Sunday, June 7, 2009

World War II, Pacific Theatre:

An Overview

In this entry, we will turn our focus once again to the second World War; but this time, we will be featuring the Pacific Theatre rather than Europe.

When most people think of the South-East Pacific, what usually comes to mind will include warm oceans, beautiful volcanic islands covered in palm trees, sandy beaches, and Hawaiian shirts. But to the Allied troops fighting in the jungle islands from 1941-45, it was no happy vacation. On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese suprise attack on Pearl Harbor threw the United States into one of the worst wars in the history of the world; and to defeat Japan, which had been taking over much of Asia since the 1930's, the U.S.-along with our allies in the Pacific, Great Britain and Austrailia to name a few-soon found themselves fighting a new kind of warfare in South-East Asia. In most of America's past wars, both armies fought on stable continents; but in the Pacific, almost every battle was fought on very small islands or in the middle of the ocean. This led to a kind of "leap frog" warfare: "jumping" armies from one island to the next to take ground, and naval engagements in between, if not involved in the land battles. The Pacific theatre saw a rise in airplane engagements; and with the development and improvement of the aircraft carrier, planes soon made a huge part of the defending and attacking forces on both sides.

In this overview, we will see what fighting in South East Asia was like, and what made the Pacific Theatre of the war so different, and yet so vital of importance.

The Americans
"Hit the beach!" After a naval artillery barrage and aircraft bombings to "soften up" the dug-in enemy, U.S. troops beach landings could turn out to be a brilliant victory or a bloody nightmare of a failure.

A U.S. Soldier runs for cover on a hill covered with giant native grasses and bamboo. The jungle islands were often covered in dense foilage; giving the enemy excellent concealment. A U.S. Soldier waits at the ready near a coastal cliff.
This picture, along with the one above, shows the gear of the average U.S. Marine serving in the South Pacific. Helmet with cloth camoflauge cover, belt with ammo pouches and-most importantly-a canteen, camoflauge uniform, and M1 Garand rifle with bayonet.
The Enemy: Japan
This is what the enemy soldier looked like.
A khaki uniform, cotton for the hot jungle, putees, and U.S. made M1 Springfield rifle leftover from the First World War (we were allies then, and the United States had been supplying Japan with military arms, equiptment, raw materials, and advisors since the 1860's). The only gear he wore was a light-weight belt with ammo pouches, a canteen, and a bayonet. He wears a standard issue field cap.
A Japanese soldier with standard-issue jacket and early-style helmet. The Aircraft
A Japanese A6M5 Mitsubishi, nick-named "zero" by U.S. troops. It was extremely effective, and during the first two years of the war it could not be out-fought by any fighter the allies could muster.
U.S. Navy Avenger, a fighter-bomber that proved it's service well.

A U.S. P-38 Lightning, nick-named "forked-tailed devil" by the Japanese for it's unique fuselage. It was one of the best airplanes in U.S. Service, and it was a group of Lightnings that shot down and killed Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in his private plane as he flew out one morning to survey the area before the battle.

The Combat
Combat in the jungle was often a nightmare of an experience involving close-combat on many occasions, or assaulting an open beach which often ended in a horrid battle.

U.S. troops fire at oncoming Japanese troops.
A U.S. Marine fires through an opening in the jungle at a distant enemy.

We hope you enjoyed this entry, and we'll be updating with more in-depth entries on the Pacific Theatre soon!

Friday, March 6, 2009

World War I, Life in the Trenches: Part Two

In part one of the entry series, we saw how trench warfare became the main method of fighting on the western front during the First World War. Now, we will not only see what took place, but what day-to-day life was like for the soldiers in the trenches.

On Guard Duty. Both sides had to be careful to watch the enemy lines at all times, so that if an attack came they would not be caught off guard. When a soldier was on guard duty, he had to keep out of sight, for enemy snipers were always a danger.

Home Sweet Home. Soldiers tried to find what little shelter from the elements that they could, but the constant shelling and bombing meant that the shelter had to be "bomb-proof". The most common type of shelter was, therefore, a small cave-like hole dug out of the forward side of the trench. These were often nick-named "worm holes".

Some underground shelters had log-lined walls to hold the dirt back.

What's For Lunch? All meals were usually pre-packaged, or was prepared in the rear lines and brought it to the front lines in buckets. Cooking in the front lines was prohibited, as smoke from cook fires could attract grenades and mortar fire. The most common meal for the Allied soldiers was mass-produced canned corn beef and potatoes. This was often accompanied by tea if you were in the British Army.

All soldiers were equipped with a mess kit consisting of a multi-purpose tin pan with a removable lid, and a knife, fork, and spoon, usually wrapped in a napkin.

Winter In The Trenches. While spring and fall brought mostly rain to the trench-laced French farmland, winter often brought bouts of cold, uncomfortable rain or snow showers.

A soldier keeps watch over the trench lines after a light snowfall.Winter was the worst season of all for soldiers in the trenches. The winter also brought many new problems; frostbite and trenchfoot, a condition received from standing in cold water for extended periods, proved devastating. Disease was common year-round, but in the winter it increased drastically, claiming the lives of thousands of soldiers on both sides.

A soldier makes his way through a trench knee-deep in mud.

As we bring this dual-part entry to a close, we hope that you all have enjoyed this entry series! Thank you all for the comments as we return to the blog-world, and we shall be updating soon.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Willys Jeep

The American Workhorse of World War II

Among the most common sights to all American forces serving in the Second World War was the Willys Jeep. First tested and accepted by the U.S. Armed Forces in the late 1930's, the Willys Jeep was to become as the title depicts: the workhorse of the U.S. military. Starting in the First World War, the United States realized that they desperately needed a fast, mobile, low-maintenance, all-terrain, multi-purpose fighting and transportation vehicle. The quickest and most reliable transportation of the day was still the horse-drawn ambulances for the battlefield, and the steam train-which, of course, as much as it was used behind the combat zones, could not be used on the battlefield. It became clear that to succeed in modern warfare, new technology was needed, especially in the case of transport.

Finally, at the outbreak of World War Two, two companies--General Motors and Willys--responded to the need of the military for the perfect vehicle. Willys won the race to come up with the best design, and by the early stages of World War two they had perfected the ideal all-purpose vehicle: the Willys Jeep.

The first soldiers who received the jeep thought it was an excellent vehicle; and it would prove itself in the bitter fighting and rapid action to come.

"Open fire!" Many jeeps were fitted with a Browning .30 caliber machine gun, which were belt-fed and fired from the rear.

All jeeps were fitted with an axe and shovel,
and a gas can and spare tire. The only disadvantage was that the gas can was sometimes exposed to hot bullets and explosions in battle.

Here a soldier gives directions to a driver of one of the new jeeps.

When the weather went foul, the unpaved roads turned into a muddy quagmire that highly resembled chocolate-colored porridge. For days afterward, even after the sun made it's appearance, it could take days to dry out. It was at times such as this that the Willys Jeep proved itself as a true all-terrain vehicle, being able to make it's way through almost any terrain.

Another great aspect of the jeep was the simplicity of the driver's controls and transmission system.

As low maintenance as they were, problems weren't non-existent...

It soon became clear from the first months of service that the Willys Jeep was indispensable. Rugged, good-quality, and always at the ready, U.S. Servicemen for the next forty years preferred the jeep to most other vehicles. Proven the most used combat vehicle in the Second World War besides the M4 Sherman tank, the jeep has been used by armies world wide ever since.

We're Back

It's been about a year since we have been here; we are very sorry for leaving without notice. But now we have returned, hoping to have a fruitful upcoming season of posts.

Well, I guess we had better start!


Jerry O'Malley
Editor of G.I. Joe Live