Monday, May 29, 2017

Star Trek's 'Scotty' Was Canadian Army Officer During D-Day

'Commander Scott' used to be Lt. Doohan

To the world he was best known as "Commander Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott," chief engineer aboard the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie franchise "Star Trek." Known for his swagger, technical know-how and thick Scottish accent, Commander Scott graced screens large and small (in real-life series or movies, cartoons or video games) for 31 years, beginning in 1966. However, the actor that played Commander Scott, James Montgomery "Jimmy" Doohan (March 3, 1920-July 20, 2005) was not Scottish, but born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and had a noteworthy career during World War II serving in the Canadian Army. 
Royal Canadian Artillery insignia

Doohan was the youngest of four children born to William Patrick Doohan and his wife, the former Sarah Frances Montgomery. His father, an Irish immigrant from Northern Ireland, practiced several professions during his life, including: pharmacist, veterinarian and dentist.  In addition, Doohan's father is actually credited with inventing an early version of high-octane gasoline in 1923.

The family settled in Sarnia, Ontario, where Doohan attended high school and excelled in both mathematics and science. He then entered the 102nd Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in 1938.

At the very beginning of World War II, Doohan joined the ranks of the Royal Canadian Artillery and was assigned to the 14th (Midland) Field Battery, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division as an enlisted soldier. The division was mobilized for war on September 1, 1939 and was composed of three brigades, composed of soldiers from regional lines.

Doohan while a corporal 
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was a new unit, created specifically for impending hostilities with Germany, so it took some time to sort out its organizational command structure. But, on August 1, 1940, the division steamed for Great Britain on orders to join the British Army in its fight against the German Axis.

During the formation of the 2nd Canadian Infantry, Doohan served as a model soldier and, at a time when the Canadian Army could use all of the good artillery officers it could find, was split from his unit and sent to officer's training in England, in 1940.

Upon graduating from officers training, Doohan was assigned to the 14th Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. The 3rd Canadian Division, nicknamed "The Water Rats," was reactivated for World War II, and previously fought in World War I (1915-1919). This second iteration of the 3rd Division would serve throughout World War II (1940-1946).
14th Artillery Regiment insignia

So, it was Lieutenant Doohan who disembarked from his unit's landing craft on June 6, 1944, during the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach.

In an article for, Doohan would later say of the invasion, "The sea was rough. We were more afraid of drowning than (we were of) the Germans." Doohan downplayed the peril he and his men faced that day, though, as the Canadians had to cross a minefield laid for armored vehicles.

German defenders of Normandy fought furiously to keep hold of Occupied France and Doohan was shot by an enemy machine-gunner, taking six bullets. One German bullet blew off his middle right finger, four struck his leg and one hit him in the chest. However, luckily, a silver cigarette case stopped that bullet from penetrating his skin.

Throughout his Postwar acting career, Doohan would go to lengths to hide the missing finger that he left back in Normandy.

After Normandy, Doohan went on to attend, and graduate from, the Air Observation Pilot Course with 11 other officers. As an artillery officer, rather than as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Doohan flew for the 666 (AOP) Squadron for the RCAF scouting enemy movements on battlefields from France to Germany for the rest of the war.

Lieutenant James Montgomery Doohan 

With the war's end, rather than continue in the Army, Doohan returned to his native Canada and began his acting career after attending drama school in Toronto.

Doohan credited his Army experiences for helping him out with his 'Star Trek' role, as he patterned his signature Scottish accent from a roommate he had who was Scottish while in uniform.

During his tenure in the Canadian Army, Doohan earned, along with his commission, the Canadian Atlantic Star Medal, for aircrew service in Europe, France and Germany; the France and Germany Star, for service in Europe; and the War Medal (1939-45), for his service during the war, among others.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

'Twilight Zone' Creator Serling Was A World War II Paratrooper

'Twilight Zone' creator Rod Serling

"The Twilight Zone" was an American television anthology series created by a former World War II paratrooper from the 11th Airborne Division, which began an original television run between 1959-1964, saw a revival from 1985-1989 and a second revival from 2002-2003. No doubt there will be yet another revival and another after that one day. 

The episodes were and are eclectic and include the genres of psychological horror, fantasy, science fiction, suspense and of psychological thrillers. Needless to say, The Twilight Zone is an American institution among many generations of the American television-watching public. The show was created by Rodman Edward "Rod" Serling (December 25, 1924-June 28, 1975).

During WWII Rod Serling served with the 11th Airborne Div.

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs, and explosions, and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, ideas, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy. A thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is, is that these things can not be confined to the Twighlight Zone."

Rod Serling was born in Syracuse, New York to a Jewish family. Prior to settling down and getting married, Serling's father, Samuel Lawrence Serling, was an inventor before he took up being a grocer to earn a steady income for his family. Serling's mother was the former Esther Cooper. The Serlings had two children, Rod and Robert.

Like so many other families, the Great Depression of 1929 hit the Serling household hard, so Rod's father was forced to close his grocery store and become a butcher to make ends meet.

Rod was an athletic boy, despite his 5' 4" stature, and excelled at tennis and table tennis. In high school, he attempted to join the junior varsity football team at his school but was considered too small by the coaches there. Serling was also editor of his high school newspaper and encouraged other students to support the war effort, as America entered the Second World War.
Serling as a young trooper

Serling took his own advice about the war, and enlisted in the United States Army the morning after he graduated from high school.

Serling was dedicated to the American and Allied cause during the war, which was made evident by him joining the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division. He and other troopers trained at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. The training camp actually lacked a rifle range, so airborne trainees had to march 30 miles to the Clemson Agricultural College to practice marksmanship on the college's shooting range. Serling and the other young paratroopers trained for more than a year, and the scrappy kid from Upstate New York earned the Army's coveted Parachutist Badge.

While undergoing training, Serling tried his hand at boxing. He competed as a flyweight in 17 inter-divisional bouts, and was known for his "berserker style" and for getting his nose broken in his first bout and his last one.

Finally, after God only knows how many push-ups and pull-ups, forced-marches, all-night training events, practice parachute drops and drills, Serling and the rest of the 11th Airborne Division, then under the command of Major General Joseph May Swing, received orders to the Pacific Theater on April 25, 1944.
The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment crest

The 11th Airborne's 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, then under the command of Col. Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen.

The first stop for the division was New Guinea, where the force would be held in reserve for a few months. Then, in November, 1944, the division was sent up against the forces of Imperial Japan in its first combat at the landing in the Philippines. The 11th Airborne was not air-dropped during the action, but rather used as light infantry during the assault on the Japanese at the Battle of Leyte.
Shortly after Leyte, Serling was transferred to the 511th Regiment;s demolition platoon, nicknamed by some veterans as their "Death Squad" for its high casualty rate. According to Sgt. Frank Lewis, who was an NCO in the platoon, "[Serling] screwed up somewhere along the line. Apparently, he got on someone's nerves."

By Serling's own admission, his time with the 11th Airborne in the Philippines shaped his writing and political views for the remainder of his life. He saw death day in and day out while with the 511th in combat. One incident, in particular, would mark him. During a lull at Leyte, a friend of Serling's, Private Melvin Levy, was beneath a crate that was dropped by the U.S. Army Air Force. Apparently, the crate of ammunition dropped squarely on his friend, smashing him to death under the weight of the container. Serling marked Levy's grave with a Star of David to honor the soldier's Jewish heritage.

The 11th Airborne trek across the Pacific during World War II

Serling did not leave Leyte physically unscathed either.

He received two wounds during the fighting, one to the wrist and another to his kneecap. However, that didn't prevent Serling from being there when the 511th conducted a combat drop on Tagaytay Ridge, on Feb. 3, 1945. From its drop zone, the 511th PIR, along with other Allied forces, marched on the Japanese-held city of Manila. Though the Allies were met with light resistance at first, fighting became bitter and was conducted block-by-block.
Serling (center) with fellow soldiers in the 511th PIR

The Japanese had a 17,000-soldier force holding the Philippine's capitol city. During the next month, Serling and the 511th paid for every yard in blood to reclaim Manila.

The fight cost the 511th a 50-percent casualty rate, with more than 400 troopers killed in action.

During the Manilla action, grateful civilians would hold celebrations for the soldiers in blocks that were well-cleared of Japanese occupiers.

It was during one such night that a Japanese artillery mission caught many civilians and soldiers in the line of fire. According to Sgt. Lewis, Serling ran from a protected position to rescue a civilian who had been on a stage when the artillery began to rain down.

For his bravery that night, Serling would eventually be awarded the Bronze Star. But, he had also been injured by shrapnel. This time, though, he was not patched up and sent back to the line, but sent to New Guinea to recover before being sent back to Manila.

The Bronze Star Medal
Serling would return for his final assignment, which was as part of the Army of Occupation in Japan. During his term of service, Serling, who rose to the rank of Technician Fourth Grade, would earn not only the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, but also the Philippine Liberation Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal, among other awards.

Serling would later say of the war, "I was bitter about everything and at loose ends when I got out of the service. I think I turned to writing to get it off my chest."

Serling went on to a storied career in Hollywood, where his Twilight Zone stories have fueled the imaginations of untold millions for decades. Yet, it was the terrible service he saw during World War II, in the service of his country, that left its unmistakable mark on Serling and his work.

Rod Serling passed away on June 28, 1975 and was interred at Lake View Cemetery, in Interlaken, New York. Still, Rod Serling is with us today, through the many celebrated works of film he has left behind.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Commander Richard M. Nixon and World War II

LCDR Richard M. Nixon

Richard M. Nixon (Jan. 19, 1913-April 22, 1994) was the 36th president of the United States. It was the culmination of President Nixon's political career that he would serve as the chief executive of the United States from 1969-1974. 

President Nixon was a breed of president the likes of which is not seen much anymore. He was a successful lawyer, in private life, who was courted by some of the countries leading firms. Yet, at the beginning of World War II (1941-1945), when he was already a government lawyer and could have been exempted from military service, he requested and was granted a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a lieutenant junior grade.

U.S. Navy commander insignia
President Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. After completing his bachelor's degree at Whittier College, he went on to attend, and graduate from, the Duke University School of Law, in 1937. While attending Duke, President Nixon did so on a full academic scholarship. Aside from his normal academic life there, President Nixon was elected as president of the Duke Bar Association and inducted into the Order of the Coif.

The future president of the U.S. did apply to the FBI upon his graduation from Duke. However, he never heard back from his letter requesting application. Years later, President Nixon would find out that he was, in fact, hired by the FBI but his appointment was nixed at the last moment by budget cutbacks.

President Nixon married the former Patricia Ryan in 1940, and the couple would go on to have daughters Tricia (b. 1946) and Julie (b. 1948).

In 1937, though, President Nixon was admitted to the California bar. His first job as a lawyer was with the firm of Wingert and Bewley, in his hometown of Whittier. Mostly, President Nixon worked on commercial litigation for local petroleum companies, but he also worked on some corporate matters. President Nixon was evidently successful as a young attorney because, in 1938, he opened up his own branch of Wingert and Bewley in La Habra, California and was made a full partner in the firm by 1939.
U.S. Naval Reserve Lt. Richard M. Nixon

There is some historical controversy about what happened next. Some historical accounts say that President Nixon received an appointment by the Federal Office of Emergency Management, while others offer that President Nixon took a job at the Office of Price Administration. In either case, he is reported to have been in charge of correspondences, which was a job that did not suit President Nixon.

