Thursday, May 31, 2018

Die Brücke

So yes, there is a brand new bridge at Chez Sarge which The Missus Herself and I assembled and painted on Saturday, then emplaced over the pond on Monday. (Had to wait for the paint to dry, then it rained Sunday, so we didn't play outside at all.)

The old bridge was of metal and was badly rusted on one side. More air than metal really. So a new bridge was requested, ordered, assembled, painted, and emplaced. All in the space of a month.

Now for a real bridge (okay like a bridge over a river or something, our bridge is a real bridge, but it's a rather small bridge as bridges go), a month would be amazing. For our bridge it might leave one asking, "What took so long?"

Well, it was ordered on a Friday and arrived on a Monday. Yes, of course FedEx left it on the deck, in the rain, with no one home, no cover, nothing. Which destroyed the box and, more importantly, reduced the all important assembly instructions to a wad of tattered semi-goo.

Now the bridge material is cedar, so wetness wasn't an issue, tattered instructions on the other hand...

Well, suffice to say I managed to salvage enough of the instructions to actually assemble the bridge. (As the photo above would suggest.)

But in the meantime, twixt the ordering and the assembling etc., Mr. Diverticulitis paid a visit, then it was off to New Hampshire for Mothers Day, and before you know it, nearly a month had passed between concept and execution.

Hey, stuff happens.

Now I thought long and sort of hard about what to call this post, to wit -
  1. The Bridge not on the River Kwai
  2. Sur Le Pont d'Avignon
  3. A Bridge Too Far
  4. The Bridges of Bristol County
  5. Building Bridges
The first I rejected due to the inevitable comparison of myself with the Alec Guinness character and The Missus Herself with the Sessue Hayakawa character. I built the bloody thing, she supervised. Not that I look like Alec Guinness nor that she is anywhere near as cruel as the commandant of the POW camp. I mean not even remotely. Besides, we didn't have anyone to play the William Holden character, you know, the guy who wants to blow up the bridge. (Thing cost me a pretty penny, not gonna let some Yank blow it up.)

The second was dismissed because it reminds me of a wee French ditty we were forced to warble as youngsters, something about people dancing on a bridge in France, at Avignon to be specific. Which sends me off on a Men Without Hats Safety Dance thing which is, trust me, not pretty. (I cannot sing to save my life, but it's okay, I can't dance either. With or without a hat.)

The third was, by far, my favorite. I could take my action figures (not dolls, damn it) and reenact the whole bridge at Arnhem thing, cursing Monty all the while. But then I realized that the love of my life would certainly put the kibosh on me playing with dolls reenacting battles using action figures in the back yard.

So, the fourth idea for a title. No, just no. Don't ask. I hate that movie.

And five just sounds so, blah, so New Age and hipster-like. No, just no.

So I just called the post "The Bridge." But in German as I know y'all love it when I throw foreign stuff at ya.


The bridge building itself taught me, or perhaps re-taught is more accurate, the concept that once one reaches a certain age, and after a very sedentary winter, engaging in any sort of odd physical activity requires that one stretch first. There are certain muscles I don't really use a lot, so they need to be coaxed into participating in said activity.

From the waist up, I feel fine, however, my thigh and butt muscles feel as thought I had my ass kicked over the weekend. From the waist down I feel like a 90 year old man, waist up, fifty-ish, give or take a decade.

For you see the bridge is a rather low affair, low to the ground that is. Assembling it required a lot of bending and maneuvering while in a bent over position. Yes, a work bench would have been just the thing and yes, I do have one. In the shed.

I should mention that Saturday was rather hot and steamy here in the 401. Working in the shed would qualify as cruel and unusual had it been used for punishment purposes, not to mention which that the work bench is crammed with The Missus Herself's gardening stuff. It's what she does, she gardens. You can see some of her work in the opening photo.

After the bridge was assembled, my better half asked me if I wanted to paint it that very day. I, drenched in sweat and strongly desiring a beverage made with hops and barley said, "No."

"Why not? It's supposed to rain tomorrow. I want to paint the bridge today."

'Twas then that I realized that the "Do you want to paint the bridge today?" wasn't really a question at all, rather it was a suggestion, a thinly veiled command, in other words, what she said was directive in nature. Part of me said flee, part said fight, what happened was I said "Okay, let's paint today."

So we did.

Did I bring out my sawhorses to place the bridge upon while painting so as to not have to bend over and maneuver awkwardly once again? No, I did not. I didn't remember that I had those until my better half indicated that it would nice to somehow get the bridge up off the ground so the paint would dry overnight and it wouldn't be resting in the wet grass on Sunday. It was only then that I remembered the sawhorses. I'm not exactly stupid, but I'm not exactly smart either. I learn, but it takes time, oh so much time...

I really need to exercise more. Not that I'll be building another bridge anytime soon, but when you need to stretch to walk to the kitchen, it might be time to get out from behind the desk and go walkabout a bit more often.

Hey, it could happen.

Why the gratuitous Phantom pr0n? Why not?
'Tis my bridge to the past...

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday Night is Gumbo Night!

Ha, it's been over a week since I received  my callsign, "Beans" and I so ducked out of so many potentially bad callsigns like, "Mr. Wizard" (of which you were informed of earlier, ha!,) "Barney" and "Barfly" (may be a future story in there somewhere,) and much worse, so I guess I'm safe now, so far...  

And a quick aside to Memorial Day.  In Trimaris (most of Florida, there's a special fighting tourney held to determine the best fighter, who will be the champion of the people for a year.  Here's a photo of the Champion of Trimaris Award Plaque and Helm and accoutrements (helm is not to be worn, just shown) and the words that go with it.   This helm belonged to someone I only peripherally knew and who gave his all for all of us.
“This Helmet of Champions was made and fought in by Sergeant 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Brother to Duke Solomon Spite. Best friend of Earl Gregory Ahearne. Compatriot to many. Paul gave his life April 4th, 2003 saving the lives of over 100 of his troops in Baghdad in the War on terror, the truest embodiment of a Hero. On April 4th, 2005, Paul received the highest honor awarded in our nation, the Medal of Honor. Let this helmet inspire your tour as Champion of Trimaris. Let no dishonor ever befall it.”

Okay, back to Gulf Wars, the SCA war founded specifically not to create aggressions on either side.  Seriously.  “Gulf Wars, The War with No Enemies.”  It’s a real thing.  Some of the ‘wars’ I have participated in turned into generational grudge-frucks, with much cheating and backstabbing and nastiness (especially after the profit split from the event.)

Wait.  You thought only the LockMartBoeingBAEHaliburtonia-Bush-Trump-Hitler-Industrial Complex (and the UN, never forget the UN) made money on war, right? (insert ominous conspiracy music here...) Well, the SCA is weird.  Okay.  Serious now.  The SCA was founded in Berkeley, CA during the height of the 1960’s as a kinda anti-war, free-love, screw-the-establishment party in someone’s backyard.  Some of the founding members of the SCA later on became known as some of the creepiest stalker-pervs in Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but, well, Berkeley in the ‘60s.  (Now?  The SCA actively pursues creepazoids and sexpreds and drums them out.  Murderers?  Well, that’s another story (DukeAngus, cough, cough…))  Since then, the SCA has become a collection of some of the most liberal and conservative outcasts, freaks, geeks and jocks.  It has also gotten mostly away from the Berkeley birth crowd (some of them to jail, some of them to other groups, more and more of them to the Great Beyond.)

Events in the SCA are usually these organized weekend things, show up Friday afternoon, stay all day Saturday, leave Sunday morning (unless it’s a 3 day weekend or a war, where additional days are tacked on)(or if you daytrip, which is just as it sounds) where a group of people (hereafter called ‘crats’ as in Autocrat (the head of the group and one of the two people legally responsible for the event,) Reservationcrat (the person that does all the finances and reservations and is legally responsible for tracking the money,) the FeastCrat (head cook and person responsible for the supposedly medievalish menu for those buying Feast (usually included 2 breakfasts, lunch, dinner, maybe a ‘traveler’s feast (stew or some such) on Friday night for those arriving to the event Friday that bought ‘Feast’.  (We used to be restricted to $8.00 a head for a normal weekend for between 150 to 300 people, so, depending on the feastcrat, ‘feast’ could be rather, um, low quality or really friggin great (Mrs. Beans and Mr. Beans always produced celebrated menus and under-budget (if only by a smidge, but never over-budget),) Gatecrat (the head of the people who figure out who comes in and makes sure the rescrat gets paid,) and so forth, and so on.  Gee, for a medievalish group, they couldn’t have used medieval terms like, oh, seneschal, or Cook, or Head Guard, or…  Berkeley, remember?  Some things can’t be changed because… Tradition (yes, when this concept was brought up, often, me and my peeps would break out in the song “Tradition” which labeled us as the enemy and we suffered by being allowed to not attend stupid meetings that forced us to sing “Tradition.”)(Seriously, the Potty-crat is the head of the group that makes sure toilet stalls have toilet paper and plunge any clogs, seriously, this is a Thing in the SCA (which has no resemblance to the Viking Thing, which was an assembly of people for law purposes, or the VW Thing, which was a funky-looking Beetle (no, not Ringo, I said Beetle, not Beatle.))

An autocrating group (the SCA loves stupid made-up terms) would get an event weekend, get a campsite (anywhere from someone’s largeish back yard to actual campgrounds with full kitchens and cabins and sometimes a pool and all that stuff (one of the great things about living in Florida is there used to be lots of fully equipped campgrounds for us to rent, and we often left the places cleaner (especially the kitchen) and better repaired than when we found it.  Unfortunately, many organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, various church organizations or social organizations either got all pissy about us being on their site (and paying out the nose for the privilege) or decided to sell the land for development.  That sucks.)

Once a date and site are secured, then the group starts collecting money from two sources:  reservations (in the SCA, because we’re idiots, we call this pre-res.  Res is when you show up on the day and pay for that day.  Stupid idiots;) and formal territorial groups from their treasury (bank account.)

Territorial Groups?  What?  Well, the world is divided into  ‘Kingdoms’ with a two branch system of government.  The ‘Royal’ and ‘Peerage’ branch, where the ‘Royals’ are selected by armed combat (called Crown Tourney, for once getting the message correct and in a succinct fashion,) and the ‘Peers’ who are people selected for supposedly their prowess and strength in fighting (Knights) and arts/sciences/crafts (Laurels) and in admin puke stuff (Pelicans); and the somewhat legalish side headed by the legal representative of the BOARD (later story there) and all the admin pukes that proliferate that branch of power.  Kingdoms are further broken into administrative groups called Baronies (with ‘landed nobles’ as the crown’s representative) or shires, or other little groups.  Each with it’s own legalish branch of admin pukes.   That all get money from fundraising or putting on events (profit, it’s good.)
The Knowne World as of 2005.
East Asia is covered by the West Kingdom.  Stupid map doesn't show this, stupid map.

So.  The events go on, and hopefully at least break even and more hopefully make a profit.  Profits are split between whatever administrative groups pony up the front money in some sort of profit (or loss) distribution system.  Wars have gone bad in the SCA over who gets what percentage of profits from running the event.  Wars being popular, they also tend to make serious bank.  Thusly, arse-holes will try to have their group profit over other groups.  Bad blood.  Eh, it happens.  Not like this ever happened in actual medieval times, or in more recent history.

Other ways for a war to go bad is for one kingdom to cheat at fighting, which means there’s a serious amount of not-so-chivalrous not taking blows  or by getting pissy because your kingdom sucks and couldn’t win against a bunch of those foam sword LARP dudes that make normal geeks look like the Washington Redskins (seriously, in foam-sword larping, they throw a balled up sock as a ‘spell’, maybe of ‘funky feet’ or something, and they hit like pansies, whereas we SCAdians smite each other mightily with the same stuff you make furniture out of.  To each his own.  And every bunch of geeks has another bunch of geeks to look down upon.)

Now that I’ve rambled all over the map, I’ll get to the point.            

At Gulf Wars, there is much more to do than just fighting.  There’s shopping, lots of shopping.  You could show up at the event with street cloths and buy everything you need for a serious wardrobe, down to real jewelry, and furniture for your camp (called, well, an encampment) and a ‘period’ tent (one that looks like it might actually be medieval) and armor.  Blessed Armor.  That which keeps the bruises down.  Munitions Grade armor of all grades (munitions grade armor is ‘off-the-rack’ sorta fits stuff.   Custom armor is available, at more of a price, and requires a lead-time from days to years.) and all price ranges.  There’s even a guy there who sells aluminum (yes, aluminium, shields must hold up to thugs hitting it with axehandles) shield blanks of various styles and will even roll it in a press to put a curve on it if you want a curved shield.  You need to add the edging (to keep the shield from cutting the rattan shields and also from poking out an eye (yes, it is a thing that has almost happened))(old fire hose, or rawhide, or heater hose or garden hose... zip-tied or tied or glued on) and strappings and handles (leather tool belts work real well) and any decorations you wish (within reason, taste and within the rules, that is.)  Weapons, both the type you use for SCA fighting and real weapons, and all the accoutrements that go with them.  Cloth to make clothes from.  And so forth.  Even food from vendors is available, from semi-crappy to really damned good.  So with enough money, you, too, can be fully equipped in one day.  Think shopping mall, except all done from tents with funny dressed people.
Seriously, almost anything for sale as long as it's legal.  Wednesday is Midnight Madness Day!
And, crap, I miss this stuff.  Sucks being broke and old.

There are also art and history classes.  And classes on admin puke stuff, like how to run an event, current financial policies, the ins-and-outs of those silly designs on shields and such which is a part of Heraldry and which accumulates more geeks and weirdos than any other group in the SCA (and how do I know this?  Simple, I am a fully accredited (in the SCA) Herald Pursuivant-at-Arms, whooptie-frickin-doo) and such.

There are dances, and organized parties, and non-organized parties, and drunken parties, and drunks, and people barfing behind their period or non-period tents in their encampments because they’re drunk, and people whoring around, and generally no open use of drugs.  (Hard Limit in the SCA is what the local, state and national laws are of the location and the group are.  So those in Germany (Hello, Kingdom of Drachenwald!) or anywhere else in Europe (same kingdom) are subject to those laws in Germany and anywhere else in Europe.   We here in the USA are subject to our laws.

So…  Wednesday Night is Gumbo Night.  Why?  Well…  A story of a time in the past...

Used to be, a group of people from Meridies (Southeastern Kingdom, not Trimaris) and now from Gleann Ahben (they broke off from Meridies, first as a territorial ‘principality’ under Meridies, then as their own ‘kingdom.’  (Hey, if a bunch of kids from Rhode Island can be a Southern Militia group, then we’re allowed our own weirdness.)  So, used to be, a bunch of southern bayou dwellers would put on a big party Wednesday night at the War, and there would be gumbo provided.  Okay pretty-good gumbo, not my dad’s, just okay pretty good.  And lots of booze, provided BYOB.  So people would get drunk, eat gumbo, and then wake up the next day, Thursday, for the Ravine Battle. 

Thursday dawn breaks, we all wake up.  Breakfast is made, in one fashion or another.  Grumbling fighters start the arduous task of putting on the clothing that goes under the armor (which, unless one has brought lots of spares, or had access to a washer and dryer off site, are by now kinda seriously funky) (and may be everything from completely period clothing like some officer squid person I know who used to fly Hoovers (No, not Tuna, unless Tuna is/was in the SCA and is/was married to a squire of Subadai) to normal sweat pants and jeans, tshirts and such) and begin the more arduous task of donning funk-filled armor that one has been wearing for at least 3, maybe 4 days, collecting all their weapons and dragging their gumbo-filled and alcohol-poisoned bodies (for those serious hard-core fighters) to the Ravine, which is centrally located between the two large camping areas at King’s Arrow Ranch (a weird medieval/cowboy cross mixture during normal operating days) in beautiful Lumberton, MS (yes, it is actually pretty, in a southern, impoverished, still recovering from Katrina way (one town down south of Lumberton, they found alligators on top of the Wal-mart.  This place got totally hosed and had zero attention from the press.  Storm wiped out Gulfport (which recovered) and moved up the Pearl River just laying waste to the surrounding areas, and as of 2012 (last year I went) was still trying to get back on their feet.  Think poor, southern country folk during the Reconstruction Era and you’re not too far off even today.  Rural South has always been economically disadvantaged, and at prey to Washington DC and the Urban North.)

So, both sides, Trimaris (yay, there was much rejoicing) and its allies, vs Ansteorra (booo, okay, yay, meh.) and its allies, collect at their appropriate resurrection points at either end of the Ravine, which is a turf war/endurance battle over the control of 3 key points stretched across the middle distance of the Ravine, one in the center, one on either side of the middle up on the banks of said Ravine.

“Lay On” is called (SCA for go, fight, get it on, go to it, whatever) and the youngsters and more athletically inclined go running towards the center line, while the rest of us trudge towards combat. (Okay, I’m going to rag on myself here.  I was at one time known as the slowest runner in my area.  Seriously.  Same speed over or through mud, deep sand, shallow sand, rock, soft grass, hard prarie, concrete, asphalt, macadam, whatever.  Same damned plodding speed.  I ain’t fast, but I get there.  How slow? I seriously can walk almost as fast as I can run (this has been noted all my life) so I just tend to walk fast a lot.  Sure, like a fat cheetah lighting a fart, I can run kinda quick for 3-5 steps, enough for a good shield charge, but that’s it.  Once I get in the shield line, though, oh, boy, just try to move me…)  And so, this goes on, the forward and backward creeping of the line of combat by as much as 20 feet at some time, while a steady stream of increasingly tired and smelly fighters head out of combat to be resurrected (and get water and pickles and pickle juice and sports drink) and then go back to the line of combat and so forth.

For an hour.  Sweaty, stinking bodies exuding used alcohol and gumbo farts, kicking up dust, and all mixing into a miasma of funky smog, held in by usually a temperature inversion over the Ravine, so much that at the halfway point, unless it’s raining, there’s literally a smog barrier one would walk out of as one headed up out of the Ravine in order to resurrect.  How bad?  Think Los Angeles Smog in ’73 bad.

So,  this one particular year, the Gumbo and Alcohol Funk Smog was especially bad, as the Gumbo was especially good (and funky.)  About near the end of the whole hour, I was pushing my large shield in the shield wall and those rat-bastard Ansteorrans decided to try to charge not-so-little old me and my shield wall.  About 40 of them hit my section of the line, smashing down the less-good swordsman and knocking me down (without hitting me with any of their weapons) and I stopped the whole damned charge by pretty much my fat body and my huge shield (a large scutum over 4.5’ tall by 30” wide) serving as a large door stop.  Which resulted in 7 or more of them falling on me.  Think Rugby Scrum or an old-school pile-on football (American) tackle.  Me, with 7 or more fumey, Gumbo-farting yellow-jackets farting on my face.  I am slowly being asphyxiated by the most fulsome butt-blows and the weight of the masses on me.  Slowly, I see my life pass before my eyes, along with whatever everyone ate last night.  Think seafood dumpster on a hot summer’s day, with stale beer and booze, and urine, and, well, you get the point.

They finally got everyone off of me, and I got to take a deep breath of Gumbo-smog.  And then I said, forget this, I’m dead anyways, and went back to Resurrection.

Eventually the battle was over.  I think more casualties were from the gumbo-funk than anything else (heat exhaustion, dehydration, pulled muscles and such.)  Horrible horrible gumbo-funk.

I think they finally outlawed Gumbo Night, kind of like how the Church outlawed fighting wars on Sunday and Wednesday (against other Christians) and crossbows (against other Christians.)(Like that worked, not!)  Not that illicit, underground Gumbo cults didn’t spring up over the years, but officially, well, maybe financially, Gumbo Night was no more.  And we all breathed (the next day) better for it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


The opening painting could be named "F-4D Phantoms Bombing North Vietnam," or, you could view it as a metaphor for recent actions by Teh Google© (fine purveyors of tools for the Web of World Wideness) and my favorite (sic) software company, Microsoft©. Both of which constitute a rather annoying burr under my saddle at times.

To be clear, in the painting, I am on the receiving end.

If you go here, you'll see that I have a brand new page dedicated to making bureaucrats in Europe happy, sort of. Go read it for notices of cookies and privacy stuff. Yes, it's boring, but not as boring as it could be if a corporate lawyer had written it.

And Microsoft©, in their infinite lack of wisdom, has decided to once again "upgrade" Windows© 10. Most of the stuff they did is "unseeable" but is no doubt intended to save us from CHICOM and Russian gangsta hackers. It also broke a number of things which made my life a little easier. In my experience the Dark Lords of Redmond will eventually remedy those things or hope we just stop noticing them.



Anyhoo. Enough with the legal folderol.

Oh, before I forget (the post title reminded me) I have incorporated young Beans into the header and down on the right sidebar where the staff logo (which no one ever sees) resides. I squeezed LUSH over a bit to make room, she won't mind, once she actually posts I may give her more room. Now, can anyone guess what's going on with the symbology I used? There's Shrute Bucks in it, valueless in all but name, for the winner.

On to other news and fun stuff...

Had a Lexican lass in town over the weekend for the graduation of a young lady of her acquaintance from Harvard Law. Was I impressed? Well, yes, yes I was. The newly minted Harvard Law lady is rather comely and, as we say in these parts, wicked smart. (You'll have to use your own quaint Boston accent for that word. I can hear it in my head but I will not attempt to spell it phonetically. I tried once and incurred the wrath of the native speakers of that tongue. One of whom I am not.)

Now where was I? Ah yes, the graduate. Very lovely she is and rather an expert in an area near and dear to my heart.


For she once was a bartender of some note in an establishment in our Nation's Capital. She began life as a whiskey drinker knowing little of that favored beverage made with hops and barley. Her fellow barkeeps quickly educated her as to the finer points of that ancient beverage and she is now quite conversant with that liquid gold.

She asked me what my favorite beer was, I, thinking myself somewhat clever, replied, "The wet kind. Preferably free." She gave me a pained chuckle and a realized that I was in the presence of a true aficionado of beer. I, dropping my country rube act, tried to keep up, to no avail, the lady knew her stuff. My Lexican lady friend, who hails from Texas and has that charming Texas lady accent which I haven't heard in far too long, seemed pleased that Your Humble Scribe and the recent grad were getting along nicely.

I mean, come on, what's not to like? A lady that knows beer. Rare in the female of our species in my experience, limited though that be. At any rate, we moved on to dinner, what would we be having to drink first? I chose thusly, it's a favorite...

Said beverage the Harvard lass decided to have as well. She liked it. Pleased I was.

I was asked what was good to eat in this place...

Rather than reply, "Everything." I recommended the shepherd's pie, which they do very nicely at Aidan's, when I mentioned that it was made with beef, not mutton, therefore it's technically...

"Cottage pie," sayeth the lady Harvard grad. I did mention that she was bright didn't I?

"Why yes, yes indeed. The Missus Herself likes it very much on cold, wet days." Which Sunday was. So the ladies both had the shepherd's pie whereas I ordered the 14-ounce steak with the Irish whiskey sauce. A particular weakness of mine. It is good, trust me.

I mean, come on, they use Irish whiskey for the sauce, what's not to like? (And  I believe that would be known as gravy to you folks from New Jersey.)

At any rate, the ladies pronounced the shepherd's pie just the thing for such a wet, cold day and the Harvard grad really liked the Heretic. (Though when our waiter asked if we both wanted the Heretic, I said yes, but don't tell the Pope. Which fell on deaf ears as he gave me a puzzled look. And there's me trying to be clever...)

We had a nice long chat, hadn't seen my friend from Texas in over a year, so there was much to catch up on.

As Lex might have said, it was a good craic. I'd go so far as to call it a savage craic.

It was good to see you again Robin, and Diane, nice to meet you, good luck on that bar exam. (No, it doesn't involve drinking, I asked. But I did get a laugh.)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Arkansas Traveler visits Kavieng

Hope y'all are having an memorable Memorial Day enjoying time off with family and friends.  And you SHOULD enjoy it, the cost to preserve the freedoms we have in this country are enormous.  But, having already posted on specific individuals I remember on this holiday, I think I'm going to discuss a topic I regularly post on.  Medal of Honor recipients.  

Given the usual high cost of receiving the Medal of Honor, I'll choose to use the word "Fortunately".

Fortunately, I'm quickly running out of Air Force recipients of our Nation's highest military award to post about.  As I posted last week, I had some training I attended last weekend in Dallas.  It's about a 5 hour trip up and back and as I wasn't driving, I had time to do a little reading.

One of the several books I have open in Kindle (I switch between them often as I ascertain what my attention span will sustain at any given moment) is "Check Six! A Thunderbolt Pilot's War across the Pacific".  It's an interesting book, combining verbiage from the author and supporting data from Squadron Histories. 

The primary AOR for Lt Curran's war is the Fifth AF in the South Pacific.  I'll confess that aside from Bong and Kearby and the Yamamoto shootdown, I really don't have an in depth grasp of that AOR's history.  Which is interesting as both the 80TFS (aka "The Juvats") and the 339TFS were assigned to 5th AF in WWII and later were squadrons to which I was assigned.  

History is wasted on the young, I guess.

So, the car is speeding along towards Dallas delivering me to a rendevous with my "How to tune  databases" destiny  ("Woo Hoo!"), and I'm reading away when I come to this passage.

On February 15th, 1944, four members of our sister squadron, the 342nd, were assigned to escort a Navy PBY Catalina flying boat supporting the mission to Kavieng. The flying boat was virtually defenseless against fighters so had to be protected in its mission, which was to recue any airmen downed on the raid. The P-47’s arrived with the slow-moving flying boat just as the bombers were concluding the raid. The flak put up by the defenses was sky-blackening. Five bombers were hit so badly they had to ditch right in the harbor. The Navy PBY pilot proceeded right into the flak and landed the huge flying boat near the first crew they spotted in the water. The Thunderbolts provided top cover and called out positions of survivors while the intrepid PBY pilot went about his business of picking up the downed B-25 crews. The crash survivors of five planes were hoisted aboard the PBY, all the time under fire from shore batteries. The PBY turned toward the open sea at full throttle attempting to take off. The plane did not seem to have enough power to get airborne or break the surface tension of the placid sea, which was at dead calm. Upon exiting the harbor, the PBY pilot performed a 270-degree turn on the water and came back over his own wake. The wave was enough to break the surface tension and the PBY was airborne. He immediately set a course for Finschhafen and very gradually gained a little altitude, but he seemed to be having a problem getting up to cruising speed, about 90 knots.*
I thought that PBY pilot and crew were pretty ballsy, landing 4 times in hostile waters well within gun range of alerted AAA crews and eventually rescuing 15 Air Force crewmen and returning them to friendly hands. 

My brain immediately went into posting mode.  How would I search to find out who this crew was?  Fortunately, the author's person in charge of researching stories had footnoted the incident and provided the pilot's name.

So, let me introduce you to Lt (j.g.) Nathan Gordon.


Lt Gordon had graduated from University of Arkansas with a law degree in 1939, practiced law for a couple of year before joining the Navy in May of 1941.  Getting his wings and getting checked out in the PBY, he was assigned to the south Pacific AOR.

On Feb 15, 1944, 5th Air Force attacked the port of Kavieng with 4 squadrons of A-20 Havocs and 7 squadrons of B-25s.  
Slightly less than a 700 mile round trip.  A long way even in modern day fighters.

Heavy, and accurate, AAA (HISS!) shot down 8 of the attacking planes, with 5 of them ditching inside the lagoon.  Lt Gordon and his crew aboard his PBY (Bureau Number 08139 "Arkansas Traveler")  are vectored in to try and retrieve the crew of one of the A-20s.  Landing in 16-18' seas (!), they are unable to locate survivors, seeing only a couple of life jackets and debris.  Taking off again, they realize their aircraft has taken on water due to the heavy seas.

About this time, they are vectored to a ditched B-25 piloted by Major Coltharp, CO of the 496th Bomb Squadron (yep, real people).  Lt Gordon makes his approach and stalls the aircraft into the water (intentionally to minimize landing run).  Taxis up to the Major and his crew of 6 and realizes the waves will carry the life rafts uncomfortably close to the port prop.  He asks the crew chief if they shut it down will he be  able to restart it.  With an affirmative, Lt Gordon shuts down the engine and retrieves the crew.  They restart the engine, takeoff and start to head home.

However, they are alerted to another downed crew from a B-25 about a mile from shore.  Spotting the debris and three survivors, they land again, shut down the engine and retrieve them. 

Meanwhile, overhead, the P-47s have had to RTB due to low fuel.  As Lt Gordon takes off and starts to RTB, the B-25 that had been spotting ditched aircraft calls them again and directs them towards another crew, very close to shore.  Assured by the B-25 that he would remain and provide cover against any Japanese float plane attacks, Lt Gordon makes another landing about 600 yards from shore.  Using the heavy seas as some protection from AAA and small arms fire, they manage to rescue 5 members of Captain William Cavoli's B-25 crew.  

As they complete the process of pulling Capt Cavioli's crew aboard, the co-pilot starts the starboard engine and attempts to start the port engine.  It will not start.  Realizing that the engine is flooded, Lt Gordon directs the co-pilot to stop trying to start it.  For an agonizing couple of minutes, the PBY taxied in a circle with Japanese shells coming closer every second.  Finally, Lt Gordon engages the starter and the engine comes to life.

With 15 extra bodies on board, the overloaded PBY staggers into the air and maintains a stately 90 knot pace back to Finschafen, arriving there after a 7.4 hour return flight.  Depositing the rescued airmen their, he flies another 2.6 hours back to his base.  

Just another day at the office.

For an interesting version of this mission from the POV of the B-25 crews read here

According to Lt Curran's retelling of the story, the PBY sank as it coasted up to the beach at it's home base.  Lt Gordon's version does not mention that.  If it's true, it certainly adds a level of interest to the story.  Airplanes have souls, you know.  This one held on to the very end.

Or not.

In any case, Lt Gordon's Citation:
For extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty as commander of a Catalina patrol plane in rescuing personnel of the U.S. Army 5th Air Force shot down in combat over Kavieng Harbor in the Bismarck Sea, 15 February 1944.
On air alert in the vicinity of Vitu Islands, Lt. (then Lt. j.g.) Gordon unhesitatingly responded to a report of the crash and flew boldly into the harbor, defying close-range fire from enemy shore guns to make 3 separate landings in full view of the Japanese and pick up 9 men, several of them injured.
With his cumbersome flying boat dangerously overloaded, he made a brilliant takeoff despite heavy swells and almost total absence of wind and set a course for base, only to receive the report of another group stranded in a rubber life raft 600 yards from the enemy shore.
Promptly turning back, he again risked his life to set his plane down under direct fire of the heaviest defenses of Kavieng and take aboard 6 more survivors, coolly making his fourth dexterous takeoff with 15 rescued officers and men.
By his exceptional daring, personal valor, and incomparable airmanship under most perilous conditions, Lt. Gordon prevented certain death or capture of our airmen by the Japanese.

After this episode, Lt Gordon is returned Stateside where he performs instructor duty for the duration.  Returning to Arkansas after the War, he restarts his law firm and runs for office as Lt Governor in 1946.  He remains in office until 1966.  He passed away in 2008.

Rest in Peace Warrior! 


Sunday, May 27, 2018


Captain Henry T. Waskow, United States Army
Born 24 Sep 1918 DeWitt County, Texas, USA
Killed In Action 14 Dec 1943 (aged 25), Italy
Those of us who served might remember a special officer or sergeant whom we would follow into Hell and back, if he (or she) was leading the way. I've known a few like that.

Ernie Pyle was a sailor in World War I (how ever so brief his service, he volunteered) before gaining undying fame as a combat journalist in World War II. He was admired by the common Marines and soldiers, even loved. His death at the hands of a Japanese sniper on the small island of Ie Shima during the Okinawa campaign stunned the men he was with.

I remember Mr. Pyle for this story, which I borrow in its entirety from here. It's a website where you might wish to spend a little time this Memorial Day weekend. But I digress, from Ernie Pyle...
The Death of Captain Waskow
by Ernie Pyle
AT THE FRONT LINES IN ITALY, January 10, 1944—In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.

Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had led his company since long before it left the States. He was very young, only in his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.

“After my own father, he came next,” a sergeant told me.

“He always looked after us,” a soldier said. “He’d go to bat for us every time.”

“I’ve never knowed him to do anything unfair,” another one said.

I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow’s body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.

Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed onto the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden pack-saddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking out awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked.

The Italian mule-skinners were afraid to walk beside dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies at the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself, and ask others to help.

The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule and stood him on his feet for a moment, while they got a new grip. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there, leaning on the others. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the low stone wall alongside the road.

I don’t know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don’t ask silly questions.

We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on water cans or lay on the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.

Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about it. We talked soldier talk for an hour or more. The dead man lay all alone outside in the shadow of the low stone wall.

Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight, in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting. “This one is Captain Waskow,” one of them said quietly.

Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the low stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally there were five lying end to end in a long row, alongside the road. You don’t cover up dead men in the combat zone. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.

The unburdened mules moved off to their olive orchard. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow’s body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear.

One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, “God damn it.” That’s all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, “God damn it to hell anyway.” He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left.

Another man came; I think he was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the half light, for all were bearded and grimy dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain’s face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: “I’m sorry, old man.”

Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer, and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said:

“I sure am sorry, sir.”

Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.

And finally he put the hand down, and then reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain’s shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.

After that the rest of us went back into the cowshed, leaving the five dead men lying in a line, end to end, in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep.
Ernest Taylor Pyle
Born 03 Aug 3 1900, Dana, Indiana
Killed In Action 18 Apr 1945 (aged 44), Ie Shima, Japan
I mourn them both, Captain Waskow and Ernie Pyle, and the thousands upon thousands who fell in the cause of freedom. Today, in church, I will recite the names of the ones I hold in my heart. Brave men, gone far too soon. There are not enough tears for the all those who have fallen. I cannot embrace, nor remember them all, but these five I can hold close until Eternity calls me home.

Captain Carroll F. LeFon, Jr.
United States Navy
Lance Corporal Kurt E. Dechen
United States Marine Corps
Major Taj Sareen
United States Marine Corps
Lieutenant Nathan T. Poloski
United States Navy
Private Robert Bain
Royal Scots Fusiliers
(No photo available)

For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon (4th Stanza)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

And I do. Every. Single. Day.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

No Words Needed


This Weekend Is Special

Yes, this weekend is special. It's the unofficial start to summer, folks are looking forward to the nicer weather and the chance to spend some time in the great outdoors.






And various and sundry other summertime activities.

Mind you, I don't begrudge folks the need to do those things. I know that if the ones who paid for our freedoms were still around, no doubt they'd be out there enjoying those very same activities. It's our right, our privilege perhaps, to enjoy these simple freedoms.

Some of us will spare a moment, or more, to remember those who paid that price.

This weekend is special, enjoy it, but perhaps for a moment, spare a thought for those who died for this nation. I will.

The Peacemaker
By Joyce Kilmer

Upon his will he binds a radiant chain,
For Freedom’s sake he is no longer free.
It is his task, the slave of Liberty,
With his own blood to wipe away a stain.
That pain may cease, he yields his flesh to pain.
To banish war, he must a warrior be.
He dwells in Night, eternal Dawn to see,
And gladly dies, abundant life to gain.

What matters Death, if Freedom be not dead?
No flags are fair, if Freedom’s flag be furled.
Who fights for Freedom, goes with joyful tread
To meet the fire of Hell against him hurled,
And has for captain Him whose thorn-wreathed head
Smiles from the Cross upon a conquered world.

Sgt. Joyce Kilmer
69th Infantry Regiment, United States Army
Killed in Action, July 30, 1918
near Seringes-et-Nesles, France

Friday, May 25, 2018

No, Please, Not Another Video!


Just like back in high school when the football coach had to substitute in any class other than phys ed, rather than something educational, you'd get a film. Or something.

Anyhoo, it's been a long-ish week work-wise and my thinking bits are a bit fried. So you get videos...

Now I'll preface this first one by saying, if you missed the Royal Wedding last weekend, don't worry. I have the inside story for you, right here. With the assistance of the YouTube channel, A Bad Lip Reading, The Chant was behind the scenes at the momentous occasion. Now, our microphones weren't working all that well, but the folks over at A Bad Lip Reading assure me that they've captured the correct dialog...

I'm sure it was exactly like that. As a bonus, again teaming with A Bad Lip Reading, The Chant attended the Zuckerberg hearings before Congress not too long ago. I have been assured that the microphones were working that day. I mean, it sounds legit...

And yes, I do have the sense of humor of a five year old.

On my good days.

I promise, I'll try harder next time.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

My Uncles, Pliny and John

Assault on Battery Wagner
Now I've written about my great-granduncle Pliny before, he was (I think) my maternal grandmother's uncle, so I think great-granduncle is the more proper term, though I suppose great-great-uncle fits as well.

We always just refer to him as "Uncle Pliny," everyone in the family gets that, Pliny isn't such a common name anymore, even still, there was only one Pliny on my Mom's side of the family tree.

Uncle Pliny served in the 7th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry about which this source says -
Mustered into the service of the United States October 29 to December 15, 1861, at Manchester, by Haldimand S. Putnam, 1 Lt. U.S.A. Organization completed December 15, 1861. The original members who had not re-enlisted were mustered out December 27, 1864, at Concord, by Ai B. Thompson, Capt. U.S.A. (retired). The re-enlisted men and recruits were mustered out July 20, 1865, at Goldsborough, N.C., by William H. Pierpont, Capt. 7 Conn. Inf.
That source noted above has a fairly complete roster of the men who served in the 7th, a few of whom were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the war, a topic for another post someday, perhaps. Another thing worth noting is that 1LT Putnam who mustered the regiment into service, rose to the rank of Colonel and commanded the regiment in the second assault on Battery Wagner outside Charleston, SC.

Colonel Putnam was killed in action during that assault, and my Uncle Pliny was wounded. My uncle later returned to the regiment and served throughout the war. My research also indicates that the 7th was in action at the siege of Petersburg in '64. Another vicious fight.

This entry on the 7th NH has the following listing -
Gammell, Pliny F. Co. A; b. Hillsborough; age 19; res. Hillsborough; enl. Oct. 25, '61; must. in Oct. 29, '61, as Priv.; wd. July 18, '63, Ft. Wagner, S.C.; re-enl. and must. in Feb. 29, '64; app. Corp. Dec. 17, '64; must. out July 20, '65. P.O. ad., Lowell, Mass.
My Mom's side of the family has another soldier named Gammell. My grandmother's brother John, or Uncle John as we boys called him.

Soldiers in the Hürtgen Forest, November 1944
I suppose, technically speaking, he was my granduncle, sometimes called great-uncle. All I know is that he was a pretty cool guy. Born in 1916 he was older than many infantrymen in World War II. Nevertheless, he served in the infantry, 4th Infantry Division to be precise.

Somewhere at Chez Sarge is a suitcase with letters home from him, I also have his Purple Heart medal, which he received for wounds suffered in the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest.

Uncle John's outfit came over the beaches at Normandy later than the rest of the 4th, parts of which landed on D-Day on Utah Beach. He might have been a replacement, I need to dig deeper into those letters. The 4th was heavily involved in the campaign in France.

I do know that Uncle John remembered well the horror of the Hürtgen Forest, wet, cold, and heavy fighting. When I was in Germany, my grandmother asked me if I was near enough to that area to perhaps go take some pictures so her brother could see what it looked like in modern times.

Of course, it was a beautiful summer day when we headed down there, about an hour and change from where we lived. Beautiful country, but knowing the weather in that area in the fall, I can well imagine what it was like in November of '44.

Uncle John's war ended in that dark, wet Hell. A German bullet went through the top of his helmet, just grazing the helmet liner and my uncle's head. He lived, but he was evacuated back to England (I think). By the time he had recovered, the war was over in Europe.

That would definitely get your attention!
War, there ain't no glory in it.

But in my family, we remember those who served.

Uncle John passed back in 1998, just before I retired from the Air Force. It would have been nice to have talked with him one more time. Ah, perhaps when I too reach the clearing at the end of the path, we can have that chat.