Category Archives: Modern

Army Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal


The Army Commendation Medal is a mid-level award given out for “sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service.” It entered service in 1945 as the Army Commendation Ribbon. By 1960 it had achieved full medal status.

The medal can be awarded to any member of the US Armed Forces (except general officers) that distinguishes oneself while doing service with the US Army anytime after December 6, 1941.  Members of a friendly foreign military are eligible as of  June 1, 1962.

The commendation is awarded on the approval of a Colonel or higher. The medal is a bronze hexagon approximately 1 3/8 inches wide. The medallion shows a bald eagle with the wings spread, three arrows grasped in its talons. On its chest is a shield with thirteen stripes. The reverse of the medallion contains the words For Military Merit. There is a space between the military and merit for the recipient’s name along with a laurel sprig. The ribbon is 1 3/8 inches wide in myrtle green with five white stripes spaced evenly apart.

The USS Gerald R Ford CVN-78

The USS Gerald R Ford CVN-78


Or at least a model right now.

The USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78) is 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 smackdown. The two nuclear reactors that power the ship give her a top speed of about 30 knots (35mph). They also allow for an unlimited service range.

The ship was named after President Gerald R Ford, a veteran of WWII. In 2007 a defense spending bill first proposed the name for the unbuilt carrier.  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 with a US Navy ship named after him while still alive.

New Technology

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 its 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. 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 Sign Of The Times (Preservation)


A Sign Of The Times

In the middle of the picture, you will see a sign of the times.  You can just make it out in the middle of this intersection in what is now a suburb of Atlanta. Right next to the mailbox. See it? Good. That sign marks the spot where the Battle of Atlanta started on July 22, 1864.

Federal forces were lined up along what is now that road waiting for the Confederates to come at them. This portion of the battlefield now consists of roads that were not there, houses that were not there, a school, parks, etc. The point is time has marched on leaving the battlefield behind. Do you think the people who have that sign in their front yard know what happened there? Do you think they care?

One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War we are seeing a large number of the battlefields being encroached upon by the march of time and progress. Popular battlefields like Gettysburg, Antietam,  Shiloh and such are winning the fight or at least slowing the march of time. Gettysburg better than any of the others. Other sites, such as Atlanta and Fredericksburg have all but surrendered their past glory.

The issues of preservation versus progress have been fought in a number of battlefields itself, at the parks, in the local, state and Federal governments, between private donors and corporate interests. At some point we need to ask how much of our history do we keep and how much do we allow to be paved over?

A Sign Of The Times (Preservation)

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.




Moon Trophy

Moon Rock

Moon Trophy

It has been well established that as part of our journey through American Military History the space program falls under our purview. There are few things that exemplary the accomplishments of the program like moon rocks. Rocks that were brought back to Earth from the moon. How cool is that?

Now for the really cool part. Moon rocks that are currently on the Earth can be traced to one of three sources. Rocks that were brought back purposefully but the Apollo missions. Rocks that were brought back by the Soviet unmanned probes of the 70’s. And the ones that came to Earth the hard way as meteorites after being ejected from the surface of the Moon.

Six Apollo mission brought back over 800 pounds of rocks. These rocks are generally considered priceless and while the majority of them are in secured facilities some have found their way out to the collectors market and of course in museums around the world. In fact, in 1970 President Nixon distributed samples as goodwill gifts to all fifty states as well as 135 countries.

So how much is priceless? Well, first of all, if you had any of the real samples in your collection, your name is more than likely on a list somewhere.  In 1993 three small fragments from the Soviet collections that weighed approximately 0.2g sold for $442,500. What is that per pound? No idea, that kind of math is beyond me. Suffice to say their value is amazing but even more than their monetary value is the value as a trophy. A trophy of what we can accomplish. We went to the Moon and brought something back. Think about that the next time you go out for milk.


The USO On Tour

The USO On Tour

The USO on Tour

OK, I can not say for sure if what we are seeing is an actual USO show. I can tell you it is during the Vietnam War. There was in fact singing and dancing with a lot of people sitting there in a combat zone watching it. BUT we will call it a USO show so we can talk about that for a bit, eh?

The USO, United Service Organization is a non-profit that has been in existence since 1941. Their mission consists of providing services and live entertainment to troops and their families all over the world. In a way, during wartime, it becomes a home away from home for the US soldiers.

Disbanded after WWII it was reconstituted for the Korean War and has been going strong ever since. Regardless of political affiliations millions of people donate and hundreds of performers donate their time for this cause.

Currently, there are over 160 locations in 14 countries around the world and 27 states with over 8 million visitors in 2011.

For the troops in the field visits by some of the top names in Hollywood have always been welcomed. Among the top-tier was Bob Hope, who will always be the face of the program. In more recent times celebrities such as Jay Leno, Bruce Willis, Steve Martin Robin Williams, Gary Sinise,  Toby Keith, and many, many more.

It is all about helping the men and women of the armed forces to understand that they are never forgotten and that their sacrifice and the burdens they bear and appreciated. Sometimes live music, warm food, and good company can help to take the sting out of a bad and serious deployment.


The Do’s and Don’ts of a Hospital Ship

Hospital Ship

Hospital Ship, Do’s and Don’ts

The picture above is a US Naval Hospital Ship that was in use during the Vietnam War. The idea of the hospital ship goes all the way back to Ancient Greece and the Athenian Navy. Rome also had at least one hospital ship in their fleet. So they have been around forever.

The modern incarnation of the hospital ship came about during the Crimean War. The British had several steamships that were equipped with facilities comparable to hospitals of the day. Their decedents would be seen through both World Wars and up to today.

Most countries with a Navy have some sort of hospital ship or something designated in that class.  Today there are also several civilian groups that outfit and maintain hospital ships for humanitarian relief.

Treaties Covering The Rules


The Hague Convention X of 1907 covers what designates a hospital ship under article four.

  • The ship must be clearly marked and lighted as a hospital ship.
  • The ship must give medical assistance to wounded personnel of all nationalities.
  • It must not be used for any military purpose.
  • The ship must not interfere with or hamper enemy combatant vessels.
  • Belligerents, as designated by the Hague Convention, can search any hospital ship to investigate violations of the above restrictions.
  • Belligerents will establish the location of a hospital ship.

In 1994 the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea further refined the rules for hospital ships and laid out the rules under which action may be taken against the ships. A non-complying ship may only be fired upon under the following circumstances:

  • Diversion or capture is not feasible.
  • No other method to exercise is available.
  • The violations are grave enough to allow the ship to be classified as a military objective.
  • And if fired upon, the damage and casualties will not be disproportionate to the military advantage.





Propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” So you can say just about everything you see during the day is propaganda. The use of propaganda during wartime is almost as old as war itself and certainly has had its place in American Military History.

The examples that you see in the picture are from the Korean conflict. Pamphlets like these were disseminated to the general population to convince them that the UN/South Korean troops were the good guys. The goal was to either get people to fight, flee, or at least not support the enemy. There is an ongoing debate as to how effective it is or was during this conflict. Other times the effective use of propaganda has proven very valuable.

Before and during the American Revolution the use of propaganda was vital to sway people to the side of the rebels. Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre that took some liberties with events. The stories that surrounded young Jane McCrea led to the British defeat at Saratoga. Propaganda proved an invaluable tool in gaining the support needed to win the American Revolution.

Several times it was not just used to gain support for a war, but to actually get one started!

During the lead up to the Mexican War is an example. The administration was able to convince the people that Mexican soldiers had attacked American soldiers on American soil. (A dubious and purposeful claim that a young Abraham Lincoln took exception to.)

Don’t forget using the sinking of the USS Maine to throw us into war against Spain. There many more examples in our history. Now expand that to the rest of the world. It seems that propaganda is just as important as guns and money to starting, fighting and winning a war.


The Rising Sun

The Rising Sun

The Rising Sun

It is known by several names but the most widely used is Hinomaru, “circle of the sun”. Like many flags through history, it has seen its share of good and bad. This flag has represented  Japan since 1870.  Even before that the sun motif was used to represent Japan and the history of the Japanese people. During WWII it became a symbol of empire and domination. Since the end of the war, it has become a symbol of a past that many would soon forget.

It has been a long road since the war ended. Mainly among the Japanese themselves who turned away from their militaristic past and have tried to distance themselves from it. For a period the flag was seldom used, almost hidden from sight but once Japan sought to rejoin the world it could no longer be hidden raising the question on the validity of having such a symbol representing their nation.

Protests at home and abroad have sought the removal of the flag for generations now. The issues of displaying it in their schools have divided the people. In many places across the country, it is never seen flying, even on national holidays. Yet there are many that see it as a symbol of pride and strength, and while many wrongs were done under it they question the validity of attempting to erase the history that it represents.

In August 1999 the Diet, Japan’s ruling body, officially passed legislation making the Hinomaru the official national flag of Japan. It would seem that it was decided that the best way to avoid repeating the past is to never forget it.


What Makes a Tomcat Go?

An f-14 Tomcat Engine

What Makes a Tomcat Go?

Why these of course.

The Grumman f-14 Tomcat has been one of the most iconic Navy fighters of the modern age. Sure they are long in the tooth and are pretty much passed by now, but thanks to Top Gun they will always have a special place in our collective hearts, and that above is what made them go.

The Pratt & Whitney TF30 was first put into production in 1964 and were being built up until 1986 and while they functioned well in other aircraft, in the F-14 that had some issues with compression stalls at high angles of attack when the throttles were moved aggressively.

In other aircraft these stalls were able to be compensated for, but in the Tomcat, because the two engines were so widely spaced apart it could cause the plane to go into a spin that was VERY difficult to recover from. Just ask Goose. The major issues were finally resolved in a new version of the engine that started seeing service in the F-14A in the late 80’s.

The engine was used in the following aircraft models:

  •  F-111 (General Dynamics)
  •  F-111C (General Dynamics)
  • EF-111A Raven (General Dynamics/Grumman)
  • F-111B (General Dynamics/Grumman)
  • F-111K  (General Dynamics)
  • F-14A Tomcat  (General Dynamics)
  • LTV A-7A/B/C Corsair II

If you are curious you can find out some more about the engine at the Pratt & Whitney site here.