#MilitaryMonday

Military thank you

Military Monday is a weekly feature honoring the Military of the United States and its Allies.

1959, the ‪#US Navy‬ and the US Postal Service deliver the first official missile mail when USS Barbero (SS 317) fires a Regulus I missile with 3,000 letters 100 miles east of Jacksonville, Fla., to Mayport, Fla.

Letter carrier Noble Upperman places the first guided missile letters in his mail bag as other postal officials look on. Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield is to the right of Upperman holding the bag. The Regulus Missile fired from USS Barbero (SS-317) landed at Mayport, Florida. US Navy Photo Collection

Letter carrier Noble Upperman places the first guided missile letters in his mail bag as other postal officials look on. Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield is to the right of Upperman holding the bag. The Regulus Missile fired from USS Barbero (SS-317) landed at Mayport, Florida. US Navy Photo Collection

Reporters and photographers patiently wait the removal of the first Missile Mail from Regulus. The missile was fired from USS Barbero (SS-317) and landed Mayport, Florida. US Navy Photo Collection

Reporters and photographers patiently wait the removal of the first Missile Mail from Regulus. The missile was fired from USS Barbero (SS-317) and landed Mayport, Florida. US Navy Photo Collection

USS Barbero (SS 317) underway during the late 1950s with Regulus Missile. US Navy Photo Collection.

USS Barbero (SS 317) underway during the late 1950s with Regulus Missile. US Navy Photo Collection.

Philatelic Cover from USS Barbero (SS 317) commemorating the first Missile Mail. The missile was fired from USS Barbero (SS 317) and landed in Mayport, Florida. Courtesy of the National Postal Museum, Smithsonian.

Philatelic Cover from USS Barbero (SS 317) commemorating the first Missile Mail. The missile was fired from USS Barbero (SS 317) and landed in Mayport, Florida. Courtesy of the National Postal Museum, Smithsonian.

1944, the construction of artificial harbors and sheltered anchorages, also known as Mulberries, begins off the Normandy coast. The artificial harbors were required as the Germans continued to control port cities for the most of the remaining month.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. "Phoenix" caissons being emplaced as breakwaters for a "Mulberry" artificial harbor off the Normandy invasion beaches, 14 June 1944. Photograph credited to SHAEF-OSS. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. “Phoenix” caissons being emplaced as breakwaters for a “Mulberry” artificial harbor off the Normandy invasion beaches, 14 June 1944. Photograph credited to SHAEF-OSS.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

The End of Mulberry "A" Dwight C. Shepler #161 Watercolor, 1944 88-199-FI Below the bluff of the Omaha beachhead, the twisted relic of the fabulous artificial harbor of Mulberry filled the sea. The row of concrete caissons paralleling the shore finally disintegrated on the third day of the great storm of June 19-22, 1944, letting the seas though to break up the floating piers.

The End of Mulberry “A”
Dwight C. Shepler #161
Watercolor, 1944
88-199-FI
Below the bluff of the Omaha beachhead, the twisted relic of the fabulous artificial harbor of Mulberry filled the sea. The row of concrete caissons paralleling the shore finally disintegrated on the third day of the great storm of June 19-22, 1944, letting the seas though to break up the floating piers.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. "SeaBee" mobile repair shop on a large pontoon, used to support the "Mulberry" artificial harbor off the Normandy beachhead in mid-1944. Note the "USS 'Can-Do'" emblem, tent, quonset hut, tattered U.S. Ensign and Jeep on the pontoon, plus crowd of shipping in the distance. Photograph was released for publication on 27 December 1944, in preparation for the "SeaBees" third anniversary onj 28 December. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. “SeaBee” mobile repair shop on a large pontoon, used to support the “Mulberry” artificial harbor off the Normandy beachhead in mid-1944. Note the “USS ‘Can-Do'” emblem, tent, quonset hut, tattered U.S. Ensign and Jeep on the pontoon, plus crowd of shipping in the distance. Photograph was released for publication on 27 December 1944, in preparation for the “SeaBees” third anniversary onj 28 December. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Mulberry at Work
Dwight C. Shepler #159
Watercolor, June 1944.

Worth noting: the Royal Navy’s constructors insisted that all planned fastenings and moorings be completed and tested before moving crgo. The SeaBees and their CEC engineering staff insisted the specs were way over-engineered and did enough to get cargo moving ashore. The storms of June 19 destroyed the Omaha Beach Mulberry, leaving the British one at Arromanches to take the load. The American Mulberry was destroyed and hundreds of ships and thousands of supplies sunk by fierce storms in a few weeks after D-Day. The British Mulberry was heavily damaged.

1944, the Allied forces land troops on Normandy beaches for the largest amphibious landing in history — Operation Overlord (D-Day) — beginning the march eastward to defeat Germany and ultimately destroy the Nazi regime on May 7, 1945.

Assault Wave Cox'n Dwight C. Shepler #141a Watercolor, 1944 88-199-EN The landing craft coxswain was the symbol and fiber of the amphibious force. Exposed to enemy fire as he steered his craft to shore, the lives of thirty-six infantrymen in his small LCVP were his responsibility. If he failed in his mission of landing these troops, the strategy of admirals went for naught; the bombardment of a naval force alone could never gain a foothold on the hostile and contested shore. Prairie boy or city lad, the coxswain became a paragon of courageous determination and seamanship.

Assault Wave Cox’n
Dwight C. Shepler #141a
Watercolor, 1944
88-199-EN
The landing craft coxswain was the symbol and fiber of the amphibious force. Exposed to enemy fire as he steered his craft to shore, the lives of thirty-six infantrymen in his small LCVP were his responsibility. If he failed in his mission of landing these troops, the strategy of admirals went for naught; the bombardment of a naval force alone could never gain a foothold on the hostile and contested shore. Prairie boy or city lad, the coxswain became a paragon of courageous determination and seamanship.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching "Omaha" Beach on "D-Day", 6 June 1944. Note helmet netting; faint "No Smoking" sign on the LCVP's ramp; and M1903 rifles and M1 carbines carried by some of these men. This photograph was taken from the same LCVP as Photo # SC 189986. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching “Omaha” Beach on “D-Day”, 6 June 1944. Note helmet netting; faint “No Smoking” sign on the LCVP’s ramp; and M1903 rifles and M1 carbines carried by some of these men. This photograph was taken from the same LCVP as Photo # SC 189986. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

The Tough Beach Dwight C. Shepler #147 Watercolor, June 1944 88-199-EU This is what the Allied forces in Normandy called the Omaha beachhead. All day the landing waves suffered terrible attrition from the stubborn, enfilade German fire which raked the shore. A coast studded with beach and underwater obstacles, mines, and German fortified positions and pillboxes, it proved deadly to many American soldiers and sailors on June 6, 1944.

The Tough Beach
Dwight C. Shepler #147
Watercolor, June 1944
88-199-EU
This is what the Allied forces in Normandy called the Omaha beachhead. All day the landing waves suffered terrible attrition from the stubborn, enfilade German fire which raked the shore. A coast studded with beach and underwater obstacles, mines, and German fortified positions and pillboxes, it proved deadly to many American soldiers and sailors on June 6, 1944.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Landing ships putting cargo ashore on one of the invasion beaches, at low tide during the first days of the operation, June 1944. Among identifiable ships present are USS LST-532 (in the center of the view); USS LST-262 (3rd LST from right); USS LST-310 (2nd LST from right); USS LST-533 (partially visible at far right); and USS LST-524. Note barrage balloons overhead and Army "half-track" convoy forming up on the beach. Photograph from the U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944. Landing ships putting cargo ashore on one of the invasion beaches, at low tide during the first days of the operation, June 1944. Among identifiable ships present are USS LST-532 (in the center of the view); USS LST-262 (3rd LST from right); USS LST-310 (2nd LST from right); USS LST-533 (partially visible at far right); and USS LST-524. Note barrage balloons overhead and Army “half-track” convoy forming up on the beach. Photograph from the U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

90 percent of combat aviators who served at the Battle of Midway earned their wings through Navy Reserve Aviation programs.

After completing training, Naval Aviation‬ Cadets served three years on active duty before being commissioned as Ensigns in the US Navy Reserve. These U.S. Navy Reserve pilots became the nucleus of the U.S. Naval Air Forces that would fight in WWII‬.

Naval Reserve Aviation Cadets receive navigation instruction in front of a Vought OS2U aircraft, circa 1942-43. Note four varieties of uniform worn by the cadets, including khaki working uniforms with flight cap and parachute, aviation working "greens," service dress "white" and service dress "blues." Instructor is wearing a fleece-lined leather flight suite. ( US National Archives 80-G-K-16145)

Naval Reserve Aviation Cadets receive navigation instruction in front of a Vought OS2U aircraft, circa 1942-43. Note four varieties of uniform worn by the cadets, including khaki working uniforms with flight cap and parachute, aviation working “greens,” service dress “white” and service dress “blues.” Instructor is wearing a fleece-lined leather flight suite. ( US National Archives 80-G-K-16145)

Martin BM-1, of VT-1S, take off over the stern of the USS Lexington (CV 2) on May 17, 1934.  USN Photo Collection.

Martin BM-1, of VT-1S, take off over the stern of the USS Lexington (CV 2) on May 17, 1934. USN Photo Collection.

Stearman N2s-3 "Kaydet" training planes on the flight line during World War II.  (US National Archives 80-G-K14044)

Stearman N2s-3 “Kaydet” training planes on the flight line during World War II. (US National Archives 80-G-K14044)

Floyd Bennett Field NY Reserve Squadron Aircraft, 1932.  USN Photo Collection.

Floyd Bennett Field NY Reserve Squadron Aircraft, 1932. USN Photo Collection.

The Battle of Midway begins in 1942. The battle is a decisive win for the U.S, bringing an end to Japanese naval superiority in the Pacific.

Battle of Midway, June 1942. Ensign George H. Gay at Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital, with a nurse and a copy of the "Honolulu Star-Bulletin" newspaper featuring accounts of the battle. He was the only survivor of the 4 June 1942 Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) TBD torpedo plane attack on the Japanese carrier force. Gay's book "Sole Survivor" indicates that the date of this photograph is probably 7 June 1942, following an operation to repair his injured left hand and a meeting with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, U.S. National Archives Collection.

Battle of Midway, June 1942. Ensign George H. Gay at Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital, with a nurse and a copy of the “Honolulu Star-Bulletin” newspaper featuring accounts of the battle. He was the only survivor of the 4 June 1942 Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) TBD torpedo plane attack on the Japanese carrier force.
Gay’s book “Sole Survivor” indicates that the date of this photograph is probably 7 June 1942, following an operation to repair his injured left hand and a meeting with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, U.S. National Archives Collection.

The Battle of Midway Robert Benny #7 Oil on Canvas, circa 1943

The Battle of Midway
Robert Benny #7
Oil on Canvas, circa 1943

Air Attack on Japanese Carriers Griffith Baily Coale #31 Charcoal & pastel, circa 1942

Air Attack on Japanese Carriers
Griffith Baily Coale #31
Charcoal & pastel, circa 1942

Battle of Midway, June 1942. Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting the explosion of depth charges from USS Hammann (DD-412) as she sank alongside USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the afternoon of 6 June 1942. Both ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 while Hammann was assisting with the salvage of Yorktown. USS Vireo (AT-144) is shown at left, coming back to pick up survivors, as destroyers head off to search for the submarine. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Battle of Midway, June 1942. Diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, depicting the explosion of depth charges from USS Hammann (DD-412) as she sank alongside USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the afternoon of 6 June 1942. Both ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-168 while Hammann was assisting with the salvage of Yorktown. USS Vireo (AT-144) is shown at left, coming back to pick up survivors, as destroyers head off to search for the submarine.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

1934, USS Ranger (CV 4), the first U.S. Navy ship designed from the keel up as a carrier, is commissioned at Norfolk, Va. During WWII‬, she participates in Operation Torch and Operation Leader.

USS Ranger (CV 4) underway in Hampton Roads, Va., 18 August 1942. Note partially lowered after elevator and flight deck identification letters "R N G R" still visible just ahead of the ramp. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

USS Ranger (CV 4) underway in Hampton Roads, Va., 18 August 1942. Note partially lowered after elevator and flight deck identification letters “R N G R” still visible just ahead of the ramp. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

Grumman F3F-1 Fighters of Fighting Squadron Four (VF-4) from USS Ranger (CV 4) In flight over the Southern California coast. Photo is dated January 1939. Plane in the foreground is Bureau # 0261. Original photograph is in the collections of the Aviation History Branch, Naval Historical Center.

Grumman F3F-1 Fighters of Fighting Squadron Four (VF-4) from USS Ranger (CV 4) In flight over the Southern California coast. Photo is dated January 1939. Plane in the foreground is Bureau # 0261. Original photograph is in the collections of the Aviation History Branch, Naval Historical Center.

Sailors stripping ship aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), in anticipation of action off Morocco, circa early November 1942. Paint has been chipped from the bulkheads and overheads as a precaution against fire. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Sailors stripping ship aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), in anticipation of action off Morocco, circa early November 1942. Paint has been chipped from the bulkheads and overheads as a precaution against fire. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

North Africa Operation, November 1942 - testing machine guns of Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), while en route from the U.S. to North African waters, circa early November 1942. Note the special markings used during this operation, with a yellow ring painted around the national insignia on aircraft fuselages. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

North Africa Operation, November 1942 – testing machine guns of Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), while en route from the U.S. to North African waters, circa early November 1942. Note the special markings used during this operation, with a yellow ring painted around the national insignia on aircraft fuselages. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

"Battle of Midway, 3 June 1942" by Claudus Rodolfo, Oil Painting This painting shows a lone Japanese airplane downed in front of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. The artist took liberties in many aspects of this painting. He claims that this image shows June 3, 1942; however, the battle did not begin until June 4. Also, the aircraft carrier in the image is USS Yorktown (CV 10), but that particular Yorktown was built in 1943 and is currently on display as a museum ship at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, South Carolina. USS Yorktown (CV 5) was the ship lost at the Battle of Midway.

“Battle of Midway, 3 June 1942” by Claudus Rodolfo, Oil Painting
This painting shows a lone Japanese airplane downed in front of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
The artist took liberties in many aspects of this painting. He claims that this image shows June 3, 1942; however, the battle did not begin until June 4. Also, the aircraft carrier in the image is USS Yorktown (CV 10), but that particular Yorktown was built in 1943 and is currently on display as a museum ship at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, South Carolina. USS Yorktown (CV 5) was the ship lost at the Battle of Midway.

1917, during ‪‎WWI‬, USS Jupiter (AC 3), transports the first contingent of U.S. ‪‎Naval Aviators‬, the First Naval Aeronautical Detachment, to Pauillac, France. The men are commanded by Lt. Kenneth Whiting. USS Jupiter is later converted into the Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1).

Five of the U.S. Navy's early aviators, at Pensacola, Fla. Circa 1915-1916

Five of the U.S. Navy’s early aviators, at Pensacola, Fla. Circa 1915-1916

USS Jupiter (Fuel Ship # 3). Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 16 October 1913. USN Photo Collection

USS Jupiter (Fuel Ship # 3). Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 16 October 1913. USN Photo Collection

US Naval Air Station, Pauillac, France. U.S. Navy sailors working on extending the railroad for the A&R Shop, circa WWI. USN Photo Collection.

US Naval Air Station, Pauillac, France. U.S. Navy sailors working on extending the railroad for the A&R Shop, circa WWI. USN Photo Collection.

US Naval Air Station, Pauillac, France, Barracks, Warehouses, and offices, circa WWI. NHHC Photograph Collection, L-File, US Naval Air Stations, Overseas.

US Naval Air Station, Pauillac, France, Barracks, Warehouses, and offices, circa WWI. NHHC Photograph Collection, L-File, US Naval Air Stations, Overseas.

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D-Day at 74: In Their Own Words

Saturday, June 6, is the 71st anniversary of the US, British, Canadian and Australian invasion of Normandy, France.

Wednesday, June 6, is the 74th anniversary of the US, British, Canadian and Australian invasion of Normandy, France.

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”

— Excerpt from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to Normandy invasion troops the night before D-Day.

By sea and by air they descended on a 50-mile stretch of German-fortified French coastline, 74 years ago today.

Wearing the uniforms of a dozen Allied nations, some 175,000 young men risked it all in one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history. That first day alone, an estimated 46,000 would never see home again. But such was the cost of freedom.

World War II veteran Dick Ramsey who was a 19-year-old gunner on the USS Nevada off the shore of Utah beach on D-Day.

World War II veteran Dick Ramsey who was a 19-year-old gunner on the USS Nevada off the shore of Utah beach on D-Day.

The Battle of Normandy would be the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe. On Aug. 25, Paris was liberated. The following spring, Germany surrendered. Eyewitness accounts of D-Day grow ever more precious, with an estimated 500-plus World War II veterans dying every day.

World War II veteran Alexander Eckmann who participated in the D-Day invasion.

World War II veteran Alexander Eckmann who participated in the D-Day invasion.

For the 70th anniversary of the invasion in 2014, writers and historians gathered the memories of 10 men who were there, from bombardiers to seamen to privates trapped on those beaches burnished in memory: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Here are some of their stories:

‘You were scared stiff to move’ 

A child of the Bronx who joined the National Guard in the fall of 1940, when he was still 15 years old, Martin Painkin landed on Omaha Beach early on the morning of D-Day with the Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion. He received a Silver Star for gallantry for his actions June 6-9 and a Purple Heart for wounds received in action on June 7. Now 89, living in Riviera Beach, he recalled those days with writer Staci Sturrock.

“It was like a slaughter. It really was,” says Martin Painkin from his wheelchair at the VA’s Community Living Center.

‘There were literally thousands of bodies’

A state champion swimmer from Hammond, Ind., Walter Gumula was an 18-year-old Navy frogman among the first waves of troops landing on Omaha Beach on June 6. Now 88, and living in Port Salerno, he recounted his D-Day exploits.

Their mission was secret.

‘Nobody learns anything’

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Lenny Scatturo was a 21-year-old gunner’s mate third class on the USS Ancon, flagship for the forces that landed on Omaha Beach. Today, at 91, he lives in West Palm Beach.

From the deck of his landing craft control boat, Lenny Scatturo watched helplessly as 10 amphibious tanks succumbed to the six-foot swells of the English Channel, long before they neared Omaha Beach.

‘I wonder how those guys lived through D-Day’

A Hoboken, N.J., native, Charlie Meyer was a B-17 bombardier with the 388th Bomb Group. He completed 34 missions over France and Germany in 1944, including two on D-Day. Now 95, and living in Greenacres;

The B-17 crew received strict orders before departing Knettishall, England, in the pre-dawn darkness of D-Day: “No aborts on this mission.”

‘There was a lot of sweat, a lot of cursing’

Dick Ramsey was a 19-year-old Navy seaman on the USS Nevada, which bombarded German installations at Utah beach. Today, the 89-year-old Ramsey lives in Port St. Lucie, where he shared his memories.

Dick Ramsey’s job at Utah beach was delivering hot steel retribution.

‘I was struck by the smell of dead bodies’

Solis ‘Sol’ Kaslow was a 19-year-old from Philadelphia, serving as a quartermaster aboard PT 508 on D-Day. Now 89, and living in Palm Beach Gardens, he talked about his memories.

Hours before their most important mission began, the 13 men aboard PT 508 bowed their heads and talked to God.

‘A shock to see Americans floating face up’

A Long Island native, Alexander “Al” Eckmann was a sergeant in U.S. Army counterintelligence on D-Day. He was assigned to land on Utah Beach with the VII Corps of the Army. Now 89, and living in Juno Beach.

Sgt. Al Eckmann dangles from a rope ladder on the side of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, trying to focus on the spotter’s voice through deafening blasts from the nearby USS Texas.

‘What we saw that day you will never see again’

Kal Lewis was drafted the day he graduated from high school in Passaic, N.J. At 19, he was among the waves of combat engineers who invaded Utah beach. The youngest of 14 children, he was one of five brothers who served in World War II. At 89, he lives in Wellington.:

German shells were exploding overhead as 19-year-old Kal Lewis stepped off the landing craft and into rough water up to his neck.

‘There were bodies floating everywhere’

On D-Day, John Edmunds was 19 years old, a seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy from Burlington, Ontario. His mission: A helmsman on an escort ship leading cargo ships to the Normandy shore of Juno Beach. Today, 89, a retiree in West Palm Beach.

Seaman John Edmunds of the Royal Canadian Navy finds only a cloudless day and clear sea as he stands at the helm of the armored escort ship HMCS Drumheller, his captain barking down orders from the bridge: “Port, two degrees!”

‘It was difficult firing on our country’

Parisian Rene Cerisoles served on a French light cruiser under U.S. command off Omaha Beach. Now 89, and living in Palm Beach Gardens.

As the Montcalm pulled into position off Omaha Beach that June morning in 1944, chief petty officer Rene Cerisoles found himself looking at a familiar shoreline.

Map of the air plan for the Allied landing in Normandy.

Map of the air plan for the Allied landing in Normandy.

74 years ago, more than 150,000 brave men participated in the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy. They were American, they were Canadian, they were British; and they were united under one goal — to save Europe.

Nearly 5,000 men lost their lives that day, their sacrifice helped defeat the Nazis and is seared in the hearts of millions. Now, seven decades later, people will look back at that momentous day that marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

Dday

Thanks to all the Allies, men and women, officer and enlisted, the buried and the survivors. God bless them all.

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#WarriorWednesday #MilitaryAppreciationMonth: Duty, Honor, Courage, Sacrifice, Remember, Honor

Honoring Their Own May 2011: U.S. Navy, United States Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard personnel unfurl an American flag on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at a Memorial Day ceremony during Fleet Week New York. Fleet Week has been New York City’s celebration of the sea services since 1984 and is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and see firsthand the capabilities of today’s maritime services.  Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew R. White.

Honoring Their Own
May 2011: U.S. Navy, United States Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard personnel unfurl an American flag on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at a Memorial Day ceremony during Fleet Week New York. Fleet Week has been New York City’s celebration of the sea services since 1984 and is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and see firsthand the capabilities of today’s maritime services.
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew R. White.

The Heritage of the Military Funeral and Burial at Sea

Honoring the deceased is a centuries-old practice that includes many traditions across cultures. The customs and traditions behind military funerals and burial at sea date as far back as ancient Greece and Rome. In the Navy’s culture, as  the final honor to give to shipmates, traditions are employed that not only signify the service of the deceased, but also display our nation’s commitment to their legacy.

Atlantic Ocean, December 6, 2014. Capt. John Carter, commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) salutes during a burial-at-sea.  Bataan is conducting an underway evolution in preparation for an upcoming planned maintenance availability.  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julie Matyascik

Atlantic Ocean, December 6, 2014.
Capt. John Carter, commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) salutes during a burial-at-sea. Bataan is conducting an underway evolution in preparation for an upcoming planned maintenance availability.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julie Matyascik

Reversal of Rank

In Royal Connell and William Mack’s “Naval Ceremonies, Customs, and Traditions,”it is noted that the reversal of rank at military funerals is modeled after an ancient Roman custom of “reversing all rank and position when celebrating the feast of Saturn,”showing that, at death, all are equal. This is signified by positioning the honorary pallbearers and all other mourners, if practicable, in reverse order of rank.

Firing Three Volleys

The custom of firing three volleys at funerals comes from an old superstition. It was once thought that evil spirits escape from the hearts of the deceased, so shots are fired to drive away those evil spirits. “The number three has long had a mystical significance,”write Connell and Mack. They note that in Roman funeral rites, earth was cast three times into a grave, mourners called the dead three times by name, and the Latin word vale, meaning “farewell,”was spoken three times as they left the tomb. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also notes that the firing of three volleys “can be traced to the European dynastic wars when fighting was halted to remove the dead and wounded.”The funeral volley should not be mistaken for the twenty-one gun salute which is fired for the U.S. President, other heads of state, Washington’s birthday, and the Fourth of July. At Navy military funerals today, three volleys are fired by a firing detail of seven riflemen during the funeral of active duty personnel, Medal of Honor recipients, and retirees just before the sounding of taps.

Pacific Ocean, August 19, 2007. US Navy flag bearers bow their heads in prayer during a burial at sea ceremony aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Lincoln conducted the solemn and sacred tradition of burial at sea for 11 former service members during her transit home to Everett, Washington. Lincoln completed carrier qualifications, Tailored Ship's Training Availability and Final Evaluation Problem during a scheduled work-up off the coast of Southern California.  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James R. Evans.

Pacific Ocean, August 19, 2007.
US Navy flag bearers bow their heads in prayer during a burial at sea ceremony aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Lincoln conducted the solemn and sacred tradition of burial at sea for 11 former service members during her transit home to Everett, Washington. Lincoln completed carrier qualifications, Tailored Ship’s Training Availability and Final Evaluation Problem during a scheduled work-up off the coast of Southern California.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James R. Evans.

Taps

The sounding of taps is perhaps one of the most moving and well known elements of military funerals. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, taps originated from the French final call, “L’Extinction des feux,”to extinguish the lights. This “lights out”bugle call was used by the U.S. Army infantry during the Civil War, but in 1862 Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield suggested a revision of the French tune, and we now have the 24-note bugle call we hear today. Taps was first played at a military funeral in Virginia when Union Capt. John Tidball ordered it to be played as a substitute to the traditional three rifle volleys so as not to reveal the battery’s position to the nearby enemy. At Navy military funerals today, taps is played by a military bugler after the firing of three volleys and just before the flag is folded.

The National Ensign

The National Ensign plays a very special role in today’s military funeral traditions. The custom of placing a flag over the body of a fallen soldier has been recorded in the days before the American Revolution when a private in the British Guards by the name of Stephen Graham wrote that the Union Jack was laid upon the body of a fallen soldier who died in the service of the State to show that the State “takes the responsibility of what it ordered him to do as a solider.”Today, this custom is practiced in American military funerals as a way to honor the service of the deceased veteran. The National Ensign is draped over the casket so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased. After Taps is sounded, the body bearers fold the flag 13 times—representing the 13 original colonies—into a triangle, emblematic of the tri-cornered hat word by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded, only the blue field with stars should be visible. The flag is then presented to the next of kin or other appropriate family member.

Arabian Sea, April 9, 2011. Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) prepare to cast ashes overboard during a burial at sea.  Enterprise and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 are conducting close-air support missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jesse L. Gonzalez.

Arabian Sea, April 9, 2011.
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) prepare to cast ashes overboard during a burial at sea.
Enterprise and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 are conducting close-air support missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jesse L. Gonzalez.

Burial at Sea

Another type of ceremony for honoring the deceased is the burial at sea (also called the “at sea disposition”) performed on a U.S. Navy vessel. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the tradition of burial at sea is one that dates back to ancient times and has been a practice for as long as people have gone to sea. The body was sewn into a weighted sailcloth and in very old custom, the last stitch was taken through the nose of the deceased. The body was then sent over the side, usually with an appropriate religious ceremony.

During World War II, many burials at sea took place when naval forces operated at sea for months at a time. Today, active duty service members, honorably discharged retirees, veterans, U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command, and dependent family members of active duty, retirees, and veterans are eligible for at sea disposition.

The ceremony for burial at sea is conducted in a similar manner to that of shore funerals, with three volleys fired, the sounding of taps, and the closing of colors. The casket or urn is slid overboard into the sea after the committal is read, or, if requested, the cremated remains are scattered into the sea. Flowers or wreaths are also allowed to slide overboard or tossed into the sea by a flag bearer.

Because the committal ceremony is performed while a ship is deployed, family members are not permitted to attend burials at sea. So, within 10 days after committal, the commanding officer of the ship will mail a letter giving the date and time of committal and include any photographs or video of the ceremony, the commemorative flag, and a chart showing where the burial took place.

For many centuries, funerals have been a way to give our final respects to our loved ones. The customs and traditions that we share during the ceremony make it all the more meaningful.

HonoringTheFallen

World War II Unknown Serviceman

Ceremonies for the selection of the World War II Unknown Serviceman were conducted on board USS Canberra (CAG 2) on May 26, 1958. Medal of Honor recipient Hospitalman William R. Charette, selected the Unknown Serviceman. After the ceremonies, the ‪‎WWII‬ Unknown Serviceman was transported for interment at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day‬, which fell on May 31.

Private First Class Frank Calvin, USMC, places the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Private Calvin is himself the recipient of two Navy Crosses, the Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation, circa 1943.

Private First Class Frank Calvin, USMC, places the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Private Calvin is himself the recipient of two Navy Crosses, the Purple Heart, and the Presidential Unit Citation, circa 1943.

Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Crewmen of USS Boston (CAG 1) render honors as the first casket is transferred to USS Canberra (CAG-2), prior to ceremonies on board Canberra to select the Unknown Serviceman of World War II. Two more caskets are still on board Boston, visible just aft of the starboard whaleboat davits. The ceremonies took place off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Crewmen of USS Boston (CAG 1) render honors as the first casket is transferred to USS Canberra (CAG-2), prior to ceremonies on board Canberra to select the Unknown Serviceman of World War II. Two more caskets are still on board Boston, visible just aft of the starboard whaleboat davits. The ceremonies took place off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, who received the Medal of Honor for Korean War heroism, selects the Unknown Serviceman of World War II, during ceremonies on board USS Canberra (CAG-2) off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. The other World War II Unknown Serviceman candidate's casket is at left, with the Unknown Serviceman of the Korean War in the middle. The other Unknown Serviceman from WWII not chose was given a solemn burial at sea. After completion of the selection ceremonies, the World War II and Korean War Unknown Servicemen were carried to Washington, D.C., for burial at Arlington Cemetery. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Note: At that time, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette was the Navy's only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient.

Unknown Servicemen of World War II and the Korean War. Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, who received the Medal of Honor for Korean War heroism, selects the Unknown Serviceman of World War II, during ceremonies on board USS Canberra (CAG-2) off the Virginia Capes on 26 May 1958. The other World War II Unknown Serviceman candidate’s casket is at left, with the Unknown Serviceman of the Korean War in the middle. The other Unknown Serviceman from WWII not chose was given a solemn burial at sea. After completion of the selection ceremonies, the World War II and Korean War Unknown Servicemen were carried to Washington, D.C., for burial at Arlington Cemetery. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.
Note: At that time, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette was the Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient.

honor5

Above photo: An Army member of the joint services casket team carries the folded U.S. flag from the casket of the Unknown Serviceman of the Vietnam Era to President Ronald Reagan, left, during the interment ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. Photographed by Mickey Sanborn, 28 May 1984.

The Unknown service member from the Vietnam War was designated by Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, May 17, 1984. The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day.

Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower poses with three men to whom he has just presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in Korean War combat action, at the White House, Washington, D.C., 12 January 1954. Those who received the medal are (from left to right): First Lieutenant Edward R. Schowalter, Jr., U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Kumhwa, Korea, on 14 October 1952; Private First Class Ernest E. West, U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Sataeri, Korea, on 12 October 1952; and Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette, U.S. Navy, honored for his actions in Korea on 17 March 1953. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower poses with three men to whom he has just presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in Korean War combat action, at the White House, Washington, D.C., 12 January 1954. Those who received the medal are (from left to right): First Lieutenant Edward R. Schowalter, Jr., U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Kumhwa, Korea, on 14 October 1952; Private First Class Ernest E. West, U.S. Army, honored for his actions near Sataeri, Korea, on 12 October 1952; and Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette, U.S. Navy, honored for his actions in Korea on 17 March 1953. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

1973, the first U.S. manned orbiting space station, Skylab 2, was launched with an all US Navy‬ crew. Commanding was Capt. Charles Conrad, Jr., with Cmdr. Paul J. Weitz, as the pilot, and Cmdr. Joseph P. Kerwin as the science pilot. Recovery was by USS Ticonderoga (CVS 14)…

Skylab 2 Astronauts pictured in-front of a Skylab 2 model. Left to right: Cmdr. Joseph P. Kerwin, USN; Capt. Charles Conrad, Jr., USN; and Cmdr. Paul J. Weitz, USN. NASA Photograph.

Skylab 2 Astronauts pictured in-front of a Skylab 2 model. Left to right: Cmdr. Joseph P. Kerwin, USN; Capt. Charles Conrad, Jr., USN; and Cmdr. Paul J. Weitz, USN. NASA Photograph.

USS Ticonderoga (CVS 14). With her rails manned, circa 1970-72, following conversion to an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

USS Ticonderoga (CVS 14). With her rails manned, circa 1970-72, following conversion to an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

These three men are the crewmen for the first manned Skylab mission. They are Charles Conrad Jr., commander, standing left; scientist-astronaut Joseph P. Kerwin, seated; and Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, pilot. They were photographed and interviewed during an "open house" press day in the realistic atmosphere of the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) trainer in the Mission Simulation and Training Facility at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). The control and display panel for the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) is at right. NASA Photograph Collection.

These three men are the crewmen for the first manned Skylab mission. They are Charles Conrad Jr., commander, standing left; scientist-astronaut Joseph P. Kerwin, seated; and Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, pilot. They were photographed and interviewed during an “open house” press day in the realistic atmosphere of the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) trainer in the Mission Simulation and Training Facility at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). The control and display panel for the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) is at right. NASA Photograph Collection.

Heroes and Warriors, all of them!

On the Web: Request Military Funeral Honors

For information on requesting military funeral honors, visit https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/mfh.

For detailed information and protocol for Navy military funerals, see Bureau of Naval Personnel instruction NAVPERS 15555D. For information on burial at sea, contact the U.S. Navy Mortuary Affairs Burial At Sea Program.

Crash

Saturday Reader: Scottish Pirate Captain Kidd’s Treasure Found

The 50-kilogram silver bar which was allegedly recovered in the wreck of William Kidd's ship. Photo: AFP/ManjakaTsiresena

The 50-kilogram silver bar which was allegedly recovered in the wreck of William Kidd’s ship.
Photo: AFP/ManjakaTsiresena

A team of American explorers say they have discovered silver treasure from the infamous 17th-century Scottish pirate William Kidd in a shipwreck off the coast of Madagascar.

Marine archaeologist Barry Clifford told reporters he had found a 50 kilogram silver bar in the wreck of Kidd’s ship the Adventure Gallery, close to the small island of Sainte Marie.

Captain Kidd, who was born in Scotland in about 1645, was first employed by British authorities to hunt pirates, but he turned himself into a ruthless criminal of the high seas.

After looting a treasure-laden ship in 1698, he was caught, imprisoned and questioned in front of the British parliament before being executed in Wapping, close to the River Thames in 1701. The fate of much of his booty, however, has remained a mystery, sparking intrigue and excitement for generations of treasure-hunters.

Clifford, who was filmed by a documentary crew lifting the silver bar off the sea bed, handed it over to Malagasy president Hery Rajaonarimampianina on Sainte Marie. Soldiers guarded the apparent treasure at the ceremony, which was attended by the US and British ambassadors.

“We discovered 13 ships in the bay. We’ve been working on two of them over the last 10 weeks.One of them is the Fire Dragon, the other is Captain Kidd’s ship, the Adventure Galley.”

– Barry Clifford

Independent archaeologist John de Bry, who attended the ceremony, said the shipwreck and silver bar were “irrefutable proof that this is indeed the treasure of the Adventure Galley”.

Robert Yamate, US ambassador to Madagascar, said the discovery was a boost for the country.

“This is a fantastic find that shows the hidden story of Madagascar. This is great for tourism … and it is just as important as historical preservation.” he said.

Captain Kidd portrayed impressing women in New York Harbor. Photo: Wikimedia

Captain Kidd portrayed impressing women in New York Harbor.
Photo: Wikimedia

Who was Captain Kidd?

Born William Kidd in Dundee, Scotland, he followed in his father’s footsteps as a seaman.

Kidd became a respected privateer, commissioned to protect English ships in the Carribean in the war against France. Captain Kidd was hired to pirate the Quedagh Merchant, a 500-ton Armenian ship, a treasure trove of gold, silk, spices and other riches.

He was caught and shipped back to England for trial, where his connections with the English elite and government officials caused a sensation. After his execution, as a warning to other pirates, his body was hung in a cage and left to rot for all to see along the River Thames.

Crash

Crash Course: Little Known History – The Girl Paul Revere

16-year-old Sybil Ludington became a hero of the American Revolutionary War. At approximately 9 pm on April 26th, 1777, Sybil, the eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, climbed onto her horse and proceeded to ride 40 miles in order to muster local militia troops in response to a British attack on the town of Danbury, Connecticut — covering twice the distance that Paul Revere rode during his famous midnight ride.

16-year-old Sybil Ludington became a hero of the American Revolutionary War. At approximately 9 pm on April 26th, 1777, Sybil, the eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, climbed onto her horse and proceeded to ride 40 miles in order to muster local militia troops in response to a British attack on the town of Danbury, Connecticut — covering twice the distance that Paul Revere rode during his famous midnight ride.

On April 26th in 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode almost 40 miles by horseback in the middle of the night to gather American militia and warn the countryside about the British approaching. 

A young American patriot, Sybil Ludington is the female counterpart to the more famous Paul Revere.  Born in 1761 in Connecticut, Ludington was the eldest of twelve children.  Soon after her birth, her family settled in Dutchess County, New York.

In addition to being a farmer, Ludington’s father held various positions within the small town and served in the military for over sixty years.  He was loyal to the British crown until 1773, when he joined the rebel cause.  He was quickly promoted to Colonel and led his local regiment.  Colonel Ludington’s area of command was along a vulnerable route that the British could take between Connecticut and the coast of Long Island Sound.

When British troops and British loyalists attacked a nearby town, Danbury, Connecticut, in 1777, a rider came to the Ludington household to warn them and ask for the local regiment’s help.  At the time, the Colonel’s regiment was disbanded for planting season, and all of the men were miles apart at their respective farms.

The rider was too tired to continue and Colonel Ludington had to prepare for battle, so he asked his barely sixteen-year-old daughter Sybil to ride through the night, alerting his men of the danger and urging them to come together to fight back.  Ludington rode all night through the dark woods, covering forty miles (a significantly longer distance than Revere rode), and because of her bravery, almost the whole regiment was gathered by daybreak to fight the British.

After the battle at Danbury, George Washington went to the Ludington home to personally thank Sybil for her help. After the war, Ludington married a Catskill lawyer named Edward Ogden; they had one son.  She died in 1839.

Although Ludington never gained the widespread fame that Paul Revere did in America’s history, she was honored with a stamp by the Postal Service in 1975. There is a statue of her by Lake Gleneida in Carmel, New York, and there are historical markers tracing the route of her ride through Putnam County.

Fun fact: Ludington’s journey was over 30 miles longer than Paul Revere’s famous ride.

On the Web:

To introduce your children to this inspiring and under-recognized hero of the Revolutionary War, see “Sybil’s Night Ride,” a picture book for children 4 to 8 and “Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride,” an early chapter book for readers 6 to 9.

Sybil Ludington was also the focus of an episode of Liberty’s Kids, the animated educational historical fiction television series, which you can view on YouTube

Crash

#MilitaryMonday: 73rd Anniversary of Doolittle Raid on Tokyo

Less than 300 feet. Could this really work? It had barely succeeded in practice runs (and those were from the comforts of Eglin Airfield's endless runway.) Now here they were, aboard the seemingly inadequate deck of the USS Hornet - pitching and heaving in the swells of the Pacific.

Less than 300 feet. Could this really work? It had barely succeeded in practice runs (and those were from the comforts of Eglin Airfield’s endless runway.) Now here they were, aboard the seemingly inadequate deck of the USS Hornet – pitching and heaving in the swells of the Pacific.

It’s April 1942 and in the first attack of the Japanese mainland during World War II, the Doolittle Raid begins with 16 Army Air Force B-25 bombers launching from USS Hornet‬ (CV 8), approximately 650 miles off Japan due to being discovered by a Japanese guardboat. U.S. Pacific Fleet

Embarrassed by the attack, the Japanese high command resolves to eliminate the risk of any more raids by destroying America’s aircraft carriers, moving up a decision that leads them to disaster at the Battle of Midway six weeks later in June 1942.

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle, USAAF. Courtesy of US National Archives

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle, USAAF.
Courtesy of US National Archives

Nobody spoke. The B-25’s engines droned on. Co-pilot Lt. Rich Cole’s dogtags clinked and vibrated as the engines grew louder. One last look at the sweetheart – a small photo wedged into the instrument panel.

“God, I hope we covered the checklist,” he silently thought to himself. “Boss will be mad if we didn’t.”

Daring was too weak a description for what these raiders were attempting to pull off. This would alter history … If it were to work.

Failure was not an option.

Cole took a deep breath and pushed the throttle forward.

Less than 19 weeks after the U.S. Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the American military struck back. On April 18, 1942 – 72 years ago this month – sixteen Army Air Force bombers launched from a Navy aircraft carrier to attack the enemy’s homeland.

Led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid was launched from USS Hornet, commanded by Capt. Marc Mitscher and escorted by ships under the command of Vice Adm. “Bull” Halsey aboard his flagship, USS Enterprise.

The extraordinary joint Doolittle Raid showed Imperial Japan’s military leaders their vulnerability and America’s resolve.

The raid also demonstrated innovation, courage and resilience.

The five-man B-25 crews trained relentlessly prior to their mission, with specialized training led by Navy flight instructor Lt. Henry F. Miller. The Army Air Force made ingenious modifications so the bombers could have extra fuel but less weight.

Pilots, all volunteers, needed to be extremely fearless, taking off in their huge planes from a short flight deck. On rough seas they launched in bitter cold, 75-knot winds and foam-flecked spray, as Sailors aboard recalled.

Doolittle, as his team’s leader, took off first. His success inspired the other pilots just as their entire mission would inspire the nation – putting action to the nationwide words of resolve heard throughout the world: “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

The innovation, courage and resilience demonstrated by Halsey and Doolittle and countless others carried over into the weeks and months that followed – first in the Battle of the Coral Sea and then, in the big turning point of the War in the Pacific – the Battle of Midway.

Historians tell us that the Doolittle Raid contributed strategically to our victory at Midway, as the enemy felt humiliated and overextended to try to prevent another attack on their homeland.

The Doolittle Raid is also an early example of the evolution of “air sea battle,” integrating air and naval capabilities across domains, where collaboration and cooperation helped win the day – and eventually win the war. We remember the heroes of the Doolittle Raid.

This strategically important event is particularly meaningful to our joint team today. This uniquely shared accomplishment is a reminder of what we have the potential to accomplish when we mutually support each other.

The Doolittle Raiders – The Mission

On April 18, 1942, it was a “nice sun-shiny day overcast with anti-aircraft fire,” according to Army Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eldred V. Scott.

Over Tokyo, anyway.

Scott’s weather quip signaled the near completion of the Doolittle Raiders’ mission on that day 72 years ago today. But it was just the beginning of the unknown for the 80 men and their 16 planes.

Seven of those airmen would never return home. None of the planes did. While the bombing mission itself was relatively minor in terms of damage inflicted, the raid set into motion what would become a pivotal naval victory for the U. S. at the Battle of Midway.

The Doolittle Raid featured Army Air Force pilots and planes, but it was a joint effort with the Navy. The raid itself was concocted by Navy Capt. Francis Lowe. Another Navy officer, Lt. Henry L. Miller, is one of two men named as “Honorary Tokyo Raiders.” Miller supervised the take-off training the pilots received at Eglin Field, Fla., and was there for the raid launch. The other was Tung Sheng Liu, a Chinese engineer who helped several Tokyo Raiders escape to safety.

And it was the Navy that provided the transportation – via USS Hornet (CV 8) and her escorts – to the launch point.

The Navy wasn’t without its losses for the Tokyo Raid. One patrol plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, landing in the water, but the crew was recovered uninjured. Another patrol plane was lost during patrol operations, with both the plane and crew lost. And during the hour-long launch, a Sailor lost his arm after being hit by the final B-25 when it rolled backward out of position, striking him with its propeller.

Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 1942. Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, USAAF (front), leader of the raiding force, wires a Japanese medal to a 500-pound bomb, during ceremonies on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV 8), shortly before his force of sixteen B-25B bombers took off for Japan. The planes were launched on 18 April 1942. The wartime censor has obscured unit patches of the Air Force flight crew members in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-41191

Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 1942. Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, USAAF (front), leader of the raiding force, wires a Japanese medal to a 500-pound bomb, during ceremonies on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV 8), shortly before his force of sixteen B-25B bombers took off for Japan. The planes were launched on 18 April 1942. The wartime censor has obscured unit patches of the Air Force flight crew members in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-41191

From Conception to Launch

After Pearl Harbor, there was pressure from the commander-in-chief to strike back at Japan. Using carrier-capable aircraft to strike the enemy’s homeland would put a carrier task force into harm’s way for a counterattack, since the lighter Navy planes didn’t have the range of land-based bomb-delivering aircraft. And with only three aircraft carriers left in the Pacific fleet after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. needed to protect every asset.

Navy Capt. Francis Lowe, assigned to U.S. Fleet Commander Adm. Ernest J. King, had seen B-25s taking off from Norfolk, Va., using airstrips shaped a little like a carrier deck, minus the rolling waves. The Mitchell medium bombers, which had never been used in combat before, had the range and the wing-span that would allow for carrier takeoff. Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, an air racer who had helped develop instrument flying, was brought in to investigate the feasibility of such a mission, along with Adm. King’s Air Ops officer, Capt. Donald B. “Wu” Duncan.

The newly-commissioned aircraft carrier Hornet left Norfolk under the command of Capt. MarcMitscher to join a convoy to the Panama Canal. Meanwhile Doolittle had chosen his raiders, 5-man crews for the 16 planes, and was training for 500-foot takeoffs at Eglin Field, Fla., under the guidance of Lt. Miller. At the end of March, Hornet docked at Alameda, Calif. Using cranes, 16 B-25s were loaded onto the ship’s deck. With all of the planes loaded and lashed to the deck, the Hornet moored in the bay for the night. It was April 1.

The following morning, Hornet’s crew was made aware of their mission.

Army B-25’s onboard the USS Hornet while en route to their launching point April 18, 1942. (NH 53426 Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Army B-25’s onboard the USS Hornet while en route to their launching point April 18, 1942. (NH 53426 Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

On April 7, naval operation plan No. 20-42 was issued, creating Task Force 16, with Task Group 16.1 under Vice Adm. William “Bull” Halsey with flagship carrier Enterprise (CV 6) and her escorts. Task Group 16.2 was headed by Capt. Mitscher with his carrier Hornet (CV 8) and her escorts.

The instructions were simple. Proceed after joining up to carry out the attack; upon completion return to Pearl Harbor; destroy enemy forces as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the attack. The two task groups met up April 13 and proceeded to steam toward a point 500 miles east of Tokyo, where they would launch the attack.

To prepare each B-25, loaded with a one-ton bomb, for its mission and flight to a safe zone in China, engineers removed the tail gunner section, painting broomsticks to look like machine guns. A rubber fuel tank was installed in the tail section, along with 10 5-gallon gas cans for manual fuel addition during the flight to a tank installed where the lower gun turret was, and a larger tank located in the bomb bay. The total fuel payload was 1,141 gallons for a 2,000-mile range.

An Army Air Forces B-25B bomber awaits the takeoff signal on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8), as the raid is launched, 18 April 1942. Note Flight Deck Officer holding launch flag at right, and white stripes painted on the flight deck to guide the pilot's alignment of his plane's nose and port side wheels. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives (photo # 80-G-41194).

An Army Air Forces B-25B bomber awaits the takeoff signal on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8), as the raid is launched, 18 April 1942. Note Flight Deck Officer holding launch flag at right, and white stripes painted on the flight deck to guide the pilot’s alignment of his plane’s nose and port side wheels.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives (photo # 80-G-41194).

Air patrols scouted the sea looking for enemy ships that could relay their location back to Japan, and submarines Trout and Thresher kept a steady surveillance.

After plowing through gale-force winds of 36 knots during the afternoon of April 17, enemy vessels were picked up on radar at 3:12 a.m. April 18. A light on the horizon confirmed their presence. The task group changed direction by 350 degrees and 30 minutes later, the vessels left the radar screen.

At 7:15 a.m., an Enterprise search plane reported an enemy patrol vessel and the task force sighted it at 7:44 a.m. Nashville dispatched the vessel with gunfire. Over concern the vessel had alerted the Japanese of their presence, Doolittle decided to launch the planes immediately, still 400 miles from their original launch destination.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan. Those present are (from left to right): Staff Sergeant Fred A. Braemer, Bombardier; Staff Sergeant Paul J. Leonard, Flight Engineer/Gunner; General Ho, director of the Branch Government of Western Chekiang Province; Lieutenant Richard E. Cole, Copilot; Lt.Col. Doolittle, Pilot and mission commander; Henry H. Shen, bank manager; Lieutenant Henry A. Potter, Navigator; Chao Foo Ki, secretary of the Western Chekiang Province Branch Government. Official U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the US Navy Museum (# 97502).

