By lex, on September 10th, 2011
Our security apparatus is cycling up big time in anticipation of a terrorist strike on the anniversary of 9/11. Heavy weapons squads are to be deployed by the New York City police department in Manhattan. Citizens are advised to dial 311 if they see something suspicious, and 911 if they witness something dangerous.
The intelligence is “credible and specific,” according to news reports. At least one of the plotters is said to be an American citizen. They even have a name.
By lex, on September 9th, 2011
The things you learn, ten years on:
Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.
The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft.
Except her own plane. So that was the plan.
Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.
“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney recalls of her charge that day. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”
I’m glad it didn’t come to that. We needed the Passengers of Flight 93 to be the first Americans to fight back.
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By lex, on August 21st, 2011
I rather like Wired.com, including Noah Schactman’s military themed “Danger Room”. The online version of the magazine has managed to become successful through its edgy-hip-beholden-to-none-outsider vibe while avoiding the dread sobriquet of ”sell out.”
But sometimes being on the outside means failing to understand what’s on the inside. In her “Ready, Aim, Attire” post, 20-something New Yorker Lena Grogan castigates the uniform of the Life Guards as “silly”, among others.
Go ahead, Lena: Say it to their faces.
We can’t all dress in black on black.
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By lex, on July 8th, 2011
It’s undoubtedly a bittersweet day at NASA, as Atlantis successfully blasted off, marking the last flight for the US space shuttle fleet. No replacement vehicle is currently funded, and the organization has gone looking for missions even as its high priced engineering talent will go looking for new work.
A sad day too for those of us who once dreamed of greater things in space exploration than an over-priced Dodge Caravan confined to Low Earth Orbit.
Like most government designs, the space shuttle system was a series of compromises: There were and are cheaper ways to move cargo into space, and better ways to move people. The concept of component re-usability as a way to reduce costs didn’t pan out in the way that boosters had hoped. And 40% fatal attrition was a high bill to pay across the five-vehicle fleet.
By lex, on June 10th, 2011
Between July and November 1916, Commonwealth and French troops engaged the Kaiser’s forces in the disastrously bloody Battle of the Somme, a campaign that cost the British army 420,000 men killed for the temporary gain of two miles territory – a cost of two men per centimeter. The British suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day alone.
The little French town of La Boisselle sat directly athwart the main line of advance. Over the years of static warfare leading up to the battle, mines and counter-mines were tunneled by the opposing forces in an attempt to breach the trenches that characterized the war on the Western Front. One collapsed in November 1915, having run into a German mine that touched off a huge store of explosives. Twenty-eight British colliers died there and have been entombed ever since, the site remained in private hands and untouched.
By lex, on May 6th, 2011
The last known surviving veteran of The Great War has stepped into the clearing at the end of the path:
Claude Stanley Choules, a man of contradictions, humble spirit and wry humor, died in a Western Australia nursing home on Thursday at the age of 110. And though his accomplishments were many — including a a 41-year military career that spanned two world wars — the man known as “Chuckles” to his comrades in the Australian Navy was happiest being known as a dedicated family man.
“We all loved him,” his 84-year-old daughter Daphne Edinger told The Associated Press. “It’s going to be sad to think of him not being here any longer, but that’s the way things go…”
World War I was raging when Choules began training with the British Royal Navy, just one month after he turned 14. In 1917, he joined the battleship HMS Revenge, from which he watched the 1918 surrender of the German High Seas Fleet, the main battle fleet of the German Navy during the war.
“There was no sign of fight left in the Germans as they came out of the mist at about 10 a.m.,” Choules wrote in his autobiography. The German flag, he recalled, was hauled down at sunset.
“So ended the most momentous day in the annals of naval warfare,” he wrote. “A fleet of ships surrendered without firing a shot.”
So ended the life of the last man to see it, in a Australian nursing home, much beloved by his family: “‘I had a pretty poor start,’ he told the ABC in November 2009. ‘But I had a good finish.’”
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By lex, on April 12th, 2011
One hundred and fifty years ago today, South Carolina – “too small for a country, too large for a lunatic asylum,” according to unionist Judge John Petigru – lit a match that started a fire which would consume the lives of 600,000 American soldiers in blue and butternut.
In the pages of the Washington Post we see that the causes of the war (if not its effects) are being litigated still.
William Faulkner, that great diarist of the south, wrote that, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”
As for me, I’m proud my ancestors fought so valiantly, and glad that they lost.
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