Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Captain Frank D Centanni, KIA on Corregidor, February 17, 1945, HQ Co, 34th IR, 24th ID

Captain Frank D. Centanni, HQ Co, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, KIA at the foot of Malinta Hill, Corregidor, 2/17/1945
He is buried in Manila, Plot A Row 8 Grave 17

He was the middle child of 7 Centanni siblings (3 brothers, 3 sisters- he was the only siblings to die during WWII)
(photos courtesy of L. Bogart)

'Plaque found in the trunk of junked auto': 
"To the memory of Frank D. Centanni, First Grade Fireman of Engine 28, with the rank of Captain, Headquarters Company, 34th Infantry, Killed in Action, Leading his troops at the foot of Malinta Hill, Corregidor, February 17, 1945."

"This 1945 aerial view of Malinta Hill shows its north (photo’s left side) and western slopes (photo’s mid to right side). Much of the south western part of the hill has been pulverized into rubble. Japanese guns on Bataan had a clear view of this part of Malinta Hill."--

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

American Cemetery Manila

Recently, I've had several conversations where the American Cemetery in Manila has come up. I have only met former servicemen who have visited the cemetery as it is not a huge tourist site the way the Normandy American Cemetery or other ETO cemeteries are. (It is very expensive to get to the Philippines and that is one reason the American Cemetery in Manila is not as often visited as other more easily accessed cemeteries.)

It is in fact the largest American WWII Cemetery of troopers buried outside of the US in the world. There are 17,201 buried, and the large monument with the "tablets of the missing" have 36,285 names inscribed in marble, (on 152 acres) .


To put it in perspective, the Normandy cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach has 9,387 buried, and 1,557 on the wall of the missing (on 172.5 acres).

The American cemetery in Holland has 8,301 buried, and 1,722 as listed as MIA (on 65.5 acres).

Here you can see the pathway that leads through the tablets of the missing. 
A walkway like this runs through each half of the memorial; 
listing more than 36k names in all.

I added up all the MIA inscribed names in the 12 WWII cemeteries in Europe and there are 17,647 missing in action names listed. This is less than half of the 36,285 names of the missing in action chiseled into the walls in Manila.

Of course there are many other American cemeteries of WWII dead in Europe which Collectively outnumber the war dead buried in Manila. I am only trying to show perspective to those who've visited the European cemeteries, and have not been able to visit the Manila cemetery.

Panorama of the tablets of the missing in action

Suffice to say; it's the largest concentration of WWII dead outside the US on a relatively small geographical plot comparatively.

I was so fortunate to visit this cemetery numerous times throughout my life growing up in the Philippines. It was always very peaceful when we were there, and sometimes we were one of a couple visitors, sometimes the only ones. We would purchase food and picnic at the cemetery, and spend a few hours each time; sitting in the shade of the many trees, laying in the grass, walking the thousands of graves and reading the inscriptions, and reading the tens of thousands of names inscribed among the tablets of the missing. I specifically remember from the time I was young until I was an adult laying in the grass among the tightly concentrated graves, just letting the weight of all that it represented sink in. I remember seeing the undersides of the crosses and Stars of David as from the ground the white marbled gravestones were as far as the eye could see in any direction. I also remember being there during heavy rainstorms and finding shelter in the tablets of the missing memorials.. the wind blew the rains in to make it slippery, but it was a heck of a shelter from the storm-- surrounded by the names of the missing in action. 
I really appreciate that my parents thought it so valuable to make the trip from where we lived in Antipolo to the cemetery to spend time there on so many different occasions.

I would lay on the inclines like this at an angle growing up. This shows the perspective and trees well.

Most of my friends have not have the chance to visit this cemetery, so I found some of my favorite photos online (thanks Internet- sources on the photos) to show what it looks like. The graves are arranged in a circle pattern around the two halves of the pillars of the missing which come together to form another "circle" in the center of the cemetery. The aerial photo shows the layout best. 
It's beautiful, and easily one of my favorite places on Earth.

