Please take a moment to pause, and lest we forget, Memorial Day is all about the members of the armed forces who gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us to be free. It is not about enjoying the long weekend going to the beach or having a BBQ in your backyard.
It is about those Americans in military uniforms who served and never came back.
655,000 Americans killed in the Civil War. (est. Union & Confederate)
116,516 Americans killed in WWI.
405,399 Americans killed in WWII.
Source: Wikipedia – U.S. Military Casualties of War
Here is one way you can participate in this year’s celebration of Memorial Day. CBS News “On the Road” correspondent Steve Hartman and retired Air Force bugler, Jari Villanueva, are again inviting musicians of all abilities and ages to sound Taps on their front lawns, porches, and driveways at 3 p.m. local time on Monday, May 31, for Taps Across America.
Taps is the somber 24-note bugle call played at American military funerals and ceremonies. Hartman and Villanueva hope that the nationwide event, now in its second year, will offer an opportunity to pause for a moment to pay tribute to fallen service members. Traditionally, when people hear Taps, they respond by standing, facing the music and placing their hands over their hearts.
Last year’s Taps Across America project drew tens of thousands of participants across the world. Anyone who can sound Taps can participate.
Here is the sheet music:
Dust off your trumpet or bugle to sound the call this Memorial Day. Join the thousands who will play Taps tomorrow.
Here’s what CBS want you to know.
CBS plans to show some of the videos on the CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell. Take a video of your performance. You can use any phone with a video camera and hold the phone horizontally. If neighbors or friends come to listen, get a shot of them too! Then send the video from your computer or phone via this link. Make sure to click “show metadata” after uploading your video to share information about your performance with us. If the player is under 18, CBS ask that you instead upload your video to social media with the hashtag #CBSTaps. CBS will be browsing public posts with that hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.
Let’s all thank the armed forces’ men and women for their service, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their families and our country.
If you know someone who served and died for our country, you may share their name and the war they served in the comment below to educate the public of what FREEDOM and MEMORIAL DAY are all about.
Most WWII books are written about the European Theatre, but few are written about the war that took place in the South Pacific. With most attention given to the European Theater, it is great to see books written about the forgotten men not only fighting the Japanese aggression in the Pacific but also constant typhoons, inhospitable terrain, heat, diseases from the jungle, malaria-causing mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, unfriendly tribes and not enough men, food, supplies, and equipment. Overshadowed by the heroics of the 8th Air Force fighting in Europe, the men of the 5th Air Force had to make do with what little aircraft and spares were eked out to them to stop the Japanese quest to control southeast Asia and the Pacific.
I’m always on the lookout for WWII books about the Pacific Theater. Lucky 666 by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin is the true story of one of the most important air reconnaissance missions of World War II. The book started slow by talking about the crew’s childhood and their lives. This backstory helps to figure out why they made the choices they did. From childhood, Capt. Jay Zeamer and his bombardier, Joe Sarnoski, looked up at the sky and dreamed of flying and commanding some of the most advanced planes of their time.
Zeamer was always a rebel and a maverick and wanted to do things his way. When confronted with any challenge in his life, from elementary school through his time in the USAAF, Jay Zeamer found a way around it with ingenuity, knowledge, and unstinting effort. He was always willing to take on any job or mission that others avoided if he could do it his way.
The book also chronicles in large part the initial U.S./Allied air campaign and military strategy, the generals, aircrews, and other battles against Japan in the South Pacific. It helps set up the background of the long march of island hopping to start the defeat of Japan’s aggression.
Lucky 666 is about pilot Capt. Jay Zeamer judged to be a misfit by his superiors and bombardier Sergeant Joseph Raymond Sarnoski and their crew of misfits of the 43rd Bomber Group of the Army Air Force. They were denied their own plane but wanted to fly, so they rebuilt a dilapidated B-17 bomber from spare parts in the base junkyard. Its tail identification numbers end in 666, so they named it Old 666 and transformed it into a true Flying Fortress equipped with the best guns to survive a dangerous reconnaissance mission.
