Thursday, May 31, 2012

TFH 5/31: Corporal Rodolfo P. Hernandez, USA

Rodolfo Perez Hernandez, known as "Rudy" by his comrades in arms, was born on April 14, 1931 in Colton, California. He enlisted in the United States Army at age seventeen with his parents' consent and after completing basic training volunteered for airborne school. Once he had earned his jump wings, he was assigned to the 187th Infantry Regiment, then stationed on occupation duty in Germany.

With the outbreak of the Korean War, the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team was sent to fight. Rudy Hernandez was a member of the regiment's 2nd Battalion when in combat on May 31, 1951 he ignored multiple shrapnel wounds and continued fighting. When his rifle failed, he fixed his bayonet and charged the enemy. His actions were recognized with our Nation's highest honor.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

TFH 5/30: PFC Robert J. Avington, USA

The United States Army's 7th Infantry Division was based in Japan on occupation duty following World War II. When war broke out in Korea in 1950, the 7th was depleted by sending its soldiers to reinforce the 1st Cavalry Division and 25th Infantry Division on the Korean peninsula. The division received a priority for replacements arriving from the United States and participated in the Inchon Landing with the 1st Marine Division.

The following May during intense fighting after the Chinese Communist intervention on behalf of the North Koreans, the 7th Division's 31st Infantry Regiment found itself on the defensive against the enemy attacking hordes. One brave soldier, Private First Class Robert J. Avington, repelled three enemy attacks with his machine gun while ignoring his own wounds to an arm and his head. For his gallantry in action, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TFH 5/29: PFC Whitt L. Moreland, USMCR

Whitt Lloyd Moreland was born on March 7, 1930 in Waco, Texas. He grew up in Austin, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve for a six year stint in September 1948. The outbreak of the Korean War saw him called to active service with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines and the 1st Marine Division.

On this day in 1951, Private First Class Moreland courageously and calmly prevented numerous enemy grenades from exploding amongst his comrades. The final one took his life, and a grateful nation decorated him with its highest honor.

Monday, May 28, 2012

TFH 5/28: Corporal David B. Champagne, USMC

David Bernard Champagne was born on November 13, 1932 in Waterville, Maryland and grew up in Wakefield, Maine. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on March 7, 1951 and just over a year later was fighting in the Korean War with the 1st Battalion ("The First Team"), 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

Sixty years ago to the day, while leading his fire team against a strongly defended hilltop, repeatedly disregarded his own wounds and safety to lead his Marines forward, including grabbing an incoming grenade to try and hurl it back at the enemy. On this Memorial Day, we remember and honor the memory of this fallen Marine, and salute his courage by reading the citation for the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor which he most certainly deserved.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

TFH 5/26: PFC Jimmy W. Phipps, USMC

Combat engineers have one of the most hazardous roles in action, as if any combat role is "safe". Their job is to demolish enemy obstacles, clear mines, and prepare the way forward for assault forces. They also, sometimes out of necessity, conduct explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) on the battlefield when dedicated EOD personnel aren't available.

Jimmy Wayne Phipps was born on November 1, 1950 in Santa Monica, California. He left high school to volunteer in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, transitioning to the active United States Marine Corps on January 7, 1968. In May 1969, he was serving with the 1st Engineer Battalion of the 1st Marine Division, attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment infantry unit.

PFC Phipps was clearing enemy ordnance from a rice paddy on May 27, 1969. After he had exhausted his explosives, he prepared to destroy a remaining enemy artillery shell with a hand grenade. As he was about to set the grenade, the fuse for a charge left by the enemy was lit. To protect the lives of the two men with him, including his platoon leader, he dove onto the shell to shield them from the blast. For his courage and sacrifice he was posthumously decorated with our Nation's highest honor.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lieutenant Edward G. Binning, USNR

Edward G. Binning was born on February 6, 1915 in Syracuse, New York. Little is known of his life prior to World War II, other than he listed his home of record as New York City. He flew PBY Catalina patrol bombers for the United States Navy in the Atlantic during the early days of America's involvement in the war.

