Christmas Eve, The Battle of the Bulge, the 8th Air Force, and the Medal of Honor.

 

The German counteroffensive in the Ardennes forest was deliberately launched during a period when the forecast weather grounded most allied aircraft. Negating the US and British airpower greatly improved the German’s ability to move and mass forces.

But on the 24th of December, 1944, dawn rose upon a crystal clear sky, and Army Air Forces made a maximum effort to attack the Germans. The fighters, fighter-bombers and light and medium bombers of the 9th Air Force were focused on tactical support.

And the jewel in the crown of the Army Air Forces in Europe, the mighty 8th Air Force, would have its largest single mission of the war.

Mission Number 760 struck airfields, marshaling yards, road junctions, and other communications targets throughout western Germany.

2034 B-17 and B-24 bombers, and 853 fighters of the 8th Air Force would pummel Germany this day. Compared to the ghastly losses the 8th had suffered a year prior, or even six months before, the loss of 12 bombers and 10 fighters was almost insignificant. *

But one of those twelve lost bombers saw an act of heroism that would see a Medal of Honor awarded.

Posthumously.

Frederick Castle, the son of an Army officer, graduated from West Point in 1930, and received training as a pilot at March Field, California, earning his wings in December of 1931. He left active duty in 1934, and found civilian employment, though he remained active in the reserves.

When Ira Eaker was struggling to get the fledgling VIII Bomber Command on a sound footing in England, one of his staff suggested that Castle would make a fine staff officer. And so Castle was recalled to active service as a Captain in January 1942.

And Castle was indeed a fine staff officer, quickly rising through the ranks to become the A-4, the Supply officer for all of 8th Air Force. And his reward for doing that job well was a combat command, first of the 94th Bomb Group (three squadrons of 12 bombers each in a group). Later, he was made deputy commander of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing (with three, and later five bomb groups).  When the 4th CBW grew to five bomb groups, in November 1944, Castle was promoted to Brigadier General.

It was the policy of the 8th Air Force that every mission be led by a senior officer, usually at least a Colonel, but often a Brigadier or even a Major General.

And so on the morning of December 24, 1944, as Mission 760 began to flow from the fields scattered across England to the German fatherland, it was led by Frederick Castle as the Airborne Mission Commander.

His particular bomb group missed its rendevous with its escorts, leaving the flight vulnerable to fighter attacks. Engine problems and damage from enemy fighters crippled his B-17, leaving it a straggler, always a favorite target for enemy fighters. Eventually, his aircraft succumbed to repeated attacks. Castle struggled to maintain control of the bomber to allow his crew to bail out. He himself would not escape.

He was air commander and leader of more than 2,000 heavy bombers in a strike against German airfields on 24 December 1944. En route to the target, the failure of 1 engine forced him to relinquish his place at the head of the formation. In order not to endanger friendly troops on the ground below, he refused to jettison his bombs to gain speed maneuverability. His lagging, unescorted aircraft became the target of numerous enemy fighters which ripped the left wing with cannon shells, set the oxygen system afire, and wounded 2 members of the crew. Repeated attacks started fires in 2 engines, leaving the Flying Fortress in imminent danger of exploding. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, the bail-out order was given. Without regard for his personal safety he gallantly remained alone at the controls to afford all other crewmembers an opportunity to escape. Still another attack exploded gasoline tanks in the right wing, and the bomber plunged earthward, carrying Gen. Castle to his death. His intrepidity and willing sacrifice of his life to save members of the crew were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.

*8th Air Forces first strike, on August 17, 1942 had consisted of 12 B-17s striking marshaling yards at Rouen, France.

The Ardennes

On the morning of December 16, 1944 the US Army held the Ardennes Forest with a thin screen line of green units and exhausted units being brought back up to strength.

Through the morning fog came the spearhead of a massive German counteroffensive, designed to blunt the Allied drive toward Germany, and eventually recapture Antwerp, hopefully destroying one or more Allied field armies, and buying time for future German weapon systems to be brought into the fight.

While some units were initially overwhelmed, and the bonds of the Anglo-American alliance were sometimes sorely tested, eventually the US Army rallied, regained the initiative, stymied the enemy drive, and heaped thousands upon thousands of casualties upon the Germans when they could least afford them.

The Ardennes, commonly known as  the Battle of the Bulge, remains the largest battle the US Army has ever fought.

The official Army history of the battle has some of the most moving portrayals of men in battle you will ever read.

VADM Crowder, Retired GOFOs, Double Standards, and Cognitive Dissonance

Trotsky

In the November 2015 issue of USNI Proceedings magazine, retired VADM Douglas Crowder asserted that retired Flag and General Officers should refrain from engaging in the political process , “stay on the sidelines, and away from public endorsements” of candidates in a general election.  In his “Hear This”, Crowder seems to believe the genesis of such activity was Admiral William Crowe’s endorsement of Bill Clinton.  In reality, however, such activities on the part of retired Generals and Admirals, including their entry into the political process as national candidates, goes back to the founding of our Republic.   There has never been a Constitutional prohibition on retired GOFOs participating in the political process, up to and including using the titles of rank that they have earned in the expression of their views and opinions.

For some reason, we are suddenly hearing that such Constitutionally-protected free speech is now “dangerous”, that it could lead to a “politicization” of the Armed Forces.   General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior Officer on the active list, intimated such when he called that free speech “unhelpful”,  and later scolded retired GOFOs for exercising their rights.  Apparently he missed the irony of an active agent of the US Government engaging in behavior that has a “chilling effect” on free speech, conduct expressly forbidden as a violation of the very Constitution which Dempsey swore an oath to support and defend.  Indeed, Dempsey’s immoderate and despicable conduct illustrates the two things very wrong with VADM Crowder’s admonitions.  The first is that there is virtually no complaint or outcry when a GOFO goes on record, either in print or the visual media, expressing support for the far-left agenda.   As an example, the gay and lesbian retired GOFOs who openly advocated repeal of DADT were described as being “courageous”, some were even lauded at Obama’s State of the Union addresses.  So how is it that, when contrary to the agenda of the far-left, such political expression becomes dangerous?   It can’t be.  Unless there is a double standard when it comes to Constitutional liberties.  Heaven forfend.   And, here is where the cognitive dissonance begins.   In this month’s Proceedings, Navy Commander Michael Wisecup cautions us on such dangers of retired GOFOs:

“…think of the implications to our profession if a political party could endorse and groom select active-duty (O)fficers into greater positions of authority in order to advocate for their platform.”

Which brings us to the far more disturbing issue that is wrong with VADM Crowder’s (and CDR Wisecup’s) assertions.  They have little to do with the true danger, the increasing trend of active-duty Officers carrying the political water for their masters.  Warning of the dangers of the lawful free expression assiduously ignores damage being done by the increasingly-politicized GOFO ranks at the top of our Armed Forces under Barack Obama.  Advocate for political platforms?  Are you kidding me?  Such instances are impossible to miss.

  • Martin Dempsey’s admonition against lawful free expression was not limited to simply criticism of retired GOFOs who are private citizens.  No, General Dempsey, while in the execution of his duties as an active duty  Military Officer, admonished a PRIVATE CITIZEN to desist from lawful free expression that the General found disagreeable.  Dempsey should have been relieved of his duties.  Had he had such objections to retired GOFOs speaking out in support of the far-left agenda of his political master, he would have been relieved had he not kept his mouth shut.
  • Admiral Mike Mullen’s shameful charade in front of Congress, when he offered, unprompted, his personal views on repeal of DADT, and proceeded to inform the US Military that any disagreement with them would be considered lack of integrity.  Such arrogance and poor judgment also should have been met with censure, but instead Mullen was declared a hero for advancing the political agenda of the far left.  That he lost any remaining respect from many of those he was charged with leading mattered little to him.  Mullen did, however, admonish Army MajGen Mixon for advising his soldiers to utilize their Constitutional rights in addressing their Congressional representatives.
  • After the Islamist terrorist act at Fort Hood in 2009,  in which Maj Nidal Hasan screamed “Allahu Akbar!” while shooting 45 Americans, mostly service members, 13 of them fatally, Army Chief of Staff Casey never addressed how a known Islamist extremist might have been accessed into his Army, or how he managed to be promoted to Major.  Instead, in an act of pathetic political sycophancy, Casey hoped the Islamist terrorism (still called “workplace violence”) would not affect US Army diversity efforts.
  • Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, also pushed incessantly for the codified racial and sexual discrimination known as “diversity”, instead of ensuring the United States Navy was organized, trained, and equipped to fight a war at sea.  The Navy, following his tenure as CNO, is woefully unprepared for such an eventuality.  However, it seemed far more important to Roughead that the Navy “looked like America”, selecting and promoting its leaders on criteria other than merit and suitability.  Race and gender (and sexual preference) have replaced competence and performance.  The mess Roughead made will take a decade to clean up, if it even can be.
  • In the midst of a sabre-rattling North Korea, with its rapidly increasing ballistic missile capability and nuclear weapons development, and a PLA Navy becoming ever more aggressive and capable, openly hostile to US interests and that of our allies in the Pacific Rim, COMUSPACOM Admiral Sam Locklear declared that the biggest security threat facing his forces was…….   global warming.
  • As part of the debacle of being relieved for cause as COMUSFOR-A, (ironically, because he and his Officers were highly critical of political leadership) Army General Stanley McChrystal let it be known he had voted for Barack Obama.  Revealing whom one voted for while speaking as an active duty Officer was once considered a serious taboo.  In fact, I don’t know if I can recall any senior Officer acknowledging such quite so publicly.  To the surprise of nobody, as soon as he retired, McCrystal went on to rail about his support for gun control and other leftist agenda items.  Nary a peep of protest from Dempsey.
  • Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff USMC General “Hoss” Cartwright openly described Constitutional limitations to the authority of the Defense Department as “obstacles” to mission accomplishment rather than necessary bulwarks for the preservation of individual liberties.  In what context?  To push Barack Obama’s July 2009 agenda to expand the authority of Government over the internet, specifically privately-owned networks and information infrastructure.

Advocating for political platforms, indeed.  Yes, it is sometimes a tricky course to navigate, to follow the orders of the President as Commander in Chief, without being an active agent in his advancing a domestic political agenda.  But that is why much is expected (or had been, at least) of the professionalism and judgment of senior Officers.  Admiral William Leahy, despite his personal bent toward Republican conservatism, was able to serve his President, New-Dealer Franklin Roosevelt, loyally and superbly throughout the Second World War.  As did Dwight Eisenhower, who would become the Republican nominee in 1952.   There seem to be an ever-shrinking number of GOFOs in the higher ranks of our military with the character and willingness to do so.

The increasing politicization of the senior leadership of the Armed Forces of the United States means such egregious political pandering and subversion of our Constitution will increase, not decrease.  Yet, people like VADM Crowder and CDR Wisecup seem to think it is the RETIRED GOFOs that pose the danger to seeing our Armed Forces become yet another government weapon to be used against political opposition instead of fighting and winning our nation’s wars against America’s enemies.   I find that quite concerning.  Once again, just like we are told after yet another act of Islamist terrorism that law-abiding Americans are to blame for exercising their Constitutional liberties under the Second Amendment, it is actually the GOFO retirees who are the problem, not the invertebrate political lap-dogs on active duty doing the bidding of the left, and that those retirees should refrain from exercising their Constitutional liberties under the First Amendment.    Each of those assertions requires the embracing of a dangerous double standard.   And each requires a generous helping of cognitive dissonance.  A disturbing trend, to be sure.

 

20 November 1943 Tarawa; Keep Moving

Originally posted 20 November 2009:

The buildings in the “regimental area” of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina are modest, post-war brick buildings that, to the visitor’s eye, look more or less alike. Yet, each of the Marine Regiments of the Second Marine Division has its own storied history and battle honors.  As Captain J. W. Thomason wrote in his Great War masterpiece Fix Bayonets, these histories represent the “…traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as Regiments hand down forever.”

There are symbols of these honors for one to see, if you know where to look. On a thousand trips past those symbols, there is one that never failed to make me pause and reflect. On the headquarters building for the 2d Marine Regiment hangs their unit crest. Aside from the unit name, the crest contains only three words. They are in English and not Latin, and they are not a catch phrase nor a bold proclamation of a warrior philosophy. They are simple and stark. Across the top of the unit crest is the word “TARAWA”. And at the bottom, the grim admonition, “KEEP MOVING”.

491px-2nd_Marine_Regiment_Logo

It was 66 years ago on this date that the Second Marine Division began the assault on Betio Island, in the Tarawa Atoll. The island, roughly two thirds of the size of my college’s small campus, was the most heavily fortified beach in the world. Of the Second Marine Division, the 2nd Marine Regiment (known as “Second Marines”) landed two battalions abreast on beaches Red 1 and Red 2. The assault began what was described as “seventy-six stark and bitter hours” of the most brutal combat of the Pacific War. More than 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed, nearly 2,300 wounded, along with nearly 5,000 Japanese dead, in the maelstrom of heat, sand, fire, and smoke that was Betio.

Assault on Betio's Northern beaches

Assault on Betio’s Northern beaches

Marine Dead on Beach Red 1

Marine Dead on Beach Red 1

I will not detail the fighting for Betio here, as there are many other sources for that information. Nor will I debate whether the terrible price paid for Betio was too high. What cannot be debated is the extraordinary heroism of the Marines and Sailors who fought to secure the 1.1 square miles of baking sand and wrest it from the grasp of an entrenched, fortified, and determined enemy. The fighting was described as “utmost savagery”, and casualties among Marine officers and NCOs were extremely high. As one Marine stated, initiative and courage were absolute necessities. Corporals commanded platoons, and Staff Sergeants, companies.

Marines assault over coconut log wall on Beach Red 2

Marines assault over coconut log wall on Beach Red 2

The book by the late Robert Sherrod, “Tarawa, The Story of a Battle”, is a magnificent read. Another is Eric Hammel’s “76 Hours”. Also “Utmost Savagery”, by Joe Alexander, who additionally produced the WWII commemorative “Across the Reef”, an excellent compilation of primary source material. For video, The History Channel produced a 50th anniversary documentary on the battle, titled “Death Tide at Tarawa”, in November 1993. I also highly recommend finding and watching this superb production. It is narrated by Edward Hermann, and interviews many of the battle’s veterans, including Robert Sherrod, MajGen Mike Ryan, and others, who provide chilling and inspiring commentary of the fighting and of the terrible carnage of those three days.

 Master Sgt. James M. Fawcett, left and Capt. Kyle Corcoran salute Fawcett's father's ashes on Red Beach 1. MSgt Fawcett's father landed on Red 1 on 20 Nov 1943.

Master Sgt. James M. Fawcett, left and Capt. Kyle Corcoran salute Fawcett’s father’s ashes on Red Beach 1. MSgt Fawcett’s father landed on Red 1 on 20 Nov 1943.

Tarawa remains a proud and grim chapter in the battle histories of the units of the Second Marine Division. Each outfit, the 2nd, 6th, 8th, and 10th Marines, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Tracks, and miscellaneous support units, fought superbly against frightful odds and a fearsome enemy. It is on the Unit Crest of the 2nd Marines, whose battalions paid the highest price for Betio, that the most poignant of those histories is remembered. Three simple words: “TARAWA; KEEP MOVING”.

 

Footage of the Last Hours of USS Wasp CV-7

 Shortly after 1440 on 15 September 1942, in the waters of the Solomon Islands, USS Wasp (CV-7) was struck by three torpedoes from the IJN submarine I-19.   The impact point was directly below the AVGAS distribution station, which was in operation when the torpedoes struck.   Within minutes, Wasp was engulfed in flames, roaring like a furnace, punctuated by powerful explosions from built-up gasoline vapors.  Ammunition and aerial bombs began to detonate from the heat, and inside of an hour, Captain Forrest Sherman ordered Wasp abandoned.   She burned well into the evening before torpedoes from USS Lansdowne (DD-486) finally sank her.

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wasp-burning-and-sinking

When I was a young lad, I read an excellent book on the Solomons Campaign.  In it, the author described Wasp as burning like a torch, and how, as darkness fell, sailors on other ships could see her glowing red from the fires inside.   When Wasp finally slipped beneath the waves, it was said she emanated a loud and eerie hissing as her hot steel sank into the sea. Watching the footage above, one understands that such a description, like Tom Lea’s famous painting, is hardly hyperbole.

In all, 193 sailors died on Wasp, and 366 were wounded.   Forty-three precious aircraft also went down with her. She had been in commission just 28 months.

In the 37 weeks of war since December 7th, the US Navy had lost Langley (CV-1), Lexington (CV-2), Yorktown (CV-5), and Wasp (CV-7).  Also soon to be lost was Hornet (CV-8), sunk at Santa Cruz on 26 October 1942.   Hornet, however, would be the last US fleet carrier lost during the war.

H/T to Grandpa Bluewater

The Last "Thousand Tonner"

USS Allen

Some of the most interesting curiosities in the history of naval warfare surround older warships remaining in service long after similar vessels have been retired.  Sometimes, the story of such ships is one of tragedy, like the three elderly Royal Navy cruisers sunk in the Channel by a German U-Boat in 1914, or the nearly-helpless Spanish wooden-hulled Castilla, quickly sunk at Manila Bay.  Other times, like with Oldendorf’s “Old Ladies” at Surigao Straits or the Iowas in Desert Storm, the veteran ships were found to still be plenty lethal.  One such curiosity is the unlikely tale of USS Allen, DD-66.

The rapid advances in Naval technology that spanned the last decade of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th included generational leaps in warship design, hastened further by the outbreak of war in 1914.  Nowhere was this more manifest than in the smallest of the combatant ships of the world’s navies, the destroyer.  Originally the “torpedo boat destroyer” built to protect larger ships of the battle line from the speedy small craft and their ship-killing weapons, powered torpedoes, soon these “torpedo boat destroyers” became the carriers of torpedoes themselves, then called simply, “destroyers”.

US destroyer construction in the early part of the century followed apace with designs elsewhere.  Small, largely coastal craft evolved into the 700-ton “flivvers” and later, the “thousand-tonners” of the O’Brien, Tucker, and Sampson classes.   Despite being almost new, these 26 ships of the latter three classes had proven barely suitable for the requirements of destroyer service in a modern war at sea.  Among the first US ships to attach to the Royal Navy in 1917, by the end of the war they were hopelessly outdated, as the British W and V classes, and the latest German destroyers, were significantly larger, much faster,  far more capable warships.

Following the Armistice, almost all the “thousand tonners” were quickly decommissioned, as they were replaced in service with the “flush-decker” Wickes and Clemson classes, of which an astounding 267 were built (though few were completed in time for war service).   A number of the obsolescent “thousand tonners” were given to the US Coast Guard, where they served into the 1930s.  Most, however, were scrapped or sunk as targets.  Most, but not all.

One unit of the Sampsons, USS Allen, DD-66, was placed back in commission,  to serve as a training ship for US Navy Reserve personnel.  She would serve in this role between 1925 and 1928, after which she returned to the Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia.   Allen was retained even while a number of her younger and far more capable “flush-decker” sisters were scrapped.  As war clouds loomed, Allen was selected to be recommissioned, in the summer of 1940.  She must have been an exceptionally well-maintained vessel.  Even with that, the choice to recommission Allen was a curious one.  She and her sisters were designed before the First World War, and still reflected the “torpedo boat destroyer” mission in her layout and systems.

USSAllenDD66

USS Allen 9

After some time in the Atlantic, Allen was assigned to the Pacific Fleet, which had recently moved to Pearl Harbor.  She was present and fired her only shots of the war during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.  Lacking adequate endurance and weapons, Allen spent the war escorting vessels between the Hawaiian Islands, helping to train submarine crews by acting as a mock sub chaser, and she made the occasional voyage back to the US West Coast.  In the course of the war, Allen had her antiaircraft armament considerably augmented, with six 20mm cannon, and she lost at least one set of torpedo tubes.  She gained depth charge throwers, and even a modest air search radar.   I could find no reference to her being fitted with sonar of any kind, however.  (And if Norman Friedman didn’t say it happened, it didn’t happen!)

USS Allen 10

Immediately following the war, of course, the worn-out and thoroughly obsolete Allen was quickly decommissioned, in the fall of 1945, and just as quickly sold for scrap.   She is shown above, disarmed and awaiting disposal.  At the time of her decommissioning, she was the oldest US destroyer in commission, and the last survivor of her class and type.   Built to specifications which dated to before US entry into the First World War, USS Allen would serve through the Second, a throwback of four generations of destroyer design.  A remarkable record of service indeed.

Titusville Warbird Museum

The really cool thing about this blog is that I can share my vacation photos, and no one seems to mind too much.

The official name of the museum is Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, and the docent was kind and indulgent to the nerds in our little group. (Engineers can’t help it.)
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We got to stick our heads in the bomb bay of this B-25.
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Tempest

Good morning. Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one. Over an hour.

The Supermarine Spitfire is THE iconic British fighter of World War II, but arguably, the series of fighters designed by Sir Sydney Camm for Hawker were, in the end, the more important contribution. Camm designed 52 aircraft for Hawker over his career. The pre-war design of the Hurricane would form the backbone of RAF Fighter Command in the early days of World War II, and bear the brunt of the Battle of Britain.

While the Hurricane was a solid design, it was limited by the (then) relatively low powered Rolls Royce Merlin engine. Camm looked to newer, more powerful engines for his next fighter design. The Hawker Typhoon was an all new design, but clearly an evolution of the Hurricane. Powered by the new, powerful, and very temperamental Napier Sabre engine. Designed as a fighter to replace the Hurricane, the Typhoon would instead find itself spending most of its career in the ground attack role.

Like the Hurricane, the Typhoon had  a rather thick wing. That thick wing meant more drag, and also introduced British pilots and designers to the problems of compressibility in high speed regimes. Looking to the laminar flow wing of the North American Mustang, Camm saw an opportunity to design an update of the Typhoon that would be even better. With its much thinner wing, the Hawker Tempest would be the fasted British piston engined fighter of the war.

Camm always understood that the performance of a fighter was very closely tied to the state of the art in engine design, and was eager to incorporate ever more powerful engines into his designs. Indeed, the Typhoon was actually the Typhoon Mk V, with Marks I-V having various other engines as testbeds. The engine Camm really wanted was the Bristol Centaur, but a shortage of that engine meant it wasn’t until the very waning days of the war that enough were available to begin fielding the Tempest II. The Tempest II, with its radial engine was a rather radical departure from the Tenpest V’s H-block engine.

The final stage of evolution would be Britain’s last piston engined fighter, the Hawker Sea Fury. Generally similar to the Tempest II, the Sea Fury featured smaller wings, and was generally lighter overall. It would serve with distinction in the Korean War for the decks of British carriers, and even labor on in the Burmese Air Force until 1968!

Probably the last combat of the Sea Fury was during the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. The Batista government had received a handful, and the Castro government struggled to keep them in operation. In spite of their advanced years, the Sea Furies in service with Castro’s regime proved highly effective in attacking the transports attempting to invade Cuba.

But back to the subject of our post, the Hawker Tempest.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXN2ojyHsYk]

The Death of Ernie Pyle

Stoop shouldered 44 year old correspondents aren’t normally an object of admiration and love for grunts. But World War II newsman Ernie Pyle was, undoubtedly, the exception.

While most correspondents covered the headquarters, the big picture, Ernie covered the dogfaces, the grunts, from North Africa to Italy, and from France to the far reaches of the Pacific.

He earned the Pulitzer Prize for his writing, his empathy for the hardships the average American soldier faced. He showed the humanity of the troops in that most inhumane arena, war.

Probably his best known column was The Death of Captain Waskow.

AT THE FRONT LINES IN ITALY, January 10, 1944 – In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.

Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had led his company since long before it left the States. He was very young, only in his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.

“After my own father, he came next,” a sergeant told me.

“He always looked after us,” a soldier said. “He’d go to bat for us every time.”

“I’ve never knowed him to do anything unfair,” another one said.

I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow’s body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.

On this day in 1945, Ernie Pyle was accompanying officers of the 77th Division during a “minor” operation to seize the island of Ie Shima, near Okinawa. A concealed Japanese machine gun nest fired upon the group.  The four men dove into a ditch. Pyle, raising his head to check on the others, was struck in the left temple by a second burst of fire, and killed instantly.

Muskogee War Memorial and the USS Batfish

This is one of those happy accidents that you have to be ready for when traveling. For our trip to Oklahoma, I wanted my kids to learn about the different Native American tribes. After some reading and research, I decided on the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee. In hindsight, I should have focused on the Cherokee in Tahlequah. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum consists entirely of “Andrew Jackson moved us here, here’s some art.” The art was good but unsatisfying for the left-brains of the family.

A pamphlet stand for area attractions included one for the USS Batfish. A submarine in land-locked Oklahoma? This deserved further investigation.

The USS Batfish is a Balao-class submarine.

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