Category Archives: hero

Just Clarence & Chuck putting on their faces for a night out

“Pvt. Clarence C. Ware, 438 W. 15th St., San Pedro, Calif., gives a last-second touch to Pvt. Charles R. Plaudo, 210 N. James, Minneapolis, Minn., make-up patterned after the American Indians. Somewhere in England.”

Note the censor has marked out the unit insignia on Plaudo’s shoulder. Also note the good private’s M1 Thompson SMG, which has medical tape around the stock, likely to help guard a growing split in the wood. Photo 111-SC-193551 via NARA 

Both of the paratroopers are members of the now-famous “Filthy Thirteen” of the 1st Demolition Section– the direct inspiration for the fictionalized Dirty Dozen— of the Regimental Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st “Screaming Eagles” Airborne Division. The mohawks and “war paint” came like a bolt of youthful inspiration from Sgt. Jake McNiece, a fellow member of the Thirteen who was part Choctaw.

As for the men shown above, Clarence was wounded in action in Normandy and after the war he returned to California, passing away in 2001 at the age of 78. Meanwhile, “Chuck” Plaudo re-enlisted after the war into the Air Force and later served in Japan. He passed away at age 26 in April 1950 from injuries due to an auto accident.

Col. (Ret.) Ralph Puckett Jr., new to the MOH at age 94

Born 8 December 1926 in Tipton, Georgia, Ralph Puckett Jr. was still at West Point when VE and later VJ Day came, and, when he joined the service as a freshly-minted butter bar in 1949, wanted to be a Ranger so bad that he volunteered to “take a squad leader’s or rifleman’s job” with the 8th Army Ranger Company since no officer billets were available.

It was with the Rangers that Puckett shipped out for Korea the next fall, having a meeting with destiny at a place remembered as Hill 205, where his 57 Rangers and Korean soldiers held on against six battalion-sized attacks over two days and nights in freezing conditions.

From his, eventual, MOH citation:

First Lieutenant Puckett distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Unsan, Korea, on 25 and 26 November 1950. With complete disregard for his personal safety, First Lieutenant Puckett led his company across eight hundred yards of open terrain under heavy enemy small-arms fire and captured the company’s objective. During this operation he deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire to enable his men to spot locations of the machine guns. After capturing the objective, he directed preparation of defensive positions against an expected enemy counterattack. At 2200 hours on 25 November 1950, while directing the defense of his position against a heavy counterattack, he was wounded in the right shoulder. Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back. During these attacks, he left the safety of his foxhole in order to observe movements of the enemy and to direct artillery fire. In so doing, he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy small-arms and mortar fire. In the sixth counterattack, at 0300 hours on 26 November 1950, he was wounded again, so seriously that he was unable to move. Detecting that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind so as not to endanger their withdrawal. Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety. First Lieutenant Puckett’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army

Initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his Korean tour, Puckett would remain on active duty, picking up a second DSC in Vietnam in 1967 to add to two Silver Stars; two Legions of Merit; two Bronze Stars with V device for valor; five Purple Hearts; ten Air Medals; the Army Commendation Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.

He picked up his MOH upgrade last week at the White House, dressed in newly issued Army Greens, which ironically are almost identical to his 1949 service uniform.

Happy 207th, Herr Freeman, of Mobile Bay (in)Fame(y)

While poking around Pascagoula’s Greenwood Cemetery (I have tons of childhood/teenage stories about this place logged in my time as a “Goula Boy,” but I digress) last week, I paid my respects at the grave of longtime area resident, Martin Freeman, MOH.

Photo: Chris Eger

Born 18 May 1814 in the Prussian port city of Stettin (Szczecin, Poland, today), he took to the sea early in life, and by his late teens, he was in the states where he married a fellow German immigrant and started a family.

Living on the Gulf Coast, he was a well-known Mobile and Pascagoula area (Grant’s Pass/Horn Pass) bar pilot who had the misfortune of being captured in the late summer of 1862 while fishing off Mobile Bay by the Union’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron, under the command of RADM David Farragut (another man with longstanding ties to Pascagoula) and, despite Freeman’s “protests of not being interested in the war and only wanting to fish, was engaged by the fleet as a civilian pilot.”

Fast forward to the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864, and Freeman was aloft in the rigging of Farragut’s flagship, the steam sloop-of-war USS Hartford, so he could better see the changing bars and currents at the mouth of the sometimes treacherous (and mine-strewn) bay then issue course corrections as needed.

Farragut’s report of the battle mentions Freeman to the Navy in glowing terms:

The last of my staff, and to whom I would call the notice of the Department, is not the least in importance. I mean Pilot Martin Freeman. He has been my great reliance in all difficulties in his line of duty. During the action he was in the maintop [elevated platform on main or middle mast], piloting the ships into the bay. He was cool and brave throughout, never losing his self-possession. This man was captured early in the war in a fine fishing smack which he owned, and though he protested that he had no interest in the war and only asked for the privilege of fishing for the fleet, yet his services were too valuable to the captors as a pilot not to be secured. He was appointed a first-class pilot and has served us with zeal and fidelity, and has lost his vessel, which went to pieces on Ship Island. I commend him to the Department.

His service was so influential to the battle that he was a civilian recipient (later serving as an Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, a rank he was only issued in October 1864) of the MOH, a rarity. Only eight other civilians– to include a fellow pilot in Navy Civil War service, John Ferrell– hold that honor.

Freeman’s citation, issued 31 December 1864:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Mr. Martin Freeman, a United States Civilian, for extraordinary heroism in action as Pilot of the flagship, U.S.S. HARTFORD, during action against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee, in Mobile Bay, Alabama, 5 August 1864. With his ship under terrific enemy shellfire, Civilian Pilot Martin Freeman calmly remained at his station in the maintop and skillfully piloted the ships into the bay. He rendered gallant service throughout the prolonged battle in which the rebel gunboats were captured or driven off, the prize ram Tennessee forced to surrender, and the fort successfully attacked.

The Pilot for the USS HARTFORD at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Aug 5, 1864. Photo by Robira, New OrleansDescription: Courtesy of I.B. Millner, Morgantown, NC. Catalog #: NH 49431

His name would be listed as the only officer besides the master aboard the 4th rate gunboat USS Sam Houston in 1865.

Freeman continued his service after the war, even successfully fending off a court marshal lodged against him in 1866 while at the time the seniormost officer aboard the gunboat USS Cowslip (which had raided Biloxi Bay during the war).

Eventually, Freeman became the USLHS lighthouse keeper on Horn Island, off Pascagoula, which is now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, from 1874 to 1894. His wife Anna and son, Martin, Jr., were listed interchangeably as assistant keepers. The light changed from an old old screw-pile lighthouse offshore to one located on a hill actually atop the island in 1887.

This image from 1892 almost certainly shows Freeman and his wife, Anna, as well as one of his children. NARA 26-LG-36-70

A closer look. Note the rarely-seen USLHS uniform and cap. 

It was while at Horn Island, tending his light and watching the Gulf, that Freeman penned a private letter about the famous battle he was a part of to a fellow veteran that eventually made it into the New York Times and caused some heartburn as Freeman made the record clear that he was in the rigging with the good Admiral that day, higher aloft than Farragut. For such a sin as to point out a historical fact, he was chastised in responding letters published by the Times from those who felt he was trying to besmirch the Admiral’s legacy.

It wasn’t just Farragut up there…

In the end, Freeman’s old injuries sustained from an explosion of a mine at Fort Morgan in September 1864 forced him to move his family ashore from Horn Island to Pascagoula in early 1894, where he died on 11 September 1894 at the residence of his son-in-law, Alf Olsson. His subsequent funeral was reportedly well-attended. 

His family still lives in the area and his grave is well-maintained, with the vintage gravesite covered by a concrete slab, likely in the 1960s as part of state regulation, and a new VA marker installed. (Photo: Chris Eger)

With Mississippi only a decade or so off from Reconstruction, his obituary in the Pascagoula Chronicle-Star only mentioned his lighthouse service, omitting his wartime record of accomplishments, but does speak well of him.

He was kind and hospital to all who visited the light-house and his jovial disposition won for him a host of friends. He was charitable, and brought up his children in the fear of the Lord.

Incidentally, the beautiful Horn Island light was swept into the Gulf in 1906, taking its keeper at the time, Charles Johnsson, along with his wife and teenage daughter with it.

As for Farragut, an admiral who has had five different warships named in his honor, Pascagoula remembers him fondly as well, and his family also lives in the area.

Farragut has long had a banner across from the Jackson County Courthouse.

Z Man Loadout

The “Z Special Unit” or “Z Force” detachments, immortalized in the early Sam Neil/Mel Gibson action film Attack Force Z (which included some great suppressed M3 Grease Guns and folbot action from an Oberon-class SSK) ripped up Japanese held islands throughout WWII. There is a really fascinating history behind these units and the redoubtable men who served in them.

Check out this loadout, showing a Webley/Enfield revolver, M1 Carbine, the wicked Welrod suppressed .32 “special purpose” gun, a machete (or possibly one of William E. Fairbairn’s Smatchets), and pack, courtesy of A Secret War.

Now, that looks fun. (Photo: A Secret War)

Save the Adak

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Adak (WPB 1333) transits at maximum speed. Adak is assigned to Commander, Task Force 55 and is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by: Quartermaster 2nd Class Kendall Mabon/Released)

Commissioned in 1989, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Adak (WPB-1333), is one of the last remaining 110-foot Island-class patrol boats in the service.

She is also perhaps the most historic.

Serving initially in New York City, operating from the now-closed Coast Guard base on Governor’s Island, she was the on-scene commander for the response to TWA Flight 800. Then, on Sept. 11, 2001, she was the command boat for the “American Dunkirk” seaborne evacuation of more than 500,000 people trapped in lower Manhattan.

Then, deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2003 with three of her sisters, Coalition Warship 1333 carried Navy SEALs and Polish GROM special forces on raids to seize Iraq’s two primary oil terminals intact before they could be destroyed. During that mission, on 23 March 2003, she was one of the first units to capture Iraqi PWs.

Still forward deployed to Bahrain, she has seen more of the Persian Gulf than many, and most of her recent crews have been younger than the aging patrol boat. Slated to be disposed of in the coming months, replaced by a larger and more capable 158-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter that is already in the Med and on the way to the sandbox, a group wants to bring her back home instead.

From the USCGC Adak Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that wants to bring her back from overseas and install her as a museum ship in Tampa Bay, where she would also help with a youth program, a worthy idea that, when the size and condition of the vessel are taken into account, very achievable:

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Adak is slated to be decommissioned on July 14, 2021. The Adak is a historic ship that led the largest waterborne rescue in world history in New York City on September 11th, 2001, and later captured some of the very first enemy prisoners of war in Iraq. Without a budget to bring her home, and due to current limitations on how to dispose of the ship, the Coast Guard is planning to give the USCGC Adak to the government of Indonesia. This ship is a national historic treasure and we cannot let this happen!

If nothing else, at least sign the petition.

OSS Training Grounds, as Close as Your Local National Park?

You wouldn’t think it, but the NPS has a great book online that stretches 600 pages and chronicles the use of the country’s national parks during WWII as training grounds for the secret squirrels of Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services: OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in World War II, by Professor John Whiteclay Chambers II of Rutgers University.

It makes sense as many of the early trainees used old CCC camps located deep in the woods on newly-cut logging and forestry roads. Where else would you train super-soldiers, right?

Besides the logical NPS details, the book also goes into extensive coverage of the teams that deployed overseas, with some great illustrations.

Enjoy!

100 Years Ago Today: Ishar Singh, VC

Via Under Every Leaf:

War Office, 25th November 1921.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned: —

No. 1012 Sepoy Ishar Singh, 28th Punjabis, Indian Army

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th April, 1921, near Haidari Kach (Waziristan). When the convoy protection troops were attacked, this Sepoy was No. l of a Lewis Gun- Section. Early in the action he received a very severe gunshot wound in the chest, and fell beside his Lewis gun. Hand-to-hand fighting having commenced, the British officer, Indian officer, and all the Havildars of his company were either killed or wounded, and his Lewis gun was seized by the enemy.

Calling up two other men he got up, charged the enemy, recovered the Lewis gun, and, although, bleeding profusely, again got the gun into action.

When his Jemadar arrived he took the gun from Sepoy Ishar Singh, and ordered him to go back and have his wound dressed.

Instead of doing this the Sepoy went to the medical officer, and was of great assistance in pointing out where the wounded were, and in carrying water to them. He made innumerable journeys to the river and back for this purpose. On one occasion, when the enemy fire was very heavy, he took the rifle of a wounded man and helped to keep down the fire. On another occasion he stood in front of the medical officer who was dressing, a wounded man, thus shielding him with his body. It was over three hours before he finally submitted to be evacuated, being then too weak from loss of blood to object.

His gallantry and devotion to duty were beyond praise. His conduct inspired all who saw him.

Codetalkers to be Recognized Annually

The Navajo Code Talkers Memorial in Window Rock, Arizona on the Navajo Nation, is fully equipped with an M1 helmet, Reising submachine gun, M1911, and 32-pound Westinghouse CRI-43007 transmitter. (Photo courtesy of the Navajo Nation)

Moving forward, August 14th will be recognized in Arizona as Navajo Codetalker day, with Gov. Doug Ducey recently signing such a proclamation in place.

“It’s wonderful to have the State of Arizona honor and recognize the sacrifices and contributions of the Navajo Code Talkers,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. “It’s long overdue. We only have a few Navajo Code Talkers with us to this day, but we pay tribute to all of them and their families. Their legacy is strengthened with today’s signing of this bill and we hope that this will also help to share the stories of our Code Talkers so that many more people throughout the state are aware of everything that they gave for our country.”

More here

The Ghost of Robert Rogers, now taking the Queen’s schilling

One of the key figures in the historically abhorrent but no less entertaining AMC series Turn, portrayed by Angus Macfadyen, was Robert Rogers, the famed irregular whose unit excelled in combat along the frontier during the French and Indian War.

Color mezzotint of a representation by Johann Martin Will of Robert Rogers, published by Thomas Hart Anne S K Brown Military Collection

Known as Wobomagonda (white devil) among the Abenakis, the frontierman gave birth to what was known then as “ranging” warfare, with his men being the Rangers, a scratch unit that had American Indians as well as freedmen in its ranks.

His men were no red-uniformed line infantry, ready for set-piece battle. 

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Rogers’ Company. Summer dress (1949)

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers’ Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Spikeman’s Company, Winter dress (1949)

His most lasting piece of military guidance is, of course, his 28 Rules of Ranging also seen in as a more concise 19 Standing Orders.

A defacto loyalist, as in 1775 he still nominally held a British officer’s commission, Rogers tried to wrangle an appointment from Washington but was spurned, which led him to raise the Queen’s Rangers in 1776– a unit he was cashiered from the next year. The Queen’s Rangers, led at the time by the unremarkable Maj. James Wemyss was decimated at Brandywine when used as traditional infantry, leading the unit to be resurrected by John Graves Simcoe. After the war, the Rangers were sent to Canada and quietly disbanded.

As noted by the British Army today, “After the loss of the North American colonies, the British Army lacked a forested frontier where it could usefully employ a ranger unit and the capability ceased to exist in its pure form,” with later “Ranger” units such as the Central London Rangers, The Connaught Rangers, The Royal Irish Rangers, and The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, holding the name as more of an honorific title than as descriptor for a force designed for a specialist ranger role, or that they used unconventional tactics.

Now, the newly formed Ranger Regiment in the British Army– to be stood up with volunteers drawn from across the infantry as well as from four battalions folded into its organization, 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS, and 4 RIFLES — will officially carry the legacy of the American-born Robert Rogers.

True to form, it will be part of the Army Special Operations Brigade and will be tasked with “unconventional action.

As per the Army:

While the new Rangers might not have to abide by the original 28 Rules of Ranging – including turning up to evening parade with a ‘firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet,’ they will be self-sufficient and highly resourceful, just like the Rangers of the past.

Fearless French Mary

Via Gettysburg National Military Park

#WomensHistoryMonth – Marie Tepe. Marie, born in France, immigrated to the United States in the 1840s. She married Bernhard Tepe and became a vivandiere (sometimes known as a cantinieres) for the 27th Pennsylvania Volunteers when he joined the war effort. Unfortunately, Marie’s time in the 27th PA Volunteers would be cut short after her husband, along with other men, would steal valuables from her tent.

After this, she left her husband and joined the 114th Pennsylvania (Collis’ Zouaves), where she became known to carry a keg of whiskey across her shoulder and established her title as “Fearless French Mary”. Marie received a Kearny Cross for her brave work at the Battle of Chancellorsville and fought alongside the men of the 114th Pennsylvania even in the height of danger, including Gettysburg, where the Zouaves met the head of Pickett’s Charge.

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