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Bunker Hill Buffs, Here’s a Treat

“The Whites of Their Eyes” Colonial militia at Bunker Hill 1775. Ken Riley. Located at the JFK Presidential Library.

Morphy’s has some very interesting and historically significant artifacts coming up in two different auctions this month.

This weekend, they have a very well-preserved Dutch-made .79-caliber smoothbore Type III flintlock musket and corresponding matching bayonet. These types were common in the Colonies before the “Shot Heard Round the World.

Not just any gun, it can be traced directly to Major John Simpson, who, as a young private of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment, fired the first shot at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775.

Of further note, Simpson was the grandfather of Ulysses S. Grant and great-grandfather of Meriwether Lewis of Lewis & Clark fame.

Valued at between $100,000-$300,000, it is anticipated that several institutions and high-end private collectors will be vying for it. More here. 

Another relic from the same battle is headed to the gavel on Wednesday, October 30, comes from the Stephen Hench collection. Hench, as you may know, was a noted martial arms historian and co-authored Moravian Gunmaking.

From some 31 vintage powder horns in the auction, one stands out.

Dated “1775” it was owned by 1st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment Minuteman Daniel Kinne of Patridgefield (now Peru), Massachusetts, who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

The bold inscription on the horn reads: “Danniel/kinne: Deakon (sic.) in ye Church At / Partridgefield / His horn charlston [sic., Charlestown, Boston] Sept. Ye 1775 / 1775 on bunkor (sic.) hill June Ye/17 was The Fight.”

Noted powder horn collector Walter O’Connor knew of only five other powder horns inscribed to soldiers who fought at Bunker Hill.

The example in the Hench collection is believed to be one of only three extant horns bearing the name of a Minuteman from that battle. It is also possibly the only such horn that details the battle. It is expected to make $25,000-$50,000 at auction. More here. 

Crotty Coming Home

Corregidor Lifeboat Colt 1911 Pistol In May 1942, the minesweeper USS Quail

Image via National Firearms Museum

On 5 May 1942, the “Old Bird” Lapwing-class minesweeper USS Quail (AM-15) was the last surviving American vessel as the Japanese invaded the Philippines. [We covered her luckier sisters USS Avocet (AVP-4) and USS Heron (AM-10/AVP-2) in separate Warship Wednesdays a few years ago]

When Quail was disabled at Corregidor, site of the last stand of U.S. forces near the entrance to Manila Bay, LCDR J.H. Morrill had the ship scuttled and gave his crew the choice of surrendering to the Japanese or striking out across the open ocean. Seventeen sailors chose to join him on the desperate voyage. With the above pistol recovered from a dead serviceman as their only armament, and virtually no charts or navigational aids, they transversed 2,060 miles of ocean in a 36-foot open motor launch, reaching Australia after 29 days.

LCDR Morrill received the Navy Cross and eventually retired at the rank of Rear Admiral.

As noted by Navsource: “Although the Quail was lost, some of its crew decided that surrendering to the Japanese on Corregidor was not an option. Even though the odds against them were enormous, these incredibly brave men in their small boat managed to avoid Japanese aircraft and warships while, at the same time, battling the sea as well as the weather. But like so many of the men in the old U.S. Asiatic Fleet, they simply refused to give up. It was a remarkable achievement by a group of sailors who were determined to get back home so that they could live to fight another day.”

The gun is currently on display at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA.

Quail, U.S. Navy photo from the January 1986 edition of All Hands magazine, via Navsource

Quail, U.S. Navy photo from the January 1986 edition of All Hands magazine, via Navsource

One of the Quail‘s “loaner officers” who didn’t make the trip south was Lt. Jimmy Crotty, USCG, who had a more tragic fate.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Thomas J.E. Crotty

An explosives expert who graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1934 at the head of his class, he was serving with the Joint In-Shore Patrol Headquarters at Cavite when the war kicked off and spent several months on Quail working the minefields around Manila Bay.

When Quail was sunk, he volunteered to move to Corregidor where he served with the Navy’s headquarters staff and was captured while working one of the last 75mm guns with the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. He died two months later under the unspeakably harsh conditions at Cabanatuan Prison Camp #1.

The USCGA Football team dedicated their 2014 season to Crotty and his Bronze Star and Purple Heart are in the custody of the Academy.

Now, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Thomas J.E. Crotty, 30, of Buffalo, New York, killed during World War II, was accounted for Sept. 10, 2019.

One of the 2,500 Allied POWs who died at Cabanatuan, Crotty was buried along with fellow prisoners in the Camp Cemetery, in grave number 312.

According to DPAA:

Following the war, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan cemetery and examined the remains in an attempt to identify them. Due to the circumstances of the deaths and burials, the extensive commingling, and the limited identification technologies of the time, all of the remains could not be identified. The unidentified remains were interred as “unknowns” in the present-day Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.

In January 2018, the “unknown” remains associated with Common Grave 312 were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis, including one set, designated X-2858 Manila #2.

To identify Crotty’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Crotty will be buried Nov. 2, 2019, in Buffalo, New York.

World War II Glider Pilots to Reunite in Fayetteville, North Carolina

An easy and cost-effective way to move light infantry and their equipment, to include some that were too heavy for the parachutes of the day, glider-borne air landing units were in vogue during WWII. The Germans kicked off their combat use when eight gliders full of specially-trained sappers landed atop the supposedly impregnable Belgian fortress at Eben Emael in May 1940 and captured it by lunch.

The U.S. Army’s Glider Forces were established in 1942 and, after a lot of trial and error, a full two- and later three-battalion Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) or two was assigned to each American airborne division.

In all, 13 GIRs were formed with many seeing heavy combat. These included the 187th and 188th GIR (11th Abn Div), 325th (82nd Abn), 193rd and 194th (17th Abn), 327th and 401st (101st Abn).

Some 13,900 Waco CG-4, the standard U.S. glider, were produced during the war and were smaller than the British Horsa and Hamilcar gliders. Capable of carrying 13 troops and their equipment, they could also tote a jeep or 75mm pack howitzer in the nose. Today, only about 25 CG-4s still exist.

After seeing action in Europe and the Pacific, gliders were eliminated from the Army in 1953, as the military switched to helicopters for “air assault”

However, veterans of those Glidermen still survive.

(Presser from the FACVB):

Men who flew on silent wings to deliver troops, weapons, and supplies in key points on the World War II front are coming to the Fayetteville, North Carolina area in October to reunite and remember those harrowing moments in the battle against tyranny across the globe.

The 49th Annual National World War II Glider Pilot Reunion (WW2GPC) is coming to Fayetteville October 10 – 12th. The reunion will join Glider pilots and several veterans from the various Troop Carrier groups including power pilots, other C-47 crew members, mechanics, as well as family members and historians. Approximately 125 veterans, members, researchers and flight officers from the Air Force Academy will be attending. The event will take place at the Doubletree by Hilton in Fayetteville.

Events throughout the conference include tours of Fort Bragg and dinner and presentations on post two evenings. The conference concludes with a dinner banquet at the hotel Saturday evening, with Lt. Col. Stewart Lindsay, Commander of the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, as guest speaker.

Part of the evening’s presentations will include Katharine Manning, daughter of Glider Pilot John George Manning, accepting her father’s long overdue Bronze Star Medal (BSM.) BSM recipients were to have been awarded the medal in 1945 as requested by their commander Major Charles Gordon, of the 435th Troop Carrier Group.

Approximately 6,000 individuals were trained as glider pilots. The numbers of surviving glider pilots and troop carriers are declining as the age range is over 90 years old. The glider pilots are proud of their silver wings with the large letter “G” which they say, really stands for GUTS. It took guts to fly the glider beyond enemy lines on a one-way mission.

Veterans will be available to speak with the media and share stories from World War II. Please contact Mary Roemer, Reunion Chair 336-655-6607 about setting up media opportunities on Friday and Saturday. Contact Ms. Roemer or navigate to https://www.ww2gp.org/reunion.php for more information.

Out of ammunition, God Save the King

With Arnhem lost, the Britsh light infantry of 1 Airborne Division holding the increasingly pressured Oosterbeek perimeter some 75 years ago this week, was gratefully able to be evacuated.

Opposed by units that included two Waffen SS panzer divisions (albeit rebuilding) the British had mostly STEN guns, bolt-action No. 4 Enfield .303s, light mortars, and a smattering of anti-tank weapons such as 6-pdr (57mm) rifles and PIATs. Still, they held the line often without water, ammunition, and food for over a week.

Hard to image men with 9mm subguns facing down Tigers rushed to the battle directly from Germany via high-speed train Blitztransport.

British 1st Airborne Division takes cover in a shell hole, Arnhem, 17 September 1944 NAM. 2005-12-38-72

A paratrooper armed with a PIAT and Enfield rifles covers a road at Arnhem, 18 September 1944 Market Garden British NAM. 2005-12-38-50

British paratrooper with STEN defending Divisional Headquarters at the Hartenstein Hotel, Arnhem, on 23 September 1944 STEN Market Garden NAM. 2005-12-38-44

Pegasus flag: Private Morris of Acton, London, 1st Airborne Division’s HQ Hartenstein Hotel, 20 September 1944 Market Garden STEN NAM. 2005-12-38-28

Private J Connington of Selby, Yorkshire, in action with his Sten gun, 20 September 1944 Market Garden NAM. 2005-12-38-21

Troops dug in holding Brigade Headquarters, 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem, Operation MARKET GARDEN, 18 September 1944 STEN NAM. 2005-12-38-49

The RAF and USAAF tried in vain to drop supplies to the embattled Paras but some 93 percent of the loads fell into German hands, who gratefully accepted them. They could use the 9mm ammo, as well as the food and medical supplies. For the weapons they didn’t have ammo for, spares were dropped.

The rundown:

Those 16,000 PIAT rounds would have been very welcome

By 25 September 1944, on the 9th day of the operation (remember, the Paras had been expected to be relieved after just 48 hours) only 2,163 British Airborne troops were able to be evacuated back across the Rhine. The British 1st Airborne went into Holland some 9,000 strong.

1 Abn Divisional commander, Maj. Gen. Roy Urquhart, who during the battle was largely out of touch with most of his units, in concluding his 52-page report on the operation in January 1945, said it was

“…not 100% a success and did not end quite as was intended. The losses were heavy but all ranks appreciate that the risks involved were reasonable. There is no doubt that all would willingly undertake another operation under similar conditions in the future.

We have no regrets. 

Sorry, no Peashooter II

The Boeing/Saab T-X was selected on 27 September 2018 by the Air Force as the winner of the Advanced Pilot Training System program to replace the aging Cold War-era Northrop T-38 Talon. The downright cute little twin tail trainer will, in all likelihood, be around for decades provided it is successful.

The USAF currently has some 500~ T-38A/B/C models in inventory, with the newest example coming off the lines in 1972. It is envisioned that some 351 new T-X aircraft and 46 simulators are to be supplied by Boeing as part of the $9 billion program to put the venerable Talon to bed.

The T-X could also go on to be a sweet little scooter for budget air defense/COIN if given underwing hardpoints, after all, Saab runs the Gripen and in the past developed the Viggen, Draken, Lansen, and Tunnan, which all had a solid pedigree.

The T-X does look pretty sweet though.

Both of the current two Boeing T-Xs in flight.

While I suggested “T-60 Peashooter II” as a name update, in honor of Boeing’s last cute little combat-ish trainer, I have been overruled and the U.S. Air Force has named it the T-7A Red Hawk to honor the Tuskegee Airmen who famously flew the red-tailed North American P-51 Mustang in World War II (after working their way through P-39s, P-40s, and P-47s). The “Red Tails” of the 332nd Fighter Group were renowned for their work plastering Axis ground targets and successfully escorting B-17s and B-24s in the ETO in 1944 and 1945.

Which is better than the Peashooter II anyway.

 

A Very British Salute, 75 years on

British Lt. Jack Reynolds, aged 22, with LCPL George Parry in the background, gives the classic British two-finger salute to a reportedly grinning German Wehrmacht cameraman as he is captured near Arnhem, The Netherlands 19 September 1944, during the start of the worst chapter of Operation Market Garden, some 75 years ago today.

“Down the road, I saw a German chap with a camera and a huge grin on his face and I thought ‘what a bastard’ and gave him the V sign” Reynolds later said. (Photo: Bundesarchiv 497/3531A/34)

Reynolds, (SN 190738), joined the colors as a signaler in the Sussex and Surrey Yeomanry in 1939 and served in the Coastal Artillery during the Battle of Britain, exchanging fire with German big guns across the Channel in Dover. He later volunteered for the new glider-borne infantry with S coy, 2 Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (“South Staffs”) being stood up in 1942, which became part of the 1st Airlanding Brigade in the 1st Airborne Division.

He earned a battlefield commission by 1943, leading the company Recce platoon as part of Simforce through Operation Ladbroke, an element of the Allied invasion of Sicily, where he picked up the MC.

His award: 

This officer with his party of nine men landed at 2225 hours some four miles south of the Battalion Rendezvous. He led his party throughout the night to Waterloo Bridge encountering stiff opposition on the way during which six of his nine men became casualties. On the way up he collected several stragglers, forming them into an organised group, eventually assisting in the defence of the Bridge, during which two more of his men were killed and another missing.

Throughout the fighting this officer set a very high example of courage and leadership in the face of heavy odds.

Leading S coy’s Mortar Platoon at Arnhem, and facing being overrun after two days of fighting after Allied armor failed to make it to the town in time to save them, Reynolds and his remaining men tried to break out westwards towards Oosterbeek and only took the reluctant decision to surrender after being pinned down and running out of ammunition and water.

The British 1st, 3rd, and 11th Parachute Battalions, along with the South Staffs, had made it to Arnhem but were so mauled that, when the survivors of the four units amalgamated near Oosterbeek on 20 September, they only counted about 450 combat effective members. The rest had been killed, captured, or were still holding out to the East in little pockets.

As for Reynolds, he spent the rest of the conflict in Germany as a prisoner of war, until his liberation in 1945. He was demobilized from the army in 1946.

Jack passed away last month, on 21 August, aged 97.

Another one of the Greatest Generation, lost

Vale, Lt. Reynolds.

And of course, remember the entire 1st (British) Airborne this week, who were sent epically “a bridge too far.”

For more on the battle, a great and amazingly comprehensive book about Market Garden is The Battle of Arnhem by Anthony Beevor.

I’ve spent the past several weeks digesting it and have no regrets.

 

Group Captain Hemingway at 100

Born July 1919 in Dublin, John Allman Hemingway, the Irishman picked up a short service flying officer’s commission in the Royal Air Force in April 1938 at age 18 and went on to become one of the RAF’s “so few” just months later.

He flew Hurricanes with No. 85 Squadron over France and the Lowlands in May 1940, chalking up a German Dornier Do 77 light bomber, before covering the Dunkirk Beaches and switching back to England for the Battle of Britain, picking up a DFC after ripping up Heinkels and Messerschmitts. He later flew Spitfires with No. 43 Squadron over Italy as a Squadron Leader and retired from the RAF in 1969 as a Group Captain. In all, he had to hit the silk at least four times during WWII to abandon flaming/falling aircraft.

Capt. Hemingway celebrated his 100th this month, one of the very few RAF WWII fighter jocks left among us and the final Irishman who flew such craft during the Battle of Britain.

His secret:

“I can’t say don’t drink. I can’t say don’t fool about with people. I can’t say don’t fly aeroplanes. I can’t say don’t shoot and get shot at – I’ve done everything, and I’m an Irishman. The only advice I can give to people is be Irish!”

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