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Billy Mitchell was Right (and still is).

I grew up in West Allis Wisconsin-a suburb of Milwaukee.

There was parkway and a well-to-do neighborhood (well-to-do in those days) near my school. Sometimes, rather than go right home after school, my friends and I would walk over to the parkway and imagine “playing army” or otherwise adventure around-all the things young boys would do in the early to mid 1960’s.

To get to the parkway we would travel through the well-to-do neighborhood and it was there that I first learned of General Billy Mitchell.

Mitchell was born in France, the son of John Mitchell, a US Senator from Wisconsin. John Mitchell was a lieutenant in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War. He served alongside another resident of Wisconsin-Arthur MacArthur, the father of General Douglas MacArthur of World War Two and Korea fame.

John Mitchell owned an estate in Wisconsin, in the neighborhood we kids traveled through to get to the parkway. By the 1960’s it was not an estate and I think the only thing that was left was the mansion in the middle of the well-to-do neighborhood.

If memory serves me, there is plaque to Mitchell (at least there was) at the intersection of two roads in what was probably the midst of John Mitchell’s estate. Wisconsin clearly wanted to recognize Mitchell for his accomplishments. If you are familiar with Milwaukee you will recognize that the airport is named after Mitchell as well as least one park.

There is an excellent article about Mitchell on Wikipedia. The article will detail Mitchell’s remarkable record and the huge controversy that got Mitchell court-martialed.

Mitchell was an outspoken critic of the “Battleship clique” in the US Navy. During World War One, the battleship was still queen of the seas, whereas air power was in its infancy. As early as 1924 Mitchell began to argue that Japan could attack Hawaii with land based bomber aircraft. That was thought to be ridiculous given the distance, but also because air craft carriers were just being experimented with in 1924. Although some, like Mitchell, recognized the potential, few among the generals and admirals did.

Eventually, Mitchell went beyond being merely out spoken and became increasingly insubordinate-similar to an Old Testament prophet no one listens to. Mitchell was courtmartialed which at the time did not necessarily mean discharged. Mitchell did resign however and dedicated the rest of his life advocating for air power.

A scene taken from Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell’s court-martial, 1925. (U.S. Air Force photo) This scene was recreated for the 1955 movie The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell. Mitchell is wearing the “turned-down” collar uniform, for which the Air Service had campaigned for several years. (Public Domain)

It’s interesting to note that later military tribunals said Mitchell’s views were vindicated but it did not matter since he violated the military code. This reminds me a little of Marine Lt. Colonel Stuart Scheller who resigned after publicly criticizing Biden’s unconscionable, bumbling withdrawal from Afghanistan which cost the lives of thirteen American service men and women. You have to wonder how many high ranking officers in the US Military agreed with Scheller but kept their mouths shut?

Mitchell died in 1936 and almost immediately his posthumous rehab began. Two battles in the early stages of WW2 vindicated Mitchell beyond the shadow of a doubt.

The first occurred in 1940 in the Mediterraen when British bi-plane torpedoe bombers flew from the HMS Illustrious (aircraft carrier) and torpedoed the Italian Fleet in Taranto Harbor. The British planes (obsolete Fairey Fulmars) did considerable damage to two Italian Battleships thus taking them out of the war for a considerable amount of time. If you see some similarities to Pearl Harbor you would be spot on.

HMS Ark Royal (British aircraft carrier, 1938-1941) photographed circa 1939, with a Fairey Swordfish aircraft taking off as another approaches from astern. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (Public Domain

At that point many realized that the days of the battleship were numbered because the Battle of Taranto did not involve any ship-to-ship action as all the damage was done by obsolete torpedo bombers.

The second “proof” occurred in early 1942 during the Fall of Singapore, which at the time was a British Colony and major base in the Pacific.

Following Pearl Harbor in late 1941 the Japanese invaded the Philippines as well as British possessions in the Pacific. The Battle for Singapore proved to be a disaster for the British as they were ill prepared like we were at Pearl Harbor.

HMS PRINCE OF WALES arrives at Singapore, 4 December 1941. HMS PRINCE OF WALES coming in to moor at Singapore. The ship was sunk by Japanese torpedoes six days later on 10 December 1941 with great loss of life .(Wikipedia)

The battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse (and four destroyers) were on station near Singapore. All were sunk by Japanese land based bombers, the British having little air power in Singapore to counter the bombers. What did they have were second rate fighters easily out classed by the Japanese Zero.

The sinking of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse was the final nail in the coffin of the battleship. Aircraft Carriers would become queen of the seas and land based bombers with long ranges would eventually devastate Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

Billy Mitchell would be promoted posthumously to Brigadier General for being right. Today, outside of Billy Mitchell Airport there is a B-25 Mitchell Bomber.

The B-25 Mitchell Bomber saw extensive action in WW2 in virtually every Allied Air Force including the Russians.

So, Billy Mitchell was right but he continues to be right.

I was never a particular fan of Donald Trump but I did recognize the soundness of some of his policies. Compare Trump to the current occupant of the White House and Trump looks like a genius.

Trump sought to establish Space Force probably a take off on President’s Reagan “Star Wars” initiative in the 1980’s that was so widely mocked. Space Force was established in 2019 and became the eighth uniformed service of the United States. I think Billy Mitchell would be at the forefront recognizing the potential.

(Footnote: The biggest threat to our national security is not Putin’s Russia although he is ambitious. The biggest threat to the United States is the CCP-Communist China. The CCP will eclipse the US economy and their technology is not far behind, if at all. Their plans are world domination. Any honest analyst gets that. Someone once said that generals and admirals tend to fight the last war during the current war. What that usually means is the military is slow to plan for the next war. Billy Mitchell was a prophet as he planned for the next war. I hope we learned something, but at present, I doubt it.)

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What’s in a Name?

…and yet we judge historical figures like Jefferson on the basis of what we think is our own moral superiority, not realizing our own massive flaws, nor understanding history in its historical context.

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The Funeral of Theodore Roosevelt

Great reporting on Teddy Roosevelt’s funeral and what affected his health. TR is one of my favorite Presidents.

Presidential History Blog

When Theodore Roosevelt died on January 6, 1919, the world was stunned.

TR Dies

Not only was the world stunned at the death of former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was only sixty, but perhaps TR himself would have also been surprised, had he not succumbed to a heart attack, or perhaps an embolus – in his sleep. No pain. He had plans for his future, which included (maybe) becoming the Republican candidate for President (again) in 1920.

Actually, TR had been in declining health for some time, but mostly precipitated by his Amazon adventures in 1913-14, and the tropical disease/infection that nearly cost his life. He recovered, but never completely. Tropical diseases have a nasty way of recurring periodically. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is older-tr.jpg
Older TR

The Great War in 1918 had been one of the roughest years for the old “Colonel.” President Woodrow Wilson had adamantly refused to allow his predecessor to raise…

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Recruiting the Regiment: The First Missouri Confederate Infantry Regiment

John S. Bowen, the First Missouri’s first commander and later, major general. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society. For Missouri Volunteer …

Recruiting the Regiment: The First Missouri Confederate Infantry Regiment
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Battle of Allegheny Mountain, December, 1861

I recently did a solo ACW game. You can find the details at the link below. The scenario is earlier in the war and the battle occurred in what is now West Virginia.

A Union army led by Brigadier Robert Milroy attempted to drive a Confederate Army led by Colonel Edward Johnson (later nicknamed Allegheny Johnson) out of the area. The attack was badly botched and the Rebs held on to that portion of Virginia for the time being.

Milroy would eventually be re-assigned to the Shenandoah Valley where he fell victim to General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson during Jackson’s famous Valley Campaign in 1862.

Johnson would go on to greater things (sort of). Johnson was highly thought of by Robert E. Lee and was made a divisional commander. He was assigned to Ewell’s Corps for the invasion of Pennsylvania in 1863. The Battle of Gettysburg was the culmination of the invasion.

On the first day of the battle Johnson had the opportunity to take Culp’s Hill-a vital position, that could have had a major impact on the course of the battle. Johnson had discretionary orders from Corps Commander Dick Ewell and so he opted not to attack what was a weak Union position on that first day.

Johnson did attempt to take the position on the second and third day but by then the Union army had entrenched both efforts failed. After the war both Johnson and Ewell came under fire in the south and were blamed for the Confederate failure at Gettysburg.

For the Battle of Allegheny Mountain though Johnson would be a bit of a hero.

At the blog link you can again view the images, see the Order of the Battle and read the action reports if you so desire. I found it is impossible to cut and paste from one blog to another.

lhttps://brr10.blogspot.com/2021/05/solo-acw-battle-of-allegheny-mountain.html

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Great White Fleet, post card find

The Great White Fleet was the nickname given to 16 American Battleships that sailed around the world from 1907 to 1909. President Teddy Rooselvelt order the cruise to demonstrate that America was a world player in Naval power he reviewed the fleet as it passed through the Strait of Gibraltar. For more go to Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS Wisconsin

I was fortunate to get the postcard of the USS Wisconsin named for my home state. The Wisconsin was a predecessor of the more famous USS Wisconsin of World War 2 fame.

USS Rhode Island

I was also fortunate to obtain a card of the USS Rhode Island.

The cards for the Wisconsin and Rhode Island were part of a series published by Britton and Rey. The next two cards also feature Great White Fleet Battleships but from different publishers and so do not have the facts about the ship on the back of the cards.

USS Missouri

The Missouri was also a predecessor or the more famous USS Missouri of World War 2 fame. The new Missouri was the ship the Japanese signed their surrender on (Sept. 1945) thus ending WW2.

USS Ohio

The back of this card reads: Welcome to the Lone Star Post Card Club. It’s signed Zetta Ulfirst(sp?) #207, 1916 Chester Drive, Bakersfield Calif. It’s addressed to Mrs. F.O. Holt, 3304 Mt. Vernon Ave., Fort Worth, Texas 76203

I looked up the Bakersfield addressed the Fort Worth address. The Bakersfield address is now a hair stylist shop. The Fort Worth address still appears to be residential.

German Fleet

This unusual card was the odd man out so-to-speak. The ships are clearly German. The flag on the ship in the foreground apears to be of World War One vintage. The card itself is dated February 21, 1938. The post mark is mostly obliterated and stamp removed. It was sent to Frau ? Poppetz(?). There is a lot of writing on the card but it’s in German cursive. My German is poor and cursive makes it worse. I think I’ll have a friend translate if they can.

The German High Seas Fleet was scuttled at the end of the WW1. I can’t tell is the post card is a commemorative of sorts or if it’s meant to signify the resurgent Kriegsmarine of 1938. When Hitler took power he immediately began to rearm.

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Stand Your Ground

One character from the War of Independence that I’ve found interesting, even intriguing, is Captain John Parker.

Captain Parker’s main claim to fame comes from his role as the Captain of Colonial Militia for the area around Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.

Parker was a militia captain served served in the French and Indian War in two campaigns against the French in Canada. He learned something of the military tactics that the French’s Native American allies used against the British and the American Colonial Militia in that war.

Calling the militia “American” is accurate as far as it goes. The term refers to location more than it does to nationality. American independence would not be achieved until 1783 when a peace treaty was signed with Great Britain. Although independence was declared in 1776, it could not be fully granted until Great Britain recognized the defacto independence of what was becoming the United States of America.

On April 19th, 1775 Captain John Parker and the militia from around Lexington gathered on the village green. They were there in response to Paul Revere’s famous cry, “the British are coming, the British are coming” and indeed they were.

Why were the British coming?

Things had reached the boiling point between Great Britain and it’s American colonies. Things were particularly tense in Massachucets where a number of incidents had already occurred; notably the so-called Boston Massacre where British troops fired on an American mob and The Boston Tea Party where Americans dressed as Native Americans dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest the tax on tea. Taxation without representation in the British Parliament was a key motivator in understanding the roots of the conflict.

By April 1775 the General in charge of the British troops in Boston was Thomas Gage. Gage sent troops from Boston to disarm the militia in Lexington and Concord. He sent Colonel Francis Smith to do the job and Smith sent a Major John Pitcairn with an advance guard, presumably to scout and perhaps to clear the way for the main column.

It was Pitcairn and the advance guard of British Regulars that faced Parker and the Lexington militia across the green. The situation was tense. Both sides thought of themselves as Englishmen or British subjects rather than enemies like the French were in the French and Indian War.

This point should not be lost on us.

There were armed men on both sides; both legally so. The Colonial Militia was an important part of the British military establishment supplementing the regulars as they did in the French and Indian War, as well as providing local security against French and Indian raids especially in the frontier areas of the colonies.

Englishmen were facing Englishmen in an armed stalemate. The tension was must have been palatable.

It’s important to note that both sides had orders to not engage the other in a firefight. From the British point of view this probably meant that the militia would disarm without any kind of violence. From the militia’s point of view that was not going to happen and their hope was the British would turn around and go back to Boston and come up with a Plan B.

What happened next was the catalyst that ultimately would change everything.

Major Pitcairn was an interesting fellow. Pitcairn was among the more reasonable British officers which usually meant they thought the colonials did have a point in regards to the big picture, but as soldiers their duty was to follow orders.

Pitcairn, like the vast majority of British officers also had a disdain for the colonial militia, some of it deserved. Nevertheless, contempt for the militia is something that would not serve Pitcairn well. Pitcairn assumed that the militia he had contempt for would simply disarm because they feared facing British regulars which to some extent was true. That was not the case on April 19th, 1775 when Captain John Parker was in command of his militia.

So across the green, armed countrymen faced each other, no doubt waiting for the other side to blink. Pitcairn gives the order for the militia to disperse and disarm and Captain Parker utters the words that would usher in the shot heard around the world. Parker said to his militia,  “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

I confess that those words bring tears to my eyes. Here were farmers, tradesmen, laborers, husbands, fathers, brothers, dressed in civilian clothes armed haphazardly, standing their ground against 600 British Regulars led by a man who held them in utter contempt.

From my collection of 20mm miniatures. The unit could easily represent the colonial militia on Lexington Green, April 19th, 1775.

No-one knows with absolute certainty who fired the shot heard around the world. It does seem that at the very least Pitcairn and the contempt he held for the militia led him to lose control of his men who, no doubt, shared his contempt for the ragged militia standing in their way.

As a rule British soldiers at that time were taught to rely more upon the bayonet than musket fire. They were drilled and drilled again to stand against the finest armies in Europe, and frankly, they excelled at their craft.

Usually, an initial volley would be fired and the soldiers would then advance with the bayonet hoping the shock and awe would cause the other side to run in terror. It was an effective tactic especially against an enemy who lacked similar training, morale and equipment.

In my opinion this or something similar is what happened. Whether a British soldier or colonial militiaman fired a single shot first is moot.

Parker himself witnessed his cousin being bayoneted by a British soldier as the militia did flee, but did not give up their arms.

The British proceeded through Lexington and to Concord but word of mouth in this case spread just as fast as INET communications do today. The British column was harassed on their way to Concord and all the way back to Boston by militias from every nook and cranny in the area. The militia used their French and Indian War tactics to which the British had no real response. My guess is they were shocked that colonial militia would fire upon the king’s soldiers. The British took terrible casualties.

This is not a mere history lesson about a courageous captain of colonial militia. It’s about what is happening now.

I believe that we are witnessing the republic in its death throes, although it may already be dead, but we have yet to hold the funeral.

What we see with our own eyes is inequality under the law and the loss of the rule of law. If you belong to one political party you get a pass for rioting; if you belong to other, a riot is the worse thing that has even happened.

If you believe in free speech you are labeled as a terrorist and you are de-platformed by big tech companies that have far more power than their political allies realize. The Democrats are playing with fire. If big tech and big media can make one king what makes them think they will not make another and another and another when they don’t like the one they just made.

Free speech that is protected by our Constituion is being literally squashed as if we were living in a totalitarian state like Red China. The Second Amendment to our Constitution, the right to bear arms, in a formal and informal militia will also be squashed. And that’s only a few of the issues destroying our country.

I am relatively sure that Captain John Parker on April 19th, 1775 had prayed for the best and given his words prepared for the worst.

Our military takes an oath to protect our citizens, from enemies both foreign and domestic. They also take the oath to protect the Constitution and to obey the President who presumably understands and values the Constitution as written. We will not have that with the Biden\Harris presidency.

It is very possible that the National Guard or US Army Regulars will face an informal militia across some town square or in some field. What will happen?

Will there be a modern day Captain Parker who will make the same speech Parker did in 1775? On the other side will there be a Major Pitcairn who holds his fellow citizens in utter contempt?

Which side will truly will be defending the Constitution?

Note: Captain Parker did not live to see independence. He died five months after the events that made him famous of TB.

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A Christmas Carol, Life Magazine, December 25th, 1944

Long before A Christmas Carol was a movie it was a radio play. Lionel Barrymore played Scrooge for many years on Christmas Eve starting in 1934. In 1944 a movie studio gathered the radio play actors and staged scenes for Life Magazine. The issue with A Christmas Carol came out on December 25th, 1944. At the time American soldiers were fighting and dying in Europe during the Battle of the Bulge.

American soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge received their Christmas dinner in the field.

During the war years Life Magazine featured what our military was up to around the world, but it was always concerned with home front morale. Radio plays were one way that families gathered and connected.

I simply have to say a bit more about the time frame for this issue of Life Magazine.

The same issue of Life Magazine featured another picture essay titled, Hospital on Leyte. By late 1944 the US had taken much of the Philippines back from the Japanese. The picture essay features Army doctors and nurses caring for the wounded.

Nurse Florence Vehmeier checks to see if one of her patients is comfortable. The soldier was shot in the stomach. There is a siphon that drains fluids into a bucket. The man has a fever and a cold damp clothe is placed on his forehead and eyes. The picture is rather well known and has been reproduced as art. See the link below for a colorized version on FB.

The campaign to retake the Philippines in 1944-45 cost the US 14,000 dead and nearly 50,000 wounded. During the war years Life Magazine always featured a photo essay of our military and in this case duly noted that winning the war came with a cost.

Although the soldier is unknown (for wartime security issues) Florence Vehmeier was a real person. She served as an Army nurse throughout the war. She passed away in 2007 at the age of 90. Florence was part of the generation that has been called our greatest. This Christmas let’s remember that freedom is not free. Thank a vet! https://www.facebook.com/worldwarincolor/photos/pb.393166910813107.-2207520000.1572030836./2360435794086199/

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Falklands Flagship to be Scrapped

Great history of a British Aircraft Carrier that did much in the Falklands War

War and Security

The Indian aircraft carier INS Viraat, previously HMS Hermes, made her last journey to the breakers yard at Alang, India in September 2020 and is now being scrapped: see this video report from the British ITV network.

She was laid down during World War II as HMS Elephant and was a Centaur class light fleet carrier. Only four of the intended eight ships of this class had been laid down by the end of the war and the other four, one of which was to be named Hermes, were cancelled.

The previous HMS Hermes, sunk by the Japanese in 1942, was the first ship in the world to be designed as an aircraft carrier, although the Japanese Hoshowas launched and completed first.

The Royal Navy had more carriers than it needed, or could afford, at the end of World War II, so Hermes and her…

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Victory Mail

During WW2 in the US there was such a thing as VMAIL which stood for Victory Mail. It was patriotic and it’s purpose was to unite the country in supporting the various arms of the military. Postcards were common for personal correspodence and on occasion a whole portfolio could be sent. The pics below are from a portfolio that was never sent. I forget where I got it but most likely it was a second hand store that dabbled in antiques. This was before color postcards were common and so a colorizing technique was used. This portfolio shows US forces from all branches of the US military c.1942 judging from the uniforms and equipment shown. The captions give a bit more detail.