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Why Did I Write This Book?

The book on my father’s World War II unit, the 39th Infantry Regiment, has been submitted to the editors at Schiffer Publishing, who will work their magic to turn it into something you will love to read.  So what is it all about?  In short, the story is about one tiny American Army infantry company that fought for our country for several years in World War II.  But it’s a lot more than that.

Once upon a time, the forces of evil came within a razor’s edge of plunging the world into a second Dark Age.  Many, many nations answered the call to defend civilization, but only one – the United States of America – could tip the balance of fate to victory for the defenders of what was good and right.  And she did.

America won the war with a huge industrial base.  She won it with a unity of effort seldom seen before and never seen since.  She won it by bringing women and minorities into the war effort.  She won it with magnificent technology.  She won it with a few senior leaders in each military service and in Washington who had the remarkable foresight to comprehend the new character of this war and how it would be conducted.  But most of all she won it with a bunch of boys who stood on God-forsaken battlefields around the world and in their own brazen and cocky manner snarled at their foe: “Not today Tojo; not today Benito; not today Adolf.  Not today, not tomorrow; not ever.  To get to where you want to go, Adolf, you have to go through us.  And that ain’t happening.”

The cost of that victory was monumental – which is why we have so many monuments around the world to remember their sacrifice.  Unlike in many other nations, however, most of America’s monuments are not triumphal arches or palisaded promenades, but rather her military cemeteries, unfortunately filled to the brim with her heroes.  In World War II the United States of America lost 407,316 military dead – enough that almost every city, town, and village lost loved ones.  As to civilian deaths worldwide, the slaughter estimates range from 45 million to 95 million – and the only reason America did not suffer millions of civilian deaths at home is because these same young Americans stopped the enemy before they could get here.

There have been thousands of books written about the war, maybe tens of thousands, based primarily on records and reports, and the accounts of senior officers.  And many are excellent.  But there has always been a problem.  The enlisted men and women of America who fought World War II were notoriously reticent about discussing their experiences.  Called “The Greatest Generation,” they should also have been dubbed “The Silent Generation.”  Not only were they closed-mouthed, many seemed proud that they “wouldn’t talk” to the extent that children and grandchildren, maybe even you, of these soldiers came to the conclusion that even if they waterboarded “Old Gramps” – which they would never do to such a beloved person – he wasn’t talking, so why bother because everyone was just going to get wet.

Maybe it was because my father was so closed mouthed about the war that I wrote this book.  Once in a while, you could get a few grunts and groans out of the old man if you were lucky, but he was of the mind that the war was a chapter of life already finished and better off not to be re-read.  My brother and I would get a hint of his experiences when Dad stormed into our bedrooms each school-day morning, screaming at the top of his lungs in German to get out of bed, turning on every light, throwing back the curtains and, when he was in a particularly charitable mood, opening the windows all the way on frosty-cold mornings to ensure that you got out of bed – quickly.

Dad had spent some “quality time” as a prisoner of war (POW) at some place in Germany called Stalag VI G and obviously wanted his two sons – who had designs on attending West Point – to get used to catching hell like he did every morning there at that camp when a German sergeant did the same thing.

We are going to try to get their story right, in spite of their reluctance in life to talk much about the war.  Of course, each one would insist that we not talk about his own efforts, but remember his buddies instead, saying that they were the real heroes, and what they were able to accomplish together.  All were unique, and it was this individuality that made every other soldier better.

“A soldier can be a hero and a hero can be a legend and a legend can make a superman out of a soldier.”  You will read about all about that; in fact, the intent of the book is to put you right alongside of the soldiers of Company B, 39th Infantry Regiment – in the same foxhole.  You’ll start your journey at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where the division is formed.  Then its’ off to England in 1942 and then we’re all going to Algeria, Tunisia and Sicily; we’ll see combat in each.  After that it’s Normandy, France, and then we’ll head east to Belgium.  This fighting is tough, but you’ll think the war will be over by Christmas.  It won’t be.  Your next stop is the Hürtgen Forest.  If you survive that, and a lot of us didn’t, it’s on to another miserable place, the Hohes Venn.  Then it’s Merode Castle (see photo above) and then Elsenborn Ridge in the Battle of the Bulge.  The castle, built in 1263, has five-story towers, and a wide moat with 7-foot-deep, cold water.  There is one entrance – a narrow bridge twelve feet wide, covered by machine gun fire.  Getting into that castle, borrowing a phrase from poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, you will be “stormed at with shot and shell.”

In January 1945 we’ll try and get warm and attack the vaunted Siegfried Line, where concrete bunkers have machine guns we call “Hitler’s buzz saws” or “Kraut bone saws” and when you hear them firing, you’ll know why.  Then you’ll see the inside of a German POW camp.  You’ll lose a lot of weight, be infested with fleas and lice, suffer constant diarrhea, get no hot showers, sleep three to a bunk, and see guys drop from typhus – while angry guard dogs try to bite you.

Meanwhile, Company B keeps fighting to the end of the war in Europe.  It is a rough time and casualties continue at an alarming rate right through the end and a lot of our buddies died.  After that, however, everyone did not just pack up their gear and head home.  What would happen with Japan, how long will the occupation of Germany last, what is the system for a soldier to return home?  Finally, there is a Conclusion and Epilogue; save them for last.  Some of the book is sad; but much is funny, which could be offensive to some readers.  But no less an authority than famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle had this to say about humor in war.

“It would be wrong to say that war is all grim; if it were, the human spirit could not survive two and three and four years of it… As some soldier once said, the Army is good for one ridiculous laugh per minute.  Our soldiers are still just as roughly good-humored as they always were, and they laugh easily, although there isn’t as much to laugh about as there used to be.”

At the end of most chapters you will find a total of over fifty special topics under the category of “School of the Soldier,” an old Army term that has to do with teaching a soldier the really important stuff in the Army and how to survive, so you can tell their story when they wouldn’t.

History is the oxygen for storytelling; and storytelling is the essence of humanity.  Once upon a time, your father, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers became part of that history which fueled a legend that should never die – in part because so many of them did.  Your mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers were legends too, sometimes in combat areas – such as the Philippines, where 77 Army nurses, the “Angels of Bataan and Corregidor,” were forced by the enemy on a 68-mile “death march” without food or water in 100-degree temperatures – or back home working in dangerous factory jobs building the Arsenal of Democracy.  Now it is up to you whether that legend is passed down to your children and grandchildren, or whether you let that legend die.  Because legends don’t die with a bang; they die with a whimper.

You might ask: “Why is it up to me to keep their story alive?”  Because you would fit right in with us in Company B.  How do we know?  When something in life knocks you down, and you get back up on your feet, wipe the blood off your nose with your sleeve, and say: “Is that all you’ve got?” you’re in Company B.  If people have told you that you were too small, or too slow or too anything, and you went out and proved them wrong, you’re in Company B.  If you ever saw someone bullied by a group of people bigger than you and you jumped in to help that person, you’re in Company B.

You love dogs?  In 1942, a young soldier found a stray dog in the Aleutian Islands, and took care of him until he was reassigned to the States.  Putting the dog, named Buff, in his duffel bag, the trooper took him on the journey.  Months later the soldier climbed aboard a troopship – Buff hidden again in his duffle bag – and went to Europe and Company B, where Buff served as a mascot and helped pull guard duty.  So if you love dogs, you’re in Company B.  And if you love to read a book about American soldiers, then you’re in Company B, too.

 

Why Did I Write This Book?2023-07-07T17:30:33-05:00

My Friend Eric Paternoster

My friend and West Point classmate, Eric Paternoster, died about three weeks ago.  We had known each other since 1970 when we entered the US Military Academy and were assigned to Company A-2.  Attended his Celebration of Life ceremony in Cincinnati last Friday and wrote down some of my thoughts on him.

A Man for All Seasons

As we look back at Eric Paternoster, it would be quite understandable to call him a “Renaissance Man” – someone with extraordinarily broad and comprehensive knowledge, and with expertise in multiple disciplines.  That was certainly true for Eric, who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1974, served as an airborne, ranger, infantry officer, earned a graduate degree from the University of Cincinnati, and worked as a senior consultant with Accenture, followed by Ernst & Young, and finally with Infosys as the CEO of Infosys Public Services.  A “Renaissance Man”?  Certainly.

Sir Thomas More

But Eric was much more.  Five-hundred years ago, author Robert Whittington coined the phrase “A Man for All Seasons” describing Sir Thomas More, venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, an English lawyer, judge, social philosopher, author, and statesman – and perhaps most importantly a man who stood up to King Henry VIII, and for this offense was beheaded.  It is said that the executioner was so distraught that he begged for More’s pardon before carrying out his grim task.  To Whittington, “A Man for All Seasons” was a person ready to take on whatever life threw at him; a person suited for all occasions; who does not get flustered easily, but keeps a calm, efficient demeanor; a person who has proven to be extremely reliable and trustworthy; acts with grace and aplomb, but never demands to be the center of attention; and perhaps most importantly, follows their conscience, and acts correctly even when others may choose a less honorable path.

Duty, Honor, Country

In 1970, after completing Beast Barracks at West Point, Eric and roughly thirty other classmates reported to their new home, Company A of the 2nd Regiment Corps of Cadets.  One of their first orders of business was to elect their class honor code representative who would instruct and lead them over the next four years in a code of conduct that simply states: “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.”  The penalty for failing to follow the code was equally simple; a cadet could be expelled from the Corps.  Eric firmly believed in the honor code and believed all should follow it.  Eric also believed it was his duty to explain the code fully to all cadets and to also fight for any cadet that Eric – following his conscience – believed did not willfully commit an honor violation.

Regulations were another matter.  Eric was of the belief that the new Monday Night Football program was almost a Constitutional right to watch – even if the end of that game came after Taps, and thus there were numerous occasions when he was apprehended in the company dayroom, game on and lights off.  And more than once, when Eric was caught in this abhorrent transgression, he refused to divulge who might or might not have been watching the game with him, but who had scampered behind a large couch and avoided apprehension, while Eric took the rap.

National boundaries could not contain this “Man for All Seasons.”  With Infosys Public Services, Eric helped fuse American and Indian knowhow, culture and intellect – along with expertise from personnel of several other nations – to forge boundaryless public sector synergies.  Eric would leave no stone unturned and once his vision included taking a large number of company employees to the Gettysburg Civil War Battlefield in southern Pennsylvania.  However, rather than simply describing a military engagement from some 159 years ago – the technology and tactics having little to do with today – Eric used the past to stimulate a day-long examination of the future for Infosys: who in the organization was monitoring the technology of present and future competitors?  How does an organization train, develop and retain quality employees and prepare them to be future leaders?  How do leaders transmit and ensure understanding of their vision of success to the entire organization?

And like every person for all seasons, Eric would be the first to credit others for his own success: his West Point classmates; his Army comrades; his business associates all along the way; his beloved University of Cincinnati; his family; and most of all his wonderful wife Diana Paternoster (nee Coleman).

Eric, we miss you in so many ways.  But we also thank God for the opportunity of having you in our lives.  Pride of the Corps.  As for everyone who never met Eric, I would submit this old poem by Rudyard Kipling that captured our friend in so many ways.  It is called If.

 

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

My Friend Eric Paternoster2023-02-14T18:00:09-06:00

Don’t Pull the Switch

The Death Penalty. Sooner or later a case will bubble up to the Supreme Court and they’ll have to rule on its constitutionality. That’s why I sent a copy of The Fifth Field to all nine members. And in one thank-you note, a member said he had never read about these 96 death penalty cases before. They better start reading, because they get one shot to get this correct, or the later unrest might be bigger than Roe v. Wade.

I used to be a big believer in the death penalty. And I still believe that there are some really bad people out there who don’t deserve to live among us. So in defending yourself, and your loved ones against a murderer who would take your lives, well if he takes his last breath in that attempt that’s just too bad for him.

As for the government using the judicial system to put someone to death, I don’t agree with that anymore. First, you can’t “undo” the death penalty, if you later find out that the guy you just fried in the electric chair didn’t actually do the crime. If the accused is convicted and gets a long prison sentence, you can let him out later if you discover he is actually not guilty, and at least try to make amends for the error by paying him and his family an extremely large amount of money; it will never make up for the lengthy prison time, but at least his later years will not be in poverty.

Juries make mistakes. Prosecuting attorneys and defense counsels have various degrees of competence and make mistakes too. Judges’ rulings often later get overturned. Even the vaunted US Supreme Court frequently has 5-4 decisions – meaning that 44.44% of the justices had the “wrong” legal opinion from the majority. But if 44.44% of our juries convicted the wrong guy and sentenced him to death, we would stop the death penalty immediately.

US Supreme Court

Secondly, law-abiding citizens, whether in the jury, or prison guards, or the few actually involved in the execution process, often suffer terrible mental duress for the remainder of their lives – even concerning executions where there is never any doubt as to the accused’s guilt. Yes, there are some who will “sleep like a baby” but others won’t. And that’s not an opinion; I was fortunate enough to be able to review 96 death penalty cases in the US Army in Europe in World War II, when writing The Fifth Field, and numerous military police involved in the executions had terrible emotional issues later – with at least one tough MP sergeant, Richard Mosley, later committing suicide.

Richard Mosley

But most troubling, charging someone with a capital crime – a capital crime is one for which you could possibly receive the death penalty – is often a matter of prosecutorial discretion. The prosecutor can put the death penalty into the realm of possible punishments, or the prosecution can “take it off the table.” That is a difficult decision for any prosecutor, and some are simply not up to it.

Most alarmingly, we are seeing that more and more prosecutors are using factors of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and even political affiliation in their decisions of whom to charge – or not to charge. That is bad enough concerning crimes that carry potential incarceration. But using those factors in such a way for a prosecutor to put his or her thumb on the scales of justice concerning the death penalty is unconscionable.

Do you really think that the current State’s Attorney Office for Cook County, Illinois, doesn’t often have their entire hand on the scales of justice – let alone thumb? Even the Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association and the National District Attorneys Association ripped into Kim Foxx’s decisions in the Jussie Smollett case.

Ferguson Riots

Do you really think that politics didn’t play a role in determining who should be charged concerning the 2014 disturbances, riots, unrest, uprising, demonstration, in Ferguson, Missouri? Even the US Department of Justice couldn’t get to the bottom of it, ruling on one hand that Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in self-defense, while also determining that the Ferguson Police Department had engaged in misconduct against the citizenry of Ferguson by, among other things, discriminating against African Americans and applying racial stereotypes in a “pattern or practice of unlawful conduct.”

Regardless how you come down on events with political ramifications, no government should have that much power. We need to do away with the death penalty – before people get executed for their political beliefs.

Don’t Pull the Switch2023-06-21T11:57:28-05:00

Till

Till is a 2022 American biographical drama film that had its world premiere on October 1, 2022 at the New York Film Festival and will be released in the United States on October 22, 2022, by United Artists.  It obviously hasn’t reached Decatur yet, but looks like it is a very good movie, although the subject is a pretty rough one.  The two main characters are Emmett Till, age 14, and his mother Mamie, who is played by Danielle Deadwyler, and if she doesn’t get an Oscar for her performance they just ought to do away with the award.

Till

That’s because she plays a lady who has just had her son brutally murdered.  They live in Chicago and Emmett asks her if he can go visit Mississippi to visit family.  She agrees, and he never comes home alive.  There is no reason to spoil the show by recounting all the details.  If you can’t wait, read Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement, by Devery S. Anderson.

For everyone who thinks that history began the day they were born, and given the median age in the US is roughly 38, that means half of us start our personal view of history in 1984 and before that, Who cares?  But you should care, because this incident was a major factor that propelled the modern US Civil Rights Movement, which led to Reverend Martin Luther King, all the way up to today.

As you will see in the movie, after Emmett is killed and his remains are returned to Chicago, Mamie has a terrible decision to make — at the funeral should the casket be open or closed?  Families all across the country have to make similar decisions for their loved ones.  But it usually does not involve the remains of a 14 year old, and the remains are usually not so mutilated that it is hard to determine who the person is.  It is not a decision that the mother of a 14 year old should ever have to make.  But Mamie had to make it.

Mamie Till

Mamie could not have been faulted for deciding on a closed casket.  But she chose an open casket — precisely to show the world the brutality that was so shocking, that only an open casket could show its magnitude, the depravity of the crime and innocence of her son, whose life was snuffed out for no reason.

But history has a way of filling in the blanks and a book I wrote The Fifth Field, sheds light on Emmett Till, although I did not realize it until after I conducted the research.  The reason Mamie had to make this decision was that her husband, Louis Till, was not around.

Louis Till was from Madrid, Missouri, reportedly growing up an orphan.  An amateur boxer, he worked at the Argo Corn Company in Argo, Illinois – not far from Chicago.  He married Mamie on October 14, 1940; both Louis and Mamie were eighteen years old.  On July 25, 1941, they had a son, Emmett.  The couple separated in 1942; according to some sources, he had attacked his wife so violently that she defended herself by throwing a pan of boiling water on him.  On July 9, 1942, Till was inducted at Chicago, Illinois – according to a source, it was the Army or jail from a judge, who was tired of Till violating restraining orders.

Fast forward to June 27, 1944 near Civitavecchia, Italy – along the Mediterranean coast northwest of Rome.  Louis, who by now has two court-martial convictions, and four other men, assault and rob a US Navy sailor and then plan and commit two home invasions raping two women and killing another woman.  To make an interesting crime mystery short, Louis and another soldier are convicted of rape and murder, sentenced to death, and hanged at Aversa, Italy on July 2, 1945.  Louis and accomplice Fred A. McMurray were initially buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Naples.  Both were exhumed in 1949 and now are buried at the American Military Cemetery at Oise-Aisne, France in Plot E.  It’s a mysterious place and still pretty difficult to get into.  Till’s remains are in Row 4, Grave 73.

Louis Till Grave

In Fighting for America: Black Soldiers – The Unsung Heroes of World War II, author Christopher Paul Moore stated that Mamie said that, although she had received his wedding band and personal effects: “the Army had never told her the cause of her husband’s death.”  That was accurate to an extent; the Army was quite terse with every soldier executed stating only that it was due to “judicial asphyxiation.”

But don’t feel sorry for him.  He was brutal to Mamie; he was brutal to the two women he raped and the third that he killed.  The trial records support the conviction and the sentence, despite what some “experts” opine that all trials of minority soldiers in World War II were racially tinged.  Read The Fifth Field and make up your own mind.

Within these effects, however, was an item that would help Mamie ten years later.  Louis Till’s silver ring, bearing the date “May 25, 1943” and the initials “LT” that he purchased in Casablanca was returned to Mamie.  In 1955, she let Emmett take the ring to Mississippi, and after finding his remains, authorities identified his mutilated body, in part, through the distinctive ring and the initials “LT.”

Mamie Till died in 2003 at age 81.  She was buried near her son in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, where her monument reads, “Her pain united a nation.”

See the movie.  Read the book on Emmett Till.  Read The Fifth Field.  You can learn a lot from history.

Till2022-11-14T09:50:35-06:00

The Tyranny of Geography

Land. Farmers love it. Investors want it. An old saying goes: “They’re not making any more of it.” On a larger scale, societies, countries and nations are prisoners of it. It is the tyranny of geography and if you have “good” geography you thrive, while if you have “bad” geography you have endless problems. It’s sort of like the corner lot downtown that can’t support a restaurant; three establishments open and close one after the other because there’s limited parking, no room to expand, and out in the middle of nowhere; it’s in a bad geographic spot.

English Channel: A ribbon of dark blue but almost no one can attack across it

Looking at a map, no one would ever predict that scrawny England could ever be powerful. It’s too small. Look closer; that blue you see all around it is water – the North Atlantic, North Sea and English Channel. That water has meant that the chance of anyone successfully invading England is small, giving the English tribes a chance to form a country, and then a nation, which went on to create an empire that covered a quarter of the Earth’s surface. As an island, it has ports which led to commerce and a fishing industry which fed people. Only two powers ever conquered that island in over 2,000 years: Rome in 43; and the Normans in 1066. Napoleon couldn’t do it, nor could Adolf Hitler.

Napoleon

Halfway around the world is Bangladesh. As the eighth-most populous country in the world you might think it is a powerful nation. It has lush, fertile land and has never recorded an air temperature below 32°F; the people are industrious. But look closer at the map. To the north are the Himalayan Mountains; to the south is the Bay of Bengal. Most of Bangladesh has an elevation of less than 39 feet above sea level. Those geographic factors put Bangladesh in peril from monsoons, tropical cyclones, and floods from Himalayan melt water. In September 1998, Bangladesh saw the most severe flooding in modern history, with two-thirds of the country underwater. It is the tranny of geography.

Poor Poland. It has a seacoast, excellent farmland, natural resources, and smart, resilient people; they have a few tornadoes and cold weather in winter, but nothing worse than the US. Earthquakes in Poland are a rare phenomenon. Weathermen there sometimes describe “hurricane-force” winds, but let’s get real, Poland has never had a “Hurricane Brygida”. But perhaps more than any other country in Europe, Poland is a prisoner of the tyranny of geography.

Everybody and his brother have invaded them. Poland has also been the super-highway/autobahn/autostrada/Автомагистраль for fights between Germany and Russia trying to get at each other. The list of invaders is long and distinguished (at least for military history geeks): Baidar Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan), Kęstutis and his Lithuanians, Edigu and his Tatars, Ulrich von Jungingen and his Teutonic Knights – and that’s just to 1410. In recent times, Napoleon, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin rolled back and forth over the Polish plains. Poland couldn’t get out of the way of a war if it tried – because of its geography.

Teutonic Knights

Which brings us home. The American colonies, when they revolted against England, had the gift of not good – but great – geography. The American Revolution was a “home game” for the colonists, while England had a 3,000-mile supply route back home. And for the next two centuries, the Atlantic Ocean proved such a formidable barrier that not even Nazi rocket scientists could develop aircraft and missiles that could strike American shores.

Yamamoto

The same situation existed in the Pacific, so wide and formidable that not even vaunted Japanese strategist Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto dared invade us. Three salt-water bodies – Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico, enabled American ports to host fleets of commercial ships and fishing boats greater than Great Britain could ever dream of, which led to the 20th century being the American Century.

And yet in one fell swoop – what only a gigantic, earth-shattering asteroid could have accomplished – fools have neutered our country’s monumental geographic advantage by opening the southern border to a human invasion – and while there may be no enemy tanks rolling across as of yet, the number of known “gotaways” – illegal immigrants who are spotted crossing the border but who are never caught – are the equivalent of three Russian Army infantry divisions PER MONTH.

Fentanyl

Some of those folks may be well-intentioned, albeit law-breakers; here’s what else is coming in: Fentanyl, opium, sex-traffickers, terrorists of all stripes, cocaine, drug cartels, Central American street-gangs, Covid, tuberculosis, all tsunamis of death – much funneled through Mexico by China. The result? Perhaps the greatest determinant of world power in history – location, location, location – has been trumped by the tyranny of idiocy, idiocy, idiocy.

The Tyranny of Geography2023-06-21T11:14:43-05:00

Red Dawn

Found a DVD in the value bin at Walmart – the classic 1984 version of Red Dawn, with Patrick Swayzy. A fictional story, set in the early 1980s, in the mountains of Colorado, a group of teenagers defend their town from occupying Soviet and Cuban forces that have invaded the US. The kids live in a village called Calumet; it could be almost anywhere, a small American township with deliberately vague landmarks. Maybe your town. The teens start a guerilla warfare movement, blowing up enemy equipment over a six-month period, but the movie has a dark side. Not all the citizens are in for the cause; the mayor is a collaborator. Occupying forces execute hostages in an attempt to quell the uprising; the teens shoot captured Russian prisoners. I won’t spoil the ending.

Wolverines!

Red Dawn got me thinking of a potential Civil War today, as a lot of pundits are saying that our country is headed for one; and a senior politician seemed to be goading his opposition into starting one. So I started re-reading on the Civil War – the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” and the “Gettysburg Address” and all that, but there is another side of that war – when Americans were fighting other Americans – a very dark side, that Abraham Lincoln could see, and if we didn’t watch out, the country would never heal.

Both sides, North and South, killed captured prisoners on more than one occasion – maybe a lot more, because if 100 are killed, that becomes news, but if 1-2 are killed, it probably doesn’t even get reported up the line. One or two here, one or two there, and at some point they add up to real numbers – real bad numbers. Both sides, Union and Confederate, established terrible prisoner of war camps; an especially infamous one up north was Camp Douglas in Chicago – an equally infamous one down south was Andersonville in Georgia. Make no mistake; those two hellholes were concentration camps and the only things missing were gas chambers.

Andersonville Prison Camp

I recall reading that Union Generals Grant and Sherman were discussing how many Confederate soldiers would have to die before the south would give up. Grant reminded Sherman of all their southern classmates they had known at West Point, and how tough they were, and how many joined the Confederate Army – and then Grant reportedly said: “About a quarter million.” That was pretty accurate, as some historical studies have posited that 258,000 Confederates and 360,000 Union troops died – 618,000 total. Guerilla/criminal bands – Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson and others – slaughtered civilians; it wasn’t called “Bloody Kansas” for nothing. The material cost was monumental too. Sherman’s burn-it-to-the-ground March to the Sea hastened the end of the war, but it took Georgia decades to recover economically.

Civil War today? There is one characteristic, that bears watching, common to many on both sides. They view the other as evil. It used to be in America that one viewed political opponents, as mis-guided or stupid, and you worked by peaceful ways to convince them to change. But evil? There is no compromise with the devil. You exterminate evil or it will do the same to you.

If we have a Civil War, whether viewed as crushing an evil insurrection, or overthrowing an evil government, it will get ugly in a hurry. In Civil Wars, many folks present at its start, are dead before it ends. Whoever is in power, Democrats or Republicans, might suspend habeas corpus – Abe Lincoln did, and some would argue it has been suspended for participants in January 6. There will be targeted killings of folks supporting the other side; we’ve already had targeting of Supreme Court justices. Civil War looting will dwarf pillaging in 2020, and looters will be shot on sight by enraged citizens who feel their government won’t protect them.

In Civil Wars, border areas are especially vicious as both sides lack legitimacy to police them, so both push war matériel over borders to their supporters. That lawless situation already exists in northern Mexico and many areas inside the US. Both sides might well allow torture to gain information. It may not be William Wallace variety in Braveheart, but it easily could be Hank Voight and “the cage” in Chicago PD, as lots of people just “disappear” in Civil Wars. After many of these conflicts, bunches of people on the losing side get hanged by the neck until dead, while others have lifetime bans on voting, gun-ownership, military service, property ownership, or receiving social benefits.

War is subject to irrational factors, which gives each conflict a unique character. Typical of Civil Wars is that they don’t end until BOTH sides decide to stop. “When” is hard to predict, but it’s predicated on pain, lots and lots of pain. That’s why Red Dawn is such a great movie – it gets you to think about what could happen after the sun comes up.

Red Dawn2023-06-21T11:20:37-05:00

If You Are…You Need a Gun

The Supreme Court has spoken on the Second Amendment. The latest is the decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen. Bruen for short. It struck down as unconstitutional New York State’s concealed carry law that required an individual to prove “proper cause” existed before a license would be issued allowing that person to carry a concealed pistol or revolver in public.

Earlier decisions confirmed that you may have a firearm inside your home, and you may have one outside as well. Typically, several states are moving to define where outside your home you may have one, and of course that’s almost no place, which is why New York, Illinois, California and other anti-self-defense states are hemorrhaging thousands upon thousands of taxpayers to better-run other states. These obvious run-around limitations will be struck down as well, and are merely delaying actions — scorched earth in military parlance.

The “typical” gun owner is often characterized by non-gun-owners as a right-wing, red-neck, beer-guzzling, low-IQ Neanderthal (see below) who is just itchin’ to unleash his trigger finger. But times have changed, and now a whole lot of those non-gun-owners – who used to be dismissive of guns — truly need a firearm, whether you are a Pabst or an Armand de Brignac Brut kind of person.

Because now, it might be a matter of life or death. Recently in Decatur, Illinois — a state that allows violence in the streets on a daily basis (see below), a teen was arrested for allegedly breaking into his 60-year-old neighbor’s home and trying to kill him because that neighbor is gay. So if you identify as LGBTQ…you need a gun for protection. LGBTQ people are nearly four times more likely than non-LGBTQ people to be victims of violent crime. You may never actually have to shoot to defend your life, but then again, why take a chance?

If you identify as a woman…you need a gun for protection. 19.3 million women in the U.S. have been stalked in their lifetime. 1 in 4 have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 1 in 7 have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. 1 in 5 have been raped in their lifetime. You may never actually have to shoot in self-defense, but then again, why take a chance?

If you live in a rough neighborhood… you need a gun for protection. In 2021, 701 men and 90 women were murdered in the Windy City. 640 were black, 29 were white, 105 were Hispanic, and the major determinant was where they lived. The City of Chicago is installing 426 “Bleeding Control Kits” (see above) in 269 buildings across the city. Officials say the kits could help save lives in an emergency such as falls and penetrating injuries. Let’s get real; the kits are there to treat gunshot wounds, a tacit admission that the powers that be cannot prevent you from being shot; they have RETREATED to a position where they “hope” that you will not die from a gunshot wound inflicted by a criminal who will be armed regardless of the law.

If you live in a rich, safe neighborhood…you need a gun for protection. 875 South Bundy Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles; case closed.

If you know one or more males in your neighborhood who have violent tempers… you need a gun for protection. Almost half of all male killers are younger than 25. Less than one-third of male killers rely on firearms as their weapon of choice. That means that two-thirds of male murderers use some other means of killing – not firearms. Why take a chance?

If you identify as male…you need a gun for protection. Almost 80% of all murder victims in the U.S. are male. You may never actually have to shoot in self-defense, but then again, why take a chance?

If you are an Asian-American…you need a gun for protection. Hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent in the U.S. have skyrocketed, especially in large urban areas, where the legal gun ownership process can be especially onerous. Determining motivation of a criminal – who is never apprehended – is almost impossible: did the perpetrator rob and kill a Chinese-American store owner because of race or because of the cash register? You may never actually have to shoot in self-defense, but then again, why take a chance?

If the proponents of gun control ever get their way, it will not be the rich political elites who are murdered; they talk a good game, but live in gated communities, in exclusive neighborhoods, and have personal security details, or flaunt the law and have their own firearms on the sly. By denying the means to defend for everyone else, the anti-2nd Amendment mob expose themselves as homophobes, anti-woman, racists of all stripes, and whatever fancy term applies to setting up elderly people living alone to be victimized.

A society, country and culture can be measured, in part, by how well it protects the most vulnerable among them, whether they are unborn babies, children, or people who look different, think differently, believe differently or come from different backgrounds. The right to life; the right to self-defense; all are inherent rights of every human being. No government can legitimately deny you that right.

But they try to. So if you own a firearm, great. Make sure you keep it secured. And help everyone you know learn how to shoot and how to legally obtain a firearm. Because: man, woman, gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, Asian-American, atheist, religious, young adult or senior citizen …you need a gun for protection.

If You Are…You Need a Gun2023-06-21T13:52:15-05:00

Piss-Ant, Potentate Politicians

In regione caecorum rex est luscus

In the Land of the Blind, the One-eyed Man is King

Piss-Ant, Potentate Politicians

In the 1930s between Belgium and Poland, a piss-ant, potentate politician decided that he was going to get rid of an entire group of people upon whom he blamed his country’s ills, calling them vermin (Ungeziefer) and deplorables (bedauernswerten).  He was devious enough, however, to know the populace would not accept that in one bite, so he used an incremental approach.  First the deplorables were not allowed to sit on the same park benches as “regular” people.  Different benches?  No big deal.  Later, they could not be treated by regular physicians, attend regular schools, own their own businesses, retain their citizenship and on it went.

Then the piss-ant, potentate politician said that the bedauernswerten must live in their own communities apart from regular people, and were transported to overcrowded urban ghettos in eastern Europe, where they were confined and worked, unpaid, for the government.

Because they were out of sight and out of mind of regular people, the piss-ant, potentate politician finally ordered that the deplorables be murdered.  And so they were.  But in Warsaw, the doomed people fought back.  Or actually a few did; of the 56,065 people there about 1,000 younger people fought.  The rest decided it was better to pray on your knees than die on your feet, and told the fighters that resistance would only make the piss-ant, potentate politician angry.  But the youngsters – being youngsters – told those who would not fight, Shtup es in toches and fought anyway, until all of them were killed in combat by the piss-ant, potentate politician’s special troops that wore skulls on their uniforms.  But at least they went out on their own terms.

Meanwhile, those who would not fight believed that they had avoided the piss-ant, potentate politician’s ire, only to be loaded onto railway cattle cars, transported to Vernichtungslager (extermination camps), and marched into gas chambers, where carbon monoxide from large diesel engines did its gruesome work.  The choking-to-death took about twenty minutes, after which the piss-ant, potentate politician’s henchmen yanked out the victims’ gold teeth and searched the bodies for any hidden jewelry.

Decades later, in a country located between Canada and Mexico, piss-ant, potentate politicians – unfortunately, not only the usual suspects, but also some from the other side of the aisle – concluded that their nation’s Constitution gave way too much power to the unwashed common citizens – termed deplorables by many of the elites – upon whom they blamed their country’s ills and that their “rights” had to be swiftly and ruthlessness curtailed.  So the piss-ant, potentate politicians got their lackies in social media – such as YouTube and Facebook among others – to attack freedom of speech, banning recalcitrants.  Using a pandemic from China, they also banned public gatherings including religious services, and continued to go after more firearms, which the Constitution had allowed as a basic right, but many piss-ant, potentate politicians had their own security guards, lived in gated communities, and couldn’t care less about crime in your neighborhood.

Then the teachers’ unions, renowned lapdogs and sycophants of piss-ant, potentate politicians, got into the act, refusing to conduct actual classes in many public schools.  They conducted virtual classes using technology, all the while knowing that some students had no access to such technology.  End of year comprehension tests meant nothing and the vast majority of students in 2020, 2021, and counting, were bumped up to higher grades, regardless of how ill-prepared they were.  What the union leaders did not mention was that nationally, more than 20% of public school teachers with school-age children enroll them in private schools, almost twice the 11% rate for the general public.  Talk about a chef who won’t eat what he cooks.

Then the piss-ant, potentate politicians enlisted the help of some members of the medical community – including the omnipotent Center for Disease Control – to opine on pandemic vaccines, effectiveness of paper and cloth masks, efficacy of hydroxychloroquine and zinc, and the actual lethality of the virus and its variants, as well as issue orders that they are not legally allowed to do under the Constitution.

Finally, many of the piss-ant, potentate politicians decided that it would be a good thing for people who had received the vaccination to publicly show “proof” of that before being allowed in public places, which only goes to show you that modern piss-ant, potentate politicians really do study the past, as the piss-ant, potentate politician back in the day had a similar tactic – making his deplorables wear a yellow Star of David.

Which gets to our question of the day: when are you going to tell the piss-ant, potentate politicians and their flunkies to Shtup es in toches!  Because all roads can lead to Warsaw

Piss-Ant, Potentate Politicians2022-07-30T08:21:29-05:00

The “88”

Every day self-proclaimed “experts” in the media spout off about the evils of semi-automatic rifles, termed “war guns”, “full automatics”, “Assault Rifles”, seeking to ban them once and for all.  Then Congress gets involved and away we go.  Neither group have any truly pure motives; mostly they just want to control every facet of everyone’s life, whether that violates the Constitution or not.

They are also swimming upstream against history.  For example, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles by the victorious Allies after World War I (then called the Great War) placed sole blame for the war on Germany.  It sounded like a good thing at the time (which is what many high school boys later claim was their reason for doing something stupid) but was such a monstrosity that almost single-handedly it ensured that the “War to End All Wars” was merely a prequel to an even more-destructive world war twenty years later – World War II.

A group called the IMKK, Inter-Allied Military Control Commission (sort of an international BATF)  was established to enforce the provisions of the treaty on German soil.  Among other things this commission ensured the following: the German Army could have no more than 100,000 personnel of which only 4,000 could be commissioned officers; the German Navy could have no submarines and no more than 36 surface ships (destroyers, cruisers, etc.); Germany could have no Air Force, could not import weapons of any kind; and have no tanks or heavy artillery.

88mm Flak Gun

So the Weimar Republic (the German democracy that replaced the Kaiser) came to the conclusion that when life deals you Zitronen (lemons), you start making Limonade (lemonade).  And the boys from the Krupp company, who never saw a weapon they didn’t love, went to neutral Sweden and worked with Bofers, some Swedish arms-builders, and developed a dual purpose 88-mm cannon, which was permitted under the treaty.  Actually it would have multiple purposes: anti-aircraft, anti-tank, general artillery, deck guns on naval vessels, and the main gun on deadly armored vehicles named after powerful animals – Tiger, Elephant, Rhinoceros and Hunting Panther.

Today, as in the past, adapt, be flexible, think out of the box.  Defense of the 2nd Amendment includes fighting to retain semi-automatic rifles, because banning those will just lead to banning semi-automatic shotguns and semi-automatic pistols.  And if those are ever prohibited, next up, pump-style weapons – the list will go on and on until nothing remains.

So, we need to ask ourselves the following question: what will I do if I am unable to own a semi-auto rifle?  You probably have already started your evaluation: almost no one I know has only semi-automatic rifles, because if all you have are these, and they are banned, you are now in the “Land of the Blind” with respect to self-defense.  And we know that in any uncertain, difficult situation the “One-eyed Man is King”.

Let’s start with rifles for today.  What could replace my semi-auto?  The closest type of rifle in terms of capability is probably lever-action or pump.  Bolt action often exceeds semi-auto in terms of accuracy and range, but is slow-firing in comparison.  Pump and lever-actions have a tube on the underside that stores the ammunition.  With either, you can probably fire several rounds quick enough to take down an animal during hunting, or a bad guy.  Or two, maybe three.  Situational awareness is a sense you can develop; it generally will keep you out of a situation where a pack of wolves, or bad guys, are simultaneously attacking you.

Lever Guns

A lever action is named appropriately enough, for a lever in front of the trigger guard.  Rotating  that lever about 90 degrees downward and then back up again, loads a new cartridge into the chamber.  Downsides?  Yes; it is harder to fire prone.  It’s slower to reload (but some calibers hold 10 rounds) and tubular magazines don’t use spire point (sharp-pointed) bullets.  You’ll be firing round-nose or flat-tipped.  Few self-defense courses cover lever actions.

Lever-action calibers?  There are dozens; from .22 long rifle to some humdinger called a 50-110 Winchester.  Other upsides?  They are proven, having been around a long time.  Many calibers are also pistol calibers – easing supply.  They often cost less than semi-autos.  Henry is a great brand as are Marlin, Winchester and Browning.  You can put a scope or red dot on most.

Reportedly Pat Garrett’s Rifle

Folks who swore by the lever-actions of their day?  Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Pat Garrett, Butch Cassidy, William Bonney, and Wyatt Earp.  So ask yourself.  What did they know that I don’t?  Make a lever action, maybe a .357 or .44, a flexible option in your gun safe.  Make it your own “88” that can do many things well.

 

 

The “88”2022-10-16T20:58:50-05:00

Private First Class Paul M. Kluxdal

In many World War II death penalty cases, military psychiatrists, using intelligence tests, found that the accused were substantially below average.  Such was not the case with Private First Class Paul M. Kluxdal.

Paul Kluxdal

Born on July 17, 1907 in Merrill, Wisconsin, Kluxdal was a radio operator in his unit, an occupation that required some real skill.  From November 19, 1924 to July 14, 1927, he had served in the Wisconsin National Guard; he also attended the University of Wisconsin for two years.  Prior to enlisting, Kluxdal, who was white, was married and lived in Oak Park, Chicago, Illinois; he was a construction foreman, building commercial chimneys.  His wife worked for the War Department in Chicago; the couple had no children.  Then Private First Class Paul Kluxdal did two stupid things.  For several months, he made threatening statements against his first sergeant.  Then, on August 12, 1944, he shot and killed his first sergeant.  Despite his intelligence, that combination of events would get him hanged.

Master Sergeant John C Woods, US Army Hangman

Master Sergeant John C. Woods hanged Paul Kluxdal at the Seine Disciplinary Training Center on October 31, 1944, Halloween.  And just like some of the scary visions of that holiday, the hanging was botched and it appears that it took eighteen minutes for the condemned man to die.

The Fifth Field analyzes the entire Kluxdal case and its contradictory evidence, as well as the execution (which is also discussed in American Hangman) and you can come to your own conclusion as to what should have happened in this case.

British historian Paul Johnson kindly found this photograph of Paul Kluxdal and sent it to me, so now you can put a face to a name.

Private First Class Paul M. Kluxdal2022-07-30T09:38:40-05:00
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