29 June 2007

RIP: RADM Eugene B Fluckey

ZUI this article from Navy Times:
Eugene Bennett Fluckey, a legendary World War II submariner and one of the most highly decorated living American servicemen, died Thursday night [28 June] at a hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, a hospital spokeswoman said. He was 93.

In five war patrols as the skipper of the submarine Barb, Fluckey sank dozens upon dozens of Japanese ships and destroyed many more small craft and shore installations, according to the Naval Historical Center. Fluckey’s total decorations included the Medal of Honor, four Navy Crosses, and Presidential Unit Citations and Navy Unit Commendations for him and his crew.

Before transferring to the submarine service in 1938, he served on battleship USS Nevada (BB 36) and destroyer USS McCormick (DD 223). He then served on USS S-42 (SS 153), and completed five war patrols on USS Bonita (SS 165) before assuming command of USS Barb (SS 220) on 27 April 1943.

The Medal of Honor was awarded for a war patrol conducted on board Barb in 1944-45. The citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Barb during her 11th war patrol along the east coast of China from 19 December 1944 to 15 February 1945. After sinking a large enemy ammunition ship and damaging additional tonnage during a running 2-hour night battle on 8 January, Comdr. Fluckey, in an exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking on 25 January, located a concentration of more than 30 enemy ships in the lower reaches of Nankuan Chiang (Mamkwan Harbor). Fully aware that a safe retirement would necessitate an hour's run at full speed through the uncharted, mined, and rock-obstructed waters, he bravely ordered, "Battle station--torpedoes!" In a daring penetration of the heavy enemy screen, and riding in 5 fathoms of water, he launched the Barb's last forward torpedoes at 3,000-yard range. Quickly bringing the ship's stern tubes to bear, he turned loose 4 more torpedoes into the enemy, obtaining 8 direct hits on 6 of the main targets to explode a large ammunition ship and cause inestimable damage by the resultant flying shells and other pyrotechnics. Clearing the treacherous area at high speed, he brought the Barb through to safety and 4 days later sank a large Japanese freighter to complete a record of heroic combat achievement, reflecting the highest credit upon Comdr. Fluckey, his gallant officers and men, and the U.S. Naval Service.

After the war, Fluckey was posted to the Pentagon, becoming Admiral Nimitz's aide after the latter became CNO. He served as commanding officer of Submarine Division 52 and as captain of USS Sperry (AS 12) before being promoted to rear admiral in 1960; afterwards, he became Commander, Amphibious Group 4 and, later, Commander, Submarines, Pacific. He also served as the head of the Electrical Engineering Department at the US Naval Academy, and as US Naval Attaché in Portugal, finally retiring from the Navy in 1972.

His book Thunder Below! was published in 1992. A biography, Galloping Ghost: The Extraordinary Life of Submarine Captain Eugene Fluckey (by Carl LaVO) was published this year by the Naval Institute Press.

H/T to Bubblehead.

Update 1930 1 Jul: Finally had time to check, and as I thought, RADM Fluckey was the last surviving MoH submariner - the only one, in fact, to make it into the 21st century. There were eight all told, seven from World War II and one from between the wars (awarded for heroism when his boat was sunk in a collision). Including Fluckey, they were:
TM2/c Henry Breault (14 Oct 1900-5 Dec 1941)
Capt John P Cromwell (11 Sep 1901-19 Nov 1943)
Comdr Samuel D Dealey (13 Sep 1906-24 Aug 1944)
Comdr Eugene B Fluckey (5 Oct 1913-28 Jun 2007)
Comdr Howard W Gilmore (29 Sep 1902-7 Feb 1943)
Comdr Richard H O'Kane (2 Feb 1911-16 Feb 1994)
Comdr Lawson P Ramage (19 Jan 1909-15 Apr 1990)
Lt Comdr George L Street III (27 Jul 1913-26 Feb 2000)
(Rank given is that held at the time of the action for which the medal was awarded.)

This day in history: 29 Jun

1534: Jacques Cartier made the European discovery of Prince Edward Island.

1613: The original Globe Theatre, in London, was destroyed by fire.

1644: Charles I of England defeated a Parliamentarian led by Sir William Waller at the Battle of Cropredy Bridge - the last battle won by an English King on English soil.

1864: 99 people were killed when an immigrant train failed to stop at an open bridge and fell into the Richelieu River near Beloeil, Quebec.

1880: King Pomare V (1842–1891) was forced to cede the sovereignty of Tahiti and its dependencies to France.

1956: President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, officially creating the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (aka the Interstate Highway System).

1995: Atlantis, launched on 27 June as mission STS-71 (Robert L Gibson, Charles J Precourt, Ellen S Baker, Bonnie J Dunbar and Gregory J Harbaugh*), became the first space shuttle to dock with the Russian space station Mir.
That same day, 501 people were killed and 937 injured when the Sampoong Department Store, in Seoul, South Korea, collapsed.

