Friday, September 23, 2016

Sometimes you lose the battle and don't even know it...

The war may not be over, but at the appropriate moment in each skirmish, the belligerents must decide whether to surrender, tactically withdraw or just declare victory and prepare for the next enemy...In a battle of wills, even the most hard-headed of individual combatants must be prepared for a setback against a gigantic corporate opponent secure in its own gluttony, and hardened against attack by seemingly insignificant foes...

During the course of this composition, I began to wonder if I would be as ambiguous about identities of the belligerents depicted here if I was talking about a complete victory instead of a setback...I'm sure a diligent reader can easily deduce the origin of this tale, but I believe now if there is a third installment, I'll continue my stance of veiled identities regardless of the outcome...It's only fair, and it's more fun...

One of the combatants, bloated by years of meek compliance by sheep-like visitors willing to be herded through a common checkpoint, became enraged at the awareness of a rebel force-of-one who ignored its unlawful and unsuccessful attempts at insulting restraint...The insurgent, after completing his lawful mission within the territory in which the giant claimed total control, began to ignore the exit checkpoint re-entering the free world, and bypassing the herd who were meekly awaiting permission to leave...

The rebel's activities had been previously noted by the giant's command post who could not allow such insolence to go unpunished, as it might stir feelings of rebellion among the others...Replacing the checkpoint pickets with larger, louder and more obnoxious wardens, the giant assumed that its more imposing sentinels would restore its dominance over the rebel force...

To the surprise and annoyance of the arrogant ogre, the rebel merely ignored the replacement guards' main weapons, their shrill and vexatious voices, as he used their gargantuan obesity against them by sidestepping them into the cleaner outside air...The pretentious kingfish of this small pond, sensing a loss of control over the mindless herd from which the giant feeds, unleashed what she thought to be a silver bullet against the rebel force...

Summoning up her full height of five and a half feet, she looked up into the unflinching face of the rebel, and announced in her most irritating voice that he would no longer be allowed to display his rebellious nature among the meeker cattle grazing within her dominion...After laughing into her pinched face, she spewed forth in her fury against the rebel that she had been compiling evidence against him, and threatened to present it all to a "higher authority"...

Laughingly telling her that any authority on the planet was higher than that which she possessed, the rebel bid her adieu, deciding to distribute his assets among a more appreciative group of recipients...The giant, although probably unfeeling of the loss of commerce, was left to practice its pompous and overbearing routine on a more compliant flock, while the rebel's resources were welcomed in other venues, and he prepared his counterattacks for any new aggression by the giant...

As it was noted by an unknown commentator. "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings," which will probably occur sometime after her doughnut break following a wearying shift at the checkpoint herding the sheep...

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Overcoming Adversity...

As a performance car obsessed young man becoming of age in the late 1950's/early 1960's, I looked for one name first in the automotive magazines I subscribed to as each new issue was delivered...Thumbing past the shiny eye candy depicted on each cover of Hot Rod, Car Craft, Rod & Custom or other publications of the day, I quickly scanned the table of contents for Roger Huntington's byline, knowing that after I read his latest article, the mysteries of applying power to pavement would become a little clearer to my teenage mind...

I noted to myself that although I never saw him pictured (other than an author's credit headshot) as a participant or even a spectator at any event or enthusiast's gathering, when he was mentioned by other writers it was always in reverence to his vast knowledge of what it took to produce horsepower and make it work in a performance car...Today almost nothing is written of him on internet sites to tell the present and future generations who he was; there isn't even a Wikipedia entry...

Huntington had a knack for explaining the most complex engineering principles in words that even an untrained amateur could understand, and did it in a way that made it entertaining enough to hold the reader's attention long enough to learn something...Until recently, when I rediscovered my stash of automotive magazines from the 50's, 60's and 70's, I knew very little about the man behind the typewriter...

Born in the 20's, he had a productive life ahead of him when a diving accident left him permanently paralyzed from the chest down while he was still a teenager...Unlike many who would have given up their dreams of a higher education, he redoubled his efforts by becoming a self-taught engineer, eventually recognized for his talents by full membership induction into the Society of Automotive Engineers...

