University of Maine at Presque Isle Professor Anderson Giles recently had the opportunity to participate in two rare and exciting activities related to World War II in the Pacific.
Professor Giles was one of seven scholars, authors, and military officers invited to speak at an international symposium titled The Manhattan Project & Tinian: An Educational Symposium, which was held in August on the Pacific island of Tinian. Giles also was able to lead a small group of WWII enthusiasts on a rare expedition to the famed George Tweed site on the island of Guam.
The symposium Giles attended was held at the Dynasty Hotel on Tinian in conjunction with ceremonies marking the 65th Anniversary of the Atomic Missions that helped end WWII and changed warfare forever. The keynote speaker at the symposium was General Carrol H. "Howie" Chandler, Vice Chief of Staff for the U. S. Air Force. The symposium – which brought together a group of experts familiar with the different aspects of the Manhattan Project to give a well-rounded view of what happened – was broadcast via the Internet to a worldwide audience. The event was supported by a grant from the Humanities Council of the Northern Mariana Islands.
During the event, Giles gave a 1 hour and 15 minute slide lecture on his documentary work with the 509th Composite Group, the unit which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Giles was invited to speak as a result of his decades of documentary and film work with the 509th Composite Group. He has written and produced two feature length films, Thunder from Tinian and Echoes from the Apocalypse, which document the remarkable events associated with what occurred on Tinian in the summer of 1945, leading up to and including the atomic strikes. Giles has interviewed many of the individuals involved in the historic missions.
Giles previously served as a featured speaker, symposium moderator, and guide for the weeklong 60th Anniversary Commemoration events that took place on Tinian. The interviews and archival footage from the event were sources for his documentary, Echoes from the Apocalypse: Tinian, 60 Years Later, released in 2007.
Giles has been involved in numerous creative documentary projects on Tinian over the years. He regularly leads tours to sites he has discovered connected to the events associated with the top secret assembly facilities and deployment of the B-29's ENOLA GAY and BOCKSCAR, which dropped the "Little Boy" on Hiroshima and the "Fatman" on Nagasaki. He has helped with archeological studies conducted on the island. He also painted a 5-foot by 7-foot commission work of the B -29 BOCKSCAR and the atomic cloud over Nagasaki, which now hangs in the high school on Tinian.
"The invitation to speak with such a distinguished group at the symposium was an honor," Giles said. "The combination of expertise on the many facets of the incredible effort to design, build, and deliver the atomic weapons reinforced the realization of why the events were voted 'the top news story of the 20th Century.' Those apocalyptic events ushered in the dangerous era of potential atomic destruction which haunts the nations of the world to this day."
Following his participation in the Manhattan Project symposium, Giles led a small group on a one-day expedition to the famed George Tweed site on Guam. Known as the "Robinson Crusoe of Guam," George Tweed was the chief radioman for the U.S. Navy on Guam when the Japanese invaded in December 1941. Tweed hid from the Japanese for two years and seven months in a jungle hideout rather than become a prisoner of war. His story is retold in the 1945 book Robinson Crusoe, USN, and in the 1962 movie No Man Is an Island.
This was the first time Giles visited the site, which he described as an extremely rare opportunity. The group had to receive permission from the U.S. Navy in order to visit the site, which is located on a remote part of Guam, on a Navy base that is kept under tight security. The cave where Tweed hid is only accessible by a brutal, 30 minute climb up rock cliffs. Giles and his group were joined in the expedition by guide Franklin Artero, the son of Antonio Artero, the man who brought Tweed food and water while he was in hiding.
"Although the climb up was brutal, it was a wonderful experience to visit the site of one of the little known,
but extraordinary, chapters of World War II in the Pacific," Giles said.
After visiting Tweed's jungle site, Giles took the group to the island of Peleliu. One of the goals was to retrace the experience of a 1st Division Marine, Eugene Sledge, during the bloody battle which occurred in the fall of 1944. Sledge's battlefield experiences were recently featured in Tom Hank's and Steven Spielberg's HBO special, The Pacific. Sledge's book, titled With the Old Breed, was used as source material in the production of The Pacific series. Through careful research and with the help of native guides, Giles' group was able to visit a number of Sledge's battle sites. They discovered relics such as live mortar rounds at one of Sledge's mortar pits.