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The first Medal of Honor awarded to a living soldier since the Vietnam War was announced this week:

Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta will be the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. On Thursday, President Obama spoke with Giunta, who is assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, in Vicenza, Italy, to inform him that he will be awarded the nation’s highest valor award, according to the White House.

There had been discussion of whether the Medal of Honor had become only a posthumous award:

The small number awarded and the fact that all were awarded posthumously has raised questions among members of Congress and senior military leaders. When asked by reporters, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in September the issue has been “a source of real concern to me.” He added: The Medal of Honor nomination process is “a very time-intensive, thorough process. But I would say that I’ve been told there are some living potential recipients that have been put forward,” he said during a Sept. 17 news conference.

Prior to Giunta, the last non-posthumous award of the Medal of Honor had been to Michael Edwin Thornton in October 1972.

Vice Admiral and Mrs. William H.P. Blandy cut a mushroom-cloud cake as Rear Admiral Frank J. Lowry looks on; November 5, 1946 at the Army War College in Washington, DC.

Via io9.


*No, there aren’t. I just couldn’t resist.

Table of Contents

1. Tuesday, 3 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
2. Japanese Surrender in Color by NHHC at Naval History Blog
3. Attempted California to Hawaii Flight: 1 September 1925 by NHHC at Naval History Blog
4. Monday, 2 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
5. Upcoming Events… by Ross at Thoughts on Military History
6. Sunday, 1 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
7. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Established by Congress in 1842 by thomaslsnyder at Of Ships & Surgeons
8. World War II Submarine Appendectomy by NHHC at Naval History Blog
9. Lieutenant Junior Grade George Herbert Walker Bush, USNR and His Rescue by Finback by Ships History at Naval History Blog
10. Manassas Touring Guide by noreply@blogger.com (Drew@CWBA) at Civil War Books and Authors
11. Lt Clark and the Inchon Landing by NHHC at Naval History Blog
12. Curator’s Favorites by Liz Holcombe at Australian War Memorial
13. Civil War: Forces Clash at Chantilly by n/a at About.com Military History
14. When War Memorials Crumble? by n/a at Osprey Publishing Blog
15. Saturday, 31 August 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
16. Then and Now by Ethan Rafuse at Civil Warriors
17. New on Navy Tv: USS Aluminaut Recovers Alvin-2 by NavyTV at Naval History Blog
18. Friday, 30 August 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
19. Tuesday, 27 August 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
20. New Search at Tarawa for Remains of Marines by The Associated Press at Other Military History Stuff

Read the rest of this entry »

A survey of military history posts from around the web, inspired by Ralph Luker’s “Notes” and “Things” at the History News Network’s Cliopatria blog. Different from Carnivals as it is my idiosyncratic collection from regular blog reading. Nominations for blogs to follow and include in this survey are welcome. As to why this is #125, it started at H-War a while back.

Table of Contents

1. The Marianas: Saipan, Guam, and Tinian by NHHC at Naval History Blog
2. The Old Paradigm by George Simmers at Great War Fiction
3. Harrison a. Sickles by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
4. Civil War Guidebook Review: “A Tour Guide to Missouri’s Civil War” by Rene Tyree at Wig-Wags
5. War of 1812: Winder Routed at Bladensburg by n/a at About.com Military History
6. The Organization Cultures of Civil War Armies – Pt 2 by Mark Grimsley at Civil Warriors
7. The Battle From Below by Brett Holman at Airminded
8. Aaron H. Sickles by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the Military History Carnival #25. This month’s entries range from the Ancient World to the Cold War, from North Korea and China to the English Channel. There are links here to works on military medicine, on deception on the Eastern Front of World War II, and on Stephen Ambrose.

Ancient:

Nikolaos Markoulakis submitted an article entitled “Political strategy of the Seleucid Empire in the region of Central Asia.”

Early Modern:

Thomas Snyder pointed out a post on maritime medicine and the battle of Gravelines, August 8, 1588.

20th Century:

Rich Landers sent in the mail correspondence of a World War I doughboy and his sister from 1918 (letters in reverse order: oldest at bottom), supplemented by a post explaining the recovery process from being gassed in World War I.

Alan Baumler sent in a link to the last cavalry charge in history?

Graham Jenkins submitted a link on the Soviet use of deception and maskirovka during the 1944 summer offensive, Operation Bagration.

