Two Swedes are rated among the top 5 draft choices in the 2018 NHL entry draft

June 2, 2018

Two Swedes — Rasmus Dahlin and Adam Boqvist — are rated number one and number five by Hockey News in the 2018 National Hockey League Entry Draft, which will take place on June 22-23 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

Dahlin, age 18, is a 6-2, 183 pound defenseman who played for Frolunda during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.  He is most likely to be drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, which has the first pick in the 2018 draft.

“Picture Peter Forsberg on the blueline.  That’s what Buffalo is set to get in Dahlin — a slick, skilled, ultra-competitive and downright mean D-man,” wrote Matt Larkin in Hockey News.

The last Swede picked number one in the NHL draft was Mats Sundin in 1989.

“He’s a little like a Peter Forsberg character,” said Tomas Monten, who was Dahlin’s world junior coach. “He gets really mean. He has a high temper.  That gives him a competitive edge at practices and especially in games. He doesn’t lose his head, but he competes.  He’s going to have more dirty tricks than people think. He’s not going to take anything for granted and he’s going to battle for everything.”

Monten added: “I don’t see him as an Erik Karlsson type of defender, but I see him more like a Viktor Hedman.  More like a ‘D’ that can play on your power play, that can score points, he can move the puck for you, but he can also defend, he can play a physical game, he can play a shutdown role.”

Dahlin grew up in Lidkoping, a town of about 25,000 persons.

“His father, Martin, played defense in Sweden’s second and third divisions for a decade and still dabbles in coaching,” it was reported in Hockey News.  “Rasmus’ older brother, Felix, played Tier III pro as a right winger.  He’s just 20 now but has already retired from competitive hockey because of arthritis.  Almost all of Rasmus’ immediate family members suffer from it, including his mother and sister.  But not to worry — multiple scouts suggest it’s not a problem in Rasmus, as he has shown no signs of it and it wouldn’t affect him until later in his career if it arrives.”

Hockey News said of Dahlin: “On top of a successful campaign in Sweden’s top league, the wunderkind D-man was also a star at the world juniors and advanced to earn a place on Sweden’s Olympic team, making hi the youngest player in Korea.”

Boqvist, who will be 18 in August, is a 5-11, 170 pound defenseman who has played for Brynas since the 2014-15 season.  At this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament, he finished second among all scores with eight points in five games and helped Sweden win the bronze medal.

“He’s made for today’s game,” it was said in Hockey News.  “He’s a great skater, has excellent puck skills, poise and vision.  He transports and manages the puck well.  He’s the favored size for a lot of people right now, the kind of guy that would have been overlooked before.”

Boqvist’s older brother, Jesper, plays for Brynas IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was draft by the New Jersey Devils in 2017.

Other Swedes ranked as Top 60 draft choices by Hockey News are: Isac Lundestrom (No. 14), Ramus Sandin (No. 17), Jacob Olofsson (No. 23), Jonatan Berggren (No. 36), Filip Johansson (No. 38), Adam Ginning (No. 40), Filip Hallander (No. 43), Nils Lundkvist (No. 51), Albin Eriksson (No. 56) and Olof Lindbom (No. 59).

Lundestrom is a 6-0, 185 pound center who has played for Lulea since the 2014-2015 season. He was born in Gallivare.

Sandin is a 5-11, 190 pound defenseman who since the 2013-2014 season has played for MoDo, Almtuna, Brynas and Sault Ste. Marie (OHL).  He was born in Uppsala.

Olofsson is a 6-2, 192 pound center who has played for Timra since the 2015-2016 season. He was born in Pitea.

Berggren is a 5-11, 183 pound right wing who played for Enkoping during the 2014-2015 season and has played for Skelleftea since the 2015-2016 season.  He was born in Uppsala.

Johansson is a 6-1, 187 pound defenseman who has played for Chomutov in the Czech Republic since the 2014-2015 season.  He was born in Vasteras.

Ginning is a 6-3, 196 pound defenseman who has played for Linkoping since the 2014-2015 season.  He was born in Linkoping.

Hallander is a 6-1, 185 pound center who has played for Timra since the 2015-2016 season. He was born in Sundsvall.

Lundkvist is a 5-11, 174 pound defenseman who has played for Lulea since the 2015-2016 season.  He was born in Pitea.

Eriksson is a 6-4, 205 pound left wing who has played for Skelleftea since the 2016-2016 season.  He was born in Bollnas.

Lindbom is a 6-2, 185 pound goalie who has played for Djurgarden since the 2015-2016 seasons.  He was born in Stockholm.

Andrei Svechnikov of Russia, Brady Tkachuk of USA and Filip Zadina of Czech Republic are rated as the second, third and fourth highest draft picks by Hockey News.

 

 

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Sweden took the gold medal at the 2018 World Championship while Switzerland got the silver medal and USA captured the bronze medal

May 20, 2018

The headline on the website of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) read: TRE KRONOR GOLDEN AGAIN!

On May 20, 2018, Sweden beat Switzerland 3-2 in a shootout to win the gold medal at the 2018 Ice Hockey World Championship at Royal Arena in Copenhagen.  Sweden never took the lead in the championship game before winning the shootout.  Sweden and Switzerland traded chances during the scoreless third period and during an aggressive overtime period.

It was Sweden’s third world title in six years and 11th overall. The shootout goal was made by Filip Forsberg, who plays for the Nashville Predators in the NHL.

“We wanted to win the gold medal, and her we are,” said Sweden forward Viktor Arvidsson, who also plays for Nashville of the NHL. “It’s unbelievable, especially for Filip (Forsberg). He’s a great player, one of our top players.  It’s unbelievable to win with my teammates.”

“We battled hard . . . all tournament long,” said Switzerland defenseman Mirco Muller (New Jersey Devils). “Once you look at the bigger picture, it’s huge for Swiss hockey.  But right now, there’s a disappointment.  We definitely had our chances.”

“They [Switzerland] were close to winning the whole championship.  So credit to them,” said Sweden forward Magnus Paajarvi (Ottawa Senators).

Sweden outshot Switzerland 38-27.

How the scoring went:

FIRST PERIOD — Nino Niederreiter of Switzerland (16:38 played); Gustav Nyquist of Sweden (17:54 played).  1-1 at the end of the first period.  (Niederreiter plays for the Minnesota Wild.)

SECOND PERIOD — Timo Meier of Switzerland (23:13 played) (power play goal); Mika Zibanejad of Sweden (34:54 played) (power play goal).  2-2 at the end of the second period.  (Meier plays for the San Jose Sharks and Zibanejad plays for the New York Rangers.)

THIRD PERIOD — No score.

OVERTIME — No score.

SHOOTOUT — Filip Forsberg of Sweden scored on Leonardo Genoni of Switzerland. (Genoni plays for SC Bern.)

Sweden got to the gold medal game by beating USA 6-0 in the semifinals and by taking a 3-2 win over Latvia in the quarterfinals.  The Vancouver Canucks’ Anders Nilsson became the first goalie to shut out USA during the first nine games of the tournament.  All but one of the players on the American team are NHL players. Switzerland made it to the finals by stunning Canada 3-2 in the semifinals and upsetting Finland 3-2 in the quarterfinals.  Canada was the silver medalist in 2017. Switzerland’s win over Canada this year was said to be its biggest game ever against Canada in the world championship.

Switzerland had not won a major IIHF-sanctioned tournament at any level in 110 years. Sweden had won 16 straight games since winning the 2017 gold medal over Canada in a shootout.  The last loss by Sweden to Switzerland was in 2013, when Switzerland won the silver medal.  Switzerland also won the silver medal in 1935.

Bronze Medal Game — In the bronze medal game, USA beat Canada 4-1.  It was a 2-1 game in the third period until two empty net goals were made by USA at the 2:45 and 1:42 marks.

How the scoring went:

FIRST PERIOD — No score.

SECOND PERIOD — Chris Kreider of USA (6:40 to play) (power play goal); Marc-Edouard Vlasic of Canada (1:54 to play).  1-1 at the end of the second period.  (Kreider plays for the New York Rangers and Vlasic plays for the San Jose Sharks.)

THIRD PERIOD — Nick Bonino of USA (6:39 to play) (power play goal) — then the empty net goals by Anders Lee of USA (2:45 to play) and Chris Kreider of USA (1:42 to play). (Bonino plays for the Nashville Predators and Lee plays for the New York Islanders.)

Keith Kinkaid made 24 saves for USA and Curtis McElhiiney had 33 saves for Canada. (Kinkaid plays for the New Jersey Devils and McElhiiney plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs.)

It was the fist time Canada failed to medal in a world championship in four years.

“Overall, it’s a disappointing tournament,” said alternate captain Ryan O’Reilly of Canada. “It feels like a waste of time.  You want to come here and compete and have a chance to win and you don’t.”  (O’Reilly plays for the Buffalo Sabres.)

“When you look at the tournament overall and you can say you beat Canada twice and came home with a bronze medal, you probably think you’d do a little better than that,” said Patrick Kane of USA.

Bonino had the eventual winning goal while O’Reilly was serving an interference penalty. The opening goal of the game by Kreider was while Canada’s Joel Edmundson was in the box for a roughing infraction.  (Edmundson plays for the St. Louis Blues.)

USA captain Patrick Kane and Canada captain Connor McDavid led their teams in scoring during the tournament.  Kane’s assist to Bonino’s goal gave him 20 points — a new USA record and the best individual performance since Canada’s Dany Heatley had 20 points in 2008.  McDavid finished with 17 points, three behind the Canada record by Heatley and the 1990 performance of Steve Yzerman.

USA beat Czech Republic 3-2 in the quarterfinals.  Canada had a 5-4 overtime win over Russia in the quarterfinals.

Award Winners — Players getting awards as selected by the directorate were: Frederik Andersen of Denmark, best goaltender; John Klingberg of Sweden, best defenseman, and Sebastian Aho of Finland, best forward.  The media all-stars were Patrick Kane of USA, most valuable player; Anders Nilsson of Sweden, best goaltender; Adam Larsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson of Sweden, best defensemen, and Rickard Rakell of Sweden, Patrick Kane of USA and Sebastian Aho of Finland, best forwards.

Group A and Group B — Group A in the tournament was Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, France, Austria and Belarus.  In Group B were Finland, USA, Canada, Latvia, Denmark, Germany, Norway and South Korea.

Fifth through Sixteenth Places — Placing 5-8 were Finland, Russia, Czech Republic and Latvia.  The teams placing 9-14 were Slovakia, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway and Austria.  Belarus and South Korea were 15th and 16th.

Top Goal Scorers — Sebastian Aho of Finland (Carolina Hurricanes) scored nine goals to lead the tournament, which took place from May 4-20, 2018 at Copenhagen and Jyske Bank Boxen at Herning, Denmark.  Patrick Kane of USA (Chicago Blackhawks) had eight goals and Cam Atkinson of USA (Columbus Blue Jackets) had seven goals.

Top Goal Tenders — Anders Nilsson of Sweden (Vancouver Canucks) had the best save percentage: 95.40, followed closely by Frederik Andersen of Denmark (Toronto Maple Leafs) (94.38), Igor Shestyorkin of Russia (SKA Saint Petersburg) (94.19) and Elvis Merzlikins of Latvia (HC Lugano) (94.04).

There were 64 matches played and 384 goals scored (average of six per match). The attendance was 520,481 (average of 8,133 per match).

14 Swedish players were on the last 8 teams involved in the Stanley Cup

May 6, 2018

There were 14 players from Sweden who were members of the last eight National Hockey League teams playing in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS — Three Swedes are on Nashville’s team.  They are Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok.  Arvidsson, 24, plays left wing.  He was born in Skelleftea and is paid $4.25 million.  Forsberg, 23, plays left wing.  He was born in Ostervala and is paid $6.0 million.  Jarnkrok, 26, plays center.  He was born in Galve and is paid $1.8 million.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING — Two Swedes are on the Tampa Bay team.  They are Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.  Hedman, 27, plays defense.  He was born in Ornskoldsvik and is paid $8.0 million.  Stralman, 31, plays defense. He was born in Tibro and is paid $4.5 million.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS — Two Swedes are on the Pittsburgh team.  They are Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist. Hagelin, 29, plays left wing.  He was born in Sodertalje and is paid $3.66 million.  Hornqvist, 31, plays right wing. He was born in Sollentuna and is paid $4.75 million.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS — Two Swedes are on the Washington team.  They are Nicklas Backstrom and Christian Djoos.  Backstrom, 30, plays center.  He was born in Gavle and is paid $7.5 million.  Djoos, 23, plays defense.  He was born in Gothenburg and is paid $650,000.

SAN JOSE SHARKS — Two Swedes are on the San Jose team.  They are Melker Karlsson and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson, 27, plays center.  He was born in Lycksele and is paid $2.0 million.  Sorensen, 25, plays left wing.  He was born in Sodertalje and is paid $700,000.

LAS VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS — Two Swedes are on the Las Vegas team. They are William Karlsson and Oscar Lindberg.  Karlsson, 25, plays center.  He was born in Marsta and is paid $1.0 million.  Lindberg, 26, plays center.  He was born in Skelleftea and is paid $1.6 million.

WINNIPEG JETS — One Swede is on the Winnipeg team.  He is Toby Enstrom. Enstrom, 33, plays defense.  He was born in Nordingra and is paid $5.75 million.

BOSTON BRUINS — There are no Swedes on the Boston team.

The highest paid Swedes are Hedman ($8.0 million),  Backstrom ($7.5 million) and Forsberg ($6.0 million). Hedman, 6-6 and 223 pounds, was the No. 2 draft pick in 2009, Backstrom, 6-1 and 210 pounds, was the No. 4 draft pick in 2006 and Forsberg, 6-1 and 205 pounds, was the No. 11 draft pick in 2012.

Two of the highest paid players in the NHL are Sidney Crosby ($10.9 million), a 30-year-old Canadian who plays center for Pittsburgh, and Alexander Ovechkin ($10.0 million), a 32-year-old Russian who plays left wing for Washington.  Crosby, 5-11 and 200 pounds, was the No. 1 draft pick in 2005 and Ovechkin, 6-3 and 235 pounds, was the the No. 1 draft pick in 2004.

A bad start ended Mendelssohn’s chance to be the first European-based horse to win the Kentucky Derby

May 6, 2018

There was a big build-up before the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby as to whether Mendelssohn, based in Ireland, would be the first European-trained horse to win the “Race for the Roses.” Mendelssohn, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by jockey Ryan Moore, was among the favorites to win at Churchill Downs based upon his spectacular 18-1/2 length win at the 1,900 meter (approximately 9.5 furlongs) UAE Derby at Dubai in March — a Grade 2, $2.5 million race, which was Mendelssohn’s first try on dirt.

The closest a European-based horse had come to winning the Kentucky Derby was in 1986 when an English horse, Bold Arrangement, finished second to Ferdinand. “There have been 36 overseas attempts without success since then including Arazi who was eighth as a 4-5 favourite in 1992,” wrote Brian O’Connor in The Irish Times.

Danny Weld, the only trainer based in Europe to ever win an American Classic, predicted that Mendelssohn had a “wonderful chance” to win the Kentucky Derby. (Weld trained Go and Go, which won the 1990 Belmont Stakes.)

“It’s a pretty big call but this is quite doable and I believe he has a great chance to win,” Weld said. “I think he’s Aidan’s best chance of winning the Kentucky Derby and wouldn’t it be great to see it.”

“Even by Aidan O’Brien’s record-breaking standards victor for Mendelssohn . . . would represent a landmark in racing history,” wrote Brian O’Connor in The Irish Times.

A terrible start ended Mendelssohn’s chances. He was bumped out of the gate and was unable to recover in driving rain on a sloppy track. The bad result resulted in a last-place finish in the 20-horse field.

“He just got knocked over coming out of the gate and then got knocked over going in the first bend,” O’Brien said.

“He [was] beat up out of the gate, proceeded to check on the first turn and was never in a good place,” Moore said.  “The race was over for him then.”

“Ryan Moore was slow to stride from stall 14 aboard Mendelssohn and appeared to take a bump as his jockey went inside to try to find a position that gave him a chance to travel and attack,” wrote Greg Wood in The Guardian.  “He ended up buried in the midfield, however, and while Moore did his best to work his way towards the leaders, he accepted three furlongs from home that it was not going to be his day. . . . [A] combination of the torrential rain and his slow start meant he never got a chance to show what he could do.”

Mendelssohn “got slammed badly at the start and ended up at the back of the pack,” wrote Steve Silverman in Bleacher Report. “He was never able to recover.”

Mendelssohn was the second choice behind Justify (5-2 favorite and a half-brother of Mendelssohn), which won 53-1/4 lengths ahead of Mendelssohn’s last place finish. Justify, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by 52-year-old jockey Mike Smith, became the first horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old. (Apollo did it 136 years ago.)  Justify finished 2-1/2 lengths ahead of Good Magic in the 1-1/4 mile race. Audible was a close third.

Smith is the second oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.  Jockey Bill Shoemaker won in 1986 on Ferdinand at age 54.

“Mendelssohn eased to the wire and walked off, 23-3/4 lengths behind Magnum Moon, which finished next to last after entering as another highly regarded contender,” the Associated Press reported.

Mendelssohn, a bay colt, was bred in Kentucky.  His sire was the late Scat Daddy (out of Johannesburg) and he is a half-brother of the retired Beholder, a four-time Eclipse Award winner, and Into Mischief, a multiple graded stakes winner.

Mendelssohn and Beholder “looked so much alike” said Clarkland Farm’s Fred Mitchell, who bred them both.

Mendelssohn was purchased for $3 million at the 2016 Keeneland Yearling Sale by Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor. Mendelssohn posted a modest 1-for-4 record to start his career in Europe but in November 2017 he won on grass at the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, CA. Going into the Kentucky Derby, Mendelssohn was 4-1-0 in seven starts with earnings of more than $1.9 million. Mendelssohn was one of four nominees in 2017 for the title of Champion Two-Year-Old Colt but lost out to U S Navy Flag, who was trained by O’Brien and also owned by Smith, Magnier and Tabor.

 

Penn State won the NCAA wrestling championship for the seventh time in eight years and had four individual champions

March 24, 2018

Penn State narrowly beat Ohio State, 141.5 to 134.5, to win the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championship on March 17, 2018 at Cleveland.  Penn State, coached by Cael Sanderson, had four individual champions (Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Bo Nickal), one runner-up, one fifth place finisher and two seventh place finishers.

“I’m obviously very proud of these guys,” Sanderson said. “I think they put forth a tremendous effort throughout the whole year. . . . And just proud of them and happy for them, more than anything.”

Ohio State had one individual champion (Kyle Snyder), one runner-up, two third and fourth place finishers and one fifth place and sixth place finisher.

Iowa placed third with 97 points.  Michigan and North Carolina State tied for fourth with 80 points.  Iowa and North Carolina State each had two individual champions (Spencer Lee and Michael Macchiavello).  Michigan had two runner-ups.  Other individual champions came from Cornell, Arizona State and South Dakota State (Yianni Diakomihalis, Zahid Valencia and Seth Gross).

Penn State’s Retherford and Ohio State’s Snyder became three-time national champions.  Penn State’s Nickal won his second straight title.  Iowa’s Lee and Cornell’s Diakomihalis became the first pair of freshmen to win titles in the same tournament since 1947.

Oklahoma State, with 34 NCAA team titles, finished tied for 13th, the second lowest in head coach John Smith’s 27 seasons.  Fellow Big 12 members Iowa State and Oklahoma, who have a combined 15 NCAA titles between them, finished 45th and 56th, respectively, both program lows.

All four of Penn State’s national champions will be eligible to wrestle in the 2019 national tournament.

125 Pounds — No. 3 seed Spencer Lee of Iowa beat No. 4 seed Nick Suriano of Rutgers in a 5-1 decision.  Pretournament, Lee was 22-2 and Suriano was 25-1.  No. 1 seed Darian Cruz of Lehigh lost 2-0 to Suriano in the semi-finals.  Lee is a true freshman.  Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State beat Ethan Lizak of Minnesota, 8-6, for third place.  Cruz beat Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern, 7-4, for fifth place.  Cruz, 30-2 going into the tournament, was one of two No. 1 seeds who did not wrestle in the finals.

133 Pounds — No. 1 seed Seth Gross of South Dakota State University beat No. 2 seed Stevan Micic of Michigan in a 13-8 decision. Gross was 29-1 and Micic was 26-3 before the tournament started.  Gross was a runner-up in 2017.  Tariq Wilson of North Carolina State beat Luke Pletcher of Ohio State, 17-8, for third place.

141 Pounds — No 3 seed Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell beat No. 1 seed Bryce Meredith of Wyoming in a 7-4 decision.  Pretournament, Diakomihalis was 34-1 and Meredith was 33-2.  Diakomihalis is a true freshman.  Joey McKenna of Ohio State beat Jaydin Eierman of Missouri, 7-2, for third place.

149 Pounds — No. 1 seed Zain Retherford of Penn State beat No. 15 seed Ronald Perry of Lock Haven in a 6-2 decision.  Retherford was 31-0 and Perry was 32-4 before the start of the tournament.  Retherford finished his career with 94 straight wins and three national titles.  Matthew Kolodzik of Princeton beat Troy Heilmann of North Carolina, 3-2, for third place.  Retherford was last year’s Dan Hodge Trophy winner.  The trophy has been presented since 1995 and is awarded to the most outstanding college wrestler of the year.  This year’s finalists are Retherford, Bo Nickal of Penn State, Seth Gross of South Dakota State and Zahid Valencia of Arizona State.  Penn State’s coach, Cael Sanderson, who is considered to be the greatest NCAA wrestler of all time, won the trophy in 2000, 2001 and 2002 when he wrestled for Iowa State.

157 Pounds — No. 3 seed Jason Nolf of Penn State beat No. 1 seed Hayden Hidlay of North Carolina State in a 6-2 decision.  Pretournament, Nolf and Hidlay were each 26-1.  Tyler Berger of Nebraska took third place over Michael Kemerer of Iowa after Kemerer was injured.

165 Pounds — No. 3 seed Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State beat No. 1 seed Isaiah Martinez of Illinois in a 6-1 decision.  Joseph was 25-2 and Martinez was 18-1 before the tournament started.  It was the second year in a row that Joseph beat Martinez in the finals.  Martinez won the championship as a freshman and sophomore and had only three career losses.  Evan Wick of Wisconsin pinned Chance Marsteller of Lock Haven for third place.

174 Pounds — No. 1 seed Zahid Valencia of Arizona State beat No. 2 seed Mark Hall of Penn State in an 8-2 decision.  Valencia was 32-0 and Hall was 32-1 pretournament.  Myles Amine of Mchigan beat Daniel Lewis of Missouri, 4-2, for third place.

184 Pounds — No. 1 seed Bo Nickal of Penn State beat No. 2 seed Myles Martin of Ohio State with a fall at 2:30.  Nickal was 31-0 and Martin was 31-3 before the start of the tournament.  Nickal lost to Martin in the 2016 finals. Emory Parker of Illinois beat Taylor Venz of Nebraska, 8-1, for third place.

197 Pounds — No. 4 seed Michael Macchiavello of North Carolina State beat No. 3 seed Jared Haught of Virginia Tech in a 3-1 decision. (Macchiavello needed a takedown in the final 16 seconds to win.)  Pretournament, Macchiavello was 22-3 and Haught was 30-3.  No. 1 seed Kollin Moore of Ohio State lost to Kyle Conel of Kent State by a fall in the quarter finals.  Conel also beat Moore a second time, 5-3, to finish third.  Moore, 27-4 before the start of the tournament, was one of two No. 1 seeds who did not wrestle in the finals.

285 Pounds — No. 1 seed Kyle Snyder of Ohio State beat No. 2 seed Adam Coon of Michigan in a 3-2 decision.  Snyder was 17-1 and Coon was 29-2 going into the tournament.  Snyder won the Olympic Gold Medal in 2016 and is also a world champion.  During the regular season, Coon beat Snyder in a dual meet and Snyder won the Big Ten final.   Snyder won two other national titles and was runner-up one year.  Amar Dhesi of Oregon State pinned Jacob Kasper of Duke for third place.

The Cleveland tournament broke NCAA records for attendance with a six-session total of 113,740 including a championship round attendance of 19,776, which was a new record.

The 2019 championships will be held at Pittsburgh.

 

The attempted murders of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, due to poisoning by a nerve agent

March 10, 2018

On Sunday, March 4, 2018, at about 4:15 p.m., Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, were found unconscious on a park bench at Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.  They were poisoned by some kind of nerve agent.  An investigation is underway into their attempted murder.  A policeman, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, became ill while attending the victims.

As of March 10, Mr. Skripal, 66, and Ms. Skripal, 33, were said to be in “critical but stable condition” at Salisbury District Hospital.  Mr. Bailey was said to be “seriously ill” but awake and engaging with his family.

Before Mr. and Ms. Skripal were found unconscious they were together about 1:40 p.m. at Bishop’s Mill pub having a drink and about 2:20 p.m. at Zizzi, an Italian restaurant.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd described the poisonings as brazen, reckless and cruel and promised to “act without hesitation as the facts become clearer.”  Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, head of counter-terrorism operations, said the Skripals had been “targeted specifically.”

The UK accused Russia as being responsible for the poisonings.  Russia denied the accusations.

“Sooner or later these unsubstantiated allegations will have to be answered for, either backed up with appropriate evidence or apologized for,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin.

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, said the probable sources of the nerve agent could be Great Britain itself as well as Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Sweden and the United States.  Ms. Zakharova said these countries have been researching toxic substances.

More than 250 counter-terrorism are involved in the investigation. About 180 military personnel were deployed to help remove vehicles and objects which may have been contaminated.

Mr. Skripal was once convicted by the Russian government of passing secrets to M16.  After being imprisoned he was given refuge in the United Kingdom as part of a “spy swap.”  UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the UK will respond “robustly” if Moscow is found to be behind the incident.  Russia has denied any involvement.  The country’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Russia was willing to assist in the investigation but the UK had did not ask them to assist.  He dismissed rumors of Russia’s involvement as “hysteria” and “propaganda.”

Mr. Skripal was born in Kaliningrad in 1951.  He joined the elite Soviet airborne troop known as the Desantniki.  In 1979, Mr. Skripal was one of the first Soviet troops to go into Afghanistan. He later graduated from the Diplomatic Military Academy in Moscow and joined the GRU — Russia’s military intelligence agency.  He had two postings in Europe as a spy in the 1980s and the 1990s.  In 1999 or 2000 he quit the GRU allegedly because he was upset with corruption. He then was believed to have gone to work for Boris Gromov, who was the last commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan.  Mr. Skripal then settled into normal family life.  He had married a woman named Liudmila, his teenage sweetheart, in June 1972. A son, Alexander (known as Sasha) was born in 1974 and a daughter, Yulia, was born in 1984.

The Skripals’ family life was disrupted in December 2004, when Mr. Skripal was arrested for spying.  He was swiftly convicted in a trial that was closed to media and was sentenced to 13 years in a labor camp but spent most of his sentence in Mordovia.

Mr. Skripal was released from prison in July 2010 as part of a major spy swap — he was one of four spies released by Russia for 10 Russian agents imprisoned in the UK.  Mr. Skripal was then reunited with his wife.  They decided to make their home in Salisbury.  In 2011, Liudmila was diagnosed with cancer and she died on Oct. 23, 2012.  In July 2017, son Sasha died at age 43 in St. Petersburg while on a holiday with his girlfriend.  Sasha’s death was somewhat suspicious.  It was said that he died of sudden liver failure.

Ms. Skripal was a top student at school and attended Russian State University for the Humanities, where she studied geography.  After graduation from the university, she went to work at Nike’s Moscow branch, leaving in 2010.  After her father was released from prison she lived in England and worked at the Holiday Inn in Southampton.  She is fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.  She returned to Moscow in 2014 but would regularly visit her father in England.  Ms. Skripal arrived in London on March 3, 2018 on a flight from Moscow.

UPDATE: Sergei Skripal was discharged from the hospital in Salisbury, it was announced by the hospital on May 18, 2018.  His daughter, Yulia, was released from the hospital the previous month.  Detectives with London’s Metropolitan Police believe the Skripals first came into contact with a nerve agent at Mr. Skripal’s home.

“I think that if a military-grade poisonous substance was used, as our British colleagues claim, this person would’ve died right there of the spot,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin.  “A military-grade poisonous substance is so powerful that the person dies within seconds or minutes.”

Mr. Putin added: “We repeatedly offered UK authorities our help, and we asked to be given access to the investigation, but there is no response.  Our offer stands.”

Russia has consistently denied allegations that it was behind the poisoning.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has confirmed the UK’s findings that the Novichok was used in the attack.  Novichok agents act by inhibiting the enzyme cholinesterase.  It has been engineered to be undetectable by standard detection equipment and to defeat standard chemical protective gear.  Novichok agents may be dispersed as an ultra-fine powder as opposed to a gas or a vapor.  It is reported to be 5-8 times more lethal than VX nerve agent and effects are rapid, usually within 30 seconds to two minutes.

USS Atule (SS-403): a World War II submarine that made four war patrols

March 4, 2018

USS Atule (SS-403) was a World War II submarine.  Atule is special to me because my Father, John Robert Baker (1924-2018), served as a sailor (radioman) on this submarine during the war.  Atule (also referred to in an endearing manner as “O’Toole”) earned four battle stars for her World War II service.

Atule was a Balao-class diesel-electric submarine.  She was built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine, launched on March 6, 1944 and commissioned on June 21, 1944.  Atule was 311 feet long, 27 feet wide, displaced 1,526 tons and had a range of 11,000 nautical miles.

World War II submarines were basically surface ships that could travel underwater for a limited time. Diesel engines gave them high surface speed and long range, but speed and range were severely reduced underwater, where they relied on electric motors powered by relatively short-lived batteries.  Recharging the storage batteries meant surfacing to run the air-breathing diesels. Even combat patrols routinely involved 90 per cent or more surface operations.

Commanding Officer Jason Mauer — There were 10 officers and 70 enlisted sailors on Atule.  John “Jason” H. Mauer (1912-2009), a 1935 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, was the commander of Atule from 1944-1947.  (He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1963.)  The United States Pacific Fleet awarded him the Navy Cross.  The citation, signed by C.W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral, United States Navy, stated:

“The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to John H. Mauer, Commander, U.S. Navy, for gallantry and intrepidity and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. ATULE (SS-403), on the FIRST War Patrol of that submarine during the period of 9 October 1944 to 11 December 1944, in enemy controlled waters of the Luzon Strait of the Philippine Islands. Commander Maurer launched well-planned attacks which resulting in sinking enemy ships totaling 25,000 tons.  Through his experience and sound judgment Commander Mauer brought his ship safely back to port.  His conduct throughout was an inspiration to his officers and men and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Commander Mauer was also awarded two Silver Stars: one while serving as Executive Officer of the USS Harder (SS-257), a Gato-class submarine, and one for his service as commander of Atule.

After Atule was commissioned she had a month of shakedown training before departing New London, Conn., and heading south to join the action in the Pacific.  There was a 15-day stopover at the Fleet Sound School in Key West, Fla.  Atule transited the Panama Canal and steamed to Pearl Harbor with USS Jallao (SS-368), a Balao-class submarine.

First War Patrol — On Oct. 9, 1944, Atule departed Pearl Harbor on her first war patrol in company with USS Pintado (SS-387), a Balao-class submarine, and Jallao.  The three submarines formed a “wolf pack.” On Oct. 11, 1944, the pack was joined by USS Plaice (SS-390), a Balao-class submarine, and USS Thresher (SS-200), a Tambor-class submarine. On Oct. 21, 1944, the pack arrived at Tanapag Harbor, Saipan Island.

On Oct. 25, 1944, the pack made its first score when Jallao sunk the Japanese light cruiser Tama (5,200 tons, commissioned 1921).  Three torpedoes hit Tama, breaking the ship in two. The cruiser sunk within minutes with all hands. The pack then set course for their patrol sectors in Luzon Strait and the South China Sea.

On Nov. 1, 1944, Atule encountered the Japanese transport ship Asama Maru (16,975 tons, built 1929) in Luzon Strait about 100 miles south of Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands).  After Atule fired six torpedoes Asama Maru was sent to the bottom of the ocean.  Asama Maru was escorted by the Japanese torpedo boat Sagi and minesweepers W-17 and W-18.  Atule was forced to dive to avoid the escort ships.  Nine depth charges exploded in the vicinity of Atule.

My Father wrote:

“Several escorts accompanied [Asama Maru] so we promptly submerged. Soon they started depth charging, to the detriment of the swimming survivors, I’m sure, but they never came very close to us.  . . . The enemy ships probably carried 3,000 to 5,000 troops, and the sound of that huge ship breaking up as she sank into the depths will never be forgotten.”

Another account of Commander Mauer and the sinking of Asama Maru stated:

“There are words to describe my reaction to duty on Atule but I don’t know them. I was elated to be back aboard a submarine and I had lucked out on a great one.  Her skipper, Commander John H. “Jason” Mauer, Naval Academy ’35, had a fine reputation. A Washingtonian, his dad was a professor of international law at Georgetown University. Atule was Jason’s first command; previously he had served with the distinguished Samuel D. Dealey in the Harder and helped compile an enviable record.  Dealey had been lost when Harder was sunk by a minesweeper on 24 August 1944 after sinking sixteen ships totaling fifty-four thousand tons, including four destroyers and two frigates. Mauer had departed not long before that date for command of Atule, a new construction boat from Portsmouth, named for a Hawaiian fish. I soon met the department heads in “the Fighting “O’Toole,” the engineer, Lt. Cmdr. Sidney W. Thaxter, a prominent New England attorney; gunnery, torpedoes and TDC operator Lt. Hollis F. “Tony” Church, another New Englander and an engineer in civil life; Lt. W. Hudson, a Texan; and Lts. (j.g.) Charles N. Pettit, an Iowan, Fred A. Oyhus from Montana, and Glenn O. Olson, an Oklahoma oilman. Atule was in the latter stages of her first war patrol during which she sank the pride of the Japanese merchant service, the huge Asama Maru of 16,975 tons, on her maiden attack, plus a freighter and two destroyers, totaling 26,000 tons.”

