Tuesday, May 29, 2007

D-Day in Europe
63 years ago

June 1944 was a major turning point of World War II, particularly in Europe. Although the initiative had been seized from the Germans some months before, so far the western Allies had been unable to mass sufficient men and material to risk an attack in northern Europe.

By mid-1944 early mobilization of manpower and resources in America was beginning to pay off. Millions of American men had been trained, equipped, and welded into fighting and service units. American industrial production had reached its wartime peak late in 1943. While there were still critical shortages -- in landing craft, for instance -- production problems were largely solved, and the Battle of the Atlantic had been won. Ever increasing streams of supplies from the United States were reaching anti-Axis fighting forces throughout the world.

By the beginning of June 1944, the United States and Great Britain had accumulated in the British Isles the largest number of men and the greatest amount of materiel ever assembled to launch and sustain an amphibious attack. Strategic bombing of Germany was reaching its peak. In May 1943, the Combined Chiefs of Staff had given high priority to a Combined Bomber Offensive to be waged by the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Forces. By late summer 1943, Allied bombers were conducting round-the-clock bombardment of German industry and communications. In general, British planes bombed by night and American planes bombed by day. Whereas an air raid by 200 planes had been considered large in June 1943, the average strike a year later was undertaken by 1,000 heavy bombers.

After considerable study strategists determined to make the cross-channel attack on the beaches of Normandy east of the Cherbourg Peninsula. Early objectives of the operation were the deep-water ports at Cherbourg and at Brest in Brittany.

Three months before D-Day, a strategic air campaign was inaugurated to pave the way for invasion by restricting the enemy's ability to shift reserves. French and Belgian railways were crippled, bridges demolished in northwestern France, and enemy airfields within a 130-mile radius of the landing beaches put under heavy attack. Special attention was given to isolating the part of northwestern France bounded roughly by the Seine and Loire Rivers. The Allies also put into effect a deception plan to lead the Germans to believe that landings would take place farther north along the Pas de Calais.

Opposed to the Allies was the so-called Army Group B of the German Army, consisting of the Seventh Army in Normandy and Brittany, the Fifteenth Army in the Pas de Calais and Flanders, and the LXXXVIII Corps in Holland -- all under command of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Commander of all German forces in western Europe was Field Marshal von Rundstedt who, in addition to Group B, also had at his disposal Group G composed of the First and Nineteenth Armies. In all, Von Rundstedt commanded approximately fifty infantry and ten Panzer divisions in France and the Low Countries.

Despite unfavorable weather forecasts, General Eisenhower made the decision to attack on June 6, 1944. At 0200 that morning one British and two American airborne divisions were dropped behind the beaches in order to secure routes of egress from the beaches for the seaborne forces. After an intensive air and naval bombardment, assault waves of troops began landing at 0630. More than 5,000 ships and 4,000 ship-to-shore craft were employed in the landings. British forces on the left flank and U.S. forces on the right had comparatively easy going, but U.S. forces in the center (Omaha Beach) met determined opposition. Nevertheless, by nightfall of the first day, large contingents of three British, one Canadian, and three American infantry divisions, plus three airborne divisions, had a firm foothold on Hitler's "fortress Europe."
War in the Pacific <>
World War II
After Pearl Harbor the Japanese quickly gained control over a huge area of the Pacific, from the Phillipines to Burma to the Aleutians to the Solomons.

While the Japanese enjoyed the advantage of interior lines of communication, they had somewhat overextended themselves. Once the Allies became strong enough to threaten their perimeter from several directions, the advantage would be lost, since Japan did not have and could not produce enough planes and ships to defend in force at all points.

The turning point in the Pacific theatre came in mid-1942 with history's first great carrier battles. In the Coral Sea the U.S. Navy checked the Japanese. In the Battle of Midway it defeated them.

After the Battle of Midway, the Allies were able to launch a counter-offensive. The first stage of the offensive began with the Navy under Admiral Nimitz and Marine landings on Guadalcanal and nearby islands in the Solomons. At the same time, the Army under General MacArthur with Australian allies set out to take New Guinea's Papuan peninsula. After long, bloody struggles, both campaigns succeeded.

From this point on, Nimitz and MacArthur engaged in island-hopping campaigns that bypassed strongly-held islands to strike at the ememy's weak points. Campaigns against the Aleutians and Rabaul succeeded in stopping the Japanese advances and secured bases for Allied advances on Japan.

While MacArthur pushed along the New Guinea coast, preparing for his return to the Philippines, Nimitz crossed the central Pacific, via the Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas, Carolines, and Palaus. Once the Marianas were taken, it would be possible to use them as bases from which the new long-range B-29 bombers could strike at the heart of Japan.

The advance through the Central Pacific got under way in November 1943 with the seizure of two islands, Tarawa and Makin in the Gilberts. Marines landed on Tarawa on November 21 and took the island in a four-day fight at a cost to the Marines of some 3,000 casualties. Army troops overwhelmed the small Japanese garrison on Makin between November 20 and 24, 1943.

During January and February 1944, Admiral Nimitz proceeded to positions in the central and western Marshalls. The principal islands taken were Kwajalein, which was invaded by an Army force on February 1, and the islands of Roi and Namur, which were invaded by Marines on February 3 and 6.

From Kwajalein a naval task force, moving west 340 miles with a regiment each of Marines and infantry, captured a Japanese air base on Engebi in the Eniwetok Atoll on February 17-19, 1944.

Meanwhile, on February 16, Nimitz had launched a massive carrier raid on Truk in the central Carolines, long considered Japan's key bastion in the central Pacific. This raid revealed that the Japanese had virtually abandoned Truk as a naval base, and a plan to assault that atoll in June was abandoned. Instead, Nimitz drew up plans for an invasion of the Marianas in June, to be followed in September by an advance into the western Carolines.

Admiral Nimitz invaded the Marianas in June 1944. Amphibious assaults were made on Saipan on June 15, on Guam on July 20, and on Tinian on July 23, 1944. All three islands were strongly garrisoned by Japanese troops who contested every yard of ground.

Loss of Saipan precipitated a political crisis in Tokyo and brought about the fall of the Tojo Cabinet. The Japanese sallied forth to offer battle to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. They hastily reassembled their fleet from Biak and the Philippines and sailed north to defend the Marianas area, but lack of land-based air support made it impossible to surprise the U.S. naval contingents under Admiral Spruance.

In a massive air battle that took place on June 19, 4 days after landings on Saipan, the Japanese lost more than 400 planes to an American loss of less than 30. Stripped of carrier planes, the Japanese fleet fled westward, but American planes in pursuit were able to sink several vessels, including three carriers.

During this engagement, known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea, only three American ships were damaged. This victory paved the way for eventual success in the Marianas, and provided a demonstration of the interdependence of operations in the Southwest and Central Pacific Areas.

Capture of the Marianas brought Japan within reach of the Army Air Forces' huge new bomber, the B-29, which was able to make a nonstop flight of the 1,400 miles to Tokyo and back. Construction of airfields to accommodate B-29's began in the Marianas before the shooting had stopped, and in late November 1944 the strategic bombing of Japan began.

The last two major campaigns of the Pacific war -- Luzon and Okinawa -- were still to come. But Japan was essentially beaten. It was defenseless on the seas; its air force was gone; and its cities were being burned out by incendiary bombs. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9 and the Soviet declaration of war on 8 August forced the leaders of Japan to recognize the inevitable.

On August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender and ordered Japanese forces to lay down their arms. Since the war in Europe had already been won, V-J Day, September 2, 1945, marked the end of the greatest war in human history.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hurricane Season

In the 1940s and 1950s, while serving 20 years in the United States Marine Corps, I survived many Hurricanes that made landfall in North Carolina, and the Pacific island of Okinawa, where they were called Typhoons. At that time I don't remember being afraid of them to stay out of harm's way. Later about 20 years ago after moving to Northwest Panhandle (Pensacola Beach) of Florida, I became old enough and wise enough to get out of town and away from where they were forcast to come ashore from the Gulf of Mexico. Having excellent homeowners insurance, and three days before arrival time, I locked my home and loaded my car and head in the direction where it is not expected to go. I refer to it as "Lock and Load" from the Marine Corps days.

Forecasters expect busy hurricane season on East Coast this year. Government forecasters say people living along the East and Gulf coasts need to be ready for a busier-than-normal hurricane season.

National Weather Service forecasters say they expect 13 to 17 tropical storms, with seven to ten of them becoming hurricanes.

The forecast follows that of two other leading storm experts in anticipating a busy season.

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration says the likelihood of above-normal hurricane activity is 75 percent.

June first is the official beginning of hurricane season, and it ends November 30th.

History shows hurricanes are not rising
In September 1813, a major hurricane destroyed US gunboats and ships that were defending St Mary's, Georgia, from the British. Fifty sailors drowned.

In a letter to the US secretary of the navy, the commodore of the naval task force wrote that a privateer named Saucy Jack had been deposited so high on the marshes that the sea must have risen nearly 6 metres above its low water mark. Other letters of the time accurately described the passage of the eye of the storm and the timing of events.

Such historical records are proving invaluable to researchers trying to understand long-term patterns in the frequency and intensity of the hurricanes that lash the US mainland. Last week, Isabel became the 15th hurricane to strike since 1990, feeding dire predictions that hurricanes are on the increase.

But a historical analysis completed six weeks ago, combined with sophisticated computer models and modern hurricane-monitoring technology, has confirmed there is no such trend. Instead, hurricanes in the Atlantic come and go in cycles lasting a few decades.

While that is good news for some, it is also a warning for coastal communities that may have seen no storms for a generation or more.

Shipping logs
To forecast hurricane intensities, predict seasonal and climatic patterns of storms, and issue risk assessments that influence building regulations and house insurance premiums, scientists rely on a database of tropical storms and hurricanes maintained by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida - part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
But the database, which contains details of storms blowing across the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, is full of both systematic and random errors, says Chris Landsea, the NOAA researcher who is leading the hurricane re-analysis project. "When this database was put together in the 1960s, they didn't spend a lot of time getting details right on the track or the intensity [of hurricanes]."

The first efforts to rectify these errors were led by Jose Fernandez-Partagas, a researcher at the University of Miami. He worked in near-total obscurity, poring over newspaper reports and shipping logs to uncover previously undocumented tropical cyclones from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s.

After his death in 1997, Landsea and his colleagues took over the task, instituting a systematic search of historical records, including diaries, newspapers, letters, county records, and popular news magazines of the time, such as Niles' Weekly Register. Such records provide data mostly about a storm's location and time of landfall, and the extent of damage.

But crucial data about wind speeds and atmospheric pressure can be gleaned from shipping logs. Sailors used the systematic method known as the Beaufort scale to estimate wind speeds by looking at the impact of wind on their sails. And by the late 1800s, many ships were carrying barometers. From the pressure readings, researchers can estimate a storm's maximum wind speed. "We are able to use methods that are common today for storms 100 years old," says Landsea.

Cyclical pattern
Another crucial aspect of hurricanes that hit land is the storm surge - the exceptionally high water levels on the coast that can cause flooding inland. Reports such as the location of the Saucy Jack high on the marshes allow researchers to estimate the storm surge values.

"Sometimes watermarks are available," says Landsea's colleague Al Sandrik of the NOAA's National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Florida. "For example, we have pictures of the storm surge on Newcastle Street in Brunswick, Georgia, which, I believe, is the earliest picture of a storm surge ever taken." That was on 2 October 1898.

Based on such observations, the researchers have made over 5000 changes to the hurricane database for the years 1851 to 1910. The new data shows a cyclical pattern of hurricane activity that repeats every few decades.

The 1850s to mid-1860s were quiet, followed by an intense period from the late 1860s to 1900, with five seasons of 10 or more hurricanes. The year 1886 was the busiest season on record in the US, with seven hurricanes hitting the coast. And after a lull, the storms raged again in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

"It does confirm there are cycles of activity, rather than long-term trends towards more or stronger storms," says Landsea. That database also reveals that states such as Georgia that were largely spared during the 20th century remain at risk.

"If we take a closer look at the 19th century, we had major landfalls in 1854, 1893, and 1898," says Sandrik. "So this is significant for the people in the area."

GPS receiver
The project is also changing our thinking about recent hurricanes. For instance, hurricane Andrew, which devastated Florida in 1992, was thought to be a category 4 hurricane, defined as having a maximum wind speed of between 210 and 249 kilometres per hour at sea level.

To gauge the strength of Andrew, researchers assumed maximum wind speeds at sea level were 75 per cent those measured by planes flying through the storm at 3000 metres. But since 1997, researchers have been able to get more reliable measurements by parachuting a device called a dropwindsonde into the windiest parts of the hurricane.

The instrument is fitted with a GPS receiver and records pressure, temperature and wind data every five metres. Such measurements have revealed that the wind speed at sea level is actually 90 per cent of the speeds recorded at 3000 metres. So Andrew's maximum wind speed has been raised from 230 to 264 kilometres per hour, making it one of a handful of category 5 hurricanes to have struck the US.

Storm surge
NOAA researchers are not the only ones re-analysing hurricanes. Kwok Fai Cheung of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in Honolulu, has started using newly developed hurricane-forecasting models to simulate storms that have hit the coast of New England in the past 500 years.

Cheung uses historical records to get the location of each hurricane, its size as indicated by the damage it caused on the ground, and the storm surge values. He plugs the data into his computer, literally running the model backwards. "I adjust the central pressure, which is the intensity of the hurricane, until my calculated storm surge matches the recorded value," says Cheung. That way, he is able to recreate the hurricane that caused the flooding.

These re-analysis projects confirm that hurricanes are not increasing in numbers and intensity. But that is no cause for complacency - in fact, quite the opposite.

"The multi-decadal cycle is reaching a point where we are going to be seeing an increase in hurricane activity," says Sandrik. "People wanting to live and build in coastal areas need to take into account the fact that a more active period."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Memorial Day

Since the last Memorial Day, we have had 1,835 brave military American men and women killed in George W. Bush Iraq Civil War. As of May 26, 2007, a total of 3,455 American heroes have been killed in that war. We also have had 25,549 American casulties in Iraq, some with no legs, arms, eyes, etc., a war that is not winnable under Bush, the lunatic leadership. It should never had been fought.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red,
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps."

The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country.

But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."

On January 19, 1999 Senator Inouye introduced bill S 189 to the Senate which proposes to restore the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th instead of "the last Monday in May". On April 19, 1999 Representative Gibbons introduced the bill to the House (H.R. 1474). The bills were referred the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Government Reform.

To date, there has been no further developments on the bill. Please write your Representative and your Senators, urging them to support these bills. You can also contact Mr. Inouye to let him know of your support.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

USMC Aviation History

Marine 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham, Naval Aviator No. 5 and the first Marine pilot.

The Marine Corps has forged a winning team with its air power and ground forces.

One hundred years ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright took turns guiding their wood and fabric Flyer over the dunes of Kitty Hawk, N.C. Just over five years later, the Navy had made up its mind to acquire flying machines. Unfortunately, the then-Secretary of the Navy stated, "The department does not consider that the development of the aeroplane has progressed sufficiently at this time for use in the Navy."

The Navy persisted, and by 1912 had four aviators on its rolls. Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss was training pilots and developing flying boats here in San Diego. Daring pilots were making carrier landings and take-offs and learning to drop bombs on ships and trenches.

On May 22, 1912, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham reported for flight training. He soloed after only two hours and 40 minutes of instruction (in a Wright Bros. Model B-1), and became Naval Aviator No. 5. In his honor, May 22 has become the official "date of birth" of Marine Corps aviation.

When the United States joined World War I in 1917, the Marines Corps had just five aviators and 30 enlisted men, including Cunningham. At war’s end, Marine aviation included 282 officers and 2,180 enlisted men. Marine aviators won two Medals of Honor during World War I.

Marines learned close ground support while fighting rebels in Nicaragua, again earning awards for bravery, including the Medal of Honor for close air support.

The sudden immersion of the United States in World War II found the Marines on the front lines, defending Wake Island against a better-equipped, more-experienced Japanese force. Marine aviators led the attack in the famous Battle of Midway, an American victory despite high losses to pilots and aircraft. Marines ended World War II with 125 aces and eight Medals of Honor. The Marines’ F4-U Corsair had become famous as a symbol of Marine Corps ground support and air superiority in the Pacific.

The Marines continued their close relationship of air and ground forces in Korea, deploying jet aircraft and helicopters for the first time while still making excellent use of the legendary Corsair. The introduction of helicopters in combat increased mobility in rugged terrain and, combined with field hospitals, greatly reduced the number of combat deaths in the field.

The 1960s found Marines fighting communism in the swamps and jungles of Vietnam while at the same time pioneering America’s entry into space. The first U.S. combat troops brought into this Southeast Asian conflict, American Marines landed at Da Nang in 1965, supported by F-4B Phantom IIs and A-4D Skyhawks. From Hue to Chu Lai to Khe Sanh, Marines on the ground depended on their "Flying Leathernecks." And in 1962, Marine Corps Col. John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, a voyage lasting less than five hours. (In 1998, Glenn returned to space as the oldest American to do so, with 144 orbits over nine days.)

Marines have deployed to many exotic locations, from operations in Grenada and Panama to the protection of American Embassies under attack around the world, before being called upon in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and, most recently, Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These operations were supported by USMC F/A-18 Hornets (refueled in flight by the Marine Corps's own KC-130 tankers), AV-8B Harriers, and squadrons of rotary-wing aircraft (including the CH-46, CH-53E, UH-1N and AH-1W).

As America moves into the 21st century, newer, more modern technology is moving into the air, with the tilt-wing MV-22 Osprey and Joint Strike Fighter concepts soon to join our armed forces. But, certainly, one thing that will never change is the United States Marine Corps partnership between those on the ground and those in the sky.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

John Gunn, Col. USMCR (Ret.)
Happy Birthday!

Colonel Gunn will celebrate his 76th birthday on May 17. This gung ho United States Marine retired at Coronado, Calif., at age 52 in 1983. Gunn is a member of the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Assn., 2nd Marine Division Assn., Marine Corps Intelligence Assn., Marine Corps Aviation., Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Marine Corps League, Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and LST-325. He also is author of two 1992 Marine football books, "The Old Core" and "(Quite A Few Good Men." From his Gulf Breeze, Fla. home, Gunn writes a weekly sports column, "Once A Marine" that he sends via email to thousands of fans and several newspapers around the country.

This is a piece that Gunn wrote in 2003. Sonny Franck joins Marino and Winslow in football game. The picture you see is George "Sonny" Franck.

Posted: Aug 26, 2003
By John Gunn

There were a lot of little kids running around the Gridiron Plaza in South Bend, Ind., that Saturday afternoon, though some were disguised in older bodies.

Take 84-year-old George "Sonny" Franck, for instance. Memories of his glory days as a running back at the University of Minnesota (1938-40) are still fresh in his mind, if not in his legs. A two-way star for the Golden Gophers, Marine vet Franck was limited to offensive work as a receiver in the flag football game, reported the South Bend Tribune.

He was involved in five plays for the victorious West team, narrowly missing passes twice after 20-yard "sprints'' and having a sure two-point conversion snatched out of his hand by TE Kellen Winslow (Missouri), also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

QB Dan Marino (Pittsburgh), OG Reggie McKenzie (Michigan), TB Napoleon McCallum (Navy) and S Ronnie Lott (USC) were among other Hall of Fame inductees playing in the flag football game.

"I HAVEN'T RUN since I was 65 and my legs feel like it,'' Franck said with a smile on his face. "There's no way I was going to pass this up. It's part of what makes this weekend special.''

Franck even tried sneaking onto the field for one defensive play on the final drive of the game, but teammates convinced to keep his seat on the bench, said the Tribune.

"If I'm here to play, I'm going to play both,'' Franck said, remembering the logic of the olden days. "There were some passes I really should have caught, but it was great to be involved.''

Franck and others also instructed many youngsters in the Youth Football Clinic that Saturday sponsored by the College Football Hall of Fame. They also signed autographs for two hours.

Only a few of the 24 new Hall of Famers have been involved in Notre Dame games, and just two, Lott and Franck, have played in Notre Dame Stadium.

Lott was on USC teams (1977-80) that won three times against the Irish, but Franck was on a Minnesota team in 1938 that lost to Elmer Layden's Irish, 19-0, in the last game between the Gophers and Notre Dame.

FRANCK AND HIS former coach Bernie Bierman, a WW I and WW II Marine vet, have less than fond memories of the 1938 Notre Dame visit. The Gophers dominated the Irish that day, rolling up rushing and passing yardage. But a fumble recovery and pass interceptions did the Gophers in. Navy vet Lou Zontini's 84-yard run and two lefty Bob Saggau passes accounted for the three Irish scores. Franck and Saggau would be '42 teammates at NAS Corpus Christi.

Years later, Bierman was on a media visit to the Irish practice field and recalled, "I can't even stand to look at that stadium. It was one of my most embarrassing losses."

Franck was only a sophomore and barely remembered, even though he was from the same hometown as Layden -- Davenport, Iowa. What Franck can remember more vividly were his days in the Marine Corps as a fighter pilot.

The Japanese did shoot down Franck to cost the U.S. one plane, but there were a half-dozen others that were involved in Franck's many crashes, the Tribune said. In the process of fighting the Japs, Franck was awarded nine battle stars.

"Did you shoot down any planes?" Franck was asked. With a twinkle in his eye, he fired back, "No, but I think I did hit one of our own!"

AFTER ACTION IN battles of the Pacific, they sent him into the invasion of Iwo Jima.

When shot down, it took two Navy planes and a destroyer to rescue Franck after his fighter was shot down off Wojte, a Japanese-held base in the Marshall Islands. He was forced to make a water landing near the enemy-held island when heavy anti-aircraft fire damaged his engine in a strafing run, UPI reported.

A Navy Catalina flying boat came to the rescue despite heavy, rolling seas. Gliding along at low speed just above the water, the plane was hit by a huge swell and split open. The six crew members of the Catalina escaped onto a life raft and, like Franck, were rescued.

An American destroyer standing by eight miles off the scene dispatched a whaleboat, which was guided to the stranded men by a Navy Ventura search plane.

While at Minnesota, Franck teamed with another Hall of Famer, Bruce Smith, to help the Gophers to an 8-0 national championship in 1940 and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting behind Tom Harmon and John Kimbrough. He played quarterback, safety, kick and punt returner and punter as well as sharing the primary tailback role.

Franck, chosen on 22 first-team All-America teams and Big Ten 60-yard indoor dash champion, won the Big Ten Medal for Scholarship and Athletics and was MVP in the 1941 College All-Star Game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, where he signed up to serve in WW II.

Like top players and veterans, Franck also moved into pro football, playing at least parts of four seasons with the New York Giants. Now almost 85, Franck earns a small NFL pension and is even trimmer than in playing days, said the Tribune.

FRANCK ALMOST ENDED up with the Chicago Rockets in the All-American Football Conference, but owner John Keeshin, a trucking executive, reneged on a $200-a-month off-season contract, and Franck then hooked up with the Giants for pro days. His top contract called for a mere $700 a game for the 12-game schedule.

"I get more from my pension than I did as a player," he beamed. Franck had played briefly for MCAS El Toro in 1945 before his military discharge after almost four years of duty. Keeshin did sign Coach Dick Hanley and 17 players from the 1944 and '45 El Toro teams for the Rockets.
Nine players and coaches from NCAA Divisions I-AA, II, III and the NAIA also were enshrined by the College Football Hall of Fame, including tight end Dwayne Nix (Texas A&M-Kingsville) and late tackle Calvin Roberts (Gustavus Adolphus, Pendleton 1947, tryouts with the Giants and Eagles).

Nix a three-time All-American (1966-68), played for NAS Pensacola in 1969. He served as a Marine aviator in Vietnam and Desert Storm and is a retired Marine Reserve colonel.

Among those to be inducted in December is Coach Hayden Fry, a Marine vet.
Gridiron heroes of the past also were honored on new postage stamps unveiled in South Bend. The 37-cent stamps recall the exploits of Walter Camp, Marine vet Ernie Nevers (Stanford), Harold "Red" Grange and Bronko Nagurski.
The Marines now have 45 in the Football Hall of Fame, including Alex Agase (Illinois, Purdue V-12), Harry Agganis (Boston Univ.), Harold Ballin (Princeton), Bert Baston (Minnesota), Cliff Battles (West Virginia Wesleyan), Ron Beagle (Annapolis), Gen. John Beckett (Oregon), Angelo Bertelli (Notre Dame), Charlie Conerly (Mississippi), Bob Dove (Notre Dame), Steve Eisenhauer (Annapolis), Chalmers "Bump" Elliott (Purdue V-12, Michigan), Hugh Gallarneau (Stanford), Paul Governali (Columbia), Pat Harder (Wisconsin), Bob Herwig (California), Ed Hart (Princeton), Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch (Wisconsin, Michigan V-12), Weldon Humble (Rice, Southwestern Louisiana V-12), Eddie LeBaron (Pacific)

Bob MacLeod (Dartmouth), Eddie Mahan (Harvard), Jim Martin (Notre Dame), Thurman McGraw (Colorado A&M), Ed Molinski (Tennessee), Ernie Nevers (Stanford), Leo Nomellini (Minnesota), Bob Peck (Pittsburgh), Arthur Poe (Princeton), Jack Riley (Northwestern), J.D. Roberts (Oklahoma), Dave Schreiner (Wisconsin) (KIA on Okinawa), Jim Weatherall (Oklahoma), Art Weiner (North Carolina), Gen. Mike Wilson (Lafayette), Alvin "Moose" Wistert (Boston Univ., Michigan).

Coaches: Bernie Bierman, Vince Dooley, "Navy Bill" Ingram, Chuck Klausing, Tuss McLaughry, John Ralston.

John Gunn of Gulf Breeze, Fla., an independent journalist, turns out a weekly column about Marines and Marine veterans in sports. It is e-mailed (bcc) to 4,100 Marines, veterans, bases, commands, media, university presidents, pro & college coaches, athletics directors, HqMC, CentCom, 59 generals, etc.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

James Terry Conway

34th Commandant of the Marine Corps (2006 - present)

Place of birth Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
Allegiance USMC
Years of service 1970 - present
Rank General
Commands 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines
The Basic School
1st Marine Division
I Marine Expeditionary Force
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Battles/wars Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom
* Operation Vigilant Resolve
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit

James Conway is a General in the United States Marine Corps. On November 13, 2006, General Conway became the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps. Conway was previously the Director of Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff. Conway is most well known as the Commanding General of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from 2002 through 2004 taking part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and also Operation Vigilant Resolve in Fallujah, Iraq.

James Conway was born in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in St. Louis, Missouri and then attended Southeast Missouri State University where he was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, graduating in 1969. He was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1970. His first assignment was command of a rifle platoon with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines out of Camp Pendleton. He also served as the Battalion's 106mm recoilless rifle platoon commander. Later he served as Marine Executive Officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

After graduating with honors from career-level officer school, Conway commanded two companies in the 2nd Marine Regiment's Operations and Security section, later commanding two companies at Marine Basic School. He then went on to serve as operations officer for the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, with sea duty in the western Pacific and in contingency operations off Beirut, Lebanon.

Returning to the U.S., Conway was assigned as Senior Aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving two years in that capacity. After graduating from top-level officer training, again with honors, he took command of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, and commanded the Battalion Landing Team in its eight-month deployment to Southwest Asia during Desert Storm.

After the war he was promoted to colonel, and assigned command of The Basic School. Promoted to Brigadier General in December 1995, he again was assigned to the JCS. After being promoted to Major General, he served as commander of the 1st Marine Division and as Deputy Commanding General of Marine Forces Central. He was promoted to Lieutenant General and assumed command of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) on November 16, 2002. He commanded I MEF during two combat tours in Iraq. General Conway had 60,000 troops under his command, comprised of U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors, and British forces. In the book The Iraq War, Conway was described as, "big, buff, well read and well educated.....he represented all that was best about the new United States Marine Corps, which General Al Gray as the commandant had set up.

Lt. Gen. Conway responding to questions at a Pentagon briefing, June 2006.In a press interview on May 30, 2003, General Conway was questioned about the failure at that point to locate weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He replied, in part:

"It was a surprise to me then, it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons...It's not for lack of trying. We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there....What the regime was intending to do in terms of its use of the weapons, we thought we understood—or we certainly had our best guess, our most dangerous, our most likely courses of action that the intelligence folks were giving us. We were simply wrong. But whether or not we're wrong at the national level, I think, still very much remains to be seen."

On June 13, 2006, LtGen Conway was nominated by President George W. Bush to become the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps.[5]; the nomination was confirmed by the Senate on August 2, 2006.

Conway is sworn in by Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on November 13, 2006.On November 13, 2006, LtGen Conway was promoted to his current rank at the Marine Barracks in Washington D.C. (8th and I) and became General James Conway, 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Conway has been decorated for service, to include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with one bronze oak leaf cluster), Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with two gold award stars), Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He is married to the former Annette Drury and has three children.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Mother's Day
Mother's Day is on May 13 this year and it has always been a special day to me. It's the day that we must make our mother a Queen for the day. We need to give her flowers, treat her at her favorite restaurant, and anything else you think she would like. This goes for not only your own mother, but for your children's mother as well.

My mother is not with me anymore. She lived to be 90 years old and died on Flag Day, June 14, 1987. Since that day I have throught of her every day. I remember her beautiful smile and all the good things she did for me. I would give anything if I could tell her today in person how much I love her. May God bless all mothers.

The Story of Mother's Day
The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. During the 1600's, England celebrated a day called "Mothering Sunday". Celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter*), "Mothering Sunday" honored the mothers of England.

During this time many of the England's poor worked as servants for the wealthy. As most jobs were located far from their homes, the servants would live at the houses of their employers. On Mothering Sunday the servants would have the day off and were encouraged to return home and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called the mothering cake, was often brought along to provide a festive touch.

As Christianity spread throughout Europe the celebration changed to honor the "Mother Church" - the spiritual power that gave them life and protected them from harm. Over time the church festival blended with the Mothering Sunday celebration . People began honoring their mothers as well as the church.

In the United States Mother's Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle hymn of the Republic) as a day dedicated to peace. Ms. Howe would hold organized Mother's Day meetings in Boston, Mass ever year.

In 1907 Ana Jarvis, from Philadelphia, began a campaign to establish a national Mother's Day. Ms. Jarvis persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother's Day on the second anniversary of her mother's death, the 2nd Sunday of May. By the next year Mother's Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.

Ms. Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessman, and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother's Day. It was successful as by 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May.

While many countries of the world celebrate their own Mother's Day at different times throughout the year, there are some countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium which also celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

George Washington Carver

One of the 20th century's greatest scientists, George Washington Carver's influence is still being felt today. Rising from slavery to become one of the world's most respected and honored men, he devoted his life to understanding nature and the many uses for the simplest of plant life. He is best known for developing crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovering hundreds of new uses for crops such as the peanut.

George Washington Carver
First to invent.
July 12, 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri
January 5, 1943 in Tuskegee, Alabama
peanut agricultural science
noun / crop rotation

Carver’s scientific discoveries included more than three hundred different products derived from the peanut, some one hundred from sweet potatoes, about seventy-five from pecans, and many more including crop rotation.

Carver received three patents between 1925 and 1927.

Milestones:1864 George Washington Carver born on July 12, in Diamond Grove, Missouri. 1874 He left the farm where he was born and eventually settled in Minneapolis, Kansas1890 Enrolled at Simpson College to study piano and art, their first Black student 1891 Transferred to State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), Ames, IA1893 Paintings get honorable mention at Chicago World’s Fair1894 Bachelor of Agriculture Degree earned at Ames1894 Appointed member of faculty, Iowa State College1896 Master of Agriculture Degree, Iowa State College1896 he became director of the Dept. of Agricultural Research at what is now Tuskegee University1916 Named Fellow, London Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts1923 Recipient, Spingarn Medal for Distinguished Service to Science1925 1,522,176 (US) for Cosmetics and Producing the Same issued January 6,19251925 1,541,478 (US) for Paint and Stain and Producing the Same issued June 9, 19251927 1,632,365 (US) for Producing Paints and Stains issued June 14, 1927 1928 Honorary Degree, Doctor of Science, Simpson College1935 he was appointed collaborator in the Division of Plant Mycology, U.S. Department of Agriculture1938 Hollywood Film, “Life of George Washington Carver,” made1938 Development of George Washington Carver Museum by Tuskegee Institute Trustee Board1939 Recipient, Roosevelt Medal for Contributions to Southern Agriculture1939 Honorary Membership, American Inventors Society1941 Honorary Degree, University of Rochester1941 Recipient, Award of Merit by Variety Clubs of America1942 Honorary Degree, Doctor of Science, Selma University, Alabama1942 Erection of George Washington Carver Cabin, at The Henry Ford1942 birthplace marker in Diamond Grove authorized by Missouri governor 1943 George Washington Carver died at Tuskegee, Alabama on January 5,1940 he donated his savings to establish the George W. Carver Foundation at Tuskegee University.1943 his birthplace was established as the George Washington Carver National Monument, July 14, 1948 First day sale of three-cent Carver Commemorative Stamp1951 Fifty-cent piece coined to likeness of GW Carver and BT Washington1952 Selected by Popular Mechanics as one of 50 outstanding Americans1952 Polaris submarine George Washington Carver launched1990 Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame1998 Second Carver stamp (32¢) issuedCAPs: Carver, George Washington Carver, Booker T Washington, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, ARY, peanut, peanut, agricultural science, peanut products, crop rotation, cosmetics, paints, stains, peanut agricultural science, educator, SIP, history, biography, inventor..

George Washington Carver devoted his life to research projects connected primarily with southern agriculture. The products he derived from the peanut and the soybean revolutionized the economy of the South by liberating it from an excessive dependence on cotton. Carver developed crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovered hundreds of new uses for crops such as the peanut, which created new markets for farmers.He didn't just keep the best for himself; he gave it away freely for the benefit of mankind. Not only did he achieve his goal as the world's greatest agriculturist, but also he achieved the equality and respect of all.

George was born of slave parents on July 12, 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri a sickly child at birth he would remain frail for most of his childhood. One night a band of raiders attacked his family and stole George and his mother. Days later, George was found unharmed by neighbors and was traded back to his owners in exchange for a race horse. Because of his frailty, George was not suited for work in the fields but he did possess a great interest in plants and was very eager to learn more about them. Here on the farm is where George first fell in love with plants and Mother Nature. He had his own little garden in the nearby woods where he would talk to the plants. He soon earned the nickname, The Plant Doctor, and was producing his own medicines right on the farm.

George's formal education started when he was twelve. He had, however, tried to get into schools in the past but was denied on the basis of race. No black school was available locally so he was forced to move. He said Good-bye to his adopted parents, Susan and Moses Carter, and headed to Newton County in southwest Missouri. Here is where the path of his education began. He studied in a one-room schoolhouse and worked on a farm to pay for it. He ended up, shortly after, moving with another family to Fort Scott in Kansas. Though denied admission to Highland University because of his race, Carver gained acceptance to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, in 1890. He became well respected for his artistic talent (in later days his art would be included in the spectacular World's Columbian Exposition Art Exhibit.) Carver's interests, however, lay more in science and he transferred from Simpson to Iowa Agricultural College (which is now known as Iowa State University.) He distinguished himself so much that upon graduation in 1894 he was offered a position on the school's faculty, the first Black accorded the honor. Carver was allowed great freedom in working in agriculture and botany in the University's greenhouses.

In 1895, Carver co-authored a series of papers on the prevention and cures for fungus diseases affecting cherry plants. In 1896 he received his master's degree in agriculture and in 1897 discovered two funguses that would be named after him. Later that year Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, convinced Carver to come south and serve as the school's director of agriculture.

At Tuskegee, Carver developed his crop rotation method, which alternated nitrate producing legumes-such as peanuts and peas-with cotton, which depletes soil of its nutrients. Following Carver's lead, southern farmers soon began planting peanuts one year and cotton the next. While many of the peanuts were used to feed livestock, large surpluses quickly developed. Carver then developed 325 different uses for the extra peanuts-from cooking oil to printers ink. When he discovered that the sweet potato and the pecan also enriched depleted soils, Carver found almost 20 uses for these crops, including synthetic rubber and material for paving highways.The farmers were ecstatic with the tremendous quality of cotton and tobacco they grew later but quickly grew angry because the amount of peanuts they harvested was too plentiful and began to rot in overflowing warehouses. Within a week, Carver had experimented with and devised dozens of uses for the peanut, including milk and cheese. In later years he would produce more than 300 products that could be developed from the lowly peanut, including ink, facial cream, shampoo and soap.Suddenly, the same farmers who cursed him now found that a new industry had sprung up that could use their surplus peanuts. Next, Carver looked at ways of utilizing the sweet potato and was able to develop more than 115 products from it including flour, starch and synthetic rubber (the United States Army utilized many of his products during World War I.) Carver did not stop with these discoveries. From the inexpensive pecan he developed more than 75 products, from discarded corn stalks dozens of uses and from common clays he created dyes and paints. Suddenly Carver's fame grew and grew until he was invited to speak before the United States Congress and was consulted by titans of industry and invention. Henry Ford, head of Ford Motor Company invited Carver to his Dearborn, Michigan plant where the two devised a way to use goldenrod, a plant weed, to create synthetic rubber. Thomas Edison, the great inventor was so enthusiastic about that he asked Carver to move to Orange Grove, New Jersey to work at the Edison Laboratories at an annual salary of $100,000 per year and state of the art facilities. He declined the generous offer, wanting to continue on at Tuskegee.

He continued constantly working with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans trying to produce new products. He developed more than 300 products from the peanut (including Peanut Butter), 175 from the sweet potato, and 60 from the pecan. He extracted blue, purple, and red pigments from the clay soil of Alabama. He researched the manufacture of synthetic marble from green wood shavings, rope from cornstalk fibers, and veneers from the palmetto root. During WWI, he worked to replace the textile dyes that were being imported from Europe. He ended up producing and replacing over 500 different shades. In 1927, he invented a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans.

Although he did hold three patents, Carver never patented most of the many discoveries he made while at Tuskegee, saying "God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?" Three different patents were issued: US 1,522,176 Cosmetics and Producing the Same. Jan. 6,1925 George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama. US 1,541,478 Paint and Stain and Producing the Same. June 9, 1925 George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama US 1,632,365 Producing Paints and Stains June 14, 1927 George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama.In 1935 he was appointed collaborator in the Division of Plant Mycology and Disease Survey of the Bureau of Plant Industry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By 1938, peanuts had become a $200 million industry and a chief product of Alabama. Carver also demonstrated that 100 different products could be derived from the sweet potato.In 1940 he donated over $60,000 of his life's savings to the George Washington Carver Foundation and willed the rest of his estate to the organization so his work might be carried on after his death. George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943 on the campus of Tuskegee Institute. He was honored by various levels of State and Federal Government as well as by foreign leaders worldwide. The United States government designated the farmland upon which he grew up as a national monument and on January 5, 1946 as George Washington Carver day. He was truly a pioneer in his field and has become one of the few Black inventors recognized by mainstream America.He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce of Britain in 1916, the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1923, and in 1939 was awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Medal for "distinguished research in agricultural chemistry." Man of the Year in 1940 by the International Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and Technicians. Finally, he received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Simpson College as well as the University of Rochester. In 1990 he was inducted into The National Inventor's Hall of Fame for his accomplishments.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Astronaut Wally Schirra dead at 84

Walter Marty Schirra, Jr. (March 12, 1923 in Hackensack, New Jersey - May 3, 2007) was one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts chosen for the Project Mercury, America's first effort to put men in space. He was the only man to fly in America's first three space programs: Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and has logged a total of 295 hours and 15 minutes in space.

The family name Schirra is originally from the Valle Onsernone, in Canton Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland.

Wally Schirra was born into an aviation family. Schirra's father, Walter M. Schirra, Sr., went to Canada during World War I and earned his pilot rating. He later became a barnstormer. Schirra's mother, Florence Leach Schirra, went along on her husband's barnstorming tours and performed wing walking stunts. By the time he was 15, Wally was flying his father's airplane.

Schirra graduated from Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, NJ and attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1941, where he was a member of Sigma Pi Fraternity. He attended the US Naval Academy and graduated in 1945. He was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy, serving the final months of World War II aboard the cruiser USS Alaska. After the war ended, he trained as a pilot at NAS Pensacola and joined a carrier fighter squadron. He became only the second naval aviator to log 1,000 hours in jet aircraft.

Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, Schirra was dispatched to South Korea as an exchange pilot on loan to the US Air Force. He served as a flight leader with the 136th Bomb Wing, and then as operations officer with the 154th Fighter Bomber Squadron. He flew 90 combat missions between 1951 and 1952, mostly in F-84s. Schirra was credited with downing one MiG-15 and damaging two others. Schirra received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster for his service in Korea.

After his tour in Korea, Schirra served as a test pilot. At China Lake he tested weapons systems such as the Sidewinder missile and the F7U-3 Cutlass jet fighter. After spending time as a flight instructor and carrier based aviator, he later returned to his test pilot duties and helped evaluate the F-4 fighter for naval service.

On April 2, 1959, Schirra was chosen as one of the original seven American astronauts. He entered Project Mercury and was assigned the specialty area involving life support systems.

On October 3, 1962, Schirra became the fifth American in space, piloting the Mercury 8 (Sigma 7) on a six-orbit mission lasting 9 hours, 13 minutes, and 11 seconds. The capsule attained a velocity of 17,557 miles per hour and an altitude of 175 statute miles, and landed within four miles of the main Pacific Ocean recovery ship.

On December 15, 1965, Schirra flew into space a second time in Gemini 6A with Tom Stafford, rendezvousing with astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell, Jr. in Gemini 7. This was the first rendezvous of two manned spacecraft in earth orbit. The two vehicles, however, were not capable of actually docking. Gemini 6 landed in the Atlantic Ocean the next day, while Gemini 7 continued on to a record-setting 14-day mission.

On October 11, 1968, Schirra became the first man to fly in space three times on his final flight as commander of Apollo 7, the first manned flight in the Apollo program after a fatal fire during tests of Apollo 1. The three-man crew, including Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham, spent eleven days in earth orbit, performed rendezvous exercises with the upper stage of the Saturn 1-B launch vehicle that rocketed them into space and provided the first television pictures from inside a U.S. manned spacecraft for which he received an Emmy.

During the Apollo 7 mission, Schirra caught what was perhaps the most famous cold in NASA history. He took Actifed to relieve his symptoms upon the advice of the flight surgeon. Years later, he became a spokesman for Actifed and would appear in television commercials advertising the product.

During later Apollo missions he served as a news consultant, often being interviewd by Walter Cronkite on CBS News.

Schirra's logbooks show a total of 4,577 hours flight time (295 in space) and 267 carrier landings.

In the 1983 film The Right Stuff Schirra was played by Lance Henriksen. In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon he was played by Mark Harmon.

Passed away at his home in California on May 3, 2007.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Robert Rosenthal

Robert Rosenthal
has died at age 89. He was a World War II bomber pilot who twice survived being shot down in raids over Europe and later served on the U.S. legal team that prosecuted Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.

Rosenthal, who lived in Harrison, New York, died April 20 of multiple myeloma, according to a son, Steven Rosenthal, of Newton, Massachusetts.

With 16 decorations including the Distingushed Service Cross, the nation's second-highest award for heroism, Rosenthal was a quintessential example of the young Army pilots, some barely out of their teens, who defied seemingly hopeless odds to carry out daylight strategic bombing raids against Germany's industrial war machine from 1942 to 1945.

Despite being able to absorb punishment, the B-17 Flying Fortresses, carrying 10 crew members, took staggering losses over Germany, especially when flying raids beyond the range of their England-based fighter escort.

Rosenthal's 52 missions included one, on Oct. 10, 1943, in which his aircraft was the only one of 13 to return from a raid on Munster, the rest having been downed by anti-aircraft fire and waves of Luftwaffe fighters. Rosenthal's B-17 reached England with two of its four engines gone, severe wing damage and two wounded crew members.

His bomber was dubbed "Rosie's Riveter," a play on both his name and the sobriquet given to women working in U.S. defense factories. He also flew other B-17s, including "Royal Flush," when "Rosie's Riveter" was being repaired, Steven Rosenthal said in a telephone interview.

Rosenthal's plane was disabled by flak over France in September 1944 and he suffered a broken arm and other injuries in a forced landing, but was helped to safety by French resistance fighters. Five months later, he was shot down again during a raid over Berlin, and got home with the aid of Russian troops, via Poland, Russia, Iran, Egypt, Greece and Italy.

Born in Brooklyn on June 11, 1917, Rosenthal was football and baseball team captain at Brooklyn College, a summa cum laude graduate of Brooklyn Law School and was working at a Manhttan law firm when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He enlisted the next day and insisted on being trained for combat.

"I couldn't wait to get over there," he told Donald Miller, author of the 2006 book, "Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany."