Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arthur MacArthur, Jr.
Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. (June 2, 1845 - September 5, 1912), was a United States Army General. He became the military governor of the American-occupied Philippines in 1900 but his term ended a year later due to clashes with the civilian governor, future President William Howard Taft. His son, Douglas MacArthur, also became a general in the Army, one of only five men elevated to General of the Army a five-star rank.

Just over four decades later, his son, Douglas MacArthur, would also gain fame for leading U.S forces to victory in the Philippines. Arthur MacArthur, Jr. and Douglas MacArthur were the first father and son ever to each be awarded a Medal of Honor. To date, the only other father and son to be given this honor (but both awarded posthumously) are former President Theodore Roosevelt and his son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

Early life

Born in Chicopee Falls, then part of Springfield, Massachusetts, MacArthur was the father of the famed general Douglas MacArthur, as well as Arthur MacArthur III, a captain in the Navy awarded the Navy Cross in World War I. His own father, Arthur MacArthur, Sr., was the fourth governor of Wisconsin (albeit for only four days) and a popular judge in Milwaukee.

Civil War
At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was living in Wisconsin and immediately joined the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, seeing action at Chickamauga, Stones River, Chattanooga, the Atlanta Campaign and Franklin. For his Civil War exploits he earned the Medal of Honor for his performance at Missionary Ridge and was brevetted colonel in the Army at the age of 19. His soldiers loved him so much that he became nationally recognized as "The Boy Colonel". MacArthur was recommended for the Medal of Honor for electrifying his regiment at Missionary Ridge during the Battle of Chattanooga in 1863, with the cry "On Wisconsin." He was awarded the Medal in 1890 for that service.

MacArthur left the Army in June 1865 and began the study of law, but it was not for him and he returned to his first love, the Army, on February 23, 1866, receiving a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Regular Army's U.S. 17th Infantry Regiment, with a promotion the following day to First Lieutenant. He was promoted in September of that year to Captain, due to his Civil War record; however he would remain a Captain for the following two decades, as promotion was slow in the small peacetime army.

Indian Wars
For thirty years, Captain MacArthur traveled the nation, being assigned to Pennsylvania, New York, Utah Territory, Louisiana and New Mexico. In 1884, MacArthur became the post commander of Fort Selden. In 1885, he took part in the campaign against Geronimo. In 1889, he was promoted to Assistant Adjutant General of the Army with the rank of major, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1897.

Spanish-American War
During the first part of the Spanish American War, MacArthur was serving as the adjutant general of the III Corps in Georgia. In June, 1898 he was promoted to a temporary Brigadier General in the volunteer army and commanded the Third Philippine Expedition. When he arrived in the Philippines he took command of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, VIII Corps and led it at the Battle of Manila (1898). He was appointed Major General of volunteers when the Spanish-American War ended.

Philippine-American War
MacArthur was stationed in the Dakota Territory when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 and was commissioned a Brigadier General of U.S. Volunteers. He led the U.S. 2nd Division, VIII Corps during the Philippine-American War at the Battle of Manila (1899), the Malolos campaign and the Northern Offensive. When the American occupation of the Philippines turned from conventional battles to guerrilla warfare, MacArthur commanded the Department of Northern Luzon. In January 1900, he was appointed Brigadier General in the regular army and was appointed military governor of the Philippines and assumed command of the VIII Corps, replacing General Elwell S. Otis.

He authorised the expedition, under General Frederick Funston, that resulted in the capture of Emilio Aguinaldo. MacArthur persuaded the captured Aguinaldo to cease fighting and to swear allegiance to the United States. He was promoted to Major General in 1902.

After the war, President William McKinley named him Military Governor of the Philippines, but the following year, William Howard Taft was appointed as Civilian Governor. Taft and MacArthur clashed frequently. So severe were his difficulties with Taft over U.S. military actions in the war that MacArthur was eventually relieved and transferred to command the Department of the Pacific, where he was promoted to Lieutenant General.

Return to the United States
In the years that followed, he was assigned to various stateside posts and in 1905 was sent to Manchuria to observe the final stages of the Russo-Japanese War and served as military attachй to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. He returned to the U.S. in 1906 and resumed his post as Commander of the Pacific Division. That year the position of Army Chief of Staff became available and he was then the highest ranking officer in the Army as a lieutenant general (three stars). However, he was passed over by Secretary of War William Howard Taft. He never did realize his dream of commanding the entire Army.

MacArthur retired from the Army on June 2, 1909, the day that he turned 64. On September 5, 1912, he went to Milwaukee to address a reunion of his Civil War unit. While on the dais, he suffered a massive heart attack and died there, aged 67. He was originally buried in Milwaukee on Monday, September 7, 1912, but was moved to Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery in 1926. He is buried among other members of the family there, while his son, Douglas chose to be buried in Norfolk, Virginia.

Awards and honors
Military awards and decorations include the Civil War Campaign Medal, Indian Campaign Medal, Spanish Campaign Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, and the Medal of Honor. Fort MacArthur, which protected the San Pedro, California harbor from 1914 until 1974, was named after General Arthur MacArthur.

Medal of Honor citation
Rank and Organization:
First Lieutenant, and Adjutant, 24th Wisconsin Infantry. Place and date: At Missionary Ridge, Tenn., November 25, 1863. Entered service at: Milwaukee, Wis. Birth: Springfield, Mass. Date of issue: June 30, 1890.
Seized the colors of his regiment at a critical moment and planted them on the captured works on the crest of Missionary Ridge.

Just over four decades later, his son, Douglas MacArthur, would also gain fame for leading U.S forces to victory in the Philippines. Arthur MacArthur, Jr. and Douglas MacArthur were the first father and son ever to each be awarded a Medal of Honor. To date, the only other father and son to be given this honor (but both awarded posthumously) are former President Theodore Roosevelt and his son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Michael A. Monsoor, Petty Officer - U.S. Navy SEAL
Michael Anthony Monsoor (April 5, 1981 – September 29, 2006) was a U.S. Navy SEAL killed during the Iraq War and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Monsoor enlisted in the United States Navy in 2001 and graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 2004. After further training he was assigned to Delta Platoon, SEAL Team Three.

Delta Platoon was sent to Iraq in April 2006 and assigned to train Iraqi Army soldiers in Ramadi. Over the next five months, Monsoor and his platoon frequently engaged in combat with insurgent forces. On September 29, 2006 an insurgent threw a grenade onto a rooftop where Monsoor and several other SEAL and Iraqi soldiers were positioned. Monsoor quickly smothered the grenade with his body, absorbing the resulting explosion and most likely saving his comrades from serious injury or death. Monsoor died 30 minutes later from serious wounds caused by the grenade explosion.

On March 31, 2008, the United States Department of Defense confirmed that Michael Monsoor would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. Bush presented the medal to Monsoor's parents on April 8, 2008. In October 2008, United States Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced that DDG-1001, the second ship in the Zumwalt class of destroyers, would be named Michael Monsoorn in honor of Monsoor.

