Saturday snippet: the opening battle of the Red River War in 1874

Today’s snippet is taken from the autobiography of legendary Western scout and Indian fighter Billy Dixon, as recorded by his wife during the last year of his life, and completed by her after his death in 1913.  It’s titled “Life of Billy Dixon, Plainsman, Scout and Pioneer“. Dixon (shown below) was one of the great figures of the Indian Wars and the Old West. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the Buffalo Wallow fight of 1874, shortly after the events narrated here (one of only eight ever awarded to civilians).  Due to his status as a civilian scout,

Continue reading

A remarkable man

I recently came across a video interview of a British Army veteran who, at the age of 94, jumped into Normandy, France, as part of this year’s 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day Landings in 1944.  It surprised me to see it, because I’d met him before, more than 30 years ago. This interview with Mr. Hutton was filmed a few years earlier. Little did the cameraman and reporter know that Jock Hutton was far more than just another D-Day veteran.  He was – and remains – a living legend in the Special Forces community. Former Squadron Sergeant Major of the Rhodesian Special Air

Continue reading

I’ll see your backed-up toilet, and raise you

an exploding maritime convenience! Paul, Dammit!, who blogs over at Hawsepiper, tells the gruelling tale of cleaning up after the ship’s head (or toilet, for those who don’t speak nautical) exploded over the weekend.  Go read all the gory details for yourself. When cleanup involves a Tyvek isolation suit, a respirator, a hose, and bleach by the gallon, I think we can safely say it’s rather worse than the average backed-up domestic toilet! Peter

Continue reading

I’d hate to go to war in a ship like that – but men did

Following on from our discussion yesterday about a shipwreck discovered deep beneath the Baltic Sea, and comparing its size to Columbus’ three ships that he used to cross the Atlantic, I was taken with the story of USS Providence in the Revolutionary War.  She was a sloop-of-war, approximately 65 feet in length, with a crew of 54 and carrying 12 four-pounder cannon (just about the smallest naval cannon of their day).  Since each cannon usually required a crew of six or more gunners, a crew that small meant that she could fire only one broadside (i.e. the guns on a single side of the ship) at a time, but

Continue reading

Destroying an Iraqi nuclear reactor, 38 years ago

On June 7, 1981, Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad.  It was known as Operation Opera (also called Operation Babylon in some circles).  It put an end to Saddam Hussein’s hopes of developing his own nuclear weapons. 38 years later, the pilots who undertook that mission have been reminiscing about it. Thirty-eight years after Operation Opera — the Israeli air attack that destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak — surviving pilots gathered to mark the event, noting “one of the greatest ironies in history”: that the attack was enabled by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. When Israel discovered

Continue reading

It’s about time!

For some time, the US military has been investigating medals awarded for valor in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s been postulated that some actions should have been recognized at a considerably higher level than the medals that were actually awarded.  Military.com tells us that several Medals of Honor may be conferred as a result. Four Medals of Honor. Thirty Service Crosses. Twenty-three Silver Stars. After a three-year review of medals for military heroism in conflicts following Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon has upgraded 57 awards for valor — and so far, sailors are the biggest beneficiaries. Officials told Military.com that the

Continue reading

The greatest amphibious invasion in history, 75 years ago today

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces landed in Normandy, France.  It was the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany’s occupation of Western Europe.  Together with the far larger and more deadly battles on the Eastern Front at the same time, it signaled the impending doom of that most evil of empires. My parents both went through World War II, my father in uniform, my mother on the so-called Home Front.  The experience changed them forever.  It was one of the truly pivotal conflicts in the history of humankind, and still resonates to this day.  Here are some video clips

Continue reading

Identical twins with a difference

Now and again, a human interest story rocks your world.  This is one of them, IMHO. Adam and Neil Pearson are identical twins, but you’d never know it from looking at them. Although they share the same DNA, their appearances are vastly different; each suffers from neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disorder that has affected them in divergent ways. They tell their story in Jonathan Braue’s deeply affecting short documentary, The Pearson Twins. . . . Despite their individual plights, the twins share an unshakable bond and a penchant for resilience, which has led them to develop an inspiring perspective on their situation. “Adam and

Continue reading

Remembering Cobra King: December 26th, 1944, in Bastogne

One of the more memorable exhibits in the forthcoming National Armor and Cavalry Museum will be a Sherman Jumbo M4A3E2 assault tank known as Cobra King.  She has quite the history. During the German winter offensive, the Battle of the Bulge, an important crossroads town in Bastogne, Belgium had been cut off and surrounded by German forces. Patton’s Third Army was tasked with trying to break through the German lines in the south with the 4th Armored Division as the main spearhead of this counterattack. On December 26, 1944, Lt. Boggess, commander of Cobra King was fighting his way on the road from Assenois, Belgium to Bastogne. Cobra

Continue reading

Remember – and vote

Stephan Pastis reminds us: Today, use the right to vote that they died to bequeath to us. There are literally billions of people in the world who don’t have it, or whose right is meaningless thanks to official shenanigans. We don’t labor under that curse – so remember, give thanks, and vote. Peter

Continue reading