JAPANESE HQ, PELELIU

My last Peleliu post.

One of the most interesting buildings on Peleliu is the old Japanese HQ. Bombed, shelled and generally beaten into pieces, the jungle has come back with a vengeance to grow through the .5m-1m thick concrete floors that are doing everything they can to stay together.  Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8.

These first shots give you a sense of the place. It is a big building.

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-46 

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-31

The jungle is taking it over, slowly but surely.

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-41

1,000 paper cranes near a very large artillery or bomb hole.

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-54

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-39

These doors go to a room that I could not get to (stairs were removed).

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-35

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-44

I wonder what this building means to Capt. Lusczynski?

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-40

It never ceases to amaze me how plants can find a crack and grow.

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-43 

Off to the side was a metal structure that served as a mess hall for the Japanese, a mechanics shed for the Americans.

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-47

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese HQ_-48

A fascinating view into World War II.

LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL OF A 200MM GUN, PELELIU

Or specifically, the barrel of a Japanese 200mm cannon on Peleliu. The World War II cannon was dug into the rocks and virtually unreachable with sniper holes guarding the entrance. The problem? As it was so deeply dug into the rocks it had a very limited field of view and effectiveness.

The Americans snuck up the side to take it out.

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese artillery_

The artillery and mortar caves of the Japanese were well thought out. Many had steel doors on them, which would close during US naval or artillery bombardment – popping open the moment the shelling stopped. This was a big gun.

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese artillery_-7

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese artillery_-8

It was very well dug in. Too well in fact.

2013 07 31 Peleliu Japanese artillery_-11

The sniper holes are under the moss.

THANK A VET

 

The other book I read on holiday was Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by the author of Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand. I cannot do the story justice, so I point to the summary:

The inspiring true story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed. In evocative, immediate descriptions, Hillenbrand unfurls the story of Louie Zamperini–a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean, and what happened to him over the next three years of his life is a story that will keep you glued to the pages, eagerly awaiting the next turn in the story and fearing it at the same time. You’ll cheer for the man who somehow maintained his selfhood and humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered, and you’ll want to share this book with everyone you know.

If you go to Louie Zamperini’s website you can watch the CBS video on his life – from the Nagano Olympics. We watched it as a family, it is very inspiring. Unfortunately, a lot of the book reminded me of the book Their Darkest Hour, and the stories inside the Japanese prison camps are heart breaking.

Reading this, I simply felt fortunate for the country I live in, a time of peace and for those who sacrificed so much. I also felt sad, because unfortunately theses stories of evil continue on every day in places like the Congo, so far away.

CLOSING OUT NORMANDY: CANADA’S JUNO BEACH

Our last stop on the Normandy trip was Juno beach – the Canadian beach. Unlike the other beaches, no monument to the Canadian effort existed until June, 2003, when the Juno Beach Center was inaugurated:

The Centre was conceived in the 1990s by a group of Canadian veterans who felt that the contributions and sacrifices of Canadian soldiers during the liberation of Europe were not properly commemorated and represented in the Normandy region. The project, spearheaded by veteran Garth Webb and his companion Lise Cooper, began initially as a grassroots fundraising campaign that eventually gained the financial support of many institutions and businesses and the Canadian and French governments at many levels. The Centre was inaugurated on 6 June, 2003. Over one thousand Canadian veterans attended the inauguration in 2003, as well as the 2004 ceremony for the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

image

The center is very well done. Outside are plaques from towns across Canada, we found the City of Barrie:

image

The center covers the entire war, with one interactive display kicking it off. You stand/sit in a room that is built like a landing craft and watch the famous video Juno beach video. Very moving.

As we wandered through the center, you remember how a small nation contributed broadly to the war effort with many battles almost forgotten. For instance, I never knew that Canada served with the British in Hong Kong:

image

The beach itself looks flat and open, but history tells us that it was not a nice place to be landing:

Juno was the second most heavily defended of the five landing sites chosen.[3] General Wilhelm Richter was in charge of the 716th Division guarding the beach, with 11 heavy batteries of 155 mm guns and 9 medium batteries of 75 mm guns at his disposal. Additionally, pillboxes and other fortifications were present all along the beach, most heavily concentrated in the Courseulles-sur-Mer region. The seawall was twice the height of Omaha Beach’s, and the sea was heavily mined.[4]

image

image

But the remnants are still there.

image

After travelling up and down the beach, we headed into the town and stopped at a little river side café to enjoy mussels and seafood. Nothing beats a seaside café on a sunny day. As I looked over at the fishing boats, I was fooled by this optical illusion and commented to the boys:

‘Hey look, they must have taken that boat apart to fix it. That is quite a load to keep in place while fixing. I wonder why they are doing it in the water?’ (LOL … it is 2 boats).

image

And with that, we made our final stop at the grave of Ross Ellsmere and then headed home. A historic place well worth visiting and remembering.

NORMANDY DAY 3: SWORD BEACH

 

Upon exiting the Arrommanches 360, you have the option of leaving or travelling down a footpath to Sword beach and the city of Saint-Aubin-a-Mer:

Sword Beach was the codename of one of the five main landing beaches in Operation Neptune, which was the initial assault phase of Operation Overlord (the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944). Stretching 8 km from Ouistreham to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer it was the farthest east of the landing points and around 15 km from Caen. The initial landings were achieved with low casualties, but the British forces ran into heavily defended areas behind the beachhead. The British landings were the only Allied sectors that faced attack by German Panzer Divisions on 6 June 1944.

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (3)

A large element of the D-Day invasions were the harbours. At Dieppe, the Allies learned that attacking a fortified port was very difficult. Therefore, they set about capturing these channel towns with the idea of setting up temporary ports to bring in supplies – Mulberry Harbour:

At a meeting following the Dieppe Raid, Hughes-Hallett declared that if a port could not be captured, then one should be taken across the Channel. This was met with derision at the time, but in a subsequent meeting with Churchill, the Prime Minister declared he had surmised a similar scenario using some Danish Islands and sinking old ships for a bridgehead for an invasion in World War I. The concept of Mulberry Harbours began to take shape when Hughes-Hallett moved to be Naval Chief of Staff to the Overlord planners.

A trial of the three eventual competing designs was set up, with tests of deployment including floating the elements, in Garlieston, Wigtownshire. The designs were by Hugh Iorys Hughes who developed his “Hippo” piers and “Crocodile” bridge units on the Conwy Morfa, using 1000 men to build the trial version; the Hamilton “Swiss Roll” which consisted of a floating roadway; and a system of flexible bridging units supported on floating pontoons designed by Major Allan Beckett RE. The tests revealed various problems (the “Swiss Roll” would only take a maximum of a 7 ton truck in the Atlantic swell). However the final choice of design was determined by a storm during which the “Swiss Roll” was washed away and the “Hippos” were undermined; Beckett’s floating roadway (subsequently codenamed Whale) survived undamaged. Beckett’s design was adopted and manufactured under the management of J. D. Bernal and Brigadier Bruce White, under the orders of Winston Churchill.

The proposed harbours called for many huge caissons of various sorts to build breakwaters and piers and connecting structures to provide the roadways. The caissons were built at a number of locations, mainly existing ship building facilities or large beaches like Conwy Morfa around the British coast. The works were let out to commercial construction firms including Balfour Beatty, Costain, Nuttall, Henry Boot, Sir Robert McAlpine and Peter Lind & Company, who all still operate today, and Cubitts, Holloway Brothers, Mowlem and Taylor Woodrow, who all have since been absorbed into other businesses that are still operating [1]. On completion they were towed across the English Channel by tugs[2] to the Normandy coast at only 4.3 Knots (8 km/h or 5 mph).

Mulberry B was the code name for the beach below us. The remains of the port were everywhere. Unlike at the other beach were there were few remains, here the breakwater remained as did other elements all over the beach. The port was an engineering marvel and much of it remains, in full view …..

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (4)

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (7)

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (10)

Walking among the iron monuments impresses the scale of the harbour. I would have loved to travel out to the artificial reef from the beach.

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (14)

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (17)

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (19)

The mussels have a new home, showing the movement of the tide.

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (20)

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (40)

The allies sunk a huge number of old ships instantly to create an artificial reef called the Phoenix breakwaters, which you can see in the distance.

2009 05 03 Sword Beach Normandy (50)

And the tour was coming to an end, Juno breach was ahead … on the way home.

NORMANDY DAY 3: ARROMANCHES 360

 

Day 3 in Normandy had a simple plan, Arromanches, Canada’s beach – Juno and then a cemetery on the way home.

Arromanches 360 was recommended by friends as a ‘must do’:

The SAEM Arromanches 360, created upon the initiative of Lower Normandy Regional Council for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Landing, presents an exceptional film projected on 9 screens in a circular cinema: “The Price of Freedom”.

An exclusive procedure is employed to obtain the 360° projection : the Circorama, conceived by Patrick Besenval and the Futuroscope productions.

You enter the building, overlooking Sword beach and stand in the middle of a dome. The film plays out on 9 screens all around you, blending footage of modern day Normandy beaches with footage of the invasion. A truly moving experience, in fact we found it one of the most profound pieces of the trip. It really made it sink in.

Overlooking the site is a statue, which made me pause and think; Mother Mary or simply a statue of one of the many mothers who left their son on that beach?

2009 05 03 Arromanches 360 hill (2)

Upon exiting the building, you can go back to your car or walk down the path to Sword beach – the British beach. We walked down the path ..

NORMANDY DAY 2: CLOSING OMAHA – THE MUSEUM

As we left the beach, we decided on one final stop, the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum (Le musée Mémorial d’Omaha Beach). It is what you would expect, although everything is a bit better protected as it did not have the scattered, family run business feel like the D-Day museum (which I enjoyed more). A few photos below.

The Sherman tank at the entrance.

2009 05 02 Musee Memorial D'Omaha Beach (4)

A German camouflage helmet.

2009 05 02 Musee Memorial D'Omaha Beach (5)

Another view of the landing craft. Imagine 36 men crowded into the craft:

2009 05 02 Musee Memorial D'Omaha Beach

The craft was one of many D-Day innovations. Called the Higgins Boat or Landing Craft Vehicle or Personnel (LCVP), it has quite an interesting story:

Andrew Higgins started out in the lumber business, but gradually moved into boatbuilding, which became his sole operation after the lumber transport company he was running went bankrupt in 1930.

Fortuitously, the United States Marine Corps, always interested in finding better ways to get men across a beach in an amphibious landing and frustrated that the Navy’s Bureau of Construction and Repair could not meet its requirements, began to express interest in Higgins’ boat. When tested in 1938 by the Navy and Marine Corps, Higgins’ Eureka boat surpassed the performance of the Navy-designed boat and was tested by the services during fleet landing exercises in February 1939. Satisfactory in most respects, the boat’s major drawback appeared to be that equipment had to be unloaded, and men disembarked, over the sides—thus exposing them to enemy fire in a combat situation. But it was put into production and service as the Landing Craft, Personnel (Large), (LCP(L)). The LCP(L) had two machine gun positions at the bow. The LCP(L) or commonly called the "U-boat" or the "Higgins" boat, was supplied to the British where it was initially known as the "R-boat" and used for Commando raids.

The Japanese had been using ramp-bowed landing boats in the Second Sino-Japanese War since the summer of 1937—boats that had come under intense scrutiny by the Navy and Marine Corps observers at Shanghai in particular, including from future General Victor H. Krulak.[1] When shown a picture of one of those craft in 1941, Higgins soon thereafter got in touch with his chief engineer, and, after describing the Japanese design over the telephone, told the engineer to have a mock-up built for his inspection upon his return to New Orleans.

Within one month, tests of the ramp-bow Eureka boat in Lake Pontchartrain showed conclusively that successful operation of such a boat was feasible. This became the Landing Craft, Personnel (Ramped) (LCP(R)). The machine gun positions were still at the front of the boat but closer to the side to give access between them to the ramp. The design was still not ideal as the ramp was a bottleneck for the troops as was the case with the British Landing Craft Assault of the year before.

No less an authority than the Supreme Allied Commander declared the Higgins boat to be crucial to the Allied victory on the European Western Front and the previous fighting in North Africa and Italy:

"Andrew Higgins … is the man who won the war for us. … If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different."—General Dwight Eisenhower

It is interesting to see that one of the most important inventions of WWII was based on a Japanese design (or reverse engineered). A tactic the Japanese are famous for.

And so ends a very full day.