Black Cats Hunt by Night

World War II in the Pacific was often an improvisational war for the US in the early years, before US war industries came fully on line and the US buried Japan under a wave of ships and planes to seize control of the air and the sea.  Before that took place, the US had to fight cagily and make do.  No better example of this spirit of improvisation can be found than the PBY Catalina night bomber squadrons that wreaked havoc on Japanese shipping in daring nighttime raids.

The PBY Catalina flying boat, was an amphibious plane and the workhorse plane for the US in the Pacific.  Used for everything from anti-submarine patrols, to air-sea rescue and cargo transport, its most unusual incarnation was as a night bomber against Japanese shipping.

Equipped with magnetic anomaly detectors, normally used to detect submarines in anti-submarine patrols, and painted flat black, PBY Catalina 5As and 6As squadrons began to attack Japanese supply convoys at night.  Their attacks proved quite effective, the Black Cats sinking 112, 700 tons of Japanese merchant shipping between August 1943-January 1944, damaging another 40,000 tons and damaged 10 Japanese warships. (more…)

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Published in: on September 30, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Bishop Sheen: Life of Abraham Lincoln

The things you find on the internet!  Bishop Sheen retells the life of Abraham Lincoln.  Originally broadcast in 1954, it is an interesting take on the Great Emancipator.  Completely fascinating.  A great tribute by a son of Illinois to the greatest son of Illinois. (more…)

Published in: on September 29, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Bishop Sheen: Life of Abraham Lincoln  
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Constitution Day: Star Trek Style!

(Originally posted at The American Catholic.  I assumed that the Star Trek and Constitution Mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

One of the “alternate Earth” episodes that became fairly common as the original Star Trek series proceeded, as explained by Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development, and by limited production budgets,  this episode featured an Earth where a cataclysmic war had driven the Americans, the Yangs, out of their cities and into primitive warbands.  Chinese Communists, the Kohms, settled in America.  Their technology was a few steps higher than the Yangs.  The Yangs had been waging a war for generations to drive the Kohms from their land, and the episode coincided with the Yangs taking the last of “the Kohm places”.

Over the generations, the Yangs had forgotten almost all of their history and what little knowledge remained was restricted to priests and chieftains.

Cloud William: Freedom?

James T. Kirk: Spock.

Spock: Yes, I heard, Captain.

Cloud William: It is a worship word, Yang worship. You will not speak it.

James T. Kirk: Well, well, well. It is… our worship word, too.” (more…)

Published in: on September 27, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Constitution Day: Star Trek Style!  
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Disappointment by the Book

Cat Book Reviewer

Another damned thick book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr. Gibbon?

Prince William upon being presented by Gibbon with a copy of a volume in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic.  I thought the book mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

 

My co-blogger Darwin Catholic at The American Catholic has an intriguing post on the subject of books that a reader is supposed to like but didn’t.  Go here to read his post.  My response:

Piers the Plowman-Never have been able to make my way through that boring field.

Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories-I attempted to read them when young but got stuck in A Study in Scarlet.  The odd thing is that I love Holmes as a character in film and in books written by other  authors which feature Holmes.

Stranger in a Strange Land-I have read everything Heinlein wrote and I was saddened to read the story that began his “dirty old pervert” phase.

Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants-I made it through all three volumes on the third attempt.  Freeman’s erudition is vast and his scholarship impeccable, but he managed a near impossible feat:  he made the Civil War seem dull to me. (more…)

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (10)  
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September 24, 1863: Hooker to Chattanooga

 

 

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was an irascible and cantankerous man who didn’t suffer fools, or anyone else for that matter, gladly.  He was often a pain to be around.  However he more than made up for his lack of people skills, with driving energy, imagination and tenacity.  These characteristics all came into play in the wake of the Union defeat at Chickamauga.

On the night of September 23 he went to the White House and took the drastic step of summoning the President from his bed to attend a hurried council of war.  Stanton proposed to dispatch to Chattanooga from the Army of the Potomac the XI and XII corps, some 20,000 men.  Lincoln was dubious that the troops, having to travel some 1200 miles by rain, would arrive in time to aid Rosecrans.  Stanton came prepared for this objection.  Present at the meeting was Colonel D.C. McCallum, head of the Department of Military Railroads, who, at Stanton’s prompting, promised that the troops could be shipped in a week, and vouched for it with his life.  Lincoln, reassured, agreed to the plan.  The expedition was to be commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac given another opportunity to play a major role in the War. (more…)

Published in: on September 24, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Visiting the Lincolns: A Review

On Saturday night, September 21, 2013, I was master of ceremonies at a performance of “Visiting the Lincolns” performed by Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller in Dwight, Illinois.  The performance was masterful.  Mr. Krebs and Ms. Miller have been performing as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln since the mid-nineties and they gave a highly polished two person play.  The audience was very much a part of the play, as the premise of the play is that the members of the audience are unexpected visitors at the White House who appear just before the Lincolns on Good Friday 1865 are due to leave to attend a play at Ford’s Theater.

The play is a mixture of comedy and drama as the Lincolns deal with the task of attempting to entertain their unexpected guests.  Mrs. Lincoln serves lemon juice and cookies as she and Mr. Lincoln discuss their courtship,  and their sorrow over the deaths  of their sons Eddie and Willie, as well as Emancipation, the War and the other events that made the Civil War an unforgettable crossroads in American history.  Mr. Krebs and Ms. Miller demonstrate both the bickering, that the Lincolns did on occasion historically, and their deep love for each other.  The play is enlivened with some of Lincoln’s stories and constant interaction between the Lincolns and the audience.  One of the more dramatic episodes occurs when Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln are reading amusing dispatches from Union generals and criticizing the incompetence that was often a hallmark of Union high command, when Mrs. Lincoln lightheartedly begins reading Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, not realizing that the letter consoled a mother for the loss of her five sons, and the reading awakens Mary’s constant grief over the loss of her two sons.  It made the dramatic hallmark for the evening. (more…)

Published in: on September 23, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Visiting the Lincolns: A Review  
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Soldier’s Prayer

I asked God for strength that I might achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.

I asked God for health, that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy, I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among men, most richly blessed. (more…)

Published in: on September 22, 2013 at 11:19 am  Comments (4)  

Edelweiss

Something for the weekend.  Edelweiss, from The Sound of Music.  A show tune written for the musical it refers to the sturdy mountain flower, which in the 19th century became a symbol for the people of the Alps.  In 1907 it became a symbol of the elite Alpine troops of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The song is a good reflection of the quiet Austrian patriotism of a most remarkable man:  Georg Johannes Ritter von Trapp.

Georgvontrapp

Born in 1880 he was the son of a Commander in the Austro-Hungarian navy who had been elevated to the nobility in 1876.  This gave his son Ritter (Knight) status, allowing him to put von in his name and to be addressed as baron.  His father died when Georg was four, which did not deter him from following in his father’s footsteps by entering the Austrian naval academy in 1894. (more…)

Published in: on September 21, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Edelweiss  
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Abraham Lincoln in Dwight, Illinois at 7:00 PM, September 21, 2013

Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,
That which is gendered in the wilderness
From lonely prairies and God’s tenderness.
Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,
Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still dream,
Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,
Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire—
Fire that freed the slave.
 
Vachel Lindsay

Well, today is the day.  Every year my little town has a festival, Dwight Harvest Days.  We draw tens of thousands of visitors from all around for parades, a flea market, a craft show, rides, a 5k run, and many, many other events.

This year, I have arranged, well I should say the Dwight Rotary Club, of which I have been a member for 28 years, has arranged, for Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller to bring their presentations of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to the Dwight High School Auditorium, 801 South Franklin Street in Dwight on September 21, 2013, tonight, at 7:00 PM.  The presentation is free and I think we will have a huge turnout, especially among students.

I have long followed the career of Mr. Krebs and I believe he is the king of Lincoln presenters.  Some samples of his work:

I am looking forward to this immensely.  It speaks well of the Great Emancipator in our national memory that he is by far the President most portrayed by historical re-enactors.  Lincoln calls to something very deep in the American soul.  Men portraying Lincoln go back to the first decade of the last century, while men and women who knew Lincoln were still alive, but were rapidly departing this vale of tears.  They kept alive a memory of Lincoln as a man and not just a mere statue or a historical personage trapped in books.  Those early Lincoln presenters gave the models by which Lincoln was portrayed in the new technology of film.  Through the efforts of the Lincoln presenters the memory of Lincoln is kept ever green.

Like most counties in Central Illinois, we have our Lincoln sites, places Lincoln visited while he was riding the circuit as a lawyer. In those more civilized days, courts in most areas only operated part time. On a court day, the judges and attorneys would arrive at a county seat, and the trials on the court’s docket would be called and tried. So it was on May 18, 1840 when Lincoln and his fellow attorneys rode into Pontiac, the then tiny county seat of Livingston County, for the first ever session of the Circuit Court in Livingston County. (more…)

Published in: on September 21, 2013 at 4:43 am  Comments Off on Abraham Lincoln in Dwight, Illinois at 7:00 PM, September 21, 2013  
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September 19, 1863: Battle of Chickamauga Begins

An intelligent observer of the American Civil War in early September of 1863 would have reached certain conclusions about the War thus far:

1.  The Union was losing the War in the East.  After many spectacular battles and huge casualties, the battle lines in Virginia remained much the same as they had early in the War:  the Union controlled the northern third of the Old Dominion state and the South controlled the Southern two-thirds.  A stalemate of more than two years duration favored the Confederacy.

2.  The War in the trans-Mississippi was a side show that could be ignored.

3.  In the West, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, the Union was clearly winning, with control of the Mississippi wrested from the Confederacy, with New Orleans and large sections of Louisiana controlled by the Union, and with Tennessee largely under Union control.

4.  The northern Presidential election in 1864 would probably prove decisive.  If Lincoln could make progress in the East and continue to win in the West he would likely be re-elected.  If the Confederacy could maintain the stalemate in the East and reverse the Union momentum in the West, or at least slow it to a crawl, Lincoln would be defeated and the Confederacy would win its independence.

General Braxton Bragg, the irascible commander of the Army of Tennessee, clearly understood that the Confederacy could not continue losing in the West, and that is why he rolled the iron dice of war at Chickamauga in a desperate attempt to stop the offensive of Major General William Rosecrans and his Union Army of the Cumberland.  Bragg proved fortunate, and his hard luck army gave the Confederacy one of its great victories, and the chance to change the whole course of the War.

Below is the passage on Chickamauga from the memoir of John B. Gordon, who during the war rose from Captain to Major General in the Army of Northern Virginia.  Gordon did not fight at Chickamauga, but his wonderfully colorful account of the battle, ground he was familiar with from being reared there in his childhood,  written with his usual entertaining purple prose, captures well the facts of the battle, and how this victory was treasured by the South, even as its benefits to the Confederacy were ultimately thrown away due to a lack of pursuit and the desultory, and unsuccessful, siege of Chattanooga. (more…)

Published in: on September 19, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 19, 1863: Battle of Chickamauga Begins  
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