Some Onomastic Oddities of World War II Commanders
A number of senior officers during World War II had rather unusual names.
The German armed forces had an army general named Pistorius, which is Latin for "grinder," and there was also an air marshal named Milch, or "milk," as well as two brothers, one a general and the other an admiral, who bore the unique moniker Assman.
Not to be outdone, the U.S. Army also had a pair of interestingly named brothers ranking as generals, the Twaddles. The Italian Army had a General Cheirieleison, which in Greek means "The Lord is risen."
Onomastic oddities were by no means limited to unusual family names. Several officers had decidedly uncommon given names as well.
Japan's famous Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku bore what was perhaps the most unusual given name of any senior officer; Born when his father was 56 years old, the young man was immediately dubbed Isoroku, Japanese for "56." And the US Army had a major general who rejoiced in the name Stonewall Jackson -- "Stonewall" was his given name, not a nickname.
"What Regiment, Lieutenant?"
One night late in 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, was standing in a chilling rain watching some of his doughboys slog by en route to the front.
The troops looked good. After watching them for a while, Pershing called out to a passing officer.
"What regiment, lieutenant?"
The officer halted, and, saluting, said "The 165th Infantry, General," giving the "National Army" designation that indicated a unit of the National Guard, a designation less than a year old.
"No, I mean before the change," said Pershing
"The 69th New York, General."
"Oh, the 'Fighting 69th'," replied Pershing, clearly cognizant of the regiment's Civil War record. Adding "Very good, carry on," then General continued to watch his troops for a while longer.
"'Ere, Cap'n, it 'ain't Right!"
The "Glorious First of June" 1794, sometimes known as the Battle of the Atlantic, for the fact that it took place nearly several hundred miles from the nearest land, the rocky isle of Ushant, off the coast of Brittany, from which it is also sometimes called the "Third Battle of Ushant," occurred when a British fleet of 26 ships-of-the-line encountered a French convoy of 130 merchant ships from the West Indies escorted by 26 ships-of-the-line. It was a hard fought battle, won when Admiral Lord Howe (who had once sailed a British fleet into New York Harbor, to help captured the city from the American Rebels), broke into the center of the French line, to take six battleships and sink a seventh.
In the midst of the most furious part of the battle, as HMS Brunswick exchanged broadsides with the French Vengeur, in one of the most protracted and fierce ship-to-ship actions in history, a French cannon ball chanced to strike the figurehead of the British vessel. The figurehead, appropriately enough of the Duke of Brunswick, suffered minimal damage, save that its cocked hat was knocked off.
Thinking it inappropriate for the Duke to fight bareheaded, the crew of Brunswick sent a delegation to the ship's captain. Amidst shot an shell, they presented their case. The captain listened gravely, and concurred. He then donated his spare hat for the task, which the sailors firmly nailed into place atop the Duke's head, and remained their until the French were whipped.