Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. In recognition of those who suffered as POWs in WWII, we would like to highlight a special recent addition to the Museum’s collection and the wonderful connections that the donation of this material set into motion.
We are contacted daily by families of those who served in WWII with questions about artifacts in their possession. In May 2014, Phyllis Parr reached out to the Museum about an artifact from her father’s service.
Phyllis’ father, Phil “Bo” Perabo was from Tupelo, Mississippi and served as a pilot in both the Battle of the Atlantic and in the Pacific. Perabo flew off of the Bogue, the Card and the Bennington. Perabo was captured after bailing out on a mission to Japan, after swimming eight hours to reach the shore. He was taken to Ofuna POW camp where he was reunited with his childhood friend Dave “Son” Puckett, also an aviator who had been captured months earlier.
While at Ofuna—which has received recent news attention because it also became home to Olympic runner Louis Zamperini whose story is told in the bestselling book Unbroken, soon to be a major motion picture—just after liberation, Perabo compiled a roster of all of those confined there, having each man sign in his own hand, his name, unit, and hometown. The roster lists 135 men, predominantly Naval aviators.
Phyllis said about the roster, “My family and I have always believed that the roster does not belong to us alone but to all the families of the men who were at Ofuna.” This led to some citizen archivist work. Phyllis sent out over twenty letters to any former prisoners or their descendants that she could track down. In her letter she told about her dad, about the Ofuna roster and her plans to donate the item to The National WWII Museum. Several people responded to the letter— some with their own stories of their father’s experiences.
On August 8th, having learned of the roster and its placement at the Museum, we received a visit from three grandsons of the late Ofuna POW Forrest E. McCormick. Forrest E. McCormick was a flier in the VF-17 Squadron based on the USS Hornet. It was a miracle, McCormick survived to make it to the Ofuna camp. He had bailed out over a Japanese beach having been shot and having broken his arm at the elbow. A village doctor saved him from villagers bent on beating him to death. After the ordeal in Ofuna his grandson Evan McCormick wrote, “his left arm was 3 inches shorter than his right the rest of his life and instead of the 6, 3’’ height he went to war as, he stood around 6 ft the rest of his life… The happy ending to all this is that he made it back, had four kids, and lived a good life.” It was a profound experience, and seeing the roster was the highlight of the McCormick brothers’ trip.
Phil Perabo passed away on May 18, 2014, just three days after his daughter and I visited and spoke about his experiences. We are grateful to him and to his daughter for documenting his experience and for sharing that documentation with the Museum and others.
The McCormick brothers
Curator Kim Guise and the McCormick brothers
Phil and lifelong friend Dave Puckett, Jr.
Phil Perabo, Jr.
Telegram about Phil Perabo
The Ofuna roster
Images: Gift of the Perabo Family, 2014 and Courtesy of the McCormick Family
This morning we were visited by artifact donors from Texas who made the trip to New Orleans to share material with the Museum. We sat and went through the collection together, looking over the service material from Albert Dean Bryant from Midland, Texas. Bryant served with the 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron of the 7th Armored Division. Seventy years prior to his daughter’s visit, on 11 September 1944, Bryant wrote a letter home to his family. He describes the weariness and restlessness of battle, “There are things that happen over here which takes complete control over your mind…”
He writes of running remaining Germans out of French towns and the liberation of those towns: The aftermath was something which almost made the danger & unpleasant things we had to endure worth it—People by the hundreds standing in the streets with hands upraised & shouting & laughing & crying with appreciation for being liberated—Bottles of wine and champagne (which would cost $20.00 in the US) were freely given to us as we went through the streets (bottles which had dirt & dust on them to show they had been buried or hidden for years from the greedy Boche).
Albert Dean Bryant
Bryant's daughter, Judy, and Curator Kim Guise
Gift in Memory of Albert Dean Bryant, 2014
A little over one month later, on 27 October 1944, Bryant was captured and would spend the remainder of the war as a POW of the Germans.
Interested in learning more about donating artifacts to the Museum? See our information on how to Donate an Artifact.
The Prima brothers from New Orleans, Leon and Louis, were featured in the 8 September 1944 issue of The Higgins Worker, when Louis traveled through New Orleans on tour. Louis Prima had gained success in the 1930s as jazz vocalist, trumpeter and bandleader. During the war, Louis continued to enjoy popularity, despite the overt Italian themes in his music (his hit “Angelina (Waitress at the Pizzeria)” was released in 1944). His older brother, Leon Prima, also a musician of some note, was employed at Higgins Industries as a mill worker.
