Sorry for the short notice!
Canadian Medal of
Reoccurring health issues require me to step back from the blogs for a few weeks. I will endeavor to return on Sunday Sept. 9TH.
Sorry for the short notice!
First Ruled Unfit for Service, Persistence Gets Entry. Then Heroism Get the Medal of Honor!
Last week I revisited a story brought to you during the 1st of 5 years and more in this space, I began with a Texas born youth nicknamed "Red." A name so earned because of his flaming red hair. (Future events would almost see him being totally engulfed in flames.)
Red was not a great scholar, attended many schools but his marks represented poor performance. Joining the labour market he also moved about and even managed to get some basic flying lessons. But an industrial accident saw him break his neck, and thoughts of flying for a living being shelved.
After his neck healed, and the world now in its 27th month of WWII, Red tried to sign up with the US military and fly planes. But all the services refused him, ruling that poor schooling and a broken neck rendered him a 4F candidate... unfit for services. So he came to Canada, applied and was accepted into the Royal Canadian Air Force in December 1941.
He would later say that no one asked him if he ever broke his neck before and he must have failed to mention it. hehe.
Red would take flight training in Saskatchewan and Ontario with thousands of others, many having also come up from the US. Neck problems behind him, he would soon be wearing Sgt's stripes and en-route to England in the Canadian Air Force uniform where he and others would be attached to the RAF and soon on B17 bombing runs with 3 different squadrons. He would fly at last a dozen combat missions with the RAF and having been promoted to Flight Officer, 8 months later he would be a 2nd Lt.
In March 1943 Red finally reached one of his goals. To be in US uniform. His current experiences were no doubt quite welcomed and that month he was enlisted with the US Army Air Force.
Less than 4 months later, his name would be recorded in the history books of US heroes forever!
While some sources have different dates, by a few days, it was on July 26th that about 1000 war planes made a daring flight over Germany in daylight. In part of a ruse, a few dozen where to veer off and head directly to Hanover and destroy rail yards and other targets. The raid was said to be the first daylight run so far into the enemy territory.
At the given time a few dozen planes veered off the remainder and went for their target. Soon they came under very heavy attack. Being in the front and center of the battle, Red's plane took numerous hits.
An enemy shell took out the windshield. A 30 Caliber cannon bullet scrapped inside the cockpit and crushed part of the pilot's scull. He was semi unconscious but used considerable strength to hold onto the controls as the plane was venturing of course. If such continued it would be on its own and a sitting duck for the enemy.
The breathing apparatus in rear was knocked out and most of the crew became unconscious. The communications systems were destroyed. And the overhead gunner had fallen into the cockpit, with his arm blown off and a terrible wound to his side.
Red had to deal with all of this by himself for the most part. His primary focus was on the crew safety and the fallen gunner. He managed to get him into a parachute and tossed from the plane knowing that the Germans respected the enemy air force and would treat the man. (They did and he lived.)
Meanwhile Red steered the plane with one hand and fought for the pilot's release of the controls... the pilot in a delirious condition even started punching Red not realizing that he was trying to keep it within the formation and also even continuing on the bomb run.
As the plane got lower some of the crew awakened and assisted Red, The mission carried on and all... including the plane made it back to British territory after at least two hours of flying under above conditions on the way there and another two returning to base. Sadly the pilot soon died.
There is a wonderful very short newsreel video of the era about John (RED) Carey Morgan, the hero of this story. It is at... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXL2dnJykYI and I'd encourage you to have a look at it and share it with others.
Red was presented with a Medal of Honor for his July deed on 18 December 1945 at London by US Lt. General FC Eaker, commander, 8th Air Force.
Lt John Carey Morgan is at right in above picture as the general places the Medal of Honor around his neck. The lower image was taken about that time but appear to be before the medal ceremony in Dec., 1943.
John Carey Morgan had eared a Distinguished Flying Cross just about a week before the above event for actions over France. Both events probably were in the mind of General Eaker when he ordered Morgan to go on no further missions. But Morgan had other ideas as he felt that when the enemy flies, so shall he.
