Father’s Day

 

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127: 3-5

 

 

Traditionally Father’s Day was celebrated on March 19 in Catholic countries, a feast day of Saint Joseph  The first Father’s Day observance in the US was on July 5, 1908 In Fairmont, West Virginia.  It was held to honor the 250 fathers who had been among the 361 miners killed in the Monongah mining disaster in Monongah, West Virginia.  The observance received little publicity and it did not start the current Father’s Day.  Over the next few decades there would be proposals to have a Father’s Day observance, but nothing took hold.  In 1957 Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a bill to establish Father’s Day, stating it was unfair to have Mother’s Day and not a Father’s Day. In 1966 President Johnson issued a proclamation establishing Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June.  President Nixon in 1972 signed a bill establishing Father’s Day as a national holiday.  (more…)

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Published in: on June 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Stars and Stripes Forever

 

Something for the weekend.  For a weekend following Flag Day Stars and Stripes Forever seems called for.  Beyond a doubt the best known composition of John Philip Sousa, it is the National March of the United States.  Sousa wrote it on Christmas Day 1896 and it proved massively popular, especially when it was played during the Spanish-American War.  My Family and I, visited the Sousa Archives at the University of Illinois last week, go here to read about the Sousa Archives, which houses the papers of John Philip Sousa.  The grad student on duty gave us a first rate presentation on Sousa and his music, and he brought out for us original sheet music used by Sousa and his band, which sent shivers down my spine.  Writers do what they can, but a truly great composer effortlessly touches hearts and souls long after he is dust.

 

 

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears ‘mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew;
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom’s shield and hope.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

A “unique”, yes that is what we will call it, muppet rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, hosted by Sam the American Eagle, who is the answer to the question, “Don, if you were a muppet, which muppet would you be?”

 

 

Vladimir Horowitz was one of the greatest pianists of the last century.  He was also a refugee from the Soviet Union.  He became a naturalized American citizen in 1944, and, like many naturalized American citizens of that era, he was intensely patriotic, giving many concerts in support of the war effort.  Here is his immortal rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever from 1945.

Philip Nolan and Flag Day

Today is Flag Day.  Edward Everett Hale, in his short story A Man Without A Country, reminds us that patriotism is a very powerful form of love.  Hale, a great nephew of Nathan Hale who died on a British scaffold and uttered the deathless  “I only regret, that I have but one life to lose for my country.”, wrote the story in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 to help inspire patriotism.

The story is a simple one.  Philip Nolan was a young artillery lieutenant in the United States Army.  He became involved in the  vague scheme of Aaron Burr to detach some territory from the  United States and form an independent nation.  All the big fish escape conviction, but Lieutenant Nolan does not.  At his courtmartial the following takes place:

One and another of the colonels and majors were tried, and, to fill out the list, little Nolan, against whom, Heaven knows, there was evidence enough,–that he was sick of the service, had been willing to be false to it, and would have obeyed any order to march any-whither with any one who would follow him had the order been signed, “By command of His Exc.A. Burr.” The courts dragged on. The big flies escaped,–rightly for all I know. Nolan was proved guilty enough, as I say; yet you and I would never have heard of him, reader, but that, when the president of the court asked him at the close whether he wished to say anything to show that he had always been faithful to the United States, he cried out, in a fit of frenzy,–

“Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” (more…)

June 13, 1863: Second Battle of Winchester Begins

Second_Winchester_Map

In order for Lee to invade the North it was necessary for the Shenandoah Valley to be cleared of Union troops that would otherwise could pose a threat to Richmond in the absence of Lee’s army.  Lee assigned the Second Corps, Jackson’s old veterans who were quite familiar with the Shenandoah to accomplish this.

The Shenandoah was defended by a Union division of approximately 7,000 men under General Robert H. Milroy who concentrated his troops in forts around Winchester, a town well know to the men of the Second Corps who had fought and won the First Battle of Winchester in September of the previous year.  Not realizing that he face approximately 12,000 men of the Second Corps, Milroy ignored suggestions from General in Chief Halleck that Milroy abandon Winchester and retreat to Harper’s Ferry.

June 13 consisted of skirmishing as the troops of the Second Corps marched and deployed, following a battle plan of General Jubal Early to outflank both the left and right flanks of Milroy’s force.  Milroy retreated into the fortifications around Winchester.

On June 14 the Confederate outflanking attacks forced Milroy to retreat down the valley overnight to Stephenson’s Depot.

On June 15 Milroy’s force was routed and effectively destroyed as it attempted to reach Stephenson’s Depot.  The casualties were lopsided in favor of the Confederates:  4,443 Union casualties, 4000 of them prisoners or missing, to 269 Confederate losses.  Immense amounts of supply were captured by the Confederates along with 23 cannon.  Confederate morale was heartened by this victory, while the Union morale was shaken.  With the valley now cleared of Union troops the Army of Northern Virginia was free to commence the invasion of the North.  Here is Ewell’s report on the battle: (more…)

June 12, 1945: Guildhall Address By Eisenhower

Seventy years ago General Eisenhower was honored at the Guildhall in London by being presented with a ceremonial sword and being made an honorary Londoner.  His speech, that he gave without notes, is quite eloquent and belies his usual reputation of being a poor public speaker.  It deserves to be better known and here is the text of the speech:

 

The high sense of distinction I feel in receiving this great honor from the city of London is inescapably mingled with feelings of profound sadness. All of us must always regret that your country and mine were ever faced with the tragic situation that compelled the appointment of an Allied Commander-in-Chief, the capacity in which I have just been so extravagantly commended.

 

Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends. Conceivably a commander may have been professionally superior. He may have given everything of his heart and mind to meet the spiritual and physical needs of his comrades. He may have written a chapter that will glow forever in the pages of military history. Still, even such a man, if he existed, would sadly face the fact that his honors cannot hide in his memories the crosses marking the resting places of the dead. They cannot soothe the anguish of the widow or the orphan whose husband or whose father will not return.

 

The only attitude in which a commander may with satisfaction receive the tributes of his friends is a humble acknowledgement that, no matter how unworthy he may be, his position is a symbol of great human forces that have labored arduously and successfully for a righteous cause. Unless he feels this symbolism and this rightness in what he has tried to do, then he is disregardful of the courage, the fortitude and the devotion of the vast multitudes he has been honored to command. If all the allied men and women that have served with me in this war can only know that it is they this august body is really honoring today, then, indeed, will I be content. (more…)

Published in: on June 12, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The War to Give Birth to Other Wars

No one expected a renewal of war in the lifetime of the generation that had known its horror and its squalors.

Winston Churchill, The World Crisis:  Aftermath

 

 

Indy Neidell of The Great War looks at the wars that followed in the wake of World War I.  The Allied slogan of The War to End War may be forgiven as the type of puffery that states engaged in huge wars will often resort to in order to mobilize their populations.  However, the fact that so many people believed it demonstrated that a strong element of the irrational entered into the West during World War I.  Few people looking at the world in  1914 thought that humanity was on the verge of eternal peace, certainly not those at the heads of great powers.  By the end of the War many statesmen were actually thinking that  a world without war was an attainable goal.  Utopianism is always a poor basis for governmental action, and so it turned out after World War I.

Published in: on June 11, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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June 10, 1864: Battle of Brice’s Crossroads

 

battle-of-brice-s-crossroads

Forrest is the devil, and I think he has got some of our troops under cower…I will order them to make up a force and go out to follow Forrest to the death. If it costs ten thousand lives and breaks the Treasury. There will never be peace in Tennessee until Forrest is dead.

General William T. Sherman to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton-June 15, 1864

 

General Nathan Bedford Forrest gained some incredible victories in the Civil War, but his victory at Brice’s Cross Roads, in which he routed a well supplied Union force outnumbering his by almost three to one, ensured that he would enjoy mythic stature for the remainder of his life.

Sherman made Forrest one of his chief targets in the late spring of 1864, Sherman being concerned that Forrest would raid and shred his supply lines as he moved further south into Georgia.  For that purpose Major General Samuel D. Sturgis was assigned a mixed force of 8500 infantry and cavalry and given the mission of finding Forrest and destroying him.  Leaving Memphis on June 1, 1864, Sturgis headed into Mississippi.

As in so many times in his Civil War career, Forrest the hunted quickly became Forrest the hunter.  Commanding only 3200 men, Forrest decided that he would fight Sturgis on ground of his choosing.  Realizing that Sturgis was heading for Tupelo, Mississippi, Forrest decided to fight at Brice’s Crossroads about 15 miles north of Tupelo.  The prospective battlefield had heavily wooded areas and one creek, Tishomingo Creek, with only one bridge across it, which the Union force would have to use to reach Brice’s cross roads.  Forrest was aware that the Union cavalry part of the force of Sturgis was about three hours ahead of the Union infantry, wearily marching over muddy roads.

At 9:45 AM a brigade of General Benjamin Grierson’s cavalry division crossed the bridge over  Tishomingo Creek and headed towards Brice Crossroads.  Forrest immediately launched a delaying attack with one of his cavalry brigades.  By 11:30 AM all of the Union cavalry was committed and Forrest was driving them back with his cavalry. (more…)

What It Was Like

 

Our men simply could not get past the beach. They were pinned down right on the water’s edge by an inhuman wall of fire from the bluff. Our first waves were on that beach for hours, instead of a few minutes, before they could begin working inland.

You can still see the foxholes they dug at the very edge of the water, in the sand and the small, jumbled rocks that form parts of the beach.

Medical corpsmen attended the wounded as best they could. Men were killed as they stepped out of landing craft. An officer whom I knew got a bullet through the head just as the door of his landing craft was let down. Some men were drowned.

The first crack in the beach defenses was finally accomplished by terrific and wonderful naval gunfire, which knocked out the big emplacements. They tell epic stories of destroyers that ran right up into shallow water and had it out point-blank with the big guns in those concrete emplacements ashore.

When the heavy fire stopped, our men were organized by their officers and pushed on inland, circling machine-gun nests and taking them from the rear.

As one officer said, the only way to take a beach is to face it and keep going. It is costly at first, but it’s the only way. If the men are pinned down on the beach, dug in and out of action, they might as well not be there at all. They hold up the waves behind them, and nothing is being gained.

Our men were pinned down for a while, but finally they stood up and went through, and so we took that beach and accomplished our landing. We did it with every advantage on the enemy’s side and every disadvantage on ours. In the light of a couple of days of retrospection, we sit and talk and call it a miracle that our men ever got on at all or were able to stay on.

Ernie Pyle writing about Omaha Beach

Published in: on June 9, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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G.I. Jive

 

 

Something for the weekend:  G.I. Jive.  Recorded in 1944 by Johnny Mercer, he intended to write a song that he thought American soldiers would like.  The song was a popular one among the G.I.s.  Here is a rendition by Deana Martin in 2013:

 

Published in: on June 8, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Franciscan Paratrooper

 

For love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible.

Saint Francis of Assisi

Ignatius Maternowski entered this Vale of Tears on March 28, 1912, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the son of Polish immigrants  He attended, appropriately enough, Saint Francis High School.  Impressed by the Franciscans he encountered there, he decided to become a Franciscan priest.  He was ordained to the priesthood on July 3, 1938.  His gift for preaching manifesting itself, he was assigned as a missionary-preacher at the friary of Saint Anthony of Padua in Elicott City, Maryland.

From the time of Pearl Harbor he sought permission to serve as a chaplain and in July 1942 he enlisted in the Army.  He served as a chaplain in the 508th regiment of the 82nd Airborne.  In the aftermath of the chaotic combat drop into Normandy on the night before D-Day, Captain Maternowski busied himself in tending both American and German wounded. (more…)