Posts Tagged ‘marines’

marines-recruitingA couple years ago, Richard Fulton and I wrote The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg. It is the only book about the only Marine line-of-duty deaths at Gettysburg, although they weren’t part of the Civil War battle.

Now the Marine Corps League is trying to raise funds to erect a memorial on the site of the airplane crash that killed Capt. George Hamilton and GySgt. George Martin on June 26, 1922.

They have established Go Fund Me page to try and raise funds for the memorial that they hope to dedicate this summer. Take a look, and if you can help out, please do so.

Here’s the description from the back of the book to give you more context to why the Marines were in Gettysburg:

Last To Fall Cover“There’s more than one way to fight the Civil War. The 1863 Battle of Gettysburg resulted in horrific slaughter that ultimately ended the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania. But after the Allied victory of World War I in 1918, people began to wonder what if some of the post-world war military technology had been available to the armies during the American Civil War?

“The Marine officers who were debating these questions had the capability to test their theories. The purpose and results were supposed to be safe. The exercises and associated reenactments were meant to merely serve as being training maneuvers, along with strikingly realistic, horrific battle, by substituting their “modern-day” military equipment for that which had been used during the Civil War.

“On June 19, 1922, more than 5,000 Marines left Quantico, heading north to the battlefield of Gettysburg. They would reach the battlefield on June 26, but their arrival would be marred by the sudden, tragic deaths of two of their numbers, when a de Havilland fighter would crash, resulting in the plane’s pilot and observer being the last U.S. soldiers killed in the line of duty on the Gettysburg battlefield.

“But even as a pall, following in the wake of the deaths, descended upon the encampment established on the Codori Farm, the marine mission had to proceed as planned. For ten days, battle would rage once again on the fields and ridges where thousands had perished 59 years prior… climaxing on July 4 when the marines would fight the Battle of Gettysburg… with “modern” weapons and tactics.”

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Note: As the publication of my new book, Clay Soldiers: One Marine’s Story of War, Art, & Atomic Energy draws closer, I thought that I would give you a preview of the book by publishing the first chapter over the next few weeks. The story is a biography of Chuck Caldwell, a WWII Marine who fought at Tarawa and Guadalcanal. He also worked in Nevada with the above-ground atomic bomb tests, attended the 75th, 100th, 125th and 150th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg, and is a sculptor of miniature figures that are highly sought after. If you are interested in pre-ordering a copy of the book at a 25% discount off the cover price and free shipping in the U.S., contact me at jimrada@yahoo.com. As always, let me know what you think.


Chuck Caldwell at age 14, posing for a picture with Stephen Howe, a Confederate Civil War veteran, at the 75th reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1938.

When the Caldwells finished their vacation in Gettysburg, they drove further east through York, Pennsylvania[i], which had served as the national capital in 1777 when the British drove the politicians from Philadelphia, and then through the heart of Amish country in Lancaster County. They finally stopped at Valley Forge. Oddly enough, the Revolutionary War site where Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army had encamped for the winter and suffered through starvation, disease, and malnutrition brought back memories of Chuck’s paper route in Orrville.

Chuck delivered the Courier-Crescent, Orrville’s daily newspaper, tossing papers to front stoops as he pedaled his bicycle through his hometown. On one section of his route, though, he had to dismount his bike and hike up a steep hill past the Crown Hill Cemetery at the intersection of Crown Hill Road and West High Street.

“On winter days, I was always imagining myself at Valley Forge, climbing up this hill in the deep snow and then having the person I was going to see not pay me for the week,” Chuck recalled.[ii]

He enjoyed the visit to Valley Forge, but it was the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg that stuck in his memory. Part of the reason for his interest in history, and in particular, the Civil War, was that his great-grandfather had fought in the war.

Private Isaac Caldwell had served in the First Tennessee Volunteers as part of Archer’s Brigade.[iii] A Union cavalry officers is believed to have fired the first shot in the Battle of Gettysburg at 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 1863. When the Confederate Army was still three miles west of Gettysburg. The Confederate Army halted and sent out skirmishers. Confederate General James Archer’s brigade encountered little resistance at first. Union infantry flanked Archer and caught him by surprise. Archer started a retreat through the woods and across Willoughby Run. Archer and 300 of his men were surrounded and captured.[iv] Private Caldwell’s company had marched near the front of the Confederate Army as it approached Gettysburg. Isaac was also one of the early casualties in the battle when he was wounded at Willoughby Run.[v] He had survived the battle and the war, though, unlike thousands of other men.

In the 1930s, those whom the Civil War had not taken were slowly being picked off by time. Isaac Caldwell had died in 1885 and by 1938, only an estimated 8,000 Civil War veterans were still alive out of the more than 3.2 million men who had served in the armed forces.[vi] Chuck wished that he could have met all of them. He certainly gave it his best effort, but there was only so much that a fourteen-year old could do.

His father, George, who was the pastor at the Orrville Presbyterian Church, often spoke at other churches or meetings of pastors that were held outside of Orrville. Whenever he did, George would pour through the local newspapers and ask about whether there were any Civil War veterans living in the towns he visited. If there were, George would call them and make an appointment to stop by and get a picture, autograph, and some biographical information about them. Then he would give Chuck the mementos when he returned home.[vii]

Family members who knew of Chuck’s interest would save stories about Civil War veterans that popped up in their hometown newspapers from time to time. They would clip them carefully and mail them off to Chuck. He would open the envelopes like they were Christmas presents and read the stories looking for new information and names. Then he would paste the clippings into a scrapbook.

Chuck would often write to the veterans whose addresses he could find. He would pepper them with questions about their service in the Civil War, the battles they had fought, the hardships they had endured, and the training they had received. A good number of the veterans wrote him back. Chuck corresponded with some of them right up until they died.[viii]

Clay Soldiers

Here are the links to the other parts of “The Last Reunion”:


[i] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

[ii] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

[iii] Diana Loski, “A World War II Veteran Remembers,” The Gettysburg Experience, July 2014, 25.

[iv] Tim Smith, “The First Day at Gettysburg: Then and Now,” Civil War Trust (http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/gettysburg-2011/gettysburg-then-and-now.html?referrer=https://www.mypoints.com/) accessed October 16, 2015.

[v] Diana Loski, “A World War II Veteran Remembers,” The Gettysburg Experience, July 2014, 25.

[vi] Frank N. Britchner Collection scrapbook. Unsigned article. “Camp Aftermath.” The Frank N. Britchner Collection scrapbook is part of the Adams County (Pa.) Historical Society collection. It is part of a donation by a pharmacist who lived in Gettysburg at the time of the fiftieth reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg. The scrapbook is a collection of articles written during the 1913 and 1938 reunions. Many come from the Baltimore American, but many others have been clipped from the newspaper and so the origin is uncertain.

[vii] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

[viii] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

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Note: As the publication of my new book, Clay Soldiers: One Marine’s Story of War, Art, & Atomic Energy draws closer, I thought that I would give you a preview of the book by publishing the first chapter over the next few weeks. The story is a biography of Chuck Caldwell, a WWII Marine who fought at Tarawa and Guadalcanal. He also worked in Nevada with the above-ground atomic bomb tests, attended the 75th, 100th, 125th and 150th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg, and is a sculptor of miniature figures that are highly sought after. If you are interested in pre-ordering a copy of the book at a 25% discount off the cover price and free shipping in the U.S., contact me at jimrada@yahoo.com. As always, let me know what you think.


One of the more than four dozen Civil War veterans whom Chuck Caldwell met at the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. He had each one sign his autograph book and have his picture taken with Chuck.

Chuck Caldwell woke in the morning and wondered if he should cluck. The fourteen-year old boy had spent the night sleeping in a chicken coop with his father.[i] Not that the chickens were sharing the drafty wooden building with them. The roosts and nest boxes were empty, but the smell of feathers and feces hung in the air to remind him that clucking hens had once called the building home.


The chickens could have it back as far as Chuck was concerned. The low, wooden building with rows of wooden boxes mounted on three walls might be a fine home for chickens, but it hadn’t been the most-comfortable place for Chuck to sleep. Throwing a mattress into a chick coop hadn’t turned it into a bedroom, either. Whenever Chuck had shifted on the thin mattress, he could feel the wire-mesh that served as a floor sink under him.[ii] If he looked over the edge of the mattress, he could stare through the mesh to the hard-packed earth two feet below him. He actually hadn’t minded the open floor too much. It had provided ventilation to keep it from getting too hot in the small building during the warm July night. The gentle draft from below also kept the smell from becoming overwhelming. However, it had also allowed mosquitoes and other flying insects into the coop to disturb their sleep.

Chuck’s mother and older sister would be glad that they hadn’t come along on this trip. He didn’t think that they all could have fit into the cramped eight-foot-by-eight-foot building, and Chuck couldn’t imagine them sleeping here. When Barbara heard about this, his sister would probably start calling him some stupid name like “Chuck the Chicken” or “Cluck Cluck Chuck.” The taunts would be worth it, though. He and his father were here. He was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the tide of the Civil War had shifted.

The last day of June 1938, Chuck and his father had driven from their home in Orrville, Ohio, east along the Lincoln Highway.[iii] It was the first paved highway in the country and ran from New York to California.[iv] It made for a smooth ride in their Essex sedan, but it didn’t make the 315-mile trip any shorter. They had traveled over the Appalachian Mountains, through small towns with interesting names like Freedom, Turtle Creek, and Ligonier, and the big city of Pittsburgh, which was 150 times larger than Orrville.

The drive had taken most of the day. They had stopped for food and gas along the way, but the breaks were as short as Chuck could make them. He urged his father on, and they arrived in Gettysburg late in the evening, although it was still light out. When the sedan parked along Chambersburg Street, both Chuck and his father were anxious to get out of the car. George Caldwell had needed to stretch his cramped body, but Chuck had wanted out because they were in Gettysburg. The Gettysburg.

It was a legendary, almost mythical, place to the young teenager. Gettysburg was a town that was forever stuck in its past because of its connection with the pivotal battle of the Civil War. It had been a town of around 2,000 residents in 1863 when 150,000 troops fought on the fields around the town and in the streets of Gettysburg.[v] Chuck knew the names of the generals and officers who had fought there as well as he knew the names of his favorite baseball players. Lee. Meade. Chamberlain and so many others. Some were considered heroes, others villains, but they were all legends in Chuck’s mind.

Seventy-five years after the famous battle, the population was around 5,800 and that’s only if you counted permanent residents. In the summers, the population was at least double that as tourists visited the battlefield driving across the field where armies had once fought and thousands of soldiers died. Now hundreds of monuments had sprung up across the land like lonely sentinels to remind those visitors that they were on hallowed ground.

It wasn’t the Caldwells first visit to Gettysburg. That had been two years earlier in 1936 when Chuck had been twelve years old.[vi] That summer, the entire Caldwell Family, including Chuck’s mother, Ellen, and sister, Barbara, had arrived in Gettysburg for a family vacation. For Chuck, it had been a dream come true. There’d been no chicken coops for a bedroom then. The family had stayed at a tourist court in town and had hired a guide to lead them on a tour of the Gettysburg battlefield.

During the driving tour of the battlefield, Chuck marveled at the open, green fields interrupted occasionally with large stone monuments. The largest of them was the 110-foot-tall Pennsylvania State Memorial. It commemorated the 34,530 Pennsylvania soldiers who fought at Gettysburg, and it had been dedicated just in time for the last great reunion at Gettysburg in 1913. The 100-foot-square pedestal made from North Carolina granite had four corner towers connected by arches that support a dome and observation deck. The deck could be reached by a spiral staircase in the tower. Besides the panels with soldiers’ names, the walls also hold bas-relief sculptures. The memorial contained more than 1,400 tons of broken stone, more than 1,250 tons of granite, 740 tons of sand, more than 360 tons of cement, 50 tons of steel bars and 22 tons of marble.[vii]

Chuck had climbed one of the staircases in the towers to reach the deck. From the top of the monument, he had a commanding 360-degree view of the battlefield. He could see miles in any direction. He imagined soldiers dressed in blue or gray on foot and on horseback charging and firing rifles at each other. He looked at the tree lines, searching for cannons. He would have stopped at every gray stone monument if he had been able to in order to read what had been inscribed in stone.

For most of the tour, the guide sat in the front of the old Essex describing how the three-day battle in 1863 had progressed.

“As we would drive by the Peach Orchard, he’d tell us about it and then say, ‘And the fighting was mighty, mighty severe.’ Then we’d drive by the Wheatfield and he would tell us about what happened there and then say, ‘And the fighting was mighty, mighty severe,” Chuck recalled.[viii]

By the time the Caldwells reached their third or fourth stop on the tour where “the fighting was mighty, mighty severe”, Chuck and his sister were hiding their faces behind their hands, giggling and trying not to laugh out loud from the backseat of the car.[ix]

Clay Soldiers

The cover of Clay Soldiers, which will be available this spring.

Here are the links to the other parts of “The Last Reunion”:


[i] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell. Because of the number of interviews conducted with Chuck Caldwell between 2015 and 2016, they will be referred to as if they were a single interview.

[ii] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

[iii] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

[iv] Nebraska Tourism Commission, “History,” LincolnHighwayNebraskaByway.com (http://lincolnhighwaynebraskabyway.com/history) accessed August 26, 2015.

[v] Civil War Trust, “Ten Facts About Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863,” http://www.civilwar.org (http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/assets/ten-facts-about/ten-facts-about-gettysburg.html) accessed August 26, 2015.

[vi] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

[vii] Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Report of the Pennsylvania Commission (Harrisburg, PA: William Stanley Ray, State Printer, 1913) p. 24.

[viii] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

[ix] Author interview with Chuck Caldwell.

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This is a short excerpt from The Last to Fall: The 1922 Marine March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg.

marines-recruitingThe Marines had fought valiantly in World War I like in the Battle of Belleau Wood in France. After the deadly fighting there to drive the entrenched German troops from Belleau Wood, Army General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, said, “The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.”

However, that didn’t stop Pershing and others from wanting to disband the Marine Corps after the war had been won.

“Right after World War I, when John A. Lejeune was appointed commandant of the Marine Corps, there was a push by General Pershing and President Wilson to have the Marine Corps abolished,” said Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Williams, executive director of the United States Marine Corps Historical Company.

It wasn’t the first time such an action had been considered, nor would it be the last. However, Major General Lejeune was a Marine through and through, and he wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

Lejeune understood that this was a political battle that would be fought on the battlefield of public opinion. He devised a campaign to raise public awareness about the Marine Corps just as the government had rallied public opinion behind the troops during the war.

A number of things evolved from this effort. Celebrating the birthday of the Marine Corps as November 10, 1775 was part of the public relations push by the Marine Corps. Also, elements of the Marine uniform were tied to iconic battles or moments of Marine Corps history.

Gen. Lejeune also wanted to improve the skills and abilities of the Corps by applying lessons learned from WWI to introduce new tactical doctrines. He realized that he could do this and use it as a means of increasing public awareness about the Marine Corps.

“Instead of going to obscure places to conduct war games and learning lessons learned and learning how to integrate armor, artillery, and aviation into war fighting, he would do it at iconic places and put the Marines out in front of the public,” Williams said.

At the time, the national military parks, such as Gettysburg, were still under control of the U.S. War Department, which meant the Marines could use the parks as a training ground. Lejeune chose to do just that with a series of annual training exercises, which commenced in 1921.

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Last To Fall CoverThe Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg is now available for sale online and at stores.

Thomas Williams, executive director of the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company, said, “Every American is familiar with the iconic battle fought in Gettysburg during the American Civil War, some are even aware that two Marine officers and the ‘Presidents Own’ Marine Band accompanied President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg in November 1863 to dedicate the National Cemetery there. However, few people are aware that 59 years later the US Marines would “reenact” the battle.

“In 1922, General Smedley Butler would march over 5,000 Marines from MCB Quantico, Virginia to the hallowed fields of Gettysburg. Conducted as a training exercise, but more importantly to raise public opinion and awareness, the Marines would travel to the National Battlefield and carry out many aspects of the original battle. Ultimately over 100,000 spectators would come to witness this monumental event.

“Authors Jim Rada and Richard Fulton have done an outstanding job of researching and chronicling this little-known story of those Marines in 1922, marking it as a significant moment in Marine Corps history.”

The 178-page book is 8.5 inches by 11 inches and contains more than 160 photographs depicting the march from Quantico to Gettysburg and the simulated battles on the actual Gettysburg battlefield.

“The march involved a quarter of the corps at the time,” co-author Richard D. L. Fulton said. “It was part PR stunt, but it was also an actual training maneuver for the marines.”

James Rada, Fulton, and Cathe Fulton (who served as a research assistant) searched through hundreds documents and photographs looking for the details of the march and battles, but the book was meant to tell a story. For that, they went hunting through lots of newspapers in order to piece together the stories of the marines on the march and the people they met along the way.

“What’s really fun is that the marines re-enacted Pickett’s Charge both historically and with then-modern military equipment,” Rada said.

The event was also marred by tragedy when something happened to one of the bi-planes and it crashed into the battlefield killing the two marines flying it. The pilot, Capt. George Hamilton was a hero of World War I.

President Warren G. Harding and his wife, along with a number of military personnel, politicians, and representatives of foreign governments, stayed in camp on July 1 and 2 with the marines and witnessed some of the maneuvers.

The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg retails for $24.95 and is available at local bookstores, online retailers and ebookstores. You can purchase it from Amazon.com here.

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Last To Fall CoverHere is the preface from my upcoming book, “The Last to Fall: The 1922 Marine March, Battles, & Deaths at Gettysburg.” It is due out in early April.

Confederate M1917 tanks lumber across the fields, moving on the Union position behind a stone wall on Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg, Pa. The Union soldiers fire machine guns not so much at the massive metal vehicles approaching them, but at the Confederate soldiers using the tanks as cover in order to make their way across the open ground. In the face of an unstoppable weapon, the Union soldiers begin falling back.

Hearing loud buzzing sounds from above, the Confederates stare upward as Union DeHavilland DH-4B biplanes fly out of the clouds. The airplanes level off safely out of range of the Confederate rifle fire. Then the explosions commence as the bombs rain down around the tanks and troops turning General Pickett’s Charge into a bloodbath.

If only…

Yes, the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought in 1863, but after the Allied victory in World War I in 1918, some people began to wonder, “What if?”

What if some of the modern technology that had won the war had existed in 1863?

What if the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought with the military equipment used in World War I?

The answer was not to write a science fiction novel that dealt with alternative history. The U.S. Marine officers who were debating these questions after the end of the Great War had the capability to test out their theories. The answer to the questions was supposed to be safe. It was only supposed to be a training exercise, a war game.

Something else happened, and because it did, two marines became the only aviators to die fighting the Battle of Gettysburg.

It wasn’t a game.

It was all too real.

So what do you think? 

If you are interested in learning more about the book or taking advantage of the pre-order offer, visit my web site at: jamesrada.com.

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Last To Fall CoverIt can be said that the last deaths at the Battle of Gettysburg were two marines who fell from the sky in an airplane in 1922.

Confused? Are you starting to type a comment to tell me that the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in 1863 and there weren’t any marines there?

You would be right on both counts. However, during the first week of July 1922, nearly a quarter of the U.S. Marine Corps re-enacted Pickett’s Charge in a historical way and also using modern equipment, such as tanks and airplanes.

Think about that for a second. There’s a whole sub-genre of science fiction based on alternative history. One of the standards of the genre is Harry Turtledove’s “Guns of the South.” In it, time travelers give the Confederacy Uzis to use in their Civil War battles.

That is fiction, though. This training exercise was like having an alternative history come to life on the battlefield as planes dropped bombs and shot down an observation balloon and tanks rolled across the fields impervious to bullets. And while it may have only been a training exercise, two marines died during the re-enactments.

It’s a little-known and written of event in Gettysburg history, but now you can find out the whole story along with more than 150 pictures in “The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg.” The book will retail for $24.95 when it is released in early April, but you can purchase autographed copies for $20 as a pre-order on my web site.

Marines in action, Gettysburg 1922

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