The Watermelon Patch* – November 2019
Gideon D. Asche
A monthly collection of historical military obscurities worthy of your file of useless information
As Warriors, we assume the lineage of those who went before us, and only in knowing our lineage can we honor them. November is a month of surprises, and one very disturbing, “Oh Shit.”
Every time I research an installment of the Watermelon Patch, I come across at least one or two major surprises, but November had an inordinate number of audible WOWs – those moments when I discover a piece of information that just makes me go “Day-amn!”
November has one major “Oh Shit” event that has somehow been forgotten. How many of you know who EM3 Benjamin Johnson and PO1 Vincent Parker were? – I didn’t. The oil tanker Samra was smuggling Iraqi oil and was boarded on 17 November 2001 by US Navy personnel. EM3 Johnson and PO1 Parker were declared missing after Samra sank during the inspection in the northern Persian Gulf, both are assumed drowned. A large quantity of Iraqi oil was found on Samra before she sank – the obvious question is: What were the smugglers hiding by scuttling the vessel?
The month of November also gave us some very unusual heroes, including Margaret (Molly) Corbin – Corbin was one of many patriot women who served as water bearers, cooks, and nurses during our Revolution.
When she saw crews manning Continental Artillery, including her husband, decimated by British cannon fire, she stepped up to the plate and showed the Red Coats just how strong Patriot women were.
Molly Corbin manned her husband’s Gun – ALONE.
Resetting after recoil, loading, and aiming the big gun single-handedly. She poured unnaturally accurate fire on Red Coat positions until Grapeshot from enemy cannon shredded Corbin’s breast and nearly severed her arm from her body – she somehow survived.
She could no longer fight – but Molly Corbin’s actions at Fort Washington on Manhattan Island, November 1776 inspired a fierce response from other Continental Soldiers turning the tide of battle and later inspiring new recruits to join Washington’s Army.
Molly Corbin was given the honorary title of Capt. Molly and later became the first woman in U.S. history to receive a pension from Congress for combat service. Molly lived another 25 years, receiving charity payments from the Invalid Regiment and later a small pension from Congress.
She was known and respected throughout her community as a bad-tempered, hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hard-loving, eccentric Woman, whom – you better address as “Captain Molly.” I think I’m in love.
One hundred fifty years after her death, Capt. Molly was exhumed and given a proper soldier’s burial, she is the only Revolutionary War Veteran to receive such an honor. You can find her resting in Section 11, Row A, Grave 01 of the U.S. Military Academy Cemetery at West Point, NY. – I’m going to make it a point to visit her grave before my deployment to this planet is completed.
November brought the one and only Medal of Honor awarded to a woman, awarded to Dr. Mary Walker in 1865. Dr. Walker was also the first female surgeon in the Army.
Walker earned the Medal of Honor for her service as a field doctor during the Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Chickamauga, the Battle of Atlanta, and as a Confederate prisoner of war in Richmond, Va. You read that right – 3 major engagements and a POW. The good Dr. had some Ovaries.
Dr. Walker was basically just an early version of the combat medic and anyone who has ever been ducking bullets and seen the shadow a medic fly past them in the direction of the incoming fire, knows Combat Medics have a lunatic side that kicks in at the sound of that first call of “DOC!” or “MEDIC!” It somehow relieves them of the burden of common sense and fear.
I knew from past research that there were a few SOE type civilians who had been awarded U.S. and foreign combat medals, but I was almost shocked to find a civilian who received the Bronze Star Medal for combat action during Viet Nam.
Joe Galloway, a journalist, was awarded the Bronze Star medal for his actions under fire during the first engagement between U.S. and NVA forces.
It was one of the most costly battles of the Early Viet Nam war. In November 1965 in the Ia Drang valley, a battalion of the 7th Cav was ambushed and pinned down at LZ X-ray by a vastly superior enemy force. This is where the writer found himself with decisions to be made.
When the shit hit the fan, Galloway put down his camera, picked up an M-16, and joined “Blue Platoon” for the duration of the gunfight.
On the same day, 7th Cav pilots Major Bruce “Snake Shit” Crandall and 6’7” Cpt. Edward “Too Tall to fly” Freeman both earned the Medal of Honor for flying unarmed Hueys into the fire and extracting wounded soldiers. Over 700 U.S. wounded or KIA needed to be extracted that day.
Some Other notable November events:
644 AD – Umar of Arabia, the 2nd Caliph of Islam, was assassinated at Medina and was succeeded as caliph by Uthman. ISIS (ISIL) claims to be the only rightful descendant of Uthman of Islam.
1865 – Henry Wirz, the commander of Andersonville prison in Georgia, was deservedly hanged. Wirz was the only person executed for war crimes committed during the Civil War.
1879 – The Drunken Coward of Little Bighorn, Major Marcus Reno, was caught window-peeping at the daughter of his commanding officer–an offense for which he would be court-martialed. Reno should have been hanged for his actions at Little Big Horn.
1831 – On Nov. 11, Nat Turner was hanged, then skinned, in Southampton County, Va. I haven’t figured out why they skinned him.
1917 – On Nov 3rd, The Germans drew first blood from the American Expeditionary Force on a crisp Saturday morning. A raid by a German patrol hit the American sector at Artois on the first morning of their tour and killed three Americans and captured sixteen.
1918 – The fighting in WW1 ended on the 11th of Nov. – At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1911. The “Great War” left nine million soldiers dead, 21 million wounded. Five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure.
In the weeks running up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was given several clues and warnings that there was an impending attack – yet no precautions were taken. On Nov. 25th, the passenger ship SS Lurline sent a radio signal to Hawaii, reporting the sighting of a massive Japanese war fleet steaming east across the Northern Pacific in the direction of Hawaii.
The same day Adm. Stark warned Adm. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, that “We are likely to be attacked next Monday, for the Japs are notorious for attacking without warning.” – Stark was just 24-hrs off the mark.
Enterprise, the pride of the U.S. fleet, was not in port when the Japanese attacked. The primary target for Japanese torpedoes wasn’t home – a disaster of unparalleled consequence for the Empire of the Sun.
In November 1944 – The first of 9000 paper balloons, carrying bombs intended to drift to North America were released near Tokyo. Oddly enough, many actually completed the 8,500-mile flight, and in the spring of 1945, a pregnant woman and five children were killed by a 15-kilogram high-explosive anti-personnel bomb from a crashed Japanese balloon near Bly, Ore.
They were the only known U.S. casualties of the program, but over the years Balloon Bombs have been found from Mexico to Alaska and California to Michigan. Note – Explosives do not usually lose explosive potential with time. They do however often become eager to detonate. A Balloon bomb from 1944 might well be active and able to detonate today. If you were to find one – Call EOD.
Nov 1, 1951 – Operation Buster–Jangle took place in the Nevada desert. Six thousand five hundred American soldiers were exposed to ‘Desert Rock’ atomic explosions for training purposes. Participation was NOT voluntary – Thyroid cancer was the reward.
November 18 1970, 23 miles west of Hanoi – A combined Air Force and Army team of 40 Americans, led by Army Colonel “Bull” Simons, conducted a raid on the Son Tay prison camp.
On 15 Nov. 1957 – In a long and rambling statement to the press, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev claimed that the Soviet Union had missile superiority over the United States and challenged President Eisenhower to a missile “shooting match.” – Ike declined and in my opinion, missed our best chance to eliminate Soviet domination.
November 10, 1775 – Purportedly conceived in a waterfront tavern The U.S. Marine Corps was born on. The Continental Congress passed a resolution providing “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces for the recently formed Continental Navy. The resolution created the Continental Marines. Today’s Marine Expeditionary Forces are self-sufficient, highly mobile and devastating to their enemies. Semper Fidelis, meaning “Always Faithful” is the standing order for any U.S. Marine.
November 1775 – The US Army Artillery Branch was activated. The Continental Congress unanimously elected Henry Knox Colonel of the Regiment of Artillery. Happy Birthday, Red Legs!
The November Watermelon Award
In July of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a measure authorizing a “Medal of Honor” to be awarded in the name of Congress. It was to become our Nation’s highest award for bravery in the face of an enemy. The men who had the watermelons to earn this award should be remembered.
November’s watermelon award goes to Chaplain Charles J. Watters, Maj. 173rd Airborne Brigade, Dak To province RVN.
Chaplain Watters was infilled with one of the Airborne companies when it was engaged by a heavily armed enemy battalion. As casualties mounted, Chaplain Watters ignored his own safety and rushed into the fray unarmed and completely exposed. Chaplain Watters provided aid to the wounded and assisted in their evacuation. He spoke words of encouragement and faith along with administering medical aid to wounded Paratroopers in between ministering last rites to the dying.
When a wounded paratrooper was standing in shock in front of the assaulting forces, Chaplain Watters moved forward to recover the dazed Soldier. He carried him on his shoulders to safety, saving his life.
As troopers battled the first enemy entrenchment, Chaplain Watters ran through the intense enemy fire to recover a wounded Paratrooper. The paratroopers pulled back in preparation for a second assault leaving a strip of No-Man’s land between the two armies.
Chaplain Watters exposed himself to both friendly and enemy fire between the 2 forces in order to recover wounded soldiers. When the “Herd” was forced to pull back and set up a second defensive perimeter, Chaplain Watters noticed that several wounded soldiers were lying outside the newly formed perimeter.
Without hesitation and shaking off attempts to physically restrain him – Chaplain Watters left the perimeter three times in the face of small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire to carry wounded troopers to safety.
Once he was convinced that all of the wounded were inside the perimeter, he began aiding the medics–applying field bandages to open wounds, obtaining and serving food and water, giving spiritual and mental strength and comfort. The Chaplain moved from position to position, redistributing food and water, and tending to the needs of his men.
Chaplain Watters met his maker while administering first aid to a wounded brother. He was Mortally wounded while using his own body to shield his fellow soldier. This Man of God had real Watermelons.
I can imagine that Michale and the whole host snapped to attention and rendered a crisp salute when the Paratrooper/Chaplain Charles J. Watters arrived at the Pearly Gates.