. We saw virtually no sign of any reconstruction being made here. Every- thing seems to be just as it was shortly after the attack was received.
In either direction for over a mile from the center of the main blast there is now a grass and debris covered crater area. It appears that just about everything in this general area was atomized. There are a few fairly good sized scrub trees in this area also.
Farther out from the center, about a mile, are the foundations of homes and business buildings. The farther out we went from the center of the crater the higher the rubble stands until you come to buildings that were only minimally damaged.
Buildings near the ocean front are almost fully intact and I feel that the deterioration we have seen in these buildings is probably solely due to the wear and tear of nature and the lack of maintenance over the past 50 years.
The city has an unearthly silence about it. Something like the old American ghost towns that we have seen movies of.
One can only imagine the scene of riot and destruction just after the attack. The thousands of injured pinned beneath the rubble. The ambulatory survivors in shock, wanting to help the trapped people, but not having the medical supplies or expertise available to help. The rush of the survivors to find their families and the gradual, painful deaths of the burn/radiation victims haunt these walls that still stand. One can almost imagine the sound of the suffering and the sight of those who lay for days or a week and who finally expired due to their agonizing injuries or starvation.
We have found the remains of vicims still pinned under the rubble. As we passed by we could hardly tell the difference between human remains and the rubble. Bones and skin have turned gray and have merged into the concrete. People really do turn to clay when they die.
The eyeless skulls stare at us as we walk by. I have never seen such a haunting, silent graveyard of lost dreams as we have seen here in San Francisco.
From the air I would assume a pilot would look down on San Francisco as a beautiful area full of great green park areas.
The Crater Area, I feel, would look from the air somewhat like New York's Central Park. But instead of nicely manicured parks and children playing on the swings, what we have here is a graveyard where neither children nor adults have neither played nor existed for over half a century.
Certainly, if there are people still living in California Section they have scorned these nuclear waste fields for healthier climates. We spent our first day exploring miles of the city. We must have crossed the Crater Area five or six times to get to different areas of the city. The relatively flat area of the Crater is much easier to traverse than the narrow streets full of rubble.
We found no life. If we had found human beings alive this day, we would have kept a wide margin from them. Even though I feel that the plague is probably over I am taking no chances with my men's lives. After a full day of exploration we returned to our headquarters by 5 P.M. We wanted to make sure that we made it back to a safe area prior to darkness. Even though I don't believe that there are any humans, or whatever, lurking about, I wish to give nothing a chance to attack us.
This evening we made a thorough search of the fort we were using as our headquarters. This fort, as stated before, predates the Golden Gate Bridge by about a hundred years. We located some documents in a glass display case that identified this high walled creation as "Fort Point". You may wish to research your history of this fort. I am sure that your vast library of information on this area would include something of it's historical significance.
March 14, 1997:
We divided into two groups this morning. I took 6 men with me and we set out to cross as much of the Golden Gate Bridge as possible. I ordered Lt. Hefner and six of his men to advance along the Embarcardero area and follow the shoreline until they came upon the Oakland Bay Bridge. We wish to establish today whether either of these bridges is possible to cross so we can explore further inland. At 8 A.M. we proceeded to find the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge. We noticed that just as we become level with the bridge that one of the center towers looked like it was about to topple over. As we entered onto the brige I had one man walk in front of us and remove debris from the road. At the same time we delegated one man to walk 30 feet ahead of us to check out the roadway for obvious instability.
Of course, there is no way for a 185 pound man to adequately test a bridge's stability, but I felt that he could at least see if there were any obvious hazards, such as holes or breaks in the roadbed. Within a few minutes, we came upon several automobiles located about one quarter of the way across. We found no occupants, however. I would assume that the people probably stalled their vehicles at the time of the blasts but were far away enough to not be badly injured. They were probably able to walk off the bridge.
Half way across the bridge we came to a section that had collapsed. I had been unable to determine the extent of damage from below and had hoped that at least one lane of the bridge had stayed intact.
However, I was to be disappointed. Only a small walkway was still spanning the 30 foot section that had fallen away. Several of our men braved the flimsy section and crossed to the other side.
It became obvious that we would have to completely rebuild this section of the bridge if we were to cross over to the northern, or Marin County side by half-track.
By 1 P.M. we had completed our survey of the South side of the bridge and we headed back to base. I was fully convinced that I would prefer to completely pack up our vehicles and supples and head up the coast by ship than to go to all of the trouble of rebuilding that section of the bridge. I hoped that Hefner and his group had had more luck with the other bridge.
When we returned we broke for lunch and had just finished when Hefner and his group returned at about 1:45 P.M. He reported that the span of the Oakland Bay Bridge was intact and he felt that we could attempt a crossing in the morning. I was ecstatic. I was itching to get off of this peninsula as it was clear that we would find one one here except the dead.
The rest of the afternoon we spent in loading supplies from the ship into our three half-tracks. Ship's Captain Eric Murphy was ordered to proceed down he coast of California to the area of Los Angeles and unload another survey group. Then he was to return North again and meet us at the Fort Bragg area on or about April 1st.
We loaded up with three weeks of supplies. Just in case we were delayed in our exploration, I felt it appropriate to bring more than we expected to use. I estimated that we had about 700 miles to travel during our estimated two weeks of exploration. However, you can never be sure of what we might find and we may be delayed.
During the next two weeks, the ENDURANCE will travel the coast and take radiation readings. She will also occasionally offload survey teams to further explore the coastal areas. One area of immense curiosity is the Los Angeles area. However, if it compares to what we have found here in San Francisco, it will be a very depressing exploration.
We will keep in radio communication with the ship, however, it is expected that certain mountain locales will make communication impossible at times.
I slept fitfully this night. I suppose I was excited about what we would find in the East Bay the next day. I hope we will find survivors.
I sat up for several hours and watched the stars overhead. The moon is bright and I imagine that years ago Americans looked up and romanced to the bright orb. It is a sad fact that probably none exist to still do so today.
March 15, 1997:
We arose about 6 A.M. Most of us hadn't slept due to excitement, but we all seemed wide awake and more than ready to escape from this cemetery of millions.
At 7:30 A.M. we began our journey across the great city to the bridge. We followed the approximate route that Hefner had traversed the day before.
After leaving the crater area we encountered the famous steep hills that we had heard so much about. There was rubble strewn in the areas adjacent to the crater. But the rubble seemed to recede as we headed eastward. We encountered one famous landmark on the way. The world famous Coit Tower lay in pieces at the bottom of Telegraph Hill. It appears to have been blown off of it's foundation at the time of the blast and it must have rolled down the hill for a block or two. A flattened area of houses lays between the top of the hill and where th Tower now lays. This area appears to be just about the only real area of destruction in this part of the city.
Bones of victims lay in the streets as we passed over. I will never forget the sound of our wheels and tracks crunching bone. However, I had no choice in the matter. We would still be there in San Francisco if we had moved each part of a corpse that had been in our way. The biggest problem we encountered was the problem of pushing wrecks of automobiles out of the way. Hefner had gotten confused and got us off on another route other than the one he had taken the day before. We found ourselves wasting much of our time in finding the correct route. I advised him to make a map of his proposed routes the next time he does more exploring.
By noon we were at the foot of the enormous bridge. We parked our half-tracks and ate our noon meal.
As I sat with my back propped up against the rear wheel of one of our tracks, I thought silently of the vision that was before me. From our location we could look over the silent city. Some of the city looked almost normal from this distance. However, we could also see portions of the crater area and the mass destruction that radiated out from it's hub.
I remembered several years ago seeing pictures of the 1906 earthquake that occured here. The view was much the same, except where women in their early 20th Century woolen clothes once stood and watched the flames light the sky and where firefighters stood helplessly and frustrated because of the immense destruction and fires, there are now only ghosts to rebuild the city.
The early 20th Century survivors rebuilt the city and made it even better. I hope that some day we can do the same here again. However, I know that this colossal reconstruction will not occur in my lifetime.
I also remember the vintage movie " San Francisco" where a carefree Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald cheerfully kept their chins up while the whole city fell around them. It is apparent that there were no smiling heroes or heroines around this last time to pick up the pieces.
We entered the roadway of the Oakland Bay Bridge at about 1:30 P.M. This rusting hulk of steel was going to become our highway to the East Bay and the valley beyond.
Several wrecks of cars were pushed aside as we lumbered across this relic of the past century. Above the roar and the clatter of our vehicles I can still hear the loud shriek of girders and bolts that have not been stressed for decades. There were times when we would all jump from the sound of this shriek for fear that the bridge would come crashing down on our heads. The bridge tended to shake and tremble as it shrieked and I vowed that I would never return across this "accident looking for a place to happen".
We crossed onto Yerba Buena Island and found one of the most bizarre sights of our first few days. All around the main entrance to the Naval Base (Treasure Island) there were stacks of skeletons. Possibly the military had attempted to do the impossible job of collecting and cremating the victims of the war. These bodies had not been burned and it looks as though whoever was doing the "dirty work" had been stopped in their tracks by something. A caterpiller tractor was near by and it appears that it was being used to push the bodies into some sort of pit. Whether this was for burial or cremation is unknown. A body lay fairly close beside the tractor as if it had fallen from the seat. Possibly a victim of radiation or the plague.
We did not linger here as we were alreay sick of the sight of death and we wanted to explore further. We continued back onto the bridge and proceeded down the rest of the bridge to the Oakland side. As we left the bridge we located a two lane road that lead to the right or southward from our position. Our objective was the area of the Alameda Naval Base, a few miles from the bridge. Again we were faced with a ghostlike silence.
Oakland/Alameda was a good sized area in the early 1940's. Many people had migrated from all over America to this area and to the Hunter's Point shipyard in San Francisco to work in the shipyards and defense plants.
But now the area was literally devoid of life. We did see to occasionally hear some rustling in the wind. The day was bright and clear and under other circumstances would be described as a lovely spring day.
The homes in this area bore no outward sign of damage except for the natural deterioration we would expect to find. Damage was so slight that we almost expected to see people opening their front doors to go to church on a quiet Sunday morning.
By nightfall we were on the edge of a channel that was spanned by a narrow steel bridge. I decided to make our camp for the night and we parked our half-tracks in a sheltered spot near a large building that was marked with the name "Zanon Meats" on the front. We explored the building for security sake and found, as expected, no sign of life. We had lights out at 9 A.M. and I left Private Kvislen on guard duty. At about 11:30 P.M. Kvislen woke me up with a start. He stated that he had seen and heard something move just inside the open door of the building. We awoke everyone and armed ourselves. We stood listening just outside the door for several minutes.
I was about to chew Kvislen out for imagining things when we also saw a movement in the dark area next to the door. A dark mass about the size of a large mouse scurried off into the building with us in hot pursuit. I was not about to let the only living thing that we had seen on this continent excapt. We ran after it down a long hallway and it scurried through a hole in the door.
I gingerly pushed on the door and it gave way with a loud crack that sent shivers down my spine. The door completely fell away and slid down a concrete stairway that appeared to lead to a storage area. The door struck the bottom with a loud clatter.
We shined our electric lanterns down the dark abyss and Sargeant Baker pushed past me and ran down the stairs after the fugitive. No more than a few seconds went by when we heard a loud shriek and he reappeared with a look of stark terror on his face with his mounth agape. All he could say was "Run!. Bugs!". Well that certainly didn't tell me just exactly what he had seen and as he had gone by me as if he was not going to stop for several miles, I took my gun in hand and slowly went down the stairs.
What greeted me was a sight I will never forget. The glint of my lantern caught the bottom of the storage area. It appeared black. It also appeared to MOVE! The entire floor was covered with a living carpet of cockroaches! I swear that they must have been at least 4 to 5 inches long. Even the ones in Australia are not nearly so large. To say the least, I backed out of there rather quickly and did not even discover what there was down there that attracted them. I guess I would just as soon not know what they were eating. That is for your "But Eggheads" to discover when they come over here to study. All I know is that apparently the radiation and plague did not reduce the cockroach population. They have just gone underground and made themselves scarce and, fortunately, hard to find.
We sealed the door to "Zanon's Meats" and I stationed a guard at the entrance to the plant. I wasn't convinced that the building was the only source of the little buggers, but I was not willing to let any of this mess we knew of escape during the night while we were still in the area.
The night was deathly quiet except fo the constant footsteps of the sentries. As I lay there listening, I realized that I had become very depressed over what we had found to date. I had hoped for some existing civilization. I can understand why no one returned to this area to make these dwellings liveable again. Possibly any survivors thought that the job was too overpowering to accomplish. Or possibly, any survivors may not have the technology to determine that the radiation has diminished to an acceptable level.
I have seen a change come over my men in the past few days. They were originally very excited over the chance of exploring this area, however, they now appear rather somber and depressed. The ruins of a civilization that once was the technological model for the rest of the world is a very upsetting sight. I will strive tomorrow to be as up-beat in my attitude as possible. We must keep our morale up if we are going to do a proper job of exploration.
March 16, 1997:
We crossed over the bridge and onto Alameda Island at 8 A.M. this morning. At first we saw buildings in the same shape as we had seen in Oakland. However, after a few hundred feet, our radiation detectors became more active. A few hundred feet more and we found the reason for this activity. We rounded a rock wall that had once been someone's property line for a back yard and discovered nothing but wasteland on the other side.
From the edge of the wall to the very edge of San Francisco Bay there was nothing but an enormous nuclear crater. In this crater was found the relics of rusted ships hulks and planes. As in San Francisco, the farthest out from the nucleus of this crater you went, the larger the chunks of wrecked buildings and other structures became.
A portion of a pier still rested against the shore and next to it was a rusting and blasted hulk of an enormous ship. This hulk could very well be the remains of a large aircraft carrier or possibly a battleship. The upper portion of the ship was totally destroyed and only the semblance of any ship remains. Surprisingly the hulk is still afloat. We did not attempt to board this hulk as we could tell that there was nothing worth exploring.
Whatever base or residential area this island once had was flattened by the blast. This blast crater appears to be even larger than the one in San Francisco. A large portion of it extends out into the bay and therefore, some of the bay has formed it's own little inlet into the island.
I can see no further reason to linger here. This is even more of a wasteland than the city across the bay.
By 11:30 A.M. we had finished our survey of the island. We had eaten our mid-day meal a bit early and I continued our journey at noon. We were glad to leave the Bay Area to the cockroaches, birds and corpses.
Just prior to her journey up the coast, the ENDURANCE had launched her survey plane and had reported that a bridge still stood over the Carquinez Strait to our North. That strait is the only major obstacle to our exploration in that direction. Without that bridge across the strait, we would have to swing to th East about 60 miles out of our way.
We then backtracked somewhat back across the small bridge and into Oakland. We followed the main road northeastward and found the same silent environment. The congestion of the cities fell away and we encountered a more rural area.
The day was again clear and bright and and dark green grass was only broken occassionally by the abandoned houses and rusted vehicles of the past inhabitants. The day grew warm and the heat intensified in our half-tracks. I was in radio communications with the other vehicles and I ordered a rest stop along about 3 P.M. We had traveled about 3 hours and we pulled over under some Elm trees near a road sign that advertised a certain restaurant a few miles ahead.
For three days all we have had to eat has been our K rations and we could envision a thick steak smothered in onions at the restaurant up ahead. The large sign showed just such a luxurious meal with a rather sexy waitress serving it with a smile. It was like looking into the face of a dead person. I wondered what had been the fate of this beautiful woman with the bright red lips and short green dress. I wondered if she ever really existed or was just the fantasy of some California Advertising man.
But such thoughts did not help our sanity in the environment in which we had found ourselves.
Just beyond this gorgeous restaurant sign was another one stating that Vallejo was just 7 miles away. That means that if all went well we could be across the Carquinez Strait and into Vallejo by night fall.
After a half hour's rest we continued on. We found ourselves in rolling green hills. As we advanced over a hill at about 4 P.M. we were startled to find four German armored vehicles located in a deep ravine to the right flank of our vehicles.
I proceeded down the main road on foot keeping behind as much cover as possible. We coult not tell from the distance whether these vehicles were old and abandoned or an active leftover of the old Nazi regime. It would be terribly ironic to find the only humans alive on this continent were our old enemies the Nazis.
Suddenly our men began firing their automatic weapons at the Nazi Tiger tanks. I ordered our machine guns to begin blasting also. We let fly with a burst and then waited for a response. There was none. Gingerly we proceeded down the hill on foot. Our other men were already there. They had already opened the turrets and Private Jackson was climbing down out of a German tank.
What we had discovered was the remains of a blasted German column that had been apparently ambushed decades ago. Surprisingly, the paint on the tanks was not radically faded, nor were there any obvious damage marks on the outside to tell that they had already been destroyed.
Jackson reported that there were several bodies in each of the tanks. We also found the slight remains of other dead in what appears to be sleeping gear. It looks like some clever American partaisans had conducted a very well planned sneak attack on this group. The attack was very probably conducted at night by the looks of it. Some sort of fire bombs were dropped down the turrets and that took care of the majority of the troops. The sleeping victims may have had their throats slit.
We discovered a cache of Nazi weapons in one of the less damaged vehicle interiors and I allowed our men to take along several helmets. These were the only Nazi gear that was really worth saving. The automatic weapons were totally rusted and nonsalvageable. Jackson put a Nazi helmet on and made some antique Hitler gestures. His antics drew some laughts until I pointed out that that SOB Hitler was the main reason for the destruction that we had recently witnessed. I also noted that the Third Reich had supported the Japanese in their invasion of our homeland.
We pushed on after that and crested a hill. Down the hill, in the distance, we could see a body of brown water. To the left we caught sight of a rust-red bridge with twin towers.
The sun was just setting but we wanted to cross this obstacle and camp near Vallejo for the night. We stopped just short of the bridge and I sent Jackson and Chamberlain to scout for stability. It took several minutes for them to cross and return and they reported that it appeared stable except for a few broken bits of asphalt and concrete.
It was dusk now and we turned on our headlights. My halftrack was the first to cross and we encountered no problems except the now familiar sharp creaking that these old bridges emitted when they received the weight of our vehicles.
Sgt. Evans' half-track made it with no problems either but Lt. Hefner in number three had the right front wheel come crunching through the asphalt. It took a few minutes to make sure the rest of the vehicle was not going through also. Then we jacked up the right front and drove the vehicle over a board we placed and had brought along just in case this kind of thing happened.
Within a quarter of a mile past the bridge we came upon the sign, "Vallejo - Population 20,072." By now the sky was pitch black and we pulled off to the left onto a street labeled "Tennessee Street". It was a relatively wide boulevard and we found a small park up the street a ways in which to park and camp for the night. This town was just as dead as the Bay Area had been even though there was no sign of obvious war damage. This was relatively surprising though. I had studied my manual on the area and it showed that Vallejo hosted a large naval facility in the 1940's. I guess the Germans had determined that it did not constitute a vital enough facility to waste a big bomb on it, however.
We were exhausted after our journey from San Francisco and I placed the sentries on two hour shifts and turned in early.
March 17, 1997:
About 5 A.M. this morning the weather turned cold and windy and a steady rain began to fall. After the beautiful days we had enjoyed, this radical change in the weather was a surprise. We had hardly even seen a cloud for the past week and now it seemed that they all converged on us at once.
We bundled up and ate a cold breakfast of K rations. After all, even warm K rations are better than cold ones. But this morning the rain beat down so hard that we were out of luck.
We rumbled out of the park area at about 7 A.M. The rain blasted against our windshield and we longed for another dry spell. The only good thing about the rain was that we were able to collect some good clean drinking water. We had hesitated to drink from the streams that we had run across without using our decontamination kit or boiling water. We tested the rain water, however, and found it excellent. We passed an almost constant line of rusted vehicles. In some cases these vehicles did not resemble anything other than an oversized rusted and crushed tin can. Tires had rotted away. Doors had become detached and lay in the road and the environment had rotted great rusting holes in the sides and roofs of cars. In some cases you could place your hand in and through the sides of a car with minimal effort. The oxide flaked off and you could take great handfulls of the stuff with ease.
Of course there were the occassional bodies in and beside the road. As in San Francisco, bones were scattered about as if some animal had dragged them apart. Whether an animal, indeed, was involved or whether the bones had been scattered by the elements is up to conjecture.
We continued to travel in a relatively rural area. The trip northward was being delayed due to the terrible storm that we were being subjected to. Several times we had to stop and recheck our map. Visability was down to only 100 feet as the wind-whipped rain blasted from left to right across or northerly path.
By noon we had traveled about 20 miles. We stopped and ate our noon meal in our individual vehicles.
The wind had whipped itself up to about 50 miles per hour and two of the men in my track had to go relieve themselves. I warned them to be careful. They exited the vehicle and had to continually hold onto each other to keep their footing. Both lost their caps and finally dropped down into a culvert to relieve themselves. The culvert provided some protection from the wind.
After a few minutes they returned to us and looked much worse for their experience. But they did have smiles on their faces. With all the water dripping outside I am surprised that more of us didn't feel the urge to relieve ourselves.
We had occassionally taken some short cuts in our travels, but today I was staying on the main road. Even a track can get bogged down in a muddy, water-filled field.
The rest of that miserable afternoon we continued to travel northward with no unusual occurances. The flat terrain offered no break from the boredom and stress of the environment that the storm produced. By 5 P.M. we were exhausted and we stopped beneath a grove of trees a few miles outside a town called Dixon.
That night I slept fitfully, and I am sure I was not the only one, what with the noise of he storm. Despite the obstacles that had been thrown in our path that day, we had actually accomplished the admirable task of traversing over 40 miles.
March 18, 1997:
After having slept in our half-tracks last night you would have expected us to be in a relatively poor mood. I, myself, awoke about 4 A.M. and couldn't get back to sleep. I was terribly cramped in the back from sleeping in a semi-reclining position. At least I had a padded chair that I could recline in somewhat. The majority of the men only had the hard floor of the track and their sleeping bags. For the majority of the night we lay awake listening to the howling wind and pounding of the rain outside.
At about 6 A.M. however, the noises subsided and I looked out from the windshield to see what appeared to be clearing skies. Since that day we have become accustomed to the radical changes in this North American weather, but this first quick change came as a surprise. The wind had whipped the storm in and out in a 24 hour period.
Deep rivulets streamed down the sides of the road and the fields around us were a deep quagmire. It appeared, however, that any further rain had passed for at least the time being.
I gathered my motley group together and we took our time getting on the road that morning. I figured that they had had little sleep and I planned a fairly easy day for them. I only wish that it had turned out that way.
The route northward was flat and should prove to be uneventful. Our anticipated objective was to reach the ruins of Sacramento by nightfall. An easy journey of 25 miles.
We spent the majority of the morning checking our equipment for any damage and providing some quick preventative maintenance. The vehicles hadn't been looked after much since we left the ENDURANCE and I was especially concerned about Track #3 due to the crunch it's right front had received on the bridge near Vallejo.
All damage, however, appeared minor and we got on the road about 10 A.M.
The sun shone brightly as we pulled out and we were in high spirits despite our lack of sleep.
The fields appeared to be drying rather quickly as the sun was quite warm. We noticed that there were many more birds in the trees than we had ever seen. Where we had only seen a few birds at a time in the Bay Area, we now saw whole flocks of small, dark birds. This was a very good sign that at least some large amount of life may still exist in California Section.
We had traveled about an hour when my driver spotted a dark image off about a quarter of a mile to our right. We drove off the road into the muddy field that held our weight surprisingly well. As we got closer to this object, we could see 10 or 15 similar objects. As we came closer we identified these vehicles as Nazi Panzers.
Even from a distance we could see that these were not intact. By the time we had reached the closest tank we could see literally hundreds of these vehicles scatterd in front of us. They littered both sides of the main highway that we had been traveling on. We headed back to the main road and continued northward. These disabled vehicles littered the entire area within our view. Apparently a great tank battle had occured here as we could now see American Shermans littering the area to the North.
In order to make a better survey of the extent of this battle, I sent Track #2 a half mile to our left (West) and Track #3 a half mile to our right. I instructed them to make a count of the respective German and American vehicles in the sectors I had assigned. We traveled in a steady line with my track on the main road and the other vehicles flanking me on each side.
We continued in this arrangement for over an hour and it looked like it might be another hour before the extent of the battle could be surveyed.
These rusting hulks seemed to go on forever. We were still 10 miles from Sacramento. I would assume that these rusted relics represented a last ditch stand on the part of the Americans to stop the advancing Axis forces. I would estimate that about one third of the Axis tanks were small Japanese vehicles. Their faded red insignia could be seen from far away as could the white star of the American tanks.
Suddenly, our ears were assaulted by the sound of a great blast. Looking over to my right I could see a black cloud of smoke and flames. Track #3 was fully enfulfed in flames and the smoke rose high into the sky!
We quickly launched our Track off toward #3 and were well on our way when a thought struck me. Track #3 had struck a mine! I immediately ordered my driver to stop and hailed #2 by radio to wait for us back on the main road. I also instructed #2 to have one of the men walk in front of the track with a mine detector until it was again on the main road.
Johnson got out in front of us with a detector and we found that we had been directly in line with another mine if we had continued. We skirted this mine and Johnson paved us a very direct route to #3. Within 5 minutes of the blast we arrived at #3, but there was nothing we could do. The Track was fully engulfed and the 6 men inside had had no chance of survival. Unfortunately, the ammunition we had stored therein had gone up immediately when the mine went off.
For the most part we just stood in shock and watched the vehicle burn. The smell of burning human remains was new to us all and it's sweet, sickly smell made us nauseous.
By 3 P.M. the fire was extinguished and we went about the ghastly task of recovering and identifying the dead. All of the bodies were burned to a blackend horror and the only way we were able to identify Hefner and his men was by the locations where we found each body. Hefner was in the left front seat. Jernigan, his driver was in the right side of the seat. Wayne was just behind Hefner in the rear seat and Sgt. Baker was behind Jernigan. The only real problem we had was identifying Simpson from Short. Both men were located in the back storage area of the track and they were both about the same size. We finally decided that we could not really be sure of who was who and we just guessed. Both identification tags had been burned deep into each of their chests and we were not of the mind to dig for them. But finally, I was able to determine Short's identity by a large ring he wore on his right hand.
The rest of the afternoon we spent in the digging of a mass grave for our comrades. I sent Kvislen to work on a wooden headstone.
We dug at 6 foot by 6 foot pit and placed the wrapped bodies into it. Kvislen had done a fine job in obtaining a large sized piece of wood. Since he was the best letterer of our group he was recruited also to letter the names of the dead and today's date along with their ranks. Also, the name of our survey expedition was listed at the bottom. We heald a short memorial service at about 5 P.M. The dead were committed to the land where so many others had died a half century before. I felt that they were in good company with our American friends.
Just prior to nightfall, we returned to the main road and camped. Corporal Giles reported that he had counted over 400 wrecked vehicles so far on the West side of the road. I felt that we would have to double that figure at least in order to give an accurate accounting of this battle. I am sure that Hefner had counted at least that many before his group had been killed.
So the mass defense of Sacramento had been one of enormous proportions. We know who the victors had been, but it was heartening to know that the Americans had given them a definite run for their money. It, obviously, had not been a walk over by the Axis.
Giles also reported that he had found the remains of a German Jet (ME-262) back about a half mile from our present position. It had shown signs of being machine gunned and had slid into the ground. It had apparently not burned and it is possible that the pilot had survived. Giles stated that it look like the thing slid in and left quite a lengh of torn terrain in it's path.
So the "easy day" that I had envisioned had turned into one of horror. The depression we felt that night was overwhelming. We had seen nothing but death since our landing and now almost a third of our number had been killed by a 50 year old American Claymore mine that had been intended for some Nazi or Japanese tank. It was disheartening, but we shall carry on as best we can.
My main worry is our supply problem. Most of the food we had was stored on Track #3 and that was totally destroyed. We must find something else to live on. We only a few days of rations left.
March 19, 1997:
The sun shone brightly again this morning and we rechecked the burial site prior to heading out. I just wanted to make sure that we had not left any tools or other valuables behind. After losing so much yesterday, I didn't want some oversight to rob us of any more valuable equipment. I looked at the headstone that Kvislen had made. The long shadows of the morning playing off of it will remain in my memory for a long time.
The ENDURANCE was scheduled to make a run up the coast off of San Francisco and drop gasoline and food supplies to us. I had encountered some problems in getting in contact with ENDURANCE that morning, but was finally able to establish contact by 11 A.M. The ENDURANCE was right on time and sent a small plane to our area shortly after noon.
I would imagine that the pilot was rather surprised to see only two tracks, but we were very glad to see the silver plane come out of the western skies.
Suddenly, three bright orange parachutes blossomed against the bright blue sky. They landed within a few feet of each other and we recouped a large supply of gasoline and K rations. The K ratiions were nothing spectacular, but at least we knew we would not starve.
We continued our journey northward and came upon a leasurely sloping chasm. Over the chasm there appears to have been a causeway, or bridge of some sort. However, it had all collapsed and the roadbed lay deep into the water of the small lake that had been formed by the rain water of the 16th.
Correspondingly, we had to skirt around this area. The road had gone right up to the chasm and then dropped off. We spent the rest of the afternoon going around this area and, along about 4 P.M., we encounterd another nuclear crater.
This crater appeared just south of the Sacramento City Limits and the bomb seemed to have been dropped in a totally uninhabited area. Possibly it was dropped by the Germans to separate the American defense force from the possibility of escape or resupply. All I could tell is that the blast had little or not effect on any dwellings as the closest houses that we could see appeared to be several miles to the north of the blast.
We had not accomplished much this day except it had afforded us some time to clear our minds after our horrible incident of the day before.
Our minds bedded down that night in a deep depression. I hoped to see happy, smiling faces in the City of Sacramento the next morning.
March 20, 1997:
But the happy faces were not to be seen. The Sacramento area had been hit with a total of three nuclear weapons including the one we had seen south of the city.
Again the morning shown brightly, but as we could see as we entered the city, our spirits would not be brightened this day. It was another dead city. We could see the Capitol dome from the time we entered the city and could see that it was crumbled. The basic structure was there, but it had obviously been damaged.
We decided to visit the Capitol building and area that morning and we discovered that a blast to the southwest had caused much damage to the downtown area. The block on which the Capitol is situated is totally overgrown and where once a beautiful manicured area probably existed, there is nothing much left except weeds.
We entered the main entrance to the Capitol building and immediately found a statue of Columbus. It's head was detached and located on the floor, and it had become discolored with age. The silent halls, where I am sure, historic decisions were made are now dead and probably will never awaken with any intelligence and productivity again.
As I sat on the steps of the Capitol Building I found that I had sunk to the depths of depression. Never before or since have I felt the deep sense of loss that losing all of those men had caused. I gazed out onto the green overgrown lawn and was suddenly sick. I suppose it was due to the overall stress. I hoped I was not coming down with something.
My men had broken for lunch and I went back to try to get something down. I will need my strength in the next few weeks.
The nuclear craters we have discovered are located in the South, East and West of the city. They were dropped in a "V" pattern. They appear to have blanketed most of the main routes of escape from town. I am sure that tens of thousands of people died here.
One of the men called my attention to an object located about 5 feet from the Capitol Building. The object was a gray cylinder, half buried in the earth and mostly camouflaged by the overgrowth. I inspected the cylinder, which was about 3 feet long and had the circumferance of about 12 inches. Some German writing and a swastika appeared on the casing and a large "Z" also showed above ground. My best guess is that this is a Zyklon-B poison gas container. Apparently the Germans decided that in certain non-nuked areas,they would use their poisonous chemicals.
I remember hearing of the use of these cylinders against the Russians. It was almost instantaneous death. The yellow cloud would hover about 4 feet from the ground and be moved along by a current of air.
During World War I mustard gas was used and would cause death, but the victims would linger and cough their lungs out over a period of weeks.
However, Zyklon-B effects caused death within just a few minutes. In our search of the grounds, we found 6 of these cylinders close by the Capitol Building. We found many dead inside the Capitol Building also. Some remains were still partially in their chairs with other remains spilling upon the floor. Scraps of skin, bone and clothing lay where they had fallen decades ago. Many victims appear to have been caught by surprise and were dead before they knew anything was happening.
Between the nuclear blasts and the poison gas, I am sure that the majority of the population of Sacramento had no chance of escape. I feel though, that those located in the northern suburbs may have had a chance to head North. I am still hoping that someone still survives in California.
With the blanketing of most of the outside areas of Sacramento with nuclear bombs, there were few buildings left undamaged between the areas of the blast. It almost appears that the bombs may have triggered earthquakes. If not, the bombs must have caused such a vibration that many buildings were rocked off of their foundations.
March 21, 1997:
We awoke to a gray, dreary drizzle of a day. The clouds seemed to hang dark and low over the city as we dragged ourselves out early. I planned to make a long run this day. There is virtually nothing North of us for about 40 miles and the area looks flat on our terrain map so we should hopefully find no obstacles in our path.
We crossed a large steel bridge to span the Sacramento River and passed through the last few blocks of residential area. By 9 A.M. we were just out of the congested area and heading across the flat, dusty fields.
We were able to hit a narrow main highway just out of the city and observed very little evidence of any houses. Where south-west of the city we had encountered a long line of rusted vehicles, we now found found, to the north of Sacrmento, only a few isolated wrecks that littered the narrow highway. We had to push a few of them off into the fields but they did not delay us long.
This area has to be the most unsettled area we have come across so far. However, we have encountered one encouraging sight. In the puddles that developed from the major rain that we had the other day, we are finding many signs of life. A number of large birds, possibly cranes, are nesting in these areas. It is a lovely sight to see these beautiful white birds, shining in the now clearing morning. It is just good to see something alive and thriving again.
We have also spotted some rodent-like creatures that may have been rabbits or ground squirrels. They dart from hole to hole and we are unable to determine what they might be from this distance. But things are looking up and I am becoming more hopeful of finding people.
We have encountered some shacks that are tumble-down but must have been quite nice before the war. There are no signs of any habitation nor have they been obviously disturbed other than by the wind and rain.
We made good time and by the time we stopped for the mid-day meal, we had traveled almost 40 miles. All during our travels we are cramped into the tracks and there is a continual clanking and rattling. It makes the butt sore after awhile.
Off to the East we can see a rather large amount of snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains. We must be able to see for about 40 miles or so toward that direction. A small breeze has seemed to clear the air to a dazzling brilliance.
But even this rest has to come to an end. We packed up our kits and were off again at about 1:30 P.M. I will always remember that rest stop along the road as probably the most serene and beautiful time we have had. We were surrounded by green and actually felt positive about life for the first time in over a week.
The road was straight and we were able to spot a glint of light shining off somewhere out to our left. It appeared to be about 1/4 of mile away and I sent two of our men, Harrison and Kvislen, off to investigate. They brought a communicator with them and were able to report that they had found an American B-17 Bomber. According to them it was very well preserved and had skidded in pretty well intact.
What they did find, however, was upsetting to us all. They reported that they found 8 American uniformed bodies all laid out as if they had been shot up against the inside wall of the plane. This is all just conjecture, however it is possible tht when the plane came to a stop, the Americans were captured and executed.
The bodies were all laid out in a row and face down. As the doors of the big bomber were closed, no animal had apparently disturbed them. All bodies appeared to have broken breast and rib bones and that is why we feel that they may have been executed.
A few miles further and we crossed an old steel railroad bridge. The concrete highway bridge was fully collapsed and our trip across the steel bridge was very rough and uncomfortable.
Two road signs had fallen and we recovered them from down a steep embankment. One stated "Yuba River" and the other stated "Marysville- Population 6,646".
Upon entering Marysville we discovered that this place really resembled a ghost town. It was a small town to begin with and certainly resembled the old west at it's grimiest. The town road was littered with fallen facades from the old style buildings. I would guess that the first section of town that we entered dated back to the 1860's at least. Further into the town the buildings became somewhat newer and I could recognize some buildings as 1930's architecture. Not much, however, was really left of Marysville. While no war damage was evident, the natural deterioration of time had laid waste to this area. It was similar to earthquake damage we had seen pictures of. Possibly an earthquake had occured.
We stopped in front of an old three story brick building and ate our noon meal. The men relaxed on the grassy area and we enjoyed the warm sunshine that filtered through the trees. It was wonderful to lay down in the open air.
How the people must have fled this town. I can just envision their radios blasting the news of the Sacramento attack into their panicked brains.
The shock of not knowing where to find solice. I can just see the panic and the wave of people gathering their possessions into their cars and scurrying North or East. I can only imagine that some decided to stay and fight the advancing Axis troops.
We have found nothing to indicate that fighting occured here, but I can envision the Nazi and Japanese troops rolling into Marysville and finding it mostly deserted except for a few diehards who opted to fight till the last.
I can greatly admire the ones who fought. They remind me of our struggles that my grandfather fought in 1940. When England was invaded he was captured and killed by Gestapo agents. He was in the underground and fought during the invasion and continued to fight a guerilla war against the Nazis until 1942. Then, that summer, he was caught after blowing up a Nazi headquarters in Coventry and he was never seen again. My grandmother and mother have passed down the stories of his exploits for the past 50 years. I can only hope to be half the man he was.
After his death, my grandmother escaped to Australia and we have considered that our "Mother Country" ever since.
Marysville basked in the late Winter sun and I listened to the silence. The only break in the silence was Kvislen and Giles discussing who would win the All-Australia Baseball Tournament coming up next month. I always wondered why they called it the All-Australia Tournament still, as no one else could possibly participate in it but us Australians anyway. I remembered that the Americans were the ones to invent and make baseball popular. It is terribly sad that the originators, who were such baseball fanatics, have not been able to enjoy any such diversion for a long time. Possibly, if we find anyone alive we can revitalize the tradition. Again, I suppose that this is all silly wishful thinking on my part.
Marysville did not enthrall me and the only thing we gained from our three hour stay there was to see how easily old architecture crumbled. So we moved on by 3 P.M.
North of the city we left the dry, flat scrub area and then entered an area of old orchards. North of Marysville there must have been a great walnut and orange industry as we quickly found well developed citrus and nut trees on each side of the road. The fruit, however, was past it's time and was rotting on the trees. The trees were neatly rowed and healthy as if they had been well watered and cultivated. But the grass between the rows was over 3 feet high and had obviously not been cut or weeded for decades.
It was a more interesting type of terrain, but it was depressing. Occasionally we saw a well built house that had been left to ruin. My guess would be that it was probably the house of a ranch owner. Certainly no farm worker could have afforded this kind of house on the wages they were paying in 1945. It just goes to show that when the chips are down, money means nothing. Money held no more security for the owner of this land than for his simple laborer. I wonder which descendents of which still survive. I would take a bet that the laborer's descendents would survive long after the land owner's as they would probably be of tougher stock.
But it is superfluous for me to waste time and space in this report to hyothecize who survived this desperate struggle when we know of absolutely no one who did survive.
Prior to our expedition, a fairly good aerial survey of California and Nevada was conducted. One of our few jet aircraft flew over these areas for several weeks and took photographs of the most promising areas and still could find no settlements.
We hoped that a ground survey team, taking it's time and seeking out some of these most promising areas would be successful in finding human life. At least it is hoped that we can confirm that recolonization of this area is practical.
To date I am still of the opinion that it will take almost too much effort to recolonize any of the Bay Area region, however, this northern area appears to have far less destruction and may very well be a good place to start in our resettlement of the continent. We appear to be traveling into a very unspoiled area that has not been effected by either blast or massive death. Possibly farther North or East of here we can find a region that will be completely clear of the effects of war.
About 15 miles North of Marysville we camped for the night. I hope to find something of importance in the next day.
We are seeing more animal life as we go along. I thought I saw a deer today. I wished I could have had a good shot at it. Fresh meat would be a refreshing change. But it almost seems like a crime to kill a thing of beauty such as a deer after all of the ugliness we have seen. I don't wish to contribute to the body count on this continent. I think my men are finally getting back to their old selves. On board the ship we were always joking but after the deaths on Track #3, they were solumn and we have tended to be at each other's throats. I have had to break up a few near-fights in the past week. But tonight they sat around our fire and sang some old songs from the 1980's and really enjoyed each other's company. It is reassuring to hear the men sing. It seems to ease my own conscience and make me feel that there really is hope after all for the human race.
I don't know if they blame me for the deaths in Track #3. I am asking them each to make a full report to you when they get back. I have heard no derogatory remarks about me but I cannot be sure about their feelings on the subject. You will have this report before we get back and I will face whatever punishment you feel fitting.
Johnson and Giles thought they saw a rabbit this evening and took off with a .45 calibre pistol to hunt it down. They came back empty handed, however. I told them that I figured that they were outmatched by the rabbit. Also, I wouldn't think there would be much left of a rabbit if they had it with a .45 anyway. Even so, the thought of a rabbit dinner sounds very good.
March 22, 1997:
These Northern California weather patterns change so quickly I still have not adjusted to them. This morning we were greatly fogged in and it was a toss up as to whether it would rain again or clear up. It was cold and crisp and we put on our heavy field jackets.
This is crazy. Yesterday it as almost like Summer and today we are back again to Winter.
We pulled out at 8 A.M. and found it slow going. The fog was so thick we could only see about 20 feet in front of us. The road looked narrow and forbidding in this fog and we only traveled about 20 MPH as I wanted not to run into anything that had been left stranded in the road.
In the fog back in Melbourne we became used to taking our time and plodding along on foot. However, here with a vehicle, it is a totally new experience.
The only break in the monotonous scenery was the crossing of three small concrete bridges that were dated 1940. They looked sturdy enough, but we got out and inspected beneath each one before crossing. The WPA (whatever that was) certainly built strong constructions. I have noticed those initials on some sidewalks in some of the towns we have visited. I hope that you can enlighten me as to the meaning of those initials when we return to Australia. We slowly proceeded through the fog. This trip was a lonely one from the beginning, but there is something about the fog that can make me feel more alone than anything else. My men became nervous and joked in a half-hearted tone. I suppose that any moment they felt that some unspeakable horror would jump out at them.
By 10 A.M. we noticed that it was becoming lighter and that we could see farther than before. We could see off to the East a brightness tha seemed to grow. Apparently the sun was finally burning away the fog bank.
We crossed over a small stream and it seemed like the world had changed. From that point on the sky became blue in small patches above us and it became clearer.
A slight wind was blowing westerly and that seemed to move most of the fog banks away from us.
Before we knew it, we stood at the banks of another river. The small bridge had grown very weak and we did not wish to take the chance of crossing here. I would not have trusted a small boy on a bicycle to cross this rickety old bridge safely. Even though it was made of steel, the roadway had fallen in and was barely hanging on to the steel girders. We could see where a heavy tracked vehicle or vehicles had used the bridge years ago. Track marks were still imprinted into the asphalt.
A two lane road went off to the right and we saw that we were entering the main street of another small town. It, like Marysville, was falling apart and the fronts of it's stores had fallen in and appeared to have been looted. Several areas of the main street had burned and we found the remains of an American figher plane next to the burned out remnants of the City Hall. Upon the front of the City Hall appeared the name of the town - Oroville.
War had certainly arrived in Oroville in all of it's fury. There were a few German armored personnel carriers and a half-track near the town square. The town boasted a rather large library building and upon investigation we found much Nazi paraphanalia. A few Nazi flags hung haphazardly from the inside walls and some yellowing propaganda leaflets were found in a large cardboard box. All of this material had gotten wet at some time or the other and was, fortunaltely, in sad shape.
The German vehicles were bullet riddled and it seems that quite a struggle had ensued. We found a few bodies in and old oriental temple near the river but we could not tell if they were civilians or not. They appear to have become somewhat mummified and no shread of clothes was on the bodies.
The fog bank still remained just North of us, but by noon we could see that a large mountain lay just to the northeast of the city. We lay there in the welcome sunshine and watched as the fog gradually disappeared. It became quickly apparent that a very large plateau was the subject of our attention. The left side of the mountain appeared completely flat and the smooth sheer sides lead off toward the North. To the right we could see a valley open up before us. Farther to the right was another part of the plateau and it stretched off toward the northeast. The whole face of the mountain was a dark green carpet.
There was a small waterfall visible and it seemed to form a bright silver ribbon as it plunged straight downward from the lava cliffs. I decided that we would stay here the rest of the day and further our exploration of this town. I split my forces and had Sgt. Evans and his men go off into the South part of the town while we explored the downtown area along the river. I felt it important to explore this little town as here was the first place we had found that appeared to have put up a fight against the Axis. The only other place was South of Sacramento and it is doubtful that anyone survived the nuclear onslaught. But here we might find someone who was tough enough to survive.
Our exploration, however, brought forth the same fruits as before. We found no sign of any recent habitation or life. By the time we had finished our wanderings about, it was 4 P.M. and I decided to have us stay in this town for the night. We could get a fresh start in the morning and head further northward.
We set up camp along a park at the south side of the river. The park boasted a much neglected swing set and teeter totter. Kvislen was the first to try the swing and he wishes now that he hadn't. He swung really high and just at the summit of his swing the old board he was sitting on broke through and he was thrown sprawling into the sand and almost into the river. We all couldn't contain our laughter and it has to have been one of the funniest things I have seen for years. It must have been taken him over a half hour to remove all of the sand and gravel out of his hair, ears, and from out of his shirt. I think from now on we will call him "Crazy Kvislen". He has earned that most distinctive title.
Just before sunset Giles went down to the river to get some fresh drinking water. We had tested the river earlier in the day and found it very good. According to our charts the Feather River flows out of the Sierra Nevada and heads south through Marysville. It's cold water being fed by the Sierra snowpack. Giles was one to goof off a bit if you would give him a small chance and he spent too much time sitting on a rock and using his high-powered telescope we had brought along for the purpose of observation. He had decided that the planets Venus and Mars were to be in view tonight and felt that worthy enough to take the time to set the telescope up.
He had been gone for over a half hour and I was just starting down the trail along the river to chew him out when we heard a yell. We all scurried down the beach to the river thinking that he was in trouble. We found Giles wide eyed and very excited. He stated that while he was getting the telescope ready he had scanned the top of the plateau. Now he swears that he saw something up there move. He was not sure whether it was a man or an animal but it was approximately man sized and moved relatively quickly.
Several of us scanned the mountain top with the telescope but were unable to find the elusive figure again. I had him point out the spot to me and I made a small sketch of the area. The area of the sightings lay approximately 100 feet above and barely to the left of an enormous white "O" figure on the mountain.
We ate our dinner and spent the rest of the evening planning our assault on the mountain for the next morning. We would have to wait until daylight to find a route up to the area. However, we had already discovered a route across the river. Only a few blocks from us is a fine old steel green bridge (dated 1906) that is very well preserved. I am sure that it will support the weight of our tracks. That night we all slept rather fitfully. Evans and I sat up until late planning strategy for the morrow. The climb looked like it might be rather rough. The side of the mountain appears to be straight up in most areas.
March 23, 1997:
We were lucky that the weather cooperated this morning. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day for the climb. We got up early and crossed the old bridge at 7 A.M. The bridge, surprisingly, did not creak and groan nearly as much as some of the newer bridges we had crossed.
Immediately on the North side of the Feather River was a fairly steep hill and we tended to slide somewhat. But we made it up the hill without too much trouble.
The two lane road was fairly well torn up and probably was one of the worse roads we had encountered. The big white "O" on the mountain became larger as we moved toward the muntain. All during this short drive I had Giles scanning the top of the mesa with the telescope, but we saw no movement. About a mile ahead we found a road that turned off eastward and seemed to be the way to go to get to the top of the mountain.
We crossed some rather rolling hills and could see that we had made the correct turn. Despite the fact that Giles saw no movement on the mountain, I still felt that it was our best chance of finding life. However, I dearly hate wild goose chases and hoped that this wouldn't turn out to be a waste of time.
We discovered a small dirt road that ran off to the left and took us right up to the foot of the mountain. From that position, we were only a fifth of a mile from the top of the mountain. However that fifth was a mile was straight up.
I left one man each with our vehicles and the rest of us headed up the mountain. It seemed like forever to reach the half way point, but once we did so, the view was worth it. We could see about 35 miles South and could see a small mountain range that we had missed because of the fog. This mountain range lies just northwest of Marysvile and our map identifies it as Sutter Buttes.
We expended another half hour on the climb and finally reached the "O" figure on the mountainside. It was made of concrete and even larger than I expected. As it lies at a 90 degree angle I wondered out loud how anyone could have gotten all of that cement up this sheer cliff. It certainly was not possible to drive up here. I wondered about the purpose of this enormous letter and suddenly realized that it obviously stood for the first letter of the town below. I suppose the townspeople were proud of their town and wanted to commemorate it.
It could also represent one of the schools in town. Kids were always pulling stunts and possibly they were responsible for this. We even did stunts back in high school. We pulled stunts that were more clever than this, but certainly not as extravagant or long lasting. This figure looks like it has been been her for 60 years. Time has forced cracks in the concrete and small chunks are missing. But, all in all, the figure is very well preserved.
All of us are in our early to mid 20's but we were all panting as if were in our 60's as we crested the top of the lava cap and beheld the most perfectly flat natural object I have ever seen. The mesa appeared to go on for miles and except for a few irregularities, such as a few small ravines and gullies, the mountain top was just as flat as a table could be.
And on this flat plateau at 10:15 A.M. that morning we discovered the most happy and reassuring sight. There must have been over 300 head of cattle grazing on that plateau! Our stomaches and eyes became very happy again and the visions of a thick, juicy steak was not just a roadside sign anymore.
We also know now that life in abundance can live here. If these fat cattle can live here, so can we. And so too, could live other survivors. Thus it was an historic occasion. We had finally discovered truly healthy, abundant life in California.
Shortly we set about capturing one of the cattle for examination. It was a small calf and we obtained unending joy from watching two of the men try to catch him. Finally Martin grabbed a back leg and the others dragged him down. We took a blood sample and fortunately had brought a small testing kid with us. One thing that the war and plague had produced had been a revolution in medical research and discovery over the past 40 years. We had cured cancer and many other types of afflictions, such as polio, but the cure for the elusive "Black Plague" still eluded us.
We were unable to detect any abnormality in the animals' blood and then went about taking a small biopsy from a section of the calf's left rear leg. We also drew some bone marrow. All of the tests conducted that afternoon showed no sign of any known dread disease, nor any sign of any radioactive residue.
These animals have probably never left the plateau and are probably the descendants of cattle that had lived on this plateau at the time of the war.
I have never been much of an animal lover, but it is so wonderful to see something of this size alive and healthy again.
I congratulated Giles on his sharp eye and told him that without his tendancy to malinger, we may not have found these animals for many years. This discovery has, by itself, made this expedition a success. We camped on the plateau that night and advised the two men guarding the tracks of our plans and discovery. We advised them to place the tracks in a sheltered area and to sit tight the next day while we continued our survey of the mountain top.
We bedded down early that night and I lay awake and listened to the serene sound of the cattle lowing. My stomach was happy too. It was the first beef steak I had had in weeks.
March 24, 1997:
We began our trek across the plateau early in the morning and it was one of the easiest maneuvers we had attempted. The mountain was completely flat and our direction of travel was toward a small grove of trees located at the farthest end of the plateau. Trees only existed on the edges of the mountain. The majority of the plateau being made up of just scrub grass. I had underestimated the number of cattle. We counted over 400 head and wondered how so many of them could have survived during the summer months. I am sure that this grass completely dries up in the high temperatures that must bake this area. Possibly the cattle migrate off the mountain during the summer and obtain green grass elsewhere near a river or a stream. It took close to an hour to hike across the plateau and we saw nothing but cattle all that time.
Upon reaching the edge of the plateau we looked down upon a small valley that formed quickly back up to another mesa. In the valley was a densly wooded area.
We proceeded down the steep incline and wound our way through the dense brush and mesquite trees that were generously sprinkled with jungles of poison oak plants. I had never had the occasion to be exposed to this weed before and therefore did not know if I or any of the men were allergic to it. However, I certainly did not wish to find out so we were very careful to avoid these patches. I had heard horror takes of people suffering with rashes for weeks. That problem we could do without. Especially since most of our supplies for rashes and medical salves were lost in the destruction of Track #3.
We reached the valley floor in about an hour and crossed several pasture like areas. I noticed one lone palm tree in the middle of the valley and wondered how one species of tree could have gotten this far away from nowhere.
In a very short time we were heading up the hill to the second plateau. This turned out to be a much easier climb than the one up the initial plateau.
Within 15 minutes we were on top of the second mesa and were heading out. So far this morning we had found no sign of any human habitation. We had seen however, several ramble down shacks off to the right of the first plateau. These, however, were obviously not occupied. Roofs had collapsed and in one of the shacks there was a small tree poking through the remains of the roof. This seemed to be another dead end area and my initial exuberance in finding the cattle had subsided with the prospect that there may be no humans in this area.
We took a rest break in the middle of the afternoon and I sent Martin up ahead to scout the trail. He was gone for only a few minutes when he called me on the communicator. He stated that he thought he had found something important and for us to come immediately.
He sounded excited so I wasted no time in getting the men moving down the pathway at a quick pace.
We headed down he narrow path between the two lava rock sections and around a grove of small trees. We heard Martin call "over here", and we hiked toward the sound of his voice. We found Martin sitting in a small clearing. He had a look of distinct satisfaction on his face. He related to us what had happened. "I had come around that small grove when I thought I saw something move up ahead. I thought it might be more cattle so I wasn't too concerned. However, I then heard footsteps running. These sounded just like you and I running. Whatever it was ran on two legs. So I began to run and found these footprints. I continued and found this clearing. You can see that this camp fire is still warm. You'll also find some clothes over there next to that tree".
Martin had come through for us. Here was absolute proof that some sort of human still existed. We examined the prints in the soft, reddish earth. They appeared to be shod in some fashion. Some sort of sandles I would presume.
Martin showed us which way the person had gone and we followed the tracks as quickly as possible. It was not difficult to track the person except when he or she ran across the lava rock flow. The tracks continued in a generally northern direction and we found ourselves getting farther and farther away from the two guards near the "O". I stopped for a second and called them up on the communicator. I wanted them to continue down the main road and see if they could follow in the same general direction that we were going. Possibly that road would eventually bring them up to the top of the mountain that we were on. They sounded rather excited to be told to do something besides sit as they had for the past day or so. They were probably bored stiff.
The terrain varied between flat pastures and a few sloping hills. Of course there were always several large lava formations to climb over. After two hours of this chase I wondered if we were getting anywhere in the pursuit. I twas now almost dark and we may not be getting closer to our friend up ahead. His footsteps were still very fresh and I opted to stop our chase at sundown nevertheless because I didn't want any of us falling into any of the deep holes in the dark.
March 25, 1997:
We continued early again this morning. I wanted to get a jump on our friend in case he slept in late. The terrain is still flat but is mainly just a grassy pasture. The areas of soft sand no longer are seen and I am afraid that we have now lost the trail of our human survivor.
It is so frustrating. You can see for miles up here and yet we can see nothing moving but the grass in the wind. The combination of the terrain and the human's obvious knowledge of the area has conspired against us to lose him.
We brought with us the clothes that Martin had discovered. They appear to be very old and worn. They may be leftovers from the pre-war era. They don't appear to be hand made and are made of fairly fine cloth. The only problem is that they are old and quite dirty. Whoever wore these clothes must have pilfered them from some well preserved old clothing store or store house.
It had been increasingly quiet on our trek this morning. We did not do much talking as we hiked over the dark green pastures. We could hear each other breathing and the sound of our boots crunching the twigs in our path.
The pasture moulded into a sloping hill and we walked along the foothills toward a stream in the distance. We stopped for a cold, refreshing drink and took a break. My feet were hot and tired and so I stuck my bar feet into the icy cold creek. My relaxation was interrupted by the realization that Morrison was relieving himself in th water upstream from my position. I did a lot of screaming at him for a few minutes. For the sake of decency he at least could have relieved himself against the hill or downstream from me. I made sure that I too, drink upstream from his location.
I made it very clear that I don't like being pissed on. While getting everyone ready to resume our trek, I thought I could hear a rumble in the distance. I decided that my ears were deceiving me and that the rumble was probably the wind in the trees.
However, within a minute I knew that the rumble was a reality. We walked through another well populated area of poison oak and I could see the reason for the rumble. Here, before us, was a very high waterfall.
The winter rains had filled the fields above the waterfall to capacity and the rainwater ended up tumbling down this deep chasm that we had found ourselves in. I was taken aback by it's beauty as we stood looking up at this spectacular sight.
The small pond that was formed by the torrent emptied out and formed the creek in which I had rested my feet.
But the waterfall was not the the only discovery. Almost hidden in the lava rock wall behind the waterfall was a shallow cave that went back into the hill about 10 feet. Kvislen was the first to enter the cave and reported that many old boxes and supplies were located therein.
Upon entering the cave, I found that most all of the supplies were water soaked and in poor conditiion. I feel that this cave has been abandoned for decades. I was hoping for life and have again found disappointment.
I set Martin and Giles to work opening some of the supply boxes and they discovered much canned food and boxes of ammunition. All the ammo was water soaked and the one rifle we found was rotted away. The continued in the exploration of the supplies while I pondered what my next move would be.
We have not seen any foot tracks for several hours. Probably our quarry is miles away. I do not expect to find him now.
I contacted our half-tracks and found that they had followed the road up the valley and were now located in an area that we felt was only a few miles away from our position. We had estimated correctly that the road did eventually lead to the top of the mesa. We could leave immediately and head back toward town, or we could stay one more night on the mountain and hope to run into our fugitive friend.
I opted to give it one more night. I kept Kvislen, Giles, Martin, Harrison and Vargas and assigned Sgt. Evans to lead the rest back to the tracks. I told Evans that the first course of business was to make sure that Jefferson and Tower, our track guards, got a beef steak dinner. They had been left out of that treat so far.
Evans and the group left about 4 P.M. They headed up the side of the cliff to the top of the waterfall and across the flat terrain toward the Tracks in the East.
I decided that the best course of action would be to send out Giles and Vargas on a survey hike to our North and to send out Harrison and Martin out to the West to check out that area. It was really about my last shot at locating our friend before sundown. They were all ordered to be back by sundown.
Kvislen and I decided that it might be interesting to sift through some more of the supplies in the cave. So far we had found nothing of value. All of the food, of course, was worthless. Martin and Giles had checked out all but a few of the crates and I figured that we would be errant if we did not check out everything that might be of possible value.
There were three large boxes in the left corner of the cave and Kvislen began on those. I found a small pile of books within a metal box. Included in this small library was "War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells. A most appropriate choice under the circumstances. There was also a copy of "All Quiet on the Western Front" and one called "Wilderness Survival". The last book in he pile was a 1939 almanac. On the front cover was scrawled in red, "Page 28". I leafed through the book and found that page. Taped to the page was a yellowed scrap of folded paper. I unfolded it and discovered a small map. The map showed the location of the waterfall and the cave and indicated a location above the falls and a small distance to the East of our present camp site. The place was marked with and "X" and the notation, "Rob/Journal here".
I am afraid that I was really fascinated and intrigued by this map. The thought that I had possibly discovered something that had been hidden for years brought me back to the days when, on the Coast of Australia, we kids would search for "pretend" buried pirate treasure. By the time I realized what I had on my hands, it was too dark to do anything about it. The two survey teams would be returning shortly and hopefully they would have good news. I will keep the map and the thought of "Buried Treasure" in the back of my mind until morning. Giles and Vargas returned at 6:15 P.M. and had no news to give. The area to our North showed no trace of any camp sights. It was as I suspected. I will not find our errant fugitive today.
Harrison and Martin dragged themselves in about 6:25 P.M. and had to rest a few minutes before being able to explain what had occured. They had gone about three miles to the West when they had run across another human footprint. They followed the prints for another mile or so before they lost the trail in some lava beds. In order to regain the trail they climbed down an almost sheer lava wall and hoped that they would stumble across the trail again. But to no avail. They had to take a round-about trail to get back up the lava wall. In the process they became rather scarred up and on one occasion had to backtrack several hundred yards when they headed into a box canyon. It was a wasted effort except that now we know that possibly our quarry was off to the West.
We ate an evening meal of steak and K rations and I told them about the map that we had found. They were all immediately of the opinion that we should go out into the dark and search for this journal. I quelched that thought immediately as it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack if we tried to find something at night in this unfamiliar country. Besides that we really don't know if we are looking for a marker above the ground or below. We will bring a shovel tomorrow morning just in case it is needed.
The night was clear and we could see our old friend Venus shining brightly in the western sky. I used the telescope to get a better look. For thousands of years these stars and planets have shone down on our planet. They have stayed relatively the same for the past thousand years and would not probably change appreciably in the next thousand. I suddenly felt very small and insignificant. The search for one human survivor seemed like a very trivial concern in the overall scheme of things.
March 26, 1997:
The first thing I grabbed this morning after rolling out of bedroll was the map. We had discovered no other important information in the supply boxes and this map appeared to be a clue to some relic of the past and possibly provide some lead as to where everybody went after the war started.
The target area was up the hill above the falls and to the South. We climbed single file up the sheer cliff and made the summit in a surprisingly quick time. Even clumsy Harrison and Martin made it in style.
I suppose they especially were being careful after the scrapes they had received last night.
We found the area above the falls very similar to the rest of the mesa. It was flat and with occasionally rolling grasslands. The map showed a rock formation approximately one half mile from the falls and we found a 4 foot high rock at that location. From there we turned somewhat westerly and came to the area where the "X" is located. The map showed that the "X" location was to be found 300 feet to the West of the rock formation. What we found was a worn wooden cross stuck in the ground. The two wooden pieces were tied together with a rawhide type of material.
I had forwarned the men that they should be prepared to dig and I think their enthusiasm for fiding whatever treasure we were going to find overcame their natural fear of hard work.
The ground was broken around the cross and Kvislen yanked the cross up and tossed it next to a small rock. The worn cross broke into several pieces when it struck the rock.
The men dug and the sweat rolled from them as the sun grew higher in the sky. They had gone down about 4 feet when a spade struck something solid. We move away some of the earth and found the object to be a flat, smooth piece of wood. The area was more widely cleared and it became obvious what we had found. A coffin.
Now the men became less enthusiastic. They had seen enough death this trip and the thought of digging up a 50 year old corpse did not intrigue them However, I pointed out that we might be in the process of discovering something really important. It may be, indeed, the only thing of real substance we have found besides the cattle in this initial period of discovery.
My little blurb tended to soften up their attitude and they proceeded with the digging. The area was cleared away and I got down to pry a lock off of the coffin. It was almost rusted through but we found it impossible to break. So I simply used my .45 on it and it came off quickly.
The moment of truth came as I slowly lifted the coffin lid. As it came open the rusted joints groaned and made Kvislen jump a bit. There in the coffin we saw the remains of a rather large man. It seems that the body was very well preserved. He was dressed in a green American military uniform and had a cap with an eagle ensignia and chevron on it. To the outside of his left hand was a long thin package wrapped in waterproof plastic material. I reached in and pulled the package away from the body.
To the right side of the coffin was a small piece of cardboard stuck in between his right hand and leg. On the piece of cardboard read, "Here lies Rob Watson. A good friend. A lover of freedom. Born: June 17, 1919. Killed in action: March 4, 1945."
We checked the body for any valuable articles and only found a watch and a few rings. We reburied him with everything except the package. We also had Kvislen letter him a fitting headstone with his name and dates of birth and death. Kvislen said that with all of the experience he's had on this trip, he's thinking of becoming a funeral director when he gets back home.
I glanced at the contents of the package at the time of discovery but it was just shortly after we had reburied the body that I was able to take a closer look. Inside the waterproof packaging was a fairly large, hardbound journal. In a manila colored envelope there were also several maps, drawings and photographs. I am glad for the waterproof material. The contents are remarkably preserved. I sat beneath the shade of a large boulder and scanned the contents for a few minutes. The journal began in 1945 and also seems to backtrack to earlier dates. The pictures enclosed were dated and identified on the reverse of each photo. They all appear to be photos of this area in 1944-45.
After some minutes of scanning, I bundled them up again and we all headed out toward our tracks.
Our group had advised us by communicator the day before that we were only about two miles from their location. They had done an excellent job of estimating our position and had driven to the closest rendesvous point possible.
The ground was more rolling than flat as we advanced and we were only able to see the tops of telephone poles in the distance. Our group at the tracks stated that they were near telephone poles so we headed for them as a point of reference. The day was again beautiful and I was not totally dissatisfied with the progress of our expedition so far. We had discovered a small bit of history and the possibility that human life still exists in this area.
We located our half-tracks by 11 A.M. and we were all glad to be back together again. I announced what we had found in the grave and the men seemed very interested in the contents of the journal. I advised them that I would be reading it this evening and that when I finished it would determine if any of the information would be made known to them.
Now it was time to decide what our next move would be. I sat in the motionless track and looked at our makeshift map of the area. We were due to rendesvous with our ship on or about April 1st, however I had the option to stay in this area longer if I wished. The prospect of actually finding people certainly intrigued me and if I terminated the exploration at this time I may never again be in the position in my military career to do something as vital.
The men were tired, but still in good spirits and the only thing that we were in need of was a small amount of supplies and a bit of rest. We had a lot to eat as we had taken and salted down plenty of beef. But we did need a resupply of toilet articles and some new uniforms. The uniforms were mainly for Harrison and Martin due to their slide down the hills. Also, as it was now beginning to warm up in this climate, a less warm uniform for us all would be welcome.
I contacted the ship by radio and, despite the static and weak signal, we were able to discuss the situation. The Captain of ENDURANCE advised taht he would remain in our area for another three days. Then he would return to the South to pick up the survey team that was sifting through the ruins of Los Angeles. He stated that as of this date, the L.A. survey team had also found no live humans. I was disappointed over the fact that the southern crew had also failed to find people. However I am still determined to find some. Possibly that fact made me decide to stay for awhile longer. I am not satisfied with the sketchy contact that Martin had made with the "mystery human" that we could not positively identify.
We set up with the ship's Captain that the survey plane would meet us at a pre-arranged landing area just west of Oroville. I gave the Captain a list of supplies and he stated that they would be delivered at noon on tomorrow, March 27th. I asked that the plane land as opposed to dropping the supplies by parachute as before. I wanted to give the pilot some of what we had found. Several articles of importance including some photographs we had taken and sketches Giles had made would be included in the packet.
In addition, this first report of my journal is included along with the old journal, pictures and maps that we had just uncovered this morning.
I will begin my journal of "second report" as soon as the plane leaves. A meeting with the plane at noon tomorrow will give us enought time to transit back down the mountain to town and for me to further scan the newly found journal.
At 1 P.M. we began our trip down the mountain. We cruised through a beautiful area of dense trees and green fields. We went by one of the shacks we had seen from above and we were correct in our determination that it was deserted. One thing that we had not noticed, however, was tht there was an old derelict school bus located out in front of the house. It looks like it had been used, at least temporarily, for living quarters.
A few miles further and the trees dropped away to reveal a river to our left. We slowed down to view a rock wall that ran along the riverbed down below. It snaked along the edge of the river and appeared to be about 8 feet high and approximately 3 feet wide. It had been made out of river rock and concrete and was quite an engineering masterpiece. I wondered just what the purpose of this wall could have been. I realized that we had seen part of this wall from our perch near the "O".
We passed the road by which we had forked off toward the "O" and we found our way back to town in another 15 minutes. This time we camped North of the river and I allowed the men to just relax for the evening. I saw no useful purpose in recrossing the river bridge and again entering the town. We had fully explored it and I felt it more important to give the men a rest tonight. I also wanted time to read the journal we had found.
We camped on the river bank and ate another good meal of beef. I am afraid that I am now getting a bit tired of beef. I have no other alternative than that other than the K rations we have left. I longed so much for it for the past few weeks and now that I have had nothing but beef for the past few days I am getting bored by it. I suppose I should, and do, count my blessings.
After nightfall I had the men take it easy and I escaped a few yards off and attempted to read the journal by flashlight. It was a relaxing evening. The men were singing an old Australian ballad and it set my mind at ease. The journal we found seems to me to be quite informative and gives a good historic record of the years just prior to, and during, the fall of America. I read until about 2 A.M. and then got some sleep.
March 27, 1997:
7 A.M. came too early this morning and I dragged myselt up. The day was a bit overcast and we could only see a few miles to the West. I got the men organized and we picked up all our loose gear. Kvislen and Sgt. Evans helped me package up the important documents and some other souveniers of our first few weeks here.
We headed North up the hill at 10 A.M. and turned westward. Our landing site for the plane was an old, abandoned airfield just west of town that we had noticed on our drive from Marysville. We found ourselves passing through a very small and deteriorated residential area. A few miles further and we turned South. Two more miles and we were in sight of the old airfield. It consisted of a ramshackle hut and a flag pole. The length of the runway was hard to determine as it was very overgrown, but I knew it would be more than sufficient for our small scout plane.
For the next hour we discussed what we had accomplished and what my immediate itinerary would now be. I expect that we will go North from here and explore the area around Redding. The old journal we found has given me enough information to know that many survivors headed that way. If we do not find anyone there we will then return to Australia. I figure a month under these circumstances is fully enough hardship to put any of our men through.
I know that this will not be my last trip here and I will someday find our elusive survivors.
It is 11:55 A.M. and our plane can be heard droning above the cloud cover. We can now see it's silver color against the whitish clouds. It turns and comes in from a northwesterly direction. It again turns and lands in our deteriorating runway, bouncing as it strikes the various chuck holes.
It is good to see Reeves, our pilot. again. He was a real character aboard ship. He always had a off-color joke to tell.
The men loaded up the souveniers and Reeves is now about to take off. It is 12:41 P.M. and I am about to finish this "First Report" and place it in the satchel. Included also is the old journal. Sir, I hope that this report meets with your approval. I have attempted to give all information in a detailed way. I also hope that you realize that I have been fully honest in my self-criticism. The deaths of those men in Track #3 weigh heavily on me. If I am to stand to account on any charge I am more than ready to defend my actions. We hope to return from the second half of our exploration within a month. The Captain of ENDURANCE has assured me that a special plane will be detailed to fly this journal and the rest of our artifacts to you at the earliest date.
I hope to see you as soon as the situation here makes it feasible. The first entry of the old journal appears immediately following this report.
JACOB Q. MATTIN, Colonel AEF, California Section
PART TWO - THE MOORE JOURNAL AND EPILOGUE
THE MOORE JOURNAL.
January 29, 1945:
Rob and I are survivors. At least we know that so far we have lived through what many others have not survived.
Our camp on Table Mountain is quite modest. We have all the basics of home, but few luxuries. Our wireless radio is one of the few luxuries, however sometimes I feel that it is also a necessity. We certainly would not be able to keep in contact with this crazy world without it.
Even though we are only a few miles from town, we only go in when we are in short supply of necessities. I was into town a few weeks ago and know that even before the events of tonight, basic commodities such as flour, gasoline and fruits are becoming scarce. I suppose that four years of war certainly take their toll after awhile on the civilian population.
Rob and I are in hiding from the rest of the world. Table Mountain is our sanctuary.
This mountain had become an obsession with me many years ago. For miles around you can see it's sheer slopes, rising above the northern California Sacramento Valley.
In the Winter and Spring it is covered with deep green carpets sprinkled with brown and black flecks of cattle. It's tall volcanic rock sides begged to be climbed and for 18 years I gazed up and my imagination fired at the thought of each expedition on it's slopes of which I would partake.
For me to take a hike up this mountain was to escape from the troubles of the world. The plateau is divided into three distinct areas. All three are divided by narrow valleys that were further cut into by roads and creeks. During the Winter you could see the waterfalls cascading down the western face of the mountain. Shining like a white beacon against the dark green vegetation.
My escapes into the mountain were always too few and far between, and each expedition too short. Escape to a quiet, beautiful world was the name of the game. On this mountain I was always able to handle the problems at hand. Solutions came easier when I had time to think. I just wish that now my being on this mountain would solve all of the problems of the world.
The small encampment that we have established is located a little more than a mile from Cherokee Road, the main road to the top of the main mesa. From our perch we can see for 35 miles South or West. Our camp is almost surrounded by the sheer volcanic cliffs that encase the 100 foot waterfall that roars down this ravine for most of the year.
I discovered our hiding place during the Summer of 1939. I had fallen in love with Sherry that year. She had come to visit her Grandmother that Summer. Her life in Oregon was rather dull and cold and she simply loved to swim in the Feather River. I met her there that June and she told me of her life in Burns, Oregon. The cold winters were just a distant memory as we enjoyed each other's company and talked about life in California.
Sherry was my firSt real love and we went everywhere together. I especially wanted to share my love for this mountain with her. We jumped into my '36 Chevy and chugged up Cherokee Road toward the mountain. The climb up the steep dirt road was slow, but the scenery superb. Leaves shining in the sun and the flash of sunlight against the water made the world serene and beautiful. I long for that serenity now.
I always wondered how the road engineers of the 19th century ever made the road out of the steep hills and deep valleys so that the stagecoaches could traverse these hills.
On top of the mount we left the car and began to walk along a small stream. After a few minutes we could hear a faint roar and we followed the sound. I can still hear the soft sounds of the tall grass caressing our legs as we moved along searching for the source of the noise. Over a final lava slab we walked and were faced with a beautiful waterfall that cascaded down the sheer lava wall.
Several times we returned to this spot that Summer and we loved to swim in the deep, cool pool that was formed by the rushing water. I now stand at this same place that that Summer meant happiness, serenity and love and feel sick and tired of the world. Rob can't help but feel just as sick as I do. The world has changed so much in the past few years that even this place seems almost foreign to me. The rest of the world has fallen into a turmoil and tragedy that it may now never recover from. That tragedy is now right on our doorstep.
When Sherry left that summer we kept in contact with each other by mail. At first it was a letter a week. Over the years it has not been very steady. My time in the military kept me out of touch with her for over a year until November of last year. She wrote and advised me that her younger brother had been killed in the Hawaiian invasion. I wish I could be with her again. Life's circumstances have kept us apart. Until tonight I felt that there was a possibility that we might again see each other. Now I feel no hope of encountering such a luxury.
I am haunted by what my future with Sherry might have been. If only I had gone to see her. At least we would have had more time together. If only the world had not been thrown into disorder by this damned war. The "what if's" disturb my mind as nothing else does. I must not think of these things and I must concentrate on the issues of survival that are now at hand.
The only feeling of peace I have is when I wake up in the morning and can look out at the beautiful valley below. The quiet of this place is worth it's weight in gold to me. Rob and I intend to stay here indefinately. We have no other home now.
The past four months have been a combination of boredom and strain. It has been mainly an opportunity to recuperate from the ordeal that we have been through. Seeing Rob try to lift firewood with his good hand and his forearm makes me terribly sad to see what the war has done to him.
Sometimes at night he screams in his sleep. It is always the same dream. He see the black obelisk coming from the sky. Then there is a flash and a searing pain in his arm.
I also have my haunting dreams. All that I see, however, is a scene where shovelfulls of earth are slowly being poured down onto my face. It seems to last for hours as every shovelful sifts down into my nose and mouth in an attempt to suffocate and bury me alive. Gradually the darkness encompasses me and I am totally buried in the darkness. Rob says that I don't cry out, but in my mind I can hear myself screaming. I am always in a cold sweat each morning. Obviously the war will not end for us soon.
We do keep pretty busy around our campsite. The waterfall provides us with more than enough fresh water. We have killed several rabbits and a deer and have even pilfered an occasional rancher's steer.
Our life here has been somewhat tough and isolated. But thanks to our wireless, we do keep in constant contact with the outside world. We are able to send and receive signals for several hundred miles. We are able to keep a steady supply of gasoline for the generator that supplies our power. This allows us to use the generator and a small lamp for illumination of our cave.
Gasoline has been pretty easy to come by as we have made several trips to town to buy, and on one occasion steal, gasoline. On that occasion, we were almost shot. However, we were able to run out of shotgun range in time. I was always taught by my family to be honest and not to steal, but in our situation we feel that we must survive however we can. That one occasion was brought about by our running out of money at the wrong time. Now we do receive regular disability checks each month and do not anticipate that happening again.
We do attempt to keep on a certain schedule each day. We get up at daybreak and immediately look for breakfast of some sort. We have been fortunate to find some mountain berries a short distance from our site. We spend the afternoon looking for game and after dinner we usually fire up the generator and talk with as many people as possible by wireless. It's funny. Here we are trying to escape from the bad side of life and we end up spending what seems like half of our time listening to that bad side. I suppose that this is due to the natural curiosity that all humans have.
I really hadn't realized that the end was so near until tonight. Our wireless had picked up a lot of the war news, but even after the tragic events of November and December it seemed quite far away. We have been on the mountain to try to forget our part in the vast destruction that has been ongoing for years and we were just getting to the point of being able to blot some of it from our minds.
The world's dead have numbered in the millions and several hundreds of thousands of Americans have died in foreign countries. A small number have died here in North America due to sporadic shellings and sabotage, but nowhere near the number of Americans have died compared to the number of English and French. The Germans and Japanese have tended to keep their number of dead secret, but they must also number in the hundreds of thousands.
As previously stated, Rob and I have tried to make a routine of our existance on the mountain. About 7 P.M. we were at our usual place near the western rim of the mesa. We find the radio reception better from that location.
We were gazing out toward the Southwest and listening to the radio when suddenly, on the horizon, the sky lit up. We could hear nothing, but the series of flashes lasted for about 15 seconds. The southwest sky was like day and shortly there followed a reddish glow that still lasts. I have the feeling that it may last for days.
The wireless was alive with traffic and we searched the dial for any news of what the flashes might mean. A man named Riley in Sacramento reported that whatever it was, it shook his home, but it still appeared to be quite a bit farther southwest of his position. Our normal contact in Castro Valley was not on the air and neither could we raise a friend of mine from the U.S. Naval Base at Alameda.
Finally, a few hours ago at 3 A.M., we heard a report from our contact in Sacramento that he had received word that the entire San Francisco Bay Area was in flames.
It is obvious at this early state that the flashes we saw a few hours ago were gigantic in stature. We already have seen a few lights of cars heading northward. This conflagration will move many others toward our area and away from the fires. We are 150 miles north of San Francisco.
7 A.M., January 30, 1945:
This morning light has brought an even more disturbing sight than I had anticipated. A long line of cars, carts and persons on foot is stretching the length of this valley. Along the outside of the roadway are carts pushed by people. Some lucky ones have horses to pull their carts. And still lucker ones had spare gasoline ration coupons and have spent them on precious gasoline for their autos. The persons on foot carry small sacks over their shoulders and some carry small children or suitcases. The exodus ouf of the Bay Area is already well on it's way.
Our wireless reports that a continuous stream of people, some horribly injured, are steaming toward North toward the Sacramento area and many have already entered that town. The people we are seeing are apparently those who live north of Sacramento and have heard the radio reports of whatever caused the explosions.
More reports have been received of a panic gigantic porportions in the areas of Concord and all the way to Fairfield and Vacaville. It is obvious that whatever occured last night and early this morning in the Bay Area was caused by tremendous destructive power.
I am sure that we have heard the same radio reports that have panicked the populace. We have just heard that parachutists have landed on the Monterey Peninsula and the areas of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Rumor has it that a large invasion force has been sighted off the coast of California and that troop barges have been making landings in some Southern California areas.
Just last night I was thinking about how nice it would be to go back to town and stay while. Now I am glad we have stayed up on our mountain. I feel that it will be a great place to make a last stand, if necessary.
All night we have sat and watched the reddish glow to the southwest. We can see the Sutter Buttes silhouetted against the bottom portion of the glow. It looked like a small island floating in a reddish sea.
1 P.M., January 30, 1945:
I went down into town this morning. My main reason was to obtain some food from the nearest store and to get what mail we had received in the past two weeks.
We had been running a bit low on cash, but I was determined that I would not come back without everything I wanted. With the situation at hand, we must survive one way or the other.
I didn't know what to expect really. I did not speak to anyone but I did overhear several conversations. One I really remember concerned two old gentlemen who sat out in front of Mac's Store. They were both complaining about the refugees heading through town. They were also stating that they were going to grab their shotguns and make a last stand up near Berry Creek, if need be.
I was able to purchase most of the canned goods we needed, however I did run short of money. I made up or the shortage by sneaking around and stealing what I needed. I am not proud of this, but one must be inventive in times like these.
Now we are pretty well set up for food for the next 30 to 45 days. If need be, we will go on half rations for a few weeks. But at least we will now have a fighting chance at surviving.
Rob was really glad to see me return this afternoon. I told him that I was too stubborn to get killed. I wasn't sure which of us he was gladder to see - me or the food! ]
After my journey back up the mountain I sat watching the multitude of humanity heading northward. I wonder where they think they are going. I hope that the area up north is safe, but I have a feeling that if California falls, Oregon and Washington will fall quickly afterward. We have, or had, the largest military forces on the West Coast.
We were disappointed that we had no mail. I was hoping for a letter from Sherry. She hasn't written for a month and I was getting worried about her. I long for her so much that I feel I am becoming obsessed. I understand that it is easy to fall in love through the mail. You only write about good things and people's faults do not make themselves apparent.
I remember a good friend aboard my ship who had written to a girl for over a year. They had never met, having been introduced through the mail by a mutual friend. Their only contact had been their letters and an exchange of pictures. I can see how Danny could have fallen in love with her. Her picture was beautiful. He took a train back to Georgia to meet her during a two week leave. His friends in our division wished him well as we had all gotten involved with his love life and wanted to find out what she was really like. The visit turned out to be a disaster as the two really had nothing in common. Their visit was topped off by his wrecking her dad's car.
I do hope that if ever Sherry and I see each other again, it won't end in a similar disaster.
My inaction of not going to see Sherry during the years before the war makes me feel like I have really missed something. There is that empty black feeling of not knowing what might have been. The time before the war is a bright spot made brighter by my having known her. But even to have seen her for a moment more would brighten my memory. But the past is over and the darkness has surrounded this world. Death is here staring us in the face now and Rob and I must face the fact that more than likely we will die a painful death here on this plateau.
Sherri and I had found a small cave near the bottom of the waterfall. This cave now provides shelter and a place to store much of our supplies. Down the slope from our cave is a rock formation we call "Split Rock". It is an enormous boulder that, hundreds of years ago, split completely down the middle. The rigors and stresses of cold and heat in this valley had exerted tremendous pressures in order to have split this solid mass. We store some of our supplies within the split as it provides a fairly inaccessible hiding place. I think the world of Rob. He and I have been through a lot together. he was originally from San Jose, CA., but the Navy experience brought us together. The hardships and the disabilities that we have endured have made us like brothers.
Our hermit existance seems very well suited to us as we have both been loners pretty much all of our lives. Neither he nor I have any brothers or sisters and we are used to making due with what we have. The war didn't leave us with much, and so much for the better. I think he and I both enjoy the simple life.
The only souveniers we have of the war are our M-1 rifles, our pilfered wireless and our disabilities. I lost my right eye and Rob lost a hand. After discharge for our disabilities we didn't wait around long. Rob didn't wait for them to carve more on his stump, even though they promised him a prosthetic.
He said that he would feel too much like a department store mannequin with a fake hand so he makes due with what he has.
The hardships of the past and present may allow us to be tougher and live longer than others who have had no bad experiences. The thought of living in freedom a moment longer than anyone else is what drives us on.
Even before the events of last night, we were of the opinion that we wanted nothing to do with the rest of the world. It had done us no favors. After all, all we could contribute would be another hand or another eye and we didn't have many of those to spare.
Rob had nobody to come home to when we were discharged. His mother had died of natural causes in 1940 and he and his dad had never gotten along.
He was bitter about his mother's death as his father had left her during the latter stage of her life. Rob had just enlisted and was unable to be home for her. I know that the thought of her lying in the hospital and dieing without any family member there to comfort her mades Rob sick to his stomach. I firmly believe that he hates his father much more than he does the Germans or the Japanese. The phychological damaged caused by his father is certainly much worse than any physical damage the enemy has done to him.
Rob is big man. He dwarfs me and I would really like to have him around in another fight if one ever brewed up. But in a way, he's also one of the most sensitive and gentle people I have ever met. Another heartache for Rob was that he came home to a wife who had been unfaithful to him. She was typically known as a "part time widow". Most of the guys who had met her got the distinct impression that she had "hinges on her heels" and a "mattress on her back" for anything in pants.
I was much luckier in life than Rob. When I enlisted in 1941, I was not married and really was more interested in having a good time and "Beating those Japs" than in getting involved in marriage or any other responsibility. The surprise attack on our fleet that year prompted me and thousands of others to jump into the inferno. We actually thought that Americans would easily whip the little yellow fellows in a few months. We hadn't counted on the big German guys in gray uniforms, however.
Nevertheless, the desire to avenge Pearl Harbor and serve our country in this mighty crusade was there. The manpower was determined and all that was needed was the opportunity to implement the effort.
February 2, 1945:
We saw some planes off in the distance this morning. They were so far away though that it was impossible to see who's they were. We had seen several of our own P-40's yesterday heading toward the west and we hoped that the ones today were friendly also.
A few hours after we saw the planes we saw another group of 6 planes coming in from the South. It had been announced on the wireless that the government would make some food drops into certain areas where refugees were congregating and we assumed that these planes were for that purpose. Lord knows that there were enough refugees camped along the highway below us to warrant a food drop of rather large proportions.
Fortunately, none of these refugees seem to want to stay in the area for very long. Rob and I have determined that we will run off any who attempt to stay. The more people staying in the area, the more likely any enemy will locate our camp.
The formation of planes continued to fly North and we could see the looks of disappointment on the refugee's faces down below. However, within a few minutes we noticed that the formation was veering back toward our area. Suddenly, the lead plane dived on the refugees and and began a strafing run. The others followed and dropped small 250 kilogram fragmentation bombs on the long lines of people. Refugees ran in all directions. The unlucky victims of the bombs and bullets lay shattered on the green grass and lava rocks. The attack seemed to go on for hours, however the killing only lasted a few minutes.
Then there was silence. A pall of smoke hung over the area below. From the lava ledge we looked down and saw the small, antlike figures staggering to their feet and beginning the search among the victims for their family members. Some small grass fires had started and several of the more industrious refugees stamped them out.
The Axis still delighted in strafing innocent victims just as they had in the early stages of the war in Poland.
Graves were dug and filled in at the foot of Table Mountain. Crosses were erected and prayers said. Then the refugees moved northward. The Axis had provided more fodder for the carniverous beast of war.
JOURNAL - SECTION II:
Adolph Hitler became the most hated man in history in September 1939. His invasion of Poland routed the Polish armed forces in the rapid overrun of that country.
Correspondingly, England and France, who had pledged to protect Poland from any German aggression declared war on Germany. Then virtually nothing happened. For the next 8 months when action by the two democratic powers might have swayed the war to their side, they sat immobile in their Maginot Line defenses. This was called the "Sitzkrieg". The two Allied powers were prepared to fight a World War I style of war in the trenches. They had not learned that Mr. Hitler intended to Blitz them from the air and run them over with his Panzer tanks just as he had the Poles.
The United States remained neutral even though the US Government did decide to unofficially side with Britain and France.