Margaret Beaufort (1443–1509), Henry Clay (1777–1852), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861), Roscoe Arbuckle (1887–1933), Ignacy Jan Paderewski GBE (1860-1941), Bob Crane (1928–1978), Lana Turner (1921–1995), Rosemary Clooney (1928–2002) and Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to George Goethals (1858-1928), Ludwig Beck (1880–1944), Frank Loesser (1910-1969), Slim Pickens (1919-1983) and Ray Harryhausen (1920-TBD).

* Atlantis had also carried cosmonauts Anatoly Y Solovyev and Nikolai M Budarin up to relieve Norman E Thagard, Vladimir N Dezhurov and Gennady M Strekalov as space-station crew. The photo shows all ten people: (front, left to right) Dezhurov, Gibson and Solovyev, and (back, left to right) Thagard, Strekalov, Harbaugh, Baker, Precourt, Dunbar and Budarin.

Friday cat - 29 Jun

This fellow was hanging around one of the outdoor restaurants in Palau, Sardinia, when I visited there a few years ago.

27 June 2007

Warning: Mature Content

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

punch (11x) death (7x) gun (5x) bomb (3x) shoot (1x)

At least you can't complain about gratuitous sex and violence here, because it seems to be just violence....

H/T to Liz B (who is rated R).

26 June 2007

George Cross: V. R. E. Szabo


Ensign, Women's Transport Service (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry); attached Special Operations Executive

Born: 26 June 1921, Levallois-Perret, France
Died: February 1945, Ravensbrück, Germany

Citation: Madame Szabo volunteered to undertake a particularly dangerous mission in France. She was parachuted into France in April, 1944, and undertook the task with enthusiasm. In her execution of the delicate researches entailed she showed great presence of mind and astuteness. She was twice arrested by the German security authorities but each time managed to get away. Eventually, however, with other members of her group, she was surrounded by the Gestapo in a house in the south west of France. Resistance appeared hopeless but Madame Szabo, seizing a Sten-gun and as much ammunition as she could carry, barricaded herself in part of the house and, exchanging shot for shot with the enemy, killed or wounded several of them. By constant movement, she avoided being cornered and fought until she dropped exhausted. She was arrested and had to undergo solitary confinement. She was then continuously and atrociously tortured but never by word or deed gave away any of her acquaintances or told the enemy anything of value. She was ultimately executed. Madame Szabo gave a magnificent example of courage and steadfastness.

(London Gazette Issue 37820 dated 17 Dec 1946, published 13 Dec 1946.)

Note: The above citation is incorrect in its details; Mme Szabo was actually captured when she met up with elements of 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich" at a crossroad. ZUI this biography and these pictures.

This day in history: 26 Jun

1409: Peter Philargei was crowned Pope as Alexander V, despite the fact that Gregory XII (Rome) and Benedict XIII (Avignon) both already claimed the title.

1541: Francisco Pizarro is assassinated in Lima, Peru.

1857: 62 veterans of the Crimean War (12 Royal Navy, 2 Royal Marine and 48 Army) queued up in Hyde Park, London, for the first investiture of the Victoria Cross. The queue was arranged in order of service and regimental precedence, by rank, so Lieutenant Commander Henry J Raby was the first to receive his medal from the Queen. The picture seems to show Captain of the Mast George Ingouville RN receiving his medal from the Queen; following him is Lieutenant George Dare Dowell, RM Artillery.

1876: The day after George Armstrong Custer and a battalion of the 7th US Cavalry had been wiped out at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Major Marcus Reno took command of the remaining portion of the regiment and successfully held off attacking Indians until they decided to withdraw. Sgt C H Welch, D Troop; Pvt T J Callen, B Troop; Pvt T W Goldin, G Troop; and Privates G D Scott and T W Stivers, D Troop, were all awarded the Medal of Honor.

1918: The Battle of Belleau Wood ended.

1936: The Focke-Achgelis Fa 61 (or Focke-Wulf Fw 61), the first practical helicopter, made its first flight, piloted by Ewald Rohlfs.

1944: Naik (Corporal) Agan Singh Rai, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, led a section of Gurkhas in an attack on a Japanese position in Burma. They took the machine gun, charging through heavy fire, but a second machine gun then opened up on them. Another successful attack eliminated this threat, after which Agan Singh Rai went on alone to attack a third position. He killed the four defenders, after which the remaining Japanese troops in the vicinity withdrew. Agan Singh Rai was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1945: The United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco by representatives of 50 of the original 51 members.

1948: Thirty-two Douglas C-47 cargo planes, hauling 80 tons of cargo including milk, flour and medicine, made the initial flight of the Berlin Airlift.

