Saturday, September 30, 2023

No Fiction, Book Reports!

Taking a break from Korea, because I can, that's why. Anyhoo, I've been reading the book above for the past couple of weeks. (What? Geez Sarge, it's only 250 pages! Well, with keeping the blog up and running and working at the paying gig, I don't have as much time for reading as I used to.)

A superb account of the Battle of Tsushima in May of 1905. The book also talks of the voyage of the Czar's Baltic Sea fleet from the Baltic to the Sea of Japan. An amazing voyage which ended with the destruction of that fleet at the aforementioned battle. Poor bastards had lost their Far East fleet already so they had to send the Baltic Fleet, which the Japanese also destroyed.

They were making their way to Vladivostok, they never made it. A fascinating account, well told in only 250 pages.

The Russo-Japanese War, of which Tsushima was a part, established Japan as a power to be reckoned with, something we'd have to deal with 36 years after Tsushima.

Admiral Togo's flagship, Mikasa
I highly recommend the book, which I got from our very own John Blackshoe. Thanks, JB!

Now after my trip to Antietam (a birthday gift from The Nuke), I've been haunted by that battle. When a friend of mine over on the Book of Faces mentioned the book above, I had to go out and get it. (Figuratively speaking of course, I got it on Amazon.)

It's a hefty book, 976 pages, but from the snippets I read, well worth a place in my library.

Really looking forward to reading this!

In other news ...

Another reason you're not getting another episode of fiction is that The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe were out to dinner Friday night at a rather nice Portuguese place over in New Bedford. Antonio's Restaurant to be exact, which a colleague of mine recommended to me. (Saturday is The Missus Herself's birthday, so some friends bought us dinner in honor of that event. So a two-fer, great food, and it was free!)

The paella was encroyable, or perhaps I should say that in Portuguese, incrível. No matter the language, it was delicious. Lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, beef, chicken, and of course saffron rice. No veggies in this one, truth be told I didn't really notice.

So I'm stuffed. We had the paella for two, which actually would feed our entire family. (I should have listened to my colleague who said, "Get the paella for one, there's enough for two, trust me." On the upside, I get to have paella again this weekend!)

Anyhoo, that's all for now. Back soon, maybe we'll be in Korea still, I don't know. I'm feeling a bit shellshocked over this series!


Friday, September 29, 2023

The Hill - Hell on Earth

Sauer was halfway to the squad's machine gun position when the first Chinese artillery round impacted about 20 meters behind the trench line. As he hugged the earth, knowing that more would follow, Sauer had the odd thought that he still thought in terms of meters, not yards.

The next round was much closer and the explosion seemed to push him away from the shelter of the bottom of the trench. It was almost as if Mother Earth was trying to throw him up into the fragment-filled air outside of the trench.

Sauer was crawling as fast as he could in the direction of his 1st Squad's MG team, but it was slow going. The ground was shaking and heaving as the artillery continued to fall all around his position. For a moment he stopped crawling and buried his face in the dirt, his arms covering his helmet.

Another explosion, this one too close. His ears were ringing and it felt as if a weight was across his legs. He panicked at the thought of being buried alive.

"Come on Freddy, move your ass!"

He heard the voice, dull and as if from a great distance. Two sets of hands were pulling him forward, his legs had been buried when the section of trench just behind him had collapsed.

"I'm okay, I'm okay," he managed to say, shaking himself free of his rescuers. He was amazed that he still held his rifle in his hands.

Corporal Brett Worthington was pulling him forward, "Come on Freddy, we need you on the gun!"

Pvt. Dana Parsons was screaming in pain and in fear. A nearby hit had thrown him back from the machine gun and blasted dirt and stones into his face. He was blinded and the panic was starting to overwhelm him. The he heard the .30 cal stop firing.

"Shit, shit, shit ..." he stuttered then he began yelling, "Hey, I need someone on the gun, I can't see! I can't see!"

Someone pulled him backwards and told him to shut up. He heard someone yelling, he realized it was the German guy, Sauer. Damn, where'd he come from?

"Schnell, wasche ihm das Gesicht ab! Scheiße! Water, wash his face off! It's just dirt in his eyes!" Sauer realized that he had broken into German, it happened in moments of extreme stress.

"Help me get this body out of the way!" he yelled at the nearest man.

"Shit, it's f**king Smitty!" the man yelled when they rolled the body away from the gun.

"He's dead, if you don't to wish to join him, grab that ammo belt and feed me!" Sauer was frantically checking the gun, other than some dirt in the feed, which he cleared, it seemed to be okay.

When the gun was loaded he looked down the slope, it was crawling with Chinese infantry. They had followed the barrage in.

"That's it Nate, rounds complete. The arty is going for the Chicom guns, we're on our own now." Hernandez dropped the radio handset and turned to head out of the bunker.

"Where the hell are you going?"

"We've still got our mortars, the batteries in the radio are dead. I'll get them going. We're in the shit now, Cap!"

Paddock looked through the observation slit, lots of smoke, very little visibility to the front, so he grabbed his carbine and stepped out of the bunker.

"Jesus, it's f**king freezing," he hissed as the cold air hit his lungs. Then he was in action, the Chinese were almost in the trench.

The company mortars started banging away, dropping their rounds within 50 yards of the trench line. As Hernandez made his way back to the CP, he heard the sound of a carbine firing, nearly as fast as the man holding it could pull the trigger.

Coming around a corner, he saw the CP, Captain Paddock was reloading his weapon and didn't see a Chinese soldier rushing towards him, bayonet at the charge.

Hernandez snapped off a round, it missed but it startled the enemy soldier. The man turned towards Hernandez, sheer hatred painting his face. Before he could act on that hatred, Paddock shot the man in the torso from point blank range.

As the soldier went down, Hernandez put a round into him as well. That snapped the man's head back throwing his soft winter cap, and most of his brains, back against the trench wall.

"Jesus, Sir, I can't leave you alone for a minute!" Hernandez had grabbed a spare battery for the CP radio down at the mortar pits. He handed it to Paddock.

"Fix the radio, I'll watch your back."

The Chinese tried one more push, but as they did so, the sun began to rise. The enemy knew that with the dawn, the American Air Force would make its presence felt.

The bugles sounded, and the enemy tide slowly ebbed back down the slopes of the bloodied hill. The snow leading up to the crest had been churned into a dirty brown, that near the top had been stained red with blood.

The platoons began to report in, Hernandez had his notebook out as Paddock relayed the casualty figures to him -

"First platoon, three wounded in need of immediate evac, six men wounded but ambulatory, seven dead, including the platoon sergeant and one of the squad leaders."

"Second platoon, seventeen wounded, twelve dead, the damned Chinese nearly overran them, it was hand to hand for a while before Third Platoon counterattacked with a squad and drove the bastards back down the hill."

"Third Platoon ..." Paddock paused, Mike Masterson had been a good friend.

"Seven dead, including the platoon sergeant and the platoon leader ..."

"Masterson?" Hernandez stopped writing, looking at Paddock in shock.

"Yeah, seven dead, twelve wounded, one of 'em isn't going to make it unless we can get his ass down the hill ..."

"SHIT!" Paddock slammed the handset down and buried his face in his hands, "The guy just died, make that eight dead."

Hernandez got up and placed a hand on his Captain's shoulder, he picked up the handset. Paddock shrugged it off and went outside, "I need a smoke, Top."

"This is Top, who's this?"

"Hey Top, it's Winthrop. L.T.'s f**king dead, man, S/Sgt Henderson just f**king died, Jesus it's a mess over here, Top. F**king Second Squad's CP looks like a slaughterhouse."

"Calm down, take a deep breath, Bobby. You've gotta pull yourself together. Who's left of your squad leaders?"

"Uh, lemme think. I don't know where Thornton is, hell I've got fifteen guys with me, Parsons is half-blind, Sauer and Johnson are on our last MG, covering the front of the line. We need reinforcements, man!"

Paddock came back in, he looked better, "Top, get over there and sort things out. Runner from battalion just told me that Baker Company is moving up out of reserve, we're going back down the hill. To regroup battalion says, with what I asked them. Jesus why did I stay in the f**king Army?"

Corporal Brett Worthington met Hernandez as he came into the area belonging to Second Squad, "Ain't much left Top, the survivors are all shell shocked, worse thing I've ever seen, and I was on the f**king 'Canal.¹"

Hernandez followed Worthington, it looked like he and Winthrop were the only unhurt noncoms. "We're going back down the hill, into reserve, as soon as Baker relieves us. For now you're the man in Third Platoon, Bobby." He said, looking at Winthrop.

"Brett, you've got first squad ..." he was looking around to see who else he knew who might hold the platoon together for the next day or so.

Making a decision he said, "Sauer, you're a corporal as of right now. Parsons, you gonna live?"

Dana Parsons looked sheepishly at the ground, "Yeah, I think so Top."

"Good. Winthrop, who else ..."

"Parsons is good on the gun, he panicked a bit, but so would I if I thought I was blind and every Chicom in the world was attacking my position. Hell, give him what's left of his own squad, at least until we can get another Sergeant."

Hernandez nodded, "Parsons, you're a Corporal, for now. All right Third, get your shit together, we're packing up soon. Ah, here's our relief now."

A platoon from Baker was entering the trenches, a number of the men looked aghast at the devastation the Chinese attack had left behind.

Hernandez had seen it all before, but it made him sick to his stomach. He wondered if the Goddamned politicians of the world would ever get sick of trying to take what wasn't theirs. Damn them all he thought to himself, damn them all to Hell.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Hill - Night Terrors

A pair of M-40 155mm Gun Motor Carriages of Battery B, 937th Field Artillery Battalion, providing
fire support to U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division, Munema, Korea, 26 November 1951.

Sauer was nervous, not about combat, he'd seen plenty of that, but a lot of the men in this unit were very green. Most of them were new to the army, quite a few draftees among them. There were only a few WWII vets, like Hernandez and apparently the company commander. They were among the very few that had seen combat. Other than Sauer himself.

"Hey Fred, can you see anything down the slope? I swear there's someone there. Straight in front of us." Private Jeb Turley was one of those green troops.

Sauer scanned the slope to their front, he guessed that Turley had been staring at a clump of low brush about 50 meters below. "Don't look directly at something, Jeb. Look to one side or the other, if you stare at something long enough in the dark, your brain will be convinced that it's moving."


"Trust me, I remember my first night on the line. You get used to it." Or you died, but Sauer didn't say that out loud.

"Was that in Normandy or were you in Africa?" Turley was getting too chatty, it was nerves, but he needed to quiet the lad down.

"You need to be quiet, Jeb. Sound travels a long way at night, especially in this cold."

And in truth, it was getting colder.

"Cap, wake up." Hernandez was gently shaking Captain Paddock's shoulder. The man had been dead on his feet so Hernandez had convinced him to put his head down for an hour or so.

"Huh, where ..."

Sitting up, Paddock removed his gloves to rub the sleep from his eyes. It felt like he'd been asleep for only a few minutes, even though he figured it had been at least an hour. Hernandez wouldn't wake him unless it was important.

"What's up, Top?"

"I just got off the radio with battalion, here's our artillery concentrations for tonight. Seems we lucked out, we've got two batteries of self-propelled 155s on call."

Paddock took the proffered notebook and scanned it by the dim light of the nearby battle lamp. "Nice, this'll give the Chicoms some fits, won't it?"

"Sure will, according to ..." Hernandez paused, "Ah, shit, you hear that?"

Paddock cocked his head, he did hear it, in the distance the two men heard the tinny sound of a Chinese bugle. Followed by others.

Many others.

1LT Masterson came down the trench line, he wanted to make sure the men were ready.

"Don't fire until I give the order. Have your grenades ready. Aim at your targets."

One of the Privates looked at his buddy, "How the heck are we supposed to see what we're shooting at?"

PFC Mac McLendon just shook his head, "Don't worry Joey, just wait."

The noise emanating from the bottom of the hill was getting very loud, and closer. The bugles were unnerving to some of the new men, their sergeants kept telling them that a bugle couldn't kill them. But still ...

Sauer felt the lieutenant pat him on the back, he heard a muffled, "Stay alive, Freddy, I'm gonna need ya."

He waited, it had been a while since he'd held a rifle in his hand about to go into combat. The one he was holding had been shooting at him the last time he'd been in battle. Now he was carrying the Garand and truth be told, he really liked this rifle. But he wondered, could he still take the stress of battle?

Multiple streaks lifted into the air from behind their position, a series of muffled pops ensued, then the battlefield was lit by the strange swaying lights of parachute flares.

Sauer looked down the hill, there were scores of Chinese infantry advancing up the hill. He had the momentary thought that they would soon be swept away by this human tide. Then he settled his cheek into the stock of his rifle.

And waited.

Captain Nate Paddock was watching down the hill, shortly after the flares lit the landscape, he turned to his 1st Sergeant, "Concentration Able Foxtrot."

Hernandez spoke into the radio and within moments the screech of outgoing rounds crested the hill and began to explode on the slope below. Hernandez winced as he heard the screams over the roar of  the explosions. Men were dying out there.

Sauer heard his lieutenant bellow, "Open fire boys, let the bastards have it!"

All along the line the men opened fire, carbines and Garands popping away over the roar of the artillery. With the Chinese going to ground, or simply being blasted to atoms, the officers felt that the muzzle flashes wouldn't give much away. They did, however, keep their machine guns quiet. Those the Chinese would pay attention to.

Sauer carefully picked his targets, the first round he fired was at a man who was running up the hill, ignoring the explosions around him. Either an officer or a sergeant from the way he kept beckoning to the rear, urging his soldiers forward into the maelstrom.

Sauer couldn't tell if he'd hit the man or not as an artillery round detonated at the same time, right over the man and his comrades, as he felt the kick of his rifle.

Damn it these fellows were brave, they kept coming on, heedless of the devastation in their ranks. As the flares began to flicker out another round were sent aloft. In the flickering shadows of the dying flares, Sauer spotted another man, this one carrying a rifle.

The man looked towards the American positions, then looked back down the hill, he decided that advancing was better than falling back into the bombardment behind him. Sauer aimed, then squeezed the trigger.

This time he knew that he had killed a fellow human being. The Chinese soldier stopped in mid-stride, a look of surprise on his face, very clear in the new round of flares. Then he fell to the ground in a heap.

As Sauer looked for another target, there were many, he heard the machine guns open up. Things must be getting desperate.

1LT Masterson had decided that the damned Chinese were close enough, no grenades just yet, he'd use his machine guns to sweep the enemy from the field. As he was directing the fire of one gun, he felt a tug on his field jacket.

Then he felt an enormous weight fall upon him as he dropped to one knee. "Bobby, I'm hit."

Sergeant Bobby Winthrop turned from the machine gun, as he did so he said to the crew, "Short bursts, kill 'em all."

He looked for the lieutenant, where the hell was he? He'd heard the man yell his name As he moved back, his knee pressed into something soft at the bottom of the trench. He looked down.

"Ah Jesus, L.T."

The bugles sounded again, the Chinese were starting to fall back, they had lost too many men and their attack was breaking up into small groups of men trying to advance but mostly dying in clumps.

"Hold your fire!" the cry went up and down the line.

In the Company CP, Captain Paddock watched the Chinese falling back, he turned to Hernandez, "Concentration Baker Hotel."

Hernandez spoke into the radio. Moments later the artillery lifted and then shifted fire to the base of the hill, hoping to catch the Chinese as they tried to reinforce and regroup.

It did.

"Freddy." Sauer heard his Americanized name and turned, it was Sergeant Winthrop.

"L.T. Masterson's dead. I gotta take the platoon, take the squad, will ya?"

Sauer was puzzled by that, he thought Winthrop didn't like him, always referred to him as "that f**king Kraut."

"Me Sarge?"

"Yeah you. You're the only f**ker in the platoon with any combat experience other than me. Hell, you survived Dubya Dubya Two being on the wrong side ..." Winthrop paused.

"Jesus, Sauer, just get down to the machine gun and take charge. The guys are expecting you."

Winthrop then slapped Sauer on the shoulder and headed to the platoon CP.

The Chinese did not come back up the hill for a long while. Every man in the American line wondered, "Was that it? Is that all they've got?"

Then in the distance, well behind the Chinese lines, a number of men saw flashing lights. Some wondered what it was, the few combat veterans in the company immediately began screaming at the men to take cover.

Seems the Chinese had artillery too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Hill - Old Adversaries

Their job to blast Communist-held positions in Defilade, troops of Heavy Mortar Co., 32nd Regiment, 7th Division, move into position in a pass between Punggi and Tanyang, Korea. 8 January 1951. Korea. Signal Corps Photo #8A/FEC-51-787 (Elkins)
Ducking his head to get through the low opening to 3rd Platoon's CP, 1Sgt Hernandez looked around and saw who he was looking for, "Afternoon, L.T., got some mail for you guys."

1st Lieutenant Mike Masterson looked up from the novel he was reading, "Hey Stephen. Mail? Damn that's nice, the guys were starting to think the Army had forgotten where we were."

Handing over the sack, Hernandez looked out of the observation slit down towards the Chinese lines, "Cap'n thinks they'll hit us tonight."

Masterson nodded, "Yep, I think the same. I checked to make sure we're tied in with Charlie and that the guys have deep enough holes. I got a feeling it's going to be really chilly tonight."

"Yup, battalion thinks it'll get well below zero."


"You guys have enough grenades? We have a shitload at the company CP if ya need more."

"I won't say no to more. I also had the MG teams strip all the tracer from their belts, no sense telling the Chicoms where our heavy weapons are."

"I know the guys like to know where their rounds are going, but yeah, it's telling the baddies, 'We're here, shoot us here.' At night the grenade is your friend."

"Gimme a couple of guys to go back and get some more grenades. Is your new guy available? Sauer I think Nate said his name was."

"Yeah, I'll get him. Moses, Jacobs, head over to Company, Top says they have spare grenades, bring us back as many as you can carry. Tommy, head down to 2nd Squad, tell Freddy to come up to the CP."

As the men detailed set off on their tasks, Masterson turned to Hernandez again, "Sauer says you and Nate captured him and his outfit near the end of the war."

"Yeah, that's what Nate said. We had a Kraut battalion, about company strength by then, surrender to us. Their Skipper said he was tired of fighting for Hitler and so were his men. It took a while to make it happen, but they surrendered to us. Saved a few lives on both sides that day."

"Would you recognize Sauer if he was there?"

"Dunno, Mike. It was five years ago, there was a bunch of Germans we processed that day. I remember their commander, and one or two of their other officers. So maybe, or more likely, it depends."

"I get ya, ah, here's the man himself. Come on in Freddy."

The man who entered the bunker had a hard-bitten look about him, like he'd seen way too many things in his life, not many of them pleasant. Hernandez recognized him immediately from that day back in '45. He'd never caught the man's name, but he remembered that one German lieutenant with the German battalion commander. Guys like this were hard to forget.

Hernandez stood up, "Herr Leutnant."

Sauer looked confused at first, who was this sergeant speaking to him in German. Then his face tightened up, he knew this man. Sauer stood to attention.

"Herr Hauptmann, it's good to see you again. We're on the same side this time."

"I'm a 1st Sergeant now, cutbacks after the war you know. What's your name again, I don't recall ..."

"Sauer, Manfred Sauer. The guys call me Freddy, I'm very American now."

Hernandez noticed only a slight accent, "How long have you been in the States?"

Sauer thought a moment, "Three years, we were released from the POW camp in the middle of 1947. I went home to Saxony, there was nothing there for me. So I managed to come here, well, to the United States early in 1948. I got here, to Korea, just a couple of weeks ago."

Hernandez nodded, then spoke, "Where are my manners, I'm Stephen, Stephen Hernandez. I figured you'd be all done with war. You guys saw some real shit. I remember you had the Frozen Meat medal on your tunic, how long were you in Russia?"

Sauer remembered the cold, and the death, "Too long, Sergeant, far too long."

The two men sat in quiet for a few moments, then Masterson cleared his throat, "I need to check the lines again, you don't need to wait for me, Stephen. Freddy, go ahead and keep an eye on the radio while I'm gone, okay?"

"Roger that, L.T." Sauer nodded at his platoon leader.

"Your English is really good, Manfred. You don't mind if I call you Manfred, do you?"

Sauer grinned, which startled Hernandez, Sauer's face lit up and the years seemed to fall away from his weather-worn face. "You outranked me in the last war Sergeant, you outrank me in this one as well, you can call me whatever you like. As long as it isn't 'Freddy,' that name is easy for the guys so I tolerate it, don't really like it much."

Hernandez smiled, "Call me Stephen, we're pretty informal around the Company. If battalion visits we get a bit more formal, but in the field, we go by first names, mostly. That okay with you, Manfred."

"You sound almost German the way you pronounce that."

"I was born in Spain, we moved to the States when I was a kid. We still speak Spanish at home, so I guess I have a knack for languages. I still can't get over how good your English is."

Sauer grinned again, "I had a good life in Iowa, made some good friends. Your farmers aren't much different than the ones I grew up around in Saxony. I was trying to get a pig farm going when the Communists attacked Korea, things were slow, so I enlisted. I saw Communism in Russia, I hate it, so I will fight it as long as I am able."

"Pig farmer, eh? Our neighbors in Colorado raised pigs, not for market, just to eat. Is that what you did before the war?"

"Yes, my grandfather owned the farm, my mother and I worked it. My father was killed in the first war. After my release from the camp, I went home. Goddamned Russians everywhere, the farm was now a collective, my grandfather had died near the end of the war, old age. My mother ..."

Sauer took a deep breath, "Had been raped and murdered by the Soviets. There was nothing left for me in Germany."

Hernandez looked at Sauer for a long moment, then he stood up, "I've gotta get back to the Company CP, glad you're with us Manfred. Stay alive, okay?"

Sauer nodded, "You as well, Stephen. Keep your head down tonight, those bastards are coming up the hill after dark, I can feel it in my gut."

Hernandez slapped Sauer on the shoulder, "Hals und-beinbruch, Leutnant. Bis morgen.¹"

Sauer nodded, "Gleichfalls, Herr Hauptman, bis morgen.²"

After Hernandez left, Moses and Jacobs returned to the bunker, each had a rucksack with grenades,

"D'ya know where the Lieutenant wants these, Freddy?" Moses asked.

Sauer stood, "Yeah, distribute them equally among the squads. L.T. has me watching the radio, so deliver these grenades, then come back here."

"Sir." Jacobs said as the two men departed.

After leaving the bunker, Moses shot Jacobs a look, "Bob, you just called a buck-ass private, 'Sir,' what's up with that?"

Jacobs looked back at the bunker, "I dunno Jackie, guy seems like an officer, ya know? Guy in 1st squad says Freddy was a Kraut officer back in Dubya Dubya Two."

"No shit?"

"No shit. Now let's get this shit delivered so we can get back inside the bunker, it's starting to get colder."

Both men saw the sun heading down to the horizon, neither man was looking forward to the night.

¹ Break a leg, Lieutenant. See you in the morning.
² You as well, Captain, see you in the morning.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Hill, Early Afternoon

Pfc. Miles Adair of Leon, Io, (left) and Sgt. Norbert Brzycki of Chicago, Ill., infantrymen of the 5th RCT, dig in on a hill captured from the Chinese Communist forces overlooking the Han River, Korea, as UN troops continue their offensive in the area. 7 February 1951. Korea. Signal Corps Photo #FEC-51-3582 (Chang)
1Sgt Hernandez rushed into the low-slung bunker holding Baker Company's command post, a flurry of Chinese automatic weapons fire filled the air over the trench he had just vacated.

"Forget to duck, Top?" Captain Nate Paddock chuckled as his former commander gathered his wits about him.

"I tell ya what, Nate, those Chinese can't hit shit at this range."

"Whaddaya got, Top?"

"2nd Platoon is improving their positions, dumb bastards didn't dig near deep enough. Ground isn't frozen yet but another night like last night and it won't be long before we'll need a backhoe to dig any deeper. I chewed L.T. Carlson's ass about it, he's seen the light now."

Paddock shook his head, at the end of World War II, Stephen Hernandez had been a Captain commanding a company, Paddock had been a 1st Lieutenant commanding a platoon in Hernandez' company. Now he was the company commander and Hernandez was his 1st Sergeant, he felt bad about that. It didn't bother Hernandez at all.

"Hell, Nate, you're a ring knocker, I'm just a volunteer from the boondocks of Colorado. It makes sense to keep you guys in, me I'm ready to head back to civilian life!" Hernandez had told Paddock that over a beer in Germany.

Both men had stayed on with the Army, still in the Big Red One, still in Germany, until late in 1948. At that time Paddock had rotated out to attend an Army school back in the U.S. and Hernandez had resigned his commission and headed home.

Hernandez had shown up at the Army Recruiting office two days after the North Koreans had invaded the Republic of Korea. Though he had been an officer, he was sent to boot camp like any other volunteer, as a buck Private.

During training he had been recognized by a number of soldiers as being from the 1st Infantry Division from World War II. Hernandez wasn't big on blowing his own horn, but men who knew him realized that a valuable combat veteran was wasted in the insanity of Army boot camp.

Two weeks after reporting for Boot Camp he'd been on a train to an advanced training course, as a Staff Sergeant. After training, he was assigned to the 5th Regimental Combat team in Hawaii. Which he soon discovered, was actually in Korea. So to Korea he went as a Master Sergeant.

Now he and his friend from the big war were together again, fighting the Communist Chinese now, not the Germans.

"Did you get the mortar teams moved?" Paddock asked as he looked down the hill towards the Chinese lines.

"Yessir, they bitched about it but when I explained that the Chinese had probably nailed their old positions down by now and probably had their artillery dialed in on them, they were happy to displace."


"Well, they didn't bitch quite as much."

"Hey, remember back in the big one when all those Krauts surrendered to us?"

"Yeah, a whole battalion, well, company-strength at best, but a battalion on paper. What about it?"

"There's a replacement in 3rd Platoon claims he was there."

"Seriously? Whose platoon?"

"He was a Kraut officer."

"Get out."

"No, seriously. He emigrated to the States in '48 after getting de-Nazified. Moved to Iowa, was trying to start a pig farm up there, something he did before the war."

"Why the Hell is he in the Army? He could have stayed put, being a former German soldier and all."

"Sumbitch volunteered."

"Huh. What's his name?"


"In 3rd Platoon, eh?"

"Yup, Masterson says the guy is a natural soldier. Wants to make him a squad leader or something."

"Well, if L.T. Mike Masterson speaks highly of him ... I need to go down to 3rd Platoon anyway, I'll check this new guy out."

Paddock turned and grabbed a small sack from the rear of the small bunker, "Take this with you, 3rd's mail."

"They'll appreciate that."

"Yup, tell Mike that I expect we'll get hit tonight. Make sure those boys are dug in and make damned sure they're tied in with Charlie Company on their left."

"Roger that, Boss. Back in a flash."

"Keep yer f**king head down, Stephen!"

"Yessir, absolutely Sir."

With a nod and a wink, 1Sgt Hernandez headed out the way he came in. This time the Chinese didn't fire, probably some overeager kid had opened fire when he'd seen Hernandez' helmet for a split second.

"Come on kid, shoot this way again, we need to know where you bastards are at!"

Monday, September 25, 2023


 Learned a couple of Life Lessons this past week. Unfortunately, they're not "Good" lessons.  Good in  "Hey, I won a bazillion dollars!" sense.  So, no, not that type lesson.

As most of you Readers are aware, my Sister passed away almost exactly 3 months ago.  She had lived in our old house on our property for a few years.  We'd had a hail storm a week or so before and her roof had been damaged.  We'd scheduled a roofer to fix it.  That morning, he called to say he was on his way. I let Lisa know and she asked if he'd need to come in the house because she wasn't feeling well and was going to lay down and take a nap.  That was all via text.  I didn't think anything of it.  Until I got the call from her roommate that afternoon saying that she had died.


When we started doing the required "Things" after that, we did a very serious look through the house to try and find a will or other instructions. Nada.

So, I called our lawyer to see what we needed to do.  Folks, the process is called "Intestate".  She also advised me that the process "could take a while".

Nothing has happened yet.  The county lawyer appointed to the job is supposed to contact witnesses who knew Lisa and find out about any people that might be entitled to her assets.  We provided her a list of potential people that met the requirements quite a while ago.  Like almost 3 months.

None of the folks on her list have been contacted yet.

Frustrated, I emailed our lawyer last week and asked what the ramification would be if I just said "To hell with it, I quit!.

Almost immediately after I hit send, I got a call from our lawyer.  She apologized and said that when she said "could take a while" she meant that the process has been known to take up to a year!


So,  my advice to all y'all is "If you truly hate your family with your whole person, don't take out a will.  Not having one will make their lives truly a living hell."  

I was talking to my Brother a while ago after her death.  He asked me how things were going.  I explained all the above to him.  He got real quiet. At that point, I think Lisa put a thought in my brain.  I asked him if he had a will.

"No, I didn't want to think about it."

I may have used some strong language in addition to the "Get a Will" statement.

He called back a week later saying he'd had one written, signed and filed.

So...If you haven't got a will (or a trust) get one!

Mrs. J, Lisa and LJW in happier times


On to the next subject.

I've written several posts about vacations we have taken, literally around the world.  Pictures are required of course.  Many of those included these folks.

 Yep, those are our winemaker friends, Gary and Kathy.  Lately, Mrs. J has been working very hard on setting up an Australia & New Zealand cruise for next year.  The Kids, Grand kids (including, expected next month, Grandson #1) as well as Gary and Kathy all had ponied up the down payments. Excitement was mounting.

Then a couple of weeks ago, we got this email.

Initial prognosis wasn't good but Doctors said he could expect to live for 6 months or so.

He passed away Wednesday morning.

Well... scheiße!

Suffice it to say I'm having a very hard time staying positive right now.  Projects in the wood shop help, so I've been busy.

And to end on a high note, the Pixlar triangle I mentioned last week is complete.  We've scheduled another work visit to College Station week after next.  Delivering it will be fun.

 On a similar note, Miss B received a chair that can be attached to the table.  She can now be part of the discussion.

After a slow (very early) start, she's progressing nicely and her personality is a hoot!  Now if we can just get Dad, Mom and Daughter together in the same part of the world...Well, things will be better.

Life's short. Live it while you can!

Peace out y'all.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Running On Empty

Photo by form PxHere
The drought continues (it's actually raining today, Ophelia is lurking out there) but my creative side is nowhere in sight. I've looked for it but just can't find it in myself to write anything.

Tried forcing it, an absolute no go, the tank is empty.

I think I'm burned out.

When I think of the past upon which the story is based, I can't focus, I'm thinking too much. Overthinking it, as it were. I'll start to research a particular facet of history, something to hang the plot on, and I drift down another path, someplace I'm not ready to go yet, if ever.

Too much in my head overcomplicates things, I guess.

So it's gonna be a while longer. Might give you a vignette or three here and there, just to keep my hand in, but the second part of the prequel is stalled. Much like the Germans outside of Leningrad in early '42.

Sigh, we'll get there. But it's going to be a while longer, gomen nasai.

In other news ...

Finally got around to seeing the movie Devotion ...

Wow, damned good. I'm sure Hollywood gooned up some of the details but overall it was impressive. Though the aerial sequences flying out of "Quonset Point" bothered me to no end. Where they were flying looked nothing like the area around Quonset, nor did it bear any similarity to Narragansett Bay. (The movie was filmed in Georgia.)

That aside (most movie goers no doubt have any idea of what Little Rhody looks like from the air) it was a superb movie. Even though you know how it ends, you still hope.

In remembrance of this Naval Aviator ...

Ensign Jesse L. Brown
United States Navy
Ensign Brown served in Fighting 32, my daughter LUSH's first operational squadron, VFA-32. That makes Ensign Brown family in my book, RIP Sir.

Now if I could just find my copy of Adam Makos' book!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Ireland Recap

Dublin Bay and the Irish Sea above Howth outside Dublin

So I've been meaning to get this post out for a couple weeks. Teased it a bit before I left for Ireland but haven't had the time to put my thoughts together about it. I don't want to make this just some sort of "What I did on my vacation" post, but that's sort of inevitable since I did go on vacation, and that is what I'm writing about.  I've always felt a bit of a connection to Ireland since my Great Grandparents emigrated from there at the end of the 19th century, my skin and freckles clearly show that tie, and because I can speak with a credible Irish brogue.  It really was a great trip, not only to celebrate our 30th anniversary, but to visit some family in Dublin, and to see the incredible beauty that Ireland has to offer.  Of course we saw all the main tourist attractions on our 13 days in the country, including the Cliffs of Moher (stunning), some semi-famous beer place (for strength), the city of Galway (cool college town), St Patrick's Cathedral, and plenty of pubs in Dublin and elsewhere.  The thing about St Patrick's Cathedral*, which was on my list of must-see places and where I wanted to attend mass, is that it's not a Catholic church!  I thought to myself, what could be more Irish Catholic than St. Pat's in Dublin?  But nope- the Brits have it.  Apparently it was Catholic from its start in 1191, but has been an Anglican cathedral since 1870.  This goes back to when Catholicism was almost outlawed in the country and many Catholic churches were co-opted by the Church of England.  Catholic churches were also not allowed in any of the big towns.  Once that restriction was lifted, they still weren't allowed on the main streets. The Catholic cathedral in Dublin is actually on a back street and it's really nothing to look at.  It's sort of in a state of disrepair, and there were some homeless types hanging out on the front steps.  In fact the steps were gated off to prevent loitering and not really accessible.  When we walked by it was outside of mass times so the whole place was locked off anyway.  That brings me to something else I wanted to mention, about how England has been a thorn in the side of the Irish throughout history,  and in the opinion of several Irish we spoke to, remains so today.  I knew about "The Troubles," and Ireland's fight for independence, but learned that their struggle continues today, although less violently.

Here's where I wanted to post a video to depict the troubles, but Blogger is being a feckin arsehole so click here.  It let me add the one at the end, but Blogger is a moody sumbich.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

          St. Mary's Cathedral Dublin (Source)

While England had their boot on the neck of the Irish for many many years, they still keep close hold on Northern Ireland.  Yes, it's a separate country, but one that should probably be united with the rest of the nation for a few reasons; those are genetically, geographically, and principally.  While some residents of N. Ireland consider themselves British, the majority say they're Irish, and the majority are Catholic.  Geographically they are one nation as well.  One could argue that Wales should clearly be part of the UK, and Scotland too, seeing how they are both part of a contiguous continent (Great Britain), but Ireland?  Not so much.  The sun set on the British Empire long ago, but they maintain a tight grip on what's left.  In Northern Ireland, the Protestants are not the majority, and Sinn Féin, the political arm of the IRA that is now peaceful, have the majority in their Parliament and they still push for independence.  It may happen in my lifetime, but my wife's family there is not so confident.  They hope it will happen during their children's lifetime though.  It won't be a violent fight for independence, but it will likely be achieved through referendum and the political process.  Apparently, England would like to be free of Northern Ireland as it costs the UK quite a bit to administer and Brexit messed things up.  However, there are diehards up there that wish to remain part of the UK, and they even consider themselves English, as opposed to their Irish blood.

In that last post I mentioned a football game- Navy vs. Notre Dame.  There was a huge block party for the fans on Dame Street in Temple Bar, Dublin.  Every shop had ND signage and were clearly catering to those who traveled over.  The ND band and cheerleaders even showed up.   

I was fortunate to get tickets to see Navy play Notre Dame, which was fun, despite it being a severely one-sided affair.  See the history section at the link if you want more info.  There was even a 4-ship flyover of some Ospreys.  Not sure where they came from though.  It's more of a friendly scrimmage than a fierce rivalry.  Notre Dame showed up with 40,000 fans.  I'm not sure there were too many people from Ireland there, but many thousands of Irish descent of course.  Navy had their fans, but not nearly as many.  My wife wasn't all that interested so I brought her cousin's husband.  He doesn't know a lot about American Football, but he is a big sports fan, and saw the Bears play at Soldier field back in the 80s.  It has been played 3 times in Dublin, and is always considered a home game for Notre Dame. Throughout the two weeks there we saw countless Notre Dame fans sporting their clothing with ND prominently displayed. We didn't see too many Navy fans, although there were a couple on our tour which started the next day.

    Me and Stan

While the game was in Aviva stadium, Dublin's other stadium, Croke Park was visited briefly, actually only a drive-by, which is where the Sunday Massacre (Sunday Bloody Sunday) occurred.  It's far bigger than it was back in 1923, but that day still figures prominently in the minds of the Irish.  One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with my wife's cousin and her family.  They are big into sports, as are many others in Ireland, and their daughter even plays on the Irish National Gaelic Football team.  During COVID when all the pubs were closed, but outdoor sporting events were still scheduled, they were unable to watch their teams play.  Undaunted, they built a pub in their backyard.  It was once just a storage room or office, but when pubs started closing down due to lack of business, they were able to pick up plenty of pub furniture and equipment, including a gigantic TV screen, all which helped them build their own.  That was the place I poured my first Guinness, impressing Stan whose own pour wasn't as good.

My first Guinness on the island

Mindi and Cora, my wife's cousin

They say that Guinness taste better in Ireland, and that is no myth. I am not a big Guinness fan, although drinking it there seem to help me enjoy it all the more. I taste tested some back here and it's just not the same. The Guinness tour was a lot of fun. I learned that Sir John Guinness was very forward thinking, even negotiating a 9,000 year lease on the property.


Guinness's Harp (left) and Trinity College's Harp (Ireland's Harp) (right)

That Harp has always been considered the symbol of Ireland, but it wasn't modernized and officially registered until 1984, facing opposite of the Guinness Logo to avoid any copyright infringement.  I would have thought that the most Guinness is brewed and drank in Ireland, but it turns out Nigeria consumes more (UK and Cameroon at the top and bottom of this short list with the US at #2).  Part of the exhibit at the factory, which is primarily a museum to the history of the brew, showed commercials from around the world, and from that you can tell they are heavily invested in Africa.  I also learned that the Guinness family is quite charitable, with lots of college scholarships funded, and other philanthropic activities that date back to its early days, including homes and transportation for its workers, good pay and benefits, land and parks donated back to the city, and more.  The gift shop was huge, fun to go through, and it took some of my money (2 new pint glasses!)

It was an 8 day (10 with the first evening and last breakfast) coach bus tour from Collette.  While I was encouraged by others to save the money and do it myself, leaving the driving to a professional for the first trip allowed us to relax, have everything pre-planned and taken care of, and see the countryside which I wouldn't necessarily been able to do driving on the left on narrow roads.

Trinity College, the Book of Kells, Limerick, the Waterford Crystal Factory (2 new bourbon glasses!), Kilkenny (great pubs), Killarney (more great pubs), the Ring of Kerry, were some sites we experienced.  The pubs are wonderful.  I mentioned them in my last post, but they are an institution there.  I never go to bars here, but there it's just different.  

Cliffs of Moher

My new doggie friend who had just finished running some sheep around.

The Irish Countryside along the Ring of Kerry

At Kilbeggan's Distillery

Inside St. Pat's

Inside the Long Room at Trinity College, the ancient library where that harp is.

A wee Irish Couple**

Cabra Castle where we spent our last night

The Itinerary

All in all, an outstanding trip to a beautiful country.  And we promised ourselves and her cousin that we'd visit again.  We'll probably do it on our own though, maybe spending time in N. Ireland next go-round, and visit Edinburgh since I am Scottish.  Emphasis on the ish

*There's another St. Pat's Cathedral, one that is Catholic, but it's in Armagh in N. Ireland of all places.

**Her maiden name is Fahey (Fahy in Ireland) and her ancestors were from Galway.  My family were Feeney which hailed from that green blob.  Ancestry declares me as 90% Irish, 9% Scot, and 1% Finn and Eastern European.