Monday, November 7, 2016

"Polo games and wars aren't won by gentlemen" *

Time for another of juvat's "Let's learn a bit more about our Heroes".  In spite of the National Museum of the United States Air Force's exhibit which contains the names and pictures of 59 USAF Medal of Honor recipients, there are actually 60 recipients, all engraved on this monument at the parade field on Lackland AFB, Texas.  (CMSGT Etchberger is the missing name, description of action resulting in award here, description of why NMUSAF hasn't included him here.)


I think this is a particularly fitting monument to have on the parade field where our newest airman march their final parade before graduation and beginning their career.  Hopefully, it reminds them the Air Force is not airplanes, it is people.  Something that seems to be forgotten by the leadership  higher ranking members of the service.
ANYHOO!  Back on target, juvat!

Today's post will discuss the person on this list with, IMHO, the most unique name,  Col Demas T. Craw. He, along with Col Pierpoint M. Hamilton, is unique in USAF Medal of Honor lore.  Both Medals were awarded for the same action and they are the only two Medals awarded to USAF (and antecedents) members for actions taken completely unrelated to flying.

OK, I suppose an argument could be made that CMSGT Etchberger and A1C Pitsenbarger's award were not directly flying related.  However, the Chief was involved in defending his radar station which supported air strikes on North Vietnam, and the A1C was involved with the attempted air rescue of ground forces under attack by Viet Cong.  In any case, (using the my circus, my monkeys rule) Col Craw and Col Hamilton are the only two.
Col Craw was an experienced officer having enlisted in the Army in 1918.  Demobilized without seeing action in WWI, he re-enlists and makes his way through West Point and Pilot training and gains aviation experience in the 20's and 30's.  
Col Craw is the one in the Aircraft, the other two are his twin brother in the center and his father on the left.
Source

As an aside, during this time he meets and marries Mary Victoria ("Vicki") Wesson, daughter of the president of the Smith & Wesson Firearms Company.  Just thought that was a cool little historical tidbit.

In any case, as WWII begins in Europe, then Major Craw is assigned as an observer with the Royal Air Force, traveling to Cairo in October of 1940. Over the next year, he is slightly wounded while "observing" the British in action against the Italians in Libya, "observes" 21 RAF bombing sorties (from a bomber) and, after transferring to Athens to observe British operations there, is under fire 136 times and actively "observes" allied operations while there.
"Captain Paul Thorn, a close friend, recalled Craw’s involvement in a fistfight with three Italians shortly after the German occupation of Athens. His car rubbed fenders with another vehicle, occupied by two Italian privates and a Fascist lieutenant. The Italians let their tempers flare, but when the fight was over they "needed a little dental attention." Source

 When the Germans finally conquer Greece, Maj Craw is wounded by a grenade blast, captured and interred for 6 weeks.  He's eventually released and returns to Athens where he's presented the Order of George I by the King of Greece.  All before Dec 7, 1941.

You gotta admire a guy who's not held back by an inability to determine who the bad guys are and what needs to be done about them.


Returning to the States, Major Craw is promoted to Lt Col, then after December 7th, to Col and becomes the Air Officer on Maj Gen Lucian Truscotte's Staff.  Both he and General Truscotte had been observers on the Dieppe raid in Aug 1942 and Gen Truscotte and staff will be commanding the invasion of French Morocco.

Part of General Truscotte's strategy is to get the French to stand down and not oppose the invasion.  As part of that strategy, he intends to send an envoy to meet with the French Commander and negotiate either a cease fire or non-interference with the invasion.  Col Craw and Hamilton volunteer for the mission.

The mission doesn't go well (just like most "first times" for anything tend to).  The original landing site is under fire, so they land with the invasion forces.  Their vehicle gets stuck in a swamp and strafed by French Aircraft.  General Truscotte wants to cancel the mission, but Col Craw talks him into one more try.

Col Craw, Col Hamilton and their driver, Pfc. Orris V. Correy, drive off in a jeep flying unfurled American, French and white flags in search of the French Commander.  As they come up over a small rise, a French machine gun opens up on the jeep and Col Craw is killed instantly.  Col Hamilton and PFC Correy are captured.
Memorial at the site Col Craw was killed. Some sources say it isn't there any longer.
Source

After a couple of days, the American invasion brings enough pressure to bear on the French Forces that their commander surrenders....To his prisoner, Col Hamilton.

A more detailed description, and my most relied on source for this post, can be read here.

Col Hamilton is awarded the Medal of Honor in January of 1943 while Col Craw was awarded his, posthumously, in March of 1943.  

Apropos of nothing whatsoever, Col Hamilton, retired as a Maj General in the USAF and was the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and the nephew of J.P.Morgan. He passed away in 1982 at age 83.

Col Craw's Medal of Honor Citation:
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. On 8 November 1942, near Port Lyautey, French Morocco, Col. Craw volunteered to accompany the leading wave of assault boats to the shore and pass through the enemy lines to locate the French commander with a view to suspending hostilities. This request was first refused as being too dangerous but upon the officer's insistence that he was qualified to undertake and accomplish the mission he was allowed to go. Encountering heavy fire while in the landing boat and unable to dock in the river because of shell fire from shore batteries, Col. Craw, accompanied by 1 officer and 1 soldier, succeeded in landing on the beach at Mehdia Plage under constant low-level strafing from 3 enemy planes. Riding in a bantam truck toward French headquarters, progress of the party was hindered by fire from our own naval guns. Nearing Port Lyautey, Col. Craw was instantly killed by a sustained burst of machinegun fire at pointblank range from a concealed position near the road."
Rest in Peace, Warrior! 


*Partial Quote by Gen. Lucian Truscott,  the rest of the quote reads "....no sonofabitch, no commander".  Wish there were still people like this in command today.

14 comments:

  1. Damn! Quite a story, good way to start the week.

    And the French wonder why no one took their participation in WWII seriously. They couldn't decide whose side they were on once the Germans had kicked their butts. While I know the reasons why the French collapsed so readily in 1940 (and there are many), but for the rest of the war the only ones fighting back were the Maquis. Most of the generals and admirals thought they were Bonaparte reborn. Not even close.

    Why yes I do have strong opinions on that. (Makes my inner Frenchman do a slow boil.)

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    1. Thanks.

      Yeah, the fact that the French Military (leaders, primarily) learned so very little from their defeat is a study in itself.

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  2. A brave, dedicated Man. We are better for his having lived.

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  3. That is a 'bit' of a strange way to win the medal, but he did die doing what he was expected to do.

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    1. My thoughts also. When I was reading about this, the first searches didn't turn up much beyond the Citation, and I was thinking there wasn't much there, there. I was gratified to find the longer source and read more about him. After that, I was convinced he was a pretty fine warrior.

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    2. It took more courage and bravery to do what he, Hamilton and Pft. Correy, did than it took to assault the beaches behind gunfire and fully armed. Truly fine examples of American soldiery.

      F#@%ing French. The arrogance of the typical French officer makes Field Marshal Mongomery look like a pious and meek man. Grrrr. Having to slow down and let DeGaulle "liberate" Paris screwed our whole timetable. Rat-bastards all.

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    3. I can buy that. Certainly Col Craw's actions earlier don't reflect a paucity of courage.

      I'm not a fan of the 20th Century military. The 21st century may be working to redeem. We'll see.

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    4. By 20th Century, I should have added French military.

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    5. My dad was doing jet training on the T-33 (Go J-Flight Jets! (and we found his training helmet in a surplus store years later, really cool!)) and there were some flying Frog-Princes on base. He tried to talk with them but apparently his coon-arsed Abbeville, LA Cajun French just wasn't good enough for them.

      That's okay, as my dad loved hunting and always brought lots of critter meat from the airbase to the mechanics and other crew. Something about flies in the air hose of one of the worst of the Frenchies, and other little, minor things that an attentive pilot would find with a decent crew and a proper walk-around.

      He said one day, when he was into a flat of Black Label beer (cheapest at the Post Exchange, of course) that given half a chance, he'd love to use his F-84G in it's proper role to give Paris the lightbulb they all deserved.

      As to the French Military, Sci-fi authors John Ringo and Tom Kratman have a good opinion on the regular French trooper and even their officer corps, except for most of the staff level and above, and all the politicians. Pretty much a common theme throughout their books when it comes to dealing with the French. World defense pacts against aliens generally always include everyone except the French. Funny stuff. Good funny is always based on truth.

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  4. Was Hamilton AFB named in honor of Col. Hamilton?

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Apparently not, it was named for Lloyd Andrews Hamilton who received a DFC in WWI.

      I was born there. Dad was an F-86 pilot there when he met and married Mom.

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    2. Thank you for your prompt reply. I remember the F-86s from when my father was stationed in Alexandra, LA.

      Paul

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