Memorial Day

Hello everyone, it is me the owner / creator of this website, Michael. I know I have not posted for a little over two months, which I will talk more about this week or next. However, that’s not what today’s post is going to be about. Instead I will talk about the significance of today, May 28th.

The importance of today can’t be represented by words. It’s true meaning cannot be truly fathomed by the human mind. Today is a day in the United States of America known as ‘Memorial Day‘. It is a day in which Americans remember those who have fallen in service to our country. This idea was celebrated upon starting in 1868 but did not become a federal holiday until 1971. The tradition of remembering the military members who have died while in service to their country is celebrated in many countries around the world, in many different ways and on different dates. In Australia and New Zealand it’s called ‘Anzac Day‘, in the Netherlands it’s called ‘Dodenherdenking (Remembrance of the Dead)’, and in Russia it’s called ‘Victory Day‘. These are just a few examples of other countries who celebrate this day, in many ways similar and different to how we do it in America. The commonality between these vastly different nations however is the purpose behind it.

Remembering the brave souls of men and women who have given their life for their country is a very unique aspect of today’s modern world. It’s separate from all the gripes of modern society; politics, money, social-issues, etc, and should forever remain this way. It’s not about those of us lucky enough to be alive to even celebrate it, but instead those who have fallen.

I actually typed out a few more paragraphs attempting to explain this from my point of view but then realized that won’t do justice to the fallen. The true meaning of today ins’t something that can be explained, especially not by someone else. I encourage all of you to take a moment some time and think to yourself of why this day is important. Think about the brave men and women since the dawn of man of have given their lives so other’s wouldn’t have to. The emotions that come along with these thoughts can’t be expressed by words, the importance of these men and women, their sacrifices, hardships and livelihoods can’t be shown through text on a screen, which is why I have decided to end this post here.


~ Michael

Entry #83

“Oct 26 – Had raid at 11:00 P.M. Good news Jap fleet beaten and turned back. Japs lose or damage , 58 ships. We also sustained losses.”

Entry #83(2)

Alright, this entry follows the brutal, routine, reality that Mike and the other soldiers during this war faced ; starting off with a “raid at 11:00 P.M.” 

This entry is also very different in tone when in comparison to just about every other one. It is almost uplifting sounding, when reading it. I would imagine Mike was in a more positive mood when he wrote this, as the “Jap fleet beaten and turned back” must have been a major morale booster for him and the other soldiers. This meant the war in the Pacific was starting to go in favor of the allied forces.

I am guessing this is the aftermath of the Battle of Samar, which I talked about in the previous entry. If you don’t know what the battle is, I would recommend going back and reading through that post, which will hopefully help this one make more sense.

The next part is very interesting as it gives a quantity, mentioning “58 ships” owned by the Japanese Navy that got destroyed or damaged. This is a major victory for the allied forces,  as this made a fairly large dent in their Navy, and set them back a fair bit. If the American forces would have lost this battle, it could have allowed the Japanese to take over the Philippines, and ultimately winning the war. That is only a theory though, so please take it with a grain of salt.

Mike ends this entry in a solemn, kind of melon-colic way, by writing “We also sustained loses.” 

The total American loses for the Battle of Samar are as follows:

  • 5 ships destroyed
  • 6 ships damaged but survived
  • 23 aircraft’s destroyed
  • 1,583 men killed / missing
  • 913 men wounded but survived

The total Japanese loses for the Battle of Samar are as follows:

  • 58 or more ships damaged / destroyed
  • 52 aircraft’s destroyed
  • Unknown amount of men killed / missing
  • Unknown amount of men wounded that survived

Hopefully these numbers can give more perspective to “We also sustained loses.”

 

 

Entry #82

“Oct 25 – Had raid about 9 P.M. Three Jap Task Forces headed towards Leyte to cut off our troops. Big naval battle in progress.”

Entry #82(2)

This entry starts off in a very similar way to the previous entries, with Mike writing 
“Had raid about 9 P.M.”

The next part is very interesting and different. Mike wrote “Three Jap Task Forces headed towards Leyte to cut off our troops.” To start this part off, I figured I should probably explain what a task force is in terms of it’s military significance. A task force , abbreviated as TF , is a smaller unit / formation created to complete one single task, and only that task. After it is complete they can be sent out to complete another specific task or disbanded.

For example, let’s say the Japanese have a weapons supply cache at the Northern side on an island, inside a cave, and the American soldiers want to destroy it. In order to do that they could create a “Task Force” comprised of ten, hand picked soldiers, to complete that task. Once finished the task force will be disbanded and the ten soldiers will return to their standard units.

Hopefully that example gives you a better picture of what a military task force is and how it works. If you’re still confused feel free to leave a comment below and I will happily responded to you as soon as I can.

Alright, let’s get back to the journal entry. Mike mentioned how the “Three Jap Task Forces” are “headed towards Leyte to cut off our troops.” In Entry #79 I explained the geography of Leyte Island, and where in the world / Philippines it actually is. I also explained the significance of it during WWII and talked about the major battle that took place there. If you don’t know too much about Leyte, I strongly recommend going back and reading through that entry, as it will also help you understand the following entries. You can do so by clicking on this.

This is very crucial information for the allies to know, as they might be able to prevent the Japanese soldiers from doing so. I do not know exactly what island Mike was on or near when he wrote this, as he typically does not write these sort of things down. I have read this whole journal, so without spoiling too much, I can tell you he is not currently at Leyte Island, but will be there soon.

The final part of this entry, although short is very crucial information, in terms of historical significance. Mike finished this entry off by writing “Big naval battle in progress.” 

The battle he is most likely referring to is the Battle of Samar. Which historically is accurate, as this battle did occur on Wednesday, October 25th 1944, the same day Mike wrote this. The rest of this entry will not directly have to do with Mike, but instead the Battle of Samar. Since he wrote it down, I feel it’s important to bring attention to it and talk about it’s significance.

The Battle of Samar was no ordinary naval battle, it was / is one of the most important naval battles to have ever taken place. To give a little more context, it was part of the much larger naval battle occurring at this time, known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. As previously mentioned I discussed this in a previous entry so I will not being going into too much detail on it. Overall, the Battle of Leyte Gulf is ranked as one of the largest naval battles to have ever taken place, by many historians.

The Battle of Samar was a battle that took place within the overall campaign for Leyte Gulf. It was actually the most important, and largest single fight of that whole campaign, being the center of most of the fighting. It is ranked by many historians as one of greatest, most mismatched battles in military history. As the American soldiers were very under-prepared and under-armed compared to the Japanese soldiers. This battle ultimately led to the defeat of the Japanese Navy during WWII, making it incredibly important and interesting.

Below will be a link to this amazing website I found going into immense detail about the Battle of Samar. It explains the exact events that occurred during this battle, almost hour by hour, and does a much greater job at explaining it’s importance than I do. The website also has some incredible photographs from this battle. I highly recommend going there if you’re interested in this battle and would like to learn more about it:

http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/survival-off-samar/

 

 

 

Entry #81

“Oct 24 – Another raid, dropped phosphorus bomb on strip killing two men.”

Entry#81(2)

Mike starts this entry off just like a lot of the previous entries, by writing “Another raid.” The raids that occurred almost everyday to Mike and so many other soldiers during the war was a sad reality, that probably felt routine to them, as horrible as that sounds.

The next part, however is a bit different, Mike wrote “dropped phosphorus bomb on strip”. In the previous entry, I wrote a lot about phosphorus bombs, probably much more than needed, explaining the significance of it during warfare. If you don’t know too much about phosphorus bombs and how they were used during WWII I would recommend going back and reading over that entry. This marks the second time a phosphorus bomb was used by the Japanese against Mike and the other soldiers with him.

The next three words that Mike wrote are very powerful; “killing two men.” I consider this to be a very monumental point for this journal and the project thus far. Up until now, to the best of my recollection, Mike has only written about people being killed in two other entries: Entry #41 and Entry #73. This does not mean these are the only times throughout his service he saw people get killed, it just means he choose to write it down in his journal these specific instances. He might have known the people that got killed, causing him to write it down. Either way, I like to bring significance to the times when he mentions anyone of his fellow soldiers being killed.

