On June 7, 1942, toward the end of the Battle of Midway, a formation of 12 Army Air Force B-17s spotted a vessel west of the small atoll. They promptly bombed her, and had the satisfaction of seeing her slip beneath the waves. Upon returning to base on Midway Island, the triumphant airmen claimed to have sunk a Japanese cruiser, proudly asserting that the incident “proved” Billy Mitchell’s vision of being able to sink maneuvering warships from high altitude was a valid concept.
Then reality set in.
The “Japanese cruiser” turned out to have been the USS Grayling (SS-209), which technically was the flagship of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Fortunately, the airmen hadn’t sunk her, she’d just submerged to avoid further annoyance.
Naturally, the airmen were quite embarrassed. So embarrassed, in fact, that Lt. Gen. Delos Carleton Emmons, Commander of the Army’s Hawaiian Department, personally apologized to Nimitz, and asked what the Army could do to make up for the error.
Without hesitation, Nimitz replied, “Have your air commander meet the sub on arrival at Pearl Harbor, and invite the crew to have a drink.”
The Fortunes of War
Shortly after the United Stated entered World War I, high level delegations of British and French officers arrived in Washington to discuss matters of mutual interest, such as how Uncle Sam could best contribute to the war effort. Of course, in addition to the very serious matters of strategy and military policy with which the visitors were concerned, there was the usual round of social and ceremonial events.
One of these – the only event attended by both the French and British delegations – was a visit to Mt. Vernon, and the tomb of George Washington. Conducted by Maj. Gen. Hugh Scott, the visiting dignitaries included two former prime ministers, Britain’s Lord Arthur Balfour and France’s Rene Viviani, as well as Marechal de France Joseph Joffre and some lesser British and French officers and dignitaries.
In the course of the tour, someone remarked upon the irony of the situation, with a former British prime minister and several senior British officers paying homage at the tomb of the man who had so humiliated British power over a century earlier. In response, Scott said “It is not remarkable that the French should be engaged in this, but the sight of such participation by the English has never been seen before, and no doubt would be a surprise to Washington, if he knew about it.”
Quintus Fabius Labeo Settles for Half
Q. Fabius Labeo (c. 226 B.C.- 180 BC) was a member of an obscure branch of the patrician gens Fabia. He followed the normal “course of honor” for a Roman of his class, alternating military service with stints in public office. In late 190 B.C., Labeo was elected a praetor for 189 B.C., and was assigned command of the combined Roman-Rhodian fleet that was serving in the Eastern Mediterranean in support of operations by Gnaeus Manlius against King Antiochus III of Syria.
Now, by the time Labeo reached Ephesus, the base of the fleet, in what is now western Turkey, Manlius had defeated Antiochus’ army at Magnesia (December 190 B.C.). So, despite the fact that Antiochus had a large navy, there had been no decisive clash between the main body his fleet and the combined Roman and Rhodian navies. With peace negotiations in train, there would be no opportunity for Labeo to gain glory, and loot, while commanding the fleet.
Seeking for some distinction, Labeo took his fleet to Crete, where several of the city-states were at war with each other, having received reports that many Roman citizens were being held their slavery, having been captured by local pirates. A massive display of Roman naval power managed to secure the liberation of an estimated 4,000 Roman citizens, a “victory” for which Labeo shortly demanded a triumph. Returning to Ephesus, he then dispatched a small squadron to Macedonia, to demand the ouster of Syrian garrisons from several cities. By this time, Manlius had completed his peace making (or perhaps “peace dictation”) with Antiochus, and the final terms included a clause whereby the latter agreed to surrender half of his fleet to Rome.
Labeo was charged with implementing this clause. Antiochus’ fleet lay at several different ports. A large number of the king’s ships were lying at Patara, then a fine harbor, but today, due to silting, a pleasant beach near Kalkan in southern Turkey. Since the treaty prescribed that half the fleet be given to Rome, Fabius ordered the Syrian warships to be cut across the beam, and took away half of each vessel.
Labeo had a number of other achievements in his career, such as helping settle the boundary between Macedonia and Thrace, as well as that between Naples and Nola (in the process tricking both cities into leaving some of the disputed lands to Rome, and campaigned against the Gauls with some success while Consul in 183 B. C. But it was for his clever interpretation of the treaty terms is what won him a triumph, which he celebrated on February 5, 188 B.C.
Appointed a pontiff in 180 B.C., Labeo, by then in his late 40s, vanishes from the record shortly afterwards.