Photos from the Vault

Whales killed in Navy training, World War II Week by Week

Front page of the June 25, 1945 Telegram-Tribune included the story of a whale washed ashore near Cayucos.
Front page of the June 25, 1945 Telegram-Tribune included the story of a whale washed ashore near Cayucos.

June 19, 1945

"Ferdinand," San Luis Obispo's loud fire whistle, would be moved to the top of an 85-foot tall steel tower at the rear of the fire station at Pismo and Garden Streets.

Currently it was atop a failing timber tower at the city police station. The tower was in such bad shape it required reinforcing to be safe for workmen to climb and demolish it.

Police and military authorities in Riverside were tracking down 40 pounds of missing war explosives. First loss of the material was discovered when a mom phoned police that her child was playing in the living room with a stick of TNT. Soldiers thought they had parked their truck in a locked enclosure.

President Truman asked Congress to pass legislation to change the succession order for the presidency. He argued it would be more democratic to insert the speaker of the house and president pro tempore of the Senate into succession after the vice president and before the appointed cabinet members.

June 20, 1945

Donald Leo Bell was to be awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross at Cal Poly. He participated in aerial torpedo attacks upon Japanese battleships on Oct. 25, 1944, without benefit of diversionary bombing or strafing.

Second Lt. Ronald Duncan of San Luis Obispo had been released from prison camp. The B-17 pilot had been shot down over Germany in April 1944.

The 82-day battle for Okinawa was ending. Many enemy soldiers threw themselves off a 100-foot cliff rather than surrender. In what appeared to be the last 24 hours of battle, only 455 Japanese army and navy personnel surrendered.

A ticker-tape parade greeted Gen. Eisenhower in New York.

June 22, 1945

Reports that thousands of Japanese officers and men were surrendering were now coming from Okinawa. It was said to be the first mass capitulation in the Pacific. In addition to the code of honor, Japanese propaganda said cruel treatment awaited those who surrendered.

Life magazine wrote about Cpl. Donald Chong, who had died on the Alaskan Island of Attu. Chong had grown up in San Luis Obispo. A move was being made to move some of the bodies in overseas cemeteries. Robert Sherrod wrote: "Lt. Col. James Fish III, executive officer of the 17th Infantry Regiment, is buried in Little Falls cemetery at the foot of a snow-capped mountain on Attu. Near him is interred his Chinese-American cook, Cpl. Donald Chong, who was killed in the same Japanese attack. I knew these two men well — I shared their tent until the night they were killed. These two soldiers had been together a long time, and they were friends. Would they want now to be separated and buried among strangers? I do not think so. I think they would prefer to leave their bones on this first piece of American soil reclaimed from Japan, which would remind their countrymen never to let Japan become strong enough to go marauding again."

Lt. Webb Wilson of San Luis Obispo was involved in setting up a rodeo in Austria. The 10th Engineers built an arena and used local mules, broncs and calves.

Cpl. Harry Froom from Los Osos valley wrote he is taking in the sights in Germany and said hello to all his San Luis Obispo friends.

Californians from the 86th Blackhawk Division were expected to get a few weeks of furlough before being reassigned from Europe to the Pacific. They were expected to be allowed home for four weeks and formal presentation of medals and awards was bypassed so veterans could reach home as soon as possible.

An anonymous letter writer criticized Gen. George S. Patton for telling Sunday school children that they would be soldiers and nurses in the next war. Private X claimed to be one of the 30,000 who died under Patton's command. "I do not know what the other 29,999 did, but I turned over in my grave...Please don't tell us that, General, not just now. Don't say it again to our families and don't say it to the world when all decent nations are trying to build a peace of some kind."

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson said he expected a war crimes trial for surviving Nazi leaders.

June 25, 1945

Okinawa was now seen as a "Springboard to Victory" over Japan. Radio Tokyo made the admission that the island was lost and that casualties were past the 110,000 mark.

President Truman was flying to San Francisco to address the closure of the UNCIO (United Nations) meeting. The nine-week conference had representatives from 50 nations who were weary from over two months of disputes and negotiations. The charter was finally approved and sent to the printer.

Capt. Carlos Ogden of San Luis Obispo was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch for indomitable courage in the fight for Cherbourg, France. The 79th division was pinned down by a German 88 mm gun and two machine guns. Capt. Ogden advanced alone with a grenade launcher, rifle and a number of hand grenades. Though wounded in the hand and knocked down by a glancing machine gun bullet, he worked his way forward until he secured a vantage point. He silenced the 88 with the grenade launcher and waiting for opportunity knocked out the two machine gun nests. His efforts also earned him the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster four campaign stars and infantry badge. He was an instructor at Camp Roberts before joining the 79th Division.

The president of Chrysler Corp. said, "I don't understand why the Japanese can't see how terribly they're whipped." He revealed a new fire bomb that could produce 40 separate flames. The company was gearing up to produce 2,000,000 a month.

An 18-foot, three-and-a-half ton whale washed up near Cayucos. The cause of death was suspected concussion from U.S. Navy practice maneuvers with torpedos and depth charges. There had been a large number of whales beached in recent years as wartime training increased. The location was called Paso Robles beach, and the carcass was taken to San Luis Obispo Tallow Works where it was estimated that four barrels of whale oil would be produced in addition to chicken feed.

June 29, 1945

Super-Fortress bombers had been pounding Japan relentlessly. The 16th target in 24 hours was hit. During June, 30,500 tons of bombs had been dropped on Japan, and it was estimated that 115 square miles of cities had been burned. Only one plane had been lost. In response Radio Tokyo said manufacturing was being moved to Manchuria.

An infantry demonstration and bond show at Cal Poly startled 3,000 bond buyers with exploding mines and mortars as infantrymen crawled across the football field. Reporter Cecilia Carpenter said screams and the high pitched voices of children became silent when the flame thrower was demonstrated and the heat and smoke was felt by spectators.

A Los Angeles county supervisor said that returning Japanese families would need assistance when they returned home from internment.

California set records for oil production in 1944. Big counties were Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Lt. Raymond Rushby of San Luis Obispo was awarded the Air Medal by Maj. Gen. Paul Williams for supply flights to the surrounded enclave of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.