Sunday/ Monday Funnies

Didn’t want to overshadow, Remembrance/Veteran’s day so here we go, a day late, and a dollar short. Normal in other words.

One hopes.

 

A historical artifact, left in place to make people wonder!

 

And, of course

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Remembrance Day

Poppy_wreath_stockwellIn Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

 

 In the United States today we are celebrating Veterans Day, it is the day we thank our living veterans and serving service people. For Britain and the Commonwealth, it is Remembrance Day is analogous to our Memorial Day which is 30 May. The short form is that it comes from Decoration Day, which in our history was the day on which the veterans of The Grand Army of the Republic decorated the graves of the veterans of our Civil War, it now honors all of our war dead. So for us, Veterans Day honors the living, although if we’re completely honest, both days honor both in the public’s mind.

And for all of us, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the fighting in World War I. And yes, I easily confess that I watched the ceremony at the Cenotaph. Think of that, it was a hundred years ago this morning that the war that we all called the Great War ended. In truth, Europe has never really recovered.

This was the moment when the leadership of the western world became an American responsibility, although we didn’t really recognize that until 1940.

But, we here in the Great Republic are aware that in the last hundred years we have never fought alone, we have, in all our wars (yes, even Vietnam, Thank You Australia) fought beside at least one other member or former member of the British Empire. In most, we have fought together with all of you. And we have been very proud to do so.

I also remember that during the Falklands, that while our government did not feel able to overtly help, for mostly political reasons, the American people, from the President on down, were cheering for you. You guys weren’t the only ones who watched the fleet sail with a tear in your eyes. And if it had been necessary, one of our light carriers, the Iwo Jima, which happened to be in refit, was being readied to be transferred to the Royal Navy. It was your war, as Vietnam was ours, but we know who our friends are.

One lesson we learned from Vietnam, is to honor in all ways and at all times our veterans, and from what I read, it may be a lesson that the cousins have in some measure forgotten, whatever the politics of the war, it was not the fault of the soldiers, no soldier has ever wanted a war. In fact, since we don’t think our government does a good enough job of taking care of ours, we have many volunteer organizations that help them as well.  Always remember them, they gave their lives willingly for your freedom.

As Americans, we are proud that we were able to help defend you, during the Cold War, as the saying went, the Eastern border of the United States was the Elbe River. We meant it and the Soviets knew we meant it, and so we won. It was long, it was very costly, it was boring, it was terrifying, it was many things, it was also our privilege and our duty. But for Britain, it was also the repayment of a debt we owed you. We remember that during the nineteenth century, while we were busy building America (with not a few British ideas, and a lot of British capital, as well) we had proclaimed that new European colonies would not be permitted in the New World. We knew perfectly well that we were completely unable to enforce that, we also knew that Britain, for its own reasons (mostly trade) would.

We are also aware that Britain, and especially the Royal Navy was the major force that ended chattel slavery in western civilization. Sometimes we think you forget how good you have been for the world. Eventually, more than 600,000 Americans would die to end slavery here, and it was worth it, as were your efforts. And that doesn’t even touch upon the longest period of (mostly) peace between major powers, which has come to be called justifiably The Pax Brittanica. Your history in the modern world is something to be very proud of, and we, the rowdy colonials who fought a war against you to preserve our rights as Englishmen, salute you.

But what I really wanted to talk about today are two men, both veterans of the Great War, who won both the American Medal of Honor and one the Victoria Cross as well. Both were posthumous. In fact, they were both awarded in the fall of 1921. One was a soldier of the empire, and one was an American doughboy. This is the story of the British recipient.

FROM THE LONDON TIMES of OCT. 18, 1921

Yesterday morning General Pershing laid the Congressional Medal of Honour on the grave of the Unknown British Warrior in Westminster Abbey. The simple and beautiful ceremony seemed full of the promise of new and happier times. And what we call Nature appeared to have laid her approval on the hopes that it aroused.

That the United States should confer on an unknown British Warrior the highest military honour that can be bestowed by its Government, that jealously guarded and rarely granted Medal of Honour, which can only be won “at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty”; that Congress should pass a special Act enabling this honour to be paid to one who was not a citizen of the United States; that by the request and in the presence of the American Ambassador the medal should be laid upon the tomb by the hand of the great soldier who is now the successor of Washington, Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan as General of the Armies of the United States, and that the ceremony should take place while the eyes of all the world are turned to the coming Congress at Washington.

Here is great matter for pride and hope; and it seemed to be by something more than mere accident or the working of unalterable law that, just at the beginning of the ceremony, the sun should stream down, in its natural gold, through a window not yet painted, upon the Union Jack that was spread at the foot of the Unknown Warrior‘s grave. The ancient mystery of the great Abbey is never wholly dispelled by the light of day. Yesterday, as ever, she preserved her immemorial secrets and her ever brooding silence; yet brightness, colour, confidence were the notes of the ceremony; and, contrasting the sunshine of yesterday with the tragic gloom remembered on other occasions since August, 1914, one could not but believe that the externals matched the inner truth of the act, and that the modern history which, as the Dean of Westminster reminded us, began with the war in which the Unknown Warrior gave his life was about, through him and his like,to bring joy and peace to the world.

With the Union Jack at its foot and the wreaths bestowed about its edge, the stone that temporarily covers the Unknown Warrior’s grave near the west end of the Abbey was bare, save for a little case full of rosaries and sacred emblems that lies at its head. The space about it was shut off from the rest of the Nave by a barrier, through which passed only those who had been specially invited to seats of honour round the grave. The Nave was packed with people facing north and south, and lined with soldiers and sailors of the United States Army and Navy, among them some of General Pershing’s picked battalion, strapping fellows in khaki or blue, who seemed to have all the smartness and the immobility to which we are accustomed in British troops on such occasions.

[…]

Backed by a row of Abbey dignitaries were the Dean of Westminster, the American Ambassador, and General Pershing, standing at the gravehead, and facing up the great church.

At the invitation of the Dean, the American Ambassador then spoke as follows:

“By an Act of the Congress of the United States, approved on March 4 of the present year, the President was authorized “to bestow, with appropriate ceremonies, military and civil, a Medal of Honour upon the unknown unidentified British soldier buried in Westmister Abbey.” The purpose of Congress was declared by the Act itself, in these words: “Animated by the same spirit of comradeship in which we of the American forces fought alongside of our Allies, we desire to add whatever we can to the imperishable glory won by the deeds of our Allies and commemorated in part by this tribute to their unknown dead.”

The Congressional Medal, as it is commonly termed because it is the only medal presented “in the name of Congress,” symbolizes the highest military honour that can be bestowed by the Government of the United States. It corresponds to the Victoria Cross and can be awarded only to an American warrior who achieves distinction “at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.”

A special Act of Congress was required to permit the placing of it upon the tomb of a British soldier. The significance of this presentation, therefore, is twofold. It comprises, in addition to the highest military tribute, a message of fraternity direct from the American people, through their chosen representatives in Congress, to the people of the British Empire.

There were two soldiers. One was British. The other was American. They fought under different flags, but upon the same vast battlefield. Their incentives and ideals were identical. They were patriot warriors sworn to the defence and preservation of the countries which they loved beyond their own lives. Each realized that the downfall of his own free land would presage the destruction of all liberty. Both were conscious of the blessings that had flowed from the English Magna Charta and the American Constitution. Well they knew that the obliteration of either would involve the extinguishment of the other. So with consciences as clear as their eyes and with hearts as clean as their hands they could stand and did stand shoulder to shoulder in common battle for their common race and common cause.There was nothing singular, nothing peculiar, about them. They typified millions so like to themselves as to constitute a mighty host of undistinguishable fighting men of hardy stock. A tribute to either is a tribute to all.

Though different in rank, these two soldiers were as one in patriotism, in fidelity, in honour,and in courage. They were comrades in the roar of battle. They are comrades in the peace of this sacred place.

