Category Archives: 1970’s

Ferry tales

All but two of these guys were 2 year draftees or single enlistment 3 year recruits.  Those would have all come home before the end of 1964, ETS [expiration term of service].  Just in time to miss the Vietnam debacle.  Those returning to the US for reassignment went to 11th Air Assault Group, Fort Gordon, GA, training to jump out of helicopters.  Then the Army moved the 1st Cavalry Division to Vietnam, dissolved the 11th Air Assault Group, and sent everyone in it to Vietnam.  I'm betting these guys had better sense than to reinlist.

All but two of these guys were 2 year draftees or single enlistment 3 year recruits. Those would have all come home before the end of 1964, ETS [expiration term of service]. Just in time to miss the Vietnam debacle. Those returning to the US for reassignment went to 11th Air Assault Group, Fort Gordon, GA, training to jump out of helicopters. Then the Army moved the 1st Cavalry Division to Vietnam, dissolved the 11th Air Assault Group, and sent everyone in it to Vietnam. I’m betting these guys had better sense than to reenlist.

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Camp Howze, Korea, 1963, 1964.  I was standing in a chow line almost certainly with one of the guys in this picture waiting for breakfast.  A twelve-year-old Korean lad came down the line selling Stars and Stripes newspapers, yelling, “Lots of Japs killed!  Hurrah!  Lots of Japs killed!

Koreans still savored a deep hatred for Japanese in those days.  Having your mamas and grandmamas raped more-or-less whenever the mood hit for a few decades probably does that.  At least when the rapers are of a particular nationality.  [I've wondered whether East Germans don't feel some of that toward the Rooskies because of their grannies during the retreat from the Eastern Front].

Anyway, it was a ferry disaster of some sort carrying Japanese passengers.  The first time I recall ever paying any mind to ferries and the associated dangers.

But over the decades I’ve certainly heard about a lot of them.  I suspect a risk assessment involving frequent use of ferries would reveal it to be more dangerous than airliners, trains or busses.  Not to say I haven’t ridden on a lot of them.

But on a ferry going between [I think] Newport News, RI, and Long Island, a nuclear attack submarine surfaced next to our ferry almost close enough to touch.  We assumed at the time the submarine commander was perfectly aware of the ferry.  By hindsight, though, I’m brought to wonder whether he had to go change his shorts when our presence and proximity came to his attention.

A person used to be able to pay once to get on the Statin Island Ferry and ride it back and forth all night, which I did a good many times.  Near misses with smaller craft were relatively common and a source of amusement for the ferry passengers.

I was on a ferry to one of the outer banks islands of Georgia, or North Carolina once when it hit something hard enough to jangle the eye-teeth of everyone aboard.  Never heard what it was, but none of the passengers were laughing.

Which is to say, life’s full of surprises and ferries have the potential for providing new ones.

I don’t recall when I began carrying a couple of hundred feet of small diameter 200 pound test rope with me in my luggage when I travelled.  But I do recall it was a decision I made watching people diving out of the windows of burning multi-story buildings on the news.  A bit of rope, I observed, would have saved a lot of them by allowing them to get off the upper floors and beneath the fires.

If I had to ride a ferry every day I’d probably decide an inflatable camp pillow would provide a nice place to sit on those hard ferry benches.  One person aboard protected by one inflatable pillow would remove the temptation those vessels wave around in front of the Coincidence Coordinators inviting disaster.

Old Jules

 

 

Photos VA Chapel and Weston, MO house courtesy of Jeanne

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Possumly Jesse James, or a Younger or Dalton or someone else lived here, or visited here, or rode a horse by the place and gazed at it as he/she went by.

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!895 Chapel for VA Center at Fort Leavenworth in seriously bad repair. Protestant downstairs, Catholic further downstairs though the signs are somewhat misleading. No harm in a protestant attending Mass or a Catholic racking up some fire and brimstone occasionally, I reckons.

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Interesting stained glass work. Dunno whether it’s Catholic or the other one.

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Gargoyles are shared equally by Catholics and Protestants.

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The VA hospital environment surrounding this seems obliquely appropriate.

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The metalwork on those doors is probably symbolic of something, but everyone who once knew what it was is dead.

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This end of the building is in bad repair threatening collapse in places, but ain’t likely to get any better.

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Directly across the street from the chapel. It’s been through a long series of declines and repairs but we need another World War of considerable duration to bring it back to full bloom. Need to conscript all these young houdilums and get them on track to need a place such as this.

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The sign above the door reads, THE DUGOUT and can still be made out with a bit of squinting. I’m thinking it was a club for the people going through treatment, might have been used as recently as the Vietnam War.

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The Dugout

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A morning on the VA medical launchpad

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

I don’t know a lot more about my health this afternoon than I knew when I awakened this morning, but I know a good deal more about other interesting matters than I once did.  Went through the television interview with some people somewhere else asking about various health issues.  This evidently resulted in checkmarks going to a file telling them what testing to do afterward in the lab.

Judging from the tests the interviewers weren’t discounting a hyperfunctioning thyroid, though they  were closed-mouth about any opinions they formed during the interview.  They did hint at the possibility I might want to take it easy and not do anything particular until I’ve seen the doctor on the 20th of December.

But hanging around that waiting area was worth the price of admission.  Discovered what a huge percentage of the circa 1965-1975 US Army, AF, Navy and Marine Corps who end up getting health treatment from the VA have discovered they were point-men infantrymen, snipers, and other non-company clerk in Danang, personnel or supply clerk, cooks, or motorpool monkeys in Siagon [folks comprising 90+ percent of the Vietnam jobs of the time].

Which is to say, when you’re an old bastard and find your life hasn’t been sufficiently interesting, you can sit in the waiting room at the VA and blow smoke up the asses of a lot of other old guys.  And if you do, some others will crawl out of the wood work to provide an atmosphere of reciprocity and mutual ex post facto revisions of history.  I’ve got a feeling the non-vet practice promiscuously using phrases such as, ‘fought for our freedoms,’ or ‘fought in Vietnam’  brings the incentive.  If you were in Vietnam and never heard a shot fired in anger along with almost everyone else in Vietnam, how do you reconcile it with someone accusing you of ‘fighting for our freedoms?’  Or, ‘fought in Vietnam’?

Lordee what a needy bunch of sons of bitches we Americans are in our dotage.

Old Jules’

Fad science and self-made a monkeyof-ism

Hi readers. Thanks for coming by.

Some of you thought I was joking with my recent post about climate change and the current yakyakyakyak by the excitement industry concerning ‘manmade global warming’.

Some of you probably also didn’t notice the comment by Trapper Gale remembering a time four-or-so decades ago when the previous generation of the same institutional experts ran in increasingly small circles setting their hair on fire predicting a coming ice age.

AmericaLaurentideIceSheet.jpg

http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/virtualmuseum/climatechange2/01_1.shtml

http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/virtualmuseum/images/AmericaLaurentideIceSheet.jpg

The last of the ice ages in human experience (often referred to as the Ice Age) reached its maximum roughly 20,000 years ago, and then gave way to warming. Sea level rose in two major steps, one centered near 14,000 years and the other near 11,500 years. However, between these two periods of rapid melting there was a pause in melting and sea level rise, known as the “Younger Dryas” period. During the Younger Dryas the climate system went back into almost fully glacial conditions, after having offered balmy conditions for more than 1000 years. The reasons for these large swings in climate change are not yet well understood.

Which is an understatement.

Academians have a vested interest in manmade climate change today. They get their names in the journals and newspapers through the power of positive speaking. If they can stir up enough fear by presenting what they don’t know as ‘not yet well understood’ they generate government grants, jobs, power and prestige within their fields. Further study of what they don’t yet well understand, it’s assumed, will provide better understanding in the direction of their assertions.

Somehow the fact their disciplinary ancestors also didn’t yet well understand similarly the precise opposite interpretation of the data. Mined it for all it was worth at the time in study, grants, power and prestige. Opened new frontiers for their progeny when the time came, by reversing what a few decades later remained not yet fully understood.

I’m not suggesting there’s no manmade climate change. Maybe there is. And I’m not suggesting that if there is, it won’t speed the natural progress of planetary warming.

What I am saying is that anytime scientific observers examine data with an expected, hoped-for outcome, [especially when power, money, career advancement and prestige are factors] they have a way of observing selectively.

Same as human beings are prone to do in all other walks of life.

What I’m also saying is that three, maybe four decades from now there’s a reasonable possibility they’ll have mined this crisis dry and be setting their hair on fire with a new crisis to be mined for power, prestige, money and career advancement. Humanity induced plate tectonics, maybe. Earth’s decaying orbit because of atmospheric drag created by airliners.

Maybe they’ll be right. Hell, there’s even a remote chance they’re right about of what they’re saying today. Some piece of it-or-other.

The damned problem is you can’t trust them. They watch the same television you do. They know which way the wind’s blowing and muddling along trying to sail downwind getting the most out of it while it’s hot. Joining the gold rush with the knowledge when this one plays out there’s another lode in Alaska or Nevada they can move to.

Same as the rest of us.

Old Jules

Hungry for heroes? Find a thief, a robber, a killer, or an aristocrat

 frank and jesse james

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

I was thinking last night before I dozed off about what TV, movies and fiction have done for us that reality couldn’t.  I concluded it all boils down to mythology and self definition.  An attempt to bring little guys into a larger picture where, in fact, they don’t exist.

Consider this:  Can you name a single person involved in the American Revolution below the rank of Colonel other than Paul Revere?  Anyone between then and the War of 1812? 

From then until the Mexican War you might recall Nat Turner and his brief slave rebellion, or Davy Crockett, Travis, Sam Houston, et al.  The mountain men and the fur traders.  Meriwether Lewis and Clark, the Kit Carsons, Bridgers, the Coulters and Joe Meeks.  The wild and wooly.

And all the names from the lower paygrades you might recall from the Mexican War are there because they were colonels and higher during the Civil War.

Follow it right on through from then until the Wars and whatever else is happening today.  Where the hell are the lower-paygrade heroes?

Younger, Cole & James left to right

Well, the fact is, they were out there at the time.  They were the outlaws, the killers, the people most successful at taking what didn’t belong to them away from the people it belonged to.  The James Gang, the Daltons, Butch and Sundance, Billy the wossname, Kid, the Youngers.  Buffalo Bill, wiping a species off the face of the continent so’s the trains wouldn’t be troubled by them and cow men could use the land for cows.  Masterson, the Earps, Hickok.  Steely-eyed killers.

The US needed the genre fiction, the film industry and television to clean up history.  The country needed common people out there getting massacred by Apache, Lakota, Comanche, people with names.  People below the rank of colonel with names that weren’t John Jacob Astor and weren’t just getting filthy rich and powerful from it all.

So you want the heroes of the west today?  Well, there’s John Wayne.  Henry Fonda.  Steve McQueen.  Jeff Chandler on the generic Indian side.  Burt Lancaster.  Gary Cooper. 

All of whom also, by coincidence, became the heroes of all the other wars the US fought.  Became the common men of history where none existed before.  Winning the west from the people who owned it, whupping the Germans and Japanese, the Vietcong and NVA, the Chinese and North Koreans. 

All those heroes, frequently below the paygrade of colonel, helping us to understand our great heritage.  Because, after all, our heroes define us in ways we’d be too modest to define ourselves.  Most of us ain’t all that successful at taking shit that doesn’t belong to us, individually.

At least those of us who never got higher than the rank of major.  The aristocratic dynasties went to Washington but the heroes all came out of Hollywood.

Old Jules

Escape Route Version 2.5

Ford RV

1970s Ford

If the guy isn’t disinformationing me about the shape it’s in, this might be the next step in the long road home.  He says it’s got all new tires, spent the last 20 years under a carport, says everything works and is willing to provide the means for me to test everything before we finalize a deal.

Says it’s never had any leaks of any kind, roof, plumbing, and the structure, panelling of the coach is solid.  Says it has 60,000 actual miles on the gasoline engine.

If he hasn’t sold it by the time I can get to see it I’ll have a careful look at it first chance I can manage.

Kings, Stings, Forgotten Stinks, Sungs and Stungs

Thanks, Mr. President
For all the things you’ve done
The battles that you’ve won
The way you deal with U.S. Steel
And our problems by the ton
We thank you so much

Before they decompose in the grader ditch.

Honest! It just fell!

The ugly?

A touch of class

That gall bladder used to be right THERE.

Mexican Standoff in Chinese

Tanked in China

A sobering night for Ted Kennedy, but Mary Jo couldn’t swim. He bounced back, though not so high as previously expected. She didn’t.

Tanked in Martha’s Vineyard

The song has ended but the malady lingers on

Tanked elsewhere.

When Cuba still seemed nearby

The Last Roundup

Who ARE these guys?

Party animals

Hi! I’m king.

El Guapo meets Godzilla

Last one on’s a rotten egg

The Presidential War’s over!  This helicopter’s destination is Panama, Grenada, El Salvadore, Kuwait, Iraq, last stop in Afghanistan!  Show your tickets.

Old Jules

Vice President Spiro T. Agnew – A Man Ahead of his Time

What can a person say about Spiro Agnew?  Most of you readers are too young to remember the most well-known, most popular Vice President in US history.  He served at a time when the US was torn apart by civil strife, an undeclared, unpopular foreign war, and a level of corruption in the Executive Branch few citizens allowed themselves to suspect.

Agnew.  Forced from office for accepting bribes before, “Everyone does it,” became a defense.

But, of course, that was long before Iran-Contra, Bush 1&2, Billary Clinton, Blackwater, and the current king.  Nowadays Spiro would seem clean, honest and soft-spoken.  A pristine choice for wannabe king for either of the parties:

In April 1973, when revelations about Watergate began to surface, Agnew was the choice of 35 percent of Republican voters to be the next Republican nominee for President, while then-California Governor Ronald Reagan was second on the Gallup Poll. [18]

Spiro Theodore Agnew (pronunciation: /ˈspɪr ˈæɡnj/; November 9, 1918 – September 17, 1996) was the 39th Vice President of the United States (1969–1973), serving under President Richard Nixon, and the 55th Governor of Maryland (1967–1969). He was the first Greek American to hold these offices.

During his fifth year as Vice President, in the late summer of 1973, Agnew was under investigation by the United States Attorney‘s office in Baltimore, Maryland, on charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy. In October, he was formally charged with having accepted bribes totaling more than $100,000 while holding office as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and Vice President of the United States. On October 10, 1973, Agnew was allowed to plead no contest to a single charge that he had failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967, with the condition that he resign the office of Vice President. Nixon replaced him by appointing by then House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford to the office of Vice President.

Agnew is the only Vice President in United States history to resign because of criminal charges. Ten years after leaving office, in January 1983, Agnew paid the state of Maryland nearly $270,000 as a result of a civil suit that stemmed from the bribery allegations.

Agnew soon found his role as the voice of the so-called “silent majority“, and by late 1969 he was ranking high on national “Most Admired Men” polls. He also inspired a fashion craze when one entrepreneur introduced Spiro Agnew watches (a take off on the popular Mickey Mouse watch); conservatives wore them to show their support for Agnew, while many liberals wore them to signify their contempt.

Agnew was known for his scathing criticisms of political opponents, especially journalists and anti-war activists. He attacked his adversaries with relish, hurling unusual, often alliterative epithets—some of which were coined by White House speechwriters William Safire and Pat Buchanan—including “pusillanimous pussyfooters”, “nattering nabobs of negativism” (written by Safire), and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history”.[15] He once described a group of opponents as “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiro_Agnew

The Limerick Masters of Yesteryear – The Lost Artform

By the time I arrived at adulthood the state of the limerick as a masterpiece of the literary foil was in alarming decline.  Playboy Magazine attempted to inject new life into the medium during the 1960s and 1970s by paying $500 for limerick submissions accepted for publication.  The selection process was tough and they accepted only true masterpieces.

During those years I submitted no fewer than ten [10] limericks per month and never had one accepted.  Hundreds of limericks.  There was no place in Playboy for second-rate hacks.

While the artform requires a particular meter, the truly well-constructed one needs more.  Internal rhyming.  Puns.  Lilting beat to simulate waves on a beach.  A joy to the tongue and ear. 

To illustrate my point, here is perhaps the best limerick ever written, once published in Playboy:

The new cineramic emporium
Is not just a super-sensorium
But a highly effectual
Heterosexual
Mutual masterbatorium.

Every time I run those timeless words through my mind, I’m humbled.

I don’t know whether the image at the top of the page depicts a man who once wrote limericks and submitted them to Playboy.  He almost certainly could have.  Possibly should have.

He might have been a contender.

Old Jules

Khe Sanh – Two Worthy Reads – Book Reviews

The Hill Fights – The First Battle of Khe Sanh, Edward F. Murphy

Considering he also authored Semper Fi, – Vietnam, and is/was probably a fairly gung-ho man, Murphy does a surprisingly workmanlike job depicting what actually led up to the Khe Sanh bloodbath, why became a bloodbath, and where the responsibility for it having become a bloodbath clearly rested.  All without pointing fingers of blame.  He just describes events as reported by the people involved in them.  For instance:

“Fourteen of the eighteen patrols Wilder sent out early in July found NVA, several within mere minutes of being inserted into their patrol areas.  He learned from other intelligence sources that the North Vietnamese 324B Division had moved south of the Ben Hai River with the mission of conquering Qang Tri Province.  When Wilder dutifully reported this to higher headquarters, he unwittingly stepped into the fray raging between General Westmoreland and General Walt.

“Within days General Walt, General Kyle, and Major General Louis B. Robertshaw, commander of the 1st Marine Air Wing, arrived at Wilder’s headquarters at dong Ha for a personal briefing from Wilder.  As soon as Wilder mentioned the presence of the NVA 324B Divbision, Robertshaw rudely interrupted him.  “You’re a liar,” Robertshaw accused Wilder.

If any single incident could sum up what happened to the unfortunate grunts getting themselves blown apart at Khe Sanh over the next couple of years, that probably does it.  What happened to the US lower-grade officers and enlisted men throughout the Vietnam experience, for that matter.

It echoes and it rhymes.  The M16, newly issued and fired for familiarization before being taken into combat.  Jams.  Jams.  Jams.  So the cover story becomes, “You’ve got to keep it CLEAN!  If you don’t keep it clean, it jams.  Your own fault, marine!”

A few weeks later squads, platoons were being slaughtered by the NVA at Khe Sanh.  Found afterward with jammed M16s, unable to return fire against the enemy.  Marines complained, the high command accused them of lying.  Of not cleaning their weapons.  The slaughter continued until a letter home from a dead marine ended up being read on the floor of the US Congress and an investigation began.

The M16 was designed around a cartridge containing a particular propellent.  But a major military contractor with the right connections offered a cheaper cartridge because it contained a different, more inexpensive powder.  Millions of rounds purchased, all defective.  Probably hundreds, maybe thousands of US servicemen lost their lives because they were provided weapons incapable of returning fire without jamming.

Friendly fire?  Khe Sanh began with a US air strike dropping napalm several miles off target on the friendly village of Khe Sanh, killing 250 villagers and injuring hundreds more.  Following that it was helicopter gunships, fighter aircraft and artillery strikes opening up on ground troops by mistake. 

Air forces all over the world from early during WWII provided their planes with IFF [Identify Friend/Foe] radio transponders.  Somehow the concept never seeped down to include ground troops being protected from friendly fire.  As late as Gulf War 1 it continued to happen.  And at Khe Sanh it happened a lot.

Then there were the commanders who just made lousy choices for whatever reasons other than the well-being of the troops they commanded.  “You guys aren’t likely to find anything up there.  Take off your flak jackets and leave them down here.”  Twice.  Two separate occasions.  Two bloodbaths.

There was no overall strategy for US troop involvement in Vietnam.  The curse of the undeclared, presidential wars from WWII onward.  The US high command couldn’t agree among themselves what the roles of the troops under their commands should be and how they should perform those roles.

Despite all this, The Hill Fights – The First Battle of Khe Sanh, Edward F. Murphy doesn’t dwell on this side of things.  He simply provides a detailed history, day-to-day of one of the countless debacles of the 20th Century quickly forgotten when another president needed some other injection of excitement to keep the voters going to the poles, the flags waving, and the patriots pounding their fists on their chests.

[Incidently, there's a good photo section in the book.  I was surprised to see my old friend,  Mel King as a young marine standing unidentified next to a Company Commander who'd just gotten a few of his men out alive and unhurt.  Mel must have gotten his injuries later.]

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A Marine at Khe Sanh, by John Corbett.  A young marine just out of basic training arrives in country at Khe Sanh and spends the next 77 days living in a foxhole, almost constantly under mortar, artillery and rocket attack.  This is his diary. 

Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon never got around to hanging their heads in shame for the young men the dead and crippled as by-products their Vietnam presidential military adventures.  But then, I don’t suppose any of the other, later ones have, either, for theirs.

After all, a lot of the right people made one hell of a lot of money from those wars.  You can’t make an omlette without breaking some eggs.

Old Jules