26 February 2012

Victoria Cross: H. F. Whitchurch

HARRY FREDERICK WHITCHURCH

Surgeon Captain, Bengal Medical Service

Born: 22 September 1866, Kensington, London
Died: 16 August 1907, Dharmsala, Punjab, India

Citation: During the sortie from Chitral Fort of the 3rd March last [1895], at the commencement of the siege, Surgeon-Captain Whitchurch went to the assistance of Captain Baird, 24th Bengal Infantry, who was mortally wounded, and brought him back to the fort under a heavy fire from the enemy. Captain Baird was on the right of the fighting line, and had only a small party of Gurkhas and men of the 4th Kashmir Rifles. He was wounded on the heights at a distance of a mile and a half from the fort. When Surgeon-Captain Whitchurch proceeded to his rescue, the enemy, in great strength, had broken through the fighting line; darkness had set in and Captain Baird, Surgeon-Captain Whitchurch, and the sepoys were completely isolated from assistance. Captain Baird was placed in a dooly by Surgeon-Captain Whitchurch, and the party then attempted to return to the fort. The Gurkhas bravely clung to the dooly until three were killed and a fourth was severely wounded. Surgeon-Captain Whitchurch then put Captain Baird upon his back and carried him some distance with heroic courage and resolution. The little party kept diminishing in numbers, being fired at the whole way. On one or two occasions Surgeon-Captain Whitchurch was obliged to charge walls, from behind which the enemy kept up an incessant fire. At one place particularly the whole party was in imminent danger of being cut up, having been surrounded by the enemy. Surgeon-Captain Whitchurch gallantly rushed the position, and eventually succeeded in getting Captain Baird and the sepoys into the fort.
Nearly all the party were wounded, Captain Baird receiving two additional wounds before reaching the fort.

[London Gazette issue 26644 dated 16 Jul 1895, published 16 July 1895.]

Medal of Honor: M. Kocak

MATEJ KOCAK

Sergeant, US Marine Corps

Born: 31 December 1882, Gbely, Austria
Died: 4 October 1918, Champagne, France

Citation: For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, 2d Division, in action in the Viller-Cottertes section, south of Soissons, France, 18 July 1918. When a hidden machinegun nest halted the advance of his battalion, Sgt. Kocak went forward alone unprotected by covering fire and worked his way in between the German positions in the face of heavy enemy fire. Rushing the enemy position with his bayonet, he drove off the crew. Later the same day, Sgt. Kocak organized French colonial soldiers who had become separated from their company and led them in an attack on another machinegun nest which was also put out of action.

Citation: When the advance of his battalion was checked by a hidden machinegun nest, he went forward alone, unprotected by covering fire from his own men, and worked in between the German positions in the face of fire from enemy covering detachments. Locating the machinegun nest, he rushed it and with his bayonet drove off the crew. Shortly after this he organized 25 French colonial soldiers who had become separated from their company and led them in attacking another machinegun nest, which was also put out of action.


Notes: Kocak was one of five Marines who received both Navy and Army medals for a single action during World War I.
USNS Sgt Matej Kocak (T-AK 3005), formerly SS John B Waterman, was renamed in his honour when it was taken over by the Military Sealift Command.
Gbely is now in Slovakia.

22 February 2012

Save one book....

If all the books in the world were about to disappear, and you could save one - and only one - which one would you pick? That's what Ali B and her fourth-grade son Mateo are asking over at Literary Lunchbox....

19 February 2012

Victoria Cross: R. H. Keatinge

RICHARD HARTE KEATINGE

Major, Bombay Artillery

Born: 17 June 1825, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 24 May 1904, Horsham, Sussex

Citation: For having rendered most efficient aid at the assault of Chundairee [on 17 March 1858], in voluntarily leading the Column through the breach, which was protected by a heavy cross fire. He was one of the foremost to enter, and was severely wounded in the breach. The Column was saved from a serious loss that would probably have resulted, but for Major Keatinge's knowledge of the small path leading across the ditch, which had been examined during the night by himself and a servant, who declined, when required, to lead the Column, without his master. Having cleared the breach; he led into the Fort, where he was struck down by another dangerous wound. The Commander-in-Chief in India states that the success at Chundairee was mainly owing to this Officer, whose gallantry, really brilliant, he considers was equalled by his ability and devotion.
Major Keatinge was at the time a Political Officer with the 2nd Brigade of the Central India Field Force.

[London Gazette issue 22601 dated 25 Feb 1862, published 25 Feb 1862.]


Note: Chundairee (modern Chunderi) is in Madhya Pradesh state, in central India.

Medal of Honor: W. M. Corry, Jr.

WILLIAM MERRILL CORRY JR

Lieutenant Commander, US Navy

Born: 5 October 1889, Quincy, Florida
Died: 6 October 1920, Hartford, Connecticut

Citation: For heroic service in attempting to rescue a brother officer from a flame-enveloped airplane. On 2 October 1920, an airplane in which Lt. Comdr. Corry was a passenger crashed and burst into flames [near Hartford, Connecticut]. He was thrown 30 feet clear of the plane and, though injured, rushed back to the burning machine and endeavored to release the pilot. In so doing he sustained serious burns, from which he died 4 days later.


Notes: At the time of his death, Corry was assigned as aviation aide to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, aboard USS Pennsylvania (BB 38).
USS Corry (DD 334), USS Corry (DD 463), USS Corry (DD 817) and Corry Field (now NTTC Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida) were named in his honour.

18 February 2012

Washington's Birthday

5 USC § 6103 - HOLIDAYS

(a) The following are legal public holidays:
New Year’s Day, January 1.
Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the third Monday in January.
Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday in February.
Memorial Day, the last Monday in May.
Independence Day, July 4.
Labor Day, the first Monday in September.
Columbus Day, the second Monday in October.
Veterans Day, November 11.
Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November.
Christmas Day, December 25.

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

2011 Connecticut Code
Title 1 Provisions of General Application
Chapter 2 Legal Holidays and Standard of Time
Sec. 1-4. Days designated as legal holidays.


Sec. 1-4. Days designated as legal holidays. In each year the first day of January (known as New Year's Day), the fifteenth day of January of each year prior to 1986, and commencing on the twentieth day of January in 1986, the first Monday occurring on or after January fifteenth (known as Martin Luther King Day), the twelfth day of February (known as Lincoln Day), the third Monday in February (known as Washington's Birthday), the last Monday in May (known as Memorial Day or Decoration Day), the fourth day of July (known as Independence Day), the first Monday in September (known as Labor Day), the second Monday in October (known as Columbus Day), the eleventh day of November (known as Veterans' Day) and the twenty-fifth day of December (known as Christmas) and any day appointed or recommended by the Governor of this state or the President of the United States as a day of thanksgiving, fasting or religious observance, shall each be a legal holiday[.]

17 February 2012

New destroyer names announced

The Navy has announced that the next three Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers (DDG 113-115) will be named after Medal of Honor recipients John Finn (23 Jul 1909–27 May 2010) and Ralph Johnson (1 Jan 1949–5 Mar 1968), and Navy Cross recipient Rafael Peralta (7 Apr 1979–15 Nov 2004). All three ships are currently under construction; USS John Finn is scheduled for delivery in late 2015, and USS Ralph Johnson in late 2016.

ZUI this article from the Defense Times.

12 February 2012

Victoria Cross: W. M'Wheeney

WILLIAM M'WHEENEY

Serjeant, 44th Regiment

Born: 1830, Bangor, County Down, Ireland
Died: 17 May 1866, Dover, Kent

Citation: Volunteered as sharpshooter at the commencement of the siege, and was in charge of the party of the 44th Regiment; was always vigilant and active, and signalised himself on the 20th October, 1854, when one of his party, Private John Keane, 44th Regiment, was dangerously wounded in the Woronzoff Road, at the time the sharpshooters were repulsed from the Quarries by overwhelming numbers. Serjeant M'Wheeney, on his return, took the wounded man on his back, and brought him to a place of safety. This was under a very heavy fire.
He was also the means of saving the life of Corporal Courtney. This man was one of the sharpshooters, and was severely wounded in the head, 5th December, 1854. Serjeant M'Wheeney brought him from under fire, and dug up a slight cover with his bayonet, where the two remained until dark, when they retired.
Serjeant M'Wheeney volunteered for the advanced guard of General Eyre's Brigade, in the Cemetery, on the 18th June, 1855, and was never absent from duty during the war.

[London Gazette issue 21971 dated 24 Feb 1857, published 24 Feb 1857.]

Medal of Honor: J. G. Hanson

JACK G HANSON

Private First Class, US Army; Company F, 31st Infantry Regiment

Born: 18 September 1930, Escaptawpa, Mississippi
Died: 7 June 1951, near Pachi-dong, Korea

Citation: Pfc. Hanson, a machine gunner with the 1st Platoon, Company F, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations [near Pachi-dong, Korea, on 7 June 1951]. The company, in defensive positions on two strategic hills separated by a wide saddle, was ruthlessly attacked at approximately 0300 hours, the brunt of which centered on the approach to the divide within range of Pfc. Hanson's machine gun. In the initial phase of the action, 4 riflemen were wounded and evacuated and the numerically superior enemy, advancing under cover of darkness, infiltrated and posed an imminent threat to the security of the command post and weapons platoon. Upon orders to move to key terrain above and to the right of Pfc. Hanson's position, he voluntarily remained to provide protective fire for the withdrawal. Subsequent to the retiring elements fighting a rearguard action to the new location, it was learned that Pfc. Hanson's assistant gunner and 3 riflemen had been wounded and had crawled to safety, and that he was maintaining a lone-man defense. After the 1st Platoon reorganized, counterattacked, and resecured its original positions at approximately 0530 hours, Pfc. Hanson's body was found lying in front of his emplacement, his machine gun ammunition expended, his empty pistol in his right hand, and a machete with blood on the blade in his left hand, and approximately 22 enemy dead lay in the wake of his action. Pfc. Hanson's consummate valor, inspirational conduct, and willing self-sacrifice enabled the company to contain the enemy and regain the commanding ground, and reflect lasting glory on himself and the noble traditions of the military service.

07 February 2012

Augusta Chiwi honoured

It's not exactly new news, but I just ran across this article (dated 12 Dec 11) from the Marine Corps Times:
A Belgian nurse who saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge was given a U.S. award for valor Monday — 67 years late.

Congolese-born Augusta Chiwy, now 93, received the Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service medal from U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman at a ceremony in the military museum in Brussels.

“She helped, she helped, and she helped,” Gutman said at the ceremony. He said the long delay in presenting the award was because it was assumed that Chiwy had been killed when a bomb destroyed her hospital.

*******

“What I did was very normal,” Chiwy said during the ceremony. “I would have done it for anyone. We are all children of God.”

But Col. J.P. McGee, who commands a brigade of the 101st Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Ky., said that to the wounded soldiers Chiwy was “a goddess.”

“Men lived and families were reunited due to your efforts,” he said.

McGee said the Army’s doctor in Bastogne, John Prior, had joked that the German snipers couldn’t hit Chiwy because she was so tiny. But Chiwy, who moved to Belgium from the colony of Congo before the war, responded that they were just bad shots.

*******

After the battle, Chiwy slipped into obscurity, working as a hospital nurse treating spinal injuries. She married a Belgian soldier and had two children.

Fans of the Band of Brothers mini-series will remember Chiwy (whose name is also spelt Chiwi) as the black nurse who appeared in episode six, "Bastogne."

RIP: Florence Green

Florence Green
19 Feb 1901 - 5 Feb 2012


The last known veteran of World War I has died, just two and a half years before the centennial of that war's beginning. ZUI this article from the Eastern Daily Press:
She passed away in her sleep at a care home in King’s Lynn just two weeks before her 111th birthday.

The great-grandmother was only 17-years-old when she joined the Women’s Royal Air Force in the late summer of 1918.

Come the 11th day of the 11th month, she was working as a waitress at RAF Marham, when the pilots greeted news of the German surrender by clambering into their planes and bombing nearby RAF Narborough airfield with bags of flour.

Last year, she became the last surviving person to have seen active service in the first world war following the death of British-born sailor Claude Choules in Australia last year.

*******

She married her husband Walter – a porter at King’s Lynn station – two years after the war. They had three children together, Mr Green passed away in 1970.

As well as her daughter May, she also leaves behind her youngest daughter, June Evetts, 76, who lives in Oundle, near Peterborough and a son, Bob, 86, who lives in Edinburgh. She is also survived by four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

*******

Mrs Green was only identified as a surviving war veteran in 2008, when a researcher of gerontology found her service record, listed under her maiden name, Patterson, at the National Archives.

Though she never saw the front line, her service in the WRAF qualifies her for veteran status.

*******

The WRAF in which Mrs Green served was founded only months before she joined up. Its original intent was to provide female mechanics in order to free up men for service.

But the organisation saw huge enrolment, with women volunteering for positions as drivers and mechanics and filling other wartime needs.

*******

History certainly records RAF Marham as a busy place to have served, as the battle in the skies grew in significance as the war progressed. FE2bs, RE7s, BE2s – wooden aircraft with engines less powerful than those on most modern motorbikes – set off for bombing raids throughout the day.

Today it is the base for four squadrons of Tornadoes, ground-attack aircraft that are still serving in Afghanistan. The pilots of these supersonic jets have rather different concerns than their First World War counterparts.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Mrs Green was the sixth-oldest person in England at the time of her death.

Doesn't seem possible that it's been fifty years since was reading the WWI sesquitennial articles in Life magazine - I still remember the fold-outs and the pages full of photographs.

Edit 0951 17 Feb 12: ZUI also this article, with photographs, from the MOD Defence News.

05 February 2012

George Cross: Awang anak Rawang

AWANG anak RAWANG

Iban Scout; attached 10 Platoon, D Company, 1st Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment

Born: 1925, Federation of Malaya
Died: TBD

Citation: During operations against the bandits in Malaya a section of a platoon of the Worcestershire Regiment was ambushed by about 50 of the enemy. The leading scout was killed instantly and the Section Commander fatally wounded. Awang anak Rawang was hit through the thigh bone and at the same time a soldier, moving behind him, was hit below the knee, the bullet completely shattering the bone. Awang anak Rawang, although wounded and lying exposed under heavy rifle and automatic fire, collected his own weapons and that of the soldier and dragged him into the cover of the jungle. In view of the impending bandit attack Awang, completely disregarding his own wound, took up a position to defend the injured man. There he remained, firing on every attempt made by the bandits to approach, and successfully drove off several attacks. Ultimately Awang was again wounded, the bullet shattering his right arm and rendering further use of his rifle or parang impossible. Despite loss of blood from his undressed wounds, he dragged himself over to the wounded soldier and took a grenade from the man's pouch. He resumed his position on guard, pulled out the pin of the grenade with his teeth and with the missile in his left hand defied the bandits to approach. So resolute was his demeanour that the bandits, who had maintained their attacks for some forty minutes, and who were now threatened by the other sections, withdrew.
The coolness, fortitude and offensive spirit displayed by Awang anak Rawang were of the highest order. Despite being twice severely wounded he showed the utmost courage and resolution to continue the fight and protect the injured soldier.

[London Gazette issue 39387 dated 20 Nov 191, published 16 Nov 1951.]

Victoria Cross: J. B. Mackey

JOHN BERNARD MACKEY

Corporal, 2nd/3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion, Australian Military Forces

Born: 16 May 1922, Leichhardt, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died: 12 May 1945, Tarakan Island, Borneo

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery in the face of strong enemy resistance in the attack on the Helen feature at Tarakan on 12th May, 1945.
Corporal Mackey was in charge of a section of the 2nd/3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion in the attack on the feature known as Helen, East of Tarakan town. Led by Corporal Mackey the section moved along a narrow spur with scarcely width for more than one man when it came under fire from three well sited positions near the top of a very steep razor-backed ridge. The ground fell away almost sheer on each side of the track making it almost impossible to move to a flank so Corporal Mackey led his men forward.
He charged the first Light Machine Gun position but slipped and after wrestling with one enemy, bayoneted him, and charged straight on to the Heavy Machine Gun which was firing from a bunker position six yards to his right. He rushed this post and killed the crew with grenades.
He then jumped back and changing his rifle for a sub-machine gun he attacked farther up the steep slope another Light Machine Gun position which was firing on his platoon. Whilst charging he fired his gun and reached within a few feet of the enemy position when he was killed by Light Machine Gun fire but not before he had killed two more enemy.
By his exceptional bravery and complete disregard for his own life Corporal Mackey was largely responsible for the killing of seven Japanese and the elimination of two machine gun posts which enabled his platoon to gain its objective, from which the Company continued to engage the enemy. His fearless action and outstanding courage were an inspiration to the whole battalion.

[London Gazette issue 37340 dated 8 Nov 1945, published 6 Nov 1945.]

Medal of Honor: E. V. Rickenbacker

EDWARD VERNON RICKENBACKER

First Lieutenant, US Army Air Corps; 94th Aero Squadron

Born: 8 October 1890, Columbus, Ohio
Died: 27 July 1973, Z├╝rich, Switzerland

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, 25 September 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines, 1st Lt. Rickenbacker attacked 7 enemy planes (5 type Fokker, protecting two type Halberstadt). Disregarding the odds against him, he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.


Note: Rickenbacker was the top US ace of World War I, with a total of 26 enemy aircraft. In addition to the Medal of Honor, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with six oak leaf clusters denoting subsequent awards.
Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base (formerly Rickenbacker Air Force Base) and Rickenbacker International Airport, both in Columbus OH, were named in his honour.

01 February 2012

Book list - Jan 12

Dead As a Dinosaur - mystery, by Frances and Richard Lockridge
When The Star Kings Die - SF, by John Jakes
Cats Are Not Peas: A Calico History of Genetics - genetics, by Laura Gould


A very slow start to the year - only three books last month (none a reread), though I also read about half of Scavenger, by David Morrell, before giving up on it. Again, I'm not setting an official goal this year.

No more Carnegie Medal winners yet, so I'm still at 56 of 72.