Friday, November 9, 2012

Veterans Day Speech, Remembrance Day

So I have been asked to speak at a Veterans Day ceremony this Friday. I hardly seem worthy of addressing those who were brave enough to risk their lives for my freedom. I thought long and hard about what I would say. I finally decided that I would try to embody what my grandfather would have wanted to say about his time spent in war. 

  "I stand up here today hardly feeling worthy of this opportunity to be in front of the many courageous war veterans that are in the audience. For I know that I do not have the same bravery. I am in front of you to speak on behalf of my Grandfather, Robert W. Lynch, a WW2 war veteran.    I know he had things to say and never found it within him to share them. So with God's help,  I will try my best to convey to you the story he always wanted to share.

 My Papa, as I called him, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1922.  It was June, 1941 when my grandfather joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. It is unknown to me what motivated him to join the air force although I do know now how much he loved flying. He graduated top of his class as an Officer, which is a Lieutenant in American ranks.

 On June 6th, 1942, the Japanese bombed the city of Dutch Harbor in Alaska just six months after Pearl Harbor and one day after the battle of Midway. Days later, the enemy occupied the two most westward islands along Alaska's Aleutian Island chain, Kiska and Attu. And that began what is now known as the 'Forgotten War', the Aleutian Campaign.  The war in Alaska was the only WW2 campaign fought on North American soil and the first time that US soil had ever been occupied by the enemy. As part of the already established Pacific Joint Agreement on Defense, two Canadian Air Force squadrons, and eventually a third, were mobilized immediately and sent North to help the Americans defend this great continent. 

My grandfather, F/L Lynch, was a P-40 fighter pilot, with the RCAF 111(f) squadron, the first Canadian fighter squadron sent North to Alaska. War in Alaska was like no other due to its remote, harsh and treacherous environment, especially for the pilots, who often times, encountered intense and spontaneous fog leading to zero visibility. The troops slept in tents or Quosnet huts in sub zero temperatures, had to wait months for supplies, food and mail that were delayed by the brutal weather conditions. Actually, the Aleutian campaign is known to have lost more troops to its climate then to the battle alone, resulting in the highest American combat to operational loss ratio of the war.  But in my grandfathers words "Living in tents on Umnak can not compare to the Chateau Laurier, but we made the best of it."  They did what they had to do.

 My grandfather was stationed there for a year and on December 25th, 1942 was awarded and American Air Medal for his participation in a bombing mission over Kiska where one enemy zero was shot down. He was one of only 11 Canadians to receive an air medal during that campaign.  He was extremely proud of his time served.  Fortunately for our family, after the campaign was over, he went on to become an RCAF flight instructor and helped prepare other pilots to go overseas. 

 Lastly, I share with you, a statement that motivates me on my own personal journey to tell the Aleutian story with as many as I can.  This is the closing statement written by my grandfather to a historian at the Canadian Department of Defense that sums up how he and many other Aleutian Island veterans felt: 

 " Morale in the squadron was always high because we were a proud group with good officers and excellent men.  I must say that my service in the 111(f) Squadron is an experience I wold not have missed. I feel that the Aleutian Campaign is a forgotten item in history and I am happy and appreciative you are doing something about it."      

                Yours Sincerely, F/L Robert W. Lynch"

L-R Auntie Kay Brewer, Papa- F/L Robert W. Lynch,  Nana- Eileen Lynch

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jack Kotlovker

I can not emphasize enough to everyone that you just never know who has family members who served in   the Aleutian Islands in WW2.  About a month ago, I was in my daughters fourth grade classroom discussing the blog with the greatest teacher on earth, Mr. Leduc (he made me say that), when the maintenance man who had entered only a few minutes earlier, overheard us and suddenly exclaimed "My Father was stationed in Alaska in WW2!"  What an incredible coincidence or another case of, as I like to call it, Divine timing.  That started an enthusiastic discussion about the the war in Alaska.  Like so many other family members, Marc knew very little about his fathers WW2 history and even less about what went on way up north. But what he did know, he was kind enough to share with me.  

Jack Kotlovker in Kodiak, Alaska, 1942

Sgt. Jack Kotlovker was born on August 20th, 1922 in Asbury Park, New Jersey.    He entered the army in 1942 in the area of telecommunications, and morse code.  He served until 1945.   After the war, 1950, he opened a fabric and sewing machine store which is still in business today and is run by his daughter. During his time in there, Jack fell in love with Alaska and all of it's beauty and one day dreamed of going back.  He even became attached to an Alaskan dog, a cocker spaniel he named Pogie, which he brought home with him to Lakewood, New Jersey where he lived 15 happy years as the Kotlovker family dog.  Sgt. Kotlovker passed away in 1994.  
Jack was an avid leisure photographer and had many photos of his war time in Alaska. Below are just a small sampling of what his life was like in Alaska in WW2. More to come...

I have such gratitude to be in this position of honor, to tell the stories for the family members of these brave war veterans.  Thank you Marc for speaking up and sharing with me, a piece of your family's history.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Made the ABC-7 News!

Today my grandfather is looking down on me with pride. I conquered my fear of being on camera and completed, quite painlessly, the first of many (I hope) television interviews regarding the site. Thanks to John McQuiston of ABC-7 News for giving me the opportunity to share my story with so many. This aired today at 5:00pm and already John has received a phone call from a lady, Dorothy, who requested to speak with me because her late husband, Everette fought in Alaska and she has his story to share. How wonderful.

P-40 In My Backyard

Many days on this journey so far have been filled the most wonderful and amazing encounters. My belief has always been that every person you meet has a reason for crossing your path, divine timing, I like to call it.  And this journey has, time and time again, been a prime example of that.

For weeks, I had been thinking about and had begun researching where I can find an actual, rebuilt P-40, like the one my grandfather, and so many other brave fighter pilots flew.  Well ask and you shall receive.   Here, in my neck of the woods was a man, Chris Kirchner, who was in the final process of rebuilding a WW2, P-40 Warhawk.  But this P-40 was particularly special because it was a WW2 wreck that had been recovered from the Aleutian Islands.  Yes, just two hours North is a plane that my grandfather would have flown 70 years ago.  Without hesitation, I immediately contacted Chris to see if he would allow me to come and see it.

Chris and his wife Gail, both pilots, were thrilled at my phone call and were happy to receive us at their Ocala Air Ranch, an aviation community where all houses come with their own hangers.  

Greeted with a 14th AAF Col. Chennault Flying Tiger.

Backside of the hanger. In view- his rebuilt T-6 (Harvard) WW2 trainer,
 which my grandfather also flew.

The runway.  Mini Harvard wind sock.

Chris bought the wreck in 2004 and began the process of rebuilding the veteran P-40 back to it's rugged glory.    Prior to seeing action in the Aleutians, the plane had seen action in China as well.  Ultimately, the plane was flown by Capt. Ernest  Hickox of the 11th AF, 343 Fighter Group.  He was escorting a Navy amphibian to an earlier crash site when he went down near Unalaska Island on July 25th, 1945.

Capt. Ernst Hickox, 11th AAF, 343 Fighter Group

Chris and Gail have had the pleasure of connecting with the daughter of the fallen pilot, Kay Henning, who supplied them with the photo above.  Kay found them while doing an internet search of her father, when the article about Chris's work, repairing Captain Hickox salvaged Warhawk, came up.  That to me was the most spectacular part of the story, that the family of the lost pilot from 70 years ago could now go and see the plane that he flew!  In a sense,  it is a way that part of him can still live on in that plane.  I am not sure if Chris is truly aware of this gift he has provided the family with but I do know that he is grateful to know them.

My daughter Alexandra, in the cockpit of the Curtiss P-40

Chris and Alexandra

Chris Kirchner standing next to his near completed P-40 Warhawk

Chris is nearing completion of the P-40. I just saw updated pictures on his site.  He now has the nose and prop on.  It is looking good.  Not sure  how many of you know this but the cost to undertake such a project is immense. Once completed, this piece of history will be for sale, so ears open out there.  It would be nice to find this P-40 with a story a permanent home.  

Papa in one of his planes- Kittyhawk (P-40) AK-905
 Elmendorf Field, Anchorage, Alaska June 1942

Boy, what I would do to see my grandfathers plane,"Snookums"a pet name for his wife Eileen. So the search for his plane- P-40K1 #42-45004, the one that he flew out of Adak to Kiska, begins now...but of course. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Update F/O Louis Cochand

An interesting thing about how the story of F/O Louis Cochand unfolded was by the way in which it came to me.  About a month after communicating with the daughter of RCAF S/L Hal Gooding, who flew with my grandfather in the 111(F), I received an email from a man named Chas Cochand.  

He had sent along to me an article on Louis, but the body of the email was lightly worded, saying only that he had contacted the BBC to get more information on his part in the war. Although I did not know much about him, I did remember reading about the officer and that he was awarded an American Air Medal during the Aleutian Campaign, as well as, that he was in the other RCAF squadron that was not my grandfathers.  So after a little digging, I replied with an email that contained a few additional informative links regarding F/O Cochand and his role in the Aleutian Campaign. 

F/O Louis Cochand, RCAF 14(F) Squadron

He was most grateful for the response.  What I then found out is what makes this journey all the worth while. Chas was the son of F/O Louis Cochand and he had been looking for information on his father's involvement in WW2 outside of Europe.  He had contacted the BBC searching for that but they were not able to help him.   To think that I was able to provide for him, the invaluable pieces to the missing link of their families loved one fills me with a sense of great pride and joy.  It is such an honor to be in this position.  

And yes, I may say that often,  but by golly, I mean it.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

RCAF F/O Louis Cochand

Along with the RCAF 111(F) Squadron, the RCAF 14(F) Squadron arrived in Umnak, AK in March, 1943 to aide in the war in Alaska.  Louis Cochand was part of that 15 strong P-40 Kittyhawk squadron. 

Flying Officer Cochand was  from St. Marguerite, Quebec.  He joined the RCAF as a fighter pilot at the age of 23 and was stationed with the 14(F) squadron bound for Alaska to help the Americans defend the continent.   His squadron recorded 14 missions comprising a total of 88 individual sorties during the campaign.  He was one of seven men in 14(F) to be awarded an American Air Medal by Major General N.E. Ladd. 

F/O Louis Cochand

"These officers, as pilots of fighter planes, participated in numerous attacks on enemy installations in the Aleutian Islands which were pressed home despite very heavy anti-aircraft fire and often under adverse weather conditions. All flights were made from advanced bases and required skillful airmenship for a successful execution of the mission.  The courage and devotion to duty of these officers reflect great credit upon themselves and the organization they are a part of. "
AAF, Major General Ladd

After the Aleutian campaign the squadron was re-designated as the 442(F) Squadron and headed off to fly spitfires in England and then Mustangs right into the heartland of Germany. For his efforts there he was decorated with the distinguished Croix de Guerre.  The recommendation said:

"This officer has completed 158 sorties over enemy territory, many of them against heavily defended ground targets, and he at all times has proven himself as exceptionally keen and aggressive.  On August 18th and 19th, Flying Officer Cochand destroyed and damaged 21 enemy vehicles bringing his total to 62 destroyed or damaged enemy vehicles since the invasion of the Continent.  The officer's courageous and determined low level attacks in the face of very intense flak have obtained many fine results and he has gained the greatest admiration and respect of all."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Unalaska Plane Wrecks- Mission of Honor

On July 16th, 1942,  12 RCAF Kittyhawks, 21 pilots and 60 ground crew were sent to the most forward base at that time on Umnak Island in the Aleutian chain.  They were to relieve the equivalent number of of personnel in the AAF No.11 Pursuit Squadron.  Their route of 1100 miles, consisted of fueling stops in Naknek and Cold Bay.  It was during the last leg of their trip that the first major RCAF air tragedy took place.  En route from Cold Bay to Umnak, 7 Kittyhawk pilots, and 3-DC-3 US Transports (carrying 9 more RCAF pilots and 60 ground crew), encountered the famous and lethal Aleutian fog somewhere over Dutch Harbor.   The squadrons Wing Commander, G. McGregor O.B.E. D.F.C., ordered the planes to turn around. Tragically, due to the sketchy at best, radio function, the others were not able to understand the orders and did not change course4 Kittyhawks crashed into a cliff on Unalaska Island and 1 into the Bering Sea. 

Miraculously for our family, just one day earlier, my grandfather, while flying with that formation of seven, landed for their first refueling stop in NakNek, and crash landing his P-40, AK875.  The plane was not serviceable and was forced to become a passenger on board one of the DC-3's, piloted by AAF Captain Fillmore, for the rest of the journey.   Fortunately, two of the three DC-3's made it safely to Umnak along with P/O O.J. Eskil, and W/C McGregor and their ships.

Lost that day were RCAF pilots S/L J.W. Kerwin, P/O Dean Whiteside, F/S "Pop" Lennon, F/S Gordon Baird and Sgt. Stan Maxmen. Plus on board the downed transport: P/O Bennetto, F/S Di Persio, Sgt. Kerr, P/O Ollen-Bittle, an observer-Mr. Price, Lt. Aircraftmen Redner, Warrant Officer Williamson and Leading Aircraftman Wright. 

L-R Pilots-  Sgt. Stan Maxmen,  F/S Gordon Baird, S/L J.W.  Kerwin, F/S  "Pop" Lennon, P/O Dean Whiteside

 Below is a section taken from the official flight report of surviving pilot P/O Eskil:  

"After rounding Makushin Cape (Unalaska Island) and altering course to roughly follow the shoreline - weather became progressively worse. Fog banks and showers continually appeared to the north.  We flew through several areas about 50 feet above the water.  I could hear F/L Kerwin talking to Captain Fillmore (in an American C-53 support aircraft) intermittently but they seemed to be making very poor radio contact. I could not tune either one clearly.... The air seemed clear near the water but visibility was very poor - much impeded by large areas of dense fog and showers.  We were forced very near the water.

... we were forced right along the shore by a dense fogbank about 200 yards offshore.  We were forced  to about 20 feet from the water and I estimate the ceiling at about 50 feet. We were flying with the Wing Commander leading a "VIC" consisting of F/L Kerwin's section (with Maxmen) and Pilot Officer Whiteside's section (with Lennon) on the starboard of the Wing Commander, and my section (with Baird) off the port. Sections were about three to four spans apart and ships in the sections slightly closer.  F/Sgt Baird had overtaken me and slid over abruptly, forcing me to pass through his slipstream.  We were very low and I dropped back slightly while righting my ship. As I was moving up to form on F/Sgt Baird's port wing, the Wing Commander ordered a turn to port.  I was trailing the Wing Commander and Baird by 100 yards when the turn began.  I was too low to drop into proper position for a turn and thus lost sight of all the other ships when I began my turn.  I turned as tight and as low as I dared but sighted an aircraft well ahead of me cutting me off.  Afraid that I would fly into the green beneath me continuing my turn and increasing throttle to about 37 Hg.  My gyro horizon was out so I had trouble in maintaining steep climb and turn.  At about 500 feet freezing mist appeared on my windscreen so I undid my harness and removed my oxygen and radio connections - intending to bail out if I stopped gaining height because of icing.  At 4800 ft I broke through between cloud layers, continued to turn and plugged in my radio... (After being momentarily disoriented by cloud and fog and making a couple of course adjustments) In a few minutes I ended up in what turned out to be the only hole in the area and sighted the Umnak air base... I phoned Captain Fillmore to clear me so I would not be fired on and proceeded to land..."

Excerpt taken from Bill Eull's site, who has done some outstanding research about this squadron, for more information on the crash, check out

To this day the P-40 Kittyhawk wrecks still remain at Manning Point on Unalaska Island.  

A friend of Jeff Dickrell's atop the downed P-40 Kittyhawk (1999) 

I first saw Jeff Dickrell's photo (above) in the book War On Our Doorstop by Brendan Coyle. Jeff is a Dutch Harbor resident who had voyaged to the sites of the downed planes about a decade ago.  It inspired me to make the journey as well, but how?  After many emails, I was able to make contact with Jeff to get information on where exactly Manning Point is (many locals did not even know) and how to get there.  He was very helpful in sharing his experience and wisdom with me. Although, as he advised me- it may be a challenge, this venture has now moved to my 'must do' list,  a 'must do' so that I can pay honor to my grandfathers confidants for that very well could have been him on the mountainside that tragic day. 

Clearly able to find amusement of my pure naivety to the enormity and rawness of Alaskan geography, I thought this journey to see the wrecks would consist of a drive and a hike. Alaskans reading this blog, you are permitted to laugh out loud at that sentence for as I now read it back to myself, I can't help but chuckle at my own unknowingness.  Jeff politely and delicately let me know that this was no "little voyage".   That the trip would consist of a 10 hour one way (in perfect weather) small boat in BIG water cruise that travels along the Northern edge of the island which exposes one to the open water in three directions.  If the weather was perfect one could get out there without too much of a problem….but it is rare that the weather co-operates with a person’s time here. After you arrive, you have to hike, 1200ft above sea level, to get to the planes.  And I am assuming camp overnight or if weather is poor several nights. There are few charters to get there and the cost is in the thousands.  

Many well meaning and kind Alaskans have advised me of how difficult and expensive traveling around Alaska can be.  I appreciate their brute honesty, I need that considering my ignorance of the land.  And as I continue with my research, I can see that now, but does it discourage me, nope.  Not much does when I am determined to do something. My parents can attest to that!

And so the research continues on how I can make this happen.  Any willing volunteers or connections?  In my mind, the ideal situation would be for an adventure seeking Alaskan to take me under their experienced wing and who would accompany me on this mission of honor. They would also own a boat suited for big Bering Sea waters and would be an exceptional photographer.... smile.  YES, I dream BIG. 

Here is a picture of two of the pilots lost that day to the Aleutian weather.  Photos were in my grandfather's collection along with thier obituaries from the local paper.  F/S Baird and his wife were only married 8 months earlier.  The other fellow in pictured in the hammock, P/O Ed Merkely, did not survive the war either.  He died over Northumberland, England in his Spitfire, November of 1943.   

L-R P/O Robert W. Lynch, his wife Eileen (Nana), Mrs. Mona Baird and F/S Gordon Baird. 1941
L-R: P/O Ed Merkley and F/S Robert "Pop" Lennon.  1941

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Report From The Aleutians (1942)

One of the first things I ordered when I started researching the war in Alaska was this 42 minute video called Report Form The Aleutians.  The video looks at the first part of the Aleutian Campaign and was made in 1942 by the U.S. government so as you can imagine, it tells a somewhat censored version of what really went on up north.  But even with the omission of important details, it is still very interesting for someone who wants to know more about some of the goings on of the campaign.  

I particularly enjoyed this because it has a lot of Air Force coverage, even though they fail to mention that the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) were there as well,  fighting as one with the 11th Pursuit.  You can go along with the airmen as a camera actually accompanies one of the bombers in a mission over Kiska, which in a way, was fascinating, but at the same time equally as sad to see the destruction war inflicts.  This video allowed me to envision my grandfather's life and duties while up there and some of the things he had to endure on a day to day basis. Another interesting clip was that of the construction of the runway on Adak, designed by General Talley,  made out of steel and built by the Infantry.  It was a million and a half square feet of steel runway constructed in only 10 days. 

This is what my grandfather had to say when asked by the Canadian Department of Defense Historian, M.V. Bezeau, about his missions to Kiska from Adak in 1942 with the 11th Pursuit, commanded by Major Jack Chennault.

"The operations from Adak on Kiska were basically an escort duty until the target was reached.  One squadron of heavy bombers, B-24's, escorted by three squadrons of fighters, mainly P-40's and P-39's (12 bombers and 36 fighters).  In addition, one B-17 was assigned to photograph the results of each raid.  Once the target was reached, fighter sections (2a/c) each of which had its own targets, such as anti aircraft gun positions on the ground or on ships in the harbour, went in at low levels to eliminate any fire for the minute or so which the bombers would take to release their loads on their particular targets, motor pools, ammunition dumps, ships, barracks, ect. The fighters were then on their own to do what ever damage they could to anything that moved."

"Tactically, we flew in sections of 2 in a wide V of 10 aircraft with a cover of one aircraft on a high sweep above and a low sweep below the main group.  The sections would break off for individual section action when the situation called for it."

F/O Robert W. Lynch
RCAF 111(f) Squadron
April 22nd, 1980

This video can be purchased on for roughly ten dollars.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

70 Years Later- It's Still A Small World

This story is exactly one reason why I am doing this blog.  I was so moved by the way this event unfolded.  I pray that this site can bring more exceptional experiences to families like the one I just shared with Grant Workman and Wally Peacock, brother of F/0 Billy Peacock.  

Billy Peacock flew with the RCAF 111 & 440 (f) Squadrons in WW2.  He was born in a town called Swastika, Ontario on April 1, 1920 and joined the 111(f) Sqn on November 25, 1941. After the war in Alaska was over, the 111 (f) squadron got recommissioned as the 440(f) and were stationed over seas where they got a chance to fly the more advanced fighters.  Sadly Billy was killed in action on May 4, 1944, when his typhoon struck a barrage balloon cable and crashed over Eastleigh, Hampshire. He was 24.  

 Bill Peacock in his P-40 Kittyhawk
RCAF 111(f) Squadron 1942
I recently got the great pleasure of communicating with his brother Wally, who was 8 when Billy died.  He shared with me that he carries around a small blue bible gifted to the Canadian figher pilot by the navy fellows: H.T. Armerding, Lt. Sherwood and Cmndr. Boggs from the USS Whicita.  In the his own inscription in the bible, the airman goes on to say that  "Bill Pigden, Ken Caldwell and self had supper and saw a show. Had wonderful time and I think the U.S. Navy is a great outfit."  dated August 2nd, 1943, Aleutian Islands, Alaska. 

RCAF F/O Billy Peacock 

So as I was preparing to write this blog about Wallys brother, the veterans name- Billy Peacock, kept repeating itself inside my head as if I had heard it before.  I got out my grandfathers flight log book and began to search for the name and that is when it hit me, there pasted into my grandfathers flight log book was a picture of a group of his fellow airmen, and Billy Peacock was one of them. 

RCAF Pilots L-R: F/O Bill Pigden,  F/O Frank Skelly,  F/O Ed Merkley,
F/S Gerry Johnson,  F/S Gordon Baird,  F/O  Bill Peacock
February, 1942 

Incredible.  I just love that this blog is beginning to connect people, which is another reason you need to share this blog with everyone and anyone you know.  I am working on word of mouth here and although you personally may not know of anyone who fought in World War 2 in Alaska, the person you pass this on to, very well may.  You never know someone's family history.  So c'mon please hit that share button and let's see if we can make some more tear jerking connections with the families of those who proudly served. 

Note: Of those six RCAF pilots who are listed above, only 1 survived WW2 and that was F/O Bill Pigden. Wow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

RCAF 111 (f) Squadron

This Flordia Beaches To The Bering Sea project all got started when my neighbor Terry asked me what kind of plane my grandfather flew in the war.  It had been over a decade since I last studied the entries in his flight log book which were now thousands of miles away at my parents house in Winnipeg, Manitoba. That recollection had become buried under the events of my own life in the last ten years, but I was determined to remember.  An unanswered phone call to my Mother brought me to the good ol' internet where I started to discover information on not only his plane, but also his squadrons role in the war in Alaska. 

One of the first websites that I discovered was  The creator of this site, Bill Eull, has put a lot of heartfelt hours and energy into researching the squadrons members both individually and as a group.   Interestingly, Bill has no family associated with the squadron, he was just one man who became fascinated with their story after finding a dusty old squadron photo in an Ontario antique shop.

111(f) Squadron, Patricia Bay, March 3rd, 1942, photo-Bill Eull

Like so many others, Bill had no idea that the WW2 Aleutian campaign even happened. That North America had been threatened from both the east and the west. And with just a small amount of initial research, he was hooked and determined to tell their story of sacrifices and victories.  It was his way of fulfilling his own deeper desire to pay honor those who served. 

For a family member, like myself, it is a wonderfully emotional experience to discover the site. There on my computer screen was picture of my grandfather sitting proudly in his air force uniform.   Under his photos, listed his name, rank and his accomplishments and whether or not he survived the war to which, at that point,  it read "As far as I can tell, he survived the war."  I immediately, as you can imagine, emailed Bill, letting him know who I was and that, luckily,  my grandfather did indeed survive the war, being sure to include a few other details as well.  He was happy to hear from me, as he is with all family members who contact him.  

Bills quest is to honor every serviceman in the 111(f) Squadron. To date, he has been able to come up with 385 names of people who were either in the squadron or associated with it in some way.  Ideally, he wants to find photos of each person and tell their service story. Remarkably he has been able to do that with 110 of the 385 (28%) men.  Outstanding dedication and effort Bill!  

Bill Eull in the cockpit of a P-40 Kittyhawk owned by George Maude
Photo by Jim Ricks, Victoria, B.C.

There are no words strong enough to express to Bill the amount of appreciation I have for his efforts in creating such a priceless gift.  Thank you for bringing the faces of these brave and dedicated men into the open, and for sharing the stories of men that were never able to express it openly themselves.  

Bills plight is not over, he still needs our help putting names and details to squadron photos. Please visit his sight and see if you can assist-

God Bless you Bill.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Canadian Troops In The Aleutians

Funny thing,  I had started writing and writing about the Canadian Military's role in the Aleutian Islands Campaign in WW2 and the post just kept on going and going.  For my taste, it was too long for one blog post so I decided I needed to break it up so that each division:  Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Royal Canadian Army (RCA), and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) can get the recognition they deserve.

RCAF F/O Robert W. Lynch (my grandfather)
& an AAF Officer in Kodiak, AK
about to ref the troops  hockey game. 
Just like many people did not know that there was even battle fought in Alaska in WW2, even fewer knew that the Canadians were fighting right alongside the United States to defend the North American continent.  Some would say defending 'America' but the way I look at it, if Alaska was being invaded then British Columbia and Canada could have been next, maybe just as a stepping stone to the south, but a stepping stone none the less.  

When the Aleutian battle first started in June 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor, the American defense was already stretched thin due to what was going on in Europe and the Pacific and it was clear it needed to establish a stronger northern defense.  It was only natural that the Canadians were called on to help defend their continent.  In 1940, to ensure help was available when needed, the two countries along with the Soviet Union signed the Pacific Joint Agreement on Defense, which basically stated that each nation would supply troops, ships, and planes to its neighbor if thy neighbor needed to defend themselves against an enemy attack.  Of course, this would be specifically helpful to the United States in regards to the eminent threat of Japan against Alaska.  So in a nutshell, a big nutshell,  that is how Canadians became involved.

Below is a very brief summary of  each divisions contributions to the Aleutian Campaign.  

Canadian Troops disembark on Kiska 9/1943
Source-Dept of National Defense Canada
The Royal Canadian Navy had 3 large ships, several corvettes, minesweepers and some sub chasing auxiliary vessels and not to forget, the many men needed to man those vessels.  Those ships saw duties in water as far north as Dutch Harbor to Amchitka as well as guarding the more southern waters of the inside passage.  Canadian boats were attacked, Seamen died and many were injured.

The Canadian Army were also involved from beginning to end, from guarding the inside passage where transport and military boats would pass to the final offensive mission, where 5300 Canadian troops landed with the Americans to re-take Kiska.  At least, 313 never to return home.

Royal Canadian Air Force
Source- Canada Wings
The Royal Canadian Air Force,  had approximately 500 personnel up north with at least 5 squadrons participating, No.111F, No.14F and  No.8B were stationed up north and 2 further south manning Annette Island.   Both the No. 111F and No.14F went on regular offensive missions and 11 of the dedicated and brave Canadian Airmen won American Air Medals for their service.  Many Canadian airmen were lost, not due to enemy attacks, we survived those, but due to the harsh and dangerous flying conditions in the Aleutian Islands, noted to be the worst in the world, with low ceilings, intense fog and spontaneous strong crosswinds.

Although by numbers, the Canadians may have had fewer troops but by no means were they less valuable to the success of this forgotten campaign. I can say now, having lived in both Canada and the United States, that Americans want to hold onto their pride and Canadians want to hold onto theirs, but in the end we are all North Americans and we should all feel proud that we worked together right here on our soil to keep it protected and in tact.

From the words of my grandfather, RCAF F/O Robert W. Lynch, No. 111F Squadron, when asked by historian, M.V. Bezeau "How the detachment blended into the AAF's 11th Pursuit and how were it's relations?"

"Pilots are pilots, consequently we had no trouble blending into the routine of the 11th Pursuit's operational duties.  We definitely retained our identity and our relations could not have been better."

In closing, I need to say that I am no war expert, nor author, so what I share with you, is what I have learned researching for thousands of hours (according to my 9 year old) the information about this campaign.  Along the way I have met and spoken with some wonderful people; veterans, historians, Alaskans, authors and regular joe's. Thank you all for helping me along this journey.  What fun, and it has only just begun! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Attu Veteran- Bill Jones

William S. "Bill" Jones, enlisted in the Army on December 9, 1941 and served his country with the utmost dedication, having fought in four major campaigns with the 7th Infantry Division during the battles of Attu Island, Kwajelein, Leyte, and was wounded the seventh and last time going onto the beach at Okinawa, Japan.  He was awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star, and two Distinguished Service medals.  Bill served with the NJ National Guard and retired as a Major.  After his service, Bill was employed by the Chrysler Corporation and M & G Convoy, both of Newark, DE. 

 Bill Jones (R) and his life long friend Andy Petrus (L) at the
WW2 Memorial on Attu Island, AK.  2003
photo provided by Jack Jonas

In the year of 2000 at the age of eighty, Bill returned to the scene of his first battle on Attu Island, Alaska where he became a part of a documentary entitled “Cradle of Storms”.  He returned again in 2003 where he was featured in a full length documentary entitled “Red, White, Black and Blue” which was one of the highlights of his life.  The story had never been told as a result of a media blackout.  Bill heard from several hundred of his comrades who were thrilled to talk and correspond with him.  

One of the things he discovered on that trip was that 4 Japanese memorials had been quietly placed on Attu, right in the very battle field where many courageous North American troops lost their lives. In the seven years before he died, he started a heart felt movement to have the Japanese memorials placed on Engineer Hill removed.  He passionately felt that it was a disgrace to the American and Canadian troops who fiercely fought to protect our continent.  And he worked diligently righting what he felt was so wrong. 

  Red, White, Black and Blue Video

Bill passed away on August 29th, 2010 at the age of 87.  His friend and fellow serviceman, Jack E Jonas, TSgt. USAF ret. had pledged, one veteran to another, to help Bill in his mission and has since continued on the fight to get the foreign memorials removed from Attu.  They have started a petition to the U.S. Government to demand their removal. 

Please take, literally a minute, to go to the Attu Monument Petition and sign your name or to get more information, so that you can help WW2 Attu Island Veteran Bill Jones and Jack Jonas,TSgt. USAF ret. in their efforts to preserve honor and dignity to all Attu Island veterans, which they so rightfully deserve.

For more information, please contact