illuminate history

Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)

Veterans Day and Everything’s Connected

My last post, in late September, celebrated completion of the SFD of my three volume saga: Women Absent their Men. Since then, I’ve done extensive re-working of the manuscript, begun drafting proposals and supporting the emerging scope of planning and programs in support of the Commissioning of the USS Portland LPD27. The ceremony will be here at Terminal 2 on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Since 2015, my husband Gary has been Chairman of the Commissioning Committee. It’s been a fascinating–and daunting–project. With less than six months to go, Committee members are now working together and everything’s moving in the right direction.

champagne across the bow_edited-1You may remember my blog from the Christening in Pascagoula in May 2016 and this action photo of the ship sponsor, Bonnie Amos, breaking the bottle of champagne across the bow.

Multnomah Athletic Club invited Ms. Amos to speak at their annual Veterans Day Breakfast on Nov. 8. She accepted and Gary arranged a reception at the Oregon Historical Society late the same afternoon–at which Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke. The following evening, Ms. Amos was speaker at the Quarterly Navy League Dinner meeting–drawing a much larger than usual attendance.

Marine Color Guard Sergeants with Diana and DuckOn Saturday, Nov. 11, traditional Veterans Day and the 99th Anniversary of the armistice ending WWI, the Commissioning Committee were invited to participate as Grand Marshal in the Portland Veterans Day Parade. Gary’s knows a man who owns some old military vehicles that are still in working condition. Steve Greenberg agreed to drive his WWII amphibious Duck so the committee could ride at the head of the parade. I’m an adjunct member of the Committee. Parade Grand Marshall-USS PDX Commissioning CommitteeHowever, this photo shows the duck and the banners better than this photo showing most of the Committee who participated in the event.

The names of several groups who participated in the parade struck home: Daughters of Union Civil War Veterans reminded me of my great-grandfather, the Civil War locomotive engineer. And, of course, as the daughter and grand-daughter of Army officers who served during WWI, WWII and Korea, I felt my own very strong bond with the commemoration.

As Committee Chair, Gary was one of several ‘local dignitaries’, if you will, who spoke after the parade. He explained what the USS Portland represents–and how to get invitations to the Commissioning Ceremony next April.

Several others thanked veterans and current service personnel for their commitment, noting that all the freedoms and privileges the rest of us enjoy owe much to their sacrifices.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, whose family is  from England, focused on WWI and how long and how anxiously the Allies waited for the US to enter that War and end it–because so many in the US opposed getting involved.

I realize it’s trivial, but I thought, listening to her :”I know what you’re talking about.” I’ve been researching news reports from 1915, 1916 and 1917 to gain a sense of how my paternal grandfather decided to join the Quartermaster Corps and how a maternal great-uncle resolved to enlist.” Suffice it to say that my story includes a casual conversation at the family’s 1917 Thanksgiving gathering referring to sons from two branches of the family that were in Europe:

“Let’s hope for the best,” Thomas said. “My son, Thomas Junior—Charles’ brother, of course—is in the Ambulance Corps. What unit is Albert in?” [Albert Philippi was my maternal grandmother Carol’s older brother.]

“Albert’s in Company E, 11th Engineers,” Howard said. He wrote me that they landed in France in August and were the first American unit in the European theater—but not with guns blazing. They maintain railroads in northern France to support the US deployment and overall war effort.” Howard laughed. “In a way, I suppose you could say that he drives wagons, too.”

What Howard didn’t know–obviously–was that three days later, the guns of Company E, 11th Engineers, were blazing:Victory Medal WWI “On 20 November 1917, elements of the 11th were repairing a section of railway track when a British attack launched the Battle of Cambrai. In a desperate counterattack, the Germans penetrated British lines and overran the engineer work site. Fighting back with hand tools and discarded rifles, the 11th Engineers held their position. The British rallied around the engineers’ site and forced the Germans to withdraw. Thus, the 11th Engineers were the “first to fight” of all American units engaged in World War I.” For which, the Unit was awarded the Victory Medal. (

At Christmas 1944, at the Battle of the Bulge, Uncle Tom Easton (my father’s brother-in-law), wrote in a letter that he’d been “in a train of forty and eights to Neufchateau —we were crowded into these damned puny French box cars, 33 to 35 men to a car…—it’s cold, colder than hell—below zero— the wind is blowing hard. We ride all night, no fires, ice covers the walls of the inside of the car. Not even the body heat from 33 men could warm the hole up. We ride all night and most of the next day. Christmas Day: meals, brother, they were delicious, a nice cold can of C rations—practically frozen. It was hard to tell where the ice broke off and the C-ration began. Very tasty, though.”

My father’s father, my mother’s father and my father were career Army officers. A week after the US entered the war, April 6, 1917, my grandfather Bailey received his anticipated Quartermaster Corps orders to report for duty at the Boston Quartermaster Depot. He served until his death in December 1942–with a brief mandatory retirement intermission in 1940. My grandfather Gregory graduated in the abbreviated West Point Class of 1919 and served until his death in March 1943. My father was also a West Point graduate, Class of 1938. He served until retiring in 1968–including a Coast Artillery posting on Guam that began six months before VJ Day.

Yes, to our veterans and to those on active duty, Thank you for your service. You make our lives possible.



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This entry was posted on November 12, 2017 by in Army brats, Coast Artillery, historical fiction, Navy, US History, USS Portland LPD27, Writing.


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