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan.
Those present are (from left to right): Staff Sergeant Fred A. Braemer, Bombardier; Staff Sergeant Paul J. Leonard, Flight Engineer/Gunner; General Ho, director of the Branch Government of Western Chekiang Province; Lieutenant Richard E. Cole, Copilot; Lt.Col. Doolittle, Pilot and mission commander; Henry H. Shen, bank manager; Lieutenant Henry A. Potter, Navigator; Chao Foo Ki, secretary of the Western Chekiang Province Branch Government.
Official U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the US Navy Museum (# 97502).

The first B-25, flown by Lt. Col. Doolittle, launched at 8:20 a.m. The take-offs were timed for when the ship’s bow pitched highest to give the Mitchell more loft. The average time between takeoffs was less than four minutes. The last B-25 left at 9:19 a.m.

Around 2 p.m., aircraft from Enterprise picked up two more enemy vessels, sinking one and damaging the other.

It wasn’t until after the war the Navy was able to confirm crew on the patrol boat had alerted the Japanese of their location. But when they requested confirmation, there was no answer since the vessel had already been sunk. Getting no response, the Japanese government chose to ignore the message.

The Doolittle Raiders faced some resistance from antiaircraft fire, but most were able to hit their 10 civilian and military targets in Japan. The repercussions of the U.S. hitting the Japanese homeland set in motion a tsunami-like strategic response that would ultimately change the tides of war to an American victory.

Nose of one of the raiding force's B-25B bombers, which is tied down on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8) while en route to the takeoff point. This aircraft is mission plane # 11 (USAAF serial # 40-2249), nicknamed "Hari Carrier" and decorated accordingly. The plane's pilot was Capt. C. Ross Greening. It attacked targets in Yokohama. Note slippage mark on the nosewheel and tire, and inscription on the wheel cover: "Inflating instructions inside — check tire pressure daily". USNHHC photograph (#NH 53287).

Nose of one of the raiding force’s B-25B bombers, which is tied down on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8) while en route to the takeoff point. This aircraft is mission plane # 11 (USAAF serial # 40-2249), nicknamed “Hari Carrier” and decorated accordingly. The plane’s pilot was Capt. C. Ross Greening. It attacked targets in Yokohama. Note slippage mark on the nosewheel and tire, and inscription on the wheel cover: “Inflating instructions inside — check tire pressure daily”.
USNHHC photograph (#NH 53287).

Army Air Force Raid That Set Up Naval Victory

After Doolittle’s Raiders dropped bombs on Tokyo, the Japanese military reaction was swift and vengeful. Japanese Combined Fleet commander Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto decided to strike the United States’ mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll and turn it into a Japanese air field. Yamamoto knew the U.S. had insufficient strength to defeat his Royal Imperial Navy, which could generally choose where and when to attack.

The Americans, however, had deduced Yamamoto’s attack through communications intelligence. Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, established an ambush and was waiting for the Imperial Navy. The second of the Pacific War’s great carrier battles began June 4, 1942, and by the end, Yamamoto’s forces lost four fleet carriers compared to just one for the United States.

The Battle of Midway had leveled the naval playing field for the American naval force. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive, which soon had the Japanese Imperial Navy on the ropes.

An Army Air Force B25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

An Army Air Force B25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Best Laid Plans…

After completing their bombing mission, finding safe haven would be the Raiders’ toughest task. Taking off 400 miles sooner than planned had the planes nearly empty on fuel as they headed toward China. Of the 16 planes, 15 either crash-landed or crew bailed out. Only one plane landed – in Russia – where the crew was held as prisoners with liberal privileges. They escaped 13 months after the raid to a British consulate in Iran.

Seven Doolittle Raiders were killed in the mission: Two drowned and a third was killed by the fall after bailing out; eight were captured by the Japanese. Three of the eight POWs were executed Oct. 15, 1942, and another died of malnutrition Dec. 1, 1943. The surviving four POWs were released in August 1945.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle (left front), leader of the attacking force, and Captain Marc A. Mitscher, Commanding Officer of USS Hornet (CV-8), pose with a 500-pound bomb and USAAF aircrew members during ceremonies on Hornet's flight deck, while the raid task force was en route to the launching point. NHHC photo (# NH 64472).

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle (left front), leader of the attacking force, and Captain Marc A. Mitscher, Commanding Officer of USS Hornet (CV-8), pose with a 500-pound bomb and USAAF aircrew members during ceremonies on Hornet’s flight deck, while the raid task force was en route to the launching point.
NHHC photo (# NH 64472).

The Raiders who landed in China were assisted by American missionary Rev. John M. Birch, whose contacts within Japanese-occupied China helped the Raiders to escape. Afterward, Birch was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Air Force, continuing his work as a missionary while gathering intelligence on the Japanese. He was killed Aug. 25, 1945, at the age of 27, during a confrontation with Chinese Communists. The John Birch Society honors Birch, a recipient of both the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Even though the Doolittle Raiders bombed Tokyo, it was the Chinese who suffered the most from the raid. Furious the Chinese nationalists were protecting the Americans, the Japanese retaliated against several coastal cities suspected of harboring the Americans, killing an estimated 250,000 Chinese citizens.

Brig. Gen James Doolittl poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alluded to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. c. 1943.

Brig. Gen James Doolittl poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alluded to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. c. 1943.

Doolittle was so convinced his mission had been a failure, he was convinced he would face a court-martial upon his return to the United States. Instead, he was promoted to general, skipping the rank of colonel. He and all of his Raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mitscher served in a variety of command leadership positions for the rest of World War II, earning the rank of admiral and title as Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Capt. Lowe, a submariner, was promoted to rear admiral and as Chief of Staff of the 10th Fleet, guided the Atlantic anti-submarine effort. He was also commander of the Cruiser Division 16, which supported the Okinawa invasion and participated in several strikes against the Japanese. After the war, he supervised the surrender and neutralization of Japanese installations in the Pacific. By his retirement in 1956, Lowe had achieved the rank of admiral due to his leadership and combat actions.

Photo # 80-G-41197  USS Hornet launches B-25 bombers on the Doolittle Raid.

Photo # 80-G-41197
USS Hornet launches B-25 bombers on the Doolittle Raid.

Flight instructor Miller earned a Legion of Merit for his duties in training the Doolittle Raider pilots. He served with distinction throughout his career in the Navy, serving in Vietnam and launching the first aircraft carrier strikes on North Vietnam from the decks of Ranger (CV 61), Coral Sea (CV 43) and Hancock (CV 19). On Dec. 2, 1965, he engaged the first nuclear powered Task Force Enterprise (CVN 65) and Bainbridge (DLGN 25) against Vietnam. Miller retired as a Rear Admiral in 1971.

Just weeks after Doolittle’s Raiders flew off her deck, Hornet fought gallantly in the Battle of Midway, where her aircraft shared in the sinking of a Japanese cruiser. During the fight for Guadalcanal, Hornet was the only remaining operational carrier to oppose the enemy.

It was during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, while Hornet’s aircraft attacked and damaged a Japanese carrier, the carrier suffered irreparable damage from torpedoes and kamikazes. After her crew was forced to abandon ship and American attempts to scuttle her failed, Hornet remained afloat until she was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese ships Oct. 27, 1942.

Of the more than 260 American deaths during the battle, 118 came from Hornet, the last U.S. fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire.

Hornet was awarded four service stars for her World War II action and Torpedo Squadron 8 earned a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Midway.

Medal to commemorate Doolittle's Raid on Tokyo, April 18, 1942 (obverse and reverse). CMU War Collection

Medal to commemorate Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo, April 18, 1942 (obverse and reverse).
CMU War Collection

As for Tech. Sgt. Scott, he successfully bailed out over Chun King, China. Upon his return to the U.S. in Aug. 1942, Scott entered officer candidate school, and then served overseas as an aircraft maintenance officer for the rest of World War II, and through both the Korean and Cold wars, retiring from active duty in 1959 as a lieutenant colonel. He died in 1978 at the age of 71.

On the Web:

Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942 – download the PowerPoint plans of the raid

Official Doolittle Raiders site

Other Official Doolittle Raiders site

Navy’s Role In Doolittle Raid Honored

James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle

USS Hornet (CV-8)

USS Enterprise (CV-6)

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Sources:

  • Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking. New York: Basic Books, 1997. ISBN 0-465-06835-9.
  • Chun, Clayton K.S. The Doolittle Raid 1942: America’s First Strike Back at Japan (Campaign: 16). Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-918-5.
  • Coletta, Paolo. “Launching the Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 18, 1942”. The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 63, No. 1, February 1993.
  • Craig, John S. Peculiar Liaisons: In War, Espionage, and Terrorism in the Twentieth Century. New York: Algora Publishing, 2004. ISBN 978-0-87586-331-3.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, series editors. “Chapter 12: Drawing the Battle Line in the Pacific”. Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. I: Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942 . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948. (Air Force Historical Studies Office internet edition.)
  • Culbertson, Charles. Forgotten Hero: The Story of Jack Manch, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo and the Self-Sacrifice of An American Warrior. Staunton, Virginia: Clarion Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-1493501847.
  • Doolittle, James H. and Carroll V. Glines. I Could Never Be So Lucky Again: An Autobiography. New York: Bantam Books, 1991. ISBN 0-553-58464-2.
  • Emmens, Robert G. Guests of the Kremlin. San Rafael, California: Ishi Press International, 2007. ISBN 0-923891-81-1.
  • Gill, G. Hermon. “Volume II – Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945.” Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1968.
  • Glines, Carroll V. The Doolittle Raid: America’s Daring First Strike Against Japan. New York: Orion Books, 1988. ISBN 0-88740-347-6
  • Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981, First edition 1968. ISBN 978-0-44202-726-1.
  • Four Came Home: The Gripping Story of the Survivors of Jimmy Doolittle’s Two Lost Crews . New York: Van Nostrad Reinhold, 1981, First edition 1966. ISBN 978-1-57510-007-4.
  • Glover, Charles E. “Jimmy Doolittle’s One Moment in Time.” The Palm Beach Post, 18 April 1992.
  • Lawson, Ted W. and Robert Considine, ed.Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. New York: Random House, Inc., 1943.
  • Martin, Adrian R., and Larry W. Stephenson. Operation Plum: The Ill-fated 27th Bombardment Group and the Fight For the Western Pacific. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. ISBN 1-60344-019-4.
  • Nelson, Craig. The First Heroes: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raid—America’s First World War II Victory. London: Penguin Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-14-200341-1.
  • Oxford, Edward. “Against All Odds: B-25 Bombers Strike Japan in 1942.” American History Illustrated, March–April 1992.
  • Prange, Gordon W., Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. Miracle at Midway. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982. ISBN 0-07-050672-8.
  • Tillman, Barrett. Enterprise: America’s Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped win World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4391-9087-6.
  • Watson, Charles Hoyt. DeShazer: The Doolittle Raider Who Turned Missionary. Winona Lake, Indiana: The Light and Life Press, 1950.
  • Yamamoto, Masahiro. Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2000. ISBN 978-0-2759-6904-2.

#MilitaryMonday

Military thank you

In the USA, the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida has put together an exhibit to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II‬.

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All of us probably know or knew someone who served during the war, so please mention below in the comments who your member of the Greatest Generation is.

For me, it was my paternal Grandparents. Grandad flew Lancaster bombers for the RAF that assaulted Nazi Germany, while, my Grandmother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a meteorologist.

My maternal Grandparents were also in the fight against the Axis powers, with Grandad serving as a US Navy pilot in the Pacific and Grandma was a WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Their official name was the U.S. Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), but the nickname as the WAVES stuck.

WAVES Recruiting poster. World War II brought the need for additional personnel. The US Navy organized to recruit women into a separate women's auxiliary, labeled Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES). WAVES served in varied positions around the continental U.S. and in Hawaii.

WAVES Recruiting poster.
World War II brought the need for additional personnel. The US Navy organized to recruit women into a separate women’s auxiliary, labeled Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES). WAVES served in varied positions around the continental U.S. and in Hawaii.

Just about everyone heeded the call to play their part, do their duty and contribute in some way. Endless thanks to the Greatest Generation and for those serving today in the cause of freedom!

Info: National Naval Aviation Museum

1750 Radford Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32506

(850) 452-3604

Crash

Crash Course: Little Known History – Funeral Honors Former Slave

Hannah Reynolds was struck by a shell at this house belonging to Dr. Samuel H. Coleman during the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. She would die three days later of her wounds. Photo courtesy of the US National Park Service

Hannah Reynolds was struck by a shell at this house belonging to Dr. Samuel H. Coleman during the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. She would die three days later of her wounds.
Photo courtesy of the US National Park Service

Appomattox, Virginia — A Civil War cannonball that ripped through Hannah Reynolds’ master’s cabin made her a footnote of misfortune, the lone civilian death at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. She died a slave at 60, hours before the war to end slavery unofficially came to a close.

A century and a half later, Reynolds’ story is being rewritten: Newly discovered records show that she lingered for several days — long enough to have died a free woman.

This new historical narrative has made Reynolds, along with Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Union Gen. Ulysses Grant, one of the central figures in commemorative activities marking Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, started Wednesday.

Friday night, a eulogy in period language was delivered over a plain wooden coffin representing Reynolds’ remains, a 100-member gospel choir sang spirituals and 4,600 candles were lit to represent the slaves in Appomattox County who were emancipated by Lee’s surrender to Grant, his Union counterpart.

Slave Hannah Reynolds was wounded when a shell passed through the home belonging to Dr. Samuel H. Coleman during the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse. She was tended to by Union surgeons, but succumbed to her injuries. She died a free woman. Photo courtesy of the US National Park Service

Slave Hannah Reynolds was wounded when a shell passed through the home belonging to Dr. Samuel H. Coleman during the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse. She was tended to by Union surgeons, but succumbed to her injuries. She died a free woman.
Photo courtesy of the US National Park Service

Reynolds was left by her masters, Dr. Samuel Coleman and his wife, Amanda Abbitt Coleman, in their home as Union and Confederate armies headed to the fateful Battle of Appomattox Court House. It would be the final battle before Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the war.

During the fighting, a Union cannonball blasted through the Coleman house, striking Reynolds and leaving a horrific wound. Two white men, a Union doctor and chaplain from Maine, looked over her in her final hours.

“Her arm was very large and fleshy and a concave wound was made corresponding to the size and shape of the ball,” wrote J.E.M. Wright, a chaplain with the 8th Maine Infantry. The Mainers tended to Reynolds and her grieving husband, Abram Reynolds.

“I think the Park Service always assumed, you took an artillery shell on April 9, you probably died that day,” said Ernie Price, the director of education and visitors services at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. He has worked closely with local organizers on the Reynolds funeral.

Jones worked for months seeking out the thin paper trail left by Reynolds. The breakthrough was finding Reynolds listed on a death registry in a public library in Lynchburg with a genealogical center.

Map showing the position of Confederate troops and the Union advance. Source: Civil War Trust

Map showing the position of Confederate troops and the Union advance.
Source: Civil War Trust

“That was just like I struck gold,” he said of the document that listed the date of her death as April 12, 1865 — not three days earlier, as was long believed.

In a rare gesture by a slaveholder, Reynolds’ death was reported by Dr. Coleman, who listed himself as “former owner.”

“I think he realized the historical significance of that,” Jones said. “Obviously it meant something to him.”

Jones would like to believe Reynolds regained consciousness over those final days to realize she would die a free person.

“I just imagine, in my mind, somebody whispering, ‘You’re free, you’re free, you’re free.'”

On the Web: Slave Life at Appomattox Plantation – National Park Service

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Friday Reader: The Real Stalag 13

A US Army M4 Sherman tank of the 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, crashes through the fence of Oflag XIII-B, April 6, 1945.

A US Army M4 Sherman tank of the 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, crashes through the fence of Oflag XIII-B, April 6, 1945.

Stalag 13 didn’t just exist in the celluloid world of Hogan’s Heroes. There really was a POW camp called Stalag 13 (or Stalag XIII C) on the outskirts of Hammelburg, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Frankfurt.

Oflag XIII-B was a German Army World War II prisoner-of-war camp camp for officers (Offizierlager), originally in the Langwasser district of Nuremberg. In 1943 it was moved to a site 3 km (1.9 mi) south of the town of Hammelburg in Lower Franconia, Bavaria, Germany.

In 1893, the Kaiser created a training camp for German soldiers in a large forested area about 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Hammelburg. This training area was called Lager Hammelburg (or Camp Hammelburg) and it still goes by that name.

Lager Hammelburg and the Town of Hammelburg, 1920's (Truppen-Übungsplatz is the camp)

Lager Hammelburg and the Town of Hammelburg, 1920’s
(Truppen-Übungsplatz is the camp)

During World War I, the camp was used to house Allied prisoners of war and in 1920, a Children’s Home was established on the premises.

The Home for poor children was run by the Benedictine nuns and expanded over the years to take over many of the buildings. When it closed in 1930, over 60,000 children had been cared for there.

Lager Hammelburg in 1916

Lager Hammelburg in 1916

How the camp looked in 1938 when an artillery regiment was stationed there:

Future Stalag 13C (or rather Oflag 13B), 1938

Future Stalag 13C (or rather Oflag 13B), 1938

Lager Hammelburg, 1938

Lager Hammelburg, 1938

An expansion of the camp in 1938 swallowed two nearby villages. The ghost town of Bonnland is still there and is now used for urban warfare training.

The Birth of Stalag 13

In the summer of 1940, the southern end of the camp was prepared for prisoners of war from the enlisted ranks. The camp was called Stammlager XIII C, or Stalag XIII C for short, and wooden barracks were built to house POWs of a variety of nationalities.

The first to arrive were the Dutch, Belgian and French soldiers captured during the Blitzkrieg invasion of France in 1940.

In 1941, Serbian, Polish and Russian soldiers joined them after battles on the eastern front; the Serbians arrived in the spring, and the Russians in the summer.

Some of the British, Australian and other Commonwealth soldiers captured in the fighting in Crete in 1941 also ended up in the camp.

Australian POW's at Stalag 13

Australian POW’s at Stalag 13

The third man from the right, bottom row, is Arthur Hunt, father-in-law of the contributor of the photo. Below is the reverse side of the photo, with the official Stalag XIII C stamp.

Other side of the photo.

Other side of the photo.

Here’s an interesting article about an Australian POW and undercover work at Stalag 13.

After the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, several hundred captured American officers were sent to Oflag 13B. More Americans started arriving from camps in the east as the Russian army advanced.

The Lager held over 30,000 POW’s, with the Russians as the largest group. As required by the Geneva Convention, different nationalities were housed separately.

Junior enlisted prisoners, corporal and below, were required to work. These POW’s were assigned to work units in neighboring factories, farms and forests. They lived outside the camp and were guarded by a battalion of Home Guards (Landschützen).

The real Kommandants of Stalag 13 between 1940 and 1945 were Lieutenant Colonel von Crailsheim, Colonel Franck and Colonel Westmann.

Officer’s Camp

The officers were housed in stone buildings at the northern end of the camp (the Nordlager), separately from the enlisted prisoners, except for a handful of privates and NCO’s who assisted the officers. This camp was called Offizierlager XIII B, or Oflag 13 B.

The officers’ camp was divided into two sections: Serbian and American.

In the spring of 1941, 6,000 Serbian officers arrived, and they witnessed the arrival of the Russian prisoners a few months later.

Judging from the large number of Russians buried at the camp (over 3000), the appalling treatment of Russian POW’s in general, and a report from a Serbian officer at Oflag 13B, it appears the Russian prisoners were treated very poorly and had a very high mortality rate, unlike most of the other nationalities.

Among the Russian officers arriving in Hammelburg in 1941 was the eldest son of Joseph Stalin, Yakov. He only spent a few weeks in Oflag 13 before the SS came and moved him to another camp.

The Germans offered to exchange him for Field Marshall Paulus. Stalin replied, “You have millions of my sons. Free all of them or Yakov will share their fate.” Later, Yakov allegedly committed suicide in Sachsenhausen concentration camp by running into the electrified fence.

In March of 1945, a group of about 400 Americans arrived from Poland after marching hundreds of miles in snow and extreme cold. One of the men was Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters, the son-in-law of General George Patton.

The 11th Hour Raid

By early April of 1945, the Americans had crossed the Rhine and were within 80 miles of Hammelburg. General Patton ordered a special armored task force to go deep behind the German lines and free the prisoners in Oflag/Stalag 13.

Lieutenant Colonel John Waters, here, seen as a general. He was General Patton's son-in-law.

Lieutenant Colonel John Waters, here, seen as a general. He was General Patton’s son-in-law.

The men of Task Force Baum, as it was called, ran into heavy resistance coming in but they reached the camp on March 24, 1945. The tanks knocked down the fences, but they also started firing at the Serbian officers, mistaking them for Germans. Lieutenant Colonel Waters came out with a white flag, accompanied by a German officer, to contact the Americans and stop the shooting. Waters was shot in the stomach by a German guard and was taken to the camp hospital.

The tanks left, accompanied by many of the able-bodied prisoners, but without Waters. On the way back, the Task Force was ambushed and forced to surrender. Out of the 314 men in the unit, 26 were killed and most of the rest were captured. Most of the POW’s returned to the camp as well. Lt.Col. Waters survived and eventually retired as a four-star general.

For more information, see Task Force Baum , a very interesting website about this event.

After the failed rescue attempt, the Germans moved all of the Western Allied prisoners to other camps, except the ones in the camp hospital.

Stalag 13 Camp Conditions

Life in Oflag and Stalag 13 became grim as the war neared its end. The Germans were running out of food and fuel and having difficulty getting supplies for the prisoners.

A Red Cross report following an inspection of Oflag 13B by the Swiss in March, 1945, revealed dreadful conditions. Daily calories provided by the Germans were 1050 per day, down from 1700 calories earlier. The average temperature in the barracks was 20 degrees F (or -7 degrees C) due to lack of fuel.

Many men were sick and malnourished, and morale and discipline were low. No Red Cross packages had reached the Americans since they started arriving in January. They only reason they didn’t starve was the generosity of the Serbian officers, who shared their packages.

You can read the full report at International Red Cross Report on the Task Force Baum website.

Liberation of Stalag 13

The prisoners are freed.

The prisoners are freed.

The buildings in the above photo still stand. The map below shows where they are now, on the grounds of Lager Hammelburg. They’re inside the restricted area, but can be easily seen from the fence near the main gate. The locations of the first building and the tank from the title photo of this piece are marked, as well the main gate of the camp and a good spot for viewing the remaining buildings. (Thanks to Geoff Walden of thirdreichruins.com in identifying it.)

On April 6, 1945, the US Army’s 47th Tank Battalion liberated Lager Hammelburg without a fight. Lt. Col. Waters was still there, recuperating in the hospital with some other sick or wounded men. Otherwise, the only prisoners left were the Serbian officers and the Polish and Yugoslavian enlisted men.

One of the American prisoners in Stalag XIIIC at the end of the war was Sergeant Bradford Sherry. His son in the past has posted photos and documents related to his father’s captivity.

Several days later, the tank battalion left to rejoin the fighting, leaving a supply unit at the camp. For the next month, no one was in charge of the POW’s and there was widespread looting of the surrounding villages, including Hammelburg.

When peace came with the German surrender on May 8, 1945, the Americans returned to occupy Lager Hammelburg and restored order in the town. The remaining prisoners were sent home.

Stalag 13 After World War II

The Americans continued to occupy the camp until 1956. They renamed it Camp Denny Clark, after a medic who was killed in action.

Barracks housing POWs, photographed in 1948 by ex-POW Lt. Donald Prell when he visited the camp in 1948.

Barracks housing POWs, photographed in 1948 by ex-POW Lt. Donald Prell when he visited the camp in 1948.

The northern part of the Stalag 13 was used to intern former Nazi Party members. The camp also housed large numbers of German refugees who had fled the advancing Russian army in eastern Germany as well as ethnic Germans who had been expelled from areas of Poland and Czechoslovakia.

POW Background Information

P47 Thunderbolt (Kogo, GNU FD license.)

P47 Thunderbolt
(Kogo, GNU FD license.)

One of the American POW’s at Oflag 13 in Hammelburg was Walter Frederick Morrison, the inventor of the frisbee. He was a fighter pilot and was shot down flying a P-47 Thunderbolt. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 90.

There was a real life counterpart to the fictional Colonel Robert Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes of Stalag 13. Lieutenant Robert Hogan was an American bomber pilot shot down and imprisoned in Oflag 13D near Nuremberg.

Although the studio maintains that Colonel Robert Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes was a completely fictional character, there really was a POW in a Stalag 13 named Robert Hogan whose story bears striking similarities to the Hollywood version.

The real Robert Hogan was a pilot flying B24 bombers out of Italy, who was shot down in January of 1945 over Yugoslavia and sent eventually to the Stalag 13 camp outside of Nuremberg (actually the Oflag 13 camp, since he was an officer. Stalags were only for enlisted men.) This camp was adjacent to Stalag 13 D, not the Stalag 13 C camp outside of Hammelburg, but close enough for the producers of the TV show to be interested when Dr. Robert Hogan contacted them. The real Robert Hogan got to meet Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes in 1966.

Robert Hogan’s son stated his father didn’t talk much about his POW experiences, but he did mention the following:

The POW’s were reasonably well-treated by the German guards, though they were gradually starving to death. Of course, the German guards were not much better off than the prisoners – food was scarce. A young girl from the nearby village would occasionally throw pieces of fruit over the fences for the prisoners. He said that food was the thing they thought and talked about the most…and also dreamed about.

The prisoners’ rations consisted of only one meal a day: a bowl of “cabbage soup”, which was nothing more than a bowl of warm water with a few cabbage leaves thrown in. Each barracks also shared one loaf of “bread”, baked with a significant amount of sawdust mixed in to stretch it further.

Though there was little similarity between his real-life experience and the Hogan’s Heroes series, there were three significant things that were similar: 1) the commandant wore a monocle like Colonel Klink, 2) there was a big, fat, goofy sergeant like Sergeant Schulz, and 3) the prisoners had a “secret” radio.

As for item #3, that radio was not very “secret”. In fact, the commandant of the Stalag allowed the POW’s to continue to operate their “clandestine” radio because the commandant got more reliable information from that source than he did from the official Nazi propaganda.

For more information about Lt. Robert Hogan (later Dr. Robert Hogan), his life and wartime experiences, see this article from the Jefferson County Historical Association in Alabama.

On the Web:

List of Kriegsgefangenenlager Moosburg Online (in German)

A Brief History of Oflag 64

Oflag XIII-B, Report of the International Red Cross

Task Force Baum and the Hammelburg Raid

Oflag 64 Association

First hand account of Oflag XIII-B by Donald Prell

Patton’s Ill-Fated Raid

Crash

#RedFriday: WWII Veterans Receive French Legion of Honor Medals

French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

Six World War II veterans were honored with French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

The medals were bestowed upon the veterans by French Consul General Gregor Trumel. A ceremony was held on Thursday at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

The Legion of Honor Medal was created by Napoleon in 1802 to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of exceptional merit and accomplishments. French representatives expressed their gratitude and appreciation for their contribution to the liberation of France during World War II.

Medals were bestowed upon:

  • Mr. Ralph J. Bertheaud (Posthumous),
  • Mr. Louis Bradley(Plaquemines Parish, LA),
  • Mr. Aubrey H. Covington (Metairie, LA),
  • Mr. Leonard J. Kuckelman (Atchison County, KS),
  • Mr. Ubert J. Labat Jr (Slidell, LA),
  • and Mr. Lampton C. Terrel (Bush, LA),

The six were named Chevaliers de la Légion d’honneur, Knights in the order of the Legion of Honor.

Last month: Charles Bruns recipient of French Legion of Honor

Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns

Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns

WWII Veteran Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns of Champaign IL was selected and appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest distinction. Through this award, the French government pays tribute to the soldiers who did so much for France 70 years ago.

Charles Bruns served with the 3rd Division, 10th Engineer Battalion throughout WWII and was active during the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Southern France. He ended military service in August, 1945 at the rank of Technical Sargent. During his service, Chick kept a diary, took photographs and collected postcards. This along with the letters he wrote home to his parents is being shared in the most complete daily account of a solider during WWII on the Website: 70yearsago.com

Presented by Vincent Floreani, Consul General de France a Chicago, “you gave your youth to France and the French people. Many of your fellow soldiers did not return but they remain in our hearts”. The French National Order of the Legion of Honor is an order of distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. American recipients include Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Michael Mullen. Today there are approximately 93,000 Legion of Honor recipients.

American veterans like Chick who risked their lives during World War II and who fought on French territory qualify to be decorated as Knights of the Legion of Honor. Veterans must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France.

Veteran Charles F. wrote a diary during the second world war which is now being published by his son. He served in North Africa and Europe until the war ended.  John Bruns, his son, has re-purposed the diary into a website called http://www.70yearsago.com . The website is updated daily.

He argues that it is his father who is blogging from the past.

Chick Bruns, 94 used to sell clothes at Joseph Kuhn & Co in downtown Champaign before he volunteered to join U.S. Army.

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