Author Archives: Craig Swain

About Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

Loaded HEAT Classic – Lauren Bacall

XBradTC asked me for input on Loaded HEAT this week.  Bottom line up front here.  I’m married, so there’s some ROE that I operate under.  After the risk analysis was complete, the recommended course of action was to go classic… as in someone even my Chief of Staff would agree is a classic beauty.

So I give you Lauren Bacall.   Born Betty Joan Perske, she had her big break in 1944’s “To Have and Have Not” opposite Humphrey Bogart.  She shared the screen with some of the best leading men of her day… and held her own.  That look.  That face.  That voice.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING, girls, Load Heat

On Being a Veteran: SGT York

Originally posted this two years ago on my Civil War blog, save for a few updates as to the year marks, this still comes closest to capturing what I think being a veteran means:

Today being Veterans Day, I’ve spend time walking through my old papers and files from “my history” a bit. But in the end, I started pulling out the folders on World War I. We’ve put several coats of paint on this calendar day in the last 93 years [Now 95], but it’s still the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And in my mind, the man who stands tall when I think of World War I is Alvin C. York.

In spite of his somewhat un-military (and under educated) background, York offered one of the best explanations why a nation such as the United States must have soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. On Memorial Day, 1941, York gave these thoughts while speaking at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington:

There are those in this country today who ask me and other veterans of World War Number One, ‘What did it get for you?’ … The thing they forget is that liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and stop. You do not do that. Liberty and freedom and democracy are prizes awarded only to those people who fight to win them and then keep fighting eternally to hold them!*

President Franklin D. Roosevelt later used portions of York’s speech in his Armistice Day address later that same year. So perhaps it is fitting that I cite it here on Veterans Day.


* This portion of York’s Memorial Day is cited in Sergeant York: An American Hero, by David Lee (University Press of Kentucky, 2002).

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Tanks! Tanks everywhere! American Wartime Museum Open House

Every August the Americans in Wartime Museum hosts their annual open house weekend:

The Americans in Wartime Museum will hold its annual Open House from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, August 17 and 18. The event will be held at at “The Tank Farm,” 13906 Aden Road in Nokesville, Virginia.

The Open House is a preview of our future Museum, which will be built in Prince William County, Virginia. To help us make our world-class Museum a reality, we are suggesting a minimum  $10 per adult donation for those attending the Open House. The donation is voluntary but will help us advance the Museum and its mission to honor the men and women who have served America during wartime from World War I to the present.

If you choose to register and pay the suggested donation online, stop by our Membership Tent when you arrive at the Open House. We’ll give you a bracelet and other items indicating your support for the event and the Museum.

The Open House will include a range of exciting and engaging activities for the entire family:

  •     An amazing array of vintage armored vehicles
  •     661st Tank Destroyer Battalion vets
  •     Demonstrations by the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company
  •     Displays and demonstrations by living history units
  •     Drawings for a chance to ride in one of our armored vehicles
  •     Veterans’ Roundtable
  •     Kids’ scavenger hunt
  •     Museum information and merchandise

In years past, when I had more free time, I posted several videos and photos from the open house events. Look, where else can you take your kids to see a Marine squad take out a bunker?  Dropping mortar rounds? With flamethrower? Supported by an M4?

These events help the museum towards their ultimate goal opening a 70-acre site in Dale City, Virginia (a convenient stop between the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the future National Museum of the Army that would be).

I plan to hang out there with my aide-de-camp on both days.

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Filed under armor, ARMY TRAINING

Seventy years ago: Victory at Guadalcanal

Seventy years ago today, Major General Alexander Patch signaled to Admiral William Halsey:

Complete defeat of Japanese forces on Guadalcanal effected 16.25 today . . . ‘Tokyo Express’ no longer has terminus on Guadalcanal.”

After six months and two days of grinding attrition on the land, air, and sea around Guadalcanal, the island was firmly under allied control.  The strategic implications were readily apparent to anyone looking over a map at the time.  The tide of war in the Pacific shifted – from the slack following the Battle of Midway to decidedly in favor of the allies.

Gens. Patch and Vandegrift receive a status briefing

The campaign also premiered the joint approach to warfighting in the Pacific.  Consider the “land” component to the campaign.  Although the Marines (notably the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, but with other smaller formations too) bore the brunt of the early fighting on land, later in the campaign the “Americal” Division and 25th Infantry Division (including XBrad’s 27th Wolfhounds) fought.  The Americal, unique in that it lacked a number designation, consisted of units originally intended to defend New Caledonia and other South Pacific outposts.  In October 1942 they joined the Marines defending Henderson Field.  The 25th arrived later in December, just as the Americans were taking the offensive.

For a short period of time General Patch formed the Composite Army-Marine (CAM) Division with the 6th Marines paired with the 147th and 182nd Infantry Regiments.  The CAM Division also assumed control of several Marine and Army artillery battalions.  The 2nd Marine Division’s staff served as the CAM Division’s headquarters.  Granted, this was a temporary measure – at most just task organization changes on the battlefield.  Still this is an example of the level of cooperation within the Army-Navy-Marines team at Guadalcanal.  Similar examples of joint (and combined) operations may be seen with the “Cactus Air Force” with Marine, Navy, and Army Air Corps squadrons.  Oh, and a squadron from the Royal New Zealand Air Force operating there too.  Was there perfect harmony between the services?  No.  But compared to the acrimonious relation between the Japanese Army and Navy, the rivalries on the US side looked more like minor spats.

