1945 letter: U.S. medic tells parents about Dachau

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HaroldPorterLetterNationalArchivesImage courtesy of the National Archives.

“There is a rumor circulating which says that the war is over,” Pfc. Harold Porter wrote 69 years ago today. “But we’re not too excited about it because we know that it does not mean too much as far as our immediate situation is concerned.”

Porter’s “situation” is evident from the letterhead he used: Waffen-SS with a Dachau address — the camp commander’s stationary.

The Army medic sat down on May 7, 1945, to try to tell his parents in Michigan — the Rev. and Mrs. D.H. Porter —  how he was doing.  Continue reading

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Video: Veteran, 95, stops runners in their tracks

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Joe Bell is a fixture on his block in San Jose, Calif., writes his neighbor, Julia Prodis Sulek, a San Jose Mercury News reporter.

The 95-year-old still has his uniform from World War II, so on Sunday when a local race benefitted a foundation in honor of Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinal who left football to become an Army Ranger, there stood Bell in full regalia in front of his house, cheering the runners on.

What happened next made Sulek document “this sweet moment.” Continue reading

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A forgotten battle: 70th anniversary of Eniwetok

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Photo by George Strock | Courtesy of Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Photo by George Strock | Courtesy of Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

On Feb. 17, 1944, the U.S. assault on a now-forgotten atoll in the Pacific begins. The battle for Eniwetok, a small northwest point of the Marshall Islands, forms part of the island-hopping strategy to overtake Japan. It’s north of Guadalcanal, won a year earlier, and due east of Guam, which would be retaken five months later.

Tiny Engebi island is key because it holds a Japanese airstrip that allows the enemy to refuel. After U.S. gunships pound the terrain, 15 Marines with the 22nd regiment and one photographer with Life magazine are the first ashore. George Strock is “actually … on the beach taking pictures of the initial assault and greeting the landing troops” as they arrive, reports Marine First Lt. John M. Popham of Brooklyn, a public relations officer. Continue reading

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What ended WWII? The USSR, scholars say

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end of warIn academic circles, history is being rewritten.

Over Hiroshima 68 years ago today, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb. Only days later as the next one fell on Nagasaki, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan. Within hours, the Japanese Supreme Council met to discuss surrender, and Emperor Hirohito would later tell his subjects they must “endure the unendurable.”

In recent years, some scholars have concluded, it was not the bomb that triggered Japan’s capitulation. … Continue reading

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