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.

Wilson’s Contribution to the Cold War

“To love truth for truth’s sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the

John Locke published in Popular Science Monthly Volume 66 1904 or 1905

John Locke published in Popular Science Monthly Volume 66 1904 or 1905

seed-plot of all other virtues.” — John Locke

Oft quoted in my youth, I lost contact with John Locke’s advice over the years.  Ricochet’s Daily Shot and a strong ‘cuppa’ re-awakened Locke’s view of truth in an explosive burst of energy that rocked my head and dragged me to the dreaded keyboard.  Loving truth and finding it in the labyrinth of life are two entirely separate actions tangled together in a Gordian knot suspended above each individual’s ‘La Vida Loca’.  President Woodrow Wilson’s contribution to a future, unforeseen Cold War is a leading example of my search for truth in the political rabbit warrens of war and peace.  Actions, ego, and being “the smartest guy in the room” have consequences—good and bad.

Was there a line of people eagerly awaiting support and ‘lessons learned’ about ditching colonial yokes, freedom, self-determination, and the rights of individuals from the United States? Although difficult to say with any certainty, the U.S. was, at that time, admired for its triumph following a bitter fight with its colonial master, England.  We know that the U.S. commitment to trade rather than conquest as a prime directive was a new, novel, and successful model.  We also know that the WWI Paris Peace talks in 1919 attracted

Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, May 27, 1919 (candid photo) (L - R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps) - U.S. Signal Corps photo

Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, May 27, 1919 (candid photo) (L – R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson
Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps) – U.S. Signal Corps photo

slightly fewer than twelve present and future leaders from various colonies testing independence and sloughing their colonial bonds. Some, including Nguyễn Sinh Cung (Hồ Chí Minh) from Vietnam, attempted to meet with Wilson.[1]   It had, after all, been a mere 136 years since representatives from the rebellious colonies in North America and England gathered in Paris to sign the 1783 treaty with England to end the American Revolutionary War.  The United States had been tested by a great Civil War and found wanting.  It’s model, however, provided for growth and society to take cyclical steps toward a more perfect union. The new model was battle tested and  tough.  How quickly we forgot. Continue reading

Orlando Ramblings

Stumbling through the profound predawn darkness of the modern house, I managed to coffeegrab a cup of cold coffee and initiate the false dawn of the local news markets in one fluid motion born of years of practice.  News mongers hawking their wares with the staccato of an 8 mm film fills the screen. The streets of Orlando and its victims are showing live and on various stage sets; each accompanied by an inlay of experts who know exactly zero facts other than what we’ve all been briefed. Political candidates running for offices and those in office from president to lamp tender welcome interviews in mind-numbing succession.  Each has an opinion: it’s hate, it’s ideology, it’s guns, it’s policy, it’s white privilege, it’s his fault, her fault, the government’s fault. News crews and their tethered experts lecture, salve or throw salt into the wounds of the grieving populace in the wake of the June 12th terrorist attack at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub that left forty-nine dead and at least half that number in a hospital cleaving to life.  Even my President lectures me against painting groups with a broad brush that exists only in his imagination. I know the difference and I suspect most of my 330 million fellow Americans know the difference.  The bitterness of cold coffee yields a longed-for reassurance and I return the room to its predawn gloom.  Enough!

The porch is better for these thoughts. Somewhere in the Atlantic the sun rises and reassuring humanity of its return as cirrus clouds turn pink and salmon.  On the porch heat and humidity stifle breathing yet birds call, racers rustle leaves on the wee forest’s floor looking for squirrels beginning their ceaseless struggle for food, and tree frogs chat.  Life’s cycle continues undeterred.

The Pulse began welcoming Orlando’s robust GLBTQ (the ‘Q’ stands for Questioning)

Antonio Brown, a Florida A&M University graduate who died at Pulse night club in Orlando after a shooter opened fire on June 12, 2016.(Photo: Facebook)

Antonio Brown, a Florida A&M University graduate who died at Pulse night club in Orlando after a shooter opened fire on June 12, 2016.(Photo: Facebook)

community in 2004. The venue was legendary and extended far beyond Orlando. The club welcomed people from across the country and all walks of life.  People like Army Officer LT Antonio Brown who came to relax and, perhaps, spend some time on the dance floor or laugh with old friends met the same fate as those who frequented the club regularly. The roll call of the dead and wounded in the early Sunday morning attack reflects the diversity of the club’s appeal. First and foremost, they were and are Americans attacked in the United States based on a specific, extreme ideology.  Similar ideologically based attacks have erupted like boils across the United States since the 9/11 attacks of 2001.  Instead of confronting the ideological abyss, the nation, it seems, is committed to rubbing snake oil on the abscesses then blaming whomever is in the room during the next violent eruption.

The United States, you see, is not very adept at handling gaping ideological divides that are an anathema to Western culture.  The last one, the Cold War, wherein the United States and its Western allies fought Communism, continued for 70 years and saw millions die.  The Soviet Union was bankrupted, but Communism was not defeated. The Cold War ended by Presidential decree in 1991 when President Clinton said it was over. Not much had been resolved and a great deal was destroyed.

I would like to believe the Navy’s take-away message from its commercial graphically

To get to you, they'd have to get through us.

To get to you, they’d have to get through us.

spotlighting a family is surrounded by concentric circles of Naval personnel from all disciplines: “To get to you, they’d have to get through us.”  Not true in today’s United States of confused culture.  The United States is sliced and diced along racial, income, sexual, belief system, age, and professional boundaries. We are not one nation. We are hyphenated and arguing over whose lives matter.  We argue over immigration rather than the expectation that all immigrants want to and will become Americans.  Last week, the administration issued a directive:

Its latest policy statement, issued jointly late last week by the departments of Education and Health and Human Services, advises states to instruct early childhood students in home languages different from English, and to help them retain separate cultural attachments.

The administration warns that “not recognizing children’s cultures and languages as assets” may be hurting them with school work. “Over half the world’s population is estimated to be bilingual or multilingual,” the statement lectures almost plaintively.

My head and my heart scream “NO, we are Americans who have signed onto rule by a Constitution let us begin to act as such.”  Let parents teach the old cultures and languages as part of their children’s heritage.  As the children assimilate into the culture, let them introduce what is good about the old ways to the rest of us. Let schools welcome immigrants as Americans and as a wonderful infusion to an unbridled future based on a proven system.

And so, like Ishmael in Melville’s Moby Dick, I find myself following a procession that may lead me to the world. For Ismael the procession was a funeral and the world was the whaling ship, Pequod.  I find myself in a procession that leads to employers that can transport me back to a world where maybe I can make a difference, even if only a tiny one…a country manager in Turkey perhaps. The effort beats back this restless feeling of sitting on a hot porch of a Tuesday morning feeling powerless, useless.

[Editor’s Note: We, at the Cold War Warrior, grieve with our fellow citizens in Orlando.  Our condolences go out to the families of those who lost loved ones and our hope for complete recovery to those who were so injured by this terrible act of terrorism.]

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

A Soul Divided

Like Elvis, the United Sates has left the building. Citizens and politicians are heating up

US Navy 060417-N-8157C-162 The American flag flies prominently during the World Patriot Tour performance at Hickam Air Force Base By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Dennis Cantrell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

US Navy 060417-N-8157C-162 The American flag flies prominently during the World Patriot Tour performance at Hickam Air Force Base
By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Dennis Cantrell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Facebook, Twitter, and the airways with anger, acidity, and hatred of each other. The foil is refugees not even at its outer shores. The insanity is that these otherwise reasoned people, including President Obama, are attacking each other rather than face the reality of the world around them. Liberals, who last week were pleading for civility, are calling for the heads of conservatives and conservatives are screaming that leftist liberals are to blame. It is a madness attributed to the death throes of terminally ill dogs. Left untreated, dead and dying curs become a vultures’ feast and so will the culture that changed the world. As we sow the seeds of freedom, we must continuously pull the weeds of self-destruction.

The United States, a great experiment in freedom through rebirth, is considering its next renaissance. A country that chose to march to the beat of its unique drum with a history rife in human failings embedded in noble souls and reflected through its art. It is a country willing to evolve and improve. Renascence, a 1912 poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, in many ways, reflects the soul of the United States through the decades and centuries as it coped with wars, natural disasters, and the pain of those less fortunate.

“…I saw at sea a great fog bank

Between two ships that struck and sank;

A thousand screams the heavens smote;

And every scream tore through my throat

No hurt I did not feel, no death

That was not mine; mine each last breath

That, crying, met an answering cry

From the compassion that was I.

All suffering mine, and mine its rod;

Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Ah, awful weight! Infinity

Pressed down upon the finite Me!

My anguished spirit, like a bird,

Beating against my lips I heard;

Yet lay the weight so close about

There was no room for it without.

And so beneath the weight lay I

And suffered death, but could not die….”

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

France is suffering as the United States suffered fourteen years ago. This may be a good time to stop and listen to the heartbeat of the world, read a poem, and listen to some music by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Beethoven, or Rachmaninoff. We do not need to fear. It is only the echoes of the Cold War we hear.

Introspective peace corralled into learning yields understanding and productive dialog. Productive dialog excludes blaming and hatred while uniting those at odds and sets the stage for solutions. Solutions are in desperately short supply and high demand. You can and may change the world. ad1_imageDefining terms such as ‘counterinsurgency’ and exploring the legacy of the Cold War on the geopolitical stage is the focus of the next several posts. These posts may add to the dialog by adding ideas that achieve a desired outcome or identifying those that deserve dropping into a ‘failed’ box along with their enabling structures and bureaucracies.

Maintaining a ground, a frame of reference, is vital for our conversation. What is the historical and philosophical evolution of the great experiment called the United States of America?

 

TANKER STORY NUMBER 5

Sean Provart and Ozzy take Crazy Train without a lot of permission.

Crazy Train

Crazy Train

In April of 1989, I was about three months short of getting out. I had been offered sergeant stripes if I agreed to extend my enlistment for a few months, but I was just about done with the Army at that point. I was the company armorer for my tank company, Charlie, 1-64 Armor Battalion, 24th Infantry Division stationed at Fort Stewart Georgia, just about 30 minutes west of Savannah.

We were training at the US Army’s National Training Center (NTC) outside of Barstow, California, in a huge war game exercise that the American tank battalions go through every two years. In Germany, we trained in these exercises at a place called Hohenfels and Grafenwohr Germany four times a year. We flew from Georgia to California in a can of whoop-ass, a C-130, but that is another story.

Crazy Train was known as the tank with the two Specialist 4s (Spec 4s… now known as simply a Specialist). A Spec 4 is essentially as high you can go as an enlisted person before becoming a non-commissioned officer. Infantry units have corporals, but tanks have specialists. The reason is that the four man crew must always have enlisted men to do the grunt work. Specialists don’t really care, are VERY good at their job, and just want to be left alone until 5pm rolls around so they can run to the bar, drink beer and find women. (That didn’t ever happen, but we thought if we kept trying eventually we would meet someone hot that just love to meet tankers.) I REALLY wanted to meet Heather Locklear. I went to BASIC and then served on a tank for a short periods of time with her first cousin, Kenny Locklear. He didn’t look anything like her, FYI. I’m still irritated that she didn’t fly over to Germany to visit us. Continue reading

My Vietnam era mode of transportation (1968 – 1975)‏

Note to reader:  As a U.S. invited contractor I was issued a Department of defense noncombatant’s certificate of identity with assimilated rank of Colonel/EGS-15, equal to a military grade of 0-6.  I was issued blanket travel orders  to board military aircraft to any in-country military installation.  These travel orders were valid from 1968 to March 1973.  After which I traveled either on commercial or Air America aircraft until April 1975.

Going There: World Airways DC-8 Charter ~ 1968

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN. One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN.
One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of
my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Trivia:

In the 1960s, World Airways became the first U.S. charter airline to enter the jet age with the acquisition of new Boeing 707s.

The USAF Military Airlift Command, “MAC”, used World Airways Charters extensively during the Vietnam era for Military troop transfers.

World’s most famous flight was on 2 April 1975

The first ‘Operation Babylift’ flight took off from Saigon in darkness; the airport had turned the runway lights off. The DC-8 departed without a formal clearance to take off or a flight plan filed. Oakland Aviation Museum Life Members Bill Keating and Ken Healy piloted the flight. Ed Daly paid for the flight out of his own pocket. 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.

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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.