Posts tagged ‘SHAKO’

SHAKO: U.S. Coast Guard Turns 232; First Black Marine Corps 4-Star General Confirmed

Semper Paratus

Happy Birthday to the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is berthed alongside USS Constitution (Old Iron Sides), the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, in Boston Harbor on July 29, 2022.  The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque and the only active (operational) commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Samoluk)

The history of the Coast Guard goes back to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, which was founded on August 4, 1790, as part of the Department of the Treasury, under then-Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service, created in 1848 to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers, were merged to form the Coast Guard on January 28, 1915. In 1939 the Lighthouse Service, created in 1910, was also merged into the Coast Guard.

Since then, the Coast Guard has been handed many assignments including: Intercepting intruder aircraft over the National Capital Region, preserving marine wildlife, maritime search and rescue, enforcing maritime law in U.S. waters and intercepting smugglers of drugs and people.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Caitlyn Mason, assigned to the medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk, rescues a sea turtle caught in a fishing net in the Atlantic Ocean, on July 14, 2022.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessica Fontenette)

In all the Coast Guard has eleven separate missions a lot of them are included in this brief video, which includes the Coast Guard’s marching tune, Semper Paratus, Always Prepared.

U.S. Coast Guardsmen seize a self-propelled, semi submersible craft (left) carrying narcotics off Central America’s Pacific Coast in 2009. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, the cadets, staff and family members marked the day with speeches, a proclamation from the governor of Connecticut, music and a birthday cake set up in front of Alexander Hamilton’s statue.

Rear Admiral William G. Kelly cuts the cake celebrating the Coast Guard’s 232nd birthday. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Auxiliarist David Lau.)

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First Black Marine Corps 4-Star General.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael E. Langley be appointed to the rank of general and will be promoted in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.  on Saturday (August 6).

Langley will be the first Black Marine appointed to the rank of four-star general. While the Marine Corps and several news outlets have said he will be the first black full general in the 246-year history of the Marines, it’s worth noting the rank did not exist in the Marine Corps, which is a part of the Navy Department, until Alexander Vandergrift was appointed a four star general in 1945. There have been more than 70 four-star generals in the Marine Corps since then, but all have been white men.

Langley was promoted to serve as the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany, and will command all U.S. military forces in Africa.  The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic.

Lt. General Michael E. Langley. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Langley was nominated for the post by President Joe Biden in June. The Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment on Monday (August 1). “It is a great honor to be the president’s nominee to lead U.S. AFRICOM,” Langley said at his July 21 nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am grateful for the trust and confidence extended by him, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the commandant of the Marine Corps,” SEAPOWER reported.

Langley currently serves as the commander, Marine Forces Command; Marine Forces Northern Command; and commander for Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, according to the Marine Corps.  His previous general officer posts included commander for Marine Forces Europe and Africa; deputy commanding general for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) and commanding general for the 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1985 as an artillery officer. Langley has commanded Marines at every level from platoon to regiment, serving in Okinawa, Japan and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps said.

Langley will replace the outgoing commander AFRICOM, Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend. In late July, Townsend said the threat of violent extremism and strategic competition from China and Russia remain the greatest challenges to the combatant command, according to a Defense Department news release, Marine Corps Times reported.

“Some of the most lethal terrorists on the planet are now in Africa,” said Townsend, according to the release.

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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.

 

 

August 4, 2022 at 11:58 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: D-Day Remembered and Other Greatest Generation Notes

D-DAY, PLUS 78 YEARS.

One of the monuments to U.S. D-Day Landings in Normandy, France. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Akeel Austin)

D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, is the day when more than 160,000 Allied forces landed in Nazi-occupied France as part of the biggest air, land and sea invasion ever executed. It ended with heavy casualties — more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in those first 24 hours.

Still, D-Day is largely considered the successful beginning of the end of Hitler’s tyrannical regime and the war in Europe.

A bird’s-eye view of landing craft, barrage balloons and Allied troops landing in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo By: U.S. Maritime Commission)

In the past we’ve mostly written about the airborne landings the night before D-Day, largely because 37 years ago your 4GWAR editor once interviewed a Catholic priest who jumped into the dark as a chaplain with the 101st Airborne Division. But this year, we thought we’d try something different.

Here’s a D-Day quiz that Defense Department had on their website for the 78th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy. See how you do.

And here’s a 2016 article the Defense Department rolled out again this year: Five Things You May Not Know About D-Day.

And let’s not forget the Boys of ’44.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Vincent Levelev)

These are some of the World War II Veterans, and representatives of those who could not be in attendance, receiving a challenge coin at the Eternal Heroes Monument in Normandy, France, on June 2, 2022. World War II Veterans and representatives of the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division’s (Air Assault) came to honor fallen Paratroopers who liberated Ravenoville in June of 1944.

