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Typhoon LouiseAs veteran Jim Joyce of Quincy Massachusetts tells his grandchildren, the enemy in World War II wasn’t always the Germans and Japanese. The weather played a key role in the planning, success, and failure of military operations. According to the Department of the Navy, Typhoon Louise, which hit Okinawa without warning on October 9th, 1945, could have doomed the Allies planned invasion of the Japanese mainland:

“Winds of 80 knots (92 miles per hour) and 30-35 foot waves battered the ships and craft in the bay and tore into the quonset huts and buildings ashore. A total of 12 ships and craft were sunk, 222 grounded, and 32 severely damaged. [for listing of vessels] Personnel casualties were 36 killed, 47 missing, and 100 seriously injured. Almost all the food, medical supplies and other stores were destroyed, over 80% of all housing and buildings knocked down, and all the military installations on the island were temporarily out of action. Over 60 planes were damaged as well, though most were repairable. Although new supplies had been brought to the island by this time, and emergency mess halls and sleeping quarters built for all hands, the scale of the damage was still very large. If the war had not ended on 2 September, this damage, especially the grounding and damage to 107 amphibious craft (including the wrecking of four tank landing ships, two medium landing ships, a gunboat, and two infantry landing craft) would likely have seriously impacted the planned invasion of Japan (Operation Olympic).” —Naval Historical Center

Granddaughter of WWII Seabee Jim Joyce18 year old Jim Joyce, who was a SeaBee in the US Navy had never seen or even imagined a storm like Typhoon Louise. “It was a terrifying night,” he recalls. “The storm lasted 12 hours. The winds were so strong they lifted the Quonset huts off their moorings. We were on land at the time. We didn’t realize until the next morning that all the small craft had run aground.”

It’s not just libraries and history buffs who are interested in World War II. Jim Joyce received this card from his granddaughter after she interviewed him for a Veteran’s Day school project. If only Meghan could have seen the smile on Jim’s face when he showed us her thank you note:

For more about weather and war, check out this article in Military Officer; and for more information on how weather forecasts are treated as military intelligence, don’t miss the fascinating history of the Weather Bureau Record of War Administration.

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One might call Florence DiTullio Joyce the first lady of Fore River Shipyard.  “I was the first woman to fill out an application, to be interviewed, and to be hired,” Joyce said last week as she recalled the early days of 1941.

She and several others were hired early in the war years, before women were urged to work in defense plants for the war effort.  Two uncles, Dan Libertini and Rocco DiTullio, worked at Fore River and encouraged the 19-year-old beauty and recent high school graduate of Quincy High School to apply.  “They’re thinking of hiring women,”  Joyce’s Uncle Rocco told her.  Joyce was raised on Washington Street and lived on Pond Street after her marriage.  Joyce got the job and the rest is history.

The first women, like Joyce, were so successful and good at the jobs, that thousands of women were subsequently hired for defense work.  At the time, Joyce was a pioneer in a man’s world and no one called her “Flo” or “Florence”.  “I had a gorgeous figure and they put ‘Woo, Woo’ on the back of my welding jacket,” Joyce recalled, adding that her male co-workers gave her the nickname ‘Woo, Woo’ and it stuck.

“I loved it,” Joyce said, adding that “the majority of men were respectful.”  She recalled that the green suede-like protective clothing was heavy and cumbersome as was the helmet which Joyce had to wear when welding to project her eyes.  “You’d get a flash, if you took your eyes away,” Joyce said of the dangers of looking at the welding flame, even from the corner of an eye.  “The flash burns the eye tissue.”

Shortly after Joyce was hired, four other women joined her and the women began the heavy-duty, and sometimes dangerous, welding work previously only performed by men.  “We were an experiment,” Joyce said when she recalled those early days.  “We were an experiment, but we must have done a good job because they kept us and hired many, many more women welders.  When they found that women were capable of any job, they hired women as burners, welders, shipfitters.”

“I welded parts of THE WASP,” said Joyce, recalling one of the ships she’d worked on and others commissioned after being built at Fore River.  Records suggest that many more than 2,000 women shipbuilders worked at the Fore River Shipyard for the war efforts.

Ron Adams, a history teacher at Broad Meadows Middle School, has done extensive research with his students on the Fore River Shipyard.  His students recorded oral histories of the workers and invited Joyce and her fellow workers to the school for “Winne the Welder” tributes.  Adams says he believes that there were many more than 2,000 at Fore River but official records are elusive at this time due to asbestos lawsuits.

