Salute To Service – James T. MooreMarch 21, 2018
Salute to service returns this week with the story of James Tillinghast Moore. A career officer in the Marine Corps and a World War Two veteran from Barnwell, SC, Moore was also the son of a former Adjutant General of the South Carolina National Guard (William Woodbury Moore). As a result, choosing a military career would mean having some big boots to fill – but as you’ll see Moore was equal to the task, and through the course of his life managed to follow in his father’s footsteps while blazing his own trail, and live up to the legacy set by his father while creating one himself.
Born on September 5, 1895, Moore was one of around one thousand inhabitants of Barnwell when he entered the world, he would, however, leave as a teenager to study at the Citadel, just as his father had done. Upon graduation in 1916 Moore immediately became a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps with the rank of 2nd lieutenant, but remained in education until December of that year while he attended Marine Officers School at the Navy Yard in Norfolk, VA. Graduation from Marine Officers School was followed initially by assignment to the 2nd Provisional Brigade of Marines, and then by Moore’s first active-duty assignment, a posting to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Moore was a company commander with the 4th Marine Regiment at a time when the U.S. had occupied the country as part of what later became known as the ‘Banana Wars’, and American forces there (predominantly Marines) regularly came up against armed insurgency from those who opposed the intervention.
Moore was promoted twice while in the Dominican Republic so he was a Captain when he returned home in April 1919, and following assignments at Philadelphia Navy Yard and Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot he fatefully requested a transfer to Marine Corps Aviation. His request was granted and in 1920 Moore joined the service with which he would most closely be associated, reporting to Naval Air Station Pensacola for flight training that July. Moore’s first assignment as a fully qualified airman was a return to the island of Hispaniola, stationed in Haiti as a pilot with First Brigade of Marines. From 1924 to 1927 he split time between Marine Barracks Quantico in Virginia (where he often found himself when not overseas) and NAS Pensacola – highlights of this period in his career include a stint as assistant to the Chief of Naval Aviation Training at Pensacola, and three months at Kelly Field in Texas attending the Advanced Flying School.
In March 1927, however, he was once again headed overseas – bound for China to serve as Executive Officer of Observations Aircraft Squadrons, part of 3rd Marine Brigade, as they watched over the gunboats of the Yangtze Patrol and helped safeguard America’s trade interests in the Orient. One notable incident occurred as part of the Marine Corps Birthday celebrations that year when Moore took part in an exhibition of stunt flying that almost turned to disaster. While attempting a climbing roll as part of the routine, both wings came off his aircraft – needless to say, the wingless fuselage soon crashed as a result but Moore was able to bail out in time, and parachuted down unharmed to land just in front of the audience. It’s also said that many spectators were unaware what they witnessed was, in fact, an accident, and found Moore to have put on a great show with his feat of derring-do!
Further peacetime postings in the late 20’s and 30’s followed, including a return to Haiti as commander of Bowen Field near Port-Au-Prince, during which time he was decorated with the Haitian National Order Of Honor And Merit for his service to that country. At home, he again returned to Quantico (on more than one occasion), underwent instruction at the Air Corps Tactical School, and on the senior course at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. Moore even managed to travel overseas when given domestic assignments, serving in Guam and at NAS St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a squadron commander. Appointment as Force Air Officer with Fleet Marine Force saw Moore transferred to the Marine Corps base in San Diego in 1939, and he was promoted to Colonel in 1940 before leading a U.S. Aviation Mission to Peru. In that role, Moore acted as an advisor to Peruvian President Manuel Prado Ugarteche, who also placed Moore in command of the entire Peruvian Air Force. He was promoted again while in Peru to Brigadier General, thereby equaling his father in rank, (he would later surpass him with a promotion to Major General) and as he had been in Haiti, Moore was decorated by the South American nation – becoming a commander in the Orden El Sol del Peru (the ‘Order of the Sun’) and earning the Peruvian Aviation Cross for his service.
He was recalled to join the American war effort in 1942 and placed in command of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) in Hawaii before venturing out into the Pacific. In April 1943 Moore transferred to a staff position with 1st MAW as Chief of Staff – simultaneously acting as Chief of Staff for Marine Air forces across the entire South Pacific. During this time he also became an acquaintance of famed fighter pilot ‘Pappy’ Boyington, as Boyington was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 11 – then part of 1st MAW – on his return to the Marine Corps from serving with the Flying Tigers in East Asia. This association would later lead actor Simon Conrad to play Moore in the NBC series ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, which was loosely based on Boyington’s time in charge of Marine Fighter Squadron 214 – dubbed ‘the Black Sheep Squadron’ – from September 1943 to January 1944.
Moore eventually assumed overall command of 1st MAW from Major General Ralph J. Mitchell in 1944, and later that year he and his men – alongside the 1st Marines, the 81st Infantry Division and other U.S. forces – approached the Palauan island of Peleliu. As the near three-month fight for the island continued all around his HQ, Moore directed all air power committed to the battle (including USAAF and Navy planes) and was able to make significant contributions to the victorious American effort on Peleliu and the wider Pacific War. Initially this was through coordinating operations with ground forces and giving them air support to drive the enemy off of Peleliu, then providing a robust air defense with his aircraft that allowed Allied forces to consolidate their position and ownership of the island, before using his command to go on the offensive by attacking enemy military assets, positions, and infrastructure throughout the Western Pacific.
For his actions on Peleliu and in the months that followed, General Moore was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal to go alongside thirteen other military honors conferred upon him by the Allies, United States, Haiti and Peru, and his Naval Aviator Badge. He closed out the war as Commanding General of Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific and retired from the military in 1946 to spend civilian life in Columbia, SC with his wife Fannie. He sadly passed away there in 1953 (at the age of 58) before being laid to rest in his hometown of Barnwell, SC at Barnwell Baptist Church Cemetery, where he lies today.
This week Salute To Service brings you the second part of our look at Major General Charles F. Bolden, a Columbia, SC native who served his country for half a century as a Marine, Pilot, and Astronaut. Having covered his early military career and first two spaceflights last week, this week will take us through the 90’s, into the new millennium and beyond to witness that service on Earth as well as above it, in a climate full of new friends, new enemies, and new challenges met with new answers.
Following STS-31’s 1990 flight to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, Bolden’s next trip beyond the atmosphere came two years later with STS-45.The main payload for STS-45 was the first set of twelve ATLAS (Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science) experiments, mounted on Spacelab pallets in shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay, but they also carried a further six experiments in the mid-deck, a ‘getaway special’ cannister (a small self-contained experiment that NASA would send to space on behalf of selected private individuals or groups in return for a fee), and the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) – making for a total of 20 scientific investigations aboard Atlantis as she launched on March 24, 1992. The 8-day flight – while still successful and very important for the scientific progress made, was otherwise largely uneventful – with the highlight of our story probably being a seating change for Bolden… Already acclimated to the right-hand seat on the Space Shuttle flight deck (that of the mission pilot), STS-45 marked the first time NASA gave him the left-hand seat, and the role that since the days of the Apollo program traditionally came with it – that of overall mission commander.
Another barrage of firsts would come with Bolden’s final spaceflight, STS-60 in 1994. Again placed in overall command he flew aboard Discovery for the second time (having piloted her during the 1990 mission to launch the Hubble Space Telescope) with the customary bevy of experiments aboard. However, the most momentous occurrences during this mission would not be ones of scientific discovery – rather they involved preparation and testing for a new era of collaboration between the world’s two spacefaring superpowers. STS-60 marked the beginning of the Shuttle-Mir program and saw a crew including Sergei Krikalev, making the first flight of a Russian Cosmonaut aboard the Space Shuttle, rendez-vous with the Russian space station Mir and lay the groundwork for later Shuttle missions that would dock with the station. As part of their activities, the crew participated in a live video link with their counterparts on Mir that was featured on Good Morning America and were also contacted by President Clinton and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin (who Bolden talked to personally along with Krikalev) during the course of their 8 days in space.
When Discovery touched down at the Kennedy Shuttle Landing Facility on February 11, 1994, Bolden brought his time as an active member of the Astronaut Corps to an end having made four successful spaceflights, logging a total of 28 days, 8 hours and 37 minutes in space, and orbiting the earth 451 times. This was not the end of his career though as he remained in service with the Marine Corps, and as such was assigned as Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy before becoming Deputy Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF). From February to June 1998 he served as Commanding General, I MEF (Forward) in support of ‘Operation Desert Thunder’ – the operation designed to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East amidst investigations into Iraq’s possession or pursuit of Weapons of Mass Destruction, UN Weapons Inspections in that country, and threats to use WMD’s made by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Bolden was promoted to his final rank of Major General later that year, before transferring to a new position as deputy commander of U.S. forces in Japan, and then as commander of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing – itself part of I MEF – in what proved to be his final assignment before retirement from the military in 2004.
Bolden returned to NASA in 2009 when he was appointed as the organization’s Administrator by President Barack Obama, and one of his first actions was to reshape the landscape of American spaceflight. The ‘Constellation’ program was the Bush administration’s plan for the future of NASA, and envisioned an ‘Apollo-style’ manned return to the moon, before the eventual establishment of a base there as the first steps towards a manned flight to Mars. However, following the inauguration of President Obama, the program was found to be “over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation” and it was canceled, leaving Bolden and his team at NASA with the task of redefining the federal space program’s future plans. Over the course of his tenure as Administrator, these plans took shape and NASA began walking the new ‘flexible path to Mars’, which involves building a combined station and assembly facility in Lunar orbit, to be used as a staging point for that manned trip to The Red Planet. The only piece of hardware to survive this change of plan was the Orion crew capsule, which underwent its first flight tests in 2014 and which – along with the new ‘Space Launch System’ launch vehicles designed to power it out of our atmosphere – should be the backbone of NASA’s space exploration efforts for the foreseeable future. The two elements are set to take two big steps on that ‘flexible path to Mars’ soon too – their first flight together should come in 2019, with the first crewed mission following in 2022.
As an aside Bolden also developed something of a broadcasting career during his time at NASA. There was, of course, the appearance on Good Morning America mentioned above as well as a number of short Q&A sessions with schools across America held via amateur radio during STS-60, and he is also the virtual host of the ‘Shuttle Launch Experience’ exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (a job he beat professional actors to get!) and finally, in 2012 the Curiosity rover made Bolden the first human to have his voice broadcast on the surface of Mars. As Curiosity has no speakers there will have been nothing to hear on Mars itself, but because the rover is capable of transmitting signals back to Earth a powerful enough receiver on our planet could, and indeed did, pick up Bolden’s message when Curiosity broadcast it on Mars (and as we do have speakers, you can hear part of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfSNxNOsR0Y). Charles Bolden left NASA in January 2017 to enjoy retirement with his family in the Houston area, however, his legacy and place in the history of human spaceflight is surely very secure given some of the milestones and events that he witnessed in person – either from the Space Shuttle’s flight deck or from the heart of the support operation here on Earth – as well as the way that he has helped define ‘the next giant leap for mankind’, and helped guide the development of the machines that will one day help us take it.
For the next installment in our Black History Month series, this week in Salute to Service we move away from men who have helped shape the world we live in today, to bring you the story of someone who until very recently was working to shape the world we might live in tomorrow. Or to put it more precisely, the worlds that we might live on. Yes, this week we once again take to the stars to bring you the story of Major General Charles F. Bolden – a Marine, Aviator and Astronaut who gave fifty years of faithful service to his country, before retiring from the armed forces as a Major General, and the Administrator of NASA just over one year ago.
At the age of 18 Charles Frank Bolden, Jr. graduated from C.A. Johnson High School, in his home town of Columbia, South Carolina. From here he wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy but states that he was blocked from doing so by South Carolina’s Senate delegation, which included then-segregationist Strom Thurmond. Nevertheless, he was appointed to the academy, graduating four years later in 1968 as president of his class and immediately receiving an officer’s commission with the Marine Corps. After graduation Bolden was sent to attend flight training, earning his status as a Naval Aviator in 1970 before serving in Vietnam from 1972 to 1973. During his tour in Vietnam Bolden flew with the 533rd Marine Fighter Attack Squadron based out of the Royal Thai Air Force base at Nam Phong, and performed more than 100 sorties in an A-6A Intruder before being brought back to the U.S. to serve as a Marine Corps recruitment officer in Los Angeles. A three-year stint at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro followed, and then Bolden made his way back across the country to attend Navy Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland – graduating in 1979 and duly going on to the Naval Air Test Center, where he accumulated more than 6,000 flight hours in aircraft including the A-6E Intruder, EA-6B Prowler, and A-7 Corsair II while working on projects such as ordnance tests.
Bolden was selected as an Astronaut Candidate in 1980, successfully completing training in time to make his first spaceflight as the pilot for mission STS-61-C, originally scheduled for launch just prior to Christmas 1985. Unfortunately, bad weather and a couple of equipment issues delayed the launch until January 1986, but once in orbit, everything went smoothly – with the crew launching an RCA communications satellite and performing a number of science experiments entirely as planned. In response to the late launch NASA intended to cut STS-61-C to 4 days in duration, in order to minimize the knock-on effect their delays would have on later missions – but in one happy coincidence for the crew bad weather at the landing site delayed their return for a further two days, meaning that they remained in orbit for six of the seven days intended in their original mission profile. On a more personal level Bolden also had what may well be a unique honor among the NASA Astronaut Corps, that of piloting a shuttle carrying the same name as his hometown – as shuttle Columbia was the vehicle chosen for this mission.
Sadly, it would be a long time before there were any more happy coincidences for NASA and the shuttle program. The administration did succeed in limiting the delays passed on to the next mission (STS-51-L) to only two days, but that mission – which blasted off just ten days after Bolden and his crew returned to Earth – is sadly best known today for the tragic loss of the shuttle Challenger and all seven members of her crew, when an explosion ripped through the orbiter and ascent stages one minute and thirteen seconds after launch. Weeks after the accident Bolden would be one of the seven astronauts that escorted Challenger’s final crew to Dover AFB aboard a C-141 Starlifter, and he also gave a bible reading at NASA’s Challenger memorial service. NASA understandably grounded the entire shuttle fleet for a year and a half while a thorough investigation into Challenger’s demise was carried out, and Bolden himself would have to wait four whole years to make his second spaceflight. When that flight came though, it would be one for the history books…
STS-31 left Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39B in April 1990, with Bolden at the controls of Discovery. On board were the customary cargo of science experiments, including a considerable number dealing with photographic imaging and other such fields. This was the ideal mission to carry these experiments though as Discovery would be going into the highest orbit the shuttle had ever seen, at an average altitude of 600km (around 370 miles) above Earth. As Discovery would be orbiting so high, NASA also made use of the opportunity to take images of vast tracts of the planet’s surface, observing and capturing topographic, geologic and other large-scale features that could not be seen in their entirety from lower orbits. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the reason for this high orbit was another piece of imaging hardware, as STS-31’s primary objective was to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble may have required significant remedial work in the years to come in order to fulfill its own mission – but aside from having one of the solar panels jam temporarily STS-31’s task to actually deploy the apparatus was a resounding success, and Bolden and his comrades returned home safely after just over five days in space.
We still have plenty more to tell you about Major General Bolden, but alas, we must bend to the needs of time and space and bring this week’s installment of Salute to Service to an end. Be sure to join us next week though, as the Bob Richards Blog continues with part two of our voyage through his incredible career!
We knew it was a risky proposal given our love for the cars involved, and indeed writing that piece about the Nismo Festival a few weeks ago got us all nostalgic for some of the vehicles that were on display… This week we get to remedy that by writing about some of our favorite cars of all time, and take you on a journey through Nissan history – as over the next few weeks you’ll see a relatively languid luxury sedan transform into a hypercar for the masses during our look back on the Nissan Skyline……Except of course, for the first few years of the dynasty Skylines weren’t Nissan’s – they weren’t even Datsuns – no, the Skyline badge was brought into the world by the Prince Motor Company in 1957, and the vehicle they attached it to wasn’t a sports car, roadster or grand tourer – it was a luxury sedan. The styling has a decidedly American look to it (there’s plenty of chrome and white-walled tires) but the motor was worlds apart from what the competition across the Pacific was using, or even what the Skyline itself would become… Contemporary American vehicles had engines of 3.5 liters and 120hp or more as a matter of routine, but the first Skylines produced were powered by a 1.5-liter inline-4 rated at 60hp. That said, the first-generation Skyline was a good foot or more shorter – and probably that much lighter – than the average American sedan, and power in the 1.5-liter lump was increased to 70hp for 1959’s model update. Later on, 91hp became available courtesy of a 1.9-liter engine sourced from Prince Gloria, which was used in cars produced after the third model update in 1961 as well as the first ‘performance’ Skyline, the Skyline Sport of 1962. Finally, it may seem incredible now given what the car became in later iterations, but this first Skyline was also the basis for some commercial and utility vehicles – a van, (replaced by a station wagon in 1961) and a pickup truck were marketed as the ‘Prince Skyway’ during this generation.
The second-generation Skyline was introduced in September 1963. A 55hp 1.9L diesel motor joined the lineup during this period but elsewhere little changed – from 1963 to 1968 all gas-powered Skylines used Prince’s G-1 engine, (an evolution of the 70hp 1.5-liter used from 1959 to 1961 with essentially the same vital statistics) mated to your choice of three-on-the-tree or four-on-the-floor transmission, while a 2-speed auto was also added later on. Still, there were a number of Skyline firsts achieved by this model – there was new European-influenced styling that was the origin of the Skyline’s somewhat expressive face through the years, and the introduction of a ‘frowning’ expression that would become more pronounced in the next generation. This was the first Skyline to be exported, the first to wear a Nissan badge – following Prince’s merger with the company in 1966 the car was known as the ‘Nissan Prince Skyline’ for its final couple of years on sale – and the first Skyline to be raced as Prince aimed to win the GT-II class at the 2nd Japanese Grand Prix (then a GT / Sportscar race). Sadly they fell just short of their goal, but Skylines did finish 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th – an incredible result for the young team and surely a moral victory if not an actual one. Perhaps the most important thing taken away from this generation though was the change of tack by Prince – thanks to the success of their race program and the performance ‘2000GT’ road-going Skylines it spawned, they moved the car away from the luxury market and towards the thing it would eventually be best known for – affordable performance that was still useable in everyday life.
The final iteration of the second generation car was the ‘S57’, with the main difference between this and previous ‘standard’ Skylines being the new ‘G15’ engine. It was still a 1.5-liter inline-4 but it increased power to 87hp and was retained as an option for 1968’s new third-generation model alongside a 1.8 liter motor with 105hp. This third generation was the first to be called simply a ‘Nissan Skyline’ – as the Prince badge had been phased out by the time it went on sale – and cars were still available as 4-door sedans and 5-door wagons, both of which were sold as Skylines. Learning a lesson from the need to elongate the front of the racecar mentioned above by some 8 inches in order to shoehorn the inline-6 from a Gloria into the engine bay, this time Nissan built the required room into their new car, and the top dogs at launch took advantage of this. The 2000GT and 2000GT-X performance sedans developed 120hp and 130hp respectively with 2-liter inline-6 engines, but just one year later there would be a new car at the top of the tree – and one with a name that would echo through the next 50-plus years… The very first Nissan Skyline GT-R went on sale in February 1969 and was initially another 4-door sedan, but a stripped-out 2-door coupe also came along in 1971 and both were powered by the 2-liter, 6-cylinder ‘S20’ engine developed by former Prince employees, making 160hp. That’s a potent formula for its day and the GT-R did indeed see plenty of success both commercially and on the racetrack, where it regularly took down domestic rivals from Japan and also gained victories against veteran race car builders like Porsche.
So – as our title promised a legend has been born – but where do things go from here? Unfortunately dear reader you’ll have to wait for a little to find out, but we will pick the story up again in our next Nissan blog in a couple of weeks. In the meantime why not take a trip back to the present, and to Bob Richards Nissan or Nissan of Augusta? You can see a direct descendent of the cars we talked about above in the flesh at Bob Richards Nissan, as a very nice 2017 GT-R is currently the centerpiece of their showroom – and while they may not share underpinnings with the GT-R these days, both dealerships have a good choice of top-quality trucks, vans, sedans and more for your perusal too. Our knowledgeable and friendly staff will be happy to make your acquaintance ad help in any way they can, with none of the game-playing you might find elsewhere – so if you want a great deal and a great experience, make sure to come see us at the following locations:
Bob Richards Nissan: 5590 Jefferson Davis Highway, Beech Island, SC 29842 & www.bobrichardsnissan.com
Nissan of Augusta: 3300 Washington Road, Martinez, GA 30907 & www.nissanofaugusta.com
Salute to Service- Rodney M. DavisFebruary 23, 2018
Salute To Service – Rodney M. Davis
The Vietnam War was a unique conflict in human history – not only did it polarize opinion here at home, but in the field, America’s soldiers had to deal with a number of circumstances that served to make the already hard task of waging war even harder. Taking on a determined foe on his ground – a highly lethal environment in which the steaming jungles of Southeast Asia sometimes seemed trained to fight them too – was a tough task, but hundreds of thousands of men stepped forward to do their duty in the fight to defend freedom and liberty, and in the process a select few would mark themselves out as heroes. One of those heroes was Marine Sergeant Rodney M. Davis, and it’s his story that we bring you today.
Rodney Maxwell Davis was born in Macon, GA on April 7, 1942. He joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating high school and like all prospective Marines from east of the Mississippi, reported to South Carolina and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for recruit training – arriving in August 1961 at the age of 19. He completed this first step in December of that year and after three months of combat training at Camp Lejeune, NC, Davis joined the Fleet Marine Force as a rifleman with 2nd Marine Regiment. Later in the decade, he would serve a three-year tour of duty in London, England, but while he was across the Atlantic an already tense status quo in Vietnam worsened, and following the Gulf of Tonkin incident, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent American ground forces into that country.
Davis joined the growing American deployment in Vietnam in August 1967, serving with Bravo Company, part of the 5th Marine Regiment’s 1st Battalion (A.K.A. ‘1/5 Marines’). He arrived in time to take part in ‘Operation Cochise’, the third phase of a larger campaign comprising Operations “Union” and “Union II’ earlier in 1967, whose goal was to drive the North Vietnamese out of the Que Son Valley – a strategically important, well populated and food-bearing basin seen as a crucial asset in asserting control over the northern part of South Vietnam. Though it didn’t turn out to be as resounding a victory as US and ARVN forces had hoped it would be, Operation Cochise did succeed in making the North Vietnamese take a backwards step, and as August turned to September 5th Marines were performing patrols and sweeps in the area to reassure and protect the local populace.
The situation changed on the morning of September 4th however, when Delta Co. 1/5 Marines were attacked while they were still in their overnight defensive perimeter near the village of Dong Son. In response, the 1st Battalion commander sent Bravo Co. to their aid, and while Bravo Co. did reach their comrades both companies were pinned down and heavily engaged. Kilo and Mike Companies from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were dispatched to assist Bravo and Delta, but around 1500 meters from their objective both of these units also encountered heavy resistance and could not advance further. Air support and supply drops became the Americans’ lifeline at this point and enabled them to hold on until September 5th, when a company of fresh Marines counterattacked at dawn and forced the enemy to fall back.
This counterattack marked the official start of ‘Operation Swift’, but the relief it brought only lasted until the afternoon of September 6th, when the 1st Vietcong Regiment attacked Bravo Co. and Sgt. Davis again. Bravo was nearly overrun as a result but held on to their defensive position after a friendly helicopter dropped CS gas onto the battlefield. Believing this to be a more deadly chemical agent (or that such retaliation was coming), the Vietcong broke off their attack and waited for the gas to dissipate – however, the assault was never resumed before they withdrew at 0200 the next morning. Later, on September 7th a map was found on one of the fallen attackers, and the intelligence it offered will surely have helped the Marines and their colleagues during the next phase of the operation as American forces continued their advance through the valley, making regular contact with North Vietnamese combatants in the days that followed and discovering a cache of supplies. By the time Operation Swift concluded on September 15th the Americans had seized the entire southern half of the Que Son Valley and begun establishing a larger and more permanent presence in the area – to consolidate the ground gained and eliminate the enemy’s perception of the Que Son Valley as a weak point in the US / ARVN defensive strategy.
Sadly, Sgt. Davis could not be a part of this final victory, having been killed while fighting from a trench on September 6th. However, he is said to have led by great example as Bravo Company defended against the Vietcong, moving up and down the line shouting words of encouragement to the men of his platoon and directing their fire, while also firing his own weapon and throwing grenades to stave off the assault. At some point during the battle, he made the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow Marines, throwing himself on an enemy grenade that had landed in the trench. For this brave and selfless act he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, with the citation for his award remarking: “Through his extraordinary initiative and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, Sgt. Davis saved his comrades from injury and possible loss of life, enabled his platoon to hold its vital position, and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
Davis was subsequently repatriated and laid to rest at the historically African-American Linwood Cemetery near Macon, and though his family did their part to look after his final resting place the cemetery needed more care and maintenance than they alone could give. As time went on it fell into a state of disrepair and overgrowth until a group of Marine veterans – among them a man who credits Davis with saving his life during the war – visited the site around 2010. Lamenting the situation in which they found their fallen comrade they brought the matter to the attention of the 1/5 Marines Association – who together with friends, family and others with ties to the Marine Corps or the community raised some $60,000, and set about restoring the cemetery. Sgt. Davis’ old wooden monument was replaced with a large stone obelisk and a seating area in 2012, and over the years a continued effort has seen a large number of headstones and other memorials dedicated to those interred at Linwood also reclaimed from the undergrowth. That effort continues to this day through regular volunteer gatherings and other celebrations, at which the community comes together to tend the grounds, remember and pay their respects, and celebrate the exemplary human qualities that Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis demonstrated so well.
Salute To Service – Cpl. Freddie Stowers
Our Black History Month mini-series continues this week in Salute to service with the story of Corporal Freddie Stowers – a man who, though he could never know it, surely will go down in history as one of the men who started the movement towards the fully-integrated military (and possibly society) that we enjoy today.
Stowers was born on Jan 12th, 1894 in Sandy Springs, SC. He married and became a father at a young age, supporting his wife and daughter by working as a farmhand until America’s entry into the First World War, when he was drafted into the army. Following his call to arms Stowers travelled to Camp (now Fort) Jackson in Columbia, where he was based alongside other black draftees in a provisional unit that would later be attached to 93rd Infantry Division (Colored) as the 371st Infantry Regiment – with Stowers assigned to ‘C’ company of the regiment’s 1st Battalion – before crossing the Atlantic to serve on the Western Front. After reaching Europe however 93rd Division was split up, with its individual regiments being placed into larger French units.
The first task of the war for the men of the 371st was to train with the French XIII corps. This was likely a very useful exercise, as although they were American soldiers and wore American (green) uniforms, being under French command meant they were issued with French arms and equipment, which included the blue ‘Adrian’ helmet which would later become an iconic symbol for the 93rd Division as a whole, and go on to feature on the division’s shoulder sleeve insignia. Following this training period, the 371st joined up with the French 157th Infantry Division on June 6th, 1918, and were usually based in the vicinity of the ancient and symbolic French city of Verdun, manning part of the extensive network of defenses and fortifications there. However, as final preparations and deployments were made for the Meuse-Argonne offensive which began September 26th, they were ordered to the Somme-Bionne sector.
From the operation’s outset, the American and French forces made slow but steady progress, with the 371st’s 1st Battalion reaching the foot of a hill known as ‘Côte 188’ in the pre-dawn hours of September 28th. Côte 188 had once been a German defensive strongpoint, but the belief was now that the men there no longer had the will to fight, that the enemy was withdrawing from the position, and as such resistance was expected to be light. This assessment was backed up by the recent surrender of more than 30 German soldiers from Côte 188, and as the attack began it appeared to be correct. The men entrenched atop the hill put up a solid defensive effort in response but as expected, began to surrender in the face of a determined and steady grind forward from 1st Battalion and ‘C’ Company. In response the Americans followed protocol, ceased fire and moved towards the German lines believing the fighting to be over – however, as they closed to within around 100 meters of the enemy trench the capitulation was revealed to be a ruse, as the surrendering soldiers jumped back behind their defences and opened fire with machine guns and trench mortars.
Taken by surprise and caught in the crossfire created by the enemy machine gun emplacements, the men of ‘C’ Company did their best to lay down in no-man’s land and avoid the hail of bullets and shrapnel flying over their heads. However both platoon commanders were hit and many NCO’s also became casualties, to the point where Stowers – on the face of things a lowly Corporal trained to lead only a rifle squad – found himself in charge of a much larger group of men. Nevertheless, by keeping his composure and leading the way Stowers was able to rally the men around him before they successfully crawled forward into the enemy’s line and knocked out the machine guns – whose crews became outflanked once the Americans gained access to the front-line trench. Stowers then took stock of the situation and regrouped his men, before moving on to set about the next line of enemy soldiers defending the hill. He was hit twice during this second advance and mortally wounded but did not stop going forward until blood loss caused him to collapse. Even when he became unable to advance any further himself Stowers continued to direct his brothers in arms onward and yelled encouragement to the men that had followed him. He would sadly succumb to his wounds on the slopes of Côte 188, but Stowers’ loss was not in vain – later in the day ‘B’ and ‘D’ Companies were able to flank the defences on the hill from both sides, driving the enemy from their positions and placing Côte 188 in American hands.
Following his sacrifice, Corporal Stowers and three other men who took part in the assault were recommended for the Medal of Honor. Distinguished Service Medals were later awarded to those other men but a clerical error meant the application put in for Stowers was misplaced, and as a result, he received no military decorations for what he did that day in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. It was only when this paperwork was discovered again in 1990 that the Army Decorations Board reviewed the accounts of his actions and approved the application, with president George H. W. Bush presenting Stowers’ Medal of Honor to his sisters Georgina and Mary on April 24th, 1991. On that date he became the first (and thus far only) African-American to win the Medal of Honor during the First World War, and in addition to this place in the history books, the Army has also dedicated at least two buildings – the base Elementary School at Fort Benning, GA and the Single Soldier Billeting Complex at Fort Jackson, SC – to bear his name, while Anderson University in Anderson, SC (close to Stowers’ birthplace of Sandy Springs) has erected a bronze statue of him on campus. Finally, away from his own personal honors, another legacy of Freddie Stowers’ 70-plus-year wait for formal recognition was an investigation into the awarding of medals to non-white soldiers during the Second World War, which found that a number of men awarded the Distinguished Service Cross were victims of a level of bias or prejudice at the Decorations Board, and in fact should have received the Medal of Honor for their actions. Those Medals of Honor were subsequently awarded and the records updated, with President Clinton presenting many of the decorations personally to the men identified or their next-of-kin.
In honor of Martin Luther King Day and the upcoming Black History Month, over the next few weeks salute to service will focus on a number of celebrated African-American military men – telling their stories and paying our own well deserved tribute. Being proud of our roots here in the CSRA, we don’t think there’s any better way to begin such a series than with 2nd Lieutenant Henry Bohler – we certainly feel very privileged to add him to the list of men and women honored in Salute to Service, and hope that you’ll join us now as we tell of how a boy once told to abandon his childhood dream fought first to make that dream come true, went on to fight and stand for the equality and rights of all men, and in the process helped to shape the world we live in today.
Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler was born right here in Augusta, on June 8, 1925. Growing up he always harbored hopes of one day becoming a pilot, but that was a dream that he had been told could never come true because he was black. Up until the late 30’s the people who told him so probably had a point in feeling that young Henry learning to fly was a remote possibility, but after twenty years of lobbying and agitation following the First World War – when African-Americans were prevented from seeing combat in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps, a previous incarnation of what is now the U.S. Air Force – and with international tensions and the threat of war on the rise, everything changed in 1939 with three key events: Firstly, the newly established Civilian Pilot Training Program began teaching civilians to fly – officially it was a program designed to greatly increase the number of American civilian pilots and thereby boost the civilian aviation industry, though the knowledge that CPTP graduates would also be useful as military pilots should America enter the war was definitely not lost on the government. Later that year a HBCU in Alabama – Tuskegee Institute – began training pilots under the CPTP, and finally, on April 3, 1939, Public Law 18, an appropriation bill allocating funds specifically for the training of African-American pilots, went into effect.
Selection and eligibility criteria were strict – as was the testing that determined whether or not a man met those criteria – but Bohler now had a door through which he could access his dream. He wasted no time and enlisted in the USAAF at age 17, showing the tenacity and conviction that were a big part of his character by successfully convincing the recruitment officer to take him despite being one pound under the 110-lb minimum weight requirement. Bohler was duly sent to Tuskegee to train with the P-51 Mustang, becoming one of the famed ‘Tuskegee Airmen’ and aiming to fight in Europe like many Tuskegee graduates before him. His young age worked against him in that pursuit, however – by the time he completed training and earned his wings it was 1944, and the USAAF had all the pilots it needed to prosecute the war already at the front. As a result, Bohler did not see combat in World War Two, but he remained in service to his country for a few years before leaving the Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1947.
On returning to civilian life Bohler also returned to school, earning a degree from Hampton University in Virginia. He also met the woman who would become his wife – Clifford Marie – at her aunt’s Augusta ice cream shop. According to Mrs. Bohler’s own recollections, the same qualities that had gotten him past the Air Force recruitment officer also found Henry a way into her heart, as she once remarked “He came in, and the rest is history… he wouldn’t take no for an answer”. The young couple would later start a family, but life in Augusta too would soon be consigned to the history books, as Bohler moved to Tampa in 1950 – where the next acts in a life full of persistence, effort, and self-belief would take place.
Just as he was told that it would prevent him from becoming a pilot when he was younger, in Tampa he was told the color of his skin would prevent him from being self-employed. Undeterred, Bohler set himself up as the first licensed African-American electrician in Tampa and made such a success of the enterprise that he also became one of the city’s first African-American millionaires. However, even In the face of such positive news the Bohler family would once again come up against the old barriers of segregation and inequality, when in 1960 they were denied entry to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo – resulting in Bohler suing the city over the incident and becoming an active figure in the civil rights arena. Mr. Bohler was subject to regular traffic stops and driver’s license inspections by the local police during the two years it took for the case to be heard in court, but that day finally came in 1962 – and though he was pulled over five times on his way to the courthouse – the authorities found in the family’s favour, resulting in a federal order instructing the City of Tampa to integrate its public recreation facilities.
But Mr. Bohler didn’t stop there… even after the Civil Rights Movement ended he continued to speak in Tampa area schools, sharing his inspirational story, and offering eye-witness testimony of the way things were to those too young to have lived those events themselves. He also attended the annual Tuskegee Airmen reunions and flew his own Piper Archer to the events until declining health following a fall grounded him for the final time at age 80. Henry Bohler passed away two years later in 2007, but will surely live long in the memories of not only his family but the people of Tampa and Augusta too, who can be proud to have had such an amazing person call both cities home.S