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david leigh-smith
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On This Day…February 3rd

February 3, 2019 · in Photo Collections · · 4 · 1.7K

The USS Enterprise CVN-65 was officially decommissioned on February 3rd, 2017. The event was marked with a private celebration on the hangar deck.

Russian soldiers search some of the 200-plus German tanks left in the streets of Stalingrad after Field Marshall Paulus’ surrender.

Robert Murray Hanson was born on February 4th 1920, and died one day short of his 24th birthday today in 1944. A gifted fighter pilot, in a period of seventeen days he shot down twenty enemy aircraft, earning him the nickname of ‘Butcher Bob’. Four of these victories were achieved on January 30, 1944, during one Avenger strike on Rabaul.

As is often the case in these stories, Hanson was due to return to the US in a matter of days but on hearing there was a planned straffing mission on Rabaul he volunteered despite already flying that day.

There was a particular Japanese held lighthouse on Cape St. George, Southern New Ireland, that regularly caused the group problems by firing flak at them as they passed the headland. In an effort to take this out, Hanson made a run at the lighthouse but was hit by flak. His squadron leader Capt. Harold Spears watched as Hanson attempted to land his Corsair in the rough sea. The wing of the F4U grabbed a wave and the plane disintegrated as it cartwheeled into the water.

(Hanson’s F4U Corsair)

Presidential citation...

“The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to FIRST LIEUTENANT ROBERT M. HANSON, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE for service as set forth in the following CITATION”

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a fighter pilot attached to Marine Fighting Squadron TWO FIFTEEN in action against Japanese forces at Bougainville Islands, November 1, 1943, and New Britain Island, January 24, 1944. Undeterred by fierce opposition and fearless in the face of overwhelming odds, First Lieutenant Hanson fought the Japanese boldly and with daring aggressiveness.”

“On November 1, while flying cover for our landing operations at Empress Augusta Bay, he dauntlessly attacked six enemy torpedo bombers, forcing them to jettison their bombs and destroying one Japanese plane during the action. Cut off from his division while deep in enemy territory during a high cover flight over Simpson Harbor on January 24, First Lieutenant Hanson waged a lone and gallant battle against hostile interceptors as they were orbiting to attack our bombers and, striking with devastating fury, brought down four Zeros and probably a fifth.”

“Handling his plane superbly in both pursuit and attack measures, he was a master of individual air combat, accounting for a total of 25 Japanese aircraft in this theater of war. His great personal valor and invincible fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

German soldiers bury comrades after the surrender at Stalingrad. With over a quarter of a million German troops found dead by the Russians it is fair to say that this was not a dignity afforded to many. February 3rd started three ‘official’ days of mourning for the Sixth Army.

Nice shot of the island and Enterprise's ‘new’ F6F-3's on the flight deck ready for strikes against the Marshall Islands on February 3rd, 1944.

In the latest instalment of ‘soldiers with dogs’, this is Private Jesse Goin with his new friend after the fighting eased on February 3rd, Kwajalein, 1944.

A B-17 flies over Berlin on February 3rd, 1945. This day saw the allies bomb Berlin on an almost unimaginable scale in an attack force that consisted of 42 bombardment groups in three air divisions and 15,000 crew members. While 434 B-24 Liberators struck the oil plants at Magdeburg, over one thousand B-17 Flying Fortresses were to aim their bombs on the city center of the capital of the Third Reich.

A first hand report from German trooper taking out a Russian T-34 on February 3rd, 1943...

“In the early morning hours I worked my way towards a tank that was standing inside a minefield in front of our positions. I climbed it from behind, so the crew could not hit me with machine guns. Suddenly a Coppola was opened and a head became visible.
I took the AT mine I carried and, as hard as I could, smashed it on the russians head.
I then armed the fuse, threw the mine into the tank and immediately jumped down into a nearby shell crater. In the same moment the mine exploded setting the tank ablaze.”

A Japanese photo of 3rd February, 1942, showing their advance on Bataan.

Sidney Stewart was a survivor of the Bataan ‘death march’ and endured three years in Japanese captivity in World War II. He wrote the highly praised memoir ''Give Us This Day,'' (account of how the prisoners endured their intense suffering, akin to ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl). Dr. Stewart, who became a psychoanalyst after the war and opened a practice in Paris, was a soldier in Manila when Japanese forces landed in the Philippines in December 1941. He was among the troops evacuated to the Bataan Peninsula. He wrote the following about his experiences...

“We could hear the shelling up on the hillside and the crashing and whining as the shells went through the air. But at least we were having a break. There was only an occasional zinging of snipers’ bullets whizzing and biting at the leaves of the trees”.

“Suddenly a shell shattered alarmingly close over our heads. We ducked down into the trench again and then stood up when no more came. Just a momentary fright. I couldn’t help comparing that fright to the greater, overall fear”.

“Fright is a thing of the moment, attacking as a cornered animal does, on a second’s notice. But fear is an ulcerous growth, pulsating and alive, attached to you like a jungle leech. No fire under the exploding heavens can burn it free. Sometimes it is not so bad, but then again it grips you and binds you as though it will not allow you the smallest movement. Again, at other times, through absolute weariness, you feel you can be free from it. But no, you can only hope to control it”.

“It is always there. It lives with you, whispering sounds easily heard above the crashing world around you, and you are two people, yourself, and the fear that lives within you. When a man is blown to pieces beside you, it hammers in your brain and makes you smell the warm, sickening blood, a smell which even the acrid powder smoke cannot drive away”.

“Oh dear God, give us rest. Not rest from weariness, for gladly we would never close our eyes if only that gnawing fear would die”.

Reader reactions:
8  Awesome

4 responses

  1. Two Enterprises for the price of one.

  2. It’s going to be another eight years before we have another ‘Enterprise’ at sea. All being well, CV-80 will be operational in 2027...

  3. Great photos and accompanying stories, David. Thanks!

  4. Hello David,
    Great selection. But again, my favorite is the soldier, transporting the little dog.
    You always wonder what happened with these animals. Can hardly imagine it was allowed to take them back to the States. Do you know of some dogs that reached the Statue of Liberty
    Regards, Dirk

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