Anne de Gaulle

Anne De Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle could be a very frustrating man, as many American presidents could attest.  Churchill, in reference to de Gaulle, said that the heaviest cross he had to bear during the war was the Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of the Free French forces.  Arrogant, autocratic, often completely unreasonable, de Gaulle was all of these.  However, there is no denying that he was also a great man.  Rallying the Free French forces after the Nazi conquest of France, he boldly proclaimed, “France has lost a battle, France has not lost the war.”  For more than a few Frenchmen and women, de Gaulle became the embodiment of France.  It is also hard to dispute that De Gaulle is the greatest Frenchman since Clemenceau “The Tiger”, who led France to victory in World War I.  However, de Gaulle was something more than a great man,  he was also at bottom a good man, as demonstrated by his youngest daughter Anne de Gaulle. (more…)

Published in: on February 28, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Anne de Gaulle  
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Requiescat In Pace: Charles Portis


You must pay for everything in this world one way and another. There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it.

Mattie Ross, True Grit


Charles Portis, the author of True Grit has died at age 86.  He joined the Marine Corps during the Korean War.  He came out a sergeant in 1955 and began to work as a reporter.  He left journalism in 1964,  He wrote the novel True Grit in 1968.  The movie version that earned John Wayne his best acting Oscar came out in 1969.  The good remake came out in 2010.  Portis shunned the literary limelight, living in Little Rock, Arkansas, believing his work should speak for itself, and it did and does.  I trust Saint Peter will find work for a skilled penman.


On his deathbed he asked for a priest and became a Catholic. That was his wife’s religion. It was his own business and none of mine. If you had sentenced one hundred and sixty men to death and seen around eighty of them swing, then maybe at the last minute you would feel the need for some stronger medicine than the Methodists could make.

Mattie Ross, True Grit


Published in: on February 27, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Requiescat In Pace: Charles Portis  
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Trial of Charles I

The phrase “happy death” is no stranger to Catholics, a death where a person takes advantage of an awareness of approaching bodily death to confess sins and to appear before God for the particular judgment as a penitent.  I think the phrase can be used occasionally for the secular life.  Such an example was King Charles I.  Wrong-headed and far from wise, he had the chief responsibility for the civil wars that ravaged his country.  Defeated, he was brought by the victorious Parliament to trial for his life 371 years ago.  Based upon his past record, the expectation would have been that Charles would have cut a poor figure at his trial:  brave but stupid.  Then a marvelous thing happened.  Charles, who had never been eloquent, defended himself with a verve and skill that many an attorney would envy.  Under no illusions that he could save his life, he was determined to go out with the best arguments he could muster to defend his cause.  He argued that the court had no rightful power to judge him, and that he was the champion of the people’s liberty against the naked power of the sword.  He mused about how other people would be treated by the Army dictatorship when the King was treated with no mercy. Here are some of the arguments he made at trial in his own words:

I would know by what power I am called hither … I would know by what authority, I mean lawful ; there are many unlawful authorities in the world; thieves and robbers by the high-ways … Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the judgement of God upon this land. Think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater … I have a trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it, to answer a new unlawful authority; therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.I do stand more for the liberty of my people, than any here that come to be my pretended judges … I do not come here as submitting to the Court. I will stand as much for the privilege of the House of Commons, rightly understood, as any man here whatsoever: I see no House of Lords here, that may constitute a Parliament … Let me see a legal authority warranted by the Word of God, the Scriptures, or warranted by the constitutions of the Kingdom, and I will answer.It is not a slight thing you are about. I am sworn to keep the peace, by that duty I owe to God and my country; and I will do it to the last breath of my body. And therefore ye shall do well to satisfy, first, God, and then the country, by what authority you do it. If you do it by an usurped authority, you cannot answer it; there is a God in Heaven, that will call you, and all that give you power, to account.

If it were only my own particular case, I would have satisfied myself with the protestation I made the last time I was here, against the legality of the Court, and that a King cannot be tried by any superior jurisdiction on earth: but it is not my case alone, it is the freedom and the liberty of the people of England; and do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their liberties. For if power without law, may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the Kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life, or any thing that he calls his own.

I do not know the forms of law; I do know law and reason, though I am no lawyer professed: but I know as much law as any gentleman in England, and therefore, under favour, I do plead for the liberties of the people of England more than you do; and therefore if I should impose a belief upon any man without reasons given for it, it were unreasonable … The Commons of England was never a Court of Judicature; I would know how they came to be so.

It was the liberty, freedom, and laws of the subject that ever I took – defended myself with arms. I never took up arms against the people, but for the laws … For the charge, I value it not a rush. It is the liberty of the people of England that I stand for. For me to acknowledge a new Court that I never heard of before, I that am your King, that should be an example to all the people of England, for to uphold justice, to maintain the old laws, indeed I do not know how to do it.

This many-a-day all things have been taken away from me, but that that I call more dear to me than my life, which is my conscience, and my honour: and if I had a respect to my life more than the peace of the Kingdom, and the liberty of the subject, certainly I should have made a particular defence for my self; for by that at leastwise I might have delayed an ugly sentence, which I believe will pass upon me … Now, sir, I conceive that an hasty sentence once passed, may sooner be repented of than recalled: and truly, the self-same desire that I have for the peace of the Kingdom, and the liberty of the subject, more than my own particular ends, makes me now at lest desire, before sentence be given, that I may be heard … before the Lords and Commons … If I cannot get this liberty, I do protest, that these fair shows of liberty and peace are pure shows and that you will not hear your King.”


After his condemnation, Charles went to his death calmly, stating that he was trading a perishable crown for an imperishable one.  Historians would note in full his folly that led him to the headman’s block, but they would also recall that in the last days of his life, Charles acquitted himself well, and that by his manner of passing from this life, he breathed new life into his cause.


SOMBRE and rich, the skies,

Great glooms, and starry plains;

Gently the night wind sighs;

Else a vast silence reigns.

The splendid silence clings

 Around me: and around

 The saddest of all kings,

Crowned, and again discrowned.

Comely and calm, he rides

Hard by his own Whitehall.

Only the night wind glides:

No crowds, nor rebels, brawl.

Gone too, his Court:and yet,

The stars his courtiers are:

Stars in their stations set;

And every wandering star.

Alone he rides, alone,

The fair and fatal King:

Dark night is all his own,

That strange and solemn thing.

Which are more full of fate:

 The stars, or those sad eyes?

 Which are more still and great:

Those brows, or the dark skies?

Although his whole heart yearn

In passionate tragedy,

Never was face so stern

 with sweet austerity.

Vanquished in life,

 his death By beauty made amends:

 The passing of his breath

Won his defeated ends.

Brief life, and hapless?

 Nay: Through death, life grew sublime.

 Speak after sentence?

Yea: And to the end of time.

Armoured he rides,

 his head Bare to the stars of doom;

 He triumphs now, the dead,

 Beholding London’s gloom.

Our wearier spirit faints,

 Vexed in the world’s employ:

 His soul was of the saints;

 And art to him was joy.

King, tried in fires of woe!

 Men hunger for thy grace:

 And through the night I go,

 loving thy mournful face.

Yet, when the city sleeps,

 When all the cries are still,

 The stars and heavenly deeps

 Work out a perfect will.

Lionel Johnson, By the Statue of King Charles at Charing Cross

Published in: on February 26, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Trial of Charles I  
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Jimmy Stewart Flies His Last Combat Mission


I didn’t realize he flew combat missions in Vietnam:


20 February 1966: Brigadier General James M. Stewart, United States Air Force Reserve, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream.

Go here to read the rest.  A great actor, a greater patriot.

Published in: on February 25, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Jimmy Stewart Flies His Last Combat Mission  
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Miracle on Ice: Forty Years Ago


Published in: on February 24, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Miracle on Ice: Forty Years Ago  

Seventy-Five Years Since the Mass on Mount Suribachi



Seventy-five years ago today the Marines raised the flag over Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima and a mass was said at the summit.  Iwo Jima probably has the sad distinction of being the most expensive piece of worthless real estate in the history of the globe.  Expensive not in something as minor as money, but costly in something as all important as human lives.  In 1943 the island had a civilian population of 1018 who scratched a precarious living from sulfur mining, some sugar cane farming and fishing.  All rice and consumer goods had to be imported from the Home Islands of Japan.  Economic prospects for the island were dismal.  Eight square miles, almost all flat and sandy, the dominant feature is Mount Suribachi on the southern tip of the island, 546 feet high, the caldera of the dormant volcano that created the island.  Iwo Jima prior to World War II truly was “of the world forgetting, and by the world forgot”.


The advent of World War II changed all of that.  A cursory look at a map shows that Iwo Jima is located 660 miles south of Tokyo, well within the range of American bombers and fighter escorts, a fact obvious to both the militaries of the US and Imperial Japan.  The Japanese forcibly evacuated the civilian population of Iwo Jima in July of 1944.  Awaiting the invading Marines was a garrison of approximately 23,000 Japanese troops, skillfully deployed by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi  in hidden fortified positions throughout the island, connected in many cases by 11 miles of tunnels.  The Japanese commander was under no illusions that the island could be held, but he was determined to make the Americans pay a high cost in blood for Iwo.

Tasked with the mission of seizing the island was the V Marine Amphibious Corp, under the command of General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, consisting of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Divisions.

On February 18th, 1945 Navy Lieutenant, (the Marine Corps, although Marines are often loathe to admit it, is a component of the Department of the Navy, and the Navy supplies all the chaplains that serve with it) Charles Suver, Society of Jesus, was part of the 5th Marine Division and anxiously awaiting the end of the bombardment and the beginning of the invasion the next day.  Chaplain Suver was one of 19 Catholic priests participating in the invasion as a chaplain.

Father Suver had been born in Ellensburg, Washington in 1907.    Graduating from Seattle College in 1924, he was ordained as a priest in 1937, having taught at Gonzaga University in Spokane.   Prior to the war, while teaching at Seattle Prep, he rigorously enforced the no running rules in the hall, even going so far as to tackle one errant student!  Father Suver was remembered as a strict disciplinarian but also a fine teacher. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he joined the navy as a chaplain.  (more…)

The Birds

“Statement from the Home Office at 11 A.M. today. Reports from all over the country are coming in hourly about the vast quantity of birds flocking above towns, villages, and outlying districts, causing obstruction and damage and even attacking individuals. It is thought that the Arctic airstream, at present covering the British Isles, is causing birds to migrate south in immense numbers and that intense hunger may drive these birds to attack human beings. Householders are warned to see to their windows, doors, and chimneys, and to take reasonable precautions for the safety of their children. A further statement will be issued later.”

Daphne du Maurier, The Birds (1952)



Something for the weekend.  The opening sequence to The Birds (1963).  I found this opening absolutely chilling as a child, and I still do as an adult.

Published in: on February 22, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Birds  
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The Stilwell Road and Merrill’s Mauraders

Released in 1945, The Stilwell Road, narrated by Ronald Reagan while he was a Captain in the Army Air Corps, tells the story of the forgotten theater of the War, the China-Burma-India theater where the Allies, fighting over some of the most rugged terrain on Earth, wrested victory from the Japanese.  The Stilwell Road refers to a section of the Burma Road by which Nationalist China was supplied by the United States and Great Britain during the War.

The unit known as Merrill’s Marauders is mentioned in the film.  Officially designated by the uninspiring title of 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the press tagged them as Merrill’s Marauders and thus they have come down through history. 3000 volunteers, most of them veterans of the fighting in the Pacific, including some veterans who volunteered from military stockades and who were known as The Dead End Kids, the Marauders were trained to fight behind Japanese lines.  Led by Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the Marauders were trained in the deep penetration tactics supported by air drops pioneered by British General Orde Wingate, with Merrill throwing in some American touches, for example the importance of marksmanship, as old as Roger’s Rangers, wilderness fighters of the French and Indian War, famed for their long distance raids. (more…)

Published in: on February 21, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Stilwell Road and Merrill’s Mauraders  
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February 20, 1864: Battle of Olustee

Although the Union had made substantial progress in the War in 1863, few northerners doubted that the Confederacy was still full of fight.  This belief received support in the Union defeat in the battle of Olustee, Florida.

Florida was the most lightly populated state of the Confederacy, only 140,000 people.  Throughout the War Florida was a side show, with the Union forces content to occupy the major ports of Jacksonville, Key West, Pensacola and Cedar Key, while the Confederates controlled the interior and smuggled needed supplies for the Confederacy through the minor ports that dotted the Florida peninsula.

In February 1864 Union Brigadier General Truman Seymour landed a force of about 5,000 troops at Jacksonville to stage raids in north east and north central Florida to collect supplies, recruit black troops and cut off Confederate supply lines from Florida to Georgia.  He was under orders not to proceed into the interior of the state.  Lieutenant General P.G.T. Beauregard, in command of the Confederate coastal forces in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida decided to counter this move by reinforcing Confederate Brigadier General Joseph Finnegan in Florida to bring his troop strength up to 5,000 men.

Ignoring his instructions Seymour led out his 5500 men for a drive across northern Florida with the seizure of the state capital of Tallahassee as a possible objective.  Finnegan, massing his forces blocked the Union move by entrenching at Olustee station, 48 miles west of Jacksonville.

At 2:30 PM on February 20, Finnegan sent out a brigade to attempt to lure the Federals into an attack on his entrenchments.  The Federals did not oblige and Finnegan marched his entire force out from the entrenchments to fight.  The battle went on for the remainder of the afternoon with the Union line giving way.  Finnegan did not order a pursuit, with the 54th Massachusetts of Fort Wagner fame and the 35th United States Colored Troops repulsing the last attack on the retreating Federals.  Union casualties were 1861 to 946 Confederate.  The heavy Union losses caused a number of Northern lawmakers to wonder whether it was worthwhile to put any further military effort into a state that had little significance for the War as a whole.  Florida remained a relatively quiet sector of the Civil War for the remainder of the conflict with only minor raids and skirmishes.

Here is an excerpt of the report from Brigadier General Joseph Finnegan on the battle: (more…)

Published in: on February 20, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 20, 1864: Battle of Olustee  
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Last of the Flying Tigers Dies


This is sad news. If Hollywood ever wishes to celebrate real life American heroes they have to look no farther than the men of the American Volunteer Group who flew for China from November 1941-July 4, 1942.  Always vastly outnumbered, and flying planes in many respects inferior to most of the Japanese fighters they fought, the men of the Flying Tigers shot down 229 Japanese planes, achieving a stunning ten to one kill to loss ratio.  Their victories sustained American morale in the dark early days of the War.  On July 4, 1942, the Flying Tigers were transformed into the 23rd Fight Group, United States Army Air Forces, with their commander being Brigadier General Claire Chennault, commander of the Flying Tigers, the man whose brilliant tactical innovations and skilled leadership helped his men achieve their incredible against the odds victories.  The 14th American Air Force stationed in China would later take up the proud title of Flying Tigers. If ever a band of  brothers, in Shakespeare’s phrase, existed in a war, it was the Flying Tigers:

A Columbus, Georgia, man considered to be the last surviving Flying Tiger, died Feb. 6.

Frank Losonsky, who joined the First American Volunteer Group in May 1941, passed away from natural causes at the age of 99.

“Individuals like Frank Losonsky exemplify our core values,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Frank was one of the youngest of this group of 311 young Americans who journeyed to Burma in 1941 to help defend freedom. His efforts, along with all of those who flew with the Flying Tigers, will continue to inspire future generations of American Airmen. What a grand life he led – he will be truly missed. ”

Originally from Detroit, Losonsky, served as a crew chief maintaining the legendary P-40 Tomahawk stylized with an intimidating shark mouth livery made famous by the AVG.

The AVG, nicknamed the Flying Tigers, initially consisted of 311 members who were tasked with protecting China from the Japanese forces. Structured similarly to the Eagle Squadrons in the Royal Air Force who fought during the Battle of Britain, the Flying Tigers were organized within the Chinese air force and flew under the Republic of China flag.

Originally deploying to Burma in the summer of 1941, the Flying Tigers didn’t officially begin combat operations until December of 1941.

In an effort to expedite China’s surrender, the Japanese air force conducted massive area bombings against cities throughout China. Arriving shortly after a Japanese bombing mission on December 19, the Flying Tigers were taken to the city to witness the devastation. Vowing to protect the citizens of Kunming, the Flying Tigers responded to the following day’s bombing run in full force as nine of 10 attacking Japanese bombers failed to return to their base.

“The Japanese referred to them as ‘gangsters’ because they said they didn’t fight fair,” said Tripp Alyn, chair of the Historical & Museums Committee AVG Flying Tigers Association. “The Flying Tigers, though they were characterized by some as mercenaries or soldiers of fortune, were largely patriotic American officers who joined a covert operation to help keep China in the war.”

Although existing for only a year, the Flying Tigers produced 20 aces, and destroyed 297 enemy aircraft at a ratio of 20-to-1, with 92 Japanese airmen killed for every Flying Tiger lost.

Go here to read the rest.  May he even now be flying patrol in the skies of the Kingdom of Love Eternal, with angels as his wingmen.

Published in: on February 19, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Last of the Flying Tigers Dies  
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