31 October 2007

Surfacing through the ice

This short (1:44) video is labeled "US Submarine breaking through the Ice," but it's actually a Brit sub - HMS Tireless (S88).

Here's a similar short (1:12) video showing USS Alexandria (SSN 757).

Always wanted to do something like this, but never got a chance. Another thing I wish I could have done is spend a winter in Antarctica - one of the guys I worked with on the skimmer had come from there.

H/T to Bubblehead at The Stupid Shall Be Punished.

This day in history: 31 Oct

1517: Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Sachsen-Anhalt.

1864: Nevada became the 36th state admitted to the United States. (With 11 states in rebellion, there were actually only 25 states in the Union at the time.)

1917: The 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments, 4th Light Horse Brigade, charged the Turkish trenches at Beersheba, Palestine.

1918: Sergeant Thomas Caldwell, 12th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, was in command of a Lewis gun section engaged in clearing a farm house near Audenarde, Belgium. When his section came under intense fire at close range, Caldwell rushed towards the farm, captured the enemy position single-handed and took 18 prisoners. This removed a serious obstacle from the line of advance, and led to the capture by Caldwell's section of about 70 prisoners, eight machine guns and a trench mortar. Caldwell was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1940: The Battle of Britain ended.

1941: Despite the fact that the United States was officially still neutral, the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD 245) was sunk in the North Atlantic by U 552 (KptLt Erich Topp) whilst escorting convoy HX-156.

That same day, work ended on the statues at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.

1956: The United Kingdom and France attacked Egypt (Operation Musketeer), supporting the Israeli invasion which had begun on the 29th. RAF bombers from Cyprus and Malta began strikes against Egyptian airfields.

1967: Elements of the 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, made an airmobile assault at Ap Dong, Vietnam. When Viet Cong opened fire with automatic weapons, Capt Riley L Pitts forcefully led his company in an assault which overran the enemy positions. Pitts was then ordered to move his unit to the north to reinforce another company. Incoming fire from four enemy bunkers, two of which were within 15 meters of Pitts' position, prevented him from maneuvering his company. His rifle proving ineffective due to dense jungle foliage, he picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and began shooting at the targets. When he threw a hand grenade at a bunker to his front, it hit the dense jungle foliage and bounced back; Capt Pitts threw himself on top of the grenade, which fortunately failed to explode. Pitts then repositioned his company to permit friendly artillery to be fired, then, upon completion of the fire mission, again led his men toward the enemy positions, maintaining continuous fire and pinpointing the enemy's fortified positions, until he was mortally wounded. Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1999: 18-year-old Jesse Martin sailed into Melbourne harbour, thus becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo.

Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, GCB (1775–1860), Joseph Hooker (1814–1879), Harry Houdini (1874–1926), John Houseman (1902–1988) and Federico Fellini (1920–1993) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Juliette Gordon Low (1860–1927), Sir Basil Liddell Hart (1895–1970), Dale Evans (1912–2001), Bud Spencer (1929-TBD), Michael Collins (1930-TBD), Michael Landon (1936-1991), Tom Paxton (1937-TBD) and David Ogden Stiers (1942-TBD).

28 October 2007

343 years

Royal Marines
(originally the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot)
28 Oct 1664

Victoria Cross: L. S. T. Halliday


Captain, Royal Marine Light Infantry

Born: 14 May 1870, Medstead, Hampshire

Citation: On the 24th June, 1900, the enemy, consisting of Boxers and Imperial troops, made a fierce attack on the west wall of the British Legation [at Peking], setting fire to the West Gate of the south stable quarters, and taking cover in the buildings which adjoined the wall.
The fire, which spread to part of the stables, and through which and the smoke a galling fire was kept up by the Imperial troops, was with difficulty extinguished, and as the presence of the enemy in the adjoining buildings was a grave danger to the Legation, a sortie was organized to drive them out. A hole was made in the Legation Wall, and Captain Halliday, in command of twenty Marines, led the way into the buildings and almost immediately engaged a party of the enemy.
Before he could use his revolver, however, he was shot through the left shoulder, at point blank range, the bullet fracturing the shoulder and carrying away part of the lung. Nothwithstanding the extremely severe nature of his wound, Captain Halliday killed three of his assailants, and telling his men to "carry on and not mind him," walked back unaided to the hospital, refusing escort and aid so as not to diminish the number of men engaged in the sortie.

(London Gazette Issue 27262 dated 1 Jan 1901, published 1 Jan 1901.)

Medal of Honor: G. L. Mabry, Jr.


Lieutenant Colonel, US Army; commanding 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division

Born: Sumter, S.C.

Citation: He was commanding the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, in an attack through the Hurtgen Forest near Schevenhutte, Germany, on 20 November 1944. During the early phases of the assault, the leading elements of his battalion were halted by a minefield and immobilized by heavy hostile fire. Advancing alone into the mined area, Col. Mabry established a safe route of passage. He then moved ahead of the foremost scouts, personally leading the attack, until confronted by a boobytrapped double concertina obstacle. With the assistance of the scouts, he disconnected the explosives and cut a path through the wire. Upon moving through the opening, he observed 3 enemy in foxholes whom he captured at bayonet point. Driving steadily forward he paced the assault against 3 log bunkers which housed mutually supported automatic weapons. Racing up a slope ahead of his men, he found the initial bunker deserted, then pushed on to the second where he was suddenly confronted by 9 onrushing enemy. Using the butt of his rifle, he felled 1 adversary and bayoneted a second, before his scouts came to his aid and assisted him in overcoming the others in hand-to-hand combat. Accompanied by the riflemen, he charged the third bunker under pointblank small arms fire and led the way into the fortification from which he prodded 6 enemy at bayonet point. Following the consolidation of this area, he led his battalion across 300 yards of fire-swept terrain to seize elevated ground upon which he established a defensive position which menaced the enemy on both flanks, and provided his regiment a firm foothold on the approach to the Cologne Plain. Col. Mabry's superlative courage, daring, and leadership in an operation of major importance exemplify the finest characteristics of the military service.

27 October 2007

STS-119 (Discovery) crew named

ZUI this official NASA press release:
NASA has assigned the space shuttle crew for Discovery's STS-119 mission, targeted for launch in the fall of 2008. The flight will deliver the final pair of power- generating solar array wings and truss element to the International Space Station.

Air Force Col. Lee J. Archambault will command Discovery. Navy Cmdr. Dominic A. Antonelli will serve as the pilot. The mission specialists are Joseph Acaba, Richard R. Arnold II, John L. Phillips and Steven R. Swanson. Antonelli, Acaba and Arnold will be making their first spaceflight.

STS-119 will be the second spaceflight for Archambault and Swanson, who flew together on STS-117 in June. Phillips will be making his third spaceflight.

Discovery will carry the S6 truss segment to complete the 361-foot-long backbone of the space station. The truss includes the fourth pair of solar array wings and electronics that convert sunlight to power for the orbiting laboratory.

