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Remembering Mikhail Kalashnikov

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By Allan Cors, Museum Founder & Chairman

In October 1998, General Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov came to the United States as the guest of the Virginia Gun Collectors Association. Traveling with him was his daughter, Elena, and his grandson, Igor. Happily, his visit coincided with that year’s Open House event at the “Tank Farm,” where my collection of military vehicles is kept and maintained (www.vmmv.org). A substantial part of this collection will be donated to the Americans in Wartime Museum (www.nmaw.org) which is being developed on a 70-acre site in Northern Virginia.

General Kalashnikov with a Museum tank marked in his honor.

General Kalashnikov with a Museum tank marked in his honor.

First, a little history. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Kalashnikov was sent into battle as a tank crew commander in a Russian T-34 tank. It was probably the best overall tank of WW II. Three months later, he was badly wounded in the shoulder and required a long period of recuperation. For the duration of the war, he was directed to devote all of his time and energy to developing a new concept for an infantry rifle that would help the Soviets defeat the Germans. After years of development, the AK47 was adopted by the Soviet military forces.

During WW II, the Soviets were very creative in marking their tanks with slogans and unique unit markings. e.g. “To Berlin,” “For Mother Russia.”  As a long-time collector of tanks, including two T34s, I asked General Kalashnikov how his tank was marked. He told me there were no slogans or special unit markings. Rather, the names of the crew members were simply hand painted on the outside of the tank nearest each crew member’s position: driver and machine gunner on the front of the hull and the commander, gunner and loader on the sides of the turret. I asked him to write his name as it appeared on the turret near his commander’s hatch. The next morning, the day of the Open House, one of the museum team members painted “Mikhail Kalashnikov” in block letter Cyrillic, as per his note, on the right side of the turret near the top (see photo).

The opening ceremonies that morning included the presentation of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and the playing of the National Anthem. To this day, I regret not taking careful note of the expressions on the faces of all of the Russian military staff who came from their embassy and their families—including the top Russian military attaché, a general, who I had recruited as the interpreter for General Kalashnikov’s speech. I’m sure this well trained and experienced group handled it well because the Russians enjoyed the day and came back to several future events—and shared with us letters of thanks and personal gifts of officer’s hats, badges, belts, etc. (BTW: a Spetsnatz soldier who lost an arm in Afghanistan, drove our Russian BMP 1 armored personnel carrier that day around the fields with a level of skill and at a speed that I’d never seen! A pro, for sure.)

General Kalashnikov and Museum Chairman Allan Cors at our Open House in 2003.

General Kalashnikov and Museum Chairman Allan Cors at our Open House in 2003.

It was clearly an emotional moment for the General as tears filled his eyes—–to overflowing. He regained his composure and began to speak. It was an extraordinary day at the Tank Farm.

He was a brilliant arms designer and a very gentle man who came from a very hard background—with a tender heart.

R.I.P.

Note: Lieutenant-general Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov was a Russian general and small arms designer, most famous for developing the AK-47 assault rifle and its improvements, AKM and AK-74, as well as the PK machine gun. He was born November 10, 1919, and died on December 23, 2013.

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Help Us Honor, Educate and Inspire

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The Americans in Wartime Museum will highlight the people, places and events of our nation’s wars from World War I to the present. By conveying the personal experiences of individual Americans and engaging visitors in hands-on activities, the Museum will enable visitors to learn about their heritage and the contributions of those who came before.

Your donation will help our Museum honor, preserve and present the valiant stories of these seemingly “ordinary” American men and women.

Contributions are tax-deductible and will enable the Museum to carry out its mission, to build a permanent home at our site in the Washington, D.C. area, to develop unique collections and programs, and to produce communications that keep our supporters updated on Museum news and activities.

Learn more about the ways you can contribute to the Americans in Wartime Museum:

Click here to make a donation online

Donate by Mail

  • If you prefer to send your gift through the mail, please print and complete this gift form. You can pay by credit card, check or money order.
  • Checks or money orders should be made payable to “NMAW”.
  • Mail your gift to:
    Americans in Wartime Museum
    8300 Arlington Blvd., Suite G-2
    Fairfax, VA  22031
    Phone: 703-662-5774

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Christmas Poem

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TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
HE LIVED ALL ALONE,
IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF
PLASTER AND STONE.

I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY
WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,
AND TO SEE JUST WHO
IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.

I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.

NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.

WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
A SOBER THOUGHT
CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,
SILENT, ALONE,
CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR

IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
NOT HOW I PICTURED
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.

WAS THIS THE HERO
OF WHOM I’D JUST READ?
CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.

SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.

I COULDN’T HELP WONDER
HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

THE VERY THOUGHT
BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
AND STARTED TO CRY.

THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,
“SANTA DON’T CRY,
THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,
I DON’T ASK FOR MORE,
MY LIFE IS MY GOD,
MY! COUNTRY, MY CORPS.”

THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
I COULDN’T CONTROL IT,
I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

I WEPT FOR HOURS,
SO SILENT AND STILL
AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
FROM THE COLD NIGHT’S CHILL.

I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE
ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
WHISPERED, “CARRY ON SANTA,IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE.”

ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND!
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.”

 

This poem was written by a Marine. The following is his request: “PLEASE. Would you do me the kind favor of sending this to as many people as you can?  Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our U.S. service men and women for our being able to celebrate these festivities.  Let’s try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. “

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“Tagging” Trees to Honor Fallen Soldiers

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Wreaths Across America (WAA), a nonprofit organization best known for its annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and more than 900 other locations nationwide — with a mission to Remember, Honor and Teach about the service and sacrifices of our veterans — is paying tribute to veterans and their families nationwide on Veterans Day and beyond with their Veteran Remembrance Tree Program.

The Veteran Remembrance Tree program, a new program from Wreaths Across America, consist of special memorial trees that are “tagged” with custom military-style I.D. tags dedicated to a fallen soldier by remaining family members. Each wreath laid at Arlington is tipped from these trees on founder Morrill Worcester’s 4,000-acre forest. The remembrance trees, which are never cut down, act as a living memorial to veterans and their families long after the wreaths are placed at Arlington. “We created the Veteran Remembrance Tree program because we wanted to find a way to recognize the fallen soldiers and their families in a more permanent way,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, Wreaths Across America. “This endless forest is a truly visual representation of our unwavering commitment to our mission to Remember, Honor and Teach and to recognize our fallen soldiers and families this year and for many years to come.”

Wreaths Across America works year round to carry out their mission by coordinating veterans services and recognition through a variety of programs and providing teaching projects to schools throughout the school year. “We strive to remember the fallen and honor those who serve, not just on Veterans Day but every single day of the year,” said Worcester. “It is important we teach our children about the freedoms we enjoy each and every day.”

NOTE: Wreaths Across America will head to Arlington National Cemetery on December 14th for National Wreaths Across America Day for its annual wreath-laying ceremony.

Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester, in 1992. The organization’s mission, Remember, Honor, Teach, is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as hundreds of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. For more information, to donate or to sign up to volunteer, please visit www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.org.

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Dedication Anniversary of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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On November 13, 1982, near the end of a weeklong national salute to Americans who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict.

Present colorsThe long-awaited memorial was a simple V-shaped black-granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict, arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials. The designer of the memorial was Maya Lin, a Yale University architecture student who entered a nationwide competition to create a design for the monument. Lin, born in Ohio in 1959, was the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Many veterans’ groups were opposed to Lin’s winning design, which lacked a standard memorial’s heroic statues and stirring words. However, a remarkable shift in public opinion occurred in the months after the memorial’s dedication. Veterans and families of the dead walked the black reflective wall, seeking the names of their loved ones killed in the conflict. Once the name was located, visitors often made an etching or left a private offering, from notes and flowers to dog tags and cans of beer.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial soon became one of the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital., it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington, D.C., with over 4.2 million estimated visitors so far in 2012 alone. A Smithsonian Institution director called it “a community of feelings, almost a sacred precinct,” and a veteran declared that “it’s the parade we never got.” “The Wall” drew together both those who fought and those who marched against the war and served to promote national healing a decade after the divisive conflict’s end.

A few facts about The Vietnam Wall from the National Park Service:

How many names are on the wall?

As of 2013, there are 58,286 names listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized.

What happens to items left at the memorial?

Items are gathered by park staff. Non-perishable items are archived in a storage facility.

How are the names arranged on the wall?

The names are arranged chronologically by date of casualty. The first names appear at the center of the wall at the top of panel 1E. The panels are filled like pages of a journal listing the men and women’s names as they fell. Upon reaching the farthest east end of the memorial at panel 70E, the pattern continues from the far west end of the memorial at panel 70W, continuing back to the center at panel 1W. In this manner, the memorial evokes a theme of closure or completion; the first are with the last.

Other Facts:

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth , Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.

8,283 were just 19 years old.

The largest age group, at 33,103, were 18 years old.

12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam ..

1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam ..

31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia .

8 Women are on the Wall. Nursing the wounded.

244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.

Beallsville , Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.

West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

 Sources include www.wikipedia.com via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, the National Park Service, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

 

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Teaching Your Kids about Veterans Day

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661st Tank Destroyer Battalion vetsOne of the most important ways we can commemorate Veterans Day is to teach our children about the meaning of this day and the men and women it honors. Here are a few ideas to get your children involved in celebrating Veterans Day:

  • Have your kids write short articles or essays of how veterans are honored around the world.
  • If you have any veterans in your family, suggest that your kids “interview” them about what it was like to serve in the U.S. military.
  • Have children draw a picture of Veterans Day, and what this holiday means to them. Military children can draw a picture of a parent who is currently deployed or a relative who has served.
  • Take your kids to visit a veterans hospital or encourage them to make a card for one of the veterans who are listed through your local VA medical facility.
  • Take part in a flag-raising ceremony.
  • Attend a concert featuring patriotic music.
  • Participate in a moment of silence in remembrance of those who gave their lives for their country.

Click here for some information about the history of Veterans Day: http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp

visitors with shirtsOther resources:

The VA Kids page: http://www.va.gov/kids/

Veterans Day Facts and Trivia: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1022389/veterans-day-facts-and-trivia-for-kids

Activities and a video interview with a Tuskegee Airman: http://www.meetmeatthecorner.org/episode/veterans-day-for-kids-interview-with-tuskegee-airman

Make Veterans Day a meaningful and enjoyable commemoration for your whole family!

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps!

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In 1921, Gen. John A. Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. Gen. Lejeune’s order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps.  It further directed that the order be read to all Marines on 10 November of each year to honor the founding of the Marine Corps.  Thereafter, 10 November became a unique day for U.S. Marines throughout the world.

Why November 10?

MarineCorpsBirthdayCake_CampLejeune_2008_081107-M-3189M-001On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia passed a resolution stating that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces with the fleet. This resolution established the Continental Marines and marked the birth date of the United States Marine Corps. Serving on land and at sea, these first Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations, including their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776, under the command of Captain (later Major) Samuel Nicholas.

The first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, Nicholas remained the senior Marine officer throughout the American Revolution and is considered to be the first Marine Commandant. The Treaty of Paris in April 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War and as the last of the Navy’s ships were sold, the Continental Navy and Marines went out of existence.

Following the Revolutionary War and the formal re-establishment of the Marine Corps on 11 July 1798, Marines saw action in the quasi-war with France, landed in Santo Domingo, and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the “Shores of Tripoli”.

Marines took part in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland, and fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans.

The decades following the War of 1812 saw the Marines protecting American interests around the world, in the Caribbean, at the Falkland Islands, Sumatra and off the coast of West Africa, and also close to home in operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida.

George Washington received his appointment as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army the next day, and formally took command at Boston on July 3, 1775.

Birthday Celebrations

The first formal Birthday Ball was celebrated in 1925, though no records exist that indicate the proceedings of that event.Birthday celebrations took a variety of forms, including dances, though some accounts include mock battles, musical performances, pageants, and sporting events.

The celebrations were formalized and standardized by Commandant Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. in 1952, outlining the cake cutting ceremony, which would enter the Marine Drill Manual in 1956. By tradition, the first slice of cake is given to the oldest Marine present, who in turn hands it off to the youngest Marine present, symbolizing the old and experienced Marines passing their knowledge to the new generation of Marines. The celebration also includes a reading of Marine Corps Order 47, republished every year, as well as a message from the current Commandant, and often includes a banquet and dancing if possible. In many cases, the birthday celebration will also include a pageant of current and historical Marine Corps uniforms, as a reminder of the history of the Corps.

(Sources include www.usmcpress.com, www.military.com, www.wikipedia.com via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/.)

 

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Election Days Past on November 5

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voteNovember 5th is Election Day in many states and communities across the country. If there is an election where you live, get out and VOTE!

During the 20th century, November 5th election days often proved pivotal, particularly in Presidential elections affecting the direction of wartime America:

1912Democrat Woodrow Wilson is elected the 28th president of the United States, with Thomas R. Marshall as vice president. In a landslide Democratic victory, Wilson won 435 electoral votes against the eight won by Republican incumbent William Howard Taft and the 88 won by Progressive Party candidate Theodore Roosevelt. The presidential election was the only one in American history in which two former presidents were defeated by another candidate. Highlights of Wilson’s two terms as president included his leadership during World War I, his 14-point proposal to end the conflict, and his championing of the League of Nations–an international organization formed to prevent future armed conflict.

1940President Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term in office, beating Republican challenger Wendell L. Willkie along with Surprise Party challenger Gracie Allen. Roosevelt was elected to a third term with the promise of maintaining American neutrality as far as foreign wars were concerned: “Let no man or woman thoughtlessly or falsely talk of American people sending its armies to European fields.” But as Hitler’s war spread, and the desperation of Britain grew, the president fought for passage of the Lend-Lease Act in Congress, in March 1941, which would commit financial aid to Great Britain and other allies. In August, Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to proclaim the Atlantic Charter, which would become the basis of the United Nations; they also drafted a statement to the effect that the United States “would be compelled to take countermeasures” should Japan further encroach in the southwest Pacific. Despite ongoing negotiations with Japan, that “further encroachment” took the form of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor-”a day that would live in infamy.” The next day Roosevelt requested, and received, a declaration of war against Japan. On December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Certain wartime decisions by Roosevelt proved controversial, such as the demand of unconditional surrender of the Axis powers, which some claim prolonged the war. Another was the acquiescence to Joseph Stalin of certain territories in the Far East in exchange for his support in the war against Japan. Roosevelt is often accused of being too naive where Stalin was concerned, especially in regard to “Uncle Joe’s” own imperial desires.

1968Winning one of the closest elections in U.S. history, Republican challenger Richard Nixon defeats Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Because of the strong showing of third-party candidate George Wallace, neither Nixon nor Humphrey received more than 50 percent of the popular vote; Nixon beat Humphrey by less than 500,000 votes. Nixon campaigned on a platform designed to reach the “silent majority” of middle class and working class Americans. He promised to “bring us together again,” and many Americans, weary after years of antiwar and civil rights protests, were happy to hear of peace returning to their streets. Foreign policy was also a major factor in the election. Humphrey was saddled with a Democratic foreign policy that led to what appeared to be absolute futility and agony in Vietnam. Nixon promised to find a way to “peace with honor” in Vietnam, though he was never entirely clear about how this was to be accomplished. The American people, desperate to find a way out of the Vietnam quagmire, were apparently ready to give the Republican an opportunity to make good on his claim. During his presidency, Nixon oversaw some dramatic changes in U.S. Cold War foreign policy, most notably his policy of detente with the Soviet Union and his 1972 visit to communist China. His promise to bring peace with honor in Vietnam, however, was more difficult to accomplish. American troops were not withdrawn until 1973, and South Vietnam fell to communist forces in 1975.

Sources include http://thisdayinusmilhist.wordpress.com, The History Channel website. Retrieved 10:00 November 1, 2013, from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fdr-re-elected-president and www.wikipedia.com via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/.

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America’s Finest

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The Americans in Wartime Museum is devoted to honoring the service of American men and women who served during wartime from World War I to the present day. Today, October 31, we honor those who were recognized with Medal of Honor citations for valorous actions taken on this day in the modern era. They are American heroes in the truest sense.

PittsRL01cPITTS, RILEY L. was a United States Army Captain and the first African-American commissioned officer to receive the Medal of Honor. The medal was presented posthumously by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson on December 10, 1968 for actions in Ap Dong, South Vietnam.Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Company C, 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Ap Dong, Republic of Vietnam, 31 October 1967. Entered service at: Wichita, Kans. Born: 15 October 1937, Fallis, Okla. Citation: Distinguishing himself by exceptional heroism while serving as company commander during an airmobile assault. Immediately after his company landed in the area, several Viet Cong opened fire with automatic weapons. Despite the enemy fire, Capt. Pitts forcefully led an assault which overran the enemy positions. Shortly thereafter, Capt. Pitts was ordered to move his unit to the north to reinforce another company heavily engaged against a strong enemy force. As Capt. Pitts’ company moved forward to engage the enemy, intense fire was received from 3 directions, including fire from 4 enemy bunkers, 2 of which were within 15 meters of Capt. Pitts’ position. The severity of the incoming fire prevented Capt. Pitts from maneuvering his company. His rifle fire proving ineffective against the enemy due to the dense jungle foliage, he picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and began pinpointing the targets. Seizing a Chinese Communist grenade which had been taken from a captured Viet Cong’s web gear, Capt. Pitts lobbed the grenade at a bunker to his front, but it hit the dense jungle foliage and rebounded. Without hesitation, Capt. Pitts threw himself on top of the grenade which, fortunately, failed to explode. Capt. Pitts then directed the repositioning of the company to permit friendly artillery to be fired. Upon completion of the artillery fire mission, Capt. Pitts again led his men toward the enemy positions, personally killing at least 1 more Viet Cong. The jungle growth still prevented effective fire to be placed on the enemy bunkers. Capt. Pitts, displaying complete disregard for his life and personal safety, quickly moved to a position which permitted him to place effective fire on the enemy. He maintained a continuous fire, pinpointing the enemy’s fortified positions, while at the same time directing and urging his men forward, until he was mortally wounded. Capt. Pitts’ conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the cost of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the Armed Forces of his country.

BARGER, CHARLES D. Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company L, 354th Infantry, 89th Division. Place and date: Near Bois-deBantheville, France, 31 October 1918. Entered service at: Stotts City, Mo. Birth: Mount Vernon, Mo. G.O. No.: 20, W.D., 1919. Citation: Learning that 2 daylight patrols had been caught out in No Man’s Land and were unable to return, Pfc. Barger and another stretcher bearer upon their own initiative made 2 trips 500 yards beyond our lines, under constant machinegun fire, and rescued 2 wounded officers.

FUNK, JESSE N. Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company L, 354th Infantry, 89th Division. Place and date: Near Bois-deBantheville, France, 31 October 1918. Entered service at. Calhan, Colo. Born: 20 August 1888, New Hampton, Mo. G.O. No.: 20, W.D., 1919. Citation: Learning that 2 daylight patrols had been caught out in No Man’s Land and were unable to return, Pfc. Funk and another stretcher bearer, upon their own initiative, made 2 trips 500 yards beyond our lines, under constant machinegun fire, and rescued 2 wounded officers.

BUTTON, WILLIAM ROBERT Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps. Entered service at: St. Louis, Mo. Born: 3 December 1895, St. Louis, Mo. G.O. No.: 536, 10 June 1920. Citation: For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in actual conflict with the enemy near Grande Riviere, Republic of Haiti, on the night of 31 October_l November 1919, resulting in the death of Charlemagne Peralte, the supreme bandit chief in the Republic of Haiti, and the killing, capture and dispersal of about 1,200 of his outlaw followers. Cpl. William R. Button not only distinguished himself by his excellent judgment and leadership but also unhesitatingly exposed himself to great personal danger when the slightest error would have forfeited not only his life but the lives of the detachments of Gendarmerie under his command. The successful termination of his mission will undoubtedly prove of untold value to the Republic of Haiti.

