15 May 2015

THAILAND, 14 MAY 1975


We boarded trucks at Camp Schwab at about 0300 on on 14 May and were taken to Kadena AFB, (located in the middle of Okinawa).  There we boarded C-130s and took off for Utapao Royal Thai AFB at about 0500.  We were crammed in and nobody got any rest on the trip.  Our flight landed about Noon local time.  I reported to the Battalion XO and the S-4 pointed out an empty hangar where we could billet the troops out of the sun.  The USAF had grudgingly agreed that Marines needed the shade more than a couple of beat up old U-2 spy planes! (It was the first time I ever saw one up close.  Of course, I was old enough to remember when the Soviets shot one down in 1959 and captured the pilot, Francis Gary Powers.)

The CO was already out on a flight to recon Koh Tang.  When he returned later that afternoon, he sent for me and asked “How many first class swimmers do you have in Fox Company?”

Pulling out my notebook, I replied “43, Sir, counting all the officers.”  

He nodded.  It turns out that there was a question about how we were going to retake the ship which was anchored just off the end of the island.  Someone realized that the flight decks of the destroyers we had in the area were too small for the UH-53 helicopters the Air Force was using.  One proposal was for me and my ”foxy sharks” to load our weapons, flak jackets, helmets, gas masks, and other gear into cargo nets and to then board the choppers.  The nets would be dropped on the destroyer and then the bird would hover alongside while the Navy put whaleboats in the water.  We would then jump from the choppers into the sea, be picked up by the whaleboats, and hoisted back aboard the ship.  The next morning, we would pull alongside Mayaguez, board her and recapture her. (Fortunately, a platoon from 1/4 was able to get to a ship that could then rendezvous with a destroyer and be transferred feet dry.  But it would have been a helluva good story!)

At about 2100, we had a briefing for the next day’s operation.  I could tell it was going to be one of those!

First, we had no maps.  Koh Tang was so insignificant that no one had ever mapped it.  We did have some pictures that Captain Jim Davis (CO, Golf Company) had taken with his personal camera out of the side window of some sort of Beechcraft airplane that the USAF flew past the island with Jim, the Colonel, and the S-3 on board.  Jim’s pictures were developed, a grid system was superimposed over them, and they were then classified and issued to us as “maps.”  

Intelligence, such as it was, indicated that there was an enemy force of 20-40 guerillas on the island.  We were also told that Koh Tang had no permanent residents, but fishermen from the mainland of Cambodia often sailed out a couple of hundred miles to the island for several weeks at a time.  They would set up temporary camps and then fish on out into the ocean.  They would return to Koh Tang to salt and dry their daily catches and would not return to the mainland until the end of the fishing season.

The plan was for Company G, reinforced with the Battalion CP group (S-3, Air Officer, and communicators) to fly out in 11 Air Force H-53 aircraft.  They would land on narrow beaches on each side of a narrow neck that ran between a jungled hill and a mangrove swamp and capture the island so the enemy forces could not fire on the ship during the boarding and recovery.  Because the trip from Utapao to the island took two hours one-way, the most basic precept of amphibious warfare—the rapid build-up of combat power ashore—was being knowingly set aside. I'll have more to say about that later.

The helicopters would return to Utapao, refuel, and take Echo Company in on the second wave.  Fox Company would go in on the third wave in the afternoon, followed by Hotel Company under the command of Captain John Gutter.

When it came time for Lieutenant Colonel Randall W. Austin, the Battalion Commander, to give us his commander’s guidance, it was typical of that most excellent and precise officer.  Randy Austin was another of those men who other men will happily follow into the Valley of the Shadow of Death for the simple pleasure of being there in the company of such a warrior, intellectual, leader, and what we in the Mid-West have always referred to as “a good man.”  We trusted "the Old Man," and he trusted us.  He was a Marine’s Marine.

“Look,” he said.  “I know this looks tricky.  Get your people ready, but remember this.  We do not know who is on that island.  Keep control of your people. Be aggressive, but use your heads.   We will get the crew and the ship back, but I do not want to go in there and shoot up a bunch of itinerant fishermen.  I will not have a My Lai in my battalion.” 


