Black Jack: Last Army Quartermaster Issued Horse

*Thanks to GP Cox at Pacific Paratrooper for the idea.  His post  today is about Dexter, the Last U.S. Naval Horse.

black jack at kennedy's funeralFor those of us old enough to remember President Kennedy’s funeral, one of many “Kodak” moments was the caparisoned (riderless horse), commemorating a warrior fallen in battle. The beautifully groomed horse with the empty saddle and the reversed boots was Black Jack.  Black Jack was named after General of the Armies, Black Jack Pershing of WWI fame.  He was a coal black, Morgan American Quarterhorse and the last one to  have the U.S. Army brand burned into  his shoulder.

He was born on January 19, 1947 and came to Ft. Myer  in Arlington, Virginia on November 22, 1952 from Ft. Reno, Oklahoma.  In addition to being the riderless horse for the Kennedy funeral, he was also the horse in the funeral for Presidents Hoover and Johnson and General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur.

Black Jack served a 29 year Army career, and was euthanized on February 6, 1976.  His health had declined in his last year and the veterinarian had to get permission  from Department of the Army to euthanize him.  He was cremated and buried on Sumerall Parade Field on Ft. Myer.

His memorial includes the number 3 over  crossed rifles, which is the symbol of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, “The Old Guard”, stationed at Ft Myer, where Black Jack lived.  Caisson platoon was responsible for caring for him and still takes care of the horses used in military funerals at Arlington Cemetary.

black jack's memorial

For more information about Black Jack click here.




Updated Statistics on the USS Midway Library Naval Institute Proceedings Project






OCT 2011 – DEC 2012


















JAN-JUN 2018



JUL-DEC 2018






Pct Completed



Thanks to Phil Eakins for the statistics and to Bonnie Brown, USS Midway Library Lead Librarian for sharing them with me.

USS Midway and the Naval Institute Proceedings Project

proceedings-first-issueOne of the USS Midway  Carrier Museum Library’s projects is a joint project with the US Naval Institute  in Annapolis, MD.  The Proceedings has been published since  1874 and is one of the oldest continually published magazine in the United States. From Wikipedia;

Proceedings covers topics concerning global security and includes articles from military professionals and civilian experts, historical essays, book reviews, full-color photography, and reader commentary. Roughly a third are written by active-duty personnel, a third by retired military, and a third by civilians. Proceedings also frequently carries feature articles by Secretaries of Defense, Secretaries of the Navy, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and top leaders of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

Phil Eakins is the project lead.  From  the USS Midway Library webpage.

In a joint project with the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI), we have volunteers reading every article in the Proceedings back to 1874. These volunteers catalog and summarize all important articles from each issue. The volunteer team compiling summaries for the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) Proceedings Database cruised into its fourth year of work recently in what appears to be a 10-year project. The searchable database, which will eventually be accessible via the USS Midway Museum and USNI websites, will provide interested parties with a valuable research tool heretofore unavailable. Over 5,000 summaries have been completed of a target set of over 12,500 main articles covering the period 1874 to date. As part of the join project, USNI has recently digitized its entire Proceedings collection and will soon have that available on their website.

Phil was kind enough to send me a VT-8 related summary from the Proceedings Project.  Ferrier, the wounded sailor from the VT-8 blog post, wrote this piece when he was a lieutenant in 1964.


usni photo of topedo squadron eight
USNI Photo from Ferrier’s article in USNI Proceedings, Oct 1964


USNI Proceedings, October 1964, pg. 72

Title: Torpedo Squadron Eight, the Other Chapter

Author: Lt. H. H. Ferrier, USN

Summary by: Bill O’Hara

Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) was commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia, in the late summer of 1941 as an element of carrier Air Group Eight, better known then as the Hornet Air Eight. The first commanding officer of Torpedo Eight, who also led the squadron in their fateful flight, was Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, U.S. Navy, a veteran of more than 20 years of naval service. The first aircraft assigned to the squadron were SBN-18s, which were a mid-wing design of the Brewster Aircraft Company, manufactured by the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia and were used to provide pilot training for this newly commissioned squadron. Following a shakedown cruise by the USS Hornet and her embarked air group in January 1942, the Hornet left Norfolk with the main portion of the squadron and headed for the Pacific.  She left behind a detachment of 80 officers and men who were to be sent to the Grumman factory on Long Island to learn as much as possible about the airplane from the engineers and builders before taking delivery of the new Grumman Avengers (the Avenger tag was given to the airplane after the Battle of Midway to exemplify the mission and dedication of all torpedo squadrons – to avenge the heroic sacrifice of their predecessors.) During this time of testing the new airplane, the first high-speed torpedo drops of a newly designed torpedo which was capable of surviving drop speeds of 125 knots and 125 – 150 feet of altitude were made. Following completion of these tests the planes were flown across country to San Diego to join their shipmates in the Pacific on the Hornet. Because the Hornet was at sea in the Pacific the planes were loaded onto the USS Kitty Hawk (APV-1) in San Diego for transport to Ford Island in Hawaii. Following arrival in Hawaii a message came from Midway Island for volunteers to fly six of the Avengers to Midway.  Upon arrival the planes were prepared for combat which included loading one each of the newly tested torpedoes and ammunition for the two .30 caliber machine guns and the .50 caliber gun. On the morning of June 4, unknown planes were spotted approaching Midway Island and the order was given to take off and find the Japanese carrier force that had been sighted some 15 miles off the coast.  The Japanese force consisted of four carriers and seventeen other ships in formation.  The six Avengers were attacked almost immediately after they had sighted the enemy ships and were outnumbered six to one by Japanese fighters.  Only one of the Avengers made it safely back to Midway Island with one of its gunners killed and the pilot and other gunner severely injured.  Overwhelming odds claimed the other five planes and their crewmembers on that fateful day. Keywords: Naval battles.


Bonnie and Pat share the Midway Magic on the Road–at the Naval Institute Proceedings in Annapolis, Mar 2018
Phil get's his 9000 hr award  Apr 2016.JPG
Phil upon getting his 9000 hour pin (He now has over 13,000 volunteer hours.)


Additional (Corrected) Info About VT-8

Eventhough I now live in Virginia, I still volunteer for the USS Midway Carrier Museum in their Library.  One of my library shipmates, Carl Snow, provided more accurate information about the crew and layout of the plane.

From Mr. Carl Snow:

In the TBF-1 that VT-8 flew, there were three positions: the pilot, the turret gunner, and the radioman. The turret gunner manned the single .50 caliber machine gun in the powered turret and was almost always an Aviation Machinist’s Mate petty officer. The radioman was in the compartment below and behind the turret gunner and operated the radio equipment. He was an Aviation Radioman petty officer. He had a single .30 caliber machine gun that protruded through a window at the bottom rear of the fuselage, just in front of the tail wheel. If it had to be fired, the Radioman would fire it, but his primary duties were radio communication (he made sure that the pilot’s radio was tuned to the correct frequency and operational, in addition to monitoring any other necessary communication). The “other” .30 caliber gun was mounted forward of the pilot’s cockpit and fired by the pilot through the propeller with an interrupter gear synchronized with the propeller blades. This was soon deleted as inadequate and unnecessary, and replaced by two .50 caliber machine guns in the wings, also fired by the pilot.
AM3 Ferrier was an Aviation Machinist’s Mate third class and not an Airman third class. He manned the turret gun and not the radio, although he could talk to the other two crewmen by internal communication (intercom). Sadly the Radioman did not survive the flight, and AM3 Ferrier was seriously wounded.
Thanks for the correct dope, Carl.
Much obliged,


Battle of Midway Torpedo Eight Survivor(s)

pacific_war_-_coral_sea_and_midway_-_mapHow many people from Torpedo Eight survived the Battle of Midway?  Who were they?

  1. ENS George Gay (Jr)
  2. ENS Albert K. Ernest
  3. Airman Third Class Harry Ferrier
  4. All of the above

If you guessed ENS George Gay, you would probably be in the majority. He is the most famous of the survivors. From the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, “Ennobled on the cover of Life magazine in August 1942, he received the Navy Cross and became iconic as the “sole survivor” of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8), whose 15 TBD Devastators from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) attacked the Japanese fleet on 4 June 1942. ”  He was also the only member to fly off the USS Hornet.

However, before the Battle of Midway, half of VT-8’s pilots were left in Norfolk, VA when the Hornet sailed for the Pacific Theater on March 1, 1942.  ENS Ernest and and  his radioman/gunner AM3 Ferrier were part of the group “to accept delivery of the New TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, while the ship carried the remaining Air Group 8 crews, which included the older TBD Devastator torpedo bombers, to the war zone.”


From a recollection of Ernest’s speech on 29 May 2002 at Whidby Island, WA

The new plane was almost as fast as a fighter. It carried a pilot and a crew of a turret gunner-radioman, and a tunnel gunner. It could launch its torpedoes at 200 knots rather than the 100 knots of the Devastator. We flew them cross country to Alameda, CA, and then to San Francisco where they were
loaded on the sea-land transport Hammondsport for delivery to Pearl Harbor. We went by a Navy transport, and when the Hammondsport arrived, we took the first six that were off-loaded and prepared them for a flight to Midway.

From Pearl Harbor, it is a 1200 mile open water flight to Midway Island. This was by far the longest flight I had ever made outside of sight of land. We were assigned two PBY Catalina pilots to act as navigators. One flew in each of the two three plane sections of TBF’s  that made up our flight.

