Tag Archive | World War II

Dunn Favorite Son, General William C. Lee

Lee receives an honorary degree from N.C. State University in 1945.
Image from NCSU Libraries.

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, Lee volunteered for the United States Army during World War I. After the war, he remained in the army and, in 1939, was assigned to the Chief of the Army’s office 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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U-Boats Off the OBX, 1942

A tanker sinking off the Outer Banks after being hit by a U-boat.
Image from the National Park Service.

On January 19, 1942, a German U-boat, designated U-123, attacked three ships north of Cape Hatteras. The U-boat was part of what was called the “Second Happy Time,” a campaign during which Axis submarines attacked merchant vessels along the Atlantic coast.

In the early morning hours, the American passenger-freighter City of Atlanta was sunk and survivors were left floating in the icy water; only three crewmen lived. Just before dawn, the U-123 slipped into a group of Allied ships and attacked.

The American tanker Malay was damaged and disabled by gunfire from the U-123’s deck guns. The U-boat then torpedoed a nearby Latvian freighter, killing two of her 32 crewmen and leaving her in to sink.

The U-123 returned to finish off the wounded Malay, hitting her with its last torpedo before it headed east for home. The Norwegian tanker Kosmos II tried unsuccessfully to ram the fleeing U-boat as it escaped.

The tanker Malay, although damaged by cannon fire and a torpedo, survived the attack with the loss of four of her 34 crewmen. The Latvian freighter was abandoned by her crew and floated northward for several days before finally sinking somewhere off Oregon Inlet.

Visit: The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras tells the story of “Torpedo Junction.”

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

Home of the Airborne and Special Forces, Fort Bragg

A training exercise at Fort Bragg during World War II. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

A training exercise at Fort Bragg during World War II.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On September 30, 1922, Camp Bragg—the U.S. War Department’s World War I-era field artillery training facility near Fayetteville—was re-designated Fort Bragg and made a permanent Army post.

A 1918 commission led by General William J. Snow chose the 251-square-mile site in southeastern North Carolina as a military training complex because of its varied terrain, adequate water supply, mild climate and available rail facilities. Named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg and built by civilian laborers, the camp was initially intended to host six brigades of soldiers, though postwar demobilization and budget cuts pared it down to two brigades.

Famed aviatrix Tiny Broadwick demonstrates her parachute to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg.

Famed aviatrix Tiny Broadwick demonstrates her parachute to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg.
Image from the State Archives.

During World War II, both the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions moved to Fort Bragg, and thousands of artillerymen trained there, as did the 9th and 10th Infantry Divisions and the famed 2nd Armored Division. In 1952, Fort Bragg became headquarters for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Since 2000, the fort’s soldiers have participated in combat and humanitarian operations around the world. They continue to serve a vital role in the war on terror.

Today, Fort Bragg supports 57,000 military personnel, 11,000 civilian employees and 23,000 family members, making it one of the largest military complexes in the world.

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UNC Charlotte’s Modest Beginnings

The Charlotte College building, circa 1960. Image from University Archives, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections at UNC-Charlotte.

The Charlotte College building, circa 1960. Image from University Archives, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections at UNC-Charlotte.

On September 23, 1946, the Charlotte Center opened to offer evening classes to recent World War II veterans.

Established as part of the
post-World War II GI Bill, the Charlotte Center got its start in the basement of Central High School. It was the largest of a network of 14 temporary institutions that officials created across the state to help curb the overcrowding that was anticipated at traditional colleges and universities.

CharColl_ca1959_60_2

Students outside Charlotte College, circa 1959-60.
Image from University Archives, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections at UNC-Charlotte.

The state slated the center to close in 1949 as the demand generated by returned soldiers began to dissipate, but local residents led by the Charlotte Center director Bonnie Cone fought to keep the center open as two-year institution called Charlotte College supported exclusively by local funds and operated by the local school board.

In 1958, the college was accepted into the North Carolina Community College System. It moved to its current location in 1961 and became a four-year institution in 1964.

Charlotte College became the fourth institution to join the consolidated UNC System the following year, changing its name to UNC Charlotte. It continued a steady pace of growth throughout the rest of the 20th century, adding its first graduate degree programs in 1969 and its first doctoral program in 1993.

Today, UNC Charlotte is the fourth-largest institution in the UNC system with an enrollment of more than 26,000.

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Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base and Glider Warfare

Laurinburg-Maxton postcard

Laurinburg-Maxton postcard. Image from the Library of Congress.

On August 28, 1942, the U.S. Army activated Laurinburg-Maxton air base in Scotland County. The facility, where glider pilots trained, played a little known role in the Allied victory in World War II.

Germany had pioneered the use of gliders, demonstrating their effectiveness in Holland and on Crete.

The individual most responsible for incorporating gliders into the U.S. military was Maj. Gen. William C. Lee, who had initiated the use of airborne forces at Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall.

Paratroopers practice at Laruinburg-Maxton Army Air Base during World War II. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Paratroopers practice at Laruinburg-Maxton Army Air Base during World War II. Image from the
N.C. Museum of History.

The Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base housed the First Troop Carrier Command. The 4,600-acre base contained three 6,500-foot long runways that formed a triangle. The triangle’s center was 510 acres of Bermuda grass, the landing site for the gliders.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps considered the glider concept viable as well, and incorporated the craft into their own training exercises. From 1942 to 1945, thousands trained for combat in Scotland County, including troops that took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

At the war’s conclusion the base was deactivated. With the advent of helicopters, the military had no further need for the glider program.

The Scotland Memorial Hospital was housed on the base’s former site from 1946 to 1951, and today the facility houses an industrial park and public airport.

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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.

U-Boat Survivors Added to POW Camp Rosters

German prisoners of war.

German prisoners in batches of 1,000 arriving at a prisoners of war cage. the Library of Congress.

On May 9, 1942, the U.S. Coast Guard sank German U-boat 352 off the Outer Banks.

Thirteen German sailors died and 33 were plucked from the water. They were taken to Fort Bragg and confined as prisoners of war. During the course of the war thousands of POWs—mostly Germans and Italians—were captured and sent to camps in North Carolina.

Most POWs were brought to North Carolina from abroad. Fritz Teichmann was a member of the German Luftwaffe (the air corps) and was captured in Sicily in July 1943. He was held as a POW at Camp Butner in Granville County. Giuseppe Pagliarulo, a soldier in Benito Mussolini’s Italian army, was captured in Tunisia in North Africa in May 1943 and held at Camp Sutton in Monroe.

So many POWs were brought to the state that men were sent from larger military bases to smaller branch camps. These smaller camps housed up to 500 men each and were located in 16 communities around the Tar Heel state, including Whiteville, Roanoke Rapids, Williamston and Hendersonville.

From there, they were placed on compulsory work details and sent out to cut pulpwood, dig ditches, wash dishes and pick apples. Their employers—farmers, loggers and restaurant owners—knew of the camps but otherwise their presence was relatively secret.

Visit: The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras interprets the shipwreck history of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

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Medal of Honor Winner Rufus Herring of Sampson County

Image from the U.S. Navy.

On February 17, 1945, Roseboro native Rufus G. Herring captained Gunboat 449 into the bay at Iwo Jima two days before the American invasion of the Japanese-held island. Herring’s mission, along with that of six other landing craft infantry units, was to provide covering fire for an Underwater Demolition Team as they conducted reconnaissance of the beach.

On entering the bay, Herring’s ship bore the brunt of the Japanese artillery fire, and two “serious fires” temporarily disabled it. All officers on board except the engineer were killed, wounded or missing.

Herring himself was seriously wounded and began losing strength due to severe bleeding. Despite his critical condition, he continued to maintain command of the ship, providing cover for the recon team and eventually steering the crippled ship back to safety. For “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” Herring was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in September 1945.

Life magazine later reported that Herring fell in love with his nurse while recuperating in a naval hospital. The couple married and returned to Roseboro where he ran a farm and lumber business.

Other related resources:

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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