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Category: World War II

One year ago: Otto Heino

The image of the poor, starving artist didn't apply to master potter Otto Heino, who died one year ago. His handmade vessels, which blended Scandinavian modernism and Japanese folk pottery, could go for more than $25,000 a piece and made him a multimillionaire.

Heino had an international reputation for robust yet beautiful wheel-thrown stoneware with artistically applied glazes that included glossy cobalt blues, silky reds and raspy earth tones.

In the mid-1990s, he brought to life a lost-to-the-ages buttery yellow Chinese glaze that made him especially famous in Asia. Although he said he was offered millions for the formula, he never sold it.

Jo Lauria, coauthor of the ceramics book "Color and Fire," wrote this about Heino's pottery:

"He had a macho relationship with clay, and it was a badge of honor to be able to throw huge pieces, but they were always functional, emphasizing the sensuality of the glaze, the way in which it catches the light and invites you to touch it."

Heino was the fifth of 12 children born to his Finnish parents. He was raised on a New Hampshire farm and for five years served in the Army Air Forces as a fighter plane crew chief and a B-17 gunner. He found his love for pottery at a studio in England while he was on furlough from the military.

For more about the master potter who was a symbol of the mid-century California studio crafts movement, read Heino's obituary in The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Otto Heino with the organic, modern pottery pieces he produced in his Ojai studio. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker dies at 90


Vernon Baker, a black soldier who belatedly received the Medal of Honor for his role in World War II, has died at his home in St. Maries, Idaho. He was 90.

Baker2 The Benewah County coroner says Baker died Tuesday of complications of brain cancer.

Then-President Bill Clinton presented the nation's highest award for battlefield valor to Baker in 1997. He was one of only seven black soldiers to receive it in World War II and the only living recipient.

In 1944, 2nd Lt. Baker was sent to Italy with a full platoon of 54 men. On April 5, he and his soldiers found themselves behind enemy lines near Viareggio, Italy. Under concentrated enemy fire Baker and his platoon crawled to several machine gun nests, destroying them and killing 26 Germans.

More later at

-- Associated Press

Top photo: Vernon Baker in 2005. Credit: Associated Press; Jesse Tinsley / Spokesman-Review

Bottom photo: Baker during his Army career. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: Cecil Smith

Cecil-smithCecil Smith, who covered the television and entertainment scene for The Times from the 1950s to the 1980s, brought a kind of sophistication to television reviews that is rarely seen today. He died one year ago.

Smith advocated for literate, high-quality television while the medium was still young. He was called a "giant in the business" by his successor, Howard Rosenberg.

"Cecil was such a graceful writer," Rosenberg said. "You could wake him up at 2 in the morning and set him down at a typewriter and within an hour he'd turn out a gracefully written piece with all the right references and all the right phraseology that would take me a week to turn out. He was just a terrific writer and a very literate person."

Smith began his Times career as a reporter and feature writer in 1947 and became an entertainment writer in 1953. He was the entertainment editor and a drama critic in the 1960s, and in 1969 he became the paper's television critic and a columnist for The Times' syndicate.

Smith served as a captain in the Army Air Forces during World War II and as a pilot flew a B-24 Liberator in the South Pacific. After the war, he wrote radio plays and television scripts before getting involved in journalism.

For more, read Cecil Smith's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Cecil Smith


One year ago: Ray Watt

WattLos Angeles might look a lot different today had it not been for the work of Ray Watt, pioneer and innovator in the development industry who did much to define the look of modern L.A. He died one year ago.

During his six decade career, Watt built more than 100,000 single-family homes, mostly in the San Fernando Valley, the South Bay and the Westside. He also developed other types of property, including industrial centers.

Among his best-known projects were Watt Plaza, a two-tower office complex in Century City, and Fairbanks Ranch, a luxury housing development in Rancho Santa Fe.

Watt was named Builder of the Year from the Building Industry Assn. of California in 1968. He also became a trustee of USC in 1967 and contributed to the school for years. Watt Hall of Architecture and Fine Arts is named after him.

Watt began his career by taking advantage of the housing shortage after World War II as GIs were coming home. Along with his brother, Don, he built a mobile home park in 1946, working with a small crew and a battered pickup truck.

He continued his work into the 1990s, though he took time out during President Nixon's first term to serve as assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

For more, read Ray Watt's obituary by The Times.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Ray Watt

Credit: Los Angeles Times

One year ago: Roger 'Bill' Terry

Roger-terryOne year ago today, a man who prominently fought for racial integration in the military died. Roger "Bill" Terry was an officer in an all-black group of World War II pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, which became famous for staging what came to be called the Freeman Field Mutiny.

In April 5, 1945, Terry helped 2nd Lt. Coleman A. Young, who later became mayor of Detroit, send black airmen over to an exclusively-white officers' club, three at a time, at Freeman Field in Indiana.

In all, 162 black officers were arrested, but only Terry and two others received a general courts-martial. He was fined $150, reduced in rank and dishonorably discharged in November 1945 without ever having traveled overseas.

Terry helped found Tuskegee Airmen Inc. in 1972 to draw attention to their history, and on Aug. 2, 1995, the Army pardoned him, restored his rank and refunded his $150 fine. In 2007, Terry and several other airmen collectively received a Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush.

Terry's son Jeff told this to The Times about his father:

"He was really quite gratified that he and his colleagues were honored in his lifetime.... With him, it really was the right thing to do, and he accepted the consequences of his actions. He knew if people didn't take a stand, things were not going to change, and they had to change."

Read more in Roger Terry's obituary from The Times.

Photo: Roger Terry. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times

One year ago: Dr. Jean Dausset

Dausset The research of French Nobel laureate Dr. Jean Dausset, who died one year ago today at age 92, greatly contributed to making organ transplants possible.

Dausset discovered molecules on the surface of cells that allow an individual's immune system to distinguish between its own tissues and foreign tissues, which are vigorously attacked by disease-fighting antibodies.

With his Nobel Prize money and a substantial grant from French television, he established the Centre d'Etude du Polymorphisme Humain, or CEPH, which went on to make a map of DNA markers that play a crucial role in deciphering the human genome.

Dausset, who was drafted into the French army during World War II, developed his passion for hematology while performing transfusions on the battlefields of North Africa during the Allies' Tunisian campaign. After Paris' liberation in 1944, he was put in charge of blood collection for the city's transfusion center.

For more information, read The Times obituary of Dausset that was published on June 27, 2009.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Dr. Jean Dausset after receiving an award in Spain.

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

John Finn dies at 100; he was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient


Retired Navy Lt. John Finn, the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died early Thursday on his ranch near Live Oak Springs in San Diego County, where he lived for more than 50 years. He was 100.

Navy Lt. Aaron Kakiel confirmed the death.

Finn earned the nation's highest military valor award for his heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He received the Medal of Honor on Sept. 15, 1942, from then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Born July 23, 1909, in Los Angeles, Finn was the oldest of the 97 Medal of Honor recipients still living.

During the Dec. 7, 1941, attack, Finn manned a machine gun and began firing from an exposed location on Japanese aircraft, suffering serious wounds in the process.

A full obituary will follow at

-- Associated Press

Photo: John Finn in 2006. Credit: Associated Press

Edward Uhl, who helped invent the bazooka, dies at 92

Edward Uhl, who helped invent the bazooka during World War II and later led the aerospace company Fairchild Industries Inc., has died. He was 92.

Uhl Uhl died Sunday in Oxford, Md., of complications from a stroke he suffered three years earlier, his stepson George Hatcher said.

In 1942, as an Army first lieutenant with an engineering degree, Uhl helped develop a shoulder-fired rocket launcher nicknamed the bazooka because it resembled a tube-shaped musical instrument.

Uhl joined Fairchild as president in 1961. He oversaw its transformation from a military aircraft manufacturer to an aerospace giant before retiring as chairman in 1985.

Fairchild's products included the A-10 Thunderbolt II, an airplane nicknamed the warthog that was used against Iraqi tanks in the 1990 Gulf War.

More later at

-- Associated Press

Photo: Edward Uhl in 2005. Credit: Associated Press / via George A. Hatcher Jr.

Winston Churchill, grandson of wartime prime minister for Great Britain, dies at 69


Winston Spencer Churchill, 69, a former member of Parliament and grandson of Britain’s wartime leader, died Tuesday at his London home, said Cmdr. John Muxworthy, president of the United Kingdom National Defense Assn. He had been suffering from cancer.