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BATTLE OF MIDWAY REMEMBERED.

Another decisive battle in World War II also took place in June — on the other side of the world against a different enemy.

June 4, marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, considered by most military historians to be the turning point in the Pacific during the Second World War.

Torpedo bombers on the flight deck of the US Enterprise CV-6 just before the Battle of Midway (Navy archival photo)

In 1942, a large Japanese fleet, led by four heavy aircraft carriers, planned to destroy the three U.S. carriers they missed during the Pearl Harbor attack six months earlier. But by early June, Naval Intelligence had cracked the Imperial Japanese Navy code and Admiral Chester Nimitz, the head of the Navy’s Pacific forces, knew where the enemy was and what their plans were.

After three days of battle, where the opposing surface ships never saw each other, Japan lost all four of its heavy carriers as well as hundreds of planes and thousands of sailors and pilots. U.S. losses were limited to one carrier – the USS Yorktown (CV-5) – a destroyer, the USS Hammann (DD-412), less than 150 planes and 305 men. After Midway, Japan was never able to launch a large naval offensive again.

To commemorate that historic victory, two EA-18G Growlers — electronic warfare aircraft — conducted a fly-by during a ceremony being held aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111). In the photo below one can see the Growlers approaching as the ship’s crew salute the ensign (flag) during the playing of the National Anthem.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor Crenshaw)

The Spruance is named for Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, considered the victor at Midway. He commanded Task Force 16, which included the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6). Once within range of the advancing Japanese fleet, he capitalized on the element of surprise to launch the decisive attack near Midway.

Spruance is part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in the Western Pacific. The June 4 ceremony was held less than 1,000 miles from the 1942 battle zone.

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GOLD MEDAL FOR MERRILL’S MARAUDERS.

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded May 25 in a virtual Capitol Hill ceremony to a famed World War II Army special operations outfit, the 5307th Composite Unit, better known as Merrill’s Marauders.

Merrill’s Marauders crossing a jungle river with pack animals.
(U.S. Army photo)

Created as a long range, light infantry unit trained in jungle warfare, the 5307th, code-named Galahad, was tasked with penetrating deep into Japanese-held territory to disrupt communications, cut supply lines and capture an airfield in Burma.

The volunteer unit was formed in 1943, with more than 900 jungle-trained officers and men from Caribbean Defense Command, 600 Army veterans of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaign, a few hundred more from Southwest Pacific Command, veterans of the New Guinea and Bougainville campaigns, and another 900 jungle-trained troops from Army Ground Forces stateside. Fourteen Japanese-American (Nisei) Military Intelligence Service translators were also assigned to the unit. In just five months in 1944, the Marauders fought often larger Japanese forces in 32 engagements including five major battles across some of the toughest conditions of the war: the disease-infested jungles of Burma and the rugged foothills of the Himalayas.

“Merrill’s Marauders stand among the great heroes of our history. Nearly 80 years later, Americans remain in awe of their courage, valor and patriotism – willing to go where no others would dare,” Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said during the gold medal ceremony.

“On behalf of the United States Congress and all Americans, I’m honored to present this Congressional Gold Medal to Merrill’s Marauders in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service. May this medal serve as an expression of our nation’s deepest gratitude and respect. And may its place in the Smithsonian remind future generations of the Marauders’ fight for freedom and democracy,” Pelosi said.

She also cited lawmakers who worked for years to get the congressional recognition for the Marauders — the late Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Congressman Sanford Bishop Jr. of Georgia and former Congressman Peter King of New York.

Dubbed Merrill’s Marauders after their commander, then-Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the men were tasked with a “dangerous and hazardous mission” behind Japanese lines in Burma, where the fall of the country’s capital of Rangoon had severely threatened the Allied supply line to China. In their final mission, the Marauders were ordered to push enemy forces out of the town of Myitkyina, the only city with an all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma, according to Military Times

Brigadier General Frank Merrill, commander of “Merrill’s Marauders,” poses between two of the 14 Japanese-American interpreters assigned to the unit, Tech Sergeants Herbert Miyasaki and Akiji Yoshimura in Burma on May 1, 1944. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Weakened by disease, malnourishment and enemy attacks during their march through Burma, the Marauders, effective force dwindled from nearly 3,000 men to 1,500. Even with reduced numbers of the 5307th was still able to take the airfield on May 17, 1944. But the nearby town of Myitkyina proved to have a larger Japanese garrison than intelligence reports indicated. It was only with Chinese reinforcements that the town fell to Allied troops on August 3. After five months of combat, 95 percent of the Marauders were dead, wounded, or deemed no longer medically fit for combat.

Although operational for only a few months, Merrill’s Marauders gained a fierce reputation for hard fighting and tenacity as the first American infantry force to see ground action in Asia. Considered a forerunner of today’s Special Operations troops, the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment’s distinctive unit insignia honors the legacy of the Marauders by replicating the design of their shoulder shoulder sleeve insignia.

The colors used to identify the Marauders can be found on every tan beret worn by a Ranger, said Colonel J.D. “Jim” Keirsey, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The Rangers’ crest displays a star, sun and lightning bolt to symbolize the “behind enemy lines, deep-strike character” of their predecessors, he said, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

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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 6, 2022 at 11:52 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: 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

SHAKO: Date of Infamy, Date of Remembrance

Dec. 7, 80 Years On

On December 7, 1941, 80 years ago, aircraft of the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the U.S. Naval Base Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu, in what was then the U.S. territory of Hawaii.

In the wake of the attack, three stricken U.S. battleships struggle to survive. From left to right: USS West Virginia (severely damaged), USS Tennessee (damaged), and the USS Arizona (sunk). (Photo from National Archives)

 

Also hit during the 75-minute air raid was Hickham Army Air Forces Field and what was then Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay. More than 2,400 military personnel and civilians were killed that day, 1,178 more were wounded. The attack by Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes also sank or damaged 20 Navy vessels and destroyed more than 180 Army, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

Fortunately, three planned targets — the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise, Lexington and Saratoga — were away from Pearl Harbor that day. They played a key role at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, as well as other operations in the Pacific Theater. Japanese airmen also failed to attack key infrastructure at Pearl Harbor, including the power station, dry dock, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building — which also housed the intelligence section.

For a detailed account of events during the attack, and developments leading up to war in the Pacific, click here.

After defeating Japan in late summer 1945, United States forces occupied the island nation and began rebuilding its shattered economy and creating a democratic form of government. The United States still maintains air and naval bases in Japanese territory and Japan is considered a staunch partner and ally in the Asia-Pacific region.

Each December, a dwindling number of Pearl Harbor survivors visit Oahu for commemorative ceremonies and remembering their lost comrades and shipmates.

In the photo below, one of those grizzled veterans, Gil Nadeau, pays his respect to fallen service members at the USS Arizona Memorial during a harbor tour as part of the 80th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Remembrance. To the left of the Arizona Memorial, one can see the battleship USS Missouri, on which the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay took place on September 2, 1945,

The U.S. military, State of Hawaii and National Park Service hosted a series of remembrance events throughout the week to honor the courage and sacrifices of those who served throughout the Pacific Theater. Today, the U.S.-Japan Alliance is a cornerstone of peace and security in a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean La Marr)

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.

December 7, 2021 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Marine Corps Turns 246: Veterans Day 2021; National Veterans/Military Families Month; National Native American Heritage Month

BUSY NOVEMBER.

November has long been a time of reflection for those in the U.S. military and those who care about them. November 10, marks the official birthday of the United States Marine Corps. November 11 is Veterans Day, the day Americans honor all of those who served in uniform. The Defense Department has declared November to be National Veterans and Military Families Month. November is also National Native American Heritage Month, and the Pentagon has honored the service of  American Indians and Alaska Natives who — from the Revolutionary War to present-day missions around the world — contribute greatly to national defense.

This post will focus of the two big days this week, and address National Veterans and Military Families Month, and National Native American Heritage Month next week.

UPDATES  with new photo and video

Success to the Marines.


Major Gen. Jason Q. Bohm, head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, prepares to slice during the Cake Cutting Ceremony for the Marines’ 246th Birthday at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia on November 4, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Jennifer Sanchez)

Marines all around the globe celebrate November 10 as the birth of the Corps in 1775, when the 2nd Continental Congress authorized the formation of two battalions of Marines — more than seven months before the United States declared their independence.

Captain (later Major) Samuel Nichols — considered the Corps’ first commandant — advertised in and around Philadelphia for “a few good men” and signed them up at Tun Tavern in that city. Those early Marines first saw action in the Bahamas in a March 3, 1776 raid on New Providence Island, to capture naval supplies from the British.

New Providence Raid, March 1776. Oil painting on canvas by V. Zveg, 1973. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph)

As we have noted in the past, 4GWAR has a warm spot in its heart for the USMC, partly because this blog was also created in November — Nov. 12, 2009 — just two days after the Corps’ birthday.

The Marines take their birthday very seriously, especially since 1921, when then-Commandant Major General John LeJeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921, summarizing the history, tradition and mission of the Marine Corps and directing that the order be read to every command on every subsequent Nov. 10, the Marine Corps Birthday.

Since 1952, the Marine Corps has maintained another tradition: the cake cutting ceremony. The 20th USMC commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the ceremony, stating the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest Marine present, who passes it to the youngest Marine.

