Tag Archive | World War II

Justice at Nuremburg: Judge Fitzroy Donald Phillips

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A poster advertising Phillips’s run for solicitor. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On July 19, 1982, former Superior Court Justice Fitzroy Donald Phillips died in Rockingham. He was one of two North Carolina judges who participated in the second phase of trials of former Nazi officials at Nuremberg, Germany (the other was Richard Dillard Dixon).

Phillips was born in Laurinburg in 1893, where he practiced law after studying at UNC. After service in the American Expeditionary Force in the First World War, he was elected mayor of Rockingham. In 1923, he was elected solicitor of the Thirteenth Judicial District, a role similar to that of district attorney, and 11 years later he was elected a Superior Court justice for the same district.

Following the major war crimes trials held before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946, the United States established military courts to try lesser Nazi officials. In November 1946, Phillips resigned his judgeship to serve as one of the three judges of what was called Military Tribunal II, which presided over two trials in 1947.

The tribunal met again in 1948 to hear additional details concerning the second case. The Nuremburg trials collectively established the precedents for the successful prosecution of war criminals.

Phillips returned home to serve as Superior Court judge before retiring in 1962.

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The Marines of Montford Point

A trio of Marines training at Montford Point. Image from National Archives.

A trio of Marines training at Montford Point. Image from National Archives.

On April 26, 1942, the United States Marine Corps opened Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, specifically for the training of African American recruits.

Before President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order that ended segregation in the armed forces, blacks who served did so in segregated units, like the one at Montford Point. In the era of strict segregation, interaction between white and black Marines during training was practically nonexistent.

The larger base, Camp Lejeune, had been established one year earlier as part of mobilization for World War II.  Shortly after that time, the Corps constructed barracks and support facilities including a chapel, mess hall, steam plant and recreational area on the 1,600-acre peninsula that became Montford Point.

More than 19,000 black Marines served in World War II, all in units trained at Montford Point. Among the units organized there were the 51st and 52nd Defense Battalions, which were dispatched to the Pacific but saw no combat action, and 11 ammunition and 51 depot companies that did see action.

The 51st Battalion Band, led by musician Bobby Troup, lent to the sense of esprit de corps.

The facility became obsolete after Navy Secretary Francis Matthews ordered the end of racial division in the Navy and Marines in June 1949.

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Enigma Machine Plucked from Its Watery Grave

The USS Roper. Image from the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The USS Roper. Image from the Naval History and Heritage Command.

On April 14, 1942, the destroyer USS Roper sank the German submarine U-85 off the Outer Banks between Wimble Shoals and Cape Hatteras.

By January 1942 as many as 19 German U-boats patrolled the Atlantic coastline on any given day, with two or three hiding at Diamond Shoals at any given time to attack ships as they rounded Cape Hatteras. At the height of what is now called the Battle of Torpedo Junction, the Germans were sinking a ship nearly every day; between freighters, tankers and passenger ships the losses were tremendous.

A restored Enigma machine. Image from The Military Museums.

At the same time, the American military was learning how to detect and defeat the U-boats. The first hit was on U-85. Navy divers surveyed the area near the wreck and attempted to salvage the ship, but efforts were not successful. Since men were needed elsewhere, the submarine was left to the elements.

The wreck was explored by recreational divers for many years. In July 2001, divers salvaged the submarine’s Enigma machine. The Germans used the complex coding device for secret communications, especially for divulging locations of enemy vessels and supply convoys.

Although it is still being conserved, the stable parts of the machine are on display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras.

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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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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.

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.

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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.

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

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