Whenever October-November starts creeping in, I find myself thinking in of the men and women of The Corvin (Kisfaludy) Passage. Those freedom fighters in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 held out against the Soviets and the country’s puppet regime in bitter street fighting that pitted a handful of insurgents with largely small arms against a modern Eastern European military force that had cut its teeth in nasty house-to-house combined arms operations a generation before.
Among the hottest parts of Budapest during the conflict was the Corvin Cinema, which was used as the headquarters of revolution leader László Iván Kovács. The narrow streets around the cinema allowed Kovacs’ 1,000~ irregulars to hold off a full Soviet mechanized infantry division, and, using Molotov cocktails and improvised anti-tank weapons, the Covin group knocked out 12 tanks including a few massive ISU-152s– itself a heavy assault gun fielded by the Soviets in the last days of WWII. Termed the zveroboy (Russian: “beast killer”) it was designed to smash through concrete bunkers and Panther/Tiger tanks with ease.
The Covin group held their position for 15 days. But one of the most iconic fixtures from Corvin captured by Western journalists covering the fighting was ISU-152 #196 and its partner, abandoned by its crew along József Boulevard.
It can be seen in a number of images from those days.
I can’t find out what happened to #196. The Soviets likely scrapped it as to not be a lesson to those that the iron giant could be stopped by determination. That the beast-killer itself was a monster when viewed through the lens of those in Budapest.
As for the fighters, it is estimated that the three-week Revolution resulted in the combat deaths of 722 Soviet troops and some 2,500-3,000 Hungarians. To this figure can be added some 253 Hungarians executed or died in prison for their part in the Revolution.
A group of wounded German Army prisoners receiving medical attention at first aid station of U.S. 103rd and 104th Ambulance Companies (Field Hospital), attached to the 26th “Yankee” Division’s 101st Sanitary Train. These prisoners were taken from second line trenches during the opening attack of the Battle of Saint Mihiel on the 12th of September 1918, while the Yanks were “over there” as part of the American Expeditionary Force.
Formed largely from six New England National Guard units– half from Massachusetts– as noted by the Army’s CMOH, “During World War I, a press conference of Boston newspapermen was called by the Commanding General [ Maj. Gen. (Nat. Army) Clarence Ransom Edwards, USMA 1883] to determine a nickname for this division, which had just been inducted from New England National Guard units. The adopted suggestion was, ‘Call it the ‘Yankee Division’ as all New Englanders are Yankees’, and a dark blue monogrammed ‘YD’ on an olive drab background was officially designated as the division insignia.
The 26th still exists today, as the 26th Maneuver Enhancement “Yankee” Brigade, in Natick, Mass, primarily a unit of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. In addition to a host of streamers earned on its second trip to Europe in 1944-45, the Yankees earned streamers in 1917-18 for Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Ile de France and the Lorraine, suffering an amazing 100% casualty rate, some 18,000 soldiers.
The Mass Guard celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the division recently.
One enduring legacy of the 26th is Sgt. Stubby, an orphan pup the big-hearted Yankees adopted in 1917 and later became the mascot of the divisions’ 102nd Infantry Rgt. Postwar, he lived at Georgetown University and has been in the Smithsonian since then, still wearing his medals and 26th YD patch.
In 1920 Heinrich Karl Bukowski, better known as Charles Bukowski, was born in Andernach, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. After a move to Los Angeles and a stint at the U.S. Postal Service that smothered his soul, the barfly became something of a poet.
My own copy of Ham on Rye is threadbare and when the whisky flows, I suddenly become very capable in my recitation of Bluebird.
And as a tribute to Chuck, here is Tom Waits with The Laughing Heart and Nirvana:
Canadian-born firearms engineer Jean Cantius Garand went to work at the U.S. Army’s Springfield Armory in 1919 and age 29 and remained on the job until he retired in 1953. While he had a hand in a number of projects over that 34-year period, it was his semi-auto M1 rifle, adopted by the military on the eve of World War II, that he is best remembered for. Rather than send Garand off with a gold watch at his retirement party, Secretary of Army Robert Stevens authorized SA to give him one of their noteworthy M1s from the arsenal’s museum.
The gun they gave the inventor was SN# 1,000,000, an SA-made .30-06 completed in November 1942, scarcely a year after Pearl Harbor.
And it is still beautiful (and up for auction) today.
Hopefully, it will be bought by a museum or a philanthropist willing to put this national treasure on public display.
More in my column at Guns.com
Capt. Albert L. Kaiss, in effect the last dreadnought skipper in any Navy, had five afloat commands including the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964), the cruiser USS William H. Standley (CG-32), and the battleship Missouri— the latter, twice.
Kaiss recommissioned “Mighty Mo” as her 20th skipper in 1986 then left her in the hands of Capt. James Carney as he went on to command the hospital ship USNS Mercy.
Carney later subsequently handed over command of Missouri to Capt. John Chernesky in 1988.
Kaiss returned to Missouri on 13 June 1990 and took her to war for one final time as her 23rd commander. Kaiss steamed the battleship to the Persian Gulf from the West Coast, arriving 3 January 1991, and remaining until 21 March.
“We fired 783 16-inch salvos and 28 Tomahawk missiles at the Iraqis,” said Kaiss, then 51, on the eve of her decommissioning. “I’m proud of every sailor who served with me during the Persian Gulf War. We came home with the same number of people we left with, and none of our personnel was injured,” he noted. “Now we’re part of the history of this great ship.”
Kaiss, the last sailor to leave the ship on 31 March 1992, retired alongside her a few months later, a feat which led him to be described by the U.S. Navy Memorial as the last battleship sailor.
On this day in 1881 in West Chester, PA, Smedley Darlington Butler was authorized one body, human, which he used to join the Marines some 38 days before his 17th birthday during the great national crisis that was the Spanish–American War.
Some 34 years later, he retired as a full Maj. Gen (the highest rank authorised in the Corps at the time) after fighting in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the “Banana Wars,” and in France during the Great War, earning not just one but two Medals of Honor.
While in the Corps “The Fighting Quaker” wrote on counter insurgency warfare which was later published along with other texts as The Small Wars Manual in 1940 and, five years before his death at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, penned the slightly more notorious War is a Racket.
Here is Butler’s campaign hat on display at the National Marine Corps Museum.