Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New World War II Films

The British Army in France and Belgium 1940.
A Morris-Commercial CS8 15cwt truck passes a group of Belgian troops resting by the roadside in Louvain, 14 May 1940. (Source)
After seeing the film Dunkirk last Friday, I've been digging through the archives for material on the events leading up to the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in 1940. A number of folks have expressed an interest in knowing "the rest of the story." Now this stuff (the European viewpoint) wasn't taught in high school when I was a kid, I grew up knowing it because I love to read. A lot. Particularly military history.

Did you know that there are at least three recent or upcoming films dealing with World War II other than Dunkirk? I didn't. The first, a preview of which I saw at the theater where we saw Dunkirk, is Darkest Hour (and which led me to stumble across the other two while searching YouTube for the trailer).

Darkest Hour is a film about the time when Sir Winston Churchill was called to serve as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In hindsight, that appointment, not popular with some, was, in this scribe's humble opinion, the death knell of Hitler and his henchman. There was no quit in Sir Winston. None at all.



Gary Oldman is a brilliant and talented actor, watching that preview I was nearly convinced that Churchill was somehow alive again. Am I looking forward to this film? You betcha!

Another film, one of those I stumbled across, is a Norwegian offering, The King's Choice which apparently came out last year.

Before Hitler invaded France, he sent his forces north, to Norway and Denmark. There they met British and French troops sent to seize the Norwegian port of Narvik. Iron ore from Sweden was being shipped through that port and down to Germany inside Norwegian waters and Churchill and others had a thought to stop that trade. The Allied forces invaded Norway at about the same time the Germans did. It was a disaster for the British and the French (the Royal Navy lost a carrier, HMS Glorious) and should have given the Allies some idea of German capabilities.

It did not.

I need to find this film, the preview looks interesting.



The other film, set later in the war, is HHhH, a rather odd title indeed, turns out that it is an acronym popular inside Germany during the war for "Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich."

Say what?

What that translates to is "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich." Heinrich Himmler was the head of the SS and a major power in Nazi Germany. Reinhard Heydrich (his "brain") was a very intelligent and ruthless Nazi who was the "Protector of Bohemia and Moravia" which is what the Nazis called what was left of Czechoslovakia after they'd ripped chunks from it, courtesy of, among others, Churchill's predecessor Neville Chamberlain. He ruled the area from Prague with an iron fist.

This film is about the assassination of Heydrich by Czech patriots sent in by the British. It's a sad story. An entire Czech town, Lidice, was destroyed, the inhabitants murdered or enslaved by the Nazis in retaliation for the killing of Heydrich. Who, incidentally, was one of those fellows of whom a Texan might have said, "needed killing."

This film, which will apparently be released this year, looks pretty good and I plan to see it as well. (Seems that it's title in English is The Man With the Iron Heart, which is what Hitler called Heydrich. Nazis, I hate those guys...)

I wonder why this resurgence of interest in World War II? I'm not complaining but it seems odd. Your thoughts?



I just might exceed my one film a year limit this year. Who knows?


Monday, July 24, 2017

Dunkirk Air Tasking Order


ATO A: USCINCCHANT UNCLAS EXER/ //
MSGID/AIR TASKING ORDER #1(G.I.)//AOC//
PERID/201707240000Z/TO:2017072359Z//
AIRTASK/ATO A//
TASKUNIT/JUVAT (AIR PIRATE)//
MSNDAT/AF003/-/juvat/1XF150/AIR SUPERIORITY (OF COURSE)/15M/A1/-/31511-//
TGTLOC/FRITZTOWN CINEMA//
AMPN/A.  OBSERVE AND EVALUATE BOTH FRIENDLY AND ENEMY AIR ACTIVITY VIC DUNKIRK.  AS THIS MISSION WILL REQUIRE TIME TRAVEL, DO NOT ENGAGE ENEMY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.  OUR LAST SORTIE OF THIS TYPE (OPERATION PRAIRIE ADVENTURE) WITH CVN68, ALMOST CAUSED A TEMPORAL RIFT FOREVER ALTERING THE TIME LINE.  WE WON WWII WITHOUT ANY INTERFERENCE, DO NOT ENGAGE NO MATTER HOW EFFECTIVE AN F-15 WOULD BE AGAINST FOKKERS AND MESSERSCHMITS AND FOKKERS FLYING MESSERSCHMITS.

B. REPORT OBSERVATIONS AND EVALUATIONS TO THIS HQ NLT 201707241100Z.//

Given the above tasking from USCincChant, callsign Sarge, I entered the target area at precisely  201707221850Z (1350 local.  All right! 1:50PM Saturday! Sheesh, a guy can't wander around dreaming of his Glory Days?)

The mission, as assigned, was to evaluate the "flying sequences" for accuracy.  The short version is they were pretty good with a couple of  "nice touches" that few would have noticed had they been omitted, but that showed RJ Casey, the Aerial Safety Coordinator/Military Advisor, knew what he was about.

Before I get into the specifics of the above mission, first let me say, I went to a theater, by choice, by myself, at almost 2 O'Clock on a Saturday.

Talk about Decadence!

It was exhilarating!  I compounded the Decadence by consuming an ice cold Shiner Bock while watching the movie evaluating the tactics.

Also, let me say this, Yes, my precious snowflake, whomever you are, there are no "people of color" or women in any significant role in the movie.  There is the possibility that French Senaglese troops were there, but the French forces played little role in the movie either.  Similarly, for injured troops being rescued, the female nurses were singularly important to them personally, but again played little role in this story.

Get over it.  The solar system revolves around the Sun, not Uranus!

So, back to the tasking.

Stuka scenes.
Source

Given that there are only two intact Stukas left in the world and neither are flyable, their scenes were done with radio controlled aircraft.  That having been said, I had to google that info before I realized that the movie used radio controlled models for their scenes, they were that well done.

However, the smaller size of the R/C aircraft as well as sheer physics of cameras led to a historical error.  According to Hans Rudel in his book "Stuka Pilot" standard Stuka tactics would involve approaching the target at 15000', then push over or roll and pull into an 80o dive.  
Source

With a dive this steep accuracy is greatly enhanced.   (If I've done the math right, you've traveled about 2350' forward from 15000' until the release point. Compared to a little over 6000' for the usual 30o dive used back in my day.)

So, putting an actual Stuka (with a 45' wingspan) at altitude to give the picture historical accuracy would have meant filming an object only slightly bigger than the size of this period.

Another factor was the extreme stress on the aircraft in the recovery from the dive.  Because of this, the actual Stuka required a dive checklist to be completed before the attack began.  That checklist looked like this:

✔ Landing flaps at cruise position
✔ Elevator at cruise position
✔ Rudder trip at cruise position
✔ Contact altimeter ON
✔ Contact altimeter set to release altitude
✔ Supercharger set at automatic
✔ Throttle fully closed
✔ Cooler flaps closed
✔ Dive brakes open


All that would have been difficult to achieve in an R/C aircraft.

So, the dive angles weren't quite right.

The second quibble about the Stukas was there were 5 explosions during the attack on the beach.  True Stukas carried 5 bombs (1 x 250kg +4 x 50kg), but they would have been released in pairs from the wings.  The reason the bombs would have been released in pairs is that releasing them singly would have induced a differential in lift and drag on the two wings, inducing a lateral motion of some sort, thereby reducing accuracy.

However, even though the Stukas were in a lower angle dive than was historically accurate, and as mentioned above, the horizontal distance across the ground was increased, the string of bomb explosions was accurate in that there were a long string of separate explosions.

So, Stuka tactics in the movie were not exactly historically accurate, but aerodynamically accurate and would reflect modern air to ground tactics.

ME-109 Tactics

Again, a certain amount of tactical accuracy had to be sacrificed simply to film the movie.  Air to Air action, even in WWII (heck, even in WWI) involves a lot of space, both horizontally and vertically.  So getting all the players into one camera scene means the formations and the maneuvering has to be tighter and smaller than would be the case 
in reality.

That having been said, the escort formation on the Heinkel was correct.  The Messerschmits (with their Fokkers in them) were above and behind the bomber positioning themselves in between the bomber and the most probable avenue of attack.
Wider spread, Excellent post describing the how and why of the formation at the source.

There formation was accurate for Luftwaffe formations at the time.  The wingman was positioned far enough away  from his lead to protect his six as well as to keep a lookout.

The defensive jinking of the ME-109s was far more accurately portrayed than that of the Spitfires.  He was changing all three planes as he jinked, vastly improving his chances of survival.  But, let's be honest.  If someone shows up at your six and the first time you see him is when he opens fire, your chances of survival, or at least returning the aircraft to maintenance undamaged are next to non-existent. So any improvement to those chances is a vast one.

So, the realism of the ME-109 scenes was accurate within the confines of camera physics.

Spitfire Tactics

Initially, I thought the Spitfire scenes were the least accurate in the film.  Then I realized that, in fact, they were the MOST accurate.  The Luftwaffe had cut their teeth in the Spanish Civil War and learned what formations and tactics had worked and, more importantly, what had not.

The RAF however had not had that advantage, and entered WWII with only lessons learned from the First War.  They would learn fast, and indeed, according to this post, shot down 326 Luftwaffe aircraft to the loss of 121 of their own during the extraction.

One of those lessons was shown in the first scene of the Spitfires.  They're flying in what was referred to as the VIC  formation, and the intent was to concentrate all three aircraft's weapons on a single target.  The two wingman fly fingertip formation on each wing of the leaders apparently having no other responsibilities other than to be gun bearers.  That's about all they CAN do since, having flown fingertip a time or two in my day, I'm here to tell you that the wingman's attention is 98% consumed with flying formation.  He can only spare a quick glance at a fuel gauge or a radio channel change.






Vic Formation
Source



Visual lookout is non-existent in this formation.

Yet, it was the standard combat formation for the RAF up til someone recognized the error of their ways during the Battle of Britain and the RAF adapted a version of the Luftwaffe spread formation for the rest of the war.

Similarly, at no point in the movie, except when they were actually under fire, did I see a Spitfire pilot actively "Checking Six".

I think I actually said "Move the aircraft and check six" out loud as, during one scene, a Spitfire watched his target slowly crash into the sea.  Sure enough, everyone else in the audience jumped in their seat as the bullets started flying around him.  I think I mumbled something along the lines of "Tolja, ya dumb SOB"

But, that is an entirely accurate situation. At that moment in time, the Spit pilot was master of the universe and invincible.  I understand the feeling but it was hammered into me, in F-15 school, that the second most dangerous place to be in an Air to Air engagement is in the general vicinity of your victim.  The first being, of course, in the cockpit of your victim.

Move the aircraft, and check six.  "Bastards have brothers!"

One of the things that I did find very accurate was the gun shots.  Neither Spitfire pilot pulled the trigger (yes, the Spit didn't have a trigger, it had a firing button, I know) when he had enough lead.  Just like any shot taken on a moving target, you don't aim where he is, you aim where he will be when the bullets arrive.

The pilots pushed the button (OK?) when the pipper was on the target.  That is correct nowadays with lead computing sights that account for time of flight, but that wasn't the case back then.  However....the movie correctly portrayed the shots taken with that aimpoint as misses.

I did notice that during those engagements, my legs tensed up, my breath started coming in little gasps, my head would lean in the direction of the turn and my right arm would be moving also.  It was a good thing it was a matinee, dark, and there wasn't anybody within about 10 feet of me.

I also noticed one of those little "bon mots" I spoke of earlier.  In the first fight scene, as the leader spots the ME-109s.  He calls them out and then says "Feet up on the bar, boys".  That is a little known and totally accurate thing about the Spitfire.  It's rudder pedals had an upper level to them.  When about to engage in high G maneuvering combat, Spit pilots would put their feet on the upper level, to reduce the amount of blood pooling in their legs which improved G tolerance by keeping more blood (AKA Oxygen) in the brain.


Source

Since that was in one of the initial scenes, it was one of my first indications that this was going to be a good movie.  I was not disappointed, and I highly recommend it.

To be honest, the credits hadn't even started rolling when I texted Sarge "Great Fricking Movie!"



Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Chant's Very First Recipe Post...

(Source)
So I recall promising y'all a recipe. Well...

Seems that the recipe is a closely guarded secret, handed down from generation to generation and...

No, not really. Those guys in the opening photo are not guarding the secret recipe of the way my wife makes bulgogi (불고기). Which literally translates to "fire meat," no, really, it does. The usual translation is "roast meat" or just bulgogi. It's what it's called in Korean, everyone I know calls it that in English.

Anyhoo...

It seems that my wife, much like my paternal grandmother, doesn't write recipes down. She just does it. The following exchange took place the other day -

Moi: "Yeobo (여보)*, how do you make bulgogi?"

TMH: "I don't know."

Moi: "Come on, you must have a general idea."

TMH: "Not really, I just make it."

Moi: "Well, you must measure stuff. My grandmother used the palm of her hand as a measuring..."

TMH: "I don't do that."

Moi: "Well, how do you know..."

TMH: "I just do. Why do you want to know? You never cook."

Moi: "Well, it's for the blog, a lot of my readers want to know..."

TMH: "Look it up on line."

Moi: "But..."

TMH: "I don't know. All bulgogi recipes are the same. Tell them to look it up on line..."

Realizing the futility of further inquiry, I decided that I would look on line and find the recipe that seemed closest to the way she cooks it. I mean I do pay attention. It's not like I wolf everything down without tasting it.

Though I've been accused of doing exactly that.

This recipe is very close to how my wife makes it. Though she does it up in a wok (though she has been known to do it on the grill) and mixes in regular onions (green onions or scallions are also used at times). For most of the family she uses sesame seeds, but not for me (if you remember the picture here). I'm not allergic to sesame or anything, I just can't eat little seeds, nuts, popcorn, or stuff like that. I've told that story before and I don't like rolling the dice with my intestinal health!

As to pickling the pig potatoes, I have no idea and was honestly afraid to ask. I did Google that and, well, let's just not go into that...

The rice is easy enough if you have a rice cooker, which can be quite pricey, but if you eat a lot of Asian-style rice, having one is a must! (So The Missus Herself tells me. Ours talks to us, in Korean. It seems very polite but I only understand half, if that much, of what it's saying.)

So there you go, a recipe for bulgogi, not The Missus Herself's super-secret-ultra-classified recipe, but damned close.

Speaking of Top Secret...



Heh. I like that movie...

Oh look, a squirrel!




* Essentially, honey, or darling in Korean.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dunkirk - A Review

Kenneth Branagh in Dunkirk
(Source)
No spoilers here...

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when the movie began. The trailers I'd watched beforehand made me want to see this movie very badly. But is it an action movie? Is it a standard war movie? Is it historically accurate?

It's not really an action movie. Though there is action, there is combat, there is suffering, there is death.

It's not a standard war movie. Though war is at its the heart. There is confusion, there is noise, there is heroism, there is cowardice.

The suspense in the movie is palpable. It's not so much the action on the screen as the anticipation of what might happen next. Who will, or who won't survive?

As to its historical accuracy? Well, I might have a quibble here and there, but for this amateur historian there were enough "nicely done" touches in the film to make me ignore whatever quibbles I might have had.

After all, the event was over 77 years ago. (Getting the right equipment would be daunting after all these years.) The filmmakers did, in my estimation, a superb job of portraying the events on those beaches in the late spring of 1940. This is a powerful film for me as a student of those times. It brought the events to life, it brought the participants to life. Cowards, heroes, people just doing their jobs, trying to do their bit.

And sometimes paying the ultimate price.

Will the movie-going public embrace this film? I don't really know. I hope so. Films like this are few and far between.

The film left me thoughtful and with a deeper appreciation for what good people are capable of in bad times.

See it.

Tom Hardy in Dunkirk
(
Source - Screen Capture)



Friday, July 21, 2017

Dunkirk

British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation.
(Source)
In May of 1940 the German Wehrmacht stood just outside the channel port of Dunkirk. 400,000 men were trapped, there was no way out. What the Germans had tried to do in four years from 1914 to 1918, and failed to do, had now been done in just a few short weeks. The French and British armies on the Continent were defeated. All that remained was for the Germans to mop up resistance.

Hitler halted the panzer divisions to let Hermann Göring's Luftwaffe finish the job.

They failed and what followed, while a defeat, was turned into a victory five years later. Had the British Expeditionary Force not escaped from Dunkirk, odds are that there would have been no D-Day invasion in June of 1944.

Would the Germans have won the war? Maybe. But for the bravery exhibited on those Channel beaches and in the waters off those beaches and in the skies above, it's a distinct possibility that much of Western Europe would now be under German rule.

Or perhaps Russian. We shall never know. Dunkirk will stand forever for what it was, a shining example of bravery, perseverance, and a refusal to surrender.

Going to the movies later today.



AAR to follow...



Thursday, July 20, 2017

It's What's For Dinner


From time to time I like to share what The Missus Herself cooked for me for dinner.

I do this because I like to remember those meals and because damn it, my wife is an amazing cook. She can do American, she can do Italian, she can do Korean (duh), and many other dishes besides.

We had meatloaf at my Mom's once upon a Saturday in the not-that-long-ago-but-probably-was-at-least-a-decade-ago time. I raved about it as my mother's meatloaf was a favorite growing up.

A couple of weeks later when I came home from work, there was meatloaf. Seems that The Missus Herself had obtained the family recipe and wanted to try it. Damn, it was good, as good as Mama used to make (Mom doesn't cook as much as she used to). As time went on, the lady of la maison tweaked and adjusted that recipe until it was better than the original.

All she has to do is taste a dish, and if she likes it she's already thinking of ways to make it her own.

Anyhoo, that picture with the caption "It's What's For Dinner" was posted on koobecaF the other day. (Calm down, I don't post my entire life over there, just the odd bits and pieces to show the world that I'm not all Guinness, bangers, and mash, though that is a favorite.)

Well, a buddy of mine, let's just say he's close to my generation, not old mind you, but experienced, posted this in the comments -


I'd never really noticed the resemblance before but, uncanny innit?

If you don't get the reference, well back in the day, Mr. Elliott had hisself a couple of commercials touting the benefits and deliciousness of beef -



Now my feminine acquaintances tell me that Sam Elliott is what a lady might call "hot." So, in order to provide equal time to the guys, here's a great Doritos commercial. Combines a few of my "favorite things"...



Heh.

Light posting for a bit, real life, in the form of free HBO and trying to binge watch Westworld before I have to pony up cash money to keep it, means you might be getting short rations until the weekend.

Then again, who knows?

Oh the meal? Bulgogi, steamed brown and white rice, with a bit of barley added, and pickled pig potatoes (which are defined as "inferior or small" potatoes, "fit for pig food," silly Westerners, they taste great pickled!)

Yum!




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Bricolage

A Storm on a Mediterranean Coast - Claude-Joseph Vernet
(Source)
Before diving into whatever it is I plan to write (which means that as I write this I'm still rather up in the air as to the exact topic of this post, bear with me) I thought I'd share with you where I came up with the title of today's offering. Now coming into this I knew only two things: 1) I was going to use some Vernet to decorate the post (his work grows on me) and 2) it was going to be a "bunch of stuff," a potpourri, if you will.

Not sure if I've ever used the word potpourri in a post title before (didn't want to do so today, I try to avoid Jeopardy category-like post titles, usually), so I went looking for synonyms, here's what I found:
potpourri

a mixture of dried petals and spices placed in a bowl or small sack to perfume clothing or a room.
a mixture of things, especially a musical or literary medley.

synonyms: mixture, assortment, collection, selection, assemblage, medley, miscellany, mix, mélange, variety, mixed bag, patchwork, bricolage, ragbag, mishmash, salmagundi, jumble, farrago, hodgepodge, gallimaufry
I may have used "mishmash" before (I believe it might have been in conjunction with a Saturday post but Blogger says "no, can't find that," though truth be told there are days that some Google products can't find their ass with both hands and a hunting dog, pardon my French, nope that was me, I used the word as "Mish Mosh" - sigh, I blew that one...), hodgepodge, and maybe even mélange. (For those who wonder about such things, I no longer cut my own grass. I have a crew for that, they get it done quickly and I help the economy by paying them.)

Now I was sore tempted to go with salmagundi or farrago, maybe even gallimaufry, but there are times when my use of terms foreign to the American ear can be somewhat off-putting, dontcha know? (As in, doesn't matter how bloody clever it is, folks just ain't gonna be attracted and probably won't read the bloody thing.)

Bricolage though, I like it, I like it a lot. Sounds almost like "bricole" which is, I believe, a French term for a type of harness worn by gunners in the artillery (back in the day of course) for pulling the guns about when a horse just couldn't hack it. While they are strong, beautiful animals, there are places a horse just won't, or can't go. Then it's up to Pierre and Michel to hook up their bricoles to the gun and move that sucker.

But I digress.

Bricolage it is, which can be defined as "something constructed or created from a diverse range of available things." Which describes exactly what I have in mind for today. In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, I'm all over the place today, this will be a blogging version of "spray and pray." Loose off an entire magazine and hope I hit something. Not that I personally have ever done such a thing with an automatic weapon, tempting though that might be...

Part One, the First -

I feel rather out of touch with the greater part of society these days. They watch TV news, I do not. They listen to the radio, I mostly don't. Well, I do, but only sporadically and that listening is confined, for the most part, to sports. If the news comes on, or an advertisement, off goes the radio and I content myself with listening to road noise. (I only listen to the radio in the vehicle, never afoot and seldom in the Sarge Cave.)

So when folks commence to speaking about "current affairs" I am oft at a loss to follow just what the heck they're talking about. It's not that I am unaware of the affairs of the world, it's just that I am not keyed in to every subtle nuance of some great controversy. As I don't watch Fox or CNN on anything like a consistent basis, think, essentially, never, I am not completely tuned in to what the rest of America seems to be all fired up about. A character flaw perhaps but I find myself giving less and less of a you-know-what with what's going on in the world.

Part One, the Second -

While I don't watch much television, I am aware of what's going on  in the world. I get my news from various sources: other people, looking up specific things on the Web of World-Wideness, and I do have my news feed from the US Naval Institute, which keeps me apprised of all things nautical. I need that for professional reasons and because I find it interesting.

Oh yeah, one more thing, we don't really have "news" anymore, what we have is propaganda and advertisements masquerading as news. They're trying to sell you something, first, last, and always. So I take everything, and I mean everything, with a grain of salt. It's not that they're lying to us, they're just not giving us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Part Two, the First -

There are only two genders in our species. Everything else is either mental illness or some malfunction in the genes. "Identifying" as something you are not, doesn't make it so. Which is why I call that mental illness. I mentioned that at church the other day, my buddy (who was a corpsman with the Marines and is still a medical professional) pointed out that all that stuff had been taken out of the standard reference for diagnosing mental conditions (the DSM-IV I believe).

Well, homosexuality was once listed as a mental illness, it isn't any longer. I can understand that as I have a number of friends whose sexual preferences don't tend towards the norm (I won't say normal, as that term varies from era to era) and they aren't what I'd call mentally ill, far from it actually. They function as competent and valuable members of society. Then again, the folks I know who, ahem, swing that way don't march in parades or carry on in public about their sexual preferences. Most people don't, those who do, well, they suffer from a defect, whether it's of character or mental health, I can't say. (And by those who do I mean regardless of one's boudoir preferences, keep 'em to thyself. Thank you very much.)

Do what you will in the privacy of thine own dwelling and I'll leave you alone to do so, as long as it obeys the Hippocratic Oath, "first do no harm." (Which isn't really called out that way in said oath, but that's the gist of it. At least that's what I learned from the TV. See the danger there?) In other words, if it ain't hurting anyone, carry on.

Part Two, the Second -

So on the day I wrote this post (which was Tuesday) I read a post somewhere (probably chasing a Maggie's Farm link, though it might have been an Althouse, I don't remember) where I ran across the term "cisgender." I kind of knew what that meant, but not really. Groaning I decided to go ahead and look that up, which gave me "denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex."

After I had reassembled my head (for it had exploded, the various pieces scattering themselves about the room, fleeing from that word much the same way that cockroaches scramble for cover when the lights come on) I checked for how long that word had been around. Twelfth Century? 1600s? Nope and nope.

2010.

Yup, new word for a new "reality" and a new era. The era of "it's not your fault that you're AFU*." It's the albino, paternalistic, hetero, hierarchical something or other which has made you a complete loon "troubled."

When the progeny were growing up, one boy, two girls (can I still say that?) we didn't make them do anything related to their gender. (Their real gender, not their Hollywood, sick progressive assclown gender.) They tended to gravitate towards whatever interested them. Which is probably why they grew up to be productive members of society. Did The Naviguesser play with dolls (no, not action figures, I mean dolls), well, no, he didn't.

Did The Nuke and The WSO play with dolls? Yes, yes they did. They also liked toy trucks, cars, boats, and aircraft. The daughters went on to be in the Navy in jobs that were traditionally done by men. Because men had to do those as women weren't capable? No, they just weren't allowed in those fields for whatever reason. Back in the day. Yup, probably those damn patriarchs!

Anyhoo...

Part Three, the First of the Last -

Now I'm not saying that Tuna's latest post sent me down this semi-rant path today, not saying it didn't. But one point he made, which I liked, is that occasionally you have to do a brain dump, a mind clear, a reset if you will to get all that "stuff" out of that gray matter between one's aural sensors. Dreams kinda do that, organize a bunch of random stuff into an incoherent story then erase it. (Hhmm, sounds like some of my posts, without the erase it part...)

Part Three, the Last of the Last -

So I often rant, out loud, about the other drivers upon the highways and byways of this Great Nation of Ours. I question their abilities, ancestry, cognitive abilities, and knowledge of physics as I try not to die when I'm out on the road. While I do try and tone it down when The Missus Herself is occupying the Bomb-Nav seat (okay, the passenger's seat, I like to call it the Bomb-Nav seat) there are occasions when some ee-jit behind the wheel will try my patience to the point where I am compelled to blurt out some gratuitous insult in the general direction of the offending vehicle "operator." (Yes, I intentionally placed "operator" in quotes as I don't think someone barely in control of their vehicle really qualifies as an "operator.")

Now when I do that the love of my life will often complain that I complain too much and could I please "knock it off." Well, the other day I apparently violated the hard deck and she turned to me and said, "You know, those other drivers are probably saying the same thing about you?"

And I always answer...


That's when I get the "you're an idiot" look.

Time for Wapner...

Night: Mediterranean Coast Scene with Fishermen and Boats - Claude-Joseph Vernet
(Source)
One last note, sometimes life feels like that first painting, sometimes like the last painting. I don't know what it is about Vernet, bu damn, that man could paint!




*Why yes, if you guessed "All Fire Trucked Up," you get a cookie. As the late, great Don Rickles would say. (The "you get a cookie" part, not the "All Fire Trucked Up" part, just to be clear.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Stuff That Falls Out



It's been several weeks since I've written a piece here.  Nearly a month actually, right after my Norway trip.  However, despite what seems to be a complete absence, I comment on Juvat & Sarge's pieces regularly.  That's actually where I get some occasional inspiration for my own posts, with 99% of them never getting written.  I have sometimes held back a complete comment though, not wanting to share too much.  I usually want to save it for a post of my own, yet I am not inspired enough to actually carve out the time.  I apologize for that, but only slightly- Sarge being quite accepting of me acting like a cat- only coming around when I feel like it.  Unlike a cat though, I don't feel like I'm gracing you with my presence.  Sorry Sarge, I know how much you love your cats.  And heck, I'm posting more than the rookie around these parts so I've got that going for me.

With that pent-up inspiration comes a mental or chicken-scratched list of possible potential posts. a peck of them with a passel of pithy political points.  Ok, I'll apologize right now for that last sentence- sorry.  I'm at the end of a week-long vacation to Park City Utah and I guess I'm feeling a bit plucky.  So I'll give you a few items from the list of things that are falling out of my brain.


Sarge recently wrote about folks passing on.  Not a perky post, but a topic that affects us all.  I commented that I have experienced the same thing as he has- friends, family, and fellow servicemen leaving this world for another.  Some of them were old and having lived a great life, their loss is felt, but with a little bit of acceptance.  Others, like close family, hurt no matter what, and the loss is never forgotten.  Although the pain will subside over time.  Others, like young men and women, a 12 year old family friend in particular, are far more tragic and we not only mourn his loss from our lives, but the potential that is missed- the man he would become.  Fallen Aviators?  They left us too soon as well, but it's a dangerous game we play and it's part of the job unfortunately.  A small part, but an ever-present one.  There was a time well into my 30's when I had only attended a grand total of two funerals.  No one else I knew or cared about had passed on.  Now?  I've lost count.  And when you join a fraternal organization of which the average age is 60, many of your friends are old.  And unfortunately, the funerals are a little more frequent.


I mentioned I'm in Utah.  Beautiful part of the country I'm tellin' ya.  Other than driving to/from Florida and Washington State a few times for PCS moves, I haven't seen all that much of this country.  We drove up here- 12 hours on the road, which is a long trip.  I'm glad we did though because of the phenomenal scenery, which is sampled a bit today.  Juvat wrote about his Alaska trip and it got me to thinking about my own travel bucket list, but also how beautiful that state is too.  I would like to do an Alaskan Cruise at some point in the next few years, as long as I can convince my wife that it comes Juvat rated, and highly at that!  My family drove through Utah back when I was a kid, but I didn't appreciate it then.  I didn't appreciate a lot of things back then, and I'm making up for lost time with my travels now.  Just today my wife and I decided to visit Utah again- with Bryce Canyon, Arches,  and Zion on that expanding bucket list.  We're going back to Europe next year for our Silver Anniversary, a river cruise which I'll surely document here, but other than that, I really see ourselves hitting several National Parks.  This country just has so much to offer.


The drive to Park City was a beautiful one, but a little frustrating.  Sarge has lamented the annoying Rhode Island drivers in posts before.   Who doesn't get irritated by crappy drivers?  Not me, and I saw plenty in Utah.  One particularly bad one was an elderly lady who upon entering the three-lane freeway from an on-ramp, almost aggressively moved over to the fast lane where she cemented herself at just 5 miles over the speed limit.  In my fleet-of-foot Mustang, I'm not allowed to drive in any lane other than that one so I quickly came up on her.  Not one to tailgate, she made it difficult to keep from doing that, but I slowed and hung back, although still close.  I had hoped that my presence would let her know that I wished to pass.  After 30 seconds I stepped it up with a quick flash of my lights.  Then again.  Still nothing.  With my wife in the car I didn't want to move to plan C, a short tap of the horn (never have actually), so I gave up on principle and blew her doors off from the middle lane.  (Insert completely irritated emoji here).


Some other driving thoughts I've had.

What's with all these convertibles in San Diego with their tops up?  It's San Diego for pete's sake, the weather is awesome.  Even with my dermatologist on speed-dial I'm regularly running around topless.

Prius drivers.  I hate you.  Econ Mode is the devil.  Going up hill and you're trying to stay in Econ Mode so you don't even touch the gas?  You're practically going backwards.  I hope you die a painful death surrounded by all your vegan eating, hemp wearing, Bernie stickered brethren.

Three lanes merging slowly down to one?  Listen lady, don't honk as I drive up the right lane.  The zipper merge is the most efficient and wasting 300 yards of road because you decided to hold up the line by merging early just makes you a bad driver.

Hey Gramps, I realize that you have to go slow for the semi-truck in front of you that's passing an even slower semi, but once he's moved back to the slow lane, couldn't you possibly accelerate a little, heaven forbid, aggressively, to allow the quarter mile backup of cars to get on with their day?  And even if you're going 3 or 4 mph faster than him, common courtesy says you move over and not hog the left lane until you pass the next series of trucks.

Yeah, I know I should be more relaxed in the cockpit car, but since I got my Mustang, I am really enjoying the horsepower.



Sarge's post here roused my ire when he mentioned politicians after he quoted First Timothy, 3:3 from the King James Version with the following:

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

I got all up on my pithy political high horse when he wrote that it would be nice if our politicians were of more noble virtue and not the fargin sneaky greedy bastiges that many of them are.

 

Since the last election, I've lost the taste for purely political posts, but that doesn't mean my ire doesn't get raised on a daily basis.  Greed is going to be the downfall of this country.  From the unions that are conning city councils and state legislatures to approve larger and ever-growing pension benefits to state workers, (Story here) to power-hungry progressives demanding an ever-growing government to transform us into a welfare state, to the sheep who listen to the lib politicians, we're on a path that can't continue.   While the Dems all have their eye on the Russian story, or possible story, or please god*, let there be some kind of story there (they seem almost desperate); Some of the adults are concerned with items of substance.  Like the economy for instance.  Our current National Debt is over 19 TRILLION, with no signs of stopping, Trump or no Trump.  On their current path, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare will consume over ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF OUR GOVERNMENT BUDGET by the time my son is 65.  And that's from the Congressional Budget Office.  Completely unsustainable, but everyone, including a bunch of supposed conservatives, only care about the short game.  ACA repeal?  Oh, no, it will leave millions uninsured!  They didn't have insurance before, and they won't have any after our our economy collapses.  We need to go on a serious benefit diet YESTERDAY!   Reform our insurance industry to correct why it's so damn expensive in the first place, then worry about how you can extend medical care to those without it.


I'm in Vegas for the night, about half-way home.  We're not going to walk the strip this time, but we have in the past, avoiding the folks flicking cards, trying to hand you one.  These are cards showing barely or completely nekkid women, advertising strip clubs, call girls, or "massages."  That thought reminds me of a story I saw in my "news" feed.  Seen the cover of this month's ESPN "The Body" Issue?  I'm all for women being empowered, and especially for Marine vets who had a leg blown off in Afghanistan, but at some point, empowerment just becomes titillation and exploitation.  Google Kirstie Ennis if you're interested.  Beautiful woman, but really ESPN?  Same thing, but less questionable and deeply into the sick and disturbed category are the shows about little girls dancing, or participating in pageants.  They're being sexualized and nobody says a thing.  We keep moving the line on morality or what's acceptable that we forget where the line originally was.  And soon, the only morality is a personal morality.

Ski Jumps from the 2002 Winter Olympics.  We went down them like this: Video
 Getting old is not for the young.  I wake up and I have aches for no reason.  And it's become increasingly evident that the older I get, the less gracefully I deal with being sick.  It used to be that I could have pneumonia and still find a way to rally for a few hours at the local bar.  Now, I sneeze once and I'm writing my own obituary.  And my vision?  That went downhill fast.  I had both eyes lazered back in '98 as part of a study for Naval Aviation.  20/10 and 20/12 was the result.  Then one eye was retouched in '08 after it fell to 20/20, so I've had great vision for a long time.  Now, I can't read a newspaper without cheaters and I can't read the road signs until I'm on top of them. It's like I've been watching Ultra-HD TV for years and now my cable company forces me back on regular definition.   Time to give up and get some bifocals I guess.

Ok, I've emptied out the dormant residue from my brain and my chicken-scratches are all scratched out so, see you around the Chant. 

*Lower case was intentional as their god is not my God.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Not "just" a number!

Well...a whole week in the books after vacation.  I'm still wondering why there isn't Escargot on the dinner menu.  It seems the chef is slacking.  Slacker!  (Mrs Juvat and I have an "arrangement".  I do the cooking, she does the lawn mowing)

Progress on the new buildings is progressing as fast as Molasses stored outside in Nome in January.  'Nuf Said!


So, strictly for the entertainment value, Mrs Juvat, Little Juvat, his Bride and I went over to our winemaker friends place for one of their Winemaker dinners.  (One of the bennies of knowing winemakers is trying their wines.  His are VERY good, and available on Amazon ).


Dinner was Cioppino paired with their very refreshing (it's July in Texas) Rose' and their Sangiovese.


I've got to say, the Cioppino was the second best I've ever had.  The first being My Mom's (of course, she'd haunt me forever if I said differently).


I think this guy stole her recipe.  Truth be told, he's correct when he says Cioppino is not so much a recipe as a technique.  Mom's was great, last night's was pretty close.


But that's not the story, today.


So we're in the barrel room of the winery, (the only place cool enough to house 28 folks, in July in Texas) and folks are starting to settle in to their seats.  We're sitting down at one end next to the Winemaker.  (He's got an ear infection and can't hear very well.  He wants me to give him discrete volume adjustment hand signals as he's giving his talks).


As people are filing in, he leans over and points out an older gentleman just sitting down.  The Winemaker says "juvat, you REALLY need to go over and introduce yourself to that guy.  He was in the Air Force also."


OK, I will after dinner, methinks.


BIG MISTAKE.


Dinner comes to a completion and people are milling around, so I walk over to the older gentleman and introduce my self.





He returns it with "Hi, juvat.  I'm George Carruthers."


"Hi Sir, (He's older than me, they get called Sir, until telling me otherwise), I hear you were in the Air Force. So was I, what did you do?


"I was a Navigator on a B-17."



Notice there's no guns in the nose, that will be a problem in this story.
Source



"Where did you fly?" (Thinking he might not have made it overseas or had flown in a different theater.)

"England"


"Oh, My!"  I sat down beside him, wishing we could rewind back to the beginning of the evening.  Flashing handsignals seemed unimportant now.




"What time frame was this?"


"1943."


Oh, MY!


You see, that was when the P-51 and the Drop Tank were not quite ready for prime time.  These guys flew missions without escort, in the Daytime!



Source



I asked him how that went.


"Pretty well until July 14th."


"What happened then?"


"I was shot down"


"By what?"


"A Focke-Wulfe, in a head on attack. "

Source


"You must have had a spectacular view of it from the Navigator's position." (always the master of the understatement)





"I did, but it saved my life."


"How so?"


"The aircraft exploded and the nose fell off.  I fell out the back of the nose section as it separated from the aircraft.  My parachute was still attached, but it was damaged. (I found out later, his parachute had absorbed a 20MM round that would have hit him in the torso.)  As I pulled the ripcord, it was all tangled.  I managed to get it partially untangled before I hit the ground, but I still hit pretty hard."


"Where was this?"


"An airfield (Villacoublay) just southwest of Paris."





"So you spent some time with the Germans?"


"Yes, in Stalag Luft III." (Didn't realize it at the time, but....Great Escape)


His voice lowered. "Those were the 'Hungry' times."


 I knew not to press this issue.

"When were you liberated?"


"April 30th 1945, by George Patton's 3rd Army."


Much to my dismay, at that point the rest of his party returned and took him home.


Several things struck me.  First he was 94 years old and got around with only a cane.  That meant when all this took place, he was 20, maybe barely 21.


He very vividly remembered the dates, cited above, and  joy was still very apparent in his voice 70+ years after the fact when he mentioned being liberated.


As a kid, I read about these missions.  In ROTC, we studied these missions, as a Fighter Pilot I studied these missions,. as a Staff Officer, I studied these missions.  I knew there were losses, severe losses.  But....


You read mission reports like this and it's too easy to say "Oh,  Only 1 KIA, 3 WIA  and 21 MIA, that's not too bad."


Unless one of those numbers is you or someone you love.



Col, then 2LT, Carruthers is front row, first on the left. A few in the photo were not on the mission.  The rest were killed.
Source

Col George Carruthers was one of those MIA. The rest of the crew would later be reclassified as KIA.  


 Real people.  


It was a very educational evening!


For a more detailed version of his story, please read here.  It corroborated his story from last night and filled in a bunch more details.


Sources

http://www.8thafhs.com/get_one_mission.php?mission_id=326
http://www.taphilo.com/history/8thaf/8aflosses.shtml Site contains a spreadsheet providing details of ALL 8th AF missions during the War.
http://www.purpleheartaustin.org/carruthers.htm





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