On this Memorial Day, I have my own little ritualism I repeat. The breakfast meal is the traditional Navy fare for Sunday and Holiday—the culinary delight—of what is affectingly called by sailors since time immemorial…SOS or shit on the shingle.
Now it really isn’t such; in truth it is chipped beef in white cornstarch gravy—served over toast. The acronym as all navy acronyms origin is unknown to me—only that I’ve enjoyed it, and accepted this breakfast oddity since childhood, as my father before me was a swabby. Another of those names of a sailor, perhaps from the days of swabbing the deck which occupied the sailors time at sea.
The meal is not complete without navy beans, sweetened—that why I also don’t know. Just conceded it is a ritual of long standing, at sea or ashore, still adhered to up to my service time—though today with this military of political correctness I’m sure now they serve quiche, with croissants—unheard of in the old navy.
My son was making a comment to some of our family history and the events that close members of my family have been in. Interestingly, they thought he was kidding them, as it is a strange chain of events in history that our family has by some fate of change been there when evens occurred; even when those events weren’t pleasant.
When he brought it to my attention, I realized he has missed a few of those who had been in conflicts—and sadly the one who did give his greatest measurement to this nation—wasn’t included.
As it is interesting, I thought I take the time to share and offer some historical commentary of the events surrounding the military action of my extended family.
I’d like to start at the ‘War of Northern Aggression,’ of the ‘War Between the States,’ or for those who don’t know history even the misnomer of the ‘Civil War’ for certainly that is the most incorrect labeling of any political incident known in the history of man. Though few understand the political genesis that created this travesty; the political rhetoric of our nation’s first tyrant, ‘I will collect the taxes!’
The result, in this nation they estimate now that close to a million people perished. For what the jury is still out, for it created problems that to this day are still problems never dealt with and corrected.
As a footnote it is strange that the revisionism of this tragedy says it was for the ‘freedom’ of three million who were of a different race. Funny that wasn’t mentioned during the war, but it makes great political clout after the aggression of the north has succeeded. To put it in perspective of comparative; at the same time, in fact 3 years earlier another tyrant has freed over 22 million people, lost the lives of no one, and created a way for the economic system of the nation to allow those freed to change their way of life. It’s a strange comparative of the absolute incompetency of Lincoln, when compared to Czar Alexander of Russia—but facts are facts, and reality is reality.
Now as both sides of the family were Virginians and the westward migration occurred after the war of Northern Aggression, the history of whom participation and who gave their final measure to preserve the constitutional America for the South is lost and unknown. For the fires on the plains that destroyed homes, and all the earthly possessions of family happened frequently in my family. Thankfully they just rebuilt, and carried on—or perhaps we’d been just another group waiting for the government to show up.
Our first family adventure that I can recall from just a glimpse of knowledge is the adventure of my Grandfather in Flanders during WWI. Now as it seems my family is destined to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, he began the tradition. Few men of the American Expeditionary Force were unfortunate enough to be in, or survive a gas attack. It is a strange addition to his resume, but he was one of those with this reality. And if it wouldn’t have been for his choice of medicine—good Irish whiskey—he may have succumbed and been a statistic but survived to be a veteran.
The tragedy of WWI is a historical nightmare. Sadly though the war itself, and the insane ending are unbelievable, the insanity of our president after the fact playing god little (g) on earth and drawing lines on a map creating the genesis for the war to follow is truly a tragedy of immeasurable proportions. So many died; a few examples. In Kansas City, MO there is a WWI museum, where large brass plaques are engraved with over 6,000 names. This museum was built by Harry Long, and then became the Nation museum for this war—without any federal funding, how is that for a remarkable change.
When there I asked if these names were for those from Missouri, and was shocked by the answer; no these are just the boys from Kansas City who died. It reminded me of a woman in my youth who was so kind to me; teaching me to read at a young age. Though she was over 65 when I met here, at 3—she was a Golden Star Mother. This meant nothing to me until later as I aged then learning the horrible reality of her life. She had not a golden star for losing a boy in the war, she had 5 gold stars. IN the cemetery of our small town was a wall in the crypt that was cordoned off, in such were her boys, the slate entry, with the golden star, each one individual stacked a family together in their final resting place. She never talked of it; or even made it part of her daily presence. Only on occasions, taking flowers to the crypt; and in her remembrance remembered her boys.
That’s the true memorial, the true measurement of those who gave so much for this nation.
My father had to continue the strange combination of events that led this capacity to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. IN the time leading up to WWII—those who were of the more conservative persuasion were totally convinced that this nation would go into this war of insanity created by the fiasco of the ‘Peace’ of insanity of WWI. To not be but cannon fodder, many joined up to at least get a pick of assignments, and perhaps some training. As such my father was one of those boys from the Midwest that did just that. Now as a red blooded American who understood mechanics—and had no illusions that something comes from nothing—he was a hard worker, and dedicated in whatever he did. The result, he worked on, and was trained to make sure the gyros that make torpedoes run straight and true worked. This was followed by being assigned to the vacation land of the Pacific, the Hawaiian Island. His time there is a blur—for he was one of that at the sub pens when—after the Pacific Fleet was moved to Hawaii; for there was no way the logistics would have allowed the Japanese to attack it at San Diego in California—visited by the wonder of the Japanese attack we identify as Pearl Harbor. So once again the family luck held. Thought the possibilities to be but a memorial were there—he survived and became a veteran, not a casualty.
Shortly afterward my uncle who was stationed in the Philippines also participated in one of those historical milestones of our nation’s history. For he was on the peninsula of Bataan—part of the American contingent that surrendered—then forced to march the length of the peninsula under horrible conditions to the northern end of the peninsula to Camp O’Donnell. Surviving who known how—somehow becoming a veteran instead of another statistic.
My uncle Mark was a strange silent man. Kind to a fault, though a big strong bruising individual he spoke softly, had consideration for everyone, and always saw people in a way I’ve known few others to have.
An event in my life is the apex of understanding perhaps in some small way what he experienced. For once while staying with my cousins at Uncle Marks, I was awoken in the night by a penetrating scream I’d never heard or experienced. Interestingly shocked that my cousins didn’t seem to react to the event; and I could only ask what it was. The reply was so simple and straight forward, that I remember it as if last night. Oh, that’s only dad, he has nightmares of the Bataan Death march and wakes up with a scream whenever it happens, which is pretty regular.
It wasn’t until I became older to put that into perspective; that an event in one’s life could be so devastating that the subconscious could not clear it—put it behind and move forward. This never ended, until his dying days, whatever daemons that event planted in his mind became permanent, never receding. He was a veteran not a statistic, but in some ways still condemned to repeat continually, never ending; the horrors of war and that event.
Fate has a strange way of intervening the opposite way also. Another uncle was a radio operator attachted to a naval wing of dive-bombers. His squadron was assigned to the Hornet, the aircraft carrier. This carrier, which by only the mistake of misprinted orders he was not at his station, was struck and damaged at the battle of Okinawa when the Japanese unleashed their version of the divine wind the ‘Kamikaze.’
He’d had a medical condition and was sent to a base hospital. His orders were but to catch his squadron, which had been assigned to the Hornet, but they sent him to where the squadron was refitted in Phoenix, little realizing it has shipped out. So while he was in Phoenix waiting order to catch the Hornet, the ship was being attacked off Okinawa.
Now here is where fate is often a strange bedfellow. The Kamikaze that struck and damaged the Hornet, hit right into the radio shack, the very place my uncles general quarters, we are under attack, battle station was.
We do have our fallen hero, and the story is limited. The same as so many stories, when so many perish, those who are informed are as gullible as the government wishes us to be, for there is no way to confirm.
One uncle who married into the family was a bombardier on B-17s with the 8th air force bombing Germany and Europe out of England. What is known, or told is that the planes landing gear failed, and as bombardiers have a birds eye seat in front, if the nose wheel collapses—your changes are non-existent; about the same as a turret gunner on the same aircraft.
I’m the last of the family in war. My son was in the Air Force keeping the nuclear umbrella hovering over our nation—while the nation was being destroyed by the political actions of the very government they were protecting. This was some sort of strange dichotomy, which if this nation survives will give any historians who write truth some very interesting research.
In my event, though historical, didn’t put me, in harm’s way—I don’t believe. For I was a simple reactor operator, making power providing the electrical grid of radar operations on the USS Long Beach. Now we gave it a name, I’m not sure if complimentary or just some frustration of the fact when a ship doesn’t require refueling, it is stationed at sea for long, long, long periods of time. So though stationed out of Long Beach California, we instead found our only reprieve at the famous port of Subic Bay and wondrous Pilipino community of Olongapo. Thus our reference was the combination of the English and the Pilipino’ pronunciation of Long Beach as Longa Bitch—an easily accepted identifier accepted by all.
In the war there was only one event that stood out. As our station was the (PIRAZ) the (Positive Identification Radar Advanced Zone) we conducted two main missions. First making damn sure the Migs of North Vietnam didn’t come out toward where the carriers hung out, Yankee Station; and to provide direction support for the bombers and fighters coming off those same carriers striking ‘those’ targets allowed in North Vietnam. That in itself was a comedy, as Catholic Churches were no hit zones, so the tanks and planes parked around them was comical in the intel (intelligence) photographs delivered daily. Also it was interesting how many trucks could be on a DuPont rubber plantation, as they too, were on the no hit list. As the war was the result of the American betrayal of Ho Chi Min to begin with, as we allowed the French to reclaim their Indo China possessions, I guess political insanity is not an exception, but the norm.
Historically the Long Beach was the first ship to use missiles to bring down enemy aircraft. A twin salvo of Talos ram jet missiles took out in one big bang (5) Migs in one swipe. We didn’t do as well as the tailor who got seven flies with one swipe, but it was good enough to keep the Migs on the ground whenever the Longa Bitch was on station.
In Texas it is fascinating all of those who have served in the military. I’m not sure if there are so many who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam in any state as there is in Texas. At the Oak Hill VFW they have one member who few in both the European and Pacific theatre during WWII—and he has a chests full of medals, what service members call spaghetti, to confirm it.
I’m proud of this nation; with all of its faults and so many political mistakes it’s difficult to comprehend this nation is anything like our design.
Yet the reality of reality exists; that this nation with our current communist government is the only one with a template that liberty and freedom can exist. It would be a sad epitaph of this great nation, and the sacrifice of so many to watch this nation disappear from the ‘face of the earth’ just because we as American citizens forget that little reality.