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On flags, funerals, Shakespeare & sex . . .

I recently spent some time online seeking information for the proper way to dispose of an American flag, for whatever reason—tattered, torn, soiled, etc. At the risk of being called un-American, I will say without reservation that the information given ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. The most acceptable method of destroying an American flag that is not longer serviceable is by burning, but first its composition must be determined.

Is it cloth? If cloth, it may be burned but under tightly controlled supervision, with close attention paid to local burning restrictions and most important, the flag must be completely consumed by fire, with none of the fragments allowed to float away on prevailing winds.

Is it plastic? If it is made of plastic, burning may well release chemicals that will pollute the air and pose a danger to humans and animals, so clearance must be obtained from our nation’s Environmental Protection Agency—good luck with that!

In lieu of burning, a flag may be buried but it must be buried in a non-degradable container to ensure that it will never again see the light of day nor be exposed to the elements of nature, and the drivel goes on and on—click here to read the do’s and don’ts as promulgated by the United States Flag Code.

A flag is a flag is a flag, etc., or as William Shakespeare might say, “That which we call a flag, regardless of its composition, whether constructed of plastic, silk, nylon, 1200-thread-count Egyptian cotton or a combination of all the above, would have streamed just as gallantly o’er the ramparts we watched as did the original that was flown over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1914 in the War of 1912 and is now displayed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.”

Yep, I believe that’s what the bard might say. Any item, regardless of its composition, that features the proper colors and the requisite numbers of “broad stripes and bright stars,” all arranged in the manner of those of the real flag—the one periodically displayed at the Smithsonian—is a representation of that flag and therefore warrants the same attention to usage and storage and final disposition.

Each year without fail, a local realtor places a small American flag on a stick in the front yard of every home in my neighborhood—the flags number in the hundreds at least, and perhaps in the thousands, and I’m reasonably sure that the process is repeated in other neighborhoods all across our nation. The flags are not marked with the country of origin, but I’ll bet a half-barrel of pickled a-holes that they’re made in China. The staff is some sort of white wood, and the material is some kind of fabric, either a natural fabric or synthetic material—who knows which?

Our flag code requires flags to be of certain proportions, regardless of their intended use, whether flying over the White House or sticking in my front lawn. Overall size is a matter of choice, but the star field, the stripe widths, the size of the stars relative to the overall size, etc., are specified by the Code and any lop-sided construction of the flag, regardless of size, is a violation of the US Flag Code, and any disposition other than specified in the Code is a violation.

I haven’t measured the specifics of the flags that proliferate in our neighborhood each year on Flag Day, beautifying or polluting, take your pick. Given the ability and the proclivity of the Chinese to excel in mathematics, I suspect that they are right on the money—so to speak—in the dimensions of the untold tons of flags they ship to the United States each year.

Are you, dear reader, beginning to see what I mean when I say that flag instructions and its procotol range from the ridiculous to the sublime? In our devotion to our flag and our need to protect it, we have given it properties that more properly pertain to living, breathing life forms, whether human or animal. When we die we are subjected to specific methods of disposition—what, when, where and how, and to a lesser extent for the so-called lower order of animals.

The Star Spangled Banner

On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the national anthem of the United States of America. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories. Click here for the flag’s history.

If the real flag should ever be subjected to destruction—let’s say, to prevent it from falling into enemy hands should the District of Columbia be overrun, whether by the extreme left or by the extreme right, we should consider a Viking funeral for the flag on the Potomac river–what a riveting spectacle that would be! Click here to read up on Viking funerals—it’s worth the read—hey, those Norse ceremonies involved a lot of people other than the diseased in order to comply with all the requirements that had be met.

Timing of the ceremony would be critical, of course, to ensure that the burning Viking ship would sink before ramming one of the Potomac’s bridges. The current is fairly swift in that area—the ship should probably be anchored before being torched, and the usual sacrifice of a slave girl should be omitted. I’m not aware of any available slave girls, at least none that would be willing to volunteer to accompany the flag on its final voyage. Although that would guarantee throngs of spectators and television saturation—all the bridges on the Potomac would be packed with spectators—such an event could possibly produce political complications. I worked and lived in the DC area for three years, and I’ll admit that one of the girls that entertain nightly on Fourteenth Street in downtown DC might be persuaded, especially one filled with the intoxicating drink mentioned by Ahmad Ibn Fadlan in the tenth century—then again, perhaps not—who knows? The following video will introduce you to 14th St—if you need and want an introduction. If not, just skip over it, but if you do shun it you’ll miss out on a nightly spectacle, the pulchritudinous parade of practicing purveyors of es e ex.

I conducted all the research above with the serious intention to present it, with all seriousness aside, in an effort to educate and entertain those that follow my blog and those that simply stumble onto it. I mean no disrespect to our flag, although I detest the placement of that tacky little flag on a stick that mysteriously appears on my lawn each year on Flag Day. I love Old Glory and I dedicated more than 22 years of military service to it, years in which I proudly assisted our nation in losing two wars, with combat tours in Korea, 1950-1952 and Viet Nam, 1969-1970.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in education, Humor, law enforcement

 

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Revisited: Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

While wandering around in the bowels of my archived postings on WordPress, I found this brilliantly worded essay. On re-reading it I was so enthralled by the superior quality of the writing that I felt obliged to bring it out of the Stygian darkness of the archives and offer it up to newcomers to my blog, and to any long-time followers that may have overlooked it, whether by accident or through deliberation. It’s a good read, featuring bits of our nation’s history of lost wars and a self-analysis of one who was a participant—at the scene, so to speak, and qualified to discuss such activities. Click here to read about my arrival in the Far East.

Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

As does virtually every family, mine has a shoe box filled with snapshots of family and friends spanning decades of living and loving and working, showing many of the places where we lived and worked and places where we went for recreational purposes. I recently found an old black-and-white photo of a certain 17-year-old warrior, a young lad that somehow made his way to Japan somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18 years, an age at which he should have been at home in Columbus, Mississippi enrolled in the eleventh grade at Stephen D. Lee High School, working at various part-time jobs, chasing girls and striving mightily to maintain a C-average.
I was intrigued by the differences between that lad then and the same person now, some 60 years later. I was captivated by the photo, taken sixty years ago in 1950 in front of temporary quarters in the city of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu—so captivated that I decided to share it with my viewers.

I refer to this lad as a warrior based on the knowledge that during the summer of 1950, shortly after North Korea invaded South Korea, he was en route to Korea from Japan to help in our war to keep South Korea free from communism, and would continue in that effort for the next 15 months. Some nineteen years later he would be in Vietnam for thirteen months with a similar purpose—to help South Vietnam in its struggle against a takeover of the country by the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam regulars with help from Russia and China.

In both instances—the war in Korea and the one in Vietnam—he was unsuccessful, and his contributions were for naught. The Korean War ended in a truce that exists to this day, and the Vietnam War ended, for better or worse, in a united Vietnam—the communists won and we lost.

Examine the photo closely—have you ever seen a cockier, more in-your-face, more arrogant and defiant stance? This is a youth of seventeen, some six or seven inches over five feet tall, weighing 115 pounds with a 28-inch waist, dressed in regulation one-piece fatigue coveralls with a fatigue cap on top and un-shined GI brogans on the bottom. Either the cuffs of the coveralls are turned up or the coveralls are too short. The cap is pushed back rather than squared off, hands are in pockets, sleeves are partially rolled up, collar is turned up—a harbinger of the Elvis style to come, still some six years in the future. The first several buttons of the fatigues are unbuttoned revealing no undershirt and a really skinny unhairy chest. And most important, even at that tender age the lad is exhibiting a strong leaning to the right, a stance that incidentally exists to this day, and if it gets much more pronounced I—oops, I mean he—will be unable to stand up without falling.

I am fairly certain that any reader of this posting has already guessed that the lad in the photo is the same person that is writing this posting for his blog on Word Press—yes, I refer to my mother’s youngest son, The King of Texasthat lad is yours truly at the wizened age of seventeen.

My mother’s youngest son bears little resemblance to that 1950s figure, although he still leans to the right in any political stance, and rather than one-piece fatigues he putters around in sweats and house slippers at home and wears jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers for occasions such as weddings, funerals, jury duty and similar formal events.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

In the four months the original posting was available it garnered only one comment, and that one from a highly biased viewer:

That cocky in-your-face defiance is exactly the kind of guy I want going to war for this country! Thank you for serving with such gusto and guts.

By: sue on August 13, 2010

And this is the response to Sue’s comment by the author, also highly biased:

Hi, Sue, Bless yore little ol’ pea-picking heart. Do you remember Tennessee Ernie Ford and his radio show? Do you remember radio? You have made my day! (Note the exclamation points!) You have a way of reaching the core of any thought and any situation and encapsulating and expressing it in a thoroughly remarkable and memorable manner.

I wanted to use the gerund of capsule by adding “ing” but nothing looked right, not capsuleing or capsulling or capsulleing, and all three were rejected by my spell checker, so I took a path less traveled and used encapsulate, a word that happily accepted the “ing.” I haven’t given up yet. Capsule can be used as a verb and therefore has to have a gerund form—I just ain’t yet found it.

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment—y’all come back, ya’ hear!

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in foreign travel, Military, wartime

 

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Listen up, South Korea!

Listen up, South Korea!

In August of 2008 Newsweek ranked the top 100 countries in the world. This posting deals with the world ranking of South Korea today, as opposed to the years before 1950, the year that saw the start of the Korean conflict, one that ended in a stalemate some four years later.

In our president’s recent visit to your country you agreed to none of the proposals advanced by Barack Obama, the man that holds a position considered by many to make him the most powerful person on earth. You rejected every proposal, every idea and every project intended to elevate both the United States and South Korea to higher levels in future such world ratings. Obviously his title as the most powerful man in the world does not impress you, at least not collectively as a nation.

I was in Japan on June 25 in 1950 when the North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel. I was stationed at Yokota Air Base at the time, and I began a voluntary 15-month tour in South Korea just four months later. My military record shows that I was involved in five military combat campaigns during those 15 months before rotating to the United States. I mention those dates and assignments merely to establish my right to speak concerning the before and after conditions in South Korea—I was there, and I can assure the reader that South Korea was a far cry from the world-class country that it has become.

In its 2008 report Newsweek placed South Korea in fifteenth place among the top 100 nations in the world, just four places below the eleventh place rating given the United States. The report compiled by Newsweek ranked nations by economy, politics, health and quality of life and stated that the ranking proves the world’s true national champions. Click here for the list of the top 100 nations.

On June 25, 1950 the North Korean army invaded South Korea and began a war that involved the Chinese army and the armed forces of the United States. The war raged for some four years and ended in a stalemate, an armistice that exists to this day some 56 years later. I consider it a war lost along with our other lost war, the one we unsuccessfully waged in Viet Nam—incidentally, I was involved in that war also, for thirteen months in 1969-1970.

Shame on you, South Korea!

Before the United States came to your defense in 1950, you were a backward country in virtually every category considered by Newsweek’s report. The United States saved you from a takeover by North Korea and the army of communist China. Without the help of the United States you would today be the southern part of a united Korea and your economy would be in shambles, just as North Korea’s economy is now, with the government starving its people in order to support one of the world’s largest standing armies.

We helped you subdue the army of North Korea and helped you drive the Chinese armies back across the Yalu River, and we stayed with you following the truce with North Korea. We stayed with you and we continue supporting you with our troops in-country and with favorable trade agreements, actions that have enabled you to become a world power with a stable government, a thriving economy with world class cities, and with health and a quality of life that places you in the top fifteen percent of the world’s best 100 countries.

Be honest and admit that without the United States coming between you and North Korea, you would never have progressed this rapidly in the short span of 56 years since the truce was made. You would still be a backward country, with animal-drawn carts and three men on every shovel in construction projects. Your manufacturing and exports of motor vehicles, tools and household machines, electronics and other products are legion and the United States is your best customer.

Admit it—you dissed our president by failing to acquiesce to even one of his proposals, refuting some outright and placing others on the back burner. Just as a friendly suggestion, you might want to reconsider some of his proposals. Note that the presence of US military personnel in your country is now less than 40,000, down from an earlier force of some 60,000 and you can expect it to drop even lower, perhaps to zero. I mention this only because the people in North Korea are starving, and your thriving economy is looking better and better to them and to their government.

If you are thinking that the United States will stay with you through thick and thin, think again. I call your attention to the fall of South Viet Nam, a war in which our nation called it quits for a variety of reasons. I submit to you that in the event of another invasion by North Korea, one supported by communist China and possibly Russia, the United States may pick up its marbles and go home.

Take a look at the following video—one day this army may be marching in Seoul, celebrating North Korea’s subjugation of South Korea to create a united nation of Korea.

You might want to think about that possibility coming to fruition. I suggest that you think long and hard about it. More than 40,000 Americans died during the Korean conflict fighting to keep your country free. North Korea is poised to invade your country, and the only thing holding it back is your relationship with the United States. When it happens, don’t expect the United States to sacrifice another 40,000 of our fighting men and women.

Trust me—our government might  consider such an action, but the people won’t tolerate it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior . . .

Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

As does virtually every family, mine has a shoebox filled with snapshots of family and friends spanning decades of living and loving and working, showing many of the places where we lived and worked and places where we went for recreational purposes. I recently found an old black-and-white photo of a certain 17-year old warrior, a young lad that somehow made his way to Japan somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18 years, an age at which he should have been at home in Columbus, Mississippi enrolled in the eleventh grade at Stephen D. Lee High School, working at various part-time jobs, chasing girls and striving mightily to maintain a C-average.

I was intrigued by the differences between that lad then and the same person now, some 60 years later. I was captivated by the photo, taken sixty years ago in 1950 in front of temporary quarters in the city of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu—so captivated that I decided to share it with my viewers.

I refer to this lad as a warrior based on the knowledge that during the summer of 1950, shortly after North Korea invaded South Korea, he was en route to Korea from Japan to help in our war to keep South Korea free from communism, and would continue in that effort for the next 15 months. Some nineteen years later he would be in Vietnam for thirteen months with a similar purpose—to help South Vietnam in its struggle against a takeover of the country by the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam regulars with help from Russia and China.

In both instances—the war in Korea and the one in Vietnam—he was unsuccessful, and his contributions were for naught. The Korean War ended in a truce that exists to this day, and the Vietnam War ended, for better or worse, in a united Vietnam—the communists won and we lost.

Examine the photo closely—have you ever seen a cockier, more in-your-face, more arrogant and defiant stance? This is a youth of seventeen, some six or seven inches over five feet tall, weighing 115 pounds with a 28-inch waist, dressed in regulation one-piece fatigue coveralls with a fatigue cap on top and unshined GI brogans on the bottom. Either the cuffs of the coveralls are turned up or the coveralls are too short. The cap is pushed back rather than squared off, hands are in pockets, sleeves are partially rolled up, collar is turned up—a harbinger of the Elvis style to come, still some six years in the future. The first several buttons of the fatigues are unbuttoned revealing no undershirt and a really skinny unhairy chest. And most important, even at that tender age the lad is exhibiting a strong leaning to the right, a stance that incidentally exists to this day, and if gets much more pronounced I—oops, I mean he—will be unable to stand up without falling.

I am fairly certain that any reader of this posting has already guessed that the lad in the photo is the same person that is writing this posting for his blog on Word Press—yes, I refer to my mother’s youngest son, The King of Texasthat lad is yours truly at the wizened age of seventeen.

My mother’s youngest son bears little resemblance to that 1950s figure, although he still leans to the right in any political stance, and rather than one-piece fatigues he putters around in sweats and house slippers at home and wears jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers for occasions such as weddings, funerals, jury duty and similar formal events.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Mistaken identification—no gold tooth . . .

Long, long ago in 1951 in Japan, a far off land across the sea, a young American corporal, 18 years old, arrived late in the evening to the Transient Quarters at Itazuki, an American air base near the city of Fukuoka on Kyushu, Japan’s most southern island. That young corporal was on an authorized three-day pass for the purpose of resting, relaxing and recuperating from the rigors of singlehandedly fighting a war from Taegue Air Base at Taegue, South Korea, a war that raged between South Korea and North Korea and lasted four years, but was never won by either side—a truce was declared, and that truce exists to this day.

I was assisted in my efforts by the South Korean army and the US Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard units. That assistance was warranted because Communist China’s vast army was assisting North Korea in its effort to take over the entire Korean peninsula.

The hour was late and the lights were already out in the Transient Quarters. I found my way to an empty lower bunk, stuffed my stuff under the bunk, undressed, slipped under the covers and went to sleep. I awoke early the next morning and headed straight for the showers. When my ablutions were completed I returned to my bunk, donned my uniform and prepared to depart for the city for that aforementioned rest, relaxation and recuperation, activities that were considerably more available than in Korea or on the air base.

And then fate crossed me up—I took a cursory glance at the sleeping figure on the top bunk and recognized him immediately. His name was Ord Dunham, a friend I made in basic training, and we completed technical training together at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. We both shipped out of San Francisco on the same Army troop ship early in 1950, a few months before the Korean War began and I hadn’t seen him since that time.

I waited around for awhile for him to awaken, and passed the time by reading a comic book that was lying at the foot of bunk—well, at least I was looking at the pictures. I believe it was titled “Wings” or something similar, and its cover featured a beautiful girl drifting to earth under a parachute, one of the older type chutes, one of those with the straps between the legs of the parachutist—I will neither bore nor arouse my viewers by describing the girl’s dress or the lack thereof—suffice it to say that the cover was interesting, memorable and to a certain extent, stimulating. I sincerely hope that she made a safe landing.

I grew tired of waiting, knowing that the waiting was cutting into my time for rest, relaxation and recuperation, so I rolled up the comic book and smartly tapped Ord’s nose with it. His eyes snapped open, he raised up and glared at me, and I said, “Hey, boy, aren’t you a long way from home? He said, “Yeah, I guess I am, so what about it?” As he spoke I was treated to a good look at his front teeth, probably because he was smiling—well, actually he wasn’t smiling—it was more like he was snarling. The Ord Dunham I knew had one gold upper front tooth—the man I swatted across the face with a comic book did not have a gold tooth.

I said, in a very low and probably trembling voice, “You’re not Ord Dunham, are you?’ He replied, “No, I’m not, and that’s a hell of a way to wake a man up in the morning!” I did what any sane, intelligent and reasonable person would do and should do in such a situation—I said, “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry, really sorry, please forgive me,” and I grabbed my ditty bag and tried to restrain my feet to a casual walk towards the exit door. To others I would probably seem to be skipping, or perhaps speed walking.

I survived my faux pas and extended my three-day pass from three to seven days—why and how that was possible, and why I was never given a second three-day pass while in Korea is explained in an earlier posting—click here for the pertinent detailsI can say truthfully and modestly say that the posting is worth a visit.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

PeeEss:

To Ord Dunham, the Ord with the gold tooth: If you should happen to read this, please know that I forgive you for having a remarkable look-alike, one that almost got me in a heap of trouble!

And to Ord Dunham, the Ord with no gold tooth, the Ord on the top bunk: If you should happen to read this and remember the incident, please know that I appreciate the fact that you kept your temper in check that day—thanks—I needed that!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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The Korean War—please remember it . . .

As a retired military person I subscribe to the Air Force Retiree web site at www.retirees.af.mil. I received the following e-mail on Friday, June 25, 2010 at 11:27 AM. I am posting the e-mail in its entirety—the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War highlights a significant milepost in my life and I wanted to share it with any viewers that may pass this way–if the posting strikes a positive chord in only one viewer it will be justified.

When the Korean War began I was stationed at Yakota Air Force Base in northern Japan and had been there for three months when the North Koreans invaded South Korea. Soon after the war began I was sent to Itazuke Air Force Base on the southern island of Kyushu. I celebrated my eighteenth birthday at Itazuke, then on to South Korea for an additional 15 months before rotation back to the states. I celebrated my nineteenth birthday in Korea at Kimpo Air Force Base near Seoul and arrived back in the states eight months before my twentieth birthday.

I mention all the above dates simply to show that my latter teen years do not reflect the usual rite of passage enjoyed by most young men in the US, and because of that I do not need a reminder of the Korean War—my experiences during those years are indelibly stamped in my phyche, and I will take them with me when I depart this vale of tears.

The Korean War claimed the lives of almost 40,000 of America’s best and brightest, yet the war has been forgotten by many and is unknown to a host of others—I’m posting this item as a gentle reminder—nay, a stern reminder for those that fail to remember, and a strong admonition for those that have never known to learn about the war—it is vital history.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Postcript: Viewers will find numerous posts on my blog that deal directly or indirectly with Japan and Korea—I find them well-written and well-worth the time required for reading (nothing strange about that, right?). Below are several on which you might like to pass some of your leisure time—one involves a tattooed lady, another a salute to drive-in theaters, and one concerns the Dixie Division and the Mississippi Army National Guard. Others include my first airplane ride, and a three-day R & R pass that lasted seven days—enjoy!

This is the e-mail, exactly as I received it:

Nation marks Korean War’s 60th anniversary

By Donna Miles

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (AFRNS) — Sixty years ago this week, North Korean troops stormed across the 38th parallel into South Korea, launching a three-year conflict that culminated in an armistice in 1953, but never officially ended.

The North Koreans launched a massive, coordinated air-land invasion in the early-morning hours of June 25, 1950, with more than 230,000 troops, fighter jets, attack bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, tanks and artillery.

The ferocity of the offensive caught the South Korean army by surprise. With fewer than 100,000 troops, no tanks and limited aircraft, they were unprepared to halt the invasion force.

Seoul, the South Korean capital, fell June 28. Then-President Harry S. Truman, concerned after World War II about the spread of communism, recognized the importance of repelling military aggression on the Korean peninsula.

“I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, communist leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to our own shores,” Truman wrote in his autobiography. “If the communists were permitted to force their way into the Republic of Korea without opposition from the free world, no small nation would have the courage to resist threat and aggression by stronger communist neighbors.”

President Truman ordered U.S. air and naval forces to defend South Korea, and committed ground troops as part of a combined United Nations effort. The 16-member coalition formed under the auspices of the U.S.-led United Nations Command, with President Truman naming Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur as its commander.

The 24th Infantry Division, part of the U.S. occupation forces in Japan under General MacArthur’s command following World War II, deployed the first U.S. troops to Korea. Advanced elements of the 24th Infantry Division rushed to Korea on transport planes to block the enemy advance.

As they awaited follow-on deployments, the 24th Infantry Division troops, known as Task Force Smith, suffered heavy losses and ultimately, defeat during their first significant engagement of the war, the Battle of Osan.

Outgunned and overpowered, the division ultimately lost more than 3,600 dead and wounded and almost 3,000 captured as the North Korean progressed south.

By September, the U.N. Command controlled only about 10 percent of Korea in a small southeastern corner of the country around Pusan.

The Battle of Pusan Perimeter raged from August to September 1950, with the U.S. Air Force and Navy air forces attacking North Korean logistics operations and transportation hubs. Meanwhile, troops from the 7th Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division and other 8th Army supporting units poured into South Korea.

The Inchon Landing, a massive amphibious landing in September 1950, ultimately turned the tide in the fighting by breaking the North Korean army’s supply lines. This prompted China to enter the war on North Korea’s behalf, ending hope, as General MacArthur had predicted, that the war would end soon and the troops would be home for Christmas.

The conflict raged for three more Christmases, with neither side achieving a decisive military victory.

Ultimately, two years of negotiations led to an armistice agreement signed July 27, 1953. Representatives of the North Korean army, the Chinese volunteers and the U.N. Command signed the agreement, but South Korea refused to participate.

The United States lost more than 36,000 servicemembers during the Korean War, with more than 92,000 wounded, more than 8,000 missing in action and more than 7,000 taken prisoner of war.

Since the signing of the armistice, South Korea has emerged as an economic powerhouse, with the world’s 11th-largest economy and a gross domestic product approaching $1 trillion. North Korea, in contrast, remains militarily powerful, but economically isolated.

In its most recent act of provocation, North Korea sank the frigate Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

Related Sites:  Remembering the Korean War

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Cowpies and Chinaberries—a 1942 video game

Cowpies and Chinaberries—a 1942 video game:

FROM WIKIPEDIA: The fruit of a Chinaberry tree is a berrylike, round fleshy fruit. It continues through winter and contains a stone with one to six seeds inside. The berries are yellowish green turning to yellowish tan.

On color I am somewhat in disagreement with Wikipedia—a full grown Chinaberry is very hard and green—not yellowish green, but green green—I should know, because I have a close association with Chinaberries—a history, so to speak. I agree that the berry turns yellowish while still on the tree and softens with age, and predictably, with that softening it becomes ineligible for Chinaberry pitching. On further thought, it’s been years since I’ve seen a Chinaberry, so it may be that today’s berries are in fact yellowish green, perhaps due to global warming caused by Al Gore.

As a young boy I lived with my family—mother, sister and stepfather—for several months near a railroad stockyard for animals. I lived near the stockyard at two widely separated times in different rental houses for several months each time. Shipments of cows and horses were held in the stockyards for a brief time waiting for transportation by rail to some destination, whether to auction, to pasture or to slaughterhouses. The holding pens were fenced with steel posts and pipes rather than wooden posts and railings, and the top pipe, or rail, of the enclosure was the perch on which Chinaberry-pitching contestants sat for the competitions.

A special note: When I googled the word stockyard, I was rewarded by the image on the right. It does not seem to be related to stockyards in any way, but I decided to share it—go figure!

Having arrived at the pen with pockets filled with Chinaberries, a contestant could choose to stand on a lower rail and pitch, but was then constrained to lean forward over the rail for balance, or hold on with one hand while pitching with the other. For most contestants, that stance proved to be a distraction. The more effective pitches were launched while straddling the top rail at a right angle to the target, or while seated facing the target. The latter position was, for obvious reasons, far more comfortable than the straddle.

Multiple contestants were not necessary. I can remember many hours of competing against myself—yep, I was always the winner, never a loser, in such contests—that’s just the way the game worked. That’s the way I believe life should work but, as opposed to Chinaberry pitching, I don’t always get my way.

Our targets were cowpies. A definition of the term is probably unnecessary, but I’ll define it anyway. Cowpie is a euphemism for the fecal matter excreted by a bovine animal, whether male or female, and on that note one must needs witness the excretion to determine the animal’s gender—the sex of the bovine cannot be determined by the nature of the cowpie—diet and approximate age and size, perhaps, but not gender—not even by the most knowledgeable rancher, veterinarian or Chinaberry pitcher.

There are various other euphemisms  for bovine excrement. They include terns such as cow flop, cow plop (from the sound of hitting the ground), cow hockey, cow dung, cow stuff and some terms that are not readily accepted in mixed company or in the presence of one’s parents. As an aside, a bovine sometimes continues its forward motion while “going to the bathroom.” This produces a trail of cow flops, or plops, that decrease in size as the motion progresses. Counting the separate flops was routine by country boys—the trail with the greatest number of flops won any bet that was waged. In any game of Chinaberry pitching, accurate hits that stuck to the small ones counted more than hits on the larger ones.

Overhand pitches thrown on a level trajectory may have been accurate, but the ability of the berry to stick to the target was minimal, and did not get the job done. The missile had to come down on the target as close to a ninety degree angle as possible. The berry was held delicately between thumb and forefinger and the hand drawn back toward the shoulder, lining up the berry with the target, squinting with one eye and sighting with the other, just as a firearm is aimed by a marksman, then propelled upward and outward to produce an arc that would enable the missile to drop downward onto the target. The farther away the target, the farther back the hand was drawn in order to provide the necessary momentum. This procedure was variously called a pitch, toss or throw.

Part of the scoring included the distance from the point of release to the target—distance was necessarily an estimated figure—as one might imagine, walking to measure the distance was somewhat perilous, especially if one had just come from church and was wearing one’s Sunday shoes—you know, the ones in brown and white with long laces that, unless carefully tied, sometimes dragged along the ground when one walked. And in the rush to claim the greater distance, a misstep was not only possible—it was highly probable—bummer!

The sport of Chinaberry pitching required considerable finesse, comparable to the sport of darts but far more challenging. The ultimate skill one could demonstrate was to nestle the berry on a thumbnail with the tip of the nail placed at the junction of the first joint of the forefinger at the halfway point, then snapping the thumb up to propel the missile towards its target—this was called a “flip.” Since the berry was traveling at a greater speed than the overhand throw, more altitude had to be factored into its trajectory to provide the proper angle to allow the berry to drop nearer to the perfect ninety degree angle. Following release of the Chinaberry, the thumb would be straight up and the forefinger would be pointed straight at the target—at this juncture most contestants vocally reproduced the sound of a firearm, something such as pow or bam. Well, not always vocally—these were boys, and as they say, boys will be boys! In either case the intent was to irritate and distract one’s competitors—the louder the better, particularly in instances of non-vocal sound reproduction.

One’s position on the top rail was important, whether in a straddle or seated facing the targets. the right angle was the safest position, but the face-forward with both feet on the same side had much to recommend it, although in the heat of competition the possibility of falling backward was more pronounced.

And here I hasten to add that horses have nothing to contribute to the game of Chinaberry pitching—without going too far into detail, I’ll just say that it doesn’t work, and anyone familiar with the difference in cow dung and horse dung  will understand (we referred to the horse dung as road apples). The horse provides a target for Chinaberries, of course, but a hit, however expertly aimed and accurate, bounces off and leaves nothing to prove the accuracy of the hit—unless ones opponent happens to see the hit when it occurs. Conversely, the cow plop clings to the evidence—or vice versa—and the accuracy of the toss, or flip, can neither be denied nor overlooked.

In 1942, Chinaberry pitching was the closest thing we boys had to today’s video games. I specify boys, because I have no recollection of any girls having shown even the slightest interest in the game, neither in Chinaberries, stockyards or cowpies. Bummer!

And in order to close this posting, I’ll quote that immortal couple Archie and Edith Bunker of television situation comedy fame with the title of their signature song, “Those were the days!”

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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My brief stint as a cocktail waiter . . .

I returned to the United States in February of 1952 following a twenty-two month tour of the Far East. I enjoyed the first nine months in Japan—the other 13 months were spent, with far less enjoyment, in South Korea at the height of the Korean conflict. At the conclusion of a two-week boat ride on a US Navy troop transport ship that finally docked in San Francisco (click here for a description of that landing and numerous other fascinating vignettes), I traveled to Midland, Texas to visit my mother and my stepfather now residing in that city—my mother was employed as a nurse and my stepfather hawked commercial advertisement items such as matchbooks, calendars and other items imprinted with the names of various businesses. He did a very small amount of that, and a large amount of poker playing at a local establishment—he viewed himself as a high-roller, but I doubt that any others viewed him in that light.

Papa John, my stepfather, was a dues-paying member of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles (F.O.E). He was a rather committed poker player, and the F.O.E. made it possible for him to indulge in such activities regularly—nightly, and often till well past the witching hour. According to my mother, he spent almost as much time there as he spent at home. I did not linger in Midland long enough to either doubt or refute that, but I have reason to believe her.

I had just returned from a combat tour in Korea. My stepfather was inordinately proud of me for having contributed to our efforts in the war against communism and the invasion of South Korea by North Korean army regulars and elements of communist China’s enormous armies. He discussed my return with an F.O.E. personage, one that sported the title of Grand PooBah, or something on that order. They agreed, in my absence, mind you, that it would be beneficial to the organization and its members for me to bring them up to date on the progress of the Korean war.

I reluctantly accepted the invitation to speak, and Papa John insisted that I appear on stage in uniform. I appeared in uniform on stage and addressed a large banquet hall filled with comfortably seated people. I struggled through an impromptu no-notes speech, a speech that I will not attempt to recreate here. Suffice it to say that I received a warm welcome and a warmer round of applause. Texans, and Midlanders especially, possess and display many different characteristics, not the least of which is patriotism—it’s embedded in their characters and they give voice to it proudly and openly. I probably would have received the same applause had I stood and recited Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as . . . etc., etc.

Now on to my brief—very brief—stint as a cocktail waiter:

On the same evening shortly after I gave the club  members my version of the Korean War, Papa John retired to the back room to play poker. I went with him and stood around kibitzing—however, I did not attempt to give unwanted advice, something that kibitzers usually do—no, and not just no, but hell no—I knew better than to even contemplate it. As the game progressed, its seven players quickly drained their various bottles and glasses of various types of spirits, and the house called for another round of drinks for the players. Note: the house is the non-player that runs the game and takes a percentage of each pot for the organization—hey, they have to pay rent!

When the house started to send for a waiter, Papa John volunteered me for the job. The house said sure, and I silently said—well, what I said matched what the house said, but only in the number of letters—its pronunciation was different. I will try to finish this quickly because to linger will just bring up more unhappy memories of that evening.

I took the written list of drinks to the bar. The bartender obligingly filled the order, placed numerous containers on a very large tray and said There you go. The tray held more than seven containers, because some players had ordered such drinks as boiler-makers—that’s a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser—or is it a shot of beer with a whiskey chaser? I can never remember which.

As I threaded my way between tables and booths en route to the back room, with the tray held firmly in both hands at waist level, I noticed that other waiters held their trays well above their heads, with just one hand supporting the tray at that height with its expensive cargo.

Yep, you’re way ahead of me. That posed a challenge for me, one that my character could not resist—I splayed my right hand and placed it palm up beneath my tray and elevated it, just as the others were doing. I found it quite easy to do, and actually danced around and twitched my hips a bit while transiting the room full of diners and drinkers, and arrived at the poker table with out incident. However, at the exact moment I began to lower the tray, things went awry—something slipped and caused a complete dump of the trays’ load—I managed to hold on to the tray, but everything on it hit the floor with a combined sound of liquid sloshing and glass breaking. Bummer!

I was not allowed to pay for the lost lubricants, nor was I allowed to fill a second order. I rendered my I’m sorries, my thank yous and my good nights shortly after the incident and managed to exit the building without running into anything or tripping over something.

That’s it. That’s my version of The Night That a Teenage War Veteran Dropped the Drinks, a tale of tragedy comparable to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a notable work by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that also involved a tremendous amount of liquid. The main event of that night is a tale that is probably still being told to younger generations of Midlanders, especially those that may be groomed for employment as a waiter at the local Fraternal Order of Eagles. I can’t vouch for that, because I put Midland in my rear view mirror several days later and have never returned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Third time is charm—but not always . . .

In March of 1969, I had the privilege of taking a 13-month tour of South Vietnam with all expenses paid—my tour began in the the capital city of Saigon and ended at Da Nang Air Base in April of 1970. While at Da Nang I made two week-end visits to Hong Kong. The first was rather harrowing, but turned out okay. To read my posting on the first flight click here.

The second week-end trip was even more harrowing, and I wisely declined  all invitations for additional trips. Had another aircraft been available—another model a bit less vintage, I perhaps would have returned—no, belay that—the only circumstance that would have gotten me on a third flight to Hong Kong would be the imminent fall of Da Nang to North Vietnamese regulars. In that case I would have made a third flight to Hong Kong on any conveyance that could get me off the ground, whether on the Gooney Bird, in a lawn-mower-powered ultra-light or under a parasail towed by a child in a rowboat.

This posting will reveals the details of the second flight, details that would cause anyone, particularly my mother’s youngest son, to forego a third flight to Hong Kong.

Saturday dawned bright and clear at Da Nang, South Korea on a day in 1969,  and we lifted off for our flight to Hong Kong, the star of the Orient. We were ensconced in a C-47 transport plane affectionately nicknamed Gooney Bird. Powered by two reciprocating engines, our Gooney Bird was assembled in the late 1930s or the early 1940s—a durable bird, but not exactly a state-of-the-art conveyance. However, its age and its continued use by the United States Air Force were testaments to its reliability.

Our flight from DaNang to Hong Kong was routine, uneventful, with nothing to portend the nature of our return flight to South Vietnam. We arrives at Hong Kong in mid-morning and passed the the day shopping—I purchased a a reel-to-reel tape recorder, one of the finest units available at the time, along with a plentiful supply of tape, some jewelry for my wife, and a wooden model of a Chinese junk—the recorder was junked, the jewelry is part my wife’s heritage to our three daughters, and I’m still stuck with the Chinese junk—it’s still accumulating dust and it’s still an eyesore. I can’t decide what to do with it—I’ve offered it as a present to several people—all expressed their appreciation of the offer, but none accepted it. I hate to give it up, and I hate to keep it—bummer!

But I have digressed—back to our return flight:

We left Kong Kong in mid-morning on Sunday. Our flight was routine until a short while after passing the point-of-no-return to Hong Kong—regardless of circumstances we were required to press on to Da Nang—if an inflight emegency should 0ccur, our options would be to ditch into the ocean, land somewhere in China, either on an island or on the mainland, or land somewhere in North Vietnam.

An emergency did in fact occur, and a mayday call—a call for assistance—was made to DaNang. Our #2 engine—that’s the engine on the left if one is facing the nose of the aircraft—began coughing, a series of sounds indicating a problem with fuel intake or ignition problems. The coughs were infrequent and minor at first, but soon  became more frequent and longer in duration. I was privileged to be seated at the window closest to that engine, and each time it coughed the propellers would stop, only for a tiny instant at first, but the stop  was clearly visible.

Our loadmaster told us that a mayday message had been sent to DaNang and that a Navy PBY, an aircraft with the ability to land on water as well as land, had been dispatched to meet us in the event that our aircraft had to be ditched in the ocean. The loadmaster began moving all our luggage and our Hong Kong goodies to the cargo door. I asked him why, and he said our load had to be lightened to help the Gooney Bird remain aloft in case we were reduced to only one engine. I protested—mildly, of course—and was told something to the effect that the load had to be lightened, one way or another, and that it was either my new reel-to-reel tape recorder or me. Naturally I chose to remain on board and sacrifice the recorder.

However—and that’s a really important however—I, my tape recorder, the passengers, the crew and the aircraft landed safely at DaNang. The ailing engine stopped completely several times–all three prop blades became clearly visible for a few seconds—but the engine recovered enough each time to contribute to the other engine’s efforts.

Following the loadmaster’s explanation of our current situation and his description of possible changes to that situation, the passenger section became eerily silent, with each of us enveloped in our own thoughts. I venture that my thoughts were identical to the thoughts of others.

Yep, I prayed. I prayed to my god and to the gods of others, regardless of the nature of their gods. I prayed that the engine would recover, that the PBY would arrive soon, that ditching would not be necessary, and that we would land safely in South Vietnam. If their prayers were anything like mine, then they made promises they knew the would not—or possibly could not—keep.

I have no doubt that our combined prayers were answered, all except my prayer that the engine would recover—it was still coughing mightily when we landed at DaNang. The PBY soon arrived—its pilot made a 180 degree turn and placed his aircraft near our starboard wingtip—a position taken in order to observe the ailing engine—and escorted us to a safe landing. Made all the gods bless PBYs and their pilots!

A quick aside at this point, just in case a viewer is unsure of the difference between left and right in nautical terms—port is left, starboard is right. Running lights on vessels are red and green—red is for left side, green is for right side. Here’s a memory aid that may help one remember which is which—memory aids seem to be items for which I have an ever-increasing need as I advance in years!

Just remember that port, left and red are short words with fewer letters than starboard, right and green, so port and red are on the left side—starboard and green are on the right side.

Got it?

Below is an image of today’s Da Nang—it did not look like that when I was there!

Speaking of inflight aircraft malfunctions, Brother Dave Gardner (1926-1983), an old-time stand-up comic, created a skit to use in his comedy routines, a skit dealing with an inflight emergency on a commercial flight in the United States. An engine caught fire inflight, and a little old man seated near the burning engine prayed long and loudly for his god to rectify the situation, saying “Please get me on the ground safely and I’ll give half of everything I own to the church.”

The fire was instantly extinguished and the plane landed safely.

When the little old man deplaned he was met by his minister and the minister said, “Brother, I heard what you said up there! I heard you tell God that if he got you on the ground safely you would give half of everything you own to the church, and I know you’re going to start right now!”

The little man said, “Nope, I made a better deal—I just now told God that if I ever get back on another one of those things, I’ll give Him everything I own!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Letter to the editor, SA Express-news: On polls . . .

This letter was not published because it was not presented for the editor’s review—it was not presented to him because, based on considerable personal experience accumulated over a period of many years, I felt certain it would be rejected out-of-hand by the Express-News editor—as of this posting, I have never had a letter rejected by WordPress.com—they seem to welcome my letters—never a refusal.

Letter to the editor:

San Antonio Express-News

October 4, 2009

Re: Joann Smith’s letter entitled People want reform, published in Your Turn today, rebutted a letter by Col. James Vinci concerning columnist Froma Harrop. In a recent column, Froma quoted a poll by the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that 73 percent of doctors polled were in favor of a public insurance option in the administration’s proposed changes to health care. The colonel challenged that percentage, claiming that a recent poll showed that most doctors opposed HR 3200. The author of People want reform states that Col. Vinci failed to cite which poll, and that he charged Froma with hypocritically cherry-picking statistics.

In her letter today, Joann Smith states that “Poll after poll shows that Americans, across all demographic lines, support having a public insurance option available. Check polls by ABC, CBS, AARP, Time Magazine, Kaiser. Americans want the choice of a public option.

Congress, are you listening to the people?”

Really, Ms Adams? You gave us a very short list. Why did you not list some other well-known organizations, news and otherwise, that frequently conduct polls which, ultimately and predictably, show support for the current administration regardless of the subject. The polls may be tailored to the national health program, specifically to the public insurance option, or to the administration’s stand on immigration, legal and illegal, or to the recession, or to the administration’s stand on foreign policy—how to handle Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, Israel, North Korea, China, Poland, ad infinitum.

Here are some others you could have properly cited, but you did not:

Why not NBC?

Why not NPR?

Why not the Harvard School of Public Health?

It is notable that the Kaiser Family Foundation recently joined NPR (National Public Radio) and the Harvard School of Public Health in a new poll, Survey on the Role of Health Care Interest Groups, published September 30, 2009.

Here’s the online news announcement:

New NPR/Kaiser/Harvard Poll Examines Public’s Views of the Role of Health Care Interest Groups in the Health Care Debate

It must be noted that all three entities are far to the left of center—all can legitimately be considered hard-core far-left organizations. Predictably, the poll showed wide support for the administration’s efforts to create a national health care plan, including the public  option.

It’s also notable that “Representatives of the three organizations worked together to develop the survey questionnaire and to analyze the results, with NPR maintaining editorial control over its broadcasts on the surveys,” as stated in the news announcements.

In conclusion, some special notes for Ms Adams:

Poll results are presented in numerical figures, and the results can easily be manipulated by the nature of the questions, by the demographics of the people and the area being polled and how the respondents’ answers are analyzed—in fine, Ms Adams, figures don’t lie, but liars figure—a corollary is that polls don’t lie, but pollsters figure. Some pollsters know exactly what they want from a survey, and then manipulate the various parts of the poll to accomplish the goal they desire.

In the interest of full disclosure, it must be stated that the ability to manipulate poll results is not restricted to the political left—it is also available, and is used, by centrists and by the political right. Some use that ability far more than others, and some are far more adept at skewing the results.

In the matter of politics, particularly in the matter of political polls, one should cover all the venues—books, newspapers, movies, television and talk radio—one should read, look, listen and learn in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Just a suggestion: Every one that reads this posting will profit by picking up the TV remote and channel surfing until they find a news source that uses this motto:

“We report—you decide.”

Bias exists on the channel that uses the motto, “We report—you decide” but in far less degree than other, perhaps most, news sources. It’s everywhere, similar to the air we breathe. And just as our atmosphere at some locations contains more pollution than others, the degree to which political bias exists depends on the source, whether on television, on radio, in face-to-face gatherings or in print.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Japanese trains are always on time—regardless . . .

A year or so ago, I received an e-mail from the consort of my youngest daughter, the Princess of Wylie, Texas. Her consort is a worthy fellow, an accomplished barrister who serves the public from an office in Plano, Texas. We conferred upon him the title of His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort, a term that we kings use when a royal personage marries a person whose rank is too low for them to be granted full royal status. (NOTE: The children of the Princess of Wylie and her Prince Consort are not in the line of succession to the throne).

The Prince Consort’s e-mail consisted of the mandatory greetings, and included a movie clip showing passengers being packed into train cars in China, in much the same manner as sardines being packed into a can, a much over-used but highly appropriate and picturesque description.

I responded to the e-mail as follows:

Thanks for the movie clip—it sure stirred up a host of memories, and led me to a web site which shows many of the places which I, among many exclusively chosen others, was privileged to tour over 7 months in Japan and 15 months in Korea (April 1950 – February 1952). Bear in mind that the people in these pics are commissioned officers—I was part of the Air Force’s UEF (Unwashed Enlisted Force), and our accommodations weren’t nearly as luxurious as theirs.

That scene gives new meaning to the word packed. A few years ago (okay, more than a few years—59 years ago, give or take a few months) I took a few train rides in Japan. Their packing system was about the same as China’s, and the trains left on time—no exceptions—if a passenger happened to be halfway in and halfway out, both halves started moving, so that person had to make a decision—either give up the fight or travel that way. As best as I can remember, most people chose to give up the fight and remain on the platform.

The Japanese had special express trains that had specific destinations, and those trains flashed by every stop on their way to that destination. Nothing would sway the operator—I unwittingly boarded one such train in Fukuoka, a metropolitan city on the southern island of Kyushu, and passed my duty station at Itasuke Air Base about five miles from the city at warp speed—as George Jones says in song, the train was going so fast that the telephone poles “looked like a picket fence.”

I was in the front of the first car, separated from the motorman by plate glass mounted in a securely locked door. I begged, cursed, shook my fist at the motorman and threatened to bring down the full weight and fury of the United States Air Force on him. I was in my summer khaki uniform, so I pointed to my Private First Class stripes (one on each sleeve) and my US collar brass.

Remarkably unimpressed, he smiled and bowed deeply, gave me a friendly wave then ignored me. I ended up so far out in the country that the townspeople where I finally de-trained didn’t recognize my uniform. I actually flapped my wings in an attempt to show them that I was a proud member of the United States Air Force.

And would you believe it? The train finally stopped in a small city  north of the city of Fukuoka—too far for me to walk back, and I waited for an interminable time for a returning train.

The name of that town was USA.

How’s that for coincidence?

The rumor still persists that an existing city was renamed USA so the townspeople could export items stamped Made in USA to other countries, principally to the United States. It’s nothing more than a rumor—the town was named USA long before World War II.

From that time on, I looked very carefully for its destination before I leaped aboard a train in Japan.

 

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1969 C-47 flight, Vietnam to Hong Kong, emergency landing at Kai Tai . . .

The information in italics below was extracted from an Internet site. For an interesting read of Hong Kong and its airport, click here.

“The government of Hong Kong said Tuesday that a second cruise terminal would be built at the southern tip of the old Kai Tak Airport runway. Closed in 1998 when a new airport was built on an outlying island, the Kai Tak runway was famous among pilots because it required them to navigate planes through mountains and high-rise buildings before landing on the needle-like strip, which led right into the eastern center of Victoria Harbor.”

hkfly4-thumb

Way back in 1969, early on a Saturday morning with the Vietnam conflict in full sway, a twin-engine cargo aircraft, a prop-driven C-47, produced by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s, was enroute to the city of Hong Kong, just off the coast c-47 douglas skytrainof mainland China. On board the aircraft were its crew and six US Air Force military personnel, all looking forward to an early arrival and an overnight stay in the city, with adequate time for shopping, dining and sightseeing before returning to Da Nang late on Sunday.

The flight was routine until the pilot put the aircraft into a gentle bank, made a 180-degree turn and headed back toward Da Nang. The loadmaster told the passengers that Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport and the city were enveloped in dense fog with a low cloud overcast, and visibility was severely limited. Instrument landings were the only landings permitted, and those landings were permitted only for aircraft with a declared emergency—inbound aircraft with enough fuel remaining would be rerouted to other locations, and those without sufficient fuel would be allowed to make an instrument landing

More photos of Hong Kong and Kai Tak airport may be viewed at http://simonworld.mu.nu/archives/158834.php

Everyone on the flight was disappointed by the news, but all understood the difficulties of landing under such conditions—pilots would have to depend on instruments only until the runway became visible. Everyone accepted the fact that their weekend in Hong Kong was out—no shopping or dining or sightseeing—nothing to break the monotony of 12-hour work days in a six-day work week at Da Nang, and no chance to have one night of sleep without being disturbed by incoming rockets donated to the air base almost nightly by the enemy—the Viet Kong and North Vietnamese regulars.

The rockets had no particular targets—they were usually aimed by felling a tree across a pathway in the jungle, angling a rocket on the opposite side of the tree in the general direction of the air base, then touching it off. Sometimes the rocket fell short, sometimes it overshot, sometimes it exploded harmlessly in an open area, and sometimes it fell on a building, sometimes when it was occupied and sometimes when it was not occupied. The erratic nature of these rockets made them fairly effective in preventing and disturbing sleep, which perhaps may have been the enemy’s objective.

But I digress—back to the flight from Da Nang:

Sometime after the first 180-degree turn, the pilot executed a second 180-degree turn, and the loadmaster explained that the fog had lifted, at least enough to allow landings other than those under emergency conditions. This was good news for passengers and crew—the hoped-for weekend was again in sight.

The aircraft began its descent to line up with its approach to Hong Kong’s runway in a cloudless sky, but as altitude was lost visibility decreased rapidly to near zero—only the wingtips were visible in the dense fog until the plane broke out of the fog with the runway in sight. Also in sight were cargo ships and pleasure craft and Chinese junks, with the C-47 no more than one hundred feet or so above the junk’s tall masts.

Landings at Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak international airport were always tricky, even under perfect weather conditions. A significant portion of the runway extends into Victoria harbor on man-made land, created and brought to a level above high tide with rocks, then covered with dirt and concrete.

The reason for the double 180-degree turn? The pilot had computed the “point of no return’ for the flight, reversed direction away from Hong Kong and later again reversed direction, this time towards Hong Kong. He then requested landing instructions from the Hong Kong tower, and was told that only emergency landings were allowed.

The pilot declared an emergency, stating truthfully that he was past the point of no return—he did not have enough fuel for the return to Da Nang. And in truth it was a real emergency—the aircraft’s flight, from takeoff in South Vietnam to landing at Hong Kong, ran parallel to, and outside of, the international boundaries of North Vietnam and mainland China—any landing other than Hong Kong would have to be in North Vietnam or communist China—the only alternative would be to ditch the aircraft in the South China Sea.

Bummer.

Permission to land at Kai Tai airport was granted. The C-47 broke out of the overcast just above the masts of junks moored in Hong Kong’s harbor, and the fog had thinned enough for the landing to be accomplished without incident. The aircraft, its crew and its passengers with a load of goodies purchased in Hong Kong (bolts of fine silk, various electronics, jewelry, wooden carvings, etc.) returned to Da Nang on Sunday—the return flight was routine in every respect.

I feel qualified to report the details of that flight because I was on that aircraft—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I made the weekend flight once more on the same aircraft, before my return to the states. The second flight was also harrowing, and is the subject of a future posting—for now I will only say that the second flight imbued me with a firm resolve to not make a third flight, fearing that the “third time’s charm” bromide would become “third time’s fatal.”

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 

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A catastrophic M&M moment . . .

Today I was privileged to spend several hours in (and out of) the chemotherapy unit of Wilford Hall Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas (I had good reason to be there, but that’s fodder for a future posting). At mid-morning I left the hospital for a sumptuous breakfast at Burger King, a sausage-biscuit with strawberry jam and a senior coffee (yes, I’m a senior, and I want my discount, damn it!).

After breakfast I stopped to browse at the base Thrift Shop (it’s open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays), and I picked up, at modest cost, a candy dispenser featuring the little yellow M&M fellow—at least I believe it’s a fellow, but one can’t really tell with an M&M, regardless of its color. He’s made of plastic and was probably made in China (everything else is). He’s wearing what appears to be teddy-bear-toed house slippers and sitting in a recliner which has a handle on one side, a handle which, in a real-life chair, would serve to recline the chair and raise the footrest. However this handle, when pushed down, raises the little guy’s legs and flips up a door in the chair’s front to release the candy. There is a small door at the top of the chair back through which the candy can be loaded.

This was the first M&M dispenser I had ever seen, but I learned later that M&M dispensers are ubiquitous—they are molded in several different configurations, some of which have become valuable items and are eagerly sought by avid collector’s—whether mine has any value beyond my cost remains to be seen.

Before returning to the hospital I made a second side trip to the base Commissary to pick up (and pay for, of course) two large  family-size packages of peanut butter M&Ms. I planned to clean the little fellow up, fill the chair with candy, and introduce him to the workers and patients in the chemotherapy unit.

I took him into the small restroom adjacent to the chemotherapy unit waiting-area, sat him on the sink and administered a thorough cleaning, or at least as thorough as I could by using tap water, hand-soap and paper towels. With the cleaning and drying complete, I opened a package of M&Ms, opened the filler door and began to load the candy, and a catastrophic M&M moment ensued. When I lifted the dispenser, I tilted it to facilitate loading and I inadvertently pushed the little handle down. Before I could stop the loading process the little guy unloaded the chair—his teddy-bear-toed house-slippered feet flew up, the door in the chair front flew open and a host of M&Ms flew out—a dozen or so jumped into the sink, and the rest chose the floor and scampered for the corners. A few slyly slipped under the door of the privacy stall, and several others congregated beneath the urinal.

I probably merit a Guinness Book of Records entry “for retrieving wayward M&Ms from the floor of a restroom adjacent to a chemotherapy waiting area in a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas at eleven AM, Central Standard Time, on Tuesday, 21 April 2009,” a record which is unlikely to be challenged and should stand forever.

I was desperately trying to round up all the little candies before another restroom user entered, and I was successful. When the door opened to admit an elderly man, they had all been corralled and flushed (ha, ha, take that!) and I was back at the sink, holding the dispenser up to the light in an effort to discover what had caused the malfunction. The elderly gentleman entered, stopped dead in his tracks, watched for a long moment, returned my cheerful “Good morning” with a sadly negative shake of his head and then placed himself at the urinal. When I left, several minutes later after thoroughly scrubbing my hands, he was still in place—and could possibly still be there.

I decided that, given its propensity to malfunction, it would be unwise to place the unpredictable M&M dispenser in the chemotherapy unit. Instead, I gave the unopened bag and the remainder of the opened bag to a nurse, to be dispensed in some fashion other than the one I precipitated in the restroom.

Okay, that’s my catastrophic M&M moment—I suspect that there are viewers who have had their own significant moments with M&Ms, and perhaps they would share them with us. I welcome the discussion of any such moments (or lack thereof) in response to this posting.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2009 in Humor, Uncategorized

 

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