Thursday, July 23, 2009
"So, in conclusion, I'd like to say..."
Elvis' company had a several old fashioned push lawn mowers- until shortly after Elvis' arrived- then some 'anonymous benefactor' got the unit modern power mowers- so all the guys on casual detail thopught Elvis was the greatest. In all the guys in the unit thought Elvis was great, *except* the *mail* *clerk*, who did *not* appreciate that his workload more than *quadrupled* when Elvis showed up.
After delivering its cargo, the Awa Maru loaded up with war materials: oil, aluminium, rubber, and tons of looted gold and platinum. The Japanese also took advantage of the promise of safe conduct by cramming the Awa Maru with 1,900 soldiers, technicians, and civilians they wanted to get back to Japan.
On the evening of April 1, 1945, the Awa Maru was headed north in the Straits of Taiwan at the speed of 17 knots. Also in the Straits that night was the USS Queenfish (SS-393), whose CO, Commander Charles Loughlin, was in between a rock and a very hard place. He had received the message from Pacific Fleet headquarters about granting the Awa Maru safe passage. He also saw a radar contact that looked like a destroyer, and he knew that failing to press home an attack was a court-marital offense. It was a foggy night, with visibility around 200 yards, so the red crosses and floodlights on the sides of the Awa Maru weren't doing any good. At 2300 (11p.m.), Commander Loughlin fired four torpedoes. All of them hit, and the Awa Maru sank in about *two* *minutes*. Quite a few of the over two thousand men onboard managed to get off the ship, but only *one*, a steward named Kantoro Shimoda, tried to get picked up by the Archerfish. The rest went to the bottom.
The Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Frank King ordered Commander Loughlin court-martialed (he got off relatively easy with a Letter of Admonition- and as a result, the members of the Court Martial caught hell from Admiral King).
The interrogators who questioned Steward Shimoda heard quite a story. The Awa Maru was not the first sinking he'd survived. He'd been onboard the Heiyo Maru (sunk Jan. '43), the Teiko Maru (sunk Feb '44), and the Teia Maru (sunk August '44). I can't find any record of what Kantoro Shimoda did after the war- I suspect he would have liked to have moved to a monastery on the slopes of the Himalayas.
"We won't do much talking until we've done more fighting. After we've gone, we hope you'll be glad we came."
General Eaker was a man of extraordinary economy of speech.
Farrah considers this for a bit, and then says, "Alright...I want all the children to be safe."
At that point, a *thunderous* cheer rang out from one end of heaven to the other.
Said Farrah, "I'm glad everybody liked my wish."
"Well, sort of", replied St. Peter, "Michael Jackson just showed up!"
The last surviving crew member of the Lusitania was a cabin boy who was 16 at the time. He was still around in 1986. He had a granddaughter who was an executive at the London Holiday, and that Spring and Summer, she had a passioniate affair with an American law student. (wink)
Once, during a defeat, he sought retreat at a farmer’s home. The farmer’s wife let him in and allowed him to sit by the fire, telling him to watch the cakes cooking on the fire. His mind wandered as he thought of his countrymen suffering. He caught hell from the farmer’s wife for letting the cakes burn. I’ve always thought it would be a great sketch to have John Cleese portray Alfred the Great from the Great Beyond grousing, “I preserved the country, set up schools, showed enemies mercy, but you burn one cake…”
In some ways, this reminds me of my old friend, Woody Hayes. Woody was a great scholar, educator, Naval officer and one of the greatest football coaches ever. Unfortunately, every time he screwed up, he tended to do it on national television. I suspect that Woody Hayes, at this moment, is commiserating with his partner in big, well-publicized mistakes, Alfred the Great.
If, on the other hand, they gave me a Koran in only one language, Arabic, and that was Mr. Moo Ham Mud’s dictation to a scribe, I can’t say I’d been impressed at all. Really folks, the United Nations gives simultaneous translations in six languages. Muslims, however, can’t learn a second one. I have read the Koran from cover to cover, all 114 Suras (in English translation), and I have no trouble at all saying that I like Jesus a whole lot more than Muhammad. For example, Muhammed never said anything like, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” Or, “my kingdom is not of this world.” The god that Muhammad claims to represent wants to rule in both this world and the next. It’s politically correct to attack the work of America’s Founding Fathers on the grounds that their thinking is outdated. However, the Constitution allows for Amendments. Indeed, we’ve amended it 17 times in the last 200 years. However, there is no amending the words of Muhammad. For example, Muhammad decreed that sons are entitled to twice the inheritance of daughters. The Koran allows a man to take four wives (provided he treats them equally), where Muhammad managed to have twelve.
Evil-minded cynic I am, it appears that the most important commandment of Allah is that nothing should interfere with Muhammad’s right to get laid whenever he wanted. I think it’s fair to ask when are Muslim men going to stop beating their wives. The answer is never, because the Koran explicitly gives them that right. Granted, there are rules for wife beating: a husband must first admonish the wife, make her sleep alone, then beatings must not result in broken bones, and no blows to the face.
My favorite trick question is, “When was slavery abolished?” Americans would say it was in 1863 because of the Emancipation Proclamation and 1865 with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. The British will proudly say that slavery was abolished through the Empire in 1831. The correct answer is that slavery exists today in Muslim countries. More people are held in slavery in 2009 than were ever held in slavery in America.
My favorite bit of the Koran is the one where Allah (the creator of the universe) proclaims that the calendar shall consist of twelve twenty-nine day months and a three hundred fifty-four day year, considerably less accurate than the calendar Julius Caesar promulgated in the fifth century before Muhammad’s birth.
At first, Private Tunney had difficulty appreciating Shakespeare, but with a bit of coaching from the company clerk, he developed an appreciation for literature that stood him in good stead for the rest of his life.
Almost eight years later, Gene Tunney had established himself as a leading contender for the heavyweight championship of the world. Reporters covering his training camp learned, to their astonishment, that Tunney had no use for card games. Rather, he much preferred reading books. This caused no end of amusement amongst the sportswriters. Indeed, legend has it that heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey’s handlers told him: “It’s in the bag, champ. That so-and-so is reading a book.”
If Tunney’s literary tastes caused Dempsey to underestimate his opponent, he paid a heavy price. In September of 1926, Gene Tunney gave Jack Dempsey a thoroughly one-sided boxing lesson, winning the heavyweight championship with a unanimous decision.
After defeating Dempsey twice and defending his title one more time against Australian Tom Heeney, Tunney retired undefeated a millionaire several times over. He was only one of three men in the history of the sport never to be beaten. So, what is a highly eligible bachelor with several million dollars to do? He hooked up with a young lady named Holly Lauder, who was the granddaughter of a first cousin and a very close associate of Andrew Carnegie. Yes, THAT Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world. Frequently, retired boxing champs are harassed by unscrupulous promoters, trying to lure them back into the ring for one more payday. Often, this turns out to the ex-champ’s detriment. I’ve often wondered what Mrs. Tunney’s response would be to similar invitations. I’m guessing she would want to beat the promoters over the head with suitcases full of bearer bonds. In case anyone is wondering how Gene and Polly turned out, Gene Tunney died a month after his and Polly’s fiftieth anniversary. One of their three sons served as a United States Senator, and Holly Lauder died last year at the age of 100.
Marvin Hagler was the best middleweight fighter I’ve seen in my entire life. He was fully ambidextrous with a very strong punch with either hand. Furthermore, he looked like a bad mofo, with a Van Dyke moustache and beard. Very few men ever went the distance with him. Hagler also had a sense of humor. When he arrived in London to fight Alan Minter, an English journalist asked Hagler how he felt about fighting abroad for the first time. Hagler replied, saying, “I never fight broads. I respect them too much.”
In addition to his amazing pugilistic talents, Marvin Hagler also taught me a lesson about being an American. Clear back in 1976, during the American bicentennial celebrations, Columbus Monthly Magazine ran a feature entitled, “Would You Have Been a Patriot or a Tory?” The article helped you decide which side of the Revolution you would have been on. You might think it’s a bit silly to ask someone to project back 200 years, but I found myself just a little bit troubled. I knew enough Constitutional Law, even back then, to understand that English settlers in America enjoyed a far greater level of political freedom than anyone else in the world. For example, in 18th century England, only landowners could vote. Only 10% of English people qualified. By contrast, over 90% of men in America owned enough land. While I certainly regard the Founding Fathers as giants, they certainly had the good fortune to be giants standing on the shoulders of other giants. All things considered, I found it hard to believe that anyone fully aware of the greatness of the English system who lacked the knowledge of anyone who lacked a better alternative would take arms against the Crown. That’s an admission that any proud American is loathe to make. That question troubled me a bit until February of 1983, when I learned that Marvin Hagler was going to defend his middleweight crown in London against an Englishman named Tony Sibson. It occurred to me that quite a few English boxing fans would probably bet with their hearts and not with their heads, and that a bet on Hagler would the closest thing imaginable to a certain bet. I did a bit of research: I called Las Vegas and learned that there was no betting line on the fight. Trying to get anyone to bet against “Marvelous” Marvin was about as likely as someone willing to wager that the Sun would not come up in the East. On the other hand, I learned from an English friend that, in London, Sibson was a 4-1 underdog, while Hagler was a 1-5 favorite. I thought that would be an easy way to make 20% on my investment. I should add that my English friend is a mutual fund manager, and that I was his best man when he got married. I sent him 1500 dollars via certified mail to put down on Hagler.
I did not actually see the fight until this year on YouTube. No disrespect to Tony Sibson. He was quite game and lasted until the closing seconds of the sixth round—about five-and-a-half rounds longer than I would have lasted. But Sibson was way out of his league, barely landing a punch. A week later, I got a check from my friend in London. I discovered to my complete dismay that, while I had turned a tidy profit, Her Majesty’s government had made off with about half of my winnings. At that moment, it no longer took any imagination on my part to understand why the Minutemen picked up their muskets in 1775.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
In early 1944, the German prison at Amienes in Northern France held several hundred French Resistance prisoners. The Resistance got word that the Germans were about to begin mass executions. (This is Operation Jericho.) They had a Mosquito squadron come in on the deck at noon. The first bomber was to drop a bomb right on the building where the guards had lunch. Kaboom. Apparently, they hit it right on the money. The next planes put thousand-pound bombs on the prison walls. Hundreds of French Resistance fighters got their freedom. Two-thirds of them were recaptured, but that must have been quite a sight.
In a Dutch city in early 1945, the Dutch Resistance asked the RAF if they could take out Gestapo Headquarters. To discourage bombing of the building, those lowlife Gestapo bastards arranged for there to be a bread line directly across the street. Mosquitos came in at low level and blew the Gestapo headquarters straight to hell. Not a single person across the street was harmed.
In April of 1945, very late in WWII, the Danish Resistance put in a request that the RAF bomb Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen. The Gestapo made their headquarters directly across the street from an elementary school. Mosquitos came in and they blew Gestapo headquarters to hell and back. Unfortunately, one of the planes crashed, and a bomb was dropped on the wrong place and there were about a hundred civilians killed, most of them were grade school children. I can’t imagine what the poor pilot who dropped that errant bomb must have thought.
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Afterward, General Douglas MacArthur awarded Congressman Johnson, who held a commission in the Naval Reserve, a Silver Star.
There is only one member of that bomber crew still alive. He reports that during their abortive mission, they did not even see any Japanese aircraft. Johnson spent a great deal of time bragging about his Silver Star. I think the whole episode is a terrible reflection on both Lyndon Johnson and General MacArthur.
If you ever see General Norman Schwarzkopf in his dress uniform, you might notice a red, white and blue ribbon at the top of his rows of decorations. That is the Silver Star, and he was awarded three of them. Here’s the story behind one of them:
In May of 1970, Lieutenant Colonel Schwarzkopf was a battalion commander in Vietnam. He got the news that a detachment of his troops had stumbled into a mine field. He immediately flew to the site in his helicopter. He had just arrived when one soldier stepped on a land mine and was writhing on the ground, screaming. Schwarzkopf later related that the thought occurred to him, “The buck stops here.” He ran into the mine field and jumped on top of the soldier to pin him down to keep him from setting off any more mines. Another soldier, possibly a medic, came forward to try and dress the soldier’s wounds, but set off a second mine that severely injured Schwarzkopf’s artillery liaison. Ironically enough, Schwarzkopf’s courage in charging into the mine field probably saved his own life, because that second mine would probably have killed him.Happily enough, Schwarzkopf and all three soldiers made it home alive.
People who know that story know why Schwarzkopf has such a great reputation with his men. He’s a man who will do whatever it takes to keep his soldiers safe.
To my amazement, the cake remained intact. The explanation for that extraordinary occurrence is that Bryant’s mom had not only baked him a cake, but three…yes, three…absolutely out of this world pumpkin pies. Bryant and his sisters had gone back for seconds, thirds and maybe fourths.
Some of my friends reading this will be astonished to learn that there are actually limits to my gluttony. I was not going to help myself to the first slice of Bryant’s birthday cake. For the life of me, I could not figure out a way to work, “Hey, let’s all have a slice of birthday cake!” into the conversation. This was the first time in my adult life that I have had the occasion to want to tell a teenager, “What’s your problem? Eat your cake! There are people starving in Darfur!” I had an absolutely wonderful visit with Bryant’s parents, but two days later, on my way out the door, I think I heard that birthday cake calling my name.
My father considered this for a moment, smiled and said, “It is good to have lived this long.”
His memoirs indicate that Casanova attended the opening night of the first production of Mozart’s opera, Don Juan. I wonder if he recognized anything of himself in the play.
In the autumn of 1981, I was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. One day, we got a visit from the Navy Intelligence Community’s Command Master Chief. He gave us a short talk and told us that he hoped we would soon get a replacement for what he called the “dog-a** P-3.” Since I was not assigned to the aviation community, I was not directly concerned, but it struck me that he didn’t think much of the aircraft our flying cryptographic technicians used. The Master Chief’s comment stayed with me quite a while because guess what airborne Navy CTs are flying in today, 28 years later: the dog-a** P-3.
Merle Miller is best known as the author of Plain Speaking, which purports to be a record of interviews Miller had with former President Harry S Truman in the early 1960s. Those interviews became the basis for the play Give ‘Em Hell, Harry. Miller’s book is proof of the wisdom of Mark Twain’s words, “a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets out of the bed in the morning.” Miller did not publish the book until after Truman’s death in 1972, which should have raised some red flags. This gave Miller the opportunity to pass off some complete fabrications without Truman being around to contradict them. One of Miller’s most egregious fabrications concerns Truman’s meeting with MacArthur on Wake Island in October of 1950. According to Miller’s account, a message from MacArthur’s plane claimed they were having engine trouble and would not be able to land until after the arrival of Truman’s plane, thus giving MacArthur the chance to make a grand entrance. This canard is repeated in the play Give ‘Em Hell, Harry and was depicted in the television movie about the Truman/MacArthur controversy. Although that story is completely false, very few people have ever questioned Miller’s deception. In Truman’s memoirs, written in the fifties, he described MacArthur as waiting for him when he arrived on Wake. Anyone diligent enough to research the memoirs of several of Truman’s aides who were at the meeting confirm this. Furthermore, the accounts of MacArthur’s aides confirm that the general arrived on Wake the evening before and had been awaiting the President for a full ten hours. Granted, General of Army Douglas MacArthur was an egomaniac of monumental proportions, given to both insubordination and grandiose gestures, he had so many detractors that almost all of them will believe a story that puts him in a bad light without bothering to check what really happened.
Miller’s other fabrication was even more egregious. Miller quotes Truman as reporting that Eisenhower had planned to divorce his wife, Mamie, and marry his British driver, Kay Summersby Morgan. According to Miller, Truman related that General Marshall threatened Eisenhower with dismissal from the Army if he did not end the affair. If anyone believes that, I have a bridge to sell them in Brooklyn.
By the end of World War II, Eisenhower knew that he had an excellent chance of being elected President of the United States and that a divorce in those days would completely ruin his chances. Ironically, Miller’s book was published while Kay Summersby Morgan was dying of cancer. Members of the press hounded her with questions as she was close to her deathbed. In her final days, Miss Morgan did publish her own memoir, which related that she and Ike enjoyed each others’ company, but the relationship was “almost entirely platonic.”
Miller’s lies managed to sell a lot of books and generate gossip that certainly hurt two people: Kay Summersby Morgan and Mamie Eisenhower, who was still alive at the time. If there’s a moral here, it’s to be skeptical before accepting scandalous gossip at face value.
Kay Summersby Morgan
I remember a conversation I had with David Link, the Dean of Notre Dame Law School in 1985. I will say for the record that Dean Link is a decent fellow who has been an extraordinary success in everything he’s attempted in life. Navy JAG officer, computer technician, partner at Winston & Strawn in Chicago, Dean of Notre Dame Law School for thirty years, and at the age of seventy (after his wife died and his children were grown), he became a priest. Editorial comment: when he took holy orders, the average IQ of priests in Indiana went dramatically. If I had to make a criticism of Dean Link, it is that he has been such a extraordinary success his entire life that I don’t think he understands what many lesser mortals must endure. It was toward the end of my first year in law school when I informed Dean Link of my frustration in not receiving any offers from law firms for a summer clerkship. He nodded sagely and said, “Kent, have you considered perhaps that you are limiting your search to too narrow a geographical area?” I let out a deep sigh and replied, “Dean Link, I recently received a rejection letter from the Northern Marianas Islands Trust Territory.”
Ironically enough, fourteen years later, I actually had a job interview on Saipan, in the NMITT. I received word that I had been accepted for a position with their civil service commission; a few days later, with no explanation, that offer was revoked. The trip wasn’t a total loss, however, as I’m one of the few people who can say they’ve seen the battle sites at Suicide Cliff and Marpi Point.