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British WW1 Cannon

There is a World War One British cannon on display in a small park in Wabasha, MN.

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Side view British 60pdr, Wabasha, MN

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Loading view British 60pdr, Wabasha MN. A 60pdr is equivalent to a 127mm or 5″ gun in American terms.

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Front view, British 60pdr Wabasha, MN

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ID plate British 60pdr Wabasha MN. Another damaged plate identified the gun as being manufactured by Armstrong/Whitworth.


The only information as to how and why a British canon became part of park in Wabasha is this:

This park features a prominent WW1 cannon from the early 1900’s. The cannon was almost salvaged but, thanks to community members, was placed in the park and has become a landmark near the middle of town.–

The canon is a British 60pdr or a five inch gun (127mm). It was the standard heavy gun that served in the British and Canadian armies during World War One.

According to Wiki the US acquired a few batteries of 60pdrs for evaluation purposes after WW1 but never adopted it for US service. Presumably, the gun in Wabasha was one of the these guns and the good citizens of Wabasha rescued the damaged gun from the scrap heap.

Since there isn’t a plaque in Canon Park commemorating US involvement in WW1 I’m guessing that the citizens just wanted a canon in the park to commemorate Minnesota’s involvement in all US wars.

The gun is marked as being produced by Armstrong, the main supplier of the weapon to the British Army.

Guns of this nature were combined into batteries and used to shell the enemy trench lines prior to an infantry attack. World War One is known as the war of artillery once the armies bogged down into trench warfare. If an artillery bombardment could suppress the enemy machine guns and infantry then one’s own infantry could attack and carry the enemies’ trench line. This was rarely the case but all participants used the tactic in the hopes of achieving a breakthrough that would end the bloodshed.

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If Wishes Came True

Below is one of my recent World War One era postcards finds:

If  Wishes Came True

If Wishes Came True

The card is post marked from Rockford, IL and dated November 20, 1917. World War One would have one more year to go before the brutal fighting would be over. The US declared war on Germany in April of 1917 and was well on its way to mobilizing the National Guard and implementing the draft. I imagine that the sender of this card was a member of the National Guard or a recent draftee.

The Wisconsin National Guard was ordered into federal service on July 15th, 1917 about 3 months after the US declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. The organization of the Wisconsin Guard can be found here: Wisconsin National Guard, July 1917

The theme of the card reflects a common theme that soldiers and sailors from all countries involved in war express-the missing of sweethearts, wives and often children.

The soldier in this case appears to be a typical “doughboy” wearing the distinctive campaign hat. He is dreaming of his sweetheart and imagining the two of them together again. She appears in a rather ghostly type image and together they look like they are in a park. The scene seems to remind them of a time when war did not interrupt their plans of being together.

The painting is signed by Archie Gunn a well-known painter and illustrator during the period.

The card is addressed to Miss Bertha Nelson of Briggsville, Wis[consin] RR#1. RR stands for Rural Route. Briggsville is a small rural community in the Wisconsin Dells area.

If Wishes Came True

If Wishes Came True

A quick Google search for Bertha Nelson turned up quite a few hits but none that seemed to match the approximate age of the name on the card in 1917. Perhaps someone doing genealogy will find this post and recognize Miss Bertha Nelson.

The card is from “Walter.” My wife translated his writing into something legible. This is what he had to say:

Dear Bertha: Recd your letter and pictures. Thank you for them. Am well and hope this finds you all the same. Forty of our men left for Arkansas Saturday. Walter P. and Soren had to go. They say they were not so well fit for the artillery. I think they go in infantry. That’s what we hear anyway. I don’t think there was anything wrong with Soren or Walter. But we have to do what they say and not what we want about all the friends we made are gone but I know most all the rest and hope we stick together. With love, Walter.

Judging from what Walter has to say here he is most likely assigned to an Artillery Regiment. If it’s the Wisconsin National Guard unit mentioned above it would be The First Wisconsin Field Artillery Regiment.

My research on the Wisconsin soldiers of the National Guard seem to verify the Walter was a member of the First Wisconsin Field Artillery Regiment because after mobilization they were sent to Camp Grant,  Rockford, IL. The Wisconsin National Guard was combined with the Michigan National Guard to form the 32nd Infantry Division known as the “Red Arrow” Division which saw service in both World Wars.

Monument to the 32nd Infantry Division in my area.

Monument to the 32nd Infantry Division in my area.

This is a wonderful addition to my small collection of post cards. I hope a relative of Miss Bertha Nelson finds this on the INET. I’d be happy to donate it to an appreciative family member.

