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World War II: February 2001 Letters

Originally published by World War II magazine. Published Online: August 19, 2001 
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The Missing Message

I enjoyed reading the November 2000 "Undercover" regarding the "East Wind Rain" message. I found the department interesting but I feel you missed a point. You say the East Wind Rain message was received and that it meant war with the U.S. What the message did not say, however, was where the attack would take place. There was no indication that Pearl Harbor was the objective; it could just as easily have been the Philippines.

The real mistake was not putting a real war warning to Pearl and the Philippines and keeping these warnings up-to-date.

Leslie Hulkower
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Europeans Honor American Veterans

I read with much interest your January 2000 editorial reflecting on the unique privilege that we have as keepers of World War II history. My father served, as did my uncles. At one point, every living male of fighting age in my maternal grandmother's family was in harm's way. Her youngest brother was in the Navy in the Pacific, her only son was at Guadalcanal and my father was in Europe.

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This past September, my husband and I went to Europe with my father and his WWII outfit, the 30th Infantry "Old Hickory" Division. We met entire towns full of children who were waiting to walk and talk with their liberators, real live veterans who sacrificed months and years of their own lives to free these children's parents and grandparents from occupation. From the first encounter with Europeans to the taxi driver on the last day of our trip, we found people to be genuinely appreciative of the American veterans' contributions.

I applaud your efforts to capture and recount history for those who follow us. I am attempting to collect my dad's stories and memories and write them down in some form. I regret not starting sooner; at age 85, my dad enjoys blessedly good health. I hope time will stand still while I try to catch up!

Mrs. Edward J. Zatopek
Via e-mail

Heroic Army Chaplain

I found "Tough Time for the 'Tough Hombres'" (February 2000) very interesting. I joined Company H, 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, on Utah Beach and stayed with the division all the way to Sascise, Czechoslovakia.

It was most striking to see Army Chaplain Edgar H. Stohler's name. I greatly admired that man. Once, I went on a reconnaissance mission I will never forget with him and a jeep driver named Homer Conoda. The regiment had been caught in a trap and could not get out. We had suffered a lot of wounded from enemy artillery fire. Since we were unable to supply the trapped men, our planes came in low and dropped medical supplies in an artillery-riddled field. Stohler wanted those much-needed medical supplies, so despite the enemy artillery fire, we took a beat-up jeep and went out and got them. I have never forgotten him after all these years.

Howard D. Anderson
Pickford, Mich.

In Defense of the F4U

Regarding your March 2000 issue and the article "Greatest Fighter Aircraft of WWII," by Jon Guttman: How you could not note the Vought F4U Corsair at or near the top of the list is beyond me.

I flew both F4U and F6F with the 4th Marine Air Wing, and the U was superior in speed, range, ability to absorb punishment, etc. Truly a great plane with a combat record second to none.

Lloyd R. Flynn
Edina, Minn.

I refer to your March 2000 issue and the Jon Guttman feature, "Greatest Fighter Aircraft of WWII."

I have no argument with nine of Jon Guttman's 10 picks. But the Japanese Zero? The most formidable foe the Zeros faced was the Marines and the F4U Corsair. The Navy's Grumman F6F Hellcats fought with Zeros in short but intense battles between aircraft carriers. And I know the Army Air Corps was in the Pacific and fought against them too, but the greatest number of one-on-one dogfights was between the Zero and the Corsair. In dogfights between Corsairs and Zeros, it was no contest.

I am now 75 years old and no longer remember the kill ratio, but my faint recollection is about 10-to-1 in favor of the F4U Corsair.

I was Captain Ken Walsh's wingman. He had 21 kills. I also knew Marion Carl and Gregory "Pappy" Boyington–16 and 24 kills, respectively. Joe Foss also had 26 kills.

Every time I talk about those famous Marine Corps super aces, there is the implied question, "How many did you get?" The answer is none-zero-nil-nada. I wasn't with Walsh for most of his kills, but on my tour I kept his tail clean and learned a great and lifelong lesson in humility. Wingmen never got the publicity, but they, too, were a vital part of the mission.

To make my point, if the Corsair ate up the Zero in almost every dogfight, how could the Zero be numbered among the 10 best over the Corsair? Is anybody on that editorial board a former Marine? Any fighter pilots? Doesn't sound like it.

Steve Furimsky,
Henderson, Nev.

Author Jon Guttman responds: As I stated in the "Runners-Up" section, the F4U was a great fighter, and it even outlasted the Hellcat in service. But initially, at least, it failed in the task for which it was originally designed–to provide the U.S. Navy with a new carrier fighter. In that respect, as far as World War II is concerned, the Hellcat beats the Corsair by a short, pugnacious nose.

Yes, the Corsair was ultimately superior to the Zero, but historically the latter earns its place by being the first carrier-based fighter to outperform land-based opposition (years before the U.S. Navy felt comfortable allowing Corsairs aboard carriers). And if the Zero was a complete pushover, why did the first fight between F4U-1s and A6M2s, on February 14, 1943, end with two VMF-124 Corsairs lost to one Zero? Ken Walsh stated that he was shot down by Zeros several times, and more recently, 15 1/2-victory ace and Medal of Honor recipient Jim Swett of VMF-221 told me how lucky he was to survive being shot down by a Zero on July 11, 1943. Even then, the Zero may have been eclipsed, but it was still not to be underestimated or dismissed.

Opinion Stated

If you will permit me an unsolicited opinion, albeit one based on decades of experience (I am 74 years old), you are doing superbly and going in just the right direction! I am prompted to write by the quality and overall interest of the March 2000 issue just received. Intending no impertinence, may I request that you "stand by your guns" and not be dissuaded from your current aim by disgruntled criticism from those who, all too often, were never at the sharp end. Those in subsequent generations who sincerely wish to know how it was must accept it when it is reported in the way that it was. The opinionated writings of revisionists do my generation a tragic disservice.

Gerald Mansfield
Sanford, Maine



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