Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 125, May 31

We're going to go back in time for today, all the way back to Ben Franklin and the founding of our country.  Did you know that Franklin was not in favor of the American eagle as the symbol for the fledgling nation?  Franklin wanted the turkey.

"An eagle is a bird of very bad moral character," said Franklin.  " He does not even work for a living, but spends its time soaring around stealing fish and anything else edible that isn't nailed down ... There is only one bird fit to be on the official Great Seal of the United States and that is a plain, oldl American turkey.

Franklin argued, cajoed, and argued any more.  The lobby favoring the bald eagle as the symbol for American won. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 124, May 30

A dear friend sent me this email.  It was so compelling that I decided I needed to share it in this, the Patriot Pages.  I hope you find it as fascinating and inspiring as I did.

Irena Sendler

Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98)
Warsaw, Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the
Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.

She had an ulterior motive.

Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of
the tool box she carried.
She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.

Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.

The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to
smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.

Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi's broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, In a glass jar that she buried under a tree in  her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family.  Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster families or adopted.

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.   She was not selected.
Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.

So, why am I including a story on Irena, when she wasn't even an American?  The answer is simple.  Irena exemplified the American spirit, one of sacrifice, compassion, and the willingness to protect the innocent.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 123, May 29

World War II indeed changed the world.  If the Allies had not triumphed, the world as we know it would not have existed.  Despite its importance, though, forty-six years passed before a museum was built to honor those who served and tell the story of the American experience in the war – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today.   

Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National World War II Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 122, May 28

I can't help but tell the story of my father's participation in World War II.

Dad was a Navy yeoman serving in Washington, DC.  Because he had accounting and typing skills, it was suggested by his commanding officer that he stay in Washington and serve his country there.  However, my father knew he couldn't sit by while others were being shipped overseas.

He asked to be deployed and was sent to the Pacific Theatre.  There, his ship was torpedoed by the Japanese.  Chaos broke out among the sailors, many who were lost, either to injuries or to drowning.   When the survivors were rescued, Dad tasked himself with contacting the families of those men who died, establishing friendships with those family members that continued for many decades afterward.  He, himself, incurred an injury, one which plagued him for years later.

Two of Dad's brothers died during the war.  The Red Cross offered to send him home to comfort his grieving mother, a widow.  He told them that while he appreciated it, he could not return home then.  There was still work to be done.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 121, May 27

American General Dwight D. Eisenhower served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, while overall command of ground forces (21st Army Group) was given to General Bernard Montgomery.

The operation, planned by a team under Lieutenant-General Frederick Morgan was the largest amphibious invasion in world history and was executed by land, sea and air elements under direct British-American command with over 160,000  soldiers landing on 6 June 1944: 73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians. 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were also involved.

The invasion required the transport of soldiers and supplies from the United Kingdom by aircraft and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-suppor. . The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 120, May 26

The Normandy Landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, in Operation Overlord during World War II The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (D-Day), beginning at 6:30 am British Double Summer Time (GMT+2). In planning, as for most Allied operations, the term D-Day was used for the day of the actual landing.

The landings were conducted in two phases: an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing  of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France starting at 6:30 am. Bad weather helped give the Allies the element of surprise. 

A key element was to convince Adolf Hitler that the landings would actually occur to the north at the Pas-de-Calais. There were also decoy operations taking place simultaneously with the landings under the codenames Operation Glimmer and Operation Taxable to distract the German forces from the real landing areas.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 119, May 25

I found this messsage from General Eisenhower to the soldiers just prior to D-Day in World War II. I thought it worth repeating.

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man.

Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 118, May 24

The Allied Forces worked feverishly to defeat the ever-growing treachery and evil of the Axis powers. Defeating Germany and Italy required hand-in-hand cooperation between England, France, and America.

Of all the threats that faced his country in World War II, Winston Churchill said, just one really scared him—what he called the "measureless peril" of the German U-boat campaign.

