Mister Here’s Your Mule!

Something for the weekend.  Mister Here’s Your Mule!  The Civil War had a great many comic songs and one of the best was Mister Here’s Your Mule which was popular with soldiers on both side.  Written in 1862 by C.D. Benson, the song swiftly became a campfire favorite.

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Battle of San Pietro

Probably the most realistic depiction of World War II combat put to film, The Battle of San Pietro, in the public domain, is now considered a minor masterpiece.  At the time of its release in 1945 it was intensely controversial.  Fought between December 8-17 in 1943, the assault of the 143rd Infantry of the 36th Division was filmed by Captain John Huston, who was making films for the Army, a rare case where the Army actually made use of the civilian expertise of one of its soldiers.  Huston’s film shows war in all of its unglamorous horror.  After the Hollywood depiction of war during World War II it came as an unpleasant revelation for viewers.  Army brass were concerned about the film having a depressing effect on the morale of the troops.  Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, however, came to the defense of the film, thinking that it would make a good training film, underlining to troops why they had to take their training seriously.  The film was used in training and Huston was promoted to major.

Published in: on April 26, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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April 25, 1943: ANZAC Day and Easter

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon

In 1943 Anzac Day, April 25, fell on the same day as Easter.   Anzac Day commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

New York City saw its first public observance of Anzac Day that year as some 300 Australian airmen and sailors marched in the Easter Parade and were cheered by the crowds lining the parade route.  Anzac Day observances in Australia and New Zealand were muted that year, due to the day falling on Easter, and so many men were away fighting in the War.

American audiences had become familiar with the courage of Anzac troops by viewing the documentary Kokoda Front Line, the video at the beginning of this post, which memorialized the struggle of Australian troops fighting in New Guinea.  Damien Parer, the cinematographer on the film won an Oscar for the film in 1943.  He would die on September 17, 1944, age 32, filming Marines in combat on Peleliu

In Melbourne, Australia on Anzac Day, the US 1st Marine Division marched through the streets in honor of the day to the cheers of their Australian hosts. (more…)

Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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The Men That Fought At Minden

The twenty-third in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here and here.  In his poems Kipling was fond of the theme of education.  In several poems he tied in education with another great theme of his poetry, the British Army, Kipling being fascinated by the rough and ready process by which soldiers learned how to be soldiers.

One feature of the British Army that has helped make it such a formidable force over the centuries is the pride in regimental history taken by officers and men.  In the poem The Men That Fought at Minden a sergeant, or perhaps a corporal, is using the battle of Minden as an example to tell new recruits what to expect as they learn how to be soldiers.

On August 1, 1759 an Anglo-German army won a striking victory over a larger French army at the battle of Minden in Germany.  The victory was one of the numerous victories won by the British in 1759, the Annus Mirabilis, which included the taking of Quebec.  The following British regiments fought at Minden and are known as Minden regiments:   12th of Foot, 20th Foot, 23rd of Foot, 25th of Foot, 37th of Foot and  51st Foot.  Minden Day is still observed on August 1, when the men of these regiments wear roses in their caps.  Lord George Sackville was cashiered from the British Army due to cowardice that day.  As Lord George Germain he would serve as George III’s Secretary of State during the American Revolution, contributing greatly to the British loss in that War.  The Marquis de Lafayette’s father died at the battle, and sparked in Lafayette a strong desire for revenge on the British that he brought to fruition in the aid that he brought to the American cause in the Revolution.

Kipling published this poem in 1896 as part of his second series of Barrack Room Ballads, poems on the British Army as seen through the eyes of common soldiers.

The noncom in the poem is remarkably ignorant of the actual battle of Minden, but he is no doubt completely accurate in his description of what the recruits can expect as they learn to be soldiers.  He is telling them not to be disheartened by their experiences, and that all soldiers of the regiment start out the same way.  They are part of the chain that stretches back through the history of the regiment, and for most of the soldiers that knowledge they ultimately will take pride in, although probably not as much comfort as they take in the beer mentioned at the end of the poem!  Here is the text of The Men That Fought at Minden: (more…)

Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Men That Fought At Minden  
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The Star Spangled Banner-Boston Style

Something for the weekend.  The most stirring rendition of our national anthem I have ever heard, at a Boston Bruins game in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Published in: on April 20, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Doolittle Raiders Hold Their Final Public Reunion

Inevitable, but still sad:

Wednesday’s event at the base is part of a weeklong series of activities planned by the military and community leaders to honor the men.

Thomas Casey, business manager for the Raiders and a longtime fan of the men, said the four survivors have decided they can no longer keep up with the demands of group public appearances.

“The mission ends here in Fort Walton Beach on Saturday night, but their legacy starts then,” he said.

Casey said he hopes everyone who has had a chance to interact with the men will keep their legacy alive. “I want them to tell the story to their children, their grandchildren, their neighbors and keep their story going because their story is worthwhile telling.”

At each reunion is a case containing 80 silver goblets with the name of each raider inscribed right-side up and upside down on a single goblet. The men toast their fallen comrades each year and turn their goblets upside down in their honor.

 

(more…)

Published in: on April 18, 2013 at 6:51 am  Comments Off on Doolittle Raiders Hold Their Final Public Reunion  
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Paul Revere’s Ride and the Civil War

A nice rendition of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.  The poem was published in January of 1861 on the eve of the Civil War which gives added meaning to the closing lines of the poem:

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the
last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken
and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight
message of Paul Revere. (more…)

Published in: on April 18, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Paul Revere’s Ride and the Civil War  
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April 16, 1863: Porter Runs the Batteries

Admiral David Dixon Porter

On the dark evening of April 16, 1863 at 9:15 PM, Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter had his fleet cast off from its anchorage above Vicksburg.  Not a light gleamed on the ships of the fleet and the engines were muffled.  Porter had to get his fleet south of Vicksburg to rendezvous with Grant’s Army of the Tennessee and transport it across the Mississippi from the Louisiana side of the river.

It was very much an open question as to whether the fleet could successfully run the batteries without ruinous losses.  Grant had spent the months since December 1862 attempting to arrange an alternative route for the fleet that did not involve it steaming in front of the guns of Vicksburg, to no avail.  Now, the great experiment was underway.

The Confederates quickly realized the fleet was coming, and  barrels filled with tar and cotton bales drenched with turpentine were set ablaze to illumine the river.  Each vessel was hit repeatedly, but, with the loss of one transport, the fleet succeeded in passing Vicksburg and could now transport Grant’s army across the river for the Vicksburg campaign to begin in earnest.

Charles A. Dana, a War Department investigator who was with the fleet, wrote Secretary of War Stanton a report of the passage of the fleet: (more…)

Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 16, 1863: Porter Runs the Batteries  
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Pow Servant of God Receives Medal of Honor

The POW Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun received the Medal of Honor on April 11, 2012.  Here is what he did to earn it.

Serving as a chaplain at Fort Bliss, Father Kapaun was ordered to Japan in 1950.  Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, he was assigned to a front line combat unit, the 3rd battalion, 8th cavalry regiment, 1rst Cavalry Division.

With his unit Father Kapaun participated during June-September 1950 in the desperate defense of the Pusan Perimeter and then in the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, which, combined with the Inchon landings in Operation Chromite, the brilliant stroke by General Douglas MacArthur,  led to the eviction of the invading North Korean armies from South Korea and the capture of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on October 19, 1950.  During all of this Father Kapaun was a whirlwind of activity:  tending the wounded, administering the Last Sacrament to the dying, keeping up the morale of the troops.  He said mass as close as he could get to the battle lines from an improvised platform on a jeep.

jeep-mass

On November 1, 1950 Chaplain Kapaun’s unit ran headlong into advancing Chinese Communist forces at Unsan, North Korea, about 50 miles south of the Chinese border with North Korea.   The official citation of the award of the Distinguish Service Cross to Chaplain Kapaun tells of his role in the battle:

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Emil Joseph Kapaun(O-0558217), Captain (Chaplain), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection withmilitary operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Chaplain with Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment (Infantry), 1st Cavalry Division. Captain (Chaplain) Kapaun distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Unsan, Korea, on 1 and 2 November 1950.

On the afternoon of 1 November 1950, and continuing through the following 36 hours, the regiment was subjected to a relentless, fanatical attack by hostile troops attempting to break through the perimeter defense. In the early morning hours, the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defenses, and hand-to-hand combat ensued in the immediate vicinity of the command post where the aid station had been set up. Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety, calmly moved among the wounded men, giving them medical aid and easing their fears. His courageous manner inspired all those present and many men who might otherwise have fled in panic were encouraged by his presence and remained to fight the enemy.

As the battle progressed, the number of wounded increased greatly and it became apparent that many of the men would not be able to escape the enemy encirclement. Finally, at dusk on November 2, 1950, the remaining able- bodied men were ordered to attempt to break through the surrounding enemy. At this time, although fully aware of the great danger, Chaplain Kapaun voluntarily remained behind, and when last seen was administering medical treatment and rendering religious rites wherever needed.

Along with the other Americans captured Father Kapaun was marched north in bitterly cold winter weather approximately 100 miles.  One of his fellow prisoners, Herbert Miller, was wounded and had a broken ankle.  Mr. Miller survived the war and here is a recent statement by him on what happened next.  “I was wounded with a broken ankle and the North Koreans were going to shoot me. He brushed them aside, reached down and picked me up and carried me. How he found the strength, I’ll never know. He was the bravest man I ever saw.”

Father Kapaun and his fellow POWs were taken, after their two week march, to a temporary camp which they called The Valley located 10 miles south of Pyoktong, NorthKorea, the first in a series of camps in the area where Father Kapuan and the men from his unit were held.  Of the approximately 1000 Americans who were taken here 500-700 died.  I was astonished in researching this article to learn that during their first year of operation the Chinese POW camps had a death rate of 40%, which makes them worse than the Japanese POW camps during World War II in which approximately one-third of the Allied prisoners perished.

Then the events began which made Father Kapaun unforgettable to the men who survived this Gehenna on Earth.  First, the men needed food.  On the miserable rations they had from the Chinese they were starving to death.  Father Kapaun staged daring daylight raids into surrounding fields to scavenge for hidden potatoes and sacks of corn.  If he had been discovered it is quite likely that he would have been shot on the spot.  He always shared his food with the other men, and his example shamed his fellow prisoners who also scavenged for food outside of the camp to do the same and share their food. (more…)

Published in: on April 14, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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April 30, 1863: Hooker Arrives at Chancellorsville

Chancellorsville April 30, 1863

 

On April 30, 1863 Hooker arrived at Chancellorsville.  He issued this order:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 30, 1863.

       It is with heartfelt satisfaction the commanding general announces to the army that the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him.    The operations of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps have been a succession of splendid achievements.

       By command of Major-General Hooker (more…)

Published in: on April 13, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 30, 1863: Hooker Arrives at Chancellorsville  
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