Profile profile for BlazichF

Frank Blazich

Curator, Military History

PhD, The Ohio State University, 2013
MA, North Carolina State University, 2008
BA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004

Research Specialties: 
  • World War II and American Home Front
  • Civil Defense and Fallout Shelter policies
  • Vietnam War
  • U.S. Navy
  • Prisoners of War
  • Military Homing Pigeons
Awards, Honors, and Special Recognition: 

Air Force Historical Foundation Best Article in Air Power History Award, 2019

Professional Affiliations: 
  • American Historical Association 
  • American Legion
  • Company of Military Historians
  • Society for History in the Federal Government
  • Society for Military History
  • United States Commission on Military History
  • United States Naval Institute

 

 

Publications

Notre Cher Ami: The Enduring Myth and Memory of a Humble Pigeon Journal of Military History 85, no. 3 (July 2021): 646-77.

The legend of the military homing pigeon Cher Ami has captured the public's imagination; but the story of this pigeon helping save the lives of the Lost Battalion is rife with inconsistencies and falsehoods. This article delves into archival records to retrace Cher Ami's life and deconstruct the myth about the bird. There is nothing conclusive linking the pigeon to the actions of the Lost Battalion. Cher Ami did survive severe wounds transporting a message, but exactly where and when are uncertain. The U.S. Army chose to link Cher Ami with the Lost Battalion's story to promote the contributions of the Signal Corps' Pigeon Service. The Smithsonian Institution preserved and displayed Cher Ami with benign indifference. The public treated the pigeon as a memorial, a place of remembrance and reflection on the heroism of the Lost Battalion and of the war's combatants.

Bridging the Gap from Ship to Shore Naval History 35, no. 8 (August 2021): 35-41.

Innovation, inter-Allied cooperation, and a bit of good luck combined to solve a confounding amphibious problem in time for the 1943 invasion of Sicily.

“An Honorable Place in American Air Power”: Civil Air Patrol Coastal Patrol Operations, 1942-1943 Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 2020.

On the eve of American entry into World War II, the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) established the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), an organization of the nation’s private pilots and aviation personnel for national defense purposes. Beginning in February 1942 with tentative Navy Department approval, the Army Air Forces agreed to an experimental use of CAP aircraft and personnel for antisubmarine patrols along the Atlantic Coast. This use of civilian pilots and aircraft developed out of an urgent necessity to stem the tide of German submarine operations inflicting heavy losses on coastal shipping. For the Army, the CAP coastal patrol was essentially a subexperiment for a larger experiment to see if civilian aviation could be semimilitarized for national defense purposes. The operational success of CAP’s coastal patrol effort convinced Army leadership that the CAP could serve in a wider capacity. The coastal patrol effort received ordnance and military uniforms and expanded to 21 bases flying continuous daytime patrols from Maine to the Texas–Mexico border. The coastal patrol effort spawned a similar Southern Liaison Patrol patrolling the American border with Mexico. Collectively, CAP’s operations with the Army resulted in the transfer of CAP from OCD to the War Department in late April 1943. Drawing extensively on unpublished, previously unavailable archival material, this policy-based study of CAP’s coastal patrol examines the origins, evolution, and concluding operations of this civilian effort. Through the historical record, conclusions are drawn from CAP’s coastal patrol operation to provide a doctrinal basis for the discussion of future uses of auxiliary airmen for domestic military purposes in time of war.

Feathers of Honor: U.S. Army Signal Corps Pigeon Service in World War I, 1917-1918  Army History 38, no. 4 (Fall 2020): 32-51.

This article documents the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ Pigeon Service from its inception and early struggles in 1917 to its effective use on the battlefield in 1918. With the help of British and French pigeoneers, the U.S. Army established numerous lofts in France; deployed mobile lofts to the front lines; and sent baskets of pigeons into battle strapped to doughboys, who used them to send back important messages and intelligence. Most famously, one of these Army-trained pigeons helped save the Lost Battalion when that unit was trapped behind enemy lines. This episode skyrocketed awareness of the Pigeon Service in the minds and imaginations of the American public back home.

Neptune’s Oracle: Admiral Harry E. Yarnell’s Wartime Planning, 1918–20 and 1943–44 Naval War College Review 73, no. 1 (Winter 2020): 107-34.

Admiral Yarnell’s training at the Naval War College combined with his planning experiences of 1918–20 and 1943–44 to instill ideas and methodologies that he applied throughout his career. His study of military history and his half century of service equipped him admirably to provide Navy leadership with sound foundations for further planning efforts. Yarnell’s strategic vision profoundly influenced the interwar Navy and the force that entered the Cold War era.

“Definitely Damaged or Destroyed” Reexamining Civil Air Patrol’s Wartime Claims Air Power History 66, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 19-30.

Since 1943, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) has claimed to have damaged or destroyed two German submarines (U-boats) over the course of the organization’s coastal patrol operation. Drawing from extensive archival research, including previously unavailable primary source materials, this article is the first detailed study of the two incidents forming the basis of CAP’s wartime claims. Based on the surviving data, it can be concluded that CAP aircraft neither destroyed nor damaged any enemy submarines from March 5, 1942 to August 31, 1943. The claim by CAP of damaging or destroying enemy submarines appears to originate from within CAP’s own national headquarters based on reports from the organization’s coastal patrol task forces. The U.S. military did not formally credit the CAP with the destruction or damage of two enemy submarines, either during or after the conclusion of World War II.

In the Era of Electronic Warfare, Bring back Pigeons War on the Rocks, https://www.warontherocks.com (published January 16, 2019). 

In an era where military innovation may conjure up thoughts about futuristic weapons and high-dollar research, development, and acquisition, perhaps consider an innovation redux: the homing pigeon. The electromagnetic spectrum’s influence extends throughout the systems and operations of the battlespace into the fabric of civil society. Offensive and defensive operations in the cyber space realm, combined with kinetic strikes on air, land, sea, or space-based infrastructure, could potentially disable or severely damage entire communication or power grids. Adversaries with electronic warfare dominance would then be positioned to control the battlespace and restrict the options presented to American or allied commanders. Reflecting on electronic warfare’s potential, some communications between the front lines of the battlefield and rear echelon command and control elements may need to rest on the legs or back of a feathered messenger when a human runner or more visible vehicle or aircraft may prove too vulnerable to interception or destruction.

Top Ten Origins: Civil Defense, Nuclear War, and Duct Tape Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective. http://origins.osu.edu/ (published April 6, 2018). 

This brief article provides a ten point overview of the American civil defense effort, from 1949 to the present. In the twentieth century, the U.S. federal government established organizations to prepare the public for the possibility of such an attack. These efforts, broadly known as civil defense, consisted of all measures designed or undertaken to protect the civilian population from enemy attack. During World War II, civilian defense personnel rarely found their efforts in demand for anything beyond practice drills. At the time the United States Army Air Forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the United States had an atomic monopoly. But, as nuclear weapons and delivery systems increased in destructiveness and accuracy over the ensuing decades of the Cold War, civil defense efforts waxed, waned, and ultimately failed to provide a credible means to protect civilians from the effects of attack. Almost 75 years after the first use of an atomic weapon, American civilians still have few protective measures from nuclear attack. Civil defense’s lasting legacy is little more than faded fallout shelter signs and the wail of emergency sirens more commonly used for tornadoes than incoming nuclear attack.

"How Lucky I Am" The Words and Photography of Corporal William T. Perkins Jr. Marine Corps History 3, no. 2 (Winter 2017): 20-33.

Politically, the Vietnam War differed from other American conflicts through the juxtaposition and immediacy of television and communication satellites, enabling U.S. civilians to experience scenes of this conflict within hours from the serenity of their living rooms. Through the eye of the combat photographer, the ugly visage of battle could be tempered with the beauty of nature, cultural exchange, and innocence of youth. Sharing many of the same hardships as the fighters, the combat photographer's battle is to understand the situation and their subject matter, all to better capture in still or moving images a moment of clarity, compassion, valor, or humanity. One young American in uniform, Corporal William T. Perkins Jr., represented a typical 20-year old Marine in Vietnam. However, whereas most carried a rifle into battle, Perkins deployed to Vietnam as a combat photographer, armed with cameras to record his fellow Marines' efforts to support and defend the South Vietnamese people against the Communist Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. His photography is perhaps less notable compared to Perkins’ heroic actions which made him a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor, the only combat photographer so honored. Through his letters and personal photographs from the war, this article allows this young Marine’s voice to speak anew on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Perkins's own writings provide a critical opportunity to observe his transformation into a Marine and a photographer, but also to perhaps understand the reasoning behind his images and frame his ultimate act of selflessness.

When the Piper Cub Roamed the Battlefield War on the Rocks. http://warontherocks.com (published December 19, 2017).

Dr. Edgar Raines’s book, Eyes of the Artillery: The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, provides a solid foundation to explore the debate and circumstances surrounding the placement of aircraft within the Army ground forces and the contemporary role of light, fixed-wing aircraft over the battlefield. The book focuses on the institutional origins of the U.S. Army’s organic aviation in the field artillery’s Air-Observation-Post Program during World War II. During the war, organic aviation assigned to field artillery units provided observation for indirect fire missions, locating and targeting enemy forces beyond the visual range of ground-based observers. Organic aviation, however, was only established after a long period of bureaucratic infighting that reflected deeper disagreements between the Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces about the role of new technology on the battlefield. Today, these themes are echoed in the debate about the Air Force’s contract for the OA-X light observation/attack aircraft. Support for and against the OA-X is typically drawn from the service-specific pages of Air Force history, but perhaps the origins of the Army's organic aviation program may provide valuable perspective on the incorporation of light, relatively low-technology aircraft into a war zone with a combined arms approach.  

The Intellectuals Behind the First U.S. Navy Doctrine: A Centennial Reflection With Ryan Peeks. War on the Rocks. http://warontherocks.com (published December 1, 2017).

On the centennial of the promulgation of the first doctrine in U.S. Navy history, this article explores the intellectual creation of this brief, seven-page doctrine statement and its relation to the Navy's current approach to doctrine and strategy. 

Ensign George H. Gay’s Fateful Day, June 4, 1942 Naval History and Heritage Command. The Sextant. http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/ (published May 24, 2017). 

Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. flew his TDB Devastator torpedo bomber into history on June 4, 1942 in the morning hours of the Battle of Midway.  Gay piloted one of 15 torpedo bombers of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) which took off from the carrier Hornet (CV8) to strike a blow against the Imperial Japanese Navy's Carrier Battle Group. Due to a variety of factors, VT-8 went in on its attack run unescorted. Japanese fighter planes shot down Gay and all of his compatriots, with Gay becoming the sole survivor of the attack. Although he and his unit failed to strike a blow, their sacrifice upset the delicate opeations of the Japanese carrier battle. Forced to maneuver and reverse course to doge the American torpedoes, the Japanese lost valuable time in launching and recovering aircraft. These delays thwarted strikes against the American carrier force and provided a critical window for American dive bombers to strike fatal blows against three of the four Japanese carriers. Gay witnessed the attacks while floating and concealed from Japanese view.   

History's Data for Tomorrow's Navy Center for International Maritime Security. http://cimsec.org/ (published April 25, 2017). 

In an era where the Navy is facing contested seas from challenges posed by China and Russia, history can unlock potential advantages with which to meet current and future threats. Gathering and preserving its operational records, in essence data, is critical. Unfortunately, in terms of such historical records, the Navy is in the Digital Dark Age. It retains only limited data and is losing access to its recent history – knowledge purchased at considerable cost. The Department of Defense and the Navy must consider a cultural and institutional revival to collect and leverage their data for potential catalytic effects on innovation, strategic planning, and warfighting advantages. This cultural transformation of collecting and preserving historical data within the Navy will be a long process, but leveraging its history to meet current and future problems will aid in maintaining global maritime superiority.

Bataan Survivor: A POW's Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II Edited by Frank A. Blazich, Jr. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2016.

The personal memoir of Colonel David L. Hardee, first drafted at sea from April-May 1945 following his liberation from Japanese captivity, is a thorough treatment of his time in the Philippines. A career infantry officer, Hardee fought during the Battle of Bataan as executive officer of the Provisional Air Corps Regiment. Captured in April 1942 after the American surrender on Bataan, Hardee survived the Bataan Death March and proceeded to endure a series of squalid prison camps. A debilitating hernia left Hardee too ill to travel to Japan in 1944, making him one of the few lieutenant colonels to remain in the Philippines and subsequently survive the war. As a primary account written almost immediately after his liberation, Hardee’s memoir is fresh, vivid, and devoid of decades of faded memories or contemporary influences associated with memoirs written years after an experience. This once-forgotten memoir has been carefully edited, illustrated and annotated to unlock the true depths of Hardee’s experience as a soldier, prisoner, and liberated survivor of the Pacific War.