Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Most Unlucky Sword

A very unique weapon came up for auction recently, one that holds a personal interest for me.  It did not meet its reserve and thus did not sell.  I'm happy for that, as there is now more chance that it will be purchased by a museum, where it can be seen by all.  I believe much of the "history" of this sword as provided by the auction house is speculation or was simply fabricated.  A good story will sell even a wonderful artifact for even more.   I'll let you read the story as presented in a UK Daily Mail article for your self before I offer my comments at the end of the blog.

An unlucky sword used by the losers of the Battles of Stamford Bridge, Hastings, Bannockburn and Boroughbridge over a period of 250 years is expected to reach £120,000 at auction.

It is believed that the 11th century broadsword was originally carried to Britain by Viking raiders when it was captured, only to be lost a few weeks later at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. 

In 1314, the sword was carried to Scotland at the Battle of Bannockburn, where the owner was forced to retreat having witnessed his nephew axed to death. 

However, the cursed sword's bad luck continued at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, when the unfortunate owner was speared in the anus and killed.  Now, the weapon is going to be auctioned by Christie's auction house in London. 

The 27-inch 11th century Viking blade features an iron cross-guard. The sword has the coat of arms of Sir Humphrey de Bohun, whose nephew Henry was killed Bannockburn by Robert the Bruce.

According to Christie's the sword was captured three weeks before the Battle of Hastings after King Harold, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England defeated the Norwegian raider King Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. 

The doomed sword was used at Hastings where King Harold was defeated by William the Conqueror. 

Experts believe that the sword was picked up from the battlefield by Humphrey De Bohun, who was the victorious king's god father.

The blade was remounted with the De Bohan coat of arms, where Sir Humphrey De Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford and Essex carried it north to Scotland.  He was killed eight years later at the Battle of Boroughbridge where a patient pikeman speared him in the anus. 

Christie’s spokeswoman Dernagh O’Leary said today: 'Whilst it cannot be proved, it is not at all inconceivable that the blade of the present sword was captured or taken as a trophy by de Bohun at Hastings and was later remounted to become a family sword.

'The present sword, whilst not being a war sword, would have served as a clear badge of identity with its gold and enamelled coat of arms on the pommel and eminently more practical as a side arm around camp when not mounted and armed for battle. It is therefore entirely possible that this sword was present at Bannockburn in June 1314 if not actually on the field of battle.

'Sir Humphrey went to meet with a particularly gruesome end at the battle of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire in March 1322.  

'For the last 50 years, the sword has been in the hands of two private collectors, firstly with the Australian-based Corrigan Collection, and latterly with the present, anonymous, vendor.'

Sir Humphrey's unfortunate demise was later celebrated by the children's TV show Horrible Histories. 

A Christie’s expert said: 'The whereabouts of the sword prior to Corrigan’s ownership is not known, but the mention of a family sword bearing the de Bohun arms in Sir Humphrey’s will and the use of a mid-11th century Viking blade makes for an interesting train of thought potentially linking significant events of British history from the Vikings, Hastings and Bannockburn through this object.

'A series of x-rays which accompany the sword support the age of the items and show no modern repairs.”
The sword blade is described as 'an extremely rare late medieval broadsword, with earlier Viking blade, and bearing the arms of the De Bohun family'. 

Celia Harvey, Christie’s Head of Sale, said: 'We are delighted to be offering this extremely rare sword during the year in which the Battle of Bannockburn celebrates its 700th birthday.

'We imagine that the sword will be of broad interest to collectors of historical artefacts or arms and armours as well as to museums and institutions.

'The sword will be on display for a month at our South Kensington saleroom which will allow it the publicity and exposure it deserves.'


