06 January, 2013

Henry Mucci

Henry Andrews Mucci was a colonel in the United States Army Rangers. In January 1945, during World War II, he led a force of 121 Army Rangers on a mission which rescued 513 survivors of the Bataan Death March from Cabanatuan Prison Camp, despite being heavily outnumbered. It is widely considered the most successful rescue mission in the history of the United States military.

Mucci was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to parents who had emigrated from Sicily, Italy. Henry came from a family of 10 siblings. Two of his brothers also served in the Army and Navy during the Second World War, while his sisters worked at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in America and made bazookas in factories.

He enrolled at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, graduating 246th of 275 in his class in May 1936. While at West Point he participated in lacrosse and, due to his early years growing up with horses, was on the equestrian team.

In February 1943, the US Sixth Army put Mucci in charge of the 98th Field Artillery Battalion, previously a mule-drawn pack artillery unit. Mucci announced that the Battalion was being converted from Field Artillery to Rangers, downsized the battalion from 1,000 men to 500, and held a training camp in New Guinea where he utilized commando type training techniques for over a year. Thus, Mucci created a new battalion of Army Rangers. Mucci survived the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. During the liberation of the Philippines, General Walter Kreuger and one of his top men, Col. Horton White, chose Mucci to head the liberation of the Cabanatuan Prison Camp due to both the difficulty and the peculiar needs of such a mission.

In January 1945, Mucci led 121 Army Rangers in liberating the Cabanatuan Prison Camp with the loss of only 2 men killed in action. Mucci refused to sit back on the mission and joined his soldiers on the ground in combat, an unusual position for a colonel.  The raid was supported by some 250 Filipino guerrillas, many of whom were unarmed, who guided the Rangers through Japanese held territory and held off Japanese reinforcements while the American Rangers freed the POWs. For Mucci's actions in the raid he was personally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.

Mucci returned home as a national hero in his home town of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  He ran for Congress in 1946 but was defeated. He became the President of Bridgeport Lincoln Mercury as well as becoming an oil representative in India. In November 1974, the portion of Route 25 between Bridgeport and Newtown was named the Col. Henry A. Mucci Highway.

Colonel Mucci died at age 88 in Melbourne, Florida, on April 20, 1997.

Frank Wild

Commander John Robert Francis Wild, known as Frank Wild, was an explorer.

Frank Wild was born in Skelton-in-Cleveland, North Riding of Yorkshire, the eldest of eight sons and three daughters born to schoolteacher Benjamin Wild and his seamstress wife Mary (née Cook). By 1875 the Wild family had moved from Skelton to Stickford in Lincolnshire, and in late 1880 moved again to Wheldrake near York.

Wild’s family next moved to the village of Eversholt in Bedfordshire. Here his father was appointed clerk of the Eversholt Parochial Charity at Woburn. Frank Wild was educated at Bedford. He joined the Merchant Navy in 1889 at the age of 16, receiving his early training in sail in the clipper ship Sobraon. In the Merchant Navy he rose to the rank of second officer. In 1900, aged 26, he joined the Royal Navy. The 1901 census shows that at that time he was serving as an Able seaman aged 27 on HMS Edinburgh, anchored in Sheerness Harbour.

Frank Wild took part in the following Antarctic expeditions:
In 1901 he was a member of Robert Falcon Scott’s crew as an Able seaman on the Discovery, along with Ernest Shackleton who was then a sub-lieutenant.
He was with Shackleton on the Nimrod Expedition 1908–1909 and was a member of the team that crossed the Ross Barrier and Beardmore Glacier at a record latitude of 88º23’S.
In 1911 he joined Douglas Mawson’s Aurora expedition and was in charge of the western base on the Shackleton Ice Shelf.
He served as Shackleton's second-in-command on Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–1916).
He was second-in-command of the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition (1921–22).

As second-in-command of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Wild was left in charge of twenty-one men on desolate Elephant Island as Shackleton and a crew of five made their epic rescue mission to South Georgia aboard a lifeboat. From 24 April to 30 August 1916 Wild and his crew waited on Elephant Island, surviving on a diet of seal, penguin and seaweed. They were finally rescued by Shackleton aboard the Chilean ship Yelcho. Point Wild on Elephant Island is named after Frank Wild, with a monument dedicated to the Chilean captain Luis Pardo who rescued him and his men.

On returning to the United Kingdom in 1916, Wild volunteered for duty during World War I and was made a temporary lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. After taking a Russian language course, Wild became the Royal Navy's transport officer at Archangel, where he superintended the war materials which arrived during the Allied intervention in Russia. After the war, Wild went to South Africa where he farmed in British Nyasaland with Francis Bickerton and James McIlroy, two former Antarctic comrades.

