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When officials commemorate an act of heroism, or a tragedy, or both, they almost always cite the numbers.
On Monday, it was the number 40. That's how many years it's been since the Coast Guard suffered the worst peacetime tragedy in its history.
And 23: the number of lives lost aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn after it collided with a passing 605-foot oil tanker in the waters of Tampa Bay.
And, perhaps most poignantly, the number 18. That's how old Seaman Apprentice William Flores was when he heroically went down with his ship. As the Blackthorn capsized, Flores stayed aboard, throwing life jackets to his fellow seamen. He allowed even more jackets to float to escaping crew members by propping open a locker door with his own belt.
Then, the 180-foot cutter sucked Flores into the depths of Tampa Bay.
"He drowned about 15 feet away from me," remembered Jeff Huse, a survivor of the Blackthorn. "I probably floated with one of the life jackets that he tossed out."
What it was like to liberate the Nazi death camp of Dachau, according to an Army veteran who was there
At age 23 in the spring of 1945, Guy Prestia was in the Army fighting his way across southern Germany when his unit walked into hell on earth — the Nazi death camp at Dachau.
"It was terrible. I never saw anything like those camps," said Prestia, 97, who still lives in his hometown of Ellwood City.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Over 100 Coasties died in a U-boat attack in 1918. Now, the Coast Guard wants to give Purple Hearts to their descendants
On Sept. 26, 1918 the USS Tampa was struck by a German torpedo while sailing through the Bristol Channel, killing all 130 crew members, including 25-year-old Cambridge resident Francis Joseph Taylor.
More than a century later, the U.S. Coast Guard is looking for Taylor's descendants to give them the Purple Heart he received for making the ultimate sacrifice during World War I.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A strip of skin tattooed with the Auschwitz death camp number 99288 sits in a silver frame on a shelf in Avraham Harshalom's living room. It is his prisoner number, etched on to his forearm in 1943.
As the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation on Jan 27, 1945, nears, Harshalom, 95, is very clear about why he kept it.
"For history. To tell it to the next generations," he said. "In Auschwitz nobody knew names. The German SS (officer), when he was talking to you, he was talking to a number."
America's battle against alcohol in the 1920s failed to attract many foreign allies and ended in defeat. By the time World War II broke out, the nation's short-lived prohibition experiment had long ended. In some countries, such as France, drinking had been celebrated and encouraged during the interwar years, and consumption surged. Indeed, the French remained so devoted to their wine that securing enough wine for the troops was deemed essential to mobilizing for the next war. A third of the country's railroad cars designed to carry liquid in bulk were reserved for transporting wine to the front lines. When Germany attacked France in May 1940, 3,500 trucks were tasked with delivering two million liters per day to the troops.
But when France fell to the Germans within two months, praise turned to condemnation. Wine was blamed for making the country soft. Philippe Petain, the WWI hero who had credited wine for saving France, now pointed a finger at drunkenness for "undermining the will of the army." He became the leader of the collaborative government of Vichy, where new restrictions on the sale of alcohol were quickly imposed, including setting a minimum drinking age for the first time (no one under 14 could purchase alcohol).