Friday, January 31, 2020

The Friday Flyby - 48th Fighter Wing Heritage Flight

P-47 of the 493rd Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter-Bomber Group
F-15 Eagles of RAF Lakenheath's Heritage Flight
(l to r) 492nd Fighter Squadron, 494th Fighter Squadron, 493rd Fighter Squadron

One of these birds is not like the others...
Okay, I feel kinda bad for whinging about the name chosen for the F-15C that the 173rd Fighter Wing painted in World War II colors to honor the memory of 2d Lt Kingsley, who gave his life for one of his fellow crew dogs. John 15:13 right there brothers and sisters...
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
2d Lt Kingsley's actions epitomize that Bible verse, he removed his own parachute harness and gave it to a wounded man who's own parachute harness had been misplaced when his wounds were being treated, by 2d Lt Kingsley I might add. He must have known what the outcome could be, probably would be. It is right and proper that the memory of such a hero should be honored in the fashion which the 173rd chose. Okay, they got the name of the bird wrong, so what?

To atone for this, here are a couple of videos of F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing out of RAF Lakenheath painted to look like their forebears from WWII, the mighty Jugs of the 492nd "The Mad Hatters*," the 493rd "The Grim Reapers," and the 494th "Panthers," Fighter Squadrons.

Or as a buddy of mine put it, "The 48th Fighter Wing gave 3 F-15s badass D-Day commemorative schemes."

Badass indeed.


Get some!

Not the 48th, but a cool painting nonetheless.

* AKA the "Bolars" - While stationed at Chaumont Air Base, France, the Madhatters were seen wearing berets. Upon being relocated to England the squadron adopted the bowler hat, a traditional English hat with a rounded crown. The tradition of wearing the bowler hat has continued to present day despite the lack of official uniform regulations authorizing such wear. Despite the usual spelling of the "bowler" hat, the squadron uses the flight callsign "Bolars."

The practice of adopting the headgear indicative of the various geographic regions the Bowlers are sent to has been continued. In Turkey, each deployed Madhatter had a blue fez hat. (Source)

Thursday, January 30, 2020


So frequent commenter and reader Nylon12 went all off-topic on me yesterday and I'm glad he did.

(And yes, you can ignore the bit about, scratching, gassing, and the potential for the non-wearing of pants.)

The post he was referencing is here (and yes, the headline is incorrect, he was the bombardier, not the pilot - juvat also wrote about 2d Lt* Kingsley here). The 173rd Fighter Wing's website also has a good article on this aircraft and 2d Lt Kingsley, here.

Here's another view of that "Heritage" bird which Edwards painted up for the 173rd -

Pretty cool name, huh? Sandman, which was a B-17F Serial Number 42-30333, which is depicted here:

Which led me to a couple of disconnects** with what may or may not be the truth. The Air Force says that this F-15C is named after the aircraft which 2d Lt Kingsley flew his last mission aboard. An aircraft which crashed in Romania on the 23rd of June, 1944. However, that doesn't appear to be the "real" story, which is actually a lot more interesting (and far less politically correct than the modern Air Force probably cares for) than what I read at the 173rd's website.

As I usually do, I tried to track down the serial number of the aircraft in question, a search for "B-17 Sandman" yielded the serial number 42-30333, a B-17F, so far so good. However, this aircraft (which for some reason is not listed on Joe Baugher's website) has this entry on a German website for the B-17 -
Delivered Cheyenne 14/5/43; Gore 17/5/43; Cheyenne 20/5/43; Smoky Hill 30/5/43; Tinker 19/6/43; Casper 28/6/43; Kearney 30/6/43; Greenville 7/7/43; Eglin 10/7/43; Dow Fd 12/7/43; Assigned 32BS/301BG St Donat 8/43; Oudna 6/8/43; Cerignola 7/12/43; Lucera 1/2/44; {18m} transferred 341BS/97BG Amendola, then weather aircraft 15/7/44; Salvaged 14/10/44. SANDMAN.
Hhmm, what? How could this aircraft, destroyed in Romania on 23 June be salvaged on 14 October later in 1944? Answer, it can't. Digging some more I came across this website, which has this to say about 2d Lt Kingsley's last mission-
The navigators of the 97th Bomb Group B-17s checked their maps as they approached the Danube River from the north on the morning of June 23, 1944. So far they were on course and on time for their assigned target, the Romanian city of Giurgiu on the border with Bulgaria. The Italy-based Fifteenth Air Force had that day launched hundreds of bombers against targets affiliated with Ploești and other Axis petroleum production and shipping points.
Nearly 70 miles south of Ploești, the Flying Fortresses pressed through a thick anti-aircraft barrage. During the bombing run on Giurgiu, the B-17F Opissonya was struck by flak and began losing altitude, but pilot Lieutenant Edwin Anderson was determined to put his bombardier over the target.
Lieutenant David R. Kingsley crouched over the Norden bombsight in Opissonya’s nose, seeking the aim point. He ignored attacking Messerschmitt Me-109s and dropped his bombs through thickening flak. By then the B-17 had taken a beating: Anderson pulled off target with one engine out and serious airframe damage.
More 109s pressed in, eager to finish off the straggler. One of them put a 20mm round into the tail gunner’s compartment, wounding Sergeant Michael Sullivan. Unable to call for help on the intercom, Sullivan crawled forward to the waist position. The gunners carried him to the radio compartment and summoned assistance. Now that they had dropped their bombload, Kingsley was the obvious choice to provide first aid.
A veteran airman on his 20th mission, Kingsley was not quite 26 years old. Although the lieutenant had washed out of pilot training, he excelled as a dual-rated bombardier-navigator. He was a long way from his home in Portland, Ore.
After removing Sullivan’s damaged parachute harness and jacket to expose his mangled shoulder, Kingsley managed to slow the bleeding. But the gunner had already lost too much blood; 500 miles from base, Sullivan was going into shock.
Then even more 109s arrived. During the course of a prolonged gunfight they shot the Fortress to tatters, forcing Anderson to ring the bailout bell. In the resulting confusion, Sullivan’s chute harness could not be found. Kingsley didn’t hesitate: He removed his own harness and fitted it on the gunner. Sullivan later related: “Lieutenant Kingsley took me in his arms and struggled to the bomb bay, where he told me to keep my hand on the ripcord and said to pull it when I was clear of the ship. Before I jumped, I looked up at him and the look on his face was firm and solemn. He must have known what was coming because there was no fear in his eyes at all.”
Dangling in their chutes, the crewmen watched their bomber fall to earth and burn in Bulgaria. The fliers were soon taken prisoner, and their captors later said they had found a dead airman on the crushed flight deck, perhaps having attempted a crash landing. Ten months later the Kingsley family received David’s Medal of Honor.
The 97th Group lost three more aircraft that day, while the Fifteenth wrote off five other bombers and four fighters. It was one more tragic entry in the prolonged campaign to turn off the spigot of Adolf Hitler’s Balkan oil.
Note that second paragraph, Opissonya is given as the aircraft name. A B-17F (manufactured by Lockheed-Vega) -
42-5905/5954 Lockheed/Vega B-17F-35-VE Fortress 
42-5951 (97th BG, 341th BS) lost Jun 23, 1944.  MACR 6406
The aircraft was lost on 23 June 1944 which is the day 2d Lt Kingsley was killed, so that matches. Now say that name out loud, slowly. Now does that seem like something the Air Force would paint on the nose of its aircraft in these modern times? Yeah, I didn't think so.

A Bulgarian website (of all places) actually has a couple of photos of Opissonya -

History gets very interesting when you start digging. I can understand why the Air Force chose not to paint that F-15C with the name Opissonya on the nose, but it's not correct. I can also understand why the crew of that B-17F chose that name, it's a very G.I. thing to do. A great name really.

Perhaps 2d Lt Kingsley once was a crewman on Sandman, I'm still digging on that, but really Air Force, if the name of the aircraft 2d Lt Kingsley died on bothers you, paint it in the colors of the 341st Bomb Squadron in which he served, doesn't have to have a specific aircraft name on it. Well, at least Sandman was in the same squadron.

Really cool story, but I can't stand political correctness.

While it does nothing to diminish the heroism of 2d Lt Kingsley, it ain't quite the whole story now, is it?

Any theories? Data that I missed? Am I too wrapped around the axle on this?

What say you on this matter?

* Why can't I find an Air Force publication/website on official Air Force rank abbreviations? Why do I have to use the Trade School on the Severn's data? (Not that I have a problem with that, Tuttle is a graduate.) But geez USAF, come on!
** The second disconnect was that apparently 2d Lt Kingsley's aircraft was shot down on a mission to bomb Giurgiu, not Ploiești. Same country but the two towns are some seventy miles apart, the former is north of Bucharest, the latter south of the Romanian capital.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Plus ça change...*


First things first. Up well before dawn (0300) on Tuesday to deliver The Missus Herself to the local aeroporto for an 0600 flight. She was bound for California to visit The WSO's branch of the tribe. With Big Time at sea for a few months, the youngest of the Sarge Clan could use the moral support. Not to mention that everyone loves flying across the entire country on minimal sleep with at least two stops along the way. A very long day for my better half.

As for moi, I spent a long day at work doing a lot of not much on far too little sleep. So finding myself with a bit of time on my hands I spent that in the Neptunus Lex archives over on The Wayback Machine, where I stumbled upon this...
It’s become this kind of strange, reflexive kabuki dance, up there on Capitol Hill. The prez notes that it’s a bright and sunny morning and legions of opponents cry out, “Balderdash! No such thing. Instead it is a dark and stormy night, made worse by this administration’s trampling of our fundamental rights under the Constitution. There. Somewhere.” - Lex
Go and read the whole thing, not that long, comments are there as well.

I sure miss that guy.

The more things change...

* From the French saying "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - "The more things change, the more they stay the same." And yes, I'm tired, thanks for asking. But I least I didn't have to cross the entire country to get that way so I've got that going for me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

No, I Did Not Shank a Smurf...

But it certainly looks like I did.

During the design of the Marble Throne Room, the progeny were concerned that The Old Man (i.e. Your Humble Scribe) being advanced in decrepitude and all, might perchance require certain handles and rails so as not to fall and injure his ancient self. (Yes, yes, I'll get to the "I didn't shank a smurf" thing in a moment.)

Yes, yes, I am a bit less spry than I used to be, and a lot of my cat-like grace has been lost. Which reminded me of this exchange on one of juvat's posts from a week or so ago -

Yes, a "safety of flight issue," it happens to the best of us. My dancing style is perhaps best illustrated by the following video clip -

The foot shuffling, the swaying back and forth, yup, that's me on the dance floor. If I run into something it's, unlike the rhino, unintentional. But no doubt has the same effect on those I stumbled into as the folks in that vehicle.

So yeah, I've never been graceful, but clumsy?

Anyhoo, a couple of weeks ago I'm telling the guys at work about this concern my adult children have for my ability to remain upright...

"I mean it's my wife who's the klutz, I'm fairly nimble I..."

"You're the guy who slammed his finger in a door last Fourth of July... Remember?" My boss said, interrupting my protestations about being clumsy.

Well, okay, guilty as charged. But I don't fall down all that much.

Anyhoo, the smurf thing (all of the above was setting the stage, an attempt to illustrate that Your Humble Scribe is not without his awkward moments).

Back in May of 2012, The Missus Herself and I spent a week in Italy, part of which was recounted here, and one of our side trips was to a restaurant in Tuscany, pretty sure it was this one -

Where upon arrival we were treated to a table of wine glasses containing blue wine. Yup, blue wine -

Yes, yes, very  tasty, tasty indeed. However, upon being directed to the table of blue wine, one of our group asked how the blue wine was made. Our host informed us that it was made by crushing smurfs. Which I found hysterical.

Anyhoo, long story short, while in the processing of printing something from my computer on Sunday last, I noted that the ink was just about gone. The thing I printed looked rather like a blank sheet of paper with some very faint hieroglyphics here and there. Nothing really discernible, time to change the ink cartridges in Mr. Printer.

No problem says I, I bought some new cartridges from the Interwebz a couple of years ago, enough to change the ink twice. This would be the second time (for those of you keeping score at home).

Opening the top of the printer (to which my computer started whinging about "the top of the printer is open!" Well, no shit Sherlock, I did that, it ain't like gravity just reversed its polarity or something, it ain't like juvat "rerouted the power conduits, reversing the polarity of the beam so that I could receive phone calls from Pluto" - love that line so I stole borrowed it) I waited for the little trolley inside the printer to center itself, placing the cartridges within easy reach for a change out.

As I started I thought to myself, "Hhmm, maybe I should read the directions..." but I did that after I changed the black cartridge (there are four - black, red, blue, and yellow). For the heck of it, I glanced at the directions whilst preparing to load the blue cartridge, seeing this


I was chuckling about that as I pulled the orange tab from the cartridge, at the same time feeling a certain wet sensation upon my right hand which was caused by the left hand, indeed, squeezing the damned cartridge.

Yup, 'tis a complete goof I am, a real Captain Dumas (not pronounced in the French style). The Missus Herself immediately shook her head upon hearing my imprecations from the computer room at Chez Sarge, knowing instinctively that I had gotten into some misadventure. What I like to call "the weekend."

Showing her the results of squeezing the cartridge, all she could say was...

"You're an idiot..."

She might be on to something there.

Maybe it's time to shop for hand rails and the like for the Marble Throne Room.


That hand! How did my grandfather's hand get in that opening photo? Mysterious indeed!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Sunday or Not Sunday...That is the question

I've posted here before, my belief that, upon retirement, there are only two days of the week. Sunday and "Not Sunday".

Well! Gonna have to rethink that one aren't we now, Buckwheat?

So, the saga begins a couple of weeks ago.  Mrs J are out to eat at a local Burger Joint, Porky's  (Go early before the rush) and her phone buzzes indicating a text message.  She answers it and asks me "What do you think?"


All the male readers know that this indicates what will be a very dangerous next couple of minutes.  Saying nothing is deadly.  As is saying "Nothing".  Almost as bad is "About what?"  After feverishly reviewing the data stored on my short term memory and finding no data whatsoever,  I said a quick prayer for mercy and asked "About what?"

She looks at me, puzzled and says "About MBD's text".  I grab my phone out of its holster and look at the text icon.  Nothing.

I report that to her.

Being the ex-AT&T employee, she grabs my phone for inspection as clearly I am not competent in cellular operations to receive a text message.

She hands it back and says "See?  You don't have cellular service."

All the male readers will also realize that last is not her complete statement and that it was, immediately be followed by:

"What did you do?"

Again, "Nothing" is not an acceptable answer.


"My dear, I rerouted the power conduits, reversing the polarity of the beam so that I could receive phone calls from Pluto."

Thankfully, the burgers were delivered to the table at that moment.

And the signal from my brain to my vocal cords ordering the release of that statement was interrupted.

Later when the conversation resumed, I had cleverly composed a more strategically viable response.

"Dear, since you have a signal and are sitting directly across from me and I have no signal, I think something is wrong with my phone.  We can take it by the store and have them check it out."

Which we did.

As the guy was looking at it, he popped out the SIM card and noted a piece of something in there.  Cleaned it off and Voila'.  It worked.

Happy now, we headed back to Rancho Juvat, where immediately upon arrival said phone dropped its cellular connection.

Thinking I've got something major going on, I plug it into my Computer and back up the device.

Always an important step.

However, as soon as the backup is complete and I disconnect it from the computer, the cellular connection returns.

And works until the day before yesterday. AKA not Sunday.

So, ever optimistic, as I go to bed, I plug the phone into the computer to communicate with the mother ship or whatever so that it will work the next day.  I dig my old watch, a Timex which doesn't require communication with anything but its battery to function, out and put it next to the bed with the alarm set.

Besides the alarm time, its got three settings, Daily, Weekends, and Off.  I set it to Weekends.

Prepped now for the early arrival of "Sunday", I drift off into the arms of Morpheus, soundly, like the dead.

Now, I have used this alarm before and gotten used to it in the "Not Sunday", "Sunday" routine.  The first day, on "Weekend" setting is "Not Sunday".  When it goes off, turn it off and turn over.  The second day, Turn on the light...

Well, when it sounded, much like the hammers of hell, I rolled over, thought "first day, therefore, not Sunday" turned it off and turned over.

Sometime thereafter, light is starting to wend its way through the curtains, and Mrs J wakes up and asks me if I had set the alarm.  I said "Why?  It's "Not Sunday""

So...I'm revising my weekly calendar.  There are now 3 days every week.  "Not Sunday", "Sunday" and "Almost Sunday".

By the way, if anybody is experiencing the same symptoms with their phone as I had, take it by the store and have them try a new SIM card.  That brought it back to life yesterday.  If it dies again, it's "Sayonara, Sucker!" and I'll have to get a new phone.

I'm thinking I may finally be old enough now for a Jitterbug Flip Phone.

Earlier, last week Sarge stated that one of our missions here is to "remember".  30 years ago this Friday, an event occurred that I will always remember.  If you would stop by here and maybe say a prayer, I would appreciate it.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday Reflections

Back during the waning of the last Ice Age (well, okay it wasn't that long ago, feels like it though) I used to wonder what I was going to do with my life. There were times living out at Buckingham Palace (mentioned here and here) where I would sit in my room, listen to music and just wonder. What the Hell was I doing, where the Hell was I going?

Well, I know now, don't I?

It's a wet, rainy, somewhat chilly Saturday night here in the 401. The feline staff, The Missus Herself, and Your Humble Scribe are all tucked away in our comfortable suburban home. The cats are sleeping, the wife is chatting with her Korean friends (don't let the media fool you, Saturday was Korean New Year, not Chinese New Year* - so 새해 복 많이 받으세요 to everyone), and I am writing a post. This post.

But the writing of was yesterday as you read, it's in the past. And in the past I was often not a happy camper, until I met The Missus Herself. Things are good now, awfully good. I have no complaints, nothing big anyway. I am, as they say, blessed.

I'm inside.

Ian Anderson

All the places I've been make it hard to begin
To enjoy life again on the inside, but I mean to
Take a walk around the block
And be glad that I've got
Me some time to be in from the outside
And inside with you

I'm sitting on the corner feeling glad
Got no money coming in but I can't be sad
That was the best cup of coffee I ever had
And I won't worry about a thing because we've got it made
Here on the inside, outside so far away

And we'll laugh and we'll sing
Get someone to bring
Our friends here for tea in the evening
Old Jeffrey makes three...

Take a walk in the park
Does the wind in the dark
Sound like music to you?
Well I'm thinking it does to me

Can you cook, can you sew?
Well, I don't want to know
That is not what you need on the inside
To make the time go

Counting lambs, counting sheep
We will fall into sleep
And awake to a new day of living
And loving you so

I don't have much to say today, but man, I have so much to be thankful for. Y'all are a big part of that.

* Okay, it was that too, but we're not Chinese are we? Properly, it was the Lunar New Year.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Hessians

Battle of Trenton
Don Troiani
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. - Declaration of Independence
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane
John Quidor
The legend of the Headless Horseman (also known as "the Headless Hessian of the Hollow") begins in Sleepy Hollow, New York, during the American Revolutionary War. Traditional folklore holds that the Horseman was a Hessian trooper who was killed during the Battle of White Plains in 1776. He was decapitated by an American cannonball, and the shattered remains of his head were left on the battlefield while his comrades hastily carried his body away. Eventually they buried him in the cemetery of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, from which he rises as a malevolent ghost, furiously seeking his lost head. Modern versions of the story refer his rides to Halloween, around which time the battle took place. (Source)

The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (historical Tarrytown, New York), in a secluded glen known as Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is renowned for its ghosts and the haunting atmosphere that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors. Some residents say this town was bewitched during the early days of the Dutch settlement, while others claim that the mysterious atmosphere was caused by an old Native American chief, the "wizard of his tribe ... before the country was discovered by Master Hendrik Hudson." The most infamous specter in the Hollow is the Headless Horseman, supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper whose head had been shot off by a stray cannonball during "some nameless battle" of the Revolution, and who "rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head". (Source) 
During the height of the American Revolutionary War, Irving writes that the country surrounding Tarry Town "was one of those highly-favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war; it had, therefore, been the scene of marauding, and infested with refugees, cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry."
After the Battle of White Plains in October 1776, the country south of the Bronx River was abandoned by the Continental Army and occupied by the British. The Americans were fortified north of Peekskill, leaving Westchester County a 30-mile stretch of scorched and desolated no-man's land, vulnerable to outlaws, raiders, and vigilantes. Besides droves of Loyalist rangers and British light infantry, Hessian Jägers—renowned sharpshooters and horsemen—were among the raiders who often skirmished with Patriot militias. The Headless Horseman, said to be a decapitated Hessian soldier, may have indeed been based loosely on the discovery of just such a Jäger's headless corpse found in Sleepy Hollow after a violent skirmish, and later buried by the Van Tassel family, in an unmarked grave in the Old Dutch Burying Ground. The dénouement of the fictional tale is set at the bridge over the Pocantico River in the area of the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground in Sleepy Hollow. (Source)

Those troops in the opening picture? Hessians.

Growing up in New England, history was a living breathing thing. The World Wars were yesterday, the Civil War was last week, and the Revolution only a month or so before that. Or so it seemed. So in a sense I knew of those fearsome beasts, "The Hessians." If killed, they would rise from the grave and hunt you down. In life, they were unrelenting and showed no mercy. The bloody king brought them to the colonies for the purpose of showing just how cruel and merciless he was. I mean the Declaration of Independence says so, how could we be wrong? As a boy, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow terrified me, to me it was a true story, even though my parents assured me that it was not.

So just who were these "Hessians" of legend, brought to the colonies to crush the rebellion and return the Americas to their proper subjugation to the British crown?

Before going further, what the Hell was King George III thinking by hiring these mercenaries to suppress his less-than-loyal subjects? First let's answer the question of "Who is King George III?"
George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of the two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was concurrently Duke (Herzog) and Prince-elector (Kurfürst) of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (also known for it's capital as "Hannover") in the Holy Roman Empire before becoming King (König) of Hannover on 12 October 1814. He was a monarch of the House of Hannover, but unlike his two predecessors (George I and George II), he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hannover.* (Source)
So yes,  the King had German roots, held lands and titles in the Holy Roman Empire (which was not Holy, not Roman, and certainly not a proper empire) where most of the inhabitants spoke some form of German. (Though I speak a lot of German, I still can't fathom what Bavarians and Austrians are saying. Different dialects ya know.)

The German-speaking troops sent by the King to suppress the Revolution were most emphatically not mercenaries.

mercenary (Source)
  1. serving merely for pay or sordid advantage
  2. hired for service in the army of a foreign country
Number (2) applies here, the rulers (princes, dukes, etc.) of the various places where George III procured these troops hired out entire units from their armies for cash on the barrelhead. There were even provisions in the various contracts for payments to the owning prince (duke, elector, etc.) in the event of a soldier being killed or wounded. In other words, the prince (duke, elector, etc.) expected to get his soldiers back in one piece. Or you paid extra.

Did that money go to the surviving family of the lost soldier? Depends on the prince (duke, elector, etc.), but you can bet probably not, or if the family did get a cut, it was a pittance. (There wasn't really any sort of military retirement plan back in the day for the troops. Officers, sometimes, it depends.)

So where did these "Hessians" come from and why did we call them "Hessians"? Most of the units hired out to the King were from what we know as Hesse-Cassel (which in German is Hessen-Kassel) and the folks there are known as Hessians (duh). The others were from:
  • Hessen-Hanau
  • Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel
  • Brandenburg-Ansbach
  • Brandenburg-Bayreuth
  • Waldeck
  • Hannover
  • Anhalt-Zerbst
I should note that even the troops from Hesse-Cassel (which is how they spelled it, back in the day) weren't all Hessian citizens. In those times men who had trouble finding gainful employment were often forced into the military. In those days most of the kids these days who go to Europe to travel around with nothing but a backpack to "find themselves" would have wound up in the army of some minor German princeling. Whether they liked it or not. It was not uncommon for a man just passing through the domain of the prince to get scooped up and put into uniform.

Training was brutal and based heavily on the Prussian model. Rigid adherence to discipline was enforced by officers and sergeants with drawn swords and spontoons marching behind the ordered ranks ready to "convince" a wavering soldier to advance. Flogging, hanging, and other forms of punishment were common to enforce discipline. Sure, you can't expect a guy to be a good soldier if you hang him for plundering, desertion, and the like, but it will certainly encourage his buddies to behave.

Frederick the Great (King of Prussia, a German-speaking land) allegedly stated that he preferred that his soldiers fear him (and/or his officers) more than they feared the enemy. Go forward, you might die, try to retreat or run, you will die. (Though that story may be apocryphal, I like it.)

Were these Hessians the beasts and monsters some have portrayed them as? In all armies (then and now) there will always be a certain element who enjoy lording it over the defenseless, like civilians and prisoners. The 1700s were no exception. When the British Army rolled through New Jersey in 1776 the Hessians gained a bad reputation for burning down nice houses and lifting things which didn't belong to them. The British soldiers themselves weren't much better. (After Waterloo the British were appalled at their Prussian allies for the wanton destruction of property by the common soldiery as the armies marched on Paris.)

It was a Revolution after all and in the eyes of the British and their German allies, we were a people rebelling against the authority of our lawful king. How dare we?

They were soldiers much like those of other armies of the time. They probably were no more or less brutal than any other soldiers of the time. Including the Americans, the Revolution in the South was extremely brutal, many atrocities committed by both sides.

So what happened to all of those German-speaking soldiers hired out by their ruler to go fight somebody else's war?
About 30,000 Germans served in the Americas, and, after the war ended in 1783, some 17,313 returned to their German homelands. Of the 12,526 who did not return, about 7,700 had died. Some 1,200 were killed in action, and 6,354 died from illnesses or accidents, mostly the former. Approximately 5,000 German troops, mainly press-ganged or conscripted in their countries of origin, settled in North America, either the United States or Canada. (Source)
The Hessians weren't the only German-speaking soldiers to fight in the American Revolution. In 1776 Congress authorized the raising of a number of new regiments, at least one battalion of which would be formed from the German-speaking settlers of Pennsylvania and Maryland (see sources 4 and 5 below).

So there were Germans on both sides of the Revolution.

I had no ideer.***

Other sources:
  1. The Hessians Are Coming! (This article is superb.)
  2. Hessian Soldiers of the American Revolution
  3. The Hessian Barracks
  4. German Marylanders
  5. Germans in the American Revolution

Tip of the Pickelhaube** to my fellow Lexican and long time Chanter "D" for those sources 2, 3, and 4 above. Also a great PDF concerning German prisoners in the American Revolution from Maryland Historical Magazine, issue dated September of 1945. Thanks "D"!

* Throughout I have used the proper German names for titles and localities in what would be known as Germany from 1871 to the present day. Note that "Brunswick," the English name, is properly "Braunschweig," in German.
** No, the Hessians didn't wear these, that's me being "cute."
*** Buck, miss him I do.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Friday Flyby - Boeing 307 Stratoliner

Boeing 307 (NC 19903) in Elliott Bay, Seattle, March 28, 2002
I received an email from fellow vet (and longtime Chanter) Ox the other day, part of which had this to say -
When I first got to Tan Son Nhut after the flight from Guam, I saw a couple of unusual-looking prop-driven airliners over near the terminal, and misidentified them as 4-engine C-46s! Turns out they were a couple surviving examples of the 10 Boeing 307 Stratoliners ever built, and I misidentified them because of the sloped windscreens at the front of the fuselages. There is one of these planes still in existence at a facility out on the East coast, and I'm still hoping you may locate and publish one or more photos of it.
Well, you're in luck Ox, for I have seen this sole surviving example of the Boeing 307 Stratoliner, she's at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (part of the National Air and Space Museum) in Chantilly, Virginia. She's a beauty she is.

Oddly enough, the aircraft I snapped a photo of at Udvar-Hazy is the very same aircraft depicted in the opening photograph snapped by the Coast Guard. According to the Pedia of Wiki -
The only surviving Boeing 307 Stratoliner (NC19903) is preserved in flying condition at the Smithsonian Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. On March 28, 2002, this aircraft crashed into Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington, on what was to be its last flight before heading to the Smithsonian. Despite the incident, it was again restored, flown to the Smithsonian, and is now on display. (Source)
According to the FAA, she's no longer registered -

While I can't say for certain whether or not the old girl is still flyable, I note the presence of what have to be oil drip pans under each engine...

Very few (just this one?) of the aircraft at Udvar-Hazy have those, whereas most of the aircraft at Pungo do -

And yes, that is a Skyraider.
(Note the drip pan on the floor, under the engine.)
As to confusing the C-46 Curtiss Commando with the Boeing Stratoliner, it's not hard to do -

C-46F "China Doll", Camarillo Airport Museum
It's that lovely rounded nose. In fact, my photo of the Stratoliner above was saved in The Chant's archives as "Curtiss CW-20." I misidentified that bird the first time I saw her as a "C-46," the civilian version of which is the CW-20. Sarge sees rounded nose and thinks "C-46," Sarge sees shiny fuselage and thinks "civilian." Therefore, I assumed that Udvar-Hazy had a Curtiss CW-20.

I was wrong... (Hey, it happens.)

I should have counted the engines! (Yes, I can count higher than "2," I have ten fingers and ten toes and I was in the Air Force. Also I'm a computer guy, I can count to 1,023 in binary using my fingers only. Unsigned of course. Don't ask, I'm sorry I brought it up...)

Anyhoo, the Stratoliner is a very pretty aircraft, according to the Pedia of Wiki -
In 1935, Boeing designed a four-engine airliner based on its B-17 heavy bomber (Boeing Model 299), then in development, calling it the Model 307. It combined the wings, tail, rudder, landing gear, and engines from their production B-17C with a new, circular cross-section fuselage of 138 inch diameter, designed to allow pressurization. (Source)

I can see a certain resemblance between the two aircraft, though the vertical stabilizer of the Stratoliner looks more like that "Cheyenne" vertical stabilizer of the later model B-17s, nothing at all like the B-17C. The rest of it though, does bear more than a passing resemblance to the B-17C.

As to the Stratoliners that Ox saw at Tan Son Nhut -
TWA sold its Stratoliner fleet to the French airline Aigle Azur who used them on scheduled flights from France to North and Central Africa, and later to French Indo-China. These 307s were later transferred to Aigle Azur's Vietnamese subsidiary and were used by a number of airlines in South East Asia, with at least one aircraft remaining in commercial use until 1974. (Source)
Maybe those birds were the ones Ox saw? FWIW, Aigle Azur ceased to exist back in September of last year, interesting. So they had a pretty good run.

The U.S. military did use the Stratoliner -
At the time the United States entered World War II in December 1941, flying across oceans was a rare luxury. The war required government and military officials to do so, and most four-engined long-range commercial aircraft, including Pan American Airways' 14 flying boats and TWA's five Boeing 307s, were pressed into service. Additional fuel tanks were added to give them the extra range required; once converted they were designated C-75 for military use. Before World War II ended their production, ten commercial 307s had been built. TWA flew domestic routes between New York and Los Angeles for 18 months until the Army purchased their Stratoliners for wartime use as long-range, transatlantic transports for various VIPs or critical cargo on January 26, 1942. TWA converted their 307s to military service in January 1942, and its Intercontinental Division (ICD) then operated these C-75s under contract to the Army's Air Transport Command (ATC) until July 1944. These were the only U. S. built commercial aircraft able to cross the Atlantic with a payload until the arrival of the Douglas C-54 Skymaster in November 1942.
Conversion to the C-75 included removal of the pressurization equipment to save weight, removal of the forward four (or five) of nine reclining seats along the port side, and alteration of the two forward Pullman-like compartments (of four) starboard of the left-of-centerline aisle. Space was thus provided for crew requirements on extremely long flights and for the addition of five 212.5 U.S. gallon  fuel tanks. The landing gear was strengthened, the maximum takeoff weight was increased from 45,000 to 56,000 lb, and the exterior was painted military olive drab. (Source)
One-half left front view of forward half of Boeing C-75 Stratoliner "Navajo" on the ground; eight unidentified TWA crewmen in uniform pose standing in a line in front; location unknown. Date is circa 1942, when all five TWA Boeing SA-307B Stratoliners were drafted into the U.S. Army Air Transport Command for service in World War II.
As you can tell in that previous photograph, the Stratoliner is a fairly big aircraft. Standing next to it at Udvar-Hazy reinforces that impression. On last note from the Pedia of Wiki article on the Stratoliner which I found interesting was this -
Pan Am flew its unmodified 33-passenger Stratoliners between Miami and Havana until 1947, then sold them to small operators. One aircraft was purchased by the Haitian Air Force, being fitted as a Presidential transport for François "Papa Doc" Duvalier. This aircraft later returned to the U.S. and was purchased by the Smithsonian Museum. (Source)
Which this National Air and Space Museum press release confirms -
The Clipper Flying Cloud began service flying Caribbean routes for two years. During World War II, it flew in South America under the direction of the U.S. Army Air Forces. In 1946, it made daily runs between New York and Bermuda. Throughout the next two decades it passed through the hands of several owners, and once served as a presidential plane for the notorious Haitian leader "Papa Doc" Duvalier. After its Haitian sojourn, the Clipper Flying Cloud landed in Arizona.
Another good article on the Clipper Flying Cloud is here, explains how she wound up going swimming in Seattle.

