Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Criminals or Soldiers?

Waffen SS soldiers of the "Germania" regiment, 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking".
(Source)
In Hollywood films, they are nearly always depicted as wearing black uniforms, typically they are also portrayed as fanatical Nazis. They were the dreaded SS. But how much do you really know about these people?

Many members of the SS were convicted of war crimes, many paid the ultimate price for that.  The entire organization, along with the Nazi Party itself, was declared by the Nuremberg Tribunal to be a criminal organization. No different from the way modern law enforcement views the Mafia.

What were they? Who were they?

I'm not going to delve deeply into the history of the SS, many thousands of gallons of ink have been spilled on that topic, Wikipedia has a fair article on them, here. To begin with, the letters SS stand for Schutzstaffel a German word meaning "protection squad." Beginning as small units whose job was to protect Hitler and other Nazi party officials, they grew into a vast organization.

We are no doubt all familiar with the Massacre at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge, American prisoners of war murdered in cold blood by elements of the SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. A unit which began as the personal bodyguard of Hitler and became a full-fledged division in World War II.

Again, I'm not going to talk about the entire SS organization, only one part, the Waffen SS, the military arm of the SS, indeed of the Nazi Party itself. "Waffen" is the German word for  "weapon," or "arms." So Waffen SS can be translated as the "armed SS." These units were organized and equipped in similar fashion to regular German army units, but over time they received better (and more) equipment than the regular German army.

At no time was the Waffen SS a component of the German armed forces (die Wehrmacht) which consisted of the German Army (das Heer), the German Air Force (die Luftwaffe), and the German Navy (die Kriegsmarine). Though throughout the war Waffen SS units served side by side with the German army and fell under regular army commanders throughout the war.

But the SS were different from your average German soldier. A German could not be drafted into the SS, the overall leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler had a number of odd notions about racial purity. Early SS recruits could not wear spectacles and couldn't even have any fillings in their teeth (all of which had to be present). The "ideal" of the blond, blue-eyed Aryan was in Himmler's head, but as neither he nor Hitler met this so-called "ideal," it was simply that, an ideal.

The Waffen SS was noted for a number of things throughout the war: fanatical bravery, an absurd lack of tactical finesse (SS units tended to burn out quickly), and appalling cruelty to those they considered to be subhumans, Untermenschen. Which theoretically included all the Slavic peoples, Asians, Africans, etc, though Hitler did declare the Japanese to be "Honorary Aryans."

Some have argued that the Waffen SS were not the same people who guarded the concentration camps, the Totenkopfverbände, the Death's Head Units as that is often translated, called that for the skull and crossbones on their collar patches. However, one entire SS division, SS Panzer Division Totenkopf was created from those camp guards. In reality there was a great deal of cross feed between the camp staffs and the Waffen SS.

Another myth is that while the SS committed appalling crimes in Russia and Poland, the Western Front was more "civilized." As early as 1940, during the campaign in France, there were at least two instances of Waffen SS troops murdering British prisoners of war in cold blood. Le Paradis was one -



While the evacuation at Dunkirk was taking place, the Royal Norfolk Regiment, along with other British and French units, were fighting, and dying, to hold off the German floodtide.



War is brutality and cruelty, but there are certain conventions to be observed. When the fight is done, those who have been captured should be properly treated. This is something the Waffen SS never learned. For that they were branded as criminals.

Soldiers like other soldiers? I guess it depends on the soldiers they're being compared to.

You be the judge.



Schuldig im Sinne der Anklage! (Guilty as charged!)




Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Fokker Scourge

Anton Herman Gerard Fokker
On the 28th of June, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, one month later Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Less than a month and a half later, 8 September, the first aerial combat took place. Russian pilot (and aviation pioneer*) Stabskapitän Pyotr Nikolayevich Nesterov rammed, and brought down, an Austrian Albatros B.II reconnaissance aircraft flown by Franz Malina accompanied by his observer Baron Friedrich von Rosenthal.

It has been said that Captain Nesterov meant to strike the enemy aircraft a glancing blow to force it down, apparently he miscalculated. As was the custom at the time, Nesterov was not strapped into his aircraft and fell from his craft after the mid-air collision. He sustained mortal injuries and died the day after the incident. The pilot and observer of the Austrian aircraft died in the crash.

Now before you go spouting off about the Russians (yes, some of them are slightly demented, just watch their dash cam videos on YouTube, but they're not all like that - one hopes), ramming was actually a recognized tactic in a number of air forces, not just in World War One but later on as well. But for WWI we have this...
The first known instance of ramming in air warfare was made over Zhovkva by the Russian pilot Pyotr Nesterov on 8 September 1914, against an Austrian plane. That incident was fatal to both parties. The second ramming—and the first successful ramming that was not fatal to the attacker—was performed in 1915 by Alexander Kazakov, a flying ace and the most successful Russian fighter pilot of World War I. Sgt Arturo Dell'Oro of the Italian 83rd Squadron rammed a two-man Br.C.1 of Flik 45 on 1 September 1917. Wilbert Wallace White of the 147th Aero Squadron rammed a German plane on October 10, 1918; and was killed-his opponent survived. (Source)
As you can see, the Russians did it again in 1915 as did an Italian pilot in 1917. We Yanks tried it once...
Three hours later, he took off again. He had already become the 147th Aero Squadron's leading ace and had orders to return to the United States when he flew this last sortie. When he saw German ace Wilhelm Kohlbach's Fokker D.VII on the tail of an inexperienced pilot, White intervened. White's guns jammed and he was unable to fire at Kohlbach, so he rammed the German instead, to score his eighth and Kohlbach's fifth victory. While White fell to his death, Kohlbach took to his parachute in one of the first fighter pilot bailouts in history. White was posthumously recommended for the Medal of Honor, but was instead awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to his DSC. (Source)
(You can read more about Lieutenant White at the Aerodrome.)

Anyhoo, what has all that got to do with the title of this post? (No doubt a number of you are asking at this point.)

Well, in the early stages of the war, aircraft were mostly used for observation purposes, take off, fly to the front, have a look around, then fly back and report. Opposing aircraft would occasionally see each other over the front and exchange nothing more hostile than a wave.

As an aside, I should mention that spotting another aircraft from the air is a non-trivial exercise when all you've got is the Mark One, Mod Zero eyeball with which to spot another aircraft. Try it sometime when you're up there. Ain't easy. So seeing another aircraft in the early days of the war was probably a fairly rare occurrence, until the things began to proliferate as the brass on the ground began to understand their usefulness.

After a while, the aviators started to get a bit more belligerent than making rude gestures at the enemy. Some chaps started potting at the other guys with pistols, then rifles. Not much damage was done, at least not that I've ever heard. Eventually someone had the idea to mount a machine gun on the aircraft, which must have been something considering how much those old machine guns weighed and how fragile the aircraft of the time were. But someone was determined to "blind" the enemy observation efforts and machine guns were mounted on observation aircraft...
On October 5 French pilot Sgt. Joseph Frantz and his mechanic/gunner, Louis Quénault, shot down a German biplane near Reims to record what is considered the first official aerial combat victory**.
The key difference in this encounter was the 8-millimeter Hotchkiss machine gun fixed to the front of the French Voisin biplane. Mounted guns would soon be standard equipment for WWI combat aircraft, but when the head of Frantz’s V 24 escadrille had requested them for his squadron, he was at first ridiculed for his “Jules Verne” idea.
The Hotchkiss proved its worth when Frantz got into a chase with a two-man German Aviatik biplane during a morning bombing mission near the village of Jonchery-sur-Vesle, not far from the trenches. Frantz recalled later that he saw the passenger in the enemy airplane ahead of him take out a rifle as Quénault fired a few dozen rounds, finally hitting the Aviatik’s fuel tank. The Germans went down, trailing smoke, and crashed in a swamp. The pilot, Wilhelm Schlichting, had been killed by a bullet. His observer, Fritz von Zangen, died in the crash. Frantz, who lived to the age of 89 (he died in Paris in 1979), would later recall his enemies’ deaths without satisfaction, according to Méchin. After the French pilot landed and arrived at the crash scene, souvenir hunters were already going through the wreckage, and someone handed Frantz a picture of one of the Germans. He handed it back moments later. (Source)
Voisin 3
(Source)
Sergeant Franz sounds like an honorable guy. Of course, he was a sergeant, not that I'm partial to that particular rank...

Another Frenchman, Roland Garros had an idea, what if you could fire the machine gun straight ahead, through the propeller, just point the aircraft and shoot? Attach a machine gun to the nose of a single seater aircraft, which was much more nimble than the two-seater observation aircraft of the day. But how does one avoid shooting off one's propeller? Shooting yourself down in the process.

(Source)
How to do that? Garros came up with the idea of bolting steel deflector plates to the propeller. If any bullets should hit the propeller, they should be deflected without damaging the prop. Which did work for a while, causing rather a spot of panic of the German Luftstreitkräfte***.
In the early stages of the air war in World War I the problem of mounting a forward-firing machine gun on combat aircraft was considered by a number of individuals. The so-called "interrupter gear" did not come into use until Anthony Fokker developed a synchronization device which had a large impact on air combat; however, Garros also had a significant role in the process of achieving this goal.
As a reconnaissance pilot with the Escadrille MS26, Garros visited the Morane-Saulnier Works in December 1914. Saulnier's work on metal deflector wedges attached to propeller blades was taken forward by Garros; he eventually had a workable installation fitted to his Morane-Saulnier Type L aircraft. The Aero Club of America awarded him a medal for this invention three years later. Garros achieved the first ever shooting-down of an aircraft by a fighter firing through a tractor propeller, on 1 April 1915; two more victories over German aircraft were achieved on 15 and 18 April 1915.
On 18 April 1915, either Garros's fuel line clogged or, by other accounts, his aircraft was downed by ground fire, and he glided to a landing on the German side of the lines. Garros failed to destroy his aircraft completely before being taken prisoner: most significantly, the gun and armoured propeller remained intact. (Source)


Now here's where that Dutch guy in the opening photo comes into the story. (What Dutch guy, Sarge? Tony Fokker was actually Dutch, in case you didn't know.)

