Friday, December 20, 2013

The Roundtable of Extreme Liberty from December 17!

Tuesday, December 17th was a big night on Vigilant Liberty Radio! Between myself and my VLR colleague Taylor Millard, we've resurrected Taylor's old periodic podcast, The Roundtable of Extreme Liberty, as a live panel show!

TFH 12/20: Technical Sergeant Forrest L. Vosler, USAAF

Forrest Lee Vosler was born in Lyndonville, New York on July 29, 1923. During 1942, as his friends from his hometown were being drafted for World War II military service, he decided not to wait for his name to be called, and volunteered by enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps on October 8, 1942.

Vosler had hoped to be a pilot, but his poor performance on the required aptitude tests saw the Air Corps send him to be trained as a radioman instead. Then, he faced another challenge. At the time, there was a 6-foot height limit to be approved for flight status; Vosler was 6' 3". He had volunteered to fight for his country, and his determined requests to be assigned to a bomber unit eventually paid off.

The service relented on the height restriction and deployed him to England for service with the 358th Bombardment Squadron of the 303d Bombardment Group (Heavy), part of the United States Army Air Forces' VIII Bomber Command, the forerunner of today's Eighth Air Force of the United States Air Force and Global Strike Command.

After Vosler's first combat mission to bomb Bremen on November 26, 1943 (83rd mission of the 303d), he was convinced that there was no way he'd survive his 25-mission tour of duty. At the time, the average crewmember longevity was eleven missions.

On December 20, 1943, Vosler boarded Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress 42-29664, named Jersey Bounce Jr., with his nine crewmates for what would be his fourth mission (303d mission 90) over enemy territory.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TFH Show 12/16: All About Immigration

My "Their Finest Hour" program on Monday, December 16th was a great discussion of immigration and border security issues! We proved that we could actually have a civil, engaging discussion with differing opinions on problems and solutions without resorting to name calling or anger.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Their Finest Hour: Show from December 9!

Monday night's Their Finest Hour on my Vigilant Liberty Radio broadcast home was a great show! I had blogger Alex Kauffman (@alexkauff) of For the Republic! and Amy "MC" (@moderncomments) of Modern Commentaries as my guests for a great discussion that went deep into bonus minutes!

Monday, December 09, 2013

December 9th "Their Finest Hour" Webcast!'s dawned on me that I should probably start promoting my own Internet radio show on my own blog! Fail, to date, on my part.

Well, in any case, I'm live on-net tonight with two fantastic "conservatarian" guests, and a slate of topics that should prove of great interest. I'm calling this show "Trapped in Blue States Style" as all three of us are just that!

We're live on Vigilant Liberty Radio at 10pm Eastern (9C/8M/7P) - here's what we've got on-tap for what's going to be a great show:

Friday, November 29, 2013

TFH 11/29-30: First Three Japanese-American Medals of Honor of World War II

Between July 13, 1916 and September 13, 1918, three brave men were born in Hawaii to Japanese immigrant parents. These three men were all Americans by birth, and all three enlisted in the United States Army before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

All three were infantrymen with the 100th Infantry Battalion, a unit formed entirely from Nisei, or second generation (first born) Japanese-Americans. They faced discrimination and prejudice within our Army. Regardless they, and their fellow Japanese-American comrades, fought for their country with distinction and valor. The 100th Infantry Battalion would wind up World War II as one of the most decorated units, both on an individual soldier basis and as a whole.

On November 29 and 30, 1943, the 100th Battalion found itself in intense close combat with our Nazi enemy in Italy. The Germans outnumbered the 100th at the point of attack, and it was only the incredible fighting spirit and courage of our soldiers that prevented them from being overrun.

During those two days, the three American soldiers whose valor shone above all the others were Mikio Hasemoto, Shizuya Hayashi, and Allan M. Ohata.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Remembering Tarawa: November 20-23, 1943

The Battle of Tarawa, also known as Operation GALVANIC, was launched on November 20, 1943 in the Gilbert Islands as the United States and our allies began their counteroffensive advance across the Pacific Ocean towards Japan.

We had conducted landings and fought ashore previously - Guadalcanal and New Georgia - but those campaigns in the Solomon Islands and vicinity were more defensive actions designed to protect the sea lanes between the United States and Australia. Up until the beginning of the Bougainville Campaign on November 1, 1943, the Japanese had always placed their defenses inland away from landing areas. The Bougainville landing at Cape Torokina saw our Marines met at the water's edge.

It would be a grim predictor of what landing on Tarawa would be like.

Friday, November 22, 2013

TFH 11/20-22 Part 2: Colonel David M. Shoup, USMC

David Monroe Shoup was born on December 30, 1904 in an Indiana town whose name portended his future: Battle Ground. His family was poor, and after graduating from high school in 1921, he was able to attend DePauw University thanks only to a scholarship. While at DePauw, he joined the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps to earn extra money for living expenses.

Shoup graduated from DePauw and received a commission in the Army Reserve as a Second Lieutenant in 1926. Around that time, he had seen United States Marine Corps Major General John A. Lejeune, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, speak and offer opportunities and positions with the Corps for officer candidates. Shoup applied for transfer to the Marines, was accepted, and began serving with them on August 26, 1926.

He served two tours of duty overseas in China druing 1927-28 and in 1934. In between them, he was assigned to the Marine detachment aboard the battleship USS Maryland (BB-46) from 1929-31.

In May 1941, Shoup arrived in Iceland as part of a provisional Marine brigade sent there to deter a possible Nazi German attack on the strategically located island in the Atlantic. He was there on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was plunged into World War II.

He would soon leave Iceland for the United States and California, and from there, to war in the Pacific with the rest of his Corps.

TFH 11/20-22 Part 1: First Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., USMCR

Alexander "Sandy" Bonnyman, Jr. was born on May 2, 1910 in Atlanta, Georgia. He grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee where his father was an executive with a coal company. He attended Princeton University for two years, but dropped after his sophomore year in 1920. He later enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in June 1932, but did not complete his training as a pilot and was honorably discharged three months later.

He then spent the next several years working in mining, both coal and founding his own copper mining enterprise in New Mexico. When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Bonnyman, at age 31 and married with a family, was exempt from compulsory military service, but he nonetheless volunteered and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

After training, he deployed for combat with the active Marine Corps' 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment and part of the 2nd Marine Division. They fought ashore the final phases of the Guadalcanal Campaign, and during that time Bonnyman received a battlefield commission as a Second Lieutenant, and was later promoted to First Lieutenant.

On November 20, 1943, Bonnyman was the executive officer of 2/8 Marines' shore party, responsible for coordinating the flow of men and materiel ashore - an important role indeed, because that was the day the Marines stormed ashore on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

TFH 11/20-21: First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, USMCR

William Deane Hawkins was born in Fort Scott, Kansas on April 19, 1914. His family moved to El Paso, Texas during his childhood. His father passed away when he was eight years old, and he was raised solely by his mother, who did not remarry. He graduated from high school at 16 years old and attended the Texas College of Mines, today known as the University of Texas at El Paso.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawkins decided to leave his civilian life and volunteer for military service. Both the United States Army and United States Navy rejected him for service due to scars he suffered from a burn injury as an infant. The United States Marine Corps Reserve took him. After recruit training and follow-on school to become a scout sniper, Hawkins joined the active Marine Corps with the 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment, part of the 2nd Marine Division.

