Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chesty Puller

Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller (June 26, 1898 – October 11, 1971) was an officer in the United States Marine Corps and the only Marine to receive five Navy Crosses, the United States Navy's second highest decoration after the Medal of Honor. During his career, he fought guerrillas in Haiti and Nicaragua, and participated in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II and the Korean War. Puller retired from the Marine Corps in 1955, spending the rest of his life in Virginia.

Early life, through World War I
Lewis Burwell Puller, whose nickname "Chesty" was inspired by his barrel chest as a result of his asthma, only later symbolizing the intimidating plate of medals and ribbons he bore, was born on June 26, 1898 in West Point, Virginia. He was a second cousin of United States Army General George S. Patton. His grandfather had died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War and his childhood heroes were Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. He grew up regularly hunting, fishing and horseback riding and would later remark that, "Those days in the woods saved my life many a time in combat."

He graduated from high school with a mediocre record before enrolling in the Virginia Military Institute in 1917. He dropped out after a year and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Because of a rapid increase in the size of the Marine Corps, Puller was commissioned as an officer. He was then sent to fight in Haiti, but the war ended before he could make it to France.

Interwar years
During the interwar period, Puller was appointed to the rank of Second Lieutenant in the reserves on June 16, 1919, but reduction in force following the war led to his being put on inactive status on the 26th of that month.

Puller then opted to serve in the Gendarmerie d'Haiti as an enlisted man, seeing action in Haiti. While the United States were working under a treaty with Haiti, he participated in over forty engagements during the ensuing five years against the Caco rebels. In March 1924, he returned stateside and was again commissioned as a Second Lieutenant (service number O3158), afterward completing assignments at the Marine Barracks in Norfolk, Virginia, Basic School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and with the 10th Marine Artillery Regiment in Quantico, Virginia. He was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in July 1926 and in San Diego, California in 1928.

In December 1928, Puller was assigned to the Nicaraguan National Guard detachment, where he earned his first Navy Cross for his actions from Feb 16 to Aug 19, 1930. He returned stateside in July 1931 and completed the year-long Company Officers Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, thereafter returning to Nicaragua from Sep 20-Oct 01, 1932 to earn a second Navy Cross for leading "five successive engagements against superior numbers of armed bandit forces, also known as the cacos bandits, which in turn caused a lot of problems for Chesty".

After his service in Nicaragua, Puller was assigned to the Marine detachment at the American Legation in Beijing, China commanding a unit of China Marines. He then went on to serve aboard USS Augusta, a cruiser in the Asiatic Fleet, which was commanded by then-Captain Chester W. Nimitz. Puller returned to the States in June 1936 as an instructor at the Basic School in Philadelphia.

In May 1939, he returned to the Augusta as commander of the onboard Marine detachment, and thence back to China, disembarking in Shanghai in May 1940 to serve as the executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. He later served as its commanding officer.

World War II
Major Puller returned to the U.S. on August 28, 1941. After a short leave, was given command of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (known as 1/7) of the 1st Marine Division, stationed at New River, the new Marine amphibious base which would soon be renamed for the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, John A. Lejeune, MCB Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Early in the Pacific theater the 7th Marines formed the nucleus of the newly created 3rd Marine Brigade and arrived to defend Samoa on May 8, 1942. Later they were redeployed from the Brigade and on September 4, 1942, they left Samoa and rejoined the 1st Division at Guadalcanal on September 18, 1942.

Soon after arriving on Guadalcanal, Puller led his battalion in a fierce action along the Matanikau, in which Puller's quick thinking saved three of his companies from annihilation. In the action, three of Puller's companies were surrounded and cut-off by a larger Japanese force. Puller ran to the shore, signaled a United States Navy destroyer, and then directed the destroyer to provide gunfire support while landing craft rescued his Marines from their precarious position, actions that earned his Bronze Star. Later on Guadalcanal, Puller earned his third Navy Cross for action that was later known as the "Battle for Henderson Field", in which the 1/7 battalion was the only American unit defending the airfield against a regiment-strength Japanese force. In a firefight on the night of October 24–25, 1942, lasting about three hours, 1/7 sustained 70 casualties; the Japanese force suffered over 1,400 killed in action, and the battalion held the airfield. While on Guadacanal, Puller was shot by a sniper twice and wounded by shrapnel in three different places; he was awarded the Purple Heart.

Following this action, Puller was made executive officer of the 7th Marine Regiment. While serving in this capacity at Cape Gloucester, Puller earned his fourth Navy Cross for overall performance of duty between December 26, 1943 and January 19, 1944. During this time, when the battalion commanders of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines and, later, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were taken out of the fight, he assumed temporary command of both units. In each instance, while under heavy machine gun and mortar fire, he expertly reorganized the battalion and led the successful attack against heavily fortified Japanese defensive positions. He was promoted to Colonel effective 1 February 44 and by the end of the month, had been named Commander of the 1st Marine Regiment. Colonel Puller would lead the 1st Marines into the protracted battle on Peleliu, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history during September and October 1944, action where he earned his first Legion of Merit. Also during the summer 1944, Puller's younger brother, Samuel D. Puller, the Executive Officer of the 4th Marine Regiment, was killed by a sniper on Guam.

Puller returned to the United States in November 1944, was named executive officer of the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune and, two weeks later, Commanding Officer. After the war, he was made Director of the 8th Reserve District at New Orleans, Louisiana, and later commanded the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor.

Korean War
At the outbreak of the Korean conflict, Puller was once again assigned as commander of the 1st Marine Regiment, with which he made a landing at Inchon on September 15, 1950, earning his Silver Star. For leadership from September 15 to November 2, he was awarded his second Legion of Merit. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from the Army for action from November 29 to December 5 of that same year, and his fifth Navy Cross during 5 to 10 December for action at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. It was during that battle when he made 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, 1951, Puller was promoted to Brigadier General and was assigned duty as assistant division commander (ADC) of the 1st Marine Division. On February 24, however, his immediate superior, Major General O. P. Smith, was hastily transferred to command IX Corps when its army commander, Major General Moore, was killed. Smith’s temporary transfer left Puller in command of his beloved 1st Marine Division. Instinctively, Puller knew the army hierarchy would not allow General Smith, a Marine, to command a unit that included army troops. So, when ordered to begin the last phase of Operation Killer, Puller made the best of the opportunity by skillfully leading the 1st Marine Division and achieving its objectives. General Smith returned from IX Corps on March 5.
Puller would serve as ADC until he completed his tour of duty and returned to the United States on May 20, 1951.

General Puller subsequently received promotions to Major General and Lieutenant General, and served in various command capacities until his retirement due to health reasons on November 1, 1955.

Later career
In 1965, Puller requested he be reinstated into the Marine Corps in order to see action in the Vietnam War, but the request was denied on the basis of his age.

General Puller was father-in-law to Colonel William H. Dabney, a VMI graduate, who, as a Captain, received the Navy Cross for his leadership as Commanding Officer of two heavily reinforced rifle companies of the Third Battalion, Twenty-Sixth Marines from 21 January to 14 April 1968. During the entire period, Colonel Dabney's force stubbornly defended Hill 881S, a regional outpost vital to the defense of the Khe Sanh Combat Base during the 77-day siege.

Lewis Burwell Puller died on October 11, 1971 in Saluda, Virginia at age 73. He is buried in Christchurch Parish Cemetery on the southeast side of Christchurch School off Highway 33 (also called "General Puller Highway") in Christchurch, Virginia. General Puller's widow, Virginia, died in 2006 at the age of 97 and was buried next to him.

Awards and honors
Puller was the most decorated U.S. Marine in history and one of only two people to receive the Navy Cross, the Navy's second highest decoration, five times (the other being Navy submarine commander Roy Milton Davenport). With five Navy Crosses and a Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second highest decoration, Puller received the nation's second highest military decoration a total of six times.

Namesakes and honors
The frigate Lewis B. Puller (FFG-23 )was named after him.

The headquarters building for 2nd Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team on Yorktown Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, Virginia is named Puller Hall in his honor.

On November 10, 2005, the United States Postal Service issued its Distinguished Marines stamps in which Puller was honored.

The Marine Mascot "Chesty", an English Bulldog.

Among Marines
Chesty Puller remains a well known figure in Marine Corps folklore, with both true and exaggerated tales of his experiences being constantly recounted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

A common incantation in Marine Corps boot camp is to end one's day with the declaration, "Good night, Chesty, wherever you are!"
In boot camp and OCS cadences, Marines chant "It was good for Chesty Puller/And it's good enough for me" — Chesty is symbolic of the esprit de corps of the Marines.

Chesty is loved by enlisted men for his constant actions to improve their lot. Puller insisted upon good equipment and discipline; once he came upon a second lieutenant who had ordered an enlisted man to salute him 100 times for missing a salute. Chesty told the Lieutenant: "You were absolutely correct in making him salute you 100 times Lieutenant, but you know that an officer must return every salute he receives. Now return them all."

While on duty in Hawaii and inspecting the armory, Puller fined himself $100 for discharging a .45 caliber pistol, although the charge for his men was only $20.

Lewis B. Puller, Jr.
The general's son Lewis Burwell Puller, Jr. (generally known as Lewis Puller), followed his father into the Marine Corps and lost both legs and parts of his hands in Vietnam while serving with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, the regiment formerly commanded by his father. Lewis Puller ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress, later writing an autobiography titled Fortunate Son that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. He committed suicide on May 11, 1994.

His wife said at the time "To the list of names of victims of the Vietnam War, add the name of Lewis Puller ... He suffered terrible wounds that never really healed."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Last Battle of World War II

D-Day Invasion: Easter Sunday - April 1, 1945

The Battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The 82 day long battle lasted from late
March through June 1945.

The battle has been referred to as the "Typhoon of Steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of gunfire involved, and sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle has one of the highest number of casualties of any World War Two engagement: the Japanese lost over 100,000 troops, and the Allies (mostly United States) suffered more than 50,000 casualties, with over 12,000 killed in action. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, wounded or attempted suicide. Approximately one-fourth of the civilian population died due to the invasion. The Tenth Army had five Army Divisions, the 77th, the 96th, the 27th, the 81st, and the 7th. Three Marine Divisions fought on Okinawa, the 6th, the 2nd and the 1st. All these divisions were supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

The main objective of the operation was to seize a large island only 340 miles away from mainland Japan. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and Okinawa would serve as a springboard for the planned invasion of the mainland islands. Although hastily converted to a base for air operations, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused Japan to surrender just weeks after the end of the fighting at Okinawa and the invasion never took place.

Medal of Honor
(One of the last in World War II. I posted Sgt. Kinser's story because he was from my home volunteer state of Tennessee, and we both served in the same 1st Marine Regiment during the battle of Okinawa and on Peleliu before that. However, we were in a different Battalion and a different Company.)

Sergeant Elbert Luther Kinser (October 21, 1922 - May 4, 1945) was a United States Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions and sacrifice of his life on Okinawa during World War II. The Medal of Honor was presented to Sgt Kinser's parents by MajGen Clifton B. Cates (future Commandant of the Marine Corps) on July 4, 1946 in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Early years
Elbert Kinser was born in Greeneville, Tennessee on October 21, 1922. He worked on his father's farm prior to joining the Marine Corps.

Marine Corps service
Kinser enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in December 1942 and received his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.

He sailed from the United States in March 1943, and joined the 7th Replacement Battalion in Pago Pago, Tutuila, American Samoa. Later, that battalion joined the 1st Marine Division in Melbourne, Australia, and Sgt Kinser was assigned to Company I, 1st Marines.

Action with the 1st Marines followed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, and later at Peleliu, Palau Islands.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, Sgt Kinser landed with his unit at Okinawa. Sergeant Kinser won the nation's highest military decoration while acting as a leader of a rifle platoon, serving with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action on Okinawa, where he was subsequently killed in action on May 4, 1945.

During a fierce hand grenade battle, a Japanese grenade landed in the immediate vicinity, Sgt Kinser unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile, absorbing the full charge of the shattering explosion in his own body and thereby protecting his men from serious injury and possible death.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Sgt Kinser was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart; Presidential Unit Citation; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.

Sergeant Kinser was buried in the 1st Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa and his remains were returned to the United States in early 1949 for burial. His final resting place is the Solomon Lutheran Cemetery in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while acting as Leader of a Rifle Platoon, serving with Company I, Third Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, in action against Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, May 4, 1945. Taken under sudden, close attack by hostile troops entrenched on the reverse slope while moving up a strategic ridge along which his platoon was holding newly won positions, Sergeant Kinser engaged the enemy in a fierce hand grenade battle. Quick to act when a Japanese grenade landed in the immediate vicinity, Sergeant Kinser unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile, absorbing the full charge of the shattering explosion in his own body and thereby protecting his men from serious injury and possible death. Stouthearted and indomitable, he had yielded his own chance of survival that his comrades might live to carry on the relentless battle against a fanatic enemy. His courage, cool decision and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Arthur J. Jackson

Captain Arthur J. Jackson (born October 18, 1924) was a United States Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Peleliu during World War II. PFC Jackson single-handedly destroyed 12 enemy pillboxes and killed 50 enemy soldiers.

Early years
Arthur J. Jackson was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 18, 1924. He moved to Portland, Oregon, with his parents in 1939, and completed Grant High School there. After graduation, he worked in Alaska for a naval construction company until November 1942, when he returned to Portland and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of eighteen.

Military service
In January 1943, he began his basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, and soon thereafter joined the 1st Marine Division in Melbourne, Australia in June 1943. On January 13, 1944, while taking part in the Cape Gloucester campaign, he carried a wounded Marine to safety in the face of well-entrenched Japanese troops on the slope of a steep hill, thus saving the wounded man's life. For this action, he was awarded a Letter of Commendation.
Following this, he took part in the fighting on Peleliu, during which he earned the Medal of Honor and his first Purple Heart while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. He again went into combat on Okinawa where, as a platoon sergeant with the 1st Marine Division, he was again wounded in action on May 18, 1945. That August, he was commissioned as a Marine second lieutenant.

During ceremonies at the White House on October 5, 1945, President Harry S. Truman presented him with the Nation's highest combat award.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, the Letter of Commendation, and two Purple Hearts, Capt Jackson's medals include: the Presidential Unit Citation, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the China Service Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal.

Following the war, he served in North China during the post-war occupation of that country. On his return to the United States, he returned briefly to civilian life, but, shortly after, entered the U.S. Army Reserves where, in 1954, he made the rank of captain. Although he served with the Army during the Korean conflict, he returned to the Marine Corps in 1959. He again left the Corps in 1962 but remained active in the Army Reserves and eventually retired from that service in 1984. During this time he also worked for the United States Postal Service.

Jackson is now retired and currently lives in Boise, Idaho.

Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Peleliu in the Palau Group, September 18, 1944. Boldly taking the initiative when his platoon's left flank advance was held up by the fire of Japanese troops concealed in strongly fortified positions, Private First Class Jackson unhesitatingly proceeded forward of our lines and, courageously defying the heavy barrages, charged a large pillbox housing approximately thirty-five enemy soldiers. Pouring his automatic fire into the opening of the fixed installation to trap the occupying troops, he hurled white phosphorus grenades and explosive charges brought up by a fellow Marine, demolishing the pillbox and killing all of the enemy. Advancing alone under the continuous fire from other hostile emplacements, he employed a similar means to smash two smaller positions in the immediate vicinity. Determined to crush the entire pocket of resistance although harassed on all sides by the shattering blasts of Japanese weapons and covered only by small rifle parties, he stormed one gun position after another, dealing death and destruction to the savagely fighting enemy in his inexorable drive against the remaining defenses and succeeded in wiping out a total of twelve pillboxes and fifty Japanese soldiers. Stouthearted and indomitable despite the terrific odds, Private First Class Jackson resolutely maintained control of the platoon's left flank movement throughout his valiant one-man assault and, by his cool decision and relentless fighting spirit during a critical situation, contributed essentially to the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island. His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Private First Class Jackson and the United States Naval Service.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Alexander Vandegrift
18th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps

1st 4-starGeneral in USMC

Alexander Archer Vandegrift (March 13, 1887 – May 8, 1973) was a General in the United States Marine Corps. He commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in the first ground offensive of World War II - Battle of Guadalcanal; for his actions during the Solomon Islands campaign, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Vandegrift later served as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps; and was the first U.S. Marine to hold the rank of four-star general while on active duty.

Alexander Archer Vandegrift was born on March 13, 1887 in the small town of Charlottesville, Virginia where his father was an architect and contractor. Young Vandegrift, known as "Archer" in his boyhood, had an interest in the military — both from reading military history novels and from stories of ancestors who fought in various wars.
He attended the University of Virginia for three years; then won his commission in the U.S. Marine Corps through a week-long competitive examination in 1908, becoming a second lieutenant on January 22, 1909.

The Banana Wars
Following instruction at the Marine Officers' School, Port Royal, South Carolina, his first tour of duty was at the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1912, he went to foreign shore duty in the Caribbean, first to Cuba and then to Nicaragua. He participated in the bombardment, assault, and capture of Coyotepe in Nicaragua. Then in 1914, he participated in the engagement and occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico.

In December 1914, following his promotion to first lieutenant, he attended the Advance Base Course at the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia. Upon completion of schooling, he sailed for Haiti with the 1st Marines and participated in action against hostile Cacos bandits at Le Trou and Fort Capois, Haiti.

In August 1916, he was promoted to captain and became a member of the Haitian Constabulary at Port Au Prince, where he remained until detached to the United States in December 1918. He returned to Haiti again in July 1919 to serve with the Gendarmerie d'Haiti as an Inspector of Constabulary. He was promoted to major in June 1920.

Major Vandegrift returned to the U.S. in April 1923 and was assigned to the Marine Barracks, MCB Quantico, Virginia. He completed the Field Officers' Course, Marine Corps Schools in May 1926. He then was transferred to the Marine Corps Base San Diego, California as Assistant Chief of Staff.

In February 1927, he sailed for China where he served as Operations and Training Officer of the 3rd Marines with Headquarters at Tientsin. He was ordered to Washington, D.C., in September 1928 where he became Assistant Chief Coordinator, Bureau of the Budget.

Following duty in Washington, D.C., he joined the Marine Barracks, Quantico, where he became Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1 Section, Fleet Marine Force (FMF). During this assignment, in June 1934, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Ordered to China in June 1935, LtCol Vandegrift served successively as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment at the American Embassy in Peiping. Promoted to colonel in September 1936, Col Vandegrift reported to Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC), Washington, D.C. in June 1937, where he became Military Secretary to the Major General Commandant. In March 1940, he was appointed Assistant to the Major General Commandant, and the following month was promoted to brigadier general.

World War II
Brigadier General Vandegrift was detached to the 1st Marine Division in November 1941, shortly before the United States of America entered World War II. He was promoted to major general in March 1942 and sailed for the South Pacific Area that May as commanding general of the first Marine division to ever leave the shores of the United States. On August 7, 1942, in the Solomon Islands, he led ashore the 1st Marine Division in the first large-scale offensive action against the Japanese, which was the first ground offensive of World War II. For outstanding service as Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division during the attack on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu in the Solomon Islands, he was awarded the Navy Cross and for the subsequent occupation and defense from August 7 to December 9, 1942, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

In July 1943, he assumed command of the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps and commanded this organization in the landing at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, Northern Solomon Islands, on November 1, 1943. Upon establishing the initial beachhead, he relinquished command and returned to Washington, D.C. as Commandant-designate.

Commandant of the Marine Corps
On January 1, 1944, as a lieutenant general, he was sworn in as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps. On April 4, 1945, he was appointed general, with date of rank from March 21, 1945, the first Marine officer on active duty to attain four-star rank.

During his tenure as Commandant, the Marine Corps faced institutional threats from Army efforts to absorb the mission of the Marines. Though the Navy was sympathetic to the Marine Corps' predicament, it was ready to accept the diminishment of the Corps in exchange for keeping Naval Aviation from consolidation attempts by the Air Force. The post-war discussions on the restructuring of the American defense establishment opened the door to diminishing the mission and role of the Marine Corps in the new defense structure. Proponents of such cuts included President Harry Truman and General Dwight Eisenhower. In this power struggle, the Marine Corps aligned itself with Congress, warning against the encroachment on civilian oversight within the Army proposals.

To cinch the support of Congress, Commandant Vandegrift delivered the famous "bended knee speech" on May 6, 1946 to the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs. In it, he stated:

The Marine Corps...believes that it has earned this right—to have its future decided by the legislative body which created it—nothing more. Sentiment is not a valid consideration in determining questions of national security. We have pride in ourselves and in our past, but we do not rest our case on any presumed ground of gratitude owing us from the Nation. The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps. If the Marine as a fighting man has not made a case for himself after 170 years of service, he must go. But I think you will agree with me that he has earned the right to depart with dignity and honor, not by subjugation to the status of uselessness and servility planned for him by the War Department.

For outstanding service as Commandant of the Marine Corps from January 1, 1944 to June 30, 1946, General Vandegrift was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He left active service on December 31, 1947 and was placed on the retired list on April 1, 1949.

General Vandegrift died on May 8, 1973 at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, after a long illness. His interment was on May 10, 1973 at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For outstanding and heroic accomplishment above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Division in operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands during the period August 7, to December 9, 1942. With the adverse factors of weather, terrain, and disease making his task a difficult and hazardous undertaking, and with his command eventually including sea, land, and air forces of Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Major General Vandegrift achieved marked success in commanding the initial landings of the United States forces in the Solomon Islands and in their subsequent occupation. His tenacity, courage, and resourcefulness prevailed against a strong, determined, and experienced enemy, and the gallant fighting spirit of the men under his inspiring leadership enabled them to withstand aerial, land, and sea bombardment, to surmount all obstacles, and leave a disorganized and ravaged enemy. This dangerous but vital mission, accomplished at the constant risk of his life, resulted in securing a valuable base for further operations of our forces against the enemy, and its successful completion reflects great credit upon Major General Vandegrift, his command, and the United States Naval Service.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sam Houston
Samuel Houston (March 2, 1793 - July 26, 1863) was a 19th century American statesman, politician, and soldier. Born on Timber Ridge, just north of Lexington in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, Houston was a key figure in the history of Texas, including periods as President of the Republic of Texas, Senator for Texas after it joined the United States, and finally as governor. Although a slaveowner and opponent of abolitionism, he refused, because of his unionist convictions, to swear loyalty to the Confederacy when Texas seceded from the Union, bringing his governorship to an end. To avoid bloodshed, he refused an offer of an army to put down the rebellion, and instead retired to Huntsville, Texas, where he died before the end of the Civil War.

His earlier life included encouraging emigration to Tennessee, time spent with the Cherokee Nation (into which he was adopted and later married into), military service in the War of 1812, and subsequent successful involvement in Tennessee politics. Houston is the only person in U.S. history to have been the governor of two different states, Tennessee and Texas, although others were governors of multiple American colonies.

A fight with a Congressman, followed by a high profile trial, led to his emigration to Mexican Texas, where he soon became a leader of the Texas Revolution. He eventually supported annexation by the United States rather than seeking long term independence and expansion for Texas. The city of Houston was named after him during this period. Houston's reputation survived his death: posthumous commemoration has included a memorial museum, a U.S. Army base, a national forest, a historical park, a university, and the largest free-standing statue of an American figure.

Early life
Sam Houston was born on March 2, 1793,on his family's plantation near Timber Ridge Church, outside Lexington, Virginia, in Rockbridge County, to Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton Houston. He was one of nine children. His father was a member of Morgan's Rifle Brigade during the American Revolutionary War. He was of Scots-Irish descent.

Receiving only a basic education, young Sam, with his family, moved to Maryville, Tennessee following the death of his father in 1807. His mother then took the family to live on Baker Creek, Tennessee. He ran away from home in 1809 and resided for a time with the Cherokee tribe of Chief Oolooteka on Hiwassee Island. He was adopted into the Cherokee Nation and given the name Colonneh or "the Raven". He returned to Maryville in 1812, and, at the age of 19, founded a one-room schoolhouse. This was the first school ever built in Tennessee, which had become a state in 1796.

War of 1812
In 1812 Houston reported to a training camp in Knoxville, Tennessee, and enlisted in the 7th Regiment of Infantry to fight the British in the War of 1812. By December of that year, he had risen from private to third lieutenant. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814, he was wounded in the thigh by a Creek arrow. His wound was bandaged, and he rejoined the fight. When Andrew Jackson called on volunteers to dislodge a group of Red Sticks (Creek Indians) from their breastworks (fortifications), Houston volunteered, but during the assault, he was struck by bullets in the shoulder and arm. He returned to Knoxville as a disabled veteran, but later took the army's offer of free surgery and convalescenced in a New Orleans, Louisiana, hospital. Houston became close to Jackson. Following his recovery he was assigned as an Indian agent to the Cherokees. He left the army in March 1818.

Tennessee politics
Following six months of study at the office of Judge James Trimble, Houston passed the bar examination in Nashville, after which he opened a legal practice in Lebanon, Tennessee. He was made attorney general of the Nashville district in late 1818, and was also given a command in the state militia. In 1822 he was elected to the House of Representatives for Tennessee, where he was a staunch supporter of fellow Tennessean and Democrat Andrew Jackson, and was widely considered to be Jackson's political protege, although their ideas as to the treatment of Indians differed greatly. He was a Congressman from 1823 to 1827, re-elected in 1824. In 1827 he declined to run for re-election to Congress and instead ran for, and won, the office of governor of Tennessee, defeating the former governor, William Carroll. He planned to stand for re-election in 1828, but resigned after marrying 18-year-old Eliza Allen. The marriage was forced by Eliza's father, Colonel John Allen, and never blossomed into a relationship. Houston and Eliza separated shortly after the marriage, for reasons Houston refused to discuss to the end of his life, and divorced in 1837, after he became President of Texas.

He spent time among the Cherokee, married a Cherokee widow named Tiana Rogers Gentry, and set up a trading post (Wigwam Neosho near Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation), apparently drinking heavily the entire time. During this time he was interviewed by Alexis De Tocqueville. His alleged drunkenness and abandonment of his office, and wife, caused a rift with his mentor Andrew Jackson, which would not be healed for several years.

Controversy and trial
During a business trip to New York and Washington, D.C., Houston was embroiled in a fight with an anti-Jacksonian Congressman. While Houston was in Washington in April 1832, Congressman William Stanbery of Ohio made accusations about Houston in a speech on the floor of Congress. Stanbery was attacking Jackson through Houston, and accused Houston of being in league with John Van Fossen and Congressman Robert S. Rose.

The three men bid on the supplying of rations to Indians who were being forcibly dispossessed and relocated because of Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830. Stanbery, now carrying two pistols and a dirk, refused to answer Houston's letters; infuriated, Houston later confronted Stanbery on Pennsylvania Avenue as Stanberry left Mrs. Queen's boardinghouse, and beat him with a hickory cane. Stanbery did manage to draw one of his pistols, place it at Houston's chest, and pull the trigger—the gun misfired.

On April 17 Congress ordered the arrest of Houston, who pleaded self-defense, and hired Francis Scott Key as his lawyer. Houston was found guilty, but thanks to high-placed friends (among them James K. Polk), he was only lightly reprimanded. Stanbery then filed charges against Houston in civil court. Judge William Cranch found Houston liable, and fined him $500, but Houston did not pay it, and left the country.

The publicity surrounding the trial resurrected Houston's unfavorable political reputation, and Houston made plans to go to Texas. He asked his wife, Diana Rodgers (also known as Tieana Rodger) to go with him, but she preferred to stay at the log cabin and trading post. Later she married a man named Sam McGrady, and died of pneumonia in 1838. Houston married again after her death.

Houston left his home with the Cherokee in December 1832, and was immediately swept up in the politics of what was still a Mexican state, Texas. There has been speculation over the years that Houston went to Texas at the request of President Andrew Jackson to seek the annexation of the territory for the United States, but no documentation to prove the suspicion.

Houston attended the Convention of 1833 as representative for Nacogdoches, and emerged as a supporter of William Harris Wharton and his brother, who supported independence from Mexico, the more radical position of the American settlers in Texas. He also attended the Consultation of 1835. He was then made a Major General of the Texas Army in November 1835, then Commander-in-Chief in March 1836, at the convention which met at Washington-on-the-Brazos to declare Texan Independence. He negotiated a settlement with the Cherokee in February 1836.

Republic of Texas
On March 2, 1836, his 43rd birthday, Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. He soon joined his volunteer army at Gonzales, but was soon forced to retreat in the face of the superior forces of Mexican General (and dictator) Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, whose soldiers killed all those at The Alamo Mission at the conclusion of the Battle of the Alamo on March 6.
At the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, however, Houston surprised Santa Anna and the Mexican forces during their afternoon siesta. In less than 18 minutes, the battle was over. Badly beaten, Santa Anna was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco, granting Texas independence. Although Houston stayed on briefly for negotiations, he returned to the United States for treatment of a wound to his ankle.

Houston was twice elected president of the Republic of Texas (the first time on September 5, 1836). He served from October 22, 1836, to December 10, 1838, and again from December 12, 1841 to December 9, 1844. On December 20, 1837, Houston presided over the convention of Freemasons that formed the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas, now the Grand Lodge of Texas.

He put down the Cordova Rebellion of 1838, and while he initially sought annexation by the U.S., he dropped that hope during his first term. In his second term, he strove for fiscal prudence, and worked to make peace with the Indians and to avoid war with Mexico, following the two invasions of 1842. He had to act over the Regulator-Moderator War of 1844, which caused him to send in the militia.

Settlement of Houston
The settlement of Houston was founded in August 1836 by brothers J.K. Allen and A.C. Allen. It was named in Houston's honor, and served as capital. Gail Borden helped lay out Houston's streets.

In 1835, one year before being elected first President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston founded the Holland Masonic Lodge. The initial founding of the lodge took place in Brazoria and was relocated to what is now Houston in 1837.

The city of Houston served as the capital until President Mirabeau Lamar signed a measure that moved the capital to Austin on January 14, 1839. Between his presidential terms (the constitution did not allow a president to serve consecutive terms), he was a representative in the Texas House of Representatives for San Augustine. He was a major critic of President Mirabeau Lamar, who advocated continuing independence of Texas and the extension of its boundaries to the Pacific Ocean.

On May 9, 1840, in Marion, Alabama, Houston married Margaret Moffette Lea, with whom he had eight children. He was 47 and she was 21. Margaret acted as a tempering influence on Houston. Although the Houstons had numerous houses, only one was kept continuously, Cedar Point, on Trinity Bay from ca. 1840 through 1863.

U.S. Senator
After the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845, Houston was elected to the U.S. Senate, along with Thomas Jefferson Rusk. Houston served from February 21, 1846, until March 4, 1859. He was a Senator during the Mexican-American War, when the U.S. acquired vast expanses of new territory in the Southwest from Mexico as part of the war's concluding treaty.

Throughout his term in the Senate, Houston spoke out against the growing sectionalism of the country, and blamed the extremists of both the North and South, saying: "Whatever is calculated to weaken or impair the strength of [the] Union, – whether originating at the North or the South, – whether arising from the incendiary violence of abolitionists, or from the coalition of nullifiers, will never meet with my unqualified approval."

Houston supported the Oregon Bill in 1848, which was opposed by many Southerners. In his passionate speech in support of the Compromise of 1850, Houston said "A nation divided against itself cannot stand." Eight years later, Abraham Lincoln would express the same sentiment.

Houston opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and correctly predicted that it would cause a sectional rift in the country that would eventually lead to war, saying: " ... what fields of blood, what scenes of horror, what mighty cities in smoke and ruins – it is brother murdering brother ... I see my beloved South go down in the unequal contest, in a sea of blood and smoking ruin." He was only one of two Southern senators (the other being John Bell of Tennessee) to vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He was even considered a potential candidate for President of the United States. But, despite the fact that he was a slave-owner, his strong Unionism and opposition to the extension of slavery alienated the Texas legislature and other southern States.

Governor of Texas
He twice ran for governor of Texas as a Unionist, unsuccessfully in 1857, and successfully against Hardin R. Runnels in 1859. When he was elected, it made him the only person in U.S. history to be the governor of two different states, as well as the only governor to have been a foreign head of state.

Despite Houston's being a slave owner and against abolition, he opposed the secession of Texas from the Union. In 1860, he offered the following prediction: "Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives you may win Southern independence, but I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve this Union."

Despite Houston's wishes, Texas seceded from the United States on February 1, 1861, and joined the Confederate States of America on March 2, 1861. This act was soon branded illegal by Houston, but the Texas legislature nevertheless upheld the legitimacy of secession. The political forces that brought about Texas's secession also were powerful enough to replace the state's Unionist governor. Houston chose not to resist, stating, "I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of this State, except by the peaceful exercise of my functions ... " He was evicted from his office on March 16, 1861, for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, writing,

"Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies ... I refuse to take this oath."

He was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark. To avoid more bloodshed in Texas, Houston turned down U.S. Col. Frederick W. Lander's offer from President Abraham Lincoln of 50,000 troops to prevent Texas's secession, stating in his response, "Allow me to most respectfully decline any such assistance of the United States Government."

Final years
In 1854, Houston, having earlier made a profession of Christian faith, was baptized by the Baptist minister, Rufus C. Burleson, who was later the president of Baylor College (later, Baylor University). At the time Burleson was the pastor of the Independence, Texas, Baptist Church in Washington County, which Houston and his wife attended. Houston was also a close friend of another Baylor president and Burleson's predecessor as pastor at the Independence church, the Reverend George Washington Baines, maternal great-grandfather of Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1862, Houston returned to Huntsville, Texas, and rented the Steamboat House; the hills in Huntsville reminded him of his boyhood home near Maryville, Tennessee. Houston continued to be an avid member of the Masonic Lodge, transferring his membership to Forrest Lodge #19, in Huntsville. His health deteriorated quickly over the next few months as he could not rid himself of a persistent cough. In mid-July, Houston was struck with a severe chill, which developed into pneumonia. Despite the efforts of Drs. Markham and Kittrell, on July 26, 1863, at 6:16 p.m., Houston died quietly in Steamboat House with his wife Margaret by his side. His last recorded words were, "Texas. Texas. Margaret". The inscription on his tomb reads:

A Brave Soldier. A Fearless Statesman.
A Great Orator – A Pure Patriot.
A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen.
A Devoted Husband and Father.
A Consistent Christian – An Honest Man.

While Sam Houston is buried in Huntsville, Texas, his wife Margaret Lea is buried in the City of Independence, Texas.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

History of St. Patrick's Day
In the past, Saint Patrick's Day was celebrated as a religious holiday. It became a public holiday in 1903, by the Money Bank. (Ireland) Act 1903, an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament introduced by the Irish MP James O'Mara. O'Mara later introduced the law which required that pubs be closed on 17 March, a provision which was repealed only in the 1970s. The first St. Patrick's Day parade held in the Irish Free State was held in Dublin in 1931 and was reviewed by the then Minister of Defence Desmond Fitzgerald. Although secular celebrations now exist, the holiday remains a religious observance in Ireland, for both the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Church.

The first Saint Patrick's Festival was held on 17 March 1996. In 1997, it became a three-day event, and by 2000 it was a four-day event. By 2006, the festival was five days long.

The topic of the 2004 St. Patrick's Symposium was "Talking Irish," during which the nature of Irish identity, economic success, and the future were discussed. Since 1996, there has been a greater emphasis on celebrating and projecting a fluid and inclusive notion of "Irishness" rather than an identity based around traditional religious or ethnic allegiance.

The biggest celebrations on the island of Ireland outside Dublin are in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, where Saint Patrick is rumoured to be buried following his death on 17 March 461. In 2004, according to Down District Council, the week-long St. Patrick's Festival had over 2,000 participants and 82 floats, bands, and performers, and was watched by over 30,000 people.

Belfast City Council recently agreed to give public funds to its parade for the very first time. In previous years funding was refused by pro-British Unionist councillors in the city for not being inclusive of Unionist citizens, the refusal to fund it was labelled as "anti-Irish racism" by Nationalist Belfast councillors.

Since the 1990s, Irish Taoisigh have sometimes attended special functions either on Saint Patrick's Day or a day or two earlier, in the White House, where they present a shamrock to the President of the United States. A similar presentation is made to the Speaker of the House. Originally only representatives of the Republic of Ireland attended, but since the mid-1990s all major Political parties in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are invited, with the attendance including the representatives of the Irish government, the Ulster Unionist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Sinn Fйin and others. No Northern Irish parties were invited for these functions in 2005. In recent years, it is common for the entire Irish government to be abroad representing the country in various parts of the world. In 2003, the President of Ireland celebrated the holiday in Sydney, the Taoiseach was in Washington, while other Irish government members attended ceremonies in New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Buffalo, San Jose, Savannah, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Diego, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Korea, Japan, and Brazil.

Saint Patrick's Day parades in Ireland date from the early 18th century.

Christian leaders in Ireland have expressed concern about the secularisation of St Patrick's Day. Writing in the Word magazine (March 2007), Fr. Vincent Twomey stated that, "it is time to reclaim St Patrick's Day as a church festival". He questioned the need for "mindless alcohol-fuelled revelry" and concluded that, "it is time to bring the piety and the fun together".

Outside Ireland
In America
Irish Society of Boston organized what was the first Saint Patrick's Day Parade in the colonies on 17 March 1737. The first celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756 and New York's first Saint Patrick's Day Parade was held on 17 March 1762 by Irish soldiers in the British Army. In 1780, General George Washington, who commanded soldiers of Irish descent in the Continental Army, allowed his troops a holiday on 17 March ?as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence." This event became known as The St. Patrick's Day Encampment of 1780. Today, Saint Patrick's Day is widely celebrated in America by Irish and non-Irish alike.

Americans celebrate the holiday by wearing green clothing. Many people, regardless of ethnic background, wear green-coloured clothing and items. Traditionally, those who are caught not wearing green are pinched.

Some cities paint the traffic stripe of their parade routes green. Chicago dyes its river green and has done so since 1961 when sewer workers used green dye to check for sewer discharges and got the idea to turn the river green for St. Patrick's Day. Indianapolis also dyes its main canal green. Savannah dyes its downtown city fountains green. University of Missouri Rolla - St Pat's Board Alumni paint 12 city blocks kelly green with mops before the annual parade. In Jamestown, New York, the Chadakoin River (a small tributary that connects Conewango Creek with its source at Chautauqua Lake) is dyed green each year.

Many parades are held to celebrate the holiday including the cities listed below:

Savannah, GA, boasts the unofficial largest attendance with 750,000 in 2006. Unlike other cities, the parade in Savannah takes place on the actual day of Saint Patrick's Day, even if that day is during the work week. However, the 2008 parade took place on Friday, 14 March, to honour Holy week in the Catholic faith. In 2006, the Tбnaiste was featured in the parade. Since the parade travels through Savannah's Historic Park District, one tradition that has developed has been the official "dyeing of the fountains" which happens several days before the parade. It has also become tradition for women spectators to kiss the Armed Forces Units and other military organization's male members. Savannah does not have an open container law so there is a proliferation of alcohol on River Street, Bay Street and in City Market.

New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana, the parades include the influence of New Orleans Mardi Gras, with float riders throwing spectators strings of beads, cabbages, and potatoes.

Hot Springs, Arkansas
Perhaps the smallest notable parade World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade, is said to take place in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the United States annually held on historic Bridge Street which became famous in the 1940s when Ripley?s Believe It or Not designated it. The Shortest Street in the World Boulder, Colorado claims to have the shortest parade, which is also less than a single city block.

Syracuse, New York
In the city of Syracuse, NY, Saint Patrick's celebrations are traditionally begun with the delivery of green beer to Coleman's Irish Pub on the first Sunday of March. Coleman's is located in the Tipperary Hill section of the city. Tipperary Hill is home to the World famous "Green-on-Top" Traffic Light and is historically the Irish section in Syracuse. Saint Patrick's Day is rung in at midnight with the painting of a Shamrock under the Green-Over-Red traffic light. Syracuse boasts the largest St. Patrick's day celebration per-capita in the United States with their annual Syracuse St. Patrick's Parade founded by Nancy Duffy, an honored journalist in the Central New York area and an active community leader. "The parade remains a major annual event, typically drawing an estimated crowd of more than 100,000 visitors to downtown Syracuse, as well as 5,000 to 6,000 marchers."

New York City
The New York parade has become the largest Saint Patrick's Day parade in the world. In a typical year, 150,000 marchers participate in it, including bands, firefighters, military and police groups, county associations, emigrant societies, and social and cultural clubs, and 2 million spectators line the streets. The parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan and is always led by the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment. New York politicians - or those running for office - are always found prominently marching in the parade. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch once proclaimed himself "Ed O'Koch" for the day, and he continues to don an Irish sweater and march every year up until 2003, even though he is no longer in office.

The parade is organized and run by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. For many years, the St. Patrick's Day Parade was the primary public function of the organization. On occasion the order has appointed controversial Irish republican figures (some of whom were barred from the U.S.) to be its Grand Marshal.

The New York parade is moved to the previous Saturday (16 March) in years where 17 March is a Sunday. The event also has been moved on the rare occasions when, due to Easter falling on a very early date, 17 March would land in Holy Week. This same scenario arose again in 2008, when Easter fell on March 23. The festivities went ahead on their normal date and had record viewers. In many other American cities (such as San Francisco), the parade is always held on the Sunday before 17 March, regardless of the liturgical calendar.

Holyoke, Massachusetts
This Western Mass factory town was the site of massive Irish immigration in the 19th Century, and hosts a Parade its organizers claim is the second largest in the United States. It is scheduled on the Sunday following St. Patrick's Day each year. Attendance exceeds 300,000, with over 25,000 marchers, through a 2.3 mile route in this city of 40,000. A 10K road Race and many events create a remarkable festival weekend. Each year an Irish-American who has distinguished himself or herself in their chosen profession is awarded the John F. Kennedy National Award. JFK was a National Award Winner in the 1958 Holyoke Parade. Other winners include author Tom Clancy, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, and actor Pat O'Brien

Scranton, Pennsylvania
Due to the rich history of Scranton participation in St. Patrick's Day festivities it is one of the oldest and most populated parades in the United States. It has been going on annually since 1862 by the St. Patrick's Day Parade Association of Lackawanna County and the parade has gotten attention nationally as being one of the better St. Patrick's Day parades. The parade route begins on Wyoming Ave. and loops up to Penn Ave. and then Lackawanna Ave. before going back down over Jefferson Ave. to get to Washington Ave. Scranton hosts the third largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the United States. In 2008, up to 150,000 people attended the parade.

Seattle, Washington
Due to Seattle's northern state climates, like Ireland, the city received many Irish immigrants. So many that Seattle and Galway are sister cities. Every year on St. Patrick's Day, the Seattle Parade starts at 4th Avenue and Jefferson to the Reviewing Stand at Westlake Park, ending officially at the Seattle Center. The annual Irish Week Festival is enormous, including step dancing, food, historical and modern exhibitions, and Irish lessons. This is all celebrated on St. Patrick's Day and sometimes carries on until the 15, 16, and 17 March.

Las Vegas, Nevada
The Southern Nevada, (formerly Las Vegas) Sons of Erin has put on a parade since 1966. It was formerly held on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, later moved to 4th street. Since 2005, the parade has been held in downtown Henderson. It is one of the biggest parades in the state of Nevada. It also consists of a three day festival, carnival and classic car show in Old Town Henderson.

Baltimore, Maryland
The festivities of the St. Patrick's Day Parade (since 1956) include a 5K race with a finish line at Power Plant Live! and a brunch (both on the day of the parade) plus numerous fundraisers in Baltimore's Irish restaurants, leading up to the event.

Rolla, Missouri
Rolla is home to the Missouri University of Science & Technology (formerly known as University of Missouri-Rolla, and Missouri School of Mines), an engineering college. St. Patrick is the patron saint of engineers, and the school and town's celebrations last for a week or more, with a downtown parade held the Saturday before St. Pat's. A royal court are crowned, and the streets of the city's downtown area are painted solid green. In 2008, Rolla celebrated its 100th St. Patrick's Day festival.

In previous years, a pit of green liquid was made by students as part of the festivities, and named 'Alice' -- stepping into Alice was a rite of bravery. In recent years, however, the university faculty has banned the practice out of health concerns.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Home of USMC Commandants
In March 1801, President Thomas Jefferson and the second Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lieutenant Colonel William Ward Burrows made a horseback tour through Washington, DC, looking for a proper site for the Marine Barracks and a home for the Commandant.

Square 927, a short walk from the Washington Navy Yard and within easy marching distance of the Capitol, was their choice. Construction began later that year and Burrows' successor Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Franklin Wharton, completed the house and the Barracks in 1806. Still used for its original purpose, the building has been home to all but the first two Commandants and is said to be the oldest continuously occupied building in Washington, D.C.

When first built, the Georgian Federal-style house measured 25 by 32 feet and contained four large rooms and a central hallway on each floor, a kitchen in the basement and servants' quarters in the attic.

Renovations and additions, which began in 1836, have expanded the house to 15,000 square feet, including 24 rooms not counting hallways, closets or baths. The decor has always been dictated by the personal tastes of each Commandant and his family.

The house of the Commandant's was one of the few buildings not burned by the British when they sacked the Capitol in 1814. This omission by the British has given rise to several legends as to why the house was spared. One version is that Admiral Cockburn and General Ross, commanding the British troops, spared it to use as their headquarters, than neglected to apply to torch upon their withdrawal.

Another contends that Marines at the Battle of Bladensburg so impressed General Ross that he ordered the house and the Barracks spared as a gesture of soldierly respect.

In 1916, Major General George Bennett the 12th Commandant, approached then acting Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the idea of having portraits painted of all former Marine Corps Commandants to document the successive changes in uniforms. Roosevelt agreed and persuaded the Comptroller of the Treasury to fund the project "as the duty of the government to encourage in every way possible the collection and preservation of every kind of historical material."

It is also a tradition that the occupants of the house leave a gift for future occupants of the house to use. Some gifts from former Commandants include fine furniture, crystal and china.

Square 927, including the house and the Barracks, was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and was then designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior in 1976.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Marines in Vietnam
On March 8, 1965, US Marines landed at Red Beach, Da Nang, Vietnam

The Beginning
What began as a nationalist/Communist revolutionary struggle between the French colonialist and the Viet Minh, headed by Ho Chi Minh, soon escalated into a full blown civil war. Vietnam gained world attention in March of 1954 when communist forces under the leadership of General Giap over ran the French base at Dien Bien Phu. Fearing the spread of Communism throughout the Pacific rim, the Geneva Accords reached an uneasy peace agreement by splitting Vietnam along the 17th parallel, more commonly known as the DMZ. The Communists would gain control of the North, whereas the South would be governed by a democratic system. It was agreed that with in two years elections would be held nation wide to determine the fate of Vietnam. Subjected to constant postponements, these elections never came to pass.

The United States kept a close eye on the government in the North, monitoring the shipping running in and out of the harbors in the Gulf of Tonkin. We also sent military advisors to the South to help them control the ever increasing number of guerrilla forces who were bent on disrupting the unstable government in Saigon. Tensions continued to mount in this uneasy peace until on August 2, 1964 North Vietnamese gun boats attacked the USS Maddox.

In response to this attack, President Lyndon Johnson ordered the bombing of key military targets in the North. The North retaliated by increasing their hostile ground actions in the South, focusing on American installations, resulting in the deaths of several American advisors. To protect the American airbases, President Johnson ordered Marine ground forces to set up strictly defensive positions around the base at Danang and later around the new base at Chu Lai. On 8 March 1965, the first wave of Marine Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 3/9 landed at Red Beach, Da Nang. On the beach waiting for the Marines was a host of welcoming South Vietnamese dignitaries and local schoolgirls who bedecked the 9th MEB commander, Brigadier General Frederick J. Karch, with a garland of flowers. By the end of March 1965, the 9th MEB numbered nearly 5,000 Marines at Da Nang, including two infantry battalions, two helicopter squadrons, and supporting units. And so it began.

As the war expanded, command arrangements, like the American commitment, evolved over time without any master plan. Still by the end of 1965, the United States had established the outlines of the complex command structure which, with minor modifications, it would fight the remainder of the war. III MAF headed since June by Major General Lewis W. Walt reported to USMACV (Westmoreland). General Westmoreland exercised this authority through the U.S. chain of command. Formally MACV was a unified command directly subordinate to the U.S. Pacific Command under Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp in Hawaii.

While III MAF was under the operational control of MACV, General Walt also reported directly through Marine channels to the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, Lieutenant General Victor H. ``Brute'' Krulak for administrative and logistic support. While not in the operational chain of command, General Krulak was not one to deny General Walt the benefit of his advice. Through the same Marine channels, Krulak was responsible to The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., in Washington, who also had his perceptions on the conduct of the war.

When the Marines first arrived in Vietnam in 1965, their sole purpose was to provide protection to the American air base at Danang. The official directive was: "The U.S. Marine force will not, repeat will not, engage in day to day actions against the Viet Cong". However, as the U. S. expanded its build-up with additional bases south at Chu Lai and north at Phu Bai, these rules of limited engagement became increasingly difficult to maintain. The Viet Cong set up strongholds in neighboring villages from where they would launch attacks against the Americans.. Is was soon recognized that in order to protect the American bases, these pockets of resistance needed to be flushed out.
The South Vietnamese Army (RVN) had the responsibility of securing the countryside but it was soon apparent they were not able to do so without assistance of American forces. The initial directive was expanded to allow Marines to work with the RVN soldiers but only in areas that were critical to U. S. security. The Marines were given permission to run offensive operations in areas that were critical to security of their bases. Though these "Search and Destroy" missions did produce a limited amount of success, it was soon clear that this would not be enough to insure protection for the American troops and materials in Vietnam. The Viet Cong had a talent for vanishing into the hills, only to return after an area was declared secure.

Operation Starlite
On August 15 the Marines received their first break. A deserter from the Vietcong 1st Regiment in-formed General Thi of a major build-up of enemy Maine Force units in the Van Tuong village complex, twelve miles southeast of Chu Lai along the coast. The VC goal was to achieve a great psychological victory by surprising the isolated marine base at Chu Lai in the first major engagement between American and enemy forces.

General Thi, informing none of his own subordinates, immediately relayed the information to General Walt. Marine intelligence had by this time received sufficient evidence on its own to corroborate the deserter's story. Colonel Edwin Simmons, newly arrived operations officer for III MAF, recommended a "spoiling attack" to prevent the anticipated VC strike against Chu Lal. The timing was fortuitous. The arrival of reinforcements at the Chu Lai base on August 14 enabled Walt to reassign two experienced combat battalions, 2d Battalion of the 4th Marines (or 2/4), and 3d Battalion, 3d Marines (3/3) to the command of Colonel Oscar F. Peatross, commander of the 7th Marines. In addition, another marine battalion, afloat offshore, served as a reserve force that could be thrown into the battle when and where necessary. Finally, two U.S. Navy ships in the area, the U.S.S. Galveston and U.S.S. Cabildo, could provide offshore fire support. The operation, code-named Starlite, would be a classic marine encounter, combining land and sea forces, including an amphibious landing and coordination with the navy. It would be a very different battle for the Vietcong, accustomed to fighting with their backs to the sea, knowing that against South Vietnamese forces the water could always be used as an avenue of escape.

Conducting an aerial reconnaissance of the operational area, which was about ten miles south of Chu Lai, Colonel Peatross found that the terrain was dominated by sandy flats, broken by numerous streams and an occasional wooded knoll. The scattered hamlets possessed paddy areas and dry crop fields. While airborne, Peatross selected the assault beach as well as three landing zones among the sand flats, about one mile inland from the coast.

Operation Starlite began inauspiciously at 10:00 A.M. on August 17, when Company M of the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, took a short ride south of Chu Lai before marching four miles farther south and camping for the night just north of Van Tuong. They met only light resistance and, since marine patrols in the area had been frequent, aroused no suspicion. Seven hours after Company M departed, the rest of the 3/3 and the command group embarked on three amphibious ships which, after a decoy maneuver, arrived in the area of the landing beach at five in the morning of August 18. Fifteen minutes before the 6:30 A.M. H-hour, marine artillery and jets began to pound the three landing zones west of Van Tuong, LZ Red, LZ White, and LZ Blue. Eighteen tons of bombs and napalm were dropped, adding to the firing of 155MM guns. At H-hour the troops of the 3/3 began their beach assault and pushed inland as planned. At 6:45 A.M. Company G of the 2/4 landed at LZ Red, while Company E landed at LZ White and Company H landed at LZ Blue forty-live minutes later. The 3/3 approached Van Tuong from the south, while companies E, G, and H of 2/4 were to move in from the west. Company M blocked any retreat to the north by the VC, and the navy ships prevented an escape to the east via the South China Sea. Van Tuong and the Vietcong were surrounded. For the most part, the Marines met little resistance as they closed in, but fierce fighting broke out near LZ Blue.

In the Vietnam War, intelligence was never precise and Company H had landed right in the middle of the Vietcong 60th Battalion and found itself surrounded. The VC let the first helicopters land without incident, then opened up on succeeding waves, a tactic they had used successfully against ARVN. Three U.S. Army UH-lB helicopter gun ships were called in to strafe the VC strong hold, a small knoll just east of LZ Blue called Hill 43. (Hills were given numerical distinctions according to the height in meters.) Meanwhile the infantry protected the LZ until the full company had landed. Company H commander, First Lieutenant Homer K. Jenkins, ordered an assault on the hill by one platoon, but it quickly stalled. Regrouping his men, and realizing that he had happened upon a heavy concentration of VC, Jenkins ordered in strikes against Hill 43 and then assaulted it with all three of his platoons. Reinforced by close air support and the Marines overran the enemy position, claiming six KIA at one machine-gun position alone. Hill 43 was taken.

Heavy fighting also took place in the village of An Cuong (2)-approximately two miles northeast of Hill 43 when two platoons of Company I attempted to clear the village of enemy snipers. After an initial setback, the company's reserve platoon was thrown into battle and the troops cleared the village. Company I's commander, Captain Bruce D. Webb, was among those killed in the early fire, and his company executive officer, First Lieutenant Richard M. Purnell, assumed command of the successful counter assault. Purnell counted over fifty enemy bodies when the fighting ended. One Company I squad leader, Corporal Robert E. O'Malley, single-handedly killed eight Vietcong that day and became the first marine to win the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. (Later, a posthumous award was made to Captain Frank S. Reasoner, killed in action in July.)

The most dramatic fighting of the day was the result of another favorite VC tactic :ambushing a relief column. between 11:00 AM. and noon Major Andrew G. Comer sent a resupply column to aid beleaguered Company I. The column, which included three flame tanks, the only tactical fire support available, quickly lost its way. Suddenly, VC recoilless rifle fire and a barrage of mortar rounds rendered the tanks useless in providing fire support. Using only their small arms, the entrapped Marines attempted to hold the advancing VC infantry. The marine radio operator panicked and, according to Major Comer, "kept the microphone button depressed the entire time and pleaded for help. We were unable to quiet him sufficiently to gain essential information as to their location." Finally Comer organized a rescue mission, led by the already exhausted Company I and including the only available M48 tank. By luck, one of the trapped flame tanks managed to break through the VC infantry and return to Comer's command post. The crew chief was able to lead the rescue mission to the location of the column. Approaching the besieged supply column, the relief force quickly drew heavy fire. Recoilless rifle fire knocked out the M48. Within minutes five Marines lay dead and seventeen wounded. Comer called for artillery fire and air support, and enemy fire soon sub-sided. As Comer put it, "It was obvious that the VC were deeply dug in, and emerged above ground when we presented them with an opportunity and withdrew whenever we retaliated or threatened them.

The heavy fighting of the first day proved to be the only major contact of the seven-day operation. For Companies H and l it had been an exhausting time. Together the two companies had sustained casualties amounting to over 100 of their original 350 men, including 29 dead, but in return they claimed 281 VC dead.

Aftermath of victory
On August 19, Starlite's second day, sporadic and isolated fire came from enemy soldiers covering their main force's retreat, but organized resistance had ended. The operation extended for five more days with the Marines, now joined by ARVN troops, conducting village-by-village searches. At its conclusion the Marines could claim 573 confirmed enemy dead and 115 estimated, while suffering 46 deaths themselves and 204 wounded. The battle had been won by overwhelming American firepower. Artillery support from Chu L,ai had fired over three thousand rounds while the navy ships had supported the infantry with 1,562 rounds, sunk seven sampans apparently carrying fleeing VC, and pinned down one hundred enemy soldiers attempting to escape from the beach. Moreover, the Marines had benefited from the close coordination of tactical air power, a coordination that ARVN never seemed to achieve. General Walt later commented that air support was used "within 200 feet of our pinned down troops and was a very important factor in our winning the battle. I have never seen a finer example of close air support." The Marines had won by doing what American troops do best coordinating their firepower on land, sea, and air. But most important, the Marines had learned at least one valuable lesson from Starlite.

At General Thi's insistence no ARVN commander was even aware of the planned operation. At the last moment General Hoang Xuan Lam, whose men augmented the Marines during the second day of operations, was in formed of his role. Even American reporters did not arrive on the scene until the second day. As a result the VC were caught by total surprise. Future operations, similar in nature to Starlite, were much less successful. For political reasons the Marines had to inform ARVN of future operational plans and there by risk the likelihood of this knowledge somehow reaching the enemy.

The experience taught many minor lessons as well. The planned ration of two gallons of water per man each was insufficient in the heat of Vietnam. The M14 automatic rifle proved too heavy and bulky, especially for support troops who often crammed into small personnel carriers and the search began for a lighter, more maneuverable basic weapon.

Finally, for the Marines the operation dramatized the complexity of fighting a war among civilians. Publicly the Marines declared that only fortified enemy villages were destroyed, but the official "after-action" report stated: "Instances were noted where villages were severely damaged or destroyed by napalm or naval gunfire, where the military necessity of doing so was dubious.

Perhaps the most important outcome of Operation Starlite was its psychological lift. In the first major engagement between American troops and Main Force Vietcong soldiers the Americans had been victorious. Had the American forces lost, a real possibility given their in experience, the effects might have been severe indeed. The old tactics of the VC, which had worked so well against ARVN, failed to rout the Marines. So the enemy learned a lesson as well; it would be many months before they would again stand to fight against the Marines

For the Marines, Starlite, or the Battle of Chu Lai as became known in their lore, took on an almost mythic' importance. For those Marines who came later and for, whom the landings at Iwo Jima and Inchon Beach were the glory of another generation, the Battle of Chu Lai remained for many months the only evidence of what the Marines could do if the enemy stood and engaged.