31 October 2010

Victoria Cross: J. D. Nettleton


Acting Squadron Leader, Royal Air Force; No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron

Born: 28 June 1917, Nongoma, Natal, South Africa
Died: 13 July 1943, Bay of Biscay

Citation: Squadron Leader Nettleton was the leader of one of two formations of six Lancaster bombers detailed to deliver a low-level attack in daylight on the diesel engine factory at Augsburg in Southern Germany on April 17th, 1942. The enterprise was daring, the target of high military importance. To reach it and get back, some 1,000 miles had to be flown over hostile territory.
Soon after crossing into enemy territory his formation was engaged by 25 to 30 fighters. A running fight ensued. His rear guns went out of action. One by one the aircraft of his formation were shot down until in the end only his own and one other remained. The fighters were shaken off but the target was still far distant. There was formidable resistance to be faced.
With great spirit and almost defenceless, he held his two remaining aircraft on their perilous course and after a long and arduous flight, mostly at only 50 feet above the ground, he brought them to Augsburg. Here anti-aircraft fire of great intensity and accuracy was encountered. The two aircraft came low over the roof tops. Though fired at from point blank range, they stayed the course to drop their bombs true on the target. The second aircraft, hit by flak, burst into flames and crash-landed. The leading aircraft, though riddled with holes, flew safely back to base, the only one of the six to return.
Squadron Leader Nettleton, who has successfully undertaken many other hazardous operations, displayed unflinching determination as well as leadership and valour of the highest order.

[London Gazette issue 35539 dated 28 Apr 1942, published 24 Apr 1942.]

Note: The same issue of the Gazette reported that Flt Lt D J Penman DFC, 97 Squadron, received the Distinguished Service Order for his part in this operation. Five officers from 97 Squadron and three from 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron received the Distinguished Flying Cross, while six other ranks from 97 Squadron and four from 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron received the Distinguished Flying Medal.

Medal of Honor: M. Red Cloud, Jr.


Corporal, US Army; Company E, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division

Born: 2 July 1924, Hatfield, Wisconsin
Died: 5 November 1950, near Chonghyon, Korea

Citation: Cpl. Red Cloud, Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy [near Chonghyon, Korea, on 5 November 1950]. From his position on the point of a ridge immediately in front of the company command post he was the first to detect the approach of the Chinese Communist forces and give the alarm as the enemy charged from a brush-covered area less than 100 feet from him. Springing up he delivered devastating pointblank automatic rifle fire into the advancing enemy. His accurate and intense fire checked this assault and gained time for the company to consolidate its defense. With utter fearlessness he maintained his firing position until severely wounded by enemy fire. Refusing assistance he pulled himself to his feet and wrapping his arm around a tree continued his deadly fire again, until he was fatally wounded. This heroic act stopped the enemy from overrunning his company's position and gained time for reorganization and evacuation of the wounded. Cpl. Red Cloud's dauntless courage and gallant self-sacrifice reflects the highest credit upon himself and upholds the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.

Note: USNS Red Cloud (T-AKR 313) was named in his honour, as was Camp Red Cloud, at Uijeongbu, South Korea.

25 October 2010

Dinosaurs Life Size (Darren Naish)

Dinosaurs Life Size was written by Darren Naish, author of the Tetrapod Zoology blog. As the title implies, it's meant to give an idea as to just how large those critters were. Obviously, most of them are too big to fit into a children's book, but....

Twenty dinosaurs are included in the book, ranging chronologically from the Triassic Herrerasaurus to the late Cretaceous Citipati, and in size from Microraptor (which almost fits onto its page) to big sauropods like Diplodocus (up to 115 feet long) and Sauroposeidon (an estimated 40 tons). There are also several non-dinosaurs, including the plesiosaurs Plesiosaurus and Liopleurodon, the ichthyosaur Stenopterygius, the pterosaurs Pterodactylus and Quetzalcoatlus, and the early bird Archaeopteryx (which in many ways resembles its theropod ancestors more than its modern avian relatives).

The good: For each one, we get:
  • A life-sized picture of the animal, of course - if it will fit on the page. If not, there's a life-sized picture of part of it, plus a picture of the complete animal with the part that's shown life-sized marked. The traditional human is included to provide scale; since this is a children's book, however, instead of the usual silhouette of a man there's a painting of a child interacting with the animal. (The kids with the aquatic reptiles have swimsuits and snorkels, of course!)
  • A box showing where and when the fossils were first found.
  • Another box, discussing its size, both weight height/length/wingspan.
  • A couple paragraphs of text describing it.
  • A "WOW!" fact or two. ("A Velociraptor specimen was discovered locked in combat with a Protoceratops. The Protoceratops had bitten onto the predator's arm, but the Velociraptor's left sickle-claw was pushed up against the herbivore's neck.")

The bad: My only complaint concerns the Pterodactylus picture: It says the critter was "roughly similar in size to a large gull," but that life-sized rendition doesn't look anywhere near as large as the gulls I see around here almost every day. Naish has mentioned in his blog, though, that "some of the 'life sized' animals are scaled wrong."

All in all, it's a very nice book, and I'd recommend it for any child who's interested in the subject.

Dinosaurs Life Size, by Darren Naish. Barron's, 2010. Children (4-8, according to Amazon). Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, of course. I haven't seen any other reviews, but Naish's own discussion of the book is here.

Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by Sherrie, at Write About Now.

24 October 2010

Victoria Cross: W. S. Trevor and J. Dundas


Major, Bengal Engineers

Born: 9 October 1831, India
Died: 2 November 1907, London


Lieutenant, Bengal Engineers

Born: 10 September 1842, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 23 December 1879, Sherpur, Afghanistan

Joint Citation: For their gallant conduct at the attack on the Block-house at Dewan-Giri, in Bhootan, on the 30th of April, 1865.
Major-General Tombs, C.B., V.C., the Officer in command at the time, reports that a party of the enemy, from 180 to 200 in number, had barricaded themselves in the Block-house in question, which they continued to defend after the rest of the position had been carried, and the main body was in retreat. The Block-house, which was loop-holed, was the key of the enemy's position. Seeing no Officer of the storming party near him, and being anxious that the place should be taken immediately, as any protracted resistance might have caused the main body of the Bhooteas to rally, the British force having been fighting in a broiling sun on very steep and difficult ground for upwards of three hours, the General in command ordered these two Officers to show the way into the Block-house. They had to climb up a wall which was 14 feet high, and then to enter a house, occupied by some 200 desperate men, head foremost through an opening not more than two feet wide between the top of the wall and the roof of the Block-house.
Major-General Tombs states that on speaking to the Sikh soldiers around him, and telling them in Hindoostani to swarm up the wall, none of them responded to the call, until these two Officers had shewn them the way, when they followed with the greatest alacrity. Both of them were wounded.

[London Gazette issue 23338 dated 31 Dec 1867, published 31 Dec 1867.]

Note: Dewangiri, now known as Deothang, is in southeastern Bhutan.

Medal of Honor: W. A. Edwards


Lieutenant Commander, US Navy; commanding USS Bainbridge (DD 246)

Born: 8 November 1886, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: 15 January 1928, Washington DC

Citation: For heroism in rescuing 482 men, women and children from the French military transport Vinh-Long, destroyed by fire in the Sea of Marmora, Turkey, on 16 December 1922. Lt. Comdr. Edwards, commanding the U.S.S. Bainbridge, placed his vessel alongside the bow of the transport and, in spite of several violent explosions which occurred on the burning vessel, maintained his ship in that position until all who were alive were taken on board. Of a total of 495 on board, 482 were rescued by his coolness, judgment and professional skill, which were combined with a degree of heroism that must reflect new glory on the U.S. Navy.

Notes: Edwards also received the Legion of Honor from the French government and the Distinguished Service Order from the King of England for this action. USS Edwards (DD 619) was named in his honour.

The Naval Historical Centre has further information on the Vinh-Long fire (including photos) here.

22 October 2010

Victoria Cross may be awarded for World War II

ZUI this article from the Sydney Morning Herald:
THE NAVY will reopen its archives from World War II to examine whether any of its sailors should be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for valour.

Of the 97 VCs won by Australians since the Boer War, four have gone to the Royal Australian Air Force and the rest to the army. The navy has never received one.


[Tasmanian] Senator [Guy] Barnett suggested the honour should go to Captain Hector "Hardover Hec" Waller, who went down with his ship, the cruiser HMAS Perth, after a valiant midnight battle against an overwhelming Japanese invasion force off Java in 1942.


The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane, said it was "difficult to rationalise" why no Australian sailor had won the VC.

Naval historians say the explanation lies in a quirk from Australia's colonial past. While VCs for the army and the air force could be awarded by Australian governments, until long after World War II any for the navy had to be approved by the Admiralty in London. Their lordships in Whitehall apparently never saw fit to do so.


Another likely candidate would be Ordinary Seaman Edward "Teddy" Sheean, an 18-year-old from Tasmania who strapped himself to an anti-aircraft gun on the corvette HMAS Armidale and shot down an attacking Japanese bomber as his ship took him to the bottom of the Timor Sea in December 1942.

ZUI also this article from the Morning Herald:
Senator Barnett said 117 of Britain's 1,353 VCs had gone to sailors. Of the 94 Canadians awarded the VC, four were sailors, while New Zealand's 25 VCs included one to a sailor.

Pressing the British Admiralty can be too daunting for some Australian and British officers, Senator Barnett said.

Remedies include re-opening the end of war list, which would permit re-examining acts of valour in previous conflicts, or new legislation through parliament, Senator Barnett.

His candidates for a retrospective VC include Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheehan, lost on HMAS Armidale in December 1942, Captain Hec Waller, lost on HMAS Perth in March 1942, Lieutenant Commander Robert Rankin, lost on HMAS Yarra in March 1942 and Captain Henry Stoker, commander of the submarine AE-2 which penetrated the Dardanelles at the start of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

Vice Admiral Crane said these were outstanding people who had been recognised in other ways. Collins submarines have been named after Sheehan, Waller and Rankin.

Wikipedia has articles on Waller, Perth, Sheean, Armidale, Rankin, Yarra, Stoker and AE2.

Medal of Honor to be presented 16 November

ZUI this White House press release:
On November 16, President Barack Obama will award Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Staff Sergeant Giunta will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan in October, 2007. Staff Sergeant Giunta's wife, Jennifer, and his parents, Steven and Rosemary Giunta will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.


Salvatore Augustine Giunta was born on January 21, 1985. He is a native of Hiawatha, Iowa. He enlisted in the United States Army in November 2003. He attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Staff Sergeant Giunta is currently assigned to 2-503rd Infantry Battalion, Rear Detachment, Camp Ederle, Italy.

Staff Sergeant Giunta has completed two combat tours to Afghanistan totaling 27 months of deployment.

SSG Giunta will be the first living person to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.

17 October 2010

Victoria Cross: J. H. Tombs


Corporal, 1st Battalion The King's (Liverpool Regiment)

Born: 23 March 1887, Birmingham
Died: 28 June 1966, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Citation: For most conspicuous gallantry near Rue du Bois, on 16th June, 1915. On his own initiative he crawled out repeatedly under a very heavy shell and machine gun fire, to bring in wounded men who were lying about 100 yards in front of our trenches. He rescued four men, one of whom he dragged back by means of a rifle sling placed round his own neck and the man's body. This man was so severely wounded that unless he had been immediately attended to he must have died.

[London Gazette issue 29240 dtd 24 Jul 1915, published 23 Jul 1915.]

Medal of Honor: G. O. Young


Captain, US Air Force; 37th Air Rescue Squadron

Born: 9 May 1930, Chicago, Illinois
Died: 6 June 1990

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Young distinguished himself while serving as a helicopter rescue crew commander [at Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam, on 9 November 1967]. Capt. Young was flying escort for another helicopter attempting the night rescue of an Army ground reconnaissance team in imminent danger of death or capture. Previous attempts had resulted in the loss of 2 helicopters to hostile ground fire. The endangered team was positioned on the side of a steep slope which required unusual airmanship on the part of Capt. Young to effect pickup. Heavy automatic weapons fire from the surrounding enemy severely damaged 1 rescue helicopter, but it was able to extract 3 of the team. The commander of this aircraft recommended to Capt. Young that further rescue attempts be abandoned because it was not possible to suppress the concentrated fire from enemy automatic weapons. With full knowledge of the danger involved, and the fact that supporting helicopter gunships were low on fuel and ordnance, Capt. Young hovered under intense fire until the remaining survivors were aboard. As he maneuvered the aircraft for takeoff, the enemy appeared at point-blank range and raked the aircraft with automatic weapons fire. The aircraft crashed, inverted, and burst into flames. Capt. Young escaped through a window of the burning aircraft. Disregarding serious burns, Capt. Young aided one of the wounded men and attempted to lead the hostile forces away from his position. Later, despite intense pain from his burns, he declined to accept rescue because he had observed hostile forces setting up automatic weapons positions to entrap any rescue aircraft. For more than 17 hours he evaded the enemy until rescue aircraft could be brought into the area. Through his extraordinary heroism, aggressiveness, and concern for his fellow man, Capt. Young reflected the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the Armed Forces of his country.

15 October 2010

RIP: David McNerney

David Herbert McNerney
2 Jun 1931 - 10 Oct 2010

ZUI this article from the Houston Chronicle:
David H. McNerney, a Medal of Honor recipient whose Vietnam War heroics later became the subject of a documentary, died Sunday after a battle with lung cancer. The Crosby man was 79.

His actions on a day in March 1967 still have a profound impact on his colleagues.

"There's a bunch of guys walking around today who wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him," Leonard McElroy said of fighting alongside McNerney in Vietnam. He said the soldiers of A Company were in awe of him.


McNerney was born June 2, 1931, in Lowell, Mass. His family later moved to Houston, where he graduated from St. Thomas High School in 1949.

First Sgt. McNerney had already served two combat tours in 1966 when he was assigned to a company of green infantrymen at Fort Lewis, Wash.

"His job was to train us for Vietnam but he wasn't going with us," said Sam Ponsoll, from Danville, Ky.,who served with McNerney in A Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment. By pulling enough strings with the 4th Infantry Division brass, though, McNerney eventually received orders to accompany "his boys" into combat.


McNerney returned to Texas after Vietnam and worked for U.S. Customs at the Port of Houston until his second retirement in 1995.

His wife, Parmelia, died in 2003. The couple had no children.

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


First Sergeant, US Army; Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division

Born: 2 June 1931, Lowell, Massachusetts
Died: 10 October 2010, Houston, Texas

Citation: 1st Sgt. McNerney distinguished himself when his unit was attacked by a North Vietnamese battalion near Polei Doc [Republic of Vietnam, on 22 March 1967]. Running through the hail of enemy fire to the area of heaviest contact, he was assisting in the development of a defensive perimeter when he encountered several enemy at close range. He killed the enemy but was painfully injured when blown from his feet by a grenade. In spite of this injury, he assaulted and destroyed an enemy machinegun position that had pinned down 5 of his comrades beyond the defensive line. Upon learning his commander and artillery forward observer had been killed, he assumed command of the company. He adjusted artillery fire to within 20 meters of the position in a daring measure to repulse ??enemy assaults. When the smoke grenades used to mark the position were gone, he moved into a nearby clearing to designate the location to friendly aircraft. In spite of enemy fire he remained exposed until he was certain the position was spotted and then climbed into a tree and tied the identification panel to its highest branches. Then he moved among his men readjusting their position, encouraging the defenders and checking the wounded. As the hostile assaults slackened, he began clearing a helicopter landing site to evacuate the wounded. When explosives were needed to remove large trees, he crawled outside the relative safety of his perimeter to collect demolition material from abandoned rucksacks. Moving through a fusillade of fire he returned with the explosives that were vital to the clearing of the landing zone. Disregarding the pain of his injury and refusing medical evacuation 1st Sgt. McNerney remained with his unit until the next day when the new commander arrived. First Sgt. McNerney's outstanding heroism and leadership were inspirational to his comrades. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

10 October 2010

Victoria Cross: J. Crimmin


Surgeon, Bombay Medical Service; attached 27th Bombay Infantry

Born: 19 March 1859, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 20 February 1945, Wells, Somerset

Citation: Lieutenant Tighe, 27th Bombay Infantry (to the Mounted Infantry of which Corps Surgeon Crimmin was attached) states that in the action near Lwekaw, Eastern Karenni, on the 1st January last [1889], four men charged with him into the midst of a large body of the enemy who were moving off from the Karen left flank, and two men fell to the ground wounded. He saw Surgeon Crimmin attending one of the men about 200 yards to the rear. Karens were round the party in every direction, and he saw several fire at Surgeon Crimmin and the wounded man. A Sepoy then galloped up to Surgeon Crimmin, and the latter joined the fighting line which then came up. Lieutenant Tighe further states that very shortly afterwards they were engaged in driving the enemy from small clumps of trees and bamboo, in which the Karens took shelter. Near one of these clumps he saw Surgeon Crimmin attending a wounded man. Several Karens rushed out at him. Surgeon Crimmin thrust his sword through one of them and attacked a second, a third Karen then dropped from the fire of a Sepoy, upon which the remaining Karens fled.

[London Gazette issue 25975 dtd 17 Sep 1889, published 17 Sep 1889.]

Notes: At the time of his death, he was Colonel John Crimmin VC CB CIE VD.
Karenni, now known as Kayah State, is a part of southeastern Burma.

Medal of Honor: M. T. McMahon


Captain and aide-de-camp, US Volunteers

Born: 21 March 1838, Laprairie County, Quebec, Canada
Died: 21 April 1906, New York City, New York

Citation: Under fire of the enemy [at White Oak Swamp, Virginia, on 30 June 1862], successfully destroyed a valuable train that had been abandoned and prevented it from falling into the hands of the enemy.

Note: Captain McMahon, originally the commanding officer of a cavalry troop, was serving as aide-de-camp to General George McClellan. He finished the war with the rank of Brevet Major General.

08 October 2010

Ancient critters

Utahceratops gettyi. Kosmoceratops richardsoni. Concavenator corcovatus. Sarahsaurus aurifontanalis. Prorotodactylus. Inkayacu paracasensis. All sorts of fossils have been in the news lately.

To begin with, ZUI this article (dated 23 Sep) from Laboratory Equipment:
Two remarkable new species of horned dinosaurs have been found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah. The giant plant-eaters were inhabitants of the "lost continent" of Laramidia, formed when a shallow sea flooded the central region of North America, isolating the eastern and western portions of the continent for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period.

The newly discovered dinosaurs, close relatives of the famous Triceratops, were announced yesterday in PLoS ONE, the online open-access journal produced by the Public Library of Science.


The bigger of the two new dinosaurs, with a skull about 7 feet long, is Utahceratops gettyi (U-tah-SARA-tops get-EE-i). The first part of the name combines the state of origin with ceratops, Greek for "horned face." The second part of the name honors Mike Getty, paleontology collections manager at the Utah Museum of Natural History and the discoverer of this animal.

In addition to a large horn over the nose, Utahceratops has short and blunt eye horns that project strongly to the side rather than upward, much more like the horns of modern bison than those of Triceratops or other ceratopsians. Mark Loewen, one of the authors on the paper, likened Utahceratops to "a giant rhino with a ridiculously supersized head."

Second of the new species is Kosmoceratops richardsoni (KOZ-mo-SARA-tops RICH-ard-SON-i). Here, the first part of the name refers to kosmos, Latin for "ornate," and ceratops, once again meaning "horned face." The latter part of the name honors Scott Richardson, the volunteer who discovered two skulls of this animal. Kosmoceratops also has sideways oriented eye horns, although much longer and more pointed than in Utahceratops.

In all, Kosmoceratops possesses a total of 15 horns-one over the nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheek bone, and ten across the rear margin of the bony frill-making it the most ornate-headed dinosaur known. Sampson, the paper's lead author, claimed that, "Kosmoceratops is one of the most amazing animals known, with a huge skull decorated with an assortment of bony bells and whistles."


The dinosaurs were discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), which encompasses 1.9 million acres of high desert terrain in south-central Utah. This vast and rugged region, part of the National Landscape Conservation System administered by the Bureau of Land Management, was the last major area in the lower 48 states to be formally mapped by cartographers.

Today GSENM is the largest national monument in the United States. Sampson added that, "Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is now one of the country's last great, largely unexplored dinosaur boneyards."

For most of the Late Cretaceous, exceptionally high sea levels flooded the low-lying portions of several continents around the world. In North America, a warm, shallow sea called the Western Interior Seaway extended from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, subdividing the continent into eastern and western landmasses, known as Appalachia and Laramidia, respectively.

Whereas little is known of the plants and animals that lived on Appalachia, the rocks of Laramidia exposed in the Western Interior of North America have generated a plethora of dinosaur remains. Laramidia was less than one-third the size of present day North America, approximating the area of Australia.

Next, ZUI this article (dated 13 Sep) from the New York Times:
Researchers have discovered the most complete fossil of a meat-eating dinosaur from Europe in Las Hoyas, Spain. Curiously, it is humpbacked. The study appears in the journal Nature.

Named Concavenator corcovatus, the dinosaur belongs to the theropod family. In most ways, the dinosaur is not unusual, and it shares many characteristics with other medium-size theropods.

But the humplike structure on the 20-foot creature has previously never been seen in a dinosaur.


The fossil also suggests that the dinosaur had bony bumps on its limbs, possibly structures from which feathers protruded. The dinosaur lived during the Early Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago. Earlier dinosaur fossils have shown evidence of feathers, and birds are now generally considered to be dinosaur descendants.

And this article (dated 6 Oct) from National Geographic:
The discovery of Sarahsaurus aurifontanalis, which roamed North America about 190 million years ago, also boosts the idea that at least some dinosaurs became masters of their domain less by dominance than by opportunistic behavior and a bit of good luck.

A remarkably complete Sarahsaurus skeleton, found in Arizona, shows that the early Jurassic herbivore was, at 14 feet (4.3 meters) long and 250 pounds (113 kilograms), smaller than its enormous sauropod cousins such as Apatosaurus, which arose later. (See a sauropod picture.)

Like the sauropods — the largest animals to walk Earth — Sarahsaurus featured a long neck and small head. But the newly identified creature also boasted strong teeth and an unusual clawed hand, that, while only human size, was clearly built for enormous power and leverage, according to paleontologists.

And this article (dated 6 Oct) from Fox News:
The oldest footprints of the dinosaur lineage have been found, dating back about a quarter-billion years.

The age of these prints reveals they were made in the immediate aftermath of the worst mass extinction in history -- the devastating Permian-Triassic event, which eliminated as much as 95 percent of the planet's species. As such, these findings suggest the roughly 160-million-year-long Age of Dinosaurs not only ended in disaster, but might have begun because of one as well.

"The Permian-Triassic was a time of global devastation, but also a time of great opportunity, because new groups had the space and freedom to evolve in the post-apocalyptic world," said researcher Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Scientists uncovered the roughly 250-million-year-old footprints in the Holy Cross Mountains of central Poland. They came from a housecat-sized creature [named Prorotodactylus] with feet only about three-quarters of an inch (2 cm) long. The animal walked on all four legs, and possessed much longer hindlimbs than forelimbs, given how its footprints apparently overstep the handprints.

The different lengths of the creature's toes and the way they were angled suggest it was an ancestor of the dinosaur lineage known as a dinosauromorph.

And finally, ZUI this article (dated 5 Oct) from ABC News:
The preserved feathers and scales of a giant fossilized penguin discovered on Peru's central coast provide a glimpse of Peru's Eocene period, and how the species evolved to its modern state, paleontologists say.

The ancient version of the marine bird was about 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall and weighed almost 60 kg (132 lb), dwarfing today's Emperor Penguin, the largest of the modern-day species."By looking at this fossil, we were prompted to ask new questions about living penguins and the world we live in today," said Julia Clarke, an expert in avian anatomy at the University of Texas at Austin.

The paleontologists date the remains to 36 million years ago. They dubbed the ancient penguin "Inkayacu paracasensis," which means "emperor of the water" in the indigenous language of Quechua.

(Links appear in original articles.)

Medal of Honor awarded for Afghanistan

ZUI this article from the Department of Defense:
During a White House ceremony, the president awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor recognizing Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller’s 2008 actions in Afghanistan. Miller’s parents, Phil and Maureen Miller, accepted the award.

“We are a nation of more than 300 million Americans. Of these, less than 1 percent wears the uniform of our armed services. And of these, just a small fraction has earned the badges of our special operations forces,” the president said. “In the finest military the world has ever known, these warriors are the best of the best. In an era that prizes celebrity and status, they are quiet professionals -- never seeking the spotlight. In a time of war, they have borne a burden far beyond their small numbers.”

The Medal of Honor is the highest military award a servicemember can receive for valor in action against a combatant force. Miller’s Medal of Honor is the seventh awarded, all posthumously, to troops serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A living soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, has been chosen for the award but has yet to receive it.


Miller served as a weapons sergeant for Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne. He was the team’s youngest member, on his second deployment to Afghanistan.

His team was supporting an Afghan Border Police security patrol in Kunar province Jan. 25, 2008. Taliban fighters opened fire on the group from nearby buildings and from behind boulders. The team called in air strikes on the enemy position, but came under fire again when they moved forward to search for survivors.

Miller’s team captain was seriously wounded, and Miller remained at the front of the patrol to lay down suppressive fire as the captain was moved to safety. Other team members bounded back over the snowy terrain to find cover and return fire.


Miller’s courage saved his captain’s life, and enabled seven of his fellow Special Forces soldiers and 15 Afghan troops to survive, gain cover and repel the attack, Army officials said.


Miller was born in Harrisburg, Pa., and raised in Wheaton, Ill. His family moved to Florida shortly after the young man graduated from Wheaton High School. He joined the Army in 2003, graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2004 and completed the Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Course in 2005.

In addition to his parents, Miller is survived by his brothers Thomas, Martin and Edward; and sisters Joanna, Mary, Therese and Patricia.

ZUI also this article:
A Pentagon ceremony today formally inscribed the name of Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, who yesterday was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, onto the nation’s list of military heroes.

In January 2008, Miller, at age 24, died in action in Afghanistan, charging the enemy through a hailstorm of bullets to give 22 other soldiers a chance to survive. Today, Miller’s family, teammates, and friends gathered at the Pentagon alongside the U.S. military’s most-senior leaders to honor their fallen son’s life, heroism and courage.


During Army Secretary John M. McHugh’s remarks at the ceremony, he described Miller’s interests in gymnastics, basketball, history, languages and the military as he was growing up. Later, as a young Green Beret, Miller brought his characteristic intensity, enthusiasm, leadership and dedication to the job, the Army secretary said.

“He was funny, generous, passionate and determined,” McHugh said of Miller. “He was someone we would all have liked to know … a life that while too short, was a life of extraordinary measure.”


In an interview before this week’s ceremonies, Staff Sgt. Nicholas McGarry said during that conversation, Miller had told him he wanted to be remembered for how he had lived, and not how he died. As the two single guys on the team, McGarry recalled that he and Miller hung out together, and rode mountain bikes after work.

“He was incredibly joyful – a motivated, energetic person,” McGarry said of his departed friend. “Just a good friend to have around, because he always wanted to do something. He was always in a good mood –- kind of a playful spirit, I guess.”

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


Staff Sergeant, US Army; Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne)

Born: 14 October 1983, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Died: 25 January 2008, Kunar Province, Afghanistan

Citation: Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism while serving as the weapons sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force 33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on January 25th, 2008.

While conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared fighting positions. Staff Sergeant Miller initiated the assault by engaging the enemy positions with his vehicle’s turret-mounted Mk 19 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher, while simultaneously providing detailed descriptions of the enemy positions to his command, enabling effective, accurate close air support.

Following the engagement, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad forward to conduct a battle damage assessment. As the group neared the small, steep, narrow valley that the enemy had inhabited, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force initiated a near ambush, assaulting from elevated positions with ample cover.

Exposed and with little available cover, the patrol was totally vulnerable to enemy rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire.

As a point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off from supporting elements and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Nonetheless, with total disregard for his own safety, he called for his men to quickly move back to cover positions as he charged the enemy over exposed ground and under overwhelming enemy fire in order to provide protective fire for his team.

While maneuvering to engage the enemy, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in the upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight. Moving to draw fire from over 100 enemy fighters upon himself, he then again charged forward through an open area in order to allow his teammates to safely reach cover.

After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more and repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire while moving from position to position, Staff Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghan National Army soldiers.

Staff Sergeant Miller’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty and at the cost of his own life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

03 October 2010

Victoria Cross: T. Flawn and F. Fitzpatrick


Private, 94th Foot

Born: 22 December 1857, Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire
Died: 19 January 1925, Plumstead, SE London


Private, 94th Foot

Born: 1859, Tullycorbet, County Monaghan, Ireland
Died: 10 July 1933, Glasgow

Citation: In recognition of their gallant conduct during the attack on Sekukuni's Town on the 28th November last [1879], in carrying out of action Lieutenant Dewar, 1st Dragoon Guards, when badly wounded.
At the time when he received his wound, Lieutenant Dewar had with him only Privates Flawn and Fitzpatrick, and six of the Native Contingent, and, being incapable of moving without assistance, the natives proceeded to carry him down the hill, when about thirty of the enemy appeared in pursuit about 40 yards in the rear, whereupon the men of the Native Contingent deserted Lieutenant Dewar, who must have been killed but for the devoted gallantry of Privates Flawn and Fitzpatrick, who carried him alternately, one covering the retreat and firing on the enemy.

[London Gazette issue 24814 dtd 24 Feb 1880, published 24 Feb 1880.]

Note: Sekukuni's Town was in what is now the Sekhukhune District Municipality, in South Africa.

Medal of Honor: C. B. Hutchins


Lieutenant, US Navy

Born: 12 September 1904, Albany, New York
Died: 2 February 1938, off the California coast

Citation: For extraordinary heroism as the pilot of the U.S. Navy Seaplane PBY-2 No. 0463 (11-P-3) while engaged in tactical exercises with the U.S. Fleet on 2 February 1938. Although his plane was badly damaged [in a mid-air collision], Lt. Hutchins remained at the controls endeavoring to bring the damaged plane to a safe landing and to afford an opportunity for his crew to escape by parachutes. His cool, calculated conduct contributed principally to the saving of the lives of all who survived. His conduct on this occasion was above and beyond the call of duty.

Note: USS Hutchins (DD 476) was named in his honour.

01 October 2010

Carnegie Medal books

Having finished reading the Newbery Medal winners, I'm continuing with the books which have been awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal - the British equivalent of the Newbery Medal, now awarded by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

The medal was first awarded in 1937, for the best children's book of 1936, but there have been three years when no book was considered suitable, so there are only 71 winners thus far. In addition to the gold medal, the winner receives £500 worth of books to donate to a library of his/her/their choice.

Here's the list. (Dates marked in red indicate the six books I had already read before last year; dates in purple indicate the ones I've read since.)

1936: Pigeon Post, by Arthur Ransome
1937: The Family from One End Street, by Eve Garnett
1938: The Circus is Coming (aka Circus Shoes), by Noel Streatfield
1939: Radium Woman, by Eleanor Doorly
1940: Visitors from London, by Kitty Barne
1941: We Couldn't Leave Dinah, by Mary Treadgold
1942: The Little Grey Men, by 'BB' (D J Watkins-Pitchford)
1943: Prize withheld as no book was considered suitable
1944: The Wind on the Moon, by Eric Linklater
1945: Prize withheld as no book was considered suitable
1946: The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge
1947: Collected Stories for Children, Walter De La Mare
1948: Sea Change, by Richard Armstrong
1949: The Story of Your Home, by Agnes Allen
1950: The Lark on the Wing, by Elfrida Vipont Foulds
1951: The Woolpack, by Cynthia Harnett
1952: The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
1953: A Valley Grows Up, by Edward Osmond
1954: Knight Crusader, by Ronald Welch (Felton Ronald Oliver)
1955: The Little Bookroom, by Eleanor Farjeon
1956: The Last Battle, by C S Lewis
1957: A Grass Rope, by William Mayne
1958: Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philipa Pearce
1959: The Lantern Bearers, by Rosemary Sutcliff
1960: The Making of Man, by Dr I W Cornwall
1961: A Stranger at Green Knowe, by Lucy M Boston
1962: The Twelve and the Genii, by Pauline Clarke
1963: Time of Trial, by Hester Burton
1964: Nordy Bank, by Sheena Porter
1965: The Grange at High Force, by Philip Turner
1966: Prize withheld as no book was considered suitable
1967: The Owl Service, by Alan Garner
1968: The Moon in the Cloud, by Rosemary Harris
1969: The Edge of the Cloud, by Kathleen Peyton
1970: The God Beneath the Sea, by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen
1971: Josh, by Ivan Southall
1972: Watership Down, by Richard Adams
1973: The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, by Penelope Lively
1974: The Stronghold, by Mollie Hunter
1975: The Machine Gunners, by Robert Westall
1976: Thunder and Lightnings, by Jan Mark
1977: The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler, by Gene Kemp
1978: The Exeter Blitz, by David Rees
1979: Tulku, by Peter Dickinson
1980: City of Gold and Other Stories from the Old Testament, by Peter Dickinson
1981: The Scarecrows, by Robert Westall
1982: The Haunting, by Margaret Mahy
1983: Handles, by Jan Mark
1984: The Changeover, by Margaret Mahy
1985: Storm, by Kevin Crossley-Holland
1986: Granny was a Buffer Girl, by Berlie Doherty
1987: The Ghost Drum, by Susan Price
1988: A Pack of Lies, by Geraldine McCaughrean
1989: Goggle-eyes, by Anne Fine
1990: Wolf, by Gillian Cross
1991: Dear Nobody, by Berlie Doherty
1992: Flour Babies, by Anne Fine
1993: Stone Cold, by Robert Swindells
1994: Whispers in the Graveyard, by Theresa Breslin
1995: Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman*
1996: Junk, by Melvin Burgess
1997: River Boy, by Tim Bowler
1998: Skellig, by David Almond
1999: Postcards From No Man's Land, by Aidan Chambers
2000: The Other Side of Truth, by Beverley Naidoo
2001: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett
2002: Ruby Holler, by Sharon Creech
2003: A Gathering Light, by Jennifer Donnelly**
2004: Millions, by Frank Cottrell Boyce
2005: Tamar, by Mal Peet
2006: ***
2007: Just in Case, by Meg Rosoff
2008: Here Lies Arthur, by Philip Reeve
2009: Bog Child, by Siobhan Dowd
2010: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

So the count now is 42 down, 29 to go. The ILLs are still coming in - my thanks (again) to the Enfield Central Library, Hazardville CT, and the Eastern Connecticut State College Library, Willimantic CT, for the loan of their books.

* His Dark Materials, Book 1. Published in the US as The Golden Compass.

** Published in the US as A Northern Light.

*** Up through the award for 2005, the winners were referred to by the year of publication. Beginning in 2007, the winners were referred to by the year the award was given, as with the American Newbery Medal. Thus there is no "2006 winner" of the Carnegie Medal. Tamar, the 2005 winner, was published in '05, and received the medal in '06. Just in Case, the 2007 winner, was published in '06 and received the award in '07.

Book list - Sep 10

The Swamp Shack Mystery - children's mystery, by Mary Urmston *
Three Hearts and Three Lions - fantasy, by Poul Anderson *
Collected Stories for Children - children's (short stories), by Walter de la Mare (Carnegie Medal, 1947)
City of Gold and Other Stories from the Old Testament - children's Bible stories (short stories), by Peter Dickinson (Carnegie Medal, 1980)
Invasion of the Sea - SF, by Jules Verne
The Twisted Claw - children's mystery, by "Franklin W Dixon" *
Noninterference - SF, by Harry Turtledove *
Anson's Way - children's historical fiction, by Gary D Schmidt
Kaleidoscope - SF, fantasy and AH (short stories), by Harry Turtledove
The Secret of Skull Mountain - children's mystery, by "Franklin W Dixon" *
It All Started with Stones and Clubs - humour, by Richard Armour *
The 7 Professors of the Far North - children's adventure, by John Fardell
Earthgrip - SF, by Harry Turtledove
The Mystery of Skull Cap Island - children's mystery, by Marion Garthwaite *
The Ballad of Beta-2 - SF, by Samuel R Delany *
The Flight of the Silver Turtle - children's adventure, by John Fardell

Sixteen books last month, with eight rereads (marked by asterisks). To reach my goal of 210 books this year, I have to average 17.5 per month; I may not be able to catch up.

The two Carnegie Medal winners bring me up to 42 of 71. My thanks to the Eastern Connecticut State College Library, Willimantic CT, and the Andover Public Library, Andover CT, for the ILLs.

The Armour book could also be classified as military history. The full title, for those who have time to read it, is It All Started with Stones and Clubs: Being a Short History of War and Weaponry From Earliest Times to the Present, Noting the Gratifying Progress Made by Man Since His First Crude, Small-Scale Efforts to Do Away with Those Who Disagreed with Him.