Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birhday Baby........

Today's birthday of note:

One of North Carolina's FINEST contributions to the civilized world, Ms. Ava Garner was born on this date in 1922. Another classy lady with a core of steel.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Paint It Black.............

Now THIS is an eclectic historical date to observe.

On this day in 1888 the artist Vincent van Gogh while suffering the effects of some type of mental illness, took a straight razor and cut off a part of his left ear lobe. He then wrapped it in a piece of newspaper and gave it to a prostitute named Rachel with the warning, "Keep this object carefully"

Even today, no one is sure what type of mental illness van Gogh suffered from. There have been over thirty theories as to what was the cause, running from lead poisoning to bi-polar disease. The only thing for sure is that out of his "madness" van Gogh created some of the most visually stunning pieces of artwork ever created.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Out Damn Standing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I normally don't have a lot of use for Hollywood types, most seem to be self-centered narcissistic dweebs. There are a few exceptions such as Gary Sinise and others but not a heck of a lot of them. That's why it delights me to discover another actor that does and believes in the right thing. David Spade is a stand up guy.

Mr. Spade this morning walked into the Phoenix AZ. Police Department and gave them a check for $100000.00 to buy semi-automatic rifles. He had heard that the officers in the Phoenix P.D. were running into more and more perps who were armed with long guns and were feeling more than just a bit under gunned. The Officers were requesting for permission to get rifles to carry in their patrol cars even if the officers had to come out of their own pocket to pay for the weapons. He did this without any fanfare or a heck of a lot of press coverage.

This isn't the first time that Mr. Spade stood up and did the right thing. In the past year he gave $25000.00 to the family of a Phoenix Officer killed in the line of duty.

Well done Mr. Spade!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hoorah For The Bonnie Blue Flag That Bears A Single Star...

I am currently in the middle of my traditional Christmas cookathon but thought that I would stop to observe two significant historical events that happened on this date.

In 1803 the Federal Government did something RIGHT for once with taxpayer money. Paying around $20.00 a square acre to Napoleon Bonaparte for 1 MILLION square miles of territory. The Louisiana Purchase gave the young United States the Mississippi River as well as a path to the Spanish West. The beginnings of Manifest Destiny started on this date.

In 1860, the sovereign state of South Carolina believing what was written in the Declaration of Independence, declared that the "ties that bound them together" with the Federal government were severed. By this act of secession, events were started that plunged this nation into a four year long Civil War, the effects of which are to a degree are still felt today.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Couldn't Make This Stuff Up.......

On this date in 1996 the school board in Oakland, California after much deliberation, designated "Ebonics" as a language.

I just wonder if they provide interpreters to help the students who have difficulty communicating?

Know Ye Jehovah, Our God Is.......

On this date in 1620 102 "pilgrims" on the ship Mayflower landed at what is now modern day Plymouth, Mass.

If you have never been to the recreated Plimouth Plantation I recommend it highly. It is one of the premiere living history sites in the U.S. They use the "first person" method of interpretation and when you speak to anyone in the recreated village you will be talking to someone from the 1620s.

I was up there on opening day a few years back. In was in March and the weather was damp, overcast and windy. I remember stopping at the entrance to the settlement and looking at the the gray sky and gray ocean with the wind cutting through me like a knife, and thought "Man it would have been tough living here" I could put myself in the place of one of those settlers and imagine what they thought about being so far away from their former comfortable lives and homes. With no guarantees of being able return to England or even survive if things went south. To risk everything, to leave everything they knew, just to make a new home in the wilderness. If it had been me, I KNOW I would have thought,"Damn, I screwed up coming here"

I suspect that the STRONG religious beliefs that the Pilgrims had, was a major part of what kept the colony alive and growing. While I am not a particularly religious person, I have to admire a person who has that kind of faith. It is said that faith can move mountains. In this case, I think faith helped to build a settlement that helped to build a nation.

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself.........

Today's birthday of note:

Mr. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Great guitar player, but a careful study of 'ol Keith will either make you believe in life after death, or that the term "Better living through chemistry" just didn't work out in his case too well. -grin-

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'll Fly Away........

Not one but two historic things of note for today. Both of which may interest Ms. Brigid over at the Home on the Range blog.

The first, 105 years ago Orville and Wilbur Wright after considerable time and effort managed to get the first self powered, heavier than air machine, off the ground at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The first flight lasted only 12 seconds at an altitude of 10 feet and only covered 120 feet, but no one ever looked back after that.

The second, in 1969 The U.S. Air Force ended Project Blue Book. This was the program of investigating reported sightings of U.F.O.s

Coincidence? I wonder..........-grin-

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


On this date in 1944, the German army having been pushed across most of Europe by victorious allied armies almost to the borders of Germany, showed that you should never underestimate a enemy.

The Germans unleashed a vicious counter attack which they code named "Watch on the Rhine" The Allies called it the Ardennes battle, but most commonly it was called The Battle of the Bulge. This battle officially lasted from December 16th 1944 until January 25th 1945. It was the bloodiest battle that the American Army engaged in during World War II The battle cost the American Army 84,323 casualties, 19,276 K.I.A., 41,493 W.I.A., 23,554 captured or missing.

It is said that in the entire war, American tenacity and fighting spirit never shown as brightly as it did in the snow covered forest of the Ardennes.

One of my favorite stories that came out this battle came from a retreating tank commander who was coming back from a fight with a German armored column. He was out of ammunition and almost out of fuel and was looking for the American forces. He spotted a American G.I. digging a foxhole beside the road. The G.I., who according to the Tank Commander looked like he belonged in a Willie and Joe cartoon, looked up and asked the Tank Commander if he was looking for a safe place. When the Tank Commander said "Hell yeah" The G.I. spit and motioned behind the foxhole and said "Well, pull up behind me. I'm the 82nd Airborne, and this is as far as the bastards are going!"

POSTSCRIPT: A friend of mine stationed down at Ft. Bragg with the modern 82nd dropped me a short e mail and gave me some further details about the above post. The paratrooper mentioned above was a P.F.C. Martin of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. Both the 82nd and 101st Airborne regiments were used by the allied commanders as living "speed bumps" to slow down the German advance until other heavier forces could be marshaled and thrown into the battle. Both divisions proved faithful to the trust placed in them.

Whole Lotta Shaking Going On.........

On this date in 1811 near New Madrid Mo. a earthquake measuring 8.0 or greater on the Richter scale struck. The earthquake was so powerful that the Mississippi River ran backwards and changed it's course in several places, over 150,000 acres of forest were destroyed and multiple lakes were created, including Reelfoot Lake which measures around ten square miles in size. Church bells rang in Charleston S.C. and Boston Mass. and chimneys fell in Cincinnati, Ohio. The death toll was remarkably light since the areas affected were lightly populated.

Today however, that would not be the case. Located in the New Madrid fault area are the modern cities of St.Louis MO. and Memphis TN. Scientist have estimated that the odds of a 6.0 or greater earthquake happening in this area withing the next 50 years is 9 in 10. A earthquake of the magnitude that struck New Madrid in 1811 would result in untold numbers of lives lost as well as millions upon millions of dollars lost in damages.

Tea For Two, And Two For Tea.........

On this date in 1773, a number of citizens of Boston Mass., disguise as Mohawk Indians went aboard three ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 300 chest of East India Company tea overboard.

This was seen as a protest against a proposed tax that England was attempting to levy on the colonies. As with other historical events with a little digging, further details come to light. John Hancock, a leader of the Sons of Liberty who where known to be heavily involved in this incident was reputed to be one of the biggest smugglers in Boston. He had been for some time smuggling in Dutch tea without paying tax on it. The East Indian Co. tea even with the tax imposed on it, would have been considerably cheaper than that which Hancock was attempting to sell. I am not saying that's why the Sons of Liberty acted as they did, but it does make you wonder.

