Tag Archives: WWII

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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How the French maintained Patton’s latrine

General George S Patton is today remembered as a somewhat brash commander from WWII who was so feared by Germany that the Allies were able to successfully use him to dupe their enemy into believing their forces were massing to attack Calais instead of Normandy.  He courted controversy with many of his comments and was widely criticised when he slapped a soldier who was suffering from battle fatigue (a second similar incident was not as widely reported)

However, there was more to Patton than this image.

Patton fencing in the 1912 Olympics

A little known fact about Patton is that he was the first American to compete in the Modern Pentathlon when it was introduced in 1912.  He eventually finished 5th from a field of 32, and was the only non Swede in the top seven places.

Patton may well have medalled if not for a controversy in the pistol shooting event, when he placed 20th after the judges decided he must have missed the target completely with one of his shots, despite his claim that it went through the hole of his previous shot.

After the Olympics Patton trained at the French Cavalry School and became the US Army’s youngest ever Master of the Sword at Fort Riley and went on to design the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber, the last saber issued to the US cavalry.

During WWI Patton was asked to establish the Light Tank Training School after gaining experience using French tanks.  He soon found a small village called Bourg (near Langres) where he decided to set up his school and as the war was soon to end this episode in his life might be forgotten if not for an encounter 24 years later.

As the US army drove through Bourg in 1944, with Patton leading from the front, he spotted a man in the street and asked him if he was there during the last war.  “Oh, yes, General Patton” replied the man, “and you were here then as a Colonel.”  He then formed a triumphal procession of all the village armed with pitchforks, scythes, and rakes, and proceeded to rediscover Patton’s old haunts, including his office and his billet in the Chateau of Madame de Vaux.

They also visited the grave of “Abandoned Rear”, which Patton described thus:

The grave of that national hero, “Abandoned Rear,” was still maintained by the natives. It originated in this manner. In 1917, the mayor, who lived in the “new house” at Bourg, bearing the date 1700, came to me, weeping copiously, to say that we had failed to tell him of the death of one of our soldiers. Being unaware of this sad fact, and not liking to admit it to a stranger, I stalled until I found out that no one was dead. However, he insisted that we visit the “grave,” so we went together and found a newly closed latrine pit with the earth properly banked and a stick at one end to which was affixed crosswise a sign saying, “Abandoned Rear.” This the French had taken for a cross. I never told them the truth.

Patton WWI/WWII Tank Monument at Bourg, Haute-Marne, France

I couldn’t find a photo of the grave of “Abandoned Rear”, but there is still a monument to Patton at Bourg to remind us of his exploits.

After the war ended Patton returned to Germany and while on a day trip to hunt pheasants in the country, the truck in front made a sharp turn which caused his driver to hit the back of the truck at a low speed.

Though neither vehicle were hardly damaged, and everyone else escaped with minor injuries, Patton had been thrown forward from his seat at the back and struck his head on the partition between the front and back seats. The accident caused a cervical spine cord injury and he was rushed to hospital, but a few days later Patton died from a pulmonary embolism.

General Patton is buried with his men in Hamm, Luxembourg.


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Posted by on Monday 29th August 2011 in History, People, Places


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