Saturday, October 1, 2016


Fullbore Friday

Fullbore Friday
// CDR Salamander

I like well hidden history, especially those with good shoes.

There are many stories out there that we are only now hearing about ... and this is one. From
In May 1919, with World War I recently over but with the Russian Revolution turning into a full-scale "Red Terror," the head of MI6, Sir Mansfield Cumming, known as "C," had a desperate problem.

A British agent - Paul Dukes - had infiltrated spies into the Bolshevik government and made copies of top secret documents, but he was cut off in Petrograd (present-day St Petersburg).

Dukes, a 30-year-old concert pianist from Bridgwater, Somerset, was a master of disguise, hence his admiring soubriquets such as "The New Scarlet Pimpernel" and "The Man with A Hundred Faces."

The only MI6 agent ever to be knighted for his services in the field, Dukes was, as Ferguson writes: "The sort of spy we all wanted to be."

The Government in London desperately needed a personal briefing from him about the situation in Russia, as well as the documents in his possession. But how to get him out?

Cumming asked a 29-year-old naval lieutenant, Augustus "Gus" Agar, to undertake a seemingly suicidal mission to rescue him.
An expert in skippering high-speed Coastal Motor Boats (CMBs), Agar was asked to come up with a plan to cross into Russian territorial waters in the Gulf of Finland and spirit Dukes out of the country, before the Russian secret police, the Cheka, were able to capture him.

The task was awesome. The borders had been sealed and a succession of couriers who had tried to cross them had been captured; six were betrayed, tortured and shot in one fortnight alone. So a high-speed boat landing at a pre-arranged rendezvous on the coastline near Petrograd was planned instead.

CMBs were 40ft long, had a crew of three, carried two Lewis machine guns and a single torpedo. They had hydroplane hulls, hence their nickname "skimmers," but were made of plywood so were almost defenceless against enemy fire.

The fastest naval vessels afloat, they were ideal for slipping past the huge array of defences in the Gulf of Finland - except for the deafening noise they made when they reached their top speed of 45mph.

Protecting the sea approach to Petrograd was the forbidding island fortress of Kronstadt and its 15 forts - nine to the north, six to the south - with enough guns to halt any enemy fleet.

Furthermore, the forts were connected by a hidden breakwater that MI6 told Agar was only three feet under the surface and which, since CMBs drew 2ft 9in of water, meant that his two vessels would have only three inches to spare at normal speed.
Although the Gulf of Finland is 250 miles long, it is only 30 miles wide, and with gunboat patrols, floating and fixed mines, searchlights, submarines and seaplanes, it seemed impassable to any but the most intrepid sailor.

Cumming explained the mission to Agar in his office in Whitehall, and ordered him to choose only unmarried men with no immediate dependents for his seven-man team; Agar himself had been orphaned at the age of 12, and although he had a sweetheart they were not then engaged.

Cumming also warned Agar that in the event of capture he could expect no help, or even official recognition, from the British Government.

His unit would be in plain clothes, although Royal Navy uniforms and caps would be donned in the event of capture, to protect them from being shot as spies.
If the story sounds interesting, click the link above for an extended summary, or you can get the details in Operation Kronstadt: The True Story of Honor, Espionage, and the Rescue of Britain's Greatest Spy The Man with a Hundred Faces by Harry Ferguson.

Wouldn't it make a great movie ... if Hollywood still made movies of this type?

Wrong heroes, I guess.

Originally posted JUL10.

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Russian Shipping Company Sovcomflot Puts Large Stake Up for Sale [feedly]

Russian Shipping Company Sovcomflot Puts Large Stake Up for Sale

Photo credit: Sovcomflot

By Katya Golubkova and Kira Zavyalova MOSCOW, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The privatisation of a 25 percent stake in Russian state shipping firm Sovcomflot may be equally split between existing and new shares, two sources close to the deal told Reuters on Friday. The stake sale in Sovcomflot, Russia's biggest shipping company whose vessels support […]

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This Day In History: USS Olympia Sails For France To Bring Home The Unknown Soldier From World War I


This day in history, October 3, 1921, the USS Olympia sails for France to bring home the Unknown Soldier of World War I.

The bodies of many soldiers killed in World War I could not be identified. On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknowns were exhumed from four World War I American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal inWorld War I, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The unknown soldier that he chose was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.

To honor those that were lost during World War I, the remains of one were brought to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state, and on Armistice Day 1921 they were ceremoniously buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The tomb bears the inscription “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” Congress later directed that an “Unknown American” from subsequent wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam — be honored as well. Due to the development of DNA technology, the unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was recently exhumed and identified. He was identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972.

There may never be another unknown soldier.

Making of the Modern Map September 29, 2016 by Erin Allen

(The following is a feature story in the September/October 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. The story is written by Ralph Ehrenburg, chief of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. You can read the issue in its entirety here.)

This 1977 manuscript painting by Heinrich C. Berann is based on the “World Ocean Floor” map by Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp, 1977. Geography and Map Division.

This 1977 manuscript painting by Heinrich C. Berann is based on the “World Ocean Floor” map by Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp, 1977. Geography and Map Division.

Advances in technology continue to transform the ancient art and science of mapmaking.

In today’s interconnected world of communications and social networking, maps are more relevant and important than ever. Whether searching for the closest convenience store, navigating a mountain trail or planning a foreign adventure, up-to-date, detailed interactive maps of every place on the Earth are immediately available through mobile devices. Over a billion maps, for example, are viewed monthly through Google and Apple Maps’ apps and platforms. Web use is even higher, with some 3.2 billion people online—one-half of the world’s population. And many of those users are seeking geographic information at their fingertips.


But how did the practice of mapmaking evolve, from the Middle Ages to our modern day?

Human beings have always sought to make sense of the world around them. Throughout history, advances in mapmaking have been closely associated with new developments in scientific and technical tools. The “groma,” or surveyor’s cross—a simple line-of-sight instrument used by ancient Roman land surveyors to plot straight property lines and mark out building foundations—led to the first roadmaps of the Roman Empire.

Maj. J.N. Reynolds, a pilot in the 91st. Aero Squadron, lifts an aerial camera into his bi-plane with help from a bystander, 1917-1918. U.S. Signal Corps photo, Prints and Photographs Division.

Maj. J.N. Reynolds, a pilot in the 91st. Aero Squadron, lifts an aerial camera into his bi-plane with help from a bystander, 1917-1918. U.S. Signal Corps photo, Prints and Photographs Division.

The magnetic compass, invented in China and perfected in medieval Italy, gave rise to portolan charts and, later, accurate terrestrial maps. Coastal charts drawn on animal skin, known as portolan charts, guided the first Mediterranean mariners. Christopher Columbus, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and Charles Lindbergh used maps to navigate by compass bearings.

The look of the modern map—with its lines of latitude and longitude—can be traced to the once-revolutionary concept of a spherical earth, introduced by early Greek scholars along with a series of new instruments for locating and predicting the positions of celestial bodies. In the second century, A.D., the Greco-Egyptian geographer and astronomer Claudius Ptolemy provided detailed instructions for mathematical mapmaking in “Geographia,” his treatise on cartography. He described the construction of map projections using latitude and longitude as the basic geographical frame of reference and the preparation of the first universal world map.

Tools such as the astrolabe and cross-staff, which measured the angles and elevation of the sun, moon and stars, date from classical antiquity. But it was not until seafarers ventured far beyond the Mediterranean Sea and the coast of Europe that new devices for measuring angles and distances between visible objects—such as octants, quadrants, sextants and later, chronometers—greatly improved map accuracy.

This artist concept depicts how the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite gathers information about Earth’s atmosphere. Geography and Map Division.

This artist concept depicts how the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite gathers information about Earth’s atmosphere. Geography and Map Division.

Advances in technology not only had an impact on mapmaking, but on cartographic data gathering. Most dramatic was the development of aerial photography, made possible by advancements in aviation during the first few decades of the 20th century. No longer was it necessary to send large numbers of surveyors and mapmakers into the countryside to prepare basic maps. The use of aerial photography in the mapping process expanded greatly during World War I and World War II, providing the foundation for NASA’s mapping satellites, first launched in 1984.

Other instruments made it possible to acquire previously unobtainable mappable data. Data for geologists Alvara Espinosa and Wilbur Rinehart’s 1981 world map of earthquakes, for example, were obtained from seismic monitoring stations. Oceanographer Marie Tharp’s base map of the ocean floor, which confirmed the theory of plate tectonic, was derived from data obtained by echo-sounding devices developed for submarines during World War II.

Cartography has been transformed during the past half-century with the advent of computer-assisted design, followed by the development and widespread adoption of geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS) and satellite sensing devices.

GIS is a software platform used to capture, manage, analyze, store and present layers of geospatial data that allows better understanding of geo-referenced patterns and relationships. For example, data about gender pay equity inequality in specific regions of the country can be displayed geographically.

“Gender Earnings Ratio by Congressional District (114th Congress)” | Tim St. Onge, Library of Congress Congressional Cartography Program, 2015.

“Gender Earnings Ratio by Congressional District (114th Congress)” | Tim St. Onge, Library of Congress Congressional Cartography Program, 2015.

GPS provides surveyors and mapmakers with precise geographic coordinates for the Earth’s surface features through a worldwide network of orbiting satellites and receiving units. It has become the primary tool for land and field surveying, and has been adopted for navigation in aircraft, boats, cars and on mobile devices. GPS technology has also made possible the popular Pokémon Go app, which tracks players’ physical locations on their smartphones and superimposes digital Pokémon characters into their real-world environments.

Satellites have increased the speed at which data can be collected and have dramatically expanded the range of mappable information. What once took months or years to survey can now be done in hours or minutes. The surface of the Earth is now mapped continuously by numerous remote-sensing satellites, producing vast archives of mappable data that are received, analyzed and maintained by cartographers, scientists, and technicians worldwide. NASA’s Terra satellite’s five environmental mapping sensors alone collect nearly 620 terabytes of data quarterly. The millions of satellite images that have been acquired and archived since the introduction of remote- sensing satellites have been used to produce millions of maps, featuring topics ranging from agriculture and forestry to the earth sciences, global change and regional planning.

The Library of Congress holds many examples of maps produced using both ancient and modern technologies. Advances in digital scanning technology have made it possible for the Library of Congress to make an increasing amount of its cartographic holdings globally accessible online.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Canada Confirms: Second Franklin Expedition Ship Found

A still image captured from a video footage from the research vessel Martin Bergmann of the Arctic Research Foundation shows what they say is the wreckage of the of HMS Terror in the bottom of Terror Bay in Canada on September 3, 2016.  Courtesy Arctic Research Foundation/Handout via REUTERS    ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE

The Canadian Government has confirmed that it has in fact found the wreck of the HMS Terror, the second ship of the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Parks Canada confirmed Monday the wreck located in Nunavut’s Terror Bay just off King William Island is that of HMS Terror. The confirmation was made […]

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

New Webpage for World War I Records on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive Posted on September 27, 2016 by Netisha

New Webpage for World War I Records on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

Today’s post is written by Scott Ludwig, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.
The 26th September marks the 98th Anniversary of the start of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which was the largest operation of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I.  Commanded by General of the Armies John J. “Black Jack” Pershing and with over a million American soldiers participating, it was a part of the final Allied offensive on the Western Front of World War I and was one of the attacks that brought an end to the War. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was fought from September 26 – November 11, 1918, when the Armistice was signed.
It was also the deadliest campaign in American history, resulting in over 26,000 battle deaths. The number of graves in the American military cemetery near Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France is far larger than those in the more commonly known site at Omaha Beach in Normandy.
Here at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) we have extensive holdings related to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive throughout the various archival units.  The Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park has created a webpage that features some of the records in our holdings and provides a link to the National Archives Catalog that has a lot more.
Records highlighted on this Meuse-Argonne Offensive page were created both during and after the war and cover a wide array of topics, including operations files of the First Army and Second Army of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), reports, communications and correspondence files from various levels of command. This includes significant correspondence found in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff Third Section (G-3) Correspondence files that includes after action reports and post war analysis not only on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, but the AEF’s participation in World War I overall. There is also valuable information in the Correspondence with Former Division Officers of the American Expeditionary Forces series, which consists of post-war responses from officers to requests by the U. S. Army War College Historical Section for information about their units’ front-line positions and activities on specific days, including those who participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Also included are the “Town Files” which contains information related to where in European towns and cities American units were located, lists of specific battles that American units were involved in and includes reports, photographs, maps and sketches of various European towns and cities that were of interest to American military planners.
Further the page includes information on multiple series related to foreign forces in World War I, including those at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Records relating to German and Austro-Hungarian forces as well as French military records, in particular those about the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), from the French perspective. The U. S. Army War College Historical Section provided some English translations, transcriptions and commentary, but significant amounts of the information are in German and French.
Finally there are also some Cemeterial files and anniversary commemoration files as well as the detailed narrative report regarding the “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Division (New York National Guard), which was surrounded by German troops inside the Argonne Forest. It is available in digital form in the National Archives Catalog.
There are also a few links on the page including ones to the National World War I Museum and Memorial (U.S.), the United States World War One Centennial Commission and the American Battle Monuments Commission Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial Near Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France.
This new webpage is a great starting point for anyone interested in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and finding out about relevant resources at NARA.

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