A Hero Lost

Today in History, March 22, 1820:

Stephen Decatur, Naval hero of the first and second Barbary Pirate wars, and of the War of 1812, hero and example to many of the U.S. Navy, is killed in a senseless duel.

In 1807 Commodore James Barron refused to defend his ship, Chesapeake, against British attack and was court-marshaled; Decatur, an old friend had to sit on the court-marshal board.

Suspended from the Navy for 5 years, Barron chose to wait until after the War of 1812 to be recommissioned. His cowardice was called, and he challenged Decatur, former comrade, to a duel.

Decatur, U. S. Navy hero, was mortally wounded. Such a shame. Decatur was a swashbuckler, a fierce fighter for his country.

Only 41-years-old, Decatur had untold potential remaining in his life. Such a waste.

Joseph Hunt…Sports Star

Today in History, February 2, 1945:

Joe Hunt won the U.S. Boy’s Tennis Championship.

Joe Hunt won the U.S. Junior’s Tennis Championship.

Joe Hunt won the U.S. Collegiate Tennis Championship.

Joe Hunt won the U.S. Men’s Singles Tennis Championship.

Joe Hunt won the 21st Annual Bayview Park Tennis Championship.

He was the only person ever to achieve all of these titles.

Why have you not heard of Joe’s name alongside Arthur Ashe, Billy Jean King, John McEnroe, and Serena Williams?

Because at the height of his career in 1938, Joe Hunt transferred from the University of Southern California to another prestigious college…the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Joe wanted to serve his country. He continued to excel at Tennis, and at Football for the USNA.

When war broke out Lieutenant Hunt served in destroyers in the Pacific and the Atlantic.

He won the US Men’s Championship while home on leave.

But destroyer duty, escorting convoys in the Atlantic wasn’t enough for the aggressive athlete…after several requests he finally got the opportunity to earn his wings and take the fight to the enemy in the air…what he really wanted to do.

Joe won his last championship against other former champions serving in the military at a match held near the Pensacola Naval Air Station where he was training.

And on this date in 1945, Joe’s F6F Hellcat fighter crashed into the Atlantic during a training accident. He never got to take the fight to the enemy from a carrier. His meteoric rise in Tennis was cut short.

How much potential did we lost during our nation’s wars? How can we possibly repay such sacrifice? Of course we cannot.

But in 2019, the U.S. Tennis Association demonstrated THEY have not forgotten. They named their Military Appreciation Day in honor of Lieutenant Joseph Hunt, USN.

Presidential Roosevelts…Firsts in Flight

TODAY IN HISTORY, JANUARY 14, 1943:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first US President to fly in an aircraft for official business.

FDR was to meet Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco to discuss strategy in WWII. For previous meetings the President and Prime Minister had travelled by warship, but the US military was concerned about heightened U-Boat activity in the Atlantic.

As a result President Roosevelt agreed to make the trip by plane, specifically a Boeing 314 four engine flying boat named the Dixie Clipper. The flight flew from Florida to South America and crossed to North Africa. After the meeting, FDR celebrated his 61st birthday on the return flight. He was already in poor health and the 1700 mile trip took its toll.

Thirty-three years earlier, FDR’s cousin Theodore Roosevelt had become the first president to fly in an aircraft. After having left office, TR was on a speaking tour when he encountered pilot Arch Hoxley at Kinloch Field in St. Louis, Missouri.

The always adventurous TR could not resist the offer to go for a jaunt in the Wright built airplane…little more than a powered kite, and much less luxurious than the Clipper his cousin would use. In fact, TR’s pilot, Hoxley, would die in a plane crash the following December.

I have to wonder if this is historic coincidence or much more. FDR grew up in TR’s very large shadow, and greatly admired him. FDR followed TR’s path as much as he could…Under Secretary of the Navy, the New York legislature and New York governor. While TR was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat, FDR traded on TR’s legend…and TR supported his prodigy. TR wanted to break tradition and serve a third term, which did not happen. FDR was into his fourth term when he died.

So of course one has to wonder if from competitiveness or emulation, was the opportunity to follow up on a Presidentially pioneering flight just too much too pass up?

How do We Know the Distance to the Moon? To the Planets?

Today in History, January 10, 1946:

“Operation Diana”.

The US Army Signal Corps, using a “bedspring antenna” radar from a World War II era US Navy ship, somewhat modified, bounces a signal off of the moon, which took 2.5 seconds to return to the Earth.

The experiment was the precursor to using Radar to determine the distance to other bodies, such as Saturn, and for learning to communicate with later spacecraft outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

Diana was the Roman Moon Goddess, and this project would take the lead in naming later space projects after Roman Gods.

“Ohhh…Do You Remember the FUN of him??”

“Oh…Do You Remember the Fun of Him?”

Posted on JANUARY 6, 2019Categories HistoryUncategorized

Today in History, January 6, 1919:

“The old lion is dead.”

“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”

-Vice President Thomas Marshall.

President Theodore Roosevelt dies at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York in his sleep of a heart attack. “Teddy” had taken every last drop of adventure and worthiness that he could squeeze out of life in the preceding 60 years.

Roosevelt had been a sickly child; constantly plagued by breathing problems, he could rarely play with the other children. His father, Theodore Sr., a remarkable man himself, told “Teedie” that if he wanted to have a successful life, he would have to take charge and force his body into the form he needed to match his intellect. Roosevelt did just that. He took exercise as his “raison detre” until he was barrel chested and of vigorous health. Each time he became sick during his life, he would simply work through it.

As a young man, while serving in the New York Assembly, Roosevelt was called home from Albany by an urgent message. After the train ride to NYC, he arrived home to be met at the door by his brother, “There is a curse upon this house.”

Roosevelt’s wife and mother died on the same day…February 14, 1884, within hours of each other. Writing in his diary only a large X and the words “The light has gone out of my life”, Roosevelt fled into the west, becoming a rancher and for a time a lawman in the Dakota Territory. The experience would strengthen him and give him a background people respected.

During his life he was a state rep from New York, the Police Commissioner for New York City, Governor of New York, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (he oversaw the building of a modern US Navy while his boss was not paying attention), he led the “Rough Riders” (1st Volunteer US Cavalry) up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, became Vice President, and the President after President McKinley was assassinated.

As President he defined the modern presidency, breaking up monopolies, seeing that mistreated workers got a fair shake, sent the “Great White Fleet” around the world establishing American as a world influence, saw the Panama Canal built, saw the establishment of the National Parks Service, and countless other accomplishments.

He worked tirelessly for the American people. After the Presidency he traveled extensively, going on an African Safari, and exploring an unknown region of South America, “The River of Doubt”; a region so treacherous that it was considered a no-man’s land. He nearly died in the mapping of the river, now called “Rio Roosevelt” in his honor.

All of his male children fought in WWI, and the only reason Teddy didn’t was because the Democrat President (Wilson) refused to let him, afraid Roosevelt would run against him in the next election and win. One of his sons, Quentin, would be shot down over France and be killed. That was the last straw for the “Old Lion”. He mourned dreadfully until his death.

One of his other children, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would be the only General to go ashore with the troops at D-Day in WWII; Teddy Jr would die of a heart attack himself several weeks after the Normandy invasion. The entire world would mourn President Roosevelt’s passing; he had become larger that life, a hero to people the world over. The quintessential American. And in case you couldn’t tell, my favorite Hero.

At TR’s funeral at Oyster Bay, what I believe is the best, most heartfelt eulogy was spoken in passing. Walking from the church a New York City Police Captain who had served with Roosevelt more than 20 years earlier when he was Police Commissioner, was overcome with emotion. He turned to TR’s sister and asked, “Oh…do you remember the FUN of him?”

Landmark 1963 Army – Navy Game; JFK & Instant Replay

TODAY IN HISTORY, DECEMBER 7, 1963:

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a US Navy Veteran of the Second World War. He had served in the Pacific Theater, commanding PT-109, a “Patrol-Torpedo” boat about 77 feet in length. His boat was sunk in the Solomon Islands and he became a war hero for his efforts in his crew’s rescue. But that is another story.

As President it was his habit to attend the annual Army-Navy game to unabashedly root for Navy. He planned to attend the game on December 1, 1963. However he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

Out of respect for their commander in chief the services postponed the game. Kennedy’s widow asked that the game be played in his honor.

On December 7 the game was held in Philadelphia. It would become a landmark game because when Army scored a touchdown, the producers decided to use a new technology for the very first time. They used their new machinery to instantly replay the touchdown for viewers. Their phones immediately lit up as viewers were confused as to whether Army had scored twice! Of course this technology has advanced markedly since and is frequently utilized to decide debated plays.

Navy Quarterback Midshipman Roger Staubach led “The President’s Team” to a 21-15 victory over Army. Staubach would receive the Heisman Trophy and go on to lead the Dallas Cowboys in a remarkable career.

Callahan, Scott, the Sullivan Brothers Give Their All

Today in History, November 13, 1942:

The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal takes place in what would become known as “Iron-bottom Sound” off Guadalcanal.

US intelligence had warned US Navy forces that the IJN planned to bombard Henderson Field and its Marines, and land reinforcements on the embattled island.

Admirals Callahan and Scott took their forces to interdict IJN Admiral Abe’s forces. In a fierce, confusing, intense night action the Japanese won a tactical victory by sinking more American ships, while the Americans won a strategic victory…Henderson was not bombarded and the American troop ships remained undamaged.

But it came at a heavy cost for both sides.

Admirals Callahan and Scott would be the only US Admirals to be killed in direct ship to ship combat in the war, and aboard the USS Juneau, the five “Fighting Sullivan” brothers would all be lost. Of course many more Americans died that night, good Irish names or not.

For the Japanese, surviving battleship Hiei, among others, would fall prey to air attacks from Henderson, Espirito Santo, and the USS Enterprise. And this was only the beginning of the battle.  The American aircrews missed by the Japanese were eager to get some retribution for their big gun Navy comrades.

Lessons came out of the devastation. Commanders learned how to utilize their newly assigned radar equipment to their advantage; they learned how effectively trained the Japanese were at night fighting.

And, they changed the rules to forbid siblings and close relatives from serving in the same units…so some poor Officer wouldn’t have to knuckle a door and tell a mother that ALL FIVE of her sons who she had raised and loved were gone from one horrific action.