Submitted by Daryl Heusinkveld
Seventy-five years ago, this month, a Band of Roughnecks went abroad on a top-secret mission into Robin Hood's stomping grounds to punch oil wells to help fuel England's war machines. It's a story that should make any oilman or woman proud. The year was 1943 and England was mired in World War II. U-boats attacked supply vessels, choking off badly needed supplies to the island nation. But oil was the commodity they needed the most as they warred with Germany.
A book "The Secret of Sherwood Forest: Oil Production in England During World War II" written by Guy Woodward and Grace Steele Woodward was published in 1973 and tells the obscure story of the American oil men who went to England to bore wells in a top-secret mission in March 1943.
England had but one oil field, in Sherwood Forest of all places. Its meager output of 300 barrels a day was literally a drop in the bucket of their requirement of 150,000 barrels a day to fuel their war machines. Then, a top-secret plan was devised: to send some Americans and their expertise to assist in developing the field. Oklahoma based Noble Drilling Co., along with Fain-Porter signed a one-year contract to drill 100 wells for England, merely for costs and expenses. Forty-Two drillers and roughnecks from Texas and Oklahoma, most in their teens and early twenties, volunteered for the mission to go abroad. The hands embarked for England in March 1943 aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Four National 50 drilling rigs were loaded onto ships, but only three of them made landfall; the Nazi U-boats sank one of the rigs en route to the UK.
The Brits' jaws dropped as the Yanks began punching the wells in a week, compared to five to eight weeks for their British counterparts. They worked 12-hour tours, 7 days a week and within a year, the Americans had drilled 106 wells and England oil production shot up from 300 barrels a day to over 300,000. The contract fulfilled, the American oil men departed England in late March 1944, but only 41 hands were on board the return voyage. Herman Douthit, a Texan derrick-hand was killed during the operation. He was laid to rest with full military honors and remains the only civilian to be buried at The American Military Cemetery in Cambridge.
"The Oil Patch Warrior," a seven-foot bronze statue of a roughneck holding a four-foot pipe wrench, stands near Nottingham, England to honor the American oil men's assistance and sacrifice in the war. A replica was placed in Ardmore, Oklahoma in 2001.
Special thanks to the American Oil and Gas Historical Society.
written by George MacDonald
Featured image: Survivors from the Battle of Hong Kong who were held at Ohashi Prison Camp, photographed prior to their evacuation on September 15th, 1945. The author, then age 23, appears in the back row, fourth from the left.
It was noon on August 15th, 1945. The Japanese Emperor had just announced to his people that his country had surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Powers. To those of us being held at Ohashi Prison Camp in the mountains of northern Japan, where we’d been prisoners of war performing forced labor at a local iron mine, this meant freedom. But freedom didn’t necessarily equate to safety. The camp’s 395 POWs, about half of them Canadians, were still under the effective control of Japanese troops. And so we began negotiating with them about what would happen next.
Complicating the negotiations was the Japanese military code of Bushido, which required an officer to die fighting or commit suicide (seppuku) rather than accept defeat. We also knew that the camp commander—First Lieutenant Yoshida Zenkichi—had written orders to kill his prisoners “by any means at his disposal” if their rescue seemed imminent. We also knew that we could all easily be deposited in a local mine shaft and then buried under thousands of tons of rock for all eternity without a trace.
We had no way of notifying Allied military commanders (who still hadn’t landed in Japan) as to the location of the camp (about a hundred miles north of Sendai, in a mountainous area near Honshu’s eastern coast), whose existence was then unknown. Because of the devastating American bombing, Japan’s cities had been reduced to rubble, its institutions were in chaos, and millions of Japanese were themselves close to starvation, much like us. The camp itself had food supplies, such as they were, for just three days.
Lieut. Zenkichi seemed angry, and felt humiliated by the surrender. Yet he appeared willing to negotiate our status. And after some stressful hours, we reached an agreement: The Japanese guards would be dismissed from the camp, while a detachment of Kenpeitai (the much feared Military Police) would provide security for Zenkichi, who would confine himself to his office.
The author, who appears in the featured image, fourth from left in the top row
To our delight, the local Japanese farmers were friendly, and agreed to give us food in exchange for some of the items we’d managed to loot from the camp’s remaining inventory—though, unfortunately, not enough to feed the camp. Meanwhile, through a secret radio we’d been operating, we learned that the Americans were going to conduct an aerial grid search of Japan’s islands for prison camps. We followed the broadcasted instructions and immediately painted “P.O.W.” in eight-foot-high white letters on the roof of the biggest hut.
Two days later, with all of our food gone, we heard a murmur from the direction of the ocean. The sound turned into the throb of a single-engine airplane flying at about 3,000 feet altitude. Then, suddenly he was above us—a little blue fighter with the white stars of the US Navy painted on its wings and fuselage. But the engine noise began to fade as he went right past us. Please, God, I thought—let him see our camp.
