29 April 2012

Victoria Cross: F. C. Roberts


Captain (acting Lieutenant-Colonel), Worcestershire Regiment

Born: 2 June 1891, Highbury, Middlesex
Died: 12 January 1982, Stanhope Bretby, Derbyshire

Citation: During continuous operations which covered over twelve days Lt-Col Roberts showed most conspicuous bravery, exceptional military skill in dealing with the many very difficult situations of the retirement, and amazing endurance and energy in encouraging aud inspiring all ranks under his command.
On one occasion the enemy attacked a village and had practically cleared it of our troops, when this officer got together an improvised party and led a counter-attack which temporarily drove the enemy out of the village, thus covering the retirement of troops on their flanks who would otherwise have been cut off.
The success of this action was entirely due to his personal valour and skill.

[London Gazette issue 30675 dated 8 May 1918, published 7 May 1918.]

Medal of Honor: T. B. McGuire, Jr.


Major, US Army Air Corps; commanding 431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, 13th Air Force

Born: 1 August 1920, Ridgewood, New Jersey
Died: 7 January 1945, Los Negros Island, Philippines

Citation: He fought with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity over Luzon, Philippine Islands. Voluntarily, he led a squadron of 15 P-38's as top cover for heavy bombers striking Mabalacat Airdrome [on 25 December 1944], where his formation was attacked by 20 aggressive Japanese fighters. In the ensuing action he repeatedly flew to the aid of embattled comrades, driving off enemy assaults while himself under attack and at times outnumbered 3 to 1, and even after his guns jammed, continuing the fight by forcing a hostile plane into his wingman's line of fire. Before he started back to his base he had shot down 3 Zeros. The next day he again volunteered to lead escort fighters on a mission to strongly defended Clark Field. During the resultant engagement he again exposed himself to attacks so that he might rescue a crippled bomber. In rapid succession he shot down 1 aircraft, parried the attack of 4 enemy fighters, 1 of which he shot down, single-handedly engaged 3 more Japanese, destroying 1, and then shot down still another, his 38th victory in aerial combat. On 7 January 1945, while leading a voluntary fighter sweep over Los Negros Island, he risked an extremely hazardous maneuver at low altitude in an attempt to save a fellow flyer from attack, crashed, and was reported missing in action. With gallant initiative, deep and unselfish concern for the safety of others, and heroic determination to destroy the enemy at all costs, Maj. McGuire set an inspiring example in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.

Note: In 1948, Fort Dix Army Air Base, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, was renamed McGuire Air Force Base in his honour.

22 April 2012

Victoria Cross: H. R. Martineau


Sergeant, Protectorate Regiment

Born: 31 October 1871, London
Died: 7 April 1916, Dunedin, New Zealand

Citation: On the 26th December, 1899, during the fight at Game Tree, near Mafeking, when the order to retire had been given, Sergeant Martineau stopped and picked up Corporal Le Camp, who had been struck down about 10 yards from the Boer trenches, and half dragged, half carried, him towards a bush about 150 yards from the trenches. In doing this Sergeant Martineau was wounded in the side, but paid no attention to it, and proceeded to stanch and bandage the wounds of his comrade, whom he, afterwards, assisted to retire. The firing while they were retiring was very heavy and Sergeant Martineau was again wounded. When shot the second time he was absolutely exhausted from supporting his comrade, and sank down unable to proceed further. He received three wounds, one of which necessitated the amputation of his arm near the shoulder

[London Gazette issue 27208 dated 6 Jul 1900, published 6 Jul 1900.]

