Monday, October 11, 2021
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Aircraft Carriers of Lake Michigan
Early in 1942, Navy Commander Richard Whitehead endorsed a proposal to train naval aviators in the Great Lakes. The idea made sense. The nation’s few carriers were occupied with front line duties, and training on the oceans required destroyer protection from hostile submarines. The proposal found little interest until the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then it was fast tracked.
|The Seeandbee, which became the Wolverine.|
Starting from scratch would use resources needed for combat ships, and ocean-going vessels were too wide to fit through canals to reach the Great Lakes. Therefore, two luxurious passenger excursion ships that had fallen on hard times during the Depression were acquired. These lake steamers were coal-fed side wheelers. Their finery was stripped, and flight decks added.
|The Wolverine is fitted with a flight deck. US Naval History and Heritage Command photo|
The SS Seeandbee had provided luxury overnight service between Cleveland and Buffalo, New York. It featured 510 rooms that accommodated 6,000 passengers. Sixty-two rooms had private toilets and twenty-four were suites. Its accouterments included a book shop, flower booths, men’s and women’s writing rooms, balconies, and an orchestra that could be heard throughout the parlors, salons, and atrium. The Seeandbee became the USS Wolverine.
The SS Greater Buffalo had been a palatial steamer providing overnight service between Buffalo and Detroit for 1,500 passengers. In 1936, it had been docked in Cleveland as a floating hotel for the Republican Convention. It became the USS Sable.
After flight training, pilots came to Glenview Naval Air Station west of Chicago for carrier qualifications. Day one took place in a classroom. Day two saw them practicing on “bounce fields” where they had to land in small, designated areas. On day three, they had to land and take off on one of the “postage stamp sized” carriers. After eight landings and take offs, they became carrier qualified.
The carriers were dangerous. Not only were the pilots trainees, but also the deck crews, sailors provided by the Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago. Arresting wires snapped, planes crashed and burned, deck crewmen would be hit by spinning props, even snow squalls in winter.
Even calm days presented problems. If the carriers couldn’t generate sufficient “wind over deck,” certain types of aircraft couldn’t take off. Instead of using the aircraft they would fly in combat, pilots had to use lightweight training aircraft.
These lake carriers were not true aircraft carriers. They lacked elevators, hanger decks, and armaments. If too many damaged aircraft cluttered the flight deck, flight operations had to be curtailed. Because the carriers were coal-fired, dense smoke might hang over the deck.
The decks of the lake carriers were 550 feet long. Combat carriers had 800’ decks. The navy reasoned that pilots who managed with shorter decks that were also lower to the water would have no trouble with the combat fleet.
|A Wildcat mishap on the Wolverine.|
The Wolverine began its navy career in January of 1943. The Sable joined it at the Navy Pier in May. Over 15,000 carrier pilots trained on the two ships. There were between 130 and 150 crashes, with eight pilots killed and more than one hundred planes sunk.
With the end of the war, both lake carriers were decommissioned in November of 1945. Both were sold for scrap.
See last week's post on Submarines in Lake Michigan.
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Submarines in Lake Michigan
During World War II, submarines were built in Wisconsin. The Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company built twenty-eight submarines for the Navy, the only ones built at a freshwater port.
The shipyard president proposed building destroyers in 1939. The ships would be transported through the Chicago River, the Illinois River, and the Mississippi River in a floating drydock. The Navy suggested submarines instead. Knowing nothing about underway boats, a team traveled to New London, Connecticut, to learn from the Electric Boat Company.
|The bridge of a sub is covered with ice during trials in March, 1944.|
Sea trials of finished subs were conducted in Lake Michigan. Peto, the yard’s first submarine, got underway on November 6, 1942. As it headed down river and under bridges to the lake, workmen and townspeople crowded the streets, shores, and office windows to cheer its progress. As it approached the outer harbor, a car ferry rendered three long and two short blasts on its whistle. Captain Foster, who had come out from New London to conduct the first trials, asked his pilot, a local seaman, what the signal meant. No such signal existed in the International or Inland Water Rules. The pilot informed him it was simply the Great Lakes salute from one vessel to another, signifying good luck and pleasant voyage.
|A submarine is launched at the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company.|
Over five days of trials, the crew tested pumps, valves, hydraulic systems, steering gear, and plane operating mechanism. The first dive was made from a stationary position, bleeding in compressed air. With pressure holding, the sub slowly submerged, maintaining a perfect trim while a steady stream of reports came to the conning tower. Everything went well, with machinery functioning as expected and no leaks. Running dives followed.
The crucial test was diving to 300 feet. Peto headed to the middle of Lake Michigan opposite Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Here it dove in incremental depth increases, leveling off at each fifty feet for readings on the deflection of the hull and alignment of machinery. Everything was within allowable limits. Upon surfacing, more readings showed the hull had returned to its original shape within allowable tolerance.
|Actor Spencer Tracy descends into the hatch of the submarine Icefish during a visit to the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in May, 1944.|
A Trial Board of ten Navy personnel came from Washington for inspection. After two days of tests, Peto returned to port with a broom lashed to the periscope. It had made a clean sweep of all its test.
Twenty-eight submarines went through these tests in Lake Michigan. Of those, three did not see action before the war ended, and four are on Eternal Patrol, lost at sea.
Evelyn van der Heiden is a Winnie the Welder. She builds submarines in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Jerry Collier is a sailor aboard the USS Tabberer, a destroyer escort in the Pacific Fleet.
Evelyn is ready to marry, but Jerry is leery of taking a matrimonial step. It will take a tragedy to change his thinking.
This e-novella may now be preordered at https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Sailor-Terri-Wangard-ebook/dp/B09G8W9THY
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Something Old, Something New
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
How Graphic is Too Graphic?
Some reviewers of my new novel The Storm Breaks Forth considered portions of it to be difficult to read. Said one, “Some scenes are extremely intense and horrific, which may be difficult for a few readers, for this reason, I would suggest the book be read by those over 16.” Another wrote, “If you are squeamish about war stories, be aware that the battle scenes are vivid.”
I include war scenes because that’s what war is. It’s not glorious. There may be honor or courage or heroics, but glory? Where is the glory in killing and maiming and innocent babies dying?
Many combatants in World War I were eager to go into battle. Did they change their minds after seeing their buddies vaporized in shell bursts or suffer their own limbs sliced off by shrapnel? I wonder. So many suffered shell shock, or returned home and refused to speak about their experiences.
I refuse to whitewash war. That said, my idea for a new book contains no battle scenes!
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Yay! The Storm Breaks Forth is now available at Amazon. A few early readers had this to say:
This book was a heartbreaking beautiful read. It’s full of emotions and you can feel every one of them. It tells the story of the effects of World War l on the home front and on the Front lines. This is a book that everybody needs to read. It’s a book that will stay in your mind long after you turn the last page. ~ Ann
We need to read stories like this for perspective. History repeats itself over and over and over, because human nature doesn’t change. Terri Wangard’s new novel shows us just how far we’ve traveled from WWI. Unfortunately, it’s a very short distance. Her portrayal of the treatment of German immigrants/German Americans could have been taken from our recent war with Iraq and Afghanistan and our fear of Muslims, or our current controversy over racial prejudice. ~ Mary
The Storm Breaks Forth by Terri Wangard is a marvelous historical novel following the final year of World War I.
Terri Wangard has constructed a powerful tale examining the effects of war on the home-front and at the Front for the German Americans.
Once America entered the war, those of German descent were viewed with suspicion. A witch hunt by some meant that innocent citizens were interred in camps throughout the conflict.
Husbands, brothers and sons were conscripted to fight. The reader witnesses the highs and lows of training before being sent overseas.
France was drowning in mud and stalemate. Battle-lines drawn in 1914 had moved little as young men on both sides were used as cannon fodder. The conditions were awful. The mud, the rats and the lice were easy to visualize due to Terri Wangard’s mighty pen.
Life on the home-front was hard in a different way. Women left behind had to learn to cope alone. Those of German heritage faced prejudice and hate from small-minded people.
There were those at home who worked tirelessly for the war effort – buying war bonds, giving patriotic speeches, organizing parcels for the troops – they gave of themselves.
As if war were not enough, there was a flu epidemic to be faced too.
Terri Wangard has constructed a powerful read showing the effects of war on all. With hindsight it is so horrific to know that the war to end all wars – didn’t. Thank you, Terri Wangard, for another fabulous read. ~ Julia
Monday, March 29, 2021
People’s diets from one hundred years ago horrify lots of folks today. Pie crusts made with pig lard? Meat for every meal?
One hundred years ago, hybridized wheat hadn’t been introduced. Tinkered with to produce drought-resistant crops requiring less time and fertilizer for robust growth, modern wheat may be to blame for the rise of celiac and gluten sensitivity.
Back then, commercially raised beef cattle weren’t kept in tight quarters and fed a diet of antibiotics that are unhealthy for us. Folks lived long, healthy lives without the obesity we see today.
So what was on the menu one hundred years ago? What was on the shelves of the neighborhood grocery store?
Because America sent a lot of food overseas to the Allies and the army, rationing became necessary. Foods in short supply included wheat, sugar, fats and oils, and meat, especially beef.
In my new book releasing next week, The Storm Breaks Forth, Maren Bloch coordinates a cookbook to help homemakers prepare tasty meals during wheatless and meatless days during World War I. Paging through some of these wartime cookbooks, I noticed many recipes call for lard or a fat other than butter.
Ovens didn’t have the temperature controls we have nowadays. Recipes called for a slow oven (300-325°), a moderate oven (350-375°), or a hot oven (400-450°).
Go into a grocery store today and you’ll find wheat flour. Other types of flour have become more common, found in gluten-free or specialty sections. A wide selection of flours was available one hundred years ago. I found many recipes calling for barley flour, corn flour, buckwheat, rye flour, graham flour, and bran flour.
I’m not going to rush out and purchase pig lard. However, Great-Grandma’s recipes shouldn’t be discarded. Here are samples from the Abingdon War-Food Book published in 1918.
Peanuts (1 pt. before shelling) 1 c Pettyjohn’s Breakfast Food
½ c fat (other than butter) ¼ t grated nutmeg
1 c sugar 1 c wheat flour
1/8 t salt 2 t baking powder
½ lemon or orange (peel and juice)
Shell the peanuts and run peanuts, Pettyjohnn’s, and lemon rind through the meat grinder. Add fat, melted, and then water and lemon juice. Then add gradually sugar, salt, nutmeg, flour, and baking powder sifted together. Mix well and drop into greased pans. Bake in hot over 15-20 minutes.
2 c brown sugar 1 t cloves, ground
2 c hot water 1 t soda
2 T lard 3 c flour
1 package or less seeded raisins 1 t salt
1 t cinnamon, ground
Boil all ingredients but the flour, raisins, and soda together for 5 minutes. Cool. When cold, add soda sifted in ½ the flour, and the raisins mixed with the rest of the flour. Bake in a loaf 45 minutes in a slow oven, or in a sheet 30 minutes.
2 or 3 medium potatoes 1 T sifted bread crumbs
¼ t mace 1 egg
1 t beef suet chopped fine or the same amount of butter
¼ t salt
Bake the potatoes. Scoop out insides and rub through a sieve. There should be one cupful. When cold, add the other ingredients, and the egg well beaten. Flour the hands. Make into balls and drop into boiling salted water. Simmer for fifteen minutes.
1 c ground peanuts 1 egg
2 c mashed potatoes 1 t salt
1 small onion chopped fine ½ t paprika
Mix and place in a buttered baking dish and bake in a moderate oven half an hour. Serve with or without tomato sauce.
1 c mashed baked beans ½ t salt
1 c grated cheese ¼ t mustard
1 c scalded milk ¼ t paprika
1 egg (may be omitted)
Melt the cheese over hot water; add the seasonings and milk gradually, stirring till smooth; add egg and beans and serve on hot toast or crackers.
1½ c barley flour ¼ t soda
½ c cooked oatmeal ½ t baking powder
¼ c sugar 3 T cooking oil
¼ c raisins ¼ c molasses
Heat the molasses and fat to boiling point, add soda and combine with other ingredients, previously thoroughly mixed. Bake in muffin tins half an hour.
Monday, March 22, 2021
Another Family-Inspired Novel
No one in my direct ancestral line fought in World War I. No one fought in World War II either. My dad’s brother-in-law did, but Dad was too young and his father was no longer young.
The country was united in World War II. Being in service was patriotic. To an extent, the same was true in World War I, but not among German Americans. Anti-German hysteria was high, even in Wisconsin with its high percentage of German immigration.
My father’s family had one hundred percent German ancestry, and they lived in Milwaukee. No one from that time is still living. I can’t ask what their lives were like. Were they threatened by the rabid patriots or did they too scorn those unhappy about fighting their home country? Did they believe American involvement was necessary? Did they sign pledge cards and buy war bonds? Did they know anyone who had yellow paint splashed on their house?
My grandmother, born in 1900, lost her mother as age four and her father at age sixteen, and her oldest sister died in the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Life was hard enough without a war. My grandfather, a young teen at the time, probably saw his machinist father do war work.
The Storm Breaks Forth releases in two weeks, on April 6.
As I did in my first novel, Friends & Enemies, in The Storm Breaks Forth, I created a family to be proud of. Peter Bloch is the son of German immigrants. His wife Maren is a recent immigrant. She steps way outside her comfort zone to help folks manage with the strict rationing set in place. Peter is a brave soldier who wins high acclaim. Their story is what I wouldn’t mind having in my family tree.
Oh, that photo of Peter Bloch on the cover? He’s my first cousin twice removed, and he’s wearing an army uniform. His name was Herb Zickuhr. I use his name in The Storm Breaks Forth, but for one of Peter’s friends. (Bloch is my paternal grandmother’s name, and Peter is borrowed from one of my grandfather’s uncles.)
Herb died in 1928 at age 29. I thought he may have been gassed in the war, or had lingering problems from a wound. Then I noticed his WWI registration card. It’s dated September 12, 1918. The war ended two months later. He could not have reported to a training camp, trained, traveled to a port city, crossed the ocean by ship, and arrived in time to fight. I do not know why this young farmer died, but it wasn’t war related.
I am left to imagine, what might my family’s story be like if…
Thursday, January 28, 2021
No Drama on the Lusitania?
I read an article last year about Titanic fanatics. People collect chunks of asphalt and rusted pipes from the old Pier 54 in New York where the survivors came ashore. They buy canned seawater that may have flowed over the wreck and Styrofoam cups that have been taken down to crush depth. Social media sites abound for the Titanic.
Even before it sailed, and sank, on its maiden voyage, it captured the international imagination. Unprecedented in grandeur, its system of bulkheads led to the claim of being unsinkable.
Three years later, the Lusitania sank in a deliberate act of war by a German submarine. Eight years old, the Lusitania was also enormous and grand. It sank within sight of land, and people in Ireland watched its demise.
The Lusitania has never rivaled the Titanic’s fascination. Why not?
According to the article, the Lusitania sank too quickly. Titanic lingered on the surface for over two hours, whereas the Lusitania went down in eighteen minutes. Historian and president of the Titanic International Society Charles Haas said, “There wasn’t enough time for stories to play out and interpersonal dramas to take place [on the Lusitania].”
Seriously? There was plenty of drama on the Lusitania.
Maybe if the Titanic had sailed more often and lost its newness. Maybe if the Lusitania’s sinking had preceded the Titanic’s. Maybe if the world’s attention hadn’t been diverted by the war. Maybe if it had taken seventy years to locate the Lusitania’s resting place.
What do you think?