In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words
To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…
The 75mm artillery piece that cranked out the first U.S. shot on the Western Front in World War I a century ago last week is still in the Army’s custody.
The M1897 gun, a French-made field gun named “Bridget” is on display today in the Large Weapons Gallery at the U.S. Army Military Academy Museum at West Point but on Oct. 23, 1917, it fired the first shot across “No Man’s Land” by American forces in France.
The gun was sent back to the states in 1918 and is at West Point today, still with the names of the “First Shot” crew who fired it 100 years ago last week.
Here we see Australian War Memorial collection item REL/12244, a Colt semi-automatic vest pocket pistol.
Blued frame stamped on the left side with Colt’s Pt.A.MFG.Co HARTFORD CT USA and Patent dates 1896 – 1910 with the rearing horse trademark. On the right side COLT AUTOMATIC CALIBRE .25. Black plastic grips with ‘Colt’ and the horse trademark.
This pistol belonged to Sergeant David Peter Gooley, A.I.F. who joined the Z Special force in June 1944. He was a member of the Operation Rimau party which was captured and executed at Singapore by the Japanese on 7 July 1945
Rimau saw 23 commandos on a “borrowed” Malay junk sink 3 Japanese ships. Of the party, 10 were killed during the op or died in custody while the remaining 13, Gooley included, were executed a month before the cessation of hostilities
Born 7 March 1889 in Providence, Rhode Island, the bespectacled Godfrey de Courcelles Chevalier graduated from the Annapolis in 1910, and volunteered for flying duty after a heroic stint on the battleship USS New Hampshire (BB 25), taking part in Naval aviation’s first fleet deployment to Guantanamo Bay in 1913 with a Curtiss A type airplane.
Appointed a Naval Air Pilot on 7 November 1915 he piloted the first plane to be launched by catapult, from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina on 12 July 1916.
Commanding the first naval air station in France, at Dunkerque during WWI, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and subsequently became a Naval Aviator (Number 7) on 7 November 1918, just four days before the end of the Great War.
As a pioneer in Naval Aviation, he was a part of the trans-Atlantic flight of the NC Aircraft in 1919, helped with the fitting out of the former collier USS Jupiter into the Navy’s first carrier, USS Langley.
It was aboard the inaugural flattop that Darb touched down on this day in 1922 for the first time, shown in the first image above.
Sadly, he would die from injuries received in an aviation accident in Virginia just 19 days later, ending his promising career at age 33.
The Navy named two destroyers after their first carrier-man: DD-451, a Fletcher-class destroyer sunk in 1943 and DD-805, a Gearing-class destroyer struck in 1975; as well as Chevalier Field at NAS Pensacola which remained in use until the 1990s and is now site of the barracks for the Naval Air Technical Training Center.
In command of occupied Wake Island after the American surrender of that U.S. Territory in the opening weeks of WWII, Rear Adm. Sakaibara Shigematsu was cut off from resupply by U.S. submarines, and subjected to periodic bombings. After one particularly gnarly raid on 5 October 1943 by Task Force 14 (TF 14), he ordered the execution of the 98 remaining U.S. civilian prisoners to avoid a possible escape attempt.
One escaped, carved “98 US PW 5-10-43” on a coral rock as declaration to the war crime, but was soon recaptured, and beheaded by Shigematsu personally.
Shigematsu was subsequently tried and convicted of war crimes in 1945, and was hung, on Guam, in June 1947.
The identity of the escaped civilian worker who carved the rock was never ascertained. The remains of the murdered civilians were exhumed and reburied at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in section G.
A bronze plaque nearby lists the names of the 98.