This mission will also deliver JAXA* astronaut Koichi Wakata (making his second spaceflight) to the space station as part of the Expedition 18 crew, and will ferry Sandra Magnus back to Earth.

This will be the 36th spaceflight for Discovery, which first flew on 30 Aug 1984 as mission STS-41-D.

* Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

26 October 2007

"Soldier an' Sailor Too"

On 28 October 1664, an Order-in-Council was issued calling for 1200 soldiers to be recruited for service in the Fleet. They were officially known as The Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot, but as James, Duke of York*, (later King James II) was then the Lord High Admiral, they became known as the Admiral's Regiment. The regiment went through a few more name changes, and is now known as the Royal Marines.

The following poem about the Royal Marines was written sometime in the 1890s by Rudyard Kipling.

"Soldier an' Sailor Too"

As I was spittin' into the Ditch aboard o' the Crocodile,
I seed a man on a man-o'-war got up in the Reg'lars' style.
'E was scrapin' the paint from off of 'er plates, an' I sez to 'im, "'Oo are you?"
Sez 'e, "I'm a Jolly -- 'Er Majesty's Jolly -- soldier an' sailor too!"
Now 'is work begins by Gawd knows when, and 'is work is never through;
'E isn't one o' the reg'lar Line, nor 'e isn't one of the crew.
'E's a kind of a giddy harumfrodite -- soldier an' sailor too!

An' after I met 'im all over the world, a-doin' all kinds of things,
Like landin' 'isself with a Gatlin' gun to talk to them 'eathen kings;
'E sleeps in an 'ammick instead of a cot, an' 'e drills with the deck on a slew,
An' 'e sweats like a Jolly -- 'Er Majesty's Jolly -- soldier an' sailor too!
For there isn't a job on the top o' the earth the beggar don't know, nor do --
You can leave 'im at night on a bald man's 'ead, to paddle 'is own canoe --
'E's a sort of a bloomin' cosmopolouse -- soldier an' sailor too.

We've fought 'em in trooper, we've fought 'em in dock, and drunk with 'em in betweens,
When they called us the seasick scull'ry-maids, an' we called 'em the Ass Marines;
But, when we was down for a double fatigue, from Woolwich to Bernardmyo,
We sent for the Jollies -- 'Er Majesty's Jollies -- soldier an' sailor too!
They think for 'emselves, an' they steal for 'emselves, and they never ask what's to do,
But they're camped an' fed an' they're up an' fed before our bugle's blew.
Ho! they ain't no limpin' procrastitutes -- soldier an' sailor too.

You may say we are fond of an 'arness-cut, or 'ootin' in barrick-yards,
Or startin' a Board School mutiny along o' the Onion Guards;
But once in a while we can finish in style for the ends of the earth to view,
The same as the Jollies -- 'Er Majesty's Jollies -- soldier an' sailor too!
They come of our lot, they was brothers to us; they was beggars we'd met an' knew;
Yes, barrin' an inch in the chest an' the arm, they was doubles o' me an' you;
For they weren't no special chrysanthemums -- soldier an' sailor too!

To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
Is nothing so bad when you've cover to 'and, an' leave an' likin' to shout;
But to stand an' be still to the Birken'ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An' they done it, the Jollies -- 'Er Majesty's Jollies -- soldier an' sailor too!
Their work was done when it 'adn't begun; they was younger nor me an' you;
Their choice it was plain between drownin' in 'eaps an' bein' mopped by the screw,
So they stood an' was still to the Birken'ead drill, soldier an' sailor too!

We're most of us liars, we're 'arf of us thieves, an' the rest are as rank as can be,
But once in a while we can finish in style (which I 'ope it won't 'appen to me).
But it makes you think better o' you an' your friends, an' the work you may 'ave to do,
When you think o' the sinkin' Victorier's Jollies -- soldier an' sailor too!
Now there isn't no room for to say ye don't know -- they 'ave proved it plain and true --
That whether it's Widow, or whether it's ship, Victorier's work is to do,
An' they done it, the Jollies -- 'Er Majesty's Jollies -- soldier an' sailor too!

ZUI this for information on the sinking of HMS Birkenhead (26 Feb 1852) and "the Birkenhead drill," and this site for information about the sinking of HMS Victoria (22 Jun 1893).

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by Sandhya Nankani at Literary Safari. (Susan, of Susan Writes, has done a round-up of previous round-ups here.)

* In August of 1664, the Dutch colony of Nieuw Nederland had been captured by the English. The colony was renamed in honour of the Duke of York: New York.

This day in history: 26 Oct

1774: The First Continental Congress, which had met in Philadelphia on 5 September 1774, adjourned.

1859: 459 passengers and crew died when the steam clipper Royal Charter was wrecked in a gale on the coast of Anglesey, Wales.

1861: After 18 months of service, the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company - the Pony Express - ceased operations.

1881: Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp, with Dr John Holliday, met Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Claiborne in an alley near the OK Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona. Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were killed, Morgan and Virgil Earp were wounded by Billy Clanton, and Doc Holliday was wounded by Frank McLaury.

1905: Norway became independent from Sweden.

1940: The NA-73X, prototype for the North American P-51 Mustang, made its maiden flight.

1942: Japanese and American carrier forces met in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, northeast of the Solomons. USS Hornet (CV 8) was severely damaged, and was sunk the next day; USS Porter (DD 356) also had to be scuttled after being hit by a single torpedo, and USS Enterprise (CV 6) and two destroyers were damaged. Japanese carriers Shokaku and Zuiho, and heavy cruiser Chikuma, were also damaged, but the major loss to the Japanese was irreplaceable aircrew.

That same day, in the Western Desert, Private Percival E Gratwick, 2nd/4th Battalion (South Australia), Australian Military Forces, single-handedly destroyed a machine-gun post and a mortar position at El Alamein. He was killed whilst charging a second machine gun. Gratwick was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

1943: The Dornier Do 335 Pfeil made its maiden flight, from Mengen, Württemberg.

1944: A B-24 Liberator from 308th Bombardment Group, US Army Air Corps, piloted by Major Horace S Carswell Jr, made a strike against a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea. Carswell made his first bombing run at 600 feet, scoring a near miss on a warship and escaping without drawing fire. He then circled and began a low-level run, scoring two hits on a large tanker. Japanese fire knocked out two engines and wounded the copilot, but Carswell controlled the plane's dive and flew toward the Chinese coast. On reaching land, one of the crew discovered that his parachute had been rendered useless by flak. Hoping to cross mountainous terrain and reach a base, Carswell continued onward until the third engine failed. He then ordered the rest of the crew to bail out, choosing to remain on board with his comrade and attempt a crash landing. He died when the airplane struck a mountainside and burned. Carswell was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor.

1958: Pan American Airways made the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707, from New York to Paris.