One left out of only ten ever built, that's a rare bird indeed!

Thanks for the idea Ox!

Thursday, January 23, 2020



I was all prepared to start a rather informative and historically accurate post about what we Yanks liked to call "the Hessians" during the American Revolution, even started the research, then real life intervened.

Had my oil changed in Big Girl** on Saturday last, a periodic maintenance thing which I pay for rather than do myself, after all it boosts the economy and provides jobs. 'Murica...

Anyhoo. Rather than tell me that I had an oil leak, the employees of the place where I get my oil changed, let me know via emailed invoice that I had an oil leak. Which I checked a couple of days after the fact.


Nothing major I thought, get it checked, probably a bad gasket, I mean Big Girl is fifteen years old. Well, it wasn't major, but a lot of minor things often can add up to "Whoa, it's gonna cost how much?"

Okay, so in 2018 I dropped about three grand on Big Girl's exhaust system, it had suffered from age and salt air long enough. Now according to Sarge-logic, cars need to be replaced when the cost of maintenance exceeds the cost of a new vehicle. As the cost of a new vehicle (one that I would want and drive, I ain't no cheap sumbitch, mind you) would probably run five to six grand a year in car payments, three grand did not exceed my "time for a new car" threshold.

Nor does this excursion into auto repair Hell. (Well, truth be told, more like auto repair heck, doesn't even qualify as Hell, nor Purgatory, the latter not being a thing in Protestantville.) Still and all, I'd rather not have to pay over a grand for a bunch of minor problems which "all together now" produce a large (ish) bill.

But I will. I really, really, really like this vehicle. And they don't make them anymore.

No, I don't work on my own car. I have neither the inclination, tools, nor patience to do such a thing. Not to mention an appalling lack of mechanical aptitude for such things and an almost pathological dislike of getting my hands dirty. Spent some few years doing that, didn't care for it. Besides which paying someone else to do it boosts the economy, creates jobs, etc., etc.

Yes, I do use the local dealership where the vehicle was purchased, they know what they are doing and they have earned my trust. Some of the local "I know a guy" mechanics demonstrated a complete lack of aptitude and a rather lackadaisical work ethic so I don't go to them anymore. Color me crazy I dunno.

At this point in the post, feel free to chime in with your own automotive horror stories, advice, and your "I've worked on my own car since I was five" stories. I don't mind.

As for me? I've gotta write a check. Then explain Sarge-logic on car buying to The Missus Herself once again. No doubt I will come away from that looking like this -

But I'll get over it...

* With apologies to the Donovans of Castle Argghhh...
** My 2005 Honda Element

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

From Lexington to Trenton

Arnold's column is shattered in fierce street fighting during the Battle of Quebec
Charles William Jefferys
After finishing Rick Atkinson's first volume of his American Revolution trilogy a while back (available here), I was searching through my library for something else to read, preferably something about the Revolution. I had forgotten that I had this book in my library -

(Available here)
Written in 1952, i.e. before Your Humble Scribe first arrived on this planet, that blurb on the bottom of the front cover is accurate. This is my second time through this most excellent work. As I mentioned in an email to one of our gentle readers, I have little time for reading these days, what I would have made short work of a few months ago, now takes forever. I manage to get in only a few pages a day, which annoys me. I used to read voraciously, another excuse, no doubt, as to why I should retire sooner, rather than later. (Besides which I have a book - or two - myself which yearns to be free from the dark recesses of my mind...)

All that being said, the period of American history from April of 1775 to December of 1776 is one I can never get enough of, no matter how many books I read on the subject. From that bright spring day outside of Boston to that winter darkness on the banks of the Delaware River, the struggles of our forefathers to create this nation never cease to amaze and inspire me. Especially considering the utter nonsense being propagated amongst the citizenry in our own time.

At Lexington the British military swept aside a ragged band of armed citizens, they were somewhat surprised that these men stood as long as they did (which wasn't very long, one volley had them running). Those same redcoats received a bloody shock as their march to Concord (to seize arms and powder it should be mentioned) became a very bloody stroll through the Massachusetts countryside, opposed as they were by various and sundry ragged bands of militia.

Later at Breed's Hill the colonials had the effrontery to dig entrenchments (which should have been dug on Bunker Hill had the folks in charge actually obeyed their orders) to actually attempt to intimidate the forces then occupying Boston. "Up and at 'em!" cried General Howe.

Up the bloody slope the redcoats went, three times, before the colonials ran out of powder and shot and were forced to flee. The detritus of the British advance, dead and wounded British soldiers, should have convinced the British that these "damned colonists" weren't fooling around when speaking of their rights.

It did not.

A former bookseller, turned artillerist, led a group of hardy souls to Fort Ticonderoga on the shores of Lake Champlain where a store of cannon was available. These folks proceeded to haul a substantial train of artillery from the fort, across the frozen Berkshires, all the way to Boston, yes, in the winter. Whereupon the ragged colonials (now under the command of an amateur soldier and gentleman from Virginia named Washington) emplaced those cannon overlooking Boston, whereupon General Howe no doubt, upon beholding those cannon and fortifications overlooking his position, realized that he had two choices: engage in another bloody frontal assault, or skedaddle.

Skedaddle they did, first to Halifax (taking with them those who still supported the King, i.e. the Loyalists) and then eventually on to the city of New York. Which the British would occupy until the end of the war, after kicking the upstart colonials out of the place.

Before the evacuation of Boston took place (an event still celebrated in that city), a few folks had the idea that maybe the Canadians would like to be free of those awful Brits as well. So an expedition was laid on to "drive the British from Canada." One group, under General Richard Montgomery, who you may or may not have ever heard of, went up to Canada via the Hudson - Lake George - Lake Champlain route, while a second group under General Benedict Arnold, who you probably have heard of, headed towards Canada up the Kennebec River and the woods of Maine. In winter.

Needless to say, the invasion failed (which you can tell as Canada is not part of the United States). General Montgomery was killed in action and General Arnold was badly wounded (which left him cranky and moody for the rest of his days as I understand it) during the assault on Quebec City.

While Quebec is not on the way to Trenton from Boston, historically it was. The invasion of Canada was the only game in town whilst Washington and his army besieged Boston. It failed but not through want of trying. However, try as hard as you like, if your logistics suck, it won't go.

The Revolution was nearly over bar the shouting when Washington and the other colonial amateur generals tried to make a stand first on Long Island and then on the island of Manhattan.

In those days the western end of Long Island was wooded and rather hilly. Washington's forces entrenched in the area of what is now Brooklyn and positioned themselves to guard three passes through the hills.

There were actually four passes.

Yes, the British used the fourth to sweep the colonials from the field. Though the colonials managed to get across the water to Manhattan, in a very Dunkirk-like miracle, they really had no defenses against the Royal Navy which could sail up and down the Hudson and East Rivers at will. This of course enabled the British to bring artillery fire to bear on any position Washington chose to defend (remember, Manhattan is an island).

Harried out of New York and across New Jersey, losing many troops and supplies along the way, Washington's ragged army of amateurs was on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River as Christmas 1776 approached. At the end of that month the Continental Army (for so they were now styled) would be reduced to something around 1500 men. So many enlistments would expire on 31 December that Washington would scarce have an army at all.

Fortunately for him (and by extension, us) General Howe decided to go into winter quarters (hole up in comfortable surroundings until spring came) back in New York, leaving a line of outposts in "the Jerseys" as it was called back then (as opposed to just "Jersey" these days).

One of those outposts was in Trenton, manned primarily by Hessians (think Germans from Hesse-Kassel, entire units hired by the British to suppress the rebellion, I'll write more about those guys one of these days POCIR). Which of course leads to a famous painting and (of course) this meme -

Reading of the troops struggling to get over the river, their timetable shot to Hell, marching on icy roads in driving snow and freezing rain, leaving bloody footprints as many of them wore naught but rags on their feet, is inspiring. Against all odds they surprised the Hessians and won a stunning victory. Imagine the utter chaos of that day after Christmas, 4000 men fighting in a small village (for Trenton was small in those days) in the cold of a wintry morning. Cannon fire, shouted commands, the rattle of musketry, the screams of the wounded as the Hessians, tumbled from their beds attempted to stop this ragged horde of Americans charging into their midst. Their commander mortally wounded in the process.

It saved the Revolution.

It should also serve as a reminder to those who think that we're a people easily cowed. We may not be as hardy as folks back then, but there is still a solid core of citizens who will stand their ground if pushed too far.

Sic semper tyrannis indeed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


LT (jg) Patton on the left, his section leader (talking with his hands) LT Peter Russell on the right.
(Source - Go, read the whole thing...)
Last week I posted twice about the Spad, the venerable A-1 Skyraider, an aircraft for which I have developed a great affinity. I mean it's big, it's loud, it's kinda like Your Humble Scribe, only way more effective. I like the bird so much I went out and bought this -

The beauty of Amazon, ordered it Thursday afternoon, had it in hand less than 24 hours later.

But this isn't another Skyraider post.

In the comments on this post, Navy Davy informed us that LT Russell returned to Vietnam flying OV-10 Broncos with VAL-4.
VAL-4 (Light Attack Squadron FOUR) was established on 03 January of 1969 with the mission of conducting surveillance and offensive operations in support of river patrol craft, as well as providing air support for SEALS and combined U.S. Army, Navy and South Vietnamese operations. (Source PDF)
Unfortunately, LT Russell was killed in action on 26 May 1969. According to the National Naval Aviation Museum's website -
On May 25, 1969*, VAL-4 aircraft received radio calls for assistance from two Navy river patrol boats (PBR) taking fire from Viet Cong positions in the jungle along the Cai Lon River Arriving quickly on scene to the surprise of some of the boat crews—VAL-4 had been in country for a relatively short time and not all of the men of the riverine forces were aware of their existence—the OV-10 flown by Russell and Johnson along with the airplane of their wingmen, Commander Gil Winans and Lieutenant (junior grade) Roy Sikkink, executed a series of rocket attacks against the enemy positions. When their rockets were expended, they initiated close-in strafing runs in using the M-60 machine guns on their aircraft.
Flying Black Pony 107, Russell and Johnson were making a strafing run when a single 7.62 millimeter round struck the right side of the canopy of the front cockpit, hitting Russell in the head. From his position in the rear cockpit, Johnson had been leaning forward over the top of Russell’s ejection seat to get a good view of the strafing run when the bullet struck. He slumped over to the left after pieces of shattered Plexiglas struck him in the face, but quickly realized that the airplane was in a steep dive and the control stick between his legs was offering no resistance when he moved it. That fact and the lack of response to his radio calls to Russell indicated that the pilot was incapacitated, prompting Johnson to pull back on the stick. The OV-10 responded, exiting its dive just thirty-five feet over the water.
Johnson flew the airplane back to Binh Thuy with the engines at full throttle, not knowing until he landed that Lieutenant Pete Russell had been killed. “For the Black Ponies, it was a wake-up call,” Johnson later recalled. “I think everybody now realized this was serious business. “
Truly a man worth remembering.

The aircraft in which LT Russell lost his life, BuNo 155472,
currently on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola, FL.
It's one of our missions here at The Chant, remembering those who gave the last full measure. RIP LT Russell...

High Flight
Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.


* The date of LT Russell's death is given as 23 May 1969 here.