Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thompson submachine gun
The Thompson submachine gun is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1919 that became infamous during the Prohibition era. It was a common sight of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals. The Thompson was also known informally as: the "Tommy Gun," the "Trench Broom," the "Trench Sweeper," the "Chicago Piano," the "Chicago Typewriter," and the "Chopper."

The Thompson was favored by soldiers, criminals and police alike for its ergonomics, compactness, large .45 ACP cartridge, and high volume of automatic fire and among civilian collectors for its historical significance.

The Thompson Submachine Gun was developed by General John T. Thompson who originally envisioned an auto rifle (semi-automatic rifle) to replace the bolt action service rifles then in use. While searching for a way to allow such a weapon to operate safely without the complexity of a recoil or gas operated mechanism, Thompson came across a patent issued to John Bell Blish in 1915 based on adhesion of inclined metal surfaces under pressure. Thompson found a financial backer, Thomas F. Ryan, and started the Auto-Ordnance Corporation in 1916 for the purpose of developing his auto rifle. The principal designers were Theodore H. Eickhoff, Oscar V. Payne, and George E. Goll. By late 1917, the limits of the Blish Principle were discovered: rather than working as a locked breech, it functioned as a friction-delayed blowback action. It was found that the only cartridge currently in U.S. service suitable for use with the lock was the .45 ACP round. Thompson then envisioned a "one-man, hand-held machine gun" in .45 ACP as a "trench broom" for use in the on-going trench warfare of World War I. Payne designed the gun itself and its stick and drum magazines. The project was then titled "Annihilator I", and by 1918, most of the design issues had been resolved. However, the war ended before prototypes could be shipped to Europe.

At an Auto-Ordnance board meeting in 1919 to discuss the marketing of the "Annihilator", with the war over, the weapon was officially renamed the "Thompson Submachine Gun". While other weapons had been developed shortly prior with similar objectives in mind, the Thompson was the first weapon to be labeled and marketed as a "submachine gun". Thompson intended the weapon as an automatic 'trench-broom' to sweep enemy troops from the trenches, filling a role for which the BAR had been proven ill-suited. Contemporaneously, this concept was developed by German troops using their own Bergmann MP18 submachine guns in concert with sturmtruppen tactics.

Early use
The Thompson first entered production as the M1921. It was available to civilians, though its high price resulted in few sales. (A Thompson M1921 with one Type XX 20 shot "stick" magazine was priced at $200.00 when a Ford automobile sold for $400.00.) M1921 Thompsons were first sold in small quantities to the U.S. Post Office (to protect the mail from a spate of robberies), followed by several police departments in the United States and minor international sales to various armies and constabulary forces, chiefly in Central and South America. The U.S. Post Office also gave Thompsons to the U.S. Marine Corps in 1922 when Marines were assigned to protect against mail robberies, with the Marines putting them to use in the Banana Wars and in China. It was popular with the Marines as a point-defense weapon for countering ambush by Nicaraguan guerrillas and led to the organisation of 4 man fire teams with as much firepower as a 9 man rifle squad. The major complaints against the Thompson were its weight, inaccuracy at ranges over 50 yards, and its lack of penetrating power, despite the powerful round it used.

Some of the first batches of Thompsons were bought in America by agents of the illegal Irish Republic, notably Harry Boland. A total of 653 were purchased, but 495 were seized by US customs authorities in New York in June 1921. The remainder made their way to the Irish Republican Army by way of Liverpool and were used in the last month of the Irish War of Independence (1919-21). After a truce with the British in July 1921, the IRA imported more Thompsons and they were used in the subsequent Irish Civil War (1922-23). They were not found to be very effective in Ireland however. In only 32% of actions where it was used did the Thompson cause serious casualites (death or serious injury) to those attacked.

The Thompson achieved most of its early notoriety in the hands of Prohibition and Depression-era gangsters, motorized bandits and the lawmen who pursued them and in Hollywood films about their exploits, most notably in the St Valentine's Day Massacre. It was often referred to as the "gun that made the twenties roar."

In 1926, the Cutts Compensator (a recoil brake) was offered as an option for the M1921; Thompsons with the compensator were catalogued as No. 21AC, with the plain M1921 designated No. 21A.

Nationalist China also acquired a quantity for use against Japanese land forces, and eventually began producing copies of the Thompson in small quantities for use by its various armies and militias.

World War II
In 1938, the Thompson submachine gun was adopted by the U.S. military, serving during World War II and beyond.

There were two military types of Thompson SMG. The M1928A1 had provisions for box magazines and drums (the drums were disliked because of their tendency to rattle and jam). It had a Cutts compensator, cooling fins on the barrel, and its charging handle was on the top of the receiver. The M1 and M1A1 had a barrel without cooling fins, a simplified rear sight, provisions only for box magazines, and the charging handle was on the side of the receiver. Because the option to use drums was not included in the M1 and M1A1, the 30 round box magazine was designed for use with this model.

The Thompson was used in World War II in the hands of Allied troops as a weapon for scouts, non-commissioned officers (corporal, sergeant and higher ranking), and patrol leaders. In the European theater, the gun was widely utilized in British and Canadian Commando units, as well as U.S. paratrooper and Ranger battalions who used it widely because of its high rate of fire, its stopping power and because it was very effective in close combat. A Swedish variant of the M1928A1, called Kulsprutepistol m/40 (meaning "submachine gun model 40"), served in the Swedish Army between 1940 and 1951. Through Lend-Lease, the Soviet Union also received the Thompson, but due to a shortage of appropriate ammunition in the Soviet Union, usage was not widespread.

In the Pacific Theater, Australian Army infantry and other Commonwealth forces initially used the Thompson extensively in jungle patrols and ambushes, where it was prized for its firepower, though its hefty weight of over 10 pounds and difficulties in supply eventually led to its replacement by other submachine guns such as the Owen and Austen. The U.S. Marines also used the Thompson as a limited-issue weapon, especially during their later island assaults. The Thompson was soon found to have limited effect in heavy jungle cover, where the low-velocity .45 bullet would not penetrate most small-diameter trees, or protective armor vests (in 1923, the Army had rejected the .45 Remington-Thompson, which had twice the energy of the .45ACP). In the U.S. Army, many Pacific War jungle patrols were originally equipped with Thompsons in the early phases of the New Guinea and Guadalcanal campaigns, but soon began employing the BAR in its place, especially at front (point) and rear (tail) positions, as a point defense weapon. The Argentine company Hafdasa and the Buenos Aires based firm Halcon manufactured the C-4 and M-1943 submachine guns which have a very similar layout and performance to the Thompson Gun, both weapons chambered in 9x19mm for the Argentine Army and .45 ACP for the Argentine Police forces. These weapons were a serious contender to the Thompson Gun but did not see much service outside Argentina.

After World War II
By the time of the Korean War, the Thompson had seen much use by the U.S. and South Korean Military, even though Thompson will have been replaced in production by the M3 and M3A1. Many Thompsons were distributed to Chinese armed forces as military aid before the fall of Chiang Kai-Shek's government to Mao Zedong's Communist forces in 1949. During the Korean War, American troops were surprised to encounter Chinese Communist troops heavily armed with Thompsons, especially during surprise night assaults. The gun's ability to deliver large quantities of short-range automatic assault fire proved very useful in both defense and assault during the early part of the conflict. Many of these weapons were captured and placed into service with American soldiers and Marines for the balance of the war.

During the Vietnam War, some South Vietnamese army units and defense militia were armed with Thompson submachine guns, and a few of these weapons were used by reconnaissance units, advisors, and other American troops. It was later replaced by the M16. Not only did some U.S. soldiers have use of them in Vietnam, but they encountered it as well. The Vietcong liked the weapon, and used both captured models as well as manufacturing their own copies in small jungle workshops.

In the conflict in Northern Ireland, known as 'The Troubles' (1969-1998), the Thompson was again used by the Irish Republican paramilitiaries. According to historian Peter Hart, "The Thompson remained a key part of both the Official IRA and Provisional IRA arsenals until well into the 1970s when it was superseded by the Armalite and the AK-47"

The Thompson was also used by U.S. and overseas law enforcement and police forces, most prominently by the FBI. The FBI used Thompsons until 1976, when it was declared obsolete. All Thompsons in U.S. government possession were destroyed, except for a few token museum pieces and training models.

The Thompson, or copies of the gun, are still seen from time to time in modern day conflicts, such as the Bosnian War.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Evans Fordyce Carlson
Carlson's Raiders
U.S. Marine Corps

Brigadier General Evans Fordyce Carlson (26 February 1896 - 27 May 1947) was the famed U.S. Marine Corps leader of the World War II "Carlson's Raiders". He is renowned for the "Makin Island Raid" on August 17, 1942 and their "Long Patrol" (aka Carlson's patrol or Carlson's Raiders) from November 4, 1942 to December 4, 1942 behind Japanese lines on Guadalcanal, in which 488 Japanese were killed, 16 Raiders were killed and 18 wounded, during the Guadalcanal campaign.

Early years
Evans Carlson was born on 26 February 1896 in Sidney, New York, the son of a Congregationalist minister. He ran away from his home in Vermont in 1910 and two years later disguised his age to enter the United States Army.

Service in the U.S. Army
During his first enlistment in the Army, he served in the Philippines and Hawaii. He was discharged in 1916 as a "top" or first sergeant. Less than a year later, he returned to the Army and participated in the Mexican punitive expedition.

During World War I, he saw action in France, and was awarded a Wound Chevron (later exchanged for the Purple Heart) for wounds received in action. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in May 1917, and made captain of field artillery in December 1917. He served in Germany with the Army of Occupation. He was discharged from the Army in 1921.

Early Marine Corps career
Carlson's famed career as a Marine started in 1922 when he enlisted as a private. In 1923, he was again commissioned a second lieutenant. After duty at MCB Quantico, Virginia, he sailed for Culebra, Puerto Rico in 1924 and remained there five months before being ordered to the West Coast for duty with the Pacific Fleet. Applying for aviation training in 1925, he went to Naval Aeronautical Station Pensacola, Florida, for instruction, but was subsequently returned to duty with ground units. He served another tour of foreign shore duty from 1927 to 1929 at Shanghai, China.

Carlson was ordered to Nicaragua in 1930 as an officer in the Guardia Nacional. A first lieutenant at the time, he earned his first Navy Cross for leading 12 Marines against 100 bandits in a night attack to break up a threat to his garrison. He was also commended for his actions following the 1931 earthquake at Managua, and for performance of duties as Chief of Police in 1932 and 1933.

Friendship with the Roosevelts
Returning to the United States in 1933, Captain Carlson served as executive officer of the Marine Corps Detachment at President Roosevelt's alternative White House and vacation retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia where he became closely acquainted with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his son James.

Second and third China tours
After his Warm Springs tour Carlson was posted to the 4th Marines in Shanghai. Shortly afterward he was transferred to the Marine Detachment, American Legation, Peiping, China, where he served as Adjutant and studied the Chinese language. In 1936, he returned to the United States via Japan. At home he served at Quantico while attending Marine Corps Schools, and studying International Law and Politics at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

He went back to China for the third time in 1937 as an official student of the Chinese language and as a military observer with Chinese forces. There he was afforded the opportunity to learn the tactics of the Japanese soldier.

He met Edgar Snow in China and read Snow's Red Star Over China. This encounter led him to visit the Chinese communist troop headquarters in northern China, where he met Chinese Communist leaders such as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. Traveling thousands of miles through the interior of China with the communist guerrillas, often on foot and horseback over the most hazardous terrain, he lived under the same primitive conditions. He was impressed by the tactics used by Chinese Communist guerrillas to fight Japanese troops.

When he left China in 1938, he was commended by the Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet for his services. He was so impressed with the danger of Japanese aggression in the Far East that in 1939 he resigned his commission as a captain in order to be free to write and lecture on that subject. When the danger he foresaw neared reality in 1941, he applied to be recommissioned in the Marine Corps and was accepted with the rank of major.

World War II
Carlson's Raiders
A year later, in 1942, he was placed in command of the Second Marine Raider Battalion with the rank of lieutenant colonel, a new combat organization whose creation he influenced. The organization and discipline of the 2nd Raiders was modeled on that of the Communist Route Armies he had observed during his time in China. Because of his relationship with President Roosevelt and the president's son, Captain James Roosevelt, a Marine reserve captain who authored a letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps proposing creation the Raiders, the Marine Corps authorized the creation of the Raiders despite misgivings about Carlson's philosophy.

In the military there is a sharp caste-system divide between officers and enlisted personnel, and even experienced noncommissioned officers were expected to be subservient to even the newest, greenest second lieutenant. Carlson's experience in having gone back and forth between officer and enlisted status in both the Army and the Marine Corps convinced him that this was not in the best interests of the service. Carlson saw the Communist approach as superior. Leaders were expected to serve the unit and the fighters they led, not to be served. Responsibility, not privilege, would be the keyword for battalion leadership when the Second Raiders formed up. Using an egalitarian and team-building approach, Carlson promulgated a new way for senior NCOs to mentor junior officers and work with the officers for the betterment of the unit. Even more controversial in concept, Carlson gave his men "ethical indoctrination," designed to "give (his men) conviction through persuasion," describing for each man what he was fighting for and why.

Of more lasting importance to the Marine Corps, Carlson also changed the organization of his squads, eschewing an eight-man squad dictated by the Marines in favor of a 10-man squad composed of a squad leader and three 3-man "fireteams", each containing a BAR, a Thompson, and an
M1 rifle.
Carlson's leadership of the Second Raiders in the Makin Raid, 17 August 1942, earned him a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Cross. A second Gold Star was awarded him for heroism and distinguished leadership on Guadalcanal in November and December of that year.
On March 15, 1943, the four raider battalions were placed under the control of the newly created 1st Raider Regiment, commanded by the former commander of the 3rd Raiders, Col. Harry B. Liversedge. A week later Carlson was relieved as commander of the 2nd Raiders by Lt. Col. Alan Shapley, an officer of much more orthodox thinking, and made executive officer of the 1st Raider Regiment. Within a month Shapley had reorganized the 2nd Raiders into a traditional organization, and Liversedge then standardized the organization of the four raider battalions along the lines of the 1st Raider Battalion, although all adopted the 3-fireteam squad-organization concept pioneered by Carlson, which was soon adopted by the Marine Corps as a whole.

Later service in the Pacific
Carlson was soon ordered back to the United States for medical treatment of malaria and jaundice, and served as a technical advisor to Walter Wanger's Gung Ho!: The Story of Carlson's Makin Island Raiders (released December 1943). He subsequently returned to Tarawa as an observer. In its November 1943 engagement he was cited for volunteering to carry vital information through enemy fire from an advanced post to division headquarters.

He was wounded during the 1944 Saipan operation while attempting to rescue a wounded enlisted radioman from a front-line observation post, and was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Purple Heart.

Physical disability resulting from the wounds received on Saipan caused Carlson's retirement on 1 July 1946. He was advanced to the rank of brigadier general on the retired list at that time for having been specially commended for the performance of duty in actual combat.

On 27 May 1947, at age 51, Carlson died as the result of a cardiac ailment at Emmanuel Hospital, Portland, Oregon. He had been living in Brightwood, Oregon, since his retirement. He was survived by his wife, Mrs. Peggy Tatum Carlson, and a son by a previous marriage, Evans C. Carlson.

General Carlson is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Navy Cross citations
First Navy Cross, Nicaragua (May 16, 1930–May 1, 1931)

First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps
Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua
Date of Action: May 16, 1930-May 1, 1931

The Navy Cross is presented to Evans Fordyce Carlson, First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while attached to the Guardia Nacional from 16 May 1930 to 1 May 1931. Upon joining the Guardia Nacional, First Lieutenant Carlson was assigned at Jalapa in the bandit area of Nueva Segovia. On 8 July 1930, he received a report that a group of one hundred bandits were looting the town of Portillo. He immediately left with a detachment of sixteen men to gain contact. Four the men deserted en route but with the remaining twelve men he pushed on and overtook and gained contact with a group of forty bandits, completely routing them, killing two and wounding seven, without any casualties to his detachment. Arms, ammunition, equipment and clothing looted from the town of Portillo were recaptured. Lieutenant Carlson maintained his district in a most excellent manner and by his activities and well-directed operations kept it singularly free from banditry.

Second Navy Cross, Makin Island Raid (August 17-18, 1942)
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve)
Commanding Officer, 2d Marine Raider Battalion
Date of Action: August 17-18, 1942

The Navy Cross is presented to Evans Fordyce Carlson, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service as Commanding Officer of the Second Marine Raider Battalion in action against enemy Japanese forces on Makin Island, 17-18 August 1942. In the first operation of this type ever conducted by United States forces, Lieutenant Colonel Carlson personally directed his forces in the face of intense fire of enemy ground troops and aerial bombing barrage, inflicting great personnel and material damage on the enemy. In the withdrawal of his forces under adverse sea conditions, he displayed outstanding resourcefulness, initiative and resolute purpose in evacuating all wounded and disabled men. His high courage and excellent leadership throughout the engagement were in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service. SPOT AWARD, October 1942

Third Navy Cross, Long Patrol (November 4–December 4, 1942)
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve)
Commanding Officer, 2d Marine Raider Battalion
Date of Action: November 4 December 4, 1942

The Navy Cross is presented to Evans Fordyce Carlson, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and courage as leader of the Second Marine Raider Battalion in action against enemy Japanese forces in the British Solomon Islands during the period from 4 November to 4 December 1942. In the face of most difficult conditions of tropical weather and heavy growth, Lieutenant Colonel Carlson led his men in a determined and aggressive search for threatening hostile forces, overcoming all opposition and completing their mission with small losses to our men while taking heavy toll of the enemy. His personal valor and inspiring fortitude reflect great credit upon Lieutenant Colonel Carlson, his command and the United States Naval Service. SPOT AWARD, January 1943.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

United States Marine Corps

Sousa said a march should make a man with a wooden leg step out, and his surely did. However, he was no mere maker of marches, but an exceptionally inventive composer of over two hundred works, including symphonic poems, suites, songs and operettas created for both orchestra and for band. John Philip Sousa personified the innocent energy of turn-of-the-century America and he represented America across the globe. His American tours first brought classical music to hundreds of towns. While Sousa’s fame as a bandmaster needs little comment, far less is known about his formative years as an orchestral composer, conductor and violinist.

Born in Washington DC on 6 November, 1854, Sousa developed with startling quickness. Fame was no accident. Sousa’s father was a trombonist with the United States Marine Band. By the age of six, his musical talent had become apparent and he was enrolled for a year of solfeggio with a local Italian teacher. The boy was found to have absolute pitch, and thus deemed sufficiently gifted to begin basic training in harmony and the study of the violin. These early school days coincided with the great events of the American Civil War, then swirling around the Washington area.

By the age of eleven Sousa organized and led his own ‘quadrille orchestra’. The rest of his orchestra consisted of seven grown men and quickly became a popular dance orchestra in the Washington area. The following year, 1866, he changed music teachers, beginning studies with George Felix Benkert, who had trained in Vienna with the famed theorist Simon Sechter, with whom Schubert planned lessons and whose most famous student was to be Anton Bruckner. Benkert greatly encouraged the young Sousa, allowing him the sort of sophisticated training in composition, harmony, counterpoint and orchestration in Washington that was generally presumed available only in Europe. At the same time, Sousa played first violin for Benkert’s Washington Orchestral Union, as well as performing for regular Tuesday evening string quartet concerts at the home of the Assistant Secretary of State William Hunter. Hunter was an avid classical musical devotee, and for these sessions he imported numerous scores from Europe. He warmly fostered Sousa’s career and was to provide him an invaluable entrйe into Washington’s official community.

At the age of nineteen, Sousa was already an active violinist in theatre orchestras, including Ford’s Theatre and the Washington Theatre Comique (vaudeville). Soon his great talent, extensive training and natural leadership attracted notice, and he assumed duties as an orchestral leader. Since these responsibilities often required the preparation of special materials, he augmented the theatrical productions with numerous incidental pieces and arrangements.

In 1875 Sousa left Washington, touring the Middle-West for a season as the concertmaster and leader for Noble’s acting troupe. He arrived in Philadelphia just as the 1876 Centennial Exposition was beginning. Now 21 years of age, he promptly landed a job in the first violin section of the official centennial orchestra playing for guest conductor Jacques Offenbach. After the Exposition, he remained in Philadelphia for the next three seasons, leading various theatre orchestras. In 1878 he was asked to provide orchestrations for an American performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Sorcerer. The following year, he composed his first operetta Katherine, and prepared the orchestrations for he American Introduction of HMS Pinafore. Pinafore received its Broadway premiиre with John Philip Sousa conducting. The same year, at the age of 25, he was chosen to become Director of the United States Marine Band in Washington. He began leading the Marine Band in January 1880, beginning a fabled 52 year career as a bandmaster.

Despite his success with bands, Sousa never gave up his fascination with the musical theatre. It was his goal to become an American version of Gilbert and Sullivan combined. In all he composed fifteen operettas. His El Capitan of 1895 is believed to have been the first musical by an American composer to enjoy a successful run on Broadway. In many ways, Sousa’s compositions were the equal of Sullivan’s music, but his lyrics sadly never matched the inspirations of Gilbert’s, nor did his attempts at collaboration ever produce a truly worthy librettist. By the turn of the century, his popularity on Broadway began to be eclipsed by the musicals of Victor Herbert, and later by those of Berlin, Kern and Gershwin. Sousa, the classicist was caught in the on-rush of the romantic era. Today, happily for us, the classicist has left a legacy of enduring classics.

Sousa’s associations with the theatre music of Gilbert and Sullivan and with Offenbach had became central to his musical thought. Like these European masters, he fluently composed in the light music and dance styles of his day, using existing classical frameworks. Mozart, however, was Sousa’s ideal composer. His biographer Paul Bierley notes that Sousa’s personal scores of Mozart’s operas had obviously been read and re-read for pleasure. Mozart’s opera scoring techniques are wonderfully evident in Sousa’s orchestrations.

From 1880 Sousa’s career was dominated by his association with military bands. In other circumstances he might have found a place in the theatre, with which he was associated after his discharge in 1874 from the Marine Band at the age of twenty. He had enlisted as a boy of thirteen and returned as a conductor of the United States Marine Band in 1880, continuing there until 1892, when he left to set up his own band, under his own name. With Sousa’s Band he won an international reputation, with regular tours throughout the United States and visits to Europe. His band came to an end in 1931 and he died the following year.

Many aspects of Sousa’s life as a bandmaster reflected his experiences in the musical theatre. His ‘potpourri’ style of programming was based on the same structural ideas that make a successful theatrical production. Superb programming was a hallmark of his phenomenally successful forty years of band touring. Many themes from his operettas found their way into his great marches and concert music. His early days in the theatre also developed his unerring instinct for popular taste. His band mimicked the sound of a symphony orchestra, and no finer band that Sousa’s was ever heard. Sousa modified the existing military band by decreasing the brass and increasing its woodwinds, and by adding a harp to create a truly symphonic sound.

Gleaned also from the musical theatre was his musical salesmanship. Sousa pleasingly packaged classical standards and orchestral treatments of popular fare, establishing a standard style reflected today in the pops concerts of American symphony orchestras. Sousa never spoke at his concerts, preferring non-stop music that spoke for itself. His band played Parsifal excerpts ten years before it was introduced at the Metropolitan Opera, yet combined it with such fare as Turkey In The Straw, ultimately doing more to champion good music than any other American orchestra of the era. Throughout his career, much of Sousa’s output was created simultaneously for theatre orchestra as well as for band, including such marches as The Stars and Stripes Forever, El Capitan, Washington Post, and Semper Fidells, universally acknowledged as the best of their genre.

Sousa astounded Europe by introducing ragtime on his 1900 tour, touching off a fascination with American music which influenced such composers as Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Grainger and Milhaud. The principal commodity Sousa sold however, was pride in America and American music. In the quarter century before radio, improved electronic records, and finally, the miracle of talking pictures. Sousa and his Band and Sousa and his music, was America’s greatest musical attraction.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Marine Corps Music
The history of American military music begins at the vortex of the fife and drum corps and the European military band with the establishment of the U. S. Marine Band in 1798. Fifes and drums are among the oldest forms of military music. The drum was used in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Persia, and Greece. The Romans introduced the drum into Western Europe and Britain, and the English carried it during the Crusades. The drum, being a loud instrument, was used to beat calls for military formations, to signal commands, and to "beat the charge." Its rhythmic beat was also admirably adapted for regulating the movements of soldiers on the line of the march.

The fife was formerly called the Swiss flute. This name was given to it after the battle of Marignano in the year 1515, on which occasion the fife was first employed in war by the Swiss troops. The fife was introduced into England as early as 1557, but was first used together with the drum for martial music by the British guards, on order of the Duke of Cumberland, in 1747, and later adopted by other English regiments of infantry. It was from association with the British troops on duty in America that our colonial militia learned the art of drumming and fifing. Drums and fifes were the only musical instruments used by our military forces during, and for many years after, the Revolutionary War.

The first drummers and fifers in the United States Marine Corps were enlisted as members of the First and Second Battalions of American Marines authorized by Congress on November 10, 1775. On their drum was painted a rattlesnake, and under it, the inscription, "Don't tread on me." The records show that two drummers and one fifer were generally part of each ship's Marine Guard in our early Navy.

On July 11, 1798, President John Quincy Adams approved a bill that authorized the Marine Corps to enlist a drum major, one fife major, and 32 drummers and fifers. These musicians were used to form the famous United States Marine Band, the oldest organization of its kind in the country. On August 21, 1800, the Marine Band presented its first public concert in Washington "on a hill overlooking the Potomac" (the future site of the Naval Hospital). Then on March 4, 1801, the Marine Band performed for Thomas Jefferson's inauguration, and has played at every Presidential inauguration since. It was Jefferson that gave the Marine Band the title "The President's Own."

For the next century following the Revolutionary War, drummers and fifers played their part in making Marine Corps history. They served with distinction at Tripoli, in the War of 1812, and in the storming of Chapultepec. In the Civil War, the stirring music of the fife and drum probably arose to its greatest heights, as many memorable tunes were written during those four long years of war.

About 1875, the Army discontinued the use of the fife and adopted the bugle. This was due to the influence of the Franco-Prussian War, which changed the formations of troops in the field from closed to extended lines. As it was difficult to control such organizations by voice, the bugle was adapted and used to signal commands. In 1881, the Marine Corps also did away with the fife and adopted the bugle in its place. The grizzled old fifers who tried to continue to use their fifes fought this change. A music school was established at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D. C., for their instruction, but they still protested, claiming they had enlisted as fifers, not as buglers. Finally, commander directed that no fifer would be permitted to reenlist without a written agreement that he would learn to blow a bugle.

In former years, the captain of each naval vessel prescribed the calls blown on his ship and these Marine drummers and fifers were required to know these pieces. For instance, Annie Laurie might be played for Morning Colors, and Auld Lang Syne for Retreat. It was not until 1892 that the Navy issued instructions making all bugle calls uniform and standard.

The use of military bands and military music is coeval with that of the development of organized armies in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The mercenary troops of the Austrians, and the French, maintained large bands of trumpets and kettledrums and when they met in the battles of Marignano (1515) and Pavia (1525), the clash of the instruments was as strident and as fear-inspiring as the clash of armor and weapons.

The music of these groups was limited mainly to battle signals and to visual display such as was to be found, for example, in the extravagant and affected movement of the kettledrums that survive today with modern-day drum majors, and in the heraldic flourishes of the trumpeters who were organized into guilds and endowed with many privileges that distinguished them from civilian musicians of the day.

It was not until the advent of the eighteenth century that the introduction of melody instruments, such as oboe, bassoon, French horn, and clarinet led to a broader repertory of military music. The growth and popularity of wind bands, both military and civilian, continued from the early sixteenth century and eventually spread all over Europe.

Although the Germans were the pioneers of military music, the French and English were avid supporters and followers. By 1750, European military bands included oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, and drums. Further, their musical quality was good and improving. The addition of piccolos, bass drums, and cymbals occurred around 1800, marking an important step toward the instrumentation of the modern military band.

From the late seventeenth century, bands were attached to infantry regiments. Majorities of the British Guards Regiments continue that tradition to this day. Napoleon maintained regimental bands consisting of one piccolo, one high clarinet, sixteen clarinets, four bassoons, two serpents (an early version of the tuba), two trumpets, one bass trumpet, four horns, three trombones, two snare drums, one bass drum, one triangle, and two pairs of cymbals.

A performance given in Berlin in 1838 in honor of the Russian Emperor, in which a combined band of sixteen infantry and sixteen cavalry regiments, was assembled and in which over twelve hundred musicians participated, was a landmark in the development of military bands and music.

The bass tuba made its appearance in the military band at this time and composition of instruments for the military band was completed in 1850 with the addition of the saxophone. The beginning of military music in America occurred during the revolutionary period and mainly consisted of fife and drum playing.

Although Congress authorized the Army to form brigade bands in 1792, this was not affected until 1812. The first Marine Band, organized in 1798, consisted of a drum major, a fife major, and thirty-two drummers and fifers. When this unit moved to Washington, D. C. with the Federal government in 1800, it consisted of at least two oboes, two clarinets, two horns, a bassoon, and a snare drum. Since that time, bands have appeared in all branches of the American military with each service supporting a premiere band in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Abraham Lincoln
16th President - would have been 201 years old on 12 Feb. 2010

Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it."

Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun.

The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln had to struggle for a living and for learning. Five months before receiving his party's nomination for President, he sketched his life:

"I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families--second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks.... My father ... removed from Kentucky to ... Indiana, in my eighth year.... It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up.... Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher ... but that was all."

Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years. His law partner said of him, "His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest."

He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.

As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. Further, he rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg: "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion.

The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.... "

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln's death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Michael Strank,
United States
Marine Corps
Flag raising on Mount Suribachi - Iwo Jima

Michael Strank (Rusyn: Mykhal Strenk; Slovak: Michal Strenk) November 10, 1919 - March 1, 1945 was a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He was photographed raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The leader of the group in the famous picture was Strank, who got the order to climb Mt. Suribachi to lay telephone wire. Accompanying him were Corporal Harlon Block, Pfc Ira Hayes and Pfc Franklin Sousley. About halfway up the mountain, they were joined by Pfc Rene Gagnon, who was carrying a larger flag to the summit to replace the smaller one which had been raised earlier in the day. Upon reaching the summit, Strank took the flag from Gagnon, and explained to Lieutenant Harold Schrier that "Colonel Johnson wants this big flag run up high so every son of a bitch on this whole cruddy island can see it." Strank, along with his aforementioned men and Navy Corpsman John Bradley who was already on the summit of Mt. Suribachi, raised the second flag.

Early life
Michael Strank was born in Jarabina, a small Rusyn-inhabited village in Czechoslovakia. He was the son of Vasil Strenk and Martha Grofikova, natives of the village. His father was also known as Charles Strank in the United States. Michael's father moved to Franklin Borough near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, found work in a steel mill and brought his family over when he had enough money to pay for the trip.

School and the Marine Corps
Strank attended the schools of Franklin Borough, Pennsylvania and graduated from high school in 1937. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, where he remained for 18 months, and then became a highway laborer for the state.

He enlisted in the regular Marine Crps for four years at Pittsburgh on October 6, 1939. He was assigned to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island where, after completing recruit training in December, Private Strank was transferred to Headquarters Company, Post Troops, at the same base. Transferred to Provisional Company W at Parris Island on January 17, 1941, Strank, now a Private First Class, sailed for Guantбnamo Bay, Cuba, arriving on the 23rd. Strank was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Brigade on February 1, the 1st Marine Brigade was later redesignated the 1st Marine Division. On April 8, now assigned to Company K, he returned to the States and proceeded to MCRD Parris Island. In September, Strank moved with the division to New River, North Carolina. He was promoted to corporal on April 23, 1941, and was advanced to sergeant on January 26, 1942.

Combat service prior to the Battle of Iwo Jima
In early April 1942, he moved with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines to San Diego, California, and shipped out on April 12. On May 31, 1942, the Battalion landed on Uvea. In September, after a short time with the 22nd Marines, he was transferred to the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, also at Uvea. With the Raiders, he participated in the landing operations and occupation of Pavuvu Island in the Russell Islands from February 21, 1943 until March 18, and in the seizure and occupation of the Empress Augusta Bay during the Battle of Bougainville from November 1 until January 12, 1944. On February 14, he was returned to San Diego and was allowed to visit his family.

On return from leave, Sergeant Strank was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division. After extensive training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and in Hawaii, Strank was placed in command of a squad, and landed with them on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945 during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was instructed by an officer to hoist a larger flag on top of Mount Suribachi so that it could be seen at great distance. While doing this, he and the other five men were photographed in mid-action. This photo was later titled Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, and has since become the most copied photograph in history.

By the end of March, three of the six men in the photograph had been killed in action, including Strank, never knowing the impact the photograph would have. Another of the six, John Bradley, had been wounded in action and sent out of the battle zone.

After the fall of Mount Suribachi, he moved northward with his unit. Fighting was heavy, and both the Japanese and the American forces were taking heavy casualties. On March 1, his squad came under heavy fire, and took cover. While forming a plan of attack, he was killed by friendly artillery fire. No Japanese could have claimed credit for this kill; the shell that killed Sgt Strank was almost certainly fired offshore by an American ship. Cpl Harlon Block, who looked up to Strank as all of the squad did, took over command, but was also killed by Japanese mortar fire hours later. Mike Strank was buried in the 5th Marine Division Cemetery with the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church. On January 13, 1949, his remains were reinterred in Grave 7179, Section 12, Arlington National Cemetery. Michael Strank had two brothers, and one of them, Peter Strank, was serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin in the North Pacific when a Japanese dive bomber attacked it.

Sgt Mike Strank's squad idolized him, and many men since who served alongside him have stated he had a way of setting them at ease, making them feel that he could help them survive the war. Of the men photographed raising the flag on Iwo Jima, Strank was the oldest and most experienced in combat. In interviews conducted years later, many documented in the book Flags of Our Fathers written by James Bradley, he is described by men who served with him as "a Marine's Marine", a true warrior and leader, who led his men by example. He often told his men, "Follow me, and I'll try to bring you all safely home to your mothers". One former Marine who served with Strank stated, "He was the kind of Marine you read about, the kind they make movies about". Cpl Harlon Block idolized Strank, and followed his every instruction without question. L.B. Holly, who served in his squad and who was with him when he died, stated of Strank, "He was the best Marine I ever knew". Another said "He was the finest man I ever knew".

In 2008, Gunnery Sergeant Matt Blais, who was a Marine security guard in the American Embassy in Slovakia, discovered that Strank was not a natural-born U. S. citizen. He had become a U.S. citizen after his father's naturalization in 1935, but had never received official documentation. GySgt Blais petitioned the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services on Strank's behalf and on July 29, 2008 Strank's youngest sister, Mary Pero, was presented with his certificate of citizenship in a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Operation Detachment
Iwo Jima

The 4th and 5th Marine Divisions invaded Iwo Jima 65 years ago on
15 February 1945

At the beginning of 1945 General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area, decided to try and capture the small volcanic island of Iwo Jima that at the time was being defended by 20,000 veterans of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Force. The Japanese, who had created a fortress on Mount Suribachi, faced an immense air and sea bombardment launched by the 5th Fleet under Admiral Raymond Spruance.

Iwo Jima means "Sulfur Island", an apt description of eight square miles of volcanic, treeless scrub. Dominated by 546-foot Mount Suribachi, the island became the site of one of the bloodiest battles in World War II. Its strategic importance lay in its location halfway between Japan and the airfields of the B-29 Super Fortresses located on the Mariana Islands. Capture of Iwo Jima by the Americans would provide an emergency landing field for crippled bombers returning from their bombing raids on Japan and an advance base for the shorter-ranged escort fighters.

The American's strategic timetable demanded that the island be secured in the early months of 1945. Continuous air and naval bombardment began 74 days before the scheduled invasion to prepare the way. Previous Island assaults had taught the Americans the hard lesson that the Japanese would fight to the last man to defend their positions. The massive bombardment was meant to smash the Japanese defensive

As the invasion unfolded on the morning of February 15, the plan seemed a success. Huddled in their landing craft, the Marines encountered only scattered fire as they approached the beach. This situation didn't last long. Unbeknownst to the invaders, the Japanese had dug a labyrinth of tunnels and caves throughout the island that had protected them from the aerial bombardment. As the assault troops scrambled up the volcanic beach, the Japanese opened up with everything they had. It was a blood bath with the Marines pinned down by withering fire.

The invasion plan called for the quick capture of the heights of Mt. Surabachi. Two days after the invasion, however, the Marines had advanced only 200 yards towards their goal. It was not until the 23rd that they were able to wrest the mountain's summit from the enemy and another three weeks before they secured the entire island. Nearly all the island's 21,000 defenders died in the battle while the Americans lost 6,821.

The United States Army Air Corps was now able to use the island to launch bombing attacks on Japan. The large number of Japanese buildings made of wood made it easy for the bombers to create firestorms. On 9 and 10 March 1945, a raid on Tokyo devastated the city. This was followed by attacks on Nagoya, Kobe, Oska and Yokohama. An estimated 260,000 were killed and 9.2 million left homeless.