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World War II: January 2001 Letters

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

Flags Over Mount Suribachi

In the "Perspectives," department of the January 2000 issue, R.C. House wrote that the large American flag that flew over Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima in February 1945 is today "displayed in the U.S. Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va." In March 1995, I had the honor to stand on top of Mount Suribachi where the flag was raised. In May 1995, I had the opportunity to visit the Marine Corps Museum, located at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. There I found, enclosed in separate cases, both the smaller flag and the larger one that flew over Suribachi. Have these flags been moved to Quantico, or are they still in Washington, D.C.?

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Albert Burnham
Duluth, Minn.

Editor's note: You are indeed correct. Both of the flags that flew over Mount Suribachi are now on display at the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, D.C.

Iwo Jima and Andrew Higgins

As a Navy veteran of the Pacific, I have just finished reading "A Coxswain at Iwo Jima" in your February 2000 issue, and I would like to bring to your attention an interesting coincidence.

On November 6, 1999, at one of the old Higgins Industries Inc. shipyards in New Orleans, La., the U.S. Coast Guard held a special ceremony to recognize boat builder Andrew Jackson Higgins and to christen and commission into the Coast Guard a landing craft, vehicles and personnel (LCVP) that had just been built from scratch, from Higgins' original 1944 plans, by a group of volunteers.

The LCVP was christened PA33-21 to commemorate an earlier LCVP that was carried on USS Bayfield during the invasions of Normandy, southern France and Iwo Jima. In fact, the coxswain of that LCVP, Marvin Perret, a New Orleans native, lost his boat at Iwo Jima.

My wife, Dawn, is one of two surviving daughters of Andrew J. Higgins, and she and her sister accepted the Coast Guard's Distinguished Public Service Award on their father's behalf. It's amazing that the article was published within a month of the ceremony.

Robert A. Murphy, Jr.
Jackson, Miss.

Editor's note: LCVP PA33-21 is now on display at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. The museum also features exhibits on the many contributions of Higgins Industries and its founder, Andrew Higgins, to Allied victory during World War II.

Invitation From Quisling

I was interested to read your January 2000 "Intrigue" article on Norwegian collaborator Vidkun Quisling, particularly with reference to the lack of documentation prior to his trial in August 1945. I was in Oslo in May 1945 and was given, as a souvenir, a blank invitation printed by Quisling with a German eagle on the top. The invitation does not tie Quisling to the German invasion of Norway, but it shows where his sympathies rested. How I got the invitation is a story in its own right.

In May 1945, Norwegian authorities sent a message to the Air Ministry in London asking that a Royal Air Force officer be sent to Oslo to represent the RAF in the Norwegian independence day parade (their first in several years). I was chosen for this honor and piloted an Avro Lancaster from my base at Woodhall Spa, Belgium, to Gardemöene, Norway, on May 16, 1945. Circling Gardemöene prior to landing, I saw neat rows of Messerschmitt Me-109s lined up on the airfield. As my crew and I exited the aircraft, we were met by German troops. I just hoped they were aware the war had ended on May 8. In Oslo I reported to A.V.M. Boret in the Hotel Bristol, where I stayed for the next week.

It later transpired that a mistake had been made. The original message should have requested a Norwegian pilot to represent the RAF in the parade.

The invitation was given to me during my stay at the hotel by a Mr. Christensen, who was a member of the resistance movement and who had a number of identical documents. I never heard if the invitation was used at the Quisling trial, but in view of what you say about Alfred Rosenberg's political diary, perhaps it was not needed.

John V. Cockshott
Dix Hills, N.Y.

Merchant Marine

I wish to congratulate World War II Magazine for its article "Merchant Marine at War" in the May 2000 issue. There are, however, some mistakes that need to be corrected. It is a myth that the members of the Merchant Marine were civilians. The Merchant Marine Act of 1936 specifically stated that the U.S. Merchant Marine (USMM) was a "naval auxiliary."

Another point involves the U.S. Maritime Service (USMS). The USMS was the official training organization for the USMM. It was also formed under the Merchant Marine Act and trained men from 1938 until 1954. Its successor still operates at the USMM Academy and several state maritime academies.

At age 17, I went to enlist in the U.S. Navy. The recruiter stated the Navy was not taking any more recruits, and told me to go join the USMM. I have met many, many others who were told the same thing.

The superintendent of the USMS training station at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., was Captain John Beebe, U.S. Navy. The officers and men who taught us gunnery were U.S. Navy personnel. We marched, drilled and did everything else that was done at naval training stations. We were ordered to salute officers of all services and came under the authority of the military police while on leave. After completing training, a contingent of us, under orders and in uniform, were sent to Florida, where we boarded a U.S. Navy cargo plane and were sent to a USMS Graduate Station in Panama for assignment.

Did we consider ourselves civilians? Absolutely not, then or now! We who served in the USMS and USMM, as well as the Army and Navy transport services, are extremely grateful for your article. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, "As time goes on, there will be greater public understanding of our merchant fleets' record during this war." Your article is a great beginning.

Daniel Horodysky
Berkeley, Calif.

Velikiye Luki

The September 2000 issue of World War II was one of the best issues I have read. I particularly liked "Surrounded in the Snow," by William A. Webb. I looked Velikiye Luki up in my volume of John Erickson's Road to Berlin, and he devotes only about half a sentence to this engagement. I never before knew what happened there, and I was intrigued by the desperate struggle described by Webb.

I also really enjoyed the "Personality" article on Harold Russell, which brought tears to my eyes. I have seen The Best Years of Our Lives about three times, but I never knew the story behind Mr. Russell. All the articles were particularly good in this issue. Keep up the good work.

Paul J. DuPont
via e-mail

Send letters to World War II Editor, PRIMEDIA History Group, 741 Miller Dr., SE, Suite D-2, Leesburg, VA 20175, or e-mail to WorldWarII@thehistorynet.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.

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