Friday, December 26, 2014

The Last Man Killed (In the Great War)

When we lived in Belgium and traveled in northern France, we soon learned that Frenchmen had little to say about World War II. After all, we finally understood, to France, WWII consisted of two brief periods: one from the German invasion until Dunkirk and surrender, and eleven months between Normandy and the German surrender. The rest was German occupation.

The war of vivid French and Belgian memory was the "war of 14-18" as they call it. In 1980, we attended a wedding feast in Belgium, sitting across from an octagenerian who had been a young woman of twenty when the Germans (les Boches, she called them) invaded.  Her memory of those four years was as clear as if the events had happened yesterday. And she had no use for "les Boches."

Today's New York Times  has an article by Richard Rubin (author of The Doughboys) describing his search in the Argonne forest region for a monument he had seen years earlier. Finally, with the help of a local woman, he found it:

"It’s an unassuming marker, a stone just a few feet high. Someone had placed a bench next to it since the last time I’d visited, but [my guide] didn’t sit; perhaps she felt that would be irreverent. This, after all, was the very spot where the very last man was killed in the Great War: Pvt. Henry Nicholas Gunther of Baltimore, 23 years old, shot through the head at 10:59 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918."

There is surely a story here. The Armistice was to begin at 11:00 a.m. November 11, 1918. Surly the Sergeants told their soldiers to keep their heads down. Why did Gunther stick his head up? What was the German shooter thinking? What was the point of pulling the trigger?

Rubin's article is worth reading for many reasons. He tours the battlefields and is impressed with the formidable and technologically advanced German installations. "How could Germany have lost?" He asks repeatedly.

Historians still grapple with that question. But when Rubin asks local Frenchmen how the Germans lost, their answer is succinct: "Les Americains."

It is worth reading Rubin's other New York Times articles touching on the same subject:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I'm Thinking It Over

From the March 24, 1948 broadcast of THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM.

--Hey, bud. Bud.
--Got a match?
--Match? Yes, I have one right here--
--Don't make a move, this is a stick-up.
--You heard me.
--Mister. Mister, put down that gun!
--Shaddup. Now, come on--your money or your life.
--Look, bud! I said your money or your life!
--I'm thinking it over!

 Friends ask me what I am going to do about Judge Alford's dismissal of my complaint against the Town about the closing of South Avenue.

On top of that, there's the Town Attorney's threat to file a motion for sanctions and Judge Alford's e-mail declaring that he would be receptive. (The mugging).

Right now, I can only offer Jack Benny's reply.

More to follow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Are You A Real American Or Are You Jewish?

Years ago, I read a magazine article by an American journalist who had travelled to South Africa, then under apartheid. He described being asked by an Afrikaner "are you a real American or are you Jewish?"

I don't recall knowing how the writer answered the question. I don't remember the writer's name, either, but that would do me little good. I mostly can't tell a Jewish name from any other.

Growing up in Oklahoma, I knew about the Trail of Tears. When I went to the movies, I often rooted for the Indians defending their homeland and way of life against thise who would take it from them. They were "real Americans," I knew, not the white guys.

But in a real sense, everyone whose ancestors made it here, whether decades or millenia in the past, is a "real American."

Soon after Columbus stole a hemisphere from its rightful owners, the interlopers decided that only white Europeans could be "real Americans" and ruled by divine right. That was the "white man's burden," as Kipling put it.

So what if you were a Ukrainian Jew relocating with your family to the US in the 1980's? Would you feel suddenly free to assert your Jewishness?

Apparently not so much.

In a new book, “A Backpack, a Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka,” Lev Golivkin, a Ukrainian jew, relates the hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Jewish family’s escape from oppression. As it turns out, as a nine-year old refugee, he knew little about Jewishness and had little interest in finding out more.

One paragraph in the New York Times review took my breath away. Lev asked his mother why she had been so insistent about leaving the Soviet Unionfor the US, where she had only been able to work as a security guard instead of the intellectual occupation she had been trained for.

“I didn’t want to be afraid of the government anymore, to live in fear of them going to my home,” she told him. “I didn’t want to watch my daughter suffer and be denied from school because she was Jewish. I didn’t want to stand on the schoolhouse steps and worry to death about explaining to my 9-year-old son why being a Jew was bad, and why he should prepare for a long and painful life.”

What do you suppose Michael Brown's mother would say about fear, suffering and denial - or Trayvon Martin's mother?

We must think on these things.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cox v Town Of Oriental November 24 Appearance

I've been very busy the past several days preparing for my court appearance tomorrow in my case against the Town of Oriental.

The town Really, Really, Really doesn't want to actually appear at a trial and litigate the issues. They have spent gobs of money to avoid that by persuading the judge to dismiss the case. And to defend their claimed right to sell streets. It would have been less expensive just to go to trial.

I have to prepare not only to address questions of fact and questions of law, but also to defend against what one observer at last week's County Commission meeting called the "razzle-dazzle" of the attorney's presentation.

I've never been known for razzle-dazzle, so it could be an uneven contest.

Also, I don't make stuff up.

Even so, I'll be on tap at Pamlico County Courthouse at 10:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, 2014.

Come on by.

David Cox, Plaintiff

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day, 2014

The calendar says today is Veterans' Day. History says today is Armistice Day - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the guns that had roared in August, 1914 fell silent. The war that decimated Europe had come to an end not with victory, but with an Armistice. A truce.

There was still hope that this had been a "war to end wars."

But the Armistice had been a fiction. Germany was defeated, and the country was falling apart.

The failure of the Allies to insist on a German surrender was to create problems in the years ahead.

The peace was still being negotiated at Versaille. It was to be a draconian peace imposing harsh terms on Germany that, if fully implemented, would destroy the economy of Europe.

None of the belligerents was satisfied with the outcome. England and France wanted greater reparations payments, notwithstanding the damage this would do to their own economies. (John Maynard Keynes described what would happen in his book The Economic Consequences of The Peace.)

The only belligerent that achieved its war aims was Serbia (in the form of Yugoslavia) who started the whole thing in the first place.

Europe was in discord. Hungary didn't like the settlement and attacked Czechoslovakia. Poland didn't like the settlement and attacked the Soviet Union.

Russia (the Soviet Union) lost Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland, and for a time lost Ukraine. Central Asia did its best to avoid incorporation into the Soviet Union.

The United States intervened in the Russian Civil War in the Murmansk area and in Eastern Siberia. Japan tried to carve out a part of Siberia.

The Czechoslovak Legion fought its way west to Vladivistok and on by sea to the newly independent state of Czechoslovakia.

Great Britain, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Italy, Germany and the remains of Austria licked their wounds and sulked.

It was a long way from a peaceful world (I won't mention the Far East), but still the Armistice brought hope.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I wish we still called it Armistice Day.

In memory of the hope the day brought.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Back To Work

As most of you know, we had an election last week. I've been pretty preoccupied with that (as Chair of the Pamlico County Democratic Party) and haven't written much. I have a backlog of things I want to write about, and will get on with it as soon as I can.

But there are other things, as well.

On November 24 at 10:00, I will appear before a judge in Pamlico County Superior Court to present my case against the Town of Oriental in Cox v Town of Oriental, concerning the Town's closing of the end of South Avenue. Last Monday (the day before the election) I received more than 300 pages of the Town's memorandum of law supporting their motion to dismiss my complaint. That seems like a lot for a case that some commissioners have characterized as "frivolous" and that the Town's attorneys characterize as "without merit."

We'll see.

In the next few weeks, I will have comments on the recent election and observations on American Democracy, concepts of representation, economic realities and other election- related matters.

I was busy during the 70th anniversary of the near-sinking of USS Houston (CL-81) and the heroic saga of the ship's survival. I intend to tell that remarkable story.

Twenty-five years ago, the Berlin Wall was breached after standing in place for thirty years. I will have a few things to say about that. My wife and I visited (then East) Berlin in 1981. I will reflect on that experience.

As for Tuesday's election in North Carolina - it was a bad year for Democrats except in a few places. I have some ideas about that.

Then there is this thought:

Friday, October 24, 2014

October 25, 1944: Where Is Task Force 34? The World Wonders

Japan was in dire straits. Her navy fast disappearing. But it was not in disarray. Far from it. As US forces assaulted the Phillipines at Leyte Gulf, Japanese admirals planned an elaborate last-ditch gamble in an effort to disrupt the invasion.

One result, as the battle developed, was that Admiral Sprague, with a pitiful force of escort carriers ("baby flat-tops") confronted a powerful surface force of Japanese battleships and cruisers, who were first spotted as they drew within range of their big guns. The US battleships had drawn away from protecting the invasion force, chasing a toothless decoy force of Japanes carriers with almost no aircraft.

A handful of small surface ships, destroyers and destroyer escorts and a small force of carrier aircraft armed for a different mission had to do their best to keep "Taffy 3," Sprague's force of small, slow aircraft carriers alive.

Here is the story.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Election Is Here

Last Tuesday, the Pamlico County Board of Elections met to review the 32 absentee ballots by mail submitted so far. This is more than normal for the first week of absentee voting.

As we come closer to election day, various wise men and women explain various aspects of the issues at stake. I want to share some of them.

1. Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration:

"Years ago I wrote that all elections in America center on four basic narratives:

(1) The triumphant individual who overcomes huge obstacles to eventually succeed (the Right says anyone with enough guts and gumption can make it; the Left focuses on equal opportunity.)

(2) The benevolent community that joins together to achieve the common good (the Right celebrates private charities such as "a thousand points of light;" the Left emphasizes public services).

3) The rot at the top, comprised of the privileged and powerful who conspire against the rest of us (the Right focuses on government; the Left, on big corporations and Wall Street).

(4) The mob at the gates that threaten us from beyond our borders (the Right worries about foreign powers; the Left worries more about global trade).

The first and second stories are about hope; the third and fourth about fear.

In the 2014 midterm elections, the two fearsome narratives predominate. Republican’s “rot at the top” is Obama and Obamacare; Democrat’s “rot at the top” should be big corporations suppressing wages and the Right suppressing votes, but they’re not telling that story.

Republicans’ “mob at the gates” are immigrants, terrorists, and Ebola. The Democrat’s “mob at the gates” should be growing totalitarianism and intolerance around the world, but they’re not telling that story, either.

Why aren't the Democrats telling their versions?"

Gene Nichol, writing in yesterday's News and Observer is more blunt:

"Where’s the fight in North Carolina’s Democratic Party?
October 16, 2014 

It is impossible to miss the fact that an election approaches. Commercials launch from every corner and platform. You couldn’t avoid them if you tried. I’ve tried.

But despite all the money, outside influence, debates, consultants, phone calls and ads, this election, and its accompanying politics, is oddly removed from our challenges. It’s no match for our urgencies. North Carolina faces a fight for its decency. Our politicians, somehow, have largely missed the bout. We’re in the struggle of our lives. Our leaders proceed with a whimper.

The General Assembly has brutally denied health care to half a million of our most vulnerable citizens. Many will die as a result. It has required women to undergo a coerced, medically unnecessary sonogram and a Soviet-style propaganda spiel to shame them from exercising reproductive freedom.
It has enacted the largest cut to an unemployment compensation program in American history. It’s taken great chunks of our education budget – already among the worst in the nation – to subsidize unaccountable, discriminatory, often absurd sectarian schools. It has launched a regime of environmental degradation and acted to assure the presence of guns in every venue.
It has eliminated the earned income tax credit, raising the rates of low-income workers, to finance tax cuts for the rich. It has betrayed our national promise by boldly attacking the right to vote. It will now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to join a lawsuit that’s already over, to remind its base how much it detests lesbians and gay men.

Of all this, Republicans brag incessantly – declaring they’ve made “tough choices” to right the ship. Apparently it takes manly gusto to step on the necks of the marginalized. A clueless governor waved it all through. This is the worst, most destructive, record in modern North Carolina history. And we now lead the nation in a stunning effort to inter our defining aspiration to equality.
If that’s not enough to stir revolt, I’m not sure what would.

Still, most of our legislative races are low key – timid cobbling and patching. Democrats offer tepid support for education or environmental moderation or, on occasion, a woman’s right to choose. They announce that Republicans overplayed their hands, so an eventual return to power is assured. As if they care little for the destruction visited in the meantime. The fight of the century looks like a croquet match at the country club....

But North Carolina, itself, is on fire. Teachers and the parents of, and believers in, their students are intensely mobilized. Equality NC successfully presses the gay community and all those who believe in their full humanity. Planned Parenthood fights like the future of our freedom is in the balance, since it is. The AFL-CIO organizes tirelessly. The NC-NAACP is an energized and engaged activist force in every corner of the state. It makes our partisan groupings seem bloodless and lukewarm.
And, of course, the Moral Monday movement has emboldened the nation. The numbers who have taken to our streets to reclaim a humane mission for their homeland astonish. They know what’s at stake. And they act like it....

But despite the claims of its adversaries, Moral Monday is not a partisan, electoral enterprise. It doesn’t proffer and propose candidates. No politicians comprise its leadership. It is inspired by a brilliant and charismatic preacher and the hundreds of thousands who answer his call. It moves and ignites a people. It doesn’t run candidate campaigns....

Come Election Day, Carolina’s boldest hearts and brotherhoods will have to do the heaviest lifting."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What Are Republicans Up To? Tom Edsall Knows

I want to share the following quote from the New York Times columnist, Tom Edsall:

"Democrats today convey only minimal awareness of what they are up against: an adversary that views politics as a struggle to the death. The Republican Party has demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice principle, including its historical commitments to civil rights and conservation; to bend campaign finance law to the breaking point; to abandon the interests of workers on the factory floor; and to undermine progressive tax policy – in a scorched-earth strategy to postpone the day of demographic reckoning."

Edsall's column here  spells it all out.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: October 5, 1944 - Audie Murphy Gets Another Silver Star

Soldiers and sailors mostly understand that success in war involves a lot of luck. Who survives and who doesn't may depend on a slight difference in the ballistic trajectory of a warhead or the difference of a foot or so in where the soldier stands.

But some soldiers have more luck than others. Or perhaps enough skill and determination to make a difference.

Such a soldier was Audie Murphy.

Before he was a movie star, he won a lot of medals.

Here is part of his story: his second Silver Star in three days.

The Big Lie Technique in Action A Century Ago

Last August I published the link to an extract from Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August concerning the burning of Louvain in Belgium by German invaders. The loss of priceless historical documents and works of art from the incomparable Belgian library at the University should have concerned Germans in academia.

Rather than being outraged, though, ninety-three prominent German scholars, including winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke out against the charges, defended the German invaders, and blamed it all on Belgium. Their lengthy rationalization is here.

Academics, seem no more inclined than the general public to question assertions of their national authorities in time of war. We see this again and again during World War I.

But Germany's policies of  treating occupied territories severely long predated World War I and can be documented during their occupation of Samoa in the 1880's.

Was our own treatment of Native Americans more enlightened?

Not so much.

And we can all remember more recent events of misrepresentation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Antidote To Fear: FDR Address To Congress January 6, 1941

I remember 1941. My father was in the US Army Air Corps, stationed at what became McDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

When we went to a movie, the highlight was the news reels. We saw strutting German soldiers goose-stepping along the streets of conquered countries. We saw scenes of Japanese soldiers in China fighting the Chinese Nationalists. We saw scenes of London burning.

What I don't remember is fear.

If the adults around me had been fearful, I think I would have noticed.

War was in the air, but there was no sense that this was someone else's job. It was everyone's job.

A sense of the national attitude at the time was expressed in President Roosevelt's address to Congress on January 6, 1941. It is worth reading the whole speech, but here is an excerpt:

"....there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

"Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

"These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

"Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement.

"As examples:
We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.
We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

"I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call.

"A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

"If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

"The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.

"The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world.

"The third is freedom from want - which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world.

"The fourth is freedom from fear - which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor - anywhere in the world.

"That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

"To that new order we oppose the greater conception - the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Century Ago: Battles In Picardy; Beginning Of Trench Warfare

The pre-war German plan wasn't working. Belgium was supposed to have stood aside and let the Germans pass. It didn't happen.

That's often a problem with war plans. The enemy fails to cooperate.

Antwerp failed to fall on schedule. German generals kept trying to turn the cornerto surround the French. Each side just kept up the end run of the other, until, in late October, the trenches reached the North Sea.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Another Day At Arnhem: A Bridge Really Too Far - September 19, 1944; Some Heroic Tales

Anyone who has ever seen the movie, "A Bridge Too Far," knows something of the heroics of British, Polish and American paratrooperes, with very light equipment, attempting to hold a road through Holland leading to the Bridge at Arnhem.

These were very determined men. They had a job to do: hold the bridge for two days, until the tanks arrived. They did their very best, even when the tanks didn't come. They lasted four days.

In some respects, the operation was, as the Brits say, a "shambles." Still they persevered. Some say they fought for their country. Maybe so. But more importantly, they were fighting for their fellow soldiers.

None would ever to claim to be a hero. They just did what had to be done, and none fought for any kind of personal gain or glory. They had a job to do.

Here are some of the stories.

RAF aerial reconnaissance photo of the Arnhem road bridge on 19 September, showing signs of the British defence on the northern ramp and the wrecked German vehicles from the previous day's fighting.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: Another Day On Peleliu

*World War II Today: 16 September 1944: Peleliu: US Marines attack towards Bloody Nose Ridge:
It was already apparent that the landings on Peleliu were not going to be over within the four days originally anticipated. Despite the blasting that the entire island had received prior to the landings on the 15th most of the Japanese defenders had survived in their bunkers. Eugene B. Sledge, with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines 1st Marine Division, was keeping notes of his experiences in his New Testament Bible. He was later to develop it into one of the classic memoirs of the war. After being selected for officer training he and many others had deliberately ‘flunked out’ so that they didn’t ‘miss the war’. So it was that he found himself as a Private in the middle of one of the bloodiest operations in the Pacific. After a sleepless night under shellfire they were all desperately thirsty, but men fell ill after drinking from a well. When water reached them in old oil drums it proved contaminated with rust and oil. That day it would reach 105 in the shade and, as Sledge points out, they were not in the shade. Their job was to attack across the airfield:
“Let’s go,” shouted an officer who waved toward the airfield. We moved at a walk, then a trot, in widely dispersed waves. Four infantry battalions — from left to right 2/1, 1/5, 2/5, and 3/5 (this put us on the edge of the airfield) – moved across the open, fire-swept airfield.

My only concern then was my duty and survival, not panoramic combat scenes. But I often wondered later what that attack looked like to aerial observers and to those not immersed in the firestorm. All I was aware of were the small area immediately around me and the deafening noise.
Bloody Nose Ridge dominated the entire airfield. The Japanese had concentrated their heavy weapons on high ground; these were directed from observation posts at elevations as high as three hundred feet, from which they could look down on us as we advanced. I could see men moving ahead of my squad, but I didn’t know whether our battalion, 3/5, was moving across behind 2/5 and then wheeling to the right. There were also men about twenty yards to our rear.

We moved rapidly in the open, amid craters and coral rubble, through ever-increasing enemy fire. I saw men to my right and left running bent as low as possible. The shells screeched and whistled, exploding all around us.
In many respects it was more terrifying than the landing, because there were no vehicles to carry us along, not even the thin steel sides of an amtrac for protection. We were exposed, running on our own power through a veritable shower of deadly metal and the constant crash of explosions.

For me the attack resembled World War I movies, I had seen of suicidal Allied infantry attacks through shell fire on the Westem Front. I clenched my teeth, squeezed my carbine stock, and recited over and over to myself, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me…”

The sun bore down unmercifully, and the heat was exhausting. Smoke and dust from the barrage limited my vision. The ground seemed to sway back and forth under the concussions. I felt as though I were floating along in the vortex of some unreal thunderstorm. Japanese bullets snapped and cracked, and tracers went by me on both sides at waist height. This deadly small-arms fire seemed almost insignificant amid the erupting shells.
Explosions and the hum and the growl of shell fragments shredded the air. Chunks of blasted coral stung my face and hands while steel fragments spattered down on the hard rock like hail on a city street. Everywhere shells flashed like giant firecrackers.
Through the haze I saw Marines stumble and pitch forward as they got hit. I then looked neither right nor left but just straight to my front. The farther we went, the worse it got. The noise and concussion pressed in on my ears like a vise. I gritted my teeth and braced myself in anticipation of the shock of being struck down at any moment.

It seemed impossible that any of us could make it across. We passed several craters that offered shelter, but I remembered the order to keep moving. Because of the superb discipline and excellent esprit of the Marines, it had never occurred to us that the attack might fail.
How far we had come in the open I never knew, but it must have been several hundred yards. Everyone was visibly shaken by the thunderous barrage we had just come through. When I looked into the eyes of those fine Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester veterans, some of America’s best, I no longer felt ashamed of my trembling hands and almost laughed at myself with relief.

To be shelled by massed artillery and mortars is absolutely terrifying, but to be shelled in the open is terror compounded beyond the belief of anyone who hasn’t experienced it. The attack across Peleliu’s airfield was the worst combat experience I had during the entire war. It surpassed, by the intensity of the blast and shock of the bursting shells, all the subsequent horrifying ordeals on Peleliu and Okinawa.
See E. B. Sledge: With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa


Sherparick said...
E. B. Sledge's book I have come to see as the Great Book of WWII. If you have not read it, please do.
Today, September 17, is also the 152 anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.
"I had just got myself pretty comfortable when a bomb burst over me and completely deafened me. I felt a blow on my right shoulder and my jacket was covered with white stuff. I felt mechanically whether I still had my arm and thank God it was still whole. At the same time I felt something damp on my face; I wiped it off. It was bloody. Now I first saw that the man next to me, Kessler, lacked the upper part of his head, and almost all his brains had gone into the face of the man next to him, Merkel, so that he could scarcely see. Since any moment the same could happen to anyone, no one thought much about it."
Christoph Niederer, 20th New York Infantry, 6th Corps"
For us historically minded humans, with our lives of numerals that end in "0" and "5," we have 200th anniversaries of the War of 1812 (Star Spangled Banner), the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (Sheridan's victory at 3rd Winchester is on 19 September), 100th anniversary of the Great War (the 1st Battle of Aisne had ended and the Race to the Sea has begun as the Western Front stalemates), the 70th and 75th anniversaries for WWII (a six year war produces such terrible double anniversries for "live blogging"), and now the beginning of 50th anniversaries for Vietnam, and next summer the 25th anniversary for the Gulf War I, and we have been in war continuously since September 11, 2001
And we are now going to do it again, and again, and again.

KenL said...
Don't forget the section where Sledge runs into Paul Douglas. Yes that Paul Douglas. The fighting economist.

The Best Laid Plans Gang Aft Agley

Scotland votes today on the referendum to leave the United Kingdom. Yes or No?

The polls don't reveal how the vote will go. Earlier this week opinion seemed to run slightly in favor of staying in the UK.

I sympathize with the Scots who want independence. Staying in a union run by Tories isn't a great prospect. On the other hand, leaving the union while keeping the British Pound (as the proposal would do) is madness. The fate of an independent country with no currency of its own is in the hands of others. Every experiment along those lines in the past has turned out badly, including the present European experiment with the Euro.

Staying in the union is a more rational choice.

Then work to rid the UK of Cameron.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: A Bridge Too Far (Market Garden)

Imagine you are dressed in your best parachute, flying over Holland enroute to a bridge over the Nederrijn at Arnhem. 70,000 years earlier, Neanderthals had lived nearby. It seems like the war in Europe is coming to an end.
It is September 17, 1942.
Landing at Arnhem, the objective deepest into German occupied territory, were the British First Airborne Division. John Frost, commanding 2nd Parachute Battalion who were to spearhead the attack, was pleased to find that the landings had gone nearly as well as could be expected. He and the Parachute Regiment had come a long way since the Bruneval Raid in 1942. It was a warm Sunday afternoon and he reflected how the countryside and the neat Dutch houses were not so very different from the outskirts of Aldershot, home town of the British Army. He describes the early stages in the operation as the paratroopers collected together at their rendezvous point in a wood:
It was by now about half-past two in the afternoon and quite hot. The sweat was pouring off the cheerful faces of the men as they filed past me into the wood. Wireless sets seemed to be the only casualties from the drop, among them the brigade set, but fortunately a spare was available. Just as I was beginning to feel that on the whole things could not be going better, the sound of firing broke out in the woods not more than three hundred yards from where I was standing and I moved to a track junction in the middle of the wood, which was where we had planned to set up Battalion Headquarters.
A battle at our rendezvous in the woods was one of the things to be feared most of all. It was vital that we should be able to move off without delay and equally vital that our ammunition should not be expended unduly early when we had so much to do. At first it was hard to tell what the trouble was, but we didn’t let it interfere with the process of forming up and getting ready to move. The troops and anti-tank guns allotted to us arrived punctually, also most of our airborne transport, consisting of five jeeps and a bren carrier. I passed some anxious moments while they were being sorted out. All army drivers have a predilection for driving into the middle of a headquarters, thereby causing the utmost confusion, and our drivers were no exception to the rule. To the tune of vigorous cursing, order was restored.
The companies reported in over ninety-five per cent, and the firing turned out to be caused by a small party of Germans who had driven up in a lorry with one armoured car as escort. By the time I thought of moving off, the armoured car had fled, leaving the lorry and several prisoners. Soon after three o’clock a message came from Brigade Headquarters telling us to move on with all possible speed, without waiting for stragglers, and just as the message went to ‘A’ Company, who were the vanguard, firing broke out afresh from their area. However, there was no delay, and as we passed their old positions we found two lorries and three motor-cars in various stages of destruction, also an untidy little bunch of dead and wounded Germans. It seemed a pity that the vehicles were now unusable, but there had been no time to arrange a road-block.
It was however a very encouraging start. Approximately thirty Germans, including officers among them, and valuable transport, accounted for without loss to ourselves. We marched towards Arnhem. A man and a woman on bicycles made as if to ride on past the column and seemed quite surprised at being ordered to turn back.
See Major General J. Frost: A Drop Too Many

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: USS Houston At Peleliu, September 1944

USS Houston, assigned to RADM Bogen's Task Group 38.2, left Eniwetok August 30 to screen aircraft carriers against Japanese aircraft while they attacked the Palaus on September 6. The TG then provided naval gunfire support on Anguar, Ngesebus and Peleliu islands.

First wave of LVTs moves toward the invasion beaches - Peleliu.jpg

Houston provided naval gunfire support to forces invading Peleliu from 17 to 19 September. She then went to Saipan to replenish her ammunition magazines and proceeded to the vast anchorage at Ulithi, recently captured from Japan.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Oriental New Town Dock - What Might Have Been

Three years ago, the Town of Oriental submitted a grant proposal for Federal Boating Infrastructure funds to build a pier for transient recreational boats at the end of South Avenue.

The plans show six boat slips and a width on the water of 80 feet. Plenty of room for visiting boats to go around other boats to get alongside either side of the dock.

Just take a look here, download the proposal, and compare the proposal to what we have.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Senate Race As Of Early September

PEC - Princeton Election Consortium; Dkos - Daily KOS; WaPo - Washington Post; 538 -Five Thirty-Eight; Upshot - New York Times

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Col. Wilkerson: The Truth

Col. Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Powell's Chief of Staff during the George W. Bush administration is the epitome of the military staff officer. He is honest, forthright, even blunt. But he's not afraid to tell the truth.

Here's what he says about his party:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Another "Chiffon de Papier" A Century Later?

On August 4, 1914, Germany attacked neutral Belgium. Great Britain protested that the invasion violated Germany's treaty obligation to respect Belgian neutrality. Germany's Chancellor replied that the treaty was only "a chiffon de papier" - (a scrap of paper). That same day, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany.

On Friday, speaking to a group of Russian youth at a camp, Vladimir Putin said, "We must always be ready to repel any aggression against Russia and (potential enemies) should be aware ... it is better not to come against Russia as regards a possible armed conflict." In the same appearance, he claimed that Russia is improving its nuclear arsenal.

December 5, 1994, when Ukraine, which then held a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons, agreed to join the non-proliferation treaty, the Presidents of Ukraine, Russian Federation and United States of America, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom signed three memorandums (UN Document A/49/765) on December 5, 1994, with the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Through this agreement, these countries (later to include China and France in individual statements) gave national security assurances to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The Joint Declaration by the Russian Federation and the United States of America of December 4, 2009 confirmed their commitment.

Highlights of the 1994 Declaration:

"Welcoming the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon State,

Taking into account the commitment of Ukraine to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time,

Noting the changes in the world-wide security situation, including the end of the cold war, which have brought about conditions for deep reductions in nuclear forces,
Confirm the following:

1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine;

2. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;

3. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind;

4. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear
weapons are used;

5. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm, in the case of Ukraine, their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclearweapon State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an attack on themselves, their territories or dependent territories, their armed forces, or their allies, by such a State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State;

6. Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America will consult in the event a situation arises that raises a question concerning these commitments.

This Memorandum will become applicable upon signature.
Signed in four copies having equal validity in the Ukrainian, English and Russian languages.

For Ukraine:
(Signed) Leonid D. KUCHMA

For the Russian Federation:
(Signed) Boris N. YELTSIN

For the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland:
(Signed) John MAJOR

For the United States of America:
(Signed) William J. CLINTON

 OK. Russia has clearly violated provisions 1, 2 and 3 of the memorandum, and therefore provision 6 should be invoked.

Last week's meeting in Minsk accomplished little, but it was apparently not called forthrightly in connection with alleged violations of the 1994 memorandums.

It may be time.

We don't need another "chiffon de papier" like the one in 1914.

This is serious stuff.

Here is what I said last March about the problem.

And here's what I said in April.

Now Ukraine is apparently going to formally request admission to NATO.

I hope there is some serious conversation going on behind the scenes.

Where have all the flowers gone?

When will they ever learn?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Canadian Forces Clear Up Russian Confusion About Ukraine

Here is a link to a Canada NATO tweet clearing up Russian confusion about Map of Ukraine and Russia.

Geography can be tough. Here’s a guide for Russian soldiers who keep getting lost & ‘accidentally’ entering

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Russian Corporal Of Airborne Forces Captured And Interrogated In Donetsk Oblast Of Ukraine

This is a link to a YouTube video of a Russian Corporal being interrogated by Ukrainian military intelligence after capture near Donetsk August 25.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Seventy Years Ago: Paris, August 24, 1944 - The Night Before Liberation

Matthew Halton was a Canadian reporter travelling with General Le Clerc’s tanks that were approaching Paris. During the day he was to broadcast:
"Wherever we drive, in the areas west and south-west of the capital, people shout: “Look, they are going to Paris! ” But then we run into pockets of resistance here or there and are forced to turn back. It’s clear that we are seeing the disintegration of the German Army — but we never know when we are going to be shot at.
"There are still some units of the German Army, fanatical men of the SS or armoured divisions, who are willing to fight to the last man. They are moving here and there all over this area, trying to coalesce into strong fighting forces…
The people everywhere are tense with emotion. Their love of freedom is so very deep, and a nightmare is lifting from their lives; and history races down the roads towards Paris."
The first of LeCerc's arrived in the capital at 11 o’clock that night. It was clear that Paris would be liberated the next day.

French radio announcer Pierre Crénesse announced over the newly liberated French public radio:
"Tomorrow morning will be the dawn of a new day for the capital. Tomorrow morning, Paris will be liberated, Paris will have finally rediscovered its true face.
"Four years of struggle, four years that have been, for many people, years of prison, years of pain, of torture and, for many more, a slow death in the Nazi concentration camps, murder; but that’s all over…
"For several hours, here in the centre of Paris, in the Cité, we have been living unforgettable moments. At the Préfecture, my comrades have explained to you that they are waiting for the commanding officers of the Leclerc Division and the American and French authorities.
"Similarly, at the Hotel de Ville the Conseil National de la Résistance has been meeting for several hours. They are awaiting the French authorities. Meetings will take place, meetings which will be extremely symbolic, either there or in the Prefecture de Police — we don’t yet know where."
 It would be a sleepless night in Paris.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quote Of The Day

The clock on life is ticking. If you wait for life to be fair you may be waiting until life is over.
 - Charles M. Blow

A Century Ago: Germans In Lorraine

Today's New York Times on line publishes the account of a young German soldier's experiences with the German Army in Lorraine August 22, 1914 and afterward.

The story is told by an American woman living in Paris whose grandfather was among the invaders of the little village of Mercy-le-Haut. But she also tells the story of what happened to the villagers when the Germans came.

One villager, Marthe Mandy, recounted her mother’s tales of those years as if she had lived it all herself. Her eyes welled up as she told of an uncle she never met who was executed by the Germans that night. The uncle, Léon Mandy, was 17. He had been ordered to gather the bodies of nine of his neighbors who died as the Germans stormed the village and to bury them in a mass grave. When Léon had finished his grim task shortly before dawn, he was shot.

Many accounts of World War I claim that the war was fought in a chivalrous fashion at the outset, but became more inhumane as time went by. Tell that to the French and Belgians along the frontier! The invasion did not seem so humane to them.

Why did the Germans shoot Leon Mandy?

They shot countless Frenchmen and Belgians in the early days of the war, sometimes for being impolite to the invaders.

What is the moral of the story?

In the end, Germany lost. A quarter century later they attacked again and lost again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Glory To Ukraine

On February 23 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, unknown artists decorated the memorial to Soviet soldiers in the national colors of Ukraine in honor of the Ukrainian revolution. They painted the slogan "Glory to Ukraine."

Russians object to it as "vandalism."  No, it is irreverent humor, not vandalism.

Three cheers for irreverence!

A Century Ago: Belgian Populace Impolite To Invading Germans - Germans Offended And Execute Resisters

Today Economist Brad Delong publishes Barbara Tuchman's account of Belgian resistance to German invasion of 1914 and German countermeasures:

"The Belgians even more than von Bülow tried von Kluck’s temper. Their army by forcing the Germans to fight their way through delayed the schedule of march and by blowing up railroads and bridges disrupted the flow of ammunition, food, medicine, mail, and every other supply, causing the Germans a constant diversion of effort to keep open their lines to the rear. Civilians blocked roads and worst of all cut telephone and telegraph wires which dislocated communication not only between the German armies and OHL but also between army and army and corps and corps. This “extremely aggressive guerrilla warfare,” as von Kluck called it, and especially the sniping by franc-tireurs at German soldiers, exasperated him and his fellow commanders. From the moment his army entered Belgium he found it necessary to take, in his own words, “severe and inexorable reprisals” such as “the shooting of individuals and the burning of homes” against the “treacherous” attacks of the civil population." Tuchman, Guns of August.

It is worth reading the entire excerpt: Germans Retaliate.

In 1980 at a wedding dinner in Belgium, we sat across from a woman in her 90's who had been about 20 when the Germans invaded. She called them "le Boches." And had never come to view Germans as allies.

German ill treatment of civilians in invaded countries was nothing new. In 1889, Germany intervened in a civil war with Samoa. When opponents of their Samoan puppet fought back, Germany issued a proclamation:

In conformity with section 58 of the German Military Laws, the following offenses will be punished by death:
1. Any person or persons who will purposely assist the enemy, or attempt to injure German troops;
2. Any person or persons who will lead the enemy for military purposes against Germans, or confederated troops, or will mislead German or confederated troops;
3.Any person or persons who will venture to give information to the enemy, either verbally or in writing, about matters which are connected with the waging of war, and all who may act on behalf of such persons;
4. Any person or persons who will instigate or incite German troops against law and order, by any means, as, for instance, informing them of proclamations of the enemy, etc. etc;
5.In not very serious cases the offender will be punished by imprisonment, not less than 10 years or for life.”

Thus did Germany seek to win the hearts and minds of the Samoans. And the Belgians.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 1920: Famous Day In History

On August 18, 1920, Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Yeah, remember ladies, at one time, you were not allowed to vote!!! Think about it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Century Ago: Germany Invades Belgium

On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia mobilizes. Following events came on hot and heavy. July 31, Germany warns Russia not to mobilize. Russia responds they are only mobilizing against Austria. August 1, Germany declares war on Russia. August 2, Germany invades neutral Luxemburg. August 3, Germany declares war on France. Neutral Belgium denies Germany permission to pass through to the French border. August 4, Germany attacks neutral Belgium, Great Britain protests, Germany replies that the treaty guaranteeing Belgian neutrality is just a chiffon de papier. The United Kingdom declares war on Germany.

Thus a week after Austria declares war on Serbia, war is well underway on the Western Front.

August 4 Germany begins its siege of Belgium's fortresses at Liege. Surprisingly effective Belgian defense slows German advance. Germans do not capture Liege fortresses until August 16.

August 16-19, Serbs defeat Austria Hungary at the Battle of Cer.

August 17, Russians invade East Prussia. Two weeks into the war the Eastern Front begins to take shape.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stonekettle Station: Reader Links and Open Thread Station: Reader Links and Open Thread: This page is now permanently pinned to the main page of Stonekettle Station. It's your place to add a link to another site. You may post...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fifty Years Ago: Tonkin Gulf

Last week I neglected to call attention to the fiftieth anniversary of the supposed night time attack by North Vietnamese PT boats on US Navy destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy. Here are my recollections of that night.

The attack apparently never happened. Even so, the Johnson administration used it to justify the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Friday The Thirteenth Actually Falls On Wednesday This Month

Every now and then, Walt Kelly was right.

On Knowledge And Wisdom

"Supposing is good, but finding out is better." - Mark Twain

For some reason, newspapers and blogs today are full of discussions about knowledge, facts, wisdom, stupidity, and how to tell the difference.

Nicholas Kristoff: Don't dismiss the humanities:

Noah Smith: I'm with stupid - and Paul Krugman:

Simon Wren-Lewis: Policy-Based Evidence Making, a play on the opposite side of evidence-based policy;

Joshua Smith: EPI And AEI Agree: Cutting Jobless Benefits Did Not Boost Employment; [the case of North Carolina figures in this discussion].

Friday, August 8, 2014

How Can The Town Board Nullify A Vote Without Holding Another Public Meeting?

I hope today's report on Town Dock is erroneous:

"Oriental’s Town Board meets for a quick meeting on Tuesday August 12 at 5:30p to take another vote on who will be appointed to the newly formed Harbor Waterfronts Committee. The vote the Board took on August 5, has since been nullifed because the Commissioners did not have before them all the names of residents willing to serve. Town Hall says that was “due to an unfortunate administrative oversight…several candidates were left off of the ballot issued to the Commissioners for voting.” There will be 11 names on the ballot Tuesday. The 5 who were elected in the now nullified vote were: Art Tierney, Ed Bliss, Lisa Thompson, Bill Hines and Gerry Crowley. They remain on the ballot along with, Dave Brookman, Elizabeth Buckman, Bob Dillard, Jim Edwards, Steve Leech and Pat Stockwell."

"Has since been nullified" by whom?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Does Ukraine Have A Chance?

The current edition of New Yorker magazine has a very sobering article on what is happening in Russia:

For anyone interested in following the twists and turns of Russian developments since the breakup of the Soviet Union, it is worth reading the entire article. It explains a lot of what has gone wrong.

This is a story with no heroes.

Cox v. Town Of Oriental: Update

A little over a month ago, I reported that the NC Court of Appeals upheld the Pamlico Superior Court's dismissal of my complaint against the Town over the Town's closing of Avenue A.

It was a unanimous opinion of a three-judge panel, which meant I have no right of appeal. I did retain the right to petition the NC Supreme Court for a discretionary review. The Supreme Court very seldom grants such petitions.

I have decided not to petition the Supreme Court in this case.

My second complaint against the Town, for the closing of South Avenue, is very much alive. The South Avenue complaint was stayed by Judge Nobles, pending results from the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals made it clear that their opinion applies only to the Avenue A complaint and not to the South Avenue complaint.

The opinion upheld the dismissal on the sole grounds that I did not complain that the Town's action injured me personally. I will have more to say about that issue as my South Avenue complaint proceeds.

Family Memories

We've been a bit busy this past week. Liz and I and my sister in Apex traveled to Charlotte over the weekend to join our first cousin to celebrate the life of my aunt, Mary Katherine [Scroggins] Alderson, originally of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It was a time to share memories of times past and growing up in Oklahoma and California, and recollections of family members who have passed on.

Sad but comforting to share this time with family.

Monday, July 28, 2014

100 Years Ago:Franz Joseph Declares War On Serbia

July 28, 1914, Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, responding to Serbia's answer to Austro-Hungary's ultimatum concerning the assassination of the heir to the throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Even at the time, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany thought the Serbian response had "removed all pretext for war." By the standards of the day, the assassination plausibly served as a causus belli, but even so, there were dangers.

Justified or not, the Austrian declaration of war comes down as one of the most disastrous decisions of all time by a major state.

Here is the declaration:

"To my peoples! It was my fervent wish to consecrate the years which, by the grace of God, still remain to me, to the works of peace and to protect my peoples from the heavy sacrifices and burdens of war. Providence, in its wisdom, has otherwise decreed. The intrigues of a malevolent opponent compel me, in the defense of the honor of my Monarchy, for the protection of its dignity and its position as a power, for the security of its possessions, to grasp the sword after long years.

"With a quickly forgetful ingratitude, the Kingdom of Serbia, which, from the first beginnings of its independence as a State until quite recently, had been supported and assisted by my ancestors, has for years trodden the path of open hostility to Austria-Hungary.

"When, after three decades of fruitful work for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I extended my Sovereign rights to those lands, my decree called forth in the Kingdom of Serbia, whose rights were in nowise injured, outbreaks of unrestrained passion and the bitterest hate.

"My Government at that time employed the handsome privileges of the stronger, and with extreme consideration and leniency only requested Serbia to reduce her army to a peace footing and to promise that, for the future, she would tread the path of peace and friendship. Guided by the same spirit of moderation, my Government, when Serbia, two years ago, was embroiled in a struggle with the Turkish Empire, restricted its action to the defense of the most serious and vital interests of the Monarchy. It was to this attitude that Serbia primarily owed the attainment of the objects of that war.

