The Watermelon Patch* # 1 –January
Gideon D. Asche
*the place where Watermelons grow –A 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. January is a month of beginnings – Hookers, Heroes and Phocidae alike can be found in our joint history as Warriors.
The month rounds off with two unrelated historical milestones – the birth of Right-Wing Politics and a most heinous act of American tyranny – one that “We the People” couldn’t stand for, resulting in the only repealed constitutional amendment.
First, I want to wish a hearty “Happy Birthday” to U.S. Navy SEAL Teams all over the world. I’ll make a SEAL joke as quick as the next guy, but part of that is simple respect. You should hear some of the Army jokes they tell.
No SEAL Jokes today though – Today I tip my Beret to my furry, web-footed, brothers of family Phocidae. Admiral Burke got this one right, that’s for damn sure.
Other Notable January events include:
Fighting Joe Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac, in January of 1863, and brought us the term “Hooker” for ladies of the night.
While it is true that there was once a Red-Light district in New York referred to as “Corlear’s Hook,” it’s of a general consensus that the term Hooker for an individual prostitute has its origin in General Joseph Hooker’s policy of making sure his men had access to hookers.
The first televised Proceedings of the U.S. Congress were broadcast on 3 Jan 1947, bringing us the first real TV sit-com. The show morphed from a comedy to a Greek Tragedy in just a few seasons. I don’t think anyone really knows why it keeps getting renewed.
What we refer to as “Right Wing Politics” was conceived in a seedy Braunschweiger Kneipe, and then officially birthed in München in January 1925 when the 1st Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) was formed.
Nationalsocialism found a solid foothold in American politics with the McCarthy movement of the ’50s. The rise of white nationalism today indicates a rebirth of racism and ethnic isolation.
A knock-down-Drag-out brawl took place in congress in Jan 1798 when Mathew Lyon (VT) spat in Roger Griswold’s (CT) face. Taking offense to this unwanted exchange of body fluids, Griswold used his Hickory walking stick to beat the living snot out of Lyon right there in front of God and everybody on the floor of the legislation.
The lend-lease program was presented to Congress in January of 1942. Roosevelt’s plan was to covertly enter the war effort by providing logistic support to Stalin’s troops. Air transports of food and other basic supplies were flown to Alaska. From Ladd Field, current-day Ft. Fort Wainwright, Soviet pilots would fly the aircraft home to be used by the Soviet Airforce. Soviet troops were also trained and quartered at some U.S. facilities for the program. Anyone who has spent any time in Hanger #1 at Ft. Wainwright Alaska, has seen the Russian graffiti in the old tower.
The first combat aviation operation of the Viet Nam conflict was conducted by a flight of H-21 Piasecki “Flying Banana” helicopters on 12 January 1962. They inserted approx. 1000 RVN Paratroopers into a Viet Cong stronghold west of Saigon.
Operation Ranch Hand began in January 1962, bringing us a product name that would haunt many of our brothers for the next 50 years – AGENT ORANGE.
In a virtually unknown action on 13 Jan 1964 – After the overthrow of the Zanzibar government, USS Manley responded to evacuate 91 American and 36 allied nationals.
Top Marine Ace “Pappy” Boyington was captured on 3 January 1944 – but not until after he smoked 28 enemy aircraft. Maj. Boyington first commandeered and then commanded the famed VMA-214 “Black Sheep Squadron.”
In January 1943, Washington issued a wartime ban on the sale of pre-sliced bread. The objective was to preserve natural resources for the war effort by cutting the need for high-quality steel repair parts in commercial bakeries.
In an act of true heroism in January 1953 –U.S. Coast Guardsmen from Sangley Point deployed to recover the crew of a downed P2V reconnaissance plane. Landing in 12-foot seas, the aircrew fished 11 survivors from the downed plane.
The rescue aircraft’s #1 engine swamped and failed during take-off. Four of the Navy aviators, along with most of the Coast Guard crew, were killed –“Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Lt. Everett Alvarez Jr. became the longest held POW in U.S. history when he spent his 2,000th day as a POW on Jan 26, 1970. Alvarez was shot down and captured on Aug. 5th, 1964.
Operation McLain began on 19 January 1968 when “Sky Soldiers” from the 173rd Airborne Brigade engaged in a Search and Destroy operation netting 1,042 confirmed enemy kills – Airborne!
“Wild Bill” Donovan sent the first OSS agents into the field behind Japanese lines on 26 January 1943.
The United States has maintained a network of clandestine operators behind enemy borders ever since. – “bei uns gibts immer Urlaub.”
In a most blatant act of federal overreach and unfettered tyranny of the worst sort, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on 29 January 1919 – the amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. The people refused to comply and the 18th was repealed a few years later.
The first attempted assassination of a U.S. president took place on 30 January 1835 when Richard Lawrence fired two shots at President Jackson; both rounds misfired. Lawrence’s lack of proficiency with weapons proved to have dire consequences for the Native Americans against whom Andrew Jackson conducted his Indian removal policy resulting in the seizure of private property, genocide, and the Trail of Tears.
On 17 Jan 1955, the message “Underway on nuclear power” was sent by USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the first nuclear-powered submarine to join the U.S. inventory – The Nuclear Deterrent is in place.
Cabanatuan, Philippine Islands January 1945 – Ltc. Henry Mucci and unit of quartermaster “Mule tenders,” who he trained personally, and morphed into the 6th Ranger Battalion, pulled off the Great Raid.
Mucci’s Rangers assisted by a unit of Alamo Scouts, humped for days to get in position then attacked a well-defended POW camp rescuing more than 500 American prisoners of war who were scheduled for execution.
In January 1945 – Pvt. Eddie Slovik was executed for desertion. The report notes that “none of the riflemen even flinched,” firmly believing Slovik had gotten what he deserved. This precedent might have been effectively used in the case of a recent deserter in Afghanistan.
Notable January Birthdays
The Pentagon – headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense was dedicated on Jan 15, 1943.
U.S. Navy SEAL Teams – The first 2 U.S. Navy SEAL teams were founded on 1 January 1962 and have been kick-in ass on the enemies of the United States ever since.
Hawaii – In January 1893, Sanford Ballard Dole overthrew Queen Liliuokalani and established a new provincial government with Dole as president. John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawaii, was aware of and supported the coup. He ordered 300 U.S. Marines from the U.S. cruiser Boston to intervene and protect American lives.
The January 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.
This month’s Watermelon Award goes to SFC. Rodney J. Yano. I chose SFC. Yano for one reason and one reason alone. When I read his citation, it brought back memories of being a 17-year old at Ft. Rucker, fresh out of 67N (Huey) school.
I had just graduated and was given a 4-day pass and promotion to SP/5 for making Honor Graduate so I went over to the Army Aviation Museum – it had a snack bar that sold beer.
There was a mural in the entryway that depicted SFC. Yano’s actions. The inside of a Huey set ablaze by White Phosphorus. Her Crewchief, in the middle of all that carnage, with half his body on fire, chucking flaming cases of ordinance out the door. – Inspiring, it stuck with me. I always hoped when it came my time, I would have the sand to do the same.
On 1 January 1969, SFC. Yano was serving as flight crew of an 11th ACR Command and Control Huey during a combat operation against enemy forces entrenched in dense jungle. SFC Yano delivered withering fire on ground targets from his position in his Huey’s door and marked targets with smoke and Willie-Petes for artillery observers to use as aiming points.
Yano, in an exposed position mostly outside the aircraft, was firing a bungee mounted M-60 Machine gun when a Willie-Pete prematurely detonated engulfing the inside of the helicopter and SFC. Yano in flames and White Phosphorus,
The aircraft’s smoke grenades began to detonate, filling the ship with dense smoke. His visibility obscured by smoke the PIC lost control. In spite of having the use of only one arm and being partially blinded, Superman completely disregarded his own pain and began hurling blazing cases of ammunition from the helicopter.
His actions resulted in mortal wounds to himself, yet he continued to clear the cabin of ordinance until the danger was past saving the lives of his crew. The last paragraph of SFC. Yano’s MOH citation reads as follows:
“SFC. Yano’s indomitable courage and profound concern for his comrades averted loss of life and additional injury to the rest of the crew. By his conspicuous gallantry at the cost of his life, in the highest traditions of the military service, SFC. Yano has reflected great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.”