Don’t Claim to Honor An Entire Generation If You Refute Their Values

I’m going to use this blog posting to make a complaint against a magazine that has apparently decided not to pay me for several articles and book reviews I wrote for them. I am due approximately $1,200 from the magazine America in WWII. And although $1,200 is not a great sum of money to most people, to me, integrity and payment for services rendered mean more than the money. But I won’t kid you that money isn’t important. It obviously is, and I don’t have to go into a side rant about economics to prove my point. Simply put, when you do a job for someone, you expect to get paid. For me, this expectation continues on, almost two years since my first article appeared in the magazine.

Several months ago, I had a couple of articles and book reviews appear in the magazine America in WWII. The magazine is concerned with the American home front during the war. The viewpoint is of those Americans who served and fought during the world’s deadliest conflict. I had (and have) contracts with the editors of the magazine, in writing, that they are to make payment to me within 180 days of an article’s appearance. They are long overdue in payment. The two articles written for America in WWII by myself were:

“Day of the Kamikazes,” which appeared in the February-March 2017 issue, nearly TWO years ago. The second article, “Pearl Harbor MIA,” appeared almost a year ago now in the December 2017 issue. I also read three books and wrote reviews on each of them for the magazine. The editors sent me contracts for the three reviews as well, stating I’d be paid $60 per review. Adding together what I’m owed for the reviews and two full-length articles, the total works out to a little over $1,200.  

I wrote a third article, “Two Tries to End a Threat,” which appeared in the special issue: WWII Carrier War: The Battle of Midway and Beyond, focusing on the Battles of the Eastern Solomons and the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. This special issue appeared in the summer of 2017. I only received payment for this article because when contacted by the editor to write something on the two battles, I asked for payment up front. Obviously in a bind, the editor acquiesced to my demand. But for whatever reason, I have still not received payment concerning the other two articles or three book reviews.

An author pours himself into his stories. A historian does double-duty by pouring his or herself into their research and then crafting the writing to tell the story of a historical person, place, group, or object. The magazine industry has suffered ever since the rise of the internet. People can get information faster and (generally) for free online. Magazine subscriptions cost money, but so does paying someone to write articles appearing in those magazines. Unless an owner or editor plans on writing all of the articles that make up a single issue his or herself, one has to figure the cost of doing business beforehand, and pay their writers the agreed upon and contracted price.

About a year ago, I contacted an attorney who drafted up a letter of intent that was sent to the magazine making them aware that I would take legal action for non-payment of contracted services rendered. When I received no reply from the magazine, my lawyer (I live in Virginia) told me I would have to get a lawyer in Pennsylvania (where the magazine is located) to take legal action against them. After contacting a Pennsylvania lawyer, they were supposed to draw something up and get back to me, which they never did. Well, life being what it is, I lost my father in July; my sister-in-law was diagnosed with colon cancer two days after his death; between work and traveling across the country three times for work in the past three months, any actions against the magazine has fallen by the wayside. So admittedly, not much is getting done on the legal front anymore.

Back in January of this year, I emailed the owner/editor of the magazine myself, to see if they had actually received the letter of intent. In a response email, he claimed he had, and that there was “no need to take legal action.”  He furthermore claimed I’d be paid (eventually), and also wrote something about a magazine being tricky business and revenues aren’t what they used to be. In other words, excuses. The owner/editor, Mr. James Kushlan, claimed in the email to me that I would receive payment, and that it would be processed within the week. This response came from him on 29 January 2018. I promptly responded that if I ran a company the way he ran his magazine I would’ve long been out of business.  Over nine months later, I have not heard one word back from him or anyone else from the magazine.

I once worked for a magazine company as a photo editor, so I know a little bit about the magazine business. If I used a photograph from a person or photo agency, I had to make sure the budget allowed for that usage. I was responsible for seeing the agency or individual got paid what they were owed. If they didn’t get paid, I would’ve been fired. Were there delays in processing those payments? Yes. More than two years in delays? No way.

In prior conversations with the owner, and the actual editor of my work (two different people), I was led to believe they cared a great deal about our veterans of the Second World War, and the legacy of their victory. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I believe both men claim to have had fathers that served during the war. These men appeared to believe in and espouse the same values their fathers exemplified during the war. Among these were hard work, integrity, honesty, and the belief that a person’s work, especially of good quality, had meaning and should be rewarded. I guess I expected too much of the World War II generations children, the oft-maligned but rightfully criticized baby boomer generation, whose values seem to be severely lacking.

When arrogance, avarice, and a tendency to talk down to others are consistent traits of habit, doing the right thing will always fall by the wayside. Some of these people have learned nothing at all from their parents, despite their near-constant worship of the very things accomplished by them. Perhaps the greatest failure of the greatest generation was not passing on that strong work ethic, or the belief that hard work should be rewarded and a person’s word honored. By no means am I saying this is true of every baby boomer, just as it is a generalization to accuse every millennial of being an emotionally overwrought spoiled brat. But experience does teach stereotypes exist for a reason. America in WWII magazine should do the right thing, and pay their authors what they are owed.

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Review of Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man

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The incredible amount of research on this latest book to come out about the loss of USS Indianapolis (CA-35), builds on and eclipses those previous. Navy veteran Lynn Vincent and filmmaker Sara Vladic do an amazing job re-telling the by now well-known tragic story in Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man. 

Having conducted interviews with over 100 of Indy’s survivors going back nearly 20 years, the authors mine some new, gruesome revelations, told by men now in their nineties. These stories only add to the horror most of us can only imagine. The details do not titillate, but rather add to the unfortunate fate these men found themselves in. The reader is able to share in the anger at the huge loss of life, especially after learning word of a distress call was sent out, but those who received it did nothing to expedite a rescue. The potential to save even more lives was therefore wasted.

Delving into the history of the storied cruisers exploits before and after the sinking, the story then shifts to the aftermath of the loss, focusing on the Navy’s court-martial and trial of Indy’s commanding officer, Captain Charles B. McVay III. The reader then learns about the decades-long efforts of her survivors to see their captain exonerated. By the 1990s, they enlisted the help of U.S. Navy Captain William Toti, skipper of the submarine USS Indianapolis (SSN-697). A young school kid researching a project on Indianapolis’ sinking, then helps lead the charge to have McVay’s named cleared. The results of all of their hard work and success on taking on Big Navy makes for an exhilarating read. The Navy should have known that the survivors of a tragedy on the scale of Indianapolis would never give up.

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USS Indianapolis (CA-35).

Having personally conducted research into USS Indianapolis for work, concerning the attempts by a non-governmental group to have a military medal awarded to Father Thomas Conway for his actions in the water before he passed on the third day, I have read several accounts from men serving aboard the rescue ships. These ships searched a wide area to pick up any survivors still possibly in the ocean. I thought the authors may pass over these first-hand eyewitness accounts, as the sailors discovering these bodies related nightmarish stories of dead men being eaten by sharks, or bodies falling apart while being brought onboard. Again, I feel the authors did a great job in not being exploitative or unnecessarily ghoulish, while also not sparing the reader the awful truths associated with the reality of the men’s situation.

As disheartening as it is to read the tragic tale of the crew of Indianapolis and their exploits in the sea after her sinking, it is almost as equally appalling to learn of the Navy’s brass towing the same party line for five decades. Indianapolis is a touching and lasting tribute to all the men, living and dead, who suffered so much in the service of their country during the Second World War.

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Indianapolis survivors onboard the Hollandia, headed for home.

 

USS Helena (CL-50) Found Nearly 75 Years After Sinking During WWII Battle

https://news.usni.org/2018/04/12/paul-allen-finds-cruiser-uss-helena

USS Helena (CL-50) already had a long and proud history during the war before her tragic end. A survivor of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, she was the first ship to receive the Navy Unit Commendation award for her actions at Pearl, the Battle of Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal, the Solomons, and Kula Gulf.

Japanese propagandists also once complimented Helena’s gun crews. After a bombardment of Kolombangara Island in early 1943, Radio Tokyo announced that U.S. Naval Forces had employed a “new secret weapon-a 6-inch machine gun.” Although no such weapon existed, the Japanese were unwittingly heaping praise on the proficiency and speed of Helena’s gunners.

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USS Helena (CL-50) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, following battle damage repairs and overhaul on 1 July 1942. Naval History and Command Photograph. NH 95813

Helena was sunk by three torpedoes during the Battle of Kula Gulf on July 6, 1943. Of the 900 men onboard that abandoned ship, all but 275 survived. Many were rescued by the destroyers USS Nicholas (DD-449) and USS Radford (DD-446). Some were not rescued for 11 days, after making it to Vella Lavella Island, where they evaded Japanese patrols, and received help from two coast watchers and several natives before they were picked up.

Read the sad, but interesting story of S1c General P. Douglas, a survivor of the sinking of USS Helena, whose remains were found on Ranongga Island in June 2006. See the link below:

http://www.douglashistory.co.uk/history/generaldouglas.htm

Hold the Potatoes: A Destroyer Officer’s Dream and His Legendary Crew

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USS O’Bannon (DD-450) moored in mid-1942. Wartime censors re-touched the image to remove her radar and Mark 37 gun director. She’s painted in Camouflage Measure 12 (modified). National Archives Photograph. 80-G-44177.

Seventy-five years ago today, on 5 April 1943, USS O’Bannon (DD-450), the legendary WWII destroyer, sank Japanese submarine RO-34 using a well-placed shot-and potatoes. Among the many sea stories of the US Navy throughout our nations history, the sinking of an enemy submarine from potatoes has become legendary. It sounds like something only Superman or Captain America could pull off, except in this case, what happened that day 75 years ago actually did occur. Minus the potatoes.

On 4 April 1943, several U.S. destroyers of Destroyer Squadron Twenty-One (DesRon 21) had shelled enemy shore installations on New Georgia. Among those destroyers were the USS Strong (DD-467), USS Taylor (DD-468), USS Nicholas (DD-449), USS Radford (DD-446), USS Jenkins (DD-447), and O’Bannon. All were steaming back towards their base at Tulagi Harbor after the mission, when at 0225 on the morning of 5 April 1943, O’Bannon proceeded to investigate a radar contact with Strong standing by to assist.

O’Bannon’s skipper, Cmdr. Donald J. MacDonald, received word from his radarmen of an enemy submarine running on the surface at 7,000 yards. He brought O’Bannon close enough to the enemy submarine that his lookout, the ship’s cook, from his watchstanding station on deck, later told his captain that he thought he could have thrown potatoes at the boat.

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Commander Donald J. MacDonald, Commanding Officer of USS O’Bannon (DD-450), received two awards of the Navy Cross, three Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit and two Bronze Star awards during the war. (National Archives Photograph. 80-G-44101-A). 

The legend holds that MacDonald prepared to ram RO-34, but suddenly worried at the last second the sub may have been in the middle of mine-laying operations. Fearing this would needlessly put his ship and crew in harm’s way, he ordered hard rudder left. Suddenly, O’Bannon was steaming parallel with the Japanese submarine. The American crew saw right away that the Japanese submariners were all asleep out on deck, but were unable to lower and fire their larger caliber guns at the sub, and did not carry small arms with them. The Japanese, finally waking up to Americans staring in amazement and curiosity at them, also had no weapons on hand. However, they did have a 3-inch deck gun that could fire upon the O’Bannon, and quickly made a run to reach it. In a newspaper article written some 40 years after the incident, some of O’Bannon’s veterans claimed the ship was able to fire “once” (they don’t say from which gun), took out the sub’s conning tower, and then found bins full of potatoes (why they’d be on the main deck and not on the galley deck is unknown) and began throwing them at RO-34, incredibly only “50 feet away”(!)

The Japanese, believing the potatoes to be either hand grenades, or having an irrational fear of vegetables, threw them overboard or back at the sailors on O’Bannon. But the sudden and inspired food fight worked. The Japanese were so distracted by the potato assault that every single one of them stopped running towards, or was unable to reach the 3-inch deck gun, and O’Bannon was able to pull away and then proceed to sink RO-34.

So what really happened?

MacDonald was a fighting captain (and an extremely highly decorated one to prove it). He immediately went into action. Attacking RO-34, he dropped three depth charges and also ordered his 20-millimeter and 40-millimeter gun crews to open fire. The depth charges straddled RO-34, while 16 rounds from the 20mm and 40mm guns struck her conning tower. O’Bannon came around for a second pass and dropped more depth charges while firing again from both of her 20mm and 40mm guns. RO-34 began to sink by her stern. By the time O’Bannon circled around and came in for her third attack, she reported the target “blew up as a result of firing.” The crew on deck watched as RO-34 jumped out of the water and was slammed down again, settling by her stern moments before feeling a violent explosion underwater.

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View of ship’s after 20-millimeter battery, on the fantail, while at sea, c.1943.
 (National Archives Photograph. 80-G-K-3975).

At 0250, she reported to the task group that the enemy vessel was still on the surface and damaged but “unable to dive.” Cmdr. MacDonald later wrote: “This contact may be considered a destroyer officer’s dream…First there were radar contacts, then sight contact, then the submarine was hit and remained dead in the water while the O’Bannon came in close enough to throw depth charges at her and finally send her to the bottom.” RO-34 sank shortly after with all 66 hands. Already by 1943, O’Bannon’s crew, under MacDonald became legendary fighters, never losing a single man during the war. Their skipper recalled, “All I had to do was say, ‘Commence firing!’ and they put on a wonderful show.”

When daylight finally arrived on 5 April, pilots reported a thick oil slick, as well as debris from the location, giving O’Bannon credit for a probable sinking of the submarine. However, the American press quickly picked up the story, and printed it as the epic tale of an American destroyer that attacked an enemy submarine by throwing potatoes at surprised Japanese sailors standing around on their ship. O’Bannon even received a plaque from a group called the Maine Potato Growers, to honor the occasion. The tall tale began taking on such a huge life of its own that even some of O’Bannon’s own former crewmen began telling and re-telling it to audiences, making it more difficult to disprove. But long after the war, MacDonald himself admitted, “I’ve been trying to drive a stake through this story for years.” He agreed that he maneuvered O’Bannon close to RO-34, but explained that even the crewmember with the best throwing arm could not have tossed a potato or anything else across the gap. “From that single remark [of the cook] has grown the entire legend of the use of Maine potatoes to sink a Japanese submarine.”

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Commander Donald J. MacDonald, CO, USS O’Bannon (DD-450) (left), and Captain Thomas J. Ryan, CO, Destroyer Division Twenty-One (DesRon 21) (right). Commander MacDonald received the Navy Cross on board his ship on 22 August 1943. Captain Ryan presented the award. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-56139).

Bibliography:

Colleen Johnson, “This Spud’s For You: Shipmates Recall Holding off Japanese Sub,” The Pittsburgh Press, July 14, 1984.

John Sherwood, “The Legend of the Deadly Potatoes,” Washington Times, April 17, 1974.

John Wukovits, Tin Can Titans: The Heroic Men and Ships of World War II’s Most Decorated Navy Destroyer Squadron (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2017), 132.

USS O’Bannon (DD-450) War Diary, Monthly War Diary, June 1942 to October 1945

Wreckage of USS Juneau Located

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USS Juneau (CL-52) off of New York City in February 1942. Source: Wikimedia

Seventy-six years after she was sunk in the Battle of Guadalcanal by Japanese torpedoes, taking 687 sailors with her, including the five Sullivan brothers, billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen located the doomed cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52) on 17 March 2018, St. Patrick’s Day.

Paul Allen Locates USS Juneau

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The prop of USS Juneau resting on the seafloor. Courtesy of http://www.paulallen.com

Allen has been on a roll lately, having only in the last few weeks located the sunken aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), and this past summer finding USS Indianapolis (CA-35); the latter sharing a legacy with Juneau of epic tragedy and the sad loss of many young American servicemen.

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USS Juneau (CL-52) in New York Harbor, 11 February 1942. National Archives Photograph

A statement from Lt. Roger W. O’Neill, the senior surviving officer of USS Juneau. Unknown to many, there were actually 14 survivors from Juneau. Ten were pulled from the sea, but there were four ship’s company men that had been transferred to USS San Francisco (CA-38) the very same day Juneau was sunk. They had been sent over to help with wounded. Lt. O’Neill was one of them, and he took three Pharmacist’s Mates with him. He details that, and the sinking of their ship here:

https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/disasters-and-phenomena/the-sullivan-brothers-and-the-assignment-of-family-members/report-on-loss-of-uss-juneau-cl-52.html

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On board USS Juneau (CL-52) at the time of her commissioning ceremonies at the New York Navy Yard, 14 February 1942. All were lost with the ship following the 13 November 1942, Battle of Guadalcanal. The brothers are (from left to right): Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George Sullivan. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 52362)

A list of the Juneau survivors:

https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/disasters-and-phenomena/the-sullivan-brothers-and-the-assignment-of-family-members/list-of-uss-juneau-survivors.html

More on USS Juneau and the Sullivan Brothers:

https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/disasters-and-phenomena/the-sullivan-brothers-and-the-assignment-of-family-members/the-loss-of-uss-juneau.html

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Capt. Lyman K. Swenson, Commanding Officer, USS Juneau (CL-52), went down with his ship when it was torpedoed on 13 November 1942.