Howard and Jean Hart at the opening of Road to Tokyo.
A storied CIA operative, Howard P. Hart died recently at age 76. His connection to The National WWII Museum includes a substantial donation of wartime arms currently on display in multiple galleries on our campus, as well as two separate oral history interviews for our Digital Collections. The interviews, conducted by historian Tom Gibbs, covered Hart’s experiences as a child during the war while his family was held in a Japanese civilian incarceration camp in the Philippines. Now Museum Project Manager, Gibbs recalled meeting Hart for the first time in this post for the Museum blog:
I had the honor of sitting down with Howard Hart on a cold and snowy day in 2013 outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. When I arrived at his property, I did not know what to expect. What I did know was that I was about to meet someone extremely intelligent who had a heck of a story to tell about World War II. I was instructed by Mr. Hart to meet him at a post store—an old-timey general store that sold everything from wine to ammunition—at the base of the mountain where he lived. A white jeep stopped directly in front of me. A white-haired man in a low voice asked me for my identification. It was an unusual first step, and something that had never happened when I had interviewed other WWII veterans. I felt like I was in the middle of a Tom Clancy novel. When Mr. Hart determined that I passed muster, the warmest smile and greeting ensued, and I took a trip up the mountain to his famous home.
I knew Mr. Hart had a long and decorated CIA career, but the real reason I was there was to capture the story of the Los Banos civilian POW camp, and the incredible story of its liberation in 1945. The liberation coincidentally occurred on the same day the US flag was raised on Mount Suribachi, relegating it to back-page news. Over the course of three and half hours, Mr. Hart proceeded to tell me one of the most engaging and unbelievably human stories I ever captured on tape. Learning of the horrors of—and the actions required to survive in—a Japanese prison camp was humbling. It was his story of the camp’s liberation, however, that struck a chord with me, and it’s something I will never forget.
“I looked up, I had no idea what I was looking at,” he said. “I had never even seen a parachute before. It was as if some magical apparition was occurring in front of my eyes. And before I knew it, an American paratrooper was standing in front of me. He must have been 35 feet tall. He was angry and fired up and ready to kill Japanese. . . . This American paratrooper picked me up under his arm. It was a mile and half to the beach, and the entire time he told me, ‘Kid, I’m gonna get you home. Kid, I’m gonna get you home.’”
When 2,000 US civilian POWs who had been imprisoned since 1941 arrived in San Pedro, California, a band was waiting for them. “They had a band on the dock and they were playing the The Star-Spangled Banner,” he said. “I had never heard The Star-Spangled Banner before! We all wept. It was the most beautiful thing I ever heard, and I weep now telling this to you.”
Mr. Hart’s legacy lives on here at The National WWII Museum, both through his oral histories and his generous artifact donation, which allows our visitors to see top-notch examples of weapons used during the war. The 16 donated weapons, part of the Howard and Jean Hart Martial Arms Collection, are on display in The Duchossois Family Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries, the Richard C. Adkerson & Freeport McMoRan Foundation Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries, and The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George Brown Salute to the Home Front.
Patrol-torpedo boats designed by Higgins Industries were not equipped with portholes. They also did not have air conditioning, meaning summer nights in the crew’s quarters were hot and stuffy. In September 1944, PT-305 briefly operated out of Saint-Tropez, France, but that short time was long enough for the crew to transform the boat. Torpedoman’s Mate Jim Nerison wrote about the change he made to PT-305:
“Squadron 22 was moved to Saint-Tropez in southern France. We took over an upscale marina and hotel on the French Rivera. Close to the marina was an abandoned boatyard containing quite a few damaged yachts. A buddy and I were nosing around the yard and noticed some brightly polished bronze portholes on one of the vessels. We went back to our boat, got some tools, returned, and removed two of the ports.
“On the condition that the ports would be sealed during night operations, I got permission from the skipper to install them on each side of the hull of our boat. To obtain better ventilation, I mounted one next to my bunk in the crew’s quarters and one on the opposite side of the boat.
“Almost 60 years later, in the ‘All Hands’ section of a publication distributed by PT Boats Inc., I came across a picture of a boat claiming to be PT-305. The boat was being used as an oyster scow in the Chesapeake Bay. It had very little resemblance to the boat that I remembered, except the general hull design and the configuration of the wood planking on its sides. Then I noticed the porthole on the starboard side up near the bow. Yes indeed, that was PT-305! She didn’t look like the fast, powerful and daring vessel originally commissioned in New Orleans, but then, neither do the two surviving members of her original crew.”
Portholes were also installed in the officer’s quarters of PT-305, and several other PT boats in Squadron 22 installed portholes as well. All of the original portholes were still installed in PT-305 when The National WWII Museum acquired the boat in 2007. In 2015, they were restored and returned to their wartime locations on the hull.
Read more about PT-305 here. Read more about PT-305’s nickname U.S.S. Sudden Jerkhere.
PT-305: A service-era photo showing one of the custom portholes.
The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation visited the Museum for a tour on Wednesday and graciously donated priceless artifacts from Ella’s archives to our collection— items including sheet music, concert programs, and music albums. For example, pictured below is a piece of sheet music from Ella’s collection for the popular wartime song “Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer” (an audience favorite for the Victory Belles in their recent “Songs that Won the War” revue). The Foundation made an additional contribution that will help fund school Title 1 field trips to the Museum.
WWII-era sheet music donated in memory of Miss Ella Fitzgerald from the Estate of Ella Fitzgerald.
While on campus, the group visited an item related to Fitzgerald, “First Lady of Song,” displayed in BB’s Stage Door Canteen, the Museum’s tribute to wartime USO entertainment venues. Pictured at the M-1 helmet liner, worn by Fitzgerald at a USO camp show, are (left to right), Richard Rosman, Fran Morris Rosman, Randal Rosman, and Irene Romero.
Pictured at the M-1 helmet liner, worn by Fitzgerald at a USO camp show, are (left to right), Richard Rosman, Fran Morris Rosman, Randal Rosman, and Irene Romero.
Ella Fitzgerald’s voice is featured prominently on the 1940s musical soundtrack heard throughout the Museum, as befits one of the superstars of the era and an all-time music great. As Bing Crosby— a pretty good singer himself— once said: “Man, woman or child, Ella is the greatest of them all.”
M-1helmet worn by Ella Fitzgerald on display in BB’s Stage Door Canteen at The National WWII Museum.
Founded by the singer in 1993, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation is dedicated “to use the fruits of her success to help people of all races, cultures and beliefs,” according to the foundation’s website. “Ella hoped to make their lives more rewarding, and she wanted to foster a love of reading, as well as a love of music. In addition, she hoped to provide assistance to the at-risk and disadvantaged members of our communities—assistance that would enable them to achieve a better quality of life.”
Thanks for visiting, foundation friends, and thanks for your generous support!
One of the newest collections at The National WWII Museum, received just today, is from the service of WAC Mary Margaret Owen. Seventy years ago, on December 27, 1946, Mary Margaret Owen was discharged from the Women’s Army Corps. In her three years of service, she saw much of the country in training and at various posts. She wrote her family during training, “It is our job to receive reports on all aircraft flying and see that no enemy planes surprise us–with us on the job they won’t!!” Mary spent the later part of her service at Fort Indiantown Gap, overseeing a typing pool processing records and demobilizing those returning from the European Theater. Over 150,000 women served in the Women’s Army Corps in WWII. Thank you to these groundbreaking women and to Mary’s daughters for contributing this material to the Museum. Learn more about women in WWII in our Focus On gallery.
Gift in Memory of Mary Margaret Owen (McArtor), 2016
Post by Assistant Director for Curatorial Services Kimberly Guise.
On December 25, 1944, Carroll Sammetinger began his Christmas postcard to his parents, “Am Safe, A Prisoner of War in Germany; do not worry.” Thousands of Americans were captured during the Battle of the Bulge and ended up spending Christmas 1944, as prisoners of war. Lieutenant Carroll Sammetinger, from Lima, Ohio, served with the 46th Armored Infantry Battalion, 5th Armored Division. He was captured December 20, 1944, and was sent first to Stalag XIB and then to Oflag 79, where he stayed until being liberated on April 12, 1945.
In Sammetinger’s journal, he wrote about his experiences, about foods he wants to remember (ice cream with Baby Ruth bars!) and recorded addresses of fellow POWs. Sammetinger’s collection—which includes his handwritten diary, numerous telegrams and letters, two hand-carved cigarette boxes, and German insignia gathered as souvenirs—is one of many treasured collections received by The National WWII Museum in 2016.
Thank you to Sammetinger’s daughter, Sara Hammond, for sharing these pieces with the Museum and the world. They are powerful reminders of the separation, distance, and uncertainty experienced by many Americans during World War II.
Post by Assistant Director for Curatorial Services Kimberly Guise.
One of the final touches to the restoration of PT-305 is a fresh coat of paint. But this isn’t just a fresh coat—it is the camouflage pattern applied to PT-305 in November 1944, called “Measure 32 modified.”
During World War II, US Navy ships were rarely painted gray. There were a large and diverse number of camouflage schemes for a number of tactical situations. Generally speaking, camouflage is not intended to make a ship disappear, but rather to make a vessel’s course, speed, and class difficult to determine. For large vessels, the Navy issued specifically designed camouflage patterns. For PT boats, official designs set a general standard but the camouflage patterns of individual boats were ultimately determined by squadron commanders.
“Measure 32 modified” was an experimental pattern intended specifically for making torpedo attacks. The “Thayer blue” on the forward part of the hull made the vessel more difficult to see from a distance at night when approaching a target head-on during the initial stages of a torpedo attack. The color transitions to a “deck blue” on the aft part of the boat to aid in the retreat from a torpedo attack.
Up close, darker blues are more difficult to see, making class and course more difficult to determine. “Deck blue” also reduces visible shadows from concentrated light sources, such as searchlights and star shells, making it more difficult to determine the boat’s location.
The blue painted on the deck was intended to reduce visibility of the vessel when viewed from aircraft.
In addition to the three shades of blue on the boat, PT-305 also carried aircraft recognition coloration. “Insignia yellow” was painted on the bow, “insignia red” across the stern, and a large red-and-yellow star was painted on top of the radar dome. This was intended to make PT boats in the Mediterranean easily identifiable to Allied aircraft.
More than a year of research using photographs and period documents went into determining the camouflage pattern applied to PT-305. The re-creation of the “Measure 32 modified” applied to PT-305 has restored her unique identity and highlights her combat history.
In honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we’d like to offer a glimpse of one recent addition to our collection. Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Bernard Deleman served on the submarine, USS Perch (SS-176) in the Pacific and was captured by the Japanese in March 1942. He was held as a POW until his 25th birthday on September 15, 1945. When he arrived at home, he was welcomed at the train station in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania by a parade of high school bands, city officials, firemen, policemen, and clergy. In this photo, one sees Bernard stepping off of the train. Over 120,000 Americans were prisoners of war during World War II. Bernard Deleman was one of 27,465 American POWs in the Pacific.
Gift in Memory of Bernard Deleman, 2016
Posted by Assistant Director for Curatorial Services Kimberly Guise.
Novelty items lampooning our enemies were popular in wartime America. Banks, hardware stores and restaurants used this material to advertise their services. This matchbook features the menu for Mandell’s Restaurant on Baltimore Street at Calvert in Baltimore, Maryland. The back cover features cartoon of Hitler with striking pad on his trousers. The front cover bears inscription “Strike at the seat of trouble. Buy war bonds.” Mandell’s offered a “whole half of crispy crunchy fried chicken served unjointed without silverware, gobs of shoestring potatoes, hot buttered rolls.” Yum!
This month we’ve received many special donations, including a welder’s mask used at Higgins Industries by welder Edna Marie Bougon Rushing. The mask was donated by her daughter Ina Rae Whitlow during a visit to the Museum. Edna is on the right in the center photo and far left in the photo on the right. Edna Bougon Rushing was one of roughly 25,000 employed by Higgins Industries in the New Orleans area. Thank you to Mrs. Whitlow and to all of our artifact donors for helping us tell the story of American experience in WWII!
In 1938, when Czech Jew Ela Stein Weissberger was eight years old, her family fled their home near the Czech-German border to Prague. Her father was in the porcelain business and her mother’s family owned a glass factory. They lost everything. Her father was arrested by the Gestapo and never seen again. Ela, her mother, sister, and grandmother were on one of the first transports to Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp, arriving in February 1942.
Roughly 150,000 people were held in Theresienstadt, mostly Czech Jews like Ela Stein Weissberger. The camp became a propoganda tool for the Nazis most notably when the Nazis allowed entry to the camp by Danish Red Cross and International Red Cross delegates in June 1944. These visits occured after a long period of adjustments to and deportations from the camp to give the appearance of relatively comfortable living conditions. While there, the delegates viewed a performance of the children’s opera Brundibár, composed by Czech Jewish composer Hans Krasa in 1938 and first performed in the camp on September 23, 1943 under the watchful eyes of Nazi guards. The role of the Cat in the Brundibar Opera was performed by Ela Stein Weissberger. She appeared in the 1944 performance for the International Red Cross delegation that visited Terezin and also in the German propaganda film, Der Führer schenkt die Juden eine Stadt (The Fuhrer gives the Jews a city). The opera would have 55 performances at Theresienstadt in total and became a symbol of hope for the Jews in the camp.
Roughly 34,000 people died in Theresienstadt and another 87,000 were transported to death camps before the camp was liberated by the Soviets on May 8, 1945. Ela Stein Weissberger survived and after liberation, moved to Israel and joined the Israeli Army and then the Israeli Navy. She then moved to America with her husband in 1958. Ela has dedicated much of her life to traveling around the world educating the public about the Holocaust.
Ela Stein Weissberger saved this Fünf Kronen (five crowns) note from her time in Theresienstadt. She gave the note to Museum Historian Hannah Dailey when Dailey recorded an oral history interview of Weissberger’s wartime experiences. The currency, designed in 1942 and distributed first in May 1943 was used mainly for sham purposes, but also to create a semblance of normalcy within the camp. Inmates could purchase supplies from stores, stocked from the plundered belongings of other inmates. Inmates were also required to pay postal taxes and receipt taxes on mail and parcels sent and received. These notes were saved by survivors and by collectors and they stand today as evidence of the extent of the bureaucratic landscape of the Nazi camp system.
Three performances of Brundibár will take place in May 2016 at The National WWII Museum’s US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. Ela Weissberger, the sole surviving member of the Brundibár cast at Theresienstadt, will be the Guest of Honor at each performance. To purchase tickets for theBrundibár performances at the Museum on May 14-15, 2016, click here.
Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.