(Source: Paul R. Schratz, Submarine Commander: A Story of World War II and Korea (Univ. Press of Kentucky — 1988) at p. 138.)

Asama Maru was originally built as a Japanese ocean liner for passenger travel between Japan and the west coast of the United States.  In 1941, before the start of the Pacific War, the ship was called into Japanese Navy service as a troop ship.

Atule continued her patrol covering the Hong Kong-Manila traffic lane in the South China Sea.  On Nov. 3, 1944, Pintado sunk the Minekaze-class Japanese destroyer Akikaze (1,367 tons, built 1920), which was escorting aircraft carrier Jun’yo and cruiser Kiso toward Brunei.  Akikaze sank with all hands. It was said that Akikaze intercepted the torpedoes to save the aircraft carrier.  There was a tremendous explosion that was seen and heard on board Atule.  During days thereafter Atule was forced to zigzag and run to evade Japanese airplanes equipped with radar and magnetic detection devices.  The airplanes dropped 14 depth charges but none came close to Atule.  However, USS Halibut (SS-232), a Gato-class submarine, was severely damaged.

Atule then began patrolling her assigned scouting station west of Formosa. On Nov. 20, 1944, Atule sunk a vessel identified as Minesweeper W-38 (648 tons, built 1944). It was reported:

“After midnight, Cdr (later Rear Admiral/COMSUBPAC) John H. Mauer’s  (USNA ’35) USS ATULE’s (SS-403) SJ radar picks up a show moving vessel. Mauer moves in to attack on the surface, but the target is protected by a rain squall.  USS ATULE continues tracking the target. At about 0500, the target is silhouetted against a clear horizon. Mauer fires four torpedoes. The third torpedo hits below the minesweeper’s stack. Less than three minutes later, W-38 sinks by the bow.  Her depth charges explode as she goes under . . . .”

(Source: http://www.combinedfleet.com — IJN Minesweeper W-38.)

My Father wrote:

“At around 5 a.m. we fired four fish from our stern tubes. The first struck with a terrific explosion at about his forward stack.  Two and one-half minutes later his stern reared straight up and he slid under.  His depth charges kept going off as he plunged deeper and deeper into the depths.  No survivors.”

On Nov. 24, 1944, Atule sank two more Japanese war vessels.  My Father wrote:

“On the afternoon of November 24, 1944, Atule detected echo ranging on a bearing of 200 degrees True.  By 1400 we had four ships in sight and we went to battle stations torpedo. This would be our third attack on this patrol. Tracking showed this group of four ships to consist of a large transport with a destroyer covering the starboard bow, a patrol craft on the port bow and another destroyer trailing astern. . . . We eased in on the starboard flank jockeying for a good set-up at the transport and the destroyer. Flat, calm water for a change, and still they didn’t spot us!  After more careful tracking, Captain Maurer announced: ‘The near D.D. (destroyer) and the transport overlap. Commence shooting.’ . . . Torpedoes three and four hit the destroyer, which literally exploded into a funeral pyre. Nothing was left but fuel oil burning on the water. A few more seconds and # two hit the big transport followed by # seven.  The transport stopped dead in the water mortally wounded and then went under in less than 10 minutes.  This was a classic shot, i.e., two successive targets destroyed in one barrage.  The remaining Japanese escorts made a rapid search, fired a sporadic burst of gunfire, the dropped several depth charges, but in the wrong area.  As it turned out, we weren’t able to get a shot at them, so as we lost radar contact we secured from battle stations.  I felt elated, for on our very first patrol we seemed to be having great success.”

“The destroyer exploded with a blast that shook Atule like a terrier shaking a rat,” the patrol report stated. “All that was left of her was oil burning on the water.” [NOTE — The patrol report stated that the attack took place on Nov. 25, 1944.]

Atule’s final attack during her first war patrol was on Nov. 27, 1944.  Atule destroyed a Japanese transport ship of about 5,000 to 7,000 tons anchored between Dequey and Ibuhos Islands, Philippines.

“Fired four bow torpedoes,” Atule’s patrol report said.  “All hit.  His port side was almost entirely blown away. The ship burned like a torch with frequent violent oil and ammunition explosions.”

My Father wrote:

“When we approached, we identified a ship anchored at the northern end of the channel between the islands.  Four shots remained in the bow tubes on this patrol and we would not be denied. . . . Conditions were perfect and all torpedoes hit, one after another, and a gigantic fire erupted. She was aflame from bow to stern and heeled over as the stern settled to the bottom.  We turned 180 degrees and headed away at full speed. . . . The target burned for over an hour and lit up the sky with explosions on six different occasions. Finally, when we were about 18 miles away came the last and most brilliant explosion which blew the charred remains to bits. I was one of the crew allowed to come to the bridge one at a time to take a look at our accomplishment.”

Atule’s first war patrol ended on Dec. 11, 1944 at Majuro, where she was refitted by Submarine Division 142 and USS Bushnell (AS 15), a submarine tender.

My Father wrote:

“Coming to a rest camp area was a very special occasion for submarines after patrols. First of all, for the obvious reason — we had made it back safely — but also because of the warm welcome we received.  Immediately upon securing our lines we would become the recipients of boxes of fresh fruit — oranges and apples . . . . Most important of all, we were given our accumulated mail. The whole crew would be spread at topside, sitting everywhere, eating fresh fruit and reading all the precious mail from home — always in chronological order so we could keep events in proper perspective.”

Second War Patrol — On Jan. 6, 1945, Atule departed from Majuro for her second war patrol.  She was ordered to patrol the Yellow Sea.  She was accompanied by USS Spadefish (SS-411), USS Bang (SS-385) and USS Devilfish (SS-292). The pack later included USS Spearfish (SS-190) and USS Pompon (SS-267).

On Jan. 24, 1945, Atule torpedoed and sank Japanese merchant cargo ship Daiman Maru No. 1 (6,888 tons, built 1944) in the Yellow Sea.  Atule’s patrol report stated:

“Watched two torpedoes hit the target.  This target . . . looked brand new (which was correct, she was on her maiden voyage).  The crew started to abandon ship.  . . . The ship broke in half and the after part soon sank.”  Another patrol report stated:

“The target appeared to be a brand new engines-aft freighter. Set the depth at three feet and fired four torpedoes. The first fish struck abreast of his stack and the second near his after mast. The ship rapidly settled stern first as the crew quickly manner two motor life boats (one on each side). Just as the life boats cleared, the damaged rear section broke off, taking the engine room with it. The forward half popped up like a cork, floating higher than ever.”

My Father wrote about being fired on after attacking the freighter:

“About this time I heard that one of our lookouts shouted ‘Look, they’re sending blinker signals to us.’  Captain Jack answered: ‘Signals, hell! He’s firing at us with his 40 mm cannon!’ So we dove and fired a steam torpedo at him.  We missed.  (Torpedo went under his bow.) We had had shells exploding on either side of us, so we hastily left the immediate area and withdrew to decide our next move.”

On Jan. 28, 1945, Pompon and Spadefish reported a convoy of Japanese war vessels.  Spadefish sunk one of the ships.  “At 0255 we observed a terrific explosion with a column of water high in the air,” Atule’s patrol report stated. “Exchanged calls with Spadefish as she was standing by her victim, a ship observed to be burning from bow to stern.”

My Father wrote:

“Next, we commence criss-crossing the known Shanghai to the Empire shipping routes.  Our time will be spent patrolling all areas where enemy shipping might be expected. We are now en route to a patrol station east of Hangchow Bay (what a name) and sighted our first floating mine about 30 miles southwest of Socotro Rock.  In short order we sink five mines with our 30 caliber machine gun. The sixth mine detonates.  Contact mines are about five feet or so across and have several horns sticking out of their perimeters. Theoretically, when a horn is stuck and broken, the mine explodes its hundreds of pounds of explosives.  These mines were usually moored to the bottom at preset depths at the end of a cable attached to an anchor.  The areas where they were sewn were very often just where submarines were likely to travel.  The U.S. has been able to determine that seven of the 52 boats were destroyed by mines.  Only eight men were survivors of the USS Flier (SS-250).  On all the other boats all hands were lost.”

Atule actually struck a mine on Jan. 30, 1945.  Atule’s log stated:

“Floating mine bounced disconcertingly down the port side of the ship, plainly heard by the bridge watch and officers seated in the wardroom. . . . Thankfully this was another dud Japanese mine. Not all of them exploded when they were disturbed.”

