From Oswald’s bullet over Murphy’s bullets to Mueller’s grave


John F. Kennedy, the Hero

November 22nd, the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Mr. John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States from January 20th, 1961, is drawing near.

Although Ms. Emily Shire in an article in The Week argues that the American love affair with John F. Kennedy is waning (here,) there is quite a lot of interest in Mr. Kennedy’s presidency right now, primarily lead by PBS’s excellent American Experience series (here.)

In addition to the American Experience program on Mr. Kennedy, PBS has created a NOVA segment, which applies new ballistic and forensic methodologies to the analysis of the assassination and the single bullet theory (here.) You can read about the single bullet theory in an earlier posting that I wrote about the death of Mr. Specter, a co-author of the theory (here.)

Mr. Kennedy, who was assassinated by Mr. Lee Harvey Oswald, was a decorated veteran, having served with the United States Navy during World War II, commanding a patrol torpedo boat in the Pacific War theater. Mr. Kennedy’s patrol boat, PT-109 was rammed and cut in two parts by the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Amagiri traveling at an estimated 30 knots near the Solomon Islands.

Mr. Kennedy and the other survivors made their way to nearby islands from which they were ultimately rescued. When he was later asked about how he had become a hero, Mr. Kennedy would jokingly say:

“It was easy. They cut my PT boat in half”

Lieutenant Commander Mr. Kohei Hanami, the commander of Amagiri, would later attend Mr. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration in 1961. The Amagiri, which had was part of the near-suicidal Tokyo Express (referred to as Rat Transportation by the Japanese because they took place at night) and was returning from a supply run, would survive the Guadalcanal campaign, but would strike a naval mine in the Makassar Strait on April 23rd, 1944, causing her to sink.

You can read more about the Imperial Japanese Navy in a an earlier posting that I wrote about Pearl Harbor and the 9-11 attacks (here.)


Wilburn Ross — Medal of Honor recipient

As the President of the United States, Mr. Kennedy would in 1963 meet another decorated veteran, Mr. Wilburn K. Ross, a Medal of Honor recipient, who yesterday, on Veteran’s Day, November 11th, 2013, participated in the unveiling of a Medal of Honor postage stamp by the United States Postal Service.

You can read about the new stamp and the unveiling at Stars and Stripes (here,) and you can also read an earlier posting that I wrote about the much maligned United States Postal Service (here.))

Mr. Wilburn (whom you can read about in an editorial in the Saturday Evening Post (here,)) is a remarkable man.

As a Private in the United States Army in France, he would, on October 30th, 1944, man a forward machine gun, fending off no less than nine assaults by German troops, killing and wounding scores of enemy troops. The Medal of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty near St. Jacques, France. At 11:30 a.m. on 30 October 1944, after his company had lost 55 out of 88 men in an attack on an entrenched, full-strength German company of elite mountain troops, Pvt. Ross placed his light machinegun 10 yards in advance of the foremost supporting riflemen in order to absorb the initial impact of an enemy counterattack. With machinegun and small-arms fire striking the earth near him, he fired with deadly effect on the assaulting force and repelled it.

Despite the hail of automatic fire and the explosion of rifle grenades within a stone’s throw of his position, he continued to man his machinegun alone, holding off 6 more German attacks.

When the eighth assault was launched, most of his supporting riflemen were out of ammunition. They took positions in echelon behind Pvt. Ross and crawled up, during the attack, to extract a few rounds of ammunition from his machinegun ammunition belt. Pvt. Ross fought on virtually without assistance and, despite the fact that enemy grenadiers crawled to within 4 yards of his position in an effort to kill him with handgrenades, he again directed accurate and deadly fire on the hostile force and hurled it back. After expending his last rounds, Pvt. Ross was advised to withdraw to the company command post, together with 8 surviving riflemen, but, as more ammunition was expected, he declined to do so.

The Germans launched their last all-out attack, converging their fire on Pvt. Ross in a desperate attempt to destroy the machinegun which stood between them and a decisive breakthrough. As his supporting riflemen fixed bayonets for a last-ditch stand, fresh ammunition arrived and was brought to Pvt. Ross just as the advance assault elements were about to swarm over his position. He opened murderous fire on the oncoming enemy; killed 40 and wounded 10 of the attacking force; broke the assault single-handedly, and forced the Germans to withdraw.

Having killed or wounded at least 58 Germans in more than 5 hours of continuous combat and saved the remnants of his company from destruction, Pvt. Ross remained at his post that night and the following day for a total of 36 hours. His actions throughout this engagement were an inspiration to his comrades and maintained the high traditions of the military service.

This feat is the more remarkable because it was achieved against Gebirgsjäger, elite German troops (you can read about another end of the spectrum of soldiering in an earlier posting (here) where I wrote about the faith of the German 716th Infantry Division.)

With typical Tennessee flair, Mr. Ross, who had grown up near the home of another Medal of Honor recipient, Sergeant Mr. Alvin York, who in World War I with the help of seven soldiers from his outfit, would capture 32 machine guns and kill and capture more than 150 enemy troops in one single action, would later talk the event of October 30th down:

“I had been in this so long, I knew what they were doing. When they would charge, I would mow them down”

Mr. Ross would later be captured in Italy, at the Anzio Beachhead, and, remarkably, simply slip away from his captors and, capitalizing on the fact that everyone looks the same at night, walk through the enemy lines until he reached the Allied lines three days and four nights later.

You can read about another of Mr. Kennedy’s run-in with a military man of stature in an earlier posting, here.


Audie Murphy — The highest decorated soldier of World War II

Mr. Ross served in Company G, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Another soldier in the same division, Second Lieutenant Mr. Audie Leon Murphy of Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment also was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in France.

Mr. Murphy, who stood 5 feet 5 inches and weighed in at 112 pounds and arguably was the highest decorated United States Army combat soldiers of World War II, was awarded every single military combat award for valor and, frankly, was one tough son of a bitch, killing and wounding numerous enemies in numerous engagements in Italy, France, and Germany.

His Medal of Honor citation, which relates to an action in the the Colmar Pocket an area held by the German 19th army in Alsace, France, during World War II reads:

Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry.

With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire.

He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective

When asked why he had taken on an entire company of German troops, Mr. Murphy simply said:

“They were killing my friends.”

Whatever Mr. Murphy lacked in physical stature, he made up for in pure, pent-up aggression and rage. In 1946, Mr. John Thomas Daniels would learn this lesson the hard way, when he attempted to carjack the then 21 year old Mr. Murphy. In spite of Mr. Daniels towering over Mr. Murphy, outweighing him by at least 50 pounds, and threatening him with a firearm, Mr. Murphy proceeded to beat the hell out of Mr. Daniels (an excellent picture of the beaten up Mr. Daniel and the immaculate Mr. Murphy, presumably from the Dallas Morning News, can be found through a simple Google image search, but since the provenance of the picture is not clear, I cannot include it here.)

Mr. Murphy would die in an airplane crash in 1971. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, in section 46, at headstone number 46-366-11. His grave is the second most visited at the cemetery, after that of Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy was 46 years old when he died and Mr. Murphy was 45.

Herschel Feibel Grynszpan

Herschel Grynszpan and Kristallnacht

World War II was, of course, the culmination of the unbridled ambition and aggression of Nazi Germany in the thirties and forties. And 75 years ago, last weekend, November 9th and 10th, 1938, on what is known as Kristallnacht, this ambition and aggression was revealed to the world when, over two days and nights and in a carefully orchestrated Pogrom, approximately 100 Jews were killed, 30 thousand Jews were shipped to concentration camps, and an estimated 7,500 Jewish owned business and properties and places of worship were destroyed.

The pretext for the pogrom was the assassination of Mr. Ernst vom Rath in the German embassy in Paris. Mr. Vom Rath, a career diplomat was shot and killed by Mr. Herschel Feibel Grynszpan, a Jew who had fled Germany to France 1936.

It appears that the choice of Mr. Vom Rath was random, with Mr. Grynzspan simply showing up at the embassy and asking to talk with a member of the diplomatic staff. It is, however, quite clear that the motivation for the act was related the wholesale arrest and deportation of 12 thousand Polish Jews residing in Germany, including Mr. Grynzspan’s immediate family, to the border between Germany and Poland where they — robbed of all property — ended up in limbo between Poland, which would not accept them, and Germany, which would not allow them to stay.

Mr. Grynzspan received a postcard from his family on November 3rd, 1938, describing the events and asking Mr. Grynzspan for help. After the Sabbath, on Sunday, November 6 th 1938, Mr. Grynszpan tried in vain to secure funds to help his family. On the morning he wrote a postcard to his family, put it in his pocket, purchased a revolver and a box of bullets, and proceeded to the German embassy where he shot Mr. vom Rath five times, shouting “You are a filthy boche.”

After the shooting Mr. Grynzspan surrendered to the French police, and confessed to the crime. The postcard, which was found by the police, read:

With God’s help. My dear parents, I could not do otherwise, may God forgive me, the heart bleeds when I hear of your tragedy and that of the 12,000 Jews. I must protest so that the whole world hears my protest, and that I will do. Forgive me.

The trial of Mr. Grynzspan was delayed and in June 1940, when France surrendered to the occupying German Army, Mr. Grynszpan, who had ended up in a prison in Toulouse in Southern France, was handed over the SS Sturmbannführer Karl Bömelburg who brought him back to the headquarters of the Gestapo, the Geheime Staatspolizei, in Berlin. In Germany he ended up in a limbo, shuffling between concentration camps, prisons, and the Gestapo headquarters, until he disappeared sometime after the end of 1943.

The random choice by Mr. of Grynzspan Mr. vom Rath as a token for the Nazi regime was ironic in that the diplomat was under investigation by the Gestapo for being politically unreliable, having expressed anti-Nazi sympathies, largely based on Nazi Germany treatment of the Jews.

Regardless, Germany deported Mr. Grynzspan’s family, Mr. Gryzspan killed Mr. vom Rath, Mr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, seized the opportunity that the killing presented, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Heinrich Himmler meets with  Reinhard Heydrich,  Arthur Nebe (leader of Einsatzgruppe B,) and Heinrich Müller

Heinrich Himmler meets with Reinhard Heydrich, Arthur Nebe (leader of Einsatzgruppe B,) and Heinrich Müller

Heinrich Müller and the Jewish Cemetery

The Gestapo figured prominently in the handling of Mr. Gryzspan and the Holocaust overall. It is, therefore, ironic that recently evidence has emerged that seems to indicate that SS-Gruppenführer Mr. Heinrich Müller, the head of Gestapo from 1939 to the end of World War II, and a key contributor at the Wannsee Conference, where the plans for the Endlösung was drawn up, is believed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery on Grosse Hamburger Strasse in Berlin.

As reported by Ms. Alison Smale in the New York Times (here,) it is now near certain that Mr. Müller, who was affectionately known as Gestapo Müller among his colleagues in the Nazi leadership and was last seen in the Führerbunker in Berlin on the night of Mr. Adolph Hitler’s suicide, had been killed in the center of Berlin and was buried in one of 16 mass graves in the Jewish cemetery.

Needless to say, that the remains of one of architects and the supervisor of the extreme programs of the Holocaust, such as the Einsatzgruppen, which alone accounted for an estimated 1.2 million murders, would be buried in a Jewish cemetery is upsetting to the worldwide Jewish community. As reported by Ms. Sale:

Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was incredulous when reached by telephone. “I can’t think of a worse desecration of a Jewish cemetery than to bury Heinrich Müller there,” he said.