A Horrific Day over Schweinfurt

Today in History, October 14, 1943:

During it’s Second Raid on Schweinfurt, Germany’s ball bearing plants, the Mighty US Eighth Air Force loses SIXTY B-17 Flying Fortress bombers to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

That number becomes more ominous when you know that each aircraft had at least a 10 man crew, meaning that 600 airmen either lost their lives or were captured that day.

The casualties in the Eighth Air Force over Europe accounted for more than half of the losses for the entire US Army Air Corps.

With over 26,000 dead, it surpassed the horrific losses of the US Marine Corps during the war by far…the USMC having lost almost 18,000 dead in the bitter battles in Pacific Islands.

A General Above All Others

Today in History, October 11, 1976:

Lt. Gen. George Washington is promoted to General of the Armies.

No, that is not a typo.

After leading all American Continental forces to victory in the Revolutionary War and serving two terms as our first President, George Washington maintained his rank as Lieutenant General.

In the interim, other men were promoted to Gen. of the Army…Grant, Sherman, Sheridan (4-star), Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Arnold and Bradley 5-star.). Admirals Leahy, King and Nimitz became 5-star Fleet Admirals. And John “Back Jack” Pershing.

At our Bicentenial, Congress decided, and rightly so, that no General should ever outrank the father of our nation.

So they created the rank of General of the Armies (not to be confused with Gen. of the Army), and posthumously promoted General Washington and declared none should ever exceed his rank.

——————————————–

Hereas Lieutenant General George Washington of Virginia commanded our armies throughout and to the successful termination of our Revolutionary War;

Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington presided over the convention that formulated our Constitution;

Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington twice served as President of the United States of America; and

Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list;

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That

(a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present.

(b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.

Approved October 11, 1976.

Public Law 94-479

Meriwether Lewis: Murdered? Or Suicide?

Today in History, October 11, 1809:

We all know of the adventures of Lewis and Clark.

But on this day in 1809, only 3 years after the completion of his groundbreaking expedition, Meriwether Lewis died. He was only 35 years old.

The big question is whether it was murder or suicide. He was, at the time, the Governor of Upper Louisiana, and traveling the Natchez Trace to bring information to Washington about his efforts as Governor and as an explorer.

He was staying at Grinder’s Stand, an inn along the Trace, when the owners and other travelers heard “several” gunshots ring out.

Depending on who you talked to, he suffered through the night, the result of gunshots by his own hand or by murderers who stole the money he had with him.

Clark and President Jefferson, who knew him best, were easily convinced that he killed himself. Not publicized nearly as much as his courageous exploits is the reality that he battled depression and alcohol.

Others believed he was murdered by one of the many pirates along the trace. I have to wonder about the “several shots” at a time of flintlock pistols. How determined would a suicidal person have to be to shoot himself several times to complete a suicide then, or even now? The cash he was carrying with him was never found.

The US Naval Institute is Born

Today in History, October 9, 1873:

The United States Naval Institute (USNI) is founded by 15 USN officers, including the first commander of the USS Monitor.

The USNI was initiated to study Naval issues and to report on them. It began publishing “Proceedings”, a publication to report its findings in 1874, a practice that continues today. I know this may not be of tremendous interest to most, but to me it is very important. I receive “Proceedings” and more importantly to me, “Naval History”, from which I obtain many interesting articles to post. USNI is fantastic! It also publishes many books, maintains history sources, and continues to document veteran’s experiences.

The Unknown Soldier & the USS Olympia

TODAY IN HISTORY, OCTOBER 3, 1921:

The USS Olympia sets sail for France.

Her mission: To bring the Unknown Soldier back home for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Olympia had a distinguished career. in 1898 she was Admiral Dewey’s flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines (Spanish-American War) in which the American fleet devastated the Spanish Fleet, propelling the US to international player status.

Dewey stood on the Olympia’s bridge when he famously said, “You may fire when ready, Gridley”.

The trip back to America from France with the Unknown Soldier was not uneventful. The ship feared they would be lost to a devastating storm.

Today, the Olympia is the oldest remaining steel hulled ship of the US Navy, a nearly 130 year old museum ship. But her story is far from over. The Olympia is suffering severe natural damage and it will take millions to keep her from dissolving into the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

And of course you can visit her famous passenger at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

“Come and Take It!”

Today in History, October 2, 1835:

Mexican soldiers attempted to retrieve a cannon from American-Mexican settlers in the Village of Gonzales in Tejas.

The settlers fought back and kept their cannon. The Texas war for independence had begun. The Mexican government had encouraged immigration by Americans into the Mexican territory of Tejas in hopes that they would become loyal Mexican citizens.

Instead they continued to speak their native language and maintained loyalty to their native country.

It wasn’t long before Texas was a sovereign nation destined to become an American state.

Government Restricted

Today in History, September 25, 1789:

The US Congress approves the first ten ammendments to the Constitution, or The Bill of Rights.

The ammendments were more about restricting the powers of government than “bestowing” rights the founders considered natural.

The Bill of Rights would be ratified by the states in December, 1791.