The Watermelon Patch* # 4 – April
Gideon D. Asche. (*The place where Watermelons grow)
–A collection of historical 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. April is a month of both tragedy and celebration, betrayal and heroics, and even a touch of historical comedy.
Tragedy in the failed hostage rescue mission that ended at “Desert One,” costing us eight good men on Apr. 24, 1980, and the April 1963 –USS Thresher incident. The Nuclear Sub failed to surface in a disaster that claimed 129 lives.
In April 1945, the American War Correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by a burst of Japanese machinegun fire. Ernie Pyle was clearly the most popular war correspondent of the war.
Pyle initially covered North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Then on June 7, he went ashore, at Normandy, the day after Allied forces landed. Pyle’s description of the D-Day scene brought the reality of war home and won him a Pulitzer.
In 1945 he traveled to the Pacific to cover the war against Japan, where he again became one of the “Dog Faces” and endeared himself to the men of whom he wrote. Pyle was buried in Dana, Indiana, with full honors and interred in an area reserved for local soldiers who had fallen in battle.
April 1948 brought the heroism of the aircrews who risked their lives flying the Berlin Airlift. Pilots like American C-47 Pilot 1LT Gail “Uncle Wiggly Wings” Halvorsen, were known to Berlin Children of the time as “Rosinenbomber” (Candy Bombers) because of their habit of dropping sweets to children as they made the dangerously low-level approach into Templehof Aerodrome inside the city of Berlin.
I found great comedy in an obscure Revolutionary war incident – in 1778, John Paul Jones tried to kidnap the Earl of Selkirk. He somehow only got away with Lady Selkirk’s silverware.
Other Notable December events include:
Lailat-ul Qadar – The night the Koran descended to Earth is recorded as April 3rd, 610
AD. Muhammad allegedly had a vision of Gabriel in which Gabriel led Muhammad to heaven to meet God, and then to Jerusalem to meet with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. – Imagine how different the world would be if this fairy tale had never been told.
In April of 1917 – Vladimir Lenin arrived in Petrograd after a decade of exile to take the reins of the Russian Revolution. His trip orchestrated and financed by the Weimar Republic. (Germany)
On 8 April 1942, the American and Filipino forces remaining on the Bataan Peninsula were ordered to destroy their equipment. Overwhelmed by numbers and short of food and equipment, they would soon be forced to surrender.
Justice was served four years later, on 3 Apr 1946, when Lt. General Masaharu Homma, the Japanese commander responsible for the Bataan Death March, was executed outside Manila in the Philippines.
In a rare act of recognition, British statesman Winston Churchill was made an Honorary U.S. citizen on 9 April 1963. He is one of only eight people in history to be afforded this honor.
The Allies liberated their first Nazi concentration camp, Buchenwald, on 10 April 1945 – the world would learn the heinous measures Hitler’s right-wing National Socialist movement went to further their political agenda.
Marlene Dietrich gave her first show for U.S. service members overseas in April of 1944. Born in Berlin, She became a U.S. citizen in 1939. Only after her death was, it made public that she was an OSS agent. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom and named Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.
As a point of strange but true history– Gen. Douglas MacArthur was offered the position of Baseball Commissioner in April of 1961 – He declined.
April 4th, 1973 – A Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, dubbed the Hanoi Taxi, made the last flight of Operation Homecoming. Operation Homecoming involved negotiations that made possible the return of 591 American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam.
In April 1657 – Freedom of religion was granted to the Jews of New Amsterdam (later New York City). This gesture of goodwill became the foundation of American-Israeli relations. It is believed to be one of the reasons Jewish businessmen supported Washington’s Army and why the Star of David is the only religious symbol used in any flag, banner, or emblem of this Republic.
21 April 1934 – Moe Berg, Washington Senators catcher, played an AL record 117th consecutive, errorless game.
Moe Berg, who spoke fluent Japanese, gave up his career as a Baseball player to serve in the OSS under Wild Bill Donovan. Moe is the one who reconnoitered Tokyo from the ground and took the photos used by Gen. Doolittle’s bombers to identify the Skyline and targets.
April 28th, 1945, Adolf Hitler was given a classified battle report. After reading it, he admitted, to all in his underground bunker, that the war is lost and that suicide is his only recourse.
It was Hitler’s first realization that he had lost the war, would never be Emperor of the world, and would pay the price for his heinous acts. – How I wish I had been there to see the look on his face. I believe I would have sung him a round of “Hava Nagila” (Let Us Rejoice), making sure to translate the Chorus to German and show him the scar I got at eight days old.
27 April 1805 – After marching 500 miles from Egypt, a small force of U.S. Marines and mercenaries supported by the U.S.S. Argus and the USS Hornet took the Tripolitan port city of Derna.
Pirates had been plaguing Mediterranean shipping – The USMC put an end to it. The phrase “to the shores of Tripoli,” from the official song of the U.S. Marine Corps, has its origins in the Derna campaign.
The first jump with an Army Air Corps (rip-cord type) parachute was made by Les Irvin on 28 April 1919.
1994 – Former CIA official Aldrich Ames, a traitor, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His wife, Rosario, also pleaded guilty. – They got off easy.
On 5 April 1951, Death sentences were imposed against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The couple was found guilty of conspiring to transmit atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.
Notable December Birthdays:
U.S. Air Force Academy. President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill authorizing the establishment of an Air Force Academy, April 1954.
The Presidential Veto. 1792 –George Washington cast the first presidential veto, rejecting a congressional measure for apportioning representatives among the states.
The first use of a Helicopter in combat – 22 April 1944 –The 1st Air Commando Group, led by Lt. Col. Clinton B. Gaty, using Sikorsky R-4 helicopters stage the first use of helicopters in combat with combat search and rescue operations in the China-Burma-India theater.
The April 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.
Joseph Hayashi joined the Army long before WW2 and Pvt. Hayashi, like most of the other men in the 442nd had been Prisoners of War before they went to fight in Europe. – Only it was his own country that held him captive.
In spite of the way he was treated by the very Army he took an oath to serve in, Hayashi fought to be allowed to reenlist and serve in Europe with the 442nd Regiment. His family remained interned
On April 20th, 1944 – While attacking the village of Tendola, Hayashi maneuvered his squad up a steep embankment creeping to within 100 yards of the enemy – They were met with heavy fire.
Crawling under intense fire to the hostile machine gun position, he neutralized it. Seeing four enemy machine guns putting fire on his platoon, Hayashi eliminated them with hand grenades.
He then crawled to the right flank of another machine gun position where he killed four enemy soldiers and forced the others to flee
Two days later – on the 22nd of April, Hayashi was ordered to attack a heavily defended hill that commanded all approaches to the village. Skillfully using cover and concealment, he led his men to a within 75 yards of enemy positions before they were pinned down by a determined German resistance
Hayashi recovered his wounded, dragging several to safety himself, then returned to the battle area alone, exposing himself to small arms fire in order to act as a Forward Observer directing allied mortar rounds to their targets.
Hayashi rallied the remaining members of his squad to the attacked and destroyed his objectives they neutralized three machine guns and killed 27 enemy soldiers.
Private Hayashi moved his squad up a steep, terraced hill to within 100 yards of another enemy position. He then belly-crawled to a hostile machine-gun position, killed one of the gun-crew, and gave the rest the option of surrendering or dying – they chose to surrender.
Hayashi continued to pursue his enemy until he was mortally wounded by a burst of machine-gun fire.
The 442nd was comprised of “Nisei”– Japanese American Soldiers.
Over 5000 Japanese-Americans, most of them Natural Born Citizens in accordance with the Constitution and § 1401(a), served in the Army prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
They were arrested, summarily discharged from the Army, and classified 4-C, Enemy Aliens. These loyal Americans were classified as the enemy based on their ancestry and nothing else.
The Nisei were arrested, and their families were held as POWs by executive order. Their property confiscated, and businesses closed.
Still… They set out to prove themselves and demand to be allowed to fight for their country.
They fought tooth and nail for the right to go to war. Most of the men of the 442nd left mothers, fathers, wives, and siblings in the internment camps when they reported for duty.
“… the United States is our country. We know, but one loyalty, and that is to the Stars and Stripes. We wish to do our part as loyal Americans in every way possible, and we hereby offer ourselves for whatever service you may see fit to use us.” (From a petition sent to by 155 citizens of Japanese ancestry)
– A total of 24 Medals of Honor were awarded to American Nisei Warriors – 西瓜