31 July 1944
First White Russian Army reaches the outskirts of Warsaw
War at Sea
German submarine U-333 sunk with all hands off the Scilly Islands.
1st Army troops advance from Avranches
US troops land on Cape Sansapor
2,441 civilians killed and 7,107 injured in July
July 31, 1944 – This Day During World War II – Operation Cobra
July 31, 1944 – Operation Cobra was the codename for an offensive launched by the First United States Army seven weeks after the D-Day landings, during the Normandy Campaign of World War II. American Lieutenant General Omar Bradley’s intention was to take advantage of the German preoccupation with British and Canadian activity around the town of Caen, and immediately punch through the German defenses that were penning in his troops while the Germans were distracted and unbalanced. Once a corridor had been created, the First Army would then be able to advance into Brittany, rolling up the German flanks and freeing itself of the constraints imposed by operating in the Norman bocage countryside. After a slow start the offensive gathered momentum, and German resistance collapsed as scattered remnants of broken units fought to escape to the Seine. Lacking the resources to cope with the situation, the German response was ineffectual, and the entire Normandy front soon collapsed. Operation Cobra, together with concurrent offensives by the Second British and First Canadian Armies, was decisive in securing an Allied victory in the Normandy Campaign. Having been delayed several times by poor weather, Operation Cobra commenced on 25 July with a concentrated aerial bombardment from thousands of Allied aircraft. Supporting offensives had drawn the bulk of German armored reserves toward the British and Canadian sector, and coupled with the general lack of men and materiel available to the Germans, it was impossible for them to form successive lines of defense. Units of VII Corps led the initial two-division assault while other First Army corps mounted supporting attacks designed to pin German units in place. Progress was slow on the first day, but opposition started to crumble once the defensive crust had been broken. By 27 July, most organized resistance had been overcome, and VII and VIII Corps were advancing rapidly, isolating the Cotentin peninsula. By 31 July, XIX Corps had destroyed the last forces opposing the First Army, and Bradley’s troops were finally freed from the bocage. Reinforcements were moved west by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge and employed in various counterattacks, the largest of which (codenamed Operation Lüttich) was launched on 7 August between Mortain and Avranches. Although this led to the bloodiest phase of the battle, it was mounted by already exhausted and understrength units and had little effect other than to further deplete von Kluge’s forces. On 8 August, troops of the newly-activated Third United States Army captured the city of Le Mans, formerly the German Seventh Army’s headquarters. Operation Cobra transformed the high-intensity infantry combat of Normandy into rapid maneuver warfare, and led to the creation of the Falaise pocket and the loss of the German position in northwestern France. Following the successful Allied Invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, progress inland was slow. To facilitate the Allied build-up in France and to secure room for further expansion, the deep water port of Cherbourg on the western flank of the American sector and the historic town of Caen in the British and Canadian sector to the east represented early objectives. The original plan for the Normandy campaign envisioned strong offensive efforts in both sectors, in which Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey’s British Second Army would secure Caen and the area south of it, and Lieutenant General Omar Bradley’s U.S. First Army would “wheel round” to the Loire. General Bernard Montgomery—commanding all Allied ground forces in Normandy—intended Caen to be taken on D-Day, while Cherbourg was expected to fall 15 days later. Second Army was to seize Caen and then form a front to the south-east, extending to Caumont-l’Éventé, to acquire airfields and protect First Army’s left flank while it moved on Cherbourg. Possession of Caen and its surroundings—desirable for open terrain that would permit maneuver warfare—would also give Second Army a suitable staging area for a push south to capture Falaise, which could be used as the pivot for a swing right to advance on Argentan and then towards the Touques River. Caen’s capture has been described by historian L. F. Ellis as the most important D-Day objective assigned to Lieutenant-General Crockers’s I Corps. However, both Ellis and Chester Wilmot characterize the Allied plan as “ambitious” the Caen sector contained the strongest defences in Normandy. The initial attempt by I Corps to reach the city on D-Day was blocked by elements of the 21st Panzer Division, and with the Germans committing to the city’s defense most of the reinforcements sent to meet the invasion, the Anglo-Canadian front rapidly congealed short of Second Army’s objectives. Operation Perch in the week following D-Day, and Operation Epsom (26–30 June) brought some territorial gains and depleted its defenders, but Caen remained in German hands until Operation Charnwood (7–9 July), when the Second Army managed to take the northern part of the city up to the River Orne in a frontal assault. The successive Anglo-Canadian offensives around Caen were drawing the best of the German forces in Normandy, including most of the available armor, to the eastern end of the Allied lodgement. Even so, the U.S. First Army was struggling to make progress against dogged German resistance. In part, operations were slow due to the constraints of the bocage landscape of densely-packed banked hedgerows, sunken lanes, and small woods, for which U.S. units had not trained. Furthermore, with no port facilities in Allied hands, all reinforcement and resupply had to take place over the beaches via the two Mulberry harbors and was at the mercy of the weather. On 19 June, a severe storm descended on the English Channel, lasting for three days and causing significant delays to the Allied build-up and the cancellation of some planned operations. First Army’s attempt to press forward in the western sector was eventually halted by Bradley before the town of Saint-Lô, in order to prioritize operations directed at the seizure of Cherbourg. Cherbourg’s defenders were not set up for robust performance, consisting largely of four battlegroups formed from the remnants of units that had retreated up the Cotentin peninsula the port’s defences had been designed principally to meet an attack from the sea. However, organized German resistance ended only on 27 June, when the 9th Infantry Division managed to reduce the defences of Cap-de-la-Hague northwest of the city. Within four days, Major General J. Lawton “Lightning Joe” Collins’s VII Corps resumed the offensive toward Saint-Lô, alongside XIX Corps and VIII Corps, causing the Germans to move additional armor into the U.S. sector. To gain good terrain for Operation Cobra, Bradley and Collins conceived a plan to push forward to the Saint-Lô–Periers road, along which VII and VIII Corps were securing jumping-off positions. On 18 July, at a cost of 5,000 casualties, the American 29th and 35th Infantry Divisions managed to gain the vital heights of Saint-Lô, driving back General der Fallschirmtruppen Eugen Meindl’s II Parachute Corps. Meindl’s paratroopers, together with the 352nd Infantry Division (which had been in action since its D-Day defense of Omaha Beach) were now in ruins, and the stage for the main offensive was set. Due to poor weather conditions that had also been hampering Goodwood and Atlantic, Bradley decided to postpone Cobra for a few days—a decision that worried Montgomery, as the British and Canadian operations had been launched to support a break-out attempt that was failing to materialize. By 24 July the skies had cleared enough for the start order to be given, and 1,600 Allied aircraft took off for Normandy. However, the weather closed in again over the battlefield. Under poor visibility conditions, more than 25 Americans were killed and 130 wounded in the bombing before the air support operation was postponed until the following day. Some enraged soldiers opened fire on their own aircraft, a not uncommon practice in Normandy when suffering from friendly fire. After the one-day postponement, Cobra got underway at 09:38 on 25 July, when around 600 Allied fighter-bombers attacked strongpoints and enemy artillery along a 300 yd (270 m)-wide strip of ground located in the St. Lô area. For the next hour, 1,800 heavy bombers of the U.S. Eighth Air Force saturated a 6,000 yd × 2,200 yd (5,500 m × 2,000 m) area on the Saint-Lô–Periers road, succeeded by a third and final wave of medium bombers. Approximately 3,000 U.S. aircraft had carpet-bombed a narrow section of the front, with the Panzer-Lehr-Division taking the brunt of the attack. However, once again not all the casualties were German Bradley had specifically requested that the bombers approach the target from the east, out of the sun and parallel to the Saint-Lô–Periers road, in order to minimize the risk of friendly losses, but most of the airmen instead came in from the north, perpendicular to the front line. Bradley, however, had apparently misunderstood explanations from the heavy bomber commanders that a parallel approach was impossible because of the time and space constraints Bradley had set. Additionally, a parallel approach would not in any event have assured that all bombs would fall behind German lines because of deflection errors or obscured aim points due to dust and smoke. Despite efforts by U.S. units to identify their positions, inaccurate bombing by the Eighth Air Force killed 111 men and wounded 490. The dead included Bradley’s friend and fellow West Pointer Lieutenant General Lesley McNair—the highest-ranking U.S. soldier to be killed in action in the European Theater of Operations. By 11:00, the infantry began to move forward, advancing from crater to crater beyond what had been the German outpost line. Although no serious opposition was forecast, the remnants of Bayerlein′s Panzer Lehr—consisting of roughly 2,200 men and 45 armored vehicles—had regrouped and were prepared to meet the advancing U.S. troops, and to the west of Panzer Lehr the German 5th Parachute Division had escaped the bombing almost intact. Collins’ VII Corps were quite disheartened to meet fierce enemy artillery fire, which they expected to have been suppressed by the bombing. Several U.S. units found themselves entangled in fights against strongpoints held by a handful of German tanks, supporting infantry and 88 mm (3.46 in) guns—VII Corps gained only 2,200 yd (2,000 m) during the rest of the day. However, if the first day’s results had been disappointing, General Collins found cause for encouragement although the Germans were fiercely holding their positions, these did not seem to form a continuous line and were susceptible to being outflanked or bypassed. Even with prior warning of the American offensive, the British and Canadian actions around Caen had convinced the Germans that the real threat lay there, and tied down their available forces to such an extent that a succession of meticulously prepared defensive positions in depth, as encountered during Goodwood and Atlantic, were not created to meet Cobra. On the morning of 26 July, the U.S. 2nd Armored Division and the veteran 1st Infantry Division joined the attack as planned, reaching one of Cobra’s first objectives—a road junction north of Le Mesnil-Herman—the following day. Also on the 26th, Major General Troy H. Middleton’s VIII Corps entered the battle, led by the 8th and 90th Infantry Divisions. Despite clear paths of advance through the floods and swamps across their front, both divisions initially disappointed the First Army by failing to gain significant ground, but first light the next morning revealed that the Germans had been compelled to retreat by their crumbling left flank, leaving only immense minefields to delay VIII Corps’ advance. By noon on 27 July, the 9th Infantry Division of VII Corps was also clear of any organized German resistance, and was advancing rapidly. By 28 July, the German defenses across the U.S. front had largely collapsed under the full weight of VII and VIII Corps’ advance, and resistance was disorganised and patchy. VIII Corps’ 4th Armored Division—entering combat for the first time—captured Coutances but met stiff opposition east of the town, and U.S. units penetrating into the depth of the German positions were variously counterattacked by elements of the 2nd SS Panzer, 17th SS Panzergrenadier, and 353rd Infantry Divisions, all seeking to escape entrapment. A desperate counterattack was mounted against the 2nd Armored Division by German remnants, but this was a disaster and the Germans abandoned their vehicles and fled on foot. An exhausted and demoralized Bayerlein reported that his Panzer Lehr Division was “finally annihilated”, with its armor wiped out, its personnel either casualties or missing, and all headquarters records lost. Meanwhile, Marshal von Kluge—commanding all German forces on the Western Front (Oberbefehlshaber West)—was mustering reinforcements, and elements of the 2nd and 116th Panzer Divisions were approaching the battlefield. The U.S. XIX Corps—led by Major General Charles H. Corlett—entered the battle on 28 July on the left of VII Corps, and between 28 and 31 July became embroiled with these reinforcements in the fiercest fighting since Cobra began. During the night of 29 July near Saint-Denis-le-Gast, to the east of Coutances, elements of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division found themselves fighting for their lives against a German column from the 2nd SS Panzer and 17th SS Panzergrenadier Divisions, which passed through the American lines in the darkness. Other elements of the 2nd Armored were attacked near Cambry and fought for six hours however, Bradley and his commanders knew that they were currently dominating the battlefield and such desperate assaults were no threat to the overall American position. When ordered to concentrate his division, Colonel Heinz Günther Guderian—116th Division’s senior staff officer—was frustrated by the high level of Allied fighter-bomber activity. Without receiving direct support from the 2nd Panzer Division as promised, Guderian stated that his panzergrenadiers could not successfully counterattack the Americans. On 30 July, to protect Cobra’s flank and prevent the disengagement and relocation of further German forces, the British VIII Corps and XXX Corps launched Operation Bluecoat south from Caumont toward Vire and Mont Pinçon. Advancing southward along the coast, later that day, the U.S. VIII Corps seized the town of Avranches—described by historian Andrew Williams as “the gateway to Brittany and southern Normandy”—and by 31 July XIX Corps had thrown back the last German counterattacks after fierce fighting, inflicting heavy losses in men and tanks. The American advance was now relentless, and the First Army was finally free of the bocage. At noon on 1 August, the U.S. Third Army was activated under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton. Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges assumed command of the First Army and Bradley was promoted to the overall command of both armies, named the U.S. 12th Army Group. The U.S. advance following Cobra was extraordinarily rapid. Between 1 August and 4 August, seven divisions of Patton’s Third Army had swept through Avranches and over the bridge at Pontaubault into Brittany. The German army in Normandy had been reduced to such a poor state by the Allied offensives that, with no prospect of reinforcement in the wake of the Soviet summer offensive against Army Group Centre, very few Germans believed they could now avoid defeat. Rather than order his remaining forces to withdraw to the Seine, Adolf Hitler sent a directive to von Kluge demanding “an immediate counterattack between Mortain and Avranches” to “annihilate” the enemy and make contact with the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula. Eight of the nine Panzer divisions in Normandy were to be used in the attack but only four (one of them incomplete) could be relieved from their defensive tasks and assembled in time. German commanders immediately protested that such an operation was impossible given their remaining resources but these objections were overruled and the counter-offensive, codenamed Operation Lüttich, commenced on 7 August around Mortain. The 2nd, 1st SS and 2nd SS Panzer Divisions led the assault, although with only 75 Panzer IVs, 70 Panthers, and 32 self-propelled guns between them. Hopelessly optimistic, the offensive threat was over within 24 hours, although fighting continued until 13 August. By 8 August, the city of Le Mans—the former headquarters of the German 7th Army—had fallen to the Americans. With von Kluge’s few remaining battleworthy formations destroyed by the First Army, the Allied commanders realised that the entire German position in Normandy was collapsing. Bradley declared: This is an opportunity that comes to a commander not more than once in a century. We’re about to destroy an entire hostile army and go all the way from here to the German border”.On 14 August, in conjunction with American movements northward to Chambois, Canadian forces launched Operation Tractable the Allied intention was to trap and destroy the entire German Seventh and Fifth Panzer Armies near the town of Falaise. Five days later, the two arms of the encirclement were almost complete the advancing U.S. 90th Infantry Division had made contact with the Polish 1st Armored Division, and the first Allied units crossed the Seine at Mantes Gassicourt while German units were fleeing eastward by any means they could find. By 22 August, the Falaise Pocket—which the Germans had been fighting desperately to keep open to allow their trapped forces to escape—was finally sealed, effectively ending the Battle of Normandy with a decisive Allied victory. All German forces west of the Allied lines were now dead or in captivity and although perhaps 100,000 German troops succeeded in escaping they left behind 40,000–50,000 prisoners and over 10,000 dead A total of 344 tanks and self-propelled guns, 2,447 soft-skinned vehicles and 252 artillery pieces were found abandoned or destroyed in the northern sector of the pocket alone. The Allies were able to advance freely through undefended territory, and by 25 August all four Allied armies (1st Canadian, 2nd British, 1st U.S., and 3rd U.S.) involved in the Normandy campaign were on the river Seine.
M4 Sherman tanks and infantrymen of the US 4th Armored Division in Coutances
Fire engulfs circus big top in Hartford, killing 167
In Hartford, Connecticut, a fire breaks out under the big top of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus, killing 167 people and injuring 682. Two-thirds of those who perished were children. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it spread at incredible speed, racing up the canvas of the circus tent. Scarcely before the 8,000 spectators inside the big top could react, patches of burning canvas began falling on them from above, and a stampede for the exits began. Many were trapped under fallen canvas, but most were able to rip through it and escape. However, after the tent’s ropes burned and its poles gave way, the whole burning big top came crashing down, consuming those who remained inside. Within 10 minutes it was over, and some 100 children and 60 of their adult escorts were dead or dying.
An investigation revealed that the tent had undergone a treatment with flammable paraffin thinned with three parts of gasoline to make it waterproof. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus eventually agreed to pay $5 million in compensation, and several of the organizers were convicted on manslaughter charges. In 1950, in a late development in the case, Robert D. Segee of Circleville, Ohio, confessed to starting the Hartford circus fire. Segee claimed that he had been an arsonist since the age of six and that an apparition of an Indian on a flaming horse often visited him and urged him to set fires. In November 1950, Segee was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 22 years in prison, the maximum penalty in Ohio at the time.
Constant Changes of Plan
Perhaps ironically, Operation Valkyrie was a modification of a plan Hitler had concocted to deal with a breakdown in law and order caused by Allied destruction or an uprising of forced laborers. Along with members of the Reserve Army, von Stauffenberg planned not only to kill Hitler but also to occupy important telephone centers, buildings and signal centers in Berlin. The hope was that the death of the Nazi leader would persuade most soldiers to lay down their arms and allow a new government to make peace with the Allies.
However, the conspirators were finding it next to impossible to get close enough to Hitler to carry out the plan. There were multiple failed attempts to get near enough to the Fuhrer to either shoot him or blow him up with grenades. As the situation got worse for the Nazis in WWII, Hitler was hardly seen in public and spent the majority of his time at Wolf&rsquos Lair. He was heavily guarded at all times and seldom saw anyone he didn&rsquot trust implicitly.
With the Gestapo seemingly closing in on the conspirators, it appeared as if time was running out. Von Stauffenberg became chief of staff to General Fromm on July 1, 1944, which meant he would be in attendance at Hitler&rsquos military conferences. Finally, there was a potential opportunity to take action. Operation Valkyrie was fully prepared by July 7, and on this day, General Helmut Stieff was supposed to assassinate the Nazi leader in Salzburg at a display of new uniforms. However, Stieff announced that he couldn&rsquot follow through with the plan, so von Stauffenberg decided to take matters into his own hands.
Styrofoam, a Practical and Problematic Creation
A woman holds a Styrofoam &ldquolog&rdquo in this 1949 photo from the Science History Institute&rsquos collections.
Dow invented Styrofoam in 1941, rediscovering a process first patented by Swedish inventor Carl Munters. Dow bought the rights to Munters’s method and began producing a lightweight, water-resistant, and buoyant material that seemed perfectly suited for building docks and watercraft and for insulating homes, offices, and chicken sheds. These days Styrofoam is used for building insulation known as blueboard and for craftwork, such as the green foam blocks used by florists in flower arrangements.
Although Styrofoam has become a catchall for the coffee cups, packing peanuts, and many other nondescript items made of polystyrene foam, proper Styrofoam is a little different. Produced through extrusion, it is stronger, stiffer, and more expensive than the stuff used to make plates and cups. Those items are made through an expansion process in which small beads of resin are warmed and then squeezed together into the desired shape. This expansion-based cousin arrived in the 1950s and over time has been adopted for countless applications because of its properties—tough but virtually weightless, inexpensive, sterile, and chemically stable.
But polystyrene foam has its problems. Initially, ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons were used to expand the polystyrene beads into foam, until alarm rose over the growing hole in the ozone layer. The CFCs were eventually replaced with less harmful gases, but that wasn’t the end of the environmental concerns. The foam’s base material, styrene monomer, is a carcinogen plastic- and rubber-industry workers exposed to the unreacted monomer suffer higher rates of some types of cancer. Even more problematic, the finished material can take thousands of years, and perhaps more, to biodegrade. From 2002 to 2015 about 316 million metric tons of polystyrene were produced globally, with more than half thrown out inside of a year. And that doesn’t include the many other types of plastics that get tossed—an estimated 302 million tons worth in 2015 alone—all adding up to an enormous litter problem that particularly affects the oceans, where the materials accumulate, and sea life, which consume the floating bits and pieces. In response—and in the absence of a viable recycling method—New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and many other municipalities in the United States have banned single-use polystyrene containers.
As for all the polystyrene foam already floating around, scientists have investigated some novel solutions. An experiment published in 2006 suggested that after superheating the stuff into styrene oil, a strain of Pseudomonas putida, a type of soil bacteria, could convert the oil into a biodegradable form of plastic—polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA. Unfortunately, the process consumes a lot of energy and produces toxic by-products, such as toluene. Perhaps more promising, in 2015 a group of Chinese researchers published a report showing mealworms can survive on a diet of polystyrene foam as successfully as those fed a typical diet of bran. And in 2017 a team of European scientists found that waxworms had a similar appetite for polyethylene plastic bags. Is it possible we (or rather our larval friends) could eat our way out of our garbage problem?
31 July 1944 - History
Lt. Mark J. Woods, Jr.'s Diary
Navigator, 600th Squadron
Woods Mission No. 26
Date: July 31, 1944
Mission No. 26
Location of target: Munich, Germany
Type of target: Jet propulsion engine factory
Load: 2700 gals of gas and 10-500 lb. bombs
Altitude: 26,500 feet
Flight Time: 8:30 hours
Escort: P-38s, P-47s, and P-51s all the way
Force of raid: 11 wings, we were in the fifth wing.
Position: #3 of low lead squadron
Opposition: Flak, and fighters were in the area, but we did not see any.
Battle damage: 2 small holes on top turret, one in air hose.
Results: Bombed PFF, tried RR yard. Should have been visual run. Did not observe results.
Remarks: Flak very accurate, and lots of it. Mission was run off well, but the lead navigator got left of course coming home, and we got all shot up some more.
83rd Infantry Division Documents
On this page documents related to the 331st Infantry Regiment can be downloaded in the PDF format. These documents are provided for by Dave Curry, historian of the 83rd Infantry Division Association.
After action reports
The regimental after action reports for the 331th Infantry Regiment in PDF format can be found in the following table.
|Jun 44||Jul 44||Aug 44||Sep 44||Oct 44||Nov 44||Dec 44||Jan 45||Feb 45||Mar 45||Apr 45||May 45|
Regimental histories for 1943 and 1944. These histories are courtesy of Myra Miller, PhD, of Footsteps Researchers
The unit journal contains in-depth descriptions of the activity of the unit on a daily basis. There are numerous entries for each day's events showing the time of occurrence for each. They include information regarding geographic location and troop movement, weather, and combat activity.
- - Unit Journal July 16-23 1944 - Unit Journal July 26 - August 3, 1944 - Unit Journal July 25 - August 3, 1944 for 2nd Bn, 331 Infantry Regiment
Post-war operations reports
The post-war operations reports contains information on the activities of the unit such as movements, tasks and training. These reports are courtesy of Myra Miller, PhD, of Footsteps Researchers
- - Operations report May 1945 - Operations report June 1945 - Operations report July 1945 - Operations report August 1945 - Operations report September 1945 - Operations report October 1945 - Operations report November 1945
The TTF was the 331st Infantry regimental newspaper. These newspapers are the courtesy of Frank DeCarolis, 2nd Platoon, Co. E, 331st Infantry and Tom DePiano and where photographed and not scanned due to fragility.
- - The TTF Vol 2, No 1, May 13, 1945 - The TTF Vol 2, No 3, June 17, 1945 - The TTF Vol 2, No 8, July 22, 1945 - The TTF Vol 2, No 9, July 29, 1945 - The TTF Vol 2, No 10, August 5, 1945 - The TTF Vol 2, No 11, August 12, 1945 - The TTF Vol 2, No 12, August 19, 1945 - The TTF Vol 2, No 13, August 25, 1945
Special orders contain promotions on company levels. Donated by Greg Chipps, son of Sgt. Richard E. Chipps.
31 July 1944 - History
This Day In History
Summary of Events for No. 439 (CAN) Squadron
as recorded in the 439 Squadron Operations Record Book
Fairly good weather all day. Three operations were completed today which broke the monotony. Swimming was on the agenda this afternoon and several of the flying types wended their way to the local stream and refreshed themselves to no end.
Operational Sorties: 272
Postings : J20602 F/O R.H. Laurence posted from 83 G.S.U. w.e.f. 20.7.44
J27992 F/O R.V. Smith posted from 83 G.S.U. w.e.f. 20.7.44
J14315 A/F/L T.A. Dadson posted to No. 13 P.T.C.
Aircraft on Charge: Typhoon 1B - 18
Auster V - 1
Aircrew - Officers 25
Groundcrew - Officers 2
Flying Times: Operational: Typhoon 1B - 180:25
Non-Operational: " - 29:40
" " Auster V - 7:35
Squadron Leader Commanding
No. 439 R.C.A.F. Squadron
Detail of Work Carried Out by No. 439 RCAF Squadron
as compiled by in the 439 Squadron Operations Record Book Form 541
|A/C Type & Number||Crew||Duty||Up||Down|
Details of Sortie or Flight
The bombs carried into the air this morning were destined to be dropped on the squareheads in a group of German Headquarters buildings at the village of Montvarel (T8454). Sixteen of the eighteen one thousand pound bombs carried aloft fulfilled their destiny. F/O Bernhart had two hang-ups and was able to jettison them later into the Channel. F/L Scharff had one hang-up which he was able to release in a second dive over the target. The target was attacked in a good dive from south to north beginning at 8,000 ft and releasing bombs at 3000 ft. Bomb bursts were seen right in the centre of the target area and a number of buildings were completely demolished. No light flak was seen throughout the mission and one salvo only of heavy stuff was fired at the invaders over the target. All aircraft returned to base to report complete success of their mission.
Details of Sortie or Flight
This Squadron took-off as part of a Wing Show with the intention of bombing a concentration of enemy strength in the village of Parquet (just southeast of Caumont). Our own artillery was to lay smoke on the target as the signal for attack due to the proximity of our own forward troops. The target was found, despite the thick summer haze and a seven tenths layer of cumulus cloud at 5000 ft., but the expected red smoke failed to materialize. After the Wing orbitted the target, a number of times, enough so that the chase developed into a grim battle of formation keeping, the squadrons separated and bombed alternative targets. Our Squadron cut in well south of our forward line and bombed the wood at map reference T.8721. The attack was made in a 40 degree dive from North to South and a line of flight (stick bombing). The return trip was made at cloud top level with many an anxious eye on the fuel gauge. A number of enemy aircraft were once reported 15,000 ft above us, but could not be spotted by our pilots. All our aircraft returned safely to base, no flak was seen throughout the entire circus. Pilots returned with the annoying sensation of helpless frustration in their hearts, mission unsuccessful.
Details of Sortie or Flight
F/L Fiset led nine aircraft of this Squadron in a damaging attack against a concentration of enemy troops in the woods just south of the railway track at T.7452 (south of Caumont). The target was attacked in a 70 degree dive from 7000 down to 1500 ft. Bomb bursts were grouped well within the target area and the 16 x 1000 lb bombs in that area must have created havoc with more than the morale of the enemy troops. No flak was seen throughout the mission. Two hang-ups on one aircraft piloted by Johnny Stitt were jettisoned south of Villers-Bocage. All aircraft returned safely to base in the fast gathering dusk.
No. 439 R.C.A.F. Squadron.
Note: Show type of bomb used. Show target. Show results of Operation. If in co-operation with other squadrons, or just a squadron operation. New tactics adopted. Damage to aircraft either by flak or enemy aircraft. Engine failure, and if possible reason for failure. (1)
(1) The above mission note was recorded on a "Sub Form 541 (Appendix No. 7 , Page 8) and was an advisory to the scribes of the day to record every aspect of every mission probably for future historical purposes.
the unofficial homepage of Tiger Squadron
Search Term Record
Ivan Wilson, a native of Hazel, Kentucky, came to Western in 1920 and served 25 years was the first head for the Department of Art. He was employed by Western for a total of four decades. Some of his works have been shown in New York, New Orleans, Kansas City, and even Paris. He retired in 1958. He received his Bachelors from Western and got his Master's from George Peabody College.
The theater was named for Russell Miller, born in Water Valley, Mississippi and died at the age of 63 in 1968. He was a professor for speech and dramatic arts. He received his Bachelor's and Masters from the University of Mississippi. He came to Western in 1947 after being employed by the Bowling Green College of Commerce and Business University.
The Fine Arts Center has provided housing for the Departments of Art, Foreign Language, Music, History, English and Speech and Theatre. The 174,000 square feet building includes a 4 story central portion, 41 class and lecture rooms, an art gallery, 85 faculty offices, 30 studio offices, 5 seminar rooms, art studios, language and music labs, and music practice rooms. The 2-story east wing contains a 320 seat Russell Miller Theatre. The 1 story west wing contains includes a 230 seat recital hall and a band rehearsal room. FAC was built on the site of the old stadium. The building was dedicated on Oct. 13, 1973.
A fire in 1978 caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to a room on the fourth floor. The cause of the fire was undetermined. In 1984 an arsonist set fires on the third and fourth floors of Ivan Wilson Hall. The two fires caused an estimated $325,000 in damages.
College Heights Herald
Bronze Bust of Former Art Teacher on Display in Fine Arts Center, Mar. 6, 1980
Former Art Department Head Dies, Feb. 2, 1981
Ivan the Terrible Makes Trouble . . . But Masters Art, Oct. 30, 1942
Ivan Wilson Has Exhibition in Kentucky Building, Nov. 18, 1955
Ivan Wilson Has New Exhibition, Oct. 7, 1955
Ivan Wilson Has Works Displayed at Peabody, Mar. 19, 1954
Ivan Wilson Possesses Great Love of Painting, Apr. 18, 1958
Ivan Wilson to Exhibit Work at Nelson Institute, Nov. 24, 1944
Ivan Wilson's Work on Display, Feb. 2, 1945
Mr. Ivan Wilson Has Water Colors on Exhibition, Nov. 5, 1943
Mr. Ivan Wilson Receives International Recognition, Mar. 31, 1961
Mr. Ivan Wilson Speaks at Amigo Club Meeting, Mar. 20, 1953
Mr. Wilson Does Sketches While Visiting Rockies, Nov. 3, 1950
Mr. Wilson Sees Art Exhibition, Apr. 6, 1956
Museum Exhibits Works of Wilson, Oct. 28, 1967
The Ivan Wilsons Are Featured in L&N Magazine, Nov. 22, 1957
Water Colors Being Displayed by Ivan Wilson, July 1, 1955
Watercolor Exhibit Begins Next Week, Oct. 8, 1954
What's in a Name? Ivan Wilson is Much More than Glass, Steel and Concrete, Oct. 12, 1973
Wilson Exhibit Now on Display, Nov. 22, 1940
Wilson Holds Exhibition, May 11, 1954
Wilson Will Present Demonstration, Mar. 11, 1955
1970 July 1
1972 Sep. 24
1973 Feb. 15 Sep. 10 Oct. 10, 12, 14
1984 March 25, 27, 28, 29, 30 April 6, 15, 16 May 24, 30 July 25, 26, 28, 30 Sep. 6
2003 July 7
2005 Feb. 6
1970 July 18
1973 Sep. 23 Oct. 14
. of famous people, actors, celebrities and stars born in 194081
Norwegian cross-country skier40
English singer and songwriter, founding member of The Beatles (1940-1980)
*October 9th, 1940, Liverpool †December 8th, 1980, New York City
*July 6th, 1940, Titusville76
American jazz and pop musician
*March 12th, 1940, Milwaukee †February 12th, 2017, Los Angeles
Norwegian actor and TV host
*November 1st, 1940, Oslo †March 28th, 2019, Oslo76
German singer and operatic tenor
*July 9th, 1940, Oberhausen †April 14th, 2017, Essen77
*April 24th, 1940, Corona †May 9th, 2017, Los Angeles
*May 24th, 1940, Saint Petersburg †January 28th, 1996, Brooklyn80
*July 7th, 1940, Bochum †September 27th, 2020, Bonn80
Brazilian association football player
*October 23rd, 1940, Três Corações76
American politician (1940-2017)
*November 30th, 1940, Nashville †April 17th, 2017, Tifton81
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
*March 26th, 1940, Baltimore32
Hong Kong-American actor, martial artist (1940-1973)
*September 23rd, 1940, San Francisco Chinese Hospital †July 20th, 1973, Kowloon Tong81
American stage and film actor and director
*April 25th, 1940, Manhattan
*December 21st, 1940, Vadheim †April 6th, 2017
American recording artist, songwriter and composer
*February 16th, 1940, Detroit †February 23rd, 2017, Marina del Rey77
*January 22nd, 1940, Chesterfield †January 25th, 2017, Norfolk
In dealing with the history of the Rivers State under the circumstances of this lecture, one can only reasonably concern himself mainly with the movements culminating in the creation of the State, and not necessarily with detailed facts of history of each ethnic group constituting the Rivers State. In any case, a cursory glance at the scope of the Rivers State, its topography and the characteristics of its peoples, would appear requisite, in order to give a clearer view on the subject matter.
1. Scope of the Rivers State: The Rivers State, before 1973, comprised five administrative Divisions, namely, Ahoada, Brass, Degema, Ogoni and Port Harcourt Divisions, The Andonis, the Opobos and the Western Ijaws, should rightly have come within the ambit of the Rivers State, being purely riverine peoples, and mostly of the Ijaw tribe, but they were excluded for the following reasons: –
The Western Ijaws were excluded on the pretext that the Rivers Province including them would prove too unwieldy to administer then. The Opobos, with the Andonis already in the Opobo Division, opted out of the Rivers Province when it was created, for fear of losing prestige as a divisional headquarters.
2. Topography of the Rivers State: The Ahoada and Ogoni Divisions of the Rivers State consist more of compact land mass suited for agrarian pursuits, although small scale fishing is carried out: whereas the Brass and Degema Divisions consist of land interspersed by a labyrinth of innumerable creeks and channels. The Degema Division as well as the southern portions of the Brass Division, consists mainly of mangrove forests and swamps, suited for piscatory pursuits. Communication in the two latter Divisions is an herculean task, thus retarding the requisite rapid and contemporaneous progress and development of the people, who, by nature, are hardy and most enterprising. The Port Harcourt Division forms the capital area of the State, the inhabitants of which are mainly civil servants, traders, contractors, artisans, technicians, businessmen, and free women, excepting the Diobu people who engage mainly in farming, trading and fishing on a small scale.
3. Characteristics of the Rivers People: The Rivers peoples are by nature most accommodating, friendly and hospitable, sustaining an open door policy towards all corners from other ethnic groups. On the return home of most of them after their gruesome battle against the waves, fishing, and from their farms, they recline in various cultural displays and amusement, devoid of malice against anybody. They sing and dance in great merriment for most part of the day. They are known to protect the cause of strangers in their midst more than they do for their compatriots. They arc great mixers, and their anger is comparatively short lived. Their very nature is thus conducive to the much desired unity in Nigeria. Thus, when the Rivers State Government makes friendly approaches to other States in the Federation, they are not exhibiting an unaccustomed effort to catch flies as with honey, but rather, they are expressing in concrete form, their true nature. But if their beneficiaries by any means bite the finger that feeds them, they can plunge into dreadful, frantic, and devastating rage, which cools off in comparatively short period.
4. Origins of, and Trends Towards, the Creating of the Rivers State: This period may aptly be described as a period of pregnancy, consisting of the motivations which urged the people to clamour for a Rivers State. The people of the Rivers State (particularly in the riverine areas, such as Bonny and Brass,) had, from the advent of Missionaries and European traders in the 15th century, exhibited the inherent desire for self determination. This is borne out by the facts of the Akassa raid, and the opposition of King Jaja of Opobo against European intrusion into the trade and affairs of the people, as well as the importation of European workers to Bonny by King Pepple of Bonny, under his employment to build up Bonny to become as respectable as England. The people then were compelled to submit to European hegemony by sheer force of superior arms. From this period of smothered resistance, the people became pregnant with a fervent zeal for self determination. The British realising this attitude of mind of the Rivers people, undertook, in the reign of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, in the 19th Century to conclude treaties of friendship and mutual protection with several maritime clans such as Bonny, Kalabari, Brass and Okrika.
5. Motivations in Broad Outline These were: –
(i) The desire for equality of opportunity to all Nigerians at all levels.
(ii) The desire for special treatment of the physical handicaps of the Niger Delta area and
(iii) The desire for continuity of the cultural traits and history of the Rivers
6. Inequality, of Opportunity at all levels
(i) The trend of nationalism in Nigeria in the thirties of this century as well as constitutional structures tended to fuse minority elements, in spite of their age and pronounced identity, into majority neighbours-e.g. Billes fused into Kalabari at the clan level Elemes into Ahoada at the Divisional level, Ijaws, Ogonis and Ikwcrres into Ibo at the Provincial level, and the bottle-necks at Enugu, Ibadan and Kaduna, for groups of Provinces where all minorities were completely emasculated.
(ii) Priorities for determining the distribution of national and public facilities took cognizance more of the needs of majority groups than minorities, in regard to structures and systems in operation.
(iii) Political slogans, thinking, and formations tended to follow and justify the imbalance indicated above—and all in the name of democracy!
(iv) Journalism found ready market among the majority groups in Nigeria for championing their cause.
(v) Religion cashed in on this imbalance in favour of majority groups, thus back-pedalling from the rightful cause of justice and equity for which the church is an advocate.
7. Niger Delta Physical Handicaps:
(i) Facilities for human services in maritime areas of the Niger Delta – by Government officials and private functionaries alike – were virtually not provided.
(ii) Scientific studies and reports about the difference in the physical configuration of the Niger Delta from the rest of the country were not undertaken since these did not concern majority groups in the country.
(iii). The result from the handicaps above was utter neglect, backwardness, and’ poverty of the Riversman.
(iv) This condition was worsened by international traders based in the riverine areas, by shifting economic middlemanship from the Riversman to majority groups in the hinterland where physical facilities, studies and thriving populations created great outlets and markets for imported goods.
(v) The above occasioned drift of populations from the coastal areas to the hinterland, thus causing great physical handicap to the Rivers people.
8. Cultural and Historical Problems:
(1) New fortunes and improved political status of the majority groups attracted the association of separate Rivers Groups to them, and this aggravated the inherent lack of cohesion among Rivers elements, and threatened their culture.
(ii) Lack of comparable honourable history among some groups excited envy which threatened the existence of many traditional relics in the Rivers area by way of reprisals by nearest majority neighbours.
(iii) Dearth of organisations beyond the clan level enhanced the natural isolationist tendency among Rivers people and prevented collective bargaining among them.
(iv) Lack of recognition of common purpose among Rivers people thwarted the evolution of common platforms for thinking together and acting together.
(v) Education for food being the prime ambition of Riversmen, people addicted to enslaving themselves to paymasters were produced instead of, lake their forbears, self-employed persons who would serve God and humanity with unfettered will.
9. Period of Travail:
The Rivers people had long been pregnant with the urge to assert themselves as a people capable of administering their own affairs in the way best suited to them, as has already been indicated above. The forties of this century constituted a period of travail, preparatory to the birth of the child conceived in the womb. A number of leading personalities of Rivers origin played their part on the stage of the ensuing drama, and certain circumstances gave the impetus to the activities of the personalities concerned.
It was known that in 1941, Mr. Harold J. R. Wilcox (now Chief Biriye), fresh from King’s College, Lagos, drove into his father, late Mr. R. T. E. Wilcox (later Chief and Magistrate) the reality of the fact that only a separate province for the various communities traditionally styled by our Ibo neighbours as Rivers people, would induce a government based in Lagos to provide relevant facilities for the people. He also suggested to his father the need for the organisation of a body for these communities to press for creation of a Rivers Province.
Meanwhile, the Ibo and the Ibibio State Unions had been formed to cater for the well being of their peoples their returnee graduates from the United States of America made an irresistible impact upon their peop1e. That was the era of tribal irredentism. Thus in 1942, at Aba, a giant and a highly educated political leader from a neighbouring majority tribe addressed a mass rally of his people, infusing into their minds the ambition to dominate other ethnic groups, and outlined plans for the achievement of this ambition. Some Rivers elements present at that rally caught the hint and became gauled forthwith. All these served as impetus to prop up initiatives to form an organised body to fight for the rights of the Rivers people.
Thus on the 18th November, 1943, late Chief R. T. E. Wilcox, then a Government Supervising Teacher, with other Rivers indigenes invited Chiefs and people of the Rivers area to a meeting at the old Enitonna High School Hall, Port Harcourt at which he briefed the gathering on the issues involved. There and then the house resolved on the formation of the Ijaw Rivers Peoples’ League. The communities initially concerned with this movement were those of the Brass and Degema Divisions as well as Western Ijaws and those of Opobo town. The Ndokis enlisted as members of the League later. The designation of the League was adopted to afford the communities in Ahoada and Ogoni Divisions an open door to come in when they chose to do so.
Mr. (later Chief and Magistrate) R. T. E. Wilcox, President-General Mr. E. D. Wolsele (now Chief Opu-Ogulaya), Deputy President Messrs B. M. T. Epelle, and Abassa from Western Ijaw, Vice-Presidents Messrs S. D. Akanibo, Principal Secretary and Andrew Ogudire his assistant D. B. Iwarimie Jaja, Organizing Secretary C. Egi of Brass, as Field Secretary Hamilton B. Thom-Manuel, as Treasurer late Mr. D. Achebbs (later Chief), as Financial Secretary and Mr. W. W. Peters (now Chief Inyeinengi Daka), as Publicity Secretary.
In March, 1944, barely four months after the birth of the League, our Colonial paymasters transferred the President-General to Ijebu in the West, in order to cripple the movement. In April, 1944, Mr. E. D. Wolseley (Chief Opu-Ogulaya), was elected President-General, with the addition of Bishop Davies Manuel and one Mr. Hart of Bonny as Vice Presidents. Delegations of the League, led by influential members toured the maritime areas of the State stimulating the consciousness of the masses towards self determination. The League was financed from contributions by Clan Unions which constituted the membership of the League, as well as donations by individual members of the League and well-wishers. Prominent citizens of the Rivers area, such as Chief the Hon. Henry Buowari Brown of Bonny, later member of the Legislative Council of Nigeria, and Mr. Francis Alagoa later His Highness Chief F. Alagoa the Mingi X of Nembe, were inducted as Patrons, on payment of a hundred Naira or part thereof, and given special honoured seats on the dais during conference meetings of the League.
10. Parliamentary, Pressure: Pressure for a Rivers Province was generated in the old Legislative Council in Lagos by the late Rt. Rev. B. T. Dimieari, member in the Legislative Council from 1944 to 1946. He was supported by Chief the Hon. Obaseki, Prime Minister of Benin. The Hansards of 1946 are replete with speeches of these two legislators on the issue. The Ijaw State Union in Lagos also sustained pressure for a Rivers State. In 1947, the President-General, Mr. B. D. Wolseley (Chief Opu-Ogulaya) led a delegation of the League, including a traditional ruler, Chief S. I. Adoki of Okrika, which interviewed the Chief Secretary to the Colonial Government of Nigeria, pressing for the creation of the Rivers Province.
As a result of these pressures, the Governor of Nigeria, Sir Arthur Richards, toured the old Owerri Province, visiting some of the places proposed for the Rivers Province, in 1947. Subsequently the Rivers Province was constituted with Head quarters at Port Harcourt, with effect from April, 1947, sending the Headquarters of Owerri Province to Umuahia. The first Resident of the Province was Mr. Chubb who could from then make his representations to the Legislative Council in Lagos for attention to the maritime and amphibious problems of the new Province. This was the first capital success achieved by the League and its assessors.
11 Period of Victimization: The next period was that of a chain of victimisation strung around the neck of the new President-General by the Colonial Masters. The Government became highly apprehensive of the growing influence of the League and so resorted to debased tactics once more. In 1949, Mr. H. W. Newington, then of Chiefs District Officer, Degema, made an unproductive attempt to placate the President- General at Okrika with offer of an appointment as Sole Judge in Okrika, if he would abandon the cause of the League. In August of the same year, at the instance of the Resident of the Rivers Province, Messrs Newington and H. N. Harcourt, then District Officer, Port Harcourt came to the hall of the old Enitonna High School, Port Harcourt, and watched the Presidential address delivered to the Conference of the League, seeking for pretext to entangle the President-General.
Later in the year, the President-General was caused to be arrested by a police constable from Degema under a most flimsy excuse, but later released at the intervention of Barrister O. C. Nonyelu, Counsel for the Okrika Progress Union.
In December, 1949, after the usual Niger Delta Archdeaconry transfer of teachers had been concluded, the expatriate Diocesan Bishop of the Niger Diocese at Onitsha was acquainted with the activities of the President-General, and so, like his predecessor, he was ordered to be transferred to Okigwe Division in 1950. Thus after presiding over a meeting of the League in May, 1950, while on holiday, no other President-General was appointed, and the League consequently dosed off for a period, only to emerge subsequently as the Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference.
Before this, in 1951, a new body called the Ijaw Union was formed with Mr. Harold J. R. Wilcox (now Chief Biriye) as Secretary, and late Mr H. B. Thom-Manuel as President. This body kept the Ijaw elements in Port Harcourt together, and sought for fair representation for them in the Port Harcourt Municipal Council.
This union divided and died out when its members, owing to growing party loyalties declined to claim direct representation on the delegations going to the 1953 London Conference called by the Colonial Secretary to review the Macpherson Constitution. The leaders of this defunct body assumed another name and petitioned Sir John Macpherson, through Major J. C. C. Allen, then Resident of the Rivers Province, calling for a direct seat at the 1953 London Conference to press for a separate Rivers State. Nine people signed the petition including Mr H. J. R. Wilcox (now Chief Biriye), Mr Mac Karibo and Chief A. P. Asisi-Abbey. At the call of the Lt.-Governor at Enugu, Mr H. J. R. Wilcox (Chief Biriye) and Chief A. P. Asisi-Abbey went to Enugu and defended their petition before Sir Clement Pleace, the Lt. -Governor who communicated their deliberations to Sir. John in Lagos. The outcome of this pressure on Government by this non-descript group was that Government arranged for Chief D. Davis-Manuel of Abonnema nominated by that body to go to London and join the Nigerian team as adviser to the Eyo Ita’s Government bench delegation.
About July, 1953, a new body made its debut in Roxy Hall, Port Harcourt, which was called the Council of Rivers Chiefs, with Chief Ben-Wari of Bassambiri, Nembe, as first President, and Chief D. Davis-Manuel as his Vice President.
Mr. Isaac T. T. Pepple was a paid Secretary. Mr. H. J. R. Wilcox (Chief Biriye) was in the working committee. The petition carried to London by Chief Davis- Manuel called for a Rivers State. For the resumed conference of 1954, the Council of Rivers Chiefs delegated Chief Asisi-Abbey and Mr. H. J. R. Wicox to Sir John
Macpherson in-Lagos with a petition urging the issue of a separate Rivers State to be scheduled on the agenda of the resumed conference in 1954.
12. Constitutional Changes:
(1) The Ibadan conference of 1950 ushered in the Macpherson Constitution of 1951, which created regional bottlenecks for groups of Provinces. The new Rivers Province thus had to process its programmes through Enugu, a process which made it virtually difficult for the Rivers people to get attention for their priorities, vis-a-vis the problems of majority groups
(ii) Rivers people were in no control of the Rivers Province, politically, economically and socially. Port Harcourt, the only developing town in the new province was populated predominantly by a majority tribal group.
(iii) By this time the Ijaw Rivers Peoples League was phasing out, since its original leaders had been removed from the sphere. of operations, by their paymasters.
13. Action Group and Rivers State Issue: On Easter Monday in 1954, Mr. Harold J. R. Wilcox held a meeting with Mr. Alfred Rewane, Political Secretary to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, President and Leader of the Action Group, at Mr. F. D. Stowe’s house, Port Harcourt, and the matter of proffering Action Group support for the Rivers State issue was thrashed out. As a result, the Action Group was introduced in the Rivers Province with Mr. Harold Wilcox as Principal Organising Secretary, and Mr. Kenneth Dappa of Bakana as Organising Secretary in the Federal Election of 1954, Chief N. G. Yellowe, one of the members, succeeded as an Action Group candidate for Degema Division. The Rivers State was the election issue for the Action Group in the Rivers Province.
Subsequently, the Action Group extended the Rivers State boundary to include the old Calabar and the old Ogoja Provinces to constitute a COR State. This created a rift in the rank of the members, and Mr. H. Wilcox resigned from the party in January, 1955, but took to organizing Rivers people in support of a Rivers State. Other party members from Degema Division openly supported the C.O.R. State concept.
14. Other Bodies which supported the Rivers State:
Some Rivers University Student Bodies from the University of Ibadan in 1954 and those in the United Kingdom, among whom were Mr. S. F. Kombo, (now Chief Igbeta), and Mr. Reginald Kemmer (now Chief Agiobu Kemmer) played prominent part in their various locations in favour of a Rivers State. N.C.N.C. members of Rivers origin in Lagos, led by Mr. Eric Bob Manuel started off a Rivers State movement in Lagos.
15. Rivers State Congress:
A Rivers State Congress was formed in 1955 with Mr. (later Chief) John A. Nsirim of Isiokpo as President, and Mr. H. J. R. Wilcox as Secretary. –Barrister (later Chief) Inko-Tariah later succeeded Mr. Nsirim as President. This body succeeded in preventing the Eastern Regional Government from abolishing Comey Subsidy grants in 1955, thus preserving a traditional relic of Rivers Chieftaincy and history. This body retained the services of Sir Dinglc Foot, Mr R. K. Handoo, and Mr Graham Page, a British Member of Parliament in that encounter. The Congress was granted a direct seat at the Eastern Nigeria Summit Conference at Enugu in 1956, where the matter for a Rivers State was pressed. This conference was called to sift matters for the agenda of the Eastern delegation for the Nigerian Constitutional Conference to be held in London later that year.
16. Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference:
On July 4, 1956, a common urge for a Rivers State caused chiefs and people, irrespective- of partisanship to get together and form the Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference. The motion was moved by Mr P. G. Warmate (now Chief), Francis Alagoa of Nembe and Mr H. J. R. Biriye (formerly Wilcox) were elected Chairman and Principal Secretary respectively. Mr. J. O. Barnes was appointed Secretary. In 1957, this body was permitted by the Colonial Office to send a delegation of Rivers Chiefs to London to discuss the treaties between the British Crown and Rivers Communities. The three eminent lawyers for the Corney Subsidy tussle were still retained throughout the Constitutional battles. The Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference was also accorded a distinct seat out of two seats intended for Chiefs of former Eastern Nigeria at the Constitutional Conference held in London in 1957. Mr Harold J. R. Dappa-Biriye was appointed by the Conference to represent them for these two separate seats. The principal theme of his mandate was pressure for a Rivers State.
One direct outcome of the delegate’s performance was the high-lighting of permanent minority problems in Nigeria, and consequent appointment in 1957 of the Henry Willink Commission of Enquiry into Nigerian Minority Problems.
An outcome of this commission was the constitutional provision for a Niger Delta Special Area and the setting up of a Development Board for the area.
Another result was participation in creating a House of Chiefs in former Eastern Nigeria, and the attainment of five out of the eight traditional First Class Chieftaincies in that territory in favour of minority groups of the Region On September 1,1965. a conference of this body was held, presided over by Chief E. D. W. Opu-Ogulaya at which a resolution calling for creation of a Rivers State was passed and signed by the Chairman and forwarded to the Federal Parliament.
17. Niger Delta Congress:
As the Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference, being a non-partisan umbrella, could not field candidates for the 1959 Federal election that preceded Nigeria’s Independence, the body authorised the formation of a political party to contest the issue of a Rivers State at that election. Thus the N. D. C. was born. Mr. Harold J. R. Biriye was appointed President and Leader of the party. Mr. J. A. Jamabo was appointed Secretary, and Mr F. F. Alaputa its Treasurer. The leaders went up to Kaduna in August, 1959, and contracted an alliance with the Northern Peoples Congress in the ensuing election, Mr. M. O. Okilo was returned as its successful candidate for Brass Division. He soon became the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. –
18 The Niger Delta Development Board:
The late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa brought in Nedeco experts to study and report on possibilities for physical development of the Niger Delta Special Area in 1959/60.
The board was set up in 1961 for an initial period of ten years, Chief I. S. Anthony was its Chairman and Mr. A. Zuofa its Secretary. It produced some reports before the Nigerian crisis.
During 1963 Constitutional Conference in Lagos for a Republican Status N. D. C. delegates prevented the abolition of the Niger Delta Development Board.
Those who attended were Messrs Harold J. R. Biriye, C. D. Clement and S. A. Opusunju of Opobo.
19. The Boro Episode:
Early in the Military regime, late Mr Isaac Boro declared a Niger Delta State, which incident was contained by the Nigeria Police and the culprits brought to book. Some Rivers Leaders like Chief Harold I. R. Dappa Biriye who had assumed the Chieftaincy title of his late father, and Dr I. J. Fiberesima (later Chief) were questioned by the police for the incident, and the former kept under house arrest from February, 1966 till the first military regime faded out.
20. Second Military, Regime:
Rivers delegates to the Enugu Consultative Assembly in August, 1966, reopened the cry for a Rivers State and for other States as a basis for further association in Nigeria. The delegates included Chief H. Dappa-Biriye, Mr W. O. Briggs and Dr W. T. Wakama. On September, 10, 1966, Rivers Leaders of Thought delegated Chiefs H. J. R. Biriye, B. J. Oriji and Mr. Wenike Briggs to the Head of State General Yakubu Gowon in Lagos to press for States in Nigeria, the Rivers State being one. Signatories to the petition carried along included Mr. I. Nwanodi, Mr. Edward Kobani, Dr Fiberesima and Mr. Graham Otoko of Andoni.
The delegates applied mature diplomacy, artifice and strategy. Chief Oriji was deployed back to console the home front. Mr. Wenike Briggs stood firmer with the Corists. Chief H. I. R. Dappa-Biriye dug into military and civilian entrenchments in Lagos. The West and the North, and surfaced with the Rivers State flag.
21. Birth of the Rivers State:
On May 27, 1967, General Gowon announced the creation of twelve States in Nigeria including the Rivers State. In his relevant speech he paid glowing tributes to minority pressure for creation of States in Nigeria.
In June, 1967, the first Nigerian mission to the United Nations Assembly in New York on the Middle-East crisis was a five-man delegation which consisted of three Nigerians from former Minority areas: Chief Anthony Enahoro from the Mid-West, Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye from the Rivers, and Mr. Michael Ani, from the South-Eastern State. The other two persons were Chief Akin Olugbade from the West, and Alhaji Au Monguno from the North.
22. Rivers State in Action:
Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff was appointed Military Governor of Rivers State in May, 1967, who, under directive from the Head of State, set up a nucleus of public administration in the territory. Owing to belligerent mood in the area the Military Governor of the State operated an absentee government from 24 Queens Drive, Lagos, using an Advisory Council which included Professor I. S. Dema who could not attend from Ghana Dr. Melford Graham-Douglas, Mr. S. Eke-Spiff, Mr. A. Zuofa, Mr. K. B. Tsaro-Wiwa, Mr. O. Nduka (these last two resigned) and Mr. S. Uzor. After Bonny had been liberated on July 25, 1967, an administration was started there using Mr. K. B. Tsaro-Wiwa as Administrator. When Port Harcourt was liberated on May 18, 1968, the Military Governor shifted base from Lagos to the State by mid year. At the end of the year, he appointed a ten-man Executive Council, including himself as ex-officio Chairman, the General Officer Commanding, the Commissioner of Police and seven civil Commissioners.
The Rivers State Government in action has remained stable and viable from the outset, and has created ample public organs for its services: – The courts of Justice the Civil Service, Boards, Corporations and State-owned companies:
Cultural Councils, the College of Science and Technology, the Advanced Teacher Training College, and other educational institutions.
The Rivers State Government and Religious bodies in the State are working harmoniously and in mutual confidence. The Rivers State Government and traditional authority in the State are hands in gloves. The Government has created incentives to stimulate and promote the private sector in all recognizable occupations.
It has launched a Four-Year-Development Plan to overcome the physical handicaps of the Rivers area. The Rivers State is represented at the Supreme Military Council and the Federal Executive Council directly by Rivers people. Places are open for competent Rivers elements in other public organs at the Federal and national level.
Taking stock of results of the protracted efforts by the Rivers pioneers and various actors on the stage, decade after decade, it can be said with confidence and satisfaction that most of the mischiefs which motivated organization and action on our part, have been cured. Equality of opportunity for all Nigerians at all levels has been guaranteed by the creation of 12 States, and in the Rivers State, by creating 18 Administrative Divisions.
The physical handicaps of the Rivers area have been contained by the Development Plan of the Rivers State Government and those of various Rivers Communities. Rivers traditional traits and historical heritage have prospects of being re-conditioned for service in Society.
The Administrative and Economic viability of this State has been proved beyond every shadow of doubt. The moral quality of Rivers people and their leaders has been esteemed by all valuers as very high. The attainment of Statehood by Rivers people is both quantitative and qualitative not only because of the eminence of the target, but also because of the difficulties our leaders traversed to attain it.
Behind many good deeds of great men and women, the faithful wives of our pioneers and actors on the stage from decade to decade deserve deep commendation. To God we must all give glory for the Rivers State, realising that:— “Except the Lord builds the house their labour is but lost that build it”.