Jan. 15, 1945
After a month of heavy fighting, the Ardennes bulge was almost eliminated as German troops fell back to Siegfried line fortifications. American losses in that battle were estimated at near 40,000. Roughly half were missing, presumed captured. German losses were estimated as 40,000 captured and 50,000 killed or wounded. British losses were not included in this report.
On the Eastern Front, the Soviet Red Army had launched a coordinated offensive in a front that stretched from Lithuania to Yugoslavia with as many as 3,250,000 Nazi and Soviet troops in the fight. There were at least nine closely synchronized battle fronts. Soviet propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg said "the Red Army is heading for Berlin…in Berlin we shall be."
In San Luis Obispo teachers held a forum on student labor. Teachers were worried that school-age boys and girls were getting work permits and skipping out on school. The war-time labor shortage had apparently made liquor stores consider hiring minors and officials were trying to get a law passed to prevent that.
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American troops were 80 miles from Manila.
American bomber and fighter aircraft, 1,300 strong, attacked rail yards in southern Germany and chemical plants.
Santa Margarita Tank Driver in Savage Battle
Sgt. Joseph A. Miles of Santa Margarita is a member of a Sherman tank crew which took part in six hours of savage fighting on the western front in Belgium recently and was credited with the complete destruction of an enemy column of approximately 125 horse drawn and motorized vehicles, almost single handed.
First Lt. Vernon G. Dingley, Monterey Park, Calif., is commander of the tank which he named the "Eliminator." "Eliminator" and one other tank were ordered to intercept and destroy the enemy convoy when it was sighted near Mons. The remainder of the American tank force continued toward its objective.
Lt. Dingley and his crew swung away from the allied column and soon sighted the enemy vehicles. Covered by a second tank, "Eliminator" clattered forward, firing rapidly. Five German soldiers dismounted from a mobile 88 mm anti-tank gun and prepared to fight it out with bazookas.
Driver Sgt. Miles ran them down with his raging Sherman. Bazooka rounds missed the American tank by inches as it twisted and turned in the attack. Assistant gunner Cpl. Gardner felt the breach grow hot under his hands as Sgt. Bocchino slammed round after round of armor piercing cannon fire at the now panicky Germans. Finally there was a cessation of resistance. The battlefield looked like Hell's main highway!
Five 770 mm artillery pieces, an 88 mm high velocity gun, and more that 100 vehicles were in smoking ruin.
Some of the German soldiers had escaped, but many lay with their dead artillery horses. No prisoners had been taken. The two American tanks rejoined their column safely.
Lt. Dingley hadn't named his tank "Eliminator" in vain.
Jan. 17, 1944
Warsaw, Poland was the next capital to fall to the Red army. News relayed from Sweden indicated that the Nazis had written off all of Poland.
S-Sgt. Clifton Wright, of Oceano, a member of the first dive-bomb squadron crew to be sent to New Guinea, has the honor of being one of the most decorated of American fliers. He was recently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, America's second-highest decoration, at Muroc, where he is now stationed. The award was made for "extraordinary heroism near Rabaul, New Britain."
Wright's plane, which was on a bombing mission, was attacked by more than 20 enemy fighters. One attacking enemy scored a hit on the turret where Wright was gunner. Wounded in the forehead, arms and legs, he was knocked down. Wiping the blood from his eyes, he picked himself up from the floor of the shattered turret, groped his way to the one remaining gun and shot down the attacking Japanese fighter.
Another enemy fighter blasted his turret, and once more Wright was knocked down. He struggled to his feet and discovered one of his guns was put out of commission. He succeeded, however, in knocking down the attacking plane with the one remaining gun.
Despite his pain, and the fact that he was fully exposed to enemy fire, Wright remained at his post and strafed grounded enemy planes as they went over their target.
Later, on their way home, his bomber was again attacked by an enemy fighter. Wright's lone gun forced the plane to break off the attack.
Wright, who left the United States on Thanksgiving day in 1941, is the son of Mrs. Annie Wright, formerly of Oceano who is now living in Madera, Calif.
Among the many decorations awarded to him, Wright has the Purple Heart, and two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Presidential Citation with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal, the Silver Star, Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross. He wears the wings of a gunner and has the Asiatic campaign ribbon, the American campaign ribbon, the one year before Pearl Harbor ribbon, the five star cluster representing five major battles and has been recommended for three more making eight in all.
Wright is now an instructor at Muroc, Calif., at the air field. He attended school in Oceano.
Money was being raised for treatment of polio victims. The disease was devastating; infantile Paralysis survivors were often left with years of physical therapy. There was no vaccine at this time for this deadly disease and the county hoped to hire a full-time nurse to provide therapy.
The day before, Union Oil tanker Paul M. Gregg narrowly avoided destruction after a fire broke out about 20 miles off of Avila Beach. Merchant seamen Edward Keller, 41, of San Pedro was badly burned and being treated and the San Luis Sanitarium. Most of the crew of 57 abandoned ship until others brought the blaze under control. The fire started after a pump room explosion, and the Navy rushed surface vessels to aid the stricken tanker. The tanker was given temporary repairs and steamed out of the harbor this morning.
Jan. 20, 1944
A Japanese submarine sank a Liberty ship, John A. Johnson, last November, the Navy disclosed last night. The ship was midway between San Francisco and Hawaii. The sub then rammed, shelled and machine-gunned survivors. Ten survivors were killed and six wounded of the crew of 70. It was the first torpedoing since the attack on a tanker 25 miles off Oregon on Oct. 4, 1942.
M-Sgt. Milton J. Gracia of San Luis Obispo was awarded the Air Medal for his combat flights from India to China.
An article by Boyd Lewis pointed out the terrible toll winter was taking on troops. Foxholes in the Ardennes had to be blasted out of frozen hillsides with TNT. Men suffered frostbite in a notably cold winter leading to lost feet and fingers. "We are so accustomed to patting ourselves on the back for having the best planes, guns and transport that it comes as a shock to discover that somebody blundered sadly in failing to provide proper equipment for this arduous winter campaign." Boots were not designed for the wet and snow. "When a doughboy must lie in 20 inches of show for three hours, without his overcoat — you cannot fight in an unwieldy overcoat-waiting for the order to advance, not daring to light a fire or stand up and thresh his arms and stir the circulation, that question about clothing comes through bitter lips."
A pilot on a training mission out of Santa Maria was killed when his twin-engine plane crashed three miles north of the airfield. Killed was 2nd Lt. Richard Vernon Durham, 21, of Houston, Texas.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the oath of office as president of the United States for an unprecedented fourth time. The wartime ceremony was small, some 7,000 specially invited guests attended as snow covered the White House lawn. The speech was simple and brief and included a prayer for peace. "We Americans today, together with our Allies," the president said, "are passing through a period of supreme test. It is a test of our courage — of our resolve — of our wisdom — of our essential democracy. "If we meet that test-successfully hand honorably — we shall perform a service of historic importance which men and women and children will honor throughout all time." The address was only 540 words long. The ailing president would only live three more months.