The Viking sword arrived in September 1066, where it was captured at the Battle of Stamford Bridge
The Viking sword arrived in September 1066, where it was captured at the Battle of Stamford Bridge

Battle of Stamford Bridge September 1066 

  In September 1066 King Harald of Norway landed in Yorkshire, with Earl Tostig, the brother of the reigning English monarch King Harold.   Harold marched north to challenge the Vikings who had already captured York and were threatening his throne. 
  After freeing York, Harold confronted the Viking invaders at Stamford Bridge where the sword was picked up from the battle field by forces loyal to the English king, who returned south to face the threat posed by the Normans 
One of King Harold's men carried the sword south where it was again on the losing side at Hastings 
One of King Harold's men carried the sword south where it was again on the losing side at Hastings 

 Battle of Hastings, October 14, 1066

   Just three weeks after the Battle of Stamford Bridge, King Harold was again facing a major challenge to his throne.  This time, William the Conqueror, who had been promised the English throne by Edward the Confessor landed on the South Coast. 
   William delayed his invasion until after Harold fought the Vikings at Stamford Bridge so his adversary's forces would be weakened. 
The battle took place on October 14, 1066 when William's cavalry charged the defending English troops. 
   Historians believe the English defenders had an effective shield wall and were able to repel the initial charges until King Harold was killed in battle, reputedly by an arrow in the eye. 

Sir Humphrey de Bohun witnessed his nephew killed by Robert the Bruce  before fleeing with the unlucky sword 
Sir Humphrey de Bohun witnessed his nephew killed by Robert the Bruce  before fleeing with the sword

Battle of Bannockburn, June 1314

  The two-day battle between June 23-24 1314 is one of the major points in Scottish history. 
   Outnumbered by three-to-one, the Scottish army under Robert the Bruce, routed the forces of Edward II. 
    Among those at the battle was Sir Humphrey de Bohun, who was carrying the sword, his ancestor Humphrey de Bohan had picked up from the battle field in Hastings 200 years earlier.
    He witnessed his nephew Henry de Bohun charge Robert the Bruce across the battlefield where the Scottish king struck the English knight in the head. 
   Sir Humphrey fled the scene and was captured - along with his sword.   
Sir Humphrey de Bohan was killed at Boroughbridge 
Sir Humphrey de Bohan was killed at Boroughbridge 

Battle of Boroughbridge March 16, 1322

   Eight years after escaping with his life at Bannockburn, Sir Humphrey de Bohan was marching against troops loyal to Edward II. 
Sir Humphrey tried to charge forces guarding a wooden bridge in Boroughbridge in Yorkshire, with his unlucky sword.
   As he reached the bridge, a man using a pike, stabbed Sir Humphrey from below, reportedly ramming the weapon through his anus. 
   Sir Humphrey was fighting for the Earl of Lancaster, who was contesting the English throne. 
   Following his defeat, the Earl of Lancaster was captured and later executed for treason. 
Historians believe that Edward II's men had learned several of the tactics deployed by the     Scottish at Bannockburn to defeat his rivals. 

This article was reblogged from:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2689177/Is-England-s-unluckiest-sword-Viking-broadsword-losing-four-history-s-greatest-battles-just-120-000.html

I believe that this sword was used by a member of the de Bohun family, as evidenced by the family arms engraved on the pommel.  The pommel and cross guard of the sword also point to the time frame of Sir Humphrey de Bohun.  However the shape of the blade may indicate that it was most likely made long after Stamford Bridge and Hastings.  The claim that the blade is of "Viking" heritage is spurious at best.  I think we can disregard the early history of the sword, as the sword itself disputes it and there is nothing else to verify that aspect of the tale. 

With a 27 inch blade, the sword is rather short for the era, but within the realm of swords of this type.  It is an arming sword, a one handed sword that was for everyday wear.  Sir Humphrey would have owned many swords and may have had a much larger, "Sword of War" that he also took into combat.  

But the fact remains that this sword may have been at Bonockburn and Boroughbridge.  Sir Humphrey met with disaster at Bonockburn and and lost his life at Boroughbridge.  That alone would make this sword quite unlucky.  It also gives the sword a remarkable provenance that few others can match.  And why does it have a personal connection for me?  Sir Humphrey de Bohn, the 4th Earl of Hereford was my 19th Great Grandfather!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers

599 years ago today, the English Army under Henry V inflicted one of the greatest defeats against the French in  history.  A starving, rag-tag group of Englishmen who had been on the run for over two week, clashed with the French near the little village of Agincourt.  The over confident French were rested well fed and three times their number.  At the end of the fighting the flower of French nobility lay dead in a muddy wheat field.  8,500 Frenchmen lay dead, more than 2,000 more than were in the entire English Army.  

