27 February 2015


“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


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


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


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.