Tag Archive | World War II

Couple Immortalized on V-J Day

V-J Day in Times Square. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

V-J Day in Times Square. Photo by
Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

On August 14, 1945, Life magazine photographer Albert Eisenstaedt captured the spirit of celebration of the United States’ victory over Japan in World War II in an iconic photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square.

The sailor had been running down the street kissing random women when he was spotted by Eisenstaedt, who snapped a few quick pictures when he grabbed a nurse in white nearby. Because of the chaos in the streets Eisenstaedt did not have time to get the names of the couple.

Many people have claimed to be the sailor or the nurse over the years, but North Carolina native Glenn McDuffie went to lengths to prove that he was the kissing sailor. Tired of disputes as to the sailor’s identity, McDuffie asked Lois Gibson, a forensic artist with Houston Police Department, whether she could make a positive identification.

Glenn McDuffie with a Navy photo of himself during World War II and V-J Day in Times Square

In 2007, Gibson, who also compared the photo with those of several other kisser-claimants, reported that McDuffie’s features were an exact match to those of the sailor in the photograph. He enjoyed several years of celebrity, being invited to fundraisers and veterans’ events.

Born in Kannapolis in 1927, McDuffie was 15 years old when he forged documents to join the Navy. He died in 2014 in Texas.

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The Civil Air Patrol and World War II off North Carolina’s Coast

Civil Air Patrol volunteers in Greenville, circa 1950.
Image from East Carolina University.

On August 10, 1942, pilots from North Carolina’s first Civil Air Patrol (CAP) base at Skyco on Roanoke Island began making patrols.

North Carolina’s notorious “Torpedo Junction” spurred officials to establish a CAP base near the coast. Aircraft from the base patrolled the area from Norfolk to Ocracoke Inlet. The Navy and Coast Guard also used CAP aircraft to escort convoys along the coast, survey and chart wrecks that might pose risks to navigation and conduct search and rescue missions.

As the federal and state governments began to see the value in the CAP, a second coastal patrol base was established in Beaufort in 1943. Although critically underfunded, North Carolina’s two coastal patrol bases provided vital support for military operations.

While North Carolina’s Civil Air Patrol bases were in operation during World War II, only two vessels were torpedoed off of the coast. The civilian airmen assisted military pilots in effectively blockading Torpedo Junction. Service in the CAP was voluntary and did not carry draft deferment. Participating aviators received pay for their time and equipment use when performing official services such as patrol or courier duty.

Today the Civil Air Patrol continues to conduct search and rescue operations and provide disaster relief and emergency services.

Read more in North Carolina and the Two World Wars from N.C. Historical Publications.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

U-Boats Active Off N.C. Coast in Both World Wars

A ship sinks off the North Carolina coast after a u-boat attack.
Image from the Outer Banks History Center

On June 5, 1918, attacks by German U-boats began off the North Carolina coast. The raids were the first against the state by a foreign government since the War of 1812, and the initial assault lasted for four days. During that time one German submarine, U-151, sank four Allied ships.

Two other German ships launched attacks off the Outer Banks during World War I. U-140 claimed four more ships, including the Diamond Shoals lightship, which sank in early August. U-117 arrived off the North Carolina coast a few weeks later and laid mines north of Cape Hatteras that would result in the sinking of the British steamship Mirlo. It sank another ship before returning home. The submarine raids finally ended when an armistice was signed in November 1918.

The damage done during World War I would ultimately prove minor compared to that done during World War II. Attacks began off North Carolina’s shores almost immediately after the America’s entry into the conflict in December 1941 and continued at intense levels until the U.S. Navy began to strengthen antisubmarine defenses in the summer of 1942.

During World War II, more than 80 ships were sunk or damaged off North Carolina’s coast.

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Camp Butner’s Namesake, Henry Wolfe Butner

On March 13, 1937, Maj. Gen. Henry Wolfe Butner, a native of Surry County and commander of the First Artillery Brigade in World War I, died. Butner received the Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star among other commendations for his wartime service.  He was also briefly the commander at Fort Bragg.

