Sunday, June 11, 2017

Times Have Changed: No Time Machine Yet

The perfect American family scene (circa 1962)
By JIM PURCELL

When I was a boy, my Mom worked. She was one of the few. My Grandma stayed at home with my brother and I. My father worked full-time My parents had a nice house in the suburbs. I played with my friends and it was mostly about sports and trying to figure out what boys had to do with girls. 

It was an idyllic situation. But, the things that made that life possible do not exist anymore. What were those? Well, factories, unions, jobs and relatively good wages.

The economics of yesterday isn't there today
There was plenty of work. If someone wanted to make more money then all they had to do was work harder at their job and there were promotions, because business was booming in the United States throughout the 1960s and '70s. The working man having a decent living translated into prosperity for absolutely every corner of our economy.

It seemed there would be no end to the good times. But, there was an end to them. It came when companies got the green light from Washington DC to start moving all of their plants across the sea in search of cheap, slave wage labor markets. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what killed this country and nothing else.

There are angry men in the world who will tell you today that a woman's place is still in the home. To them, I would say I am sure many of them would love that except wages are pitiful and, last time I checked, kids still have to eat.

Meanwhile, the notion of a sole bread-winner in a working-class household today is preposterous. It does not happen, and whatever political nonsense that made it more profitable for companies to be headquartered in China as opposed to right here in the United States are squarely to blame.

Want a revolution that is beneficial, bloodless and where everyone wins? Make the companies bring back their manufacturing and industrial hubs to the U.S. Drag them back kicking and screaming if you have to, but do it.

By doing that one thing, many of the ills that have Conservatives barking loud will be cured overnight: Our nation will experience full employment again, so everyone will be insured the old-fashioned way. Everything will flourish again, and there will be fewer homeless people, unemployed people..you name it.

Men and women in this country would, with the return of manufacturing, be able to do things like buy nice things again, go on trips, eat out more, buy shoes for the kids without having to sacrifice the light bill.

This would have a beneficial impact on the American family, as well. Is it just about changing values that the American family suffered? Everyone changed their minds about having a loving home: children, a nice life? No, when economic times are bad the very first place it is felt is in the family.

A man and woman having a life together is tough enough, add into it a world where work is scarce and holding on to cheap jobs and working too many hours is the only way to almost get by. Now, Mom and Dad have to work, and still not make the rough equivalent of what the breadwinner did 30 years ago. Pressure is on the American family today like it has rarely been before (the Great Depression put a lot more on it).

Nothing will be solved in this country until the issue of manufacturing's return is actually addressed. The business lobby is trying to have their cake and eat it too: 'No, it is more profitably to hire labor for 5 cents per hour in China rather than use American workers, who cost more.' Well, if the 'downside' for paying slave wages isn't apparent, let me make it more clear: It's wrong! Big Business is sacrificing its humanity for the sake of a crooked buck.

You cannot get people back on to the job rolls if there are no jobs. There is a massive displaced work-force in the United States today and they have been displaced for the better part of 20 years now; it is time to get them placed. Meanwhile, the notion of paying a non-living wage in this country goes against everything America stands for.

Look at the average number of hours that Americans work compared to Europeans -- we win. The only place that averages more hours at work than Americans (who have jobs) is Asia. And I, for one, do not like the idea of American workers being ranked alongside the Asian work-force for most hours worked at cheap jobs. Too wide of a disparity between rich and middle class transformed our culture, and not for the better.

A lot of so-called "Conservatives" want to gauge this country for every penny they can get and not give a dime back to it. Heck, nowadays, there are even poor people saying rich folks shouldn't pay taxes because they might -- might -- hire someone if they didn't. Well, that is a lot of malarky. Greed is a disease, and it is infectious, and so is desperation.

Teddy Roosevelt was a Conservative, he was the first one actually. That word arrived from his interpretation of Conservative: Conserve the forests, the jobs, the money Americans spend -- all of it within American borders to the best of our ability.

We all know how to "make America great again," and the only way to do that is to restore full employment, manufacturing and raise the standard of living.

Of course, women will not and could not be shoved back into the kitchen: That ship has sailed. But it's high time that struggling work people stopped getting blamed for being lazy by the self-same people that sent their jobs to be worked by slave labor in Asia.


Yogi-ism of the Day


Rev. Dr. Dale Irvin on Evironmental Justice in Light of New Testament Sc...

Who Am I - Casting Crowns

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Reflections: Recovery, God, Avatar and Norman



REFLECTIONS
By JIM PURCELL

It has been an eventful weekend. I was thinking about addiction, God, James Cameron movies and my cat, a black-and-white male named 'Norman.'