At 2357 hours on May 26, 1942 in the British West Indies, Binning sighted a German U-boat running on the surface. He immediately attacked with depth charges and the sinking of the submarine was verified in the opinion of the destroyer USS Tarbell (DD-142). This was the first successful night attack by aircraft on an enemy submarine during the war. For his intrepidity and devotion to duty, Edward Binning received the Navy Cross.

Friday, May 25, 2012

TFH 5/25: Major William E. Adams, USA

William Edward Adams was born on June 13, 1939 in Casper, Wyoming. He graduated from Colorado State University in 1962 and volunteered for the United States Army. His tour as a helicopter pilot with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam began on July 6, 1970.

On May 25, 1971 - with only slightly more than a month left in his tour - Major Adams volunteered to fly his lightly armed and armored helicopter to a remote post where three of his seriously wounded comrades needed medical evacuation. The post was under heavy attack, it was daylight, and the weather was good. There would be no cover or concealment for the rescue flight.

Nonetheless, he flew with great courage, and while his craft was eventually destroyed his service above and beyond the regular call of duty saw him posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

TFH 5/24: SFC Louis R. Rocco, USA

Louis Richard Rocco was born on November 19, 1938 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a child, his family moved to the Los Angeles, California area. His childhood and teen years were troubled, culminating with his dropping out of high school and an arrest for armed robbery at age 16.

The judge in Rocco's case suspended his sentence on the condition that he stayed clean until age 17 when he'd be allowed to join the United States Army. Rocco followed the judge's instructions and enlisted in 1955. During his first tour of duty after enlisting in Germany, he earned his high school equivalency.

He served his first combat tour in Vietnam during 1965-1966. In 1969, he returned to the war-torn country, this time as an adviser to a South Vietnamese Army unit. On May 24, 1970 he volunteered to board a helicopter to help rescue eight wounded soldiers. What followed next is doubtlessly a story worthy of our Nation's highest honor.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TFH 5/23: Sp4c. Robert Peter Scibilia, USA

Robert Peter Scibilia was born on May 9, 1948 and hailed from Nashua, New Hampshire. He was drafted into the United States Army for the Vietnam War and less than a month after his 21st birthday was serving as a rifleman with the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment as part of the 9th Infantry Division.

On May 23, 1969 Scibilia's unit was beaten back by intense fire from the enemy's deep defensive positions. He crawled forward alone with only his rifle, hand grenades, and some anti-tank rockets to break up the enemy defenses and allow his unit to continue their attack. He ignored his wounds and kept fighting until he was cut down. For his courage, the Army posthumously awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

TFH 5/22: Lieutenant Colonel Robert F. Titus, USAF

Robert F. Titus was born on December 6, 1926 in Orange, New Jersey. He studied mining at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and served as an enlisted man in the United States Army in the late 1940s before receiving his commission as a Second Lieutenant with the United States Air Force in September 1949.

He flew combat missions during the Korean War and later served as a test pilot in the 1950s. In January 1967, he took command of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing's 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron, then based at Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam.

On this day in 1967, forty-five years ago, then Lieutenant Colonel Titus led his squadron as fighter escorts for strike aircraft during which he avoided multiple surface to air missiles and was personally responsible for shooting down two of the enemy. For his leadership and undaunted courage, he received the Air Force Cross.

Monday, May 21, 2012

TFH 5/21: Sergeant David Charles Dolby, USA

David Charles Dolby was born May 14, 1946 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. His father, Charles, had served as a B-17 Flying Fortress crew member during World War II and survived both being shot down and captivity as a German prisoner of war.

At age 20, Dolby was a Specialist Four serving with the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam as part of the 1st Cavalry Division. While his unit was in the attack, they faced intense resistance and casualties to most of the platoon's leadership. He rallied the men around him, repeatedly risked his own safety to rescue the wounded, and single handedly neutralized enemy position after position to insure that his fellow soldiers would leave the battlefield victorious. His courage above and beyond the normal call of duty was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

TFH 5/20: Sergeant First Class Donald R. Moyer, USA

Donald Raymond Moyer was born April 15, 1930 in Pontiac, Michigan. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1948 and was posted to the 25th Infantry Division with the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, then still on World War II occupation duty in Japan. With the outbreak of war in Korea during 1950, the 25th Division was one of the first American units committed to battle.

During an attack against key high ground held by the communist enemy on May 20, 1951, Moyer took command of his platoon after its leader and platoon sergeant fell wounded. He rallied his soldiers in the attack, and then when a grenade threatened to decimate the men around him, Moyer used his own body to save the day. His supreme act of courage was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In Memoriam: Karen Kallenborn, 1942-2012

As my readers who either follow me on Twitter or are my Facebook friends probably already know, my Mother-in-Law, Karen Kallenborn, passed away this past Wednesday night, May 16, at about 7:30PM.

Karen had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia about a year ago on Memorial Day weekend, 2011. In those first few uncertain days after the diagnosis, of course, I turned to the Internet and learned that the prognosis for long-term survival wasn't great. Regardless, Karen received the best care the anti-cancer varsity in western Pennsylvania - the amazing doctors and nurses of UPMC Shadyside and the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center - could muster. With sincere thanks to God for the miracle of modern medicine and for guiding the hands of her caregivers, her leukemia entered remission by July and she was soon home thereafter.

TFH 5/19: Captain Millard A. Peck, USA

Millard Arthur Peck was a member of the 1958 graduating class of the Cincinnati Country Day School. After graduating from Kenyon College, he entered the United States Army (likely in 1962) and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry branch.

He served three tours of duty fighting during the Vietnam War. In May 1968 he was serving as the commander of Company C, 2d Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment with the 9th Infantry Division. While leading his company in an airmobile assault on May 19 and 20, his command presence and personal courage was recognized with the Army's second-highest award for valor: the Distinguished Service Cross.

Friday, May 18, 2012

TFH 5/18: Sp4c. Dale Eugene Wayrynen, USA

The 502nd Infantry Regiment is a storied unit of the United States Army. As part of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, the regiment's battalions jumped into battle for both Normandy and Eindhoven and then were part of the epic defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Twenty-some years later, the 101st Airborne Division entered combat in Vietnam by foot or helicopter, not parachute. Dale Eugene Wayrynen joined the Army from his home state of Minnesota in 1965 at age 18. About two years later while fighting in Vietnam with Company B, 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry, he first rescued the wounded point man of his platoon before saving his entire squad and the platoon leader by shielding them from a grenade blast with his body. He posthumously received our Nation's highest honor.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

TFH 5/17: PFC Robert C. Burke, USMC

Robert Charles Burke was born on November 7, 1949 in Monticello, Illinois. At age 17, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on May 16, 1967. One year and one day later, this young Marine was a machine gunner with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment fighting in Vietnam with the 1st Marine Division.

On May 17, 1968, 18-year old PFC Burke took it upon himself to charge and eliminate several well-fortified enemy positions so his unit's casualties could be evacuated. When his machine gun malfunctioned, he stripped a rifle and grenades from a wounded Marine and pressed the attack. After one of his comrades cleared his machine gun, he resumed firing from an exposed position until he was cut down by the enemies of liberty. His incredible courage was recognized with the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TFH 5/16: Sergeant Anund C. Roark, USA

Anund Charles Roark was born in Vallejo, California on February 14, 1948. He joined the United States Army (date and whether he was drafted or volunteered unclear) and in May 1968 was serving in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment as part of the 4th Infantry Division.

The 4th Infantry Division's motto is: Steadfast and Loyal. The 12th Infantry's motto is: Ducti Amore Patriae - Led By Love of Country. On this day in 1968, this 20-year old great American soldier more than satisfied both mottos when, while leading a squad to rescue an 11-man companion unit besieged by an enemy attacking force and outnumbered about 10-to-1, he selflessly sacrificed his own body to insure that his troops would reach their objective. He posthumously received our Nation's highest honor.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TFH 5/15: Second Lieutenant Jettie Rivers, Jr., USMC

Jettie Rivers, Jr. was born on November 9, 1932 in Nashville, Tennessee. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1952 and served in Korea during the final days of the Korean War. In the early 1960s, he was a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina - one of just a handful (at the time) of African American Marines filling the vital role of converting young civilian men into Marines.

Bob O'Dowd, one of the recruits at Parris Island in Platoon 308 during 1962, recalled Rivers as follows:
Jettie Rivers, age 29, was an oddity at Parris Island. In 1962, you could count the number of black Marine drill instructors at Parris Island on one hand. A wiry, athletic man from the deep South, he would prove that he didn’t have an ounce of prejudice in his body, even though black men in the South in those days couldn’t eat at a restaurant with whites or even ride in the front of a bus with whites. 
Racial prejudice was the norm in the South in the 1960s. To this day, it’s hard to believe that Jettie Rivers was not affected by the abuse he experienced growing up in Alabama and Tennessee. 
Jettie Rivers was an extremely fair, disciplined man in an environment where others often stepped across the line. He never laid a hand on any recruit, never cursed, never got into your face nor did he tolerate abuse by others. In 1962, this was exceptional behavior for a Marine Corps drill instructor.... 
Platoon 308, S Company, 3rd Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island graduated with 75 Marines in May 1962. We are much older now but none of us can forget Parris Island and Jettie Rivers, Jr.
In May 1967 Rivers, now the Company First Sergeant of Company D, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment with the 3rd Marine Division, was fighting for our Nation in Vietnam.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Falklands+30: The SAS Raid on Pebble Island

Pebble Island is one of the larger minor islands of the Falklands, laying just north of West Falkland. After their 1982 invasion, the Argentine air force had based several FMA IA 58 Pucará ground attack aircraft at the dirt airstrip on the island. These planes would be a direct threat to the anticipated British landing to reclaim the islands now just a week away later in May.

TFH 5/14: PFC James W. Fous, USA

James William Fous was born on October 14, 1946 in Omaha, Nebraska. He joined the United States Army in 1967 and was an infantryman with the 4th Battalion of the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division fighting in Vietnam during 1968.

On this day of that year, Private First Class Fous was holding a nighttime defensive perimeter position with three of his comrades when a Viet Cong soldier hurled a grenade towards the four Americans. He sacrificed his own life to save that of his fellow soldiers, and was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Friday, May 11, 2012

TFH 5/11: Lieutenant Colonel Edwin L. Atterberry, USAFR

Edwin Lee Atterberry was born on March 3, 1934 in Klondike, Texas. His service to our Nation began in 1952 with his enlistment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. In 1955 he entered the United States Air Force's aviation cadet program, earning his pilot's wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve in 1956.

In the mid-1960s, Atterberry was flying on active service as a reconnaissance pilot in the McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II. He was part of the 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron flying from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. On August 12, 1967 while on temporary assignment to Vietnam, then Captain Atterberry was shot down over North Vietnam, bailed out, and was captured.

He endured his captors for nearly two years when he escaped on May 11, 1969. He was recaptured three days later, but his indomitable courage and resistance in the face of brutal communist captivity resulted in the award of the second-highest decoration for valor, the Air Force Cross.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

TFH 5/10: Specialist Leslie H. Sabo, Jr., USA

Leslie Halasz Sabo, Jr. was born on February 22, 1948 in Kufstein, Austria. His family emigrated to the United States and he grew up in Ellwood City, PA outside Pittsburgh.

He served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam and was killed in action on May 10, 1970. The events surrounding the battle in which Sabo was killed were classified for several years as they took place in Cambodia. This brave soldier ignored his own wounds, shielded comrades from a grenade explosion, and repeatedly put himself at risk to pass ammunition to his fellow soldiers - all the while continuing to tenaciously attack the enemy.

On April 16, 2012, the United States Army announced that the award of the Medal of Honor for Sabo had finally been approved. The White House announced yesterday that President Barack Obama will present Sabo's surviving relatives with the long-delayed Medal at the White House on May 16, 2012.

Sabo's Medal of Honor citation and more information about this great American will be the featured story on Their Finest Hour for May 10, 2013.

(Hat tip: Andrew Malcolm)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

TFH 5/9: Coral Sea Navy Cross Recipients

Yesterday, I recounted the story of the Battle of the Coral Sea on the 70th anniversary of the battle's end, and over the last two days, the heroic exploits of the four men who were decorated with the Medal of Honor for their gallantry. The Medal of Honor recipients were:

The Navy Cross, as I'm sure my regular readers know, is second only to the Medal of Honor as an award for bravery in combat that can be bestowed on members of the Naval Service. I was able to identify one hundred and thirty-four recipients of the Navy Cross for actions during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Most of the recipients were Naval Aviators from the squadrons flying from the aircraft carriers USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5). Even with the large number I did find, I think the list is incomplete; I didn't find any recipients from among the Yorktown's crew, just her air crews. I found that strange as the damage control teams on Yorktown saved the ship and one of them - Lieutenant Ricketts - received the Medal of Honor.

Complete or not, the list of the 134 names of American heroes I was able to identify follows. The links go to the Military Times' Hall of Valor. Some of them were recipients of multiple Navy Crosses in their careers. Many of them were killed during the Battle of the Coral Sea or later in World War II. Some went on to distinguished and lengthy Naval careers after the war, others quietly returned to civilian life.

I don't expect you to read all 134 citations that are linked. What I'd like you to do is pick three or four; perhaps one of these men shares your name, perhaps they're actually a relative, or perhaps a name catches your eye for some other reason. Read why those three or four received the Navy Cross, and take a few moments to contemplate what they - along with the thousands of other Americans who fought at the Coral Sea - did for all of us, now 70 years on.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Battle of the Coral Sea - 70 Years - May 3-8, 1942

Japan scored early victories across the Pacific from December 1941 into early 1942. The Imperial Japanese Navy under its Commander-in-Chief Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, looked southwest for their next conquests. For both strategic and tactical reasons, the Japanese had to cut off the British dominions of Australia and New Zealand off from their supply routes to the United States.

Yamamoto's plan was codenamed "Operation MO", "MO" standing for Port Moresby in New Guinea. The Japanese began their New Guinea and Solomon Islands operations in early March with their invasion of Lae-Salamaua. This attack was launched without any air cover from the IJN's carriers; the Japanese didn't think the United States Navy would have any carriers of their own in the area to oppose the operation. They were wrong. The raid launched by our Navy was the first effective offensive strike against a Japanese task force and resulted in 28 Navy Crosses being awarded to the heroic Naval Aviators who flew the attack mission. The surprise response of American aircraft meant that the Japanese planners for Operation MO had to include air cover for the rest of the New Guinea campaign. The Fifth Carrier Division, consisting of the aircraft carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku, was allocated to the mission.

All told, the Japanese sent the two fleet carriers, a light carrier (Shōhō) nine cruisers, and fifteen destroyers as the combatants to escort the invading force and get them ashore. The force had 127 carrier aircraft aboard. (Order of Battle) The Japanese thought they'd achieve complete surprise. They thought that the Allies wouldn't be able to respond to the attack in time. They were wrong again.

TFH 5/8 Edition 3: Lieutenant Milton E. Ricketts, USN

Milton Ernest Rickets was born on August 5, 1913 in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended the United States Naval Academy, graduating with the class of 1935, and receiving his commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy.

Rickets was an engineering officer, and served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) prior to transferring to the larger carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). One of his duties on the Yorktown was to be the Officer-in-Charge of a damage control party.

During the final phases of the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942, the Yorktown had evaded repeated Japanese air-dropped torpedo and bomb attacks, save but one. At 1127 hours, a single 250-pound armor piercing bomb sliced through Yorktown's flight deck and exploded three decks below the hangar - and one deck below Lieutenant Ricketts' battle station.

Ricketts' damage control team was decimated by the explosion and he himself was mortally wounded. At that moment, his wounds mattered not to him, for he had a ship to save. Ricketts' actions, recognized with the award of the Medal of Honor, may have directly altered the course of World War II.

TFH 5/8 Edition 2: Lieutenant John James Powers, USN

John James Powers was born in New York City on July 13, 1912. He attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, graduating with the class of 1935 and receiving his commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy.

He earned a Naval Aviator's Wings of Gold, and on January 21, 1941 reported aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) to squadron Bombing FIVE (VB-5) flying the Douglas SBD Dauntless. The nickname of Powers' dive bomber may have been picked unbeknownst with him in mind. During the Battle of the Coral Sea from May 4-8, 1942, "dauntless" is just one of the superlatives that describe his flying, courage, and tenacity. His acts saw him posthumously awarded our Nation's highest honor.

TFH 5/8 Edition 1: LTJG William E. Hall, USNR

William Edward Hall was born in Storrs, Utah on October 31, 1913. He joined the United States Navy in 1938 and received a commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy Reserve. He continued to serve actively, and received his Wings of Gold as a Naval Aviator.

By the early days of America's involvement in World War II, he had been promoted to Lieutenant (Junior Grade) and was the pilot of a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber with squadron Scouting TWO (VS-2) flying from the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2).

During the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 7-8, 1942, Hall fearlessly dove his Dauntless repeatedly against Japanese ships, and even though his slower, poorly armed bomber was ill suited to the task, engaged enemy fighters so that his comrades could also reach their targets. Even though he was wounded, he still returned his plane to the Lexington and landed safely. For his clear heroism above and beyond the call of duty, he was decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Monday, May 07, 2012

TFH 5/7 Edition 2: WTC Oscar V. Peterson, USN

Oscar Verner Peterson was born on August 27, 1899 in Prentice, Wisconsin. He enlisted in the United States Navy on December 8, 1920 and spent his entire career serving aboard various ships of the fleet.

As World War II opened, Peterson had reached Chief Petty Officer rank and held the "Watertender" rating; an engineering specialty. He served aboard the USS Neosho (AO-23), a Cimarron-class fleet oiler.  Neosho survived the attack on Pearl Harbor unscathed, and spent the early days of the war attached to the Pacific Fleet's carrier task forces carrying vital fuel oil and aviation gasoline.

For the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May 1942, she was attached to Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's Task Force 17. After refueling the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) on May 6th, Neosho retired from the immediate battle area escorted by the destroyer USS Sims (DD-409). On May 7th, they were discovered and attacked by Japanese aircraft.

TFH 5/7 Edition 1: General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV, USA

Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV was born into a military family on August 23, 1883 at Fort Walla Walla, Washington. His father, Robert Powell Page Wainwright, was a United States Army officer who was killed in 1902 while serving in the Philippines. His grandfather, Jonathan M. Wainwright II, was a United States Navy officer killed in action during the American Civil War's Battle of Galveston on January 1, 1863.

His military service began after graduating from high school in 1901 when he began studies at the United States Military Academy, West Point. He graduated with the class of 1906. Wainwright served in combat in France during World War I with the then-82nd Infantry Division.

Like his father before him, he was dispatched to the Philippines where he arrived in September 1940. He held the temporary rank of Major General as the commander of the Philippine Department and was the senior field commander of American and Filipino forces defending the islands under General Douglas MacArthur. When MacArthur withdrew from the Philippines in March 1942, Wainwright remained as the commander.