Then the engine sound grew stronger, and changed its pitch as we heard the roar of a dive. The pilot had wrapped around a nearby mountain and came straight down the center of the valley, his engine now bellowing wide open. From just over treetop altitude, he flew over the center of the camp. We all went wild: Our prayers had been answered.
1945 American aerial photo of Ohashi prison camp
Then he climbed to about 7,000 feet while circling above us—we assumed he was radioing our location to base—before making another pass over the camp, as slowly as he dared, this time with his canopy back. He threw out a silver tin box on a long streamer that landed in the center of the camp. Inside, we found strips of fluorescent cloth and a hand-written note: “Lieutenant Claude Newton (Junior Grade), USS Carrier John Hancock. Reported location.”
The instructions for the cloth strips were as follows: “If you want Medicine, put out M. If you want Food, put out F. If you want Support, put out S.” We put out “F” and “M.” Once more, Lieut. Newton flew over the camp, this time to read the letters we’d written on the ground. Waggling his wings, he headed straight out to sea to his floating home, the John Hancock.
Seven hours later, two dozen airplanes approached the camp from the sea. They were painted with the same US Navy colors, but these were much larger planes—Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers with a crew of two. Each made two parachute cargo drops in the center of camp, leaving us with a ton or more of food and medicine. The boxes contained everything from powdered eggs to tins of pork and beans. There was also something called “Penicillin” that, I later learned, doctors had begun prescribing to infected patients in 1942. (Our camp doctor had understandably never heard of it.) That night, we had a feast and a party. Despite the doctor’s warnings not to overdo it, we did. The sudden calorie intake nearly killed us.
August 28, 1945 photo in the collection of Peter Somerville, son of a naval aviator operating on the USS Hancock
But it was one thing for the Americans to drop supplies, and another thing to get to us. The days passed, until one sunny morning we had another aerial visitor from the east. He circled the camp and dropped a note: “Goodbye from Hancock and good luck. Big Friends Come Tomorrow.”
The “friends” arrived at about 10am the next day, and they were indeed big: four-engine B-29 Superfortresses. Like the Penicillin, this was something new: These planes hadn’t entered service till 1944, and none of us had seen one. Their giant bomb-bay doors opened and out came wooden platforms, each loaded with parachute-equipped 60-gallon drums. These were packed with tinned rations and other supplies, including new uniforms and footwear. None of this was lost on nearby Japanese villagers, who saw us POWs going from starvation to a state of plenty. Since our newfound wealth was scattered all over hell’s half acre, we asked these locals to bring us any drums they might find, which they did, in return for the nylon chutes (which local seamstresses and homemakers would put to good use) and a share of the food. That night, we had another party, except at this one, everyone was dressed in a new American uniform of his choice: Navy, Army, or Marine.
The next day brought another three lumbering aerial giants—from the Marianas Islands, it turned out. Again, the local Japanese residents helped us, amid much bowing, collect the aerial bounty. By now, the camp was beginning to look like an oil refinery, with unopened 60-gallon oil drums stacked everywhere.
When the daily ritual was repeated the day after that, some of the parachute lines snapped in the high winds, and the oil drums fell like giant rocks. Several hit the camp, went through the roofs of huts, hit the concrete floors and exploded. One was packed with canned peaches, and I don’t have to describe what the hut looked like. There were several very near-misses on our men, Japanese personnel and houses in the nearby village. When the next drop generated a similar result, I looked up to see that I was right under a cloud of falling 60-gallon oil drums. It was a terrifying moment. And I imagined the bizarre idea of surviving the enemy, surviving imprisonment, and then dying thanks to the kindness of well-meaning American pilots.
Excerpts from a surviving biographical monograph on former camp commander Masake Naganuma
We now had tons of food and supplies—enough for months, and more was arriving. The camp had begun to look as if it had been shelled by artillery. So we painted two words on the roof: NO MORE! The next day, the big friends came from the Marianas and, as we watched from the safety of a nearby tunnel, they circled the camp and, without opening their bay doors, flew back out to sea, firing off red rockets to show they’d received the message.
It was a surreal scene. But it didn’t distract us from the fact that the generous and timely American response saved many of our lives. In the days that followed the drum showers, we settled down to caring for our sick and to some serious eating. Thanks to the US supplies, we began to gain a pound a day. The American generosity was especially notable given that few of the prisoners at Ohashi were American. Almost all were Canadian, Dutch, or British.
At about this time, I decided to go back to the nearby mine where we’d worked as prisoner laborers. I wanted to say goodbye to the foreman of the machine shop, a grandfatherly man who’d called me hanchō (squad leader), and had been as kind to me as the brutal rules of the country’s military dictatorship permitted. It was both joyous and sad. We were happy that the war was over, yet sad at the knowledge that this would be our last meeting. I promised him that I would take his earnest advice and return to school as soon as I got home. “Hanchō, you go Canada now,” he said.
Photo of mine workshop at Ohashi prison camp, where many POWs worked
I later learned that about three million Japanese soldiers and civilians lost their lives in the war. Millions more were left wounded. The country had been hit with two atomic bombs. Whole cities had been gutted by fire. At every level, the war had been an unmitigated disaster for Japan. Its people had become cannon fodder in a cruel and pointless project to conquer East Asia.
My fellow ex-POWs and I visited the camp graveyard, and said one last goodbye to our comrades who’d found their last resting place so far from home. It was an unjust reward for such brave young men. And it was then that tears I couldn’t control welled up in my eyes and streamed down my cheeks.
On September 14th, 30 days after Emperor Hirohito had publicly announced Japan’s surrender, a naval airplane flew in from the sea and dropped a note to inform us that an American naval task force would evacuate us on the following day. Sure enough, on September 15th, landing craft beached themselves and hastily disgorged a force of Marines. Their motorized column sped inland to the Ohashi camp, led by a Marine colonel and armed to the teeth. These were veterans of the long Pacific campaign. They’d survived many terrible encounters with the Japanese in their westward campaign across the Pacific, and they looked the part. After our captain saluted the colonel, they embraced, and the colonel told us how he planned to evacuate us, giving specific orders as to how it was all to be accomplished.
Interpreter Hiroe Iwashita, remembered fondly
by many prisoners
After he issued his orders, the Colonel asked, “Are there any questions?” Our captain said, “Yes, I have one. Sir. What in the hell took you so long to get here?” That at least brought a smile to those tough, weather-beaten Marine faces.
Following the Colonel’s instructions, we mounted up, said sayonara to Ohashi and, after almost four years of imprisonment, began the glorious journey home to our various loved ones. I was in the last vehicle that left the camp that day. And as we departed, I observed a compound that was now completely empty—save for one forlorn figure, who’d emerged from his office and now stood at the center of a camp that once held 400 men. It was Lieutenant Zenkichi.
THEN US PILOTS SAVED MY LIFE SOURCE: QUILLETTE (CANADIAN) CANADA, HISTORY, TOP STORIES Published on August 15, 2020
George MacDonell was born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1922. He served in the Royal Rifles of Canada, which deployed to Hong Kong in 1941 as part of C-Force, shortly before Hong Kong’s capture by the Japanese army.
By Dick Martin
Where was Daryl Heusinkveld from May 11, 1969 until May 13, 1970? The Air Force has always confirmed that he was an officer and a pilot during that time. His family confirms that he was nowhere close to home. The rumors are strong that he spent the entire year dodging enemy anti-aircraft rounds flying 213 secret combat missions in a prop A1 Sky raider into Laos. But don’t ask the Air Force about Daryl’s whereabouts because they, officially, have no knowledge of any activity in Laos. Better to ask Ho Chi Minh or General Giap as Daryl and his fellow pilots were taking a terrible toll of the enemy on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and in support of the Laotion Army.
Submitted by Daryl Heusinkveld
When baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on tour in baseball-crazy
Japan in 1934, some fans wondered why a third-string catcher named Moe
Berg was included. Although he played with five major-league teams from
1923 to 1939, he was a very mediocre ball player. But Moe was regarded as the brainiest ballplayer of all time.
In fact Casey Stengel once said: "That is the strangest man ever to play
When all the baseball stars went to Japan, Moe Berg went with them and many
people wondered why he went with "the team".
The answer was simple: Moe Berg was a United States spy, working undercover
with the CIA. Moe spoke 15 languages - including Japanese. And he had two loves: baseball
and spying. In Tokyo, garbed in a kimono, Berg took flowers to the daughter of an
American diplomat being treated in St. Luke's Hospital - the tallest building in the Japanese capital.
He never delivered the flowers. The ball-player ascended to the hospital roof and filmed key
features: the harbor, military installations, railway
yards, etc. Eight years later, General Jimmy Doolittle studied Berg's films in planning his spectacular raid on Tokyo.
His father disapproved of his baseball career and never once watched his son
play. In Barringer High School, Moe learned Latin, Greek and French. Moe
read at least 10 newspapers every day.
He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton - having added Spanish, Italian,
German and Sanskrit to his linguistic quiver. During further studies at
the Sorbonne, in Paris, and Columbia Law School, he picked up Japanese,
Chinese, Korean, Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian - 15 languages
in all, plus some regional dialects.
While playing baseball for Princeton University, Moe Berg would describe plays
in Latin or Sanskrit.
During World War II, Moe was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assess the value to
the war effort of the two groups of partisans there.
He reported back that Marshall Tito's forces were widely supported by the
people and Winston Churchill ordered all-out support for the
Yugoslav underground fighter, rather than Mihajlovic's
The parachute jump at age 41 undoubtedly was a challenge. But there was more
to come in that same year.
Berg penetrated German-held Norway, met with members of the underground and
located a secret heavy-water plant - part of the Nazis'
effort to build an atomic bomb.
His information guided the Royal Air Force in a bombing raid to destroy that
The RAF destroys the Norwegian heavy water plant targeted by Moe Berg
There still remained the question of how far had the Nazis progressed in the
race to build the first Atomic bomb.
If the Nazis were successful, they would win the war. Berg (under the code
name "Remus") was sent to Switzerland to hear leading German physicist
Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Laureate, lecture and determine if the Nazis
were close to building an A-bomb. Moe managed to slip past the SS guards
at the auditorium, posing as a Swiss graduate student.
The spy carried in his pocket a pistol and a cyanide pill.
If the German indicated the Nazis were close to building a weapon, Berg was
to shoot him - and then swallow the cyanide pill. Moe, sitting
in the front row, determined that the Germans were nowhere near their
goal, so he complimented Heisenberg on his speech and walked him back to
Werner Heisenberg blocked the Nazis from acquiring an atomic bomb.
Moe Berg's report was distributed to Britain's Prime Minister, Winston
Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and key figures in the team
developing the Atomic Bomb. Roosevelt responded: "Give my regards to the
catcher.” Most of Germany's leading physicists had been Jewish and had fled the Nazis
mainly to Britain and the United States.
After the war, Moe Berg was awarded the Medal of Freedom - America's highest
honor for a civilian in wartime. But Berg refused to accept it, because he couldn't tell people about his
exploits. After his death, his sister accepted the Medal. It now hangs in the Baseball
Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown.
Moe Berg's baseball card is the only card on display at the CIA Headquarters in Washington, DC
Submitted by Daryl Heusinkveld
Written by Randall "Bert" Bertrand, A-1 Skyraider Pilot, Naknon Phanam, Thailand, 1969-1970
Submitted by Daryl Heusinkveld
J. David Ake/AP Photo--A visitor at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington passes early in the morning on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2013, to look at the names inscribed on the wall.
Submitted by Daryl Heusinkveld
Your aviation history lesson for the day ......................
During the dead of winter, March 21st 1944; Miles City, Montana; local residents woke to their quaint little town being overrun and submerged by the rising frozen waters of the Yellowstone river. Ice jams were building quickly, raising the subzero river water levels over 16 feet. As the blocks of ice, slush and freezing waters flooded into the city, residents were forced to flee their homes for safer grounds.
Miles City Mayor L.S. Keye knew immediate action must be taken, and brought in explosive experts from a nearby town. Two local pilots took a small aircraft over the river and attempted to drop and detonate 50 pound homemade bombs on the Yellowstone ice jam , but unfortunately it had little effect.
Mayor L.S. Keye then decided to do the unthinkable, and placed an urgent request to the Governor’s office. His request was short, and to the point "Send in the Bombers!"
At a USAAF base in Rapid City S.D., the crew of an Army Air Force B-17 were quick to accept the unusual mission, and preparations to bomb an American city were fast underway. The crew hastily began fusing and loading 250-pound bombs into the bomb bay of their USAAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Shortly thereafter, the loaded bomber with her crew of eight, took to the skies in a harsh blizzard and low ceilings.
The plan was to deliver the bombs to Miles City where the load would be transferred to a waiting Dive-Bomber to execute the bomb delivery. As the lone B-17 was nearing Miles City, low clouds forced the plans to be changed. Under a blanket of 1000 foot overcast skies, the B-17 was then ordered to handle the bombing run themselves.
Originally planned to release the load at 10,000 feet, the low overcast forced the bomber crew to take their ship lower. At 1930 hours, in heavy snow, winds and cold, the bomber appeared over the river and executed two dummy bombing runs as crowds of locals watched in amazement. On the third pass, the B-17 released a test bomb that exploded precisely on target. Unsure of the effect, the crew brought their bomber around again.
Making a two more passes, releasing all six of the 250 lb. bombs. Hundreds of residents watched motionless, and none speaking a word. The entire town, their homes and their families future hung in the balance as they watched the bombs fall. Seconds later a huge plume of ice, mud and water exploded skyward from the frozen Yellowstone river.
The ice jam quickly broke apart, and the frozen waters slowly receded, saving the small town. The next morning, local residents were thrilled to watch as the water levels had dropped a full 10 feet from the day before.
That night the crew of the B-17 were welcomed by the thankful and relieved residents of Miles City Montana. The entire crew were put up at the local hotel, and each received a well-deserved steak dinner.
The next morning, the crew departed, and the B-17 made a final victory pass low over the town at 50 feet over the rooftops, rocking their wings as they flew back home to Rapid City SD... and so the story goes of the only time the continental United States was bombed.