Thursday, March 20, 2014

WE'VE MOVED!!!! Come over and join us at the new site!!!!

Their Finest Hour can now be found over at a brand-new site and URL. All the content from the original TFH page has been migrated, but this page will be retained indefinitely, but will no longer be updated.

Please repoint all your bookmarks to:




You can follow the blog and the TFH Internet radio show on Twitter too!

Don't forget to also follow Vigilant Liberty Radio, and like our growing network on Facebook!

Thanks to everyone who's ever visited Their Finest Hour and enjoyed the content I've provided. I'm looking forward to bigger and better things over at the new site, adding some contributors (stay tuned!) and providing a whole lot more for readers (and listeners) to enjoy!

When I started this blog in 2006, I don't think I ever really expected anyone to read it, much less that it would lead to me visiting the White House as a reporter and becoming a new media broadcast personality! Thanks all, and we'll see you at the new site!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

TFH 3/4: Sergeant Troy A. McGill, USA

Troy A. McGill was born on July 15, 1917 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He later lived in Oklahoma, and it was from that state that he enlisted in the United States Army on November 6, 1940 at age 23. He was put into the Army's cavalry branch, and became a member of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

As militaries became more mechanized after the Nazi blitzkrieg swept over and occupied Europe, horse cavalry was deemphasized and the 1st Cavalry Division was reformed as a light infantry unit. They were trained and equipped for jungle warfare, and in that role, were dispatched for combat in the Pacific in the summer of 1943.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

TFH 2/22: First Lieutenant Jack C. Montgomery, USA

Jack Cleveland Montgomery was born in Long, Oklahoma on July 23, 1917. He was a Cherokee Indian, and he enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard in 1937. He was an infantryman in Company I, 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. He went to war with the same unit after the 45th Division was federalized for wartime service with the United States Army, and also received an officer's commission.

On February 22, 1944 at Padiglione, Italy in the Anzio Beachhead, then First Lieutenant Montgomery was commanding several rifle platoons in a defensive position when a superior Nazi force approached and prepared to attack.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

TFH 2/20 Part 2: The Two Heroes of "Ten Horsepower" - Mathies & Truemper

The annals of American combat history are filled with stories of men who risked their lives to save those of their comrades. Earlier I posted the first of two Medal of Honor-worthy "so that others may live" stories from February 20, 1944, that of First Lieutenant William R. Lawley, Jr. Two other airmen belonging to the United States Army Air Forces predecessor of the present day United States Air Force aboard a single Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, serial number 42-21763 and nicknamed Ten Horsepower, provide us with the second.

Archibald Mathies was born as Archibald Hamilton on June 3, 1918 in Stonehouse, Scotland. He emigrated with his parents to the United States, where they settled in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His enlistment record indicates that he volunteered for service with the United States Army Air Corps on December 30, 1940 for a three-year term, extended obviously by wartime requirements. Mathies was a naturalized American citizen.

Walter Edward Truemper was born on Halloween, 1918 in Aurora, Illinois. Truemper, a college graduate, was drafted into the United States Army on June 23, 1942 and briefly served in the artillery branch until he volunteered for transfer to the Air Corps. He wanted to be a pilot, but didn't pass the training and instead earned his officer's commission as a navigator.

TFH 2/20 Part 1: First Lieutenant William R. Lawley, Jr., USAAF

William Robert Lawley, Jr. was born in Leeds, Alabama on August 23, 1920. He lived there throughout his childhood, graduating from high school in 1938. With the United States' entry into the Second World War, Lawley didn't wait for his name to be called in the draft and volunteered for the United States Army Air Corps on April 9, 1942. Lawley also volunteered for pilot training and received his wings along with his officer's commission about one year after his enlistment in April 1943.

Lawley was sent to fly and fight over the skies of occupied Europe and Nazi Germany with the 364th Bombardment Squadron of the 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the United States Army Air Forces stationed at RAF Chelveston in England. They flew the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The group's motto was, "Can Do."

By the morning of February 20, 1944, then-First Lieutenant Lawley had completed ten combat missions and was an aircraft commander. That day, he and his crew boarded a brand-new B-17G never before used in combat.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

TFH 2/19-20: Corporal Anthony P. Damato, USMC

Anthony Peter Damato was born on March 22, 1922 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Damato volunteered for enlistment with the United States Marine Corps just weeks later on January 8, 1942.

After completing his initial recruit training, he volunteered to join a Marine unit being attached to United States Army forces for their amphibious assault on North Africa, Operation TORCH. The Marines were deployed to assist their soldier comrades as to that time, the Army had no amphibious assault experience. After the successful landings in North Africa in early November 1942, Damato returned to the United States in March 1943 and was reassigned to a brand new unit: the 22nd Marine Regiment.

Monday, February 17, 2014

TFH 2/17-19: Private First Class William J. Johnston, USA

William James Johnston was born on August 15, 1918 in Trenton, New Jersey. He resided in Colchester, Connecticut when he was drafted in January 1941 (I believe this is his enlistment record, despite the discrepancy in birth years).

Like many draftees to the United States Army, Johnston was placed with a National Guard unit being federalized for wartime service to bring them up to strength. He was assigned as a machine gunner with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 180th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division, Oklahoma National Guard.

The 45th Infantry Division was landed on the Anzio beachhead in Italy as a reinforcements in late January 1944. The attack on Anzio had been designed to outflank Nazi defenses to the south, but faced heavy opposition.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

TFH 2/15: LTJG Nathan G. Gordon, USN

Nathan Green Gordon was born on September 4, 1916 in Morrilton, Arkansas. He was a graduate of the Arkansas Polytechnic College (today Arkansas Tech University) and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a law degree in 1939. While in school, he enlisted in the Arkansas National Guard. Gordon was engaged in private law practice when he decided to join the United States Navy in May of 1941.

Gordon was trained as a Naval Aviator, and after receiving his "Wings of Gold" he joined Patrol Squadron 34 (VP-34) in the South Pacific for combat against the Japanese, flying the Consolidated PBY Catalina seaplane. This patrol squadron, who often flew night missions, dubbed themselves the "Black Cats".

Saturday, February 08, 2014

TFH 2/8: Corporal Paul B. Huff, USA

Paul Bert Huff was born in Cleveland, Tennessee on June 23, 1918. He was drafted into the United States Army on June 27, 1941, prior to the United States' entry into World War II. Huff was one of the earliest volunteers for the fledgling Army Paratroopers and was placed into the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Huff participated in three combat jumps – two in North Africa, one at Salerno in Italy – before landing at Anzio, Italy not by parachute, but by amphibious assault on January 22, 1944. About two weeks later, then Corporal Huff volunteered to lead a patrol to probe the Nazi defenses and determine the location of an enemy unit threatening the Americans' flank.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

TFH 2/3-8: Second Lieutenant Paul F. Riordan, USA

Paul F. Riordan was born in Charles City, Iowa on November 8, 1920. Like so many of the men who fought for the United States during World War II, much of the details of his life are lost to history. He moved with his family from Iowa to Missouri in 1937, and volunteered for the United States Army in 1940.

By February 1944, Riordan was a Second Lieutenant with the 133d Infantry Regiment, part of the 34th Infantry Division. Riordan and the "Red Bull" division were locked in combat in Italy in the early phases of the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

TFH live on VLR from 2/3 - America Is Beautiful

Had a great program on Vigilant Liberty Radio last night with my guest Doug Mataconis (@dmataconis), an attorney in private practice and prolific blogger at Outside the Beltway. We had a discussion across a wide range of issues, touching often on Doug's expertise – and my layman's interest – in the intersection of politics, law, and the Constitution.


Monday, February 03, 2014

TFH 2/3: Private First Class Leo J. Powers, USA

Leo J. Powers was born on April 5, 1909 in Anselmo, Nebraska. At some point in his life he resettled in Montana, and it was from there that he left his life as a farmer to enter the United States Army for World War II service on September 17, 1942 when he was 33 years old. His enlistment record indicates he was drafted, and due to problems with his feet, was placed in the Transportation Corps and trained as a mechanic.

Powers was assigned to the 34th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit from the upper midwest United States federalized for war service. However, with the division's 133rd Infantry Regiment, he served as a rifleman, not a mechanic. It's not known how he wound up assigned to a combat role. As he was significantly older than most of the other soldiers, he was nicknamed "Pops" by his comrades.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

TFH 2/2 Part 2: Private Richard K. Sorenson, USMCR

Richard Keith Sorenson was born in Anoka, Minnesota on August 28, 1924. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on January 7, 1941, he wanted to enlist in the United States Navy to go to war for his country, but as he was just seventeen years old, he needed his parents' permission, which they denied.

One year later, now eighteen, Sorenson enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on December 13, 1942 and after initial training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, was placed on active service with the United States Marine Corps' brand-new 4th Marine Division, then forming up and preparing for war at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Sorenson was assigned to Company M, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment as an infantryman.

TFH 2/2 Part 1: Lieutenant Colonel Aquilla J. Dyess, USMCR

Aquilla James Dyess was born in Andersonville, Georgia on January 11, 1909. He was known to family and friends as "Jimmie", was a member of the Boy Scouts of America growing up, and attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Dyess' personal courage was first recognized after assisting in the rescue of a swimmer in risk of drowning 400 feet from shore, even though he wasn't a particularly strong swimmer, on July 13, 1928. The following year, he received the Carnegie Medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund, along with the other rescuer, Barbara H. Muller.

Dyess attended Clemson College (now University), graduating with a degree in architecture as a member of the class of 1932. While at Clemson, he was a member of the Army's Reserve Officers Training Corps, and was commissioned as an infantry branch Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve. Four years later, Dyess was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps Reserve as a First Lieutenant.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

TFH 2/1 Part 3: Private First Class Alton W. Knappenberger, USA

Half a world away from the attack on Kwajalein on February 1, 1944 where Marines Richard B. Anderson and John V. Power were distinguishing themselves above and beyond the courage and fighting spirit otherwise expected of warriors, Americans were also locked in combat with our Nazi enemies in Italy.

Alton W. Knappenberger was born on December 31, 1923 in Cooperstown, Pennsylvania. He left school after the fifth grade, and worked in a variety of farming jobs until he was drafted into the United States Army when he was 19 on March 4, 1943.

As he was growing up, Knappenberger honed his skills as a marksman by hunting for food to help feed his family. His keen aim and skill would serve him well in combat.

TFH 2/1 Part 2: First Lieutenant John V. Power, USMCR

John Vincent Power, "Jack" to family and friends, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on November 20, 1918. He spent his entire childhood there, and stayed in his hometown to study at the College of the Holy Cross, from which he graduated with the class of 1941. With the United States' entry into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he answered America's call in July of 1942 with his volunteer enlistment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

Power was sent to Officer Candidates' School and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant on October 31, 1942. He was assigned in January 1943 to Company E of the 3rd Separate Battalion which, after transfer to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California, was redesignated as Company K, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment as the Marine Corps swelled for combat across the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean. Power was promoted to First Lieutenant in August 1943.

The 24th Marines sailed from California in January 1944 as part of the 4th Marine Division for the assault on Kwajalein Atoll.

TFH 2/1 Part 1: Private First Class Richard B. Anderson, USMC

Richard Beatty Anderson was born in Tacoma, Washington on June 26, 1921 and grew up in nearby Agnew, Washington. He graduated from high school in 1939 or 1940, and volunteered for the United States Marine Corps in July 6, 1942. After receiving his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Anderson was stationed at the Marine Barracks in San Diego until being ordered to report for infantry training.

Anderson received a promotion to Private First Class on April 12, 1943 and became a member of the new 4th Marine Division then in formation. His assignment was with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment then in training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California. In January 1944, the 4th Marine Division deployed from California for their first combat action of World War II: the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign.

Friday, January 31, 2014

TFH 1/30-31: Sergeant Truman O. Olson, USA

Truman O. Olson was born on October 13, 1917 in Christiana, Wisconsin. He was drafted for service in the United States Army for World War II on June 19, 1942 at age 24 and according to his enlistment record, had spent his entire life around Christiana and nearby Cambridge and was working as a farm hand having only completed one year of high school.

After completing his training as an infantryman he was sent to Europe to join the 3rd Infantry Division as a replacement. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. By late January 1944, he had attained the rank of Sergeant and was a machine gunner.

Olson landed with the 3rd Infantry Division at the Anzio beaches in Italy as part of Operation Shingle on January 22, 1944. Just over a week later, with the precarious, five-mile deep beachhead threatened by Nazi counter attacks, Olson and his comrades were locked in combat around the town of Cisterna.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

TFH 1/30 Part 2: Private First Class Lloyd C. Hawks, USA

Lloyd Cortez Hawks was born on January 13, 1911 in Becker, Minnesota. At age eight he moved to Michigan with his family, but returned to his native Minnesota after graduating from high school. In 1940 at age 29 he decided to enlist in the United States Army but was soon discharged for being too old and out of shape.

Two years later in 1942, the Army relented and with a two-front war being waged, accepted him back into service as a medic. After training, Hawks joined the 3rd Infantry Division's 30th Infantry Regiment during the Italian Campaign.

It was good that the Army gave him a second chance...