Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Iron Rooster

(Source)
So, what do World War II aerial phenomenon, weather vanes, and a modern rock band have in common with the Old AF Sarge? Well...

I believe I have mentioned my current enjoyment of the music of a certain band, much to Juvat's chagrin. While I can't help it if old Phantom Phlyers ain't as "hip" and "with it" as old Phantom Phixers, it does lead one to a story or three. Mebbe.

When I was assigned to Kadena Air Base on the unsinkable isle of Okinawa* (which we, my compatriots and I, liked to call the Rock, bear in mind, this was when Dwayne Johnson was nobbut a toddler, so no apologies needed, nor given) way back in the mid-seventies of the last century, I led a quiet, secluded, almost monastic, life.

Not.

While 'tis true that I spent most of my time on the base itself, not exploring the wonders of this sub-tropical paradise with it's long and storied history, which I won't explore today, for I was a low ranking young-ish airman for whom the financial rewards of an Air Force career had yet to manifest themselves. (Yup, still waiting.)

I say young-ish because I was still in my twenties. Not quite 23 when I arrived there in February of 19 and 76, which, to save you calculating it yourself, was nigh on 42 years ago. Okay, exactly 42 years ago. Which if you go back 42 years before that would be 1934. Which I mention just to show you how old I am in perspective. Of course, Old NFO, Paul Quandt, Rev Paul, and a number of others amongst the readership will scoff and claim that "I'm just a young'un," well tell that to my knees, they feel ninety. Anyhoo, I digress.

What we did in those days for cheap entertainment was drink beer, listen to loud music, play pinochle, and board games. (War games, for we were a fierce lot.) Sometimes all at the same time. Russ (another of the ancients among the readership) might remember setting course to Jazbo's (an airman name of Steve, I think, Jaskowitz, so yes, "Jazbo" to his mates) dorm room (hey, we were in the Air Force, we had dormitories not barracks, very collegiate we were) on a Friday night, beer in hand and listening to "When the Levee Breaks" at sound levels nearly high enough to drown out the sound of two J-79s in full afterburner. Both of which things no doubt explain why there are certain frequencies I can no longer detect.

Hhmm, where was I? Oh yeah, rock and roll, it's what we WCS gorillas listened to, at least the bunch I hung out with did. I didn't get the chance to associate much with the zipper-suited sun gods known as aircrew in those days, but I heard that all those lads liked to listen to country and western music. I suppose when you learn to do all your flying down in the southern regions of the U.S. of A. (think Texas and Arizona), one learns to appreciate the twang and "crying in my beer" sort of music which, apparently, the denizens of those regions prefer.

I noticed the same thing when The WSO was in flight school down Pensacola way. A lass raised on The Beatles and Jethro Tull suddenly had a hankering for C & W, bluegrass, and other varieties of good old American music. Which I mention in passing, because it popped into my head as a sort of proof of my previous statement.

Anyhoo, I was a rocker (and something of a mocker) then and now.


Though my tastes in music be somewhat eclectic, I lean towards the loud stuff with electric stringed instruments and thumping drums. (Play bagpipes for me though and I'll be out the concert hall door and up in the Highlands in a flash. Or perhaps a kilt...)

Anyhoo, speaking of aerial phenomenon and Okinawa (no, really, I mentioned both), once upon a midnight dreary whilst sitting in the front cockpit of a mighty Phantom, I noticed summat odd upon the radar screen. For test purposes, my sergeant in the back seat had gone to "transmit" from "standby," (something which we weren't really supposed to do but which we did anyway) thus blasting radio-frequency energy into the Okinawan sky.

Lo (and behold) there, upon my radar scope, were two rather large objects at about 20 miles and to the aircraft's left (mine too as I was facing the same way). Big things they were, just sitting there. Clouds? Nope, conditions were CAVU, not a cloud in the sky. Moisture? A radar defect? Nope, neither.

One moment they were there, the next the two blobs (for so I characterized them) sped to the right and quickly vanished. Huh?

"Sarge, did you see that?" I queried my backseater.

"See what Chuckles?"

"Uh, nothing, never mind."

Whilst it is said that foo fighters never showed up on radar, back in the day, I think I spotted a couple that night on Okinawa. First time I've ever mentioned that by the way, shh, don't tell the Air Force.
The nonsense word "foo" emerged in popular culture during the early 1930s, first being used by cartoonist Bill Holman, who peppered his Smokey Stover fireman cartoon strips with "foo" signs and puns.

The term "foo" was borrowed from Bill Holman's Smokey Stover by a radar operator in the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, Donald J. Meiers, who (it is agreed by most 415th members) gave the foo fighters their name. Meiers was from Chicago and was an avid reader of Bill Holman's strip, which was run daily in the Chicago Tribune. Smokey Stover's catch-phrase was "where there's foo, there's fire". In a mission debriefing on the evening November 27, 1944, Fritz Ringwald, the unit's S-2 Intelligence Officer, stated that Meiers and Ed Schleuter had sighted a red ball of fire that appeared to chase them through a variety of high-speed maneuvers. Fritz said that Meiers was extremely agitated and had a copy of the comic strip tucked in his back pocket. He pulled it out and slammed it down on Fritz's desk and said "... it was another one of those f****n' foo fighters!" and stormed out of the debriefing room.

According to Fritz Ringwald, because of the lack of a better name, it stuck. And this was originally what the men of the 415th started calling these incidents: "f****n' foo fighters". In December 1944, a press correspondent from the Associated Press in Paris, Bob Wilson, was sent to the 415th at their base outside of Dijon, France to investigate this story. It was at this time that the term was cleaned up to just "foo fighters". The squadron commander, Capt. Harold Augsperger, also decided to sanitize the term to "foo fighters" in the historical data of the squadron. (Source)
You can read more about "foo fighters" over at We Are the Mighty. (I suppose you could also look it up yourself, but I believe I would be remiss, not providing a link, so I gave you two. It's a giver I am, it's what I do.)

Part the Second

Weather vanes traditionally were topped with a cockerel (another name for a chicken, or rooster, if you will, and I do) and were made of iron. So yeah, iron rooster. (And that has what to do with aerial phenomenon and some rock band? Easy now, I'm getting there.) Also, note this -
Why yes, that is the patch I wore upon my uniform while assigned to Kadena Air Patch. (Coincidence? Hhmm, I think not.)

Part the Third

So the band I am currently enamored with (much to the chagrin of Juvat) is, of course, The Foo Fighters. And if you chased that last link, you'll get the connection between the aerial phenomenon and the band. As Dave Grohl said, "It's the stupidest f******g band name in the world." Which of course, will now be enshrined on The Acronym Page as SFBNITW. Which, as an acronym, is right up there with WBAGNFARB. Truth be told, I think Foo Fighters is a great name for a band. Or is it just me?

Uh Sarge, we get foo fighters and band names, but what the hell does "iron rooster" and weather vanes have to do with it?

Glad you asked.

Iron Rooster just so happens to be the name of a Foo Fighters song, which I like. A lot. (Sorry Juvat.)

Seriously though, I can really relate to the lyrics.

Iron Rooster

Have you ever been dumb enough to do what you wanted to do
Without good reason coming over you?
Have you ever been young enough to feel what you wanted to feel?
Take back those years for something real

I'm an iron rooster
Cold and still
Irregular sculpture
Held against my will

Have you ever been drunk enough to say what you wanted to say
Without no words getting in the way?
Have you ever been in love enough to be who you wanted to be?
I won't mind you if you won't mind me

I'm an iron rooster
Cold and still
Irregular sculpture
Held against my will

Can you believe we're older?
I won't believe it's over now
Do you remember being children?
Do you remember when? Now

I'm an iron rooster
Cold and still
Irregular sculpture

An iron rooster
Cold and still
Irregular sculpture

An iron rooster
Held against my will

Written by:
Odie Hawkins,
David Eric Grohl,
Nate Mendel,
Georg Ruthenberg,
Chris Shiflett

And yes, I have been dumb enough, young enough, drunk enough, and in love enough...


Also, in Chinese, "iron rooster" (鐵公雞, Tiěgōngjī) means "stingy person." (Source)

And Lord knows, I am a cheap bastid.

'Twas a long road, but we got there in the end.

Thus endeth today's lesson...




* 沖縄島 Okinawa-jima, for those curious about the linguistic niceties. Which I am.

26 comments:

  1. Erm...ah..... the word circuitous keeps popping up on the screen but as more than one of my teachers stated, "Learning is good". Sometimes the journey is the lesson, eh? :)

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  2. Foo Fighters..... Dad was in a Nike Ajax battery stationed in San Pedro in '57. He mentioned being in the radar shack watching blips fly down the coast from Washington state to the Baja in just several seconds. He said they just looked at each other and shrugged.

    I've got a theory.... thanks to my old physics professor, Dr. Sanders.

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    1. I've seen a couple of theories on those, all plausible and scientific. But we have to admit (well, have to is a little strong) there are weird things out there.

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  3. I, too, have seen those mysterious screen contacts burst across the scope so fast and so far that course was only an estimate and the speed was unbelievable.
    The Chief said they were fireballs.

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  4. And today's lesson was a good one as usual. Can't go wrong at Chant Du Depart.

    I remember well those day's on the Rock and as far as I was concerned, rock was the only flavor of music worth listening to especially at sound levels suitable for stadium concerts (what? I'm having trouble hearing you, you'll have to repeat that!)

    My musical tastes have mellowed over the years and now I tend to listen to a large variety of music, C&W, Bluegrass, Celtic, Jazz, Blues, Salsa and Classical depending on my mood. (I currently have over 80 GBytes of tunes on my iPod Touch for road trips) But I have a special place in my heart for Rock. I love Foo Fighters (you have good taste there) and you, my friend are responsible for my deep love of Deep Purple. Before Kadena I liked Deep Purple but got totally hooked after many long sessions in your room listening to their tunz. I have every album they've produced and also everything by Rainbow.

    But I do draw the line at listening to Rap or Hip Hop! If someone was to lock me in a room and torture me by playing Rap or Hip Hop, I WILL tell them where my Mom buries her money in her back yard!!!

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    1. Roger that on your last!

      Oh yeah, Rainbow, Richie Blackmore, man, good times! (I hear that Rainbow is back according to Wikipedia, I'll need to check that out!)

      Deep Purple, there's some awesomeness right there.

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  5. I don't know, I was out looking through my Telescope at the night sky last night and I coulda swore I spotted a Tesla. It musta been that Musk Melon I had for dinner.

    On a more serious note, didn't the F-4 have a squat switch on the landing gear which prevented the radar actually transmitting while on the ground? I know the Eagle did. Unless you guys bypassed it of course.

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    1. No squat switch on the Cs and Ds. The 15s probably got them because of us, we might have irradiated one too many SPs.

      Not that we ever did that. Intentionally.

      Part of radar cal required transmitting into the 307 test station which could spoof the radar into thinking it was looking at actual targets. So at radar cal we went to transmit all the time. Yeah, it was frowned upon to do that without the 307 bolted onto the nose.

      I also remember the time at Kunsan where the weapons wienies blew the nose gear in half and ventilated a step van with the center line gun pod. You could bypass the weapons interlocks on the ground, though it was considered very bad form. Fortunately no one was in the step van. (They also violated the "don't park in front of a jet with a gun pod" rule. Once.)

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    2. There was also a rule not to park in front of a jet loaded with rocket pods. Sometimes the rockets would misfire. Saw a rocket fire into an opposing revetment at Udorn. Nothing parked in the revetment but made a lot of noise.

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    3. Rockets are scary, especially Zunis. (Which I assume they were.)

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  6. Rock and Roll is meant to be heard at ear bleeding levels. I would stand about two feet in front of the A7 speakers during performances by the band I hung out with. Thus started my hearing loss. Add in field artillery and jet engines and you'll understand why I often say " Would you say that a bit louder, please. "

    Another number one post.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Hahaha! Thanks Paul.

      Our motto was "Play It Loud."

      I said "PLAY IT LOUD."

      ;)

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  7. The Foo Fighters also offers a nice aviation related song or two. Their song Learn to Fly, which has been dutifully played on a regular basis to and from the airport, ties it all together nicely.

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    1. Learn to Fly was my first Foo Fighters song, still gets listened too on an almost daily basis.

      Love it (the video for it is hysterical).

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  8. There's something about the Gulf Coast and living in the Pensacola region of Southern Alabama that gives you an appreciation for Southern Rock, Jimmy Buffett, and "other varieties of good old American music." I didn't listen to it at all earlier in my life, and now own lots of it.

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    1. I knew it!

      There's a lot of good music out of the Southland, even we Yankees get that.

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  9. Jethro Tull! Inventer of the seed drill! John Deere now makes a 120 foot wide corn planter, the DB 120. You have to wonder what Tull would say if he came back and saw a DB 120. "Golly", perhaps.

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    1. Yeah, but with more of a British accent.

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  10. Germany, 1960's, AFN, 1700 was "Hillbilly Jamboree". Some ran inside to escape saluting for Retreat, some ran outside to escape AFN.

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    1. Ah yes, AFN. I've run from them a few times...

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  11. Ok, I just listened to the " Iron Rooster ". It was ok, but not what I call rock and roll. Too laid back for my tastes. But, as the saying goes: Whatever turns you on. Perhaps you can direct me to some of their work with a bit more chicka, chicka to it.

    Now I'm going to go listen to some Fleetwood Mac.

    Paul

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    1. Listened to that one and the next one that came up. Not laid back, but still not my cuppa. Thanks for giving me more to listen to. Different tastes are why there are many different styles of music.

      PLQ

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    2. Indeed. Hey, ya gave it a shot, that's more than some would do.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)