He went on several other missions and confused a pilot to step aside as he bluffed his way on yet another mission in March of 1944. But this would be his last mission. He was shot down over Germany on 6 March 1944. Actually blown out of the cockpit while sitting on his parachute. Managing to grab it on the way out, he incredibly fastened it to his chest straps as he dived towards the earth. Papers of the day claimed his miraculous dive probably set records as it was between 20,000 and 25,000 foot drop with the chute only opening within 500 feet and seconds before thundering in to the earth below.
One must wonder who was more surprised that he lived. He or those who captured him within seconds and took him to his new home... Stalag 1 at Barth Germany were he would remain till war's end some 14 months later.
Red may well be the only America 4f rejected candidate that would go from a declined bid to serve, would rise in rank from Pte to Lt. Colonel, serve in three nation's Air Forces, fly some 26 combat missions, be a POW for about 14 months, earn both the DFC and MOH, serve also in Korea, serve in the office of the US Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary and have three wives... but that's another story...
Today he lays at rest with over 365 other Medal of Honor recipients at the nation's famous Arlington cemetery. One stop you should not miss while in the DC area.
Hope to see you next week, feel free to bring along your friends,
After finding his troops fully surrounded by the enemy, "Chesty" proclaimed that THE ENEMY "can't get away from us now!"
Chesty of course was none other than Lt. Col Lewis Puller, commanding officer of the marine battalion at Guadalcanal in 1942. They held their own, facing a force overpowering them some 29 to 1. And when finally driven back into the ocean, they were rescued by the US Coastguard, headed by British Columbia born Douglas Munro and others.
Munro was killed in the action and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. This was the only MOH award to a serving member of the Coast Guard in its history. Another MOH went to a member but it was after CG service and then with the Army, as noted on this site in the past. Search ... the snake... at this site for details.
Munro's heroism was recognized by Puller, a later Lt. General and the most decorated marine in US Marine Corps history.
Puller and Munro and so many thousands of others have their names carved in stone. Part of each of their stories is the fact that when everything possible went wrong... they went right ... and pushed on, regardless of the obstacles to overcome.
Read their stories and pass them on to those who too, will come across roadblocks to their own success. Roadblocks that chipped up, make wonderful smaller stepping stones to make a new path around the obstacles sent to challenge us.
Search this site for the stories of James Allen, who lost his parents before the age of 5... but kept going and going and going like the rabbit in the commercial and having a Medal of Honor pinned to his chest. Search this site for the numerous mentions to Rowland Bourke, who lost an eye and none of the military services in Canada or the US would allow him to sign up for war service. But he kept going until Britain issued him a uniform. The very one His Royal Highness would later pin a Victoria Cross onto.
These are just two of well over 100 stories, in over 450 blogs, that have reminded every reader of our own duty to ... "Ask not what your county can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
Then there is the story of "Red." He volunteered to serve but was rebuffed. But even they were to find that it is never too late to correct a wrong.
Born and bred in Texas, Red attended a military school and several colleges there and in New Mexico but schooling was not his thing. Poor marks saw him bounce around. He took up flying and had an industrial accident that saw him break his neck, but recovered. He would even try his hand in Fiji on a pineapple plantation as a supervisor but by the late 1930's he was back in Texas where he became a married man destined to settle down... not. It would only last a few years, in the midst of which he tried to join up with the US air services but was declined. His record of schooling and a bad neck no doubt put a halt on that front.
Like thousands before him during the Great War, and throughout WWll Red turned his efforts northbound and headed for Canada. Like his countrymen of earlier days, he applied for, and was accepted into the RCAF. Training in several parts of the country soon saw him wearing Sgt's stripes and shipped off to England and attached to the Royal Air Force where he would fight in at least 12 missions, but still in Canadian uniform.
John Gillespie McGee was not only the poet who wrote this poem, he was also a hands on pilot. Born in China to an American father and British mother, he would take the same steps from the US to Canada to join the Air Force prior to America's official joining of the war.
McGee actually also flew with Red. But his time in the RAF lasted only 10 weeks. While in his 19th year of age, he and another youth pilot were killed when their two planes crashed in a mid-air accident over England.
In March 1943 Red finally saw his goal come to life. The US not only entered the war, but now, due to the training that Red had received, allowed him to transfer over to the US and its Army Air Force. Along with the paper work came a promotion to Flight Officer.
I will share more about his heroism next Sunday.
Last Sunday's blog, moved to Wednesday, brought notice regarding the status of the Thomas Kersey and Alonzo Wyman stories.
I had also hoped to also use that column to remind of the July connections to a horrendous Civil War battle. One that so upset Civil War General and later President U.S. Grant, that he would later describe it to have being the ''the saddest affair I have witnessed in this war."
The 2003 blockbuster movie about Cold Mountain and staring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger tells in part, the story of the Battle of the Crater. Those reading this blog since its earliest days will hopefully recall the story and of a Canadian connection to this battle.
By using the search engine at upper right, several blogs about this can be found. Searches under... Crater... and... Robert Fulton Dodd will give you links to them.
Robert should not be confused with MOH recipient Edward Edwin Dodds (plural) said to be Ontario born, but in fact from England, but lived for the most part in Ontario. His bravery was recognized for actions at yet another July 1864 battle, at Ashby's Gap Virginia.
In the months before July of 1864, with the war dragging on and on, the Union troops in the Petersburg campaign found themselves at the doorsteps to Richmond, headquarters of the Confederate Army.
Only some 100 miles from DC, Richmond was well protected and all knew that it's fall would lead to the very quick end to the war. But the taking of Petersburg meant charging across open land that would cost thousands of casualties for the Northerners.
One Union officer, a commander of a regiment of miners suggested that rather than go in the attack over open ground, why not go underground? Dig a tunnel to the point directly below the surface where the Southerners had mounted their left right and center guns. Then blow the gun powder.
Most thought it to be a ridiculous idea and lent little in the way of support but the go ahead was given probably more in order to "keep busy" while another plan might be hatched.
But the miners pushed forward and dug out a tunnel some 500 feet long and about 50 feet below the surface.
Then about 8000 pounds of powder, some in piles upwards of 20ft. were lit by fuses. Or so they thought. Something went wrong and the bravest of the bravest had to go in and relight them.
The above sketch shows the Union lines in Blue and the Confederate in red. The tunnel began to the right of the Union line, crossed open no man's land and ended at the base ...beyond the Confederate lines and at base of the big guns, but 50 feet underground.
The lower sketch going from the opposite view, has the tunnel starting at left and probably quite some distance off to the left...of the sketch..and ending at right, again below the Confederate guns.
While the tunnel was being dug orders had been given and passed on regarding what troops would advance and what their duties were to be. Practice after practice was carried on while the tunnel was worked. They it came time to light the fuse. Someone was sent it to do this dangerous job. It failed and in a second time a soldier was sent on an even more dangerous task. This time it took.
The blast could he heard miles away and men, cannons horses and earthwork were flown dozens of feet in the air. When the dust settled, pardon the pun, a crater large enough to hold a house was left. It measured 130 ft long, 6 feet wide and 30 deep.
The explosion was a success but the battle a failure. Just before the fuse was lit orders came down to change the plan of attack. While all had been practicing day and night for the event, and given orders on what to do and when, at the last minute all changed. Having volunteered, a black regiment was anxious at having the chance to be first in, and new exactly what to do. Among others things was that they were to go AROUND and NOT INTO the crater.
But politics kicked in at the last minute. If there were a slaughter of the blacks, politics would destroy those in charge. So the blacks were held back. The whites when in first... with no idea of what to do or when.They poured into the crater and then push came to shove as others were also moved forward... INTO the crater.
What those at the back of the line could not know was that within the crater the soldiers were trapped and could not get out. The sides were very unstable and it was like trying to crawl out of a barrel of corn. The explosion also had unearthed some damp material that made attempts to climb out even more impossible.. It was like sinking sand.
And the Confederates, after about 20 minutes of shock came to, and realized that they now had a turkey shoot and started firing away. Some claimed no white was to be allowed to live cause he supported the blacks. Others offered hep to the black who would surrender and in the process would himself get slaughtered.
And this was to be ongoing for about 4 hours. The Southerners that day lost about 278 to death or wounds. But the North lost almost 4,000. General Grant would later make the statement ... "The saddest affair I have witnessed in the war."
Among all this horror, Ontario's Robert Fulton Dodd would be awarded a medal of Honor for helping to save some of the wounded from the area around the edge of the crater on 30 July 1864. And that action took place 154 years and a few days ago today.
Tourists are shown here having a look at a portion of the crater after the war.
see you next week,
About 160 July's have come and gone since the medal was created.
Many a battle fought during the month resulted in a later award. One even saw almost 900 medals awarded, and oft noted in this space. Many a recipient was born, or died or had his award officially approved during the month. Many original stories have resulted in anniversary ceremonies of sorts during this month. Be it the discovery of a long lost grave, a correction of dates, names, or unveiling of new markers and more.
Some changes made during the month bring us new and exciting details previously unknown about our past heroes, and, in many a case, an actual relative. Quite a few of these have appeared here in this blog space over the past few years.
Over the past month and more I have tried to bring you news of a ceremony to unveil a new marker for Newfoundland born Thomas Kersey. On 26 July 1876 this US Sailor risked his life while diving into the waters and saving a crew mate from drowning. A date that victim remembered throughout the remainder of his life. (And a date... many a year later, when my mother introduced me to the world for the first time.)
The Kersey grave could not be located for many years but was finally discovered recently, as noted in past blogs. It's condition clearly shows a need for replacement.
A MOH marker ought to be installed and with the appropriate service due the hero, his descendants,fellow Americans and Canadians.
Indications are that a ceremony will be arranged for a formal unveiling of a new marker. I have since reached out to some folks and noting that Canada would be most interested in attending and in fact, since Kersey was a Canadian, actually participating in the ceremony.
Positive feedback has been passed on to Canadian authorities, but delays still seem to preclude the release of any possible dates for this service. I shall keep my eye on the matter and will bring news once it is learned.
Thomas Kersey's Medal of Honor would be like the one shown on the left, that of the Naval service of Civil War days and for a few decades beyond. When newer models were introduced it would be standard to receive the replacement with a request to send back the original. But most refused to send back their first keepsake, so the request was soon dropped. Though none were allowed to wear both medals at the same time. On the right is the army version of the first ever Medals of Honor.
History tells us that 19 men were allowed to wear 2 medals at once. These men were actual double recipients. Should any choose to do serious research, they will find that there were at least 21 double recipients. and perhaps more yet to be detected. The two additional double recipients have been profiled in past blogs in this space.
In 1896 a new ribbon was introduced for the army Medal of Honor. It is shown above with also the addition of a Bow Knot, or pin that could be worn on less formal occasions by the veteran MOH recipient.
One of the reasons for its introduction was to help to better show a difference between the Medal of Honor and the badge of membership adopted in earlier years by the ever so influential Grand Army of the Republic. Both looked so much alike that many could not tell one from the other and demands resulted in a change of some sort.
I believe this model should have been the version that was awarded in the late 1890's to Civil War Major General Sickles, whom I hope you have read a little in recent blogs here.
In the recent blogs I told of the two newspaper accounts claiming that an Ontario man, Alonzo Wyman, (above in 1913) serving in the Civil War was actually awarded a Medal of Honor. The claim was that he was one of the men who saved General Sickles from death and taken to safety.
An enemy cannon ball apparently shattered his leg resulting in an amputation within hours. That was during the famous Gettysburg battles and the day before Pickett's famous Charge. And both being in July 1863.
However all attempts to verify such an award to Wyman have so far provided no evidence of such an award being actually made. Investigations continue on several fronts and if the story sees more light, I will share it with you.
On discussing the matter with the Congressional Medal of Honor folks I am reminded that back in CW days some of the generals and admirals were so proud of their troops that they actually went out and purchased some form of a medal to thank their men for their service.
Could this be the case here? Did he get a MOH that was not in fact a MOH as we know it to be? I am unaware of any recorded lists of these types of medals.
Some even called these...Medals of Honor. But whenever that term is mentioned in this space it refers to THE Medal granted not by individual officers...but by the President after being approved at the highest of authorities... the Congress.
More on this on Sunday...