Monthly Archives: June 2019

All That, And They Are Trying To Kill You Too

All That and They're Tryinkg To Kill You

A beautiful P51-D I shot at the 2007 Reno Air Races

The other day, I wrote a bit about the talk given by WW2 aces Bud Anderson and Dean Laird.

What a day that was. I felt I was a witness to living history. What an honor it was to meet these 2.

And me being me, I had to buy Anderson’s book at the museum store to learn more. Just started it, but I figured any book about flying that has accolades by Ernest Gann, and forwards by Chuck Yeager and Günther Rall, has to be some aviation ride.

I’ve just started it, and Anderson is describing the battle he had as shown from the History Channel.

What I didn’t know was the workload involved in flying that plane while someone’s trying to kill you.

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UFOs and the Navy

I had an interesting conversation with a good friend the other day. He is quite a fan of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens. In looking at a lot of ancient ruins, he believes there is evidence of  extraterrestrial presence everywhere.

I can remember when I went to Egypt, every guide that we had would have a different story as to how the pyramids were built. One thing they could all agree was the site of the quarry – some miles from Giza and the pyramids.

I don’t believe that extraterrestrials built the pyramids – but with so much in history, it’s what we don’t know and assume that piques my interest. It would be fun to be able to travel back in time as an invisible witness – to see how things really evolved.

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Rommel

I just finished watching on Amazon Prime a German production of Erwin Rommel’s last 7 months of life.

I have heard it said that of all the Nazi generals, Rommel was if not the only one, one of a small handful of Nazi high officers that the allies respected. He got a reputation in North Africa of being tactically brilliant, but he is remembered for his humaneness in treating POWs.

Many others were justifiably hung after their trials at Nuremberg.

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This Day

By lex, on June 6th, 2011

Sixty-seven years ago.

This Day 062011

From Ronald Reagan’s “Boys of Point du Hoc” speech:

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D-Day Plus 75 Years : A Short Story

At this precise moment 75 years ago – 9 hours ahead of Pacific time – the first amphibious landings started at Normandy.

By dawn on June 6, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads. The amphibious invasions began at 6:30 a.m. The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture beaches code named Gold, Juno and Sword, as did the Americans at Utah Beach. U.S. forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 American casualties. However, by day’s end, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches. According to some estimates, more than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, with thousands more wounded or missing.

He’s been gone about 20 years, but I still remember him stopping by my late father’s office every Wednesday at 1200 for lunch, in that big 70s Lincoln.

I can’t remember him without a smile and some pleasantries when he arrived. Never knew him by anything other than his nickname, which was Dusty. Outside of his family, I doubt that anyone else did, either.

He and my father would then head off for restaurants unknown. They were 2 Army veterans of that era. Neither talked much about those times.

He was wounded in that war and recuperated in a British hospital. As he was recuperating, there was an Army nurse at his side.

And from that time for over 50 years that nurse never left his side.

One Thanksgiving they invited us to their home. I had to decline, having a prior invitation.

It is a dinner I have regretted missing for 20 years. My parents told me that after dinner over desert and wine, the conversation got serious. After all those years, he opened up for the first time and talked about his day on that beach 75 years ago.

Since I wasn’t there, all I have are the few things I was told afterwards.

He was in the second wave.

What he remembered most that day were the drownings. Not all of the Higgins Boats  could get to the shoreline. If the feet couldn’t find the bottom with all of the equipment carried – 90 lbs in some cases – you were in big trouble.

And you couldn’t stop to help them.

You were trying to stay alive and get ashore. He watched his best friend drown.

When my mother asked him if he was worried about dying, he replied that “you never think it will be you“.

Allied victory wasn’t certain that day. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff, gave it 50% odds of success *. Eisenhower had an alternative letter ready in the event of failure.

Winston Churchill went to bed that evening worried that by next morning, he would learn that 20,000 were killed. That was the number of British killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He also remembered the Dieppe Raid just 2 years earlier. After 6 hours and 60% casualties, the British were forced to withdraw.

(Then) Lt. General Omar Bradley was very close to ordering a withdrawal at Omaha.

“…by mid-day on June 6, caused Gen. Omar Bradley, a competent and “unflappable” commander, to fear that his 29th and 1st Divisions had “suffered an irreversible catastrophe.” He came within an inch of ordering withdrawal of the Omaha force — representing the main bulk of the American D-Day effort.”

“…The beaches of Omaha were a real trap for the troops of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. The first assault wave was brutally cut down, while the second left the beach strewn with the wounded, the dead and broken equipment.”

I’ve always kept to a rule of not using people’s names in my posts unless I have their permission, but in this case I’ll make an exception. They’re both long gone now.

He left us shortly after that dinner and she left soon after.  I think too of the anonymous thousands who have already left us, taking their own stories of that day with them.

They deserve more than to be forgotten.

They were Dusty and Doris Miller.


 

 

* The Secret of D-Day, by Gilles Perrault. (1965 – out of print). 

More on the 2nd wave here.

 

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Modern Intrusions

I have always had an ambivalent attitude towards the telephone. Certainly convenient when you need it; unwanted when one gets those telemarketing calls at dinner time.

It seems that recently – in the last couple of years – it has turned into a malevolent device.

The elderly mother of a friend of mine was recently the victim of a scam – giving the thieves $30,000 in Home Depot gift cards. I wanted to tell her that if they want Home Depot gift cards they are not from the government. But I uncharacteristically kept quiet in view of her loss.

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A Talk With 2 WW2 Aces

A Talk With 2 WW2 Aces

I just had one of the more pleasant and interesting afternoons that I can remember in some time. A few days ago, an ad from the Neptunus Lex Facebook page blipped by – “History Come Alive – a Talk With Bud Anderson and Dean “Diz” Laird at the California Aerospace Museum.

I had to get a ticket.

Anderson, as many know, flew with Chuck Yeager (they are friends to this day) in the famous 357th Fighter Group. He is a triple ace.

Before today, I hadn’t heard of Dean “Diz” Laird. He too is an ace and is the only Navy WW2 ace to have served in both the ETO and the PTO.

Until today, I didn’t even know that the U.S. Navy had an aviation presence in the ETO.

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