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Friday, September 20, 2013

Canadians Sent to Hong Kong in World War II

Canadians were sent to Hong Kong in November of 1941 for military and political reasons. It was their country's first action in World War II. Canada is a member of the British Commonwealth, and its support was needed to protect Britain's Far East Possessions. The Brits were consumed with the Germans in the European Theater.

 An agreement was brokered for the Canadians to go to Hong Kong in World War II.  Lieutenant General Arthur Grasset, when referring to the Japanese, stated that "they fought well against third rate Chinese, but they had yet to meet first class troops such as his battalions, which would give them a bloody nose." Grasset was the Commanding Officer of China.

Hong Kong Commanding Officer Major General CM Maltby remarked shortly after the Canadian November arrival:
And there were only 5,000 Japanese nearby, ill-equipped, short of artillery, unused to night fighting, and their few supporting obsolete aircraft were flown by myopic pilots.

The stereotype that prevailed in military circles at the time were that the Japanese were nearsighted because of the appearance of their eyelids! This was a belief shared by General Douglas MacArthur as well. Furthermore, the Canadians were not privy to military intelligence. They were sent to war, ill prepared and untrained. The plan was to train them en route to Hong Kong and upon arrival.

The Royal Canadians and their dog Gander before deployment to Hong Kong. Gander
sacrificed his life by catching of a grenade meant for soldiers.  Source:

Meanwhile, six Japanese fighter and bomber squadrons were assigned to Hong Kong. The attack commenced at 7:30 am, on December 8, 1941. It was scheduled around the same time period as offensive military actions in Guam, Wake Island, Philippines, Thailand, Malaya and Pearl Harbor. The Japanese Squadron obliterated the British aircraft  at Kai Tak Airport.  Bridges were destroyed but accompanying Japanese engineering units quickly repaired the them.

Hong Kong was considered a precarious situation for years;  Japan already had a million men stationed in China as part of the Sino-Japanese War. Japanese General Lt. Takashi dispatched 52,000 men. The fierce, hardened warriors, who were now seasoned fighters, were no match for the young, inexperienced Commonwealth Soldiers. The Canadians (dubbed  C Force) joined some 14,000 British, Indian and Hong Kong Volunteers.

Canada sent 1,975 men to Hong Kong in November, 1941. The Canadians deployed two battalions: the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada, a brigade headquarters group. They fought diligently for 18 days in the Battle of Hong Kong. Their commander, Maj. Gen. Maltby finally surrendered. The Japanese later stated that despite the overwhelming odds against them, that the defenders fought valiantly. John Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers even received the Victoria Cross, posthumously, in recognition for landing on a grenade to save lives. 550 Canadians did not return; Prisoners of War were imprisoned in Hong Kong or Japan under heinous conditions. Japan unsurprisingly did not support the 1929 Geneva Convention POW Policy that stipulated humane treatment for prisoners. C Force members were later rescued in 1945 from POW camps.


Prisoners of War before rescue. The malnourished men had just received an
air drop of food from the Allies in 1945.


Notes: The Veterans that returned home to Canada were originally treated like outcasts. They eventually received recognition, a former apology, and a museum in their honor.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Aircraft Recognition: Would You Be Able to Identify World War II Planes?

As the narrative continues we cannot forget about the various aircraft used during World War II. I have posted samples of some airplanes. In a earlier post I discussed the "Mitsubishi Zero" and how it created many Japanese victories during the early part of the war. WWII planes were responsible for some of the most cataclysmic aerial battles in history. But a question arises. Would you be able to identify World War II planes? I have known pilots that can look up into the sky and easily identify airplanes. It is one thing to recognize aircraft on a peaceful, sunny day. Try identifying them in a middle of a war-torn country.

World War II was often a battle of technological advances. Throughout the war, the Allied and Axis Forces constantly worked to improve the abilities and features of their equipment. No type of technology showcased this battle for supremacy better than the fighter planes. Every few months saw the introduction of a new or improved fighter plane to combat the latest version developed by the opposing side.
 There were over three hundred planes manufactured in WWII from dozens of countries. I could conceivably develop an entire blog on aviation of this era; fortunately, there are blogs, websites, and books already devoted to military planes. I am focusing on the major types of WWII planes, just as I did with ships.


