More Than a Machine
Ronald H. Bailey’s “The Incredible Jeep” was extremely interesting and obviously well researched (September 2009). He comments that GIs and generals alike considered the jeep practically indestructible! Well, I served in Italy in the winter of 1943–1944, when the land became a sea of thick, deep mud.
Some of our jeeps picked up this sticky stuff in their front and rear brake drums— which resulted in broken axles. I don’t mean to be too critical, because on the whole, they were great! But of the weapons carriers, ambulances, Dodges, and GMC trucks we drove, we considered the jeep to be the most subject to breakdowns.
I think Bailey overstates Karl Probst’s contribution to the Bantam jeep. Originally, Bantam thought they would enter into negotiations with the army to produce the jeep, and called Probst in because he was known as a fast draftsman. But much of the design credit belongs to engineers like Harold Crist who helped improve the original design.
This is not to say that Probst’s contribution was unimportant—the design had to be timely if Bantam was going to get the bid. But early articles about the jeep’s development rarely mention this so-called Father of the Jeep.
ROBERT V. NOTMAN
Very good article on the jeep. I was stationed at Camp Holabird from 1958 to 1960. The last time I saw it, it had been turned into an industrial park.
In 1947 Gerhard Neumann, a German engineer who worked with Col. Claire Chennault during the war, bought two Willys jeeps in Hong Kong—one with a good body and the other with a good engine and transmission. He made one good jeep out of them, and drove it from Bangkok to Jerusalem with his wife and dog. He retired in 1980 as a vice president at General Electric, where he was in charge of aircraft engines.
My husband was a World War II vet. The only things he shared about his experience were how much he loved his jeep and the stench of the concentration camps. I am so sorry the jeep article was printed in September—you see, he passed away in April of this year. Although it was difficult for him to see to read at the end, I would read any article in World War II he was interested in hearing. The jeep article certainly would qualify. I sure enjoyed it, and I plan to keep subscribing.
A Quiet Hero
Just read the mail section of the September 2009 issue that dealt with the U-505. About 10 years ago, when I was in college, there was an older gentleman who walked by my house on a daily basis. He wasn’t one of those leisurely walkers; he really moved. He was a nice enough guy, always saying hello or commenting on my mother’s garden. In the family he was known simply as the old walking man until one day when a story appeared about him in the paper.
To our shock, the old walking man was Zenon Lukosius—the navy crewman who managed to save the U-505 from flooding and sinking. I was floored. He had never said a thing. No navy insignia, no hat, never a mention in any short conversation he had with my family. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to talk to him about it, and he passed away in 2006. One never knows what those people they see every day might have been a part of.
‘Forgotten’ Disaster Still Haunts
I was there at Pearl Harbor during the West Loch disaster (“Pearl Harbor’s Forgotten Disaster,” September 2009). I was in our office near Pearl City when the ships exploded. We could see the huge black cloud rising in the air. Our commander told me to drive there to try to pick up some of our men—when I was within a quarter-mile of the accident I saw huge pieces of smoking bulkheads from the LSTs.
It was my understanding that a welder’s torch set off a fire in the high-octane gasoline supply, and that set off the ammo. It was several days before we could get all men accounted for.
CHARLES E. WILCOX JR.
Uncorking Dad’s Past
Really enjoyed the piece on Operation Corkscrew (“The Big Bang,” September 2009), which helped me piece together my dad’s involvement in the North Africa and Mediterranean campaigns. Though he was not involved in Corkscrew, my dad flew heavy bombing missions to Sardinia in February 1943, bombing harbors and shipping in the Med, including the area around the Pelagie Islands.
During this time he lived in a grain barn on Ain M’lila Airfield in North Africa, and lost many of the friends he had made while stationed in India. His former copilot, Maj. Jack Toomey, and some of his old crewmates crashed between Sicily and Malta. Sadly, their bodies were never recovered. Of the original crew he flew with in India, only my dad and one other crewmember made it back to the States.
DEBORAH B. ROSENSTEIN
Same Strategy, New Opponent
I read your article on the 1939 clash at Nomonhan with great interest (“A Long Shadow,” May 2009). It struck me that the Soviet attack plan was a blueprint for the Battle of Stalingrad. Soviet general Georgi Zhukhov duplicated key aspects of the Nomonhan counterattack in the double envelopment of the German Sixth Army. In both attacks, the flanks were struck to surround the enemy’s central strongpoint.
This also means that when freezing German soldiers inside the Stalingrad pocket cheered themselves with the hope of a relief column under von Manstein, they were unaware that the Russians already knew how to defeat attempted break throughs into an encircled pocket. Thank you for the fine article about a little-known but important part of World War II history.
DAVID G. SMITH
A Victory Ship’s Mysterious Voyage
My uncle served with the U.S. Navy Armed Guard as a signalman on the SS Halaula Victory, making three ocean crossings just prior to the end of the war. His recollections match the recorded naval history. However, we can find no record of his last crossing, which he says was the strangest of all.
Once again he reported to the Halaula, this time at Port Chicago. The shipment included about 10 very large wooden crates, unmarked and very heavy, that were lashed to the deck. An army officer came aboard to serve as courier for the mysterious cargo. When my uncle asked the officer about the crates, he was told they contained newly designed bombs that had a total destruct radius of about two miles. He was also instructed to steer clear of the boxes during the voyage.
The Halaula’s destination was Tinian; its sailing date, near the end of July 1945. My uncle says that on later reflection, he suspects his ship was carrying the bomb casings for one or both atomic bombs. Are there any World War II readers who can shed light on my uncle’s story?
PAUL L. BUTTERWORTH
The USS Macon was not housed in Moffett Field’s Hangar One during the war, as stated on page 13 of the November 2009 issue; the airship was destroyed in a 1935 crash.
Originally published in the February 2010 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.