Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TFH 4/30: Major William Martin, RM goes to war

My regular readers know that I've told many stories here of men who gave their lives in battle to save others. Seventy years ago today on April 30, 1943, a man already dead went to war, and undoubtedly saved hundreds if not thousands of American and British soldiers from becoming casualties both in July and August 1943 and beyond.

Glyndwr Michael was born in Aberbargoed, Wales on January 4, 1909. His father, a coal miner, committed suicide in 1924. His mother died in 1940, leaving the Welshman alone, depressed or suffering from additional mental illness, and homeless. His corpse was discovered on January 24, 1943 in a London warehouse. Michael's death was caused by ingesting rat poison, and it's unknown whether he committed suicide or his death was an accident because he was scrounging for food.

Society often looks past the deaths of derelicts, of the unwanted. With no family surviving to claim his remains, Michael's body would become the centerpiece of the greatest wartime deception since the perhaps mythical Trojan Horse, and would ultimately be buried with military honors befitting a man killed in battle.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

TFH 4/28: Private Nicholas Minue, USA

Nicholas Minue was born to ethnic Ukrainian parents in Sedden, Poland on March 13, 1905. He emigrated with his family to the United States, where they settled in Carteret, New Jersey. In 1926 at age 21, he volunteered and enlisted in the United States Army. Minue made the Army his home, and by 1942 with sixteen years of service held the rank of Sergeant. Then 37 years old, he requested assignment to any of the hundreds of combat units being assembled for war in either Europe or the Pacific. His request was denied, as he was thought to be too old or too senior.

Fighting for his adopted homeland, fighting for the liberation of his birth land from Nazi tyranny; no order saying "no" would keep Nicholas Minue from fulfilling the soldier's duty of going to war. He voluntarily gave up his rank, reverted to the status and pay of a mere Private, and went to combat with the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment of the 1st Armored Division.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Reflections on the Tsarnaev manhunt, one week after

On April 18, Americans residing around the city of Boston were alerted by their neighbors that an imminent threat to their safety was in their midst. Throughout the night, they were warned about the danger to their property and their families.

As April 19 dawned, those Bostonians who were willing, along with many others from surrounding communities, armed themselves and took to the streets and fields in defense of their homes, communities, and fellow citizens...

...wait, WHAT?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TFH 4/24: Sergeant William L. Nelson, USA

William Lloyd Nelson was born on February 22, 1918 in Dover, Delaware. He was drafted into the United States Army in January, 1941 before the United States' entry into World War II. By 1943, he was a Sergeant with the 9th Infantry Division's 60th Infantry Regiment and was a mortar section leader.

On March 23, 1943, the US II Corps, Lieutenant General George S. Patton commanding, launched their final assault in Tunisia to force the last Nazis in North Africa to surrender or be annihilated. The next day, 70 years ago exactly, Sergeant Nelson risked everything and gave his life to the cause of liberty to see that the fires of his section's mortars would fall catastrophically on enemy forces. He was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

TFH 4/9: Private Robert D. Booker, USA

The United States Army's 34th Infantry Division was the first division deployed to Europe for World War II, departing New York for Ireland in January, 1942. They saw their first action in North Africa beginning in November, 1942. The "Red Bull" division, as they were known, also fought throughout the Italian campaign.

At some point in its history, the 34th division gained the motto, "Attack, attack, attack!" Perhaps they got their motto from the events of seventy years ago this day when Private Robert D. Booker, a 22 year-old machine gunner from Callaway, Nebraska with the division's 133rd Infantry Regiment, charged forward alone over open ground to silence enemy machine guns and mortars and earned his Nation's highest honor.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013

The debt the free peoples of Europe owe to [the United States], generous with its bounty, willing to share its strength, seeking to protect the week, is incalculable. We thank and salute you! ...

We do not aim at domination, at hegemony, in any part of the world. Even against those who oppose and who would destroy our ideas, we plot no aggression. Of course, we are ready to fight the battle of ideas with all the vigour at our command, but we do not try to impose our system on others. We do not believe that force should be the final arbiter in human affairs. We threaten no-one. Indeed, the Alliance has given a solemn assurance to the world—none of our weapons will be used except in response to attack...

Distinguished Members of Congress, our two countries have a common heritage as well as a common language. It is no mere figure of speech to say that many of your most enduring traditions—representative government, habeas corpus, trial by jury, a system of constitutional checks and balances—stem from our own small islands. But they are as much your lawful inheritance as ours. You did not borrow these traditions—you took them with you, because they were already your own.

Human progress is not automatic. Civilisation has its ebbs and flows, but if we look at the history of the last five hundred years, whether in the field of art, science, technology, religious tolerance or in the practise of politics, the conscious inspiration of it all has been the belief and practise of freedom under law; freedom disciplined by morality, under the law perceived to be just.

 -- Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to a joint session of the United States Congress, February 20, 1985.

Thank you, madam, for your service to humanity's quest for freedom and liberty. The world in which my children are being raised is better for your iron presence having been such a stalwart feature of much of my growing up. As with the Lion who came before you at Downing Street, you will be greatly missed for the rest of days.

Defeat—I do not recognise the meaning of the word!
-- during the Falklands crisis, 1982

Sunday, April 07, 2013

TFH 4/7: First Lieutenant James E. Swett, USMCR

James Elms Swett was born in Seattle, Washington on June 15, 1920. He grew up in San Mateo, California. Before his enlistment in the United States Naval Reserve on August 26, 1941, Swett had already obtained a civilian pilot's license and was placed into training as a Naval Aviator.

When he completed primary flight instruction in early 1942, his Nation was at war and he was given the option to stay with the Navy or instead accept a commission with the Marine Corps. Swett chose the latter, and became a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. After completing his full training as a Grumman F4F Wildcat pilot and earning his Wings of Gold as a Naval Aviator, he joined Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221) in the Solomon Islands.

Seventy years ago today - April 7, 1943 - then-First Lieutenant Swett flew his very first combat mission. He led a section of Marine fighters against a large Japanese bomber force. The Marine flyers were outnumbered, but following Swett's leadership they pressed their attacks. Swett's Wildcat was severely damaged by both enemy and friendly fire during the battle, and he personally destroyed at least five, possibly seven, enemy aircraft. His incredible heroism was recognized with the Medal of Honor.