In that global conflagration, only one battle—the struggle for the Atlantic—lasted from the very first hours of the conflict to its final day. Hitler knew that victory depended on controlling the sea-lanes where American food and fuel and weapons flowed to the Allies.
At the start, U-boats patrolled a few miles off the eastern seaboard, savagely attacking scores of defenseless passenger ships and merchant vessels while hastily converted American cabin cruisers and fishing boats vainly tried to stop them. Before long, though, the United States was ramping up what would be the greatest production of naval vessels the world had ever known. Then the battle became a thrilling cat-and-mouse game between the quickly built U.S. warships and the ever-more cunning and lethal U-boats.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day 117, May 23

The B-17 pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission. His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone, struggling to stay in the skies above Germany .

Half his crew was wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.
But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer "Pinky" Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something odd happened.

The German didn't pull the trigger. He stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect. Instead of pressing the attack, he nodded at Brown and saluted.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 116, May 22

A friend sent this story to me in an email about a young American pilot during World War II.  I was so impressed by it that I felt it worth repeating here.

The 21-year old American B-17 pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze. He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage.

But his co-pilot stared at the same horrible vision. "My God, this is a nightmare," the co-pilot said. "He's going to destroy us," the pilot agreed.

The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip. It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.

Watch this video

Franz Stigler wondered for years what                                                            happened to                                                            the American                                                            pilot he                                                            encountered in                                                            combat.
Luftwaffe Major Franz Stigler

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day 115, May 21

A second group of Scouts and Raiders, code-named Special Service Unit No. 1, was established on 7 July 1943, as a joint and combined operations force. The first mission, in September 1943, was at Finschafen on New Guinea. Later operations were at Gasmata, Arawe, Cape Gloucester, and the East and South coast of New Britain, all without any loss of personnel. Conflicts arose over operational matters, and all non-Navy personnel were reassigned. The unit, renamed 7th Amphibious Scouts, received a new mission, to go ashore with the assault boats, buoy channels, erect markers for the incoming craft, handle casualties, take offshore soundings, clear beach obstacles and maintain voice communications linking the troops ashore, incoming boats and nearby ships.

The 7th Amphibious Scouts conducted operations in the Pacific for the duration of the conflict, participating in more than 40 landings.
The third Scout and Raiders organization operated in China. Scouts and Raiders were deployed to fight with the Sino-American Cooperative Organization, or SACO.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 114, May 20

To help bolster the work of SACO, Admiral Ernest J. King ordered that 120 officers and 900 men be trained for "Amphibious Raider" at the Scout and Raider school at Fort Pierce, Florida. They formed the core of what was envisioned as a "guerrilla amphibious organization of Americans and Chinese operating from coastal waters, lakes and rivers employing small steamboats and sampans."

While most Amphibious Raider forces remained at Camp Knox in Calcutta, three of the groups saw active service. They conducted a survey of the upper Yangtze River in the spring of 1945 and, disguised as coolies, conducted a detailed three-month survey of the Chinese coast from Shanghai to Kitchioh Wan, near Hong Kong.

The SEALs quickly gained a reputation of being unstoppable and were both feared and respected by the enemy.  Today's SEALs continue to operate at the highest levels of professionalism.  Their courage in taking down Osama Bin Laden and other feats in the Middle East  is unparalleled.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day 113, May 19

Magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Life printed stories about victory gardens, and women's magazines gave instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce.

 Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercial canned goods for the troops. In 1943, families bought 315,000 pressure cookers, compared to 66,000 in 1942. The government and businesses urged people to make gardening a family and community effort.

The result of victory gardening? The US Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables. So, the program made a difference.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day 112, May 18

While folks at home did everything they could to support the armed forces, the military realized that they needed to fight this war in new and innovative ways.

The modern-day U.S. Navy SEALs can trace their roots to World War II. The United States Navy recognized the need for the covert reconnaissance of landing beaches and coastal defenses. As a result, the Amphibious Scout and Raider School was established in 1942 at Fort Pierce, Florida.  The Scouts and Raiders were formed in September of that year, just nine months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, from the Observer Group, a joint Army-Marine-Navy unit.

