Morehead City, NC Celebrates Veterans Day 2017

Just a quick post so that we are more timely than our usual posts. We have just begun a 5 month volunteer position at Cape Lookout National Seashore. As our first activity we participated with two park rangers and other volunteers in the Morehead City Veterans Day Parade. Some communities have big parades for July 4th or Christmas but in Morehead City the big parade is on Veterans Day. It is the type of parade where you are either in it or watching it. We were entry number 152 and I don’t know how many more there were behind us.

Yes, of course we took pictures! Steve made a short (4 minute) video of the event. We are both veterans and proud to have served even if we were not in combat situations. Thanks to all who have served.

Visiting The Air Mobility Command Museum

Military history, Air Force, planes

Air Mobility Command Museum

Two years ago as we were heading home from Florida we stopped outside of Augusta, GA. Looking for things to see in the area, we found the Army Signal Corps Museum at Fort Gordon. It turned out to be a fascinating visit. Did you know that the US Weather Service was formed from the Signal Corps? We learned that there are many such museums across the country for The Army, Navy and Air Force.  We saw a sign on our way to Delaware Seashore State Park for the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover AFB and planned a visit. Steve will explain the history of this branch of the Air Force in the video below. The museum is accessible without going onto the base and there is no entrance fee..

C-5 engine, plane

Steve With C-5 Engine

We parked and started wandering through two buildings displaying restored engines. One was a C-5 engine. To give some scale Steve (6′) stood next to the engine. Later this year the museum will be obtaining a C-5 for display. Most of the restoration work and guide service is done by 120+ volunteers. (Chari) When I was in the Air Force and stationed at Altus AFB, OK the C-5 was the newest transport plane. The base was a pilot training base for the C-5. I had an opportunity to tour the plane and sit in the pilot’s seat. No, they didn’t let me fly it!

C-5, plane

C-5 Super Galaxy Taking Off From Dover AFB

We weren’t sure which way to go next or if we could just walk out to the planes unescorted. A man riding a bicycle stopped and asked what planes we wanted to see. “What ever we can see” we answered. “I don’t get out of the office much but let me show you my favorite then you can tour on your own”. He never did say who he was but we had the feeling he was the museum director. He returned with keys to the C-124A and took us inside. He explained that the plane had been found in terrible shape and had taken hundreds of hours to restore. He spoke of the history of the plane and how just getting supply trucks up the very steep ramp with no side rails was a feat in itself.

Our Private Tour

Our Private Tour

Inside The C-124

Inside The C-124

Cockpit Of C 124

Cockpit Of C 124

From there we wandered around the display area while 40s swing music played over the loud speaker. All of the planes are well marked and have a plaque giving a brief history of their use and time in service.  Rather than talk about this in written format, we’ve put together a video similar in style to the tour of Norfolk Harbor. Enjoy!


Then inside is an extensive collection of memorabilia related to early military aviation including the development of roundels that Steve talked about in the Udvar-Hazy post. While Steve was exploring some exhibits, I watched a video on the use of gliders in WWII and D-Day. I didn’t have time to see the whole film but what I did see was very interesting. There are several simulators where you can try “flying” or landing a plane. A long hallway leading to the museum store is lined with photos and short biographies of Congressional Medal of Honor winners from all branches. Did you know there are over 3,400 Medal of Honor recipients?

Inside The Museum Hanger

Inside The Museum Hanger

Early Roundels

Early Roundels

Another Change In 1918

Another Change In 1918

insignia 2

1917 Style

1940 Version

1940 Version

More Changes In 1942

More Changes In 1942

Again in 1943

Again in 1943

insignia 8

Current Version

museum, airplane

Pint Sized Plane

Congressional Medal Of Honor, museum

Wall Honoring Medal Of Honor Winners

(Steve)   I thought this might be a good place for another “history lesson”.  Chari began this post by saying MATS, the Military Air Transport Service, was a combined Command of the Air Force and the Navy.  It came into being under the newly created Department of Defense on June 1, 1948.  Less than a month later, the first major crisis of the Cold War erupted, and MATS faced a huge test.  As you are about to read, it performed magnificently. 

I received most of my information for what follows on-line and copied directly in some instances from Wikipedia.  To read about this more fully, please see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade

 Operation Vittles        The Berlin Airlift

At the end of the Second World War, the Allies (England, France, The United States, and the Soviet Union) partitioned Germany into four sectors.  The city of Berlin, lying wholly within the Soviet sector, was also divided into four sections, each governed by military authorities from Allied forces. 

 I won’t go into the entire history of the Cold War, but for now, suffice it to say that tensions were rising between the Soviets and the Western powers. 

 In June of 1948, the Soviet Union, in an attempt to gain complete control of Berlin, closed all land routes; road, rail and canal; through their sector of Germany to the city.  This would mean all supplies; food, fuel, everything required by the population of a city, would be delivered through Russian sources, and ensuring their complete control.  To force the Allies to cede control, the Russians stopped supplying the non-Soviet sectors of Berlin.  The people of West Berlin had at this time a 36-day supply of food and 45-day supply of coal. 

Military forces in the western sectors of Berlin numbered only 8,973 Americans, 7,606 British and 6,100 French.  Soviet military forces in the Soviet sector that surrounded Berlin totaled one and a half million.  The “Cold War” was facing its first real crisis.

General Lucius D. Clay, in charge of the US Occupation Zone in Germany, summed up the reasons for not retreating in a cable to Washington, D.C., on June 13, 1948: “There is no practicability in maintaining our position in Berlin and it must not be evaluated on that basis…. We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent.”  General Clay felt that the Soviets were bluffing about Berlin since they would not want to be viewed as starting World War III. He believed that Stalin did not want a war and that Soviet actions were aimed at exerting military and political pressure on the West to obtain concessions, relying on the West’s prudence and unwillingness to provoke a war. Commander of United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) General Curtis LeMay reportedly favored an aggressive response to the blockade, in which his B-29s with fighter escort would approach Soviet air bases while ground troops attempted to reach Berlin.  Clay vetoed the plan.

Although the ground routes had never been negotiated, the same was not true of the air. On 30 November 1945, it had been agreed in writing that there would be three twenty-mile-wide air corridors providing free access to Berlin. Additionally, unlike a force of tanks and trucks, the Soviets could not claim that cargo aircraft were some sort of military threat. In the face of unarmed aircraft refusing to turn around, the only way to enforce the blockade would have been to shoot them down. An airlift would force the Soviet Union into the position of either shooting down unarmed humanitarian aircraft, breaking their own agreements, or backing down.

Enforcing this would require an airlift that really worked. If the supplies could not be flown in fast enough, Soviet help would eventually be needed to prevent starvation. Clay was told to take advice from LeMay to see if an airlift was possible. LeMay, initially taken aback by the inquiry, which was “Can you haul coal?”, replied “We can haul anything.”

British Air Commodore Reginald Waite had previously calculated the resources required to support the entire city. They would need to supply seventeen hundred calories per person per day, giving a grand total of 646 tons of flour and wheat, 125 tons of cereal, 64 tons of fat, 109 tons of meat and fish, 180 tons of dehydrated potatoes, 180 tons of sugar, 11 tons of coffee, 19 tons of powdered milk, 5 tons of whole milk for children, 3 tons of fresh yeast for baking, 144 tons of dehydrated vegetables, 38 tons of salt and 10 tons of cheese. In total, 1,534 tons were needed daily to keep the over two million people alive. Additionally, the city needed to be kept heated and powered, which would require another 3,475 tons of coal and gasoline.

Lucius Clay launched “Operation Vittles” on June 25, 1948.  The next day thirty-two C-47s lifted off for Berlin hauling 80 tons of cargo, including milk, flour, and medicine. The first British aircraft flew on June 28. At that time, the airlift was expected to last three weeks.  By July first, the system was beginning to get underway, but quantities of food were extremely limited and didn’t come close to supplying the amounts required to sustain the city. Rhein-Main Air Base became exclusively a C-54 hub, while Wiesbaden retained a mix of C-54s and C-47s. Aircraft flew northeast through the American air corridor into Tempelhof Airport, then returned due west flying out on through the British air corridor. After reaching the British Zone, they turned south to return to their bases. The British ran a similar system, flying southeast from several airports in the Hamburg area through their second corridor into RAF Gatow in the British Sector, and then also returning out on the center corridor, turning for home or landing at Hanover. On July 6 the British Yorks and Dakotas were joined by Short Sunderland Flying Boats. Their corrosion-resistant hulls suited them to the particular task of delivering baking and other salt into the city.

Accommodating the large number of flights to Berlin required maintenance schedules and fixed cargo loading times. Smith and his staff developed a complex timetable for flights called the “block system”: three eight-hour shifts of a C-54 section to Berlin followed by a C-47 section. Aircraft were scheduled to take off every four minutes, flying 1000 feet higher than the flight in front. This pattern began at 5,000 feet and was repeated five times. This system of stacked inbound serials was later called “the ladder.”

By the second week, 1000 tons were being delivered daily.  For an operation expected to last only a few weeks, this was considered sufficient.  But the Soviets ridiculed the project.  Referring to “the futile attempts of the Americans to save face and to maintain their untenable position in Berlin.”

At a meeting with General Clay in late July, the National Security Council recognized that a long-term program would be necessary.  Deputy commander for operations of the newly formed MATS, Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner took command of the operation. Tunner had considerable airlift experience, successfully reorganizing the wartime Hump Airbridge between India and China, doubling the tonnage and hours flown.

Eight squadrons of C-54s—72 aircraft were deployed to Wiesbaden and Rhein-Main to reinforce the 54 already in operation, the first by July 30 and the remainder by mid-August, and two-thirds of all C-54 aircrew worldwide began transferring to Germany. 

On August 13, bad weather caused an accident, involving three C-54s.  No one was killed, but the airport was closed and all stacked aircraft awaiting landing were sent home.  As a result several new rules were adopted, including instrument flight rules to be in effect at all times, regardless of weather.  Also, each aircraft would have one chance to land.  If it missed, it would return home rather than attempt another landing.  There was an immediate decrease in delays and accidents.  Tunner saw that it took just as long to unload a three and a half ton C-47 as a ten ton C-54. One of the reasons for this was the sloping cargo floor of the C-47s, which made truck loading difficult. The C-54’s cargo deck was level, so that a truck could back up to it and offload cargo quickly. Tunner decided to replace all C-47s in the Airlift with C-54s or larger aircraft.  He saw that ground crews taking refreshment breaks were taking up valuable time going to and from snack bars and forbade them from leaving their work areas.  Jeeps were set up as mobile snack bars.  Unloading of aircraft began as soon as engines were shut down, and the turn-around time before take-off back to Rhein-Main or Wiesbaden was reduced to thirty minutes.  The “ladder” was altered from a plane taking off once every four minutes to once every three, with the vertical separation reduced to 500 feet rather than 1000, maximizing use of available aircraft.  Aircraft maintenance schedule were instituted at 25-hour, 200-hour, and 1000-hour intervals, further maximizing efforts. 

Crews of local Berliners, working for increased rations, replaced military crews for runway repairs and unloading aircraft, and with experience, became extremely efficient.  The times for unloading continued to fall, with a record being set by the unloading of an entire 10-ton shipment of coal from a C-54 in ten minutes, later beaten when a twelve-man crew unloaded the same quantity in five minutes and 45 seconds.

By the end of August, after only one month, the Airlift was succeeding; daily operations flew more than 1,500 flights a day and delivered more than 4,500 tons of cargo, enough to keep West Berlin supplied. All of the C-47s were withdrawn by the end of September, and eventually 225 C-54s (40% of US Air Force and US Navy Skymasters worldwide) were devoted to the lift. Supplies improved to 5,000 tons a day.

Gail Halvorsen, one of the many Airlift pilots, decided to use his off time to fly into Berlin and make movies with his hand-held camera. He arrived at Tempelhof on 17 July on one of the C-54s and walked over to a crowd of children who had gathered at the end of the runway to watch the aircraft. He introduced himself and they started to ask him questions about the aircraft and their flights. As a goodwill gesture, he handed out his only two sticks of chewing gum, and promised that, if they did not fight over them, the next time he returned he would drop off more. The children quickly divided up the pieces as best they could. Before he left them, a child asked him how they would know it was him flying over, and he replied, “I’ll wiggle my wings.”

The next day, on his approach to Berlin, he rocked the aircraft and dropped some chocolate bars attached to a handkerchief parachute to the children waiting below. Every day after that the number of children increased and he made several more drops. Soon there was a stack of mail in Base Ops addressed to “Uncle Wiggly Wings”, “The Chocolate Uncle” and “The Chocolate Flier”. His commanding officer was upset when the story appeared in the news, but when Tunner heard about it he approved of the gesture and immediately expanded it into “Operation Little Vittles”. Other pilots participated, and when news reached the US, children all over the country sent in their own candy to help out. Soon, the major manufacturers joined in. In the end, over three tons of candy were dropped on Berlin, and the “operation” became a major propaganda success. The candy-dropping aircraft were christened “Rosinenbomber” (raisin bomber) by the German children.

As winter approached, it became clear that while the amount of food being delivered would remain unchanged, coal supplies would have to be dramatically increased to heat the city, by approximately 6000 tons per day. Aircraft were available but runways in Berlin were already overtaxed.  Another 6,000 foot long asphalt runway was constructed at Tempelhof.  The French, meanwhile, unable to do more than supply their own troops in Berlin, agreed that they would build a new airport in their sector, on the shores of Lake Tegel.  There was an obstacle in the approach to the Tegel airfield, however. A Soviet-controlled radio tower caused problems by its proximity to the airfield. Pleas to remove it went unheard, so on November 20, French General Jean Ganeval made the decision simply to blow it up. The mission was carried out on December 16, much to the delight of Berliners, and provoking complaints from the Soviets. When his Soviet counterpart, General Alexej Kotikow, asked him angrily on the phone how he could have done this, Ganeval is said to have answered him laconically, “With dynamite, my dear colleague.”

Winter weather created another problem.  One of the longest-lasting fogs ever experienced blanketed the entire European continent for weeks. All too often, aircraft would make the entire flight and then be unable to land in Berlin. On November 20, 42 aircraft departed for Berlin, but only one landed there. At one point, the city had only a week’s supply of coal left.

The weather improved, however. More than 171,000 tons were delivered in January 1949, 152,000 tons in February, and 196,223 tons in March.

By April 1949 airlift operations were running smoothly and Tunner wanted to break the monotony. He liked the idea of a big event that would give everyone a morale boost. He decided that on Easter Sunday the airlift would break all records. To do this, maximum efficiency was needed. To simplify handling, the only cargo would be coal, and stockpiles were built up for the effort. Maintenance schedules were altered so that the maximum number of aircraft would be available.

From noon on 15 April to noon on 16 April 1949, crews worked around the clock. When it was over, 12,941 tons of coal had been delivered in 1,383 flights, without a single accident. A welcome side effect of the effort was that operations in general were boosted, and tonnage increased from 6,729 tons to 8,893 tons per day thereafter. In total, the airlift delivered 234,476 tons in April.

On 21 April the tonnage of supplies flown into the city exceeded that previously brought by rail.

The Soviets were humiliated by the success of the airlift, and the “Easter Parade” was the last straw.  Serious negotiations began, and on May 4, it was announced that the blockade would be lifted eight days later.  On the 12th a British Convoy drove through the Soviet sector of Germany to Berlin.

The blockade was over.  The airlift continued, however, until a comfortable surplus of three-months supplies was in Berlin, enough to provide plenty of time for operations to begin again if required.  They were not.  “Operation Vittles”, the Berlin Airlift was officially closed on September 30, 1949. 

In total the USA delivered 1,783,573 tons and the RAF 541,937 tons, totaling 2,326,406 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 278,228 flights to Berlin.

The RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) delivered 7,968 tons of freight and 6,964 passengers during 2,062 sorties. The C-47s and C-54s together flew over 92 million miles in the process, almost the distance from Earth to the Sun. At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.

Pilots came from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.

A total of 101 fatalities were recorded as a result of the operation, including 40 Brits and 31 Americans, mostly due to crashes. Seventeen American and eight British aircraft crashed during the operation.

The cost of the Airlift was shared between the USA, UK, and Germany. Estimated costs range from approximately $224,000,000 to over $500,000,000 (equivalent to approximately $2.16 billion to $4.82 billion today).

The “Cold War” would continue however, for decades to come.

It was mid afternoon by the time we finished at the MAC Museum. We tried to see the Victrola museum but it was closed that day as was an old church and museum we’d passed on the way up. The town of Lewes (pronounced like Louis) which proudly calls itself the First Town in the First State has great kayaking possibilities and lots of history. We checked out Cape Henlopen State Park and found our trailer would work well in those campsites. So now we have a place to stay “When we come back…”

 museum, Dover

The Johnson Victrola Museum

Arlington National Cemetery

HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD

HERE RESTS IN
HONORED GLORY
AN AMERICAN SOLDIER
KNOWN BUT TO GOD

March 28 was a cool and blustery day, and we decided to visit Arlington National Cemetery.  Again, we parked the truck at the Vienna Metro Station and took the train.  As Chari has mentioned, it’s a clean, efficient system, and really the only way to get around in the D.C. area.

We’ve visited a lot of cemeteries since we’ve been on the road, and we love wandering and looking at the old tombstones and markers, some centuries old, and wondering about the lives of the people interred there.  Sometimes we’ve visited military cemeteries, usually at the site of a National Battlefield, like Little Bighorn or Gettysburg.  It’s different in these places.  The battlefield graves are not of people who lived out their natural lives, but are of men and women whose lives were cruelly interrupted by the horrors of war and who never returned to the arms of their families and friends.  Other graves in these military cemeteries are of veterans of all American wars who survived their wartime experiences and were able to return to a normal life.

But this is different.  This is Arlington.  This place is special.  You feel it as you enter the gates, along with thousands of other people, both citizens of the United States and citizens of the world, who come to pay their respects.  This is not just another military cemetery, although in some respects, it is just that.  Veterans of all of our armed conflicts are eligible for burial here, and as at the others, you feel a profound sense of respect for those who lie in the thousands of graves.  But this is Arlington.  This place is special.  This is where we honor our greatest heros.  Arlington.

Arlington1

The first thing you see as you enter and look to the top of the hill is Arlington House, with the American Flag flying at half-staff.  Arlington house was built for George Washington Parke Custis, the step-grandson of our first President and only grandson of his wife, Martha Custis Washington.  Custis’ father, John Parke Custis, bought the 1100 acre property in 1778, and after the death of his grandmother, Martha in 1802, decided to build his home there and name it Mount Washington.  Family members convinced him to call it Arlington House, after their ancestral home on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  An English architect, George Hadfield, who also participated in the design of the U.S. Capitol, designed the house.  Custis’ only surviving daughter, Mary, married her distant cousin Robert E. Lee, and in 1857 inherited the home.

At the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln offered command of the Federal Army to Lee, who declined and resigned to join the Confederate Army.  He reported to Richmond, and almost immediately wrote Mary advising her for her safety to leave her home due to its proximity to Washington.  Because of its high ground position overlooking the city, within days of her leaving it was occupied by Union troops.

View of Washington DC from Arlington House

View of Washington DC from Arlington House

General Irvin McDowel used the house as headquarters for his Army of Northeastern Virginia, and in 1864, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs, a Georgian who had served under Lee in the days before the war, believing Lee had made a treasonous decision in fighting against the Union, had Mrs. Lee’s prized rose garden dug up to bury twenty-six Union soldiers.

After the end of the Civil War, Robert and Mary Lee chose not to contest the Federal Government’s decision to confiscate the property during the war for “non-payment of taxes.”  But in 1870, when Robert E. Lee died, his oldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, who would have inherited the estate, sued to regain the property.  It wasn’t until 1882 when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor.  In 1883, in a signing ceremony attended by the son of Robert E. Lee and the son of Abraham Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln (then Secretary of War) the estate was sold back to the Federal Government for $150,000, about three and a half million in today’s dollars.

So much for the history of the estate.  Now on to the cemetery itself.

“BENEATH THIS STONE REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS GATHERED AFTER THE WAR FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN AND THE ROUTE TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK.  THEIR REMAINS COULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED, BUT THEIR NAMES AND DEATHS ARE RECORDED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THEIR COUNTRY AND ITS GRATEFUL CITIZENS HONOR THEM AS OF THEIR NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS.  MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.  SEPTEMBER A.D. 1866”

“BENEATH THIS STONE REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS GATHERED AFTER THE WAR FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN AND THE ROUTE TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK. THEIR REMAINS COULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED, BUT THEIR NAMES AND DEATHS ARE RECORDED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THEIR COUNTRY AND ITS GRATEFUL CITIZENS HONOR THEM AS OF THEIR NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE. SEPTEMBER A.D. 1866”

We took the bus tour through the cemetery.  The driver/tour guide spoke of various monuments and facts throughout the tour, but we only made three scheduled stops, at the John F. Kennedy grave, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and finally at Arlington House.  We were free to wander on our own at each stop, and then pick up another bus to continue the tour.  Since, as I mentioned, it was a chilly and blustery day, we didn’t spend a lot of time on our own, but someday we’d love to go back and spend the entire day wandering and exploring the cemetery.

THE ETERNAL FLAME AT THE GRAVE OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY

THE ETERNAL FLAME AT THE GRAVE OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY

AND SO, MY FELLOW AMERICANS,  ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY MY FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE WORLD, ASK NOT WHAT AMERICA WILL DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT TOGETHER WE CAN DO FOR THE FREEDOM OF MAN

AND SO, MY FELLOW AMERICANS,
ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU
ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.
MY FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE WORLD, ASK NOT
WHAT AMERICA WILL DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT TOGETHER
WE CAN DO FOR THE FREEDOM OF MAN

Today’s politicians, of both parties, who profess to revere Kennedy, would do well to remember these words instead of pandering to those looking for a handout.

From the walkway not far from Kennedy’s grave, I saw the back of a stone for Michael A. Musmanno, whom I had never heard of, but I was intrigued by reading that he was a presiding judge at the International War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg.  I looked him up on-line afterward, and found he led a very interesting life.  He served in the Navy in both World Wars, rising to the rank of Rear Admiral.  In civilian life after World War II he served as a justice in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania until his passing in 1968.  He must have been quite a controversial character, as in his tenure, he himself wrote more dissenting opinions then in the previous fifty years of the court combined!  I only saw the back of his stone, but was able to find a photo of the front on-line.

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The quote on the front of the stone reads:

“There is an eternal justice and an eternal order, there is a wise, merciful and omnipotent God. My friends, have no fear of the night or death. It is the forerunner of dawn, a glowing resplendent dawn, whose iridescent rays will write across the pink sky in unmistakable language – man does live again.’ 

The final words of Michael A. Musmanno in his debate with Clarence Darrow, 1932.”

I found another stone quite interesting.  Again, from my position I was only able to see the back, but it indicated that the person buried there was a veteran of the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II.  A long military career indeed!  There was a number on the back of the stone, so I did a bit of research on-line and found his name was Frank Fletcher, and not only did he serve in those three wars, he was a Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in the Mexican Campaign in 1914.  He was Task Force Commander at the Battle of Coral Sea in World War II, the first battle in history fought between Aircraft Carrier groups, and the first battle where opposing forces were out of sight of each other.  Two destroyers bore the Fletcher name.  The first, DD-445 was named for his uncle, the second, DD-992 was named for him.

This is all I saw.  Note the number at the top of the stone.

This is all I saw. Note the number at the top of the stone.

I found this picture while researching the number.

I found this picture while researching the number.

For a very interesting internet article about Admiral Fletcher, see:     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Jack_Fletcher

There is a memorial to the Battleship Maine, which exploded in Havana Harbor in 1898 and was a cause of the Spanish American War.  Was it truly sabotage, as the American press professed?  Or was the cause of the explosion a fire in a coal bunker?  The controversy goes on to this day.  Admiral Fletcher, by the way, at one point had served on the Maine.  The actual mast of the Maine is part of the memorial, as well as the names of the 261 fatalities carved into the monument.  I found it interesting while looking at the names of the marines and sailors that several of the sailors had rates which no longer exist.  Like John T. Adams “Coal Passer” (I envision a bare chested, sweaty man covered in black coal dust with a large flat shovel piling coal into a boiler), Charles Anderson “Landsman”, and Bernhard Anglund “Blacksmith”.  And how times have changed from when Orientals served in the American Navy as cooks or servants.  Suki Chingi “Mess Attendant” and Yukichi Katagata “Warrant Officer Cook”.

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We saw a memorial to the Challenger Astronauts.

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And a tribute to the Americans who lost their lives in the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran in 1980.

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But by far, the most impressive sight at Arlington is the Tomb of the Unknowns.  There are unknowns buried at most battlefield military cemeteries.  In wars up to and including the Civil War, the only way to identify a dead soldier was if someone who knew the man could identify the body.  Or if he had some personal belongings such as a letter or a bible on his person.  By World War I most soldiers were wearing some sort of identification, but oftentimes these were lost and the bodies remained unidentified.  After “The Great War”, it was decided to create a monument to The Unknown Soldier, thus honoring every soldier killed in battle whose identity was forever lost.  The soldier chosen would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The process of choosing a particular person to be so honored was quite complex.  The custom was followed for World War II and Korea, and again for the conflict in Vietnam, although by Vietnam, means of identification were much improved, and the remains selected were eventually identified and returned to his family.  For an extremely interesting internet article about the selection process, please see:  http://www.456fis.org/THE_SELECTION_PROCESS_OF_THE_UNKNOWN_SOLDIERS.htm

The Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater

The Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater, location of the Tomb of the Unknowns

STANDING GUARD

STANDING GUARD

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Inside the Amphitheater is a small museum, housing artifacts relating to the Unknown Soldier Tomb.  Honors from countries all over the world are on exhibit.  One I found very interesting was a letter from the King of England in 1921 thanking the American people for bestowing on the British Unknown Soldier from World War I the Congressional Medal of Honor, and so honoring ours with the Victoria Cross.  The flags that draped the caskets of each of our soldiers, from WWI to Vietnam are on display, along with the Medals of Honor issued to them.

LETTER FROM KING GEORGE

LETTER FROM KING GEORGE

MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION SIGNED BY PRESIDENT REAGAN AND CASKET FLAG FOR THE VIETNAM UNKNOWN

MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION SIGNED BY PRESIDENT REAGAN AND CASKET FLAG FOR THE VIETNAM UNKNOWN

Quite by accident, while visiting the rest room, we happened by a soldier explaining to a family including a young boy, probably about twelve years old, about the proper procedure for placing a wreath at the tomb.  The lad was extremely attentive, and I found out later he was being instructed because he was going to place a wreath there.

We were privileged to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony, and it was very moving.  Although there was a crowd of a couple of hundred people watching, including many children, there was dead silence.  You could hear a pin drop.  The following video lasts for about six or seven minutes.  It’s a bit shaky in places, I was holding my small pocket camera, but turn on your volume and note the silence and respect of the spectators.

And please, as an American, please make the effort to visit Arlington.

A Day At Norfolk Harbor

The USS Wisconsin

The USS Wisconsin

The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” can often be true. Our tour of Norfolk Harbor, visit to Nauticus and climbing aboard The Wisconsin seemed to be just such a time. Steve has made a video of our visit complete with music and voice over. I think he did a wonderful job but then I’m not an impartial judge. If you enjoy it, please let him know.  I had a bit of a brain hic-cup while doing the narration.  I believe my Dad’s ship number was 672, not 673 as I say in the video.  There are some nice pictures here of ships and such in the harbor, and a good bit of naval history, as well as some ships that have been in the news in the last few years. It runs for about twenty-five minutes, so don’t start unless you have the time to see it all.  Turn up your volume, sit back, and enjoy…  (Steve)

To view in full screen click on the diagonal arrow at the right hand lower corner of the video box.

A Post About Posters – The Virginia War Museum

We’d seen signs for the Virginia War Museum on our way to the Mariner’s Museum. It was only 3 miles away so when our plans to return to the Mariner’s Museum changed it made a good backup destination. It isn’t a large museum but it is full of memorabilia from the French and Indian Wars to the Gulf War. As you know, Steve is most interested in military history and artifacts. I, on the other hand, gravitate toward the human interest stories. There was plenty to keep both of us busy for several hours.

One of the sections I enjoyed the most was looking at the WWII posters. I find the artwork and messages so interesting. My parents were married in the Great Depression. My father was drafted  for WWII 2 weeks before he would have been old enough to be exempt. My parents had to sell their independent grocery business in Illinois. My father was transferred from Indiana to Kansas to New Jersey and my mother followed along.  These events defined their generation the way Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation and the Vietnam War defined mine. I grew up hearing stories represented by many of the posters.

Poster WWII

Housewives Were Fighting From The Home Front

Victory Gardens, WWII

Everyone Had A Garden

poster WWII

Before Women Served On Ships

WWII poster

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Lonesome Puppy

Lonesome Puppy

WWI poster

Lend Lease Poster From WWI

Other items that caught our attention:

Berlin Wall

A Section Of The Berlin Wall

Gatling Gun

Gatling Gun

Newpapers Announce The End Of WWII

Newpapers Announce The End Of WWII

old army wagon and truck

Old Army Wagon And Truck

Before we left I stopped to pick up some brochures. One advertised a tour of Norfolk Harbor leaving from the Nauticus Museum. This was one time Steve was glad I never met a brochure I didn’t like. We planned to do that the next day. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at our next blog entry.

War And Remembrance

No this isn’t a post about the book by Herman Wouk or the TV miniseries of the same name. It is an overview of our five day stop in the Virginia Tidewater area of Norfolk, Newport News and Hampton Roads. Whether a dove or a hawk by political leaning this area has so much history and such wonderful museums it is worth a visit. We barely skimmed the surface of things to do in the area. We are planning on returning to the general area later this year.

museum, military history

Sites Visited For War And Rememberance

With two less days than we’d originally planned, the Dreamchaser pulled into First Landing State Park late on a Friday afternoon. That broke one of our guidelines, “Don’t come in on a Friday or leave on a Sunday”. Virginia State Parks make reservations for a space to fit your RV but not site specific reservations. We were directed to campground G. The park was unusually full for this time of year due to the Shamrock Marathon being held on St. Patrick’s Day which was this coming Sunday. The turns were a bit tight so we really didn’t want to do more than one pass to find a site. We needed a Blue site. Every one we came to was occupied. Then we saw a site that had no registration tag on the post but did have two chairs and a grill sitting in the middle of the site. “I think someone’s trying to play games and save a site.” “I’ll call the office and check.” We were assured that no one was registered if there was no tag on the post. After moving the chairs and the grill out of the way, Steve backed in. It wasn’t an easy back in due to the curve in the road, the post from another campsite being close to the road and overhanging branches. Another camper came over to help direct Steve while Opal and I just stayed out of the way. When we moved the slides out, one of them missed a low branch by an inch! A few minutes later the people who had placed the chairs and grill there came to claim their stuff. They knew the sites were first come first serve and didn’t cause any problem. Once the marathon was over the park cleared out and there were only five or six people left in the 37 site circle. I made a mental note to check on special events in an area before making reservations if we couldn’t reserve a specific site. The park was lovely and very pet friendly. Dogs are allowed on the beach and Opal enjoyed her long walks. Just offshore were several ocean going freighters that gave a spectacular view at sunset as they turned on their lights.

Ships, Virginia Beach

Freighter In Harbor At First Landing State Park

National Park Service, Yorktown

Ranger Giving Tour At Yorktown Victory Center

The weather took a turn for the worse, cool and cloudy, and was only going to get worse over the next three days so we headed over to the Yorktown Battlefield Victory Center National Park Site which was about an hour away. We all know from our American history textbooks that this was the last major battle in the American Revolution and it occurred on October 19, 1781. Following their defeat the British started negotiations culminating in the Paris Treaty of 1783. So what more is there to know? The answer: A lot! We arrived around 2:30p just in time to sign up for the last Ranger led tour of the day. As with most of our NPS visits, the tour was so informative. So you think this battle was a rout and the Redcoats had finally had enough of the feisty Colonials? Not by a long shot. The fact that we are an independent nation today was due to a series of events; some luck, some help from France and some might say Divine intervention.

Truth was the Colonials were a rag tag group of farmers and shopkeepers going up against the best army in the world. Washington had is hands full up north. The Colonials had lost Charleston and the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The British thought they were on the run. Why didn’t Cornwallis turn to follow the rebels as they turned south? Because he had burned his supplies so he could move inland from Charleston faster and avoid raids from Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox. He had to get resupplied at Wilmington, NC. Then Cornwallis moved on to set up a defensible base at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  Sensing an opportunity Washington and Comte de Rochambeau marched their combined forces south rapidly to meet up with additional French troops, ships and artillery under Admiral De Grasse. Over 7,000 troops marched from New York to Virginia in less than two weeks. They lost 1,500 men to disease and exhaustion along the way. A series of false maneuvers led the British to believe the attack would come at New York City. Time and money were running out. The French Navy protecting the Chesapeake Bay and preventing Cornwallis escape by sea would be returning to the Caribbean at the end of October. For now they were keeping the British ships out in the ocean. Lafayette was in Williamsburg spying on Cornwallis’ troops and sending information to Washington.

Cornwallis had built two rows of earthen mounds as protection but then pulled his troops back from the outer ring. Why he left his outer defense ring unmanned except for two earthen forts known as redoubts remains a mystery. A daring attack under the dark of a new moon was devised by Alexander Hamilton. The Colonials attacked Redoubt #10 while the French took Redoubt #9. Their guns were unloaded to prevent accidental misfire that would negate the surprise attack. They attacked with bayonets and knives only. With large cannon now well within range the British forces planned to retreat by small boats across the bay and turn north to New York. Cornwallis had burned all but his smallest boats so they wouldn’t fall to the rebels. Almost across, the first troops were sunk in a sudden and severe storm that happens only rarely.  Cornwallis was trapped. The next day Cornwallis signaled surrender. Surrender took place at the Moore House. A new country was born. Eighty years later war would return to Yorktown during the Peninsular Campaign of the Civil War as the same country stood on the brink of dissolution. After touring the museum I asked the ranger where Cornwallis’ sword was located. He explained that in that time surrender was accomplished by the ritual of the winner touching the hilt of the losers sword but the sword itself is returned. They have tried to locate the sword but not even the British Museum knows where it is. The family says he was buried with it and this was the custom. Cornwallis is buried in a mausoleum (oddly much like the Jefferson Memorial) in India.

Steve At Yorktown Victory Center

Steve At Yorktown Victory Center 

American Revolution, Yorktown

Redoubt #10

Yorktown

Virginia Monument At Yorktown

American Revolution, Yorktown

The Moore House

I was planning just one entry for this stay but I can see that we have way too much information for that so I’ll close for now and resume with our visit to the Mariner’s Museum.

Andersonville – Of Presidents and Prisoners

We thought we’d be able to see the NHS site in Plains and the one at Andersonville in one day. How wrong we were. After spending the morning in Plains we drove to Andersonville and arrived about 2:30 pm. We were surprised to find that the museum was not just about Andersonville but was the National POW Museum. We’d just started to look at the exhibits when the first of two movies was announced. The first one covered the history of POWs from the Revolution through the Gulf War and included former POWs recollections. The second movie was specific to Andersonville. All I knew was that it was an infamous Confederate POW camp. There was so much more involved. I found it fascinating. It was 4 o’clock by the time we left the theatre. We decided to come back the next day. Steve has a great interest in military history and has done research after our visit. He’d like to share this with you.

Andersonville, Part 1

In keeping with our tours whenever possible of Civil War sites and battlefields, one of the reasons we wanted to come to this area of Georgia was to see Andersonville Prison.  I’m sure most people with an interest in Civil War history, like me but not real scholars of the subject, again like me, have heard of the notorious POW camp and its reputation as a “Death Camp” akin to the Nazi concentration camps of the Second World War. Andersonville’s commandant, Captain Henry Wirz, was tried in our first War Crimes Trial.  He was convicted on charges of conspiracy and murder, and hung.  The real story was somewhat different.

There is no question that the Confederate Prison Camp, officially named Camp Sumter, was the worst of all Civil War camps.  Between February of 1864, when it opened, and April of 1865 when the war ended, a mere 14 months, 45,000 Union prisoners passed through its gates, of which almost 13,000 died of starvation, malnutrition, dysentery, and other diseases, a mortality rate of 29%.  But how many of us were aware that the Confederate dead from similar causes were more than 25% at the Union prison camp at Elmira, New York?

At no time in military history prior to the American Civil War did prison camps of this magnitude even exist.  In ancient times, POWs were not even treated as prisoners; they were simply slaughtered or sold into slavery.  There was no attempt to treat them humanely.  In more modern times, there was a gentlemanly code that Western Civilizations adhered to.  Prisoners were either paroled or exchanged.  A paroled soldier was allowed to return home, and on his honor was bound to refrain from fighting until the end of whatever war was currently in progress.  Many soldiers, especially ranking officers, would refuse parole, and instead wait to be exchanged.  A prisoner exchange usually involved approximately equal numbers of equal rank.  An exchanged prisoner was free to rejoin his unit and continue the fight.  While waiting for exchange, they were generally well treated, sometimes being given a limited parole, giving them the freedom of the city or town where they were held, and often being treated as honored guests by their captors.  

Much changed in the Civil War.  Firstly, no one on either side expected that the war would last more than two or three months, and in the beginning, no provisions were made for prison camps by either the Union or the Confederates.  It soon became apparent that this would not be the case, and prisoner exchanges were common.  Things changed after January of 1863.

On January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.  In reality, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave.  President Lincoln knew it would never be accepted as anything other than a military measure to shorten the war.  It freed all slaves currently held in areas of the United States that were currently in rebellion.  Not a single slave in areas of the south already under Union control was freed.  Not a slave in any of the slaveholding states remaining loyal to the Union was freed.  In other words, not a single slave in any area where the Union could enforce the Proclamation was freed.  But when slaves held in these areas heard of it, they were given hope of freedom, and knew that if they escaped to Union territory, they would be free, and they also knew they would be welcomed into the Union armies.  In the beginning, most people thought the black man would not fight for his own freedom and blacks were assigned mostly to guard duty in behind-the-lines areas. But this changed after the Battle of Milliken’s Bend, which I mentioned in the post about the Siege of Vicksburg.  At Milliken’s Bend, the black soldier proved to everyone that he could and would fight, and recruitment of blacks began in earnest.  And not as guards, but as fighting men.  

The South would not accept that an escaped slave, serving in the Union forces and taken prisoner during battle was anything other than an escaped slave, and he would be treated as such.  At one point, General Lee wrote General Grant proposing an exchange of prisoners.  Grant replied that no exchange could take place unless all soldiers would be equally considered for exchange.  Lee answered that as the laws of the Confederacy bound him, he could not agree, and that any black troops would not be exchanged.  Prisoner exchanges ceased.

Neither side was prepared for this.  Camps had to be created to hold prisoners.  Prisoners would have to be clothed and fed.  In many cases soldiers of their own armies were not being properly clothed or fed.  With limited supplies, it doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see which direction those supplies would go.

The camp at Andersonville originally covered 16 acres, and was eventually enlarged to 26.  Intended to hold 10,000 prisoners, more than 45,000 passed through its gates.  A stream passed through the middle of the camp.  Confederate soldiers were camped on the upstream side of this stream, using it for water, and below their camp, for their latrine.  The stream then passed through the camp itself, where the prisoners used it for the same purposes.  It was already fouled when it got to the prison, and didn’t get any better on its way through.  Conditions were bad to start with, and quickly deteriorated.

A group of Union prisoners began attacking their fellow inmates, stealing whatever food and clothing they had.  Calling themselves the Andersonville Raiders, they were armed with clubs and would kill to get what they wanted.  Soon another group arose, calling themselves The Regulators.  They caught most of the Raiders, and tried them, with newly arrived prisoners acting as jurors.  Punishments for those found guilty included running the gauntlet, being sent to the stocks, balls and chains, and in six cases, the ringleaders, hanging.  Captain Wirz, unable to curb the Raiders on his own, approved the sentences.  Six graves remain to this day separated from the rest of the Andersonville dead. 

Civil War Graves

Graves of the Andersonville Raiders

In July of 1864, Wirz paroled five prisoners, and tasked them to deliver a message to authorities in Washington DC telling them of the terrible conditions and asking that the prisoner exchange system be reinstated.  The request was refused, and bound by their honor, the five returned to Andersonville.  Later in the summer, the Confederate government offered to unconditionally release prisoners, providing the Union would send ships to Southern ports to retrieve them.  Andersonville, however, was located inland, accessible only by rail. By autumn, thousands had succumbed to the heat of summer and perished of disease.  Many who were well enough to be moved were transported to other camps in Georgia and South Carolina, but in mid-November, when General Sherman began his “March to the Sea” they were returned to Andersonville.  By this time, however, conditions had somewhat improved, probably due to the cooler weather and less overcrowding.
Marching Through Georgia Bring the good ol’ Bugle boys!
We’ll sing another song, Sing it with a spirit that will start the world along,
Sing it like we used to sing it fifty thousand strong,
While we were marching through Georgia   Hurrah! Hurrah!
We bring the Jubilee. Hurrah! Hurrah!
The flag that makes you free,
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea,
While we were marching through Georgia.  
How the darkeys shouted when they heard the joyful sound,
How the turkeys gobbled which our commissary found,
How the sweet potatoes even started from the ground,
While we were marching through Georgia.  
Yes and there were Union men who wept with joyful tears,
When they saw the honored flag they had not seen for years;
Hardly could they be restrained from breaking forth in cheers,
While we were marching through Georgia.  
“Sherman’s dashing Yankee boys will never make the coast!”
So the saucy rebels said and ’twas a handsome boast
Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon with the Host
While we were marching through Georgia.  
So we made a thoroughfare for freedom and her train,
Sixty miles of latitude, three hundred to the main;
Treason fled before us, for resistance was in vain
While we were marching through Georgia.
Dorance Atwater was a Union prisoner, chosen by his captors to record the names and numbers of the dead, supposedly to be handed over to the Union government after the war was over.  He sat at a desk next to Captain Wirz, but not believing the list would ever see the light of day, secretly made and hid a copy.  Every day more graves would be dug, marked only with a number.  Atwater’s secret list however, added a name to the number.  Whenever possible, he recorded the rank and unit of the deceased, but in most cases, he at least had a name. When released at the end of the war, he was able to keep the papers hidden in a satchel.  When he tried turning it over to the Federal Government, he met with red tape and received substantial grief from government officials.  He contacted Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, who published the list.  Together with Clara Barton, he was responsible for marking the graves properly.  But there’s more to this part of the story.  Federal officials, in their infinite wisdom, considered his list secret, and the property of the government.  Atwater was prosecuted and again imprisoned, this time by the government he had so bravely served.  But public pressure forced President Andrew Johnson to release him.  Johnson appointed Atwater first as United States Consul to the Seychelles, then as Consul to Tahiti, about as far away as he could possibly send this troublemaker.  He met, and married, Princess Moetia Salmon, and became quite the businessman, successful in shipping enterprises as well as pearl fisheries.  He did substantial work with lepers and worked tirelessly with many other charities.  The Tahitian people loved him, and called him “Tupuuataroa”, meaning “Wise Man”.  At his passing in San Francisco, in 1910, his body was returned to Tahiti and received the only Tahitian Royal Funeral ever given a non-Royal.  

Dorance Atwater, Andersonville, Civil War, Tahiti

Dorance Atwater

Captain Henry Wirz, originally from Switzerland, lost the use of his right arm after being wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines.  Due to his injury, he had been assigned to work with General John Winder, who was in charge of Confederate Prisoner of War camps. He received a special assignment from President Jefferson Davis to carry secret dispatches to Confederate Ministers in England and France, and after returning to Richmond, worked in various prison camps before taking charge at Andersonville. His treatment of prisoners was indeed brutal, by today’s standards.  He greeted new prisoners with a pistol, threatening to personally shoot anyone breaking his rules.  Even minor infractions were dealt with harshly, including balls and chains.  Many, including Dorance Atwater, believed he was intentionally starving prisoners.  Those of us of a certain age, remember that the Vietnam War was the first “televised” American conflict.  The war was brought each evening into our living rooms, and this constant and direct exposure had severe political ramifications.  Similarly, the American Civil War was the first widely “photographed” war.  Americans newspapers daily published battlefield photographs from Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardiner, and other war correspondents.  But even with this constant exposure, Americans were horrified at war’s end to see photographs of Andersonville survivors.  The only things comparable in more modern times are photos of Holocaust survivors. 

Andersonville survivor Andersonville survivor 2

  Wirz was arrested in May of 1865 and tried by a Military Tribunal between August and October in the U.S. Capitol building.  The trial dominated the front pages of every newspaper across America. Witnesses included inmates, Confederate officers, and residents of the nearby town of Andersonville, but most of the testimony was hearsay.  Felix de la Baume, a descendant of the Marquis de Lafayette and a particularly gifted speaker, was able to give eyewitness testimony of a victim directly killed by Wirz.  His testimony was so compelling that he was given written commendation by members of the tribunal, and rewarded with a position within the Department of the Interior even as the trial progressed.

Henry Wirz, Andersonville Prison

Captain Henry Wirz

Wirz was convicted of murder and conspiracy to imperil the lives of Union prisoners of war. He was hung on November 10.  On November 21, evidence was obtained that Felix de la Baume was really Felix Oeser, of Prussia, was not descended from Lafayette, and was not an Andersonville survivor, but a deserter from the 7th New York Volunteers.  Caught up in his perjury, he disappeared and was never heard from again. Was Henry Wirz any guiltier of war crimes than others in his position?  Or did events of the time make him a scapegoat?  The controversy continues to this day.

The Andersonville site includes a National Cemetery.  Not only those who died at the prison camp are there, but also those who served in other wars.  Wandering through the cemetery, seeing the thousands of graves, and reflecting on the men and women buried here is a very moving experience. 

Some of the thousands of graves of the victims of Andersonville Prison

Some of the thousands of graves of the victims of Andersonville Prison

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Spanish American War veteran

Spanish American War veteran

Irish immigrant World War I veteran

Irish immigrant World War I veteran

Army Nurse Corp World War I veteran

Army Nurse Corp World War I veteran

Navy World War 1 veteran

Navy World War 1 veteran

Army Air Force World War II veteran

Army Air Force World War II veteran

Air Force Korea veteran

Air Force Korea veteran

Marine killed in Vietnam

Marine killed in Vietnam

The National Cemetery at Andersonville has monuments erected by the various states whose soldiers perished there.  The Illinois monument contains Abraham Lincoln's words from his Gettysburg Address:  "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..."

The National Cemetery at Andersonville has monuments erected by the various states whose soldiers perished there. The Illinois monument contains Abraham Lincoln’s words from his Gettysburg Address: “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

Andersonville, Part 2

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Much to our surprise, the Andersonville National Historic Site is not only dedicated to the Civil War prison camp, but also includes the National Prisoner of War Museum, all administered by the National Park Service.  This museum is fantastic.  Dedicated to American Prisoners of War from all conflicts, dating back to the Revolution, it’s set up differently than we would have expected it to be.  You don’t go from room to room, seeing first an exhibit for the Revolution, next one for the War of 1812, and so on.  Instead, its purpose is to show the Prisoner of War experience, and is divided into sections explaining that experience.  First are The Capture, and all the fear and uncertainness that comes from it.  Next is Transport to Camp.  Following that is Imprisonment.  Finally comes Liberation.  Each exhibit will take examples from all conflicts to describe that part of the experience. 

Entrance to the National Prisoner of War Museum

Entrance to the National Prisoner of War Museum

But before even getting into these four phases is a very interesting exhibit which asks the question “Who is considered a Prisoner of War?”  The answer is not as easily answered as it may seem.  Are civilians?  Are spies?  Are terrorists?  Who makes the determination?  And how were these various categories of prisoners treated throughout history?  What was the Geneva Convention?  And when a conflict involves nations not signed on to the Convention, what rules apply?  All very interesting and all very important. Many of the exhibits involve interviews and diaries of actual survivors of prison camps.  Oftentimes diaries included drawings depicting conditions and events.  And in some cases, exhibits included artifacts made by prisoners, such as a coffee cup made from a tin rations can.  I was very impressed by a ship model made from bits of bone scavenged from soup by a prisoner during the War of 1812.  There was an extensive exhibit pertaining to the second category, Transport, on the Bataan Death March in World War Two.  Video interviews were included of prisoners from the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.  Senator John McCain and Admiral James Stockdale were featured extensively.  The torture endured by these men was brutal. Admiral Stockdale was the highest ranking American held during Vietnam, and was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy, including four Silver Stars and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He spoke of the communication codes they would use when held in solitary, by tapping out letters of the alphabet.  The code was simple to learn, but the North Vietnamese never caught on.  He said that being ordered to go out into the hallways and sweep the floor was an opportunity to “make a speech” by swishing the broom to the appropriate code. 

Admiral James Bond Stockdale

Admiral James Bond Stockdale

Admiral Stockdale in the Hanoi Hilton

Admiral Stockdale in the Hanoi Hilton

Displays included ways the prisoners would offer resistance to their captors whenever and however possible.  Who among us (at least in our age group) can forget the famous photo of the men of the USS Pueblo posed in a group by the North Koreans, supposedly admitting they were all “war criminals”, all standing there with their middle finger extended?  The gesture went totally over the heads of their captors, but was immediately recognized for what it was by the American Public.  Unfortunately, Time Magazine, in its infinite wisdom, published the photos telling the world, including the North Korean captors exactly what the men were doing, subjecting them to a week of hell.

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Films were shown of the news coverage when the Vietnam prisoners were released.  I remember being glued to the TV as these heroes kissed the ground when arriving in US territory and were greeted with the hugs and kisses of mothers, wives and children.  Another exhibit spoke to the uncertainty of family back home, who sometimes for years did not know if their son, father, husband was alive or dead.  A poem written by President Jimmy Carter, telling of a true event from his family was on display:

The Ballad of Tom Gordy

 In ’41 the Japanese took our troops on Guam

Alive or dead, we didn’t know. 

One was my uncle Tom.  

He was the Navy Boxing Champ. 

My Hero with his crown.

Now with him gone, his family moved down to our Georgia town.  

My grandma and my aunts felt Tom was not his wife’s, but theirs.

She could feel the coolness but stayed on to join their prayers.  

What bound them all together was the hope and faith and dread.

When two years passed, the dispatch came:  my uncle Tom was dead.  

His wife and kids moved back out west to start their lives again.

And after Tom was gone three years she wed a family friend. 

The end of war brought startling news:  Tom Gordy was alive.

Four years he had been digging coal deep in a mountainside.  

The women took the feeble Tom and smothered him with care.

He never would tell anyone what happened over there.  

Tom Gordy soon regained some strength and craved a normal life.

But mother and sisters told him lies about his absent wife   Betraying him. 

Tom wanted her but couldn’t figure how To bring her back, or overcome her second marriage vow.  

He got four years back pay and made Commander, USN. It didn’t take him long to find a woman’s love again.

Tom closed the past except when his three children came to stay.

When I would mention his first wife, he’d always turn away.  

Once my submarine tied up where she lived with his kin.

I went to visit them afraid they wouldn’t let me in.  

But all the folks they knew were called when I first gave my name.

All night we danced and sang because At least Tom’s nephew came.

Jimmy Carter

We had the opportunity to meet President Carter the following day, which Chari will talk about, and we would have loved to ask him about this story, but unfortunately, we were not permitted.  There was a line of people waiting for their “photo-op” and if everyone wanted to stay and chat, he and Mrs. Carter would never get home! We came to Andersonville late one afternoon, expecting to see a museum dedicated to the Civil War prison camp, and found ourselves returning the following day to take it all in.  Of all the National Park Service sites, and all of them are terrific, this is one of the best.

American flag made and hidden by an American POW in a Japanese camp

American flag made and hidden by an American POW in a Japanese camp

Model ship built from bits of bone scavenged from soup by a prisoner during the War of 1812

Model ship built from bits of bone scavenged from soup by a prisoner during the War of 1812

Plaque honoring the crew of the USS Pueblo, taken by the North Koreans in 1968

Plaque honoring the crew of the USS Pueblo, taken by the North Koreans in 1968

Plaque honoring American POWs during the Korean War

Plaque honoring American POWs during the Korean War

 

Plaque honoring the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor in World War II

Plaque honoring the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor in World War II

Plaque honoring the 28,000 members of the 8th Air Force who were taken captive by Germany in World War II

Plaque honoring the 28,000 members of the 8th Air Force who were taken captive by Germany in World War II

Plaque honoring Americans taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese

Plaque honoring Americans taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese

Plaque honoring those of the 42nd Rainbow Division taken prisoner during World Wars I and II

Plaque honoring those of the 42nd Rainbow Division taken prisoner during World Wars I and II

Plaque honoring the 1225 members of the 27th Bombardment Group.  These men arrived in the Philippines on December 8th, 1941.  Their dive bombers did not arrive in time to stem the Japanese attack, and they formed an infantry regiment, gallantly holding a front line sector until April 9th, 1942 when they were forced to surrender.  Enduring the Bataan Death March, and subsequently the brutal conditions of the "Hell Ships", few survived to war's end.

Plaque honoring the 1225 members of the 27th Bombardment Group. These men arrived in the Philippines on December 8th, 1941. Their dive bombers did not arrive in time to stem the Japanese attack, and they formed an infantry regiment, gallantly holding a front line sector until April 9th, 1942 when they were forced to surrender. Enduring the Bataan Death March, and subsequently the brutal conditions of the “Hell Ships”, few survived to war’s end.

Plaque honoring soldiers held at camps in Szubin and Schokken, Poland during World War II

Plaque honoring soldiers held at camps in Szubin and Schokken, Poland during World War II