This is a place to reflect on history's greatest conflict. You'll see stories about soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and civilians, people I've been privileged to meet as a reporter for Louisiana's largest daily newspaper, The Advocate. You're welcome to share stories of your own by posting a comment or emailing the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P-51 pilot Osce R. Jones poses beside his aircraft. (Photo provided by Carol Ann Jones Lizana)
By George Morris
Many veterans returned from World War II with stories to tell, and most relied only on their memory.
P-51 fighter pilot Osce R. Jones, had something more tangible — a diary.
Forced down over occupied France by antiaircraft fire the day after the D-Day invasion, Jones, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, spent a week trying to evade capture and work his way back to England. He got caught, but while the events were fresh on his mind in a POW camp, he wrote about his experiences in a tiny notebook. His wife, Thelma, kept the notebook after he died in 1994.
“He had to write real small, because they didn’t have much paper,” she said.
This 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.
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.
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.
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.