Alan Baumler submitted an article on the use of violence in Maoist China.

Alan Baumler sent in the story of a Korean interpreter during the Korean-American War and after.

Graham Jenkins submitted another on the US-UK ‘special relationship’ during the Falklands War.

David Silbey sent in a series of posts discussing Stephen Ambrose: I, II, and III.

Misc

James Holoka pointed to the Michigan War Studies Review for wide-ranging book reviews.

Enjoy!

Deadline for the next Military History Carnival is coming up on August 15th. Send potential entries here with the subject header “Military History Carnival Submission.”

How would you bomb Japan? Just in time, of course, for the regrettable annual atomic bomb observation, comes an online version of “the straightforward poll of Compton and Daniels which asked 250 scientists at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory arm of the Manhattan Project in pre-Trinity July, 1945″ how they should use “any new weapons.”

(FWIW, as of this writing the most popular answer among poll respondents was the same as the most popular answer among scientists in July 1945.)

Edge of the American West, along with H-War will be hosting the next Military History Carnival, on August 17, 2010. Carnivals are an ancient and hoary Internet tradition, bringing together the best submitted work on a particular topic from around the web:

“A blog carnival is like a roving journal, a rotating showcase of interesting writing from around the blogosphere within a particular discipline. Individual bloggers volunteer to host a carnival on their personal blog, acting as chief editor for that edition. It falls to them to collect noteworthy items, and to sort through suggestions from the community, many of which are direct submissions from authors. On the appointed date (carnivals generally keep to a regular schedule) the carnival gets published and the community is treated to a richly annotated feast of new writing in the field.” [Future of the Book]

My belief is to construe military history as widely as possible: drums and trumpets, surely; the face of battle, most definitely; but also memorialization, gender, and anything else that seems related to war in all its forms.

Send potential entries here with the subject header “Military History Carnival Submission.” The deadline is August 15th.

medalLarge.jpgPreviously here and here. Both posts discussed the shifting standards for Medals of Honor, including the increasing percentage awarded posthumously. Now, there comes a report that a Medal of Honor recommendation has gone up to the White House for someone who survived their heroism:

The Pentagon has recommended that the White House consider awarding the Medal of Honor to a living soldier for the first time since the Vietnam War, according to U.S. officials.

The last Medal of Honor given to a live recipient was to Michael Edwin Thornton, for actions on 31 October 1972. Thornton’s MOH also seems to have been the last one given in the Vietnam conflict (I can’t find any for actions dated later).

The nomination comes after several years of complaints from lawmakers, military officers and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that the Pentagon had become so cautious that only troops whose bravery resulted in death were being considered for the Medal of Honor. Gates “finds it impossible to believe that there is no one who has performed a valorous act deserving of the Medal of Honor who has lived to tell about it,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, who declined to comment on specific nominations.

Given Gates’ comments, I’d be surprised if the White House didn’t approve the Medal of Honor.

It’s not my headline (though I wish I’d thought of it!), but the rest is:

Unruly generals are nothing new. Throughout American history, generals have pushed their own ideas, often to the chagrin of their commanders in chief. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whom President Obama last month fired, was the latest in a line of generals who found themselves in public disputes with their civilian masters.

From the Fredericksbrug Free Lance-Star

As my grandfather used to say of his time in the Army, you learn very quickly on a bad posting that the fish rots from the head down. General McChrystal is at the very least guilty of fostering a culture of disrespect for civilian authority among his staff, which is not something generals should do.

But in doing so it might be worth noting he is only reflecting our broader culture,1 in which we appear to have determined that military service is honorable and civil service is dishonorable. This was not always the case; the US military used fairly regularly to be regarded as a home of reprobates and jobbers of the worst sort. I’m not sure exactly when the shift began to happen, nor do I know of any scholarly work on the subject, but at an educated guess I would say it traces to the turn of the twentieth century, and the relative success of the Root reforms at professionalizing the military and the relative failure of contemporary progressive reforms at rooting business corruption out of civilian politics.

UPDATE: And there he goes, replaced by Petraeus.


1Which doesn’t let him off the hook; the military are supposed to be better behaved than the broader culture.2
2And even in the broader culture Bud Light Lime is a vile decoction that all right-thinking people deplore.