On June 3, 1942: We knew the Japs had four carriers out there, Hiryu, Akagi, Soryu and Kaga. On June 4th, as I was walking to my plane, I picked up a $2 bill that was laying on the runway, and put it in my bill fold as a good luck omen. It is still there today. Shortly thereafter, another PBY spotted the Jap carriers bearing 320 degrees from Midway. We were immediately given orders to launch.. We also were told that all our carriers were back defending the Hawaiian Islands, and that the planes stationed here were Midway’s sole defense.

Click on the link to find out what happened next.

BTW, there is a new Battle of Midway movie due to be released Veteran’s Day weekend in 2019

Reblog: Libraries that Look Like They Belong at Hogwarts

Suzallo Library at nightHave you ever been jealous of Hermione Granger?  (Maybe not because of her skill with Magic but because of the wonderful Hogwarts Library and the magical books she had access to?)

Here are 16 Libraries that look like they could have been part of Hogwarts.  One of them is Suzallo Library at the University of Washington, which is my Library School alma mater.  Go Huskies!

To find out about the other 15 libraries, click here.

I think the library at the Marine’s Memorial in San Francisco is also worth an honorable mention.

Marine's Memorial Library.jpg

Book Review: Over the Horizon

Over the HorizonOver the Horizon by Luke Ridenhour.  Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018

Over the Horizon is heartwarming, fictionalized account of the USS Midway’s 1980-1981 cruise.  The story is told through the focus of the officers of VA-115 Eagles, who fly A-6 Intruders off the Midway. The reader is the 3rd person in the cockpit along with the pilot and the bomber-navigator (BN) from preflight briefs, through catapult takeoff and tail hook landing, and the long hour’s in-between.

The reader experiences why a lucky pilot is one whose takeoffs equal his landings. He doesn’t want to dick the donkey. Such irreverent observations are a way to cope with the reality that a single mistake can be the loss of a friend. “Although one pilot, three enlisted men, and four airplanes would not be coming home, the cruise was deemed a success.  Acceptable losses for such an at-sea period were defined as five aircraft loss or significantly damaged, three fatalities involving aviators, and three fatalities involving non-aviators.” (p.251).

The book follows a pivotal year for the USS Midway.  The Cactus collision and a potentially hazardous flyby of the Soviet aircraft carrier Minsk are two of the dramatic highlights.  The officers of VA-115 also face personal highs and lows from a break-up with a girlfriend that cannot handle the strains of the life and death situations that aviators face daily, a divorce from a wife who can no longer deal with the prolonged separations for people serving with the Navy’s foreign legion as the Midway was also known, and unlikely lifelong friendship with Eli, a Filipino caddy at the golf course in Subic Bay who understood that you “can’t argue with God about wind, rains and storm, or why you can’t teach a monkey to meow.”  (p. 233)

The friendships of the people in this story will stay with the reader long after the story ends.  Everyone is a wonderful human being.  Even the sailors on liberty in Olongapo (the adult Disneyland) show remarkable restraint except for the very few that throw pesos away from the children who dive into the Shit River for the tossed coins.  The better among the people who cross over the Shit River Bridge between the Subic Naval Base and Olongapo throw the coins near the children or the nets they carry. It is like a band of Eagle Scouts rather than the variety of flawed human beings that one normally finds in a group of individuals.  All of the Filipino children are precious, all of the Filipinos are friendly and have wonderful smiles despite the Americans on the golf course spending more in a day than that Filipinos make in a week.  Where do we find such friendly, pleased with their lot in life people?

Midway Magic is a constant theme through the story.  It helps save the ship from damage during the Cactus collision.  It also explains the luck experienced by the various pilots and crew as they perform their intricate, death defying ballet when the night is darker than a “black horse’s ass” and the flight deck is freezing.

Over the Horizon is another theme.  Pilots live to see what’s over the horizon.  Eli, the Filipino caddy, dreams of someday seeing over the horizon “the mystical line where the water meets the sky.  His dream was in full view every day—less than twenty miles away—yet out of reach for a life time, he had finally conceded.” (p. 19)

I would like to read more about life on the Midway as interpreted by those that served on her.  It is a time that has passed, but is evergreen for those who love a good sea story that either begins “This is a no shitter,” or “There I was on the…”  Let us end as one the flyers, Doc, is known to say, “Yes and Amen.”



Reblog of Pacific Paratrooper Book Library

For those of you haved not yet discovered GP Cox Pacific Paratrooper’s blog, you are in for a treat.  His blog focuses on Pacific War era information.   He does not focus on Pearl Harbor specifically ” I didn’t cover Pearl all that much, as it has been done by so many, and everyone has their own opinion on it.”

Since today is Pearl Harbor Day, I thought his blog about WWII in the Pacific would be a timely one to discover.  Here is a reblog of some of the sources he uses to write his blog articles.

via Pacific Paratrooper Book Library – YTD