Medal of Honor: R. D. De Wert


Hospital Corpsman, US Navy; 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines

Born: 17 November 1931, Taunton, Massachusetts
Died: 5 April 1951, North Korea

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HC, in action against enemy aggressor forces [in North Korea on 5 April 1951]. When a fire team from the point platoon of his company was pinned down by a deadly barrage of hostile automatic weapons fired and suffered many casualties, HC Dewert rushed to the assistance of 1 of the more seriously wounded and, despite a painful leg wound sustained while dragging the stricken marine to safety, steadfastly refused medical treatment for himself and immediately dashed back through the fireswept area to carry a second wounded man out of the line of fire. Undaunted by the mounting hail of devastating enemy fire, he bravely moved forward a third time and received another serious wound in the shoulder after discovering that a wounded marine had already died. Still persistent in his refusal to submit to first aid, he resolutely answered the call of a fourth stricken comrade and, while rendering medical assistance, was himself mortally wounded by a burst of enemy fire. His courageous initiative, great personal valor, and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming odds reflect the highest credit upon HC Dewert and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Note: USS De Wert (FFG 45) was named in his honour.

15 April 2012

Victoria Cross: R. K. Ridgeway


Captain, Bengal Staff Corps; attached 8th Gurkha Rifles

Born: 18 August 1848, Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland
Died: 11 October 1924, Harrogate, Yorkshire

Citation: THE Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross upon the undermentioned Officer, whose claim to the same has been submitted for Her Majesty's approval, for his gallant conduct at Konoma, on the Eastern Frontier of India, as recorded against his name; viz.:—
For conspicuous gallantry throughout the attack on Konoma, on the 22nd November, 1879, more especially in the final assault, when, under a heavy fire from the enemy, he rushed up to a barricade and attempted to tear down the planking surrounding it, to enable him to effect an entrance, in which act he received a very severe rifle shot wound in the left shoulder.

[London Gazette issue 24843 dated 11 May 1880, published 11 May 1880.]

Medal of Honor: G. Jordan


Sergeant, Company K, 9th US Cavalry

Born: 1847, Williamson County, Tennessee
Died: 24 October 1904

Citation: While commanding a detachment of 25 men at Fort Tularosa, N. Mex., [on 14 May 1880,] repulsed a force of more than 100 Indians. At Carrizo Canyon, N . Mex., while commanding the right of a detachment of 19 men, on 12 August 1881, he stubbornly held his ground in an extremely exposed position and gallantly forced back a much superior number of the enemy, preventing them from surrounding the command.

13 April 2012

Five new submarines named

ZUI this DoD press release:
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the next five Virginia-class attack submarines will be named the USS Illinois, the USS Washington, the USS Colorado, the USS Indiana, and the USS South Dakota.

Mabus named the Virginia-class submarines to honor the great contributions and support these states have given the military through the years.

“Each of these five states serves as home to military bases that support our national defense and provides men and women who volunteer to serve their country,” Mabus said. “I look forward to these submarines joining the fleet and representing these great states around the world.”

None of the five states has had a ship named for it for more than 49 years. The most recent to serve was the battleship the USS Indiana, which was decommissioned in October 1963.

The selection of Illinois, designated SSN 786, is the second ship to bear the state name and is home to the Navy’s one and only Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes where every enlisted sailor begins his or her service.

The selection of Washington, designated SSN 787, is the third ship to bear the state name and the state’s Puget Sound area, where the Navy’s third-largest fleet concentration is located.

The selection of Colorado, designated SSN 788, is the third ship to bear the state name. The second ship was a battleship that stood as the lead ship of her class and took part in the Tarawa invasion.

The selection of Indiana, designated SSN 789, is the third ship to bear the state name and is the home to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the Navy’s premier engineering, acquisition and sustainment organization which supports our maritime warriors.

The selection of South Dakota, designated SSN 790, is the third ship to bear the state name. The second ship was a battleship that also stood as the lead ship of her class and fought extensively in the Pacific theater during World War II.

“Prior ships carrying the names of these five states stood as defenders of freedom on the water. Now these states will represent the latest and greatest technology ever assembled to submerge below the surface and project power forward,” Mabus said.

So, just for the record....

