Art for the Ages
MY FATHER, Albert A. Linder, made “trench art” items like the ones in January/ February’s “Time Pieces” while stationed at Pearl Harbor during the war. He was a machinist first class. He helped raise and repair damaged ships, and made rings from parts he saved.
He was very fond of the USS Wahoo ring. Lieutenant Commander Dudley “Mush” Morton always insisted on my father’s crew to repair his submarine. He even had a plane fly my father to the sub to make repairs while the ship was underway. Although my father was proud that he was personally requested, he didn’t appreciate the thrill ride the 19-year-old pilot gave him, or being in a submerged sub.
WEST BEND, WIS.
THIS REMINDED ME of a story my father-in-law, Joseph Graziano, tells from his army service in the South Pacific. Trained as an artist before the war, he made a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln’s head from clay he found during some downtime on New Britain. When a group of natives saw it, they began shouting and gesturing toward the head, as they apparently had never seen clay rendered with such realism. They gave him the ultimate accolade for his work: they picked it up and ran off with it!
WILLISTON PARK, N.Y.
A NITPICK TO BE SURE, but it appears that the ashtray shown on page 55 was made well after the Second World War. The can appears to be from a Vietnam era C-ration, surrounded by .308-caliber rounds on M60 machine gun links, which weren’t used during World War II. Still trench art, but just a bit newer.
EAGLE RIVER, ALAS.
JOHN PRADOS’S “Torpedo Junction” is one of the few articles I’ve seen that focuses on specific Japanese sub activities as part of a wider strategy. Most histories mention in passing the sinking of O’Brien and Wasp, and damaging of North Carolina. Prados framed it in the context of what it was: part of an Imperial Navy master plan.
Two minor points: The Alhena was not a merchant cargo ship, it was a navy cargo ship (AK-26), later reclassified as an attack cargo ship (AKA-9). The Kitty Hawk was was an aircraft transport (AKV-1); it did not have a carrier’s flight deck.
JOSEPH W. RACHINSKY
WEST CHESTER, PENN.
MY FATHER, Norm Riise, flew Wildcats off the Wasp and was in the air when she was torpedoed. He returned to see her listing and on fire. His squadron (VF-71) was directed to another carrier, where they were told there was no room for more planes. They fueled up, got a clean set of under wear, and went on to Guadalcanal. Dad spent several harrowing months there flying with the Marines.
Dad is 97 and doesn’t remember much about those days. But he still gets the Stinger, the newsletter of the USS Wasp Association. That’s where I first learned that the I-19 had wreaked so much damage with one spread of six torpedoes. Prados notes that it was the most successful Japanese sub attack of the war. I wonder if the Stinger was more accurate, calling it “the most destructive salvo of torpedoes ever known in the history of warfare.”
LAKE ISABELLA, CALIF.
Neptune’s Highest Honor
I READ “KNEELING TO Neptune,” and having “been there, done that,” I could relate to this story of becoming a Shellback.
There are two more levels of certificates for crossing the line. If you cross the equator and the International Date Line within 24 hours you become a Golden Shell back. Cross both lines at the same time, you become a Golden Dragon. You could have three different initiations. A Shellback who crosses at either of the other two places gets the works again, and so does a Golden Shellback who crosses both lines at once. The Golden Dragon will cover them all.
I personally hold the Golden Dragon certificate. When I was heading for combat in 1944, less than 2 percent of navy personnel held it, and there were only four or five Golden Dragons to start the proceedings. Even the ship’s captain had to go through the gauntlet and all the rest.
CHARLES W. CARSON
AFTER READING Sterling Mace’s account of his crossing ceremony, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my own as an ordnance man on the Enterprise in 1982, off the coast of Kenya. Our gauntlet included a head-first slide through what seemed like an endless supply of rubbish that had been fermenting in the Indian Ocean heat. I still carry my Shellback card and it says much the same as Mace’s.
Mace’s prank on his buddy was also funny. Often we would send a raw recruit on a mail buoy watch. But the drop-dead line was the “Crap-class chum-bucket” description of his ship. We too referred to Enterprise in less than flattering terms.
Semper Fi, Private Mace. Thank you for your service and the fantastic story.
SANTA CLARA, CALIF.
IT WOULD SEEM that one of the German dissidents in Brad Bauer’s “Defiance of the Lambs” was adding insult to injury when he wrote“enjoy eating Russian caviar to the detriment of the people”to the Propaganda Ministry. It’s been over 50 years since I studied German, but if I remember correctly, there are two verbs for “to eat”: essen is used when humans eat, and fressen, as in the letter, refers to animals or describes slovenly or piggish eating by humans.
You are correct: the writer is implying that broadcaster Hans Fritzsche and his ilk are eating caviar in a more animal-like manner. Another translation would be “gobbling up your Russian caviar.” —Brad Bauer
THE “ASK WWII” on Japan’s Type 99 Arisaka has an error: there were no “fold able” paratroop models. The standard para troop Type 2 disassembled into two pieces. An experimental Type 38 rifle folded, but the design proved unsatisfactory.
YOU SAID THE TYPE 99 and Springfield M1903 were based on the action of the Mauser K98k. This is incorrect. The bolt action of all three of these excellent fire arms was based on the Mauser M98.
The“WWII Today” photograph of Russian commissioners is from January 1944, not March 1943. The church pictured on page 25 is at Saint-Marie-du-Mont.