Thursday, June 30, 2016

Random Mutterings...

(Source. Yeah, for the painting not the dialog.)
Complaints, Gripes, Misgivings, Whines and The Like...

(That was the original title. I thought it a bit long.)

Okay, I actually did feel like posting something for Thursday (which is what you're reading) but no, it's not another Napoleonic post. Though I am in the mood. But not today. Sorry.

(Source, yup painting, not dialog.)

I find myself muttering and grumbling to myself lately. Perhaps it a sign of my advanced curmudgeonliness, or maybe I am, as some have said, just a grouchy asshole at times. (Note that I didn't say "cranky" Joe. Is it Shark Week already?)

So guy is driving and talking on his cellphone, rolls up to a stop sign perpendicular to moi, looking the opposite way, braking at the very last moment. Scares the bejesus out of me. Makes me mutter oaths, imprecations, and harsh critiques of his parentage. I hate that.

Lady and her kid waiting at the crosswalk. I, being Joe Good Citizen, stops so that she and the lad can cross the street. (No, I have no idea why they wanted to get to the other side. I'm sure they had their reasons.) Three cars coming the other way, none of them stop. I blew my horn at the second one, again muttering oaths, imprecations, and harsh critiques of (this time) her parentage. Third car is another Richard-head on a cellphone who, after hearing the blare of the mighty Element horn, waves at the lady en passant, as if that makes everything okay. Again, the muttering continues, curses are called down, Angle-Saxon epithets are hurled into the ether and life goes on. (Yes, mother and child did cross the road, Yours Truly received a small wave of gratitude which also seemed to say, "Gee, aren't people assholes?" Why yes, yes they are. Well, some of them anyway.)

As I continue down the boulevard towards my humble dwelling I continue to mumble, mutter, and curse (sotto voce of course). At this point I realize that the post I had started just wouldn't do.

(Source, you know the drill.)

Ah, no Monsieur L'Empereur, that post was not about you. It was semi-political, sort of, but I ran out of gas very quickly. Lately all I can say about politics is one of three things:
  1. Trump said what? Is he trying to lose?
  2. Hillary thinks she should be President because she's a woman? It's her turn? This is what happens when everyone gets a trophy.
  3. Shut up Obama, just shut up.
Yeah, riveting and insightful stuff innit?


So I mumble, I complain, I piss and moan. Pardon my French. But I'm fine really...

One last thing, Juvat sent me this in a text, Wednesday morning...

Wish you were here!

Yes, he's at the Air Force Museum out in Ohio. Yes, there will be an after action report. He sent a couple more photos, a Spit and a Mossie, I'll let him share those with you.

After swapping a bit of banter, I went back to work.

Sobbing quietly.

No, I am not jealous.

Not at all.

Well, maybe a little.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


(Source of the painting. I did the speech and thought bubbles.)
I was all set to do another political / current events rant, then I thought better of it. Life's too short for that, so again you get something that I want to write about. After all, it's my blog, right? (I'm sure I'll get back to the political crap eventually. During a Presidential election year it's hard to avoid. Kinda like walking across a cow pasture, no matter how hard you try, at some point you're going to step in bovine excrement. Trust me, I'm from Vermont. I know these things. Yes, I know how to make maple syrup as well. In case you really wanted to know.)

In the old days of the nineteenth century, warfare was (as it still is) violent and bloody. But in those days most soldiers walked to war. Imagine, if you will, walking from Paris to Moscow. That's roughly 1,760 miles. Walking at a comfortable 2 mph, non-stop, it would take roughly 36 days to do that. More realistically, marching perhaps ten hours a day, it would take 88 days to make that march.

Oh, at certain points there will be people proclaiming...

(Source of the painting. I did the speech and thought bubbles.)

So it's a long walk and along the way the colorful native inhabitants will be trying to kill you. After a few years of being occupied by the French, even the civilians will try to kill you. War is nasty. Then and now, make no mistake, war is no fun.

By now some of you are probably saying to yourselves, "Hey, they had horses too. And wagons, lots of wagons. Cavalrymen don't walk, they ride!"

Well, yes they did. They had thousands of horses available. Many, if not most, were used to pull the cannon, the ammunition carts, mobile forges and tools, and the supply wagons carrying all sorts of spare gear. While the French army tried to live off the land and not have a huge supply chain behind them, nevertheless there were things they couldn't get locally but had to be hauled along. Shoes, spare uniforms and accoutrements, all sorts of stuff.

When you got to where you wanted to fight, then, if you didn't go into battle immediately, you made camp. For the French, that often meant tossing your blanket down and rolling up in it to go to sleep.

Tents? The officers have tents?

Why yes, yes they did. Muster roles, manuals, regulations, and all manner of paperwork were as important to a military force then as they are now. Who takes care of all that stuff? Why the officers, that's who. Back then there were a higher proportion of troops who couldn't read and write nor do simple math. So the officers, for the most part, took care of that. So they had tents to keep the paperwork dry. Paper gets wet, ink runs, and the troops don't get paid.

Oh yeah, armies tended to haul their pay chests with them as well. Though the men might get paid sporadically, if at all, on campaign, good leaders knew that the men felt better with a few coins in their pockets. Ya know to check out the local talent and the local vintners, breweries and distilleries.

Remember, the French term for the brandy so loved by the troops is eau de vie, literally "water of life." In most armies of the period the soldiery liked their booze. Yes, I know, not much has changed in that regard. Though the quality of the beverages has improved over time.

On the day of battle the soldiers woke up, pulled themselves up off the ground, cleaned themselves up as best they could then sought sustenance. Sometimes it wasn't much more than some moldy biscuit they'd been carrying with them for days. Some mornings there was nothing at all. Before Waterloo most of the British troops hadn't had anything proper to eat since leaving Brussels two days before.

So maybe you had a bite, perhaps a bit of soup, then perhaps a bit o' grog (in the British army), brandy in many of the Continental armies. Then it was time to fall in and earn one's pay.

Notice that I made no mention of tents for the men. Tents are bulky and require lots of transport. Many generals felt that it was healthier for the men to sleep out in the open. Considering the disease rates at Valley Forge they may have been right. Cramped huts, or tents, with smoky fires, men coughing and hacking, there were periods during the year when it was surprising that any of the soldiers were fit for duty. Truth be told, disease caused more deaths on campaign than combat. That remained true for at least another century.

The bugles are now sounding, the drums are thumping, and the sergeants are getting the men into some sort of order. For across the valley lies the enemy, doing much the same thing you're doing. Waiting on the generals.

Then, eventually, the king of battle (the artillery) would begin to speak. If one was paying attention, one might see the smoke from a single enemy cannon signaling for the battle to commence. Usually begun with the fire of many cannon. The idea was to "soften" the enemy up before sending in one's infantry.

Standing under artillery fire for minutes and even hours is no picnic. You could actually see the rounds leave the cannon barrels across the way and follow them in flight if you had the right angle. One British officer at Waterloo told the tale of seeing the ball leave the cannon and head straight for him. As an officer, of course, he couldn't duck or drop or betray any fear at all. Officers were expected to set the example and actually lead the men. (Another reason why they had tents is that tired officers make mistakes and get men killed!)

While the round didn't actually hit him it did strike nearby and tear two privates in the ranks to bloody shreds. I daresay if it had been me, I would have needed a change of skivvies, to say the least.

Okay, so the artillery has been pounding both sides, it's now pretty damned smoky and hard to see, but that chap across the way has decided that it's time to send in the infantry. So they begin to march, while you probably can't see them, you can hear the drums, and if you're fighting the French you can hear the cheers for the Emperor over the din of cannon fire.

Shortly, if the officers time it right, your battalion is brought to the "present", muskets up and ready to fire. Then, out of the smoke, there they are, the enemy.

"Volley fire! Present! FIRE!"

In the British infantry they didn't fire all at once but by platoon, one unit after another to produce a rippling fire down the line. Normally this fire would occur at no more than one hundred paces (less than a hundred yards) often closer depending on conditions.

Thousands of lead balls, each over a half an inch in diameter, would smash into the enemy ranks. Blood and gore would splash skyward and onto the ground, onto the men who weren't actually hit by a lead ball. Men would fall having been killed or wounded by bits and pieces of smashed equipment. By bits and pieces of the men around them.

Then, while you're reloading, it's the enemy's turn to fire. If you're lucky they're a bit winded and many of their shots may go high. (Troops had a disturbing tendency to fire too high. If you ever find yourself in a Napoleonic battle, aim at the enemy's knees. Trust me.)

This exchange of fire could be only one or two volleys before one side or the other broke and headed to the rear. But it could last much longer. At Albuera, in Spain, one British brigade, Colborne's and one French, Girard's hammered away at each other at close range for quite some time...
The musketry duel that developed between Colborne's brigade and Girard's left flank was so intense that both sides faltered. The French began to break, and were only kept in place by their officers beating them back with swords as they tried to retreat. The left of Colborne's brigade, assailed by both musket fire and grapeshot from Girard's supporting guns, tried to force the issue with a bayonet charge but were unsuccessful. On the right Colborne's men continued to trade volleys with the French and, seeing their resolve wavering, also fixed bayonets and charged.

As the brigade moved forward a blinding hail- and rain-shower hit the battlefield, rendering both sides' muskets useless. Under cover of the reduced visibility Latour-Maubourg launched two Polish cavalry regiments at Colborne's exposed right flank. Ploughing through the unprepared British infantry, the 1st Vistulan Lancers and the 2nd Hussars virtually annihilated Colborne's first three regiments. Only the fourth, the 31st Regiment of Foot, was able to save itself by forming into squares. The cavalry pressed on against Colborne's supporting KGL artillery battery and captured its guns (although all but the howitzer were subsequently recovered).

Having captured five regimental flags and eight cannon the Uhlans swept past the 31st's square, scattering Beresford and his staff, and attacked the rear of Zayas's line. Zayas met this assault unflinchingly while continuing to direct fire at Girard. By this time the rainstorm had cleared and Lumley, commanding Beresford's horse, could finally make out the devastation caused by the French and Polish cavalry. He sent two squadrons of the 4th Dragoons to disperse the Uhlans, which they did, but the British troopers were in their turn driven off by a fresh hussar regiment that Latour-Maubourg had sent to cover the lancers' retreat. Closing on the action, the 29th Regiment of Foot (the lead regiment of Stewart's second brigade) opened fire on the scattered Vistula lancers. Most of this fusillade actually missed its intended targets and instead struck the rear ranks of Zayas's men. The Spaniards nevertheless stood firm; their actions very likely saved the allied army from destruction.

Some British sources claim that the Polish cavalrymen refused to accept any surrender by the British infantry, and deliberately speared the wounded as they lay. Tradition reports that the British 2nd Division swore to give no quarter to Poles following Albuera. According to Beresford, of the 1,258 men lost by Colborne's first three regiments, 319 were killed, 460 were wounded and 479 were taken prisoner. According to Soult's report the Vistula Lancers had 130 casualties out of 591 troopers. W
Oh yes, cavalry, those guys who didn't have to walk to war.

Battle of Hanau by Richard Knötel (Source of the painting. I did the speech and thought bubbles.)

If the cavalry was committed at just the right time, like when the enemy infantry was shaken by cannon and musket fire, they could shatter the enemy. If committed too early?

Battle of Quatre Bras by Lady Butler (Source of the painting. I did the speech and thought bubbles.)

Then your horsemen would be reduced to red ruin and you'd have nothing left to pursue a beaten enemy (which means they can regroup and perhaps fight another day) or you'd have nothing to protect your rear should it be you who needs to run.

And there's nothing cavalrymen like better than sabering running infantrymen and gunners who have been shooting at them all day.

One last note on the cavalry. Unlike the movies, oft times more horses were killed and wounded then riders. After all, they are much bigger targets. What's more, what do you call a cavalryman on foot?

Dead man walking.

Seriously though, warfare in the Napoleonic era was extraordinarily brutal, though probably an improvement over medieval times. If you were wounded, you were probably going to die. Unless the surgeons got to you in time and cut off whichever arm(s) or leg(s) you were wounded in. Then it's off to the hospital. Which often were a sewer of disease and uncleanliness. If you survived the amputation, you probably would die of some disease picked up in the hospital. Men avoided hospitals at all cost, considering them a virtual death sentence.

If you did survive all that? Back to the homeland with you and good luck! The common soldiers generally received no pensions, if they did, it was some paltry sum which might last a month or two. Then you could become a beggar and die in the streets.

Things did improve throughout the period, but once the uniform came off, society forgot about you. In fact, they ignored you and preferred that you stayed out in the countryside or anywhere where the high society folk didn't have to see you. Or think about your sacrifice. (Folks like that still exist...)

(Source of the painting. I did the speech and thought bubbles.

Oh, remember that 1,760 mile walk to Moscow you did in the summer? Now you get to walk all the way back.

In winter.

In the snow.

With a bunch of very angry Cossacks after you...

Napoleon's Retreat by Vasily Vereshchagin (Source)

There's your glory.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Patience, I'm Told, Is A Virtue

I had given some thought to issuing another rant thoughtful analytical post about politics and the way things allegedly "work" in the world these days. But I decided I'd rather write about something I enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I like ranting, just not all the time.

Honestly I will, from time to time, write posts which seem to drive the numbers up. While I don't get paid to do this, I do like the boost to my ego. Which is considerable, truth be told. So from time to time I'll post stuff that a lot of people ("lot" being an uncertain quantity which I define as more than a few, but less than a crap ton) like to read, sometimes you get whatever tickles my fancy at any given time. Sometimes I post for the family archives. Someday I hope that my grandchildren will read this blog, look quietly at each other and say, "Yup, Grandpa was a right old loon, wasn't he?"

Anyhoo, today's post is in the second category, my fancy having been tickled over the weekend. (Minds out of the gutter now...)

A favorite computer game of mine is Scourge of War: Waterloo, that screen shot above is from that very game. This is not the first time I've posted on this game and certainly not the first time I've posted on the topic of Waterloo. (Fair warning, it won't be the last!)

The reason I bring this subject up today (other than the whole tickling of the fancy...) is that I recently received (thanks to Father's Day) an update to Scourge of War: Waterloo with the addition of the battle of Quatre Bras to the game. (The makers of the game, whom you can visit here, also got me all wound up by indicating that the battles of Ligny and Wavre were "coming soon." For those not aware, Ligny, Quatre Bras, Wavre, and Waterloo were the four main battles of the Waterloo campaign in 1815. Napoléon's last cast of the dice to regain his throne.)

Now the battle of Waterloo is kind of a sprawling battle, lots of troops, lots to keep track of, and, as I've noticed, things in computer simulations seldom follow history. I have a game of Waterloo in progress but as I don't have the time commitment to sit down and fight the entire battle at the moment, I needed something a bit more manageable. Quatre Bras fits the bill perfectly. The battle started around 2 in the afternoon and lasted perhaps six hours. Hey, I can do that. (Seriously honey, I will fix that light soon, just not right now, can't you see that the French are advancing on my position? No, I'm not an idiot, I'm an historical enthusiast!)


With that being said...*

The battle begins, I have decided to take command of the Anglo-Allied forces so I must needs be find out where His Grace the Duke of Wellington is placed. Fortunately the game provides a convenient way to jump to a general's or combat unit's position, so I do so. His Grace is galloping down a road in the middle of freaking nowhere. Going to the map I see that, no, it's not the middle of nowhere, he is on the Nivelles road coming back from having met Field Marshal Blücher in the vicinity of Ligny that morning.

I have to say that I was tickled pink (not literally mind you) at the accuracy of this simulation. For that event happened just as it is depicted in the game. Well, okay, the Duke had a single guy with him in the game, in reality he had a number of staff and a cavalry escort with him in real life. But all that takes precious computing cycles so one must needs be use one's imagination.


While surveying the quaint Belgian countryside I have the thought that perhaps I should find my troops (primarily Belgians and Dutchmen at that point in time) and see what they are up to. For I know that le Marechal Ney and the French II Corps under Reille are no doubt heading in my direction.

I reach the position of one of my units forward of the farm of Gemioncourt and sure enough, in the distance I can see the French. A cavalry advance guard is all I can see now, but I know that just behind them are infantry and artillery. Troops I must delay until the rest of Wellington's army can march up from Brussels and the surrounding countryside. Just like it was in 1815.

It is now that I am struck by something the Emperor once said. Something along the lines of making your dispositions and then waiting to see what happens. I've also heard this referred to as letting the battle "ripen."

Things moved slowly in 1815, no faster than a galloping horse. For the most part even horses walked to battle, they would only pick up speed (and gradually at that) when attacking. As these French were simply coming forward "to see what they could see" (from an old French folk song, Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre, or Marlborough Has Left for the War), all I could do for the nonce was to make minor adjustments to my positions and see what the French had in mind. (And for heaven's sake don't muck it up!)

I had two batteries of artillery near my center (on the road to Brussels), unlimbered and ready to open the ball when the French came into range. Which they did, eventually.

The opening of a Napoleonic battle requires a great deal of patience on the defender's part. You feel like you should be doing something, anything (much like a progressive after a tragedy) when the best move is to sit tight and wait. Things will happen soon enough and marching one's troops hither and yon, to and fro, around the countryside just wears them out. Even the best of units will take to their heels if they are tired and get pressed by the enemy too hard. (Don't ask me how I know. I just know.)

So I waited. And waited.

I was tempted to bring a battalion in from the far right flank as it seemed that nothing was happening there. 'Twas then that I heard the thump of my cannon towards the center. Ah, the music has started and "Oh dear! I think Johnnie Frenchman has cavalry to your front. You lads wait here, I'll be back."

Back to the center and I find two brigades of French infantry in line and advancing, slowly, on my position. No cannon though, not yet. My guns are already taking a toll of the French as I can see bodies strewn behind the advancing lines. And just there, a number of dead horses and riders who "discovered" a battery hidden behind a fold in the ground.

Things are ripening nicely. But all those infantry are making me a tad anxious. All I have in the immediate vicinity is at most a brigade of Dutch-Belgian infantry, plus two batteries of cannon. Coming at me is an entire French corps. This could get exciting in a hurry.

But that's a nineteenth century hurry.

Patience, it's never been a strong suit of mine. Perhaps this game will teach me that?

Nah. No doubt I will step falsely and soon.

But hey, it's just a game. I doubt that I would have the nerve for the real thing.

"Damn me, but are those cuirassiers I see?"

The 2/69 (South Lincolnshires) at Quatre Bras. (Source)

"Damn it, so they are!"

Sorry, must run! "Quickly, De Lancey, let us gallop for that square!"


Seriously, if you enjoy this sort of thing, buy the game. They also do Gettysburg in the same vein. Very immersive, very cool. (I note that a few folks got a sneak peek at this post Monday night. I just had to push the wrong button, didn't I? Save and publish are too close together. No patience I tell you, none at all. Apparently I can't read either.)


Monday, June 27, 2016

When you are surrounded by Heroes...It is damned difficult to not perform like one! *

So, Juvat, you've been writing about Medal of Honor recipients for a while.  Who was the Air Force's First Medal of Honor awarded to?

Interesting question, Grasshopper! As with all interesting questions, the answer depends on what the definition of "is" is.  No wait, that's not right!  This isn't a story about lying under oath.  

The answer depends on whether you're asking who was the first airman who received the Medal, the first Airman who received the Medal, the first person in the United States Air Force who received the Medal  or the person who received the first United States Air Force Medal of Honor.  

Turns out there are 4 correct answers.  In order, they are:

1. Lt. Frank Luke in 1919.
2. A1C  William H. Pitsenbarger in 2000 for actions taken in April 1966.
3. Maj. Louis Sebille in 1953 for actions taken in August 1950.  The Air Force Medal of Honor hadn't been authorized by Congress yet.  Major Sebille received the Army Medal of Honor.
4. Maj. Bernie Fisher in January of 1967 for actions taken in March 1966.

Having been through Luke AFB twice for RTU, I'm familiar with Lt. Luke's story.  I will write a post about him at some point in time.  A1C Pitsenbarger's story can be read here, and IMHO, the Airman is a very worthy recipient.  Major Fisher will also be covered in some future post.  Today, we'll be learning more about Major Louis J. Sebille.

Up until deciding on which name on this monument to talk about this week, I had little knowledge about Major Sebille.  His name rang a small bell in that while assigned to the 18TFW at Kadena, I'd lived in Sebille Manor, a section of housing there.  As far as I know, there was no monument or other information about the man or why the area was named for him.  
Major Louis J. Sebille

As it turns out, I was pretty much surrounded by aspects of the man.

Seems Major Sebille had seen action in WWII as a B-26 Pilot flying a total of 68 missions, receiving a pair of Distinguished Flying Crosses.  Between the wars, he had a short career as an airline pilot, but jumped at the change to return to the military, eventually becoming checked out in both the F-51 and the F-80 Shooting Star.  
Major Sebille and the F-80 Shooting Star

As a side note, I thought it interesting that the rest of his career he would fly the two aircraft interchangeably.  Jets and Propeller planes have entirely different flying characteristics, tendencies, quirks and vulnerabilities.  It must have been an interesting time to be a pilot.

When the Korean War kicks off in late June 1950, Major Sebille is assigned as the Commander of the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron 18th Fighter Bomber Wing.  There's one of those Venn Circles closing in.  The Wing at Kadena was the 18TFW and the 67th TFS was a part of it.  

As the early stages of the war go very badly for the UN forces, the ground forces are being forced back towards the coastal city of Pusan (now Busan).  Air Forces are conducting operations out of Japan as well as airfields around Taegu, Pusan and Kimhae.  The North Koreans have advanced all the way to the Naktong River which is the last major topographical barrier between them and the Tsushima Straits and winning the war.
The blackline roughly (as carefully as I could photoshop) follows the Naktong from Taegu to KimHae.

On September 4th, 1950, the North Koreans manage to establish a beach head across the Naktong River and start to bring forces across for what they hope will be the final push.  This is spotted by a FAC and aircraft are vectored in to attack the breach.  Major Sebille is leading a three ship of F-51s loaded with Bombs, Rockets and Machine Guns.  

Major Sebille begins the attack from about 5000' planning to drop both bombs on the first pass.  He hits the pickle button at about 2500' and begins a left hand pull to avoid the frag pattern.  (Later procedures would have a higher release and a level pull to avoid that pattern.) However during the delivery only one bomb releases.  The 500 lb bomb on the wing coupled with what probably is a 4g pull results in a 2000Lb imbalance on the wing.  Regaining control of the aircraft takes him even lower where he is hit by ground fire.  The aircraft is leaking coolant, which as any afficiado of Mustangs knows, is usually fatal to the aircraft as the engine will seize in short order.  In any case, he's advised to try to make an emergency landing at Taegu.  
After Action Mission Report

Here's where the story starts breaking up.  The facts are that he radios back "No, I'll never make it.  I'm going back and get that bastard!"  He then turns around and rolls in again, firing all 6 rockets at the armored vehicles in the target convoy.  Once expended, he continues the dive while shooting his machine guns, ultimately crashing into the lead armored personnel carrier with the aircraft, destroying it.

Seems that after the action, some commanders felt that this was more of a kamikaze attack rather than a valorous action.  This post goes into greater detail and I think the author's final few paragraphs are interesting.  Essentially, he questions "who is the braver?", one who sacrifices his life during battle, or one who knows his limitations yet continually reenters combat in spite of them.

I have no idea what the answer is to that question.  My response probably would be "Both!".  Suffice it to say, I believe Major Sebille recognized the strategic importance of stopping the North Korean advance at the Naktong, right there, right then.  His ability to enhance that outcome could only be accomplished by continuing his attack and destroying his target, rather than retreating and attempting to return later.  I am not going to question that decision.  He made it, and paid the consequences.  

Rest in peace, Warrior!

Major Sebille's Citation:
Maj. Sebille, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. During an attack on a camouflaged area containing a concentration of enemy troops, artillery, and armored vehicles, Maj. Sebille's F-51 aircraft was severely damaged by antiaircraft fire. Although fully cognizant of the short period he could remain airborne, he deliberately ignored the possibility of survival by abandoning the aircraft or by crash landing, and continued his attack against the enemy forces threatening the security of friendly ground troops. In his determination to inflict maximum damage upon the enemy, Maj. Sebille again exposed himself to the intense fire of enemy gun batteries and dived on the target to his death. The superior leadership, daring, and selfless devotion to duty which he displayed in the execution of an extremely dangerous mission were an inspiration to both his subordinates and superiors and reflect the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the armed forces of the United Nations.

* Quote from Duane "Bud" Biteman, LtCol USAF

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw*

Great Blue Heron (Source)
And apparently "red in beak" as well.

As many long time readers know, there is a pond at Chez Sarge. It once was home to many fish, both large and small. Of the koi and goldfish clans they were.

Then one fall we noticed large aquatic waterfowl in the area, of the heron and egret variety, not unusual for a coastal town with lots of water and salt marshes about. We also noticed that we were missing some fish!

So, in accordance with advice from our local fish pond experts, we purchased netting which was spread over the pond in the fall and stayed until spring. The experts assumed that it was the migratory birds flying about which had spotted our pond and assumed that it was a "fast food" emporium. No need to hunt, just stop in and grab and go.

The net worked, no losses of fish.

Then last year some strange malady killed all of the koi. Every. Last. One.

Didn't impact the goldfish at all, just the koi. We lost many a fish which had graced the pond from it's beginnings.

Goldie. A whale of a fish, a good 12 inches long!

Jumper. So named for his tendency to leap out of the holding tank onto the lawn while we were doing spring cleaning in the main pond.

Spaz. So named for the panic which always ensued for no apparent reason. Normally she was fine, every now and then she would freak out and dash for cover. Panicking all of the other fish as well.

Leo. So named for his leopard-like speckled coloring.

They all died. That really sucked.

Then this last Friday afternoon I went out to feed the goldfish. There were none to be seen except for one lone fish who was hiding under the pump intake. He immediately dashed into the weeds upon my approach.

'Twas then that I noted that breakfast was still floating around, unconsumed. Odd that.

I searched but could see no fish, no fish at all.

There I was, Saturday morning, out to dump some recycling when this great bloody feathered dinosaur lifted off from where it had been standing in the yard. Next to my bloody pond!

It's the wrong time of year, says I. Apparently that effing heron needs to buy a calendar.

Damn it.

All the fish, save one, are gone. Fish we've had for over five years.

All gone except that little orange one near the top left.
(Yes, I'm rather pissed about it.)

Time to break out the nets again.

The Missus Herself says it would be a bad idea to set up an anti-heron radar and missile system in the backyard.

"Not even a few anti-heron guns?"

"Not a one."

Freaking Nature....


Four more survivors were found Saturday evening! There are five left, and I had to chase that feathered dinosaur off two more times yesterday. The neighbor's dog Hercules provided a very loud assist.

*Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed
"In Memoriam A.H.H." - Alfred, Lord Tennyson Canto 56

Saturday, June 25, 2016


If you are Hungarian, don't look at this... (Source)
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days (which I wish I could get away with) you know that the United Kingdom (more properly the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) has voted to leave the European Union. Which isn't so much an alliance, or a union per se, but an economic entity. As the "source of all knowledge" (sic) says -
The European Union (EU) is a politico-economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It covers an area of 4,324,782 sq km (1,669,808 sq mi), with an estimated population of over 508 million. It operates through a hybrid system of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making. Its institutions are the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the European Court of Auditors. W
Now I pinched that opening graphic from a Wikipedia article about something called Euroscepticism. Long story short -
Euroscepticism (also known as EU-scepticism or anti-EUism) is criticism of, or opposition to, the European Union (EU). Traditionally, the main source of Euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state, and a desire to slow, halt or reverse integration within the EU. Other views often held by Eurosceptics include perceptions of a democratic deficit in the European Union or a belief that it is too bureaucratic. Euroscepticism should not be confused with anti-Europeanism, which refers to the rejection of the culture of Europe and Europeanisation, and sentiments, opinions and discrimination against European ethnic groups. A Eurobarometer survey of EU citizens in 2009 showed that support for membership of the EU was lowest in Latvia, the United Kingdom, and Hungary. Euroscepticism is found in political parties across the political spectrum; however, the rise in radical right-wing parties in Europe is strongly linked to a rise in Euroscepticism in the continent.
I was stationed in Germany after the borders "came down." There was still a border crossing kiosk on the edge of the village we lived in, which was on the Dutch border. It was most convenient to travel back and forth to work via a short cut through the Netherlands than it was to take the "long way" staying totally within Germany.

Ditto when traveling to the nearest U.S. bases at Bitburg and Spangdahlem which led one through the Netherlands, then Belgium, before crossing back into Germany via the Schnee Eifel.

Entering la belle France still required the checking of papers and the like in 1992. A trip to the UK when The WSO was in the sixth grade (which would make it 1996 by my reckoning) required the checking of passports in Dover at the British terminus of the Chunnel (said marvel I got to ride through there and back again).

Now in an age of terrorism and wandering hoards of ne'er-do-wells (who may or may not harbor terrorists in their midst) it seems a bad idea to just let folks wander about one's countryside without a "by your leave."

As it seems wicked easy to get into Europe along its southern flanks (and I can tell you, Italian airport security looks completely lame next to French airport security, I can hardly imagine what Greek security is like), then once you've wandered onto the continent, no doubt having been provided a complementary cup of ouzo at the border, you are now, to paraphrase the old Southwest ad, "free to move about the continent."

Now the Brits have always seemed to me a rather sensible folk. They are under heavy pressure from an influx of Muslims into the country and they've been getting rather tired of the bureaucrats in Brussels trying to run the whole show.

And having said "Eurocrats" making rather a dog's breakfast of the whole thing to boot!

So it's understandable that they would want out of the EU. As Americans I think the best we can do is be supportive of our British cousins, not rush to judgement about the "wisdom" of their move or anything like that. It's their country, they want it back.

I understand that.

Oh boy, do I understand that.

While I have no dog in this hunt I can say this, I think it's the right move.

Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands? (I do believe they are contemplating a similar move.) You know what to do...

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Friday Flyby - June 2016

Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.*, commander of the 51st FIW, leads a formation of F-86F Sabres during the Korean War, 1953. (Source)
After a while, a fella can get mighty sick of politics and all the bull crap currently in the news. I have reached that point of saturation. So until I can see some cool aircraft videos I'm going to hold a sit-in here at Chez Sarge...

Oh wait, I'm not five years old (more like twelve, nor am I a Congress critter, but I digress).

Now Juvat talked about the Sabre on Monday, and as the F-86 has always been a favorite of mine, I figured it was time she had her own Friday Flyby.

I can still remember the thrill I got on my first trip to Kunsan AB in Korea and beheld those lovely birds wearing camouflage and the livery of the 대한민국  공군 (Republic of Korea Air Force, aka ROKAF).

She's not a big aircraft, measuring 37 feet, 1 inch long, with a wingspan of  37 feet, and just a shade over 14 feet high, from the ground to top of the canopy. The first time I saw one sitting next to the mighty F-4D Phantom (on the engine test hardstand at Kunsan) the Sabre looked like a toy. The Rhino (F-4E version, the D is similar) measures 63 feet from the tip of the radome to the tail, has a wingspan of over 38 feet and is 16 and a half feet high. Almost twice as long as the Sabre and two feet taller. (I found it odd that they have a similar wing span, no doubt Juvat can explain all about wing loading and two massive engines versus one smaller engine. I can't, I just fix 'em, I don't fly 'em. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

I did get a few photos of Udvar-Hazy's Sabre, sitting next to her Korean War adversary the MiG-15.

As you can see by my dearth of photos of this lovely bird, I need to get back to Dulles with my new camera. While the hangar housing the collection is huge, there are a lot of aircraft crammed in there. So I was in aircraft-overload, I basically did the camera version of "spray and pray," hoping I got shots of everything. Well, I was close. Not enough detail shots of the birds I particularly enjoy. (Yes, I know Murph, that would be "all of them." Oh yeah, chase that link, you won't be disappointed!)

Now I did find some pretty sweet Tube O' You videos of the -86. The first one is modern, a taxi, fly it around, isn't she pretty, video.

The second is from 1955, I was two, Juvat was still a gleam in Daddy Juvat's eye, and Old NFO was boldly patrolling the North Atlantic in his Neptune, I'm sure. (One of these days he's going to get Murph and I in the same room and kick our asses, I'm sure of that as well!)

Lockheed SP-2H Neptune (BuNo 135588) of VP-7, "Black Falcons". This aircraft was assigned to VP-7 at NAS Jacksonville, from 1965 to 1967.
(No, Old NFO didn't actually crew these, but Joe's brother did!)

Anyhoo, the second video is of the USAFE flight demonstration team, the Skyblazers. (The Skyblazers were the USAF demonstration team representing the United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE) from the late 1940s through the 1950s. This team was formed in early 1949 by a group of 22d Fighter Squadron pilots from the 36th Fighter Wing at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base in Germany. At this time they were flying Lockheed F-80B Shooting Stars. The unit transitioned to the F-84E in 1950, the F-86F in 1955 and the F-100C in 1956. Two of the original Skyblazer team members, identical twins C.A. "Bill" and C.C. "Buck" Pattillo, went on to become members of the first Thunderbird team.
The Patillo brothers. (Source)

Unlike the Thunderbirds, the Skyblazers seldom appeared outside of the realm of USAFE operations in Europe. The Skyblazers were disbanded in January 1962 when their home squadron was rotated back to the United States and their assigned aircraft transitioned to the F-105 Thunderchief. - Source)

You can read an old Stars & Stripes article (from 1960, with photos) about the Skyblazers, here.

Now I have to say a couple of things about the third video. These days we get a lot of squadrons producing their own videos. With the advent of high quality, compact, digital cameras, there are a lot of in cockpit flying videos out there. Naval aviation squadron cruise videos, Hornet Ball, and Strike Fighter Ball videos tend to be excellent. (Though yes, many have musical sound tracks which Buck found so annoying, YMMV. For me it depends on the actual music used. Yeah, I prefer jet noise and radio chatter but ya pays your nickel, ya takes your chances. Okay, actually it's free, courtesy of the Tube O' You.)

Before I forget, the videos produced by the Air Force squadrons who win the Raytheon Trophy tend to be frigging awesome as well. (Thou must Google that thyself, for my fingers tire and the night is full of terror... Oops, wrong video.)  I have posted those before, and will again. 

Now this video was done all the way back in Nineteen Hundred and Fifty-Three, the year which saw Your Humble Scribe begin his time on old Mother Earth and even Old NFO was nobbut a lad. Now it does have kinda cheesy music but it is altogether excellent.

And hysterical. Have I ever mentioned that fighter pilots have senses of humor to match their ginormous (and well-deserved) egos? Shoe clerks find nothing funny. There are no shoe clerks in the following video.

And no hamsters were harmed during production...

And ya gotta love the squadron's nickname. No way that would fly in today's PC environment.

More's the pity.

* Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. (December 18, 1912 – July 4, 2002) was an American United States Air Force general and commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen. He was the first African-American general officer in the United States Air Force.