One, the soldier of the Empire, made the supreme sacrifice, and, to the glory of the country whose faith he kept, he lies at rest in this hallowed ground enshrined in grateful memory. The other, equally noble and equally beloved, is by my side. Both live and will ever live in the hearts of their countrymen.

What more fitting than that this soldier of the great Republic should place this rare and precious token of appreciation and affection of a hundred millions of kinsmen upon the tomb of his comrade, the soldier of the mighty Empire! Proudly and reverently, by authority of the Congress and the President, I call upon the General of the Armies of the United States, fifth only in line as the successor of Washington, Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, to bestow the Medal of Honour upon this typical British soldier who, though, alas! in common with thousands of others, “unknown and unidentified,” shall never be “unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.”

Then General Pershing said:

One cannot enter here and not feel an overpowering emotion in recalling the important events in the history of Great Britain that have shaped the progress of the nations. Distinguished men and women are here enshrined who, through the centuries, have unselfishly given their services and their lives to make that record glorious. As they pass in memory before us there is none whose deeds are more worthy, and none whose devotion inspires our admiration more, than this Unknown Warrior. He will always remain the symbol of the tremendous sacrifice by his people in the world’s greatest conflict.

It was he who, without hesitation, bared his breast against tyranny and injustice. It was he who suffered in the dark days of misfortune and disaster, but always with admirable loyalty and fortitude. Gathering new strength from the very force of his determination, he felt the flush of success without unseemly arrogance. In the moment of his victory, alas! we saw him fall in making the supreme gift to humanity. His was ever the courage of right, the confidence of justice. Mankind will continue to share his triumph, and with the passing years will come to strew fresh laurels over his grave.

As we solemnly gather about this sepulchre, the hearts of the American people join in this tribute to their English-speaking kinsman. Let us profit by the occasion, and under its inspiration pledge anew our trust in the God of our fathers, that He may guide and direct our faltering footsteps into paths of permanent peace. Let us resolve together, in friendship and in confidence, to maintain toward all peoples that Christian spirit that underlies the character of both nations.
And now, in this holy sanctuary, in the name of the President and the people of the United States, I place upon his tomb. the Medal of Honour conferred upon him by special Act of the American Congress, in commemoration of the sacrifices of our British comrade and his fellow-countrymen,and as a slight token of our gratitude and affection toward this people.

On the conclusion of his speech the Congressional Medal of Honour was handed by Admiral Niblack to General Pershing, who, stooping down, laid it on the grave, above the breast of the unknown hero beneath. Shining there, with its long ribbon of watered blue silk, it lay, a symbol of the past, a pledge for the future.

And General Pershing stood at the salute to his fallen comrade.

Which is entirely appropriate as well. As most of my American readers will be aware, any recipient of the Medal of Honor is entitled to be saluted first by all American service members.

[It should also be noted that on Armistice Day that year, by order of the King, the American Unknown Soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross. ]

There is considerably more, here is the link to the entire article from the Times, it is very moving.

After all the speeches and the award the congregation joined in singing

Thiis is as good a point in time as any to mark the point where Britain and the Commonwealth became more than allies, they became our cousins, of which relationship we are very proud.

It has been a very long century since that last quiet August weekend of the Edwardian Age. It has been filled far too often with the roar of the guns, and the rattle of musketry followed by the sounding of the Last Post. But the mission has been maintained, it will never be won, although we can and should pray that it will be less horrific going forward. But all around the world, freedom loving people have learned of the steadfast valor even unto death of English speaking soldiers, sailors, and airmen. We are proud of our part, yes. But we are equally proud to be your allies and friends.

 

For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

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

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon

And in truth, there is an answer to the poem that leads this article

Oh! you who sleep in Flander’s Fields
Sleep sweet-to rise anew
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With all who died
We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valour led
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flander’s Fields
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught
We’ll teach the lesson that ye taught
In Flander’s Fields

Armistice Day Centenary

You all know that I am a pretty traditional guy, one of the effects of that is that I believe holidays belong on their anniversary’s, not necessarily to provide a three-day weekend. Remembrance Day is a case in point.

It is on St. Martin’s day, the patron saint of the infantry, that the bloodletting of the Great War ended, specifically the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month, and so for many of you, it is Remembrance Day, for those of us who are Americans it is Veterans Day, only because we already had a holiday, Memorial Day, celebrating our war dead, Veterans Day celebrates the survivors of all our conflicts. Yes, to a great extent, both do both, and that is hardly a bad thing, our, and your soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have done much to build the modern world we inhabit.

An aside to our American readers, today marks, with Pomp and Circumstance (and dancing, and a fair amount of alcohol) and event that occurred 243 years ago in Dun’s tavern in Philadelphia: the birth of the US Marine Corps. Ever since it has lived up to its motto of Semper Fidelis.

All of us here have written something about Remembrance Day on AATW: Chalcedon here, Jessica here,  and I did here, we said most of what there is to say.

Chalcedon made the point, here, that as we get further away from the events, we tend to over-sentimentalize them. He’s right we do, and as he said, not many of the troops were consciously fighting for “Truth, beauty, and the American [or English] way. they were fighting because it was their job, for their buddies, and for their lives. And yes, I do mean that to include those who were our enemies, I don’t think the son of a German farmer was all that different from an English orphan or an American city boy. They had a job to do, and they did it the best they could. Anybody that thinks anybody was fighting for democracy in the Great War is simply a loon. Well, there may have been a few who were fooled by the propaganda, but armies have a great knack at curing people of such foolish beliefs.

1914 in many ways marked the start of the most violent century in, perhaps, forever. It is a major accomplishment that we won all the important ones. the world would be a far darker place if Hitler, Tojo, or Stalin had won. It is a signal accomplishment of the English Speaking Peoples that we gave the world a chance at freedom. We can’t win or keep it for them, but we gave them a chance. And think about that as you look at the Cenotaph, or Bobby Lee’s yard, which the US government pretty much stole to start Arlington Cemetary.

We owe much gratitude to our veteran’s and our war dead, we should get over our old habits, and truly care for those who have eaten the Queen’s biscuit, or have the Eagle on their button, and quit thinking that lip service on one (or two) days a year is all we owe them. You remember this, right? Don’t let it apply to our generation.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
 For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
 But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
 An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
 An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Abraham Lincoln had something to say to us about this as well in his second inaugural

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

 

South of the Border, Down Mexico Way

So, I gather some retired generals wrote recently in the Post that sending troops to the Mexican border was illegal or involved them in politics or some such tosh.

The truth is, of course, that the generals are the ones politicizing the use of the troops. It is clearly legal, in fact, it is the reason troops were first raised millennia ago, to protect that which is ours. It’s extremely disingenuous to claim such nonsense.

That is a goodly part of the trouble with the higher ranks of the military these days. They’ve forgotten their Douglas MacArthur…

Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory, that if you lose, the Nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be duty, honor, country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men’s minds. But serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation’s war guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government: Whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing indulged in too long, by Federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be.

These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, honor, country.

And in forgetting those words, they risk the heritage of the most trusted institution in the United States, the US Armed Forces. For if they become just another political interest, then they are no longer the guarantor of rights and the guardian of sacred honor that they have made themselves, compared to the distrusted (but necessary) evil thing they were in the eyes of the founders. Who you might remember abolished the army after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, preferring to depend on militia rather than risk a standing army.

Let’s let Jonathan F. Keiller in American Thinker explain.

As for defending the border, by supplying logistic support to federal and local police, there could hardly be a more legitimate use of the military. Defending national borders is the core function of government. It is what governments were founded to do in the first place, many millennium ago. People may agree or disagree about the politics of it, but it is disingenuous to question whether defending the border is an appropriate mission.

Just a century ago, the Army went to our southern border as a result of Latin American unrest not dissimilar from what we face today. Mexico was in the midst of revolutionary turmoil, and rebels and government forces alike occasionally violated the American border, sometimes with extreme violence. This not only resulted in direct military action within the United States by Army units defending themselves or civilians, but ultimately General John Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico to apprehend Pancho Villa — something akin to policing, though to be sure, not within American borders. But had an opportunity arisen to chase and trap Villa within U.S. borders, thus obviating a cross-border incursion, there is little doubt that military forces would have taken part.

Interestingly, at least to me, a bit of history was made during this expedition. The very first mechanized assault happened as the troops killed Julio Cardenez at San Miguelito Ranch, near Rubio, Chihuahua. You may have heard of the officer leading this detachment. His name was 2d Lieutenant George S, Patton Jr. He made a few more mechanized attacks in the wars of the 20th Century that was just dawning.

He was, during this conflict, an aide to another general you may have heard of John J. (Blackjack) Pershing. His nickname came from being assigned to the 10th Cavalry, one of the original Buffalo Soldier units. Which were indeed also on this expedition, most of the field army was, in fact. Soon it would grow considerably.

Not long after the Post’s revelation about the generals, it ominously reported that volunteer militia groups were arriving at the border to assist authorities there. Here the paper claims that Newsweek obtained a document indicating the current military command is “concerned” about the arrival of the militias. But the same article notes that local militias have effectively operated in the area for a long time, protecting property owners and assisting authorities in finding and apprehending illegal border crossers.

The point here is that if the Post, the Democrats, and the former generals don’t want to deal with citizen militias, then they should support action that makes such deployments unnecessary. The current border environment is a security vacuum, and the arrival of the militias is a direct consequence of that, not Trumpian rhetoric. Legitimate use of the military in the face of an immediate threat to the integrity of the country’s borders will make the citizen militias irrelevant. Are the generals against that?

Indeed, that is something the founders understood quite well. If the regular army doesn’t defend the borders, well the militia will. What’s new is old again.

Monday Stuff

Well, a week from tomorrow, we’ll decide whether we’ll continue to progress or stop and yell at each other for a couple of years. You all know that I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot vote for any Democrat. I don’t like that, I think we do better when we hash it out between us, but it’s not my choice. Evil is not a choice. Here, thanks to my friend Pumabydesign001 (Hi, Denise) are some other people who think the same way.

Well, easy enough for me to see, the Democrats drove me away long ago. My folks were New Dealers and carried that on. But watching the Democrats in the 60s was enough for me. I’m still an independent, but it became quite rare for me to vote for a Democrat other than locally.

Isn’t it nice to finally have a few people who can get across what we’ve all been saying all these years? Of course, a goodly bit of it is because the Democrats have become so loathsome that they drive their own supporters out, and when they begin thinking, well then they end up on the right.

Tradition is important.

U.S. troops landed in Iceland last week ahead of the start the largest NATO military exercise since the Cold War, and apparently, they left their mark in the most appropriate way possible: by drinking every last beer in the nation’s capital.

A significant number of bars in downtown Reykjavík were forced to make emergency beer runs under the onslaught of thirsty American sailors and Marines in town for the start of Trident Juncture 18, Iceland Magazine reports.

OOH-Rah

And with reference to the massacre in Pittsburgh, the President said this.

Before going any further I want to address the horrible shooting that took place earlier today. The hearts of all Americans are filled with grief following the monstrous killing of Jewish Americans at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This evil anti-Semitic attack is an assault on all of us. It’s an assault on humanity. It will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism from our world. This was an anti-Semitic attack at its worst. The scourge of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored, cannot be tolerated and cannot be allowed to continue. We can’t allow it to continue. It must be confronted and condemned everywhere it rears its very ugly head. We must stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters to defeat anti-Semitism and vanquish the forces of hate. That’s what it is.

Through the centuries the Jews have endured terrible persecution. And you know that. We’ve all read it. We’ve studied it. They’ve gone through a lot. And those seeking their destruction — we will seek their destruction.

Thanks to Scott Johnson for the transcription. As Scott titled his post; Trump speaks for me!

St. Crispin/Crispian’s Day

Well, it’s St Crispin’s Day again, and that makes it a day to talk of the bravery of English and American armed forces, not that there is ever a bad day for that. St. Crispins Day is a pretty good encapsulation of our military histories though, always brave, sometimes badly led and more often than not, victorious. I was going to write something else this year but don’t have anything especially earthshaking to add.

From Wikipedia: “Saint Crispin’s Day falls on 25 October and is the feast day of the Christian Saints Crispin and Crispinian, twins who were martyred c. 286.” That’s where the day gets its name. What it’s famous for is the battles of the English-speaking peoples that have been fought on it.

The first we will look at took place during the “Hundred Years War”. Henry V of England with a small army was on his way to Calais, getting chased all over northern France by Constable Charles d’Albret of France. The French King (Charles VI) was mentally incapacitated. Henry was heavily outnumbered and decided to arouse his exhausted army before the battle by giving a speech.

The English won the battle with ridiculously low casualties while wreaking havoc on the French forces. The reason for this was the English (and Welsh) longbowmen, making this the first battle since Roman times when infantry was anything but a rabble for the knights to ride down.

For this reason, Agincourt is often cited as a victory for the freemen of England over the aristocracy.

Battle number two for the day wasn’t so kind to the British.

This one was a cavalry charge against Russian Artillery. It was commanded by Lord Raglan (Yes, the sleeves are named for him). The orders he issued were vague and Lord Cardigan (Yes, he designed the sweater) executed the worst possible interpretation of them. The charge was carried out by the British light cavalry brigade which consisted of the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars, whose bravery we have never forgotten. It was too well immortalized.

Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Here’s a visual version.

It should be added that Great Britain didn’t do a great job of taking care of their veterans (neither did the U.S.) in those days.  Rudyard Kipling had this to say:

The Last of the Light Brigade

There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !

They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”

They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said,
“You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead.
An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell;
For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell.

“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write
A sort of ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”

The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with “the scorn of scorn.”
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.

O thirty million English that babble of England’s might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made – ”
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!

OK, that’s two, only one more to go, 90 years later, to the day, halfway around the world

The Battle of Leyte Gulf

This time it’s the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Japanese realized that losing the Philippine Islands meant losing the war put everything they had left into this battle. Here a chart that shows the relative strengths.

Navy Large carriers Small Carriers Aircraft Embarked Battleships Cruisers Destroyers
United States 8 24  1712 12  24 141 
Japan 1 117 9  20 34

from: http://www.angelfire.com/fm/odyssey/LEYTE_GULF_Summary_of_the_Battle_.htm

From the chart, you can see how amazingly the USN had recovered from Pearl Harbor and the early battles of the war. You should also note that if the ship is not engaged in the battle it doesn’t count for much, so here we go.

The Japanese had a complicated plan depending on close timing between forces coming from various ports and operating under what we call EMCOM now. Essentially radio silence; meaning they couldn’t coordinate their attacks.

The Japanese carriers which had essentially no planes or pilots were used as a decoy force to try to pull Halsey’s 3d fleet away to the north. This worked, although it took them a long time to attract the Americans attention. When they were finally spotted Halsey went charging off after them until he was almost in gunshot and then turned around to help 7th fleet (which we are coming to). This also ended up being too late, so America’s premier naval force mostly sailed around burning oil and accomplishing not much of anything.

The Japanese Centre Force was first spotted in the Palawan Passage by the submarines Darter and Dace. Darter sank the Heavy Cruiser Atago which was Admiral Kurita’s flagship and Dace sank the Takao and severely damaged the Maya, which was forced to withdraw.

Halsey’s force made 259 sorties against the Centre Force eventually sinking the battleship Musashi with her 18.1-inch guns. They also did damage to some other ships. But Kurita made for the San Bernadino Strait at night with 4 battleships and 6 heavy and 3 light cruisers all fully operational.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Southern force including two elderly battleships under Admirals Nishimura and Shima were spotted on the morning of the 24th and Admiral Kincaid who realized they would attempt to attack the landing through the Surigao Strait was preparing to meet them. Kincaid’s 7th fleet had plenty of power for this.

The Battle of Surigao Strait

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had 6 old battleships (5 of which had been sunk at Pearl Harbor), 4 Heavy and 4 Light Cruisers, 26 destroyers and 39 PT Boats. He deployed his lighter ship along the side of the strait and formed his battle line. PT 131 made first contact and for 3 and a half hours the squadron attacked the Japanese force without a hit but, providing contact reports to the force. As Nishimura’s forces entered the strait the American destroyers attacked; hitting both battleships, the Yamashita was able to continue but, Fuso blew up and sank. Admiral Shima with the 2d Striking Force was much discouraged when he came upon the burning halves and other wreckage of the destroyer attack and decided to withdraw. So as Admiral Nishimura emerged from the strait to engage Oldendorf’s battle line, he had 1 Battleship, 1 Cruiser, and 1 Destroyer. Oldendorf crossed his “T”. Parenthetically this is what Lord Nelson risked with his battle plan at Trafalgar that we talked about a few days ago. The American Battle line started firing as they got range information (some had radar rangefinders and some didn’t) at about 30,000 yards. The Battleship was sunk, the Cruiser wrecked and somehow the Destroyer escaped. This was the last surface gun action in history.

The battle off Samar

USS Hoel

USS Hoel, from Wikipedia

7th fleet had 18 escort carrier divided into thee task units. They were equipped for fighting submarines and providing air cover to the landing, not for full on naval battle. These are usually referred to by their radio call signs Taffy 1, Taffy 2, and the most northerly, Taffy 3 under Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague. It was a routine morning until at 0647 Ensign Jensen from the Kadashan Bay sighted (and attacked) a force that he accurately reported as 4 Battleships and 8 Cruisers. The surprise was complete. A few minutes later heavy shells began falling around the carriers.

Admiral Sprague was in trouble. He was being chased by heavily armed warships which were considerably faster than his escort carriers and were already in range. He also had very few weapons that could hurt them. He started chasing shell splashes, making smoke, running away, and yelling for help, from 3d fleet, 7th fleet, a merciful God, or somewhere. At 0716 he also ordered his three destroyers, the Hoel, the Herrmann, and the Johnston, to counterattack the Japanese which they did with incredible bravery. At 0750 the Destroyer escorts also attacked. Remember these are anti-submarine ships with 5 in and 3-inch guns going on the attack against Battleships and Heavy Cruisers. Not terribly different from charging the Russian guns 90 years before. They attacked with torpedoes and guns and managed to disrupt the Japanese formation enough to give Sprague a chance to get away. All the available aircraft also attacked even though they weren’t carrying the proper (if any) ordnance for this work, they strafed and buzzed and annoyed the Japanese though.

By 0945 the Johnston, the Hoel and destroyer escort the Samuel B. Roberts had been sunk. and the escort carrier Gambier Bay was hit repeatedly by 8-inch shells and sank at 0907.

But Kurita had lost control of his formation (and was probably worrying about when 3d fleet would turn up) and broke off the action at 0911.

While Taffy 3 was doing all this, Taffy 1 was subjected to the first organized use of that new weapon: the Kamikaze, Taffy three would be so attacked in the afternoon.

And so we have St Crispin’s Day, a day of mostly victorious battle for the English-speaking peoples. The English win one with a “Band of Brothers”; the British lose one heroically and gloriously, and the Americans win one part easily, live through a terrible nightmare, while the American varsity is off hunting empty carriers.

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
   Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
One other thing comes down from the field of Agincourt to us. A proper disrespect for those who would tear down our countries. You know, Kipling’s lesser breeds without the Law. Well, we have a hand sign, that the longbowmen gave us.
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