A short excerpt from Chapter 24 of my young reader's novel, "The Archer's Son" in honor of the victory at Agincourt.
"Keep your heads, lads, and nock a bodkin," William called out. "There is Lord Erpingham. Now we will provoke the French into moving." The old knight strode quickly out in the field in front of the line where all could see him. He tossed a baton high in the air to draw the attention of all the archers.
"Now strike!" The old knight bellowed at the top of his lungs.
In unison, five thousand archers muscled bow cords to their ears and launched arrows high in the air toward the French lines. It was a long shot, so the high-arching arrows took several seconds to ascend before they started their deadly fall to earth. Hedyn could see a faint shadow that drifted across the wheat field created by the mass of five thousand feathered missiles. Like a great flock of starlings, he thought. 
Before the first arrows began to thud into men and horses and to clang against armor, the archers were sending more arrows on their way, each man shooting at his own pace. Within a minute, 60,000 arrows were in the air or scattered across the battlefield. Some in dirt, some in men.
The arrow storm had its intended effect. Trumpets sounded, drums thumped, and the French line finally came to life. 
"We are in for it now, lads," William said to no one in particular. 
Mounted knights appeared on each side of the French formation, as the main line of armored men on foot began to move forward. The heavy armor and thick mud made them seem slow and clumsy. 
"Put your arrows on the cavalry, lads. They will try to break our archers on the flanks," the ventenar instructed. "Help our mates on the flanks. Broadheads into horse flesh. If a horse goes down, the knight will go too." Hedyn hated to see the horses killed, but he knew that the highly trained animals were as much a weapon as the lances and swords that each of the knights pointed at his comrades.
From where he stood near the center of the line, Hedyn watched in awe as the French cavalry thundered toward the English flanks on either side of him. The air behind each of the big coursers filled with clods as pounding hoofs splattered the black mud. 
The archers did not falter behind their wooden stakes but poured the bodkins and broadhead arrows into the mass of horses and men. Some began to fall as arrows found chinks in armor or were embedded in screaming horses. Some slowed and galloped back as it became too perilous near the archers and their stakes. A few stalwarts made it to the line of bowmen and discovered that the horses slowed or stopped, refusing to gallop into the protective barricade of stakes. These men were pulled from their mounts and killed by swarms of angry archers. 
One man, a great nobleman in the finest armor, tumbled from his horse headlong as the animal impaled itself on a stake. Even from where Hedyn stood, the splash of red blood stood out on the bleak, muddy field. The man never had a chance to rise from his fall, killed where he lay.
"I knew these stakes were a good scheme the minute King Henry had us cut 'em back in Corbie!" Denzel said, almost as confidently as if he had devised the idea himself. The men rolled their eyes and laughed at him. He smiled sheepishly.
Panicked war-horses, some rider-less, crashed back through the oncoming French line, sending men-at-arms tumbling and scattering to make way. The line slowed, but regrouped and slogged on through the mud.
The French line began to change. It became bunched and irregular. The French knights instinctively crowded to the center to avoid the deadly arrows streaming from the English flanks. The archers stood behind their stakes and shot as fast as arrows could be nocked. The visibility of King Henry's banners at the center of the line reinforced this movement toward the center. The French knights were not disciplined enough to remain where the battle plan required. The line slowly transformed into a blunt wedge, which only presented more targets to the busy archers. 
"Shoot, shoot! Pour it on, lads! Pour it on!" William screamed in a voice that Hedyn had never heard before. It seemed a mixture of terror, excitement, and merriment, almost like the voice of a boy involved in some risky prank. The arrows at the men's feet were long gone, and now each man shot the arrows in the extra bundles that Hedyn delivered before the fight. One hundred and twenty thousand arrows were gone, and still the French came."