I have made no bones about the fact I am in recovery, sometimes my recovery is better than other times. I wish I could say my recovery has been great all the time. Truth be told, recovery is a process. Recovery is not a cure for the addicted...it is a fighting chance at  life not entirely consumed by drugs and/or alcohol.

Like many addicts in recovery, I am under the care of a shrink and a therapist. A lot of good work has gone into me getting sober by them...and me. But, the work is never done;can never be done. Because, as it is said so often in the 'Rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous,' addiction is "cunning, baffling and powerful." It can re-enter one's life at any time, and plunge that life straight into the toilet.

All that anyone can do is everything they can do to avoid relapse. Relapse happens. But, not letting one relapse turn into a thousand more is the key to staying in recovery. If one isn't working on their recovery, then they are working on leaving recovery. Yet, leaving recovery is too terrible to consider, and rightfully so.

I think people who go looking for God need him more than others, like a kid goes looking for a parent. For some people, they can get through life on their own talents and sensibility. For others, and I am in that number, finding a connection with the Maker is essential just to keep everything together.

It's probably a mistake to think someone is stronger or weaker if they embrace faith. Everyone's road is different; their challenges are not the same. We learn differently.


I have studied faith my whole life. I even earned a Master's in it. Faith is a struggle, though. Yet, in faith, I am convinced there is a serenity I am dying to find. Faith does not require a degree, or even formal study. It only takes conviction.

The faith of a small child, convinced on something in belief, is perhaps the strongest binding in all the universe. I think this might be true, and perhaps this is why God favors them so much.

Thus far in 51 years, I am convinced there is a God...not one doubt. I am less convinced of my own abilities to integrate the lessons of faith wholly into my life. But, there is trying, and so long as God keeps letting me wake up in the morning, I suppose I will keep trying.

Where do people in our lives figure? I guess as well as they can: Some people will fit in our lives and some will not. If people are good for one another, then they will find places in each other's lives -- but this is a gift and not a guarantee.

I was thankful that I re-watched James Cameron's "Avatar" on Saturday. It distracted me from my 'big thinking.' You know, a good movie can go a long way during a lazy weekend. I have become a voracious movie-watcher -- my cat too.

Cats are adaptable creatures. Mine has taken to watching movies with me. He must like them because he watches enough of them. As I write this, I am in my living room, while Norman is in the bedroom watching movies.

I don't know the final answer about if cats are smarter than dogs or the other way around. I can tell you Norman is smarter than me.

Thanks for stopping by and do have a wonderful weekend.




Jimi Hendrix Started Out in the 101st Airborne Division

By JIM PURCELL

James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (Nov. 27, 1942-Sept. 18, 1970) served for about a year in the United States Army before he embarked on what would be a legendary musical career. 

Hendrix came from a troubled past in Seattle, Washington and tried to make a go of it in the Army after some legal entanglements back home. So, he enlisted in the Army on May 31, 1961 for three years. While it is unclear about just what his military occupational specialty was, he ended up serving in Company A, 801st Maintenance Battalion, in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Jimi Hendrix in U.S. Army fatigues (circa 1961)


Hendrix was not an ideal soldier. In fact, he is reported to have slept on duty, needed constant supervision and was a "habitual offender" for missing bed check at night. This did not endear the future rock legend to his chain-of-command, so his company commander, Capt. Gilbert Batchman, made a case for him to be discharged. Reportedly, Hendrix had sustained an ankle injury following a parachute drop, so this facilitated things.

Hendrix was given an honorable discharge and was free to start his career performing.




Jersey Summer Scenes (All Photos By Jim Purcell)

The sun about to rise at Sandy Hook, New Jersey
At Harshorne Woods Park, Middletown, New Jersey
On Carr Avenue, Keansburg, New Jersey
Taken at Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold, New Jersey


At Harshorne Woods Park, in Middletown, New Jersey

A Quote From Chesty Puller


Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Legend Begins: LEWIS 'CHESTY' PULLER (1898-1941)

LTG Lewis "Chesty" Puller enlisted in 1918
By JIM PURCELL

Lewis "Chesty" Puller is a United States Marine Corps legend. 

Through the course of his storied, 37-year in the Corps, Puller rose from the rank of private to lieutenant-general. He joined the Marines after World War I, but was already a combat-hardened commander by the outbreak of World War II.

During his career, Puller won five Navy Crosses; a Distinguished Service Cross; a Silver Star; the Legion of Merit twice, once with "valor" device; the Bronze Star, with "valor" device; the Purple Heart; and three Air Medals, among other decorations. But, Puller's character wasn't measured in the medals he won, but the men he trained, led and inspired during some of America's darkest chapters.

During the first of this two-part series on the most celebrated United States Marine in our nation's history, Puller's early life and participation in what has come to be called the "Banana Wars" will be examined. With an eye toward looking at how his participation in these campaigns impacted his later, better-publicized career as a Marine combat leader, this segment looks at young Chesty Puller and the people, times and events that shaped him.


Puller was born on June 26, 1898 in little West Point, Virginia. Puller's hometown was incorporated only 37 years before its most famous scion was born. Puller was born to parents Matthew and Martha Puller. During his early life, young Lewis was brought up on stories of the Civil War -- its battles, leaders, sacrifices and causes.

In 1862, Puller's hometown itself was a strategic objective for Major-General George B. McClellan's Union Army of the Potomac. During his failed Peninsula Campaign of 1862, McClellan tried, unsuccessfully, to secure its key railroad intersection that led to the rebel stronghold of Richmond. Richmond became the South's capital city on February 22, 1862 after it was moved from Montgomery, Virginia.

Tragedy struck the Puller household, though, when young Lewis was only 10 years old. That year, Matthew Puller died.
The Mameluke Sword is worn by Marine officers

Few people know that Puller had a famous relation that would, himself, make his mark in American military history. Indeed, Puller and U.S. Army Gen. George Smith Patton were second cousins.

During America's Border War with Mexico (1910-1919), Puller tried to enlist in the United States Army to go fight. However, his mother, Martha, refused to give her permission for her son to enlist. Accordingly, Puller would have to wait to see the action he so eagerly sought.

The Border War was comprised of a number of military engagements that took place along the border of the United States and Mexico between Mexican revolutionaries, led by the infamous Pancho Villa, and the American Expeditionary Force, led by General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing.

A year after Puller's abortive attempt to enter the Army, he did gain entrance to the Virginia Military Institute, which is a state-supported military college in Lexington, Virginia. It had been established in 1839 and its alumni includes three of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's four commanders during the Civil War: James Lane, Robert Rodes and Raleigh Colston. Meanwhile, Jackson himself had taught at VMI before the outset of hostilities between the North and South.

However, eager to march to the drums of war, and with America still in the thick of World War I (1917-1918) in August, 1918, Puller left VMI. At VMI, Puller and his fellow cadets were training to become officers. By enlisting, Puller began his military career in the far more humble role of private. Impressed by the grit and determination the United States Marines displayed during World War I's Battle of Belleau Woods (June 1-26, 1918), Puller signed on and went through Boot Camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, in South Carolina. 

Nicaraguan Sandinista rebels (circa 1927)

Soon after Puller graduated from Boot Camp, and with the Marine Corps being in flux with its staffing need due to World War I, he received orders to attend the Non-Commissioned Officer School at the island. Surprisingly, after he graduated from NCO School, Puller was selected to attend Marine Corps Officer's Candidate School, in Quanitco, Virginia. It was from OCS that Puller received his commission as a second lieutenant on June 16, 1919 in the Marine Corps Reserve.

However, though the need for the Marine Corps' wartime expansion assisted Puller in getting to OCS, the draw-downs in the force after the war's end left his commission converted to inactive status and him receiving the active rank of corporal.

Puller did not have a common experience as a junior non-commissioned officer. Perhaps because of his inactive commission, Corporal Puller received orders from the Marine Corps to serve in the Gendarmerie d'Haiti as a lieutenant. At the time, Haiti had a treaty with the United States that allowed for military personnel from the U.S. working closely with local military and law enforcement. So, Corporal Puller became Lieutenant Puller in Haiti and participated in more than 40 engagements as such for the next five years against Caco rebels on the island nation.

Lieutenant Lewis Puller (center) in Nicaragua with the National Guard detachment he led

During his time in Haiti Corporal/Lieutenant Puller attempted to regain an active commission as a second lieutenant in the Active Duty Marines. In 1922, Puller was assigned as an adjutant to Major Alexander Vandergrift in Haiti. Later in his career, Vandergrift would go on to become a future commandant of the Marine Corps.

It was not until Puller returned from the war in Haiti that, on March 6, 1924, he was officially recommissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marines. Subsequently, he was assigned to the Marine Barracks in Norfolk, Virginia and then at The Basic School, in Quantico, Virginia. His assignment at Quantico changed midway through and he was assigned to the 10th Marine Artillery Regiment.

By the time Puller was assigned to the 10th Artillery, he was already an expert at unconventional warfare, in modern language. Due to the nature of low-intensity conflict against a rebel adversary, artillery probably did not play as large a role as it might in other kinds of conflict. So, in a manner of speaking, his assignment to the 10th Artillery allowed Puller to gain some necessary doctrinal uses of artillery that he was not as clear about before that assignment. However, after about two years after being recommissioned, Puller came up on orders for Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, and then, in 1928, he was ordered to San Diego, California.
Crest for the 10th Marine Arty Regt.

Puller's service in Haiti, though, was not forgotten by the Marine Corps. And, in December, 1928, the Corps wanted to use the skills he had honed there and sent him to another Third World nation, this time Nicaragua, to fight yet another low-intensity conflict. In Nicaragua, Puller led a Nicaraguan National Guard Detachment against Sandino rebels in that country. Again, he led his soldiers against an unconventional opponent. He was effective at this as he won his first Navy Cross for his actions between February 16 to August 19, 1930. Puller led the Nicaraguan Guardsmen, and some U.S. Marines, in a major action that included five successive engagements against the enemy, which outnumbered Puller's troops.

At this point, Puller received orders to return to the U.S. and attend the year-long Company Officers Course, at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Afterward, he returned to Nicaragua. Once there, for his combat leadership in actions between September 20 to October 1, 1932, Puller won his second Navy Cross.

Finally, the battlefield for his last engagement in Nicaragua turned out to be the last of the Sandinista rebellion (of that era) and occurred near El Sauce, on December 26, 1932. Following this decisive fight, the back of the Sandinista rebellion was broken.

Puller won two Navy Crosses before World War II

The Marines did not allow Puller to rest on his laurels for very long following his second "Banana War." Rather, soon after the conclusion of hostilities, Puller was send to the Marine Detachment at the American Legation in Beijing, China. Once there, he commanded a unit of the 4th Marine Regiment until he received orders to command the Marine Detachment aboard the cruiser USS Augusta, commanded by then-Captain Chester W. Nimitz.

While he was the Marine Detachment commander aboard the Augusta, he was sent back to the States in June, 1936 to serve as an instructor at The Basic School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of note, some of Puller's students included Ben Robertshaw, Greg "Pappy" Boyington and Lew Walt.

However, in 1939, Puller received orders to return to the Augusta. After serving several months in this position, during May, 1940, Puller disembarked at the Port of Shanghai, where he would command the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment until August, 1941. After his command in Shanghai, Puller was finally ordered back to the United States, where he was given command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division at New River, North Carolina (later to be re-christened as "Camp Lejeune").

It is from there, with war clouds mounting in Asia and Europe, that then-Major Puller would wait for the inevitable conflict. He trained his Marines for a war he knew was coming, which was unlike the rebellions he had helped put down in the past. This war would not span a small country, but oceans and continents as it raged between vast land and sea-going forces.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Edwin Maling: Service With the Multinational Force and Observers

Ed Maling is a former paratrooper with the 505th Regiment
By JIM PURCELL

Today, Edwin H. Maling is a grandfather who resides in San Marcos, Texas. He is retired and finds joy in his home-life and his family. But, there was a time, three decades earlier, when hearth and home was the last thing on his mind.

 Mr. Maling is a veteran of the United States Army's 82nd Airborne Division, where he served with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment as an Airborne Infantryman. His travels with the Division took him many places -- and among those places was the Sinai Peninsula, which separates the Middle-Eastern countries of Egypt and Israel, as part of the Multinational Force and Observers.

Mr. Maling's Army sojourn began right out of high-school, in his native Virginia. He was recruited in Norfolk and sworn-in at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Richmond on June 25th, 1981. He attended Basic and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. After earning his blue infantry cord at Ft. Benning, he changed his address a few blocks there and underwent training at the U.S. Army Airborne School.

Like so many young paratroopers, Mr. Maling found his way to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 505th PIR. A storied unit that was founded in 1942 for service in World War II, the 505th has played a key role in nearly every U.S. military endeavor since.

Mr. Maling said, "It was a good unit with excellent training and opportunities and a chance for travel." However, Mr. Maling saw the 'downside' of the unit being its "dog and pony show" atmosphere and what he regarded as "toxic leadership" in some places within the unit at the time.
According to Mr. Maling, life at the 505th included many field training exercises and "prodigious drinking" when him and his fellow paratroopers were released from duty.

The 505th PIR crest
He was not even out of the 82nd Replacement Detachment, which all soldiers entering the Division pass through, when the Fayetteville Observer newspaper announced that the 1/505th Regiment had been selected for "MFO duty."

MFO DUTY

The Multinational Force and Observers is an international peacekeeping force that was organized for the expressed purpose of overseeing the terms of the peace treaty between the nations of Egypt and Israel. The MFO operates throughout the Sinai Peninsula and has included military units from around the world, including: Australia, Canada, Columbia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the United States, Uruguay and the United Kingdom.

The MFO's history is traced back to Sept. 17, 1978, and resulted from the Camp David Peace Accords, brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter and signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The accords called for a full withdrawal by all Israeli forces operating in the Sinai. Subsequently, the two nations signed the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty on March 26, 1979 and the nations of Egypt, Israel and the United States established a peacekeeping force after the United Nations passed on creating the force. So, on August 3, 1981, the MFO was created.

It would not be long after the creation of the MFO that Mr. Maling and his comrades would find their way to the Sinai Peninsula. His unit left Pope Air Force Base on an El Al airliner on March 19th, 1982. They would land at a place called Ophir, which is about nine miles from the MFO base camp at Na' ama Bay, near Sharm El Sheikh (on the southern tip of the Sinai). The contingent would not return to Ft. Bragg until September of that year.

Mr. Maling explained, "We were to observe, verify and report violations of the Camp David Peace Agreement. Basically, we counted and reported every camel, truck, pedestrian or ship that we could see. We would even do roving patrols, both mounted and on foot."
Ed Maling (far left) and his comrades

Mr. Maling said the contingent from the 505th initially spent a few days in the base camp and then deployed in squad-sized observation positions and check points. During the rotation, he said his unit switched locations. Today, though, he says that units at the MFO spend their entire 6-month rotation at the same locale.

"Some of the [fixed] positions that had been used were [created] by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force the Egyptians had ejected in 1956. Most were unimproved but there was at least one microwave relay site that had previously been fortified by the Israelis," Mr. Maling said.

The shift for the paratroopers were four hours long, with eight hours off. They counted whatever they saw and reported their counts hourly.

"I'd say we did a good job," Mr. Maling said. "When we arrived the facilities were almost non-existent. The first observation point I saw had nothing there when we arrived -- just some orange paint marks. Later, they brought in small buildings and 1,000-gallon water tanks." He noted that the paratroopers' radios, model AN-PRC-77s, turned out to be inadequate and the troops were later issued Motorola jeep-mounted high-frequency radios.
READY FOR ACTION: Trooper Ed Maling in the Sinai

One one dark day, an Australian UH-1 helicopter even crashed while delivering food and mail to Mr. Maling and his comrades.

There were many challenges during the rotation, and no small degree of hazards. Mr. Maling said that facilities were "non-existent," communications was poor and there was inadequate supplies of anti-venom. This last item became tragically evident when a soldier from the 505th was stung by a scorpion and died on the emergency helicopter transport flight to Eliat.

"Nobody thought to bring sandbags," he said. "Trying to dig in the sand without sandbags is a complete waste of time."

Mr. Maling said duty in the Sinai was marked by boredom and monotony, punctuated by "...intense, way over the top partying in Cairo and Tel Aviv."  Along the way, though, he also says he received a good education in Middle Eastern cultural contrasts.

BACK IN THE STATES
When his unit did return from the Sinai, it is perhaps ironic that Mr. Maling was re-assigned to the Army's National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California, where desert-fighting skills are honed within units from around the armed forces.
The MFO Medal awarded to Sinai veterans

While at Ft. Irwin, his command sent Mr. Maling, who was a corporal at this time, to Primary Non-Commissioned Officer training at Ft. Ord, California. If he were to have re-enlisted, his unit made it clear he would be promoted to the rank of sergeant. "By then, it was obvious to me that the Army wasn't the place for me to try making a career," he noted.

After he left the Army, Mr. Maling said he went to college "so I'd never have to sleep in the dirt again." He studied engineering and worked, for a time, with the Bureau of Land Management, fighting fires. He went on to assist in saving Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park from a large fire in 1988.

Eventually, though, Mr. Maling's professional path concluded with him working for Chevron.

Though retired today, Mr. Maling still looks back with pride and satisfaction about his time in the Army as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Like so many before him, and after him, he took up his uniform and rifle and offered his service before turning his thoughts to family and career.
During his tenure in the Army, Mr. Maling earned the Army's Expert Infantry Badge, Basic Parachutist Badge, MFO Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, NCO Professional Development ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The 77th Division's 'Lost Battalion' of World War I

The "Lost Battalion" was part of the 77th Div.
By JIM PURCELL

The "Lost Battalion" from the 77th Division during World War I was a popular name given to elements of nine companies from that division that took part in a failed offensive in the Argonne Forest during October, 1918. The infantryman from the 77th Division would begin their trial by fire on October 2nd and not be rescued from the German Imperial Army by the Allies until October 8th.

In all, there were about 554 American soldiers that took part in the offensive, which included: A, B, C, E, G, and H companies from the 308th Regiment; K Company from the 307th Regiment; and C and D companies from the 306th Machine-gun Battalion. The men of the 77th Division would go through six days of hell behind German lines and their actions, though distinguished, would result in 197 of their number being killed, 150 missing or captured and 194 rescued.

Major Charles White Whittlesey

Though the battlaion, led by Major Charles White Whittlesey, would undergo many hardships during their time ahead of Allied lines, they would tangle with the German Empire's 5th Army and inflict approximately 600 casualties on the enemy.

When the attack began, it was never planned that the force commanded by Whittlesey would become trapped, of course. The 77th Division, along with elements of the American 92nd Division were supposed to be supporting the right flank of advancing French forces. The aim was to break the dead-lock trench warfare lines that had defined the 77th Division's war until that point.

Communications were haphazard in those days and, when the French attack stalled, the Americans received no news about this. So, Whittlesey's unit moved well past the German lines and became cut-off from Allied forces.

The battalion was not equipped to deal with the kind of fight they happened into across the small, dangerous space of the battlefield. They were short of food and water. In fact, the only way the 77th's soldiers were able to fill their canteens was by crawling through enemy fire to a nearby stream. Whittlesey attempted to send runners to find out what the friendly situation was, but all of those were either killed or captured by the Germans.

Soldiers from the 308th Regiment, 77th Division

To add to the 77th's problems, as if they did not have enough, friendly artillery fire began falling on their position. With it plain by that time that the unit's runners would not be seen again, Whittlesey resorted to using a carrier-pigeon to send a report to division. In the communication, he said: "We are along the road parallel [sic] 276.4. Our artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven's sake stop it."

Luckily for Whitttlesey and his men, where runners had failed their pigeon, named Cheri Ami, was successful. And, the deadly rain of steel from the sky stopped.

The soldiers of the 77th Division mostly came from the City of New York. The division's distinctive blue and yellow patch even featured a graphic of the Statue of Liberty. It is an emblem the men from the unit chose for themselves and it was adopted by the command.

During the course of the war, the Argonne Forest had been someplace the Germans held since the early days of the conflict. There were vast enemy tunnel networks throughout the forest, which made the Lost Battalion's job even more complicated. Throughout the Argonne, the Germans had spread nearly 100 miles of barbed wire, channelizing potential attacking forces.

When the offensive had begun, the main objective of the 77th Division was to secure the Binarville-La Viergette road. The kick off for the attack was 0700, to allow ground fog to clear-up some. Whittlesey left two companies (D and F) to be a covering force on a nearby ridge-line, while the rest of first and second battalions, led by Whittlesey, would engage the enemy on "Hill 198," as it was known then. In general, it was a flanking maneuver intended to surprise the German occupiers.
The modern 77th Div. patch

At the point where Whittlesey and his infantry were securing Hill 198, the French met with a massive counter-attack by the German Army, driving them back to their lines. Though the hill was under the control of the 77th Division, it was the only thing that was -- now that the until was cut-off from any help. And, the Lost Battalion was surrounded by the Germans.

The soldiers and leaders from the 77th Division had to know something was wrong. They dug in as fast and deep as they could. Then, the Germans attacked from all sides. With grim determination, the men from the 77th Division held their ground. The next day, patrols were sent out to try and determine the enemy's situation.

Between the fifth through the eighth of October, the Germans brought the fight to the defenders of Hill 198. They sent offers of surrender, but Whittlesey would not respond to them.

Though German attacks were regular, the pocket that Whittlesey and his men made was firm. With almost no food or ammunition left, it was fortunate that, on October 8th, at about 1500, the Allies finally broke through the German line to relieve Whittlesey and his men.

For actions during the offensive, Whittlesey, Captain George G. McMurtry and Captain Nelson M. Holderman received the Medal of Honor, most notably among others. Meanwhile, Whittlesey was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Sgt. Benjamin Kaufman from K Company of the 307th Regiment, and Private Archie A. Peck, from A Company, 308th Regiment also received the Medal of Honor. Distinguished Service Crosses were also awarded to 31 other officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the famed "Lost Battalion."

Meanwhile, for their heraldry in the face of grim odds, the story of the "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Division is one that remains prominent in that unit's history, and the history of the American contribution to World War I.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Star Trek's 'Scotty' Was Canadian Army Officer During D-Day

'Commander Scott' used to be Lt. Doohan
By JIM PURCELL

To the world he was best known as "Commander Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott," chief engineer aboard the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie franchise "Star Trek." Known for his swagger, technical know-how and thick Scottish accent, Commander Scott graced screens large and small (in real-life series or movies, cartoons or video games) for 31 years, beginning in 1966. However, the actor that played Commander Scott, James Montgomery "Jimmy" Doohan (March 3, 1920-July 20, 2005) was not Scottish, but born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and had a noteworthy career during World War II serving in the Canadian Army. 
Royal Canadian Artillery insignia

Doohan was the youngest of four children born to William Patrick Doohan and his wife, the former Sarah Frances Montgomery. His father, an Irish immigrant from Northern Ireland, practiced several professions during his life, including: pharmacist, veterinarian and dentist.  In addition, Doohan's father is actually credited with inventing an early version of high-octane gasoline in 1923.

The family settled in Sarnia, Ontario, where Doohan attended high school and excelled in both mathematics and science. He then entered the 102nd Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in 1938.

At the very beginning of World War II, Doohan joined the ranks of the Royal Canadian Artillery and was assigned to the 14th (Midland) Field Battery, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division as an enlisted soldier. The division was mobilized for war on September 1, 1939 and was composed of three brigades, composed of soldiers from regional lines.

Doohan while a corporal 
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was a new unit, created specifically for impending hostilities with Germany, so it took some time to sort out its organizational command structure. But, on August 1, 1940, the division steamed for Great Britain on orders to join the British Army in its fight against the German Axis.

During the formation of the 2nd Canadian Infantry, Doohan served as a model soldier and, at a time when the Canadian Army could use all of the good artillery officers it could find, was split from his unit and sent to officer's training in England, in 1940.

Upon graduating from officers training, Doohan was assigned to the 14th Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. The 3rd Canadian Division, nicknamed "The Water Rats," was reactivated for World War II, and previously fought in World War I (1915-1919). This second iteration of the 3rd Division would serve throughout World War II (1940-1946).
14th Artillery Regiment insignia

So, it was Lieutenant Doohan who disembarked from his unit's landing craft on June 6, 1944, during the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach.

In an article for StarTrek.com, Doohan would later say of the invasion, "The sea was rough. We were more afraid of drowning than (we were of) the Germans." Doohan downplayed the peril he and his men faced that day, though, as the Canadians had to cross a minefield laid for armored vehicles.

German defenders of Normandy fought furiously to keep hold of Occupied France and Doohan was shot by an enemy machine-gunner, taking six bullets. One German bullet blew off his middle right finger, four struck his leg and one hit him in the chest. However, luckily, a silver cigarette case stopped that bullet from penetrating his skin.

Throughout his Postwar acting career, Doohan would go to lengths to hide the missing finger that he left back in Normandy.

After Normandy, Doohan went on to attend, and graduate from, the Air Observation Pilot Course with 11 other officers. As an artillery officer, rather than as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Doohan flew for the 666 (AOP) Squadron for the RCAF scouting enemy movements on battlefields from France to Germany for the rest of the war.

Lieutenant James Montgomery Doohan 

With the war's end, rather than continue in the Army, Doohan returned to his native Canada and began his acting career after attending drama school in Toronto.

Doohan credited his Army experiences for helping him out with his 'Star Trek' role, as he patterned his signature Scottish accent from a roommate he had who was Scottish while in uniform.

During his tenure in the Canadian Army, Doohan earned, along with his commission, the Canadian Atlantic Star Medal, for aircrew service in Europe, France and Germany; the France and Germany Star, for service in Europe; and the War Medal (1939-45), for his service during the war, among others.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

'Twilight Zone' Creator Serling Was A World War II Paratrooper

'Twilight Zone' creator Rod Serling
By JIM PURCELL

"The Twilight Zone" was an American television anthology series created by a former World War II paratrooper from the 11th Airborne Division, which began an original television run between 1959-1964, saw a revival from 1985-1989 and a second revival from 2002-2003. No doubt there will be yet another revival and another after that one day. 

The episodes were and are eclectic and include the genres of psychological horror, fantasy, science fiction, suspense and of psychological thrillers. Needless to say, The Twilight Zone is an American institution among many generations of the American television-watching public. The show was created by Rodman Edward "Rod" Serling (December 25, 1924-June 28, 1975).

During WWII Rod Serling served with the 11th Airborne Div.

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs, and explosions, and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, ideas, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy. A thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is, is that these things can not be confined to the Twighlight Zone."


Rod Serling was born in Syracuse, New York to a Jewish family. Prior to settling down and getting married, Serling's father, Samuel Lawrence Serling, was an inventor before he took up being a grocer to earn a steady income for his family. Serling's mother was the former Esther Cooper. The Serlings had two children, Rod and Robert.

Like so many other families, the Great Depression of 1929 hit the Serling household hard, so Rod's father was forced to close his grocery store and become a butcher to make ends meet.

Rod was an athletic boy, despite his 5' 4" stature, and excelled at tennis and table tennis. In high school, he attempted to join the junior varsity football team at his school but was considered too small by the coaches there. Serling was also editor of his high school newspaper and encouraged other students to support the war effort, as America entered the Second World War.
Serling as a young trooper

Serling took his own advice about the war, and enlisted in the United States Army the morning after he graduated from high school.

Serling was dedicated to the American and Allied cause during the war, which was made evident by him joining the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division. He and other troopers trained at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. The training camp actually lacked a rifle range, so airborne trainees had to march 30 miles to the Clemson Agricultural College to practice marksmanship on the college's shooting range. Serling and the other young paratroopers trained for more than a year, and the scrappy kid from Upstate New York earned the Army's coveted Parachutist Badge.

While undergoing training, Serling tried his hand at boxing. He competed as a flyweight in 17 inter-divisional bouts, and was known for his "berserker style" and for getting his nose broken in his first bout and his last one.

Finally, after God only knows how many push-ups and pull-ups, forced-marches, all-night training events, practice parachute drops and drills, Serling and the rest of the 11th Airborne Division, then under the command of Major General Joseph May Swing, received orders to the Pacific Theater on April 25, 1944.
The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment crest

The 11th Airborne's 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, then under the command of Col. Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen.

The first stop for the division was New Guinea, where the force would be held in reserve for a few months. Then, in November, 1944, the division was sent up against the forces of Imperial Japan in its first combat at the landing in the Philippines. The 11th Airborne was not air-dropped during the action, but rather used as light infantry during the assault on the Japanese at the Battle of Leyte.
Shortly after Leyte, Serling was transferred to the 511th Regiment;s demolition platoon, nicknamed by some veterans as their "Death Squad" for its high casualty rate. According to Sgt. Frank Lewis, who was an NCO in the platoon, "[Serling] screwed up somewhere along the line. Apparently, he got on someone's nerves."

By Serling's own admission, his time with the 11th Airborne in the Philippines shaped his writing and political views for the remainder of his life. He saw death day in and day out while with the 511th in combat. One incident, in particular, would mark him. During a lull at Leyte, a friend of Serling's, Private Melvin Levy, was beneath a crate that was dropped by the U.S. Army Air Force. Apparently, the crate of ammunition dropped squarely on his friend, smashing him to death under the weight of the container. Serling marked Levy's grave with a Star of David to honor the soldier's Jewish heritage.

The 11th Airborne trek across the Pacific during World War II

Serling did not leave Leyte physically unscathed either.

He received two wounds during the fighting, one to the wrist and another to his kneecap. However, that didn't prevent Serling from being there when the 511th conducted a combat drop on Tagaytay Ridge, on Feb. 3, 1945. From its drop zone, the 511th PIR, along with other Allied forces, marched on the Japanese-held city of Manila. Though the Allies were met with light resistance at first, fighting became bitter and was conducted block-by-block.
Serling (center) with fellow soldiers in the 511th PIR

The Japanese had a 17,000-soldier force holding the Philippine's capitol city. During the next month, Serling and the 511th paid for every yard in blood to reclaim Manila.

The fight cost the 511th a 50-percent casualty rate, with more than 400 troopers killed in action.

During the Manilla action, grateful civilians would hold celebrations for the soldiers in blocks that were well-cleared of Japanese occupiers.

It was during one such night that a Japanese artillery mission caught many civilians and soldiers in the line of fire. According to Sgt. Lewis, Serling ran from a protected position to rescue a civilian who had been on a stage when the artillery began to rain down.

For his bravery that night, Serling would eventually be awarded the Bronze Star. But, he had also been injured by shrapnel. This time, though, he was not patched up and sent back to the line, but sent to New Guinea to recover before being sent back to Manila.

The Bronze Star Medal
Serling would return for his final assignment, which was as part of the Army of Occupation in Japan. During his term of service, Serling, who rose to the rank of Technician Fourth Grade, would earn not only the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, but also the Philippine Liberation Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal, among other awards.

Serling would later say of the war, "I was bitter about everything and at loose ends when I got out of the service. I think I turned to writing to get it off my chest."

Serling went on to a storied career in Hollywood, where his Twilight Zone stories have fueled the imaginations of untold millions for decades. Yet, it was the terrible service he saw during World War II, in the service of his country, that left its unmistakable mark on Serling and his work.

Rod Serling passed away on June 28, 1975 and was interred at Lake View Cemetery, in Interlaken, New York. Still, Rod Serling is with us today, through the many celebrated works of film he has left behind.