Tuesday, May 31, 2022

TSCPC - Uh, What?

Sorry, I'm not ready to continue with my tale of the opening stages of World War II in Europe. The surgery I had Friday afternoon has left me weary and somewhat fuzzy-visioned. But not to worry, it gets better every day, well, except Sunday, Sunday was a really blurry day. With my "macular issues," as my eye doc is wont to call it, hey, it happens.

For years my left eye was the "go to" eye. When I needed glasses (around the age of twelve, thus dashing my dreams of being a fighter pilot), it was only the right eye which had issues, near-sighted it was. First pair of glasses was real lens in the right, plain glass in the left.

Now as the years went by, the left eye grew tired of doing all the heavy lifting (so I like to tell it) and gradually lost distance clarity to match the right. Which would then decide, "uh-uh, I ain't helping," and backslide just a bit more.

Well, this continued for some time, until one day the vitreous humor (that gelatinous-like substance which fills one's eyeball) began to shrink, it happens as we age. In the left eye, as this occurred, it pulled away from the retina but didn't "let go," much as a boat pulling away from the dock with a line still attached will either damage the boat or the dock.  Well, with the eye it seems the dock (the retina) always takes the fall.

It was bad enough in my left eye to require surgery which knocked that eye out of the lead as "best eye in my head." Now the right eye holds that distinction, even though that one had a vitreous humor "pull away" (as I call it) which left the right eye with what's called a "Weiss ring." (I'll let you look that up but it's something which can happen with a Posterior Vitreous Detachment, or PVD. Which is also the airport code for T.F. Green in Warwick, but everyone says Providence. Which ties in with the opening graphic, that eye on top of the pyramid on the dollar bill is "The Eye of Providence." As in God, not the city in Little Rhody, but the way my mind works, a connection, however tenuous, was made.)

Anyhoo, the right eye soldiers on rather well, but there are days when it gets really fatigued, and it's difficult to completely focus. That was Sunday, one of those days where I get to live the Patton line of "through a glass, but darkly." Or something to that effect, not really debilitating, just really, really annoying.

So yeah, that's the background on the Mark I, Mod 0 eyeballs in the Sarge's head. (Though in reality, the left eye is probably a Mark I, Mod 3 eyeball, three surgeries on that one, oh yeah, did I mention the cataract surgery on that side as well?)

So, what's with the long string of letters in the title, Sarge?

Okay, "TSCPC" stands for Transscleral cyclophotocoagulation, in my case this was performed with a diode laser using the G-Probe¹ glaucoma device. You saw the eyepatch the other day, right? Well, after it came off, I freaked out.

My left eye was no longer boresighted, off at an angle it was, strange and unfocused vision was the order of the day Friday night. But a good night's sleep fixed that right up. Both eyes are back in battery now, though the left is quite sore from the procedure.

Why the procedure, Sarge?

Well, long story short, glaucoma, both eyes. Left is the worst, so much so that the eye drops I've been using for months to control the intraocular pressure or IOP, were no longer as effective. So my eye doc sent me to an eye surgeon for a consult, he recommended this procedure (which does something to the ciliary glands to reduce the amount of liquid they produce, same volume to fill but with less liquid equals lower pressure) which was weird but short.

Long story short (again) I go back to the eye surgeon on Friday to check the pressure. If all goes well, the pressure will be well within optimal margins.

We shall see.

¹ This is really just a fiber-optic handpiece used to direct the energy of the laser, as I understand it. G-Probe is an IRIDEX brand name

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a very special day. One is encouraged to remember the fallen. Suffice it to say there are quite a few folks that gave their lives after solemnly swearing to "...support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God." 

That's an oath, I, and most every other person I knew in the military, took very seriously and still feel bound by it. (OT, I wish that were so of some other officials that take a similar oath. Just sayin') 

But, there are an awful lot of them who died supporting that oath. So many, that remembering them individually is impossible. I tend to remember the ones I knew or knew of. 

The first one I remember is Alan J. "Joe" Pryor. He graduated a year ahead of me at Texas Tech. We were best friends. 

After Commissioning, he went to Pilot Training and did well enough to be qualified for fighters. (Not qualified meant Bombers or Cargo or First Assignment Instructor Pilot.) Assignment night rolled around, his name was called. He came to attention and acknowledge the order to report to F-111 School. 

 Completes that checkout and is assigned to Cannon AFB in lovely Clovis, New Mexico. As he gains experience in the jet, he eventually gets upgraded to Instructor Pilot and picks up the call sign of "Tex". 

On 10/17/1984, He's flying in the Weapon's System Officer's position checking out a new Pilot on a single ship night bombing mission to the White Sands Missile Range. As they're approaching the range, but still in the mountains to the northeast, something happens. 

 Folks in the vicinity reported a huge fireball (the aircraft had 40,000 Lbs/~6150 Gal of fuel on board). Both Joe and the Pilot died instantly, most likely not even aware something had gone wrong. Crash investigators reported that debris was scattered over 6 square miles. 

I was assigned to Holloman AFB at the time. Heard about the crash the following morning when I went to the squadron. The next day, after families were notified, they released the names. First flying related fatality that I had known well. That was tough.

Yeah, I remember him on this day. Died, on duty, doing his best to protect the country. 

We lived off base while assigned to Holloman, . Across the road was a newly married couple who had just arrived. He would be going through my Squadron to be checked out as an Instructor Pilot. His name was Ross LaTorra. He had been an A-10 Pilot. I was one of his instructors. 



Now, in general, A-10 pilots are excellent at dropping bombs and shooting the gun. They're generally not as good at Air to Air. Ross wasn't bad at it, just hadn't done a lot of it.  But, to his credit, he learned from every mistake he made and improved with every ride.

It's 4/22/1987, I've paid my dues at Holloman, gotten checked out in the Eagle and am now in Okinawa. The OPs officer knows I'd come from Holloman so as I walk in he calls me in to his office and hands me a new accident report.

 Two AT-38's had had a midair collision, both jets destroyed and 2 of the 3 pilots died. 

"Ahhh...Crap" The last word there wasn't exactly Crap. 

Ross's name was one. Again, doing his duty to support and defend by training new fighter pilots.

The final one I remember often is "Rocket".  Capt Robert Schneider. I wrote about him on the 25th anniversary of his death in 2015. I'm going to republish that post with a few tweaks.

 I was Rocket's Flight Commander. It still hurts...

(Begin Repost)

There I was….* Assistant Ops Officer of an F-15C Squadron at Kadena AB Japan. It’s the first Duty Day after New Year’s, and The Boss has called the Ops Officer, myself and the four Flight Commanders into his office for a meeting. 

 It had been a very restful Holiday Season after a very eventful past couple of months. We’d been to the PI for an extended Cope Thunder helping the RAAF check out in their new F/A-18s, the usual rotations to the ROK for Alert at Osan AB or Kwang Ju AB. We’d even had the opportunity for some unusual formation flying. (Pictures Below)

 Santa had been somewhat good to me, I’d received orders. I was going to Ft Leavenworth KS for “ArrrrrMeeee Training Sir” (AKA Command and General Staff College). I was to report mid-June for “Army Kindergarten”, intended to get us somewhat up to speed on all things Army.

 The downside was my Wife, Mrs. Juvat (AKA Capt Juvat to the personnel folks that worked for her) was staying at Kadena for a year along with my 6 year old son and as yet unborn, but coming, daughter. 

A good assignment that would be better with my family. It is, what it is. 

That, however was 6 months in the future, I still had a lot of operational flying to do. In fact, later today I had a 2 v 2 similar flight lead upgrade ride to give to one of the guys who’d been in my flight while I was a flight commander. He went by Rocket an epithet bestowed on him with all the love that a fighter squadron can convey. 

In prior posts, discussion has waxed and waned on the various means someone acquires a “Call Sign” and by what means the actual name could come from. Rocket had come to the F-15 through a “pay your dues” tour. While I don’t recall what it was specifically, it had to be either a First Assignment IP (FAIP) or a Forward Air Controller (FAC). I’m certain enough, within the constraints of my memory, to decide it was a FAIP. I base this on his evolution as a fighter pilot. He had absolutely no problem with formation or instruments, which was common in FAIPS. (Update. Turns out his first assignment was a FAC/ALO.  He just flew good formation and instruments.)

 Rocket had progressed through the various phases of fighter pilot checkouts with the normal ups and downs for a first timer. Some classic mistakes, some boneheaded ones, but none of them call sign caliber. So, he went by “Bob”, which was natural as his first name was Robert. 

He kept trying to encourage us with suggestions, but we were having none of that. As Sarge has stated, your call sign is given, not taken. 

It was one Friday nite and we’re in the squadron bar. (Yes, children, Fighter Squadron’s had bars back then, with Beer, and we drank beer on Fridays in the squadron. Come back when you get over the vapors.) So, Bob and I and a couple of others were drinking beer and shooting watches and cussing and scratching and engaging in other no longer allowed activities, when the wives arrive. 

This generally happened around 6 or so and was a not so subtle hint that we needed to wind things down and take them over to the Skoshi Koom (Skoshi being, we were told, “little” in Japanese and KOOM being the acronym for the Kadena Officers Open Mess). The Skosh was an offset of the Big Club, had a couple of dining rooms as well as (cover your ears, kiddies) a bar. The Wing frequented it as our unofficial club. 

Well, the wives arrived. One of them had a stunning extra with her. Rocket, who was single, took sight of her and was off like a …. 

 Well, you know what happens at the end of the rocket burn, right? 

Ergo, Rocket. Rocket, you are, Rocket forever you shall be. 

As Sarge so frequently tells me, "juvat, you digress get back to the meeting. "

We’ve all gathered, and the Boss hasn’t come in yet, so we’re all, even the OpsO, trying to guess what the subject is. In walks the Boss, we all rise (yes, in the Air Force, even Fighter Pilots stand up when a commander enters the room, don’t get all teary eyed). He motions us to our seats. 

 “Guys, the Wing King has a good deal for the Squadron” Oh no, here it comes again. 

“The Squadron that had been tasked to provide Red Air for the next Cope Thunder has had to pull out. PACAF asked the Wing if one of our squadrons could fill in. The Wing King chose us.” 

 Pandemonium breaks out. Cope Thunder was just about the best flying we had available and we’d been back from it less than a month. Plus it was at Clark AB PI, doesn’t get much better than that. 

(Side note, I think it was a Navy F-4S squadron, doesn’t really matter they weren’t there.) 

We’re scheduled to deploy in 2 weeks. Time passes quickly and we’re now down in the PI, playing Bad Guys, which is not a role we played very often at Cope Thunder and the fact that we’d done it during our last Cope Thunder against the Aussies probably was a factor in our selection.

We've arrived at Clark and are a few days into the exercise.   I’ve got the afternoon go leading a four ship, but am not the mission commander. So while I’ve got some mission planning to do, I’m also available to be SOF (Supervisor of Flying, the guy they hang for mishaps) for the morning go. This means I have to attend the morning mass brief. I’m there, taking some notes, getting a general feel for the plan.

The mission commander has a typical plan for dividing responsibility for defending the airspace. 

Essentially, a line from Clark to High Peak to Hermana Mayor (a large island a few miles off shore) will divide the Land approach from the shoreline approach and a line from Clark to the mouth of the river at Botolan will divide the Shoreline approach from the Spratley’s approach. Reasonable visual references to try and help provide physical separation between flights. 

 Briefing completed, the morning go goes about the business of going. I get back to mission planning. I hear the Blue Force Jets taking off. The intervals of 10 second take off going on for about 10 minutes is a big hint of identity. 

 20 minutes later another minute of 10 second intervals alerts me that Red Force is airborne and I am on Duty. This means little more than the Duty Desk knows where I am in case the 3TFW SOF needs Eagle specific emergency procedure help. 

About 20 minutes later, I hear a knock it off call made on Guard. Uh-Oh, that’s never used at Cope Thunder unless something bad has happened. 

A couple of minutes later the SOF phone rings, there’s a couple of seconds and I hear “He’s right here” and hands the phone to me.

 I feel sick. 

 I identify myself, and the SOF says “we’re not sure what’s happened yet, but it looks like we might have lost one of yours, please notify your Senior Rep (The Vice Wing King was deployed with us) as well as Home Base. We’re doing a head count and will let you know as soon as we know anything definite.” 

I look at the schedule and make a note of the names and tail numbers assigned to the morning go. 

 I notice that all my guys from my former flight were airborne. Time is stopped. I want to know who, but don’t want to know who. 

 I call Chambers Hall, the place aircrew stay at Clark, and ask to be put through to the Vice Wing King. He’s left the building. Call the Club. Nope, not there for breakfast. 

 Decide to call back to Kadena, and get put through to the Wing King. Explain what I’ve been told as opposed to what I believe to be true so far. He tells me to call back every 10 minutes until directed differently. 

The SOF calls back and says we’ve definitely had an Eagle hit the water, in the vicinity of Hermana Mayor. Well, that eliminates the Boss who was in the Southern Vector, however, my guys now represent 6 of the 8 remaining possibles. 

 I call back home and report that info. Jets are starting to come back down initial. I’m listening as they check in on tower. 

The flight in the center vector checks in with four. It’s definitely one of mine. 

Finally the last Eagle flight checks in, 

"Eagle Check" "Two" "Three."


The Vice shows up and I fill him in on what’s happened. He tells me to continue and he’ll contact Home for now. 

The guys start coming back in the squadron and I have them give me all 12  11 VCR Tapes and put them in a safe and lock it. 

I tell them to debrief and take copious written notes. When done, sign them and give them to me. They’re added to the safe. 

Pretty soon, the 3TFW Wing Safety Officer comes up and signs for all that material. 

The Vice relieves me, grounds the squadron until further notice and I head back to Chambers Hall. 

There is a Wake at the Club that night. That’s the only thing I can think of to describe it. No other squadron showed up, for dinner, beers, crud or anything. 

Just us. 

There were some old retired fighter pilots there, who kept a lid on things. 

The next morning, The Boss calls us all together and tells us what he knows

Rocket had been involved in a mid-air with another Eagle! 

The Blue Force had used Hermana Mayor as a Nav point and Rocket as #4 had seen them. He’d called the tally to his lead who cleared him to engage. 

Rocket’s flight was in the Eastern sector. Rocket began a left hand turn while looking down to keep tally on the bogeys. Simultaneously, the flight in the Middle Sector’s #2 guy was on the east side of his flight and sees the bandits below. He calls the tally to his lead who cleared him to engage. 

 He starts a right turn to keep a tally on the bandits. 

Distance between the two flights was about 8 miles, between the flight leads about 12, neither flight lead was aware of the other flight. 

Extensive modeling after the fact determined that Rocket had, milliseconds before impact, begun to commit the nose of his jet down which took it slightly out of the flight path of the second jet. The horizontal slab of the other jet passed through the canopy of Rocket’s jet, killing him instantly.

Since the Eagle will trim itself automatically when the stick is held steady for a second, the airplane was trimmed for a couple of degree nose low moderate bank which it held until impacting the water. 

The other Eagle thought he’d hit jet wash, came back to Clark and landed normally.

F-15C 78-534 was not recoverable. 

There was enough DNA recovered to confirm Rocket’s death. (Added.  There were remains on the slab.)

The squadron is cleared to fly two days later. It was not the same, and it took us a while to get back up on step. We finished out the exercise without further incident and deployed back home. 

That was to be my last Cope Thunder. 

Rocket is the fifth guy in flight suit from the right in the second row. I'm the guy 3 further left with the missile as a crown.

Two weeks later, I received a package in the mail from PACAF headquarters, containing these two photographs. Rocket is #4 (Bottom Left ). 

I had flown a 2 seat F-15 a few weeks prior with an Air Force Photographer in the pit. He'd sent copies of the pics as a thank you. The pictures are on the wall in my office.

A week or so ago, Several years ago, PA posted about the last 7 seconds. I’m convinced those 7 seconds were no different than any other 7 seconds in Rocket’s life. One instant he’s there, the next he’s not. As I sat down to write this, I realized that’s probably the best possible way to go. 

End Repost.

All three didn't die heroically in battle.  They all died trying their best to be the best and protect the country and its Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Well done, Friends and Brothers.  I look forward to rejoining with you again someday.  

I'll buy the first round.


Sunday, May 29, 2022

Lest We Forget ...

Yes, this is a rerun, a post I did last year (and maybe before that as well). But it expresses how I feel about Memorial Day, I remember those who have gone before, I cherish their memories.


They were people, just like you and me.

They had hopes, they had dreams, they had people who loved them.

One day they went out to do their duty...

And never came home.

Remember them, say their names...

I remember these fine men, always, but particularly at this time of year.

I knew some, I miss them all.

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

Private First Class Albert J. Dentino,
United States Army

Photo courtesy of Kris in New England

When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say, 
For Their Tomorrow, 
We gave Our Today

- John Maxwell Edmonds 

Saturday, May 28, 2022

It's Alive! (And other happy things.)

As you can see, I am none the worse for wear. Left eye is a tad sore, and there is the eyeball surgery attack of the jelly monsters taking place behind that patch (don't ask, those who know, know), but the doc says it all went well. Felt weird, but eye surgery usually does.

At any rate, I'm patched up until 2130 local (Friday - today as I write, yesterday as you read) and have a new eye drop regime to go through. Used to pay nearly $400 for three wee bottles of the old stuff, about four bucks for three of the new. So the surgery may actually save me some cheddar in the long run. (Cheddar? What the Hell is cheddar Sarge? Well, I've been re-watching Breaking Bad, that's what Jesse Pinkman and his meth associates call money. No, I'm not on meth, just find the term to be new, different, and très amusant¹.)

I was at the doc's for all of an hour, the photo was taken at The Missus Herself's and Your Humble Scribe's post-surgical celebratory meal at Chili's. Yummy it was, I'd forgotten how much I like Mexican street corn.

Anyhoo, on to other news.

We get the bulk of Anya's food from Chewy.com, with Sasha's passing last year, we haven't been ordering as much. I actually cancelled the auto-delivery order as we had too much in stock as it was. So when I did that I explained to the folks at Chewy why we were cutting back.

When they read the reason, I got a very nice email in return, and those flowers above. All to honor our fur baby Sasha's memory. This, people, is how you treat your customers.

It's a great company, wish I'd found them earlier. Their prices are more than competitive with some of the stores in these parts and they have a great variety. Shipping takes one or two days, and like I said very responsive, great to work with.

So yeah, shameless plug for Chewy.com, love those folks.

Finally, we have my youngest grandson above, making his demands known in the toy aisle. He's either going to grow up to be a fighter pilot like his dad, or a surfer dude. Maybe both, he could definitely pull that off. Hard to believe little Robbie is almost two!

He and his sister, plus Mom (The Nuke) and Dad (Tuttle) are off to Florida for a wedding and a trip to Disney for the wee ones. A long weekend delayed by storms in the DC area (to include a tornado warning in Maryland!), the wedding is Tuesday so they've got a nice long weekend. The Nuke needs the break, she travels for the gubmint. A lot.

Anyhoo, all is well, though rather monocular at the moment. Be seeing you.

Soon, I hope ...

¹ Very amusing. I mean come on, what's a Sarge post without at least one footnote and one foreign phrase!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Yeah, It's Complicated

1:posterior segment of eyeball 2:ora serrata 3:ciliary muscle 4:ciliary zonules 5:canal of Schlemm 6:pupil 7:anterior chamber 8:cornea 9:iris 10:lens cortex 11:lens nucleus 12:ciliary process 13:conjunctiva 14:inferior oblique muscle 15:inferior rectus muscle 16:medial rectus muscle 17:retinal arteries and veins 18:optic disc 19:dura mater 20:central retinal artery 21:central retinal vein 22:optic nerve 23:vorticose vein 24:bulbar sheath 25:macula 26:fovea 27:sclera 28:choroid 29:superior rectus muscle 30:retina
And that's just a small part of the human body! Hats off to the healers of the world ...

Love these guys ...

Laser day!

After Action Report to follow ...

Stay tuned.

Be seeing you.¹

¹ One hopes ...

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Becalmed ...

Brig becalmed
Francois Geoffroi Roux
Work has been very busy, life has been, well, life. If'n you know what I mean.

Surgery tomorrow, not feeling real creative right now. So posting might be light for the next cuppla, we shall see.

I like this song, when I was a kid I had this album. I liked the song back then as well, though I didn't really understand it.

I do now ...

In My Life
(John Lennon and Paul McCartney¹) 

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

In my life, I love you more

Peace out, see you soon ...

 ¹ Source for the lyrics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

In the East, On the Soviet Border

The border between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union from September 1939 to June 1941,
somewhere in the occupied territory of Poland.

"What the Hell is the name of this place again?" Gefreiter Ernst Paulus asked the two Poles assigned to his machine gun crew.

"Samowicze, Herr Gefreiter!" Schütze Kazimir Dutka barked out, coming to a rigid position of attention as he did so.

Schütze Jan Kołodziej nearly choked as he tried to stifle a laugh. It got worse when he saw the look on Paulus' face.

"Verdammte Polacken!!" Paulus yelled, then burst out laughing.

He actually liked the two Poles assigned to his machine gun team, Dutka was a real horse when it came to schlepping ammunition and Kołodziej made a superb assistant gunner. The man swapped out belts as smooth as silk so that the gun never missed a beat.

The two Poles had been discussing just how beautiful this section of Poland was, not far from the border with the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Dutka had mentioned slipping over the border and stealing a cow, "It will be like the old days Jan!"

Jan had laughed and said they shouldn't do that as their new masters, the Germans, might not understand them starting a war with Russia before Hitler was ready.

Paulus had never seen a bleaker landscape, endless sandy fields interspersed with woods. Even the people of the region seemed a throwback to medieval times, he doubted that they even knew what electricity was.

As they laughed, manning their post at the border crossing, Leutnant Spahn came up with their squad leader, Unteroffizier Werner Baumbach, "I'm glad you boys are having a good time. Any sightings of our 'allies' across the way?" The lieutenant had had a smirk on his face when he had used the word "allies," they all hated the Russians and couldn't wait to cross over and destroy them.

But for now, they lived in an uneasy coexistence, both sides understood the need for separation, the nearest Soviet border post was a good kilometer to the east. Jan had mentioned that it wasn't far enough, "You can still smell the bastards when the wind is in the right direction."

"Don't like the Russkis, do you Jan?" Paulus had commented after the lieutenant had left.

"Nope, dislike them even more than Germans."