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Honey, Don’t Go_pre-WW1 postcard by De Witt

Recently my wife and I had lunch at the Sprecher Restaurant in Lake Geneva, WI. If you are ever in the area it is certainly worth the stop. The food is excellent and they serve an excellent variety of craft beers.

After lunch we pursued our hobby of visiting the local antique stores (or rummage sales since we are not all that picky). There is what I would call a high-end antique store in Lake Geneva that features some of the finest antique furniture around. Usually, an antique store like that does not profit from us for a host of reasons but sometimes I find something small that fits into one of my niche hobbies-in this case, a pre-World War One postcard.

An officer reviews his command while his wife or sweetheart seems to hold him back.

For old Glory and you my honey
I go with the fellows in blue

The postcard is not addressed and there isn’t any message on the back. It asks for a one-cent stamp and was made in Germany and that’s about all the useful information that was on the back.

It reads in the lower right Photo only Copyright 1907 De Witt C. Wheeler.

A quick INET search turned up some information on Mr. Wheeler and a series of postcards known as the illustrated song series. (Link-The New Found Photography)

My find is apparently from the illustrated song series. In our post-modern culture it seems corny or dated or both to think of love, romance and family life in such a traditional way. In the case above De Witt links the above themes with pre-World War patriotism.

The subject matter features a unit of U.S. Cavalry headed in one direction and a column of U.S. Infantry in the back ground headed in another. The cavalrymen appear to be looking at the couple and in the direction of the camera while the doughboys (slang for WWI American Infantry) are oblivious to the posed drama being played out.

The date on the card is 1907 or ten years prior to the US entry into World War One, The soldiers wear the distinctive campaign hat that was a feature of the American Army well into World War 2. When I was in the Army in the early seventies our drill instructors still wore them and for all I know still do.

The uniforms the soldiers wear are khaki despite the reference in the song to the “fellows in blue.”

US Soldiers in the Spanish-American War fought in the blue uniforms as illustrated by this print from Brassey’s.

The uniform of American soldiers in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The uniform of American soldiers in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

It was however a period of transition between the traditional blue and khaki. It is possible that De Witt colorized the blue from the Spanish-American War to the post-war khaki.

For three bucks the card is a nice addition to my small collection of cards.


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Amateur historian uncovers additonal 3,000 Civil War dead


The American Civil War resulted in more American casualties than all of the other wars combined. This reblog reports the number of casualties is being revised upward all the time as new evidence emerges.

Originally posted on The Cotton Boll Conspiracy:

unknown confederate dead photo

Historians in recent years have revised the number of dead connected to the American Civil War significantly upward, from 620,000 to as many as 850,000. That increase is based in part on the work of J. David Hacker of Binghamton University SUNY, who used demographic methods and sophisticated statistical software to study digitized US census records from 1850 to 1880.

Coming up with actual names to go with this increase is significantly more difficult.

However, one South Carolinian, through years of hard work, has given names to many Confederate soldiers whose deaths during the 1861-65 conflict were never officially documented.

Herbert “Bing” Chambers has uncovered the identities of approximately 3,000 South Carolina soldiers who lost their lives during the War Between the States but were never officially recorded.

Chambers’ efforts have increased the state’s losses during the war to nearly 22,000.

To put that in perspective, that figure is more than 17 percent higher than the 17,682…

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World War One Postcards

A recent trip to the antique store produced three World War One era postcards. It is rare for me to find European postcards with World War One subjects but in this case I found three!

The first one features a German Dragoon in full dress uniform. His unit is Dragoon Regiment “Prinz Carl” according to the reverse side.

The reverse side also appears to show the unit’s barracks. The card is not dated and so my guess is that it is pre-World War One.

Prussian Dragoon 1914

Prussian Dragoon 1914

The next color postcard features Belgian soldiers defending a road. Given the uniforms I’d say the card represents a scene from the earliest days of World War One. The writing on the back of the card is extensive. The address is “Paris” and the recipient appears to be the sender’s sweetheart. It’s dated, November, 1917.

Belgians defend a road 1914

Belgians defend a road 1914

A French soldier sends a postcard to his sweetheart in Paris.

A French soldier sends a postcard to his sweetheart in Paris.

The last card’s caption is written in Italian. Translated it reads “Austrians in the trenches.” There isn’t any writing on the back.

The soldiers appear to be armed with 1895 Steyr-Mannlicher carbines which would indeed make them Austrians. By 1916 the Austrian Army had disposed of their pike-gray uniforms and soft caps and gone to field gray uniforms and steel helmets. At a glance they would be indistinguishable from their German allies.