HANNEKEN, HERMAN HENRY Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps. Place and date: Near Grande Riviere, Republic of Haiti, 31 October-1 November 1919. Entered service at: St. Louis, Mo. Born: 23 June 1893, St. Louis, Mo. G.O. No.: 536, 10 June 1920. Other Navy awards: Navy Cross with 1 gold star, Silver Star, Legion of Merit. Citation: For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in actual conflict with the enemy near Grande Riviere, Republic of Haiti, on the night of 31 October-1 November 1919, resulting in the death of Charlemagne Peralte, the supreme bandit chief in the Republic of Haiti, and the killing, capture, and dispersal of about 1,200 of his outlaw followers. 2d Lt. Hanneken not only distinguished himself by his excellent judgment and leadership but also unhesitatingly exposed himself to great personal danger when the slightest error would have forfeited not only his life but the lives of the detachments of gendarmerie under his command. The successful termination of his mission will undoubtedly prove of untold value to the Republic of Haiti.

THORNTON, MICHAEL EDWIN Rank and organization: Petty Officer, U.S. Navy, Navy Advisory Group. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 31 October 1972. Entered service at: Spartanburg, S.C. Born: 23 March 1949, Greenville, S.C. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while participating in a daring operation against enemy forces. PO Thornton, as Assistant U.S. Navy Advisor, along with a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as Senior Advisor, accompanied a 3-man Vietnamese Navy SEAL patrol on an intelligence gathering and prisoner capture operation against an enemy-occupied naval river base. Launched from a Vietnamese Navy junk in a rubber boat, the patrol reached land and was continuing on foot toward its objective when it suddenly came under heavy fire from a numerically superior force. The patrol called in naval gunfire support and then engaged the enemy in a fierce firefight, accounting for many enemy casualties before moving back to the waterline to prevent encirclement. Upon learning that the Senior Advisor had been hit by enemy fire and was believed to be dead, PO Thornton returned through a hail of fire to the lieutenant’s last position; quickly disposed of 2 enemy soldiers about to overrun the position, and succeeded in removing the seriously wounded and unconscious Senior Naval Advisor to the water’s edge. He then inflated the lieutenant’s lifejacket and towed him seaward for approximately 2 hours until picked up by support craft. By his extraordinary courage and perseverance, PO Thornton was directly responsible for saving the life of his superior officer and enabling the safe extraction of all patrol members, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

WILLIAMS, JAMES E. Rank and organization: Boatswain’s Mate First Class (PO1c.), U.S. Navy, River Section 531, My Tho, RVN, Place and date: Mekong River, Republic of Vietnam, 31 October 1966. Entered service at: Columbia, S.C. Born: 13 June 1930, Rock Hill, S.C. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. PO1c. Williams was serving as Boat Captain and Patrol Officer aboard River Patrol Boat (PBR) 105 accompanied by another patrol boat when the patrol was suddenly taken under fire by 2 enemy sampans. PO1c. Williams immediately ordered the fire returned, killing the crew of 1 enemy boat and causing the other sampan to take refuge in a nearby river inlet. Pursuing the fleeing sampan, the U.S. patrol encountered a heavy volume of small-arms fire from enemy forces, at close range, occupying well-concealed positions along the river bank. Maneuvering through this fire, the patrol confronted a numerically superior enemy force aboard 2 enemy junks and 8 sampans augmented by heavy automatic weapons fire from ashore. In the savage battle that ensued, PO1c. Williams, with utter disregard for his safety exposed himself to the withering hail of enemy fire to direct counter-fire and inspire the actions of his patrol. Recognizing the overwhelming strength of the enemy force, PO1c. Williams deployed his patrol to await the arrival of armed helicopters. In the course of his movement his discovered an even larger concentration of enemy boats. Not waiting for the arrival of the armed helicopters, he displayed great initiative and boldly led the patrol through the intense enemy fire and damaged or destroyed 50 enemy sampans and 7 junks. This phase of the action completed, and with the arrival of the armed helicopters, PO1c. Williams directed the attack on the remaining enemy force. Now virtually dark, and although PO1c. Williams was aware that his boats would become even better targets, he ordered the patrol boats’ search lights turned on to better illuminate the area and moved the patrol perilously close to shore to press the attack. Despite a waning supply of ammunition the patrol successfully engaged the enemy ashore and completed the rout of the enemy force. Under the leadership of PO 1 c. Williams, who demonstrated unusual professional skill and indomitable courage throughout the 3 hour battle, the patrol accounted for the destruction or loss of 65 enemy boats and inflicted numerous casualties on the enemy personnel. His extraordinary heroism and exemplary fighting spirit in the face of grave risks inspired the efforts of his men to defeat a larger enemy force, and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Sources include http://thisdayinusmilhist.wordpress.com/2004/10/31/october-31/ and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. www.cmohs.org.

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The Story of Major John Cassell Henderson

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Photo: Harold Goettler

… the most soothing thoughts came to mind in the memory of a man I recalled from WWI.
Written November 1968 by Major John Cassell Henderson the day prior to undergoing major surgery. Critically ill and contemplating that the end of his may be near, he wrote this letter to his family reflecting back to a hero named Harold Goettler who gave his life at a young age without a thought. Here is what he wrote:

At one point, the day before the operation, during my recent visit to the hospital, my resistance ebbed to a very low point. Perhaps, my time was up, flashed faintly through my mind. But strangely enough, at the same time, the most soothing thoughts came to mind in the memory of a man I recalled from World War I. Here’s the story.
August 23, 1917. I arrived as an aviation cadet at Champaign, Illinois. I was pleasantly surprised to meet several fellows who I knew from the University of Chicago, reporting for duty in this exciting new adventure the same as I. One in particular was Harold Goettler, a big fine specimen of a man, whose personality and appearance stood out in any group. He was a 3 letter football man at the University and also most popular on the campus in student activities.

Later we proceeded to Canada and Fort Worth with the RFC. Then on the Olympic to England. After arriving in England they split-up the group and sent us to various fields for further flying instructions. Goettler and I were sent to a small field in Norfolk, where we remained together during our entire stay. Except for 5 other American officers, we were thrown in with 100 or so Britishers. Goett and I reported to the Commanding Officer, an Englishman, trim from the tips of his waxed mustache to the toes of his polished boots, who greeted us most cordially and conducted us personally on a tour of the station, before assigning us to the room Goett and I shared during our entire stay. After the austere treatment we had endured, a hot cup of tea, and valet service in the best British style in all our personal needs, convinced us that, although we were still neophytes as military pilots, as officers and gentlemen, we had-it-made.

Strangers, both American and British, immediately accepted and recognized Goett as something special. The red carpet seemed to roll out for him wherever he went. I couldn’t help but notice this, for any favorable attention I got from strangers I had to earn, and that came slowly and gradually.

As I became more closely acquainted with Goett, in spite of his great popularity I found him to be most considerate of his fellow man, and had an inborn instinct of knowing exactly the right thing to do in any situation. When time came to leave this base he had gained the close personal friendship and admiration of all with who he had come in contact.

I saw him several times at brief intervals in France, before we both wound-up on the front in different squadrons. After the Armistice, I was saddened to learn that he had been shot down and killed by ground fire while dropping supplies from a DH4 airplane to some US Infantry, trapped in a valley, and surrounded by the Germans. The US gave him, posthumously, their highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Thus, at the age of 24, life ended for a man who had the physique, education, personality and character that would have carried him to the top in any line of civilian endeavor he might have chosen. And here am I, still here after struggling through 77 years, and still struggling, perhaps not quite so hard lately.

Nature deals life and death in her own way, so when Gabriel blows his horn, I’m ready. Better men than I have gone long before me. But as long as I’m still here, I’ll try to look at it as Jackie Gleason might say, “How Sweet it Is.”

John Cassell Henderson did survive this surgery and lived an active life until his passing in 1984. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. (1891-1984)

Story submitted by Nancy Coursen.

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