Tag Archives: GRFPM

Aircraft carriers on the Great Lakes?

Aircraft carriers on the Great Lakes?

Aircraft carriers on the Great Lakes?

Yep, there were two during WWII. The model in the picture is of the USS Wolverine (IX-64). During the war, the Navy purchased two large side wheel excursion steamers and converted them into aircraft carriers. The ships were used to train pilots and landing signal officers on the intricacies of their crafts. The ships were based out of the Glenview Naval Air Station near Chicago.

Commissioned 2 August 1942 the Wolverine served during the war even though it had a few issues. It had no elevators or hanger deck, so once the flight deck was full the operations were over for the day. Also in low wind conditions, the ship could not generate enough speed on its own to generate the wind needed to successfully simulate the landings. Still, they served their purposes well.

On 7 November 1945, with the war over. The Wolverine was decommissioned and in December 1947 sold for scrap.

Always remember for a brief couple of years we did have aircraft carriers on the Great Lakes. If ever we had the chance to bring Canda into the fold, it may have been then…

The Power Of The Press

The Power Of The Press

The Power Of The Press

As part of the celebration of the Bicentennial (America’s 200th Birthday) President Gerald Ford was presented with a printing press that had been built in France in 1785. The gift was to point out how the printing press in our struggle for independence. The power of the press accomplished more than any battle ever could have.

Americans in the Eighteenth Century were among the most literate people in the world. Newspapers were numerous and political pamphlets and broadsides were as common as blogs are today. This enabled people in Georgia to read about the events in Boston in the words of people who witnessed events. This chain of paper bound the colonies together.

PR Outreach

Pamphlets formed the spine of the resistance. Some of the most important ones in the years prior to 1775 are:

  • John Dickinson, Letters of a Farmer in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1768)
  • James Warren, Oration to Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770 (Boston, 1772)
  • Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British Americans (Williamsburg, 1774)

The opposition also generated a ton of paper to get their views out to as many people as possible. Some of their most notable are:

  • Samuel Seabury, The Congress Canvassed (New York, 1774)
  • Thomas B. Chandler, A Friendly Address to All Reasonable Americans(New York, 1774)
  • Daniel Leonard, Origin of the American Contest . . . by Massachusettensis (Boston, 1775)

As for newspapers, well there were many on both sides that spoke for the Patriots and the Loyalists, each a propaganda arm of the various movements. The best look at newspapers during the Revolution comes in the collection Reporting the Revolutionary War by Todd Andrlink. In that collection, he gathers many of the surviving newspaper articles. Worth a read. You can catch an interview with him about the book here.

The printing press was a very apt present for the country. It serves as a reminder that the power of the press is an awesome power that should be wielded responsibly, now more than ever.


Purple Heart


Purple Heart

Purple Heart


On August 7th, 1782 from his headquarters in New York General George Washington established the Badge of Military Merit, the precursor to the Purple Heart you see above. In his official order creating the award he wrote that “the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is…open to all.” For what is believed to be the first time a military service award could be given to an enlisted man instead of just officers which was the European tradition.

Three soldiers of the Revolution were awarded the Badge of Military Merit and hold the distinction of being presented with the award by General Washington personally.

  • William Brown, Sergeant of the 5th Connecticut Regiment of the Connecticut Line
  • Elijah Churchill, Sergeant of the 2nd Regiment Light Dragoons
  • Daniel Bissell. Sergeant of the 2nd Connecticut Regiment of the Connecticut Line

After the war, the award was almost forgotten and fell into disuse, but never officially decommissioned. After WWI an attempt was made by the Army to revive it, but the attempt faltered until 1931. That year General Douglas MacArthur, the Army Chief of Staff, moved ahead with the process and a total redesign.

Unveiled on the bicentennial of Washington’s birth. The new design features a heart-shaped medallion that features the bust of General Washington, hanging on the purple ribbon.

Originally the award was given for those wounded in combat as well as those who performed meritorious achievement. Eventually, with the commissioning of the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart was reserved exclusively for the wounded. The first recipient of the Purple Heart? General Douglas MacArthur himself!

For more information on the award, please visit http://www.thepurpleheart.com/history/

The Dominoes of 9/11

The Dominoes of 9/11

The Dominoes of 9/11


That is a section of steel I-Beam from the World Trade Center. Or what was left of it on that fateful day not long ago. There is no need to recap that day or the events. For many of us, it is forever seared into our memories as the world we knew was changed forever.

As terrible as that day was, what came after is almost as unbelievable.  Our military entered a struggle that still continues almost seventeen years later. From Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Syria, to Africa and a dozen other places. The men and women of the armed forces have been fighting a war against people who are as determined to kills us today as they were back then. Their fighting spirit has not wavered, and neither has ours.

With the main event that launched into this war so far removed, it is easy for us to lose focus on the struggle ahead. Looking back through the other posts on this blog you can see that as Americans we have always stepped up and done what we have had to do.  Looking at the rusted piece of metal in the picture above should remind us that the struggle is ongoing.

Of course for some that piece of metal above is a reminder that the underlying conflict that brought about the destruction of the towers has been going on for more than a thousand years. The story of civilization is the story of struggle. That picture should remind you what we are currently struggling for.




Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor


The above map is a section of a map of Pearl Harbor that one of the Japanese pilots carried. If you look close it shows where the ships were expected to be.  Also the designated targets for each Japanese squadron. It is an interesting look at such a seminal historic event. Albeit through a lens different from what we normally see.

Pearl Harbor will always have a special place in our national psyche. The general public had no idea that relations with Japan had degraded so far. Most eyes were focused towards Europe and the rise of Germany. The government, however, knew that Japan was possibly an issue.

Jumping on the bandwagon that we “knew” Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked is sort of silly and actually immaterial. Once Japan invaded China the US took a course of action that made war almost unavoidable. On June 24th, 1941 President Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in the US. With international cooperation throughout the world, Japan’s access to oil was cut off.  Its current reserves were set to last only about three years, half that if it continued to expand its war machine.

The decision was made by their high command to strike out and take the resources they needed from the Dutch East Indies, but they knew the US would not sit idly by and allow it.  They decided that the best course of action was to attack the US fleet in Pearl Harbor with the goal of landing such a devastating blow that the US would not have time to recover before the resources were secured, and by then the Japanese hoped to secure a peace treaty without fighting the US. They really underestimated the United States, a mistake that many enemies have made over the years.



Barter Kit, For When Things Go Bad

Barter Kit, For When Things Go Bad

Barter Kit, For When Things Go Bad

So, you are a US Navy pilot and you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to bail out over enemy territory. Maybe you were shot down, maybe you had mechanical issues, either way, you are about to be in deep trouble.

Luckily when you were preparing for your mission you put on your flight suit which contained a number of compartments. In those compartments are the survival tools that you may need in exactly this situation. Besides a first aid kit and such you have your handy, dandy Barter Kit.

The Barter kit was a small molded rubber case which measures 5 1/2″ by 4″. When opened there are 5 form fitted compartments. Two gold rings, marked as being 100% gold. A small charm with the image of a fish, several links of gold chain and the real beauty, a Swiss made 21 jewel Milus Instant Date watch with a band.

No, this was not a pilot’s early retirement present. In fact, the purpose was to give the downed pilots something of value to trade to either civilian. Or possibly even enemy soldiers to help them get back to their lines and to safety.

The kit above was a variation that was used in the South East Asia theater during the war. Another version used in the Atlantic had three gold rings and a number of gold coins.

If you were down and found yourself on the wrong side of the line, this little kit could very well be the difference between life and death.



The Wilson Desk

The Wilson Desk

The Wilson Desk

Or at least sort of.

Above is a recreation of the Oval Office from the GR Ford Presidential Museum and is very accurate in almost every detail. The one detail that we are going to look at here is the desk.

The Wilson Desk, as it is known, served both Presidents Nixon and Ford. Nixon chose it because it had supposedly been used by President Woodrow Wilson. It is mahogany and was purchased between 1897 and 1899 for use in the US Capitol.

During the time that the desk served President Nixon, it saw some things.  The desk saw the Vietnam War spiral out of control and come to an end. It saw a man sit at it that had not been elected to his position. It saw numerous policy decisions that we are still seeing effects of today. Most importantly, it also saw a number of recording devices being installed into it.  Devices that would cause one if its occupants to leave the office before his time.

Coming from the Vice Presidents room at the Capitol it saw use by some major names before being called up to the big leagues. Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey among others.

When Carter took over the office, the desk was returned to the Capitol where it has served every VP since.

Oh yeah. The name.

No one has a clue. While Nixon thought it had been used by Woodrow Wilson, that was certainly wrong. For a time it was believed that the desk had been used by President Grant’s VP Henry Wilson. Later that was disproved as he had been VP almost twenty years before the desk was purchased. So the actual origin? Who knows, maybe it should have had the recording devices put in sooner.


A Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor

Scrap from a Japanese bomb used at Pearl Harbor

A Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941. We all know the date. We all know what happened at Pearl Harbor. This picture is of a piece of a bomb that was dropped by a Japanese airplane that morning.

The build up to the war between the US and Japan was a slow burn. That burn was brought to a boil when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931. Japan needed space and China had it. The story of what happened to the Chinese people during the occupation is for another time. While the US had many interests in China, it was not prepared to go to war, yet.

Fast forward almost a decade and we see Germany making taking over much of Europe, but being very, very careful to not bring the US into the war even though they were ostensibly supporting the Allies through the Lend Lease act. Germany, however had allies of their own, namely Japan.


This is where things get a little difficult. There are those that believe that the US, and President Roosevelt, took steps to goad Japan into war, which because of their alliances, would force Germany into direct conflict with the US.

Acting through a series of laws and executive orders, exports of many items classified as war materials were banned for export The president was granted the authority to make exceptions to this law and he did, choosing to provide material to the Allies.  He refused to allow Japan access to those resources. Not long after the administration seized Japanese assets in the US and cut off their supply of oil.

Cut off from these much-needed imports meant they needed to find the material somewhere. The rest of the Pacific Rim would do. All this happened in an environment where the Japanese tried seeking diplomatic solutions, but war with the US looked more and more like a possibility.

The hope was that a strong enough blow would stun the US into inaction. This would give Japan time to expand its holdings and replace much of what the embargoes were disallowing. Once done they would then try to negotiate a peace with the US.


On December 7, 1941 they attacked the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor and struck a crippling blow. The biggest mistake was that while they decimated the fleet, they missed the aircraft carriers that were not in port that day. While stunned, America maintained the capacity to strike back.

Japan, declared war, the US declared war on Japan, and right on cue Germany declared war on the US. Roosevelt got just what he wanted.

That little piece of metal is a souvenir that we get to keep from that day, a day which will live in infamy.

To learn more about the historic sites located at Pearl Harbor, click here.







Meet The USS Gerald R Ford CVN-78

Or at least a model right now. (Remember our theme is to only use pictures we take from museums and historical sites.)

The USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78) will be the first in a new class of supercarriers that will project American power to all corners of the globe. Construction began in November 2009 and she was launched for trials in October 2013. On May 31st, 2017 she was put officially in service.

The actual carrier itself is fairly impressive displacing approximately 100,000 tons and having a length of about 1,106 feet. Her 25 decks put her height at about 250 feet she can carry over 75 aircraft. More than enough to lay a major smack down. The two nuclear reactors that power the ship give her a top speed of about 30 knots (35mph) and allow for an unlimited service range.

The ship was named after President Gerald R Ford, a veteran of WWII. In 2007 an amendment to a defense spending bill first proposed the name for the as of yet in the planning stage carrier. When the bill was signed into law in 2006 it carried this suggestion. A few weeks before his death Ford was told of the final decision to name the ship after him. This makes him one of the few people who had a US Navy vessel named after him while he was still alive.

Being the newest ship to the fleet and the first of its line the ship carries a number of technological improvements. A new multi function radar increases it field of vision, and several structural changes  give the ship a lower profile and more carrying capacity, while allowing for a smaller crew. The biggest advancement is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) which replaced the tradition steam catapults. Thanks to this the Ford can handle up to 25% more aircraft launches per day that the previous family of carriers.

All in all the Ford is a great addition to the fleet and with an expected life of 50 years, she will be around for quite a while.


A Simple Letter

Though the focus of the blog is US Military History, some times you run across little pieces of history that just need to be called out. In this case, the letter above is the actual resignation letter that President Richard Nixon sent to the Secretary of State, thus ending his tenure as President.

Even today the actions of President Nixon that lead to the resignation are polarizing. Many how lived during the time saw him as the face of government corruption, a man who used his station to try to cover up illegal acts committed by people on his staff. To others he was a man who tried his best to protect people in his employ that did something stupid.

In the days after Nixon resigned faith in the government stayed at an all time low, and no one really paid the price for that more the Gerald Ford, who didn’t help that general feeling much when he pardoned Nixon of the crimes he was accused of. Many believe that Ford paid the price in the 1976 election that he lost to Jimmy Carter.

As fascinating as it is, over forty years later, that trust in government has never really been rebuilt and for the most part we have had a number of men sit in the White House that have committed even worse offensives than what Nixon did. (At this point you can start rattling off offenses as you see fit, I am not getting into that.) As we look at the political divisions of the country today it seems you can draw a line from here all the way back to that letter above.