Hawkins, with his unit, saw combat on Guadalcanal in late 1942. During that campaign, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on November 17, 1942. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on June 1, 1943. After a period of rest and recuperation on New Zealand, the 2nd Marines formed the main assault force for Operation GALVANIC, the attack on Tarawa Atoll.

The attack was launched on November 20, 1943.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TFH 11/20: Staff Sergeant William J. Bordelon, USMC

William James Bordelon was born on Christmas Day, 1920 in San Antonio, Texas. He answered his Nation's call to arms just three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and volunteered for the United States Marine Corps on December 10, 1941.

Bordelon's natural talents for leadership were quickly identified, and he was promoted rapidly as the units that would become the newly-formed 2nd Marine Division readied themselves for action in the Pacific. By July, 1942 he had already been promoted up to the rank of Sergeant.

This "natural Marine" was trained as an assault engineer with the 2nd Engineer Battalion, which was then redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 18th Marine Regiment. Seventy years ago today on November 20, 1943, our Leathernecks assaulted Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, in the Gilberts. They faced the most intense Japanese resistance to a landing yet, and then Staff Sergeant Bordelon truly went above and beyond to insure that once ashore, his fellow Marines would stay there.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address, 150 Years Later

I must begin this post by admitting a failing of my blogging here at Their Finest Hour. I had fully intended to write a spate of posts this past July for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863 - and they didn't happen, mainly because I was otherwise consumed with "day job" and non-blogging personal life concerns. With this post, I hope to make up for one little bit of what I had originally intended to author.

On November 19, 1863, the national military cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated. President Abraham Lincoln was invited to attend and offer some brief remarks, but he wasn't even the featured speaker. That honor was given to a noted orator of the time, Edward Everett, who spoke for over two hours.

When Everett had finished, it was President Lincoln's turn. His brief remarks took only a few minutes to deliver. They so simply, and so eloquently, recounted the heroism and sacrifices that took place upon those grounds that they are the speech that is today remembered as the Gettysburg Address, and are considered to be perhaps the greatest Presidential speech ever given.

The address follows, as does a story of incredible courage from July 2, 1863 that you probably don't know about - and it's a story of a single action by a commander and the men he ordered that may very well have saved the Union.

TFH 11/19: Captain John P. Cromwell, USN

John Philip Cromwell was born on September 11, 1901 in Henry, Illinois. He attended the United States Naval Academy starting in 1920, and graduated with the class of 1924. He was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy, and after a brief stint in surface ships volunteered for the submarine service.

During the late 1920s and into the 1930s, he commanded several different submarines and also held positions in engineering fields within the submarine force. When the United States entered World War II, he was the chief engineering officer for the Pacific Fleet subs.

Cromwell commanded three different submarine divisions during 1942 and into 1943, and was considered one of the ablest officers in the submarine force. He was tabbed to command a U-boat style "wolf pack" with multiple submarines in late 1943 to use those type tactics against Japanese shipping. These formations were known in US Navy terminology as "coordinated attack groups". Cromwell would sail aboard the USS Sculpin (SS-191), and be joined by the USS Spearfish (SS-190), USS Searaven (SS-196), and USS Apogon (SS-308).

Sculpin sortied from Pearl Harbor on November 5, 1943. Two days later after refueling at Johnston Island, the submarine set off for their patrol area. On November 29, Cromwell was ordered to activate his attack group. The order went unacknowledged. After the order was retransmitted two days later, again without answer, Sculpin and Cromwell were presumed lost.

It wasn't until after the war that we learned what happened.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

TFH 11/12-13: LCDR Herbert E. Schonland, USN

The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal off the shores of Savo Island was fought between the United States and the Japanese Empire on November 12 & 13, 1942 - seventy-one years ago. As regular readers of Their Finest Hour know, since December 7, 2011 I have endeavored to blog each and every World War II Medal of Honor Recipient on the seventieth anniversary of their heroics.

Last November 12 & 13, I had my post honoring what I thought were the four Medal of Honor recipients from the battle: Rear Admiral Daniel Judson Callaghan, Boatswain's Mate First Class Reinhart John Keppler, Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless, and Rear Admiral Norman Scott.

It turns out I made an error. My list of World War II Medal of Honor Recipients was compiled by me from the United States Army Center of Military History database. There was a fifth Medal recipient from the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, and I missed recognizing him because a typo on the Army site lists his award as being from 1943 instead of 1942. My sincere apologies to his descendants and memory that the recognition of this great American in this space was delayed by a year.

Herbert Emery Schonland was born on September 7, 1900 in Portland, Maine. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy with the class of 1925 and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy.

Monday, November 11, 2013

TFH 11/11: PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom, USA

Floyd K. Lindstrom was born on June 21, 1912 in Holdrege, Nebraska. The day after his 30th birthday, June 22, 1942, he volunteered for the United States Army from Pueblo, Colorado to serve his country during the Second World War. He was assigned as a foot soldier with Company H, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.

On November 11, 1943 - seventy years ago today - in combat near Mignano, Italy, Lindstrom, a machine gunner, took his weapon on a lone charge up an exposed hill to get a better firing angle on the enemy. When he still couldn't place fire on a Nazi machine gun, he attacked with his pistol, killed the enemy gun crew, seized their weapon, and brought it to his comrades in arms to use against its previous owners. His incredible effort in combat above and beyond the normal call of duty was deemed worthy of the Medal of Honor.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

TFH 11/10: Captain Maurice L. Britt, Jr., USA

Maurice Lee Britt, Jr. was born on June 29, 1919 in Carlisle, Arkansas. He was later a star football player for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks and graduated with the class of 1941. He was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps in college, and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve at his college graduation.

Britt's military service was deferred as he was granted permission to play the 1941 season for the National Football League's Detroit Lions. His service couldn't be delayed after the United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and he began active service with the United States Army and the 30th Infantry Regiment, at that time assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.

Britt landed with the 3rd Infantry Division during the attacks on both North Africa and Sicily. After those two campaigns, he also took part in the Invasion of Italy. During the Italian Campaign, he repeatedly exhibited superior valor under fire, and became the first man to earn the United States' top three awards for courage in the same conflict.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

TFH 11/9: PFC Henry Gurke, USMC

Henry Gurke was born in Neche, North Dakota on November 6, 1922. After graduating from high school in 1940, he joined the New-Deal Civilian Conservation Corps and served with it until October, 1941. He then worked as a truck driver until enlisting in the United States Marine Corps on April 15, 1942.

After recruit training in San Diego, Gurke was first trained as an artilleryman but once overseas for combat in the Pacific, he volunteered for the Marine Raiders and was assigned to the 3rd Raider Battalion. The 3rd Raiders landed as part of the assault force for the Bougainville Campaign.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

TFH 11/7: Sergeant Herbert J. Thomas, Jr., USMCR

Herbert Joseph Thomas, Jr. was born in Columbus, Ohio on February 8, 1918. He moved at age seven with his family to South Charleston, West Virginia, where he spent the rest of his childhood and adolescence. After graduating from high school, Thomas attended the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) on a football scholarship. In 1940, he led the "Hokies" in both pass receptions and scoring.

In July 1941, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, but soon requested and received a transfer to the United States Marine Corps in which many of his friends had volunteered. His enlistment was placed with the Marine Forces Reserve and he began on active service with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment which was part of the newly-formed 3rd Marine Division.

On November 1, 1943, 1/3 Marines and the 3rd Marine Division stormed ashore on Bougainville for their first combat action of the war. Six days later, the Japanese began an ultimately unsuccessful counter-attack that is known today as the Battle of Koromokina Lagoon.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

TFH 11/2: Major Raymond H. Wilkins, USAAF

Raymond Harvel Wilkins was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on September 28, 1917. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1936 and volunteered for the Army Air Corps, which later became the United States Army Air Forces and the forerunner of today's United States Air Force.

By November 2, 1943, Wilkins had been promoted to Major and was the commanding officer of the 8th Bombardment Squadron (Light), flying the North American B-25 Mitchell. Major Wilkins, on that day already a veteran of over fifty combat missions against our Japanese enemy in the Pacific, led his squadron on an attack against enemy ships moored in Simpson Harbor, Rabaul, New Britain.

On this day seventy years ago, Wilkins briefed his squadron that he would lead them into the target putting his own plane, a B-25D nicknamed "Fifi", between the rest of the squadron and the enemy, drawing their fire and protecting his fellow airmen.

Friday, November 01, 2013

TFH 11/1: Sergeant Robert A. Owens, USMC

Robert Allen Owens was born in Greenville, South Carolina on September 13, 1920. He grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He left high school after two years to take a job as a textile worker, and worked in that capacity for five years. With the United States' entry into World War II, he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps on February 10, 1942.

After recruit training, he was assigned to the 1st Training Battalion at its activation on May 1, 1942. The battalion was redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment on June 17, 1942 as the Marine Corps expanded for wartime service. 1/3 Marines became part of the brand-new 3rd Marine Division when it was activated on September 16, 1942. They deployed for combat in the Pacific in early 1943.

The motto of the 3rd Marine Regiment is Fortuna Fortes Juvat - "Fortune Follows the Brave". On November 1, 1943, the 3rd Marine Division was the spearhead of the I Amphibious Corps for the assault on the shores of Cape Torokina on the Japanese-held island of Bougainville. The attack was their first combat action. After preparatory bombardments the first wave, 1/3 Marines and now-Sergeant Robert A. Owens included, charged ashore from their landing craft at 0710 hours.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Beirut Bombing - 30 Years

The Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon was created in August 1982 following a request from the Lebanese government to the United Nations for "peacekeepers" to intervene in the Lebanese Civil War, which had heated up after the Israelis invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982 with the aim of destroying forces belonging to the Palestine Liberation Organization in the south of the country bordering Israel.

The United States' main contribution to to the Multinational Force was a United States Marine Corps "Marine Amphibious Unit" or "MAU", known today as a "Marine Expeditionary Unit" or "MEU". A MAU/MEU is formed around a reinforced infantry battalion known as a "Battalion Landing Team" or "BLT". Both France and Italy also committed large forces to the peacekeeping effort. The MNF was located solely in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

The Marines' headquarters was at, and their positions surrounded, the Beirut International Airport.

The "peacekeeping" situation in Lebanon took a definite turn for the worse on April 18, 1983 when terrorists used a suicide truck bomb to attack the US Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 including 17 Americans. When the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, including a BLT formed from the 1st Battalion 8th Marines, relieved their sister formation the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit in May 1983, they faced an almost untenable tactical situation and the undesirable role of interposing themselves between warring factions who really didn't care who was in the way.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

TFH 10/17: Private Junior Van Noy, USA

Nathan K. Van Noy, Jr. - known by the nickname "Junior" - was born in Grace, Idaho on August 9, 1924. According to his enlistment record, he completed just three years of high school and was drafted into the United States Army for World War II service on February 17, 1943 at age 18.

Seven months later, he was wounded in action on New Guinea during September 1943 as a member of the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, and refused to be evacuated and continued on duty. Then, on October 17, 1943, when his unit's position was faced with a Japanese counter-attack from the sea, he remained at his machine gun despite calls from his fellow soldiers to withdraw and the wounds he had already suffered. The gallant Private continued fighting until he had run out of ammunition and taken his final breath.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

TFH 10/13-28: Captain Arlo L. Olson, USA

Arlo L. Olson was born on April 20, 1918 in Greenville, Iowa. When he was ten years old, he and his family relocated to Toronto, South Dakota. Olson attended the University of South Dakota from 1936 to 1940. After graduation, he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army via Reserve Officers' Training Corps and became an infantry officer, with his service beginning on June 28, 1941.

He was promoted to First Lieutenant on February 1, 1942 and then Captain on December 1, 1942. On Christmas 1942, he married Miss Myra Bordeaux in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He left his new wife just a few months later to go to war with the 3rd Infantry Division's 15th Infantry Regiment.

On October 12, 1943, Allied forces on mainland Italy began their attack across the Volturno River, a natural barrier at which the Nazi Germans opted to make their first defensive stand against the Americans and British. The next day, the 15th Infantry was thrown into the fight and for the next fifteen days slammed the enemy back through thirty miles of rough terrain. During each of those fifteen days, Arlo Olson stayed at the front of his soldiers' advance and repeatedly placed himself at extreme risk and time and time again, showed initiative and courage above and beyond the normal call of duty.

His Medal of Honor was assured on October 28, 1943 when, after he was gravely wounded by the enemy, he chose to insure his unit was in proper defensive positions and refused care for himself until all others had been treated. He perished as his soldiers tried to carry their valiant leader to safety.

Friday, October 11, 2013

TFH 10/11: Lieutenant Colonel Neel E. Kearby, USAAF

Neel Earnest Kearby was born on June 5, 1911 in Wichita Falls, Texas. His family later settled in Arlington, Texas. Kearby completed his studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 1936 and then joined the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. By the time he officially graduated from UT Austin in 1937, he was well on his way to earning his pilot's wings.

Kearby was one of the first combat aviators to fly and develop tactics for the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter. As a Lieutenant Colonel in 1943, he took command of the United States Army Air Forces' 348th Fighter Group and flew in combat against the Japanese from a forward base on New Guinea.

