To this day, God Bless America stirs our patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Back in 1940, when Kate Smith went looking for a song to raise the spirits of her fellow Americans, I doubt whether she realized just how successful the results would be for her fellow Americans during those years of hardship and worry... and for many generations of Americans to follow. Now that you know the story of the song, I hope you'll enjoy it and treasure it even more.
Many people don't know there's a lead in to the song since it usually starts with "God Bless America..." So here's the entire song as originally sung.
The Great Lakes provided vital support for the war effort in WWII, from building 28 fleet subs in Manitowoc, Wisconsin to providing the bulk of US industrial output, we could not have won the war if not for the benefits of the Great Lakes and their related industry.
However there was another benefit of the lakes that is often overlooked.
Japan quickly lost the war because, among many other things, its navy could not replace its carrier pilot losses. We could.
But how did we train so many pilots in both comfort (calm seas) and safety (no enemy subs)?
We took two old side-wheel Great Lakes passenger steamers and turned them into training carriers on Lake Michigan!
Virtually every carrier pilot trained in the war got his landing training on these amazing ships!
Sadly nothing but these great photos and the wrecks of the aircraft that ditched alongside them remain to tell their fascinating story.
Check out the USS Sable and USS Wolverine and see for yourself.
Thank you to all those who came and celebrated our Great Chili Cook-Off.
Big thanks to our judges Paul Rotenberry, Toby McCrary and Tom Draus
Everyone had a great time and ate some really good chili
First Place: April Eshelman
Second Place: Dan Allen
Third Place: Cheryl Logalbo
Greetings from Singapore from your protege, LT Dave Eshelman! I apologize for not staying in touch over these last few months. Things have been very busy out here in the US Navy's Forward Deployed Air Wing. Right now I am currently on cruise, and we are at a port call in Singapore. We have had a very busy year. After returning back to Japan after Christmas with the family in Nashville, we began a busy spring getting ready for deployment, and I began working in earnest on my section lead qualification. In May, we departed for Guam for 10 days, where we focused on air-to-ground training and utilizing the bombing range north of Saipan on the small island of Farrilon de Maronilla (what we call "FDM" for short). After our training there, we returned to Japan and began the process of preparing for deployment. We went to Iwo Jima for FCLP's in early June, but due to delays with the USS George Washington coming out of the yard, we ended up returning to Iwo two more times over the span of two weeks to keep our FCLP currency window open. Finally, at the end of June, the USS George Washington was ready for us, and we flew out of Atsugi, completed our carrier qualifications as an air wing, and immediately started heading south for Guam. While operating near Guam, we once again took advantage of the bombing ranges there and completed our air wing "Blue Water" certification, flying close to 120 sorties per day with carefully monitored deck intervals and boarding rates. After completing our Blue Water cert, we steamed south and operated off the coast of Okinawa, where we operated briefly, then immediately pressed further south toward Australia. En route to Australia, we crossed the equator, and I became an official Shellback after a day of ceremonies in the hangar bay and flight deck.
After several days of transit, we arrived off of Australia, where we participated in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2013, a joint exercise between the US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Air Force, and Australian Navy, Air Force, and Army. This joint exercise lasted two weeks, and involved large air defense exercises, close air support training with live weapons, and one-versus-one air combat maneuvering training. During the exercise, I got to engage in one-versus-one air combat maneuvering training with an Australian F/A-18F Super Hornet flown by the Number 1 squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force. We got to fly two high-aspect set-ups, and I am happy to report that I was the victor overall. Another highlight was a triple-cycle close air support training flight I flew on which lasted 3.5 hours and involved night aerial refueling from a US Air Force KC-135 two times. After two hard weeks of work, we pulled into Brisbane, Australia for a 5-day port call. Australia is now one of my favorite places in the world. We had a great time and got to see and do some interesting things! One night, we had a social with the Royal Australian Air Force Super Hornet pilots that we had flown with the previous weeks, which was a lot of fun. After a relaxing port call, it was time to get back on CVN-73 and get back to work. On the way back, I planned, briefed, and led an air wing live-fire AIM-9M Sidewinder missile shoot, which involved over 20 aircraft from the Navy and Marines. I got to shoot my Sidewinder at a target flare, and seeing it launch off of my wingtip launcher was a huge thrill.
One of the most rewarding things I have ever gotten to do was participate in a memorial ceremony for the USS Lexington (CV-2). During our transit from Australia, the carrier planned and actually passed over the exact location where the Lady Lex was scuttled and sank after the Battle of the Coral Sea. During the ceremony, the USS George Washington's commanding officer, CAPT Fenton, delivered a speech, and a wreath was laid in the honor of Lady Lex and the over 200 men who are laid to rest with her in over 6,000 fathoms of water. It was an incredible, humbling time, and as I stood on the lowered elevator in the hangar bay and looked out to the horizon, I could almost see what it must have looked like in 1942 -- the sky darkened with flak, with American carriers and warships zigzagging back and forth as Japanese dive bombers and torpedo bombers pressed their attacks. It immediately reminded me of you, and what you experienced in combat in 1944. At the end of August, we also celebrated the 70th anniversary of our squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 195, the Dambusters. Officially founded as Torpedo Squadron 19, the Tigers, flying the TBF Avenger, on 15 August 1943, our squadron got to celebrate the 70th year of continual operation in ceremonies onboard USS George Washington on 14 August of this year. The officers had a special dinner in the wardroom catered by the wardroom staff, and we had an official squadron quarters ceremony for all personnel later that evening. From flying the TBM in 1943, VT-19 went on to go into combat onboard the Essex-class USS Lexington (CV-16). During the Battle Off Cape Engano in October 1944, Torpedo 19 was credited with nearly single-handedly sinking the Japanese carrier Zuikaku. After World War II, VT-19 was redesignated VA-20A, and finally VA-195 and assigned brand-new AD-2 Skyraiders. Eventually, VA-195 would deploy onboard USS Princeton and head to the Korean War. Under the leadership of then-LCDR Swede Carlson, on 1 May 1951, VA-195 launched planned and launched the attack that destroyed the flood gates of the Hwachon Dam several miles south of the border with North Korea. From that day on, our squadron was given the name the Dambusters. We transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk in 1959, and made multiple deployments to Vietnam during the Vietnam War. In the early 1970's, we transitioned to the A-7E Corsair II, which we flew for nearly 15 years. In 1985, the Dambusters transitioned to the F/A-18A Hornet, and in 1986 left NAS Lemoore to our current home of NAF Atsugi, Japan. The squadron participated in the 1991 Gulf War from the decks of the USS Midway. The Dambusters eventually received F/A-18C Hornets, which we flew until 2011, when we finally transitioned to our current jets, brand-new F/A-18E Super Hornets. The squadron has participated in every major conflict since its founding in 1943. I have taken the role as the unofficial squadron historian, and I have been digging through the squadron's archives to learn more about our storied history.
We went back to Japan for a few short weeks in late August, and my parents came out for our Friends and Family Day Cruise. We embarked the USS George Washington early that morning out of Yokosuka, Japan, and steamed out to our operating area south of Japan. From there, we got to watch my air wing's Air Power Demonstration, which was lead by skipper and included touch and go's and an arrested landing and catapult takeoff by my skipper, as well as an air show demonstration, supersonic fly-by, aerial refueling demonstration, and air wing fly by, which included every squadron in the air wing. All of this was done just off the USS George Washington's port side, and we watched from grandstands on the flight deck. After this, two destroyers from our strike group did a live-fire demonstration, firing their 5-inch guns.
After a short break in Atsugi, we headed back out to sea for the second half of our deployment. We went down off the coast of Okinawa, where we participated in a large joint exercise with the US Air Force. I got to participate in one-versus-one air combat maneuvering training with a US Air Force F-22 Raptor, which is one of the highlights of my career. The F-22 is the premier fighter aircraft in the world, and my engagement with that jet proved the point. After this, we steamed off the coast of South Korea, where we participated in a large joint exercise with the South Korean Air Force and Navy. After this exercise, we pulled into Busan, South Korea for a short port call. In recognition of our squadron's 70th anniversary, we planned a special trip for our squadron's officers which took us to the northern part of South Korea (approximately two hours northeast of Seoul) to the Hwachon Dam that Swede Carlson torpedoed in 1951. Through squadron connections, we were able to get a tour of the dam and its facilities, and got to actually see where our squadron got its name. The dam is still the original dam that Swede torpedoed, and battle damage has been repaired. You can see where shrapnel damage was spackled over with concrete after the battle. We took lots of photographs, which I will email to you. We then went on to Seoul for a night, then back to Busan when liberty expired.
From there we steamed south, heading off the coast of Malaysia. Here we did joint training with the Royal Malaysian Air Force. The Malaysians fly both the front-line Sukhoi Su-30 MKM Flanker G as well as the MiG-29 Fulcrum. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I got to dogfight a Malaysian Su-30 Flanker. It was the highlight of my career to date. We did three dogfighting engagements. The Su-30 is the Russians' most advanced frontline and export fighter, and we always look to to joint exercises with the Malaysians whenever we can. It was incredible to get to train against the Su-30. It is much larger than the F/A-18E, and has bigger engines with more thrust, as well as front-mounted canards and thrust vectoring, which makes the jet incredibly maneuverable. I was able to win against the Malaysian jet, which was a huge thrill for me. Our training with the Malaysian Air Force continued until we pulled into Singapore for our port call a few days ago. I currently have over 500 hours in the F/A-18E and over 100 carrier landings on board USS George Washington to date.
That is the latest update! What is new with you, Captain? My dad told me you sold the OTW. I was saddened to hear that you sold it, but I know that it is in good hands now, and you are passing the legacy of Fly Navy to another family. What a great legacy! How are things in sunny Florida? I hope you are enjoying another great winter at the beach. How is the CAF Avenger coming? It is exciting to think that you have played such a huge part in getting that airplane back in the air. How is Jared Stottlemeyer doing? Hopefully you are able to stay in close touch with him.
I will be returning home on leave in mid-December, and would love to be able to visit you. If you think you can accept visitors, let me know. I would love to make the trip! Take care, Captain Chuck! I hope you and your family are doing great! I look forward to hearing from you soon! God bless you!
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