70th Anniversary of D-Day

Twenty years ago this week, Bill and I were en route to Normandy for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. Bill had been

Bill and Sandra McGee commemorated the 50th Anniversary of D-Day on the Royal Viking Sun, New York to Paris.

Bill and Sandra McGee commemorated the 50th Anniversary of D-Day on the Royal Viking Sun, New York to Paris.

invited to steam over with other World War II vets on the historic WWII Liberty ship, the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien, which had taken part in the June 6,1944 D-Day Landings.

I talked Bill into going over on the Royal Viking Sun which was offering a more comfortable D-Day Anniversary Crossing from Montreal to Paris for veterans. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Bill and Captain Ernest Murdock led discussions on board about the roles played in the Landings by the U.S. Merchant Marine and Naval Armed Guard gun crews. I met many veterans who had stormed the beaches of Normandy. Being from the generation who did not talk about themselves easily, these veterans were in a place where they could finally unburden themselves of some horrific memories. I will never forget that voyage.

-Sandra McGee


69th Anniversary of D-Day

Today marks the 69th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion and Normandy landings on 6 June 1944…

Bill and Sandra McGee commemorated the 50th Anniversary of D-Day on the Royal Viking Sun, New York to Paris.

Bill and Sandra McGee commemorated the 50th Anniversary of D-Day on the Royal Viking Sun, New York to Paris.

WE AIM TO DELIVER. WE DID! (U.S. Navy Armed Guard)

(Motto of U.S. Navy Armed Guard)
Author and WWII U.S. Navy Armed Guard veteran Bill McGee attending a Memorial Day Service, May 27, 2013.

Author and WWII U.S. Navy Armed Guard veteran Bill McGee attending a Memorial Day Service, May 27, 2013.

In World War II, 145,000 U.S. Navy Armed Guard served on thousands of merchant ships (freighters, tankers and troop transports). The U.S. Merchant Marine crews operated the ships and the Naval Armed Guard protected and defended the ships from enemy air and submarine attacks.

“Little has been written about service in the Naval Armed Guard in which nearly 145,000 men served… William L. McGee remedies this with Bluejacket Odyssey, 1942-1946: From Guadalcanal to Bikini, Naval Armed Guard in the Pacifica book that has value for historians.” –Naval History Magazine

“PACIFIC EXPRESS” by William L. McGee makes Marine Corps Reading List

CoverPacificExpress, Vol III San Francisco, CA—BMC Publications is proud to announce their latest military history, PACIFIC EXPRESS: The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II, William L. McGee (Editor) and Sandra McGee (Editor), has made the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List (also known as the Marine Corps Reading List).

The Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List – Official Site is a list of required annual reading for all officer and enlisted Marines, whether active duty or reserve.

PACIFIC EXPRESS – the third volume in McGee’s trilogy, AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC IN WWII — is an edited collection under one cover of the best works by other historians on the importance of military logistics in World War II.

Consider this: During World War II, 16.1 million men and women served in the U.S. Armed Forces. However, for every one combatant in the U.S. Armed Forces, there were ten supportive personnel both overseas and on the home front. (Source: Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Record Administrator)

“After two decades of researching and writing three other books about the Pacific Theater in World War II, I felt compelled to focus on the subject of logistics to honor all the men and women – military and civilian – who served in logistical support roles for the front line combat personnel. I felt these non-combatant service personnel were (and are) often overshadowed by those who served in combat.” –William L. McGee, From the Preface to PACIFIC EXPRESS

For more about PACIFIC EXPRESS and other books by William L. McGee, visit  www.williammcgeebooks.com.

70th Anniversary of the Battle for Guadalcanal

“For us who were there, or whose friends were there, Guadalcanal is not a name, but an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells. Sometimes I dream of a great battle monument on Guadalcanal; a granite monolith on which the names of all who fell and of all ships that rest in Ironbottom Sound may be carved. At other times, I feel that the jagged cone of Savo Island, forever brooding over the blood-thickened waters of the Sound, is the best monument to the men and ships who here rolled back the enemy tide.”
-Adm Samuel Eliot Morison 

Excepted from Part I The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943: Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point by William L. McGee

Two WWII Warships


(Photo above) Two WWII Warships – The battleship USS Iowa  (background) and the classic wooden yacht Pat Pending (foreground) at the Richmond Shipyard, Calif. May 2012. (Photo Kimball Livingston)

On Saturday, May 26, 2012, the USS Iowa left San Francisco Bay and was towed down the coast of California to its new home in San Pedro, California where it became a museum ship. The Iowa cruised at a rate of about 10 kilometres per hour, a fraction of the 61 kph it could make in its heyday.

The historic battleship Iowa was commissioned in 1943 and saw duty in World War II, the Korean War, and took part in escorting tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war before being decommissioned in 1990.

Like so many others, the historic ship then fell into a state of disrepair. However, the state of Iowa donated $3 million and private sources and loans provided another $1.5 million to the refurbishment of the ship. These contributions, along with 25,000 volunteer hours and donated supplies and equipment add up to $7 million for restoration of the ship.

The goal was to restore the 887-foot ship not to its condition when first commissioned in 1943 but to its appearance when armed with contemporary weapons such as Tomahawk missiles for its second commission in 1984 after spending the previous 26 years in mothballs.

Despite the extensive repairs, the Iowa could not steam to Los Angeles under its own power because the contract with the Navy forbade it. The Navy did not want a ship of this power fully operational outside of its control.

The Pat Pending, a 50-foot long motor yacht, was launched in 1929, a beautiful white yacht with teak trim, a classic out of the great age of motor yachting.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, all San Francisco Bay motor yachts more than 40 feet long were requisitioned by the U.S. Navy for submarine net patrol on San Francisco Bay. From December 9, 1941 to October 12, 1944, the Pat Pending’s responsibility was to patrol the cable nets strung across the Bay entrance to prevent enemy submarines from entering the Bay. The boat was painted Navy gray outside and military green inside, and outfitted with a deck gun on the bow and depth charges on the middle deck.

After the war, the Pat Pending returned to private ownership. After extensive reconstruction, the classic wooden yacht returned to its previous life as a luxurious pleasure boat for cruising and entertaining.

7 Lessons Learned from the Greatest Generation – by Chaplain Michael Gatton

Lessons Learned from the Greatest Generation

(Rev. Michael Gatton, Chaplain, USS LCI National Association, gave these remarks at the Association’s Nashville Reunion in 2011. Excerpted with permission.)

EVERY GENERATION LEAVES A LEGACY OF LESSONS TO BE LEARNED. But, there may never have been a generation who taught more valuable lessons than the one born between 1914 and 1929. You were the folks who grew up during the Great Depression. You are the men who went off to fight in the Big One. And, you are the men who came home from that war and built a nation into an economic powerhouse. You knew the meaning of sacrifice, both in terms of material possessions and of real
blood, sweat, and tears. You were humble men who never bragged about what you had done or been through. You were loyal, patriotic, and level-headed. You were our Greatest Generation.

Tom Brokaw gave you that name; and while it’s a bold claim, it has been earned. You weren’t perfect by any means, of course, but as a whole you were a cut above the rest. In Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, he remembers his mother telling him the story of the day Gordon Larsen came into the post office where she worked. Larsen was typically a cheerful and popular member of their community, but that day he had stopped in to complain about the rowdiness of the teenagers the night before, which had been Halloween. Brokaw’s mother was surprised at his tone and asked him good naturedly, “Oh Gordon, what were you doing when you were seventeen?” Gordon looked at her squarely in the eye and said, “I was landing at Guadalcanal.” He then turned and left the post office. You were men who were surely mature beyond your years. Maybe it’s time we remember the lessons you have taught us and embrace once again the values of the Greatest Generation.

Lesson # 1: Take Personal Responsibility for Your life. While today’s generation often shirks responsibility as too much work, you relished the chance to step up to the plate and test your mettle. One son of a WWII Medal of Honor winner remembers of his dad and his peers, “For them, responsibility was their juice. They loved responsibility. They took it head-on, and anytime they could get a task and be responsible, that was what really got em’ going.” And when the Greatest Generation accepted responsibility for something, you also accepted all the consequences of that decision, whether good or bad. You were not a generation of whiners or excuse makers. Unlike today when individuals and businesses reach for a bailout or an easy fix, you took pride in personal accountability.

Lesson #2: Be Frugal. Is your house stuffed with doodads and boxes of stuff? Do you have a sort of pack rat mentality? Could it be because you grew up in the Great Depression where the next canister of oats or pair of pants was not guaranteed? You learned to live on less and be grateful for the things you had, no matter how humble. It didn’t take a new Wii to brighten your Christmas morning; an orange at the bottom of a stocking was enough to knock your socks off. This was not the generation that purchased Corvettes to soothe their mid-life crisis, nor the generation that equated success with the purchase of a McMansion. This was the generation that was thrilled to move into small suburban houses of 750 square feet — not as big as some of today’s garages. One of the mottos of the Greatest Generation was “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Lesson #3: Be Humble. Typical of your generation is the story of a son or daughter who finds a war medal stashed in the attic after dad passes, he having never told them about it. Even if your exploits had been brave and heroic, you rarely talked about the war- maybe because of the difficulty in remembering such carnage, but also from the sense that you had simply been fulfilling your duty, and thus had no reason to brag. Brokaw observes: “The World War II generation did what was expected of them. But they never talked about it. It was part of the Code.”

Lesson #4: Love Loyally. You took your marriage vows seriously. Brokaw wrote, “It was the last generation in which, broadly speaking, marriage was a commitment and divorce was not an option.” Numbers bear Brokaw’s anecdotal evidence out: of all the new marriages in 1940, 1 in 6 ended in divorce. By the late 1990s, that number was 1 in 2. Yours was a time when there was no hanging out or “hooking up. Men asked women on real dates, and had serious intentions in doing so. When a particular gal caught a man’s heart, he proposed and they got hitched. And they were married for the next 60 years. Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad today, if we didn’t think there was an escape hatch, and we knew that whatever bumps in the road we hit, we had to work through them together.

Lesson #5: Work Hard. In war you learned to focus on the objective at hand and not give up until that objective and the mission as a whole was accomplished. When you got home, you carried that focus over to the world of work. They didn’t fall into the fallacy that you had to find “your passion” to be happy. You seemed to find happiness in any job you did, because you weren’t just working for personal, self-fulfillment· you labored for a bigger purpose: to give your families the financial security you hadn’t enjoyed growing up. As soon as they graduate college, many folks today want the things it took you 30 years to acquire. But, you knew that going into debt was not the way to get the things you wanted. You understood that the good things in life must be earned by honest work.

Lesson #6: Embrace Challenge. You weren’t the Greatest Generation despite the challenges you faced, but because of them. Today too many shirk challenge and difficult pursuits, believing that the easier life is, the happier they’ll be. But you knew better. You knew that one cannot have the bitter without the sweet, and that true happiness comes from overcoming the kind of challenges that build character and refine the soul. The challenges you experienced made your joy all the more sweet because it was tinged with the gratitude of knowing how easily it could all have been taken away.

And, Lesson #7: Dont Make Life So Dang Complicated. If there’s a common thread in these lessons, it’s having a common sense and a level-headed approach to life. While today, we obsess about finding ourselves, or the perfect mate, or our passion in life, your uncomplicated approach t0 life is refreshing. You didn’t go on a diet, you simply ate whole food; you didn’t exercise, you worked around the house; you didn’t obsess about your relationships, you just found a lady you loved and married her. You always looked sharp, but never fussed with fashion trends. You didn’t mull over which appliance better suited your personality and image, you just bought the machine that worked the best. You didn’t think about how to get things done, you just did them. Instead of spending time navel-gazing your life away you just got up and went. So simple!

Thanks, gentlemen (and the ladies who love you), for lessons taught. YOU are the GREATEST!