I can’t imagine how horrific this was for Mike and the other soldiers, as to the best of my knowledge this is the first time Mike would have seen someone killed by a phosphorus bomb.

Those two brave men who got killed on Tuesday, October 24th, 1944 are resting easy in Valhalla now.

Entry #80

“Oct 23 – Was at movie when Jap plane snuck in and dropped phosphorus bomb near strip. First time they used it on us. Burns from it are fatal.”
Entry#80(2)

Alright so Mike starts this entry off pretty casually by writing “Was at movie when”. The words that follow completely change the ambiance of this entry.

Mike wrote “Jap plane snuck in and dropped phosphorus bomb near strip.” The reason he wrote the “Jap plane snuck in” is because they most likely were not expecting it, as they were relaxing and watching a movie. This date was also a Monday, so the beginning of the week, and this most likely occurred at night, so I doubt the soldiers were expecting too much. The next part gets very interesting and horrific at the same time. Mike follows this up by writing “dropped phosphorus bomb near strip.”

Just to give a little background / outside information, phosphorus is a chemical that comes in two variants: red and white. This will be very long and off topic, so if you’re not interested I would suggest scrolling down until you skip it.

phosphorus

The periodic symbol for phosphorus.

Red phosphorus is not very harmful, and is not used in purposes directly related to warfare.

red phosphorus

This is what red phosphorus looks like in a powder format.

It is actually used on the outside strip part on some match boxes to help ignite them better. It is also used in flares / smoke bombs (and other similar smoke creating devices), flame retardant, and even used in the creation process of certain drugs. You can read more about some of the uses of red phosphorus here if you’re interested.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum is white phosphorus. It is incredibly dangerous when in comparison to it’s red counterpart, and is commonly used in warfare, even to this day.

whitephoshorus

This is what white phosphorus looks like in a powder format.

This chemical is utilized in warfare through two distinct ways: To inflict injuries / casualties or to create a smoke screen. In order for this chemical to damage or kill it’s target during warfare it is placed inside grenades or missiles. When the object explodes the chemical is ignited and creates a thick, white smoke. For a short period of time after the initial explosion the smoke is very deadly. When the chemical comes in contact with a person (whether it be through inhalation or contact with the skin) it can cause third degree burns and beyond. The main reason it is so lethal when used in warfare is because it spreads very quickly, as it’s a gas, meaning it’s very hard to escape from it’s radius. If you’re interested in the uses of white phosphorus throughout history and how it works, you can read about it here.

It was actually first manufactured into grenade format during WWI and used by Britain. During WWII it was used very frequently by axis and allied forces. From that point forward it has been used in almost every major conflict: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq / Afghanistan, parts of Africa, etc. During Korea and Vietnam it was used by both sides and lead to military and civilian casualties. I will not be talking about it’s use in modern times, as it is a pretty polarized issue, and I want to keep this website free from modern politics and things along those lines, hopefully you can understand.

Don’t worry, I am getting back on track now. Hopefully that you have an understanding of this chemical in warfare, the rest of what Mike wrote will make sense. Mike wrote “dropped phosphorus bomb near strip. First time they used it on us. Burns from it are fatal.” 

This bomb most likely landed semi-close to where Mike and the other soldiers were. The one line Mike wrote; “First time they used it on us.” does not mean this was the first time it was used during WWII. U.S. forces used it against the Germans prior to this, and the Germans used it against U.S. forces prior to this. He either means this was the first time it was used against him and his unit by Japanese forces, or this was the first time it was used by the Japanese against anyone.

As I previously mentioned, it is a very deadly chemical when used in warfare. This is highlighted in the next line Mike wrote: “Burns from it are fatal.” Now did anyone get killed or injured from this specific bombing? That I am not sure of, as Mike did not mention anything about it. If I had to guess, I am thinking there was probably at least one injury, but again that is only a guess.

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If any of this entry confuses you or you would like to know more, feel free to leave a comment below and I would be more than happy to get back to you.


Where I found the periodic symbol of phosphorus image.

Where I found the image of red phosphorus powder.

Where I found the image of white phosphorus powder.

Where I found the image of a white phosphorus bomb striking a Japanese airfield during WWII.

Where I found the image U.S. Army soldiers watching a white phosphorus explosion during WWII.

Where I found the image of white phosphorus shells striking German soldiers during WWII.

 

 

One year later…

Today, Wednesday March 14th 2018, is a very special day for me. One year ago today, I created this website, and posted the first entry. Before I get into thanking you all and things along that line I would like to talk about my progression over the past year, and where I stand right now, in terms of the website. This post is going to be extremely long and probably contain a lot of ranting.

Mike passed away on January 23rd, 2000. At the time I was not even born, so I never really got a chance to know Mike. He is my grandfather on my mother’s side, and in turn I was named after him. So in case the website’s name has ever confused you, just know it’s named after him, not me. If you would like more information on this , feel free to check out the “About” section of the website, and a post I made in August of 2017.

Prior to even reading the journal, I never once thought that I would be running a website one day. I’ve always been interested in history, and I still am, but the idea of running a website centered around it never once crossed my mind. Soon after I started reading the first few entries of Mike’s journal, I immediately realized how incredibly rare an intact journal from WWII is. I then started to think that other people might want to see this. At first, I planned to just transcribe it in Microsoft Word, and email it to any family members who wished to read it. After thinking about this idea some more, I realized there is far greater potential to possibly be reached. Which is when I landed on the idea of creating a website. At this time, it was towards the end of January, 2017, so I had been thinking about this for weeks prior to when I actually created it. I had absolutely no idea how to create a website or anything that comes along with it. I didn’t even know what WordPress was at the time.

Besides my absolute clueless-ness on how to do any of this, I was also very nervous about it. I am a fairly shy person in real life, as I do not like to share a lot of personal details with people, especially complete strangers over the internet. I was not necessarily worried what my family or friends might think, but instead what other people online might think. Like for example, what happens if a WWII historian were to come across this website, and pointed out how all the information I’ve been talking about is incorrect, something along those lines. I knew that if I were to go through with this, I would have to do a lot of research, so I don’t present incorrect information to people, which also worried me a little. I had no idea what running a website would consist of, how long it would take to make a post, or how to even post things for that matter. I had no idea the amount of time and effort required to do a project like this. After spending a few weeks researching what domain to purchase a site from, and how to run a blog, I decided to go through with it, one year ago today. I can still remember my anxiety when I made the first post.

All of that being said I am in no way an expert at any of this. I have learned a lot over the course of this past year, thanks to other users on WordPress such as GP Cox, but at the same time, I also have a very long way to go.

Looking back, creating this website was one of the most important thing’s I’ve decided to do in my life so far. It’s very hard to convey what this website means to me through text on a two dimensional screen, so this all probably sounds pretty stupid. This website , in my mind, is a way for me to get to know my Grandfather and carry on his legacy. That one day when I have children can be passed onto them, to their children, and to their children’s children. This website and Mike’s journal have taught me a lot about myself and made me realize what I want in life, which I will be forever grateful for. It was and is a major part of my life.

Thank you to any family and friends who have came to this website, given me advice, feedback, or anything along those lines. It means more to me than you could possibly imagine. Thank you to other WordPress users who have stopped by and left a comment. Thank you to the ones who have given me advice, corrected information I have typed, and lead to me finding their own websites and exploring those. One of which is GP Cox, who has been following me for about 11 months now. He also runs a website of his own, showcasing the Pacific War, which is what Mike fought in. He did not ask me to do this in any way, shape , or form. It’s the least I could do to pay him back. You can check his website out here:

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/

Thank you to anyone who read all of this, as I realize it’s probably not the most interesting to read. This website, journal, and everything that comes along with it has impacted my life in a very large way, which I will be forever grateful for. If heaven is real, and Mike is sitting up there right now, I’m sure he’s incredibly grateful to you too.

From this point on, I plan to continue posting entries like usual, as there is a decent amount left. I have no idea when this project will be finished, it could be one year, two years, etc. Either way, I look forward to the future.


Thank you,

〜 Michael

Entry #79

“Oct 20 – Philippines invaded landing made at Leyte Island, this will probably be our destination.”