What is more interesting about this card is that it’s in Italian. After Italy declared war on Austria-Hungry the two countries fought the Twelve Battles of the Isonzo. The battles were in present day Slovenia then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Italian objective was to take the Italian speaking City of Trieste.

The 12th battle is also known as the Battle of Caporetto. The Austrians reinforced by German Divisions and commanded by a German General broke the back and forth stalemate that had developed and routed the Italian 2nd Army. Austria-Hungary had been tottering in the war and the Germans sought to keep their ally in the war by taking Italy out of the war. The Twelve Battles had taken an enormous toll of lives on both sides with little gains made until the final battle.

Austrians in the trenches 1916-18

Austrians in the trenches 1916-18


The Battle of Lake Champlain 11 September 1814


War of 1812 Naval Action on the Great Lakes by an excellent blogger.

Originally posted on War and Security:

The American victory at the Battle of Lake Champlain, sometimes called the Battle of Plattsburg, on 11 September 1814 was the most decisive naval victory of the War of 1812.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Champlain#mediaviewer/File:Champlainmap.svg Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Champlain#mediaviewer/File:Champlainmap.svg

In September 1814 11,000 British and Canadian troops under Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost invaded New York State. Prevost’s men were a mixture of veteran units recently arrived from the Peninsular War, British soldiers already in Canada and Canadians. His intention was to march along the western bank of Lake Champlain. The lakeside town of Plattsburg was defended by fewer than 2,000 effectives under Brigadier-General Alexander Macomb.[1]

The British plan required naval control of Lake Champlain. Both sides strengthened their squadrons in August, with the brig USS Eagle being launched on 16 August and the frigate HMS Confiance nine days later.

The following table shows that the British had two ships more than the Americans, with…

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Some Thoughts on the Movie Fury

Okay, so I like tanks. I used to build model kits of them but was never all that good at it compared to my friends. I got more glue on my fingers than I did on the model. Sigh. I may try again. Who knows? Maybe age will have improved my skills.

So, what initially grabbed my attention about the movie Fury was a Sherman tank nicknamed “Fury.” This particular Sherman is an upgrade (M4A3E8) from the standard 75mm pop gun on the basic Sherman that was hopelessly outclassed by most of the German tanks, assault guns and anti-guns of the time. The upgraded Sherman featured a long-barreled 76mm gun with a higher velocity round, still outclassed by most German tanks, but at least an improvement.



The other attention getter is known as the Bovington (Museum in the UK) Tiger. The Brits captured one of the famous Tiger I’s in North Africa and shipped it home for study. Today it sits at the Bovington Museum and it actually runs-the only one still in existence that does so.

The Bovington Tiger I

The Bovington Tiger I

The producers of Fury were able to “borrow” it for some scenes although most of the action was filmed with a mock-up; the Bovington being to rare to risk any damage.

The movie features a duel between four Shermans including the upgraded Fury and the fearsome Tiger I. The Tiger I was a bit rare but where it appeared any duels were a bit of mismatch since the Tiger’s frontal armor was impossible to penetrate, something the movie illustrates quite well.

Having said all that, the bulk of the movie is not about the tanks; it’s about the crew of a Sherman tank in the closing days of WW2 when the Allied armies were racing across Germany.

The movie was about the crew of Fury.

The movie was about the crew of Fury.

The star of the movie is Brad Pitt who does what I think is a very credible job as “Wardaddy”. Pitt is an Sgt. E7 to use modern lingo and his mission is to keep his crew alive. The crew is a mixed bunch featuring a Bible quoter, a Mexican-American and an a loader who comes across as one fry shy short of a happy meal. The group has been together since the North African Campaign and despite their considerable differences these guys love each other and watch each other’s backs and in that the movie has a A Band of Brothers feel to it.  The language is pure military. I recall from my own short time in the Army an amazing variety of forms and uses for the “F” word and that is the case in Fury.

The cement in the story is the new guy named Norman who is the replacement assistant driver because the last one had just been killed. Norman looks to be about eighteen and although I question the line where he says he only had eight weeks of basic training I was not surprised that the Army was cutting short training programs for the combat arms at that stage of the war. The attrition rate in the infantry was atrocious and I doubt it was better for tank crews.

Norman is totally unprepared for the horrors that lay ahead of him. One early scene is compelling. Just before Norman arrives to tell Wardaddy he is the new guy you see a bulldozer pushing mangled German bodies into a mass grave. It’s like no one notices what should be a shock unless you see it everyday, which they probably did.

Wardaddy doesn’t want Norman but he’s stuck with him. Norman’s initial reception from the rest of the crew seems cool and even cruel. Wardaddy tells Norman not to get close to anyone a veiled reference to the attrition rate and the hurt of losing a close buddy.

Shortly after Norman arrives they get another mission and Fury is the second tank in a column of Shermans traveling up a road. Norman spies an armed German kid (teen-Hitler Jugend) through the brush and does not fire the hull MG because the target is a kid. Seconds later another German kid with a Panzerfaust (early RPG) lights up the lead Sherman and Norman watches in horror as a burning crewman shoots himself in the head rather than burn to death!

The German kids are quickly dealt with by the rest of the Shermans.

I thought there was a good juxtaposition going on with the theme of the German kids. On one hand you saw German kids hung by the Nazi’s because they would not fight or deserted and on the other you saw fanatical Hitler Jugend youth quite willing to die for what obviously was at that point a lost cause.

Wardaddy is rightly furious with Norman for not shooting and Norman has to recognize what an armed Hitler Jugend with a Panzerfaust can do.

They reach the mission area and have to clean out some German infantry and anti-guns as they support a pin downed rifle company.

The Shermans supporting the rifle company quickly make short work of the German resistance. What follows is one of the more shocking scenes in the movie imo.

The American infantry capture what appears to be an older German soldier who is not SS. By that stage of the war none of the western allies were in the mood to take SS prisoners-a fact hammered home a bit later in the movie. The average combat soldier had correctly made the assessment that the SS were ideological fanatics (think ISIS) and at that stage of the war the major obstacle to ending the war and the reason for a lot of unnecessary blood shed are the SS holdouts.

What is shocking about the above scene is that the older German is not SS. He looks to be in his 40s and he is pleading for his life trying to show the GI’s pictures of his family while he begs them not to shoot him. The American infantry could care less and some are mocking the poor soul. The scene is gripping because you expect the “good guys” to just take him prisoner despite the mocking and indifference to his begging.

Wardaddy intervenes but it’s not to save the German soldier as you tend to expect. Wardaddy grabs Norman and seeks to force Norman to shoot the soldier in the back while the rest of Americans look on seemingly understanding the lesson being played out.

Norman’s sensibilities are shocked to the maximum and he fights Wardaddy the best he can. The other Americans look on in indifference with understanding because Norman could not shoot the German kid with the rifle. Wardaddy is teaching Norman to hate not for hate’s sake but to potentially save his life and the lives of Wardaddy’s precious crew.

I hated the scene and felt like Norman whose morals are shocked to the core by the execution of a helpless prisoner. Wardaddy summed it up well when he said, ideals are peaceful and history is violent.

The “lesson” has its desired effect as they occupy a German town. German soldiers run on fire from a building and Norman uses the bow MG to cut them down while other Americans tell him he should have let them burn. Hate. Pure Hate.

The scene reminded me of Rick Atkinson’s, An Army at Dawn, the first in Atkinson’s trilogy of America’s Army on the western front during WW2.

In An Army at Dawn Atkinson makes reference to the fact that America’s citizen soldiers had to learn to hate. They had to learn to view the German soldiers they faced not as human beings who were in many ways similar to the themselves but as hated obstacles in the way of ending the war. The more you kill, the quicker you get to go home saving the lives of your fellow soldiers in the process. It’s a hard lesson in Atkinson’s book and it’s hard lesson in the movie.

Wardaddy commends Norman after he machine guns the Germans on fire and you are not sure if he approved of the mercy involved or if it was just the fact Norman could do it for whatever the motive (remember the previous scene when the American on fire kills himself). It’s another example of blurred motives. From that point on Wardaddy and Norman’s relationship improves.

Those were the kind of scenes that gripped me. The scenes compared with the intensity of Saving Pvt. Ryan as they dealt with the raw emotion of war and the not so easy boundaries between right and wrong, justice and murder.

The tanks in my opinion were secondary to the story of men who were sick of war and who had to make split second decisions that were not always “clean”.

My only real complaint about the movie was the ending where a disabled Fury and her crew take on considerable odds against the hated SS. Frankly, the Germans look stupid and whatever else you might say about German soldiers they were not stupid. But honestly, it’s a minor complaint and otherwise it’s a good movie ranking up there with Band of Brothers and Saving Pvt. Ryan. Just don’t be shocked by the language because that is how soldiers talk and don’t be shocked by the carnage because that’s what soldiers see.



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