Tag Archives: war

Some Senile Senior Rants On Attaining Age 92

Birthdays, especially for a guy surviving so many decades, should be quietly happy times. But when you’ve lived as many years as I have, it’s more satisfying to gripe out loud. Consider some current idiocy that really pisses me off:

Holey Jeans: During the Depression after my dad died, four-year-old me wore shirts and pants full of holes. My mom got them for free at the Salvation Army. Today, at smart-ass shoppes, the rags sell for $500 each.

Holy Religion: Some guy who lived 2,000 years ago still tells us how to behave. Of course, while praying to him and other guys in the sky, we march out singing. Then we kill everyone who doesn’t believe the long-dead guy is still giving orders.

War: Humans are the most stupid animals on the planet. Every 20 years or so, they willingly follow some crazy-looking dictator into insane self-destruction.

Tobacco And Booze: Slow, stupid suicide for the addict, and murder of their kids forced to grow up inhaling the poison. With booze, at least you enjoy it while eventually drinking yourself to death and/or wrecking your car and family.

Drugs: That sleazy guy who sells the poison to get you high only hopes it won’t kill you. At least until he makes as much money as possible out of your sorry, suicidal butt.

Music: Of course, today’s barking, screaming and cursing remind the listener of similarly creative compositions. How about them hip guys Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Berlin and the other old songsters?

Movies And Cable TV: Each dramatic story now is greatly enhanced by unending toilet-mouthed swearing. It’s soooo sophisticated, like 10-year-olds just learning the dirty words at the playground.

U.S. Politics: Since it all began with the great George and Abe, we’ve had some awful choices in presidential candidates. However, we really hit the jackpot … emphasis on pot … with the most recent pair. In the voting booth I had to hold my nose while voting for the least awful of the two totally unqualified, corrupt candidates, and she lost.

Memorial Day 1942: Recalling A Long-Ago Experience


As a high school senior at that year’s holiday, it was my honor to recite a patriotic poem at the school’s Civil War memorial statue ceremony. It was at Girard College, a residential school for fatherless boys in Philadelphia, founded in the 1830s.

When the Civil War began in 1861, many Girard students, ages 14 to 17, ran away to join. Most fought for the Union, while some made their way south to the Confederacy. As history reports, casualties on both sides were horribly heavy, including many of the Girard teen volunteers.

The poem I recited, written by Francis Miles Finch just after the Civil War, is The Blue and the Gray. It equally mourns and honors the dead of both sides of the conflict, and ends with:

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.

Waxing Philosophical In My Waning Years

  
After being on this planet for 9/10ths of a century, I’ve finally realized I’m just as important as the next guy. It took so long because I was brainwashed very early in life. 
As an orphanage kid from age six to 17, absolute obedience to elders was constantly hammered into my naive little head. At age 18, one of the first orders barked at me in Navy boot camp was: If it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t move, paint it. This included officers and everyone else who wore at least one more sleeve stripe than I did. 

Through the growing-up and Navy years, I blindly feared and revered teachers, clergy, cops, generals, admirals, royalty and politicians. Also included on my worship list were various other noble beings, such as bosses, who were far superior to unimportant me.

I’ve long since dumped all that baggage and can now laugh about it. Movie humor genius Mel Brooks once said, “Life literally abounds in comedy if you just look around you.” Today, in my very advanced old age, I fully agree with him. Our barnyard pecking order is a human laugh factory.

During the many years since my early indoctrination, I eventually realized that even the greatest presidents, priests and pop stars are as weakly human as I. And to my surprise, also need to go to the toilet several times a day. I’m no longer shocked at what happens to squeaky-pure clergy and politicians when their private lives and privates are exposed?

My personal history includes toiling as a business conference planner for more than a quarter of a century. During those years, I gradually lost all respect for grossly overpaid and overrated executives. I had to deal with them when I planned and produced major awards conferences throughout the U.S., Canada and Caribbean.

I wrote scripts and continuity for events presented in hotel auditoriums and theaters. My work included motivational speeches for executives to deliver to large audiences of employees and families. The executives merely had to read the 15- to 30-minute scripts and make them sound authentic.

A few intelligent and sober ones did exactly that, and I could feel pride in my creative accomplishments. However, too many, neither intelligent nor sober, stumbled and mumbled through my inspiring words.

Worst of all, that they were paid 10 or more times my salary still angers the hell out of me. I can try to laugh about it now, but the memories come back when I see even more insane pay doled out to some of the world’s most undeserving schmucks. 

They include incompetent CEOs, crooked politicians (are there any other kind?), arrogant pro athletes, hammy actors, foul-mouthed musical howlers and many, many others. My biggest and most bitter laugh is for military brass. 

They’re pompous, overpaid old guys all gussied up in silly uniforms. They wear chests full of medals earned by ordering clueless young guys to go kill or get killed by other clueless young guys. 

As an old Navy guy who served in two long-ago wars, I can laugh about it now. Crying would only water down the bright moments of my sunset years. Finally, each of us must face the inevitable. So, while we’re still alive, we should get as much fun as possible out of it. Go for the laughs while doing your all-too-brief stand-up routine.

Willie Shakespeare summed it up perfectly:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

Thanksgiving Memories From Long, Long Ago

  
I hope all our active duty military people can be home for this year’s holidays. To those who can’t make it, whether Stateside or overseas, my best wishes for enjoying the festive season wherever they are. 

Among my World War 2 memories is one about a unique and unexpected Thanksgiving feast I enjoyed far away from home. It happened during the American retaking of Leyte, The Philippines, in the middle of October 1944. 

After General MacArthur splashed ashore declaring, “I have returned!”, troops of the U.S. 6th Army fought their way through the island against the Japanese occupiers. I was with an advanced Navy communications team that set up a tent camp a month later on the island, just in time for Thanksgiving. 

As other sailors aboard nearby troop and combat ships enjoyed fresh turkey and all the trimmings, my team looked forward to canned Spam and powdered K-rations. On Thanksgiving morning, I was moping along on the way to the outdoor four-hole privy, when I heard someone yell, “Hey, Hummer!” 

That word was a greeting that could only come from a fellow ex-student of Girard College, a Philadelphia residence school for fatherless boys. Since the 1830s, first nicknamed the Home, then the Hum, all students and alumni called themselves Hummers.

A Jeep pulled up next to me, and I recognized the laughing driver from my graduating high school class of 1942. After many happy yells and back-slaps, he told me he was with a Navy construction battalion, the famed SeaBees, encamped about 10 miles away. While my unit had just arrived on the embattled island, the SeaBees had come ashore on Leyte with the first Army combat units.

He asked me if I wanted to join him for their Thanksgiving dinner that evening. Considering what I expected in my camp, I heartily agreed. That night with the SeaBees I feasted on a delicious fresh meal the Pilgrims may not have recognized, but would have enjoyed. 

Because it happened so many decades ago, my memory of the menu may be a bit dim. It probably included Leyte chicken, called waray, pit-roasted among kamunggay vine leaves with yam-like roots. We had sugared coconut slices for dessert, followed by the island’s famed tuba, a fermented coconut milk wine. 

Then we all raised our canteen cups of the powerful drink, and clinked toasts to victory, homecoming, and of course, The Hum.

Old Sailor Reflects On November Eleventh

  
Veterans Day always takes my memories back more than seven decades. My high school graduation was in June 1942, just in time for almost every classmate to go into uniform. Still only 16, I was envious as hell of the older guys who got to serve immediately. I had to wait a whole year before joining the Navy.
During WW II, I served on a troop ship in the Pacific area, and ashore with an advanced Navy team in the Philippine Campaign. We vets came home to parades, flags and patriotic speeches. After the war, I went to college free on the GI Bill, and stayed in the Naval Reserve. 

In 1951, my Naval Reserve aircraft carrier air group was called up for active duty for the Korean War. When we returned after two years, there were no homecoming patriotic parades for that quickly-forgotten conflict. The only greetings I heard back in the old neighborhood were clueless friends asking why the hell they hadn’t seen me around lately.

It took me years to figure it out, but in the cold light of history, we should realize the Korean War and all wars since have been no-win, national disasters. The deepest tragedy is that those conflicts took many thousands of young American lives, and it’s still happening today.

During the past 15 frustrating years, the Middle East misadventures haven’t cost as many young Americans as were lost during WWII. However, just a few days ago, the combat death of one American soldier, M/Sgt Josh Wheeler, continues to remind us of the terrible waste of war.  

The current mess has so far wasted billions of dollars and devastated our nation’s economy, a continuing frustration that won’t end any time soon. So, what does this elderly vet of past wars ponder on Veterans Day 2015? First, it’s absolutely appropriate to pause to honor those who fought and died in the service of their nation in all of our wars.

Further, I can still feel proud on this November day of remembrance that I served. However, in the cold light of reality, I pray there will soon be a total halt to sacrificing young American lives and wasting national resources in endless wars

WWII Vet: U.S. Keeps Repeating Historic Errors

 

The 70th anniversary of the victorious end of World War II is celebrated this year. Unfortunately, as a vet of that war, I have the disturbingly clear vision of witnessing all the wasted years since. It’s an unending repetition of American political and military errors that still continue in a Middle East today troubled by the rising black flag of terrorism. 

While in a Navy advance unit in the Philippines, I saw the first of many senseless errors as the war ended in September of 1945. When peace was declared, we were encamped near Clark Field, our largest military airport at the capital city of Manila. 

Just about every day in the following weeks, I witnessed the officially-ordered destruction of billions of dollars worth of used and new war equipment, including aircraft, tanks, trucks, artillery, ammo and other supplies. 

The most spectacular was when ground crews daily started engines on pilotless American and Japanese fighters and bombers. The men then stood by and watched the aircraft roll across the tarmac and into the Pacific Ocean at Manila Bay.     

Less than five years later, in June 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea, and America was at war again. As an active Navy Reservist, I was called up for two more years of duty. Frustrated, I could clearly see that all the equipment deliberately destroyed in 1945 in the Philippines and elsewhere had to be replaced at enormous cost for the Korean War. 

Back during World War II, while fighting Japan, the U.S. had given China massive amounts of weapons, vehicles and aircraft. That equipment was being used against American troops. Also, our World War II allies Russia and China supported North Korea, sending a million Chinese “volunteers” to attack American forces.

Again, in the 1960s, American GIs were sent to Asia, this time to fight the North Vietnamese invaders of South Vietnam. Once more, both former allies Russia and China supported North Vietnam with military equipment, some of it originally supplied by the U.S. in the 1940s. 

When American forces left in 1975, South Vietnam surrendered and all U.S. equipment went to North Vietnam. To repeat a corny phrase: It was déja vu all over again. Did the U.S. leaders learn anything from the disasters of Korea and Vietnam? Today’s scenario in Iraq and Afghanistan is all too familiar. 

After costly commitment for more than a decade, American troops are mostly out of Iraq and Afghanistan. And once again, too often when confronted by the enemy, U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers drop their American weapons and flee. 

Repeating what happened twice before, billions of dollars worth of U.S. equipment was left behind for the enemy. Proof of it is in current news pictures and video of armed terrorists waving black flags as they ride captured American tanks and trucks.

Philosopher George Santayana wrote the now all-too-familiar warning: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The escalating Middle East quagmire clearly indicates that today’s clueless politicians and generals continue to repeat the same errors that condemn the U.S. to once more pay in wasted blood and resources. 

70th Anniversary: FDR Dies Just Before WW2 Victory

 

When we got the news of the President’s death on April 12, 1945, I was almost 20 then, considering myself a grizzled Navy vet of more than two wartime years. So, when hearing about it my naive attitude then was that with so many young guys killed that year, I considered FDR’s age ending at 63 to be a lucky, normal lifespan. 

These days at almost age 90, I now realize that Roosevelt, just elected to his historic fourth term, could have enjoyed many more years of productive life. FDR had come home looking gaunt and exhausted from the Yalta conference with England’s Winston Churchill and Russia’s Josef Stalin. He died just 60 days later, and stories and photos of the funeral services were all over the news throughout the world. 

One of the few who celebrated Roosevelt’s death was German dictator Adolf Hitler. On that day, he was trapped in his underground Berlin bunker as Russian soldiers were storming the city. Hitler’s joy was short-lived, because he committed suicide just two weeks after FDR’s funeral. Germany surrendered in early May, and World War II in Europe was over.

However, major fighting in the Far East didn’t end for another four months, and only after bitter combat and heavy casualties at sea and on the islands of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Philippines. I was with an advanced Navy unit near the capital of Manila when the news of the Japanese surrender came in. 

One of my first thoughts, other than joy that I’d make it to age 20, was sadness that FDR wasn’t with us to celebrate the victory. How even more tragic it is today that we have not won a war in the 70 years since.