Lost Battalion Publishing Dispatch #13

A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting Historical Occurrences

Lost Battalion Dispatch #13 for the
Week of September 25, 2022

This Week in History

Black Sheep and a Bridge Too Far

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Liberté before and after

The French pre-dreadnaught battleship Liberté blew up in Toulon harbor of September 25, 1911. 286 sailors were killed and 188 wounded. At 05:31 other ships noted smoke issuing from the forward portion of the ship and at 05:53 a huge explosion rocked the harbor. A 36-ton piece of armor struck the battleship République, moored 690 feet away. Splinters of armor killed 36 men on other ships and sank a nearby pinnace. The explosion was probably caused by Poudre B, the first smokeless gunpowder, composed primarily of nitrocellulose which tended to become unstable over time and spontaneously combust. Additives were later developed to solve this problem.
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Francis Drake and the Golden Hind painted by Ron Embleton
On September 26, 1580, Francis Drake and 59 surviving crewmen of the Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth harbor with a cargo of spices and gold plundered from Spanish ships and towns after circumnavigating the globe.

Drake set sail from Plymouth in his flagship Pelican with a fleet of four other ships on December 13, 1577. Early on in his 34-month journey, he added a captured Portuguese merchant ship. This ship and two others were scuttled or burned after a difficult crossing of the Atlantic. His three remaining ships reached the Pacific in September of 1578 where one was destroyed by a severe storm and another so badly that she was forced to return to England. During their stay in the Magellan Strait, crew members discovered a tree bark that could be used to cure scurvy.

Drake renamed his flagship Golden Hind and sailed alone along the Pacific coast of South America. In accordance with his royal patent from Queen Elizabeth, he wreaked havoc on Spanish ports and towns and captured several treasure ships. He sailed as far north as Oregon before returning to Northern California where he made landfall in a protected cove to make repairs. He claimed the territory, which he named New Albion, in the name of the Queen. Departing New Albion on June 23, 1759, he sailed across the Pacific. During a stop in Molluscas Islands, he befriended Sultan Babullah, laying the groundwork for an important British alliance in Indonesia. After making several stops along the coast of Africa he rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached Sierra Leone in June of 1580.

The Queen’s half share of the loot collected during Drake’s voyage exceeded the entire crown income for the year. Drake and his men were sworn to secrecy upon pain of death about the details of the voyage and all the written records were declared Queen’s Secrets of the Realm. On April 4, 1581, Queen Elizabeth arranged for Drake to be dubbed a knight aboard the Golden Hind by a French diplomat, thus gaining implicit French support for his actions against the Spanish. Seven years later, Drake would play a key role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

The SS Patrick Henry was launched on September 27, 1941. She was the first “Liberty Ship” to be completed under the Emergency Shipbuilding Program. Designed to be mass-produced simply at low cost, 2710 of these ships would be built between 1941 and 1945, an average of three ships every two days. Variants of the basic cargo ship design would be made into coilers, tank transports, boxed aircraft transports, and troops ships. Many of these ships were built at three Kaiser shipyards on the Pacific Northwest coast. The Vancouver Shipyard famously created the town of Vanport, informally known as Kaiserville, where housing for 40,000 people was built to support construction. Vanport temporarily became the second largest city in Oregon. Forty percent of the population were African Americans. A fourth Kaiser shipyard in Richmond, California set a record by building the SS Robert E. Peary in only five days.

SS Patrick Henry

Roman coin depicting Pompey the Great
with the god Neptune of the Reverse
Pompey the Great was murdered in Egypt on September 28, 48 BC. Referred to as the Roman Alexander because of his legendary generalship. He was the epitome of a politician and general loyal to the Roman Republic. His death effectively ensured the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire.

Pompey first achieved fame by supporting the Dictator Cornelius Sulla during the first Roman Civil war, recapturing Sicily and Africa from Sulla’s opponents in a brilliant campaign that lasted only a year. Later he achieved significant victories in Spain. He was sent to Asia Minor to deal with the threat posed by Mithrades IV of Pontus and subdued the region through a combination of diplomacy and force. In 60 BC he became a member of the First Triumvirate, a political alliance between Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus designed to hold the Republic together after Sulla’s retirement left a power vacuum in Rome. His rivalry with Caesar and the death of Crassus broke up the balance of power and resulted in another civil war when Caesar crossed the Rubicon and invaded Italy with his veteran army from Gaul. Pompey fell back to Greece where his loyal legions from the campaigns against Mithrades were located. Caesar followed, confident in the strength of his battle-harden troops, but Pompey cornered him at Pharsalus, amassing an army nearly twice the size of Caesar’s and cutting off his opponent from supply. Pompey planned to starve Caesar out, but political pressure from Republican politicians in his retinue demanded that he engage in battle. As per Roman doctrine, both armies developed in three lines. Being outnumbered, Caesar’s lines were thinned out to match the width of Pompey’s line. Once the armies were deployed Pompey ordered his men not to advance. He hoped to gain an advantage by tiring out Caesar’s men during the approach before the fighting began.

After the infantry was engaged, Pompey unleashed his cavalry, routing the inferior cavalry on Caesar’s right flank and threatening to outflank his army. Foreseeing this, Caesar had formed a fourth line of infantry in reserve who counterattacked Pompey’s cavalry, driving them from the field. Caesar then committed these reserves to the main battle line causing Pompey’s men to falter, break formation, and flee. Conservative estimates put Caesar’s losses at 1200 men to Pompey’s 6000.

Many of the survivors sought Caesar’s pardon, notable among them Marcus Brutus, and joined forces with him. Other Republican leaders gave up the fight and returned to Italy. While Pompey escaped by sea, Caesar promised amnesty to all who would ask for mercy, prompting the Pompeian naval forces to surrender or return to Italy. This left Pompey with no choice but to flee to Egypt where he hoped to obtain the support of the Roman client king Ptolemy. With Caesar in hot pursuit, Ptolemy feared offending him by offering aid to his rival. He treacherously invited Pompey to disembark from his ship and had one of his officers murder him. Caesar is said to have wept when he learned of Pompey’s death.

YF-22

September 29, 1990, marked the first flight of the YF-22, the prototype for the F-22 Raptor. The first F-22 flew almost 7 years later. The USAF originally planned to purchase 750 of the advanced stealthy air superiority fighters, but operational problems with the stealth coating and other issues in addition to the development of the more affordable and versatile F-35 led to the procurement of only 187 aircraft. 183 F-22 currently remain in the Air Force inventory.
The first operational nuclear submarine USS Nautilus was commissioned on September 30, 1954. Her most notable accomplishment was to become the first waterborne vessel to reach the geographic North Pole on August 3, 1958. Nautilus also participated in the quarantine of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The brainchild of Hyman G. Rickover, Father of the Nuclear Navy, was decommissioned in 1980 and is now a museum ship visited by 250,000 people a year at a berth in Groton, CT.

Museum Ship USS Nautilus

Elvis Presley arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany on October 1, 1958. “The King of Rock and Roll” was welcomed by hundreds of mostly female fans who were disappointed when he was immediately spirited away to his post in Frieberg, Hesse. Elvis served as a jeep driver for a recon detail. He was promoted to sergeant before being shipped home and discharged in March of 1960.
Private Elvis Presley arrives in Germany
Brawling Battleships
Watch Out for the Poudre B!

Brawling Battleships is a fast-paced, easy-to-learn card game where ships like Liberté.  duke it out for naval supremacy. Check it out by clicking here: Brawling Battleships.

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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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