Day of Infamy

uss_arizona_memorialWe often talk of World War II, it was a major series of events in American and world history, as long as those survivors were in charge, things were better than ever, as they leave the stage, we are seeming to come face-to-face with the fact that they went too easy on us, and the discipline to succeed in the real world appears to be lacking. We need to look back and take the lesson that America was taught starting today, 75 years ago.

76 years ago today, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. We were thus thrust onto center stage of the 20th Century’s biggest conflict and the most clear-cut war for liberty in the history of the world. It’s a day to remember the sacrifices made by that generation, who are now leaving us at a very rapid pace. They saved the world for freedom, this would be a very good day to thank them. In this video, I want you to listen to the resolve of Franklin Roosevelt, in it, you will learn much about leadership in a free country.

This is how an American President responds to an attack on the homeland.

The forward magazines of the U.S. Navy battles...

The Arizona at Pearl Harbor: Image via Wikipedia

We all know (or should) that behind them the Japanese attackers left 2,403 dead, 188 destroyed planes and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included 8 damaged or destroyed battleships. One of them the USS Arizona is still there, minus her hull, still to this day leaking oil and designated as both an American Military Cemetery and the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

My old friend Mr. Mac over at The Leansubmariner has published the after action report of the Commander Battle Force, Pacific. It is both horrific and fascinating reading about brave men suddenly thrust into the fight of their lives. Here’s some, read it all.

On the occasion of the treacherous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, battleship ready guns opened fire at once. They were progressively augmented as the rest of the antiaircraft battery was manned as all battleships went to General Quarters with commendable promptness. This resulted in an early and great volume of antiaircraft fire. Considering all the circumstances, including the necessity for local control in the early stages of the attack, the control of fire was gratifyingly good as attested by the fifteen to seventeen enemy planes which were brought down. That such an antiaircraft fire could be inaugurated and sustained in spite of the difficulties resulting from early damage by torpedoes and bombs and great and menacing oil fires is a tribute to the courage, constancy, efficiency and resourcefulness of the officers and men. not only were they maintaining a sustained and aggressive fire whenever the enemy threatened, but they were engaged in valiant efforts to save the ships, prevent their capsizing and fighting large and menacing oil fires, enveloped in dense clouds of smoke. Severe structural damage and flooded magazines made replenishment of ammunition a serious problem, in overcoming which great courage and ingenuity was exhibited.

Great courage and ingenuity indeed. What could be done, was. Here is part of what happened.

    1. Personnel losses. (a) The following is a personnel table indicating the total officers and men attached to the ship prior to the attack, the number of casualties, the number of survivors, and the name of the senior surviving officer on each ship. The reports on which these figures are based are being corrected daily.
On Board 1 Dec. Killed Injured Missing Survivors Senior surviving officer
Ship Off Men Off Men Off Men Off Men Off Men
Maryland* 108 1496 2 1 0 14 0 1 106 1480 Capt. Godwin
W. Virginia 87 1454 2 25 0 52 0 130 85 1247 Cdr. Hillendoetter
Tennessee* 94 1372 0 4 1 20 0 2 93 1337 Capt. Reordan
California* 120 1546 3 45 3 58 2 56 112 1382 Capt. Bunkley
Pennsylvania 81 1395 2 17 0 30 0 6 79 1340 Capt. Cooke
Arizona* 100 1411 2 54 5 39 47 1059 54 259 Cdr. Geiselman
Oklahoma 82 1270 0 20 2 30 21 415 59 805 Capt. Bode
Total 766 11334  14  200  16  347  70 1685  674  9086
* Includes Flag personnel attached.
  • (b) The following named Division Commanders and Commanding Officers were killed:
  • Rear Admiral I.C. Kidd, U.S. Navy, Commander Battleship Division One.
    Captain F. Van Valkenburgh, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Arizona.
    Captain M.S. Bennion, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. West Virginia
  • Conduct of personnel. In separate correspondence Commander Battleships has submitted to the Commander-in-Chief a report of the distinguished conduct of various individuals, as well as the ships’ companies in general. Commander Battleships cannot, however, conclude this report without paying homage to the universal exhibition of courage and magnificent fighting spirit by absolutely all the personnel of the battleships. Their conduct was in accord with the highest traditions of the Service.

And remember that only includes the Battleships at Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese fleet also left behind it the most implacable foe there is: the determined and united people of the United States. ADM Halsey’s comment is an indicator: “When this war is over, Japanese will be spoken only in Hell”. It nearly came to that. The casualty projections for the invasion of Japan ran to over 1 Million American casualties only, the only other alternatives were for the Navy to starve the entire country while the Air Force burned it down. Every American (and Japanese) should thank their God for the Atom Bomb for this was the future it prevented. And as the Confederate Air Force has said: “There would have been no Hiroshima without Pearl Harbor”.

It probably should be noted that nearly the entire Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Australian Navy, as well as the US Atlantic Fleet, were in the process of joining the US Pacific fleet, which had long since become (by far) the most powerful fleet in the history of the world. Also transhipping were the Allied armies that had defeated Nazi Germany. Götterdämmerung had come for the Japanese as it had for the Germans before them. Every memoir of those men I have read states more or less explicitly that none (repeat none) of them expected to survive. The implacable free people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, the Philippine Islands, and even Soviet Russia had made the world (mostly) free, again.

We live in a world shaped by tragedies inflicted on the United States, 9/11 has been very influential in our lives but, Pearl Harbor is even more so. It taught us again that freedom is never free, if we don’t defend it, it will pass as it did, for a time, for many of our allies. It also taught us that when America leads anything is possible.

English: General Douglas MacArthur signs as Su...

The Surrender in Tokyo Bay: Image via Wikipedia

The Pacific Campaign was marked by a series of terrible battles in some of the most inhospitable of climates. Who can forget the battles that followed Pearl Harbor: Guadalcanal, the Coral Sea, The Mitchell raid, Corregidor and the Bataan Death march, Midway, the Marianas, Tarawa, the Liberation of the Philippines, Iwo Jima and the flag, Okinawa, and that final scene in Tokyo Bay, where MacArthur and Wainwright accepted the Japanese surrender on the deck of one of the most powerful battleships ever built: The USS Missouri.  All of this happened in only 44 Months.

English: "Remember December 7th" US ...

Image via Wikipedia

People my age knew the men who fought all those battles, they were our heroes. Combat may not have been realistic but it fired our admiration. Ensign George Gay, the sole survivor of Torpron 8 at Midway, grew up about 10 miles from where I did. They deserve our memories today because 76 years ago they started the counterattack that built the free (and mostly peaceful) world we have known all our life. We seldom remember that the Pax Americana has mostly held since 1945, we owe a debt to those men (and women), our parents (and mostly grandparents now) that we will never be able to repay except by keeping the peace and freedom they won.

As we sit here in the world that these men and women bequeathed us, we need to remember that while those enemies of freedom were defeated utterly and at great cost, freedom still has enemies. North Korea and Iran have once again put us in the position that America (and the world) faces a nuclear Pearl Harbor. While we might survive such a thing, it is far from a given that we will, that is why we must prevent it. The survival of humanity itself depends on us this time.

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Remembrance Sunday

English: John McCrae Français : John McCrae

English: John McCrae Français : John McCrae (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday we celebrated Veterans’ Day which I wrote about yesterday. In the rest of the English-speaking world, it is called Remembrance Day. And is commonly marked on Sunday, hence Remembrance Sunday. In truth, it is more akin to the American Memorial Day for it marks the losses of Britain and the Commonwealth.

At eleven o’clock yesterday, 99 years ago,  the Great War ended. Truly at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. It was (and is) also the feast day of St Michael, the patron saint of the Infantry, which surely seems appropriate. It had been a horrendous experience for everyone. In truth, Europe lost an entire generation in the war, it ended the optimism of the Victorian age and ushered in the defeatist Europe (and even America) we see now. We will talk more about this in the coming days but, today is a day to remember.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

That poem was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian Army at the battlefront at Ypres in 1915, and it has come to symbolize the day. You see while some credit the United States with winning the war, which may be true, we got there very late, not going into battle until 1918. Remember the war started in 1914. Others suffered much worse than we did. Since we joined the winning side, with which we had historic ties we joined in their commemoration.

If you happen to see the commemorations today across the Anglosphere you will notice nearly everyone wearing red paper poppies, that comes from the poem. I can still remember when I was in elementary school, members of the American Legion Auxiliary distributing poppies to us and explaining what they meant. Do they still do that? I hope so but, I doubt it, America has changed.

In any case, I think we would be wise to join our cousins as they remember the dead from the wars of Freedom today. We would be in good company…

FROM THE LONDON TIMES of OCT. 18, 1921

Yesterday morning General Pershing laid the Congressional Medal of Honour on the grave of the Unknown British Warrior in Westminster Abbey. The simple and beautiful ceremony seemed full of the promise of new and happier times. And what we call Nature appeared to have laid her approval on the hopes that it aroused.

That the United States should confer on an unknown British Warrior the highest military honour that can be bestowed by its Government, that jealously guarded and rarely granted Medal of Honour, which can only be won “at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty”; that Congress should pass a special Act enabling this honour to be paid to one who was not a citizen of the United States; that by the request and in the presence of the American Ambassador the medal should be laid upon the tomb by the hand of the great soldier who is now the successor of Washington, Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan as General of the Armies of the United States, and that the ceremony should take place while the eyes of all the world are turned to the coming Congress at Washington.

Here is great matter for pride and hope; and it seemed to be by something more than mere accident or the working of unalterable law that, just at the beginning of the ceremony, the sun should stream down, in its natural gold, through a window not yet painted, upon the Union Jack that was spread at the foot of the Unknown Warrior‘s grave. The ancient mystery of the great Abbey is never wholly dispelled by the light of day. Yesterday, as ever, she preserved her immemorial secrets and her ever brooding silence; yet brightness, colour, confidence were the notes of the ceremony; and, contrasting the sunshine of yesterday with the tragic gloom remembered on other occasions since August, 1914, one could not but believe that the externals matched the inner truth of the act, and that the modern history which, as the Dean of Westminster reminded us, began with the war in which the Unknown Warrior gave his life was about, through him and his like, to bring joy and peace to the world.

With the Union Jack at its foot and the wreaths bestowed about its edge, the stone that temporarily covers the Unknown Warrior’s grave near the west end of the Abbey was bare, save for a little case full of rosaries and sacred emblems that lies at its head. The space about it was shut off from the rest of the Nave by a barrier, through which passed only those who had been specially invited to seats of honour round the grave. The Nave was packed with people facing north and south, and lined with soldiers and sailors of the United States Army and Navy, among them some of General Pershing’s picked battalion, strapping fellows in khaki or blue, who seemed to have all the smartness and the immobility to which we are accustomed in British troops on such occasions.

[…]

Backed by a row of Abbey dignitaries were the Dean of Westminster, the American Ambassador, and General Pershing, standing at the gravehead, and facing up the great church.

At the invitation of the Dean, the American Ambassador then spoke as follows:

“By an Act of the Congress of the United States, approved on March 4 of the present year, the President was authorized “to bestow, with appropriate ceremonies, military and civil, a Medal of Honour upon the unknown unidentified British soldier buried in Westmister Abbey.” The purpose of Congress was declared by the Act itself, in these words: “Animated by the same spirit of comradeship in which we of the American forces fought alongside of our Allies, we desire to add whatever we can to the imperishable glory won by the deeds of our Allies and commemorated in part by this tribute to their unknown dead.”

The Congressional Medal, as it is commonly termed because it is the only medal presented “in the name of Congress,” symbolizes the highest military honour that can be bestowed by the Government of the United States. It corresponds to the Victoria Cross and can be awarded only to an American warrior who achieves distinction “at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.”

A special Act of Congress was required to permit the placing of it upon the tomb of a British soldier. The significance of this presentation, therefore, is twofold. It comprises, in addition to the highest military tribute, a message of fraternity direct from the American people, through their chosen representatives in Congress, to the people of the British Empire.

There were two soldiers. One was British. The other was American. They fought under different flags, but upon the same vast battlefield. Their incentives and ideals were identical. They were patriot warriors sworn to the defence and preservation of the countries which they loved beyond their own lives. Each realized that the downfall of his own free land would presage the destruction of all liberty. Both were conscious of the blessings that had flowed from the English Magna Charta and the American Constitution. Well they knew that the obliteration of either would involve the extinguishment of the other. So with consciences as clear as their eyes and with hearts as clean as their hands they could stand and did stand shoulder to shoulder in common battle for their common race and common cause.There was nothing singular, nothing peculiar, about them. They typified millions so like to themselves as to constitute a mighty host of undistinguishable fighting men of hardy stock. A tribute to either is a tribute to all.

Though different in rank, these two soldiers were as one in patriotism, in fidelity, in honour,and in courage. They were comrades in the roar of battle. They are comrades in the peace of this sacred place.

One, the soldier of the Empire, made the supreme sacrifice, and, to the glory of the country whose faith he kept, he lies at rest in this hallowed ground enshrined in grateful memory. The other, equally noble and equally beloved, is by my side. Both live and will ever live in the hearts of their countrymen.

What more fitting than that this soldier of the great Republic should place this rare and precious token of appreciation and affection of a hundred millions of kinsmen upon the tomb of his comrade, the soldier of the mighty Empire! Proudly and reverently, by authority of the Congress and the President, I call upon the General of the Armies of the United States, fifth only in line as the successor of Washington, Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, to bestow the Medal of Honour upon this typical British soldier who, though, alas! in common with thousands of others, “unknown and unidentified,” shall never be “unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.”

Then General Pershing said:

One cannot enter here and not feel an overpowering emotion in recalling the important events in the history of Great Britain that have shaped the progress of the nations. Distinguished men and women are here enshrined who, through the centuries, have unselfishly given their services and their lives to make that record glorious. As they pass in memory before us there is none whose deeds are more worthy, and none whose devotion inspires our admiration more, than this Unknown Warrior. He will always remain the symbol of the tremendous sacrifice by his people in the world’s greatest conflict.

It was he who, without hesitation, bared his breast against tyranny and injustice. It was he who suffered in the dark days of misfortune and disaster, but always with admirable loyalty and fortitude. Gathering new strength from the very force of his determination, he felt the flush of success without unseemly arrogance. In the moment of his victory, alas! we saw him fall in making the supreme gift to humanity. His was ever the courage of right, the confidence of justice. Mankind will continue to share his triumph, and with the passing years will come to strew fresh laurels over his grave.

As we solemnly gather about this sepulchre, the hearts of the American people join in this tribute to their English-speaking kinsman. Let us profit by the occasion, and under its inspiration pledge anew our trust in the God of our fathers, that He may guide and direct our faltering footsteps into paths of permanent peace. Let us resolve together, in friendship and in confidence, to maintain toward all peoples that Christian spirit that underlies the character of both nations.
And now, in this holy sanctuary, in the name of the President and the people of the United States, I place upon his tomb. the Medal of Honour conferred upon him by special Act of the American Congress, in commemoration of the sacrifices of our British comrade and his fellow-countrymen,and as a slight token of our gratitude and affection toward this people.

On the conclusion of his speech the Congressional Medal of Honour was handed by Admiral Niblack to General Pershing, who, stooping down, laid it on the grave, above the breast of the unknown hero beneath. Shining there, with its long ribbon of watered blue silk, it lay, a symbol of the past, a pledge for the future.

And General Pershing stood at the salute to his fallen comrade.

Which is entirely appropriate as well. As most of my American readers will be aware, the recipient of the Medal of Honor is entitled to be saluted first by all American service members.

[It should also be noted that on Armistice Day that year, by order of the King, the American Unknown Soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross. ]

There is considerably more, here is the link to the entire article from the Times, it is very moving.

After all the speeches and the award, the congregation joined in singing

All across the English Speaking World, people today will be remembering those incredibly brave soldiers of Freedom, from all over the world, who fought that war. In Canada and the United Kingdom especially there is a hymn associated with it.

Take a moment today to thank God for our gallant allies in that greatest alliance of the free ever seen, the British Commonwealth and the United States.

That service in Westminster Abbey ended with this

For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon

Veteran’s Day

On 2012 for the first time as we observed Veteran’s Day, there was no one to take our salute. Florence Green, a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force, died on 4 February 2012 two weeks short of her 111th birthday, at King’s Lynn. She was the very last veteran of World War I.

And now they’re all gone, the doughboys, Tommies, the Diggers, the Canucks, and the Kiwis. And the men of the Second World War are following swiftly.

These are the men that have kept us free. For this holiday is about brave men.

The Great War, of course, is when the United States made its debut as the great world power. From our entry in 1917 until today is fairly termed “The American Century” for as the Pax Britannica ended in 1914 and chaos ensued between the wars as we hid in our continent and from 1945 the Pax Americana has been in place.

It could be fairly said that the wars of the 20th Century were the “Wars of Freedom”, for more people have been freed from tyranny by the United States and our allies than at any other time in history.

The legend of American bravery is known worldwide, from the Marine sergeant, who lead the charge at the battle of Belleau Wood, who led the charge with the command, “Come on you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever.”( Noting that it is now “Bois de la Brigade de Marine“, in their honor) to General McAuliffe’s response to the German demand to surrender at Bastogne, “Nuts” to the Admiral Nimitz’s comment on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Thus it has been remarked the common bravery of American troops in every case in all the wars of these Planetary soldiers.

As probably everyone reading this knows, the average American idolizes American soldiers, they have gone from being the unwanted stepchildren of the revolution, because of the mistrust engendered by the occupying British regulars, to by far the most trusted of American institutions, trusted by over  80% of Americans. They have earned it and earned it the hard way by blood, toil, tears, honor, integrity, and sweat from Lexington Green to Afghanistan they have become a legend, at one and the same time, “America’s Army” and the “Army of the Free”. The Armed Forces are the best of America. If you were to ask the common people of anyplace they have been, you will find their fans, maybe not the government, but the people remember.

If you don’t happen to know, those streamers on the service flags are called battle streamers, each of them remembers a battle going back to Lexington Green. It has been a contentious life we have lived, and freedom always has enemies.

But they have done other things, they are often the first humanitarian aid anywhere in the world after a natural disaster, the mapping of the United States was done by the Army, your GPS system is courtesy of the Air Force and the Internet you’re reading this on was started by the US Department of Defense.

But let us not make the mistake many do, it’s not technology that wins wars, it’s men, and now women as well, women like these:

What do you think goes through the minds of women in the parts of the world that don’t offer women equal rights when these women show up in their midst as American officers and warriors? Think maybe some get the idea that women are equal to men.

I’d say things like this have done more to advance women’s rights than all the feminists yelling in the last fifty years. It was the same when the military integrated in 1948, that’s where it was all proved, although we already knew it, really, blacks have served bravely and well ever since Crispus Attucks was killed at the Boston Massacre.

But you know, it’s always had a cost, often a very high cost and a wise people don’t forget, no matter the technology, it has to be operated by people and by brave people, from the rifleman to the man who may have to turn the key to unleash Armageddon itself. And in American history, the military has never failed us, even when we and our political leadership has not been worthy of them. Many of us use as a catchphrase a rewording of the last line of our national anthem, instead of  “the Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave”, we are wont to say “The Land of the Free because of the Brave.”

We are also quite content, while not resting in our quest, to be known by the friends we keep.

But sometimes the brave are lost and then we honor our fallen countrymen, as they deserve. Bill Whittle a few years ago had something to say about American Honor, and I’d like you to read it.

On October 7th, 2002, I returned to Los Angeles from Arlington National Cemetery where we’d interred my father, 2nd Lt. William Joseph Whittle, who died from what may have been sheer joy during a fishing trip in Canada.

My dad served in the US Army in Germany, from 1944 through 1946. He was an intelligence officer, and was responsible for recording the time of death of the convicted War Criminals at Nuremburg after the war. He saw them hanged — he stood there with a stopwatch. He was 21 years old.

My father spent two years in the U.S. Military. He spent a lifetime in the corporate world. After twenty years as a world-class hotel manager, turning entire properties from liabilities into assets, he was let go without so much as a thank-you dinner or a handshake. Twenty years of service. He was a four-star general in the corporate world for two decades, and that was his reward.

Monday afternoon, at 1 pm, I stood underneath the McClellan arch at ANC. There were 13 family members there. There were also 40 men in uniform. I was stunned.

They took my dad’s ashes, in what looked like a really nice cigar box (what a little box for such a big man, I thought at that moment), and placed it in what looked like a metallic coffin on the back of a horse-drawn caisson. His ashes were handled by other twenty-one year old men, men as young as he had been, men whose fathers were children when my dad was in uniform. Everything was inspected, checked, and handled with awesome, palpable, radiating reverence and respect.

As we walked behind the caisson, the band played not a dirge, but a march… a tune that left me searching for the right adjective, which I didn’t find until the flight home. It was triumphal. It was the sound of Caesar entering Rome; the sound of a hero coming home. It was the only time during the service that I really began to cry.

Continue reading Honor

This is part of that Honor

242 Years of Teufel Hunden

Official emblem of Officers in the United Stat...

Image via Wikipedia

242 years today ago in a Philadelphia tavern, a paragon of excellence was born: The United States Marine Corps.

They gave good service in the Revolution, of course, but first became famous when they came off a Navy flotilla led by USS Enterprise by command of President Jefferson, himself,and stormed all the way to Tripoli.

Next they helped the Army get ashore at Vera Cruz; thereby leading to the famous couplet “From the halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli”. These were the first of what Leckie called “America’s Planetary Soldiers”. They served in the Civil War and the Spanish-American war.

“Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”

In the First World War at Belleau Wood they were so brave (Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever) that it is now the “Bois de la Brigade de Marine“. They collected the Teufel Hunden moniker from the Kaiser himself.

And so it went, China in the 30’s, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, all the way across the Pacific, raising the flag on Iwo Jima, when the going was tough, the cry was heard: “Send in the Marines”.

Bringing out their dead and wounded all the way from the Yalu in “frozen Chosen”, the amphibious landing and all that followed at Danang. The Maya Guez, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

And just this week, from Marine Times.

 Marines providing artillery support to U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in Raqqa fired so many consecutive rounds they burned out the barrels of two M777 155 mm howitzers.

The story was told directly to Army Sergeant Major John Wayne Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, by a Marine Corps battery commander.

“Every minute of every hour we were putting some kind of fire on ISIS in Raqqa, whether it was mortars, artillery, rockets, [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems], Hellfires, armed drones, you name it,” Troxell told reporters on Monday. Troxell had visited Raqqa a couple weeks ago for a period of four hours.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, commander for the Raqqa campaign, Gen. Rojda Felat, knew she had to aggressively keep pressure on ISIS in Raqqa, which meant coalition support in terms of ISR, drones and artillery also had to be aggressive, Troxell explained to reporters.

Reminds me of something a Marine once said.

“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”

Eagle, Globe and Anchor, a reminder to the world that the world we live in was built by the United States led by the United States Marine Corps.

Personally, I will be quite pleased if and when I walk on heavens streets, to know that they are guarded by United States Marines.

Happy Birthday to the Corps

 

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Semper Fidelis

Abraham Lincoln and the SJWs

Well, is anybody surprised? I’m not, it was a logical procession. Confederate statues are kind of an easy target, even if they were erected by Democrats to celebrate other Democrats, and now torn down by still more Democrats. But Lincoln is sort of an obvious target, one, he was not a radical (on either side), two, he saw through the radicals of his time and shows us how to in ours. From American Spectator by Kevin Portteus.

The Associated Students of Madison has called for a plaque to be placed on the statue, acknowledging what ASM’s Katrina Morrison called Lincoln’s “brutality toward indigenous peoples.” The alleged “brutality” involves Lincoln’s role in the suppression of an uprising by Sioux Indians in Minnesota in the summer and fall of 1862. In the aftermath of the uprising, a military tribunal issued 303 death sentences to Sioux men.

In the aftermath, Lincoln ordered a careful investigation of the tribunals, and found massive irregularities. He also carefully distinguished between those Sioux who had engaged in battles against soldiers and militia, and those who had perpetrated massacres against unarmed civilians or had committed rape. Despite enormous public pressure, Lincoln commuted 264 of the sentences, and then pardoned one of the others at the last minute. It was the largest mass execution in American history, but it was also one of the nation’s greatest acts of clemency.

These facts were acknowledged by UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank in her statement refusing to acquiesce in ASM’s demands, but they are unlikely to satisfy the SJWs. Thus, one is presented with the spectacle of activists against the Confederacy turning on the man who did more to fight that regime and erase the injustice upon which it was founded than any other man in American history. He paid for it with his life.

All very true, what Indian campaigns took place during the Civil War were horrendous, this one in southern Minnesota and another even worse in Colorado, leading to a quote on letting Indian babies live, “Nits grow into lice”. A lot of the problem was that these were militia campaigns, essentially military style posses, without the leavening of Regular officers, who were often quite understanding of the Indian’s problems. More so, it was to prove in later years, than the civilians appointed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Why? I think a lot of it was that the soldiers, treated the Indians as warriors, giving them the same respect as they would any other army, and being treated so, the Indians reciprocated. Where the BIA treated them (and still does) as children who haven’t the sense to come in out of the rain. The tyranny of low expectations.

But, about Lincoln and the SJWs…

In Lincoln’s time, these were the radical abolitionists. They condemned slaveholders in the vilest language. They burned copies of the Constitution. They publicly declared their desire to rend the Union to escape the taint of association with slavery and slaveholders. (How this would improve the lot of slaves or reform slaveholders is unclear). They refused to participate in politics, denying to themselves the very weapon that could effect meaningful change, because they did not want to take part in a system they believed to be hopelessly corrupt, lest it corrupt them.

In our own time, these are the leftist social justice warriors. They are supremely confident in their own moral superiority, and denounce everything and everyone around them with a now-familiar litany of sins: racism, sexism, heterosexism, cisgenderism, patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and more. They declare that, by definition, all Americans of European ancestry are guilty of all these sins. They demand a total purification of society from all these sins, and to this end are willing to harass, intimidate, threaten, or physically harm anyone who resists them.

With this kind of radicalism there is no discussion and no reasoning. Unconditional submission of the “impure” to the rule of the “pure” is the only acceptable outcome. There is a massive danger in this kind of reformism, because a tyrannical impulse lurks beneath it. The great monsters of modern history — Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim, and Khomeini — have all possessed the kind of reforming spirit Lincoln describes. Each sought to remake man and the world in his own image, free from what each perceived as the impurities around him. Each was utterly ruthless and relentless, indifferent to the suffering of others in pursuit of his goal.

And that is why, increasingly, I see no point in attempting to engage with them, they simply need to be destroyed, at least for another generation or two.

Poppies and Political Correctness

Brookwood American Cemetery

Here in America, sometime after Vietnam, the wearing of Poppies seemed to die out without even a whimper, just over a few years, something that was de rigeur became optional and then unusual. It is something I miss, but maybe it is for the best.

If you are my age, you will likely remember the ladies from the American Legion Auxiliary (or the corresponding organizations from the VFW or the DAV) coming to your school, and passing out poppies, and giving us a talk about how important those men were. And the good works their organizations were doing (yes, it was, and it is, all true). Always, their talk included this, written by Canadian Major John McCrae at Ypres in 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The thing is, for those ladies, who took the time to come and talk to a bunch of kids who were more interested in recess than history, it was their father’s and uncles at (well not Ypres for Americans) but at Chateau Thierry, and the Argonne. And it was their brothers and boyfriends and husbands who fought all across Europe and Asia a mere 20 years before. Even as grade school kids a good bit sunk in.

My guess is, it was much the same in Britain, but where in America, for some undocumented reason, the poppy has retreated to a much-diminished place, in Britain it has become a required marker. I’d like to think that a good thing, but I’m not sure it is. Sir Humphrey had some thoughts about this lately at A Thin Pinstriped Line. They are worth a think.

[P]oppy season is here again, that time of year when politicians, celebrities and others compete to wear the biggest and most garish poppy. The media are on tenterhooks, waiting to spot a public figure without one, or even better someone wearing a white poppy or saying how they don’t believe in poppy day. The Guardian and Independent will run articles decrying the event, which will have the effect of raising the blood pressure of people across the country who have never served but feel the need to be OUTRAGED on behalf of those who have. Frankly I think this garish spectacle is getting worse every year, and I wonder if the time has come to rethink it.

I come from humble roots. Looking back over 100 years of ‘Appleby’ family history and you will find coal miners on Tyneside and farmers in Essex, all living in relative poverty. One direct side of my family has a long history of service with the Reserves. My great grandfather was in the TA before WW1, mobilising as a Private in a TA rifle Bn in 1914, before being invalided after the Battle of Loos. My Grandfather joined the TA in 1940, serving as an anti-tank gunner  in a long series of campaigns from Africa to Western Europe in 1945. Growing up I heard his stories of the war and thought they sounded exciting and fun.  I was too young and naïve to realise the deep horrors he saw and experienced that lurked beneath the surface of his bravado about nearly being killed at Alam Halfa, entering the minefields on the first night of Alamein, or going toe to toe with Tigers at Villers Bocage. To my youthful mind he had spent his twenties having a bloody good adventure, not risking his life in circumstances he didn’t necessarily want to be in

There were no decorations or medals for my family members. A citation recommending him for the Military Medal was found after his death. The award was never gazetted, and it was likely that he was written up at least twice for a gallantry award, but family legend being that his falling out with his Platoon Commander saw the end of the matter. What was telling though was that he never spoke of the horrific and desperate circumstances that saw him being written up for the award, only the circumstances of it going no further.

The other half of my family history involves many who were conscientious objectors, and who did not serve for strong and deeply held religious beliefs. As a child I did not understand this, nor what it meant to be a conscientious objector in the UK during the war. It was only as I got older that I began to realise the strength of moral courage required to not serve, to say the unpopular thing and to not give into peer pressure and sacrifice your deeply held beliefs in order to conform. To listen to how lifelong friends would refuse to talk to you ever again over your views was humbling. I am as equally proud of my family on this side, and use their example of courage and standing up for what they felt was right in my own approach to life. The manner in which this blog is written, challenging the status quo and pushing unpopular views is in its own way a small attempt to continue this tradition.

That sounds like almost any American Family I can think of over the last century, although Conscientious Objectors were quite uncommon here, but they certainly have always existed, and we have mostly honored them, as we should.

I have no particular emotional attachment to Remembrance Day, and feel no reason to get morose or withdrawn over it. It is a time of year to pause, give thanks and look to the future. But in recent years I feel that something has gone awry with the whole process.

Growing up in the early 1980s it was about watching parades of men from both world wars come together to pay respects. There was huge and genuine admiration from the crowd and more importantly a sense of humility. It felt that the day functioned as a national coping mechanism for a nation where most of the population had in some way lived through, or been impacted by the legacy of the war.

Today very few are left who remember the war – even the youngest babe in arms in 1945 is today well into their 70s. The youngest UK veteran of WW2 will probably be about 88-90 years old, and much as with the end of the First World War veterans, their numbers will soon dwindle rapidly and then pass forever into memory.

Watching the parade in London now seems to involve an ever more eclectic combination of random organisations, people with ever more tenuous links to the military and a growing number of post war veterans who may never have seen an actual campaign, but who feel the need to vocally campaign for a medal anyway. At the same time the whole process of remembrance appears to have been caught up in a wider process of ostentatious displays of poppy memorabilia and ‘proper remembering’ (as ARRSE users call it).

I think we have lost sight of what the act of remembrance actually is – a simple pause for two minutes to reflect, give thanks and look forward, wrapped up in a simple service. The growing ‘remembrance industry’ seeking to milk every opportunity to raise funds or be outraged at some manufactured incident seems to have lost sight of this.

About that parade, Sir Humphrey is simply correct, I watched it last year (on youtube) and it had little to do with the stalwart men who kept us free, it was virtue signalling central. I wonder if the Queen agrees, there must be a reason why she has decided to pass it on to the Virtue Signaller in Chief, Charles, Prince of Wales.

Not that this is news, really. Jess and I did a comparison a few years ago. her thoughts are here, and mine here.

All that said, where will I be, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th months for the 99th time? Where I always am, at my local cemetery, remembering those I have known, in olive drab, in khaki, in pinks and greens, in tiger stripes, in woodland, in BDUs, and ACUs. That is the meaning of the day, to remember, not just for those two minutes, but in our lives and in how we live our lives, those who laid it on the line for us all. Sir Humphrey is correct, the ones from the Great War are all gone, the ranks from the second are thinning quickly, we need to learn the lessons quickly, although they are the eternal lessons that these men lived so well. Duty, Honor, Country says it all, really. But we need to try much harder to live up to them.

And then I will retire with my friends to the local Legion Hall, for lunch, and a few (usually cheap) beers. The first toast will be what it always is, just as we stole it from the Scots, long ago.

Here’s tae us;
to which the assembly replies:
wha’s like us?
to which the hosts replies:

Gey few, and they’re a’ deid.

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