Home of the Brave – 11/11/18

Capt. John H. “Lucky” Luckadoo

Capt John H. “Lucky” Luckadoo
Pilot and Operations Officer
351st Bomb Squadron and 350th Bomb Squadron
100th Bomb Group
(Photo courtesy of Matt Mabe)

John Luckadoo was born March 16, 1922 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  For John, the climate made it a depressing area to be raised as a boy and he longed to leave one day.  Set on the bend of the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains, the weather would frequently include clouds, rain, and fog.  Little did Luckadoo realize, years later, he would experience the same weather in England while in combat as a B-17 pilot.

A sophomore in college when Pearl Harbor was attacked, John yearned to be a pilot and joined the Army Air Corp after acceptance as an Aviation Cadet.  Initially on a two-month furlough with so many others in the pipeline, he was finally called early in 1942 to Montgomery, Alabama for six-weeks of pre-flight training and selected as wing adjutant of 4,000 cadets.  From there, they were transferred to the base in Avon Park, FL for primary training where he flew the old Steerman Yellow Peril, a PT-17 built by Boeing.

During initial flight training in Florida, Luckadoo was Captain of his Cadet class through Primary, as well as Basic and Advanced.   Sent to Shaw Field, SC for Basic training, they received a much more powerful low-wing airplane, the Vultee BT-13, with 450 horsepower in which they learned both night and formation flying.

Luckadoo and his fellow advanced graduate students, less than 30 days out from flight school, were to be assigned as Co-Pilots in the new B-17s for overseas duty.  The aircraft was an enormous plane and a quantum leap from the small twin-engine AT-10s flown during advanced training,  so it was a pretty rude awakening   The huge 4-engine plane with a 10-man crew was mounted with thirteen 50-caliber machine guns and described as a war machine.  The flying fortress would protect itself very adequately at high altitude and particularly in mass formation.  Nevertheless, it was an overwhelming experience with no prior introduction to the aircraft at all.

At the behest of his pilot who became his instructor, John more quickly learned the operation of the plane and was extremely impressed with the B-17’s capability of flight and its handling characteristics.

Cadet John Luckadoo
(Photo courtesy of John H. Luckadoo collection)

Cadet John Luckadoo during stateside training
Avon Park, FL base
(Photo courtesy of John Luckadoo)

Capt John H. Luckadoo
350th Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group
13 Feb 1944
(Photo courtesy of John Luckadoo)

2nd Lt. Luckadoo was with the original 100th Bomb Group cadre to arrive in England and the 351st Bomb Squadron based at Thorpe Abbotts.  He initially flew 21 missions with the 351st and the Lt. Glenn Dye Crew aboard the “SUNNY,” which was later lost on Sept 03, 1943 when shot down with the crew of Lt Richard King.

Following his 21 missions, Luckadoo was then checked out as a First Pilot and became Operations Officer first for the 351st Squadron and later for the 350th, as well.  He would then complete his tour as Captain with Bill DeSanders on 13 February, 1944.

Losses had begun to mount in groups already operational with the newly commissioned Eighth Air Force in England.  As the urgency for bomber crews escalated and, with scarcely 80 days in the B-17s, these newly integrated co-pilots of the 100th BG were released and found themselves spanning the North Atlantic, combat bound. With many having precious little time at the controls of the aircraft and sorely lacking in vital information techniques and emergency procedures, formidable risks were inherent.  As a consequence, of the nearly 40 members of the class of 43-B who replaced the original co-pilots of the 100th, only 4 completed their combat tours.

In all, this class of pilots actually sustained approximately a 90% loss factor within the first four months the group was operational.

Bar card at Thorpe Abbotts base, noting completion of 25 missions
(John Luckadoo collection)

Capt. John H. Luckadoo and Capt William D. DeSanders
350th Bomb Squadron
“Alice from Dallas II”
(Photo courtesy of John H. Luckadoo)

SUNNY II – Pilot Glen Dye crew
351st Bomb Squadron
Kneeling from left:
Francis C. Chaney – BOM, Timothy J. Cavanaugh – NAV
Ollen Turner – 351st Squadron Commander
Glen Dye – Pilot and John H. Luckadoo – Co-Pilot
(100th Photo Archives)

Capt Glenn Dye Crew with Sunny II
351st Bomb Squadron
(Photo courtesy of Guy Davis)

This  B-17 F  “Sunny II”  of the 100th Bomb Group and 351st Bomb Squadron, with its full crew led by Capt. Glenn Dye, presented its freshly painted nose-art.  The photo was taken at Thorpe Abbotts, England, in October 1943.  The plane would later be lost in crash landing safely with another crew on 30th December, 1943.

351st Squadron Officers of 100th Bomb Group
From left: Howard Keel – 351st Pilot, William Carleton – Engineering Officer
Alvin Barker – Operations Officer, destined to lose his life on the October 8th, 1943 Bremen mission, E. C. “Doc” Kinder – 351st famous Flight Surgeon and John “Lucky” Luckadoo – 351st Pilot who replaced Barker as Operations Officer following the Bremen mission on 8 Oct 1943
(100th Photo Archives)

In serving as operations officer for both the 351st and later 350th Bomb Squadrons, Luckadoo would become the only Operations Officer of two 100th Bomb Group Squadrons.  Following completion of his additional missions with the 35oth on 13 Feb 1944, Capt Luckadoo was offered Command of the 350th but decided instead on returning to the States with a record of 25 missions flown.

W.C. Gregg, John Luckadoo, Danny Schmucker, and Edward Moffly
Photo taken stateside following their return from England
(Photo collection of John Luckadoo)

The 100 Bomb Group flew its last combat mission of World War II on 10 April 1945.  In December 1945, the group returned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  Capt Luckadoo, as one of the 100th’s most respected officers, continued passing on his knowledge stateside in the Training Command of the 3rd Army Air Force.

French Legion of Honor presented to John Luckadoo
Courtesy of the John Luckadoo Collection

John Luckadoo is a frequent speaker in accepting requests from schools, churches, organizations and the media to convey his remarkable experience of service during WWII.

Capt John H. Luckadoo (Ret.)

In Gratitude for your Service and All who Serve

VETERANS DAY
2018

United States Joint Services
Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy

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WWII Fighter Pilot, American Hero

Captain M. M. Brooks

Major M. Brooks, a P-38 and P-47 fighter pilot during WWII, flew nearly a hundred missions in support of Allied troops, including Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Having flown 82 combat missions by the age of 23, Captain Brooks’ valor earned him several medals and decorations, including the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. His citations described his “distinctive aerial proficiency, exceptional valor, great courage, and extraordinary achievement.”

Hailing from middle America, Major was born September 28, 1922 in Ardmore, Oklahoma as the son of Major and Lillian Brooks.  Times were good in the small American town until the “Dust Bowl” and Depression of the 1930s left most families poor, with little food, and very few jobs.  At a young age, Major was up at 3:00 each morning to throw papers and joined his father at 5:00 in the local butcher shop and grocery store.

Major Brooks and sister in Ardmore, Oklahoma
1931

Downtown street in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Brooks Grocery
1930s

With the declaration of war, Major and 17 of his high school friends set out for California to build aircraft.  Enlisting in the Army Air Corp and stationed in Ontario, California, his adventure in flight school commenced when he was first among fellow recruits in breaking the sound barrier over Santa Barbara.  Many young men longed to join the Corp but few were chosen and, of those accepted, ten percent would die in training. Upon graduation, Major would leave for the flight line in 1943.

Major Brooks’ High School Photo
Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Flight training for the Army Air Corp
Ontario, California
1943

Major M. Brooks as a young Army Air Corp recruit

In 1944, Major joined the 367th Fighter Group, later known as the “Dynamite Gang,”  and initially shipped to England in preparation for war. At age 19, the men experienced exhilaration in being overseas and seeing the world for the first time but were resolute in serving their country during its greatest challenge.  Their photos depicted a brief period when the world was new and exciting before the horrors and destruction of war were fully realized.

Unusual for a 9th Air Force group, the 367th Fighter Group flew P-38 Lightnings from England in March 1944; only switching to P-47 Thunderbolts in February 1945 when flying out of Saint-Dizier, France.  Stoney Cross, Hampshire, was their first base in the European Theater of Operations (ETO).  As a base in southern England, it was the perfect location to fly short-range fighter sweeps and ground-strafing missions over German positions in northern France and provide air cover for invasion forces themselves in early June.

The group flew some incredible missions in the last year of the war.  For a mission on 25 August 1944, the Group received their first Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). The mission involved attacking landing grounds at Clastres, Peronne and Rosieries through an intense anti-aircraft barrage, engaging a number of enemy aircraft and then, despite a low fuel supply, strafing a train and convoy.  Later the same day the 367th flew a fighter sweep of more than 800 miles, hitting landing grounds at Cognac, Bourges, and Dijon. On 26 December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, the Group escorted C-47s dropping supplies to Allied troops encircled at Bastogne.  The Group was awarded a second DUC for action on 19 March 1945 when they managed to bomb and strafe the well-disguised headquarters of the German Commander-in-Chief (West), the newly-in-post Albert Kesselring, at Ziegenburg.

Major Brooks at sea headed for Army Air Corp training in England
1943

Major Brooks visiting London during Army Air Corp training in WWII

Major Brooks-joined 367th Fighter Group-1944

Major Brooks joining the 367th Fighter Group
1944

Major Brooks and his P-38 fighter plane with the 367th Fighter Group

Major Brooks inside his P-38 fighter cockpit

In WWII, fighter pilots on all sides tended to be very youthful at 21 or 22 years on average; 25 was considered mature, and 30 even more so.  Yet there were many successful WWII fighter pilots aged around 30, some even older.  The average life of a pilot was 5 days and by the end of the war, over 40,000 airmen were killed in combat theaters and another 18,000 wounded.

Major would land in Sainte-Mère-Église on Landing Strip #2 and the 367th Fighter Group began to move from that point through France.  Four men were assigned to each tent in camp and Major returned from combat one fateful day to find himself alone, after 7 of 12 pilots were shot down and among the casualties.

Major Brooks and fellow flight crews of the 367th Fighter Group

Major Brooks arriving in camp at Sainte-Mère-Église, France
367th Fighter Group

Four pilots assigned to a tent at the Sainte-Mère-Église camp in France
367th Fighter Group

Initially, Major made many friends but as the war progressed, he understood the sadness of loss.  In the face of war and potential death, they took advantage of times during leave to enjoy what they could;  even arranging a party for a Sainte-Mère-Église orphanage.

Major M. Brooks (R) and fellow pilot

Major M. Brooks (R) and fellow pilot

Party arranged at Sainte-Mère-Église orphanage by Major Brooks and fellow pilot Walter Bridgeman

Major Brooks was made flight leader and awarded the Silver Star following a heroic mission where several of his flight team were attacked and shot down.  On  19 November, 1944 fighter sweep to Duren, the 367th helped to fight off 25 Focke-Wulf 190s which attacked P-47s of the 368th Fighter Group.   Lt Major M. Brooks dived almost to the treetops to shoot down his first plane.  Closing on a second enemy fighter, he fired a long burst and watched the pilot bail out only 50′ above the ground.  A few more rounds caused a 3rd 190 to erupt into smoke and flames, tumbling crazily to the ground.  Brooks then fired on another enemy fighter, causing pieces to fly from its left wing.  Only when 5 German planes appeared to fire upon Major, was he forced to break his attack.

Toward the end of the war, Major transferred to P-47s and a good friend, Hux, had orders to return home following his recently completed 99th mission.   He chose, instead, to fly once more which would prove a fateful decision, as he was killed in action during the flight.  Two other close friends were lost that same day, Cooney and Bowers, in August 1945.  Major, who never fully recovered from the pain and loss would return years later to France in search of their graves.  Of the 350 pilots of the 367th, over half were killed or captured during WWII.

Toward the end of Major’s tour, he recovered from flight fatigue with a brief stay in an English hospital.   He then joined fighting at the front with Patton’s tank army as a ground controller for air support and would later participate in the liberation of concentration and war camps.  With the declaration of the end of WWII, Major was awaiting orders to the Pacific in fighting against the Japanese.

Major Brooks
Last return to Normandy
2014

Captain Major Brooks passed away on April 20, 2018 and leaves an honorable legacy for both his country and community.  Having faced death during 82 missions, he faced life with abundant joy and love for his fellow man.

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IN GRATITUDE FOR YOUR SERVICE AND VALOR

 

Images and history, courtesy of the Brooks family

 

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American Revolution 1775-1783

Paul Revere

Paul Revere
Revolutionary Patriot and Soldier
1735-1818

“seldom has the tomb closed upon a life so honorable and useful”

There were many who contributed to the American Revolution and the conflict for independence between our “Thirteen Colonies” and Great Britain.  Paul Revere, a Patriot leader and symbol of the period,  was also a great craftsman, artisan, industrialist and manufacturer.  During his lifespan of 84 years, he created many careers and numerous technological achievements.

Originally a Goldsmith, Silversmith, and Copperplate Engraver, Paul learned his craft from his father, Apollos Rivoire (1702-1754), a French Huguenot and Protestant immigrant who later changed his name to Paul Revere. At the age of 19 with his apprenticeship nearly complete, his father died and left him as the main source for his family’s income.

Two years later, in 1756, Revere volunteered to fight the French at Lake George, New York and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the colonial artillery.  The war erupted and Revere went on to serve as Lieutenant Colonel in the Massachusetts State Train of Artillery and Commander of Castle Island in Boston Harbor.  Revere and his troops saw little action at this post but did participate in minor expeditions to Newport, Rhode Island and Worcester, Massachusetts.  Revere’s military career would end with the failed Penobscot Expedition, a 44-ship American naval task force mounted during the Revolutionary War by the Provincial Congress of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Battle of Lake George
8 September 1755
British Campaign to expel the French from North America
General Johnson saving a wounded French officer
Benjamin West, Anglo-American History Painter

Revere’s political involvement originated through his connections with members of local organizations and his business patrons.  As a member of the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew, he was friendly with activists James Otis and Dr. Joseph Warren.  In the year prior to the Revolution, Revere gathered intelligence information by “watching the Movements of British Soldiers,” as he wrote in an account of his ride.  He was a courier for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, riding express to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.  He also spread the word of the Boston Tea Party to New York and Philadelphia.

Boston Tea Party
Political and mercantile protest by the Sons of Liberty
Against the Tea Act of May 10, 1773
Boston, Massachusetts
December 16, 1773

The role for which he is most remembered today was a night-time messenger on horseback, just prior to the battles of Lexington and Concord.  His famous “Midnight Ride” occurred on the night of April 18/April 19, 1775, when he and William Dawes were instructed by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride from Boston to Lexington.  They were to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of British Army movements in a march from Boston to Lexington, ostensibly to arrest Hancock and Adams and seize the weapons stored in Concord.

Paul Revere’s Ride
Warning colonial militia of British forces prior to the Battle of Lexington
April 18-19 1775

The British army (the King’s “regulars”), stationed in Boston when ports were closed in the wake of the Boston Tea Party, was under constant surveillance by Revere and other patriots as word began to spread they were planning a move.  On the night of April 18, 1775, the army began its move across the Charles River toward Lexington and the Sons of Liberty immediately went into action.  At approximately 11 pm, Revere was sent by Dr. Warren across the Charles River to Charlestown, on the opposite shore, to begin a ride to Lexington, while Dawes was sent the lengthy distance, via the Boston Neck and the land route to Lexington.

In the days leading to April 18th, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, sexton of the Old North Church, to send a signal by lantern in alerting Charlestown colonists when troop movements became known.  One lantern in the steeple would signal the army’s choice of the land route, while two lanterns would signal the route “by water” across the Charles River.  This precaution was planned to provide the message to Charlestown in the event both Revere and Dawes were captured.   Newman and Captain John Pulling momentarily held two lanterns in the Old North Church as Revere himself set out on his ride to proclaim the British soldiers were, in fact, crossing the Charles River that night.  Revere rode a horse lent to him by John Larkin, Deacon of the Old North Church.

Sketch of the Old North Church Steeple in Boston
used to alert by lanterns the advance of the British by sea
1882

Riding through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Revere warned patriots along his route – many of whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own.  By the end of the night, there were probably as many as 40 riders throughout Middlesex County carrying the news of the army’s advancement.  Revere did not shout the famous phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols.  Additionally, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British, as they were all legally British subjects.  Revere’s warning, according to eyewitness accounts of the ride and Revere’s own descriptions, was “The Regulars are coming out.”

Revere arrived in Lexington around midnight, with Dawes arriving a half hour later.  Upon receiving the news, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, spending the night at the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, spent a great deal of time discussing plans of action.  Revere and Dawes, meanwhile, decided to ride toward Concord where the militia’s arsenal was hidden.  They were joined by Samuel Prescott, a doctor who happened to be in Lexington.

Revere, Dawes, and Prescott were detained by British troops in Lincoln at a roadblock on the way to Concord.  Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped into the woods; Dawes also escaped, although soon after fell from his horse and failed to complete the ride. Revere was detained and questioned and then escorted at gunpoint by three British officers back toward Lexington.  As morning broke and they neared Lexington Meeting-house, shots were heard.  The British officers, becoming alarmed, confiscated Revere’s horse and rode toward the shots.  Revere, now horseless. walked through a cemetery and pastures until arriving at Reverend Clarke’s home where Hancock and Adams were staying.   As the battle on Lexington Green continued, Revere assisted John Hancock and his family to escape with their possessions, including a trunk of Hancock’s papers.

The warning delivered by the three riders. Revere, Dawes, and Prescott, successfully allowed the militia to repel the British troops in Concord, who were met by guerrilla fire along the road back to Boston.  Prescott had known the countryside well, even in the dark, and arrived at Concord in time to warn the people there.

Revere’s role was not particularly noted during his lifetime.  In 1861, over 40 years after his death, his ride became the subject in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,”Paul Revere’s Ride. ” It has since become one of the best known in American history and memorized by generations of schoolchildren.   Its famous opening lines:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year

Heny Wadsworth Longfellow
American Poet and Educator
Circa 1850

As a tradesman, Paul Revere’s silver shop was the cornerstone of his professional contribution for more than 40 years.  As the master of his craft, Revere was responsible for both the workmanship and the quality of the metal alloy used.  He employed numerous apprentices and journeymen to produce pieces ranging from simple spoons to magnificent full tea sets. His work, highly praised during his lifetime, is regarded as one of the outstanding achievements in American decorative arts.

Paul Revere Silver Tea Set
Commissioned by Boston Citizens
In Gratitude for Edmund Hartt’s Shipbuilding Efforts for the Navy 
1799

Paul Revere Silver Tea Set
Commissioned by Boston citizens as a gift for Edmund Hartt (b. 1744 – d. 1824)
in gratitude for his efforts as a shipbuilder for the American Navy
1799

Revere additionally supplemented his income with other endeavors. During the economic depression before the Revolution, Revere began his work as a copper plate engraver. He produced illustrations for books and magazines, business cards, book-plates, a song book and bills of fare for taverns.  During the American Revolution, Revere’s engraved copper plates aided the patriotic cause with his series of political cartoons.

Paul Revere’s Engraved Copper Plate
A political cartoon of the Boston Massacre
1770

Expanding his business interests in the years following the Revolution, Revere imported goods from England and ran a small hardware store until 1789.  By 1788 he had opened a foundry which supplied bolts, spikes and nails for North End shipyards (including brass fittings for the U.S.S. Constitution), produced cannons and, after 1792, cast bells.  One of his largest bells still rings in Kings Chapel in Boston.

Concerned that the United States had to import sheet copper from England, Revere opened the first copper rolling mill in North America in 1801.  He became a major supplier for the U.S. Navy fleet and provided copper sheeting for the hull of the U.S.S. Constitution, as well as the dome for the newly built Massachusetts State House in 1803.

Paul Bevere Bell
King’s Chapel Church, Boston

USS Constitution
Copper Sheeting to the Hull Provided by Paul Revere
Earliest known painting
Attributed to Michele Felice Corne, c. 1803
Navy Art Collection

Massachusetts State House Copper Dome Created by Paul Revere 1802
Image c. 1862

By Any Measure, An Extraordinary Man

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Honoring Those Who Serve Our Independence

Flag of Thirteen Colonies 1777-1795

4th of July

1776 – 2018

4th of July fireworks – Washington D.C.

 American Revolution.org

 

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Hallowed Ground – June 6, 1944

 

Sergeant Major Robert Blatnik, U.S. Army
1st Division, 26th Infantry
WWII veteran of North Africa, Italy, and France

A farm boy from Ohio, Robert Blatnik enlisted with the Army in 1938 in determined desire to serve his country.  Assigned to the 1st Division, 26th Infantry, he worked with combat intelligence and proved skilled in drafting topographical maps following training with the Corps of Engineers.

Prior to the 1st Division’s initial WWII combat at Oran, North Africa in early November, 1942, Blatnik was handpicked by General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. to serve as his unofficial Sergeant Major. During WWI, Roosevelt learned the position was key for the morale of troops and valued that resource.  The Division would storm the beach of Oran and later was first ashore on Sicily’s tortuous terrain in July, 1943.  Following the Italian campaign, the 1st Division returned to England for D-Day’s intensive preparation.

U.S. assault troops in LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach
6 June 1944

U.S. Soldiers Landing on Utah Beach

U.S. Soldiers departing LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach
6 June 1944

U.S. assault troops carrying equipment move onto Utah Beach. Landing craft seen in the background

U.S. assault troops carrying equipment onto Utah Beach
following deployment from landing craft seen in the background
6 June 1944

In attacking Omaha Beach on D-day, 6 June 1944, there were units suffering 30 percent casualties in the first hour, although Formigny and Caumont were secured in the beachhead.  Assault boats, mined and shelled, were piled upon obstacles and formed additional obstructions.  Men were cut down as their landing crafts dropped their ramps or died wading through the surf.  A few of the early assault waves, having gained the dubious shelter of the shale ledge, were riddled by artillery bursts. Most supporting weapons were swamped or destroyed on the beach.

German obstacles placed on Omaha Beach
6 June 1944

US 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling Pointe du Hoc at Normandy landings on D-Day

U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling Pointe du Hoc at Normandy
6 June 1944

By the time Sergeant Major Blatnik hit the water with command of 900 men at Omaha, he was considered seasoned infantry.  His new recruits, however, feeling the tendency to dig in when facing the onslaught of tremendous firepower, were told the only way to survive was move forward.  Instructed not to tend to the wounded, the medics would follow from the rear.  Of the 900 men initially in his command, only 500 would survive to march inland.  Blatnik, wounded several times during his own WWII service and a recipient of a Silver Star and 4 purple hearts, was subsequently able to return to each period of combat.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr, rising to the rank of Brigadier General during WWII, served as Assistant Commander of the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division during D-Day landings at Normandy, France on 6 June, 1944.  The only General officer to land with the invasion forces that day, he led his men through France into the next month before dying of a fatal heart attack, July 12, 1944, following involvement in fierce fighting.  He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery on D-Day.  Buried at Omaha Beach American Cemetery, he was laid to rest alongside his brother, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed in the first World War.

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr
Veteran of WWI and WWII
Omaha Beach American Cemetery
Colleville Sur Mer, Normandy

The 1st Division would follow a St. Lo break-through with an attack on Marigny, July 27, 1944 and drove across France in continuous offensive, reaching the German border at Aachen in September.  Laying siege, they took the city following a direct assault on October 21, 1944.  Then attacking east of Aachen through Hurtgen Forest and driving to the Roer, they moved to a rest area on December 7th, the Division’s first real break in six months of combat.  When the von Rundstedt offensive suddenly broke loose on December 16th, the Division raced  to the Ardennes and fought continuously from December 17, 1944 to January 28, 1945, helping blunt and turn back the German offensive.  Thereafter, the Division attacked and again breached the Siegfried Line, fought across the Roer on February 23, 1945 and drove on to the Rhine, crossing at the Remagen bridgehead on March 15-16, 1945.  Breaking out of the bridgehead, they took part in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, captured Paderborn, pushed through the Harz Mountains, and were in Czechoslovakia, at Kinsperk, Sangerberg, and Mnichov, when the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945.

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Decades later, in remembrance of D-Day’s 70th Anniversary at Normandy, Sergeant Major Blatnik fell to his knees on Omaha Beach, praying for the souls of 400 men lost and a salute to Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr, “a soldier’s soldier loved by his men.”

Sgt Maj Blatnik-Omaha Beach

Sergeant Major Robert Blatnik
Omaha Beach, Normandy
70th Anniversary of D-Day

Sgt Maj Blatnik-Roosevelt grave

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr, U.S. Army
Omaha Beach American Cemetery
Colleville Sur Mer, Normandy
Saluted by his former Sergeant Major, Robert Blaknit, on the 70th Anniversary

In the years following retirement, Robert Blaknit has devoted his time to the Golden Age Olympics and Veterans Hospital.  A recent recipient of  a Presidential Award for over 9,000 volunteer hours for the Dallas veterans facility, he still proudly wears his uniform.  With an abundance of patriotism and enduring faith, Blaknit starts each morning with a rendition of God Bless America and religious hymns.

Sergeant Major Robert Blatnik, U.S. Army (Ret.)
98 Years Young
Memorial Day, 2018

———————-

IN GRATITUDE FOR YOUR SERVICE
on the
74th ANNIVERSARY OF D-DAY

2018

GOD BLESS YOU
AND
AMERICA

 

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In Gratitude

Honoring the service and sacrifice of our Fallen

The Old Guard transports a flag-draped casket in full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery
Army Photo

The passage of time should not diminish our gratitude
for service and sacrifice to our country

The American Revolution

1775 – 1783

The Delaware Regiment at the
Battle of Long Island
Brooklyn, New York — August 27, 1776

The Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Liberty Bell
Iconic symbol of American independence
Liberty Bell Center, Independence National Historical Park
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Soldiers serving in the Continental Army fought on behalf of 13 colonies in the Revolutionary War.  They were young and inexperienced, especially in comparison with the formidable British army, but were highly motivated to win, as the freedom of the colonies was at stake.

In total, around 230,000 soldiers served, though never more than 48,000 at the time, and the Army was supplemented by approximately 145,000 militiamen.  It’s considered 6.5% of the population participated during the Revolutionary War, although probably too low a figure but higher than any American war since WWII.  All in all, the numbers are sizable for the population of any country fighting a war.

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A Common American Soldier

Christopher Geist
Professor Emeritus, Bowling Green State University

Revolutionary Soldier

­­­­­­­

What sort of soldier stood in the Continental Army? Historians have pieced together a composite portrait, using, among other evidence, muster rolls, and veterans’ pension applications posted in the 1820s and 1830s.

Like many soldiers in America’s conflicts, the common Continental was, on average, quite young. One historian found that in nine New Jersey towns nearly 75 percent of boys who were fifteen and sixteen at the onset of hostilities served in the army or the militia. Martin was fifteen when he enlisted, artilleryman Jeremiah Levering entered the service at twelve or thirteen, and hundreds more under the legal age of sixteen served in all services. Thousands more were under twenty.

One source of Continental Army troops was a more marginalized group than most.  About 5,000 free black men and slaves served. Many more filled such supporting billets as wagoners, drovers, and laborers.  Early in the Revolution, many freemen and a few slaves came from the New England states, especially Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

African-American soldiers at the Revolutionary War Victory of Red Bank

The Bay State declared slaves and free blacks eligible to enlist in 1777.  At the beginning of 1778, nearly 10 percent of Washington’s effective force was African-American. Later in the war southern slaves gradually gained the opportunity to enroll, although South Carolina and Georgia generally resisted such enlistments.

Some masters enticed slaves to serve as their substitutes, offering freedom at the end of the conflict, sometimes coupled with a small monetary reward. In general, slave recruits were required to serve for the duration, and they acquitted themselves well. A French officer said that the Second Rhode Island Regiment, 75 percent black, was “the most neatly dressed, the best under arms, and the most precise in its maneuver.”

But do the descriptions of general characteristics bring us nearer to knowing the common soldier of the Revolution?  It’s doubtful. Best estimates are that 175,000 men served under arms in some manner, and there must be thousands of individual exceptions to any composite portrait. We know that men from all walks of life fought, from the very wealthy to the most indigent.

Substantial numbers of troops were drawn from ethnic groups and immigrants, most notably the Irish and Germans. Combatants represented the states’ religious denominations, including a few whose doctrines were pacifist.

There can be no perfect portrait of the Revolution’s common soldier. But we can be certain that, whoever he was, the common soldier did, as Lincoln said, leave us “a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received.”

Of the men under arms in the Revolution, more than 25,500 perished in battle, or as prisoners, or from diseases in camp. More than 8,000 others survived serious wounds, and nearly 1,500 disappeared. Nearly one out of five of all soldiers were casualties—killed, wounded, or missing in action—the rate, about one of every three among the regulars of the Continental Army. The Union Army in the War between the States sustained about 13 percent casualties.

It may not be possible to perfectly describe the common Revolutionary soldier, but one thing is certain.

We remain in his debt.

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In Memory of  Sacrifice for Freedom and Independence

Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
The National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Ode of Remembrance

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

     Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen” – 1914

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God Bless America and our Military

Helicopter flying in front of the Statue of Liberty, New York. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement office of Air and Marine Interdiction provides airspace security over New York City.

Memorial Day

2018

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Remembering American Liberators

Faces of Margraten

The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial
Margraten

The Dutch have never forgotten their American Liberators.  Each year, as their cemetery hosts the Faces of Margraten and United Adopters of American War Graves, a unique tribute honors the men and women buried and memorialized there.

In collecting photos since 2014, they have linked a face to the names inscribed on marble headstones and Walls of the Missing.  Visitors paying homage can now visualize the faces of Americans who sacrificed their lives in liberating the Netherlands.  More than 6,000 images have been collected to date in that effort.

Faces of Margraten
Images of American Veterans buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery

American Cemetery Memorial Tower
Margraten, The Netherlands

The museum exhibits WWII maps of operations noting the achievements of American Armed Forces in the area.

Military operations in northwestern Europe shown via battle maps
The Netherlands American Cemetery

The walls on either side of the Court of Honor contain Tablets of the Missing on which are recorded names of 1,722 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country and rest in unknown graves.  Beyond the chapel and tower, the burial area is divided into sixteen plots. Here rest 8,301 American dead, most of whom lost their lives nearby. Their headstones are set in long curves and a wide tree-lined mall leads to the flag staff crowning the crest.

Each year on Memorial Day (28 May) the dead are commemorated. In 2005, President Bush attended a large solemn meeting which marked the first time an American president visited the cemetery. The following quote is from a speech President Bush gave that day:

“On this peaceful May morning, we commemorate a great victory for liberty, while thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David underscore the terrible price paid for that victory. For the Americans who rest here, Dutch soil provides a fitting home. It was from a Dutch port that many of our pilgrim fathers first sailed for America. It was a Dutch port that gave the American flag its first gun salute. It was the Dutch who became one of the first foreign nations to recognize the independence of the new United States of America. When American soldiers returned to this continent to fight for freedom, they were led by a President (Roosevelt) who owed his family name to this great land.”

The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten

The cemetery site reflects a rich historical background.  Lying near the famous Cologne-Boulogne highway, originally built by the Romans, the route was used by Hitler’s legions  in May 1940 to overwhelm the Low Countries.  In September of 1944, it was once more utilized by German troops in withdrawing from  countries they occupied for four years.

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HE CARRIES A PURPLE HEART

Reflections by Janie Simon

Living so close to Margraten allows me opportunity to visit often and proved especially wonderful this last week during Faces of Margraten.  Each visit, I become part of an unfolding story and each time thought it could not be  more heartfelt.  However, the stories kept coming and my heart overflows with a gratitude to Sebastiaan Vonk and his team of volunteers who provide the backdrop for these stories to come to life.

On one of my last visits, I started my meandering through the graves on the right side of section C and worked my way towards the flagpole and then back down the other side towards the carillon bell tower. Almost to the end of section A, I spotted an elderly couple next to a grave taking turns photographing each other.  I approached them and asked if they would like a photo together. Both of them were very emotional and I asked them if this was their adopted soldier and they began to tell me about Robert E. L. Price, the soldier buried there.

The elderly man, Mr. Stevens, began by saying that Robert had been part of his family since 1945. He told me they lived in Valkenburg in a home across from a laundromat where all clothes from soldiers who died on the battlefields were washed. This was quite an impression on the young boy and his mother and when learning the soldiers were buried in Margraten, they visited and vividly remember the muddy field and wooden crosses.  It was then his family adopted the grave of Robert E. L. Price and became a faithful “caretaker” of Robert’s memory ever since. Having communicated with the soldier’s family over the years, they have visited Mr. Stevens, Margraten Cemetery, and Robert’s grave.

WWII image of Pvt Robert E. L. Price

The initial WWII Grave of Pvt Robert E. L. Price
The Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten

As he finished his story, Mr. Stevens reached into his pocket and removed a small cardboard box that was clearly very old.  It was addressed to Mrs. Mary L. Price of Monroe, Ohio. Inside this box was a beautiful case which contained Robert’s original Purple Heart medal. I was dumbfounded.  Also inside was an original pamphlet of Purple Heart stamps and the official letter written to the family which accompanied the Purple Heart. He told us the grandchild of Robert E. L. Price was cleaning his mother’s garage after her death and found the medal.  He decided it more appropriate for the adopted family to be its caretaker, as he had no children of his own to receive it, and felt belonged with Robert’s adopted family who faithfully cared for his memory for so many years.

The Purple Heart sent to Mary Price, mother of Pvt Robert E. L. Price

The Purple Heart awarded to Robert E. L. Price for WWII service and the ultimate sacrifice

Mr. Stevens – caretaker for the grave and Purple Heart of American Pvt Robert E. L. Price
Buried at Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten

After listing to Mr. Stevens’s story, I observed his wife was very emotional. She was unable to speak so he continued to tell me her story.  Mrs. Stevens was born during the war and lived in Schevingen in The Netherlands.  Her father was a resistance fighter and was betrayed at the end of the war and taken to Germany and imprisoned.  He was able to escape and there ends his trail. There has never been closure for his daughter, so every visit to the grave of Robert E. L. Price feels for her that she is visiting her father’s grave. Several years ago she contacted the Red Cross and asked for any records of her father but to this day he lays somewhere in an unknown grave and, haunted by this, she lays her grief down at the stone of Robert Price.

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I have really been  privileged to meet so many Dutch people who love and remember their liberators and to hear their stories. Like ripples on the water, the spirits of these young men radiate outwards ensuring their names are never forgotten.

Gravesite of American Veteran Pvt Robert E. L. Price
The Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten

A nation reveals itself not only in the men it produces
but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

                                                                     John F. Kennedy

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A Defining Moment – 13 November 1942

The Sullivan Brothers

Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison, and George Sullivan
USS Juneau
14 February 1942
U.S. Navy Photo

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the Sullivan brothers enlisted in the U.S. Navy, January 3, 1942, with the stipulation they serve together.  All five brothers, in accordance with their wishes, were assigned to the light cruiser, the USS Juneau.  Although Naval policy addressed the separation of siblings, it was not strictly enforced.  This consideration by the Navy would become a defining moment in their lives.

USS Juneau in New York Harbor
11 February 1942
U.S. National Archives

Beginning in August 1942, the Juneau participated in a number of naval engagements during the lengthy Guadalcanal campaign and the first major Allied offensive in the Pacific theater.  Months later, in the early morning of November 13th, the Juneau would be struck by a Japanese torpedo and forced to withdraw.  Later that day, leaving the Solomon Islands for the Allied base at Espiritu Santo with other surviving U.S. warships, the Juneau was struck again with a second torpedo.  A thinly armored light cruiser, it was likely hit near the ammunition magazines and the ship exploded and quickly sank.

U.S. Naval Captain Gilbert C. Hoover
USS Helena, WWII

Captain Gilbert C. Hoover,  commanding officer of the light cruiser USS Helena and senior officer present in the battle-damaged U.S. task force, was skeptical anyone had survived the sinking of the Juneau.  Believing it reckless to search by exposing his wounded ships to a still-lurking Japanese submarine, his orders were to continue towards Espiritu Santo.  Helena then signaled a nearby U.S. B-17 bomber on patrol to notify Allied headquarters and send aircraft or ships to search for survivors.

In fact, approximately 100 of Juneaus crew, who had survived the torpedo attack and the sinking of their ship, were left in the water. The B-17 bomber crew, under orders not to break radio silence, failed to pass the message to headquarters until landing several hours later.  The crew’s report of the location of possible survivors was mixed with other pending paperwork actions and went unnoticed for several days.  It was then that headquarters realized a search had never been mounted and belatedly ordered aircraft to the area.  In the meantime, Juneau’s survivors, many of whom were seriously wounded, were exposed to the elements, hunger, thirst, and repeated shark attacks.

Eight days following the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water.  The survivors reported Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived several more before delirium and the loss of his brothers took its toll.  He went over the side of the raft he occupied and was never seen or heard again.

Security required the Navy keep the loss of Juneau and other ships as classified  to prevent information provided to the enemy.  With the sudden absence of wartime letters to home from the Sullivan brothers, their parents grew worried.  Alleta Sullivan would contact the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed all five sons were killed in action.

Alleta Sullivan’s Request to Bureau of Naval Personnel
January 1943

Her letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged the Sullivan brothers were missing in action.  By then, however, the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12th. That morning, the boys’ father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a Lieutenant Commander, a doctor, and Chief Petty Officer  – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Tom. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to Alleta Sullivan
following the death of her sons
13 January, 1943

The brothers left a sister, Genevieve (1917–1975).  Al was survived by his wife Katherine Mary and son Jimmy.  Joe left a fiancée named Margaret Jaros, while Matt left behind a fiancée named Beatrice Imperato. The “Fighting Sullivan Brothers” would become national heroes and in addition to President Roosevelt’s letter of condolence to their parents, Pope Pius XII sent a silver religious medal and rosary with his message of regret. The Iowa Senate and House adopted a formal resolution of tribute to the Sullivan brothers of Waterloo.

In spite of their great personal loss, Tom and Alleta Sullivan continued their speaking appearances at defense plants and shipyards on behalf of war bonds and the war effort.  Alleta would later participate in the launching of USS The Sullivans, in honor of five  sons who became the ultimate symbol of heroic sacrifice for wartime America.       

Alleta Sullivan stands with daughter Gen and husband Tom
at christening of the destroyer, USS The Sullivans
April , 1943

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76 Years Later

On March 17, 2018, the wreckage of the USS Juneau was discovered by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen off the coast of the Solomon Island’s in the South Pacific.  In total, 687 men, including the five Sullivan brothers, were killed in action as a result of its sinking.

 

USS Juneau wreckage discovered March 19, 2018
following the sinking by Japanese torpedoes in 1942
Navigea, RV Petrel

 

USS Juneau wreckage resting on the seafloor off the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific
Navigea, RV Petrel

USS Juneau wreckage of the light cruiser’s prop
following the sinking by Japanese torpedoes in 1942
Navigea, RV Petrel

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Eternal Reverence and Gratitude
For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

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