Seventy years ago today, Lieutenant Colonel Kearby led a flight of four Thunderbolts on a mission to Wewak, New Guinea where the Japanese had a large airbase and other installations. After performing their primary reconnaissance mission, he shot down one enemy aircraft, and then even though his flight was low on fuel, pressed the attack against an enemy aircraft formation twelve times larger. He shot down five more planes, and joined the ranks of our Nation's greatest heroes.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

In Memoriam: Master Sergeant Nicholas Oresko, USA

Hat tip to Mary Chastain for alerting me to this sad news.

On Friday, October 4, 2013 Nicholas Oresko, at the time the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, passed away during surgery to repair a broken femur suffered in a fall at his assisted living facility. Mr. Oresko served in the United States Army's 94th Infantry Division during World War II, and received the Medal for his heroism on January 23, 1945. Born on January 18, 1917, he was 96 years old at his passing.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

TFH 10/3-4: Mogadishu+20

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. 
-- President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

The United States entered Somalia in December 1992 to stop the imminent starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. Although it succeeded in this mission, the chaotic political situation of that unhappy land bogged down U.S. and allied forces in what became, in effect, a poorly organized United Nations nation-building operation. In a country where the United States, perhaps naively, expected some measure of gratitude for its help, its forces received increasing hostility as they became more deeply embroiled into trying to establish a stable government. 
-- From The United States Army in Somalia, 1992-1994
Somalia descended into civil war in January 1991 with the collapse of the military dictatorship that had ruled the African nation and at least four armed groups jockied for power. In addition to fighting with each other, the armed militia groups used another weapon against each other and the Somali people: food, or rather, the lack of it.

Starving people are easily subjugated, and they certainly are in no condition to take up arms and resist. Until the United Nations decided to act and intervene in Somalia to alleviate the humanitarian crisis a year later in January 1992, the first year of civil war saw tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Somali civilians starved to death as the militias choked off and controlled food supplies.

Monday, September 23, 2013

TFH 9/23: Corporal James D. Slaton, USA

James Daniel Slaton was born in Laurel, Mississippi on April 2, 1910 or 1912 (there is a discrepancy in the records). He was drafted for service in World War II into the United States Army, and was assigned as a foot soldier with the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division.

Seventy years ago today on September 23, 1943 in action near Oliveto, Italy, Corporal Slaton advanced alone and used his bayonet, his M1 Garand rifle, and hand grenades to take out three Nazi machine guns that had pinned down two rifle platoons in the attack. His heroism was later recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

TFH 9/22: Second Lieutenant Ernest L. Childers, USA/OKNG

Ernest L. Childers, a Native American and member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was born on February 1, 1918 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard in 1937, and was assigned to the 180th Infantry Regiment (today the 180th Cavalry) of the 45th Infantry Division, known as the "Thunderbirds" for the traditionally large Native American contingent in its ranks.

The Thunderbirds were federalized for service with the United States Army on September 16, 1941 as it looked more and more likely that the United States would be swept up into World War II. The division deployed overseas for combat in June 1943. They participated in the Allied invasion of Sicily, and then landed on the Italian mainland on September 10, 1943.

Twelve days later, Ernest Childers, now a Second Lieutenant and a platoon leader, embodied the 45th's motto of Semper Anticus - "Always Forward" -  when he placed himself repeatedly at risk and at the front of his soldiers as they drove tenaciously against enemy positions, and thereby entered the ranks of our Nation's greatest heroes.

Friday, September 13, 2013

An evening of blueberry yogurt, mojitos, & C-4!

This upcoming Monday night on my Conservative Daily News-hosted Internet radio show "Their Finest Hour Radio", I'm going to have a 90-minute special roundtable panel broadcast celebrating the seven seasons and 111 episodes of the USA Network hit series Burn Notice!

UPDATE 9/14, 5:10PM: Here's the link to save for the show broadcast on Monday night, 10E/9C/8M/7P!!!!!

UPDATE 9/15, 10:15PM: Scroll down to the bottom of the post for IMPORTANT UPDATES on the show program!!!!!

TFH 9/13-14: Corporal Charles E. Kelly, USA

By now, you should have read the stories of Arnold L. Bjorklund and William J. Crawford, both of whom were awarded the Medal of Honor while serving with the 36th Infantry Division in Italy on September 13, 1943 - seventy years ago today. Now, for the story of the third 36th Division soldier to receive our Nation's highest honor on that day of battle.

Charles E. Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 23, 1920. He grew up as what today would be called a "troubled youth", joining street gangs and often finding himself in trouble with the police. He entered service with the United States Army in May 1942, where his troubles continued, including occurrences of him being absent without leave.

Regardless, by the time the 36th stormed ashore on the Italian mainland at Salerno on September 9, 1943, he was a Corporal with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment. Four days later in action near Altavilla through September 14, he fought so hard and intensely that he was later known as "Commando Kelly, the One Man Army."

TFH 9/13: First Lieutenant Arnold L. Bjorklund, USA

Yesterday, I posted the first of three Medal of Honor recipients from September 13, 1943, Private William J. Crawford. Here is the second man to receive our Nation's highest honor for his actions that day following the Allied invasion of Italy on September 9, 1943.

Arnold L. Bjorklund was born on April 14, 1918 in Clinton, Washington. United States Army enlistment records show that he was a landscaping or nursery worker when he joined the Army on February 20, 1941. Bjorklund was eventually commissioned as an officer. He was a First Lieutenant with the 36th Infantry Division's 142nd Infantry Regiment when they landed at Salerno for their first combat action during World War II.

Four days later, he exemplified the best quality of a commander of men in combat: leadership can only be from the front. When his platoon was pinned down by multiple machine guns and then a mortar, Lieutenant Bjorklund ordered his men to give him cover as he dealt with the enemy alone.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

TFH 9/13 Advance: Private William J. Crawford, USA

Blogger's note: there are three Medal of Honor recipients from World War II on September 13, 1943. I am recounting the heroism of William Crawford a day early, as he has an incredible story from his life after his wartime experiences that deserves everyone's attention!

William John "Bill" Crawford was born on May 19, 1918 in Pueblo, Colorado where he was also raised and joined the United States Army from in July 1942. After training, he was assigned as a foot soldier to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit federalized for war service.

The 36th Infantry Division's first combat action in World War II was the invasion of mainland Italy at Salerno on September 9, 1943. Four days later on September 13, the 36th was heavily engaged around the town of Altavilla, both attacking in the hills and facing determined counter-attacks from the Nazi Panzer Division Hermann Göring

On that day seventy years ago, Private William Crawford single-handedly took out three German machine guns that stood in the way of his platoon and company's attack with just his rifle and hand grenades. His unit's advance was assured after he captured one of the enemy guns and turned it upon the fleeing Germans.

Monday, September 09, 2013

TFH 9/9: Sergeant James M. Logan, USA/TXNG

James Marion Logan was born on December 19, 1920 in McNeil, Texas. He enlisted in the Texas National Guard at just fifteen years old in 1936. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, part of the 36th Infantry Division. The division was activated for federal service with the United States Army on November 25, 1940 as it became increasingly likely that the United States would have to fight in World War II.

The 36th Division arrived in North Africa for staging and final training on April 13, 1943. Their first action would be the Americans' contribution to the invasion of mainland Italy - Operation AVALANCHE - scheduled for September 9, 1943.

At dawn on that day, the Fifth United States Army stormed ashore at Salerno. As the 36th's 142nd Regimental Combat Team got about one-half mile inland from the beach, they faced the first counter-attack by Nazi German soldiers of the 16th Panzer Division. In direct action first against an enemy machine gun, and then against a sniper position, then Sergeant James Logan helped insure that the American fighting man would be on the Italian mainland until victory, and later received the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Thank You

I have one piece of unfinished business from my White House trip for the Medal of Honor presentation to US Army Staff Sergeant Ty M. Carter, which is to thank the White House press and media relations staff for the assistance I was given and the access I was granted.

TFH 9/4: Seaman First Class Johnnie David Hutchins, USNR

Johnnie David Hutchins was born in Weiner, Texas on August 4, 1922. He enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve in November 1942, and was sent for active service with the United States Navy in the war versus Japan across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Hutchins was assigned the the USS LST-473 (LST-473) - tank landing ships being built so fast and so numerous there wasn't time or priority to actually give them names. On September 4, 1943, LST-473 transported Australian soldiers as part of the invasion fleet for the landings at Lae on New Guinea as part of the Salamaua-Lae Campaign.

As the ships approached shore with their assault troops, they came under attack from shore fires and Japanese aircraft, both level and torpedo bombers. LST-473 was struck in its pilot house and bridge area by a bomb. At that moment, an air-dropped torpedo was also making its way towards the now stricken landing ship. Johnnie Hutchins lay mortally wounded from the bomb blast, but it fell to him to steer his ship to safety out of the path of the torpedo. His final act placed him in the ranks of our nation's most honored heroes.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Witness to History

Dear Readers,

I suppose there was part of me who thought once I got over the initial nervousness of being at the White House today for the Medal of Honor presentation to United States Army Staff Sergeant Ty M. Carter for his heroism during the Battle of Kamdesh at Combat Outpost Keating on October 3, 2009 by President Barack Obama, I'd be able to easily write about my experience.

I wish that were the case. Today was an absolutely amazing experience. I'm feeling quite a bit overwhelmed by the experience, but in a very different way than the jitters I felt while I was sitting in Lafayette Park across from the White House this morning at 11:30 calming myself for walking up to the visitors' gate and saying, "I'm supposed to be here."

To best relate what I saw and experienced today, I have to start at the end.

Live from the White House!

I'm composing this sitting in the rightmost (as facing the podium) seat of the second row in the James S. Brady Briefing Room in the West Wing of the White House.

I just wrote that, I've read it six times, and I still can't believe it!

Good Morning from Our Nation's Capital!

I arrived in Washington, DC this morning just after 5:00 AM after an uneventful and thoroughly satisfactory ride on Megabus from Pittsburgh. I did manage to get some sleep, although I chalk the lack of rest value to my keyed-up state rather than a condition of the accommodations!

After getting coffee & breakfast at Union Station, I walked around the surrounding streets and by chance came upon the Japanese-American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II. The monument remembers both those who were unjustly interned during the war as well as those patriotic Americans - including the late Senator and Medal of Honor recipient Daniel K. Inouye - who still rose to their nation's call and valiantly wore the uniforms of our Armed Forces in the defeat of tyranny.

The real excitement for the rest of my day is of course yet to come, and thanks to a phone call earlier, got a whole lot more interesting.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Journey Begins; Thanks to a New Media Pioneer

I'm about one-half hour into my six-hour ride on MegaBus from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. to cover the Medal of Honor presentation Monday to United States Army Staff Sergeant Ty M. Carter at the White House. It's my first time traveling on MegaBus, and so far, I couldn't be happier. I'm seated on the upper level of the motorcoach at the very front. If it was daylight, the view would be great from this seat. The seat is comfortable, the temperature on-board isn't too cold, and I'm also seated right by the power outlets. There's free WiFi, but I'm opting to tether across my iPhone instead.

The one thing I'm not sure I'm going to get during this trip is much rest, but that's because I'm so keyed up for what I'm going to witness tomorrow and not any discomfort in the ride.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

TFH Goes to Washington!

To everyone who's ever read a post here, commented, shared links, and encouraged the labor of love that is this blog - and especially to the American warriors who have received the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross whose exploits in the defense of liberty have and always will be my focus here - I have to say thank you, for without you all, the story I'm about to tell wouldn't be happening.

Their Finest Hour is going to be breaking new ground - for me, anyway - on Monday, August 26, 2013! This is a story though that really begins on October 3, 2009, and for me in April 2012.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

TFH 8/18: Major Ralph Cheli, USAAF

Ralph Cheli (pronounced "Kelly") was born on October 29, 1919 in San Francisco, California. He later lived in Brooklyn, New York, and studied engineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as a member of the class of 1941. He didn't graduate though, choosing to leave school in February 1940 to join the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet.

He received his wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in November 1940 and was trained as a pilot for the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. With the United States' entry into World War II and the ramping up of the United States Army Air Forces for global combat, Cheli first found himself flying anti-submarine patrols in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

After promotions to First Lieutenant and Captain in early 1942, he was transferred to Barksdale Field in Louisiana (today's Barksdale Air Force Base) and assigned as the operations officer for the 405th Bombardment Squadron (nicknamed the "Green Dragons") of the 38th Bombardment Group - a new North American B-25 Mitchell unit that was being formed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

TFH 8/15 and 8/30: First Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, USMC

Kenneth Ambrose Walsh was born on November 24, 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 17 on December 15, 1933. Walsh was trained as an aviation mechanic and radioman. While still an enlisted man, he received flight training and earned his "Wings of Gold" as a Naval Aviator in 1937. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was one of the more experienced Marine aviators and was a Technical Sergeant flying with Marine Fighting Squadron 121 (VMF-121).

Walsh was promoted to Warrant Officer in May of 1942, and later received a full commission when promoted to Second Lieutenant. He was reassigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 124 (VMF-124). VMF-124 was the first USMC squadron to field the Vought F4U Corsair fighter. The squadron was also one of the few Marine aircraft carrier-capable units of the day, and Walsh was one of the few Marine officers qualified as a carrier Landing Signal Officer (LSO).

VMF-124 deployed to Guadalcanal in February 1943 and flew and fought during the Solomon Islands Campaign. Walsh achieved "ace" status by shooting down five enemy planes by mid-May 1943. For two instances of aerial combat where he faced numerically superior enemy opposition on August 15 and 30, 1943, he received our Nation's highest honor.

Monday, August 12, 2013

TFH 8/12: Lance Corporal Kenneth L. Worley, USMC

Kenneth Lee Worley was born on April 27, 1948 in Farmington, New Mexico. He was orphaned during his early teens, and later lived with an aunt in California. Worley's living conditions were impoverished and he left school to work as a truck driver in agriculture. After suffering a workplace injury, he was taken in by Don and Rose Feyerherm of Modesto; they became his surrogate family.

