A story for Flag Day

POW flagThis flag, on display in the National Museum of the Pacific War  in Fredericksburg, Texas, was made by prisoners of war held by the Japanese and is similar to one made by POWs held in Davao, Philippines, and Toyama, Japan, during World War II. (Photo by George Morris)

By George Morris

When people think of World War II, the famous flag-raising at Iwo Jima is one of the most memorable images. But there is another flag from that conflict, and a friend of mine, that you should know about.

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‘Unbroken’ Louis Zamperini

peo Zamperini bf 0176.jpg
Louis Zamperini’s face is reflected on the surface of a table as he speaks to reporters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2011. (Photo by Bill Feig, used by permission of The Advocate.)

By George Morris

When I picked up the office phone and recognized the caller from a Baton Rouge church-supported school, I knew a story pitch was coming. What I didn’t expect was the subject.

“Would you like to interview Louis Zamperini?”

Why, yes. Yes. I. Would.

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Escape from Bilibid Prison

bilibid prison                                                                                      Bilibid Prison, a POW camp during World War II

By George Morris

Nobody could say Pfc. James Carrington wasn’t resourceful.

A Marine who was one of those captured when the Philippine island of Corregidor surrendered on May 9, 1942, he soon realized that survival would require his wits. At one point in his prison odyssey, he took two cans of spoiled milk, poured it into his shirt, squeezed it and left it to dry in the sun and make cheese.

On April 14, 1944, he would do something else remarkable. He would escape from Manila’s notorious Bilibid Prison — not only escape, but become a thorn in the enemy’s side.

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Fall of Corregidor

corregidor-surrender-to-japanese                    U.S. forces in the Malinta Tunnel surrender on Corregidor.

By George Morris

Once Japan invaded the Philippines shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, American military leaders quickly realized the islands were a lost cause. But, if U.S. and Philippine forces couldn’t defeat the enemy, it could accomplish something else — delay them.

Delay had its last major stand at Corregidor.

A hunk of rock 2.5 miles long and a half-mile wide. It would have been a worthless piece of real estate had it not been situated at the mouth of Manila Bay. About 12,000 soldiers and Marines were ordered to hold it at all costs.

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The Katyn Massacre

Katyn_massacre_1Mass grave discovered in 1943 in Katyn, USSR.

 

By George Morris

Dachau. Bataan. Katyn. Generations of post-war Americans have grown up knowing about the first two places, but few have heard of the third.

But Sophia Grebocki Denham was aware. She lost her husband there.

“People should know what happened there,” Denham said in 2000.

What happened there was an atrocity.

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The long, awful march from Stalag Luft IV

stalag luft IV evac                                                                                POWs being evacuated from Stalag Luft IV, early 1945 (Source: http://www.dvrbs.com/camden-heroes/CamdenHeroes-FrankGramenzi.htm)

By George Morris

The sound of an approaching army — especially a mechanized one — is impossible to miss, particularly when it is engaged with its enemy. In January 1945, Allied prisoners of Stalag Luft IV heard the Soviet army driving westward through Poland.

“We could hear the gunfire, the cannons,” said Russell McRae, a Baton Rouge resident. “We could see the flashes at night. We knew we were going to get overrun, and we thought we’d be liberated.”

They would — some of them, anyway. But not for a long time, and not by the Soviets.

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Bataan Death March

Bataan Death March
Prisoners of war on the Bataan Death March. (U.S. Air Force photo)

By George Morris

When their ship passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on Nov. 1, 1941, all J.S. Gray and his buddy, Cletis Overton, knew was they were heading to Manila, Philippines. As they left Hawaii, though, ships carrying their airplanes left the convoy. Gray, an ordnance specialist, and Overton, an airplane mechanic with the Army Air Forces, received no explanation. They learned after the war that the planes went to Australia.

“We were looking out watching them, and they just turned south, and we never saw them again,” Gray said.

They would soon see airplanes, but they weren’t American.

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