On This Day…January 17th
On January 17th, the iconic battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) got stuck at the entrance to Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay after running aground on the shoals, and was stuck for two weeks. The ship would finally be freed on the first of February, after a salvage effort that cost $225,000 sixty eighty eight years ago.
An Italian Fiat CR 42 biplane fighter crashes nose down in the desert in Egypt, 17th of January, 1940. Must have been a common issue in these planes as there is ‘nose down’ photos of them in every theatre.
F4U-1 Corsairs of the Royal New Zealand Air Force near Bougainville, Solomon Islands, 17th January, 1945.
The Greek submarine, Papanikolis (Y-2) enjoyed something of a near mythical status with Hellenic liberty and freedom fighters after she fled during the German occupation of 1941. Named after Dimitris Papanikolis (1790–1855), a naval hero of the Greek Revolution, (famous for being the first to use a ‘fireship’ to destroy an Ottoman ship), Y-2 was one of the most successful Greek submarines during the Second World War II.
On the 17th January 1943, after carrying agents and equipment to Hydra, she captured the 200-ton sailing vessel Agios Stefanos and manned her with part of her own crew, which sailed her to Alexandria, while the next day, she sank another 150-ton sailer. Geurrilla sub-mariners!
Papanikolis’ conning tower is on display at the Hellenic Maritime Museum…
On 17th January, 1991, Lt Comdr. Michael Scott Speicher was shot down in his FA/18 Hornet on the first day of the Desert Storm campaign. His loss triggered years of controversy and soul searching in military, political, and security circles for years to follow as red tape, uncertainty, and flawed process clouded the search for his remains.
As the war closed, Speicher’s status was changed from MIA to KIA/BNR. Navy Commander Buddy Harris was a believer that Michael had bailed and should be searched for, lobbying the highest powers to do so. In 1993 the remains of his Hornet were found (by satellite after a tip off from a local hunter) in a remote patch of desert. The satellite images appeared to show man made signals that may have been an E&E (escape and evade) sign from Michael.
This discovery sparked a debate that cut to the very heart of military ethics. Whether to send in a covert recovery team and risk further life, or try diplomatic routes that would tip off the Iraqi government (still lead by Saddam Hussain) that could result in the truth never being known. The case became a tug of war between the ‘no man left behind’ fraternity and safety first approach of modern intervention.
By the time a Red Cross team was dispatched, the damage was done and the area picked clean by the Iraqis. The debate raged on and the National Alliance of Families argued the Speicher case, and in 2001 Speicher’s status was changed back to MIA. At the end of 2002, just before the hostilities stared in the Second Gulf War, his status was again changed, to Missing/Captured.
In early August of 2009, Michael Speicher’s remains were at last found, local Bedouin’s having buried him after finding his body near where the aircraft had crashed. He was repatriated and finally laid to rest in All Saints Chapel at NAS Jacksonville, Florida in August 2009.
A US Navy F/A-18 Hornet on display outside the Naval Aviation Schools Command at NAS Pensacola, Florida, was dedicated to the Speicher family in May 2009. The aircraft was painted in the markings of United States Navy squadron VFA-81 ‘Sundowners’ and USS Saratoga, which was Speicher’s squadron and ship when he was shot down.
USS Enterprise arriving in New York from her last active service, returning three and a half thousand personnel from the Azores on 17th January 1946.
USS Yorktown (CV5) anchored in the Caribbean Sea during her shakedown cruise on 17th January, 1938. Note the bright flight lines and registry markings prewar.
Also, on This Day in 1995 my only daughter was born. Just don’t tell her she’s named after a battleship.. Happy birthday, Indi.