In 1942, the Japanese war machine had rolled up nearly all of the Pacific Theater, and the American forces were clinging to what little unconquered territory remained. Following the capture of Guadalcanal, Americans prepared to invade Bouganville, but very little was known about this island’s defenses, so U.S. forces planned a reconnaissance mission.
Toward the end of May 1943, Jay Zeamer found out that the 43rd headquarters needed volunteers to do the most dangerous reconnaissance mission, photo mapping over Bougainville Island. Nobody wanted the mission but Zeamer sensed an opportunity. Zeamer explained the situation to his “Eager Beavers” who all agreed to do it. On June 16, 1943, Zeamer and Sarnoski and their crew, against overwhelming odds, went on an incredible 1200-mile solo suicide mission and brought back films of hidden reefs off Buka and enemy defenses in Bougainville Island. Their successful mission laid the groundwork for the next offensive and changed the momentum of the War in the Pacific. Their sacrifice and bravery saved the lives of many Marines who would safely pass those reefs and eventually capture those islands critical to victory.
The narration of the flight comes near the end of the book. It is a gripping account of the longest continuous dogfight in the annals of the U. S. Army Air Force history lasting about 40 minutes, with one B-17 against as many as 30 Japanese fighter planes. Luckily, Old 666 was the most heavily armed B-17 bomber of the war. They made a crash landing back with crippling damage to the aircraft and wounded crew members, and one dead – Sarnoski, who was supposed to go back to Washington in the last week of June but decided to go on one more mission with the crew before heading back home. The plane received 187 bullet holes and five cannon holes, but it still landed. The film was developed, and the photos were invaluable to Adm. Halsey and his invasion planners.
The mission won pilot Jay Zeamer and bombardier Joe Sarnoski who died on the mission, our country’s highest honor – Medal of Honor. It is the most highly decorated bomber crew in the history of U.S. military service. The mission resulted in every crew member earning the Silver Stars, Distinguished Service Crosses, Purple Hearts, and two Medal of Honor. The single bomber shot down several enemy fighters. According to the Far East Air Chief at the time, General George Kenney, “Jay Zeamer and his crew performed a mission that still stands out in my mind as an epic of courage unequaled in the annals of air warfare.”
Lucky 666 is an inspiring WWII story of bravery, duty, and heroism. It is also a tale of leadership, friendship, and sacrifice set against the horrific backdrop of dangerous aerial warfare, wounded crewmates, and a pulse-pounding emergency landing in the jungles of New Guinea. It’s a shame that the suffering, devotion, and sacrifice made by the men in the Pacific is not widely known.
I close with this quote from Jay Seamer: “You can always find a way to do anything you want if you are dead set on doing it, come hell or high ack-ack.”
On September 11, 2001, an evil force struck the heart of New Yorkers and all mankind for that matter. There isn’t an American who is not affected by it. Everyone who died in that tragedy left someone behind who loved them.
Show respect for police officers and firefighters.
I posted this blog at Subliblog.com but unfortunately the reblog button refused to work. So here it is:
Alligators Charge toward the Foe on Leyte. Official U.S. Coast Guard photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Seventy-five years ago today, MacArthur fulfilled his pledge and returned to the Philippines. Even with reports of weak resistance and the expedited time schedule, the Leyte invasion promised to be the largest and most complicated … More October 20, 1944 – Invasion of Leyte
One hundred years ago this month, WWI ended with an armistice on November 11, 1918. The ‘war to end all wars’ was over. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, America swore “Never Again!”
WWI shattered empires, monarchies, kingdoms and, more importantly, countless innocent men, women and children. Its greatest legacy was creating fertile ground for the rise of two of the most evil men in the history of the world – The German and the Japanese.
I did not know much about WWI except the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary which started it. I always wanted to read about WWI since we have so many WWI books at home. I finally started “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuckman. It’s a good start. But then again, I have other interesting subjects I want to read. It’s always the case of “too many books, too little time”.
When I asked my husband where his father, Lt. Robert Morgan, fought in WWI, he said Meuse Argonne. He was with the 77th Division, Machine Gun Unit. He survived the war.
Where is Meuse Argonne? I have never heard of the place. The only thing I heard often was the battle at the Somme. But then tonight, I just caught the end of the movie “Sgt York” on TCM and it mentioned Meuse Argonne.
Well, here is what I found out about Meuse Argonne.
The Meuse Argonne region was located in a very hilly area in the Alsace-Lorraine region that was heavily fortified by the Germans. If the Germans broke through this area they could easily take Paris. Likewise, if the American and French forces could push the Germans out of this area they could deeply influence a surrender.
This battlefield was a very large, highly fortified area full of towns, hills, trenches, roads, and railroads. The only way to take it would be to get out of the trenches and go on the offensive. Hence the name, Meuse Argonne Offensive.
There were 5 important “heights” that needed to be taken in order to control this region. They were: Montfaucon, Romagne Heights, Heights of the Meuse, Argonne Forest, and Barricourt Heights.
General Pushing hoped to capture this area in about 6-7 days. It would really take 6 weeks!
Meuse Argonne Offensive also known as Battles of the Meuse Argonne was the deadliest battle in American history involving 1.2 million American soldiers. It was fought from September 26, 1918 until the Armistice of November 11, 1918, a total of 47 days. The battle cost 28,000 German lives, 26,277 American lives and an unknown number of French lives.
Here is the timeline of The Great War:
6-28-1914 – Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated.
8-01-1914 – Germany declares war on Russia.
4-06-1917 – The U.S. declares war on Germany after the sinking of three U.S. merchant ships by German U-boats.
6-26-1917 – American troops begin landing in France.
11-11-1918 – Germany accepts the armistice terms demanded by the Allies, ending the war.
6-28-1919 – The Treaty of Versailles is signed at the Palace of Versailles, France.
By the numbers:
70 million – the number of men mobilized by warring countries in WWI. Almost half were killed or injured during the four-year conflict.
France – 1.4 million dead, 4.2 million injured.
Germany – 1.8 million dead, 4.2 million injured.
Austria-Hungary – 1.4 million dead, 3.6 million injured.
Russia – 1.8 million dead, five million injured.
Britain and British Empire – 900,000 dead, two million injured.
Italy – 600,000 dead, one million injured.
United States – 116,500 dead, 204,000 injured.
Ottoman Empire – 800,000 dead.
10 million refugees
3 million war widows
6 million orphans
In addition, millions of civilians died in massacres and another 20-30 million perished in an influenza epidemic called “Spanish Flu” that broke out at the end of the war among populations weakened by years of deprivation.
Click the link below to see the end of the war or start from the beginning to see the whole battle experience of Meuse Argonne Offensive.
This is my husband’s recollection of the 1944 hurricane that hit Long Island.
I was 17 at that time and just enlisted with the U.S. Navy in New York. Having enough time left for the day, (it was only 2:30 pm) I decided to see my friend, Harry Knapp who had an apartment on the East Side in the city. I thought I’d catch the 6 PM train to East Islip which I did. However, the hurricane of ’44 was already on its powerful trek going up north. As the train chugged along, the passengers were wondering why the train was going too slow. We were told we were going through a hurricane. The train did not make it to Babylon till midnight. Usually it only took an hour.
At Babylon, I got on a taxi but when I told the driver to take me to East Islip, he said no way he was leaving Babylon. The road was too hazardous. So I waited for another train. At 1 am, a train came in doing shuttle from Babylon to Patchogue. I hopped on the train and made my way to East Islip. I got to East Islip from Babylon at 2 am. When I got off the train, the place was pitch black, I could not see my hand in front of my face. That’s how dark it was. There was no car or taxi to take me home which was about a mile and a half from the train station. Having no alternative, I decided to walk. Luckily I knew the way by heart.
The train station in East Islip was north of Montauk Highway. So I crossed the highway to Suffolk Lane. Half way on Suffolk Lane, I felt something grabbed my arm which scared me to death. I then found out it was a broken limb just hit my arm. I proceeded down the road. A few feet away, I hit another tree branches. I found my way around it and jumped over it and kept on walking. It happened three times. I stayed in the middle of the road. I felt I was safe in the middle of the road instead of the sidewalk.
I finally reached home on Meadow Farm Rd. The door was unlocked so I walked in. My parents never locked the front door. My father said it kept their friends away. I went up to my room which I shared with my brother. I was surprised to find him home. Bobby was apparently on leave from the U.S. Army. He told me to go see Mom. He said Mom thought I might be already on my way to Tokyo Bay.
I went to my parent’s bedroom and knocked on their door.
I said, “Mom, I’m home.”
Mom asked, “Are you OK?”
I said, “Yes.”
She said, “Go to bed.”
Few weeks later, I was called to report for active duty.
The 1944 Great Atlantic hurricane was a destructive and powerful tropical cyclone that impacted the entire United States Atlantic seaboard in September 1944. Impacts were most significant in New England, though significant effects were also felt along the Outer Banks, Mid-Atlantic states and the Canadian Maritimes. Due to its ferocity and path, the storm drew comparisons to the 1938 Long Island Express, known as one of the worst storms in New England history.
The origins of the 1944 hurricane was first identified well east of the Lesser Antilles on September 4. Over the next few days, the disturbance slowly traversed west-northwestward without producing any significant weather. On Sept. 8, the barometric depression became more well-defined, prompting the Weather Bureau in San Juan, Puerto Rico to issue advisories on the tropical disturbance. As a result of the sparseness of available surface observations east of the Lesser Antilles, a reconnaissance flight was dispatched to investigate the storm late on September 9. The flight reported that the disturbance had fully developed into a fully-fledged hurricane northeast of Puerto Rico.
As the storm moved west-northwest, it steadily intensified and reached peak intensity as a Category 4-equivalent hurricane on September 13 north of the Bahamas after curving northward and was named “Great Atlantic Hurricane” by the Weather Bureau in Miami, Florida to better convey the life-threatening risks associated with the powerful hurricane. After taking a northward turn on September 14, the center of the storm passed just east of Cape Hatteras, NC around 9:00AM. The hurricane then turned slightly to the northeast and accelerated to a forward speed of about 40 mph.
At 10:00 PM on 14 September, the hurricane passed over eastern Long Island, NY as a Category 3 hurricane. On September 15, the hurricane made landfall near Southampton in eastern Long Island with winds of 105 mph. The storm then crossed the island and Long Island Sound before making a second landfall two hours later near Point Judith, Rhode Island as a slightly weaker storm with winds of 100 mph. After crossing Rhode Island, it moved northeastward, passing just southeast of Boston, MA and out to sea. After weakening into a tropical storm, the system skimmed coastal Maine and moved into New Brunswick, Canada. Late on September 15, the system became extratropical, and shortly after, merged with a larger system southeast of Greenland on September 16.
As the storm moved northward along the eastern Atlantic seaboard, from North Carolina up to Newfoundland, it caused widespread damage. The hurricane cost over $100 million (1944 USD, $1.2 Billion 2010 USD) in damage and killed 390 people. Mainland evacuations and careful warnings, however, allowed the death toll on land to be fairly low: 46 persons.
The storm wreaked havoc on World War II shipping lines. The storm was also responsible for sinking the Navy destroyer USS Warrington approximately 450 miles east of Vero Beach, Florida, with a loss of 248 sailors. The hurricane was one of the most powerful to traverse the Eastern Seaboard, reaching Category 4 when it encountered Warrington, and producing hurricane force winds over a diameter of 600 miles. The hurricane also produced waves in excess of 70 feet in height. In addition to Warrington, the Coast Guard cutters CGC Bedloe (WSC-128) and CGC Jackson (WSC-142) both capsized and sank off Cape Hatteras (48 lives lost). The hurricane also claimed the 136-foot minesweeper USS YMS-409 which sank with all 33 on board lost. Further north, it also claimed the lightship Vineyard Sound (LV-73), which was sunk with the loss of all 12 aboard. It also drove SS Thomas Tracy aground in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
At the Carolina coast, the hurricane’s storm surge pushed 50 ft inland along unprotected coastline, destroying hundreds of boats, damaging boardwalks, and depositing debris along the Carolina beaches. Coastal farmland was inundated, with damage to corn and other crops initially estimated at “thousands of dollars.”
The hurricane was infamous for the amount of damage it caused along the New Jersey coastline. Long Beach Island and Barnegat Island both lost their causeways to the mainland in the storm effectively cutting them off from the rest of New Jersey. Additionally both islands lost hundreds of homes, where many homes in the town were swept out to sea. In Atlantic City, the hurricane’s storm surge forced water into the lobbies of many of the resorts famous hotels. The Atlantic City boardwalk suffered major damage.
During the storm, New York City saw sustained hurricane force winds of 81 mph with gusts up to 99 mph. Damages consisted of power outages, some lasting 10 days, and downed trees throughout the city. In nearby Long Island, damages totaled $1 million (1944 USD) on the eastern half of the island alone. The beach eroded up to 20 ft. in some places, causing houses to be taken by the sea. Tobacco and fruit damage in Connecticut totaled to about $2 million (1944 USD) with similar overall damage costs occurring in Rhode Island. More than $5 million (1944 USD) in damage which occurred on Cape Cod can be attributed to lost boats, as well as fallen trees and utility damage.
The Great Atlantic hurricane affected New England just six years after the region was ravaged by the infamous 1938 New England hurricane. While both storms greatly impacted New England, the 1944 hurricane was of weaker intensity at landfall, and hit the coast from a direction that produced a very low storm surge. Overall the Great Atlantic hurricane was estimated to have done one-third the damage of the 1938 hurricane.
Hopefully, Florence which is now Category 4 will spare Charleston. In the meantime, we are busy preparing for the worst and hope for the best. We’ll be boarding the first and second floor windows tomorrow. We are not boarding the third floor windows since they are much too high for flying debris.
This is the continuation of the article that appeared on Pacific Paratrooper’s blog about my parent’s escape from the Japanese when the American soldiers landed in Batangas in 1945. If you have not read it yet, I advise you to go to Pacific Paratrooper’s blog first before you continue reading this article. Thanks.
My father was uncomfortable staying in Alitagtag because where they were hiding was not that far from the main road. It was only a mile away even though it was wooded and close to a ditch. Dad decided to take a chance and leave Alitagtag. After dark, they joined another group and moved to another location south of the main road somewhere near Bauan where my mom’s family lived. Some of the townspeople were moving to farms farther south away from the main road.
They decided to leave after dark. Dad made a papoose bag and carried me in it. Mom grabbed some clothes for us and a scarf to cover her head. They thought it would be safer where they were going because the Japanese camp was so close to Alitagtag and the Japanese might advance to Alitagtag and meet the Americans head on. Dad’s two younger brothers joined them. They left under the cover of darkness.
As they passed the main road, they looked all around them to see if there was anyone in sight. Nobody was around. They safely crossed the main road, went quietly through people’s yards and began their trek. It was total darkness and not a sound could be heard except their footsteps. As they reached the farm beyond the houses, there was a faint glow from the moon above. They walked at a very fast pace. Dad was leading the group as they followed a trail he knew. They headed south passing through farmland. They reached a small rise then turned east towards the place where two big mango trees, a local landmark, were and turned south again. Every so often, they would stop and listened for strange sounds. When they thought it was not a Japanese patrol, they kept their steady pace. The quiet of the field was only broken by sounds from the night owl and bats roaming the night. They kept on looking back but could not see a thing.
They veered left through another path which would take them to Bauan. This time, the moon disappeared behind the cloud. Everything around them went pitch black. They slowed down their trek, trying to listen to any noise or movement. They had to be alert to any possible danger. They found a clearing and rested for a while. They might have dozed for an hour. Then they saw the moon begin peeking through the clouds again. They decided to move on. They kept on walking that seemed like forever. They reached Bauan as the dawn was coming up.
They went straight to their Ninong sa Kasal’s (wedding sponsor) house near Bauan town market. The town was still quiet. Not a soul was up yet. They knocked at the door. The mayordomo opened the door. Dad asked if his godfather was home but was told he left with his family for Mindoro where it’s safe.
“I’m not sure it’s safe anywhere anymore. The Japanese are killing civilians now, not just soldiers and guerillas. Are you staying here?” Dad asked. The old man told Dad they were leaving town soon and would go into hiding.
“I think you should leave now and go to some remote barrio where the Japanese do not venture at all,” Dad told the mayordomo.
Dad decided to move on and find my mother’s family. They went to Asis, a small barrio between Alitagtag and Bauan far from the main road where my maternal grandmother and uncles were hiding. My maternal grandfather died when Mom was five years old.
They were only at Asis a few days when they noticed a black cloud coming from the west. From where they stood, they could not see the flame but it was definitely a big fire. They saw black smoke shooting up to the sky coupled with bright light on the horizon. They had the suspicion that the Japanese started burning some areas. Dad was worried about his parents who were hiding in Alitagtag. He hoped the fire was not there. Mom thought of her aunt and her aunt’s family who were hiding near Taal at a sugar cane field.
Dad told Mom he had to go back to Alitagtag to make sure his parents were OK.
“What about your brothers?” She asked.
“They are staying with you and the baby. You’ll all be safe here. Take care of the baby in case I don’t come back.”
Dad walked back to Alitagtag. He followed the same path he did a few nights before. It took him all day. He could smell the smoke as he was getting closer to the main road in Alitagtag but it looked like it was coming from the northwest of where his parents were. The air was gray with smoke. He crossed the main road and it was empty. Nobody was around. Looking right and left, he ran across the street beyond the houses and into the fields. So far he had not encountered any Japanese soldier.
He reached the area where his parents were hiding. His parents were glad to see him. He found out everything was fine there except the Japanese started burning the villages from Muzon about two kilometers from where they were all the way to Taal in retaliation for their losses in Muzon.
Apparently, the Philippine guerillas in Batangas, a ferocious looking group of Batanguenos, ran into a group of Japanese soldiers a few days ago. A fierce skirmish with the Japanese soldiers ensued at the junction of Alitagtag and Muzon. The fight ended with some Japanese casualties. The Japanese thought the revolutionaries came from Taal so they set fire to all the houses from Muzon all the way to Taal.
As the fire started to spread out, people near Taal did not think it would reach them since it started too far from where they were. But as the fire spread through several villages, people who were still in their home started scrambling and ran for their lives. They went running to the sugar cane fields away from the main road. They joined some villagers who were already hiding there. But the Japanese made sure they burned the whole perimeter of all sugar cane fields including those which dotted the roadways to Taal so people had no way of escaping. They were trapped.
My grandfather told Dad to go back to Bauan and bring back his family to Alitagtag. So the next day, Dad was back on the dirt path going back to Asis to take his family back to Alitagtag. However, Mom insisted on staying for a few more weeks till everything calm down. They stayed for a couple of months until they got word that Alitagtag was now safe.
After large-scale enemy resistance in southern Luzon had collapsed, the Japanese in Batangas unleashed their brutal campaign of torture, rape and butchery against the Filipino civilians. Groups of men were rounded up and sent to a building and then the building was doused with kerosene and burned. Thousands of residents were massacred both in Lipa City and in Bauan. One of Mom’s relatives went to one of the so called “meetings” in Bauan where people were locked up in a schoolroom and then the building was doused with kerosene and set on fire. He died in that massacre.
Alitagtag was lucky to be spared the wrath of the Japanese because rumor was the Mayor was a Japanese sympathizer. Behind their back, he was also working for the Americans giving them intelligence report on where the Japanese were. There was a saying around that time, “Pilipino Tagu, Pilipino Turu” meaning Pilipino hides then Pilipino points in the other direction”. The mayor was playing both fields thereby gaining good graces from both parties.
Thanks for reading this article. My parents survived the war. Mom is still alive at 95. Dad passed away in 2007. The story was related to me by my father on their last visit to the United States before Dad died.
Reblogged from last year – Evolution of Veteran’s Day
Veteran’s Day evolved in the years following World War I, or “The Great War,” as it was known at the time. The Great War, a war to end all wars, ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918 when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of the war to end all wars. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday by an act of Congress.
World War I or “The Great War” officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, at the Palace of Versailles, France, when all warring powers executed a formal declaration of peace. Fighting, however, had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
The major players on the stage of history at this time were known as The Big Three: President Woodrow Wilson, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Great Britain and President Georges Clemenceau of France.Pfc. Henry Gunther will be remembered as the last soldier to die on Nov. 11, 1918 with one minute remaining before the armistice would end all conflict. This otherwise unknown man would charge a German machine gun encampment disregarding their attempts to wave him back, knowing that in a matter of seconds they could all leave their trenches and once again breathe the soft air of peace. Gunther fell after a short blast of fire joining the 116,000 of his fellow American comrades that died in that war.
The last surviving U.S. World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, age 109, died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2011. In December 2010, he appeared before Congress to plead for the approval of a memorial to honor those American soldiers who died in the Great War. He had enlisted at the age of 16, but his service to his country did not end there. He also served in World War II and was captured by the Japanese, enduring the infamous Bataan Death March. He survived three years in a Japanese prison camp, weighing only 85 pounds when he was finally liberated.
November 11 continued to be observed as Armistice Day until 1954 when, at the urging of the veterans’ organizations, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an act of Congress on June 1, 1954 formally changing the word “Armistice” to “Veterans” in order to expand the significance of that (Armistice Day) celebration and in order that a grateful nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this nation.
In 1968, Congress moved Veteran’s Day to the fourth Monday in November, but returned it to its traditional date in 1978 after heavy lobbying by veterans groups and concerned citizens, who believed that moving the observance to create a three-day holiday only served to take the focus off the historical significance of the day. The original concept for the commemoration was for a day observed with parades and public gatherings and a brief suspension of business at 11 a.m. At New York Stock Exchange, trading stopped at 11 am for a 2-minute silence. Unfortunately, we have gotten away from that original concept, and many people look upon November 11 as simply a day off from work to relax or take advantage of store sales and forget that the reason the day was set aside was to honor our nation’s veterans.
Throughout the history of our great nation, courageous men and women have served in the armed forces to secure, defend and maintain the freedoms upon which our nation was founded. They represent the finest in the American character who answered our country’s call during WWII, suffered through biting cold winters and scorching summers in Korea, endured booby-trapped jungles and steamy heat in Vietnam and are currently fighting in the unforgiving mountains in Afghanistan and the deserts in Iraq. They came from all walks of life, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Right now, members of our armed forces are putting their lives on the line in the war against terrorism, and hardly a day goes by when there is not a report of one or more of these brave soldiers paying the ultimate price. Their sacrifices have given us the freedom we enjoy today which is why we remember and salute their service.
On Nov. 11, our country honors all veterans and active duty soldiers on Veteran’s Day. We remember Henry Gunther and Frank Buckles and all those who laid down their lives in the defense of freedom and pray that our brave men and women, now serving in our armed services, return to us and lead long, safe and productive lives.
“On October 20, 1944, MacArthur landed in Leyte, fulfilling his promise to the Filipino people by wading ashore at Leyte, but the evening before the Leyte landing, MacArthur spoke through a radio transmitter announcing . . .
“People of the Philippines, I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil. . . Rally to me! Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead. . . The guidance of divine God points the way. Follow in His name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory!”
MacArthur, wearing his field marshal’s cap, sunglasses and freshly pressed khakis wanted to land on the beach but ran aground in the shallows while still 100 yards from the beach. The commander of the craft could not bring the landing craft in any closer and so an irritated MacArthur accompanied by President Osmeña and their staffs had to wade ashore. It became one of the most famous images of World War II. Upon seeing the newsreels of his landing, MacArthur was so stirred by the picture that he ordered his staff to arrange for all subsequent island landings to begin offshore so he could walk through knee-deep water onto the beach.”