Entry#79(2)

Alright so as mentioned in the previous entry , Mike is on his way to the Philippines. In that entry I mentioned how the Philippines is one of the most important locations of the war. I mentioned how I explained this in a past entry, and would not re – explain it for a few more. Well I decided I might as well explain it in this entry, as what Mike wrote does not directly have to do with him, as he is not there yet. This entry is going to go very off course, as not everything will directly pertain to what Mike wrote. So if you’re not interested I would suggest to stop reading. It is also going to be very long, so thank you if you actually decide to stay and read it all.

Mike starts this entry off by writing “Philippines invaded landing made at Leyte Island”. This is a perfect time for me to talk about the Philippines. I am going to try and go into more detail , as when I previously explained all this in Entry #60, it was not to a great extent.

The day Mike wrote this was on Friday , October 20th , 1944. As he wrote , the Philippines were invaded. This is historically accurate, as this initiated the Philippines Campaign.

 

The above images should hopefully give you a better idea of where the Philippines are on a world scale. Before I get into the entry further and the significance of this geographical area, I am going to address “Leyte Island”.

LeyteVeryZoomedOutView(2)

A heavily zoomed out view of Leyte Island, which is in the Philippines. The highlighted red area, is a general range of where Mike most likely would’ve been at the time of writing this.

LeyteZoomedOutView(2)

A more zoomed in view of the Philippines. The red marker is Leyte Island.

LeyteZoomedInView(2)

A heavily zoomed in view of Leyte Island. It spans from Maasin City at the bottom to Laoang at the top.

Hopefully those three images give you a better idea of where Mike actually was at the time of writing this and where he is headed. So now that that’s out of the way, we can get into the historical significance of the Philippines.

As previously mentioned, allied forces invaded the Philippines, which kick-started the Philippines campaign. Prior to this day in 1944, the Japanese had full control of all the Philippines , which they took over in 1942. Which is known as the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. The reason the Japanese invaded and took over the Philippines in the first place is relatively straight-forward. Their government at the time was heavily imperialistic , basically meaning Japan’s main goal at the time was to take over other countries through the use of militaristic force. Gaining them a multitude of personal resources, ranging from money, to land, to food, etc. In the context of WWII this would give them a much better position to attack the allied forces from, as the Philippines was in warm water, which helped with having a Navy. It is also fairly close to Papua New Guinea and Australia, which were major allied territories during the war. This strategically benefited the Japanese in terms of naval and aircraft warfare. If the allied forces lost this campaign, it could have lead to the axis powers winning the war, but that’s a debate for another time. In summary, it was a very important location, which lead to the defeat of the Japanese and essentially the end of the war.

The Philippines were invaded through “Leyte Island” , which Mike mentioned in this entry.

McArthurLandingOfPhilippines

General Douglas MacArthur (United States Army) and President Osmeña (4th President of the Philippines) alongside other members of the military landing on Leyte Island, October 20th 1944.

This officially became known as the Battle of Leyte, which started when the U.S. Sixth Army entered onto the island through the use of our Navy and Army – Airforce. On this day the Sixth Army was comprised of nine standard Infantry Divisions , one Battalion of Rangers (special forces) , one Cavalry Division, one Airborne Division, and one Armored Group. The Sixth Army was assisted by several U.S. and Australian Naval Fleets, alongside several squadrons of aircraft’s. The Sixth Army was the main group that initiated this invasion ; other Army formations joined in later on such as the Eight Army. We were also assisted by several groups of Filipino guerrillas. So as you can see this was a very large, coordinated invasion of Leyte Island, which was our gateway into the rest of the Philippines. If you would like to know more about the exact events that took place this day or any further information about it, please feel free to click on the hyperlinks I provided.

Mike finishes off this entry by writing this will probably be our destination.” I will not spoil too much but let’s just say he was correct.

Thank you so much if you made it this far. I know this entry was a little different, as I went pretty of course. This entry marks a key one in the journal, as it kind of sets up the rest of it, in terms of what he will right about. Which is the reason I felt the need to explain the importance of this day and the Philippines in much broader terms. If you are confused about anything feel free to leave a comment or click on any of the specific hyperlinks I provided.


The map images of the Philippines and Leyte Island are from Google Maps.

Entry #60 , where I went into additional detail about the Philippines.

The image of General Douglas MacArthur, President Osmeña, and other members of the military landing on Leyte Island.