Wednesday, April 18, 2018

THE ACTS OF 4/18



1942 - Based on a plan submitted by submarine staff officer, Captain Francis S. Low, America strikes back at Imperial Japan for the 12/7/1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor!  Flying under the command of Colonel James Doolittle (the 45-year-old former stunt flier will win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his leadership during the mission), 16 modified B-25 medium bombers (carrying 5-man crews and one ton bomb loads) take-off from the bucking deck of the U.S. carrier Hornet (spotted by a Japanese patrol vessel which is quickly sunk, the group launches ahead of schedule, 670 miles from Tokyo) on a mission to strike the Japanese homeland.  Flying at 200 feet above the water to avoid radar and fighter patrols for more than five hours, the group successfully arrives at their targets (the planes are thought to be part of an air-raid drill and so receive minimal ground fire), the bombers drop their loads (four 500 pound bombs), and short on fuel due to their premature launches, fly on to China crash landings (one plane will make Vladivostok and be interned by the Soviets ... in reprisal, 3 men will be executed by the Japanese, but eventually, 71 of the 80 men on the raid will return to their homes in the United States).  The raid does little damage, but the spirits of the American people are given a booster shot by the deed, and the Japanese reaction (thinking Nippon needs more of an ocean buffer around the home islands and that a showdown with the American Navy is necessary) leads directly to the Admiral Yamamoto plan that results in the Pacific War turning-point battle of Midway, in which Japan loses four of her precious fleet aircraft carriers. Honored heroes all (MGM will document the mission in the 1944 movie "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," starring Spencer Tracy as Colonel Doolittle and Van Johnson as pilot Lt. Ted W. Lawson), at the United States Air Force Academy, a trophy case bottle of brandy awaits the someday toast of the last survivor of the attack (since moved to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio ... because of their ages, the last "final toast" took place on 11/9/2013 ... the last survivor, Doolittle's co-pilot, Colonel Richard Cole is 102 years young!).
Doolittle Prepping Bomb
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On The Way
Japanese Picket Boat On Fire
Lift Off!
Captured Doolittle Flier Robert L. Hite
(Who Will Live To Be 95)
The Silver Goblets For Toasting

1943 - Remember Pearl Harbor, Part Two ... Operation Vengeance, the longest fighter intercept mission of the war takes place (600 miles out, and a straight line back to base of 400 miles)!  Using secret information provided by the "Purple" decoding machine (the mission is so important it needs to be authorized by Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, and President Roosevelt himself), over the South Pacific island of Bougainville, sixteen American pilots flying twin-engined P-38 fighters (specially equipped for the mission and based at Henderson Field on the recently captured island of Guadalcanal) attack two "Betty" bombers (and their escort of six Zero fighters) carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Takano Yamamoto (the architect of the 12/7/1941 sneak attack on American bases in Hawaii) and his staff.  Sayonara, bye-bye bad guy ... the American fighters achieve their assignment perfectly, arriving just a minute before their target comes out of the clouds, and at 9:35 in the morning, Lieutenant Thomas Lanphier shoots off the right wing of Yamamoto's transport, sending the admiral off to meet his ancestors in a flaming wreck that crashes into the jungle (it is now believed by many military historians that pilot Rex Barber actually got the kill and both men are now credit for a half kill for shooting down the admiral's bomber) ... only First Lt. Raymond K. Hine is lost on the mission, a devastating blow to the Japanese Navy.
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Earlier In The Day
P-38 Fighter
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Betty Bomber
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Lanphier, Besby Holmes, and Barber
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Down He Goes - Painting By Don Hollway
Wreckage In The Jungle - Mission Accomplished!

1945 - Visiting front line American troops on the island of Le Shima (during the opening days of the Pacific War's Okinawa campaign), beloved Pulitzer prize winning WWII foxhole correspondent Ernie Pyle fails to keep his head down when the jeep he is riding in comes under enemy fire (after taking cover in a nearby ditch), and at the age of 44, is killed by a Japanese machine-gunner (actor Burgess Meredith will portray the writer in the 1945 movie, "The Story of G.I. Joe").
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Pyle - 1945
Italy
Sharing A Smoke With Marines On Okinawa
Pyle Memorial On Le Shima

1945 - Leading a U.S. Army company into the German city of Nuremberg, 20-year-old First Lieutenant Michael J. Daly of New York City single-handily takes out a German machine gun (killing its three gunners) with his carbine, attacks an enemy patrol about to launch a rocket ambush on American tanks (killing all six enemy soldiers), takes out another machine gun position (and kills its two gunners), and then from ten yards away, destroys a third German machine gun and its crew ... actions that result in Daly being promoted to Captain, and being awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor in August of 1945 at the White House.
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Daly
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Medal Of Honor Ceremony

1945 - Unit pinned down near Lohe, Germany by rifle fire (a suburb of Nuremberg), machine pistols, and two heavy machine guns, 18-year-old U.S. Army Private Joseph F. Merrell launches a one-man attack that has him run a hundred yards through concentrated enemy fire to take out a four-man enemy position.  Continuing forward with only three grenades after a sniper bullet destroys his rifle, he zigzags forward another 200 yards to get within throwing distance of a German machine guns ... two pineapples heaved, he then rushes the gun and takes out the surviving members of its crew, arms himself with a discarded Luger, and heads towards the second enemy gun, crawling 30 yards forward, killing four enemy soldiers but getting wounded in the stomach himself ... stumbling forward, he pitches his last grenade and the gun is no more ... seconds before fire from a machine pistol instantly kills the gallant soldier ... two German machine guns destroyed, 23 enemy soldiers killed, and company free to advance, for his actions, Daly is awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor.
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Merrell

Thursday, April 12, 2018

AT WAR WITH ITSELF

4/12/1861 - Choice for today is one of those grand before-and-after moments where nothing is ever the same again, and which in this case, still shadows the world we currently occupy ... apologies if you are already fully aware of the story (I've got a sad feeling most of the citizens of this country aren't though), but today really mattered because in 1861, this was the last day of peace between the North and South, by the time the sun arose on 4/12, America was at war with itself due to the shelling of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
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Bombardment Of Fort Sumter By Currier & Ives

Tensions building for months as Lincoln is elected president, southern states begin seceding from the Union, a Confederate United States government under the direction of President Jefferson Davis of Mississippi is created, and demands are made that Federal locations, like forts and armories be turned over to the states they reside in leads to a grave situation in South Carolina in which neither side is willing to back down or compromise ... the North will not give up Fort Sumter (freshly occupied the day after Christmas, 1860) and has announced plans to send supply ships to keep the site viable (the men at the fort have roughly four days of food left to eat when the shelling begins ... they also welcome news that 200 more soldiers are on the way), while the South gives the fort an ultimatum from Confederate authorities (brought out to the fort by row-boaters Colonel James Chestnut, Colonel James A. Chisholm, and Captain Stephen D. Lee), that if its walls aren't evacuated by 4:20 in the morning of 4/12, the structure will be fired upon.
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Chestnut

Picked specifically for his southern roots (and the ability it might provide in dealing with the citizens of Charleston), in command of Fort Sumter is 55-year-old Major Robert Anderson of Louisville, Kentucky (his father is the former aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette, while his mother is a cousin of John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the Unites States Supreme Court) ... a soldier quite familiar with war.  A graduate of West Point's Class of 1825, before the Civil War begins, Anderson will be a colonel of Illinois volunteers during the Black Hawk War of 1832 (assisted by Jefferson Davis, he will transport Black Hawk himself into captivity), will serve on the staff of Brigadier General Winfield Scott during the Second Seminole War, in the Mexican-American War, he participates in the siege of Vera Cruz and the battles of Cerro Gordo, Amazoque, and Molino del Rey.  Wounded at Molino del Rey, after the war Anderson is a member of the board of officers that creates "A Complete System of Instruction for Siege, Garrison, Seacoast, and Mountain Artillery" ... and teaches that system to cadets matriculating at West Point Military Academy.  And it is a pupil turned comrade and friend that he will be facing in South Carolina (after receiving the last ultimatum, Anderson shakes hands with the men at their boat, and states, "If we never meet in this world again, God grant we may meet in the next.") ... 43-year-old Confederate Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.
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Major Anderson

The epitome of the Southern Gentleman of the times, Beauregard is born into a French Creole family with roots in Italian nobility ... growing up he attends private schools (he doesn't learn English until he is 12 and living in New York City), attending West Point he graduates second in the Class of 1838, excelling at the use of artillery and in military engineering.  Serving as an engineer in the Mexican-American War, Beauregard is in the thick of things at the battles of Contreras, Churubusco, and Chapultepec (his concerns with the plan of attack for storming the fortress cause Scott to change his preparations prior to the assault), where he is wounded in the thigh and shoulder, and he is one of the first United States officers to enter Mexico City.  After the war, Beauregard works at repairing old forts and building new ones (his knowledge, the major reason he is sent to Charleston), improves the shipping channels at the mouth of the Mississippi (he will invent and patent a device that allows ships to cross bars of sand and clay), fixes the stability of the sinking U.S. Custom House in New Orleans, campaigns for Franklin Pierce for president during the elections of 1852, runs for the mayor of New Orleans (he loses), and teaches at West Point (briefly, for a matter of only days, he is the Superintendent of the Academy).  Upon Louisiana seceding from the Union, Beauregard tenders his resignation from the Unites States Army and enrolls in the "Orleans Guards," a battalion of French Creole aristocrats, as a private (upset the state army has been placed in the hands of West Point rival, Braxton Bragg).  A foolish position for one with such an extensive knowledge of military affairs and engineering, he however is soon plucked away by Jefferson Davis, promoted to Brigadier General, and placed in charge of dealing with Fort Sumter.
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Beauregard

Begun in 1829 and still not completed by 1861 (90% at the start of the war), the fort is named after Revolutionary War hero, General Thomas Sumter and is created to protect the sea approaches into Charleston Harbor on a sand bar using over 70,000 tons of granite brought south from New England, fashioned into a five-sided, three-story brick structure 170 feet to 190 feet long, with 5 feet thick walls, standing 50 feet above the low tide mark, capable of housing 650 men and 135 guns.  At the time it comes under fire, along with Anderson, the fort's complement of men consists of seven other officers (one, is the supposed inventor of baseball, Captain Abner Doubleday), 68 non-commissioned officers and privates, and eight musicians (along with 43 non-combatant workmen) to maintain and operate 60 guns (most facing out to sea) ... of the officers at the fort, five will become generals before the conclusion of the war.
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Modern Aerial View

Sumter Layout
Doubleday
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Modern View

Challenging the fort, instead of complimenting it as originally had been intended, Beauregard has a series of positions around the harbor that are capable of pounding the structure from every point of the compass.  At nearby Fort Moultrie there are three 8-inch Columbiads, two 8-inch howitzers, five 32-pound smoothbores, and four 24-pounders ... outside the fort, there are five 10-inch mortars, two 32-pounders, two 24-pounders, and a 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbore.  On a nearby float made of wood and iron, there are two 42-pounders and two 32-pounders.  The arsenal of Fort Johnson on James Island consists of one 24-pounder and four 10-inch mortars, and at Cummings Point on Morris Island, the Confederates can fire on Fort Sumter with seven 10-inch mortars, two 42-pounders, an English Blakely rifled cannon, and three 8-inch Columbiads.  There are roughly 6,000 soldiers scattered about the harbor in service of Beauregard's field pieces.
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Charleston Harbor - April, 1861
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Columbiad

Warned, at precisely 4:30 in the morning of 4/12/1861, acting upon the orders of Captain George S. James, Lt. Henry S. Farley fires a shell from a 10-inch mortar at Fort Johnson that explodes over Fort Sumter ... the signal for a general bombardment of the fort, with guns taking turns firing every two minutes in a counter-clockwise motion around the harbor (the firing will last until the fort finally surrenders, 34 hours, and over 3,000 shells, later).  Church bells ringing and guns booming, not understanding the forces the attack on Fort Sumter will unleash, citizens of Charleston get out of bed, dress, and make their way to the waterfront where they party, watching the fireworks, as if they are celebrating the arrival of a new year.  Less weapons and ammo, Anderson does not respond until daylight, and then, after his men have suffered through a breakfast of salt pork, at 7:00 in the morning, Doubleday fires the first Northern shot of the war at the Confederates firing from Cummings Point ... a miss.
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Fort Sumter - 1861

In the hours that follow, huge sections of the fort will be pulverized, wooden structures inside the walls were be burnt to the ground, and the relief expedition of Captain Gustavus V. Fox is forced to turn back.  Beyond enduring the cannonade, Northern heroics are supplied by Sgt. John Carmody and Lt. Norman Hall.  All men ordered to stay away from the unprotected cannons on the highest, exposed level of the fort, Carmody tires of eating shelling dust and sneaks up to the barbette, and fires, one at a time, all the already loaded weapons facing Fort Moultrie to the northeast, while Hall risks shellfire to save the fort's American flag when it is knocked down by an exploding shell and also helps put it back up on a makeshift flagstaff (and burnt off permanently, loses his eyebrows in the process).  Both men will survive their moments of fortitude!   Outcome inevitable however, guns available down to six, honor intact by fighting back for two days, on April 14th, Anderson finally surrenders the fort to Beauregard.
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Gustavus Fox - 1866 
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Fort Sumter Ruins
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Putting The Flag Back Up!
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Putting The Flag Back Up #2
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The Fort Sumter Flag

Miraculously, no Union soldiers have been killed in the bombardment (four are wounded by flying bricks and mortar) and the terms of surrender are quite reasonable ... the garrison will be allowed to evacuate the fort after firing off their remaining ammo in a 100-gun salute to their flag, and then will be brought out to the blockaded ships of Fox for transportation home.  At 2:00 in the afternoon of April 14th, the salute begins, but is cut short at only 50 guns firing when it proves more deadly than the just ended siege ... ramming a powder cartridge home before sparks from the previous round have been swabbed out of his cannon, Private Daniel Hough has his right arm blown off and dies instantly, and Private Edward Galloway is mortally wounded when that explosion causes other nearby shells to fire off prematurely (four other men will be wounded, but survive).
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Death Comes To Fort Sumter
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The Confederate Flag Over Fort Sumter

No turning back, in the days that follow the war's first military action, over 75,000 men volunteer to serve in the northern army, and four more southern states vote to secede from the Union ... four years of war that will tear the country apart begins, a struggle that will see over 3,000,000 men in arms, and result in over 705,000 deaths.  Bad, bad times that start with the rejection of an ultimatum today!
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Firing On Fort Sumter
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New York City Rally - The Fort Sumter Flag Over The Union Square Statue
Of George Washington

And in a postscript full of righteous American attitude, on April 14, 1865, four years to the day that the Stars and Stripes are lowered over Fort Sumter, war won with Lee's final defeat at Appomattox Court House, Robert Anderson, by then ill and retired from the army as a major general, returns to the ruins of Fort Sumter and puts up the same wounded flag he was forced to lower (Anderson will die in Nice, France in 1871 at the age of 66, but later is interred at West Point).
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Re-raising The Flag Ceremony - 1865 
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West Point Gravesite
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Our Banner In The Sky by Frederic Edwin Church
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Postage Stamp
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Confederate Shell Still Embedded In Fort Sumter
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Fort Sumter Monument To Anderson