Posts filed under ‘SHAKO’

FRIDAY FOTO (August 5, 2022)

DELIVERING CHAOS.

(U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sergeant Tara Fajardo Arteaga)

U.S. soldiers assigned to Chaos Company, 1st Battalion of the 68th Armor Regiment exit an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during a live-fire exercise at Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland on July 13, 2022.

That’s right — Poland. The U.S. Army now has a permanent post in the former Warsaw Pact country, which has been a member of NATO since 1999. In addition to its small 144-mile (232 kilometer) land border with the Russian enclave, Kaliningrad Oblast, Poland also has a 328-mile (528 kilometer) coast along the Baltic Sea, a region roiled by Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior, starting with the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The United States has been beefing up its military presence in Eastern and Central Europe since Vladimir Putin started massing troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine before launching a vicious invasion on February 24.

President Joe Biden announced in June, during NATO’s summit in Madrid, that the U.S. will establish a new garrison in Poznan, where the Army’s V Corps coordinates troop movements in Europe. The primary mission of the new forward headquarters will be to conduct operational planning, mission command and oversight of the rotational forces in Europe. It will also provide additional capability to support allies and partners in the region, according to the U.S. Army.

Biden said the V Corps, headquartered in Poland, will become permanent, and a new rotational brigade will operate out of Romania, giving the military a boost in the strategic Black Sea region, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

The new post will be named Camp Kosciuszko, after Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish army officer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution and for his leadership of a national insurrection in his homeland. Appointed a colonel of engineers in the continental army in 1776,  Kosciuszko was responsible for strategic fortifications at Saratoga, New York and reinforcing West Point as a defensive position along New York’s Hudson River. In the spring of 1781 in South Carolina, Kościuszko conducted the Battle of Ninety-Six and then a lengthy blockade of Charleston. At the end of the war he was given U.S. citizenship and was made a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. In 1784 Kościuszko returned to Poland,  where he commanded troops fighting a Russian invasion in 1792.

The 68th Armored is part of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, which is among other units assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, providing “combat-credible forces” to V Corps, America’s forward-deployed corps in Europe, according to the Army.

August 5, 2022 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: More Heroics of the Greatest Generation

WORLD WAR II.

Last Surviving WWII Medal of Honor Recipient Passes.

Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died June 29.

Williams’ passing at age 98 “marks not just the death of a hero, but the end of a line of heroes of the Greatest Generation,” the Defense Department said .

President Harry Truman congratulates Hershel “Woody” Williams at the White House on October 5, 1945 after awarding the Marine the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle of Iwo Jim in World War II.

Williams landed on Iwo Jima on Feb. 21, 1945, with 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. Two days later, he famously destroyed enemy emplacements with a flamethrower, going forward alone into machine gun fire, covered only by four riflemen, according to Marine Corps Times.

Williams’ Medal of Honor citation can be found here:

He was discharged in 1945, but stayed in the Marine Corps Reserve until his retirement. He continued to serve through his foundation, the Woody Williams Foundation, which honors families who have lost a loved one in service to their country.

“From his actions on Iwo Jima to his lifelong service to our Gold Star Families, Woody has left an indelible mark on the legacy of our Corps,” Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black, said in a statement, SEAPOWER reported.  “As the last of America’s “greatest generation” to receive the Medal of Honor, we will forever carry with us the memory of his selfless dedication to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to our great nation. The Marine Corps is fortunate to have many heroes, but there is only one Woody Williams. Semper Fidelis, Marine,”

Hershel “Woody” Williams was a guest at a sunset parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia on Sept. 2, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Jason Kolela)

In 2020, the Navy commissioned the expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams in his honor.

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Last Survivor Of Malmedy Massacre.

Harold Billow, the last known survivor of the infamous Malmedy Massacre during World War II died May 17 at the age of 99, The Associated Press reported.

Harold Billow, last known living survivor of World War II Malmedy Massacre died May 17, 2022. (Photo: The World War II Foundation tweet)

Billow was attached to the Army’s 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944-January 1945 when German forces launched a last ditch offensive in Belgium to try to stem the war’s tide.

On the second day of the surprise German offensive, December 17, 1944, Billow’s lightly armed unit surrendered after a brief battle and he was taken prisoner by Waffen SS soldiers. According to various accounts, the Germans opened fire on the unarmed prisoners in a field, killing more than 80 in what came to be known as the Malmedy Massacre.

“As soon as the machine gun started firing, I went face down in the snow,” Billow told Lancaster Online in 2019. He played dead as the Germans checked for survivors. Billow said he stayed there for several hours before he and other survivors bolted. He made his way through hedgerows before reaching the safety of American lines.

After the war, he was called to testify at a war crimes trial in which 43 German soldiers were sentenced to death for the Malmedy Massacre. However, they were eventually released after investigators determined U.S. guards had coerced confessions.

Massacred American Soldiers Near Malmédy December 17, 1944. (US Army Center for Military History)

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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 in the photo.

West Point cadets in dress parade uniform. (U.S. Military Academy)

June 30, 2022 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Juneteenth 2022; Happy Birthday U.S. Army; Flag Day

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!

ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865 did not end the Civil War. There were still two armies, one in North Carolina commanded by Joseph Johnston and another in the West commanded by Edmund Kirby Smith. Johnston surrendered on April 26 and Kirby Smith surrendered on May 26, 1865.

But that still did not end slavery in Texas. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — more than two months after Lee’s surrender — when U.S. Major General Gordon sailed across Galveston Bay with 1,800 Union troops and announced his General Order No. 3.

General Order No. 3 informed the people of Texas that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States (President Lincoln), all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Until then, the estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas did not know that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed them — and all the other slaves in states in open rebellion against Washington, as of January 1863. It’s important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation couldn’t be enforced until Union troops gained control of each state that had left the Union.

June 19th, or Juneteenth, slowly grew to be seen as a second independence day — marking the end of legal slavery — by African Americans, first in Texas, where it became a legal holiday in 1980 and elsewhere culminating in 2021 when legislation making June 19 a federal holiday was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

As we wrote at this time last year, we hope that Juneteenth will grow to be appreciated by all Americans, and that whites and other people of color will see it as something more than a black holiday marking the beginning — just the very beginning — of the United States of America doing the right thing about racial inequality.

And we hope people of color will realize than in addition to the 180,000 black soldiers who fought for freedom, thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of white men and boys fought and died, not just to preserve the union, but to set other people free.

We all have a stake in the meaning of Juneteenth.

 

Statue in St. Louis, Missouri of Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, who unsuccessfully sued in 1846 for freedom for themselves and their two daughters, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott Decision. The newspaper coverage of the ruling and the 10-year legal battle fueled outrage in non-slave states, increasing political tensions that sparked the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. (Photo by John M. Doyle, copyright Sonoma Road Strategies. 2022.)

Your 4GWAR editor, on travel gathering information for future articles and blog posts, missed two other June commemorations this week: the U.S. Army’s 247th birthday and Flag Day — both on June 14.

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U.S. ARMY, 247 YEARS YOUNG.

On June 14, 1775 — at the urging of John Adams (the future 2nd U.S. president) — the Continental Congress, in effect, created the U.S. Army by voting $2 million in funding for the colonial militias around Boston and New York City.

Congress also ordered the raising of ten companies of expert riflemen from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Together with the ragtag militias in New England and New York they would form the first Continental Army. George Washington of Virginia, one of the few colonials with military command experience would take command in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 3, 1775.

Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard, perform at a military tattoo marking the Army’s 237th birthday. (U.S. Army photo)

When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, Congress ordered the last Continental Army to disband. Its remaining soldiers were discharged on June 2, 1784. Congress retained two companies to safeguard military arms and stores. The next day, Congress voted to form, from this nucleus, the 1st American Regiment for national service. By the fall of 1784, the whole U.S. Army was this one regiment, consisting of eight infantry and two artillery companies.

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FLAG DAY

June 14 is also Flag Day in the United States, to commemorate the day in 1777 when Congress adopted the 13-star, 13-red-and-white-striped flag as the year-old republic’s national flag. Flag day was celebrated on various days in various ways around the United States until the 20th century.

As war wracked Europe and the Middle East in 1916, it looked more and more like the United States would be drawn into the Great War. To inspire unity and patriotism, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day. In August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress — but it’s not an official federal holiday.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze (via wikipedia)

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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.

June 19, 2022 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: First Female Coast Guard Commandant Takes Over

GLASS CEILING SHATTERS

Admiral Linda Fagan took command June 1 as the first female commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. (Dept. of Homeland Security photo via Twitter.) Click on photos to enlarge image.

History was made June 1, 2022 as Admiral Linda Fagan became the first female commandant of the United States Coast Guard in a change of command ceremony with her predecessor Admiral Karl Schultz.

President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas attended the historic ceremony.

In his remarks, Biden noted Fagan had first served aboard the Polar Star, heavy icebreaker, been captain of the Port of New York, served on all seven continents and commanded Coast Guard operations in the Pacific before becoming Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard.

“Throughout her decades of service, she has demonstrated an exceptional skill, integrity, and commitment to our country. She upholds the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.,” Biden said.

“This moment of acceleration of global challenges and hybrid threats that don’t stop at any border, there’s no one more qualified to lead the proud women and men of the Coast Guard, and she will also be the first woman to serve as Commandant of the Coast Guard — the first woman to lead any branch of the United States Armed Forces. And it’s about time,” Biden added.

“With her trailblazing career,” the President said, “Admiral Fagan shows that young people — young people entering service that we mean it when we say there are no doors — no doors closed to women.”

Fagan became the 32nd vice commandant of the Coast Guard on June 18, 2021, and the first female four-star admiral in the service’s history. Biden nominated her for the top job in early April and confirmation from the Senate came swiftly.

Keeping with the tradition of wearing shoulder boards passed down from a senior officer, Adm. Fagan wore the shoulder boards of the Admiral Owen Siler. As the service’s 15th Commandant, he opened the Coast Guard Academy’s doors to women in 1975. Despite having met Silor only once, Fagan acknowledged “the outsized impact of that decision.”

“If it were not for Owen Siler’s courage, I would not be here today,” Fagan said. “I’m wearing his shoulder boards that he wore as commandant, just to acknowledge the long blue line.”

DHS Secretary Mayorkas (3rd from left) and President Biden attended the change of command ceremony where Adm. Linda Fagan  relieved Adm. Karl Schultz (2nd from right) as the 27th commandant at Coast Guard headquarters June 1, 2022. Fagan is the first woman service chief of any U.S. military service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Magee)

In addition to praising Fagan’s service and accomplishments, Mayorkas, who heads the department that includes the Coast Guard, praised her predecessor, the 26th Commandant, Admiral Schultz, “who led the Coast Guard through a unique and unprecedented period,” Mayorkas noted.

“Throughout the global pandemic, the Coast Guard did not have the option of working from home. At the outset of the pandemic, Admiral Schultz led Coasties as they brought cruise ship passengers and crew to safety. From that time forward, he has helped keep the Marine Transportation System going, which facilitates more than a quarter of our country’s gross domestic product and maintains 31 million jobs in American ports, harbors, and waterways,” the DHS Secretary said.

“Through the most intense and active Atlantic hurricane season on record, historic levels of migration, the urgent need to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, and the Afghan resettlement effort of Operation Allies Welcome, the Coast Guard has been there, always ready and always delivering,” Mayorkas said.

June 2, 2022 at 12:02 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: 80 Years Ago, Doolittle Raiders Bombed Japan

Target Japan.

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942 . (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.)

At 1:15 p.m. (local time) Saturday, April 18, 1942 — about 600 miles east of  Japan — 16 U.S. Army Air Force twin-engine, B-25 Mitchell medium bombers began taking off from the wet, windy, rolling deck of America’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet. Their destination: The industrial cities of Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka and Japan’s capital, Tokyo. Their mission, a largely symbolic act of revenge for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii four months earlier, and to shake Japanese confidence in their military invincibility and the security of their islands from attack by a distant foe.

The “joint Army-Navy bombing project” was to bomb Japanese industrial centers, to inflict both “material and psychological” damage upon the enemy. Planners hoped that the former would include the destruction of specific targets “with ensuing confusion and retardation of production.” Those who planned the attacks on the Japanese homeland hoped to induce the enemy to recall “combat equipment from other theaters for home defense,” and incite a “fear complex in Japan.” Additionally, it was hoped that the prosecution of the raid would improve the United States’ relationships with its allies and receive a “favorable reaction [on the part] of the American people,” according to documents held by U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

U.S. Army Air Force bombers crowd the flight deck of the USS Hornet. The B-25 was picked for the Doolittle Raid because it was the only aircraft available with the required range, bomb capacity and short takeoff distance. The B-25Bs and volunteer crews came from the 17th Bombardment Group, Pendleton Field, Oregon. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

The odds seemed to be against the daring operation. It was the first combat mission for the both the B-25 bombers and the carrier that transported them. The pilots had been intensely training for a little more than a month — mostly on how to take off from an aircraft carrier with a large land-based plane never designed for that kind of performance.The Navy Task Force escorting the Hornet, was spotted by Japanese surveillance boats more than 600 miles from Japan. The decision was made to launch the Army bombers even though they were 200 miles farther from Japan than planned. Extra gasoline was loaded on the planes which were stripped of excess equipment — including their machine guns. While the B-25s would make it to Japan, whether they would have enough fuel to land safely at airfields in China was unknown.

Doolittle on his Curtiss R3C-2 Racer, the plane in which he won the 1925 Schneider Trophy Race (NASA photo)

Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, 45, — who planned the operation, trained the crews to take off from an aircraft carrier, and then flew the lead bomber in the risky all-volunteer mission — had no combat experience. He was, however, one of the best pilots in the world. In the 1920s and ’30s, he made early coast-to-coast flights, record-breaking speed flights, won many flying races and pioneered the use of “blind flying”, relying  on flight instruments alone. That gutsy experiment won him the Harmon Trophy and made all-weather airline operations practical. Doolittle also earned the first doctorate in aeronautics issued in the United States from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1925.

The planes did make it to Japan and mostly hit their targets (one bomber dumped its load of explosives in the sea to evade pursuing Japanese fighters). All the bombers made it out of Japanese airspace. One, very low on fuel landed in the Soviet Union, which was not at war with Japan, and the crew was interned for 13 months before the Soviets let them “escape” to Iran/Persia. The other 15 planes all crashed in China or into offshore waters when they ran out of fuel. Three of the U.S. airmen died in crashes. Eight were captured by the Japanese. All were tried as war criminals by a military court because civilians were killed in the raid including some children in an elementary school that was mistakenly strafed. Three of the POWs were executed. Another died of starvation and abuse in prison. The remaining four managed to survive harsh conditions and were liberated in 1945.

Furious about being caught off guard by the Americans, the Japanese Army unleashed its rage on the region where Doolittle and his men evaded capture with the aid of local Chinese. The Nationalist Chinese government said the Japanese killed more than 250,000 men, women and children, leveled villages leaving thousands destitute and burned crops leaving thousands more to starve.

Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle (left front) and Captain Marc Mitscher, commanding officer of USS Hornet, pose with a 500-pound bomb and Army aircrew members during ceremonies on Hornet’s flight deck prior to the raid. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

The remaining 64 airmen were able to make it to unoccupied China, with the help of local villagers and missionaries. Doolittle, who thought he was going to be court-martialed for losing all of his planes, was instead awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt and promoted to brigadier general. The raid was a major morale booster for the United States and prompted Japanese leaders to move up their planned attack on Midway to June, which ended in disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy and became the turning point of the Pacific War. All the raiders became national heroes, forever known as the Doolittle Raiders.

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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 18, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Coast Guard Admiral Nominated to be First Woman Commandant

Another First for the Coast Guard.

Another glass ceiling in the military may be broken soon.

On April 5, word leaked out that President Joe Biden intends to nominate Admiral Linda Fagan to serve as the 27th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. If confirmed by the Senate, not only will Admiral Fagan be the first woman commandant of the Coast Guard, she would be the first woman in uniform to head one the military services.

Admiral Linda Fagan, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard since 2021, has been nominated to be the Coast Guard’s first woman commandant by President Biden. (Official U.S. Coast Guard portrait)

While the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, it operates under the Navy during times of war and by law is considered one of the six military services along with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force.

Fagan became the 32nd vice commandant of the Coast Guard on June 18, 2021, and the first female four-star admiral in the service’s history.

The vice commandant is the No. 2 commander in the Coast Guard and its chief operating officer, responsible for executing the Commandant’s Strategic Intent, managing internal organizational governance, and serving as the Component Acquisition Executive.

Pending confirmation, Fagan is expected to relieve the current commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl L. Schultz, during a change of command ceremony planned for June 1, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

“Admiral Fagan is an exceptional senior Coast Guard officer and nominee, possessing the keen intellect, the depth of operational experience, and the well-honed leadership and managerial acumen to serve with distinction as our Service’s 27th commandant,” said Schultz, SEAPOWER reported.

The potential gap in leadership between Schultz’s departure and his replacement’s confirmation raised concerns among lawmakers in recent weeks, On Monday (April 4) Senate Democrats Tammy Baldwin of  Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington, sent a letter to the White House urging the president to nominate a new Coast Guard leader as soon as possible, Military Times reported.

“Ensuring continuity of leadership is of the utmost importance to our national and economic security,” the pair wrote. “The Coast Guard is at the forefront of a number of strategic priorities for the United States, from the growing importance of security in the Arctic, to drug interdiction, environmental protection, and leading emergency response on the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

Congress is scheduled to break for two weeks starting April 8, but could schedule confirmation hearings for Fagan in late April or early May, Military Times noted.

Previously, Fagan served as commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area and and Commander, Coast Guard Defense Force West. She has served on all seven continents, from Ross Island, Antarctica to the heart of Africa, and in many ports along the way. Her operational tours include: Commander of the New York sector;ore than 15 years as a Marine Inspector; and sea duty on the heavy ice breaker POLAR STAR — her first at-sea assignment.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, seen here on Jan. 2, 2020, was Adm. Linda Fagan’s first sea duty assignment as an officer. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi)

Fagan is also the Coast Guard officer with the longest service record in the Marine Safety field, earning the service’s first-ever Gold Ancient Trident award.

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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 7, 2022 at 9:36 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: New Medal of Honor Museum; Movies About MoH Heroes; Medal of Honor Quiz

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

Friday, March 25, was National Medal of Honor Day, established by Congress to “foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients.”

Since the medal was created in 1861, 3,511 members of the U.S. military have received the Medal. Some of the names are quite famous like movie star and World War II legend Audie Murphy, frontier scout and showman Buffalo Bill Cody, and William “Wild Bill” Donovan, commander of the fabled Fighting 69th New York regiment in World War One and head of the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II.

But most are names that are famous briefly when they receive the Medal, like Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, cited for his heroism on Guadalcanal in 1942, but largely forgotten until the HBO Series The Pacific, rediscovered Basilone’s story.

Standards to award the Medal of Honor have evolved over time, but the Medal has always stood for actions that go above and beyond. The current criteria were established in 1963 during the Vietnam War, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor website.

The Medal is authorized for any military service member who “distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty

The Defense Department announced on March 25 that ground had been broken for a Medal of Honor museum in Texas.

Medal of Honor recipients are honored at the National Medal of Honor Museum’s groundbreaking ceremony in Arlington, Texas, March 25, 2022.

At the museum’s groundbreaking ceremony in Arlington, Texas, Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the stories of selfless service deserve a permanent home. Their stories of heroism, service and valor must be shared, he added. And that’s exactly what the museum will do.

Milley told stories of some of the 15 Medal of Honor recipients who attended the groundbreaking, as well as others not present.

“It’s those stories that will document our country’s bravery, that gives purpose to our entire military. It’s their heroism,” he said.

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Movies About MoH Heroism

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a moving picture is worth tens of thousands.

Here’s a short list of seven Hollywood movies over the years that told the stories of Medal of Honor awardees from the Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, Vietnam, Somalia and Afghanistan.

 

1. Hacksaw Ridge (World War II, 1945)

This 2016 film recounts the selfless bravery of Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, during the Battle of Okinawa. A pacifist who refused to kill or even carry a weapon in combat, Doss became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

 

2. Sergeant York (World War 1, 1918)

Tennessee farmer and marksman Alvin York was another pacifist who didn’t even want to serve in the Army when he was drafted in 1917, according to this 1942 film. However, his nearly single-handed assault on German machine guns resulting in more than a dozen Germans killed and 132 captured earned him the nickname “One Man Army,” as well as the Medal of Honor. Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of York.

 

3. Black Hawk Down (Somalia, 1993)

This 2001 film recounts the story of 160 U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators who dropped into Mogadishu in October 1993 to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord, but found themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis. Posthumous MoH recipients Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart were played in the film by Johnny Strong and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

 

4. Lone Survivor (Afghanistan, 2005)

This 2013 film is about Marcus Luttrell, the only member of his SEAL team to survive a vicious running gun battle with Afghan insurgents during a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The team commander, Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, portrayed by Taylor Kitsch, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

 

5. We Were Soldiers (Vietnam, 1965)

The story of the battle of Ia Drang Valley, the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War, pitting U.S. Air Cavalry troopers against North Vietnam Army regulars. The movie also shows the stress on soldiers’ families back home waiting for news of their loved ones. Helicopter pilot Major Bruce ‘Snake’ Crandall, the Medal of Honor for his heroism ferrying supplies and troops into and wounded soldiers out of a “Hot LZ,” a landing zone under heavy fire, was played by Greg Kinnear.

 

 

6. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (World War II, 1942)

Spencer Tracy plays then-Army Air Force Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, the commander of the first air attack on Tokyo less than six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Doolittle, who planned the mission, trained the crews of B-25 land-based bombers to take off from an aircraft carrier, and then flew the lead bomber in the risky all-volunteer mission, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

 

7. The Great Locomotive Chase (Civil War, 1862)

During the Civil War a Union spy and volunteer soldiers, who risked hanging as spies if captured, plotted to steal a Confederate train and drive it to Union territory while destroying the Confederate railway system along the way. The survivors of this daring raid were the first U.S. troops to receive the new Medal of Honor. The raid failed in its main objective and all the raiders were captured. Eight were hanged. Eight others escaped and the rest were traded in a prisoner exchange. In all, 19 were awarded the first Medals of Honor, including Private Jacob Parrott of the 33rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, who is considered the first soldier awarded the MoH. Claude Jarman Jr., played Parrott in the 1956 Disney live action film about the raid.

The Mitchell Raiders receive the first Medals of Honor in The Great Locomotive Chase. (Disney via Military.com)

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Last, but not Least — a Quiz.

The Pentagon web site asks how much do you know about the the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat?

Click here, to take the quiz.

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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 in the photo.

West Point cadets in dress parade uniform. (U.S. Military Academy)

March 28, 2022 at 2:05 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: 100 Years of U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

Milestone for Flatops.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt)

This month marks the 100th anniversary of aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy.

On March 20, 1922, following a two-year conversion at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the former USS Jupiter (a coal transport ship) was recommissioned as the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1).

The ship was named in honor of Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American aircraft pioneer and engineer, CV 1 started as an experimental platform but quickly was shown to be an invaluable weapons system that changed how the US Navy fought at sea.

Langley (CV-1) at anchor with an Aeromarine 39-B airplane landing on her flight deck, circa 1922. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph. Catalog #: NH 63545.)

By the end of its first year as an aircraft carrier, USS Langley had been the site for numerous historic events: the first piloted plane launch from an aircraft carrier, the first landing in an Aeromarine, airplane and the first aviator to be catapulted from a carrier’s deck.

“For 100 years aircraft carriers have been the most survivable and versatile airfields in the world,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday said during a Navy League centennial celebration Monday (March 21) in Norfolk, Navy Times reported. “Perhaps no single military platform distinguishes what our nation is … and what it stands for … more than the aircraft carrier.”

In the 100 years since — from CV 1 to the newest nuclear-power carrier CVN 78 — aircraft carriers have been the Navy’s preeminent power projection platform and have served the nation’s interest in times of war and peace.

“The advent of the aircraft carrier and the commissioning of the first aircraft carrier 100 years ago really started our Navy and our nation on a path of having the most formidable, mobile, survivable sea bases and aviation platforms in the world,” said Rear Admiral John Meier,  commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, which provides operationally ready air squadrons and aircraft carriers to the fleet.

Today, the Navy currently has eleven commissioned aircraft carriers in its arsenal.

Meier noted the carrier Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) is in the Mediterranean, “demonstrating our resolve and our partnership with our NATO allies, as we watch the horror unfolding of Russian aggression into Ukraine.”

Newport News Shipbuilding, a unit of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the world’s only maker of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

The most recently completed carrier — USS Gerald R. Ford — is scheduled to make its first overseas deployment sometime later this year.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet lands on USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck, March 22, 2022. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting flight deck certification and air wing carrier qualifications as part of the ship’s preparation for operational deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary Melvin)

Ford-class carriers are twice as long and weigh eight times as much as their 1922 counterpart, yet they are twice as fast and carry nearly three times as many aircraft. The nation’s newest most advanced aircraft carrier, CVN 78, will be in service until at least 2070. All U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers operating in the Navy fleet today were built at Newport News Shipbuilding. USS Enterprise (CVN 65) was first in 1961, serving the nation more than 50 years, before being decommissioned in 2017, according to SEAPOWER.

Three other Ford-class aircraft carriers are currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding. They include John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), Enterprise (CVN 80) and Doris Miller (CVN 81). In addition, Newport News Shipbuilding is conducting mid-life refueling complex overhauls on two Nimitz-class aircraft carriers: USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). These overhauls will extend the service life for each platform by another 25 years.

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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.

March 25, 2022 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Celebrating Two Ground Breakers — USAF Gen. Charles McGee and USN Cmdr. Billie Farrell

A Red Tail Remembered.

Retired Air Force General Charles McGee, who flew combat missions in three wars, has died at the age of 102. McGee was one of the last surviving members of the fabled Tuskegee Airmen, black fighter pilots who battled Nazis in the air over Europe and racism on the ground back in America during World War Two.

Former Tuskegee Airman, retired then-Colonel Charles McGee, high-fives Airmen during his visit December 6, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. He served a total of 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, beginning with the U.S. Army Air Corps, and flew a total of 409 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

McGee, who died at home on January 16, was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black training unit of fighter pilots in the segregated Army Air Forces. In February 1944, McGee was stationed in Italy with the 332nd Fighter Group. He flew the Bell P-39Q Airacobra, then the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt and finally the North American P-51 Mustang, escorting B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress bombers over Germany, Austria and the Balkans. He also engaged in low level attacks over enemy airfields and railyards.

After the war, McGee stayed in what became the U.S. Air Force in 1947, flying a total of 405 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam — an Air Force record. He retired as a colonel in 1973 and was honorarily promoted to brigadier general in a 2020 White House ceremony.

The son of a preacher, McGee was born in Cleveland on December 7, 1919. A lifelong leader, he distinguished himself as an Eagle Scout in his youth and remained an inspirational leader throughout his three-decade military career and beyond, the Air Force magazine website reported.

Then Captain Charles McGee and his crew chief Nathaniel Wilson in 1944, stand beside McGee’s P-51C Mustang, named “Kitten” for McGee’s wife, Frances, but also because Wilson kept the plane purring like one.

McGee enlisted in the Army on Oct. 26, 1942—one day after his wedding—and earned his pilot’s wings June 30, 1943. McGee flew his first combat mission on Valentine’s Day, 1944, with the 301st Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, in Italy. When the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their P-47s red, they were nicknamed “Red Tails.” Unlike other fighter pilots who abandoned their bomber escort duties to engage in one-on-one dogfights with Luftwaffe fighters, the Red Tails earned the respect of the bomber crews by staying with their charges and losing very few bombers on their watch.

McGee was promoted to major in the Air Force during the Korean War, flying 100 more combat missions in P-51 Mustangs from the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron. In Vietnam, as a lieutenant colonel, McGee flew another 172 combat missions in the McDonnell RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft. He retired January 31, 1973 as a full colonel and accumulated more than 6,300 flight hours.

In 2007, as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, McGee received the Congressional Gold Medal. In 2011, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

For more information and photos of General McGee, see this Defense Department posting.

Artist’s illustration of McGhee’s P-51 Mustang, “Kitten,” (U.S. Air Force art via Wikipedia)

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New Commander for ‘Old Ironsides’

For the first time in its 224-year history, the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides”, will have a woman skipper.

Commander Billie J. Farrell will take charge the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy during a change-of-command ceremony in Boston, scheduled for Friday, January 21, at noon.

USS Constitution is underway during Chief Petty Officer Heritage Weeks in Boston Harbor on October 29, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alec Kramer) Click on photo to enlarge the image.

As the 77th commanding officer of USS Constitution, Farrell will become the first woman to serve as captain since 1797.

“I am honored to have the privilege to soon command this iconic warship that dates back to the roots of both our nation and our Navy,” Farrell said, according to a Navy press release. “I hope to strengthen the legacy of USS Constitution through preservation, promotion and protection by telling her story and connecting it to the rich heritage of the United States Navy and the warships serving in the fleet today,” she added.

Constitution, is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, and played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, actively defending sea lanes from 1797 to 1855.

During normal operations, the active-duty Sailors stationed aboard Constitution provide free tours and offer public visitation to more than 600,000 people a year as they support the ship’s mission of promoting the Navy’s history and maritime heritage and raising awareness of the importance of a sustained naval presence. Constitution was undefeated in battle and destroyed or captured 33 opponents.

The ship earned the nickname of Old Ironsides during the war of 1812 when British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the ship’s wooden hull.

Commander Billie J. Farrell, new skipper and first woman to command USS Constitution. (U.S. Navy photo)

Commander Farrell previously served as the executive officer aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69).

She is a native of Paducah, Kentucky, and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Arkansas.

As USS Constitution’s crew welcomes Farrell, they will say farewell to the ship’s current commanding officer, Commander John Benda

“I know the crew is in great hands with Commander Farrell,” said Benda. “This historic barrier is long overdue to be broken. I cannot think of a better candidate to serve as USS Constitution’s first female commanding officer. I look forward to watching what she and the crew accomplish in the next few years.”

While Farrell is Constitution’s first female skipper, she won’t be the first woman to serve aboard the old frigate.

The first female commissioned officer aboard Constitution was Lieutenant Commander Claire V. Bloom, who served as executive officer and led the historic 1997 sail, the first time Old Ironsides sailed under her own power since 1881.

The first female crew member was Rosemarie Lanam, an enlisted Sailor, who joined Constitution’s crew in 1986.

Today women comprise more than one third of the frigate’s 80-person crew.

Seaman Jaida Williams, assigned to the USS Constitution, climbs the mizzenmast shroud during weekly sail training in 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Casey Scoular) Click on photo to enlarge image.

January 20, 2022 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Happy Birthday National Guard

Happy 385th Birthday!

If you thought the creation of the U.S. National Guard dates back to the rebels who stood against tyranny at Lexington and Concord, you’d be wrong by more than 130 years.

The Minuteman statute by Daniel Chester French (photo via Wikipedia)

According to the National Guard (and who would know better?) the official birth date of the Army National Guard is December 13, 1636. That’s when the Massachusetts colonial legislature directed the colony’s existing militia companies to be organized into three regiments.

The selection of Dec. 13, 1636 is based upon the Defense Department practice of adopting the dates of initial authorizing legislation for organized units as the birthdates of the active and reserve components of the armed services.
The descendants of those first regiments – the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard – share the distinction of being the oldest units in the U.S.
The enemy in colonial days was usually Native Americans fighting to save their lands and way of life. Later in the 17th and 18th centuries colonial militias battled the French and their Indian allies in a series of conflicts known, handily, as the French and Indian wars. By 1775 they were fighting British redcoats in the war for independence.
National Guard troops have served in nearly every U.S. conflict and war since then, and have responded to floods, fires, hurricanes, tornados, civil disorders and other emergencies both in their home states and elsewhere.

National Guardsmen and a Coast Guardsman monitor Hurricane Ida response efforts in the Houma Navigation Canal in Houma, Louisiana, Sept. 13, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Vincent Moreno)

 

A crew from the California National Guard fights the Dixie Fire in northern California, Aug. 16, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Harley Ramirez)

 

The Puerto Rican National Guard assisted aid-relief efforts in hurricane-battered Haiti since August 2021. Here they help with treatment of a woman from the La Flandre community on Aug.22, 2021. (Puerto Rico National Guard photo by Sgt. Agustin Montanez)

 

Alabama National Guard Soldiers vaccinate Covington County citizens at Jaycee Park in Livingston Alabama on March 23, 2021. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Frye).

 

A pilot from the 55th Fighter Squadron performs pre-flight procedures inside an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Hulman Field Air National Guard Base, Indiana., Aug. 19, 2021.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Jonathan W. Padish)

The official birth date of the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force is September 18, 1947. On that date, the first Secretary of the Air Force was sworn in under provisions of the National Security Act of 1947, the authorizing legislation for the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard. Soon afterwards, National Guard Army Air Forces units began to be transferred to the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force.

The oldest Air National Guard unit is the 102nd Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard. This unit was originally organized in accordance with existing law, and authorized in the New York National Guard as the Aero Company, Signal Corps, on November 22, 1915. The oldest Air National Guard unit in continuous existence since its organization is the 109th Airlift Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard, which was organized and federally recognized as the 109th Observation Squadron, on January 17, 1921.
From fighting COVID-19 to flying jet fighters, the Guard has come a long way since the 1630s.

Illustration depicting the first muster of Massachusetts Bay Colony militia in the spring of 1637. (U.S. Army)

December 13, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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