Letters From Readers – October 2007 – World War II

Which Way Is Germany Again?

After reading the July/August edition of your fine publication from cover to cover, I had to add a small caveat. The article “Suppose France Had Not Fallen in 1940” includes a picture of a Maginot Line pillbox with the caption, “A French officer points toward Germany from atop a fort on the Maginot Line.” Actually, the man is pointing back at his homeland, as this is the back (friendly) side of this fortification.

I consider myself somewhat of an “authority” on the subject, as it was here that my World War II outfit, the 12th Armored “Hellcat” Division was first committed to combat against the Nazis. On Christmas Day, 1944, after enjoying our Christmas dinner in the village of Rohrbach, three buddies and I went exploring in one of these forts. 

Using the cardboard from a ten-in-one ration carton as a torch, we descended into the bowels of this massive structure, traversed a tunnel, and ended up in another pillbox about a quarter of a mile away. We were quite worried when we ran out of torch-making material and could not find a way out. We also were concerned that the field piece that was making an uproar outside might be theirs and not ours.

To make a long story short, we eventually found a small opening in the bottom of the moat on the friendly side. 

Because of the exposed backside of these pillboxes, the Germans did not strongly defend most of them, but used them as billets for troops and as repair stations for small arms and other equipment.

Ward McGill
Minnetonka, Minn.

Life in an Occupied Nation

The coincidental juxtaposition of two articles, “Rebuilding Pearl” and “Peace Is Hell” (July/August 2007), was of particular interest to me. As a high school student in Honolulu on December 7, 1941, I witnessed the Japanese attack, and as part of the postwar occupation force I was in General Headquarters Tokyo when Japan, like Germany, was a wasteland of destruction and starvation was imminent. I was thus privileged to be at the alpha and omega of World War II in the Pacific.

Gordon Riess
Beverly Hills, Calif.

Right after the German surrender, how many of us remember the German girls riding their bikes—with skirts blowing WAY up their legs. The only time anyone paid any attention to fraternization rules was when an officer was watching.

Bob Steiner
Edinburg, Tex.

‘The World Wonders’

Regarding Barrett Tillman’s article “Was Halsey Out of His Depth?” (July/August 2007): I was the flag communications officer on Rear Adm. Thomas L. Sprague’s staff, aboard the USS Sangamon at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Like others who have written of the battle, Tillman makes much of Adm. Chester Nimitz’s only radio message of the day, “Where repeat where is Task Force 34?” which had padding on the end “RR the world wonders.” I was on the flag bridge when the radio officer called up that a message from Nimitz was being decoded, and I clambered down to the coding room to take the tape as it came off the ECM cipher machine. I tore both ends of the padding off the message before giving it to Tommy Sprague.

Adm. William Halsey’s communications officer also should have recognized the padding—and deleted it as I did.

The whole confusion arose because at 1500 hours on October 24, 1944, Halsey sent a message to his task group commanders, which all commands read. It announced that Task Force 34 would be formed, consisting of four of his modern battleships, five cruisers, and two squadrons of destroyers. Under the command of Vice Adm. Willis Lee, it was to stand ready to guard San Bernardino Strait. But Halsey never executed this plan, never detached these ships from Task Force 38, and took them all north chasing the Japanese decoys—leaving us all to think the strait was guarded. The “Where is Task Force 34?” message was not directed to Halsey, but to Lee.

Richard E. Bennink
Commander, USNR (Ret.)
Franconia, N.H.

World War II’s Redesign

What a transformation! Received my July/August copy and it took several minutes to realize it was the same magazine. Quality pictures, great stories and information. Everything in the magazine has improved, even the presentation of the ads. Keep up the good work.

Kevlin Braun
via e-mail

It seems that every publication has to update and improve itself, for what reason I don’t have the faintest notion. It happened to Time, Newsweek, Forbes, and many others. Maybe they needed it. Your publication fit like an old shoe and had that World War II look about. It was perfect. Now it does not even look like the one I have been receiving for several years. I do not like the new style.

Gordon Stone
Quitman, Tex

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