Sunday, June 30, 2019

Still Here, Still Slacking

I'm not going to say that I could get used to this, not going to say I couldn't. While some strange compulsion drives me to write blog posts, it's not the end all, be all of who I am. But like Lex once famously said, "Blogito ergo sum."

But taking the time to recharge the batteries over the past cuppla has been most excellent. Work has been interesting but somewhat frustrating. New software often presents challenges when attempting to integrate updates and new features into an existing, fairly stable system. However, when the system exhibits seemingly random behavior, it is rather like attempting to herd cats.

That being said, I think we've finally got a handle on what we've been seeing and might even make progress again.

After the holiday.

A lot of folks are going to be off next week, those remaining, thorough-going professionals though they be, may be less than motivated to work too hard. Why strain when others are at the beach, I suppose?

Anyhoo, a quick glance at that opening graphic, an actual screenshot of my home system desktop, will reveal that I have plenty to keep me busy while the blog is in cruise control. I need to do this but I need to slack off from time to time.

I swore that if blogging ever became work, I would "down keyboard" and find something else to fill the hours not spent eating, sleeping, working, worshiping, commuting, reading, drumming, strumming, watching dramas of an historical nature via the magic of the Internet, and generally playing the fool.

But it has struck me lately - what happens when work is actually something approaching fun? The work is challenging, entertaining, and informative. Not to mention the folks I work with being a joy to be around.

I guess you might say I'm blessed.

Now if only the kids and grandkids lived closer...

Perhaps juvat's Monday post will inspire me to greater efforts as regards the blog. After all, next week is a short one, three days, surely I can set aside some time to write here, and on that other thing.


We shall see.

As Buck might have said, keep on keeping on.

I'll be here.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Fly Navy...

Big Time's squadron, VFA-146, the Blue Diamonds
Screen Capture from the Video

...The Best Always Have!

Dedicated to the men and women of Naval Aviation.

One of my homes away from home.

Friday, June 28, 2019


The blogger is out...

Come back tomorrow.

To keep you entertained - Thoughts/Comments/Observations/Snide Remarks?


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Too Much Time...

I've been spending too much time working and blogging. Can't stop working, can't even slow down, but I can dial back the blog a bit.

Anya the cat has the right idea, you gotta just chill out and lie in the sun from time to time.

So that's what I'm gonna do.

Not to worry, I've got my mind set on you...

Yeah, we can work it out.

Life is very short...

I do need to work on this as well...

My mind is traveling at about Mach 6, I really need to chill.

That is all.

Sarge sends...

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Charité Hospital, Berlin
Google Street View
The Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin is Europe's largest university clinic and is also the subject of two Netflix mini-series, both of six episodes. The first is titled simply Charité and is set in the late-19th century. A time of kaisers and squalor in the capital city of the German Reich, the second for those keeping score, who can tell me the first?

The second is titled Charité At War and is set in the time period 1943 to 1945, that's right, in the capital of the German Third Reich. Yes, there are Nazis, but there are also doctors and nurses trying to save lives. As the Charité was (and is) a teaching hospital there are students learning medicine. However most of them are in uniform and are medics learning to become doctors (i.e. they've seen war first hand already).

There is also one Nazi doctor, a psychiatrist, of course, who is also an officer in the SS. The actor who portrays him is very good at portraying the smug "superman." Of course, he isn't.

While Netflix has it's name on the series, it was actually made in Germany for the German channel Das Erste (The First). It is entirely in German, Berlin German, which means the characters talk fast, a trait many Berliners share. If your German is as rusty as mine, turn on the subtitles.

In true OAFS fashion, I watched the second part first, not knowing it was a second part. After binge watching Charité At War last weekend, I happened to search on the title and discovered the Charité, the first series. Though there were elements of Charité At War I was somewhat uncomfortable with, it was historically accurate and true to the period in which it was set.

In watching the first episode of Charité I noticed that the name of one of the actors was a certain Justus von Dohnányi. Now if you are any student of the German resistance to Hitler (yes, there was one) then you should know the name Hans von Dohnanyi. He was murdered by the Nazis in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1945. He is featured in an episode of the series Charité At War, where he is cleared for being put on trial after a stroke (probably brought on by torture at the hands of the Gestapo) by the SS psychiatrist mentioned above.

When I saw the name Dohnányi, I had to wonder if he was any relation, though he used the Hungarian spelling of the family name (where the family came from originally). So I looked him up, Justus von Dohnányi is the grandson of Hans von Dohnanyi. Small world.

Now the actor also played General Burgdorf in the movie Der Untergang (Downfall in English), in the following clip he is the officer standing in front of the map at the 1:43 mark.

I wonder how he felt portraying a member of the regime which murdered his grandfather?

Yes, that clip has been satirized for everything from Tony Romo getting benched to Donald Trump being elected. The actor who portrayed Hitler in that film, Bruno Ganz (who was from Switzerland, he passed away back in February) was rightly miffed at the use of this footage. I mean he acted his butt off in that film...

Incidentally, the translation in that last clip isn't very good, but close enough to get the gist of what Herr Ganz is saying. Check out Der Untergang, it's very good and historically accurate. Herr Ganz is absolutely scary good as Hitler by the way.

So, a few recommendations for viewing if you have a mind to. Don't let the German speaking scare you off, though I rather enjoyed it.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Dangerously Disingenuous

"Selection" of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Auschwitz-II-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, May/June 1944, during the final phase of the Holocaust. Jews were sent either to work or to the gas chamber.
Certain words or phrases affect the way people react. To wit:

If you say "detention center," people will say "What?" If you say "concentration camp," then, to paraphrase the fictional mayor of Amity, you've got a panic on your hands. It is unfortunate that most Americans are abysmally ignorant of history, particularly non-US history. (Though there are "scholars" these days who are destroying US history via outright lies.)

We have a problem along our southern border, anyone who does not realize that probably lives no where near that border. Or is woefully ignorant of certain facts. To wit:
8 U.S. Code § 1325. Improper entry by alien 
(a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts 
Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

(b) Improper time or place; civil penalties Any alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to enter) the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty of—
  • (1) at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or
  • (2) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under this subsection.
  • Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be imposed.
(c) Marriage fraud 
Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both.

(d) Immigration-related entrepreneurship fraud 
Any individual who knowingly establishes a commercial enterprise for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, fined in accordance with title 18, or both. (Source)
Emphasis above is mine.

Clearly, entering the United States illegally as set forth above, does make the individual violating that law subject to imprisonment. As in other incidents of possible criminal behavior, the suspected individual may be subject to detention, that is, being held against their will until such time as discharged by the relevant authorities. For someone illegally in the United States, that discharge may be by transference to the country from which they illegally entered the United States, or it may be by transference to a Federal penitentiary. The latter, of course, is dependent on a jury trial by one's peers, it cannot be arbitrary or by the say of any one person.

Nowhere in the law cited above is an individual convicted under those circumstances noted above liable to punishment by death.

I was going to talk about the historical background of the concentration camp, but faithful reader Paweł provided an excellent synopsis in yesterday's comments., which I reproduce here for convenience -
Paweł Kasperek June 24, 2019 at 3:35 PM
"Puts on historian's hat"
Well, to put things into perspective:

1. Germans did not invent concentration camps. Brits did, during the Boer War (the final one). It worked brilliant as COIN strategy, depriving Boer commandos of the economic base of supply from the civilian population. Cost in humanitarian terms was high, but not even bordering upon genocide.

2. Germans did borrow the phrase, and initially the camps were similar in idea: a place to collect the undesirables - be it Communist, socialist, liberal, homosexual or Jehovah witnesses, of all people. And of course Jews, though those were initially quite rare inhabitants.

3. Jews in conquered Poland were initially instead cornered into Ghettos, walled and guarded city districts. At some point, probably around the start of Barbarossa, the goal turned from isolation to extermination. Mass murders followed German conquest in the East, in the form of the infamous Einsatzgruppen.

4. Eventually, Germans being Germans and industrial efficiency being their hallmark, they took this attitude to the mass murder and instituted extermination camps (which often kinda coexisted in same place as previous concentration camps). The Ghettos were systematically emptied into those, with notable event being Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where Jews did resist more as a point of honor and matter of principle than as hope of win. Polish underground gifted them some weapons of their meager stockpile, and evacuated as many as possible via sewers and gaps in the walls.

5. Meanwhile, Soviets ran their own vast concentration camps net known as GULAG. There, death toll was rather a byproduct of hard work, harsh climate and insufficient food and healthcare, rather than immediate goal. When Soviets wanted to exterminate some group they did it the old-fashioned and messy way: mass shootings (as at Katyn).

6. The Japanese did something similar with their civilian internment camps in Asia, but there it was more of a lack of resources and ineptitude in management coupled with the brutality of the soldiers that did the fatal work.

7. To complete the picture, the USA itself did something akin to the original Brit concentration camps, with relatively few fatalities, but still shameful in hindsight - to its own citizens of Japanese origin. Considering how the Nisei who managed to get into the US armed forces served with distinction, this was completely needless and counterproductive, yet perhaps understandable in an era of total war. Better safe than sorry...
 Dziękuję Paweł! (Please excuse my minor edits.)

Certain politicians, "journalists," and "scholars" are being disingenuous when they use the term "concentration camp" when referring to the detention of illegal aliens along our borders.

Dangerously so.
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. Hosea 8:7 (KJV)

Monday, June 24, 2019

Stupid? or Evil?

So....Little Juvat and LJW are back in the SandBox after visiting some beaches (No, Beans that's not the Southern pronunciation of sons of female dogs) in Northern France.  Did I mention that, among many other talents, he's a fairly talented photographer?

Well, he is.  He started the hobby with a disposable camera when Mrs J and I took him on vacation to the PI, Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong Kong when he was about 5.   In any case, he's got a better camera now.  Much better.  More better than I can afford.

But...I'm cheap.

In any case, he said he had 3 x 64 GB sim cards and a 3 TB portable HD with him on the trip.  Needless to say, downloading his pictures has taken is taking a bit of time.  But I've included a few for your enjoyment.

I had misunderstood his travel plans,  he was at Normandy until the 5th.  For some strange reason, there was no room at the inn, or anywhere else within reasonable driving distance, on the 6th so didn't get any pictures of flyovers and other ceremonies.

I haven't actually spoken to them yet, so you'll have to endure MY photo interpretation.

My guess is they started on Utah Beach.  I base that opinion on the Time Date Stamp of the above  photo.  That ID'd the photograph as having been taken immediately before this one. 

My apologies if I have inadvertently "triggered" anyone.  But then again, you probably wouldn't be on this blog if you were in that group of psychotic children.

As both Little Juvat and LJW graduated from Texas A&M (Whoop!), they necessarily visited Pointe du Hoc next to see where Lt Col James E. Rudder (Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of '32 Whoop!) came ashore.

This should be Pointe Du Hoc from the western edge of Utah.  Pretty commanding terrain if you've just come ashore and are still on the beach. It would be hard to hide.

Down in the bowl in the center of the picture is where his Rangers came ashore and scaled those cliffs.

Little Juvat got a lot closer to the edge than I did when I was there in '09.  That's a long and steep climb even when no one is shooting at you.

And it's not like the battlefield wasn't prepped by fire before hand.  Those are man made depressions in the soil caused by all sorts of unpleasant weaponry.

LJW has decided to venture down into one of the impact craters.  Given her height, I'd say, after 75 years it's still 15 to 20' deep.

BTW, this wasn't LtCol Rudder's only battle.  He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge and Hurtgen Forest.  Then came back and was President of Texas A&M (Whoop!) before passing away in 1970 at 59.

They next visited another beach, named for some place in Nebraska.  As one can see, the weather is turning a bit nasty, but there are more folks here.  BTW that's Pointe du Hoc in the back ground.  As I said "Commanding ground".

Thankfully the weather got a bit better.  This is the view of Omaha from a very special place.

I got nothing to add.

They then returned to Paris and spent a couple of days there before returning to their home away from home.

One of the remaining photos, other than the expected nee' required pictures of the Eifel Tower and other Parisian landmarks was this one.

I had no clue what this photo was about.  I texted him the question and he sent this link Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. 

I knew that Jews throughout Nazi Occupied Europe were rounded up and sent to Germany, including from France.  What I didn't know was that the French Government ordered their own citizens to be arrested.  According to this article, 200,000 French People were transported to German Concentration Camps.

Where virtually all were murdered.

The bars on the doors represent the prison doors, the light at the end of the tunnel is literally "the light at the end of the tunnel". There are urns at each end containing ashes from the Ovens at the camps.  Each of the gold dots on the walls is a single backlit crystal that symbolizes one of the people that was murdered in Germany.

Why do you continue to use that word, juvat?  Isn't that a bit harsh?

Absolutely not, in fact, it's not harsh enough.

They didn't "Die" or they weren't "executed".  Both those words denote something less than the evil that happened to them.  All people "die".  Criminals are "executed", implying a just punishment.  No these people, approximately 75,000 Jews, while the rest were run of the mill French people who had somehow done something that caused the French Government to have them rounded up and eventually murdered.

Which brings me to the point of this rant. Recently there have been a few people in Congress that are saying that the United States is running concentration camps on the Southern Border.  They do this deliberately to draw a comparison to the Nazi Concentration Camps.

I don't know if anyone has died while in custody of the border patrol.  It's possible, I suppose, and if so is tragic.

But...If that happened, it was not Murder.

Unfortunately a lot of people seem to think one of the elected officials who is spouting this comparison is just an idiot.  Indeed, there are lots of internet meme's made out to make her look like a fool.

IMHO, that is wrong.  Nobody can be that dumb. Portraying her as dumb plays into her hands and gives her an out.  She may not use these words exactly but when called on something she said, the comeback "Everyone knows she's an idiot, right?" gets her off the hook.  And people can and will say," thank goodness this alternative legislation (which is a little "less bad") passed and not hers". We, as a Country, however will have moved a little bit closer totalitarian socialism.

No, I believe she knows exactly what she's doing  and that makes her Evil.  Her "comment of the week" this week is preparing the battlefield by numbing people to the reality of Concentration Camps. Who knows what next week will bring, but it will push a socialist agenda.

And there are others like her.

"There are camps and people are being concentrated."

Words matter.

I bring you back to the fact that the French Government, not the Germans, ordered those people off to be murdered in concentration camps.

One should keep that in mind when they say  "No middle ground" as they attempt to sway people to a socialist agenda where the government controls  virtually everything.  If a government can control virtually everything, what's to stop them from doing virtually anything?

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Watching the Sky*

The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe had the opportunity to be out and about (oot and aboot for my Canadian forebears) on Saturday, the second day of summer. 'Twas also the first day which was summer-like. Friday having been overcast and drizzly, more like spring than summer for the actual summer solstice. You get what you pay for, and the weather comes free of charge.

Anyhoo, we hopped into Big Girl and made our way north to a local shopping emporium, the idea being to cash in some aluminum cans and purchase some consumable necessaries.

On the way we noted that the skies were going all dark and stormy overhead and immediately to our north as well. We said au revoir to the sun as the rains came. Not from Africa, but from somewhere to our north. Massachusetts no doubt.

Whilst in the process of feeding four-plus bags of soda cans to the machine which eats them (and dispenses bits of paper good for real cash money in the adjoining store) the rains came and went just outside. While feeding the machine (yes, I was fantasizing that I was loading an 88 mm Panzerabwehrkanone) I could see shoppers (the majority of whom were female) waiting for it to stop raining. The males of the species were undeterred by the precipitation and sallied forth with many grumbles but also with grim determination. After all, it is but water.

How I pictured it...

Upon our return to the manse, groceries in hand and additional boxes of soda (pop to you Midwesterners, I think, insert your own local term in the comments if you wish) for to consume the liquid inside and then to feed the machine once more.

After unloading the groceries I noticed that the sky was putting on a delightful show. So I snapped a few shots with the trusty cellular device. It has a fairly decent camera and it's with me at all times. Well, except when I'm in the lab at work, that being strengst verboten, dontcha know?

A lovely day, bit of rain here and there, bit o' thunder in the distance, but nothing nearby, altogether a lovely day.

Guess I'll now go back to my deep thoughts of life and all its follies.

Ya know, navel gazing.

That last shot is after the skies above had cleared, those clouds in the distance are above Buzzard's Bay, so I figure. Said place being flown over at night with The WSO in the command seat and her instructor to the right. Dear old Mum and Dad ensconced in the back like a bit of self-loading ballast.

I could have sworn that the left main tire was flying in formation with us, which, of course, it was. Bad news if it wasn't. Upon first observation I didn't know what to make of it, a bit of darkness not as dark as the waters below. Freaked me out it did.

Have I told you that story yet? Oh yes, a quick check of the archives and here it is. I did tell you that story, six years ago.

Wow, I did speak of it again.

* More of what Beans might call, "navel gazing." Harrumph.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

No One Sings Like You Anymore*

On this date in 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. It was a clash of ideologies, both of which were (and remain) inherently evil. Two nations filled with ordinary people held in thrall to two of the most murderous dictators of all time. Millions perished, it was a titanic struggle. In the end the Nazis lost, they overestimated their abilities and they underestimated the will of the Russian people.

Enough said of that, I mark the event in history as it's important. It is wise to remember to be wary of politicians of any stripe. While they are not all evil, they seldom have the good of humankind as their number one priority. They think they know better, they seldom do.

Took some time on Friday to ponder the book I intend to write. I have a cast of characters and I have a stage for them to say their lines. I have a rough beginning, an old man remembering the days of his youth when the world was at war. I have an ending which will go from the ruins of Berlin back full circle to that same old man. Who did the old man fight for, who's uniform did he wear?

I haven't decided yet.

All I have to do now is fill in all the bits between those two points in time.

When I came of age some fifty-plus years ago, I had no idea of what I wanted to do in life. I felt that some day I'd go into the service, I bounced back and forth between considering the Army (tanks dontcha know) and the Air Force (it's always been about things that fly). Why just those two services? Family tradition.

Up until my generation, the men in my family were soldiers (not all of 'em, but quite a few), we weren't a seafaring folk to my knowledge. My older cousins served in the Air Force, one in Vietnam. So when I made my decision, it was the Air Force. One of the key factors in that decision was that the Air Force recruiter pulled no punches, told me what was what and made no promises. The Army guys were, to my mind, less than honest with me.

I guess now that with three kids (and two sons-in-law, one current, one to come - in October) who served in the Navy, we are a seafaring people after all.

Anyhoo, in 1975 I began a journey which lasted twenty-four years. I stepped off that "train" twenty years ago last month. Twenty years. Hard to imagine, but time seems to accelerate once you get to a certain age.

Air Force career over, I embarked on a second career, which is coming to a close within the next 18 to 24 months, I haven't really decided yet. When I step off this train, there will be no more trains to catch, no more ambitions to pursue to pay the bills and make ends meet. We won't be fantastically wealthy but we'll be comfortable.

Provided the world doesn't go to Hell in a handbasket before then.

There's times that I feel a certain sadness about all this. Where did all the time go?

Ah well, such is the fate of all living things, time doesn't end, merely our participation in it.

I'm thinking of actually paying for drum lessons, there is only so far one can go on one's own. Yes, The Missus Herself thinks I'm nuts and am having yet another "mid-life crisis." What some see as a mid-life crisis is me wanting to try something new. What the heck, why not? Once I leave the work force I'll need something to get me out of the house from time to time. We shall see...

Swapped a couple of emails with Harvey from IMAO, he asked how I got into blogging. I related the story of Lex's passing and my picking up the torch, so to speak, to continue on. I still wander through the archives from those times. Heck, I still visit Buck's place as well for the inspiration what's in it.

No one sings like them anymore.

More's the pity.

* With apologies to the late Chris Cornell...

Friday, June 21, 2019

Well That's Fantastic

If it is, this post is.

Oh look, airplanes!

(Go full screen, trust me...)

Man, I need a cold shower.

A very long, very excellent week. I'm exhausted, yet satisfied. Felt like I earned my pay this week. Finally.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Cuppla Things...

Read the whole thing
Had an email from Harvey, the guy who wrote the post up there, asking if I'd be interested in getting links from IMAO (In My Arrogant Opinion) for possible publication here at the Chant. Well, I was skeptical at first, I am naturally suspicious, don't let my air of carefree hilarity confuse you, so I decided to go there and see for myself.

About an hour later, when I had stopped laughing hysterically (and telling the paramedics, "No, really, I'm okay.") I decided to give IMAO a spot on the sidebar, at the very top.

What could possibly go wrong?

Seriously though, go check them out, Sarge Recommended, Sarge Approved. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Anyhoo, they link us, we link them. As long as they're not weird or extremists of some sort. (I don't care for extremists of any persuasion, enthusiasm can be misplaced.)

Right there...

Work has been busy, busy, busy as of late, which is a good thing. It's interesting work and my co-workers seem to appreciate my boyish enthusiasm and trove of Anglo-Saxon bon mots and crude epithets. Well, they don't laugh as nervously as they used to. I grow on people, not like a fungus, more like a pair of comfortable slippers on a cold winter's eve.

Or something.

Anyhoo, it leaves less time for blogging then I have had in times past, so...

No, no, don't panic, I will still keep posting, though the posts might get a little shorter. Scott the Badger asked if I was going to post on the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot (aka the Battle of the Philippine Sea) the other day. Great suggestion but I don't like to go off half-cocked on a historical post. No, really.

So you won't see those in the middle of the week, unless I'm on vacation or something. As much as I like to write about history, that does take a bit of work to get it right. So gomen nasai and all that.

Here's a tune I caught on the radio on the way home from work on Wednesday instant. I thought I recognized it, so I looked it up (amazing what the Tube of You can do with a partial lyric). I'm not saying that it may have been my "theme song" back in the day, won't say it wasn't. But seriously I didn't mean to call you that...

Well then,

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Those Were the Days My Friend...

Jay "Jaybird" Riedel (R) being congratulated by Dick "Batman" Swope (C) Sq Ops Officer
and Mike "Smiley" Deloney after landing and reaching 4000 flying hours milestone November 2, 1979.

Juvat's lovely post on Monday, dealing with "special" weapons and Operational Readiness Inspections brought back a couple of memories of that very same ORI juvat mentioned. Whilst he was observing his flight lead threaten the very life of an inspector (a sight I would have paid good money to see), Your Humble Scribe was pursuing less glamorous things. Such as calibrating the radar on one of the mighty warbirds that juvat and his ilk would fling into the sky on a daily basis. While wearing full chemical warfare gear. Or "MOPP" gear as the young'uns call it these days.

Normally we just had to wear the gas mask, steel pot (helmet of WWII vintage), and a flak vest. The latter looked rather substantial and was (I am told) stuffed with layers of cardboard. Enough layers (I am told) which should prove sufficient to stop shrapnel (yes, I know what that means, I'm going with the vernacular here) and other small bits of stuff propelled hither and yon by explosive means. Not that I would like to test the theory of the effectiveness of those vests. One day we even had the opportunity to wear the mask, vest, and helmet for a full eight hours straight, and yes, that sucked, thank you for asking.

Yup, same vest, same gas mask carrier strapped to the left hip and the same steel pot.
Minus the cool helmet cover and the M-16, that's what we wore for the ORI.

There are three incidents that I recall from that ORI, but before I relate those I will say this. The ORI I went through at Kunsan was not my first, nor my last. However, I recall that the ORIs at Kadena entailed much mopping of floors, much cleaning of extraneous gear, and very little actual aircraft maintenance. The ORIs at Kadena made me wonder just what sort of Air Force I had joined. We usually had advanced notice of the inspection and had plenty of time to prepare.

At Kunsan, in the Mighty Wolf Pack, it was a different story. From the first day I arrived until the day I left, it was obvious to me that the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing took war a little more seriously than my old outfit on Okinawa. I suppose when you don't have an ocean between you and the bad guys, Okinawa is an island, and when you are not much in the way of flying time from the NORKS, it tends to get your attention.

Ask me someday about the 12 hour night shift I pulled in the shop over a weekend and heard artillery banging away, not far from where I sat. Or the night we watched outgoing tracer fire from the South Korean positions on the waterfront (the base is on the Yellow Sea) as some poor fisherman (or perhaps a sneaky NORK pretending to be a fisherman) strayed a bit too close to the coast.

The Koreans are serious about that sort of thing.

At any rate, ORIs were usually a surprise, at least to us down in the squadrons.

Anyhoo. The three incidents, in no particular order because it was a Hell of a long time ago.

Incident the 1st: My buddy Tank and I were strolling from the off base bus stop down to our shop. It was a bit of a haul but the buses were making themselves scarce that day so we decided to hoof it.

Before we reached the large open area between the living quarters and the operations area of the base, the damned air raid siren went off. Damn. Donning our gas masks first, we then ran to the nearest barracks, Where we waited for perhaps 45 minutes while the base played air raid. Yes, when we finally arrived at the shop, our boss, one TSgt Skip Sipes kindly inquired...

"Just where have you two knuckleheads been?

We explained about air raids and ducking for cover and the donning of gas masks just for the fun that was in it. Our words fell on uncaring ears for there were radars to be calibrated and aircraft components to be checked and aligned and "this damned exercise" had cost our dear boss quite enough "fire trucking time." Off to the hangar we went, suitably chastised and vowing to low crawl down to the shop the next time rather than incur Skip's wrath. (Magnificent to behold.)

Incident the 2nd: We were ensconced in the offices of our Radar Calibration hangar, doing paperwork in preparation for sending our latest jet back out to the line where the zipper-suited sun gods could once again break it, er, fly it, when wouldn't you know it, the damned air raid siren went off.

We shut the lights off, it was still fairly light out, and continued our paperwork. That's when the phone rang. Only two people ever called us, Skip (woe betide the airman who didn't answer the phone if Skip called, the shop was a scant fifty yards from the hangar and Skip could sense whether or not we had power on the jet) or someone at Job Control.

Those latter chaps one could sometimes ignore, they would assume that we were on the jet, but as Ops was panting at the leash to get the jet we had back, and we had said it was close to complete, I decided to answer the phone.

Some last minute inspiration caused me to muffle my voice with my hand to simulate wearing a gas mask. Which caused the chap on the other end (a Job Control type) to misunderstand damned near every other word I said. Which caused Ed, my partner in crime, to giggle hysterically. Which also set me off.

"What's the status of that jet?" a non-muffled voice queried, which made me realize he wasn't wearing his mask, the bastard, wasn't even pretending. I answered to the effect of...

"Mumble, jet, mumble, buttoned up, mumble mumble, come and, mumble mumble, 30 minutes."

"What? Ready in 30 minutes? I can't understand you."

"Mumble, jet, mumble, buttoned up, mumble mumble, come and, mumble mumble, 30 minutes."

"Damn it, take your damned mask off and talk to me!"

"Mumble, a, mumble, violation, mumble mumble, , mumble mumble, could die."

"Damn it! Can we have the jet or not?!?!"


Yeah, that was fun.

Incident the 3rd: We're working on another jet, might have been a couple of days later, and Skip is at the hangar helping us with a rather knotty problem. As we're looking at schematics and trying to figure out why the damned Target Intercept Computer won't compute target intercepts (like it's supposed to, making it as useful as a 2nd lieutenant), when an inspector guy rolls up in a vehicle at the front of the hangar.

"You men are all dead, this hangar has been destroyed in an air raid."

As Ed and I start to head back to the office, might as well be dead sitting down, Skip yells out, "Not so fast you two, we need to figure this shit out!"

At which point the inspector said, to Skip, "I just told you sergeant, you and your men are dead, this hangar is destroyed, this aircraft is destroyed, you can't work on it, report to the NCO Club immediately!"

Once again, Ed and I prepared to head for the Club, might as well be dead sitting down AND drinking a beer.

"You two gott-damned freeze, Ed go get the other tech order in the office."

Inspector: "Sergeant, you're not paying attention!"

Skip, walking over to get in the inspector's face, "Sir, I am fire trucking dead, I am one angry fire trucking corpse and the fire trucking colonel wants this fire trucking jet as soon as fire trucking possible. So unless you want to explain to him that the fire trucking jet is destroyed and that we're all dead, get the fire truck out of my hangar. This is an illusion to you, we're three fire trucking dead men working on a destroyed fire trucking plane in a destroyed fire trucking hangar, this is the fire trucking afterlife, to you it's just burning fire trucking wreckage. QUESTIONS?"

The inspector just kind of looked at Skip for a second, shook his head, then drove off. Now I'm quite sure that Skip caught holy, unshirted Hell from somebody for that little incident, but it wasn't from our squadron commander or the deputy commanders for maintenance and for operations (DCM and DCO) both of said worthies being colonels of the full bird variety, both of whom had probably seen real war at some point in their careers.

Good old Skip, a good man, a good comrade.

But that's what I remember from that ORI. Nobody threatening to shoot an inspector, but I swear Skip probably could've scared that one to death had he the lack of common sense to stick around.

And yes, fire trucking Ops got their fire trucking jet back in record fire trucking time.

I was there.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Damned Serious Business

My heart is broken by the terrible loss I have sustained in my old friends and companions and my poor soldiers. Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won: the bravery of my troops hitherto saved me from the greater evil; but to win such a battle as this of Waterloo, at the expens of so many gallant friends, could only be termed a heavy misfortune but for the result to the public. - Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Entr'acte - 17 June 1815

Night is falling. Off in the distance can be seen the flicker of lightning. Closer in, the flames of burning villages light the oncoming darkness. All is quiet in the fields around Quatre-Bras. In the fields around Wagnelée, Saint-Amand, Ligny and Sombreffe, all is quiet.

But not so quiet that a man who was not there during the battle couldn't hear it.

The groans of the dying, the screams of the badly wounded, the sound of fire consuming houses and outbuildings.

Those who fought are semi-deaf from the roar of cannon and the rattle of musketry all day. They, mercifully, hear little at all.

Besides, many are used to this, long service veterans. The battle is over, if you survived you seek food and drink. Perhaps, if you are so inclined, a bit of loot.

Two battles have been fought, now they are over. The Prussians are in retreat, but to where? Large bodies of troops in disorder have been seen fleeing towards Liege. Rumors of units in good order on the roads leading north to Wavre are also heard.

At Quatre-Bras, the two armies remain in place, licking their wounds, wondering what the morrow brings.

The short night passes, the armies arise. The Emperor, pleased at having won his first victory since returning from exile, walks among his men, chatting with some. Those he remembers from as far back as Egypt. There are still some among the line units who fought in the shadow of the Pyramids, so many years before.

Wellington frets. As much as he hates to do so, he must fall back. His army, most of it, will understand. The Prussians have been defeated, his left flank is in the air with the entire Armée du Nord perhaps about to concentrate and advance.

Against him.

His right flank worries him too. That way lie the roads to the Channel ports and England. He will spend a great deal of time worrying about that flank.

To no purpose. But he cannot know that, not now.

Orders are prepared, the cavalry under Uxbridge know that the day will be long and arduous, they must cover the retreat. The infantry and the artillery began to slip away during the night towards Brussels. They have orders to reform the line along a ridge near a place called Mont-Saint-Jean. The other ranks and sergeants have never, for the most part, heard of the place. But their officers will get them there.

To have to retreat from the French is galling. But they stay with the colors.

At sunrise, the Emperor tells off Grouchy to take 30,000 men, the bulk of III and IV Corps and follow the Prussians. Press them, do not let them reform. Then he and his staff ride to see exactly what Marshal Ney was up to. No reports have reached them, he is angry.
Angry at having seen his I Corps march away just when they were most needed. Angry, wondering what Ney was playing at. Could he have been in a fight with the English?

Arriving before Quatre-Bras the Emperor sees his men cooking breakfast, playing the old soldier, smoking their pipes and content to while away the day. Scouts report that all that remains near the crossroads are cavalry patrols, a screen. The English have vanished!

Hastily orders are bellowed out, units form up and march off, the Emperor himself rides off at the head of the duty squadrons. Though he is older, tired and feeling the effects of having been in the saddle for nearly two days, he feels energized as the trumpets sound and the clatter of hooves on the chaussee announce that the pursuit has begun.

The Anglo-Allied cavalry and horse artillery fall back with great discipline. When the pursuit starts to overtake them, they halt, forcing the French to deploy for battle. After a few shots from the artillery, they are off again.

The French know this game, they have pursued Austrians, Prussians, Piedmontese, Russians, Spaniards, Portuguese and numerous other armies in their day. The Eagles soar once again.

The Emperor dreams of dictating peace from the palace in Brussels. Perhaps that very night!

Then the rains, which have been threatening all day, break out.

The sound of thunder drowns the sound of cannon, the clatter of horsemen. The rain pounds down with great fury. The verges of the road become muddy, the fields are gradually becoming glutinous. The pursuit slows.

In the rain the French grimly head north. Shoulders hunched against the downpour. To Brussels, to victory.

Or so they think.

On a ridge line they come up short. Les Anglais have stopped retreating. Campfires can be seen across a shallow valley. How on earth can they get a fire started in this weather? The very air is drenched.

But soldiers, they find a way.

Cautiously the French probe forward along the line. Attempting to determine the extent of Wellington's position. The bark of cannon fire ends the probing. Though chagrined that his artillerymen may have revealed too much of his lines, Wellington knows that the French are as exhausted and soaking wet as his own men.

The day is over.

Somewhere off to the east, the Prussians are stumbling into the area around Wavre. Their pursuers are far behind. Grouchy has been less than active in his pursuit. He feels the Prussians are done for, all he needs to do is stay on their trail.

But the Prussians are by no means done for. They are humiliated by this latest defeat. They want revenge, they want blood. French blood.

Far to the south, the rains have doused the fires. The intermittent lightning lights the wan faces of the dead. At Quatre-Bras. At Ligny. The wounded suffer from their wounds but also from those who stalk the night.

Best to be quiet so that the looters don't hear you.

The next day is a Sunday. Church bells will peal, choirs will sing hymns in praise of Our Lord.

But at a place just south of Waterloo, on the road to Charleroi, the cannon will bellow and the thundering drums and brazen trumpets will sound.

The 18th of June, a Sunday will be the last day on Earth for thousands of men.

Men who huddle in the night against the rain. Praying and wondering.

What the morrow might bring...

Dawn of Waterloo
by Lady Elizabeth Butler

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Act III, Give me night or give me Blücher...

The field of battle - looking towards La Haye Sainte. La Belle Alliance is at the far right.
(Google Street View)
The Duke arose early. As he dressed he looked about the room in the small inn at the side of the Brussels-Charleroi road.

"Will I see this place again?" he pondered as he buttoned his cloak.

Passing quickly down to the street, he mounted his horse Copenhagen and, together with his aides, headed south, towards the ridge line where his army had been posted.
South of the field, the Emperor Napoléon awoke in the early hours before dawn.

After checking with the staff for word from Grouchy, he settled down with his senior officers for breakfast. He was confident and cheerful, even when his artillery chief informed him that it would be some time before the ground dried sufficiently to allow the guns to maneuver.

At that point, an officer mentioned the tactics Wellington was famous for in the Peninsula.

Slamming his fork down the Emperor told his senior officers in no uncertain terms, "I tell you Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad troops, and this affair is nothing more than eating breakfast."

The remainder of the meal was less than congenial, several generals excused themselves to "see to their units."
To the east, in the vicinity of Wavre, the Prussians were on the move.

Through errors, or perhaps bad staff work, the corps furthest to the east set off first. Two other corps stood ready to move, the fourth was taking up positions to keep the French off of the main body.

A fire had broken out in the village of Wavre, movement was slowed until the fire could be contained.

Although the army was on the move early, it would be hours before they could tie in with Wellington's left flank. There were a lot of country roads to follow, streams to cross and the terrain was sodden from the recent rains.

Not to mention the fact that the troops were exhausted. They had fought a major battle on the 16th, marched all day on the 17th and now they must march again. Towards the French, towards the enemy who had defeated them on Friday.

But today was Sunday and some units sang the old Lutheran hymn as they marched, "Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott!"

Looking north along the main highway to Brussels.
La Haye Sainte is to the left at the dip in the road.

(Google Street View)
I have walked the fields between La Haye Sainte and La Belle Alliance a number of times. Farm fields for the most part as they have been for over 200 years. It looks like many another field in Belgium. This one is different. This one is sacred to the memory of the men who fought and died there.

The amount of blood shed on these fields is staggering.

73,000 French, 25,000 British, 17,000 Netherlanders, 11,000 Hanoverians, 6,000 men of the King's German Legion, 6,000 Brunswickers, 3,000 Nassauers and 50,000 Prussians fought on this field. 118,000 men were in the three armies engaged.

At the end of the day, over 45,000 of those men lay dead or wounded. Alongside them, lay over 10,000 horses dead or wounded.

In the museum at Le Caillou, where the Emperor spent the night before the battle, I was startled to see human remains in a glass case. Startled and appalled.

On the 18th of June in 1815, this man, a French hussar had sat upon his horse with his comrades, awaiting his orders, ready and able to do his duty.

At the end of the day he lay dead, near the last stand of the French Imperial Guard.

Buried on the field in the days after the battle, as were most of the casualties, he lay, with his comrades, undisturbed for many years. Then sometime in the 20th Century his body was accidentally exhumed.

Was he reburied with honor? No, he was placed on display in a museum.

But he is a reminder of the cost of war.

When the final gun sounds, when the smoke has cleared and the armies have moved on, all that are left are the dead. Their bright uniforms smoke and blood stained, torn as are their bodies.

There is no glory for them or for those that loved them. All that remains are the memories.

On that field there are so many memories.

Near the position of Captain Mercer's battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, looking south.
To the right, beyond the trees, is the Chateau of Hougoumont.

(Google Street View)
In the photo above, the terrain looks almost flat, but that is deceptive.

You can't see the French position from here, not too far to the front the ground dips. On the day of the battle, the French cavalry made upwards of seven charges in this area. As soon as they came up from the dip, Mercer's battery would engage them.

I pictured that, the earth shaking from the hooves of thousands of horse. The drifting powder smoke, the hiss and buzz of musket and cannon rounds in the air. Off to the right, Hougoumont was in flames as the battle between what was essentially a single, under-strength Anglo-Allied regiment (a few companies of British Guardsmen with German troops, mainly Nassauers, in the surrounding woods and gardens) battled the bulk of the French II Corps to a bloody standstill.

In the opening photo are the initial positions of that French corps, in the far distance one can just make out the farm of La-Haye-Sainte where a battalion of the King's German Legion was holding out in a desperate fight against elements of the French I and VI Corps.

They held their position, just below the center of Wellington's line, until nearly nightfall, when, out of ammunition, the French drove them out.

By then the French had few reserves, other than the Guard, to commit.

Ney begged for infantry, thinking of the Guard, but was rejected by the Emperor. Napoléon had seen Ney squander the cavalry in valiant, though futile, attacks, unsupported by either infantry or artillery.

No doubt the Emperor also remembered Ney's startling lack of competence at Quatre-Bras.

Roughly the position of D'Erlon's I Corps. Forward of here the British heavy cavalry routed D'Erlon as he advanced.
The British heavy cavalry were, in their turn, routed by French heavy cavalry and lancers.
The rolling nature of the terrain is evident here.

(Google Street View)
One cannot stand upon the field of Waterloo and not think of the events of that day. One, if he or she has any knowledge of history and a soul, cannot help but think of the dreadful cost of one man's ambition.

I will not regale you with all the details of Waterloo. I have written on this topic before (and no doubt will again) here (2012), here (2013) and here (2014 - one of my favorite posts).

This is the first time I have tried to post on the Waterloo Campaign to cover the major events of five days of war. Late nights, lots of research and having been ill recently (and the ever present paying job does take its toll) has left me exhausted. Nevertheless...
The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance. - The Duke of Wellington
(Google Street View)
As the sun lowered in the west, the Duke looked around him, most of his staff were down, dead or wounded. His reserves were exhausted, La-Haye-Sainte had fallen...

"Dear God, give me night or give me Blücher."

Looking towards Papelotte, where the Prussians were coming into action.
(Google Street View)
As if in answer to that prayer, out on the far left flank, the Prussian army was approaching. Soon their presence would be felt, they were muddy, they were sweaty and dear Lord they were exhausted. But they were exultant, the end to the long misery, the opportunity to crush the hated Bonaparte was at hand.

The Guard will advance!
(Google Street View)
The Emperor made his final cast of the dice, the Guard would advance. Too little, too late, their commitment even an hour earlier could have been decisive. Hindsight.

The orders were given, the troops were formed. Initially the Emperor was at the head of their column. When he moved his horse off the road and raised his hand in salute, the men were surprised. Was the Emperor, 
Le Tondu, not going to lead them all the way?

Regardless, the Imperial Guard, veterans of many campaigns, tough soldiers all, advanced to meet the foe. It was do or die.

They died.

The Armée du Nord collapsed and fled south.

The campaign was, to all intents and purposes, over.

Erstürmung des Dorfes Planchenois in der Schlacht von Waterloo am 18. Juni 1815.
by Ludwig Elsholtz
Tout est fini...

It has been a damned serious business... Blucher and I have lost 30,000 men. It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life. … By God! I don't think it would have been done if I had not been there. - Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington