Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea, Somewhere, 1780…….

Last week we all gave thought to the thousands of Americans that charged ashore on the beaches of Normandy.  Places like Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Dog Red, and Pointe Du Hoc are all indelibly connected with their sacrifice.

But I want to highlight a broader view of Americans in Wartime that you might not think about.  The many that have served, and sometimes given their lives for America, that are just “Lost at Sea.”

This blog post had its genesis last week in a dinner with a former US Ambassador.  An incredible gentleman, he told many a story—large and small—over a dinner of “stuffies” and seafood.  As he spoke of his many different postings in foreign lands, I started to do the math in my head of his years of service to the country.  I stopped at 30+.

His time was not in uniform and he wasn’t armed with a rifle, but nonetheless, he faced danger and gave to his country.  He represented America in crisis and in times of peace.  He was part of the US diplomatic corps—our colleagues at State Department who tirelessly work on a different aspect of national security than our men and women in uniform.

The Ambassador was so disarming about his service, I was determined to further explore the contribution of his colleagues, dating back to the very formation of the United States of America.  I found a page associated with the American Foreign Service Association.

On their site, they have a Memorial List of all the State Department personnel that have given their lives.  As I started to scroll down that list, I noticed the first date…1780.  Wow, nearly 170 years before D-Day.  The list kept scrolling, and at the very bottom was a notation that as of May 2018, the list had 250 souls on it.  I was embarrassed to admit that I had no clue of the size of the sacrifice of our State Department.

I was drawn back to the first entry tho.  When I clicked on the name of William Palfrey, his bio came up.  I have reproduced it below in its entirety because of the last line.  Americans of ALL service to our country deserve to have their history known, and not be “never heard from again”.


William Palfrey
Lost at Sea — 1780

William Palfrey was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1741. He was an active participant in the American Revolution, serving as chief clerk to John Hancock, as aide-de-camp to George Washington and, later, as a paymaster-general of the Continental Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In 1780, the new United Stated Congress unanimously appointed Palfrey as U.S. consul general to France. He began his sea voyage on December 20 of that year on the ship Shillala but was never heard from again.

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The Liberation of Europe

75 years ago today, June 6, 1944, over 160,000 Allied troops made their way across the English Channel, landing along a 50 mile stretch of beach to begin the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.

Thousands of ships and aircraft would support the troops who landed on the beaches that day, thousands of whom would be killed or wounded.  In the end, Nazi Germany was defeated and Europe liberated.

Michael Hubiack was one of the thousands of U.S. troops who took part in what was code named Operation Overlord.  Very early in the morning the troops climbed down rope ladders to landing crafts.  As the morning haze lifted, they could see a beautiful beach that was littered with large metal obstacles.  It was low tide when Michael and G Company landed on Omaha Beach as the 1st wave of Operation Overlord (D-Day).   Once the ramp of the landing craft was dropped, they ran up the beach and passed the obstacles.  As they got further into the beach, the German machine guns opened up on the troops. G Company went as far as they could into a rocky area and set up the 60 mm mortar.

Michael was the Assistant Gunner on the 60mm mortar.  The Gunner would adjust the range and they began to fire on the German location.  The beach started to take German artillery fire and Michael’s mortar location was hit and everyone in the area was wounded. Michael had shrapnel wounds to his head, hand and back.  He laid in the rocks until the heavy fighting had passed.   A Navy medic cared for Michael and carried him to a transport ship and the wounded from Omaha Beach returned to England.

Michael spent 3 months in a hospital in Totten, England before being loaded onto a C47 aircraft for the flight back to the United States.  Michael and other wounded men would recuperate at the famed resort, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. After Michael recovered from his wounds, he was discharged from the Army.

Today we remember those brave troops who willingly put themselves in harms way and those who never came home to defeat tyranny and bring freedom back to millions across Europe.


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A moment of remembrance on Memorial Day

By Nick Ralston

Program Manager, Google Veterans Network Lead, and former Marine Major

I always wanted to be a Marine, but it wasn’t until the first day of rugby practice at the Naval Academy my sophomore year that I knew I was going to be a Marine. One of my coaches, an active duty, larger than life Marine officer took one look at me and declared, “Yep, you’re going to be a Marine.” That was Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Shea, who was killed the following year in combat near Fallujah, Iraq. He was the first person I knew to be killed in action and the first person I think of on Memorial Day, the federal holiday remembering and honoring persons who have died while serving in the Armed Forces.

People often confuse Memorial Day as another Veterans Day. The more you learn or the closer you are to its true meaning, the harder it is to balance the prescribed celebration with the sadness and solemnity of the sacrifices by the fallen men and women who are remembered on this day. But that’s the point: Remembrance. Different groups and people honor the day in different ways. For some, it’s a time of sorrow, guilt, or regret. For others, it’s an upbeat celebration of memories. Regardless of your approach, the important thing is that you remember, reflect, and then do what feels right.

If you’re looking for a way to honor those who have sacrificed, we invite you to join us. The National Moment of Remembrance occurs at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. The act, passed by Congress, asks that all Americans pause for one minute and simply remember. Baseball games will stop. Amtrak whistles will sound. And if you come to the Google homepage on desktop, you’ll find an experience that will allow you to play Taps the recognizable and haunting bugle call that is played at military funerals and is just about a minute long. That’s what I’ll be doing at 3 p.m. I’ll think about Kevin, Travis, Betsy, Van, Wes, Matt and others (the list never gets smaller), and I’ll be sad but I’ll celebrate in the ways they would have wanted.

Published May 27, 2019

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That Sound You Didn’t Hear

That Sound You Didn’t Hear, 1 April 2019


Last Friday I was down at the Museum restoration facility helping with some work that needed to be done. As I was changing into my coveralls, I heard the mobile recording studio being fired up. Lacing up my boots and stepping outside, the studio departed on its mission for the day. But I will circle back to that in moment.

That “Sound I Didn’t Hear” that Friday was the sound of a Veteran dying. I didn’t know about it until I got home and read the email from my friend. It was his Father-in-Law. 104 years old. Wounded twice in the Italian Campaign of World War Two (once when a shell hit the house he was sleeping in).

My friend had spoken with him the day before. And by all accounts he died peacefully. But he didn’t write any books. And according to my friend, rarely spoke about his experiences in WW2. His discharge papers and service record were mostly destroyed during a fire at the records center.

But like millions of other Americans, he served his country honorably when duty called. Then. And now, Americans are quietly doing their duty so that other Americans may sleep without worry of a shell exploding over them.

Now back to the story of the mobile recording studio.

They returned to the Museum shop, and were proudly discussing the Oral History recoding they had just made. A Veteran of the 82nd Airborne who had served in Vietnam. That person also served honorably. And quietly protected America.

In this case, generations of Americans will be able to hear him. Because that is our Mission…Preserving the Past for the Future. In this case, by sending out a recording studio and digitally saving forever the history of an American who had served.

I was very happy that the Museum was making a “Sound For All To Hear”. Below is a link to the Oral History program….please help us by ensuring you, or any veteran you know is heard. That will honor my friend’s 104 year old Father-in-Law.



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Toothbrush, USS Hornet

Toothbrush, 13 February 2019

USS Hornet (CV-8) was nearly 30,000 tons of fighting machine on the morning of 26 October, 1942. Steel formed her tough outer skin, while miles of pipes holding fuel, water, and a myriad other things pumped vital fluids throughout her skeleton. Her decks were crammed with thousands of rounds of AA ammunition, and her magazines held dozens of bombs and torpedoes.

But by the early hours of 27 October, 1942, she disappeared beneath the waves of Pacific Ocean, near the Solomon Islands. Her service life was incredibly short….barely a year. 140 of her 2,200 sailors never came back from that day. Many of her sailors were just teenagers….barely shaving.

Dramatic images of her wreck have shown amazing items. From an F4F Wildcat, to a 5”/38 caliber dual purpose gun. Even an airplane tractor with its International Harvester markings clearly seen.

However, the image that struck me contained a tiny object. The image has been copied above. It shows a sailors toilet kit. And the long slim white object on the right is what caught my attention….that sailor’s toothbrush.

That image would not leave me as I stood in front the mirror this morning and brushed my teeth. What happened to that sailor? Did he survive the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands? Did he come back to his loved ones? We will never know.

But we can’t let the sacrifice of that sailor fade. Think about the Americans that give their lives for our country next time you brush your teeth.


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Soggy Northern Virginia, 31 December 2018


As a very wet, soggy 2018 changes into 2019, I am focused more on a different set of numbers. 200,000, or 400,000, or perhaps a number somewhere in between. Depending on which government source and which moment of a particular day, there are somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 members of our Armed Forces not sleeping in their own bed tonight. The numbers change continuously and by the second.

These guardians of our freedom—be they men or women. Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army, Coast Guard or other. Whether on permanent change of station or temporary duty—they are manning the ramparts so that the rest of us may sleep peacefully as the New Year begins.

And the numbers affected are actually far larger than just the forces deployed. Those deployed men and women have wives, husbands, sons, daughters and other family members that they are serving alongside them in spirit. That is also the spirit of America.

Whether your drink of choice to ring in the New Year is a peaty Scotch, a Belgian Trappist Ale, or Spring Water….raise a glass to those around you. And to those Americans who aren’t able to see the ball drop in Times Square, or see the Fireworks in Smalltown, USA. And those worried about them.

Happy New Year from the staff and volunteers at the Americans in Wartime Museum.


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Lt. Col. John D. Jenkins: In Memoriam


Lt. Col. John Jenkins 1939 – 2019

On February 6th, 2019, United States Army Lt. Col. John D. Jenkins (ret.)  passed away after a long illness.  He was 79.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Mr. Jenkins served two tours in Vietnam from 1966-1967 and again from 1971-1972.  Among other awards, he received two Bronze Stars for his service during the war.

After retiring from the Army in 1980, Mr. Jenkins went on to work for the Fairfax County Public Schools.  In 1981 he was elected to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors representing the Neabsco district.  His 36 years on the board make him the longest serving supervisor in Virginia.

In a statement, Corey Stewart, the Republican chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors said: “Today, Prince William County mourns the loss of one of it’s best. For almost 37 years, Supervisor John Jenkins served his community with honor, integrity and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the residents in the Neabsco district. He not only loved this country, but he loved this community.”

John was a friend and ardent supporter of the museum from the beginning, and worked in his capacity as a supervisor on the PWC BOCS to further the interest of the museums mission.  He shard our vision to honor, educate and inspire, and his leadership has been significant in moving towards the goal of opening the museum.

John Jenkins will me missed by his family, friends, the citizens of Prince William County, and the country he served.

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Flying in the Aluminum Overcast – but seeing Shady Lady II.

In between this year’s constant rains, on a spectacular blue fall day, I flew in a B-17.

It meant a lot to me. My father flew them 74 years ago.

He was one of thousands of American GI’s who were stationed at Polebrook, England’s 351st Bomber Division. The B-17’s would conduct daily bombings of Germany. My Dad called it “the milk run” — and they were on the 23rd mission when he was shot down on a bombing run of Ludwigshafen, Germany — 430 miles away. His Bomber Group served as “Tail End Charlie” for the 1,000 + Bombers. They were to fly “high” at 29,000 feet.

In youth we are fearless. My Dad was 22 years old – and a pilot for World War II.

My Father, First Lt. Clarence A. Butrum (bottom right, with the bandaged nose from the Oxygon masks) and Lt. Myers.

He spent the next year in Stalag Luft III located in the present day Polish city of Zagan. Until General George Patton liberated the camp.

By the generosity of the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Aluminum Overcast is more than just an airplane. It is a traveling museum and a connection to the past, the “greatest generation” who built and served heroically on these magnificent warbirds.

Once inside, it was surprising how primitive the plane looks to me today. Sitting next to a machine gun, I saw how they loaded the ammo from bolted wooden boxes. The guidewires to the tail flaps and horizontal stabilizers where literally guidewires. It looked like it could have come off a bicycle. They rattled as the engines lifted the bomber over Manassas. My Dad suffered hearing loss in later years – I am sure these engines didn’t help.

For this Baby Boomer, the interior fuselage was challenging, to say the least. These planes were designed for 22 year-olds to scramble and climb through the narrow catwalk over the bombs and gun turrets.

The flight was very special. Coordinated by PT Billingsley and Erin Flynn of What’s Up PWC, I served as the official photographer when the Aluminum Overcast came into town for three days of flights, fundraising and fun. Later that night, the plane would serve as a backdrop for a Sock Hop to raise money.

Shady Lady II somewhere in France, May 28, 1944.

When my father’s plane went down on May 27, 1944, he was the co-pilot that day as Lt. Tedford E. Myers served as pilot. When Myers shouted to everyone to get out as he ditched the plane, my father never forgave him. In later years, in my late father’s mind, he thought the plane could have limped back over the English Channel. But the Shady Lady II would end up crashing into a French farm field.

The stories of why we fight and how we fight is an honor to celebrate those Americans who step up when asked. We see it everyday – be it First Responders, Nurses, Trauma Surgeons, Police or our Service Members. That will be the goal of the National Museum of Americans in Wartime being planned for Dale City.

But on that one bright rainless day this fall I was with my father when he was in the sky when we were both young and fearless.










Kraig Butrum is the CEO of the National Museum of Americans in Wartime being planned for Dale City.


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NMAW on Veterans Day

NMAW will be bringing a World War 2 Dodge Weapons Carrier  to the Mission BBQ in Chantilly, VA. on Veterans day. We will be set up from 10am until after 2pm. Please drop by to say “Hi” and  support this great business that does so much for our veterans.


Chantilly, VA


Chantilly, VA

Chantilly, VA

13067 Lee Jackson Mem. Hwy.
Fairfax, VA 22033
571-325-0975  Restaurant
703-495-2746  Catering
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2018 Tank Farm Open House

This years Tank Farm Open House was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, September 22-23 in Nokesville, VA.  Due to rain overnight on Saturday and all day Sunday, the second day of the event had to be canceled.  Despite the challenges imposed by significant rain in the weeks prior, Saturday was a huge success with thousands of people making their way through the gate.

Tanks and military vehicles where, as usual, the featured attraction, but by no means the only one.  The vehicles displays were enhanced by several groups of reenactors who set up their camps at various locations around the farm.

The Marine Corps Historical Society conducted demonstrations to include the ever popular flame thrower.  Author and military historian Patric O’Donnell was our keynote and spoke and answered audience questions about World War I.

The Prince William County Police K9 unit conducted a demonstration and the Prince William County Police Historical Society was on site showing off some vintage tools of the trade.

The Voices of Freedom conducted three interviews that included an Army veteran of WWII and Army and Navy veterans of the Vietnam War.  Additional interviews were scheduled for future dates.

We would like to thank everyone who made this years open house a success, especially our tremendous team of volunteers.  We also thank all those who came out to support the mission of the museum.  Your continued support is appreciated more than you know as we continue to make progress on the museum.  We are already looking forward to the 2019 open house.


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