Jesus wept.

I saw a version of what you will see in the link on Facebook this morning. Crying and outrage don’t make good mornings. But that’s ok because people seem to have fifteen-minute memories and this is vitally important.

Our resident historians will have much to add, I suspect, and I look forward to their reactions to the article and pictures in the link. I watched the FB version four times. The first reaction was shock and horror. The second reaction was crying. The third reaction was outrage. The fourth reaction is this article I’m writing.

[There’s quite a bit more of this anti-Semitic death porn at the link above and below. Neo]

I tried really hard to keep an open mind about the tourist pictures, tried to find excuses – they’re young; they’re on vacation; this is the selfie generation to which I have no connection and no understanding; young people are thoughtless at this age. None of it worked. I can find no excuse that makes their selfies youthful exuberance or plain thoughtlessness. There is a distinct and pointed deliberateness about them that is unforgivable.

Again I have to refer to the documentary by Ken Burns, The War. The staff interviews with some of the men who were actually there, who actually helped to liberate the death camps, are indelibly printed on my brain and my heart. The documentary was filmed in 2006 if I remember correctly, and the men well deep in age, and even then, all those years after, their eyes and their faces register the horror of what they saw – the inconceivable brutality of true evil.

I am so grateful to the young Israeli, Shahak Shapira, (who lives in Germany) for creating the translation of what those ‘tourists’ were actually doing. If a picture speaks a thousand words, imagine what his images speak. Ignorance, disrespect, callousness, self before anything or anyone. I think he did a brilliant piece of work and should be commended.

Indeed. Jesus wept.

[Audre saw the TV series (as did I) but I also knew men who liberated Ohrdruf Concentration Camp. The first camp liberated by the US Army. They were armored infantrymen in the 4th Armored Division who came into France at Utah Beach on 11 July 1944 and became the spearhead of Patton’s 3d US Army. Amongst other things, they were the men who relieved Bastogne. They ended the war at Strakonice,  Czechoslovakia. They saw all the horror that the European Theater had to offer. When I knew them twenty years later, they tried to explain KZ Ordruf to me, knowing my interest in the military. All three of them failed, just sitting there at lunch with tears streaming down their faces, and the most haunted look I have ever seen. That’s what the very foolish kids are making light of here. I can think of nothing more despicable. Jesus indeed wept, and I thank God my friends and co-workers died without seeing this new horror. Neo]

Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius

Today is St George’s Day, he’s a busy saint with much to attend to, but it has always seemed that he had a soft spot for the English, whose patron saint he is.

On St Crispin’s Day I nearly always recount three battles of the English speaking world, Agincourt, The Light Brigade, and The Philippine Sea. But, in fact, there is a fourth, and just as important. The 1915 Battle of Loos. And it is appropriate to remember it on St George’s Day. At least according to Arthur Machen, who wrote the following.

You know how something you read when you are young haunts you later? I read this short story probably when I was in junior High School, and lost track of it, and it would flit through my mind occasionally, especially when discussing the Great War. For me, it was one of those pieces that taught me how history builds upon itself. Frankly, it’s one of my very favorites, and I was very excited when I found it, finally, online. So, I thought I’d share it with you, as a different takeaway on the original ‘Band of Brothers’.

It was during the Retreat of the Eighty Thousand, and the authority of the Censorship is sufficient excuse for not being more explicit. But it was on the most awful day of that awful time, on the day when ruin and disaster came so near that their shadow fell over London far away; and, without any certain news, the hearts of men failed within them and grew faint; as if the agony of the army in the battlefield had entered into their souls.

     On this dreadful day, then, when three hundred thousand men in arms with all their artillery swelled like a flood against the little English company, there was one point above all other points in our battle line that was for a time in awful danger, not merely of defeat, but of utter annihilation. With the permission of the Censorship and of the military expert, this corner may, perhaps, be described as a salient, and if this angle were crushed and broken, then the English force as a whole would be shattered, the Allied left would be turned, and Sedan would inevitably follow.

     All the morning the German guns had thundered and shrieked against this corner, and against the thousand or so of men who held it. The men joked at the shells, and found funny names for them, and had bets about them, and greeted them with scraps of music-hall songs. But the shells came on and burst, and tore good Englishmen limb from limb, and tore brother from brother, and as the heat of the day increased so did the fury of that terrific cannonade. There was no help, it seemed. The English artillery was good, but there was not nearly enough of it; it was being steadily battered into scrap iron.

     There comes a moment in a storm at sea when people say to one another, “It is at its worst; it can blow no harder,” and then there is a blast ten times more fierce than any before it. So it was in these British trenches.

There were no stouter hearts in the whole world than the hearts of these men; but even they were appalled as this seven-times-heated hell of the German cannonade fell upon them and overwhelmed them and destroyed them. And at this very moment they saw from their trenches that a tremendous host was moving against their lines. Five hundred of the thousand remained, and as far as they could see the German infantry was pressing on against them, column upon column, a gray world of men, ten thousand of them, as it appeared afterwards.

There was no hope at all. They shook hands, some of them. One man improvised a new version of the battle-song, “Good-by, good-by to Tipperary,” ending with “And we shan’t get there.” And they all went on firing steadily. The officer pointed out that such an opportunity for high-class fancy shooting might never occur again; the Tipperary humorist asked, “What price Sidney Street?” And the few machine guns did their best. But everybody knew it was of no use. The dead gray bodies lay in companies and battalions, as others came on and on and on, and they swarmed and stirred, and advanced from beyond and beyond.

“World without end. Amen,” said one of the British soldiers with some irrelevance as he took aim and fired. And then he remembered—he says he cannot think why or wherefore—a queer vegetarian restaurant in London where he had once or twice eaten eccentric dishes of cutlets made of lentils and nuts that pretended to be steak. On all the plates in this restaurant there was printed a figure of St. George in blue, with the motto, “Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius“—”May St. George be a present help to the English.” This soldier happened to know Latin and other useless things, and now, as he fired at his man in the gray advancing mass—three hundred yards away—he uttered the pious vegetarian motto. He went on firing to the end, and at last Bill on his right had to clout him cheerfully over the head to make him stop, pointing out as he did so that the King’s ammunition cost money and was not lightly to be wasted in drilling funny patterns into dead Germans.

     For as the Latin scholar uttered his invocation he felt something between a shudder and an electric shock pass through his body. The roar of the battle died down in his ears to a gentle murmur; instead of it, he says, he heard a great voice and a shout louder than a thunder-peal crying, “Array, array, array!”

His heart grew hot as a burning coal, it grew cold as ice within him, as it seemed to him that a tumult of voices answered to his summons. He heard, or seemed to hear, thousands shouting: “St. George! St. George!”

“Ha! Messire, ha! sweet Saint, grant us good deliverance!”

“St. George for merry England!”

“Harow! Harow! Monseigneur St. George, succor us!”

“Ha! St. George! Ha! St. George! a long bow and a strong bow.”

“Heaven’s Knight, aid us!”

And as the soldier heard these voices he saw before him, beyond the trench, a long line of shapes, with a shining about them. They were like men who drew the bow, and with another shout, their cloud of arrows flew singing and tingling through the air towards the German hosts.

The other men in the trench were firing all the while. They had no hope; but they aimed just as if they had been shooting at Bisley.

Suddenly one of them lifted up his voice in the plainest English.

“Gawd help us!” he bellowed to the man next to him, “but we’re blooming marvels! Look at those gray … gentlemen, look at them! D’ye see them? They’re not going down in dozens nor in ‘undreds; it’s thousands, it is. Look! look! there’s a regiment gone while I’m talking to ye.”

     “Shut it!” the other soldier bellowed, taking aim, “what are ye gassing about?”

     But he gulped with astonishment even as he spoke, for, indeed, the gray men were falling by the thousands. The English could hear the guttural scream of the German officers, the crackle of their revolvers as they shot the reluctant; and still line after line crashed to the earth.

     All the while the Latin-bred soldier heard the cry:

     “Harow! Harow! Monseigneur, dear Saint, quick to our aid! St. George help us!”

     “High Chevalier, defend us!”

     The singing arrows fled so swift and thick that they darkened the air, the heathen horde melted from before them.

     “More machine guns!” Bill yelled to Tom.

     “Don’t hear them,” Tom yelled back.

     “But, thank God, anyway; they’ve got it in the neck.”

     In fact, there were ten thousand dead German soldiers left before that salient of the English army, and consequently there was no Sedan. In Germany, a country ruled by scientific principles, the Great General Staff decided that the contemptible English must have employed shells containing an unknown gas of a poisonous nature, as no wounds were discernible on the bodies of the dead German soldiers. But the man who knew what nuts tasted like when they called themselves steak knew also that St. George had brought his Agincourt Bowmen to help the English.

Source: Short Stories: The Bowmen by Arthur Machen

There is still another reason to remember Loos though,  it was the cause for this to be written

For indeed, Rudyard Kipling’s only son, John, was killed at Loos on 27 September 1915.

Europe – With Whose Military?

From the blog of the United States Naval Institute by CDR Salamander.

Those who have served in NATO, especially those involved in the force generation process, are very familiar with the default response for the extra hard bits or blank spots in the CJSOR; “The Americans will fill it.”

Though it can be difficult to appreciate when the USA finally had enough, for me I can point to one decisive point that brought a macro-shift in feelings towards our European allies. The growing frustration with this habit reached a turning point almost 13-yrs ago in the summer of 2007 when NATO failed fill the rotary wing requirements in Regional Command (RC) South, and the USA finally jumped through hoops to make the aviation bridging force happen.

Combined with the Dutch and Canadians removing their maneuver forces from Uruzgan & Kandahar, it was clear that the USA needed to take back the keys after a few years of NATO being the primary force in all but RC-East. NATO had culminated.

With each passing year, the frustrations grew. You could hear it in the speeches by both General Craddock and SECDEF Gates from the Bush43 and the Obama administration, and finally bore fruit with the Trump Administration’s regular drumbeat about NATO nations increasing spending to at least 2% of GDP and a desire to have the USA to say “no.”

With the clear message out that the USA will be a hard sell on any operation under a NATO flag that would expect Uncle Sam to bear most of the effort, our Continental European allies are looking towards the EU as a venue.

The rhetoric out of Continental Europe continues to seem as if they have not quite gotten hold of the degree of their weakness and lack of capability that the USA complains about directly translates in to EU military weakness and lack of capability.

When you read what they are putting out, you keep wondering, “You and what army, air force, or Navy?” Are they aware of the lessons identified from the Libyan operations when it comes to European militaries?

First, let’s go to my friends the Dutch via Stef Blok, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Pardon the imperfect translation;

…first small step must be about safety and trust. For the civilian population in Idlib; the care providers; but also for the parties that are directly involved in the military. Let us all take one step back now and at least free the airspace above Idlib from bombing. No more Syrian fighter aircraft and helicopters. So: a no-fly zone for Assad above Idlib.

So Assad has no choice anymore and keeps his air force on the ground. The closure of the airspace above Idlib must then be monitored internationally. And if an air strike nevertheless takes place in Idlib, then at least we know who is responsible for it.

The monitoring of the closure of airspace is preferably carried out with a mandate from the UN Security Council. Unfortunately, he has been paralyzed for years about Syria, but we have a duty to try to break this stalemate. If that mandate does not come about, monitoring will have to be organized in a more creative way, for example by sharing information, accessing information from local organizations or performing remote monitoring. All with the aim of stopping the violence and identifying the perpetrators who use the violence and calling them to account.

If I knew how to laugh in Russian, I would.

These are wonderful words and ideas, but have the European nations invested in a military to do this? How much credibility do nations lose when their diplomats put things on the table their nations simply cannot do?

Read it all, of course. And realize this, I and many other Americans are Anglophiles, we are not Europhiles. Great Britain is, and has been for almost a century, an ally, in fact, our greatest ally. In contrast, most of Europe started as our enemies and now are at best, our dependants.

Thus the statement, that many of us truly believe, that Europeans are willing to fight to the last American.

Here is one of the underlying reasons why so many of us support Brexit. We sense that Britain is becoming just another cash (and blood) cow to the self-appointed elite of the Vierte Reich in Brussels and that this will increase as America increasingly becomes a hard sell on these usually stupid ventures. Instead of the old jibe that ISAF means ‘I Saw Americans Fighting’, it is likely to become ‘I saw Britons fighting’ as Brussels attempts to make Britain the barbarians to their Rome. Hewer of wood, carrier of water, and shedder of blood. All without thanks or reward of course. Like Americans in Paris in the late forties, they will be swindled and laughed at on the streets.

Except that the British people are too smart to sit down and shut up. Like the American people, they are waking up and making it known to their so-called elites that this is not acceptable to them.

More power to their elbow. We come back to the question for the Europeans. With ““You and what army, air force, or Navy?”. Be a shame if Europe fomented a war and neither Britain nor America came. Or would it?

Brexit Week

So, what is the status of Brexit which will happen on 31 January? To be honest, I think it’s pretty foggy, but it is happening at last. It’s an interim arrangement, but Boris insists it will be finalized by the end of the year. Good, in my opinion, although it should have happened about 3 years ago. Best I’ve seen on it is from Alex Christoforou on The Duran, here’s some of it.

[…]The main significance is this: getting liberal/globalist elites to respect democratic outcomes even if they don’t like them. This is an important precedent.

That is indeed a critically important result.

Despite “Remoaner” hysteria, leaving the EU is not the end of the world either. I’m sure Britain will be able to get on fine outside the EU and indeed both the British and the Continentals have strong incentives to get along. Perhaps Britain will reinvent itself as a global tax haven. After all, Europe’s share of global GDP has been rapidly declining over the past decades.

In fact, it is pretty much the only market in the world that is.

Britain’s departure is a major economic blow to the EU. Brexit will leave a €7.5-billion hole in the EU budget, Britain being the biggest contributors besides the Germans. Britain was one of the EU’s few dynamic major economies (along with Germany and, to a more limited extent, France) and the only one with a semi-serious tech sector. The bloc will be reduced to 450 million inhabitants and will become a distant third in terms of GDP behind China and the United States of America.

Britain is the 5th largest economy in the world, the EU will notice its absence.

Brexit happening seems a good time to recall a farsighted Frenchman who predicted that none of this would work: Charles de Gaulle. President de Gaulle twice vetoed Britain’s candidacy to join the then-European Economic Community (EEC), causing an uproar in Atlanticist circles.

De Gaulle had long thought that the so-called “Europeanists” were not sincere and/or coherent in their claim to be building a strong and independent federal Europe. He said in a May 1962 press conference:

France’s proposals [on Europe] have raised two objections, which incidentally are perfectly contradictory even though they are presented by the same people. . . . These critics tell us: “You want to create a Europe of nations, while we want to create supranational Europe.” As if a simple phrase were sufficient to confound these powerfully established entities that are the nations and the States. And then, these same critics simultaneously tell us: “England has submitted its candidacy to join the [European] Common Market. So long as they are not in, we won’t be able to do anything political.”

And yet, everyone knows that England, as a great State and a nation true to itself, will never consent to being dissolved in some utopian construct.

Prescient words!

Indeed they are, and yes, England has been the driver of Brexit.

Of course, Yes, Minister covered this.

Anyway, Britain’s departure from the European Union opens the way for the Continentals to try, a bit more earnestly, to create a truly sovereign and independent “European Europe.” This is not an absurd ambition. London was in some ways Europe’s only top-tier “global city.” Paris, Berlin, and Brussels really are secondary nodes. There’s a charmingly provincial quality to European politics which must be preserved. While in the Anglosphere Jews and Asians have massively displaced White Gentiles among their cultural and economic elites, the same is not really true in Continental Europe, certainly outside of France. Time will tell.

I think he’s using the British usage of Asians here, from South Asia, not eastern Asia as we usually do in the US. But I think he has a point, and the video at the link makes it stronger.

70 years after Operation Vittles

Yesterday, although few noticed, was the 70th anniversary of something that in time would lead eastern Europe to freedom. It marked the last flight of the US Air Force in Operation Vittles, the Berlin Airlift.

For almost a year the USAF and the Royal Air Force had supplied everything that the western sectors of Berlin had required to survive, from food to coal. The Soviets had cut off all land communication with the city, and while some thought we should simply run an armored force up the road, cooler (and perhaps wiser) head prevailed. The parallels to the Cuban Missile crisis are striking.

For the first time since World War II, American bombers were stationed in East Anglia, England, reoccupying some of the bases that had been used to attack Germany. This time they were B-29 Superfortresses capable of carrying atomic weapons to Moscow.

Caroline D’Agati at The Federalist has some thoughts, as well.

After its devastating defeat in the Second World War, Germany was on the precipice of doom. Its cities were in ruin, the people were demoralized, and its enemies were at the gates. The nation was divided into four sectors, controlled respectively by the victorious Allies: France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States.  […]

By then, U.S. President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill [By the way, that is incorrect, Clement Atlee was the Prime Minister, although Sir Winston undoubtedly agreed. Neo] believed Stalin and the intellectual contagion of Communism presented a far greater threat than resurgent German fascism. The Western Allies knew that a stable, democratic German republic would be an essential barrier to halting the spread of Communism into Western Europe.

On the other hand, Stalin knew that poverty and chaos would only make the German people more open to Russia’s proxy or outright rule. An unstable world, still reeling from the agonies of two world wars, was up for grabs to whichever ideology offered people their best chance for stability and peace. By the spring of 1948, the stage for the first battle of the Cold War had been set. [….]

Hoping to get the Germany economy back on its feet, the Western Allies introduced a new currency—the Deutschmark—to the Western-controlled sectors of Germany and Berlin. Rightfully, Stalin saw this as a challenge to his power. In protest, on June 24, 1948, he launched a blockade on land, sea, and rail, denying all supplies to the still-devastated city of Berlin.

With the bombed-out capital still in ruins and a bitter winter approaching, Berliners needed food, clothing, and, above all, coal to heat homes and power rebounding German industry. Americans like Dionne, the British, and the French were going to make sure they got it. “Operation Vittles,” which later became known as the Berlin Airlift, was under way.

With Berlin 110 miles deep into the Soviet sector, the Airlift posed an enormous logistical challenge. The C-54 aircraft that Dionne worked on required constant maintenance due to the Airlift’s round-the-clock flights with heavy cargo.

“The heavy loads of landing after landing just seared the tires,” Dionne explained to the audience. We had to change the tires all the time.” It’s no wonder. At the peak of the Airlift, on April 16, 1949, 1,398 flights carrying more than 12,940 tons were flown to Berlin within just 24 hours. That’s an average of one flight every 62 seconds.

American Airlift pilot Col. Gail Halvorsen even took it upon himself to drop candy in little parachutes to the children of Berlin as a token of friendship and affection. Born into chaos, most children didn’t even know what candy was; many were so poor they didn’t have shoes. This gesture encouraged the people of Berlin that the Western Allies were sincere in their desire to re-build Germany as a free, self-sufficient republic.

Think about that for a while, nearly one flight a minute for eleven months, by the heaviest transport aircraft our countries possessed. And yes, the French provided airfields, seaports, logistical support, and air traffic control. It was an allied effort, and the commitment of the western allies saved Berlin and perhaps Germany as well.

The next test would be halfway around the world, in Korea, we weren’t as successful, but there too, we held the line.

America Goes to War

We all, if we are old enough, remember the horror we felt 18 years ago this morning. I happened to be home and watching the morning news, never, not once in my life have I been so shocked, and yes, angered. But we all were, I still remember the picture of a German destroyer coming alongside one of our warships on a NATO exercise,  rails manned, stars and stripes at the foretruck, and a homemade sign on the bridge, “We are with you”, it said.

We talk of this every year, as our parents and grandparents talked of Pearl Harbor, and it was the same kind of thing, out of the blue, mass casualties, and a coming together. Sadly that last didn’t last very long. My remembrance of the day is here, and I’ve spoken of the heroes of the day before as well, here. Both are, I think, worth rereading.

But we are continually learning more, and seeing people in a new light. Garrett M. Graff published in Politico last week an excerpt of his book: The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11. Even the excerpt moved me to tears and a huge respect for all those mentioned in it. I’m not sure how ‘fair use’ plays out here, but I think we should be all right with his chosen excerpt, and perhaps a couple pictures. I hope so, I want you to read this.

Gary Walters, chief usher, White House: It was a little bit before 9 a.m. when Mrs. Bush came downstairs—I met her at the elevator. As we were walking out, I remember we were talking about Christmas decorations.

Laura Bush, first lady: My Secret Service agent, the head of my detail, Ron Sprinkle, leaned over to me as I got into the car and said, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.”

Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, White House: I thought, Well, that’s a strange accident. I called the president. We talked about how odd it was. Then I went down for my staff meeting.

Matthew Waxman, National Security Council, White House: I had started about six weeks earlier as Condi Rice’s executive assistant. At about 9:00 o’clock, we would have a daily Situation Room meeting for the national security adviser and all the senior directors. It was during that meeting that the second plane hit.

Mary Matalin, aide to Vice President Dick Cheney: I was with the Vice President when the second plane hit, and we knew instantly that this was not an accident.

Condoleezza Rice: It was the moment that changed everything.

Matthew Waxman: We went into full crisis response mode.

Mary Matalin: We went right into work mode. While we were in his office making calls to New York, making calls to the president, making calls wherever they needed to be made, the Secret Service barged into his office.

Dick Cheney, vice president: Radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles an hour.

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney: We learn that a plane is five miles out and has dropped below 500 feet and can’t be found; it’s missing. You look at your watch and think, Hmmm, five miles out, 500 miles an hour. Tick, tick, tick.

Dick Cheney: My Secret Service agent said, “Sir, we have to leave now.” He grabbed me and propelled me out of my office, down the hall and into the underground shelter in the White House.

Mary Matalin: My jaw dropped and the jaws of my colleagues dropped because we had never seen anything like that.

Condoleezza Rice: The Secret Service came in and they said, “You have got to go to the bunker.” I remember being driven along, almost propelled along. We had no idea where it was safe and where it wasn’t. We didn’t think the bunker of the White House was safe at that point.

Dick Cheney: They practice this—you move, whether you want to be moved or not, you’re going.

Gary Walters: The Secret Service officers started yelling, “Get out, get out, everybody get out of the White House grounds.” I remember early on, the chaos. People running, screaming. Fear was in my mind.

Christine Limerick, housekeeper, White House: The look on the faces of the Secret Service agents who were told that they had to stay—I will never forget that because we had at least the opportunity to flee.

Ian Rifield, special agent, U.S. Secret Service: We were fairly confident that plane was going to hit us. The supervisor in the [Secret Service’s] Joint Operations Center basically said, “Anybody who survives the impact, we’ll go to an alternate center, and we’ll continue.” It wasn’t a joke.

Dick Cheney: A few moments later, I found myself in a fortified White House command post somewhere down below.

Commander Anthony Barnes, deputy director, Presidential Contingency Programs, White House: Vice President Cheney arrived in the bunker, along with his wife. The PEOC is not a single chamber; there are three or four rooms. The operations chamber is where my watch team was fielding phone calls. Then there’s the conference room area where Mr. Cheney and Condi Rice were—that’s the space that had the TV monitors, telephones, and whatever else.

Mary Matalin: It took a while for everybody to actually get to that area. It hadn’t been used for its intended purpose—which was to be a bomb shelter—since its inception.

Commander Anthony Barnes: Shortly thereafter, I looked around and there was Condi Rice, there was Karen Hughes, there was Mary Matalin, there was [Transportation Secretary] Norm Mineta. Mr. Mineta put up on one of the TV monitors a feed of where every airplane across the entire nation was. We looked at that thing—there must have been thousands of little airplane symbols on it.

Mary Matalin: The vice president was squarely seated in the center. It was emotional, but it was really work, work, work. We were trying to locate first and foremost all the planes. Identify the planes. Ground all the planes.

Commander Anthony Barnes: That first hour was mass confusion because there was so much erroneous information. It was hard to tell what was fact and what wasn’t. We couldn’t confirm much of this stuff, so we had to take it on face value until proven otherwise.

At 9:59 a.m., those inside the bunker—as well as millions more glued to TV screens around the country—watched in horror as the South Tower fell.

Mary Matalin: We saw the building collapse.

Commander Anthony Barnes: There was a deafening silence, and a lot of gasping and “Oh my god” and that kind of thing.

Mary Matalin: Disbelief.

Commander Anthony Barnes: There are four or five very large, 55-inch television screens in the PEOC. We would put the different news stations—ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC—on those monitors. I remember Cheney being as flabbergasted as the rest of us were sitting there watching on these monitors. Back in those days, a 55-inch TV monitor was a really big TV. It was almost bigger than life as the towers collapsed.

Dick Cheney: In the years since, I’ve heard speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11. I wouldn’t say that. But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.

Mary Matalin: We had to go right back to work.

Richard Clarke, counterterrorism advisor, White House: Many of us thought that we might not leave the White House alive.

Matthew Waxman: One of the things we were all very conscious of down in the PEOC was that the White House Situation Room was staffed with our close colleagues and friends who were staying in those spots despite a clear danger. The Situation Room, which is only half-a-floor below ground, was abuzz with activity, from people who wouldn’t normally be posted there, but who felt duty bound to stay there to help manage the crisis. Especially early in the day, there was a palpable sense that close friends and colleagues might be in some significant danger.

Ian Rifield: There was a sense of frustration too, because we were sitting there. Everybody wanted to fight back. We’re trained to go to the problem, and we were sitting there. There was a lot of tension in that regard. You wanted to do something to protect the complex and the office of the president even better than we were, but we were doing the best we could with what we had. […]

Commander Anthony Barnes: I was running liaison between the ops guys who had Pentagon officials on the phone and the conference room [in the PEOC] where the principals were. The Pentagon thought there was another hijacked airplane, and they were asking for permission to shoot down an identified hijacked commercial aircraft. I asked the vice president that question and he answered it in the affirmative. I asked again to be sure. “Sir, I am confirming that you have given permission?” For me, being a military member and an aviator—understanding the absolute depth of what that question was and what that answer was—I wanted to make sure that there was no mistake whatsoever about what was being asked. Without hesitation, in the affirmative, he said any confirmed hijacked airplane may be engaged and shot down.

Col. Matthew Klimow, executive assistant to the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, Pentagon: No one had ever contemplated the need to shoot down a civilian airliner.

Major General Larry Arnold: I told Rick Findley in Colorado Springs [at NORAD’s headquarters], “Rick, we have to have permission. We may have to shoot down this aircraft that is coming toward Washington, D.C. We need presidential authority.”

Major Dan Caine, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland: I handed our wing commander the phone to talk to the high levels of government to get the rules of engagement.[…]

Col. Matthew Klimow: It was a very painful discussion for all of us. We didn’t want the burden of shooting down the airliner to be on the shoulders of a single fighter pilot, but we also didn’t want to have that pilot go all the way up the chain of command to get permission to shoot. It was decided the pilots should do their best to try to wave the airplane off, and if it’s clear the airplane is headed into a heavily populated area, the authority to shoot can be given to a regional commander.

THE CALL

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard: This sounds counterintuitive, but when the magnitude of the situation hit me, I really lost all emotion. It was really much more focused on, What are the things I need to do to enable us to protect our capital? What are the things I need to do to facilitate us getting airborne?

Brigadier General David Wherley, commander, D.C. Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland: My translation of the rules to Sass was, “You have weapons-free flight-lead control.” I said, “Do you understand what I’m asking you to do?” [Sasseville and Penney] both said yes. I told them to be careful.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville, F-16 pilot, U.S. Air Force: As we’re going out to the jets, Lucky and I had a quick conversation about what it is that we were going to do and how we were basically going to do the unthinkable if we had to.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: We would be ramming the aircraft. We didn’t have [missiles] on board to shoot the airplane down. As we were putting on our flight gear in the life support shop, Sass looked at me and said, “I’ll ram the cockpit.” I made the decision I would take the tail off the aircraft.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: We didn’t have a whole lot of options.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: I had never been trained to scramble [mobilize] the aircraft. It would typically take about 20 minutes to start the jets, get the avionics systems going, go through all the preflight checks to make sure the systems were operating properly, program the computers in the aircraft. That’s not even including the time to look at the forms, do the walk-around of the airplane, and whatnot. We usually planned about half-an-hour to 40 minutes from the time you walked out the door to the time that you actually took off.

Col. George Degnon, vice commander, 113th Wing, Andrews Air Force Base: We did everything humanly possible to get the aircraft in the air.

Major General Larry Arnold, commander of the 1st Air Force, the Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Command, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida: Bob Marr quotes me as saying that I told him that we would “take lives in the air to save lives on the ground.”

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard: Seeing the Pentagon was surreal. It was totally surreal to see this billowing black smoke. We didn’t get high. We were at about 3,000 feet. We never got above 3,000 feet, at least on that first sweep out.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: There was all this smoke in my cockpit. It made me nauseous to be honest with you—not from an Ugh, this stinks, it was more from an Oh my God, we’ve been hit on our own soil and we’ve been hit big. I couldn’t believe they had gotten through and they managed to pull off this attack.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: They made the decision we didn’t have to make.

There is much more at Politico and  I really want you to read it all. It includes the transcripts and remembrances of the phone calls and cockpit voice recorder from Flight 93.

Too often we talk about heroes, and often we exaggerate. We don’t here, from Vice President Cheney right down to the passengers and crew that took down flight 93, we can truly say,  The soul of the United States of America in action.

Thus ended the first day, many would follow.

 

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