Cover Star Uncovered
With interest I studied the cover of the May/June issue of World War II and I found I had another picture [above] of the same man. Notice the folded jacket pocket and the same undershirt collar. Since he was there in June 1944, I hope he was still alive when Germany surrendered in 1945.
Also there on D-Day
That “anguished GI” on the May/June 2014 cover has a name: Walter Sidlowski of Brooklyn. I don’t know if Walter is still with us, but several years ago we contacted him seeking information about anyone pictured around him that he might know because my uncle, John J. Knott Jr., is standing behind Walter. Walter did not know anyone there, he said, because GIs were coming from everywhere to help. The photo was taken on D+1. My uncle was killed on June 17, but Walter survived. He told us that he was checking the boot size on the body he was straddling. I hope that we can pay these nameless soldiers the respect of giving them names.
Man the Guns
First off let me say that I enjoy your magazine and look forward to getting it. Your answer about the navy not employing black gunners was way off the mark (“Challenge,” May/June 2014). Many ships of all sizes let cooks and mess men man the guns. The USS Mason, a destroyer escort, was manned almost entirely by black sailors.
Editor’s note: There were no black crew men on PT boats, and our answer failed to make that clear. You are right that in general, when a vessel with a racially mixed crew came under attack, any sailor, including cooks and mess orderlies, could and did man guns.
First Off Omaha?
I am surprised that John McManus states as fact that E Company, 16th Infantry Division was the first unit to fight their way off Omaha Beach on D-Day in his otherwise excellent article (“A Knife in the Vitals,” May/June 2014). There is no way to know who got off the beach first, a natural result of the enormous scope and utter confusion of the invasion. My father, Gale Beccue, E Company, 5th Ranger Battalion, landed on Dog White that morning. With the urging of General Norman Cota and other leaders, small groups of Rangers, including my father, soon fought their way off the beach—as did other men along the entire length of Omaha.
I had the privilege of visiting Omaha Beach with my father in 1973 while I was a young lieutenant stationed in Germany with the 3rd Infantry Division. As we walked along that famous battlefield I asked Dad if the 5th Rangers were the first to the top of the ridge. He smiled and said that just about everyone who survived the early hours of D-Day claimed to have been first, but there was really no way to tell since every man was focused on the obstacles and German emplacements on his immediate front.
It is more historically accurate to say that along the more than 5,000 yards of Bloody Omaha, several bands of very brave men, acting independently, fought their way to the high ground, each being the first to get off the beach in their own small sector of hell.
John C. McManus responds: You make a valid point that it is hard to determine with absolute precision who was first off Omaha Beach, and I certainly honor the vital contributions of your father and the other Rangers. I have come to believe, though, after many years of study, that the John Spalding and Phil Streczyk group was first off the beach. If someone can provide me with concrete evidence to the contrary, I would be happy to revise my view.
A Patch’s Past
Among the items to be identified in your May/June 2014 “Challenge” is a Thunderbird shoulder patch. A tougher challenge might have been to have shown a swastika shoulder patch and asked what American infantry division wore it.
The answer is the same for both patches—they were worn by the 45th Infantry Division.
The 45th was organized in 1920 with units from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, with the swastika, an Indian symbol, as its emblem. The swastika was discontinued in the mid 1930s, and the Thunderbird, another Indian symbol, was adopted in 1939.
I served in the 45th during the Korean War. During a company reunion in the 1990s, Horace Ware, who had been one of my officers, told me that in 1937, as a corporal in the division, he and another fellow were given hammers and chisels and the job of chipping up the 12-foot square tile mosaic of the swastika from the floor at division headquarters.
Ridgway M. Dunton
The Amazing Hal
The interview of Hal Baumgarten by Gene Santoro in the May/June 2014 issue took my breath away. What an amazing story of human perseverance and a will to survive. His recollection and attention to detail is incredible and his story is one that everyone should be familiar with. Thank you sir for your service and to all those who served in World War II. Your legacy will live on and your service will never be forgotten.
Michael G. Markov
Not a Swimmer
The Nakajima A6M2-N “Rufe,” featured in the “Up on the Rufe” sidebar of John M. Curatola’s “Fog of War” story (May/ June 2014), was not amphibious. It had no retractable wheeled undercarriage as the Supermarine “Walrus,” the Grumman J2F “Duck,” the Grumman JRF/OA-9 “Goose,” the Grumman J4F “Widgeon,” and the Consolidated PBY-5A “Catalina” flying boats.
In the article “Fog of War” (May/June 2014) we stated that the Japanese planned airstrikes at American bases on Atka and Adak. These bases were not actually formed at the time of the planned attacks; the original Japanese plan suspected that an American garrison existed at Adak, but, due to weather delays, an attack on Dutch Harbor was undertaken instead.
Originally published in the October 2014 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.