Al Heidenreich's NH Veterans' Views: The sacrifice of the Asiatic Fleet | New Hampshire
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Al Heidenreich's NH Veterans' Views: The sacrifice of the Asiatic Fleet

February 28. 2018 9:54PM

Asiatic Fleet Memorial Day.

You read it correctly. By presidential proclamation, March 1 was officially designated as Asiatic Fleet Memorial Day. Say what? You have never heard of it? You have now. The proclamation states:

“All of America’s service personnel and veterans deserve our gratitude, and it is fitting to pay tribute to the United States Asiatic Fleet. The United States Navy’s presence in the Far East dates to 1822. The Asiatic Fleet was formed in 1902, reestablished in 1910, and continued to serve into 1942. Through years of unrest and disturbance, the Fleet protected American lives and interests along the China coast. ... When the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II, the Asiatic Fleet played a key role in the defense of the Philippines. Outnumbered and outgunned at sea and in the air, the Fleet was joined by ships of the British, Dutch, and Australian navies” in an attempt to stem the tide of the Japanese onslaught, finally succumbing in the disastrous battle of the Java Sea. The Allied forces were sent to Australia to regroup, thus ending the Asiatic Fleet as a viable force, with the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet succeeding it. In researching for this article, my most accurate casualty count, from between Dec. 8, 1942, and March 1, 1942, shows 34 ships sunk, 1,826 killed in action and 518 prisoners of war. Back to the proclamation: “The Asiatic Fleet was no more, but its heritage of courage and selfless dedication helped spur our Navy to victory in World War II.” — George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, March 1, 2001

Oh, say can you see

Star-Spangled Banner “Day”? Is there such a day? If not, there should be. The history of our national anthem is fascinating and full of interesting facts you may or may not be familiar with, but you will be if you follow this column in the future. Meanwhile, here is a teaser. The poem by Francis Scott Key, written in September of 1814, following the bombardment of Fort McHenry by a British armada, was around for about 100 years before President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 ordered it to be played at all official United States military functions. After 40 (that’s right, 40) attempts, it was passed by Congress to become our national anthem on March 3, 1931, which makes the song and me the same age, give or take a month or two.

Kudos to the women’s ice hockey team on winning gold in South Korea and knowing the words to their national anthem, and singing it!

Showing honor

Great choice, Maurice McQuillen Award committee! Joe Byron has done as much for veterans as anyone I can think of through the fantastic Honor Flight program. I was lucky enough to participate in 2016 and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It rained constantly throughout the day yet it was something I will cherish forever thanks to Joe and his tireless staff! He has a fundraising effort in progress and would love to hear from any who are interested: (603) 518-5368.

Crusader: One who stands tall and fights for what he believes in, as opposed to one who kneels. The protests by teams and/or groups do nothing to further their agendas and only widen the disparity they claim exists. My advice: Ignore the publicity seeker and work individually to solve the issues rather than expand them. Brilliant, eh?

On the calendar

March 11: Turn your timepiece ahead one hour and retire early.

March 12: Happy 106th birthday, Girl Scouts.

March 14: VFW Post 8214’s general meeting will be held at 251 Maple St. at 6 p.m. Come early and enjoy a great “cheap eats” dinner expertly prepared by the Henry J. Sweeney Post kitchen crew. I will!

March 19: War in Iraq began 15 years ago (2003). Can you believe it?

March 29: National Vietnam War Veterans Day observance. If you were aware of this one, you had one up on me. Why March 29? Well on that date in 1973, the last remaining American troops withdrew from Vietnam, and President Nixon declared, “The day we have all worked and prayed for has finally come.” Many returning troops were not treated well and bore the brunt of the blame for the unpopular mission. In 2017, 44 years later, those veterans were finally recognized by the passing of the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act by Congress on March 21, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 28. A big shout out to all ’Nam vets and congratulations on the first anniversary! Old Glory will be on proud display in your honor in my front yard.

Good idea/bad idea

I read recently in a national publication that the President wants to hold a national day of recognition honoring all military branches with a gigantic parade and display of pomp, circumstance and power in Washington, D.C., much like the ones other nations hold on various occasions.

Good idea? I guess so as a promotion of our pride, unity and patriotism if done properly.

The date: Nov. 11. Bad idea. Why? Because it is already a date set aside to honor our service members past, present and deceased. Most of us are hard pressed to fulfill the present requests to participate in Veterans Day events, and a monumental program in addition would surely have an adverse effect. If one is participating in one event, he cannot enjoy watching the other. Solution: Pick a different date. May 8, VE Day; May 19, Armed Forces Day; July 27, National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day; Aug. 14, VJ Day; and my choice: Sept. 11, Patriot Day.

Bad news: The projected cost is $10 million to $30 million.

Good news: DT cuts a check.

Al Heidenreich is past commander of Henry J. Sweeney American Legion Post 2. Write to Al with your questions and comments at


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