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Lost Battalion Publishing Dispatch 12

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Important Historical Occurrences for this Week


The Lost Battalion Dispatch

Lost Battalion Dispatch #12 for the Week of September 18, 2022
This Week in History

Black Sheep and a Bridge Too Far

German Lt. Col. Victor Franke surrenders to South African General Louis Botha
The South African campaign against German Southwest Africa began on September 18, 1914. After an initial repulse at the Battle of Sandfontein and the suppression of an internal revolt by Boers sympathetic to the Germans, the experienced Boer Kommandos made short work of their vastly outnumbered German opponents. Led by Jan Smuts, a rare World War One-era commander who preferred flanking maneuvers to frontal attacks, the South African forces seized strategic locations, cutting the Germans off from the coastal area where they could be resupplied. The Germans made a final stand at Otavi where they were easily beaten by Louis Botha, the man who had once captured Winston Churchill. Only about 200 men from both sides were killed in battle during the entire campaign, a testament to the value of indirect approach and maneuver warfare in the age of the machine gun.
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Battle of Freeman’s Farm
The Battle of Freeman’s Farm took place on September 19, 1777. It was the first of two engagements near Saratoga, NY which were the first significant American victories of the Revolutionary War. The battle ended with the British in command of the field, but only after suffering twice the casualties of the Americans. The toll among British officers and artillerymen was especially high due to the sharpshooting work of Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen. The American success was due, in part, to the aggressive style of Benedict Arnold who convinced his passive superior Horatio Gates to allow him to engage the enemy rather than remain behind the fortified positions at Bemis Heights. Whether or not Arnold played an active role in the action is a matter of dispute. Some accounts place him on the field while others believe he remained at Gate’s headquarters.
A Prussian army marching to Paris to restore the monarchy after the French Revolution was turned back on September 20, 1792. The Cannonade of Valmy resulted when two French armies maneuvered into the rear of the advancing Prussians. With their supply lines threatened, the Prussians turned to engage. As the Duke of Brunswick, commanding the Prussians, was moving to cut off the smaller French force, led by led by Charles Dumouriez, a French army under Francois Kellerman arrived. Brunswick then engaged Kellerman’s force in an artillery duel in which the French gave better than they got. Unnerved by the explosion of an ammunition wagon in the rear and the French chanting, “Vive la nation!” and singing “La Marseillaise” (a song composed in response to the invasion which would shortly become the national anthem of France), the assault columns sent forth by Brunswick wavered and the commander called off the attack. The Prussians withdrew from the field and marched for the Rhine, having suffered only 164 casualties. The French lost 300 men. The “battle” became a source of French Revolutionary mythology. It was celebrated as the victory of a “citizen army” over monarchical forces even though most of the French, including all the artillerymen, were professional soldiers. In the wake of the victory, the National Assembly of France promptly abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the French Republic.
Monument at Valmy depicting General Kellerman
Aerial photograph of the Arnhem bridge taken on September 19, 1944
On September 21, 1944, the last British paratroopers in Arnhem surrendered, having failed to take “a bridge too far.” The unexpected presence of an SS Training and Replacement battalion between the bridge and their drop zones stymied the operations of British 1st Airborne Division that began on September 17 with a parachute and glider assault. Despite this setback, 745 paratroopers, under Lt. Col. John Frost, were able to skirt the German lines and capture the northern end of the bridge. Repeated attacks failed to take the bridge however and the British were forced to fall back and dig in. They held out for four days, surrounded by the tanks and men of II. SS Panzerkorps and cut off from the rest of 1st Airborne Division. Their final transmission was reportedly, “Out of ammunition. God save the King.” A remnant of 1st Airborne and the Polish airborne troops in besieged in nearby Oosterbeek were able to escape across the Rhine River a few days later after the tanks of Bernard Montgomery’s Operation Market Garden failed to reach their objective.
“Victory Arch” in Poland
On September 22, 1939, “Dictators of the world, unite!” might have been the watchwords of the joint German-Russian victory parade in Brest-Litovsk, Poland. The Germans had invaded Poland on September 1st, using a false flag attack on a radio tower in Gleiwitz as a pretext. The Poles had fallen back, been defeated at the battle of Bzura, and were preparing to hold out in the Romanian Bridgehead while Allied reinforcements arrive from Britain and France, when, on September 17th, the Red Army piled on. The Soviets got a bloody nose Grodno, after which they executed 300 Polish prisoners that had been defending the city, but their advance was otherwise unimpeded. When they met advancing German forces at Brest-Litovsk, a victory parade was held. Russian and German troops marched under “victory arches” constructed for the occasion. Revisionist Soviet historians would later proclaim that this parade (and others like it in other Polish cities) was in fact the “ceremonial departure of German forces under the supervision of Soviet representatives.”
September 23, 1976, marked the premier of the television series “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” The series fictionalized the exploits of the Marine Fighter Squadron 214 under the command of Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. The characterization of the Black Sheep Squadron as “a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terror of the South Pacific” was not that much of an exaggeration. Boyington, having recently returned from a year in China flying with the Flying Tigers, was given command of a new squadron composed of 27 unattached pilots. When they met on September 13, 1943, they decided to nickname their squadron the name “Boyington’s Bastards” because all the pilots had been “orphans” and they had few reliable planes and no mechanics. When the Marine Corps public relations officer rejected this nickname, they came up with “Black Sheep” as an alternative. The Black Sheep squadron fought for 84 days from their base on Vella Lavella island (fictionalized as Vela La Cava in the series). In that time they damaged or destroyed 203 enemy aircraft and produced nine aces including Boyington who was credited with 26 kills, tying the record of World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker. The original Black Sheep squadron was disbanded when their second tour of duty ended five days after Boyington was shot down and captured by the Japanese on January 3, 1944. The pilots were reassigned to the pilot pool of Marine Aircraft Group 11.
“Pappy” Boyington
On September 24, 1960, USS Enterprise CVA(N)-65 was launched. The US Navy’s eighth Enterprise was the world’s first nuclear-powered carrier. Her presence off the shores of Cuba may have been a factor in deterring further Soviet aggression during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but her first combat mission came on December 2, 1965, when she launched 21 aircraft against Viet Cong installations near Bien Hoa, South Vietnam. In 1998, she took part in Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against targets in Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton. In October of 2001, her aircraft flew 700 sorties and dropped 800,000 pounds of munitions on Afghanistan. She was deactivated on December 1, 2012, and decommissioned on February 3, 2017, after the last of her nuclear reactors was defueled.
USS Enterprise in 2004
Take Command of the Red Devils

Sergeants Miniatures Game: Red Devils puts you in command of the men of the British 1st Airborne Division. The decisions you make will make the difference between victory and death for the realistically modeled soldiers under your command. Check it out by clicking here: SMG: Red Devils.

About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne forest during World War One.

At Lost Battalion Publishing we take inspiration from the historical Lost Battalion that never gave up, never lost hope, and persevered despite a series of devastating setbacks.

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