Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944
Tag Archives: WWII
Due to the flooding of the Arkansas River, the USS Batfish has taken once again to the water. The WWII era submarine has been landlocked since 1973 at the Muskogee War Memorial Park in Oklahoma. The flooding this year is the worst on the Arkansas since 1943, when the Batfish first entered WWII.
The last time the Arkansas flooded enough to float the Batfish was 1986, when the sub almost broke a line and floated away downstream. The moorings of the landlocked submarine have been strengthened since the ’86 flood, still concerns remained. When the Batfish first started to rise with the water, she was listing considerably. Firemen then filled the sub’s ballast to right the sub.
The USS Batfish has a distinguished history. During its two years of service in WWII, the USS Batfish fired 71 torpedoes, sinking 15 ships total, officially credited with 9 Japanese ships sunk. During its sixth war patrol in the South China Sea, the Batfish and her crew sank three Japanese submarines over a 76 hour period. The Batfish received six battle stars for her WWII service.
For six years after WWII, the Batfish was used as a training submarine. She then went back to active duty, serving 5 years in the Korean War, spending much of her time in Caribbean waters. After Korea, she saw another decade of training exercise, before being decommissioned for a final time in November of 1969.
60 Minutes, the news program on CBS, did a great story on Attu Island this past Sunday.
I’m not sure which surprised me more: The fact that I even caught the story as I travel about the Niagara area, or the fact that broadcast television did a story on Attu at all.
The episode, on an all but forgotten battle of WWII ,at a far corner of the globe, is well worth the 20 minutes to watch. Sorry, no spoilers.
The Panama Hotel, located in Seattle’s International District, opened for business in August of 1910. The five story, brick building was designed by Sabro Ozasa, Seattle’s first architect of Japanese heritage. The building was to house Japanese laborers from the area, but also catered to fisherman heading to, or coming back from Alaska. The International District was known as the city’s “nihonmachi” – Japan Town, or translated literally: Japan Street.
The Panama Hotel provided a full-service traditional Japanese-style sento, or public bath house in the basement. In 1910, most private homes in the area did not have their own baths, so the sento provided a neighborhood service.
There was a separate bath for men, and one for women and children. The bath house is still intact in the hotel, and it is the only surviving bath house of its kind in the U.S. today.
Takashi Hori was the owner of the hotel in December of 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans were rounded up on the west coast and placed in internment camps. Many local residents approached Hori to store their belongings in the basement of his hotel, because they were allowed to bring only minimal processions. Hori was also eventually sent to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho in 1942. He returned to run the Panama Hotel after the war ended in 1945, having an acquaintance watch over the hotel during his incarceration.
With the Panama Hotel just blocks from King Street Station, I decided it was the perfect time to stay at this historic hotel during my time in Seattle.
The first impression of the Panama’s interior is the dramatic stairway to the office, which is on the third floor. This hotel really is a trip back in time, and there is no elevator.
The rooms are basic, and reflect the times they were made for. Spartan as they may be, I found them comfortable, clean and they met, even exceeded, my expectations. Each room comes with a sink, but guests share the bathrooms and showers. I did not have any issue with that, and I found no morning competition for the shower.
As a contractor, I loved the building details, as much as the history. The trim, bannisters and railings were all clear, beautifully grained wood. The lighting in the hallways was designed to use natural light as much as possible, and it was fascinating to see that change over the course of the day, although the electric lights were hardly needed until sunset.
Several rooms had armoires that were built out of refrigerator crates back in the 1930’s. The workmanship was quite impressive.
Originally, the ground floor of the hotel had a dentist, a tailor, a laundry, a bookstore, a billiards room, and a sushi restaurant. Today, the lower floor is home to the Panama Hotel’s Tea Room. A complementary continental breakfast is served here for guests of the hotel. The tea selection is extensive, and the squash bread phenomenal. It’s a great place to hang out at the end of the day after exploring Seattle’s downtown.
The Tea House has a great collection of historic photos from the area displayed on the exposed brick walls of the two main rooms. The Panama Hotel is both a working hotel, and a living museum.
When Takashi Hori returned to the Panama in 1945, the hotel’s basement was holding over 50 steamer trunks from the displaced Japanese-Americans. Many trunks and other belongings remain in the basement today. Hori made several attempts to find the owners, but most were never located. The owners had simply vanished. A window in the floor of the tea house gives visitors a glimpse of the private belongings left behind.
The Panama Hotel offers a unique opportunity to explore Seattle’s past. It’s a wonderful hotel. Don’t stay here if you need Five Star accommodations. It’s comfortable, but 1934 comfortable. Unfortunately, the front entrance is enough to deter anyone who needs an elevator. It’s a living time capsule, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. The current owner, is the hotel’s third. That in itself, is remarkable.
Tours of the bath house are available upon request. I highly recommend joining one.
The Panama Hotel is a U.S. National Historic Landmark, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
The U.S. destroyer, Abner Read, struck a Japanese mine off the coast of Kiska Island on the 18 August 1943 during the Battle of Kiska. The explosion tore off the ship’s stern. There were over 300 men on board the Abner Read that day, many were in their bunks in the stern when the mine blew at approximately 1:50am. 71 sailors died, but 20 were hauled out of the frigid Bering Sea waters.
The crew was able to keep the destroyer afloat. The ship was shored up as best they could, the main compartment was kept water tight, and a homemade rudder was attached. Two U.S. Navy ships then towed the Abner Read to port.
Within months, the Abner Read had its stern repaired, and the destroyer rejoined the war.
In July of this year, a research team funded by NOAA, discovered the Abner Read’s stern off the coast of Kiska Island. It’s general location has been known, and the team of scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the University of Delaware used multi beam sonar to locate the wreckage. They then sent a remote operated submersible down to the stern, which was in 290 feet of water.
The stern section measures 75 feet long and 18 feet high, and is now covered in marine life.
Daryl Weathers was a 19 year old seaman on the Abner Read. He is the last known survivor from the destroyer on that August day in 1943. Weathers is 94 now, and lives in Seal Beach, California. When told that the stern section had been found, Weathers expressed surprise saying, “That’s the end of the world up there.”
For its wartime service, the Abner Read received four battle stars from the Pacific Theater. In November of 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese launched a kamikaze attack. A Japanese dive bomber (VAL) made it through the anti aircraft fire, although it had been hit. The bomber was able to drop one of its bombs down the destroyer’s smokestack, blowing up the engine room. The VAL then crashed across the main deck, setting it in flames. The Abner Read sank within hours.
15 August 1943
75 Years Ago
The Japanese had occupied Kiska Island on Alaska’s Aleutian Chain since June of ’42. After the brutal Battle of Attu, Allied forces expected the same type of defense of Kiska from the Japanese.
Leading up to the invasion, the U.S. Air Force bombarded the Japanese positions on Kiska. In June of ’43, 407 bombing sorties were sent to the remote island, and even more in July. Japanese troop level was at just over 5100 men. Resupply of the island had become by submarine only.
In August, bombing sorties increased even more. On August 4 alone, 135 sorties dropped 304,000 pounds of explosives on Kiska.* No Japanese troops were sighted by the bomber pilots, but that was not unusual, since the Japanese went underground during the raids.
7300 combat troops landed at the main beach head. They were greeted by six dogs wagging their tails. One of the dogs was “Explosion”, the pup that was with the Navy weather station crew that was on Kiska when the Japanese invaded the island the previous June. In all, 34,426 Allied troops were a part of the invasion, which included 5300 Canadians.
As troops moved across the foggy island, occasionally a bomb or booby trap was set off, but no enemy soldiers were to be seen. Still, shots were fired into the fog by the jumpy soldiers.
The Japanese were no longer on the island. Realizing they could not defend Kiska after losing Attu, they had evacuated the island two weeks before the invasion.
92 Allied troops were killed, and 221 wounded. Most came when the destroyer Abner Read struck a Japanese mine causing 118 casualties. 4 Canadians and 17 Americans were killed on Kiska, and 50 were wounded, many by friendly fire in the fog. 130 men suffered from trenchfoot, of which only one was a Canadian due to their proper footwear.
The Americans would not learn how or when the Japanese evacuated the island until after the war ended.
Today, Kiska is part of the Aleutian Islands Wilderness, and the Japanese occupation site a National Historic Landmark.
*The Thousand Mile War
Photos courtesy of The Alaska State Library
Fort Raymond was activated on 1 July 1941, with the purpose of protecting the rail terminus and the ice-free port of Seward, leading up to WWII. The fort was named after Captain Charles W. Raymond, a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Captain Raymond had been sent to Alaska in 1869, to determine the precise location of Fort Yukon. When he confirmed that Fort Yukon was indeed within the Territory of Alaska, Raymond evicted the famed Hudson Bay Company from the region.
At its peak, Fort Raymond housed over 170 officers and 3200 enlisted men. In 1940, the civilian population of Seward was only 949.
On 25 March 1942, a Japanese submarine was spotted in Resurrection Bay, only 2000 yards from the Army dock. By June of that year, Japanese troops had taken the islands of Kiska and Attu in the Aleutian Chain, and Dutch Harbor had been bombed.
But by the fall of 1943, the Japanese had been forced out of the Aleutians, and the threat to Alaska had decreased substantially. In November of 1944, the fort went into caretaking status.
In 1946, the hospital at Fort Seward was renovated into a sanatorium for Alaska native children with tuberculosis. The sanatorium was open for 12 years.
The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake wiped out much of the town of Seward, including what remained of Fort Raymond. Several buildings from the fort can still be seen in Seward, however. Many quonset huts are scattered about the town, that came from Fort Raymond. The NCO building had been built out of local logs. That building is also still in use; it is the bottom half of the local American Legion post.
Today, the Seward Military Resort is located on the land that Fort Raymond once stood on.