"The hope that the Serbian Kingdom would appreciate the patience and love of peace of my Government and would keep its word has not been fulfilled. The flame of its hatred for myself and my house has blazed always higher; the design to tear from us by force inseparable portions of Austria-Hungary has been made manifest with less and less disguise.

"A criminal propaganda has extended over the frontier with the object of destroying the foundations of State order in the southeastern part of the monarchy; of making the people, to whom I, in my paternal affection, extended my full confidence, waver in its loyalty to the ruling house and to the Fatherland; of leading astray its growing youth and inciting it to mischievous deeds of madness and high treason.

"A series of murderous attacks, an organized, carefully prepared, and well carried out conspiracy, whose fruitful success wounded me and my loyal peoples to the heart, forms a visible bloody track of those secret machinations which were operated and directed in Serbia.

"A halt must be called to these intolerable proceedings and an end must be put to the incessant provocations of Serbia. The honor and dignity of my monarchy must be preserved unimpaired, and its political, economic, and military development must be guarded from these continual shocks. In vain did my Government make a last attempt to accomplish this object by peaceful means and to induce Serbia, by means of a serious warning, to desist.

"Serbia has rejected the just and moderate demands of my Government and refused to conform to those obligations the fulfillment of which forms the natural and necessary foundation of peace in the life of peoples and States. I must therefore proceed by force of arms to secure those indispensable pledges which alone can insure tranquillity to my States within and lasting peace without.

"In this solemn hour I am fully conscious of the whole significance of my resolve and my responsibility before the Almighty. I have examined and weighed everything, and with a serene conscience I set out on the path to which my duty points. I trust in my peoples, who, throughout every storm, have always rallied in unity and loyalty around my throne, and have always been prepared for the severest sacrifices for the honor, the greatness, and the might of the Fatherland. I trust in Austria-Hungary's brave and devoted forces, and I trust in the Almighty to give the victory to my arms."


Thus with flowery language of the nineteenth cenury did the Emperor Franz Joseph initiate the destruction of his own empire and that of his allies, Germany and the Ottomans. The war also destroyed the Tsarist Empire and seriously damaged the British and French Empires. On the whole, it was a disastrous introduction to the Twentieth Century.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ukraine, Russia, Malaysia: Fools Act And People Die

I just listened to the tapes released by Ukraine of separatist militiamen talking to Russian military officers about the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner. It helped that Ukraine provided a transcription in Russian, but the Russian was clear and not hard to understand. I didn't get a hint of remorse or even much excitement when they reported it was a civilian passenger liner.

Here is a link. It is worth listening to, even if you don't understand Russian. Pretty cold-blooded.

The missile used was apparently a Russian SA-11 GADFLY, a medium-range, semi-active, radar-guided missile using solid-rocket propulsion that provides defense against high-performance aircraft and cruise missiles. The SA-11 represents a considerable improvement over the earlier SA-6 GAINFUL system, and can engage six separate targets simultaneously, rather than the single target capability of the SA-6. Single-shot kill probability are claimed to be 60-90% against aircraft, 30-70% against helicopters, and 40% against cruise missiles, a significant improvement over the SA-6. The system is more mobile, taking only about 5 minutes to move from road march to engagement. The new system also offers significantly greater resistance to ECM than previous systems. The SA-11 system is comprised of the TELAR (9A310M1), Loader/Launcher (9A39M1), SNOW DRIFT Surveillance Radar (9S18M1), and Command and Control vehicle (9S470M1).

The Mach 3 semi-active homing 9M28M1 missile has a maximum slant range of 28 km and a minimum range of 3 km. It is capable of engaging targets between altitudes of 30 and 14000 m and can sustain 23 g maneuvers. The solid fuel missile is 5.6 meters long with a diameter is 0.4 m and a wing span is 1.2 m. The launch weight is 650 kg, which includes a 70 kg HE warhead with a 17 meter lethal radius.

More than enough to destroy a civilian airliner flying under civilian air traffic control using ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) procedures at normal operating altitude flying straight and level.

Ultimately, Russia is responsible for this shoot-down.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Friday The Thirteenth

Friday the thirteenth comes on Sunday this month.

I am indebted to the late Walt Kelly for this insight into the calendar.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cox v. Town of Oriental: Bad News

Nearly a week ago, I checked the NC Court of Appeals web site and read the bad news. The Court of Appeals upheld the decision of Pamlico County Superior Court to dismiss my case. The Court's reason: I lack standing.

It isn't bad news because I have lost. It is bad news because the public has lost control of a public asset. This is about the future of the Town of Oriental. And the rule of law.

The case isn't necessarily over. I have almost a month in which to petition the NC Supreme Court for a hearing.

I will consult with my attorney and others to help me decide.

Stay tuned.

Seventy Years Ago: July 6, 1944 - Saipan

The Navy aviators had decimated Japanese Naval Air in the "Marianas Turkey Shoot" and sunk three of Japan's remaining carriers. The Marines and Army troops were still slugging it out against surviving Japanese on the Island of Saipan. At stake: an airfield within range of Japan's home islands. At least within range for the Army Air Foce's new B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers.

Japan determined to fight to the last man and the last civilian. The battle was brutal, the ultimete outcome certain.

Here is the story.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day, 2014 - Croaker Fest inOriental

It was a glorious day in the Town of Oriental yesterday - the morning after Hurricane Arthur swept through. A bit of debris on the ground, mostly cleaned up by noon. The festival was on!

Once upon a time in America, in small towns and large, all across the land, citizens would gather each year for a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. In classrooms, students memorized and recited the preamble. The words were familiar to everyone:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." When I was in grade school, I was required to memorize the preamble. I can still recite it.

Some of us memorized the next passage: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...."

How does government demonstrate the consent of the governed? By holding elections.

Independence Day is about elections.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Kinder, Küche, Kirche

Kinder, Küche, Kirche:* Goal of SCOTUS?

* English translation: "Barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

100 Years Ago: Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Assassin's Route, Sarajevo, June 28, 1914

June 27, 1914 was the day the final steps in the plot were taken. Serbian intelligence knew when the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his Czech wife would arrive at the train station, the route and time table for the motorcade and who would be riding in each automobile. To make it easier, the Archduke's convertible top would be down so the crowd could see the heir to the throne and his wife.

It was a suicide mission. The six assassins spaced along the route carried a mixed assortment of weapons: some carried hand grenades, others had bombs. Four carried Browning .38 caliber automatic pistols manufactured in Belgium. Each carried cyanide pills.

Otto von Bismarck, dead since 1898, once remarked that the whole of the Balkans was "not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier." He also observed that  "If there is ever another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans."

The planning and execution of the assassination by Serbian conspirators, directed out of Belgrade by Serbian military intelligence and coordinated with nationalist groups such as Young Bosnia, the Black Hand, and Narodna Odbrana (People's Defense) soon degenerated into a fiasco,

The first assassin didn't lift a finger as the Archduke's automobile rolled past. The second assassin also failed to act. The third assassin threw his bomb at the Archduke, but it missed and exploded under a following car. The assassin swallowed his cyanide pill and jumped into the river to complete his suicide, but the river proved to be only four inches deep at that point. The cyanide only induced vomiting. He was captured.

The procession sped away towards the Town Hall leaving the disabled car behind. Cvjetko Popović, Gavrilo Princip, and Trifun Grabež, the final three assassins, failed to act as the motorcade passed them at high speed. The Archduke gave his expected speech at Town Hall, then changed his itinerary to go to the hospital and check on the welfare of those injured in the bomb blast.

Meanwhile, nineteen year old Gavrilo Princip, who had missed his chance, wandered off in search of lunch. Princip was standing in front of Schiller's Delicatessen near the Latin Bridge, when suddenly the Archduke's car stopped almost in front of him. The driver, confused by the change in plans, had stalled the car and was having trouble getting it started.

Princip stepped forward and fired two shots from a distance of about 5 feet with his Belgian-made .38  Fabrique Nationale model 1910 semi-automatic pistol. The first bullet wounded the Archduke in the jugular vein, the second inflicted an abdominal wound on the Duchess. Princip was immediately arrested.

The "damned silly thing in the Balkans" had happened.

A month later, July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mississippi Black Voters Give Primary Victory To Republican Senator

In case you hadn't been following the Republican primary in Mississippi for US senate, it was this year's most interesting election.

In Mississippi's May primary election, neither of the two principal Republican candidates for senate, incumbent Thad Cochran, who was running for his seventh term, or challenger Chris McDaniel, his Tea Party challenger, received 50% of the vote. Mississippi is one of only eight states in the union that requires a runoff election in such a case. (North Carolina is one of the eight, but NC sets the thresh hold at 40%).

Mississippi is also a state that allows any registered voter to vote in any party's primary. That set the stage for what followed.

Thad Cochran openly courted the votes of democrats, including African Americans, and they turned out in droves.

Why would African Americans vote for a Republican? They saw it as in their own interest. Why would unionized shipyard workers in Pascagoula vote for a Republican? Same reason.

Not only did Thad Cochran's organization reach out to Democrats (only those who had not voted in the Democratic primary could vote in the Republican runoff), Chris McDaniel had alarmed them with his calls for austerity, his vicious attacks on President Obama, and his open embrace of Mississippi's past. “It’s time to defend our way of life again,” McDaniel asserted.

This year's fiftieth anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the killing of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner reminded any who had forgotten, just how Mississippi defended its "way of life" in times past.

Mississippi's African American voters are among the most sophisticated in the country. They understand that elections are about their interests, and they weren't interested in having a US senator openly talking about "defending our way of life" again.

Not so long ago, such talk got Mississippi senator Trent Lott in trouble.

There may have been other issues in play. Veterans in Mississippi liked McDaniels' belligerent talk about war. Apparently few of them had any idea that Thad Cochran had served in the military. In fact, I met Thad Cochran at the University of Mississippi when we were both in the Naval ROTC there.

Interestingly, both Thad Cochran and Trent Lott had been cheerleaders at Ole Miss.

I don't expect African American voters to turn out for Thad Cochran in the general election. Their interests would be better served by a democrat in that office. But realistically a democratic victory is unlikely.

Mississippi is more complicated than people give it credit for.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Seventy Years Ago In Europe: First German Buzz Bombs Hit London

Since 1936 Germany had been working on various guided bombs. The first flying prototype of a flying bomb, the forerunner of our later cruise missiles, was completed. The problem: it was radio controlled, which endangered the control aircraft. Back to the drawing board. The answer: give up some accuracy by using a regular autopilot, and simplify the propulsion by using a pulse-jet engine.

A week after the allies landed at Normandy, Germany fired the first V-1 "buzz bomb" at London.

Was it effective? Somewhat. Was it decisive? No.

Here is the story.  It certainly caused anxiety in London, as did the later V-2 ballistic missile. But it was too little, too late. And nothing could halt the Soviet juggernaut moving inexorably toward Berlin.

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1975-117-26, Marschflugkörper V1 vor Start.jpgGerman fantasies of victory were fading fast.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Combat Air Patrol: June 1944 Saipan

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What's going on here? USS Manila Bay, a US Navy escort carrier with a deck load of US Army P-47 fighter planes, attacked by Japanese aircraft east of Saipan on June 23, 1944. The story gets better. Here is what the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships says:

"On 7 May 1944 MANILA BAY sailed for overhaul at Pearl Harbor, where she arrived 18 May. After loading 37 Army P-47 fighters, MANILA BAY sailed 5 June for the Marianas. Steaming via Eniwetok, she reached the eastern approaches to Saipan 19 June. During the next four days she remained east of the embattled island as ships and planes of the Fast Carrier Task Force repulsed the Japanese Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and inflicted staggering losses on the enemy, thus crippling the Imperial Japanes Navy's air strength permanently. On 23 June, MANILA BAY came under enemy air attack during refueling operations east of Saipan. Two fighter-bombers attacked her from dead ahead, dropping four bombs which exploded wide to port. Intense antiaircraft fire suppressed further attacks, and as a precautionary and rather unusual move which Admiral Spruance later characterized as "commendable initiative," MANILA BAY launched four of the Army P-47s she was ferrying to fly protective CAP until radar screens were clear of contacts. The Army fighters then flew to Saipan, their intended destination. She launched the remaining planes the next day and returned to Eniwetok, arriving 27 June. After embarking 207 wounded troops, MANILA BAY departed 1 July, touched Pearl Harbor the 8th, and reached San Diego 16 July 1944."

Seventy Years Ago: USS Houston (CL-81) In The Marianas

When last we checked on USS Houston, she was on her way with two other cruisers of her cruiser division, two battleships and seven destroyers enroute to Majuro Atoll. Since that time, the ship has been busy.

On 31 May she joined Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force to take part in the invasion of the Mariana and Palau Islands. Departing on 5 June 1944, Houston screened carrier strike units which pounded the Mariana Islands on 12–13 June and the Bonin Islands on 15–16 June.
While Admiral Richmond K. Turner's amphibious forces landed on Saipan on 15 June, the Japanese prepared to close that island for a "decisive" naval battle. The fleets approached each other on June 19 and engaged in the largest aircraft carrier battle of the war. Four large air raids attacked the American fleet, but the US fighters, with some help from anti-aircraft fire from Houston and the other screening warships, destroyed the attacking Japanese formations.

Mitscher's ships and aircraft were mostly new, the aircraft were improved, and the  pilots and crews well-trained. Mitscher had at his command 7 fleet carriers, 8 light fleet carriers, 7 battleships, 8 heavy cruisers, 13 light cruisers, 58 destroyers, 28 submarines and 956 carrier aircraft. Against this attack force, Japan dispatched 5 fleet carriers, 4 light carriers, 5 battleships, 13 heavy cruisers, 6 light cruisers, 27 destroyers, 24 submarines, 6 oilers, ~450 carrier aircraft and ~300 land-based aircraft.

The outcome: Japan lost 3 fleet carriers sunk, 2 oilers sunk, 550–645 aircraft destroyed and 6 other ships damaged. Americans called the battle "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot", because so many Japanese aircraft were destroyed with only small American losses.  Japan's naval air power never recovered from the battle. The invasion was secured, though Japanese defenders continued to put up a strong defense.

This was  Houston's initiation into combat.