From 1921 to 1922 Wild was second-in-command of the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition, a poorly equipped expedition with no clear plan, and a small ship, the Quest. Shackleton died of a heart attack on South Georgia during the expedition, and Wild took over command and completed the journey, combating unfavorable weather to Elephant Island and along the Antarctic coast.

Frank Wild's younger brother Ernest Wild also went on to become a Royal Naval seaman and Antarctic explorer, receiving a Polar Medal.

Frank Wild died of pneumonia and diabetes in Klerksdorp, South Africa, on August 19, 1939, aged 66. He was cremated on August 23, 1939 at the Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg.

Oscar Eckenstein

Oscar Johannes Ludwig Eckenstein was an English rock climber and mountaineer, and a pioneer in the sport of bouldering.

Bill Tilman

Major Harold William "Bill" Tilman, CBE, DSO, MC and Bar, was an English mountaineer and explorer, renowned for his Himalayan climbs and sailing voyages.

Tilman was born on February 14, 1898 in Wallasey in Cheshire, the son of a well-to-do sugar merchant John Hinkes Tilman and his wife Adeline Schwabe. He was educated at Berkhamsted Boys School. At the age of 18, Tilman was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery and fought in the First World War, including the Battle of the Somme, and was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery. His climbing career, however, began with his acquaintance with Eric Shipton in Kenya, East Africa, where they were both coffee growers. Beginning with their joint traverse of Mount Kenya in 1929 and their ascents of Kilimanjaro and the fabled "Mountains of the Moon" Ruwenzori, Shipton and Tilman formed one of the most famed partnerships in mountaineering history. When it came time to leave Africa, Tilman was not content with merely flying home but rode a bicycle across the continent to the West Coast where he embarked for England.

Tilman was involved in two of the 1930s Mount Everest expeditions - participating in the 1935 Reconnaissance Expedition, and reaching 27,200 feet without oxygen as the expedition leader in 1938. He penetrated the Nanda Devi sanctuary with Eric Shipton in 1934, and in 1936 he went on to lead an Anglo-American expedition to Nanda Devi. With the support of a team which included Peter Lloyd and H. Adams Carter, Tilman and Noel Odell succeeded in making the first ascent of the 7,816 metres (25,643 ft) mountain, which remained the highest summit climbed by man until 1950. Tilman later described their arrival on the summit:

Odell had brought a thermometer, and no doubt sighed for the hypsometer. From it we found that the air temperature was 20 °F (−7 °C) but in the absence of the wind we could bask gratefully in the friendly rays of our late enemy the sun. It was difficult to realize that we were actually standing on top of the same peak which we had viewed two months ago from Ranikhet, and which had then appeared incredibly remote and inaccessible, and it gave us a curious feeling of exaltation to know that we were above every peak within a hundred miles on either hand. Dhaulagiri, 1,000ft higher, and 200 miles away in Nepal, was our nearest rival. I believe we so far forgot ourselves as to shake hands on it.

In 1939, Tilman was the first man to attempt climbing in the remote and unexplored Assam Himalaya, exploring the Southern approaches of Gori Chen, 6538 metres, before his team succumbed to malaria. In 1947 he attempted Rakaposhi, then made his way to Kashgar to join up with Eric Shipton in a lightweight attempt on Muztagh Ata, 7546 metres, which nearly succeeded. On his way back to India, he detoured through Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor to see the source of the river Oxus. During his extensive exploration of the areas of Langtang, Ganesh and Manang in Nepal in 1949, Tilman was the first to ascend Paldor, 5896 metres, and found the pass named after him beyond Gangchempo. He was awarded in 1952 the Royal Geographical Society's Founder's Gold Medal for his achievements.

He later volunteered for service in the Second World War, seeing action in North Africa, and on the beaches at Dunkirk. He then was dropped by parachute behind enemy lines to fight with Albanian and Italian partisans, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his efforts, and the keys to the city of Belluno which he helped save from occupation and destruction.

Following his military career behind enemy lines in the Second World War, Tilman took up deep sea sailing. Sailing in deep seas on the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Mischief, which he purchased in 1954, and subsequently on his other pilot cutters Sea Breeze and Baroque, Tilman voyaged to Arctic and Antarctic waters in search of new and uncharted mountains to climb. On his last voyage in 1977, in his eightieth year, Tilman was invited to ship as crew in En Avant with mountaineers sailing to the South Atlantic to climb Smith Island. The expedition was led, and the boat skippered, by the youthful Simon Richardson. He and his crew aboard the old, converted steel tug made it successfully and without incident to Rio de Janeiro. Thereafter, en route to the Falkland Islands, they disappeared without trace - it was presumed the ship had foundered with all hands.

Ernst A. Lehmann

Captain Ernst August Lehmann was a German Zeppelin captain. He was one of the most famous and experienced figures in German airship travel.

Ernst Lehmann was born in 1886 in Ludwigshafen am Rhein. At the age of 14, he decided that he wanted to build ships. He studied engineering at the Technische Hochschule Berlin and received his degree in 1912. By this time, he had already joined the navy and had attained the rank of naval reserve lieutenant.

Upon graduation, he began work at the Imperial Dockyards in Kiel. He did not find this work satisfying so, encouraged by Dr. Hugo Eckener, he joined the DELAG to serve as pilot of the passenger airship LZ 17 Sachsen. He commanded a total of 550 flights of this ship.

During the First World War, Captain Lehmann commanded army and navy airships, beginning with the Sachsen after it had been taken over by the Army, followed by the LZ XII, and finally the navy ships LZ 90, LZ 98, and LZ 120.

After the war, Captain Lehmann continued his involvement with the airships, which is now used for civilian purposes. He made preparations to fly the naval airship L 72 on the first transatlantic crossing of an airship in 1919. Permission was denied by the German government. In 1920, he spent six months in Sweden studying the economics of an airship line between Stockholm and the Mediterranean, with a stopover in Friedrichshafen. These plans were never realized.

In 1921 he spent four months in the United States to prepare for a planned New York to Chicago airship route, and in 1922 he tried to negotiate with USA and England for a route to go over North Atlantic .

With the founding of the Goodyear Zeppelin Corporation in 1923, Captain Lehmann served as Vice President in charge of engineering. In 1924, Captain Lehmann was second-in-command of LZ 126 on the first nonstop transatlantic flight between the European and American mainlands. The purpose of the flight was to deliver the Zeppelin to its new owners, the United States Navy, who rechristened the ship USS Los Angeles.

By 1929, Lehmann had filed a declaration of intent to become a United States citizen, but changed his mind when he was given charge of the Hindenburg in 1936.

In 1935, when Hermann Göring created the Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei to increase Nazi influence over zeppelin operations, Captain Lehmann was named director of the new airline.

Captain Lehmann served as commanding officer on more than 100 of the flights of the Graf Zeppelin between 1928 and 1936. In 1936, he commanded 10 round-trip flights to Lakehurst on the new Hindenburg. Captain Lehmann was a skilled accordion player, which he often used to entertain passengers on long flights with renditions of Wagner pieces or German folk songs.

Although Max Pruss was the commanding officer of the last flight of the Hindenburg, Captain Lehmann was the most senior officer on board, but was there only as an observer. He was fatally burned when the ship caught fire at Lakehurst on 6 May 1937 and died the following day. It was initially believed that Lehmann would recover from his injuries; he was scheduled to be transferred to the hospital at Rockefeller University for further treatment until he took a sudden turn for the worse the afternoon before his death.

Lasse Dahlquist

Lars Erik Dahlquist was a Swedish composer, singer and actor. 

Reg Saunders

Reginald Walter "Reg" Saunders, MBE was the first Aboriginal Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army. He came from a military family, his forebears having served in the Boer War and the First World War. Enlisting as a soldier in 1940, he saw action during the Second World War in North Africa, Greece and Crete, before being commissioned as a lieutenant and serving as a platoon commander in New Guinea during 1944–45.

After the war, Saunders was demobilized and returned to civilian life. He later served as a company commander with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment during the Korean War, where he fought at the Battle of Kapyong. Saunders left the Army in 1954 and worked in the logging and metal industries, before joining the Office of Aboriginal Affairs as a liaison officer in 1969. In 1971, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his community service.
Saunders was born near Purnim on the Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve in western Victoria on August 7, 1920. He was a member of the Gunditjmara people. His father, Chris, was a veteran of the First World War, having served as a machine gunner in the Australian Imperial Force. One of his uncles, William Reginald Rawlings, who was killed in action and after whom Saunders was named, had been awarded the Military Medal for service with the 29th Battalion in France. Another ancestor, John Brook, fought with the Victorian Rifles and the Australian Commonwealth Horse in the Boer War. Saunders' mother died in 1924 from complications caused by pneumonia while giving birth.  After this, his father moved to Lake Condah in Victoria, with Reg and his younger brother, Harry.  As their father undertook various laboring jobs, the two boys were raised largely by their grandmother.

Saunders attended the local mission school at Lake Condah, where he did well in math, geometry and languages. His father, meanwhile, taught Reg and Harry about the bush, and encouraged them to read Shakespeare and Australian literature. After completing eight years of schooling, Saunders earned his merit certificate. He began to work as a mill hand. Employers regularly withheld payments for Aboriginal laborers at this time, but Saunders refused to work unless he was paid his full entitlement, and his employer relented. He worked and furthered his education until 1937, when he went into business with his father and brother, operating a saw mill in Portland, Victoria; the mill was destroyed in a bushfire in 1939.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Saunders was determined to serve in the armed forces. Patriotism and his family's history of soldiering both played a major part in his decision. His father suggested that he wait six months; according to Reg, "They were talking about this war being all over in six months with the Maginot Line and all the other garbage that we were told ... But we waited six months and the duck season was over so there was no more shooting to do except go to war". Saunders enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force on April 24, 1940, joining up with friends he had made while playing Australian rule football. The armed forces later adopted a policy to accept only persons "substantially of European origin or descent", but at the time Saunders encountered no barriers to his enlistment. He recalled that his fellow soldiers "were not color-conscious", and that during training in northern Queensland his white mates would sit alongside him in the "Aboriginal" section of movie theatres. His natural leadership qualities gained him temporary promotions in quick succession: within six weeks of enlistment he was a lance corporal, and after three months he made sergeant.

After completing his training, Saunders was allocated to an infantry unit, the 2/7th Battalion, which was serving overseas in North Africa at the time. Upon reaching the 2/7th, Saunders reverted to the rank of private. His first experience of war came fighting the Italians around Benghazi. In early April 1941, the 6th Division, to which the 2/7th belonged, was sent to Greece to help defend against a German invasion. Following a series of withdrawals, the battalion was evacuated on 26 April, embarking upon the Costa Rica at Kalamata. It was originally bound for Alexandria, but after the ship was attacked in Suda Bay by German aircraft and began to sink, the men of the 2/7th, including Saunders, were picked up by several British destroyers and disembarked on the island of Crete. The 2/7th was subsequently allocated to the island's defending garrison.

Following the invasion of Crete in May 1941, the 2/7th Battalion was initially employed in a coastal defense role, before taking part in the fighting around Canea. After this, it took part in a devastating bayonet charge at 42nd Street, along with the New Zealand Maori Battalion, which killed almost 300 Germans and briefly checked their advance. It was during this battle that Saunders killed his first opponent: "... I saw a German soldier stand up in clear view about thirty yards away. He was my first sure kill ... I can remember for a moment that it was just like shooting a kangaroo ... just as remote." As the Allies began to evacuate the island, the 2/7th was called upon to carry out a series of rearguard actions in order to allow other units to be taken off the island. After the final Allied ships departed the island on June 1, 1941, the battalion was left behind. As a result, many of its men were taken prisoner, though some were able to evade capture by hiding out in the hills and caves around the island. Adopting Cretan dress, learning the dialect, and enlisting the help of local inhabitants, Saunders managed to remain hidden for eleven months.

Saunders was among a party of men evacuated from Crete by a British submarine in May 1942, and returned to Australia in October. He rejoined his old unit, the 2/7th Battalion, which had re-formed in Palestine and been brought back to Australia along with the rest of the 6th Division to help defend against the threat posed by Japan's entry into the war. In November 1942, Saunders' younger brother Harry, who had enlisted shortly after him in 1940, was killed in action while serving in New Guinea with the 2/14th Battalion. When Harry had joined up, Reg recalled, "I was angry because I was the only one that was supposed to go. ... with two of us there, one of us was going to get killed ..." The elder Saunders subsequently served in New Guinea as well, fighting in the Salamaua–Lae campaign in mid-1943 where, having again been promoted temporary sergeant, he took over command of a platoon when its commander was wounded in action. For his leadership, he was recommended for a commission by his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Guinn. When Guinn told him of his plan, Saunders laughed and said, "I don't want to be an officer ... I'd rather be Regimental Sergeant Major". Guinn responded, "Christ, they don't make boys RSMs".

Saunders went before an officer selection board that had been set up on the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, where the units of the 6th Division had been based following their return from New Guinea. The interview panel on the board consisted of three senior officers – all experienced infantry battalion commanders – who were tasked with determining a candidate's suitability for commissioning as an infantry officer. Saunders was found to be an acceptable candidate and posted to an officer training unit in Seymour, Victoria. Upon completion of the 16-week course, he was promoted to lieutenant in November 1944, becoming the first Aboriginal commissioned officer in the Australian Army. The precedent of his commissioning had caused the Army some concern due to its "special significance", and as a result the paperwork for its confirmation was eventually sent to the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Thomas Blamey, for approval. Nevertheless, Blamey is reported to have "insisted upon following the usual procedure", believing that there should be no difference in the way Saunders' commission should be treated to any other soldier who had completed the necessary training. The story garnered much press coverage in Australia, most of it favorable, if in parts paternalistic.

After his promotion was confirmed, Saunders returned to New Guinea and, although it was contrary to policy, rejoined his old battalion. He subsequently took part in the Aitape–Wewak campaign, commanding a platoon until the end of the war. Due to the discriminatory laws in force at the time, Saunders had fewer rights as a citizen than the white Australians he led. He was wounded in the knee by Japanese gunfire during fighting around Maprik, and was hospitalized for three weeks as a result.

Saunders was discharged from the Army on October 5, 1945, following the end of the Second World War. Returning to Australia, he volunteered for service in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, but the government would not accept Aborigines for the operation. Saunders spoke publicly against this policy, calling it "narrow-minded and ignorant"; the wartime restriction on non-European enlistments in the armed forces was not lifted until 1949. Saunders moved to Melbourne with his family, which by this time consisted of his wife Dorothy, whom he had married in 1944, and their three young children. Dorothy had served in the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force during the war. Saunders recalled that he "had a hard time after the war ... and poor old Dotty, she, you know, didn't know what the hell to make of it". Facing discrimination that he had rarely encountered as a soldier, he worked in the ensuing years as a tram conductor, a foundry worker, and a shipping clerk.

In August 1950, the government called for Second World War veterans to serve in the Korea War as part of the specially raised 'K' Force. Saunders volunteered and returned to the Army as a lieutenant. After training at Puckapunyal, Victoria, and in Japan, he arrived in Korea in November 1950. He served with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, initially as a platoon commander in A Company. In February 1951, he took charge of A Company when its commander was wounded; he was subsequently given command of C Company. Promoted to captain, Saunders led C Company during the Battle of Kapyong in April, when 3 RAR and a Canadian battalion held off a Chinese division north-east of the South Korean capital Seoul. Frustrated by the conduct of the war prior to Kapyong, he afterwards recorded that, "At last I felt like an Anzac and I imagine there were 600 others like me". The 3rd Battalion was awarded a US Presidential Unit Citation for its part in the action. Saunders himself was recommended for a decoration but turned it down. Leading a Vickers machine gun platoon at the Battle of Maryang San in October, he reportedly shared the following exchange with a fellow 3 RAR officer: as they surveyed the forbidding mountain before them, Saunders' companion remarked, "No country for white men", to which Saunders replied, "It's no country for black men, either." He returned to Australia in November 1951.

In 1953 the Returned and Services League (RSL), a veteran’s organization, recommended Saunders for inclusion in the official Australian contingent to the coronation of Elizabeth II; the Federal government rejected the suggestion on the grounds that including Saunders would have meant excluding an officer who had been previously selected. Following his service in the Korean War, Saunders remained in the Army overseeing training for national servicemen at Puckapunyal. Away from active service, however, he soon became dissatisfied and in 1954 was discharged at his own request.

Saunders went to work in the logging industry in Gippsland, after which he moved to Sydney, where he was employed by the Austral Bronze Company. Seen by many as a role model and spokesman for Aboriginal Australians, in 1969 Saunders took up a position in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs as one of its first liaison officers. Among his tasks was promulgating information on recently legislated Federal funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and schooling, following up on recommendations made to government departments, and liaising with Aboriginal welfare groups. He later stated, "I felt a sense of leadership of Aboriginal people and a desire to do something about the Aboriginal situation". His community work was recognized in the Queen's Birthday Honors of June 1971 when he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Civil Division. He continued to serve with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra until retiring in 1980. In July 1985 he was appointed to the Council of the Australian War Memorial, and held this position until his retirement. He was also involved in the RSL, though he fell out with leaders Alf Garland and Bruce Ruxton over Garland's suggestion that Aborigines be blood-tested to determine their entitlement to government benefits. "They can take all the blood they want from me," Saunders declared in a 1986 interview, "and they'll never find out what I am – least of all an Aborigine – bloody stupid!"

Having suffered recent heart trouble, he died on March 2, 1990. His ashes were scattered on Lake Condah, traditional territory of the Gunditjmara people.