Posts filed under ‘Traditions’

SHAKO: The King’s Guard

Guarding History, Too

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(Photo by John M. Doyle, copyright 4GWAR Blog)

OSLO, Norway — Members of His Majesty the King’s Guard march to their posts at Oslo’s historic Akershus Fortress Saturday, June 15. Your 4GWAR editor was touring the medieval complex when these troops passed by.

Norway’s King H Håkon V began building Akershus Castle and Fortress in 1299. The medieval castle had a strategic location and withstood a number of sieges throughout the ages. King Christian IV (1588-1648) had the castle modernised and converted into a Renaisssance castle and royal residence.

The complex today contains the castle, the Armed Forces Museum and Norway’s Resistance Museum.  The Resistance Museum chronicles the heroic and harrowing  civilian and military struggle against the five-year Nazi occupation that began when the Germans invaded Norway on on April 9th, 1940.

The King’s Guard dates back to the late 1850s, when the Royal Norwegian Company of Marksmen was established to enhance security around King Oscar I in Stockholm (Sweden). The company was renamed His Majesty The King’s Guard in 1866, and was transferred to Kristiania (now Oslo) toward the end of the union between Sweden and Norway. Since 1888 the King’s Guard has been on duty at the Royal Palace and other Royal residences 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, according to the Royal House of Norway website.

Today the King’s Guard has permanent sentry duty at the Royal Palace, Skaugum Estate, Bygdø Royal Farm when in use, Akershus Fortress and Huseby military camp.

Your 4GWAR Editor is in Norway for the Climate Force Arctic Expedition 2019 to Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean north of Norway — and a hotspot in both military and climate  strategies.  The rapid melting of sea ice in the Arctic and the opening of new sea lanes has raised U.S. Coast Guard concerns about safety, pollution and search and rescue operations. It has also sparked national security, environmental and economic concerns among the nations bordering the Arctic.

Longtime visitors to the blog may recall 4GWAR has been writing about the Arctic for nearly a decade. We’ll be so far north over the next week that internet connection will be weak, if not impossible, so we’ll be out of touch until late June.

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SHAKO-West Point cadetsSHAKO 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.

 

 

June 17, 2019 at 6:15 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (May 31, 2019)

Dead Serious.

military dive operations

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Jayme Pastoric)

Their swim fins hooked over their wrists and their weapons ready, Navy SEALs, assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2, emerge from the shallows during military dive operations training in the Atlantic Ocean on May 29, 2019.

SEALs, it stands for Sea, Air, Land forces, “are expertly trained to deliver highly specialized, intensely challenging warfare capabilities that are beyond the means of standard military forces,” according to the Navy. SEAL teams are the maritime component of U.S. Special Operations Command, however, they are trained to conduct missions from sea, air and land.

Before one gets to wear the distinctive gold SEAL insignia — an eagle clutching a Navy anchor, trident and flintlock style pistol — one must endure a lot of this:

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First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) candidates participate in hours of crushing, physical training, in wet, sandy uniforms with little sleep at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. ( U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau)

To get an idea of how difficult their training is, click here.

May 31, 2019 at 12:10 am 1 comment

SHAKO: Memorial Day 2019

The North Remembers.

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Cavalry charge figures at the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial between the Capitol and the National Mall in Washington D.C. (Photo by Ad Meskens via Wikipedia, sculpture by Henry Merwin Shrady )

Memorial Day, by federal law, is commemorated annually on the last Monday in May to honor those who gave their lives for their country. The holiday grew out of local ceremonies throughout the North and South after the American Civil War (1861-1865). In many places, the day — traditionally May 30 — was known as Decoration Day for the flowers and flags that locals used to decorate soldiers’ and sailors’ graves.

In past years, 4GWAR postings on Memorial Day have focused on U.S. military cemeteries, the tradition of decorating graves with small American flags at Arlington National Cemetery and remembering the price paid by those we honor on the holiday.

But this year, we note the controversy surrounding Civil War monuments and statues honoring Confederate heroes. To many, they are racist icons created during the Jim Crow er. For others, they are reminders of the “Lost Cause,” and part of an honorable heritage. So we thought we’d look at the monuments and statues — mostly in Northern states — dedicated to those who fought to preserve the Union.

For example, the charging cavalry group pictured above is just part of a massive memorial to Union Army commander and 18th U.S. president, Ulysses S. Grant. In fact, that sculpture group, and another depicting a team of artillery horses hurtling along with a caisson and cannon in tow, are far more dramatic than the centerpiece equestrian statute of old “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.

Even monuments like this, are not without critics, mainly for honoring leaders who mistreated or ignored the mistreatment of blacks and Indians after the Civil War. Nevertheless, cities and towns from Maine to California have dedicated monuments of all shapes and sizes to Union troops and their leaders. Below is a small sampling from around the country.

Many statues and monuments — particularly in Washington, D.C. — are dedicated to generals like Grant,  William Tecumseh Sherman and George Henry Thomas, and admirals like Samuel Francis DuPont and David Glasgow Farragut (see photo below).

Admiral_David_Farragut_Statue

(Photo by David Washington, via Wikipedia)

Admiral Farragut, of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” fame, stands atop a granite base in a park and city square named for him. The statue was sculpted by female artist Vinnie Ream. This monument to the U.S. Navy’s first admiral, was dedicated in 1881 in an extravagant ceremony attended by President James A. Garfield  and thousands of spectators. It was the first monument erected in Washington, to honor  a naval war hero.

Other outdoor art works are dedicated to local heroes or favorite sons like the monument to Pennsylvania’s George Gordon Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg and later Civil War battles. Paid for by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when few in Washington favored lionizing Meade — the monument stands on Pennsylvania Avenue, the main route of parades in the nation’s capital.

In Boston, the memorial to young Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, also pays tribute to his 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first African American army units to fight in the Civil War.   The high relief bronze was created by noted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and readers may remember it was featured at the end of the 1989 Oscar-winning film Glory.

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(Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, Photo by Jarek Tuszyński via wikipedia commons)

In Washington, D.C., all of the 200,000 African Americans who served in the Union army and navy are remembered in the African American Civil War Memorial.

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(Spirit of Freedom statue by Ed Hamilton 1997, National Park Service photo)

Elsewhere, a single soldier was enough for memorials like the Kent County Civil War Monument in Grand Rapids, Michigan …

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(Caption)

Or two in front of the DeKalb County courthouse in Sycamore, Illinois …

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(Photo by A. McMurray via wikipedia)

A lone artillery man in Scituate, Rhode Island …

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(Photo by Beth Hurd via Rhode Island USGenWeb Genealogy and History Project)

A member of New York’s “silk stocking” 7th Militia Regiment, formed by many of the city’s socially elite …

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(Photo by Jim.henderson)

Monuments to the Union army aren’t limited to the North. This statue, known as “Taps”, is located in Little Rock National Cemetery in Arkansas. It is dedicated to the 36 soldiers from Minnesota who are buried there.

Minnesota_Monument in Ark

(Photo by Valis55 )

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SHAKO-West Point cadetsSHAKO 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.

May 27, 2019 at 7:46 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (May 24, 2019)

Monuments Men.

10th SFG(A) conduct airborne operation near island of Mont Saint Michel

(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Alexis Washburn-Jasinski)

 

Paratroopers from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) land within sight of the world famous Mont Saint-Michel abbey in Normandy, France, during a May 18, 2019 airborne operation to commemorate the Allied liberation of France during World War II.

The abbey, one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites, started as a small church in 709 C.E., dedicated to the Archangel Michael — who just happens to be the patron saint of paratroopers.

Three U.S. Air Force aircraft from 352nd Special Operations Wing and the 86th Airlift Wing, delivered more than 130 Green Berets to the drop zone, a little over a mile from Mont Saint-Michel, near Avranches, which was liberated by U.S. forces in 1944. A large crowd of residents from the commune of Avranches — which sponsored the event — attended the airdrop. The demonstration included both military free-fall and static-line parachute drops.

The jump celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the drop of “Jedburgh” teams into France ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Just a year earlier, the Allies created 100 three-man special operations teams with personnel from the British Special Operations Executive, American Office of Strategic Services (the precursor of the CIA) and General Charles de Gaulle’s Free French organization. Known as Jedburghs, the teams also included individuals from Belgium, Canada, South Africa and the Netherlands. Instrumental to the allied liberation of France and occupied Europe, the Jedburgh teams trained, armed, and directed local resistance fighters from behind enemy lines.

Today’s Green Berets trace their history directly to the Jedburgh teams as well as the First Special Service Force, a combined Canadian-American unit, known as the “Devil’s Brigade.” The 10th Special Forces Group, the first such unit, was established in 1952 and immediately deployed to Europe during the Cold War. It’s worth noting the Army Special Forces motto “DE OPPRESSO LIBER” is Latin for “To Free the Oppressed.”

For more details of the air drop event and photos, click here.

May 24, 2019 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 3, 2019)

That fought with us upon St. Florian’s Day.

423rd ABG Leadership Puts Out the Fire

(Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Brian Kimball)

Fear not, we’re not misquoting the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. For one thing, it’s neither October 25 — Crispin’s Day — nor the anniversary of Henry’s 1415 battle against the French at Agincourt.

However, tomorrow (Saturday May 4) is St. Florian’s Day. The feast honors Florian, a Roman soldier and Christian martyr, who also happens to be the patron saint of firefighters.

Florian was born around 250 C.E., in what is now present-day Austria. He joined the Roman Army and advanced quickly to become commander of the Imperial Army in the Roman province of Noricum (most of modern day Poland). One of his many duties was being responsible for organizing fire brigades. Florian organized and trained this elite group of soldiers in their sole duty of fighting fires.

May 4 is also International Fire Fighters Day, so we thought we’d feature some of the “smoke eaters” in the U.S. military.  The April 23, 2018 photo above shows Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Eugene Elking extinguishing a fire while training with firefighters at the Royal Air Force facility at Molesworth, England.

If we may continue the Shakespearean conceit just a bit longer, the next photo proves  that firefighters are not only a “band of brothers. ” Here we see Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelley Johnson putting a firefighting helmet during a drill in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in San Diego on April 9, 2019.

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(Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hogan)

In the Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, firefighters are called Damage Controlmen. Not only do they fight, and prevent, fires, they perform the tasks of damage control and maintaining ship stability. They also prepare defenses against chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) warfare attacks. And they instruct personnel in damage control and CBR defense and repair damage-control equipment and systems. (Incidentally, Navy Fire Controlmen maintain the control mechanism used in weapons systems on combat ships.)

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(Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Cuenca)

Navy firefighters may also have to deal with aircraft fires — at sea or on land — like these Navy Region Northwest Fire and Emergency Services personnel. This March 20, 2019 photo shows them observing a live-fire simulation of an FA-18F Super Hornet mock-up at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Washington.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Madeleine E. Remillard)

Air Force firefighters, like their naval brethren, also have to deal with fiery jet fuel and bombs, missiles and machine gun bullets that may be in danger or already alight. The Air Force also shares with civilian fire departments the skills needed to battle aircraft fires — as they did during this training exercise at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas on April 17, 2019. Departments from Wichita Falls, Texas, and Lawton, Oklahoma, trained with the base’s firefighters at the Sheppard AFB fire pit.

NATO Advising in Faryab Province

(NATO Photo by Captain Tyler Mitchell)

National Guard units also have firefighters, and like active duty soldiers and airmen, they may be called upon to practice their specialty in a warzone. In this May 9, 2018 photo we see Missouri Air National Guard Technical Sergeant Dustin Hensley bracing an Afghan Soldier to assist with the pressure of a water hose from a P-19 Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Truck at Camp Maimanah Afghanistan. Hensley was part of the NATO-led  train, advise and assist mission.

May 3, 2019 at 4:18 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 5, 2019)

Whites (and) Lighning

USS WASP (LHD 1) OPERATIONS AT SEA

(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barker)

Sailors man the rails aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD1) as it arrives for Exercise Balikatan at Subic Bay in the Philippines. This March 30, 2019 photo practically spans the long history of the Navy and Marine Corps — from the sailors in their summer bell-bottomed dress whites, “dixie cup” hats and black neckerchiefs to the Marines’ newest aircraft, the F-35B  Lightning II jet fighter, parked behind them.The stealthy F-35B is a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, designed to meet the land and ship-based needs of the Marines.

Balikatan is an annual U.S.-Philippine military training exercise focusing on missions ranging from humanitarian assistance and counter-terrorism.

April 5, 2019 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO:Go For Broke!

April 5 Honors Japanese-American Soldiers

SHAKO 4-4-2019 GO FOR BROKE

The Color Guard of the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team stands at attention while citations are read following the fierce fighting in the Vosges area of France, November 12, 1944. (U.S. Army photo)

Did you know April 5 is National “Go For Broke” Day? At 4GWAR we didn’t either until recently. The phrase comes from Hawaiian pidgen gambling slang. It means roughly “bet it all” or  “wager — and risk — everything for a potential big payoff.”

The term, popularized by Japanese-American soldiers in World War II, is also the motto  of one of the most decorated units in U.S. military history — the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In addition to fighting the Germans in Italy and France in the European Theater of Operations — the soldiers of the 442nd RCT had to battle racial animosity in the wake of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Because of the U.S. military was caught completely by surprise, rumors arose that Japanese living in the Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast — most of them citizens — had served as spies and Fifth Columnists for Japan. The Army and FBI found no evidence that Japanese-Americans aided the Pearl Harbor attack. However, a presidential commission created to investigate the disaster noted Japanese “spies” were in Hawaii before the attack, although most were attached to the Japanese consulate in Honolulu, but others had no known connection with the Japanese foreign service. The vagueness of this description led many Americans to conclude there were indeed Fifth Columnists among the Japanese-American population.

Newspaper Japs

(Photo from National Archives and Records Administration)

That prompted the Army — with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s authorization and the acquiescence of Congress and the Supreme Court — to exile all Japanese, both U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, from the the three West Coast states and parts of Arizona to remote inland internment camps under armed guard and harsh living conditions.

Hundreds of young American-born, ethnic Japanese men, known as Nisei, drafted before war broke out, were discharged or segregated in California. A Hawaiian National Guard unit made up of ethnic Japanese was dissolved. Yet, many Nisei wanted to prove they were loyal Americans by fighting for their country. Many older community leaders encouraged them to enlist in the Army as one of the best ways to convince U.S. officials to release the 120,000 Japanese-American men, women and children from the so-called relocation camps.

The 442nd RCT was activated on February 1, 1943, and was composed of Nisei men who had volunteered from Hawaii and internment camps on the mainland. They trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, before deploying to Italy in June 1944, where they joined in combat with the 100th Infantry Battalion — the first Nisei Army unit to be activated in the war — consisting of men from the previously terminated Hawaiian National Guard unit. By mid-August, the 100th officially became part of the 442nd RCT. That’s when “go for broke” became their motto. In 1951, MGM released a motion picture about the 442nd’s combat exploits and battles against racism called “Go For Broke.”

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The 442nd at Anzio Beach 1944. (Photo courtesy of Go For Broke National Education Center)

In their two years of service, the 442nd RCT and the 100th Battalion, before it joined the 442nd, earned: 7 Presidential Unit Citations; 36 Army Commendation Medals and 87 Division Commendations.

Individual soldiers were awarded 18,000 decorations, including: 21 Medals of Honor; 29 Distinguished Service Crosses (the second-highest decoration for bravery); 560 Silver Stars (the third-highest bravery medal) and nearly 9,500 Purple Hearts for wounds in battle. The units lost 650 men, more than 3,700 were wounded in action, and 67 were declared missing in action.

On April 5, 1945, the 442nd RCT’s first Medal of Honor recipient, Private First Class  Sadao Munemori, was killed in action near Seravezza, Italy. That’s why April 5 is deemed “Go for Broke” day.

In December 2011, more than 450 Japanese American soldiers of World War II were honored for their heroic actions in combat and steadfast loyalty in the face of discrimination, the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award for service presented out by the U.S.

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SHAKO-West Point cadets

SHAKO 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.

 

April 5, 2019 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

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