Monday, September 16, 2019

BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF 1944

     The Seventh Fleet alone, greatly augmented by ships which normally operated in the Pacific Ocean Area under Admiral Nimitz, comprised a total of 738 vessels. Of these, 157 were combatant ships, 420 were amphibious craft, 84 were patrol, minesweeping, and hydrographic types, and 73 were service vessels. These vessels were organized in three task forces: (1) the Covering and Support Force, including the heavy bombardment, fire support, and escort carrier vessels, all directly under Vice Admiral Kinkaid; (2) the Northern Attack Force under Rear Admiral Daniel E. Barbey, and (3) the Southern Attack Force under Vice Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson. Both of the latter were amphibious forces. Of the combatant vessels composing the Covering and Support Force, six were the old battleships Mississippi, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, and Pennsylvania, five of which were salvaged casualties of the attack on Pearl Harbor; there were also five heavy cruisers, six light cruisers, eighteen escort carriers, eighty-six destroyers, twenty-five destroyer escorts, and eleven frigates. Included among these ships were elements of the Royal Australian Navy which had served in the Southwest Pacific under Kinkaid’s command.

        With the Third Fleet were eight aircraft carriers (CV’s), eight light carriers (CVL’s), six new, fast battleships with 16-inch guns (BB’s), six heavy cruisers (CA’s), nine light cruisers (CL’s) and fifty-eight destroyers (DD’s). At the outset of this operation all these vessels were organized as Task Force 38, under the command of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, who was responsible directly to Admiral Halsey. The task force was in turn divided into four task groups, the first under Vice Admiral John S. McCain, in the Wasp, the second under Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan in the Intrepid, the third under Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, in the Essex, and the fourth under Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison, in the Franklin. Halsey’s flagship was the battleship New Jersey, that of Mitscher the carrier Lexington. Task Force 38 represented the preponderance of striking force of the United States Fleet, greater fire power than had ever been assembled on the high seas under one tactical command, capable alone of dealing with any combination of forces that could be brought together by the enemy. In regular cruising formation this force stretched over a sea area some forty miles in length and nine miles from flank to flank.


C. Vann Woodward, The Battle for Leyte Gulf: The Incredible Story of World War II's Largest Naval Battle. Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

STAR-SPANGLED BANNER

Star-Spangled Banner   9-4-1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Monday, September 9, 2019

CEMETERY HILL

William F. Quigley, Jr.
Pure Heart
Kent State University Press, 2016, 164-165

On Cemetery Hill that evening of July 1st (1863), as Major Biddle recalled, “82 of the 121st Regiment gathered together, received fresh cartridges from an Eleventh Corps officer of ordnance and were as ready as at first.” Within half an hour, he reported, “some cannon shots were fired by the battery” and “troops were ordered to be in readiness” for another assault. “A Bucktail regiment, believed to be Colonel Langhorne Wister’s moved at double-quick toward Culp’s Hill” to the east and right of the 121st’s position, but “no assault was made.” Commanders on both sides prepared, instead, for the morrow.

“Quiet gradually settled upon the hill,” and Major Biddle wrote that “the evening was passed by the men singing hymns as they rested on their arms in view of the possibilities of the morrow.” Lieutenant Rosengarten recounted that his compatriots’ hymn singing was “not evidence of satisfaction with the result of the day’s work, but still showing that there was no panic in the hearts of men who, after so many weary hours of fighting and such heavy losses, could find comfort in their dear old tunes.” More than a diversion in Civil War camps, music was a full-throated outlet for soldiers’ emotions. Twenty-five years later, a Philadelphia newspaper would remark about the soldiers’ hymn singing in the wake of that day’s battle: “There is a touch of pathos in this, very characteristic of the officers and men of the regiment, and the serious earnestness with which they did their duty. We do not think the incident has ever been told before, and it well deserves a place in the future histories of Gettysburg and that great battle.”

To Lieutenant Dorr, and to the remaining soldiers of the 121st Pennsylvania, a “beautiful rainbow seen in the west seemed to promise better fortune for the morrow,” and they slept warily that night on their arms “in a field on the south slope of Cemetery Hill.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

ATHENS


The Peloponnesian War (one volume), by Donald Kagan
New York: Viking, 2003, pp. 486-487


    At last Thrasybulus was strong enough to march out and capture Piraeus and to fight a Spartan army to a stalemate. The Spartans chose to abandon Athens, and in 403 Thrasybulus and his men restored the full democracy.

    Athens was free and democratic again, but the danger was not past. Angered by the outrages committed by the Thirty, many wanted to hunt down and punish the guilty men and those who had collaborated with them, a process that would have brought trials, executions, and banishments. Athens would have been torn by the very factional strife and civil war that had already destroyed democracy in so many other Greek states. Instead Thrasybulus joined with other moderates to issue an amnesty that protected all but a few of the worst criminals. The newly restored Athenian democracy held firmly to a policy of moderation and restraint, behavior that later won extraordinary praise from Aristotle: “The reaction of [the Athenian democrats] to their previous calamities, both privately and publicly, seems to have been the finest and most statesmanlike that any people has demonstrated.” Not only did they declare and enforce the amnesty, they even raised public money to remunerate the Spartans for the sum the Thirty had borrowed to fight the democrats. “For they thought that this was the way to begin the restoration of harmony. In other cities, when democrats come to power, there is no thought of expending their own money; on the contrary, they seize and distribute the land of their opponents.” (Constitution of the Athenians 40.2-3). The moderation of the democrats of 403 was rewarded by a successful reconciliation of the classes and factions that enabled Athenian democracy to flourish without civil war or coup d’├ętat almost to the end of the fourth century.

    Remarkably, the defeat that had threatened to wipe out Athens and its people, to destroy its democratic constitution, and to compromise its ability to dominate others and even to conduct an independent foreign policy, failed to accomplish any of those things for long. Within a year the Athenians had regained their full democracy. Within a decade they had recovered their fleet, walls, and independence, and Athens became a central member of a coalition of states dedicated to preventing Sparta from interfering in the affairs of the rest of Greece. Within a quarter-century they had regained many of their former allies and restored their power to the point where it is possible to speak of a “Second Athenian Empire.”

    To be sure, the Spartans had become the dominant force in Greece, but their victory brought no repose and much trouble. Within a few years they were compelled to abandon their empire and its tribute, but not before enough money had flowed into Sparta that its traditional discipline and institutions were undermined. Soon the Spartiates had to contend with internal conspiracies that threatened their constitution and their very existence. Abroad, they had to fight a major war against a coalition of former allies and former enemies that held them in check within the Peloponnesus, and from which they were able to emerge intact only through the intervention of Persia. For a short time, they clung to a kind of hegemony over their fellow Greeks, but only so long as the Persian king wanted them to do so. Within three decades of their great victory the Spartans were defeated by the Thebans in a major land battle, and their power was destroyed forever.