Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Higher Call

There is a wonderful book called "A Higher Call" about this TRUE story below.

The 21-year old American B-17 pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze.  He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage. But his Co-Pilot stared at the same horrible vision.  "My God, this is a nightmare," the Co-Pilot said.

"He's going to destroy us," the Pilot agreed.

The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip.  It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.

Brown's Crippled B-17 Stalked by Stigler's ME-109

The B-17 Pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission.  His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone, struggling to stay in the skies above Germany. Half his crew was wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.

But when Brown and his Co-Pilot, Spencer "Pinky" Luke, looked at the Fighter Pilot again, something odd happened. The German didn't pull the trigger. He stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect. Instead of pressing the attack, he nodded at Brown and saluted. What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry recorded during World War Il.   
Luftwaffe Major Franz Stigler 

 Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket.  He eased his index finger off the trigger.  He couldn't shoot.  It would be murder.  Stigler wasn't just motivated by vengeance that day. He also lived by a code.  He could trace his Family's Ancestry to Knights in 16th Century Europe.  He had once studied to be a Priest.  A German Pilot who spared the enemy, though, risked death in Nazi Germany.  If someone reported him, he would be executed.

Yet, Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him:  "You follow the rules of war for you -- not your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity."

Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mission. He nodded at the American Pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn't shoot down the slow-moving bomber. (The Luftwaffe had B-17's of its own, shot down and rebuilt for secret missions and training.)  Stigler escorted the bomber over the North Sea and took one last look at the American Pilot.  Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away and returned to Germany.

"Good luck," Stigler said to himself.  "You're in God's hands now..."  Franz Stigler didn't think the big B-17 could make it back to England and wondered for years what happened to the American Pilot and crew he encountered in combat   
Charles Brown, with his wife, Jackie (left), with Franz Stigler, with his wife, Hiya.

As he watched the German fighter peel away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn't thinking of the philosophical connection between enemies.  He was thinking of survival.  He flew his crippled plan, filled with wounded, back to his base in England and landed with one of four engines knocked out, one failing and barely any fuel left.  After his bomber came to a stop, he leaned back in his chair and put a hand over a pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket. Then he sat in silence.

Brown flew more missions before the war ended. Life moved on.  He got married, had two Daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War and eventually retired to Florida.

Late in life, though, the encounter with the German Pilot began to gnaw at him.  He started having nightmares, but in his dream there would be no act of mercy.  He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.

Brown took on a new mission.  He had to find that German Pilot.  Who was he?  Why did he save my life?  He scoured Military Archives in the U.S. and England.  He attended a Pilots' Reunion and shared his story.  He finally placed an ad in a German Newsletter for former Luftwaffe Pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the Pilot.

On January 18, 1990, Brown received a letter. He opened it and read:  "Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it home?  Did her crew survive their wounds?  To hear of your survival has filled me with indescribable joy..."

It was Stigler.

He had had left Germany after the war and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1953.  He became a prosperous Businessman.  Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer and "it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter."  Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn't wait to see Stigler.  He called Directory Assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler.  He dialed the number, and Stigler picked up.

"My God, it's you!"  Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.

Brown had to do more. He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said: "To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crew members and their families appears totally inadequate."

The two Pilots would meet again, but this time in person, in the lobby of a Florida hotel.  One of Brown's Friends was there to record the Summer Reunion.  Both men looked like retired businessmen:  they were plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They fell into each other' arms and wept and laughed.  They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.

The mood then changed.  Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown.  Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened.  He began to fight back tears before he said in heavily accented English: "I love you, Charlie."

Stigler had lost his Brother, his Friends and his Country.  He was virtually exiled by his Countrymen after the war.  There were 28,000 Pilots who fought for the German Air Force. Only 1,200 survived.  

The war cost him everything.  Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II for Franz.  It was the one thing he could be proud of.  The meeting helped Brown as well, says his oldest daughter, Dawn Warner.

They met as enemies but Franz Stigler, on left, and Charles Brown, ended up as fishing buddies.

Brown and Stigler became pals. They would take fishing trips together. They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and Veterans' Reunions. Their Wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became Friends.

Brown's Daughter says her Father would worry about Stigler's health and constantly check in on him.

"It wasn't just for show," she says. "They really did feel for each other. They talked about once a week."  As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says "The nightmares went away."

Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day, he showed the extent of his gratitude.  He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members, along with their extended families.  He invited Stigler as a Guest of Honor.  During the Reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived -- Children, Grandchildren, Relatives -- because of Stigler's act of Chivalry.  Stigler watched the film from his Seat of Honor.

"Everybody was crying, not just him," Warner says.

Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008.  Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87.  They had started off as Enemies, became Friends, and then something more.

After he died, Warner was searching through Brown's library when she came across a book on German fighter jets. Stigler had given the book to Brown. Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.

Warner opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Brown: 
In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter. On the 20th of December,   4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a
B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged, it was a
wonder that she was still flying. 

The Pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me as precious as my Brother was.
Thanks Charlie.
Your Brother, Franz

Friday, February 13, 2015

Co. B, 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Hibernian Guards) in the American Civil War

"The Valiant Hours" a semi book review

A tribute to James K. O'Reilly, Thomas Francis Galwey, James Butler

 and the men of the Hibernian Guards in the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

by JC Sullivan

 James K. O'Reilly was returning from Sunday Mass at Cleveland, Ohio’s St. Edward Church on Woodland Avenue when news posters announced the assault on Ft. Sumter, South Carolina. America's Civil War began on that April day. O'Reilly, born on the Market Square, Longford Town, County Longford in 1838, came to Cleveland in 1858 via New York City. He and his Irish friends James Butler and Thomas Francis Galwey were anxious to join Union forces before the fight was over. They hurried to the armory of the Hibernian Guards and enlisted for three months, officially becoming Co. B, 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. When it was all over, almost five years later, the 8th Ohio would have 97 men present for muster-out out of a total 990 that began the unit.

     Kenneth R. Callahan, an attorney with the Cleveland law firm of Buckley King and most recently a Common Pleas Court Judge in Cuyahoga County, is a direct descendent of Captain O'Reilly, his maternal great-grandfather. He honors the spirit of his colorful and gallant forebear by insuring Americans don't forget the deeds and valor of the 8th Ohio, a unit that fought fiercely in most of the major battles of the Potomac Army. He also wants to insure that history accurately reflects the role they played in turning the famous 'Pickett's Charge' at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July of 1863.

     By June, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's rag-tag forces had moved into the farmlands of Pennsylvania, rich in the much-needed resources of food, material and steed.   The march to Gettysburg was brutally hot. Unlike modern armies, neither side at Gettysburg had winter and summer uniforms - only ones made of heavy wool. Some were lucky to have shoes. During the march to Gettysburg it was frightfully hot. O'Reilly suffered sunstroke and went by horse-drawn ambulance there. "When he found out the 8th was positioned outside the Emmitsburg Road," said Callahan, "he left the hospital and ran out and joined the company there."  

     O'Reilly, deathly ill, arrived at Gettysburg after the first day of battle. Colonel Samuel Springs Carroll (of the Maryland Carrolls) ordered the Hibernians immediately into a cornfield between the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge and Confederate lines on Seminary Ridge, with orders were to push rebel sharpshooters back. With this advanced picket line established, O'Reilly's Hibernians spent the night there while the rest of the brigade was pulled out by General Hancock to support other areas. Confederate sharpshooters reminded them of their closeness throughout the evening by shooting at them.

     On the morning of the 4th, General Lee, believing the center of the Union line to be weakened, opened up his attack with a two-hour artillery barrage. "Nothing more terrific than this story of artillery can be imagined," said Colonel Franklyn Sawyer. "The missiles of both armies passed over our heads. The roar of the guns was deafening, the air was soon clouded with smoke, and the shrieks and the startling crack of the exploding shells above, a round and in our midst; the blowing up of our caissons in our rear; the driving through the air of the fence rails, posts and limbs of trees; the groans of dying men, the neighing of frantic and wounded horses, created a scene of absolute horror."

  General Lee followed this up by sending fifteen thousand gray backs into the fray. The 15O - 18O men of the 8th Ohio poured rifle fire into the left flank of James J. Pettigrew's division. "They moved up splendidly," Sawyer wrote, "deploying into column as they crossed the long, sloping interval between us and their base. At first it looked like they would sweep our position, but as they advanced, their direction lay to our left." 

  "A moan went up from the battlefield distinctly to be heard amid the storm of battle," related survivor Galwey. The surprised Southerners, led by gallant officers on horseback, broke and retreated. "...the first sign of faltering came from Colonel J.M. Brockenbrough's brigade of Virginians who, under Pettigrew, were stationed in the extreme left of the advance, that is, directly in front of the 8th Ohio," Callahan related.

     With Sawyer admitting their 'blood was up', he then turned his men ninety degrees and fired into the flank of Joseph Davis' brigade. When Union commanders saw this development, they sent reinforcements down to turn the attack. The 8th advanced, cutting off three regiments, capturing their colors and many soldiers. Afterwards, an attempt was made to discharge Colonel Sawyer from the service for it was believed he was drunk...they thought no commander in his right mind would attempt such a maneuver with such a small force.    
      Later that summer, after the battle of Gettysburg, the 8th Ohio was sent to New York City for riot duty. When the draft was instituted, provisions were made for purchasing one's way out through the process of buying a substitute. Naturally, many Irish and other immigrants could not afford to do so and objected to the practice.         

      While there, O'Reilly met his future bride, Susan O'Brien. "The whole thing was a drinking expedition," Callahan said. "Commander Sawyer was telling everybody not to get drunk but about an hour later he was arrested for drunkenness. I think they had a good time in New York City."

     In August, 1865, at the war's end, O'Reilly returned to New York City and married Susan O'Brien at St. Stephen's Parish Church. The couple came to Cleveland and resided at 189 Quincy Ave., where they raised seven children. Part of the time he worked for Thomas Jones & Sons Monument Co., which was located at E. 28th & Prospect Ave. Because of his disability from his Gettysburg sunstroke, however, he was never able to work for long periods of time. He tried to get a pension the rest of his life in a protracted struggle with the War Department, not unlike modern American veterans of other conflicts. His widow Susan was finally awarded one in 1930, thirty years after his death. In 1900, after a funeral Mass at St. Edward's Church, O'Reilly was laid to rest in St. John's cemetery, next to the church.His stone, erected by his daughter, says simply, "Captain J.K. O'Reilly."                               

     Callahan met Captain O'Reilly's daughter, Isabelle, in 1952. She blamed her father for the fact that she never married. "She claimed every time somebody came over to see her he pulled them into the parlor and kept them up until midnight telling stories about the Civil War."

   Callahan is a graduate of Cleveland's St. Ignatius High School and received his undergraduate degree from Cleveland's John Carroll University. He received his law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Additionally, he studied art, history, anthropology and literature at both Trinity and University Colleges, Dublin. Callahan is a published author and a military historian. He and his spouse Martha are parents of Casey and Eoin.

   The following letter is Comrade Galwey’s tribute to his friend and Captain, as printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

New York, May 22nd, 1900

Editor of the Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer


     I desire as a comrade officer of the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry to say through the Plain Dealer (sic) a few words upon the military career of the late Captain J.K. O’Reilly, the news of whose recent death at 189 Quincy Street, Cleveland, has just reached us.
  During the twenty campaigns and more than sixty engagements in which the 8th Infantry gained its fame in the Civil War, O’Reilly’s influence and example, first among its non-commissioned officers and afterwards among its commissioned officers, contributed greatly to its fighting spirit, conduct and methods. He was fearless and quick-witted in the moment of danger or other emergency.

         The two bravest and most brilliant among the many brave and brilliant acts of that regiment were its bayonet charge across the Sunken or Bloody Lane at Antietam at the end of five hours close fighting, and its wheel to the left at Gettysburg, by which it struck the left flank of Pickett’s confederate column, and put it into disorder at that point, at the very moment when the front of that column had crossed the Emmittsburg Road and was shaking its battle flags at the “high water mark of the rebellion.”

            In both of those splendid manoeuvres O’Reilly was very conspicuous, if he was not to some extent the real author of each. He was at first a man of fine physique, and like many others who constantly exposed themselves, escaped almost unharmed by the enemy, but he suffered to the last from a sunstroke that befell him during fearful hot day on the march to Gettysburg, and I understand that this was the chief cause of his death.

     Cleveland is not today the quiet little city it was on the 16th of April, 1861, when, in defence of the Union, O’Reilly enlisted as a private in the Hibernian Guards, which became Company B of the 8th Ohio Infantry. But big and bustling as Cleveland has become, it will not, I imagine, forget the honor done to its name in the Civil War by such a man as O’Reilly.


Thos. F. Galwey
15 West 123rd St.,
New York City

Author’s Note: Both Butler and Galwey relocated to New York City. Butler became keeper of General Grant’s Tomb. It is believed Galwey is also buried in St. John's Cemetery, Cleveland but as of this writing it has not been determined, nor will it possibly. He is NOT shown to rest in any New York City Catholic Cemeteries.


GALWEY, THOMAS FRANCIS,The_Valiant_Hours,_Narrative_of_"Captain Brevet,"_an_Irish-American_in_the_Army_of_the_Potomac. Harrisburg PA., Stackpole Co., 1961. Col. William S. Nye, Editor            

DOWNES, CAPTAIN THOMAS M.F., Co. B. 8th Ohio Infantry (Reenactment)from_a_speech_to_the_Ancient_Order_of Hibernians,_Boland-Berry
Division, Cleveland, Ohio 1989.

CALLAHAN, KENNETH, conversations, 1993 - 2009.

Unbroken. by Laura Hillenbrand - a book review

UNBROKEN- A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
a book review by JC Sullivan

I first learned of Louis Silvie Zamperini in early July when I read of his passing in the Plain Dealer. It referenced the bUnbroken, his true life experiences. I saved the obituary to make sure I read the book. When I did read it I learned his incredible story of a troubled childhood, competing in the U.S. Olympics, surviving a World War U.S. Army Air Force Pacific Ocean air crash, being adrift in a life raft for forty seven days, capture by the enemy, beatings, torture, freedom, alcoholism and eventual redemption. Now that I’ve read it I can only say his life story moved me deeply. Author Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit, spent seven years researching, interviewing and writing his story. She, like Zamperini, is also an amazing human being.

Louie, as he was called, was born in Olean, New York to Italian immigrant parents Anthony and Louise.  Because he contracted pneumonia when two years old, Louie’s physician recommended a warmer climate. West went the family, all the way to the Torrance, California of 1919.
Like many other irascible young boys, his childhood was marred by continuous troubles he created for himself. The police knew him by name from the numerous situations he found himself in. His older brother Peter tried to be his mentor by encouraging him to compete in school sports, especially track events. With his attention and energy finally diverted to positive activities, Peter’s support of his younger brother paved the way for Louie to develop into a world-class runner, leading to winning a spot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic Team. The nineteen year old “Torrance Tornado” ran in the 5,000 meter race in Hitler’s Berlin, finishing 8th.

With Germany’s military rampaging in Europe, he saw war clouds drifting towards the U.S. By then he was a student at the University of Southern California. Although he was focused on the entering the 1940 Olympics in Japan, he had learned that learned that anyone who enlisted before being drafted could choose their branch of service. Early in 1941 Louie went for the Army Air Corps. Events, however, interceded. The Olympics in Japan were cancelled when America was attacked later that year at Pearl Harbor, drawing us into World War Two.

Training as a bombardier, Louis was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Author Laura Hillenbrand takes the reader through his training and assignments in Iowa, California, and Hawaii.  He was assigned to the 372nd Bomb Squadron of the 307th Bomb Group, Seventh Air Force. He had hoped to be assigned to a B-17 but instead he found himself in the bomber nobody wanted, Consolidated’s B-24 Liberator, nicknamed “the Flying Boxcar,”  a plane plagued with mechanical problems.

 On May 17, 1943 a rescue mission was formed to hunt for a lost B-24. The only plane available for Louie and a scraped-together crew was an unreliable B-24 nicknamed the  “Green Hornet.” Although it had “passed inspection”, they were wary to fly it. On that mission it failed its crew and crashed in the Pacific. Only two others survived, Indiana native and pilot Russell A. Phillips (“Phil”) and Ohio tail gunner  Sergeant Francis P. (Mac) McNamara. After Louie secured the two rafts that floated free from the plane, Mac began wailing “We’re gonna die,” words that later, unfortunately for him, proved prophetic. However, Mac emerged from his semi-comatose state of shock and redeemed himself by using one of the raft’s oars to fight the sharks that attempted to leap aboard the tiny raft and pull them into the sea. Forty seven days later, after having been strafed by a Japanese fighter and using his ingenuity to survive, survivors Louie and Phil were captured by the Japanese. That began an torture ordeal that few could survive and only ended in August, 1945 when the war ended.

Unbroken’s story doesn’t end there though. Upon his return home he descends into alcoholism to deal with his despair, anger and other spiritual demons. He has constantly recurring nightmares of the torture and beatings by his Japanese nemesis Watanabe. After his wife and friends persisted in getting him to go hear a Christian evangelist named Billy Graham preaching the word of God in Los Angeles, he eventually is able to discard his anger and negative lifestyle. Only then did his nightmares disappear, as did the murderous hatred he had for his tormentor.

As I read through this book I discerned parallel stories woven between the covers by its author, Laura Hillenbrand. Her storytelling gifts are numerous, beginning with her attention to the myriad technical details about life in the Army Air Corps of the Pacific wartime era. She tells of its men and equipment, their suffering, joy and remembrance, all of which puts the reader inside their flight jackets, living quarters, aircraft and their lives, before, during and after captivity. She contributes the real-life experiences of courageous men who went through it all and lived to tell her about it. And she manages to also tell the story of the hundreds of thousands lost at sea and on land.

The movie version of “Unbroken” is being released on Christmas Day, 2014, directed by Angelina Jolie. I plan on seeing it. Movies, through my eye, can never do a good book justice. In this case I hope I’m wrong. After you see it make sure you pick up the book as well. It will, I’m sure, complement the movie.

For information on where to purchase the book go to:


Thursday, May 8, 2014

DEAD MEN FLYING - a book review by JC Sullivan

DEAD MEN FLYING - Victory in Viet Nam - The Legend of Dust Off:  America’s Battlefield Angels
A book review by JC Sullivan

I first learned of Patrick Henry Brady several years ago while watching stories on America’s Medal of Honor recipients. What I remember most was learning of his youthful plunge into a swimming pool to save a life. In a telephone interview with the General he said, ""He grabbed me around the neck and pushed me under. Never got over the thrill of saving a life. I could swim but couldn't get out from under him. I could not get up and then walked to the shallow part." Because of his clear-headed thinking and absence of panic, he simply held his breath and walked on the bottom until he emerged at the shallow end. I have often related this story since that time. That ability served him well in Vietnam and continues in his post-active duty life.

Dead Men Flying is a story of the courage of men and women he served with; some are named, others not. Co-written by Brady, a retired Army Major General, and his daughter Meghan Brady Smith, the story revolves around many Army officers, enlisted men and nurses in Viet Nam and elsewhere, in particular the late Major Charles Kelly and the co-author himself. He describes the combat operations of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) during his first tour, beginning in 1964, when the war was hot but America had not yet contributed many soldiers or American lives to it. His second tour, with the 54th Medical Detachment (HA), which he eventually commanded, ended in 1968, the year of the TET offensive.

Brady has been described as the top pilot and most highly-decorated soldier of the Viet Nam war. He is a man of strong faith and incredible luck. He earned numerous decorations for valor, to include the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and fifty-three Air Medals.

The book describes many of America’s unsung heroes and the colorful characters he knew. He unabashedly describes heartfelt love for Georgian Charles Kelly, the father of Dust Off. Killed on just such a mission, his last words were “When I have your wounded.” Brady has dedicated the book to Kelly and his family and “all the Kelly twigs,” meaning those who were tutored in Kelly’s ways.

“Kelly was unique in the degree to which he possessed all forms of courage, which is, of course, the bedrock of leadership….a man of humble beginnings and humility is a constant mark of great leaders,” Brady wrote. He also found in Kelly what he believes is the key to courage - faith. “I have not known many people of constant repetitive courage who were not also people of faith. Kelly was a man of deep faith founded in World War II and fostered throughout his life.”

So many who survived Viet Nam are alive due to the actions of “Dust Off”, the air ambulance operations and their helicopter pilots and crewmen. Brady’s service in Viet Nam saved over 5,000 wounded during his over 2,500 combat missions. His influence in educating those right out of Flight School undoubtedly saved many lives as well.

The viciousness of the Vietnamese Communists is described time and again by Brady. While America learned of the infamous “My Lai Massacre” there in Viet Nam, for whatever reasons, we did not learn very much about communist atrocities while the war was being conducted, just like we never learned of communist Russia’s during World War II (Ukraine and Katyn are two that come to mind). Their actions were vile, inhuman atrocities and reprehensible, just as the actions of “terrorists” are today. It certainly makes you wonder if they aren’t one and the same.

General Creighton Abrams, Commander of U.S. forces in Viet Nam, said this about Dust Offs, “…Courage above and beyond the call of duty was sort of routine for them. It was a daily thing, part of the way they lived. That’s the great part and it meant so much to every man who served there. Whether he ever got hurt or not, he knew Dust Off was there. It was a great thing for our people.”

General Brady has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Seattle University and an MBA from Notre Dame University. He and his wife Nancy had six children, Shaun, Casey, Kelly, Shannon, Terry and Meghan, a veteran of the war in Iraq. They reside in San Antonio, Texas. 

Brady grew up in Seattle and currently resides in Texas. To read the full story of Dust Off visit and order the book at or receive an autographed copy at

Monday, April 7, 2014

FOUR CAME HOME by Carroll V. Glines

A book review by J C Sullivan

"As a veteran and military historian, I am a lifelong admirer of the courage of General James "Jimmy"  Doolittle and his Tokyo Raiders. 'Four Came Home' is an epic from another era, a time when our nation openly honored such men as these.

The planning, the mission and the aftermath - their captivity, torture and eventual release at the end of the war, is a tribute to their faith. In addition, I also learned of the incredible bravery of their rescuers, the men who parachuted into Japan at the immediate end of hostilities. They risked being shot by still-hostile Japanese armed forces.

A life-long student, I am delighted to have learned more about these men and recommend their true story to other Americans and military historians. This book has been added to my militaria library. 

THUNDER BELOW by Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey

A book review by JC Sullivan

"Military historians and others will find the story of the USS Barb and her commander, Eugene Fluckey, to be a one of both warfare and leadership. Captain Fluckey was a natural leader and a brilliant submarine commander who earned the undying loyalty of his shipmates and peers in the U.S. Navy.

A recepient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, his risks were calculated. His crew were the only American military men to land on Japanese soil during WWII. The exploits of the Barb's war patrols are unparalelled."

Per Wikipedia, "In November 1943, he attended the Prospective Commanding Officer's School at the Submarine Base New London, then reported to Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. After one war patrol as the prospective commanding officer of the USS Barb (SS-220), (her seventh), he assumed command of the submarine on April 27, 1944. Fluckey established himself as one of the greatest submarine skippers, credited with the most tonnage sunk by a U.S. skipper during World War II: 17 ships including a carrier, cruiser, and frigate.

In one of the stranger incidents in the war, Fluckey sent a landing party ashore to set demolition charges on a coastal railway line, destroying a 16-car train.[2] This was the sole landing by U.S. military forces on the Japanese home islands during World War II.

Fluckey ordered that this landing party be composed of crewmen from every division on his submarine and asked for as many former Boy Scouts as possible, knowing they would have the skills to find their way in unfamiliar territory. The selected crewmen were Paul Saunders, William Hatfield, Francis Sever, Lawrence Newland, Edward Klinglesmith, James Richard, John Markuson, and William Walker. Hatfield wired the explosive charge, using a microswitch under the rails to trigger the explosion.

Fluckey was awarded the Navy Cross four times for extraordinary heroism during the eighth, ninth, tenth, and twelfth war patrols of Barb. During his famous eleventh patrol, he continued to revolutionize submarine warfare, inventing the night convoy attack from astern by joining the flank escort line. He attacked two convoys at anchor 26 miles (42 km) inside the 20 fathom (37 m) curve on the China coast, totaling more than 30 ships. With two frigates pursuing, Barb set a then-world speed record for a submarine of 23.5 knots (44 km/h) using 150% overload. For his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, Fluckey received the Medal of Honor.

  Barb received the Presidential Unit Citation for the eighth through eleventh patrols and the Navy Unit Commendation for the twelfth patrol.
His book, Thunder Below! (1992), depicts the exploits of his beloved Barb. "Though the tally shows more shells, bombs, and depth charges fired at Barb, no one received the Purple Heart and Barb came back alive, eager, and ready to fight again."[2]

The following was sent by Brad May, author unknown.
S.S. Barb: The Sub That Sank A Train.

In 1973 an Italian submarine named Enrique Tazzoli was sold for a paltry $100,000 as scrap metal. The submarine, given to the Italian Navy in
 1953 was actually an incredible veteran of World War II service with a heritage that never should have passed so unnoticed into the graveyards ofthe metal recyclers. The U.S.S. Barb was a pioneer, paving the way for the first submarine launched missiles and flying a battle flag unlike that of any other ship. In addition to the Medal of Honor ribbon at the top of the flag identifying the heroism of its captain, Commander Eugene "Lucky"Fluckey, the bottom border of the flag bore the image of a Japanese locomotive. The U.S.S. Barb was indeed, the submarine that "SANK A TRAIN".

July, 1945 (Guam) Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz looked across the desk at Admiral Lockwood as he finished the personal briefing on U.S. war ships in the vicinity of the northern coastal areas of Hokkaido, Japan. "Well, Chester, there's only the Barb there, and probably no word until thepatrol is finished. You remember Gene Fluckey?" "Of course. I recommended him for the Medal of Honor," Admiral Nimitz replied. "You surely
 pulled him from command after he received it?"

July 18, 1945 (Patience Bay, Off the coast of Karafuto,Japan) It was after 4 A.M. and Commander Fluckey rubbed his eyes as he peered over the
 map spread before him. It was the twelfth war patrol of the Barb, the fifth under Commander Fluckey. He should have turned command over to another skipper after four patrols, but had managed to strike a deal with Admiral Lockwood to make one more trip with the men he cared for like a father, should his fourth patrol be successful. Of course, no one suspected when he had struck that deal prior to his fourth and whatshould have been his final war patrol on the Barb, that Commander Fluckey's success would be so great he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Commander Fluckey smiled as he remembered that patrol. "Lucky" Fluckey they called him. On January 8th the Barb had emerged victorious from a
 running two-hour night battle after sinking a large enemy ammunition ship. Two weeks later in Mamkwan Harbor he found the "motherlode".. more than 30 enemy ships. In only 5 fathoms (30 feet) of water his crew had unleashed the sub's forward torpedoes, then turned and fired four from the stern. As he pushed the Barb to the full limit of its speed through the dangerous waters in a daring withdrawal to the open sea, he recorded eight direct hits on six enemy ships. Then, on the return home he added yet another Japanese freighter to the tally for the Barb's eleventh patrol, a score that exceeded even the number of that patrol.

What could possibly be left for the Commander to accomplish who, just three months earlier had been inWashington, DC to receive the Medal of
 Honor? He smiled to himself as he looked again at the map showing the rail line that ran along the enemy coastline. This final patrol had been promised as the Barb's "graduation patrol" and he and his crew had cooked up an unusual finale. Since the 8th of June they had harassed the enemy,
destroying the enemy supplies and coastal fortifications with the first submarine launched rocket attacks. Now his crew was buzzing excitedly
 about bagging a train.

The rail line itself wouldn't be a problem. A shore patrol could go ashore under cover of darkness to plant the of the sub's 55-pound scuttling charges. But this early morning Lucky Fluckey and his officers were puzzling over how they could blow not only the rails, butalso one of the frequent trains that shuttled supplies to equip the Japanese war machine. Such a daring feat could handicap the enemy's war effort for several days, a week, perhaps even longer. It was a crazy idea, just the kind of operation "Lucky" Fluckey had become famous...
 orinfamous...for. But no matter how crazy the idea might have sounded, the Barb's skipper would not risk the lives of his men. Thus the to detonate the charge at the moment the train passed without endangering the life of a shore party. PROBLEM? Not on CommanderFluckey's ship. His philosophy had always been "We don't have problems, only solutions".

11:27 AM "Battle Stations!" No more time to seek solutions or to ponder blowing up a train. The approach of a Japanese freighter with a frigate
 escort demands traditional submarine warfare. By noon the frigate is layingon the ocean floor in pieces and the Barb is in danger of becoming the hunted.

6:07 PM Solutions! If you don't look for them, you'll never find them. And even then, sometimes they arrive in the most unusual fashion. Cruising slowly beneath the surface to evade the enemy plane now circling overhead,the monotony is broken with an exciting new idea. Instead of having a crewman on shore to trigger explosives to blow both rail and a passing train, why not let the train BLOW ITSELF up. Billy Hatfield was excitedly explaining how he had cracked nuts on the railroad tracks as a kid, placing the nuts between two ties so the sagging of the rail under the weight of a train would break them open. "Just like cracking walnuts," he explained. "To complete the circuit (detonating the 55-pound charge) we hook in a micro switch ...between two ties. We don't set it off, the TRAIN does." Not only did Hatfield have the plan, he wanted to be part of the volunteer shore party.

The solution found, there was no shortage of volunteers, all that was needed was the proper weather...a little cloud cover to darken the moon for the
 mission ashore. Lucky Fluckey established his own criteria for the volunteerparty: ...No married men would be included, except for Hatfield, ...The party would include members from each department, ...The opportunity would be split between regular Navy and Navy Reserve sailors, ...At least half of the men had to have been Boy Scouts, experienced in how to handle themselves in medical emergencies and in the woods. FINALLY, "Lucky " Fluckey would lead the saboteurs himself.

When the names of the 8 selected sailors was announced it was greeted with a mixture of excitement and disappointment. Among the disappointed was Commander Fluckey who surrendered his opportunity at the insistence of his officers that "as commander he belonged with the Barb," coupled with the threat from one that "I swear I'll send a message to ComSubPac if you attempt this (joining the shore party himself)." Even a Japanese POW beingheld on the Barb wanted to go, promising not to try to escape.

In the meantime, there would be no more harassment of Japanese shipping or shore operations by the Barb until the train mission had been accomplished.The crew would "lay low", prepare their equipment, train, and wait for theweather.

July 22, 1945 (Patience Bay, Off the coast of Karafuto,Japan) Patience Bay was wearing thin the patience of Commander Fluckey and his innovative
 crew. Everything was ready. In the four days the saboteurs had anxiously watched the skies for cloud cover, the inventive crew of the Barb had built their micro switch. When the need was posed for a pick and shovel to bury the explosive charge and batteries, the Barb's engineers had cut up steel platesin the lower flats of an engine room, then bent and welded them to create the needed tools. The only things beyond their control were the weather....and time. Only five days remained in the Barb's patrol.

Anxiously watching the skies, Commander Fluckey noticed plumes of cirrus clouds, then white stratus capping the mountain peaks ashore. A cloud
 cover was building to hide the three-quarters moon. This would be the night.

MIDNIGHT, July 23, 1945 The Barb had crept within 950 yards of the shoreline. If it was somehow seen from the shore it would probably be
 mistaken for a schooner or Japanese patrol boat. No one would suspect an American submarine so close to shore or in such shallow water. Slowly the small boats were lowered to the water and the 8 saboteurs began paddling toward the enemy beach. Twenty-five minutes later they pulled the boats ashore and walked on the surface of the Japanese homeland. Having lost their points of navigation, the saboteurs landed near the backyard of a house. Fortunately the residents had no dogs, though the sight of human AND dog's tracks in the sand along the beach alerted the brave sailors to the potential for unexpected danger.

Stumbling through noisy waist-high grasses, crossing a highway and then stumbling into a 4-foot drainage ditch, the saboteurs made their way to the
 railroad tracks. Three men were posted as guards, Markuson assigned toexamine a nearby water tower. The Barb's auxiliary man climbed the ladder, then stopped in shock as he realized it was an enemy lookout OCCUPIED tower. Fortunately the Japanese sentry was peacefully sleepingand Markuson was able to quietly withdraw and warn his raiding party.

The news from Markuson caused the men digging the placement for the explosive charge to continue their work more slowly and quietly. Suddenly,
 from less than 80 yards away, an express train was bearing down on them. Theappearance was a surprise, it hadn't occurred to the crew during the planning for the mission that there might be a night train. When at last it passed, the brave but nervous sailors extracted themselves from the brush into which they had leapt, to continue their task. Twenty minutes later the holes had been dug and the explosives and batteries hidden beneath fresh soil.

During planning for the mission the saboteurs had been told that, with the explosives in place, all would retreat a safe distance while Hatfield made
 the final connection. If the sailor who had once cracked walnuts on the railroad tracks slipped during this final, dangerous procedure, his would be the only life lost. On this night it was the only order the saboteurs refused to obey, all of them peering anxiously over Hatfield's shoulder to make sure he did it right. The men had come too far to be disappointed by a switch failure.

1:32 A.M. Watching from the deck of the Barb, Commander Fluckey allowed himself a sigh of relief as he noticed the flashlight signal from the beach
 announcing the departure of the shore party. He had skillfully, and daringly, guided the Barb within 600 yards of the enemy beach. There wasless than 6 feet of water beneath the sub's keel, but Fluckey wanted to be close in case trouble arose and a daring rescue of his saboteurs became necessary.

1:45 A.M. The two boats carrying his saboteurs were only halfway back to the Barb when the sub's machine gunner yelled, "CAPTAIN! Another train coming up the tracks!" The Commander grabbed a megaphone and
 yelled through the night, "Paddle like the devil!", knowing full well that theywouldn't reach the Barb before the train hit the micro switch.

1:47 A.M. The darkness was shattered by brilliant light and the roar of the explosion. The boilers of the locomotive blew, shattered pieces of the engine blowing 200 feet into the air. Behind it the cars began to accordion into each other, bursting into flame and adding to the magnificent fireworks display. Five minutes later the saboteurs werelifted to the deck by their exuberant comrades as the Barb turned to slip back to safer waters. Moving at only two knots, it would be a while before the Barb was into waters deep enough to allow it to submerge. It was a moment to savor,the culmination of teamwork, ingenuity and daringby the Commander and all his crew. "Lucky" Fluckey's voice came over the intercom. "All hands below deck not absolutely needed to maneuver the ship have permission to come topside." He didn't have to repeat the invitation. Hatches sprang open as the proud sailors of the Barb gathered on her decks to proudly watch the distant fireworks display. The Barb had "
 SUNK " a Japanese TRAIN!

On August 2, 1945 the Barb arrived at Midway, her twelfth war patrol concluded. Meanwhile United States military commanders had pondered the
 prospect of an armed assault on the Japanese homeland.

I COULD NEVER BE SO LUCKY AGAIN by Gen. James H. (Jimmy) Doolittle

A Book Review by JC Sullivan

This is the autobiography of a man who grew up in California and Alaska. Short ini stature, he made up for his lack of height with courage, guts, bravado and an indomnitable spirit.

Over the years of his career, both in and out of the service, he eventually acquired an engineering degree that made him the best of pilots AND engineers. What he is best known for, by my generation that is, is his leadership early in the war when he led his men on a bombing flight to Japan.  

Flying from the deck of the USS Hornet in april, 1942, his was the first of 16 B-25 medium bombers to lift off the deck. The mission, although inflicting minimal damage, raised the spirit of the American people, our first victory since Pearl Harbor. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions.

According to Wikipedia, "Doolittle was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on January 2, 1942, and assigned to Army Air Forces Headquarters to plan the first retaliatory air raid on the Japanese homeland. He volunteered for and received General H.H. Arnold's approval to lead the top-secret attack of 16 B-25 medium bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, with targets in Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya. After training at Eglin Field and Wagner Field in northwest Florida, Doolittle, his aircraft and flight crews proceeded to the McClellan Field, California for aircraft modifications at the Sacramento Air Depot, followed by a short final flight to Naval Air Station Alameda, California for embarkation aboard USS Hornet. On April 18, all the bombers successfully took off from the Hornet, reached Japan, and bombed their targets. Fifteen of the planes then headed for their recovery airfield in China, while one crew chose to land in Russia due to their bomber's unusually high fuel consumption. As did most of the other crewmen who participated in the mission, Doolittle's crew bailed out safely over China when their bomber ran out of fuel. By then they had been flying for about 12 hours, it was nighttime, the weather was stormy, and Doolittle was unable to locate their landing field. Doolittle came down in a rice paddy (saving a previously injured ankle from breaking) near Chuchow (Quzhou). He and his crew linked up after the bailout and were helped through Japanese lines by Chinese guerrillas and American missionary John Birch. Other aircrews were not so fortunate. Although most eventually reached safety with the help of friendly Chinese, four crewmembers lost their lives as a result of being captured by the Japanese and three due to aircraft crash and/or while parachuting. Doolittle went on to fly more combat missions as commander of the 12th Air Force in North Africa, for which he was awarded four Air Medals. The other surviving members of the raid also went on to new assignments".

Doolittle was a colorful, daredevil of a man. The book makes for interesting reading and allows us to see what molded the man into who he became.