Looking Back 26 May 2013

History column

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May. The day is one to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

In no particular order, here is a hodgepodge of military facts and figures.

• Of America’s 44 presidents, 30 served in the Army, 24 during time of war. Of those, two earned the rank of 5-star general (George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower) and one earned the Medal of Honor (Theodore Roosevelt).

• The Coast Guard is smaller than the New York City Police Department.

• The “Soldier and Sailor’s Civil Relief Act of 1940” provides basic protection from lawsuits while on active duty.

• The total known land area occupied by U.S. bases and facilities is 15,654 square miles...bigger than Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and New Jersey combined.

• At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top U.S. Navy command was called CINCUS, the shoulder patch of the U.S. Army’s 45th. Infantry division was the swastika and Hitler’s private train was named “Amerika.” All three were soon changed.

• During World War II, coconut water was used as blood plasma. Coconut water (the water found in coconuts — not to be confused with coconut milk, which comes from the flesh of the coconut) is sterile and has an ideal pH level.

• The U.S. Interstate Highway System requires that one mile of motorway in every five has to be straight so that these sections can be used as airstrips in times of war.

• In the terms of a Vietnam-era infantryman, a “bouncing-betty” was a mine which launched itself waist-high before exploding.

• By 2033, it is expected that the United States will be paying $59 billion a year to its injured veterans.

• In 2010, the energy costs for the U.S. Army was about $4 billion. About 70 percent of that was spent on fuel.

• Jimi Hendrix, considered by many to be the greatest electric guitarist of all-time, enlisted in the Army in 1961. He was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.

• It is believed that bell-bottom trousers were introduced in 1817 to permit sailors to roll them above the knees when washing down the decks, and to make it easier to remove them in a hurry when forced to abandoned ship, or when washed overboard. The trousers could be used as a life preserver by knotting the legs and swinging them over the head to fill the legs with air.

• The U.S. Air Force has three core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.

• The U.S. Army’s 369th Infantry Regiment, a black unit with white officers, served with distinction in World War I. They served in combat for 191 days in a row, more than any other American ground unit.

• In 1932, there were officially 138,069 men on active duty in the regular U.S. Army. But only about 30,000 would have been immediately available for combat. Some guarded the Mexican border, while others served in non-combat roles.

• Although he was considered for service in World War II, John Wayne did not serve, causing some to call him a coward who used his celebrity influence to avoid service. In truth, he had a perforated eardrum and four children, so he was ineligible in any case.

• First used in Vietnam, “dust-off” is a piece of slang meaning medical evacuation by helicopter.

• The yearly cost of stationing one soldier in Iraq could feed 60 American families.

• M.A.S.H. units, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, began use during the Korean War. These units sought to save more soldiers’ lives on the battlefield and close to the combat zones. Soldiers in the M.A.S.H. units had a 97 percent chance of survival.

• In the Gulf War, 88,500 tons of bombs were dropped on Iraq by the U.S. in 1991.

• During World War I, the U.S. was in actual combat for seven and a half months, during which time 116,000 military personnel were killed and 204,000 were wounded.

• In 1941, an Army private earned $21 a month. In 1942, a private earned $50 a month.

• During the Civil War, glasses with colored lenses were used to treat disorders and illnesses. Yellow-trimmed glasses were used to treat syphilis, blue for insanity and pink for depression.

• Lt. Everett Alvarez was shot down in his A4 Skyhawk on Aug. 5, 1964, and was finally released eight-and-a-half years later in February 1973. This Vietnam vet set a U.S. record for time spent as a POW.

• Calvin Graham was only 12 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. On Nov. 14, 1942 aboard the USS South Dakota, Graham’s front teeth were knocked out by flying shrapnel and he suffered burns from the anti-aircraft guns. In spite of his injuries, the youngster took belts from the dead and made tourniquets, saving numerous lives. When his age was discovered, Graham was given a dishonorable discharge and his medals and benefits revoked.

• Of all military branches, the U.S. Air Force requires the highest general ASVB (Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery) test score to join.

• Of the 15 Navy Medals of Honor awarded in Vietnam, the most (four) went to Navy corpsmen serving their traditional role as front-line medical personnel with U.S. Marine Corps units.

• The deadliest period of the Korean War was August to December of 1950, in particular the battles of the Pusan perimeter, Chosin Reservoir and Kunu-ri Pass. These three battles alone produced roughly a quarter of all American causalities.

• The Red Cross sent POWs special “prison escape kits” disguised as standard Monopoly game boxes. The kits were marked by a red dot in the free parking square. Contents included: authentic German currency hidden in the Monopoly money, a tiny compass embedded into the dog counter, a metal file sandwiched inside the board itself, and silk maps of the prison and its location sealed inside the hotel pieces.