Deciphering the Rising Sun: Navy and Marine Corps Codebreakers, Translators and Interpreters in the Pacific War
In part, Urwin says, the answer lies in the Wake Islanders’ establishment of life-saving communities that kept their dignity intact. Their mutual-help networks encouraged those who faltered under physical and psychological torture, including what is today called water boarding. The book notes that the Japanese camp official responsible for that war crime was sentenced to life imprisonment by an American military tribunal. Most Wake Islanders spent the war at two camps just outside Shanghai, one of the few places where Japanese authorities permitted the Red Cross to aid prisoners of war. The author also calls attention to the generosity of civilians in Shanghai, including Swiss diplomats and the American and British residents of the fabled International Settlement, who provided food and clothing to the prisoners. In addition, some guards proved to be less vicious than those stationed at other POW camps and occasionally went out of their way to aid inmates. As the first historical work to fully explore the captivity of Wake Island’s defenders, the book offers information not found in other World War II histories.
Then the destroyers assisted in the final evacuation of 150,000 White Russians from the Crimea to Constantinople (one of the final acts of the Russian Revolution); coordinated the visits of the Hoover grain ships to ports in Southern Russia where millions were enduring a horrendous famine; witnessed and reported on the terrible dolorosa of the Greeks of the Pontus region of Turkey; and, in September of 1922, conducted the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Greek and Armenian refugees from burning Smyrna. This latter event was the cataclysmic conclusion of the Turkish Nationalist Revolution, which had begun in early 1920.
After Smyrna, the destroyers escorted Greek steamers in their rescue of ethnic Christian civilians being expelled from all the ports of Anatolian Turkey. As the conclusion of a long war between Nationalist Turks and an invading Hellenic Greek army, these people were being forced out of their ancestral homes by the Turks. Sometimes American destroyers carried hundreds of such refugees to friendly ports on their own weather decks.
Upon the burning of Smyrna in September of 1922, Admiral Mark Bristol’s small fleet had grown to some 26 naval vessels, most of them destroyers, although some cruisers, naval repair vessels and supply ships also came, and the battleships Arizona and Utah also appeared briefly. It was during 1922 that the destroyer Bainbridge rescued 482 of 495 men, women and children from the burning French transport Vinh Long in the Sea of Marmora. The destroyer accomplished this by the expedient of ramming the large French ship so the exploding ammunition could not continue to force the vessels apart. For this action, Lieut. Commander W. Atlee Edwards was awarded the Medal of Honor by America, and the Legion of Honor by France.
Over four years, Admiral Bristol maintained a strong grip on American naval and diplomatic affairs throughout the region. Headquartered at the American Embassy at Constantinople, Bristol also worked to further American business interests in Turkey, and tended to favor Turks over Greeks and Armenians in the process. Many Americans were convinced that Bristol was biased on behalf of the Turks, and a couple of navy captains risked their careers by speaking out about impending Turkish massacres that Bristol wanted to hush up.
Several later-famous admirals saw duty in Bristol’s small navy, including William Leahy, Thomas Kinkaid, Julian Wheeler, Tip Merrill, Japy Hepburn and Dan Gallery, while statesman Allen Dulles was one of Bristol’s key diplomats. Most of these men and most of the sailors, too, enjoyed the terrific nightlife of Constantinople that existed right alongside all the refugee heartbreak. When their duties kept them at sea or alongside grain ships in Russia or moored at the spartan Black Sea ports, the Americans kept their spirits up by racing ships’ boats, shooting game, sightseeing, and (especially) by playing baseball. Captain Pratt Mannix even took advantage of his ship’s briefly anchoring near the Gallipoli battlefield to become the first American to swim the famous Hellespont
In the nearly seven decades following World War II, the heroes of the Allied Forces have been rendered ageless through portrayals transforming their overseas triumphs into household tales. Books, films, and video games have reiterated the stories of such famed American units as Merrill’s Marauders and Darby’s Rangers. Some of World War II’s most important missions, however, were also the most secretive: they have only recently been declassified by the U.S. government. Now, for the first time, a single volume describes many of them in detail. In Shadow Warriors, military historian and retired U.S. Marine Dick Camp illuminates the untold history of American special operations units in World War II. The book’s action-packed narrative, rooted in a time before organizations like the CIA even existed, describes the adventures of those who paved the way for the special operations forces we know so well today—the U.S. Navy SEALs, U.S. Army Special Forces, and U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC). Split into two parts covering the war’s European and Pacific theaters, it features elaborate spy networks, covert parachutists, island assaults, amphibious raids, and the occasional catastrophic mission failure. Bolstered by an in-person interview with World War II veteran Sgt. Jack Risler (U.S. Marines Operation Union II) and a collection of rare black-and-white period photographs, Shadow Warriors is not only a gripping account of top-secret exploits: it is an homage to some of the brilliant, courageous, and previously unacknowledged heroes of World War II.
Now for the first time, the chief diver of the Pearl Harbor salvage operations, Cmdr. Edward C. Raymer, USN (Ret.), tells the whole story of the desperate attempts to save crewmembers caught inside their sinking ships. Descent into Darkness is the only book available that describes the raising and salvage operations of sunken battleships following the December 7th attack.
Once Raymer and his crew of divers entered the interiors of the sunken shipwrecks—attempting untested and potentially deadly diving techniques—they experienced a world of total blackness, unable to see even the faceplates of their helmets. By memorizing the ships’ blueprints and using their sense of touch, the divers groped their way hundreds of feet inside the sunken vessels to make repairs and salvage vital war material. The divers learned how to cope with such unseen dangers as falling objects, sharks, the eerie presence of floating human bodies, and the constant threat of Japanese attacks from above.
Though many of these divers were killed or seriously injured during the wartime salvage operations, on the whole they had great success performing what seemed to be impossible jobs. Among their credits, Raymer’s crew raised the sunken battleships USS West Virginia, USS Nevada, USS California, After Pearl Harbor they moved on to other crucial salvage work off Guadalcanal and the sites of other great sea battles.