27 June 2010

Victoria Cross: C. C. I. Merritt


Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding The South Saskatchewan Regiment, Canadian Infantry Corps

Born: 10 November 1908, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Died: 12 July 2000, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Citation: For matchless gallantry and inspiring leadership whilst commanding his battalion during the Dieppe raid on the 19th August, 1942.
From the point of landing, his unit's advance had to be made across a bridge in Pourville which was swept by heavy machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire; the first parties were mostly destroyed and the bridge thickly covered by their bodies. A daring lead was required; waving his helmet, Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt rushed forward shouting "Come on over! There's nothing to worry about here!"
He thus personally led the survivors of at least four parties in turn across the bridge. Quickly organizing these, he led them forward and when held up by enemy pill-boxes he again headed rushes which succeeded in clearing them. In one case he himself destroyed the occupants of the post by throwing grenades into it. After several of his runners became casualties, he himself kept contact with his different positions.
Although twice wounded Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt continued to direct the unit's operations with great vigour and determination and while organizing the withdrawal he stalked a sniper with a Bren gun and silenced him. He then coolly gave orders for the departure and announced his intention to hold off and "get even with" the enemy. When last seen he was collecting Bren and Tommy guns and preparing a defensive position which successfully covered the withdrawal from the beach.
Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt is now reported to be a Prisoner of War.
To this Commanding Officer's personal daring, the success of his unit's operations and the safe re-embarkation of a large portion of it were chiefly due.

[London Gazette issue 35729 dtd 2 Oct 1942, published 2 Oct 1942.]

Medal of Honor: M. Paige


Platoon Sergeant, US Marine Corps; 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division

Born: 31 August 1918, Charleroi, Pennsylvania
Died: 15 November 2003, La Quinta, California

Citation: For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with a company of marines in combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on 26 October 1942. When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machinegun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire against the advancing hordes until reinforcements finally arrived. Then, forming a new line, he dauntlessly and aggressively led a bayonet charge, driving the enemy back and preventing a breakthrough in our lines. His great personal valor and unyielding devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Note: Paige is one of seven Eagle Scouts who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

24 June 2010

Carnegie and Greenaway Medal winners announced

The winners are:
The Carnegie Medal, for an outstanding book for children: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.

(Review here.)

The Kate Greenaway Medal, for distinguished illustration in a book for children: Harry & Hopper, illustrated by Freya Blackwood and written by Margaret Wild.

(Brief review here.)

This makes Gaiman the first person to win both the Carnegie Medal (British) and the Newbery Medal (American) for the same book. Sharon Creech has also received both medals, but for different books - Ruby Holler and Walk Two Moons, respectively. The Graveyard Book was also shortlisted for this year's Greenaway Medal.

ZUI this article from The Guardian.

22 June 2010

20 June 2010

Victoria Cross: W. T. Dartnell


Temporary Lieutenant, 25th (Service) Battalion (Frontiersmen), The Royal Fusiliers

Born: 6 April 1885, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died: 3 September 1915, Maktau, British East Africa

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery near Maktau (East Africa) on 3rd September, 1915.
During a mounted infantry engagement the enemy got within a few yards of our men, and it was found inpossible to get the more severely wounded away. Lieutenant Dartnell, who was himself being carried away wounded in the leg, seeing the situation, and knowing that the enemy's black troops murdered the wounded, insisted on being left behind in the hopes of being able to save the lives of the other wounded men.
He gave his own life in the gallant attempt to save others.

[London Gazette issue 29414 dtd 23 Dec 1915, published 21 Dec 1915.]

Note: British East Africa is now Kenya.

Medal of Honor: J. Zeamer Jr and J. R. Sarnoski


Major, US Army Air Corps; 65th Bombardment Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group

Born: 25 July 1918, Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Died: 22 March 2007, Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Citation: On 16 June 1943, Maj. Zeamer (then Capt.) volunteered as pilot of a [Boeing B-17E] bomber on an important photographic mapping mission covering the formidably defended area in the vicinity of Buka, Solomon Islands. While photographing the Buka airdrome. his crew observed about 20 enemy fighters on the field, many of them taking off. Despite the certainty of a dangerous attack by this strong force, Maj. Zeamer proceeded with his mapping run, even after the enemy attack began. In the ensuing engagement, Maj. Zeamer sustained gunshot wounds in both arms and legs, 1 leg being broken. Despite his injuries, he maneuvered the damaged plane so skillfully that his gunners were able to fight off the enemy during a running fight which lasted 40 minutes. The crew destroyed at least 5 hostile planes, of which Maj. Zeamer himself shot down 1. Although weak from loss of blood, he refused medical aid until the enemy had broken combat. He then turned over the controls, but continued to exercise command despite lapses into unconsciousness, and directed the flight to a base 580 miles away. In this voluntary action, Maj. Zeamer, with superb skill, resolution, and courage, accomplished a mission of great value.

Note: Zeamer is one of seven Eagle Scouts who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.


Second Lieutenant, US Army Air Corps; 65th Bombardment Squadron, 43rd Bomber Group

Born: 31 January 1915, Simpson, Pennsylvania
Died: 16 June 1943, over Solomon Islands

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. On 16 June 1943, 2d Lt. Sarnoski volunteered as bombardier of a [Boeing B-17E] crew on an important photographic mapping mission covering the heavily defended Buka area, Solomon Islands. When the mission was nearly completed, about 20 enemy fighters intercepted. At the nose guns, 2d Lt. Sarnoski fought off the first attackers, making it possible for the pilot to finish the plotted course. When a coordinated frontal attack by the enemy extensively damaged his bomber, and seriously injured 5 of the crew, 2d Lt. Sarnoski, though wounded, continued firing and shot down 2 enemy planes. A 20-millimeter shell which burst in the nose of the bomber knocked him into the catwalk under the cockpit. With indomitable fighting spirit, he crawled back to his post and kept on firing until he collapsed on his guns. 2d Lt. Sarnoski by resolute defense of his aircraft at the price of his life, made possible the completion of a vitally important mission.

13 June 2010

Victoria Cross: B. J. D. Guy


Midshipman, Royal Navy; the Naval Brigade

Born: 9 May 1882, Bishop Auckland, County Durham
Died: 29 December 1956, Lambeth, South London

Citation: On 13th July, 1900, during the attack on Tientsin City, a very heavy cross-fire was brought to bear on the Naval Brigade, and there were several casualties. among those who fell was one A.B., I. McCarthy, shot about 50 yards short of cover.
Mr. Guy stopped with him, and, after seeing what the injury was, attempted to lift him up and carry him in, but was not strong enough, so after binding up the wound Mr. Guy ran to get assistance. In the mean time the remainder of the company had passed in under cover, and the entire fire from the city wall was concentrated on Mr. Guy and McCarthy. Shortly after Mr. Guy had got in under cover the stretchers came up, and again Mr. Guy dashed out and assisted in placing McCarthy on the stretcher and carrying him in.
The wounded man was however shot dead just as he was being carried into safety.
During the whole time a very heavy fire had been brought to bear upon Mr. Guy, and the ground around him was absolutely ploughed up.

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

Medal of Honor: B. F. Hajiro


Private, US Army; 442nd Infantry Regiment

Born: 16 September 1916, Territory of Hawai`i
Died: TBD

Citation: Private Barney F. Hajiro distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 19, 22, and 29 October 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, eastern France. Private Hajiro, while acting as a sentry on top of an embankment on 19 October 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres, France, rendered assistance to allied troops attacking a house 200 yards away by exposing himself to enemy fire and directing fire at an enemy strong point. He assisted the unit on his right by firing his automatic rifle and killing or wounding two enemy snipers. On 22 October 1944, he and one comrade took up an outpost security position about 50 yards to the right front of their platoon, concealed themselves, and ambushed an 18-man, heavily armed, enemy patrol, killing two, wounding one, and taking the remainder as prisoners. On 29 October 1944, in a wooded area in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France, Private Hajiro initiated an attack up the slope of a hill referred to as "Suicide Hill" by running forward approximately 100 yards under fire. He then advanced ahead of his comrades about 10 yards, drawing fire and spotting camouflaged machine gun nests. He fearlessly met fire with fire and single-handedly destroyed two machine gun nests and killed two enemy snipers. As a result of Private Hajiro's heroic actions, the attack was successful. Private Hajiro's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Note: Hajiro's medal, upgraded from a Distinguished Service Cross, was presented by President Clinton on 21 Jun 2000. He also received (in 1948) a Military Medal from the British government and (in 2004) the L├ęgion d'honneur from the French.

08 June 2010

Educational TV

"CSIs are very good at what they do, but the criminals are learning just as much from the TV programmes as everyone else." -- Staff Sergeant Jon Cooper, Royal Military Police

06 June 2010

Victoria Cross: S. E. Hollis


Warrant Officer Class II (Company Sergeant-Major), 6th Battalion The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment)

Born: 21 September 1912, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire
Died: 8 February 1972, Liverton Mines, Cleveland, North Yorkshire

Citation: In Normandy on 6th June, 1944, during the assault on the beaches and the Mont Fleury Battery, C.S.M. Hollis's Company Commander noticed that two of the pillboxes had been by-passed, and went with C.S.M. Hollis to see that they were clear. When they were 20 yards from the pillbox, a machine-gun opened fire from the slit and C.S.M. Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun. He jumped on top of the pillbox, re-charged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it, killing two Germans and making the remainder prisoner. He then cleared several Germans from a neighbouring trench. By his action, he undoubtedly saved his Company from being fired on heavily from the rear and enabled them to open the main beach exit.
Later the same day, in the village of Crepon, the Company encountered a field gun and crew armed with Spandaus at 100 yards range. C.S.M. Hollis was put in command of a party to cover an attack on the gun, but the movement was held up. Seeing this, C.S.M. Hollis pushed right forward to engage the gun with a P.I.A.T. from a house at 50 yards range. He was observed by a sniper who fired and grazed his right cheek, and at the same moment the gun swung round and fired at point-blank range into the house. To avoid the fallen masonry C.S.M. Hollis moved his party to an alternative position. Two of the enemy gun crew had by this time been killed, and the gun was destroyed shortly afterwards. He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house and immediately volunteered to get them out. In full view of the enemy who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone using a Bren gun to distract their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.
Wherever fighting was heaviest, C.S.M. Hollis appeared and in the course of a magnificent day's work, he displayed the utmost gallantry and on two separate occasions his courage and initiative prevented the enemy from holding up the advance at critical stages. It was largely through his heroism and resource that the Company's objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier, and by his own bravery he saved the lives of many of his men.

(London Gazette Issue 36658 dated 17 Aug 1944, published 15 Aug 1944.)

Medal of Honor: J. J. Pinder, Jr.


Technician Fifth Grade, US Army; 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division

Born: 6 Jun 1912, McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania
Died: 6 Jun 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. On D-day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder landed on the coast 100 yards off shore under devastating enemy machinegun and artillery fire which caused severe casualties among the boatload. Carrying a vitally important radio, he struggled towards shore in waist-deep water. Only a few yards from his craft he was hit by enemy fire and was gravely wounded. Technician 5th Grade Pinder never stopped. He made shore and delivered the radio. Refusing to take cover afforded, or to accept medical attention for his wounds, Technician 5th Grade Pinder, though terribly weakened by loss of blood and in fierce pain, on 3 occasions went into the fire-swept surf to salvage communication equipment. He recovered many vital parts and equipment, including another workable radio. On the 3rd trip he was again hit, suffering machinegun bullet wounds in the legs. Still this valiant soldier would not stop for rest or medical attention. Remaining exposed to heavy enemy fire, growing steadily weaker, he aided in establishing the vital radio communication on the beach. While so engaged this dauntless soldier was hit for the third time and killed. The indomitable courage and personal bravery of Technician 5th Grade Pinder was a magnificent inspiration to the men with whom he served.

05 June 2010

This day in history: 5 Jun

1942: The Battle of Midway continued. USS Yorktown (CV 5), damaged by Japanese air attacks the previous day, was taken under tow by Pearl Harbor survivor USS Vireo (AM 52) in an attempt at returning her to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Yorktown, however, would be sunk, together with USS Hammann (DD 412), on 7 June by the Japanese submarine I-168.

At 0215 Cruiser Division 7 (heavy cruisers Mikuma, Mogami, Kumano and Suzuya), retiring from an aborted mission to bombard Midway, was spotted by USS Tambor (SS 198). They in turn spotted the lurking submarine, and Admiral Kurita ordered a simultaneous 45-degree turn by his ships. In the confusion, Mogami rammed Mikuma amidships. The force split, with the undamaged cruisers continuing ahead while Mikuma and Mogami limped along behind. B-17s, SBDs and Vindicators from Midway attacked during the day, with no luck, but Mikuma was sunk the next day by aircraft from USS Hornet (CV 8) and USS Enterprise (CV 6).

Japanese carriers Kaga and Soryu had been sunk by US aircraft on 4 June. Two other carriers, crippled but still afloat, sank on the 5th: Hiryu at 0230 and Akagi, scuttled by torpedoes from destroyers Arashi, Hagikaze, Maikaze, and Nowaki, at 0530.

04 June 2010

This day in history: 4 Jun

1942: Japanese aircraft attacked Midway Island in the morning, and USS Yorktown (CV 5) in the afternoon. Three bombs and two torpedos hit Yorktown, causing severe damage. Damage-control efforts were successful (though Yorktown would be sunk, together with USS Hammann (DD 412), on 7 June by the Japanese submarine I-168).

USS Nautilus (SS 168) made an unsuccessful attack on the Japanese battleship Kirishima at 0830.

During the period 0925-1025 a series of attacks by aircraft from Yorktown, USS Hornet (CV 8) and USS Enterprise (CV 6) caused severe damage to Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga and Soryu, despite heavy losses (there was only one survivor from Hornet's VT-8). Soryu sank at 1913, and Kaga (having survived another unsuccessful attack by Nautilus) a few minutes later; Akagi sank the next morning at 0530 after being scuttled by torpedoes from destroyers Arashi, Hagikaze, Maikaze, and Nowaki.

At 1705 dive bombers from Enterprise attacked the Japanese carrier Hiryu, which had been missed by previous attacks. Hiryu finally sank at 0230 the next day.

Submarine CO/XO selections

The FY11 list of submarine CO/XO selections was promulgated a couple days ago. I see one former Prov commo selected for CO, and another selected for XO. I'm trying to imagine being on a boat with the two of them in charge....

And an A-ganger off Jax was selected as alternate for drydock XO.

Congratulations, guys!

H/T to Joel.

02 June 2010

RIP: John W. Finn

John William Finn
23 Jul 1909 - 27 May 2010

ZUI this article from the San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune:
John Finn, the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, whose modest demeanor and lifestyle belied his legendary status as an American hero, died Thursday at age 100 at a Chula Vista veterans home.

He was assigned to Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay on Dec. 7, 1941, when he found himself firing at Japanese planes from an exposed position for more than two hours despite being hit 21 times by bomb and bullet fragments.


Finn was the oldest of 91 living recipients of the nation’s highest award for bravery in combat. The number of living Medal of Honor recipients from World War II is now 19; the oldest of those is Barney Hajiro, 93, of Hawaii.


John William Finn was born July 27, 1909, in Los Angeles and enlisted in the Navy in 1926. Finn and his wife, who died in 1998, raised a son and several nephews and took in several children from the Campo Indian Reservation during their years in East County.

“He helped our people survive when our world was in turmoil and going through a changing process,” said Monique LaChappa, Campo tribal chairwoman. One of her uncles was among those helped by the Finns. “Some of the older elders would tell about how (the Finns) would feed our people. He was part of our survival. He understood us — not that he felt sorry for us, but he understood us.”

Finn is survived by a son, Joseph, of Lakeside; and several nieces and nephews.

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


Lieutenant (then Chief Aviation Ordnanceman), US Navy; NAS Kaneohe Bay (Territory of Hawaii)

Born: 23 July 1909, Los Angeles, California
Died: 27 May 2010, Chula Vista, California

Citation: For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy's fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Edit 0935 17 Feb 12: On 15 February 2012, the Navy announced that the next Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, DDG 113, will be named USS John Finn. The ship is currently under construction by Ingalls Shipbuilding, in Pascagoula MS, and delivery is scheduled for late 2015.

01 June 2010

Book list - May 10

The Off-Islanders - fiction, by Nathaniel Benchley *
Baby Island - children's, by Carol Ryrie Brink
Whales on Stilts - children's SF, by M T Anderson
Anne of Green Gables - children's, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Don Quixote, USA - fiction, by Richard Powell *
The Sixty-Eight Rooms - YA, by Marianne Malone
Granny was a Buffer Girl - YA, by Berlie Doherty (Carnegie Medal, 1986)
Knight Crusader - children's historical fiction, by Ronald Welch (Felton Ronald Oliver) (Carnegie Medal, 1954)
Official Secret - WW II memoirs, by Clayton Hutton *
Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life - palaeontology, by Scott D Sampson
Men, Martians and Machines - SF (short stories), by Eric Frank Russell *
Dear Nobody - YA, by Berlie Doherty (Carnegie Medal, 1991)
Mystery of the Old Barn - children's mystery, by Mary Urmston *
Of Mice and Men - fiction, by John Steinbeck
In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language - language, by Arika Okrent
The Death Collector - YA historical/SF, by Justin Richards
We Were Pirates: A Torpedoman's Pacific War - WW II, by Robert Schultz and James Shell

17 books last month, with five rereads (marked by asterisks). To reach my goal of 210 books this year, I have to average 17.5 per month, so I'm currently still a bit ahead of track.

Strictly speaking, Don Quixote, USA wasn't a reread; the book was one of the five selections in Reader's Digest Condensed Books volume 67 (Autumn 1966), and that was what I read before.

The Off-Islanders was the book on which the movie The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming was based. I'd forgotten how funny it was - the film was quite different, of course, but in this case they're equally enjoyable. (I still think Alan Arkin should have gotten the Oscar for his role as Lt Rozanov; he was beaten by Paul Scofield, who played Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons.)

The three Carnegie Medal winners bring me up to 38 of 70 (with number 71 to be announced later this month). My thanks to the John P Webster Library, West Hartford CT; the Woodbridge Town Library, Woodbridge CT; and the Connecticut State Library Service Centre, Willimantic CT, for the ILLs.