The first group included Phil H. Buckley, the "Father of Naval Special Warfare," after whom the Naval Special Warfare Center building is named. Commissioned in October 1942, this group saw combat in November 1942 during Operation Torch on the North African coast. Scouts and Raiders also supported landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and southern France

The acronym SEAL comes from the words sea, air, and land, paying tribute to the SEAL's ability to operate in any environment and get the job done. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 111, May 17

It was fashionable for individuals and families to do without during the War years.  I remember my mother saying that stockings were difficult, if not impossible, to come by.  Women took to drawing "seams" up the backs of their legs with an eyebrow pencil to simulate the seams of silk stockings.

With rationing of everything from meat to gasoline, making do was a way of life.  There was little complaining about the sacrifices as everyone realized that they were fighting an enemy so powerful and so wicked that the prospect of defeat was too devastating to consider.

Women entered the workforce in a big way, with "Rosie the Riveter" a role model for women wanting to do their part.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 110, May 16

As part of the war effort, the government rationed foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods. Labor and transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market. So, the government turned to its citizens and encouraged them to plant "Victory Gardens." They wanted individuals to provide their own fruits and vegetables.

Nearly 20 million Americans answered the call. They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops. Neighbors pooled their resources, planted different kinds of foods and formed cooperatives, all in the name of patriotism.
Farm families, of course, had been planting gardens and preserving produce for generations. Now, their urban cousins got into the act. All in the name of patriotism.

Victory Garden poster

When World War II ended, so did the government promotion of victory gardens. Many people did not plant a garden in the spring of 1946.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day 109, May 15

The Great Depression broke some people, forged others, and left its mark not only on the United States but upon the entire world.  It might have continued on indefinitely, but something happened to force America and other nations to deal with a greater threat.

Hitler had slowly but surely been marshalling his forces, moving in on nations such as Poland and others.  Even in the early 1930s, far-seeing individuals understood Hitler's agenda and warned against him.  The world paid no attention.  Even when France and England were attacked, American allies, the United States stood back.  On the other side of the world, Japan was committing attrocities against neighboring nations.

Only when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December of 1941 did America declare war on Japan.  At that point, Hitler retaliated and declared war on America.  The United States was officially at war.  Factories now operated at full capacity, producing the materials needed to fight the battle of America's life.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 108, May 14

Poor agricultural practices and years of sustained drought caused the Dust Bowl. Plains grasslands had been deeply plowed and planted to wheat. During the years when there was adequate rainfall, the land produced bountiful crops.

But as the droughts of the early 1930s worsened, the farmers kept plowing and planting and nothing would grow. The ground cover that held the soil in place was gone. The Plains' winds whipped across the fields raising billowing clouds of dust to the skys.

The sky could darken for days, and even the most well sealed homes would have a thick layer of dust on furniture. In some places the dust would drift like snow, covering farmsteads.  Aside from economic depression, psychological depression was common as farmers struggled to keep farms which had been in the family for years going and saw them and their dreams literally blown away.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Day 107, May 13

Compounding the problems brought on by the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s lasted approximately a decade. Its primary area of impact was on the southern Plains. The northern Plains were not so badly affected, but nonetheless, the drought, windblown dust and agricultural decline were no strangers to the north. In fact the agricultural devastation helped to lengthen the Depression whose effects were felt worldwide. The movement of people on the Plains was also profound.

As John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath: "And then the dispossessed were drawn west- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless - restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do - to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut - anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kidsdust3.gif (44737 bytes) are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land."

Poor agricultural practices and years of sustained drought caused the Dust Bowl. Plains grasslands had been deeply plowed and planted to wheat. During the years when there was adequate rainfall, the land produced bountiful crops. But as the droughts of the early 1930s deepened, the farmers kept plowing and planting and nothing would grow. The ground cover that held the soil in place was gone. The Plains winds whipped across the fields raising billowing clouds of dust to the skys. The skys could darken for days, and even the most well sealed homes could have a thick layer of dust on furniture. In some places the dust would drift like snow, covering farmsteads.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 106, May 12

African Americans suffered more than whites, since their jobs were often taken away from them and given to whites. In 1930, 50 percent of blacks were unemployed. However, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the president, championed black rights, and New Deal programs prohibited discrimination.

Discrimination continued in the South, however, and, as a result, a large number of black voters switched from the Republican to the Democrat party

The Great Depression and the New Deal changed forever the relationship between Americans and their government. Government involvement and responsibility in caring for the needy and regulating the economy came to be expected.  Unfortunately, government intervention backfired and set up America for a system that was destined to fail.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Day 105, May 11

Expected to provide for their families, men had a difficult time psychologically, viewing it as  humiliating to have to ask for assistance. Although some argued that women should not be given jobs when many men were unemployed, the percentage of women working increased slightly during the Depression.

Traditionally  female fields of teaching and social services grew under New Deal programs. Children took on more responsibilities, sometimes finding work when their parents could not. As a result of living through the Depression, some people developed habits of careful saving and frugality, others determined to create a comfortable life for themselves. 

Parents of baby boomers, children at this time, learned lessons of hard work and self-reliance that stood them in good stead for decades to come. They abhorred waste and avoided debt at all costs, valuable lessons which they tried to teach to their children and grandchildren.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 104, May 10

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the rich governor from New York, offered Americans a New Deal, and was elected in a landslide victory in 1932. He took quick action to attack the Depression, declaring a four-day bank holiday, during which Congress passed the Emergency Banking Relief Act to stabilize the banking system. During the first 100 days of his administration, Roosevelt laid the groundwork for his New Deal remedies that would rescue the country from the depths of despair.

The New Deal programs created a liberal political alliance of labor unions, blacks and other minorities, some farmers and others receiving government relief, and intellectuals. The hardship brought on by the Depression affected Americans deeply.

Since the prevailing attitude of the 1920s was that success was earned, it followed that failure was deserved. The unemployment brought on by the Depression caused self-blame and self-doubt.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day 103, May 9

President Herbert Hoover, who failed to follow the policies put in place by Coolidge, underestimated the seriousness of the crisis, called it “a passing incident in our national lives,” and assured Americans that it would be over in 60 days. A strong believer in rugged individualism, Hoover did not think the federal government should offer relief to the poverty-stricken population

Focusing on a trickle-down economic program to help finance businesses and banks, Hoover met with resistance from business executives who preferred to lay off workers. Blamed by many for the Great Depression, Hoover was widely ridiculed: an empty pocket turned inside out was called a “Hoover flag;” the decrepit shantytowns springing up around the country were called “Hoovervilles.”

Hoover lasted only one term.  Fairly or unfairly, he took the brunt of the blame for the Great Depression.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day 102, May 8

We're doing another bit of time traveling, going back to the Roaring Twenties this time.  During the economic boom of the Roaring Twenties, the traditional values of rural America were challenged by the Jazz Age, symbolized by women smoking, drinking, and wearing short skirts.  With more and more people leaving family farms to work in cities, families took a hit, along with the agriculture society that had been the backbone of America from its inception.

The average American was busy buying automobiles and household appliances, and speculating in the stock market, where big money could be made. Those appliances were bought on credit, however. Although businesses had made huge gains — 65 percent — from the mechanization of manufacturing, the average worker’s wages had only increased eight percent.  (Once again, does this sound familiar?)

The imbalance between the rich and the poor, with 0.1 percent of society earning the same total income as 42 percent, combined with production of more and more goods and rising personal debt, could not be sustained. On Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed, triggering the Great Depression, the worst economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world. It spread from the United States to the rest of the world, lasting from the end of 1929 until the early 1940s. With banks failing and businesses closing, more than 15 million Americans (one-quarter of the workforce) became unemployed.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day 101, May 7

As a Buffalo Soldier, Sergeant Henry Parker, and the U.S. army were a part of the Plains Indian's nightmare. As an American soldier, he served his country under the worst of conditions, showing the courage and bravery that has been the tradition of all fighting men, no matter their cause, no matter their sacrifice.

 It should be noted that Regimental returns show that the Buffalo Soldiers were not involved in Indian massacres, though they were camped near the sites of two incidents and assisted those who survived. The Buffalo Soldiers did not mistreat the Indians and were not responsible for their removal from reservations.

After escaping from his slavemaster in Apton Valley, Kentucky, Parker joined the 101st Regiment United States Colored Infantry, at 18 years of age. He served three years as a private in the Civil War. Parker saw action at White's Ranch, Boyd's Station and Stevenson's Gap, and at Scottsborough and Larkinsville, Alabama.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 100, May 6

The Buffalo Soldier Tragedy, also known as the "Staked Plains Horror,"  occurred when a combined force of Buffalo Soldier troops of the 10th Cavalry and local buffalo hunters wandered for days in the dry Llano Estacado region of northwest Texas and eastern New Mexico during July of a drought year.

The groups had united forces for a retaliatory attack on regional Indian tribes who had been staging raids on white forces in the area, during what came to be called the Buffalo Hunters' War.  Over the course of five days in the near-waterless Llano Estacado, four soldiers and one buffalo hunter died.

Due to the telegraph, news of the ongoing event and speculation reached Eastern newspapers where it was erroneously reported that the expedition had been massacred. Later, after the remainder of the group returned from the llano, the same papers declared them "back from the dead."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Day 99, May 5

Sources disagree on how the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" began. According to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, the name originated with the Cheyenne warriors in the winter of 1877, the actual Cheyenne translation being "Wild Buffalo." However, writer Walter Hill documented the account of Colonel Benjamin Grierson who founded the 10th Cavalry regiment, recalling an 1871 campaign against Comanches. 

Hill attributed the origin of the name to the Comanche due to Grierson's assertions. Some sources assert that the nickname was given out of respect for the fierce fighting ability of the 10th Cavalry.   Other sources assert that Native Americans called the black cavalry troops "buffalo soldiers" because of their dark curly hair, which resembled a buffalo's coat. 

Still other sources point to a combination of both legends.  The term Buffalo Soldiers became a generic term for all Negro soldiers. It is now used for U.S. Army units that trace their direct lineage back to the 9th and 10th Cavalry units whose service earned them an honored place in U.S. history.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Day 98, May 4

Learning about Freddie Stowers made me want to know more about the Buffalo Soldiers and their place in our country's history.  Formed on September 21, 1866, Buffalo Soldiers originally were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the "Negro Cavalry" by the Indian tribes they fought.  The term eventually became synonymous with all of the Negro regiments formed in 1866:  (Notice here that I have not used the politically correct terms for African Americans or Native Americans.  Such terms did not exist in the 19th century, and it seems foolish to pretend they did.)
  • 9th Cavalry Regiment
  • 10th Cavalry Regiment
  • 24th Infantry Regiment
  • 25th Infantry Regiment
Although several Negro regiments were raised during the Civil War to fight alongside the Union Army (including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the many United States Colored Troop Regiments), the "Buffalo Soldiers" were established by Congress as the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U.S. Army. On September 6, 2005, Mark Matthews, who was the oldest living Buffalo Soldier, died at the age of 111. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery
National Park Service, CRGIS Buffalo Soldiers Mapping Project.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Day 97, May 3

I found this description of the Medal of Honor presented to Freddie Stowers' sisters, more than seven decades following his death.  I thought it significant enough to quote it verbatim.

Corporal Stowers, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism on September 28, 1918 while serving as a squad leader in Company C, 371st Infantry Regiment, 93d Division. His company was the lead company during the attack on Hill 188, Champagne Marne Sector, France, during World War I. A few minutes after the attack began, the enemy ceased firing and began climbing up onto the parapets of the trenches, holding up their arms as if wishing to surrender. The enemy's actions caused the American forces to cease fire and to come out into the open. As the company started forward and when within about 100 meters of the trench line, the enemy jumped back into their trenches and greeted Corporal Stowers' company with interlocking bands of machine gun fire and mortar fire causing well over fifty percent casualties. Faced with incredible enemy resistance, Corporal Stowers took charge, setting such a courageous example of personal bravery and leadership that he inspired his men to follow him in the attack. With extraordinary heroism and complete disregard of personal danger under devastating fire, he crawled forward leading his squad toward an enemy machine gun nest, which was causing heavy casualties to his company. After fierce fighting, the machine gun position was destroyed and the enemy soldiers were killed. Displaying great courage and intrepidity Corporal Stowers continued to press the attack against a determined enemy. While crawling forward and urging his men to continue the attack on a second trench line, he was gravely wounded by machine gun fire. Although Corporal Stowers was mortally wounded, he pressed forward, urging on the members of his squad, until he died. Inspired by the heroism and display of bravery of Corporal Stowers, his company continued the attack against incredible odds, contributing to the capture of Hill 188 and causing heavy enemy casualties. Corporal Stowers' conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and supreme devotion to his men were well above and beyond the call of duty, follow the finest traditions of military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day 96, May 2

Shortly after his death, Stowers was recommended for the Medal of Honor; however, this recommendation was never processed. Three other black soldiers were recommended for Medals of Honor, but were instead awarded the next highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. T

This decision may have partly been motivated by racism; however, the criteria for the Medal of Honor were becoming stricter during this time period, partly due to a perception that it was being awarded too frequently.   Many possibly deserving whites and persons of color were denied medals, while some possibly less deserving people received them.

 In Stowers' case, the official position is that his recommendation was "misplaced," which is plausible given that the other three MOH recommendations for black soldiers were at least processed.

In 1990, at the instigation of Congress, the Department of the Army conducted a review and the Stowers recommendation was uncovered. Subsequently, a team was dispatched to France to investigate the circumstances of Stowers' death. Based on information collected by this team, the Army Decorations Board approved the award of the Medal of Honor. On April 24, 1991 — seventy-three years after he was killed-in-action, Stowers' surviving sisters, Georgina and Mary, received the medal from President George H.W. Bush at the White House.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Day 95, May 1

Early on the morning of September 28, 1918, Stowers' company was ordered to assault Côte 188, a tall, heavily defended hill overlooking a farm near Ardeui, France. At first, the German defenders offered stiff resistance, bombarding the Americans with mortars, raking them with machine guns and keeping up steady rifle fire.

The advance was not halted, however; with the Americans steadily gaining ground, and the Germans communicated their surrender with verbal and hand signals. This  proved to be a ruse, and as Company C drew near the German trenches, the machine guns opened up again. Within minutes, the company's strength was reduced by half. The lieutenant commanding Stowers' platoon went down, followed by the more senior noncommissioned officers. Corporal Stowers, trained to lead a section of a rifle squad, was now in command of a battered and demoralized platoon.

Stowers began crawling toward a German machine gun nest and shouted for his men to follow. The platoon successfully reached the first German trench line and reduced the machine guns by enfilade fire. Stowers then reorganized his force and led a charge against the second German line of trenches. During this assault, Stowers was struck by an enemy machine gun, but kept going until he was struck a second time.

He collapsed from loss of blood, but ordered his men not to be discouraged and to keep going and take out the German guns. Inspired by Stowers' courage, the men forged ahead and successfully drove the Germans from the hill and into the plain below. Stowers, meanwhile, succumbed to his wounds on Côte 188. He is buried, along with 133 of his comrades, at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial east of the village of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon.