It was with great pride that we learned our “Fights on the Little Horn: 50 Years of Research into Custer’s Last Stand” had earned the John M. Carroll Award from the Little Big Horn Association as their best book of 2014. The LBHA had its annual conference last week in Virginia, with tours of cavalry battlefields and every other kind of nice time. Given that Gordon Harper, the author of “Fights on the Little Horn,” is deceased, and his daughter Tori is far away in the west, and Harper’s co-author, Gordon Richards, currently lives on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel, we were at a significant loss how to accept the award. The editor of this company, as I can attest, along with our promo director, dearly wanted to attend, but circumstances intervened. But as we can see, the LBHA took care of matters for us. The Carroll Award Chairman, Jeff Broome, along with his son Kile, was able to accept the beautiful plaques for us at the gala dinner that culminated the week’s events. Not only that, they have a member of the Assoc. going to the Custer Battlefield in Montana soon to present the plaque in person to Mr. Harper’s daughter, Tori. Also another member going to England in order to present his to Mr. Harper’s closest colleague, Gordon Richard. The honor of the award has been welcomed here at Casemate, while in addition one can hardly say enough about the people in the LBHA. We especially wish to give a shout-out to Don Schwarck, who has kept us apprised of the events. Our thanks to one and all for recognizing Mr. Harper’s book. As a core of learning, expertise and enthusiasm, the LBHA captures our imagination, and at their next annual meeting we should all be sure to attend.
Here is the link and full story
UNITED STATES EXCHANGE PILOT VISIT TO 846 NAVAL AIR SQUADRON
Two time Casemate author (SURPRISED AT BEING ALIVE and TYPHOON TRUCE) and RETIRED United States Army Major, Robert Curtis, returned to RNAS Yeovilton to visit 846 Naval Air Squadron where he served as a US exchange pilot from 1983 to 1985.
After a meeting with the Commanding Officer of 846 NAS, Lt Col Derek Stafford, a tour of the new building and the opportunity to take a look around the Merlin Mk3 aircraft, Robert also enjoyed a tour of 847 NAS and the new Wildcat AH1.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with 846 Squadron and loved flying the Sea King, it will be sad to see her retired. The new aircraft operated by CHF are a marked change, most definitely aircraft for the computer generation!”
While serving with 846 NAS, Robert had combat assault training in Egypt, the Netherlands, numerous locations throughout the United Kingdom and extreme cold weather training in Norway.
With over 5000 hours – “mishap free” as he says in his recently released book ‘Surprised at Being Alive’ – on a wide range of aircraft including the Sea King Mk4, Robert served with the US Army, the US Army National Guard, the US Marine Corps and the Royal Navy. Robert also has 980 hours of combat flight time in Vietnam as the Aircraft Commander of a CH-47C.
Robert’s book tells of his thrilling helicopter exploits with four Armed Services, including the Royal Navy, bringing together stories and memoirs from over 5000 flying hours and from many different countries, the book brings to life the dangers and thrills of life as a helicopter pilot.
After presenting a copy of his book to 846 NAS, Robert said.
“It has been great to visit 846 and 847 Naval Air Squadron to see the new Merlin and Wildcat aircraft, and to hear the enthusiasm of the pilots for these aircraft is wonderful.”
- CH1500320047 – Robert Curtis and Lt Col Derek Stafford
- CH1500320059 – Lt Ollie Trowman, Mariellen Curtis, Robert Curtis and Lt Col Derek Stafford
We’re excited to announce that our Fall 2015 catalog is now available!
Download our new catalog by clicking on the image above. This is our largest catalog yet and we are pleased to present to you the great selection from our distribution publishers and our own line that will be available this year.
There’s definitely some great titles that deserve a spot on your summer reading list!
This week, Casemate is at the Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Organization of American Historians (OAH) is the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history. The mission of the organization is to promote excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, and to encourage wide discussion of historical questions and the equitable treatment of all practitioners of history.
We’ll be exhibiting at the event until April 19th at America’s Center & Renaissance Grand Hotel. If you’re in the area, read more about registering for the event here, and visit us at stand 509!
Casemate is currently attending the Society of Military History’s 2015 Annual Meeting in Montgomery, AL.
The Society of Military History is dedicated to stimulating and advancing and study of military history. Running until April 12th, Casemate will be exhibiting it’s wide range of titles to scholars, soldiers, and attendees with an interest in military history.
Check out some photos from the event below:
Han Weisman, author of Casemate’s just published THE DAKOTA HUNTER shares with us some background from his writings
With the siege war of the French troops in a desolate Army Camp in NW Vietnam coming to a close in April 1954, almost 70 Douglas C-47s made overtime to supply the camp. Bringing in food, ammo and medical supplies, on the way out to the South, they flew hundreds of wounded soldiers from this Jungle Hell in the remote mountains near the Laotian border. It was an airstrip built by the Japanese during WWII and was selected by the French Army as a stronghold against the advancing nationalist Viet Minh forces under their legendary General Giap.
It will remain forever a disputable decision as to why the French opted to occupy such remote venue in the heart of enemy ruled territory that could only by supplied by air with long flights.and had no real strategic value in that outback. The battle that was about to develop there must have taken the French by total surprise, mainly due to what the enemy could deploy in fire power. With 50.000 troops, they dug in on the surrounding hills that overlooked the lower situated French camp. A bad starter but worse, the Viet Minh had done the impossible by transporting over 300 km of impenetrable jungle their heavy artillery, howitzers and guns for their final assault on the well defended camp.
French Artillery with 105mm howitzers and 155mm guns was not able to neutralize the hidden enemy gun positions and soon, the daily supply flights of the Dakotas were made impossible as the Vietnamese activated their Russian made AA 37mm guns. Under heavy attack from that AA fire, a Dakota made the “Last flight out of Hell”. All who stayed behind must have realized the imminent “Doom’s Day”.
In one of the dramatic LIFE Magazine pictures, the French soldiers dig trenches around the airstrip, in the hope to better defend the aircraft parked out there, but it all came to no avail. From the mountains that we see in the backdrop, every day more Viet Minh guns were arriving and shelled the narrow airstrip at choice. The French artillery Colonel could not stop this carnage and commited suicide.
The moment inevitably came that the supply to the camp could only be done with paratrooper/ ammo droppings by a fleet of 50+ Douglas C-47’s and 12 C-119’s Fairchild Flying Boxcars. But every day, the Drop Zone became smaller and the pressure higher on the originally 30.000 French troops consisting of Army, Legionnaires, Paratroopers and Colonial Forces f om North Africa as well as French Vietnamese soldiers and local T’ai Tribal forces. The supplies had to be dropped from higher altitude in a smaller area, so many of the drops incl. the ammo came in enemy hands and were used against the French force.
Finally, on the 7th of May 1954, the camp was overrun by the Viet Minh troops. To the dismay of the old Colonial Powers from the West, almost 12.000 French troops were captured after the surrender: they were forced to made the ‘Walk of Shame’ over 300 km and most of them never returned from that agony. The first Indo-China War had come to its finale and brought an end to 100 years of French Colonial Rule in SE Asia in 1956. As the world might have thought that peace had finally settled in this region, the second Indo-China War was only just about to begin. That war would officially bring in the US Military engagement in Southern Vietnam from 1961 to 1975.
In the early 1950’s, the French Air Force in Vietnam was equipped with ‘vintage’ WW II American aircraft as the Grumman F8F Bearcat (see photo), the A-26 Attack Bomber, Sikorsky S-55 Helicopters and light spotter planes. Their inventory of all sorts of aircraft was rapidly filled from the the surplus stocks left over after the Korean conflict that had ended in 1953. Up to a total of 70 C-47’s and a large number of C-119 Flying Boxcars for para droppings of troops and heavy battle equipment were flown in via Japan.
Detail piquante: the deliveries were made and piloted by the controversial Civil Air Transport ( CAF), founded by the legendary USAF General Claire Chennault, who was since the war involved in SE Asian operations. First with the legendary “Flying Tigers”, the American Volunteer Group (AVG) that fought the Japanese Occupation Forces in 1941 with their “shark mouth” decorated Curtiss P-40 Warhawks. After the war, Claire Chennault became involved in the Chinese civil war and helped Gen. Chiang Kai-check to escape to Formosa (later named Taiwan). It was here that Chennault set up the CAF, allegedly a CIA supported airline for coveted activities that had no official US Government support. CAF later transformed into Air America, that played a role in the second Indo-China War, starting in the early 1960’s.
On one photo, we see the Victory dance of the Viet Minh troops on a burnt C-47, as a symbolic dismissal of the Colonial Power. The day of Victory for the Viet MInh was a day of Infamy for the French Army and Government. In the final stage of the siege of Dien Bien Phu, the French had desperately begged for help from the USAF with deployment of massive air raids against the Communist forces in the mountains. With carpet bombing raids from the B-29 Super Fortress fleet that could fly in from the Island of Okinawa, the Viet Minh troops and gun positions could be annihilated in a matter of days.
This request is considered by some as the first seed of later American involvement in the second Indo-China War (1960-1975). President Eisenhower along with many of the US Military strongly opposed against any support to the French request, as it could be considered by the free world and the ex-colonial nations as an attempt to keep up a Colonial Power that was in its final and fruitless struggle for survival in SE Asia. While USA had strongly promoted the liberation of former Colonies (Indonesia, India), it ran here in a split, that had far reaching consequences. There were many in the US of the mid 1950’s who advocated to interfere, likely fed more by the fear for advancing World Domination of Communism than helping the French in their dreadful situation.
Ironically, the smothering conflict between North and South Vietnam took a similar development as with North and South Korea, leading to a confrontation with China seeking dominance in Eastern and SE Asia. Spurred by the victory in South Korea, US President J.F. Kennedy, after long hesitation and only stealthy supplies to the South Vietnamese regime, stepped in with open military support in May 1961 by sending 400 US Army Special Forces to train the South Vietnamese Army.
History took the escalating war in another direction but this blog is not a political forum to make a judgement over what happened in the ensuing years, This is only a small contribution to look back at what happened there 60 years ago in a remote jungle camp in North Vietnam: a forgotten battle that involved armies from 6 different countries. Time to forgive but not to forget, and one day I hope to go there and visit the camp and see the remnants of that lost battle. Maybe I can come closer to the feelings of desperateness of the many soldiers who fought that war and felt lost and abandoned by a colonial power that had no more reason to be there. WWII had totally reset the World Order, it took some nations another 15 to 20 years to see the New Light.
In my book “The Dakota Hunter” I describe my youth years in the Borneo jungle, from 1950-1957. Indonesia had just escaped 3,5 years of Japanese occupation and 400 years of Dutch Colonial Rule. Its declaration of Independence in 1945 by Sukarno led to a long and violent up rise against the Dutch Army. Finally in 1950, the Independent Republic of Indonesia was recognized by the World, My father, working for Shell as an oil exploring engineer, moved in with our family to an unstable country that was ruined by the Pacific War which had evoked strong anti-Colonial/ Dutch sentiments. For a curious young kid like me, the material scars and remnants of that war were omnipresent. it was like a play station, but the dangers and emotional tensions were always around. In those years, we always kept an open eye for an ´escape route´, just in case things might go berserk one day. I vividly remember my father coming home and informing us about the French defeat in Vietnam and his anxiousness that the “Commie Pest” would one day hop over to Indonesia.and wipe us all out. With no newspaper, radio or armed protection, we grew maybe a bit paranoia from that “Dien Bien Phu” story. The only transport that could ever get us out from there was. the venerable Douglas DC-3/ Dakota, which also brought the last French wounded soldiers out. One month later LIFE magazine arrived with all the photos of that C-47 in Vietnam as you see in this post. This plane was considered as our Life line, and for me that aspect of the “last change savior” would even go further: it turned into a romantic symbol of “Fly-away to another World” that later in my life would attract me like a magnet to go travel and find the DC-3, as if that plane could bring back my intensely fascinating Borneo years.
In my book I describe that passion for the Dakota and the global hunt I made since 1990 with 20+ expeditions to meet her again. 250 photos and 320 pages packed with adventure and history of an aircraft that changed the world and had a huge impact on my eventful life.
For more info about the book, merchandise, war- and DC-3/ C-47 related tales and photos, see also my new website http://www.dc3dakotahunter.com
You can follow/like my Facebook page on http://www.facebook.com/thedakotahunter.
Read the review of my book in your favorite War History Online magazine written by Mark Barnes
As military history is revealed as the only history genre to grow book sales in 2014, Casemate UK launch new publishing program
Key anniversaries in 2014 sparked a revived interest in military history with book sales in the genre growing 9%. With the 2015 anniversaries of VE Day, the Battle of Britain, and Waterloo offering exciting opportunities for booksellers, is this growth set to continue? Casemate UK believe so.
2015 sees the Oxford-based military book distributor launch its own UK publishing imprint to compliment the Casemate’s US publishing program. Focusing on British and European military history the new list will sit perfectly alongside the many specialist military history books already distributed by Casemate UK.
The bestselling European military history books for 2015?
Wellington’s Hidden Heroes: The Dutch and the Belgians at Waterloo – In time for the 200th anniversary comes an original account of the previously unacknowledged crucial role that the Netherland forces played in averting defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, including a controversial assessment of Wellington and his army.
The Battle of Britain: An Epic Conflict Revisited – In time for the 75th anniversary this will be the most thorough, expert examination of the topic available. Illustrated with numerous maps & rare photos, it reviews the battle as seldom seen before.
War’s Nomads: A Mobile Radar Unit in Pursuit of Rommel during the Western Desert Campaign, 1942–3
An intimate account shedding light on a key but little known aspect of the Eighth Army’s Western Desert Campaign – the first in British military history in which the RAF and the army collaborated so closely.
Gold Run: The Rescue of Norway’s Gold Bullion from the Nazis, 1940 – A tale of immense bravery, endurance and great leadership against overwhelming odds in one of the greatest gold snatches in history.
The Most Dangerous Moment of the War: Japan’s Attack on the Indian Ocean, 1942 – A gripping account of Japan’s great raid on the Indian Ocean in 1942, an advance that could have threatened wholesale defeat for the British, and which Churchill described as ‘The most dangerous moment of the war’.
Ghost Patrol: A History of the Long Range Desert Group, 1940–1945 – An accessible and entertaining new history of the Long Range Desert Group, forerunner of the SAS, famous for their exploits in the Desert War, and full of memorable characters and archetypal British heroes.
About Casemate UK:
Part of the Casemate Group, Casemate UK is a specialist military history publisher and book distributor in the UK, European and Commonwealth markets. They have recently opened a military history books showroom in Oxford. More information can be found at www.casematepublishers.co.uk.
Spencer Free Wurst, age 90, passed away at UPMC Hamot, on March 16, 2015. He was born in Erie on December 19, 1924.
Among his many accomplishment, Spencer and his niece Gayle authored Casemate’s highly regarded DESCENDING FROM THE CLOUDS: A Memoir of Combat in the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Division. This memoir of his war experiences was a Main Selection of the Military Book Club and a History Book Club selection. Library Journal stated that Spencer’s book “ranks as one of the best war memoirs written by a World War II veteran.” Spencer will be missed by all.
Spencer joined the National Guard in Erie at age 15. He quit school at 15 and trained with the 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, before transferring to the newly-formed parachute infantry. In 1941, he was on a truck with other soldiers returning from maneuvers to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation when the attack on Pearl Harbor was announced.
After training in the newly-formed Parachute School at Fort Benning, Georgia, at age 17, he was proudly wearing his wings as a newly-qualified paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. As he once put it, “The United States had no doctrine about airborne warfare, and the Army had never written anything about parachute operations. We wrote the book as we went along, and we added, changed, and deleted as we matured.”
Spencer served in the European Theater of Operations from North Africa in 1943 through Germany in 1945. For most of this time, he was a squad leader or platoon leader in Company F, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the famous unit that liberated the first town in Normandy, France, Ste.-Mère-Eglise (portrayed in the classic film The Longest Day). Spencer made three of the four combat jumps with the 505th PIR, earning two Purple Hearts in Normandy, the first one on D-Day in the perimeter defense of Ste.-Mère- Eglise.
He was awarded the Silver Star for his role in the battle for the highway bridge in Nijmegen, Holland, and is featured in Cornelius Ryan’s famous account of the Holland Campaign, A Bridge Too Far. In the Ardennes Campaign, his unit participated in some of the fiercest fighting on the northern shoulder of the Bulge, before crossing over into Germany in the murderous Hurtgen Forest.
Near the end of the war, Spencer attended Officer’s Candidate Training School in Fontainebleau, France, and graduated first in his class. After V-E Day, he elected not to remain with the Division for occupation duty in Berlin, and was flown home on the “Green Project,” as one of the highest of the “high point” men in the 82nd Airborne.
Back in his native Erie, Spencer was eager to settle down and raise a family. “First I wanted to find a wife,” he stated. “Next, I would take off my chutes.” In 1946, he married 20-year-old Mildred Shugart, of Erie, whom he described as “the most devoted, kind, and gentle wife a man could ever ask for.” In 1974, Spencer and Millie moved to Clymer, N.Y., after raising their family in Harborcreek (1946-1974). Spencer retired from General Electric in 1982 after 35 years as a metallurgic technician.
Spencer rejoined the 112th Infantry, 28th Division, where he had a successful career in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard as a platoon leader, company commander, regimental S-3 and finally, commander of the 112th Infantry, the unit he first joined as a 15-year-old boy. His service included two years active duty as a tank company commander in one of the first four American divisions of NATO. He ended his military career in 1975 as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, and retired with the rank of Colonel after 35 years of service.
In 1990, Spencer F. Wurst was named a “distinguished member of the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment” by the Secretary of the Army, in recognition of his “special place in regimental continuity, tradition, and esprit de corps.” He was inducted into the OCS Hall of Fame at Fort Benning in 2000.
In 2004, he served as President of the 112th Infantry Regiment Association. For the 60th anniversary of the Holland Campaign, World War II magazine published his account of the ferocious fighting in Nijmegen, “Against All Possible Fire” (September 2004).
Colonel Wurst’s combat decorations and awards include: Silver Star Medal; Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster; Europe-Africa-Middle East Medal with an Invasion Spearhead, one Silver Campaign Star (5 campaigns), and one Bronze Campaign Star for a total of Six Campaigns; Combat Infantry Badge; Parachute Wings with Three Combat Jump Stars; and Presidential Unit Citation with Cluster (two awards). He also received the following Foreign Combat unit Awards: French Fourragères (three awards); Dutch Orange Lanyards (two awards); Belgian Fourragères.
In 2008, Spencer was admitted into the French National Order of the Legion of Honor and received the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest military decoration. During his years of service from 1940 to 1975, he received 12 Non-combat Army Service Awards and numerous Pennsylvania Army National Guard Awards.
Spencer was preceded in death by his wife, Mildred, in 2007. “In our case it is really true that ‘they lived happily ever after,'” Spencer said on the occasion of their 56th anniversary in 2002. Spencer Free Wurst is survived by three children, Chris Wurst (Lane), Spencer R. Wurst (Debra), and Carolyn Fialkowski (Ed); seven grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren, and two nieces, Gayle Lynne Wurst and Karen Kay Wurst.
Friends may call at the Dusckas-Taylor Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Inc., 5151 Buffalo Rd. (at Hannon Rd. in Harborcreek Township) on Thursday from 4 to 8 pm. Further visitation will be held on Friday at Faith Lutheran Church, 5414 East Lake Rd., from 10 a.m. until the time of the Funeral Service there, at 11 a.m., conducted by the Rev. David Laakso. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a time to be determined.
Memorial contributions may be made to Clymer Library, 564 Clymer-Sherman Rd., Clymer, NY 14724 or EUMA, 1033 E. 26th St., Erie, PA 16504, to benefit the Liberty House for veterans. To send an online message of sympathy or to view the Wurst Family tribute wall, please visit www.dusckas-taylorfuneralhome.com.
We all know about four leaf clovers and shamrock shakes- but did you know St. Patrick wasn’t Irish? The biggest misconception about St. Patrick was that he was Irish. He was actually born in England around 385, St. Patrick didn’t make his way to Ireland until Irish pirates kidnapped him at age 16.
There were no snakes for St. Pat to banish in Ireland. Legend has it that St. Patrick chased away snakes in Ireland, however Ireland didn’t have snakes at the time. Surrounded by icy water, Ireland was the last place that these cold-blooded reptiles would want to go. It’s much more reasonable to think that the “snakes” that St. Patrick banished were representative of the Druids and Pagans in Ireland since they were considered evil.
The original color for St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t green. .When The Order of St. Patrick was established in 1783, the organization’s color had to stand out from those that preceded it. And since dark green was already taken, the Order of St. Patrick went with blue. Green was associated with the country later, presumably because of the greenness of the countryside, which is so because Ireland receives plentiful rainfall. Today, the country is also referred to as the “Emerald Isle.”
St. Patrick’s Day in the US has a strong political history. In the mid 19th century, the Irish faced discrimination. In a few rare instances, prejudice against the Irish was even more fierce! The Irish were culturally unique, Catholic, and because of deplorable conditions in Ireland, flooded into the US in large numbers. They were perceived as a potentially disloyal and were treated harshly. To combat this, the American Irish began to organize themselves politically. By the end of the 19th century, St. Patrick’s Day was a large holiday for the Irish and an occasion for them to demonstrate their collective political and social might. While the political emphasis has faded along with the discrimination, the holiday remains ever popular as an opportunity for festivity regardless of one’s cultural background.
St. Patrick’s was a dry holiday in Ireland until 1970. Aside from the color green, the activity most associated with St. Patrick’s Day is drinking. However, Irish law, from 1903 to 1970, declared St. Patrick’s Day a religious observance for the entire country meaning that all pubs were shut down for the day. That meant no beer, not even the green kind, for public celebrants. The law was overturned in 1970, when St. Patrick’s was reclassified as a national holiday – allowing the taps to flow freely once again.
Bonus Fact: Your odds of finding a four-leaf clover are:
About 1 in 10,000.
For more Irish History- check out these titles