Archive for December, 2012

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Dec. 30-Jan. 6)

The First Year

It has been a year of surprises — pleasant and unpleasant — for both sides in the conflict known alternately as “The Second American Revolution” and “Canada’s War of Independence.”

Re-enactors defending Fort Wellington, Canada. (Photo by Parks Canada)

Re-enactors defending Fort Wellington, Canada. (Photo by Parks Canada)

The Americans saw two major frontier forts, Mackinac and Detroit — both in Michigan — fall to the British, Canadians and their Indian allies with barely a shot fired. Three other U.S. post — Fort Dearborn in Illinois and Fort Harrison and Fort Wayne, both in Indiana — came under attack by Native Americans. Fort Dearborn was evacuated and about a score of its inhabitants — both soldier and civilian — were massacred. The fort, standing in what is now downtown Chicago, was burned to the ground.

British troops and Canadian militia — sometimes with the assistance of Native Americans (or First Nations as they are known in Canada) — were able to repulse three clumsy invasions of Canada by poorly led U.S. troops, but with the loss of one of their most skilled leaders: Major. Gen. Isaac Brock, who was killed at Queenston Heights in present day Ontario, Canada.

The Americans were more successful at sea, defeating three British frigates — the Guerriere, Macedonian and Java — while losing some smaller ships like the sloop USS Wasp.  Meanwhile, the Royal Navy expanded a blockade of U.S. ports from New England to Georgia.

The first year of the war, which began in June 1812 showed how ill prepared the armies on both sides were.

The American troops consisted mostly of state militias and volunteers commanded by elderly veterans of the Revolution or younger men who were eager but often inexperienced.

Re-enactors defend Fort McHenry, Maryland. (Photo by National Park Service)

Re-enactors defend Fort McHenry, Maryland. (Photo by National Park Service)

Still at war with Napoleon in Europe, the British could spare but few troops to defend Canada or invade the United States. Instead the burden of war fell on Canadian militiamen who often had little training or supplies. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh threw in his lot with the British, hoping a U.S. defeat would put a halt to the Americans’ relentless expansion into tribal lands stretching West from the 13 original colonies into what was then called the Old Northwest (a region around the Great Lakes that would generate the future states of Indiana, Illinois,  Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota). Tecumseh’s attempt to unite all the tribes east of the Mississippi River against the Americans set the  frontier aflame in 1812, leading to attacks on settlements and Army posts.


This will be the last installment of THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 as a weekly feature on 4GWAR.

In the future we will focus on significant developments like the battles of  Lake Erie, Bladensburg, Fort McHenry and New Orleans. The first posting, in late January, will explore the Battle of Frenchtown and the River Raisin massacre.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Your 4GWAR Editor

December 31, 2012 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (Dec. 28, 2012)

Christmas in Afghanistan 2012

(U.S. Navy photo by HMC Josh Ives/released)

(U.S. Navy photo by HMC Josh Ives)

U.S. and Slovenian troops — part of the coalition forces in Afghanistan — participate in a Christmas Eve candlelight procession using chem lights in lieu of candles before Midnight Mass on Forward Operating Base Farah, Afghanistan. Please click here to read a thoughtful (and moving) holiday letter from one of those deployed at FOB Farah.

This is just one of a series of Defense Department photos from Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, illustrating how the men and women of the U.S. military — though very far from home and often in harsh conditions — can still make merry and remember what the celebration is all about.

Please click here to see a photo slide show from places around Afghanistan like Bagram Airfield, FOB Fenty and Kandahar Airfield. And click on the photo above to enlarge the image and get the full effect.

Hope your Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza was joyful. Have a Happy New Year and please stay safe in 2013.

Your 4GWAR Editor

December 28, 2012 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Central African Republic revolt, Piracy off Nigerian Coast

U.S. Embassy Evacuated

The U.S. Embassy in the Central African Republic (CAR) has shut down operations and its staff has been evacuated as rebel troops advance on the capital, Bangui, according to Associated Press reports from NBC News, the Washington Post and other news outlets.

Central African Republic(CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

U.S. Ambassador Laurence Wohlers and about 40 embassy personnel and private U.S. citizens were flown out of Bangui on a U.S. Air Force plane bound for Kenya. In a statement, the U.S. State Department said it had “temporarily suspended” embassy operations on Dec. 28 because of “the present security situation” in the CAR. It added that the U.S. has not suspended diplomatic relations with the turbulent country.

Meanwhile, CAR President Francois Bozizie has asked forrmer colonial ruler, France, which has about 250 soldiers based in the country as part of a peacekeeping mission, to assist his government in defeating the rebels who have seized 10 towns in the north and have advanced to within 45 miles of the capital, Reuters reported.

