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Friday, June 6, 2014

My Father - D-Day, June 6, 1944

Daddy's Line Crossing Certificate, dated June 6, 1944.
(Click on any of the photo's to enlarge.)
Seventy years ago today, on June 6, 1944, while most of the world was anxiously listening to radio broadcasts for updates on the Allied invasion of Normandy, my father crossed the equator aboard the SS Boschfontein, a Dutch cargo vessel serving as a troop transport, heading for Milne Bay, New Guinea. While the world was riveted by the carnage on the beaches of France, General MacAuthur was keeping his word ... to return to the Philippines and take back the island from the Japanese. My brother shared with me our father's Line Crossing Certificate. (If you enlarge the photo, I've placed a red square around the date ... June 6, 1944.)

I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently it is a time honored tradition where a ceremony takes place every time a military vessel crosses the equator, turning the "Pollywogs" (those who have never crossed the equator) into "Trusty Shellbacks" (those who have). It's of enough importance that this event is logged into the record of servicemen and woman.

Daddy, aiming the machine gun in one of the airplanes he serviced during the war.
Biak Island, Dutch New Guinea, 1944.
Daddy was part of the 3rd Emergency Rescue Squadron (you can read more about it here 3rd Emergency Rescue Squadron). The 3rd ERS was to become part of General MacArthur's fighting force to take back the Philippine Islands from the hands of the Japanese. During his time at a camp at Dulag on New Guinea, the Japanese launched a suicide paratroop attack. The attack was subverted when the Japanese were shot down by small-arms fire. Daddy and another soldier each retrieved a parachute, which they sent to their respective homes.

I remember my father talking about Japanese attacks, but I don't recall him speaking about the suicide paratrooper attack. I remember him saying they would get in fox holes when the sirens sounded. The fox holes were partially shielded with a metal "roof". As a joke, Daddy and his fox hole buddies would grab handfuls of sand or gravel or dirt and toss it onto the metal "roof" of nearby foxholes. He laughed when he said he could hear the men in the other fox hole saying "Man, that one was close!" I'm sure they played other jokes on each other, but I was his daughter, and I doubt you tell your daughter too much about the things men do to entertain themselves.

Daddy took this photo sometime in 1944.
It was probably taken on Biak Island, Dutch New Guinea.
After the the surrender of Japan, the 3rd ERS was one of the first US forces to arrive on the island of Japan. Daddy received an Honorable Discharge from the Army on November 19, 1945. His discharge papers list his Battles and Campaigns as Southern Philippines Luzon; New Guinea; Western Pacific; Air Offensive Japan. His Decorations and Citations were Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon w/5 Bronze Stars; American Theater Ribbon; Philippine Liberation Ribbon w/1 Bronze Star; World War II Victory Medal; Good Conduct Ribbon.

Daddy and Harry Calhoun (whoever that is)
 in front of a wing from a Japanese airplane.
Luzon, Philippines, 1944 or 1945.
I have a copy of my father's draft card. He was drafted on February 2, 1942 at Fort Benjamin Harrison. I asked my brother where he was between 1942 and 1944. He said Daddy was training in Biloxi, Mississippi. So, that explains why I have a picture of my father taken in New Orleans in April of 1942!

The men who fought in this war, the women who nursed the injured, the civilians who lived through the horrors of war, and the survivors of the Holocaust who experienced atrocities we cannot even begin to imagine at the depraved hands of the Nazi's are now aged or have already passed on. One day soon, there won't be anyone alive who bore witness to this war, and it will be up to us to honor their memories by telling their stories.

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