National Museum of the United States Air Force

Aircraft fanatics and lovers of all military history will enjoy this collection of historic aircraft. See the airplanes that made history, including one that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945.

It’s no secret I prefer my feet firmly planted on the ground. I love military history, but air warfare holds no particular appeal for me. Still, it was hard to pass up an opportunity to see the National Museum of the United States Air Force on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in western Ohio. I was thoroughly impressed by its collection of historic aircraft, particularly from the Second World War. The WW2 bomber “Memphis Belle” was finally on display.

Photo by Michael Kleen

The museum spans several large interconnected Air Force hangers and features examples from all periods of militarized flight. You could spend hours getting lost among the displays. The Early Years Gallery includes a World War 1 era British observation balloon, and a dog fighting German Fokker Dr. I and U.S. Thomas-Morse S4C Scout.

Photo by Michael Kleen

The World War II Gallery is the most interesting and expansive. The museum has examples of a wide variety of fighters and bombers, including experimental German jet aircraft like the Messerschmitt Me 163B Komet and the intimidating Me 262A Schwalbe, the world’s first operational turbojet aircraft. Fewer than 300 saw combat. Pieces of the “Lady Be Good,” a Consolidated B-24D Liberator bomber that went down in the Libyan desert, are on display.

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Great Swamp Battle Monument

A stone monument deep in the Rhode Island wilderness marks the site of the bloodiest battle of King Philip’s War.

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The Great Swamp Fight (or Great Swamp Massacre) was fought on December 19, 1675 between New England forces and their native allies commanded by Governor Josiah Winslow, Major Samuel Appleton, Governor Robert Treat, Major William Bradford, and Chief Uncas, and the Narragansett Tribe commanded by Chief Canonchet in the Great Swamp in present-day Washington County, Rhode Island during King Philip’s War. The battle was a major colonial victory, resulting in the near-destruction of the Narragansetts.

In the summer of 1675, after a breakdown in relations with New England colonists, Metacom (King Philip), sachem of the Pokanoket Indians (the same tribe that helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter), began to raid English settlements. The New England Confederation raised an army in defense, and after several raids and counter-raids, decided to strike the neutral Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island before they could join forces with Metacom.

On the chilly day of December 19th, an Indian guide led approximately 1,000 New England militia and 150 Pequot Indians through the frozen Great Swamp to a wooden palisade, which the Narragansetts had fortified for the winter. Their initial attack was poorly coordinated and beaten back, but after a long struggle, they overwhelmed the defenders and burned the fort. The Narragansetts attempted to escape, but hundreds including women, children, and the elderly, were killed. The colonists lost 70 killed and 150 wounded.

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West Point Cemetery in West Point, New York

The United States Military Academy cemetery at West Point is filled with storied figures and heroes who fought in all America’s wars. West Point, on the Hudson River in Upstate New York, served as a fort during the Revolutionary War and is the oldest continuously operating Army post in the United States. Captain Thompson, an officer in the Revolutionary War, may have been the first internment at the cemetery here in 1809.

Baptized in Fire and Blood

Winfield Scott (1786-1866) is a giant in American military history. He was the longest serving U.S. general, and second to hold the rank of lieutenant general. He led troops in four wars, and conceived the “Anaconda Plan” that ultimately defeated the Confederacy during the American Civil War. He was Commanding General of the United States Army (equivalent to the modern position of Chief of Staff of the Army) for 20 years.

Following the Guidon

George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) – his name is synonymous with the American West, and he gained infamy for leading his troops to slaughter against the Plains Indians in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But before that, he cut a dashing figure as a cavalry officer during the American Civil War, where he rose to the rank of Major General of U.S. Volunteers and fought in numerous battles.

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Fort Dummer in Brattleboro, Vermont

A roadside marker is all that remains of this colonial-era fort that played a role in an obscure New England war.

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The Battle of Fort Dummer was fought on October 11, 1724 between Abenaki Indians and Massachusetts colonial militia and their Mohawk allies during Dummer’s War. Both the fort and the war were named after Lieutenant Governor William Dummer, acting governor of Massachusetts at that time. Though the attackers managed to kill a few of the fort’s defenders, the fort held and remained a local stronghold.

The Abenaki were members of the Wabanaki Confederacy, an alliance of Algonquin-speaking Indians including the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot. After war broke out in 1722, Lieutenant Governor William Dummer ordered the creation of several forts on the frontier along the Connecticut River. Fort Dummer, a 180-foot wooden stockade, was built in 1724. It was the first permanent English Settlement in what would become Vermont.

Lieutenant Timothy Dwight took command of 12 cannon, 43 English soldiers, and 12 Mohawk warriors at the outpost. Shortly after completion, a group of approximately 70 Abenaki warriors attacked. The band was affiliated with Chief Grey Lock, who was waging his own fight against the British sometimes called “Grey Lock’s War”. They killed or wounded five of the defenders, but could not penetrate the thick wooden walls.

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Stillman’s Run Battle Site

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A majestic monument marks the scene of the opening salvo in the Black Hawk War.

The Battle of Stillman’s Run (or Battle of Old Man’s Creek) was fought on May 14, 1832 between 275 Illinois militia and Sauk leader Black Hawk and approximately 40-50 warriors from his mixed-nation group of American Indians called the “British Band”. The engagement was a humiliating loss for the militia. It was the first battle in the Black Hawk War, which would ultimately end in Black Hawk’s defeat.

In April 1832, Black Hawk moved his British Band to Illinois, believing he would find friendly tribal allies. The Illinois militia was organized to confront him, and 275 militia under the command of Majors Isaiah Stillman and David Bailey camped near Old Man’s Creek, about three miles east of the Rock River. Black Hawk’s pleas for assistance were rebuked at every turn, so he sent emissaries and scouts to negotiate a truce.

Seeing the Indian scouts, Stillman and his militia thought they were under attack and opened fire (there are allegations some of his men were drunk). They pursued the retreating scouts back to Black Hawk’s camp, where they were ambushed and fled in terror. A dozen militiamen under Captain John Giles Adams fought a nighttime rearguard action on a hill south of their camp, while the others escaped to Dixon’s Ferry. All twelve were killed. Black Hawk estimated he lost three to five men.

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Battle of the Windmill National Historic Site

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Rebels holed up in a stone gristmill held off the British Army for several days before being forced to surrender in this odd chapter in Canadian military history.

The Battle of the Windmill was a strange episode in North American history, when British and U.S. forces cooperated to put down a rebellion in Upper Canada, known as the “Patriot War”. The battle was fought from November 12 to November 16, 1838, between Nils von Schoultz and 250 rebels against 1,133 Canadian militia, 500 British regulars, and the British and U.S. Navy two miles east of Prescott, Ontario. The entire rebel force was killed, wounded, or captured.

On November 12, approximately 250 armed members of a “Hunters’ Lodge” attempted to land in Prescott, Ontario to touch off a war against the British ruling class. A show of force by the Prescott militia gave them second thoughts, so they occupied the nearby hamlet of Newport and Windmill Point, where they awaited reinforcements from the United States.

The next day, British infantry from the 83rd Regiment and around 600 Canadian militiamen attacked the rebels, who had holed up in and around an old gristmill. The short battle left 13 British killed and 70 wounded. The rebels lost approximately 18 killed and an unknown number wounded.

The standoff continued as Nils von Schoultz and his Hunters’ Lodge militia waited for help from across the river in Ogdensburg, however, a blockade by British and American naval forces and efforts by American authorities in Ogdensburg prevented any relief. The British Army decided to bombard them into submission, and they surrendered on November 16. The Hunter rebels lost 53 dead 61 wounded. Of the 136 who surrendered, 11 were later executed in Kingston, and 60 were exiled to Australia.

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National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia

A modern, high-tech museum dedicated to the backbone of the United States Army features detailed dioramas and informative displays from all eras of U.S. military history.

Fort Benning, outside Columbus, Georgia, is named after Confederate Brigadier General Henry L. Benning. It is home to the United States Army Infantry School and Basic Combat Training for most infantry recruits, so it is generally recognized as the traditional home for U.S. infantry. It comes as no surprise that the National Infantry Museum is located there.

The museum used to be in a former Army hospital on base, but in 2008 the National Infantry Foundation, in conjunction with the U.S. Army, built a brand new museum on a 155-acre campus just off post. The 190,000 square foot state-of-the-art museum, featuring combat simulators, dioramas, a theater, a restaurant, and over 100,000 historical artifacts, opened in 2009.

It’s hard not to be in awe walking through displays spanning the history of U.S. conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the present day. The dioramas feature real military equipment, lights, and sound. There’s even a section where you can walk through a simulated Vietnam jungle while listening to a narrator describe what it was like to be there.

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