Churchill was a member of the House of Commons from 1970 to 1997. Earlier he had been a foreign correspondent for the Times of London, the Daily Telegraph and other papers.

He was a founder of the Defense Assn., which campaigned for greater support for Britain’s armed forces.

Churchill was born in October 1940 at Chequers, the prime minister’s official country residence, shortly after Royal Air Force pilots prevailed in the Battle of Britain. During it, Hitler’s Luftwaffe was prevented from destroying Britain’s air defenses or forcing the country to negotiate an armistice.

He was the son of Randolph Churchill and Pamela Digby, who scandalized London society with her affairs and who, in later life as Pamela Harriman, became U.S. ambassador to France. His parents divorced in 1945.

"I never knew my parents together, so their split meant nothing to me," Churchill said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2008. "But it did mean I got a great deal of grandparental sunlight."

Continue reading »

Soviet soldier in historic World War II photograph dies


A Red Army soldier who appears in a historic photograph helping hoist a hammer-and-sickle flag over the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945 has died, officials said in Moscow.

Abdulkhakim Ismailov, 93, died of unspecified causes Tuesday in his native village of Chagar-Otar, the press office of the president of Russia’s southern province of Dagestan said Wednesday.

Ismailov was one of the three Soviet soldiers seen in a photograph taken three days after the fall of Berlin in May 1945. He stands beneath the man holding the flagpole.

The photo became an iconic image of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. It has often been compared with the 1945 Associated Press photograph of U.S. soldiers raising the American flag on Iwo Jima.

The Soviet photographer, Yevgeny Khaldei, said years later that the image was staged, and the flag was sewn from three tablecloths. He said the original hammer-and-sickle flag flown from the Reichstag was shot down by German snipers.

Ismailov was identified in the photograph only in 1996 and was awarded a Hero of Russia medal.

During WWII, he was part of a motorized infantry battalion and was wounded five times. After the war, he served as a chairman of a collective farm and as a Communist Party official.

-- Associated Press

Photo: In this image from May 2, 1945, Red Army soldiers hoist the Soviet flag over Berlin. Abdulkhakim Ismailov, just below the flag bearer, died Tuesday. Credit: Associated Press / ITAR-TASS, Yevgeny Khaldei

Claire L. Walters told men at war how to fly a B-24 bomber. They were not amused.

Claire Walters Reader Bill Warnock followed up his e-mail regarding my obituary of pilot and flight instructor Claire L. Walters with another recollection: “When I went through the sheriff’s academy back in 1970 (Hamilton County, Ohio), our psychology instructor told us, ‘Men hear, women listen.’ Valerie, that is so true.”

Here’s what Warnock had to say about some choice Walters advice to World War II-era pilots:

While stationed at Andersen AFB, Guam, I was told by my boss that Walters flew B-24 when Army Air Corps pilots were terrified of it because of numerous fatal accidents.

According to my boss, a former B-24 pilot, Walters advised: “You have to listen to the aircraft, it will tell you what’s going on. Treat it like a woman and listen to her.” Needless to say it made her as popular as a skunk at a tea party.

Remember when the first all-female Air Force Reserve crew flew a C-5 to Germany nonstop? There was not a single hitch. There was a lot of jeering prior to takeoff, none upon landing or upon return.

Warm regards,

Bill Warnock
Haymarket, Va.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Claire L. Walters ran a flight school in Santa Monica and co-founded the annual Palms to Pines air race for women.

Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank, dies

Miep Gies, without whom the world would never have known about the poignant diary of the young Anne Frank or of the Frank family's failed attempt to hide from the Nazis, has died. She was 100.

Gies' death was confirmed today by officials at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam.

The scattered papers Gies scooped up from the floor after Anne and her family were taken from their hiding place in Amsterdam to concentration camps in Germany were later compiled by Anne's father into one of the most widely read nonfiction books of all time.

According to the Anne Frank Center USA in New York City, "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl" has been translated into more than 67 languages with more than 31 million copies sold since its publication in 1947. For millions of young people, Anne's story is their initial—and in many cases, only—exposure to what happened during the Holocaust.

We'll have a more complete obituary soon at

--Times staff reports


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