Anniversaries of Milestones in Military Aviation

1908 Group with Flyer110 Years ago:  Frist military air craft.  Six years after the Wright Brother made their first flight in Kitty Hawk, NC on December 17, 1903, the Army  Signal Corps purchased the Wright Brother’s Model A on March 2, 1909.  The course of the first flight was from Ft Myer (adjacent to Arlington National Cemetary) to what is now the George Washington Masonic Temple in Alexandria, Virginia.  These test flights also incurred the first military casualty when Lt Thomas Selfridge died in a plane crash on Ft. Myer on September 17, 1908 (where pilot, Orville Wright was severely injured.)  From Wikipedia:

The Flyer circled Fort Myer 4½ times at a height of 150 feet. Halfway through the fifth circuit, at 5:14 in the afternoon, the right-hand propeller broke, losing thrust. This set up a vibration, causing the split propeller to hit a guide wire bracing the rear vertical rudder. The wire tore out of its fastening and shattered the propeller; the rudder swiveled to the horizontal and sent the Flyer into a nose-dive. Wright shut off the engine and managed to glide to about 75 feet, but the craft hit the ground nose first.[10] Both men were thrown forward against the remaining wires and Selfridge struck one of the wooden uprights of the framework, fracturing the base of his skull. He underwent neurosurgery but died three hours later without regaining consciousness.[2] Wright suffered severe injuries, including a broken left thigh, several broken ribs, and a damaged hip, and was hospitalized for seven weeks.

Curtiss_NC-4_four_engine_configuration-detail100 Years ago:  First  Transatlantic Flight. From an email that George Franhois sent to the Military Libraries Division on July 9, 2019:

“In May 1919, a crew of U.S. Navy aviators flew the NC-4 Naval seaplane from New York State to Lisbon, Portugal, over the course of 19 days. This included time for stops for repairs and crewmen’s rest in Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and twice in the Azores Islands. Its flight from the Azores to Lisbon completed the first Trans-Atlantic flight between North America and Europe. The NC-4’s largely forgotten achievement occurred just over fifteen years after the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and eight years before Charles Lindbergh’s famous solo flight across the Atlantic, in 1927.”

50 Years Ago:  First moon landing. “On July 16, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a journey to the Moon and into history. Four days later, while Collins orbited the Moon in the command module, Armstrong and Aldrin landed Apollo 11’s lunar module, Eagle, on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, becoming the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface.”  Neil  Armstrong was a test pilot and naval aviator. Buzz Aldrin was an Air Force officer and “served as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. He flew 66 combat missions and shot down two MiG-15 aircraft.” Michael Collins was a pilot and retired Major General in the Air Force Reserves.




How Did the Navy Track Overseas Locations?

I have long known that ships on the west coast or the Pacific were Fleet Post Office (FPO) San Francisco.  Ships on the east coast, the Atlantic or the Mediterranean were FPO New York.  This is a decoder for shore stations overseas.

My Midway shipmate, Phil Eakin,  shared the following information with us from the Blue Jacket Manual.  This is from WWII, but the idea of the FPO’s remain today.


Locations appeared as postal code abbreviations during World War II in order to keep unit locations classified.

BM3/c John Paul Jones USNR
NavAdvBase 131

Jones is located at the Naval Advanced Base at Noumea, New Caledonia.
The Fleet Post Office (FPO) for the Pacific region is located in San Francisco, California.
The Fleet Post Office (FPO) for the Atlantic region  is located in New York, New York.

*Number assigned but never activated.

From the webpage, so you can see the derivation for Noumea, New Caledonia:

131 SF Noumea, New Caledonia
132 SF Auckland, New Zealand
133 SF Wellington, New Zealand
134 SF Brisbane, Australia
135 SF Sydney, Australia


Shipmate:  serving on a the same ship, a fellow sailor.

Shipmate can also be a derogatory term for asshole (according to the Urban Dictionary)

Over my speckled career I have had roommates, suitemates, tentmates, messmates (we shared dining accomodations) and playmates.  Irregularly I was even a first mate (during the few times my husband and I tried a sailboat or a motorboat–docking and turning the sailboat about were never our strong points.)

As the daughter and wife of career naval officers and a member of the USS Midway (CV-41) Carrier Museum Library, shipmate is one of my favorite words.  It implies that we are literally all in the same boat, travelling together to achieve a common goal–sharing triumps, challenges, disappointments, or failures.  We aren’t just joined at the hip, we are joined at the ship.  If one of us fails, we all fail because we are all in the vessel together.

