Gun Control….Army Style

A tank is a weapons system with four operators that work together as a crew to place

M60A3 main battle tank of the 3rd Armored Division, 3-32nd Armored Regt, moves along a street in Germany during Exercise REFORGER ’85.
By STAFF SGT. Fernando Serna – http://www.defenseimagery.mil; VIRIN: DF-ST-85-13331, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1608345

either main gun or machine gun rounds onto a specific target.  The M60A3 that I started on sported a 105mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun, a 7.62 coaxial machine gun, two M3 submachine guns and four .45 caliber pistols.  The M1 tank came with a 105mm (currently 120 mm) main gun, .50 caliber machine gun, two 7.62 machine guns, an M16 rifle and four .45 caliber pistols.  A tank can put out massive amounts of firepower.

When we went to the field or to a range for live fire, all the weapons were hauled to the motor pool and mounted on the tank.  Once mounted, someone was always with the tank to make sure all the weapons were secure.  Each crewmember was responsible for the security of his own weapon and God help the soul of a soldier who didn’t keep track of his weapon.

When we returned to the barracks after maneuvers or live fire all weapons were cleaned and returned to the arms room.  They were placed into heavy duty racks and securely locked.  At the end of the day the arms room was securely locked.  Someone (usually the Charge of Quarters/CQ) were positioned to keep an eye on the arms room.  The Staff Duty Officer or NCO would usually check the arms room for security a couple of times a night.  The Army is deadly serious about weapons security.

We did not carry our weapons around when we were off duty.  We did not carry them to town with us.  Usually, when we came in from wherever we had been we were sick of carrying our weapons around with us.

If a soldier lived in the barracks and wanted to own a POW (privately owned weapon) he could, but that weapon would be locked up in the arms room.  When the unit would go to a small arms range to qualify with personal weapons guys would usually be allowed to bring their POWs to play with time allowing.  Again, at the end of the day when range firing was complete, weapons were cleaned (the Army spends a lot of time cleaning weapons) and returned to the arms room.  No one was released from duty until the last weapon was turned in and accounted for.

The least soldier in a unit is trained to a minimum proficiency with the various weapons that unit used.  The longer he’s in the unit the more proficient he is. A tank crew that’s been together for six months is usually as proficient as any SWAT team.  Controlled violence is their line of work, but they’re just as happy to have turned in the last weapon and opened the first cold beer.

That was many years ago…

Today, a sizable chunk of our population thinks that they need to walk around in public with military style weapons.  This past Sunday night we witnessed the worst-case scenario when the general public is allowed to do this.  A man opened fire on a crowd of twenty-two thousand people who were doing nothing worse than enjoying a concert. He opened fire using weapons that were tuned to fully automatic capacity.  He fired long bursts, paused (to reload or grab another weapon) and fired again.  This went on for almost fifteen minutes.  Some commentators have referred to this individual as a “sniper”.  He wasn’t sniping anything.  He was simply pointing his weapon at the crowd and holding the trigger down.  The range was about four hundred meters.  Fifty-nine people were killed.  Five hundred were wounded.

I’ve not heard (so far) that this man ever served a day in the military.  A trained soldier or marine would have been far more deadly.  They would have selected targets and fired in controlled bursts or on semi-automatic.  Far more people would have died.  But trained, disciplined service members and veterans don’t do this.

I would have thought that the NRA would be going for the propaganda high ground before the last round was fired in Las Vegas Sunday night.  They certainly did after the Sandy Hook massacre.  But they’ve been strangely quiet this go round although stock prices for gun manufacturers have sky rocketed.   Maybe this guy finally found the magic body count to piss off the American public over common sense gun control.

I’m not going to get into a pissing contest with anyone over the Second Amendment except to say this: JUST BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION SAYS EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO OWN A FIREARM DOESN’T MEANT EVERYONE SHOULD OWN A FIREARM…much less twenty-three.

In my humble opinion, anyone who has never served a day in the military should be allowed to own a military style firearm

Cold War II

“Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.  A little voice inside mydeadhead head said ‘Don’t look back, you can never look back…’”

“America can never be conquered.  It can only be brought down from within.”

“…Keep on rockin’ in the free world…”

The Cold War started before the guns of World War II had cooled.  All of us served in one capacity or another in that forty-four year non-conflict.  Many served when the war heated up nearly to the boiling point in faraway Korea and Vietnam.  Many lost life or limb and came home with unseen wounds and scars.  Many served with Army and Air Force units in Europe. Many served in the Marines and Navy around the world.  We won that war.  We thought it was over and we were right, but now it’s come round again.

For hundreds of years Russia has cast a covetous eye to the west and south.  While she has abundant natural resources one she has always lacked is warm water ports.

Murmansk Port

Murmansk Port

Much of Russia’s western ports (Murmansk) are located above the Arctic Circle and are iced in much of the year.  Vladivostok is on the Pacific coast and off the beaten track.  She has a major naval base on the Crimean Peninsula at Sevastopol but her Black Sea Fleet would have to force its way through both the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles Strait to get to the Mediterranean Sea and ultimately the Atlantic.

For much of the nineteenth century Great Britain and Russia engaged in what was then called the Great Game.  Russia took and annexed Central Asia with the goal of moving on India which was then the greatest jewel in Britain’s colonial crown.  Great Britain moved an army into  Afghanistan to block Russia.  Unfortunately for Britain, the Afghans didn’t (and still don’t) appreciate foreigners on their soil with guns in their hands.  Britain lost an entire army.  One doctor managed to make it back to India to tell the tale.

In October, 1917, the government of the Romanov Czars fell to the Bolsheviks.  Russia morphed into the Union of Soviet Socialists.  Once the Bolshevik (Communist) party had assumed control of the country they continued the programs the Czars had started with an additional goal of taking the Baltic states.  Regardless of who holds power in Russia the goal always remains the same.  In 1939 the Stalin government signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany.  Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June, 1942.

By the Spring of 1945 the Soviet Union and the Western Allies (the United States and Great Britain) had driven the German Wehrmacht back into Germany and had captured Berlin.  The war had cost the lives of millions of Russian citizens.  The Soviets had overrun the Balkan States, Eastern Europe and roughly half of Germany.    Stalin occupied the Eastern Europe.  He installed puppet Communist governments in each.  They would serve as a buffer zone for the Soviet Union in the event Germany tried to invade again.  This coalition was known as the Warsaw Pact. Western European countries led by the United States and Great Britain set up their own alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This is where many of us came in.  NATO and the Warsaw Pact maintained a state of watchfulness on each other for more than forty years.    Many of us were there.

To make a long and complicated story short, the Warsaw Pact came apart and the Communist government of the Soviet Union fell in 1991.  Democracy was tried, but after

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin 2015

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin 2015

generations of strict Communist governance the Russian population wasn’t comfortable with freedom.  Many yearned for a strong leader.  That leader appeared in the person of one Vladimir Putin on December 31, 1999.

Putin had served the Soviet Union as a KGB operative in East Germany (he speaks fluent German).  With the fall of the Soviet Union he resigned (rank: lieutenant colonel) and entered politics in Saint Petersburg.  He very quickly worked his way up to become Prime Minister and President Boris Yeltsin’s hand-picked successor.  On 31 December, 1999 Yeltsin resigned as president.  Putin stepped up to replace him and has never looked back.

Putin has shown himself to be the reincarnation of a combination of the Czars and the Communist Party premiers.  Political opponents have been tried for various crimes and imprisoned.  Ditto political dissidents.  Reporters that have been critical of Putin’s activities have been murdered and the crimes remain unsolved.  While he hasn’t (yet?) gone to the genocidal extremes of Stalin, Putin obviously intends to not only maintain power in Russia, but he also plans to extend Russian hegemony.

“So, what does any of this have to do with a Cold War that’s long over?” I hear you ask.

I’m glad you brought that up.  In 1941 Imperial Japan knew that they couldn’t fight and defeat the United States.  They did know that if they could strike and defeat the U.S. Pacific Fleet in a surprise attack that the United States would be unable to rebuild and strike back before Japan had attained her strategic goals.  They obviously misread and underestimated the political will of America’s leadership and the ability of her people to build the war machine that would ultimately crush them and turn two of her cities into radioactive rubble piles.

Putin is thinking along the same lines, I think.  He wants to reestablish the East European buffer zone against NATO. He also wants to reestablish the old Russian empire.  He knows he doesn’t have to strike the United States or NATO militarily to attain his goals.  He’s judged the leadership of both and found them weak.  He’s already seized the Crimea from Ukraine and sponsored a revolt for roughly a third of that country to secede and reattach itself to Russia.  The Russian (I very nearly typed ‘Soviet’, old habits die hard, I guess) air force is busy bombing rebel and civilian targets in Syria to help prop up the Assad regime.   He has, in fact reignited the Cold War.

Putin knows he can never conquer, much less invade, the United States.  He also knows that to accomplish his short term and long term strategic goals the United States must be kept out of his way.  The best way for him to do this is to divide the United States politically and to keep us divided.  Up until this election cycle he’s only had to sit back and watch us divide ourselves.  For the last eight years we’ve become expert at doing just that.  Since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 we’ve become every bit as divided as we were in 1860. The one big difference is that we’re not divided geographically as we are politically.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

Until Obama was elected I had never heard of demands that an elected president show his birth certificate.  Did I miss something in the forty-eight years that I’ve been eligible to vote?  I had never heard of demands for any president before Jimmy Carter to show proof of their citizenship. I’ve been a life-long Republican.  These days I’m referred to as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by people that haven’t been voting nearly as long as I have.  I learned in the Army that when we saluted an officer we saluted the rank, not the man.  I believe that the office of President is owed a certain amount of respect whether one agrees with his politics or not.  Although I didn’t (and wouldn’t) vote for him I believe that Barack H. Obama is the legally elected president of the United States.

The “Birther” Movement that tried (and still tries) to prove that Obama can’t be the legally elected president because he is ‘technically’ an American citizen.  The ‘Birthers’ believe that Obama was born in Kenya.  Apparently there was a conspiracy when he was born to some day make him the president so that he could drag the country to Hell.  They also believe that he’s Muslim. I haven’t read in the Constitution that any particular religion disqualifies a person from holding office, but I digress. One of the leaders of the ‘Birther’ movement has been one Donald J. Trump. He has kept pouring small amounts of gasoline on the birther fire since it’s conception although he denies it in spite of video and audio evidence to the contrary (“Who you gonna believe?  Me? Or that lying video?”)

Now Trump is the Republican candidate for president.  Against all expectations he managed to defeat a very qualified GOP field of primary candidates.  He made every possible mistake that a candidate could possibly make and still won the nomination.  The only insult that he hasn’t thrown at his opponents is to accuse any of them of bigamy (see Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel) but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did.  To say that Trump has run a very unconventional campaign would be the understatement of the millennium.  Trump has proved time and again that he is not qualified to hold the office of president (Nuclear Triad? Why can’t we just nuke ISIS?) yet his supporters don’t care.  They claim that during his campaign rants that Trump says what they’re thinking.  That thought alone makes me very nervous.

One of the few people that Trump has not insulted (besides his supporters) is Vladimir Putin.  Trump claims that he has never met Putin (depending on which Trump interview you believe) but that Putin has said nice things about him so he believes that Putin must be a nice guy.  Trump even defended Putin during the third presidential debate with Hillary Clinton.  Evidently, Putin is a very nice guy.  He’s done more to advance Trump’s presidential hopes than probably anyone else.

Russian intelligence services have hacked Democratic Party computers as well as those of Clinton’s campaign staff.  They’ve passed hacked emails to Wikileaks which has posted them on the internet for the world to see.  Trump has read these emails to the crowds at his rallies.  I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t care that they’re stolen goods.

So, we have a foreign power openly interfering in American politics during a presidential election year.  I have to wonder why.  My theory is that Putin wants an American president that he can not only manipulate but can possibly push around using whatever tricks he learned in the KGB.  Trump thinks he’s a lady’s man.  He believes that rich as he is he’s entitled to any woman he wants.  He took the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.  According to Russian intelligence sources, they have plenty of dirt on Trump.  A possible honey trap wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility; the Russians are masters at that.

Before any of this information came out Trump had publicly announced that the United States pays too much into NATO.  He said that in the event of a war in that region he would have to check the balance sheet of the affected countries to see if they’d payed their dues before we would come to their assistance.  Possibly he didn’t realize that we have ground units in Poland?  Would he at least try to get them out of harm’s way or would he sacrifice them to ‘Nice Guy’ Putin?  I believe that if Trump is elected president he would leave the door to Eastern Europe wide open to Putin’s strategic ambitions.  Eastern Europe would be on its own and some of the blood shed would be American.

I’m obviously not a Trump supporter.  I haven’t been since I listened to his announcement that he was tossing his hat into the presidential ring.  The man disgusts me to be perfectly honest.  There are many more reasons that I don’t want to see him sitting in the Oval Office, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll stick to the cold war that’s been reignited.  I believe that if/when Trump takes office his butt won’t even have time to warm his chair in the Oval Office before Putin starts making his moves.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA or a short, twisted history of immigration

Dear America and the State of Texas, I have some hard truths to tell you. Most of you

"... the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...": FDR’s First Inaugural Address

“… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address

won’t like what I have to say and I really don’t care. You are afraid. Yep, I said YOU ARE AFRAID. Someone needed to say it and I just did. You’re afraid of your government. You’re afraid of ISIS and Al Qaeda. You’re afraid of immigrants and immigration. You are one short step away from walking around with an aluminum foil

hat on your head. You’re afraid that Obama’s storm troopers are going to kick your door in some evening to confiscate your firearms. You are afraid of many things and that’s dangerous.

I’m frightened myself, but I think I’m afraid for different reasons than you. I’m not afraid of ISIS. I refuse to let a group of religious fundamentalists (Muslim or Christian) control my thinking. I’m not afraid of immigration, but I’ll go into that further down. I’m not afraid of my government. I think our government in its current state is too inept to do much of anything, but that’s a subject for another blog on another day. Ditto the United Nations. Continue reading

FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND…

Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding-Elton John

Mike and memories. (Photo by Steve Traywick)

Mike and memories. (Photo by Steve Traywick)

“Check it out

Going to work on Monday

Check it out

Got yourself a family

Check it out

All utility bills have been paid, you can’t tell your best buddy that you love him…

So, check it out….” John Mellencamp

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived”-George S. Patton

I did tell one of my best buddies that I love him today. He’s my friend. He was one of my mentors. He taught me how to be an effective NCO and how to be a decent Human Being. He taught me how to relax and have fun. He taught me how to take care of my troops by taking care of his “kids”. I watched him and learned. Now, he’s dying from a killer form of cancer. God, I’m going to miss him. I knew that as long as Mike was around that I had a friend in the world. I knew that there was someone I could go to for advice. Someone that would tell me I was being an idiot in a way that I couldn’t possibly get butthurt over it. Continue reading

BRUNNER’S BOYS

In early 1982 B Troop 1st Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry was a rough and tumble outfit.

In 1982, men from B Troop 1st Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry were among those that held the line against Soviet aggression.

In 1982, men from B Troop 1st Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry were among those that held the line against Soviet aggression.

Like every other combat arms unit in the Army we were convinced that we were the best. While we were technically and tactically proficient, we lacked Army discipline. We did have a somewhat Wild West, hands on brand of discipline, in that it wasn’t unheard of for an NCO to knock some sense into an unruly private behind the tank line in the motor pool.

Of course, the barracks could be a zoo on the weekends. Paydays, about a third of the troops would be in the clubs downtown trying to meet girls or in the brothels doing the same. Most of the rest of the guys would have made substantial investments in cases of beer or bottles of liquor and be sitting barracks rooms playing poker, tonk, or spades. There was the occasional fight.   These were usually over and forgotten in a matter of minutes. As long as the fight didn’t turn into a riot or the music get too loud no one bothered us. By Sunday afternoon we would begin putting the barracks back together for Monday morning inspection. Continue reading

FADING AWAY

“Old soldiers never die…they just fade away…” Gen Douglas MacArthur

“Old soldiers never die…they just fade away…” Gen Douglas MacArthur

 

This past Christmas I held my first grandson for the first time. I think that nothing can bring about one’s sense of mortality like the experience of holding that first grandchild.

Author Steve Traywick with Grandson

Author Steve Traywick with Grandson

Asher still had that new baby smell. He looked at Papaw with an unsure look in his eye, but an infant must have a sense of family. He didn’t cry. He settled into my arms and for the next two days only cried when he was hungry or had a wet diaper.

Looking into his eyes brought about a feeling of mortality, but it was a satisfied feeling….that feeling that I can let go now; that my name and bloodline will be carried on. I can live (or not) satisfied. I wonder if some day he’ll want to know about Papaw. I’m trying to leave enough of an ether trail that he can track me down if he chooses. If he does, he’ll certainly learn about the men I served with and what we did and how we served. I certainly hope he does. They are all unsung heroes.

I messaged with my oldest friend this evening. We were talking about trying to get together for the Tennessee/Oklahoma football game in Knoxville later this year. I haven’t seen Bill in probably ten years, but we always keep in touch. We’ve both made horrendous mistakes in our personal lives, but unlike me, Bill rose to the very pinnacle of our profession. He was (and in my mind still is) the very personification of a professional soldier and tanker. A tanker in the 2nd Infantry Division, a member of the Audie Murphy Club, an M1 Master Gunner, Master Gunner for a winning CAT (Canadian Army Trophy) team, combat vet in Desert Storm, he retired a Command Sargent Major.

Steve Traywick in Germany.

Steve Traywick in Germany.

I knew him when he was a young Specialist 4 and my tank driver. Later, we became neighbors. We babysat each other’s kids. We watched out for each other. Bill chose a different path than I did. I think that he couldn’t not succeed at anything he did. Even though we went separate ways, we always managed to maintain that sense of family that every member of an Armor unit knew. Bill was, and still is my oldest and dearest friend.

Chatting with Bill tonight, it occurred to me that we old soldiers are fading away like every generation must surely do. There are still quite a few of us around from Uncle Ronnie’s army, but we are certainly getting much older. Most of my buddies from my generation of the nineteen-eighties have grandchildren now. I have no idea how or when this happened. I told Bill tonight that if I’d known I would live this long, I would have certainly taken better care of myself. He agreed.

I suppose I’ve written all this to say that I’m very, very concerned. I worry for my Army and ultimately for my country. Probably every generation of soldiers (sailors and marines too, I suppose) worries that the succeeding generation won’t be tough enough to face the challenges that their generation faced. I certainly won’t compare us to The Greatest Generation or the generation that fought the thankless war in Korea. I’ve met a lot of Vietnam vets and won’t let my generation take a backseat to them; different time, different mission.

wot_sweetdreams_wp_1280x960

Dumbing Down

Editor’s Note:  The frustration of not being able to engage in boisterous, dissenting, loud discourse without violent reaction, is one of my pet peeves and flies in the face of the Founding Brothers’ approach.  Steve nails the issue squarely and drives home the point.  This fear we have of critical thinking and dialog is a direct-line legacy of the Cold War.  People were placed in a bizarre zoo habitat; fed and cared for from birth to death.  Over the intervening years, children became gods, and adults became children.  Not all and not every member of society, but the sheer number who fit into this category are terrified of thinking for themselves.  “…But when a mammal’s needs are met by others, as in captivity, it can invest energy in futile efforts without loss of food or safety. The brain might even connect futile efforts to the successful meeting of its needs…. Once a self-destructive behavior appears to “work,” the mammal brain repeats it as if its life depended on it….” Loretta G Breuning Ph.D., Self-Harm in Animals: What We Can Learn From It-Self-destructive behaviors get repeated until they’re replaced-Psychology Today, May 21, 2013

Courtesy of AFBlues

Courtesy of AFBlues

My friend, Barbara Johnson, has been busting my gnads to write. I’ve been busy, but thinking about it. At first, I thought I’d piss off as many Texans as I could by making some observations about Texas and Texas politics. Then, Michael Moore made the movie, Sniper, a political football. I have some opinions about that that would paint me as an unpatriotic, progressive, pinko, commie fag. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post those views later. However, yesterday President Obama made some comments that have made Right Wing heads explode. Let’s go over that. If your head hasn’t exploded yet, I may add that last little bit of historical fact that will push you over the edge.

At a prayer breakfast yesterday, President Obama was speaking about how ISIS has corrupted Islam. In the midst of those comments, he pointed out that Christianity’s hands weren’t exactly clean. He mentioned the Crusades, the Inquisition, the way preachers used the Bible to justify slavery and Jim Crow. That was about the time that Right Wing heads began to explode all over America.

What the President said was historically accurate. Christianity’s hands are just as bloody as Islam’s. The Crusades did, in fact happen. The Spanish Inquisition did happen. Both religions have gotten to where they are now on rivers of blood and the bodies of millions of human beings. Each religion has been used to attain power and wealth.

The history of each religion stretches back nearly two thousand years. Each religion drags up history to justify what it’s doing in the present day. But there is a difference…Christianity had evolved out of its violent early history; Islam hasn’t. Unfortunately, Christianity is poised to begin racing backwards to catch up with Islam.

Since President Obama’s comments yesterday, right wing social media has exploded.   How dare the president presume to give Islam a pass by not tagging radical Muslims for what they are…terrorists! How dare he insult American democracy by dragging up the Crusades and the Inquisition! Oh, Lord, people; can you possibly get any more stupid?

Years ago, I listened to Rush Limbaugh bemoan the ‘dumbing down of America’ by progressive Democrats. He was about half right. America is being dumbed down by the ‘progressive’ Left, but unfortunately, it’s being equally dumbed down by the Right. We have become so polarized politically and each side is so firmly entrenched in its own dogma that Americans have forgotten how to learn. Americans are so lazy that they’ll listen to whichever media platform that comes the closest to their own views and God forbid they read a book or think for themselves.

Americans draw their political beliefs from either Fox News or MSNBC. People from opposite sides of the political spectrum can’t have a discussion without either a Facebook bitch-slap fight or a genuine fistfight breaking out. Even on the news shows there can’t be an exchange of views without each side trying to talk over the other. There is no more exchanging of ideas. There is no looking at an issue from both sides. We’ve been dumbed down. Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree how to cross the street without a longwinded debate and yet, somehow we’re going to confront and deal with the evil breaking out all over the world.

Barack Obama has been in office for six years now. Would I vote for him? Not on your life! He reminds me of a cross between Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson. Unfortunately, like Carter and Wilson he’s so convinced of the rightness of his own convictions that he’s unable to sit down and deal with people on the opposite side of the ideological divide. Unfortunately, many of his political opponents can’t get over the “OMG! THERE’S A N***** IN THE WHITE HOUSE AND HE ISN’T THE BUTLER!” syndrome. Anything Obama has said has been wrong in the eyes of the wing nuts on the far right. Now he’s called out Christianity and the far Right is losing its mind.

Unfortunately, the people that are pissed off at Obama’s remarks don’t have the slightest clue as to why they’re pissed off. In their minds, Obama’s remarks were somehow an insult to America’s brand of Christianity. They were only half an insult, and the entire remark was historically true.

Southern preachers did in fact use the Bible to justify slavery and Jim Crow. Don’t believe me? Read the story of Noah in the Old Testament. One of Noah’s sons looked on his nakedness while Noah was drunk. Noah cursed his descendants to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. For years, Southern preachers used this bit of scripture to justify slavery.

As to Obama’s remarks about the Crusades and the Inquisition, I hate to be the one to break the news, but neither has anything to do with America.

Transition

Author: Steve Traywick

I’ve written about some of the men I served with, now I have to talk about the hardware: Tanks.

By 1917, the British Army had lost nearly a million men on the bloody killing fields of the

Order of Battle of Cambrai. November 21-December7 1917 (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Order of Battle of Cambrai. November 21-December7 1917 (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Western Front in France. The Brits (and French) had squandered hundreds of thousands of lives making headlong infantry attacks against a German trench system protected by artillery, machine-guns, barbed-wire and of course tough infantry to gain mere yards of ground. They were getting desperate.

On the morning of 20 November 1917, German troops in front of the town of Cambrai, in northern France on the Escaut river, were stunned to see what appeared to be prehistoric monsters crawling at them out of the fog and smoke. The tank was making its battlefield debut.

American industry did not have the time to develop a tank of their own. Between the world wars, the US half-heartedly played with tank designs. The Great Depression and isolationism, however, kept America’s military on a shoestring budget. Meanwhile, Germany developed and built tanks of their own and more importantly, based on the

Heinz Guderian

Heinz Guderian

theories of a genius named Heinz Guderian developed the tactics to use them en mass.

When Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France in 1940, France had a larger, better armored and better armed fleet of tanks. French military wisdom of the time taught that tanks were simply mobile pillboxes and slaved them to infantry units. Guderian’s theory on the use of tanks called for them to be used in masses with infantry in support, an iron fist in an iron glove. Strong points would be bypassed with follow on infantry taking them out. Germany used these ideas and tactics to do to France what she had failed to do in WWI; the French army and British Expeditionary Force were taken out and France was overrun. Continue reading

Reflections of a Cold Warrior – The Men

Author: Steve Traywick

“Some had families waiting. For others, their only family would be the men they bled beside. There were no bands, no flags, no Honor Guards to welcome them home. They went to war because their country ordered them to. But in the end, they fought not for their country or their flag, they fought for each other.” Joseph Galloway, Narrator: We Were Soldiers

It’s Thanksgiving again and, as always, my thoughts return to a different time and a different

Author Steve Traywick

Author Steve Traywick

kind of family.  In Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Being There, I mentioned my first Thanksgiving in Germany but now I think it’s time to introduce you to the men. Grab a cup of coffee or a beer and come on into the kitchen; I have a tale to tell.  I want you to meet my other family.  We fought with and for each other.

If I didn’t mention it at the beginning of this blog, I AM NOT A WRITER!  I’m not sure I can write a word portrait of someone but I’m going to try.  History is made up of what real people have done. The guys I served with were just that: real people. They were sons, brothers, husbands, fathers and friends. Several of them made a huge impact on my life.  I remember most of them with the fondest warmth.  There were some assholes of course. You can’t get a large crowd of people together without having at least one, but I’ll get to them much later on.

A lot of us were just kids although we thought we were grown.  A lot of us were in the Army in the first place because of the economy during the early 1980s.  We simply couldn’t find jobs.   I couldn’t find a job, but since I was (and still am) a history nut I thought armor would be the way to go.  I certainly didn’t want to find myself in the woods humping a ruck sack.

I didn’t intend to editorialize, but I still lose patience with people who remember Jimmy Carter as a great statesman. He may have been, but he was a disaster as a president.  I think the country is better off with him in retirement than sitting in the Oval Office.  I remember high unemployment, sharply rising gas prices, interest rates in the twenty percent, the Ayatollah Khomeini taking power in Iran with Carter’s blessing, the Iran Hostage situation, and a lot more.  The high unemployment rate is what put a lot of us in uniform.

A lot of guys went in to take advantage of the GI bill, but not me.  They had just changed it when I went in and it pretty much didn’t amount to anything. A lot of them stayed in and made the Army a career.  I believe to this day that the classes of 1979 and 1980 formed the backbone of the Army that went into Kuwait in 1991 and kicked some and took some.  We became Uncle Ronnie’s Army.

If you can’t tell, I’m stalling about writing the word portraits of the guys I knew. Through the magic of Facebook, I’ve been able to get in touch with many of them.  Some of them have changed and some of them are much the same way we were when we were younger. We’ve certainly all aged.   So, if any of them happen to read this, I hope they’ll understand.  Continue reading

THE GREEN

Author: Steve Traywick

The Green refers to Fiddler’s Green from A Cavalryman’s Poem.  Fiddler’s Green was first

1st Cavalry Logo

1st Cavalry Logo

published in the Cavalry Journal in 1923 and its author is unknown.  It is believed to have originated in the 1800s. It should be noted that all Troopers assigned or attached to the 1st Cavalry Division are “Cavalry” regardless of their branch of service. The Poem, in its entirety, is reprinted at the end of the story.

It was a hospital like so many others.  It smelled of disinfectant and sickness. It was always dim; even on the sunniest of days. For most people, it was simply a place to go to get treatment for whatever was ailing them; an appendix taken out, a knee replaced, back surgery.  Patients came and went.

Most patients came and went.  For some this would be the last bed they would occupy on Earth. Some old people came to the hospital simply to die, and one elderly man had come here just for that reason.  He had lived on his own for as long as he could.  He didn’t want to go out from a nursing home. He had finally given up and came here.

The cancer had spread quickly and he had made his arrangements.  He had foregone chemo and radiation treatment. He had put a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order in his records. He was tired and he was ready to go. His children had looked in on regularly and his few local friends had been in to see him. He had told his children how proud he was of them and how much he loved them while he was still lucid. He had been frank with them about how he wanted to go out. They had agreed that they wouldn’t leave him on life support any longer than necessary. But wait, there’s more!