Steve recently gave a talk about The Last to Die at Busboys and Poets, a local bookstore in Washington, D.C. CSPAN2 recorded it live and here for your enjoyment is the link: http://www.c-span.org/video/?327397-1/book-discussion-last-die
The interview is extensive, nearly 40 minutes long. Batchelor did his homework and had great observations and knew his stuff!
Enjoy the interview, aired on August 21st: http://johnbatchelorshow.com/podcasts/fri-82117-hr-3-jbs-last-die-defeated-empire-forgotten-mission-and-last-american-killed
Stephen Harding has written an article for The Daily Beast on his latest book, The Last to Die. To follow the article, click here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/15/how-the-end-of-world-war-ii-almost-didn-t-happen.html
There are more articles to come, more news to come soon! Stay tuned!
I'm so pleased to report that a second expedition to recover the bell of the HMS Hood has been completed! Three years ago the team from Vulcan Inc., a company run by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, attempted to retrieve the bell for the British Museum, and the weather gods just weren't cooperating. The Hood was the pride of the British Royal Navy when she was sunk by the Bismarck on May 24th, 1941. Three days later, the Bismarck was sunk after an onslaught by the BRN. Why is this consequential to us or to the families who follow the Strong project? For 10 months between 1940 and 1941, Captain Joseph H. Wellings was assigned to the BRN in an advisory capacity. During this time he spent 5 weeks on board the Hood from the middle of December 1940 to the end of January 1941 and became close to many of her men. When Hood was sunk, Wellings was on his way back across the Atlantic toward home. The ship transporting him turned around and headed back toward danger and after Bismarck. When they finally encountered the German battleship, Wellings was on board the HMS Rodney and was there when the British fleet took her down. This effort to retrieve the bell for the British Museum and the families of the men lost on Hood, I think this is something Captain Wellings would support fully. The bell will now have a place of honor and people will not forget Hood, or the events surrounding her demise. To see the story and watch the videos of the retrieval, here is the link: http://www.paulallen.com/News/News-Articles/Hood-Bell-Recovery
The man behind the retrieval was again, David Mearns of Blue Water Recoveries, LTD. Some day I hope to put David to work on locating Strong. He's on the job and working to help see it's done, and I can't imagine working with anyone else on this. Keep your fingers crossed that some day we may finally locate her and be able to lay some of our own memories to rest.
In covering WW2 subjects related to my family, I can’t forget that there was a land, air and sea war in Europe and the Atlantic while they were bombing the islands of the Pacific. Because of this I need to remember Billy’s older brother Gano Hedrick. While Billy was headed for the South Pacific, Gano was training to head for Europe to do his part in the war effort. Older by four years, Gano was in the Army and landed in the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion. He happened to land on the shores of Omaha White Beach in France just after D-Day, and was in Germany, France, England and Belgium during a very historic engagement. He survived the war and was able to come home to his family. I never really knew Gano, he lived in another state while I was growing up and have no recollection of being around him. What motivated me to educate myself a bit more on the European theater? I’ve been reading “Masters of the Air” by Donald L. Miller, which covers the history of the 8th Air Force and its effectiveness against the Luftwaffe in the skies over Germany. Winning the air war in Europe was key to ending the conflicts there. While covering the more military and strategic aspects of this venture, Miller also delves into the personal, private and many extremely painful aspects of serving in the European theater, and how different it was from being in the Pacific. Though I have no stories of Gano’s to share, I do have his military records and know a bit about his life before and after he went overseas. After getting a copy of the after-action report on the activities of his company, I got a glimpse of his life and work during his time in Europe between June 23rd, 1944 and September of 1945.
Gano Johnson Hedrick was born January 24th, 1915 in Wyoming, Kentucky. He grew up in Bath, Montgomery and Clark counties same as Billy, but seemed to have a rougher time of things. He was 10 years old when his parents parted ways in 1926. This was just prior to the beginning of the depression. Even for farm families who were more self-sufficient than most, making ends meet had to challenging at times. The younger kids went to live with their father and new step-mother in Winchester for 6 years. Emma remarried in 1932 and the children came back to live with their mother and new step-father on a farm in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Gano would have been 17 at that time, Billy was 13.
In June of 1941 Gano enlisted in the Army. From there he spent time at various camps training. He mustered out of Camp Grant, Illinois on June 17th and then to Camp Polk in Louisiana, training in “5th grade duty (244) Driver”. By the middle of July in 1942 he had shipped to Camp Young outside of Indio, California for desert training. At the time, George S. Patton was the CO. There is now a museum in his honor at the entrance of where Camp Young used to be.
Kentucky boys evidently don’t do well in the desert, and Gano had some issues with heat exhaustion. He spent some time in the hospital recovering, as he had a few recurring medical issues that complicated his complete recovery. Gano did recover, but unfortunately a portion of his documents that would give me information about his life between August and December of 1942 are missing. There was a fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, and a high percentage of Army records were lost. On some of Gano’s documents there are singe marks, as the copies were made from documents recovered and somewhat restored. I do know that during this time in Kentucky, his mother Emma was living her last days and died on September 18th, 1942. Billy made it home from V-7 training for her funeral, and I can only guess that enduring medical issues kept Gano bound to the hospital and doctors so he could not get home.
In January of 1943 he was admitted to the 11th Evac military hospital at Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania to deal with his medical conditions. There was a six week convalescence, and on February 23rd of 1943 he returned to duty. In July of 1943 he lost his younger brother Billy, someone he was close to. His records are vague on his actions and camp assignment until he leaves for France in June of 1944.
In June of 1944 Gano’s regiment, the 36th Air Infantry Regiment, shipped to France, landing at Omaha White Beach just a few weeks after D-Day. During WWII, the 36th was involved in several campaigns including Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. Gano was attached to the 3rd Battalion. According to his release documents, while in the service of the 36th AIR, he was a driver and mechanic: “Drove half truck to transport personnel and ammunition. Checked operation of light brakes, steering mechanism, and other operation parts. Serviced, cleaned and lubricated vehicle. Knows principles of internal combustion engines. Used mechanics hand tools. Drove over all types of terrain in all types of weather”, and if he was at the battle front, all types of conditions. A representative of the 36th AIR web site tells me they saw their first action shortly after landing on June 29th.
In December 1944, allied troops and Germans clashed in one of the most decisive battles toward the end of the war in Europe, the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945). I’ve been reading up on the battle to determine just how close to the action his troops actually were- like paint on a fencepost close! Every now and again, where they were became the front line. The 36th AIR and 3rd Battalion were all around the battle, providing support to that front line by either creating or clearing roadblocks, providing security, seeing that supply lines were kept clear, maintaining machinery and taking turns acting as an attack force. One reference book told about how difficult it was at times to get medical supplies to the front line and they had to resort to extreme tactics, including putting the supplies in missile casings and firing them off to where they were needed. The after action report on the 36th AIR discusses this specifically and corroborates the missile fired supplies.
By July of 1945, he was on his way home from the war. In September, he was honorably discharged with several medals to his name including the American Defense Services Ribbon, the Europe-Africa-Middle East Theater Ribbon, 1 Silver Battle Star, 4 overseas service bars, 1 service stripe, a Good Conduct Medal and a Unit Badge for the 36th AIR, nicknamed “Spartans”, and with the motto, “Deeds not words”.
Gano came home to live a good long life. It took a long time for me to appreciate his role, and thanks to the research I’ve done on Billy I had the skills and the resources to learn more about him. I hope to continue with this, but for now just thank you Uncle Gano for your service. Wish I could have known you.
Welcome to the blog! I'm a life long Kentuckian with a degree in Anthropology, thus a nice background in research, thanks to some great profs at the University of Kentucky. Family and historical research are what float my boat, and this project has been the heart of it for a very long time now. I welcome input and ideas for blog entries, so if you have something to contribute I'll happily post it.