Posts filed under ‘Traditions’

SEASON’S GREETINGS: Yuletide Customs and Activities of Those in Uniform

Flying Elves

Santa, Elves jump for Operation Toy Drop 2018

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristof J. Rixmann)

Airmen dressed as Santa’s elves conduct static line jumps out of a C-130J Super Hercules during Operation Toy Drop 2018, to deliver gifts via cargo delivery system drops at Alzey drop zone in Germany, on December 13, 2018.

Singing Sergeants

USAF Band Singing Sergeants Perform at Joint Base Andrews

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Michael Keller)

Tech Sergeants Ashley Keeks (left) and Adrienne Kling — members of the Air Force Band’s Singing Sergeants ensemble — sing Christmas carols at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on December 19, 2018.

‘Lest We Forget

27th National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Marine Corps Major Jason Bowers lays a wreath in front of a headstone during the 27th National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia on December 15, 2018.

Here Comes Santa Claus

U.S. Indo-Pacific Forces Participate in Annual Operation Christmas Drop

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Barry A. King (left) and 1st Lieutenant Emery Gumapas make adjustments aboard a C-130J Super Hercules on its way to airdrop supplies to the island of Nama in Micronesia on December 10, 2018, during Operation Christmas Drop, a humanitarian operation and training mission for U.S., Japanese and Australian cargo plane crews.

G’Day Santa

Operation Christmas Drop 2018 is a Wrap, Until Next Year Micronesia

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

As noted in the photo above, American crews and aircraft aren’t the only participants in Operation Christmas Drop. Here we see Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lieutenant Simon Mason, a C-130J pilot f the 37th Squadron RAAF Base Richmond, Australia, checking the horizon on Santa 99’s way to the atoll of Kapingamarangi in the Federated States of Micronesia on December 13, 2018.

Starting with the first airdrop to Kapingamarangi 67 years ago, Operation Cargo Drop is the world’s longest running airdrop training mission, providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands and affecting approximately 20,000 people across 1.8 million square nautical miles of operating area.

A Visit from St. Nicholas — and the Marines.

XMAS No. 5 USMC Sgt Reading story

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Samantha Schwoch)

Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Marcus B. Bailey reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to children attending a holiday concert in New Orleans on December 9, 2018. The concert is designed to promote the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.

Toy Drop Objective

XMAS No. 7A

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Sinthia Rosario)

Captain Rizzoli Elias, company commander of the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company in the 16th Sustainment Brigade, gives a German child a stuffed animal as part of Operation Toy Drop at Alzey, Germany on Dedcember 13, 2018. Operation Toy Drop is an annual multi-national training event designed to strengthen relations with the local community and develop interoperability among military partners.

Santa Gets a Lift.

XMAS No. 8 Coast Guard Santa

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter delivers Santa, his elves and gifts to the children of various remote villages in Alaska on December 12, 2018. “Santa to the Villages” was created in 1974 by the Coast Guard Spouses Association in an effort to spread holiday cheer to children throughout remote portions of Alaska.

Santa Training

XMAS No. 10 Canadians Santa

(Canadian Army photo by Corporal Genevieve Lapointe)

Alaska isn’t the only part of the Far North to be visited by Santa. He worked out with the Canadian Army to get ready for his big day, whi8ch will include climbing up to a lot of chimneys.

Pushing Parcels

XMAS No. 11 Canadians Op Parcel Push

(Photo by Second Lieutenant Natasha Tersigni, 38 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs)

Members of Fort Garry Horse and 38 Combat Engineer Regiment prepare Christmas hampers during their 33rd annual Exercise PARCEL PUSH last December. Canadian Army Reservists and Army cadets will be delivering Christmas hampers again this year on behalf of Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board.

Snow Singers

XMAS No. 12 82nd Airborne singers

(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Michelle U. Blesam)

Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s band and chorus perform holiday classics during a concert at the Crown Theatre in Fayetteville, North Carolina on December 13, 2018.

 

 

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December 24, 2018 at 11:58 pm 3 comments

SHAKO: Thanksgiving, Then and Now

Feeding the Troops Today.