On Feb. 7, 1945, nine depth charges in quick succession were dropped near Atule by unseen Japanese aircraft.  Atule’s patrol report stated: “These were not close enough to bother us, but weren’t so far as to have been directed at anyone else.”

On Feb. 18, 1945, en route to Daikokuzan to intercept a new battleship position, Atule struck another mine.  Atule’s patrol report stated: “Struck mine with a jar that turned out a good percentage of ship’s complement. It first hit near the stem, then it bounced several times down the side, busily exploring our limber holes with its horns.”

At a submarine convention years later at Albuquerque, N.M., Captain Jack mentioned this harrowing occurrence to the wives of submariners attending the convention and told them “they should appreciate having us,” my Father wrote.

Atule’s second war patrol ended on March 7, 1945 at Midway.  She was refitted by Submarine Division 322 and USS Pelias (AS 14), a submarine tender.  Atule was also dry docked while being refitted.

My Father wrote:

“Ah, rest camp. We’re certainly ready for it. The ship we sank in the Yellow Sea assured that we would be credited as having had a ‘successful patrol.’ This patrol . . . destroyed a total of 28 mines.  We were lucky with the last one.”

Third War Patrol — On April 2, 1945, Atule departed from Midway for her third war patrol.  She was ordered to patrol south of Honshu, Japan.  On May 5, 1945, Atule picked up a Japanese naval observer from a crashed Japanese aircraft.

On May 17, 1945, Atule departed the area for Pearl Harbor by way of Midway.  Atule ended its third war patrol on May 30, 1945, when it arrived at Pearl Harbor.  At Pearl Harbor she was refitted by Submarine Division 181 and the USS Euryale (AS 22), a submarine tender.  Atule was also dry docked while being refitted.

Fourth War Patrol — Atule began her fourth and final war patrol on July 3, 1945, when she departed Pearl Harbor.  She was ordered to patrol east of Honshu and Hokkaido. Atule was part of a pack that also included USS Gato (SS-212) and USS Archerfish (SS-311). On Aug. 13, 1945, Atule torpedoed and sank the Japanese frigate Kaibokan 6 (740 tons, built 1944) and torpedoed and damaged the Japanese frigate Kaibokan 16 (740 tons, built 1944) east of Hokkaido, Japan. (Kaibokan means “sea defense ship.”)  During this encounter Atule was subjected to terrific blasts from exploding depth charges.

On Aug. 15, 1945, while Atule was in her patrol area in Empire waters east of Honshu, news was received of Japan’s surrender.  Atule then headed to Pearl Harbor via Midway.  Atule ended her fourth war patrol upon arrival at Pearl Harbor on Aug. 25, 1945.  Five days later she departed Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal bound for New London, Conn.

Record of the Submarine Service — During World War II, the United States Submarine Service lost 52 submarines, 374 officers and 3,131 enlisted men.  (One out of 5.54 submarines in the fleet were lost.) Those personnel losses represented 16% of the officer and 13% of the enlisted operational personnel.  The loss rate was the highest among men and ships of any United States Navy unit.  Less than two percent of American sailors served in submarines, yet that small percentage of men and their boats sank 214 Japanese warships.  This included one battleships (Kongo) six aircraft carriers (Chuyo, Shinano, Shinyo, Shokaku, Taiho and Unyo), eight light cruisers, 43 destroyers, 23 large submarines and 1,178 merchant ships of more than 500 tons.  In all, U.S. submarines sank more than 55% of all Japanese ships sunk — more than surface ships, Navy air and the U.S. Army Air Corps combined.

Sinking of the Battleship Kongo — The battleship Kongo was sunk on Nov. 21, 1944 in the Formosa Strait by USS Sealion (SS-315).  (Kongo means “indestructible” in Japanese.)  The sinking of Kongo was reported in an article titled “USS Sealion Attacks and Sinks Battleship Kongo” in World War II Today.  (Source: http://ww2today.com/21-november-1944-uss-sealion-attacks-and-sinks-battleship-kongo.)  The article stated:

“Early on 21st November off Formosa, now Taiwan, the USS Sealion picked up such strong radar signals that at first they were thought to be bouncing off land.  They were then revealed to be a group of Japanese battleships and battle cruisers, including, as it turned out, the IJN ‘Indestructible’ Kongo. . . . In fact two torpedoes from the first salvo had hit the Kongo and a third torpedo had passed beyond her and hit the destroyer IJN “Wind of the Sea” Urakaze, causing a catastrophic explosion which sunk her with all hands.  With two compartments flooded the Kongo became to lose speed. [Commander] Eli Reich thought he had lost his opportunity, believing he had set his torpedoes at the wrong depth for a battleship. . . . Before Sealion had a chance to make another attack Kongo had blown up.  There were just 237 survivors from a crew of over 1,400.”

Sinking of the Aircraft Carrier Shinano — The aircraft carrier Shinano, the world’s largest aircraft carrier at the time at 72,000 tons, was sunk on Nov. 29, 1944 about 100 miles off the Japanese coast by USS Archerfish (SS-311).  Shinano is the largest warship ever to be sunk by a submarine.  The sinking of Shinano was reported in an article titled “Japan’s greatest aircraft carrier was sank by a tiny sub” by Logan Nye.  The article stated:

“The Shinano spotted the Archerfish following it and probably suspecting that the sub was one member of a wolf pack, began zig-zagging across the water to avoid shots from other subs. This was a mistake.  The Archerfish was alone and wouldn’t have been able to catch the Shinano if it had fled or dispatched one of its destroyers to hunt the sub. Instead, the carrier’s evasive maneuvers allowed the sub to slowly get in range and launch a spread of 6 torpedoes over 40 seconds.  Four of them smashed the Shinano just above the carrier’s thick anti-torpedo protections.  The Japanese destroyers finally turned to fight and the Archerfish was forced to dive to avoid the depth charges that followed. The torpedo damage to the Shinano caused it to slowly list. The Japanese captain attempted to flood the opposite side to keep the ship level, but the ship had rolled too far and the water inlets were exposed to the air.  Unable to correct the list, the captain gave the order to abandon ship.  It rolled and sank a few hours later.  The Archerfish was originally credited with sinking a light carrier. The Shinano’s silhouette was unique, and U.S. naval intelligence had to make its best guess as to what sank. After the war, the Japanese acknowledged the battle and alerted the U.S. to the size of the ship they sank.”

(Source: https://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/japans-greatest-aircraft-carrier-was-sank-by-a-tiny-sub.)

There were 465 Commanding Officers if submarines during World War II.  They made 1,474 war patrols for an average of 3.2 war patrols for each Commanding Officer.   The total number of submarine sailors was about 30,000.  About 16,000 of these made war patrols. Sailors who were killed aboard a submarine are said to be “On Eternal Patrol.”

Of the 52 submarines lost during World War II, the first was USS Sealion (SS-195) on Dec. 10, 1941 (scuttled following irreparable damage in an air attack) and the last was USS Bullhead (SS-332) on Aug. 6, 1945 (sunk by Japanese aircraft).

Vice Admiral C. A. Lockwood, Jr., Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (1943-1946) said during a speech in Cleveland on Navy Day 1945:

“To those whose contribution meant the loss of sons, brothers, or husbands in this war, I pay my most humble respect and extend my deepest sympathy. As to the 374 officers and 3,131 men of the Submarine Force who gave their lives in the winning of this war, I can assure you that they went down fighting and that their brothers who survived them took a grim toll of our savage enemy to avenge their deaths.  May God rest their gallant souls.”

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz prepared a dedication stating:

“We, who survived World War II and were privileged to rejoin our loved ones at home, salute those gallant officers and men of our submarines who lost their lives in that long struggle. We shall never forget that it was our submariners that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds.”

Atules’s History after World War II — On July 4, 1946, Atule became a member of Operation Nanook, a mission to establish advanced weather stations in the Arctic regions and to aid in the planning and execution of more extensive naval operations in polar and sub-polar regions. Atule later was involved in Navy and NATO operations in various areas including the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, South America and the Gulf of Mexico.

Atule was decommissioned on April 6, 1970.  In 1974 Atule was sold to Peru and renamed Pacocha (SS-48) as part of the Peruvian Navy.  On Aug. 26, 1988, Pacocha was on its way to the port of El Callao, the chief seaport of Peru.  Pacocha was accidentally rammed by a 412-ton Japanese tuna fishing trawler, No. 8 Kiowa Maru, causing the submarine to sink in 110-feet of water.  There were 44 survivors out of a crew of 52.  Twenty-two sailors jumped into the water as the submarine sank and were rescued. Seven of the crew members died (including Capt. Daniel Nieva Rodriguez) when the submarine sank and an eighth crew member later died from an embolism at a hospital.  Divers freed 23 sailors who were trapped in the submarine almost 24 hours after it sunk.  Capt. Rodriguez died when he left the cabin to close an outside hatch in a desperate effort to save his crew and then became trapped in an outer compartment that filled with water. “I want to point out the bravery of Capt. Nieva,” said Peruvian President Alan Garcia. “I want to stress the bravery of an officer who after leaving the ship through a hatch went back to rescue his mates.”   A documentary film about the occurrence titled “Miracle on the Pacocha” was released in 2007.

Gunther Rall: the third most successful fighter ace in history

January 21, 2018

Gunther Rall, a German Lieutenant-General (Generalleutnant), was the third most successful fighter ace in history. During World War II, Lt. Gen. Rall flew 621 combat missions and shot down 275 enemy aircraft.  He was shot down eight times and was wounded three times.

Lt. Gen. Rall participated in aerial battles over France, Great Britain, Crete, the Eastern Front and the final defense of Germany.  The majority of Lt. Gen. Rall’s 275 victories were achieved against Russian aircraft on the Eastern Front.  Lt. Gen. Rall primarily flew the Messerschmitt 109.  During the closing months of the war he also flew the FW-190 and the ME-262 jet fighter.  (He did not fly the ME-262 in combat.)

In August 1941, Lt. Gen. Rall was promoted to Oberleutnant — the highest lieutenant officer rank in the Germany armed forces.  In April 1943 he was promoted to Hauptmann — considered a captain when used as a German officer’s rank.  He became a pilot in the West German Air Force in 1956.  From 1971-1974 he served as Inspector of the West German Air Force.

Lt. Gen. Rall initially joined the German infantry in July 1936 but in 1938 he decided to become an air force officer.  “I went to the air force and started flying in 1938 in Neubiberg, which is a suburb of Munich,” Lt. Gen. Rall said in an interview. “In 1939 I finally graduated training as a fighter pilot on a base east of Berlin and was transferred to Jagdgeschwader (fighter wing) JG-52 [of the Luftwaffe].”

Source: Aviation History: Interview with World War II Luftwaffe Ace Gunther Rall — History Net (hereafter History Net interview): http://www.historynet.com/aviation-history-interview-with-world-war-ii-luftwaffe-ace-gunther-rall.htm.  The article was written by Colin Heaton and originally appeared in the Sept. 1996 issue of World War II magazine.

His first combat was during the Battle of France.

“At the beginning of the war I was with this wing [JG-52], and my first contact with the enemy was in May 1940.  This was over France,” he said in an interview.

Source: History Net Interview.

During May 1940, he shot down his first enemy aircraft: a French Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighter.  With the fall of France, Lt. Gen. Rall’s unit moved to Calais.

Lt. Rall’s shot down three enemy aircraft during Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front during June 1941.  By Nov. 28, 1941, Lt. Gen. Rall scored his 37th victory. But on that same day his aircraft was shot down.

“A Russian came in behind me.  He shot my engine dead and it was over Russian territory, so I certainly moved and turned trying to reach the German lines — not a solid line, but I saw some German tanks. I was flying westward, and I tried to make a belly landing, but I saw where I was going to touch down, in what they call a baikal. . . . I bellied in and crashed on the other side.  That was the last I knew, as I saw this wall coming against me, and in the big bang I was knocked out.”

Source: History Net Interview.

He was rescued by a German tank crew and then hospitalized with three fractures in his spine.  During his treatment at a hospital in Vienna he met Dr. Hertha Schon, whom he later married in 1943.

Lt. Gen. Rall returned to battle in August 1942.  From August to November 1943, Lt. Gen. Rall shot down 38 enemy aircraft — bringing his total to 101.  On Sept. 3, 1942, Lt. Gen. Rall was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.  On Oct. 22, 1942, Lt. Gen. Rall shot down his 100th enemy aircraft.  On Nov. 26, 1942, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.  The award was personally made by Adolf Hitler.

On Aug. 29, 1943, Lt. Gen. Rall scored his 200th victory during his 555th mission.  On Sept. 12, 1943, the Fuhrer awarded him the Swords to his Knight’s Cross.  During 1943, Lt. Gen. Rall shot down more than 40 Soviet aircraft.

On May 12, 1944, Lt. Gen. Rall was shot down by a pair of P-47 Thunderbolt operated by the 56th Operation Group of the United States Air Force.  His left thumb was shot off.  He suffered a severe infection and was hospitalized until November 1944.

“I was wounded three times, but I was shot down about eight times. I bellied in between the front lines, I jumped out and was picked up by Germans in tanks and so on. I was always lucky, except I was seriously wounded three times.  The first time it was my back.  I was then shot and hit right in the face and in my hand, and the third time I jumped out and a P-47 Thunderbolt shot my left thumb off.”

Source: History Net Interview.

Lt. Gen. Rall commanded JG 300 operating out of Salzburg from February 1945 until the end of the war, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans.  (He flew his 621st and final mission during the end of April 1945.)

“The Americans took me back to Salzburg and put me in prison, Lt. Gen. Rall said. “From Salzburg to Neu Ulm, then to Heilbronn, and there the CIC [Counter Intelligence Corps] saw me. They knew my name and said all air force officers should report, and they took me very quickly to interrogation.  Then seven of us were taken to England.”

Source: History Net Interview.

After being freed Lt. Gen. Rall went to work in the civilian world.  When the Luftwaffe was re-formed in 1956, he joined and was involved in the F-104 program.  Lt. Gen. Rall was later a German military liaison to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

“My decision in 1956 to help establish a new German Air Force, to work for NATO and its Allies was driven by my deep conviction that based on the experiences of the past only NATO could help lead Germany back to honor by joining with its democratic countries,” Lt. Gen. Rall said in an interview.  “If I could help to rehabilitate our reputation then I decided I would give the rest of my life to it.”

Source: Jill Armadio, Gunther Rall: A Memoir, Luftwafe Ace and NATO General (Tangmere Productions — 2d ed. 2003). (Hereafter Armadio biography.)

“The Third Reich trained 30,000 pilots.  Ten thousand survived the war.  One-third.  This is the highest loss rate along with the U-boat sailors,” Lt. Gen. Rall said in an interview.

Source: Generalleutnant Gunther Rall (Telegraph — Oct. 11, 2009).

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/air-force-obituaries/6299837/Generalleutnant-Gnther-Rall.html

“The highest attrition rate for all combat units in the war or traits were submarines,” Lt. Gen. Rall said during a speech in Finland.  “And right next to the submarines were the fighter pilots. In every mission from mid 44 onwards, we knew that every second pilot wouldn’t come back.”

Source: Lecture by Lt. Gen. Rall arranged by the Aviation Museum Society, Finland (June 2003). Transcription at http://www.virtualpilots.fi:WW2History-GuntherRallEnglish.html.

Lt. Gen. Rall, the son of a merchant, was born on March 10, 1981 at Gaggenau, a small town in the Black Forest of Germany.  His family moved to Stuttgart when he was three-years-old.  He was brought up and educated in Stuttgart.  He died at age 91 on Oct. 4, 2009 at Bad Reichenhall in Upper Bavaria, Germany.  When he died he was the longest living top German ace.

Source: Armadio Biography.

In 2004, Lt. Gen. Rall wrote an autobiography titled Mein Flubuch (My Logbook). The book was published in English as My Logbook: Reminiscences 1938-2006 (2006). (A new book sells from $1,499 and used books sell from $382 on Amazon.)  Another book on the career of Lt. Gen. Rall, written by Jill Armadio, is titled Gunther Rall: A Memoir, Luftwaffe Ace & NATO General (Tangmere Productions — 2d ed. 2003).

VIDEO INTERVIEW OF GUNTHER RALL (2:18)

Major Walter “Nowi” Nowotny: Super ace during World War II

December 24, 2017

NOWOTNY.FW190.jpg

NOWOTNY’S FW 190A4 OF JG54 — By Ron Cole

Major Walter “Nowi” Nowotny was a “super ace” in aerial combat during World War II.

Nowotny was born on December 7, 1920 in Gmund in Lower Austria.  On November 8, 1944 — less than one month short of his 24th birthday — Nowotny was killed in combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters.

During Nowotny’s military career, Nowotny was credited with 442 flying missions and 258 victories in aerial combat.  Nowotny also had 50 unconfirmed victories. He flew the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the world’s first jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262.  Nowotny recorded 255 of his victories over the Eastern Front and three victories over the Western Front.  All three of Nowotny’s victories over the Western Front were while flying the Me 262 jet fighter.  Two of those victories involved shooting down four-engine bombers.

Nowotny was 19-years-old when the British and French declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.  Nowotny volunteered to serve his country and opted for service in the Luftwaffe, which he joined on October 1, 1939.  By the time he reached 20 years of age he had been flying for two months.  On Feb. 23, 1941, he was assigned as a fighter pilot to Jagdgeschwaer on the Eastern Front with the Grunherz JG54 Group.  Within weeks he downed his first Russian J 18.

On July 19, 1941 — Nowotny’s 24th mission — he recorded his first victories when he shot down two Russian Polikarpov I-153 biplane fighters.  On the same day, Nowotny’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 was shot down by a Russian I-153 flown by Russian ace Alexandr Avdeev (13 victories, killed in action on Aug. 12, 1942). Nowotny’s fighter ended up in the Bay of Riga, where he clung to life in a small rubber dinghy for three days and three nights.  He eventually drifted ashore on the Latvian coast. While drifting in the dinghy, Notowny was almost run over by a Soviet destroyer.

Nowotny recorded his 55th and 56th victories on August 7, 1942.  After his 56th aerial victory, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross,  On September 6, 1943,  Nowotny recorded his 191st and 192nd victories.  After these victories he was awarded the rare and coveted Oak Leaves Award.  Nowotny reached the century mark of victories on June 5, 1943, on his 344th combat mission.

During June 1943, Nowotny shot down 41 aircraft including 10 Russian fighters on June 24, 1943.  During August 1943, Nowotney shot down 49 aircraft — a number reached by Jagdgeschwader 52’s (JG 52) Erich Hartmann — bring Notwotny’s total to 161 victories. During October 1943, Nowotny shot down 32 aircraft. Nowotny was renowned even among Allied pilots.

On October 14, Nowotny downed his 250th enemy plane: a P-40. Nowotny was the first pilot in history to record 250 victories. For this accomplishment, Nowotny was awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.

By early 1944 Messerschmitt developed a twin-engine jet propelled fighter, the Me 262.  Nowotny was ordered to Berlin and was chosen to create Germany’s first jet fighter squadron.  By autumn 1944 the squadron downed 4 MOTS, Mosquitoes and Mustangs.

Nowotny was at his post on November 8, 1944, when it was learned that two of his fighter pilots had been shot down.  Nowotny immediately took to the air in his own Me 262.  He had downed a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang fighter before he heard on the radio that there were flames erupting from his aircraft.  As Nowotny’s jet spiraled toward the ground, he opened the canopy and bailed out.  The parachute lines tangled with the aircraft’s rudder and Nowotny was killed.  The place of Nowotny’s death was near Hespe, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany.

Helmut Lennartz, a Luftwaffe fighter ace, recalled:

“I remember Notwotny’s crash very well.  Feldwebel Gossler, a radio operator with our unit, had set up a radio on the airfield. Over this set I and many others listened to the radio communications with Nowotny’s aircraft. His last words were,’I’m on fire’ or ‘it’s on fire.’ The words were slightly garbled.”

After Nowotny’s death, Jagdgeschwader 7, the first operational jet fighter wing in history, was renamed Nowotny in Walter’s honor.

Nowotny was given a state funeral in Vienna. The guard of honor was composed of his friend Karl Schnorrer, Oberst Gordon Gollob, Major Rudolf Schoenert, Hauptmann Heinz Sturning, Major Josef Fozo and Major Georg Christl. The eulogy was delivered by General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland and Generaloberst Otto DeBloch. Nowotny’s ashes were buried at Vienna Central Cemetery in Vienna, Austria (Group of Honor Graves at Zentralfriedhof).  Others buried at the cemetery include Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss and Johannes Brahms.

Nowotny had two brothers, Rudolf and Hubert, who both became officers in the Wehrmacht. Hubert was killed in action in the Battle of Stalingrad.

A list of Nowotny’s 258 victories is set forth at http://www.luftwaffe.cz/nowotny.html.

The definite biography on Major Nowotny is by Werner Held.  It is titled German Fighter Ace Walter Nowotny: An Illustrated Biography (Schiffer Publishing 2006).  It is a translation of Der Jagdflieger Walter Nowotny (1984).  The book includes material from the Nowotny family.  Mr. Held is also the author of Battle Over the Third Reich: The Air War Over Germany: 1943-1945 (Air Research Publications 1990 — reprinted Zenith Aviation Books / Air Research Publications 1993); The German Fighter Units Over Russia: A Pictorial History of the Pilots and Aircraft (Schiffer Publishing 1990) and Fighter!: Luftwaffe Fighter Planes and Pilots (Prentice Hall 1979).

Other books discussing Luftwaffe fighter pilots include: Robert Forsyth and Jim Laurier, Jagdgeschwader 1 “Oesau” Aces 1939-45: Aircraft of the Aces (Osprey Publishing 2017); Gunther Fraschka, Knights of the Reich: The Twenty-Seven Most Highly Decorated Soliders of the Wehrmacht in World War II (Schiffer Publishing 2004), and Mike Spick, Luftwaffe Fighter Aces: the Jagdflieger and Their Combat Tactics and Techniques (Greenhill Books 1996 — reprinted Frontline Books 2011).

Inspiration for this article came from a book chapter titled Walter Nowotny: Air Ace Among Air Aces, in Mike Walsh, Heroes of the Reich (2017).  Mr. Walsh is also the author many other books including Heroes Hang When Traitors Triumph: Were Sinners Really Saints (2015).

HISTORICAL FILM FOOTAGE OF THE MESSERSCHMITT ME 262 (1:19)

Saint Lucia Day in Sweden

December 9, 2017

Saint Lucia Day processions take place annually on December 13 in Sweden.  Saint Lucia Day (also known as Saint Lucy’s Day, the Feast Day of Saint Lucy of Syracuse and Little Yule) includes a Swedish custom with girls and boys wearing white, full-length gowns and singing songs together. The singing procession of boys and girls is led by a girl chosen to be Lucia (also known as the Lucia Bride).

There is a competition for the role of Lucia/  Although Sweden has always sought to avoid ranking people, the Lucia celebration has been an exception.

Lucia wears a wreath with five burning candles affixed to it.  (For safety purposes, battery-powered light bulbs have largely replaced real candles.)  The wreath is made of Lingonberry branches. Tradition has it that Lucia is to wear “light in her hair.”  Along with Lucia there are Handmaidens and Star Boys (Stjarngossars).  The Handmaidens wear brilliant red sashes and carry a single candle (or light bulb) or also wear a wreath of candles (or light bulbs) on their heads.  The red sashes are to remind of Saint Lucia’s martyrdom. The Star Boys carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads.

The many Lucia songs all have the same theme: the days have become short and dark; the darkness is lighted up Lucia bearing lighted candles.  The most famous lyrics versions in Swedish are Luciasangen (“Saint Lucy, bright illusion”), Natten gar tunga fjat (“Night walks with heavy step”) and Ute ar morkt och kallt (“Outside is dark and cold.”).  Here is one versions of Santa Lucia:

SANTA LUCIA

Night walks with heavy step, round yard and hearth, as the sun departs from earth, shadows are brooding. There in our dark house, walking with lit candles, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent, now hear its gentle wings, in every room so hushed, whispering like wings.  Look, at our threshold stands, white-clad with light her hair, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon, from earth’s valleys.  So she speaks, wonderful words to us, a new day will rise again, from the rosy sky, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

The Lucia celebrations also include ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavored buns (lussekatter), which are shaped like curled-up cats with raisin eyes.  The buns are often eaten with glogg or coffee.

Saint Lucia Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season.  It is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.  Families observed Saint Lucia Day in their homes by having one of the daughters (traditionally the eldest) dress in a white robe and serve coffee and baked goods such as lussekatter and ginger biscuits.  Saint Lucia saffron buns take about 2-1/2 hours to prepare and 12 minutes to bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

The first appearance of a white-clad Lucia in Sweden was in a country house in 1764. The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 1900s, when schools and local associations began promoting it.  Stockholm proclaimed its first Lucia in 1927.

In agrarian Sweden, young people used to dress up as Lucia figures (lussegubbar) that night and wander from house to house singing songs.  The old lussegubbar custom virtually disappeared with urban migration.  White-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past.

Under the Julian calendar, December 13 was the Winter Solstice.  Thus, the saying: “Lucy light, the shortest day and the longest night.”  Lucy means “light.”

Saint Lucia Day is in honor of Saint Lucia, a young girl from Syracuse, Sicilly, who was one of the earliest Christian martyrs.  She was killed by the Romans in 304 CE because of her religious beliefs.

Saint Lucia Day is also celebrated in Norway and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland.  In Finland, Luciadagen is observed a week before the Winter Solstice.