Blogger's Note - 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea

Following my 70th Anniversary posts recounting the attack on Pearl Harbor and the aftermath, and the triumphant Doolittle Raid, I had planned to write posts recounting the prelude and each day's events of the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 3-8, 1942 on May 3-8, 2012.

Sadly, a family situation has precluded me from posting as I originally intended. My wife's mother, Karen, was originally diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia about a year ago during Memorial Day weekend, 2011. She fought her disease bravely, and by late summer 2011 was in remission. Karen's immune system never recovered, and about two months ago she was again hospitalized with an agressive infection.

The infection responded to antibiotic treatments but weakened her even further. On Tuesday, May 1, we were heartbroken to learn that the leukemia has returned and, save for a miracle, there is nothing more that medicine can do to save her. Karen entered hospice care on Friday and we are cherishing each and every moment we have left with her as the end approaches. Needless to say, this is an incredible sorrow upon our family and my responsibilities there necessarily took precedence over blogging.

I can't say thanks enough to all our friends and acquaintances who have reached out to us with support and prayers via phone, Twitter, and Facebook since the sad news of this week became known. You've all made dealing with this so much the easier. I ask your continued prayers for Karen and:

  • Missy, my wife and Karen's daughter
  • Kelli and Scott, Missy's siblings
  • Ron, Missy's father and Karen's husband
  • Penny and Neil, our children and Karen's grandchildren
  • The wonderful physicians, nurses, and other caregivers who have seen Karen through to this point and who continue to look after her.

My 70th anniversary post for the Battle of the Coral Sea will appear as one large article on Tuesday, May 8.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

TFH 5/6: Lance Corporal James D. Howe, USMC

James Donnie Howe was born on December 17, 1948 in Six Mile, South Carolina. He was employed as a painter after graduating from high school, and decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on October 31, 1968. He was discharged from the reserves to join the regular active Marines on December 29, 1968.

After completing his infantry training in June 1969, he joined the 3rd Battalion ("The Cutting Edge") of the 7th Marine Regiment fighting in Vietnam as part of the 1st Marine Division. He fought as both a rifleman and as a radioman. On May 6, 1970 Howe performed a truly selfless act of bravery while manning a defensive position with two other Marines; he posthumously received our Nation's highest honor.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

TFH 5/5: Sergeant Nacey Kent, Jr., USAF

Nacey Kent, Jr. was born at the close of World War II on August 11, 1945 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He enlisted in the United States Air Force on August 13, 1962 and was trained as an aircraft mechanic. Nearly six years later, he was flying over Vietnam as a flight engineer on a fire support gunship.

During a mission on May 5, 1968 with the 4th Air Commando Squadron, the AC-47 Spooky that Kent was aboard was shot down by the enemy. After the plane crash landed, Sergeant Kent ignored his own broken bones to save his comrades and was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Falklands+30: Argentina Avenges the Belgrano

We pick up the story of the 1982 Falklands War on May 4, two days after the submarine HMS Conqueror sunk the Argentinian cruiser ARA General Belgrano. Pre-dawn on the 4th, another Royal Air Force Avro Vulcan from Ascension Island attacked the airfield at Port Stanley on East Falkland. Three of the British fleet's Sea Harriers launched a strike against Argentine positions near Goose Green. Unfortunately, one of the three was shot down. The British only had 20 Sea Harriers - five percent of the task force's air cover was gone.

In 1982, the primary surface-to-surface weapon of the Royal Navy was the French-made Exocet sea-skimming cruise missile. As they prepared to sail south from the UK in April 1982, the British captains conferred about the Argentinians' capabilities. They too were armed with Exocet. Captain Jeremy Black of HMS Invincible said right out, "Exocet v. Exocet. Hmm. That's not nice."

