Lost Battalion Publishing Dispatch #24

A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting Historical Occurrences

This Week in History

Tanaka’s ship is sunk, Marconi receives an S, and the Duke on the Sands of Iwo Jima

The Lost Battalion Dispatch #24 for the Week of December 11, 2022
Raizō Tanaka
While attempting to reinforce the Japanese ground forces on Guadalcanal, IJN Teruzuki was hit by torpedoes on December 11, 1942 and sank early the next day. Teruzuki was serving as the flagship for Rear Admiral Raizō Tanaka.

Tanaka was commander of the 2nd Destroyer Squadron and in charge of the “Tokyo Express,” night resupply and reinforcement missions for Japanese troops trying to hold on to the island. US air superiority in the area (due to their possession of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal) prevented the use of slow cargo ships, so resupply was done by night using Tanaka’s fast destroyers.

On the night of December 11-12, Tanaka was personally conducting what the Japanese called a “Rat Transport” mission. Patrol Torpedo boats PT-37 and PT-40 intercepted the destroyers and fired torpedoes. One of them struck Teruzuki, leaving her burning and dead in the water. Tanaka was wounded in the attack and evacuated before the fire spread to the destroyer’s depth charges which exploded, sinking the ship.

Tanaka had fallen out of favor with the IJN High Command despite his modestly successful efforts in the no-win situation at Guadalcanal. A few weeks after being wounded, he was transferred to Singapore and then reassigned to shore duty in Burma for the remained of the war.

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Guglielmo Marconi
On December 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi defied scientific experts who believed the curvature of the earth would prevent radio transmission beyond 200 miles by sending a signal from Cornwall, England to St. John’s, Newfoundland, a distance of 2,200 miles. Skeptics continued to disbelieve.

Marconi conducted the test using a 500-foot antenna held aloft by a kite at St. John’s. The message was simply three clicks, Morse code for the letter S. It was reported to have been received sporadically and faintly. The transmission was sent in the daytime, now known to be the worst possible time for long-distance radio communication since radio frequencies are heavily absorbed by the ionosphere during hours of sunlight.

To quiet his detractors, Marconi organized a better-documented and more thorough test in February 1902. He boarded SS Philadelphia, headed west from Great Britain, and carefully documented signals he received from his transmitter in Cornwall. The maximum distance was found to be achieved at night. Audio reception was recorded at a distance of 2,100 miles. This finally disproved scientists who believed radio would be limited to line-of-sight distances. In January 1903, Marconi transmitted a greeting from President Theodore Roosevelt to King George VII from a station in Massachusetts.

The commercial success of radio transmission was slow to follow. Marconi built high-powered radio stations on both sides of the Atlantic and began to communicate with passenger liners at sea, sending news that was then published in the ship’s onboard newspapers. A regular trans-Atlantic radiotelegraph service was begun in 1907, but Marconi’s company continued to struggle financially.

The value of radio communications was finally demonstrated to the general public on April 15, 1912, by radio operators employed by the Marconi International Maritime Communications Company aboard RMS Titanic. Jack Phillips and Harold Bride radioed a message from the sinking liner that was received by RMS Carpathia. Bride survived and Marconi took a New York Times reporter aboard Carpathia to interview him when she docked in New York. Lord Samuel, Britain’s Postmaster General (the official in charge of radiotelegraphy at the time), said, “Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi.”

In 1909, Marconi shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.”

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a hole on December 13, 2003. American Delta Force operators and elements of 4th Infantry division conducted Operation Red Dawn against two locations near the town of ad-Dwar acting on intelligence that Hussein was in the area. Both locations were cleared but the ex-dictator was not found. As they were preparing to leave, an operator kicked a piece of flooring aside, revealing a “spider hole.” The Delta operator struck him with the stock of his carbine and disarmed him of the pistol he was carrying. An AK-47 and $750,000 in US banknotes were found in the spider hole.

For whatever it’s worth, Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik reported last year that an Iraqi interpreter attached to the operation claims Hussein was not actually hiding in the hole when captured but was “probably praying” because he was wearing a traditional prayer robe. The same source claims that crates containing “millions of dollars,” and “gold bars” were found.

Saddam Hussein
John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima
Sands of Iwo Jima, starring John Wayne, was released on December 14, 1949. In the film, Wayne plays Marine Sergeant John Stryker who is initially disliked by his men because of his uncompromising attitude toward training. They revise their opinion after participating in the invasion of Tarawa.

Later, at Iwo Jima, Stryker’s men suffer heavy casualties during the landings. The survivors are among the men chosen to make the charge up Mount Suribachi. While the squad is resting during a lull in the fighting, Stryker is killed by a Japanese soldier who emerges from a spider hole. Moments later his men witness the iconic flag raising.

The idiom “Lock and Load” was popularized by the film. Though there is some dispute as to its origin, it describes the process of locking back the bolt of an M1 Garand rifle before loading an 8-round clip into the magazine.

Manuel Noriega
The National Assembly of Panama declared war on the United States on December 15, 1989, stating, “The state of war decreed by the present resolution will cease only when this Assembly decides so by formal act, after proving that the acts of external and internal aggression against the country have effectively terminated.”

The war declaration was enacted on the second day of the legislative session by an Assembly of members hand-picked by Manuel Noriega. Noriega’s attempt to fix the country’s May elections had backfired and in August he had dissolved the duly elected Assembly and replaced it. The new Assembly declared Noriega head of state, giving him the title of Maximum Leader. The Maximum Leader continued to lead for five days before US forces invaded and deposed him.

Operation Watch on the Rhine began on December 16, 1944. The German offensive was designed to split the juncture between British and American forces advancing toward Germany and, in blitzkrieg fashion, drive through the gap and capture the port of Antwerp. 5th Panzer Army, 6th Panzer Army, and 7th Army with 400,000 men and 1,100 tanks, tank destroyers, and assault guns attacked the weakly held Ardennes sector of the Allied lines taking advantage of heavy overcast to negate the Allied advantage of air superiority.

Both the northern thrust, by 6th Panzer Army, and the southern, by 7th Army, were stalled by unexpectedly fierce resistance from heavily outnumbered Allied formations. At Elsenborn Ridge, the 99th US Infantry stopped the advance of the best-equipped German troops, including four SS Panzer divisions some of which were equipped with Tiger II tanks. Outnumber 5 to 1, the 99th inflicted casualties at a rate of 18 to 1 and forced 6th Panzer Army away from the shortest route to Antwerp.

In the center, 5th Panzer Army fared better. A pincer movement surrounded two regiments of the US 106th Infantry division and forced them to surrender. In three days, the Germans advance 15 to 20 miles before running into elements of the 10th US Armored division that had been hastily rushed in to defend the vital road junctions at the town of Bastogne. 101st Airborne division would soon arrive at Bastogne, setting the stage for the epic siege that would follow in the days to come.

“Battle of the Bulge,” the better-known moniker for the campaign, was provided by American war correspondent Larry Newman. Newman was shown maps of the German penetration by General George Patton and thought the word “bulge” was more evocative for his readers than the proper military term “salient.”

Tiger II Tank and Captured American GIs
The first controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight took place on December 17, 1903. Orville Wright piloted the Flyer for 12 seconds covering a distance of 120 feet. The Wright brothers made three more flights that day. That last, with Wilbur at the controls, lasted 59 seconds and covered 852 feet. Shortly after that flight, a heavy gust of wind blew the craft end over end, damaging it beyond easy repair. It was shipped back to the Wright Company in Dayton, OH, and never flew again. In October 1905, the Flyer III made a 39-minute, 24-mile flight, firmly establishing the viability of manned, heavier-than-air, flying craft.
Historic Flight of the Flyer
Melee at the farmhouse from a Sergeants game at Fall-in 2022
Command the Men of the 101st Airborne!

Sergeants Miniatures Game’s Day of Days Starter Set is everything you need to get involved with exciting man-to-man World War II combat. Painted 20mm figures depicting the US Airborne and Wehrmacht soldiers let you start playing almost as soon as you open the box. Check it out by clicking here: Sergeants: Day of Days Starter Set.

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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