Occupying Nagasaki

peo walsh pd 19.jpgLeo Walsh spent three months as a Marine occupying Nagasaki, Japan, where the second atomic bomb blast led to Japan’s surrender. (Photo used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

By George Morris

In more than 3½ years of combat, countless thousands of servicemen passed through Pearl Harbor, where World War II began for the United States.

Leo Walsh, of Baton Rouge, is in a more select company. He saw where it essentially ended.

Walsh was a private first class with the 2nd Marine Division when it was assigned to occupation duty at Nagasaki, Japan. There, on Aug. 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was used in warfare for the second and, so far, last time. Japan’s surrender was announced six days later.

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The Glider Boys

Glider (CG-4A) in flightAmerican Waco CG-4A glider being towed in flight (National Archives)

By George Morris

After a half century, World War II aircraft and airmen remain famous. Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25 raiders bombing Tokyo. Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers dueling Japanese Zeros. British Spitfires and Hurricanes fighting off the German blitz. The Memphis Belle.

Less well known is another group of combat aviators — glider pilots. Yet, they were part of some of the war’s biggest, most dangerous missions.

“A bunch of us are lucky guys to be here,” said W.T. Owens of Baton Rouge in advance of a reunion of about 100 other World War II glider pilots.

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Seven Matherne brothers served in WWII

sevenbrothersepl110.081517.jpgMarion Matherne holds photos of himself (lower right) and his six brothers, all of whom served in the military in World War II. (Photo by Travis Spradling, used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.)

By George Morris

Marion Matherne doesn’t claim to be a World War II hero. As far as he knows, no one in his family earned that individual distinction.

As a group, however, the Matherne siblings were remarkable.

Matherne, a Baton Rouge resident for almost 60 years, said he and six of his brothers served in the American military during World War II. Seven siblings serving wasn’t a record – one Texas family claimed nine – but it was a real rarity.

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The ‘Ghost Army’ in Europe

ghostarmyepl002.adv.jpgAnderson Wilson served in the ‘Ghost Army’ that tricked German soldiers into believing the U.S. Army had significant forces in areas that were lightly defended. (Photo by Scott Threlkeld, used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

By George Morris

Like many veterans, Anderson Wilson joined the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars following his service in World War II. Before long, he quit going.

“All those fellows wanted to do was talk about what they did in the Army, and I couldn’t talk about that,” 94-year-old Wilson said.

It wasn’t until 1996 that Wilson, who lives in Slidell, could say he served in the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops — now known as the Ghost Army.

(For complete story, follow the link)

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/entertainment_life/article_fc52d7e6-6c06-11e7-80f4-1bd91cb30b38.html

 

Growing up in occupied France

JordaJones.050615 35.jpgSiblings Marie Jorda Jones and Gerald Jorda saw their country, France, occupied then liberated during World War II. (Photo by Travis Spradling, used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

By George Morris

When anniversaries of the end of World War II in Europe — or V-E Day — come around, it’s an abstraction for most Americans. Not for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, siblings Marie Jorda Jones and Gerard Jorda.

Both were teens in northern France when the war came to their country in 1940. By the time it ended, Marie was engaged to an American. In between, they endured an occupation that turned them into refugees for more than two years.

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Taking care of the wounded

Irma Darphin... 05/28/04Irma Darphin served as a nurse in Europe after the Normandy Invasion. (Photo used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.)

By George Morris

The smell of cordite no longer hung in the air when Lt. Irma Darphin came ashore on Utah Beach in 1944. Six weeks had passed since D-Day, and shells no longer fell, bullets no longer flew and the groans of the wounded no longer sounded along the Normandy coast.

But there was no shortage of wounded soldiers in France, and Darphin was on her way to help them.

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Not a ‘Lucky Bastard’ — Shot down on his 21st mission

NolanRuiz022.adv.jpg
Nolan Ruiz, a ball turret gunner on a B-17 during WWII, takes a look at some of his medals and photos from his service days in the war. (Photo by Patrick Dennis, used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

By George Morris

But for a miscommunication, Nolan “Country” Ruiz, of Plaquemine, Louisiana, might have been among the World War II B-17 crews who completed 25 bombing missions and earned a ticket home. That happened so rarely that those who accomplished it were declared members of the “Lucky Bastards Club.”

No one could call Ruiz’s last mission lucky — nor what happened after that.

Ruiz was shot down on March 4, 1944, in the war’s first daylight bombing attack on Germany’s capital, Berlin, and spent the next 14 months as a prisoner of war. Only 11 of those months, however, were in a prison camp.

Instead, he was among several thousand POWs who were marched for 86 consecutive days during a brutal winter before finally being liberated on April 26, 1945. That forced march is not well known except by those forced to endure it.

“It was terrible,” Ruiz said.

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