Fighter: Air to Air combat with enemy planes as well as air to ground combat. Armed with cannons and machine guns.

Dive Bombers: As the name implies, during a plane's dive, a bomb was released over an intended target

High Level Bombers: These large planes dropped several bombs, which increased their chances of hitting the target.

Torpedo Bombers: Torpedo bombs were ejected into the ocean headed on a swift path to a submarine or ship.

Patrol Planes: Designed to travel long distances over the water, sought out submarines and enemy ships. Also, used for rescue.

 Both Army and Navy provided official Aircraft Recognition Manuals. There were even official playing cards that had the images printed on them. Soldiers during their recreational time would be able to practice learning the different diagrams. It was vital that the personnel could look at the wing, tails and body to determine if an approaching aircraft were "Friend or Foe". This certainly avoided cases of friendly fire, where a Soldier would mistakenly shoot down one of their own planes. Of course, reconnaissance missions and surprise attacks required the keen ability to identify aircraft within seconds. It was simply a matter of life or death. Aircraft Recognition in World War II then, was extremely important even among civilians.




 Civilians had to identify aircraft as well.

So, this was what my father was trained to do, over seventy years ago in the Marshall Islands. He had to understand Aircraft Recognition. Dad manned the 90mm Anti-Aircraft Artillery. Would you be able to identify WWII planes during the war?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Japanese Attack Philippines, Malaya, Thailand, Guam and Wake Island

Japanese Invasion of Thailand

December 8, 1941- Philippines
Lieutenant General Walter Short and Admiral Husband Ekimel, Army and Navy Officers, were relieved of their command in Pearl Harbor and demoted. Their punishment was for "being surprised" by the Japanese attack.The invasion of the Philippines was ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Half of the bombers at Clark Field were destroyed; they were integral aircraft of General Douglas MacArthur's Far East Air Force. Consequently, the Japanese were able to invade by land without being stopped. General Douglas MacArthur was informed about Pearl Harbor nine hours before the attack but failed to take action.

The Japanese had assembled 500 hundred fighter planes and bombers at airbases on their territory of Formosa (Taiwan). General MacArthur retreated to Bataan peninsula under the War Plan Orange, since reinforcements were thousands of miles away. Underquipped and unprepared American soldiers died of malaria, dysentery and hunger. MacArthur was not removed from his command nor did he receive a reduction in rank as the Army and Navy Commanders at Pearl Harbor did.

December 7/8, 1941- Wake Island
Wake Island is to the north of Japanese occupied Marshall Islands and also to the north of Guam. As tensions mounted with Japan, the US Navy began to fortify the island. An airfield was constructed and twelve F4F Wildcats planes had been sent to the island via the U.S.S. Enterprise. Radar detection was left behind at Pearl Harbor and protective shelter for the aircraft had yet to be built. On Dec. 7/8, 1941, (Wake Island is on the other side of the International Date Line) the Japanese destroyed eight of the twelve Wildcats and destroyed the airfield. Twenty three men were killed and eleven wounded. After the attack, Wake Island became a tenacious battleground.

Known as the "Bicycle Blitz".

Midnight December 7/8, 1941-Malaya
 Malaya, was also located on the other side of the International Date Line (See map below). Japanese forces invaded Malaya via three transport ships carrying 5,200 Imperial Japanese troops. Veterans of Chinese campaigns, it was said that these men were well trained. They were accompanied with light cruisers, destroyers, minesweepers and subchasers and entered Malaya through multiple positions. The defending forces were the British, Australian and Indian units, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The Japanese famously entered the country by bicycles and were able to penetrate the thick jungles. Air Marshall Sir Robert Brooke L. Popham, like General MacArthur, sensed an impending Japanese military action and had even contemplated a preemptive strike. British ships H.M.S. Prince of Wales and H.M.S. Repulse were sunk. Popham was granted permission to surrender.

The International Date line adds or subtracts a day depending on which direction a traveler is headed.
 It was created in 1884.  Since WWII, there has been changes in this imaginary line.

Beach invasion

December 8, 1941-Thailand
Japanese troops invaded Thailand from its bases in French Indochina. Fighting between the forces did not last long and Thailand surrendered, giving the Japanese free access to its transportation, military bases and communication. This would assure easy passage into Burma and Malaya.Thailand had the distinction of being an independent country, free from colonial rule. It had maintained decent relations with Britain and the US in hopes that Britain would protect them from Japanese aggression. However, the leader of Thailand, Prime Minister Philbun, had a previous "agreement" with the Japanese as well. The agreement was to allow unchallenged entry into Thailand.  Pressure by the Japanese caused Thailand to later declare war on Britain and the United States.

December 8, 1941- Guam

Guam, the lone American base in the otherwise Japanese controlled Marianas, was part of Japan's "Outline Plan for Execution of the Empire's national Policy" The Plan's intention was to expand the outer perimeter so wide that Japan would not be threatened by aerial attacks against the home islands, meanwhile include sources of raw materials to feed her growing Imperialistic goals.    

 Prior to the attack, on October 17, 1941, the U.S. began evacuating non essential personnel from Guam, Mariana Islands. On December 8, Japanese aircraft from Saipan attacked Guam, bombing various buildings and sinking the minesweeper U.S.S. Penguin. One person was killed and 60 wounded. Navy Captain George J. McMillin, who was also Governor of Guam, was forced to surrender. McMillin was subsequently imprisoned in Manchuria, China.


As Japan raced across Asia, they left a well calculated, huge swath of mayhem and destruction. The attacks left the Allies stunned. Although much attention was given to Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese attacked the Philippines, Malaya, Thailand, Guam and Wake Island, these nations were shocked with the swiftness and casualties. Truthfully, military correspondence recovered later discussed impending Japanese invasions. All of the above countries were soon occupied by the Japanese. Further atrocities were committed on POWS, and civilians. What other locations would be next as the Japanese raced through Asia?

Sources ww.historytoday,com,,,,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What World War II US Navy Ships Looked Like and a Brief Glossary

In order to have a better understanding of the battles in the World War II era, it is necessary to have a reference point in what the US Navy ships looked like and their functions. I will be describing these battles in future posts, so this page can be bookmarked. These diagrams were originally included in Navy manuals and it was every enlisted man's responsibility to be able to recognize them on sight. Additionally, the included brief glossary provides definitions and basic functions of US Navy ships.


                                              Diagrams courtesy of :


Battleships-Supported aircraft carrier groups and bombarded land installations.
Carriers- Fighter planes and bombers took off from the decks of aircraft carriers to target enemy ships and land targets. Light carriers, 30-40-planes; large carriers, 100 planes
Destroyers- Heavily armed warships
Destroyer Escorts-Brought troops, supplies, and planes to large ships.
Cruisers-Participated in shore bombardment, protected aircraft carriers, carried anti aircraft weapons.
PT Boats-(Patrol torpedo boats)-Ambushed barges and slow moving ships.
Submarines-Germans had early dominance in this fleet of vessels. They attacked enemy merchant shipping and provided surveillance of enemy ships and coastal installations.

These diagrams are in no way the most extensive compilation of what World War II US Navy Ships. There are countless official and unofficial websites, blogs, and military books devoted to this subject created by experts and history lovers. Again, each category of ship had a specific function and provided crucial support in defending the seas against the Axis powers.



Sunday, September 8, 2013

African American Soldiers and Sailors Tribute: Buffalo Soldiers, Montford Point Marines,Tuskegee Airmen, U.S.S. Mason Crew

I found some interesting drawings on three groups of African American Soldiers that belatedly received recognition in mainstream media. They depict images of three Medal of Honor Groups:  Buffalo Soldiers, Montford Point Marines and Tuskegee Airmen. Also included was a portrait of the U.S.S. Mason ship and Sailor. The Mason was a Navy ship that had an all Black crew who received recommendations as a Destroyer Escort during World War II.

Now, in searching for pictures to accompany my posts, I encounter lots of artwork along with actual photos. These particular drawings I thought were interesting because it demonstrates that the person who commissioned them obviously knows their military history. Truthfully, until last week I did not have knowledge of the U.S.S Mason being an all Black WWII Navy ship.

Some might take offense that the images are on tobacco products, but the fact remains there is a segment of the population that smokes pipes. I am not endorsing any products but merely showing the artistic rendering. Furthermore, many men, including my father, smoked cigarettes and pipes during this time period. It was common for cigarettes brands such as Lucky Strikes to be distributed to service personnel. Photos and films show cigarettes dangling from the mouths of Soldiers.

Others might think back to an era when Black faces were used to sell products in a way that was demeaning and reinforced negative stereotypes. Examples would be Sambo and Aunt Jemima with a kerchief on her head (the scarf has been replaced with relaxed hair since the 90's) and the Gold Dust Twins.

 In countries outside of the United States, products romanticize the slavery/minstrel era, with ebony skin caricatures emblazoned on the packaging to sell items such as flour and candy. I have seen these products in American markets that import these goods. Every once in a while a foreign company or media will roll out extremely controversial imagery. Usually there is public outcry and the offending image is removed with a quick apology.

Yet for some reason in the U.S., we still have Uncle Ben's Rice and the Cream of Wheat gentlemen; non-threatening, ready to comply Negro servants in grocery stores. Newer images introduced that are in poor taste are challenged; social media erupts into a frenzy.

Back to the company that has the artwork of the African American Soldiers and Sailors: Montford Point Marines, Tuskegee Airmen, Buffalo Soldiers, and the U.S.S. Mason crew. It appears that the artwork is in tribute. Clearly, these Soldiers represent strength and intelligence. This particular company has a cross section of people and themes printed on their products. Some examples would be the September 11th First Responders, Architecture, and various Geographical locations. I think a savvy consumer purchasing their artisan brand would appreciate the background knowledge and gain some insight on the imagery.

Sources: All photos from Cornell & Diehl, Inc.

According to the company website, the Montford Point Marines was fourth in a series honoring African American Soldiers. I know in the 90's, there were companies that created Tuskegee Airmen paraphernalia and Negro Baseball League gear. In fact, my father wore some of the gear. The Negro Baseball League (1920-1950) existed before American Major League Baseball became integrated. So time will tell. Art sparks interest and dialogue. Don't you agree?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Six Bailey Brothers Served the Country in World War II

Six Bailey Brothers of Punta Gorda, Florida served the country honorably during WWII. Actually, there were seven African American brothers who were in the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and the Air Force. The youngest Bailey brother served in the Korean War. Charlotte County Airport in Florida has a section named the Bailey Terminal.

Charles Bailey

Six of the Bailey Brothers served in World War II and the seventh was the first Black jet pilot in the Florida; he served in Korea. The Bailey Brothers were the offspring of Archie and Josephine Bailey, a close, tight knit family whose children traveled to school in other communities far away. Punta Gorda did not have schools for Black children.

                                                                   Lt. Charles Bailey

Lieutenant Charles Baily was a Tuskegee Airmen who flew 133 combat missions. He survived flying over enemy territory in North Africa and Europe. A member of the 99th Fighter Squadron, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, Four Oak Clusters and the Presidential Unit Citation.

                                                      Plaque at Charlotte County Airport

As Don Moore delineated from, the "Fighting Bailey Brothers" consisted of:

Maurice Bailey- (1906- ?)  Army, member of support unit that supplied food and ammunition to front lines.

Berlin Bailey- ( 1912-1987) Navy, served in Guadalcanal as an Electrician's Mate 3rd Class.

Charles Bailey-(1919-2001)  Army 99th Fighter Squadron

Harding Bailey- (1920-1984) Served in on the U.S.S. Mason as an electrician, the subject of my previous post. The USS Mason was a predominately Black ship in the WWII.

Paul Bailey- (1922-1987) Chaplain's assistant in the US Army, Pacific Theater

Arthur Bailey- (1925-1959) Served in Iwo Jima, Marines, drove a truck

Carl Bailey- (1929-1957) Was the first African American jet pilot in Florida, flew during Korean War.

Here is an excerpt from a Huffington Post article by travel writer Karen Rubin.  Rubin visited the Gulf Coast Military History Museum that has an exhibit on the Bailey brothers--
I learned that there would likely not have been a Tuskegee Airmen, except for Eleanor Roosevelt who pushed for Black aviators, trained at Tuskegee Institute, to be accepted as a flying force. To prove their capability, she went as a passenger in a plane with one of the Tuskegee pilots. A photo of her in the plane is on display, and makes you feel that this happened only yesterday.

Artist rendition of Charles Bailey's plane.
"My Buddy" was named after his father.

When speaking to my dad yesterday about the U.S.S Mason, he indicated that he never heard of them. I informed him that they were known as "Eleanor's Folly" and they received their recognition many decades later. "Kind of like us," he murmured. He asked me to repeat some of their feats and was impressed.

Dad then recalled seeing Eleanor Roosevelt on the front porch of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune's house, since it was on his paper route in Daytona Beach, Florida. He reports seeing a security detail for Mrs. Roosevelt when he dropped off her newspaper.

Charles Bailey attended Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida on a football scholarship. Because Dr. Bethune had the ear of the Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady arranged for his transfer to Tuskegee, where he could study aviation.

So, tomorrow I will give Dad the history of the Bailey Brothers. I am sure he will be pleased to learn about them. I will explain to him that the Six Bailey Brothers of Florida served in numerous branches of military during WWII. The seventh Bailey and the youngest served in Korea. Upon discharge they went on to successful careers in education, business and community involvement. I only stumbled upon them by researching the U.S.S Mason, where Harding Bailey was an electrician.


Charles Bailey was credited with shooting down two German fighter planes in Josephine, a plane ( P-40 Warfolk) named after his mother. Bailey also piloted My Buddy, a plane named for his father. ( P-51 Mustang)

Sources: Has photos of all brothers and family.,267119

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

USS Mason: WWII Navy Ship With Mostly Black Crew

After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attacked the Philippines and the two United States islands of Wake and Guam. Japanese troops landed in the French Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) and British Singapore. But before I launch into this comprehensive narrative, I would like to discuss some Florida State University findings. There was a Navy Ship in WWII with a predominately Black crew. The ship was called the USS Mason, a Destroyer Escort Vessel.

 Joan Denman, a former Senior Archivist and Historian with the Institute on WWII at Florida State remarked:

The fact that many African Americans honestly served vouched to their patriotism and their hope about changing this country. In fact, the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement were laid from the experiences of those who participated in World War II.

Some Facts about WWII African American Participation:

  • More than 19,000 Black Marines served
  • 167,000 Men served in the Navy
  • One Navy ship, the USS Mason (Destroyer Escort 529) had a mostly Black Crew.
  • Over 5,000 African American men joined the Coast Guard
  • 24,000 were members of the integrated Merchant Marines
  • 17 Liberty Ships were named after noted Blacks, many were captained by African Americans
  • 909,000 served in the Army  

The USS Mason (DE 529) was named after African American Ensign Newton Henry Mason. Ensign Newton Henry Mason was born in NYC in 1918 and was a member of the U.S. Naval Air Corps. He became a seamen on November 7, 1940, and then was appointed to an aviation cadet. Mason was declared missing in aerial combat in the Coral Sea in May 8, 1942. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by The Navy.

                                                  The 90's era USS Mason was dedicated to the
                                                  USS Mason DE 529 sailors.

The USS Mason was one of two US Navy Ships with largely African American crews in WWII. USS - PC 1264, a submarine chaser, was the other vessel. These two ships were a result of a letter sent to President Roosevelt by the NAACP in mid December 1941. Recall how FDR intervened when it was time to reward Dorie Miller the Navy Cross for his bravery during WWII.

According to, the movie Proudly We Served was released in 1996. It was narrated by the late actor Ossie Davis and detailed the lives of crew members who fought Nazi U-boats, storms, and challenged segregation. As a result of the film, members of the USS Mason received letters of commendations 50 years later--After originally being recommended in 1944.

The USS Mason's crew was the first time Black Americans were "permitted to be trained in ratings other than cooks and stewards." It was nicknamed "Eleanor's Folly" because it was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's idea for the all Black crew. There were limited expectations for the crew but the sailors proved their naysayers wrong. The USS Mason sailors, with the mostly Black Crew, certainly has similar parallels to Montford Point Marines.

In 1998, Secretary of Navy John Dalton authorized the naming of another ship in honor of the USS Mason DE 529. It was known as the USS Mason DDG 87 and commemorated equality and the end of segregation in the armed forces.



Which leads us to Harding Bailey (1920-1984). Harding Bailey served on the USS Mason as an Electrician Mate 2nd Class. He is one of the Six Bailey Brothers with an amazing military history...

*The First USS Mason was named after Secretary of Navy John Mason in 1918. There were a total of three navy ships named USS Mason .

Destroyer Escorts-Used during WWII in response to German U-Boat threat in the Atlantic. Armed with guns and torpedoes and served as a scout ship of a fleet or convoy.

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