Early life and military service
Michael was the third of four children born to a Marine father in Long Beach, California. Afflicted with asthma as a child, Monsoor strengthened his lungs by racing his siblings in the family's swimming pool. Monsoor attended Garden Grove High School in Garden Grove, California. He played tight-end on the school's football team and graduated in 1999.

Monsoor enlisted in the United States Navy on March 21, 2001, and attended Basic Training at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois. Upon graduation from basic training, he attended Quartermaster "A" School, and then transferred to Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Italy for a short period of time. He entered Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training but had to drop out because of an injury. He later reentered and graduated from Class 250 on September 2, 2004 as one of the top performers in his class. After BUD/S, he completed advanced SEAL training courses including parachute training at Basic Airborne School, cold weather combat training in Kodiak, Alaska, and six months of SEAL Qualification Training in Coronado, California graduating in March 2005. The following month, his rating changed from Quartermaster to Master-at-Arms, and he was assigned to Delta Platoon, SEAL Team Three.

Iraq deployment
SEAL Team Three was sent to Ramadi, Iraq in April 2006 and assigned to train Iraqi Army soldiers. As a communicator and machine-gunner on patrols, Monsoor carried 100 pounds of gear in temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees. He took a lead position to protect the platoon from frontal assault. The team was involved in frequent engagements with insurgent fighters. During the first five months of deployment, the team reportedly killed 84 insurgents.

During an engagement on May 9, 2006, Monsoor ran into a street while under continuous insurgent gunfire to rescue an injured comrade. Monsoor was awarded the Silver Star for this action. He was also awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.

On September 29, 2006, Monsoor's platoon engaged four insurgents in a firefight, killing one and injuring another. Anticipating further attacks, Monsoor, three SEAL snipers and three Iraqi Army soldiers took up a rooftop position. Civilians aiding the insurgents blocked off the streets, and a nearby mosque broadcast a message for people to fight against the Americans and the Iraqi soldiers. Monsoor was protecting other SEALs, two of whom were 15 feet away from him. Monsoor's position made him the only SEAL on the rooftop with quick access to an escape route.

A grenade was thrown onto the rooftop by an insurgent on the street below. The grenade hit Monsoor in the chest and fell onto the floor. Immediately, Monsoor yelled "Grenade!" and jumped onto the grenade, covering it with his body. The grenade exploded seconds later and Monsoor's body absorbed most of the force of the blast, likely saving the lives of three other people. Monsoor was severely wounded and although evacuated immediately, he died 30 minutes later. Two other SEALs next to him at the time were injured by the explosion but survived.

Monsoor was described as a "quiet professional" and a "fun-loving guy" by those who knew him. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

During Monsoor's funeral, as his coffin was being moved from the hearse to the grave site, Navy SEALs were lined up on both sides of the pallbearers route forming a column of two's, with the coffin moving up the center. As Monsoor's coffin passed, each SEAL, having removed his gold Trident from his own uniform, slapped it down deeply embedding the Trident in Monsoor's wooden coffin. The slaps were audible from across the cemetery. By the time the coffin arrived at grave side, it looked as though it had a gold inlay from all the SEAL badges pinned onto it.

The symbolic display moved many, including U.S. President George W. Bush, who spoke about the incident during a speech.

"The procession went on nearly half an hour," Bush said. "And when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten.

On March 31, 2008, the United States Department of Defense confirmed that Michael Monsoor would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. Monsoor's parents George and Sally Monsoor, received the medal on his behalf at an April 8, ceremony at the White House held by the President. Monsoor became the fourth American servicemember and second Navy SEAL — each killed in the line of duty — to receive the United States' highest military award during the War on Terrorism.

In October 2008, United States Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced that DDG-1001, the second ship in the Zumwalt class of destroyers, would be named Michael Monsoor in honor of Petty Officer Monsoor.

Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously 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 as Automatic Weapons Gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006.As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army sniper overwatch element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent-held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element's position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy's initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor's chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pfc. Jacklyn H. Lucas, USMCR
Jacklyn Harrell Lucas was born on 14 February 1928 in Plymouth, North Carolina. He was an all-around athlete in high school, but in August 1942, perhaps with his mother's consent, he left school at the age of fourteen to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve. Following recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, Lucas was assigned to posts in Florida and North Carolina. During this time, he qualified as a heavy machine gun crewman. In late 1943 he joined the Fifth Amphibious Corps at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Promoted to Private First Class early in 1944, upon discovery of his true age he was kept in rear area duties for nearly a year. Desiring to see combat, Lucas left his unit in early January 1945 and stowed away on the attack transport Deuel. After a month of hiding on board the ship, Lucas turned himself in and, though he had been declared a deserter and reduced in rank to Private, was allowed to join the Fifth Marine Division, then en route to assault Iwo Jima.

Serving as a rifleman with his newly acquired unit, Private Lucas participated in landing operations which began on 19 February 1945. The following day, while creeping through a twisting ravine near the ill-defined front line, his small party was attacked by enemy troops. When two hand grenades landed in his foxhole, Lucas threw himself over one incoming grenade, then pulled the second under his body, absorbing both blasts and saving his companions. Though initially thought to be dead, he was later found to be alive and evacuated for medical treatment. For his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty", Lucas was awarded Medal of Honor. At the age of seventeen, he was the youngest Marine to receive this award.

While recovering from his injuries at the Naval Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina in the summer of 1945, the mark of desertion was removed from his service record and Lucas was again promoted to Private First Class. Discharged from the Marines in September for disability resulting from his combat injuries, Jacklyn H. Lucas was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on 5 October 1945, during ceremonies at the White House. In postwar decades Lucas was a successful businessman in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., served as a U.S. Army paratrooper and made inspirational appearances before active duty service personnel and veterans. He died at Hattiesburg, Mississippi on 5 June 2008.

Medal of Honor citation
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the First Battalion, Twenty-Sixth Marines, FIFTH Marine Division, during action against the enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 20 February 1945. While creeping through a treacherous, twisting ravine which ran in close proximity to a fluid and uncertain front line on D-plus-1 day, Private First Class Lucas and three other men were suddenly ambushed by a hostile patrol which savagely attacked with rifle-fire and grenades. Quick to act when the lives of the small group were endangered by two grenades which landed directly in front of them, Private First Class Lucas unhesitatingly hurled himself over his comrades upon one grenade and pulled the other under him, absorbing the whole blasting forces of the explosions in his own body in order to shield his companions from the concussion and murderous flying fragments. By his inspiring action and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice, he not only protected his comrades from certain injury or possible death but also enabled them to rout the Japanese patrol and continue the advance. His exceptionally courageous initiative and loyalty reflect the highest credit upon Private First Class Lucas and the United States Naval Service."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Donald E. Ballard
U.S. Navy Corpsman

Donald E. Ballard (born December 5, 1945) is an American colonel in the Kansas National Guard and former member of the United States Navy, in which he was a Hospital Corpsman in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Ballard was born in Kansas City, Missouri and it was there that he enlisted in the United States Navy. Sent to Vietnam, Ballard served as a corpsman in the Quang Tri province with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines (Mike 3/4) of the 3rd Marine Division. On May 16, 1968, Ballard treated two Marines suffering from heat exhaustion, and when returning to his unit from the casualty evacuation helicopter pad he and his company were attacked by the North Vietnamese Army. While under fire, Ballard directed aid to other wounded US Marines and when a grenade landed nearby, he lay on top of it to protect the wounded. The grenade failed to explode and Ballard was able to throw it away to explode harmlessly, and then continue to treat the wounded. For his actions, he received the United States of America's highest award, the Medal of Honor.