(Statistics of War dead taken from the American Battle Monuments Commission website:

~~K.Mishler, WWII FILES, February 9, 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

David Lloyd Owen describes the unique make-up of his LRDG units

David Lloyd Owen with 'Y' Patrol vehicle "Aramis" (sometime WWII)
"This was to be the basic material from which the patrols were manned throughout the war in the desert.  New Zealanders, Guardsmen, Yeomen, and Rhodesians. 
     The New Zealanders were tough, self-reliant individuals with an earthy sense of humour and an indomitable spirit.  They could bear almost any hardship with a shrug of the shoulders and a determination to take more if it was necessary.  I found them slightly aloof and a little suspicious of me at first for they did not know what kind of man I might turn out to be.  They were wary of British Officers whom they sometimes suspected of being ignorant fops.  But once they realized that you were prepared to muck in with them and did not wish to stand apart they were not only most entertaining company, but they became wonderful friends.
New Zealand members of the LRDG pause for tea in the Western Desert, 27 March 1941.
Photo Courtesy IWM- E2307
New Zealand R Patrol troopers with 'Rotowaro',
 30cwt Chevy- photo courtesy
     There is hardly any need to describe the Guardsmen.  Their characteristics as soldiers are so well known and written in the immortal pages of three hundred years of military history.  Even the worst of them are good, and let it suffice to say that we were fortunate in that we had the best.

David Stirling with two members of the SAS together with personnel of 'G' Patrol of the Long Range Desert Group: the man at the top back is probably Guardsman G T Blaney ('Ginger') LRDG. The rest, from left to right: Guardsman Archie Gibson (LRDG), Reg Seekings (SAS), Guardsman Jack Crossley (LRDG), Johnny Cooper (SAS), David Stirling (SAS), Craftsman R N Scott (LRDG), Rose (LRDG), Guardsman Archie Murray (LRDG). Photograph taken in May 1942 at Bir Hacheim after the raid on Benghazi harbour-- Courtesty IWM-HU69650

Vehicles of 'G' Patrol preparing to leave Siwa. 'G' Patrol was formed in 1940 from volunteers from the Coldstream and Scots Guards. 'G' and 'Y' Patrols routinely operated from Siwa.
--Courtesy IWM HU 16614
     The men of the Yeomanry units were those with whom I lived and fought when I took command of them in 1941, and I have never known such comradeship before of since.  They were mostly countrymen, and thus knew how to move silently and how to outwit their enemy, for they had done it often enough as poachers. They were the salt of the English earth and I never doubted their worth. 
'Y' Patrol resting in front of one of their trucks at Air Ghetmir during the evacuation of Jalo. David Lloyd Owen is standing on the extreme left. Having moved their forward base to Jalo, the Long Range Desert Group was forced to withdraw back to Siwa and Kufra when Rommel mounted a counter-offensive and pushed the 8th Army back to the Gazala Line, 30 miles west of Tobruk.--Courtesy IWM-HU16454

     The Rhodesians served with me throughout the war and I saw a lot of them.  It took me most of that time to know them well and then I knew how very friendly they were.  They are naturally reticent and use few words.  Quiet and unassuming they seldom spark, but behind this rather forbidding facade there lies a loyalty, a kindness and a spirit which is unconquerable.  As soldiers they were unique in that one knew that they would never get into bad trouble for their emotions were not subject to excessive changes of temperature and they were, therefore, preeminently reliable."  
S Patrol (Rhodesians) Captain Ken Lazarus is standing in the center, on the right Corporal George Howard (Lazaus' driver). The trooper on the left is unidentified, but not altogether dissimilar to a known photo of Bill Johnson. (The two on the bonnet are both SAAF 15 Sqn.)

Close up view of (Rhodesian) S-Patrol's Pilot Truck. Note camouflage pattern and the mesh covering over the large holes cut in the engine's bonnet. Also of interest is the way the headlights have been painted.  --Courtesy

~~Major General (Ret) DAVID LLOYD OWEN, 
"The Desert, My Dwelling Place", 1957, pgs 58-59
DAVID LLOYD OWEN (left), sometime during WWII
A man of normally immaculate appearance, he began to blend in with his informal and decidedly scruffy comrades. Lloyd Owen’s relaxed and friendly style of leadership relied on persuasion, personal example and the recognition of shared hardships. He won the loyalty and respect of his men by his daring, sheer stamina and first rate tactical skills."
--Courtesy of LRDG.ORG

Purchase "The Desert, My Dwelling Place" Here