30 December 2007

Victoria Cross: F. Hobson


Serjeant, 20th Battalion, 1st Central Ontario Regiment, Canadian Expeditionary Force

Born: 23 September 1873, London

Citation: During a strong enemy counter-attack [on 18 August 1917, northwest of Lens, France], a Lewis gun in a forward post in a communication trench leading to the enemy lines, was buried by a shell, and the crew, with the exception of one man, killed.
Sjt. Hobson, though not a gunner, grasping the great importance of the post, rushed from his trench, dug out the gun, and got it into action against the enemy who were now advancing down the trench and across the open.
A jam caused the gun to stop firing. Though wounded, he left the gunner to correct the stoppage, rushed forward at the advancing enemy and, with bayonet and clubbed rifle, single handed, held them back until he himself was killed by a rifle shot. By this time however, the Lewis gun was again in action and reinforcements shortly afterwards arriving, the enemy were beaten off.
The valour and devotion to duty displayed by this non-commissioned Officer gave the gunner the time required to again get the gun into action, and saved a most serious situation.

(London Gazette Issue 30338 dated 17 Oct 1917, published 16 Oct 1917.)

Medal of Honor: F. F. and F. J. Fletcher


Rear Admiral, US Navy; commanding 1st Division, Atlantic Fleet

Born: 23 November 1855, Oskaloosa, Iowa

Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Under fire, Rear Adm. Fletcher was eminent and conspicuous in the performance of his duties; was senior officer present at Vera Cruz, and the landing and the operations of the landing force were carried out under his orders and directions. In connection with these operations, he was at times on shore and under fire.


Lieutenant, US Navy; commanding transport SS Esperanza

Born: 29 April 1885, Marshalltown, Iowa

Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Under fire, Lt. Fletcher was eminent and conspicuous in performance of his duties. He was in charge of the Esperanza and succeeded in getting on board over 350 refugees, many of them after the conflict had commenced. Although the ship was under fire, being struck more than 30 times, he succeeded in getting all the refugees placed in safety. Lt. Fletcher was later placed in charge of the train conveying refugees under a flag of truce. This was hazardous duty, as it was believed that the track was mined, and a small error in dealing with the Mexican guard of soldiers might readily have caused a conflict, such a conflict at one time being narrowly averted. It was greatly due to his efforts in establishing friendly relations with the Mexican soldiers that so many refugees succeeded in reaching Vera Cruz from the interior.

Note: F F Fletcher was F J Fletcher's uncle. USS Fletcher (DD-445) was named for Admiral Frank F Fletcher. USS Fletcher (DD-992) was named for Admiral Frank J Fletcher.

29 December 2007

RIP: Leila Backman Shull

Leila Backman Shull
16 October 1894 – 22 December 2007

ZUI this article from The State (SC):
Leila Bertha Backman Shull, the oldest South Carolina resident and one of the oldest people in the world, has died. She was 113.

Shull died Saturday at her home, Todd Caughman, manager of Caughman-Harmon Funeral Homes, said Wednesday.


Shull was married to Lee Shull for 45 years and never remarried in the 47 years after he died. She had four children, 15 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and 40 great-great-grandchildren.


Shull was the fourth oldest person in the United States and the seventh oldest in the world, said Dr. L. Stephen Coles, co-founder of the California-based Gerontology Research Group.

The last supercentenarian* whose death I commented on here was 113-year-old Bertha Fry of Indiana, who died on 14 November. Since her death, four others have also died, according to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG): Kuni Numata of Japan (1 Feb 1896-16 Nov 2007), Leona Tuttle of New Jersey (13 Apr 1896-23 Nov 2007), Hisa Tokumoto of Japan (25 Feb 1896-27 Nov 2007) and Julia Tharnish of Nebraska (6 Jun 1897-13 Dec 2007). Five women and one man have been added to the GRG's list of validated supercentenarians, so as of 28 Dec 07 the list contains 76 people - 67 women and 9 men - ranging from Edna Parker of Indiana (born 20 Apr 1893) to Carolina Peretti-Scaramelli of Italy (born 21 Oct 1897).

* Someone who has lived to reach his or her 110th birthday.


The London Gazette have published the New Years Honours List.

According to the announcement from the Cabinet Office, the list includes 972 people, including 599 MBEs and 235 OBEs. There are 378 women - 6 Dames, 32 CBEs and 4 CBs - on the list.

Most of the names don't mean anything to me - they're Brits, I'm a Yank - but there are a few I recognise, such as Sir Ian Murray McKellen CBE, who was made a CH "for services to Drama and to Equality," and Ms Kylie Ann Minogue, who received an OBE "for services to Music." Harry Potter fans may be amused to learn of the CBE awarded to Air Cdre John David Tonks, RAF. (I was certainly surprised to find out that Tonks really is a surname!)

The award I was happy to see, however, was:
To be Ordinary Officers of the Civil Division of the said Most Excellent Order [of the British Empire]:
Eric Gordon Hill, Author and Illustrator of Spot. For services to children's literacy.

Mr Hill has been writing the Spot books since 1980. We had a couple of them when our 12yo was a toddler, and she enjoyed them. It's good to see awards such as this being given for this reason.

27 December 2007

RIP: Flt Lt Michael M Shand DFC, RNZAF

Flt Lt Michael Moray Shand DFC
20 Feb 1915 - 27 Dec 2007

ZUI this article from The Telegraph:
Flight Lieutenant Mick Shand, who died on Thursday aged 92, was a fighter pilot interned at Stalag Luft III at Sagan and survived "the Great Escape" [in March, 1944] - the last to emerge from the tunnel before it was discovered, he was recaptured after four days on the run.


Finding himself alone, Shand began to walk and was on the run for almost four days, travelling at night and resting by day. The weather conditions were harsh, and he was finally caught by two railway workers as he was waiting to jump on a freight train.

He was taken to Gorlitz Prison, where he found himself amongst a group of fellow escapers.

Over the next two days the Gestapo took most of the recaptured RAF prisoners away. Shand was one of a group of four who were collected by the Luftwaffe and returned to Sagan, where he was horrified to learn that most of his colleagues had been shot by the Gestapo.

The final total of those murdered was 50. Some time later the PoWs learned that three men - two Norwegians and a Dutchman - had successfully made it back to Britain.


On November 28 [1942] Shand led a formation of six Spitfires on a low-level sweep off the Dutch coast seeking targets of opportunity. They successfully attacked a tanker-barge on a canal and, as they returned, Shand and his wingman went down to shoot up a train.

Two Focke Wulf 190s attacked them. Shand was shot down and quickly captured. Within a few weeks he arrived at Stalag Luft III, 100 miles south-east of Berlin. It was Goering's "show camp", administered and guarded by the Luftwaffe.

After the Great Escape, Shand remained at Stalag Luft III until the camp was evacuated in January 1945, the PoWs being forced to march westwards in the harshest winter for many years.

26 December 2007

This day in history: 26 Dec

1776: Hessian forces commanded by Colonel Johann Rall were defeated by George Washington's troops at Trenton, New Jersey.

1861: Confederate envoys James M Mason and John Slidell, who had been taken prisoner 8 November in the Trent Affair, were freed by the US government, thus heading off a possible war between the United States and Britain.

1862: The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, near Vicksburg, began; it would end in a Confederate victory on 29 December.

That same day, the former CSS Red Rover was commissioned as the US Navy's first hospital ship, USS Red Rover (Acting Master William R Wells). Her crew of 47 included three Sisters of the Order of the Holy Cross, the first female nurses to serve on a US Navy hospital ship.

And the largest mass hanging in US history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, when 38 Santee Sioux were hanged for participating in the Dakota Conflict.

1898: Marie and Pierre Curie announced the isolation of radium.

1899: At Game Tree, near Mafeking, the Protectorate Regiment was engaged in a fight with the Boers. After the order to retire was given, Sergeant Horace R Martineau was wounded thrice whilst attempting to carry a wounded corporal away from the Boer trenches. Trooper Horace E Ramsden's brother had been shot through both legs and was lying only ten yards in front of the Boer positions; Ramsden picked him up and carried him back some 800 yards, despite being under heavy fire all the time and having to stop regularly to rest. Both wounded men were eventually carried to safety. Martineau and Ramsden were awarded the Victoria Cross.

1915: SMS Kingani was captured by HM ships Mimi and Toutou.

1943: German battleship Scharnhorst attempted to attack Convoy JW55B (Loch Ewe to Murmansk) off North Cape, Norway. Escorting cruisers HMS Belfast, Norfolk and Sheffield successfully drove Scharnhorst away from the convoy, and battleship HMS Duke of York arrived with cruiser HMS Jamaica and four destroyers* to finish the German ship off. Only 36 men survived from the Scharnhorst's crew of over 1800. This was the last engagement in which a Royal Navy capital ship fought an enemy capital ship.


HMS Duke of York

1944: Combat Command R (Col Wendell Blanchard), 4th Armored Division, broke through German forces to reach the 101st Airborne Division troops who had been surrounded at Bastogne.

1961: US Air Force pilots were given permission to undertake combat missions (Operation Farm Gate) against the Viet Cong as long as at least one Vietnamese national was carried on board the strike aircraft for training purposes.

1973: Soyuz 13 (V V Lebedev and P I Klimuk), launched from Baikonur on 18 December, landed in Kazakhstan.

1974: Salyut 4 was launched from Baikonur; it would remain in orbit until 2 Feb 1977.

1991: The Supreme Soviet formally announced the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890), Frederic Remington (1861-1909), Melvil Dewey (1851–1931), Harry S Truman (1884–1972), Jack Benny (1894–1974), Howard Hawks (1896–1977), Jason Robards (1922–2000), Erich Topp (1914-2005) and Gerald Ford (1913-2006) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Charles Babbage FRS (1791–1871), George Dewey (1837–1917), Richard Widmark (1914-TBD), Steve Allen (1921–2000), Phil Spector (1940-TBD) and James T Conway (1947-TBD).

* HM ships Saumarez, Scorpion and Savage, and KNM Stord.

25 December 2007

Xmas with 40 Commando

ZUI this article from the MoD Defence News:
Chefs from 40 Commando Royal Marines have been doing their bit to bring Christmas cheer to troops serving in Afghanistan by serving a festive dinner to colleagues on the front line.

Some of the commando chefs have been cooking for Royal Marines at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province while their colleagues located at some of the Forward Operating Bases have been doing likewise for the men of 40 Commando operating on the front line over Christmas.

Being commando-trained, the chefs can expect to help with sentry duties and go out on patrols as well as carrying out their culinary tasks. Marines at Camp Bastion will visit the galley – the tradition of naval terminology being maintained even in the middle of the desert.


Christmas lunch is traditionally served by the officers and Senior NCOs of the Commando unit and this year will be no different. One of those officers, Captain Mark Elliott, Adjutant of 40 Commando, said:

"It’s a long-standing tradition within the Royal Marines that officers serve the Marines their Christmas dinner by way of thanking them for their hard work throughout the year. Luckily for them, we don’t actually cook it!"

A full menu was expected to be served to the Marines today, including prawn cocktail, soup, roast beef, ham and of course the traditional turkey with all the trimmings.

Twelve Days....

Straight No Chaser

This got posted - by different people - to two of my Yahoo! groups last week.

24 December 2007

23 December 2007

Philadelphia II

As I said in part one of this, my camera-to-computer cable has apparently gone to God. I've been holding off on finishing this post, hoping that it would show up, but no luck yet. Hard to believe it's been three months already....

On the second day, we got off the train at SEPTA's Market East Station, a few blocks west of Independence National Historical Park. We arrived at the old State House (Independence Hall) at 1100, just in time for the tour we'd booked in advance. The tour started with a talk about the building's place in history as the place where the Second Continental Congress met and the Declaration of Independence was signed (1776), and where the Constitutional Convention met in 1787.

From there we went on to the main building. First we visited the courtroom, where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court met; then came the Assembly Room, where Congress met.

1776 is one of my younger daughter's favourite movies, and it's my favourite musical. Most of it is set at Independence Hall, so of course we had to compare the real thing with the movie version: Not only the meeting chamber itself, but also the stairs where the Committee of Five sang But, Mr Adams, and the outside of the building, where (in the film) the members of Congress run out to see a fire and the conservatives board their carriages.

Then came lunch.

A few months ago WillyShake, of Unconsidered Trifles, mentioned having visited a Philadelphia restaurant called Fogo de Chão. After reading his post, I of course had to view the restaurant's website* - and as soon as we decided that we were indeed going to Philly, I added it to the list of Things to Do.

The restaurant, a Brazilian churrascaria, offers a salad bar, with such things as artichokes, cheese, and an excellent apple salad. In addition, each table is given plates of cheese bread, mash, fried polenta and fried bananas (wonderful!). All of these are somewhat superfluous, though, because this place is Carnivores' Heaven.

Each diner is given a cardboard disk, green on one side, red on the other. Want meat? Flip it over to green-side-up. The servers are constantly passing through the dining room with skewers of meat, fresh from the grill; when they see the green disk, they'll stop to see if you're interested in what they have. Had enough? Or just need some time to clear off your plate a bit? Flip the disk to red-side-up, and they'll stop coming. Want more? Go back to green.... (Did I mention that it's all-you-can-eat?)

My younger daughter, as I'd expected, loved the linguica (sausage); she also said the beef ancho was very good. Her sister is a very picky eater, but she liked the chicken breast (served in chunks wrapped in bacon). The lamb chops were good, though a little too heavily salted for my taste; I agreed that the beef ancho was very good, as were the fraldinha (bottom sirloin) and the filet mignon (also wrapped in bacon). The picanha, however, was my real favourite - after a couple samples of that, I was about ready to mug that waiter and take his entire skewer.

Wines are available, but we all settled for sodas; my wife and I really enjoyed the Guaraná Antarctica. They have desserts, too, but even the girls weren't interested. Maybe next time....

After lunch we returned to the NHP. We decided to start with one of the horse-drawn carriages, which offer tours of the area, and took a 40-minute ride. Don't remember the driver's name, but her horse was named Truman, and he took us through the historical district while she pointed out various old houses and churches. We ended up back at the NHP, of course, and went in to have a look at the Liberty Bell. From there we went across the street to Congress Hall (immediately west of Independence Hall), where the US Congress met during its stay in Philadelphia from 1790 to 1800. Downstairs is the large chamber where the House of Representatives met; upstairs are the Senate's meeting room (truly an upper house and a lower house!) and several committee rooms.

We'd hoped to get to see the US Mint, too, but by this time it was already closed, so we caught a train back to our car. We were still full from our lunch at Fogo de Chão, so instead of having supper we just stopped off for ice cream, then headed home.

Going back? Absolutely! In addition to the Mint, there's a lot more to see at the NHP. And my older daughter still asks from time to time when we can go back to Fogo de Chão.

And hey - maybe now that I'm posting this, the cable will reappear....

* Amongst the reviews available on their site is one of the Philadelphia location.

Victoria Cross: W. R. Parker


Lance Corporal, Royal Marine Light Infantry; Royal Naval Division

Born: 20 September 1881, Grantham, Lincolnshire

Citation: In recognition of his most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the course of the Dardanelles operations.
On the night of 30th April/lst May, 1915, a message asking for ammunition, water, and medical stores was received from an isolated fire trench at Gaba Tepe.
A party of Non-commissioned Officers and men were detailed to carry water and ammunition, and, in response to a call for a volunteer from among the stretcher bearers, Parker at once came forward; he had during the previous three days displayed conspicuous bravery and energy under fire whilst in charge of the Battalion stretcher bearers.
Several men had already been killed in a previous attempt to bring assistance to the men holding the fire trench. To reach this trench it was necessary to traverse an area at least four hundred yards wide, which was completely exposed and swept by rifle fire. It was already daylight when the party emerged from shelter and at once one of the men was wounded; Parker organised a stretcher party and then going on alone succeeded in reaching the fire trench, all the water and ammunition carriers being either killed or wounded.
After his arrival he rendered assistance to the wounded in the trench, displaying extreme courage and remaining cool and collected in very trying circumstances. The trench had finally to be evacuated [on May 2], and Parker helped to remove and attend the wounded, although he himself was seriously wounded during this operation.

(London Gazette Issue 30147 dated 22 Jun 1917, published 22 Jun 1917.)

Medal of Honor: J. Dougherty


Private, US Marine Corps; USS Carondelet

Born: 16 November 1839, Langhash, Ireland

Citation: On board the U.S.S. Carondelet in various actions of that vessel [in Korea, June, 1871]. Wounded several times, Dougherty invariably returned to duty, presenting an example of constancy and devotion to the flag.

21 December 2007

RIP: Russell Coffey

J Russell Coffey
1 Sep 1898 - 20 Dec 2007

ZUI this article from Fox News:
The last World War I veteran in Ohio, and one of only three known remaining U.S. veterans of the conflict, has died.

J. Russell Coffey was the last WWI vet in the state, according to the Veterans Affairs Department. He died Thursday at the age of 109, said the Smith-Crates Funeral Home in North Baltimore, about 35 miles south of Toledo.


Coffey, born Sept. 1, 1898, did not see action overseas. He enlisted in the Army while he was a student at Ohio State University in October 1918, a month before the Allied powers and Germany signed a cease-fire agreement.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the only other known surviving American soldiers from World War I are 106-year-old Frank Buckles, of West Virginia, and 108-year-old Harry Landis, of Florida. (107-year-old John Babcock, the last known Canadian WWI veteran, lives in Washington.) The last US Navy veteran from WW I was Lloyd Brown (d 29 Mar 07), the last USMC vet was Albert Wagner (d 20 Jan 07), and the last female US vet was Charlotte Winters (d 27 Mar 07).

According to Wikipedia (which has more about Coffey, Buckles and Landis), there are now 20 verified WWI veterans still alive.

19 December 2007

Cybils short lists

It seems that the Postal Disservice USPS Xmas rush is causing problems with the delivery of books to be reviewed by the Cybils panelists. Hence, this announcement made yesterday:
Our organizers have debated this for weeks, hoping that a few more well-timed deliveries would erase any need for an extension. With only two weeks to go and many books still undelivered, we decided we wanted a fair awards more than a fast one.

There’ll now be two announcement dates:
On Jan. 1 we’ll still roll out the short lists for fiction picture books, poetry, fantasy and science fiction and middle grade novels.

That leaves non-fiction picture books, graphic novels, young adult novels, MG/YA non-fiction, which we plan to reveal on Jan. 7.

The contest will still finish up on Valentine’s Day, when we announce the winners. Yes, that means some judges get 6 fewer days, but most have given their okay on this.
This probably isn’t the best solution, but it’s the one that fits for this time out. We’ll again do a post mortem in March when you can kvetch about what didn’t work, and we’ll re-examine our nomination deadline and reading period, and even our outreach to publishers.

This day in history: 19 Dec

1154: Henry II of England was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

1606: Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, commanded by Christopher Newport, departed England carrying settlers who would found the first permanent English colony in North America, at Jamestown, Virginia.

1899: At San Mateo, in the Philippine Islands, after scouts were unable to locate a ford, Sergeant Edward H Gibson and Corporal Antoine A Gaujot, Company M, 27th Infantry, US Volunteers, attempted to swim across a river under heavy fire in order to obtain a canoe. Both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

1914: Near Neuve Chapelle, France, Lieutenant Philip Neame, Royal Engineers, held back attacking Germans for three-quarters of an hour, despite their heavy rifle fire and grenades, until all British wounded who could be moved had been withdrawn. Neame was awarded the Victoria Cross.*

1972: Apollo 17 (Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt), the last - and longest - manned lunar mission, returned to Earth.

1974: Nelson A Rockefeller - the second US Vice President not elected to that office - was sworn in as the 41st Vice President, under President Gerald Ford.

1998: The US House of Representatives forwarded articles I and III of impeachment against President Bill Clinton to the Senate.

Vitus Bering (1681-1741), Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915), Hans Langsdorff (1894-1939), Desmond Llewellyn (1913/14-1999) and Hope Lange (1933-2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Édith Piaf (1915-1963), Al Kaline** (1934-TBD), Richard Leakey (1944-TBD), Zal Yanovsky (1945-2002) and Robert Urich (1946-2002).

* Ten years later, in Paris, Neame - shooting in the team 100m running-deer (double shots) event - became the only person to hold both the Victoria Cross and an Olympic gold medal.

** When I was in fifth grade - the last year I had any interest in baseball - Al Kaline was The Man. And this is probably the only mention of baseball you will ever see in this blog.

18 December 2007

The Constable's rum

ZUI this article from the MoD Defence News:
The crew of HMS Westminster took part in an ancient tradition at the weekend when they marched through the Tower of London delivering a barrel of rum to its Constable.


Ancient rights dictated that every ship that came upstream to the City of London had to unload a portion of its cargo for the Constable, thus enjoying the protection of the Tower of London guns.

Today, the tradition of the Ceremony of the Constable's Dues is kept alive when every year the captain of a Royal Navy ship entering the Pool of London delivers a barrel of rum to the Constable.

The captain and his crew are firstly challenged for entry to the Tower by the Yeoman Gaoler, the second-in-command of the Body of Yeoman Warders (or Beefeaters).

The captain and his naval ratings then march through the Tower of London, accompanied by Yeoman Warders in State Dress and a Corps of Drums, to Tower Green, where the Constable is presented with the barrel of rum. Afterwards, all retire to Queen's House on Tower Green, the oldest surviving timber building in the City, to sample the contents.

HMS Westminster is a Type 23 frigate commissioned in 1994.

And speaking of the Yeoman Warders, it seems that I missed an announcement a few months ago:
The first ever female beefeater at the Tower of London, Yeoman Warder Moira Cameron, started work today, Monday 3 September 2007, beginning a new chapter in the Tower's 1,000 year history.

Former Warrant Officer Class 2 Cameron was announced in january [sic] 2007 as the first female Yeoman Warder in the 522 years of the position's existence. She joined the Body of the Yeoman Warders at the Tower in July this year where she has been undertaking a two month rigorous training programme.


In order to qualify as a Yeoman Warder a candidate must be a former Warrant Officer or Senior Non-Commissioned Officer. They must also have served a minimum of 22 years in the Armed Forces and hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal.


WO2 Cameron, who is from mid Argyll in the Western Highlands, joined the Army in 1985 at the age of 20. She joined the Women's Royal Army Corps and trained as a Data Telegraphist with the Royal Signals. In 1988 she transferred and trained as a military accountant with the Royal Army Pay Corps and in 1992 was transferred to the Adjutants Generals Corp (Staff and Personnel Support) Branch. She has served in Northern Ireland and Cyprus and was awarded her Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 2000.

Note: In the British forces a WO2 is a senior enlisted rank, equivalent to a US Army master sergeant (E-8).

Royal Navy photograph © Crown Copyright/MOD 2007.

16 December 2007

Gearing up for Xmas in Afghanistan

The other day I wrote about a US Navy submarine cook who is currently working at an Army post in Afghanistan. Now ZUI this article from the MoD Defence News:
Due to arrive at the main British base in Helmand Province in the next few days are nine thousand kilograms of turkey breast, fifteen thousand kilos of cranberry sauce, four thousand mince pies, six thousand after dinner mints, six thousand balloons, four thousand party hats and five thousand Christmas crackers.

So it will be a traditional Christmas lunch in the two huge tented barrel cookhouses on the camp, and on Christmas Eve, the chefs plan to put up Christmas trees and decorations so the troops will be greeted on Christmas morning with a festive atmosphere.


SAC [Stephanie] Thorogood points out that it's actually in the Queen's Regulations that no one is allowed to leave the cookhouse hungry, and there is not much chance of that happening at Bastion. They have seven different choices for lunch or dinner, ranging from lamb curry to steak with béarnaise sauce and chicken stir fry to lasagne, and it all tastes excellent:
"People like curry," SAC Thorogood said. "We cook off six green boxes of rice a day, that's a lot of rice! I did the stir fry the other day too, with six boxes of peppers, that's a lot of peppers!"


The Christmas tradition of officers and senior ranks serving the junior ranks their Christmas meal will be alive and well at Bastion too, and [head chef] WO2 [Alan] Watkins will know how to gauge the troops appreciation of the food[.]

Note: A Senior Aircraftman (SAC) is an RAF rank equivalent to a USAF Airman (E-2). A Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) in the British forces is a senior enlisted rank equivalent to a USAF Senior Master Sergeant or USN Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8).

Ice cream

Wonderful stuff, ice cream. When I was a kid in Michigan, we had a DQ and an A&W drive-in right next to each other; it was a common occurrence to see a car park at one and then send someone over to the other. There was a Bresler's 33 Flavors at the local mall when I was a teenager in Illinois; I haven't seen one of those in years, but Baskin-Robbins is quite similar. Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants were absolutely wonderful (I Made a Pig of Myself there many times), but unfortunately the chain closed down after new owners changed the concept in the late '80s. Possibly the best ice cream I've ever had was the gelato in La Maddalena; we'd have dinner at L'Aragosta (one of my favourite restaurants anywhere), then wander down the street to a gelateria for dessert.

My favourite ice-cream flavours are vanilla, rum raisin, spumoni, strawberry and peach; my favourite fancy ice cream is Ben & Jerry's Phish Food. Turkey Hill put out some really good stuff, including "Limited Edition Flavors" that are only available for a short period. This month, for instance, they have Peppermint Stick and Rum Raisin Premium Ice Creams, Peanut Butter Marshmallow Frozen Yogurt, Raspberry Duetto (vanilla soft serve with raspberry Venice® ice) and Cherry Orchard Sherbet.

I just found out this evening that they have a blog. An ice-cream-oriented blog, of course. And this month they're doing a giveaway:
Speaking of the holidays, this year we’ll be celebrating them with something we’re calling the “12 Days of Ice Cream.” Starting on Friday, December 14 we’ll be posting a new entry every day (including weekends) through December 25. Each day will feature a different ice cream related gift, which we will give away to one of that entry’s commenters chosen at random. We’re excited about it and when you see some of these gifts, we think you will be too. The best part is, we’ll be giving away a year’s supply of ice cream to one lucky reader. If you remember our National Ice Cream Month giveaway in July, that’s a pretty cool prize no matter what season it is.

Whatever you do, don't go comment on their blog this month. I don't need any more competition....

H/T to my old shipmate Dave.

Victoria Cross: Tubb, Burton and Dunstan


Lieutenant, 7th (Victoria) Battalion, Australian Imperial Force

Born: 28 November 1881, St Helena, Longwood, Victoria, Australia

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at Lone Pine trenches, in the Gallipoli Peninsula, on 9th August, 1915. In the early morning the enemy made a determined counter-attack on the centre of the newly captured trench held by Lieutenant Tubb. They advanced up a sap and blew in a sandbag barricade, leaving only one foot of it standing, but Lieutenant Tubb led his men back, repulsed the enemy, and rebuilt the barricade. Supported by strong bombing parties, the enemy succeeded in twice again blowing in the barricade, but on each occasion Lieutenant Tubb, although wounded in the head and arm, held his ground with the greatest coolness and rebuilt it, and finally succeeded in maintaining his position under very heavy bomb fire.

(London Gazette Issue 29328 dated 15 Oct 1915, published 15 Oct 1915.)


Corporal, 7th (Victoria) Battalion, Australian Imperial Force

Born: 20 January 1893, Kyneton, Victoria, Australia


Corporal, 7th (Victoria) Battalion, Australian Imperial Force

Born: 8 March 1895, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Joint Citation: For most conspicuous bravery at Lone Pine trenches in the Gallipoli Peninsula on the 9th August, 1915.
In the early morning the enemy made a determined counter-attack on the centre of the newly captured trench held by Lieutenant Tubb, Corporals Burton and Dunstan and a few men. They advanced up a sap and blew in a sandbag barricade, leaving only one foot of it standing, but Lieutenant Tubb with the two corporals repulsed the enemy and rebuilt the barricade. Supported by strong bombing parties the enemy twice again succeeded in blowing in the barricade, but on each occasion they were repulsed and the barricade rebuilt, although Lieutenant Tubb was wounded in the head and arm and Corporal Burton was killed by a bomb while most gallantly building up the parapet under a hail of bombs.

(London Gazette Issue 29328 dated 15 Oct 1915, published 15 Oct 1915.)

Lieutenant Tubb's medals

Medal of Honor: A. V. Rascon


Specialist Fourth Class, US Army; Reconnaissance Platoon, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry,173d Airborne Brigade (Separate)

Born: 1945, Chihuahua, Mexico

Citation: Specialist Four Alfred Rascon, distinguished himself by a series of extraordinarily courageous acts on 16 March 1966, while assigned as a medic to the Reconnaissance Platoon, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate). While moving to reinforce its sister battalion under intense enemy attack, the Reconnaissance Platoon came under heavy fire from a numerically superior enemy force. The intense enemy fire from crew-served weapons and grenades severely wounded several point squad soldiers. Specialist Rascon, ignoring directions to stay behind shelter until covering fire could be provided, made his way forward. He repeatedly tried to reach the severely wounded point machine-gunner laying on an open enemy trail, but was driven back each time by the withering fire. Disregarding his personal safety, he jumped to his feet, ignoring flying bullets and exploding grenades to reach his comrade. To protect him from further wounds, he intentionally placed his body between the soldier and enemy machine guns, sustaining numerous shrapnel injuries and a serious wound to the hip. Disregarding his serious wounds he dragged the larger soldier from the fire-raked trail. Hearing the second machine-gunner yell that he was running out of ammunition, Specialist Rascon, under heavy enemy fire crawled back to the wounded machine-gunner stripping him of his bandoleers of ammunition, giving them to the machine-gunner who continued his suppressive fire. Specialist Rascon fearing the abandoned machine gun, its ammunition and spare barrel could fall into enemy hands made his way to retrieve them. On the way, he was wounded in the face and torso by grenade fragments, but disregarded these wounds to recover the abandoned machine gun, ammunition and spare barrel items, enabling another soldier to provide added suppressive fire to the pinned-down squad. In searching for the wounded, he saw the point grenadier being wounded by small arms fire and grenades being thrown at him. Disregarding his own life and his numerous wounds, Specialist Rascon reached and covered him with his body absorbing the blasts from the exploding grenades, and saving the soldier's life, but sustaining additional wounds to his body. While making his way to the wounded point squad leader, grenades were hurled at the sergeant. Again, in complete disregard for his own life, he reached and covered the sergeant with his body, absorbing the full force of the grenade explosions. Once more Specialist Rascon was critically wounded by shrapnel, but disregarded his own wounds to continue to search and aid the wounded. Severely wounded, he remained on the battlefield, inspiring his fellow soldiers to continue the battle. After the enemy broke contact, he disregarded aid for himself, instead treating the wounded and directing their evacuation. Only after being placed on the evacuation helicopter did he allow aid to be given to him. Specialist Rascon's extraordinary valor in the face of deadly enemy fire, his heroism in rescuing the wounded, and his gallantry by repeatedly risking his own life for his fellow soldiers are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

15 December 2007

Submarine cook in Afghanistan

ZUI this article from the Northwest Navigator:
The sign above the kitchen door reads, “GALLEY.” Although it’s more than 500 miles from the nearest ocean, it’s still the closest thing to a ship that a small group of sailors have in western Afghanistan.

When CS2 (SS) Class Timothy Wright came to Forward Operating Base Maimaneh, he was the only Sailor here. He was also the only cook. So the officer in charge of the FOB, Army Lt. Col. Robert Williams, put him in charge of the dining facility.


There are few non-contracted military dining facilities in Afghanistan, and even fewer still being run by a sailor. For a Navy petty officer to operate an Army dining facility is positively unique, and Wright has a reputation for running a good one. He’s enjoyed it so much he extended his tour in Afghanistan to almost two years.


Wright spreads Navy influence in ways that are sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle. A Navy flag hangs on the dining facilities wall, and signs around the FOB remind “Shipmates” to replace water in the refrigerators, and call smoking areas “Smoke Decks.” It’s starting to pay off. He’s even heard soldiers refer to the latrine as the “head.”

Atlantis launch now planned for 10 Jan

ZUI this NASA press release dated 13 Dec:
NASA's Space Shuttle Program managers have targeted Jan. 10 for the launch of shuttle Atlantis' STS-122 mission to the International Space Station.

"The workforce has stepped up to and met every challenge this year," said Wayne Hale, Space Shuttle Program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "Moving the next launch attempt of Atlantis to Jan. 10 will allow as many people as possible to have time with family and friends at the time of year when it means the most. A lot has been asked of them this year and a lot will be asked of them in 2008."

The liftoff date from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, depends on the resolution of a problem in a fuel sensor system. The shuttle's planned launches on Dec. 6 and Dec. 9 were postponed because of false readings from the part of the system that monitors the liquid hydrogen section of the tank.

14 December 2007

This day in history: 14 Dec

1542: Six-day-old Princess Mary Stuart became Queen of Scots on the death of her father, King James V. She was crowned 9 September 1543 in Stirling Castle.

1782: The Montgolfier brothers' first balloon lifted on its first test flight, floating about 1.5 miles before crash landing in the village of Gonesse, where it was destroyed by the alarmed inhabitants,

1819: Alabama became the 22nd US state. (On 11 Jan 1861, it would become the fourth state to secede from the Union.)

1903: The Wright brothers made their first attempt to fly with the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. With Wilbur at the controls, it stalled on take-off and crashed, but three days later, after completing repairs, it made a successful 120-foot flight.

1911: Roald Amundsen, Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting became the first men to reach the South Pole.

1939: The Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations for attacking Finland.

1943: In Italy, Captain Paul Triquet, Le Royal 22e Régiment, Canadian Army, took command of a company which had suffered very heavy losses in an attack, and managed to break through the enemy positions. Less than twenty men of the company remained under his command by this time, but under his leadership they held the newly-won ground against German counter-attacks until reinforced the following day. Triquet received the Victoria Cross.

1944: Sergeant Ralph G Neppel, 329th Infantry, 83d Infantry Division, was leader of a machinegun squad defending an approach to the village of Birgel, Germany, when an enemy tank, supported by infantry, counterattacked. He held his fire until the Germans were within 100 yards, then raked the foot soldiers beside the tank, killing several of them. The enemy armor continued to press forward, and fired a shell into the American emplacement, wounding the entire squad. Neppel, blown 10 yards from his gun, suffered severe wounds, but dragged himself back to his position on his elbows, remounted his gun and killed the remaining enemy riflemen. Without infantry protection, the tank was forced to withdraw. Neppel was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1962: Mariner 2, launched from Cape Canaveral on 27 Aug 1962, became the first spacecraft to fly by Venus.

1972: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt completed the third and final Apollo 17 extra-vehicular activity (EVA), making Cernan the last man to walk on the moon in the 20th century.

In addition to James V (1512-1542), C P E Bach (1714–1788), George Washington (1732–1799), HRH The Prince Consort (1819–1861) and Louis Agassiz (1807—1873) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, GCB (1775–1860), HM King George VI (1895–1952), Jimmy Doolittle (1896–1993), Morey Amsterdam (1908–1996), Spike Jones (1911–1965) and Hanni Wenzel (1956-TBD).

13 December 2007

The Cybils: Fantasy and science fiction

Sheila Ruth, the F/SF organizer for this years Cybils awards, has announced that the 94 books nominated in the Fantasy and Science Fiction category will be split into two groups: Those for children up to age 12, and those for teenagers. Two shortlists will be announced (planned for 1 Jan 08), and two prizes will be awarded (planned for 14 Feb 08).

Personally, I'm torn between Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Un Lun Dun....

Ice Cream and Violins Day



This day in history: 13 Dec

1577: Sir Francis Drake set out from Plymouth, England, with five ships - Pelican, Elizabeth, Swan, Marigold, and Benedict - on his round-the-world voyage. He would return to England with one ship (Pelican, which he had renamed Golden Hind) on 26 September 1580.

1636: The Massachusetts Bay Colony organized its militia into three regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This is recognized today as the founding of the US National Guard.

1862: "It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it." The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (General Robert E Lee) was attacked by the Union Army of the Potomac (Major General Ambrose Burnside) at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Yankees made fifteen attacks against the Confederates, who were dug in on the heights behind the town, but to no avail, and Burnside withdrew on the 15th. 19 men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their service during the battle.*

1907: The seven-masted schooner Thomas W Lawson ran aground in a gale and sank near Hellweather's Reef, in the Scilly Isles. A pilot and 15 crewmembers died.

1914: HM Submarine B11 (Lieutenant Norman D Holbrook) went up the Dardanelles and through a minefield to torpedo and sink the Turkish battleship Messudiyeh. The sub then managed to return safely down the Dardanelles, despite coming under fire from shore batteries and enemy torpedo boats. B11 remained submerged for nine hours during this mission, a remarkable achievement for such a primitive craft. Holbrook was awarded the Victoria Cross - the first submariner to receive this award.

1937: The Chinese city of Nanking (pinyin Nanjing) fell to the Japanese. Japanese troops began carrying out several weeks of raping, looting, killing and destruction. An estimated 300,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed, and 20,000 women were raped.

1939: German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee (Kpt z S Hans Langsdorff) met the Royal Navy's Force G (cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles, under Cdre Henry Harwood OBE) near the Rio de la Plata. Exeter was badly damaged, but Graf Spee was forced to flee to the nearby neutral port of Montevideo, Uruguay. Given the choice of having his ship interned, or leaving port to fight the British reinforcements that were on the way, Langsdorff ordered his ship scuttled on 17 December.**

1945: Eleven guards from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp - including commandant Josef Kramer ("The Beast of Belsen"), Irma Grese, Elizabeth Volkenrath and Juana Bormann - were hanged at Hameln for war crimes.

2006: The baiji, or Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer), was reported to be extinct.

Donatello (c 1386–1466), Alexander Selkirk (1676–1721), Thomas Watson (1854-1934), Grandma Moses (1860–1961), Raymond Spruance (1886-1969), Pigmeat Markham (1904-1981) and Zal Yanovsky (1944–2002) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Henry IV of France (1553–1610), Mary Todd Lincoln (1818–1882), Alvin York (1887–1964), Hans-Joachim Marseille (1919-1942), Dick Van Dyke (1925-TBD), Christopher Plummer CC (1929-TBD), Ted Nugent (1948-TBD), John Anderson (1954-TBD), Tamora Pierce (1954-TBD) and Johnny Whitaker (1959-TBD).

* The quote is from General Lee, speaking to Lieutenant General James Longstreet whilst watching the battle.

** Small photo shows Graf Spee; large photo shows HMS Exeter after the battle.

12 December 2007

This day in history: 12 Dec

1781: A Royal Navy squadron commanded by Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt, in HMS Victory, defeated a French fleet in the Second Battle of Ushant.

1862: Ironclad river gunboat USS Cairo (Lt Cmdr Thomas O Selfridge Jr) became the first armoured ship to be sunk by an electrically detonated mine, in the Yazoo River near Vicksburg MS.

1901: Guglielmo Marconi may have received (there is controversy) the first trans-Atlantic radio signal, transmitted from Cornwall, at Signal Hill near St John's, Newfoundland.

1937: Three people were killed and eleven wounded when Japanese aircraft sank the gunboat USS Panay (PR 5) on the Yangtze River in China.

1939: Finnish forces defeated those of the Soviet Union in the Battle of Tolvajärvi, their first major victory of the conflict.

1941: 54 Japanese bombers, escorted by A6M Zero fighters, raided Batangas Field, Philippines. Five Filipino pilots, flying Boeing P-26 Peashooters, fended them off with the loss of one man, Lt Cesar Basa.

That same day, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia declared war on the United States and Great Britain; Haiti, El Salvador and Panama declared war on Germany and Italy; and Romania declared war on the United States.

And in New York City, the US Coast Guard took possession of the French Line's luxury liner SS Normandie. The ship was renamed USS Lafayette (AP 53), but was destroyed by a fire two months later whilst being converted into a troop transport.

1985: All 256 people on board died when Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashed after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland. 236 of those were killed were members of the 3d Battalion, 502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.

In addition to Lt Basa (1915-1941), Charles Goodnight (1836–1929), Douglas Fairbanks (1883–1939) and Stuart Roosa (1933–1994) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood (1724–1816), Stand Watie (1806–1871), Gerd von Rundstedt (1875-1953), Edward G Robinson (1893-1973), Patrick O'Brian CBE (1914–2000), Frank Sinatra (1915–1998), Dan DeCarlo (1919-2001), Honor Blackman (1927-TBD) and Connie Francis (1938-TBD).

11 December 2007


Got an e-mail the other day from a guy I went to boot camp (Great Lakes) with many, many years (almost 26!) ago. That got me thinking about boot camp, and about this and that, and I ended up on the subject of coffee. The Navy runs on coffee, of course - consider the stereotypical CPO with his index finger permanently crooked to hold his coffee cup - and I've certainly done my bit through the years to help support the world's coffee growers.

My mother was a tea drinker, and I've been drinking tea ever since I was a kid. I didn't start drinking coffee until around the time I dropped out of high school, and that was out of desperation - it was a cold, snowy, blowy day in northern Illinois, and the restaurant where I stopped to thaw out didn't serve tea and had run out of hot chocolate (or maybe it was the other way round). So I ordered coffee, diluted it thoroughly with cream and sugar, and started a lifetime habit....

I drank it blond & sweet the first couple of years, but then switched to blond & bitter to silence all my health-food-junkie friends who kept making pointed remarks about all the refined sugars I was poisoning myself with. A year or two later I went out to dinner with friends and ordered my usual; the waitress delivered the coffee, but not the cream. After the second reminder, and subsequent failure to deliver, I gave up - the coffee was getting cold and I was getting thirsty - and drank it straight. I've been drinking black & bitter ever since.

Sometime in '75 or '76 I read a magazine article about the dangers of "excessive caffeine" consumption - the stuff buggers up your liver, stomach, blood pressure, &c, &c. All through the article, the author kept saying "excessive caffeine," but he didn't get around to defining this term until the final paragraph: More than two or three cups of coffee (or the equivalent) a day. Now, in those days I was drinking anywhere up to 16 cups a day. To begin with, my cup was never empty at work; when it got down to a quarter-inch or so, I'd top it off. That accounted for 8-10 cups a day, and then I'd go out to dinner and drink several more cups. (This, obviously, was long before I ever had to start worrying about drinking coffee after 1500....*)

Then I joined the Navy, and for the first time in years was in an environment where I couldn't grab a cup of coffee whenever I felt like it....

Nowadays, I think, they call them Recruit Division Commanders (RDCs), but when I was in boot camp they were Company Commanders (CCs) and every company had two of them. Ours were an IC1 and an EN1**, and both were coffee drinkers. And whenever one of them needed a refill, he'd grab a handy recruit, hand him a coffee cup, and send him down to fetch it.

Of course, this being boot camp, we couldn't just ask for a cup of coffee. Do that, and you'd be sent back to your CC with his cup full of damp, firmly packed coffee grounds. The procedure was to knock on the office door, take three steps in, come to attention, turn to face the CC who was there (eight companies in the barracks made for 16 CCs to take turns manning the office off the building quarterdeck), and say, "Sir! Seaman Recruit [insert surname here] reporting, Sir! My Company Commander has sent me to get for him a cup of freshly brewed, hot, black, liquid refreshment from the coffee pot, SIR!" This speech, and only this speech, would lead to the desired results.

One day EN1 handed me his cup and told me to get him some coffee. So off I went, cup in hand, to the quarterdeck. I knocked, entered, sounded off, received a cupful of coffee, and walked out of the office, to find another recruit from my company standing there, holding IC1's cup and looking extremely nervous. Seems he couldn't remember the speech, and since I obviously could***, he wanted me to get the product for him. "No," sez I.

"C'mon, man, I can't remember all that! You know how to do it. Get some for me, please!"

We argued back and forth for a minute or so, and then I saw the door behind him open - and IC1 tiptoed in, holding his finger to his lips for silence. I returned my attention to my fellow recruit, who was still pleading for my assistance and almost jumped out of his skin when IC1 tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Recruit! Where's my coffee??"

Heh, heh....

Hawai`i is a beautiful place, and I'm glad I got to go see it, but I was ready to leave by the end of the second week - three years was much, much too long to be there. (Odd thing about Hawai`i - everyone I know who's lived there either absolutely loves it, or absolutely hates it. No middle-of-the-road feelings about it at all. But I digress....) One of the things Hawai`i is noted for is the Kona coffee that's grown on the Big Island. We had a QM2 who would come in to work every morning with a baggie containing enough ground Kona to make one pot. He'd go down to the crew's mess, carefully rinse out the coffee pot and the filter basket, brew his potful of Kona, fill his cup, and walk off, leaving the rest of the pot for those of us who were circling like buzzards.

One of the things I found really strange about the skimmer was that the mess decks were secured between meals. On the boat, of course, the crew's mess also serves as lounge and lecture hall; the coffee pot, milk machine, &c, are always available for use. Not so on the target. Instead, each division maintained a coffee mess (or few) in its divisional spaces, and S2 (the cooks) would issue coffee periodically, each division receiving a set amount based on the number of people in that division. Coffee messes were secured at night (electrical fires not being considered a Good Thing), so the only place one could get a cup of coffee before/after watch in the middle of the night was the Lifer Locker (First Class mess), which of course was only open to E6's; E5 and below were out of luck.

Had an RM2 on Jax who liked to load up on caffeine. He'd take a large travel mug, pour in two or three packets of cocoa (yes, chocolate contains caffeine, too), add five or six packets (or second's worth) of sugar and a bit of milk, and then top it off with coffee. Called this concoction a Speedball, if I remember correctly. One of these at the beginning of a watch would keep him buzzing for the entire six hours. (The kid drove me crazy, but I had to congratulate him when he got orders to transfer. Who ever would have thought that there was a Reserve Centre somewhere in northern California with a billet specifically for a submarine-qualified RM2...?)

One of the duties of the Messenger of the Watch on a submarine is to run coffee for the Dive, the COW, the OOD, and the rest of the Control Room watchstanders. I can't vouch for this tale personally; it was something I read years ago in the Naval Institute Proceedings, or maybe in the "Humour in Uniform" section of Readers' Digest. Seems there was a certain seaman on a certain boat who was famed for his ability to reach the bridge with a full cup of coffee for the OOD, no matter what the sea state. Until he was caught one day. Seems his secret was to pause at the bottom of the bridge access ladder, take a big mouthful of coffee, climb the ladder, pause at the top to spit the coffee back into the cup, and then pass it up to the OOD. Ingenuity at its finest, I say....

When I stood my U/I watches for Chief of the Watch, I'd often fill in for the Messenger in this regard if he was needed for other things. One day on Jax the Dive sent me down for a refill. I listened to his careful instructions - so many seconds' worth of milk, so many seconds' worth of sugar - then went down to the crew's mess and fixed the brew in accordance with. I made sure the lid was on tight, took the cup back to Control, and when the Dive reached for it I shook the cup vigorously and solemnly said, "Shaken, not stirred" - and then had to wait for him to finish laughing so he could take the cup.

One of the bad things about the place where I work now is that they don't provide coffee....

* Actually, caffeine refuses to work in the normal manner for me. Drinking coffee is no help at all when I need to stay awake for a midwatch or some other reason; I can fall asleep with a cup in my hand. It's not until I'm through working and ready to go to bed that it makes its presence known. I go to bed, go straight to sleep with no problem - and twenty minutes later, I'm suddenly wide awake for an hour or few.

** An Interior Communications Electrician First Class, and an Engineman First Class, for you non-USN readers.

*** And still do.

09 December 2007

Atlantis to launch NET 2 Jan 08

ZUI this NASA press release, dated today:
Space shuttle Atlantis' STS-122 mission to the International Space Station now is targeted to launch no earlier than Jan. 2 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The liftoff date depends on the resolution of a problem in a fuel sensor system.

Early Sunday, one of the four engine cutoff, or ECO, sensors inside the liquid hydrogen section of Atlantis' external fuel tank gave a false reading while the tank was being filled. NASA's current Launch Commit Criteria require that all four sensors function properly.

The sensor system is one of several that protect the shuttle's main engines by triggering their shut down if fuel runs unexpectedly low. Atlantis' scheduled launch on Thursday, Dec. 6, was delayed after two liquid hydrogen ECO sensors gave false readings.

Victoria Cross: T. Esmonde


Captain, 18th Regiment

Born: 25 May 1829, Pembrokestown, Co Waterford, Ireland

Citation: For having, after being engaged in the attack on the Redan [at Sebastopol, on 18 June 1855], repeatedly assisted, at great personal risk under a heavy fire of shell and grape, in rescuing wounded men from exposed situations; and also, while in command of a covering party, two days after, for having rushed with the most prompt and daring gallantry to a spot where a fire-ball from the enemy had just been lodged, which he effectually extinguished, before it had betrayed the position of the working party under his protection,–thus saving it from a murderous fire of shell and grape, which was immediately opened upon the spot where the fire-ball had fallen.

(London Gazette Issue 22043 dated 25 Sep 1857, published 25 Sep 1857.)

Note: Captain Esmonde's great-nephew, Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde VC DSO, Fleet Air Arm, was awarded the Victoria Cross after being killed whilst attacking the German cruiser Prinz Eugen on 12 Feb 1942.

Medal of Honor: H. C. Jones


Ensign, US Naval Reserve; USS California (BB 44)

Born: 1 December 1918, Los Angeles, Calif.

Citation: For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Ens. Jones organized and led a party, which was supplying ammunition to the antiaircraft battery of the U.S.S. California after the mechanical hoists were put out of action when he was fatally wounded by a bomb explosion. When 2 men attempted to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to let them do so, saying in words to the effect, "Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off."

Note: USS Herbert C Jones (DE-137) was named in his honor.

08 December 2007

Atlantis to launch Sunday

ZUI this NASA press release, dated today:
Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch Sunday, Dec. 9, at 3:21 p.m. EST, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Shuttle program managers made the liftoff decision after three days of reviewing data on a problem with fuel sensors.

Atlantis' scheduled launch on Thursday was delayed after two of the four engine cutoff, or ECO, sensors in the shuttle's external fuel tank gave false readings. A third sensor failed after the tank was drained of fuel. The sensor system is one of several that protect the shuttle's three main engines by triggering their shut down if fuel runs unexpectedly low.

During a Mission Management Team meeting Saturday, NASA leaders decided to fuel the tank Sunday and monitor the status of the sensor system. If all four ECO sensors inside the liquid hydrogen section of the tank perform as expected, the countdown will proceed toward the planned liftoff. NASA Television coverage of the tank loading will start Sunday at 6 a.m., with launch coverage beginning at 10 a.m.

07 December 2007

Atlantis to launch NET Sunday afternoon

ZUI this press release from NASA, dated today:
NASA is targeting the launch of space shuttle Atlantis no earlier than Sunday, Dec. 9, at 3:21 p.m. EST from the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Shuttle program managers made the decision after a meeting Friday to review data on a problem with a fuel cutoff sensor system inside the shuttle and its external fuel tank.

Because of the length of the meeting, the managers agreed that targeting Sunday would allow the launch and management teams appropriate time to rest and prepare. The Mission Management Team will meet Saturday at 1 p.m. to decide whether to make a Sunday attempt. A news conference will be held after the meeting's conclusion.

Atlantis' scheduled launch Thursday was delayed after two ECO sensors gave false readings. A third sensor failed after the tank was drained of fuel. The fuel cutoff sensor system is one of several that protects the shuttle's main engines by triggering their shut down if fuel runs unexpectedly low.

This day in history: 7 Dec

1787: Delaware became the first state to ratify the US Constitution.

1917: The United States declared war on Austria-Hungary.

1941: USS Ward (DD 139) sank a Japanese midget submarine off the entry to Pearl Harbor.* Shortly thereafter, Japanese naval aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field, and other US bases in the Territory of Hawai`i.

That same day, Canada declared war on Finland, Hungary, and Romania.

1942: SS Ceramic, with 656 people on board, was sunk by U 515 (Kptlt Werner Henke) in the Atlantic Ocean, west of the Azores. The only survivor was Sapper Eric Munday, Royal Engineers, who was rescued for interrogation by Kptlt Henke.

1944: USS Ward (now APD 16) was sunk off Leyte by gunfire from USS O'Brien (DD 725) after being hit by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft.

1972: Apollo 17, the last Apollo moon mission, was launched from Cape Canaveral with commander Eugene Cernan, command module pilot Ronald Evans and lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt on board.

1995: Galileo arrived at Jupiter, a little over six years after being launched by Space Shuttle Atlantis (Mission STS-34) on 18 October 1989.

1998: 17-year-old Jesse Martin departed Melbourne in the 34-foot (10m) sloop Lionheart. He returned to Melbourne on 31 October 1999, thus becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, non-stop, and unassisted.

Michel Ney (1769–1815), William Bligh FRS (1754–1817) and Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Henry Stuart, Duke of Albany (1545–1567), Richard Sears (1863-1914), Gerard Kuiper (1905–1973), Eli Wallach (1915-TBD), Walter Nowotny (1920-1944) and Harry Chapin (1942–1981).

* The wreck of the sub was located in August of 2002.

06 December 2007

Up, up and away

Whilst poking around the MoD Defence Image Database I came across two really nice photos of a helo transfer being conducted from HMS Torbay (S90), the Royal Navy’s only blue submarine. The first is a closeup of one of the helo crew, with Torbay visible in the background. The other was taken looking almost straight down at Torbay's sail.

Atlantis launch postponed

ZUI this NASA press release, dated today:
The launch of NASA's space shuttle Atlantis will take place no earlier than Saturday, Dec. 8, at 3:43 p.m. EST. Thursday's scheduled liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., was postponed because of a problem with a fuel cutoff sensor system inside the shuttle's external fuel tank.

The fuel cutoff sensor system is one of several that protect the shuttle's main engines by triggering their shut down if fuel runs unexpectedly low. Launch Commit Criteria require that three of the four sensor systems function properly before liftoff.

Space Shuttle Program managers will hold a Mission Management Team meeting Friday at 2 p.m. to discuss the issue and determine the steps necessary to start a new launch countdown. A news conference will be held at approximately 5 p.m. after the meeting's conclusion.

On Thursday morning, two of the four engine cutoff, or ECO, sensors inside the liquid hydrogen section of the tank failed a routine prelaunch check. Following the launch postponement, the tank's liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen were drained. While the tank was being emptied, engineers monitored and collected data on the liquid hydrogen sensors that failed. During that process, another sensor gave a false reading, indicating that the tank was "wet," when it was dry. All ECO sensors are now indicating dry as they should be.