Category Archives: hero

Farewell, CSM Adkins

Alabama-born Special Forces Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins, MoH, was a man among green-faced men when in 1966 he was part of an A-team at Camp A Shau and the fit hit the proverbial shan.

As noted by the Army:

Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins distinguished himself during 38 hours of close-combat fighting against enemy forces on March 9 to 12, 1966. At that time, then-Sergeant First Class Adkins was serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces at Camp “A Shau”, in the Republic of Vietnam.

When Camp A Shau was attacked by a large North Vietnamese force in the early morning hours of March 9th, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp. He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades to a more secure position at the camp dispensary.

Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to enemy fire transporting a wounded casualty to an airstrip for evacuation. He and his group then came under heavy small-arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese. Despite this overwhelming force, Adkins maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire away from the aircraft all the while successfully covering the rescue. Later, when a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Adkins again moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much-needed supplies.

During the early morning hours of March 10th, enemy forces launched their main assault. Within two hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins was the only defender firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective rifle fire upon enemy as they infiltrated the camp perimeter and assaulted his position. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off relentless waves of attacking North Vietnamese soldiers.

Adkins then withdrew to regroup with a smaller element of soldiers at the communications bunker. While there, he single-handedly eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire, almost completely exhausting his supply of ammunition. Braving intense enemy fire, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and evaded fire while returning to the bunker. After the order was given to evacuate the camp, Sergeant First Class Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp.

Because of his efforts to carry a wounded soldier to an extraction point and leave no one behind, Sergeant First Class Adkins and his group were unable to reach the last evacuation helicopter. Adkins then rallied the remaining survivors and led the group into the jungle – evading the enemy for 48 hours until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12th. During the 38-hour battle and 48-hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, killing an estimated 135 – 175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds. Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.

Adkins, age 86, passed away this weekend, reportedly from complications of COVID-19.

In related news, while the Tomb Guards at Arlington are still walking post, the Old Guard is currently conducting Memorial operations while wearing masks, in accordance with Army and CDC guidelines.

So long, Whitey

Ohio-born Rear Adm. Edward L. “Whitey” Feightner earned his private pilot license in 1940 just before his 21st birthday and moved to join the Army Air Corps but was told the wait would be upwards of eight months before he could get into a flight program. However, the Navy had no such backlog and an incident gave him some second thoughts about his planned wings of lead.

“I had already signed up for the Army Air Corps, and they had a little wait before we could go in,” Feightner recalled in a VMI interview in 2005. “One day an airplane landed at the airport and a guy walked into the hangar wearing Navy whites, and a yellow convertible comes screeching around the hangar and a blonde jumps out and gives him a big smooch, and off they went.”

Joining the Navy’s Air Cadet program, from which he earned his wings of gold and a butter bar to go along with it, the young F4F Wildcat pilot received orders for his first squadron– the Screaming Eagles of VF-5 aboard USS Yorktown (CV-5)— only to arrive at Pearl just after she had been sent to the bottom at Midway.

Nonetheless, the homeless nugget was soon absorbed into Butch O’Hare’s VF-3, with the famous ace saddling Feightner with his “Whitey” call sign due to the young ensign’s seemingly impervious ability to not tan in the Pacific sun.

Chopping to the Grim Reapers of VF-10 aboard USS Enterprise, Feightner splashed his first confirmed aerial victory, a Val that was attacking Big E at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in August 1942. He would go on to finish the war as an ace, with nine Japanese aircraft to his credit as well as numerous unconfirmed possibles. Most of his kills came in 1944 with Fighting Eight (VF-8) while flying Hellcats from USS Intrepid and USS Bunker Hill.

Grim Reaper pilot Lt. Edward Feightner in the cockpit of his F6F Hellcat, 1944

By 1945, he was an instructor and test pilot, giving a hand in helping to develop just about every classic carrier-borne fighter aircraft for the two next decades to include the Grumman F8F Bearcat, Grumman F7F Tigercat, Vought F7U Cutlass, McDonnell F2H Banshee, Vought F-8 Crusader, North American FJ-4 Fury, McDonald Douglas F4H-1 Phantom II, and others.

Whitey flew them all at one time or another– and had a hand in testing many of them: Vought F7U-1 Cutlass, McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee, Grumman F9F Panther, and Vought F6U-1 Pirate. Jets flying in formation from Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, circa the 1950s. Original color photo courtesy of the Photographer, Commander Richard Timm, USN Retired. NH 101815-KN

In the meantime, he took breaks from that otherwise boring job to fly with the Blue Angels back when the Blues were in Cutlasses, command the Red Rippers of VF-11 as well as Carrier Air Group 10, and skipper the oiler USS Chikaskia (?!) and the helicopter carrier USS Okinawa (LPH-3).

Finishing his career as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) for Air, he retired in 1974 after 33 years of active duty, contributing his knowledge to the development of the F-14 and F-18 programs.

In short, if a six-foot stack of Tailhook and Proceedings magazines suddenly became sentient, it would be Feightner.

Whitey flew away this week on his final flight to join the assembling legions of the Greatest Generation, aged a ripe 100. Call the ball, sir.

Warship Wednesday, April 15, 2020: The Winged Spinach Can

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 15, 2020: The Winged Spinach Can

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 73276

Here we see a beautiful profile shot of the Clemson-class “four-piper” destroyer USS Noa (DD-343) underway in San Diego Harbor, about 1930. Note the wooden cabin cruiser in the foreground, and Clemson-class sister USS Kane (DD-235) moored alongside another destroyer in the background. Despite her modest looks, our little tin can would prove influential in the steppingstones of naval aviation, and her namesake even more so in the evolution of space exploration.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Noa came too late for the Great War. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

The subject of our story today was the first warship named after one Midshipman Loveman Noa (USNA 1900).

NH 47525

Born in 1878 at Chattanooga, Tennessee, young Loveman secured an appointment to Annapolis and graduated with his 61-person class in June 1900, back in the days when Mids would have to serve some time with the fleet before picking up their first stripe. Ordered to the Asiatic Station in the battleship Kearsarge, he was assigned once he got there to the recycled captured former Spanish 99-foot gunboat, USS Mariveles, under the command of Lt. (future Fleet Adm) William Leahy.

On the morning of 26 October 1901, Noa led a force of six blue jackets in a small boat to interdict waterborne smugglers between Leyte and Samar. However, with their little boat taking on water, they were forced ashore at the latter, while scouting the adjacent jungle, Noa was attacked and stabbed four times by Filipino insurgents then struck in the head and left for dead. SECNAV Josephus Daniels later wrote Noa’s mother during the Great War to inform her that a new destroyer would be named in her son’s honor.

Laid down at Norfolk Navy Yard a week after Armistice Day in Europe, USS Noa was appropriately sponsored by Midshipman Noa’s sister and commissioned 15 February 1921.

Launch of USS Hulbert 342 & USS Noa 343 on June 28, 1919 (Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #2273 taken on 6/28/1919

USS Noa (DD-343) at Norfolk Navy Yard, February 11, 1921. From the collection of Lawrence Archambault NHHC Accession #: S-526

Starboard side view of Clemson-class destroyer USS Noa (DD-343) NH 68341

In May 1922, Noa was assigned to her namesake’s old stomping ground, the Asiatic station, which she reached via a flag-waving cruise through the Mediterranean to the Suez, to and Aden and across the Indian Ocean to Ceylon then on to Singapore. For the next seven years, the destroyer would see some very active service in the Philippines and China.

Clemson-class destroyers photographed during the early 1920s. USS Noa (DD-343) in the foreground, with USS Peary (DD-226) in the background. NH 44864

While in China service, she would land a force to guard U.S. interests in Shanghai for two weeks between 25 July and 10 Aug 1925, earning an Expeditionary Medal.

In Nanking as part of a reinforced Yangtze Patrol from January through August 1927, Sailors from Noa and sistership USS William B. Preston (DD-344) put a small landing party ashore to protect refugees at the American consulate and later, with British Tars from the cruiser HMS Emerald, assembled a 250-man landing party ashore to protect escaping refugees from marauding Kuomintang regulars, sweeping into the city to seize it from Yangtze warlord Sun Chuan-Feng’s defeated troops.

A good reference to this event is the Yangtze Patrol by Kemp Tolley and “U.S.S. Noa And the Fall of Nanking” by CPT Ronald Pineau in the November 1955 issue of the USNI’s Proceedings.

Pineau interestingly details how Noa dispatched a low-key guard force to the U.S. consulate, saying

Anticipating that an armed party would surely be barred, Noa’s captain called on the Consul to provide private cars for trans­portation. Pistols were concealed under uni­form coats, field packs were stowed under rugs on the floorboards and, without con­sulting local authorities, the party drove through to the Consulate…A machine gun and am­munition were later smuggled into the American Consulate.

At one point, taking sniper fire from the shore and with 102 refugees aboard, Noa’s skipper, LCDR Roy C. Smith, Jr., ordered his No. 1 and No. 2 4-inchers to open fire on a building where the fire was coming from, an act that Preston soon joined her in. In all, the two Clemsons would fire 67 shells and “thousands of rifle and machinegun rounds.” Smith’s 13-year-old son would also be pressed into helping ferry shells, an act that he would later, as a retired Captain, describe as making him the “last powder monkey.”

Notes Pineau:

Captain Smith of the U.S.S. Noa remarked as he opened fire at Nanking, that he would get either a court-martial or a medal for it. That re­mark should be blazoned in every office, workshop, and institution of the land. It is the willingness to accept the obloquy without complaint, should it come, that makes the reward worth having.

USS Noa (DD-343) dressed in flags at Shanghai, China, while celebrating the Fourth of July 1927. NH 90000

Returning Stateside 14 August 1929 for an overhaul at Mare Island, Noa shifted her homeport from Cavite to San Diego where she served on duties as varied over the next half-decade as a plane guard for the new aircraft carriers USS Langley (CV-1) and USS Saratoga (CV-3), helping with the development of early carrier-group tactics. However, with the downturn in the U.S. economy, she was detailed to red lead row in Philadelphia in 1934 and mothballed.

Enter the destroyer-seaplane concept

In the Fall of 1923, while Noa was deployed half-way around the world, one of her sisters, the Clemson-class destroyer USS Charles Ausburn (DD-294), had a seaplane temporarily installed.

Naval Aircraft Factory TS-1 floatplane (BuNo A-6300) the Clemson-class destroyer USS Charles Ausburn (DD-294) circa 1923 NH 98820

The mounting took place in Hampton Roads and involved a TS-1 floatplane from the nearby Naval Air Station. Installed on a static platform on 29 August, Ausburn went to sea for two days for experimental trails with the floatplane aft while aircrew from USS Langley were attached to study how it endured while underway on the 314-foot tin can– although the plane was not launched from the destroyer and Ausburn had no facilities for fuel, recovery, or launching.

Ausburn returned to Norfolk on 3 September and the TS-1 was craned off. The destroyer was later used in 1925 “to provide plane guard service in the round-the-world flight of Army aircraft, maintaining stations off Greenland and Newfoundland for the historic event,” but never embarked an aircraft again.

Fast forward to 1 April 1940 and, with a new World War in Europe, Noa was dusted off and reactivated at Philadelphia. In a further test of concept, she was fitted with a Curtiss XSOC-1 Seagull seaplane just forward of the after deckhouse, replacing her after torpedo tubes. A boom for lifting the aircraft was stepped in place of the mainmast.

As noted by DANFS:

She steamed for the Delaware Capes in May and conducted tests with an XSOC-1 seaplane piloted by Lt. G. L. Heap. The plane was hoisted onto the ocean for takeoff and then recovered by Noa while the ship was underway. Lt. Heap also made an emergency flight 15 May to transfer a sick man to the Naval Hospital at Philadelphia.

Such dramatic demonstrations convinced the Secretary of the Navy that destroyer-based scout planes had value, and 27 May he directed that six new destroyers of the soon-to-be-constructed Fletcher Class (DD-476 to DD-481) be fitted with catapults and handling equipment. Because of mechanical deficiencies in the hoisting gear, the program was canceled early in 1943.

The concept thus failed to mature as a combat technique, but the destroyer-observation seaplane team was to be revived under somewhat modified conditions during later amphibious operations.

XSOC-1 Seagull floatplane aboard USS Noa. Photos from Henri L. Sans via USSNoaDD841.com

USS Noa (DD-343) insignia circa 1940, showing “winged spinach can” with Popeye at the controls, denoting NOA’s affiliation with aviation duties. She carried a Curtiss SOC-1 Seagull beginning April 1940. Note the destroyer underway on a distant Earth in the background. NH 83946-KN

A second variation of the insignia, NH 83945-KN

Six Fletchers would go on to receive Kingfishers, briefly, ordered immediately after Noa’s short trial with her Seagull. To support the floatplane they had space for 1,780 gals of AvGas installed on deck surrounded by a cofferdam of CO2 for safety purposes. The magazine normally used by the 5-inch gun (Mount 53) removed for the catapult installation was repurposed for the Kingfisher’s bombs and depth charges as well as aircraft tools. Berthing was allocated for a pilot, ordie/gunner and aviation mechanic.

Fletcher-class destroyer USS Halford (DD 480) 14 July 1943 with an O2SU seaplane on the catapult.  (National Archives, photo 80-G-276691.)

Lt. Heap, Noa’s sole aviator, went on to command an airwing, Carrier Air Group Eighty-Two aboard USS Bennington (CV-20) during WWII.

Speaking of the war…

Noa would spend the remainder of the next three years in service to train Midshipmen, provide an afloat platform for the Sonar School at Key West, and operate as a plane guard for the East Coast shakedown of the new Yorktown-class carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), between stints in patrol, rescue, and convoy escort duties.

Spring Paint Job, May 2, 1941. From the original caption, “This year the Navy is painting up, but the traditional light war-color that once gleamed so cleanly in the sun is gone. In its place is the new almost, oxford-grey, color [seen in the image below] that so easily escapes detection in northern waters. USS Noah (DD 343) as she goes through her stages of dressing. Note, the old Coast Guard cutter USS Bear (AG 29) before in stark contrast. U.S. Navy Photograph Lot-854-11: Photographed through Mylar sleeve.

USS Noah (DD 343) This image has her after her new paint scheme, which seems quite a bit darker than haze grey. Lot-854-12

In the summer of 1943, Noa was converted at Norfolk to a “Green Dragon,” a high-speed transport and was reclassified as APD-24 on 10 August 1943.

Some 14 Clemson-class destroyers were similarly converted as APDs, a process that saw the forward fireroom converted to short-term accommodations for up to 200 Marines, with the front two boilers and smokestacks removed. Also deleted were the topside torpedo tubes, replaced with davits for a quartet of LCPL or LCVP landing craft. They could still make 26 knots and float in just 10 feet of seawater.

USS BROOKS (APD-10), former Clemson-class destroyer DD-232, showing the typical APD conversion, of which Noa received. Caption: In San Francisco Bay, California, 24 August 1944. Courtesy of A.D. Baker III., 1981 NH 91790

Class leader USS CLEMSON (APD-31), also showing her APD conversion. Off the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, 21 April 1944.Courtesy of A.D. Baker III., 1981 NH 91795

Noa steamed for Pearl Harbor 4 November 1943 and by early December was a landing craft control ship off New Guinea, very much in the middle of the war in the Pacific. On the day after Christmas, she landed 144 officers and men of the First Marine Division on Cape Gloucester.

Early 1944 saw her active in the amphibious landings at Green Island, Emerau Island, and Hollandia before she ran back to Pearl in May to gather units of the Second Marine Division for landings on Saipan.

In September, while steaming to Palau with UDT members aboard for demo work there, Noa was rammed by the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Fullman (DD-474) at 0350, 12 September and immediately began to settle. Despite the heroic efforts of her crew and others, she slipped beneath the waves seven hours later but gratefully carried no Blue Jackets with her.

USS FULLAM (DD-474) recovers NOA’s survivors as USS HONOLULU (CL-48) stands by in the background, in the morning on 12 September 1944. NOA sank after being rammed by USS FULLAM (DD-474) while both were en route to the invasion of Peleliu. The original caption with the photo has Noa being hit by a Japanese mine. National Archives 80-G-287120

Survivors of USS Noa (APD-24) sunk near Peleliu after being rammed by Fullam on September 12– as seen from the ill-fated USS Indianapolis (CA 35), September 15, 1944. At the extreme right, the Executive Officer is interviewing one of the survivors. 80-G-287125

USS Noa received an Expeditionary Medal for her 1925 China service, the Yangtze Service Medal for her 1927 saga in Shanghai, and five battle stars for World War II service.

Noa II

Keen to quickly recycle the names of historic ships lost during the war, the Navy soon re-issued “Noa” to a Gearing-class destroyer (DD-841) then building at Bath Ironworks. Commissioned 2 November 1945, the greyhound would give 28 years of steady Cold War service without firing a shot in anger before her transfer to Spain as Blas de Lezo (D65) for another 13 years.

The second and final USS NOA, Destroyer No. 841, giving her submarine imitation.

Perhaps the best-known entry on the second Noa’s service record is her recovery of the famous Mercury space program capsule FRIENDSHIP 7 and astronaut Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, off the island of Grand Turk after their first human-manned orbit of the globe, 20 February 1962. The Noa picked Glenn up just 21 minutes after impact. In the 13 years of NASA programs with crew splashdowns, from Mercury’s Freedom 7 through Skylab 4, only two destroyers, Noa and USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852) recovered astronauts and launch capsules.

Glenn signing autographs on the Noa after recovery, and FRIENDSHIP 7 being taken aboard the destroyer. Photos: NHHC NHF-016.01 and NASA

The famous photograph of Glenn maxing and relaxing with aviator shades and Chuck Taylors was snapped on Noa’s deck before he was transferred to the carrier USS Randolph (CV-15), which was the primary recovery ship.

Surely channeling the same spirit of the Winged Spinach Can (Photo: NASA) https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_534.html

A Veteran’s organization to both Noa I and Noa II is maintained.

Epilogue

The original Clemson-class Noa is remembered by a 1/400 scale model by Mirage Hobby, depicted with her XSOC-1 embarked.

As for her sisters, seven Clemson’s were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war.

Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield (DD-231) decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

For more information on the Clemsons and their like, read CDR John Alden’s book, “Flush Decks and Four Pipes” and/or check out the Destroyer History Foundation’s section on Flushdeckers. 

As for the late Loveman Noa, while Uncle does not have a vessel on the current Naval List in his honor, he is remembered by a circa 1910 memorial tablet at Annapolis and is enshrined in Memorial Hall, one of six members of the Class of 1900 so recorded. His descendants apparently also have a memorial of their own to the young Mid who breathed his last on a beach in Samar.

And, of course, aircraft operations are standard on U.S. Navy destroyers today and have been since the FRAM’d Gearing and Sumner-class destroyers of the 1950s/60s, with their dedicated DASH drones, and the full-on helicopter decks of the follow-on Belknap-class destroyer leaders.

Then came the Spru-cans.

Photo taken by Bath Iron Works as USS HAYLER left Portland, ME on sea trials in the Gulf of Maine May 1992 after she had received the vertical launching system, SQQ-89 ASW system with towed array sonar, enlarged hangar and RAST and upgrades SLQ-32 and CIWS. Via Navsource

And today’s Burkes.

200304-N-NK931-1001 PHILIPPINE SEA (Mar. 4 2020) Landing Signalmen Enlisted (LSE), assigned to the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52), directs night flight operations of an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77, during the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Advanced Warfighting Training exercise (BAWT). (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Samuel Hardgrove)

Specs:

Noa, April 1940, via Blueprints.com

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 knots
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4- 4″/51 cal guns
1 x 3″/23 cal AAA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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Hand Salute, CPT Crozier

The (Acting) SECNAV Thomas B. Modly has booted the skipper of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Brett E. Crozier (USNA 1994), from his post over the leaked letter the carrier’s commander penned in reference to the spreading COVID-19 cases among his embarked 4,000-man crew.

Several sources told USNI News ahead of the announcement that Navy leaders in the Pacific did not recommend Crozier’s removal from command.

Modly’s two minutes of reasoning is in the video below, essentially boiling down to breaking the chain of command on the face of it, with the unpardonable sin of making Big Navy look bad on the sniff test.

Loose lips sink ships, or at least careers, anyway.

Of course, all the public attention has resulted in the crew getting the attention they needed, which was the meat of Crozier’s concerns.

Crozier had a big send-off from his crew.

A Seahawk and later Hornet driver who flew with the Warhawks of VFA-97, the Mighty Shrikes of VFA-94 and the Rough Riders of VFA-125, Crozier completed numerous downrange deployments during OIF and the Global War on Terror. Serving as the XO of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) for two years and then as skipper of 7th Fleet flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), for another two before moving into the captain’s cabin of The Big Stick, Crozier was on the path for a star after 26 years of honorable service.

Instead:

Final WWII Royal Navy destroyer skipper joins the big fleet

John Errol Manners was the youngest son of RADM Sir Errol Manners, KBE, so it was natural that young John at age 17 became a midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1932. After all, his two brothers had preceded him in the “family business” and even his sister had served as a WREN.

After pre-war service on the royal yacht Britannia and a variety of torpedo boats in the Mediterranean and the Far East– while working on his cricket game– John was a junior officer on the cruiser HMS Birmingham on China Station when Hitler marched into Poland in 1939.

Quickly reassigned to the I-class destroyer HMS Eglinton (L87), then under construction in England, he rose fast and by February 1942 John was the temporary captain of the F-class destroyer HMS Fame (H78).

He then served as the first lieutenant of the hard-charging Tribal-class tin can HMS Eskimo (F75)— a ship that had famously lost her bow at Narvik and had to be rebuilt. By May 1943, after serving on Eskimo on dangerous convoy escort runs and Malta lifelines as well as supporting the Torch Landings in North Africa, John moved up to become the destroyer’s skipper in time for the Husky Landings in Sicily.

At the end of 1943, John, by then a lieutenant commander, was given the somewhat lateral position of commander of the elderly Great War era W-class destroyer HMS Viceroy (D91).

On that ship, while escorting Convoy FS 1874 off Sunderland, Viceroy counterattacked the German submarine U-1274 after the latter torpedoed the tanker Athelduke, eventually sinking the U-boat in a drawn-out action that left a dozen bottles of good French brandy floating on the surface and the German sub on the bottom. The booze saved, John forwarded it to the Admiralty– who in turn sent it to Churchill– with the regards of the Viceroy’s crew.

After accepting the German surrender of Trondheim, Norway in May 1945, followed up by anticlimactic post-war assignments on troopships and the battleship HMS King George V, LCDR John Manners, DSC, moved to the reserve list, moving on to his cricket game full time.

Manners, the world’s longest-lived first-class cricketer, who coincidentally held commands on three of HMs destroyers during WWII and accounted for a tricky U-boat with panache, passed last week, aged 105.

Recognizing the WWII Rangers, Merchant Mariners

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day M1 Garand BAR 80-G-45716

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day M1 Garand BAR 80-G-45716

Between June 1942 and the end of WWII, the Army formed from volunteers 6 Ranger Infantry Battalions (numbered 1st-6th) and 1 provisional Ranger battalion (29th, from Army National Guardsmen of the 29th ID).

S.1757 just passed the Senate on a unanimous voice vote last week.

“This bill directs the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to arrange for the award of a single gold medal to the U.S. Army Ranger veterans of World War II in recognition of their dedicated wartime service.

Following its award, the gold medal shall be given to the Smithsonian Institution where it shall be available for display and research.”

It now heads to the House.

In related news,

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the President signed into law:

H.R. 5671, the “Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2020,” which provides for the award of a Congressional gold medal collectively, to the United States Merchant Mariners of World War II, in recognition of their dedicated and vital service during the conflict.

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Battle Standard bears the number “142” on its field of red, white and blue, representing the academy’s cadets killed in WWII.  

I guess we know how that chess game ended

As a kid, Emperor Ming terrified me, while as an adult I found appreciation for the drawn-out game of chess between Death and nihilistic Danish crusader Antonius Block. In between, I saw the same familiar face show up as one of the best classic Bond villains and in most of the good sci-fi films of the 80s and 90s from the sands of Dune to the dystopian wastelands of Judge Dredd.

Carl Adolf “Max” von Sydow, the consummate professional of European filmmaking who lent his chops to numerous works on this side of the pond, died in France this week, aged 90, leaving a history of more than 100 films behind.

A son of Swedish aristocrats, he did his military service in 1947-48 as a lowly enlisted man in the Intendenturkåren, the Army Quartermaster Corps, in some of the scariest times of the early days of the Cold War, sandwiched between shadowy Nazi remnants using Scandanavia as a way station on their way to Latin America, and an immensely powerful Soviet Red military machine that was making en roads to the kingdom of the three crowns almost daily. Ironically, he would go on to play both a German WWII Army Major (Victory, 1980) and a Russian Navy Admiral (Kursk, 2018), among others.

Fun fact: it was during his time in uniform that Von Sydow picked up his nickname, Max, after attending a traveling flea circus, showing that your stint in the service often carries with you for the rest of your life.

I guess Max has rejoined the big army.

Welcome aboard, Woody

Named for MoH recipient Cpl. Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, the U.S. Navy commissioned its newest expeditionary sea base– USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB 4) in Norfolk, Virginia over the weekend.

Importantly, Williams, who earned his decoration while holding onto a 70-pound M2 flamethrower on Iwo Jima, where he used it like a surgeon, is the last MoH recipient from the Pacific War.

Happy National Napping Day

Just in case you didn’t know, the Monday after Daylight Savings Time spring’s back is National Napping Day. In true LSOZI fashion, this is my take.

Marine Sgt. Robert Gwinn, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, takes a nap waiting for a helicopter to transport him back to base after a five-day recon patrol in the hills near Da Nang, Vietnam, 1969.

Official USMC photo by Gunnery Sergeant Bob Jordan via Marine Corps History Division

Official USMC photo by Gunnery Sergeant Bob Jordan via Marine Corps History Division

Of note, the likely exhausted Gwinn carries an aircrew/pilot’s survival knife and not a traditional K-Bar fighting knife. You can tell by the bolt-shaped pommel and sharpening stone pouch on the sheath.

As Gwinn’s patrol, according to the MCHD, “worked closely with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing pilots and aircrews,” he likely got the knife in trade. Below he is shown filling his canteen in another shot from the Corps Archives. That CAR-15 XM177, tho…

Robert Gwinn Fills His Canteens, 1969 1st Recon Danag Vietnam Marines CAR15 XM177

Hand salute to Woody

One of the most popular weapons used to root out the Japanese on Iwo Jima, 75 years ago this week, was the M2 flamethrower, and with good reason.

Defending the fortress was Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi’s 21,000 Japanese troops, which had largely evacuated the civilian population on Iwo and has spent months preparing the island’s difficult terrain to best resist the amphibious assault. They dug 16 miles of tunnels, broken up into 1,500 different bunkers, underneath the island. Most would never leave on their own two feet.

Flamethrowers were useful in routing the defenders from the honeycomb of underground tunnels and bunkers on the island, a tactic that evolved into what was known as the “blowtorch and corkscrew,” method.

Marine CPL Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Pacific War, carried a 70-pound M2 on Iwo Jima and used it like a surgeon to successfully take on a network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, with four riflemen in support.

He is currently 96 years old.

In all, the Medal of Honor was presented to 22 Marines and five Sailors for their actions on Iwo Jima, many of those given posthumously. Adm. Chester Nimitz observed after the hellish battle that, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

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