TFH 5/4: First Lieutenant Douglas B. Fournet, USA

Douglas Bernard Fournet was born on May 7, 1943 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. After graduating from McNeese State University in his home town, and with full knowledge that his country was at war, he volunteered to enlist in the United States Army in 1966 and went through Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

On May 4, 1968, now First Lieutenant Fournet was the leader of the 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. 1/7 Cavalry at the time was an airmobile infantry unit with the storied 1st Cavalry Division. During an attack against fortified hilltop, Fournet's platoon came under sniper fire and then realized that they were imminent risk of being decimated by an antipersonnel mine.

Leadership is from the front, and Doug Fournet knew that he couldn't order one of his men to deal with the mine if he wasn't willing to do it himself. His actions saw him posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Falklands+30: The Royal Navy Draws Blood

The Argentinian Navy's cruiser ARA General Belgrano began her life as the USS Phoenix (CL-46). Phoenix, herself a Pearl Harbor survivor, served the United States Navy throughout World War II and was sold to Argentina in 1951.

The Belgrano was one of two major naval combatants that concerned the British. The second was Argentina's aircraft carrier, the ARA Veinticinco de Mayo. Unbeknownst at the time to the Royal Navy, the carrier suffered an engine casualty on April 18th and had returned to port for repairs.

One of the first Royal Navy warships to arrive at the Falklands war zone, the nuclear-powered fast attack submarine HMS Conqueror (S48), was shadowing the Belgrano and her escorts some distance outside the Total Exclusion Zone surrounding the Falklands. Conqueror and her Captain, Commander Christopher Wreford-Brown, found the Belgrano and her two escorting destroyers on May 1.

After Northwood (the Royal Navy's headquarters) received Conqueror's sighting report, discussions began between Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse, the Commander-in-Chief Fleet back in the UK, and Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward, commanding the Falklands task force. Their recommendation was that the Belgrano should be sent to the bottom.

Falklands+30: Catching Up

Well readers, I've fallen off a bit with the recounting of the 30th Anniversary of the Falklands War, so here's a round-up of what happened militarily in late April and early May, 1982.

TFH 5/2: MSG Roy P. Benavidez, USA

On May 2, 1968 a 12-man United States Army Special Forces reconnaissance team of the 5th Special Forces Group was inserted into the jungle near Loc Ninh, Vietnam. It was known that the area was infested with North Vietnamese Army soldiers. The team was discovered and came under heavy attack. They called for helicopters to come and evacuate them. The helicopters couldn't land.

Back at the Green Berets' forward operating base in Loc Ninh, a 32-year old then-Staff Sergeant from Texas heard what was transpiring over the radio. He volunteered to board a helicopter that was going to attempt a second rescue. When the chopper reached the battle zone, it was clear that the beleaguered and bleeding 12-man force couldn't free themselves to be evacuated. The volunteer directed the helicopter to a nearby clearing. He jumped out of the hovering craft and raced hundreds of feet through intense enemy fire and jungle to aid his comrades.

This man's name was Raul Perez "Roy" Benavidez, and what follows is only believable because we know it actually happened.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

So much for the buck stopping...

President Barack Obama's "gutsy call" in ordering the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden appears to not have been so gutsy. Furthermore, special operations veterans - Navy SEALs in particular - are criticizing the President for making their courage a political point-scorer.

The now infamous memo - clearly a CYA request from the White House to the CIA and the special operations forces who carried out the attack - shows a complete failure of leadership on the part of the New Soviet Man. Consider:

TFH 5/1: Diamond Greatness in 1991

Today, Their Finest Hour is taking a brief break from our chronicle of military heroes to honor greatness from the world of sports. I'm a baseball fan. I don't get to as many games as I'd like to, and while I have my favorite team (the Yankees, naturally!), it's great just to go to a game no matter who is playing!

On May 1, 1991 two amazing events happened in Major League Baseball history in different games, both featured one of the true all-time greats of the game.