You may have your significant other, your spouse, your family, your friends, but once the lines are cast off, only your shipmates travel with you.  The sea is a harsh mistress and she accepts second best from no one.  Oh say can you sea–many of us can not or have not.  A lucky few of us have tried and lived to tell sea stories (which may or may not be true.)

The Navy has a tradition of ship, shipmate, self.   Looking out for number one is third on the list.


Lunch wtih Ma 20190530
USS Midway Library shipmates sharing a lunch with CEO “MAC” McLaughlin


Looking Back on the War – Humor

GP of the always informative and well-written Pacific Paratrooper answered my plea for a humorous post after several poignant posts that put something in my eyes for a few days. Enjoy.

Pacific Paratrooper

Pacific Paratrooper received a request for a humorous post, from Equipsblog, after all the tissues I caused her to use in the previous posts –  so here’s what I came up with on short notice – hope you all like the stories – I’m sure some of you have stories from your relatives too – feel free to add them!!!

Zuit suit craze

I’ve gotta passion for fashion,
I’ve gotta run on fun,
‘Cause I’m Ten million new civilian
Ex-G.I.’s in one.
I’ve got urges for serges,
I’ve gotta need for tweed;
I’ll put the smile in a world of stylin’
No War Department decreed.
I’ll be the zoot-suit-suitor,
I’ll be the rainbow beau,
I’ll be the luminous,
Most voluminous,
Leader of the Freedom Show.
Long I’ve thirsted for worsted;
Ain’t I the plaid-glad lad?
Open the haberdash!
Here comes a color-flash!Here comes…

View original post 773 more words

Presidential Quotes

Try to match the correct President with his quote

  1. Eisenhower
  2. Kennedy
  3. Johnson
  4. Nixon
  5. Ford
  6. Carter
  7. Reagan
  8. GWH Bush
  9. Clinton
  10. GW Bush
  11. Obama
  12. Trump

a.  We want everybody to act like adults, quit playing games, realize it’s not just my way or the highway.

b.  The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.

c.  You must never be satisfied with losing.  You must get angry, terribly angry, about losing.  But the mark of the good loser is that he takes his anger out on himself and not his victorious opponents or on his teammates.

d. Being president is like running a cemetery:  you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody’s listening.

e.  Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

f. Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.

g. We don’t want an America that is closed to the world. What we want is a world that is open to America.

h,   Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing.

i. There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.

j. Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away, and move on to something that’s more productive.

k. We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.

l.-Faith crosses every border and touches every heart in every nation. 

Answers a-11, b-1, c-4, d-9, e-2, f-5, g-8, h-7, i-3, j-12, k-6. l-10.

If You’d Like to Read More About D-Day

The Government Printing Office offers a list of additional D-Day resources.  Some of them are free and other are available for purchase.

On June 6, 1944, exactly 75 years ago, in perhaps the most seminal battle of World War II, the U.S., together with Britain and Canada, executed Operation Overlord, better known to us as D-Day, in which they, alongside other countries, invaded the coasts of Normandy, carrying out the largest seaborne invasion in history against Nazi-Germany. The U.S. Government Publishing Office invites you to remember this historic day by highlighting some resources from our collections.

D-Day: The Navy Was There Too

From an item produced for the occasion by a senior U.S. Navy historian.

By H-hour on Omaha Beach (0630 6 June 1944) pretty much everything had already gone to hell.  Of 64 amphibious tanks that were supposed to land on the beach five minutes before the first infantry assault wave, 27 of them were on the bottom of the ocean, having sunk due to heavy seas.  Four more amphibious tanks had been destroyed when LCT-607 struck a mine and sank.  That 28 of the tanks made it ashore was due to Lieutenant Dean Rockwell, USN, commander of LCT Flotilla 12, who assessed the seas as too rough and on his own initiative chose to take the tanks all the way to the beach at great risk to the eight LCT’s that received his order, loosing LCT-607 on the way in.  Another three tanks reached the beach because Ensign Henry Sullivan, in command of LCT-600, stopped launching tanks after the first one sank and took the rest of them all the way to the beach, also on his own initiative.  Of the 28 tanks launched into the water from the other seven LCT’s (that didn’t get Rockwell’s order,) only two made the swim of 2-3 miles to the beach; the rest tragically sank with most of their crews.


