Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore’s poem, which he was initially hesitant to publish due to the frivolous nature of its subject, is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head! Although some of Moore’s imagery was probably borrowed from other sources, his poem helped popularize the now-familiar image of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve–in “a miniature sleigh” led by eight flying reindeer–leaving presents for deserving children. “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” created a new and immediately popular American icon. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife, Mrs. Claus.
18th-century America’s Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas-inspired gift-giver to make an appearance at Christmastime. Similar figures were popular all over the world. Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Meaning “Christ child,” Christkind is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. English legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children’s stockings with holiday treats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children. In Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Babouschka purposely gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they couldn’t find Jesus. Later, she felt remorseful, but could not find the men to undo the damage. To this day, on January 5, Babouschka visits Russian children leaving gifts at their bedsides in the hope that one of them is the baby Jesus and she will be forgiven. In Italy, a similar story exists about a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.
Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.
In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore’s “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But, When Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn’t be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh by the light of his red nose. Rudolph’s message—that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset—proved popular. Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Several years later, one of May’s friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph’s story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences every year since 1964.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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Remember Pearl Harbor
   On December 7, it will have been 76 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, and I still have a dislike for the Japanese people. For more than a decade before the Japanese government made this cowardly surprise attack, the United States had been coping with the Great Depression. The Japanese were well aware that America had very few weapons to fight a war, and the military was too small to defend what we did have.
   During the 1930s, the Japanese prepared for war. They occupied North China to obtain additional resources. While all of this was happening, many nations around the world were asleep at the wheel. We were too busy trying to survive the Great Depression.
   To refresh your memory, this is what happened in Hawaii beginning at 7:55 a.m. (Hawaii Time) on December 7, 1941. I was a teenager at the time.
   A Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 380 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
   Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack.
   With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. 
   The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941-a date which will live in infamy-the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.??? After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I.
   Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind. The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort would span four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
   The Great Depression was over. Those who were in good health and at the right age joined the military. My age was 16. My three older brothers joined the armed forces, each in a different branch, and were on the battlefields after a short period of training. I chose the United States Marine Corps, and became a member of the First Marine Division. We fought Japanese soldiers from island to island and took no prisoners. All four Belew brothers from the Volunteer State of Lawrence County, Tennessee survived.
   World War II was a war we had to win. The United States has not won a major war since.

Friday, October 20, 2017

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Lewis "Chesty" Puller
The Marine Corps, more so than any other branch of America's military, values and embraces its history. Beginning in boot camp, every Marine is educated on the Corps' proud and storied past as they learn what it means to be part of such a prestigious organization. In the spirit of the value the Marine Corps places on its history, we wanted to give you, Marine families and supporters, an opportunity to embrace and learn about this part of Marine Corps legacy as well.
Marines are known for being always faithful; for never giving up; for being hard-chargers. Perhaps no Marine better exemplified these traits than Lewis "Chesty" Puller, the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps and the only American serviceman to have been awarded the nation's second-highest military awards for valor six times. 

Early Life & Joining the Marines

Lewis "Chesty" Puller was born in West Point, Virginia, on June 26, 1898 to Matthew and Martha Puller. Puller grew up listening to Civil War veterans telling stories of their time in the war, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was young Lewis' idol. In 1916, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army to fight in the Border War with Mexico, but he was too young to enlist and his mother did not give her consent to allow him to join the Army. In 1917, Puller began attending the Virginia Military Institute, but left the school in 1918 to enlist in the Marine Corps, hoping, but not achieving, his goal of seeing action in World War I.

Interwar Years and First Two Navy Crosses

Following the conclusion of World War I, then-Corporal Puller received orders to serve in Haiti as a lieutenant training the newly formed Gendarmerie d'Haiti, a constabulary force that consisted of Haitian enlisted personnel and Marine officers. Puller served in this capacity from 1919-1924, at which time he returned to the United States and received his commission as a second lieutenant. After completing assignments at the Marine Barracks in Norfolk, Virginia, The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, and with the 10th Marine Artillery Regiment in Quantico, Virginia, Puller was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1926, where he served for two years before being assigned to San Diego, California, in 1928.
In December of 1928, Puller was sent to Nicaragua to serve with the Nicaraguan National Guard detachment fighting rebels led by Augusto Sandino. During his time in Nicaragua, Puller would earn the first of his five Navy Crosses for his actions from February 16 to August 19, 1930, when he led "five successive engagements against superior numbers of armed bandit forces."

Puller returned to the United States in 1931 and completed the year-long Company Officers Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. After completing the course, Puller returned to Nicaragua in late 1932, where he earned a second Navy Cross for leading American Marines and Nicaraguan National Guardsmen into battle against Sandinista rebels in the last major battle of the Sandino Rebellion near El Sauce on December 26, 1932.

Following his time in Nicaragua, Puller was assigned to the Marine detachment in Beijing, China, where he commanded a unit of "China Marines" (U.S. Marines stationed in China). After serving in China, Puller served aboard USS Augusta, a cruiser in the Asiatic Fleet that was commanded at the time by then-Captain Chester W. Nimitz. Puller returned to the States in June 1936 to serve as an instructor at the Basic School in Philadelphia before returning to the Augusta in 1939 as commander of the on-board Marine detachment. Puller and his Marines on the Augusta sailed to China, disembarking in Shanghai in May of 1940. While in China for the second time, Puller served as the executive officer and commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines (2/4) until August 1941. Then-Major Puller returned to the United States later that month and, after a short leave, he was given command of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (1/7) of the 1st Marine Division, stationed at New River, North Carolina (later Camp Lejeune).

World War II

During the early days of World War II in the Pacific Theater, Puller's 7th Marines formed the core of the newly-created 3rd Marine Brigade and the battalion arrived in Samoa to defend the island from Japanese forces in early May of 1942. Later that summer, the 7th Marines were redeployed from the brigade and in early September, they left Samoa, rejoining the 1st Division at Guadalcanal later that month.

Shortly after arriving on Guadalcanal, Puller led his battalion in fierce fighting along the Matanikau River. During the engagement, three of Puller's companies were surrounded and cut off from American forces by Japanese troops. Puller ran to the shore, signaled a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Monssen, and directed the ship to provide covering fire while landing craft rescued the surrounded Marines. During the rescue, U.S. Coast Guard Signalman First Class Douglas Albert Munro, Officer-in-Charge of the group of landing craft, was killed while providing covering fire for the Marines and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, making him the first, and to date the only, Coast Guardsman to receive the decoration. Puller's quick thinking in organizing the rescue saved the three companies and earned Puller the Bronze Star with Combat "V".

Later on Guadalcanal, Puller earned his third Navy Cross in what was later known as the "Battle for Henderson Field". During the engagement, Puller commanded 1st Battalion 7th (1/7) Marines who, alongside the 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army's 164th Infantry Regiment (3/164), defended Henderson airfield against a regiment-strength Japanese force. In a firefight that lasted more than three hours on the night of October 24-25, 1942, the 1/7 and 3/164 sustained 70 casualties while the Japanese suffered more than 1,400 troops killed in action and the Americans held the airfield. For their actions during the battle, Puller nominated two of his men (one of whom was Sergeant John Basilone), for Medals of Honor. Just over two weeks later, on November 9, Puller was wounded himself.

Following his time on Guadalcanal, Puller was made the executive officer of the 7th Marine Regiment. While serving in this capacity at Cape Gloucester, New Guinea, Puller was awarded his fourth Navy Cross for overall performance of duty between late December 1943, and mid-January 1944. Puller was then promoted to colonel effective February 1, 1944 and by the end of the month, he had been named commander of the 1st Marine Regiment. In September and October of 1944, Puller led the 1st Marine Regiment in the battle of Peleliu, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history, and received the first of his two Legion of Merit awards. In November of 1944, Puller returned to the United States and was named executive officer of the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and, less than a month later, was named Commanding Officer. After the conclusion of WWII, Puller was made Director of the 8th Reserve District at New Orleans, Louisiana and later commanded the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Korean War & Later Marine Corps Career

When the Korean War broke out, Puller was once again assigned as the commander of the First Marine Regiment. On September 15, 1950, Puller and his Marines took part in the landing at Inchon, for which Puller was awarded the Silver Star. For his overall leadership from September 15-November 2, 1950, Puller was awarded his second Legion of Merit award. Puller was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the U.S. Army for heroism in action from November 29 to December 4, and he received his fifth Navy Cross for heroism for his actions during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir from December 5-10, 1950. It was during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir that Puller uttered the famous quote, "We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded. That simplifies things."

In January of 1951, Puller was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and was assigned to serve as the assistant division commander (ADC) of the 1st Marine Division. In late February of that year, Puller's immediate supervisor, Major General O.P. Smith, was transferred to command IX Corps when its commander, Army Major General Bryant Moore, died, leaving Puller in temporary command of the 1st Marine Division until March. Puller completed his tour of duty as assistant commander and left Korea to return to the United States in late May. Upon his return from Korea, Puller took command of the 3rd Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California until January of 1952, and he then served as the assistant commander of the division until June 1952. Puller then took over Troop Training Unit Pacific at Coronado, California. In September 1953, he was promoted to major general.

In July of 1954, Puller assumed command of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina until February 1955 when he became Deputy Camp Commander. In 1955, Puller suffered a stroke and was retired by the Marine Corps on November 1, 1955. Following his death in 1971, Puller was posthumously promoted to lieutenant general.

Post-Korean War & Legacy

Through his decades of service and fearless leadership, Lewis "Chesty" Puller cemented his status as a Marine Corps icon. In addition to his many awards, Puller received numerous additional honors, including having the frigate Lewis B. Puller (FFG-23), the headquarters building for 2nd Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team on Yorktown Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, Virginia, and Route 33 in Middlesex County, Virginia, named after him. In November of 2005, the United States Postal Service issued its Distinguished Marines stamps in which Puller was honored along with Daniel J. Daly, John Basilone, and John A. Lejeune. In 2012, Military Sealift Command announced that a Mobile Landing Platform was to be named after Puller, being designated as USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1). The former Marine Barracks Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Officers' Quarters, includes a historic home affectionately known as the "Chesty Puller House," in honor of Puller who lived there from 1948 to 1950.

Additionally, the Marine Corps' mascot is perpetually named "Chesty Pullerton." (e.g. Chesty XIII). He is always a purebred English Bulldog. Common sayings during Marine Corps boot camp include ending one's by saying, "Good night, Chesty Puller, wherever you are!" Another common encouragement is "Chesty Puller never quit!" In both boot camp and Officer Candidates School cadences, Marines chant "It was good for Chesty Puller/And it's good enough for me," as well as "Tell Chesty Puller I did my best." Recruits also sing "Chesty Puller was a good Marine and a good Marine was he." While doing pull-ups, Marines sometimes encourage each other to "do one for Chesty!" Each year, Marine Corps Detachment from Fort Lee, Virginia, runs 66 miles from Fort Lee to Pullers grave at Christ Church cemetery in Saluda, Virginia in Puller's honor..

Monday, October 9, 2017

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Halloween Comes to America

Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday.