Things to be Thankful For: Citizen Soldiers

Imperial War Museum

This is the time of year that we tend to be more thankful than other times. For me, that often comes down to our soldiers. And what drives me nearly around the bend is what Kipling described as “O makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep”. One of the sources for the quote that seems misattributed to George Orwell. It’s been pretty endemic most of my life and always rubs me the wrong way. Here’s one of them

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant Ronald W. McLean (MCSN: 0-105587), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company A, Third Reconnaissance Battalion, THIRD Marine Division in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 8 June 1969, First Lieutenant McLean’s six-man reconnaissance team was patrolling eleven miles northwest of the Vandegrift Combat Base in Quang Tri Province when it became heavily engaged with an enemy force. Realizing the Marines needed a more tenable position, First Lieutenant McLean unhesitatingly exposed himself to the hostile rounds impacting around him and fired his M-79 grenade launcher into the midst of the enemy, killing two hostile soldiers and enabling his team to maneuver to a more defensible position. After the dead soldiers had been searched and the team had retrieved documents of intelligence value, the Marines were attacked by a platoon-sized hostile force. Reacting immediately, First Lieutenant McLean fired his grenade launcher at the enemy and killed five more hostile solders. Observing one of his men fall wounded, he boldly ignored the hostile rounds directed at him to give medical assistance to his comrade. As he was rendering first aid to the injured man, he alertly observed a hostile soldier preparing to fire on their position. Completely disregarding his own safety, he shoved his companion down and was mortally wounded by the enemy fire. His bold initiative and heroic efforts inspired all who observed him and accounted for eight enemy soldiers killed. By his courage, aggressive leadership and steadfast devotion to duty, First Lieutenant McLean upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
Action Date: June 8, 1969

As always, the citation of a posthumous award tells us of the gallant way he or she died, but little of his life. That’s often interesting too. In this case, what jumps out is that his hometown was Beverly Hills, California.

LT McLean had a stepfather who outlived him, which is kind of amazing considering he (the stepfather) was assigned as operations officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit soon to be sent to the war in Europe. On 20 January 1944, he was promoted Major and served as deputy commander of the 2d Bombardment Wing during what we remember as “Big Week”, where we and the RAF broke the back of the Luftwaffe. On 29 March 1945, he was promoted Colonel and given command of the 2d Bombardment Wing. Since he had enlisted after failing his draft physical, he had gone from Private to Colonel in four years.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (two awards); the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters; the Distinguished Service Medal; and the Croix de Guerre avec Palme (France).

Unusually for a citizen soldier, he remained a reserve officer and was promoted Brigadier General by President Eisenhower on 23 July 1959. During his career, he remained current on B-36, B-47, and B-52 aircraft, as well as joining the Mach II club in a B-58 Hustler.

Brigadier General James M. (“Jimmy”) Stewart, USAFR (center) with the crew of B-52F Stratofortress 57-149, at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, 20 February 1966. (U.S. Air Force)

But wait there’s more…”20 February 1966: he, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream.”

That was his part-time job, as a citizen-soldier, many are more familiar with his other career, as an actor. In fact if you are like me, you will watch at least one of his movies between now and Christmas. It’s become rather a tradition for many of us. It’s called It’s a Wonderful Life and he is indeed Brigadier General James Maitland Stewart, US Air Force Reserve. He died of a heart attack on 2 July 1997.

Many thanks to This Day in Aviation for providing accurate information on both of these citizen soldiers’ lives. There are more pictures there too.

Myths,legends and facts

 

lvalad

Jessica wrote a post a few years ago, about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As with all of hers here it was outstanding, and makes a point, as well. First, let’s reread it.


“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newspaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Valance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began a quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shootout – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It’s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Stoddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gunfighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie, and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!


Pretty much what we are seeing in the world, isn’t it? Cast Trump as Doniphon, (although one who talks quite a lot, perhaps too much, no analogy is perfect).

The never Trumpers as Stoddard, who are all for the good (conservative) things in life, but just can’t quite find the guts or skills to make them happen. In other words, they end up as all talk and no action, because their knickers are always in a twist. They’re nice guys (or they were, before getting so embittered). They were a good support during the locust (Obama) years, keeping us motivated, but when it became time to do something, well you see the result. Not entirely their fault, they have neither the temperament nor the requisite skills for this part of the mission.

So we have to go back to the old ways for a time, when Ollie Winchester and Sam Colt spoke for us, so the orators could be heard. Not literally, of course, but it is a time for plain speaking, the theoretical constructs can wait. We needed both Tom Jefferson and George Washington back in the day.

Then there is Valance – or quite a number of them.

There is the Occasional Cortex wing of the Demonrat party, who want nothing so much as to wind down this experiment called the United States, even though, or maybe because, it has been wildly successful, but didn’t give them power over others.

There’s what we have taken to calling the ‘Deep State’, the bureaucrats who think they are doing a job for us, but really are all about keeping their perks and power no matter what, and no matter who they hurt to make it so. See those guys who wanted to keep the Territory, the Territory, not a State

Then there are the legitimate opponents, foreign powers ranging from untrustworthy (sometimes) friends like Canada and the UK, to competitors like Russia and China, right on down to enemies like North Korea and Iran. These guys are at least openly fighting for themselves, but in truth, that’s about the only good thing I have to say about them.

All in all, it makes Tom Doniphan’s task in Liberty Valance look pretty simple. There is no magic target here, that will give us clear sailing, and clean up Shinbone. All we can do is keep on doing what we have done, what Doniphan, and so many others taught us to do, fight, preferably non violently, for the right thing, and keep fighting until we win through, even if it costs us the girl.

Myths,legends and facts

lvalad

I don’t know about you guys, but one of the greatest pleasures of this site for me, is going into the archives and reading what we have written, especially for me what Jessica has written. She has a gift, of drawing lessons for us from many things, and making them stick. And mind, there is a lesson here for us all. So let’s share one of my favorites.


“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newpaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Vallance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shoot out – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It’s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Soddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gun fighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!

Myths,legends and facts

lvalad

“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newpaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Vallance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shoot out – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It;s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Soddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gun fighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!

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