Marceau and Wake - Heroes of the French Resistance

Many of us who have studied World War II are aware of the French Resistance fighters. Called the Maquis in rural areas, these French nationals fought a guerilla war against the Germans who had invaded in 1940 and occupied their country. They spied on the enemy, provided intelligence to the Allies, and helped Allied and soldiers and airmen escape from behind enemy lines. Perhaps most nobly, some within La RĂ©sistance helped Jewish people escape deportation to the concentration camps at the hands of the Nazis.

The first person who had a role saving countless lives from the Nazi death camps is none other than Marcel Marceau. World renowned long after the war for his pantomime skills, he was only 16 when Germany invaded and took over his country.

His cousin, already a resistance fighter, encouraged Marcel and his brother Alain to join. They did, in the area of Limoges. Their father a Jew, Marcel and Alain took the surname Marceau in honor of Francois Severin Marceau-Desgraviers, a French R…

Awards Comparison - US vs The Commonwealth

Let’s compare America to British, Canada, and Australia when it comes to military medals for combat valor and performance. The British system was used in Commonwealth countries (including Canada) up to and through World War II. This began to change as countries such as Canada, Australian, and New Zealand started to create their own systems of honors in the 1960’s. 
The year 1993 saw a major change in all Commonwealth countries’ honors. The formerly overseas territories, such as Canada and Australia, fully created their own system of military awards separate from that used by Britain. Further, in Britain, the military awards system there removed distinctions of rank within the awards. Now enlisted and officers would receive the same award for the same performances. Previously, there were separate awards for officers and enlisted. 
British and Continental countries have long, complicated histories. This can make it hard for Americans (such as myself) to know what I’m …

American Awards and Decorations - A Brief History


America, fiercely against many European military traditions, did not have a formal system for any awards or decorations for decades after its forming. In fact, they were so anti-European, that the US Navy didn’t have the rank of admiral until the Civil War (nearly 100 years after the country’s founding) because it was too Imperial.

There were two Revolutionary War-era awards however. Both were awarded in exceptionally small numbers (three awards each) and neither were awarded beyond the end of the war.

The oldest, and first, American award was the Fidelity Medallion. It was awarded to the soldiers who captured British Major John Andre. Andre was famously the British point of contact for Benedict Arnold (a disaffected American general who turned traitor and gave Britain intelligence in exchange for a British generalcy). Only three men of the New York Militia received the award and it was never bestowed again.

Often referred to (incorrectly) as America’…

Maynard "Snuffy" Smith - Medal of Honor

Everyone who’s served in the Air Force knows of the perpetual screw up “Airman Snuffy”. Snuffy is the foul up who can’t get anything right, forgets to salute officers, and is often found slacking in their duties. He’s our version of Private Pyle or Beetle Bailey I guess you could say.
So it was with some surprise that I found out there was an airman known as “Snuffy”. True to the legend that’s been passed down, he was in fact a recalcitrant screwup with a severe attitude problem. He was also the first enlisted airman to receive the Medal of Honor. Sit back for a wild ride.

Maynard Smith was 31 when in 1942 he found himself before a judge for failing to pay child support. The judge gave him the choice of jail or the Army. Smith took the Army. 
Already a belligerent personality, he bristled at taking orders, particularly from those several years younger than him. This did not endear him to his fellows. Looking for a way to make some rank, to at least be given orders by fewer people young…

Ride on the Yankee Lady

The Yankee Lady is a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, originally of the US Army Air Force, and now owned by the Yankee Air Force out of WIllow Run, MI. They fly into a local air show here on a somewhat regular basis.

The plane itself was built late in the war, being delivered to the USAAF on 16 July, 1945 and subsequently went immediately into storage. It did not see combat or overseas duty during the war.

After the war, the plane was one of 16 transferred to the Coast Guard for use in patrol duties. The aircraft was extensively modified, removing all the guns and installing a radar dome in the chin. At one point it carried a wooden lifeboat under the fuselage for dropping to stranded seamen.

In 1959, the aircraft entered civil service. Initially used for aerial surveys, it was later converted to an air tanker for fire fighting duties. Yankee Lady was one of five B-17s to fly to Hawaii and be used for the film Tora! Tora! Tora!

The Yankee Air Force acquired the plane in 1986 and spent n…

Pascal Poolaw - Hero of Three Wars

A career US Army man, First Sergeant Pascal Poolaw served his country through three wars. Along the way he became America’s most highly decorated Native soldier. A full-blooded Kiowa from Oklahoma, Poolaw’s warrior spirit is absolutely incredible. He’s one of the rare US Army infantrymen to have received the Combat Infantry Badge three times. He also had the ignominious distinction of being wounded in combat in three separate wars.

Born in 1922, he enlisted in the Army in 1942 to serve during World War II. He enlisted with two of his brothers, his father, and two uncles. One of his uncles, Horace Poolaw was a very talented photographer during and after the war. If you get a chance, Google Horace’s photography.

After training, Pascal was assigned to Company M of the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. The 8th Infantry participated in the D-Day landings at Utah Beach. They were the first “leg” infantry unit of the US Army to hit the shore.

I’m unable to find if Pooler w…

The Tale of the B-52 Tail Gunner

The B-52 is legendary. It’s one of the oldest American airframes still in service, and continually so since its introduction in 1955. Changing little with the times, the Big Ugly Fat *ahem* Fellow (BUFF) you see today would be easily recognizable to an airman of the 50’s.

Originally specified in 1946 and designed through the late forties, first flying in 1952, the B-52 was a product of its times. WWII had just been won. The B-52 was designed to have long legs, able to reach Soviet locations deep in enemy territory. Since fighters usually didn’t have the same range, and aerial refueling was in its infancy, the B-52 was designed with something that no bombers since have had, a tail gunner.

Not removed from the B-52 fleet until 1991, after serving through the Gulf War, there was an enlisted man manning the gun on every mission. Notably, these were the only enlisted crew aboard the aircraft. Though the position, seated at the tail (until later models moved the gunner up to the flight dec…