1959: The Saint Lawrence Seaway was officially opened, with President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II officiating.

1963: President John F Kennedy announced to the world that he was a Berliner.

1973: Nine people were killed by an explosion of a Cosmos 3-M rocket at Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

1976: The 1815-foot CN Tower (Toronto, Ontario), the world's tallest freestanding structure on land, was opened to the public.

In addition to Pizarro (c. 1475–1541), Caesar Rodney (1728–1784), Joseph Michel Montgolfier (1740–1810) and Strom Thurmond (1902–2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Abner Doubleday (1819–1893), William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, OM GCVO (1824–1907), George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (1866–1923), Willy Messerschmitt (1898–1978), Peter Lorre (1904–1964), Violette Szabo GC (1921-1945), Claudio Abbado (1933-TBD) and Princess Alexia of the Netherlands (2005-TBD).

24 June 2007

This day in history: 24 Jun

1314: Scottish forces led by Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II of England in the second day of the Battle of Bannockburn.

1340: The French fleet was almost totally destroyed by the English Fleet, commanded in person by Edward III of England, at the Battle of Sluys.

1497: John Cabot landed in Labrador.
That same day, Cornish traitors Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank were executed at Tyburn, London.

1509: Henry VIII, who had been king since the death of his father on 22 April, and Catherine of Aragon were crowned King and Queen of England.

1535: The Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster was conquered and disbanded.

1813: After being warned by Laura Secord, British soldiers (Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon) and their Mohawk allies defeated US invaders (Colonel Charles Boerstler, 14th US Infantry) at the Battle of Beaver Dams, near Thorold, Ontario.

1821: South American independence fighters, led by Simón Bolívar, defeated royalist forces in the Battle of Carabobo, Venezuela - the decisive battle in Venezuela's war for independence from Spain.

1859: Sardinia and France defeated Austria in the Battle of Solferino (the Battle of the Three Sovereigns), in northern Italy. Swiss businessman Jean-Henri Dunant, who witnessed the battle in person, was motivated by the suffering of wounded soldiers left on the battlefield to begin a campaign that would eventually result in the Geneva Conventions and the establishment of the International Red Cross.

1898: At Las Guasimas, Cuba, Assistant Surgeon James R Church, 1st US Volunteer Cavalry (the "Rough Riders"), voluntarily and unaided carried several seriously wounded men from the firing line to a secure position in the rear, despite very heavy enemy fire. Church was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1902: Sir Frederick Treves CB KCVO performed an appendicectomy on King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. The King survived, but his coronation, scheduled for 26 June, had to be delayed until 9 August.

1916: The Battle of the Somme began with the start of a week-long artillery bombardment on the German lines.

1948: The Berlin Blockade began.

1983: Space Shuttle Challenger, launched from Cape Canaveral on 18 June as mission STS-7 (R L Crippen, F H Hauck, J M Fabian, S K Ride and N E Thagard), landed at Edwards AFB, California.

Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), Thomas McKean (1734–1817), President Grover Cleveland* (1837–1908), Jackie Gleason (1916-1987), Brian Keith (1921–1997), Vera Atkins (1908-2000) and Paul Winchell (1922–2005) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Sir John Ross CB (1777–1856), Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914?), Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, KG KP GCB OM GCSI GCMG GCIE (1850–1916), Phil Harris (1904-1995), Pearl Cornioley CBE (1914-TBD), Sir Frederick Hoyle (1915–2001), Lawrence Block (1938-TBD), Ellison Onizuka (1946-1986), Mercedes Lackey (1950-TBD) and Craig Shergold (1979-TBD).

* Quick - without looking, what was Grover Cleveland's middle name?

Victoria Cross: R. N. Stuart and W. Williams


Lieutenant, Royal Naval Reserve; HMS Pargust

Born: 26 August 1886, Liverpool, Lancashire


Seaman, Royal Naval Reserve; HMS Pargust

Born: 5 October 1890, Alnwich, Anglesey, Wales

Joint Citation: The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the following honours, decorations and medals to Officers and men for services in action with enemy submarines:–
Lieut. Ronald Neil Stuart, D.S.O., R.N.R
Sea. William Williams, R.N.R., O.N. 6224A.
Lieutenant Stuart and Seaman Williams were selected by the officers and ship's company respectively of one of H.M. Ships to receive the Victoria Cross under Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant dated the 29th January, 1856.

(London Gazette Issue 30194 dated 20 Jul 1917, published 20 Jul 1917.)

On the 17th June, 1917, while disguised as a British merchant vessel with a dummy gun mounted aft, H.M.S. "Pargust" was torpedoed at very close range. Her boiler-room, engine-room, and No. 5 hold were immediately flooded, and the starboard lifeboat was blown to pieces. The weather was misty at the time, fresh breeze and a choppy sea. The "panic party," under the command of Lieutenant F. R. Hereford, D.S.C., R.N.R., abandoned ship, and as the last boat was shoving off, the periscope of the submarine was observed close before the port beam about 400 yards distant. The enemy then submerged, and periscope reappeared directly astern, passing to the starboard quarter, and then round to the port beam, when it turned again towards the ship, breaking surface about 50 yards away. The lifeboat, acting as a lure, commenced to pull round the stern; submarine followed closely and Lieutenant Hereford, with complete disregard of the danger incurred from fire of either ship or submarine (who had trained a maxim on the lifeboat), continued to decoy her to within 50 yards of the ship. The "Pargust" then opened fire with all guns, and the submarine, with oil squirting from her side and the crew pouring out of the conning tower, steamed slowly across the bows with a heavy list. The enemy crew held up their hands in token of surrender, whereupon fire immediately ceased. The submarine then began to move away at a gradually increasing speed, apparently endeavouring to escape in the mist. Fire was reopened until she sank, one man clinging to the bow as she went down. The boats, after a severe pull to windward, succeeded in saving one officer and one man. American Destroyers and a British sloop arrived shortly afterwards, and the "Pargust" was towed back to port. As on the previous occasions, officers and men displayed the utmost courage and confidence in their captain, and the action serves as an example of what perfect discipline, when coupled with such confidence, can achieve.

(London Gazette Issue 31021 dated 20 Nov 1918, published 19 Nov 1918.)

Seaman Williams's medals

Note: The brevity of the initial citation was due to the fact that Q-ships were at that point still considered a secret weapon, not to be mentioned in public. The follow-on explanation was published after the Q-ships had been declassified.
The enemy submarine was later identified as UC-29.
The officers originally chose the ship's CO, Commander G. Campbell VC, to receive the award. However, since Cmdr Campbell had already been awarded the VC for his actions on HMS Farnborough (another Q-ship) on 17 Feb 1917, he declined the honour (and the chance to become the only member of the Royal Navy to be awarded a bar to the medal) and Lieut Stuart was selected instead.

Medal of Honor: W. H. Pitsenbarger


Airman First Class, US Air Force; Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron

Born: 8 July 1944, Piqua, Ohio
Died: 11 April 1966, near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam

Citation: Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on 11 April 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground. On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties. Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible. In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.

Note: Upgraded from an Air Force Cross (the first award of that medal to an enlisted man) in 2000. MV A1C William H Pitsenbarger (T-AK 4638) was named in his honour.

23 June 2007

Carnegie of Carnegies

A couple months back I mentioned that the people who award the Carnegie Medal (Britain's version of the Newbery Medal for the best children's book of the year) were going to select the best book of the last 70 years. The winner was announced a couple days ago: Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman, published in the US (and currently being filmed) as The Golden Compass.

It's a good book, as is its first sequel (I still haven't read the final book of the trilogy), and it's the one I voted for from the ten finalists (though not my favourite of all of the past winners; that would be Arthur Ransome's Pigeon Post).

Update 1706 23 Jun: Whilst on the subject of Carnegie winners, H/T to Kelly for word that this year's Carnegie Medal and Greenaway Medal (for the best illustrated children's book - the Brit equivalent of our Caldecott Medal) winners have been announced, viz: Just in Case, by Meg Rosoff, and The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon, by Mini Grey.

22 June 2007

"When the Red, Red Robin"

Back a long time ago*, Sam Clemens, aka Mark Twain, wrote a short story called "Punch, Brothers, Punch" (included in Punch, Brothers, Punch! And Other Sketches, 1878) which featured the following little verse:
Conductor, when you receive a fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!


Punch, brothers! punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
The idea of the story was that anyone who read or heard those lines was totally unable to get them out of his/her/its head.
They took instant and entire possession of me. All through breakfast they went waltzing through my brain; and when, at last, I rolled up my napkin, I could not tell whether I had eaten anything or not. I had carefully laid out my day's work the day before--thrilling tragedy in the novel which I am writing. I went to my den to begin my deed of blood. I took up my pen, but all I could get it to say was, "Punch in the presence of the passenjare." I fought hard for an hour, but it was useless. My head kept humming, "A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a six-cent fare," and so on and so on, without peace or respite. The day's work was ruined--I could see that plainly enough. I gave up and drifted down-town, and presently discovered that my feet were keeping time to that relentless jingle.
The only way to exorcise oneself was to recite the verse to another person, who promptly became hag-ridden in turn.

Robert McCloskey, in one of his Homer Price stories ("Pie and Punch and You-Know-Whats," in Centerburg Tales, 1951), took the idea a little farther. In this story, it's a song about a "hip-high hippopotamus" that is driving the residents of Centerburg crazy. In this case, however, singing the song to another person simply means that two people are singing it instead of just one. Finally Homer comes up with an idea, and leads the affected (afflicted) citizens to the library. Unfortunately, he can't remember what the book looks like, but finally he finds it - and loudly recites "Punch, brothers...." This does the trick, of course, and now everyone is babbling about trip slips instead of the hippopotamus. Conveniently, the librarian, who is on her way out of town on vacation, walks in on them. "Tell her, everybody!" Homer cries, and tell her they do, in unison. This lifts the curse for them, and someone escorts the librarian to the train station (so she can carry the poem out of town) while everyone else collapses in exhaustion from all the singing.

Nowadays they have a word for a song (or tune) which gets stuck in your head like this, forcing you to listen to countless repetitions of it until something finally forces it to leave you alone: It's called an "earworm." Different songs, of course, affect different people. For me, the worst earworms are "Lodi," "Simple Gifts," and "Good Morning, Starshine" - for any of those three, it usually doesn't take more than one line of the song to lodge it firmly in my head.

So why am I nattering on about this? Because last week I started rereading (for the severalth time) The Dreaming Suburb, by R F Delderfield. The book is set in a London suburb between the two World Wars, and one of the characters is a jazz musician who in an early scene has a run-in with a song called "When The Red, Red Robin." I happen to know the tune, because my mother had it on an LP** when I was a kid, and as a result I've been whistling it off and on ever since. Modified rapture....

I've already decided that song lyrics are fit subjects for Poetry Friday, so I'm going to share this one with you:
When the red, red, robin
Comes bob, bob, bobbin' along, along,
There'll be no more sobbin'
When he starts throbbin' his old sweet song.

Wake up, wake up you sleepy head,
Get up, get up, get out of bed,
Cheer up, cheer up, the sun is red,
Live, Love, laugh and be happy,

What if I've been blue,
Now I'm walkin' through
Fields of flow'rs.
Rain may glisten
But still I listen
For hours and hours,

I'm just a kid again
Doin' what I did again,
Singing a song,
When the red, red, robin
Comes bob, bob, bobbin' along.
And to round out your experience, here is a video of Perry Como and Ethel Merman singing the song....

Words and music by Harry Woods; copyright 1926 by Irving Berlin, Inc.

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by A Wrung Sponge.

* Yes, Pete, before even I was born.

** Older readers will remember LPs. If you're too young to know what one is, ask your parents.

This day in history: 22 Jun

1893: Battleships HMS Victoria (flagship of the British Mediterranean Fleet) and HMS Camperdown collided during manoeuvres near Tripoli, Lebanon. 358 men, including Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon KCB, Mediterranean Fleet commander, died when Victoria sank.*

1911: George V, who had been King of England since his father's death on 6 May 1910, was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

1916: British engineers were digging a mine beneath the German trenches near Givenchy, France, when the enemy detonated their own counter-mine. Five of the miners were trapped in the tunnel by the resulting cave-in. After digging for a whole day, a rescue party finally made contact through a small shaft. Three of the trapped men were able to crawl to safety, but a fourth was too seriously injured to get through the hole. The fifth member of the team, Sapper William Hackett, 254th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, insisted on staying with him. There was another cave-in shortly afterwards, and by the time a fresh tunnel had been dug, both men had died. Hackett was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1918: 86 people were killed and 127 injured when an empty troop train rear-ended a circus train near Hammond, Indiana.

1940: The Franco–German armistice was signed at Compiegne, in the same railway carriage in which the armistice ending World War I had been signed. France was divided into two parts: an occupied zone controlled by the Germans, and an un-occupied zone controlled by the French Government under Petain in Vichy.

1941: Unternehmen Barbarossa (Operation Barbarossa), the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began.

1944: Operatsiya Bagration (Operation Bagration), the Soviet offensive against German forces in the Byelorussian SSR, began.

1978: Charon, the largest satellite of the dwarf planet Pluto, was discovered by astronomer James Christy, working at the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC.

Ghiyath al-Kashi (1380–1429), Judy Garland (1922–1969), Fred Astaire (1899–1987) and Ann Landers (1918-2002) died on this date.

And happy birthday to George Vancouver (1757-1798), H Rider Haggard (1856-1925), Maximilian Graf von Spee (1861-1914), Robert Ritter von Greim (1892-1945), Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970), John Dillinger (1903-1934), Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001), Paul Frees (1920-1986), Charles Augustus Lindbergh III (1930–1932), Kris Kristofferson (1936-TBD), Meryl Streep (1949-TBD), Lindsay Wagner (1949-TBD) and Bruce Campbell (1958-TBD).

* The small photo shows Camperdown shortly after the collision. The large photo shows Victoria sinking at right, attended by HMS Nile.

