Friday, October 30, 2009

Fix Bayonets
All US Marines have been armed with a rifle and bayonet at one time. Some of us have been on the battlefield waiting to hear the word, "Fix bayonets!'' - "Let's go!" as we moved out on the attack. At one time I could not fix bayonets since I was armed with a (BAR) Browning Automatic Rifle, but I kept running forward on the attack.

Bayonet History
A bayonet is a knife- or dagger-shaped weapon designed to fit on or over the muzzle of a rifle or similar weapon. It is a close combat weapon.

Its evolution can be traced to a certain extent to a fortuitous accident. In the mid-17th century irregular conflicts of rural France, the peasants of the Southern French town of Bayonne, having run out of powder and shot, rammed their long-bladed hunting knives into the muzzles of their primitive muskets to fashion impromptu spears, and by necessity created an ancillary weapon that was to influence Western European infantry tactics until the early 20th century.

The benefit of such a dual-purpose arm contained in one was soon apparent. The early muskets fired at a slow rate (about a round per minute when loading with loose powder and ball), and were unreliable. Bayonets provided a useful addition to the weapon-system when an enemy charging to contact could cross the musket's killing ground (a range of approx 100 yards/metres at the most optimistic) at the expense of perhaps only one volley from their waiting opponents. A foot long bayonet (extending to a regulation 17 inches (approx 43 centimetres) during the Napoleonic period, on a 6 foot (almost 2 meter) tall musket achieved a reach similar to the infantry spear, and later halberd, of earlier times.

Early bayonets were of the "plug" type. The bayonet had a round handle that fit directly into the musket barrel. This naturally prevented the gun from being fired.

Later "socket" bayonets offset the blade from the muzzle. The bayonet attached over the outside of the barrel with a ring-shaped socket, secured on later models by a spring-loaded catch on the muzzle of the musket barrel.

Many socket bayonets were triangular in order to provide sideways stability of the blade without much increase in weight. This design of bayonet did not include a handle to use the blade apart from the gun.

18th and 19th century military tactics included various massed bayonet charges and defences. The British Army was particularly known for its bayonet use, although towards the early 19th century and the flowering of Napoleonic warfare, the primacy of regular and speedy volley-fire saw the British eclipse their opponents in line to line infantry combat.

There are rumours among old (pre-World War I) soldiers of exotic bayonet techniques, almost as complex and involved as sword-fighting. Supposedly, rather than just the modern simplified blocks and thrusts, there were also cuts, counters and disarms, in which a sliding block would lead to an attack or disarmament. Supposedly, these techniques also taught use of edge and point, and special vulnerabilities such as wrists, ankles, neck, brachial and femoral arteries. Further, all types of moves are said to have been practised in every orientation, and relative position of the two fighters' weapons, in training methods similar to advanced sword-fighting. These techniques were possible because of the long periods of continued training of the professional armies before this period. Some old French training manuals from the 1850s survive to the present day and scans of them posted online do appear to support this contention.

A late 19th century Prussian bayonetIn the Geneva Accords on Humane Warfare, triangular and cross-sectional bayonets were outlawed because the wounds they produce do not close easily, and were said to be inhumane, though such designs are, despite this, not uncommon even today.

Most modern bayonets have a fuller (visible on the top half of the blade shown above), which is a concave depression in the blade designed to reduce the weight and increase the stiffness of the blade; it also allows air into the wound it produces, breaking the vacuum and making the bayonet easier to withdraw after a stabbing attack with it and less prone to getting stuck in the wound.

Even in modern warfare, bayonets are still used as weapons because, although most combat occurs at a diswhitece, troops are always required to close with an enemy to "mop-up". A bayonet also remains useful as a utility knife, and as an aid to combat morale. Despite the limitations of the bayonet, it is still issued in most armies and most armies still train with them. The modern sawback U.S. M9 Bayonet, officially adopted in 1984, is issued with a special sheath designed to double as a wire cutter. Some production runs of the M9 have a fuller and some do not, depending upon which contractor manufactured that batch and what the military specs were at the time. The M9 Bayonet replaces the M7 Bayonet of the 1960s, though in US Marine Corps use, the Ka-bar fighting knife of WWII is still issued. As of summer 2004, the US Marine Corps is also issuing small quantities of new bayonets of a different design from the M9, with an 8" Bowie knife-style blade and no fuller, manufactured by Ontario Knife Company of Ontario, New York.

Modern bayonets are often knife-shaped with handles and a socket, or permanently attached to the rifle as with the SKS. Depending on where and when a specific SKS was manufactured, it may have a permanently attached bayonet with a knife-shaped blade (Russian, Romanian, Yugoslavian, early Chinese), or a cruciform (late Chinese) or triangular (Albanian) spike-style bayonet of the type outlawed by the Geneva Accords, or no bayonet at all.

The push-twist motion of fastening the modern bayonet has given name to several connectors and contacts including the BNC ("Bayonet Neill-Concelman") connector.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eagle, Globe, and Anchor
(Noah's comment: When I joined the Marine Corps in the early '40s, we could not wear the emblem until we successfully graduated from boot-camp. We were not called Marine until we earned the emblem. The DI called us other things while in boot-camp, but not Marine. The commissioned officers are also happy to be referred to as Marine.)

The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is the official emblem of the United States Marine Corps. The current emblem traces its roots in the designs and ornaments of the early Continental Marines as well as the British Royal Marines. The present emblem, adopted in 1966, differs only by a change in the eagle from the emblem of 1868. Before that time many devices, ornaments, and distinguishing marks followed one another as official badges of the Corps.

In 1776, the device consisted of a "fouled anchor" of silver or pewter. (A fouled anchor is an anchor which has one or more turns of the chain around it). The fouled anchor still forms a part of the emblem today. Changes were made in 1798, 1821, and 1824. In 1834, it was prescribed that a brass eagle be worn on the hat, the eagle to measure 3 ½ inches from wingtip to wingtip. This early insignia is found on the buttons of Marine dress and service uniforms today.

During the early years numerous distinguishing marks were prescribed, including "black cockades," "scarlet plumes," and "yellow bands and tassels." In 1859 the origin of the present color scheme for the officer's dress uniform ornaments appeared on an elaborate device of solid white metal and yellow metal. The design included a United States shield, half wreath, a bugle, and the letter "M."

In 1868, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Brigadier General Jacob Zeilin appointed a board "to decide and report upon the various devices of cap ornaments of the Marine Corps." On November 13, 1868, the board turned in its report. It was approved by the Commandant four days later, and was signed by the Secretary of the Navy on November 19, 1868.

Design and symbolism
The emblem recommended by the 1868 board consisted of a globe (showing the Western Hemisphere) intersected by a fouled anchor, and surmounted by a spread eagle. On the emblem itself, the device is topped by a ribbon inscribed with the Latin motto "Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful). The uniform ornaments omit the motto ribbon.

The general design of the emblem was probably derived from the Royal Marines' "Globe and Laurel." The globe on the U.S. Marine emblem signifies continuing historical service in any part of the world. The eagle represents the nation of the United States. The anchor, whose origin dates back to the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775, acknowledges the naval tradition of the United States Marines and their continual service under the command of the Department of the Navy.

The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor can also symbolize the three elements in which the Marines operate; they are the only service that frequently see action in land, sea, and air. For example, the Army and Air Force may see action in the air and on the ground, but not the sea, with the Navy seeing action in the air and at sea, but not normally on ground.

There are slight differences between the enlisted and officer's emblem. The enlisted emblem is entirely gold, while the officer's emblem incorporates silver and gold. The officer's emblem is also marginally larger than the enlisted's emblem with the anchor's chain positioned differently than on the enlisted's emblem. Finally, Cuba is not present on the officer's emblem, since commissioned officers were not present during that particular campaign.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

United States Marines carried swagger sticks in the 19th and 20st century.

A swagger stick is a short stick or riding crop usually carried by a uniformed person as a symbol of authority. A swagger stick is shorter than a staff or cane, and is usually made from rattan.

1. History
Originally, it was a functional implement used to direct military drill and maneuvers, or to administer physical punishment. In the Roman army, short vine wood staffs were carried and used for corporal punishment by Centurions (often career soldiers), not by higher officers (often from the socio-political elite). Nowadays it is more often a traditional visual attribute. Swagger sticks are most familiarly carried by military officers or more senior non-commissioned officers. They are also often carried by officers in police and paramilitary forces.

2. United Kingdom armed forces
In the British Army and other militaries following the Commonwealth traditions, commissioned officers carry swagger sticks when in formal uniform as a symbol of rank. Warrant Officers and Senior NCOs carry longer pace sticks or regimental sticks instead, although a Regimental Sergeant Major may be seen sporting a swagger stick. British swagger sticks are often topped with a silver cap, bearing regimental insignia. A swagger stick remains an essential part of an officer's equipment, and they are supplied by traditional British military tailors such as Gieves & Hawkes and Goldings. Cavalry officers will often carry a riding crop rather than a swagger stick, in deference to their mounted traditions.

3. United States armed forces
Homer Litzenberg holding a swagger stick in his official portrait in the late 1950s

The swagger stick is not generally carried by US military officers, having long ago gone out of style.

Swagger sticks were once in vogue in the United States Marine Corps, starting as an informal accessory carried by officers in the late 19th century. In 1915, it gained official approval as recruiters were encouraged to carry them to improve public image. This tradition grew when Marines deployed for World War I encountered European officers carrying swagger sticks, leading to an entry in the uniform regulations in 1922 authorizing enlisted Marines to carry them as well. The usage died down in the 1930's and 40's, excepting China Marines, and returned in vogue when a 1952 regulation encouraging them; reaching a peak from 1956 to 1960, when Commandant Randolph M. Pate encouraged use. While stressing the need for uniforms to be simple and rugged, with no need for gimmicks and gadgets, General Pate commented:
There is one item of equipment about which I have a definite opinion. It is the swagger stick. It shall remain an optional item of interference. If you feel the need of it, carry it?

However, his successor, David M. Shoup, quickly discouraged their use:

..."the swagger stick symbolized elitist af­fectation, and it reminded him of some unpleasant ex­periences he had had in China." He had seen British officers toss money at Chi­nese men and then strike them with their swagger sticks as they picked up the coins off the ground. Few Marines carried the swagger stick after that.

Few, if any, contemporary officers feel the need to carry a swagger stick, and it has no official sanction in any branch.

4. Trivia
* US Army General George S. Patton carried a swagger stick throughout World War II; however his contained a concealed blade, similar to a Victorian gentlemen's sword cane.

* One of the original purposes of the swagger stick was to help keep the officers from putting their hands in their pockets.

* Is currently used by male tour guides at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida. Its purpose is to give male tour guides something to hold and use to direct guests' attention to, while female tour guides use a riding crop.

* In addition to his monocle, carrying around a swagger stick tucked under one arm was the trademark of Colonel Klink in Hogan's Heroes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lt. Gen. Lewis B. Puller
U.S. Marine Corps
Chesty retired from the Corps at Camp Lejeune, N.C. on 1 Nov. 1955. I, Noah, attended his retirement party at the Staff NCO Club.

Lieutenant General Lewis "Chesty" Burwell Puller, colorful veteran of the Korean fighting, four World War II campaigns and expeditionary service in China, Nicaragua and Haiti, was one of the most decorated Marines in the Corps, and the only Leatherneck ever to win the Navy Cross five times for heroism and gallantry in action. Promoted to his final rank and placed on the temporary disability retired list 1 November 1955, he died on 11 October 1971 in Hampton, Virginia after a long illness.

The general's last active duty station was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was commanding the 2d Marine Division when he became seriously ill in August 1954. After that he served as Deputy Camp Commander until his illness forced him to retire.

A Marine officer and enlisted man for 37 years, General Puller served at sea or overseas for all but ten of those years, including a hitch as commander of the "Horse Marines" in China. Excluding medals from foreign governments, he won a total of 14 personal decorations in combat, plus a long list of campaign medals, unit citation ribbons, and other awards. In addition to his Navy Crosses (the next-highest decoration to the Medal of Honor for Naval personnel), he holds its Army equivalent, the Distinguished Service Cross.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and his fifth Navy Cross for heroism in action as commander of the 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, during the bitter fight to break out of Korea's Chosin Reservoir area. The latter citation, covering the period from 5-10 December 1950, states in part:

"Fighting continuously in sub-zero weather against a vastly outnumbering hostile force, (the then) Colonel Puller drove off repeated and fanatical enemy attacks upon his Regimental defense sector and supply points. Although the area was frequently covered by grazing machine gun fire and intense artillery and mortar fire, he coolly moved among his troops to insure their correct tactical employment, reinforced the lines as the situation demanded and successfully defended his perimeter, keeping open the main supply routes for the movement of the Division.

During the attack from Koto-ri to Hungman, he expertly utilized his Regiment as the Division rear guard, repelling two fierce enemy assaults which severely threatened the security of the unit, and personally supervised the care and prompt evacuation of all casualties.

By his unflagging determination, he served to inspire his men to heroic efforts in defense of their positions and assured the safety of much valuable equipment which would otherwise have been lost to the enemy. His skilled leadership, superb courage and valiant devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds reflect the highest credit upon Colonel Puller and the United States Naval Service."

Serving in Korea from September 1950 to April 1951, the general also earned the Army Silver Star Medal in the Inchon landing, his second Legion of Merit with Combat "V" in the Inchon-Seoul fighting and the early phases of the Chosin Reservoir campaign, and three Air Medals for reconnaissance and liaison flights over enemy territory.

General Puller also fought with the 1st Marine Division in the World War II campaigns on Guadalcanal, Eastern New Guinea, Camp Gloucester and Peleliu, earning his third Navy Cross and the Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medals at Guadalcanal, his fourth Navy Cross at Cape Gloucester, and his first Legion of Merit with Combat "V" at Peleliu. He won his first Navy Cross in November 1930, and his second in September and October 1932, while fighting bandits in Nicaragua.

Born 26 June 1898, at West Point, Virginia, the general attended Virginia Military Institute until enlisting in the Marine Corps in August 1918. He was appointed a Marine Reserve second lieutenant 16 June 1919, but due to the reduction of the Marine Corps after World War I, was placed on inactive duty ten days later. He rejoined the Marines as an enlisted man on the 30th of that month, to serve as an officer in the Gendarmerie d'Haiti, a military force set up in that country under a treaty with the United States. Most of its officers were U.S. Marines, while its enlisted personnel were Haitians.

After almost five years in Haiti, where he saw frequent action against the Caco rebels, General Puller returned to the United States in March 1924. He was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant that same month, and during the next two years, served at the Marine Barracks, Norfolk, Virginia, completed the Basic School at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and served with the 10th Marines at Quantico, Virginia. He was then detailed to duty as a naval aviator at Pensacola, Florida, in February 1926.

In July of that year, the general embarked for a two-year tour of duty at the Marine Barracks, Pearl Harbor. Returning in June 1928, he served at San Diego, California, until he joined the Nicaraguan National Guard Detachment that December. After earning his first Navy Cross in Nicaragua he returned to the United States in July 1931, to enter the Company Officers Course at the Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia. He completed the course in June 1932, and returned to Nicaragua the following month to begin the tour of duty which brought him his second Navy Cross.

In January 1933, General Puller left Nicaragua for the west coast of the United States. A month later he sailed from San Francisco to join the Marine Detachment of the American Legation at Peiping, China. There, in addition to other duties, he commanded the famed "Horse Marines." Without coming back to the United States he began a tour of sea duty in September 1934, as commanding officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Augusta of the Asiatic Fleet. In June 1936, he returned to the United States to become an instructor in the Basic School at Philadelphia. He left there in May 1939, to serve another years as commander of the Augusta's Marine detachment, and from that ship, joined the 4th Marines at Shanghai, China, in May 1940.

After serving as a battalion executive and commanding officer with the 4th Marines, General Puller sailed for the United States in August 1941, just four months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In September he took command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune. That regiment was detached from the 1st Division in March 1942, and the following month, as part of the 3d Marine Brigade, it sailed for the Pacific theater. The 7th Marines rejoined the 1st Marine Division in September 1942, and General Puller, still commanding its 1st Battalion, went on to earn his third Navy Cross at Guadalcanal.

The action which brought him that medal occurred on the night of 24-25 October 1942. For a desperate three hours his battalion, stretched over a mile-long front, was the only defense between vital Henderson Airfield and a regiment of seasoned Japanese troops. In pouring jungle rain the Japanese smashed repeatedly at his thin line, as General Puller moved up and down its length to encourage his men and direct the defense. After reinforcements arrived he commanded the augmented force until late the next afternoon. The defending Marines suffered less than 70 casualties in the engagement, while 1,400 of the enemy were killed and 17 truckloads of Japanese equipment were recovered by the Americans.

After Guadalcanal the general became executive officer of the 7th Marines. He was fighting in that capacity when he won his forth Navy Cross at Cape Gloucester in January 1944. When the commanders of two battalions were wounded, he took over their units and moved through heavy machine gun and mortar fire to reorganize them for attack, then led them in taking a strongly-fortified enemy position.

In February 1944, General Puller took command of the 1st Marines at Cape Gloucester. After leading that regiment for the remainder of the campaign, he sailed with it for the Russell Islands in April 1944, and went on from there to command it at Peleliu in September and October 1944. He returned to the United States in November 1944, was named executive officer of the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune in January 1945, and took command of that regiment the next month.

In August 1946, General Puller became Director of the 8th Marine Corps Reserve District, with headquarters at New Orleans, Louisiana. After that assignment he commended the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor until August 1950, when he arrived at Camp Pendleton, California, to re-establish and take command of the 1st Marines, the same regiment he had led at Cape Gloucester and Peleliu.

Landing with the 1st Marines at Inchon, Korea, in September 1950 he continued to head that regiment until January 1951, when he was promoted to brigadier general and named Assistant Commander of the 1st Marine Division. That May he returned to Camp Pendleton to command the newly reactivated 3d Marine Brigade, which was redesignated the 3d Marine Division in January 1952. After that, he was Assistant Division Commander until he took over the Troop Training Unit, Pacific, at Coronado, California, that June. He was promoted to major general in September 1953, and in July 1954, assumed command of the 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. Despite his illness he retained that command until February 1955, when he was appointed Deputy Camp Commander. He served in that capacity until August, when he entered the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune prior to retirement. After his death in October 1971, he was buried in a family plot at the Christi's Church Cemetery, Middlesex County, Virginia.

As already mentioned, the general holds the Navy Cross with Gold Stars in lieu of four additional awards; the Army Distinguished Service Cross; the Army Silver Star Medal; the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V;" the Air Medal with Gold Stars in lieu of second and third awards; and the Purple Heart Medal. His other medals and decorations include the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with four bronze stars; the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with one bronze star; the World War I Victory Medal with West Indies clasp; the Haitian Campaign Medal; the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal; the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star; the China Service Medal; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the American Area Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with four bronze stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the United Nations Service Medal; the Haitian Medaille Militaire; the Nicaraguan Presidential Medal of Merit with Diploma; the Nicaraguan Cross of Valor with Diploma; the Republic of Korea's Ulchi Medal with Gold Star; and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, U.S. Army
In 1859, Colonel Robert E. Lee, US Army, commanding officer of 88 US Marines, attacked the Fire-house in Harpers Ferry, to capture or kill the radical abolitionist John Brown and his men.

In 1751, Robert Harper was given a patent on 125 acres making it a town in West Virginia. In 1761, Harper established a ferry across the Potomac, making the town a starting point for settlers moving into the Shenandoah Valle and further west. In 1763, the Virginia General Assembly established the town of "Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper's Ferry."

On October 25, 1783, Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry. He viewed "the passage of the Potomac though the Blue Ridge" from a rock which is now named for him. Jefferson was actually on his way to Philadelphia and passed through Harpers Ferry with his daughter Patsy. Jefferson called the site "perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature."

George Washington, as president of the Patowmack Company (which was formed to complete river improvements on the Potomac and its tributaries), traveled to Harpers Ferry during the summer of 1785 to determine the need for bypass canals. In 1794, Washington's familiarity with the area led him to propose the site for a new United States armory and arsenal. Some of Washington's family moved to the area; his great-great nephew, Colonel Lewis Washington, was held hostage during John Brown's raid in 1859.

In 1796, the federal government purchased a 125-acre parcel of land from the heirs of Robert Harper and, in 1799, construction began on the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. This was one of only two such facilities in the US, the other being Springfield, Massachusetts, and between them they produced most of the small arms for the US Army. The town was transformed into an industrial center: Between 1801 and its destruction in 1861 to prevent its capture during the Civil War, the Armory produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles, and pistols. Inventor Captain John H. Hall pioneered the use of interchangeable parts in firearms manufactured at his Rifle Works at the armory between 1820 and 1840; his M1819 Hall rifle was the first breech loading weapon adopted by the US Army.

This industrialization continued in 1833 when the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal reached Harpers Ferry linking it with Washington, D.C. A year later, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad began train service through the town.

John Brown's raid
On October 16, 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown led a group of 21 men in a raid on the Arsenal. Five of the men were black: three free blacks, one a freed slave, and one a fugitive slave. During this time, assisting fugitive slaves was illegal under the Dred Scott decision. Brown attacked and captured several buildings; he hoped to use the captured weapons to initiate a slave uprising throughout the South. The first shot mortally wounded Heyward Shepherd. Shepherd was a free black man who was a night baggage porter for the B&O Railroad that ran through Harpers Ferry near the armory. The noise from that shot roused Dr. John Starry from his sleep shortly after 1:00 a.m. He walked from his nearby home to investigate the shooting and was confronted by Brown's men. Starry stated that he was a doctor but could do nothing more for Shepherd, and Brown's men allowed him to leave. Instead of going home, Starry went to the livery and rode to neighboring towns and villages, alerting residents to the raid.

When he reached nearby Charles Town, they rang the church bells and aroused the citizens from their sleep. John Brown's men were quickly pinned down by local citizens and militia, and forced to take refuge in the engine house adjacent to the armory.

The Secretary of War asked for the assistance of the Navy Department for a unit of United States Marines, the nearest troops. Lieutenant Israel Greene was ordered to take a force of 86 Marines to the town. In need of an officer to lead the expedition, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee was found on leave nearby and was assigned as commander along with Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart as his aide-de-camp. The whole contingent arrived by train on October 18, and after negotiation failed, they stormed the fire house and captured most of the raiders, killing a few and suffering a single casualty themselves. Brown was tried for treason against the state of Virginia, convicted, and hanged in nearby Charles Town. Starry's testimony was integral to his conviction. Following the prosecution (by Andrew Hunter), "John Brown captured the attention of the nation like no other abolitionist or slave owner before or since." The Marines returned to their barracks and Colonel Lee returned to finish his leave. The raid was a catalyst for the Civil War.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Columbus Day - Oct. 12
For decades, American history books and school teaching told us that Christopher Columbus discovered America. What those books and teachings did not give credit to was the fact that Native Americans were already here first and truly discovered America. It also gave little mention to the fact that Nordic explorers had travelled down the eastern cost of Canada thousands of years earlier.

Today, we celebrate Columbus day for what it accurately is. Columbus did discover the existence of the New World for Europeans who until then, believed the world was flat and ended somewhere in the Atlantic. And, the focus is more upon discovery of the "New World", and less upon Columbus himself. Columbus day is sometimes referred to as "Discoverer's Day".

Christopher Columbus may be wrongly given credit for discovering the New World, but was he really the first person to step foot in this new land. What about the Native Americas? What about Leif Ericson? Or what about Americus Vespucius?

Approximately 20,000 years ago the first Native Americans came over a land bridge between Asia and North America. This bridge was over 1,000 miles wide. In 1492 about one million American Indians lived in the United States and Canada and about 20 million million Indians lived in South America.

In 1000 A. D. sailors from Norway called Vikings traveled from Iceland to Greenland. They were lead by Eric the Red. Eric the Red founded a colony on Greenland. Later his son, Leif Ericson, lead a group to Newfoundland in Canada. Unfortunately no maps were made of these travels. However in 1965 a Viking map dated 1440 was found. The Viking map showed parts of northeastern Canada.

About the same time Columbus was making his third voyage another explorer sailed for North America. His name was Americus Vespucius. Vespucius made maps of his travels. A German school teacher who was writing a new geography book found these maps. The school teacher called the New World America in honor of Vespucius.

What's reported about Christopher Columbus:
In Spanish he is called Cristobal Colon, in Portuguese Cristovio Colombo and in Italian Cristoforo Colombo. Italian mariner and navigator Christopher Columbus was widely believed to be the first European to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and successfully land on the American continent. Born between August and October 1451, in Genoa, Italy, Columbus was the eldest son of Domenico Colombo, a wool-worker and small-scale merchant, and his wife, Susanna Fontanarossa; he had two younger brothers, Bartholomew and Diego. He received little formal education and was a largely self-taught man, later learning to read Latin and write Castilian.

Columbus began working at sea early on, and made his first considerable voyage, to the Aegean island of Chios, in 1475. A year later, he survived a shipwreck off Cape St. Vincent and swam ashore, after which he moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where his brother Bartholomew, an expert chart maker, was living. Both brothers worked as chartmakers, but Columbus already nurtured dreams of making his fortune at sea. In 1477, he sailed to England and Ireland, and possibly Iceland, with the Portuguese marine, and he was engaged as a sugar buyer in the Portuguese islands off Africa (the Azores, Cape Verde, and Madeira) by a Genoese mercantile firm. He met pilots and navigators who believed in the existence of islands farther west. It was at this time that he made his last visit to his native city, but he always remained a Genoese, never becoming a naturalized citizen of any other country.

Returning to Lisbon, he married the well-born Dona Filipa Perestrello e Moniz in 1479. Their son, Diego, was born in 1480. Felipa died in 1485, and Columbus later began a relationship with Beatriz Enr?­quez de Harana of Cordoba, with whom he had a second son, Ferdinand. (Columbus and Beatriz never married, but he provided for her in his will and legitimatized Ferdinand, in accordance with Castilian law.)

By the time he was 31 or 32, Columbus had become a master mariner in the Portuguese merchant service. It is thought by some that he was greatly influenced by his brother, Bartholomew, who may have accompanied Bartholomew Diaz on his voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, and by Martin Alonso Pinzon, the pilot who commanded the Pinta on the first voyage. Columbus was but one among many who believed one could reach land by sailing west.

By the mid-1480s, Columbus had become focused on his plans of discovery, chief among them the desire to discover a westward route to Asia. In 1484, he had asked King John II of Portugal to back his voyage west, but had been refused. The next year, he went to Spain with his young son, Diego, to seek the aid of Queen Isabella of Castile and her husband, King Ferdinand of Aragon. Though the Spanish monarchs at first rejected Columbus, they gave him a small annuity to live on, and he remained hopeful of convincing them. In January of 1492, after being twice rebuffed, Columbus obtained the support of Ferdinand and Isabella. The favorable response came directly after the fall of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, which led Spanish Christians to believe they were close to eliminating the spread of Islam in southern Europe and beyond. Christian missionary zeal, as well as the desire to increase Spanish prominence in Europe over that of Portugal and the desire for gold and conquest, were the primary driving forces behind Columbus' historic voyage.

Columbus would make four voyages to the West Indies, but by the end of his final voyage, Columbus' health had deteriorated; he was suffering from arthritis as well as the aftereffects of a bout with malaria. With a small portion of the gold brought from Hispaniola, Columbus was able to live relatively comfortably in Seville for the last year of his life. He was emotionally diminished, however, and felt that the Spanish monarchs had failed to live up to their side of the agreement and provide him with New World property and gold, especially after Isabella's death. Columbus followed the court of King Ferdinand from Segovia to Salamanca to Vallodid seeking redress, but was rejected. He died in Vallodid on May 20, 1506. His remains were later moved to the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in Hispaniola, where they were laid with those of his son Diego. They were returned to Spain in 1899 and interred in Seville Cathedral.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Invasion That Never Was

Mainland Japan
By May 1945, as bitter fighting continued on Okinawa and Americans celebrated Germany's surrender, Pacific strategists had developed detailed plans for Operation Downfall, the two-phased invasion of the Japanese home islands to begin on 1 November. More than 5 million Allied troops would conduct the two largest planned amphibious assaults in history. As planned, all six Marine divisions and three Marine aircraft wings would play major combat roles.

Operation Olympic, the first phase of Operation Downfall, would involve the seizure of southern Kyushu by 14 divisions of the U.S. Sixth Army. Their objectives were to seize airfields, harbors, and staging areas for the subsequent buildup and launching of Operation Coronet, the amphibious assault by 23 divisions of the U. S. First and Eighth Armies on 1 March 1946 against the industrial and political heart of Japan, the Kanto Plain on Honshu. The Marine ground component for Olympic was V Amphibious Corps, composed of the 2d, 3d, and 5th Marine Divisions, under the command of Major General Harry Schmidt. For Coronet it was III Amphibious Corps (1st, 4th, and 6th Marine Divisions) under Major General Keller E. Rockey.

On 1 November, three corps of three divisions each would conduct simultaneous amphibious assaults against three separate locations on southern Kyushu. General Schmidt's V Amphibious Corps would seize a beachhead near Kushikino and then clear the Satsuma Peninsula, bordering the west side of Kagoshima Bay. The Army's XI Corps would land at Ariake Bay and take the eastern peninsula. I Corps would land further up the island's east coast. The three corps would move north and establish a defensive line, stretching from Sendai in the west to Tsuno in the east, effectively blocking Japanese reinforcements from moving south through the central mountains. If needed, a fourth corps and two additional divisions would reinforce the three assault corps.

The Japanese defensive plan for Kyushu encompassed three phases. First, thousands of suicide aircraft and boats would attack the American fleet, targeting troop transports in an effort to disrupt the landings. Second, newly organized defense divisions occupying heavy fortifications overlooking the beaches, would attempt to prevent the landing force from gaining a foothold. Finally, mobile divisions based inland would counterattack toward threatened positions. In August 1945, Japanese ground forces on Kyushu consisted of 14 divisions and several independent brigades, about 600,000 die-hard troops, most of whom were deployed near the invasion area.

Ideally, an attacking force should have at least a three-to-one superiority in numbers over the defenders. On Kyushu, American and Japanese ground forces would be of almost equal strength. In addition to regular military units, Allied forces would also face a large citizen militia, armed with whatever was at hand. The battle was expected to be bloody and costly. Lieutenant General Thomas A. Wornham, who commanded the 27th Marines and would have taken part in the assault, later noted that when he commanded the 3d Marine Division he would often commute between Japan and Okinawa and "we'd fly right over Kagoshima, and you could see the beaches where Operation Olympic was to be. ... Every time I flew over I'd say: 'Thank God that the Japanese decided to call the war off when they did, because I don't think any of us would have made it.' It was pretty wild country down there."

With Kyushu-based fighters furnishing air support, Operation Coronet would be launched in March 1946. First Army would land two corps abreast at Katakai and Choshi on the Pacific Coast east of Tokyo. The XXIV Corps (three divisions) and General Rockey's III Amphibious Corps would seize the peninsula flanking Tokyo Bay. The Eighth Army's two corps would land at Sagami Bay and seize the vital Yokohama-Yokosuka port complex. In subsequent operations, the First Army would advance on Tokyo from the east while the Eighth Army would attack the capital from the southwest. Facing Allied troops would be nine divisions totalling some 300,000 men, with an additional 27 to 35 divisions available as reinforcement.

The dropping of the atomic bombs ended the war and the need for an invasion of the Japanese home islands. If the invasion had proceeded, it would have been costly. While there is no way to accurately predict casualties, there is no doubt that the Japanese would have suffered immense losses, both military and civilian, dwarfing those inflicted by the atomic bombs. And American casualties certainly would have been in the hundreds of thousands.

(NOAH'S NOTE) I was on Okinawa at the time as a member of the First Marine Division. The dropping of the atomic bombs saved my life since it was not necessary to invade mainland Japan. Thanks to President Harry S. Truman, I live today in the year of 2009.