Believe it or not, this is my 100th post. Who would have thunk it? -grin-

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Spirit

Getting in the Christmas spirit here at Casa W., I have been listening to a new favorite carol, It's almost as good as "Merry Christmas from the Family"

Check it out:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My, My, My,

O.K. I just gotta say this. (I hope I can, without sounding like a sexist pig) I just checked out the latest issue of G.Q. with Jennifer Aniston in it, and there is absolutely NO doubt in my mind that Brad Pitt is a PUNK......No make that a stone cold punk.....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Doctor, Doctor, Tell Me The News..........

As some of you are`aware, as part of my reenacting hobby, I portray a Doctor/Surgeon of the colonial period. I do this by going to various historic site and displaying and demonstrating both reproduction as well as original medical equipment from the period. I also share various stories of the doctors and their patients. Checking the calender this morning, I discovered that I was about to miss commemorating a very important date in medical history I would like to share with you.

On this date in 1809 Mrs. Jane Crawford arrived at the home of Dr. Ephraim McDowell in Danville, Kentucky to receive medical treatment. What made this so historic was that Dr. McDowell had a few weeks earlier been to see Mrs. Crawford at her home over in Green county Kentucky. Mrs. Crawford thought that she`was pregnant with twins but when Dr. McDowell examined her he discovered that Crawford wasn't pregnant, but was suffering from a tumor. After consulting with Mrs. Crawford, McDowell told her that if she would come to his home in Danville, he would undertake to remove the tumor. Mrs. Crawford agreed to do so and followed Dr. McDowell to his home making a horseback ride of 60 miles. After this exertion she rested for a few days, then underwent the operation on Christmas Day 1809. Dr. McDowell cut a 22 1/2 pound tumor from Mrs. Crawford's ovary. The surgery took 25 minutes.

This was a time before blood transfusions, antiseptics or anesthesia. During the operation, Mrs. Crawford being wide awake, sang hymns during the operation and Mrs. Crawford's husband and several of both his and Mrs. Crawford's relatives surrounded McDowell's house threatening to kill the doctor if the operation failed. Mrs. Crawford survived the operation and was up only a few days later, with sutures still in place, trying to do light housework to repay the doctor for his services. 25 days later, she again took the 60 mile trip on horseback to her home where she ended up living another 32 years after the surgery.

I had the privilege of reading copies of Dr. McDowell's notes from the operation and after I finished them, I looked at my goodwife and observed that "They made WOMEN in those days" My goodwife sorta sniffed and replied "Yeah, and they had MEN to match them" At that point I just shut up and went back to reading. -grin-

Birthday of Note

On this date, in 1887 Alvin C. York was born in the Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf near Pall Mall TN.

During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, in the space of 3 hours and 15 minutes, on October 8th 1918 the then Corp. York was responsible for the capture of 132 German soldiers as well as 20 heavy Maxim machine guns and was said to have killed 30 other German soldiers. For this heroism he was promoted to the rank of Sgt. and awarded the following decorations:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
French Croix de Guerre
French Legion of Honor
The Croce di Guerra of Italy
War Medal of Montenegro

Sgt. York remained a humble man even with the fame that he garnered from his heroism. He kept his religious faith intact and used whatever rewards that he received to help others. He died in 1964 almost forgotten by the American public.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today's Birthday of Note

Today would have been the 90th birthday of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I consider him as one of my non-school teachers since his writings opened my eyes to the true evils of communism and the Soviet Union. I read his novella "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" in Junior High School. This was based on the experiences he had after being arrested for "anti-soviet" agitation. In 1945 as a officer in the Russian Army, he wrote a in a personal letter to a friend, a comment considered derogatory to Stalin. For that comment, he was arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison. After finishing his 8 years, he was given internal exile in Siberia for life. In exile he began work on his massive work, "The Gulag Archipelago" a history of the Russian labor/prisoner camps for criminals and political prisoners.