We left to make sure that our troops were cared for, bedded down, and ready for the morrow.  It was late Wednesday night and I had not slept since early Tuesday morning.  The First Sergeant, the Gunny, the XO and I sat down to begin our planning for the operation.

13 May 2015

FORTY YEARS AGO TODAY


“Hey, Skipper.  Happy Birthday.  The fuckin’ gooks stole one of our ships!”

That was my First Sergeant’s birthday greeting to me forty years ago today.  He had come out to the field with the mail and a birthday cake for my 29th Birthday.

I was Commanding Officer, Fox Company, Ninth Marines in the field for training in Okinawa.  It was a big day for me and for the Battalion.  We had just gotten back about 180 Marines from 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and it was the first time in months that the whole battalion was in the field together.

One- Four had been the amphibious ready group off the coast of South Vietnam for several months.  Its tour kept getting extended even as it was forced to send Marines home to the States at the completion of their 13 month tours.  The solution was to raid 2/9 for people to maintain 1/4’s strength.  Saigon fell on 30 April and our troops had come back the week before.  I got about 90 back and Golf Company got the other 90.  Naturally, Jim Davis and I were delighted to finally be close to full strength.

And now, this!  The Khmer Rouge had seized SS Mayaguez, a US flagged container ship in the Gulf of Siam.  At 2100, the whole battalion was called back to Camp Schwab and by 0300, we were en route to Utapao Royal Thai Air Force Base. 

My single clearest memory is what happened as we prepared to leave the field.  Because we expected to be out for the entire week, I had a couple of pallets of C-Rations and another couple of pallets of rifle, machinegun and anti-tank rocket ammo staged with my command post.  I knew if we just left it, it would be gone in hours.

My Company Gunny, Gunnery Sergeant David Ankrom, USMC, had the solution.  As he called the Company to fall in to get on the trucks to go back to Schwab, he ordered, “All 17 year olds fall out and report to the Skipper.”  Seven Marines did just that.

They were all new joins who had been with us for about a week.  Marines under the age of 18 were not deployable to a combat area.

The Gunny had the platoon sergeants getting their Marines on the trucks.  “Here you go, Skipper.”

“All right, three of you are PFC’s,”  I said.  “Who is senior?  What are your dates of rank?”  Now this is a question that a PFC  is rarely asked, but we quickly determined that one was a week “senior” to his shipmates. “Fine.  You are in command.  Take charge of this ammo and chow until they send a truck out to take it back to Schwab.”

“Aye, aye, Sir."  He formed three reliefs of his guard, and as I got in my jeep with the Gunny, I could hear him telling his Marines just what he expected.  “Aw right.  You two start flanking your posts.  The rest of you, hit the rack.  YOU (pointing to one of the sentries) wake me up at 2300 so I can check posts!”

One of them came over to me.  “Sir, I turn 18 day after tomorrow.  Can’t I come to the war with the rest of the Company?”  The Gunny pulled him aside and had a quiet conversation with him, patted him on the ass, and sent him back to “his unit.” 

He was smiling and shaking his head as he climbed in the back seat of the jeep.  “Got us some good ones, we did, eh, Skipper?”

Oh Jesus, supreme squad leader whose fire team leaders were The Rock and the Sons of Thunder, how you have blessed us with men such as these.


That’s a birthday, you just don’t forget.

Semper Fidelis.

11 May 2015

I AM ASHAMED OF MY PARTY


I have been a Republican since I was 18.  I heard Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech and decided that here was a man and a philosophy that meant something more than the evil lies and empty promises of Lyndon Baines Johnson, may he still be enjoying a seat close to the fire.  My Mom, a “yellow-dog” Democrat warned me.  “Oh, Michael,” she said.  “If you vote for that man, you’ll end up in Vietnam.”  (Of course, it was 1964, so I could not yet vote.  The 26th Amendment was not adopted and ratified until 1971.  Still, she was right.  I would have voted for Barry Goldwater—and I did end up in Vietnam.)

On 27 October 1964, I saw and heard “The Speech.”  From that point on, I was a Goldwater-Reagan Republican.  I voted for Richard Nixon both times.  He got us out of the quagmire that Lyndon Johnson had gotten us into by pandering to the left wing of his party.  He thought he could impose his so-called Great Society on our Nation by fighting a war against communism on the cheap.  Only Nixon could get us out by insisting that we do so honorably.  Undercut by the Democratic Party and a communist-influenced “peace movement,” it took him four years to do so—and then the Congress, under the overwhelming control of the Democratic Party—reneged on the very conditions the United States had set and promises the United States had made in the Paris Peace Treaty.  

As a young Captain in the Spring of 1973, as the Watergate investigation began, my 200 Amphibious warfare School classmates and I—Captains and Majors of Marines—heard an impromptu lecture by our Commanding Officer about the meaning of our commissions.  We had sworn to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  We were not bound by some “Fuehrer oath” to blindly obey a particular President.  (Calm down.  I’m getting there.”)  A year later, in late July 1974, there was a message on the morning message board addressed from the Secretary of Defense to all General Officers and all commanding officers of the Armed Forces, reminding us that orders come down a chain of command.  If orders were received outside the chain of command, they were to be clarified back up the chain.  Sub silentio, we were being cautioned that an order—hypothetically speaking—from the President to the 82d Airborne Division or the Second Marine Division to trot on up I-95 and arrest the Congress should not be taken at face value.  As if we needed to be reminded!

For 50 years, man and boy, I have lived by my oath, as have my brother officers.  Under Carter—who delayed the attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran until he could extract a written promise from the Joint Chiefs that no Iranians would be hurt or killed in the attempt—and from the retired list, watching the President with the least respect or concern for the Constitution in my lifetime, Barrack Obama, I have been proud to be a Republican. 

(Carter finally relented and sent in an under strength rescue attempt, without the promise, when he realized he was losing hope of a second term.  Obama represents the worst part of a younger Democratic Party that thinks it is always entitled to get its own way and refuses to let the Constitution—with its messy checks and balances—stop them from changing a constitutional republic into an elitist oligarchy.)

So, I have been proud to be a Republican—until this weekend.

Why now, you may ask?

It is the Governor of Texas.  He did it all on his own.  He impugned the honor of every officer who has ever taken the oath of office by suggesting that they would simply roll over and play dead if the President attempted a coup d’etat

Understand, I think that the President, and Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi would entertain such a pipe dream.  They are so certain that they, alone, know what is best for the Nation, they could actually say to the People, “We’ll have to enact the bill [before we even read it] to know what it will do.”  

You see, the Armed Forces are now beginning an annual exercise, Exercise Jade Helm 15.  This year, it is set in the Southwest and will be conducted in parts of 10 States or so.  They happen to be dry, dusty and mountainous States—which makes sense if you look at where in the world the greatest threat now faces us.  40 plus years ago, I participated in a couple of major exercises along the southeastern Atlantic Coast, from Virginia down through the Carolinas into Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.  The St. Helena Sound of South Carolina is a lovely place of salt marsh, elephant grass, and mosquito swarms in the daytime that necessitated face masks to protect us from drowning on inhaled insects.  It was a whole lot like the places we thought we might have to fight in again.  That is the whole idea of training!

Now, some wackos from the rabid right—the tin foil and colander hat brigade—have decided that Jade Helm is a plot to institute martial law in the Southwest, to seize lawfully possessed firearms from American citizens, and to lock up those who oppose the President’s unconstitutional immigration decrees.  And they have convinced Governor Abbott that only he and the Texas Guard can save our Republic.   Pah!

Mind you, I think he and the lunatic left of his Party would love to do it because “They know what is best.”  But the looney left has one thing going for it, so far.  They still know that any such attempt at a coup would be crushed by their own Secretary of Defense, an honorable man.  And they know that such an attempt followed by a quick impeachment, trial for treason, and the resultant expenditure of 40 rounds of ammunition, ensures that it just remains in their personal fantasy lands.

The best defense against such actions is the oath of office taken by commissioned officers.  And that is why I am ashamed by my Party.  You see, on 28 April 2015, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas ordered the Texas State National Guard to monitor Exercise Jade Helm because a few morons of the ultra far right have taken to the internet  to stir up the suspicion that their Fathers and Mothers, Sons and Daughters, Sisters and Brothers who have sworn to support and defend the Constitution can no longer be trusted to do so.

I hereby place my Party on notice: trust the President and the lunatic, Warren-Sanders wing of their Party only as far as you could toss them.


But, for the sake of God and Country, do not let a few idiots coerce you into besmirching the honor of the Officers of our Armed Forces.  If you do, then a pox on both your houses!

30 April 2015

WHY I GENERALLY DETEST NPR


Over the past two days, listening to NPR has reminded me why my main reason for listening is to try to understand the liberal mind.

Yesterday, there was a report on the efforts made by FaceBook, Google, Amazon, PayPal, and others to facilitate donations to Nepalese Earthquake Disaster relief.  (I actually used FaceBook today—it was simple, efficient, and done in about 45 seconds.)  Essentially, these big outfits are using their trusted systems to collect donations and to then forward them to appropriate agencies.  Since many of us have already recorded accounts with one or more of them, it simplifies the donation process and speeds the delivery of the donations to the people who are doing the work. I got my receipt from the relief agency about 2 minutes after I made the donation through FaceBook.

So, of course, the first thing that occurred to the NPR host was this:  “Putting on my cynic's hat, I have to ask, what are these companies getting out of this?”  Really?  REALLY?  That’s the first thought?

Not, wow, that’s really thinking outside the box.  Not, welcome to the efficiencies of the digital age.  Not, “Good for them!”   Bah!

The other was a report on the growing demand from parents to send their children to charter schools.  Think about it.  Parents are asking, even demanding, that their children be allowed to go to charter schools.  This is especially so in Philadelphia which is in the midst of a 10 plus candidate brawl for the Democratic Party nomination for Mayor.  NPR has been hosting all of the Democrat candidates (the Republican candidate is running unopposed), an hour at a time, to give their views and to answer some call in questions.  The host of Radio Times, Marty Moss-Coane, is a decent journalist who asks great questions and will make an effort to GET GUESTS TO ACTUALLY ANSWER THE QUESTION THAT WAS ASKED!

But in the promos in other morning shows, the NPR position is clear—why should mere parents be allowed to demand something the teachers’ unions oppose?  I mean, that money flows outside the control of the union bosses and the politicians and if government and unions aren’t in charge of grassroots education, think of the dire consequences.  Voters may decide that other important services ought to be put back in their hands—health care, for instance.


I listen to NPR because 40 years ago, a senior officer who had lots of experience in intelligence, one who I trusted so much that I would have followed him to hell and looked forward to the trip, told me I should.  “Always listen to what the enemy is saying, Lad.  Eventually you’ll be able to figure out what he is really saying!”

23 March 2015

AN HONEST QUESTION FOR MY LIBERAL FRIENDS AND FAMILY


This morning, I listened to NPR’s Radio Times, hosted by Marty Moss-Coane.  I like her show.  Her guest was former Congressman Barney Frank who is out flogging his new book.  (He was similarly hosted by Terry Gross on Fresh Air! last week.) These are the only NPR programs I listen to with any hope of professional journalism.  Sadly, Ms. Moss-Coane dropped the ball this morning, not badly, but a very evident fumble.

Congressman Frank was just what one would expect of a New England liberal.  The President is one of the finest chief executives that the Republic has ever elected, the liberal agenda is just what America needs, everything would be great if we got rid of our armed forces, and, if the American people would just listen to the liberal elite, they would realize that we do not have enough government in this country!  In fact, he takes the liberals in his party to task for failing to educate the people about why they need more government.  Congressman Frank repeatedly came back to this theme:  “Whenever someone says to me, the government is too large, too intrusive, I ask for particulars.  What do you want to get rid of?  Policemen and firemen?  Social Security and Medi-care?  Veterans’ benefits? Roads and bridges?”

It reminded me of the President’s talking points every time the issue of the unfathomable national debt and his desire for more taxes and more spending comes up.  He always says that without the new taxes and spending, seniors won’t get their social security checks and Medi-care will be broke, veterans will lose their pensions and/or VA benefits, and the Armed Forces will have to be cut.
And that is the basis of my question.

Why is it that the only programs that liberals want to cut those that that the recipients have already bought and paid for?  On the night of 10-11 June 1969, every man in my platoon overpaid for whatever benefits we may get from the VA.  I have paid social security taxes since I was 16 and medi-care taxes since the program was adopted.  If you read the Constitution, the United States government has a delegated responsibility to build roads and bridges and harbors and to raise and maintain an army and a navy.  Local governments have had a responsibility to police their jurisdictions and since Ben Franklin started the first fire department in the colonies, fire protection has come to be recognized as a responsibility of local government.

Those are the only programs the liberals threaten to cut.

And here is where Ms. Moss-Coane dropped the ball.  Radio Times is a call-in program.  I was on the phone, having posited my question to her producer, but it was never asked.  Only three people got to ask “questions.”  One woman kept asking some computer-related question with respect to elections.  To his credit, the Congressman kept telling her that he does not speak “computer”, did not understand her question, and was not qualified to attempt to do so.  The next “questioner” spent 2 minutes telling the Congressman what a great man he was and how the Republic will surely fail now that he has retired.  (OK, I jest, but there was no question, just puffery.)  The third question got him off on the topic of marijuana, and that was it.

So, dear friends and family, I pose my question to you.

Why is it that the only programs that liberals want to cut “roads and bridges and harbors and armed forces and social security, medi-caid and veterans’ benefits?

Why is it that they never think of abolishing the Department of Education, a bureaucracy that does not educate a single child?  Why do they never propose to get rid of the Department of Energy, whose greatest claim to recent fame is that it bet over half a billion dollars on Solyndra just weeks before it took the money and promptly filed for bankruptcy.  Why do they want to cut benefits that citizens have paid for, but have no problem with massive income redistribution in the form of “entitlements” to people who have never worked a day in their lives?

I’m all for charity to those who would, but can’t.  I just don’t understand why cut the flow of trillions that, for over a half-century, have not ended poverty, stopped crime in the crowded cities, and suggest that those recipients have a responsibility to work for themselves, the folks who can, but won't.


I anxiously await for an answer.  Have mercy on me:  I’m holding my breath.

03 March 2015

WHEN WILL THEY START THINKING OF US?


I sample a lot of news programs, particularly on National People’s Radio, Fox, CNN, and MSNBC.  For the past two weeks, all have been in a dither over two issues:  the Homeland Security Bill and the address to a joint session of Congress by Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to all (except Fox), if Homeland Security is not funded and if Netanyahu does speak, our Nation will crumble around our ears.  Really?

The President acted illegally by enacting law by executive fiat.  The power of the purse belongs to the Legislative Branch.  If failure to fund is really a problem, then he will sign the majority bill. Otherwise, it is just all about him.

Likewise, the liberal media is up in arms because the speech is something the President does not want.  Congress has done, is doing, and will continue to do lots of things lots of Presidents don’t like.  No biggie here.

The thing is, for the past two weeks, I have talked with lots of people in my community.  They have lots of things on their minds—the economy, jobs, their families.  Not one of them has mentioned the DHS bill or Netanyahu!  NOT ONE!


So, Mr. President, as you told us when you and Nancy and Harry shoved the ACA down our throats, elections have consequences.  The 2014 election surely did.  Man up and live with it.

27 February 2015

THE SPOCK NEUTRALIZER

“I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic circuit using stone knives and bearskins.” Commander Spock, First Officer/Science Officer, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) (City on the Edge of Forever)
During our stay at Charlie Base Camp, we took an average of one casualty per day, all but the three at OP 6 from booby traps. In turn, all booby trap casualties came during the morning road sweep. None that I recall were fatal, but our people were being hurt badly.

The road sweep ended at OP 6, where we met the other sweep coming south from Phu Loc (6). The trash situation at OP 6 had not worsened, because we policed our trash and brought it back to the base camp with us. But we could not get the trash left by 3/5 cleaned up. Nearly every day, we spotted an actual or suspected booby trap in the trash mound left by the last company that had manned the OP.

We were discussing the problem at the officers’ meeting one night. “It’s too bad Mr. Spock isn’t here,” Chip commented. “If he can construct a mnemonic circuit using stone knives and bearskins, he could find a way to neutralize the booby traps.”

Star Trek had premiered on TV while we were all in college. It was being re-run on Armed Forces TV out of Saigon, and we could sometimes pick up the audio on the radio. We all agreed that we needed Mr. Spock, and talked about what a “Spock neutralizer” might look like. The conversation continued for several days.

One morning a few days later, the road sweep dropped off a 55 gallon drum at OP 6. After destroying a suspected booby trap, the trash was pretty well spread out. For the rest of the day, the Marines who were not on watch policed up some of the trash and put it in the drum. At Noon, two marines carried a case of C-Rations down to OP 5. When the road closed for the night, the OP was closed and the troops headed back to the Base Camp. The drum was left in place.

The next morning, we found that the drum had been booby trapped. The engineers blew it in place, spreading the trash, and then dropped off another empty drum. The Marines on the OP followed the same routine for four days, with the same results.

The first day that First Platoon was on the OP for the full day, the engineers blew up the drum from the day before. They dropped off another drum, although if anyone had been watching carefully, they might have noticed that it took four Marines to get it off the truck. This drum was already full. We had packed it with “grade three ammo” (unserviceable ammunition which was corroded, dented, or from lots that had been re-called), as well as several old claymore mines, the remainder of the Korean War era 60mm mortar rounds, frag grenades, two 20 pound satchel charges,some rolls of barbed wire, loose brass and links from the machine gun positions, and other assorted goodies. That morning, it had then been filled with gasoline and sealed, except for a small hole in the lid, through which protruded wires attached to blasting caps inserted into the satchel charges.

The box of C-rations that went to OP 5 was empty except for 400 meters of communications wire that fed out of the box up the sleeve and down the trouser leg of the Marine carrying it. His “escort” walked behind him making sure the wire stayed on the ground.

A few pieces of trash were placed on top of the drum during the day. When the troops left OP 6, an engineer attached the blasting cap to one end of the slash wire. A few minutes later, the Marines from OP 6 met up with the Marines coming down from OP 5. As they moved away, Chip and two Marines remained hidden in the scrub at the side of the road.

About 15 minutes later, they saw a group of 20 or so people leave the ville that was about 200 meters east of OP 6, the same ville into which the attackers on 12 January had fled. At least one carried a weapon. When they were about 2 meters from the drum, Chip hit the hell box and the Spock neutralizer neutralized the bad guys.

I was in a tower at strong point Delta, about six clicks away, when the device was lit off. There was a towering plume of flame, clearly visible to me. The resulting hole was about three feet deep and two to three maters wide. "Fascinating!"

After that, the booby trapping incidents at OP 6 completely died off. I think Mr. Spock would have approved.

24 February 2015

LABOR GOON SQUADS REDUX


In the formative years of the modern American labor movement, employers—especially in steel, mining, and auto manufacture—would hire “goon squads” to quash, even terrorize, workers who were seeking to voluntarily unite to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Sometimes, these squads would be uniformed National Guardsmen, but more frequently, they would be Pinkerton agents or just local thugs hired by the owners and management of target industries.  And it was just plain wrong—unAmerican and contrary to the freedom of association implicit in the First Amendment of the Constitution.  Laws were passed to ensure that workers were free to join unions without fear or physical harm or other forms of intimidation.

This morning, I was listening to the American Left’s most effective propaganda arm: National People’s Radio.  From the scandal in 1999 when it was revealed that many PBS stations routinely “rented” their donor lists to the Democratic Party, to the programming of PBS’s three major stations, WGBH (Boston), WNET (New York City) and WETA (Washington, DC) which is hopelessly intertwined with the Democrats'  party line, to stations in Philadelphia, Chicago, and others which rebroadcast materials from those three stations, “Public Broadcasting” and “National Public Radio” are accurate descriptions only if “Public” is redefined to mean the left-wing of the Democratic Party.  I defy anyone to listen to NPR and hear any fair representation of conservative America. 

So, what does this have to do with labor goon squads.

On this morning’s “Morning Edition”, one of the lead stories was the upcoming vote in the Wisconsin legislature to enact a law that would ban contracts between businesses and unions in which workers are required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Violation of the law would be a crime punishable by nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.  

Wisconsin is currently a “closed shop” jurisdiction.  If a union manages to get enough employees of a business to form a local, it can then require ALL similarly situated employees in that business to pay union dues whether they join the union or not.  Oh, there are some “safety valves” that allow non-member workers to pay only a “portion” of the full dues (usually, the portion used for political lobbying and donations to the Democratic Party), but it is amazing how low that portion is after the lawyers and accountants are done with the computations.

Well, as one may well imagine, this move in Wisconsin is anathema to the AFL-CIO and its leadership.  These big boys are millionaires thanks to their members and they just love hobnobbing with liberal multi-millionaires and movie stars and Democratic politicians, all on the workers’ dime. And the fact that it is Wisconsin, where, only a few years ago, big labor (such as it is) took its worst drubbing in decades just makes it worse.

You see, big labor isn’t all that much anymore.  More than half of all union members are employed by government.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, some 14.6 million American workers were members of a union, about 11.1% of the work force.  By way of comparison, in 1983, 20.1% of American workers were union members.  In 2014, another 1.6 million workers disclaimed union membership, but their jobs “were covered by a union contract.”  In other words unions were able to extract payments of “dues” workers who amounted to more than an additional 10% of union “membership.” 

At the same time, only 7% of private sector American workers are union members, compared to  36% of government workers.  In other words, if you produce something, you are very unlikely to join a union, but if you suck at the government teat, a union is the way to go.  And the trend has been underway for half a century.  Fifty years ago, one American worker out of three was a union member; today it hovers at one in ten.

The big boys in the AFL-CIO are getting scared. The goose that lays their golden eggs is getting thin and old.  Wisconsin is their new battleground.

So, National People’s Radio “reports” on this issue right along the party line.  Rich Trumka, national President of the AFL-CIO wails that “This is a blatant attempt to silence workers’ voices to stop us from speaking out about lower wages and mistreatment at work. … Unions and collective action are a powerful line of defense against this aggressive attack on our working families.  We need to use this fight to help all workers – union and non-union – unite in their collective voice and in their demand to raise wages throughout our country.”
Really?  Does he think we are all stupid? 
A right to work law does nothing to silence workers’ voices, although it may require their mouthpieces, like Trumka and his ilk to do so for a lot less money.  Right to work laws protect workers from extortion.  If a person wants to work, and an employer wants to hire that worker, that should be it.  Why should a union be allowed to extort from the employee a fee for that privilege? 
No, the 21st Century “Pinkertons” are the unions that want to threaten and coerce and extort and terrorize.  They are the new labor goons
The bottom line is that if union representation is such a good deal, the unions would have no problem signing up new members.  When 90% of the workforce sees no benefit to union representation, that is not the fault of industry or government.  It just means that, like the buggy whip, union representation is obsolete.
And the AFL-CIO and its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Democratic Party, and its propaganda wing, NPR, would better spend their time and money figuring that out.



23 February 2015

1/400th OF A SECOND, SEVENTY YEARS LATER


Seventy years ago this morning, one of the most famous—and as any Marine will tell you, the absolutely finest—photographs in history was snapped on a hot, stinking mound of sulphuric volcanic ash located in the western Pacific. It is, of course, Joe Rosenthal’s picture of the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
                                                  
Look at this photo, 1/400 of a second of what was the 36 days (3,110, 400 seconds) of the hell that was Iwo.




Six of the men who landed on the island on D-day, 19 February 1945, are included in this photograph.  It is a classically Marine Corps photo:  5 Marines and a Corpsman, “Doc,” raising a flag before getting on with the ugly business of war.  Those men were all from 2d Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division: Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Ira Hayes, Corporal Harlon Block, Corporal Rene Gagnon, and PFC Franklin Sousley, USMC, and Pharmacist’s Mate, 2d Class John Bradley, USN.  

One four hundredth of a second.

Doc Bradley recounted how he happened to be in the photo.  Sergeant Strank’s squad had been ordered to raise a ship’s flag (9 feet on the hoist by 19 feet on the fly) to replace the storm flag (5x9) raised by the first squad to the top.  The larger flag could then be seen by more Marines on the sands below.  Strank’s people found a piece of pipe which weighed about 100 pounds and lashed the flag to it.  As the 5 Marines struggled with the pole, Doc Bradley was adjusting his gear.  Strank said, “Hey, Doc, give us a hand.”  Perfect.

Watching from the beach below, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal commented, “That image will guarantee the existence of the Marine Corps for 500 years!”    But the fight was just beginning.

Sergeant Strank, Corporal Block, and PFC Sousley were killed in action within the next 30 days, all while advancing against the enemy.  Doc Bradley, who had already been nominated for the Navy Cross for gallantry on D-Day, was seriously wounded and evacuated, but not before tending to two wounded Marines and seeing them evacuated before he would even consider his own wounds.  

Twenty-two Marines and 4 Corpsmen were awarded the Medal of Honor at Iwo, 14 posthumously.  That 22 represented 28 percent of all Medals of Honor awarded to Marines in World War II.

Admiral Nimitz later commented that “Among the Marines on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Of the 60, 000 plus Marines and Sailors from the 3d, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions who fought there, 6,821 were killed in action and another 19, 217 were wounded in action. Of the 22,000 Jap defenders of the island, 216 were eventually captured (the last two on 6 January 1949). 


As a prelude to the invasion of the Home Islands, those stark numbers (along with the similarly high numbers for Okinawa: 12,000 US KIA, 38,000 US WIA;  110,000 Japanese KIA, 7,000 captured, 40-150,000 civilians killed, including mass suicides) made any alternative to the invasion a better alternative.  President Truman’s approval of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (140,000 Japanese dead; US KIA 0, US WIA 0) was a relatively easy decision.

One four hundredth of a second.

Semper Fidelis.

20 February 2015

ANOTHER REASON TO HATE SPELL-CHECK

One of my pet peeves has finally spilled over into an almost constant annoyance.  In e-mails from local schools and materials used in those schools, to books I read on my Kindle, it is apparent that the past tense of the verb "to lead" (to guide someone or something towards someone or something) has been transformed from "led" into "lead."  

Now, any educated person knows that "lead" (noun) is  a bluish-white lustrous metal, very soft, highly malleable, ductile, and a relatively poor conductor of electricity.  Its symbol is Pb, and its atomic number is 82.  It is incapable of guiding anyone to anywhere (except Boot Hill when certain pellets of the metal are accelerated into a body at, e.g., 900fps, from, e.g., the classic Colt single-action Army revolver).  But I digress.

I charge this abuse of the English language to an over-reliance on that abomination known as “spell-check.”  Because “spell-check does only that (look for misspelled words), it will ignore homonyms like crazy.


So, please people, especially teachers, make sure you set a good example for the malleable minds you are teaching.  Teach them to spell and to proof-read, rather than relying on a relatively stupid form of artificial intelligence.