Thursday, May 23, 2019

Great Uncle Albert

Private First Class Albert J. Dentino (and friend),
K Company, 3rd Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment,
26th Infantry Division, 3rd Army, ETO
14 Dec 1921 - 10 Dec 1944
Killed in Action in France at 22 years of age

Photo courtesy of Kris in New England
To the United States Army he was PFC Dentino, no doubt his buddies called him Al. He was a son, a brother, and to a dear friend of mine and her husband, he is remembered as Great Uncle Albert.

He enlisted in January of 1941, he was a member of the famous 26th Infantry Division, a unit created from various New England National Guard units. A unit which saw service in both World War I and World War II. Some of the facts of the division's participation in World War II are as follows:
After two months of bitter combat, the weary YD infantry had earned a respite from the fight. On 9 December, news reached the foxhole soldiers of an impending relief, and that night, the 87th Division began moving into the area of the 26th. The 101st Regiment was the first unit to be relieved (10 Dec.) departing immediately from the XII Corps sector, proceeding to Metz. On 11 December the 104th Infantry followed. With the relief of the 101st and 104th Regiments by the 87th (Golden Acorn) Infantry Division, the only Yankee Division doughboys remaining in battle were those of the 328th Infantry. The 346th Infantry of the 87th Infantry Division was now on the right of the 328th Infantry, and on the left was the 320th Infantry of the 35th Division. Perhaps because the sacred soil of the Fatherland, only a few miles away, was being seriously threatened, the Germans began a counter attack in the afternoon of 9 December in the zone of the 328th Infantry's 2d Battalion. This repulsed, the 2d and 3d Battalions began to advance again the following morning. Again enemy armor delivered heavy fires on our troops. The attacking battalions were forced into a slight withdrawal, because of the massed enemy tanks in the Bliesbrucken Woods. XIX Tactical Air Command was called upon for air support and in the afternoon a squadron of fighter bombers bombed and strafed the enemy concentrations in the woods. Direct hits were scored on three tanks, others were damaged. The 602d and 610th Tank Destroyer Battalions were both engaging any enemy armor that came under observation. Approximately ten tanks were eliminated by Tank Destroyer operations in the Bliesbrucken Woods action. From: Unit History of the 26th Infantry Division
I have little doubt that the action described above is probably when PFC Dentino was wounded, badly enough that he died of his wounds shortly thereafter. The fighting in this area was bitter and costly to both sides.

PFC Dentino died four days before his 23rd birthday.

From my friend Kris:
Chris - once again thank you for the honor of asking about Jim’s Great Uncle Albert.  We are so happy to have his story shared…he was forgotten by the family for 60 years until his picture surfaced in a box at Jim’s parent’s house (Albert was my MILs Uncle thru her mother). Typical of that time, so many young men died during WWII that families tended to just not talk about them to spare themselves the pain. The photo I found brought Albert to the sunlight again. Research and helped me fill in the blanks of his service.  Somewhere in my MILs attic there is a Purple Heart - someday I hope to find it.  In the meantime here is Albert’s story: 
Albert Dentino enlisted on January 16, 1941 - nearly one year before Pearl Harbor.  At a time when the U.S. wasn't involved in the war; indeed we were doing our best to stay firmly out of it.  Yet this 19 year old young man, born in Dudley MA in 1921 - enlisted in the Army National Guard, Company K, 328th Regiment, 26th Division.  His motivations are lost to time of course. Like so many of his era Albert finished 2 years of high school and dropped out.  Perhaps he joined because he was bored and hoped the military could give him a future. He wouldn't be the first to do that and he wouldn't be the last.

PFC Albert J. Dentino died on December 10, 1944 - barely three years after he was likely sent overseas.  He was wounded in the Lorraine Campaign on December 8.  His death came 8 days before the US troops pulled out of the Campaign.

I also know that he never came home.  I found a scanned image of a request, by his father, for a gravestone.  The request was submitted a staggering 5 years after Albert died.  And it's for a gravestone only, specifically indicating it is a marker for a body whose location is unknown.
My friend Kris (a fellow Lexican) remembers Great Uncle Albert every Memorial Day, she posts that picture above as part of her remembrance. This year I am adding Albert J. Dentino's name to the other names I carry in my heart the year round, but whose names I speak aloud in my church every Memorial Day Sunday. All died far too young.

Captain Carroll F. LeFon, Jr., United States Navy
Lance Corporal Kurt E. Dechen, United States Marine Corps
Major Taj Sareen, United States Marine Corps
Lieutenant Nathan T. Poloski, United States Navy
Private Robert Bain, Royal Scots Fusiliers, British Army*
Private First Class Albert J. Dentino, United States Army

They died for my freedom, remembering them is the least I can do to honor their memories. May they never be forgotten.

* My great-great uncle.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Memory Loss


Sarge’s post last Sunday got me to thinking.  As a Vet, Memorial Day is important to me, as I’m sure it is to many of us here at The Chant, possibly even more so than Veteran’s day, because we all know what risks the job entails.  For Vets, it’s sort of an occupational hazard to know someone who died in the service of our country.  And even if we don’t know someone personally, our military culture is one to talk about them, name ships and awards after them, and never, ever forget.  Is it the same for everyone?  I doubt it. Sure, for the general populace of the US, we'll have Veterans' Day and Memorial Day from now until forever, if only for the public remembrance that gives us a day off, but what's it for?  I tend to think the meaning of those days, to some of those who didn't serve, will probably lose a little as time goes on. A little what you ask?  A little importance, actual impact, or genuine concern for what the day really means and what our warriors sacrificed for us.

Viet Nam and the World Wars were massively significant eras of our history so we remember them well.  And our schools teach that history to our children; At least I think they do.  More recent wars?  I’m not sure what is being taught.  There is so much politics involved in war, especially since Viet Nam, that today’s education system may very well spin the reasons for a particular conflict and force a false, partial, or dare I say it- left-leaning narrative.  I could be wrong, but based on my own daughter's understanding of recent historical events, I don't think I am.  After 9-11, the entire country was behind our fight in Afghanistan, but the constant ticker tolling the number of casualties reduced that support. Later, we pulled out of Iraq and Obama’s camp was all for it, giving up all the gains there to ISIS, and creating a Christian genocide

We became fatigued with war and the expense of it, so “The Long War” became history.  The peace-at-all costs crowd doesn't really care about people dying, only about our people dying.  And more specifically, only the budgetary cost of those deaths.  If the general public and our leadership truly cared about Memorial Day, they’d have some actual memory of just how much blood was sacrificed.  If so, they would have done what was necessary to retain what that blood paid for- a stable and somewhat secular Iraq, with a people that were now our allies, but still quite vulnerable.  Obama was so determined to play politics and pull every single soldier out of Iraq, that it became a lawless and unchecked battleground.  That decision resulted in over 135,000 dead, and the elimination of Christianity in the region.  Deaths that a token force could have prevented, easily wiping out a nascent ISIS threat. 


However, unlike WWII and Viet Nam, the public has been well insulated from the wars on terror.  There was no draft, only dedicated sheepdogs.  We didn't have drives to collect materials like rubber, silk, and tin since we're a wealthy country now.  We didn't need our wives and girlfriends taking up factory jobs since we have a well paid defense industrial complex.  War hasn't hurt so the impact hasn't been as dramatic.  And with deficit spending, even the fiscal cost of war has been nothing to worry about.  At least for now.

That insulation, that lack of understanding, is a very bad trend.  If war isn't painful, doesn't cost, and isn't difficult, we will lose touch with how tragic it can be, and how hard of a decision it should be to commit troops.  I know that war is just politics by other means, but if it's all politics and no pain, our leaders might push us towards conflicts without due consideration of the costs.

And our populace, the gentle sheep that haven't served and are without some connection to war's pain, could either cease being a check on our leaders who want war, or might never understand how war can sometimes be necessary.  They'll also forget about, or at least undervalue, the sacrifice of so many of our young men and women who died in those wars, strengthening our freedoms.  That leads to people also not realizing and appreciating all the benefits that comes with living here in the U.S., benefits that arise from those freedoms.  People take for granted how easy and wonderful it is to live here, not understanding both how it's different elsewhere, and what it took to earn this lifestyle.

If we lose our connection to our freedoms, we lose much of what our national identity really is- a Constitutional Republic made up of independent states.  With the constitution and our Bill of Rights as it's foundation, cemented in place by Judeo-Christian values and fiercely independent people who succeed and flourish under capitalism.  Many in our socieity have already lost that connection though, due to a biased media, a corrupted educational system, and politicians that can only obfuscate and lie to their people. And we're already seeing the effects, with attacks on free speech, religious freedom, and the value of life atrophying to the point of some people accepting infanticide.   

Did I just equate a lazy acceptance of a Memorial Day off to our current political situation?  Yes, I guess I did.  It sounds like a bit of a stretch, but it really isn't.  If we forget our past, we lose our future.  And our past was only achieved by hard work, cooperation, respect for others, and the men and women who fought for us.  

For those reasons, I'll never forget what Memorial Day is for.

P.S. I found this in an article sent to me by FbL after I wrote the part about being insulated by war. Similar point to my own, but touches upon the idea that a vet could be hurt by the public's apathy. I'm not sure I would feel this way, but I thought it was worth sharing:

The gap between the citizen and the soldier is growing ever wider. Whereas in WWII the entire nation’s focus was on purchasing war bonds and defeating the Nazi’s, today’s populace is quickly amused by the latest Kardashian scandal on TV. Because the populace is more concerned about enjoying their freedoms and going about their day to day lives, the veteran can feel like an outcast. As though nothing they did mattered for a country that asked them to go.                                                                                                Source

P.P.S  It would have taken a typical, but unneeded tangent for me regarding my discussion of our national identity, but I have no time for those who believe that Judeo-Christian values established by old dead white men shouldn't be valued or are not universal.  This excerpt from an American Thinker article explains that point well.

The civic Judeo-Christian ethos does not demand adherence to the details of religion or to a particular form of worship or religious creed, nor loyalty to a particular religion. The ethos is open to all, just as is Western civilization. That its founders and ancestors were mostly white is not a structural roadblock to all sharing in its outlook, except in the mind of racialists eager to impute racism in anything distinctive or weaponize against those with whom they disagree.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Spirit of Lions

Polish soldiers carry ammunition to the front lines during the battle of Monte Cassino.
The night before the attack, General Władysław Anders spoke to his troops saying “let the spirit of lions enter your hearts” and…”go and take a revenge for all the suffering in our land, for what you have suffered for many years in Russia and for years of separation from your families!(Source)
Long time Chanter Paweł hails from Poland and he reminded me the other day of the fall of the Abbey of Monte Cassino on the 18th of May in 1944. I was speaking of poppies and the upcoming Memorial Day, Paweł was remembering his valiant countrymen who gave their lives to crack a tough German defensive position in Italy.

Damned good men, damned fine soldiers.

Little did I know that two Poles wrote a song the night before that final assault on Monte Cassino. It was named Red Poppies on Monte Cassino.

Red Poppies on Monte Cassino

Do you see that rubble on the peak?
There, your foe is hiding like a rat
You have to, you have to, you have to
Grab his neck and from the clouds, knock him down
And they went ferocious and mad
And they went to kill and to avenge
And they went like always unyielding
Like always, for honor, fight

Red poppies on Monte Cassino
Instead of dew, were drinking Polish blood
Through these poppies walked soldier and died
But stronger than death was his wrath
Years go by and centuries will pass
The traces of old days will last
And all the poppies on Monte Cassino
Will be redder because from Polish blood they'll grow

They charged through fire, expendable
Not just one, took a bullet and died
Like those madman of Somosierra
Like those, years before, at Racławice
They charged with force of madmen
And they made it. The assault was successful
And their white and red banner
Was raised on the rubble among the clouds

Red Poppies...

Do you see this row of white crosses?
There Pole with honor, took oath.
Walk forward, the farther, the higher
The more of them you'll find at your feet
This earth belongs to Poland
Although, Poland is far away from here
Because freedom, by crosses, is measured
This is history's, one mistake

Red poppies...

Alfred Schütz and Feliks Konarski

Men of the Third Carpathian Rifle Division hear The Red Poppies performed by Alfred Schütz's orchestra, May 1944.

1,072 valiant Poles still watch over the Abbey...

Monte Cassino Abbey, as seen from the Polish cemetery.
Throughout the ages, men and women have fallen in the defense of freedom. They wore the uniforms of many nations, they followed many flags. The one thing they all have in common is a love of freedom, and the willingness to lay down their lives for that freedom.

Remember them...

Further reading and Sources:

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Last

Well, what with all the inclement weather lately, a couple of things have happened or not happened.  First, getting outside to do things has been impacted by 1) soggy soil and 2) the resultant heat and humidity of a nascent summer and frequent heavy rain.

Second, this has resulted in my not being able to fix things and thus having a lot of time on my hands to....think about things.

Folks, that's just never a good thing.

I've been looking into Mrs J and my next day trip.  May is slipping by and we haven't hit the road this month yet.  In any case, while researching historical sites (under Civil War Texas) in the general vicinity, I came across a wikipedia site that mentioned the "Battle of Palmito Ranch" or alternatively "Palmito Hill".

Hmmm.  Mrs Schmuckatelli never mentioned that in 7th Grade Texas History or I'd have remembered it...and her name.

So...I clicked the link and began reading.

Well, as all our reader's know, General Lee surrendered his forces at Appomatox on April 9, 1865.  This is widely held as the end of the Civil War, since the vast majority of Confederate forces were East of the Missisippi River.  General Grant's capture of Vicksburg on July 4 1863 (aka the day after the last day at Gettysburg) had effectively isolated all Confederate forces west of the river, meaning they could do little to help the war effort in the rest of the Confederacy.

However, they had not surrendered yet.  In fact, the last Confederate General to surrender was named Stand Watie.  I remember him from Mrs Schmuckatelli's class.  She made us read "Rifles for Watie" a historical fiction loosely based on Brigadier General Stand Watie.  General Watie was the commander of the First Indian Brigade composed of two regiments of Mounted Rifles and three battalions of infantry.  All Indian, as in Native American, except they had joined the Confederacy which had seceded from the United States of America.  Very confusing.  Apparently, they did not want the Indian Nation's lands to become Oklahoma, so supported the Confederacy.

In any case,  Stand Watie, did not surrender until June 23 1865, more than two months after Lee at Appomatox.

But, back to Palmito Ranch.

The Union had a relatively large force (~6500) in the Brownsville area throughout the war to enforce the Blockade of Confederate Ports.  However, the proximity of Brownsville to Mexico and Mexico's generally siding with the Confederates for financial gain reasons, made them ineffective and, in July 1864, they were greatly reduced to about 1900 troops of the 34th Indiana Veteran Infantry Brigade which had fought at Vicksburg. In addition, the  87th and 62nd United States Colored Infantry Regiments were also assigned. In early 1865, the commanders of the Union and Confederate forces, seeing the writing on the wall, came to a gentleman's agreement that there would be no more fighting between them.  Outright surrender had been agreed upon, but refused by Major General John G. Walker, CSA Commander of the Texas Division of Confederate Trans-Missippi Department (how's that for a job title?  Beats the heck out of Commander, 3rd Confederate Infantry.)  In any case, upon hearing this the Union Commander resigned his commission and returned to Indiana.  Lt Colonel Robert Morrison replaced him in Command of the 34 Indiana Veteran Infantry Brigade and by Col Theodore Barrett as the Brigade Commander.

Col Barrett had been in the Army since 1862 but had yet to see combat. (Reading those 4 words brought a "ruh-roh" to my mind.) .  Unfortunately for Col Barrett, both the Union and Confederate officers in the Brownsville area knew of Lee's surrender and knew that this effectively ended the Civil War.

So, why fight?

Good question.  A few theories are proposed by historians.  First, there is a plausible theory that Col Barrett needed horses for his Mounted Cavalry Regiments and was going to take them from the Confederates.   Other's have posited that Barrett was "looking for a little battlefield glory" and so ordered the expedition.  Finally,  there is some evidence that Brig. Gen. Egbert B. Brown of the U.S. Volunteers, ordered the expedition in order to seize cotton from the docks for his own purposes.  (This may have been the purpose, but General Brown did not arrive in the area until much later in May after the battle.)

On the Confederate side,  Brigadier General Slaughter, who was the CSA side of the gentlemen's agreement, had escaped to Mexico after Lee's surrender and a Col Ford had taken his place.  According to one historian*

What was at stake was honor and money. With a stubborn reluctance to admit defeat, Ford asserted that the dignity and manhood of his men had to be defended. Having previously proclaimed that he would never capitulate to "a mongrel force of Abolitionists, Negroes, plundering Mexicans, and perfidious renegades"...Ford was not about to surrender to invading black troops.... Even more important was the large quantity of Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy's cotton stacked in Brownsville waiting to be sent across the river to Matamoros. If Ford did not hold off the invading Federal force, the cotton would be confiscated by the Yankees and thousands of dollars lost
So the stakes are set for one final battle for glory, freedom and honor.

Or not.

The Union sent out about 500 troops, led by Lt Col Morrison while the Confederates had about 300 led by Col Barrett.  A good synopsis of the battle can be read here.   Essentially, in a 4 hour battle, the Union had approximately 130 killed or captured with an additional 12 wounded to the Confederate's 3 captured and 5 or 6 wounded.  The Union forces retreated from the field resulting in a Confederate victory.
This painting of the Battle hangs in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Austin.  Think Mrs J and I found our next day trip.

This was the quasi-official last battle of the Civil War with the majority of Trans-Missippi forces surrendering on June 2nd and  General Watie surrendering June 23.

Oh, and it always sucks to be the first person killed in a war.  IMHO, it's worse to be the last, especially when you know it's over.  Takes quite a bit of honor and discipline to do your duty at that point. 

Private John J. Williams killed in Action in his first combat action at the Battle of Palmito Ranch May 13, 1865
Rest in Peace, Warrior!

*Jerry Thompson, in Southwestern Historical Quarterly 107#2 (2003) pp. 336-337.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


Went down to the Post Office on Saturday, a beautiful day I might add, knowing full well that some of you saw more rain yesterday. Had a couple of birthday cards to mail, one to a brother, one to a little girl who The Missus Herself and I consider to be a granddaughter. (She must be, she's six and loves to boss me around. It's what granddaughters do.)

Out in from of the Post Office was a fellow about my age attired in a VFW cap and jacket. He had poppies. I mentioned to him that I was gratified to see the poppies around again at this time of year.

He started to explain that Memorial Day was coming and that...

I pointed to the Navy ball cap I was wearing and said, "I get that brother, I'm retired Air Force, my kids were all Navy."

He smiled and said that he "only" served three years in the Army, a tour in Vietnam and a tour in Germany. When he asked when I retired, and I answered that the 20th anniversary of that event was at the end of the month, he postulated that we must be nearly the same age. I said that as he had served in Vietnam, he had to be a couple of years older than I.

"How old are you Sarge?"

I answered that I was 66, he smiled and "confessed" to being 68. It was as I had assumed.

I thanked him for what he did back in the day, he grinned and said that he just did his job, that's all. I looked at him for a moment and quietly stated, "Hell of a job soldier. That's all I can say."

We shot the breeze for a couple of minutes, a couple of old veterans passing the time on a brilliant spring day.

As I headed off, he thanked me, I thanked him.

Served "only" three years, at least you served brother, at least you served. I would count that Vietnam tour as worth a lot more than that, but like the old soldier said, "We were just doing our jobs."

Out West, The WSO participated in the 2019 Memorial Walk: Lemoore.

At each milestone, the names of those being commemorated by the participants were read out, Lex was mentioned, I donated in his memory, The WSO walked in his and in Taj Sareen's memory. According to her, not many knew who Lex was, but the organizers did mention that he had been a blogger in his time as well. (Which is how I knew him.)

I saw a few videos The WSO took, quite a few names were mentioned, at least four of whom are remembered up there on the masthead.

It is right and proper that we remember the fallen. Would that peace would obviate the need.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Hey Hooman!

 I am dreaming. I am in a strange cloud-world, everything is soft, yet somehow strange.

"Hooman! Wake up, the birds are singing! It will be daylight soon!"

An insistent voice echoes in my head, it wants something, what does it want?

"Is the hooman awake yet, sister? I am hungry. Well, I'm not really, but it has to be time to get up!"

With some hesitation I open one eye, the room is dimly lit, it isn't dawn yet, but I can hear birds singing. It cannot be time to get up, what is that in my face?

At that point I realize that I am staring at Sasha's butt. She has been trying to wake me up for a few minutes I gather. She usually will start by "talking" to me, various trills, meows, and the odd chatter that cats make when they're a bit frustrated. When she gets no response from all that, she tends to stick her butt in my face. As she did Friday morning.

Anya, Sasha's sister, is sitting by my feet, staring at me. When I look back at her, she stands up and meows in anticipation. Looking towards the window, I can see that it isn't daylight yet. What is up here?

As I am at an age where Nature calls much more frequently than I care for, I get up to answer that call. It isn't even 4:00 AM yet, why are the cats all worked up?

I go then I return to the bedroom. Sasha looks at me, then runs off downstairs, I guess that she feels her job is complete. I get back into bed, at which point Anya decides to sit on my back and nudge me with a paw.

"What?" I ask.

She meows, then returns to the foot of the bed. She goes back to sleep.

Later, just before six, I get up. Anya follows me downstairs, where Sasha is waiting. Their food dishes aren't quite empty, so why was I being harassed?

Well, they're cats. It's what they do. I have been around cats my entire life, will I ever truly understand them?


But they are good company, even if they do like to get up too darned early.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Missile Guidance

Launching a Genie
That's not a real genie, Master, that's a Douglas AIR-2 Genie.
An unguided air-to-air rocket with a 1.5 kt W25 nuclear warhead.
I can't imagine having to fire that beast (the AIR-2, not Jeannie) from an aircraft. Can you say "Bye bye night vision?"

I knew you could.

(Also worthy of note is that this is the very first time Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman have made the blog. I loved that show when I was a kid. No, I didn't join the Air Force hoping I'd meet Jeannie. Though the thought crossed my mind...)

Anyhoo, missiles, I know a thing or two about them, Worked on the guidance system for the AIM-7 (AIM = Air Intercept Missile) when I worked on the Phantom. Did some work for my current employer on an advanced variant of that missile. You could say that I was something of a "missile scientist" back in the day.

The theory is rather straightforward...

I got that tidbit from a colleague at work, if you guessed that's a spoof, you were correct. However, if you believed it, watch this...

But in reality, here's some actual stuff about rockets and missiles. Hey, it has Phantoms in it, sure no Barbara Eden, but hey, Phantoms!

This next clip shows an AIM-7 actually being used in combat. I could also say that the clip shows an AIM-7 actually functioning as designed. There were occasions where the trigger was pulled and the thing just fell off the aircraft, no rocket motor ignition, just an expensive bit of kit falling on some hapless gomer below. (No, the front didn't fall off, the whole missile did.)

Note that the beginning of the clip shows the "pipper*" on a MiG which is on the six of a Thud. Not good for the Thud. Later in the clip the aircraft are down low over the jungle. I'm guessing two clips spliced together?

So yeah, missiles are pretty cool, when they work. An internal gun on a fighter aircraft is a good thing. We learned that in Vietnam, seems to me that there are some in the Pentagon who need to learn that again.

* This looks more like the gunsight pipper and not the display used for launching an AIM-7. But hey, it's a cool film. YMMV.