In 1970, Ballard received his medal from President Richard M. Nixon and General Westmoreland. He then left the United States Navy and enlisted in Army officer candidate school. Westmoreland offered Ballard a direct commission, however Ballard turned it down for personal reasons. Ballard later joined the Kansas National Guard, and served as an ambulance platoon leader, company commander, and was tasked with creating the new 'Medical Detachment 5', a unit which performs medicals on Guard members in order to save the cost of contracting outside medical help, and of which he was the first member and commander.

On April 5, 1998, Ballard was promoted to colonel by Major General James F. Krueger and currently serves as Special Assistant to the Adjutant General. Inducted into the National Guard Hall of Fame in November 2001, Ballard is one of only three Medal of Honor recipients currently on active service in the United States and the only Kansas Guardsman to have received the award. He is also the subject of a memorial statue at the National Medical War Memorial in Kansas City, depicting Ballard during the action for which he received the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Hospital Corpsman Second Class, United States Navy, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. Place and date: Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, May 16, 1968. Entered service at: Kansas City, Mo. Born: December 5, 1945, Kansas City, Mo.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HM2 with Company M, in connection with operations against enemy aggressor forces. During the afternoon hours, Company M was moving to join the remainder of the 3d Battalion in Quang Tri Province. After treating and evacuating 2 heat casualties, HM2 Ballard was returning to his platoon from the evacuation landing zone when the company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit employing automatic weapons and mortars, and sustained numerous casualties. Observing a wounded marine, HM2 Ballard unhesitatingly moved across the fire swept terrain to the injured man and swiftly rendered medical assistance to his comrade. HM2 Ballard then directed 4 marines to carry the casualty to a position of relative safety. As the 4 men prepared to move the wounded marine, an enemy soldier suddenly left his concealed position and, after hurling a hand grenade which landed near the casualty, commenced firing upon the small group of men. Instantly shouting a warning to the marines, HM2 Ballard fearlessly threw himself upon the lethal explosive device to protect his comrades from the deadly blast. When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly arose from his dangerous position and resolutely continued his determined efforts in treating other marine casualties. HM2 Ballard's heroic actions and selfless concern for the welfare of his companions served to inspire all who observed him and prevented possible injury or death to his fellow marines. His courage, daring initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of extreme personal danger, sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Louis Cukela
United States Marine
Louis Cukela (Croatian: Luj Čukela, pronounced "chukela") (May 1, 1888 – March 19, 1956) was a United States Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor by both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy for the same action during the World War I Battle of Soissons. He was also awarded decorations from France, Italy, and his native Yugoslavia.

Louis Cukela, an ethnic Croat, was born in Split, Croatia (then Austria-Hungary). He was educated in the grade schools of Split, then attended the Merchant Academy and later, the Royal Gymnasium, both for two year courses. In 1913, Cukela immigrated to the United States and he and his brother settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

On September 21, 1914, he enlisted in the United States Army. He was serving as a corporal in Company H, 13th Infantry when he was honorably discharged on June 12, 1916.

World War I
Seven months later, on January 31, 1917, with war raging in Europe and prior to the United States entry into the war, Cukela enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He became a member of the 66th Company, 1st Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment.

He was deployed to France in 1918 and fought in all the engagements in which the 5th Marines participated, from Belleau Wood to the Meuse River Crossing.

In France in 1918, Cukela fought in every battle of the Marine Brigade, from Belleau Wood to the Meuse River Crossing. Along the way he collected a commission as a second lieutenant, as well as the Medal of Honor and four Silver Star Citations. From the French, there was the Legion d’Honneur, the Medaille Militaire (the first award of this prestigious decoration to a Marine officer) and the Croix de Guerre 1914-18 with two palms and one silver star. Italy decorated him with the Croce al Merito di Guerra, while Yugoslavia weighed in with the Commander’s Cross of the Royal Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor by both the Army and the Navy for the same action on the morning of July 18, 1918, near Villers-Cotterets, France, during the Soissons engagement. The 66th Company, 5th Marines, in which Cukela was then a gunnery sergeant, was advancing through the Forest de Retz when it was held up by an enemy strong point. Despite the warnings of his men, the gunnery sergeant crawled out from the flank and advanced alone towards the German lines. Getting beyond the strong point despite heavy fire, "Gunny" Cukela captured one gun by bayoneting its crew. Picking up their hand grenades, he then demolished the remaining portion of the strong point from the shelter of a nearby gun pit. He took four prisoners and captured two undamaged machine guns.

Cukela was wounded in action twice but since there is no record of either wound at the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, he was never awarded the Purple Heart. The first wound was suffered at Jaulny, France, on September 16, 1918 during the St. Mihiel engagement. Cukela was wounded again during the fighting in the Champagne sector. Neither wound was serious.

In addition to the two Medals of Honor, Cukela was awarded the Silver Star by the Army; the Médaille militaire (he was the first Marine officer ever to receive this medal), the Légion d'honneur in the rank of Chevalier, the Croix de guerre with two palms, another Croix de guerre with silver star, all by France; the Croce al Merito di Guerra by Italy; and Commander's Cross of the Royal Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia. He also received three Second Division citations.

Cukela received a field appointment to the rank of second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve on September 26, 1918 and was selected for a commission in the regular Marine Corps on March 31, 1919. Promoted to first lieutenant on July 17, 1919, he was advanced to the rank of captain on September 15, 1921. His promotion to major was effected on the day of his retirement, June 30, 1940.

After WW I
After the war, Cukela served at overseas bases in Haiti, Santo Domingo, the Philippines, and China, and at domestic stations in Quantico, Virginia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Norfolk, Virginia; Hampton Roads, Virginia; Mare Island, California; Washington, D.C.; Nashville, Indiana, and Fort Knox, Kentucky.

From June 1933 to January 1934, Cukela served as a company commander with the Civilian Conservation Corps. His last years in the Marine Corps were spent at Norfolk, where he served as the post quartermaster. Retired as a major on June 30, 1940, he was recalled to active duty on July 30, of the same year.

Retirement death
During World War II the major served at Norfolk and Philadelphia. He finally returned to the inactive retired list on May 17, 1946. Cukela served a few days less than 32 years of active duty in the Army and Marines.

On March 19, 1956, Cukela died at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland. Following services at St. Jane Frances de Chantel Church, Bethesda, he was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on March 22, 1956.

Major Cukela had the following decorations and medals; Medal of Honor (Navy); Medal of Honor (Army); Silver Star; Victory Medal with Aisne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Defensive Sector clasps and three silver stars; Haitian Campaign Medal, Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with one star; Yangtze Service Medal; American Defense Service Medal; American Area Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Médaille militaire; Légion d'honneur; two Croix de guerre with two palms; Croix de guerre with Silver Star; Croce al Merito di Guerra; Commander's Cross of the Royal Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia; and the French fourragère.

Medal of Honor citations
Navy citation:
For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, during action in Forest de Retz, near Viller-Cottertes, France, 18 July 1918. Sgt. Cukela advanced alone against an enemy strong point that was holding up his line. Disregarding the warnings of his comrades, he crawled out from the flank in the face of heavy fire and worked his way to the rear of the enemy position. Rushing a machine-gun emplacement, he killed or drove off the crew with his
bayonet, bombed out the remaining part of the strong point with German hand grenades, and captured two machineguns and four men.

Army citation:
When his company, advancing through a wood, met with strong resistance from an enemy strong point, Sgt. Cukela crawled out from the flank and made his way toward the German lines in the face of heavy fire, disregarding the warnings of his comrades. He succeeded in getting behind the enemy position and rushed a machinegun emplacement, killing or driving off the crew with his bayonet. With German hand grenades he then bombed out the remaining portion of the strong point, capturing 4 men and 2 damaged machineguns.

Family and origin
Louis Cukela was the son of George and Jovana (Bubrich) Cukela. His mother died in 1900. After he had immigrated to the U.S., his father and three sisters remained in Austria-Hungary.

Cukela was married to Minnie Myrtle Strayer of Miflintown, Pennsylvania on December 22, 1923 in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Cukela died on August 10, 1956 just months after Major Cukela. At the time of his death, Major Cukela was also survived by a sister, Mrs. Zorka Cukela Dvoracek, of Šibenik Croatia).

There has been some controversy regarding Cukela's ethnicity. He rarely spoke about his heritage. During his lifetime he was called "an Austrian, Slav, Yugoslav, Serb and Croat", whereas Cukela preferred to be called an American Marine.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Frank Baldwin
Received Medal of Honor twice

Frank Dwight Baldwin, (June 26, 1842 – April 22, 1923) a native of Constantine, Michigan, and born in Manchester, Michigan, is one of only 19 servicemen to receive the Medal of Honor twice. Baldwin received this award for his actions during the Atlanta Campaign where he led his company to battle at Peachtree Creek and captured two commissioned officers in the American Civil War. He received his second Medal of Honor for conspicuous bravery in 1874 during the Indian Wars.

He served through the Civil War in the 19th Michigan Infantry, fighting in all his regiment's battles from 1862 to 1865. Upon the postbellum reorganization of the Regular Army, he was commissioned into the 19th United States Regular Infantry as a Second Lieutenant. He eventually was assigned to the 5th U.S. Infantry, with whom he fought in the various frontier conflicts with the Indians. His actions in an attack on an Indian village on the Red River in Montana on December 18, 1876, earned him a brevet of Captain, U.S. Regular Army (awarded on February 27, 1890).

He served with distinction under General Nelson A. Miles as chief of scouts during campaigns against Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Baldwin also served in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. He was promoted to Brigadier General, U.S. Regular Army on June 9, 1902. In 1906, he was advanced to Major General, after which he retired from active duty.

Baldwin ended his career as adjutant general of the state of Colorado. He died in Denver, Colorado, and was buried with full military honors in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife Alice Blackwood Baldwin honored the general's war contributions by compiling and editing the memoirs of her late husband in 1929. Along with General Baldwin, three other two time Medal of Honor recipients are interred in Arlington National Cemetery (Navy Lieutenant Commander John C. McCloy, Marine Major Louis Cukela, and Marine Corporal John Henry Pruitt).

First Medal of Honor
Rank and organization: Captain, Company D, 19th Michigan Infantry; First Lieutenant, 5th U.S. Infantry. Place and date: At Peachtree Creek, Georgia, July 12, 1864. Date of issue: December 3, 1891. Under a galling fire ahead of his own men, and singly entered the enemy's line, capturing and bringing back two commissioned officers, fully armed, besides a guidon of a Georgia regiment.

Second Medal of Honor
Place and date: At McClellan's Creek, Texas, November 8, 1874. Citation: Rescued, with 2 companies, 2 white girls by a voluntary attack upon Indians whose superior numbers and strong position would have warranted delay for reinforcements, but which delay would have permitted the Indians to escape and kill their captives.

Veteran's Hall of Fame
Inducted into the Hillsdale County, Michigan Veteran's Hall of Fame in 2004 for his distinguished service in the American Civil War. Hall of Fame inductee 016, Civil War inductee 004.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

United States Department of Veterans Affairs
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a government-run military veteran benefit system with Cabinet-level status. It is responsible for administering programs of veterans’ benefits for veterans, their families, and survivors. The benefits provided include disability compensation, pension, education, home loans, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, survivors’ benefits, medical benefits and burial benefits. It is administered by the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

It was formerly called the Veterans Administration, also called the VA, which was established July 21, 1930, to consolidate and coordinate government activities affecting war veterans. The VA incorporated the functions of the former U.S. Veterans' Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

On October 25, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation creating a new federal Cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs to replace the Veterans Administration effective March 15, 1989.

In both its old and new forms, the VA drew its mission statement from an extract of President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address: " care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan."

It is a single-payer government-run health-care system, and the American government’s second largest department, after the United States Department of Defense. With a total 2009 budget of about $87.6 billion, VA employs nearly 280,000 people at hundreds of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, clinics, and benefits offices.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs lists several benefits for veterans including education, home loans, deferred compensation, pension, survivors' benefits, burial, vocational rehabilitation, employment, and life insurance.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is headed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The current Secretary of Veterans Affairs is Ret. General Eric Shinseki.

The Department has three main subdivisions, known as Administrations, each headed by an Undersecretary:

* Veterans Health Administration - responsible for providing health care in all its forms, as well as for medical research
* Veterans Benefits Administration - responsible for initial veteran registration, eligibility determination, and five key lines of business (benefits and entitlements): Home Loan Guaranty, Insurance, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Education (GI Bill), and Compensation & Pension
* National Cemetery Administration - responsible for providing burial and memorial benefits, as well as for maintenance of VA cemeteries

Costs for care
As is common in any time of war, recently there has been an increased demand for nursing home beds, injury rehabilitation, and mental health care. VA categorizes veterans into eight priority groups and several additional subgroups, based on factors such as service-connected disabilities, and one’s income and assets (adjusted to local cost of living). Veterans with a 50% or higher service-connected disability as determined by a VA regional office “rating board” (e.g., losing a limb in battle, PTSD, etc) are provided comprehensive care and medication at no charge. Veterans with lesser qualifying factors who exceed a pre-defined income threshold have to make co-payments for care for non-service-connected ailments and pay $8 per 30-day supply for each prescription medication. VA dental and nursing home care are more restricted. Reservists and National Guard who served stateside in peacetime settings or have no service-related disabilities generally do not qualify for VA benefits. (Detailed list of eligibility criteric.) VA in recent years has opened hundreds of new convenient outpatient clinics in towns across America, while steadily reducing inpatient bed levels at its hospitals.

VA’s budget has been pushed to the limit in recent years by the War on Terrorism. In December 2004, it was widely reported that VA’s funding crisis had become so severe that it could no longer provide disability ratings to veterans in a timely fashion. This is a problem because until veterans are fully transitioned from the active-duty TRICARE healthcare system to VA, they are on their own with regard to many healthcare costs. The VA has worked to cut down screening times for these returning combat vets (they are now often evaluated by VA personnel well before their actual discharge), and they receive first priority for patient appointments. VA’s backlog of pending disability claims under review (a process known as “adjudication”) peaked at 421,000 in 2001, and bottomed out at 254,000 in 2003, but crept back up to 340,000 in 2005.

Many veterans may not know that they may qualify for VA services with no copayment required for military-related conditions. If a veteran is dealing with a problem that started or was aggravated due to military service, it is still advisable for that person to go to a VA Regional Office and apply for a service connected disability. Service organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans (the claimant need not be a member), as well as state-operated Veterans Affairs offices and County Veteran Service Officers (CVSO), can also assist in this process. It will be beneficial for the affected veteran to support their claim with proof of ongoing health care.

In the United States Federal Budget for fiscal year 2009, President George W. Bush, requested $38.7 billion - or 86.5% of the total Veterans Affairs budget - for veteran medical care alone.
Security breach
In May 2006, a laptop computer containing in the clearr (unencrypted) the social security numbers of 26.5 million U.S. veterans was stolen from a Veterans Affairs analyst’s home. The analyst violated existing VA policy by removing the data from his workplace. On August 3, 2006, a computer containing personal information in the clear on up to 38,000 veterans went missing. The computers have since been recovered and on August 5, 2006, two men were charged with the theft. In early August 2006, a plan was announced to encrypt critical data on every laptop in the agency using disk encryption software. Strict policies have also been enacted that require a detailed description of what a laptop will be used for and where it will be located at any given time. Encryption for e-mail had already been in use for some time but is now the renewed focus of internal security practices for sending e-mail containing patient information.
How Did US Navy SEALs Get Started?
Responding to President Kennedy's desire for the Services to develop an Unconventional Warfare (UW) capability, the U.S. Navy established SEAL Teams ONE and TWO in January of 1962. Formed entirely with personnel from Underwater Demolition Teams, the SEALs mission was to conduct counter guerilla warfare and clandestine operations in maritime and riverine environments.

SEAL involvement in Vietnam began immediately and was advisory in nature. SEAL advisors instructed the Vietnamese in clandestine maritime operations. SEALs also began a UDT style training course for the Biet Hai Commandos, the Junk Force Commando platoons, in Danang. In February 1966, a small SEAL Team ONE detachment arrived in Vietnam to conduct direct-action missions.

On May 1, 1983, all UDTs were redesignated as SEAL Teams or Swimmer Delivery Vehicle Teams (SDVT). SDVTs have since been redesignated SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams.

Special Boat Units can also trace their history back to WWII. The Patrol Coastal and Patrol Boat Torpedo are the ancestors of today's PC and MKV. Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THREE rescued General MacArthur (and later the Filipino President) from the Philippines after the Japanese invasion and then participated in guerrilla actions until American resistance ended with the fall of Corregidor.

SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams historical roots began during WWII, however with Italian and British combat swimmers and wet submersibles. Naval Special Warfare entered the submersible field in the 1960's when the Coastal Systems Center developed the Mark 7, a free-flooding SDV of the type used today, and the first SDV to be used in the fleet. The Mark 8 and 9 followed in the late 1970's. Today's Mark 8 Mod 1 and the soon to be accepted for fleet use Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), a dry submersible, provide NSW with an unprecedented capability that combines the attributes of clandestine underwater mobility and the combat swimmer.

In response to the attacks on America Sept. 11, 2001, Naval Special Warfare forces put operators on the ground in Afghanistan in October. The first military flag officer to set foot in Afghanistan was a Navy SEAL in charge of all special operations for Central Command. Additionally, a Navy SEAL captain commanded Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) South. Commonly referred to as Task Force K-BAR, the task force included U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force and Coalition SOF forces. During Operation Enduring Freedom, NSW forces carried out more than 75 special reconnaissance and direct action missions, destroying more than 500,000 pounds of explosives and weapons; positively identifying enemy personnel and conducting Leadership Interdiction Operations in the search for terrorists trying to escape by sea-going vessels.

Naval Special Warfare has played a significant role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, employing the largest number of SEALs and SWCC in its history. NSW forces were instrumental in numerous special reconnaissance and direct action missions including the securing of the southern oil infrastructures of the Al Faw peninsula and the off-shore gas and oil terminals; the clearing of the Khawr Abd Allah and Khawr Az Zubayr waterways that enabled humanitarian aid to be delivered to the vital port city of Umm Qasr; reconnaissance of the Shat Al Arab waterway; capture of high value targets, raids on suspected chemical, biological and radiological sites; and the first POW rescue since WWII. Additionally, NSW is also fighting the war on terrorism in other global hot spots including the Philippines and the Horn of Africa.

NSW is committed to combating the global terrorist threats. In addition to being experts in special reconnaissance and direct action missions, the skill sets needed to combat terrorism; NSW is postured to fight a dispersed enemy on their turf. NSW forces can operate from forward-deployed Navy ships, submarines and aviation mobility platforms as well as overseas bases and its own overseas units.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

John Wilkes Booth shoots Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln is shot in the head at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged," as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback. Lincoln died the next morning.
Booth was a well-regarded actor who was particularly loved in the South before the Civil War. During the war, he stayed in the North and became increasingly bitter when audiences weren't as enamored of him as they were in Dixie. Along with friends Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlin, and John Surratt, Booth conspired to kidnap Lincoln and deliver him to the South.
On March 17, along with George Atzerodt, David Herold, and Lewis Paine, the group met in a Washington bar to plot the abduction of the president three days later. However, when the president changed his plans, the scheme was scuttled. Shortly afterward, the South surrendered to the Union and the conspirators altered their plan. They decided to kill Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward on the same evening.
When April 14 came around, Atzerodt backed out of his part to kill Johnson. Upset, Booth went to drink at a saloon near Ford's Theatre. At about 10 p.m. he walked into the theater and up to the president's box. Lincoln's guard, John Parker, was not there because he had gotten bored with the play, Our American Cousin, and left his post to get a beer. Booth easily slipped in and shot the president in the back of the head. The president's friend, Major Rathbone, attempted to grab Booth but was slashed by Booth's knife. Booth injured his leg badly when he jumped to the stage to escape, but he managed to hobble outside to his horse.
Meanwhile, Lewis Paine forced his way into William Seward's house and stabbed the secretary of state several times before fleeing. Booth rode to Virginia with David Herold and stopped at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who placed splints on Booth's legs. They hid in a barn on Richard Garrett's farm as thousands of Union troops combed the area looking for them. The other conspirators were captured, except for John Surratt, who fled to Canada.
When the troops finally caught up with Booth and Herold on April 26, they gave them the option of surrendering before the barn was burned down. Herold decided to surrender, but Booth remained in the barn as it went up in flames. Booth was then shot and killed in the burning barn by Corporal Boston Corbett. On July 7, George Atzerodt, Lewis Paine, David Herold, and John Surratt's mother, Mary, were hanged in Washington. The execution of Mary Surratt is believed by some to have been a miscarriage of justice. Although there was proof of Surratt’s involvement in the original abduction conspiracy,it is clear that her deeds were minor compared to those of the others who were executed.
Her son John was eventually tracked down in Egypt and brought back to trial, but he managed, with the help of clever lawyers, to win an acquittal.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

LWRC Infantry Automatic Rifle
The LWRC (LWRCI) Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) is a variant of the LWRC SRT, which is in turn, based on the AR platform (specifically the M4 Carbine). It is designed to fulfill the role of the squad automatic weapon. Like the LWRC SRT, the LWRC IAR utilizes a gas-piston design in lieu of the AR's direct impingement design. It was developed for the United States Marine Corps Infantry Automatic Rifle program, which seeks to replace the M249 SAW with a lighter, more reliable and durable 5.56mm weapon.

The weapon fires from a closed bolt in semi-automatic mode, and from an open bolt during full automatic mode which is labeled as "OBA" for Open Bolt Automatic. While in OBA mode, the first round may be fired from a closed bolt (it will then lock back and subsequent shots will be from an open bolt until the operator manually closes the bolt again).

Firing from an open bolt increases cooling and eliminates the potential for accidental discharges due to rounds "cooking off" in an overheated chamber. It also allows for a faster rate of fire. However an open bolt design means that the first round fired will have reduced accuracy when compared to a closed bolt design. This is due to the fact that when the trigger is pulled, the bolt slams forward under spring tension, stripping a round from the feeding device, chambering it, then firing it. This sequence of events shakes the firearm and takes a (possibly crucial) split second longer than a closed bolt design to fire the first round (greater lock time). This also introduces extra potential points of failure in the ignition of the first round.

The IAR's ability to fire from both modes allows the gunner to deploy the weapon in OBA mode with a round chambered on a closed bolt. This allows the gunner to fire his first round as accurately, reliably, and quickly as a rifleman, while following that initial round with Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) level of fire

The plan is to have the USMC buy 4100 IARs to replace 2000 of the Corps' SAWs. This will reduce the number of SAWs in the Marine Corps from 10,000 to 8000. The remaining 8000 M249s will be kept in service, as the M249 will not completely go away in the USMC. The Army has ruled out the option of replacing the SAW with the IAR, because it would result in a loss of fire going from 200 round belts to 30 round mags, and instead is looking into a new belt feed light machine gun such as the MK 46 LMG.

The weapon was featured on the Discovery Channel show "Future Weapons" during its third season, under the first episode "Firepower".

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gary Gordon
Master Sergeant, US Army
(My thanks to Ed Gilley of Gulf Breeze, Fla. for bringing my attention to this great American hero.)
Master sergeant Gary Ivan Gordon (August 30, 1960 – October 3, 1993) is a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor. At the time of his death, he was a non-commissioned officer in the United States Army's special operations unit, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1SFOD-D), or "Delta Force." Together with Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart, he earned the Medal of Honor for actions he performed during the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993.

Gary Gordon was born in Lincoln, Maine in 1960. He graduated from Mattanawcook Academy in 1978. Gordon joined the U.S. Army at age 18. Gordon earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Ranger tab and the Special Forces tab. He served with the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Special Forces Group before being chosen to join the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1SFOD-D), or "Delta Force" as a sniper.

Combat and death in Somalia
Gordon was deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia with other Delta members in the summer of 1993 as part of Task Force Ranger. On October 3, 1993 Gordon was Sniper Team Leader during Operation Gothic Serpent, a joint-force assault mission to apprehend key advisers to Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. During the assault, Super Six One, one of the Army's Black Hawk helicopters providing insertion and air support to the assault team, was shot down and had crashed in the city. A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) team was dispatched to the first crash site to secure it. Shortly thereafter, Super Six Four was shot down as well. Ranger forces on the ground were not able to assist the downed helicopter crew of the second crash site as they were already engaged in heavy combat with Aidid's militia and making their way to the first crash site.
Gordon and his Delta Force sniper teammates Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart and Sergeant First Class Brad Hallings who were providing sniper cover from the air, requested to be dropped at the second crash site in order to protect the four critically wounded crew, despite the fact that large numbers of armed, hostile Somalis were converging on the area.

Mission commanders denied Gordon's request, saying that the situation was already too dangerous for the three Delta snipers to effectively protect the Blackhawk crew from the ground. Command's position was that the snipers could be of more assistance by continuing to provide air cover. Gordon, however, concluded that there was no way for the Black Hawk crew could survive on their own, and repeated his request twice until he finally received permission. Sergeant First Class Brad Hallings had assumed control of a minigun after a crew chief was injured and was not inserted with Shughart and Gordon.

Once on the ground, Gordon and Shughart, armed with only their personal weapons and sidearms, had to fight their way to the location of the downed Blackhawk. By this time more Somalis were arriving who were intent on either capturing or killing the American servicemen. When they reached Super Six Four, Gordon and Shughart extracted the pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant and the other crew members from the aircraft, and established defensive positions around the crash.

Despite having inflicted heavy casualties against the Somalis, the two Delta snipers were too outnumbered and outgunned. Their ammunition nearly depleted, Gordon and Shughart finally were killed by Somali gunfire. It is believed that Gordon was first to be fatally wounded. His teammate Shughart retrieved Gordon's CAR-15 assault rifle and gave it to Durant to use. Shortly after, Shughart was killed and Durant was taken alive. Immediately after the battle, the Somalis counted 24 of their own men dead with many more severely wounded who may have died later of their wounds.

There was some confusion in the aftermath of the action as to who had been killed first. The official citation states that it was Shughart, but author Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, the best-selling book about the October 1993 events, relates an account by Sergeant Paul Howe, another Delta operator participating in the battle. Howe said that he heard Shughart call for help on the radio and that the weapon handed to Durant was not the distinctive M14 used by Shughart. It is likely that Durant would have commented had it been an M14, as that weapon is very different from the CAR-15 Gordon had. Furthermore, Howe said that Shughart would never have given his own weapon to another soldier to use while he was still able to fight.

In Durant's book, In the Company of Heroes, he states that Gordon was on the left side of the Blackhawk, after both he and Shughart moved Durant to a safer location, and only heard Gordon say, "Damn, I'm hit." Afterwards Shughart came from the left side of the Blackhawk with the CAR-15.

After the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, United States Special Forces units were inserted into Afghanistan to assist the Northern Alliance forces in overthrowing the Taliban and Al-Quaeda terrorists. Following an intense mountain battle known as Operation Anaconda in March 2002, U.S. troops searching a bunker complex found a GPS unit and holding pouch labeled "G. Gordon". Intelligence analysts believed at first this was Sergeant Gordon's GPS unit that he purchased on the private market and used in Somalia. The Gordon family was notified immediately of the find prior to the information being released to the public. It ultimately turned out that it wasn't Gordon's GPS but one of a helicopter pilot lost in an earlier fight during operation Anaconda.

Medal of Honor citation
On May 23, 1994, both Gordon and Shughart were posthumously decorated the Medal of Honor in recognition for the actions they took and the sacrifices they made to help protect the life of Durant and the crew of Super Six Four. They were the only soldiers participating in Operation Gothic Serpent to receive the military's highest honor, and the first Medal of Honor recipients since the Vietnam War.

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army. Place and date: 3 October 1993, Mogadishu, Somalia. Entered service at: ----- Born: Lincoln, Maine. Citation: Master Sergeant Gordon, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as Sniper Team Leader, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Master Sergeant Gordon's sniper team provided precision fires from the lead helicopter during an assault and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. When Master Sergeant Gordon learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the second crash site, he and another sniper unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After his third request to be inserted, Master Sergeant Gordon received permission to perform his volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Master Sergeant Gordon was inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon and his fellow sniper, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Master Sergeant Gordon immediately pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Master Sergeant Gordon used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers until he depleted his ammunition. Master Sergeant Gordon then went back to the wreckage, recovering some of the crew's weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that he was critically low on ammunition, he provided some of it to the dazed pilot and then radioed for help. Master Sergeant Gordon continued to travel the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. After his team member was fatally wounded and his own rifle ammunition exhausted, Master Sergeant Gordon returned to the wreckage, recovering a rifle with the last five rounds of ammunition and gave it to the pilot with the words, "good luck." Then, armed only with his pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon continued to fight until he was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot's life. Master Sergeant Gordon's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army.

Many things have been named after Gordon. Gordon Elementary School in Linden Oaks, Harnett County, North Carolina, which opened in January 2009, was named in his honor. The school is near Fort Bragg, where Gordon was stationed before being deployed to Somalia.

In the 2001 film Black Hawk Down, Gordon was portrayed by Danish actor Nikolaj Coster Waldau; the account would generally follow that of the book.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easter Egg Rolling
Fun for children on the White House lawn <> Monday, April 13.

Egg rolling, or an Easter egg roll is a traditional game played with eggs at Easter. Different nations have different versions of the game, usually played with hard-boiled, decorated eggs.

The pre-Christian Saxons had a spring goddess Eostre, whose feast was held on the Vernal Equinox, around 21 March. Her animal was the spring hare, and the rebirth of the land in spring was symbolised by the egg. Pope Gregory the Great ordered his missionaries to use old religious sites and festivals and absorb them into Christian rituals where possible. The Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Christ was ideally suited to be merged with the Pagan feast of Eostre and many of the traditions were adopted into the Christian festivities. In England, Germany and other countries children traditionally rolled eggs down hillsides at Easter and it is thought that this may have become symbolic of the rolling away of the rock from Jesus Christ’s tomb before his resurrection. This tradition, along with others such as the Easter Bunny, were taken to the New World by European settlers

United States
In the United States, the Easter Egg Roll is an annual event, and is held on the White House lawn each Easter Monday for children and their parents.

The Egg Roll itself is a race, where children push an egg through the grass with a long-handled club. Surrounding events include appearances by White House personalities in Easter Bunny costumes, speeches and book-reading by Cabinet secretaries, and exhibits of artistically-decorated eggs.

Dolley Madison, the wife of President James Madison, began the event in 1814 and hundreds of children brought their decorated eggs to join in games. The original site was on the grounds of the United States Capitol, but in 1877 a new lawn was planted and the gardeners cancelled the event. Congress then passed a law making it illegal to use the grounds as a children's playground. At the request of a number of children, including his own, the then President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife Lucy Hayes brought the event to the White House lawns. The practice was abandoned during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency, and revived by Mamie Eisenhower during her husband's term in office. Mrs. Eisenhower opened the event to black children for the first time.

United Kingdom
In the UK the tradition of rolling decorated eggs down grassy hills goes back hundreds of years and is known as "pace-egging", from the Old English Pasch meaning Easter. In Lancashire there are annual egg rolling competitions at Avenham Park in Preston and at Holcome Hill near Ramsbottom. There is an old Lancashire legend that says the broken eggshells should be carefully crushed afterwards or they will be stolen and used as boats by witches.
Other traditional egg rolling sites are the castle moat at Penrith, Bunkers Hill in Derby and Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. The eggs were traditionally wrapped in onion skins and boiled to give them a mottled gold appearance (although today they are usually painted) and the children competed to see who could roll their egg the furthest.

The eggs were eaten on Easter Sunday or given out to pace-eggers – fantastically dressed characters who processed through the streets singing traditional pace-egging songs and collecting money as a tribute before performing traditional mumming plays. This tradition has also survived at Linctus Peverell in the Cotswolds. The young men of the village dress as mummers and sing the traditional - Gander song, - the first verse of which is:

Roodle oh my doddle oh
Roodle all the day
Now all you gay bachelors listen oh to me
Never get wed if you want to stay free
Billy cock, Billy cock
For who will boggle me gander
When I am far away?
Roodle oh my doddle oh
Roodle all the day

Other countries
In Germany, a prize is awarded to the contestant whose egg rolls fastest down a track made of sticks. In Holland, the contestant whose egg rolls furthest wins a prize. In Egypt, children bowl red and yellow eggs towards another row of eggs and whoever cracks one egg can claim them all. In eastern Europe, there are other traditions such as egg tapping and egg decorating.
FOOTNOTE: Millions of eggs in a shell are cooked during the Easter holiday. Let me suggest to you how best to cook them before the Easter paint job. I offer this recipe and suggest you don't over cook by boiling them too long.

Hard-Boiled Eggs
There is a right way and a wrong way in cooking eggs in the shell. This is a right way to cook them perfectly to your tastes without that gray-green tinge. Hard-boiled eggs should not be boiled for any length of time.

1. Place eggs in single layer in saucepan.
2. Cover with at least one inch of cold water over tops of shells.
3. Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil over medium heat.
4. As soon as the water comes to a full boil, remove from heat and let stand.
5. Large soft-cooked eggs: let stand in hot water 1 to 4 minutes, depending on your tastes.
6. Large hard-cooked eggs: let stand in hot water 15 to 17 minutes.
7. When cooked to desired level, drain off hot water.
8. Immediately cover with cold water and add a few ice cubes.
9. Soft-cooked eggs: let stand in cold water until cool enough to handle. Serve.
10. Hard-cooked eggs: let stand in cold water until completely cooled. Use as needed.

1. Never boil eggs. It makes them rubbery.
2. Use older eggs. Fresh ones won't peel properly.
3. To keep eggs from cracking while cooking (before placing in water), pierce large end with a needle, which will also make them easier to peel.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Mexican American War
The Pacific Squadron, also known as the Pacific Station, was part of the United States Navy squadron stationed in the Pacific Ocean in the 1800s and early 1900s. Initially with no U.S. ports in the Pacific they operated out of storeships which provided naval supplies and purchased food (when available) and obtained water from local ports of call in Hawaii and the West Coast. Over one-half the U.S. Navy would be sent to join the Pacific Squadron during the Mexican American War.

Established in 1821, this small force confined its activities initially to the Pacific waters off South America, North America and Hawaii protecting United States commercial shipping interests. It expanded its scope of operations to include the Western Pacific in 1835, when the East India Squadron joined the force. The squadron was reinforced when war with Mexico began to seem a possibility. Sailing from the east coast to the west coast around Cape Horn was a 13,000 miles (21,000 km) to 15,000 miles (24,000 km) journey that typically took from 130 to 210 days.

The Pacific Squadron was instrumental in the capture of California in the Mexican American War of 1846-1848 after war was declared on 24 April 1846. The Navy was essentially the only significant U.S. military force on the Pacific coast in the early months of the Mexican American War. They had orders, in the event of war, to seize the ports in California. There was a small exploratory force of Lieutenant Colonel John C. Fremont's 60 man exploratory expedition (about half were Army soldiers the rest Indians and ex-mountain men) in the U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers. Fremont joined forces (apparently with 'secret orders' to assist in any revolution in California) with a volunteer force of California residents who formed the California Battalion to help garrison the towns rapidly captured from the Californio government. The California Battalion varied in size with time from about 160 initially to over 400. Under John D. Sloat, Commodore of the Pacific Squadron, the USS Savannah (Frigate, 44 guns, crew 480) USS Cyane, and USS Levant (both were Cyane class sloops with: 22 guns, crews of about 200, 132 feet long, 792 tons) captured the California capital of Monterey California without firing a shot 7 July 1846. USS Portsmouth (sloop 20 guns, crew of 210) captured San Francisco 9 July 1846 without firing a shot. Shortly thereafter the short lived Bear Flag Rebellion was converted into a U.S. military conflict for possession of California. The Frigate USS Congress (44 guns crew 480, 1,867 tons 197 feet long) was the flagship of Commodore Robert F. Stockton when he took over as the senior U.S. military Commander in California in late July 1846. The USS Congress is credited with capturing San Pedro, California 6 August 1846 and helping capture Mazatlan, Mexico 44 November 1847. The ships (and their accompanying storehouse ships) served as floating store houses keeping Fremont's volunteer force of about 300-400 men in the California Battalion supplied with powder, lead and supplies as well as transporting them to different California ports. The USS Cyane transported Fremont and about 160 of his men to San Diego, California which was captured 29 July 1846 without a shot being fired. Commodore Robert Stockton appointed Fremont as military governor of California. In addition Commodore Stockton used about 400-500 marines and bluejacket sailors from his squadron to supplement the approximate 90 men supplied by Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny and Fremont's volunteer California Battalion of about 400 men to re-take Los Angeles and convince the Californios to sign on 13 January 1847 the Treaty of Cahuenga, terminating the war in upper California.

The retired Ship of the line USS Independence (1814) was brought back into service, cut down and recommissioned as a razee Frigate. The newly reconfigured ship removed the old top deck and reduced the gun count from 90 to 54 making her much easier to sail. The rebuilt USS Independence (1814), now classified as a 'heavy' Frigate, launched on 4 August 1846 when the nation was already at war with Mexico and departed Boston 29 August 1846 for California. She entered Monterey Bay on 22 January 1847 and became the flagship of Commodore William Shubrick, now commanding the Pacific Squadron.

In July of 1846, Colonel Jonathan D Stevenson of New York was asked to raise a volunteer regiment of ten companies of 77 men each or 770 men to go to California with the understanding that they would be muster out and stay in California. They were designated the 1st New York Volunteers. In August and September the regiment trained and prepared for the trip to California. Three private merchant ships, Thomas H Perkins, Loo Choo, and Susan Drew, were chartered, and the Sloop USS Preble was assigned convoy detail. On September 26, the four ships sailed for California. Fifty men who had been left behind for various reasons sailed on 13 November 1846 on the small Storeship Brutus. The Susan Drew and Loo Choo reached Valparaiso, Chile by 20 January 1847 and they were on their way again by 23 January. The Perkins did not stop until San Francisco, reaching port on 6 March 1847. The Susan Drew arrived on 20 March and the Loo Choo arrived on 26 March 1847, six months (183 days) after leaving New York. The Brutus finally arrived on 17 April 1847. Counting desertions and deaths the three ships brought 599 men plus 49 more on the Brutus to California. The companies were then deployed throughout Upper and Lower California from San Francisco to La Paz, Mexico. The ship Isabella sailed from Philadelphia on 16 August 1847, with a detachment of one hundred soldiers, and arrived in California on February 18th, 1848; at about the same time that the ship Sweden arrived with another detachment of soldiers. These troops essentially replaced all Pacific Squadron's on shore military and garrison duties.

USS Independence assisted in the blockade of the Mexican Pacific coast, capturing the Mexican ship Correo and a launch on 16 May 1847. She supported the capture of Guaymas Mexico on 19 October 1847 and landed bluejackets and Marines to occupy Mazatlán, Mexico on 11 November 1847. She later cruised as far as Hawaii, arriving Honolulu on 12 August 1848. Independence returned to the East Coast Naval base at Norfolk, Virginia on 23 May 1849 and was decommissioned there on 30 May 1849.

After upper California was secure most of the squadron proceeded down the California coast capturing all major Baja California cities and capturing or destroying nearly all Mexican vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. Baja was given back to the Mexicans when a dispatch rider was captured with dispatches that gave instructions to the United States negotiators in Mexico City that Baja was 'negotiable'--the Mexican negotiators promptly 'negotiated' it back. Numerous Mexican ships were also captured by this squadron with the USS Cyane given credit for 18 captures and numerous destroyed ships. Entering the Gulf of California, Independence, Congress and Cyane seized La Paz captured and/or burned the small Mexican fleet at Guaymas. Within a month, they cleared the Gulf of hostile ships, destroying or capturing 30 vessels. Independence Congress, and Cyane and their bluejackets and Marines captured the town of Mazatlan, Mexico, 11 November 1847. USS Cyane returned to Norfolk 9 October 1848 to receive the congratulations of the Secretary of the Navy for her significant contributions to American victorys in Mexico and California. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in February 1848, marked the end of the Mexican-American War.

This is about the end of the U.S. Sailing Navy's use of sailing ships as armored steamships were rapidly introduced in the American Civil War.

The extent of the Pacific Squadron's responsibility was further enlarged in the 1850's when California and Oregon were admitted to the country and Navy bases on the west coast were established.

In 1903, the squadron consisted of armored cruiser New York, cruisers Boston and Marblehead and the gunboat Ranger.

In early 1907, the Pacific Fleet was formed. The Asiatic Squadron became the First Squadron and the Pacific Squadron became the Second Squadron.