Monday, July 9, 2018

Interesting Facts and Figures

So, a few weeks ago, Sarge turned me on to a new YouTube Channel entitled The History Guy.  Each video is 5 to 10 minutes long and concerned about some aspect of history that has been underreported.

I soon noticed one of his videos that piqued my interest.  It concerned who received the first Medal of Honor.  According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the first Medal of Honor was presented to Private Jacob Parrott on March 25, 1863.  His Citation reads:
Rank and organization: Private, Company K, 33d Ohio Infantry. Place and date: Georgia, April 1862. Entered service at: Hardin County, Ohio. Birth: 17 July 1843, Fairfield County, Ohio. Date of issue: 25 March 1863. Citation: One of the 19 of 22 men (including 2 civilians) who, by direction of Gen. Mitchell (or Buell) penetrated nearly 200 miles south into enemy territory and captured a railroad train at Big Shanty, Ga., in an attempt to destroy the bridges and tracks between Chattanooga and Atlanta.
That's not the style of current Medal of Honor Citations, but evidently after capturing the train, he was himself captured by the Confederates and beaten 110 times for information.  In spite of this he managed to escape, but was recaptured and eventually exchanged.  Neither the fact that he'd received the Medal nor that he'd been a POW prevented him from accepting a commission and continuing to fight through the remainder of the war, finally passing in 1908 of a heart attack.

That's one definition of First Medal of Honor.  The History Guy video talked about the person who received it for the earliest date of action.  That distinction belongs to a Surgeon, strangely.   
 
Source

Assistant Surgeon Bernard J.D. Irwin was the only officer available to lead a mission to rescue 60 soldiers surrounded by Apaches in Arizona.  This event occurred on Feb 13, 1861.  However, the Medal would not be presented until 1894.  His Citation reads:
Voluntarily took command of troops and attacked and defeated hostile Indians he met on the way. Surgeon Irwin volunteered to go to the rescue of 2d Lt. George N. Bascom, 7th Infantry, who with 60 men was trapped by Chiricahua Apaches under Cochise. Irwin and 14 men, not having horses began the 100-mile march riding mules. After fighting and capturing Indians, recovering stolen horses and cattle, he reached Bascom's column and help break his siege.
 Again, not the prose we've come to expect for a Medal of Honor citation.  Essentially, he tricked Cochise into believing that he had a much larger force and that Cochise was surrounded.  Cochise left the area and the 7th Infantry unit was rescued.  The History Guy does a good job of discussing the pro's and con's of the situation.  It's not all Honor and Glory apparently, but it was an entirely different time back then.


Yet another "First"
Source

The first, and only as yet, Medal of Honor awarded to a woman didn't occur as a result of the expansion of women into combat arms in the late 20th Century.  Indeed, the first woman, Dr Mary Walker, was awarded the Medal of Honor  in November of 1865 for her actions at Bull Run, Chicamauga and Atlanta and while a POW.    As with other Civil War era citations, hers is rather sparse:


Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861; Patent Office Hospital, Washington, D.C., October 1861; Chattanooga, Tenn., following Battle of Chickomauga, September 1863; Prisoner of War, April 10, 1864-August 12, 1864, Richmond, Va.; Battle of Atlanta, September 1864 Whereas it appears from official reports that Dr. Mary E. Walker, a graduate of medicine, "has rendered valuable service to the Government, and her efforts have been earnest and untiring in a variety of ways," and that she was assigned to duty and served as an assistant surgeon in charge of female prisoners at Louisville, Ky., upon the recommendation of Major-Generals Sherman and Thomas, and faithfully served as contract surgeon in the service of the United States, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in a Southern prison while acting as contract surgeon; and Whereas by reason of her not being a commissioned officer in the military service, a brevet or honorary rank cannot, under existing laws, be conferred upon her; and Whereas in the opinion of the President an honorable recognition of her services and sufferings should be made: It is ordered, That a testimonial thereof shall be hereby made and given to the said Dr. Mary E. Walker, and that the usual medal of honor for meritorious services be given her. Given under my hand in the city of Washington, D.C., this 11th day of November, A.D. 1865. Andrew Johnson, President (Medal rescinded 1917 along with 910 others, restored by President Carter 10 June 1977.)

Because she was not actually enlisted or commissioned in the Army, merely volunteering,  the Medal was rescinded and finally restored by President Carter.  I believe he got that one right.

Further perusal of the CMOHS website, provides an interesting tidbit that there have been 19 people who have received the Medal of Honor twice.  One of whom has a last name of Custer.
Source

No, not THAT Custer, THIS Custer, 2Lt Thomas W. Custer received the Medal of Honor for capturing the enemy's flag at Namozine Church VA on May 10 1863 and again at Sailor Creek VA in April of 1865.  His Citation reads:


Capture of flag on 10 May 1863. SECOND AWARD Place and date: At Sailor Creek , Va, April 1865. Date of issue: 26 May 1865. Citation: 2d Lt. Custer leaped his horse over the enemy's works and captured 2 stands of colors, having his horse shot from under him and receiving a severe wound.

 The last of the Dual Awards Recipient, Louis Cukela, Sgt USMC received both the Army and Navy  Medal of Honor.  (Each Service has their own Medal of Honor to award.)  Evidently, he single handedly captured an enemy machine gun position by flanking it then bayoneting  the crew.  At that point, he used their grenades to destroy the remainder of the position.

Source

I got a chuckle out of the blurb on him as he is credited with saying "If I want to send a goddamned fool, I'd go myself"

Sgt Cukela's Citation reads:
When his company, advancing through a wood, met with strong resistance from an enemy strong point, Sgt. Cukela crawled out from the flank and made his way toward the German lines in the face of heavy fire, disregarding the warnings of his comrades. He succeeded in getting behind the enemy position and rushed a machinegun emplacement, killing or driving off the crew with his bayonet. With German handgrenades he then bombed out the remaining portion of the strong point, capturing 4 men and 2 damaged machineguns. SECOND AWARD For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, during action in the Forest de Retz, near Viller-Cottertes, France, 18 July 1918. Sgt. Cukela advanced alone against an enemy strong point that was holding up his line. Disregarding the warnings of his comrades, he crawled out from the flank in the face of heavy fire and worked his way to the rear of the enemy position. Rushing a machinegun emplacement, he killed or drove off the crew with his bayonet, bombed out the remaining part of the strong point with German handgrenades and captured 2 machineguns and 4 men.
Trick Question, who was the first person whose actions earned him the Air Force Medal of Honor?

The Air Force Medal of Honor was not authorized until 1963.  The first action for which an Air Force Medal of Honor was awarded occurred on March 10, 1966 and involved Major Bernie Fisher, but regular readers of this blog should have gotten that one right.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On that date, the special forces camp at A Shau was under attack by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army regulars. Hostile troops had positioned themselves between the airstrip and the camp.
Other hostile troops had surrounded the camp and were continuously raking it with automatic weapons fire from the surrounding hills. The tops of the 1,500-foot hills were obscured by an 800 foot ceiling, limiting aircraft maneuverability and forcing pilots to operate within range of hostile gun positions, which often were able to fire down on the attacking aircraft. 
During the battle, Maj. Fisher observed a fellow airman crash land on the battle-torn airstrip. In the belief that the downed pilot was seriously injured and in imminent danger of capture, Maj. Fisher announced his intention to land on the airstrip to effect a rescue. Although aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt, he elected to continue. 
Directing his own air cover, he landed his aircraft and taxied almost the full length of the runway, which was littered with battle debris and parts of an exploded aircraft. While effecting a successful rescue of the downed pilot, heavy ground fire was observed, with 19 bullets striking his aircraft. 
In the face of the withering ground fire, he applied power and gained enough speed to lift-off at the overrun of the airstrip. Maj. Fisher's profound concern for his fellow airman, and at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

Finally, the last Medal of Honor presented to date.  I found it interesting to read that on June 26, 2018, President Trump presented the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to  1LT Garlin Murl Conner fro the 7th Infantry Regiment , 3rd Infantry Division for actions that occurred in WWII.  
Source

Lt Conner  had previously received 4 Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and 3 Purple Hearts.  After returning to duty from injuries, he volunteered to move forward of the front lines to direct artillery fire against a German attack, continuing to do so throughout the attack eventually calling the fire in on his own position.

That is generally not conducive to a long life, but the Lt managed to survive and received the Army's Distinguished Service Cross for the action.  Lt Conner's citation:


On the morning of January 24, 1945, near the town of Houssen, France, German forces ferociously counterattacked the front left flank of the 7th Infantry Regiment with 600 infantry troops, six Mark VI tanks, and tank destroyers.
Lieutenant Conner, having recently returned to his unit after recovering from a wound received in an earlier battle, was working as the Intelligence Officer in the 3d Battalion Command Post at the time of the attack. Understanding the devastating effect that the advancing enemy armor could have on the Battalion, Lieutenant Conner immediately volunteered to run straight into the heart of the enemy assault to get to a position from which he could direct friendly artillery on the advancing enemy forces.
With complete disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Conner maneuvered 400 yards through enemy artillery fire that destroyed trees in his path and rained shrapnel all around him, while unrolling telephone wire needed to communicate with the Battalion command post. Upon reaching the Battalion’s front line, he continued to move forward under the enemy assault to a position 30 yards in front of the defending United States forces, where he plunged into a shallow ditch that provided minimal protection from the advancing enemy’s heavy machine gun and small arms fire.
With rounds impacting all around him, Lieutenant Conner calmly directed multiple fire missions, adjusting round after round of artillery from his prone position, until the enemy was forced to halt its advance and seek cover behind a nearby dike. For three hours, Lieutenant Conner remained in this compromised position, enduring the repeated onslaught of German infantry which, at one point, advanced to within five yards of his position. As German infantry regrouped and began to mass in an overwhelming assault, Lieutenant Conner ordered friendly artillery to concentrate directly on his own position, having resolved to die if necessary to destroy the enemy advance. Ignoring the friendly artillery shells blanketing his position and exploding mere feet from him, Lieutenant Conner continued to direct artillery fire on the enemy assault swarming around him until the German attack was finally broken.
By his heroism and disregard for his own life, Lieutenant Conner stopped the enemy advance. The artillery he expertly directed, while under constant enemy fire, killed approximately fifty German soldiers and wounded an estimated one hundred more, preventing what would have undoubtedly been heavy friendly casualties. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3d Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
The Lt passed away in 1998, but the paperwork was processed to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor in 2017.  President Trump approved it.  

Well done, Mr. President. No....I'm not tired of winning, nor am I likely to become so. To many Men and Women have given everything to defend "We the People" for us to tire.

Never give up, Never surrender!

34 comments:

  1. The first medal, the one about the train? The train in question (The General) is on display at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Downtown Kennesaw, Georgia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cool. Wish I’d known that while I’d been stationed in Georgia. Woulda made the logistics of a visit easier.

      Delete
    2. It used to be so famous that Disney made a movie about it. The Andrews Raid, or The Great Locomotive Chase, was something I learned in school, in actual history books bought by the school district.

      From some blurb somewhere ( https://obscuretrainmovies.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/the-great-locomotive-chase-1956/ ) Walt Disney Productions. Based on the true story of the famous Andrews Raid during the American Civil War, Fess Parker and Jeff Hunter star in Disney's colorful adaptation using authentic Civil War era equipment borrowed from the B&O Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. And it goes on.

      Surprisingly, Disney didn't 'Disney' the movie too much (The names are the same, the plot has been changed to protect the innocent.) I guess this was back when Disney, run by Disney himself, was into making patriotic, non-commie, movies, like his series on the Revolutionary War.

      Love that movie. Wish it was played more often. Good acting, good action, real steam locomotives.

      Delete
    3. Bad case of Portuguesishness?

      Fbingers not working right?

      ;)

      Delete
    4. The is a Buster Keaton movie about a locomotive in which the engine is named ' The General '.

      Thanks for the post.
      Paul L. Quandt

      Delete
    5. And said movie is funny as all heck. Also worth watching. I am sure Buster Keaton chose the name for a reason, you know, back when they actually taught real American History in American History classes, everyone could get the 'joke' right off the bat.

      As to 'The General,' the locomotive involved in the Anderson Raid, lots of good old Southern Pride used to be associated with that locomotive. I'm surprised some durf-brained idjit hasn't taken a blowtorch to the old lady, or had her removed from the 'public view' for oppression or something even more stupid.

      Delete
    6. "And said movie is funny as all heck."

      Well of course it is; it's Buster Keaton.

      Paul

      Delete
  2. Cuppla things - Tom Custer was George A. Custer's brother, he died at the Little Big Horn with his more famous brother. Also, in Lt. Conner's citation, those "Mark VI" German tanks are also known as Pzkw VI, Tiger tanks. By that point of the war they were probably King Tigers. Takes huge cojones to advance against those, suckers are huge. Bit of a travesty that the lieutenant's actions were not properly acknowledged at the time. Those actions are MoH worthy without a doubt, what idiot didn't figure that out back during the war? Freaking shoe clerks.

    But yeah, winning, not tired of it yet, doubt I ever will be.

    Great post Juvat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting article here on Lt Conner. A few more details.
      I figured the Custers were related, similar flashy style. The MoH when initially authorized was called "a Medal of Honor". I think that might be why there were quite a few issued initially for things like capturing a flag. Somewhere around WWI, it started to be referred to as "The Medal of Honor", and criteria was stiffened. That having been said, Sgt Cukela earned it and since he was a Marine (Naval Service) supporting the Army, I can see why both awarded it.

      Delete
  3. The Custer family suffered heavily at the Little Big Horn. George Custer, his brother Tom Custer, his brother Boston Custer, his nephew Harry Reed, and his brother in law, James Calhoun were all killed. George's widow, Libby Custer spent the rest of her life embellishing the legend of her "heroic husband." She lived until 1933.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's always a risk in fighting as a family. USS The Sullivan's is a good reminder. Or for that matter, any small town in the British Empire circa 1914-18.

      Delete
    2. Or many small towns during the 'Great Unpleasantness of 1861-186' here in the States. Some of those 'formed' units, that were assembled by a town or business or fraternal organization, where the officers were elected by the group, suffered pretty badly.

      Delete
    3. Popularity has been, still is and always will be, a poor form of choosing leaders, especially in combat. Unfortunately, there seems to be a predilection for using that method in the current AF.

      Delete
    4. The un-civility of the Civil War definitely showed that the days of rank amateurs and fraternal bands (at least those not formed, taught or led by competent professionals) was over, at least on a conventional warfare level. Though we kept trying for years afterwards.



      Delete
  4. There is actually a movie made about that escapade ( the first medal of Honor) called The Great Locomotive Chase. reasonably accurate, it is an interesting watch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting, I'll have to look into that. Thanks.

      Delete
    2. It’s a Disney flick.
      I never saw it, but have read the book.
      It’s a good tale.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, Amazon has it available for rental. Maybe tonight.

      Delete
    4. Geez, if I had just waited a few minutes to comment, I woulda hit this section.

      Yes, it is as good a locomotive movie as some of the flying movies mentioned yesterday are towards planes.

      Costuming is mostly right, weapons are right, dialects are right. Action, lots of action.

      Good one to show the kids and grandkids, too. Back when Disney made movies, not political screes. (Hate the bull droppings they did to the 'Star Wars' franchise.)(And in the real Little Mermaid, the fish dies!)

      Delete
    5. Yep, planning on renting it tonight.

      Delete
    6. juvat, see above

      (snerk) :)

      Delete
    7. Ah, hoist upon his own petard!

      ;)

      Delete
    8. I like petards. The original door-knocker!

      And to make matters worse/better, I love expounding on what the petard is and what the meaning of being hoisted by it to unsuspecting students/victims. If I had a military rank and title, it would be 'Captain Tangent!' (Which is a much nicer way of saying 'Mr. Wizard.')

      But I'll cut Sir juvat some slack. His last nerve must be befrazzled to an extreme amount right now. Why, I suspect next Monday's post to be full of 'bu-bu-bu-bu-bu...' (Makes me think traditional weddings are actually designed to kill off the daughter's father so the incumbent son-in-law can take over the family business. Or at least that's what it seems to have morphed into these days.)

      Delete
    9. Yes.....Monday......Sleep! Must have Sleep!

      Delete
  5. My wife and I visited the National Museum of Medicine when it was in Bethesda.
    While there I remember seeing an exhibit about Dr. Walker and my memory says that her medal was in the exhibit, but I can't find proof either way.

    YouTube has a making of film about the Disney film, The Great Locomotive Chase.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Akc_bq8BIm4

    Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It does seem like there's been a spate of past-due recognitions and awardings of the MOH since the administration change-over.

    Not tired yet.

    As to Dr. Walker, yes, Carter definitely got that one right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in those meetings, wouldn't it?

      Delete
  7. There are many Custers. I worked with this one (a descendent), and later found him next to me at Mass here in San Diego. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_M._Custer_III

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So the wikipedia didn't say anything. Is he related to George?

      Delete
  8. Really great post. Super interesting

    ReplyDelete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)