USS Illinois (BB 7) - one of three Illinois-class battleships, commissioned 16 Sep 1901
Illinois (BB 65) - one of six Iowa-class battleships, laid down 15 Jan 1945 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard; canceled 12 Aug 1945

USS Washington (ACR 11) - one of four Tennessee-class armoured cruisers, commissioned 7 Aug 1906
USS Washington (BB 56) - one of two North Carolina-class battleships, commissioned 15 May 1941
(There were six previous ships named USS Washington, but according to DANFS they were named after the president, not the state.)

USS Colorado (ACR 7) - one of six Pennsylvania-class armoured cruisers, commissioned 19 Jan 1905
USS Colorado (BB 45) - one of three Colorado-class battleships, commissioned 30 Aug 1923
(There was one previous USS Colorado, named for the river rather than the state.)

USS Indiana (BB 1) - one of three Indiana-class battleships, commissioned 20 Nov 1895
Indiana (BB 50) - one of six South Dakota-class battleships, laid down 1 Nov 1920 at the New York Navy Yard; construction was cancelled 8 Feb 1922 in accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty.
USS Indiana (BB 58) - one of four South Dakota-class battleships, commissioned 30 Apr 1942

USS South Dakota (ACR 9) - one of six Pennsylvania-class armoured cruisers, commissioned 27 Jan 1908
South Dakota (BB 49) - one of six South Dakota-class battleships, laid down 15 Mar 1920 at the New York Navy Yard; construction was suspended 8 Feb 1922 in accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty and the unfinished hull was sold 25 Oct 1923
USS South Dakota (BB 57) - one of four South Dakota-class battleships, commissioned 20 Mar 1942

08 April 2012

Victoria Cross: J. Pearson


Private, 86th Regiment

Born: 2 October 1822, Rathdowney, Queen's County, Ireland
Died: 23 January 1900, near Madras, India

Citation: THE Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the under-mentioned Soldier, whose claim to the same has been submitted for Her Majesty's approval, on account of an Act of Bravery performed by him in India, as recorded against his name; viz.:
For having gallantly attacked a number of armed rebels, on the occasion of the storming of Jhansi, on the 3rd April, 1858, one of whom he killed, and bayonetted two others. He was himself wounded in the attack.
Also, for having brought in, at Calpee, under a heavy fire, Private Michael Burns, who afterwards died of his wounds.

[London Gazette issue 22381 dated 1 May 1860, published 1 May 1860.]

Notes: Jhansi and Calpee (now Kalpi) are in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India near Nepal.
Queen's County is now known as County Laois.

Medal of Honor: A. E. Schwab


Private First Class, US Marine Corps Reserve; Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines

Born: 17 July 1920, Washington, District of Columbia
Died: 7 May 1945, Okinawa

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a flamethrower operator in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Rykuyu Islands, 7 May 1945. Quick to take action when his company was pinned down in a valley and suffered resultant heavy casualties under blanketing machinegun fire emanating from a high ridge to the front, Pfc. Schwab, unable to flank the enemy emplacement because of steep cliffs on either side, advanced up the face of the ridge in bold defiance of the intense barrage and, skillfully directing the fire of his flamethrower, quickly demolished the hostile gun position, thereby enabling his company to occupy the ridge. Suddenly a second enemy machinegun opened fire, killing and wounding several marines with its initial bursts. Estimating with split-second decision the tactical difficulties confronting his comrades, Pfc. Schwab elected to continue his l-man assault despite a diminished supply of fuel for his flamethrower. Cool and indomitable, he moved forward in the face of a direct concentration of hostile fire, relentlessly closed the enemy position and attacked. Although severely wounded by a final vicious blast from the enemy weapon, Pfc. Schwab had succeeded in destroying 2 highly strategic Japanese gun positions during a critical stage of the operation and, by his dauntless, single-handed efforts, had materially furthered the advance of his company. His aggressive initiative, outstanding valor and professional skill throughout the bitter conflict sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

01 April 2012

Book list - Mar 12

Metzger's Dog - thriller, by Thomas Perry *
Poor Tom's Ghost - children's time travel, by Jane Louise Curry
Case for Three Detectives - mystery, by Leo Bruce
A Century of Progress - SF/AH, by Fred Saberhagen
Eye of the Storm - thriller, by Jack Higgins

Again, only five books last month, with the one reread marked by an asterisk. I did reread most of It Can't Happen Here - fiction, by Sinclair Lewis - but didn't get it finished before I had to return it to the library. (It was an ILL, so I couldn't renew it.)

