Operation Crossroads was the code name given to a series of nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific in July 1946. The tests carried out by Joint Task Force 1, a combined Army and Navy operation. The stated purpose of the tests was to observe the effects of nuclear weapons on naval vessels.
Unlike the Trinity tests in the desert of New Mexico, Operation Crossroads was a very public affair. Invited guests included a large media presence, scientists and foreign military observers.
Three tests were planned. Test Able was was an air burst of a 23 kiloton “fat boy”. Test Baker involved an underwater detonation of a similar device. Test Charlie was to have a deep water detonation. Problems with decontaminating the test ships after Test Baker prevented Rest Charlie from occurring.
A fleet of seventy-one vessels was assembled in the Bikini lagoon as the target array. The ships were mostly American vessels including the carriers Independence and Saratoga and the battleships Arkansas, Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania. A few captured German and Japanese ships were also included.
Test Able was conducted on July 1, 1946. The bomb was dropped from a B-29 of the 509th Bomb Group. The bomb missed the target vessel, USS Nevada, by 750 yards. Five ships were sunk immediately and fourteen others badly damaged. The media was underwhelmed by the damage. The scientific evidence showed that the crew on most of the vessels would have perished from the effect of the radiation.
Test Baker took place on July 25, 1946. The device was detonated ninety feet below the surface suspended from LSM-60. While the plume from Test Able took most of the radioactive material into the stratosphere, the underwater detonation of Test Baker caused a radioactive soup to inundate the target vessels. The contamination was so bad that decontamination of most of the ships was abandoned and the vessels sunk.
The operation required the displacement of 167 natives from Bikini. Poor fishing conditions in their new home required their removal once more. Seventy-three years later Bikini Atoll remains uninhabited.
A number of numismatic items exist from Operation Crossroads. At least three different souvenir notes were printed for use as short snorters and there are chits from the recreation facilities on Kwajalein.
The first short snorter was made by the 58th Bomb Squadron of the 509th Bomb Group. The B-29 that dropped the bomb for Test Able was from the 58th Bomb Squadron.
The second type was printed by the Navy for JTF-1.
The third short snorter was printed for use on the USS Sumner. The Sumner was a survey vessel that conducted the preparatory work in the Bikini lagoon before the tests.
The Coral Reef Tavern was the name of the Navy run recreation facility on Kwajalein. Five and ten cent chits for use in the Coral Reef Tavern have survived.
Operation Crossroads also has a large philatelic footprint. Commemorative covers were made for most, if not all, of the target vessels as well as many of the support ships. The 58th Bomb Wing also made a commemorative cover that was carried on the plane that dropped the bomb for Test Able carrying a July 1, 1946 postmark.
One of the oddest actions of the US Army in WWII took place not on the battlefield but in an office building in the city of Chicago. Pictured above is a photograph of Sewell Avery, chairman of Montgomery Ward, being carried out of his office by two soldiers. The soldiers were apparently prepared for the worst as they are wearing steel pot helmets and carry bayonets and gas masks. It was one chapter in a very bitter and public feud between the President of the United States and the head of the largest American retail operation of the day.
On more than one occasion during the war labor unrest threatened or potentially threatened industry that was necessary for the war effort. When this occurred the President exercised emergency war powers to take control of the business. Such was the case with Montgomery Ward.
Sewell Avery, the retailer’s chairman, did not care much for Roosevelt and the New Deal. He cared even less for labor unions. When Montgomery Ward employees began to organize, Avery threatened to close the facilities. Avery then refused to accept a union contract and the employees threatened to strike. FDR literally sent in the Army.
Claiming that the labor disruption would have an effect on the war effort, FDR had the War Department take over the operation of the facilities in December 1944.
The numismatic connection? Catalog retailers used pre-printed bearer checks for refunds. These checks could be used for future purchases or cashed at a bank. The War Department administrators at Montgomery Ward had special checks printed for refunds related to the facilities they operated.
The War Department ran the facilities until October 1945. Four different Special Representatives of the Secretary of War were in charge during these eleven months. Each of them had checks printed with their signature.
This War Department check from June 1945 is a remarkable piece. The face and back show multiple endorsements. Apparently, Mrs. Glen Knudson of Fairmount, MN kept the check until July 1971 when she used it at the Montgomery Ward store there. It was accepted and entered the banking channels.
It was first deposited into the retailers account at the First National Bank of Minneapolis. Since the check was drawn on the Continental Illinois Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, it next went to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank who forwarded it to the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank who sent it to Continental. Continental refused the check because the check was stale and the account was closed. The remaining myriad of stamps on the back cancel the endorsements made by each bank after it was refused by Continental. It seems like an awful lot of trouble for a penny!
In response to the Great Depression, the German government of Kurt von Schleicher instituted severe economic policies including currency reform in 1932. One of the more drastic measures imposed was making the reichsmark (RM) inconvertible and prohibiting the export of RM currency. In other words, RM could not be exchanged for foreign currency and RM notes could not be taken out of Germany. Importing foreign currency was also prohibited. These steps were intended to keep foreign exchange out of the German economy.
These policies created problems for German cruise ships which used RM but could not take it out of the country. They also presented difficulties for foreigners wishing to travel in Germany because they could not obtain RM notes for use in Germany.
The currency limitations required the creation of special monetary instruments for use on cruise ships known as ship’s money orders (Bordanweisungen) and special traveler’s cheques for tourists.
The ship’s money orders were denominated in RM and could only be purchased and used on board the cruise ship on that particular voyage. The ship’s name and voyage number were printed on the money orders. At the end of the voyage the money orders were exchanged back into RM notes.
Foreigners who were traveling to Germany on cruise ships had to purchase special traveler’s cheques that were denominated in Registermarks. One Registermark was equal to one RM but the Registermark cheques could not be used for direct purchases. On ship the cheques were used to acquire ship’s money orders which were then used for purchases. Once in Germany the Registermark cheques were converted to RM notes only at approved financial institutions in Germany.
Travelers going into Germany on land or on foreign cruise ships could not exchange their currency for RM notes directly. These travelers were required to purchase RM denominated traveler’s cheques from approved institutions outside Germany. Like the Registermark cheques, these traveler’s could not be used for direct purchases but had to be converted to RM notes once in Germany.
Upon departing Germany, travelers had to deposit their remaining RM notes with a financial institution in return for a receipt. (Travelers could bring up to 30 RM in coin into or out of Germany). The receipt was then presented to the institution outside Germany from whom the traveler’s cheques were purchased for redemption in the home currency.
These policies remained until the beginning of WWII. The Allied Military Government imposed similar restrictions on the RM after WWII but that will be a topic for another day.
The $10.00 United States Savings Bond was known as the “Soldier’s Bond”. It was issued from 1943-50. It could only be purchased by active duty members of the United States Army. An army private earned $21.00 per month in pay during WWII. The Army and the Treasury Department determined that more soldiers would buy bonds if the purchase price were lowered. It took $18.75 to purchase a $25.00 bond and even at the allotment amount of one-third per month for three months it was difficult for enlisted soldiers to participate. The $10.00 bond only required a monthly allotment of $2.50.
The bond pictured above was issued to Sgt. Jorge L. Vazquez of Aibonito, Puerto Rico during WWII. Sgt. Vazquez was attached to the 65th Infantry Regiment. The 65th Regiment was made up of Puerto Ricans and served in Panama, North Africa, Italy and France.
Sgt. Vazquez remained in the army after WWII. The 65th Regiment took part in an amphibious exercise in Puerto Rico in 1950 as the opposing force. They performed their task so well that the Regiment was assigned to the Third Infantry Division when it went to Korea later that year.
On February 6, 1952, SFC Vazquez was leading a night-time patrol that included Pvt. Euripides A Colon, Cpl. Maximino Molina-Gerera, Pvt. Ramon Ortiz-Duran, Pfc. Reinaldo Ramirez-Ramos, Sgt. Ramon Santiago-Rosario, and Pfc. Miguel A Zayas. The patrol did not return and their remains have yet to be found.
Short snorters were popular souvenirs in WWII. A short snorter is a banknote that was signed by a group of people usually to mark an event. They started before the war as souvenirs for passengers on trans-oceanic flights. Air crews continued the practice dung the war and it was picked up by the other branches.As service members traveled from country to country their short snorters would grow by taping notes from the different countries together. The short snorter is a remembrance of those a service member came in contact with and of those who would not return.
This particular short snorter consists of five notes and has 150 different signatures. Interestingly, there is tape on both of the end notes indicating it was originally larger. Using military records on http://www.fold3.com, 126 of the names on the notes are positively identified. They are all members of Army Air Force flight crews and one Navy pilot that flew in the Pacific. Of these identified signatures, 49 are those of men who did not survive the war.
On June 10, 1944, Lt. Irvin G Booth of the 371st Bomb Squadron and his crew took off in their B-24 from Mokerang airfield in the Admiralty Islands. Their primary target was Truk Atoll. Seeing no shipping in the area of Truk, Lt. Booth headed for the secondary target, the Japanese naval base at Doblon. There they encountered light anti-aircraft fire and dropped their entire payload without serious incident.
An hour out of Mokerang on the return flight the number 1 engine sputtered and died. Then the number 4 engine quit. The aircraft was running out of fuel. Lt. Booth directed that all non-essential equipment be removed to lighten the aircraft. Rapidly losing altitude, the crew prepared for a water landing. Fifteen minutes after numbers 1 and 4 quit, engines 2 and 3 stopped also and the plane hit the water. Three crewmen survived the landing but the other seven perished.
The dead included: Pilot Lt. Irvin G Booth, Co-Pilot Lt. Bernard T. Kelly, Navigator Lt. Ernest D. Brink, Bombardier Lt. George E. Muhs, Assistant Engineer SSgt. Andres S. Barela, Radar Operator SSgt. Leslie R. Mossman, Radio Operator TSgt Perry R. Thorington. The survivors were Engineer SSgt. Colvin H Palmer, Gunner Sgt. Robert E. Black and Gunner SSgt. Max Solomon. The signatures of all of these men except Kelly and Parmer appear on the short snorter.
1LT Don A. Anthony also of the 371st Bomb Squadron and his crew departed Mokerang on August 10, 1944 headed for Yap Island. Shortly after reaching the target Lt. Anthony radioed that everything was OK. It was the last that he and the crew would be heard from. When the aircraft did not return as search was undertaken of the last reported location but to no avail.
The crew consisted of: Pilot Lt. Don A. Anthony, Co-Pilot Lt. Robert D. Baker, Navigator Lt. William C. Galton, Bombardier Lt. James H. Cuddy, Engineer TSgt. Donald E. Carlson, Assistant Engineer SSgt. Ernest R. Mayo, Radar Operator TSgt. Richard J. O’Brien, Assistant Radar Operator SSgt. Norman C. Echols, Gunner SSgt Reynold B. Mooney, Gunner SSgt. Henry J. Hartman and Photographer Sgt. Hilary Gilbert Jr.
A post-war review of Japanese records indicate SSgt. Mooney and Sgt. Gilbert were taken prisoner by the Japanese after the plane landed upside down near Yap. The Japanese records indicate they were put on a ship bound for Manila but there is no record that they arrived there.
The signatures of Lt. Baker, Lt. Galton, Lt. Cuddy, TSgt. Carlson, TSgt. O’Brien and SSgt. Hartman are on the back of the US $1.00 note.
Lt. Donald W. Dyer and his crew were assigned to the 868th Bomb Squadron. The 868th did not belong to a Bomb Group but worked independently for the 13th Air Force. The 868th specialized in low-level anti-ship operations.
On June 11, 1944, Lt. Dyer and his crew took off with the squadron for Truk Atoll. An eyewitness account of the mission indicated that just prior to reaching the target his aircraft caught fire and quickly lost altitude. It went into a spin, flattened out and then broke apart as it struck land. The aircraft was still burning when the squadron made their return flight to Mokerang.
None of the crew survived. The crew on this final flight consisted of: Pilot Lt. Donald W. Dyer, Co-Pilot Lt. George M. Jones, Navigator Lt. John E. Malley, Bombardier Lt. Charles L. Frank, Engineer SSgt. William M. Grenz, Assistant Engineer Bernard A. Malinowski, Radio Operator SSgt. Walter Martin, Radar Operator Seymour J. Stoller, Gunner SSgt. William Mikesell, and Gunner SSgtMelvin Ott.
The signatures of all of Lt. Dyer’s final crew appear on the short snorter.
Lt. Alexis C. Bachand was the Co-Pilot and SSgt. Harold J. Olson was the Assistant Engineer on a B-24 flown by Lt. Arthur J. Belair of the 31st Bomb Squadron. On May 21, 1944 the crew took off from Momote Airfield in the Admiralty Islands for Truk Atoll. Shortly after releasing its bombs the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire forcing it out of formation. Three Japanese fighters descended upon it going in for the kill. Three chutes were observed coming out of the aircraft. Despite an extensive search, neither the wreck nor the crew were found.
