Thursday, November 23, 2017


Refugee Thanksgiving by Norman Rockwell                                        Source 
I always think of Norman Rockwell around the holidays.  His paintings of American life, while mainly set in early to mid-last century, are timeless to me.  And the Thanksgiving and Christmas ones just put me in the holiday spirit and the resultant good mood.  I was going to post the quintessential Rockwell Thanksgiving picture, "Freedom From Want," but discovered this one instead which makes  a far better cover picture for my musings today.

Quite a few of my relatives live right here in San Diego County.  My mom was from a big Catholic family and three sisters and their many offspring all live in the area.  Each year someone is goaded into volunteers to host the clan for the traditional meal, which is probably the first thing I can be thankful for.   The deal is that the host doesn't have to do anything- no cooking, no cleaning, no nothin'.  We've hosted several times and have to say that doesn't mean the day is effortless, far from it, but I still love it.  It's a big potluck, semi-coordinated by me or one of the other more organized brethren.  We had 2 dozen pies one year, but had to ration the turkey, had no ice, and cranberries were nowhere to be found.  Still, there was plenty of food, family, and as always, plenty to be thankful for.

I'm not exactly sure why, but I'm always tapped to give the blessing before dinner.  During it I always ask our Lord to bless those not as fortunate as us.  That's a universal request of course, not reserved for just those in my immediate community, city, or even this country for that matter.  I know we live in the greatest nation that has ever been, and that comes with many blessings.  It's important to keep those in mind, especially this time of year.

I'm grateful for a home, and that all my friends and family have homes as well.  On the other side of the coin, there's a huge homeless population here in San Diego and it keeps growing.  Maybe it's because of the leniency with which the local government treats them, or the amazing services we have here with the Alpha Project and Fr. Joe, whose outreach is wonderful and saintly.  It's almost surely because of the great weather here as well.  Why be homeless and freezing in Baltimore or Philly when you can be homeless in sunny San Diego?  Is there gratitude I can glean from that?  It's tougher to find for sure, but it's good that we treat these people with respect and that we have such local institutions that help.  It's not necessarily solving the problem- mental health care and addiction treatment is needed in spades, but I'm grateful that I have enough food and money to help a little when I can.    The reason I backed away from more regular posting here on The Chant is because I've gotten heavily involved in The Knights of Columbus.  My Council works diligently on our "Food For Families" program, donating food and funds to help others in need.  Are we making a dent in the problem?  I don't know, but what I do know is that some folks aren't hungry after getting the help we provide.  I'm thankful for that organization which helps me to be a little more charitable than I probably would otherwise.  And I'm grateful to live in a country where this need isn't the norm.

For the most part, we live in a country where food is plentiful.  Sure, plenty of folks suffer from "Food Insecurity"- they don't know where their next meal is coming from, but we have compassionate people, food banks, soup kitchens, and programs that help stem the tide.  We don't have significant malnutrition here and hunger isn't something that affects entire populations.  I'm thankful that I can be a little part of that.

Comparing notes?

You've probably noticed how the country is currently obsessed with bad behavior from those who previously claimed to have the moral high ground.  These are the same same folks who accuse the GOP of waging a war on women.  The left and the Hollywood elite have both been dirty nasty people, since probably forever, but it's now out front for all the world to see.*  From pedophilia to rape, to sexual assault, and harassment, all of it wrong and all of it disgusting, the voices of the victims are finally rising above the fray, above the ability of the perpetrators and the political protectors to stifle them.  While I'm somewhat reveling in it all, to see both the scumbags getting their comeuppance and the victims getting their say, there is something to keep in perspective.  With all the accusations, the media outrage, the faux-media outrage, and the faux-media faux-outrage, we can be thankful that we live in a country with a media industry, however flawed it may be, to tell the story of the victims and hold the corrupt accountable.   It's a great country that cares about the victims, that allows women to have a voice and equal footing, even if there are some folks who refuse to see that.  I can't allow those who would rather play the victim, affect my happiness.  Gratitude can make the world a better place.


I'm not blindly believing every one of those victims of course.  Some accusations are so old and seem too politically expedient that they have to be taken with a grain of salt and both eyes open.  But the schadenfreude is pretty satisfying.  Can we fire every one of the politicians?  No, not immediately, but we have a great institution in our electoral process.  Something a hundred other countries don't have.  We aren't stuck with our leaders, we just have to vote them out.

What about Hollywood? Should we boycott the entire industry?  Possible, but not likely.  The TV and movie industry is all too pervasive and to be honest, pretty darn entertaining.  And dropping Hollywood isn't all that necessary, nor is it fair to all those there that are just hard working folks.  Hollywood is fronted by the glitz of celebrity, but it's built by a hundred thousand set designers, carpenters, computer technicians, lighting technicians, audio engineers, writers, caterers, etc.  Few of those people are likely in a position that would allow them to function as an unchecked predator.  It's the producers, directors, and some A-list actors that wield that power, but not any longer.  What we need to do is not get caught up in the cult of celebrity that is Hollywood, nor listen to ignorant actors who are given a soapbox because of it.

Is there something to be grateful for there?  I suppose it goes back to the earlier point about a free press- an institution which we can air our grievances, backed by the first amendment, which gives us the right to petition the government (and sue to pants off the predators).

Unfortunately, just today I learned that Congress has a secret multi-million dollar slush fund to pay off those who are sexually abused by members of Congress under a seal of silence.  When are we going to wake up and hold these pompous frauds accountable?  Soon I hope.  If not, then in November of 2018, 2020, 2022, etc.   I'm thankful for voters that help do that, that help us keep this country great.  And I'm hopeful that the current attention being paid to all the true deplorables in government, media, and Hollywood will help turn the minds of some other voters.

 But, even if they don't, I'm still full of gratitude, for our country which has problems such as this.  These are first world problems that so many other countries couldn't even comprehend.  Capitalism and bill of rights allow us to have lifestyles where we can take the time to bitch about our government, and a strong military that defends those rights.  Our standard of living allows us to have an entertainment industry which is so entertaining.  Our society also enables (most of) us to provide our families with food and shelter and so many other things that we take for granted.  Things that other countries don't have that make our country a beacon of hope for not only those living here, but refugees and downtrodden from elsewhere.  Is it perfect?  Far from it, but I have gratitude for what it is and what I have.  Which is far more than most.

Happy Thanksgiving to Sarge, Juvat, Lush, and all the Chanters out there!

*I'm fully aware that sexual harassment isn't just from the left, but the juxtaposition surrounding them is staggering.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Big Time, L'il Sweetie, Little Bit, The WSO
Safe and (mostly) sound after the long haul from California
L'il Sweetie and Your Humble Scribe doing the selfie thing.
Your Humble Scribe playing the fool.
LUSH, "Playing?"
Kodi is convinced the kids dropped something to eat.
Bear wants to know if the kids ever sleep.
As to the post title...

Yes, yes, we are!

I am thankful, I pray you are as well.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving Etc.

The Nuke and the grand-dogs are in town, The Missus Herself as well.

The WSO and her tribe are also in place.

We have five adult humans, two little humans, two felines, and two canines onboard.

Yes, things might be hectic.

Posting, as the picture indicates, might be light.

I'm off all week, so I've got that going for me.

Ride might be bumpy, but it's gonna be fun.

I'll be here, hopefully, before Thanksgiving, but if not...


Monday, November 20, 2017

Old 666

Well...I'm anticipating, but not betting on, a quiet week this week.  Faculty and Students are off, so shouldn't be jamming printers or forgetting passwords or other actions of similar "demise of all life in the universe" nature as usually occurs when they're around.  

The members of my team will be working on issues affecting our production databases and involve taking those off line for (hopefully) short periods of time.  Our boss has taken pity on us and updated our equipment.  He expects this will enhance our productivity.

We shall see if his expectations are met.

Meanwhile on the home front, Thanksgiving dinner is still being procurred
No Sarge, those are not Buzzards.  A large flock of turkey hens ran in front of the truck on the way to Church this Morn.
As Mrs Juvat is out at Trade Days, peddling women's wear, I had the opportunity to watch a little bit of Dogfights, and stumbled across this episode.

.I had originally selected it because Col Thorsness' Medal of Honor flight was included, but watched the other two segments first.  I'll leave the first segment for the members of the Staff with Navy attachments to discuss.

The second segment, however....

Piqued my interest.  It begins at 18:50.

And I realized I hadn't written one of these posts in a while, so here's the story of two more Recipients of the Medal of Honor from the Air Force or it's antecedents.

Their names are Joseph Sarnoski and Jay Zeamer.
Lt Sarnoski
Major Zeamer

This was kind of interesting to me for a variety of reasons.  First, when I hear about B-17s, like most people I immediately think of 8th Air Force, Great Britain and Nazi Germany.  The Flying Fortress flew in every theater of war in WWII, and while I knew that, I didn't appreciate some of the aspects of that fact.

Second, there were multiple incidents of two Medal of Honor recipients on a single crew.  One is described here. Lt Sarnoski and Major Zeamer are unique in that, although they were in the same aircraft when the action occurred, they received them for different reasons.

This site, as usual, has quite a bit of detailed information about the mission, providing some of those bon mots that bring the incident to life.  

Apparently, Major Zeamer was a natural leader, who had  had a problem checking out as a pilot in the B-26.  In fact, at the time of this mission, was NOT a qualified B-17 pilot. He had only passed the qualifications to be a co-pilot.

My interpretation of this was not that he lacked the flying ability, but that he lacked the ability to comply with what would later become the SAC way of flying.  Based on this, or perhaps because of this, he was sent to 5th Air Force in the South Pacific, in the B-26.  He raised the ire of his mates there by, apparently falling asleep, during the bomb run on missions evidently due to boredom.  He was transferred to a B-17 unit, where he was assigned to some one who "got" him, and trained him.  
Major Zeamer is 2nd from left back row, Lt Sarnowski is last on the right back row.

Major Zeamer eventually put together a crew of misfits like himself, found a shot up B-17 that was being cannibalized and restored it to flying status, added additional armament to it and began flying missions no one else wanted to fly.  
Believed to be the only picture of their aircraft

Such was the state of the war in that theater, that no one really asked to see his "papers" authorizing him to fly as pilot in command.  My kinda guy!  

Fighter Pilot is an Attitude, not an AFSC!

In any case, in June of 1943, Major Zeamer takes a mission to map Bougainville, in preparation for invasion.  Somebody, flying a chair, had also asked them to take pictures of the airfield at Buka.  Major Zeamer declined as that would have alerted the Japanese to his approach.

As he's approaching the target, he realizes he's 30 minutes ahead of schedule, so decides to fly over Buka and take the pictures.  He does and now back on time, but with the Japanese alerted, flies on to perform his mapping mission.

Lt Sarnoski had received orders sending him stateside in 3 days as he's been in theater for 18 months and more than exceeded his required missions.  Everything I read about him said he was an outstanding bombardier as well as an excellent shot with the machine gun.  He volunteered to go on the mission as his replacement had come down with malaria and was grounded.

The mission is going to be dangerous for a couple of reasons, as they are taking pictures to be used as maps, the aircraft cannot deviate from the flight path at all.  Straight and level.  Also, in order for the mission to be successful, the film must make it back to base.  Getting shot down is mission failure, as well as the usual bad stuff involved with getting shot down.

They are in the final phases of the mission when they notice Japanese Zero's  taking off and pursuing them.  Modifications to their B-17 were such that instead of the usual 10 x .50 Cal machine guns, they had 19.  The first Zero's that attacked from the tail were shot down.  

Other Zero's maneuvered around to the front for a head on attack.  One is shot down by Lt Sarnoski, but another one attacks and shatters the front end of the bomber severely injuring him, throwing him back under the flight deck.  Damage is such that Major Zeamer can see him through the holes.

Declining first aid, Lt Sarnoski manages to pull himself back to his position and resume firing, destroying a Japanese Dinah twin engine fighter.

Major Zeamer has not escaped injury from the head on attacks either.  He's severely injured in the legs and arms, and is flying the aircraft with his fingers.  

Sources I've found say this aerial battle went on from 40 minutes to an hour as the B-17 makes it's exit from the target area. As they prepare to make a final attack, Major Zeamer pulls the B-17 into a steep dive into some clouds. The Japanese being low on fuel and ammunition, assume that was a death dive and RTB.

Major Zeamer pulls the aircraft out of the dive and continues to command the aircraft between periods of unconciousness due to blood loss.  The Co-pilot is performing first aid on Lt Sarnoski and the aircraft is being flown by one of the Gunners.

RTB takes about 4 hours and Lt Sarnoski succumbs to his injuries enroute.  Major Zeamer revives in time to make the actual landing and passes out again on shutdown hearing the medics say to "leave the pilot for last, he's dead."

Fortunately, that wasn't true, although the Doctors eventually pulled 150 pieces of metal out of him, most parts of the B-17.

He passed away in 2017.

One of the sources I found for Lt Sarnoski was entitled, "From a common man, uncommon Valor".  I think that has been a frequent summation for the folks on that monument at Lackland.

Major Zeamer's Citation:

On 16 June 1943, Maj. Zeamer (then Capt.) volunteered as pilot of a bomber on an important photographic mapping mission covering the formidably defended area in the vicinity of Buka, Solomon Islands. While photographing the Buka airdrome. his crew observed about 20 enemy fighters on the field, many of them taking off.  
Despite the certainty of a dangerous attack by this strong force, Maj. Zeamer proceeded with his mapping run, even after the enemy attack began. In the ensuing engagement, Maj. Zeamer sustained gunshot wounds in both arms and legs, 1 leg being broken. Despite his injuries, he maneuvered the damaged plane so skillfully that his gunners were able to fight off the enemy during a running fight which lasted 40 minutes. The crew destroyed at least 5 hostile planes, of which Maj. Zeamer himself shot down 1.
 Although weak from loss of blood, he refused medical aid until the enemy had broken combat. He then turned over the controls, but continued to exercise command despite lapses into unconsciousness, and directed the flight to a base 580 miles away. In this voluntary action, Maj. Zeamer, with superb skill, resolution, and courage, accomplished a mission of great value. 

Lt. Sarnoski's Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. On 16 June 1943, 2d Lt. Sarnoski volunteered as bombardier of a crew on an important photographic mapping mission covering the heavily defended Buka area, Solomon Islands. 
When the mission was nearly completed, about 20 enemy fighters intercepted. At the nose guns, 2d Lt. Sarnoski fought off the first attackers, making it possible for the pilot to finish the plotted course. When a coordinated frontal attack by the enemy extensively damaged his bomber, and seriously injured 5 of the crew, 2d Lt. Sarnoski, though wounded, continued firing and shot down 2 enemy planes.
A 20-millimeter shell which burst in the nose of the bomber knocked him into the catwalk under the cockpit. With indomitable fighting spirit, he crawled back to his post and kept on firing until he collapsed on his guns. 2d Lt. Sarnoski by resolute defense of his aircraft at the price of his life, made possible the completion of a vitally important mission.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Still No Word

Strong winds and 20-foot seas in the area are hampering the search for ARA San Juan which hasn't reported in since early on the 15th of November. Numerous rumors are around concerning the missing submarine, nothing official has been released by government authorities.

On the bright side, if there is such a thing in these circumstances, is that it's summer in the southern hemisphere, up to 18 hours of daylight would help the search, if the weather wasn't so bad.

Apparently the British Royal Navy is also assisting in the search according to this report from Sky News. This report from ABC News provides more background on this situation.

A break in the weather is expected tomorrow, Monday at the latest. But time is not on the crews' side. If the boat is submerged, air quality will be an issue, not so much a lack of oxygen as much as an overabundance of carbon dioxide in the air. Scrubbers aboard most submarines are designed to remove the carbon dioxide from the air which we humans produce as a byproduct of breathing. OSHA considers 3% carbon dioxide to be the maximum level where a normal human can continue to function. 10% is lethal, fatal within 30 minutes.

No one not aboard San Juan knows what happened or what is happening at this moment. As you can see from the next graphic, there's a big area where the boat could be (yellow circle). For rescue purposes, shallow water is better, rescues from very deep water are problematic to say the least.

Google Earth
Prayers continue...

Friday, November 17, 2017

For Those In Peril On The Sea

S-42 ARA San Juan
She's a T-1700-Class submarine built by Thyssen Nordseewerke. As of late Friday she had not been heard from since Wednesday, the 15th of November. She was proceeding from Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, en route to the base at Mar del Plata. Last known position was approximately 270 miles off the Golfo San Jorge (the red diamond on the map.)

NASA just happened to have a P-3 Orion down in the area, she's involved in the search. Elements of the United States Navy are also en route to assist in the search.

But it's a long ways away...

There are at least 44 submariners on board San Juan. Right now, as I write this and until they are safe, my prayers are with them, and their families.

God grant the search crews the eyes of eagles and the strength needed to fulfill their mission.

If you're a praying sort, now would be a good time to do so.

Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small.
It cannot be that any happy fate
Will me befall
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.

Thy winds, O God, so strong,
So slight my sail.
How could I curb and bit them on the long
And saltry trail,
Unless Thy love were mightier than the wrath
Of all the tempests that beset my path?

Thy world, O God, so fierce,
And I so frail.
Yet, though its arrows threaten oft to pierce
My fragile mail,
Cities of refuge rise where dangers cease,
Sweet silences abound, and all is peace.

- Winfred Ernest Garrison
Lord, have mercy...

'Tis the Season...

I don't often post things asking for donations to some cause. When I do, it's for a good cause. This one more than makes the grade. Go here to donate.

Let our sailors know that we thank them, remember them, and support them. Especially at this time of year.

It's tough being away from home and family during the holidays. DAMHIK.



The Friday Flyby - November 2017

Dornier Do 31 VTOL

So yes, it's been a while since I've done one of these. Used to do them every Friday, until the copyright Gestapo stopped by. Now I behave and try to only use pure, "free to use" photos for which I always will try to include a source. For the photos which dwell in the public domain it's not a strict legal necessity (though Advokaat can correct me if I'm wrong, hey, it happens) but I put a link to where I got the picture anyways. Usually. More often that not. I think you get my drift now and I can stop beating the deceased equine.

Whilst perusing the Web of World Wideness for something which to entertain you, gentle reader, I did a search on "odd aircraft." Wow, there are a lot of them, but the one above really caught my eye. It doesn't look like it should fly, but it does.

Yes, yes, I know the video is auf Deutsch, but you should be used to my wandering about linguistically by now. Pretty cool aircraft, neh? Cool and weird. I like that.

Now from my understanding this bird was designed for and intended to be used to support this -

EWR VJ 101 (Source)
Kinda looks like an F-104 with engines on the wing tips, not in the fuselage. Yes, those jet engines on the wing tips could be tilted to provide a VTOL experience. (Vertical Take Off and Landing if'n you were wondering.) And yes, there is a video...

Weird and kinda cool as well. But wait, there's more!

The Mixmaster

Rear view of the XB-42A in May 1947
XB-42A with podded 19XB-2 jets
Tail number 43-50225 (top picture) was destroyed in a crash at Bolling in D.C., the three crew members survived. Barely, from the sounds of it!
The record-breaking XB-42 prototype had been destroyed in a crash at Bolling Field. The second of two prototypes of the Douglas XB-42, 43-50225, on a routine flight out of Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., suffered in short order, a landing gear extension problem, failure of the port engine, and as coolant temperatures rose, failure of the starboard engine. Maj. Hayduck bailed out at 1,200 feet, Lt. Col. Haney at 800 feet, and pilot Lt. Col. (later Major General) Fred J. Ascani, after crawling aft to jettison the pusher propellers, at 400 feet – all three survived. The aircraft crashed at Oxen Hill, Maryland. Classified jettisonable propeller technology caused a problem for authorities in explaining what witnesses on the ground thought was the aircraft exploding. Possible fuel management problems were speculated, but this hypothesis was never proven by subsequent investigation. The remaining prototype was used in flight test programs, including fulfilling a December 1943 proposal by Douglas to fit uprated engines and underwing Westinghouse 19XB-2A axial-flow turbojets of 1,600 lbf thrust each, making it the XB-42A. (Source)
Tail number 43-50224 (bottom picture) is in storage at the Air Force Museum, awaiting restoration. I'll be wanting to see that one of these days!

Here's one named after the governor of California (yes, the current loon) -

McDonnell XP-67 "Bat" or "Moonbat"
That one flew in 1944, very advanced but a lot of teething problems. The sole prototype was destroyed in a crash. The program cost was over four million bucks. Big money back then. Now? Well, that might buy you a toilet seat and a hammer.

Here was a bad idea looking for a sponsor -

The Goodyear AO-3 "Inflatoplane"
Yes, an aircraft you inflate, then fly. Scares me to think about it.
The Goodyear Inflatoplane was an inflatable experimental aircraft made by the Goodyear Aircraft Company, a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, well known for the Goodyear blimp. Although it seemed an improbable project, the finished aircraft proved to be capable of meeting its design objectives, although its sponsor, the United States Army, ultimately cancelled the project when it could not find a "valid military use for an aircraft that could be brought down by a well-aimed bow and arrow". (Source)
Even the Army gets it right sometimes...

This one had to wait a few years, look familiar?

YB-35 Flying Wing showing its quartet of pusher contra-rotating propellers.
The option was later discarded due severe vibration in flight and later changed to traditional single rotating propeller.
This view might give you a clue as to this bird's design descendant, sort of.

B-2 Bomber
See the resemblance now?

Miles M.39B Libellula
This odd duck rather looks like something I drew when I was in the 2nd grade (when I should have been paying attention to the teacher), though this one could actually fly. What were they thinking?
The M.39B Libellula (from Libellulidae, a taxonomic family of dragonflies) was a Second World War tandem wing experimental aircraft built by Miles Aircraft, designed to give the pilot the best view possible for landing on aircraft carriers. A scale version of the M.39 design was proposed by Miles to meet Air Ministry specification B.11/41 for a fast bomber. The M.39B was used by Miles to generate data from which the M.39 design was improved, but the M.39 project was cancelled and the M.39B broken up. (Source)
Wonder what Lex would have thought of that design?

Weird and wonderful aircraft, there are many more, but I need to save some of them for a future post. (Need to get started on that book dontcha know?)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What Are Ya Gonna Do?

Yup, big Sopranos fan here. That line of Tony's, "What are ya gonna do?" has become my mantra as of late. The world is insane, there are far too many idiots running loose, and there seems no end to it. I used to write about that sort of thing from time to time, the occasional rant as it were, but life is too short to worry and fret about the stuff you can't control.

So yeah, "What are ya gonna do?"

So, the other day my natural curiosity about certain things drove me to look up the word "idiot." I use it a lot, especially in the car, so I decided to see what its origin was.
Idiot is a word derived from the Greek ἰδιώτης, idiōtēs ("person lacking professional skill", "a private citizen", "individual"), from ἴδιος, idios ("private", "one's own"). In ancient Greece, people who were not capable of engaging in the public sphere were considered "idiotes", in contrast to the public citizen, or "polites" (πολίτες). In Latin the word idiota ("ordinary person, layman") preceded the Late Latin meaning "uneducated or ignorant person". Its modern meaning and form dates back to Middle English around the year 1300, from the Old French idiote ("uneducated or ignorant person").


An idiot in Athenian democracy was someone who was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private—as opposed to public—affairs. Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education. In Athenian democracy, idiots were born and citizens were made through education (although citizenship was also largely hereditary). "Idiot" originally referred to a "layman, person lacking professional skill". Declining to take part in public life, such as democratic government of the polis (city state), was considered dishonorable. "Idiots" were seen as having bad judgment in public and political matters. Over time, the term "idiot" shifted away from its original connotation of selfishness and came to refer to individuals with overall bad judgment–individuals who are "stupid". (Source)
Quite honestly, I think the Greeks were on to something there.

About writing a book, or three...

Putting together a blog post takes two to three hours a day, on average. (Yes, even the crappy ones take that long.) I really enjoy this blogging thing, it's therapeutic, fun (for the most part), and every now and then I learn something. (Look into a topic and see all the stuff one didn't know.) While I truly enjoy having Juvat cover Mondays, with Tuna the occasional Tuesday (or a Monday double post), if I don't blog for a couple of days I get antsy, I need to blog, I think I'm addicted to it. (Cheaper and healthier than smoking, go ahead, ask me how I know.)

So I need to do this. Which takes time away from actually writing something that no one will see the next day. Truly, I enjoy the feedback I get from you, the readers, in the form of comments and page hits. I've been doing this long enough to recognize when the spambots have come to visit, page hits go through the roof. Normally it runs between 500 and 700 a day.

So yesterday, I indulged myself in a little fictional exercise, I didn't really have a good topic to write about and the dream mentioned in that post provided a starting point. I really enjoyed doing that. So yeah, somehow I need to make time to write that book. Even if it's just a paragraph a day, I need to start it.

After all, I don't want to make Valory wait until I retire and Wayward Sailor is itching to proofread/edit any offering I might produce.

So yes, I'm working on it, I'm not going to wait until I retire (December 2019 is the current plan), and I really want to gain fame and fortune.

Or at least be able to say, "Hey, I wrote a book."

What are ya gonna do?

Write a book is the correct answer to that last question.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Weird Dreams

"Oberfeldwebel! How long do we have to sit here with the engine off? I'm freezing my arse off!"


"Ja, Oberfeldwebel?"

"Slap Schmidt for me would you?"

Schmidt was a Grünschnabel, a rookie, he had only been with the crew of Panzer 413 for two months, straight out of the Panzerschule. Kid was only 18 years old, a volunteer! The rest of the crew had been together since '42. They'd lost their old commander when he went off to become an officer shortly after Arnhem. Everyone else had changed positions and poor Schmidt got stuck in the front as the radioman/bow gunner.

Now they were sitting in the dark, operating the engine periodically to keep the oil warm, waiting for the attack to jump off. Ten days before Christmas.

Willi was nearly nodding off when he heard the sharp rap on the hull. Stirring he popped his hatch open to see the face of his platoon leader, Hauptfeldwebel Müller.

"Crank her up Willi, we're about to move. Just waiting for the Landsers to clear the road ahead."

"Zu befehl Kurt! Fire up the engine Horst, lets get Schmidt warmed up for battle!"

Panzer 413 jerked forward onto the road. Tracks throwing up mud, Horst maneuvered into position behind Panzer 424. While he desperately wanted to sit below his hatch, he couldn't see anything due to the mud being thrown up by 424. The wet mist was clinging to everything, including him, and he was starting to shiver.

Willi was standing up in his commander's cupola, wishing he was the gunner once more, out of the wind. But 413 was now "his" panzer, though the battalion commander, Major Lange, might disagree. It had been a long time since they'd rolled into the attack, most of the battalion was excited by the prospect.

Except for Schmidt of course, he was cold, he was damp, and he missed his home in the Harz Mountains so much. Last Christmas he had still been in school, home for Christmas with his parents and his sister. His oldest brother had been killed in action in 1941, fighting with Rommel in North Africa. His next oldest brother was still in hospital, recovering from the traumatic amputation of both legs below the knee when his Panther had been destroyed by an American Jabo (fighter bomber) near Falaise in France.

He had wanted to join up and fight the enemies of the Reich, but his father wanted him to finish school first. As Vati was a Party official, Schmidt had stayed home while nearly everyone else his age had already been swept up by conscription.

Tank school had been fun. But now he was at the front, the enemies of the Reich were much closer now. Fantasy had become reality. Reality was cold, drizzle, fog, bad food, and the distinct possibility of being killed or maimed in the days ahead.

As the tank rolled towards Luxembourg, all Schmidt could think was how badly he wanted to go home.

"Hey Sarge, you hear that?"

"Hear what Jackson? All I hear is the rain and you yapping."

"Tanks, I hear tanks."


Then Staff Sergeant Jones heard it too. The squealing of tank tracks and the low rumble of what had to be a tank engine. Multiple tank engines. He was staring down the road from where they had set up in a hasty position, a couple of mines, a rickety wooden barrier, and the barest amount of wire they'd grabbed from a farmer's barn in the village to their rear.

The sound was getting louder now, though it was still dark and the fog was thick, Jones figured that whatever was making that noise would soon roll into view.

Then the world erupted in fire and death.

Precisely on time, German artillery began slamming into American positions all along the Ardennes front. 105 mm artillery rounds slammed into treetops, detonating and sending hot steel and wood splinters into the men clustered below. No one had had time to put up any overhead cover over their foxholes. Fortunately the trees were so thick that very few were wounded, but everyone had their heads down, waiting for the barrage to roll over them.

"Jackson, come on we gotta move!" Jones yelled as he grabbed Jackson's shoulder.

"Come on man!"

That's when Staff Sergeant Jones realized that Jackson wasn't going anywhere, ever. A wood splinter had been driven into the back of his neck, Jackson was a goner.


Jones stayed low as he turned and ran down the track towards his company CP. But not low enough.

Gefreiter Pizzeck was the bow gunner in Panzer 424. As his tank rolled out into the open he saw movement just down the road. Swinging his machine gun in that direction, he squeezed out a short burst. Whatever had been there wasn't there anymore.

Staff Sergeant Jones, from Milwaukee, had been thrown into a patch of low brush by the burst of machine gun fire. He was trembling from the shock of it, he'd never been shot at before by someone actually trying to kill him. Oddly enough, he felt no pain, just sleepy, very sleepy.

Panzer 424 halted just past the rudimentary roadblock, after crushing it underneath 424's tracks. The tank commander, Leutnant Rolf Eberhardt, looked back towards 413 to see the second Tiger in the column right where he should be. To his right, in a shallow hole, was a dead American, just up the road, partially in the brush was another. Probably the man that Pizzeck shot at. Wasn't much left of him below the waist, Pizzeck's MG 34 had torn the soldier nearly in half at this range. He idly wondered where the man's legs were when a loud bang behind him made him turn.

Panzer 413's left track had rolled right over one of the mines Jones and Jackson had planted in the road. One of the links was shattered and the rest of the track had rolled right off the drive sprocket. For now, 413 was stuck, in the middle of the road, blocking the rest of the battalion from moving forward.

Eberhardt jumped down from his tank, right onto the second mine which Jones and Jackson had planted in the road. Though his weight shouldn't have been enough to set the mine off, a faulty fuse and the extra impetus from Eberhardt jumping down off his tank was enough to trigger the mine.

There was less of Eberhardt left than there was of Jones.

"Scheisse! Dismount, get that spare section of track off the turret, grab the tools, lets fix that track or no one is going to be advancing!"

As Willi's crew began to fix the busted track, Major Lange came up.

"What's the holdup Hoffmeister?"

"Mines Herr Major. We hit one, Leutnant Eberhardt stepped on another. We should have this track patched up in 30 minutes."

"Shit. I'm sending some engineers up to check for more mines. Watch your step!"

"Jawohl Herr Major."

Strange dreams Monday night. Woke up at 0230, after dreaming that I had had to fix the track of a Tiger tank, stranded in a barn, with the engine compartment buried under a pile of what appeared to be mulch. (Too many years assisting in the annual ritual of the mulch might explain that part of the dream.)

Had a kid from work with me, young guy just out of college. No, they hadn't covered fixing a busted tank track at his school. So I had him clean the mulch off the back half of the tank. I started replacing the busted link in the track. How I knew how to do that is beyond me, maybe I saw it in a movie. Maybe I read it somewhere.

But I woke up before the track was repaired.

The mulch had been cleared away though.

Damn. What the heck did I eat Monday night?

And yes, the story above will be continued in December. Too early right now for Battle of the Bulge stories.