The Song of the Seabees

Construimus, Batuimus (We Build, We Fight)

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Judy Garland singing the song of the Seabees seems appropriate for a Labor Day weekend.

 

At the outset of World War II, the Navy faced a task of unbelievable difficulty.  Around the globe, and especially in the Pacific, the Navy would be fighting in regions practically untouched by the modern world.  Everything to support military operations would have to be built from scratch:  bases, ports, airstrips, and an endless parade of other facilities.  The task was daunting, perhaps impossible.  However, the Navy had a secret weapon:  the American worker. (more…)

Published in: on August 31, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Castro: the Mainstream Media’s Favorite Dictator

“When the world had given us up for dead, the interview with Matthews put the lie to our disappearance.”

Che Guevara, January 1958

(Originally posted at The American Catholic, I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

Alas, if the mainstream media had only been half as questioning of Castro as the late Stuart Novins was when Castro appeared on Face the Nation on January 11, 1959.  Novins published several stories detailing Castro’s embracing of Communism and the blood stained methods he used to sustain his rule.  In short, Novins was a serious journalist interested in reporting the facts and alerting the American people to developments in Cuba.

Most of his colleagues had a different story to tell about Castro as detailed in Humberto Fontova’s book, The Longest Romance:  The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro.  In writing this book Fontova certainly has rich examples to choose from.  Go here to view a sample of pro-Castro reporting over the decades in the US media.

It could be argued that Castro became dictator in Cuba largely due to the favorable coverage he received in The New York Times, courtesy of Herbert Matthews:

(more…)

Published in: on August 30, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Castro: the Mainstream Media’s Favorite Dictator  
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Wilson Speaks

An audio recording of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 taking advantage of the division in Republican ranks that would lead Theodore Roosevelt to bolt the party and run as the standard bearer of the Bull Moose party that he created.  Wilson’s matter of fact, dry delivery, so in keeping with his profession of professor, reminds me of how in so many ways he was the anti-Roosevelt in style, although the similarities in domestic policy between him and Roosevelt were closer that either of them, both of whom cordially detested the other, were comfortable with.

Published in: on August 29, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Wilson Speaks  
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World War II Milestone

 

 

A tribute to the progress of medicine, of US military deaths in World War II, only 28% were non-battle related.  In all earlier wars battled deaths had been exceeded by non-battle deaths:

 

In the Civil War out of 650,000 deaths, 291,000 were battle deaths.

In World War I out of 116,000 deaths, 53,000 were battle deaths.

In the American Revolution out of 25,000 deaths, 8,000 were battle deaths.

In the War of 1812 out of 15,000 deaths, 2,260 were battle deaths.

In the Mexican War out of  13,000 deaths, 1,733 were battle deaths.

In the Spanish-American War out of 2,000 deaths, 385 were battle deaths.

Since World War II the trend of diminishing non-battle deaths has continued: (more…)

Published in: on August 28, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Baptism of Fire

Nominated for an academy award in 1943, and starring Elisha Cook, Jr., one of the best character actors, think The Maltese Falcon, of his day, this training film is head and shoulders above most produced by the Army in World War II.  This film attempted to prepare men for what combat was like.  As the debacle at Kasserine Pass in 1942 illustrated, combat was always a shock for green troops, particularly if they were up against veterans.  Some things of course no amount of preparation can truly prepare anyone for, and combat is the prime example of that type of experience.  However, the film would let troops know that it was common for all soldiers to be concerned about combat, and that such thoughts did not mean that a man was a coward.  Additionally the combat scenes were quite graphic by the mild standards of 1943 and would give the soldiers viewing it a small taste of what combat was going to be like.  Better than nothing.

Published in: on August 27, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Baptism of Fire  
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August 26, 1863: The Other Battle of Perryville

James G. Blunt

 

 

In addition to the famous battle of Perryville fought in Kentucky on October 8, 1862 there was another battle of Perryville fought on August 26, 1862 in the Indian Territory, the forgotten theater of the Civil War.

Following up on his victory at Honey Springs on July 17, 1863,  go here to read about it, Union Major General James G. Blunt was intent on cementing Union dominance of the Indian Territory.  Located 24 miles southwest of Fort Smith, Arkansas, Perryville, now known as Cameron, Oklahoma, was the major supply depot for Confederate forces in the Indian Territory. (more…)

Published in: on August 26, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 26, 1863: The Other Battle of Perryville  
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The Marines Called Her Reckless

Reckless_with_Sgt__Latham

“I was surprised at her beauty and intelligence, and believe it or not, her esprit de corps. Like any other Marine, she was enjoying a bottle of beer with her comrades. She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance. If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation. It was obvious the Marines loved her.”

Lieutenant General Randolph Pate 

One of the most beloved members of the Marine Corps went into battle on four feet.  A mare of Mongolian mixed breed, the horse who would become Sergeant Reckless was foaled in 1948 in South Korea.  Originally named Ah Chim Hai, Morning Flame, she was sold to Lieutenant Eric Pederson, USMC,  for $250.00 in October of 1952.  (The owner was a stable boy who needed the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister who had stepped on a land mine.)

Pedersen bought the horse, which had been a race horse, to serve as a pack animal for his recoiless rifle platoon of the 5th Marine regiment.  The platoon called her Reckless after the platoon’s nickname of Reckless Rifles.  Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Latham gave Reckless an equine version of boot camp, known in her case as hoof camp.  He taught her how to avoid getting tangled up in barbed wire, how to lay down under fire, and to run to a bunker when hearing the shout “Incoming”.  Latham had his wife mail a pack saddle from the states so that Reckless could better fulfill her role of being a pack animal from the platoon.  Reckless quickly became a platoon favorite and was given the freedom to roam the platoon encampment at night and to enter tents at will.  She loved cokes and beer, and would eat with enthusiasm whatever she could get her mouth on, including, one dark day, $30.00 worth of winning poker chips of Latham.

However, Reckless quickly demonstrated that she was not a mere mascot or pet.  In the battle of Hedy’s Crotch she proved fearless in transporting shells for the recoiless rifles of the platoon.  At first alarmed by the sounds of the rifles going off, by the end of the day she was calmly going about her business.  A highly intelligent horse, she only needed to be led the first few times, and afterwards would make the trips bringing up the shells on her own.

At the battle of Outpost Vegas, March 26-28, she received a promotion to Corporal for her sterling service, including on one day 51 solo trip bringing up 386 shells.  She was slightly wounded twice during the engagement for which she was awarded two Purple Hearts.

Outside of battle Reckless performed many functions, including stringing telephone lines.  It was said that she could string telephone lines at a rate that it would take 12 men to match.  She enjoys the distinction of being the only horse to participate in a Marine Corps amphibious landing.  (more…)

Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?

Something for the weekend.  Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott by the Statler Brothers.  A 1974 lament of how tawdry the movies had become, it fastened on Randolph Scott, king of B-movie westerns, as an icon for a better day when kids could be taken to the movies without parents being concerned about what they would be exposed to.   I heard this song endlessly when it came out,  my parents’ radio blaring it most mornings in the kitchen in 74 in the hour before I and my brother got up to prepare for yet another day in high school.

Scott was born as far from the West as it was possible to be in Virginia and raised in North Carolina.  His family had money so he was educated in private schools.  During World War I he served as an artillery observer in France, a highly dangerous post.  (After Pearl Harbor, the 43 year old Scott attempted to enlist as a Marine, but was rejected due to his bad back.)

After his service in World War I, he worked for a time with his father in the textile industry in North Carolina.  In 1927 he moved to California to embark on an acting career with a letter of introduction from his father to Howard Hughes.  The next few years saw him develop his acting skills with bit parts and small roles.  In 1931 he had his first leading role in the film Women Men Marry. In the film Heritage of the Desert (1932) Scott played his first leading role in a Western, the first of ten films he would make based on Zane Grey novels.

Until the conclusion of World War II, Scott starred in a variety of film genres, but after the War he concentrated solely on Westerns.  Scott was a modest man and always underestimated his considerable skill as an actor.  He was comfortable in Westerns and decided to stick with them.  It was an inspired choice.  As he aged his handsome features took on a weathered, stoic look, and helped make him a Western icon.

Scott did not financially need to make films after the War.  Shrewd land purchases in California helped make him a multi-millionaire, and he increasingly looked upon his acting as a hobby.   By 1962 he was ready to retire, but he was convinced to make one last Western with his friend Joel McCrea.  McCrea and Scott had much in common:  both had become very wealthy through land purchases and neither needed to work in film, post World War II McCrea had gravitated to B Westerns, and both he and Scott were staunch Republicans.

The film that they made in 1962 is now regarded as a classic.   Ride the High Country was the second film to be directed by Sam Pekinpah.  It tells the tale of two former Old West lawmen who have fallen on hard times.  Steve Judd, Joel McCrea, has been hired by a bank in the early years of the last century to bring back 20,000 in gold from a mining camp.  Judd is elated because this is the first lawman like job that he has had in a very long time.  He runs into his old friend Gil Westrum, Randolph Scott, who is making a meager living running a shooting gallery in a circus.   Judd invites Westrum and his young friend Heck Longtree, Ron Starr, to join him in the job.  They agree, Westrum and Longtree planning to steal the gold.  As the film proceeds it becomes obvious that Judd still holds to the same code of honor and honesty that he upheld as a law man.  Westrum does not, having grown bitter with age and viewing the gold as his reward for his courage as a law man, a courage that was not rewarded monetarily and has left him facing a hard scrabble old age.  Ultimately Judd realizes what Westrum is up to and disarms both him and Longtree, planning to put them on trial for attempted robbery.   The plot is complicated by Elsa Knudsen, Mariette Hartley in her screen debut, who the trio rescue from a miner she has just married who plans to have her serve not only as his bride but also as the “bride” of his four brothers.  Longtree grows to admire Judd for his courage and stubborn honesty while Westrum escapes, only to ride to the rescue at the end of the film to help Judd.

In the finale of the film Judd and Westrum confront the remaining three deranged brothers in a point blank gun fight in the best B movie Western tradition:

(more…)

Published in: on August 24, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?  
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Hirohito: War Criminal

(Originally published at The American Catholic.  I assume that the History mavens of Almost Chosen People will find it interesting.)

A strange fascination for World War II in the Pacific overtakes many Catholic blogs in early August each year, so in line with that I throw out this question:  should Hirohito have been tried as a war criminal?  The video clip above is from the movie Emperor (2012) which depicts a fictional account of an American attempt to determine the extent of Hirohito’s involvement in the launching of Japan’s war of conquest which would claim over thirty million lives.

MacArthur had little doubt of Hirohito’s war guilt, but he also had little doubt that Hirohito’s cooperation was necessary for a peaceful occupation of Japan.  Hirohito thus served as a figure head while MacArthur, the Yankee Shogun, remade Japan.  This picture tells us all we need to know about the relationship between the two men:

Macarthur_hirohito

MacArthur encountered considerable resistance to his decision not to prosecute Hirohito.  Belief in Hirohito’s war guilt was an article of faith in America and in the other nations that had fought Japan.  MacArthur played along with the fable promoted by the Japanese government that Hirohito had always been a man of peace, who was powerless in the face of the militarists who ran Japan.  This myth, well bald-faced lie would be a more accurate description, was surprisingly successful.  The first major scholarly attack on it was by David Bergamini’s 1200 page Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, published in 1971.  Read a review of it here. (more…)

99 Years Since the Lamps Went Out

British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey’s comment at the beginning of World War  I:

A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week — he thinks it was on Monday, August 3rd. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below on which we were looking. My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

All of our history since 1914 is a playing out of the consequences of the Great War.  While on vacation I have been reading a superb book on American involvement in World War I The Last Days of Innocence by Meirion and Susan Harries.  Published in 1997 it is a superb look at American involvement in World War I and the immense impact that the Great War had on this country.  In the shadow of World War II, I do not think we appreciate the importance of World War I, particularly in the United States where it has become the least remembered of all our major wars.  Here at Almost Chosen People we will help rectify that in the years to come. (more…)

Published in: on August 22, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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