1970: "Doonesbury" made its first appearance as a syndicated daily strip, in about two dozen newspapers.

William Hogarth (1697–1764), John Graves Simcoe (1752–1806), Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky (1889–1972) and Hoyt Axton (1938–1999) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757), Helmuth Graf von Moltke (1800–1891), C W Post (1854-1914), Jackie Coogan (1914-1984), Jaclyn Smith (1947-TBD) and Sasha Cohen (1984-TBD).

24 October 2007

RM corporal wins The Restaurant

BBC2 ran an eight-week series called The Restaurant, in which nine couples competed to see which would be selected to run a restaurant, which would be backed financially by chef Raymond Blanc.
In the show Raymond Blanc put nine couples through their paces to see if they had what it takes to run their own restaurant. More than 1,000 new restaurants open every year in Britain; unfortunately, approximately 50% close within two years.

The Restaurant featured couples, some of whom had little or no experience other than cooking at home and throwing dinner parties, but whose dream was to run their own eatery. They had to create their perfect restaurant and then open the doors to the paying public. Their first crucial decision – who would take on the kitchen and who was best equipped to run the front of house?


During the eight-week series every decision, every mistake the couples made, every argument they had, was caught on camera. They were working and living together 24-hours a day, under enormous pressure. Each of the nine couples took over an empty restaurant, made it their own and opened their doors to the paying public.

And the winners are ... Corporal Jeremy Hooper, RM, and his wife Jane.

ZUI this article from the Royal Marines:
For past eight weeks Royal Marine Chef Corporal Jeremy Hooper and his wife Jane have been competing against eight other couples in the BBC2 show “The Restaurant” for a chance to run a restaurant backed by award winning chef Raymond Blanc. Last night Jeremy and Jane saw their long held dream come true as they were announced the winners in a closely fought final test as they cooked to impress Raymond Blanc’s mother in the French town where Raymond Blanc came from.

Raymond Blanc paid tribute to the couple’s passion for food and their extremely high standards both in the kitchen and front of house within the restaurant. He added that he hoped that they would continue to strive for excellence when they came to work in partnership with him but hoped that they would learn from some of the challenges he had set them.

Jeremy Hooper expressed the couple’s delight in the result saying, “This has been our dream for over four years, we are over the moon and want to thank Raymond Blanc, the Royal Marines, the BBC, the Ministry of Defence, in fact everybody who gave us this opportunity to get this far.”


[Commanding Officer of the North Devon Commando Logistics Regiment] Colonel [Will] Taylor announced live on air that the First Sea Lord had sent his personal congratulations to the couple in the form of a “Bravo Zulu” signal, a traditional Royal Naval salute marking a significant successful achievement by a member or unit of the Royal Navy or Royal Marines. Corporal Hooper is now taking a 12 month career break approved by the Royal Marines to set up a restaurant in Oxfordshire in partnership with Raymond Blanc.

Corporal Hooper, aged 32, joined the Royal Marines in 1996 specialising as a driver of 4 tonne trucks and bulk fuel vehicles before serving on operations in Iraq in 2002/3. He transferred to the chef’s branch only three years ago, training in the catering basics at HMS Raleigh’s Catering School in Torpoint and going on to learn field craft cooking for thousands of troops on operations. Soon after he was deployed to Afghanistan, serving meals to troops in the desert base of Camp Bastion. Last Christmas Jeremy was delighted to meet well known chef Gordon Ramsey who came out to Afghanistan to cook Xmas dinner for the troops.

The MoD Defence News has more here:
Royal Marine chef Corporal Jeremy Hooper and his wife Jane, a trainee teacher from Devon, won BBC Two's reality TV show 'The Restaurant' last night [17 October].

The couple will now join forces with Raymond Blanc, the programmes host and one of the country's top chefs, to open a new restaurant in Thame in Oxfordshire, close to Raymond's renowned Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons.

Chang'e 1 launched

ZUI this article from China View (Xinhua.net):
China launched its first lunar probe on Wednesday, the first step into its ambitious three-stage moon mission, marking a new milestone in the country's space exploration history.

The circumlunar satellite Chang'e-1 blasted off on a Long March3A carrier rocket at 6:05 p.m. from the No. 3 launching tower in the Xichang Satellite Launch Center of southwestern Sichuan Province.

Space experts from Japan, Germany and other countries joined their Chinese colleagues at the launch site to watch the launching process.

"The launch was very successful, and everything is proceeding just as it's planned," said Wu Ji, director of the Space Science and Applied Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

And this from NASA Spaceflight.com:
At the beginning of a 35 minute launch window that opened at 10:05 UTC, a CZ-3A Chang Zheng-3A (CZ3A-15) was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, located in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, carrying the first Chinese lunar probe, Chang'e-1 (ChangEr-1).

This was the 104th successful orbital Chinese launch, the 45th successful orbital launch from Xichang, the ninth orbital Chinese launch in 2007 and the sixth launch from Xichang in the current year.


After leaving Earth orbit on October 31, Chang'e-1 will initiate a five day journey until arrive into lunar orbit on November 5. The first image of the surface is expected at the end of November.

For centuries, Chinese mythology told the story of a beautiful woman that lived on the Moon for over 4000 years. The beautiful Chang'e was banished to the Moon because she stole the secrete of immortality from her husband. Within days the beautiful Chang'e will have another companion orbiting her house in the form of a Chinese lunar probe that marks the first phase of the China Lunar Exploration Plan (CLEP).

The CLEP is the third milestone for the China's Space Industry and was born in 1998, as part of a 211 step development plan for the Chinese space program. This plan originated from the work done since 1991, when Chinese experts proposed a lunar exploration program and conducted some advanced research on the theme.

NASA'a mission profile for Chang'e 1 is here. Space.com has further information here.

And Xinhua.net talks about the Chang'e legend here.

23 October 2007

Medal of Honor presented

ZUI this article from the Washington Post:
Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy, nicknamed "Murph" and known as an intense and empathetic young man, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor yesterday [22 October] "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life" while outnumbered by Taliban fighters in a June 2005 battle high in the mountains of Afghanistan.

The 29-year-old Seal team leader and former lifeguard from Patchogue, N.Y., is the first service member to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in the war in Afghanistan and the first sailor since Vietnam to be awarded the medal, the nation's highest military decoration.

At a ceremony in the White House's East Room, President Bush presented the medal to Murphy's parents, Daniel and Maureen Murphy. "This brave officer gave his life in defense of his fellow Navy Seals," Bush said, adding that Murphy acted "with complete disregard for his own life."

And this from Navy Times:
A day after he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the parents of Lt. Michael Murphy said they always worried that he might someday get hurt helping other people, because he showed concern for others so often.

In an interview Tuesday at the Pentagon, Murphy’s mother Maureen told several stories about her son’s lifelong altruism, starting from when he was a child. At age 3 he cut his head in an accident, she said, and as many mothers might, she became almost frantic as he bled profusely.

“ ‘It doesn’t hurt, it’s OK,’ ” she remembered him reassuring her. “He was worried more about me,” she said.

When Murphy was in junior high, his parents got a call from the school principal, who told them their son had gotten into a fight. Some bullies were stuffing a disabled boy into a locker, Maureen said, but Murphy walked over and said, “If you want to pick on somebody, pick on me.’”

The White House press release can be found here.

Murphy's teammates, GM2(SEAL) Danny Dietz, STG2(SEAL) Matthew Axelson and HM1(SEAL) Marcus Luttrell*, were awarded the Navy Cross (posthumously for the first two). Fox News has a transcript of an interview with HM1 Luttrell, given by Bill O'Reilly of The O'Reilly Factor.

* HM2 at the time.



Lieutenant, US Navy; Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Afghanistan

Born: 7 May 1976, Patchogue, N.Y.

Citation: The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005.

While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan. On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged, enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy's team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four-member team.

Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of his team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into an open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team.

In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, courageous actions, and extraordinary devotion to duty, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Discovery (STS-120) launched

ZUI this article from Science Daily:
This evening, Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11:38 local time (17:38 CEST) and successfully entered low Earth orbit after almost 8 minutes of powered flight. On this STS-120 mission, the third Shuttle flight this year, Discovery carries a crew of seven, including ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, from Italy.

The first day in space is devoted to a series of inflight inspections to ensure that Discovery did not suffer any damage during launch. The orbiter will then manoeuvre to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS). Docking is planned for 25 October at 14:33 CEST.

The purpose of the 14-day STS-120 mission is to deliver and install the Italian-built Node 2 module – the first addition to the Station’s work and living space for six years. A second main task is to relocate the ISS P6 truss section and deploy its solar arrays and heat dispersal radiator.

The mission will also see the rotation of one of the ISS Expedition crew members. NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson, who has been a resident on the Station since arriving with the crew of STS-117 last June, will be replaced by NASA astronaut Daniel Tani.

And this from Space.com:
The shuttle's STS-120 crew, commanded by veteran spaceflyer Pamela Melroy, will install Harmony, ferry a new station crewmember to the ISS and move a massive solar power segment during a complicated 14-day spaceflight.

Once the mission is complete, the space station's Expedition 16 crew will begin a three-week work marathon to outfit Harmony with a shuttle docking port and move the module to the front of the ISS so NASA's shuttle Atlantis can dock in December to deliver Europe's Columbus laboratory. No less than 10 spacewalks by shuttle and ISS astronauts are planned before the end of the year.

The Guardian adds this:
The two-week mission will represent a historic milestone for Nasa - the first simultaneous command of two manned space missions by female astronauts.

The retired US air force colonel Pamela Melroy will lead six colleagues on a two-week flight to the orbiting international space station, currently controlled by the veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson.
NASA's official STS-120 site is here.

Discovery's crew for this mission consists of commander Col Pamela A Melroy (USAF, ret), pilot Col George D Zamka (USMC), and mission specialists Dr Scott E Parazynski, Col Douglas H Wheelock (USA), Stephanie D Wilson and Maj Paolo A Nespoli (Italian Army Reserve). As noted above, the shuttle is also ferrying Daniel M Tani up to the station. Tani is scheduled to return aboard Atlantis (STS-122) in December.

Left to right: Melroy, Tani, Zamka, Wheelock,
Parazynski, Wilson and Nespoli

Expedition 16, the current crew on board the space station, consists of Peggy A Whitson, Col Yuri I Malenchenko (Russian Air Force), and Clayton Anderson.

22 October 2007

RIP: Andrée de Jongh

Andrée de Jongh
30 Nov 1916 - 13 Oct 2007

ZUI this article from the Washington Post:
Andrée de Jongh, 90, a Belgian resistance fighter who established the most successful escape route in Europe for downed Allied airmen during World War II -- a 1,000-mile trek across occupied France, over the Pyrenees into Spain and down to the British colony of Gibraltar -- died Oct. 13 in Brussels. No cause of death was reported.

Ms. de Jongh, known as "Dédée" and the "Petit Cyclone," began her resistance work in May 1940 after the Nazi advance into Brussels. At the time, she was a 24-year-old commercial artist and Belgian Red Cross volunteer.

And this from The Telegraph:
The youngest daughter of a schoolmaster, Andrée de Jongh was born at Schaerbeek in German-occupied Belgium on November 30 1916. She trained as a nurse after being inspired by the work of Edith Cavell, the nurse who had been shot in 1915 for assisting British troops to escape. At the outbreak of the war she was working at Malmédy, but immediately moved to Brussels when the Germans invaded her country.

Once the Comet Line (so called because of the speed at which it operated) was established there was a constant stream of shot-down aircrew escorted to the "last house" in the French-Basque village of Urrugne.

Whichever route the evaders took through France, they always ended up at this house, where they were sheltered before meeting Basque guides organised and led by a giant of a man known as Florentino. He constantly drove the evaders to move quickly as he helped them across the rivers and mountains, with Dédée encouraging them from behind.

Dédée de Jongh made more than 30 double crossings and escorted 116 evaders, including more than 80 aircrew. But on the night of January 15 1943 she was sheltering at Urrugne with three RAF evaders when she was betrayed. The house was stormed and she was captured. When interrogated under torture by the Gestapo, in order to save others she admitted being the leader of Le Reseau Comète.

The Gestapo, however, refused to believe that such a young and innocent girl could be in charge of an underground movement whose compass stretched from from Belgium to Spain.


After recovering her health Dédée de Jongh went to Buckingham Palace, in 1946, to receive the George Medal — the highest civilian award for bravery available to a foreigner. After the ceremony the RAF Escaping Society gave a dinner in her honour hosted by Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry. The Americans awarded her the Medal of Freedom and the French appointed her a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. The Belgians appointed her a Chevalier of the Order of Leopold and awarded her the Croix de Guerre with palm. In 1985 she was created a countess by King Baudouin.

21 October 2007

Soyuz TMA-10 returns to Earth

ZUI this article from ABC News:
A Soyuz craft veered off its designated course Sunday, landing more than 200 miles short of its original destination on the steppes of Kazakhstan. It arrived safely, bringing two Russian cosmonauts and Malaysia's first space traveler back to Earth, officials said.

A computer glitch caused the landing capsule carrying Russians Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov and Malaysian Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor to end up about 210 miles west of the designated site near Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, Russia's Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said.

The craft arrived at 6:36 EDT one minute ahead of schedule and the crew was unharmed, he said.

Russian search and rescue teams quickly located the craft, NASA reported on its Web site. It said all the three crew members were feeling fine.

This article from Spaceflight Now adds further details:
The spacecraft undocked from the aft port of the Russian Zvezda command module around 3:14 a.m. EDT. Yurchikhin fired the capsule's braking rockets for four minutes beginning at 5:47 a.m. to begin the hourlong descent. At 6:14 a.m., the craft reached the discernible atmosphere at an altitude of 400,000 feet.

Plunging back to Earth from west to east over central Kazakhstan, the flight plan called for a landing near the town of Arkalyk. But for reasons yet to be explained, the Soyuz flew a steeper-than-planned trajectory and landed short of the intended touchdown point, subjecting the crew to higher-than-normal braking forces. It was the first "ballistic" re-entry since the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft returned on May 3, 2003, with the space station's sixth full time crew.

Soyuz TMA-10 was launched from Baikonur on 7 April with Yurchikhin, Col Kotov and space tourist Charles Simonyi, who returned to Earth on 21 April aboard Soyuz TMA-9. Shukor traveled to the ISS aboard Soyuz TMA-11, which was launched 10 October and is scheduled to return next April.

Victoria Cross: D. M. W. Beak


Temporary Commander, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve; commanding Drake Battalion, Royal Naval Division

Born: 27 July 1891, Southampton, Hampshire.

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery, courageous leadership and devotion to duty during a prolonged period of operations [at Logeast Wood, France].
He led his men in attack [on 21 August 1918], and, despite heavy machine-gun fire, four enemy positions were captured. His skilful and fearless leadership resulted in the complete success of this operation and enabled other battalions to reach their objectives.
Four days later, though dazed by a shell fragment, in the absence of the brigade commander, he reorganised the whole brigade under extremely heavy gun fire and led his men with splendid courage to their objective. An attack having been held up he rushed forward, accompanied by only one runner, and succeeded in breaking up a nest of machine-guns, personally bringing back nine or ten prisoners. His fearless example instilled courage and confidence in his men, who then quickly resumed the advance under his leadership.
On a subsequent occasion [14 September 1918] he displayed great courage and powers of leadership in attack, and his initiative, coupled with the confidence with which he inspired all ranks, not only enabled his own and a neighbouring unit to advance, but contributed very materially to the success of the Naval Division in these operations.

(London Gazette Issue 31012 dated 15 Nov 1918, published 12 Nov 1918.)

Medal of Honor: J. Basilone


Sergeant, US Marine Corps; 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division

Born: 4 November 1916, Buffalo, N.Y.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines' defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machineguns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault. In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone's sections, with its guncrews, was put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Note: USS Basilone (DD 824) was named in his honour. He was one of four Marines shown on postage stamps issued by the US Postal Service in 2005.

20 October 2007

RIP: Delphia Hankins

Delphia Hankins
23 Jul 1896 - 17 Oct 2007

ZUI this article* from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal:
Delphia Spencer Hankins, 111, died Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007, at the Dugan Memorial Home in West Point. She was born July 23, 1896, in Itawamba County to Henry Jackson Spencer and Samantha Fikes Spencer. She had lived in Aberdeen since 1942 and in West Point for the past seven years. She was the oldest living person in the State of Mississippi, the 19th oldest living person in the United States and the 46th oldest living person in the world.

According to the Gerontology Research Group's list of validated supercentenarians, Mrs Hankins was the 50th supercentenarian to die this year. The list now includes 68 women and 8 men, the youngest of whom is Ruth Meyers Lincoln, of Arkansas (born 30 Sep 1897 in Oklahoma).

* Scroll down - it's near the bottom of the page.


A good friend of mine spent a year or so in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) in the late '70s. He still keeps in touch with some of his friends from those days, and he recently received an e-mail from one of them. That man now lives in Australia, and over the last few years he's had some health problems which proved puzzling to Australian doctors. They've finally figured out what the problem is: Bilharzia, or Schistosomiasis, a disease caused by tropical parasites.

As a sort of public-service announcement, to aid others who may be baffling their non-tropical doctors with this tropical disease, here's the original e-mail:

G'day everyone,

A few of you are already aware that over the past few years I have had some health issues which have had an impact upon my employment (and as a consequence, my finances!).

Well, yesterday I finally had a proper diagnosis. As I can trace the origin of this problem back thirty years to my service in the RLI, I thought I'd share that diagnosis in order to raise awareness of the issue, particularly with those who now live outside of Africa.

As many of you will be aware, Bilharzia, or Schistosomiasis to use the medical name that's preferred nowadays, is a disease native to Africa as well as Asia and South America. My recollection is that the Army was supposed to test us every six months or so, but I certainly was never tested for it during my service.

The disease is caused by being infected by the parasites or schistosoma when swimming or wading through rivers etc. It has three phases:

Initial phase: Apparently this causes an itch when the parasites burrows through the skin and may not be noticed at the time. There was plenty in the bush to give us an itch at one time or another!

Acute phase: This occurs several weeks or even months after being infected. It can show as a high fever which apparently is often misdiagnosed as Malaria or other high fever illness! Did you have "tick-bite fever"? Was it diagnosed with blood tests etc?

Chronic phase: This can manifest itself decades later with some or all of the following symptoms.
Abdominal pain
Diarrhoea (this can be 'disguised' by a mild paralysis of the bowels)

Complications: "Progression of liver, kidney, or other dysfunction may occur for many years after transmission is interrupted"

In March 1976, I signed out on a long leave and in the week before I flew to England, I hitch-hiked out to the farm of John and Lorna, some friends near Umvukwes. The day after I arrived I came down with a raging fever and lost 2 stone (over 12 kg) over the next four days! Lorna consulted her family Doctor by 'phone. Their diagnosis was malaria and as John had previously had malaria, there was medication available on the farm, with which I was treated. There was no Doctor's visit, let alone blood tests etc for this diagnosis. Until this week I've always believed that I had had malaria, but with hindsight I now believe this was Katayama Fever as the acute phase is also called.

Given the timing of March 1976 for the acute phase, I think the initial infection may have occurred when 2 Commando was based up at Bumi Hills on Lake Kariba. We were there for three weeks or so and from memory took over from 1 Commando. Naturally, there were occasions when we swam in the lake.

The literature I have recently read on Bilharzia on the internet from a variety of sources includes statements such as "In general, patients with chronic schistosomiasis tend to present in developed countries with lethargy, colicky abdominal pain, mucoid/bloody diarrhoea" etc, and this can be decades later!

Now I know what the problem is, I can get a course of treatment that'll clear the schistosoma from my system and stop the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, the literature also informs me that the harm that's already occurred is irreversible.

Many of us are now living in Britain, North America or Australia where the disease is not present. As a consequence, it is extremely unlikely to be on the horizon of our GPs. This has certainly had an impact upon the length of time it's taken for me get my diagnosis. So I hope by my telling this, that it may of benefit to someone who may be having similar problems.

D---- A--------
2 Cdo, 1974-77

18 October 2007

Discovery (STS-120) launch OK'd for 23 Oct

ZUI this NASA press release:
NASA Gives "Go" for Space Shuttle Launch on Oct. 23

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA senior managers Tuesday completed a detailed review of space shuttle Discovery's readiness for flight and selected Oct. 23 as the official launch date. Commander Pam Melroy and her six crewmates are scheduled to lift off at 11:38 a.m. EDT on the STS-120 mission to the International Space Station.

Tuesday's meeting included a discussion about concerns raised by the NASA Engineering and Safety Center regarding the reinforced carbon carbon on three of Discovery's wing leading edge panels. This issue initially was brought before the Space Shuttle Program during a two-day, preliminary review held last week to assess preparations for Discovery's mission.

"After a thorough discussion and review of all current engineering analysis, we have determined that Discovery's panels do not need to be replaced before the mission," said Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier, who chaired Tuesday's meeting.

During the shuttle's 120th mission, the shuttle and station crews will work with flight controllers at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, to add a module to the station that will serve as a port for installing future international laboratories. The Harmony module will be the first expansion of the living and working space on the station since 2001. The upcoming mission also will move the first set of solar arrays installed on the station to a permanent location on the complex and redeploy them.

The 14-day mission includes five spacewalks - four by shuttle crew members and one by the station's Expedition 16 crew. Discovery is expected to complete its mission and return home at 4:47 a.m. EST on Nov. 6.

Joining Commander Melroy on STS-120 will be Pilot George Zamka and mission specialists Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Doug Wheelock, Daniel Tani and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency. Tani will remain aboard the station and return with the STS-122 crew, which is targeted to launch Dec. 6. Current Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson will return to Earth on Discovery after nearly five months on the station.

This will be the fifth spaceflight for Dr Parazynski, the third for Col Melroy, the second for Wilson and Tani, and the first for Col Zamka, Col Wheelock and Maj Nespoli. (Anderson, who launched on 8 June aboard Atlantis, with the STS-117 crew, is also making his first spaceflight.)

And it will be the 34th flight for Discovery, which first flew on 30 Aug 84 as mission STS-41-D. Current plans are for the shuttle to fly five more missions before being decommissioned in 2010.

RIP: Deborah Kerr

Deborah Kerr
30 Sep 1921 - 16 Oct 2007

ZUI this article from The Telegraph:
Deborah Kerr, star of From Here To Eternity, has died aged 86.

Kerr was the unfadingly ladylike and prototypical English rose whose red-haired, angular beauty and self-possessed femininity distinguished more than 50 films in four decades of cinema.

She made serenity dramatic; and though her poise might be ruffled at critical moments in scenes of passion (most famously exemplified by her encounter on the beach with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity in 1953), her well-bred airs and social graces made her a model of British womanhood in Hollywood.

Her best-known film was probably The King and I, in which she played a haughty governess opposite Yul Brynner's Siamese monarch; and her principal problem as an accomplished actress was to convince Hollywood of her sensual potential. Although she herself was a more spirited, relaxed and informal person than her image on the screen suggested, producers were reluctant to cast her in passionate roles.

The Times has this to say:
Deborah Kerr, the Scottish actress who rolled in the surf with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity and charmed Yul Brynner’s Siamese monarch in the King and I, has died at 86.

She was “an artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance”, according to the citation for the honorary Academy Award that she won in 1994.

She died on Tuesday in Suffolk, her agent said. “Her family was with her at the time. She had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for some time and had just had her 86th birthday. She just slipped away.”

And Fox News adds:
Kerr (pronounced CARR) was the only daughter of a civil engineer and architect who died when she was 14. Born in Helensburgh, Scotland, she moved with her parents to England when she was 5, and she started to study dance in the Bristol school of her aunt. Kerr won a scholarship to continue studying ballet in London, and at 17 she made her stage debut as a member of the corps de ballet in "Prometheus."

She soon switched to drama, however, and began playing small parts in repertory theater in London until it was shut down by the 1939 outbreak of World War II.

After reading children's stories on British Broadcasting Corp. radio, she was given the part of a hatcheck girl with two lines in the film "Contraband," but her speaking role ended on the cutting-room floor.

After more repertory acting she had another crack at films, reprising her stage role of Jenny, a Salvation Army worker, in a 1940 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara," receiving favorable reviews both in Britain and the United States.

She continued making films in Britain during the war, including one -- "Colonel Blimp" -- in which she played three different women over a span of decades.

"It is astonishing how she manages to make the three parts distinctly separate as characterizations," said New Movies magazine at the time.

I have to admit that when I saw her name, I didn't really recognise it, though it did sound familiar. Looking at IMDb, I only see two movies I'm sure I've seen - The King and I (with Yul Brynner, of course) and Casino Royale (with David Niven and Peter Sellers).

RIP: Joey Bishop

Left to right: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr,
Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop

Joey Bishop
3 Feb 1918 - 17 Oct 2007

ZUI this article from CNN:
Joey Bishop, the stone-faced comedian who found success in nightclubs, television and movies but became most famous as a member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, has died at 89.

He was the group's last surviving member. Peter Lawford died in 1984, Sammy Davis Jr. in 1990, Dean Martin in 1995, and Sinatra in 1998.

Bishop died Wednesday night of multiple causes at his home in Newport Beach [CA], publicist and longtime friend Warren Cowan said Thursday.

And this article from the Los Angeles Times:
An adept ad-libber with a dry, underplayed sense of humor, Bishop achieved his greatest fame in the 1960s. He was master of ceremonies for President Kennedy's inaugural gala and joined Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford for the Rat Pack's historic "summit" meetings on stage at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.

Time magazine referred to Bishop as that swinging, fun-loving group's "top banana."

Jack Benny called him "one of the funniest men I've ever seen."

And Danny Thomas was so impressed with Bishop, he had a weekly situation comedy built around him, which Thomas' production company sold to NBC.

ZUI IMDb for more about Bishop's career.

Dean Martin and Joey Bishop in Texas Across the River

I think Texas Across the River is the only thing I've seen him in - I'm sure I never watched The Joey Bishop Show - but though I'd forgotten he was in it I of course recognised his name.

RIP: Teresa Brewer

Teresa Brewer
7 May 1931 - 17 Oct 2007

ZUI this article from the Canton (OH) Repository:
Teresa Brewer, a bold-voiced singer whose novelty hit “Music! Music! Music!” established her as a jukebox favorite in the 1950s and secured her four-decade career performing in nightclubs and on Las Vegas stages, died today at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y. She had progressive supranuclear palsy, a brain disorder. She was 76.

Brewer was a veteran radio performer at 19, when “Music! Music! Music!” became a pop-chart smash in 1950 with its bouncy Dixieland-ensemble backup and command to “put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon.”


Her voice was startlingly brassy for a 5-foot-2, 100-pound singer, and the disparity prompted jokes. Referring to a brash nightclub performer, entertainer Bing Crosby joked that Brewer was the “Sophie Tucker of the Girl Scouts.” Time magazine called Brewer “a topnotch singer with a voice somewhere between a blowtorch and a cello.”