But France’s Socialist government says they don’t want to get involved in the internal fracas. French troops have propped up besieged governments in the CAR and other former African colonies in the past but “Those days are over,” French President Hollande said.  French troops are in the CAR only to protect French citizens and property, officials said. About 1,200 French nationals live in the CAR, mostly in the capital. A large number of them are involved in the mining business. The CAR, which gained its independence from France in 1960, has large deposits of uranium, gold and diamonds – but remains one of the poorest countries in Africa.

The rebels want to oust Bozize, who himself came to power in a 2003 rebellion, for not living up to 2007 peace agreements with them that ended an earlier uprising, the New York Times reported.

The Central African Republic is one of four countries in the region that has suffered the depredations of the violent Lord’s Resistance Army, headed by international fugitive Joseph Kony. About 100 U.S. Special Operations troops are in the region to help local troops hunt down Kony.

Piracy off Nigeria

Armed pirates attacked a supply tug boat off the coast of Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, kidnapping four foreign sailors, including three Italians, the Associated Press reported.

Nigeria(CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

First word of the latest act of piracy and kidnapping off the oil-rich coast of West Africa came from the International Maritime Bureau’s  Piracy Reporting Centre.

The Dec. 23 attack was the latest in a growing trend in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea region. There have been more than 50 reported incidents in west African waters in 2012, according to the IMB. Half of them were off the coast of Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, according to the All Africa news website.

December 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: At war, at Christmastime in the movies

Jingle bells, mortar shells, bullets all the way

Already gotten your fill of warm and fuzzy Holiday movies from Miracle on 34th Street to the numerous versions of A Christmas Carol (including the one starring Mister Magoo)? If so, you might want to check out one of the six films listed below. They are not Christmas movies but they all take place during the holidays in wartime. Christmas is not the focus in any of the plots but it plays a significant role in all of them.

STALAG 17, Robert Strauss, William Holden, Harvey Lembeck, 1953

1. Stalag 17 (Paramount, 1953 black and white) — Hundreds of escape-minded U.S. Army sergeants find themselves confined behind barbed wire in a German POW camp during Christmas 1944. A comedy-drama deftly directed by Bill Wilder that won William Holden a best actor Oscar.

2. Battleground (MGM, 1949, black and white) — The “Battered Bastards of Bastogne” are encircled during the German breakthrough at the Battle of the Bulge. In one touching vignette, Leon Ames, as a Lutheran chaplain, gives a moving, ecumenical sermon on Christmas Day 1944.

Movies-Lion in Winter2

3. The Lion in Winter (MGM, 1968, color) — King Henry II of England gathers his patricide-plotting sons and banished wife Eleanor for the Yuletide at the castle of Chinon in Medieval France. The film opens with a clash of broadswords and nearly ends with a scramble for daggers. Katherine Hepburn won her third best actress Oscar for her portrayal of scheming Queen Eleanor.

4. Castle Keep (Filmways Pictures, 1969, color) — Another war film set at Christmastime during the Battle of the Bulge. In this offbeat and downbeat picture, Burt Lancaster plays an eyepatch-wearing major in command of a band of dilettantes, goldbricks and head cases holed up for the holidays in a Medieval castle in the Ardennes Forest.

Movies-The Crossing3

5. The Crossing (A&E Television Networks, 2000, color) — To save the faltering Revolution, General George Washington crosses the frozen Delaware River Dec. 26, 1776 to attack a regiment of Hessian mercenaries  who made too merry the night before.

6. A Midnight Clear (A&M Films, 1992, color) — Still another Battle of the Bulge story. This time about a squad of U.S. soldiers who encounter a German unit of old men and boys who want to forget the war — at least for Christmas.

If you have a favorite film that’s not on this list — but meets the criteria of Christmas in wartime —  send us an email to or add a comment below.

Thanks, Happy Holidays and please stay safe!

Your 4GWAR Editor

SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

December 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Dec. 23-Dec. 29)

Old Ironsides vs. the Java

The U.S. frigate Constitution is cruising the South Atlantic off Brazil when she encounters the HMS Java on Dec. 29. The 44-gun Constitution, known as Old Ironsides” after defeating the British frigate HMS Guerriere in August, is one of the six original U.S. frigates built under the Naval Act of 1794.

USS Constitution (right) engages the HMS Java. (credit line)

USS Constitution (right) engages the HMS Java watercolor by Ian Marshall
(American Society of Marine Artists)

The Java, a 38-gun frigate of the same class as the Guerriere, is commaned by Captain Henry Lambert, Royal Navy. Lambert cuts loose with a broadside when William Bainbridge, the Constitution’s commander, hails the British ship. Constitution’s rigging is severely damaged but the U.S. frigate answers Java with a series of her own broadsides.

A cannon ball from Java wrecks the Constitution’s steering wheel — known as the helm — and Bainbridge (twice wounded in the battle) orders the crew to steer Old Ironsides manually using the ship’s tiller.

Java’s bowsprit gets entangled in the Constitution’s rigging allowing Bainbridge to continue raking the British ship with cannon fire. After two and half hours of firing, Bainbridge sails out of range to make emergency repairs, returning an hour later to confront the ruined Java. Unmanageable and with most of the crew wounded, the Java surrenders.

A diagram of the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Java

A diagram of the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Java

Bainbridge determines the Java is too damaged to seize as a prize, so he orders the British ship burned — after transferring her crew to his vessel and ordering Java’s wheel salvaged and put on the Constitution.

Java is the third British frigate to fall to an American frigate, so the British Admiralty orders all its frigates to steer clear of the heavier American ships and not tangle with them one-on-one. Only the massive ships of the line or a squadron of warships are henceforth permitted to attack U.S. frigates.

USS Constitution underway in 2012.(Photo by Hunter Stires via Wikipedia)

USS Constitution underway in 2012.
(Photo by Hunter Stires via Wikipedia)

Still afloat at age 215, the Boston-built USS Constitution today remains the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel.

December 24, 2012 at 12:15 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 20, 2012)

Two Light Moments

There were a lot of interesting Defense Department photos to choose from for this week’s FRIFO, but with all that has gone on in the past few weeks around the world — slaughter of innocents in Connecticut, Syria and Pakistan, political anxiety in Washington and Cairo — we thought it might be better to post a couple of sweet moments captured by the department’s excellent photographers.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Four soldiers from the 6th Engineer Battalion, Combat Airborne build a snowman while waiting for a parachute drop of heavy equipment on Malamute Drop Zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska on Dec. 13. A heavy wet snow fell the day before at the installation just north of Anchorage and these soldiers obviously believe in the adage: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade — or at least snowmen. Please click on the photo to enlarge the image.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau)

Paris, a coalition force military working dog, shows her gentler side interacting with village children in Afghanistan’s Farah province. Please click on the photo to enlarge the image. To see more photos of Paris and her battle buddies, click here. Dog lovers: To see more photos of Paris at work and play, click here.

December 21, 2012 at 12:52 am Leave a comment

AF/PAK: Eight Polio Vaccine Health Workers Slain in Pakistan


Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the crippling disease polio is still a public health threat.

Pakistan (Map courtesy CIA World Factbook)

Pakistan (Map courtesy CIA World Factbook)

But the United Nations has been running a successful program to immunize those most at risk – children under the age of five living in unsanitary conditions.

So far this year, 56 polio cases have been reported in Pakistan, compared to the 190 reported last year, according to the United Nations.

The program has been suspended, however, after eight volunteer polio campaign workers have been shot and killed by gunmen in the last two days. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Karachi and Charsadda, but some Islamic extremists believe the immunization program is just a cover for Western espionage, the Associated Press reports. Another health worker was seriously wounded by gunmen outside Peshawar.

Wednesday (Dec. 19) was the final day of a three-day nationwide anti-polio drive. An estimated 5.2 million polio vaccine drops were to be administered during the campaign, according to the BBC.

Opposition to immunization efforts have grown in parts of Pakistan — especially after it was learned learned that a fake hepatitis vaccination program was the cover used by U.S. efforts to locate al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in 2011. Pakistan’s Taliban, in a phomne call to the AP, denied any responsibility for the attacks.

Nigeria and Afghanistan are the other two countries where polio is endemic.

December 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Hawaii’s Sen. Daniel Inouye, Medal of Honor Recipient, Dead at 88

Aloha ‘Oe

Another member of America’s greatest generation has died.

Senator Daniel Inouye, a member of the legendary Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team and a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for bravery, was 88.

Inouye died from respiratory complications at 5:01 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today (Dec. 17) at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, according to a statement from his office.

Sen. Inouye receives Medal of Honor from President Clinton(Inouye Senate Office website)

Sen. Inouye receives Medal of Honor from President Clinton
(Inouye Senate Office website)

As a Red Cross volunteer in Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941, Inouye aided the wounded after the Pearl Harbor attack. Like thousands of other young nisei men – those whose parents had been born in Japan – 17-year-old Inouye enlisted to fight the Japanese — even though Japanese Americans on the West Coast were forcibly relocated to internment camps. Like nearly all Japanese Americans in the service, Inouye was sent to Europe to fight the Hitler’s Army.

Inouye was assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team – which received seven Presidential Unit Citations, and produced 21 Medal of Honor winners as well as more than 9,000 Purple Heart medals for wounds suffered in battle. The 442nd motto was “Go For Broke.”

In Northern Italy in April 1945, Inouye – then a lieutenant – was attacking a series of German machine gun nests when his right arm was nearly severed by enemy fire. The arm was later amputated at a field hospital.

He received the Distinguished Service Cross – the Army’s second-highest decoration for bravery – at the time. But decades later, he and other Japanese-Americans veterans were presented with the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony.

Lieutenant Daniel Inouye U.S. Army(Congressional Medal of Honor Society)

Lieutenant Daniel Inouye U.S. Army
(Congressional Medal of Honor Society)

At the ceremony in 2000, President Bill Clinton said the nation owes “an unrepayable debt” to Inouye and his fellow Asian-American soldiers. “Rarely has a nation been so well-served by a people it ill-treated,” Clinton said, according to USA Today.

Here is Inouye’s Medal of Honor citation:

Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Inouye went on to a distinguished career in Washington, serving as congressman and later senator from his native Hawaii after it gained statehood in 1959. At his death he was the senior member of the Senate.

December 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm 2 comments

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (Dec. 16-Dec. 22)

Battle of the Mississinewa

Three days after a forced 80-mile march through snow and bitter cold from Fort Greenville in Ohio (see last Monday’s posting), Lieutenant Colonel John Campbell and a force of 600 mounted troops arrive Dec. 17 at the Mississinewa River in the Indiana Territory. The mixed force of U.S. Dragoons and volunteer units mostly from Kentucky – but also Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan – is on a mission to attack and destroy several Indian villages strung out along the river, especially the Miami village of Mississenaway).

Indiana Territory map by Dingusdog via Wikipedia

Indiana Territory map by Dingusdog via Wikipedia

The Shawnee leader Tecumseh has been trying to organize the tribes East of the Mississippi River to resist further encroachment by the Americans. Tecumseh, who has encouraged the Miamis, Kickapoos, Wea and other tribal peoples to join him, has thrown in his lot with the British in their war with the Americans. In the summer of 1812, Indian bands attack several white settlements and Army forts in Indiana and Major Gen. William Henry Harrison, commander of the Northwest Army, wins Washington’s approval to launch a punitive expedition against the Miamis and their allies. He picks Campbell to lead

Campbell’s troops take the first village, kill about eight Indian men and take 42 prisoners – all but eight of them women and children. The captured village is that of the Delaware (Lenape) leader Silver Heels. Campbell is under orders to avoid harming Silver Heels and his people, who have to join Tecumseh’s war with the whites. The U.S. forces continue along the river, burning two evacuated Miami villages. Many of Campbell’s men are suffering from frostbite while ammunition and food are running low, so he decides to declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ and head back to Fort Greenville.

The next morning (Dec. 18), about 300 Indian warriors attack Campbell’s camp at dawn. The U.S. troops manage to drive them off after about an hour of fierce fighting but a dozen soldiers and militia men are killed and more than 40 wounded. Indian casualties are unknown but believed to number about 30 dead. More than 100 soldiers’ horse are killed in the fight. To hasten the return back to Ohio, the Indian women and children captives are placed on captured ponies while the soldiers who lost their mounts have to walk in knee-deep snow.

Fearing another Indian attack, Campbell’s troops build a fortified camp every night during the six-day retreat back to Ohio, depleting the men’s strength even further. One day out from Fort Greenville, with all food gone, half the force suffering from the cold and many of the wounded near death, the force is met by a relief column. Campbell’s force reaches the Fort on Dec. 24. More than half of his men are incapacitated by frostbite.

Even though the main objective, Mississineway, is never reached, Harrison declares the operation a success and Campbell is promoted. The Indian captives are sent to an Indian settlement in Ohio. Harrison’s plans to march north and retake Fort Detroit are put on hold.

One of the largest historic re-enactments of the War of 1812 marks the Battle of Mississinewa every October outside Marion, Indiana. Here’s a brief YouTube video, which gives a sense of the uniforms and weapons used 200 years ago by British and American troops (even though most of the actual participants in the Battle of Mississinewa were frontiersmen and Native Americans).

December 17, 2012 at 12:10 am Leave a comment

4GWAR NEWS: Annual Viewership Tops 200,000 for 2012

Tooting Our Own Horn

(U.S. Army photo)

(U.S. Army photo)

This blog started in November 2009, and we were thrilled to pull in 1,352 viewers for the last two months of 2009. In 2010, our first full year online, 4GWAR was viewed 62,557 times.

So far this year we’ve gone over 200,000 visits. As of 9 a.m. Eastern Time today (Dec. 14) we have had 202, 013 visitors.

According to the elves at wordpress, who keep track of such things, the 4GWAR blog has had visitors from every country on Earth except four in Africa (South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Guinea and Western Sahara) and two in Central Asia (Tajikistan and Turkmenistan). Yes, we’ve even had a visit or two from North Korea.

Sometime early next year, we’ll get the final tally from, but its been a pretty good year so far.

To our regular visitors and followers, Thank you very much! To first time visitors, we hope you found something interesting and useful. Please visit us again soon — and tell your friends and colleagues about us.


Your 4GWAR Editor

December 14, 2012 at 10:16 am 2 comments

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