June 06, 2021

77 Years Later

Normandy is a rather less hellish place

The U.S.  cemetery  Colleville-sur-Merat  at Point Du Hoc. Here, 9387 white crosses mark the final resting places of men who climbed the cliffs overlooking what was once designated Omaha Beach. 

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November 11, 2020

Some, Like me Never Saw any Excitement, But Many did and Deserve Our Thanks For Keeping The Excitement at Bay

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September 24, 2019

Relevant Filk

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April 28, 2019

We Interrupt Our Current Hiatus to Bring You, Gentle Reader, This Vitally Important Public Service Announcement

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February 18, 2019

Balls of Brass

Mike Ritland has an interview with CBS's Laura Logan about her wide ranging journalistic career starting with her days in South Africa. While most coverage of the interview is focusing one three minute segment, the whole three and a half hour interview is really fascinating and worth a look.

Be advised that around 2:46 she also opens up in considerable detail about her 2011 gang rape in Egypt. Be aware that even giving the disturbing subject matter, it's a very grim segment. 

That said this is a really really good interview, with a very substantial woman who has lived a hell of a life.

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January 21, 2019

Do Not Forget That The Three Day Weekend Some Enjoy is Here For a Reason

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December 26, 2018

A Reminder That Tomorrow is the 27th (UPDATED)

...and will see the last of the two showings of They Shall not Grow Old in the U.S.

If you're in Hampton Roads, the only showings are at McArthur Center and Greenbriar 13. Both are at 1PM.

UPDATE: It was all that and a bowl of grits.

I'm very glad that I bought my tickets online as it had completely sold out, despite being shown in three theaters in the local multiplex.

Peter Jackson is an exceptional fimmaker, but the idea that he could take a bunch of frequently unrelated 100 year old film clips taken by the British military and make it work in a narrative form is far fetched.

It's also exactly what he did. 

This film is incredibly powerful. It is gut wrenching and horrifying at times, but it is a masterpiece.  It is not a technical or historic  analysis of any particular battle, but it is a deeply compelling, and often disturbing overview of what it was like to serve in the B.E.F. on the Western Front in the Great War. 

The restored and colorized footage (taken from hand cranked cameras over a century ago) translates quite well to the big screen.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough. When this comes up for sale on DVD or Blue Ray, buy it.

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November 24, 2018


I know what I'm doing on the 27th of next month...

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July 04, 2018

It's Been 242 Years

Let us not muck it up now.


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December 07, 2016

Culture is a Signal

The animated short in the post below sums up the attitude of much of the United States in the early 1940's. It's not an unreasonable point of view. War is an obscene thing. 24 years earlier the country had entered a "War to End All Wars" which had, in the intervening years provided, as a case study in the wretchedness of war, thousands of men in what should have been the prime of their lives, missing limbs, blind or otherwise maimed by bullets, shrapnel, fire, and gas. The intervening years had seen numerous "police actions" in Central America, each of which had looked an awful lot like a war; ie; that thing those men had been maimed in the hopes of ending for all time. 

Most Americans with names not ending in Roosevelt wanted nothing to do with war. And so the pacifists, with help from the German American Bund and the communists (well, until 22 June 1941) all loudly proclaimed the disdain the American people had for war. From the papers to the radio to films as seen below and even the pulpits, the cry of "No More War!" was heard throughout the land.

However, when a sincere desire for peace becomes a nationwide cry from the rooftops it can be misinterpreted. Trotsky's quip, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. " is quite true, and war is especially interested in places where pacifism becomes loud virtue signaling, as it can signal, instead of virtue, cowardice, or at the very least a lack of resolve.  

And so, those who looked for such signals interpreted them accordingly. The Americans were not going going to sell them oil because Americans did not want to support those who waged war...because Americans hated war....Americans hated war...so this was the time to strike.

And strike they did, 75 years ago today.

U.S.S. California goes down. Note the sailors in the water.

14inch guns of U.S.S. Pennsylvania silhouetted by the explosion of U.S.S. Shaw. 

Battleship Row Burns.

Identifying the bodies pulled from the sunken ships.

Within a few years, those men, and far too many of their subjects discovered to their horror that a disdain for war is not a sign of cowardice, or weakness. 

Too loudly proclaiming it however, can cary a terrible price for everyone involved. 

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July 04, 2016


Army veteran rescues bald eagle dangling upside down from a rope in 75-foot tree by 'mowing down the branches' with his rifle...Galvin spent 90 minutes firing 150 shots into tree branches to free [the] bird. The eagle, now named Freedom, is recovering at a rehabilitation center.  

I love this country.

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December 07, 2014

73 Years

...have passed since a quiet December morning in paradise was disrupted by the din of 183 planes. They were the first wave of an attack that would turn Battleship Row into an abattoir.  

One of the Battleships, U.S.S. Arizona, remains today on the harbor bottom as a memorial to those that died on that terrible day, which unleashed such fury upon the Pacific. Every year on this date, survivors of that ship's last terrible moments have met to reminisce. 

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November 11, 2014


Cdr. Salamander has some thoughts on the day. You should read them

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June 06, 2014

70 Years Later

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May 26, 2014

Enjoy the Holiday, But Forget Not Why You Have It.

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November 14, 2013

A Bit of Perspective on Any Number of Things

I just saw this below the fold at Ace of Spades, in tonight's open thread.
It REALLY deserves to be spread around. I'd heard the name and knew what she'd done, but I did not know about the sheer audacity of HOW she'd pulled it off.


There's more on this remarkable heroine here, here and here.

This is a profound reminder that great deeds can be done even by those with no power or riches if they do not lack for courage and wits.

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July 29, 2013

The Thin Goering

OK this is bizarre.

It seems that Reichmarshall Hermann Goering, the right hand of evil, had a brother. His name was Albert. He was an urbane, cultured sociallite with a reputation as a lady's man. He was svelte. Also, in further contrast to his zeppelenesque sibling, he also seems to have privately despised Hitler and led a secret life saving a large number of Jews and dissidents at great personal risk.

Goering was incarcerated by the US as a Class A War Criminal after the war. However, he was tentatively released to Czechoslovak custody (being a resident of Prague) when one person on a list of 34 names he had given as character witnesses was tracked down and corroborated his story.  Czechoslovakia ended up on the wrong side of the Iron curtain however, and so in 1947 Albert Goering found himself on trial for his life anyway. His workers were brought before the court as witnesses, but instead of struggling against him,  they testified on his behalf, as did grateful Jews, dissidents and resistance fighters. Goering was eventually released, but had a very hard time of it after the war, due to...well...his last name being Goering. His wife left him and took their daughter to Peru. Albert struggled for many years before getting a job at a construction firm in Munich where he died in 1966.   

It seems that Israel is now looking into whether to posthumously award  Goering their Righteous Among the Nations award for his actions.

 Decency can appear the strangest places.

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July 04, 2013

237 years on

235 years ago today the 13 southernmost of England's North American colonies sent representatives to Philadelphia to discuss what to do about the various political disputes they had had with London...disputes that had been festering for a decade.

One of these representatives, Benjamin Franklin, had spent 11 years in London trying to resolve these disputes. He had attempted to, amongst other things:

*set up a process for the colonists to elect MPs.

*represent their interests in policy discussions

*relay the London perspective back to the colonies.

While he was in England, Franklin was increasingly treated not as a representative, but an ambassador from a hostile nation. Finally, in 1774, he received an audience with the Solicitor General ostensibly to try to resolve the issue, but in fact for a public humiliation before the Privy council. He was called everything but a child of God, told his people were nothing more than subjects who were not entitled to representation of any sort. He was summarily dismissed.

One of the most respected Britons of his age had gone to bring the nation closer together and returned convinced it was not possible. He'd seen firsthand how similar policies had ruined Ireland and he was determined not to have that happen to his home.

Things had already deteriorated in the colonies when Franklin got back. The battles of Lexington and Concord had come to pass and Franklin was appointed to join a group of Delegates to discuss what to do about the situation.

The various delegates conferred and decided on a course of action. On July 4th they announced and published multiple copies of their conclusion and the reasons they had reached it.

It bears remembering that they did not come to their very difficult conclusion lightly .

Their statement is below.

Today is the day we celebrate their difficult, but demonstrably fortuitous decision.

It is also a time to reflect on the fact that Washington imposes a far greater degree of interference in our day to day lives than Lord North ever contemplated.

However, it is equally important to remember that the founders provided us with the very tool Lord North had denied them; the ballot box. 

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Provnce, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The Signatures.....

   Button Gwinnett
   Lyman Hall
   George Walton

North Carolina:
   William Hooper Joseph Hewes
   John Penn

South Carolina:
   Edward Rutledge
   Thomas Heyward, Jr.
   Thomas Lynch, Jr.
   Arthur Middleton

John Hancock

Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross

   Caesar Rodney
   George Read
   Thomas McKeanNew York:
   William Floyd
   Philip Livingston
   Francis Lewis
   Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
   Richard Stockton
   John Witherspoon
   Francis Hopkinson
   John Hart
   Abraham Clark

New Hampshire:
   Josiah Bartlett
   William Whipple

   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery

   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton


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June 06, 2013

69 years ago

Though the Normandy invasion is now thought of as D-Day, it was not the name of any specific operation. D-Day was the code word for the day of an amphibious landing. Most amphibious operations other than raids that the US conducted took place on their D-Day. Logistics were arranged around that and used dates of D-Day +1 D-Day+2 so that plans did not have to be rewritten in the event that a landing was postponed.

Thus D-Day was simply the landing operation for the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 6 to late August 1944. That battle is considered to have ended when Alied forces began to cross the Seine.

It is easy, with 20/20 hindsight to think of great historic battles as having foregone conclusions, but they were not ordained to come out the way they did. Stalingrad, Midway and D-Day could have gone very differently.

Those who fought that terrible battle that began on June 6, 1944 did not have the benefit of knowing pretty much anything about what was beyond those fortified cliffs. If they had not persevered, history would have been written very differently.

Many of those who went ashore that day did not live to read of their contribution to history. They wrote that history in their blood.

That men advanced under such withering fire boggles the mind.

The Germans had placed mines and obstacles along the beach. If a landing craft grounded on a rock or other obstacle short of the beach the troops had to reach the beach the hard way.

Operation Neptune was the naval side of Overlord, and it was costly a well. Here a minesweeper and a PT boat attempt to rescue survivors from a US minesweeper that is no  longer recognizable as a ship.

In addition to mines the Germans sent aircraft and small coastal submarines to wreak havoc.

Note that the wartime censor has obscured the vessels radar arrays.

The old battleship Texas (BB35) was built in 1912 and was considered obsolete even at the end of WW1. As such she was powerful enough to lay fire support, but sufficiently expendable to be risked inshore. When the landings at Omaha Beach began to go pear shaped, Texas closed to within 9000 feet of the shoreline. Under intense fire from German heavy artillery she took out pillboxes, sniper nests, heavy guns and  obliterated the fortifications at the western exit of the landing zone. When the Army Rangers tasked with taking the cliffs began to run out of supplies, Texas ran close inshore and dispatched a landing party to provide the Rangers with ammunition and bring the wounded back to the old ship for treatment....they also brought back 27 prisoners. Texas continued to fight until she had exhausted her ammo, she then zipped across the channel, reloaded and came right back.

This picture was actually taken several days  after D-Day when USS Texas, USS Nevada, USS Arkansas, HMS Glasgow and HMS Enterprise thundered into the heavily defended Cherbourg harbor with the aim of taking out the heavy guns that menaced the allied forces. Moments after this picture was taken, the battery that caused that shell splash scored a hit on the old battlewagon's bridge. Nevertheless, the old ships took out the heavy guns protecting the town.

Incredibly, despite much damage her only fatality was her helmsman.

General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was one of Eisenhower's staff tasked with applying lessons learned from his experiences at Sicily and Salerno.  Not considered fit for combat due to his previous war wounds and a heart condition,  he nevertheless asked for and received permission to go ashore as an observer.

As such, he was the only Allied General to land with the first wave of troops. When things went horribly wrong on Utah Beach, Roosevelt took command, and even though he had to use a cane to walk, rallied the troops and deployed them to best effect. He salvaged what could easily have been a fiasco.

His medal of Honor Citation:
For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt's written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France

He died a few weeks later of a heart attack, in a tent on the front lines. He is buried in the Normandy cemetery in France.

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February 02, 2013

An Amazing Saturday Afternoon

I headed to school this afternoon around two to make use of the language lab. As I cleared the tunnel I heard a PSA on the radio. The Virginia War Museum had some special guests today from noon to three. I decided that school could wait and drove the 45 minutes to Newport News. I just barely made it, but I got to meet Mr. Williams here, who graciously let me take his picture and patiently answered my many questions. They were breaking down, so I had the considerable honor of helping him, his daughter and his three comrades break down their display and load it into their cars.

During World War 2, Mr. Williams flew red tailed P51s in Italy and Germany. He is one of the last of the surviving Tuskeegee Airmen.

Thank you for your service sir!

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