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tv   Dogfight Over Tokyo  CSPAN  October 24, 2020 11:00am-12:01pm EDT

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history tv, every weekend on c-span three, exploring our nation's past. created by america's table television company is a service and brought to you today by your television provider. john will convince discusses his book dogfight over tokyo in the last man to die in world war ii. a group ofalks about aviators that were attacked over japan shortly after receiving word the war had ended. the national world war ii museum hosted this online event and provided the video. for joining usl today for what will be a great conversation about a really engaging and -- book that's may have been written before john got to it in the last 75 years since the war, dogfight over
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tokyo. it is a great book. bookshe author of many and came to us about 10 years ago. he came and visited the museum, gave a presentation on his book, and we have not managed to get him back here. we tried, he was going to come in april of this year, but of course things got out of hand, and we had to postpone that event indefinitely to talk on one of his other books. i'm sure most of our viewers today know many of john's books. help from the heroes -- hell from the heavens, for crew and country, and tin can tightens, which one the elliott morrison naval litter chief -- naval literacy award. it was awarded regarded naval history. so congratulations on that. many years belated.
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as i mentioned, john was supposed to come in april, and we were able to work in the distance learning team to bring these programs to you all. this one specifically has to do with our theme of the end of the war, the 75th in a verse or he of the end of the war. we will get right do it so we many of theet as audience questions asked and answered by john. i will start with a handful of my own questions first. john, let's give the audience a brief summary for those of you that have not read the book. give us a brief summary of dogfight over tokyo. tokyothe dogfight over explains the story of the last four americans to die in combat in world war ii. by that, i don't mean to say they were the last four men to die ever. this was in combat.
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we have thousands of veterans who, through the decades, passed away from injuries and wounds they received during the war, but these were the last four to actually be in a combat action and then die. so i tell the story of those four. i also interweave, with that, the story of the air group of which they were a part, air group 88. and you and i will explain that a little more later, their activities in the final two months of the war. it shows how a bunch of young aviators, hot stuff, arrogant, bragging, eager to get over there.
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they want to match their flying skills against the japanese pilots. it shows the gradual transformation of that attitude toward a more hey, i don't want to be here kind of feeling. i take the reader from training in the united states and then to hawaii and saipan. after that, they join the carrier yorktown and operate off the coast of japan in the final couple of months of the war. that is basically what the book is about. jeremy: what brought you to this book? why did you decide to write it when you did and what resources were out there? what did you use? john: i first came across this idea 10 or 12 years ago when i was researching for a auger fee of admiral halsey that came out in 2010. in there, he mentions in his autobiography that, on the final day of war, some pilots were killed, and he said they should never be forgotten.
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that struck me. so i filed that away, because i had other projects coming up. then, finally, a few years back, i turned to it and thought it's an intriguing idea, if i can find out enough material to flesh out these four aviators. they obviously did not survive the war, so what about family? i thought to myself, if i can find two of the four and get enough information on that, it will work. and i did it. i found plenty of information from two of the four families. so that enabled me to flesh out those two, plus other material on the third and fourth aviator as well. i picked up from kokomo, the hobbs family had ellie hobbs' diary, and flight log, and all
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kinds of things. i interviewed his sister, nancy, who i just communicated with a couple days ago. she's in her mid-90's, and going strong. the mandaberg family, we have a picture there, his first name is dwight. everyone called him billy. he was a guy who loved aviation. billy was born to fly. as a kid, he made planes out of balsa wood. that may be before your time. but i used to love playing with those things. he would make aircraft out of anything. a nearby airfield, he would run out to watch the planes land, especially when barnstormers were coming through town. in kokomo, indiana. so everything about him was "i
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want to fly." i love the excitement, the thrill, so that was what billy hobbs is all about. then, i contacted the mandaberg family. he was quite opposite from billy. whereas billy was all excitement and action, he had a good time dating girls and things like that. eugene was someone you called eugene comey you did not say hey, jean -- it was eugene. serious, studious, he loved reading books. he wanted to be a writer. he wrote some columns for the michigan daily paper. he had a sharp wit. not the kind that said i have a story to tell you, did you hear
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the joke about the echo it was, he would watch and comment on what people were doing, how they said something, or things like that. his stories were all about social ills of the time. he wrote a short story about a lynching in georgia, and the evils of that and another story about a young soldier who went off to training camp and came home with a sharpshooter metal and was bragging to his mom. he said don't worry, we are only shooting at targets. she says he doesn't even understand what he's about to get into. so eugene was the serious one. wanted to get into fighter aircrafts specifically to match his skills with the japanese pilots in aerial combat. eugene got into fighters because he did not want to fly a torpedo plane or dive bomber, where he had two or three men, whichever plane we are talking about.