George Cross: B. Spillett


Born: 1937
Died: 16 January 1965

Citation: The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to make the undermentioned award:
Brian SPILLETT (deceased), Detail Fitter, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire.

A fire broke out at a house, the home of a man and his wife and their child and the grandfather. The fire had reached an advanced stage when the family were aroused and it was only with great difficulty that the wife and child and the grandfather escaped. The father was still in the house when Mr. Spillett, attracted by shouting, came from his house a few doors away. He arrived only partly dressed. When he reached the door of the house both downstairs and upstairs were a mass of flames. Mr. Spillett enquired whether everyone was out of the house and on learning the father was still in it on the first floor, he ran straight into the flames. Attempts to hold him back were brushed aside. Mr. Spillett reached the first floor but was unable to rescue the father. By now the inside of the house was a blazing inferno and he only managed to escape himself by jumping through a first floor window. He was found some time later in the garden of an adjoining house, very extensively burnt and with other serious injuries. He died in hospital a week later. Mr. Spillett sacrificed his life in an effort to save that of a neighbour.

[London Gazette issue 43698 dated 29 June 1965, published 25 June 1965.]

Note: A detail fitter in civilian life, Mr Spillett was also a Lance-Bombardier in the Territorial Army (P Battery, 289 Parachute Light Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery).

Victoria Cross: J. Shepherd


Boatswain, Royal Navy; HMS St Jean d'Acre (attached Naval Brigade)

Born: 22 September 1817, Hull, East Yorkshire
Died: 17 December 1884, Padstow, Cornwall

Citation: Recommmended by Captain Keppel, for on the 15th July, 1855, while serving as Boatswain's Mate of the St. Jean d'Acre (attached to the Naval Brigade) proceeding in a punt with an exploding apparatus into the harbour of Sebastopol, to endeavour to blow up one of the Russian line-of-battle ships.
This service, which was twice attempted, is described by Lord Lyons "as a bold one, and gallantly executed." On the first occasion, Mr. Shepherd proceeded past the enemy's steam-boats, at the entrance of Careening Bay; but was prevented penetrating further by the long string of boats that were carrying troops from the south to the north side of Sebastopol. The second attempt was made on the 16th August, from the side of Careening Bay, in the possession of the French.
(Despatches from Captain Honourable H. Keppel in Admiral Lord Lyons' letter 10th May, 1856, and Admiral Lord Lyons, 4th October, 1855.)

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

Medal of Honor: R. J. Keppler


Boatswain's Mate First Class, US Navy; USS San Francisco (CA 38)

Born: 22 January 1918, Ralston, Washington
Died: 15 November 1942, off Guadalcanal

Citation: For extraordinary heroism and distinguished courage above and beyond the call of duty while serving aboard the U.S.S. San Francisco during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands, 12-13 November 1942. When a hostile torpedo plane, during a daylight air raid, crashed on the after machine-gun platform, Keppler promptly assisted in removal of the dead and, by his capable supervision of the wounded, undoubtedly helped save the lives of several shipmates who otherwise might have perished. That night, when the ship's hangar was set afire during the great battle off Savo Island, he bravely led a hose into the starboard side of the stricken area and there, without assistance and despite frequent hits from terrific enemy bombardment, eventually brought the fire under control. Later, although mortally wounded, he labored valiantly in the midst of bursting shells, persistently directing fire-fighting operations and administering to wounded personnel until he finally collapsed from loss of blood. His great personal valor, maintained with utter disregard of personal safety, was in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Note: USS Keppler (DE 311), USS Keppler (DE 375) and USS Keppler (DD 765) were named in his honour (though the first two were cancelled during construction).

Words of wisdom

April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.
-- Mark Twain
The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson