Remembrances of 09-11

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Today, we remember those 2,977 men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Also on this date in 2012, four brave Americans and an unknown number of Libyans died in the terrorist attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Let us resolve to never forget those we lost on those two dates.

 

 

Alamo Defenders to No Longer Be Called ‘Heroic’

 

 

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This is just such a sad state of affairs that something like this would occur in 2018 in our great state of Texas. If the defenders of the Alamo were not “heroic,” where would you be justified in calling anyone heroic? What is next, Mt Suribachi on Iwo Jima, those who fought and died at Gettysburg, the heroic defenders at Valley Forge? This takes offending someone too far. Much, much too far.

By Tara Ross  (Historian, Texan, Wife, Mother, and Retired Lawyer)

https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/texas-schoolchildren-taught-alamo-defenders-heroic/

From the article: “The concept of defenders of the Alamo being heroic is engrained in the history of this state—and in the psyche of most Texans. . . . But a committee streamlining the state’s history curriculum standards has removed the word ‘heroic’ from a proposed revision of the curriculum because it is ‘a value-charged word.'”

From me: I write daily history stories in part because I hope to remind people that we have so much to be proud of in this great country of ours. And I am also a proud Texan! Needless to say, this leaves me just speechless.

Many thanks to The History List for the link.

#RememberTheAlamo #GodBlessTexas #DontMessWithTexas

 

 

 

John S. McCain III: US Senator, US Naval Aviator, and Vietnam Prisoner of War dies at 81

 

 

John S. McCain III, senior Republican Senator from Arizona, passed away today from brain cancer. He was 81 years old.

Just yesterday, his family and he announced he had decided to cease taking his medications for the cancer. He must have known then that the end was near.

Senator McCain came from a line of distinguished naval officers. His father and his grandfather were both Admirals in the US Navy. Senator McCain also served in the Navy, flying A-1 Skyraiders on the aircraft carriers USS INTREPID (CV 11) and USS ENTERPRISE (CV 6). Later, he requested a combat assignment and flew A-4 Skyhawks aboard the USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) and USS ORISKANY (CV 34). It was while serving in FORRESTAL that his aircraft was involved in a shipboard fire that resulted in 134 Sailors dying in the fire. He was transferred to ORISKANY soon afterward. It was on October 26, 1967, while flying combat missions as a Lieutenant Commander from ORISKANY that he was shot down over Vietnam, captured, and held as a Prisoner of War. He was ultimately released from imprisonment in North Vietnam after five and a half years on March 14, 1973. He retired from the United States Navy on April 1, 1981, at the rank of Captain after 22 years of service.

Senator McCain was elected to Congress as a Republican US Representative from Arizona in 1983. Senator McCain advanced to serving in the US Senate in January, 1987, after his election in November, 1986. He frequently referred to himself as a “maverick Republican” during his time in the Senate.

He published his memoir, Faith of My Fathers, in August, 1999. He ran against Texas Governor George W. Bush in the Republican primaries, losing to Governor Bush who would go on to win the presidency in 2000. Senator McCain ran again in 2008, as the Republican standard bearer, but lost the presidency to President Barack Obama.

Senator McCain served six terms as the Republican Senator from Arizona. He last cast a vote in the US Senate in December, 2017, after which, he returned to Arizona to continue treatment for brain cancer.

He and his family announced yesterday that he would no longer undergo cancer treatment. He died today, August 25, 2018, at 4:28 p.m. local time, surrounded by his wife, Cindy (Hensley) McCain, and his family.

Rest In Peace, Shipmate. We have the Watch.

 

 

 

Another Momentous Day in the US Navy

 

Today is a momentous day in the US Navy.   It was on this day, August 3, 1945, that the last of the survivors of the sinking of the USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA 35), were pulled from the waters of the Pacific Ocean.  They had floated there since the sinking of their ship, four days before on July 30, 1945, by a Japanese submarine.

The INDIANAPOLIS had been on a secret mission to deliver the parts for Little Boy, the first atomic bomb, to Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean.  The bomb would be dropped on August 6, 1945, on Hiroshima, Japan, leading to the unconditional surrender of the Japanese and the end of World War II.

After delivering the bomb parts, the ship departed for Guam and then on to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, but was sunk en route.  Of the 1,200 Sailors aboard the INDIANAPOLIS, about 900 survived the initial torpedoes and went into the water.  Of those 900 men only 316 Sailors would survive the next four days, floating in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific before being rescued.

Here is Texas historian and author Tara Ross’ account of the rescue of these brave men as the last survivors are pulled from the water at dusk on August 3, 1945.  May they all Rest In Peace.

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By Tara Ross (c)

On this day in 1945, the last survivors of the USS Indianapolis are pulled from the Pacific Ocean. They’d been there since a Japanese submarine had torpedoed and sunk Indianapolis on July 30.

They had just finished delivering parts for the Little Boy atomic bomb to American bombers! Now, because of communication gaffes, their ship was missing, but no one knew it. (See July 29 history post.)

Survivors were waiting for a rescue that was not coming.

The men were floating in small groups, strewn out across the last miles of Indianapolis’s journey. Survivors were covered in oil. Some were wounded. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Haynes, tried to care for his boys as best he could, but he knew some would not make it. Some hadn’t even survived the initial disaster.

As dead men were found in the water, Haynes later reported, “[w]e would then laboriously take off their life jacket and give it to men who didn’t have jackets. In the beginning I took off their dogtags, said The Lord’s Prayer, and let them go. Eventually, I got such an armful of dogtags I couldn’t hold them any longer. Even today, when I try to say The Lord’s Prayer or hear it, I simply lose it.”

Shark attacks were another problem. “They were continually there, mostly feeding off the dead bodies,” survivor Loel Cox later reported. But then the sharks began attacking men who were still alive. “We were losing three or four each night and day,” Cox said. “You were constantly in fear because you’d see ‘em all the time. Every few minutes you’d see their fins—a dozen to two dozen fins in the water.”

As the days wore on, the men became dehydrated. Some of them began to hallucinate. “[T]hey were goin bezerk,” survivor Woody Eugene James later testified. “They’d tell you big stories about the Indianapolis is not sunk, its’ just right there under the surface. I was just down there and had a drink of water . . . .” At other times, the hallucinations caused hysteria and fighting. Haynes spoke of men who would think “[t]here’s a Jap here and he’s trying to kill me.’ And then everybody started to fight. They were totally out of their minds.”

When help finally arrived, it was completely by chance.

Lt. Chuck Gwinn happened to be patrolling the area from the air, looking for Japanese submarines. He saw an oil slick! He thought perhaps it was a disabled Japanese submarine, so he prepared for a bombing run. As he got closer, he realized that there were people in the water. They needed help.

He still didn’t know if these people were friend or foe, but he began dropping life vests out of his plane. He radioed a message back to his base. It was then 11:25 a.m. on August 2.

The ordeal was far from over. Official rescue efforts were beginning, but it was a slow process.

Fortunately, a quick-thinking pilot with access to an amphibious plane heard one of Gwinn’s radio messages. Acting on his own initiative, Lt. Adrian Marks took off for Gwinn’s location. When he and his crew arrived hours later, he could see sharks circling in the water. The crew watched as multiple men were attacked, right in front of their eyes. They had to act!

Marks decided to act against standing orders. He would attempt a dangerous open sea landing. He knew that his plane could capsize, but he had to try.

Thankfully, he made it, and his crew began pulling survivors out of the water. They even tied survivors to the plane’s wings so they could get more people aboard! By nightfall, Marks had rescued 56 men from the water.

The first rescue ship arrived hours later, just before midnight.

The last men wouldn’t be found and pulled from the water until dusk on August 3. These men had been in the water for 112 hours, and they’d drifted more than 120 miles from Indianapolis’s original location.

The Little Boy bomb would be dropped on Hiroshima only 3 days later. Most of the heroes aboard Indianapolis would never know that they helped bring an end to World War II.

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If you enjoy these history posts, please know that it is important to LIKE, SHARE & COMMENT. This site’s algorithm will weed these posts out of your newsfeed if you do not interact with them. (I don’t make the rules! Just following them.) 😉

Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2018 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the Facebook “share” feature instead of cutting/pasting.

Permalink: http://www.taraross.com/2018/08/tdih-uss-indianapolis-rescue

#TDIH #OTD #AmericanHistory #USHistory #liberty #freedom#ShareTheHistory

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Editor’s Note:  I was privileged to know one of these survivors: the late LT (Junior Grade) Charles McKissick.  Mr. McKissick was a retired optician, living in McKinney, Texas, when I met him there in 1991.  Every year, he would travel to Indianapolis, IN, to attend the USS Indianapolis Survivors Reunion there.  He was a fascinating man who collected USS Indianapolis memorabilia and talked of that tragedy as if it was yesterday.  May he and his other Shipmates Rest In Peace.  

 

 

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Happy Independence Day, 2018

July 4th Paris Tower

This is a photo of our own Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas.  It is 65 feet high and as you can see, it has its own Texas flavor with a red cowboy hat atop it.

The Tower is lit at night with a variegated, changing set of lights inside the Tower.  It symbolizes our dedication as a Sister City to Paris, France.  As we like to say here, “We are the ‘second-largest’ Paris in the world.”

Happy United States Independence Day, 2018.

 

Rags, the World War I War Dog

 

By Tara Ross

On or around this day in 1916, a mixed-breed terrier is born. The little dog would go on to become an American war hero—and the U.S. 1st Infantry Division’s mascot during World War I.

“Rags” might never have been found but for Private Jimmy Donovan. The young soldier had been asked to march in Paris’s 1918 Bastille Day parade. At the time, Rags was just a nameless and homeless little dog, roaming the streets of Paris.

Several stories are told about how Donovan and Rags found each other.

Perhaps Donovan was stumbling out of a Montemartre café after a post-parade celebration. He literally stumbled upon the dog, thinking it was a pile of rags. He was late for his curfew and used the dog as an excuse. No, of course he wasn’t going AWOL or breaking the rules! He was simply looking for the dog, the division’s mascot.

Another version of the story has Rags finding Donovan and following him back to base. Either way, dog and man found each other. And they developed a bond.

Early on, Donovan concluded that battlefields were not appropriate for a little homeless mutt. He tried to continue on without Rags, leaving him in a safer location, but Rags would have none of it. He followed Donovan and basically showed up on his doorstep.

“His choice seems to have been to be with Donovan wherever he was,” one of Rags’s biographers concludes, “regardless of the dangers or even of what Donovan would have preferred . . . .”

Rags went on to serve in multiple conflicts. Donovan taught him to run messages through gunfire—and he even taught Rags to salute! Rags figured out how to locate broken communication lines, and he learned to alert soldiers to incoming shells. He led medics to wounded soldiers.

A story is told that Rags once ended up in a surveillance balloon with reconnaissance soldiers. A German fighter plane arrived on the scene, forcing the soldiers to bail out. Reportedly, the German pilot saw that one of the parachuting men was clutching a barking dog. The German grinned, shook his head, and flew away without doing any further harm to the Americans.

Rags is best known for his final mission: He successfully delivered one last message, even as explosions tore up the earth around him. His gas mask was ripped off. He was wounded by shrapnel and blinded in one eye. Donovan was wounded, too. An order was given to treat the much-loved Rags just like a soldier, and man and dog were evacuated, together. Rags went everywhere that Donovan went—until it came time to board a ship headed home.

The commanding officer of that vessel did not want a dog on his ship! He ordered Rags left behind. Fortunately, another officer saw what was happening. He brought Rags aboard, hidden in his luggage.

Many members of the 1st Division worked together in those days, ensuring Rags’s safe (and secret) transport across the Atlantic. Against all odds, Rags and Donovan found themselves together again at a hospital in Illinois. Unfortunately, Donovan never recovered from his injuries. He passed away, leaving Rags behind.

Rags didn’t eat for a week. But the story doesn’t end there.

Major Raymond W. Hardenbergh and his family would adopt the war-wounded terrier. The story of Rags got out. He was given awards, and he marched in parades. A book was written about him. People left flags on his grave when he died.

“Throughout his life,” one of his biographers concludes, “Rags had proved of what durable stuff one little dog is made.”

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Editor’s Note:

The first photo above shows Rags with US Army Sergeant George E. Hickman at Fort Hamilton in the 1920s.

The adjoining photos show Rags’ grave in Aspen Hill Pet Cemetery, Silver Spring, MD, and are compliments of Steven Michael.  

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