So, with the war gearing up following the attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, President Nixon did what he thought the right thing was, which in his case was to request a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Not only was he employed by the government as an attorney, which could have precluded him from military service, but he was also a Quaker and, as such, could have received a deferment on that basis. He chose to serve his country, as so many others were doing, as it was being thrown head-long into a two-front war, separated by thousands of miles and several continents. This came at a time when, as a successful young lawyer with a new wife, he could have avoided the whole thing altogether.

President Nixon received his commission as a lieutenant junior grade on June 15, 1942 and was assigned as the aide to the commander of  Naval Air Station Ottumwa, Iowa. Though President Nixon excelled at his duties and learned a great deal about the machinations of the Navy, he wanted to get closer to the action of the war. So, President Nixon requested sea duty and, on October 1, 1943 was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and reassigned as the naval passenger control officer for the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command. This command was vital to the war effort and supported the logistics operations throughout the South Western Pacific Theater.
World War II Victory Medal

The future president dedicated himself to his work and became the officer in charge of the Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal in the Solomons in March, 1944, thereafter at Green Island (a.k.a. Nissan Island), just north of Bougainville. His unit prepared manifests and flight plans for all C-47 aircraft operations and supervised the loading and unloading of aircraft.

For his service, President Nixon was awarded the first of two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals he would receive uniform.

In January, 1945, with the tide of the war decidedly turning in favor of the United States and its Allies on all fronts, then-Lt. Nixon was ordered to return to the United States and transferred to the Bureau of Aeronautics Office in Philadelphia. There he helped to negotiate the termination of war contracts for the United States Navy. His efforts were noted and, for the balance of the year, President Nixon traveled around the country negotiating the termination of war contracts. In October, 1945, his efforts were again recognized when President Nixon was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-commander.

President Nixon was very successful in his negotiations and was made an offer by the Navy to remain in uniform and serve as a Regular Navy officer after the war's conclusion .However, the future president turned down the offer and decided to return to private life with the war's end.

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal

On October 3, 1947, LCDR Richard M. Nixon departed Active Duty and became an inactive officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve. On June 1, 1953, he was promoted to the rank of commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, a branch of the military he retired from on June 6, 1966.

What makes a patriot? This is something that can be argued all day long. However, to my view, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a must be a duck. President Nixon had no incentive to become a military officer. He was already the partner of a successful law firm and a U.S. Government attorney by the time the war broke out. He had a young wife and a world of promise was set before him. However, like millions of Americans before and since, he took his Oath of Allegiance to serve this nation during times of war. For me, the definition of patriotism means performing acts of citizenship not only when it is convenient, but when it is inconvenient...even dangerous.
World War II Asiatic Campaign Medal

Not many presidents recently have served in the United States Armed Forces, and I think our nation is the poorer for that lack of experience. As someone so integrally involved in the Pacific war effort, President Nixon gained invaluable knowledge of the military and how it works from a first-hand view; experience that would help him later as vice president, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and then as president.

Some people remember only the scandals of the Nixon Administration, but not its successes -- some of which can still be seen today. It was President Nixon who opened up China to the West, who ended the terrible Vietnam War, who stood toe-to-toe against Russian aggression around the world and created the foundation of America winning the Cold War. Richard M. Nixon was a man of many parts, and like all of us, some parts were better than others. Still, during the dark days of World War II, it can be said that when his country called, Richard M. Nixon answered.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chamberlain's 20th Maine Saves the Union at Little Round Top

The legendary advance of the 20th Maine Regiment

The most decisive battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, was fought between July 1-3 in and around the small Pennsylvania town. It was an epic and deadly clash that pitted the Union Army of the Potomac, and its newly appointed commander, Major Genera George G. Meade, against the Army of Northern Virginia, and its legendary commander, General Robert E. Lee.

Gettysburg in History

The Battle of Gettysburg would be the most strategic struggle of the Civil War (April 12, 1861-May 9, 1865) and the most bloody. Going into the clash, Gen. Lee's army numbered approximately 71,000-75,000 soldiers. Meade's army outnumbered the rebels, with a force of 104,256. By the battle's end, though, Gen. Lee would suffer loses between 23,000-28,000, while Union forces would sustain 23,048 casualties.

'Gettysburg was not a battlefield that either Gen. Lee or MG. Meade had picked to hold their fight.'
This second invasion of the North by Gen. Lee would prove to be his last and the high-water mark for the Confederacy. Before Gettysburg, the contest between North and South was one hallmarked by frequent Southern victories and advances. Afterward, the South would never again be in striking range of subduing the Union Army. 

The Army of Northern Virginia began its invasion of the North on June 3, 1863. Gen. Lee's objective for the invasion was to advance across the Potomac River, which separated Union Forces from Washington, DC. He hoped that by effectively striking Washington, he could compel President Abraham Lincoln to sue for peace terms from the Southern Confederacy. All that stood between Gen. Lee and the realization of his mission was the Army of the Potomac, which he had beaten regularly for two years at that point, and MG Meade, who was just one of a succession of generals that had been promoted to that post only to be dismissed.

In fact, Meade's predecessor, MG Joseph Hooker was marching north with Union Forces when, during a brief respite in Frederick, Maryland, he was informed that he was relieved of command of Northern forces, in favor of MG Meade.
MG Meade's task was not a simple one: He faced Gen. Lee's forces, including those of Confederate corps commanders Lieutenant-General James "Pete" Longstreet and LTG Ambrose P. "AP" Hill, which were moving along the Chambersburg Road in southern Pennsylvania, while LTG Richard S. Ewell was leading his corps west from York. One piece of luck MG Meade did enjoy was that the eyes of the Southern force, specifically MG J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry, was performing a screening mission against the Union's forces and did not report back to Gen. Lee's headquarters until after the two forces had clashed for the first two days of the battle.
Col. (later MG) Joshua L. Chamberlain

Gettysburg was not a battlefield that either Gen. Lee or MG Meade had picked to hold their fight. Like many things in war, it happened as an accident.

Unexpected by either force, Union Cavalry Division Commander Brigadier General John Buford encountered elements of the Confederate division commanded by MG Henry "Harry" Heth, which belonged to LTG Hill's corps) on the Chambersburg Pike. LTG Hill, under orders from Gen. Lee, reinforced Heth's position while BG Buford was reinforced by the Union division commanded by MG John Reynolds, who was killed in action that first day.

Both Gen. Lee and MG Meade were caught entirely off guard by the actions that were fast taking place at Gettysburg and both them, their staffs and their commanders worked quickly to acclimate themselves to the situation.

From the very beginning of the fight, the matter of which army was going to hold the heights surrounding Gettysburg was they key issue involved in the battle. Big Round Top is the commanding position on the battlefield, with Little Round Top being adjacent to the taller hill. While the approach to Big Round Top was highly defensible, the approach to Little Round Top was not so, and was thereby able to be exploited by an attacking enemy.

Col. Strong Vincent's 3rd Brigade

By the end of the first day, it was simply the fortunes of war that it was the undersized 3rd Brigade, 1st Division of the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Col. Strong Vincent, that held a tenuous grip on the vital piece of real-estate that was Little Round Top. With the first terrible day of fighting coming to a close, it was the Union that ended up commanding the heights of the battlefield.
Col. Vincent's command was comprised of the 16th Michigan Regiment, the 12th and 44th New York regiments, the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a company of Michigan sharpshooters and the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
This graphic depicts the grading of Little Round Top at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg

The commanding general of the Army of the Potomac was not the only new commander at Gettysburg for the Union side. In fact, the commander of the 20th Maine was also brand new at the job. Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain had joined the regiment in August, 1862, when it was mustered into Federal service after Lincoln's second call for units. Before being given a commission in the 20th Maine, he served as a professor at Bowdoin College, in Maine, where he taught rhetoric and languages. Now, less than a year after his military career had begun, Col. Chamberlain was promoted when the regiment's founding commander, Col. Adelbert Ames, was promoted away from the command.

The defense of Little Round Top include hand-to-hand fighting

Throughout the Civil War, the 20th Maine's enrollment numbered 1,621 men (including original muster soldiers, replacements and drafts). But, as the men of the 20th moved into their position atop Little Round Top, Col. Chamberlain's command numbered approximately 360 men. The regiment's numbers had dwindled considerably during their engagements since Fredericksburg, which was the 20th's first taste of battle.

Confederate Col. William Oates

Chamberlain's 20th Maine Cannot Break

In positioning his brigade for the inevitable onslaught of Rebels to come, Col. Vincent chose a line of defense that began on the western slope of the hill. When the first regiments of his brigade arrived at the rocky outcropping of the area, Col. Vincent put them in a line. The 16th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment took up position on the right flank, and the 44th New York and 83rd Pennsylvania regiments held the center. Meanwhile, it was the responsibility of the 20th Maine Regiment to hold the left flank of the brigade, which also happened to be the extreme left flank of the entire Union force that had taken up defensive positions along Big and Little Round Top.

The last thing Col. Vincent told Col. Chamberlain was: "This is the left of the Union line. You are to hold this ground at all costs!"

Col. Chamberlain ordered Company B, recruited from Piscataquis County and commanded by Captain Walter G. Morril, forward to the regiment's left flank as skirmishers. However, soon after the fighting began, Company B would be cut-off by a flanking attack by the enemy, leaving the 20th Maine only 314 armed men on the main regimental line.

Each man in his regiment had about 60 shots for their rifles. They had water. The afternoon temperature was about 72 degrees and, despite some cloud cover, rain had not fallen. There was some thunder echoing along the battlefield, but as a local clergyman, the Rev. Dr. Davis Jacobs wrote later, "The thunder seemed tame after the artillery firing of the afternoon."
Depicts the 15th Alabama preparing for action

So, Col. Chamberlain waited, along with his brother, 2nd Lt. Thomas Chamberlain, who was also an officer in the regiment. In that pregnant pause, the men from Maine readied their cartridges and powder, put together what defenses they could. Then, the battle they were awaiting found them.

The first wave of Confederate infantry that attacked was comprised of 824 men from the 4th and 5th Texas regiments, which were a part of MG John Bell Hood's division. They hammered the slope of Little Round Top, pushing toward the center and right of Col. Vincent's brigade. As the Confederates attacked, their infantry began migrating toward the left flank of the Union position. Col. Chamberlain was informed of the enemy movements by Company K's commander, Capt. James H. Nichols.

Col. Chamberlain read the enemy intent and believed they were searching for the extreme left flank of the brigade position. So, the 20th Maine's commander ordered a right-angle formation, extending his line farther to the east.
At this point, though, the 4th and 5th Texas were making their case to breaking the center of the brigade formation. But, Col. Vincent rallied his soldiers, and was reinforced by the 140th New York Zouaves Regiment. Col. Vincent's efforts, along with those of 140th commander, Col. Patrick O'Rourke worked. Sadly, though, both men died during the Confederate assault.

After testing the Union center and not being able to break them, the Confederate infantry formed again and, this time, made its move against the 20th Maine with fresh troops.
The classic depiction of the charge at Little Round Top

The 15th and 47th Alabama regiments began their ascent of Little Round Top, straight into the 20th Maine's position. The 15th was a hard-fighting unit commanded by Col. William C. Oates. Meanwhile, the 47th Regiment was commanded by the battle-tested LTC Michael Bulger, who would become a captive of the 20th Maine by the end of the action. The mission of the attack was simple: Find the Union left and destroy the Federal unit there. Once accomplished, the Rebels would roll up the line of Union positions along the heights, securing victory for MG Hood and the Confederate cause.
Col. Strong Vincent was killed during the battle

Col. Chamberlain's regiment would end up fighting off Confederate forces for about an hour-and-a-half of non-stop battle. During the action, heroes were revealed, one of them being Color Sgt. Andrew J. Tozier of the 20th Maine. As the 20th Maine's position was on the verge of breaking against the weight of the Alabama infantry, Sgt. Tozier stood firm, remaining upright as bullets buzzed and snapped in the air around him. Had Sgt. Tozier fled, so too would the soldiers defending the position. Had Sgt. Tozier not stood firm at that decisive moment, it was likely that the 20th Maine would not have held.
Instead, fighting became savage, as combat went from rifles and pistols to hand-to-hand. Still, the iron men of Maine would not break and fended off the furious attack of the Alabamians.

Though the 20th Maine had stood its ground, the depleted force was left almost without ammunition. There are varying accounts of what happened next. According to the rendition of the story offered by Col. Chamberlain, knowing he could not defend his regimental position with rifle fire, he sent word to Captain Ellis Spear, the acting battalion commander of the unit's left flank, to fix bayonets and charge into the next wave of Confederate attackers.

However, Captain Spear later said he received no such orders.
2LT Thomas Chamberlain also fought with the 20th

'Col. Chamberlain died on Feb. 24, 1914 and is considered by some as the last casualty of the Civil War.'

The other account of what happened came from Corporal Elisha Coan, who was a member of the 20th Maine's Color Guard. He claimed that the acting commander of Company F, 1st Lt. Holman S. Melcher, conceived of the idea for the colors to advance and there to be a bayonet charge. Cpl. Coan's account said that Col. Chamberlain initially balked at the idea, but that other officers joined 1st Lt. Melcher in urging him to order the command, which he did.

In Col. Chamberlain's account of the battle, he said that he ordered a right-wheel maneuver and screamed "Bayonet!" There is some speculation that 1st Lt. Melcher sought for the colors to advance to retrieve the wounded. However, with all of the noise that was going on, coupled with the fact that they could not stave off another Rebel onslaught, a bayonet charge was likely the only think left for the 20th Maine to do, short of abandoning their position to the Rebels.

A Maine state commission would later conclude that 1st Lt. Melcher might have conceived of the idea of the bayonet attack to recover ground where the wounded were, but Col. Chamberlain expounded on that idea to run the Confederate infantry down the face of Little Round Top, winning the day.

It was that bayonet attack that finally broke the Confederate lines. The Rebel brigade attacking the Union lines atop Little Round Top belonged to BG Evander M. Law. His brigade, by the end of the action, though, was no longer able to go on with the fight.

After the Fight

So ended the most fabled episode of the 20th Maine Regiment of Volunteer Infantry. Though the fighting for them in the Civil War was far from over, it was the bravery of the officers and men of the Maine regiment that turned the tide of the war on that hill along the heights outside of small Gettysburg.
20th Maine veterans at a regimental reunion at Little Round Top

For the actions at Little Round Top, Sgt. Tozier would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, along with Col. Chamberlain. Captain Spear would rise to the rank of major before being mustered out at the end of the war, and Col. Chamberlain's brother, Thomas, would rise to the rank lieutenant colonel.

Col. Chamberlain would survive the war and go back to his native man to eventually become the president of Bodwoin College and, later, the 32nd governor of Maine during four, one-year terms. Yet, he did not survive the war unscathed. Rather, in 1864, Col. Chamberlain (who rose to the rank of major general during the war) was wounded terribly in his leg. Though he was able to keep his leg, it became the source of great pain and discomfort for the rest of his life. In fact, it was because of complications from this wound that Col. Chamberlain died on Feb. 24, 1914 and is considered by some as "...the last casualty of the Civil War."

Meanwhile, the commander of the Confederate 15th Alabama would also survive the war. He became a brigadier general in the Confederate Army before its surrender. After the war, he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives from 1870-1872, the U.S. House of Representatives from 1881-1894, and as the 29th governor of the state of Alabama, from 1894-1896.

Though the war was eventually won by the North, in 1865 with the surrender of Gen. Lee, it might be said that it could only have ended in the favor of the North thanks to the last full measure given for their country and their commander by the 20th Maine Regiment.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Peace Of Mind [Audio Bible Scriptures to Harp]

Half Time - 82nd Airborne All American Chorus | 11.11.16

Fort Benning: Home of the Infantry...and a Lot More


Fort Benning, Georgia has always been, at least since the place was built in 1918, the Home of the U.S. Army Infantry. The property for the post includes 182,000 acres of real-estate. The installation is situated in Chattahooche County, Georgia, by 93 percent, and Russell County, Alabama, by 7 percent. Right outside the front gate for the post is Columbus, Georgia, and a host of ways for young men to get in trouble, as I recall from younger days.

Untold hundreds of thousands of soldiers began their military careers right there amongst the red clay and sweltering summers of Benning. Today, it continues as the Home to the U.S. Army Armor School, as well as Airborne School, Ranger School, Officers Candidate School, the Henry Caro Non-Commissioned Officer Academy, and I am sure that I am leaving quite a bit out...but there is a lot of training happening at Ft. Benning.

Reportedly, today, the fort is the garrison for the 198th and 199th Infantry brigades, respectively; the 194th Armored Brigade; 316th Cavalry Brigade; 14th Combat Support Hospital; 44th Medical Brigade; Task Force 1-28; the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team; the 75th Ranger Regiment; Army Marksmanship Unit; 17th Air Support Operations Squadron; the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation; and, of course, Martin Army Community Hospital.

I will never forget my first introduction to Benning. I was all of 17 years old in June, 1983. I had joined the Army as an infantry private and mortarman. Back then, Benning did not have a reception center, so myself and the rest of the young men going to the school there were first processed into the Army at Fort Jackson, in South Carolina, and then transported via bus to Benning.

We were wearing our new, heavy BDUs, which were not made with the summer time in mind and had not even put the first good coat of polish on our boots when we made the sojourn to Benning. All of us were brought directly to the Sand Hill barracks, where we were received by a swarm of barking drill sergeants. It was a surreal event. People were being dropped for push-ups randomly, drill sergeants letting them know that everything from the way they were wearing their uniform to their parentage was absolutely wrong. I must have sweated two full buckets worth by the time 20 minutes had gone by.

The Army changes over time, though. No one gets received to training at Benning with a swarm of drill sergeants barking at them anymore. It is one of many things that is a memory but no longer a reality there. In '83, I didn't enlist into the 'brown shoe' Army of my father during World War II, just as he didn't enlist in the World War I Army of his Dad. Like everything else, the Army transitions in various ways. I do not believe that because one way of doing things is discarded over time that it means it was not successful. Rather, the Army is a reflection of the society we live in. Over time, societies change, and with them the armies that serve them.

Before it was a "fort," Benning was a camp. Camp Benning opened up for business in October, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson was a great advocate for Benning. In 1913, President Wilson called a special session of the Congress, which culminated in the creation of the Revenue Act of that year. The Revenue Act of 1913 did several things, such as re-introduced the income tax (well, they could have left that one out in hindsight), created tariffs-a schedule of rates or charges of a business or a public utility, and raised revenue to create a permanent base to train and house Regular Army units...and Camp Benning was born.
A familiar scene at the Sand Hill barracks on Ft. Benning, GA

In February or 1920, the U.S. Congress saw fit to recognize Benning as a permanent military post. Sometimes, camps were abandoned by the military service. This was not going to be the case with Benning, though. In fact, the Congress appropriated an additional $1 million for building the structures and training areas that would be so essential for the newly christened Infantry School.

The Army, wasting no time in the matter, had 350 officers, 7,000 soldiers and 650 officer candidates living on the post by 1920.

The fort is named for a Confederate general during the Civil War, Henry L. Benning. In 1924, the fourth commandant of the Infantry School, Brigadier General Btriant H. Wells, was charged with the mission of make the temporary accommodations on Ft. Benning permanent and created the "Wells Plan" to construct permanent structures throughout the post.

Everyone who graduated from Basic Training or AIT at Ft. Benning, or any one of the other courses offered there, can tell you the tradition of excellence that resides at the post and the deep-seated sense of mission that is brought into every detail of life there.

For so many of us, Benning is a fond memory of a time long ago. Yet, it continues to play a vital role in the defense of our nation. And, that tradition began with the firm commitment of President Wilson.

The Birth of the United States Army Airborne

BG Billy Mitchell, father of The Airborne

The history of United States Airborne Forces did not begin on the training fields of Fort Benning, Georgia, as some believe. In fact, the origin of Airborne Forces in the U.S. military began with a familiar name to American military history, Brigadier General William L. "Billy" Mitchell (1879-1936).

As well as being considered the spiritual father of the United States Air Force, which he advocated for fiercely during his tenure in the military, BG Mitchell was the first to imagine airborne tactics and sought the creation of U.S. Airborne Forces.

It is not recorded exactly when he organized a demonstration of Airborne Infantry for U.S., Russian and German observers. However, according to records at Ft. Benning, Georgia, it is confirmed that BG Mitchell held the demonstration "shortly after World War I" at Kelly Field, in San Antonio, Texas. During the demonstration, six soldiers parachuted from a Martin Bomber. After landing safely, the soldiers assembled their weapons and were ready for action in less than three minutes after they exited the aircraft.

Oddly enough, U.S. observers were not favorably impressed by the demonstration. However, the Russian and German observers were very impressed by the demonstration. In fact, both countries proceeded to create Airborne forces within their respective militaries.

It was actually the Soviet Union that created the first airborne unit, which it used for the first time in August, 1930, when it held maneuvers at Veronezh, Russia. The display was reportedly so impressive that it was repeated about a month later in Moscow.

Meanwhile, the Germans developed airborne forces in their military and, at the outset of World War II, used paratroopers to spearhead Nazi invasions throughout Europe. Back in the United States, the concept of airborne soldiers languished until the War Department was informed of the success of German paratroopers in Nazi invasions.

Just how the United States would implement the airborne concept was an issue in Washington DC also.  Though it was ultimately discarded, some of the leaders in U.S. Air Power offered a suggestion that Airborne Infantry should be called "Airborne Grenadiers" and create a new service called the "Marines Air Corps."

Finally, in April, 1940, the War Department approved the formation of an Airborne Test Platoon for infantrymen. The War Department approval gave permission to "...form, equip and train under the direction and control of the Army's Infantry Board. So, in June, the names of 40 men were selected from a pool of 200 volunteers from Ft. Benning's 29th Infantry Regiment and the Test Platoon was born.
Uniform worn by Test Platoon members

Later in 1940, the 2nd Infantry Division was given the mission to conduct necessary tests to develop reference material and operational procedures for "air-transported personnel."

When training first began for the Test Platoon, it still wasn't on the hallowed training fields of Ft. Benning, though. LTC William C. Lee was a staff officer for the Chief of Infantry at the time. He recommended the platoon be moved to the Safe Parachute Company, of Hightstown, New Jersey, for training on the parachute drop towers there. They had previously been used during a World's Fair held in New York.

At Hightstown, training with the towers worked out so well that the Army bought two of them immediately. A short time after that, they bought two more.

The platoon returned to Ft. Benning and began training in earnest, especially in developing Parachute Landing Falls. As well as jumping from atop physical training platforms, those early paratroopers also practiced PLFs from jumping out the back of moving 2-1/2 ton trucks, to simulate the shock of landing.

In less than 45 days, the Test Platoon was ready to begin airborne operations. The first-ever official parachute jumps by members of the U.S. Army took place on August 16, 1940, when 1LT William T. Ryder, the platoon leader for the test platoon, and Private Will N. "Red" King jumped from a Douglas B-18 over Lawson Army Airfield, at Ft. Benning. On August 29th, the entire platoon conducted a mass jump.

Following the successful Test Platoon jumps, the 501st Parachute Battalion was officially formed. It was commanded by Major William M. Miley, who went on to later command the 17th Airborne Division during World War II. The Test Platoon soldiers then became the cadre for the new outfit.

While still a fledgling unit, the 501st adopted the slogan "Geronimo!" after Private Aubrey Eberhart started yelling it out when he jumped, to prove to his fellow soldiers that he had his faculties together when he exited the door of the aircraft.

Subsequently, the 502nd Parachute Infantry Battalion was formed and LTC Lee took the new command, which was activated on July 1, 1942. Badly under-manned, LTC Lee accepted 172 volunteers from the 9th Infantry Division, then stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

Though Airborne Forces would have to be used for a wide array of missions throughout the globe, it was decided that Ft. Benning would become the centralized training facility for all servicemen to be trained for airborne duties. This was made official on May 15, 1942, when The Airborne School was christened. Through the years, the name of the school has changed several times, from The Airborne School to The Airborne Department, then the Airborne-Air Mobility Department, and then to the 507th Parachute Infantry of the School Brigade to the 1st Battalion of the 507th Infantry, among others. However, regardless of the name, the mission then was the same as the mission today -- to prepare military personnel for airborne operations.

Friday, May 19, 2017

MG James M. Gavin: The 'Jumping General' of the 82nd Airborne

MG James M. Gavin during combat operations in Holland, 1942

For students of military history and U.S. paratroopers from every era during the past six decades, he is one of the most compelling figures of World War II: Major General James M. "Jumpin' Jim" Gavin, third commander of the U.S. Army's  82nd Airborne Division during World War II (1941-1945).

Before he would retire from the Army, after the war, in 1958, he would garner yet another star on his shoulder, as a lieutenant general and commander of the U.S. Army Research and Development Command.

Yet, it is as a fighting general that MG Gavin is most remembered. MG Gavin was the youngest major general to command a division during World War II, being only 37 years old at the time of his promotion. Similarly, after the war, LTG Gavin became the youngest lieutenant general promoted to that rank, in March, 1955. M1

During combat operations in North Africa, Sicily and Europe, MG Gavin was well-known by his preference to carry an M1 Garand, a weapon normally used by enlisted Infantrymen, instead of either an M1 Carbine or M1911, .45 Caliber pistol, preferred by most officers.

MG Gavin's nickname was not just something made up one day. Rather, the "Jumping General" took part in all four combat jumps during World War II that the 82nd Airborne Division was involved with.  For the officers under his command, MG Gavin made it clear he intended they be "... the first one's out the door [during airborne drops] and the last ones on the chow line." So loved by many of his soldier's in the 82nd Airborne, decades later many veterans simply referred to the general as "The Boss."

Who knew that MG Gavin would travel so far in the world, given the humble circumstance of his birth.

MG Gavin was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 22, 1907 to Irish-American parents, Katherine Ryan and James Nally. On his birth certificate, he was given the name "James Nally Ryan." However, by the age of 2, the future airborne commander was given up for adoption and placed in the Covenant of Mercy Orphanage, in Brooklyn, where he remain until he was adopted, in 1909. The future war leader of the famed 82nd was adopted by a Pennsylvania coal miner and his wife, Martin and Mary Gavin, of Mount Carmel. Consequently, "James Nally Ryan" was re-christened "James Maurice Gavin."
Then-COL James M. Gavin

Despite the fact that his father was employed full-time, the Gavin family just barely got by, which promoted young James Gavin to quit school in the 8th Grade to become a full-time clerk at a shoe store for $12.50 per week. However, on the day of his 17th birthday, James Gavin took the night train to New York City. Once there, he sent word to his parents that he was well, so they would not be concerned about him. Then, he took the first steps in a military career that would span more than 30 years and three continents.

Young James Gavin went to an Army recruiter to join-up. However, being only 17, the recruiter brought him before a local lawyer, followed by the young Gavin being sworn in on April 1, 1924 as a private in the U.S. Army. Then-Private Gavin was not sent to Basic Training. Rather, in the Army of the 1920s, Basic Training was performed at the unit. In PVT Gavin's case, the unit was a 155mm battalion that served as coastal artillery at Ft. Sherman, Panama. He did well there and served as a crewman on a 155mm battery.

Once in Panama, PVT Gavin attended a local Army school to complete his education. At the Army school, the top graduates were given a chance -- only a chance -- to attend the United States Military Academy, in West Point, New York. It was stipulated that such graduates would be given the opportunity to be admitted to West Point only if they did well on the academy's entrance examination.

Well, in the Summer of 1925, Cadet James M. Gavin was entered into the freshman roll at West Point. Subsequently, as a graduating cadet in 1929, it was mentioned in the West Point yearbook, "Howitzer," that Cadet Gavin was an accomplished athlete, a boxer, and was "already a soldier" when he arrived to the Cadet Corps.

Upon graduating, in June, 1929, then 2nd Lieutenant Gavin married the former Irma Baulsir, on Sept. 5, 1929. This would be the first of two marriages for the future general. After divorcing his wife, Irma, then-MG Gavin married his second wife, the former Jean Emert Duncan, in July, 1948.

MG Gavin moved steadily through the ranks of the peacetime Army. Then, with war on the horizon, Lieutenant-Colonel James M. Gavin was promoted to the rank of full Colonel and assigned as the first commanding officer of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in July, 1941. Gavin's brigade would join the 82nd Airborne Division, which at that time was comprised of the 325th and 326th Glider Infantry Regiments and the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Following combat in World War II in North Africa, Sicily and France, Col. Gavin was promoted to the rank of major general and became commander of the 82nd Airborne on Aug. 8, 1944, directly before Operation Market-Garden, which took place in Holland.

LTG Gavin
After the war ended, in 1945, LTG Gavin, an adversary of segregation, played a key role in the incorporation of an all-black battalion in the 82nd Airborne, the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. Col. Bradley Biggs, first commander of the battalion, referred to LTG Gavin as "one of the most color-blind Army officers in the entire service."

In addition, LTG Gavin called for the use of mechanized troops being transported by air to become modern cavalry. By March, 1958, though, LTG Gavin retired from the Army and wrote the book "War and Peace in the Space Age," which was also published in 1958.

Later, the famed commander of the 82nd Airborne served as a technical adviser for the Hollywood films "The Longest Day" and "A Bridge Too Far."

LTG James M. Gavin died on Feb. 23, 1990 and was laid to rest in the Old Chapel at the United States Military Academy, and buried at the USMA Post Cemetery at West Point. He is survived by his widow, Jean, and five daughters, 10 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GUNS N' ROSES - The Story Of Guns N' Roses

Pink Floyd - The Story (BBC)

The story of one of the greatest Rock groups of perhaps all time, Pink Floyd.

The Trump Controversies and Washington

President Donald Trump

I think it is important for Americans to soldier on and not get sucked into the vortex that is Washington, DC, to some extent. Yet, it is clear that some big mistakes have been made by President Donald Trump in the five months he has been in office.

I don't want to focus on the mistakes: I do not want this column to be so long. And, listing them would not serve my point.

The United States requires a leader that is not flamboyant, who handles business and, to the greatest degree possible, is not ever-present in their field of vision. A sense of high drama is necessary for many professions in life, but being president is not one of them. Some of our best presidents have been nearly invisible from the daily machinations of media and everyday life: Eisenhower and Reagan among them. The American republic does not require television ratings, it requires sensible leadership.

I served in the U.S. Army during the Cold War in the then-Federal Republic of Germany. One false move, one reckless phrase, and our nation would have been plunged into a terrible war, the likes of which our nation would still be recovering from. However, at the time, we had "The Great Communicator" in the Oval Office, in the person of Ronald Reagan. And, thank God for it.

In many ways, Mr. Trump is the antithesis of Reagan. He is not a great communicator; he is not even a good communicator. Trump is also highly emotional and prone to fits of bravado, anger and rash actions. I do not know if our nation can afford such actions in the Office of President. And, if we can afford it, for how long can we do that?

Not 100 days into his tenure at the White House, most alarmingly, Mr. Trump pursued a potential showdown with the North Korean government, endangering tens of thousands of American servicemen and women on the Korean Peninsula. This was something that no president, including Eisenhower, did. There are a lot of good reasons for not wishing to ignite the Korean War, I think, and not many good reasons for doing so, if there are any at all. His instincts are all wrong for the job.

I do not know what the answer is. I know that neither Mr. Trump nor his immediate family are the answers for the American people and whatever his tactics were as a businessman, they are not helpful in his role as this nation's chief executive.

The president cannot be 'bigger' than the country, nor the Constitution or the parochial concerns of the nation. Yet, here we are. Well, America elected a reality star and that is what we have gotten. I think Mr. Trump must have thought he was being elected king or czar and not the president of a democratic republic. Thankfully, this nation's government has been designed with safeguarding features in the event that someone who had great problems executing his office were ever elected as president.

It is vital, if Mr. Trump is going to remain in office, that, at the very least, every safeguard of the president's power be left in place and used enthusiastically. To constrain Trump, and lessen the capabilities of the presidency, is not a step I would like to see. In the continuous history of this country, since 1786, every other president was lucid at all times (maybe with the exception of Andrew Johnson at times). However, perhaps thinking about new restrictions on the president might be a good idea, given that a voter error on the scale of Trump occurred at all.

Perhaps the most important issue for me in what Trump has been doing is not his random acts of mindlessness. No, the most telling practice of his that disturbs me is his want to solicit personal oaths of loyalty from public office holders. I am sorry, but America is not his company or private dwelling. Public office holders should never be forced to issue oaths of loyalty to a man above either God or this nation.

One way or the other, it is my most fervent hope that our houses of Congress and judiciary are steadfast in their service to guard the American people, since it is clear the executive branch is not as functional as most Americans would like.