Saturday, March 22, 2014



Bennington Crew
Credit Naval Historical Files

Serving in the Pacific Squadron for several years the USS Bennington PG4 had made several port-calls to “Diego” on previous journeys. Her nautical crew corps was some of the Navies best and oldest seafarer’s. She had fourteen years of honorable naval service at the time of her demise. At 1038am on Friday, 21 July 1905 while preparing to get underway her aft boiler exploded sending noxious deadly steam in every direction. Mariners were instantly catapulted out portholes, vents, and overboard in to San Diego Bay. Eventually 65 Sailors would parish and over 40 seriously wounded. At the time, it was the second worst naval tragedy only surpassed by the U.S.S Maine incident in Havana. San Diego’s two nearby hospitals could not handle the large number of casualties and the Old Army Barracks was forced to open to accommodate the seriously injured. On Sunday23 July 1905, 47-Sailors were interred at Ft Rosecrans National cemetery. On 7 Jan 1908, the Bennington Monument was dedicated by Rear Admiral Casper Goodrich. On 21 July 2005, A Centennial Memorial was observed at Ft Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.
Historical Note: Those white lanyards were for retaining working knives.  They were authorized in 1886-1896  for all enlisted men except first class petty officers, bandsmen and messmen and were of white cotton of "seaman like make".  The knife was always to be worn attached to the lanyard. In 1897-1904 they were authorized for all enlisted men except chief petty officers, officers messmen and bandsmen.  Their description was more complex, and appears to have produced a more prominent appearance.  They were to be long enough to allow the knife to be used with arm extended. The 1905 Uniform Regulations stated: "Knife lanyards shall be worn by all men of the seaman branch, except chief petty officers".  The illustration shows the lanyard as long, white and quite prominent.
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14-inch guns fired near Oceanside

14-inch guns fired near Oceanside

June 12, 1936: United States Coast Defense 14-inch railway gun is fired during practice session near Oceanside.
Los Angeles Times staff correspondent Mark Finley reported in the June 13, 1936 edition:
OCEANSIDE, June 12. (Exclusive)–With throaty bellows of defiance, the twin fourteen-inch railroad rifles of the United States Army Coast Defense roared for the first time in eight years twelve miles north of here today.
They spat out shells weighing three-quarters of a ton. Minutes later, twenty-two miles and more to sea, towering waterspouts marked the landing places of the great projectiles, crammed with high explosives.
Thousands of feet in the air a tiny scout plane marked the splashes in relation to an imaginary enemy dreadnaught and reported their exact location by radio.
A quarter of a mile from the great guns experts in mathematics hastily corrected calculations in a railway plotting room, then telephoned new orders to the gunners. The great barrels of the 365-ton rifle was elevated and they spoke again in a billow of smoke and a torrent of flame…
The rifles hadn’t been fired for eight years because of the cost of shells and damage to windows in their previous location at Los Angeles Harbor.
A week ago they were taken to their new location, twelve miles north of here, a railway stop named Don, which is a bean field…
There between the highway and the ocean they were anchored to the rails with out riggings on either side, and prepared for the terrific explosion and recoil. A quarter-ton of powder is used to send the shells on their way. Some 2000 persons gathered in the vicinity this afternoon, army and navy men and civil.
Included in the group were Col. C. L. Sampson, of the Ninth Corps Area General Staff at San Francisco, and Capt. W. L. Friedell, commander of the USS Colorado.
Other thousands gathered at strategic points along the coast where they could see the great shells splash into the water…
All three of these photos were taken by former staff photographer J. H. McCrory. The top photo accompanied Finley’s report in the June 13, 1936, Los Angeles Times.
June 12, 1936: United States Army Coast Defense 14-inch railway gun is is fired during target practice near Ocaenside. Credit: J. H. McCrory/Los Angeles Times
June 12, 1936: United States Army Coast Defense 14-inch railway gun is prepared for target practice near Oceanside. Credit: J. H. McCrory/Los Angeles Times.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Additional Documents relating to Hildebrand Gurlitt found in the Records of the Office of Military Government for Bavaria - WWII

Additional Documents relating to Hildebrand Gurlitt found in the Records of the Office of Military Government for Bavaria

by  on March 20, 2014

Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
Recently, I found additional documentation regarding Hildebrand Gurlitt and his art treasures that may be of interest to those following the current inquiry in Germany into his art works.  The documents were found in: File 007, Monuments and Fine Arts, General Correspondence of District III (Branch B), 1944-1949, Records of the Field Operations Division, Records of the Office of Military Government, Bavaria, Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.), Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260.
While the records did not provide new or detailed information regarding Gurlitt’s artworks, they do add to our understanding of the U.S. Army’s dealing with Gurlitt and Karl Haberstock at Aschbach, Germany, during May and June 1945.  This information allowed the assembling of a chronological narrative, which follows, of the events that took place during those months.
Captain Deane Keller, U.S. 5th Army, Monuments...
Captain Deane Keller, U.S. 5th Army, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Officer, circa 1945 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During the second week of April 1945, American forces passed through Aschbach, a village in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria, twenty or so miles southwest of Bamberg and thirty miles east of Wurzburg.  There they probably learned of German art dealers, Karl Haberstock and Hildebrand Gurlitt, were staying in the Aschbach Castle, along with some of their art treasures.
On May 1 Captain Robert K. Posey, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Officer, with the G-5 Section, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, still wrapping up his activities associated with the contents of Merkers Mine, reported that German art dealers Haberstock and Gurlitt had been located and would be questioned by the MFA&A subsection.[1]  On May 2 Posey inspected the Aschbach Castle and interrogated Haberstock about his artworks and art dealings. [2]
Posey, on May 4, visited Captain Thomas Giuli, MFA&A Officer with Military Government Detachment FIA3 at Wurzburg, and requested he make an inspection of certain art collections, some of which were outside of Giuli’s area of operation.  Posey told him that other detachments were not then set up to take care of some matters, some of which were urgent.[3]
At some point on May 1st Lt. T. H. Murphy, Property Control and Arts and Monuments Officer, Military Government Bamberg, Detachment H1B3, visited the Aschbach Castle, and noted that among the valuable art treasures there were those of Hildebrand Gurlitt and Baron von Poellnitz. He also noted that Gurlitt was living in the castle with his art works.  He placed the castle “Off Limits” (signing the signs himself) and ordered an inventory be made of the art works stored there and the inventory be reported through normal channels. [4]
Captain Giuli on May 16 visited the Aschbach Castle, unaware that Aschbach was outside his area of responsibility by a few kilometers.[5]  He reported that present at the castle were the owner (Baron von Poellnitz), son, [and] “Mr. H. Gurlitt dealer from Hamburg with many Nazi-connections.”  Giuli reported that there were: “one large upstairs room with 34 boxes, 2 packages with rugs, 8 packages with books belonging to Mr. H. Gurlitt” and “one downstairs room contains further 13 boxes belonging to Mr. Gurlitt.”  He added that:
 Several sign[s] ‘Off Limit’ were posted on inner and outer doors of the castle and the owner admonished not to have anything removed from his place without special permission by this office. The castle had been previously visited by Capt. Posey, who has left a[n] “Off Limits” sing (sic). Up to now there has been no occupation by American troops of the place and no damage done. [6]
Two days later Giuli inspected Castle Aschbach, and it was reported that:
 c. Questionable Collections: In addition to the collections of private and public art treasures, the castle was found to contain certain rooms containing paintings, tapestries, statues, valuable furniture and records belonging to two notorious art collectors of Germany. Superficial inspection showed:
(3) A room on the second floor-34 wooden boxes containing paintings, 2 rugs, and 8 boxes of records, belonging to Mr. H. Gurlitt-art collector.
(4) Another room on the first floor-13 wooden boxes of art objects-also belonging to Mr. Gurlitt.
e. Mr. H. Gurlitt was an art collector from Hamburg with high Nazi-connections. He operated on behalf of other Nazi Officials and made many trips to France bringing back art collections. Mr. Gurlitt also was unable to give an inventory of his claimed possessions.
f. There are strong reasons to believe that these private art collections represent ‘Loot’ from other countries. Therefore this office has taken the following steps.
(1) Taken tem[p]orary possession of the art collections in the care of the U.S. Army.
(2) Posted the rooms ‘Off Limits’ with warning that nothing is to be disturbed or removed.
(3) Assigned Dr. Berger, art historian and fine art adviser in this office to make a complete inventory of all art treasures of wuestionable(sic) ownership.
(4) Made arrangements to have Mr. Haberstock and Mr. Gurlitt who are at present living in the castle, brought in to Wurzburg for questioning.
g. Dr. Berger, estimated the intire(sic) castle to contain 100,000,000 Dollar[s] worth of art treasures.[7]
After talking to his commanding officer, Giuli was instructed to bring Haberstock to Wurzburg. [8] Apparently Gurlitt would be left behind at Aschbach Castle.
Captain Giuli’s daily report for May 19, indicated that Haberstock was brought to Wurzburg from Aschbach and placed in the civilian jail and then turned over to the CIC for questioning.  He reported that an itemized inventory of paintings and other art objects belonging to Gurlitt had been obtained by his office. [9]  Giuli’s daily report of May 20 provided a list of paintings in the possession of Dr. Hans(sic) Gurlitt and then stored in the Aschbach Castle. The list only contained 22 works of art, including those by Corot, Fragonard, Picasso, and Courbet. [10]
When Giuli became aware that Aschbach was outside of his district, he called Posey for his guidance.  Posey approved the action he had taken and informed him that in certain cases MFA&A operations could not be restricted to definite areas and instructed him to continue the Haberstock-Gurlitt investigation. [11]
Meanwhile, 1st Lt. T. H. Murphy visited Baron Poellnitz on May 20 and learned that an inventory had been prepared of the treasures of the castle but that it had been taken into custody by Captain Giuli of the Wurzburg detachment. [12]On May 24, Murphy wrote the Commanding Officer, Detachment F2A3, 3rd Civil Affairs Regiment, to complain about the situation.  He reported the facts regarding what his detachment had done with respect to the castle and learning that Giuli had taken the inventory which had been prepared and that Giuli and Dr. Berger had reinventoried the contents of the castle.  He reported that “Off Limits” signs, signed by Giuli had been placed on the castle, and that the signs he had signed had been removed.  “Due to the circumstances cited above,” he concluded, “I felt it unnecessary to reinventory the art treasures there and request notice as to what authority Capt. Guili (sic) has for operating within our Landkreis.” [13]
On May 25 Giuli called MFA&A, Third U.S. Army to talk to Capt Posey. Posey being absent [he was off to the mines at Alt Aussee and Laufen] he spoke to Lincoln Kirstein, Posey’s assistant, about Haberstock.  Kirstein told him that Lt. George L. Stout, USNR, at Twelfth Army Group was very much interested in Haberstock and suggested that Stout be contacted by phone.  Giuli then called Stout, but he not being available, he spoke to Capt. L. Bancel LaFarge.  Giuli told LaFarge what he knew about Haberstock, and LaFarge instructed him to hold Haberstock until further instruction was received from the Twelfth Army Group. [14]
Prompted to action by Murphy’s May 24 communication, the Executive Officer of Military Government Detachment F2A3, on June 2, wrote Military Government Officer, Detachment F1A3, attaching a copy of the letter, and requesting that all the papers removed by Giuli or by Capt. Schuler of his [Wurzburg] Detachment relating to Aschbach Castle or any of its contents be removed to the Arts and Monuments Officer of Detachment H1B3.  “It is,” he concluded, “also understood that OFF LIMITS signs on the premises will be in the future be as authorized by Det. H1B3.” [15]
