Entries in World War II (9)


World War II Love Letters Wash Up on NJ Beach After Sandy

ABC News(ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, N.J.) -- Superstorm Sandy destroyed towns and homes, and took lives, but a stack of 57 letters tied together with a pink ribbon survived the devastating storm.

Kathleen Mullen was taking a walk along the Henry Hudson Trail in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., the day after the storm hit when she spotted the bundle of letters.

“They were obviously tied with a pink ribbon, so I automatically knew that they were love letters,” Mullen told ABC News’ New York station WABC-TV.


She took them home, carefully dried them under the fireplace in her powerless home and began to read. The letters were written by Dorothy Fallon of Rumson, N.J., and Lynn Farnham of Vermont between 1942 and 1947.

“There isn’t much more to tell you tonight, dear,” one letter read. “I love you very much. Yours always, Dotty.”

Mullen was determined to reunite the letters with their owners. She posted about the letters on Facebook, Craigslist and eventually did a search on, where a Lynn Farnham was listed who died in 1992 and was buried in New Jersey.

Through the website, Mullen connected with Shelly Farnham-Hilber, a niece of the couple, who lives in Virginia. She was thrilled to hear of the find.

“It’s magical. You go, ‘This can’t be real,’” Farnham-Hilber told WABC-TV. “It’s like a genealogical gold mine. It’s just that moment that you think is lost forever and here is something. It’s a gift.”

Farnham-Hilber said that Lynn Farnham, her uncle, served in WWII and was at Pearl Harbor. The couple had two children. The son has died and Farnham-Hilber’s family has lost touch with the daughter. Dorothy Farnham is 91 years old and lives in a nursing home in New Jersey.

The family is looking forward to being reunited with the letters and the find was a beacon of light to Mullen during tough times.

“It kind of sent the message that love conquers all, you know, in such devastation … something so delicate just washes ashore,” she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pennsylvania Teen Finds Bomb in Backyard

Tyler Varve(JONESTOWN, Pa.) -- Tyler Varvel, 14, was working in his Jonestown, Pa., yard when a strange-looking object caught his eye. “I was spraying weeds on the side of the property and I saw something shiny,” he said. “I thought it was a bar or a metal stake or something like that.”

“I flicked it up with my shoe not thinking it was a bomb.”

But that’s exactly what it was, a World War II-era bomb buried in the middle of the small town. Upon realizing what the object was, Tyler backed off right away. “I called my mother immediately,” he said, adding, “It was buried about 4 or 5 inches in, it looked like something you’d see in a movie or something, sort of like a little torpedo.”

Tyler’s mother, Lora, who happened to be driving by the police station at the time, stopped and went in, showing officers a photo of the bomb that Tyler had snapped on his cellphone. Police then contacted state authorities who sprang in to action, arriving at the home even before Tyler’s mother.

As military police examined the bomb, which they later determined to have an injury radius of up to 300 yards, they warned family to stay away. “They said, ‘Well, you need to step back, you need to get back a little further, maybe go up by the house,’” Lora Varvel, said, adding that discoveries of old military explosives were not uncommon in the area.

“Neighbors have found things before, like old grenades,” she said.

It’s unclear where the bomb came from.

Fortunately for the Varvels, members of the State Police Bomb Detection and Disposal Unit discovered that the bomb was inert and not a live round. But the memory of the incident is going to stick with the family.

When asked whether she thought she’d be finding any other explosive devices in the yard, Lori Varvel said, “Not really but it does make you think.”

In the meantime, however, the Varvels have put plans to plant shade trees in the backyard on hold.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Book Names Iconic Times Square Kissing Couple From World War II

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two authors claim they have figured out the identities of the sailor and nurse seen kissing in the iconic 1945 LIFE magazine photograph from the end of World War II.

In The Kissing Sailor, co-authors George Galdorisi of Coronada, Calif., and Lawrence Verria of Bristol, R.I., tell what they call the story of the real man and woman in the picture.

On Aug. 14, 1945, LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took the photo in New York City’s Times Square. He took four dozen photographs, including four of the unknown couple kissing.  He had lost track of his reporter in the crowd, and the two who kissed moved on without telling each other -- or Eisenstaedt -- their names.

LIFE did a retrospective in 1980 about the picture, asking the real sailor and nurse to come forward.  The problem was, more than two people did.

“Those people who looked at the picture and after the fact said, ‘I was kissing someone that day; it was probably me,’” co-author Galdorisi told ABC News.

Galdorisi met Verria through a mutual friend and said they agreed to track down the story of the photograph together.

Galdorisi said Verria first heard of the identity of the sailor, George Mendonsa, from a student in one of his classes.  Soon after, he saw the famous picture in a Rhode Island restaurant next to a photo of a sailor in his navy blues.  He was told the sailor was a local celebrity, claiming he was the one in the picture. Verria interviewed Mendonsa and was taken by his story, feeling he had proved his identity as the sailor.

The co-authors identify the nurse in the picture as Greta Zimmer Friedman, who lives in Maryland.  Both involved in the kiss are now 89 years old.

The book revolves around the picture itself, Times Square, where the photo was taken, the publication of LIFE magazine and the people involved in the story.

“People who have absolutely fascinating lives,” said Galdorisi.  “The three of them shouldn’t have been there, they should’ve been dead.”

Galdorisi said he and Verria prove the identities of the kissing couple by forensic analysis, photographic interpretation and other technical means.

There have been multiple people identified in the past as the sailor and nurse.  One of the best known of the women was Edith Shane.  She came forward in 1979, saying she had not told her story before because she was a proper woman, and proper women don’t kiss in Times Square.

In 2007, a man named Glen McDuffie claimed he was the sailor in the photo, even taking lie detector tests to prove his story.

The famous photograph has made headlines recently for other reasons. Singer Katy Perry reenacted the photo with a sailor she pulled onto the stage at a recent concert.

And last week, a car on Florida’s Gulf Coast hit a 26-foot tall sculpture recreating the photograph, according to ABC affiliate WWSB. There is a similar statue in San Diego.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Potential $4 Billion Loot from WWII Wreck Beckons Treasure Hunters

Hemera/Thinkstock(GORHAM, Maine) -- The crew aboard the 220-foot Sea Hunter is on the hunt for an exceedingly rare catch: nearly $4 billion in gold and platinum from a World War II-era shipwreck.

The Maine-based Sub Sea Research crew aboard the vessel have searched for the Port Nicholson wreck for nearly five years and are now on their way to retrieve their first piece of treasure.

Sub Sea Research co-founder Greg Brooks believes the wreck could be carrying platinum and gold ingots that were originally a payment from the Soviet Union to the U.S. for war supplies.  The Port Nicholson was sunk in 1942 by German U-boats only 50 miles off the coast of Provincetown, Mass.

Brooks talked to ABC News affiliate WCVB-TV about what it means to reach the wreck after five years of effort.

“Some dreams are more difficult to achieve than others,” Brooks told WCVB-TV. “This one is like astronomical.”

The Sub Sea Research team was named official custodians of the wreck by the U.S. Marshals Service and stand to make 5 percent of the treasure’s value. It could mean each crew member would receive about $8 million.

Technician Nick Snyder said his mother had already commandeered his portion of the potential treasure.

“Well my mom wants to redo her kitchen, that’s about it,” Snyder told WCVC-TV. “She’ll get that and maybe a new car.”

However, during the current trip, the team doesn’t plan on coming back as millionaires. Instead, Brooks told WCVB-TV their plan is merely to survey the wreck to ensure that nothing has changed or shifted since their last exploration.

But the team isn’t planning on going home completely empty-handed. After putting $6.5 million into the search, the Sub Sea Research team hopes to pick up at least one gold bar to help finance a future upgrade on their boat.

In a video Brooks posted to the company’s Twitter account, the narrator explains that the most lucrative portion of the treasure is also thought to be in the most perilous part of the wreck and could potentially ruin the company’s expensive equipment. However, the video ends with the definitive statement, “Go big or go home.”

Brooks echoed that statement telling WCVB-TV, “We’re going to do it, guaranteed.”

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Black WWII Vet Gets Medal from Navy 66 Years Later

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Steward First Class Carl Clark waited 66 years for this day. It’s been years since the 95-year-old last wore his uniform -- which has only been made complete Tuesday with the addition of a medal he won when he was 29.

During World War II, black men were allowed to enlist, but the only job available to them in the Navy was as stewards.

“Taking care of officers, feeding them their meals, cleaning their rooms, shining their shoes” were just a few things that were part of the job, according to Clark.

When the ship was under attack, however, they joined their fellow soldiers, manning their battle stations like the rest of the crew. They did just that on May 3, 1945, near Okinawa onboard the USS Aaron Ward.

“Our ship had been hit by nine kamikazes,” Clark said in a film. “All four of the other ships in our station were sunk.”

Clark’s job was to fight the fires on deck and to help the wounded.

“When first plane hit, I was blown against the overhead, I broke my collarbone,” he said. "I was the only survivor of an eight-man damage control team. But two minutes later a second plane came in. I stared at the pilot as he guided his plane toward our ship...the explosion blew me into the air to the other side of the ship.”

Single-handedly, he kept the fires from reaching the big guns -- saving the ship from exploding. They lost 40 men that day, but while his white comrades received medals for bravery, Clark did not, even though the ship’s captain felt he deserved it.

Clark’s story came to the attention of Rep. Anna Eshoo, who pushed the Navy to acknowledge him for his bravery. They were able to finally set it right Tuesday with an appropriate ceremony. The secretary of the Navy pinned the medal -- the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation for valor -- on Clark himself.

Clark didn’t think he’d live to see the day.

“It was a different country then,” he said, sadly understanding the slight. “Things have changed.”

Now, he’s amazed by the attention he’s being paid.

“All these people and the applause -- it’s overwhelming,” Clark said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


70 Years Later, America Remembers Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii) -- Exactly 70 years ago on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy came under attack by Japan at Pearl Harbor -- a sudden strike that catapulted the United States into WWII.

Then President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941 "a date that will live in infamy," and vowed that "no matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people with their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory."

In all, 2,402 American lives were lost, four battleships were sunk and close to 200 aircraft were destroyed.

To honor the fallen, President Obama has proclaimed Wednesday "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day." In a statement, Mr. Obama said: "On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded during that deadly attack and pay tribute to the heroes whose courage ensured our Nation would recover from this vicious blow. Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valor fortified all who served during World War II.  As a Nation, we look to December 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms."

The president encouraged Americans to, "observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities," and urged them to fly their flags at half-staff.

A moment of silence will be held in Pearl Harbor Wednesday at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time -- the time the attack began.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japanese-American Veterans Honored with Congressional Gold Medal

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Members of Congress gathered Wednesday to award the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given by Congress, to World War II Japanese-American veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service.

What separates these veterans of Japanese-American descent from other World War II veterans is not only that many of them and their families were placed in internment camps after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, but they were also exempt from the draft.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, who himself was part of the 442nd, said that after the bombing, Japanese-Americans “were declared by the government of this country as being enemy agents...and, as such, unfit to put on the uniform of this flag.”

“But we didn’t sit by and do nothing about it,” said Inouye, D-Hawaii. “We petitioned the government to give us an opportunity to demonstrate our love of country and our patriotism, which you granted to us.”

The 442nd Regiment, which includes the 100th Infantry, is one of the most highly decorated units in U.S. history, a feat that did not go unnoticed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

“Together, the 100th and 442nd became the most highly decorated outfit in U.S. Army history,” Boehner said. “They received more than 9,000 Purple Hearts. They earned thousands of Bronze and Silver Stars. They earned 52 Distinguished Service Crosses and 21 Medals of Honor. They even won medals from the Italians and the French."

“Since our founding, Americans have believed that our liberties, our Constitution, our way of life, even our flag are things worth fighting and dying for,” Boehner said. “We have also believed these ideas are not limited to one race or people, that the struggle for these ideas can unite all our people.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., himself a war veteran, welcomed the bipartisan effort of Congress to “pay tribute to fellow citizens who have served a just cause greater than their own self.”

“What began as a Senate resolution over two years ago has now become a reality,” McCain said. “Today at long last, we award the Congressional Gold Medal to a group of Americans who are as deserving of it as any I have ever known.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the awardees for being “willing to go for broke” -- adopting the phrase from the regiment’s official motto -- "in the fight against tyranny abroad and, in doing so, fight discrimination here at home."

“Again, as others have mentioned, despite the injustices of the internment of Japanese-Americans, today’s awardees rose above being embittered,” Pelosi said. “Indeed, many felt empowered to prove their loyalty and love of our country.”

She added her congratulations to the veterans and their family members, who she said “bring luster to this award and you bring honor to this Congress.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Reno Air Race Crash: Investigators Comb Through Debris

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(RENO, Nev.) -- Investigators in Nevada today are continuing to comb the accident site where a stunt plane crashed during an air race in Reno.

Nine people died including the pilot when a World War II era plane crashed into the VIP seats on the tarmac Friday. A total of 69 people were injured.

Eyewitnesses said that as the P-51 Mustang Galloping Ghost piloted by Jimmy Leeward rounded the final clubhouse turn, something dropped off the tail of the plane, and that that may have been what caused the problem.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators recovered a component in the area where witnesses say they saw something drop.

Officials said it's unclear whether this is connected to this plane or another one.

NTSB investigators say they may not have a flight data recorder. But the numerous photos and personal video accounts from spectators will assist officials in the investigation.

"That will be a huge help for us," said NTSB spokesman Mark Rosekind.

In fact, the photos appear to support eyewitness accounts that pieces of the P51's tail started falling off.

"Pictures and video appear to show a piece of the plane was coming off," Rosekind said at a news conference. "A component has been recovered. We have not identified the component or if it even came from the airplane ... We are going to focus on that."

The tragedy in Reno was another near miss for Commander Mark Kelly, husband of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head earlier this year in Tucson.

Kelly was scheduled to fly a p51 similar to the one that crashed, though he was not racing.

He apparently did not witness the crash.

As investigators work to piece together what caused the crash, officials are also looking into another fatal air show crash this weekend.

A day after the air race crash in Reno, an antique plane crashed at an air show in Martinsburg, West Va., Saturday.

Pilot John Mangan was flying a 1958 T-28 Warbird, when it suddenly crashed after completing an acrobatic move with another T-28. Mangan was killed. No other injuries were reported.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Spy Files: Nazi Plot in US Blown by Drunken Blabbing, Idiocy

Photos[dot]com/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Newly released spy documents reveal that in the midst of World War Two, a small group of Nazi spies embarked on an ambitious plan to unleash a campaign of terror and sabotage on the United States from within its borders but failed miserably due to drunkenness, incompetence and a turncoat team leader.

The declassified MI5 files, released Monday by the British National Archives, detail the comical failing of the well-known June 1942 German plot to land eight Nazi operatives on U.S. shores -- four along the Florida coast and four others on New York's Long Island -- where they were to begin sabotaging U.S. factories, canals and railways and execute "small acts of terrorism" aimed at Jewish-owned shops. The spies had been trained in explosives at a special "Sabotage School."

The teams, the report notes, were "better equipped with sabotage apparatus and better trained than any other expeditions of which the Security Service has heard."

However, the plan, called Pastorius after an early German settler in colonial America, began to fall apart before the operatives even made the trip across the Atlantic. The documents show that while in Paris -- which at the time was occupied by the German military -- one of the spies got drunk at a hotel bar and "told everyone that he was a secret agent."

German intelligence believed the loose-lipped admission may "have contributed to the failure of the undertaking," the report said.

Once they made the crossing, the operatives' luck did not get much better. One team, which had been dropped off on Long Island still wearing their Germany military uniforms after the submarine that delivered them accidentally ran aground, was almost immediately caught by an unidentified U.S. military official. The Germans had just managed to change into their civilian clothes when the officer approached and offered him $300 to simply leave.

The stranded submarine itself was only saved from attack by the U.S. by what the report called the "laziness or stupidity" of American forces.

The Florida team made it to shore where they emerged from the sea wearing only bathing trunks and "army forage caps."

Both teams were eventually arrested after the team leader, George John Dasch, called up the FBI from a New York hotel "saying that he was a saboteur and wished to tell his story to [FBI chief J. Edgar] Hoover." His request was refused, but Dasch did come to an FBI building where he told the whole story -- a confession that took five 10-hour days.

One of the men in the Florida team "assisted authorities in causing his own arrest by going into an FBI office when 'Wanted' notices were already out for him, pretending that he had just arrived from Mexico and wanted to clear up his military service papers," the report said.

The MI5 author of the report said it was possible Dasch had planned his surrender as soon as he was given the assignment in Germany and used the operation as his personal escape route from Germany. Each saboteur was caught and sentenced to death, except for Dasch and another operative who had turned on the team were excused and later deported back to Germany.

The report notes that a third sabotage team was believed to have arrived in the U.S. around the same time as the first two and was "still at large." British intelligence expected still more teams to follow.

But according to the FBI historians, "So shaken was the German intelligence service that no similar sabotage attempt was every again made."

Other MI5 files released Monday document what is referred to as Germany's plans to create post-war "world disorder" through acts of terrorism in order to create chaos in which the "Fourth Reich would re-emerge."

The plan, as told by a captured French Nazi spy who attended an SS conference in the last weeks of the war, was to use sabotage, assassinations and chemical warfare to continue the Nazi's fight long after the war had officially ended.

Other files show German intelligence training concerning a coordinated plan to poison food, chocolate, alcoholic drinks and even cigarettes in post-war Europe. Poison was to be injected into sausages and cakes and bread were to be laced with arsenic. The Nazis had also apparently developed brown pellets that, when placed in ashtrays, exploded with the heat from a cigarette or cigar, "killing anyone nearby," according to the National Archives.

"Nowadays it's easy to regard such schemes as impossibly far fetched," said former MI5 historian Christopher Andrew in a National Archives Podcast, "but at the time it was reasonable to believe that after the Allied victory there would remain a dangerous post-war Nazi underground which would continue a secret war."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio