Weekly Occurrences in Military History and News from the LBP Frontline
The Lost Battalion Dispatch
Lost Battalion Dispatch #5 for the Week of August 1 , 2022
This Week in Military History
Sextillis was its name. Now its August.
Gold aureus of Augustus
The month we now know as August was originally known to the Romans as Sextillis (the word for Sixth in Latin) because it was the sixth month of the legendary 10-month Roman calendar created by the first Roman king, Romulus. That calendar had only 304 days and thus a complicated process of intercalary winter months was required to maintain its synchronicity with the lunar and solar years.
Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 46 BC, and, after his death in 44 BC, the former fifth month, Quintillis, his birth month, was renamed Julius in his honor. The Julian calendar served as the standard for the Roman Empire and most of the Western world for over 1600 years. In the year 8 BC, after Julius’ nephew defeated the last of the conspirators who had murdered his uncle, the Roman Senate voted to rename Sextillis in his honor.
Motor Torpedo Boats in the Washington Naval Yard circa 1940
The Japanese destroyer Amagiri rammed and sank US Patrol Torpedo Boat 109 sometime after 2 AM on the night of August 2, 1943. Her commander, Lieutenant JG John F. Kennedy, managed to save all but two of his crew by leading them on a 3.5-mile swim to a deserted island. The future President and his crew were rescued on August 8th after native Coastwatchers directed Lieutenant William Liebenow of PT-157 to their location.
Joseph Conrad died on August 3, 1924. Fifty-five years later an adaptation of his novel Heart of Darkness was released as the motion picture Apocalypse Now. Under the direction of Francis Ford Coppola, Conrad’s critique of European Colonial rule in Africa became an examination of the madness and despair that overcame the fictional Colonel Kurtz as a result of his involvement in the Vietnam war. The late film critic Roger Ebert regarded it as the greatest film about the war while writing that it is “not about war so much as about how war reveals truths we would be happy never to discover.”
The Iconic Ride of the Valkyries from Apochalypse Now
General von Moltke
World War I began in earnest on August 4, 1914, with the German invasion of Belgium. The German General Staff felt it was imperative to invade neutral Belgium to execute the Schlieffen–Moltke Plan. This plan called for quickly defeating France so that German forces could be transferred to the east to fight the Russians. Later (and even some contemporary) analysis casts considerable doubt on whether the plan could have succeeded even if the French had been beaten by the initial assault.
August 5, 1068, was the beginning of the end of half a millennium of Eastern Roman (Byzantine) occupation in Southern Italy. It was on that date that Norman king Robert Guiscard began a three-year siege of Bari, the last Byzantine stronghold there. Guiscard is depicted here being crowned as Duke of Apulia and Calabria by Pope Nicolas II in 1059.
The Confederate ironclad Arkansas met her end on August 6, 1862. After battling her way down the Mississippi River with successful engagements against Union ships at Yazoo and Vicksburg during the months of June and July, she made her way to Baton Rouge in an attempt to support a Confederate effort to retake the city. After grounding near the city and suffering a series of mechanical failures, her commander, Lt. Henry K. Stevens, ordered her to be scuttled rather than allow her to fall into the hands of her Union foes.
CSS Arkansas adrift and burning after being scuttled while under fire from USS Essex.
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