Worley volunteered and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on July 14, 1967. After completing recruit and advanced infantry training, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment for combat with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. Prior to leaving for war, he was promoted to Private First Class.

He arrived in Vietnam on November 24, 1967. He served as a rifleman and with the battalion headquarters and was promoted to Lance Corporal on May 1, 1968. On August 12, 1968 - 45 years ago today - he was a machine gunner with Company L of 3/7 Marines. His unit was secure for the night in an occupied house when the Marines were awakened with an alarm call that an enemy infiltrator had thrown grenades into the building. One landed near Lance Corporal Worley, and he placed his body between the explosive and his comrades, and thus received our Nation's highest honor.

Monday, August 05, 2013

TFH 8/5: PVT James W. Reese, USA

In the closing days of July 1943, the Allied forces on Sicily had pounded the remaining German and Italian enemy defenders back to the mountainous region surrounding Mount Etna and from there, back towards Messina. The Nazis and their fascist Italian cohorts dug themselves in deep. If they had a hope of surviving the Allied onslaught, they would have to make their stand on the high ground.

James William Reese was born in 1920 at Chester, PA. He was drafted into the United States Army in November 1941, right before the United States' entry into World War II. He was part of the 1st Infantry Division's 26th Infantry Regiment, and fought with the division in North Africa before the Sicily Campaign.

On July 31, 1943, the US II Corps (the 1st Infantry Division and the 9th Infantry Division), Lieutenant General Omar Bradley commanding, began their assault on the city of Troina. The city was defended by the German 16th Panzergrenadier Division and the Italian 28th Infantry Division Aosta. Resse's regiment was given the assignment of flanking the city and cutting off the enemy's escape route.

As it happens, it would be the Americans who would get cut off.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

TFH 8/1 Flight 4: Colonel John R. Kane and "Hail Columbia"

John Riley Kane was born in McGregor, Texas on January 5, 1907. He graduated from Baylor University and later joined the United States Army Air Corps in 1931 as an aviation cadet. He earned his pilot's wings and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1932. He was one of the more experienced pilots with the United States Army Air Forces as they ramped up for a long war.

He arrived overseas for combat in the Europe, Africa, and Middle East theaters in July 1942. Over the next year, he flew 43 combat missions against the Nazi Germans and their allies and became the commander of the 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy). The group styled themselves as the "Pyramiders", as they were based in Egypt.

The 98th's success and tenacity in combat were well known to the enemy. In fact, German military intelligence tagged their commander by the nickname by which he'd be known for the rest of the war: "Killer Kane".

Kane, the 98th Bombardment Group, and their Consolidated B-24D Liberators were selected for Operation TIDAL WAVE, the attack on critical petroleum industries and infrastructure surrounding Ploesti, Romania on August 1, 1943 - seventy years ago today.

TFH 8/1 Flight 3: Colonel Leon W. Johnson, USAAF aboard "Suzy Q"

Leon William Johnson was born on September 13, 1904 in Columbia, Missouri. He graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point with the class of 1926 and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He opted to become part of the Army Air Corps and later earned a master's degree in meteorology from Cal Tech.

In 1942 as the then United States Army Air Forces were establishing themselves in Britain for action against Nazi Germany, Johnson was one of the first flying officers of the nascent Eighth Air Force and spent time as a staff officer planning missions and tactics for bombing strikes against military and industrial targets in Germany and occupied Europe.

Johnson was given command of the 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy) in January 1943. In June 1943, the group was detached from the Eighth Air Force to reinforce the Ninth Air Force in North Africa and the Mediterranean for Operation TIDAL WAVE, the planned attack on petroleum refineries and infrastructure vital to the Nazi war machine surrounding Ploesti, Romania.

TFH 8/1 Flight 2: Second Lieutenant Lloyd H. Hughes, USAAF and "Ole Kickapoo"

Lloyd Herbert Hughes was born in Alexandria, Louisiana on July 12, 1921. His family returned to his mother's native Texas not long afterwards, and he grew up and graduated from high school in the town of Refugio in 1939. Hughes, known as "Pete" to friends, attended Texas A&M University where he studied petroleum engineering. He heard his nation's call not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor and enlisted on January 28, 1942 and accepted into the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet.

He married the former Miss Hazel Dean Ewing on November 8, 1942 and had his pilot's wings pinned on two days later. Hughes was assigned to the 564th Bombardment Squadron of the 389th Bombardment Group (Heavy), flying the Consolidated B-24D Liberator. The group was posted to North Africa in June 1943 and he flew during five combat missions in June and July.

On Sunday, August 1, 1943, he and his crew boarded B-24D serial number 42-40753, named Ole Kickapoo, for the attack on the oil refineries surrounding Ploesti, Romania - operation TIDAL WAVE.

TFH 8/1 Flight 1: Lieutenant Colonel Addison E. Baker, Major John L. Jerstad, and "Hell's Wench"

Hell's Wench was the name given to Consolidated B-24D Liberator 42-40994 by her aircraft commander and commanding officer of the 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), Lieutenant Colonel Addison E. Baker. Baker was born on January 11, 1907 in Chicago. He joined the United States Army in 1929 and entered the Air Corps. He earned his pilot's wings and an officer's commission in 1931.

Lieutenant Colonel Baker took his B-24 to the skies on August 1, 1943 as the lead ship of his 37 bomber group for Operation TIDAL WAVE - the first large scale bombing attack by the United States Army Air Forces on Nazi controlled petroleum refineries surrounding Ploesti, Romania.

In the co-pilot's seat next to him was Major John L. Jerstad, born February 12, 1918 in Racine, Wisconsin. Major Jerstad began his service as an aviation cadet on July 12, 1941 and was rapidly promoted as the United States plunged into World War II and our armed forces grew exponentially for wartime.

Jerstad didn't need to take to the skies that day; he had already completed the 25 combat missions of a tour of duty and wasn't even officially part of the 93rd Bombardment Group anymore. He didn't want to pass up the chance to be a part of the strike against the most important target in Europe, and volunteered to go.

Tidal Wave: The Raid on Ploesti

Ploesti, Romania (correctly spelled Ploiești, but I will use the common spelling as found in most World War II histories) is, to this day, a center for petroleum production and refining. The first large oil refinery in the world was opened there in 1856-57. Foreign producers, including John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil built and operated facilities there.

Nazi Germany gained control of most of Romania and the Ploesti oil production facilities in 1941. As Germany had little petroleum production of its own, the strategic significance of the city's resources couldn't be underestimated. By the middle of 1943, Germany was consuming up to 22 million tons of oil, but was only bringing in 14 million tons. If the Ploesti facilities could be severely damaged or destroyed, the war in Europe would assuredly be shortened by months and tens of thousands of lives might be saved.

As the war progressed into the summer of 1943, the United States Army Air Forces - progenitor of today's United States Air Force - prepared to execute the first large scale bombing raid against the Ploesti refineries. Five heavy bomber groups would be used, flying from bases in North Africa.

The plan was called Operation TIDAL WAVE. It was scheduled for a Sunday: August 1, 1943 - seventy years ago today. The men who flew the mission and survived came to know their attack on Ploesti by a much grimmer name:

Black Sunday.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TFH 7/31: PVT Rodger W. Young, USA

Rodger Wilton Young was was born on April 28, 1918 in Tiffin, Ohio. He grew up in Clyde, Ohio. Young was a small man, only reaching 5 feet, 2 inches in adulthood. While a student, he was a tenacious if not gifted athlete. During a basketball game, he suffered a head injury that would plague his vision and hearing for the rest of his life. His failing eyesight and hearing led him to drop out of high school after his sophomore year because he couldn't hear his teachers well or make out what was on the blackboards.

In order to earn some extra money, Young enlisted in the Ohio National Guard in 1938 and was accepted. He was placed as an infantryman with Company B, 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment as part of the 37th Infantry Division. Despite his vision and hearing problems, Young excelled as a soldier and had reached the rank of Corporal and was a marksmanship instructor when the 37th Infantry Division was federalized for potential war service with the United States Army in October 1940.

Monday, July 29, 2013

TFH 7/29: 2LT Robert S. Scott, USA

Robert Sheldon Scott was born in our nation's capital on November 30, 1913. He grew up in New Mexico, graduating from the University of New Mexico in 1937. He was drafted into the United States Army in September 1941. Thanks to his education, he was enrolled in Officer Candidates' School and was ultimately commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry branch.

Lieutenant Scott was assigned as a rifle platoon leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 172d Infantry Regiment which was part of the 43d Infantry Division, a National Guard unit federalized for war service from Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont. The division arrived for action in the South Pacific in October 1942 and saw their first heavy combat during the New Georgia Campaign in the summer of 1943.

Seventy years ago today, Lieutenant Scott led his platoon against a Japanese hilltop strongpoint near the Munda Airstrip, which had to be captured. When the lead element's attack bogged down and they began to withdraw, he advanced alone. At that moment, the Japanese counter-attacked and it was up to Scott fighting alone to hold them off.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

TFH 7/28: 2d Lt. John C. Morgan, USAAF

John Cary Morgan was born on August 24, 1914 in Vernon, Texas. He graduated from a military school in 1931 and bounced between colleges and universities until 1934 when he dropped out. During his college days though, he did learn to fly. Into 1938, he was working in the Fiji Islands on a pineapple plantation. Later in that year, he returned to the United States and tried to join the Army Air Corps as a flight cadet, but was rejected for his poor education record.

Morgan went to work for Texaco, and was injured in an accident that resulted in him being declared "4-F" - unfit for military service - by the Selective Service System. With the world at war in 1941, if his own country wouldn't take him for service, he decided to find one that would. He journeyed to Canada and was accepted into the Royal Canadian Air Force in August, 1941. Morgan was trained as a pilot, and saw action with the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command over Europe.

On March 23, 1943 he was transferred to the United States Army Air Forces and put on his own country's uniform. On July 28, 1943 he took off as the co-pilot of a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress belonging to the 326th Bombardment Squadron of the 92nd Bombardment Group (Heavy). It was his fifth mission with the unit.

John Morgan's actions after his aircraft was heavily damaged by enemy fighters before reaching the target saw him decorated with our nation's highest honor. If you think his citation sounds like a movie excerpt, well, you'd be right.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

TFH 7/27,29,31: PFC Frank J. Petrarca, USA

Frank Joseph Petrarca was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 31, 1918. He joined the United States Army in October 1940 and was assigned as a medic in the 145th Infantry Regiment, part of the 37th Infantry Division. The 37th was part of the Ohio National Guard, and was activated for federal service as the United States prepared for possible involvement in World War II the same month.

The 37th Infantry Division deployed overseas for combat in the Pacific on May 26, 1942. The division first garrisoned Fiji, and then Guadalcanal after that island had been recaptured from the Japanese and secured. On July 20, 1943, the 37th landed on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands for their first combat action of the war.

On three different days at the end of July 1943, Private First Class Frank Petrarca repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fires and action to render aid to wounded men. He lost his life struggling to reach a fellow soldier, and as he succumbed to shrapnel wounds, hurled verbal insults at the enemy as he tried in vain to reach his comrade. A grateful nation decorated him posthumously with the Medal of Honor.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

TFH 7/17: 1LT David C. Waybur, USA

David Crowder Waybur was born in Oakland, California in 1919. He enlisted in the United States Army on November 22, 1940. Before becoming a soldier, he was a grocery clerk and a ranch hand. By 1943 and the Allied invasion of Sicily, he had been commissioned as an officer and promoted to First Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.

On July 17, 1943 - seventy years ago to the day - Lieutenant Waybur commanded a motorized patrol to locate a Ranger unit that had become cut off. Advancing in darkness, the patrol was stopped at a knocked out bridge by four enemy tanks. Even though the small patrol was outnumbered and vastly outgunned, Waybur rallied his men, organized a defense, and when all their machine gun ammunition was expended, stood alone with just a Thompson submachine gun. His indomitable courage was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TFH 7/11: 2LT Robert Craig, USA

Robert Craig was born in Scotland in 1919. He emigrated to the United States with his family; the Craigs settled in Toledo, Ohio. Robert enlisted in the United States Army on February 28, 1941 - before the United States entered World War II, and according to his enlistment record, before he became a citizen of the United States.

By 1943, he had been commissioned as an officer and was a Second Lieutenant with the 15th Infantry Regiment, part of the 3rd Infantry Division. At dawn on July 10, 1943, Lieutenant Craig stormed ashore with his unit in the Licata area on the Gulf of Gela during the Invasion of Sicily. The next day, an enemy machine gun had already wounded three of his company's officers when Craig volunteered to find it and silence it. Not long after, as the platoon he led was counter-attacked by an enemy as much as three times as large, he used himself as a diversion to allow his men to reach a hill crest. Lieutenant Craig's gallant self-sacrifice inspired his men and rallied them forward to route the superior force.

Lieutenant Craig posthumously received his adopted home's highest honor:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ashore on Sicily: the main landing of Operation HUSKY

On April 30, 1943, British Intelligence launched one of the boldest military deception operations of all time: Operation MINCEMEAT. Its goal was to convince the Axis enemy that after North Africa, their next target would be anywhere except Sicily. In the pre-dawn hours of July 10, 1943, an Allied fleet transported the Seventh United States Army, Lieutenant General George S. Patton commanding, and the British Eighth Army, Lieutenant General Bernard Law Montgomery commanding, to their landing points on Sicily's southern point.

The Sicily attack was the largest amphibious operation ever attempted to that point in time. Seven Allied divisions, of a force totaling 12 divisions plus attached units, were to land on July 10th. The lives of thousands of men hung in the balance. Had the deception plan worked, or were the British and American soldiers about to hit the beach heading into prepared defenses that would chew them up and spit them out?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

TFH 7/9-10: ENS John Joseph Parle, USNR

John Joseph Parle was born on May 26, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated from Creighton University in Omaha in 1942 and received and officer's commission in the United States Naval Reserve at that time. He served on active duty for World War II with the United States Navy's USS LST-375 (tank landing ships being built so numerous and so fast, they weren't named!).

On the night of July 9-10, 1943, LST-375 approached the shores of Sicily along with the rest of the Anglo-American invasion fleet for Operation HUSKY. With just hours before the assault forces would stream ashore, Ensign Parle was the officer in charge of the LST's small boats and landing craft. When a fire broke out among ammunition and explosives, Perle recognized quickly that an accidental explosion would both damage his ship, kill many of her crew and the soldiers she carried, and alert the enemy ashore to the impending attack. The 23-year old Nebraskan acted:

Operation HUSKY Kicks Off

In the evening hours of July 9, 1943, Allied forces under the overall command of United States' General Dwight D. Eisenhower were crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Africa and elsewhere for Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily.

Around midnight local time, July 10 (about 6:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, by present standards) British and American parachute and glider-borne forces began the first large-scale airborne operation for the Allies in the war. It turned out that they had a lot to learn about transporting men into combat that way.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Hero of Asiana Flight 214

Yesterday (Saturday, July 6, 2013) saw what could have been a true civil aviation disaster: the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214 from Shanghai, China to San Francisco, California, via Seoul, South Korea. There were 307 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft. 305 are alive today to tell the harrowing tale of the final moments of flight and their miraculous survival.

Two sadly perished. They were Chinese teenagers Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan, both just sixteen years old. The two young women were coming to the United States for summer camp, on what (I'm assuming) was their first visit to our country. If either of their families ever happen upon this post, I hope they accept my sincere sympathies. As many as 182 others were injured in the crash, some severely.

Known details and evidence available to this point points to pilot error as the cause of the accident. In fairness to the aircrew, the investigation is just beginning and they might be absolved. I'm not an expert, just a layman aviation fan. There was a hero yesterday, but it wasn't a human.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

TFH 7/6: LCDR Bruce A. Van Voorhis, USN

Bruce Avery Van Voorhis was born on January 29, 1908 in Aberdeen, Washington and spent his childhood years in Nevada. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1925, and graduated with the class of 1929. His first assignment was to the USS Mississippi (BB-41), but he only spent about one year with the battleship before reporting to Naval Air Station Pensacola for training as a Naval Aviator.

After earning his "Wings of Gold" on September 3, 1931, Van Voorhis flew a variety of carrier-based and other aircraft, and served aboard and flew off off the USS Saratoga (CV-3), USS Ranger (CV-4), USS Yorktown (CV-5), and USS Enterprise (CV-6) before the United States entered World War II.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

TFH 6/16: The Most Decorated Single Aircrew of World War II

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, serial number 41-2666 and possibly named "Lucy" at one time, was originally assigned at delivery to the 435th Bombardment Squadron of the 19th Bombardment Group. The bomber was known as a "hard luck" plane. A mission it flew in November 1942 resulted in the accidental deployment of one of the life rafts aboard, destroying the radio aerial and wrapping itself around the horizontal stabilizers. By early 1943, 41-2666 had such a reputation for being shot up that it was abandoned as a parts hulk at the airfield at Port Moresby, New Guinea.

Jay Zeamer, Jr. was born on July 25, 1918 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve while still a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 1940. Zeamer was discharged, accepted into the United States Army Air Corps (forerunner of the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Air Force) as an aviation cadet, and recommissioned after completing pilot training in March 1941. Zeamer flew combat missions in the Pacific during 1942 in Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers. He was transferred to the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) in November 1942 and assigned to group headquarters.

Zeamer began flying missions on B-17s as a fill-in pilot on other crews, but didn't have a plane or a crew of his own...until someone told him where he could find a plane.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Bridges Too Far

Anybody who drives - I'm guessing most of the people reading this - is probably receptive to the meme of "our nation's infrastructure is crumbling". Yet, though billions of dollars are spent annually between all levels of government as soon as one thing gets fixed or improved, another starts falling apart. What's the real story of America's infrastructure? Frankly it's us, the taxpayers, getting screwed.

A couple of weeks ago, a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Jon Schmitz, "Pennsylvania bridges better, but still need work", caught my eye. The article mentions how in the last three years the number of "structurally deficient" bridges in Pennsylvania has dropped by 1,100. Before you breathe easy, that still leaves about 4,500 in the Commonwealth that need some TLC ("structurally deficient...does not mean they are unsafe but that they are showing signs of deterioration that, if unaddressed, could lead to weight limits or closings").

Later in the article, Mr. Schmitz points out that one of the most important bridges in the Pittsburgh area is on the needy list:
One of the biggest bridges on the deficient list, the Liberty Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh, is in need of rehabilitation that will cost an estimated $40 million to $60 million, he said. Final design of the project is expected to begin this year but construction funding is not yet available. More than 16,500 vehicles use the bridge on an average day. 
The bridge superstructure is marred with patches of rust and there are areas of corrosion and deterioration in the steel, but Mr. [Dan] Cessna said the span is safe. It is currently undergoing an in-depth inspection. 
The best-case scenario has rehabilitation starting in 2015 if funding becomes available. The department will make interim repairs as necessary until then, Mr. Cessna said.
Dan Cessna is the executive of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 11, comprising Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence counties. Everybody in Pittsburgh knows the Liberty Bridge, the tunnels that join the bridge to pass under Mount Washington, the lengthy traffic jams during rush hours on both, and what a complete pig's breakfast transportation around here would be if the bridge failed or had to be closed for safety reasons. $40-60 million seems like a bargain to keep the bridge safe and sound. But is it?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

TFH 5/29: Hillary and Norgay

On April 10, 1802, the British began the Great Trigonometric Survey as part of the larger Survey of India. The surveyors thought it would take five years to complete their work. It wound up taking over sixty.

During 1847, Kangchenjunga was considered the highest peak in the world (now known to be the third highest). In November of that year, Andrew Waugh, British Surveyor General of India, and one of his colleagues, John Armstrong, viewed another peak over 140 miles past Kangchenjunga between Nepal and Tibet, both of which was closed to foreigners at the time. The two used theodolites to determine trigonometrically the height of the "new" peak. They were pretty sure that they had found the world's highest mountain, but needed closer observations to verify.

Two years later, Waugh dispatched surveyor James Nicolson to get closer. He took thirty measurements and sightings on the peak from distances ranging from 108 to 120 miles away. The mountain was then designated simply as "Peak XV".

Finally in 1856, after further measurements and mathematical corrections to account for Earth curvature, atmospheric distortion, and the like - much by an Indian surveyor named Radhanath Sikdar - Waugh announced that the world's tallest mountain had been identified with an altitude of 29,002 feet (8,840 meters).

The British tried to name peaks preserving their local, native names, but as Nepal and Tibet were closed to them, the peak's traditional name of Chomolungma remained unknown for years. Waugh chose to name the peak for his predecessor as Surveyor General: George Everest.