Though Jan had smiled when he said that, Paulus wondered. It hadn't been quite a year since Germany had marched into Poland, both of his erstwhile comrades had been in the Polish Army then, no doubt they had both killed Germans while wearing a Polish uniform. Though both men seemed to like him alright, he wondered if they would just as soon kill him as look at him.

It was then that Dutka had clapped him on the back and said, "My dear Gefreiter, you shouldn't worry, ever. You're almost a Pole yourself, being from Gdansk¹. Er, I mean Danzig ..." Dutka grinned, he actually liked Paulus.

Jan nodded, "Yes, you would make a good PolackGefreiter Ernst."

"You two make me nervous, you know that right?" Paulus had hissed at the two as Baumbach came out of the small guard shack next to the road.

"Okay, you three, knock off the grab-ass and get on your gun. According to Leutnant Spahn, the Commies are sending over some officer to talk with our colonel. Don't shoot the Russian bastard, but keep an eye on them while I check their papers."

"Do you read Russian, Herr Unteroffizier?" Dutka had asked.

"Just enough to get in trouble and seem like I know what I'm doing."

Jan mumbled to Dutka, "Sort of like your German Kazimir."

Dutka gave him an evil look before grinning, "Better than your Polish, you half-German mongrel."

Both men stopped when Baumbach stood in front of them, "Something you two would like to share with me?"

"No, sorry Herr Unteroffizier, we were just commenting on the weather. It seems dry this year.. We should see the dust from the Russians' vehicle when they're approaching." Dutka answered.

Baumbach just shook his head, "Verdammte Polacken." Then he walked back to the guard shack.

Jan mumbled in Polish, "We get that a lot from the Niemcy, don't we?"

Dutka smiled and said, "Yes, not everyone has the honor of being Polish, makes 'em jealous I think ..."

¹ The Polish name for Danzig, and the name that fair city bears today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Life on the Border Between War and Not-Quite-War

MG 34 general-purpose machine gun mounted on a Lafette 34 tripod
"Jan, I heard it straight from the Spieß, we're shipping out to the east, next week," Schütze Kazimir Dutka insisted, "we're headed somewhere around Chelm. He wasn't sure of the exact spot, and honestly he knows so little of Poland, but from the orders he's seen, it has to be Chelm."

Schütze Jan Kołodziej shook his head as he looked at his friend. Dutka was a big man, like Jan he was part German, from the village of Stegna in the area which the Poles called "Pomorze" and the Germans called "Pommern¹." He too had been deemed "German-enough" to be conscripted into the Wehrmacht². "Are you sure Kazimir? This isn't just another barracks rumor?"

"Yup, I'm sure. We're marching to the railhead, then heading east. I've seen the supply requisitions. The Spieß is convinced that Hitler means to attack Russia, he's always hated the Communists, his deal with Stalin was just to get us out of the way while he dealt with France and England." Dutka had been a stevedore in Gdansk, while he wasn't well-educated, he paid attention.

"Damn." Jan muttered, setting the ammunition belt he was loading with 7.92 mm rounds aside, he looked at Kazimir. "What am I to do about Elżbieta, how can I get a pass to Warszawa to try and see her? Also, she's seen me in this Nazi uniform, I'm sure she hates me now."

Dutka nodded and said, "Her problems may be worse than yours. Rumor has it that the Niemcy are rounding up everyone who has a college education. Priests, lawyers, doctors, and professors are being killed out of hand. The Niemcy are forcibly removing all Poles from Western Poland to resettle the area with "pure" Germans." Dutka spat as he said that.

"Elżbieta was due to finish school this past spring, of course, after the invasion ... My God, do you think she's been arrested?" Jan had trouble controlling his voice, the more he thought about her, the more he realized he loved her.

He was seriously considering deserting and trying to get to Warszawa, but his common sense told him that that would likely result in his own death and help Elżbieta not at all. Once his unit went to the East, there was no telling what would happen next.

On the other hand, if there was an opportunity to kill Russians, that would be all right in his book. If Hitler wanted to attack the Soviet Union, well then, Jan would help.

Elżbieta Chlebek looked around the hospital. Her shift was nearing its end and the number of sick and wounded Germans was much less than before. Those wounded in the campaign last September were being moved to the Reich if they were incapable of rejoining the army. The less injured and the sick were sent back to their units as soon as they were healed. Even in a army not actively fighting, accidents happened all the time. Men were still dying.

Though Elżbieta still hated the Niemcy, as a general rule, she had discovered that some of them were not so bad. She still shuddered at seeing her Jan in one of those uniforms, but she had since learned that many Poles had been conscripted into the Nazi army, whether they liked it or not. She supposed that they were simply doing whatever they had to do to survive.

She had a moment of shame when she realized that what she had done was no different from what Jan had done. She now had papers indicating that her name was Elisabeth Brodt, a German version of her own name.³ Though she had been very close to completing her medical degree, the Niemcy were suspicious of any educated people in this area of the world.

As her accent was obviously Polish, she did what many had done, claimed to be from what the intelligent learned to refer to as the German areas illegally annexed by Poland after the first war. In her case, she claimed to be from Lauban (Lubań in Polish) in Silesia, an area which had already been reclaimed by the Reich.

Currently she was employed as a nurse in a hospital taken over by the Germans. Though still in the capital city, she dared not visit her old friends or even her parents' flat. Any suspicion that she was Polish would have led to her being shot out of hand or transported to a camp. She had heard the rumors. The Polish intelligentsia were being slaughtered by the Nazis. Any hint of her true nationality or that she had been training as a doctor would be a death sentence for her.

"Elisabeth!" She turned as the German doctor hailed her. She was treated like dirt in this place, what was it with these Nazis?

Caporal Guillaume Micheaux, late of the 142e régiment d'infanterie of the 8e division d'infanterie, stood in the parlor of his cousin's small house on the outskirts of Reims. She had provided him with civilian clothing, the rough attire of a farm laborer but it blended in nicely with the other civilians. The clothes had been her husband's, Pierre had been killed in the initial fighting in the Ardennes around Sedan. Guillaume had liked the man, a lot.

"How are you doing Michelle, now that, well now that ..." Guillaume had trouble saying the words.

Michelle Cordonnier (née Micheaux) shook her head, "Now that I'm a widow? Is that what you mean Guillaume? I thought the army might make you less, I don't know, polite?"

Guillaume chuckled, "Well, I'm a little less polite than I used to be, but around my family? Never!"

"I am doing well enough, I visit your mother every day, and why don't you go see her?"

"Les Boches paroled me, they didn't let me go. If I visit maman, they will know. I haven't reported in yet, I'm thinking of going into the forest and joining the resistance. Or perhaps trying to get to England and join De Gaulle ..."

"De Gaulle!?" Michelle barked at her cousin, "he is simply another politician, if he wanted to fight, why didn't he stop the Boches from taking Paris?!"

Guillaume shook his head, "If only it were so simple. I must go, thank you for the clothing, and the food. Let maman know that I'm alive and well, tell her someone told you that, don't admit to anyone that you've seen me. I don't want you getting in trouble."

"There are no Boches here, no occupiers, they are all in the major towns and the cities." Michelle protested.

"Don't underestimate those bastards, soon they will be everywhere. There are also those who will collaborate, to live a better life helping them. Be wary. Now, I must go my dear."

He kissed his cousin on the cheek, then left quickly, without looking back. He didn't know what he would do, but he refused to do the bidding of the Nazis and their minions. Somehow, he must continue the fight. Somehow get back into the war which had ended without him firing a single round.

His honor demanded it!

¹ Pomerania in English
² The German Armed Forces - the Army (Heer), the Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the Navy (Kriegsmarine). This didn't include the Waffen SS, who were an arm of the Nazi Party for all intents and purposes.
³ Chlebek can be translated into English as "bread." There is also a German surname "Brot" (literally bread) of which Brodt is a variant spelling.

Monday, May 23, 2022

"God is Great, Beer is good, People are Crazy" troisième partie

 So there we were...* Deep in the heart of Texas in the midst of a very severe drought (somewhere around an inch of rain this year so far and we're about to enter the dry season). Yesterday a huge thunderstorm popped up and the radar return was pink and purple.  Unfortunately it went south of Rancho Juvat and we got nothing. 

It was a mist opportunity.

Thank you, thank you verr much. Be sure and tip the wait staff.

Been a pretty good week overall although I did get a bit of bad news.  Went back to the ENT Doc for my post-meds follow up on my sinus infection.  Part of the visit was a cat scan of my head.  Apparently, my right maxillary sinus is nearly totally full of fluid.  So they've got me scheduled on the 9th for a "procedure" to clear it.  It involves a balloon up the nose and then inflated.  I'll be sedated but awake.

Sounds like fun, don't it?

But the good news is MBD and MG came and stayed with Mrs. J and I for the past week.  Pastor Bob is on a Men's retreat  in Alabama.  He, and they, will be back home as this post hits the web.  But it has been fun, memory recovering, educational,  family bonding in the interim.

MG is way more developed than the last time we saw her.  She'll be 7 months in a couple of days.  She's not talking yet, but is very vocal and does a pretty good job of communicating happiness or wet diapers/hunger.  She's also able to stand up, but requires a bit of stabilization, so we're practicing that exercise in a lap with hands very close to her armpits.


This Grandparent gig is even more fun than my previous most fun gig (something dealing with altitude and hundreds of MPH).  Besides, I doubt my current shape would stand the previous funnest gig.  

But one of my "opportunities"to spread my Grandfatherly knowledge to my youngest relative was in showing her how to, and assisting her with, eating semi-solid food.  In this case, a puree of apples, strawberries and beets. (No Beans, I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to try it myself.)

Things went swimmingly!

 Even though she needed a bath and I a shower shortly thereafter, we both got a lot of laughs.

If the Olympics ever decide swimming should be conducted in a pool of a puree of apples, strawberries and beets, she's a shoe-in for a Gold.




Had an interesting revelation about one of our restaurants that, pre-WuFlu, we'd frequently visit.  The owners took advantage of the relative lack of customers to do some renovation and decorating.  This was the first time in a long time that we ate inside (Tx gets hot, even in May).  We had just ordered and I'm looking around when my eye catches this.

Astute Chant readers will immediately recognize the gentleman in the top left corner.  And I was aware that Admiral Nimitz was born in the 'Burg and his family owned a hotel in town (which is now "The National Museum of the Pacific War" officially, and, locally, "The Nimitz Museum".  Smithsonian quality museum, definitely a "must see" if in the area).  

Anyhow, what I didn't know was the room I was sitting in was the room that Admiral Nimitz was actually born in.  The Life article had been found in a closed off room when they were renovating and they decided to hang it for the folks that have an interest in such things.

I asked our waitress about it, she filled me in about the significance and told me a bit more that had been discovered.

This is the area we usually sit in when we visit this restaurant.  Very relaxing.  What the waitress told us was that BITD, the white building on the left behind the red umbrella was the Nimitz family's first home.  The building across the breezeway to the right was the Nimitz' Butcher Shop.  The Nimitz Museum is across the street and to the right as you leave that breezeway.  

Little things like that, bring history to life.  Or...It does for me.

Which pretty much ends the events of the week.  Lots of fun.

But...As one might suspect from the post title, not everything went swimmingly.

Past posts with variations of this post's title can be found here and here. We've also had 2 near misses with regard to the oven/stove in our guest houses.  The first of which, the guest was looking to toast some French Bread for dinner.  Instead of looking in the drawer below the oven (an obvious place to store oven pots and pans), they used the plastic mat used under the dish rack to funnel water into the sink.  Dried it off, put the bread on it and put it under the broiler.  Didn't mention anything about it to us, but we do check around when we clean.  Took us a very long time to clean the oven. They received a very low guest rating on our review of their stay.

Then there was the guy who got up early and wanted to make his wife some tea and serve it to her in bed.  Didn't want to wake her up, so didn't turn on the lights.  Grabbed the tea kettle, filled it full of water, put it on the stove and turned the burner on high.  Went outside for a breath of air, came in a few minutes later to see the electric tea kettle with a plastic bottom was on fire.  Fortunately, he kept his wits about him, grabbed the fire extinguisher and put the fire out.  He then called us and explained what had happened and apologized profusely.  

We had a couple of guests last week.  A twosome, mother and daughter.  Mom was in my age bracket, daughter was in my kid's.  Spent a lot of time in town shopping, and sat on the front porch in the evening talking.  So far, so good, right?

Well, not exactly.  Because of the drought, the county has been on a burn ban for months.  No open flames, period.  Mrs. J being the thoughtful, romantic person she is, removed the candles for the tables outside and replaced them with battery powered candle look a likes, complete with flickering "Flame".


Apparently, they tried, and succeeded to set it aflame.

We think alcohol just might have been involved.

So, based on all that,  I'm thinking Billy Currington might need to be invoked again.

Peace out, Y'all!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Pause That Refreshes

Scottish Infantrymen of the 8th Royal Scots, 15th Infantry Division, pause to regroup after coming
under heavy fire from German forces. Near Tilburg, North Brabant, Netherlands. 27 October 1944.

All right lads and lasses, it's time for me to regroup, straighten out the lines, get the replacements settled in, and figure out just where I'm going with this story. It all tends to flow from my imagination (often willy-nilly) and there are times I need to take a deep breath and get it all sorted.


I've introduced some new characters, from the Royal Air Force and the Deutsches Luftwaffe, we've re-established contact with von Lüttwitz and his lads. We've also seen what Billy Wallace and his boys are up to, not to mention the "new" Poles with their French sniper in tow.

I realized the other day, that Jan Kołodziej and the love of his life, Elżbieta Chlebek, are still languishing in Poland, unaccounted for in some time. The last we saw of them was Jan getting a dirty look from Elżbieta as he is now wearing the uniform of the hated Niemcy.

Jan did it to survive of course and return to his love, but Elżbieta doesn't know that. I need to get that situation squared away and updated. But it might take a while, all of the action at the moment is along the Channel coast and it's mostly in the air. (I'm not sure if I'll throw some sailors in shortly, I mean it's the English Channel and there were naval units all over the place!)

But I do want to touch base with Jan and Elżbieta shortly, even if it's just in passing. Jan is a very important character in my D-Day to VE-Day story, as some of you might recall.

Did anyone recognize the name of Willi Hoffmeister and his tankers? He was in the later book quite a bit, right up until near the end as I recall. Willi and his crew are going to see a lot of action in the East and perhaps even North Africa, I haven't decided yet on including the Afrika Korps in this tale. We shall see.

Also, as the war progresses we'll start seeing the Americans creep in, which makes me lean towards including North Africa as that's where Flavio Gentile got his start. (Who? What, you've forgotten Stump already?)

With all of that being said, it was a long week, productive and busy, but long. I'm getting some laser work done on the left eye next Friday which, while it doesn't worry me, does give me something to stress about. (For glaucoma, it's a procedure to shrink the tissue which pumps moisture into the eye, need to slow that as the increased liquid in the same volume increases the pressure, which isn't good. My doc says the eye drops aren't really cutting it anymore.)

Ear doc on Monday (geez, I am falling apart) for some issues I've had lately. So this coming week will probably be hectic as well. Been busy, will get busier still.

So, I'll get back to the book shortly, but the Muse asked for a breather which I gladly gave her, after all, I need it too. She comes up with the ideas, I just type. (And boy my fingers are tired!)

So stay tuned, hang in there, smoke 'em if ya got 'em, (I know, I know, not good, but I used to do that so I understand the urge, it's been ten years since I puffed, so far, so good, knock on wood and all that) and be cognizant of the fact that our characters need to be standing by for heavy rolls. It's war dontcha know?

See you Tuesday or so, stay frosty.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Plans and Schemes ...

Invasion barges assembled at the German port of Wilhelmshaven.
Oberleutnant Ferdinand Busch shook his head as he and newly promoted Fahnenjunker-Unterfeldwebel Jürgen von Lüttwitz surveyed the collection of river barges tied up to the pier in the fishing port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer roughly 32 kilometers to the southwest of Calais. The port was on the River Liane where it emptied into the Channel.

"What do you think Jürgen? Do you think we can ride these over the water to Dungeness, under tow mind you, into the teeth of the Royal Navy? All the while with the Royal Air Force overhead? Do you like our chances?"

Jürgen wasn't sure how to act sometimes around the new company commander. Busch seemed serious and all business a great deal of the time, then at other times he acted almost whimsically. Jürgen chose his words carefully.

"Are you sure this isn't just some grand ruse to make the English think we're going to invade? I'm sure the Luftwaffe can handle the RAF, but the Royal Navy? Our flyboys are good at supporting ground offensives, no doubt they can fight an enemy air force as well, I mean, they proved that in Poland and during the spring offensive here in France. But attacks on naval vessels? I'm just not convinced that they have the wherewithal to do that. Sorry to sound so pessimistic Herr Oberleutnant, but that's my honest opinion."

"Not to worry Jürgen, we are unter vier Augen¹ here, my opinion is in line with yours. Frankly, I think the Führer is bluffing."

Busch had been badly wounded in Poland, he was missing the little finger of his left hand and was badly scarred on the left side of his face. For all that, he was an athletic man, very smart, and popular with his men. It was obvious that he had, at least physically, fully recovered from his wounds.

"I know you're not an officer yet, Jürgen, but I consider you to be one. Has there been any word on you being sent back to Germany to attend officer school?"

"Nein, Herr Oberleutnant, the battalion commander has remonstrated with headquarters on a number of occasions, as he put it, 'If I'm expected to invade f**king England, then I need my experienced non-commissioned officers, rather than having them back in the Reich learning which f**king fork to use at a formal dinner.' So I'm still here, as is every other Fahnenjunker in the battalion." Jürgen grinned as he said that, Major Kurt Hassel was something of a character.

Hassel had been a very young sergeant at the end of the Great War. He had then found himself in one of the many Freikorps involved in the fighting in the east in 1918 and 1919. They also were involved in the many uprisings and alarms which led to the fall of the Weimar Republic.

He was an ardent nationalist, but didn't care for the Nazis, they were too "political" as he put it. But the man was a fighter and had gained a commission when Hitler had rearmed Germany. By the Anschluß he was in command of a company and for the invasion of France he had been given a battalion. But the man was something of an oddity among the other officers. Jürgen was given to understand that he was not looked upon fondly by the more traditional officers.

"We best be getting back to the troops Jürgen, I fear they will get up to no good in our absence."

Unteroffizier Willi Hoffmeister and his crew had assisted with loading the company's armored vehicles aboard the flatcars which would take them east. He had been surprised that most of the armored units were being moved back into Germany for refitting.

"So Willi, do you think we might get a spot of home leave?" Panzerschütze Ulrich Neuhäuser, the crew's radioman, had a sweetheart back home and was keen to get back and see her. Though he had had opportunities with the ladies here in France, he had remained faithful to his Hannelore.

"I don't know Junge, the Führer has not seen fit to advise me of the movements of our division. Hell, for all I know we may get nowhere near your hometown. Where did you say you were from?" Willi asked.

"Cottbus, well, near Cottbus. The village of Gallinchen." Neuhäuser answered.

"Cottbus? I suppose we could wind up at Wünsdorf, that's less than a hundred kilometers from Cottbus. Of course, if they send us to Munster instead?"

"Munster, in Niedersachsen²? That's a long ways from Cottbus!" Neuhäuser protested.

Gefreiter Fritz Weber, the driver, laughed and said, "Haven't you heard, Ulrich? There's a war on! Come on man, while we're preparing to smite the enemies of the Fatherland, we can't have you haring off chasing some woman!"

Neuhäuser blushed.

Flying Officer Reginald Morley entered the hospital with some trepidation, he was supposed to meet Assistant Section Leader Janice Worthington there, she was having her bandages changed, or something, Morley wasn't that clear on the subject.

"Flying Officer Morley! You needn't have troubled yourself Sir."

When Morley heard that voice, he stood up and turned to her, he must have looked somewhat shocked. The left side of her face was shrouded in bandages.

"You must find me hideous." she said, her eyes lowered.

"Not at all Assistant Section Leader Worthington, I find you most, er, ah ..." Morley stumbled over the words.

"Most what, Sir?"

"Well, damn me, fetching, you're quite lovely, bandages and all. Now, shall we go to lunch? With this horrid weather I won't be flying and I believe you have some convalescent leave, or something?"

"Just three days. The doctors say I'm fine, they just want me to take it slow for a bit. Even though Flight Lieutenant Hansen told me to take all the time I need, I'm keen to get back to work. I lost friends in that raid. I want to do my bit, I want to help you lads kill Huns. Oh dear, that's very vicious of me, isn't it?"

Morley slid his arm into hers and patted her hand, "Not at all, love, not at all. I think we'd all like to kill more Huns these days. Now let us be off, there's a lovely pub down in the High Street which I've heard actually has a source for fresh food, even meat I've been told."

"Damn it O'Donnell, you'll put on these bloody corporal stripes and you'll bloody well like it!" The voice of Flight Sergeant Clive Mackenzie bellowed causing men further down the line of dispersal huts to jump.

Willis O'Donnell, who had thought to stay in the lower ranks forever, looked at the stripes Mackenzie held in his hand, said hand being waved in O'Donnell's face at that moment. "Well, Flight Sergeant, if ye think it's for the best ..."

"Wot I think ain't got nuffin' to do with bleeding reality!" Mackenzie's voice, it was said, could be heard two counties over. "Get the bleeding things on yer uniform. TODAY!"

"SAH!" O'Donnell barked back at the Flight Sergeant.

Mackenzie's face turned beet red at being called sir. "I am not, repeat not, a bleeding officer. I WORK FOR A BLOODY LIVING!!! Now get yourself gone laddie before I overrule the bleedin' WingCo and bust you down to Aircraftman 2nd Bloody Class and put you on permanent kitchen duty. GO!"

O'Donnell scrambled out the door and headed for the hangar. D for Dog was having its engine replaced and he needed to make sure it was done properly, he supposed he should sew the stripes on first. He looked at the sky.

"Bloody weather guessers say it's going to be like this all week. Huh, probably be sunny tomorrow then, they never get it right." he muttered.

O'Donnell continued to mutter as he headed for his quarters. Though he wouldn't admit it, he was rather satisfied with the promotion, no doubt it wasn't the WingCo at all but his pilot Morley who was behind this. Heh, he probably thinks I can afford better booze now.

¹ In private, literally "under four eyes," i.e. between just two people (German)
² Lower Saxony (German)