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Excelsior!

Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Stan Lee spent much of his life in the comics industry– with a break for WWII service in the Army– and with fellow artists, co-created legions of iconic characters.

Lee grew up in the Bronx and by age 17 was working at Timely Comics, a company that would later grow into Marvel. Some seven months before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor brought the country into World War II, Lieber, using the Lee pseudonym, wrote his first comic, Captain America #3.

Setting down his pencils, Lee soon put on a uniform and joined the Army Signal Corps shortly after hearing of “The Day Which Shall Live in Infamy,” working as a lineman before his skills were put to use in making training posters and doing technical writing– so just think, some of those horrible WWII TMs could have included work by Lee!

In 2012, Lee was inducted into the Signal Corps Regimental Association and presented with an honorary membership into the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment.

“This is one of my proudest moments,” Lee said.

The move came just after he popped up in a classic WWII “pink and green uniform” during a cameo as a four-star general in the first Captain America film. Quite a promotion from the T-5 days!

Always a class act, he occasionally appeared at Veterans events over the years and made sure to interact with Servicemembers whenever possible.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers

And of course showed up as a hard-drinking WWII Army Vet in  Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015):

Stan, you will be missed.

Excelsior!

The night the lamps came back on across Europe, 100 years ago

William Nicholson – Armistice Night, 1918.

And to remember this nearly forgotten generation who changed the map of the globe forever, here is the roll call of “the last” of the lost, courtesy of Al Nofi.

  • 1993 September 24: Danilo DajkoviÄ, at 98 the last known Montengran veteran.
  • 1995 September 6: Matsuda Chiaki, at 99 the last Japanese veteran of the war, in which he served as a naval cadet and then a junior officer, but did not see combat duty. In later life, he commanded the battleship Yamato and rose to rear admiral.
  • 1998 March 14: Zita of Bourbon-Parma, sometime Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary (1916-1918), 96, the last political figure from the war.
  • 1998 June: Saci Ben Hocine Mahdi, 100, in France, the last surviving tirailleur algerienne
  • 1998 October 11: Abdoulaye N’Diaye, 104, in Senegal, the last surviving tirailleur sénégalais.
  • 1999 April 11: Wallace Pike, 99, last veteran of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who served at the Somme and the last Newfoundlander to have served in the war.
  • 2000 March: Norman Kark, 102, the last South African veteran.
  • 2001 June 22: Bertie Felstead, 106, formerly of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the last known English survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914.
  • 2002 January 12: Robert Francis Ruttledge, 103, the last British veteran of the Indian Army.
  • 2003 February 12: Bright Williams, 105, the last New Zealand veteran, of the 3rd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade.
  • 2003 March: George Blackman, 105, in Barbados, the last veteran of the West India Regiment
  • 2003 May 5: José Ladeira, at 107, the last Portuguese veteran.
  • 2003 August 9: Alois Vocásek, 107, the last veteran of the Czechoslovak Legion.
  • 2003 August 9: Charlotte Louise Berry Winters, 109, the last U.S. Navy “Yeomanette” and the last American woman veteran of the war.
  • 2003 October 9: Yod Sangrungruang, 106, the last veteran from Siam.
  • 2004 June 22: Aleksa Radovanović, at 105, the last veteran of the Serbian Army, and apparently the last veteran of the Salonika Front.
  • 2004 September 16: Cyrillus-Camillus Barbary, who died in the U.S. at 105, was the last Belgian veteran.
  • 2005 October 18: William Evan Crawford Allan, at 106, sometime Royal Australian Navy (1914-1948), the last Australian veteran to have seen active service in both world wars.
  • 2005 November 21: Alfred Anderson, 109, a veteran of the Black Watch, he was the last survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914, the last Scottish veteran of the war, and the oldest man in Scotland.
  • 2006 March 4: August Bischof, 105, the last known veteran of the Austrian Empire.
  • 2007 January 9: Gheorghe Pănculescu, 103, the last Romanian veteran of the Great War, though he did not see frontline service; he later rose to general.
  • 2007 March 29: Lloyd Brown, at 109, the last US Navy veteran.
  • 2008 January 1: Erich Kästner, at 107 the last German veteran of the Great War and the last Central Powers veteran of the Western Front.
  • 2008 January 12: StanisÅ‚aw Wycech, 105, the last veteran of the Polish armed forces.
  • 2008 April 2: Yakup Satar, at 110 the last veteran of the Ottoman Army.
  • 2008 May 7: Franz Künstler, who died at 107 in Germany, was the last veteran from the erstwhile lands of the Crown of Hungary, the last Austro-Hungarian veteran, and last Central Powers veteran of the Great War.
  • 2008 March 12: Lazare Ponticelli, who died in France at 110, was the last French Foreign Legion veteran of the war (1914-1915), the next-to-last Italian veteran (1915-1918) and probably also the last “Boy Soldier” of the war, having enlisted at 16.
  • 2008 October 6: Delfino Borroni, at 110 the last know Italian Great War veteran, the last veteran of the Alpine Front, and at his death the oldest man in Italy.
  • 2008 November 20: Pierre Picault, at 109 the last French veteran of the war, and at his death the oldest man in France.
  • 2008 December 26: Mikhail Efimovich Krichevsky, who died in Ukraine at 111, was the last veteran of the Russian Imperial Army to have served in the war.
  • 2009 July 18: Henry Allingham, 113, the last Jutland veteran, the last veteran of the Royal Naval Air Service, the last original member of the RAF, and the oldest man in the world.
  • 2009 July 25: Henry John “Harry” Patch, at 111 “the Last Fighting Tommy”, the last known veteran of the Western Front, and the oldest man in Europe.
  • 2010 January 18: John Henry Foster “Jack” Babcock, at 109 the last known Canadian veteran of the Great War, though he had not seen combat.
  • 2009 June 3: John Campbell “Jack” Ross, 110, the last Australian to have served during the war, though he had never left the Commonwealth.
  • 2011 May 5: Claude Stanley Choules, who died at 110 in Australia, was the last known combat veteran of the Great War, the last veteran of the Grand Fleet, the last naval veteran of the Great War, and the last veteran to fight in both World Wars.
  • 2011 February 27: Frank Woodruff Buckles, at 110 the last veteran of the American Expeditionary Forces in the First World War, an ambulance driver.
  • 2012 February 4: Florence Patterson Green, who died at 110, was the last veteran of the Women’s RAF, 1918-1919, and the last person known to have served in World War I.