Legend has it (it was written of as fact when I was nobbut a lad) that Fokker and his team got a look at Garros' primitive, but effective, method of firing through the propeller. They figured they could do better, so they went to work to come up with an "interrupter" gear to stop the machine gun(s) from firing when any blade of the propeller was in the line of fire. Less danger of shooting yourself down, though a failure of the gear did still happen, rumor has it that one German ace actually perished from an interrupter gear failure.

At any rate, the story is no doubt far more complex than I was taught as a youth, but Fokker did field an operational fighter aircraft using this interrupter gear, the Fokker Eindecker (the German word for "one wing").

Fokker E.III
Now it was the turn of the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the French Aéronautique Militaire to panic.
The Fokker Scourge is usually considered to have begun on 1 August, when B.E.2c aircraft of No. 2 Squadron bombed the base of FFA 62 at 5:00 a.m., waking the German pilots, including Boelcke and Immelmann, who were quickly into the air after the raiders.[23] Boelcke suffered a jammed gun but Immelmann caught up with a B.E.2c and shot it down. This aircraft was flown as a bomber, without an observer or Lewis gun, the pilot armed only with an automatic pistol. After about ten minutes of manoeuvring (giving the lie to exaggerated accounts of the stability of B.E.2 aircraft) Immelmann had fired 450 rounds, which riddled the B.E. and wounded the pilot in the arm. By late October, towards the end of the Battle of Loos, more Fokkers (including the similar Pfalz E-type fighters, which were also called "Fokkers" by Allied airmen) were encountered by RFC pilots and by December, forty Fokkers were in service.

The new fighters could make long, steep dives and the fixed, synchronised machine gun was aimed by aiming the aircraft. The machine gun was belt-fed, unlike the drum-fed Lewis guns of their opponents, who had to change drums when in action. The Fokker pilots took to flying high and diving on their quarry, usually out of the sun, firing a long burst and continuing the dive until well out of range. If the British aircraft had not been shot down, the German pilot could climb again and repeat the process. Immelmann invented the Immelmann turn, a zoom after the dive, followed by a roll when vertical to face the opposite way, after which he could turn to attack again. (Source)
During the period of the so-called "Fokker Scourge," the RFC alone lost 120 aircraft from June of 1915 to January of 1916. The brass were getting a bit concerned as their fliers were getting a bit reluctant to, you know, actually go flying. (I can understand their reluctance.)



(I sure wish the guys who narrate these things would learn how to pronounce certain German and French words, seriously guys, "Voisin" is not pronounced the same as "poison," more like "va-wha-son." Google Translate is your friend!)

Anyhoo, the Allies eventually managed to get better machines for their pilots, which ended the dominance of the German Eindecker. Aircraft like the Nieuport 11 "Bebe," which were more maneuverable than the German aircraft started an arms race in the air which lasted until the war ended in 1918.



All of which leads me to the very famous joke, told in multiple ways by multiple writers. The following version, no doubt apocryphal, still gives me a chuckle. This version plays on the sense of humor of your typical fighter pilot.
Many of the pilots got through the ordeal (Editor's note: the Battle of Britain) with their sense of humour.
The most famous pilot of all – Douglas Bader – showed just how wicked that humour could be after the war, when he gave a talk at a posh girls’ school.

He said: “So there were two of the f***ers behind me, three f***ers to my right, another f***er on the left…”

At this point the headmistress panicked. She said: “I think you should know, girls, that the Fokker was a type of German plane.”

Bader replied: “Don’t know about that. These chaps were flying Messerschmitts.” (Source)
Heh.




* Nesterov was the first pilot to perform a loop. (Source) French pilot Adolphe Pégoud (mentioned before in these spaces, here and here) was the second, and more famous, pilot to have performed a loop.
** Perhaps the first recorded instance of "Who's Pyotr?"
*** Air Service.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Gotcha! Göttsch

So.....There I was*, over at one of my favorite wasting daylight blogs, Daily Timewaster..  

(Relax, muy viejo sargento de la Fuerza Aérea, I waste lots of daylight on this blog daily also. Voluntarily and enjoyably, of course.)

A couple of days ago, he had posted this picture.
 
Source
As usual, it caught my eye and I scoured it for details. Not many. Offizier-Stellvertreter Göttsch, which I correctly took to be the man's name and rank.  The stuff in the lower left was harder to discern.  The number 518 and some indecipherable German then the word "Sanke".

A little help, and a nice deposit of more information about my interests, from Google and Voila'

No, not this!

Source
 This.

The photograph appears on a series of postcards from a gentleman named Willi Sanke.  The 600-700 postcards in the series were all of World War I Aviators.  While the source says WWI Aviators, since he was based in Germany, I'm assuming the majority, if not all, were of WWI German Aviators.

Evidently, much like Baseball cards in the US were when Sarge was young (and dinosaurs roamed), Sanke cards are very collectable, rare and therefore, valuable.

Armed with the pilot's last name and his Sanke card number 518, his identity was relatively simple to find.  He is Officer-Deputy Walter Göttsch in the picture. He would eventually rise to Leutnant Walter Göttsch.


Source
Researching his story was interesting, even if there aren't a lot of details available. (Persistence pays though, I found a gem on Google page 8, more to follow.)

He was born in Altour Germany in June of 1896, joined the German Army in July 1915.  He was later trained as a Fighter Pilor and assigned to Royal Prussian Jagdstaffel 8 in September 1916. 



Source
He scored his first victory (against a Belgian Balloon...No, we're not going there) in November. By February of 1917, Göttsch had scored 6 victories (only the first was a balloon....No, we're still not going there.)

Unfortunately, at that point, the odds caught up with him and he was shot down and injured.  He recovered from those injuries and returned to duty in April.  Between April 6 and May 5, he shot down another 6 Aircraft before again being shot down and injured.  Returning to duty in July, he shot down 5 more aircraft before being shot down and injured for the third time. 


While recovering, he was given command of Jasta 19, a squadron that had a somewhat lackluster record, thought to be because of poor leadership.  Göttsch took over in February 1919 (oops) 1918, and started bringing the squadron out of its funk.
Göttsch's airplane is in the middle (the one with the, at the time, a symbol of good luck on it)                         Source

Between the time he took over and 10 April,  he shot down an additional 3 aircraft bringing his total kills to 20.  Unfortunately, when he shot down his last aircraft, an RE-8, its observer managed to shoot him down also.  Göttch died in the crash.

German policy at the time was 20 kills qualified you for the Pour le Mérite, AKA the Blue Max.  Unfortunately, because he was killed along with his 20th victory, it was never awarded.
RE-8 Source

Wow....just Wow!

20 kills and 4 crashes.  My well known credo was certainly applicable, "I'd rather be lucky than good".  Although in this case, I think he was good in the first column and lucky in the second column (well...3 out of 4 anyhow).

Rest in Peace, Warrior!

Oh, that gem I found on Page 8?  Actual footage of Richtofen.






Goring is in the film at about 3:30.  Göttsch is on the right side of the group at the 2:32 point.




*SJC

Primary Source for Facts and Figures in this post: The Aerodrome

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Ahhh, Gotta Post Something!!!

Our noble host tossed me under the bus on Saturday so he can go kanoodle with The Missus Herself.  I sillingly said I'd step up and do a post.  Me being all heroic and stuff, right?

So... well, this day's been busy.  Cats and dogs sleeping together, squirrely neighbors standing in the parking lot shouting at each other because they're obviously deaf and don't know sign language, thumpy-thumpy cars slow driving by and wishing to draw fire from the Bean family cannon (otherwise known as the mighty Remington 870 tacticool…)  Mrs. Andrew feeling under the weather, Beans feeling fine but, well, bleh, it's warm outside (above 50 degrees in wintertime is warm, okay?  I hate heat but really hate snow and ice, so lesser of two evils.)

Checking pile of potential posts...  Hmmm.  No, not this one.  Done that one.  What was I thinking about putting THAT down on (electronic) paper, no way statute of limitations is over on that...  Hmmm... historian stuff... statistics... hmmm, well, it will be boring but at least it will occupy space and time...  Maybe toss in a recipe or two to fill it out.  Hmmmm.

Warning - random photo



Well, let's see...

Our noble host, OldAFSarge, mka (mundanely known as:)  Blarg Garfalddlenick, first posted on March 22nd, 2012.  That's the first ever Chant Poste.  And having read it, well, he's grown since then.  Definitely a "I'm sticking my toes into this murky water full of aresholes and
alligators.." type of post.  OldAFS was a tad sporadic in posting for a while before his Muse hooked him up to the local 220V line and got him posting most days.  By the way, OldAFSarge, your OpSec sucks and I know where you live (someplace in Rhode Island, by the way,) and where you may work (insert ominous music,) your birthday is on May 8th, 19XX and your anniversary is on January 12th (as can be seen on the January 12th post.)  Father of the WSO/LUSH, The Nuke and the Naviguesser.  Servant of two cats and a pond full of water and some fish.  Does computer stuff for some secret government contractor that at one time was/may still be doing stuff for the DDX program (maybe He can convince the gubmint to just toss the super guns and go with more conventional 155mm nautical-ized and such.)

The first co-poster of the Chant is Tuna, who followed OldAFSarge over from Lex's site.   He first commented under the odd moniker "Tom" and then introduced himself as Tuna (actual) from Lex's site.  See?  Wasn't making this up.  His first guest post was on May 25th, 2013 (that would be a little over a year after the Chant started) and posted pretty much every day since.  He officially joined as an official Chant poster on June 29th, 2013.   Father of the Minnow and the formerly named Teenangster who isn't a teen anymore so...  My father was also a Knight of Columbus.  Wonder what it's like to belong to that extremely political organization (referring to idiots in Congress referring to the KOC as right-wing-radical...)  Works in Mine Warfare for the Navy.  Lives on the Left Coast, isn't a Lefty.  Big difference

juvat (why lower case, juvat, why not upper case Juvat I have know idea) first commented on July 10th, 2013 (so I guess the AF was slower than the Navy) and waited a whole 4 more days before jumping on the comments wagon.  His first guest post was on June 1st, 2014, less than a year after starting to comment, so I guess the AF is faster than the Navy after all. OldAFSarge was quick on the ball and officially recruited juvat (not Juvat, he spells it 'juvat') on June 3rd, 2014 with the first official posting as a Chant poster on June 9th, 2014.  Married to a vicious Crud playing personnel  officer/wine seller/wine tourer/fine couturier/now tour creater? and father of Little Juvat (why "J" instead of 'j'?  Dunno) and MBD, both now married not to each other (this ain't Arkansas after all.)  Now retired and working on his third adult career on a full-time basis, that being the To-Do man for his wife.

The 4th Chant Poster is LUSH who is also known as the WSO because Navy?  She's married and has three kids, one of which is a fighter pilot named Big Time (who she's also married to, yes, confusing, what do you expect from me?) and two daughters, Little Bit and L'il Sweetie.  LUSH was officially announced on June 7th, 2017, though OldAFSarge from the beginning said repeatedly this blog was all about her or something to that effect.  Busy with 3 kids (what?  couldn't remember that from like 3 sentences ago?  Try some Ginseng for memory) she has yet to post or comment, though those of us who are in the inner circle enjoy her infrequent emails to the inner circle.  She makes OldAFS respond via powers of the smart phone.

And then there's the poster formerly know as Andrew, aka:  Beans.  He first commented on October 1, 2016 tentatively (no, really, stop laughing, I mean it!) And then pretty much by November 2nd, 2016 became the mouthy mouthpiece you know and love.  Then came the fateful March 27th when OldAFSarge contemplated openly about adding me as a guest.  Then on Good Friday of 2018, that being March 30th, when, at the instigation of juvat (little 'j') OldAFSarge propositions pre-Beans and PLQ guesses correctly what the proposition is.  April 17th, 2018 was the day pre-Beans confused PLQ over the many aliases that pre-Beans is/was/will be. Pre-Beans ruminates and thinks about it for 2 weeksish.  So pre-Beans first guest-posts on May 2nd, 2018, followed by his last guest post on May 4th, 2018.  OldAFSarge announces pre-Beans as becoming a Chant Poster on May 8th, 2018.  Further complicating/uncomplicating things is on May 18th when OldAFSarge announces a new header and that pre-Beans, after some polling and complaining, has now become Beans.

Okay, why all of this?  Well, once I became a poster, lots of ideas percolated through my mind.  Lots.  And I'd start writing a pre-post and realize, dang, I think they (the other posters) have already talked about it, so I went back and re-read the whole post history and stupidly didn't catalogue each post for content, which I silly-ly promised to become the archivist for this shebang.  Thus finding out that there was already a post on the SR-71, some of my favorite books and movies have already been discussed, and other things.  And then I wrote a pre-version of this and it's been sitting for about 3 months or so.
Majors Cobb and Gantt, Sled Drivers
I knew Major Gantt, well, his kids mostly
And he drove a Vega... From the Blackbird to a Vega... How far man had fallen...

Whew.  Hooray me!  Squeaked another out!  Whew.

And, because Plane Picture...

Mission from Taegu - by Gil Cohen - showing the mighty F-84E
Almost the plane my dad flew (F-84G) but the right airfield
https://www.nationalguard.mil/Resources/Image-Gallery/Historical-Paintings/Heritage-Series/Mission-from-Taegu/

Oh, yeah, recipe, recipe...

In the spirit of witches casting evil spells upon President Donald J. Trump (I just love saying that) I will give you an old Roman Catholic recipe for BBQ Witches.

1 Pole, 1 cord of wood, 1 witch, Enjoy!

Now, I actually recited this very recipe to a witch that tried to 'cast' an evil spell on me.  Said witch spent many much moments hyperventilating and uncasting her cast.

Works with politicians also.  And used car salesmen.

Hey, it's a joke.  Really.  Seriously.  Come on, can't you take a joke?  If not, well, I know where a cord of wood is...

Joke, okay?  Bad joke but still...  a Joke.

Okay, a real recipe.

Google or look into a good cookbook for Snickerdoodles.  Substitute Gluten-Free flour (King Arthur brand or Pamela's are the best) for regular flour.  Now we have Snickerdoodles that Mrs. Andrew can eat (Celiac's disease, no gluten, gluten bad.)  Flavor difference between 'real' flour and G-F flour?  None, if you follow the recipe.  I used the one out of the 1956 Betty Crocker cookbook.  It's my favorite cookbook, as it has the recipes for Poteca, Yule Kage and the ever-popular Swedish Tea Ring (One is a walnut sugar spiral bread, one is a breadish fruit-cake and the last is a circular bread made much like cinnamon rolls but in a circular bread.)

So, there.  Real recipe.  Sorta.  Good night.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Time Flies...

(Source)
On this date, forty-one years ago, The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe became as one.

We were married in a city which in days of old was entered by gates through the city walls, that photo depicts one of them. I vaguely remember riding by that gate in a taxi. It had been a long day: up at the crack of dawn, a bus ride to Seoul, and then a few hours spent traipsing about various Korean government and American military offices to complete the various pieces of paper which would satisfy the authorities that we were serious about this marriage thing.

Which we were, at least it seems to have stuck - if forty-one years, three kids, and four grandkids are any measure of a successful marriage.

I don't know how I was so lucky to win her affections. Let alone maintain them these many years.

Not sure where I'd be without her, I know I don't want to find out.

So, y'all are on your own this weekend as I am downing my virtual quill until Tuesday. Talk quietly amongst yourselves, perhaps Beans will be by (he's become something of a celebrity in my view of the blog world) to regale us with his excellent views on Constitutional matters and the like.

He's quite good at it.

Though he is rather shy and reserved in these spaces. (Yes, of course I'm kidding.)

As for the rest of you - behave, be nice, and don't break anything.



Friday, January 11, 2019

Blast from the Past...

In this artist's version of the incident at Jumonville Glen, the English under the command of George Washington are depicted as murdering the defenseless French commander Jumonville in cold blood. Contemporary accounts of the incident are contradictory; it is more likely that Jumonville was in fact tomahawked by the Indian leader Tanaghrisson while Washington watched without intervening. (Source)
A blast from the past with a dual meaning: what follows is from the Chant du Départ archives (ahem, ya mean rerun, dontcha Sarge, um, yeah, sure) and it's based on historical fact, a topic which you might know is near and dear to me. It's also a two-fer, two posts for the price of one...

Had a visit to my retinal surgeon on Thursday. my left eye is healing very nicely I was told. On the other hand, that eye is developing a cataract (immediately my thoughts went to the river Nile, in Egypt) which, he told me, is fairly common after a vitrectomy. Eminently treatable, just not yet. Oh joy, thinks I, more surgery. Friends who have had that particular procedure assure me that it's "no big deal." One hopes.

All that aside, due to the eye doc visit, my left pupil is dilated to the size of a basketball (okay, yes, I'm exaggerating), making it hard to write a post. For those who have commented that I should write a book, what I give you is the genesis of one book (perhaps a series) that I have in mind as my second attempt at an historical novel. (The tale of Panzer 413 is the first, need to finish that one first as it's the farthest along.)

So rather than continuing to blather on, I give you two of my old posts which will deal with the Gaudry family, a real family name, but these folks are fictional. They are of French origin, but have immigrated to Quebec. The series will follow them from the French and Indian War to the Napoleonic Wars. I am not presenting these posts in the order in which I originally published them, they are swapped intentionally as the second should have preceded the first. If only I had thought of that...






(Source)
Jacob paused briefly to wipe the sweat away from his forehead, looking over his small field of corn he felt good. This land was bountiful and beautiful. It had been hard work clearing the field for his cabin and his crops. Hard but worth it.

But something was wrong, the cicadas had stopped their noise, there was a heaviness in the air, almost as if a storm was brewing. Then he saw the glint of, something, there in the brush on the far side of his squash plants. Something, someone was there.

"Caleb, go get your Ma and get everyone into the cabin. Now son. Move!"

As he watched his young son run to to the cabin, Jacob reached for his fowling piece. Quickly he picked up the weapon which had been passed down to him from his father and checked that the flint was seated, then he checked the priming.

Damnation, the boy had been playing with the frizzen again, all the powder had fallen out of the pan, no doubt when the young lad snapped it opened and closed. Fumbling with his powder horn, for a brief moment Jacob had to chuckle at the boy's curiosity.

Out of the forest, with a whirring noise, an arrow flew from the bow of a hidden Huron warrior. With a meaty sounding thump , the arrow smacked into the young farmer's chest, puncturing his left lung.

For a moment Jacob was puzzled, it felt as if he had been punched hard. His wind was gone, he could scarcely breathe. Then the sharp agony came, overwhelming his senses. As he sank to the ground, his weapon falling from his nerveless hands, his last thought was of his wife and children.

He never saw the Huron raiding party which had killed him.


Long ago, the great forest stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the Mississippi River, from the Gulf of Mexico north to the Canadian tundra. Within those forests lived a variety of native cultures many of whom were hostile to the Europeans. After all, they drove away the game and took the land for themselves.

So the original people fought back as best they could. But stone knives and flint arrowheads were no match for lead ball, driven by the explosion of black powder. The Europeans could, and did, kill from a distance. So, many of the original peoples went west, displacing other populations, a story which has played out for as long as humans have lived on the planet.

Those who were strong enough, and numerous enough, were courted by the Europeans. In the northeast the French and the English made allies of the various tribes. The Iroquois Nation was aligned (more or less) with the English. The Huron, driven from their homeland and north to Quebec by the Iroquois, allied themselves with the French.

In the 1700s a struggle began for dominance of the northeastern portion of North America. New France, which stretched from the Atlantic coast of Canada to what is now Louisiana encircled the possessions of His Majesty George II, the King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire.

France and England were ancient enemies so it is not a surprise that they would eventually come to blows over their possessions in North America.

The war which eventually drove the French from their North American possessions and broke the power of France in the New World was fought from 1754 to 1763. It was known by the English colonists as The French and Indian War. In Europe the war spread to involve all of the major powers and was known as The Seven Years War. One of the truly great soldiers of the era was a man from a small country called Prussia. Does the name Frederick the Great ring any bells?
The Seven Years' War was fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. The two major opponents were Great Britain and France. In the historiography of some countries, the war is named after combatants in its respective theaters: the French and Indian War in the United States. In French-speaking Canada, it is known as the War of the Conquest, while it is called the Seven Years' War in English-speaking Canada (North America, 1754–1763), Pomeranian War (with Sweden and Prussia, 1757–1762), Third Carnatic War (on the Indian subcontinent, 1757–1763), and Third Silesian War (with Prussia and Austria, 1756–1763). W
The war was bloody and violent in the New World. Native raids along the periphery of the English colonies killed many men, women and children. Reprisal raids into the native heartlands killed many men, women and children as well.

The armies were small, the forces committed by France were very limited as Louis XV and his advisers concentrated on the European aspects of the war. Only a small number of regular French regiments came to the New World, for the most part the French tended to rely heavily on their native allies.

Great European style fortresses were built along the lines laid down by the great Vauban.

One which I have visited often was rebuilt to its early splendor, Fort Ticonderoga. Originally built by the French and named Carillon, after the sound made by the nearby river flowing between Lake George and Lake Champlain. To them it sounded like bells.

Fort Ticonderoga (Source)

The French also had the Fortress of Louisbourg on what is now known as Prince Edward Island Cape Breton Island* This protected the entrance to the St Lawrence seaway and the French cities of Quebec City and Montréal. A great siege was conducted by the British in 1757. They seized the fortress and destroyed it. It too was rebuilt and is now a National Historic Site of Canada. The picture below is just a portion of the old fortress

(Source)

The fortress and its environs in 1751. (Source)

One of the results of the British seizure of Louisbourg and the surrounding territory was the deportation of many of the area's French-speaking, Catholic inhabitants. They were known as Acadians, many were deported to France, many wound up in the southern parts of the Louisiana territory which remained in French hands until Napoléon sold it to the United States. We know them today as Cajuns.

Another of the ramifications of this war was its cost. It was so expensive that the British Parliament decided that the Colonies, for whom the war was fought they claimed, should shoulder some of the cost.

Which led to a tax on tea, and the Stamp Act and a number of other things which led to the American Revolution. Which so bankrupted the French monarchy that the French had their own revolution, which led to Napoléon and all that followed. Funny isn't it how things reverberate down through history? (It's a damn shame that most of our politicians know very little of history.)

So how did this war start?

Well, landowners in Virginia and other parts of the Eastern Seaboard were a bit miffed that New France stood in the way of their hunger for more land. So the British Crown pushed patrols out into the Ohio Valley. Which irked the French no end.

So the French began to beef up their military presence in the Ohio Valley. A patrol was sent out from Fort Duquesne (which was on the site of modern downtown Pittsburgh) under the command of Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville, a French military officer born and raised in North America.

Fort Duquesne (Source)

Some historians say it was a scouting mission to determine British strength in the area. The French maintain that Jumonville was on a diplomatic mission, he was to deliver an ultimatum to the British demanding that they withdraw their forces from the Ohio Valley. Or incur the wrath of Le Roi, Louis XV!

Jumonville's patrol was discovered by a band of Indians allied to the British, they reported back to Fort Necessity where a young colonial officer by the name of George Washington (yes, that George Washington) decided to take action.
Washington took a detachment of about 40 men and marched all night in a driving rain arriving at the encampment at dawn. What happened next, like so much about the incident, is a matter of controversy. The British claimed the French discovered their approach and opened fire on them. The French claimed the British ambushed their encampment. In either event, the battle lasted little more than 15 minutes and was a complete British victory. Ten French soldiers were killed and 21 captured, including the wounded Jumonville.

Washington treated Jumonville as a prisoner of war and extended him the customary courtesies due a captured military officer. Washington attempted to interrogate Jumonville but the language barrier made communication difficult. During their conversation however, the Half King walked up to Jumonville and without warning struck him in the head with a tomahawk, killing him.

Why the Half King did this has never been clear. He had been kidnapped by the French and sold into slavery as a child. He claimed that the French had boiled and eaten his father. He was also a representative of the Iroquois Confederacy, which stood to lose its authority over other Indian peoples in the Ohio River Valley if the French were able to assert their control. W
The site of the battle, Jumonville Glen, near present day Uniontown, Pennsylvania (Source)

Another account of that battle gives you an idea of the confused nature of what happened and the many points of view, depending on who you talked to I guess. (Too bad there were no cell phones back then, neh?)

George Washington is often called the Father of Our Country and with good reason. Most folks don't know that he was involved from the beginning of those great events which drove the French from Canada and the British from what would become the United States. You could argue that Washington's actions that day planted the seed for all that was to come.

But in the years which followed, many soldiers and Indians would die and many settlers would be killed in sight of their homes. Until that fateful day on the Plains of Abraham, a battle which sealed France's doom in the New World. A battle in which the commanders on either side (Wolfe and Montcalm) were both killed in action.

History is oft written in blood.


"Hold up Ensign Macready, do you smell that?"

The young British officer paused and sniffed the air. His sergeant nudged him and said, "It's smoke young sir, look over yonder."

Macready did, he could see the faint wisps of smoke just above the next ridge line. The wind had shifted and now the young ensign could also smell the smoke.

"Yes sir, I smell it sir, it's smoke!"

"Yes, yes, Ensign, now get your flankers out, let's go see what's burning."

Though the common British foot soldier is a hard man, used to a rough existence and harsh treatment at the hands of his betters, even the most brutish of the men were taken aback at the scene as they crested the low ridge, deep inside Pennsylvania.

The farmhouse and all the outbuildings had been put to the torch. Even the farmer's mule and cow had been slaughtered. The farmer himself was nearly unrecognizable his remains had been so badly abused.

From what the Seneca scout could discern, the farmer's wife and children, maybe one, maybe two, had been dragged off. Captives, bound for Canada. There was no sign of their bodies anywhere.

The captain of His Majesty's 44th Foot sighed and gestured at his sergeant. "Get the men together Sergeant, we'll camp here tonight.

"Sir!"

"Ensign, let's bury that man. Hop to it lads. Nightfall is not far off. I wish to be away from this place first thing in the morning."

Shivering, the captain dreamt of tomahawks and war whoops in the night. He heartily wished he was back in London.

The original post is here.





Little Miami River through Clifton Gorge (Source)
The Beginning...

Just audible over the burbling of the small brook there was a cry. Not the sort of noise made by a four legged animal. It was a human sound. A cry of terror.


And of pain.

Weeish looked at me for a moment, eyebrow cocked.

A quick nod from me and we headed towards the sound.

Cautiously.

A musket shot, another scream, we were close.

Staying under cover we drew near, in time to see the last of the whites fall to the ground, his musket still in his hand, the long arrow protruding from his chest signifying that his hair would be decorating a lodge pole before nightfall.

Weeish and I stayed under cover, there was nothing we could do for the small party of men who even now were being plundered of whatever useful items their conquerors might make use of.

The Onandowagas moved off, exultant as they headed back for their village. They now had muskets and powder. Fine knives of steel and heavy wool clothing to cover themselves in winter. It was a good kill.

"Weeish..." I murmured as I stepped out of the brush, signaling him to keep his eyes open.

I heard a small moan, there under a small bush was one of the church fathers. His face was bloody, his cassock torn, but he was alive. Barely.

Kneeling beside him, he moaned again as he beheld my visage, no doubt thinking me one of the people of this land. For I had lived many years with the People, I dressed like them, I ate the same foods. All that was left of my native France was my name, Alain.

I put my finger to the man's lips, motioning that he should remain silent and that I was no threat. I checked his wounds, they were mortal. There was no doubt in my mind that he would soon be standing before the Great Spirit.

I was ready to leave him to his fate and began to stand when he grabbed my sleeve.

"My child, do not leave me like this..." he managed to gasp.

I leaned close to his ear, there was no telling who was about in these woods, Weeish and I were a long way from our home.

"Father, you must be quiet, soon you will see Jesus."

He shifted slightly, causing blood to flow anew. He was killing himself faster by trying to speak.

"My name is..."

"Shhh, be quiet Father, your name is not..."

"My name is Father Etienne Gaudry, I am of France and I carry dispatches for the commander at Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, they must..."

Gasping again, the priest pushed a wad of bloody papers into my hands.

"Take these, please..."

And then he breathed his last.

Weeish was now at my side.

"Brother, we must go. The Onandowagas are coming back."

Swiftly we melted back into the woods from whence we had come. Not knowing what to do with them, and not wanting to leave any sign for the Onandowagas to follow, I shoved the bloody papers under my shirt. I would think on them when we were safely back at our hearth.


The End...

Colonel Louis Alain Gaudry shifted in his saddle as he looked out over the fields, littered with the dead, the dying and the detritus of war. His aide coughed to get his attention.


"Be patient Michel, les Anglais are in no hurry to move and the Prussian dogs are already howling down the road to France. We are in no danger at the moment."

Knowing that those words were false as soon as he uttered them, the old dragoon turned his horse. Leaving his regiment behind, most of them still on the field. Dead or soon to be.

All was lost.

His father had been right after all, he should never have left America.

So I have decided to try my hand at writing a novel. All the cool kids are doing it.

I have been toying with this idea for years. I've written a chapter here and there, some of them were good, some, not so much. Not a single one was related to any of the other things I had written. I was playing at being a writer.

Then along came the blog. This blog. I was writing more or less every day. I say more or less because some of my posts have been very pictorial in nature with just a few words tossed in to glue together the pictures. Not really writing but creative nevertheless.

Write what you know they say. So this won't be about flying, or tanks, or science fiction. Nope, it will be about people. The people who make things work, not the movers and the shakers but the "little" guy, the guy who goes to work every day, pays his taxes and just wants to be left alone.

Until the movers and shakers go too far.

Then the "little" guy shoulders his musket and makes a stand.

Whether this turns into a book or a series of books remains to be seen. I have lots of stuff in my head and the rough beginnings of a plot stretching over a bit less than a century.

From the dark primordial forests of North America in the years just prior to the Seven Years War to the rolling plains of Belgium as the last cannon sound out on the field of Waterloo.  That's the stage upon which my characters will walk, that is the setting for my story.

I mean I have the beginning and the ending. All I need to do now is fill in all the bits between.

Should be simple.

The original post is here.



Tell me what you think in the comments. An idea I've been tossing around is having characters in my books named for people I actually know (both face to face and in this virtual land we call the Internet). If you have an interest, let me know, the blog email address is over on the right under the Pages category, or you can jump there from here. I read every bit of mail which comes over the transom, so don't worry about being ignored. I would never, ever do that. Well, unless you're a spambot. But you're not one of those, are you?

And contrary to what I said in that second post, apparently I do know something about tanks. So disregard that bit. ;)

Cheers.


* Corrected with guidance from Al_in_Ottawa