Sunday, July 1, 2012

On This Day In History..........

In 1898......On this day American Forces captured Kettle Hill, San Juan Hts. in Cuba. Participating in the assault was the 1st. U.S. Volunteer Cavalry better known as the Rough Riders led by Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt. One of the casualties of this fight was Captain William Owen "Buckey" O'Neill of A Troop. The facts of his death was recorded by Theodore Roosevelt in his book "The Rough Riders"

"The most serious loss that I and the regiment could have suffered
befell just before we charged. Buckey O'Neill was strolling up and
down in front of his men, smoking his cigarette, for he was
inveterately addicted to the habit. He had a theory that an officer
ought never to take cover-a theory which was wrong, though in a
volunteer organization the officers should certainly expose
themselves very fully, simply for the effect on the men; our
regimental toast on the transport running "the officers; may the war
last until each is killed, wounded or promoted." As O'Neill moved to
and fro, his men begged him to lie down, and one of his sergeants
said "Captain, a bullet is sure to hit you." O'Neill took his
cigarette out of his mouth and blowing out a cloud of smoke laughed
and said "Sergeant, the Spanish bullet isn't made that will kill me."
A little later, he discussed for a moment with one of the regular
officers the direction from which the Spanish fire was coming. As he
turned on his heel a bullet stuck him in the mouth and came out the
back of his head; so that even before he fell his wild and gallant
soul had gone out into the darkness"  

"Who would not die for a new star in the flag"
On the tombstone of "Buckey" O' Neill at Arlington

"We may have great men.......but we'll never have better!"
Down by the Glenside

In 1916.... On this day, at 7:30 A.M. local time, the British Army went "Over the Top" in a direct assault on German trenches in the area of the Somme river in France. Before the end of the day, the British Army had suffered 19,000 K.I.A. and as many as 40,000 wounded. It was the greatest loss in the entire history of the British Army. By the time the battle was declared over 4 1/2 months later, the British had suffered 600,000 casualties. The story of a sergeant in the 3rd Tyneside Irish (26th Northumberland Fusiliers) describes best what the soldiers went through:

 "I could see, away to my left and right, long lines of men. Then I heard the "patter, patter" of machine guns in the distance. By the time I'd gone another ten yards there seemed to be only a few men left around me; by the time I had gone twenty yards, I seemed to be on my own. Then I was hit myself"

To this day, the battlefield of the Somme still gives up her secrets willingly. Every spring, Large piles of rusty objects appear on the sides of roads. The Somme area is noted for the large amounts of unexploded shells that are discovered each year. French farmers each year when plowing their fields uncover these still deadly leftovers and place them in piles on the side of the closest road to their fields. The French Army then collects them for disposal. Every now and then, a French Army bomb disposal officer is killed by these almost 100 year old, lethal artifacts.

In memory of the 36th (Ulster Division), B.E.F.