Smoking a special one tonight. I've wanted to do a review of this one for a while, but I wanted to get this one just right. This is a cigar that ought to have a specific person (or unit) in mind, and their stories.
First off, it should be noted that the cigar, Fallen Hero, is produced in the by American company Sentinel Cigars. All proceeds from the sales of Sentinel Cigars go to the Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship, which provides housing, tuition assistance, and mentorship to wounded veterans when they transfer to civilian life. The Fallen Hero cigar in particular demands the smoker's reflection: perhaps on a fallen comrade; maybe a family member who was lost; even, perhaps, an American Hero in recent news who gave their life in protection of other Americans.
With tonight's review, I want to share a story of one such Fallen American Hero. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend re-opened a painful wound for many Americans. What was supposedly going to be a protest against the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, instead turned out to be a show of force by the vilest of extremists in America today, particularly neo-Nazi movements, who showed up with Swastika flags, anti-Semitic chants, and weapons. Some of these thugs even wore uniforms inspired by those of the S.S.
This infuriated me as the descendant of a man who risked his life on what became known as “the Longest Day,” arguably one of the bloodiest, costliest, and most critical battles of the European War. Spielberg's historical war drama, Saving Private Ryan, as well as multiple WWII-based video games, have burned the visual of the brutality of D-Day into the minds of nearly every American living today. My grandfather's involvement in that pivotal event was the primary inspiration behind my decision to enlist in the Navy, but he was not my family's sole connection to the war against Hitler; there was another man who fought, who was nearly forgotten by history, and for whom my Uncle Jim and his son were named. I knew that he had died fighting against the Nazis, but the details of his story were seemingly lost in time, and I determined to find him and make his story known. This is his story, as I have been able to piece it together from what little my grandmother has been able to recall about him, and the troves of historical documents I've been able to dig through.
His name is James Edward Foley, and he was a childhood friend of my maternal grandfather, Francis Dana Foley (same last name, but no relation). Both men had wanted to enlist together to fight in the Second World War, but James' mother would not sign the age waiver allowing him to enlist early. And so, my grandfather wound up in the US Navy (he would eventually drive a landing craft deployed from LST-56 to Omaha Beach on 06 June, 1944, bringing American soldiers to the shores of France to begin the push into the heart of Europe to topple the Nazi regime); while James would enlist in the Army just two weeks after his eighteenth birthday, on 12 May 1944. Following basic training, Private Foley was assigned to Dog Company, 275th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division, 7th Army. He made his landing in Europe in Marseilles, France, sometime between 10-15 December, 1944, part of a small detachment of 275th units that were part of Task Force Herren (under the command of Brigadier General Thomas W. Herren), as the Battle of the Bulge was raging along the French-German border. Task Force Herren took up defensive positions along the West Bank of the River Rhine, in the vicinity of Bischwiller, south of Haguenau Forest in Alsace-Lorraine, on 28 December, 1944. Days later, German forces launched a counteroffensive, dubbed “Operation Nordwind,” which was intended to punch through 7th Army's lines and destroy them, before swinging around to the rear of 3rd Army and annihilate them. But the 275th hit back, assaulting the Nazis at Phillipsbourg and Wingen, ultimately breaking the German advance before it could break through Haguenau. During the intense fighting, a light machine gun (LMG) team from Dog Company, but supporting Able Company operations, came under heavy German artillery fire on 05 January, 1945. Having been spotted by the enemy, it took only three volleys to zero on on the LMG team, wounding gunner Private First Class Frank Hazmuka, and killing ammunition bearer Private James Foley.
Following the breaking of the German advance, the way was open for 70th Infantry Division to advance and capture Saarbrücken on 20 March, 1945.
Private Foley was just 18 years old when he gave his life in service to the United States in its war against the Nazis. He left behind no wife or children to remember him.
Americans like Private Foley should be honored and celebrated. It is absolutely disgraceful that nearly three-quarters of a century later, anyone in this country would defend Nazis marching in our streets.
But, in a certain way, I'm grateful that the events of Charlottesville infuriated me so much, that they provided the push in my mind to go back and find this man and make sure the story of his sacrifice was not forgotten, not lost to history.
My uncle, and his son, bear the name of a hero, who gave his life fighting against Nazi oppression.
Cigar: Fallen Hero, by Sentinel Cigars
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Cameroon & Nicaraguan
Filler: Cameroon & Nicaraguan
Rating (out of 10): 8.8
The Fallen Hero features a smooth, oily, milk-chocolate colored San Andrés wrapper, and a softly pointed cap. The band features a waving American flag design over a silver band. The Sentinel logo, an Eagle with wings spread, in front of a blue five-pointed star and a silver laurel, with a US-flag-patterned shield, adorns the front, above the words “Fallen Hero.”
The band application does appear a little bit sloppy, as if the overlapping ends were not glued to each other completely; one end is slightly upturned.
Perfect construction. No hard of soft spots, perfect cap, equally perfect cut. As always, using that Xikar XO.
I'm getting a floral, slightly woody scent along the barrel, with a bit of leather at the foot.
Cold draw is open with a slight bit of resistance. The flavor is predominantly cedar, with a slight hint of coffee.
Initial draw after lighting is mostly the same; cedar, with notes of coffee, and now a faint hint of cocoa.
Watching some documentary videos about the Battle of the Bulge, Battle of Haguenau, and Battle of Saarbrücken as I smoke.
Slight hint of caramel hiding in there somewhere. Nice, medium-bodied smoke. Light flavor, but a thick, creamy smoke that hangs in the mouth like a sweet syrup.
Burn is a little uneven, but I'm not quite ready to give up on it. But the ash is a lovely white with slight flaking.
The flavor is pretty consistent moving into the second third, with just a hint of cracked pepper starting to come in on the finish.
The burn is still somewhat uneven, but under control.
Still primarily a cedar flavor; not much complexity to the flavor, but it's consistent, and it's tasty. Besides, I think it's more important when smoking one of these to focus our attention on our Fallen Heroes, rather than on a complex flavor profile.
Right toward the end of the third, the burn goes pretty crazy, and needs a touchup.
Cedary flavor right on through into the last third. I'm not expecting an sudden surprises at this point.
Burn is getting more erratic during the last third. More touchups are needed.
Little bit spicier as it nears the end.
I think if there was ever a cigar that required consistency instead of complexity, this is the one. Really, the point rating on this stick is pretty meaningless. It's a tasty cigar, and there's a deep meaning and sentiment behind smoking it. It doesn't make a lot of difference to me that the burn issues brought the score down; for this cigar... whatever. If it tasted terrible, that might be a different story, but I don't think Sentinel would put out a foul-tasting smoke and name it “Fallen Hero.”
Eventually, my YouTube watching stumbled upon documentary footage of the Allies liberating Concentration Camps such as Dachau, and I'm reflecting on the fact that this is what my grandfather and his friend were fighting against, whether they knew it at the time or not. They were both of them putting themselves in harm's way to defeat the greatest evil the world has ever known. I don't know whether to collapse into a sobbing mess, or scream and break things in a furious rage when I see these images, and consider that there are still today Americans who think that this is the ideal, that it's somehow okay, or worse, desirable, to treat human beings this way. It is heartbreaking, and it is infuriating.
I am proud to offer this smoking experience to the memory of one young man who so courageously gave his life, before it really even began, to put a stop to such evil.
Private James Edward Foley
28 April 1926 – 05 January 1945
D/275, 70th Infantry Division
Killed In Action