General Lejeune’s Order No. 47,is read to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Information Group during cake cutting ceremonies on November 5, 2021 at Camp Lejeune North Carolina.

Here is a link to a 13-minute 2020 video of the Marines’ 245th birthday celebration in Washington, featuring General David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps and a 100-year-old retired colonel, who received the traditional first piece.

Veterans Day 2021.

November 11, 2011 is Veterans Day, a federal holiday in the United States. It was first proclaimed by then-President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 as Armistice Day, marking the end of the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Back then they thought it was the “War to End all Wars.” Nov. 11 has since become a day honoring all veterans of all wars as well as vets of peacetime service.

A few years after the First World War, the United States buried an unknown soldier killed on the battlefields of France in a new tomb, a monument to all the slain, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day there is always a solemn ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown (the original soldier has been joined by fellow nameless warriors from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Visitors participate in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration Flower Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 9, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/ Arlington National Cemetery)

For the first time in nearly a century, visitors were allowed to walk on the plaza and lay flowers in front of the tomb as part of a two-day centennial event. While ceremonies are held at the tomb almost every day, this particular commemoration was mandated in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, NPR reported. It recognized the internment of the World War I Unknown Soldier and the dedication of the tomb exactly one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1921.

*** *** ***

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 10, 2021 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

SHAKO: Louisa May Alcott, Civil War Nurse

Another Literary Civil War Nurse. UPDATED

Those familiar with the poetry of Walt Whitman know the journalist, essayist and poet helped nurse wounded soldiers during the U.S. Civil War. In fact, a passage from his 1865 collection Drum-Taps, is etched in the granite wall surrounding the entrance to Washington’s DuPont Circle Metro station, according to a 2013 Washington Post article.

It reads, in part, The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night — some are so young;

Some suffer so much — I recall the experience sweet and sad . . .

But Whitman wasn’t the only American literary figure to draw on the painful experiences of Civil War nursing for inspiration.

Louisa May Alcott, best known for her coming-of-age novel Little Women, left home in Concord, Massachusetts in December 1862 to become a nurse in a Civil War hospital.

Orchard House, the family home of author and Civil War nurse Louisa May Alcott in Concord, Massachusetts. (4GWar photo by John M. Doyle, Copyright Sonoma Road Strategies, LLC)

Those familiar with Little Women may remember that the father of the four March sisters — the “Little Women” of the title — joined the Union Army as a chaplain and became seriously ill with pneumonia. His surprise return to his family at Christmas was a highlight of the book, which Alcott based largely on her own family.

However, Alcott’s own father — the prominent educator, philosopher, and abolitionist Bronson Alcott — was too old to serve in the Union army, your 4GWAR editor learned during a recent visit to Orchard House, the Alcott family home in Concord. Fired by her family’s abolitionist fervor and inspired by the work of Florence Nightingale — it was Mr. Alcott’s daughter, Louisa, who traveled to Washington to do her part in the “war of the Southern rebellion.”

Louisa May Alcott, age 20, before the Civil War.(Wikipedia)

According to the  National Museum of Civil War Medicine website, the 30-year-old Miss Alcott threw herself into her work at the Union Hotel hospital in Georgetown. Her days were a tiring whirlwind of dressing wounds, cleaning and sewing bandages, supervising convalescent assistants, fetching bed linens, water, and pillows, assisting during surgical procedures, sponging filthy, broken bodies, writing letters on behalf of the sick and injured, and feeding those too weak to feed themselves.

A self-described “red hot Abolitionist,” Alcott was not happy with the prospect of caring for Confederate soldiers. When one injured Rebel was brought in, she privately resolved “to put soap in his eyes, rub his nose the wrong way, and excoriate his cuticle generally,” according to the Civil War medicine site.

Like the father character in Little Women, Alcott herself became seriously ill and returned home a physical wreck, according to the History Net website.

Just a few weeks into her service, Louisa confessed in her journal that “bad air, food, water, work & watching are getting to be too much for me.” The Union Hotel was a grim, dirty place crowded with patients and medical workers. “A more perfect pestilence-box than this house I never saw,” Alcott wrote.

By mid-January Alcott was unable to continue with her nursing duties, and was confined to her room, diagnosed with typhoid pneumonia. She was zealously dosed with calomel, a poisonous mercury compound widely used during the Civil War.  Her condition worsened, and she slipped in and out of consciousness, haunted by alarming hallucinations.

Alcott refused to return home, but the hospital matron telegraphed Bronson Alcott, who hurried to fetch his gravely ill daughter. Louisa was too weak to protest.

Little Women, her most famous book, was first published in 1868. Alcott is also remembered for her book Hospital Sketches, published in 1863, a work of fiction based on letters she had written home during her brief, but harrowing, stint as a wartime nurse.

September 16, 2021 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

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