USS Blue Ridge Sailors prepare Thanksgiving Meal

Sailors prepare turkeys for a Thanksgiving celebration aboard the USS Blue Ridge in Yokosuka, Japan, November 21, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo Petty Officer 3rd Class Dylan McKay)

It takes a lot of coordination and attention to detail to make sure service members get the Thanksgiving meal they deserve, according to Rich Faso, deputy director of the Defense Logistics Agency’s Troop Support Subsistence supply chain in Philadelphia. The planning began in May and the work continued until the last deliveries were made.

By Thanksgiving Day, some 300,000 pounds of traditional Thanksgiving food had arrived at military field kitchens and galleys throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe and to troops supporting Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border, said Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Robert Manning said.

“Intense Attention to Every Detail” Gator Paratroopers Prepare Thanksgiving Feast for Panther Brigade

Army Private First Class Dayana Abril pipes frosting onto a cake to serve during a Thanksgiving feast at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The battalion prepared 640 pounds of turkey, 558 pounds of steamship round, 72 pounds of shrimp, more than 100 pies, 700 servings of sweet potatoes and approximately 800 servings of green bean casserole. (U.S. Army photo by Major Thomas Cieslak)

Overall, according to the Defense Department, deployed troops received.:

Whole turkeys: 9,738
Pounds of roasted turkey: 51,234
Pounds of beef: 74,036
Pounds of ham: 21,758
Pounds of shrimp: 67,860
Pounds of sweet potatoes: 16,284
Pies: 81,360
Cakes: 19,284
Gallons of eggnog: 7,836

 

Giving Thanks in 1863.

 

Here at 4GWAR, we’re mindful that the first official national day of Thanksgiving came in the midst of a terrible Civil War that had cost thousands of lives and was still far from over. It seems remarkable to think President Abraham Lincoln decided the country needed to pause and consider what it did have to be thankful for despite all the carnage.

Here is what Mr. Lincoln had to say about all that 155 years ago.

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Lincoln illustration courtesy of Accessible Archives website.

 

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as aday of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

It’s important to note the call for a day of national thanksgiving was first raised by prominent writer and editor, Sarah Josepha Hale.

Happy Thanksgiving — and safe travels — from 4GWAR!

*** *** ***

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.

November 22, 2018 at 11:58 pm 3 comments

SHAKO/FRIDAY FOTO: Devil Dogs

The Devil Dogs’ Dogs

Dog days aboard Wasp

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Bernadette Plouffe)

Marine Corps military working dogs rest at the feet of their handlers aboard the USS Wasp in the South China Sea on October 1, 2018.

O.K., this is kind of an unusual format for the 4GWAR blog, but since November 10 marks the U.S. Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday, we seized on the opportunity to combine the regular Friday Foto for November 9, with a SHAKO feature on a World War I battle that has taken its place with other iconic engagements like Iwo Jima and Tripoli in the history of the Corps.

The nearly month-long Battle of Belleau Wood (June 1-26, 1918) was the first major engagement of American troops on the Western Front in World War I. It also is one of the most significant battles fought by the U.S. Marines, earning them France’s highest military award and the nickname Devil Dogs from the Germans.

Belleau Wood painting

Marines in close combat as depicted in Franc-Earle Schoonover’s Belleau Wood. (National Museum of the Marine Corps collection)

The 4th Marine Brigade, some 9,500 men, was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, one of the U.S. units rushed to France just a few months after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917. The Marine Brigade consisted of two regiments — the 5th Marines and the 6th Marines — each with three 800-man rifle battalions and a machine gun company.

On June 1, a major German offensive moved south to the Marne River, where they were held at Chateau Thierry by French troops reinforced by the U.S. Army. One of the leading German assault regiments, the 461st Imperial German Infantry, occupied Belleau Wood, a former hunting preserve about 50 miles northwest of Paris. It was a nearly impenetrable forest of dense underbrush, trees, boulders and ravines.

In early June, the Marine Brigade was dug into a defensive line near Belleau Wood, facing a wheat field. More than 2,000 Germans with 30 machine guns were dug in amid the trees and rocks. There were 100 more Germans with at least six machine guns concentrated in the nearby village of Bouresches.

Retreating French troops advised the Marines to withdraw. “Retreat? Hell we just got here,” snapped a company commander with the 5th Marines, Captain Lloyd Williams, whose remark became part of Marine Corps lore.

800px-DanielDaly

Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly. (Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections)

The Marines took and held Bouresches and drove the Germans out of the  woods. But success came at a horrendous cost. Relying on their celebrated marksmanship (Every Marine a Rifleman”) the Marines advanced about 400 yards across the wheat field without concentrated artillery support. Heavy German machine gun and artillery fire cut the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marines to shreds.  The 6th Marines’ 3rd Battalion managed to make it to the edge of the woods before enemy fire stalled the advance. In the confusion of battle, another iconic Marine Corps legend was born when Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly — who had earned the Medal of Honor twice, in Peking in 1900 and Haiti in 1915 — turned to his men and growled “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

By nightfall on the first day of battle, both Marine battalions suffered debilitating casualties. Six officers and 222 enlisted men of the 4th Marine Brigade were killed in action. Another 25 officers and 834 men were wounded. This amounted to more casualties than the Marines had suffered in their entire history up until that day, Norwich University professor David Ulbrich observed in an anniversary piece for War on the Rocks.

As the Marines moved into Belleau Wood itself, the fighting seemed especially grim, with hand-to-hand fighting, fixed bayonets and poison gas attacks, noted Michael Ruane in a Washington Post column last May.  The headline on his piece noted: “The Battle of Belleau Wood was brutal, deadly and forgotten. But it forged a new Marine Corps.”

Exploding shells splintered the trees, raining down a deadly shower of wood splinters and metal shrapnel. The Americans and Germans grappled in hand-to-hand combat with knives, rifle butts, bayonets and entrenching shovels.

Belleau Wood shattered trees 1918

Tree Damage, Belleau Wood, circa 1918. An inscription on the photograph reads “Every tree in Belleau Wood bears the scars of battle.” (From the collection of Adolph B. Miller (COLL/1068), United States Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections.)

After three weeks of heavy combat, the Germans were driven out of Belleau Wood. The Marines reached the northern edge of the woods on June 26, sending out the report; “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.

The victory at Belleau Wood had saved Paris and the French were delirious with joy.  The French government renamed Belleau Wood, the “Bois de la Brigade de Marine” and both the 5th and 6th Marine regiments were awarded the Croix de Guerre.

The Germans, too were impressed with the Marines. An official German report described the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident and remarkable marksmen.” Captured German soldiers and their letters described the Marines as Teufelhunde, or Devil Dogs.”

Marines in gas masks

Marines train with gas masks in France. (Photo: Marine Corps History Division)

 

 

 

November 11, 2018 at 12:47 am 1 comment

SHAKO: Why Elections Matter in 1 Picture and 4 Maps.

Make Sure You Vote … They Did.

soldiers-voting

PENNSYLVANIA SOLDIERS VOTING 1864 .-SKETCHED BY WILLIAM WAUD. (From Harper’s Weekly, October 29, 1864 via  Son of the South website)

The Civil War was the first time the United States had large numbers of soldiers deployed during a presidential election. Politicians of both parties were convinced that the army would vote for the commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican. As a result, most states with Republican governors and legislatures passed laws enabling soldiers to vote, while most states led by Democrats did not.

 

825x550

A political map of the United States (circa 1856) showing free states in red, slave states in gray and territories in green. (From the Library of Congress)

The Dred Scott decision of 1857, in which the U.S. Supreme Court voided the Missouri Compromise (1820) and made slavery legal in all U.S. territories, exacerbated sectional differences between thos e who wanted to abolish slavery and those who sought to protect the institution. That volatile political climate set the stage for the presidential election of 1860.

 

1200px-ElectoralCollege1860.svg

Presidential Election 1860. Red shows states won by Lincoln/Hamlin, green by Breckinridge/Lane, orange by Bell/Everett, and blue by Douglas/Johnson
Numbers are Electoral College votes in each state by the 1850 Census. (via Wikipedia)

In the election of 1860, Southern and Northern Democrats split their support among Vice President John Breckinridge of Kentucky and Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, while others, seeking to ignore the slavery issue, backed former Tennessee Senator John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party. Those divisions put the Republican, Abraham Lincoln, in the White House with less than 40 percent of the popular vote, and put the slave-holding states of the South on the road to disunion and civil war.

Secession_Vote_by_CountyA.0

While eleven states voted for secession between December 1860 and June 1861, support for leaving the Union was not unanimous in many Souther counties as the above map shows. (Map via Vox)

Likewise, the Union army’s support for President Lincoln may not have been as widespread as historians have assumed, argues one academic. Lincoln was re-elected as president in 1864. He ran under the National Union banner against his former top Civil War general, the Democratic candidate, George B. McClellan — who had been very popular with the troops of the Army of the Potomac.

USAMAP1864

(Map created by History Central)

*******488px-Shako-p1000580

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.

 

November 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 12, 2018)

Remembering “A Bridge Too Far”

All American Engineers Honor Valor, Sacrifice of WWII Waal River Crossing

(U.S. Army photo by Major Thomas Cieslak)

Paratroopers paddle rubber boats across a pond at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on October 3, 2018, to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the crossing of the Waal River under heavy German fire by 82nd Airborne Division troops during World War II.

The near suicidal mission — the boats were canvas and wood, there weren’t enough paddles to go around so soldiers used their rifle stocks, they launched the attack in broad daylight and the Germans knew they were coming — was part of the failed British plan to leapfrog across the Netherlands and into Germany, known as Operation Market Garden.

Led by Major Julian Cook’s 3rd Battalion of the 82nd’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the attack crossed the 250-foot wide Waal under blistering mortar, machine gun and rifle fire and took the north end of the bridge. That allowed Allied tanks to cross on their way to Arnhem to relieve British paratroopers holding another bridge. However, heavy German resistance along the exposed, narrow roads thwarted the advance, proving Arnhem was just “a bridge too far.”

Here’s a brief video of 82nd Airborne veteran, James “Maggie” Megellas, describing the attack. Operation Market Garden inspired a book, and later a feature film — both called “A Bridge Too Far.”

In the movie, Robert Redford portrays Cook leading a crossing he knows is insanely dangerous, with a non-stop “Hail Mary,” prayer. Here’s a film clip, that puts the action in perspective. It starts with Allied tank and artillery fire trying to dislodge the entrenched Germans across the river, and German officers planning to blow the bridge in the unlikely event the Americans make it across the river.

October 12, 2018 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 5, 2018)

Cutting edge.

Recruit Training Command Graduation

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer Spencer Fling)

New sailors march inside Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall during a graduation ceremony on September 28 at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois.

And yes, that weapon held by the parade leader is an honest-to-god cutlass. The Navy jealously guards its traditions and this time-honored sword is one of them.  The cutlass was an official Navy personal weapon until 1949. However, a cutlass is still carried by the recruit designated as the Recruit Chief Petty Officer for each training company  while at Great Lakes, the Navy’s only boot camp.

On March 31, 2010, the Navy said it would permit optional wear of a ceremonial cutlass as part of the Chief Petty Officer dress uniform, pending final design approval. That approval came in January 2011.

For another view of the cutlass in the Great Lakes graduation ceremony, click here.

October 5, 2018 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 28, 2018)

Dress Rehearsal.

Papa Company Receives New Female Blue Dress Coat

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Vivien Alstad)

Marine Corps recruits try on their blue dress coats for the first time at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina on August 21, 2018.
This photo presents 4GWAR with the opportunity to note that 2018 marks the centennial of women serving in the United States Marine Corps.
Opha May Johnson was the first of more than 300 women who enlisted into the Marine Corps on August 13, 1918, the day after then-Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels allowed women to enlist for clerical duty in the Marine Corps Reserve.
FRIFO 9-28-2018 Add women Parines centennial
In 1918, American women had not yet been granted the right to vote, but Johnson, who was 39 years old at the time, joined the Marine Corps anyway. She served as a clerk at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to ABC News.
Since 2001, more than 15,000 female Marines have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ten women have lost their lives in combat, ABC noted in an August 10 piece on the first female Marine officer to command an infantry combat platoon —  1st Lieutenant Marina A. Hierl.

September 28, 2018 at 11:31 pm 2 comments

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