Workers at Fore River were exposed to asbestos and to the lung diseases associated with asbestos.

Women were employed as welders, painters, pipe coverers, crane operators, burners, sheetmetal workers, nurses, and cafeteria workers.  As a group, the women workers were called “Winnie the Welder.”

“There were thousands of people that worked there. It’s too bad it ended up the way it did. It could give a lot of people a job,” Joyce said of the Fore River Shipyard.  According to reports, the Shipyard, which was operated by Bethlehem Steel Corporation, produced more ships than any other shipyard in the country. At its peak, the shipyard employed 32,000 people. Once the war was over, the women workers were forgotten for years.

In 1991, Mayor James Sheets dedicated “Winnie the Welder Day.”

Joyce said she’s still in touch by mail at holidays with two former workers who live out of state.  At 88, she said she can still wield a welding tool, but she is content to work at her painting.  Her four children and grandchildren keep her busy now.  They are Gail Plant, Rockland; Michael Wilson, Atlanta GA; Jace Wilson, Pembroke; and Lynette Frederickson, Halifax.

by Laura Griffin, Quincy Sun (November 6, 2008)


These ‘Winnie the Welders’ at the Fore River Shipyard helped win World War II. Quincy’s Florence DiTullio Joyce is in the middle of the second row dressed in full protective gear with the welder’s helmet.
[Photo courtesy of Broad Meadows History Project]

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‘Sarsaparilla!’

Just one word.

But the beginning of a most unbelievable story of World War II.  One that never made the headlines because of the tight security and secrecy surrounding it.

I first wrote about it after the war in the 1950s.  It goes back to Armistice Day (Veterans Day), November 1943 and Norfolk, VA.  I was a signalman on the destroyer USS Cogswell and had the signal watch that particular night.  Our captain, Comdr. Harold Deuterman said to me:  “I am expecting an important message.  It might be only one word–sarsaparilla.  If it comes, awake me immediately.”

It wasn’t too long before the battleship USS Iowa reached out of the inky darkness with a flashing signal light.  Three dots, dot dash, dot dash dot and so on until the flashes spelled S-A-R-S-A-P-A-R-I-L-L-A.   The captain was awakened and the message relayed to two other destroyers, one of them the William D. Porter.

Whatever else “sarsaparilla” meant it told us to get underway.  Around midnight, the Iowa and its screening escorts the Cogswell, Porter and another destroyer whose name I don’t remember slipped quietly out to sea under cover of darkness while Norfolk slept.

It was a mysterious trip.  No one told us where we were going but you could tell something was up.

A few days later we were nearing Gibraltar.  I was on the bridge with other signalmen.  A quiet, peaceful day–until the silence was shattered by a booming cry: ‘T-O-R-P-E-D-O”!  And there it was–a torpedo streaking through the water toward the Iowa.

The Iowa was warned by emergency flag hoists and a talk-between-ships telephone.  She managed to turn to avoid the torpedo, which exploded about 50 yards behind in her wake.

General quarters were sounded and the Cogswell crew rushed to their battle stations as we prowled the area looking for the German submarine to drop depth charges on.  But we couldn’t locate the sub.  Then we learned there was no sub to locate.  The torpedo was not from a German submarine.  It had been fired from the Porter.
The flag officer in charge of the destroyer escort was on the Cogswell and sputtered and fumed when the Porter informed us “that was our torpedo”.  The Porter, it was later learned, had its torpedo mounts aimed at the Iowa in a simulated attack training session.  A live torpedo in one of the tubes was accidentally fired and sped toward the Iowa’s No. 2 Magazine.  If the torpedo had hit, it could have sunk the Iowa.

The flag officer continued to sputter.  Why all the rage, I thought to myself, a young kid from Quincy Point.  After all, it didn’t hit the Iowa.  But he knew something that we didn’t know.

On the Iowa were Harry Hopkins, Admirals Leahy, McIntire and Cook.  Generals Marshall, Arnold, Handy, Somervell and Watson, according to Hopkins’ private papers made public after the war.  Not only that, but with them was Admiral Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations.  And someone else was aboard the Iowa:  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  We were escorting him to the Teheran Conference to meet with Churchill, Stalin and Chiang Kai-Shek.

We later turned the Iowa over to another division of destroyers one day out of Africa.  The Cogswell and Porter headed to Bermuda.  The Porter was held in Bermuda for a board of inquiry investigation with the whole ship under arrest.  The board found that the Iowa episode was an accident with no evidence of any sabotage.  The Porter was ordered to the Aleutian Islands apparently as punishment duty.  But that didn’t end our relationship.

The Cogswell headed for the Panama Canal and out to the Pacific where we screened the carriers in the Third and Fifth Fleets.  And on to the Marshalls, Truk, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, the Philippines, China Sea, Formosa, the Bonnin Islands, etc.  Forgotten was the William D. Porter.

But now it was June 1945 and Okinawa, the doorstep to the Japanese mainland.  The Cogswell was assigned to radar picket duty between Okinawa and Japan with other destroyers.  Two destroyers would go out together as a team.

On June 10, the Cogswell moved out to take its picket station.  Out came another destroyer to join us.  We could hardly believe it.  It was the William D. Porter, which we hadn’t seen since the Iowa incident.

We took our positions abouat 500 yards apart.  And suddenly there was a Japanese Kamikaze high in the sky and diving down on us.  We fired all our guns at the plane but it got through.  Now the pilot had to make a quick decision, which destroyer would be his target.  He picked the Porter.

We thought it crashed onto the Porter.  But according to the Navy version, it was a near-miss.  The plane’s bomb apparently passed under the Porter before exploding, causing uncontrolled flooding.  LCS hurried to the Porter’s side to take off 350 crewmembers.  Word was there there were no fatalities.

About three hours later, the Porter rolled over on her starboard side.  Her bow shot up like the grasping hand of a person drowning and she slipped into her watery grave.  It was a sad sight.

We were with her only twice.  One day firing a torpedo at the President of the United States and the other taking a Kamikaze instead of us.  She was a hard luck ship.  Jinxed.

by Henry Bosworth, Quincy Sun (November 6, 2008)

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I had no idea when I joined the WAVES in 1943 that I would be holding so many memories close to me some 50-odd years later.

My assignment, after training at Oklahoma A&M, was with Naval Communications, 3801 Nebraska Ave., Washington, D.C.  I did not know until I left the service in 1945 how important my assignment in OP-20-GZ (Top Secret) was.  Sworn to secrecy upon entering, we were sworn to secrecy even upon leaving.

It was not until 1976 that President Jimmy Carter lifted the veil of secrecy which began an outpouring of intriguing information formerly kept under wraps.  One of the first released books was And I Was There by Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton and Captain Roger Pineau and there, popping out of the pages were the officers I had worked with–they were cryptoanalysts and cryptolinguists.  And further into the book, a number of pages were devoted to information regarding Dorothy Edgers, a civilian codebreaker who occupied the desk right next to mine.  In 1941, in this same office, Dorothy had broken the code that would have possibly stopped the attack on Pearl Harbor but no one paid any attention to her as she had worked in the GZ only two weeks.  I was so proud to have known her.

My job? I was a yeoman and did my job but I cannot remember too many of the details.  I remember something or other about the Japanese telegraphic code KATA KANA but since I was told to forget, I did.  I do remember large books upon a long table filled with code and I remember the linguists using the Japanese language (a little of which I had learned).  The code messages mainly had to do with fleet movements in the Pacific.  It was an exciting–if not mysterious–office to be assigned to.

So much time has passed but the thing I am proudest of is having joined the Navy back in February 1943.  I spent almost three years in one of those buildings [at 3801 Nebraska Avenue] that had been the home of Navy cryptology.  I’ll never forget 3801 though time and a vow of silence taken at that time have taken much of the memory of what we did there.  Vows lifted, but too late–the memory diminished.  I just know I loved what I was doing and felt very important.

By J. Frances Wyckoff, originally published in U.S. Navy Cruiser and Sailor Magazine, Fall 1996

For a fuller account of Wyckoff’s WAVES experience and more photos, visit A WAVE IN OP-20-GZ DURING WORLD WAR II.

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The U.S. wartime merchant fleet constituted one of the most significant contributions to the winning of the Second World War, by means of carrying supplies, equipment and men.  Merchants faced danger from submarines, mines, armed raiders, destroyers, aircraft “kamikaze”, and the elements.  One in 26 mariners serving aboard merchant ships in World War II died in the line of duty, suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other services.

This is an account from the experience of one of those brave men, my stepfather First Mate John J. Diehl, sailing on one of the 36 victory ships in the dangerous North Atlantic waters, under the protection of a convoy trying desperately to defend the merchant ships and their cargo.  While on the Murmansk Run, they were being attacked relentlessly in the dark of night, outnumbered and outmaneuvered by German U-boats (Wolf Packs).

At that time, the fleet was delivering Lend Lease supplies to Soviet Russia.  It was the most perilous route for convoys in July 1942, as only 11 of the 36 merchant men ships in Convoy PG17 reached Murmansk.  My stepfather was one of the lucky 11 to reach his destination, and after the war ended he studied and earned the title of captaincy in the Merchant Marine.  Later taking part in the Korean Campaign, he was given the “King Neptune Ceremony” aboard his ship, which describes his having sailed all seven seas.

Submitted by Beverly Brand, Quincy

To find out more about the experience of Merchant Mariners during World War II, check the library catalog for this recent oral history on the topic.

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Bucky HarringtonCopyright Patriot Ledger Mar 03, 1997

By Maurice F. Reardon

BRAINTREE — Maurice “Bucky” Harrington of Braintree remembers the battle for the island of Okinawa in 1945 during World War II.

The Marine Corps veteran’s most vivid memory was of Okinawan women and children leaping off cliffs to their death out of fear of the Americans. “The Japanese had told the Okinawans that when we invaded the island we would kill all the women and children,” Harrington said.

A native of Dorchester, Harrington served with the 6th Marine Division and had joined the Marines at 18 in 1943, fresh out of Boston Commerce High School. After training at Parris Island, S.C., Harrington shipped overseas and saw combat on Bougainville, “a disease-ridden, Godforsaken island” where he contracted malaria and jaundice.

A member of a Marine Air Defense Battalion, where he served as a 40mm gunner, he recalls using the weapon against pillboxes on Bougainville. Harrington was evacuated to hospitals in the Russell and New Hebrides Islands, and after treatment was returned to his unit. “When the 6th Division was formed on Guadalcanal in October 1944, I was assigned to the 15th Artillery, a 105mm outfit,” he said. “But during the fighting on Okinawa in April 1945, casualties were so heavy that I was reassigned to the 22nd Marines as a rifleman.”

It was during the bitter fighting in the Sugar Loaf Hill area on Okinawa that Harrington and two buddies came under heavy artillery fire. “We were on top of a hill near a cliff at the tip of the island and could see the Okinawan women and children leaping to their death,” he said. “We came under Japanese artillery fire and a close hit blew us off the cliff. The two Marines I was with were both killed but I was fortunate to land in the water and was picked up by a nearby Navy ship.”

After Okinawa was secured, the Marine units that had fought on the island reorganized and re-equipped on Guam and began preparations for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. “Thank God we didn’t have to attack Japan itself. With their fanatical resistance on Okinawa we could imagine the bloodbath that landing on the mainland would be,” Harrington said.

In October 1945 the 6th Division was deployed to Tsingtao, China, and Harrington served there until his return to the United States in January.

Mustered out of the service in January 1946, Harrington worked for the Post Office Department for 30 years before retiring in 1986.

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My mother was working in Rochester, NY during the 1940s.  When America went to war,  she joined the Red Cross Motor Corps as a volunteer driver.

Back then, Rochester was known as the “imaging capital of America” because it was home to industries and Universities that specialized in optical science–technologies that became integral to the war production effort. Parts of the Norden bomb sight used in many Allied planes, along with the radio delay fuse and other components used by the military were all manufactured in town.

On my mother’s days off she was called on to transport military or civilian personnel from the airport or railroad station to these companies and industries, or to the Air Force Materiel Command building.

The volunteer drivers were required to attend classes in automotive mechanics. I remember my mother saying that although she KNEW how to change a tire, she was glad she never had to do so. But she almost flunked carburetors! She also recalled that sometimes you were told who you were driving, but sometimes not. If not, you didn’t ask, you just drove. The “loose lips sink ships” rule applied here too. There were also memories of blackouts and possible sabotage threats as some of the Rochester items were vital to the war effort.

In spite of the war, or perhaps because of it, people made friendships they never might have otherwise, and people felt good about themselves for contributing in some way on the Home Front. Life went on, although it changed dramatically.

—Mary Clark

More about the Red Cross Motor Corps, from the Red Cross Museum:

Nationally, the “Motor Corps consisted almost entirely of women who clocked over 61 million miles answering nine million calls to transport the sick and wounded, deliver supplies, and take volunteers and nurses to and from their posts. In all, nearly 45,000 women served in the Motor Corps during World War II. Most drove their own cars and many completed training in auto mechanics in order to be able to make automotive repairs on their own.”

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