If you have never read "One Day" you owe it to yourself to get a copy. That way, you can truly understand why Ronald Reagan called the Soviets "A Evil Empire"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mike's EXCELLENT Adventure In Margaritaville

Over the weekend, the Goodwife and I took a short, real fast sea cruise as sort of a early Christmas present to ourselves. We only had two ports of calls, Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. Well, as anyone who knows me can tell you, nothing EVER goes as planned when I am involved, so this is the story of the trip.

We flew out of our local airport and got to Miami where we caught a shuttle to Port Everglades where we caught our ship. We set sail at around 5 P.M. After steaming all night we were to dock at Key West at 8 AM the next day. We had a good meal, a few drinks and a comfortable bed, so all was right with the world. However, at 2 AM when I got up to respond to the call of nature, came the first clue that this trip like so many others, would be twisted by my presence…..

Cutting on the light I discovered that the bathroom floor was covered by various “things” I couldn’t, (or wouldn’t) venture a guess as to what they might have been, but they didn’t belong on the floor. I thought that the toilet had overflowed, but on further investigation I discovered that the drain in the floor had backed up. I figured at 2 AM that whatever the problem was, it wasn’t going to be fixable until later in the day, so I warned the good wife, tossed down towels in the floor to limit our exposure to whatever and went back to bed. At 8AM the ship docked, the ship cleanup crew arrived to work on the bathroom and I went ashore. (Goodwife stayed on board) I did a few interesting sites, had a few drinks at the local watering holes, then headed back to the ship since we were told we would be sailing at 2PM for Cozumel. Two came and went, and then Three, then Four and we haven’t moved. At 4:30 the captain announced that the ship was broke and would not be sailing until it was fixed. He announced that we would be spending the night in Key West and that passengers would be allowed to go ashore until 2 AM. So back ashore I went too.

The next day the ship still isn’t fixed, so again I go ashore and spend the day meandering about. They fix the ship that afternoon, and since they couldn’t make it to Cozumel in the time they had left so they decided to sail for Nassau, Bahamas. This didn’t upset me at all since Cozumel isn’t very well known for it’s rum production. Plus the ship provided a shipboard credit to all aboard to make up for the problems.

With all the “problems”, I still had a VERY good time, since I don’t let stuff like that get me all tight. Plus Key West is a very cool place. It has enough historic stuff to keep me interested and it is one of the very best places in the world for people watching. Key West is also the world capital of “whatever” Anything happens, no matter what, everyone just says “whatever” and keeps on keeping on. I captured a bunch of “moments” while meandering and people watching that I would like to share with you if I may……….

The Chickens of Key West.
There are chickens everywhere. The locals tell you that they are the descendants of the fighting cocks brought over by the Cubans that worked in the cigar trade. When cock fighting became illegal, rather than having a gigantic Cuban version of K.F.C. or Chicken and Dumplings, they let them free. Of course, chicken mixed with the other chickens and were fruitful and multiplied so there are chickens all over the place. They do serve a function in that they control the insect population so all is not bad. Key West is also a bird sanctuary and all the chickens, chicks and eggs are protected, so all the tourist are warned not to molest or bother them. As a local put it, “The chickens live here, ya’ll are just visiting” Of course, with all the warnings, there had to be someone who didn’t listen. You just KNEW it had to happen. I will tell you, there is NOTHING quite as funny as watching a Birkenstock wearing “limousine liberal” female running like hell down Duval St. being chased by a highly pissed off hen who did not want anyone messing with one of her chicks.

The Museums of Key West.
There are some pretty good museums in Key West. Pirate Soul is absolutely fantastic with a lot of QUALITY artifacts on display. They had to spend a few bucks on windex after I left, since I had my nose pressed against the glass display cases to eyeball all the goodies on display. You would think that it would be a bit cheesy since it does deal with pirates and it does have a small bit of that kind of thing, but on the whole it is well done and well worth the price of admission. Mel Fisher’s museum is also real good, with it’s display of the salvaged goods from the Nuestra Senora De Atocha, a Spanish treasure galleon that sank in 1622. The treasure trove consisted of silver and gold coins, Bars of the same, jewels and all sorts of odds and ends. They even have it configured in one of the exhibits that you can reach into a case and heft up a gold bar. Just the thing for all us Walter Mitty types out there. A more sobering exhibit is the items brought up from the wreck of the Hennretta Marie. She was a slave ship that went down after striking a reef in the Gulf of Mexico. There are dozens of sets of manacles used on the captives including very small ones used on children.

The Hemingway House and Museum, is good, I haven’t made up my mind about Hemingway as a writer, or as a person, but I enjoyed his restored home and I am very much a cat person. The museum has 60 cats in residence which are descendants of “Papa’s” original cats. They are somewhat inbred and a large number of them have 6 toes on their front paws. The little devils look like they are wearing catcher’s mitts on their front paws and look like they are living the life of Riley. Trust me, they are.

Monuments and Graveyards
There is a monument in a small garden right in front of Mel Fisher’s museum. It is dedicated to the memory of the Union Sailors and Marines who died while stationed on Key West in the Civil War. It is surrounded by a fence which has a small plaque attached to it stating that the monument was erected by a confederate veteran. That should give you the flavor of the types of things you will see. In the old graveyard, it has the graves of sailors from the U.S.S. Maine, Cuban rebels, it even has a tombstone for a local lady carved with the words, “I told you I was sick..” Key West has always been a important naval base, so you can find a bunch of military graves and monuments as well as above ground tombs just like New Orleans since according to the locals the ground is full and you can’t dig a hole without digging a previous occupant up.

Bars and Nightlife
As Fred White said in the movie Tombstone “Ah, that’s the real motherload here” Every one comes to Key West to have a drink in Sloppy Joe’s bar (Hemingway’s favorite) There is also the Green Parrot, The Hog’s Breath, and multiple others. After the first drink, they just HAVE to buy the t-shirts, ball caps, and bumperstickers and so on. Call me crazy, but I can’t see paying anywhere from 15 to 20 bucks so I can wear a advertisement for a bar. Heck, pay me $20.00 to wear the hat; I will keep that sucker on until it rots off. ….I will admit, I did buy a T-shirt and hat from Pirate Soul, but museums are NOT bars….-grin-

Of course, I guess that’s part of the fun, tossing down a few like “Papa” in a place he spent time in. I enjoyed watching the people come and go, the little old ladies and men going into the “adult only” store after having a drink or two, and coming out with packages clasped tightly under their arms, glancing around to see if anyone saw them go in.

If you have never been there before, Key West changes remarkably when the sun sets. It’s as if the day people go home and the night people come out to play. And friend what a freak show it is. –grin- At the most southern point, they have a carnival to entertain the folks there to watch the sun set. One fellow had a bunch of trained house cats that he had jumping through flaming hoops which I thought was cool as all get out. (But I had drank two or three rum drinks before that) It reminded me of the old Ed Sullivan T.V. show. Most of the cruise ships are long gone by the time the sun sets, but since our ship was broke down, I got to see people who maybe came from East Hog’s Knuckle, North Carolina spending time down town and coming back on board the ship with eyes as wide as dinner plates. I suspect they hadn’t seen stuff like that before. –Grin-

After that, Nassau sorta paled in comparison. I got off the ship to get a few bottles of rum to add to my collection, but was ready to head back home.

All in all a good time was had by all

Monday, December 8, 2008

Just To Lighten Things Up A Bit...........

Today, in 1956 Alfred E. Newman made his first appearance on the cover of MAD magazine.

What ME Worry????????


We Knew We Would Be Next On The List...........

Today, 67 years ago Franklin Roosevelt went before Congress asked for and received a declaration of war against the Japanese Empire.

Roosevelt knew that the country had been sucker punched and needed to be brought around quickly to focus on a war that needed to be won. He used his command of language and his ability to speak to bring the American people together into a united group able to rebuild it's military forces and defeat a powerful enemy.

Take a few moments to read the text of the speech he gave..........

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State of form reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack. It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government had deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation. As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces -- with the unbounded determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God. I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

The vote to declare war was almost unanimous, the only person to vote against the resolution was Jeannette Rankin, member of Congress from Montana. Ms. Rankin who was a life long pacifist, stayed true to her beliefs and voted no to the war.

No matter what I think about pacifism or Ms. Rankin's personal beliefs, I must admit I admire the fact she stood in the door for what she thought. It was a very brave act that took a great deal of guts.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December The 7th, We Heard About Pearl..............

As an amateur student of history, I try to understand all I can about the whys and hows of each historic event I study. Sometimes I can reach a better understanding of these events; sometimes I just find that I develop more questions. Sometimes I even put a human face on these events and their impact on ordinary people. This is a story of one of those times.

Back when I was a young pup, in my first year of High School, I fell in love (or lust, I don’t think I could tell the difference back then) with a young lady I went to school with. I started spending a lot of time around her house trying to impress her with my charm, wit and good looks. I wasn’t that successful, but I didn’t get run off either, so I figured I had at least a fighting chance of doing myself some good with her. I got to know her folks fairly well; her mom was an invalid with some kind of breathing problem, her dad was a retired Navy man, who was a maintenance supervisor of a couple of apartment complexes. The dad, who’s name was Dallas, was also known as “Shack” short for Shackman. He dearly loved to pull a cork as we say in North Carolina. Now this wasn’t too big a deal to me since I came from a family where both my father and grandfather were alcoholics (As well as a bunch of kin folk on my mother’s side of the family) and I considered it as being somewhat normal to be around people drinking. Shack was for the most part a happy drunk, he didn’t try to fight anyone or act the fool, and he would sing, tell jokes and try to be the life of the party.

There were a few quirks about ol’ Shack however. He never liked to grill out and didn’t even have a grill out in the yard. (Something almost unheard of here in Carolina) If any thing ever got burned in the kitchen he would leave the house. He would also get sick to his stomach if he ever ate or smelled pineapple. He also would get very quiet and really start drinking around the last part of November, first part of December. There were quite a few times around that time of year when I would have to help get him in the house and put him to bed to keep him freezing to death while passed out in the yard. He didn’t like to watch a lot of historical shows on TV and also would not ride in or ever buy a Japanese car. Like I said, just little quirks.

Late one night, Shack and I got to talking. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and I asked him why he had gone into the Navy. He told me that he had joined up at 16, lying about his age to get in because he came from a poor family and the Navy offered him basically “three hots and a cot, which was a lot better that what he had at home with his folks. He told me that he thought he was in tall cotton with a big bowl of pinto beans and some corn bread on the table at home, but the Navy was feeding him meat, white bread, and almost everything else he could ever want. He also told me that he got to see the world, places that he would have never seen if he hadn’t gone in. Shack had been drinking when we started talking and continued drinking as the night got longer. Shack told me that he had served on submarines, the Silent Service as he called it. He said that he was based at Pearl Harbor and was there on December 7th 1941.

Shack said that the sub was having some engine work done, some kind of over haul he thought so they were just hanging about, with nothing to do. Most of the crew was off base since it was the weekend. He remembered that the weather was gorgeous as it was most of the time in Hawaii, One for the tourist as the sailors would say back then. Shack said that he though he had died and gone to heaven while he was in Hawaii. He said he would get a orange maybe once a year at Christmas if he was lucky, but they were eating fresh pineapples and other fresh fruit every day in the navy mess halls.

Shack said he didn’t notice the explosions right away, he said that they were always doing construction all over the harbor and island and had to blast the coral and lava to build stuff. He didn’t also didn’t notice the aircraft either, since they always had some flying over, but soon it dawned on him that the number of airplanes and explosions were out of the norm. That’s when he got scared. (Or as he put it to me, his asshole started puckering) For some reason, the Japanese didn’t take much interest in the area where the subs were based. But Shack had a ring side seat to the interest that the Japanese had in everything else in the harbor.

The sub he was serving on had all its weapons secured so they couldn’t do anything to fight back so they just sat there and watched. He said that several times aircraft flew so low over where he was that he could clearly see (in his words) “the little yellow bastards” flying them. He said he even saw one of the pilots grinning as he flew by, as if the pilot was having the time of his life. Shack told me that he wasn’t sure he would have shot at them even if they had the weapons available since a sub sitting on the surface isn’t one of the best platforms for fighting against what looked to him like every airplane in the entire Japanese Navy flying overhead. He may have said that to me, but I got the strong feeling that he felt really guilty that he didn’t do anything to fight back. After the attack was over, they detached some of the crews of the various ships that were not damaged to serve as fire and rescue parties. They took Shack and a bunch of the other sailors not needed to get the sub up and running to help up with the clean up.

Shack said that they spent most of their time picking up a lot of dead bodies out of the harbor. By the time they got out on the water to do the rescue work, most of the wounded had been picked up, or had made it in on their own. So they couldn’t even say that they were looking for wounded to make themselves feel better, only collecting the dead. They were floating in a thick, heavy layer of bunker oil that was on the surface of the water. Most of them so badly burned that when you would try to pick them up, that the skin would come off in your hands. Like a well cooked chicken according to Shack. He said that his hands were totally covered at times with a slick, slimy coating of cooked meat. There were some so bad that they needed to put a canvas stretcher into the water to place under the body so they could lift it up in one piece. They also tied bodies together to tow them into shallow water so they could recover them. As our talk continued I noticed that he had gotten a far off look in his eyes and was starting to tear up a bit. The level of the bourbon in the bottle he was drinking from was also going down faster and faster. He told me about going near the hulk of the Arizona and the heat from the fires being so bad that they had to take wet cloths and place over their heads so as not to be burned. In a short time he said that the cloths started putting off steam, it was that hot. The small rescue boats they were on had their paint blistered and some of the sailors in the recovery parties looked like they were sunburned from the heat. The uniform he was wearing was so stained with the oil, and so permeated with the smell of burnt flesh that Shack just tossed it in the trash rather than try to get it clean when they were done. Shack told me that he made it a point not to look at any of the faces of any of the bodies that he recovered, since he didn’t want to know if any of them were buddies of his.

Three days later, they sent Shack’s sub out with a full load of torpedoes on its first war patrol with orders to sink anything Japanese they saw. He said that they weren’t sure that the engine would hold together for the entire patrol, but they sent them out anyway so they could maybe get a little pay back. He told me that it was a cold feeling to know that you were going out on a mission like that, but the thought of being considered a coward and having your shipmates look down on you, was a bigger fear than not coming back. He also said that not too many people know today that the torpedoes that Americans used in the early part of the war were bad, and were more dangerous to the Americans than the Japanese, but that would be a story for another time he told me with a little smile.

By that time, Shack was pretty tore back, and couldn’t stand by himself, so I helped him get up from the table and got him to bed. We never talked about his memories or war experiences again. At least at that point I understood his little quirks. The aversion to the smell of burnt flesh, the heavy drinking around Pearl Harbor day, it all made sense then. Unfortunately, this was a time before the knowledge of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, survivor’s guilt and other issues were recognized. Real men didn’t talk about such things, and were considered weak or punks if they did. So Shack, no doubt tried to self medicate himself and tried to “suck it up”. I often wonder how I would have reacted if when I was 16, I had gone through the same thing. Looking back at it now after so many years, I am surprised that I was smart enough to figure all this out and to want to help ol’ Shack, but I didn’t know how, and I too, was caught up in the John Wayne “get over it” mentality. So I never asked him about it again. So that was the story of a man who faced personal demons each and every day, and in the end was finally wore down by them. No heroic tales of valor or glory, just a scared man who tried to do the best he could in the situation he was placed in. I am just a little sad that the only person that he could share his story with was a kid like me, who couldn’t help him with dealing with it. I still wonder today why he confided in me on that long cold winter night so long ago.

Shack ended up drinking himself to death a few years later. I sometime wonder if you couldn’t consider him as just one more casualty of that attack on that beautiful December morning.

Since he had honorably retired, and was a survivor of the attack, by his request, he was cremated and his ashes were sprinkled over the water at Pearl Harbor.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Meagher Is Leading The Irish Brigade.......

It’s been a bit since I have done anything pertaining to firearms so I thought I would write a bit about my latest big project.

In my quest to start in another time period (American Civil War) I obtained two reproduction weapons, a 1861 Springfield rifled musket in .58 cal and a 1842 smoothbore Springfield musket in .69 cal. There are a percentage of reenactors that have never fired their weapons with live rounds, only with blank charges at reenactments. I feel that you can not interpret the weapon effectively to the public unless you HAVE fired it live and have a good understanding of what it will do, as well as what it will not do.

Of the two weapons, I seem to be more interested in the 1842 musket. I don’t know why other than this weapon has a bit more history behind it than the 1861.

In 1861 at the beginning of the American Civil War, the rifled musket was the gold standard on the battlefield. The U.S. Army had started issuing rifled muskets to troops as early as 1855. Rifling of muskets and the use of the Minnie ball had improved both the range and accuracy of the average soldier making it possible to hit a man sized target at distances two to three times farther that possible with a smoothbore musket. However, when the war broke out, the numbers of rifled musket that were available was not sufficient to arm all the troops that were enlisted both North and South. This set off a shopping frenzy in Europe to buy anything that would put a piece of lead down range. There were also seizures of weapons stored in federal arsenals in the south by the southern states. Most of the weapons that were seized were considered obsolete and were smoothbore muskets, models 1822 and 1842. Since there was a shortage of all weapons, soldiers were forced to carry these weapons until 1863. While the soldiers who were issued the smoothbore muskets for the most part were not very happy to have them, sometimes deriding them as “punkin’slingers” there were others who thought that they were just the thing the soldiers needed.

Thomas Francis Meagher commander of the famous “Irish Brigade” was one of these. When he was organizing the brigade, since he was fairly well politically connected he was offered the latest rifled muskets. He turned them down, asking rather for the older 1842 model. His thinking was the fighting that he envisioned for the brigade would be up close and personal. A smoothbore musket at close range would be as effective as a rifle, at closer ranges perhaps even more effective with the recommended load of “buck and ball” The weapons of this time were loaded with a paper cartridge. This consisted of a paper tube containing a pre-measured charge of powder and a single bullet. A buck and ball load on the other hand had three oo buckshot on top of a .650 lead round ball. At close range it would turn a target into a long division problem. At long range, you had a better chance to hit the target. I ran across a mention of soldiers who using these types of weapons and ammunition at the battle of Gettysburg. A Federal officer, Col. William E. Potter of the 12th N.J. which was one of the regiments waiting on Cemetery Ridge for the Pickett-Pettigrew advance on July 3rd wrote:

” The regiment was armed with the Springfield smoothbore musket, calibre .69----A terrible weapon at close range. The usual cartridge carried a large ball and three buckshot, but many of the men, while awaiting the enemy’s advance, had opened their (cartridge) boxes and prepared special cartridges with ten to twenty-five buckshot alone”

I have started gathering all the stuff together to replicate the paper cartridges with both Minnie balls as well as the buck and ball load. After the holidays, I hope to be able to learn what these weapons and this ammunition will do to a charging bad guy target at various ranges. I will share my finding with you folks too.

Something else you might find interesting. When I was down loafing at the local gun shop I found a box of Centurion Law Enforcement 12 gauge shot shells. This ammunition is loaded with (wait for it) 1 .650 lead round ball and 6 #1 buckshot pellets. This is just a modern version of the old Buck and Ball ammunition. I figured I would test them at the same time I test the muskets to see what this ammunition will do.

Once again, history repeats it’s self.

Happy Birthday!

Miss Bette Davis Midler...........

I LIKE a slightly trashy, classy broad.

She sings pretty good too. -grin-

She Stood Up By Sitting Down..........

On this date in 1955 Miss Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. By this simple, quiet act, she put in motion a movement which changed the face of our country. Sometimes, the simple act of one brave individual CAN indeed change the world.........