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A link to Kearsarge, up at auction

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.

The Battle of the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama By Claude Monet, hanging today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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.

This guy:

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.

(Photo: RIA)

More here:

Estimate Price: $75,000 – $125,000.

Raven 42: Citizen soldiers at their ‘part time’ job 14 years ago today

“Raven 42” by James Dietz Via U.S. Army Center of Military History

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!

My new favorite quarter

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

For the CZ fan that has everything

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.

The guns come standard with a wooden presentation case with a portrait of the first Czechoslovak president, Tomáš Masaryk.

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.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: The Irish Blue Hussars

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.

Military International Jumping Competition 1928. Glass plate negative of the Military International Jumping Competition which was held at Ballsbridge Show-Grounds during the Horse Show Week from the 7th August to 10th August 1928. Captain J G O’Dwyer of the Irish Army can be seen making a good clearance over the stile on a horse called “Cuchulain” in Final Round. Via Irish Military Archives

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 lance and saber-equipped Blue Hussars of the Irish Free State. Photo via the Irish Army

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.

Glass plate negative showing a trumpeter in Blue Hussars uniform on horseback. (Photo: Ireland Military Archives)

A group of Volunteer soldiers on horseback in McKee Barracks, Dublin, likely Hussars in training. Note the Officers mess in the background of this glass plate negative. Taken sometime between 1934-1939. Via Irish Military Archives

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.

 

Blue Hussars outside Garrison NCO’s Mess McKee Barracks (formerly Marlborough Barracks when the British were there), Dublin. The Irish Army Equitation School today is still garrisoned there.

The Hussars remained a force through 1945 when they rode at the inauguration of President Sean T. O’Kelly in June 1945.

Seen here having some libations, as any horseman worth his salt should be able to do.

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.

1932-1948, The Blue Hussars uniform busby. Via Whyte’s Auctions

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.

Ghosts of Dolphins’ past

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Jessica Wright.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Jessica Wright.

Above is an EADS HC-144B Ocean Sentry at Corpus Christi, Texas on Feb. 20, 2019. The Sentry is the navalised maritime patrol version of the CN-235 cargo plane made for the U.S. Coast Guard. The model recently was shifted from CGATS Mobile to Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi’s newest addition and has a number of upgrades from the earlier A-series that will allow aircrews to gather and process surveillance information that can be transmitted to other platforms and units during flight.

If the livery looks different, it is one of two modified in 2016 to celebrate the 100th year of U.S. Coast Guard aviation. The throwback scheme was carried by the bakers dozen Douglas RD-4 Dolphin seaplanes the Coast Guard flew from 1934 to 1943, with a dark blue fuselage, yellow on top of the wings, red and white on the tail, and silver metallic on the belly, underneath the wings, and for the engine cowlings and a stripe on the tail.

The Dolphin, a modification of Douglas’s 1930s Sinbad “flying yacht,” gave yeoman service in the 1930s and 40s in search and rescue and both the Army and Navy picked up a few of their own. Several saw WWII service.

Right side view of U.S. Coast Guard Douglas RD-4 Dolphin on water, men are about to be transferred to onto the aircraft from a burning motorboat which is to the right of the aircraft. 1936. NASM-XRA-4038

Only 58 were made and there was a flying example still airworthy in the early 1990s.

The last known surviving example of the venerable amphibian is at the Naval Air & Space Museum in Pensacola.

That time the Navy needed binos so bad it asked for loaners

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.

Lieutenant Frank E. Beatty, Jr. Caption: Standing aboard USS NEW YORK, performing submarine lookout. Photographed in the North Sea in 1918. NH 56125

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.

Will you supply eyes for the Navy Poster; by Gordon Grant; 1917; Unframed Dimensions 29H x 20W 99-064-l

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.

Letter for the return of Binoculars, WWI NHHC 2016.062

The letter reads:

Navy Department
U.S. Naval Observatory
Washington, D.C.

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.

Pay order issued by the Treasurer of the United States to C.A. Bonnell, dated Oct. 19, 1918, for the amount of one dollar as part of the “Eyes for the Navy” program. NHHC 1966-332-A

“Eyes for the Navy”, WWI certificate issued to one Edward Mann, whose glasses “did their part.” NHHC 1991-125-B

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

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