On June 4 1st Lt. Dwight McKay, Judge Advocate General Section, Headquarters, Third U. S. Army interviewed Giuli about Haberstock. Giuli turned over to McKay all the records and files which were held in his office in Wurzburg pertaining to Haberstock and released Haberstock from the civilian jail to the custody of McKay. [16]  McKay completed his investigation of Haberstock on June 6 at Wurzburg and took him away.  Dr. Erik Berger, an art historian employed by the Military Government accompanied McKay and Haberstock, to provide his assistance. Giuli reported that day “As far as this office is concerned it has no further responsibility relative to this matter.” [17]On June 8 Giuli, in reporting on the Haberstock matter, noted:
 This office assumes no authority-nor has any interest outside of its area.
It did not remove any signs which were posted on the Castle Aschbach-it simply supplemented those which were posted by Capt. Posey.
It does not further possess any documents and papers which were taken from Aschbach for purpose of evidence, all such records were turned over to Lt. McKay. [18]
Dr. Berger, at Aschbach, on June 8, wrote Captain Giuli at Wurzburg that “the complicated investigations at Aschbach are still going on.” [19]  Indeed they were. On June 8, 9, 10, Lt. McKay, assisted by Dr. Berger, questioned Haberstock and Gurlitt about themselves and their artworks.  On June 10 McKay had Haberstock and Gurlitt sign documents acknowledging their arrests and the freezing of their property at the Aschbach Castle.  He also had Gurlitt sign an oath that all of the information he had provided in a ten-page statement was true and that he had “made a full and complete declaration of all my possessions, property and fortune, especially all paintings, sculptures, pictures and air works.” [20]  McKay also had Haberstock on June 12, at Aschbach, swear to the truthfulness of 120 documents, cards, and photographs, regarding his art works at Aschbach. [21]
Meanwhile, on June 5, a discussion was held with Mrs. Haberstock in a CIC office. She provided information about her husband.  Associated with the report of this discussion is a report on Aschbach castle and Haberstock.  It notes that at the castle was Hildebrand Gurlitt and his paintings and that “His business dealings also brought him in contact with the [Nazi] party but only in a minor capacity.” [22]
On June 9 Headquarters, Detachment F1A3 responded to the June 2communication from Detachment F2A3, regarding Lt. Murphy’s complaints.  It laid out the chronology of events, from Posey’s visit to the castle on May 4 to June 6, when McKay was given all the records and papers relative to the matter of the art treasures in the castle.  The communication concluded by indicating that the Fine Arts and Monuments Officer of the detachment stated he did not remove any “Off Limits” signs that were at the castle, but merely supplemented those posted by Capt. Posey. [23]
On June 12, the Executive Officer of Military Government Detachment FIA3 sent to the G-5 Section, Third U.S. Army, at its request, a list of the possessions of Gurlitt then at Aschbach Castle. The list consists of 45 boxes and 8 packages. [24]
The following day, June 13, Berger returned to Wurzburg.  He reported that he had worked with McKay, on the questioning, inventorying of transactions, and translating the statements made by Haberstock, Gurlitt, and the von Poellnitz family. He noted that Haberstock and Gurlitt “have been put under house arrest” and both “most probably to go to the saltmines in Aussee, where the paintings of the Fuehrer are kept.” He added that McKay would call at the Wurzburg MFA&A office within the next seven days. [25]
On June 29 Military Government Detachment E1B3 wrote Military Government Detachment F1A3 requesting that all papers taken by Captain Giuli, which still remained in its possession, be forwarded to Military Government Detachment H1B3.  Two weeks later Military Government Detachment F1A3 responded that the Fine Arts and Monuments Officer of the detachment was not in possession of “any papers, records, or other documents” responsive to the request. [26]
On July 31, Captain Giuli made his final report regarding Haberstock and Gurlitt and their art works at Aschbach Castle. He wrote:
 …Lt. McKay of the War Crimes Sect. of the Judge Adv Office Hq Third Army has investigated these two men and has made photostatic records of all their purchases in France, Holland and Belgium from 1940 to present date. These records and other data concerning Aschbach in general are in the War Crimes Office of Third Army HQ….It is understood by this office that the above mentioned dealers are under house-arrest at Aschbach and that the owner Baron Poelnitz (sic) is in jail. [27]
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A Tour of the Eerie Villages France Never Rebuilt After WWI


A Tour of the Eerie Villages France Never Rebuilt After WWI

The Battle of Verdun, an 11-month struggle in northeast France between German and French forces during World War I, left hundreds of thousands on both sides dead (recent casualty estimates range between 700,000 and just under 1 million). When the fighting finally ceased in late summer 1917, the Germans had retreated, leaving small villages along the battlefields completely destroyed. As a tribute, many were never rebuilt
Vaux-devant-Damloup was rebuilt (2006 population: 68) and Douamont and Ornes were partially put back together. The other six sit empty, thought they do have symbolic mayoral representation and are managed by an appointed three-member council.
Today, these former villages appear as tranquil as they do haunting. Reclaimed by nature in the nearly 100 years that have passed, places like Ornes, Fleury, and Louvemont are defined by little more than forest, pathways, and signage that tell passers-by where a cafe or a main street once was.
Reuters photographers recently captured what these places look like today and also, by digging through local archives, how they appeared before being wiped out by war:

A combination picture shows views of the village of Louvemont near Verdun, in 1916 (top) and March 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Collection Louvemont (top) and Vincent Kessler (bottom)) 

A combination picture shows views of the village of Ornes near Verdun, in 1916 (top) after a German offensive, and March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Collection Ornes (top) and Vincent Kessler (bottom))

A combination picture shows views of the village of Ornes near Verdun, in 1916 (top) and March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Collection Ornes (top) and Vincent Kessler (bottom)) 

A combination picture shows views of the village of Fleury near Verdun, before 1916 (top) and March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Collection Fleury (top) and Vincent Kessler (bottom)) 

A road sign that reads "main street" stands in the village of Bezonvaux near Verdun March 4, 2014. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

A plaque marks the place where a cafe used to stand in the village of Fleury near Verdun March 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler) 

A monument stands in Vaux near Verdun March 4, 2014. The quote from former French president and later prime minister Raymond Poincare reads "Passers-by, tell other people that this village died to save Verdun so that Verdun could save the world." (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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WWI shell explodes in Belgium killing two, including Turkish worker

WWI shell explodes in Belgium killing two, including Turkish worker

Emergency personnel remove evidence near a covered body after a World War One armament exploded in Ypres, Belgium, March 19. AP photo
Emergency personnel remove evidence near a covered body after a World War One armament exploded in Ypres, Belgium, March 19. AP photo
Two workers, including a man of Turkish origin, were killed March 19 by the explosion of a World War I shell near the Belgian town of Ypres, site of some of the bloodiest battles in the conflict, officials said.

Two other men were hurt, one in critical condition, after they disturbed the shell as they worked near the Ypres canal, reports said, citing local officials.

The other worker killed was from Bulgarian, authorities said.

The Turkish construction worker, whose name was not disclosed, died at the scene ,while the Bulgarian worker succombed to his wounds as he was rushed to hospital.

The Western Front trenches ran just outside Ypres, a small medieval town completely destroyed in the war that was fought from 1914 to 1918.

Hundreds of thousands of Allied soliders died in the vicinity and weapons, shells and human remains are regularly found by farmers as they plough their fields or by workers digging down into the ground.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ISSUES| THE FOREIGN ELEMENT Ailing U.S. veteran wins payout over AgentOrange exposure in Okinawa

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has granted compensation to another former service member for exposure to Agent Orange while stationed on Okinawa during the Vietnam War era. Dated October 2013, the award was made to a retired marine corps driver suffering from prostate cancer that, the presiding judge ruled, had been triggered by his transportation and usage of the toxic defoliant on the island between 1967 and 1968.
The decision to grant the claim comes in spite of repeated Pentagon denials that Agent Orange was ever present in Okinawa.
According to the ruling of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), the unnamed marine alleges he came into contact with Agent Orange while transporting it in barrels and rubber bladders between U.S. military ports at Naha and White Beach — a navy installation on the island’s east coast — and a warehouse on Kadena Air Base. He also claims to have sprayed the defoliant in the Northern Training Area, in the Yanbaru jungles, to keep back foliage and reduce the risk of forest fires.
The former marine was able to identify the barrels he helped to transport as the infamous Vietnam War defoliant due to the tell-tale orange stripes painted around their middles.
The retired service member had first applied for compensation in 2004 but his claim was initially rejected. Following appeals by the veteran, Judge Mary Ellen Larkin ruled in his favor last October, stating, “While neither the service department nor DOD confirms the presence of Agent Orange on Okinawa during 1967 and 1968, the veteran offers a highly credible, consistent account that he was directly exposed thereto during those years while performing his assigned military duties.”
According to U.S. government records and interviews conducted by The Japan Times, more than 250 former service members claim to have been sickened by exposure to Agent Orange on Okinawa, but only a handful have ever been given help by their government. Other veterans who have successfully sued for compensation include a former marine stationed on the main island during the early 1960s and a retired army truck driver exposed while driving the defoliant from Okinawa’s ports to Kadena Air Base between 1965 and 1966 (see “Vets win payouts over Agent Orange use on Okinawa,” Zeit Gist, Feb. 14, 2012).
This latest win is believed to be the first time a veteran has been awarded compensation since the Pentagon issued a 29-page report in February 2013 denying Agent Orange had been present on the island. That report, written by former USAF Col. Alvin Young, came under fire from experts for failing to order environmental tests or interviews with any veterans alleging exposure on Okinawa.
In comments to The Japan Times regarding the latest VA ruling, Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright reaffirmed the Pentagon’s confidence in the credibility of Young’s report.
“The research showed that there are no source documents that validate the claims that Herbicide Orange was shipped to or through, unloaded, stored, used or buried on Okinawa,” Wright said by email.
Additionally, Genevieve Billia, VA public affairs specialist, said, “This BVA decision was case-specific, giving the benefit of doubt to the veteran claimant, and has no impact on Dr. Young’s report.”
Billia apparently ruled out the possibility of the decision opening the floodgates to similar payouts by explaining that such rulings do not set a precedent for other cases.
However, Don Schneider, a former military veterinary technician who believes he was exposed to defoliants on Okinawa in 1968, the same year as the marine in the latest case, is hopeful the ruling will make a difference.
“This will hearten and encourage other veterans to resubmit their claims for consideration. The VA has continued to ignore other valid claims but I think this decision will eventually prove to be as meaningful for the people of Okinawa as it is for the veterans who served on the island during the Vietnam War era,” Schneider told The Japan Times.
During the Vietnam War, Kadena Air Base — the installation cited in the October ruling as the location of the Agent Orange warehouse — was one of the Pentagon’s primary launchpads for the conflict. A 1971 U.S. Army report on Agent Orange — revealed by The Japan Times last year (‘71 Pentagon paper says Agent Orange was stored on Kadena Air Base,” Jan. 12, 2013) — cited a herbicide stockpile at Kadena, and it has been reported that the C-123 airplanes that sprayed defoliants over Vietnam were sent to the base for maintenance.
Recently, the installation has been the focus of public health fears following the discovery of 83 barrels — some stenciled with markings identifying the Dow Chemical Co., a defoliant maker — on land that was formerly part of the base. Tests on 22 of the barrels revealed some of them contained high levels of herbicide and dioxin, leading some scientists to assert that they may have contained military defoliants.
The results of tests on the remaining 61 barrels are expected to be made public in mid-April.
Meanwhile, last month, Kadena Air Base officials gave the all-clear to two Defense Department schools adjacent to the dump site following environmental tests on the surface soil of their grounds.

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