It’s been more than a month since I started my internship at The National WWII Museum now and I’d like to share my experience with you all. I come from Paris, France, where I was born. I recently graduated in Museum Studies and Military Heritage at the Ecole du Louvre and I decided to look for a job experience in a museum abroad…that led me to New Orleans.
June 20, I arrived here and discovered first the French Quarter and the incredibly rich history of this city. Then I visited The National WWII Museum: the glass windowed buildings let the visitor see planes and boats even before coming in, it is D-Day in the middle of New Orleans. Inside, I was welcomed by veterans and discovered this huge museum. The conception of the museum is really different from the way we show World War II in European, and especially, French museums because the point of view is not the same at all: The National WWII Museum displays the American experience of the war, while in France exhibits would usually concentrate on the European Theater of Operations.
After this impressive visit, I started to work in the Curatorial department. My job is focused on a French collection of archives that need to be described and, for some of them, translated. Most of the documents come from the former Saint-Lô Museum that transferred its collection to The National WWII Museum when it closed. Saint-Lô is a small town of Normandy, very close to the D-Day beaches, that suffered a lot from the German Occupation, and the Allies bombings. The museum had collected the personal archives of local people to keep memory of the life of French people during wartime in Normandy: farmers, shopkeepers or soldiers.
These documents can be very moving; these people could have been my grandparents. This is also the case of another collection I had to document and translate: Marie-Louise Lévi-Ménard recently donated her personal archives to The National WWII Museum, she was a twenty year old woman in 1944 and entered in Resistance. She lived near Granville, in Normandy too, and started to secretly write communiqués of the London radio in order to keep the neighborhood informed while the Allies were preparing D-Day. Radio sets were forbidden and requisitioned by German authorities, and it was really hard to get enough paper and ink because of the shortage. German officers occupied her home during three days and she stole a typewriter from them to make more copies of her communiqués.
Documenting and preserving these collections is essential for the museum even if you don’t always see these objects in the exhibits. The museum keeps the testimony of people who lived and made World War II; it also helps historians and researchers.
While here, I participated in a presentation of French Legion of Honor medals. Six American WWII veterans who fought in Normandy were awarded the highest French decoration for their actions in the liberation of France. So The National WWII Museum can tell the stories of the ones who fought and died and celebrates those who are still able to relate D-Day.
I am really enthusiastic about my experience at The National WWII Museum, I have learned a lot and New Orleans is a very nice place to stay and visit not only for the Museum but also for the rest of the city where so many cultures meet.
Post by The National WWII Museum Intern Margot Delvert
Program from the 10,000th Boat Ceremony. The National WWII Museum, 0000.045.001
July 23, 1944, was a milestone in production for Higgins Industries. Seventy years ago today, Higgins Industries held an enormous celebration upon the delivery of the 10,000th boat to the Navy. The 10,000th boat, an LCM, was completed a day earlier and transported on a platform to the site of the celebration, New Orleans Lakefront. Not even two months following the D-Day landings at Normandy, Higgins staged a reenactment of those landings at New Orleans Lake Pontchartrain. A ship anchored in the lake unloaded troops onto landing craft which invaded the seawall of Lake Pontchartrain where thousands watched the display. PT boats also played a role in the show, patrolling the shores, and aircraft flew as if in defense against enemy aircraft. The ceremony was attended by Bureau of Ships chief Rear Admiral E.L. Cochrane, who in his address to the crowd called Andrew Jackson Higgins “a pioneer” in the field of landing craft. He praised the work and achievements of the men and women of Higgins Industries.
Ceremony for the 10,000th Higgins boat on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, 23 July 1944. Gift of Louis Gilmore, 2008.379.023
Ceremony for the 10,000th Higgins boat on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, 23 July 1944. Gift of Louis Gilmore, 2008.379.024
Ceremony for the 10,000th Higgins boat on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, 23 July 1944. Gift of Louis Gilmore, 2008.379.038
Ceremony for the 10,000th Higgins boat on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, 23 July 1944. Gift in memory of Andres N. Horcasitas, 2009.428.010
Ceremony for the 10,000th Higgins boat on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, 23 July 1944. Gift in memory of Andres N. Horcasitas, 2009.428.011
Ceremony for the 10,000th Higgins boat on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, 23 July 1944. Gift in memory of Andres N. Horcasitas, 2009.428.012
Antoinette “Toni” Miller (later Tamburo) worked as a clerk at the Higgins Aircraft facility in New Orleans. Like many other women who worked during WWII, Toni saved her pay stub as reminder of her wartime contributions. The pay stub in the gallery below dates from seventy years ago today. Toni worked over twenty hours of overtime and also put $11.25 of her total $88.11 toward war bonds. Following the war’s end, Toni was laid off from her job, only to be rehired months later in a reclassified position at a lower wage. Toni Tamburo devoted the bulk of her post-wartime career to teaching.
Toni (right) and friend at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. Gift of Theresa Tamburo, 2013.072
Like many other women who worked during WWII, Toni Miller saved her pay stub as reminder of her wartime contributions. Toni worked over twenty hours of overtime and also put $11.25 of her total $88.11 toward war bonds. Gift of Theresa Tamburo, 2013.072.002
Antoinette “Toni” Miller (later Tamburo) worked as a clerk at the Higgins Aircraft facility in New Orleans. Gift of Theresa Tamburo,2013.072
Maj. Newton Cole, a Chemical Officer with the 29th Infantry Division was captured by the Germans seventy years ago today on D+13, June 19, 1944. He became a “Guest of the Third Reich,” one of the 93,941 Americans held as prisoners of war by Germany during WWII. The image below is taken from the journal that Newton Cole kept while a POW in Oflag 64. The entire journal can be seen on the website from our past special exhibit, Guests of the Third Reich: American POWs in Europe—the name of which was inspired by Cole and other POWs who referred to themselves as “Guests” or “Visitors” of the Reich.
US Navy Official photography, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum
Seventy years ago today, US Navy personnel examined the German Goliath in Normandy. The tracked mine was developed for use beginning in 1942. Goliath operators used a joystick control box connected by 2,000 yards of wire to steer the battery powered device. Carrying over 200 pounds of high explosives the device was intended for one-time use including destroying tanks, disrupting troop formations and demolishing structures.
Slow moving and highly visible Goliath’s command cables were often severed, and its thin armor provided minimal protection during battle. Despite its limited success, technology used to develop the Goliath helped to lay the foundation for modern remotely operated vehicles.
Reginald Joseph Mitchell. Image courtesy of the Science Museum, London.
The Supermarine Spitfire. Image courtesy of the National Archives.
Born on this day in 1895 aircraft designer Reginald Joseph Mitchell developed the Supermarine Spitfire, a highly effective British fighter which played a decisive role during World War II. Designed to replace the Bristol Bulldog in the early 1930s, the Royal Air Force requested a fighter that could fly in both light and dark conditions, sustain 195 miles per hour and reach an altitude of 15,000 feet in 8.5 minutes.
Supermarine Aviation Works specialized in racing seaplane; the Spitfire was its first land-based aircraft. Characterized by its sleek lines and elliptical wings, the Spitfire proved to be light, fast and versatile in air combat. While Mitchell led the effort to design the plane, he did not live to see it in action as he succumbed to cancer at the age of 42 on June 11, 1937.
PT-305 being loaded for transport in Norfolk, Virginia. Courtesy of 305 crew member Jim Nerison.
Seventy years ago, on 21 April 1944, PT-305 arrived in the Mediterranean. Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 22, or RON22, was transported to the combat theater aboard the USS Merrimack. According to the deck log of PT-305, she was kept on board the Merrimack for several days, anchored in the port of Mers El Kébir in Algeria until 25 April. Lt. W.B. Borsdorff wrote: “1825: Put over side into water by U.S. Army and moored portside to alongside USS Merrimack.”
Crew member, torpedo man Jim Nerison remembered:
The squadron spent about three months in Miami, Florida for shake down and training. The training included all aspects for which the boats were designed: torpedo firing, gunnery practice, speed trials and boat handling maneuvers.
In preparation for over-seas duty the boats were dry-docked, freshly painted, and all systems were checked out thoroughly.
To avoid the rough water off of Cape Hatteras, we once again took the intracoastal waterways north to Norfolk. PT 305 and three other boats were placed in cradles on the deck of a navy tanker. The tanker joined a large convoy of other ships for an Atlantic crossing; then through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea. The tanker anchored in the harbor at Oran, Algeria on the north shore of Africa.
There was only one crane in Oran with the capability to pick up a 70+-ton PT boat so we had to wait two weeks to be off loaded into the water. We took the boats from Oran, stopped in Algiers to re-fuel, and then on to Bizerte in Tunisia.
Click here to learn more about PT-305 and her restoration here at The National WWII Museum.
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.