Storms lash California, air war intensifies; World War II week by week

Posted by David Middlecamp on February 24, 2014 

Telegram-Tribune front page, Feb. 22, 1944.

TELEGRAM-TRIBUNE

World War II stories from the Telegram-Tribune 70 years ago:

Feb. 19, 1944

Mr. and Mrs. Milton R. Bickell of Oceano recognized their son in an NEA news service photo published in the newspaper. The photo showed Pvt. Mervin Bickell kneeling at the grave of a comrade somewhere overseas. The photo caption did not identify the soldiers in the picture — it quoted Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address — but the parents were positive the central figure was their son.

Marine and Army forces were invading Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific according to a United Press story.

German forced mounted an intense assault on the allied beachhead at Anzio, Italy.

An unidentified army plane crashed a half-mile north of Santa Margarita. Four men were seen bailing out, and no one was reported killed. The plane was from the Estrella air base near Paso Robles.

Feb. 21, 1944

A veteran’s group, the Military Order of Purple Heart, endorsed Paso Robles as a site for a veteran’s hospital.

Snow dusted the Santa Lucia range above 1,500 feet and was several inches deep in the Tassajara Creek area. Thousands of residents abandoned caution about gas rationing and drove over Cuesta Grade to take a look. The weather story includes a fanciful interview with J. Citrus Doakes, a character created by the author to emphasize how peculiar it is for snow to fall in SLO County. “We entered Doakes’ cabin, which is built of old ration book holders, just as Doakes was combing the chipmunks out of his purple beard.”

Feb. 22, 1944

San Luis Obispo mayor Fred C. Kimball favored the creation of a City Planning Commission, calling it “…a fine thing.”

The Rev. Geoffrey H. Hinshelwood, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal church, and representing a group of clergy called on the city to provide more housing for servicemen’s wives in San Luis Obispo. The shortage compelled women to sleep in automobiles, hotel lobbies and bus stations. He encouraged householders to open spare rooms.

Heavy bombers hit the Nazi Messerschmitt aircraft plant at Regensburg, Germany, in what was described as the greatest single aerial assault of all time. Bomber generals were convinced that they could bring the war to an end if they hit hard enough.

Rainfall totals reached 14.88 inches, compared with 17.58 for the previous season. The Roosevelt Highway (Highway 1) was closed between San Carpojeo creek and Big Sur because of mudslides. A railroad bridge south of Santa Barbara had washed out. Malibu Pier was “washed away” by what was being called the worst storm in a decade.

Feb. 23, 1944

One Camp San Luis Obispo soldier was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of rape. Pfc. Thomas A. Piasecki was convicted after a general court martial. Another man, Pfc. Owen C. Grant, was in custody, charged with assault with intent to commit rape.

Under orders from President Roosevelt, the U.S. Army seized control of the water and power system serving Los Angeles. War production at 150 factories had halted during a nine-day walkout. Combined with unrepaired storm damage, the walkout had according to the President “crippled vital war production and damaged civilian morale.” Workers were asking for a $15-a-month wage increase.

Allied bomber groups were focusing on German weapons production factories, including aircraft manufacturing. “The allied attack was not without considerable loss. The Eighth Air Force from Britain and the 15th from Italy together lost 61 heavy bombers and 13 fighters downed or missing. Germany retaliated by a fourth raid on London in five nights, causing additional damage and casualties.” Though the night bombing of London may have bolstered Nazi morale it did not have a long-term strategic impact. The Allies were targeting war industries, attempting to cripple the Luftwaffe before invasion of Europe. Air superiority would be crucial to the success of the invasion.

Walter Cronkite, a United Press reporter, wrote of seeing German rocket bases while an observer in a raiding American Marauder bomber. He was pledged to secrecy until Prime Minister Winston Churchill revealed the targets in an address to the House of Commons.

 

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