Navy Museum-Utah Beach
Navy Memorial on Utah Beach by Phil Eakin, USS Midway Carrier Museum, Lead Librarian


     The loss of the tanks, mostly due to sea conditions and not the enemy, wasn’t all that went wrong.  The shore bombardment was only 30 minutes long, inadequate to take out most of the heavily fortified and well-concealed German gun positions, which the Navy knew based on experience with Japanese Islands, but the need to minimize the amount of time for the German forces in reserve to react to the landing was considered by the Army to be of overriding importance.  The strike by 450 B-24 heavy bombers just before the landing missed the beach due to overcast, and 13,000 bombs went long and did nothing except add to the din.  Then eight LCT(R) “rocket ships” fired 1,080 rockets each, and almost all of them fell short of the beach.  Instead of the expected understrength German garrison division, the beach was defended by the first-line 352nd Division which had just arrived to defend a beach that was ideally suited to defense.

   The first U.S. troops to land at Omaha Beach were slaughtered by the hundreds.  Some landing craft never made it to the beach; in others that did, no one got off alive.  Navy coxswains whose craft were disabled wound up fighting as infantrymen using weapons from the dead. Navy Combat Demolition Units were in the second wave in order to blow beach obstacles; most didn’t make it ashore.  The same was true for the Navy Beach Battalions, Beachmasters, and Naval Shore Fire Control Teams.  Navy physicians and Corpsmen who went ashore in the first waves suffered high casualties, but were noted afterwards to be “the bravest of the brave.”  By 0830, Omaha Beach was so littered with destroyed and damaged landing craft, tanks, vehicles, un-cleared German obstacles (most mined) and hundreds of dead on the beach and drowned in the rising tide that the senior surviving Navy Beachmaster called a halt to any further landings other than assault troops.

    Although the Germans fought ferociously at the other four Normandy beaches, those landings went relatively well.  But at Omaha, the Germans were winning, when several U.S. destroyers, acting on their own initiative, closed to within 800-1,000 yards of the beach (one to 400 yards, close enough to be hit by rifle fire,) and found ways to innovate on the spot to provide fire support to troops without benefit of shore spotting (most of the troops’ radios had been lost in the surf.)  By 0950, all the U.S. destroyers plus three British destroyers were ordered to close the beach, risking mines, shore battery fire and the likelihood of running aground in the shallows.  As the fire from the destroyers finally began to take a serious toll on the German defenders, in one of the most extraordinary acts of mass courage in the history of the United States Army, with many of their leaders dead, the surviving soldiers fought their way up the 100-foot bluffs backing the beach.  It was this epic bravery by the U.S. Army soldiers that carried the day at bloody Omaha Beach, and their extraordinary valor should never be forgotten.  However, in the words of the Chief of Staff of the 1st Division, Colonel Stanhope Mason, “without that gunfire (from the destroyers,) we positively could not have crossed the beaches,” or perhaps in the words of the V Corps Commander, Major General Leonard Gerow, after he finally got ashore, “Thank God for the U.S. Navy.”

    There are no comprehensive figures for U.S. Navy casualties on D-day that I can find, although one footnote in a medical report gives a number of 363 dead and 2,020 wounded.  During the dedication of the Navy Memorial at Normandy in 2008, the figure of 1,068 Navy dead was cited, but not from an authoritative source, and that number would certainly include losses in the weeks before and after D-Day.  In almost every account of D-Day, Navy losses are just rolled into overall Allied losses, generally considered to be about 10,000 casualties, of which 2,500 died (although recent research suggests a significantly higher toll of about 4,500 dead, mostly on Omaha Beach.)   Navy personnel climbed Pointe du Hoc with the Army Rangers, parachuted in with the airborne troops, manned the landing craft (along with many U.S. Coast Guard coxswains,) and served in numerous roles in the first waves of the landing, suffering high casualties; determining exactly how many of those men died is a challenge.

    The U.S. Navy did of course keep an accurate count of how many warships were lost, and in that regard, the week after D-Day was much more costly to the Navy than D-Day itself.  The largest U.S. Navy ship lost on D-Day was the destroyer USS CORRY (DD-463) hit by German shore fire and then probably succumbing to a mine in the opening moments of the bombardment of Utah Beach, in addition to the Minesweeper OSPREY (AM-56,) and numerous amphibious craft, including nine LCI’s and 26 LCT’s.  But in the days that followed, the destroyers GLENNON (DD-620) and MEREDITH (DD-726,) destroyer escort RICH (DE-695,) the minesweeper TIDE (AM-125,) five LST’s, and the troop transport SUSAN B. ANTHONY (AP-72) were sunk by the Germans, mostly by mines, as they protected the vital flow of more troops and supplies into the Normandy beachhead.

    Although the great majority of ships involved in the invasion were British Royal Navy, and the ground troops of the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada deserve the credit for defeating the Germans ashore, the U.S. Navy played an absolutely critical part in what Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, termed “the great crusade” to defeat Germany and rid the world of Nazi tyranny.

Turning Points that Capture the Imagination

Since the first settlers landed in the 16th and 17th centuries, the United States has participated in dozens of named and unnamed wars.    Even the more familiar wars like the

  • American Revolution
  • War of 1812
  • Mexican War
  • Civil War,
  • Spanish- American War
  • World Wars I and II
  • Korean War
  • Vietnam War
  • Persian Gulf War
  • Wars in Afghan and Iraq

have countless known and unknown battles

Many of those wars have battles that stand out in people’s imaginations:  Valley  Forge, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal, and D-Day.  Which battles stand out in your mind?

Why do these battles stand out in our collective consciousness?

The U.S. Army still has staff rides of Gettysburg for new senior officers and students at some of the senior service colleges like the National Defense University in Washington, DC.  My husband was on a staff ride with some NATO officers and recounted that a Norwegian officer pointedly told a German officer that “We re-use our battle fields in Europe.”

I had an opportunity to do a couple of staff rides to Gettysburg.  On one occasion we re-enacted Pickett’s Charge.  By walking the battle field we experienced how the troops appeared and disappeared from sight by the lifts and dips of the terrain as we plodded up the hill.  (And we did not have to contend with the thick smoke of artillery fire.)

Many Americans are planning to visit Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6.  Some have already been to Omaha and Utah beaches.  Others will go on or after the actual anniversary date.  What is about these battle grounds that stir our imagination and call us to view them for ourselves?

My friend and shipmate from the USS Midway Carrier (CV-41) Museum library, Phil Eakin (Commander,  USN ret) recently toured France.  One of the highlights of his trip was touring Omaha and Utah beaches.   He was showing the Midway flag by carrying his Midway Magic on the Road sign.

What battlefields have you visited?  Which ones would you like to visit and why?

One Town, Thirty-Four National Guards Men, Nineteen Killed in One Day…

DSC00510.JPGOne Memorial = One town, thirty four National Guardsmen with nineteen killed in a single day plus four more killed during the rest of the Normandy campaign.

That is how the National D-Day Memorial came to Bedford, Virginia.  Bedford, a small town near the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia,  had a population of about 3,200 then. (Population has doubled to slightly over 6,000 today).  Bedford proportionally lost more of its population than any other town.

Known as the Bedford Boys, Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment was part of the 29th Division.  Most of them had joined the Guard to earn extra money during the Great Depression.   They were mobilized into the Army for what was initially supposed to be one year on February 3, 1941.

They spent most of 1941 training at Ft Meade in Maryland.  After Pearl Harbor, they relocated to Camp Blanding, near Jacksonville, Florida.  From Camp Blanding, they went to Manhattan before embarking on the Queen Mary for Scotland and England.

They spent almost two years in Great Britain, training for the probable invasion of Europe.  Even though the troops did not experience combat before D-Day, they were among the best-trained soldiers and were selected to head the first wave of attack on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

To read more about the Bedford boys, I highly recommend,  The  Bedford Boys:  One American’ Town’s Ultimate D-Day  Sacrifice by Alex Kershaw.  Cambridge, MA:  Da Capo Press, 2003.  ISBN 0306811677

Amazon Variety of editions and prices

Barnes and Noble Variety of editions and prices


Did D-Day Hasten the end of World War II?

Did D-Day hasten the end of World War II?  T or F

This was actually a question on a history test I had in my freshman year at Radford (back in the olden days when it was still a single sex college.)

Most of us answered True.   Dr. Jervey had envisoned the answer as false.

World War II started on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.  It ended in Europe on VE Day when the German High Command surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945.  (Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945.)

Once the Allies launched the long awaited invasion of Fortress Europa, the war in Europe lasted less than a year.  True, the  Germans launched a strong counterattack at Bastogne (Battle of the Bulge) in December 1944, but compared to the almost 5 years since the war started, it was much shorter period of time.

We were able to convince the history professor that our response should be the correct one.  (I think it was our numbers rather than the brilliance of our argument that helped us change his mind.)

What do you think?  Did D-Day hasten the end of WWII?  Why or why not?