His fascination with making mechanical power, and applying it to practical applications, led him first into understanding the vast and sudden improvements in aircraft engines in WWII, leading to his first published article in 1948...From there his natural progression took him to the performance side of the automobile industry where he became a much sought after consultant in the race for dependable horsepower...

He could never be tied down to one manufacturer as he sought ways of tweaking more power and making it work where the rubber meets the road on GM, Ford and Chrysler products as well...But his true talent was in drawing together more and more enthusiasts to the burgeoning sports of hot-rodding and drag racing through the print media...

And he did it the hard way; his paralysis left him with only limited use of his right arm and hand...As difficult as it must have been to get through the prodigious reading list it took to become the highly qualified and respected engineer he was, imagine the effort it took to write the many books and thousands of technical articles he authored, producing each page by pecking at a typewriter keyboard with a pencil clutched in his right fist...

Even today, almost thirty years after his death, some of his books are still available to the lucky few who can find them, and others of us are lucky enough to have saved all the old magazines our Moms thought we wasted our money buying...Nor was he content to be pushed about in a wheelchair; he owned and operated his own cars fitted to be driven by paraplegics...

Today he serves a new purpose for me every time I think about how tough my life is, and how unfair it is that I've reached this point in life without accomplishing all my goals, I remember Roger Huntington and how he inspired a young kid to build his own street machines, and make his own mistakes and learn from them...If he could do all he did from a wheelchair, then maybe I'm not quite done yet...

I'm further reminded of a young man of my acquaintance whom I see occasionally at Church on what I refer to as his "fancy walking sticks"...Observing his progress since childhood, I've noted over the years that he walks forth into the world carrying a smile, and seemingly never a burden...

I predict that, like Roger Huntington, he will be recalled by future generations for his spirit and accomplishment in whatever field of endeavor he chooses to enter...I pity any fool who stands against him...

There are worse ways to be remembered...Thanks, guys!...


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Monday, September 19, 2016

Regrets...

Regrettably, we all have them, and owning that collection is one of the few parts of life we can't regret, since as humans they are inevitable to our existence...They come to us as one factor of a life built on alternatives...

I'll always regret accepting that first drink and first smoke, but I will never regret knowing which of each was my last...

I regret not making more intelligent choices before committing to marriage...Twice...My future decisions may involve commitment, but not marriage...

I regret not taking better advantage of the travel and education opportunities available during my time spent in the military...I have no regrets over using the benefits granted returning veterans...

I regret not doing computer and O/S upgrades before they become mandatory...It's tough being forced to catch up with progress, and still having to do my daily work...

I regret being offered an IRA account when they were first available, and neglecting to accept...

I don't regret learning life's most valuable lessons the hard way...It makes them easier to remember...

This list is incomplete, but I do not regret publishing it before all my regrets occur to me...


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Saturday, September 10, 2016

You expect me to do WHAT? Part II...

The only part of Joseph Kennedy Jr.'s life that was more carefully planned than the events that led to his death was his post-war life as US President envisioned by his father, the would-be kingmaker, Joseph Kennedy Sr...The world as it would have been can now only be speculated upon in an alternate universe scenario as Joe Kennedy Jr. became the only one of his father's sons who would not announce his candidacy for President...

As history has left us few clues to the discussion that may have ensued as Lieutenant Kennedy was briefed on what was expected of him during Operation Aphrodite for which he had just volunteered, we can only guess his thoughts as the plan was unfolded...He was told that an older bomber which had already survived many earlier battles, but was now deemed unsafe to risk another mission with an expensively trained crew of men, would be stripped of all survival gear and other equipment necessary for its safe return...

This shell of an aircraft would even have its canopy, radios and all navigation equipment, guns and other crew facilities removed...In the place of all that was removed, the old bomber would be loaded with 30,000 pounds of Torpex, a British explosive compound having one and a half times the destructive power of TNT...

Lieutenant Kennedy's job would involve taking off from a runway in this fully fueled airborne bomb, then guiding it to a point near the coast at an altitude of 2,000 feet while a 200 mph wind was blowing in his face through the removed canopy...At this moment he was to relinquish directional and power control of the aircraft to a newly designed automatic pilot, guided by radio and a rudimentary television system to monitor gauges from a mothership trailing behind...

Kennedy and the volunteer flight engineer were then to remove the safety pins from the explosive devices and arm the detonators...Afterward they were to re-enter the cockpit, egress the aircraft through the canopy opening, deploy their parachutes and return to Earth where a team would be waiting to recover them...

When the time came for Kennedy's mission, twelve other aircraft had been sent aloft previously with none having completed the mission successfully, resulting in the loss of life for many of the crewmen...Whether Lt. Kennedy was briefed on this record of attempts is unknown...He and his flight engineer, Lt. Wilford J. Willy, launched on August 12, 1944, and never got past the English coast as their drone exploded in a fireball of Torpex and aviation gasoline near the town of Blyth...

Had their mission been successful, one of Germany's superweapons, the so-called V3 Supergun, would have been destroyed at Mimoyecques, France...As it was, the two naval aviators both lost their lives and became casualties in an operation that claimed the lives of many airmen, 26 aging aircraft, and no successful missions...

Had the Operation Aphrodite been successful, many obsolete bombing platforms might have been converted to the Consolidated BQ-8...The fate of the aircraft listed by its S/N designation, 32271, is also listed here, along with an alternate spelling of the last name of the flight engineer...

As in most other Kennedy family related stories, an aura of mystery and controversy surrounds this one...In 1986, a 65 year old former Wehrmacht AAA officer said that in July 1944 his artillery unit shot down a B-17 returning from a bombing raid, and his men captured two crewmen who parachuted to safety...

He claimed that he personally interviewed both, one of whom identified himself as Joe Kennedy, a 1st Lieutenant in the US Air Force from Hyannisport...He further claimed the captured Americans were shot while escaping the same day, and buried in a local cemetery...

This tale immediately holds no water in my view as all US servicemembers are told if they are captured by an enemy, they must abide by the Code of Conduct giving no further information to their captors than name, rank, service number and date of birth...In Kennedy's case he would have known that being the son of a former US Ambassador would make him a high value prisoner subject to a higher level of security, reducing further his chances of escape...

For that reason alone he would not have revealed his hometown of Hyannisport, Massachusetts...Neither would he have falsely given his rank as 1st Lt., a paygrade used by the Army which is one rank lower than his true rank of Lieutenant in the Navy, and he would not have identified his branch of service as US Air Force which did not exist at the time...Air units not assigned to the Navy were under the command of the US Army at that time...Neither Kennedy, nor any other prisoner would have identified any branch of service at all as their captors would make that determination based on their uniforms...

Adding to the mystery, and also adding another Presidential connection to this story, another witness came forward to refute the German officer's claim...Elliot Roosevelt, then a USAAF Colonel and commander of the 325th Photographic Wing in England and the son of then President Franklin Roosevelt, said at the time of the German publication that he personally witnessed the deaths of Lieutenants Kennedy and Willy in the air over England a month after the German claims, as he was flying in a reconnaissance aircraft trailing the doomed B-24 and its mothership...

Roosevelt's own veracity is clouded in doubt since Army records cannot confirm his whereabouts on the day in question, and his own claims of flying 89 combat missions in WWII have been in dispute since that time...Records do indicate that a Mosquito recon/bomber assigned to Roosevelt's 325th Wing was trailing the two aircraft at the time of the explosion closely enough to witness the event, but no record exists of Roosevelt's presence...

What is known for certain is that the modified bomber carrying Joe Kennedy Jr. blew up in midair over the English coast; his body was never recovered and he was never heard from again...My own question in this mystery concerns why a second officer, Lt. Willy, was assigned to the flight as an engineer since on fully crewed bombers this position was filled by an enlisted man, normally an NCO who also acted as top turret gunner...

Regardless, both men were subsequently listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery...Kennedy's sacrifice and devotion to duty earned for him the posthumous awards of the Navy Cross, Air Medal and Purple Heart...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It is not known what lay in a father's heart when Joe Kennedy Sr. was told of the death of his eldest son...It can be believed that, being human, he mourned the loss of his flesh and blood...It can also be thought that, having unfulfilled ambitions of his own, he also grieved over the loss of his investment of time and money spent grooming his son to gain political power...

Fortunately for him he was a good enough businessman and gambler to hedge his bets by preparing another son for the sacrificial altar just for these unforeseen difficulties..."PT 109," written by William Doyle, delves further into the intriguing sidebars, backstories and afterstories than any other account of JFK's wartime service I have examined...

Joe Jr.'s other brothers were too young to have seen action in WWII, although Robert served briefly in the Naval Reserve as an enlisted man, and was able, through his father's political connections, to add sea duty on the destroyer named for his oldest brother to his resume by arranging to be present on its sea trials...Edward, the youngest brother, served later as an enlisted man also in the US Army at SHAPE HQ, then located in Paris, in the role of a military policeman...

Because of his father's influence, Edward was able to avoid duty in the ongoing Korean War which may not have been deemed "heroic" enough to risk injury which might have delayed his career plans...It may also be noted here that Joe Sr. did not serve in the nation's military at all being too young for service in the Spanish-American War, and too burdened with a family for WWI, although these considerations did not deter other Americans who heeded their country's call...

Great admiration can be credited to JFK for his endurance for pain as a youth bedeviled by abusive roughhousing from his older brother plus many illnesses and injuries suffered during his formative years...As war approached, John Kennedy put aside his accumulation of notches on his bedpost, and his collection of credits from the schools that looked best on a resume, for thoughts of gaining glory on the battlefield...

Knowing that military service always garners approval from the American voting public, the senior Kennedy was anxious to add an impressive wartime record to the accolades being gathered for his second son...He found his path in the person of Lt. Commander John Bulkeley, recently returned from the Pacific War as the key figure in one of America's few successes so far, the rescue of General Douglas MacArthur from Corregidor, an action for which he earned the Medal of Honor...

The elder Kennedy instinctively knew that the motor torpedo boats Bulkeley used in the dash to Australia could bring fame and honor to his second son if he could get him assigned to them...He also knew that his son, being on the bottom rung of the officer's ladder at the rank of Ensign, would get no sooner chances to command a larger ship than he would the smaller PT boats...

Kennedy arranged a meeting with Bulkeley, and bluntly asked whether the MoH recipient had the influence to get his son appointed to PT boat duty, upon which he was told he could, but only if his son met the Navy's requirements...The younger Kennedy bounded at the chance especially when he found the Navy would not require the Ensign to undergo another physical, allowing him to conceal his ever-increasing back pain for which he was now sleeping on plywood planking to relieve the agony...

After training, the newly promoted Lt.(jg) Kennedy asked for and received assignment to an active PT boat squadron in the South Pacific, something his father specifically fought against...Having learned well of political skullduggery at his father's knee, Lt. Kennedy had pulled his own backstage strings gaining senatorial leverage to assure his battle assignment...

Most of what happened afterward is a well-known matter of historical record, but Doyle has strengthened his telling by weaving in much backstory stitching to the story's fabric...Much has been written of Kennedy's efforts to save as many of his crew as possible, but I have seen nothing in print of his nightly walks into the shark-infested waters, not knowing he and his crew had been given up as dead...

The survivors had swum to a small spit of land, where they hid from the enemy by day...One critically injured man had been towed with his life jacket strap in Kennedy's teeth...Knowing his men would soon die from starvation, Kennedy, carrying only a handgun and a red lantern, walked nightly out on a submerged coral reef standing most of the night ready to signal a US boat knowing the waters were regularly frequented by Navy patrols...

Eventually found by native islanders who carried a message scratched inside a coconut shell to an allied coastwatcher, Kennedy and those of his men who were able resumed duty, Kennedy being assigned to another PT boat converted to a gunship...The extent of Kennedy's injuries were revealed at a later date, whereupon he was ordered back to the US for extensive medical treatment...

His return to civilian life, and entry into the political world was marked by a "fact-finding" trip before his race for the Senate against Henry Lodge, Jr...A key mission in this trip was to locate and meet the commander of the Japanese destroyer which sunk his PT boat, in an effort to show the war was over, and peace could be made between enemies...This part was orchestrated by the master of the machiavellian, Kennedy, Sr...

The meeting was foiled by Kennedy being stricken with a sudden illness brought on by his well hidden Addison's Disease, which had plagued him since childhood...Fate prevented there ever being a face-to-face meeting between the two warriors, yet the many letters, telegrams and gift exchanges between the two helped Kennedy's image as a diplomat and man of peace, just as the elder Kennedy wished...

Thus are the stories of war, politics and human relations woven...Further revelations from Doyle's retelling of what was once a familiar story, and now unfolds with a fresh look at an old war, would spoil the reader's pleasure...Suffice it to say, "PT 109" is on the Truckman Highly Recommended list, and two Kennedy brothers stand a little taller in my estimation for their service and sacrifice to country...


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Friday, September 9, 2016

Immigrants...Part II...


The current talk against Mexican immigrants takes a different tack when one considers the story of Staff Sgt. Marcario Garcia, the first Mexican immigrant to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by a grateful America...The citation for the award reads:
Staff Sergeant Marcario GarcĂ­a, Company B, 22nd Infantry, in action involving actual conflict with the enemy in the vicinity of Grosshau, Germany, 27 November 1944. While an acting squad leader, he single-handedly assaulted two enemy machine gun emplacements. Attacking prepared positions on a wooded hill, which could be approached only through meager cover. His company was pinned down by intense machine-gun fire and subjected to a concentrated artillery and mortar barrage. Although painfully wounded, he refused to be evacuated and on his own initiative crawled forward alone until he reached a position near an enemy emplacement. Hurling grenades, he boldly assaulted the position, destroyed the gun, and with his rifle killed three of the enemy who attempted to escape. When he rejoined his company, a second machine-gun opened fire and again the intrepid soldier went forward, utterly disregarding his own safety. He stormed the position and destroyed the gun, killed three more Germans, and captured four prisoners. He fought on with his unit until the objective was taken and only then did he permit himself to be removed for medical care. S/Sgt. (then Pvt.) Garcia's conspicuous heroism, his inspiring, courageous conduct, and his complete disregard for his personal safety wiped out two enemy emplacements and enabled his company to advance and secure its objective.

In later life, after becoming a US citizen, Garcia served as a counselor with the Veterans Administration for 25 years...He also became an activist for the rights of Latino immigrants...This part of his life might never have happened if not for an incident which occurred shortly after he had returned home following the war...Those people unhappy with Garcia's turn to activism may wish to direct their displeasure toward Mrs. Donna Andrews who refused service to Garcia because he was Hispanic in her Oasis Cafe in Richmond, Texas days after he was awarded the CMH by President Harry Truman...

On November 21, 1963 Garcia met with another decorated WWII veteran, President John Kennedy, at the Rice Hotel in Houston to discuss ways to improve ethnic relations in America...The next afternoon, Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas...

When I worked for Goodyear in Houston, I often traveled on S/Sgt. Marcario Garcia Blvd. when my duties took me to Goodyear's Harrisburg store...
Sgt. Garcia was not alone in his experience as an exemplary soldier among Hispanics...

Another which stands out in my memory is Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, born in Texas to Mexican and Yaqui Indian parents...In the course of his combat service in Vietnam, Sgt. Benavidez distinguished himself as cited below in his CMH presentation by President Reagan:
Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. BENAVIDEZ United States Army, distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions on 2 May 1968 while assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.
On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire. 
Sergeant BENAVIDEZ was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters, of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, returned to off-load wounded crew members and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant BENAVIDEZ voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team. 
Prior to reaching the team's position he was wounded in his right leg, face, and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader. 
When he reached the leader's body, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Sergeant BENAVIDEZ mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt. 
He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he sustained additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. 
Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sergeant BENAVIDEZ' gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.
As inspiring as the text of the citation is, it becomes legendary when Sgt. Benavidez' earlier combat experience is taken into context...During his first tour of duty as an advisor in Vietnam during a patrol with South Vietnam Army regulars, he stepped on and detonated a land mine...

Seriously injured, he was medi-vaced to a stateside Army hospital where after extensive examination he was told he would never walk again...Through sheer force of will, and without the knowledge of the doctors, he began a self-imposed regimen of exercise eventually restoring feeling and movement to his toes, then feet...

After a year of therapy in the hospital, he was able to walk out on his own, and returned to duty...Volunteering for another tour of duty in Vietnam, the events leading to his taking 37 separate wounds in what has been described as "six hours in Hell" occurred...

During after-battle triage by a field medic who assumed no man could be alive with that many severe wounds, Sgt. Benavidez was forced to spit in the medic's face as he was zipping the bodybag shut just to let him know he was alive..In addition to the Medal of Honor, Sgt. Benavidez earned a chest full of awards including five Purple Hearts, as well as much recognition after his return to civilian life...

My own experience serving with Hispanic members of the USAF, and working and living with them confirms that, though the two men discussed above may be exemplary, their willingness and pride of service is common...Those still unconvinced of the value placed on the efforts of Hispanic military members in service to the American nation may wish to spend some time with this list of Hispanic Congressional Medal of Honor recipients...


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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

War Profits...


In wars hot or cold, localized or world encompassing, profiteers abound, some popular, and others despised...Even those in non-combatant nations can profit whether the blood flows or not...As examples, the Swiss take their percentage of funds from belligerents crossing their borders even while maintaining the illusion of neutrality...The Swedes continued with the sale of raw materials to the German war industry during WWII, while later allowing tenancy of air fields by the Allies, all for a price...

Those in the business of manufacturing or distributing war materiel or services must know that they become fair targets of military activity in a hot war, and objectives of less lethal but more vicious attacks in courtrooms, pressrooms and legislative cloakrooms...Consistently the most polarizing of all participants in any hostile action, they are viewed as either conscientious patriots aiding the noble cause, or unprincipled scoundrels one step ahead of a hangman's rope, with few opinions in between...

The history as written by the victors in any war determines how the profiteers are viewed by later generations, and can determine whether there is even a future for those participants...Since WWII is the most well documented war in history, examples of this are easily found and documented...

Two of the most visible were the manufacturing families of Ford and Krupp...Viewing Ford's participation in the events leading to war from the standpoint of the victors allowed a cursory and dismissive look at charges of collaboration, while praising its quick and effective turn from manufacture of products for civilian consumption to massive quantities of instruments of warfare...

Although Henry Ford embraced some of the racial theories spewed by the Nazi dictator, and likely admired his ruthless climb to the top over the backs of his enemies, he was also astute enough as a businessman to forecast the doom toward which Germany was heading, and cut ties with the Third Reich at the opportune time...Ford knew a loser when he saw one, and knew he could expand his own empire with a much greater degree of certainty by contracting with those opposing Hitler rather than aiding him...

The definitive literary work on the Krupp dynasty is The Arms of Krupp by William Manchester, a copy of which I've owned and re-read numerous times since 1968...Almost nothing is known of the origin of the first Krupp of record, Arndt, other than he walked out of the forest into the town of Essen Germany, and may have sprung from Dutch beginnings...

What is known is that his business skills were passed down through the family from the time he first registered as a merchant in Essen, and started his fortune buying properties cheap from families decimated by the Bubonic Plague, right down to the final Krupp business tycoon, Alfried, who allied the family fortune with a political movement destined to bring itself and all who stood with it to doom...Manchester's book is a masterwork as he chronicles the entire lineage of the family with painstaking research, attention to the smallest detail and a writing style that carries the story forward from obscure beginning to bitter end...

Ford ended the war with new paid-for factories, new sources of raw materials and a guaranteed customer base clamoring for products...The Krupp family was left in ruin with destroyed factories, confiscated accumulations of wealth, endless debt and facing prosecution and possible death sentences as war criminals...However the Krupps survived and after some prison time Alfried Felix Alwyn Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach regained some semblance of a manufacturing career, although he became the last family member of the great steelmaker dynasty...

Profiteering itself, seldom used as anything but a pejorative term, is often viewed as the activity and singular motivating interest of the greedy, ignoring the pain and suffering resulting from the wanton use of their products of destruction...That definition fades into the mist when those same products from the same business-people are employed in defense or aggressive attack against those who have become the enemies of the civilized world...

As in any business, profits must be taken or commerce will stall and fail...All expenses must be considered and budgeted for because all bills come due and must be paid...Those critics who lament the $800.00 toilet seats, and $1,200.00 hammers billed to the taxpayers in some defense contracts should know that the bottom line profit also covers R&D costs, tooling and testing as well as costs most would rather sweep under the rug such as lobbying, employee theft and even bribery...All must be paid for in the end...

Indeed the ubiquitous Red Cross, the non-profit organization with its attendant Red Crescent and Red Crystal entities, accounted for at scenes of human suffering in both war and peace, takes its profit to pay the salaries of its managers and directorship, and to stockpile supplies against future needs...Profit is the reason trade exists no matter what product or service is being offered...

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Unit Citations...

As one whose well-intentioned, but poorly executed military career ended with no more ribbons on his chest than those awarded his assigned unit, I am nevertheless grateful to have been chosen for duty with a command such as the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, cited for accomplishments by its own as well as foreign governments for meritorious and outstanding achievements...Notable performance resulting from accrued efforts by a team cannot necessarily be accredited to one individual over another, but are recognized by awards for service as a unit by the military...

Military units are classified by branch of service, and are further sub-classed by chain of command...As an example, the 49th TFW, at the time of my service, was under the command of USAFE, and later 17th Air Force as part of the Tactical Air Command, USAF, DoD...Within the 49th I was first assigned to the 9th TFS, and later for the remainder of my service the 349th MMS...

Citations are awarded to military units on the basis of outstanding or meritorious achievement within their assigned duties...Naval units assigned to sea duty are most recognizable by ship name, and in battle these units are subject to quick dissolution when sunk...Even in that case, they may be cited for service occurring prior to going under...

One such example was the USS Laffey (DD-459) which slipped under the waves defiant to the end while defending a transport convoy at the Battle of Guadalcanal against an overwhelming JIN force...Later recognized with a Presidential Unit Citation, the officers and crew of the destroyer took on two battleships and two Japanese destroyers in a merciless battle, at one point charging head-on at the flagship of the enemy fleet, the battleship Hiel, with only its deck guns left as armament...

The destroyer's attack stunned the Japanese crew and killed the Japanese fleet commander's chief of staff, seriously hampering the wounded commander's ability to direct the battle...The Laffey then turned to re-engage and was hit at close range from one of the Hiel's 14-inch guns and a torpedo from one of the Japanese destroyers...The Laffey also earned three battle stars and was awarded the WWII Victory Medal after the war ended...

The Laffey's service was further honored when a second destroyer was christened USS Laffey (DD-724) in 1943, and served with distinction in both Atlantic and Pacific campaigns through the end of WWII, earning the nickname of "The Ship That Would Not Die"...After escorting a convoy to England, the newly commissioned Laffey was ordered to join the Normandy invasion force where it joined other combatants at Utah Beach, and after replenishment at Plymouth, it served screening and bombardment roles at Cherbourg...

Having accomplished its assignments during Operation Overlord, the Laffey steamed home for refitting and replenishment, following which it joined the Pacific Fleet...Screening and patrol duties there and a support mission in the battle of Iwo Jima led to intense battle at the invasion of Okinawa where it fought off numerous bombing, strafing and kamikaze attacks, earning it its nickname...

The Laffey participated in further battles during the Korean War, and served during the Cold war until it was decommissioned and stricken in 1975, the last of the Sumner class destroyers to serve...Even today, the Ship That Would Not Die continues to uphold its proud history as a museum ship in South Carolina, having been declared a National Historic Landmark...

For its gallant service, the second of the Laffeys earned a Presidential Unit Citation with five WWII battle stars, a Korean Presidential Unit Citation with two battle stars and a Meritorious Unit Commendation for its Cold War service, together with three Battle Efficiency Ribbons earned during its 32 years at sea...Both ships served their namesake well, being named in tribute of Medal of Honor recipient, Seaman Bartlett Laffey, who served his nation with distinction 80 years prior to WWII...


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