Lt. Orlo J. Hoyt of the 72nd Bomb Squadron had the misfortune of being in two separate crashes. The first was on May 12, 1944 over Biak Island. The aircraft was hit by ground fire. Fuel was leaking from the bomb bay and three of the engines quit. All crew members parachuted out before the plane exploded upon impact with the water. The Bombardier, Lt. Ted C. Shaw, did not survive but all the other crew did. Their signatures along with Gunner Sgt. Milton C. Bye appear on the short snorter.
On August 9, 1944, Lt Hoyt was on board a B-24 that attacked Yap Island. While approaching the airfield at Los Negros on the return, number 1 and 2 engines cut out due to lack of fuel. The pilot ordered the crew to crash positions but the aircraft hit the water before they were in place. Lt. Hoyt was killed along with eight of the crew.
On April 28, 1944, 2Lt. Edmund J. Donai piloted his B-24 during an attack on Woleai Island. During the attack number 3 engine ceased operating and number 4 engine suffered a loss of oil pressure. Number 4 eventually failed and since it could not be feathered the aircraft began losing altitude quickly. A water landing was made and the aircraft remained intact. Five of the eleven crew members perished including Lt. Donai, Co-Pilot Lt. Richard J. Hollinger, Bombardier Lt. Lonnie D. Johnston, Radio Operator TSgt William D. Gand, and Photo gunner Robert T. Atsatt. Hollinger and Johnsron are on the short snorter along with survivors Navigator Lt. Kenneth F. Hayes, Engineer SSgt. Bernard A. Swartz, and Assistant Radio Operator Sgt. Howard J. Shaw.
On October 3, 1944, the 370th and 371st Bomb Squadrons attacked Balikpapan on the Island of Borneo. As the formation was peeling away from the target a B-24 piloted by 1Lt. Harold W. Wright lost its number 2 engine and began to lose altitude at a rate of about a 1000 feet per minute. The aircraft veered from the formation and was last seen heading toward Borneo. Neither the aircraft nor crew were ever seen again.
The crew consisted of: Pilot Lt. Wright, Co-Pilot Lt. Arthur B. Nielsen, Navigator Lt. Warham H. Franklin, Bombardier Lt. Joseph F. Stevenson, Engineer TSgt. Harvey H. Carter, Assistant Engineer SSgt. Bascome E. Long, Radio Operator TSgt. John F. Morris, Assistant Radio Operator SSgt. Chester H. Wuertley, Gunner SSgt. Joseph E. Charles, Gunner SSgt. Hugh D. Fox and Photo Gunner Sgt. William R. Stapleton. All but Wuertley, Fox and Stapleton appear on the short snorter.
On November 16, 1944, six B-24s took off from Morotai Island headed for Brunei Bay on Borneo to attack Japanese naval vessels and merchant ships that were known to be in the harbor. The lead plane was piloted by Maj. James A. Saalfield. Withering anti-aircraft fire was encountered from the Japanese fleet. Maj. Saalfield’s aircraft was struck before the formation was on the target. The shell burst just below the nose and the shrapnel damaged number 2 and number 3 engines. Maj. Saalfield took the plane out of the formation and was never seen again.
Interviews with natives on Borneo after the war indicated that an American bomber crash landed on this same date. The natives in the region of the crash, the Muruts, were the last tribe on Borneo to renounce the practice of collecting the heads of their enemies. Three of the crew probably died in the crash as the Japanese discovered three severed heads with the aircraft. Five crew members were taken in by locals but eventually betrayed and ambushed on a bridge killing three of the Americans who were subsequently beheaded. The other two fled into the jungle. The only remains located were the three skulls at the crash site and the three that were ambushed on the bridge.
The crew consisted of: Pilot Maj. James A. Saalfield, Co-Pilot Lt. Richard M. Van Galder, Navigator Lt. Robert W. Wickhorst, Bombardier Lt. John D. Scoggin, Engineer TSgt. Everett E. Moore, Assistant Engineer TSgt. Russell E. Cross, Radio Operator TSgt. David E. Beck, Radar Operator Charlie H. Deaver, Gunner SSgt. Elvin L. Barkhuff, Gunner SSgt. Ahti J. Wuori , and Aircraft Observer Lt. WIlliam F. Mc Clelland.
The signatures of Van Galder, Wickhorst, Beck and Barkhuff are on the short snorter.
One final recognition for a signer of this short snorter. Ludwig A. Havlak of San Angelo, TX served with the 868th Bomb Squadron. As of today he is 97 years old.
Edward Hale Perry was born in Boston on January 23, 1887. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in mining engineering in 1913. He was attracted to the geological aspects of mining and spent most of his time in the western part of the country. He was working in Arizona in 1917 when the United States entered WWI. He completed the job he was on and went back east to enlist in the Army.
He applied to the officer’s training school in Plattsburg, NY. He transferred to the Corps of Engineers and was made a First Lieutenant. He was posted to the 6th Engineer Regiment and was in charge of a mining, sapper and demolition platoon within Company D. He was offered the opportunity to remain stateside as an instructor but he declined and set sail for Europe on December 5, 1917 from Hoboken on the SS Huron with the rest of Company D.
Prior to departing the United States, 1LT Perry got his financial affairs in order and took out the above letter of credit for £300. This amount was the equivalent of $1,500.00 in 1917. Letters of credit were a precursor to travelers’ cheques that allowed the holder to draw funds from an in-country financial institution which was reimbursed by the issuing bank. Amounts paid out are entered on the back.
In January 1918, Company B and Company D of the 6th Engineers were detached for service with the British 5th Army. The American Engineer Companies were assigned to construct steel bridges over the Somme. On March 21, 1918 the German Army launched their Spring Offensive, Operation Michael, against the British and French positions.
As the Germans advanced and the British 3rd and 5th Armies retreated, the American Engineer Companies remained at the Somme bridges to destroy them after the Allied withdrawal was complete. Having done their duty on the bridges, the American Engineers were thrown into a gap that had developed in the British lines between Hamel and Villers-Bretonneux as part of Carey’s Force, a hastily composed task force made up of whatever units could be found nearby.
The German Offensive eventually petered out but not before LT Perry would perish. His last actions are described by Captain Harris Jones, his Company Commander:
It was Saturday, March 30. We underwent a good preliminary bombardment followed by the infantry attacks supported by heavy barrages. Our trenches were pretty poor, as we had to get underground at the same time that we were keeping the Fritz out of the way, and the artillery smashed a good deal of our defenses. A shell had demolished a traverse in Perry’s section of trench, killing four men. He was working in the gap preparing the damage with his own hands, when a bullet, probably from a machine gun in an enemy aeroplane which was raking the trenches, penetrated his skull.
Transactions of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, Volume LXI (1920)
Despite the eyewitness account of 1LT Perry’s death, his remains were not identified and the American Battlefield Monuments Commission lists him as missing in action. Curiously, the letter of credit was found somewhere in the French countryside and returned first to Brown, Shipley & Co. and then to his family.
Iron Bottom Bay or Iron Bottom Sound lies between Florida Island, Savo Island and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Prior to the war it was known as Savo Sound. The new name was adopted by Allied sailors as the bottom of the sound became littered with the hulks of sunken Japanese and Allied warships.
Between August 1942 and April 1943 five separate naval engagements took place within the sound as the ground campaign on Guadalcanal dragged on. Sixteen Allied and eight Japanese ships were sunk during those battles. Seventeen Allied and nine Japanese ships went to the bottom in other action in the sound before the end of the war.
After the Japanese withdrawal from Guadalcanal in February 1943, the Allies turned the islands around Iron Bottom Sound into a major port and logistics facility. Recreational facilities were among the improvements made. On Florida Island the 1008 Seabee Detachment constructed the Iron Bottom Bay Club as the primary officer’s club to serve the area.
Most of the military clubs operated on a chit or coupon system. Club chits were sold in booklets usually by deducting the amount directly from pay.
Using chits instead of regular money allowed for greater currency control and accountability. It also kept money out of the local economy helping to keep down inflation. There was also an added benefit to the club when a member left without redeeming all their coupons.
The booklet pictured above was issued by the Iron Bottom Bay Club on Florida Island. The booklet originally held $3.00 in chits but this example was surcharged down to $1.00. It had 5 x $.10 and 10 x $.05 chits.