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he said, i don't want to be responsible for anyone else's death in the air, so i will fly a fighter. then, you had a third one. i'm not sure which picture you have coming up here. joe was from new york, and he was one of those cocky aviators. you know, you watched tom cruise in the talk on kind of thing and just the way they act was the way he was. he always had a cigar and seemed, though that picture does not have a cigar. in a partyn for that -- known for that. he had a party in the united states just before they were going to go over to the pacific.
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he was the wing man for the squadron commander. he told the wife i promise you i will bring him home safely. that did not turn out in one of the actions. there planes knocked slightly into each other and he went spinning to his death. the fourth one, howdy harrison, was a veteran aviator who had already seen some action in the pacific, and he was the father of a couple of children. howdy, in that picture, is in the middle, being held up in a celebrity or a fashion by his buddies aboard the yorktown. he had been the subject of a fascinating rescue at sea while they were off the coast of japan. he had to land his plane in the sea of japan, then the catalina
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dumbo flew across through thick overcast, horrible conditions. they succeeded in rescuing him right from under the noses of the japanese defenses. the way the newspapers described it. children, one he had never seen because the child was born after he went to the pacific. so those were the four aviators. the firstocuses on two, billy hobbs and eugene mandeberg. when they were in training, eugene mandeberg met a gal in new york city, and they fell in love, and planned to be married once he returned. that is a prominent feature in the book. they obviously did not get married, but it turned out sonja, who was still alive and is today, in new york city
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today, i was able to interview her about her recollections of her love from 75 years ago. jeremy: one of the things about the book that drew me in was what we do at the museum, the personal stories, using the personal accounts, and having the fortune of being around those who lived at the time. john, you mentioned they were operating off of the coast of an. when we think of the war over japan, i think nine out of nine people would think of the b-29 raids launched from the marianas islands. tell us about these operations. what was the purpose? how close were they getting? tell us about the operations beyond the b-29 heavy bombers. these are quite different, obviously, smaller air wraps, torque planes, and i bombers. they had, under admiral halsey, the third fleet was stationed off the coast of japan. since it was a fast carrier
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attack onecould installation, factory, shipyard in japan, and then be 200-300 miles away and attack something else. their purpose for the atom bombs were dropped was to hit these targets, these military installations. to prepare the way for the scheduled november invasion, of japan itself, which which was supposed to be a massive operation. their purpose was eliminate as many military targets as possible. after the atom bombs are dropped, it changed. instead of hitting those targets to prepare for the eventual invasion, they would hit those targets to rod the japanese to the peace table, keep pinning them harder area halsey kept saying we've got a keep hitting them with everything we've got, even on the last day of the war.
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he said do you think we have enough left one more strike? he was under orders to do that. halsey had some ulterior motives, and i don't know if you want me to get into that now or later. we can get into that later, as we talk about the decision to launch the mission. -- jeremy: we can get into that later, as we talk about the decision to launch the mission. john: do that later? jeremy: yeah. john: ok. air group 88, off the coast of japan, their normal operation, they would have a morning and afternoon strike that would entail three parts. there would be to sweeps by fighter aircraft of the target area to eliminate antiaircraft batteries and clear the way for the dive bombers and torpedo planes to follow. they would have one in the
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morning, two sweeps followed by a strike of the dive bombers and torpedo planes. they would then have another one in the afternoon. they had 12 of those in the little more than a month they were off the coast of japan. jeremy: the missions they were running, just for our non-pacific historians but the more european audience watching us today, reminded me of what the pre-d-day invasion in the action they were launching, to blow ridges and communication centers and soften up the landing ground. john: that is a great comparison. jeremy: so they were on the cv 10, the yorktown. they had a lot of time between missions, a lot of time to ship out from the united states. tell us about life on board with
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the crewmembers of the yorktown. john: as i said, they had the 12 strike mission days, and they were there say five weeks. so there was time, while the carrier was moving into position, for another attack. all,ir group, first of aboard an aircraft carrier, you pretty much have two ruse. -- two crews. you have the ship's company of about 2700 officers and enlisted. the ships company, their task was to take care of the carrier and get it ready to launch aircraft. nothing more than that. they existed before the air -- they existed for the air group. the air group was a separate crew of 300 aviators, divided into four squadrons. a fighter squadron, bomber squadron, torpedo planes, and
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what was called a bombing and fighting squadron. they were a separate section aboard the carrier. the yorktown's ship company would stay with yorktown for the duration. air groups were aboard for six -- for up to six months, and then rotated out, so they could teach what they knew to train aviators and be incorporated into other squadrons, because they wanted some experienced flyers in there. will callff time, i it, they were generally in the ready room. there were four ready rooms, one for each of the four squadrons. those ready rooms -- i was at the yorktown. it is floating off of patriots point in south carolina. they are not as large as we might think. they are cluttered, but they spend all their time there. that's where they would go to get the final information before the mission.
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in the meantime, they would be there playing cards, smoking, teasing one another, whatever the case may be. the aviators that i interviewed told me that was pretty much our home base, the ready room. we had ours and the dive bomber pilots had theirs. etc. etc. that was pretty much it. the routine for the time they were off the coast of japan, a few hours of intense, lethal activity interspersed with many hours of "let's fill the time with whatever we can." host: the timeline is important. i think, in most popular memory, you have august 6 as the hiroshima bombing, and august 9 as the nagasaki bombing, and that led to the japanese decision to surrender. but there is a week plus lull in
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between where bombs dropped and the actual emperor's message is broadcast. i think that gets us to the august 15 mission. can you give us some background on that mission? as you said, they were continuing to deliver their payloads on the japanese, because they had not surrendered. talk a little bit about that window, and i will ask a follow-up question when you finish. john: sure. first of all, the missions -- there is a nice map of the final flight. -- theirsions missions, when they first arrived, where against general targets they want to soften up for the invasion. after the atom bombs, the flyers -- everybody, the ships company as well, they wanted to get out of there.
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hey, the war is practically over. let's not keep this up. why do we need to attack an airfield when an atom bomb has wiped out two cities? they cannot understand the necessity for going out and facing these antiaircraft batteries. you have to try to understand what it's like to fly into that flack. they're shooting straight up at you, and you are diving down. you can't weave to avoid the fire, because the planes have to lock in on their targets. so as one aviator told me, there is no skill to it, it's just luck. pure luck. we hated every minute of it. these guys did not want to sacrifice their lives when the war was going to end any time, but they followed orders, obviously. they went on a couple of missions after the atom bombs
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were dropped, and a couple of guys were killed. august 14, one of the men recorded in his diary, "god, i hope we don't have to go out on another mission tomorrow." then, he added a little bit later, "father moody," that was the catholic chaplain, "he came by to say no dice. we are going on a strike." the next morning, they had to do that. hobbes was with a team of 12 hellcat fighters. hobbes was not supposed to be on this flight. he was scheduled for a later day. another team of four was supposed to go, but howdy harrison, the team leader, of which hobbes was a part, traded places with that other team because he said billy needs
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one more mission for promotion to lieutenant. he was an ensign. he needed one more to get promoted, so will you switch with me? the other team was happy to switch. billy was not necessarily overwhelmed with joy, but it was arranged, and off they went, even though one of the pilots said, "is this really necessary?" they took off a little after 4:00 in the morning. the 12 hellcats did. a cloudy day. as he got closer to japan, two of the 12 hellcats were ordered to a higher altitude so they could relay messages to and from the carrier yorktown. so now, the hellcat number was down to 10 that proceeded down onto the target. after that, a team of four led by a guy named marvin oden got
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lost, and the action report said his team became lost in they said a finger of overcast. i was never sure what to make of that. it doesn't sound like a very cloudy area, but he became lost, and those four planes were now gone. the hellcat number was down to six that continued toward their target, which on the map that was showing is just south of tokyo. a little bit to the northeast of the dotted line there. they continued on toward tokyo. as they got near the airfield, they were getting ready to attack when the commander contacted them and said stop. we just received word the japanese have agreed to cessation of hostilities. abort your mission, and return
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to the carrier. of course, that news he gave to all of them. of course, we are going to be going home, gonna survive the war, all of those thoughts went screaming through their minds. they turned back, and you can see on the map, just north of the airfield, and they were on their way out to tokyo bay when 15 to 20 japanese fighters jump them. they became involved in a furious dogfight. joe saloff, one of the men who survived, he said he saw joe saloff's plane going down over -- saloffbut sail off parachuted out. he saw that but that's all he knew. that same pilot saw another
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hellcat explode in the air. that guy got out by parachuting as well. the other two to be downed that day were smashed into farmland or terrain, right around the yokohama area. that left two guys who got back to the carrier yorktown. four who did not, four who were shot down. the air group was crestfallen. one of the guys said, this is supposed to be our happiest day. the war is over. but it wasn't. it was our saddest day. not only do we lose four good friends, but we lost them in the final moments. technically, you could say they were shot down after the war ended, if you want to, because they had been alerted that the japanese had agreed to a cessation of hostilities, but they had not yet officially signed the surrender document. that was in september.
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so they were crestfallen. one of the survivors, marvin odom, whose team was lost in the figure of overcast said an interesting thing. he said he heard howdy harrison said to the other guys, once they learn the war is over, let's continue on and take a tour over tokyo, and then they got shot down. i spent some time in the book explaining why that was not feasible. first of all, how would odom know what he told those guys? om was going back to the carrier. second, who is going to take a tour over anti-aircraft areas that have been firing away at you all wore, now manned by japanese who are angry about surrendering? i talked to a vietnam aviator who flew over 100 missions over
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north vietnam, and i said, if you got that message, let's go on the tour, what would you do? he said i would turn around on my own and go back. i would never go on a tour. we would get out of there as fast as we can. while that was going on, there were two japanese farmers tending their field, and they saw this dogfight occur, and one of the planes crashed not far from their field. they went over and inspected. the plane was in hundreds of pieces. they contacted japanese officials who came out, and when it cooled, they gathered up the remains of a person. but there was no head, no limbs, just a trunk. that was all. no identification could be made. the japanese wrapped it up and carried it to the local buddhist shrine for the monk to take care of.
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so they properly took care of the remains of whoever that particular pilot was. everybody in the united states, everybody in the pacific was celebrating the end of the war. well everybody from the pacific was the united states, great britain, etc. everyone home in kokomo through an all-night celebration. cars after midnight drove through town honking their horns. booze freely flowed. everybody was having a good time. the hobbes and mandeberg families could not celebrate. they were happy. they assumed their sons were safe because, let's face it, what are the odds of my son is going to die in the final moments of war? nah, that's not going to happen.
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but still cautious. let's wait until we find out. in the coming days, others received words from their loved one that they were coming home soon or later, and they did not. in fact, some of the letters written to billy hobbs for his birthday, which happened to be august 15, the day he was shot down, that was his 22nd birthday, some of the letters and cards were returned to the hobbes family with that horrible stamp, return to sender. they are going, what's going on? it wasn't until september the government informed them those four pilots were missing in action. they could not be declared dead, because there were no remains, so they had to keep them on the books for a year and one day as missing. then, august 16, 1946 is when they officially declared them missing.
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since the families carried mementos and memories instead of the actual remains, open wounds persisted for a long time. both hattie hobbs, the mom of billy, and zelda mandeberg, eugene's mom, truly believed one day their sons would come walking through the front door. they never gave up that hope. they knew it was not realistic, but moms being moms. me mom wasbbs told always on the front porch and told me billy would come walking up the pathway there. every year on the anniversary of that death, august 15, hattie hobbs had a poem printed to honor her son. 1946, a team recovered the remains of the pilot that
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crashed in the farmland. they took the remains to the philippines, eventually, and buried them. along with the remains, which they could not identify because dna was not in existence then, they did recover some pieces of the aircraft that indicated probably the plane came from the yorktown, and it was a hellcat. so joe saloff parachuted into tokyo bay and was gone. it was either hobbs, mandeberg, or harrison. eventually, the governments dna team caught up with everything. two weeks ago, i was informed they have those remains in hawaii and are testing them. i have already taken dna samples from hobbs, mandeberg, etc. families, and hopefully they will come to a conclusion on who that person is, and one family,
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at least, will get that kind of closure. jeremy: it is an important mission the dod still carries on. a quick sidebar, the museum is in partnership with that defense pow mia accounting agency. we have a research historian here, post doc, who is helping them research the last action of -- actions of those who were fallen and remain unidentified. hopefully, we will figure out which one of those three boys it was, and the family will be able to have a proper burial. john, a couple follow-ups on that. you mentioned celebrations, obviously, for the ally side. what was your experience with any japanese archives? we had an interview a couple of weeks ago on the anniversary of the sinking of the uss
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indianapolis, and the co-authors mentioned the sub commander came home, even though he had just sunk a capital ship, he came home feeling dejected as a loser, because they lost the war. was there a japanese reaction or were they happy they got kills in the closing days of the war? -- closing hours. john: the main reaction would have been the first one you mentioned, the indignity of losing. one set all of us were willing to fight to the death, but now we had to surrender. that was hard for them to handle that. that's why you had some of the incidents of japanese planes attacking different areas, possibly the 15 or 20 who attacked the hobbes group may have had that as a reason of vengeance for having to surrender. they certainly considered it a loss of face, and only hearing
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the emperor's words pretty much what sealed, we've got to accept as the emperor said, we have to endure the unendurable. jeremy: the biggest name, the greatest man in your book is one of the most venerated in american military history, admiral halsey. he plays quite a role in your book, and a controversial one at that. how does he tie-in? john: that it does. as i mentioned, i did a biography of halsey earlier. i have long loved reading about admiral halsey. a fascinating guy. aggressive. he almost invented the soundbite years before that was a phrase. he was quotable in the press. newspaper correspondents loved chatting with him, because he would give them something to
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chew on. quite often laced with profanities. if we put an actual quote of his on the screen, there would have to be asterisks and question marks all over the place. [laughter] he, in the early two years of the war, brought american morale back up after pearl harbor. he did a marvelous job. and for that alone, he deserves a place in the pantheon of naval heroes. he attacked some early island raids in early 1942, and took doolittle's raiders out to lunch on their bombing raid over tokyo. he went down to the south pacific as the commander of the south pacific and turned around the situation there. he contributed greatly, and the home front made him a big hero. after that, he started making a few mistakes.
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he blundered a portion of the battle by leaving his post to chase after aircraft carriers. so he missed out on the battle of coral sea and midway. he wanted a crack at japanese carriers, before the war ended, so he went chasing after that. that allowed another admiral to storm through the san bernardino strait. only the courageous actions of three, admiral sprague and the ships of jim horn fisher, the last end of the tin can sailors, prevented a complete disaster there. halsey was criticized for that. then, in december of 44 and june -- 1944 and june of 1945, he led his ships into two typhoons.
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one of them caused considerable damage to ships and lives. he would have been sacked, but he was such a homefront hero that admiral king in washington said we have to keep him on. we can't get rid of him. for halsey, his stationed off the coast of japan was a chance for rain them shouldn't. my reputation is tarnished, but if i can finish off the japanese fleet, if i can pound them to the last day of the war, i will redeem and salvage my reputation. therefore, some of his judgments, according to air group 88 and every man i talked judgments, according to air
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group 88 and every man i talked to in air group 88, condemned halsey without blinking an eye. that is their instant reaction. i blame him for the deaths. that kind of thing. because the weapon halsey was using to help regain a reputation were the aviators. billy hobbes, etc. so there's that controversy. was he correct in doing that? he was under orders. nimitz and king told him you have to do this, you have to follow orders, but the question is where those orders even appropriate when there was so little left of anything to hit? that was the controversy. it was hard for me to write that section. i was writing a group about air group 88, so i had to write it from their point of view, their anger of this admiral, that i think deserves a little bit of a break because of the first years of the war and the contributions he made. but still, if you talk to air group 88, bill watson, he was there, watch out for what he might say. lieutenant hennessey in virginia, the same thing. he did pound the japanese navy
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-- the remnants of the japanese navy pretty much out of existence, so he did achieve a lot under the orders he was given. but some say he went too far and could have canceled at least that last strike, when the japanese were literally hours from saying we give up. jeremy: to your point, my second to last question here, then i will close with a final question after we get some audience questions, sadly, there must be somebody who was the last person to die in the war. these four men, as far as the comment hours were concerned, were the last four in the pacific theater. was this a mistake? john: if it was a mistake, it was a mistake made by superior command, yeah, a senior command, by either king nimitz or halsey. it was not a mistake by the aviators. it was a tragic event, i will say.
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that they went out -- they didn't want to, but they did what they were supposed to do. they did their duty. that, in itself, is admirable. in talking about this, i often of a band of brothers and you probably know the episode of the river, sending men out to capture a german prisoner of "why do we do this when the war is almost over." that commander canceled the mission. the aviators of air group 88 would have loved to have captain winters in command, i suppose. what they did was not a mistake. they were doing their duty. and their deaths were certainly not in vain, even though it should never have happened. mandeberg bay -- jean , eugene's niece, is quite an
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artist on the west coast. as i was growing up, i knew about eugene, and i felt him within me. he was driving me to do something creative. he wanted me to be a writer and never got the chance, so i must be an artist to at least be -- to at least have someone doing something creative like that to honor his memory. natalie schneider, who is billy hobbes' grandniece -- don't ask me to figure out who she is, the family told me she is the grandniece. i think she is in college now, but when she wrote the paper, she was a freshman in high school, for her english honors class. they could write a paper about anything. she chose her topic as an imaginary scene where patty hobbes, billy's mom, is telling billy's siblings, including
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nancy, that billy is dead, and that he was killed. natalie, 60 years later, she is writing about something that obviously has meant so much to that family. because of these things, sonya levine, the girl who was supposed to marry eugene, and the mandeburgs united. they got together after all these years, and shared all kinds of information. thinking, eugene is reaching out across all these decades to bring us together. even though we never got married, sonya said, he was the first great love of my life, and i've never forgotten him. she went on to be married to someone else, had a wonderful life, and still does in new york city. just yesterday, after you and i talked a little bit, i got any
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email from terry hobbs from kokomo, saying august 15 is coming up, saturday. thanks for writing the book. a lot of people in town are coming up to us and telling us what a remarkable thing billy hobbes did, and how much the family appreciates that effort these decades billy has been recognized for what he did. i don't think there is too much in vain for these pilots. it was certainly a tragedy, but as you said, someone has to be the final to die. unfortunately, these four were. jeremy: as you started this conversation, john, you said there was a goal to make sure these four were not forgotten. with your wonderful book, "dogfight over tokyo," i think you have ensured that the next couple hundred years, as long as there are books or kindles, those four will not be forgotten. so thank you very much for this presentation. we have a few questions. i'm going to start with one from
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mike, who is watching on facebook. he's curious about the degree of information that air combat information that officers had about the location of potential pow camps and how the pilots processed this information. if you came across anything with the pow camps, did any of air group 88 write about or talk about the anxiety of hitting or striking near them or striking on them? john: yeah, they knew the location of many. i don't want to say every single -- of many, i don't want to say every single one, and tried to avoid it. the interesting thing was, after august 15, the other aviators of air group 88, especially the fighting squadron, they scour japan. they went to every prison camp they could. they checked every wrecker they could. can we find billy hobbes? etc. etc.
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so they did know the location of many of these, and they would go out and check to see, maybe they were shot down and captured and maybe they were still alive. unfortunately, that did not pan out. jeremy: did any of the men leave -- did any ofment the men comment or leave journals about the potential of striking their own comrades? john: no specific comment i came across. i read a lot of diaries and letters, and i did not see one. jeremy: great. i see our wonderful helpers, chrissy and kate, have just put a link to your book in our store. that is on our website or, supporting the museum's educational mission. we hope you check that out. we have a question from anthony, who was watching the zoom here. do we know whether the japanese pilots who attacked our planes knew that the emperor had surrendered before they took off?
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how much after the broadcast of the emperor's surrender message did the dogfight occur? john: yeah. the high likelihood is how i will put it. i cannot say with 100% certainty, but yes, they knew about it, and they went out hunting for something. i didn't find anything in any records of that era group that indicated that they were going out to seek vengeance, but it is likely that was the case. in my book, that is how i put it. it could have been for some other reason. maybe they didn't know about it, but probably they did. jeremy: we have another question from mike here. he's interested in the research process for the strike reconstruction. i think he is referencing the map you used in the book. was this all from after action reports? did you put it through the flight logs?
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tell us how you came up with that. john: the after action reports were fascinating. most of my information came from those. an after action report was filed by each squadron, by each aviator, after a particular action was carried out. so you go to those. the flight logs didn't help a whole bunch. first of all, these four pilots never made it back, and they changed their flight route. so there was nothing much in the flight logs. it was reliant strictly on what the survivors, odom, hansen, proctor, those men, and what they wrote. by that, i could get a description.
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if the after action report says the pilots were 10 miles west of -- 10 miles southwest of the airfield, i knew how to plot that on the map. if odom said we were attacked five miles east of the airfield, i knew how to route that on the map as well. so it's a combination of the official records plus personal reminiscences. jeremy: great. john, i know the answer to this, because we are in communication, but i think the audience would like to know, what's next? i understand there are two things in the works. john: there are two things. they sort of happened coincidentally. at the same time with the same publisher. the one i am currently immersed in is a biography of a marine officer named general luis chesty polar, who is considered the marine's marine. he's a legend in the marine
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corps, he was awarded five navy crosses for his actions in nicaragua and in the pacific, all kinds of other medals. the men loved him. he was someone who would rather hang around with the privates and corporals, especially over the staff, at headquarters. they drove him nuts. i'm doing a biography on that for dutton. they are doing a series on great war commanders to be out in paperback version early next year sometime. the other one involves eddie rickenbacker. some in the audience will know, the famous car racer, -- will know the famous car racer, indianapolis 500 participant who, in world war i, became the leading american ace,
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chasing after german pilots and things like that. in 1942, eddie rickenbacker went on a secret mission for the government. they asked him to fly over the south pacific and deliver a message to general macarthur. on his way out, the plane made a crash landing. they ran out of fuel, and couldn't locate one of the interim destinations. they overshot it, because of navigation mistakes. they were lost at sea for three weeks. by they i mean a group of eight men who are on the plane. newspapers in the united states. when i started researching this, it was just about the time kobe bryant died. the reaction to eddie rickenbacker's death was even more so than that. all newspapers covered it, and eventually, they gave up hope, and some printed obituaries. they were found after three weeks at sea.
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they made it back. so i explained this to the editor, and he says, i've never even heard of this. it's a great tale. fortunately, there's all kinds of information. five of the eight men -- one did die during the time in the pacific. five of the seven who survived wrote books about it. small books. and i've been in contact with four of the families to get other information, so those are both of the next two books, i -- two books i will be doing. jeremy: great. we are looking forward to both of them. hopefully, by then, we will host public programs in person and we can bring you back for one or maybe get a twofer out of you. john: i'm fine with that. [laughter] jeremy: michael has a question. were you able to identify the japanese pilots? john: no. jeremy: can you talk about the japanese records? or lack thereof? john: i didn't find many.
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efforts were on the action effort reports, war diaries, ships logs, and personal reminiscences. i like to interview the people who were there and their families as much as possible. jeremy: understood. another question from david. you mentioned the pilot parachuted into tokyo bay and did not survive. john: that is correct. they think it was joe saloff, they are almost sure. they saw his plane, and then they lost sight of him, and nothing ever turned up. jeremy: was the survival rate poor for the pilots bailing out over water? was that just par for the course that they would drown or was he possibly wounded? john: if they could somehow make it down with their plane, the
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chances of rescue were very high. just parachuting into the ocean, the odds plummeted. one chapter in the book is about air/sea rescue. it is fascinating how they did that. the u.s. navy would go right if a pilot was downed and on a raft, and they would just pick them up right there. so the odds were ok that way. jeremy: a quick question for clarification. the dogfight was after the broadcast of the emperor's surrender message? john: correct. jeremy: and was there any record of any japanese planes shot down? this is from amy. any japanese planes shot down during this dogfight? john: the air group records indicate eight japanese planes were shot down by the six hellcat fighters. who did what is up for debate,
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but they do indicate eight were shot down. jeremy: i don't see any more coming in online, and we are just hitting that one hour mark, which we wanted to try to hit. richard says great for answering his question, and i think that summarizes this conversation. yesterday,nd i spoke the house of world war ii history. and there seems to be an infinite amount of doors to be opened. you certainly found a new door, a wonderful story that i think honors these four men who perished, but also the air group 88, yorktown, and all of those who served in the pacific theater. so thank you very much for coming to share this on the eve of the 75th of the surrender. you have -- as i mentioned to you, i read the book. read itit first, deeper, then really scanned it.
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so three times. i picked up something new every time. i hope you all go and purchase the book. please join us next wednesday for our next webinar on the pope of physics, the scientist enrico fermi who was involved in the manhattan project. that will be at 11:00 a.m. central wednesday. let's all give a virtual round of applause to our presenter and my friend, john wukovits. [laughter] thank you very much. john: thank you, jeremy. it has been a pleasure. great questions. i know you are always prepared, which is not always the case with some people elsewhere, but you are top-notch. thank you and thank everyone else there, the staff for that help today and every other time i've been there. jeremy: great. we will get you back soon and see you back here next wednesday. have a great and safe weekend.
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[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you're watching american history tv, covering his pre--- covering history c-span style with event coverage, our witness accounts, lectures and college classrooms, and visits to museums and historical places. every weekend on c-span three.
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>> today on the civil war, gettysburg college civil war institute hosts a discussion about how interpretation has changed over the years at appomattox courthouse historical park. here is a preview. the park were always coming against, even as you drive into appomattox town, the sign says we are the nation reunited. and we are always like, sort of, but not really. one of the first -- i had had, ,eautiful, and this was my dad
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this is something he grew up with. they are fantastic. if you read it, you will come away with a very different impression of appomattox then what we would want you to walk away with today. it focuses very much on fidelity. ingly focuses on what each general is wearing. consul --out how the the constant gentleman is reflected in his clothing where as grant shows up and has my battered boots. that is supposed to tell us about the character of each of them, and the arc of this entire story is the story that generally ends april 9, well april 10, with a farewell address.
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all of these are things that helped to build toward a lost cause. it as thelook at beginning of the end. the beginning toward reconstruction as well, the beginning of emancipation, beginning of the surrenders of the confederate army, major armies in the field. it is really the turning point instead of the end and then there was peace. shipping lines where he asked appomattox citizens around the turn-of-the-century, and somebody did. they established parks and memorials. the southern people here were quick to remind everybody that in fact we were not so keen on remembering that, thank you very much. a lot of things were lost that day. today, we see it as more was -- war was ending, relationships were brought back
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together. >> learn more about how civil war history is presented at appomattox today on c-span 3. >> university of mary washington history professor william crawley discussed woodrow wilson's political career and legacy, focusing on his presidency. the university of mary washington hosted this event and provide the video. prof. crawley: welcome everyone to today's great lecture on woodrow wilson. of the 45 men to hold out for president, few have contributed most significantly within -- to the development of that office then woodrow wilson. few have been more controversial in their own times or have conspired more controversy among historians.


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