The United States was in a period of isolationism. They had helped Britain and France defeat the Kaiser's armies in 1918 and felt that they had made the world safe for Democracy. America had learned about the horror of modern warfare and felt that any future European conflicts must be decided amongst the Europeans.
President Roosevelt, it is now believed, truly wanted to come into the war on the Allied side. However, the large political influence of the isolationists and other pacifist groups made it very difficult even for a strong American President like FDR, to openly support either side in the conflict.
Then, on May 10, 1940, all hell broke loose. The German Generals had delayed the fanatical Mr. Hitler's planned invasion of France until the Spring. Due to this delay, the German Armed Forces were well rested and well equipped. Even though the Allies had received some advance notice of the invasion, the Germans trounced the French and British and by the 26th of May the Allies had their backs to the sea at the port of Dunkirk.
The British evacuated over 338,000 British and French troops in what was called the "Great Victory" of Dunkirk. The British news media played this event up as a victory for morale purposes. In actuality, it was a major defeat that only resulted in the Allied Armies being able to "fight another day".
Dunkirk was also called a Miracle. However, Dunkirk the catastrophe was saved not by a Miracle, but by German miscalculation. The Germans realized, too late, the numbers of Allied troops in the sector, plus the bad weather kept the German Luftwaffe grounded for much of the time.
In order to keep morale up, Prime Minister Winston Churchill lauded the evacuation of Dunkirk as a victory. However, Churchill later acknowledged that wars are not won by evacuations. The general feeling in Britain was that Dunkirk was a sign that "God was on our side". You really can't blame the British for their attitude. It was a difficult time with their backs against the sea.
Just prior to the German invasion of Poland, the Nazis had initiated the German/Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. This Pact, signed on August 23, 1939 guaranteed that when the Germans invaded Poland the Soviets would also share in the spoils. Hitler had no love for the Soviet Communist State. In fact he hated the Soviets. However, in order to make his territorial demands upon Poland the next month, he temporarily broke with his idea of hatred for Russia and signed the pact.
This pact also virtually guaranteed that the Russians would not side with the Allied Powers. Hitler now had a secure border to the East. By August of 1940, Hitler had conquered all of Western Europe except for Portugal, Spain and England. Spain was an ally of sorts and Portugal was neutral. Denmark and Norway had fallen in April and May of 1940 in fairly easy campaigns. The Germans essentially held Europe in total control. The only unconquered enemy territory was England.
With France out of the way and Russia pacified, Hitler now turned toward the invasion of England, code named Operation Sea Lion. Hitler was quoted as saying. "The aim of the operation is to eliminate the British homeland as a base for the further prosecution of the war against Germany and, if necessary, to occupy it completely."
The plan began with the effort to destroy the Royal Air Force. The RAF was the main deterrent to the invasion. Without the elimination of the RAF, no sea invasion could be successfully attempted.
British air forces were comprised of Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes and Stirling and Lancaster Bombers.
Nazi Luftwaffe force fighters were comprised of ME-109, ME-190, ME-110 and Focke Wulf's. Heinkel III and Dornier twin bombers provided the majority of the Nazi Bomber force with the addition of Stuka dive bombers.
After the planned destruction of the RAF, the German plan was to transport some 41 divisions (including 6 Panzer and 3 motorized divisions) across the channel from invasion staging areas in Le Harve, France.
Most transports were made up of huge barges used commercially on rivers and canals in Germany. The Germans had not yet developed a decent military landing craft at this stage of the war and were forced to use civilian equipment.
On August 15, 1940, the first full scale attack by the Luftwaffe was launched against the RAF. A total of 1,800 Nazi warplanes were hurled at various objectives. Shortly thereafter, Goring, the general in charge of the Luftwaffe, decreed that all efforts would be taken against the RAF in order to clear the skies of any opposition to the proposed invasion.
On August 23rd, the Germans mistakenly bombed London. The British retaliated for this attack the very same night with their own air attack on Berlin.
Because of this "Insult" to the Reich, Goring considered changing the emphasis of the German bombing attacks to a "Rain of Terror" on civilian cities. However Goring,as it turned out, stayed determined in concentrating on the RAF basis.
By September 7th, after several hundred sorties against the RAF basis, Goring felt that he had succeeded in his plan to radically reduce the capabilities of the RAF as an invasion deterrent. Of the RAF aircraft that existed just after the fall of France, over three-quarters had been destroyed. The concentration against the British airfields and factories had taken a terrible toll.
It must be remembered that during this time the Germans were still manufacturing aircraft with few bombing runs to interfere with their production. The number of Nazi warplanes lost, while considerable, was more than made up by the German factories.
On the other hand, the British were unable to produce enough planes to even keep up with half of their losses. During the time that the German fighter-bombers were strafing and bombing airfields and hangars, the Dorniers and Heinkels were destroying the British aircraft factories.
With no formidable air forces to oppose his operation Sea Lion, Hitler was now only concerned with the weather. With the Fall coming on, the time was right to strike.
Air attacks continued against the RAF through the end of September 1940. This was essentially a mop-up operation. As each day went by, the RAF was able to bring up less and less aircraft to face the growing German air fleet. The Germans lost many planes, but the balance of forces continued to weigh heavily in their favor.
On September 9th, the RAF launched as many planes as they could to attack the Sea Lion staging areas on the French coast. Even without the use of radar, the Germans were able to detect this group of aircraft and the Luftwaffe was waiting for it. The majority of Sterlings and Lancasters were destroyed even before they hit the French coast. Minimal damage to landing barges and supplies was sustained. The Germans recognized the attack for what it was - a last desperate effort to stop the invasion of England.
The Germans now felt confident to attempt their invasion of England. However, Hitler wished to further attack certain strong points on the English coast that he felt would be a formidable deterrent to his amphibious invasion. Areas around Ramsgate were plastered with high explosives. This area is one of the closest points to France. But most British took the "softening up" of this area to be a ruse. The English leaders felt that Ramsgate would now be the last place Germany would land as it was being pointed out so clearly as a target area.
Sea Lion was set to come off on September 21st. At about 9 P.M. the night of September 20th, the Luftwaffe staged a continuous raid upon the areas just inland of the beaches between Ramsgate and Folkstone. In addition, a large contingent of Airborne troops were landed at about 3 A.M. the morning of the 21st just inland of the area between Ramsgate and Folkstone.
By the time the sun came up on September 21st, the landing barges and support ships carrying 200,000 German Wehrmach and SS Troops were just off the coast of England.
As the British were so taken in by the Ramsgate ruse, the first reaction to the report of paratroopers landing in that area was the belief that it was a diversion. British forces, however, had gone on alert the prior evening when the areas around the Ramsgate beaches had been bombed. At the time of the airborne invasion at 3 A.M., some of the Junkers troop carriers were shot down by antiaircraft fire and RAF fighters. It is estimated, however, that about 95% of all airborne troops landed safely in the drop.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill had his forces go on full alert in that area even though he was still not convinced that it was the primary location of the invasion. However, when it became known that paratroopers were actually landing in a sizeable force, he directed most of his forces toward the Ramsgate/Folkstone front.
At the time of the invasion of England, I had a friend who was acting as an American Military Advisor to the British. He wrote me several times during and after the invasion and his letters enlightened me greatly as to the happenings of those days.
Sid Greenfield writes about his personal view of the invasion in the landing beach near Ramsgate:
"We received a call at our command post about 3:45 A.M. that we were to go on full alert. Our troops were in position within 10 minutes and Captain Cowen was in charge of our section. Our command bunker held a complement of about 10 officers and men.
At about 5 A.M. we were able to see some sort of activity at sea. It was a very cold and misty morning and it appeared that a few gray shapes were visible out on the ocean. Captain Cowen advised his forces by radio to ready the fuel oil ignition and for all forces to be ready to fire on his command. He also radioed General Grimes who immediately started for our position by command car from Canterbury. Over the past three months the British had built a system of fuel oil pipelines from pumping stations to the beach areas on the eastern coast of Britain. It was felt that at the time of the actual invasion, the coastal areas would be flooded with fuel oil and set ablaze when landing craft entered the beach area.
We could see the fuel oil begin to be discharged into the water. As the sun rose in the sky it became more and more apparent that this area was a prime landing spot for a full bore invasion. Over a hundred ships gradually became visible to us through the murk.
As 5:15 A.M. approached, the three battleships that were lying off the coast began to lob shells into our position. The enormous naval shells shook the ground and almost immediately burst one of the fuel pipelines to the right of us.
All hell continued to hit our position. I remember seeing three of our men blown 50 feet into the air and land in the sea. Our bunker was just missed by a large shell, but the near miss caused concrete pieces nearly a half foot thick to tumble down onto our heads. One of our men was severely injured by a large piece.
The shelling continued for two hours and at 7 A.M. the first landing craft came into view. We waited until the craft wre only 100 yards from us before our mortars, machine guns and artillery let loose. The craft came in many waves and I would say that we saw about 200 landing craft come within gun range. Down to our right we could see other waves of landing craft beginning to make landfall.
We were able to destroy many of the craft in our sector, but it appeared that we could be flanked by the craft landing up the beach to our right. About 20 craft landed fairly close to in front of us and just when the troops were getting into the water to wade ashore, one of the British ignited the fuel oil with a flame thrower.
An enormous gush of flames leaped out around the landing craft and turned the choppy sea into one large inferno. The screams of the Nazi troops could be heard above the din of our shells and bullets as the Nazis and their craft burned. As they fell burning, our guns and shells added to the carnage.
We had not seen any of the surviving RAF until that moment. The Hurricanes came in at about 40 feet and strafed the landing craft that were about 150 yards out. They also dropped bombs that contributed little more than near misses.
In our sector it appeared that we had held our ground at least for the moment. We had succeeded in wiping out many landing craft and for a few minutes it looked like the invasion was stalled. On our beach lay scores of burning landing craft and our beach was littered with bodies on the sand and bobbing in the surf.
However, about that time, Captain Cowen received a call from General Grimes who had been stalled a few miles away. Grimes reported that the area behind our position was becoming increasingly infested with German Airborne Troops and amphibious Wehrmacht Troops that were moving around behind us from their landing our our right.
Because of the threat of encirclement, General Grimes ordered us out. Just as we were attempting to regroup for an orderly retreat, a squadron of ME-109's appeared and began strafing our group. We were chopped up quite badly and had suffered about 20 percent casualties. After that mauling, most of our men were compelled to regroup to a much safer area.
During our retreat, we were constantly harrassed by the 109's and some Stuka Dive Bombers that dearly loved to bust our tanks. Before another hour had passed, it looked like the entire beach area would be evacuated in a massive rout.
In my last look at the ocean that morning I saw one of the British Lancasters come over and unload it's full complement of bombs toward a Nazi pocket Battleship, the GENEISENAU. Most of the bombs missed, but the ship was straddled by two bombs and one struck her midships causing a large explosion. Apparently the Lancaster pilot was not satisfied with the results of his bombing run because I then saw him gain altitude and make a steep dive directly down into one the battleship's front gun turrets. A massive explosion ensued that sent pieces of the plane and ship hundreds of feet into the air. If the battleship was not sunk, then certainly at least it was going to be a long time before it was serviceable again. My most vivid vision of the ship was it's front half fully engulfed in flame and smoke. The large cloud of smoke that ensued made it impossible to see if the ship went down or not.
We continued our retreat inland. Several times Captain Cowen attempted to contact General Grimes for instructions. However, there was no response. We came upon a knoll overlooking a ravine and saw what the future would hold for Britain. There, in the small green valley stood a large number of Nazi Troops. Within in the central area were several thousand British troops with their hands held high in surrender. The rout of the British had begun.
We attempted to skirt this area but found ourselves encircled by Nazi troops. We split up and attempted to break through the lines piecemeal.
My attempt to escape was short lived. I rounded a turn about mid-afternoon and found myself staring down the barrel of a Mauser. Fortunately,the German recognized the small American Flag on my shoulder and led me to his commander instead of to a POW camp. His commander saw to it that I was shipped out of Britain within a few weeks. He made sure however, that I was fully shown the "humanitarian" conditions under which the British were being subjected. I have no problem with their conditions when I was there, but I still wonder if the conditions remained as "humanitarian" after I left the area.
My first dispatch to my office in Washington DC, I am sure, sent shivers down my editor's back. It is horrifying to tell of the death throes of a nation that we all cared about so dearly.
I wondered at the time just how much longer the U.S. would wait to take action in stopping the invasion of England".
By October 1st of 1940 the Germans had reinforced their original beachhead and extended their control over the eastern part of England as far West as Godalming and as far North as the southern city limits of London. All areas East of Goldalming were now in Nazi hands.
The week of October 7th brought the largest concentration of area bombing yet in the war. The main area of destruction was the mid-section of London. This was obviously the beginning of a terror campaign to demoralize the English population in the hope of forcing them to an early surrender.
Literally thousands of British died that week either by being bombed in their homes or by defending their areas against invading Nazi troops.
In other countries that Hitler had occupied, there was widespread destruction, looting, rape and murder. However, it appears that Hitler had a somewhat higher respect for the English than other nationalities of people. Besides the necessary destruction brought about by the taking of territory, there appears to be very few instances of any atrocities by the invading troops. The saturation bombing of London being the only exception.
Later it was revealed that German ground troops had been sworn to not perform any atrocities against the English. This public relations action will be explained later.
Churchill, at this time, was still expounding his "We shall never surrender", line of statements from his bunker in northern London. However, he was also making secret contingency plans to evacuate the country for Canada if it became necessary. This way he could carry on the cause as the French government had done after the fall of France. The surviving RAF carried on several large raids against German supply ships during the first week of October. Two raids were made at dawn on the 5th and 6th. In both instances, some damage was sustained but a large percentage of RAF planes were downed.
On October 16th, the Nazi troops who had been reinforced on the 13th by three more Panzer divisions, made a breakthrough at Eastleigh and thundered toward the West coast of England. At the same time, three Panzer and four Wehrmacht divisions struck north and captured the western city limits of London. Now London was surrounded on three sides. To the South and West by Nazi troops and to the East by the German Navy.
Churchill now left his bunker and retreated to another sanctuary at Edinburg in Scotland. From there he flew to an emergency conference with President Roosevelt. This conference was presumably Churchill's attempt to either obtain more assistance from the American President, or request to have the U.S. enter the war against the Germans.
Little is known about the conference on October 20th. There is even doubt about it's location. However, it is known that the U.S. did not step in to actively help England. It is presumed that the peace movement persisting in America at the time precluded any action by the American President.
By the end of October 1940, all of the coast of southern England was in German hands. The Germans also held the area as far North as Birmingham and as far East as the western edge of London. The British had decided to make London a fortress and it seemed that no matter how much the Nazis bombed the city, it held.
On November 5th, Hitler asked for the surrender of the British and offered to allow Churchill to remain as figurehead if the English would agree to an immediate cease fire and surrender. In addition, Hitler would allow the Queen and family to travel to Canada in safety if the cease fire was agreed to immediately.
The reason for Hitler's offer and his "public relations" move referred to earlier becomes clear when we examine the facts:
1.It is estimated that over 20,000 British and over 12,000 Germans had been killed in the fighting and bombing since September 21st.
2. Hitler could see a long, costly struggle that could possibly result in many more casualties to his troops. He could also foresee that his war production, that was geared toward a short decisive war, could be greatly taxed if this war continued for many more months.
3. Also, when Hitler invaded Poland he did not envision that England and France would go to war against him. Up until that time the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, had virtually given him a free hand to do what he wished as long as war with Britain could be avoided. Chamberlain had promised the British "Peace in our time", but the peace had been based upon appeasement. The invasion of Poland and the destruction of France had pretty well satisfied Hitler's territorial demands, at least temporarily. His main objective in invading England was to generally knock it out of the war in the least costly manner possible.
4. Last but not least, Hitler was concerned that America might step into the war on Britain's side if this battle dragged on much longer. At this stage of the game, the entry of the U.S. would place a great, if not insurmountable obstacle into the path of the future he envisioned for his "Thousand Year Reich". He wanted more time to strengthen his hold on Europe before encountering any other potential opponents like the United States.
Hitler's limited "Public Relations" campaign of no atrocities was intended to have the British feel that if they were to surrender at this time, possibly the Nazi's weren't such bad people after all. Therefore, Hitler's main objective was to end the war as soon as possible to reduce the effect of war on his military, to knock Britain out of the war, and to eliminate England as a future launching base for any Allied invasion of the continent.
Churchill waited until November 12th to reply to Hitler's surrender demand. Churchill stated that he would only agree to a cease fire for just as long as it would take to make sure that the Royal Family was safely transferred to Canada. He still felt, apparently, that given time the British could rid themselves of the Nazi invaders.
Considering the situation in England at his time, it seems that even he really didn't believe that the British could expel the Germans. Possibly he was hoping that the United States would still enter the conflict if the British held out long enough.
Hitler's next act shows that his evil self still existed. Because Churchill did not accept his demand for surrender, he ordered massive incendiary raids on London, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
These airstrikes, which involved 500 Nazi bombers for each city and were delivered on succeeding nights of 17, 18, 19 and 20 November, were the most costly to the British civilian population of the war. Vast areas of the built-up centers of each of these cities were burned out and flattened. In the case of London, the city burned from the 17th to the 19th. Civilian casualties were well over 20,000 in this raid alone.
In addition, on the 18th, the Nazis conducted a mighty armored push northwesterly toward Nottingham which resulted in the rout of many of the remaining British divisions.
After this sort of punishment, Churchill came to the conclusion that he had no choice but to sue for peace. The once strong British Army was in retreat along the majority of their fronts and the RAF did not really still exist as a fighting force. The Luftwaffe roamed at will over the vast majority of the country. The RAF was not to be seen except in very few areas of the island.
On November 26th, Churchill notified Hitler that at midnight on the first of December he would observe a cease fire.
Agreement was made to meet in London with Nazi representative Rudolph Hess on December 15th to discuss surrender terms.
On the 24th of December 1940, a formal surrender was signed by Churchill and Hitler in Paris. It was indeed a bitter pill to swallow for the man who had stated. "We shall never surrnder".
Certainly it was a bitter pill for the rest of the world to swallow as the year 1941 loomed ahead.
Just prior to the surrender, on November 24th, the major world papers carried the following article from John Potter, a well known British journalist. This was one of the last British news reports to reach the free world prior to the German takeover:
THIS TIME OF YEAR, WHICH IS USUALLY FULL OF THE PROSPECTS OF HOLIDAY CHEER IS AS DRAB AND CHEERLESS AS THIS ISLAND HAS EVER KNOWN. THE LONG FOOD LINES, NEAR STARVATION RATIONS AND THE FEELING OF HOPELESSNESS HAVE TOTALLY ERASED ANY JOY.
LAST NIGHT I WATCHED THE LUFTWAFFE MAKE MORE RAIDS NORTH OF LONDON. I WAS OBSERVING FROM ONE OF THE FEW TALL BUILDINGS STILL STANDING IN THIS MOSTLY DEVASTATED AREA OF THE CITY. FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE MILES AROUND THERE IS NOTHING STANDING.
A QUEER OCCURANCE HAPPENED THE NIGHT THAT THE NAZIS MADE THEIR MAIN FIRE BOMB RAID (NOV 17). WHAT CAN ONLY BE CALLED A "FIRE STORM" OF GIGANTIC PROPORTIONS ERUPTED. THERE APPEARED TO BE A GREAT DEAL OF SUCTION FORMED BY THE FIRE AND MANY PERSONS WERE LITERALLY DRAGGED INTO THE INFERNO. THERE IS NO TELLING JUST HOW MANY PEOPLE DIED THAT NIGHT AND IN THE ENSUING TWO DAYS THAT IT TOOK TO EXTINGUISH THE FLAMES.
IN THIS AREA AND IN MOST OF BRITAIN, THE HOPE IS GONE FOR ANY KIND OF VICTORY. THE FRUSTRATION THAT IS FELT BY EVERYONE IS STILL NOT EQUALLYED, HOWEVER, BY THE SUFFERING OF MANY WHO HAVE LOST FAMILY MEMBERS.
IN MANY CASES THESE PEOPLE WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR FAMILIES DUE TO THE INTENSE HEAT OF THE FIRES. MANY PILES OF ASHES LAY IN THE RUINS OF THE BUILDINGS AND SMALL BITS OF HUMAN BONE CAN BE FOUND MIXED THEREIN. OBVIOUSLY, IDENTIFICATION IS IMPOSSIBLE TO OBTAIN.
WITHOUT A MIRACLE, THIS COUNTRY WILL GO UNDER TO THE GERMANS VERY SOON.
World reaction to the fire bombing of these English cities was swift, but unsure and ineffective. Public outcry for an end to the war was enormous. The League of Nations voted to demand that the Germans withdraw from Britain. However, the Germans ignored this demand. The League's poor record of backing up it's demands by armed actions was a poor one. Just ask Ethiopia and Czechoslovakia.
Reaction inthe United States to the invasion resulted in a drive for "Aid to Britain" and in November, President Roosevelt pushed through a "Lend Lease" act that transferred 50 World War I destroyers to the British Navy. It was the closest any neutral nation had come to assisting Britain.
Unfortunately, Britain fell before any of this aid was delivered. Many persons, including myself, felt that something should have been done much sooner by the U.S. to assist Britain. Obviously, most of us didn't want to go fight Germany, but that is what happened in the long run. The majority of Americans had family roots going back to the British isles and there was a definite feeling of great loss when the nation fell. We also knew that if England surrendered, it was understood that all of Scotland, Wales and Ireland would automatically fall. Certainly it was a set of dominoes that would crash down and eventually leave the United States with just that many fewer allies if war came.
There was never any effort after the 24th of December to further deter the Nazis from their capture of all of the British Isles. Within two weeks, the whole of Great Britain was just another German Colony. British prisoners were used to clean up the devastated areas and assist in the welfare of the civilian population. Some government leaders were executed.
Churchill was placed in prison in isolation somewhere in France were he died in 1944. Hitler had lied about allowing him to remain as figurehead of England. Instead a Nazi pupped government headed by Hans Freisler was formed. Freisler had been an infamous Nazi judge in the early days of the Reich and he has ruled England ever since that time with an iron hand.
Sometime between the 16th and the 23rd of December, the Royal Family did leave Britain by submarine and arrived safely in Canada. The exact date of arrival has never been disclosed and the Royal Family's whereabouts has been a continuing guessing game in the American and Canadian press.
One of the more sensational actions was taken in Ireland by the Irish Republican Army in 1944. A well-staged raid totally destroyed a German troop and supply depot in Northern Ireland. Approximately 300 Germans were killed in that action.
Possibly the most remarkable news photo of the fall of England appeared on the front page of a San Francisco Paper. The photograph showed the German dirigible Graf Zeppelin moored from one of the towers of the British Parliment building. To many of us, the picture signaled the end of organized British resistance.
It is hoped that whatever resistance that England can still muster will pay off. However, with the current turn of events in the United States, it is very doubtful that any action by the U.S. or any ally will ever rid the world of this menace. The American armed forces may never again be in sufficient strength to stage a future European invasion. The Nazi iron hand on Europe appears to be permanent.
The rest of the British empire tended to deteriorate after the fall of England in December 1940. Of the empire, Canada appeared to be the only stable country that was strong enough to continue to the war against the Axis. This was because of it's distance from Europe and it close proximity to the United States.
Possibly the most important loss other than the main islands was Gibraltar. Even though, technically, the fortress should have surrendered when ordered to by Churchill, the commander of the base, General Alexander refused to surrender. Gibraltar was the most important tactical area the British had on the Mediterranean Sea. No ship could pass from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean without first passing under the guns of this well defended area.
Gibraltar, however, was very isolated. To the north was Spain. Even though the Spanish were supposedly neutral, they had Facist leanings. General Franco had been helped into power by Germany several years before.
For the first several months of 1941 Germany was much too occupied to concentrate on neutralizing this strong point. However, by March of 1941, the Germans set up a blockade of Gibraltar that allowed no supply shipments by sea. A sufficient amount of ships on the Atlantic and Mediterranean side cordoned off any resupply missions sent out by Canada. Even the neutral United States attempted to resupply Gibraltar but it's ships were turned back. The U.S. fleet was still playing very carefully when it came to any friction with the Axis Powers.
Gibraltar remained locked away from the outside world for three months. During these months the Germans and Italians launched several large raids per week on "The Rock" and successfully neutralized most of it's naval and outside defenses.
On March 17th, General Franco began negotiating with both sides in order to terminate this stalemate between the two adversaries. It is believed that the German bombings so close to Spain's border made him rather nervous and he wished to have them come to a peaceful solution. Possibly, he did not like the idea of German soldiers having to cross his country from France in order to invade Gibraltar. Under the agreement reached on March 28th, the fortress of Gibraltar came under the express control of the neutral Spanish government.
This agreement provided that any government was free to pass through the strait of Gibraltar. In addition, the surviving British troops were free to stay and assist in the administration of Gibraltar, or were free to return to England or go on to Canada.
This "neutralization" of Gibraltar seemed like an ideal solution for all concerned at the time, but was to have a far reaching effect on the future U.S. war effort a few years later.
In February of 1941, the Japanese concluded a Mutual Aid Pact with the German and Italian Governments. This agreement was given all the same fanfare that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had received in 1939. It was presented to the world as a "Mutual Defense Pact". All of the propaganda machines of the three powers made it appear that they were the victims of an obvious plot by the United States and Canada to attack them. As the U.S. had hidden it's head in the sand through the fall of two of it's strongest allies, it is obvious that their announced reason for the pact had no basis in fact.
As the year would bear out, this pact would become known as a "License to Agress" against the rest of the world.
The United States Congress, still running scared, did not take any solid action on it's own to prepare for any attack. President Roosevelt, however, did present a draft renovation plan to increase the number of military draftees per year. The initial draft had been in motion since 1940.
In addition, Roosevelt was able to push through Congress a massive defense program where many carriers, battleships and smaller vessels were being planned and built.
The President, who apparently expected that we would eventually have to defend ourselves against this tri-party pact, was trying to strike a happy compromise with his dealings with the Axis countries. He knew that if war came soon, the U.S. would be in a bad situation. However, if given a year or two to rearm, the U.S. would be a formidable opponent.
His speeches at the time were somewhat conciliatory to the Axis. He stressed the fact that even though the Germans had control over Europe and the war was over, Germany had a moral obligation to humanity to treat those under it's control with dignity and respect for their lives.
Rumors already were coming out of Europe about large scale executions of ex-government leaders in England, France and Poland. There were also rumors of slave labor and exportation of jews and others to German and Italian areas in North Africa.
I really do feel that Roosevelt wanted to refrain from tough talk until he could buy some time to become stronger so that the U.S. could take some sort of action. Possibly he was even envisioning a landing some day to retake Europe.
Even though the situation in Europe was not to our liking, the biggest foreign policy problem facing the President at this time was the U.S. relationship with Japan. The Japanese obviously wanted a larger piece of Asia and was attempting to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the U.S. I am sure though, that the successes Hitler had obtained in Europe certainly prompted the Japanese to take military actions against us. I sometimes wonder if they would have dared attack the U.S. fleet if Hitler had no so badly weakened the allies.
The fall of England has caused the British fleet to be pulled back out of the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean waters. Most the the British ships were now located off of the eastern coast of Canada. A small flotilla operated jointly with the U.S. fleet on the West Coast.
JOURNAL - SECTION III:
I graduated from High School in June of 1941 and had planned to go to medical school if my meagher savings would allow it. However, with the world situation the way it was, I fully expected that the draft would get me before long. I had taken my draft physical in April and had passed. That me me a prime target for military service.
I suppose that in the Spring of 1941 we all had a certain paranoia about the Japanese and their aspirations. However, it was a toss up whether we worried more about Hitler or Hirohito. We looked upon the Italian Dictator Mussolini as a clown. It seemed that whatever that man did, Hitler had to bail him out.
In late October of 1940 the Italians had invaded Greece and had gone virtually nowhere in their campaign. In the first few months of 1941 the Germans were reluctantly assisting their ally against the Greeks. This move on Mussolini's part to share in the glory of conquest caused much apparent friction between the two dictators.
I do remember reading various news reports in early 1941. The impression I remember from these news reports was that the national paranoia seemed to recede a bit during that summer as no action by any of the Axis partners was forthcoming. Hitler seemed more interested in consolidating his possessions and the Japanese kept negotiating.
Hitler began working on an Atlantic wall of defenses in France that summer. He also seemed to be working on a western defense wall in England. he had moved the majority of English residents from the western coastal areas of England and Scotland by that summer and some sort of work on coastal defenses was in process. I suppose that he felt the greatest threat to his "Festung Europa" was a sea invasion of the British isles by Canada and the U.S.
I received a draft notice in July of 1941. Here I was, an 18 year old boy who had never been out of the Northern Sacramento Valley being yanked into the breach.
In a way, I was looking forward to the service in much the same way that a bored person looks forward to ANY excitement. My dreams of medical school had been dashed just shortly before my draft notice arrived. When I received a cost quote from my choices of medical schools it was obvious that my savings and small inheritance would barely cover the costs of books and living expenses, much less the four year costs of tuition.
I hoped that possibly my luck would hold and that the service would get me into Pharmacist Mate or Medic school where I could at least have some medical training.
It's funny how one little incident will change the projected course of a person's life. One day in early July I had just left the local pool hall that was of my favorite haunts. As I was walking up what constitutes the main street of Oroville, I was hailed by a sailor. It turned out to be my friend Karl who had been one year ahead of me in school. I hadn't seen him for a few months and I discovered that he had enlisted in the Navy in February. He had been lucky enough to get into a Navy school in San Diego. He had always been interested in engines and was now an Engineman on an ammunition ship, the USS QUINAULT VICTORY, out of Port Chicago near San Francisco.
Those few minutes of discussion decided what my next immediate action would be. I made a beeline for the local Navy Recruiting station and offered my services. I showed him my draft notice and asked him if it would be possible to get some medical training if I enlisted in the Navy. He, as most recruiters are wont to do, promised me the world in exchange for my signature on an enlistment form.
I'll never forget the man. He was a Navy Chief named Conwell. He was about 36 years old with a receeding hair line. He had a 40 inch waist and talked about 40 words a second in his southern drawl. He would have made a good used car salesman. Those of us who were enlisted by this Chief called us "Conwell's Chain Gang".
Of course, I must admit, I'd rather be on a ship than in a trench. Steel bulkheads tend to bounce off flak more efficiently than do clothes, helmets and skin.
Of course, torpedoes tend to go through anything.
On July 29th, I was shipped by bus to the Naval Recruit Training Center in San Diego. This base had been around since the 1920's and had all of the comforts of home. The trouble was that the average navel recruit was the "homemaker".
It certainly was an experience I'll never forget. Learning to march, wash your clothes with a brush, fold your undershorts a certain way and take physical and mental abuse were all parts of the program. However, the hardest thing I found to do was to not laugh when a man screams into your face from 1 inch away. Of course, for most of the time I was too scared to laugh.
Three months were deemed appropriate enough time for converting the silly civilian into the battle hardened veteran sailor. During that time, batteries of tests were given to determine what branch of the Navy you would be trained in. For six hours during early August we were given this test that ranged from reading, writing, code, math, and general information evaluations.
I graduated from Boot Camp on November 29th. Fortunately I was graced with a two week leave that I was certainly looking forward to. Unfortunately, it was to be interrupted by an occurance of deadly consequences.
I spent about a week and a half at home. For some reason, I felt so lost. The place didn't seem the same anymore. When I left town I was full of youthful exuberance and the hope of getting my Navy school. But by the time I left Boot Camp I knew that my chance for a Navy school was virtually nil. I had not done well in the tests and I would be lucky if they let me handle a paint scraper without supervision.
Most of my friends from High School had also been drafted or joined up and there were few people who I had anything in common with anymore. The three months of training had placed a gulf between me and the civilian world of my past. That gulf would become wider as time went on.
On December 5th I returned to San Diego for reassignment. There were apparently a large number of recruits who had not been assigned and San Diego was a clearing house for the fleet. I expected to be assigned to some harbor tug in San Diego, but I did hope for better duty.
We sat around all day Friday awaiting orders and very few of us received any word at all. One of my fellow recruits did receive orders for the battleship Oklahoma and was notified that he would be leaving for duty aboard her on December 9th. The Chief came by at about 4 P.M. and told us to get lost for the weekend. One fifth of us had duty that day and I as not in that percentage. As a matter of fact I did not have any duty section watches until Monday morning. That meant that San Diego was mine for the weekend.
That night a group of us headed downtown to Broadway to hit the many bars. 21 was the legal drinking age, but if you were in uniform, your age apparently did not matter. It was really my first drinking binge and my friend Seaman Wolfe showed me the ropes. He had been in the Navy for 2 years and was the "Old Man" of our duty section at age 21. He had spent literally hundreds of hours scouring Broadway in search fo all of it's "charms". These charms included booze, loose women, gambling and other assorted low-level recreation.
I awoke Saturday morning in my bunk back on base. I looked up at the ceiling and finally knew that when I heard the other fellows talking about the ceiling spinning in circles, they weren't kidding. I was glad that I didn't have to get up that day.
I finally did get up at 1 P.M. but it was just to throw up. After passing out again for a few hours, I finally felt like a human being by 5 P.M. I put my slightly dirty uniform on and headed back down to find Wolfe on Broadway again.
I was surprisingly sober and very hungry. I found Wolfe in the Montana Club swilling Singapore Slings. That night just happened to be his birthday and he stated that in celebration he was going to break his old record of drinking 35 "Slings" in a single night. I told him I would notify his next of kin and proceeded to suck down a few "Slings" of my own.
By 10 P.M. Wolfe had bested his record and was also on the floor. Wolfe's personal hygiene was never very good, but he certainly smelled worse now. Despite his acrid smell I dragged his heavy carcass out to the street and hailed a cab. I told the driver to make sure he was packed away safely in his own little crib on base. The driver abruptly headed toward Gate 3. Not surprisingly, Wolfe never could remember a thing about his 22nd birthday.
By 11 P.M. I found myself caught in a dilemma. Here I was sitting in a bar and bored stiff. So I had to decide whether to give up and go back to the boring base or try to pick up one of the rather ugly "soiled doves" who worked in the Montana Club. I must admit that I had been rather attracted to one of the girls earlier in the evening, and as a matter of fact, she got much better looking every time I took a drink.
I ended up staggering over to her and rather tactlessly asked her to join me for the night. I don't remember her exact words, but she accepted quickly. She must have been hard up for a few bucks. The next few hours are rather gray and vague and probably that is so much for the better.
I remember December 7, 1941 as a day of hangover. I was dead to the world all morning and except for an attempt to go to the bathroom that failed miserably, I did not stir until early that afternoon. I awoke that afternoon with an enormous headache. I looked over at the young lady next to me and wished that I had had even more to drink. She had been so beautiful last night but now she had deteriorated rather grossly. However, I imagine that I had deteriorated drastically in her eyes also.
This thrilling event had been the first actual sexual experience of my life. I only wish that I could remember it.
Nancy was the name of the new found friend and she awoke about the same time I did. I was feeling dead and wished I had passed away in my sleep so my head would stop aching. My eyes ached when I looked at her also. Why Nancy wanted to jump my bones again I cannot imagine, but I let her have her way with me again. I didn't enjoy it much though. My main thought was the resounding pain in my head.
Nancy had told me the night before that she was a very religious person even though her profession and religion did not exactly go hand in hand. I had not believed her, but that afternoon she convinced me. She started telling me about this really great religious singer that she really loved. Her favorite religious show was going to be on at 4 P.M. and she just could not stop talking about how great this man was. For sake of argument and to get her to shut up about him, I agreed to listen to the show.
She sat in anticipation for the longest time and continued yakking and I was glad to see 4 O'clock come around so that we could get this thing over with. However, when she turned NBC radio on, there was nothing on but news. She was just about to turn the radio off when I realized that this new as important. The announcer stated that Pearl Harbor in Hawaii had just been bombed. Additionally, all military were being recalled to their bases.
I wasted no time in throwing my clothes on and raced downstairs. Usually it is an easy matter to grab a cab in San Diego, but that afternoon it was like pulling teeth. Apparently all the cabs had been taken by military fares earlier in the afternoon and once they arrived at base some of the cabs had been taken over and used to transport some of the military to other duties.
I, as a late riser, missed the rush and ended up having to walk the majority of the way back to the base. I was lucky enough to flag down a car on Rosecrans about two miles from the base.
The driver of the car turned out to be rather strange. I still feel to this day that he wanted to "take me home". I, being from a small town, had really not believed that homosexuals existed. But my short discussion with him convinced me. My parting words to him were, "Sorry to disappoint you, but don't you know there's a war on"?
Back on base all was in turmoil. Chief Barrett, who was head of our division had issued .45 calibre pistols with the warning, "Look Sharp! You never know when them Japs will be dropping in on us." That night I missed getting assigned to guard duty, but I couldn't sleep either. I had the paranoid feeling that in the morning I would awake with my back to the barracks wall, facing a little man in a mushroom shaped helmet.
The next several days we spent in a "hurry up and wait" situation. Very few of us had been in any kind of conflict and certainly didn't know what to expect. All of the sailors in my section were "on hold" so to speak, as we had not been assigned to any school or permanent duty station. We fully expected to be sent to a troop ship with a bunch of Marines to try to either stop the attack on the Philippines or reinforce Oahu. News reports from the Pacific looked miserable. It looked like the Japanese could be knocking on our door within days. Pearl Harbor looked likely to be invaded and Wake Island and the Philippines were already in the process of fighing off the Japanese.
What was originally reported as minimal damage with the loss of only a few hundred personnel grew to over a thousand known dead with many more to be found in the watery graves over the next few weeks.
Rumors abounded on the West Coast. Some felt that the U.S. would be invaded any day. Many ships in the San Diego area sailed and rumor informed us that a large armada of U.S. ships was already on it's way to destroy the Japanese Fleet off the cost of Luzon in the Philippines. We were unaware at that time that the vast majority of the major U.S. Pacific Fleet was on the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor.
I was still hopeful that I would receive school orders for Pharmacist Mate School, but on January 6, 1942, my hopes were dashed and my doubts confirmed. I was assigned to the Weapons Department of the USS HORNET as a gunner. I guess that my test scores failed to support my quest to be a medic.
I found myself a week later rattling through the night on a train heading for Alameda, California. My career in medicine eliminated and my career as a gunner just beginning.
The day after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt declared war on the Japanese Empire with the now famous "Day of Infamy" speech. A few days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. and we reciprocated. The stage was set for the most bloody conflict in human history. I consider December of 1941 to be the beginning of the last half of World War II.
The Tri-Party Pact was not just a document now, but a military reality. The war that Roosevelt had hoped would wait for a year or so had now been dropped in his lap. The U.S. was still unprepared for a major war, but at least the prelimiary stages of war preparedness had been taken. If war could be won by hatred and the will to win, the U.S. would have won this war within a month.
That hatred of the Japanese spilled over and effected the innocent. In the first half of 1942 many innocent American citizens of Japanese ancestry were uprooted from their homes and moved inland to miserable camps such as Manzanar in Southern California. I had some friends in Oroville who had been shipped to Marysville for collection and shipment. I was hopeful that once the war had been won, these Americans could be returned to their homes. Now it appears that this is a forelorn hope. Innocents do suffer in war, but in this instance we are purposely hurting ourselves.
High security was everywhere as I walked through the main gate at Alameda the morning of January 16th. The HORNET was in her berth and was undergoing some repairs to her elevators. The whole base itself was a fortress and it's antiaircraft gun and machine gun emplacements bristled in what seemed like every conceivable strong point of defense.
By the time I arrived in Alameda, the Americans were well on their way toward fully protecting their homeland.
JOURNAL - SECTION IV:
In 1942, the Germans, who were fairly free to support the Japanese, as they were only slightly involved in Greece, provided the Japanese with supportive troops for their invasion of the Philippines. The Germans acted as military advisors and also played a role in bottling up the American and Philppine troops on the Bataan peninsula.
Japanese propaganda downplayed the role of the Germans in the invasion and it is conceded that the small number of Germans involved could not have played a very significant role in the invasion. However, it was a prelude to the larger role they would later play in the Pacific War.
By the first of June 1942, the Axis had conquered a large percentage of the world. Europe and Great Britain were in the hands of the Germans and Italians. The Italians also held Ethiopia and with the help of the Germans, parts of Libya, Egypt and Greece. The Japanese held all of Western Asia and were knocking at the door of Australia.
The big question in early 1942 was, "What was the United States to do as their first action in the war?" With very little of her fleet left in the Pacific and no base of operations in Europe, it appeared that her hands were tied.
That appearance was correct. For the year of 1942 the United States played a mostly defensive role in her attempt to confine the Axis Powers.
The Germans spent 1942 in a continuous consolidation of their conquored countries. Aside from the small assistance they played in the Philippine invasion, their armed forces were idle except for a holding action in Greece and their ongoing submarine offensive and raider actions in the Atlantic.
The Japanese, however, feared the remainder of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. In their destruction of the ships at Pearl Harbor, they had destroyed no aircraft carriers. The USS ENTERPRISE entered port on the evening of December 7th and was greeted by the sight of burning ships in the twilight. Then she set sail shortly thereafter and her movements, along with the majority of other ships in the U.S. Fleet, have remained top secret.
My first few weeks aboard the HORNET were spent learning the tools of the trade of the typical sailor. I learned that being aboard meant cleaning; not shooting. I scraped paint, swabbed the decks, cleaned the heads and generally wondered why I had enlisted.
My major problem, however, was trying to keep from getting lost on that enormous ship. Every section of the ship looked just like the rest of it. It took me several weeks to find my way around in a fairly accurate manner. Although by the time we abandoned the ship I had not been to every nook and cranny of the carrier.
I did receive some minor instruction regarding the anti-aircraft weapons on the ship and that was a refreshing change of pace. I was assigned to the starboard guns and stood for hours during my off time fanasizing about how it would be to blast a Zero or a Focke Wulf from the sky. I was still living in the fantasy world if the war movies I had seen.
I also wondered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of bombs. I remember when I was a kid watching the newsreel pictures of when Billy Mitchell and his planes sunk some old World War I German Battleships.
I also remember seeing the newsreels of the city of Guernica in Spain when the German Cordon Legion leveled the defenseless town. But the most memorable picture that came to mind is the Life Magazine picture of the Chinese baby sitting and crying in the middle of the rubble of her village. That picture came to my mind a lot when England was being bombed.
I hoped that we could put some German and Japanese ships on the receiving end of some of our bombs and shells. I itched to be at the trigger when the opportunity arose.
Since the Berlin-Moscow Pact of non-agression was signed in 1939, there had been an uneasy peace existing between the two countries. The border areas were occasionally tense and Hitler apparently still felt a certain distrust of the Soviets. I am sure that the Soviets felt an even stronger distrust for Hitler. So many of Hitler's promises had been broken over the years that the Soviets would have been foolish to completely trust him.
During 1942 this uneasy peace remained. It is assumed that the U.S. would have liked to have seen war erupt between the two. As a matter of fact there were rumors that inferred that secret meetings were being held between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Certainly, if the Soviets could have been pursuaded to go to war against Germany at the proper time, it would have only helped the U.S. war effort. However, the U.S.S.R. has traditionally looked out for it's own interests in the past and probably would have only joined the U.S. side in a war if there was some obvious easy prize dangling in front of it. The Soviets also probably remember the strong beating they took from the Germans between 1914 and 1917 in World War I.
In the Atlantic, U.S. shipping was being sunk at an alarming rate. U.S. merchant ships that used to ply trade with Europe began new trade routes to South America and Africa. Nazi submarines were the major threat against the U.S. in 1942. America, recognizing this terrible weapon as something to be reckoned with, began to develop anti-submarine warfare procedures, that by the end of 1942, seemed to be making a dent in the Wolfpacks' activities.
In the Pacific, the Japanese attempted an invasion of Midway Island in June. The U.S. Carrier force was able to turn this attempt around and resulted in the destruction of four Japanese carriers with the loss of one U.S. carrier. This is the first time that the Japanese assault across the Pacific had been turned back since their 6 months of continous triumph following the Pearl Harbor attack.
America seemed to be able to forestall the further expansion of the Japanese at that point. It was hoped that from that time forward the turning point in the war against the Japanese had been reached. America felt that the most difficult war to win would be against the Germans and once the Japanese advance was contained, all of America's resources could be concentrated against the Germans.
In April of 1942 the HORNET left Alameda under a cloud of secrecy. We had onloaded a force of B-24 bombers and our destination was unknown until after we had left port.
I had assumed that the onloading of these ungainly looking planes meant something important. It was not normal to see Army Air Corps planes of this size being loaded on board a carrier. It was even doubtful that they could take off from such a short runway.
It was inspirational, however, to see the planes lumber off the deck with their heavy bomb load. Some die-hards on board had made bets that they would never make it into the air. Of course, we all hoped they would. After all, we were witnessing the very first raid on the Japanese capitol city.
Surprisingly, all planes located the general area of their targets and released their bombs. Unfortunately, some of the men did not return either due to crashes or due to becoming prisoners. The majority of the men survived, however a small number of these are still captives of the Japanese.
The raid was a success in that it made liars out of the Japanese leaders. They had promised that Japan would never be bombed. Our first invasion of enemy held island territory came in August of 1942 when the U.S. Marines were landed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Island group. The HORNET launched supporting fighters and bombers and was instrumental in the defense of the first waves of Marines. The fighting lasted for 6 months and the Japanese continued to be supplied by the "Tokyo Express" that came up the "Slot" between the main islands at night. We ruled the sea in the daytime, but escaped the area prior to nightfall as the air was full of bombers and the sea was full of Japanese ships after sundown.
On September 15, 1942, we were stationed off the coast of Guadalcanal in support of U.S. troops when the U.S. carrier WASP was destroyed by a Japanese bomber.
All of the newsreel pictures of the Mitchell attack came back to me as an enormous cloud of smoke and debris erupted in a fan shaped blast on the deck of the WASP.
We pulled in close to WASP to pick up survivors and could see the groups of dead burning in the wreckage of planes and deck plates. We stood off the wreckage for hours and managed to pick up the majority of the crew.
During this time there were several enormous explosions that threw debris onto our deck. We, and our destroyers had to gradually back farther away from WASP and I am sure some WASP sailors drowned in the sea because of this. Finally, and mercifully, once all of the known survivors had been taken off, our destroyers went in and sank the great ship. It was a much needed carrier in a fleet that was radically short of all types of ships.
With the taking of Guadalcanal, the U.S. was hopeful that it was the beginning of the end of the Japanese Empire. This setback to the Japanese, coupled with the continual escalation of America's war production appeared to signal that the initiative in the Pacific would now be on the side of America.
The loss of Guadalcanal and the bombing of the Japanese homeland seemed to spark a degree of panic in the warlords of Japan. In October of 1942 they held a war council with the Nazis and Italians in Tokyo. This summit meeting spurred a change in the prosecution of the war against the United States and Canada. The Emperor wanted to make sure that he had enough military support from his two cohorts to guaranty that this first American push did not become a tidal wave of victories against him.
It is my understanding that shortly after the summit between the Axis partners, Germany and Italy reluctantly agreed to provide more military aid to Japan. Certainly Japan's only critical area in their defense system was on their eastern front facing the United States. Japan had pretty much been able to suppress any opposition to it's reign in it's spheres of control in China, Indonesia and the Philippines. The Philippines, however, did possess a substantial guerrilla movement that was made up of Filipino guerrillas and American military survivors of Bataan and Corregidor who had evaded capture.
Throughout the year of 1942 the United States had been surprised that the Nazis had not taken a more active role of assistance to Japan. Possibly the reluctance for Japan to accept any Nazi role in the Pacific was due to it's Bushido code that was based upon Japanese superiority. It was certainly a case of some loss of face for the Japanese to have to ask for help from the Germans.
January of 1943 became a symbol of the trend the Americans would have to get used to in it's war against the Axis. Nazi submarine attacks were stepped up. The Americans lost over 100,000 tons of shipping in January and February of 1943 alone.
In addition, Nazi troops began supplementing the Japanese in it's outlying islands of Truk, Betio and New Guinea. Smaller contingents arrived on Saipan. Also, Luftwaffe squadrons were attached to several Japanese air force commands in the Western Pacific.
It is noted that possibly a mutual distrust still existed between the two powers as the Nazi role in the Pacific began very small and was not increased for many months. Possibly this delay was due to the Japanese giving them a trial period to see how well the countries could work together militarily.
It cannot be said that the Japanese were greatly unnerved by what the Americans had accomplished so far in the war, but the addition of German troops seems to have been an added security measure on their part.
IN 1938 the Germans launched their first aircraft carrier, the GRAF ZEPPLIN. The GRAF began it's career in a poor manner as the Luftwaffe and the German Navy could not agree on much regarding the ship. Their greatest divisiveness revolved around the types of aircraft to use aboard her and in what areas of the world to use her. The Navy wanted to keep her in the Mediterranean or North Sea to provide local support in case of emergency. The Luftwaffe wanted to use the GRAF as a wide ranging carrier, much like the Americans used their carriers. Despite this conflict, by 1941 the Germans had resolved most of their differences and they had also gone ahead with a second carrier - THE FUHRER.
On February 15th 1943 the German Carrier GRAF ZEPPELIN entered Tokyo Bay to a grand celebration. Carried on her decks were 60 aircraft that included 40 fighters and 20 dive bombers. This is considered a small complement by American standards, but still represented a further capability that Germany had not had until that time. Italy too, was represented by it's battleships - VITTORIO VENETO and LITTORIO being in attendance. This celebration was an attempt by the Axis to show it's solidarity.
FUHRER did not show up for this event as it was assumed that she was in the east Atlantic or Mediterranean Sea undergoing her first shakedown cruise. FUHRER carried a few more aircraft than GRAF ZEPPELIN and was a bit larger.
Despite the fact that Guadalcanal was secured in late 1942, sporadic attacks by Axis bombers still did occur on it's defenses. Most of the attacks were launched from New Guinea airfields. The U.S. launched it's own offensive air raids on New Guinea but even though the raids were very effective, it was anticipated that eventually the U.S. would have to launch an invasion of that jungle of an island in order to provide complete security to that region.
In the Atlantic the U.S. was stifled due to it's lack of a base of operations against the Germans. Any invasion of the European continent would have to be done on a step by step basis. Americans wondered where that first step would occur.
The first action of agression in 1943, however, was initiated by the Axis. In addition to a stepped up submarine offensive, sabotage came to roost on both American coasts in a major way.
On the night of February 2nd, the Port Chicago Naval Weapons facility in California was blown up. The blast shook the whole bay area of San Francisco and destroyed 5 ammunition ships and killed over 1,000 personnel. The blast was so powerful that a ship's anchor was found 12 miles away in Antioch and house windows were cracked 15 miles away. The blast put the facility out of action for over 3 months. Alameda Naval Base was also a target of sabotage. A large bomb was set off on the carrier ENTERPRISE while she was undergoing refitting. 26 were killed and the ship was kept under repair for 45 days repairing blast damage.
On the Atlantic coast the Brooklyn Navy Yard was the victim of a blasts of unknown origin:
Early in the morning of February 15th, 15 aerial bombs were dropped into the Navy yard damaging 3 ships and killing several repair crew members. There has never been an explanation of just how these bombs were delivered. Witnesses stated that they just seemed to appear from nowhere and the first thing they noticed was the scream of bombs coming down. No sound of aircraft was heard. Some have speculated that possibly a large dirigible was used.
The most oddball attack, however, apparently occured the night of March 27th when a house was bombed near the Oregon coastal town of Newport by an unmanned Japanese baloon. The blast was a near miss and resulted in a few cracked windows. Accoring to the best guess, the Japanese had launched unmanned balloons over the coast and the bombs had been dropped either by remote control or timer. The balloon in question was brought down by a shotgun wielding farmer. Unfortunately the balloon burned before it could be closely examined.
Other sabotage and attacks occured in 15 other facilities within the first few months of 1943. Security was stepped up to protect all defense facilities and the President and his cabinet were placed under strict security measures. These measure were to be sorely tested within the next year.
The bad news was not just limited to sabotage and the sinking of our merchant ships in 1943. Many other things occured that year that dictated the direction in which the U.S. would prosecute the war in the future.
The year stated out with a successful invasion, but ended in an aura of disaster.
In May of 1943 the U.S. invaded the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska in an attempt to wrest them from the Japanese who invaded them during their unsuccessful Midway operation in June of 1942. Attu was the primary stronghold that was set for elimination. The U.S. invasion eliminated over 2,000 Japanese from the island in a cold, desparate struggle to dig out all of the defenders. The fight was dirty and desparate and the U.S. lost a substantial number of troops. It was like fighting and bleeding inside an ice cube.
As a follow up to it's Attu invasion, the U.S. invaded the island of Kiska on August 15th. However, the Americans discovered that the Japanese forces had been evacuated only a short while before. This action completed the banishment of all Axis forces from the North American continent. It was a forelorn hope that no Axis forces would ever again set foot upon the continent.
On September 15th, a tragedy occured that forever changed the course of American history. It is assumed that the plot to assassinate the foremost high American leaders had been in the planning stages ever since the Americans began recapturing Japanese territory.
On the morning of the 16th, German and Italian agents went into action. President Roosevelt was in a major security committee meeting along with the Vice President when one of his most recently acquired advisors blew himself up in a suicidal attack on both leaders. There is no question that both men were killed instantly. The powerful bomb went off less than 5 feet from both of them and in the meeting - a total of 12 high level dignataries and advisors, were killed.
At the same time, the Secretary of War was shot during a speech in New York City. The sniper, who was never caught, fired a bullet from the top of a laundry building on Third Avenue. The Secretary was speaking in a park plaza. The type of bullet used was very similar to the type known as a Japanese "dumb dumb" projectile. This type of bullet makes a relatively small entrance hole but exits with a mushroom effect that literally tears out a portion of the body. As the Secretary was struck in the forehead, there was no chance of survival.
The day was one of the very worst 24 hour periods in American history. Never before had assassins struck such a blow at the top level of American government.
The "Chain of Command" in U.S. government showed that the next on the list to be President was a Mr. Harry Exeter. All government officials above him had been killed. He immediately declared a full national emergency and declared the entrire country under martial law. The armed forces were placed on a Priority One Alert as he apparently expected an immediate attack or invasion of American territory.
It appears that the purpose of the assassinations was, however, not to launch an immediate invasion of the U.S. It became clear later that the Axis wanted to install a man much weaker that FDR had been. With FDR and Vice President Henry Wallace out of the way along with other potential strong leaders, the Axis felt it would have a much easier time in their fight against the U.S. Or so they hoped.
It is unclear whether the Axis actually had targeted Exeter as their choice of President. Exeter had worked his way up from House of Representatives file clerk to Senator and then to a cabinet level position first under Hoover and then FDR. He was not look ed upon as a really strong man. His campaign funds had been donated by virtually unknown factions when he ran for Senator. He was a very soft-spoken man who, until Pearl Harbor, had been a fanatic isolationist.
However, after the Pearl Harbor attack, he strongly spoke out against Nazism and Facism. Whether this stand was brought about due to personal conviction or due to political aspirations is still up to conjecture.
President Exeter's first speech as President was made two nights after the death of FDR. It was a strongly worded statement that stressed that he would prosecute the war against the Axis powers with all of the resources that the United States possessed. He strongly condemned all of the Axis Powers for their obvious hand in the assassinations.
On September 18th, FDR and Wallace were buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. The next day the other officials who were killed on the 16th were buried. A national week of mourning had been declared by Exeter from the 17th through the 24th of September.
The ball was now in Exeter's court at least until the next election. The whole country waited to see just how he handled this enormous responsibility.
JOURNAL - Section V:
The HORNET had been ordered to the East Coast shortly after the battle of Midway. Two new carriers had taken over our Pacific Coast responsibilities. We arrived in New York on November 11, 1942 and had been initially involved in training for anti-submarine service off of New York. When the President and staff were killed, we were immediately ordered to sea with a 4 destroyer escort and one cruiser in order to provide a buffer for any invasion of the East Coast.
On April 18th, 1943 we were on station when one of our new destroyers that was equipped with the latest sonar device blasted a Nazi submarine to the surface. The sub did not appear to be heavily damaged and indeed did put up quite a fight.
Upon surfacing, the sub crew immediately manned it's deck guns and lobbed several rounds at our oncoming destroyer. We were a mile or two away, but got a good view of the action.
Our destroyer kept pounding on while firing it's main guns. We had assumed that when the destroyer came close it would veer to the left and let fly with it's depth charges, or back off and torpedo the sub. However, the destroyer proceeded to ram the sub and completely cut it in half. We believe that the sub was attempting to dive in order to escape the oncoming destroyer, but it was still a bit above water when the destroyer bore into it. As the destroyer passed over the wreckage, it launched a barrage of 4 depth charges which made sure that nothing survived.
Because of these early encounters with Nazi submarines, we were becoming much more professional about sinking subs. By the time of the assassination, we were very proficient.
In the action just described, the destroyer came out of the tussle with light to moderate damage and was back in action within a couple of weeks.
In October of 1943, a force of American and Canadian Special Forces attempted the assassination of Adolph Hitler. Hitler's "Wolf's Lair" at Berchtesgaden had apparently been under surveillance for a long time. This was his retreat from the cares of the world and the small force of agents had infiltrated his security forces.
On the evening of October 23rd, one inside contact took action to allow the entrance of the rest of the force into the security area of the "Lair". The initial actions of the force were successful.
However, the force was frustrated in it's efforts at assassination in that Hitler had mysteriously left the area only just a few minutes before the proposed attack on him. It is not known where he went or if he had been tipped off, but the entire force of Allied Agents was caught and reportedly executed at the Dachau Concentration Camp.
It had been long known by the Allies that Hitler had eliminated his political enemies by internment in various camps. However, it was not until these agents were interned into Dachau that the scope of his operations was made well known.
Several months after the execution of the agents, a long term prisoner of the camp escaped and was escorted across Germany, France and into neutral Spain. From there the U.S. agents heard the story and he was smuggled into the United States.
This man, Eugen Kogon, had survived by working in the camp medical facility. His hair raising tale that became much publicized in early 1944 detailed intricate information about Dachau. His story sheds light upon one of the most horrifying and best kept secrets of the Twentieth Century.
His account detailed the mass executions of any and all members of political opposition parties, members of the Jewish faith and other "undesirables". Undesirables included Allied Agents. They were unceremoniously sent into a gas chamber and liquidated.
This source also detailed horrible medical experiments he had personally witnessed being performed. He states that hundreds, if not thousands, had suffered death and deformity at the hands of Nazis in Dachau alone.
When these news accounts were released, the majority of Americans did not believe his story. It is difficult for an American to believe that such bestiality exists in a supposedly civilized country.
I, like many others, hope that these accounts are the figments of the imagination of a fanatical Anti-Nazi. To date his account is one of the few that detail this type of atrocity. While I do believe that humans can deteriorate to this level of inhumanity, I still find it almost impossible to believe that any civilized nation, even Germany, can stoop to the use of "Mass Murder Factories". I hope to god that his story is simply the ravings of a lunatic.
On November 5th, the radio airwaves were abuzz with the rumor that someone had actually been successful in eliminating Hiter. For several days the Germans remained mute and their radio transmissions remained the typical propaganda norm.
But on November 8th, the solumn announcement from Berlin was made that Adolph Hitler was dead. He had been on his way to a meeting in the Soviet Union on November 4th when his plane was attacked by three unmarked fighter planes over Poland. The plane was unsuccessfully fired upon, but one fighter got close enough to ram. Apparently it had run out of ammunition.
The suicidal attack on the twin engine Nazi Junkers brought it down in a tangled, flaming conflagration just into Soviet territory. Hitler, along with his infamous Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbles, was killed.
Suddenly, the Luftwaffe chief, Herman Goering found himself thrust into the position of dictator of the Third Reich. Apparently he was as "good" a Nazi as Hitler had been as he ordered reprisals against the Polish people. It is suspected that some members of the defeated Polish Air Force were probably responsible in the death of Hitler. However, publicly, no evidence has ever come out.
One school of thought was that possibly the Soviets had him killed. Certainly they were the only ones who knew he would be heading for Russia at that time. It is for sure that the man was an ominous future threat for them. Possibly even they suspected a possible attack on their borders by the Germans. (They had probably read his book, "Mein Kampf".)
Despite the fact that only a handfull of Poles could have been involved in any assassination, the Nazis never seemed to let logic get in their way of mass murder. In a vicious reprisal campaign, Goring ordered the total leveling and extermination of all Polish cities within a 25 mile radius of where the suspected take off site for the planes was located. It is questionable in the first place if the Nazis actually knew from where the Polish planes became airborne.
What is known is that thousands of lives were lost in this reprisal. The buildings and populations in the areas of Lublin and Swidnik were annihalated. Ths circular area looked like one enormous scorched area on the earth. Such was the reprisal of Goring.
On November 12th, the bodies of Hitler and Goebbles were brought back to Berlin. They lay in closed caskets for two weeks while literally hundreds of thousands of Germans passed their caskets to honor these two Nazi "heroes".
They were given full military honors and buried on November 26th. So now the most colossal struggle in mankind's history was being overseen by two new players in the game. Both were untested in their new roles and both had a relatively weak image. Even though Exeter talked tough, he was still untried, and Goring, even though he had been successful in his British opertion, had still been looked upon as a "Fatty Arbuckle" clown type. It is duly noted here that in the mid-1930's Hitler had been looked upon as a comic "Charlie Chaplin" type. So looks can be deceiving.
The next year or so would prove just who had the greatest mettle and intelligence - or luck.
It should be pointed out that even though Hitler has been dead for over a year at the time of this writing, none of the banners showing his picture throughout Germany have been removed. It is as if the Germans worship him more in death than they did in life. They still greet each other with a "Heil Hitler!"
JOURNAL - Section IV:
During this time of tremendous upheavel in 1943, I was still stationed aboard the HORNET and making many East Coast security runs to search for Nazi U-Boats. Since the excitement of April 18th when our destroyer had put the Nazi submarine on the bottom, we had had a relatively slow time of it. The subs were still sinking a lot of our shipping, but we did not seem to be in the right place at the right time to see any action.
The SARATOGA seemed to be the lucky one of the bunch. Her task force had eliminated twice the number of U-Boats than anyone else on our coast. We would've liked to have gone back to the Pacific where we thought we would have the chance of ridding the West Coast of all the Japanese subs in existance. However, we knew that some carrier forces had to be stationed on the East Coast and we had drawn that duty. I took several weeks leave in New York from October 5th through the 22nd and had a great time.
On one of my journeys of exploration around New York I was flabbergasted to think that I saw Sherry in a street crowd. How she could have gotten to New York from Oregon was a totally unbelievable occurance to me. Also, I was amazed at the coincidence of running into her in a city as large as New York. However, to my disappointment, the girl turned out to be someone else. I guess I was still too much in love with Sherry to get her out of my head. I found myself continuing to imagine her in crowds after that.
But my bizarre fascination for the girl I had seen continued. I found myself searching for her in every crowd. Possibly it was due to the loneliness I felt being so far away from home.
I decided that I had better not talk to the girl if I found her again for fear that I would make a fool of myself. But the fascination was too great. I entered a department store near where I had seen her two days before. I must have looked for hours through the crowded store full of teeming shoppers. Suddenly I saw her. She could have passed for Sherry's double and I was immediately retaken by her long brown hair and great shape. It was so amazing to see someone's exact likeness, but there she was.
I immediately began to get cold feet, but suddenly I turned around and walked toward her. I started looking at some merchandize that she was standing next to, but I could not bring myself to talk to her. So I staged a retreat and went back to the based and got "passing out drunk". I don't remember how I got back to the ship, but the next morning I could see the ceiling moving in circles again while I lay awake trying to decide whether I was still alive or not.
It is the strangest thing when someone haunts you. Possibly it was the idealistic "image" of Sherry that I was in love with. This other woman served as the surrogate of Sherry for the time being.
After a spirited afternoon of scraping paint on the gun mounts the next day, I got off at 4 P.M. and rushed back to Macys to see if I could locate her again. I discovered that she worked until 5 P.M. and I caught her just as she was going out the door.
I followed her as she walked down the street. I stayed behind her for about 5 minutes. As she stopped for a red light to cross the street, I finally go up enough nerve to speak to her.
I said, "Er, excuse me ma'am, I wanted to ask you out. How about it?" in my most smooth prolific gibberish. She looked at me with a most sweet smile and said, "Buzz off Swabby".
That, needless to say, ruined our romantic moment for all eternity. I was totally destroyed and shuffled off with my head bowed to lick my wounds. I hoped that no one had heard the words that had caused me the most supreme disappointment.
I decided right then that Macys had lost me as a customer for good. I went right back to the ship and wrote Sherry a letter. I never mentioned the incident to her in any future letters. I didn't want her to know how stupid I had been.
This episode shows that my success with women has typically been poor. I am no lady's man and have always been, at least until I went in the Navy, very shy.
Besides my encounter with that girl Nancy in San Diego and Sherry, I had only one other semi-serious relationship. This was with a girl named Evelyn while I was in high school.
Evelyn was certainly unique. I had been introduced to her by Mitch, a mutual friend. I had known Mitch for years and thought quite highly of him in spite of the fact that he continually cheated on his wife. They had gotten married their Senior year in high school. Shortly after their marriage he had cheated on Claudia for the first time. Then he had on ongoing affair with Evelyn, the next door neighbor, for several months. His wife was none too smart and had not the slightest suspician that anything was amis.
I got "lucky" one day when Mitch introduced me to her. Apparently he was growing tired of his affair with her and tried to introduce a relationship between myself and her to get her off his back. He took me aside just prior to our introduction with these heart warming words: "Hey, she is really easy if you can get her good and drunk". I told him that if I had to get her drunk before going to bed then she wasn't worth the effort. Pretty big talk for a shy virgin! To my comment, Mitch replied that when his dad took Evelyn to bed it took two six packs!
Nevertheless, I did allow Mitch to introduce her to me. I must admit that I was quite taken with her. She had short black hair and was built rather well. However, she had one small problem. She was a stranger to a bar of soap. She did not realize that in order to have good hygiene, it is recommended that you take a bath at least once every 6 months!
Despite my initial reluctance I did agree to go over to her house that night. Right off the bat she said things like, "Well what are you waiting for? I know you want to go to bed". She had no problem with shyness as you can tell.
Evelyn was a "different" type of girl. She was 21 years old going on 45. She was in the process of divorce and, according to her, she had had dozens of affairs. Fortunately for me, I did not allow her to carve my notch in her bedpost.
This platonic relationship went on for about 2 months until I decided that I could never get used to her "ways". She had promised to clean up her act and take a bath more often. She also lied that she would quit smoking.. But old, stinky habits die hard and she neglected to do so. I truly believe that she really cared about me and wanted to please me. But she did not have enough dedication to our relationship to improve herself.
I eventually walked out on her and she was very hurt. She went into the hospital several weeks later and informed Claudia that I had gotten her pregnant and that she had miscarried. That was her way of try to entrap me into coming back to her. Whether she was actually pregnant or not, I never bothered to find out. I only knew one thing: if the baby was mine, it certainly would have had to been conceived by immaculate conception.
So you can tell that my romantic life has had it's ups and downs. Mainly on the low side.
On these long afternoons on the mountain I am finding it easy to express these thoughts. It feels good to get things off my mind that have troubled me for years. This journal is good therapy for me.
JOURNAL - Section V:
President Exeter's main war program for 1944 was to establish a European war front against the Germans and Italians. His other established aim that year was to make sure the Japanese were pushed further back across the Pacific, or at least that their current positions would be held in check.
During the early Spring of 1944 the Japanese made several air attacks on the continent of Australia and made a number of commando raids on several bases around Darwin.
These spotty attacks greatly concerned the Austrailian Prime Minister and President Exeter. There was deep concern that the Japanese were about to mount an invasion against Australia.
Australia was the greatest Allied base in that part of the world and provided the location from where General McArthur ran his American Offensive.
Over the past few years the Japanese had made several small landings on Australian soil, but never were they in sufficient strength to establish a permanent beachead. It seemed like the Japanese were testing the strength of Australia's defenses.
The U.S. bases at Guadalcanal and New Guinea were made strong points in early 1944 and as much support for these bases and Australia came from the U.S. as possible. Exeter was determined that the U.S. keep these vital bases, even at the expense of somewhat weakening the forces in Hawaii.
His efforts made it clear that the U.S. was determined to stay and it was hoped that these actions would insure that in the event of any land invasion of Australia, there would be a formidable amount of opposition to deal with.
Plans were also established to consider the taking of Truk and Saipan later in 1944.
The U.S. President's priority over all, however, was the Allied invasion of the European continent in 1944.
As stated previously, the U.S. had no base of operations established in that part of the world from which to launch an invasion. The loss of England as a staging area was an almost fatal blow to any plans for an invasion of any part of Europe.
However, alternative plans were being readied to establish a base of operations. The area of North Africa would provide a stepping of point for an invasion and that was what President Exeter's first war move of 1944 was.
Certain developments, however, also caused concern for the Allies in the first half of 1944.
It was becoming increasingly apparent that Nazi scientists, in their many years of unmolested research, had come up with several new and horrifying weapons.
In March of 1944 several large ship-launched missiles had landed amongst our outposts in New Guinea and Guadalcanal. Also, these missiles had apparently been loosed upon several cities in Australia. Until March of 1944, these missiles were totally unknown to the Allies. In each of these occurances, an air search of the sea area was made by our forces. These searches were made over a wide area and no Axis ships were found. Also, no radar was able to detect any Axis planes in the area.
In became apparent that these missiles had a very long range. Our radar had detected the missiles on their incoming flight, but by the time our fighters were scrambled, the missiles had already impacted. These missiles must fly faster than any known aircraft.
In addition to these missiles, rumors from occupied Europe have stated that several rocket propelled planes have been seen. The most spectacular incident sighted was when one of these machines exploded at the Nazi Luftwaffe base near Orly Airport just outside of Paris. Several hundred Parisians were attracted by the strange sound that eminated from the machine and when it had climbed to about a thousand feet, it just exploded.
It was hoped that German development of these fighter rockets would remain at a very elemental and dangerous level. Dangerous for the German pilots, that is.
In April of 1944 the HORNET was ordered across the Atlantic with a large number of supporting ships. We anticipated that we were going into a major engagement as we were not told where we were going, and the number of warships was impressive.
By April 15th we had passed through the narrow strait of Gibraltar and were off the coast of Tripoli.
The morning of the 16th we could see literally hundreds of ships in our armada. We had been on station at our guns since 4 A.M. and had been told to look out for Axis air attacks.
We must have been lucky that morning as we saw only a few planes far off to the North of us. We saw the troop transports leave the sides of their larger ships and head South of us toward the shores of North Africa. The invasion for a foot hold in the Mediterranean was on. That day we heard that several of our ships to the North of us had been attacked and damaged by Axis aircraft, however, our sector was virtually untouched.
The North African coast had been held mainly by Vichey French forces and we encountered only minimal opposition. The few who did resist our force surprised me. After all, we all used to be on the same side. Apparently, some of the French remained loyal to the pro-Nazi Vichey government. But the vast majority of French didn't put up more than token resistance and we were able to take our objectives with a few weeks.
These two weeks were spent aboard ship with no break. Whenever I saw not in my bunk asleep, I spent with my gun and in assisting with the movement of supplies to and from other ships and around our carrier. But there was no time to be bored. We still expected a massive German and Italian air attack so we had to move very quickly.
We had not been told how long we would stay here before an actual invasion of Europe would be attempted. I had a friend in the radio room and, without him telling me vital secret information, he was able to infer various bits of information to me. He is the main source for some of the more intricate historic information in this journal. We figured it would take several months to consolidate our possessions enough so that we could be in a position of strength enough to attempt the invasion.
Fortunately, the weather was clear and the preparations for invasion were completed rather quickly. Soon, too soon, we made ready for our "Great Adventure".
The following section was written from notes that I made during the time of the actual occurances.
JOURNAL - Section VI:
The time has gone quicky the past week or so. Air attacks by the Italian and German air forces have been minimal. Speculation is that they are saving the main strength of their air arms for our next move.
It is June 2, 1944. The carriers with their destroyer escort and troop ships plow the early morning air. All through the night the American and Canadian radar searched the darkness, fruitlessly searching for the deadly reflection of forces that existed out in the unknown world.
I awoke from General Quarters sounding in my ears. 5 A.M.- Why does the world go to hell at 5 A.M.! Three thousand men in motion for one purpose in mind only - the defense of our ship and the destruction of any enemy forces that wished to stop our task force.
As I ran up the flight deck to get to my gun position the crist, cool air shocked me awake. For as far as the eye could see in the dim morning air, there were hundreds of Allied Ships. The coast of Italy could be seen only a few miles away; a thin grayish-brown slip of land.
We had anticipated that the Summer of 1944 would be the ideal time to launch the great invasion of Europe. It had become evident that Italy would be the prime invasion area for the strike. England, because of it's proximity to Luftwaffe bases and it's long distance from any Allied shore base was determined to be too tough to land on.
North Africa, however, provided a likely jumping off point for the invasion forces. Since our invasion of North Africa a month and a half earlier, the Americans, Canadians and Australians had taken this first step to establishing a base at Libya. In a bloody 45 day campaign that was still ongoing, the Italians and Germans Afrika Korps were battling with the three major Allied nations for the control of Libya. Even during the wrestling of Libya from Axis control, the stockpiling of men and material' began. In the largest supply mission of the war to date, the Allied nations stockpiled millions of tons of supplies for this Italian invasion.
The Axis nations, however, were not sitting still and they daily raided the supply areas and troop encampments on the African continent. Our task force had left at nightfall on the first of June and had slipped in under cover of a storm front that threatened to sock in the underbell of Europe for the next week.
The morning of the 2nd, however, appeared to show that the storm mya not provid the hoped of coverage. I could see the shorline of Italy clearly. I hoped that luck would be with us and that this invasion would be the "beginning of the end" for the Axis dictators.
It was obvious that a drive up the Italian peninsula, over the mountains and into Germany from the south would be a long, bloody campaign. However, it seemed the most feasable course of action. Certainly, action had to be taken against the Germans and Italians. Their assistance to the Japanese in the Pacific was becoming greater every day. A land invasion would tie down many divisions and hopefully bring the war home to Germany.
We could already see our carrier planes beginning the take off procedure and see the high flying B-17's crossing the Mediterranean for their first strikes against the mainland.
Our massive invasion force closed in to the shore. At 7:45 A.M. a loud drone became audible. We looked to the North and out of the patchy dark clouds came an enormous force of planes. As they came nearer, we could see the German and Italian insignia on their wings. We knew that this air armada was going to be a major force to deal with. We could see the Heinkels, Dorniers, Stukas, ME-109's and some Focke Wulf's. It was apparent that the Axis forces had saved it's main air offensive for our invasion. Our four carrier force with it's 450 planes seemed a small deterrent compared to what was coming out to meet us.
Suddenly, the fleet burst forth with a deafening blast of anti-aircraft fire. My battery fired it's first blasts and all other noises seemed to merge with it. After a few seconds I didn't even hear my own gun anymore over the din.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw two Messerschmidt fighter-bombers coming toward us in a one-two formation. They came down from about a 2,000 foot altitude and they came so close that you could see their bombs in the racks and the faces of the pilots. Their wings were twinkling from the barrage of machine gun and cannon fire they were sending toward our ship.
I got the leader in my gunsight but forgot to lead him and my projectiles hit nothing but air.
But my friend next to me cut loose with a blast of fire that effectively cut the leader in two. He seemed to crumple in the middle and both wings were jerked off of the fuselage at the same time. There was a small explosion of gasoline and he fell ineffectually into the ocean about 50 feet from the HORNET's side.
I was taken aback by this event but I then attempted to get the second ME for myself. I, for some reason, could not get the proper lead on him and he swept over the ship. The long, yellowish 500 pounder that he dropped crossed over us and landed on the port side of the carrier. The blast blew several sailors off their feet.
Shrapnel from the blast bounced off the sides of the ship with a "whang" that reminded me of the sound of bullets singing off the rocks in the "Three Mesquiteers" cowboy movies I used to watch as a teenager. Where is John Wayne when you really need him?
God help us! More planes are getting through! Suddenly a Heinkel appears off of our starboard side near my are of fire. My gun blasts it's staccato fire toward the machine. It keeps coming even though there can be no way that I am missing it. I see a trail of smoke appear from the right engine. It keeps on it's steady course toward our carrier's side. Suddenly there is a blinding flash that rocks the side of the ship. The bombs that the Heinkel was carrying have detonated close to us.
I am blown backward and thrown against the gun mount. I am dazed for a few seconds. My Gun Captain, Bill Howard, shakes me awake and I regain my senses. I am just about to check the gun for any damage when out of the corner of my left eye I see the blur of an object flash past my head. Suddenly, there is a whoosh of air as a bob detonates close to me. It must have been a large bomb as my head feels torn off by it's blast. A piece of shrapnel has struck me in the forehead and I lay in a pool of blood.
The blood, however, was not all mine. Of the five of us in the gun mount, I am the only one who I believe survives. I awoke a few minuts later, still groggy and in much pain. Through a haze I see wht is left of Bill Howard's upper torso lying only a few feet away from my face.
I stagger to my feet. In the distance I see the SARATOGA burning a few miles away. An Axis bomb must have hit her a good one. She is ablaze from bow to stern. Explosions are erupting high into the air. After seeing the WASP's destruction, I recognize a carrier in her death throes when I see one.
But I also see death throes around me. We have been hit on our carrier's island by a large bomb that has also set some of our planes on fire. One bomb has gone through the flight deck and detonated ammunition and fuel stored in the hangar bay. Explosions are rocking us. I see a group of sailors spraying a pile of bombs with a stream of water. The steam is rising and hissing off of them as the water plays against their hot, green casings. Suddenly the worst happens. A group of bombs explodes near these bombs and the whole deck has become a sea of smoking ruin. I see the little group of firefighters just simply disappear in the flash and blast of shrapnel and flame. I am thrown back against the deck. Just as I see pieces of the ship flying skyward I lose consciousness again.
I awake on the bow of the flight deck. I do not know how long I have been out. I am on a stretcher and there must be several hundred of us huddled there away from the flames. I am aware that I have lost depth perception. I do not realize that my left eye hung out of it's socket when I was found and that one of the few surviving medical corpsmen wrapped it back up against the socket and bandaged it to my face. I just feel numb.
I have no perception of time. I just know that I want this experience to be over. I look out across the sea toward Italy and can no longer see the SARATOGA. Someone says that she has disappeared in a mighty blast.
We are still under attack by Nazi and Italian planes. Many of our troop transports have been sunk with our destroyer escorts. I hope that the rest of the invasion force fared better than we. We have ground to a standstill. We see some of our Thunderbolt fighters battling it out above us with some ME's but cannot tell how they are doing. We only know that the ship will probably sink.
The next few hours or so are a blurry remembrance of the rolling of our vessel and the shocks of the continuing explosions from the aft and mid sections of the ship. As I lay on the deck looking up I can still see the enormous cloud of black smoke that keeps rolling up into the sky. The Nazi planes by now have determined that we are sinking and have gone on to new hunting grounds. I lay there next to several dozen severely wounded men. The corpsman used all of the morphine he had left and it kept me in a sort of euphoric state for the majority of the time I lay there.
One thing about a carrier, it usually takes an awful lot to sink one. We were obviously not salvageable, but the damage was pretty well confined to the aft and mid sections. At least I remember that that's where the majority of the explosions were coming from.
At about 3 P.M. the destroyer HOBSON came alongside and began taking off survivors. Most of the able bodied men slid down lines, however some of the "Olympic" types made dives from the bow. I was one of the many problem cases in that we were injured and had to be brought down gently. The deck force rigged a rope ladder for the ambulatory cases and I vaguely remember climbing down to the destroyer.
Destroyer MONAHAN also was in the area and when HOBSON ws full of survivors she came forth to pluck the rest of us to safety. All in all, it took several hours to take all the survivors from the strickent ship.
At twilight we felt much safer from the Axis planes that still had been sighted in our area. We had not been attacked since it became obvious that the carrier was done for, and we were happy for the respite.
After dark we saw the HORNET's sides glow cherry red. All night long we lay off the starboard side of the carrier. My good eye gave me enough night vision to be able to see the continuing flashes of explosions aboard her. We stayed several miles away but could still hear the blasts of ammunition and bombs echoing out across the warm summer evening.
At about 5 A.M. I awoke from a few hours sleep and I could still see her burning. Over the loud speaker system of the HOBSON came the announcement that we were going in for a torpedo run in order to sink HORNET. Within a few minutes we were at full speed and came to within a hundred yards to launch a spread of three torpedoes. The fish ran straight and true into her mid section. The whump of each explosion hurt each of us. HORNET had become our home. Many of the crew had spent many years aboard her in peace and in wartime.
The HORNET began to list toward her starboad side and as she rolled we could see planes and other gear rolling off her into the ocean. In what seemed like 15 minutes the HORNET was gone. After the roll she righted herself and went down on an even keel and made not a whimper as she plunged into the Mediterranean.
HOBSON was crowded to capacity. As the weather was clear we were allowed to stay on deck and relax as well as could be expected. We were informed that we would be taken back to Tripoli where we could get better medical treatment.
We hungered for word of the success of the invasion. We knew that we and SARATOGA had been dealt a terrible blow, but hoped that the other ships and ground forces had survived to make a successful landing. Aboard HOBSON, my eye hurt like fire and I became very dependant upon the morphine injections to get me through. I slept most of the time but on several rare occasions I felt like talking. On one of those occasions I took up a conversation with a man who had his left hand bandaged. I must have lain there next to him for two days before I realized that his entire left hand had been amputated. It had been cut off not by a medic, but by the enemy. It had been neatly sliced off by a bomb shard. To this day Rob does not know what actually hit his arm, but whatever it was, it did a very neat job.
The 500 mile voyage back to Libya was one of misery. The majority of us were seriously wounded and morphine and other medications were in short supply. Several times during the journey, MONAHAN had to send over more medical supplies to our ship.
We docked in Tripoli on the morning of June 5th and were transferred to a U.S. military hospital near Gharain. As Rob and I had become friends, we successfully whined enough to be assigned to the same room.
The hospital, such as it was, was located in and old barracks building that the local militia had built about 40 years earlier. To say the least, it was hot and uncomfortable. Our room was about 20 by 40 feet and we shared the space with 7 others.
The only respite from boredom during the two weeks we stayed there was watching the insects fight on the hard wood floor. I swear, I have never seen spiders and beetles as large as those in North Africa. In Northern California we have large hairy looking "Wolf Spiders" that get about half the size of a man's hand, but they do not compare to these African varieties.
The doctors in Gharain had determined that even though they could place my eye back in the socket and it would look pretty normal, I would never be able to see again. The major nerve center of the eye had been damaged by the blast.
I still do not understand how I could have survived the blast with so few injuries. Besides my eye injury the only other residual from the attack is the 3 inch scar on my forehead from a piece of shrapnel. The rest of my gun crew was slaughtered or missing. I hope some day to be able to find out if any of the missing survived the attack. A number of injured survivors that MONAHAN brought back are quartered in a hospital to the East of us. Possibly some of my old gun drew are at that location.
Official notification was received just after we arrived in Tripoli that only about 900, or one third of the HORNET crew survived the attack.
Word has also arrived that the majority of the troop transports were successful in landing troops on the Italian Peninsula. Of the four carriers involved in the invasion, on two survive. INDEPENDENCE is moderately damaged but still on duety and the TICONDEROGA was undamaged. The loss or damage of three quarters of our carrier forces radically reduced our close air support needed for the support of the invasion troops. It's unlikely that our African based bombers can pick up the slack.
On June 8th, we were raided by Nazi bombers. I stood at the window of our room and watched them bomb and strafe our staging area and hospital grounds. I felt sick and afraid and shook with rage and frustration. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels afraid of what might come.
We were plastered at sea and were being blasted on land. Our land based planes from Azizia were obviously unable to stop these raids on our African bases and I wondered just how well they were doing against the larger contingent of Axis planes on the Italian mainland. The afternoon of the 6th the airwaves were full of ominous news. The Germans had made an extensive airdrop on Gibraltar. This move was immediately objected to by the neutral Spanish who had earlier given the surviving British troops a guaranty that the "Rock" would remain neutral and any ship would be allowed to pass.
Spain and Germany came very close to war during the next two days. However, the Spanish understandably backed down. Their armed forces held no hope of withstanding a German onslaught across their frontier any more than the Polish army had.
The British and some Spanish soldiers on Gibraltar held out for over a week against the overwhelming German attack. In the end, however, the Nazi flag was raised on the heights of Gibraltar.
While the attack on Gibraltar was going on, and while we languished in the luxury of the hospital, the Allied armies in Italy were taking a beating.
The land battle up the Italian boot was stalled near Cozenza. The land battle against the Axis had gone well for the first two days. Apparently even though the Luftwaffe had done well the first days of the invasion, the Italian troops in the southern area were pretty well outclassed by the Allied troops. Within a week, though, the German and Italian reinforcements had arrived and launched a counterattack.
The Allied troops made an advance on Cassano on the 7th, however the next day the Axis drove the allies back 20 miles with an overwhelming attack.
To compound the problem, our forces in North Africa were now defeated piecemeal by the Afrika Korps. These Axis troops had been recently reinforced by Rommel's forces in Egypt and were gradually rolling back the Allied forces in Africa.
On the 8th day of the invasion, it became clear that the Allied attempt to establish a Eureopean front would probably end in failure. TICONDEROGA was attacked and damaged. Destroyers HOBSON and MILLER were sunk. Many supply ships were sunk either by Luftwaffe or submarine. The Axis was having a field day at our expense. We had attempted to pull off a miracle and had found ourselves trapped in a meatgrinder.
Several attempts were made by Allied convoys about this time to reinforce our base in North Africa. The closing off of the Strait of Gibraltar made any sufficient reinforcement impossible. One convoy was all but wiped out and the other was decimated down to about 50 percent of it's ships before it arrived.
On June 12th, during a massive attack on our troops at Cosenza, our armies broke. At the same time our fleet, which had been tragically damaged over the past two week period, was in desparate shape. The handwriting was on the wall and the order to withdraw all forces was given by President Exeter on June 13th.
On June 15th, the majority of the Allied forces, who had suffered 60 percent casualties, were evacuated. Carriers TICONDEROGA and INDEPENDENCE stood off the Italian coast and gave as much air support as was available while the remaining transports and destroyers made runs into shore to rescue the surviving Allied army. It was Dunkirk all over again but his time the American people knew it for what it really was - a military disaster.
To add more worry to our situation, Gibraltar was now in German hands. We did not know what kind of reception we would receive when we came within range of Gibraltar. All we could judge by was that our supporting convoys had been decimated.
The only way out of the Mediterranean for our forces was through either of the German controlled areas. It was a case of selecting the least lethal way out. We could risk Gibraltar or exit towad the East through the Suez Canal. The Germans had held Suez for over 6 months and had had time to strongly reinforce their defenses there.
Word came down shortly that there would be a complete evacuation of not only our forces in Italy, but the entire force located in North Africa. With the Germans and Italians controlling the Mediterranean, Exeter could see no future in any effort to reinforce our positions here.
On June 17th, we were informed that all hospital residents would be evacuated the following day.
Scuttlebut had it that another Allied invasiou would be undertaken to take either Suez or Gibraltar. The truth was, though that we were planning to make a run for it.
We boarded our ship the next morning and the rest of that day our ship and several dozen others sailed northwest between Tunis and Sicily, attempting to evade any Axis ships or planes that might be on the lookout for us. We did see one carrier to the east of us, however we could not identify her. If it wasn't a German carrier, it would have to be the INDEPENDENCE.
The weather did not cooperate as usual. We were in bright sunshine most for the day. We had hoped that if we were to make a run for it, it would be during one of the worst storms the Mediterranean had ever seen.
When we had first sighted our ship, the MANGRUM, we certinly had second thoughts about boarding her. She was an old World War I destoyer and looked like she couldn't have done more than 8 knots in a pinch. But, after the experience we had encountered in Italy and Libya we were more than happy to leave North Africa aboard any half-way safe vessel. To us, North Africa belongs to the big spiders and beetles and that's the way it should stay.
We had pulled out that morning and immediately headed northwest. We appeared to dawdle and circle for most of the day. Apparently this was due to the fact that we were waiting for the two destroyers and the oiler that joined us about 4 P.M.
I remember that night: Rob and I talked for hours about our predicament and about California. He was so frustrated that he probably could not get a shot at the Nazis because of the loss of his hand. I told him that when the shooting started the crew would probably be more than glad to let him pull a trigger with his good hand.
We were both very apprehensive. All we cared about then was getting back to the U.S. in one piece.
I remember the view just after dark. Rob and I headed topside and watched the small flickering lights off of the port side of the ship. North Africa was no metropolitan area. Sparse cities provide sparse light.
The warm night relaxed us, but never did the fear of the coming day leave us. Rob became quiet soon after our walk on the deck and I knew that he was into one of his private thoughts. I respected his privacy when he became quiet. I know that old memories are at work in his brain. He goes back to some simpler and more peaceful time. As for me, my brain was full of the fear and of the prospect that home would never be reached.
The next day, June 19th, dawned again too bright and too clear. We saw several planes off in the distance toward Sardinia. Shortly after 8 A.M. we were joined by a small carrier task force that came from eastward. It was good to see TICONDEROGA still afloat. We did draw near enough to see some of the damage she had sustained to her island structure and we could see that she had very few planes on her flight deck. They had either been destroyed, or hopefully, were off protecting our air space.
At about 9:30 A.M. we were approached by a flight of about 30 Axis aircraft. Stukas dove at the carrier and scored a near miss off of her port side. Her antiaircraft fire was very effective and she splashed several of the bombers.
Our ship was strafed by several Italian fighters and some damage was received on the aft deck. Fortunately, we incurred no casualties. We did see some smoke of in the distance to the East of us. One of our radiomen told Rob tha another carier had been hit along with several other ships.
Actually, the attacks that had been launched against so far were surprisingly lighter than we had expected. Possibly they were saving their "best" for when we entered the Strait of Gibraltar. The rest of the day was a continual harrassment of our fleet. Occasionally a Nazi or Italian plane would enter our air space, but no major attack as launched. As the sun went down on the 19th, we knew that the next day would bring our bid for freedom from the Mediterranean. It was hoped that this miserable military fiasco would not be made any worse.
The morning of the 20th was again a perfect day for a picnic. The dozen or so ships that traveled in our little fleet were joined by a much larger flotilla during the night. It was obvious that we all wanted to pass through the strait in the shortest possible period of time.
By 11:30 A.M. we could see the town of Ceuta which is on the northern shore of the strait. So far no attacks had been made on us since dusk of the past day. We were beginning to think that the Axis was going to be charitable and allow our defeated force to escape without a fight.
However, shortly after we caught a glimpse of Deuta, the TICONDEROGA was rocked by three large explosions. She was only a mile from us and the three hits caused plating and large chunks of her deck to soar into the sky. I had witnessed the deaths of several carriers, however, never have I seen one go down so quickly. The torpedos must have struck the same, midsection area. She appeared to have her back broken and settle in the middle. The last view of her was the tip of her bow going beneath the water.
At the same time of this disaster, more ships were sunk by torpedos. One was an ammunition ship that literally tore itself apart. It Seemed to fly apart all at once and in 100 different directions. The QUENAULT VICTORY was no more. Next to it was a destroyer that was immediately set afire by the ammunition ship's secondary explosions. The ship lost steerage and blazed for over an hour before she rolled over and went under.
It was evident that the trap had been sprung and was well thought out. Within a few minutes of the first torpedoe strike, a flight of Stukas began coming in from the North and started making attack runs on our ships.
Heinkels followed a few minutes later and utilized a new technique that I had never seen before.
They came in at an altitude of about 30 feet above the waves and dropped their bombs in such a manner that the bombs skipped along the surface of the water into the sides of the ships. This had a devastating effect and I saw several ships damaged in this manner. One troop transport had a bomb bounce right onto it's deck and it went up in an enormous blaze.
We went full speed ahead just as soon as the carrier was hit and we were pulling away fast when the transport went up. Therefore, all I can describe is that from a distance the transport looked like a burning log with ants running here and there on it. Poor devils! They didn't have a chance of rescue with all of us trying to break through to the Atlantic and save our own skins.
What with all of the flak, planes, explosions and shelling going on, I don't understand why this one memory stands out. I can remember looking towards the starboard side of the ship and seeing the great Rock of Gibraltar standing out overlooking this bedlam in quiet solitude. We were being shot at from the shore, but not one shot appeared to be coming from Gibraltar itself. Most of the shelling seemed to be coming from Tangier, or the southern side of the strait. I wonder if a few British diehards still held some strategic part of the great rock. Our hat is off to them if they forestalled even one shot from coming our way.
By 1 P.M. it seemed that over half of our ships were ablaze. Fire was coming from shore, submarines and the air. It was a mass slaughter. But through this gauntlet of steel some of us could now see the Atlantic opening up before us. Our little destroyer and some of our lucky companions were going to make it through. We left hundreds of our comrades back there in the strait, in Italy on the shore and in the deep watery grave of the Mediterranean. But some of us did live to tell about it.
The Atlantic opened up and we entered. But we did not pause for any sign of relief. We did not know what awaited us there.
As we made headway about 10 miles west of Gibraltar, we lost most of our air harrassment. We headed west and very few of our ships were in sight. I suppose that in the strait there was some safety in numbers, however in the open sea we might have more of a chance of survival by splitting up. It certainly would make us much harder to find.
We kept pace with another destroyer, the DREWER, the oiler NEOSHO and a troop transport. As we split off from our main contingent, we could see a carrier in the distance. It was possibley afire. We could see it heading southerly toward the Canary Islands. This carrier had to be the INDEPENDENCE as that is the only carrier I know of that had not been destroyed.
Tight security has always been kept on the exact number of men and ships lost. I personally saw 5 or 6 ships badly damaged or sunk and another 10 ships lightly damaged. As far as men killed or injured, you would have to count 2,500 to 3,000 killed or at leat effected by each carrier lost. I know we lost at least three of our four carriers including the HORNET.
As far as land forces lost, I do not know of an approximate figure committed, so I cannot even guess. However, I would say that at leat 60% were killed or captured. Not many troop transports escaped from the Mediterranean Sea.
We took a round about way back to New York. Our trip took 13 days and we skirted around the various shipping routes in order to be free of any possible submarine activity.
Fortunately NEOSHO kept close and refueled our small flotilla. We did not catch sight of any ships during the transit. There was always the fear, however, that an Axis submarine may detect us and a torpedo would come crashing into our compartment any moment.
We entered New York Harbor the night of August 4th. Early that morning, before daylight, all of the wounded were transferred to the Naval Hospital where I received a few weeks of preparatory prostetics care. On August 19th I received my new eye. I was quite pleased with it.
Up until that time I had only a gaping hole where my eye had been. The eye had been removed as it was deemed past saving. I had kept it covered for most of the time due to some of the shocked stares I had received when I had it uncovered.
Rob was lodged down the hall a few doors from me. The M.D. had gone and repaired the ends of some of his tendons and re-sutured a lot of the area of his stump. I had not had much pain from my eye, but Rob was always grimacing from the pain in his stump. He said that he knew that he didn't have a hand anymore, but the non-existant hand kept hurting him nevertheless.
We languished there for two months while we awaited our discharges. During that time the radio and newspapers continued to cover the scandal that had resulted from our rout in Italy. We had lost over half of the East Coast Fleet in this escapade. 1944 being an election year, President Exeter was trying for election. Thomas Wilkinson, Senator from Idaho who was the Republican candidate was promising victory if elected. How he was going to accomplish this was a mystery to me after having seen the beating we had taken.
In Wilkinson's campaign in 1944, he stated, "That old man should retir. This Italy Fiasco of his cannot be allowed to happen again. Exeter will lose this war if you do not get him out of office now." The political and morale effects of this military disaster were far ranging. Up until this time the American people knew that they were in for a very hard road ahead, but at least they believed that they would eventually win this conflict. However, now they had second thoughts and began to realize that the war in Europe may be impossible to win. Obviously, to obtain the foothold that had been hoped for for so long would take much more of a force than the U.S. had available in the Atlantic side at this time.
Polictically, the loss of the invasion force in Italy was a disaster for President Exeter. Previous to the invasion, he had kept his popularity. Now the American people began to seriously doubt his ability and judgment in the pursuance of the war. That was the major factor in his election defeat in the Fall of 1944.
On October 3, 1944, Rob and I were released from the Naval Hospital and finally received our discharges. The Veterans Administration had Rob and I both file for disability and we anticipated that it would take several months to get some disability payments.
We received a rather large sum of back pay at time of discharge so we would be pretty well set for a few months.
We checked in at the air base and found out that a B-17 bomber would be leaving for the West Coast in a few hours. After what Rob and I had been through, a few hours didn't bother us a bit.
The combat-green plane was ready at 3 P.M. and we took off. We sat in the nose for most of the way. We had to stop over in Cleveland for several hours due to engine trouble. However, we caught a B-25 that was headed for the Army Air Corps base in Sacramento.
The trip on the B-25 would have been very boring except for the fact that Rob and I could think and talk of nothing except seeing the West Coast again. Rob was an avid ocean fisherman and longed for the great fishing off of Eureka. I had to admit that fishing positively bored me, but a little target shooting with my old .22 Winchester, that I had acquired in 1937, did a lot for me. Rob couldn't figure out how I could still enjoy shooting after all of the shooting we had been through. Despite this, we resolved to do some of both when we got to the Pacific Coast.
Another interesting highlight of our plane flight was the pilot. His name was Bill Smith and he had also just returned from Italy and North Africa. He had been a pilot of one of the bombers we had seen the first morning of the invasion.
He told us about some of his experiences. "I had initially felt that we had the upper hand in Italy. For the first few days the troops that flew over were advancing at a very quick pace. The Italian troops we encountered weren't any great shakes at fighting and rolled back fairly easily.
Our bombing runs were not strongly opposed and we carpeted the area ahead of the advancing troops with a well laid pattern. We only lost one of my bombing group the first three days. The Luftwaffe seemed to be concentrating on our Naval forces off shore. We could see one or more Allied ships burning each time we crossed the Mediterranean to bomb the Axis strong points.
The tide turned the fourth day when the German and Italian reinforcements arrived and then the Luftwaffe began strongly opposing our air forces.
For the next few weeks we were more opposed in our bombing runs each day. I was over the Italian mainland when the Germans and Italians launched their massive assault on June 12th. We attempted to bomb their Panzer columns and beat back the Luftwaffe attacks at the same time. Our Thunderbolts did their best, but they were vastly outnumbered.
Over half of my squadron was wiped. The largest percentage were lost on the 12th. Two of my crew in the B-17 were killed and I received a small wound on my left leg.
At the time of our retreat I flew my B-17 south to a small base on the West Coast of Africa and then across the Atlantic to New York. I was, needless to say, very happy to be back in the USA."
In our long flight, Rob and I got to really like Bill. He was married and had a newborn child. We heard recently, though, that he was killed a few months later in a freak accident when his B-25 struck a skyscraper in New York City while flying in fog.
We had an unexpected stop in Salt Lake City with a minor hydraulic problem. It seemed that we were not having much luck with the planes that we chose to fly in.
We swooped down on the base at Sacramento at 4 A.M. on October 5th. California was a great sight, even in the darkness. We knew that we had done our part in the war and that from now on we felt that we could have smooth sailing.
We caught a bus at 7 A.M. and headed north toward Oroville. The countryside from Sacramento to Oroville is varied. For the first 40 miles it is very flat with hardly any signs of trees. For the last 30 miles it is covered with nice green orchards and rolling hills that you can see in the distance. The Sierras come closer as you go farther North and at the end of a continous stream of hills, you can see Table Mountain rising above the valley floor.
Rob had nowhere else to go. He had decided months ago that if he ever made it back to California he would settle in the Northern Sacramento Valley. I guess that my tales of the lush green valley had influenced him.
Oroville is a sleepy little town of 4,000 population. Itt had began as a small mining town in the 1850's and had grown slowly throughout the past 90 years. It was, at one time in the 19th Century, known as the "Wickedest Town in California".
Rob was intrigued by Table Mountain as I had been over the years. I know that my first action after arriving home would be to become a hermit for awhile and just relax. But Rob was the first to mention that the mountain would make a great place to to hide for awhile. We spent a few days with some friends of mine in order to catch our breath and make plans for our encampment.
The people Rob and I stayed with were the Martinsons. They are who I consider to be the only semblance of family I have left.
My Parents were killed in an automobile accident when I was 6 years old and from that time on I was raised by an Aunt in Oroville. My Aunt died about 8 months before I graduated from Oroville High School and the Martinsons, who were my Aunt's friends, took me in until school was out.
They wanted to know the latest war information about what we had been through, and what Rob and I planned to do with ourselves. We didn't say much about the war news and since we wanted nothing but to get away from it all, we said nothing about our planned escapt to the mountain. I told them that we were going to head north toward Mount Lassen and "just take a little vacation for awhile".
The highlight of our stay with the Martinson's was the fact that Rob now thinks that he is madly in love with their daughter Carol. I might say that her face had always impressed me also, but I am partial to girls a bit slimmer. I told Rob that her face was really a "knockout", but her body could really "knock you over". He didn't quite see the humor in my comment.
I had told Rob of the waterfall and the cave and he wanted to take a drive and look the area over. We borrowed Mr. Martinson's 1939 Ford and traversed the winding road up to the plateau. He was impressed with the area and immediately wanted to move into the cave. I know that between the stress of the war and his being dropped by his wife, Rob wanted to establish a refuge of his own, but even I was surprised by his enthusiasm. I suppose he was just glad to find a place where he could get completely away from the turmoil of the world.
We then spent the next week locating supplies for our encampment. We already had a wireless radio and generator we had "borrowed" from the base in Sacramento. We also stocked up on a lot of canned foods. We had kept our M-1's and our .45 calibre pistols and they seemed sufficient for our purposes. I also had a Harrington and Richardson .22 Revolver that I had kept from my high school days. I figured it might come in handy for small game on Table Mountain's world famous Diamond Back Rattlesnakes.
I also brought along the old Winchester model 67 .22 rifle that my uncle had bought back in 1937. I have never had a weapon that was as accurate. Rob has tended to adopt the Winchester as his own and used it to shoot small game after we were established on the mountain. Just above the waterfall is an area we call "The Fortress". This area is of sheer volcanic lava rocks that reach high into the air about 60 feet. I am still impressed with the ruggedness of the area. We used The Fortress for much of our surveillance of the valley area. From that peak we can see the town and the valley area for 35 miles to the South. That is the direction we felt an attack would come from. Because of this rugged area, we began calling this entire side of the mountain "The Fortress". It certainly resembles an old medeival castle's battlements in many ways. The tall walls of volcanic rock jutting high into the air and the flat top of the plateau reminded us of the fortresses of old Medeival Europe.
About half way up the hill was a unique rock formation. It was what we called "Split Rock". It was an enormous, 40 foot high boulder that had been split completely down the middle hundreds of years before. The split was about 10 feet wide and extended exactly down the middle of the rock. We used this area within the rock split to store much of our supplies. I was always amazed at how nature had exactly split the rock down the very center. It must have taken tremendous changes in heat and cold for thousands of years to produce sufficient pressure to cleave through the rock in two.
Amid these strange formations we found a home. Within a few weeks we had brought up the majority of our supplies and fully equipped our cave. The cave extended only 30 feet into the cliff, but it provided just enough room for us to live comfortably.
Within the first few days of the establishment of our base, I ran an antenna wire up the hill to the high rocks and we had decent radio reception for our wireless. We endeavored to stock up on canned foods well enough so that we would not have to go to town for a couple of months. By the end of October we were well set up in our little "Shangrila". We hoped for a long period of quiet solitude.
JOURNAL - Section VII:
Meanwhile, the war in the Pacific was bogging down to a draw. The initial successes against the Japanese that had proven so heartening were now few and far between.
The German presence had made a difference. Over the first few months of 1944 the Germans had taken over a broader base in the defense of the Axis Pacific islands. German and Japanese carriers roamed the Western Pacific. Italian warships, who had generally stayed in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic areas were now being seen more and more in the Pacific.
In addition, the Japanese wre getting weary of losing more islands to the U.S. After Guadalcanal we wre able to take New Guinea, but only with tremendous losses to our Marines and Army troops. We were, however, still not getting on with the Pacific War as well as we would like. With the additional men that the Germans were sending into the Pacific area it appeared that we would continue to have a very difficult time in beating the Axis back.
Despite this anticipated hard opposition, the Pacific was really the brightest spot in the war effort. We, at least, were getting some place with our offensives. After the rout in Italy, the American public was ripe for some good news. That news, however, was never to come.
Our Pacific offensive was being run from the Hawaiian Islands. The Axis knew that if they could knock out Hawaii, the Pacific offensive could be radically slowed or stopped altogether. An end run around the advances we had made would leave the bases at Guadalcanal and New Guinea to "die on the vine". The same could possibly be said of Australia, which could be facing an invasion anytime anyway.
Our Hawaiian base was well defended with ground troops, air and naval forces. As noted previously, many of the reserve forces for Hawaiian Territory had been sent westward to provide reinforcements for Australia and the Solomons.
After the destryuction resulting from the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, the losses were more than made up for. During the past few years the Japanese and German submarines had plied the ocean between California and Hawaii and had wreaked havoc with our shipping the same way that they had laid waste to shipping on the East Coastof the U.S. This destruction had reduced much of the reinforcements that we had anticipated would be in Hawaii by 1944.
This submarine warfare had reduced the amount of men and arms that were going to the western outposts we had captured. We had learned to destroy the Axis submarines at a much quicker and efficient rate, but had yet to stem the tide of their production ratio. We could not destroy their subs quicker than they could make them.
After several years of war the people of Hawaii had come to think of themselves as immune to attack or invasion. They felt secure that the outposts of the Solomons along with the military forces available in Hawaii offered a safe buffer against the Axis forces.
German and Japanese military advisors had, apparently, considered the invasion of the Hawaiian Islands for several years. Ever since the Americans took Guadalcanal the Japanese must have been planning a hypothetical invasion in order to stop the push of the Americans in their westerly advance across the Pacific.
As stated earlier, the Japanese were also worried that the situation with the attacks on their homeland would increase. Already some attacks from American B-17's were coming out of China to strike at some of their major cities. Rumor also had it that the Americans were developing an even larger, longer-range bomber that would pose even more of a problem for the Japanese. At this point though, these spotty attacks did little damage except to their morale and pride. The distance between the American bases and Japan made any sizeable strike unlikely.
On October 24, 1944, a large force of Japanese and German ships left Yokosuka Naval Base on Honshu. This force apparently consisted of the German carriers GRAF ZEPPELIN and FUHRER and four unidentified Japanese carriers. These carriers were probably the ZIUHO, AMAGI, RYUHO and JUNYO. Also accompanying these ships were various support ships and the enormous Japanese battleship YAMATO. Included was a large contingent of Japanese and German troop carriers.
We now know that this invasion fleet had been hastily assembled and was prompted mainly by the American failure in Italy and the Mediterranean. The Axis apparently felt tha the time was right to strike a severe blow in the Pacific before America could recover from the Italian defeat.
The attack plan was based upon the original Pearl Harbor attack, but was much more thorough. At 5 A.M. On October 31, all carriers launched their planes. The initial attack consisted of more than 600 Japanese and German planes.
The planes struck in mass at all of the major air and naval bases on Hawaii. This time the attack was sighted by American radar while it was incoming, but quite a few American planes were caught on the ground and destroyed. Most of the planes caught on the ground were at smaller bases located around Oahu island.
The fleet itself was notified about 30 minutes prior to the attack so that many of the ships were at least on their way out of the channel and not just sitting ducks when the planes struck.
USS ENTERPRISE had just arrived the night before and had not had time to take on provisions and fuel. The Captain of the ENTERPRISE was able to get her just clear of the channel mouth when the Axis planes struck. The large carrier was too big to miss and the first wage of attackers concentrated on the flattop. She was swept by first and lost steerage for a time. She received 4 torpedoes and several bomb hits from horizontal bombers. Fortunately, the captain kept enough control over her that she was not sunk in the channel. He was able to beach her off of Barbers Point.
Attacks continued for hours on the island, but the damage was not one sided. Japanese and German losses were considered to be around 25% of the attacking force.
While this air attack was going on, Axis submarines swept the area clear of American shipping. For a hundred mils in any direction any ship was fair game for the subs. It is not known how many Allied ships were lost in the days of the invasion, but it is estimated that very few were able to enter the Hawaiian waters and reach land.
Wave after Wave of Axis planes pummelled the island that first day. Several attacks by American shore based bombers were made on the Axis Fleet but it is not known exactly how much damage the Axis sustained. The Axis has not admitted that any of their ships were even scratched. Very few Americans apparently survived these raidsand their statements were never made public.
The day proved to be the biggest American military disaster up until that time. Virtually all air forces on the island were neutralized by the Axis. Even though many of our ships escapted the confines of Pearl Harbor, many of those survivors faced the Axis submarines outside the harbor mouth.
All the next day there were almost continual attacks on military installations by Axis forces. These included several midget submarine attacks on various ships that had been bottled up in Pearl Harbor. By nightfall of the 1st, the island was isolated from the rest of the world. The only thing left to have confidence in was the ability of the forces left available to repel an amphibious assault. It was anticipated that any moment the Axis troops would be landing. Some of the residents who had been through the panic of 1941 tried to assure new residents that the Japanese would back off on invasion just as they had in 1941.
In addition to the specific military targest hit, many oil, transportation and power targets were hit that second day. Honolulu, by nightfall, was lit by candles and flashlights.
Since about 3 P.M. on the afternoon of the 31st, the invasion force had steadily grown closer to the island of Oahu. By 3 A.M. the morning of the 2nd, the invasion transports were close enough to launch. Despite the fact that all American PT and patrol boats available were on surveillance for any sign of the Axis, it does not appear that the invasion force was discovered until after the first wave of Japanese and Germans had come to within a half mile of the beach.
It is estimated that between 40,000 and 50,000 Axis troops landed on the stretch of beach that morning between Kaena Point and Waimea. Parachute troops landed just prior to the beach landing and secured much of the inland area.
The obvious plan of attack was for the main force of Axis troops to fight their way directly South down the valley toward Honolulu. The German transport planes and gliders had come in on a near sea level altitude until just before landfall in order to stay under the American radar screen. Upon reaching landfall, the planes rose upward to a safe level and ordered their airborne troops into designated areas a few miles from the beaches.
The fear of invasion that had reared it's head in December 1941 became a reality 4 years later. By 7 that morning, reinforcements had already been landed. These troops were closely covered by Axis air cover. The main fighter used in this initial attck was the Focke-Wulf 190 which was the standard German carrier plane. With the help of these supurb figher planes, the Germans and Japanese swept surprisingly fast over the northern end of the island.
Civilians were given defense instructions over the local radio stations and were cautioned to keep to their homes. Those with basements were encouraged to allow their neighbors to join them in their underground sancuaries.
For that first day, with everyone hiding in their basements, the only entertainment was listening to the war news on the only surviving radio station, KGMB. KGMB was the last hold out until, it too, was blasted off the air early on the third day of the invasion.
The U.S. Army commander quickly knew what he was up against. He could either hold out like MacArthur did on Bataan and Corregidor and lose many civilians in the process, or he could ask for surrender terms. It became clear during the third day of the invasion that there could be little prospect of help expected from the U.S. West Coast. Oahu was blockaded and what small amount of supplies that could be smuggled in would be of no significant value.
Another consideration of the Army commander was the fact that the Axis forces were already beginning to terror bomb Honolulu and Pearl City. As the Axis had done in Rotterdam, Warson, London and Nanking, civilians were being bombed into submission in Hawaii.
New types of jellied gasoline bombs were used that made a gutted furnace out of Honolulu. This bombing was indiscriminate and totally without any military objective other than to demoralize the civilian population.
Planes also made uncountable strafing runs on obvious civilian targets. A school bus was strafed. Many hundres of Hawaiians lay in the roads and nearby can fields in and around Oahu within the first few hours of daylight of November 3rd.
By the night of November 5th the Axis held the entire area north of Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Field and had made another landing on the Northeast shore of the island of Kahuku. The Kahuku landing had been a bloody mess for the Axis. The American forces there had been ready for the landing and had come close to making the landing a total shables. Several thousand Axis troops lay in the shallow waters off of Kahuku and Laie after the battle. But the landing was still a success as the Axis was still able to establish a toehold on the area.
By the morning of the 7th, the Axis held a 5 mile beachhead on Kahuku and were in the process of extending it down the coast southward. Many Americans still fault the American Commander for what they consider his early surrender after only 8 days of combat. However, I do tend to see his point. He was in a hopeless situation whereby continuation of the struggle against overwhelming odds would only have contributed to the misery and suffering of the thousands of civilians on Oahu.
In addition, he found himself in an unreinforceable situation. He could expect no help from the mainland. His troops were slowly being pushed back all along his lines and by November 8th the vast majority of his air forces and naval units were in shambles.
By the night of the 8th, Axis troops held a little more than one third of the island and he determined that the time had come to stop the slaughter.
So on November 9, 1944, the American Commander surrendered to the Japanese and Germans near the Mormon Temple on Oahu. His only condition in exchange for the surrender of his forces was the guaranty that all civilians and military would be treated humanely. He wanted no more "Bataan Death Marches".
As far as we have been able to ascertain, there have been no reprisals in Hawaii against the civilian population as there were in the Philippines in 1942. Though it is known that many of the island's high government officials were jailed, their final fate is not known. If the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor had solidified the American people into a fighting unit, the fall of Hawaii in November of 1944 did just the opposite. The surrender, coming only a few months after the Italian invasion defeat caused absolute paranoia and panic in the United States. The fact was finally realized that the Axis was creeping closer to our western shores.
JOURNAL - Section VIII:
February 13, 1945: The past three days have been a nightmae of unimaginable phantoms. The world was confused and lost before, but mostly the destruction was far away. Not it has hit even closer to to home and we have seen the results of the work of the Axis Devil at it's worse.
For the past two weeks since the invasion of California, Sacramento has become a haven for the refugees from the Bay Area of San Francisco. What troop strength we have left has been stationed there in order to resist any northerly invasion attempts by the Axis. As far as we could tell, the only Axis ground troops spotted have been only as far North as Monterey. The Axis had made no attempt to invade further northward.
We had spoken many times over the past few weeks with our wireless contact: a Mr. Briley who lived in a northern suburb of Sacramento. He had described the area as a teeming melting pot of refugees, Sacramento residents and the military. Most of the military were from the Sacramento Army Depot and the Army Air Corps Bases in that area. Also, a small, surviving, contingent of military had moved in from the East Bay Area.
In other words, Sacramamento had become a refuge. A redoubt. It was where the military would make a stand against any Axis invasion northward.
Mr. Briley had been a good friend. He had the ability to graphically describe the situation. He stated that food was in very short supply and he feared that if supplies were not delivered soon, there would be mass chaos in the city. Of course, the whole state was under martial law since the 29th of January and the military had full command. He described the execution of over 30 persons who had been caught looting in the Northgate area. As ammunition was in short supply, the authorities just picked a convenient tree and promptly strung up each culprit one after the other.
Mr. Briley was also very concerned about the possibility of cannibalism becoming a reality. There had already been reportsof some of the less stable citizens resorting to that solution.
Many of the East Bay refugees had walked for many miles and had major burns over a sizeable area of their bodies. These people died rather quickly. It seemed that most of them began succumbing to the effects of the weapon within 10-12 days after the blasts. It is still not known just what the Axis used, but whatever it was, it was of unbelievable power.
On the morning of February 11th, the whole earth shook under our feet. We, at first, thought that it was just another of our famous California earthquakes. as the shaking had a rolling sensation to it. The shaking appeared to come in about two or three steady rolls. We were just getting up about 8 A.M. when they hit. Our ears wre barely able to perceive a low steady rumbling that was barely audible. We saw nothing at first, but within an hour, we could see a faint cloud of dust that had risen off toward the South of us.
We attempted to raise Briley on the wireless at that time, but got nothing but static and some faint conversation that was too distant to understand. We called all morning and were unable to raise anyone in the Sacramento area. Areas North of us had also felt the shaking, but knew nothing about the source of the motion.
We kept our wireless on for a few more hours hoping that Briley would call us. We noticed that down below us, toward the West, there was still the steady trickle of refugees heading North. However, by 4 P.M. we noticed that this trickly had come to a virtual halt. This lack of refugees seemed to confirm our suspicians that something major had happened to the South of us.
By 6 P.M. we gave up hearing from Briley or anyone else from the Sacramento area. Whatever had happened had obviously made everyone down in that area too busy to worry about communicating with the outside world. Power had been down in the Sacramento area for weeks and Briley had used the same source of power to run his wireless as we had. We hoped that someone would let us know what had happened. At our usual check-in time at 9 P.M. we again reactivated the wireless radio and attempted to communicate with just about anyone who would respond.
We were only able to raise a contact in a little town 20 miles north of Sacramento. Nicolaus was just a wide spot in the road, but it did have someone there who had thought ahead. His name was Fred Bordon andhe had been well stocked with gasoline as he had run the local Richfield gas station. Before he had stopped selling to the general public, he had stored many gallons away for his home use. He stated that he had been forced to shoot at someone recently to keep his cache of gas.
Bordon turned out to be a very valuable contact. He stated that since about noon that day he had seen very few refugees. He also had heard and felt what we had that morning. However, he was close enough to also see the three large columns of black, belching smoke that boiled out of the City of Sacramento. He stated that from the few refugees he had spoken with, there is virtually nothing left of the city except a smoking rubble. The bombs had been dropped by twin engine bombers in a triangle shaped pattern in the East, West and southern areas of the city.
Evidently the Axis was attempting to wipe out this bastion of resistance before any of their men would be in the position of having to fight hand to hand through the buildings of this large city. We had feared the worse, but this confirmation of our worse fears was a great blow to us. We had felt that as long as Sacramento could hold out there might be a possibility of resisting any land invasion of our area. No that there, apparently, was no chance of any organized resistance between the Axis force and us, we felt that all was lost.
We had hoped that possibly the Axis had used up all of their super weapons on the coastal areas. That at least would have given our ground troops a chance of resistance. Now however, it appears that the enemy had manufactured these weapons on a sufficient scale to continue using them now and in the future.
That night I could not sleep. I kept having nightmares of gigantic flashes of light and smoke. I also relived the sinking of the HORNET several times. At the end of each dream I kept seeing the face of that crying Chinese child.
The dawn opened up to a beautiful day that was only marred by a brown smudge off toward the South.
The road North was still being rarely used. Here and there you could see a lone figure making it's way toward what he or she hoped would be salvation from the invaders.
I went down into the town this morning and stopped by the Post Office. The Post Office had been almost abandoned by now and I found only one person on duty. She stated that they did not expect any more mail because of the Sacramento attack. But I was lucky in that I found a letter from Sherry waiting for me in the General Delivery box. I placed it in my pocket and decided I would savor her words for later that evening after supper.
At about 2 P.M. I had returned to our camp and we were startled to hear a familiar sound down below. One we had not heard for several weeks. It was the engine sound of a dull gray Olds that appeared to just be barely poking along. We could see the car occasionally swerve off the road and then, at the last minute, avoid the deep ditches and move down the road a few more feet before swerving again.
At any other time or place we would have thought the driver drunk. Just as Rob was making a kidding remark about the fact that the driver needed sobering up, the car lurched to an abrupt stop directly into a deep culvert.
We watched the car for a few minutes. Until now we could only see a driver, however the driver appeared to be hunched over the steering wheel and did not move. Shortly, we watched the front passenger door open and saw a female exit a begin to meander toward the foot of our mountain. Even from a distance we could see that she must be injured or drunk as she was barely able to keep her footing.
Rob loaded his M-1 and was ready for any problem that might occur. I was not overly converned that the person might be dangerous as she did not appear to be strong enough to put up a fight if necessary. We watched the figure continue her seemingly aimless climb for about a half hour. As she came closer we could see that she was even more bedraggled than we had first thought. She was wearing a light brown coat with a green skirt that came just below her knees. She had a redding tinge to her hair and her face was very dark.
With the weakness that was apparent in her body, I still do not understand how she ascended the hill. As she crested the hill about a quarter mile away from us, she collapsed to the ground. We watched her for a few minutes and when she did not move, we began moving toward her.
We found her lying face down in the high grass. She had apparently fallen from exhaustion and her obvious injuries and had hit her head on a piece of lava rock.
I turned her over and despite the dirt and burns on her face I was able to barely determine that she was caucasian. Her dark appearance was due to a combination of facial dirt and burns that completely covered her face and neck. Her hair was reddish, but was flash burned and the hair was curled on one side due to the heat. I will never forget the smell of burned flesh and hair. It was the same burned flesh smell that I was greeted with when I awoke from being injured on the carrier and saw my crewmates's body lying there a few feet away.
Her face was not bloody, but was scabby and some of her hair was completely burned away. You could see the intricate blue and red blood vessels running vertically down her neck from the open wound. We carried her the distance to camp and laid her as comfortably as possible in some spare bedding we had. She slept for hours and we thought that she would never wake up. Her injuries were severe and we knew that there was a good chance that she would not last the night. Rob and I took turns watching her and agreed to wake the other up if she awoke. At about 5 A.M. Rob woke me up saying that she had spoken a few words.
We gave her water and a small amount of broth. She had very little appetite. Her throat was sore from her burns and she spoke hesitantly throughout the following story. I have attempted to document her story as accurately as possible:
"My name is Diane Fain. I am 17 years old and have lived most of my life on Tenaya Steet in Sacramento. I lived there with my parents and my brother Danny, who is 6 years old.
Ever since the war began here in late January, my parents had kept us home from school because they were afraid four our safety. A long line of refugees from San Francisco was always coming through town and there had been reports of violence. The soldiers were shooting and hanging people for looting and other crimes.
Until the past few days we had lived in our basement and had locked up the main part of the house. All of our supplies were down there and we rarely left the safety of our shelter.
We used to listen to the radio, but daddy said that we didn't have any batteries left except to power the small light and so we did not hear much news from the outside world.
A few times we heard someone knocking on the house door and several times someone did come into the house. We could hear glass breaking and people walking around. There was very little left upstairs though and nobody seemed to stay long except to sleep at night. We had hidden the basement door very well and nobody ever found our hiding place.
The morning I was burned there was a great explosion and pieces of houses flew apart for miles around. Our basement door was covered with a portion of our house wall, but we were able to dig ourselves out within a few minutes.
My father had gone to a neighbor's house to get supplies before the explosion went off and we have not seen him since. My little brother and I walked around all day trying to find Daddy, but it was so hard to find anything in that mess. In some areas we got lost because we could not find any landmark to tell us where we were.
My mother and I had been burned badly in the explosion. We had been startled by a loud blast that must have been about 8 miles away. As we looked out the basement window to see what was going on, we were struck by a blinding flash of light and blast. My mother was more severely burned than I was and as she was closer to the window. She could barely see at all.
But the most severly injured of us all was my little brother. Danny had been injured in the chest by a glass sliver. At first it appeared that it was a minor injury,but after we had searched for Daddy, Danny found himself too weak to even walk.
I'll never forget myself for dragging him along to look for Daddy. He said that he felt alright and that his injury was just a little painful. But after he felt so weak, we discovered that a small shard of glass had imbedded itself into his chest. Danny died a few hours later.
Daddy had saved some extra gasoline and put as much into the tank of our car as possible. We were lucky that the car had only a few broken widows from the blast and that mother was able to get it started. We didn't want to leave right away because Daddy might return.
We waited all the next day and then decided to get out about 10 P.M. We found it hard going as most of the streets were blocked by rubble. But, as we drove northward we found less destruction. My mother could barely see to drive, but I didn't know how to. I don't know how she was able to get as far as she did.
We drove North and encountered very few refugees on the road. Those we did encounter tried to flag us down for a ride but mother kept going. She almost ran several down.
We traveled fairly well until we encountered a road block just north of Marysville. There were several men with guns and they started shooting. Mother was able to shirt around the road block by driving at fast speed through the edge of a walnut orchard.
As we drove back on the roadway, several shots rang out and mother was hit in the right shoulder. She was in agony from the burns and now she had to contend with being shot.
We stopped a few miles from the road block and I bandaged her as well as I could. From that point on, she ran the gas peddle and shifted and I steered the car. She was so weak she could not see much of anything. She ran off the road so many times that I quit keeping track.
We continued North until she passed out here. I wonder if you could see if she is alright. I tried to wake her but I couldn't. I am afraid that that is about all I can tell you about things."
Diane also told us that she had never seen a dead person before and that there are thousands of dead in Sacramento.
Shortly after 7 A.M. Diane lapsed back to sleep. Her story was as we expected. The resistance South of us was all but eliminated. We went down and checked her mother. I confirmed what we had expected. Her mother was dead. We buried her on a little knoll not far from where her car came to rest. We then drove the Olds to a hidden area and drained the gasoline from the tank for the generator. There was less than a gallon left in the tank.
I stayed up most of the night with Diane. She had fallen into a fitful sleep. I had hoped that we coulde ease her pain, but we were out of morphine. During the night she called out several times for her father and mother. I can only imagine her terrible nightmares. We checked her temperature and it was in the 103 degree range. By morning it had risen a degree and we placed her in the cool water near the waterfall to cool her down. It seemed to reduce the fever a little.
I noticed that she had the bizarre burns I had ever seen. There were second and third degree burns over most of her face and neck and her right arm. Unlike normal burns these had the tendency to slough off hugh thick pieces of skin. At this rate she would have no face left within a few days.
We could not help but feel terribly sorry for this young girl who had lost everything in one brief, horrible 48 hour period. Her whole family was dead. Without war she would have not seen this much misery if she had lived to be 200 years old.
Diane talked off and on in her sleep for the majority of the day. Rob and I alternated in our supervision of her condition. She seemed to be worsening about 2 P.M. when she vomited. She did not regain consciousness again at all that afternoon.
Diane awoke about 7 P.M. and spoke for a few minutes. Her last words were of her parents and her little brother. She died at 7:08 P.M. She was the victim of one of the worse atrocities ever unleashed upon mankind.
We buried her on the knoll next to her mother. We placed the year's first Golden Poppies on her grave.
That night after I read Sherry's letter, Rob and I made a pact that we would not surrender. We would kill as many of the enemy as possible and die in the process.
Atrocities such as we had witnessed in he past few years deserve as much punishment in retribution as possible. Now I did not doubt the stories about Concentration Camps.
We were the Avenging Agents of the free world. Our mission is to destroy as much evil as humanly possible. We realize though, that we cannot ever extract sufficient revenge for all of the innocent victims.
LETTER FROM SHERRY:
February 6, 1945 Burns, Oregon
Paul Moore, General Delivery, Oroville, California.
I was so glad to receive your letter. So many things have been happening that it has been difficult to find time to write.
We also are in a perilous situation. So perilous that I doubt that this letter will ever be delivered to you. What with the lack of gasoline and food here, the mail may not even be picked up.
You may have heard that we too have experienced the big bombs that the Germans have developed. On February 2nd the area around Portland was blasted and a lot of refugees have invaded our area.
We are a small town and have very few resources left. There has been a lot of violence here. Most refugees are just passing through, going East away from the coast. Most refugees we see are from Eugene and Grants Pass. Refugees from Portland tend to pass to the north of us. My mother is so scared. Father has brought out all of his hunting rifles and we are now learning to use them. As ammunition is low we do not actually fire the weapons, but we now know how to load and aim them. I don't look forward to having to use them.
We are lucky in that we have stored a lot of food over the winter in our cellar. Mother had done a lot of canning and we are pretty well set for food for about 4 months.
I never really knew just how you felt about me until your last letter. I am sorry that we are so far away from each other. I really do miss you too. Possibly there may be some way that you can come to see me. If our army is able to force the Germans and Japanese back possibly things can return to normal.
I am really afraid for you. You are closer to their troops than we. Father says that we will head East if they invade the coast farther south than Portland. They, for now, seem to be staying right in the area around Portland. They have established camps just outside of the Portland area to the East. The radio says that they now hold all areas from the coast to Portland and it is hoped that they can be contained there.
A week ago, a German plane flew over the plains and dropped some leaflets into town. The leaflets said:
AMERICANS, WE ARE NOW IN CONTROL OF YOUR COUNTRY. IT IS USELESS TO RESIST. JOIN US AND YOU WILL BE TREATED FAIRLY. SOON WE WILL OCCUPY THIS REGION AND THOSE OF YOU WHO COOPERATE NOW WILL HAVE A PLACE IN THE FUTURE OF THE "GREAT AMERICAN AXIS PHERE", THAT OUR LEADERS PLAN. SHOW YOUR WILLINGNESS TO COOPERATE BY HANGING A WHITE FLAG FROM YOUR HOME WINDOW".
I know of no one in Burns who has yet to put a white flag on their house, but there certainly are a lot of Stars and Stripes around. Later that day, we saw several German planes off toward the West. They looked like one engine planes. Possibly fighters. We have heard the sound of faint explosions in the distance, but have seen no actual fighting.
Several of our fighters were seen over our area a few days ago. It's good to know that we still are able to have some protection. My brother says that our troops can beat them and I sure hope so. We have a small company of Army National Guard troops camped just East of town. When the German plane flew over they let fly with machine gun fire, but the plane wasn't apparently shot down.
We have been picking up German radio broadcasts in the past week. They say just about the same thing that the leaflets did. They make it sound like it would be Paradise to be under the German's rule. That is, except for the Jews. Mother, and we children are Jews, you know, and we are so afraid for her especially. We have heard the news reports of the camps in Europe. Mother says that she will shoot herself before she is taken prisoner. She has even said that she will shoot me and my brother to keep us from being tortured. Father doesn't say anything when she talks like that.
Paul, I have always really cared about you. I just thought that you had forgotten about the Summer we had together. But now I yearn to see you. Please try to come up. I hope that there is still time for us to be together. I need your strength and caring.
Please write as soon as you can. I will be sending you another letter within a week to let you know how things are here.
JOURNAL - SECTION IX:
March 1, 1945: It has now been over a month since I began this account of the struggle that has brought us to destruction. In that month some momentous events have taken place.
On the personal level, we have just run out of food and gasoline. The generator quit this morning during our usual "Morning Underground" broadcast from Redding. The broadcast, like others in the past 30 days was very negative.
Our troops have been pushed back on all fronts since the attack of the 29th of January. We have heard of a great battle south of Sacramento that failed to contain the Axis troops. This battle took place on or about February 20th.
German and Japanese troops hold most of the coastal areas other than the most northerly and southerly sections. They have skirted the areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco due to the mass destruction they caused in their initial attacks. They also hold most of central California south of the Fresno area.
Word has it that possibly atomic weapons were what the Axis used in their attacks on L.A. and San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland. To date we have still heard no transmissions from those areas of destruction. Either there is no power for transmissions or no one survives who stayed there.
A broadcast from the Eureka area stated that it is believed that the Nazi aircraft carriers GRAF ZEPPLIN and FUHRER had launched V-2 rockets acquipped with atomic warheads for some of these attacks, but witnesses have stated that they have seen these bombs dropped from airplanes at least in the Sacramento area.
It is more than likely that East Coast areas were also hit as short-wave transmissions have been non-existant from New York and areas as far South as Miami, Florida. Apparently it was a very well coordinated attack.
Axis troops have been seen as far North in this valley as the southern outskirts of Marysville.
March 2, 1945:
Things are happening quickly. We have observed Axis aircraft over our area. These aircraft include the new propless jets. These ME-262 jet planes were once thought of as being very dangerous to the pilot and, therefore, not practical but they apparently corrected some of the flaws that existed in the earlier models.
We watched this afternoon as two of our P-51 Mustangs sparred with a 262 between our camp and the hills South of here. The P-51's had come in from the South from their base at Camp Beale near Marysville. All Army Air Corps planes had been moved to that camp from all surviving bases near Sacramento.
We watched the Mustangs pounce on a German. We had hoped that we would finally see one of our guys smash a German jet, but unfortunately the 262 completely outmaneuvered our pilots and they were both sent streaming fire into the town of Oroville below.
It is doubtful that anyone in town was injured as most everyone has migrated North toward the Oregon border or East out into Nevada. The Germans haven't made it easy for these poor wretches as they continue to to delight in strafing Americans in what seems their unquenchable thirst to kill.
We have stayed put as we feel that there is nowhere to run anyway. What difference does it make if we are killed here defending our area or die strafed on some road. As for us, we would rather die here in a place that means something to us than of starvation or lack of water in the western Nevada desert.
Actually, we were quite surprised to see any of our Air Corps pilots aloft. We had seen much smoke and fire come from the direction of Camp Beale over the past week and had about decided that none of our Air Corps still existed. Possibly this action by the Mustangs was a last ditch effort by two of our airmen to make a dent in the Axis air force. They are to be admired for their efforts.
March 3, 1945:
It is now 9:43 A.M. About 10 minutes ago we heard an ominous roar off toward the West. Out over the top of the Sutter Buttes came a large formation of Axis aircraft. Parachutes were seen to open and hundreds of Airborne troops touched down west of the town below. They are being provided air support by ME-262's Focke Wulfs and some older 190's and 109's.
It appears that the end is near. Soon there will be no chance of our survival. The Axis will eventually send patrols into this mountain and I cannot say just how long we can survive.
I am at a disadvantage as I have been ill for the past week. I have had severe headaches and a fever. I have also developed a hard, dark boil under my left armpit. I feel very weak and have vomited blood several times. Rob feels that I may have caught some sort of disease from Diane. Possibly the Germans used germ warfare in Sacramento and Diane carried it to us. I hope Rob does not come down with it.
During the past month the long days have been filled with the writing of this journal. Even if it is never read it has proven to be the provider of the mental therapy that I have needed. It has filled the hours of boredom that would have driven me insane otherwise.
Rob and Ihave decided that this will be the last entry in the journal. He has spent the last hour or so digging a deep hole in the plateau so that we can bury it. He digs pretty well with his one hand. We have decided to leave a message in a book in the cave so that hopefully some day, someone will find this document and can learn the truth about what happened in our last days. We will bury this document on March 4, 1945.
March 4, 1945: I am weak and sickened. We had intended to bury the journal this morning but something terrible has happened. As we reached the pleateau about 9 A.M. we were strafed by a Focke-Wulf. He came down out of the sun and we didn't even see him until he opened up on us. My friend Rob was cut down by the blast of machine gun fire. I was hit by a fragment of rock splinter in the left leg, but the injury is rather minor.
I dearly loved Rob as a friend and have spent the last two hours widening the hole that he had worked on yesterday. I fashioned a crude coffin from some of the storage boxes that we had used. I am placing this document in the coffin and am sealing it up with him. I hope that some day someone will find our encampment and his body. A very small wooden cross marks the grave as I don't want it or the journal disturbed by the Axis troops. I hope that they both lie unmolested until someone who can appreciate them both will find them. I will die soon and I have no doubt that what I have accomplished in life will have no value to the future. But I did attempt to do the right things in life.
As for me, I will now make every effort to see Sherry. I have little hope that my strength will enable me to make that very long journey. Whether I see her again really does not matter. Hope for the immediate future is gone. But I do pray that the world will survive to see a much brighter day.
From: Joseph B. Greer, Director of Military Historical Archives, Brisbaine, Australia.
To: Lawrence E. Gilliam, General, Australian Army, Director of Northern American Survey Project, Melbourne, Australia
Subject: "The Moore Journal"
Date: May 25, 1997:
This memorandum is a follow up to our recent phone conversation. It has been a priviledge to have had the opportunity of reviewing this manuscript of mid-20th Century North American history that has fallen into our hands from the current reclamation investigations that are ongoing by our military in California Section in North America.
I had done some research on the history of the region, however, I had to review our old records on America in order to give an opinion as to the authenticity of this manuscript.
I wish to assure you that I feel there is absolutely no reason to suspect that his journal is anything but an honest and genuine account of America's last days.
Included in my review were the various maps and pictures that were also recovered.
As you know, the manuscript was written by a Mr. Paul Moore. We know nothing more about him other than what we can deduce from the journal. He was a civilian, ex-U.S. Navy veteran, who reclused himself on a mountain in Northern California and documented his experiences in the journal.
Although the vast majority of those Australians now living were not alive when the events that are mentioned in this journal occured, I feel that you can certainly see how this history has effected our current situation.
The following is a brief overview of the history following that which is covered in the journal:
As you may remember, the Nazi and Japanese empired invaded the United States in January of 1945, and for more than 6 months the bloody battle raged. In the first battle on the 29th of January the Axis forces used nuclear weapons for the first time in history. In addition, they used their Zyklon-B gas which poisoned thousands. On both coasts of the United States these weapons caused millions of casualties and resulted in the destruction of the entire civilization of the United States. Most probably it's entire populatin was also destroyed.
The initial attacks on the cities of America were followed up by poison gas attacks on more rural areas. Gas was not used sparingly and the Nazis tended to overuse their Zyklon-B derivative instead of using frontal troop assaults. The gas caused almost instant death in most cases and caused a yellow tinge to color the skin. This tinge was very similar to that caused by mustard gas.
A very large percentage of Americans were liquidated during the first stage of the invasion. Of the 140 million who populated the country in 1945, it is estimated that the invasion caused the deaths of an estimated 50 million.
The Axis was able to take control of what was left of the country by July of 1945. What was left, however, was a pale shadow of what had been. Pockets of population were spread over a wide area. Most centers of population had migrated inland away from the metropolitan areas that had been hit with nuclear weapons.
By the Fall of 1945, due to the massive piles of dead, there appeared a terrible plague. This plaue, which we understand resembled the symptoms of the Black Plague of several hundred years ago, went on a rampage that further reduced the American population. Even the Nazis and Japanese victors suffered terribly at the hands of this horrible sickness.
From the 12th to the 15th Century this similar Black Plague killed 25 million people in Europe. According to our best estimates, within 18 months this new Black Plague killed just as many in America. Coupled with this illness, certain areas of the country, mainly in California, New York and the Washington DC area were greatly infested with radioactivity. Most of the food that was grown in this area was seriously effected by radiation and therefore contributed to the death toll.
Axis doctors attempted to cure the various maladys that affected the population. However, they were unsuccessful in developing a vaccine against the plague and in even reducing the deaths caused by radiation.
Therefore, on September 12, 1946, the German High Command ordered the quarantine of the entire area once known as the United States. Also included in the quarantine were Canada and most of Mexico. The Black Plague had also run rampant in those areas.
In other words, survivor in the United States and it's neighbors were left to fend for themselves and possibly "die on the vine". Goring as quoted as saying, "It's a fitting end to the late Jewish state of America". America had become a gigantic concentration camp where the majority of Americans would presumably die.
It was agreed by the Axis victors that in 5 to 10 years the recolonization of the continent would begin. This would give enough time for the plague and radiation level to subside to a reasonable level.
It was planned that occasional survey teams would revisit the continent and give status reports on the level of radiation and the condition of the population, if indeed, any population still existed. When the last Axis troops left their final outpost in southern Florida on November 30, 1946, the U.S. population was estimated to be reduced down to a level of about 40 million. Such had been the effect of radiation, plague and starvation.
However, prior to the end of the 10 year period of quarantine, the great war between the Soviet Union and the Axis powers commenced. During World War II the Russions had remained neutral. This was due to their non-agreesion pact with the Axis powers. However, during the time that the Germans were developing their nuclear weaponry in Norway, the Soviet spy network had spies in high places. These high places included the "heavy water" plants the Germans had in Norway and later in northern Germany.
During the invasion of America and when the Germans were tied down by the unsuccessful attempt to colonize the United States, the Soviets were building up a vast supply of atomic weapons at a frantic pace. The Nazi Gestapo, however, also had spies and the Germans became aware of the probable Soviet nuclear threat.
Therefore, on April 17th, 1947, the Germans attacked Russia's western border with 250 divisions.
During the early part of the invasion, the Germans did not use nuclear weapons as they had learned of the long-term negative effects of radiation by their miserable experience in America. They hoped to capture the Russian nuclear facilities in the Ukraine intact, in a lightening dash. Their hope for an easy, quick, conventional war, though was short lived.
The Soviets were being pushed back by the massive Nazi invasion and felt it appropriate to use their nuclear arsenal on their western front on April 26th. This attack resulted in retaliation by the Nazis on April 27th. Heinkels and V-1 and V-2 rockets carried out nuclear attacks on the general areas of Moscow and the Ukraine on that date. From that moment on the war quickly escalated. On May 8th the Soviets destroyed Berlin and the Ruhr Valley Dams with nuclear bombs of enormous destructive power. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Nazi Germany lay in ruins and the Soviets barely stood as victors.
During this time the Japanes had assisted their German allies in a small nuclear attack on the Russian base at Vladavostok. This attack occured the day before the German armageddon on May 8th and was retaliated for on May 12th when a Soviet suicide bomber group attacked several Japanese bases in China.
Japanese troops reacted by attackin all along the Russian-Manchuria border. Russia struck back with nuclear strikes at Japanese staging areas and stopped the Japanese offensive in it's tracks.
The Japanese, it suicide attacks on Russian shipping and against military bases and airfields in Siberia proved to be very fanatical foes. As you may remember, during the time of late-May 1947, both countries exchanged deadly nuclear suicide attacks on each other's existing major cities and main center of war production.
The final blow came on May 29th when the Soviets blanketed the Japanese homeland with not less than 15 high yield nuclear strikes. This, in effect, ended the war. However, the winning of the war by the Soviets was an empty victory. There was nothing left to be victorious about.
The war, in effect, left Europe, Russia and the majority of Asia and Japan in the same shape as North America. They had been blasted into a nuclear stone age.
We in Australia, had been invaded by Japanese troops in early 1945 and there were approximately 25,000 of their troops on our continent at the time of the Axis-Soviet War. Shortly after the Axis-Soviet War was over we were able to finally annihilate this contingent of troops. We had been continually frustrated in our attempts to eliminate this invasion because each time we eliminated a large number of Japanese troops, they had been reinforced. Now that Japan was destroyed, there were no further reinforcements. The Japanese died almost to the man. There were few who were willing to surrender to us. They were still very willing to die for their already dead emperor.
Since the end of that war we have survived through sheer will and with some luck. The majority of our foodstuffs are grown in our own individual family farms. Gasoline is in short supply and is mainly used for military expeditions such as our group now in America. Our several million people have been lucky in that we have had no plague and did not suffer from any nuclear attacks. Our population over the past 50 years has actually increased.
The rest of the world, however, has apparently not done as well over the years. We have picked up very little short wave traffic, and none for many years. We have found that we are pretty much alone as far as having any civilization.
Shortly after the nuclear war ended, we did receive some radio communication from some parts of Europe. These shocking reports showed that a plague of unknown origin, similar to that in America, was killing the survivors in England, France and eastern Europe. We have heard nothing from them for many years. In addition, we have also heard nothing from Japan, China and of course, the United States.
Shortly after our destruction of the Japanese forces, we established a quarantine of our continent. We were not about to introduce any of this dreaded plague to our land. The only direct effect of this nuclear war on our health was some radiation fallout coming from the Asian Continent. This produced some sickness in Australia for about two years, however it did not produce any long term or wide ranging effects on our population.
By now our population has greatly increased and we feel it appropriate to explore what is left of planet Earth. It is now time to provide more room for our people.
We have not attempted to establish ourselves on the European or Asian Continents because of the massive nuclear destruction that those continents absorbed. We were also unwilling to come into contact with any Russian survivors who may give us trouble.
As far as we can tell, we are the only survivors, even though many of our foremost minds feel that there have to be other survivors in the areas of South America. But so far, we have not established any recent radio contact with anyone outside our own continent. Possibly the plague has reared it's ugly head in South America also.
Because of our needs to expand, we feel that we should attempt now to recolonize America. If the plague is gone and the radiation level acceptable, it's climate should provide a wonderful quality of life for our people.
The first report from our California Section Survey Team is very encouraging. I feel very positive about the prospects for recolonization.
As you are aware, the commander of the expedition feels that he may have found one survivor and is still in the process of making positive verification. We expect them back safely from their extended expedition by June 12. Some limited aerial surveys have been made of the U.S. but no positive signs of any population centers have been made.
I hope that some of our American friends still live and that they will one day welcome us as their friends again. There must be people alive who remember that friendship between governments once existed and that relations between countries have not always resulted in wars. May our future be peaceful.
Joseph B. Greer, Director of Military Historical Archives.
Thank you for taking the time to read my novel. I am very open to your review of my work so don't be afraid to give me your opinion. Be advised that all of the areas described in this novel actually exist. For instance, Table Mountain in Butte County, California, with it's "O" is a beautiful mountain especially in the Spring of each year.
Peace to you. ..Larry Matthews
My E-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org