Newsday.com adds this:
She was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1931. When she was 2, her mother took her to her first audition _ for a radio show called "Uncle August's Kiddie Show." Brewer sang "Take Me Out to The Ball Game," and performed on the show for pay consisting of cupcakes and cookies from the show's sponsor.

Brewer continued performing on radio shows off and on until high school, when she quit and moved to New York, where she started performing in a string of talent shows, which eventually led to a recording career.

I love "Music! Music! Music!" - it's one of my favourite songs from the '50s. (My taste runs to classical, '50s-'60s rock & roll and folk, and country & western.) The Wikipedia article on Teresa lists a few dozen songs, but that's the only one that rings a bell (though I'm sure I'd recognise others if I heard them).

14 October 2007

Victoria Cross: J. T. B. McCudden


Second Lieutenant (Temporary Captain), Royal Flying Corps; 56 Squadron

Born: 28 March 1895, Gillingham, Kent

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery, exceptional perseverance, keenness, and very high devotion to duty.
Captain McCudden has at the present time accounted for 54 enemy aeroplanes. Of these 42 have been definitely destroyed, 19 of them on our side of the lines. Only 12 out of the 54 have been driven out of control.
On two occasions he has totally destroyed four two-seater enemy aeroplanes on the same day, and on the last occasion all four machines were destroyed in the space of 1 hour and 30 minutes.
While in his present squadron he has participated in 78 offensive patrols, and in nearly every case has been the leader. On at least 30 other occasions, whilst with the same squadron, he has crossed the lines alone, either in pursuit or in quest of enemy aeroplanes.
The following incidents are examples of the work he has done recently:–
On the 23rd December, 1917, when leading his patrol, eight enemy aeroplanes were attacked between 2.30 p.m. and 3.50 p.m. Of these two were shot down by Captain McCudden in our lines. On the morning of the same day he left the ground at 10.50 and encountered four enemy aeroplanes; of these he shot two down.
On the 30th January, 1918, he, single-handed, attacked five enemy scouts, as a result of which two were destroyed. On this occasion he only returned home when the enemy scouts had been driven far east; his Lewis gun ammunition was all finished and the belt of his Vickers gun had broken.
As a patrol leader he has at all times shown the utmost gallantry and skill, not only in the manner in which he has attacked and destroyed the enemy, but in the way he has during several aerial fights protected the newer members of his flight, thus keeping down their casualties to a minimum.
This officer is considered, by the record which he has made, by his fearlessness, and by the great service which he has rendered to his country, deserving of the very highest honour.

(London Gazette Issue 30604 dated 2 Apr 1918, published 29 Mar 1918.)

Medal of Honor: F. H. McGuire


Hospital Apprentice, US Navy; USS Pampanga (PG 39)

Born: 7 November 1890, Gordonville, Missouri
Died: 4 February 1958, Missouri(?)

Citation: While attached to the U.S.S. Pampang, McGuire was one of a shore party moving in to capture Mundang, on the island of Basilan, Philippine Islands, on the morning of 24 September 1911. Ordered to take station within 100 yards of a group of nipa huts close to the trail, McGuire advanced and stood guard as the leader and his scout party first searched the surrounding deep grasses, then moved into the open area before the huts. Instantly enemy Moros opened point-blank fire on the exposed men and approximately 20 Moros charged the small group from inside the huts and from other concealed positions. McGuire, responding to the calls for help, was one of the first on the scene. After emptying his rifle into the attackers, he closed in with the rifle, using it as a club to wage fierce battle until his comrades arrived on the field, when he rallied to the aid of his dying leader and other wounded. Although himself wounded, McGuire ministered tirelessly and efficiently to those who had been struck down, thereby saving the lives of 2 who otherwise might have succumbed to enemy-inflicted wounds.

Note: Machinist's Mate Second Class George F Henrechon, Carpenter's Mate Third Class Jacob Volz, Seaman Bolden R Harrison and Ordinary Seaman John H Catherwood also received the Medal of Honor for their parts in this action.

13 October 2007

RIP: Werner von Trapp

Werner von Trapp
21 Dec 1915 - 11 Oct 2007

ZUI this article from the Boston Globe:
Werner von Trapp, a member of the musical family made famous by the 1965 movie "The Sound of Music," has died, his family said. He was 91.

Von Trapp died Thursday at his home in Waitsfield. The cause of death was not announced. The family confirmed his death, but declined to comment further.


Born in 1915 in Zell am See, Austria, von Trapp was the fourth child and second son of Captain Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead. In the movie "The Sound of Music," Werner von Trapp was depicted by the character named Kurt.

Werner and his older brother Rupert (1911-1992) served with the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.

I've seen The Sound of Music a few times (hasn't everybody?). I read Maria von Trapp's book many years ago, and actually had the pleasure of meeting her at a "Jesus rally" in Chicago back in '72 or '73. Nice lady. And I recently read Georg von Trapp's memoirs, To the Last Salute: Memories of an Austrian U-Boat Commander, which I recommend to anyone who's interested in the history of submarines

Medal of Honor to be awarded for Afghanistan

ZUI this article from Navy Times:
Two years after his death in a harrowing firefight on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a SEAL from Patchogue, N.Y., will receive the nation’s highest combat honor, Navy officials said.

A Navy spokeswoman confirmed Oct. 11 the decision by President Bush approving the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor, the first for the Navy for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Murphy, 29, was leading a four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team during Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan’s rugged Hindu Kush mountains June 28, 2005, when the team was spotted by Taliban fighters. During the intense battle that followed, Murphy and two of his men — Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson — were killed. A fourth man, then-Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell, was seriously wounded and knocked unconscious, but managed to escape. Luttrell was rescued days later.


Bush will present the Medal of Honor to Murphy’s parents, Daniel and Maureen, and his brother, John, on Oct. 22 at a 2:30 p.m. ceremony in the White House.


This will mark the first time a Navy person has received the Medal of Honor in 35 years, and the fourth time a SEAL has received the award. It also marks the third awarding of the Medal of Honor for combat heroism in Iraq or Afghanistan — the other two were awarded posthumously to Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

The article also says that GM2(SEAL) Dietz, STG2(SEAL) Axelson and HM1(SEAL) Luttrell have been awarded the Navy Cross.

Happy 232nd Birthday

United States Navy

13 October 1775.

12 October 2007

STS-126 (Endeavour) crew named

ZUI this announcement, dated 1 Oct 2007, from NASA:
NASA has assigned the space shuttle crew for Endeavour's STS-126 mission, targeted for launch in September 2008. The flight will deliver equipment to the International Space Station that will enable larger crews to reside aboard the complex.

Veteran space flier Navy Capt. Christopher J. Ferguson will command Endeavour. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric A. Boe will serve as the pilot. The mission specialists are Navy Cmdr. Stephen G. Bowen, NASA astronaut Joan E. Higginbotham, Army Lt. Col. Robert S. Kimbrough and Navy Capt. Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper. Boe, Bowen and Kimbrough will be making their first spaceflight.

STS-126 will be the second spaceflight for Ferguson and Stefanyshyn-Piper, who flew together on STS-115 in September 2006. It also is the second flight for Higginbotham, who flew on STS-116 in December 2006.

Endeavour will carry a reusable logistics module that will hold supplies and equipment, including additional crew quarters, a second treadmill, equipment for the regenerative life support system and spare hardware.

Additionally, Endeavour will ferry Sandra Magnus up to serve as ISS crew, and will bring Gregory Chamitoff back to Earth.

CDR Bowen was originally scheduled to be part of the crew for mission STS-124, but was reassigned to STS-126 to "allow room for the STS-124 mission to rotate a space station resident, who will be named later." As I noted when the STS-124 crew was named, he will be the first bubblehead in space, having served as JO on USS Parche (SSN 683) and Pogy (SSN 647), as Eng on Augusta (SSN 710) and as PXO on Virginia (SSN 774) before being selected for the astronaut programme.

This will be the 22nd flight for Endeavour, the last space shuttle built, which made its first flight in May of '92 as STS-49.

RIP: Justin Tuveri

Justin Tuveri
13/15 May 1898 - 5 Oct 2007

Another World War I veteran has died. ZUI this article from the International Herald-Tribune:
Justin Tuveri, who fought for Italy during World War I and was one of the few remaining European veterans of the Great War, has died, officials said Thursday. He was 109.

Tuveri, who spent most of his life in France, remained active despite his advanced age, pruning trees and cleaning out rain gutters at 90 and driving until age 98, Le Monde newspaper said.

He died Oct. 5 at his home in the southern French resort town of St. Tropez, the mayor's office said.


Tuveri, born in Collinas on the island of Sardinia in 1898, was a member of the Sassari Brigade, a Sardinian infantry unit nicknamed the "Dimonios" — Demons in the island's dialect.

According to Wikipedia (here), 30 WWI veterans have died so far this year: eight from Germany, seven from Italy, six from the US, four from France, two each from the UK and Canada, and one from Romania. There are now 22 surviving veterans (here): three living in Australia, one (the only surviving female veteran) in Canada, three in France, two in Germany, four in Italy, one in Poland, one in Turkey, three in the UK and four in the US.

RIP: Anne Christopher

Anne Christopher
4 Mar 1895 - 10 Oct 2007

ZUI this article from the Rome (GA) News-Tribune:
Anne Langston Christopher, who lived in Rome and was listed as Georgia’s oldest documented resident, died Wednesday.

Christopher, who was 112 at the time of her death, moved to Rome from South Carolina in 2002 and lived at both Winthrop Senior Living Home and Fifth Avenue Health Care.

This article, written when Mrs Christopher celebrated her 112th birthday earlier this year, provides more background.

According to the GRG's list of validated supercentenarians, Mrs Christopher was the 7th-oldest American and - since the death of Australian Myra Nicholson last month - the 11th-oldest person in the world. The list now includes 67 women and 7 men, the youngest of whom is Grietje Jansen-Anker, of the Netherlands (born 12 Sep 1897).

RIP: David Lee "Tex" Hill

David Lee Hill
13 Jul 1915 - 11 Oct 2007

ZUI this article from the Houston Chronicle
David Lee "Tex" Hill, a World War II fighter pilot who was the youngest brigadier general in the history of the Texas Air National Guard, died Thursday. He was 92.

Hill died at his home in Terrell Hills near San Antonio, longtime friend Tibaut Bowman said.


Hill graduated as a naval aviator in 1939, and in 1941, he joined the Flying Tigers, an American volunteer group based in China during World War II. He shot down 18 1/4 enemy aircraft during the war, Bowman said. The "quarter" came when four planes were involved in shooting down an enemy plane and each pilot was credited with one-fourth of the downing.

Hill emerged from the war a national hero. John Wayne based his character on him in the 1942 film, "The Flying Tigers," and Hill earned numerous medals, among them the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, the British [Distinguished] Flying Cross and six Chinese combat decorations.

Xinhua Net (China) says this:
David Lee "Tex" Hill, a renowned leader of the Flying Tigers -- a small volunteer force recruited to help defend China in the early years of World War II -- died at his home at the age of 92, media reports Friday.

Hill died of congestive heart failure at his San Antonio home Thursday with his wife and his two children at his bedside. Before he died, his wife told him, "You're free to go."

"We're going to miss him a lot, and he's definitely in a better place now," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Reagan Schaupp, Hill's grandson. "He was a hero to us and certainly to a lot of people."

And the San Antonio Express-News has a nice long article with a lot of background information:
Hill served as flight leader and then squadron leader of the 2nd Squadron, the Panda Bears, until the Flying Tigers were disbanded in July 1942. In seven months with the squadron, the young Texan, described by [author Daniel] Ford as a “raw-boned, shambling dispenser of one-liners that could be side-splittingly funny,” shot down a dozen enemy planes.

Flying a single-engine Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk fighter with a shark's mouth painted on the nose, Hill recorded his first aerial victory on Jan. 3, 1942, by shooting down two Japanese fighters over their base in Thailand.


Less than two weeks later, he shot down two more planes. Later that same month, Hill's downing of another fighter and a bomber over Burma made him an ace – a flier with at least five victories in aerial combat.

Four pilots, including Hill, shared credit for the destruction of a Japanese reconnaissance plane that smashed into a canyon wall after all the American aircraft fired into it.

With 12.25 victories, Hill became the second highest-ranking ace in the Flying Tigers. They were the first Americans to defeat the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, and in time racked up a 15-to-1 kill ratio – a reflection of Chennault's decision to play to the strengths of his own planes and the weaknesses of his enemy.

According to the AVG page at Warbird Forum, there are 21 members of the AVG still alive, though only four of those (Charles Bond, Kenneth Jernstedt, Robert Keeton and J Richard Rossi) were combat pilots.

Left to right: Maj John Alison, Major "Tex" Hill, Capt "Ajax" Baumler
and Lt Mack Mitchell

My sister bought me a copy of The Flying Tigers, by John Toland, when I was a kid, and I remember reading about Hill's exploits.

"When the Frost is on the Punkin"

It's October, which (in the US, anyway) means Hallowe'en, which in turn means pumpkins, whether carved into jack-o-lanterns or not. And it means a return - finally!! - to decent weather, as summer's heat disappears into the past.

When the Frost is on the Punkin
James Whitcomb Riley

WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here —
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries — kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below — the clover overhead! —
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don't know how to tell it — but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me —
I'd want to 'commodate 'em — all the whole-indurin' flock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Now - when will the snow arrive...?

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers.