Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tuna Tossing

'Tis shocked, appalled, and outraged we are, here at The Chant, to learn of this barbaric practice of throwing Tuna as a "sport." Rather explains why Tuna's posts are so few. All that travel to the "land down unda, the land of wonda," has to be tiresome. Not to mention getting "tossed" while down there.

I mean, I know that Tuna was in the Navy and all, I remember Lex's posts about port visits in Australia, but to make it a sport?

What? It's not what I think?

Oh, this is actually a "thing" in Australia, based on fishermen returning to land and throwing their catch ashore?

I had no ideer.

(Actually Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man had it first. Got a chuckle out of it I did.)

The Daily Mail has it's own amusing take on this fishy contest (hey, they started it, and that's a different video than Peter posted previously, sigh, I know...).

After doing a bit more research, seems to me that there were certain American aircraft carriers who participated in this rather bizarre pastime. Remember our own Tuna was a Naval Flight Officer crewing the Mighty War Hoover (S-3 Viking). So yeah, carriers toss Tuna too. (Alliteration is not always awesome...)

This video includes a Tuna's eye view of a tuna toss, er, I mean cat shot, in a War Hoover. Lots of S-3 love in this video. (No, it wasn't shot with a fisheye lens. What a bizarre question... Oh, now I get it.)

So Tuna, care to comment?


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Four Deer

Spent Sunday night tossing and turning, sleeping fitfully whilst fretting about mine warfare. No, really. Naval mines to be precise. Let me just say this, I hate mines. Except when it's me laying them. Don't ask, I've played too many war games and simulations over the years, affects the brain it does.

Anyhoo. Monday, up early I was, 0530. Couldn't sleep and the feline staff suggested that I should feed them, "seeing as how you're up and about already." What the heck, might as well. So I did. Consequently I arrived at work a bit earlier than normal. Well, 15 minutes earlier, round about 0715.

A gray day, cold wind coming in off the Atlantic made me shiver as I dismounted Big Girl and locked her up. 'Twas then that I noticed movement to my left flank. Over by a stand of trees near the parking lot. Not far from the front of the building.

Right about where that picnic table stands on the far right of the photo. Four deer, two of which looked like yearlings based on their size. Two larger ones, I assumed they were both does (the female of the species Odocoileus virginianus, the males are known, round these parts anyway, as bucks). I assumed because by this time of the year the bucks have shed their antlers. While there are a number of young males on the property, the big fella, the head buck in charge of the herd seldom comes anywhere near the open. He can be seen on the edge of the fields to the east of the facility, which are surrounded by rather tangled woods.

We have a sizable herd of white-tails on the property. No natural predators except when they jump the fence and get hit by cars on the main road. Juvat is familiar with the attack patterns of the white-tail. Security once found that someone had cut a hole in the fence back in the woods for to go a-hunting on company property. Those fellas were sore surprised to discover that the Federal government looks askance at folks who break into facilities where gubmint work is being done!

So yes, four deer, all of whom were rather surprised to see humans dismounting their vehicles and proceeding to work. Perhaps they figured that Monday was a holiday. Maybe they just lost track of time. At any rate, it was an awesome thing to see on a Monday morning, out of the ordinary and all. It was also great fun to see just how fast a white-tail can run when they want to disappear into the woods!

I was kinda thinking the other day about my lack of "political" posts lately. By choice. I see nothing to be gained by ranting and raving about things, particularly the antics of the political class.

A friend or two has lately indicated that they were "refraining from Facebook" for a while. Well, I won't do that. I keep in touch with my kids and grandkids over Facebook, videos and photos of the latest doings. I keep up with old buddies from my Air Force days and I belong to a group of folks who have a great deal in common with each other. We're mostly conservative but there are a couple of folks of a liberal bent who keep us honest in our views.

I have pretty much disengaged from political discourse. I stay informed but won't engage unless it's absolutely necessary. Which is seldom the case.

So there is that.

One last thing, I just wanted to mention the music I'm listening to these days. Foo Fighters. There, I said it. I don't knowwhat their political leanings are and I don't much care. They entertain me. A lot.

Nice beat.

And you can dance to it. Which I do, when no one's looking. My dancing leaves quite a bit to be desired.

While I'm not this bad...

Hhmm, I might actually be worse.

Though, to my credit, I once invented a dance. I called it The Tomcat, it involved dancing about the periphery of the dance floor with my arms spread wide, then I would dash across the floor, sweeping my arms back as I did so. Yeah, F-14 Tomcat, not the feline kind.

Looked kinda like this...

Why yes, I did do my own sound effects. Was alcohol involved? Of course it was.

I was quite proud of that, as was The WSO. I introduced that move at the Navy-Marine Corps ball back in '05. Quite a hit amongst the midshipmen of the Holy Cross NROTC detachment. Gunny got a chuckle out of it as well. (Gunny was the Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant assigned to the unit. We were buddies of a sort. Kindred spirits.)

You might ask yourself, "What did The Missus Herself think of your new dance?"

Well, honestly, she just shook her head and stated...

"You're an idiot."

Why yes, yes I am.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday, Monday*

OK, I'm not a big fan of poetry, not against it mind you, just not a fan.  Most of the poetry I'm familiar with is the lyrics of several Fighter Pilot songs.  Most definitely not appropriate for Sarge's delicate ears.

So, you ain't getting poetry today.

I thought about a food posting based on a story our DIL told at brunch today.  Seems one of my former students, who went to Med School, got married, has a kid and another on the way and works in the Urgent Care Clinic in town (i.e. She Done Good!), volunteered to provide a meal for the Men's ACTS retreat recently.  However something, based no doubt on all the factors outlined in that sentence, caused her to forget her commitment until the last minute.

Reaching deep into her culinary repertoire, she produced a sumptuous meal that was well appreciated by all.  She called it "Nut Pate with a grape reduction compote served on a Brioche".

Doing research for how to expand that into a post, I found several sites that transformed a normal item into a culinary legend.  My personal favorite? "Pan seared yeast leavened flat bread with tomato herb curdled dairy accompaniment".   Made some of that one night last week

But, nah, that ain't it either.

Based on a comment of one of Sarge's posts last week, I thought about talking about my terrain walk of the Vicksburg battlefield with the other 49 Students in my SAMS class.  Quite interesting.  Given that I was one of 3 non-Army students (1 Navy O-4 Logistician, 1 AF O-4 Logistician and Moi), we were a little out of our league.

The school had assigned roles to each of the students in the class based on their MOS.  So an Infantry guy was Grant (He's now the current USARPAC Commander, he was my roommate on these trips and running buddy. (reminder to self, never choose an infantry guy to run with.)). Another was Pemberton. 

So on and so on.

Documented evidence to the contrary, historians believe that Air Power's role in the Civil War was limited to observation balloons and they weren't used at Vicksburg.

So, my role was as a Union Cavalry officer.  Run around, causing havoc where ever he happened to have the opportunity.  Havoc is my middle name.

No, I don't have a clue what his name was.

In any case, we're walking various battlefields (because the Vicksburg campaign raged from Vicksburg to Jackson and New Orleans to almost Memphis) and at each point, the students whose assigned persona took part in that portion of the campaign would talk about that person's actions, results, accomplishments and mistakes.

The first battlefield we visited, mostly because we arrived late in the day, and they wanted to get the terrain walk started, was on the riverfront in Vicksburg itself.  We walked a mile or so away from the preserved fortifications and found a trenchline that was more or less intact.

So, the folks with speaking parts began speaking, I'm looking around and trying to figure out how anybody knew what was going on.  You couldn't see squat for trees and vines and other foliage.

Yes, the fighter pilot was learning.

We visited "Grant's Ditch", an attempt to dig a canal that would bypass Vicksburg cutting it off while simultaneously opening up the Mississippi.  This engineering feet was conducted on what very loosely was called an island.  It actually was a swamp.  

Yes, it was a terrain walk, we walked in the swamp.  No, I wasn't enthused.

Needless to say, the person charged as Grant's engineer detailed many mistakes and failures.

Finally, it's the third and last day and we're going East of Vicksburg about 20 miles (AKA 20 minutes in a bus, about 4 days when marching, fortunately the instructors didn't have 4 days).

Grant has three columns moving toward's Pemberton's forces on the high ground known as Champion Hill.  At last, poor naive me thinks.  We'll be able to see something.

Not so much.  Also, the road wasn't paved when we were there, it was dirt.  Since it had been raining most of the time we were in Vicksburg, it wasn't actually dirt, it was mud.  The Army spared no expense to help me experience just how good they've got it. 

So, we're standing in the mud and driving rain, I give my spiel how the cavalry had spotted a weakness in Pemberton's position which if exploited could split the Confederate forces and allow then to be cut off.  

Cheers rained from my fellow students as I finished my brilliant analysis which I'd found from the diary of whomever it was I was supposed to be that day and had read to them.

We then trudged back down the road to the waiting busses.  As I'm slogging along, in the mud and water, I kick my foot against what I think is a rock.  My big toe is screaming at me.  I fish in the puddle for the offending rock and pull out a portion of what appeared to have once been a sphere about 6 inches in diameter and made of iron, convex on one side, concave on the other.  It was the remnants of a cannon ball that had exploded there during the battle.

Unfortunately, based on the National Park Services rules, I was not allowed to keep it.

Given that my big toe was sprained, I believe, that not only was I the last casualty of Pearl Harbor, but I was also the last casualty of the Civil War.

And that's my claim to fame.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Up the Long Slope (Again)

Bunker Hill - Don Troiani
Yes, this is a rerun from July of 2015. After a couple of days of poetry, I was reading, well, more poetry. Kipling to be precise. Tip of the hat to Andrew for that. Kipling's The Young British Soldier struck a deep chord with me. Now the Brits are allies, faithful and true, no better fighting men anywhere.

But once upon a time, twice as a matter of fact, the soldiers of the Crown were our enemies.

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

The Young British Soldier
Next to last stanza
by Rudyard Kipling

Oh, do follow that link under the opening painting. The Angry Staff Officer explains the battle from the standpoint of a modern soldier. Good reading, of course, his stuff always is. I've also included a couple of brief videos on the battle at the end. They're good.

Now join me as we go back in time to the 17th of June, 1775. 'Tis a warm day, a beautiful day, but for many young lads, 'tis their last day.

As they head Up the Long Slope...

The British landing at Kip’s Bay, New York Island, 15 September 1776 - Robert Cleveley
Though the passage from Boston to the foot of Breed's Hill is a short one, the boats are not all that steady. The red coated infantry stand in silence under the watchful eyes of their Sergeants and Officers as the sailors row the long boats towards the strip of gravel and sand lying just ahead.

The sailors ship their oars just before the boats ground, though the men bob slightly, they hold their ranks. Then the Officers disembark and the Sergeants begin the work of getting the men on shore and in their ranks.

The day is hot, some of these men remember the long march to Lexington and Concord not that long ago. There is a desire to pay back these sneaking colonials. Men lost friends and messmates that long hot spring day. Now, perhaps, it is time for revenge.

The long lines are formed, near the crest of the hill the men in the front ranks can see the earthworks thrown up by these farmers and shopkeepers. How dare they make a stand against their rightful king?

The drums roll, the Officers order the advance and the lines step off, through the tall grass and up the long slope.

It is hot, oh my Lord it is hot. Every man can feel the sweat soaking their shirts and undergarments under the heavy woolen coats. The Brown Bess seems heavier with each step. But the drums roll and the implacable march of the British infantry continues.

The Battle of Bunker Hill - Howard Pyle
The smell of smoke is heavy in the air as Charles Town burns off to the left flank, the crackle of burning buildings can be heard over the thumping drums. Then there is a new sound, a buzzing, a snap in the air, then thuds as the colonials open fire on the serried ranks of men in red.

Many men drop, blood and bits of bone fly through the air as the heavy leaden balls take their toll.

The lines stagger and pause. Slowly the men begin to edge backwards. The Officers see this and command the men to fall back. Maintaining order all the way as the hiss and crack of incoming fire continues.

Soon the British are out of range. The hill is no longer a long sheet of green grass. Here and there it is stained red from the blood of the fallen. Many bodies lie in the grass, unmoving and limp where life dwells no more.

Men in the ranks can see movement up the slope. Men, wounded, desperately trying to crawl back down the hill, to their regiment, to safety. More still lie screaming as the pain of the wounds begins to overcome the initial numbness.

The heat grows.

To the rear the sun plays on the water, sparkling and lovely, in stark contrast to the affair on  Breed's Hill. Then the Officers again bark out commands, the Sergeants shove the reluctant back into line, the drums begin to rumble and thump. The red lines move forward again.

Near the crest, sheets of flame leap from the muzzles of the rebel muskets. The sighing bullets again slash through the ranks, men tumble to the ground. Some stagger on for a few steps, not realizing they are hit until their legs are no longer theirs to command.

An Officer begins to raise his sword and urge his men on, as his mouth opens, his hat flies off as if taken by the wind.

The men are aghast as they see their beloved major sag to the ground, most of his head gone. The Sergeants push and shove, "Advance you stupid bastards, press them!"

Another volley is fired, the lines stagger and seem to melt back down the hill. Staggering, bloodied and bowed but as yet unbeaten, the infantry stream back down the slope, quickly reforming once out of range.

There are fewer Sergeants now, familiar officers are nowhere to be seen. They are still on the hill, dead or dying, perhaps only wounded but for now, they are out of the fight.

Then the order rings out, "CHARGE YOUR BAYONETS!"

At last, at last. The men growl as the long bayonets affixed to their muskets slant forward. Muskets at the hip, the men are ready to advance into Hell once more.

"GIVE 'EM COLD STEEL LADS!" a young ensign, barely 17 years of age cries out.

The drums roll, the command to advance rings out once more. Up the long slope the infantry advance with determination, with resolve, with murder in their hearts.

Up the hill, up that damned long hill as Charles Town burns and the sunlight dances upon the Charles River. Perhaps a gull cries in the distance. They and the crows know that a feast awaits them once the humans are done killing each other.

As the crest is reached the rebel fire is desultory and sporadic. Here and there another redcoat collapses to the blood soaked earth. But the men realize, the rebels are falling back, they are not firing. They are out of ammunition!

The earthworks are assaulted, the long bayonets thrust and stab into the roughly clothed men defending Breed's Hill.

The colonials attempt a stand, it is no use. The lobsterbacks are not in a forgiving mood. They have come up that hill three times and paid dearly for the privilege. Now it is their turn to call the tune.

The death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill by John Trumbull
No quarter is asked, no quarter is given. It is a British victory.

But at what cost?

For the remainder of the war, the British generals, particularly Lord Howe, will avoid frontal assaults at all costs.

The rough and tumble colonists have given the Royal Army a bloody nose.

Neither side will ever forget that June day in 1775.

Oddly enough, the battle, though fought on Breed's Hill, will ever be known as the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Thus are legends born.

Thus was the Spirit of a Nation conceived.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Out in the Great Alone

Robert W. Service
16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958
Skip mentioned this chap in the comments t'other day. The name rang a bell, a distant, way back in the attic bell. So I looked him up. Yup, I had read some of his poetry a long, long time ago. The poem of  his that I liked best, and certainly one of his most popular, was this one -

The Shooting of Dan McGrew

Robert W. Service

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon; 
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune; 
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew, 
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou. 

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare, 
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear. 
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse, 
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house. 
There was none could place the stranger's face, though we searched ourselves for a clue; 
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew. 

There's men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell; 
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell; 
With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done, 
As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one. 
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he'd do, 
And I turned my head — and there watching him was the lady that's known as Lou. 

His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze, 
Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze. 
The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool, 
So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool. 
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway; 
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands — my God! but that man could play. 

Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, 
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear; 
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold, 
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold; 
While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars? — 
Then you've a hunch what the music meant. . . hunger and night and the stars. 

And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon and beans, 
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means; 
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above; 
But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman's love — 
A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true — 
(God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, — the lady that's known as Lou.) 

Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear; 
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear; 
That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil's lie; 
That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die. 
'Twas the crowning cry of a heart's despair, and it thrilled you through and through — 
"I guess I'll make it a spread misere", said Dangerous Dan McGrew. 

The music almost died away ... then it burst like a pent-up flood; 
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay," and my eyes were blind with blood. 
The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash, 
And the lust awoke to kill, to kill ... then the music stopped with a crash, 
And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way; 
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway; 
Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm, 
And "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn; 
But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true, 
That one of you is a hound of hell. . .and that one is Dan McGrew." 

Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark, 
And a woman screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark. 
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew, 
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady that's known as Lou. 

These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know. 
They say that the stranger was crazed with "hooch," and I'm not denying it's so. 
I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two — 
The woman that kissed him and — pinched his poke — was the lady that's known as Lou. 

The lines which always grabbed me were -

Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, 
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear; 

Why yes, yes I was. While there were no timber wolves in the distance, there was a skein of geese which crossed the moon on a frozen night under a full moon. The creak of their wings was the only thing which broke that silence.

So yeah, those lines sang to me.

Mr. Service was quite a fellow. Novelist, poet, aspirations to being a cowboy, volunteered for service in the First World War only to be turned away. Later became an ambulance driver.
Service was 41 when World War I broke out; he attempted to enlist, but was turned down "due to varicose veins." He briefly covered the war for the Toronto Star (from December 11, 1915, through January 29, 1916), but "was arrested and nearly executed in an outbreak of spy hysteria in Dunkirk." He then "worked as a stretcher bearer and ambulance driver with the Ambulance Corps of the American Red Cross, until his health broke." Convalescing in Paris, he wrote a new book of mainly war poetry, Rhymes of a Red Cross Man, in 1916. The book was dedicated to the memory of Service's "brother, Lieutenant Albert Service, Canadian Infantry, Killed in Action, France, August 1916." Robert Service received three medals for his war service: 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Source)
Though he was born in England, his father was from Scotland and he attended school in Glasgow. So yeah, another Scotsman.

No, I'm not trying to turn The Chant into a poetry corner or something, but a little culture has never harmed anyone has it? So I'm doing my bit for culture. Which is my story and I'm sticking to it.

Read more about Mr. Service here, quite a fellow.

Speaking of snow, we're supposed to get some next Tuesday.

I think when I hit 85 I might share his attitude towards the white stuff. Of course, compared to the Yukon, Little Rhody is damned near tropical!

Tip o' the hat to Skip for inspiring this post.

Friday, January 26, 2018

D'ye no ken?

Robert Burns
25 January 1759 - 21 July 1796

So the evening just passed, last night to those reading this early upon the morning of the 26th of January, was Burn's Night in many locales and a thing I did celebrate when I was a younger man. There was the eating of fine food, not to mention the lovely haggis which, accompanied by the skirl of the pipes, would start the evening. (I think we might have said the Selkirk Grace beforehand, it was lo these many years ago, and my mind wanders to think of it...)
The Selkirk Grace
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thanket!
Did I not mention the fine whiskey that was consumed as well? The sassenachs call it "Scotch," we Gaels just call it whiskey. Burns Night isn't the same without a wee dram, for the cold of the night dontcha know?

Now Robert Burns is the national poet of Scotland and some (especially those wearing kilts) would say that he was the greatest poet who ever lived. But I'm letting my Gael show, aren't I?


I've been too busy the past cuppla and I've only time for this wee sma' post. How about a bit oh Burns and some pipe music? (Look away Buck, look away!)

Scots Wha Hae, or, Robert Bruce’s Address to His Troops at Bannockburn

Robert Burns

Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,—
    Or to victorie.—

Now ’s the day, and now’s the hour;
See the front o’ battle lour;
See approach proud Edward’s power,
    Chains and Slaverie.—

Wha will be a traitor-knave?
Wha can fill a cowards’ grave?
Wha sae base as be a Slave?
    —Let him turn and flie.—

Wha for Scotland’s king and law,
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,
Free-Man stand, or Free-Man fa’,
    Let him follow me.—

By Oppression’s woes and pains!
By your Sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
    But they shall be free!

Lay the proud Usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty ’s in every blow!
    Let us Do—or Die!!!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

What We Lack

God Speed! - Edmund Leighton
As I was reading this over at Grim's Hall today, I started thinking about our modern society, and just how raucous, discourteous, and uncivil it is. (Read this as well.)

While Grim has a nice take on what is and isn't a "gentleman," he leans towards the courteousness required when everyone is armed and being rude might get you shot/stabbed/bludgeoned, I had to dig a bit further. After all, in Japan one is polite because of hundreds of years of tradition, which in olden times kept you from getting beheaded by a samurai because you looked askance at him.

Yes, everyone was polite to avoid that. Especially if you were not a samurai.

While being armed does enforce politeness and courtesy (to avoid being shot/stabbed/bludgeoned), there is more to being a "gentleman," if you will. As I pondered all that, this word popped into my head -


the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code.
  • historical
knights, noblemen, and horsemen collectively.
"I fought against the cream of French chivalry"
  • the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.
synonyms: knight errantry, courtly manners, knightliness, courtliness, nobility; bravery, courage, boldness, valor, heroism, daring, intrepidity; bushido
"the values of chivalry"
  • courteous behavior, especially that of a man toward women.
"their relations with women were models of chivalry and restraint"
synonyms: gallantry, gentlemanliness, courtesy, courteousness, politeness, graciousness, mannerliness, good manners
"acts of chivalry"
antonyms: rudeness
The word itself comes from Middle English: from Old French chevalerie, from medieval Latin caballerius, from late Latin caballarius‘ horseman’ (see chevalier). (Source)

We usually associate the term chivalry with the medieval knight, it was the concept they were supposed to embody, to live up to. Often, they did not. Many knights were coarse brutes, so troublesome that the Crusades were allegedly dreamed up to get them to go recover the Holy Land from the infidel. And take their troublesome ways with them.

Then there are the rules which supposedly define chivalry -

The Ten Commandments of the Medieval Code of Chivalry:

  • Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches, and shalt observe all its directions.
  • Thou shalt defend the Church.
  • Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
  • Thou shalt love the country in the which thou wast born.
  • Thou shalt not recoil before the enemy.
  • Thou shalt make war against the Infidel without cessation, and without mercy.
  • Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
  • Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
  • Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.
  • Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil. (Source)
If you look through those "commandments," you can see that there is good stuff contained therein. You're supposed to be a Believer and follow and defend the Church. Defend the weak, love thy country, no cowardice in the face of an enemy, etc., etc.

Modern society says that "if it feels good, do it," that there are no moral absolutes, and what is wrong for some is right for others. It's all how one identifies. (What the Hell is up with pronouns anyway?)


We need (and used to have) a religious, moral, and social code.

Most of the problem with the world today is a lack of morality, a lack of civility.

Damn it, good manners are lacking.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on the subject.

Fire away.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Covered in Glory... NOT!

Ready for anything
Joint terminal attack controllers wave at an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft during a show of force on the Nevada Test and Training Range July 19, 2017. The A-10 has excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and low-altitude, and is a highly accurate weapons delivery platform. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)
Well, the caption from says "Ready for anything." Except apparently to obey Congress.

Yeah, yeah, I know, it ain't the kids in the photo. They're out in the field with the grunts, calling in Warthogs to put "warheads on foreheads," no, it's those perfumed princes in the five-sided puzzle palace on the Potomac who have, apparently, crapped the bed. Again.

Alert reader Rivetjoint sent me a link to this article, which starts off with -
Congress wants to keep the A-10 flying. Lawmakers have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to maintaining a dedicated ground attack aircraft and, more importantly, an effective close air support capability. They have done so through legislation in successive National Defense Authorizations Acts since 2013. In the most recent NDAA, Congress authorized $103 million for the Air Force to complete the job of installing urgently needed new replacement wings on the A-10 fleet. But a senior Air Force official recently told a meeting of A-10 personnel that the Air Force has no intention of fully implementing the re-winging effort and has no intention of keeping any more A-10s flying than the 171 that have already been upgraded, thus thwarting Congressional intent and legislation.
The key bit is in bold italic. Reading the article, I see that the "senior Air Force official" is a civilian, no doubt backed by a number of flag officers. I guess the old A-10 ain't glamorous enough for some people.

We don't need glamour, we need effective weapons systems which can take the fight to the enemy and make those sumbitches regret the day they took up arms against the U. S. of A.

The Air Force has changed since I walked the flight line last (which was 1982). When I became an office puke (computer programmer) I didn't miss the weather and the long hours out on the line. I did truly miss the maintainers and the air crews, what I always called "the Real Air Force." No glamour, just hard, rewarding work.

Perfumed princes, they're why we can't have nice things.

If it were up to me, heads would roll, stars would fall, and more than a few careers would end.

But it ain't up to me. More's the pity.

For once (he said in disbelief) I agree with Congress.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Old Battlefields

A few of the comments in Juvat's Monday post really resonated with me, let me reproduce them here -

Yeah, I had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Okinawa Battle. It started offshore in a landing craft and came ashore on the beach. It was an interesting experience to be standing there, with your nose at the ramp and hear the bottom hit the beach. The realization that, if this were real, your life expectancy was probably measured in seconds was "educational" to say the least.

I always wondered how I'd react, hence the prayer.

Living on an island that was wrenched, inch by bloody scary inch, from the hands of the Japanese, changed my view of war forever (and this was at 7 years of age.) Being able to daily walk the island and see bomb and shell craters, find bits and pieces of exploded stuff (and one time finding a case of Jap grenades while snorkeling, yikes, more scared of them than the sharks) and all the other little reminders that three days of extreme combat occurred under my feet, well, was sobering. That was at Kwajalein, and it was considered a 'cake-walk.'
I can imagine. Or, maybe, I can't imagine.

About every two years I read the official US Army documentation on the invasion. And I can, in my mind, walk in their steps, remembering where I was, what was there at the time I was. Sobering. At the end of the island-island before you got to the 'we added extra room on the island-island' there is/was 'Bunker Hill' which was a Jap concrete command post where the US forces had to do unthinkable things in order to secure it. So strongly built they just covered it up and left it in place. No ghosts there. We played on it during the day, but come dusk the general feeling was decidedly creepy.

Visited Cape Canaveral one year on a tour, which included the Apollo 1 launch pad. Their ghosts haunt that place, too.

I don't think I can handle going to someplace like Iwo or Okinawa or the trenches in France. Cold, windy places, no matter the time of the year.
Visited Ypres while visiting NATO HQ on a trip to Sarajevo in 97. There was a Museum set up with intact trenches that you could travel down. Couldn't do it. Could walk along and look in, but walk in as if I were there, no way.

When I was less than 3, my Dad and Mom were stationed at Naha AB Okinawa. There quarters were on Suri Ridge. Mom, later, said she wouldn't let me play outside unless she was there. Heck, EOD was still active when I was there 35 years later. Mom also said she didn't like being outside after dark. Said it was just too eerie. So, yeah, I understand where you're coming from.

Andrew and Juvat were talking of places where combat took place, where men (and often women and children, especially on Okinawa) died, in horrible ways. Places they had been and experienced long after the day of battle.

I have walked the ground of a few old battlefields -
  • Fort Ticonderoga
  • The Hürtgenwald
  • Bastogne
  • Elsenborn Ridge
  • Stoumont
  • La Gleize
  • Krinkelt-Rocherath
  • Quatre Bras
  • Waterloo
They haunt me. Sometimes they haunt my dreams, perhaps I read too much military history. I have studied warfare for as long as I can remember. The great battles and campaigns, the generals, the admirals, and (especially) the common folk who actually go forth into battle. The ones who spill their blood (and more, for battle is a very messy experience), the ones you seldom read about unless they are decorated for bravery.

Most Americans of my generation are familiar with Fort Ticonderoga from our Revolution, seized by a small band of men led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. The latter fellow was a pretty fine leader until he let his ego and lust for position override his common sense. The Battle of Saratoga would no doubt have turned out differently had General Arnold not been there. We won due to his bravery on that field. I won't judge him, I wasn't there when he turned his coat and betrayed the fledgling United States.

Unless you've "been there, done that" it's hard to understand what motivates a human being in times of high stress and the nastiness of battle.

But Ticonderoga (then held by the French and known to them as Fort Carillon) was the scene of a vicious fight during the French and Indian War. George Howe, brother to Admiral Richard Howe and General William Howe (both of whom you should know from the American Revolution) was killed in action there in July of 1758. When the Green Mountain Boys, commanded by Allen and Arnold, got there in 1775 it was undermanned, though still an important post. It was taken without a fight.

I've stood on the reconstructed ramparts of that fort, walked the forests surrounding it, I swear I could hear the echoes of ancient days in those rugged hills south of Lake Champlain and north of Lake George. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up even now.

The Battle of The Hürtgenwald was a nasty fight fought in miserable weather starting in September of 1944 and running right up to the start of the Battle of the Bulge. My great uncle John was an infantryman in the 4th Infantry Division there. His war ended during that battle, wounded by a bullet which pierced his helmet and grazed his scalp. Rattled him badly, probably concussed, he was evacuated. By the time he recovered, the war was over.

In the same battle the father of a NATO colleague of mine was captured. His war was over as well. Good thing, my colleague's Dad was an infantryman of the German Wehrmacht.

I still have Uncle John's helmet, the hole in it is a constant reminder of how close we stand to eternity.

I have walked the area, taking pictures so that my uncle could see what it looked like now. Not the same on a pleasant sunny day in summer. I should have gone in the fall, in the rain. But no one in their right mind would visit those ravines in a wet German autumn. Yet men were expected to fight there in 1944.

Now Bastogne, Elsenborn Ridge, Stoumont, La Gleize, and Krinkelt-Rocherath are all battles fought within the larger Battle of the Bulge. One must be careful walking the woods in that area. They still find unexploded ordnance and human remains 74 years later.

As they do in many places in the world where hubris and greed have led our species to wage war upon each other.

Quatre Bras and Waterloo are, of course, two of the battles fought in Napoléon Bonaparte's last military campaign. I have walked both areas, though I concentrated on Waterloo due to the field being relatively well-preserved as opposed to the other. Quatre Bras, Ligny, and Wavre were the other three battles of that campaign. Waterloo gets all the press, it was where Napoléon's imperial ambitions were finally crushed. The other three battles are often forgotten.

Waterloo haunts me like no other place on this earth. Upwards of 40,000 men (and perhaps a lady or two disguised as soldiers, it happened more often than many historians acknowledge) fought and died there, or later of their wounds. At least 10,000 horses perished as well. All in an area no greater than five square miles. That's more than one dead or wounded soldier for every square yard! In reality the areas upon the field where the fighting was heaviest were very small. Afterwards one visitor from Brussels said that one could walk across the field without stepping on the ground, the corpses were so thick.

A horrifying place.

The area surrounding the battlefield has changed since I was last there in 1998, two new parking lots (at least) have been added to accommodate the tourists. While one of these new "car parks" was being dug up in 2012, a nearly complete skeleton was unearthed. The ball which killed him still embedded in his rib cage.

Historians believe the man was a German soldier, named Friedrich Brandt. A Hanoverian serving in what was known as the King's German Legion. You can read about Soldat Brandt here, here, and here.

But who was this soldier? Apparently he left no relatives behind, no wife to claim a widow's pension, no grieving parents to mourn him. He had a pronounced curvature of the spine, which would disqualify someone from service in a modern army. But in those days if you could shoulder a musket and your pack, and stay in ranks, then that was good enough.

Perhaps he was a farm laborer, perhaps he had no trade, no family, no prospects other than to join the army (it still happens today). But whoever he was, whatever his history, he marched to Waterloo in the army of the Duke of Wellington. A member of du Plat's brigade stationed on the Allies right flank.

When his battalion was ordered forward, he marched with his comrades into the smoke and fiery hell of battle. At some point he was hit, he may have staggered forward another pace or two, he may have dropped to his knees instantly. Gasping for breath perhaps, unsure of what had just happened.

If he noticed at all, he would have seen his mates continuing on without him, vanishing into the smoke.

We do know that his brigade commander, Colonel Georg Carl August du Plat was also hit that day. The colonel lingered on only to die of his wounds some three days after the battle.

Undoubtedly Soldat Brandt laid there on the field until he died. After the battle he was no doubt stripped of his possessions, probably his uniform as well, and dumped naked into a mass grave with the multitude of other dead men in the immediate area. Remember, there were thousands of them.

There his body lay for 197 years.

It is the duty of the living to remember the dead. At least that's how I see it.

So, rest in peace Friedrich Brandt, rest in peace soldier, your duty is done, you are not forgotten.

The King's German Legion returns to Hanover in 1816.
Friedrich Brandt was not among them.