More on the Armistice of Compiègne itself in the below special from France 24, and what became of Foch’s famous railway carriage.

Bearing the Torch, 76 years ago today

U.S. troops aboard a landing craft head for the beaches during Operation Torch of the North African Campaign Oran, Algeria. 8 November 1942.

Imperial War Museum photo. Hudson, F A (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer

Note the man wearing the old school “Brodie” helmet in the back of the boat, probably a Royal Navy man, as the group had spent 22 days aboard the converted ocean liner RMS Orbita on the voyage from Scotland to North Africa. The men aren’t wearing unit patches, but the cased gear to the front right look to be marked “1-19” which could be 1st Bn/19th INF Regt, which at the time was in the States and would later serve in the Pacific. In fact, they are men of the 1st coy, 19th Engineer Battalion, who did take part in the Torch landings.

Less than a year after Pearl Harbor, the Torch landings would be the U.S. Army’s first brush with war in the ETO. Other than a few officers and NCOs with Great War experience or service in the National Guard, most of these men were recent volunteers and draftees, living ordinary lives in George Bailey’s America and had only held a gun when going hunting or at a carnival shooting gallery. It’s a good thing the French didn’t really have the inclination to mix it up. The 19th Engineers went on to serve at the horrors of the Kasserine Pass (where they lost 3/4 of their active strength and it was reported that “the 19th Engineers no longer exist”) and the Rapido River, where the Germans were much more ready to fight.

As noted by the Army “During World War II, The battalion conducted five amphibious landings while accompanying the victorious allied armies through Africa, Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. The battalion had suffered 902 combat casualties including 144 killed in action. For their gallantry and service, the battalion was awarded 10 campaign streamers from World War II, and soldiers from the battalion were awarded 7 Silver Stars and 13 Bronze Stars”

Below is a great doc on the 19th, with several interviews with vets, and directly shows the above image as a reference.

The 19th is still on active duty, based at Fort Knox.

Cole’s bell ‘picked’ and recovered

Here we see the original brass bell from the USS Cole (DD-155), a Wickes-class “four-piper” destroyer laid down in the last year of the Great War, named for Maj. Edward Ball Cole, a Marine killed at Belleau Wood, and commissioned in 1919.

The hard-charging vessel helped evacuate refugees from the Greco-Turkish War, looked for survivors of the wreck of the airship Akron, and served on FDR’s risky Neutrality Patrol in the early pre-Pearl Harbor days of the U.S. involvement in WWII.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV-1) and the destroyer USS Cole (DD-155) underway in the South Pacific, probably in the mid-1930s.

Once the balloon went up took part in the Torch Landings– where Cole raced in with two other four-pipers and landed 175 raiders drawn from the Army’s 47th INF Rgt under Vichy French fire at Safi, Morocco.

Notably, this landing took place exactly 76 years ago today, on 8 November 1942.

USS Cole, photographed during the North African Invasion Campaign, in November 1942. Her mast was removed to facilitate her role in the landings at Safi, Morocco (NARA 80-G-31435)

Batterie Railieuse, on PointeDe La Tour, Safi Morocco, on 8 November 1942, after being bombarded by U.S. Navy ships. Guns have been spiked by occupying U.S.Troops (Army SC# 165757)

She also escorted 7 convoys across the North Atlantic and took part in the invasion of Sicily. For her wartime service, she picked up a Presidential Unit Citation (for the Safi action) and three battle stars.

Decommissioned 1 November 1945, Cole was sold for scrap in 1947 and her bell, seen above, placed in storage by the Navy.

Well, it was apparently loaned out and then fell off the map for 70 years.

Last year, the guys from American Pickers came across it at a location in New Hampshire and, after doing the research, have it back to the Navy.

The episode where they brought it to the National Museum of the United States Navy aired this week.

I met the guys from the show a couple years ago in Louisiana when I literally bumped into them while combing through an antique store for militaria. Great guys and good on em.

50 years ago today: The last flight of the X-15

NASA research pilot William "Bill" Dana is seen standing next to the X-15 rocket-powered aircraft after a flight in 1967. (NASA)

NASA research pilot William “Bill” Dana is seen standing next to the X-15 rocket-powered aircraft after a flight in 1967. (NASA)

At the National Air and Space Administration test pilot Bill Dana was at the controls of the North American X-15 rocket-propelled research aircraft when it made the 199th–and what turned out to be the final–flight of the X-15 program. It was Dana’s 16th flight in X-15s. A 200th flight was planned but never carried out.

He was flying the X-15-1 (AF Ser. No. 56-6670), which had been the first of three aircraft to participate in a series of tests that spanned a decade and resulted in major advances for America’s space flight program.

In the course of that research, the X-15s spent 18 hours flying above Mach 1, 12 hours above Mach 2, nearly 9 hours above Mach 3, almost 6 hours above Mach 4, one hour above Mach 5 and a few short minutes above Mach 6. The X-15 was hailed by the scientific community as the most successful research aircraft of all time.

During the program, 13 flights by eight pilots met the Air Force spaceflight benchline by exceeding the altitude of 264,000 feet/50 miles (80 km), thus qualifying these pilots as being astronauts. Dana himself, who touched 3,897 mph and reached 307,000 feet in the X-15 program, was one of these men.

X-15A-1, Dana’s last bird, is on display in the National Air and Space Museum “Milestones of Flight” gallery, Washington, D.C.

X-15A-2, (AF Ser. No. 56-6671), is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

X-15A-3, (AF Ser. No. 56-6672– shown above with Dana) crashed 15 Nov. 1967, taking pilot Michael J. Adams, USAF, with her.

Dana, USMA Class of ’52, was an Air Force officer chopped over to NASA in the early 1960s and retired in 1998 as Chief Engineer at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. On 23 August 2005, NASA officially conferred on Dana his Astronaut Wings at age 75, almost 40 years after he earned them.

He died in 2014 at age 83.

Zveroboy #196

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.

Street fighters with PPS sub guns and swagger

It can be seen in a number of images from those days.

An M44 Mosin-armed Hungarian soldier, wearing an armband marking his defection to the anti-Communist insurgents.

A young Hungarian girl emerges from a building housing resistance fighters carrying a Mauser. 196 is a street cart

Note the knocked out T-34/85 in the right

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.

Old Salts

“The Old Navy” (“Spinning a Yarn” aboard USS Mohican, 1888) Description: The Old Navy (Spinning a Yarn aboard USS Mohican, 1888) Oil on canvas, 37 x 49, by Rufus F. Zogbaum (1849-1925). Painting signed and dated by the artist, 1923. It was inspired by the photograph seen in Photo # NH-2889. Painting in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection. Gift of Rear Admiral George C. Reiter, 1924. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Catalog #: KN-10866

Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet Letterpress reproduction of an oil painting by Frank E. Zuccarelli, depicting a Salty Sailor on board USS Strong (DD-758), while on duty with Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, July 1972. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97953-KN

The below, from Reddit, was taken at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2007 with the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Chafee (DDG-90) getting in on the act. Apparently then-Capt. Robert Tortora liked to take WWII pics every year.

Big up as it is a great pic

 

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