So… go out and lift a glass today for those who derailed the Tokyo Express.


Filed under history

The faces and names may change, but the regiment lives on

From the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania County Battlefields National Park:


The photo is one of a set taken at the rededication of the Irish Brigade Memorial at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The 69th New York Infantry was one regiment in the famous Irish Brigade.  On this day 150 years ago, the regiment marched up the open ground outside Fredericksburg, Virginia to assault a Confederate force well placed behind a stone wall.  The 69th was, for all practical purposes, was destroyed.  But their charge was so orderly and brave that observers on both sides took notice.  The unit was reconstituted and reformed to fight in many other battles of the Civil War. The regiment continued to add honor to their name in both World Wars, as the 69th U.S. Infantry Regiment.  On September 11, 2001, as part of the New York National Guard, it was among the first military units involved with the War on Terror.

The faces and the names may change, but the regiment lives on.


Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING, history

Yes, Mr. President, now that you mention it…


Those pointy things on top of the rifles…  carried by those men in front of you… those are … what do they call them???…. bayonets!

Go figure.

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Uniform disenfranchisement: Military voting

Military voting crops up in the headlines every election cycle.  But my perception is this time around we are hearing a bit more about it, and much earlier than normal.  The prominent news story comes from Ohio (from The Examiner):

Ohio Veterans United, along with a number of military groups, including the National Guard Association have voiced opposition to a lawsuit filed by President Obama’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party challenging the fairness of Ohio’s early voting rules claiming that the state’s use of a two-tiered early voting process violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law…

In Ohio, state law allows families of armed forces members and civilians overseas to vote through the Monday before an election while early voting for all other Ohioans ends the preceding Friday. The Obama campaign wants a court order to invalidate the Ohio statutes. (Full Story.)

The surface issue here is if military personnel should have additional days under the early voting rules.  Personally I’m not ready to lend my opinion to this specific case.  Legally, I could see valid arguments against such practice. But my sentiment is in favor of the law, as it sounds like good common sense – give a little extra for those giving a little extra, if you will.  However I’m not at all convinced this is a case of disenfranchisement.  After all, the law covers early voting.  If the service member is willing to vote, then they need to get in line and vote.  If the doors are closed on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, as they are for everyone else, is this disenfranchisement?  … Rhetorical question.

If you ask me, we should be more focused on the absentee ballot system that is far more sensitive to the military voter … and all too easily disrupted.  In 2008, a flap of issues worked against military voters in Fairfax County.  Being part of the National Capital Region, Northern Virginia features a large percentage of military personnel.  Many of them are transient, and opt to vote absentee at their home of record (creative they are.. to dodge taxes!).  But there are a significant number who register and vote local.  And in the last presidential cycle they encountered issues getting their votes counted.  In October that year, news stories surfaced that a high proportion of the absentee ballots were rejected outright by the county registrar’s office … to the tune of 98%.  But the stat was dismissed as deceiving by some – 255 rejected out of 260.  So what difference is 260 ballots in a general election? (Don’t answer… Florida 2000…)

Even worse, those stories were surfacing in late October that year, as the first of the absentee ballots returned to the registrar’s office.  Those, and the even later returns arriving into November, and in some cases after the general election, were due to some delays at the registrar’s office just getting the ballots distributed.  Issues.. or shall I say excuses ranged from difficulty just setting the tickets to email server crashes.  I don’t recall the exact statutory requirement, but the bottom line was ballots were not sent out in time to reach military members through the mail, considering the APO system.  That part of the story was lost in the euphoria of “Virginia is a BLUE state”….

From my personal experience, the overseas military voter got screwed out of the vote more times than not.  In the fall of 1992 I was bound for a tour in Korea.  Before leaving, I’d gone to my home-of-record registrar’s office and filed for an early vote ballot.  The process was easy, made easier by the fact the registrar was an old family friend who’d watched me grow up.  He was proud and pleased to see me voting.  I’m certain my vote was tallied that year.

When I arrived on station in Korea, I inherited a stack of additional duties from my predecessor.  One of those was voting assistance officer.  With weeks before the vote, I had avoided a lot of the paperwork.  My job was instead to track the system.  Along the lines of countless other administrative statistics, the command wanted to know what percentage of soldiers had applied for absentee ballots and had received them.  Much like the “non-mandatory” CFC, 100% of the soldiers had applied for a ballot.  Tracking the received ballots was not scientific.  Top Sergeant asked for a show of hands at the formation.  The number of ballots received a week before election day could be counted on my fingers.  By election day I had to remove one boot to keep count.  But, like some spring freshet, scores of ballots arrived the week after the election.  Go figure.

Similar issue happened in 2004.  I left on assignment (this time as a contractor) for Afghanistan that summer.  Prior to leaving I’d registered for an absentee ballot.  When did I receive the ballot?  On December 12, 2004.   It was postmarked October 30, 2004.  No kidding.  I still have it in my papers… filed under “A” for “angry”.

Forget about voter ID laws and bat-swinging voter suppression techniques.  The old “it is in the mail” technique works every time.

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Filed under Politics