An English Archer as he might have looked just prior
to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
William Shakespeare immortalized the great victory at Agincourt in his play, "Henry V."   Shakespeare's version of King Henry's speech before the battle has become one of his most famous scenes.  In my opinion, the version delivered by Kenneth Branagh in a movie by the same name in 1989, is the most moving.  You can see the speech here on Youtube:    


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Recreating Daniel King's Little Howitzer

During the fall of 2012, I began a project to reproduce a King's Howitzer, a small cannon used in the late 18th century.  I had just sold my full scale 3 pounder gun and limber which I had built in 1999.  That gun and limber were heavy, about 1500 lbs, and took a big crew to serve is safely. 

"Miss Rachel" as we called her was gone, but I wanted something smaller, and authentic, that I could use for upcoming War of 1812 Bicentennial events.  A King's Howitzer fit that bill.

In 1790, General "Mad" Anthony Wayne was looking for a small, highly portable field piece that he could use against the Native Americans on the frontier.  He provided some very basic specifications including caliber (2.85 inches) and overall weight and sent them off to Daniel King of Philadelphia.  The gun was to be a howitzer (meaning there was to be a powder chamber in the breech smaller in diameter than the bore.) It was to be conveyed in pack saddles, not towed, and was to have a total weight of no more than 250 pounds.  King was able to provide such a gun and General Wayne was pleased with results.  However, it was soon discovered the little cannon could not take its own recoil and damaged itself upon firing. The solution was to make the bronze barrel beefier in the breech and trunnions, increasing its weight from 38 to 60 pounds.

The little guns were designed to fire exploding shells and grapeshot with a four ounce powder charge. 

A battery of the King's Howitzers opened the Battle of Falling Timbers and continued to serve at various frontier outposts through the War of 1812.  Most had been retired from service at the end of that conflict.  For a complete history of the King's Howitzer, go to this link: http://gunneyg.info/html/KHp1.htm

Although several of the bronze barrels have survived, the same cannot be said for the carriages.  Some hints are provided in correspondence of the time, but much speculation must be used in reproducing the carriages.  Most scholars believe they were scaled down versions of the British 5.5 howitzer, and that is where I started in designing my King's Howitzer carriage.

My bronze barrel, or "tube" as they are termed in artillery circles, was cast by Bob Gilmor in Ohio. It has true 2.85 inch bore with a 1.3 inch chamber.  I purchased the wheels from shop, also in Ohio, that specializes in 19th century style wagon wheels.  One of the period references stated the carriages used "cart wheels."  These wheels fit that description and help keep the cannon under its 250 pound target weight.  I got the raw lumber from a local saw mill and dried, planed, cut and mortised it myself based on my reconstructed carriage design.

I had gotten to this point before it occurred to me to start photo documenting the construction process.  I have already cut the cheeks and mortised them for the transoms (cross pieces) and fitted the axle tree. The steel axle is actually a 1 inch pipe that fits the one inch hub on the wheels.  Here you see the bronze tube and the iron work I had made by a local blacksmith. These pieces had to be 1/4 inch or thicker to handle the recoil of the gun. 

Here you can see the cheek iron and axle brackets fitted to the wood, The bolts are in, but the nails holes and nails are not yet made.  The drag hooks were also made by the blacksmith to my specifications.
Here is the same stage from the rear. You can see that the cheek iron is still loose.  The rear drag hooks are fitted and in place.

The trail irons are all made from soft 1/8 inch thick steel.  I made these by carefully measuring and cold bending the steel in a vice and then hammering to get the clean square bends were needed. 
Next was the reinforcing band.  This was also made by cold bending and hammering the steel.  The drag ring is simply a eyelet and ring purchased from Lowe's.  I used square nuts and square lag bolts for all the hardware as hex nuts are a much later invention. 
A view from the front with the tube in place.  I've not yet fitted the cap squares at this point. Those are the half round brackets that go over the trunnions on the side of the tube.

This is the quoin bed, pronounced "coin" bed.  This is a level bed under the breech of the tube where the quoin, sometimes called a wedge is used to adjust the elevation of the tube.  You can see the groove in the quoin the matches the wood of the bed. This keeps the quoin from hopping around when the gun is fired.

I experiment with several types of axle pins.  This did NOT work as it jambed and was hard to remove. The end of the hollow axle will be filled before painting to give the appearance that it is solid iron.


Here is the completed gun minus paint.  Every thing is fitted except the rear bolt hole on the cap squares.  The flower type device on the side is simply a big decorative washer that I cut from sheet steel.  It reinforces the quoin transom bolt.

All the parts are fitted, so I took it all apart to paint it. I painted each piece separately and then reassembled to touch it up.

All of the iron work, ready for paint.

Here are the cheeks and iron work when I reassembled.  I used oil based paints.  We know that King's Howitzer were blue as was most American artillery at the time, because General Wayne specifically ordered "Prussian blue" for carriages.

The finished product!  Painted and back together. 
You can see close up pictures of the finished gun at this link:


 The first shots from the King's Howitzer!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I've Been Away Too Long!

If you have been following this blog you know that it has been sometime since I posted.  I've been very preoccupied with putting the final touches to my new young reader's novel, seeing it into print and starting marketing process.  I've found that final step to be the most tedious and time consuming of the entire process! 

Over 42,000 people have visited this blog as of August 2014.  I'm humbled and gratified for that and I thank everyone who has visited here.  This blog will stay in place, but new blog posts, when I have time to write them, will be on my new author's website which you can find at www.mehubbs.com.

I encourage you to check my blog there from time to time, or sign up for website updates to let you know that something new has been posted.  I'm currently writing a sequel to my first book and it has already taken more of my time than I expected.

My latest book was release in July 2014.  The Archer's Son is getting great reviews and stayed #1 for a month in Amazon's Hot New Releases for Kid's Medieval Fiction.  You can read reviews or purchased at this LINK.

The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou is also on Amazon and is also available at most Books a Million stores.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

1,000 Year Old Saxon Skull Shows Six Sword Wounds

This set of remains may be the only "survivor" from the battle of Hastings, 1066.  Re-blogged from the Daily Mail UK.

Does this skull belong to a soldier of the Battle of Hastings? 1,000-year-old remains found near famous battlefield reveal man was hacked six times in the head from behind
By Sarah Griffiths
Published: 08:38 EST, 22 May 2014 | Updated: 11:15 EST, 22 May 2014
The famous battle took place nearly 1,000 years ago, but the badly scarred skull of a man could be the first-ever recorded victim of the Battle of Hastings.
Battle scarred: The badly damaged skull of a man (pictured)
could be the first-ever recorded victim of the Battle of Hastings.
Experts have revealed that it belongs to a 45-year-old man
Experts have revealed that it belongs to a 45-year-old man who was hacked six times with a sword to the back of his head – and could provide first-hand evidence of the brutal battle of 1066.
No bones have previously been discovered of anyone who fought and died during the historic event.
The skull forms part of a skeleton that was first dug up in 1994 during excavations in Lewes, East Sussex - around 20 miles from the famous battlefield.

The skeleton, which bears the marks of battle, was found in Lewes, around 20 miles from the famous battlefield, thought to be located in Battle, East Sussex

Bones were originally sent to experts at the University of York as part of preparations to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Lewes.

But radiocarbon testing of the remains at the University of Edinburgh dated them to 28 years either side of 1063.
Scientists believe the man was therefore likely to have been involved in fighting at the time of the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings.

Based upon the way he was buried, they think he was probably British.
Osteoarchaeologist Malin Holst from the University of York said: ‘The first injury was probably a cut to the right side of the ear and upper jaw.

‘This was then followed by a series of sword cuts, all delivered from the left hand side behind the victim, in a downward and horizontal motion.’
Tim Sutherland, a battlefield expert from the University of York, said: 'The skeleton is apparently unique in that it appears to be the only individual ever recorded which could be related to the Norman invasion. A remarkable new story could be unfolding.' Sword marks are easily visible on the skull (pictured)
The Norman invaders were thought to have buried their dead in a mass grave, but there were records of the bones of English fighters being visible on the hillsides years later.

This skeleton was found on the site of a former medieval hospital.
No bones have previously been discovered of anyone who fought and died during the historic event, so the remains of the 45-year-old (pictured) thought to have died in battle, are a first
Tim Sutherland, a battlefield expert from the University of York, said: ‘The skeleton is apparently unique in that it appears to be the only individual ever recorded which could be related to the Norman invasion. A remarkable new story could be unfolding.’

Edwina Livesey from the Sussex Archaeological Society described the find as ‘shocking’.
‘When I heard the news I was completely gobsmacked. It begins to paint a picture of what might have happened in the aftermath.

‘They haven’t found any grave pits of the Normans. The ground is very acidic so the bones may not have survived.’
Ms Holst said that from bone analysis they could tell that the man ate a diet rich in marine fish and was at least 45 years old.

‘He had some spinal abnormalities and suffered from chronic infection of the sinuses.
‘He showed age-related wear and tear of the joints of his spine, shoulders and left wrist, which might have been uncomfortable.

‘He had lost a few teeth during life, possibly as a result of receding gums. He had two small tumours on his skull.’
Although he was violently killed, the man had sustained some other kind of head injury up to two years before his death.

She said: ‘He had sustained an injury to the left temple which caused a blood clot to form. It was well-healed at the time of his death.’
English Heritage said: ‘This is a fascinating discovery and a potentially very interesting piece of evidence from the second half of the 11th century. It certainly demonstrates the violence of the period.

‘It would be a reasonable hypothesis that this individual could have some links to the Norman Conquest, but further research is essential in understanding the potential significance of this skeleton.’


In late 2013, experts claimed that King Harold died with an arrow in his eye not at the site of Battle Abbey (which has a dedicated vistor's centre - but on a spot that is now a roundabout on the A2100.
Archaeologists from Channel 4's Time team excavated grounds around the Abbey and the other site proposed by historian John Grehan.

They found no evidence that either place was where the army of William the Conqueror triumphed over the forces of Harold, the English King.
Using aerial laser imaging, Time Team then mapped the terrain - on the basis of which a group of experts agreed that the most likely location for the battle was a roundabout joining Upper and Lower Lake in the town of Battle.

Time Team said the mapping had ‘proved’ that the traditional battlefield - on the land directly below the Abbey - would have been too boggy for William’s cavalry.
‘Military analysts studied the data to see where Harold, a skilled commander, would most probably have mounted his defence,’ explained a Channel 4 spokesman.

‘They identified the only ideal battlefield. It seems Harold’s fearsome Saxon shield wall straddled a narrow strategic pass that is on today’s A2100.’

A new battle: In late 2013, experts claimed that King Harold died with an arrow in his eye not at the site of Battle Abbey (which has a dedicated vistor's centre - but on a spot that is now a roundabout on the A2100

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2636252/Does-skull-belong-victim-Battle-Hastings-1-000-year-old-remains-near-battlefield-reveal-man-hacked-six-times-sword.html#ixzz32TbkGIky

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Gut Wrenching Experience - Kamikazes at Okinawa

I had the opportunity to interview a World War II US Navy veteran for another project recently.  I thought I would share here also.  All photos are courtesy of Zane Geier.

Zane Geier
US Navy 1944 – 1946

Interview by Mark Hubbs


 Someone who does not know Zane Geier would have trouble realizing he is 88 years old and a veteran of World War II.  He is easy to smile; an active man with an engaging sense of humor.  He is as sharp now as he has ever  been.  I have known Zane for over ten years, but really only learned the story of his early life and war time experiences as a result of this interview.

Zane was born in May 1926 in the little village of Weaver, Alabama, just north of Anniston.  His first up close experience related to the War were the many soldiers from Fort McClellan who tramped by his community on road marches and field maneuvers when he was in high school.  When soldiers stopped to draw water from his family well, he realized they represented an entrepreneurial opportunity.  He followed the marching columns on his bicycle and cornered the market on Baby Ruths and Milky Ways each time they stopped for a rest break.    
Zane Geier just out of boot camp
Zane’s father took a job with the Department of the Navy before the War began and the family moved several times from 1936 to 1944.  Zane did very well in school despite the fact that he attended four different high schools in Alabama, South Carolina, California and Florida.  With his graduation in May 1944 from Pensacola High School, he followed the path of millions of young men and answered his country’s call.  The Navy was the obvious choice due to his father’s career in Navy shipyards.
Boot camp was at Camp Perry, Virginia, near Williamsburg, and then on to radar training at the Fleet Training School at Virginia Beach, Virginia.  The training at the Fleet Training School was fast and intense as the Navy struggled to provide the new sailors and new ships needed for the final push in the Pacific theater. 
The Navy wasted no time in getting Seaman Geier to sea.  He was sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and assigned to a brand new destroyer escort, the USS Cross.  Almost all of the sailors were newer than the ship.  One hundred and ten men were assigned to the Cross.  Ninety five of them were brand new sailors just out of boot camp and “A” school.  A cadre of only fifteen “old salts” had to train and blend this group of youngsters into an effective fighting crew.  Zane was on board the ship when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt broke a bottle of champagne on the bow of the USS Cross during its commissioning ceremony.
The USS Cross as she was outfitted for the Pacific theater
Although Zane was a radarman during normal operations of the ship, his battle station “was on a 4 barrel, 40 millimeter gun mount on the starboard side, forward.  I sat on the right hand side and turned the crank that made the gun move laterally.” 
Zane's 40mm gun firing during training exercises.  Zane is the seated man on the front left of the gun tub

Zane at his Battle Station
After a shakedown cruise to Bermuda and convoy duty in the Atlantic, the USS Cross was slated for duty with the Third Fleet in the Pacific.  The Cross rendezvoused with the fleet at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Island, and from there island hopped to Ulithi and the Northern Marianas.   The Navy and Army were gearing up for what would become the largest, most intense, campaign of the Pacific war – the Battle of Okinawa. 
As the battle raged on the island of Okinawa, the US Navy protected the landing sites from the Japanese Navy and air forces.  This is where the Japanese first used Kamikazes on a gigantic scale.  Over 1,600 allied ships ringed the island and each became targets for Japanese suicide flyers.  Destroyers and destroyer escorts, such as the USS Cross, formed the outer ring of the fleet defenses.  They provided early warning radar and fire support against Japanese planes that attempted to break this perimeter to get at the aircraft carriers, battleships and cruisers.  As a result these smaller ships often became primary targets when the Japanese flyers realized they could not break through.  Almost 5,000 American sailors were killed in Kamikaze attacks during the course of the Okinawa Campaign. 
Zane recalls, “many occasions when the Cross and sister ships were engaged in pumping out a wall of bullets at incoming Kamikaze.  It was a gut wrenching experience to see a plane coming towards us, low on the water, getting closer and closer . . . and a feeling of relief to see the plane explode . . . sometimes only 100 yards or so away . . .and feel the shock and hear a sharp scraping sound as flying debris struck the ship.”
As the Battle of Okinawa wound down in late June 1945, the US Third Fleet moved its area of operations off the island of Honshu in preparation of the invasion of the Japanese homeland.  However, the destruction of the Japanese cites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by American atomic bombs sealed the fate of Japan.   They formally surrendered on August 25, 1945.
A sailor is transferred from the battleship USS West Virginia to the USS Cross
The USS Cross was damaged during a massive typhoon in October 1945.  The ship was towed back to the US for repair, but not before its crew was scattered and reassigned to other ships.  Zane found a new assignment aboard the USS Hornet, one of the most famous aircraft carriers of World War II.  The Hornet participated in Operation “Magic Carpet” when it ferried several thousand US soldiers back to the United States.  Zane was discharged from the Navy on June 4, 1946.
On the flight deck of the USS Hornet
Zane Geier served as a shore patrolman in the months before his discharge in 1946
Zane became an auditor for the US General Accounting Office after the war, and even continued his nautical career in the Navy Reserves in the late 1940s.  He received a degree in accounting from the University of Alabama in 1949, and attended Harvard University, Graduate School of Business Administration, and completed the Program for Management Development in 1963.
Zane is proud of his service during World War II.  He also celebrated the sacrifice and heroism of veterans of other wars by participating in Civil War and War of 1812 living history and reenactment programs for many years.  However, he understands the futility of war and abhors it as a political means.  He says:
“I am opposed to war and favor peaceful coexistence instead.  Although I fought in a big war, and have observed the United States’ involvement in a long succession of others, I am convinced it is all for naught.  In the long run, most wars, even the Crusades, have accomplished little.  The pain and suffering and loss of life and property caused by war have been immense.”
Zane Geier in 2012