World War II Chronicle: 5 January 1942

“The front needs your skis.”

– Adolf Hitler

Two weeks after issuing an order for German citizens to donate winter clothing to the troops freezing on the Eastern Front, Berlin announces they have gathered 1.5 million fur coats. Among the haul are articles from Paul von Hindenburg, Germany’s former president and top commander during the first world war, and flying furs from Max Immelman — Germany’s first ace. Who knows how long it will take for the items to reach the front. It’s entirely possible that pickings were pretty slim by the time the clothing reached the end of the supply chain deep inside Russia. There were undoubtedly plenty of very warm rear-echelon troops while the Immelmann and von Hindenburg donations may have turned into souvenirs for well-connected officers.

This report comes two days after Adolf Hitler’s call for Germans to turn in their skis. In this issue, the Associated Press reports that all German ski competitions have been canceled.

A photo on the top of page A-3 shows new Pacific Fleet commander Rear Adm. Chester W. Nimitz congratulating sailors for their amazing rescue of a B-17 crew that had been lost at sea for three days. So heroic was the mission that Nimitz presented the crew members with medals less than 24 hours after their deeds.

The White House cited the Marine Corps units that fought so valiantly on Wake Island with a Presidential Unit Citation. From Navy Department Communique No. 25:

Citation by
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
of
The Wake detachment of the First Defense Battalion, U. S. Marine Corps,
under command of Maj. James P. S. Devereux, U. S. Marines
AND
Marine Fighting Squadron 211 of Marine Aircraft Group 21, Under
command of Maj. Paul A. Putnam, U. S. Marines

“The courageous conduct of the officers and men of these units, who defended Wake Island against an overwhelming superiority of enemy air, sea, and land attacks from December 8 to 22, 1941, has been noted with admiration by their fellow countrymen and the civilized world, and will not be forgotten so long as gallantry and heroism are respected and honored. These units are commended for their devotion to duty and splendid conduct at their battle stations under most adverse conditions. With limited defensive means against attacks in great force, they manned their shore installations and flew their aircraft so well that five enemy warships were either sunk or severely damaged, many hostile planes shot down, and an unknown number of land troops destroyed.”


Cmdr. Tunney circa 1944 (Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection)

The sports section features a cartoon of James J. “Gene” Tunney, former heavyweight champion of the world, now a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve. Tunney enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1918, sailing to France with the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s 11th Marine Regiment, which arrived too late in the war to see combat.

From the Marine Corps History Division’s biography on Tunney:

“While Tunney was on duty in the Intermediate Section of the American Expeditionary Forces he really commenced his athletic career with bouts held within his own organization. His first important scrap was at Romo Rantin just before the Armistice, when he defeated the representative of another section of the American Expeditionary Force. After the Armistice a very intensive program of athletics was begun throughout the American Forces. Part of this program was to determine the champion of the American Forces in the various classes of boxing. Tunney fought in the ‘light heavyweight’ class. In view of the large number of organizations there were necessarily many elimination bouts. Tunney, of course, fought many of these and did not lose a single one. The candidates for the championship of the various classes were reduced to six of each class. These final bouts were held at the Palais de Glace in Paris in the spring of 1919. The representatives of Tunney’s class were finally reduced to two, himself and one other. He defeated the other man and thereby become ‘Light Heavyweight Champion’ of the American Expeditionary Forces.”

Pvt. Tunney

“It was the rigid, clean, wholesome, manly training that I received when a member of the Marine Corps that fitted me for the boxing program,” Tunney said. After mustering out in 1919, “The Fighting Marine” was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant in the Marine Reserves in 1926 and promoted to captain the following year.

Once Navy Secretary Frank Knox called Tunney into service with the Naval Reserve in 1940, he was named Physical Director and Coordinator of Physical Education, initially charged with developing the athletic program for Naval Air Stations Pensacola. Jacksonville, and Corpus Christi.

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Author: Documents

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