20 June 2007

Steel beach

On a submarine, having a "steel-beach picnic" means taking your meal up topside to eat it in the sun. We did a couple of steel-beach picnics when I was on the tender; for those the cooks actually had grills which they set up on the weather decks; they cooked hamburgers ("sliders") and hot dogs, and the rest of the crew queued up and went past the grills, collected their food, and then picked a spot to sit and eat. The problem with this procedure was that with only one serving line, it was so long that there was no chance of trying to go back through for seconds if you were so inclined. On the boat, all the food was cooked in the galley, as for any other meal, and we just filled our plates and took them topside.

We had three steel beaches during my last deployment. The first one wasn't planned; we were on our way south through the Suez Canal, and the northbound convoy had gotten delayed for some reason, so we (as part of the first southbound convoy) had to pull aside in the Great Bitter Lake and wait for them. The skipper decided that as long as we were sitting there, and we would be able to see anything approaching us well before it reached us, he might as well let off-watch personnel go up for a little sun.

We kept an armed topside watch stationed as a welcoming committee; here he stands up forward, with several targets - excuse me, I mean "surface ships" - visible beyond him.

The chap in civvies is a reporter from the New London (CT) Day. He and a photographer rode us for a few weeks, sending stories and photos home every day by e-mail.

Two months later, we were in the Med, somewhere over near Italy, and the captain ordered another steel beach - a proper one, this time, complete with food.

A lot of people stayed topside after eating to enjoy the sun, of course. (When we went through the Suez Canal northbound in '98, I didn't even go below to hit the rack; I just stretched out in the shade of the sail and slept there.) The fellow all the way forward with no shirt is one of the ship's divers, standing by in case someone is stupid enough to go over the side. And that appears to be the XO with the khaki belt, leaning against the starboard side of the WLR-9 fin.

A month after that we were somewhere off to the west of Sardinia, and the skipper decided to combine a steel beach with a little 9mm familiarization. Here TM1 supervises whilst the skipper fires a few shots.

The Nav, the Weps and a couple of JOs - plus an SCPO rider - waited for their turns with the pistol.

We had the usual collection of loiterers catching some rays, of course, including the diver (with his little booties). And the XO seems to have claimed the WLR-9 again....

YN1 takes his turn with the 9mm. Earlier, we'd had a target - a face drawn on an inflated rubber glove, attached to the top of a five-gallon milk box - but by this time it had sunk, so he's just aiming at the water. I love pictures like this that catch the ejected brass flying through the air.

This was actually rather an unusual deployment, with this many steel beaches - I think the only other time I had that many opportunities to catch the sun was during the '98 deployment, in the Persian Gulf. Those pictures are packed away someplace, though, along with the Suez Canal pics and photos of the few swim calls I was present for. Maybe someday I'll dig them all out and scan them in so I can post them....

17 June 2007

RIP: Mr Wizard

ZUI this article from the New York Times:
Don Herbert, who unlocked the wonders of science for youngsters of the 1950s and ’60s as television’s Mr. Wizard, died yesterday [12 June] at his home in the Bell Canyon section of Los Angeles. He was 89.

The cause was bone cancer, his son-in-law Tom Nikosey told The Associated Press in confirming the death.

Mr. Herbert held no advanced degree in science, he used household items in his TV lab, and his assistants were boys and girls. But he became an influential showman-science teacher on his half-hour “Watch Mr. Wizard” programs, which ran on NBC from 1951 to 1965.


“Watch Mr. Wizard,” which was aimed at youngsters between 8 and 13, received a Peabody Award in 1953 for young people’s programming. More than 100,000 children were enrolled in 5,000 Mr. Wizard Science Clubs by the mid-1950s.

After his children’s program went off the air, Mr. Herbert remained a presence in TV science programming with general-audience shows like “How About” and “Exploration.” NBC revived “Watch Mr. Wizard” for one year in the early ’70s. In the 1980s Mr. Herbert reprised his children’s shows with “Mr. Wizard’s World” on the Nickelodeon cable network. He became something of a TV celebrity beyond his lab as a guest of Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Regis Philbin and a panelist on “Hollywood Squares.”

Don't remember ever watching Watch Mr Wizard; we didn't have a TV when I was a kid, so I had to settle for watching it at my friends' houses. But I certainly heard about him. Maybe I should look for some of those Mr Wizard DVDs....

Foo fighters

"Foo fighters." A phrase I haven't heard - or seen - in years. ZUI this article from the Dec 1945 issue of American Legion magazine.

The article contains one sentence, not particularly relevant to the topic, that struck me as Truth:
Now in the Army, when you "note" anything it means that you neither agree nor disagree, nor do you intend to do anything about it.
That pretty much applies to the Navy, too, though as one friend pointed out, in the Navy there are often certain "f*** you" connotations to the use of the word "noted."

H/T to Tam.

George Cross: F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas


Acting Wing Commander, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; attached Special Operations Executive

Born: 17 June 1901, Marylebone, London
Died: 26 February 1964, Paris, France

Citation: This officer was parachuted into France on the 25th February, 1943. He showed much courage and initiative during his mission, particularly when he enabled a French officer who was being followed by a Gestapo agent in Paris to reach safety and resume clandestine work in another area. He also took charge of a U.S. Army Air Corps officer who had been shot down and, speaking no French, was in danger of capture. This officer returned to England on the 15th April, 1943, in the aircraft which picked up Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas.
Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas undertook a second mission on the 17th September, 1943. Soon after his arrival in France many patriots were arrested. Undeterred, he continued his enquiries and obtained information which enabled the desperate situation to be rectified. On six occasions he narrowly escaped arrest. He returned to England on the 15th November, 1943, bringing British intelligence archives which he had secured from a house watched by the Gestapo.
This officer was again parachuted into France in February, 1944. Despite every security precaution he was betrayed to the Gestapo in Paris on the 21st March. While being taken by car to Headquarters he was badly "beaten up". He then underwent 4 days continuous interrogation, interspersed with beatings and torture, including immersions, head downwards, in ice-cold water, with legs and arms chained. Interrogations later continued for 2 months and Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was offered his freedom in return for information concerning the Head of a Resistance Secretariat. Owing to his wrist being cut by chains, he contracted blood-poisoning and nearly lost his left arm. He made two daring but unsuccessful attempts to escape. He was then confined in solitude in Fresnes prison for 4 months, including 3 weeks in a darkened cell with very little food. Throughout these months of almost continuous torture, he steadfastly refused to disclose any information.
On the 17th July, Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was sent with a party to Compiegne prison, from which he twice attempted to escape. He and 36 others were transferred to Buchenwald. On the way, they stopped for 3 days at Saarbrucken, where they were beaten and kept in a tiny hut. They arrived at Buchenwald on the 16th August and 16 of them were executed and cremated on the 10th September. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas had already commenced to organise resistance within the camp and remained undaunted by the prospect of a similar fate. He accepted an opportunity of changing his identity with that of a dead French prisoner, on condition that other officers would also be enabled to do so. In this way, he was instrumental in saving the lives of two officers.
Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was later transferred to a work kommando for Jews. In attempting to escape he was picked up by a German patrol and, claiming French nationality, was transferred to a camp near Marienburg for French prisoners of war. On the 16th April, 1945, he led a party of 20 in a most gallant attempt to escape in broad daylight. 10 were killed by fire from the guards. Those who reached cover split up into small groups. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas became separated from his companions after 3 days without food. He continued alone for a week and was recaptured when only 800 yards from the American lines. A few days later he escaped with a party of 10 French prisoners of war, whom he led through German patrols to the American lines.
Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas thus turned his final mission into a success by his determined opposition to the enemy, his strenuous efforts to maintain the morale of his fellow-prisoners and his brilliant escape activities. He endured brutal treatment and torture without flinching and showed the most amazing fortitude and devotion to duty throughout his service abroad, during which he was under the constant threat of death.

(London Gazette Issue 37468 dated 15 Feb 1946, published 12 Feb 1946.)

This day in history: 17 Jun

1497: Forces under King Henry VII defeated Cornish rebels led by Michael An Gof at the Battle of Deptford Bridge.

1579: Sir Francis Drake claimed California (or perhaps Oregon) for England, calling it Nova Albion (New England).

1631: Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to her fourteenth child (a girl).

1775: Although they suffered heavy casualties, British forces defeated American rebels in the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually fought on Breed's Hill), near Boston.

1839: Kamehameha III issued the Edict of Toleration, giving Roman Catholics the freedom to worship in Hawai`i.

1863: Union cavalry (Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick) encountered Confederate troopers (Colonel Thomas T Munford) near the village of Aldie, Virgina, resulting in four hours of stubborn fighting. Colonel Louis P di Cesnola, 4th New York Cavalry, rallied his regiment, which was falling back, and - despite the fact that he was unarmed - led it in a charge. Impressed, Kilpatrick presented his own sword to di Cesnola, who led another series of charges before being seriously wounded and taken prisoner by the Confederates.* Di Cesnola was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1876: 1500 Sioux and Cheyenne, led by Crazy Horse, defeated General George Crook's forces at Rosebud Creek in Montana Territory. First Sergeant Joseph Robinson, D Troop, 3rd Cavalry, led the skirmish line under fire with judgment and great coolness, bringing up the lead horses at a critical moment. Robinson was awarded the Medal of Honor, as were two other 3rd Cavalry first sergeants (F and I Troops) and a trumpeter (M Troop). Two Indian women - The Other Magpie, a Crow riding with General Crook, and Buffalo Calf Road Woman, sister of a Cheyenne chief - were also noted for their actions during the battle.**

1877: The Nez Perce defeated the US Cavalry at White Bird Canyon in the Idaho Territory.

1885: The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbour aboard the steamer Isere.

1898: The United States Navy Hospital Corps was established.

1933: Two FBI agents, two Kansas City policemen and captured fugitive Frank Nash were killed at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, by gangsters attempting to free Nash.

1939: Convicted murderer Eugen Weidmann was guillotined outside the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles - the last public guillotining in France. (The last person to be guillotined was murderer Hamida Djandoubi, on 10 September 1977.)

1940: RMS Lancastria, carrying an estimated 4000 to 9000 civilian refugees and RAF personnel being evacuated from St Nazaire, was sunk by the Luftwaffe near Saint-Nazaire, France.

1972: Five White House operatives were arrested for burglarizing the Democratic National Committee's offices in the Watergate Building, in Washington, DC.

1987: The last known dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens) died in Florida. The bird was officially declared extinct in 1990.

In addition to Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631) and Weidmann (1908-1939), King Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), Jeff Chandler (1918-1961), Pamela Britton (1923-1974), Sir Richard Nugent O'Connor KT GCB DSO MC ADC (1889–1981), Zerna Sharp (1889-1981) and Kate Smith (1907–1986) died on this date.

And happy birthday to King Edward I "Longshanks" (1239–1307), Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (1882–1971), Heinz Guderian (1888–1954), M C Escher (1898–1971), F F E Yeo-Thomas GC MC and bar (1901-1964), Ruth Graves Wakefield (1903-1977), Red Foley (1910–1968), Margaret Ringenberg (1921-TBD) and Erin Murphy (1964-TBD).

* According to his MoH citation, Colonel di Cesnola was "in arrest, when, seeing his regiment fall back, he rallied his men, accompanied them, without arms, in a second charge, and in recognition of his gallantry was released from arrest." Apparently di Cesnola had been placed under arrest for insubordination, but I haven't been able to find out any details.

** Buffalo Calf Road Woman also fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, eight days later, at the side of her husband.

Victoria Cross: A. D. Borton


Lieutenant Colonel, commanding 2/22nd (County of London) Battalion the London Regiment

Born: 1 July 1883, Chevening, Kent

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery and leadership. Under the most difficult conditions in darkness [on 7 November 1917] and in an unknown country [at Sheria, Palestine], he deployed his battalion for attack, and at dawn led his attacking companies against a strongly held position.
When the leading waves were checked by a withering machine-gun fire, Lt.-Col. Borton showed an utter contempt of danger, and moved freely up and down his lines under heavy fire. Reorganising his command, he led his men forward, and captured the position.
At a later stage of the fight, he led a party of volunteers against a battery of field guns in action at point-blank range, capturing the guns and the detachments.
His fearless leadership was an inspiring example to the whole Brigade.

(London Gazette Issue 30433 dated 18 Dec 1917, published 14 Dec 1917.)

Medal of Honor: D. B. Bleak


Sergeant, US Army; Medical Company, 223d Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division

Born: 27 February 1932, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Citation: Sgt. Bleak, a member of the medical company, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and indomitable courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy[in the vicinity of Minari-gol, Korea, 14 June 1952]. As a medical aidman, he volunteered to accompany a reconnaissance patrol committed to engage the enemy and capture a prisoner for interrogation. Forging up the rugged slope of the key terrain, the group was subjected to intense automatic weapons and small arms fire and suffered several casualties. After administering to the wounded, he continued to advance with the patrol. Nearing the military crest of the hill, while attempting to cross the fire-swept area to attend the wounded, he came under hostile fire from a small group of the enemy concealed in a trench. Entering the trench he closed with the enemy, killed 2 with bare hands and a third with his trench knife. Moving from the emplacement, he saw a concussion grenade fall in front of a companion and, quickly shifting his position, shielded the man from the impact of the blast. Later, while ministering to the wounded, he was struck by a hostile bullet but, despite the wound, he undertook to evacuate a wounded comrade. As he moved down the hill with his heavy burden, he was attacked by 2 enemy soldiers with fixed bayonets. Closing with the aggressors, he grabbed them and smacked their heads together, then carried his helpless comrade down the hill to safety. Sgt. Bleak's dauntless courage and intrepid actions reflect utmost credit upon himself and are in keeping with the honored traditions of the military service.

13 June 2007

Which Peanuts character...?

Which Peanuts Character are You?

Not what I would have expected. I don't think I've even read very many strips that included Rerun.

The site offers a chance to see all of the options. The most common result (as of the time I'm writing this) is Schroeder; Charlie Brown is second, and Rerun is third. The other possibilities are Woodstock, Snoopy, Marcie, Franklin, Linus, Lucy, Sally, Peppermint Patty and Pigpen.

H/T to Liz B at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy.