30 July 2008

RIP: Margaret Ringenberg

Margaret Ray Ringenberg
17 Jun 1921 – 28 Jul 2008

ZUI this article from the Fort Wayne (IN) Journal Gazette:
Aviation pioneer and beloved local legend Margaret Ray Ringenberg, 87, died in her sleep Monday in Oshkosh, Wis.

Known around the country for her flying skills and love of aircraft, having spent nearly five years of her life in the air as a pilot, Ringenberg was in Oshkosh for an air show to give a presentation as a former member of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs, officials said.

And as late as last month, Ringenberg competed in the 2,312-mile women-only Air Race Classic, flying from Bozeman, Mont., to Mansfield, Mass., and finishing third, along with co-pilot Carolyn Van Newkirk, according to race results.


According to her biography, Ringenberg took her first flight, from a farmer’s field, at age 7. In 1998, Tom Brokaw spent an entire chapter of his best-selling book “The Greatest Generation” on Ringenberg. She gave him a flying lesson when he interviewed her.

She told him she never intended to be a pilot.

“I started out flying because I wanted to be a stewardess – you call them flight attendants nowadays – and I thought ‘what if the pilot gets sick or needs help?’ I don’t know the first thing about airplanes and that’s where I found my challenge,” Ringenberg told Brokaw. “I found it was wonderful.”

ZUI also this article from the Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel:
As a pilot, Ringenberg logged more than 40,000 hours and raced in every Powder Puff Derby - a transcontinental women's air race - between 1957 and 1977, when it ended. She had also flown in every Air Race Classic since 1997, including the most recent just a month ago. Ringenberg and her teammate, Carolyn Van Newkirk, finished third among 30 teams, flying from Bozeman, Mont., to Mansfield, Mass.

In 1994, at age 72, she was the oldest entrant in the Round-the-World Air Race. In 2002, she was one of six people honored by the Indiana Historical Society as a Living Legend, and in March was inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Fame during the Women in Aviation International Conference in San Diego. It was one of more than 150 awards she received as an aviator, author, speaker and leader for women everywhere.


In addition to [her daughter, Marsha J.] Wright, Ringenberg is survived by a son, Michael J. of Leo-Cedarville, four grandsons and one granddaughter. She was preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, Morris J. Ringenberg, in 2003.

For more about the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, see here.

28 July 2008

RIP: Michael J Daly

Michael J Daly
15 Sep 1924 - 25 Jul 2008

ZUI this article from the Hartford (CT) Courant:
Michael J. Daly, a lifetime Fairfield resident and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II, died at home on Friday. He was 83. The cause of death, according to a family member, was pancreatic cancer.

President Truman placed the blue ribbon of the Congressional Medal of Honor around the neck of 20-year old Capt. Daly at the White House on Aug. 23, 1945. The award gave the modest Daly an aura of celebrity which thereafter caused him embarrassment.

"I'm no hero," he often said. "The heroes are those who gave their lives."

During World War II, which he entered as an 18-year-old private after leaving West Point, Daly was also awarded three Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with "V" for acts of bravery. The Medal of Honor came following his actions at the siege of Nuremberg on April 18, 1945, with the Third Division of the Seventh Army.

******* *** *******


Captain (then Lieutenant), US Army; Company A, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division

Born: 15 September 1924, New York, New York
Died: 25 July 2008, Fairfield, Connecticut

Citation: Early in the morning of 18 April 1945, he led his company through the shell-battered, sniper-infested wreckage of Nuremberg, Germany. When blistering machinegun fire caught his unit in an exposed position, he ordered his men to take cover, dashed forward alone, and, as bullets whined about him, shot the 3-man guncrew with his carbine. Continuing the advance at the head of his company, he located an enemy patrol armed with rocket launchers which threatened friendly armor. He again went forward alone, secured a vantage point and opened fire on the Germans. Immediately he became the target for concentrated machine pistol and rocket fire, which blasted the rubble about him. Calmly, he continued to shoot at the patrol until he had killed all 6 enemy infantrymen. Continuing boldly far in front of his company, he entered a park, where as his men advanced, a German machinegun opened up on them without warning. With his carbine, he killed the gunner; and then, from a completely exposed position, he directed machinegun fire on the remainder of the crew until all were dead. In a final duel, he wiped out a third machinegun emplacement with rifle fire at a range of 10 yards. By fearlessly engaging in 4 single-handed fire fights with a desperate, powerfully armed enemy, Lt. Daly, voluntarily taking all major risks himself and protecting his men at every opportunity, killed 15 Germans, silenced 3 enemy machineguns and wiped out an entire enemy patrol. His heroism during the lone bitter struggle with fanatical enemy forces was an inspiration to the valiant Americans who took Nuremberg.

27 July 2008

Victoria Cross: J. Jee


Surgeon, 78th Regiment

Born: 9 February 1819, Hartshill, Warwickshire
Died: 17 March 1899, Queniborough Hall, Leicestershire

Citation: For most conspicuous gallantry and important Services, on the entry of the late Major-General Havelock's relieving force into Lucknow, on the 25th September, 1857, in having during action (when the 78th Highlanders, then in possession of the Char Bagh, captured two 9-pounders at the point of the bayonet), by great exertion and devoted exposure, attended to the large number of men wounded in the charge, whom he succeeded in getting removed on cots and the backs of their comrades, until he had collected the Dooly bearers who had fled. Subsequently, on the same day, in endeavouring to reach the Residency with the wounded men, Surgeon Jee became besieged by an overwhelming force in the Mote-Mehal, where he remained during the whole night and following morning, voluntarily and repeatedly exposing himself to a heavy fire in proceeding to dress the wounded men who fell while serving a 24-pounder in a most exposed situation. He eventually succeeded in taking many of the wounded, through a cross fire of ordnance and musketry, safely into the Residency, by the river-bank, although repeatedly warned not to make the perilous attempt.

(London Gazette issue 22445 dated 9 Nov 1860, published 9 Nov 1860.)

Medal of Honor: B. J. D. Irwin


Assistant Surgeon, US Army

Born: 24 June 1830, Ireland
Died: 1917

Citation: Voluntarily took command of troops [at Apache Pass, Arizona, 13-14 February 1861] and attacked and defeated hostile Indians he met on the way. Surgeon Irwin volunteered to go to the rescue of 2d Lt. George N. Bascom, 7th Infantry, who with 60 men was trapped by Chiricahua Apaches under Cochise. Irwin and 14 men, not having horses, began the 100-mile march riding mules. After fighting and capturing Indians, recovering stolen horses and cattle, he reached Bascom's column and help break his siege.

Note: This was the earliest deed for which the Medal of Honor was awarded.

25 July 2008

And they're off

ZUI this article from the MOD Defence News:
The competitors in the iconic Tall Ships Race 2008 began the first leg of their journey yesterday, Wednesday 23 July 2008, as they left Northern Ireland to race to Maloy in Norway.

Six Royal Navy ships launched the famous race on Monday 21 July 2008, in Liverpool in front of a crowd of thousands of spectators who had turned out to see the magnificent sight of the Tall Ships.

Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships HMS Argyll, RFA Lyme Bay, minehunter HMS Grimsby, patrol vessel HMS Mersey and P2000's HMS Ranger and HMS Blazer, were on the Mersey to see the start of the race.

From Måløy, the ships will cruise south to Bergen, Norway, whence they will race to Den Helder, the Netherlands. Lists of the ships which were expected to participate, sorted by class, can be found here, here, here and here.

MOD photograph (RFA Lyme Bay) © Crown Copyright/MOD 2008

Operational Honours and Awards List

ZUI this article from the MOD Defence
136 members of the Armed Forces and one MOD Civilian have been honoured today, Friday, 25 July 2008 for their gallantry and service in Afghanistan, Iraq and on other operations around the world.

The honours for the period 31 October 2007 to 31 March 2008 include a George Cross awarded for the highest level of gallantry, 19 Military Crosses and four Distinguished Service Orders.

Amongst the awards, in addition to the George Cross awarded to L/Cpl Matthew Croucher, 40 Commando RM, are:
A DSO is awarded to Colonel Patrick Sanders OBE, Late The Rifles, who commanded 4th Battalion The Rifles in Iraq throughout Op TELIC 10; he exemplified tough and decisive yet compassionate leadership which kept his battle group going through very difficult times.

Col Sanders commanded and planned operations in the most dangerous and complex situations taking the fight to insurgents on the streets of Basra. Displaying grip and tactical vision; he led from the front, often under fire; his operational leadership was exemplary.

There is a Royal Red Cross for Major Janet Pilgrim, of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, in recognition of her work in the hospital in Iraq during TELIC 10. Maj Pilgrim led the hospital's team preparing bodies for repatriation; she personally provided continuity and support for her team and despite having others to call on she chose to convey any bad news herself.

Also after a direct hit on the hospital from a 122 mm rocket Maj Pilgrim took swift and effective action restoring gaps in capability averting a potential disaster.

The Military Cross recipients include:
Captain Paul Britton, of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, who refused morphine when injured so he could remain in command of his fire support team during a fire fight against the Taliban.


Lance Corporal Mohansingh Tangnami, of The Royal Gurkha Rifles, who volunteered to lead a small team into an area of heavy fire to recover a machine gun left by an earlier casualty and so deny it to the enemy.

A complete list of honours can be found here.

Brigadier Andrew Mackay, Late The King's Own Scottish Borderers, who was awarded a CBE for his command of 52 Brigade in southern Afghanistan

MOD photograph © Crown Copyright/MOD 2008

23 July 2008

George Cross to be awarded for Afghanistan

L/Cpl Croucher with the remains of his rucksack

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, 40 Commando Royal Marines, recommended for the Victoria Cross for heroism in Afghanistan, will instead be awarded the George Cross. ZUI this article from The Guardian:
A Royal Marine who survived throwing himself on to an exploding grenade in Afghanistan to protect the lives of his colleagues is to receive the George Cross, it emerged today.

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, 24, will become one of a handful of living recipients of the award, which ranks alongside the Victoria Cross as the highest decoration for bravery.


The George Cross ranks alongside the Victoria Cross as the highest decoration for acts of gallantry.

The only difference is that the GC is awarded for acts not in the presence of the enemy, but the level of heroism required for the two honours is the same.

To date, 157 GCs have been awarded directly, with 47 of those awarded since 1947.

ZUI also this article from The telegraph:
L/Cpl Matthew Croucher will become part of a select of group of just 20 living George Cross holders when the Queen awards him the medal, which is given for acts showing the same level of heroism as the Victoria Cross.

The Marine had less than seven seconds to make up his mind on whether to risk sacrificing his own life to save his friends when the hand grenade rolled onto the ground during an operation in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Without hesitating he chose to chance death and save his three fellow Royal Marines.


"It took 30 seconds before I realised I was definitely not dead," he said.

The astonished Marines looked on as L/Cpl Croucher's body armour and backpack shielded everyone from the blast which caused a few cuts and bruises.

L/Cpl Croucher was examined by a medic who recommended he should be evacuated but the Marine, who has completed three tours of Iraq, was determined to stay to fight the Taliban and within an hour had shot an insurgent approaching their position.

In an earlier instance of bravery the Marine attended a comrade shot in the chest preventing his lungs from collapsing while under fire for 45 minutes.

This article from the Birmingham (West Midlands) Mail includes more information about the George Cross. Wikipedia has a list of the twenty living George Cross recipients.

Update 0949 25 Jul: ZUI this article from the MOD Defence News, which includes the text of the GC citation and quotes from L/Cpl Croucher.
"Automatically sensed an extreme fear when I looked down at the ground and realised that there was a grenade with the pin pulled at my feet. It was one of those where I had a split second decision what to do. I had a quick look around and realised that there was no real place to take cover.

"There were two guys initially right behind me and a third just a bit further back, so I felt a bit guilty for setting the device off. I thought that the best course of action for everyone including myself was to lie right next to the grenade, point my body armour towards it with my day sack and take the brunt of the explosion and see what happens from there.

"I was more less along side of it to create a barrier and when I was on the ground I was just gritting my teeth waiting for the explosion and I had that deep gut feeling of this is going to hurt, or I'm in serious trouble now.

"It felt like someone had run up to me and kicked me in the back really hard, along with a loss of hearing, ears in extreme pain and a throbbing head. Then body started aching and there was a smell of burning. Total disorientation.

"The battery took the brunt of the shrapnel which came from the grenade. It was blown about ten metres away or so and started flaming furiously so we all thought it was a secondary device that had gone off in the compound so everyone took cover again looking at this battery that was flaming away. It's lucky that the battery was blown off me otherwise I would have had serious burns from that as well."

According to the George Cross Database, which also includes Inspector Carl Walker GC, Lancashire Constabulary, there are now 21 living recipients.

I'm jealous

USS Providence (SSN 719) - my last boat - is shown here, moored at the North Pole. Why couldn't they have done something cool like that when I was on board?

Picture from here, where you'll also find an explanation.

H/T to Joel.

National Vanilla Ice Cream Day

It's today.

21 July 2008

Well, drat....

L/Cpl Katrina Hodge

The winner of the Miss England 2008 beauty competition was chosen Friday, and - as far as I'm concerned, anyway - the wrong girl won.

For background, ZUI this article from the MOD Defence News:
Lance Corporal Katrina Hodge, 21, a Military Clerk with The Adjutant General Corps, is currently serving at Frimley Park Hospital.

LCpl Hodge won the title of Miss Tunbridge Wells after a friend secretly entered her picture in the hometown heats of the high-profile pageant. She will now compete for the Miss England title at the Grand Final in London on Friday 18 July 2008.


In 2005 LCpl Hodge deployed to Iraq with 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment. It was during this tour that the part-time model received a commendation for bravery.

Trained as a female searcher, LCpl Hodge was on an operation in Basra when her patrol detected a suspected insurgent. On leaving the area the vehicle Katrina was travelling in was involved in an accident and the vehicle flipped over. The detainee used the opportunity to grab two rifles and threaten the soldiers.

LCpl Hodge described what happened next:

"I was in complete shock at first, the force of the accident caused our vehicle to roll over three times and threw us off guard.

"As I came round, the Iraqi suspect was standing over us with the rifles. I knew if I didn't act fast then our lives would be in danger. I punched him and the force startled him enough for me to retrieve the rifles from him."

And for the results, ZUI this article from MSN UK:
A 22-year-old graduate from Derby has become the third woman in her family to reign supreme in a beauty contest after being crowned Miss England 2008.

Laura Coleman, who also holds the title of Miss Derby, beat stiff competition from 50 other finalists on her way to winning the national beauty title, a mandatory sash and tiara and entrance into Miss World 2008 in Kiev, Ukraine later this year.

Laura’s coronation as a national beauty queen completes an unlikely triple crown for her family. Her mother, Dena Coleman, won 15 beauty pageants in the 1970s and was a Miss UK finalist in 1975 while her grandmother, Irene Patrick, is a former Miss Lovely Legs champion and was a pin-up girl for the British Army in the 1940s.

Drat. And double drat.

MOD photograph © Crown Copyright/MOD 2008.

20 July 2008

Victoria Cross: H. P. Ritchie


Commander, Royal Navy; HMS Goliath

Born: 29 January 1876, Melville Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 9 December 1958, Edinburgh, Scotland

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery on the 28th November, 1914, when in command of the searching and demolition operations at Dar-es-Salaam, [German] East Africa. Though severely wounded several times, his fortitude and resolution enabled him to continue to do his duty, inspiring all by his example, until at his eighth wound he became unconscious. The interval between his first and last severe wound was between twenty and twenty-five minutes.

[London Gazette issue 29123 dated 10 Apr 1915, published 9 Apr 1915.]

Note: Commander Ritchie was the first member of the Royal Navy to earn the Victoria Cross during World War I.
German East Africa, later called Tanganyika, is now part of Tanzania.

Medal of Honor: D Naylor


Landsman, US Navy; USS Oneida

Born: 1843, Thompsonville, New York
Died: 7 February 1926, Rhode Island (?)

Citation: Served on board the U.S.S. Oneida in the engagement at Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Acting as powder boy at the 30-pounder Parrott rifle, Naylor had his passing box shot from his hands and knocked overboard where it fell in one of the Calena's boats which was under the bow. Jumping overboard, Naylor recovered his box, returned to his station and continued to carry out his courageous actions throughout the engagement which resulted in the capture of the rebel ram Tennessee and the damaging of Fort Morgan.

18 July 2008


I see in the news that RIMPAC 2008 is currently in progress. This exercise, involving the navies of various nations around the Pacific rim (RIM of the PACific - get it?)* and held every even-numbered year, was the first major exercise I was involved in.

Oly arrived in Pearl Harbor in early '86, having done a homeport shift from Norfolk (via Seattle, Olympia WA and Nanoose Bay BC). In November of that year we departed on our first WestPac. In between, we did all the usual submarine-preparing-for-deployment things; as the newest submarine in Hawai`i, it was probably inevitable that we would also be selected to play in that year's RIMPAC, which involved the US, Canada, Japan, the UK (which at the time still owned Hong Kong) and Australia.

Every morning at 0800 all traffic on base stops as the national ensign, which was taken down at sunset the night before ("evening colours"), is raised again ("morning colours"). Vehicles in motion stop; people walking come to attention and salute. In those days, at least, the national anthem was played during morning colours at Pearl Harbor every day except Sunday, when the bugle call was played instead.

The first foreign ship to arrive was a Brit fast boat; morning colours the next day or two included one verse each of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Save the Queen." Then the Japanese contingent (a diesel boat and a couple of skimmers, as I recall) showed up, and we got a day or two with "The Star-Spangled Banner," "God Save the Queen" and, presumably, "Kimigayo." Then the next ships came in - and they switched to the bugle call for the rest of the time the visitors were in port.

To enable all exercise messages to be placed on the broadcast, but to keep the two sides from reading each other's traffic, different crypto was issued to each side. We started out assigned to one side, and were issued the correct crypto, but shortly before the exercise started we were switched to the other side and issued new crypto - but the first lot wasn't recalled, so when we went to sea we were still carrying both sets. Seeing no reason to let such an opportunity go to waste, we radiomen loaded both sets; "our" traffic went on the boards for dissemination, as usual, and the "enemy" messages were printed out and collected in a binder. The original idea was that we would give the binder to the Nav at the end of the exercise, but he was looking so depressed after the first few days that we ended up sharing the "intel" with him about halfway through.

(I don't know what he had to be depressed about; it certainly wasn't the tactical situation. Amongst the other "enemy" messages was a daily locator message giving the last known position for each of "our" ships. It's hard to hide those big grey things, of course, but throughout the entire exercise the last known posit given for Oly was pierside, the morning we got under way.)

Part of our mission for the exercise was to land a SEAL team on one of the other islands. There were five or six SEALs altogether, but I can only remember three of them: A young-looking ensign, a scrawny little BMCS and a very large HM1. (My first thought on seeing the latter was, How the heck did he get those shoulders down through the hatch?) We carried them around with us a few days, then surfaced late one night and put them over the side in their little rubber life raft. Mission accomplished, on our part and (as far as I know) on theirs as well.

SEALs go through some interesting stuff, including survival training - one result of the latter being their long-time nickname of "Snake Eaters." Somewhere in the middle of the exercise, some staff wienie obviously found far too much time on his hands, because one message we received referred to the "Special Navy Advanced Karate Experts and Extraordinary Action Team for Environmental Reconnaissance (S.N.A.K.E.E.A.T.E.R.)."

That was far from the silliest thing about RIMPAC '86, though. The prize-winner has to be the umpires' decision that a Cimarron-class oiler** was given credit for "killing" an "enemy" destroyer. I'd love to see that....

Speaking of destroyers, part of this year's RIMPAC will be the sinking of the former USS David R Ray (DD 971). I always did a double take when I saw that ship mentioned anywhere, because we had a David Ray on Oly. No idea if they were related.

Update 1340 25 Jul: Ex-USS David R Ray was sunk by a MK 48 Mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System (CBASS) torpedo from Collins-class submarine HMAS Waller (SSG 75). ZUI this article from the Sydney Morning Herald, this one (with video) from The Age and this one from Adelaide Now. H/T to Joel.

* The Netherlands is one of the nations taking part this year. They still have territory in or near the Pacific?

** USS Willamette (AO 180), if I remember correctly.

RIP: Roger Landes MC*

Roger Landes MC*
16 Dec 1916 - 16 Jul 2008

ZUI this article from The Times:
There was little of the archetypal hero in Roger Landes’s appearance. Of medium height with the air of a shrewd but possibly accommodating bank manager, he spoke English with a decidedly French accent. It was his fluency in French that first drew him to the attention of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He was to fulfil the expectations of the SOE authorities not just as a radio operator, for which he was recruited, but as the leader of an SOE circuit in German- occupied France.


Landes was awarded the Military Cross for his first period of SOE service in France and a Bar for his second. He was also appointed to the Legion of Honour and awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm. He was advanced to Officer of the Legion of Honour in 1992 in recognition of his wartime services to France.

Roger Landes was the second of three sons of Barnet Landes, whose grandfather had emigrated from Russian Poland in 1848 to avoid conscription into the Tsarist army. His father spoke English only hesitatingly and preferred to live with his Russian wife in Paris. Roger was educated in Paris and graduated from L’École des Beaux Arts in the year after his parents’ departure for England.

He married Ginette Corbin, daughter of the French Scientist agent Charles Corbin to whom André Grandclément had revealed his intention to betray the arms caches to the Gestapo. She died in 1983 (obituary March 12); Landes married Margaret Laing in 1990. He is survived by her and a son of his first marriage.

16 July 2008

Mars: The (formerly) wet planet

ZUI this NASA press release dated 16 July:
Two studies based on data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed that the Red Planet once hosted vast lakes, flowing rivers and a variety of other wet environments that had the potential to support life.

One study, published in the July 17 issue of Nature, shows that vast regions of the ancient highlands of Mars, which cover about half the planet, contain clay minerals, which can form only in the presence of water. Volcanic lavas buried the clay-rich regions during subsequent, drier periods of the planet's history, but impact craters later exposed them at thousands of locations across Mars. The data for the study derives from images taken by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, or CRISM, and other instruments on the orbiter.


The clay-like minerals, called phyllosilicates, preserve a record of the interaction of water with rocks dating back to what is called the Noachian period of Mars' history, approximately 4.6 billion to 3.8 billion years ago. This period corresponds to the earliest years of the solar system, when Earth, the moon and Mars sustained a cosmic bombardment by comets and asteroids. Rocks of this age have largely been destroyed on Earth by plate tectonics. They are preserved on the moon, but were never exposed to liquid water. The phyllosilicate-containing rocks on Mars preserve a unique record of liquid water environments possibly suitable for life in the early solar system.


Another study, published in the June 2 issue of Nature Geosciences, finds that the wet conditions on Mars persisted for a long time. Thousands to millions of years after the clays formed, a system of river channels eroded them out of the highlands and concentrated them in a delta where the river emptied into a crater lake slightly larger than California's Lake Tahoe, approximately 25 miles in diameter.

"The distribution of clays inside the ancient lakebed shows that standing water must have persisted for thousands of years," says Bethany Ehlmann, another member of the CRISM team from Brown. Ehlmann is lead author of the study of an ancient lake within a northern-Mars impact basin called Jezero Crater. "Clays are wonderful at trapping and preserving organic matter, so if life ever existed in this region, there's a chance of its chemistry being preserved in the delta."

A little bragging about the kids

K was advanced to purple belt last month. Here she's holding her souvenirs - one for katas, one for kamas - from an in-house tournament a week or two earlier. It's something called Shorin-Ryu Kobayashi Karate, I believe, though I have to force myself not to call it Kobayashi Maru Karate....

(She's determined not to let her braces show in pictures these days.)

Her sister A had a skating competition up in Massachusetts last month. The costume in the centre photo was meant to depict a gambler (she was skating to Joplin's "The Entertainer"), though she decided not to wear the sleeve garters. Both her coach and my wife are sure one of those two silvers would have been a gold if A hadn't kept looking at her skates.

Names for boats

ZUI this article from Navy.mil:
The Navy announced on July 15 that the next two Virginia-class attack submarines will be named the USS Minnesota and the USS North Dakota.

The selection of Minnesota, designated SSN 783, honors the state's citizens and their continued support to our nation's military. Minnesota has a long tradition of honoring its veterans of wars past and present. The state is proud to be home to 46 Medal of Honor recipients that span from the Civil War to the Vietnam War.

This will be the third ship to bear the state name. The first USS Minnesota, a sailing steam frigate, was commissioned in 1857 and served during the Civil War, remaining in service until her decommissioning in 1898. The second Minnesota was commissioned in 1907. On December 16, 1907 she departed Hampton Roads as one of the 16 battleships of the Great White Fleet sent by then-President Theodore Roosevelt on a voyage around the world. She continued her service through World War I, and was decommissioned in 1921.

The selection of the North Dakota, designated SSN 784, honors the state's citizens and veterans and their strong military support and heritage from the Frontier Wars through the Cold War and currently the war on terrorism. Seventeen North Dakotans have received the Medal of Honor for actions in combat, including Master Sgt. Woodrow W. Keeble who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony on March 3, 2008. This is the second ship to bear the name North Dakota. The first ship, the Delaware-class USS North Dakota, was in service from 1910 through 1923.

Minnesota (SSN 783) is currently scheduled for commissioning in April of 2014, and North Dakota (SSN 784) for the following year.

For the curious: USS Minnesota, USS Minnesota (BB 22) and USS North Dakota (BB 29).

H/T to Joel.

13 July 2008

Victoria Cross: K. Payne


Warrant Officer Class II, Royal Australian Infantry Regiment; commanding 212th Company, 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion

Born: 30 August 1933, Ingham, Queensland, Australia
Died: TBD

Citation: On 24th May 1969, in Kon Tum Province [Vietnam], Warrant Officer Payne was Commanding 212th Company of 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion when the battalion was attacked by a North Vietnamese force of superior strength. The enemy isolated the two leading companies, one of which was Warrant Officer Payne's, and with heavy mortar and rocket support assaulted their position from three directions simultaneously. Under this heavy attack the indigenous soldiers began to fall back. Directly exposing himself to the enemy's fire, Warrant Officer Payne, through his own efforts, temporarily held off the assaults by alternately firing his weapon and running from position to position collecting grenades and throwing them at the assaulting enemy. While doing this he was wounded in the hands and arms. Despite his outstanding efforts, the indigenous soldiers gave way under the enemy's increased pressure and the Battalion Commander, together with several advisers and a few soldiers, withdrew. Paying no attention to his wounds and under extremely heavy enemy fire, Warrant Officer Payne covered this withdrawal by again throwing grenades and firing his own weapon at the enemy who were attempting to follow up. Still under fire, he then ran across exposed ground to head off his own troops who were withdrawing in disorder. He successfully stopped them and organised the remnants of his and the second company into a temporary defensive perimeter by nightfall.
Having achieved this, Warrant Officer Payne of his own accord and at great personal risk, moved out of the perimeter into the darkness alone in an attempt to find the wounded and other indigenous soldiers. Some had been left on the position and others were scattered in the area. Although the enemy were still occupying the previous position, Warrant Officer Payne, with complete disregard for his own life, crawled back on to it and extricated several wounded soldiers. He then continued to search the area, in which the enemy were also moving and firing, for some three hours. He finally collected forty lost soldiers, some of whom had been wounded, and returned with this group to the temporary defensive perimeter he had left, only to find that the remainder of the battalion had moved back. Undeterred by this setback and personally assisting a seriously wounded American advisor he led the group through the enemy to the safety of his battalion base. His sustained and heroic personal efforts in this action were outstanding and undoubtedly saved the lives of a large number of his indigenous soldiers and several of his fellow advisors.
Warrant Officer Payne's repeated acts of exceptional personal bravery and unselfish conduct in this operation were an inspiration to all Vietnamese, United States and Australian soldiers who served with him. His conspicuous gallantry was in the highest traditions of the Australian Army.

(London Gazette issue 44938 dated 19 Sep 1969, published 19 Sep 1969.)

Medal of Honor: J. Mack


Seaman, US Navy; USS Hendrick Hudson

Born: 1843, Maine
Died: 10 November 1881, Massachusetts

Citation: As seaman on board the U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson, St. Marks, Fla., 5 and 6 March 1865, Mack served with the Army in charge of Navy howitzers during the attack on St. Marks and, throughout this fierce engagement, made remarkable efforts in assisting transport of the gun. His coolness and determination in courageously standing by his gun while under the fire of the enemy were a credit to the service to which he belonged.

11 July 2008

Four things....

I've had variations on this one e-mailed to me several times in recent weeks. Rather than keep sending it on its way, I'm just going to post it here. (Besides, that lets me include links....)

Four places I've lived:
1. Eaton Rapids, Michigan
2. Waukegan, Illinois
3. Groton, Connecticut
4. Dunoon, Argyll

Four jobs I've held:
1. Orderly in a nursing home
2. Chef's helper in a Chinese restaurant
3. Baker
4. Submarine radioman

Four favourite actors:
1. James Garner
2. Sean Connery
3. Tommy Lee Jones
4. Brendan Fraser

Four favourite actresses:
1. Katharine Hepburn
2. Maureen O'Hara
3. Carol Burnett
4. Hayley Mills

Four movies I can watch again and again:
1. Billy Jack
2. 1776
3. Silverado
4. Oscar

Four favourite authors:
1. Arthur Ransome
2. Andre Norton
3. Poul Anderson
4. S M Stirling

Four books I can read again and again:
1. Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome
2. Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
3. Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank
4. Metzger's Dog, by Thomas Perry

Four favourite foods:
1. Venison
2. Pizza (especially pizza quattro stagioni)
3. Haggis, neeps and tatties
4. Pies of Paris

Four favourite snacks:
1. Bananas
2. Chocolate
3. Potato chips/crisps
4. Doughnuts

Four places I go over and over:
1. Work
2. Public library
3. Dunkin' Donuts
4. Commissary

Four websites I visit often:
1. MOD Defence News
2. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
3. Fantastic Fiction
4. VictoriaCross.org

Four Five blogs I can't live without
1. Jen Robinson's Book Page
2. The LawDog Files
3. The Stupid Shall Be Punished
4. Tetrapod Zoology (its original rendition can be found here)
5. View from the Porch
(why, yes, I did have a lot of trouble narrowing this one down....)

Four places I've been on vacation:
1. Lafayette, Indiana
2. Shenandoah National Park
3. Niagara Falls
4. Independence National Historical Park

Four places I'd like to be:
1. Scotland
2. Slovenia
3. The Lake District
4. Rome

Four places I'd not like to be:
1. Hawai`i
2. Subic Bay
3. Berkeley, California
4. Iraq

Four organisations I've belonged to:
1. National Rifle Association (NRA)
2. Mensa (both American and British)
3. Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA)
4. American Legion

Note: Yes, I've updated this a time or two since it was originally posted, as I receive different variants on the original e-mail which inspired this.

09 July 2008

Space shuttle schedule

ZUI this NASA press release dated 7 July:
Following a detailed, integrated assessment, NASA selected target launch dates for the remaining eight space shuttle missions on the current manifest in 2009 and 2010. The manifest includes one flight to the Hubble Space Telescope, seven assembly flights to the International Space Station, and two station contingency flights, planned to be completed before the end of fiscal year 2010. The agency previously selected Oct. 8 and Nov. 10 as launch dates for Atlantis' STS-125 mission to service Hubble and Endeavour's STS-126 / ULF-2 mission to supply the space station and service both Solar Alpha Rotary Joints on the port and starboard end of its truss backbone that supports equipment and solar arrays.

The approved target dates are subject to change based on processing and other launch vehicle schedules. They reflect the agency's commitment to complete assembly of the station and to retire the shuttle fleet as transition continues to the new launch vehicles, including Ares and Orion.
The projected launch dates (including those mentioned above) are:
8 Oct 08 - Atlantis (STS-125)
10 Nov 08 - Endeavour (STS-126)
12 Feb 09 - Discovery (STS-119)
15 May 09 - Endeavour (STS-127)
30 Jul 09 - Atlantis (STS-128)
15 Oct 09 - Discovery (STS-129)
10 Dec 09 - Endeavour (STS-130)
11 Feb 10 - Atlantis (STS-131)
8 Apr 10 - Discovery (STS-132)
31 May 10 - Endeavour (STS-133)

Crews have been named for the first four space flights:
STS-125: Commander Scott Altman, pilot Gregory Johnson and mission specialists John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino, Andrew Feustel, Michael Good and Megan McArthur.
STS-126: Commander Christopher Ferguson, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Stephen Bowen, Robert Kimbrough, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Donald Pettit. (Joan Higginbotham was also assigned as mission specialist, but retired in Nov 07; she was replaced by Pettit.)
STS-119: Commander Lee Archambault, pilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialists John Phillips, Steven Swanson, Joseph Acaba, Richard Arnold and Koichi Wakata (JAXA).
STS-127: Commander Mark Polansky, pilot Douglas Hurley and mission specialists Christopher Cassidy, Thomas Marshburn, David Wolf, Timothy Kopra and Julie Payette (CSA).

Further details on the projected shuttle flights are available from the press release linked to above.

06 July 2008

Victoria Cross: W. B. Rhodes-Moorehouse


Second Lieutenant, Special Reserve, Royal Flying Corps; 2 Squadron

Born: 26 September 1887, London
Died: 27 April 1915, Merville Casualty Clearing Station, France

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery on 26th April, 1915, in flying to Courtrai [Belgium] and dropping bombs on the railway line near that station. On starting the return journey he was mortally wounded, but succeeded in flying for 35 miles to his destination, at a very low altitude, and reported the successful accomplishment of his object. He has since died of his wounds.

[London Gazette issue 29170 dated 22 May 1915, published 21 May 1915.]

Note: This was the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to a member of the Air Services.

Medal of Honor: J. S. Walmsley Jr.


Captain, US Air Force; 8th Bombardment Squadron, 3d Bomb Group

Born: 7 January 1920, Baltimore, Maryland
Died: 14 September 1951, near Yangdok, North Korea

Citation: Capt. Walmsley distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While flying a B-26 aircraft on a night combat mission [near Yangdok, North Korea, 14 September 1951] with the objective of developing new tactics, Capt. Walmsley sighted an enemy supply train which had been assigned top priority as a target of opportunity. He immediately attacked, producing a strike which disabled the train, and, when his ammunition was expended, radioed for friendly aircraft in the area to complete destruction of the target. Employing the searchlight mounted on his aircraft, he guided another B-26 aircraft to the target area, meanwhile constantly exposing himself to enemy fire. Directing an incoming B-26 pilot, he twice boldly aligned himself with the target, his searchlight illuminating the area, in a determined effort to give the attacking aircraft full visibility. As the friendly aircraft prepared for the attack, Capt. Walmsley descended into the valley in a low level run over the target with searchlight blazing, selflessly exposing himself to vicious enemy antiaircraft fire. In his determination to inflict maximum damage on the enemy, he refused to employ evasive tactics and valiantly pressed forward straight through an intense barrage, thus insuring complete destruction of the enemy's vitally needed war cargo. While he courageously pressed his attack Capt. Walmsley's plane was hit and crashed into the surrounding mountains, exploding upon impact. His heroic initiative and daring aggressiveness in completing this important mission in the face of overwhelming opposition and at the risk of his life, reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.

03 July 2008

For the first time ever

Words which have never before appeared in the same sentence: "Jar Jar, you're a genius!"

RIP: Larry Harmon

Larry Harmon
1925 - 3 Jul 2008

ZUI this article from the AP:
Larry Harmon, who turned the character Bozo the Clown into a show business staple that delighted children for more than a half-century, died Thursday of congestive heart failure. He was 83.

His publicist, Jerry Digney, told The Associated Press he died at his home.

Although not the original Bozo, Harmon portrayed the popular clown in countless appearances and, as an entrepreneur, he licensed the character to others, particularly dozens of television stations around the country. The stations in turn hired actors to be their local Bozos.


Pinto Colvig, who also provided the voice for Walt Disney's Goofy, originated Bozo the Clown when Capitol Records introduced a series of children's records in 1946. Harmon would later meet his alter ego while answering a casting call to make personal appearances as a clown to promote the records.

He got that job and eventually bought the rights to Bozo. Along the way, he embellished Bozo's distinctive look: the orange-tufted hair, the bulbous nose, the outlandish red, white and blue costume.


Born in Toledo, Ohio, Harmon became interested in theater while studying at the University of Southern California.

"Bozo is a star, an entertainer, bigger than life," Harmon once said. "People see him as Mr. Bozo, somebody you can relate to, touch and laugh with."

Besides his wife [Susan Harmon], Harmon is survived by his son, Jeff Harmon, and daughters Lori Harmon, Marci Breth-Carabet and Leslie Breth.

Harmon can be found here at IMDb.

Bob Bell was the Bozo I knew - WGN-TV in the late '60s and early '70s - but we all owe Harmon for what he did for the character.

02 July 2008

RIP: Francesco Domenico Chiarello

Francesco Domenico Chiarello
5 Nov 1898 - 27 Jun 2008

ZUI this article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
One of the last veterans of World War I, Italian man Francesco Domenico Chiarello, has died at the age of 109, the defence ministry said overnight.


Mr Chiarello died on Friday in the Calabria region of southern Italy where he was born on November 5, 1898.


Italy now has only one surviving veteran of the Great War, Delfino Borroni, 109, who lives in the country's north.

ZUI also my last post regarding WWI veterans.

This day in history: 2 Jul

1644: The combined forces of the Scottish Covenanters, under the Earl of Leven, and the Parliamentarians, under Lord Fairfax and the Earl of Manchester, defeated the Royalists, commanded by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Marquess of Newcastle, in the Battle of Marston Moor.

1776: The Continental Congress adopted a resolution, proposed by Richard Henry Lee and seconded by John Adams, severing ties with Great Britain.
Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally absolved.
(The wording of the Declaration of Independence would be approved on 4 July.)

1839: 53 rebelling African slaves led by Joseph Cinque took over the slave ship Amistad.

1853: The Russian Army invaded Moldavia, then part of the Ottoman Empire, beginning the Crimean War.

1863: Lt Gen James Longstreet's First Corps attacked the Union left flank in the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, with particularly vicious fighting in Devil's Den and on Little Round Top. This was followed by attacks on the Union right by the Confederate Second Corps (Lt Gen Richard S Ewell), at Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill.

1881: In Washington DC, lawyer Charles J Guiteau shot US President James Garfield. (Garfield, who was hit twice, died on 19 September. Guiteau was hanged on 30 Jun 1882.)

1900: Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin flew his first airship, LZ 1, over the Bodensee.

1937: Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared over the Pacific Ocean whilst flying their Lockheed Electra 10E from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island.

1976: North and South Vietnam, divided since 1954, were formally reunited to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

2002: Steve Fossett landed in Queensland, Australia, thus becoming the first person to fly solo around the world nonstop in a balloon.

Sir Robert Peel (1788–1850), Ernest Hemingway (1899—1961), Betty Grable (1916–1973), Fred Gwynne (1926–1993), Brig Gen James M Stewart (1908-1997) and Beverly Sills (1929–2007) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), Olav V of Norway (1903–1991), Frederick Fennell (1914-2004), Erich Topp (1914-2005), Hans-Ulrich Rudel (1916-1982) and Dave Thomas (1932–2002).

01 July 2008

Newbery Medal books

In March of last year, I took a look at a list of the 86 winners (now 87) of the John Newbery Medal, which is presented annually to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." I was somewhat shocked to discover that I had only read seven of the books. So I've been reading my way through the list, and here's the current status. (Dates in red are the ones I had read before I started my current programme; dates in purple are the ones I've read since I started.)

1922: The Story of Mankind, by Hendrik Willem van Loon
1923: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting
1924: The Dark Frigate, by Charles Hawes
1925: Tales from Silver Lands, by Charles Finger
1926: Shen of the Sea, by Arthur Bowie Chrisman
1927: Smoky, the Cowhorse, by Will James
1928: Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon, by Dhan Gopal Mukerji
1929: The Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric P. Kelly
1930: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field
1931: The Cat Who Went to Heaven, by Elizabeth Coatsworth
1932: Waterless Mountain, by Laura Adams Armer
1933: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, by Elizabeth Lewis
1934: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women, by Cornelia Meigs
1935: Dobry, by Monica Shannon
1936: Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
1937: Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer
1938: The White Stag, by Kate Seredy
1939: Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright
1940: Daniel Boone, by James Daugherty
1941: Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry
1942: The Matchlock Gun, by Walter Edmonds
1943: Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray
1944: Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
1945: Rabbit Hill, by Robert Lawson
1946: Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski
1947: Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
1948: The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pène du Bois
1949: King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry
1950: The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli
1951: Amos Fortune, Free Man, by Elizabeth Yates
1952: Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes
1953: Secret of the Andes, by Ann Nolan Clark
1954: ...And Now Miguel, by Joseph Krumgold
1955: The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJong
1956: Carry On, Mr Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham
1957: Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen
1958: Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith
1959: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
1960: Onion John, by Joseph Krumgold
1961: Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell
1962: The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare
1963: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle
1964: It's Like This, Cat, by Emily Neville
1965: Shadow of a Bull, by Maia Wojciechowska
1966: I, Juan de Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
1967: Up a Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt
1968: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, by E L Konigsburg
1969: The High King, by Lloyd Alexander
1970: Sounder, by William H Armstrong
1971: The Summer of the Swans, by Betsy Byars
1972: Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C O'Brien
1973: Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
1974: The Slave Dancer, by Paula Fox
1975: M C Higgins, the Great, by Virginia Hamilton
1976: The Grey King, by Susan Cooper
1977: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D Taylor
1978: Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
1979: The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
1980: A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-1832, by Joan W Blos
1981: Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson
1982: A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, by Nancy Willard
1983: Dicey's Song, by Cynthia Voigt
1984: Dear Mr Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary
1985: The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
1986: Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
1987: The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman
1988: Lincoln: A Photobiography, by Russell Freedman
1989: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman
1990: Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
1991: Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli
1992: Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
1993: Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant
1994: The Giver, by Lois Lowry
1995: Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech
1996: The Midwife's Apprentice, by Karen Cushman
1997: The View from Saturday, by E L Konigsburg
1998: Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse
1999: Holes, by Louis Sachar
2000: Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis
2001: A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck
2002: A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park
2003: Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi
2004: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, by Kate DiCamillo
2005: Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
2006: Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins
2007: The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, illustrated by Matt Phelan
2008: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz

So the count is now 52 down, 35 to go.

Of the seven I read this quarter, I'd have to say I enjoyed Dicey's Song and The Higher Power of Lucky the most. Hitty turned put to be much more interesting than I'd thought it would be; Crispin, on the other hand, despite being set in mediaeval England (one of my favourite subjects), was much less interesting than I'd expected.

Book list - Jun 08

The Mouse That Roared - fiction, by Leonard Wibberley *
The Curse Of Ravenscourt - children's mystery, by Sarah Masters Buckey
Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History - science essays, by Stephen Jay Gould
A Solitary Blue - YA, by Cynthia Voigt
Easy Company Soldier - memoirs, by Don Malarkey
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy - children's, by Jeanne Birdsall
Crispin: The Cross of Lead - children's historical novel, by Avi (Newbery Medal, 2003)
We Took to the Woods - family life, by Louise Dickinson Rich *
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street - children's, by Jeanne Birdsall
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village - children's historical plays, by Laura Amy Schlitz (Newbery Medal, 2008)
She Took to the Woods - biography, by Alice Arlen
Hitty, Her First Hundred Years - children's, by Rachel Field (Newbery Medal, 1930)

Only 12 books this month; asterisks mark the two rereads. To reach my goal of 208 books this year I need to average 17.33 per month, so even though I fell short this month I'm still (124 books plus a novella) over a month ahead of track (104).

The three Newbery Medal winners bring my total thus far up to 52 of 87.

National Ice Cream Month

July is National Ice Cream Month.