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.

 

 

 

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.  

The End of the Battle of Okinawa

Raising_the_flag_on_Okinawa

On this day in history, the American flag was finally raised over the island of Okinawa, June 22, 1945, following one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

Here is historian Tara Ross’ account of the end of the Battle of Okinawa.

by Tara Ross

On this day in 1945, Americans raise a flag over the Japanese island of Okinawa. The nearly three-month battle to capture the island was finally over. The Battle of Okinawa would prove to be one of the bloodiest in the Pacific during World War II.

The war in the Pacific had been a grueling one. Americans employed a strategy of “island-hopping,” systematically taking Japanese islands, one at a time. Okinawa was the last and toughest of these. However, once it was captured, Allied forces would have a base of operations from which to attack mainland Japan.

The attack began on April 1 when more than 60,000 Marines and soldiers landed on one of Okinawa’s beaches. The American landing was barely contested, but American forces surely knew what that easy landing meant: The Japanese were hunkered down elsewhere, prepared to fight.

And that is exactly what happened for the better part of three months. The battle that followed was brutal, with hundreds of thousands of combatants facing off against each other. In the end, Americans lost 12,520 men (killed or missing), and more than 36,000 wounded. By contrast, about 110,000 Japanese died, and many civilians got caught in the crossfire. The Japanese culture rejected the idea of surrender. Thus, ritual suicide and kamikaze attacks were not at all uncommon during this period. Sometimes, the Japanese soldiers even killed their own citizens or encouraged civilians to commit suicide with the soldiers.

Indeed, as organized resistance finally came to an end on June 21, the Japanese commander, Mitsuru Ushijima, was already preparing for his own suicide. He wrote his last reports to his superiors, and he directly ordered one officer NOT to commit suicide! “If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the battle of Okinawa,” he told Major Yahara. “Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order of your Army commander.”

Early on June 22, Ushijima committed ritual suicide, as did his second-in-command, General Isamu Cho.

Later that same morning, Americans raised the United States flag over Okinawa as a band played “The Star Spangled Banner.”

In the end, Americans never used Okinawa as a base from which to attack mainland Japan. The battle to capture the island had been so bloody and horrific that Harry S. Truman was pushed toward his decision to drop atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If the toll at Okinawa had been high, the price of invading mainland Japan would surely be even higher.

Those bombings, of course, prompted the Japanese emperor to announce his intent to surrender in August 1945. That surrender became official on September 2.

At that point, it had been nearly 4 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But the war was finally over.

Always Remember, that Day in December!

December 7, 1941 photo

Today, December 7, 2015, is the 74th anniversary of that “…day that will live forever in infamy” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it.  The below was written by my good friend, Jeff Morley.  He has described that day and its remembrances far better than I could.  His essay is published here with his permission.

By Jeff Morley, Guest Contributor

Today some 74 years ago in history, the USA was dragged kicking and screaming into war. Before then, we told the Axis powers to leave us alone and Churchill told us he needed our help. If the Axis Powers had paid attention to what we’d told them, England, France, and practically all of Western Europe with a good portion of Eastern Europe along with Africa would have had a drastically different history, a much darker history at that for most of those places. But the Axis Powers paid us no heed. We said don’t mess with us and they delivered one hell of a sucker punch to us in Hawaii on a sleepy Sunday morning. They should not have done that. They should have left this peace loving nation alone.

The world should never forget December 7th of 1941…unfortunately, most of the world has, to their peril. The United States should not either…unfortunately too many of our people have, to our peril.

I thank the US Navy for their sacrifice that day and I honor the sacrifice of our service men and women today in remembrance of that day “that will live forever in infamy”

Remember Pearl Harbor, remember the sacrifice of those brave sailors while you say a prayer for our men and women making the same sacrifices today, but most of all, teach this next generation about our past and the wounds of our predecessors.

God bless the warriors that guard our seas today, God bless the memory of those that guarded our seas yesterday.

Memorial Day, 2015

Remembering Their Sacrifice

Today is Memorial Day, 2015. Many people forget that this is a day to remember the fallen, those who gave their last full measure of sacrifice for our Nation and for their comrades-in-arms. The following essay was written and posted by my good friend, US Navy Retired Chief Petty Officer Robert N. (Bob) Jenkins. I thought it said it all, in a MUCH better way than I ever could and so I am borrowing his essay and re-posting it here. Today, when you are tempted to “thank a vet” for Memorial Day, I hope you will remember Bob’s words here. Thank you, Shipmate Bob Jenkins.

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Pardon me for getting on a soapbox for a minute, but I want to draw a distinction between Memorial Day and other patriotic holidays. Many earnest and sincere well wishes are sent out to all members, past and present, of our nation’s armed forces on Memorial Day. Most of these wishes should be sent on Armed Forces and/or Veterans Day. Memorial Day is meant for paying homage to those who have given their life in service to our nation and the freedom we enjoy.

The origin of Memorial Day dates back to the Civil War. There are many stories from those first years’ observances that illustrate the true purpose of this important day to honor those who died in service to this nation. Civil War deaths account for nearly half of the 1.2 million American Soldiers who died in our nation’s wars. It’s no surprise that a tradition known as Decoration Day was borne out of the tragic loss following the Civil War.

According to historians, on April 1865 former slaves helped recover 257 Union Soldiers from a mass grave in a Charleston, S.C. racetrack, a site that had served as a Confederate prison. After the Soldiers were properly buried and the area fenced in, Charleston’s residents gathered, sang hymns and laid roses on the graves.

In 1866, in Columbus, Miss., a group of women decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle, noticed the barren graves of Union soldiers and the women placed flowers on those graves, as well. The practice was repeated at multiple gravesites during the period.

After World War I, the observance was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars, and volunteers began placing small American flags on each grave at cemeteries across the nation.

From its origin to the evolution of Memorial Day observances today, one key premise remains. It is a moment in time that we all should stop, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to this country.

Today, the American flags marking each grave at cemeteries across the nation represent an intangible devotion. Words can never express our gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our armed forces—and that of our Gold Star Families. We are forever indebted to them. We honor them by upholding the standards for which they fought so valiantly.

I urge everyone to remember the special significance of Memorial Day and what makes it so special and different from other patriotic holidays. What our fallen have paid, is a debt we cannot repay ourselves except in the honor and respect we show them.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 (KJV)

Monday, May 25th, is Memorial Day, 2015

Vietnam Memorial

This Memorial Day, remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Delta Airlines Handles Military Remains with Respect

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Editor’s Note: There is a lot of false information about this video circulating the Internet.  The following explanation accompanied this video and gives the true details behind it.

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My name is Brian McConnell, I work for Delta Air Lines and coordinate the Honor Guard program for the military fallen, however the information put out by most people sharing this video is incorrect. I know it has been shared with the heading “Watch what Delta does for Fallen Soldier and his K9” but that info is incorrect.

The truth is, the first fallen coming off the aircraft, covered in the U.S. Flag is a soldier missing over 63 years from the Korean War who was identified and was being returned to his family, the second and smaller box was actually additional bone fragments of a soldier who was already sent home and buried, they were to go and be interned with that soldier.

When the video was first posted we had a description on the video but as you are probably aware of internet “trolls” got on it and started some very vile comments and disrespectful comments. Some were very hurtful to our military so rather than have the families who have lost a loved one have to see them we shut off the comments,

So when it was shared “millions” of times, somebody assumed it was a current conflict soldier and his K9 companion. I have posted in many of the video comments that this is incorrect but when my comment is 8 pages down, nobody sees it.

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