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Posted in Military History

Aug. 15: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1934: The Marines depart Haiti, ending the United States’ 19-year occupation of the Caribbean island.

1942: U.S. Navy destroyers finally manage to deliver the first load of supplies to Marines on Guadalcanal, who have been coping with limited rations and ammunition since landing nearly ten days ago.

Also on this day, Maj. Gen. Matthew Ridgway’s 82d “All-American” Infantry Division is redesignated as the 82d Airborne Division, becoming the first airborne division in American military history. The division’s first combat jumps will take place in Sicily and Italy the following year.

1943: 35,000 American and Canadian troops conduct an amphibious landing on the beaches of Kiska, Alaska – only to discover that the Japanese had abandoned the island weeks ago.

In the Solomon Islands, 6,500 soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division storm ashore on Vella Lavella. The islands will be captured in just under a month.

1944: (featured image) Well over 100,000 American and French troops land on the French Riviera, easily driving the German defenders back and capturing several strategic ports. The soldiers move so quickly across France that the supply trains can’t keep up, and most of Southern France is liberated in four weeks.

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Posted in Articles

Lewis and Clark (Virtual) Ride: Camp Dubois to St. Charles

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson tasked Merriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their Corps of Discovery to find “the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent.” On May 14, 1804, the explorers shoved off for their first leg of a 4,000-mile journey through the immense wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase to the Pacific Ocean and back.

Over the course of the next few months I will be (virtually) biking Lewis and Clark’s route – as closely as modern roads allow – on my PRO FORM Le Tour de France stationary bike. When I come across interesting locations and historic events, I will share them here.

My first leg starts out just north of what was (in Lewis and Clark’s day) the unincorporated settlement of St. Louis – a mere four decades old at the signing of the Louisiana Purchase. The Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1803-4 at Camp Dubois, which overlooked the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

While the original site of Dubois (then part of Indiana Territory) was lost to the migrating Mississippi riverbed, I begin my virtual ride in modern-day Wood River, Illinois. On a rainy May 14, 214 years ago, a shot from the keelboat’s “swivel gun” marked the beginning of the journey as Lewis and his men shoved off from the riverbank. In two days they rendezvous with Capt. Lewis at St. Charles, who had been wrapping up last-minute business in St. Louis.

Headed west from Alton, Ill., crossing the Missouri state line. Rather than using poles, sails, paddles, and a donkey, I am using the Clark Bridge – named after William Clark – to cross the mighty Mississippi. (Google Street View image)

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Posted in Uncategorized

Congressman commends South Carolina’s free medical clinics

U.S. Representative Ralph Norman (S.C.-Rep.) visits the Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County, S.C.

CAMDEN, S.C. – U.S. Congressman Ralph Norman presented to members of the S.C. Free Clinic Association (SCFCA) an official copy of the Congressional Statement he delivered on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives (Washington, D.C.) in June, highlighting the work and ongoing successes of South Carolina’s Free Medical Clinics and the SCFCA.

The presentation was made during the Congressman’s visit to – and tour of – the Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County (one of 40 free clinics, statewide) in Camden, Mon. Aug. 13.

“The South Carolina Free Clinic Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that provides training, research, resource development and advocacy to member free clinics,” said Norman, who represents S.C. from the 5th Congressional District. “The SCFCA represents and supports our state’s network of 40 free clinics in 25 counties across S.C. The member free clinics provide comprehensive care to economically disadvantaged individuals all across our great state including those individuals who are both uninsured and the underinsured.”

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Posted in Baseball Military History

Military veterans of the MLB

68b1e520-c287-11e4-adb7-a1c97d6db9cf_AP858593037636Mitch Harris became the first Naval Academy graduate to pitch in the major leagues in almost 100 years. Following his five years of active duty service, Mitch played 26 games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015.

Bob Feller holds the distinction of becoming the first professional athlete to enlist in the Armed Forces for World War II. The Hall of Fame left-hander served as a chief petty officer aboard the battleship USS Alabama in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters. After losing four seasons to the Navy, Feller struck out 12 batters and only allowed four hits in his first game back after the war. Ted Williams called him the “fastest and best pitcher I ever saw.”

Detroit slugger Hank Greenberg had just wrapped up his second league MVP award when he was drafted into the Army, serving briefly until the military released all draftees over the age of 28. After the Pearl Harbor attack Sgt. Greenberg volunteered for the Army Air Force, serving stateside while he attended officer candidate school. The future Hall of Fame slugger volunteered for overseas assignment and shipped out to the China-Burma-IndiaTheater in the first deployment of the B-29 Superfortress.

Veteran Boston Braves catcher Hank Gowdy became the first professional baseball player to enlist during World War I, joining the Ohio National Guard’s 166th Infantry Regiment and seeing plenty of action on the Western Front. Gowdy volunteers again when World War II breaks out, and the 53-year-old captain becomes the only baseball player to have served during both world wars.

[Note: new players are added frequently. Message us if there is someone you would like to see on the list.]

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 6: today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1763: With Ottawa chief Pontiac laying siege to Fort Pitt (modern-day Pittsburgh), a force marches to the frontier fort to break the siege, consisting of Pennsylvania rangers and Scottish soldiers of the 42d Royal Highlanders – the famed “Black Watch.” Allied natives ambush the relief force at a creek known as Bushy Run and a bloody two-day battle kicks off. Col. Henry Bouquet’s men emerge victorious, routing the Indians – although at high cost to the Scottish/American troops – and lifting the siege at Fort Pitt.

Today’s 111th Infantry Regiment traces its lineage to the Philadelphia “Associators” militia regiment (formed by Benjamin Franklin) that manned Fort Pitt. Each year at their “dining-in” banquet, an empty table setting is left in honor of the commander of the Black Watch. At least twice in the last 200-plus year tradition, the officer has been on hand to accept the honor.

Jesse Owens salutes the American flag on this day during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Finishing second is German long-jumper Lutz Long (far right), who joins the Wehrmacht and is killed on Sicily in 1943.

1945: A lone B-29 bomber takes off from Tinian Island’s North Field and heads out for a six-hour flight to Japan. Once the Enola Gay is over its target of Hiroshima, Col. Paul Tibbetts releases the bomb and dives to speed away from the device’s powerful shock wave. 43 seconds later, the world’s first atomic bomb detonates, killing between 80,000 and 140,000 Japanese instantly, and severely wounding another 100,000.

Although the United States demonstrated they now possess the ability to utterly annihilate entire cities, the Japanese government vows to fight on. Another atomic bomb will have to fall before Japan is brought to its knees.

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Posted in Military History

August 3: Today in military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1804: During the First Barbary War, Commodore Edward Preble’s Mediterranean Squadron begins his first bombardment of Tripoli Harbor. Commanding a division of ships is Stephen Decatur, the youngest sailor ever to be promoted to captain in U.S. Naval history. When Decatur’s brother is killed while boarding a Tripolitan gunboat, Decatur hands over command of his ship and, along with a small crew, boards the enemy vessel and engages the much-larger force in fierce hand-to-hand combat. When the captain responsible for his brother’s death attempts to behead Decatur, Daniel Fraser throws himself over Decatur, taking the lethal blow for his captain. Decatur shoots and kills the captain and avenges his brother.

1914: As Germany declares war on France, Britain mobilizes their military. The Ottoman Empire declares armed neutrality (although they have secretly signed an alliance with Germany) and mobilizes their forces as well. Meanwhile, Belgium rejects Germany’s ultimatum to allow their troops to pass through on their way to invade France.

1943: As American, British, and Canadian troops drive across Sicily, Axis forces begin evacuating the island. While visiting soldiers awaiting evacuation at Nicosia, Gen. George S. Patton, commanding the Seventh Army, slaps a soldier suffering from battle fatigue and orders him back to the front lines. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower reprimands Patton for the incident and the legendary general will not command another combat force for 11 months.

1950: Eight F4U-4B “Corsairs” of Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 214 take off from the deck of USS Sicily (CVE-118) and attack enemy installations at Chengu, marking the first Marine aviation sortie of the Korean War. During World War II, the “Black Sheep” of VMF-214 destroyed hundreds of Japanese aircraft, sank several vessels, and earned the Presidential Unit Citation under Medal of Honor recipient and former “Flying Tiger” Maj. Greg “Pappy” Boyington – the Marine Corps’ top ace, with 28 aerial victories.

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Posted in Military History

August 2: Today in military history

1776: Although the Continental Congress voted to establish “the thirteen united [sic] States of America” on July 2 and adopted Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence two days later, congressional delegates sign the Declaration on this date. The most famous inscription belongs to John Hancock, the president of Congress, who is said to have declared, “There, I guess King George will be able to read that without his spectacles,” after adding his rather substantial signature.

1862: The brass approves the plan by Maj. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director for the Army of the Potomac, to establish an ambulance corps. Letterman is considered the “Father of Battlefield Medicine” for revolutionizing the way casualties are handled; soldiers now had first aid stations at the regimental level where they could be treated and triaged. Those more seriously wounded could be sent – by ambulance – to field hospitals at the division and corps level.

During the Peninsula Campaign, one out of every three Army of the Potomac casualties would die prior to implementing Letterman’s system. But after, just 2 percent of soldiers wounded Battle of Gettysburg died.

1909: After a successful demonstration for the military by Orville Wright, the Army Signal Corps purchases a Wright Flyer for $30,000 (the equivalent of $800,000 today). The two-seat “Signal Corps Airplane No. 1” will train America’s first military pilots at College Park, Md. and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio over the next two years – crashing several times – before it’s retirement. Today, the legendary aircraft hangs in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

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Posted in Military History

Aug. 1: Today in military history

1914: As France begins mobilization of its army, Germany crosses into neighboring Luxembourg and declares war against Russia.

1943: 177 B-24 Liberator bombers of the Ninth and (newly formed) Eighth Air Forces depart Libya to conduct a low-level strike the Axis oil fields at Ploiesti, Romania. A massive German air defense network inflicts heavy casualties on the Americans, shooting down 53 B-24s and damaging another 55. One bomber manages to limp back to the Benghazi air field with an incredible 365 bullet holes. Over 310 Americans are killed with over 200 captured or missing. Five raiders earn the Medals of Honor – the most ever awarded for a single mission.

In the Solomon Islands, the Japanese destroyer Aragiri rams the motor torpedo boat PT-109. Two sailors are killed by the nighttime collision. Lieutenant (junior grade) John F. Kennedy and his remaining 11-man crew swim over three miles to a nearby deserted island and are rescued days later. The future president is awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for gallantry.

1944: Gen. George Patton’s Third Army becomes operational and forms the right flank of the Allied force sweeping across France.

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Posted in Military History

31 July: Today in military history

1777: A month after arriving in the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette is commissioned “major general” in the Continental Army after offering to serve without pay. Lafayette will meet Gen. George Washington in five days, who is in Philadelphia to brief the Continental Congress on military affairs, then joins Washington’s staff and the two become close friends.

1874: USS Intrepid, the world’s first warship armed with self-propelled torpedoes, is commissioned.

1942: (Operation WATCHTOWER) As Army Air Forces aircraft begin their week-long preparatory bombardment, 16,000 Marines of Maj. Gen. Alexander Vandegrift’s soon-to-be-famous First Marine Division board their landing craft and depart for the invasion of Guadalcanal – the first American offensive of World War II.

1943: As ten soldiers work to fill in a crater on a Sicilian road, the Americans come under machinegun fire from two enemy positions. Sgt. Gerry H. Kisters and his officer move forward to the first nest and captures the gun and its four operators. Then, Kisters closes in on the second gun – by himself. Although wounded five times during his approach, he kills three of the emplacement’s occupants and captures the second machinegun.

For his actions, Kisters is awarded the Medal of Honor. As he is presented with the nation’s top award, he is also awarded the Army’s second highest medal, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), for actions during a May, 1943 battle in Tunisia. Kisters is the first American to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the DSC during World War II.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Deputies, other LEOs train for active-shooter response in South Carolina

[originally published at OpsLens, July 17, 2018.]

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A report of “active shooter” at a local elementary school kicked-off a major active-shooter response exercise for the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. (RCSD), earlier today, with scores of RCSD deputies and other officers converging on Jackson Creek Elementary School in northeast Columbia, S.C.

Aware that there would be an exercise, but unaware of time or place, RCSD patrol deputies received the alert at 1:00 p.m. as did units from the Columbia Fire Dept., which were dispatched to help cordon-off a perimeter of at least two miles around the school. Within less than three-to-five minutes, deputies were swarming the school as roadblocks and an incident command center were simultaneously set.

“This is not the first training we’ve conducted for this particular scenario at different locations throughout the county and elsewhere,” says Capt. Maria Yturria, director of RCSD’s Office of Public Information. “But this is easily one of the broadest multi-agency exercises for active shooter response we’ve yet to run.”

Special Response Team operators (approximately 20 tactical officers including explosive ordnance “bomb” disposal experts) and emergency medical technicians also deployed quickly to the scene, as did RCSD’s Crisis Management Team (including hostage negotiators) while first one, then a second, drone from RCSD’s aviation unit hummed overhead.

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