We’ve talked extensively in passed Warship Wednesdays and other posts about the epic contest off France between the British-built steam privateer CSS Alabama, under the swashbuckling Capt. Raphael Semmes and the Mohican-class screw sloop of war USS Kearsarge on June 19, 1864.
Aboard Kearsarge that day was Acting Master James R. Wheeler, a Massachusetts man who later went on command, as a volunteer lieutenant, the captured blockade runner-turned-Union gunboat USS Preston in the tail end of the war before serving as U.S. consul to Jamaica under President Grant, where he died in 1870. Importantly, Wheeler commanded the crew of the Union vessel’s key 11-inch Dahlgren shell gun, which pummeled Alabama into the sea at relatively close range.
Well, sometime after Alabama and before Preston, Wheeler was presented a custom Ames Model 1852 Officer’s Sword by popular subscription among Boston gentlemen, complete with acanthus scrollwork, naval battle scenes and the likes of both Amphitrite and Poseidon.
Interestingly, it is well preserved and is coming up at auction in May, after once being part of the esteemed collection of Norm Flayderman.
Estimate Price: $75,000 – $125,000.
March 20, 2005: Two U.S. convoys were about to converge at a crossroads 30 miles south of Baghdad. They were attacked by one of the largest groups insurgents ever to hit a convoy. This stretch of road happened to be guarded by the 617th Military Police Company-Kentucky National Guard, from Richmond, Kentucky. The 4th Platoon’s 2nd Squad, 10 men and women in three armored Hummers, operated as “Raven 42.”
As both convoys came under heavy attack and the insurgents were closing in Raven 42 fought through heavy fire aimed at them to go on the offensive in protecting the convoys. By the end of the firefight, 30+ insurgents were dead, wounded or captured and only a few American Soldiers were wounded.
The citizen soldiers reacting to contact that day included a shoe store manager, hotel worker, printing press operator, and several students.
Specialists William Haynes, Casey Cooper, and Ashley Pullen received Bronze Stars for valor. Medic Jason Mike received the Silver Star, as did SGT Hester and SSG Nein. Nein’s award was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. Pullen and Hester were the first women in U.S. history to receive medals for valor in actual combat.
Note: Back to Warship Weds next week!
An upcoming quarter struck by the U.S. Mint depicts a World War II scene on a far-flung American shore complete with iconic M1 Garand rifles. The coin, the 48th in the Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters Program, depicts U.S. forces coming ashore at Asan Bay, Guam during the liberation of that territory from Japanese occupation in 1944.
Sculpted by Michael Gaudioso, the design is for the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam and “honors the bravery, courage, and sacrifice of those participating in the campaigns of the Pacific Theater during World War II.”
In the scene on the coin’s reverse side, in the arms of the troops coming ashore from landing vehicles are a number of distinctive M1s.
While it is the first quarter with an M1 on it, it is not the first item produced by the Mint with one, and other quarters also have guns, of sorts.
More in my column at Guns.com
I give you the exquisite CZ 75 Republika model:
Produced by CZUB to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918, just 100 of the guns were produced. They are serial numbered 1918-2018.
Each is engraved with traditional Czech symbols such as the national motto “Pravda vítězí,” which means “truth prevails,” as well as a Czech lion coat of arms.
They normally cost about $8K but Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš just made one a gift of the United States, should President Trump decide not to buy it, of course.
More in my column at Guns.com.
The Army of the Irish Free State was set up with roots from the “old” IRA in 1922 and included a bare modicum of horse artillery but no proper cavalry, which is a shame because the country is known for producing its own hunter/jumper class, the Irish Sport Horse.
By 1926, the force started the Army Show Jumping team and formed the Army Equitation School with the benefit of a horsemanship instructor in the form of White Russian exile Col. Pavel Pavlovich Rodzianko, late of the Tsar’s Imperial Guard. Rodzianko, son of a Guards general and Princess Marie Pavlovna Golitsyn, moved well in noble circles, brought the Tsar’s pet spaniel to Windsor after the Civil War even went on to (attempt to) teach a young Edward VIII how to ride. The jumping team got good in just a few years. In fact, in the 1930s they scored 20 Nations Cups wins.
Then, in 1931, the Blue Hussars were established to provide a mounted ceremonial force. Officially “The Mounted Escort,” the Blue Hussars moniker was a popular nickname. Drawn in part from the horse school and from the Artillery Corps the unit, some 80 horses and 70 riders strong, got its first workout during 31st Eucharistic Congress when they were used to escort the Papal Legate the next summer.
The occasion was the 31st International Eucharistic Congress, held in Dublin from 22-26 June 1932, to celebrate the 1,500 year anniversary of St Patrick’s arrival to Ireland. It was kind of a big deal, with a crowd of some 500,000 assembled for the event.
The uniforms, similar to the pattern worn by the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars, were light blue rather than the Britsh unit’s dark blue and were designed by a committee that included Irish artist Seán Keating.
Interestingly, the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars (the antecedent regiment of the present day motorized cavalry regiment, the Queen’s Royal Hussars), had their last horse-mounted parade in 1935, which means the Blue Hussars outlived them, in a sense.
According to Andrew Cusack, the uniform of Ireland’s Blue Hussars included a “blue tunic & breeches, yellow frogging & lace, and black sealskin busby with yellow-orange plume,” which must have looked magnificent.
The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin City Centre 1939– some 80 years ago today. Note the Blue Hussars featured in the background, horses chomping at the bit.
The Hussars remained a force through 1945 when they rode at the inauguration of President Sean T. O’Kelly in June 1945.
Due to a lack of horses, they disbanded in 1949, replaced by a motorscooter force of all things.
Some uniforms are preserved on public display.
While others, such as this black seal-skin busby which came up at auction in 2016, are in private hands.
Nonetheless, the Irish Army Equitation School still exists, officially part of the Army’s Transport Corps, and they are good at their job, both competing in equestrian events and serving as a public duties group of sorts.
Still, it would be nice to see the old hussar uniforms make a comeback.
To say that the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917 unprepared was an understatement. With a standing Army that was smaller than almost any European combatant with the possible exception of Portugal (who could still field 8 deployable divisions in addition to colonial troops in Africa and the Far East), the U.S. Navy was by far more ready for war than Uncle’s lean green machine. Nonetheless, with the need to add hundreds of destroyers, subchasers and other escorts to protect vital sea lanes to get the boys “Over There,” the American maritime lift was going to be a big one.
With that in mind, the most vital tools used for surface navigation in the days before surface search radar were soon in short supply– good binoculars.
To meet this pressing and urgent need, Asst. SECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt kicked off the public appeal known as the “Eyes for the Navy” program run by the Naval Observatory.
The concept was simple: Americans could loan Uncle the use of their privately held binoculars (Zeiss or Bausch & Lomb, preferred), spyglasses, etc. for the duration to help do their part for the push against the Kaiser.
In return, they would get a $1 rental fee, a certificate for their effort, and, if still available once the war ended, their often well-traveled glass back.
The letter reads:
U.S. Naval Observatory
Subject: return of articles, in connection with the NAVY’S call for binoculars, telescopes, spyglasses, and other navigation instruments.
1. There is being returned to you by registered mail the article received from you in response to the NAVY’S call.
2. An engraved certificate evidencing the participation of this article in the war, is now being prepared and will be forwarded to you at a subsequent date.
3. It is hoped that any evidence of wear or damage will be compensated for by the fact that a great service has been performed and that historic interest has been added to the article returned.
Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
The text of the certificate reads:
The United States of America
Department of the Navy
The thousands of binoculars, telescopes, spyglasses, and navigation instruments furnished the Navy by individuals in response to its appeal for “Eyes for the Navy” have been a vital contribution in the protection of our warships, transports and supply vessels against the submarine activities of the enemy during the Great War.
The Navy acknowledges with thanks and appreciation your cooperation and this certificate is issued to Edwin Mann in recognition of the sacrifice made for the safety of our ships and the assurance of final victory.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Assistant Secretary of the Navy