An Army camp named in Butner’s honor opened in August 1942. Located on approximately 40,000 acres in Granville, Person and Durham counties, it served as a combat infantry facility and site of training exercises for nearly 30,000 soldiers during World War II. The rolling farmland terrain was used for a range of exercises, including rehearsals of gas attacks, the use of camouflage and river crossings. German and Italian prisoners of war were brought to Camp Butner where they served as cooks and performed various duties.

Italian POWs at Camp Butner during World War II. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

Italian POWs at Camp Butner during World War II. Image from
the N.C. Museum of History

At the war’s close the temporary quarters were bulldozed, and most of the land was returned to its former owners. Today, the grounds house a variety of state and federal facilities including several mental health facilities, multiple correctional institutions, state-owned farms and a National Guard training facility.

Read more in North Carolina and the Two World Wars from N.C. Historical Publications.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Merci Train, Symbol of Franco-American Friendship

A Merci Train reception ceremony in another state (location
unkown). Image from the National Archives

On February 8, 1949, North Carolina’s Merci Train car, filled with gifts of gratitude from French citizens, arrived in Raleigh. The French train, with 49 cars—one for each state at the time, plus one for Washington, D. C. and the territory of Hawaii to share—was sent in response to the American Friendship Train. That train was sent to France by the United States the previous year, and consisted of 700 boxcars filled with relief supplies.

North Carolina's Merci Train car on display at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer

North Carolina’s Merci Train car on display at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer

The French train cars, built between 1872 and 1885, were designed to hold either 40 men or 8 horses each—thus their nickname, the “Forty and Eights.” The boxcars had been used during both World Wars to transport troops.

North Carolina’s boxcar, filled with hundreds of gifts, was received officially in Raleigh by Governor Kerr Scott. The occasion was festive, with a ceremony and parade to welcome the unusual offering.  Following the ceremony, many of the gifts, ranging from toys to textiles, from household items to valuable artifacts, were kept at what is now the North Carolina Museum of History. Others were distributed around the state to libraries, school, and other museums.

Today the Merci Train boxcar is restored and on exhibit at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.

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William C. Lee, Maverick and “Father of the Airborne”

Airborne troops training at Laurinburg-Maxton Air Force Base during World War II. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

Airborne troops training at Laurinburg-Maxton Air Force Base during World War II. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

On February 5, 1944, William Carey Lee, the “Father of the Airborne,” suffered a heart attack that ended his military career.

Born in Dunn in 1895, he volunteered for the United States Army during World War I. After the war, he remained in the army and was assigned to the Chief of the Army’s office in 1939 in Washington, D.C. There he became part of a maverick group of army officers advocating for the development of an airborne army infantry force.

The Army authorized the development of a test platoon of paratroopers, and placed Lee in charge. When the Amy raised two airborne divisions, Lee received command of the 101st. He oversaw its development and training and was instrumental in getting airborne and glider operations going at Camp Mackall and Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base.

The inclusion of the airborne divisions in the Normandy Invasion in June 1944 was a direct result of Lee’s work. Nevertheless, he was unable to participate due to the heart attack.  However, the members of the 101st Division, the Screaming Eagles, were ordered to yell the name “Bill Lee” as they departed their transports over France in the early morning hours of D-Day.

Lee died in 1948, and is buried in Dunn.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Flying Ace George Preddy, Christmas Casualty

An image of Preddy from the Preddy Memorial Foundation

On December 25, 1944, Greensboro native George E. Preddy Jr., the top P-51 Mustang ace during World War II, was shot down by friendly ground fire.

Preddy was a barnstormer pilot before the war. He tried three times to become a naval pilot but was rejected because of health problems. The Army Air Corps accepted Preddy, placing him on a waiting list for a cadet class. In 1940, he joined the National Guard, and he received his wings in December 1941.

In July 1942, Preddy was involved in a midair collision during training. Following a three-month recovery, he returned to the United States, and was eventually assigned to a squadron that was sent to Great Britain. He shot down his first plane in December 1943.

In April 1944, his squadron received the P-51 Mustang, and Preddy became the 487th’s temporary commander. He downed six planes on a single day in August of the same year, earning himself a Distinguished Service Cross—the nation’s second highest award—in the process.

Preddy was shot down during the Battle of the Bulge while flying in his plane, the Cripes A’Mighty, in pursuit of a German plane. He is buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery in France.

Read more in North Carolina and the Two World Wars from N.C. Historical Publications.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

George Watts Hill, Tar Heel in Cloak

An image of Hill from Preservation Durham

On October 27, 1901, George Watts Hill was born to a prosperous family in Durham. The newborn would inherit wealth, commanding a fortune earned in banking, and over time would demonstrate an abiding sense of devotion to his country.

The gathering storms of war in 1939 roused alarm in Watts Hill and led to his involvement in the secret war against Hitler. In the face of neutrality advocates, he signed onto “A Summons to Speak Out” and enlisted the support of three dozen Tar Heel businessmen, educators and journalists on behalf of intervention in Europe. In March 1942, he joined what soon became known as the Office of Strategic Services.

Hill’s administrative experience made him invaluable to the OSS’s “Wild Bill” Donovan who placed him in charge of the camouflage unit and devices central to the work of spies, such as disguises, fake uniforms and passports and listening equipment. After the war Hill returned to banking but also played roles in health care reform, desegregation and, as a UNC trustee, the overturn of the Speaker Ban. He died in 1993, the year that UNC named its alumni center for him.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Frank Armstrong of Twelve O’Clock High Fame

On August 17, 1942, Frank Armstrong led the first daylight bomber attack by the United States. He flew over Axis territory in occupied France and earned the Silver Star, a military honor for valor.

A native of Hamilton, in Martin County, and a graduate of Wake Forest College, Armstrong enlisted in 1928 as a flying cadet. He received and conducted bombardment training and, in 1940, witnessed the Nazi blitz bombing of London.

Armstrong’s involvement in the war did not end with the 1942 campaigns. In 1943, he led the first U.S. raids over Germany in a B-17 “Flying Fortress,” and, in 1945, he flew some of the last bombing raids over Japan targeting oil depots in a B-29. His official military biography states that he “led the first and last heavy bombing raids of World War II.

In 1948, Beirne Lay, Jr., who had served alongside Armstrong in the bombardment team in Europe, collaborated with Sy Bartlett to publish Twelve O’Clock High! The authors made clear in the foreword that Colonel Frank Savage, the novel’s central character, was based on Armstrong. The 1949 film version of the book was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Camp Butner and Axis Prisoners of War

Soldiers at Camp Butner in 1947. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

Soldiers at Camp Butner in 1947. Image from the
N.C. Museum of History

On August 4, 1942, Camp Butner, a 40,000-acre military training facility, officially opened. The camp spanned parts of Durham, Granville and Person Counties and was large enough to accommodate more than 30,000 troops.

As the war progressed, Camp Butner’s mission evolved to include the housing of prisoners of war. It served as one of two principal prison camps in North Carolina. The other was Fort Bragg. Italian prisoners were the first to arrive. Their numbers swelled to roughly 3,000 in time. They remained at Camp Butner until Benito Mussolini’s regime dissolved in September 1943, and German prisoners soon took their place.

Lt. Kurt Rossmeisl. Image from the Toledo Blade

Lt. Kurt Rossmeisl. Image from the Toledo Blade

Camp Butner’s prisoners attempted a number of escapes, but only one can be considered successful. On August 4, 1945, Lt. Kurt Rossmeisl, a German linguist, donned plain clothes and dark glasses before calmly walking out the camp’s front entrance. Considered by some to be the “most dangerous” of the nation’s escaped prisoners at the time, Rossmeisl remained at large in the U.S. until he surrendered in Cincinnati in May 1959. That year, the Toledo Blade ran a six part series by Rossmeisl in which he describes his escape, his new life in Chicago and his eventual surrender.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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