Category Archives: Wars

Bringing home the bacon

If you ever find yourself travelling through the south of Illinois, passing by the village of Cobden, you may want to make a quick stop to pay your respect for an individual who raised millions of dollars to help the US navy during World War II.

Born in early 1942 at the Sherman Boner farm, a young pig called Parker Neptune was soon adopted by the farmer’s young daughter to raise as part of a youth project.  With the war effort under way, Neptune was donated in December 1942 to be served at a fundraising event to raise money and seemed destined for the chop.

A local navy recruiter, Don C. Lingle, spotted Neptune’s potential and took him on a trip throughout the south of Illinois, renaming him King Neptune, and auctioning parts of the pig off for war bonds.  These bonds were raised in order to build a brand new battleship, to be named USS Illinois.  At each auction the pig was returned unharmed to be auctioned elsewhere.  Among the “parts” to be auctioned, even his squeal managed to raise $25 in one of the auctions.

King Neptune was now a celebrity and was given a blue navy jacket, a small crown and silver earrings.  He made a number of appearances around the rest of Illinois, raising further funds, and being sold over and over again.  At one auction the Governor of Illinois, Dwight H. Green, bought King Neptune for $1m before returning him to Lingle.

Aside from his auctions, King Neptune’s appearances led to his life membership of a number of clubs across Illinois, and his efforts led to Lingle’s promotion to Chief Petty Officer.

During his career as fund raiser, King Neptune collected an incredible $19m, which in today’s terms is close to a quarter of a billion US Dollars, an achievement few could match.

After the war King Neptune retired, living in a farm and enjoying himself.  He died just two days prior to his 8th birthday from pneumonia.

After his original grave suffered from neglect, and was later vandalised, the state of Illinois created a new memorial for him, just outside the village of Cobden:

The memorial for King Neptune, a pig like no other.

Unfortunately, the USS Illinois was not completed before the end of WWII, and her construction was halted.  Her incomplete hulk was finally broken up and scrapped in 1958.  The only surviving piece is the ship’s bell, which is now displayed at the Memorial Stadium, at the University of Illinois and is traditionally rung when their football team scores a touchdown or a goal.


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Posted by on Monday 16th July 2012 in Animals, History, Wars


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An Oriental foothold in South America

The River Plate (known locally as Rio de la Plata) is perhaps better remembered today as the site of the first naval battle of WWII (known as Battle of the River Plate), but it is also where “this side of the river” led to an Oriental Republic.

In the US the film was retitled “Pursuit of the Graf Spee”

The story starts in late 18th century, when Portugal and Spain agreed to divide South America in a number of treaties, which included an area to the east of the Uruguay River and north of the River Plate that was given to Spain and was called the Banda Oriental del Uruguay, simply meaning “Eastern Strip of the Uruguay River”.

With the independence of the US, and with Spain falling under French control during the Napoleonic wars, this created an atmosphere of defiance and independence which erupted in 1810 with the May Revolution and the eventual creation of United Provinces of the Río de la Plata incorporating most of Spanish South America and based in Buenos Aires.  Despite initially attempting to capture Montevideo and surrounding lands from Spain, the Uniterians became allies, this betrayal prompting the people of Banda Oriental to separate themselves and establish the League of Free People, based in Montevideo.

This new found freedom did not last long, and the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves soon invaded and occupied this area in what was to become the Cisplatine War, renaming it the Cisplatina Province.  Cisplatina simply meant “This side of the River Plate”.

The spanish speaking residents resented the Brazilian occupation and a revolutionary group led by Juan Antonion Lavalleja called themselves the Treinta y Tres Orientales (Thirty Three Orientals) as an objection to the name of the province, as they insisted they were not onBrazil’s side of the River, but rather on the Eastern (Oriental) side of the River Uruguay.

The flag of Uruguay.

By 1825 the revolutionaries decided to declare independence and war broke out, with the Argentine navy coming to the revolutionaries’ assistance.  Neither side was able to gain the upper hand, and by 1828 a stalemate was recognised.  The British, who relied on heavy trade in the region, forced both sides to sign the Treaty of Montevideo, finally giving the Uruguayans their independence.

As a reminder of their revolution, the new country was officially declared as República Oriental del Uruguay, though most people recognise it simply as Uruguay.

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Posted by on Friday 13th July 2012 in History, Places, Wars


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When Australia lost the war

Australian armies have taken part in a number of wars, including WWI, WWII and others, and their achievements and sacrifices are celebrated by a proud nation, but often forgotten is the only war Australia fought on her own, and lost.

The background for this war starts with the end of WWI, when many returning soldiers, including English soldiers who chose to move to Australia, decided to take up farming in Western Australia.  With global depression setting in during the late 20s, these farmers were encouraged to grow wheat to help the nation, and were promised subsidies to offset any falling prices.  The problem was that with the extra production prices did tumble, but the Government was unable to deliver subsidies, leaving many farmers facing hardship.

Things became even worse by October 1932 because some 20,000 emus were on their annual migration from inland to the coast, but suddenly found themselves in a vast area of cleared lands and added water supplies.  This was like Paradise for the emus and they decided to stick around, and they either ate or spoiled a lot of crops and destroyed fences – letting in many hungry rabbits that had been kept out.

Sir George Pearce, Australian Minister of Defence

The farmers were desperate and once again turned to the Government, where they met with the Australian Minister of Defence, Sir George Pearce.  Like these farmers, Sir George had served in WWI and had seen for himself the effectiveness of machine guns, so when the farmers asked for these guns to be deployed on the emu population he quickly agreed.

There were conditions to the deployment of these machine guns.  Because they were weapons of war they could only be used by military personnel with proper trooper transport, while food and accommodation would be given by the farmers (who would also pay towards ammunition).

The troops would be led by Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, armed with two Lewis Automatic Machine Guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.  They were ordered to kill as many emus as they could and collect 100 skins so that their feathers could be used for hats worn by the Australian light horsemen.

An emu private, on the lookout for Australian troops

Although war had been “declared” in October, action was delayed for a number of days due to heavy rainfall.  Engagements began on the 2nd November, and after a number of encounters perhaps a few emus had been killed.

On the 4th November over a thousand birds had been sighted, but the guns jammed after 12 had been killed, and the rest had scattered.

Over the next few days the Australian troops engaged the enemy a number of times, but after 6 days, on 8th November, Major Meredith reported back that they had spent some 2,500 rounds, but had killed only 50 or so birds (farmers would later claim that wounded birds would raise the number to over 200).

Meredith’s official report noted proudly that his men suffered no casualties.

In Parliament the war had become an embarrassment, with Dominic Serventy famously commenting that “The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic. A crestfallen field force therefore withdrew from the combat area after about a month.”  Sir George had no option left and ordered a withdrawal of troops, thus admitting defeat for the Australian army.

Major Meredith later reported the emus had surprised his troops with their maneuverability and their ability to sustain heavy injuries.  He said “If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world…They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop”.

Australia were to have better success a few days later, but it was not effective enough.  The farmers called for further military assistance in 1934, 1943 and 1948, but were turned down each time.  The Government did not want to engage this formidable enemy yet again.

To this day, Australians and emus live side by side in an uneasy peace, but who knows when hostilities may break out again?

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Posted by on Thursday 26th April 2012 in Animals, History, Wars


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