Thursday, April 14, 2011

I must have looked at 1000 pictures...

...but I finally found 2 in which I could positively identify myself. In both, I'm near the top, coming out a "shell crater" on the beach. I have my rifle almost at port arms, and have a gas brassard on my right sleeve above the elbow. Found me yet? Trust me, I'm there.

The event is the annual D-Day reenactment on Lake Erie and the beaches of Conneaut, OH. It's a good event. If you live anywhere near the area, it's well worth the trip. There are usually two P-51 Mustang fighters strafing the beach, period landing craft ,German hillside emplacements, period civilians and french Resistance fighters, and even a few airborne scenarios. Look up D-Day Conneaut on the internet. The details are there. It happens on a Saturday in mid-August. I'll post more details as it gets closer.

The beach is about 200yds wide, and by the time you run through the sand with weapons and gear, going in an out of holes, and trying to keep your head down, it's a good feeling getting to the sea wall and making a push up the hil to win the day!

On April 14, 1861...

...Just 2 days after the Confederate forces in Charleston fired on Ft. Sumter, and just a day after the besieged Union garrison of the fort surrendered, President Abraham Lincoln issued his call for volunteers to "put down the rebellion."

The President's call to arms, as publiched in the Ohio Repository on April 17, 1861:


“Whereas, the laws of the United States are now and have been opposed in several States by combinations too powerful to be suppressed in the ordinary way, I therefore call forth the militia of the several states of the Union, to the aggregate number of 75,000, to suppress said combinations and execute the laws. I appeal to all loyal citizens to participate and aid this effort to maintain the laws and integrity of the National Union, and perpetuity of popular governments, and redress wrongs long enough endured.

“The first service assigned the forces will probably be to repossess the forts, places and property which have been seized from the Union. The utmost care will be taken, consistent with the object, to avoid devastation, destruction and interference with the property of peaceful citizens in ay part of the country.

“I hereby command all persons composing the aforesaid combinations to disperse within 20 days from date.

“I hereby convene both Houses of Congress for the fourth of July next, to determine upon such measures as the public safety and interests demands.”

Abraham Lincoln,

The war had begun. No one at the time knew or could even imagine the brutality of the next four years. Most folks thought it would be over in a few weeks, would entail a lot of posturing by both sides, but would result in little if any bloodshed. Unfortunately for the combatants, these poeple would soon be proven dreadfully wrong.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Franklin Delano Roosevelt...

...the 32nd President, author of the "New Deal", and the only US president to serve more than two terms died on April 12, 1945. President Roosevelt suffered from polio, and was paralyzed at the waist. He served as president through most of the Great Depression, and through the brutal years of World War II. He died just as victory over Germany's Third Reich was almost certain, an as the seemingly invicible Empire of Japan was well into the downward spiral that would also seal her fate, and the almost inevitable Allied victory.

During his presidency, Roosevelt purchased an estate at Warm Springs, Georgia, and often spent time there embracing a form of hydro-therapy for his paralysis. It was at Warm Springs that the President died. According to witnesses, he was at his desk doing daily paperwork, when he complained of a headache. Shortly afterward, he slumped forward in his chair and died. The cause of death was a severe cerebral hemorrhage. His wife, Eleanor, arrived shortly after his death,and spent a few minutes alone with the dead Prseident paying her last respects.

President Roosevelt was succeeded by Harry Truman, who also ran in and won the next Presidential election. It was President Truman who made the final decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan and thus shorten the war.

Roosevelt's presidency is remarkable for many reasons. He became President just 32 days after Adoplh Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, and while the United States was in the worst part of the most extreme economic depression in history. Projects such as the Tennessee Valley Authority were founded under his administration, and agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission were established. Roosevelt also set up the Social security Act, which formed the basis of Social Security, but also added a payroll tax to fund the act.

FDR's most notable speech was his "Infamy" speech, his petition to Congress to declare war on the Empire of Japan after the Pearl Harbor bombing.

On the 12th of April, 1861...

...the American Civil War began in Charleston harbor. Confederates fired the first shots at the "Star of the West", a Union ship sent to supply and re-inforce the besieged garrison in Ft. Sumter. Confederates demanded the surrender of the fort, while President Lincoln declared it to be property of the US government, and refused any form of surrender of Federal property. Lincoln tested Confederate resolve, and actually (and very tactfully) coerced the Confederates into firing first.

A 34hr bombardment of the fort then commenced at 4;30 am, with Edmund Ruffin supposedly firing the first shot at Ft. Sumter. Later in the day, Captain Abner Doubleday of the Union army returned fire, ineffectively but symbolically, toward the city of Charleston. On April 13, the Union garrison under command of Maj. Robert Anderson, surrendered to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Beauregard had previously been a student of Anderson's at West Point.

During the siege and shelling of Ft. Sumter, there were no battle casualties, but one Confederate died after having been wounded by a mis-firing cannon. One Union soldier did die, and another was mortally wounded during a 100 gun salute allowed by the Confederates. After this incident, though, the salute was shortened to 50 guns.

The "Star of the West" returned with Ft. Sumter's garrison to New York City, where the garrison received a hero's welcome. Anderson also kept the fort's flag, which is now on display in the museum in Ft. Sumter and is a treasured piece of American history.

Though the initial battle was bloodless, and the resulting casualties were minimal in number, the first battle for Ft. Sumter was the start of four years of a tragic war with casualties and brutality on a scale that no one imagined or saw coming. Even today, the ferocity of both sides in the America Civil War continues to awe and amaze. Though we commemorate it, and celebrate it, we must not glorify it. Most of all, we must all make sure that such an event never happens again!

Monday, April 11, 2011


...As we prepare to start the official sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, let's not forget another important historical event that occurred on April 11th, 1945, the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp by the 6th Armored Division of the U.S. 3rd Army. Buchenwald is said to rank 2nd only to Auschwitz in overall brutality to those imprisoned there. Thus, it is a milestone event in a very gruesome story.

Pvt. Harry J. Herber, Jr. claims to be the first American soldier to tear down the barbed wire and enter the camp, though many believe this is pure embellishment on his part. The camp had been overtaken by prisoners a few days earlier.
As word of the advancing Americans reached nearby Gestapo headquarters, the guards at Buchenwald were sent and order by the Gestapo to blow up the camp to destroy any evidence of its existence, but the garrison in the camp had already fled. A prisoner answered the phone when the Gestapo called, and informed them that the camp had already been blown up, so it was not necessary to send explosives. Of course, this was a well-crafted lie.

Pfc. James Hoyt was the driver the M8 Greyhound armored car that brought Capt. Frederic Keffer, Tech. Sgt. Herbert Gottschalk and Sgt. Harry Ward into the camp. He parked the vehicle outside the fence, and Capt. Keffer and Sgt. Gottschalk entered through a hole in the barbed wire that the prisoners made.

Thousand of prisoners were held in Buchenwald. Though it was not an extermination camp, with no crematoria or gas chambers, several thousand prisoners died in Buchenwald. They were used as slave laborers, and lived in horrid conditions. Starvation and disease killed hundreds daily. Buchenwald prisoners also were used in several horrific medical experiments, such the testing of viral infections and vaccines.

Ilse Koch, the wife of the cammp commandant, was one of the most brutal tormentors in Buchenwald. She often unmercillesly beat prisoners for no reason with her riding crop, and had a collection of lampshades, book covers and gloves made from the skin of deceased inmates.

One thing worthy of note is that, as time progressed, the communist inmates who were freed from Buchenwald hunted down and captured 76 of their former guards. Their fate, as can be expected, was not pleasant.

One of the freed Buchenwald inmates was Elie Wiesel, who was the Nobel Prize winner in 1986.

Though the sesquicentennial Civil War commemoration is monumental in scope in the USA, let's remember all the brutalities, all the struggles, all the deaths, and all the sacrifice from all the wars. It is because of this history that the World today is as we know it, and that, all gripes aside, we still live in the greatest country in the history of this awesome planet.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Land of the Free...


...Sometimes, I wonder. On April 12th, to kick off the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Charleston is hosting a reenactment of the firing on and siege of Ft. Sumter. This should be quite an event. They have approximately 30 Confederate cannon to be placed on the shores of Charleston Harbor. No cannon will actually be allowed in the fort, so there will be no return fire. Upwards of 150,000 spectators will be in Charleston.

Sounds good, right? It should be, but...

...a hardcore, super-authentic reenactor has been placed in charge of the event, and like many of his kind, he has no tolerance for anything not being done his way or to his standards.

All uniforms will be subject to his approval. If you are not approved by him, you cannot be there. A group of gentlemen who portray various Union generals have asked to come, and they were rejected because, "Those generals weren't there during the siege, and there's no place for them."

Anyone else see a problem here?

They don't want to attend as participants. They merely want to be there,and to dress for the event theme.

Even those bringing the cannons will be required to conform to the strict guidelines of this event. If you have the wrong uniform for an early war impression, or the wrong buttons, etc., your cannon will be welcome, but you'll have to either change to a uniform more appropriate or leave.

I'm all for having some type of authenticity regulations, because you cannot do this with an " anything goes" mentality. I've seen many Gettysburg parades where authenticity was lacking, and it was ridiculous. Period-correct uniforms, shoes, eyeglasses, and equipment should be required. But, what period? The Civil War in general, or a battle-specific impression?

Say you own a cannon, and your group reenacts a gun from a battery that was formed later in the war than Ft. Sumter. You have put $45,000+ into your gun and equipment, you have a truck of suitable size and a trailer to haul the heavy cannon, and you've been invited to this event. You have to travel a few hundred miles, paying $3.50-$4.00 per gallon for gasoline in a vehicle that doesn't go too many miles on a gallon. For a multi-day event, you'll spend close to $500 on powder and friction primers. You'e taken time off of work, and have made lodging arrangements to stay for a few days. All you meals will need to be purchased in Charleston or along the road.

Is it really fair to tell those who are already volunteering their time and effort, and are spending a substantial amount of money, that they cannot participate because their shell jacket is of a pattern not made until 1862, their buttons are Western theater, etc.? I think not! The event organizers should be glad they came, because without participants, there is no event!

As to spectators, last I checked, this was a free country.They should be allowed to wear whatever uniform they want. They want to dress as Union generals? They want to wear a WWI doughboy uniform? they want to dress as Winston Churchill? Why not? They aren't participating. They aren't trying to recreate history. As long as they are carrying no weapons, breaking no laws, and are not being obnoxious, who is some hardcore, stitch nazi in charge of an event in a public U.S. city to say they cannot be there?

I wish I hadmade plans to go to this event. I'd wear my British airborne uniform and would have my wife dress as "Rosie the Riveter" just because we can, and I'd see if they tried to ban me.

If you go, good luck, and have fun. Don't be intimidated, and don't be afraid to be different. It's your Constitutional right.

Event planners and organizers need to get off their high horse and realize the facts. Your participants make the show, and your spectators make the show possible. Without either, there is no event. Also, people have the right to do what they want and wear what they want, as long as it's within the law! Deal with it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

British Commando Raids...

...are an important aspect of WWII, esp. in the European Theatre early in the war along the French coastline of the English Channel. These units at first were unorganized, under-supplied, and were very loosely disciplined. They consisted of volunteers who wanted to become morebspecialized and to become involved more quickly than they could in the regular British armed forces. Quite often,these commando units consisted of foreign volunteers, many of whom were Americans.

In 1940 around the time of the Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain, there was great fear that Germany would launch an invasion against the British Isles, which at the time were not prepared for such an invasion. Over 300,000 British and French troops had been evacuated from France and were in England, but countless weapons, ammo, and other supplies had been left behind at Dunkirk.

The initial commando raids targeted select objectives and met with limited success. As the Commandos became better trained and better equipped, the objectives changed. Commandos adopted the policy of "Strike first! Strike hard, and show the enemy no mercy!" Select, specific objectives were often replaced with the idea of dropping a small unit on the coastline, allowing them to penetrate the German defenses, and to hit hard, causing as much damage as possible in the shortest amount of time. The commandos then would make their way to the shore for exfiltration, often using the chaos they created to cover their retreat.

Commando raids involved as few as two and ans many as 1200 commandos at a time. One of the more notable raids was the Canadian assault on the port of Dieppe in 1942. This was a large-scale operation that met with failure almost from the beginning and resulted in total disaster. The commandos were quickly detected and almost totally overwhelmed during this raid, Thoughit was an almost total failure, the Dieppe raid provided lessons and intelligence that would later be used during the Normandy invasion in 1944.

As the commandos evolved, so did their tactics. As the tactics improved, the raids became more effective. These raids at time sso frustrated the German war effort that the Germans swiftly adopted a policy of executing all captured commandos.

Though not as glorious or publicized as other aspects of the war, the commandos nonetheless are heroes, and their stories should be told. Commando raids were conducted all along the Channel coast, and they caused massive chaos and disruption in the German coastal defenses. Commandos ar eoften overlooked, but their overall contribution to the Allied war effort should be appreciated. It is an interesting story of a small group of people overcoming the odds and making a major contribution to a tragic situation, in a world totally out of control.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Phil Ward...

...the author of "Those Who Dare", is a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran and graduate of Officer Candidate School, And Ft Benning's Airborne and Ranger Schools, earning his Ranger tab at 19 years of age. He served in the Mekong Delta Region of Vietnam in 1968, participating in such battles as the "Battle of the Plain of Reeds", where his unit landed "hot" and faced a Vietcong Main Force Regiment of 800-1300 men. Ward took command from his dying unit commander and called in airstrikes to cover his unit's exfiltration, which also pinned down the enemy until reinforcements came in and destroyed them.

Ward has received the Silver Star, the Soldier's Medal, the Bronze Star with Valor Device (3 awards), the Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device (3 awards), the Purple Heart (2 awards), the Air Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Combat Infantry Badge. His unit also received a Presidential Unit Citation.

After Vietnam, Mr Ward graduated with a Criminal Justice Degree from Southwest Texas State University. He has written course texts for the driver-education business he helped to establish, and his curricula gave been used by over 1,000 driver safety schools.

Ward has also served in the Texas National Guard and has taught Ranger tactics to ROTC cadets at UT, TSU, and the Texas National Guard's Officer Candidate School. His last military assignment before ending his 26 year military career was with the 10th Special Forces Group.

Mr Ward's military experience and status a a master military tactician surely helped him in his writing endeavors. His first book, "Those Who Dare", is a novel of the early years of WWII in Britain, when an invasion of the United Kingdom seemed inevitable. The book details the formation of early commando units, the evolution of commando raids, in the importance these raids had in the overall campaign in occupied France. Look for a review of this excellent book in a future nite here, and on Facebook.

Mr Ward and his wife Lindy currently live in Austin Texas. Lindy Ward is the daughter of Bob Bullock, who served as Lt. Governor to both Ann Richards and George W. Bush

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Those Who Dare...

By Phil Ward, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran, is a book I've been given for review by the publisher. It details some of the small-unit commando raids by British forces (which often included American volunteers) that took place along the French coastal areas in the months following the Dunkirk evacuation, when there was great fear of a German invasion of the British Isles. Though written as fact-based historical fiction, it is an entertaining and educational read. At times, you can almost imagine what it must have been like to have been there.

Mr. Ward apparently did his research. Even the minor details seem spot on for the events of the time. It also is well-written and grabs the reader's attention from the first chapter. Being that the book I received is an advanced reading copy, it is a paperback, and it does not include a bibliography. I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Look for a full review of this book to follow, both here and on my Facebook profile. I am three days into the read, and am about 1/3 of the way through the book, so I should be ready to post the review in around two weeks