Enola Gay

Enola Gay

Aug 6, 1945

American bomber drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima

On this day in 1945, at 8:16 a.m. Japanese time, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, drops the world’s first atom bomb, over the city of Hiroshima. Approximately 80,000 people are killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 are injured. At least another 60,000 would be dead by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout.

U.S. President Harry S. Truman, discouraged by the Japanese response to the Potsdam Conference demand for unconditional surrender, made the decision to use the atom bomb to end the war in order to prevent what he predicted would be a much greater loss of life were the United States to invade the Japanese mainland. And so on August 5, while a “conventional” bombing of Japan was underway, “Little Boy,” (the nickname for one of two atom bombs available for use against Japan), was loaded onto Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets’ plane on Tinian Island in the Marianas. Tibbets’ B-29, named the Enola Gay after his mother, left the island at 2:45 a.m. on August 6. Five and a half hours later, “Little Boy” was dropped, exploding at 1,900 feet over the city, unleashing the equivalent of 12,500 tons of TNT. The bomb had several inscriptions scribbled on its shell, one of which read “Greetings to the Emperor from the men of the Indianapolis” (the ship that transported the bomb to the Marianas).

There were 90,000 buildings in Hiroshima before the bomb was dropped; only 28,000 remained after the bombing. There were so many spontaneous fires set as a result of the bomb that a crewman of the Enola Gay stopped trying to count them. Another crewman remarked, “What a relief it worked.”

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REMEMBERING ONE OF OUR HEROES

REMEMBERING ONE OF OUR HEROES!

CHIEF WATERTENDER PETER TOMICH, USS UTAH BB-31

Peter Tomich was the Chief Watertender for the USS Utah. He was one of the most experienced…and best…in the entire Pacific fleet. At the age of 48, he had twenty-two years of Naval experience.

The Navy was his life…his wife…his family.

Peter Tomich was born in Prolog, a small village in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Bosnia-Herzegovina) on June 3, 1893. Twenty years later, along with his cousin John Tonic,

Peter immigrated to the United States. When WWI broke out he enlisted in the US Army.

Though he never saw combat in WWI, he served with pride for 18 months from June 6, 1917, to January 13, 1919. Along the way, he applied for and received United States Citizenship.

Ten days after his US Army enlistment expired Peter joined the Navy. His next of kin information listed cousin John Tonic in New York. But for Peter, his “real” next of kin was the Sailors with whom he lived and worked with for 22 years.

His only “real” home was the…..Navy!

When dawn broke on the morning of December 7, 1941, a massive Japanese fleet rode the waves just 200 miles from the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

Six large aircraft carriers, escorted by 2 battleships, 8 destroyers, 3 cruisers and 3 submarines sat poised to launch a surprise attack on the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.

The mission had been planned for months and practiced in secrecy in terrain similar to the Hawaiian harbor. At 0610 Admiral Nagumo ordered the mission to proceed.

When the first Japanese airplanes sighted the American ships in the harbor there was exultation.

Though their intelligence had been quite thorough and accurate, none of the Japanese commanders had expected to find such a shooting gallery….all of the big battleships of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet in one place at one time.

Despite the fact that the Japanese air commanders had not expected to find ALL of the big destroyers at their mercy, they knew the USS Utah would be at anchor.

They also knew the ship was old–a non-combat vessel, and had ordered their pilots not to attack her.

The Japanese commanders simply considered the USS Utah unworthy of the “waste” of their firepower.

Despite that order, fate frowned on the USS Utah and her crew. It was one of the first American ships hit, a torpedo slamming into it in the opening minutes just as the crew was hoisting the American flag on the fantail.

Almost immediately seawater flooded the ship causing it to list sharply. Below deck men scrambled for daylight, seeking to escape the quickly capsizing vessel.

A second explosion rocked the already doomed ship and men furiously sought to find safety before it became a tomb for them.

Lieutenant Commander Isquith, the senior officer aboard the USS Utah, ordered all hands on deck. The USS Utah was in danger of sinking and might have to be abandoned.

Below deck in the engineering plant, water rushed towards the huge boilers.

Chief Tomich, ever mindful of his crew, ran to warn them of the impending doom and to issue an order to evacuate. “Get out,” he yelled above the horrible noises around him.

He could feel the ship slowly turning on its side and knew that in moments any hope of escape would vanish. He had to get his men, who were the only family he knew, out of danger. “Get topside! Go….the ship is turning over! You have to escape now!”, he continued to shout at them.

Then, realizing that unless the boilers were secured they would rupture and explode, he ignored his own evacuation order and set himself to the job that had to be done.

While the crew rushed up the ladders, Chief Tomich remained behind in the rolling, sinking ship he called home. He calmly moved from valve to valve setting the gauges, releasing steam here and there, and stabilizing and securing the huge boilers that otherwise would have turned the entire ship into a massive inferno no man could survive.

At 0805 the USS Utah was practically on its side, listing at 40 degrees.

Those emerging from below deck were met with gunfire from the sky as the Japanese continued to strafe the deck with their machine-guns.

The huge timbers that had covered the deck shifted with each explosion, trapping men and crushing bodies. It was hopeless to remain and swiftly the men on deck moved to the starboard side to leap into the water and swim for safety.

Below deck Chief Tomich continued to do what he did best, tend to the boilers. He must have realized due to the incline of the USS Utah, that his time for escape had run out, but his valiant efforts would buy precious minutes for his fellow shipmates.

Before the ship rolled completely over he got the job done to prevent the explosion that would have ended all hope of survival for hundreds of men now trying to swim to safety.

At 0812 the mooring lines that held the USS Utah in place snapped with the sound of whips whistling through the air.

With a last gasp, the aging ship rolled completely over, its masts digging into the muddy floor of Pearl Harbor. The last bubbles of air made their way to the surface as time ran out for those still trapped below deck.

In all, 58 Sailors died; 54 of them would never make it out of the hull of the USS Utah as it rolled. It became their grave….

Chief Tomich posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

Rest in peace brother!

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Black Tot Day

Measuring out the tot (diorama aboard HMS Belfast)

The grog tub of HMS Cavalier

Black Tot Day (31 July 1970) is the name given to the last day on which the Royal Navy Issued sailors with a daily rum ration (the daily tot).

In the 17th century, the daily drink ration for English sailors was a gallon of beer. Due to the difficulty in storing the large quantities of liquid that this required, in 1655 a half pint of rum was made equivalent and became preferred to beer. Over time, drunkenness on board naval vessels increasingly became a problem and the ration was formalised in naval regulations by Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740 and ordered to be mixed with water in a 4:1 water to rum ratio and split into two servings per day.

In the 19th century, there was a change in the attitude towards alcohol due to continued discipline problems in the navy. In 1824 the size of the tot was halved to a quarter pint in an effort to improve the situation. In 1850, the Admiralty’s Grog Committee, convened to look into the issues surrounding the rum ration, recommended that it be eliminated completely. However, rather than ending it the navy further halved it to an eighth of a pint per day, eliminating the evening serving of the ration.[2] This led to the ending of the ration for officers in 1881 and warrant officers in 1918.

On 17 December 1969 the Admiralty Board issued a written answer to a question from the MP for Woolwich East, Christopher Mayhew, saying “The Admiralty Board concludes that the rum issue is no longer compatible with the high standards of efficiency required now that the individual’s tasks in ships are concerned with complex, and often delicate, machinery and systems on the correct functioning of which people’s lives may depend”. This led to a debate in the House of Commons on the evening of 28 January 1970, now referred to as the ‘Great Rum Debate’, started by James Wellbeloved, MP for Erith and Crayford, who believed that the ration should not be removed. The debate lasted an hour and 15 minutes and closed at 10:29pm with a decision that the rum ration was no longer appropriate.

31 July 1970 was the final day of the rum ration and it was poured as usual at 6 bells in the forenoon watch (11am) after the pipe of ‘up spirits’. Some sailors wore black armbands, tots were ‘buried at sea’ and in one navy training camp, HMS Collingwood, the Royal Naval Electrical College at Fareham in Hampshire, there was a mock funeral procession complete with black coffin and accompanying drummers and piper. The move was not popular with the ratings despite an extra can of beer being added to the daily rations in compensation.

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I will Salute

theleansubmariner

Forty six years ago, I raised my right hand in a room full of strangers and pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I solemnly swore to do so while standing facing the flag that represents this country. For all of the years since then, that flag has played a central role in my life.

I watched her fly as a green recruit and came to understand she is more than just another piece of cloth. I watched her fly from the deck of many submarines and ships at bases all over the world. I listened with pride one night in Yokosuka Japan while a shipmate played Taps as we retired her for the day. I felt the crushing weight of seeing a comrade under her in a casket bound for home. I felt sadness at the deaths of so many veterans who also shared her…

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Ist Raider Battalion, Okinawa

1st Raider Battalion, Okinawa

I saw a man with a Marine Raider pin, Purple Heart, and other pins on his hat at Starbucks this morning. I walked up and said “Semper Fi, we respect your generation.” He told me “Semper Fi, 1st Raider Battalion, Alpha company, Okinawa.” If anyone knows anything about history, they know these men are made from the salt of the Earth.

He began telling me stories of when he got hit. He said he would load specific magazines with tracers because it would light the Japanese buildings on fire. He lit 3 buildings on fire, in a gunfight, and told me “those sons of bitches didn’t like that. They retaliated with a rocket. It killed my squad leader and the assistant gunner loading the belt. All I got was a chunk out of my hip. The Corpsman ran over and started working on me. Then they shelled our position so hard, it killed almost everyone. I don’t remember what happened over the next week of my life. I woke up in a hospital, and a doctor was sucking fluid out of my chest with a syringe. I guess I got hit in the chest with a machine gun. I lost a lung.” He started laughing and said “How does a man live to be 90 with just one lung? Hahaha.”

He then talked about recovery at a hospital in Guam. Two-hundred Japanese paratroopers were dropped and were killing friendlies around the area. He was given 2 choices. Stay and take his chances, or run and hide. He said he took out all the needles attached to his body out, put tape over his wounds, and hid for 24 days. After he was rescued, on a flight back to the US, another Marine handed him a Lucky Strike cigarette. He went to light it, and the doctor saw him. The doctor told him “what the hell is wrong with you? You only have one lung.” They then injected him with so much morphine, he passed out and woke in an American hospital.

He eventually recovered and tried to re-enlist, but he was medically retired. I helped him stand up and walked him to his vehicle, which is a golf cart on steroids. As he got in his vehicle, I shook his hand one last time and told him he was the saltiest Marine I have ever met in my life. He said “all my friends are saltier than I am. I’ve lived an amazing life, and I don’t have any regrets. I wouldn’t change a thing, it was the time of my life.” He then told me, I hope I see you around again young man, so we can bullshit.

This man made my year. This is a living piece of history, and he told the stories raw. I listened to him talk for an hour and a half, even though I had so much to do today. He made it a point to tell me about the bravest man he had ever known, that deserved to be remembered. He spoke of the Raider community doing great things. The last thing he said to me was “Semper Fi, Raiders never die.”

Thanks to the respect and kindness of a stranger in a coffee shop, the legacy of this veteran and his fallen comrades will live on through the stories he told. Next time you see a decorated veteran, make both their day and yours and ask them about their service to our country. You might be surprised what you learn.

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Stokers

Stokers

This is for the stokers of old

Now each of us from time to time has gazed upon the sea,

And watched the warships pulling out, to keep his country free.

And most of us have read a book, or heard a lusty tale,

About the men who sail these ships, though lightning, wind, and hail.

But there’s a place within each ship, that legend fails to teach.

It’s hot below the waterline, it takes a living soul…

A hot metal living hell, that sailors call the Hole.

It houses engines run by steam, that makes the shafts go round,

A place of fire and noise and heat, that beats your spirit down.

Where boilers like a hellish heart with the blood of angry steam,

Are molded gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream.

Whose threat that from the fire roar, is like living doubt,

That any minute would with scorn, escape and crush you out.

Where turbines scream like tortured souls, alone and lost in hell,

As ordered from above somewhere, they answer every bell.

The men who keep the fires lit, and make the engines run,

Are strangers to the world of light, and rarely see the sun.

They have no time for man or God, no tolerance for fear,

Their aspect pays no living thing, the tribute of a tear.

For there’s not much that men can do, that men haven’t done.

Beneath the decks, deep in the hole to make engines run.

For every hour of every day, they keep the watch in hell,

For if the fires ever fail, their ship’s a useless shell.

When ships converge to have a war, upon the angry sea,

The men below just grimly smile at what their fate might be.

They’re locked below like men fore-doomed. Who hear no battle cry,

It’s well assured that if they’re hit, the men below will die.

For every day’s a war down there, when the gauges all read red,

Twelve hundred pounds of superheated steam can kill you mighty dead.

So if you ever write their sons, or try to tell their tale,’

The very words would make you hear, a fired furnace wail.

And people as a general rule, don’t hear of men of steel,

So tittle’s heard about the place, that sailor call the hole.

But I can sing about this place, and try to make you see,

The hardened life of men down there, cause one of them is me.

I’ve seen those sweat-soaked heroes fight, in superheated air,

To keep their ship alive and right, though no one knows they’re there.

And thus they’ll fight for ages on till warships sail no more,

Amid the boilers might heat and the turbines hellish rear.

So when you see a ship pull out, to meet a warlike foe,

Remember faintly if you can, “The men who sail below.”

By “The unknown Stoker”

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