It’s 1915, and Josephus Daniels wants you to want a bigger Navy, by exposing you to “the complex life that throbs through our dreadnoughts.”

Here’s a short clip including a submarine going down.

You can take in the whole thing, or at least 11′24″ of it, at the National Film Preservation Foundation.

On May 31, 1951, Rodolfo Hernandez of Colton, California, earned his salt:

HERNANDEZ, RODOLFO P.

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company G, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. Place and date: Near Wontong-ni, Korea, 31 May 1951. Entered service at: Fowler, Calif. Born: 14 April 1931, Colton, Calif. G.O. No.: 40, 21 April 1962. Citation: Cpl. Hernandez, a member of Company G, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His platoon, in defensive positions on Hill 420, came under ruthless attack by a numerically superior and fanatical hostile force, accompanied by heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire which inflicted numerous casualties on the platoon. His comrades were forced to withdraw due to lack of ammunition but Cpl. Hernandez, although wounded in an exchange of grenades, continued to deliver deadly fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants until a ruptured cartridge rendered his rifle inoperative. Immediately leaving his position, Cpl. Hernandez rushed the enemy armed only with rifle and bayonet. Fearlessly engaging the foe, he killed 6 of the enemy before falling unconscious from grenade, bayonet, and bullet wounds but his heroic action momentarily halted the enemy advance and enabled his unit to counterattack and retake the lost ground. The indomitable fighting spirit, outstanding courage, and tenacious devotion to duty clearly demonstrated by Cpl. Hernandez reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.

On May 31, 1945, Clarence Craft of San Bernardino, California, was somewhat occupied:
Read the rest of this entry »

When students have asked me about Stephen Ambrose and using his books for research papers, until recently, I’ve laid out the plagiarism issues with his later works, and warned against using them. His early works, I told them, seem reasonably reliable, but they should retain a residual wariness of them. This sometimes sounded overly harsh; condemning a man’s life work for later failings. I wish it had been:

Nonfiction writers who succumb to the temptations of phantom scholarship are a burgeoning breed these days, although most stop short of fabricating interviews with Presidents. But Stephen Ambrose, who, at the time of his death, in 2002, was America’s most famous and popular historian, appears to have done just that.

I should be more surprised, but I’m not. What had appeared the failings of a historian overwhelmed by the popularity of his works and the demand for more, now seems–if this evidence is accurate–to be the lifelong betrayal of his discipline.

The deadline is tonight at midnight for the next Military History Carnival. Send your submissions to hwar at comcast dot net to have them included.

On this day in history, April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Ulysses Grant wrote the following:

General R. E. LEE:

GENERAL: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by U. S. authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General

It is one of the great myths of American history, and thus a suitable answer to Eric’s question, that Appomattox ended the Civil War. It certainly surrendered the Confederacy’s most notable army and commander, but even after April 9th, Confederate armies remained in the field, fighting the Union. President Andrew Johnson’s announcement of the end of the Civil War would not come until August 20, 1865, and even then, the Confederate commerce raider Shenandoah held out until early November. But Lee’s surrender has become the de facto end of the Civil War, as it plays powerfully into the personality cult surrounding the Confederate General, and serves usefully as the founding tragedy of Lost Cause mythology.

The Edge of the American West, in conjunction with H-War, will be hosting the next Military History Carnival, on April 17, 2010. Carnivals are an ancient and hoary Internet tradition, bringing together the best submitted work on a particular topic from around the web:

A blog carnival is like a roving journal, a rotating showcase of interesting writing from around the blogosphere within a particular discipline. Individual bloggers volunteer to host a carnival on their personal blog, acting as chief editor for that edition. It falls to them to collect noteworthy items, and to sort through suggestions from the community, many of which are direct submissions from authors. On the appointed date (carnivals generally keep to a regular schedule) the carnival gets published and the community is treated to a richly annotated feast of new writing in the field.

Submit potential entries via email. The deadline is April 15th.

ChineseTacoma.JPG.jpegAs a followup to these posts (1, 2), and in honor of The West Wing, I note that Tacoma, Washington, was the recipient not only of electricity from the United States Navy, but, 45 years earlier, occupation from the United States Army.

In the winter of 1885, anti-Chinese sentiment swept the west coast. In Tacoma (and elsewhere) that sentiment took the form of a pogrom against the city’s ethnic Chinese residents, who were summarily and violently evicted from Tacoma in the first week of November:

At nine o’clock on the morning of November 3, 1885, steam whistles blew at the foundries and mills across Tacoma, to announce the start of the purge of all the Chinese people from the town. Saloons closed and police stood by as five hundred men, branding clubs and pistols, went from house to house in the downtown Chinese quarter and through the Chinese tenements along the city’s wharf. Sensing the storm ahead, earlier in the week, about five hundred Chinese people had fled from
Tacoma. Now the rest were given four hours to be ready to leave. They desperately stuffed years of life into sacks, shawls, and baskets hung from shoulder poles–bedding clothing, pots, some food. At midday, the mob began to drag Chinese laborers from their homes, pillage their laundries, and thrown their furniture into the streets….The mob marched the Chinese through heavy rain to a muddy railroad crossing nine miles from town. [3]

Some were able to pay passage on the next passenger train that came through; some hitched on freight trains; some struggled on foot to Portland.

U.S. Army troops were sent to restore order, which, the New York Times announced, had quieted the city:

The rabid, riotous anti-Chinese talk ceased with the arrival of the troops. Those who had so freely indulged in this chatter, who had discoursed so pathetically on this havoc created by the dreadful Chinaman and the danger of utter extinction to the American citizen by his presence, all at once became wonderfully scarce. The cry “The Chinese must go” was suddenly hushed, and the number of truly good and law-abiding citizens became unusually large.[4]

The unit was the 14th (U.S.) Infantry Regiment, who would be fighting Chinese, rather than protecting them, fifteen years later. [5].

(There’s a map of the mob’s route here. Warning: PDF!)

(First part here)

020367.jpgIn the winter of 1929-30, as the United States economy sank into the Great Depression, a continuing drought in Washington state made things even more difficult for the city of Tacoma. Tacoma relied for its electricity on power generated by a series of dams in the interior of the state. The drought, “unequaled for thirty-nine years,” reduced the water level behind those dams to such a low level that the city’s electricity supply was reduced to 10 percent of the requirement. The situation was so dire that some local churches had organized prayers for more rain, though at least one minister was not best pleased:

‘God planted timber for water conservation,’ declared the Rev. M, E. Bollen of University Baptist Church. ‘We cut it for profit and ask God to make up the difference. For Seattle to ask God for rain without bringing forth fruits of repentance is sheer hypocrisy and rank paganism. Rain-making preachers…have so enlarged the theological eye of the needle that it resembles a triumphal arch over the boulevard and limousines dash through six abreast.’[1]

By coincidence, the Lexington was at the Puget Naval Yard being overhauled, and in late November, the cities asked that she be used to provide power. Secretary of the Navy Adams rejected the proposal, saying that “‘many considerations’ made it inadvisable.”[2] Undeterred, a group from Washington appealed to President Hoover. Though the President told them that the decision was up to Adams, Hoover seems to have pressured the Secretary of the Navy during the following week, because Adams relented. He was still not best pleased by the idea, saying that losing the Lexington to such a task would be a “serious blow to the Navy.”[3], but he reluctantly agreed to release the aircraft carrier to the city for a “period not exceeding thirty days.”[4]

020247.jpgThe Lexington tied up in Tacoma on December 15th, barges serving as bumpers between her and the dock, and a special-built electric substation sitting nearby. Crowds gathered at the dock and on nearby hills to watch. The next day, the ship started providing electricity, 12 hours per day. It was not a complete replacement, but it was enough to keep the city and the city’s industries running, no small thing in the middle of an economic downturn.

During the month, the Lexington was visited by troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Read the rest of this entry »

lex1925-bld.jpgThe American aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga were built in the 1920s, converted from the unfinished hulls of battlecruisers made redundant by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. One of their innovative aspects was a relatively new kind of engine, the turbine-electric. Rather than driving the propellers through a series of gears, the steam boilers in the Lexington and Saratoga drove electrical generators. The electricity then powered electric drives in the rear of the ship which turned the propellers. This new set-up was supposed to have advantages of economy, efficiency, the ability to reverse the propellers quickly, and better low speed operations. Popular Science proudly labeled the new engines as a “major revolution in shipbuilding.” [1] Read the rest of this entry »

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