world war ii: pacific theater


The German U-Boat Force of the Pacific

When it comes to U-Boat warfare, most people think of U-Boats sinking Allied ships in the North Atlantic.  However, U-Boat prowled everywhere, including places like the Caribbean and South Atlantic.  One far off area of operations was the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean around the waters of Indonesia, the Straits of Malacca, and the South Pacific.  Called Monsune Gruppe, the U-Boat force was founded in 1943 when a first wave of a dozen U-Boats sailed to Asia.  Submarine bases were founded Penang in Malaysia, Kobe in Japan, and a handful of small repair and supply bases throughout Indonesia.  A few Italian submarines also sailed east to join the group, but Italy surrendered halfway through the journey, and the submarines surrendered at South African ports. One Italian submarine that was to be a part of the force, the Cappellini, attempted to surrender but was captured by the Japanese, then turned over to the Germans. Since it operated so far away from Germany, Monsun Gruppe was often dependent on Japanese supplies. In addition, six Japanese submarines joined the group, one of the few instances of direct cooperation between German and Japanese forces.   

By 1943, Allied forces had developed tactics and technology to counter submarines.  Among them was the use of naval aircraft patrols. Considering that the Pacific Theater was chalk full of carrier based aircraft, the environment for Monsun Gruppe was in many ways more dangerous for the U-Boats than the North Atlantic. As a result of these factors, Monsun Gruppe’s success was modest compared to other theaters of operation. From 1943 to 1945, Monsun Gruppe sank 66 Allied freighters. In addition, the unit delivered small amounts of strategic materials to Japan from Germany.  Out of the 44 U-Boats, six Japanese submarines, and one Italian submarine that took part in Monsun Gruppe, 28 were sunk, most by US Navy aircraft.  When the war ended, most surviving U-Boats were scuttled, their crew surrendering to the Allies.  Six U-Boats were either turned over to or salvaged by the Japanese Navy, all of which were scrapped or scuttled after the war. The Italian submarine Cappellini, then operated by a mixed German and Italian crew, was returned to the Japanese Navy and manned with a mixed German, Italian, and Japanese crew. When Japan surrendered, it was seized by the US Navy, and later scrapped in 1946.

Ben Kuroki was the only American of Japanese descent in the United States Army Air Forces to serve in combat operations in the Pacific theater of World War II. Kuroki fought for the country that institutionalized racism against his ethnic background, in order to attempt an end of the biases themselves. Kuroki died on September 1st, 2015 at the age of 98


“It was so good to see your handwriting.”

Those of us who work with archival collections come into contact with unique handwriting nearly every day. Although we can normally decipher the script (predominantly English in our collection), from WWII, there are times when we have to poll colleagues and guess at what is written. Does it say —? There were times when handwriting played a more central role in communication. In writing to prisoners of war, especially in the Pacific, where letters would be read by both American and Japanese censors, writers received special instruction. Most importantly, the letters were to be short (no more than 25 words) and were to be typed or block printed. Letters that did not comply with these rules, were returned.

We have examples of these failed attempts at communication from a collection of material related to the imprisonment by the Japanese of USMC Sgt. Edward A. Padbury. POWs in Japan were allowed very little, if any, correspondence with their loved ones. Mail was regularly delayed by nearly a year. General Jonathan Wainwright’s wife, Adele, reportedly sent him 300 letters over the three-plus years of his imprisonment. He received a total of six.

Catherine Faye, Edward Padbury’s sister, had some unsuccessful efforts to write to her brother. The first letter was returned on two accounts. It was longer than 25 words and written in cursive. The second letter was block printed, but also too long. We do not have any correspondence from Sgt. Padbury, but we do know that he survived the war and was liberated from Shinjoku POW Camp in the Tokyo Bay area.

Gift of Phillip Faye, 2006.128

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.
US Marines admit one of the men identified in Iwo Jima photo was the wrong man - as details emerge of real hero who took story to his grave
The US Marines have resolved a longstanding question mark over the identities of the men in an iconic photograph from Iwo Jima, revealing the story of a Midwestern Private who went to his grave without ever claiming his role.

The US Marines have resolved a longstanding question mark over the identities of the men in an iconic photograph from Iwo Jima, revealing the story of a Midwestern Private who went to his grave without ever claiming his role.

The Marines on Thursday concluded an investigation that found Harold Schultz, a private first class with the Marines, was almost certainly one of the men seen raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi during a fierce battle between American and Japanese forces in 1945.